We sailed on the NCL Epic the week of March 26 with our two children, 8 and 10. Embarkation was a little rocky--we arrived right when the doors opened due to an overnight flight from the west coast. We missed the signage for suite and villa check-in, and went straight to the line for regular check-in. The process went quickly, although the NCL employee would not give us our keys, just directed us to the suite check-in area. We waited there about 20 minutes, then were taken up to a roped off area for snacks--oj and little sandwiches. There was nothing kid friendly about the snacks, except for some fruit. We waited about 45-50 minutes more in that area (where we could not use cell phones). The kids were going bonkers.
We were lead onto the ship and straight to a bar area off on the 16th floor. Once the bar got full, a NCL employee gave us all a tour of the villa courtyard/gym/bar/restaurant. Finally we were allowed into our room (this is in stark contrast to our embarkation experience on the NCL Jade last summer in Barcelona, where we were taken straight to our room, with our luggage, upon check-in by our butler). We ate lunch at the Epic Club. Service was slow and our food all came out at different times. We only ate there again once. Since they had taken all of our carry on luggage, our kids were without swimsuits. Basing our experience on our Barcelona cruise, we assumed our luggage would come with us. Wrong. It arrived in our room very late in the afternoon. I realize the Epic is a much larger ship than the Jade, but service was slow.
However, once we got settled and hit the water slides, things only went up from there. We had a great time at Teppanyaki the first night. The next two days were sea days, and the water was calm with excellent temperatures. I had a hot stone massage at the spa (heavenly), we took in Slime Time Live, where our son was chosen as a volunteer and couldn't have been happier. The water slides were fantastic and our older son was obsessed with the basketball court. We did the Murder Mystery lunch and everyone had a great time. The cast is from the Second City comedy troupe and it was hilarious.
The Cirque de soleil show was a little slow moving for us, and the food was only so-so. We got steak, and it didn't compare at all to the steak at Cagney's, which was great. We ate at most of the restaurants on board, missing only Taste and Shanghai's noodle bar. The Manhattan Room was very good, and incurred no extra charges. Pizza 24/7 we would have tried, but could never get anyone to answer. So for late night snacks our kids relied on the ice cream machine and french fries from the buffet.
For shore excursions, we did the Tiki Hut snorkel in St. Maarten. This was a bit of a disappointment, but not for the staff's lack of trying. They were friendly, helpful and funny. There just weren't any fish! We bailed after an hour and took a water taxi to the beach. We ended up eating at the Hard Rock Cafe, renting jet skis, and letting the kids jump on the ocean trampoline. It was wonderful.
In St. Thomas we did Discover St. Thomas. A bus took us to Magen's Beach, which was beautiful but had a lot of smokers. There were a lot of fish in the water. The bus then took us to Blackbeard's where we were left and told to walk to the downtown shopping district and catch a harbor taxi. This was super confusing to a lot of the people in the tour group, and involved a great deal of walking. The shopping district wasn't anything to right home about, and finding the harbor taxi took quite a bit of effort. The water taxi took almost an hour to get to the boat, and it was pouring rain. Not an excursion I'd do again.
The last excursion we did was the Atlantis water park. It was a lot of fun, despite being led on an extensive tour of Atlantis grounds by one of their employees before being let loose in the water park. Our kids loved it so much they can't wait to go back to the Bahamas. Great shopping too.
We also took in the Blue Man Group, which was a great show. Our kids can't stop talking about it. Second City comedy club was really funny and the earlier show allowed in kids. I highly recommend both.
Overall it was a great ship--very, very big though. The villa courtyard pool and gym were a wonderful option as both the regular pool area and gym were always crowded. The food was fine. Our room steward could have been a bit quicker with getting our room made up. We'd leave in the morning only to come back late afternoon to find it still hadn't been made up.
We have already booked a Christmas week cruise with NCL. It is a great family vacation.