We sailed for our first ever cruise on the NCL Jade last year and are now officially hooked on cruising!
So when we saw the Epic we knew we had to give it a go.
We flew UK to Miami with KLM. This was a BIG mistake. Without prior warning they farm their flights out to Delta airlines who are awful. If it had just been a domestic flight it would have been fine but to spend 9 out of an 18 hour journey on a cramped plane, only 1 film (during which they served us drinks and then some horrid food) and exceptionally rude staff was just a bad start to any holiday!
Anyway, after getting past some of the most aggresive and intimidating homeland security guards I have ever encountered we headed to our hotel for a night.
The port at Miami was so easy. We walked straight up to registration and got straight through to the waiting lounge only to be ushered straight on to the ship ahead of boarding because we are latitudes members.
I think a swift registration is speeded up by people having the correct paperwork ready and to hand by the time they get to the desk, which is oh so often not the case.
By the time we had explored the cabins were ready, luggage followed very swiftly after, then a thorough muster drill.
We were in a spa mini suite which was lovely. We didnt find the space or the bathroom situation an issue at all. There is far too much storage though! and all the overhead cupboards and the bathroom seperation curtain made it feel very caravan-esque!
Our steward was nice but the cabin was not really that clean and we were charged mini bar items we hadnt had and spent ages between 2 departments arguing this fact. All because the steward had not restocked it properly before we arrived. We couldnt check this on arrival as there isnt a list of what is meant to be there. we were made to feel a bit like we were pulling a scam!
Whilst on the Jade we learned quite quickly that to avoid the 'meat market' in the buffet (with everyone pushing and shoving like theyve never eaten before!) there is one major advantage to having a balcony room. Get a cabin near an elevator or stairway to the buffet and take your food home with you! you can sit and watch the sea in peace and quiet whilst having a relaxing lunch!
The food was good but a bit too 'American' for us. The salad bar was ok but there were alot of very fatty choices or some very overcooked fish most days. The Jade wins on this one as it has more of an international and meditteranean feel.
We had room service breakfast most mornings but the list of items missing off our tray got bigger every day until the last day we had no bowls, spoons or milk for our cereal!
Drinks on the ship were cheaper than anywhere we went on shore in our 2 weeks away. (especially Miami which was very expensive). Also the same drinks were different prices at different bars which is wierd.
The entertainment was good except legends in concert which was a bit rubbish. Howl at the moon was awesome.
The casino was as good as any.
OSheehans pub was OK but always seemed to be showing american football on the big screen when we wanted an afternoon drink. The screen is 2 stories so this also meant we coulndt go in the atrium for a few hours because of loud screaming and swearing (drunk) sports fans.
Bliss lounge was ok but not enough seating for evening events.
This was probably one of our main complaints. On the Jade we got to know staff in different bars and entertainment staff by name. they would remember us and ask us how are day was or what we were doing or just generally chatting. The Jade sanitising staff were always cheerful and gave you the 'washy washy happy happy' song.
On the Epic we were met with alot of rude staff that just didnt seem to care at all. There was no 'extra mile' from any one. even the cruise director didnt want to strike up a conversation with us at the bar. he was more interested in talking to staff, about how drunk he was the night before, across the bar!
The ship had a definate divide and we never fitted either category completely. On sea days the top deck was like a 18-30 ibiza booze cruise....ALL DAY AND NIGHT with a few hundred others just laying around trying to turn into leather! This is really the only outdoor area. The indoor activities were very sedate like crossword challenges and quizzes. After going to one evening game show though we quickly realised that the ship wasnt very international as the questions were all american (with a few canadian ones thrown in....that no one could answer!) so we didnt stand a chance.
The bowling had quite restricted opening hours for the amount of people wanting to play.
the art gallery was huge and everywhere you went seemed to be lined with easels of some quite awful art.
The photos were expensive,as per, but with the new electronic screens I still dont understand why they print out every photo for every cabin of which hardly any really get bought. we did want some studio type photos so every evening we took up every photo opp whilst walking the ship then bought 2 of the best ones before we left.
All in all though we did have a good cruise but we will try out a few more of the smaller ships again. The jade was more friendly, more intimate and more relaxed. (and not just one mass piss up at sea that you would expect in magaluf or ibiza)
For the foreseeable future we are still sticking with NCL and have booked for NOvember already!