Nov 5th our group of 6 (myself,husband,mother,2 girls-5&7yrs, and 16 yr old cousin) set sail on NCL Epic. We have cruised several times in the past but this would be our first on such a large ship. And we won't be sailing such a large ship in the near future. Embarkation and Disembakation were nightmares. Wait times of over an hour each time. They promote easy walk off and most people take advantage of this, picture 4500 people each with 2-3 pieces of luggage trying to descend down several flights of stairs/elevators. Every elevator would have 2-3 people and 6-8 pieces of luggage. After waiting 40 minutes in a line at the elevators, we decided to carry our luggage down the five flights of stairs. If you choose this option, make sure you can comfortabley carry your luggage as the elevators are too full and too many people just pulling their big bags down the stairs and taking people out along the way!
We had no issues with our room, we didn't mind the bathroom situation either. Balcony was nice and spacious. Pool areas were pretty good, no chance of chairs though but that is common on every ship. This ship does not enforce the no leaving towels on chairs rule. Although they do charge you $25 per towel if they are not returned to staterooms so I'm not sure why so many people just leave them unattended.
The first two days the ship rocked a lot! I have only felt that motion once before and that was during a cruise where we had 18 foot waves, during this sailing, the waves were only 5 feet on average, not sure if the rocking was due to the height of the ship, it was very windy those days. We all had to take medication for it and that was a first!
The Nick events were good. My only issue with the children's program was that many of the Nick events were held at the same time as another special event at Recess (the Nick events were not held in the kids play area). I wish they would have scheduled them during free play time or something. The talent show was scheduled at the same time as 1 of only 2 Spongebob meet and greets was. There were times my children had trouble deciding between two great events in different areas. Recess was very well organized and the staff was great, my only problem was with the small check in area, people didn't seem to understand the concept of a line, every day people would just walk in and go ahead of you, there was no formal spot for a line, but common sense would tell you that when you entered the room, those people were there before you for a reason. This was a huge issue, I would go usually four times a day, twice to drop off, twice to pick up and every time this would happen!
Also, I really missed the movie screen that most all ships have now. This ship has it in the atrium but has very little seating, room for about 30-40 people in a ship of several thousand!
And on a side note, when embarking and presenting your credit card to set up your onboard account, if you have a chip on your credit card (I'm from Canada), they will have problems with the card, they swipe it and it "won't go through" because it wants to read the chip and they don't have a chip reader. They didn't know what the issue was but after trying several credit cards, I realized this was the reason. There was a big problem, then eventually the lady let us board and we had to go to the Purser's desk immediately as they could manually key in the number. Just an FYI for those travelling with that kind of credit card!! They wanted to deny us boarding!!!
Food was good enough. The buffet was the SAME every single day, no variety really. We went to Taste twice and the service was poor each time. The second time we went, four people got their meals within a half an hour, they ate and left and the other two had to wait over an hour to even get the meal. The waiters both days barely spoke to us. Not sure if they were new as this was the first or second sailing since returning from Europe. Moderno was AWESOME!!! Delicious food and great service, so well worth every penny!!! Room service was hit or miss with times. Usually was a half hour wait, one night it was 2 hours!!!! I had called back twice to check on it and both times told it was already gone. I was in the room with two children who ended up falling asleep without eating and so at this point I couldn't leave the room as it was just me there with them. I had to wait it out. We ate so many times at O'Sheehan's, VERY limited menu there, the menus I had seen posted online were not the same, maybe they changed it when it came back to the US from Europe? But service was pretty decent there. The bowling balls are the big ones so we weren't able to bowl as a family.
We went to almost all of the entertainment and it was good, Blue Man was very good. Two people in our party tried to book Cirque upon boarding but was full already.
On the morning that they have the $10 special that lasts only 1 hour, it was packed full of people pushing and pushing to get in. It was crazy. The next day the $10 area of the shop opened up for the remainder of the cruise and the same things were available!! Don't bother with the crowd unless you like the thrill.
Server's by the pool area are pretty non existant which for non drinkers like myself, was nice not to be asked every five minutes if I'd like a drink. I don't smoke either and the smoke didn't bother me walking through were the casino was, I had read complaints about this. My big complaint was that Fat Cats is located right in the casino, you have to walk through it and through the smoke to get to the club, and that is where many of the Nick events for children were held, not sure who planned that!!! I didn't have huge issues with the smoke but don't enjoy walking my kids through it and through a casino to a family Lego building event or to colour Spongebob shirts.
All of the staff was courteous and polite to us. We weren't unhappy the whole cruise like this post may make it seem. We had fun as a family enjoying the beautiful warm weather. We just didn't enjoy the massive lines every time there was an event and we didn't enjoy the overall crowding on the ship. We'll stick to our 2500 pax ships like we're used to, I think that size better suits us:)