I have cruised before, but the EPIC was the first cruise for my partner, who was also celebrating a milestone birthday. Given those two factors, I wanted everything to be PERFECT! And I left that in the hands of the NCL EPIC. It is a grand and beautiful ship! It doesn't have the open and soaring atrium like feel of the RCCL Oasis, but overall it is well planned and gives an overall excellent first impression.
Our cruise was the first departure from Epic's new home in Barcelona. The crew was just coming off of a lengthy re-positioning cruise from Miami.
When we boarding the ship, the common areas slightly lacked the "welcoming" feel I have received on other cruises. In fact, the interior areas of the ship were virtually deserted during boarding. There was staff in the corridors directing people to their staterooms, but that was about it. There was zero "WOW" factor during boarding... not even a Bon Voyage photo which I assumed was standard as you boarded the ship. The only thing we were presented with/offered on embarkation was a squirt of hand sanitizer on the gangway.
We made our way to our stateroom (11169 Mid-ship balcony cabin.) The corridors in the ship are so incredibly long and only easy to navigate after you figure out the color and numbering system onboard. Our stateroom was really nice. The cabin was spotless, and well presented to us. We quite liked the layout of the room. It was not large, but cozy and well planned. Our balcony was larger than other balcony staterooms because of its position on the ship (we were on a diagonal curve of the ship.) We were able to easily and quickly unpack and find a spot for everything we brought onboard. Our one and only negative observation was that the balcony doors, railing, and glass walls were just covered in salt from the transatlantic crossing, and in need of a major cleaning. That was done by a power washing team by day 2 of the cruise.
Soon after getting settled, our stateroom attendant came to the door and introduced herself. She was so charming and personable. We told her it was my partners first cruise, and also his 40th birthday. Within minutes, she returned with a bottle of champagne on ice for us to kick off the special occasions. It was the perfect touch, and we were really impressed. Each and every time we left our stateroom and crossed paths with our attendant, she was so friendly and so professional. Always wanting to make sure we were absolutely satisfied our room and her service. Needless to say, she made the perfect first impression and maintained it throughout the cruise. Perfection!
After getting settled we made it to the pool deck for our grand send off from Barcelona. It was still not as festive or celebratory as I would have hoped. But it was easy to get a drink from the bar quickly and kick things off nicely. The most nauseating part was the Cruise Director and Assistant Cruise director along with the youth staff doing the standard (snore) line dancing YMCA, ELECTRIC-SLIDE-ISH, routine. I would have preferred an amazing DJ or band and the cruise staff mingling and introducing themselves to the guests. What they chose to do seemed yesteryear in cruising, and not representative of the "freestyle" spirit of this cruise.
And now we are off! (Here are some things to keep in mind onboard...)
1) The Garden Buffet is quite nice and the food is tastefully done. The buffet onboard this ship is the best I have ever experienced cruising. You can have a nice meal in a nice setting, or outside if you chose. Did not dissapoint.
2) At the "FREE" spots on the cruise for a "snack" or "bar style" meal... the menu is very limited and so unhealthy. The room service menu is even more limited. There is no "SPA CUISINE" that I saw onboard with healthier options. Although we never tried the pizza onboard, it is available 24-7. For example... I have never been on a cruise where you have not been able to find a chocolate chip cookie 24-7... on the Epic... not so much.
3) Every specialty restaurant we tried was a low-light of our cruise. The Chinese restaurant was mediocre at best. 3 out of 10. The noodle bar... not much better... and the Italian restaurant... while having the best views on the ship... it was really bad. The Calamari was soggy and not crispy... the chicken pizza was ABSOLUTELY TASTELESS... and my pasta was far undercooked... almost crunchy.
4) The entertainment is OK. The Blue Man Group is great, but far from the Vegas show. The Legends is good, but it was obvious this was their first go. And the puppeteers were amateurish. The Twice something gig in the atrium lobby was so bad and out of tune we were both in disbelief. So we just avoided that area of the ship when they were performing.
5)As far as the onboard offerings and the cruise director... I felt he hid a bit on the ship. He is so annoying when he makes announcements... the are borderline too much... And he just gave the impression over the cruise that he needs a break. It just seems he is over it. And moreover-- Over the top. And a bit arrogant in my opinion. You just never ever see him but hear his over the top announcements. The only time I ever saw him aboard the ship past sailing was him hiding at the entrance of the Humidor. Why the hell would the "CRUISE DIRECTOR" who had a gold sequined jacket lapped over his arm "hang" there. He had the least "presence" of any Cruise Director... and I have been on mega ships.
So in the end we paid a lot of money and didn't do the "free" way... and were overall disappointed in every single dining option we chose. We would have been much better off at the buffet or taste or manhattan! But the EPIC had so much to offer, and didn't come through! In fact, we were disappointed! We loved the ship, loved our steward, but would give the dining options we had on the ship as an EPIC FAIL!