I received a promotional invite from Caesar's Palace for a "free" trip on either the Epic or the Jade. Since it was his big birthday, my H choose the Epic because his grandparents came from Italy. Free ended up costing me $500 USD with the upgrade taxes and fees. But that was better than the full price of $2600 USD.
I really cant complain overall about my experience on the Epic. I ready nearly 100 of the reviews before we left, and was somewhat concerned about the negativity of these boards regarding the Epic. Yes the ship is BIG and it was full, but there were no crowds in any of the venues or restaurants. I did not experience any of the hogging of the pool chairs, but then the weather was not exactly warm enough to sit by the pool. Yes the pools were small but then I did not go to Europe to sit by the pool. Living in California, I can stay home to do that.
About the only place that was crowded was the spa, and there were chair hogs there, but only in the afternoon. Go after dinner to avoid the crowds I learned. If you really liked the spa experience I would recommend buying the week long pass. The massages and other services rates were more than what I pay at Caesar's Palace, which frankly has probably the best spa I had ever been to and ten times bigger and better than the Epic. What really frosted me about the spa was on day that the 20% discount was offered, it turned out to be a joke. The ship then charged not only 18% VAT but then told you (after you have already made the reservation and showed up for the treatment) that there was a mandatory additional 18% service fee. So a 100 minute massage and treatment without the 20% discount would have cost $366 USD which is about $116 more than the same treatment (with the same product line of Elemis) and the same massage costs at Caesars Palace. Not cool in my mind. Especially when you were not warned at the time of booking about the 36% additional. Frankly, that is the only negative things about the cruise that I experienced.
Food was ok, not exceptional, and yes the buffet was crowded and noisy. Ate dinner there one night, breakfast there one day and then never went back. Had breakfast most days at Taste, which while repetitive, was good. Ate dinner all but two nights at the Manhattan, which was ok except for the first night's paella, which was great. Ate at the Brazilian restaurant one night, and the food was excellent.
My H big complaint was no decent movie theater, and tv movies were expensive and no choice. Also he was upset about the tv not having any US based sports (as in not ever the score of the World Series games)
He also thought the shore excursions with NCl were expensive, and we got better service, smaller groups and a better time booking with people I had met on CC trips with Rome in Limo.
I have cruise before with Carnival (three times) and Princess (three times). I would overall rate the Epic much better in all categories that Carnival (except for deserts cause NCL deserts were unremarkable) but not as high quality as Princess (where I never had a bad meal, or room, or poor service) except for one thing: the casino. The Epic Casino is beautiful, smoke and all, and the machines do pay off. The service was excellent in the Casino, from drink servers to the clean up crew, to the casino hosts, even more attentive than most of of the Harrah's properties. And having been sent on this cruise via Harrah's "dime" I can honestly say that I did feel like I was in a big Las Vegas style hotel the entire week.
So if your idea of cruising is to eat yourself sick, this is not the ship for you. It is not quite and restful, nor is it designed for lounging by the pool. If you have "bathroom issues", you will find the rooms claustrophobic and no matter how much closet space there is, you wont like it. But if you are adventurous, like to gamble, and a fast paced daily tour schedule, this is the trip for you. Only be prepared for needing another vacation as you will come home exhausted from a week on the Epic, especially if you live on the west coast of the US like I do,