This was our 3rd cruise in a row with NCL. Our prior cruises were on the Dawn and Jewel from NYC to the eastern Caribbean. On board were my wife, 11 y/o son and myself. We flew from Philadelphia to Miami a day early and stayed at the Sofitel, which was uneventful and convenient. On Saturday morning it was a quick taxi ride to the ship, and when we arrived I must say the EPIC was a beautiful site to behold. Embarkation was swift and easy. We explored the ship and got a bite at the Garden Cafe and our room was ready in a timely manner. We had a family-deluxe balcony stateroom which was nicely appointed and clean. It is our opinion that the balcony is a must splurge, as the quiet time, view and privacy are a huge bonus. The cabin is stunning for a cruise cabin but is not as functional as the cabins on the Dawn/Jewel. We like the privacy of a separate bath/toilet/sink rather than the design of the EPIC's bath. Flat screen tv was nice, but unlike the Dawn/Jewel, you had to purchase movies and did not get any free first run movies. Our cabin steward was extremely prompt, friendly and dutiful.
ENTERTAINMENT: This ship had the best entertainment you could experience on any vacation outside of Las Vegas. The Blue Men were unbelievable. We could watch Second City each and every night. Legends was enjoyable too. The comedian/magician was engaging and thrilling to the children. Band at the pool was awesome. There are also singers/performers throughout the ship, at almost every turn, and they were all a delight to hear and see.
DINING: The Garden Cafe was a great buffet. There were numerous options to please any palate. The presentation, staff and food were all very good. We also ate at La Cucina, Teppanyaki and Moderno. Paying the surcharge for the specialty restaurants was well worth every penny. We found the meals at the Manhattan and Taste dining rooms to be just above average, but the main dining rooms are gorgeous, and it was nice to have entertainment while we ate at Manhattan.
STAFF: The staff on NCL is unbelievable. They are the most friendly and helpful staff and this is what keeps us coming back. We met staff/crew from all around the world and it was a pleasure how personable they all were. That evidences good management and training from top to bottom. It always seems like the staff are there right when you need them, which is just perfect.
SHIP: The ship is an overall gorgeous site and the common areas are absolutely amazing. The showrooms, dining areas, casino, pools/waterslides, gym/spa, interior common areas are flawless in their cleanliness, decoration and design. The only negative is the design of the actual ship which does not allow you to walk around a complete exterior deck to view the water or to jog in a circle. The waterslides were top-notch and better than any I have seen on any other cruise. My son could not get enough. In fact, on the first day at port in Costa Maya we did not get off the ship. We just hung out at the pool so he could slide all day without waiting in any lines.
DISEMBARKATION: Terrible! It would be an easy walk-off if they had more staff stationed in and around the elevators and manning the common areas. We waited a while to get an elevator, and when we got to the deck to disembark we were unable to step out of the elevator due to overcrowding. This was due in part to the fact that they stationed a waiting line right outside the elevator doors. This was frustrating but easily correctable.
Overall, the EPIC was just what we needed. The weather was perfect. We had smooth sailing. The excursions/ports were fun and exciting. NCL runs a tight ship, and we will be traveling with them again. As they say it is "Your home, away from home", and we feel at home with NCL.
P.S. To NCL: You should bring back the theme song after the crew talent show and introduction of officers, etc. This was a nice tradition and should be continued on the EPIC.