We cruised on the NCL Epic for Spring Break 3/19/11 - 3/26/11 and had a great time! Myself, my husband and 3 teenage boys (ages 17, 15 & 15). In reading some other reviews there were some complaints about the size of the boat - that is was too big. Seriously! It's named EPIC. It should not be a shock that it was big. It was not too big at all.
Another complaint was about the casino - the location and smokiness. The location was not a big deal as you can avoid it if you wanted to by simply choosing another deck to walk on. There was a slight hint of smoke but it again was not an issue and I don't smoke nor like the smell of it.
The embarkation process was a breeze. We got to the terminal at 10:50am. It took about 10 minutes to check in. They check your paperwork, passport, take a picture of each person for the key cards, you give a credit card for on-board charges and that's about it. We waited about 30 minutes after checking in and boarded the boat @11:30am. Very pleased with the easy process. The buffet was open when we boarded as were the bars, of course. Our rooms were not available until 2pm so we packed/wore our suits on-board so we could enjoy the pools/slides right away. They give you towels too. We signed the boys up for the soda passes. It's $6.25 per person per day charge and they put a sticker on your key card to identify you when you order a soda. A soda is $2 so if you think you'll drink more than 3 sodas a day it's worth it. It was well worth it for us. I will say however that the drinking water on-board is delicious! I was expecting it to taste really bad but it was really good water.
Overall the food was very good. The breakfast buffet was pretty much the same food everyday but there are so many choices that you can eat a different thing every day. La Cucina, Taste and Shanghai's were all good but Cagneys was excellent. I felt it was worth the $25.
We saw The Blue Man Group and really enjoyed it. We had never seen it before. We saw 1 comedy club show and it was funny. We really enjoyed the dueling pianos! Drew and Eddie and Colleen were great! We actually saw them twice. I did not like the Cirque De Dreams. I paid for the premium seating ($30 instead of $25)and felt it was worth the extra $5 each. It's a smaller room than I anticipated. The best place to sit is on the main floor towards the middle of the room. If you sit upstairs you're sitting in a circle around a railing looking down at the main floor. You're not sitting at square or rectangular tables. You're sitting shoulder to shoulder with the person next to you and your table/plate is in front of you and then the railing. I have to believe it's not a great view because all the entertainment is on the main floor. We sat on the main floor at a table for 7 so there were 2 people we didn't know with us which was no big deal. There are also booths along the walls but I imagine there were times in the acts when they couldn't see everything going on. The food was ok. The appetizer and dessert were good but the entree was just ok. Everyone eats the same thing - a set menu. The entertainment at times was very good - the acrobatics were amazing but the schtick in between acts was silly and goofy and very cheesy. I wouldn't do this again and I didn't think it was worth the $30 a person I paid but I hesitate to say I wouldn't recommend it because it might be right up someone else's alley - just not ours. It's actually the only thing I didn't like about this cruise.
One tip with respect to drinking - save yourself some money and don't pay the extra money for a drink in a plastic souvenir cup. A Bahama Mama in a souvenir cup was $9.78 (including the $1.28 autogratuity) and in a regular cup only $7.48. A bucket of 6 bottled Blue Moon beers was $29.75 + $4.46 autogratuity ($5.70 per bottle). They did have one drink special - Rebellious Fish - that was good and did come in a souvenir glass (not plastic)for $9.14 with tip. But it was a cute fish bowl shaped glass that we actually brought home. Check out the drinks specials for some drinks are 50% at certain times.
Used the laundry/valet service as my sons are very poor with the 1 outfit per day instructions. Prices were of course pricey but if you can wait until Thursday they had a special for $25 everything you could fit in the laundry bag. Pretty good deal. Otherwise underwear & socks were $2ea, shorts & t-shirts were $5ea.
The day we boarded there was a mandatory safety drill. You're assigned a meeting point in case of emergency and they want to make sure everyone knows where their meeting point is. I think it took place at like 4pm. Everyone on board is supposed to go to this meeting spot, a crew member marks off your name. They come over the intercom with some instructions. It only takes about 5 minutes.
Finding a lounge chair can be tricky. There are plenty of them but the ones by the pool fill up very quickly. We found an area by the rock climbing wall, where the green slide ends to be a good spot. Plenty of sun but also some shade when you'd had enough. The pools were actually smaller than I expected and by midday looked very cloudy with all the people so I actually never got in them. We tried all the slides and they were fun.
Our boys loved the teen center and made a lot of new friends! There were 400 teenagers on-board. They also loved the sports court and spent a lot of time up there. One bad design feature is that you had to go through the adult only Spice H2O area to get to the sports court and on several occasions when my sons wanted a soda they went to the nearest spot which was the Spice H2o bar and the bartenders didn't like having to serve to them. The kids needed a more kid friendly spot to get drinks. Keep in mind the bartenders knew they wouldn't get a tip because my kids had stickers on their key cards and got sodas for free.
Our room was a family balcony, 13125, and was ample space for us. The boys had an adjoining room by themselves, 13121. I would not want to share this room with someone I wasn't related to or really comfortable with. The reason is the toilet area. It was not an issue with smell (very good ventilation) but with sound. Flushing that toilet was really loud although it did flush quickly. The shower and toilet were visually private (and there was a curtain you could pull separating the toilet and shower area from the rest of the room for even more visual privacy). They were not however sound private. Suitcases fit perfectly under the bed for storage. We found ample storage for our stuff. Refrigerator was locked and kept forgetting to ask our room steward for a key but never needed anything out of it anyway. They boys' fridge had been emptied which was nice because on 2 occasions we had leftovers from dinner and we put them in their fridge. One tip - bring a clock! The only clock in the room is on the phone. The phone is like an office phone and not convenient to look at in the middle of the night. It had a really nice wake-up call feature though and we used it the days we had to get up early when we were at port.
Didn't get around to playing pool or bowling but would have liked to. Just ran out of time. Did find the shuffleboard and we did try that. Also the ping pong tables were very popular. Husband and one son used the fitness center a lot and liked it. We all said we would have loved to stay on another week because there was more to see and do.
Disembarkation was just as easy. You go to the main desk a day or 2 before disembarking and there's a schedule for leaving. Each time has a coordinating luggage tag color. You pick your time and grab your luggage tag. I think the times start as early as 7am to as late as 9:30am. We chose to leave as late as possible. We picked 9:15 and got several purple tags. You place your luggage outside your room the last night with the tags attached, they grab it and after you leave the boat the next morning you find the luggage separated by color. We found the purple tagged luggage area and grabbed our bags. Easy!