I am 47, my husband is 61. We just returned from the 7 day western Caribbean itinerary on the NCL Epic. This was our 8th cruise and our 3rd with Norwegian.
There are many things different about this ship; sadly, most not in a good way and we met at least a half dozen couples on the ship who all shared the same disappointments.
The Good: Entertainment was a Big attraction. The Blue Man Group, Second City, Cirque Dinner and Howling at the moon (dueling piano bar) were all very good.
If you're bringing kids or teens, there's a Nickelodeon program, 3 water slides and rock climbing wall. We participated in the bags program where they take your luggage the evening before, check them through customs and send them to the airport so you don't touch them again until you arrive at your final destination. This was well worth the additional $20 per person not to have to hassle with our luggage, and getting through customs was fast and effortless.
that's about the extent of the positives.
Observations: Each to their own but we like a cruise ship to look like a cruise ship. The main atrium which on other ships boasts a beautiful open area to view upwards 10+ stories of the ship or take that glass elevator ride which offers a view from every floor; does Not exist on this ship. No glass elevators and a very small, shallow atrium. The Manhattan room -one of the main Dining rooms has a low ceiling (10 ft)which might be to give it a more intimate feel. It feels like I'm sitting in a local restaurant. There is nothing Grand about it.
The Bad: STATEROOMS. We had a balcony stateroom category BE. I think it was the smallest we've ever had. There was not one place in the cabin where my husband and I could walk past each other and between the bed and the cabinets/sink, there may have been 10 inches. The bathroom set up was bizarre. When we walked in to the cabin, to the left is a shower stall, to the right is a very small toilet stall that I will warn you echoes every noise that comes from it. The sink is built into the cabinet across from the bed. The sink bowl is the size of a large salad bowl. The way the faucet is placed, most times when I was brushing my teeth over the sink, I would bang my head on the faucet.
SERVICE was unlike anything we've experienced on other cruises. It wasn't bad in most cases, it just wasn't that great either. One thing I relate to previous cruise experiences is how the staff is always so attentive, almost falling over themselves to make guests happy. You won't find it here. Our cabin steward was very cordial. The Waite staff at every restaurant was fair at Best and in a few cases, bordering on rude. There were no Big smiles or inquiring as to whether you actually enjoyed the meal. There was a Martini tasting on 2 nights of the cruise at Shakers Martini bar for an additional fee. The first night, we popped in 1/2 way through it and asked if we could pay the full price and just enjoy sampling the remaining martinis he was making. He said "You're late. Just sit on the couch and you'll have to wait until I serve everyone else." As rude as he was, we decided to give it another try on the 2nd night. This time, we arrived 15 minutes early. Smiling, I said "we're early this time, should I go ahead and pay now for the Martini sampling?" He responded very rudely again saying "Not everyone is here yet. I'll let you know when we're starting. Just sit over there (pointing to the chairs near the bar)"
FOOD/DRINKS. The Epic boasts 20 dining options. Be aware that 1/2 of them are for an extra fee, and another 5 are snack bars serving sandwiches or a slice of pizza; and the restaurants that are free offered the poorest food we've ever had on a cruise ship. We dined at The Buffet (Free) Manhattan Room (Main dining room - Free), The Pool Snack Bar (Free), O' Sheehans Grille (Free), LeBistro French Restaurant ($20-$30 pp) and Cirque Dinner and Show ($20 pp).
The Buffet seemed to have the same food day after day after day. I like Mexican food but not lunch and dinner every day. The same with Indian food.
Desserts at any location - looked pretty - and that's about it. If you like that midnight chocolate buffet or beautiful food presentations with carved fruit or ice carvings -- you won't find a one on this ship. It's all very basic. We ate once at the Manhattan room. My husband ordered a steak, I ordered kabobs. With both of our meals, the meat was dry, tough and overcooked. The Manhattan room offers a show a few nights a week - The Legends with what seemed to be "local talent" imitating famous artists like Neil Diamond, Diana Ross and others. We've seen the "Legends" show in other cities and it was very good. This was just awkward in every way. First, the "talent" left much to be desired and didn't generate a lot of applause. Second, this "show" was immediately following the closing time of the restaurant so many people were still eating dinner and unless you were sitting right around the stage area, you could barely see any of the performances.
O'Sheehans is an Irish Pub offering sandwiches, meatloaf, bangers and mash, etc. Very casual, food is so-so.
LeBistro - $20 per person extra is what they tell you and they let you know there is steak and lobster. What they don't tell you until after you've paid and been handed the menu is if you actually Want the Big Ribeye or the Lobster; there's an additional $10 Fee for a total of $30 pp extra! When you pay a cruise fair - you don't expect to pay an additional $30 to have a good meal.
Norwegian offers freestyle dining (dine anytime) which is nice but I believe they also started the pay more for premium dining options. I didn't mind it so much when it was an extra $10 - but $20 and $30 is unreasonable on top of cruise fare. The shining light in our meal experience was the Cirque dinner and show which was also an additional $20 per person. Very good show - Best meal we had on the cruise.
I'll also mention that I've always thought that drinks on the cruise ships were the best drinks ever. That changed with this one also. Drinks were just ok and a few times, bad. I think they've gone with cheaper mixers, less use of real fruit, Margaritas tasted like they were 75% sour mix - yuk.
COSTS. There was a feeling among us and other passengers we talked to that we were just nickled and dimed and pestered to death! When we walked through the very limited shopping area (mostly selling Logo merchandise or diamond jewelry for ridiculous prices), there would be crew standing on both sides handing out coupons, telling us to come back for this or that sale, sign up for this drawing, take advantage of this deal for one hour only. It was constant. Then there was the Ice bar which we didn't visit after hearing others say it wasn't worth the $20 to get in. The Casino was nice sized with many offerings but of course a huge money maker. Between the shopping gimmicks, the pictures, the casino, the upcharges for certain restaurants and the ice bar, cocktails, gratuities/tips, etc... We came away from this cruise spending far more than ever before on any cruise and wouldn't do it again. Less