As many others have indicated we found cruising on NCL Epic to be a very uneven experience. The ship is beautiful with many retro touches that were delightful as well as some of the most up-to-date technology employed at sea. With attention to detail and better service training for the staff it could be one of the very best ships afloat.
We have cruised NCL twice in the past but our last seven cruises (within 4 years) have been with Celebrity.We were unable to stop comparing this cruise to those we've been on "X" and the comparison was very rarely favorable to NCL.We splurged on a 2 bedroom suite for this cruise. The cabin (17001) was absolutely gorgeous and super comfortable. The master bath alone made the price of the cruise worthwhile! Both the LARGE shower and soaking tub have floor to ceiling windows allowing breath taking views. This cabin has a large sun room in place of a balcony. By closing the windows the space can be used while at sea when it would be too windy to comfortably use a balcony but you can open the window for sounds and scents when in port. It is dead center in the front of the ship and was a great place to be for the unobstructed wide view.Our cabin stewards did a fine job and left towel animals almost every night.We really did not use our butler's services but he was a pleasant guy.The concierge seated us for a few shows but as we'd made all reservations before leaving home we really did not utilize her services either.
One thing I do not care for is the need to reserve entertainment at all.That being said we LOVED the entertainment on Epic. We saw Second City twice,Blue Man Group,Legends in Concert,and went to Howl at the Moon too. All were fun and a nice change from Broadway style reviews and magicians. We did not see the Cirque show as we have seen many others but also heard it was great. The Murder Mystery lunch entertainment was good but the food was not. Four out of the 5 at our table had meatloaf and all disliked it. I had chicken which was actually nice and moist but otherwise unremarkable and sure not worth the cost! The mini eclairs were good.
Food in general was the biggest disappointment on this cruise. We were looking forward to a variety of dining options but perhaps by trying to provide so many different venues NCL is unable to do many well.We ate at the buffet 5 times. It was the usual chaotic experience and the food was fine although selection varied little. I loved the pretzel bread and thought the crepe station at dinner was a great addition. We ate at La Cucina once. The staff were wonderful and the ambiance was too. DD and I had pasta and it was fine. DH had steak. He NEVER sends food back but had to do so twice. The steak was cooked to the proper degree but just tasted awful. The maitre d was distressed and persevered bringing my husband osso buco which he then enjoyed. Let me emphasize that he did try hard to remedy the situation. At Cagneys we paid the up charge and then paid again to add lobster. I should have sent that back as I literally had to (discretely) spit out bites that were either freezer burnt or otherwise marred.The texture was disgusting.The server never asked if things were acceptable. The steaks and other side dishes were okay.At O'Shehans we tried soggy fish& chips,mushy wings,bland corned beef,a good vanilla shake and a tasty brownie. We had to repeatedly ask for water refills although the pub was not busy. The general quality of food was below a grade of "C".Cost cutting is evident in meats and desserts especially. Fortunately we ate the majority of our meals at Epic Club and the Epic Grill. There we had very good food and good service. My favorite things to eat there were the blue crab cakes on special one evening,the hot cakes with bananas & walnut butter (you don't even need the syrup!) at breakfast,and the delicious tuna burgers and the espresso warm brownie with ice cream in the grill at lunch.Yummy!I We also appreciated the French press coffee and the buffet at breakfast time in Epic Club.
I also want to give credit to NCL for great embarkation and disembarkation. Yes we had priority status when we boarded but we left the ship as part of a tour and were pleased with that as well.
Besides our wonderful cabin and the Epic Club we treasured the multiple sun decks,pool,hot tub,fitness center and bars available in the Haven.Even private spa treatment rooms and sauna were available. It is very well named as it was a tranquil oasis in the midst of a very busy and often chaotic ship. Without question the design of the entire area to be "a ship within a ship" is amazing.
Another thing we liked was our fellow passengers all over the ship who were as friendly and pleasant a group as we've ever had the pleasure to cruise with. Overall the passengers were younger than the group we usually see on Celebrity by about 20 years or more. We were more likely to encounter someone wheeling a stroller than driving a motorized wheelchair.
We liked the ability to dress as we wished and eat when we wished.We did not like the cigarette smoke in the casino.The air filtration system just could not keep up.Fortunately there were no other places where that was an issue. I found shopping on board to be underwhelming. On the plus side bar service was fast throughout the ship and prices were very good (most frozen drinks were in the $6-8 range). Cherryl in Epic Lounge even told us the recipe for the BBC and her mudslide was fabulous.
I've been to all the ports on this cruise before but I really love the beach at St. Marten (excursion cancelled due to weather this time) and St. John so I could return many more times. There are no bad cruises IMHO. This one just lacked attention to the little things all too often.We rarely saw our stewards or butler and we missed having the opportunity to get to know them. In the past making that "connection" has been a very enjoyable part of the cruise experience for us. Some might say this is just unobtrusive service but we actually talked a fair bit with other attendants that we met regularly in the hallways!
So would I sail with NCL again? Hmm...I ran out of time to try the ice bar and tendinitis kept me from bowling or getting up the courage to try the climbing wall so I didn't get to experience everything I'd planned to do. If I could afford to stay in the Haven and got a good price I would consider giving it another shot on Epic or one of the newer ones soon to sail. The suites are SO nice. If I could afford only a balcony or below I would not consider it,preferring to return to Celebrity where ALL passengers truly are treated like VIPs.