A little bit about me: I sailed on the Epic with my husband, sister and brother-in-law. The four of us range in age from 28 - 41 with no children. This is the fourth cruise I've been on with Norwegian, I've also sailed on Royal Caribbean.
I'll start with the bad:
#1 SHIP EXCURSIONS - We were FURIOUS about the excursions through the Ship. I've never experienced anything like it. We did the St. Johns Trunk Bay & Snorkel Excursion. We spent more time on the ferry getting there and back than we did on the beach. We got to the beach at 10:15 AM and had to leave at 11:45 AM. We were SHOCKED and felt completely ripped off. DO NOT TAKE THIS EXCURSION. The other excursion booked through the ship was the Atlantis Aquapark Adventure. We probably should have seen this coming, but the Aquapark was packed, there was no where to sit, we only had a half a day and it took us forever to get there, stood in line forever for a locker, and then waited in lines forever to get on any of the slides; which honestly were not that great compared to water parks I've been to at home. Atlantis in general seemed kind of dumpy for such an expensive resort. We only had 3 ports of call and I was really hoping to make the most of them, and we did at St Marin (we booked our excursion outside the ship and it was fantastic!), but the other two days were a real bummer.
#2 SHIP LAYOUT - Other ships that I've been on have large promenades, lots of windows and lots of deck space. This ship seemed really DARK and closed in, and you had to walk through the smokey, crowded casino to get anywhere. The ship has twice the number of passengers yet the same amount of deck space as smaller ships. Also the pools were tiny.
#3 WAY TOO CROWDED - There are over 4,000 people on the ship and you sure feel it. Our last day of sea we finally caved in and followed the crowd and got up at 5:45 AM to reserve deck chairs. I thought we were being ridiculous but there were actually quite a few already reserved. In the evenings you couldn't find a seat near any of the bars. If you don't book the shows and restaurants you want at least a day in advance, forget it. Also, there were a lot of kids on this cruise - and they completely dominated to main pool area. Luckily there is a pool area reserved for adults because the hot tubs in the main pool area were packed with children who were splashing, dropping ice cream cones in the water, stepping over people and generally running wild.
Now for the good:
#1 FOOD - The food was the best I've had yet on a cruise ship. We especially loved Moderno, Cirque D&D, and Le Bistro. Even the food in the buffet was good, and like most cruises there was definitely something for everyone. People who say the food is average, I want to know what other lines they are sailing on! I'm a foodie, we eat out a lot at some really nice restaurants, and I was very pleased with the food on the Epic.
#2 WATER SLIDES - The slides were awesome and worth waiting in line for.
#3 SHIP DECOR AND TECHNOLOGY - I've always been a fan of the way Norwegian decorates their ships and the Epic is very beautiful down to the very last detail. We stayed in an inside room and my sister had the balcony across from us. The inside room was actually very nice and if it weren't for the fact that public deck space is so limited I would recommend the inside cabin. People have complained that the cabins are small, and they are a little cramped, but they're so pretty and well laid out you don't really notice that much. Also, the interactive technology all around the ship was a nice touch. They had a lot of touch screens with maps, restaurant and entertainment capacity and sold out status etc... it made it easier to get around a big ship and plan your day.
#4 PIRATE TOURS ST MARTIN - If you're cruising to St. Martin; check out Pirate Tours St Martin. They have two power speed boats that seat 12 or less people. They take you all around the island on the boat, stopping at several beaches and provide you with a tasty lunch. It was a blast. From now on we will always book directly with the locals and not through the ship.
The Epic was designed first and foremost as a money making machine. Near capacity, it's elbow to elbow everywhere you go. It felt like the entire ship was designed around the casino. Excursions through the ship are like herding cattle. Three days at sea make you wonder if really takes that long to get to the ports of call or if they just want you on the ship spending as much money as possible. Of course they are here to make a profit and I can't begrudge them that; but I think they took it too far with the Epic. It was fun to see, but if I had it to do over again I wouldn't book the Epic. I would have gone with a smaller ship like the Pearl. Our next cruise we plan to try Princess.