Being a teacher, my husband has to take vacations along with the rest of humanity, thus we set out for the Caribbean with his parents. We chose the Epic solely based on evening entertainment, and had we headed some misgivings and advice from previous NCL Epic passengers, we most likely would have chosen another cruise line. But, that doesn't mean we didn't have a fantastic time on vacation!
We stayed the night before at the Tempo in Miami. It's a quirky hotel that has some amazing features, such as huge tubs and an unbeatable view of the Port of Miami. I would highly recommend it! That evening we booked The Forge for dinner, and again, I was completely impressed. The atmosphere and food were both to die for, and its definitely a place for celeb sightings.
Embarkation was a breeze. We left the hotel right at 11am, got to the Port around 11:15, and were on the boat booking a "Posh Pass" for the week at 12:15. Disembarkation was even easier. We put our luggage outside the door the evening before, walked off the boat at 8:20, and were in a shuttle 15 minutes later. For busy port days, I would recommend booking private transportation, as SAS, who had been recommended to us by many people, picked up lots of passengers from other cruise lines before we could make it to the airport. This delayed things significantly.
SHIP: The ship is a behemoth. It isn't pretty from the outside, unlike the Disney ships that we docked next to at every port. Yes, the pools are as minuscule as everyone makes them out to be, and I never went in them. My husband dipped in once, but with twenty kids all scrambling in with him, he got out quickly and never returned. The Posh Pass is well advised to get if you do not have a suite, as the pool area is so overrun with people that even if you find a seat the noise will make it impossible to relax without a stiff drink. Getting around the ship was a piece of cake, although we opted to take the stairs everywhere as the elevators were a little slow with full capacity on board.
ROOMS: Our room was a standard balcony, and although on the 8th floor you have a not so lovely view of a lifeboat, you also have plenty of ocean to look at, as well! We weren't aware that our room wouldn't have a covering over the balcony, which could have been inconvenient, but turned out not to be an issue at all (except for when someone hurled their garlic bread onto our balcony one afternoon while I was out there reading). Bathroom configuration didn't bother us in the least, nor did my in-laws mind it from their room next door. We had lots of space to store stuff, and the beds were heavenly to sleep in. The length also wasn't an issue for either men, who are both 6ft or over.
DINING: I have to say that I was incredibly disappointed in the food on this cruise. Maybe I'm a bit of a food snob, but I felt even in the up-charge restaurants more could have been done. This was mostly obvious in the desserts, which all tasted like they had lost their flavor in the thawing out process.
Manhattan Room - We ate here once. It was worth it for the entertainment, although the Legends performers were just OK except for Aretha Franklin, who was fantastic. The backup dancers stole the show, though!
Taste - Not good at all for us. My Veggie Burger had not an ounce of taste. Literally I couldn't taste a thing. We were hungry and ate our salads and sandwiches, but after lunch on embarkation day, we didn't go back. Again, desserts were pretty bland and all tasted the same, no matter what we sampled.
Garden Grill Buffet - I really liked the variety for all meals, although we only went and grabbed appetizers for dinner and took it to a bar. Breakfast and lunch had really good offerings, both healthy and indulgent. Don't bother with dessert, it all tasted like a senior citizen cafeteria...mushy pudding of no particular flavor.
Moderno - Delicious. I'm not a big meat eater, but the salad bar was amazing and the side dishes were good as well. The meats, from what I had, were absolutely delicious. All were tender, and cooked just right. The servers were really helpful and stopped serving each person when they said they were quite full. Moderno doesn't offer anything chocolate for dessert, so our server went to Cagney's and got something for us. It was actually one of the best sweet treats I had on the ship.
Cagney's - Great steaks, although I had Salmon that turned out to be wonderful, as well. The side dishes are great, as are the appetizers. Again, service was very attentive.
Teppanyaki - My husband's family loves this style of dining, so I booked it for us. We had a really great time, and our chef wasn't overly comical or flamboyant with his tricks and cooking methods. The food was surprisingly wonderful, and the steak here was said to be better than any other place we tried. I had the soba noodles, which were cooked just right and had a delicious sauce with it.
Wasabi Sushi - We all love sushi, and have been to places both insanely priced, and beach shacks serving the freshest of the fresh. With that in mind, Wasabi was amazing. We tried almost every roll, and wound up having lunch or dinner here on three occasions. I really can't say enough great things about it!
Cirque Dreams Dinner - Contrary to many reviews, we found this show delightful! The performers were hilarious, although I will say that it might be a bit too mature for younger audiences. We laughed our way through the meal, which in itself wasn't spectacular, but wasn't bad by any means. We were much too entertained to even concentrate on the food, which may be one reason the food isn't as good as it could be. It doesn't have to be!
Posh Bar - Great menu, great quality of food. The Ahi Tuna Burger is fantastic!
Spice H20 Bar - Delicious Sweet Potato Fries. We got two orders to go once before a later dinner.
ENTERTAINMENT: This is where NCL does a great job. Blue man group was hilarious, entertaining, and loved by everyone in our group. We also liked that there was a bar in the theater with themed "blue" drinks. Again, Cirque dreams was a hit for us. Fat Cats Jazz and Blues was phenomenal. The Slam Allen band are some of the most talented blues musicians I've heard in a while, and I live in Nashville! Second City was hilarious, and we tried to book more than one show but they were completely sold out. We went to Howl at the Moon every night it was available. They are a great group of singers and musicians, and will keep you singing and laughing all night!
SPA: Incredibly disappointed. We booked a spa day for all of us on one of the Days at Sea. The guys both got massages, and the ladies got a facial and one other treatment. The staff was all very friendly, and my facial, while expensive, proved to be well worth it - relaxing and very refreshing! My treatment was another story. It was advertised as a 75 minute wrap, but I was in and out and on my way in only 40. The relaxation rooms aren't included in your spa treatments, so they want you to get redressed when waiting on your next appointment. Since I was out so early though, I was waiting for over 45 minutes and finally went to the front desk, where I told them what had happened. They were again very nice, and got someone immediately to take me to my next treatment. Afterwards I was offered a free wrap the following day, which I accepted. This one last the amount of time it was supposed to! Unfortunately, after we disembarked and were reviewing our bill of charges at the airport, we noticed that we were charged for the "free" treatment anyway. $187 dollars! And the disclaimer at the bottom of the receipt said we would have had to settle any discrepancies before disembarkation. We were out alot of money at that point.
SERVICE: First of all, our stateroom attendant was top notch. He was always around with a smile, and our room was spotless any time he had been there. Wait staff in the restaurants were all very helpful, and although there was a slight language barrier at times, they were incredibly patient and willing to serve!
However, I did feel like we had stepped into a marketplace at times, with all of the things being thrown in our face. NCL staff tried to get us to purchase EVERYTHING, and very loud announcements would go off throughout the entire boat for things like Tanzanite and Watch sales, to "Limited time only" sales on shirts and Epic souvenirs. Any time we had to talk past the shops, which we often did to get to certain venues, we were haggled by the shop attendants. My husband finally went off on one and told them he did not appreciate being solicited while on a vacation. It was honestly very stressful and even my in-laws commented on the sale-sy attitudes.
EXCURSIONS: Were OK. We did the Champagne Catamaran in St. Thomas. The crew there were wonderful and the trip to St. John was breathtaking. But the unlimited champagne and rum punch made many of the parents on board completely wasted. They couldn't even take care of their kids. We were stuck on the bus ride back to the pier with them, and it was embarrassment the words coming out of their mouths. I know this isn't NCL's fault, but making it an adult only excursion would at least save those kids from having to witness their parents' behavior. St. Marteen was just fine. We took an Island Tour and Cruise, which was fun, but nothing incredibly. I had thought this island would have been nicer than it was, but I think maybe we just missed the really pretty parts of it. Nassau was originally the port I was least looking forward to, but turned out to be the best! The water and views from Paradise Island where gorgeous, and our Dolphin Encounter in Atlantis was something we will never forget. We may even stay in Atlantis some time in the future!
OVERALL: We had a great time. We were entertained and got to spend quality time with one another. We had a blast because of what we made it to be, but we would rather have our next trip be on a cruise with a bit more of a mature audience. I am only in my late twenties, but being on a vacation with my in-laws, I do not want to have to constantly be on the lookout for women laying out in thongs on the pool deck, or worry about someone throwing up on me while on an excursion. I was very surprised at the up-charges and just how much more you spend than the original price of the cruise, but we knew about most of it going into it, and didn't have a fit when we got the bill.