I had previously cruised on the Norwegian Sea in the 90's and the RCL Voyager soon after it was introduced in the early 2000's, so I was aware of the challenges posed by a ship the size of the Epic. So even though it was marginally larger than Voyager, all the previous comments about the ship's layout proved very true. On arrival at the port of Miami, I was awed by the height of the boat - and rightfully so, as a total of 19 decks are in play onboard (though passengers use only 5-19). Boarding was terrific compared to past experiences, but I was puzzled that there wasn't an awesome "grand entry" or 15 story chandalier....just a bank of elevators, which took me to my cabin easily. I found the studio experience to be very good, though the throne-room was a tad cramped. I was also in the dark for about 3 minutes trying to figure out where the light switch was, as nobody had mentioned that the lights only work when you put the room key in a slot by the door. Once I figured that out, the lighting didn't seem quite bright enough for wide-awake stuff other than by the sink. The odd backlighting was fine, I guess, while puttering around, but not bright enough for reading. As there was really no place to sit in the room other than on the bed, the reading could be moved to the studio lounge about 50 feet away (through a couple of doors) where the lighting was more useable and the seating more agreeable. Incidentally, several events posted on the ship's scheduling screens and on the daily paper referred to a place called "The Living Room", which I learned, was the Studio Lounge. But when asking crew members where the 'living room' was, nobody had a clue, and this boat has been cruising for almost 2 years!
After getting the lay of the land onboard, I couldn't understand what the engineers were thinking when they put the two banks of elevators about 750 feet apart, at the front and rear of the ship, so that sore feet were guaranteed. And, of course, I always found myself at the exact wrong end of the boat for whatever event I was attending. It took me 2:15 from my cabin to the rear elevators at a decent walk, and that's a long way, for sure. I was about 50 feet forward of the front elevators, but to get to the spa, the Manhatten, Moderno or Cagney's restaurants or the rear 'adult' section of the ship,foot power was the only way to do it. And a shore visit caused a foot condition that made the walks most uncomfortable. More on that later.
I was terrifically impressed by the studio's bed (exceptionally comfortable) and the shower, and yes, you couldn't do anything at the small sink without getting water all over the floor, but the steward always was invisibly leaving new towels and bathmats, so for me, the wet floor was of no consequence. Another mystery was the TV in the room which had 4 cable news shows and a sports channel. The news shows were always commentators, never news people, and to find out what was happening in the world, you had to watch the scroll at the bottom. I wasn't in the room that frequently, but a better selection of news programming would be an improvement.
I found the food to be unremarmkable and plentiful, as others have noted. But I didn't expect the 'skating rink' in front of the breakfast buffet areas when I was in my sandals. It was truly treacherous at certain times, though it was attended to frequently. Not sure if it was my new sandals or the grease/oil from the grill migrating, but I found the footing unaccaptable at times. Other venues were as expected; I enjoyed the Italian, French and Brazilian dining experiences and the food was very good.
I had mentioned my bucket list, and two things were on it: Blue Man Group and the Princess Julianna airport landing approach at St Martin. Truly enjoyed the BMG show, and heard many comments that it was just as good as any out in the world. Really cleaver and entertaining. My experience at St Martin was damp to begin with, as it was pouring, forcing the purchase of a $3.00 plastic poncho sold by housekeeping at the gangway. Finally hooked up with a tour I had booked outside of NCL (Jo-Junie Tours) which was very well done. Circumnavigated St. Martin with the rain finally letting up as we approached spectacular Orient Beach (a part of which is clothing optional). We got to the airport just as a 747 was going to take off. (Lots of images on U-Tube) My issue was that the sand on St. Martin is of an odd consistency which stuck to my sandals so tenaciously that I couldn't get it out no matter what I did; even after I used the shower on board at full tilt, a little sand remained. Unfortuantely for my feet, it formed a sandpaper which chaffed my feet to the extent that I had to revert to tennis shoes and socks, because my new Teva sandals hurt my feet so badly. Thus, the complaints with the long walks on Epic. Saw their Legends show. Not as good as BMG. But I also need to suggest the packing of ear protection, because everything on board, from entertainment to announcements tended to be earsplitting and aggravating. The Studio Group went to dinner at the Manhatten eatery, and we couldn't hear each other because the band was at full tilt at 6pm (including a very marginal trumpet player whose definition of quality music was how loud he could belt out his tunes.)
Choke points on decks 6 (casino) and 7 (Ice Bar) seemed more like speed bumps when traversing the ship front to back. I didn't feel as affected by smoke in the casino as others have commented; maybe NCL improved the ventilation. My final bitch is the posting of the location of rest rooms. I remember seeing them on the deck plans, but trying to find them was a challenge. Finally caught on that there were always facilities at the elevators, but deck to deck, the location of the women's and men's restrooms alternated, and it was difficult to remember on which side they were on any given deck. Went right by the ones mid-ship on 6 and 7, as the signs are essentially hidden. Not a good thing when you 'have to go'. No more promenade decks, by the way. Walking/jogging track was on deck 7. We parked next to Disney Dream in Nassau and that didn't seem to have a promenade either. It's given way to balcony suites, I guess.
Next time around, nothing the size of Epic. Something a bit more intimate will do. Service on Norwegian was terrific; every door or passageway had a "disinfector" lady spraying hands. And every staff member seemed pleased in their environments. Good job, NCL. Finally, I really enjoyed the Everglades tour following docking in Miami. I had a 5:30 flight and the tour cut about 4 hours out of the wait. Learned a lot about how the Everglades is suffering as an environment. Heartily recommend the tour.
Probably not cruising again in the near future, but as competitive as the market is, I don't forsee returning to NCL. Next cruise: Panama Canal!