My girlfriend and I took our 10 month old daughter on the Norwegian Epic this November. I read a lot of member reviews about the ship on the Cruise Critic website in preparation as we wanted to make sure we were fully prepared, as this was our first extended vacation away from home with our daughter. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about the ship as I saw more than a few extremely negative reviews, but I can honestly say that we had a nothing but positive experience. Hopefully this review is helpful for those traveling or considering traveling with an infant.
Boarding in Miami was extremely quick and well organized. There was a slight delay getting on board due to the final inspection being performed, but that was only 20-25 minutes. We were on board first as we had our daughter in her stroller. We went right up to Deck 15 to get some lunch at the buffet, which worked out well because we were able to eat with her before everyone else boarded. We had some time to kill so we walked around the ship and explored. They said the rooms would be ready at 2, but we went to ours around 1:15 and were able to access our room, so it's probably worth checking out.
We had one of the New Wave balcony staterooms and its true that the room is very small. There isn't much room at the foot of the bed to get around so it takes a little maneuvering. There is a lot of space for storage though, so you don't have to live out of a suitcase for the week. Our two large suitcases and stroller stored easily underneath the bed. Before the cruise I read some strange requests about the complexity of the lighting system. Either they fixed it from earlier cruises, or people are being extremely impatient and picky. Spend 5 minutes with them when you get there and you'll be good for the week. I will say the lighting by the sink is pretty poor so you probably need to use the overhead lights when you're getting ready. Also heard problems about the sink having splashing problems and the bed length. Neither were an issue. I'm 6 feet tall and my feet barely hung over the edge of the bed. I didn't have a problem with the separation of the shower and toilet, but they should consider putting a fan in the bathroom as there is no privacy at all. Rooms have hair dryers and easy-to-access outlets. One thing to note if you are traveling with a small child is that they have cribs available (Pack-n-Play), so just ask the steward. Unfortunately, the crib did not fit in our room because of the configuration (bed closest to balcony). If you have a room where the couch is closest to the balcony you'll be able to slide the couch over enough to squeeze it in between the couch and the bed. TV is pretty limited (Nickelodeon, ESPN (which was never on due to satellite interference), 3 news stations and E!). We had the balcony, which was surprisingly large, so even though we were in the room frequently because of the baby the lack of TV didn't bother us because we spent time outside. I think the balcony is a must if you are traveling with kids. Only other thing about the rooms is that you can ask the steward to fill up the mini-bar with whatever drinks you'd like to have.
The pool deck and the size of the pools were small in comparison to other ships I've been on. If you want to get a spot in the sun right by the pools you have to get out there pretty early to reserve your chairs. We spent most of the time in the shade and never had an issue finding space. The kiddie pool area was great for our daughter. We also tried out all of the slides and really enjoyed them. The line for the tube slide was always really long, so you may want to consider going later in the day if you want to use it without having to wait too much (slides are open until 7 on most days).
Since we couldn't do too much late at night, we tried to eat at as many of the restaurants as possible. Aside from the Garden Cafe (which had a pretty decent variety at dinner time) we ate at La Cucina ($10 pp) Cagney's ($25 pp) Moderno's ($20 pp) The Noodle Bar and Wasabi's (both a la carte but not very expensive). We were very impressed with the quality of the food and the service at each of the restaurants. The staff was very accommodating to our daughter and we were able to order an extra dish for her without the extra per person charge so that she could try some of the food. If you want to save money the food at the Garden Cafe was more than acceptable for dinner. Before the cruise, we decided we wanted to get to as many of the specialty restaurants as we could, and we were glad we did. We did not make any dinner reservations prior to boarding, but if you are planning on eating at peak times (between 6 and 7:30) you should probably reserve in advance at Cagney's and Moderno's. We ate at 5:30 every day and didn't have an issue getting a reservation the day of. We did room service one morning for breakfast and everything was delivered at the time we had asked. Only continental though, so you can't get warm food. We did the 24-hour pizza one night too ($5) and it was ok, only worth it if you're hungry and don't want to leave the room late at night. Service was quick though, it only took about 25 minutes. The room service menu is pretty limited so if you want food late night the better bet is O'Sheehans, which is free, open 24 hours, and has pretty good appetizers.
One thing we loved about the ship was that there was so much to do on board each day. The fitness center is very impressive, and if you like working out early in the morning you won't have any issues finding machines to use. My girlfriend got her hair cut at the spa and was very happy with the results. There's a sports court and rock climbing/rappelling wall, which we didn't use. The shows we saw were Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert. Both were excellent. Blue Man Group was about an hour and a half and the Legends show was about an hour. For the Legends show, the impersonators were Steven Tyler, Lady Gaga, and Elvis. I guess it depends on which impersonators you get (I think they change every once in a while), but they were all very good. We were also able to sit on the side balcony where they had some couches and tables and got our daughter to fall asleep after a little bit, so if you get tickets to the 7 o'clock show you should be able to bring your young kids. Blue Man Group would be tough as I think you would have to have a baby sit in your lap the whole time and the show is a bit long and loud for that. We went to the 11 o'clock show and had some friends we were traveling with watch our daughter for the night.
Drinks on board are very expensive, but the mixed drinks are pretty strong. If you think you might spend a lot on alcohol, try bringing some small bottles on board in your checked luggage. If you buy bottles of alcohol on board they will hold on to them for you until the last day of the cruise. We tried out the Ice Bar, which was $20 per person. We thought that the cover was worth the experience and you get 2 drink tickets each, so it wasn't too much more expensive than just getting a regular drink at another bar. Wear shoes and pants if you want to stay in for more than 20-25 minutes. You can't get more than the 2 drinks though.
One thing we didn't like was the fact that, depending on what side of the boat you were on, you had to walk through the casino on Deck 6 to get to elevators that will take you to Decks 4 (where you leave from for shore trips) and 5 (some restaurants, Art Gallery, guest services). The casino was fairly smokey during peak hours so we didn't like having to walk through with our daughter too much. We also spent a lot more on board in addition to our boarding tickets, but we were expecting that and didn't mind. Note that there is a $12 per person per day charge to your room bill for service (our daughter was not charged). If you don't drink you can easily get through the cruise spending very little. For families with kids, the soda package seemed to be a good deal. We also bought a twelve-pack of one liter water bottles (we needed a lot for baby formula) for $40. The one liter bottles in the mini bar were $5, so that worked out well for us.
Lastly, we though the service of the staff on board was exceptional. I cannot recall a negative or even neutral encounter I had with any staff person we encountered. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. A few remembered my daughter's name and would say hi to her when we passed. Overall, we had a great experience and were very happy with our selection of the Epic. If we are planning a cruise in the future, I think we would definitely pick an NCL ship.