Our usual family summer vacation has been a standard two week package sun holiday but we decided this year to do something a little different in order to help celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Our cruise therefore on 17th July was booked over a year in advance and over that period of time we monitored the various reviews of the EPIC on Cruise critic. Needless to say we found these reviews informative although we also had developed some concerns because of various criticisms reported.
Our holiday also included a few pre cruise days in Barcelona and literally on the eve of leaving home the oportunity presented itself for our 21 year old son to join his Mum Dad and 14 year old brother which of course helped to add to the overall family experience.
Our 14 year old stayed with my wife and I in a Balcony Port side stateroom on the 10th deck. Our eldest was booked into one of the very funky studios on deck 11. He totally loved his room although frequently over slept as he was oblivious to the outside world (even with his Steward Pedro making alarm calls)This arrangement suited very well and it was of great interest for us to be able to view and compare what the different accomodations on the ship looked like.
I must record that we stayed a few pre cruise nights in the Condes de Barcelona hotel and this hotel I would recommend for comfort, quality and location.
We will all never forget the drive up to the port and witnessing the EPIC for the first time. Just seeing the size of that ship and sensing the adventure we were about to set of on made us all feel very priviliged.
OK into the nitty gritty of our EPIC cruise which we would all rate as first time cruisers very highly (of course we can not make comparisons to other ships/cruise lines):-
EMBARKATION: Incredible. I would simply say this was the highest degree of efficiency ever experienced while travelling. We had left our hotel by taxi at 10:50AM,travelled for approx 20 mins and were on the ship before noon!
STATEROOMS: Good. The three of us found we had adequate room and we actually found the separate bathroom and shower layout etc very good! OK room is a little tight and beds on the short side but we were overall very happy with a room and a decent balcony that we only spent a minimal amount of time in. Storage space was good but more hangers would have been helpful.
FOOD: Fabulous. We never had a meal to find any fault with and indeed almost every meal we would say was excellent. Our first night dining in the main Manhattan Dining room was very memorable. We loved the Mowtown show and Manhattan band entertain us as while we sailed out into the open Med. The Garden Cafe and The Great Outdoors Buffett , Taste Main Dining room, O'Sheehan's - We enjoyed all our dining experiences and never once actually had a desire to try a speciality restaurant (maybe next time?) Our eldest especially enjoyed his midnight supper of buffalo wings and brownies in O@Sheehans
CUSTOMER SERVICE: Excellent service from staff and always with a smile. Room Stewards, Waiters, Waitresses, Bar Staff etc All were very polite and courteous. We particularly enjoyed our conversations with numerous staff in the restaurants. Having wondered beforehand about the automatic gratuity charge being applied by 4 for our family booking we are satisfied with the service we all recieved and would agree that this is a fairer way of rewardig ALL involved in providing a high standard customer service.
ENTERTAINMENT: Excellent. We seen and enjoyed so much. The music around the poolside was fabulous (maybe just a little on the loud side at times), The Blueman show, Comedy Act, Legends in Concert, Howl at the moon, Blues Band music in Fat Cats Lounge. OK you can always find a fault if you wish and we thought Legends could have had an additional act or two but overall we enjoyed the show very much.
RECREATION:My eldest and I used the gymn almost every day. The machines are great and the outlook for exercising fantastic. However, we were very disappointed that our 14 year old (almost 15) who does play sport and uses a gymn at home was not allowed access due to his age at under 16.
My boys and I played in some of the organised football games ,table tennis etc and also done the absailing etc.
We all done the slides which we thought were great.
TEENAGE CLUB: As the week went by we seen less and less of our youngest son who had a fantatsic time with his group of new friends from across the USA and UK. The real benefit is that the Teeen club provides an opportunity for young people to meet at the beginning of their hoilday and then they can choose how thay spend their time after that. Most of the organised activities seemed fairly interesting but not all of them. Also, we thought there would be a case for organising activities on port days?
PORT VISITS: We didn't do any trips. The boys were'nt interested and my wife and I were happy to maximise our time relaxing and enjoying the ship.
SHIP OVERALL: Fantastic. We got used to it's size and the layout relatively quickly. The ship seemed to conceal the 4,200 passengers very well On sailing days it was very busy around the pool but there are quiet areas available. On Port days we could not believe how many unused beds there were. The ship appeared and felt very relaxed on Port days.
CRITICISMS: We have very few criticisms.
Please see my earlier comments on the gymn and Teen club.
We did'nt like the position of the Casino in the middle of the ship and were uncomfortable with the smell of smoke when walking though that area. We were also bitterly disappointed along with another family that we had to leave an enjoyable "Family" Karaoke session at 10PM because the lounge became adult only at this time! There were few adult only groups about and we noticed other family groups being asked to leave just as the session was becoming fun?
SUMMARY:We loved our first ever cruise experience so thanks to our TA Sharon for her advice and to NCL and all the staff. We would definitely recommend the EPIC