I just returned from a family cruise on the Epic. Here's a little background. There were a total of 11 of us ages ranging from 10-48. Rooms were split up as follows: Me and my two kids, 16 and 12, in a large Balcony. My sister and pregnant niece in a studio. The other six were all in 3 inside staterooms, 2 in each. This is the first time we have all vacationed together and the first time everyone, outside of me and my kids, has cruised. This was also my second cruise on the Epic. Let me add that we all had matching shirts the first day with our names and ages on the back. We met so many people the first day because of this.
We flew into Miami the morning of the cruise. Thank god for no delays. Once outside we picked up a large passenger van that fit all 11 of us. The cost was only $45 plus tip. As far as I'm concerned, you couldn't beat the price. I apologize for not remembering the name of the shuttle service. They had a stand right outside of the airport. Transportation gets a GRADE of A+
Embarkation was fairly simple. Since I had sailed on NCL prior, they told me I could use the Latitudes line but my family couldn't. Since I wanted to stay with my family and both lines had about the same amount of people in them, I stayed with the family. We were up at the counter before we knew it. We had a minor issue with using debit cards. My one sister was able to use her debit/credit card and my other sister was not. No big deal. There was no sense arguing there and we wanted to get on the ship so we headed on in. Once we were inside we went straight to guest services and fixed the problem. So far the customer service was amazing. Yes, even with the minor inconvenience. GRADE -â€" B+ only because they weren't consistent.
Once we were on board, I gave the family a quick tour of the ship and then we grabbed a bite to eat at O'Sheehans which ended up being the best place to grab a quick snack, especially after a night at Bliss.
We attended the sail away party. I was originally going to the informal cruise critic meet and greet at Waves for the sail away party. I was there about 10min. early, walked away, and then couldn't find anyone once I was back. So the family headed up a deck and got a great view of Miami as we sailed away.
This might be a good time to say that I signed up for a bunch of cruise critic group activities and unfortunately did not attend a single one. Family ended up trumping it all. I did end up meeting a bunch of the cruise critic members as well as a bunch of them members from the facebook page I set up.
OK, continuing on. Let's start off with the Cabins. I purposely booked a large balcony room, category B6, so me and the kids would have the extra room. However, I learned that my balcony room was cramped. It was hard for 3 of us to maneuver around the room at the same time. To be honest, the inside cabins as well as the solo cabins had more room to move around than our balcony room. The sink was a bit small. I didn't make a mess, I just wished the sink was a little larger. Other than that, everything was great. The bathroom set up didn't bother us. We actually found it quite amusing at times. I guess that just our humor. J The beds were absolutely amazing. However, the sofa that rolls out was one of the most uncomfortable places I have slept. We all took turns sleeping on that. GRADE -â€" C
Then there is the food and restaurants. I don't even know where to start here. I'm giving each restaurant that tried as a group its own grade.
TASTE -â€" Last time I was on the Epic, this restaurant had it all, casual dress, good food, and great service. The time the dress was still casual (YEA FREESSTYLE) but the service and food had a lot to be desired. This was the first place we had dinner and did not leave a good impression with the rest of my family since I had talked up how great the service is. Our server forgot orders, filled up some glasses of water and left others empty, and some of our food was cold. We were not even asked if we wanted dessert. We did try Taste later on in the week and had very similar results. However, me, my daughter, niece, and sister tried it the last night for dinner and ended having a pleasant experience. Breakfast here was a different story. This place had the best breakfast on the ship. GRADE C- only because of the great breakfast and decent last night. Otherwise it would have received an F.
Manhattan Room -â€" I liked the ambiance of the Manhattan Room. The servers were much more attentive to our group, the food was good, and we didn't mind getting a little more dressed. What I don't understand is that I'm assuming the food is coming from the same kitchen since it's the same menu. Why was the food cold at Taste and just about perfect in the Manhattan Room. The family had dinner here for Thanksgiving. My sister went to the Manhattan Room earlier that day to see if we could get a table together. Well, apparently she asked the wrong thing, she asked if she could make reservations for 11 and not if we could get a table together because they told her she couldn't make reservations. As far as I'm concerned it's the same thing but maybe they didn't understand English fully. So we get there and they tell us we have to use two tables. We asked if we could put them together and the matre de said no. Then the family behind us comes in and wouldn't you know it, they put two tables together. No problem, we took it upon ourselves to put our tables together. Overall, the Manhattan Room was very good. GRADE B
Teppanyaki -â€" Four of us had dinner here. We tried to add a fifth but was told that they were sold out for our time. We get there and have a table all to ourselves. We could have added 6 more. But oh well, the demonstration and food were excellent. The service was pretty good as well. The only problem I had was they tried to bill me again. I let them know that I had prepaid and it was taken care of. I'm thinking our server was new because the I kept overhearing the manager telling her different things to do. Overall, this was an amazing experience. I would do it over and over again. GRADE A
Cagney's -â€" All I can say is the best steak on the ship. Everything was perfectly prepared. The truffle fries were out of this world. Grade A
Garden Cafe -â€" Your typical buffet food. I did love all the different stations. Mainly only ate breakfast here and the eggs were runny and cold everyday so I had to get up and get more food. Trust me, that was NOT a problem. Haha Actually, a lot of the food was not warm. We never had a problem finding a table even when there were 9 of us one morning. GRADE B
O'Sheehans -â€" Great pub food. I think we tried everything on the menu at least twice including the breakfast. The things that stood out were the mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, fries, spinach dip, cheeseburger, meatloaf...oh hell, it all stood out. GRADE A++
Pool Grill -â€" Good warm grill food and they were able to keep up with the demand. GRADE A
Overall, I would give the food a GRADE of B+. I filled out comment cards pointing out the exceptional as well as my experience in Taste. I hope NCL takes care of it.
ENTERTAINMENT -â€" OMG -â€" This was the best ever. Blue Man Group was great. I wished I had time to see it again. I think this show really depends on how good the audience participation is. Even so, it was a lot of fun.
Legends in Concert were superb. Elvis was ok. He had the voice but that was about it. Steven Tyler was very amusing and looked and sounding the most authentic of the three. Lady Gaga had the best voice of the three. Not as far as sounding like the one they were impersonating but overall voice. She was more of a comedy act making fun of Lady Gaga than impersonating her. Either way, she was great. This show is not to be missed.
Second City Comedy -â€" This is another show that uses audience participation. The all age show I did see was ok. They kept it really clean to be family friendly. Their adult only skit show was 10X better.
Fat Cats -â€" The best kept secret of the Epic. I loved this place last time I was on the Epic and love it even more now. Slam Allen is the most down to earth and modest entertainer on the ship. He's truly a gem. I hope he renews his contract so more people in this world can hear this man sing and play guitar. I swear I felt as if I were in Nawlins.
FABBA party -â€" Typical cheesy cruise entertainment but I like Abba music so I enjoyed the 30 min. party.
WHITE HOT PARTY -â€" This was a great party with glow sticks and necklaces....for the first hour. After that it died down but we moved the party to Bliss. Great times!!!
Slime Time Live -â€" My son went to this with my sisters family and had a great time. I'm thinking because he got to go up on stage.
Overall, the Epic has the best entertainment out at Sea. GRADE A+
Bars and Lounges -â€" Let me start off by saying that the service in the bars and lounges was amazing. I would normally head to the bar to get my drink but for the times I was in a seat, a server was asking me if I wanted something else when there was only a sip or two left of my drink. Perfect.
Shakers, the martini bar, had a piano player and I can't for the life of me remember his name. So his name was forgettable but his playing, singing, and personality made it one of my favorite places to hang before going to Bliss to end the night. BTW, if you go, get a Stormy Nights. It's currently my favorite martini.
Bliss, the dance club, was always fun with a lot of high energy. Some people complained that it was the same music every night. However, if you go to any club night after night, you're going to hear the same music. This club would stay open until the wee hours of the morning. Some folks I met said they would stay until 4 or 5. I'm to old to hang that late. LOL
ICE BAR -â€" I didn't do it this time but I did it the last time I was on the ship. It's a novelty. I can say I did it. I thought the drinks were way too sweet and I like my drinks sweet. Overall, I give the bars and clubs an B+
CASINO -â€" This is the first time I would actually win big on the slots all week long. Usually, I hit big early in the beginning and then lose after day 2. I wish I could say I left winning. Table games took all my money. Haha However, I did like how after a hand of blackjack, the dealer would say, you should do this or that. A lot of the passengers appreciated the tips. I get that its my choice to stay in a casino or not but I there was a stench of smoke that I didn't like and I would get up and move if someone next to me would like up constantly. Overall, I give the casino a GRADE of B.
POOLS -â€" Small. GRADE F
SLIDES -â€" Awesome. The purple one is perfect for little ones. The green is fast and furious...ok, maybe not furious, and the funnel was fun...even if we would get stuck sometimes. GRADE A
DECK CHAIRS -â€" It was a full ship and although I wasn't able to find any seating around the pool, Spice H2O and deck 18 always had open seating which is why I was always there. Well, that and the fact like I like it peaceful when I'm soaking up the rays. GRADE -â€" B but only because of the difficulty of families finding a place to sit by the pool.
Ports of Call - We did St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Nassau.
St. Maarten - We went to Maho beach for the day to watch the planes come in. What a great time and experience that was. Traffic wasn't too bad. We took private transportation and it took about 45 min. each way. We left around 2 and were able to see several large jets land. GRADE -A+
St. Thomas - I stayed on the ship to enjoy the slides and peacefulness. GRADE - Priceless
Nassau - We booked a room at the Comfort Suites at a total rate of $271 for four of us to be able to gain access to Atlantis. Once we were in port we went to where the taxis were and the first man asked us how many. We told him and I asked how much to get to the Comfort Suites. Only $4/person. He then led us to his vehicle which happened to be a limo. WINNING!!! haha He took us to the Comfort Suites to check in and out at the same time. The check in process took about 30 min. because we had to go somewhere else to get out bracelets but then we were off to enjoy the resort for the day. For a price of $291, four of us were able to spend the day at Atlantis. GRADE A
One last overall...Overall, I would rate this cruise an A-. I spent time alone, time with me and my two kids, time with all of my family and other times with just some family members. No matter what I was doing, who I was with, or whatever minor mishap happened, I was on a cruise with my family and some great new friends. Who could ask for a better vacation?