This was my first time on the Epic and it was one of the best vacations I ever took, and certainly one of the 2 top cruises I have been on.
The 2 things that made this cruise great were the studio cabins and group of other stray dogs I met, as well as the entertainment, particularly the Howl at the Moon and Fat Cats.
I play the piano and was able to get up on stage 5 of the nights (including one night in the Taste dining room). In particular, the bandleaders involved many audience members who played instruments and sang in their sets during the week.
As a whole, all of the shows seemed to have a huge amount of audience participation. I saw Blue Man Group twice, Legends in Concert twice, as well as the Cirque show. I found these shows to be far more interesting and enjoyable than the generic entertainment found on many trips.
I liked the Studio cabin itself as mine had no connecting door and I believe there was a musician or staff member staying in the room next door and I never heard anything. At 100 sq feet it is not much smaller than a 128 sq ft room considering you don't have a desk or chair taking up space.
I didn't spend much time in the room at all but it was comfortable. The Studio lounge only seemed to be used for the 5:30 get togethers to plan dinner and shows with people. As the week went on people used the lounge less and less as they already had excursions/plans/shows. Despite the size of the ship, it was very easy to find people you know and you would run into people often.
Food was above average, several things I enjoyed but nothing stood out as great. I ate a La Cucina,Teppenyaki and Shanghai which was my favorite.
I tend to do half specialty/half buffet/dining room when I go on NCL.
To me eating was more of a necessity than a priority; in other words I booked the ship more for the entertainment, studio , and ports. It seems to be common knowledge that food on a cruise ship is not what it was in the mid 90's, but on the other hand activites are far superior.
Although I loved going to Bermuda on RCCL in 1994; there was no comparison with the shows and entertainment.
I met some people on the plane ride back that were on a Carnival ship and bored. They said they probably should have booked the Epic.
I bowled 4 games, in one game I threw 3 strikes in a row however the boat was moving so much in another game that I only got a 76.
I spent a lot of time outside on the boat, mostly in the morning and mid/late afternoons. I liked the pool at H20 since it was not crowded, but if I wanted to sit out I would go out early in the morning in the middle of the ship.
With 4900 passengers and 1700 crew members, service issues can occur. I had 2 minor ones compared to what I saw with other people. My major complaint was when leaving the ship we were lined up in the wrong part of the ship and no one seemed to have decisiveness or authority. Despite this I was off early and in the airport by 7:45AM. However, this confusion seems to happen on most ships I have been on so I kind of expected it.
I enjoyed the ports as well and did excursions through NCL. Two were good, but one had a portion where we were dumped off at a straw market. I brought this up with the excursions manager and they resolved the issue to my liking. I didn't care for being asked to get off a bus to go to a straw market. I think the manager gave me a partial refund just to go away. I don't blame him lol.
In all, I had a very enjoyable time. I had no trouble getting to Miami (no snow), was never sick, and didn't eat anything that upset my stomach. Those were my 3 major concerns.
It was a very entertaining trip, and as a solo traveler I always had other stray dogs and passengers to eat with, see shows with, and go on excursions with. That made the week great along with the entertainment and playing keyboards on stage.
Would I go on this ship again? Probably not because even though I enjoyed Florida, it is much easier to go from NYC. I would likely do the NCL Breakway next in 2013 as it goes from NY to Bermuda. This ship will have similarities to the Epic.
I would recommend this ship to anyone more interested in different entertainment and activites. If having luxurious food is what you want; research another ship perhaps.
In conclusion, it was well worth 9 days and the money spent for me.