If you have read my first story about our cruise on Epic, this one might make you change your mind about what I wrote.It's true: The ship is too big and carries too many people, and that makes it crowded and noisy. From that standpoint, it does not make for a relaxing vacation, but, somehow, you manage it. All the issues about the ship just drift out into space.
This was our 10th cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, and it was our second time on the Epic within three months. In a previous story, I mentioned that the Epic is massive, but the second time round it doesn't seem quite so big. That is due in part to the ship being familiar and knowing where staterooms, restaurants, shops, theatres and many other venues are located. The frequency of getting lost was greatly diminished, and it was less intimidating, but I still referred to deck plans from time to time to be sure where I wanted to go. The ship, with its recessed lamps and spot-lighting, remains too dark for me, but you manage somehow to get used to it.
We chose the Epic again, because we do like the ship itself. It has a lot to offer to any cruise vacationer. If you cannot find anything to do that pleases you while on board, it is simply because you didn't search hard enough to find it. We wanted to go back to see the staff and crew that we had met on all our previous cruises, and we even met a few we weren't expecting to see. This ship is its people.
On our last cruise on the Epic (13-day trans-Atlantic, October 2011), there were 3000 passengers. On this particular cruise (7-day Caribbean, January 2012) there were more that 4700 passengers. Believe me, the extra 1700 people make a noticeable difference. The public areas, including Garden Cafe and the Casino along with restaurants and bars, are more crowded and noisier than they had been. Except for your stateroom and the spa (if you choose to indulge) are the only truly quiet places you can find. We took this Caribbean cruise with full knowledge of all of this.
The revamped Latitudes programme, NCL's past guest rewards system, moved us to a higher tier for rewards. We enjoyed complimentary dinner and laundry services, among other things, all of which were greatly appreciated. This is not the reason we continue to sail with NCL.
This Caribbean cruise took us to Saint Martin (Dutch West Indies) where we hadn't been for about 25 years. Needless to say it has changed -- for the better, I think. We also ported at St. Thomas USVI and Nassau, Bahamas, two ports we've seen in the past year. They are all Caribbean making them, to my mind, very much alike, but with slight, yet subtle, differences. This cruise, though, wasn't so much about the ports as it was about the ship and its people.
We chose the Epic not only because it is a nice ship, but because it has a wonderful staff. We had fantastic service from our stateroom attendant and from our wait-staff in the various dining venues we chose to go to. We had dinner in Le Bistro twice and once in Spiegel Tent for Cirque Dreams & Dinner. In Le Bistro we had French-style cuisine and in Spiegel Tent the menu was impressive, but you forget that you are having dinner because the show captivates you. Seeing the performers doing their acts (such as juggling, balancing, high-wire and skating) in such a small venue is truly amazing and remarkable. We were impressed by each and every act. They are truly professional. In my opinion, this is a show not to be missed.
Concerning our stateroom, this time we had a standard aft balcony stateroom while last time it was an aft-near-midship mini-suite. The standard balcony cabin was a little smaller and had less closet space (but you don't carry a full wardrobe of clothes anyway) than the mini-suite, and the shower area was about half the size. This is not so important because we spent a lot of time a lot of time on the balcony or in other areas of the ship. Anyway, the purpose of any vacation is to go out and see and experience new things, not to stay in your room.
Our bed was placed near the sliding glass patio doors and the sofa-bed was near the entry door. The bed was very comfortable and we slept very well - a little too well, I'm afraid. The TV was directly in front of the bed, making watching TV from the sofa a little impractical. In fact, we rarely used the sofa this time, preferring to sit on the balcony and enjoy some fresh air and warm sunshine, watching the sea go by, to staying in the stateroom. With so much to do on board, watching TV is a very last resort for entertainment, as it should be on any vacation.
We will be back on Epic, or some other NCL ship, in the very near future. We are dedicated cruisers with NCL, and we enjoy what they have to offer. We like the freestyle format because we don't want to be obligated to wear suits and ties. It's nice to have the option of "Dress Up ...Or Not".
There are so many people who made this cruise one of the best we've ever taken. A few of them are Emerson, Arnold, Valentina, Wilbur, Serena, Gary, Rashida, Ramona, Rosalia, Catalina, Adrian U., Adrian B., Cristina, Sergio, and many, many more. Thank you each and every one, and thank you NCL!