This was my 9th cruise, (four with Carnival and four with Royal Caribbean) and we were a large group of 24 people. One couple we were traveling with are BIG Norwegian fans and talked us into trying the cruise line. We travel every year with several families and usually all share the same opinion.
We were quite surprised at embarkation because the lines were very long and seemed to be moving slowly. We waited about 40 minutes to embark. Last year we went on Royal Caribbeans Oasis of the Seas which was filled to capacity and literally walked right on. They embark according to the cabin deck your room is on, making for a very smooth, quick embarkation.Considering this ship was not even full the long lines were surprising.
Once we cleared the lines and walked onto the ship our mouths dropped. Not from awe or excitement but from shock and disappointment. They brought us straight into the casino. Talk about a let down. Usually you walk into a beautiful lobby or promenade and see all the glitz of the ship but no, we walked into a smokey casino.Very disappointing!
We all met at the buffet for lunch before we were allowed to head to our cabins. The buffet was your average cruise fare with no major complaints. Once we were allowed to head to our cabins, I was excited to see what all the fuss was about with the curved walls and separate showers. Once we entered the cabin,my eyes couldn't help but notice the dried toothpaste spit that was on the side of the sink (especially since the sink is right there as soon as you walk in the door). As a MAJOR germ freak this really set me off. Good thing I always bring my Clorox wipes! The carpet was pretty stained for a new ship and dust was everywhere. I thought it was just me (as I said I am the germ freak) but everyone in our party had the same complaints about the cleanliness factor of the ship. It looked much older than a year and a half. I would have thought it was a 5-6 yr old ship. Once you get over the initial shock of the separate bathroom, shower, and sink it does become easier to work with. We were 3 people in our cabin so we had to work out a system but we all managed to make it work. The hardest part is that the shower is right by the cabin door, so if you are drying off and someone comes in the cabin they literally hit you with the door (not to mention the view for all to see). Passing each other in the cabin was impossible. There was no room between the bed and dresser. My daughter (14yrs old) fell off the sofa bed twice. It was very small especially since the curved back took up a lot of room. One family we traveled with blew a fuse in their cabin every night when they plugged in their curling iron. Not sure why that kept happening. Over all the aesthetics of the ship is what I would call ugly. From the big boxy look on the outside to the lack of glitzy decor on the inside.
The pool deck was also very disappointing. For such a large ship the deck area was exceptionally small. Chairs were impossible to find on sea days and usually all taken by 8AM. My friend had actually gotten up early to secure chairs one morning and went to get breakfast to bring back to her chair and someone had already removed her belongings. Needless to say she was less than pleased. Overall we found the staff to be pleasant, but not always willing to go the extra mile. Not sure if that is because they already know they are getting their tips no matter what or not. On Carnival and Royal Carib you can opt out of prepaid tips but not on NCL. The anytime dining was great if you are a small group. We all missed not having the same waiter every night who got to know your likes and dislikes. However, we did find one waitress "Minnie" who was amazing and fun. We requested her station every night so all in all we ended up having the best of both worlds!
Now that I have told you the bad and the ugly, I want to share the good. We all had a great time, and loved the relaxed environment of the ship. We were not bothered every two seconds for drinks, bingo or otherwise. No constant announcements were made and the not having to dress up every night was relaxing. The Blue Man Group was good, Howl at the Moon phenomenal, and we enjoyed Legends as well. Second City was not good the night we saw it, however the night before other members of our group said it was very funny. We liked the night time environment of the various clubs, and watching the big screen outside O'Sheehans was fun. Every night ended with us eating once again at O'Sheehans, talking about our day and snacking on their great wings, banana bread or mozzarella sticks. Would I travel on NCL again? I honestly don't know. The couple who talked us into trying NCL did say they were not crazy about the Epic but LOVE all the other NCL ships. They have been on about 8 NCL cruises in the past. In all fairness, having traveled on Royal's Oasis of the Seas last year, I couldn't help myself but compare everything to that ship.For a ship of that size it was amazing how clean and spread out everything was. You never felt crowded. I think one of the main problems with the Epic is that everything is squeezed into the mid ship area. Creating everyone to be on top of each other. Very poor design. Maybe in a few years NCL can revamp the ship!