I have been on 4 other cruises from Galveston, and after moving to Miami, I thought I had arrived in Cruise Heaven...NOT...For me, the Dining experience IS the highlight of the day, and my NCL agent had assured me that the two main dining rooms on the Epic were of the same high quality standards of the "old days" designated dinner seating's. I cruised NCL when it first started to test the "Freestyle" dining years ago. What it has morphed into NOW is a flat, tasteless meal resembling one's I could get from the Marie Calender's or Stouffer's section of the frozen food isle.
I tried to stay positive as I thought things would get better but by the 4Th day, I found out I was not alone in my disappointments. After being literally SQUEEZED (17 people at a table for 12)knocking knees with my neighbors to either side and elbows drawn up to my sides, I tried to move my arms without bumping elbows with the people on either side of me and it was impossible. Out of nowhere, a stranger seated across from me mentioned the poor food and food service of this cruise and bias towards certain "types" of guests.
She said she had been noting how quickly people who were ordering full bottles of wine or many drinks from the bar, were being well attended all throughout the cruise. We were seated and waited for our drink orders to be taken while others in the tent were already getting drinks before the performance and we had not even GIVEN our drink orders. I finally tapped the waitress who worked the table behind me to go find our waiter and after 5-10 more minutes passed, he finally showed up and took our orders. Others were already getting their food orders and we sat there with our water. Their fixed menu take on "surf & turf" was another joke. A shoe leather thin (and tough) piece of meat and 3 raw shrimp came on my plate.
The performance had been going on by now and it was quite spectacular, although, I would rate it for adult audiences. There is just something about someone being lifted out of a bathtub of water with his wet leotards stuck to his very well endowed body (which was the first thing that pops out of the tub)that I don't think is right for kids. Don't get me wrong, it was ALL great entertainment and VERY well executed.
Upon booking my cruise, my NCL agent had told me to contact Customer Relations if I experienced anything substandard on the cruise BEFORE THE END OF THE CRUISE so they could "take care of it" as it did no good to let someone know after leaving the ship. The next day I went to the front desk and spoke to the staff and expressed my disappointment and that I had always been told by travel agents to "Cruise Up" and never "Cruise Down". I had to sadly inform him that this cruise was definitely the worst of all my cruise experiences. He took my information and I left it at that.
At the end of each day, getting cleaned up and dressed for dinner was, usually in the past, a highlight, but when dining at Manhattan, one has to walk through the smoke filled Casino to reach it. We tried the dining room, Taste, once, which was on the 5Th floor but the second story hole into the CASINO above, was allowing smoke to waft down throughout the meal service. Our most fantastic meal was when we got a Lobster Pizza once we docked in St. Maarten.
There are over 20 "specialty" restaurants aboard ship and my thinking of cruising is "all inclusive" and IF I want to pay for another dinner somewhere, I will do it AT PORT OF CALL OR AT HOME!
Again, this "Freestyle" dining, in my opinion, is as bad for cruising as the Wall Street Debacle was for the housing industry. It is a license to cut so much of the experienced labor costs of qualified Chefs in order to serve up the BARE minimum in NCL's food service department. The attitude of some of the attendants behind the counter (chefs?)was less than appropriate and maybe with some direction and training in customer relations, it may improve.
EVERYONE IN ALL OTHER DIVISIONS ON BOARD WERE WONDERFUL!!! 5 stars for them!
It only takes the one rotten apple.... Sorry, but NOW when I see the Epic in the commercials on TV, my stomach just sinks. No pun intended.
A 72 rating for this ship is generous!