I was reading the reviews after we booked our cruise in January 2011 and almost backed out but I am glad I didn't.
Embarkation-A breeze as always-on the boat by 1:00 and rooms were ready by 2pm. The Garden Cafe was crazy but then again EVERYONE was there. We were able to find a table for 5 towards the pool area and enjoyed a nice lunch.
Rooms-We booked a room as low on the ship as we could go-we were on the highest floor on the NCL Pearl and I had motion sickness half the time so our travel agent suggested we go lower and towards the middle. We were in 8164 which was right off the set of elevators and stairs which I loved. We had a family deluxe balcony that had a view of the lifeboat right below us-but despite my first glance (ugh) we got amazing pictures from our balcony which you never would know had a lifeboat below. We also had a bathtub (love) and TONS of room. Even after storing a full size stroller/car seat/3 large 29 inch suitcases/clothes/snorkel stuff we STILL had room. Our sail date was my birthday and it was nicely decorated with balloons and a banner. The main bed was not long enough IMO but since neither one of us is taller than 5'6" so it wasn't a problem. My daughter slept on the couch next to the bed-plenty of room. The rooms are narrow but you are ON A CRUISE SHIP. I don't know what people expect how the rooms to be shaped as you are trying to fit some 3000 plus people on a ship. With 3 of us in the room, we never felt like we were on top of each other.
Service-Excellent on this sailing. Our room steward was wonderful-she made cute stuffed towel animals for my daughter each night-knew our names-got to know when we got back from dinner (by 8pm for my daughter's bedtime). Loved her!
I also never felt pressured to buy drinks-I would order one here or there and it always came quickly.
Food-Garden Buffet was good-love the chocolate croissants for breakfast and the eggs benedict. Lunch and dinner standard american fare. I didn't mind spending the extra $$ for Cagneys' (perfectly cooked steak), Le Bistro (great food-wonderful dessert) and the italian place (great bread and dessert). Made reservations on the boat-not a problem. The ice cream was endless and my 4 year old was in heaven. They always served her first (which is great) and she lived on mac and cheese and fries all week. Never had a problem with service.
Pool-My big complaint here. Pools were very small and very crowded. Hot tub temps all over the place. The kids ran amuck on the deck-THAT is NOT NCL's fault but the parents who bury themselves in their chair and forget that they even had kids. I had 8 year old's DIVING into the hot tubs and told them to leave. I don't mind kids in hot tubs if they behave like adults-my daughter sat there with the grownups and when she got antsy, we left. The staff really doesn't enforce the No under 12 in the hot tub rule so be prepared to spend some time with some rowdy tweens and teens. I did manage to sneak off to the adults only section one day and was not impressed. The pool was tiny and not clean. Oh by the way, I HATE people who put their towels out by 5am and then don't visit them until after noon. I saw HUNDREDS of chairs like this. The staff also doesn't enforce the 60 minutes rule either. On sea days, be prepared to stalk for chairs. I saw one lady have a towel right by the pool AND another one right were we were sitting in the shade. She reserved two chairs for herself. Nice right? Don't be a chair hog please
Entertainment-LOVED the blue man group-we saw them twice on this cruise. My daughter was pooped by 8pm so I didn't stay out for the later shows. Book this group before you board.
Casino-much larger than our last cruise. My husband had a blast playing. NCL has a lot of our money to date.
Despite what I read on previous reviews about the mysterious Deck 5 that has no elevator going to it...that simply isn't true. Midship, sadly, you are forced to walk through the casino to go down the stairs. But I simply got off on the elevator near the front of the boat that opens up to the art gallery. My 4 year old never once stepped foot in the casino except on embarkation/disembarkation days. The atrirum had a coffee bar and some really good blueberry yogurt cake.
Ports of Call-LOVED St.Thomas-we went off on our own to Sapphire Beach which was picture perfect. Hated the Bahamas-so overpriced and most of the beach property there is private (ie run by hotels) but we still had fun at a local beach. St.Maarten was great but HOT-bring plenty of sunscreen here. We did not do any tours with NCL (our first cruise we did EVERYTHING via the ship) but we felt more confident on our own this time. The excursions are WAYYYYYY overpriced. Taxi rides were 10-20 total and beach was free. Just allow plenty of time to get back to the ship.
All in all we had a fun time on the cruise-yes they charge you for everything but if you don't know that going in, you didn't do your homework. I would sail on Epic again.