As a diamond member with Royal Caribbean, I was concerned no other cruise line could live up to my past experiences. Boy was I wrong. The ambience of the ship is a sleek elegance. It is very modern with dark woods and solid colors. My first reaction was "it's beautiful"
Embarkation was a breeze. Look out for a Daily guide and ship map at check-in. We missed it and spent the first few hours wandering aimlessly until we made it to guest relations to get a set. After that, they provide one in your cabin each day, I think they should have one in your stateroom on day 1 also (hint..the hotel manager said he reads these entries on cruise critic..I hope so!)
We loved the food and variety of choices. At first I felt put off that so many options cost extra. However, the two main dining rooms, Irish pub and buffet were awesome. Taste was a nice, quiet place to eat. Manhattan had an incredible, spontaneous show during dinner. The Irish pub was a great place to eat casual food. The buffet had 8 different types of hard scoop ice cream every day. If you like Benihana, check out Teppanyaki. They offer a lunch option during sea days for half the price. We loved the freestyle option to eat or see a show when we wanted as opposed to a designated time or night. A warning to the avid Coca-cola drinker..they only serve Pepsi. Luckily I caught that in another review, and brought my own soda (you can bring as much non-alcoholic beverage onboard was you want, free of charge.) Just make sure it is sealed; we lost an open bottle of Gatorade at security.
Blue Man group was incredible. With such a small theater, there wasn't a bad seat in the house. We also went to the Cirque dinner show. The show was fun, the food was okay. The comedy show was good. They have different themes for the different times, so attend more than one for a different show.
You have to try the waterslides, regardless of your age! We decided to stay on board in the morning of Cozumel. After the boat cleared out, we hit the waterslides. There were only 7 people total (3 in our group) so there was no wait time! The green and purple can be a little scary, since you can't see anything inside the tube. The yellow one with the inner tube is a riot. The pool area has the typical lounge chairs. However, the far side has an outside buffet with lots of tables in the shade. There are permanent, umbrella shaped covers to provide the shade. We spent 2 of the sea days playing cards in this area listening to the live band and watching the contests on the stage. What a great way to spend a relaxing day at sea.
The design of the state room was different. The toilet and shower being separated was nice. However, I think it would be awkward to share this room between parents/kids and platonic friends. The shower door is frosted, but you can see the outline of the person in it. There is very limited dressing space behind the privacy curtain. We loved having the sink in the room, although it was small. They seemed to have disabled the need to have the room key in the slot to make the lights work. I loved the small reading lights next to the bed. Having the power button illuminated made it easy to find and created a sort of night light. The bed was short; I can see a tall guy's feet hanging off. The tv options were very limited to say the least. No in room free movies, but they did have a channel with "favorite" tv shows. I have to admit, I missed having the movie option for lazy afternoons in the cabin. The mini fridge was nice for keeping our own sodas and waters cool; we just took out all the mini-bar items at the beginning and stored them on a top shelf out of the way.
We do our own excursions outside the boat. In Costa Maya, we took the air conditioned bus to Mahaual beach ($3 to get there, $2 taxi ride p/p to get back). There are several restaurants with umbrellas and chairs on the beach. As long as you buy something, they will let you stay all day in their chairs free of charge. There are even more people offering massages all along the beach. If you negotiate, you can usually get an hour for $25. We went to El Delfin and some friends went to National Beach. They are both along the same stretch of beach.
In Roatan, we took a taxi to Bananarama. There were several bars/huts along the beach. Be careful negotiating the price for the taxi. You may be better off taking one there, and then picking up another one at the beach for your return. We had trouble with them trying to charge us twice when we took the same guy back (so did some of our friends). We negotiated with a local to take us snorkeling on a boat from the beach. He charged $15 per person, including snorkel equipment. The reef was very expansive and beautiful. I'd highly recommend this to anyone.
In Cozumel, we did the slides on the boat in the morning and went to Carlos and Charlie's in the afternoon. It was a riot watching all the drunk people. We all received balloon hats and yard long drinks. It was a very fun atmosphere, but a little pricey. You can't get any cheap Corona there.
We had a wonderful time on the Epic. I'd recommend it to anyone, old or young. They have so many activities to keep the whole family entertained. The ship is beautifully decorated and I enjoyed the variety of dining options. Keep in mind that the rooms are small with translucent doors for bathroom shower. If you're ok with that, you'll enjoy a cruise on the Epic!