Please read this review, knowing that we all want different things and what I like may not be what everyone else likes, and visa versa.
Having cruised with Royal Caribbean last year as a taster, we had high expectations for the NCL Epic, 7 day cruise from Barcelona, to Pisa/Rome/Naples/Palma. There is no doubt about it, this ship is huge and lovely to look at. The embarkation and dis-embarkation procedures as usual were flawless. We arrived at 12.30pm, and were in our room unpacking by 2.30pm. We would always get a balcony now as it gives you the best view. We heard the internal cabins were tight and stuffy. However, our room was fine, more storage than most, but the bathroom area design has been over thought, There is a cheap and nasty curtain that separates the toilet area/shower area and the so called sink, which has no use as it's the size of a sauce pan. this really cheapened the room, and if you are a new couple, or friends, get prepared to have no privacy. Balcony was great, bed comfortable, however some of the worst sleeps I've had due to the constant clicking noise coming from curtain area - totally unexplainable.
We asked about the drinks package, and most staff were quiet resentful in answering, however we go there in the end, on your 1st meal you order 6-8 bottles to get 20% off, then they put all the tax and whatever on top, and give you splits of paper for each bottle. This ship has face recognition on it for the over priced photo system, why can't they put the wine on my card and track this.
After this we proceeded to the Mandarin Spa which was amazing, would recommend this, but wait a few days as all the over priced treatments are reduced by 20% later in the cruise. Staff very helpful though.
We decided to check out the Friends of Dorothy (FOD) party for the LGBT gathering, which was at dinner time every night at 7.30pm. No entertainment was organised, you just turned up at 7.30pm. This should be later with some entertainment as live piano. Although we did appreciate the effort.
The ship as I said is massive, some amazing cocktail bars, out door bars, and Ice bar which was fun. The entertainment is amazing, we saw the Blue Man Group which was the highlight, and the Cirque Dreams dinner which was one of the better meals. On that note, I should get the all important subject of food out of the way.
Be surprised with the food on this ship.The free areas like the Garden Cafe, Taste and Manhattans offer the usual fair. Garden Cafe has a vast amount to choose from, but all very tasteless to us, and rather bland. Deserts all taste more or less the same, but we never went hungry. Taste and Manhattans, what can I say, a true disappointment, both menus don't change much and decor in taste is more a kin to a tex mex place. One night in Manhattans we were walked all around the room to find our 1 table, and the service is not great. It's worth mentioning here, you get what you pay for, and having read the reviews about this being a nickel and dime cruise, the paying speciality restaurants were very good. Wasabi was the best I've ever had, Teppanyaki was good, however the server kept dropping the food, and cirque dreams was pleasant. Obviously the best staff have been reserved for these areas.
The evening entertainment is very good, the white party was one of the best nights, and the fabba party was excellent, as well as the bliss lounge which was friendly - although I have no idea why they have a DJ, as all the music seems to be on the same play list, same music most of the time, so quiet what the DJ is remixing on the "decks" pardon the pun - Id don't know. The cruise director at most of these venues was rather irritating and had a certain attitude which I did not like, but I'm sure others may like it.
The drinks are the usual price, with tax etc added on top. The music in other areas like the live guitar lady was amazing in the Whiskey Bar, but please can we have an update from Twice as Nice as they were so dated, and that blond haired man on the piano (Danny Fabilow) is what we called him, attitude was not nice.
Please read the excursion reviews carefully, the NCL offers the most expensive I have ever seen. Do your own thing, get the shuttle bus at most of the ports, then the train, and head to Florence/Pisa/Rome by train. By the way, we saw the pope, he always comes out on Wednesday about 11am, get off at the St. Pietro station and walk 10 minutes to the Vatican, take your seat and he will appear. Don't do what everyone else does and get off at Rome Termini. Do it the other way round. Trains are cheap and get a timetable off the Internet before you travel as train times are all over the place. We got back early (4pm) most days, however those who left it later had great trouble getting through the queues for the shuttle bus - don't miss your ship on the way back in other words.
All in all, we had a great time on the ship, dinners were not formal as RCI, but some liked this some didn't, we liked the informal dining times, and the booking system from your TV was very helpful. I'm not damning the EPIC, as I said we all want different things, it's just end of the day, it's a pricey trip and I don't think you should have to pay over the odds for good food in addition to what you have paid. If they get the free food areas right, then they are onto a winner.
Finally, people make this trip and you have to make the effort to meet them, and we did. We met some amazing lovely people and had some great nights. NCL did try and put on some great nights.