I learned about the Epic while watching the video in the gym on the Norwegian Pearl and I said, that is the next ship I have to be on. Well it sort of was since I went on the Carnival Splendor back in March, but let me tell you all aspects of my expectations were met or exceeded. Traveling from the west coast to Florida can be a pain, but the Port of Miami has everything down to a science. As opposed to the debacle I recently experienced in Long Beach, from the time I was dropped off at the port to getting a bite to eat onboard the ship..maybe one hour? That includes stopping to take some pictures. It helps getting there early, which we did.
In typical Norwegian fashion, they spritz you with hand sanatizer every time you board the ship, and every time you go inside an eating establishment. While I was greeted with a glass of champagne onboard the Pearl, I was expecting something a little "Epic" to match the scope of the ship, but alas nothing. The exterior and interior are truly awe inspiring, and unlike anything you have seen before. This ship is a mold breaker kind of like the Allure and Oasis of the Season, and what Carnival has yet to do.
On other ships, most everything is on two levels, but this ship is so big, it spreads out to multiple levels, and unless you make a point of it, chances are you won't be able to see and experience everything, unless you really put your mind to it!
I normally do balconies, but I picked a studio cabin because I was traveling alone and I can get by without paying single person supplement. Nobody was ever in that lounge that was solely dedicated to us, but the room was cool and fully functional. I could have used a mini bar, not just for alcohol, but for soda and water. I won't spend too much time talking about the rooms, since pictures are readily available online, but they are definitely mold breaking as well.
Normally I don't spend too much time talking about food since I am not a foodie, but I feel it's necessary when it comes to the Epic. We booked three cover charge restaurants: Italian, Cagneys Steakhouse, and Teppanyaki. We also did the Cirque Dreams show (more on that later), and my brother did the Brazilian Steakhouse. The buffet is your fairly standard Norwegian buffet, and there is food readily available at each of the pools, and it is above average. But on a ship with so many people, the open or "freestyle" dining can be a cluster around dinner time, making the cover charge restaurants all the more refreshing. The few times we got a pager for restaurants such as "Tastes" we just gave up, and either went to the buffet for something quick and easy or did one of our upgrade dinners. The food at Cagneys is out of this world, although the ambiance is lessened with the shared dining room of the Brazilian restaurant. The Italian restaurant was good, with better ambiance, and the Teppanyaki restaurant is exactly what you would expect. I never did get to eat at the O'Sheehans because it was always busy and the service was lackadaisical. The servers had no incentive since they weren't receiving tips and it could be a while to get anything especially when it got busy. I did order room service quite a bit, charging $5 for pizza delivery I am fine with, but a $3.95 charge to deliver after hours was ridiculous. Who cares what time I want room service? I argued once about it because they were so slow and he took it off. It can either come right away, or take a while, but the quality is decent.
We are big casino lovers, and we spend a lot of time in the Epic Casino. The casino was as modern and updated as any casino I have been in, with all the usual offerings but I was excited to see Aristocrat slots. Rather than have a room that was a casino, it kind of spread out throughout the floor. I kind of almost prefer an enclosed, more intimate casino rather than a long hallway with slots. Some corners of the casino can be very smoky, and it was always busy. I give the casino, about a B. Drink service can also be a tad slow.
Entertainment...I am sure everyone that has written an Epic review has talked about the entertainment. But let me just say that I go to Vegas a few times every year, have seen all the Cirque shows, Blue Man ETC...and I never, ever, bother with Cruise shows. Ever. HOWEVER! These were a must. The quality was better than anything I have ever seen before and on par with Vegas and in some cases better. YOU MUST book your shows before you get on the cruise ship and you can do this 45 days out. Otherwise you will be left with very slim pickings, and get to your seat at least a half hour early, especially for Blue Man. The Legends show was so fun, even comedian Jeff Hobson was great. The Second City Improv was decent, and you can usually find the cast at the bar having a drink after the show. Howl at the Moon piano bar was OK but again not as intimate as other piano bars where you can get closer to the performers, and the blues bar is an absolute must. Let me just say, do not miss out on Cirque Dreams. Admittedly the food is not impressive, but the show is mind boggling, and it is far more up close and personal than any Vegas Cirque show. The music was superb, it was funny, and all the more impressive that they did it on a moving cruise ship.
I also spend almost every night in Bliss Ultra Lounge, and it was the funnest place on the ship. They have some kind of event each night be it burlesque, or ship n males, and I blew off the White Hot Party because it was really lame on the Pearl, but I guess I missed out on the funnest night ever. Don't make the same mistake. The Spice 20 club on the back of the ship is cool, but Bliss is really where it gets lively. There is literally so much to do, and good luck being able to do it all. The pools are great, and of course, the Epic Plunge is a must.
I also did the Ice Bar, just to say I did it, and I ended up having a really great time. It is legitimately cold inside there, but don't be fooled by the color of the drinks. We left the Ice Bar stumbling, and prob spent a good 45 minutes in there. GREAT photo opportunities.
I use the gym almost every day, and it definitely passes. Nothing special, but the selection of equipment is good.
My overall feeling being on this cruise ship was like I was at the Bellagio or the Cosmopolitan, as opposed to the more intimate feeling you get on some of the, and its hard to say smaller, but I guess standard cruise ships. Aside from some of the casino drink servers, I didn't make that special connection that we normally do with cruise employees, and I felt small, as opposed to the other cruise ships where I feel a little...bigger. For such a big ship, I never really waited too long for anything if at all. Yes, the Plunge has about a 15-20 minute wait, and some of the dining options you may not be seated as quickly, but that is what the upgrades are for. Be smart, plan ahead, book your dining and your shows, and you will have an EPIC time.