18 Southampton to Transatlantic Norwegian Epic Cruise Reviews

We were very excited to have the opportunity to go on the Inaugural sailing of the NCL Epic. Because of school, we normally are not available to do a Transatlantic, so we were thrilled about doing this trip in June. We were lucky enough to ... Read More
We were very excited to have the opportunity to go on the Inaugural sailing of the NCL Epic. Because of school, we normally are not available to do a Transatlantic, so we were thrilled about doing this trip in June. We were lucky enough to get a Courtyard Villa that had been cancelled by someone else, so even more excitement at checking out the Courtyard area. I will start by saying that this was the best assemblage of entertainment talent on any mainstream U. S. cruise ship in modern times. We pre-booked to see the Blue Man group in the Epic Theater, which was very entertaining. My husband had seen them in Las Vegas, but for the rest of us, it was a new experience. I was not sure what to expect, but the comedy and percussion were great! My 17 and 13 year old sons were really laughing hard at the antics of these guys! We also pre-booked the Cirque Dreams Dinner Show. We have seen several Cirque shows and have always been mesmerized and this one did not disappoint. It is a much more intimate venue than you usually get at their shows and you really feel right in the middle of it all. There is a story about a movie production that is comical, but there are also numerous performers doing acrobatic and twirling routines. Very different and enjoyable, although the food itself was not the most delicious thing we ate on board! We attended the opening show for Legends, which currently has an Elvis, a Madonna, and a Tina Turner. All were very good, with the lady who impersonates Madonna being especially saucy and a very good likeness of the Material Girl. The five dancers who performed with all three performers were absolutely incredible. I don't know how they managed to keep up their incredible energy during the entire performance, just beyond belief! The musical talent was extraordinary from Bernie Martini playing piano in the Shakers Martini Bar to Slam Allen and his blues band in Fat Cats. Bernie Martini is a talented, personable, poised, young man who did standards like Mac the Knife and Unchained Melody, but also performed Elton John (complete with zany glasses) and the Eagles. The bar was packed from 8 - midnight while he played each night. The very talented Ronald Brown played easy listening tunes in the Epic Club during lunch, but we heard him with Slam Allen during a set and he really was unbelievable at playing jazz and blues. This gentleman is an absolute master at the piano and I could only feel sorry for anyone having to play after he finished! Slam Allen is the real deal; he was playing all kinds of blues with his band and having a great time interacting with the audience in this great club that makes you feel like you are in the French Quarter. We spoke with him and found out he is from NY, but he sure sounded like he was from New Orleans! There were two gentlemen performing in the Maltings Bar at various times, both playing guitar who sounded great as well. I did not get their names as I only passed through to go shopping while they were performing. The water slides were fantastic, although the Transatlantic crossing was a bit chilly to enjoy them. When this ship hits the Caribbean, then the water slides will get a real workout! Although my 13 year old and his friends were undeterred by the chilly temperatures and winds. They would slide and then get in the hot tubs to warm up. I had to try them out on the last two days, even though my DH thought I was crazy. Oh well, I took my robe with me to warm up with afterwards (you won't need to do that in the Caribbean!) The ice bar was quite an unusual and fun experience. I would book this the first night before it gets filled up, so you can have a good choice of times. You are given a poncho and gloves, so wear warm footwear as there are no boots given. I did not know that ahead of time and was wearing my open-toe espadrilles from dinner--chilly toes by the end of the 45 minutes! While there is a charge for this, it includes 2 vodka-based drinks or 2 non-alcoholic drinks, so it was a really good deal (especially after seeing the price in Copenhagen last year!) The NCL photographer will come take pictures, so if you are worried about your camera lens getting frozen, there is a plan B. There are many restaurants on board to choose from, so everyone can find a favorite. We love Le Bistro, so we knew we had to dine at the larger one on board the Epic. Everything was delicious, especially my family's favorite: the escargot. There was a new duck dish with duck breast and a big duck leg confit style, yum! We also dined in Cagney's, which had wonderful food, as always. The service there was a little slow, but the Food and Beverage Manager told us he was on top of that with the Maitre'd there, so I fully expect that to be rectified before it hits the Caribbean. The most spectacular idea for dining is the other side of Cagney's called Moderno Churrascuria, which is a Brazilian-style steakhouse. NCL even brought in pasadores from Brazil to bring the skewers of meat around to the tables! You do not order in this restaurant, just belly up to the enormous double-sided salad bar, then flip your card to green so that the pasadores begin bringing skewer after skewer of different kinds of meat. There was garlic beef, chicken wrapped in bacon, chicken legs, fillet, lamb chops, sirloin tip roast, chorizo, and Portuguese sausage. The Italian restaurant was La Cucina and the view of the bow of the ship and the ocean was worth the visit alone. The chopped salad, pizza, and Chicken Parmigiana were scrumptious. We do not normally dine in the Chinese restaurants as we have so many good ones at home, but heard many people saying how much they enjoyed the food. As we were in a CV, we could dine in the Epic Club for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The breakfast was very relaxing and they still have the fabulous Crab Cakes Benedict! For lunch, there was a great menu including sandwiches, burgers, steak, chicken breast, and pasta. I absolutely adore the Ahi Tuna burger they serve and ate it almost every day it was so fantastic (marinated, with sesame seeds and wasabi shredded veggies and ginger). The mixed berry dessert was served with a perfect almond lace cookie! We only did dinner in there one night, but it was very good. My DH was impressed with the menu and the service was impeccable. My 13 year old had the greatest time in the Teen Club with Remix, Erin, and the rest of the staff. They had lots of great music, foozball, air hockey, Nintendo Wii and Playstation. They had a Twilight themed dance in the Bliss Ultra Lounge one evening complete with smoke machines, which both of my sons loved. The youngest said it was the best time he had ever had on a cruise, which was high praise as it was his 8th cruise! We had a great time exploring the Epic with her many restaurants and bars, plus bowling and water slides. I think this fantastic ship has a wonderful future ahead of her! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
John and I have one holiday a year. We work almost 24/7 for over 50 weeks a year so really treasure our time off. This cruise was a lifelong dream for both of us to sail into New York,the only way to arrive anywhere! New York was ... Read More
John and I have one holiday a year. We work almost 24/7 for over 50 weeks a year so really treasure our time off. This cruise was a lifelong dream for both of us to sail into New York,the only way to arrive anywhere! New York was 'simply the best' as sung by Tina Turner as part of the 'Legends'. However, some of the cruise could have been better. We had been awake for over 48 hours as we endured our first long queue at Southampton. We drove overnight to heathrow to leave our car ready for our return home, then made our way to the bus station to reach Southampton. This all went well until we saw the ship and the queue for embarkation. Never mind, nearly on board now ..... After nearly 2 hours we arrived on deck 5. No staff, no idea how to navigate this enormous, stunning ship. Princess always greet you with staff everywhere but not on board NCL. It took us a further hour to find our room, rabbit warren sprung to mind. We had a nice room, huge balcony and unlimited use of some of the Spa,s facilities, which proved a godsend with the bad weather for the next 6 days. We were now quite tired. NO remote for the TV meant we couldn,t access any information. Also no phone handicapped us too. We had a good view of the grotty weather for 2 days on the bridge cam as we were unable to turn the TV off. When the windscreen wiper came on it broke the tedium. I hate lifts so kept very fit walking up and down the stairs. Alot. We ate in the Taste and Manhatten Restaurants and enjoyed them both. The Buffet was huge and the amount of choice plentiful. We backed off any of the speciality restaurants as they were overpriced and not very original. We never saw the Spegial Tent, booked up and hidden behind closed doors when not in use. Why? We never tried room service. Having endured a really long and freezing winter we chose not to try the ice bar. Going on deck made up for it. No pools, water slides which were not designed for mere mortals and deck crew in designer Hunter wellies sum up activities on deck. The sports facilities were amazing but not for a ship in the Atlantic weather. The jogging track was not. No chance of fresh air with food vents blowing on you. What a letdown after the Princess ships. More thought needed to go into the entertainments. Where were the resident ships performers? Why build a theatre so small and have it exclusive to one act? The Blue Man group were very different and good but surely other performers could have used the facilities? Headliners proved interesting if you sat behind a large head but the comedy magician was very entertaining. I found it hard to grasp the idea of a box office on a ship. Usually you just turn up and walk straight in to your chosen show. Ha! Not on the Epic. You just queue...... We did expect some teething problems on a new ship on its maiden voyage. But sometimes it did feel like it needed new dentures. Alot was right but the casino occupying a whole deck in a fog of smoke was not. Staff were never in abundance and the cruise company seemed to want your money and gave little in return. As for disembarkation, the least said the better. Never NCL again. Sailing into New York was so thrilling and magical.Was expecting more of an occasion being its maiden voyage and arrival. The hype we were given led us to believe there would be all sorts of greetings. Nothing. We could have been on a tug boat. New York was wonderful. I thank the Epic for getting us there and realising my lifelong dream.I thank Virgin airlines for an amazing flight home, first class at economy price. It was all part of the package we booked which to be fair, is why we chose this cruise as it was a good deal. I wish the Epic well in much warmer climates where I think she will be more suited. At least you can top up your tan whilst you queue.............. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Started our journey at Mancester and flight down to Southampton which was fine met at the airport and coach to the terminal. Checkin was ok but not given any information about the ship eg layout etc and on boarding huge queue at reception ... Read More
Started our journey at Mancester and flight down to Southampton which was fine met at the airport and coach to the terminal. Checkin was ok but not given any information about the ship eg layout etc and on boarding huge queue at reception desk,so managed to find our own way to the cabin. This was some what disappointing strange layout with the toilet and shower accessed via a glass door directly from the cabin.The sink was a disaster very small with a huge swan like tap which did not swivel making washing very difficult and the sink is too shallow.Not very much room between bed and cabinets.On the plus side the bed was very comfortable. Safe was unusable for 2 day and no telephone initially. The public rooms are very well fitted out but for a ship this size the theatre is too small approx 600 capacity this resulted in many passengers missing the Legends Show. This is also the only cruise ship I have travelled on that charges for entertainment,come on NCL this is just not on. Problems on the pool deck with water not draining away and frankly the size of the pools for a ship this size is pathetic, much too small. Food was generally very good but service in the Manhatton Dining Room was somewhat eratic waited 35 mins for a starter course and twice at breakfast service was very poor. Disembarkation in New Yorks was a disaster too many passengers opted to walk off with their luggage overloading the immigration hall leading to long delays for other passengers with colour coded luggage over 2hrs in our case! Not likely to travel with NCL again Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
I enjoyed the experience of my little 'studio'. It was just right for me and once I figured out how to adjust the lights...choice of colors.. I was comfortable. It. The window to the hall stayed closed because the hall light was ... Read More
I enjoyed the experience of my little 'studio'. It was just right for me and once I figured out how to adjust the lights...choice of colors.. I was comfortable. It. The window to the hall stayed closed because the hall light was blue and it didn't agree with the light I had chosen.I heard quite a few complaints but I was happy...except for the long walk 'home'. It felt good to nap in my little cocoon in the afternoon. The living room made it easy to meet other people to talk with and arrange to share time with. There was a cappacchino maker, bar tender and snacks. How about that!! I would have liked some lectures, but there were none.The Trivia was my favorite thing and thankfully they had it morning and afternoon....silly and fun.I thought the shows were excellent.I went to them all and enjoyed them. Seating was easy and good.As a single, I fitted right in up in front everywhere!! One night, we were told we couldn't have a center table in the Manhattan because we were told that they were for 'special people'. My friend objected saying WE were special people and who could be more special than we were. Another waitress put us at one of the tables meant for 'special people'. I was amused. The casino was in the middle of the ship...full of smoke...and difficult to walk through since I'm not a smoker. All in all I had a good time. I would choose a studio again!! It made the solo experience easy and fun!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
You Never get a second chance to make a first impression. Trite, but true for the NCL Epic. Loyal NCL'ers told us time and again that this was NOT a typical NCL showing, and they would remain loyal to the brand. For cruise ship ... Read More
You Never get a second chance to make a first impression. Trite, but true for the NCL Epic. Loyal NCL'ers told us time and again that this was NOT a typical NCL showing, and they would remain loyal to the brand. For cruise ship veterans but NCL newbies, most will revert to their current loyalties. Yes, it was an inaugural voyage, and yes, anytime you get 4,000 people together you will bound to hear complaining, and yes .. despite all of this, it is still IMPOSSIBLE not to have a good time on a cruise. So while trying to give you my very biased opinions, i'll attempt to be brief and informative and offer as many contrasting opinions we heard along the way .. From a comparative point of reference, I'll inevitable compare to our many positive experiences with princess .. (Mediterranean, and various Caribbeans - all large ships .. Golden, Caribbean etc) Here goes: Travel party wife and I, and two kids . daughter 23 and son 18 next week. Spent a great 3 nights in London before traveling to Southampton Thursday morning. And so began our EPIC experience: Embarking: GRADE D - our first experience with NCL ability to handle crowds. An incredibly inefficient boarding process that took slightly less than two hours - way too long with too many choke points that slowed things to a crawl. Stood behind numerous European smokers, making the outside portion of the waiting even more unpleasant, and also being another portent of the future .. NCL is definitely NOT a smoke free ship. Welcome: What welcome ? You enter the ship on Deck 5 and are on your own .. no elevator in sight, no cruise staff to point you in the right direction, no handy map on the ship.. Welcome to "Free-Style' cruising ! Cabins: Grade B: We had two cabins on Deck 11, inside twin and BD outside balcony. Yes,there's frosted glass on the toilet and shower compartments, but NO, there's no bathroom door or dressing area (ala princess) .. so all personal bathroom sounds apply, as well as that wonderful cruise ship flush for those middle of the night runs your partner will thank you for. This is not the kind of cabin design to take your first vacation with someone. Balcony - very nice and private - can hear the people next door, but no one looking over you ( I could look over on the balcony a few decks below however) Couch - useless in my opinion, a great place to keep your unemptied luggage or your overflow from the closets. TV (very nice) is in front of bed, not couch. More than two people ? Good luck ! Try to squeeze four people ?why not just shoot yourself ? Inside cabin - functional, smaller TV. Overall, form over function - beds were okay, sink a modern designed oval with side faucet, perfect for spilling up and over on the counter space. We were very fortunate in that, other than a reading light that kept burning out, everything worked. Numerous people suffered issues with wet carpets,showers that only delivered scalding or frigid water. Reports from villas were that they were incredibly small, with some saying the location was annoying due to constant opening and closing of segregated entry access doors. Shove-off from Southampton: A great way to get familiar with the major outdoor entertainment area of the ship: Deck 15 which contains the slides and pools. Nice lively music with everyone treated to a buy your own drink (already on this portion of day one it was clear that there would be no inaugural specials or thank you's for cruising the new ship - guess we should have felt honored to be there - who was the customer anyway ??) POOLS: GRADE D ( I have to save the F grade for disembarkation) Adult without small kids perspective - The Epic is a very large ship, but in trying to be all things to all people, it really leaves gaps - there is simply no good "adult" pool area. We're told that the small area on 15 opposite the water park (Spice H two O ) which was cover over is the adult pool area .. with no hope of keeping any age groups segregated - (think Princess back of the ship pool on different deck for adults or well hidden pool attached to spa).. I don't know about the Posh Beach Club, since there are many many areas of the ship (majority or levels 17, 18 and 19 up front) that the high rollers access, and that contain some meager "public" lounge chairs for the masses in steerage. There are several hot tubs on 15, which got a lot of use by those braving frigid Atlantic temperatures to use the slides and then run into the hot tub to prevent hypothermia, which certainly wont be an issue for the eastern and western Caribbean sailings. there appears to be adequate lounge chairs .. but for those that like pool plus lounge chairs sans screaming kids ... not so much Dining: Food Grade B: Service Grade C Minus: Buffet Area on 15 - Grade B: Well Spread Out with Numerous Duplicate Stations. All cruise ships have food and lots of it. Lunch and dinner always had a couple of carving stations, sandwiches and wraps, cheeses, make your own salads, with recurring Indian and Chinese selections. Custom omelette's available for breakfast, hot dog, sausage, burger, pizza and pasta of day available as well. Desserts varied but not that impressive .. soft serve a big hit for the ice cream oriented. Numerous tubs of ice cream and sherbert offered as well .. Watermelon, cantaloupe and melon wedges always available as well. A very good note: while not Starbucks, both the coffee and ice tea were actually drinkable - props are in order O' Sheehans: an incredibly popular place mid ship on Deck 6, overlooking the big screen (which had all the world cup soccer games) and three of the bowling lanes on the other side. FOOD: Grade B, Service D .. good bar fare, wings, tuna melts, burgers, chicken tenders, fries , fish and chips (don't recommend the pot pie or meatloaf). indifferent wait staff (perhaps understaffed as well) with waits of up to 45 minutes just to place your order .. pool and air hockey tables available. nice to feed that late night hunger if you can stand the wait. Manhattan Room and Taste: Two nicely finished dining areas on Deck 5 and 6 for sit down service. Food: B minus Service C minus: Ambiance very nice, food variety limited. No breakfast or lunch specials - same menu items daily. Dinner had a standard menu, with a couple of specials nightly. If you like your food medium well or well, you would be happier than those of us that like it on the rarer side - just order turkey or pork and not steak or prime rib. No Specialty nights for lobster, Italian or something out of ordinary - that's what the many up-charge restaurants are for. First cruise I;ve ever been on where the dining rooms don't offer you shrimp cocktail - they did have some on buffet for dinner however. Like much on the Epic, there was a severe lack of coordination amongst the staff. Many indifferent staff, with a lot of new ship confusion apparent. What they really lacked, and other ships have, are strategically planted "head waiters" that had a section of the dining room assigned to them to make sure that everyone else was doing their jobs and that the customers were evenly served. If NCL claims they have them, then those folks should be replaced -I'm thinking they were non existent to save money and give you a better free style experience .. Oh, speaking of that, the Manhattan room has a dress code for dinner - which i didn't see in any postings or literature - no shorts for dinner - hmmm . I was turned away in linen shorts with a collared polo, but the guy with well worn jeans and an advertiser tee shirt was fine Specialty restaurants: Food C Service C: After a couple of experiences, we cancelled several reservations for up-charges, so I'll give you a limited view: Le Bistro - french - Food C, Service C: A really nothing special French restaurant at a $ 20 PP cost. Pretty bad mussels, ok escargot and tasty scallops for appetizers, overcooked rack of lamb and steak and a forgetful dessert and inattentive staff made for a mediocre dining experience. Food was something i would expect in the basic dining room on perhaps a formal night Cirque: Food C Minus, Service C: We were told that the up-charge for Cirque was for the entertainment, not the food. So while the food was arguably better at Le Bistro, the food comparison is to normal buffet and seating. There were no choices, an overdone chicken and steak dinner served mass wedding style while you watched the show. Show covered later, food supplemented by a trip to O'Sheehans shortly afterward. Sushi: Food C, Service B: Tried on Day 2, prepacked quality at a level of Costco's or Trader Joe's. definitely not upscale quality Shanghai - Not sampled - Poor impression as this was located off of a very busy area off the casino. So as you were inhaling the enormous amount of smoke walking on Deck 6, you passed the entrance area of this up-charge place. The smell emanating from that was one that you get when you enter your corner Chinese take out in anytown USA .. might be better inside, but after sushi experience that was a pass. La Cucina - Not sampled: A nicely tucked away area on Deck 14, accessed via stairs off of the main buffet. Beautiful views both forward and sides off of large windows and very nicely decorated. Did a very enjoyable Italian wine tasting there. Cancelled reservations there after looking at menu. This was one i really looked forward to, with my point of reference Sabatinni;s on the Princess - a magnificent two plus hour dining experience. The La Cucina menu was straight out of Olive Garden - I'm going to pay an up-charge for chicken parm ??? Please ! Cagney's and Moderno - Side by side Steak and Brazilian steakhouses. Again, fabulous decor - had a St Francis Wine tasting on the Moderno side - nice and comfortable. after all of the other issues with overcooked meats, decided to cancel. heard several people talk up Cagneys' steaks being cooked perfectly - I believe the upcharge was $ 25 pp there, unless you selected one of their upcharge to the upcharge options .. that was another ten or 15 ( bistro had the same upcharge to upcharge) No one goes hungry on a ship - I doubt anyone will rave about the food here either Epic - Entertainment Grade: C minus Cirque: A Minus: The Spiegel tent is a very thoughtful and well laid out area for a mid size crowd. Acrobats, juggling and some vaudeville comedy made for some good clean fun, enjoyable for all ages - with the females in the audience even more entertained by a couple of muscular hunks showing their stuff climbing ropes and what not - well worth the upcharge for the entertainment Jeff Hobson: Comic and Magician: Grade B Plus: Pleasant Surprise of Cruise: If you like classic sleight of hand / minor illusions Jeff keeps the crowd engaged for a little over an hour. He has certainly been in front of crowds for years and has a diversion and comeback for almost any situation. Left his show smiling. Second City: Grade F: Sorry folks, just NOT FUNNY .. This is an improv group - maybe gave a soft chuckle twice in 45 minutes. to be fair it was the first night, but there wasn't a laugh in the house for the first 10 or so minutes. NCL got sold a bill of goods on this one - i would recommend an early cancel and replace with old Abbott and Costello, Groucho Marx or Laurel and Hardy movies, or perhaps Office and Two and a Half Men reruns .. you'll get more laughs per minute than you get with their whole show. I predict a quick contract cancel here Blue Men Group: Apparent Minority View (Me, Daughter and Son) Grade D; Wife B Minus; Child Filled Crowd: B to B plus This is Nickelodeon GAK meets Gallagher playing with paint balls and drums. As the teenager said, three high school drop outs who paint themselves blue, throw ping pong balls filled with paint across the stage to a partner who catches it with his mouth and then sprays it on a piece of paper. Constant percussion from drums and PVC pipes augmented with lasers and some audience participation. You must like alternative theater like stomp to like this (with all apologies to stomp). The massive toilet paper finale was an incredible metaphor to my feelings about the show. Legends / Beatles Tribute: With the Epic theater not ready for the first several days of the cruise, I can only assume that the use of the Manhattan Dining Room for these acts was a last minute panic. My wife desperately wanted to see both, but we were unsuccessful. This was one of many signs that this NCL staff was woefully unprepared to handle crowds. If these acts were slated for the Epic Theatre, then things might work. If they continue to be placed in a dining venue, and overlap dining, it will remain a disaster. The assistant cruise directors assigned to settle angry throngs people (aka recent college graduates with no relevant hospitality experience) just didn't know what to do .. The dining staff didn't know how to separate diners from watchers, and the already acknowledged Manhattan room makes a great dining room ... a very poor entertainment venue. Planning and crowd control: F .. Entertainment quality: ??? Bernie Martini up at Shakers: Pretty comfy lounge chairs for those that like Sinatra, Bennett and that genre: Limited selections but Cruise Quality B Bliss: A minus Chic night club with DJ spinning anything from Lady Gaga and Nickelback to Neil Diamond and drunken favorites like Celebration ... A diverse 21 plus late night hangout with attentive staff and festive clients. Bowling: A 5 dollar hoot ! with the ship bouncing more than you might expect, you would swear the lanes aren't level, but who cares ? Three next to O sheehan's and two up at bliss a lot of fun if you don't care about your score ... they limit you to 2 games to keep waiting at a minimum .. And yes, at least one of the lanes have bumpers ! Big Screen decks 5 and 6: The world cup was going on, and this area got major play ! Too much of the time there were just generic pictures. happened to watch the opening scene of Quantum of Solace and it was really impressive on that two story screen .. Outside Big Screens: Great for TA Eskimos ICE BAR: A fun but quick 20 dollars gets you to put on a fur coat and have 2 of 5 predetermined vodka drinks and get your picture taken in front of ice sculptures .. yes, you have to do it once .. it is freezing in there, but its still fund for a half hour or so .. EPIC Wrap-ups Cabin Cleanliness / Steward: Grade A - Friendly, efficient and not obtrusive. Cabin kept as clean as our sloppiness would allow. SPA: Almost forgot: B Plus - Both ladies loved their numerous services, ranging from facials to massages.. made the other up-charges look insignificant, but a definite pleaser. However, wife not happy with lack of robes and shower service pre and post massage. Like princess, the EPIC has a relaxation room that involves an up-charge of approximately $ 200 / couple for the week. This gets you some heated ceramic lounge type chairs, two saunas and a steam room, as well as access to a very small (as in about 10 people) outdoor area and maybe 20 or so inside lounge chairs for reading .. On our last Princess cruise we used that, and felt we got our money;s worth. Epic says that they limit this to 60 couples, and we later found that is in addition to the people that paid for spa cabins. My first reaction was WOW, this is so much bigger than the princess area. IT also has a very large hot tub / spa area with swift moving currents and a waterfall to give yourself some tension relief. Incredibly impressive looking !Alas, as another failure in crowd control, NCL has no limitations on the use of the loungers or ceramic beds .. On Day 2 I used the spa, and other than it not being hot enough for my liking ( i Like 102 or above - it was probably 96), I liked it a lot. The outdoor seating was obviously taken by people that got there first thing and felt they owned the chairs for the day .. the ceramics were also hard to come by, and the heat generated by them was quite mild. Princess limits use to 45 minutes a visit, which would help quite a bit. The saunas were unique, as they had large expanses of windows looking out over the ocean. The steam room was stifling - no issues with heat or humidity there - however, it didn't have the eucalyptus that some steam rooms have. On Wednesday morning, the spa area was a disaster area, due to some rough seas. The entire spa was now empty, with the staff uncertain if they would refill for the rest of cruise. The rear seats and ceramics were all taken, and we decided to ask for a $ 400 refund, which the staff cheerfully did. I believe a day or so later they refilled the pool, but we didn't return up there. With a few minor tweaks, the whole SPA experience is well done and staff well trained. GYM: A: Large expanse of state of the art treadmills, ellipticals, stair steppers and weight machines. all looking out over the water. Offered boot camp, spinning and a few other classes for up-charges. Daughter was impressed with spinning class, as well as the various machines. Small staff of two kept busy, as they conducted a lot of classes and also did nutrition and other type classes. CASINO: Variety: A, Success Winning: F, Size A, Smoke F Casino occupies a good portion of the middle of Deck 6 a primary walking area. For a non gambler or non smoker, I'm sure it is annoying .. I'm a non smoker who usually can take smoke, but it gets a bit much there. Black jack, slot and Texas hold em tournaments (spoke with the overall hold em winner that said it buffered his craps losses), plenty of other table games .. first couple of days they had only one 5 dollar blackjack table, but then they must have figured out that most of their 25 dollar BJ dealers were sitting idle, so they opened more .. perhaps also as people ran out of money it appeared to be more accessible ? Craps personnel kept the games running smoothly and had some personality .. Made losing money there fun Not as busy as on other ships, with a mixture of people that love the game and people doing it for first time ,... Entry into New York City, Under Verrazano bridge, past statue of Liberty and into Manhattan - PRICELESS. Just positively awesome, with the crowd applauding as we seemed to squeak under the bridge, and then approach the lady .. Disembark: F .. if you could use letters G through Z i'd go to them. Just a total disaster in crowd control. Several hours past the itinerary given the night before, with a spartan staff at the terminal to guide you to taxis or pre paid buses to the airport. Must be coordinated by people fired from FEMA ... Hope you hung around to the end .. many will read this as another bunch of gripes .. I've appreciated others commenting in these blogs to help make informed decisions .. rely on trip advisor and have found good advice by and large .. By no means was this a bad cruise. Consciously went TA with NCL vs Cunard .. didn't want that stuffiness. Think NCL has a lot of work to do to decide what segment they want to attract: A TA by its very nature probably attracts an older crowd. This isn't the ship for them - unless they're bringing the grand kids. Not sure if its for newly married 20 or 30 somethings either .. the water parks might be fun once or twice, but the lack of pool is a negative .. Thanks Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We spent 7 days at sea with NCL's newest, 50% larger than any of the NCL ships on which we have previously sailed, holding 4200 passengers, all deck 8 or higher. We normally leave from New York, and are used to at least 3 sea days on ... Read More
We spent 7 days at sea with NCL's newest, 50% larger than any of the NCL ships on which we have previously sailed, holding 4200 passengers, all deck 8 or higher. We normally leave from New York, and are used to at least 3 sea days on any cruise we take. We were looking forward to 7 days at sea, enjoying the NCL hospitality to which we had been accustomed. The first thing we noticed (after not getting a glass of champagne which had been Norwegian's habit on our last several cruises, and which would have certainly been appropriate on a maiden voyage) was that the EPIC is not so much a cruise ship, but a floating casino. By having no amidships elevators or stairs, the EPIC Floating Casino designers insured that almost all passengers would have to pass through the deck 6 casino floor(it is NOT smoke-free). The casino/smoking area extends from the aft main dining room to past the atrium and takes up what would be, on most any other ship, a central promenade. The aft elevators and stairs do not connect to deck 5 which contains the front desk, excursion desk, the two tiny meeting rooms, internet cafe, main restaurant, French restaurant, photo gallery, and art gallery. Thru the casino is the only direct route to deck 5 from aft. You also need to travel through the casino/smoking area to reach the entertainment venues on 6 forward. Although the casino takes up only deck 6, the sound of the slot machines can be enjoyed from deck 5 and 7 restaurants around both the open atrium and the open hole that isn't the atrium. The gambling tables poolside on deck 15 were not open due to weather. As a 50% larger ship, we did not expect tiny entertainment venues. The Theatre (which had only one entrance, from deck 6) seemed half the size of theatres on other ships, and housed the Blue Man Group. The small dinner theatre in the round, which also had room for about 30 people up the stairs, houses the Cirque de Soleil and the Second City Mystery lunch. The Comedy Club contains the Second City, and the Art auctions. There were also Four Season and ABBA tribute bands, as well as the Las Vegas Legends (this week was Elvis, Madonna, and Tina Turner) There were no "Standard" cruise ship shows. The popular shows sold out, and many people were not able to attend. We had a hard time finding a quiet spot to read our own books. On the top decks were gambling tables next to two small pools, hot tubs, waterslides (the feature being a three-story high toilet you ride an inner tube into, swirl around one to four times, depending on you weight, then go down the center drain), rock climbing walls, bungee/trampoline jumper, sports court, including a Teflon-like ice skating rink, teen club, video arcade, and ping pong tables. We wanted to play ping pong, but by the end of the first day only one ball remained. I guess the others blew overboard. There is no circular jogging track. There is a short run/walk straightaway outside on deck 7 on the starboard and three shuffleboard courts on the port sides. Some of the shuffleboard discs almost went overboard when we played. There is a spa and gym which takes up a good part of deck 14 as well as a kids club which our granddaughter liked. There a six bowling lanes, and you will get a better score if there are rough seas. The food was very good, even better than other NCL ships. The restaurants did not feel crowded. The Italian restaurant was hard to get to. Most of the others were attached to, or within earshot of the casino. The cafeteria was very diverse, well stocked, and also had very good views - the best cafeteria food on any cruise we've ever taken. The rooms were new and different, curved, with separate shower and water closet, a tiny shallow sink, but plenty of storage space. Most cabins have balconies, which were relatively large. It would have been nice to have lounge chairs on our deck; they would have easily fit. There are also interior studio rooms which allow single travelers to avoid paying a solo traveler surcharge. There are no porthole rooms. Most of the negative issues we encountered, and are detailed in other reveiws, could be explained by the fact that we were on the maiden voyage, and were at sea for 7 days straight. The extra crew drills, mix-ups with key cards, and contractors still working everywhere were the types of things we expected. The new layout of the cabins seemed to work well. However, the small limited entertainment, specialty restaurants (and Ice Bar) times and venue size means many guests will not be accommodated. Freestyle Cruising Where You Want When You Want is not the case on the EPIC. If you want to sample the specialty restaurants and shows, book your reservation well in advance. Upon disembarkation, the EZ walk off was a disaster. It seemed like half the ship did not check their bags, and the crew had no clue this would happen. Two hours after the gangway opened, suitcases still clogged deck 5. We enjoyed our cruise on the Epic. But, on balance, if you like to gamble, I would recommend Las Vegas, or even Atlantic City. If you like sea days with little to do, book a cruise on a freighter (many take up to 10 passengers). If you like visiting different places, take a cruise that stops at more than 3 ports in 7 days. If you want to see live, big name entertainment, go to New York, Las Vegas, or wait for what you want to tour through your city. If cigarette smoke bothers you, cruise on a ship where indoor smoking areas are isolated from the rest of the ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
My husband and I were very excited to think we were booked on the NCL Epic's "Inaugural Maiden Voyage" from Southampton to New York City. Needless to say, there was a bit of a "what the heck?" moment when searching ... Read More
My husband and I were very excited to think we were booked on the NCL Epic's "Inaugural Maiden Voyage" from Southampton to New York City. Needless to say, there was a bit of a "what the heck?" moment when searching the Internet the day before our departure to see videos of the Epic sailing out of Rotterdam and to find YouTube videos from passengers on that mini-cruise journey. It just took a bit of the gleam off of our "new and shiny" and waited just-for-us expectations. Not to mention, it was our first cruise on NCL, having previously cruised with Carnival on three separate occasions; so we were looking forward to experiencing the freestyle cruising option...dining when and where we wanted and skipping the dressing up (formal attire anyway) parts. NCL handled our flight arrangements and flew us from JFK over to Heathrow on American Airlines. Of course, no seat assignments had been made for us; but I was all over that early on and had called AA and booked our seats weeks before. The flight over was smooth (although we didn't sleep on the flight...and it was a red-eye) and we were promptly greeted at the airport by an NCL representative after we had cleared customs. We had to wait about an hour to board the bus to take us from the airport to Southampton, but it was well organized and everything flowed smoothly. Once having arrived in Southampton, the check-in process was very efficient; although the lines were long, they moved at a steady pace. One important thing missing, however, was the distribution of ship maps and a Welcome Aboard bulletin. We found out later that some of the other passengers had been given them at check-in, but most of us had not. There were so many passengers storming the guest services desk on that first afternoon for maps and information that the staff members were just grabbing stacks of them and walking down the lines of people handing them out. I guess it seemed that many of us wanted the same things. We found the elevators without much to-do, and fortunately took the right set up to our deck. We found out the next day that all cabins on the port side could be accessed by the red elevators (hallway carpet was red and brown) and all cabins on the starboard side could be accessed by the blue elevators (hallway carpet on that side of the decks was blue and brown). It would have been helpful to know this the very first day...again something that could have been communicated at check-in and repeated in the Welcome Aboard bulletin and/or map. Our balcony wave cabin was beautiful to look at, but extremely tight on passing space at the foot of the very comfortable bed (as one cruise critic has already noted) and in front of the sofa. Hubby and I knew going in that cabins would be tight, so we agreed NOT to get annoyed at each other for always being in the other person's way. Our television did not work for the first 3 days of our cruise; although we requested service every day, it was not until the afternoon on the 3rd day that a technician came up to our cabin to look at it. Turns out it was a faulty remote (so we were told); such a simple fix and it could have been done the first day...if only. The toilet and shower were pie-shaped wedges behind frosted sliding curved doors at the front of the cabin, and did not offer the privacy that many shy family members might desire. The lack of privacy was not such an issued for an older married couple, but I was a little disturbed to think that every time one of us touched the door handle inside the toilet to step out and walk over to the sink, we were touching it with unwashed hands. The sink was another little adventure...too shallow to serve well when washing hands or brushing teeth or shaving, as water splashed everywhere. Our cabin steward, Alfonso, was AWESOME however; and kept us supplied with an abundance of clean towels so that we could deal with the splashes as well as cover the floor outside of the shower when stepping out to dry ourselves. Alfonso was unobtrusive and gave us everything daily that we had requested when we first met him, extra creamers for our in-cabin coffee and extra towels and laundry bags, as well as never knocking on our door on the days we slept in. We never even saw him again until the last evening, and we left him an additional gratuity for being so attentive to us. Freestyle dining was a pleasure everywhere we went: The Garden Cafe had an excellent buffet at all hours of the day or night, the dEcor was tasteful and the food delicious at both Taste and the Manhattan Room for every meal we enjoyed there, and the Moderna restaurant, Cagney's Steakhouse, and the Spiegel Tent meals were all outstanding and well worth the extra money we spent. We also ate one lunch and one breakfast at O'Sheehan's and found the food delicious, although the service was slow the day we had lunch. We attended the free wine tastings two days in a row, hosted by St. Francis winery. Loved the wine, and Chris was very fun and informative. It was disappointing, however, that the St. Francis wines we tasted were not included on the wine lists in any of the ship's restaurants. We asked on the last night, when dining at Cagney's, and they did locate a bottle of the Cab for us even though it was not on the list. But we fail to understand how NCL could allow St. Francis to host three wine tastings on three days in a row and NOT feature their wines...this is certainly an oversight on NCL's part. Entertainment on board was the best cruise ship entertainment we have ever experienced. The Cirque Dreams and Dinner show and Blue Man Group were well worth the extra $ we spent, and the free entertainment at lounges around the ship, especially the Howl at the Moon and in the Fat Cats club were first rate! Lines to book the entertainment tickets were very disorganized on the first full day, and we never got in to see the Legends in Concert show. We had been told to be in line by 8:30 pm for the 9:00 show; we were in line at 8:20 and about 100 people away from the doors when we were told the Epic theatre was full to capacity. I thought the price of cocktails was more than fair when compared to the prices charged in big city venues around the U.S., and every drink I had was delicious! The two-story high screen was incredible and absolutely enjoyed by all the World Cup fans on board. There was another screen outside at the H2O area on deck, but it was too cold for us to ever spend time out there for the evening entertainment options. The bingo staff were lots of fun, and special cheers go out to Jeff, Matt, and Kat for all their efforts to make us laugh. And the dealers in the casino are among the very best...Karen and Rachielle(?) were very patient and kept smiling through all the antics of the poker players. I only wish there could have been a non-smoking poker room, as many of the poker players were chain smokers. While they couldn't smoke at the table, they pushed the limits of all non-smokers by keeping one hand on their poker chips and one hand behind them stretched to an ashtray only 2 feet away. The smoke irritated by throat to the point that I developed a cough and now have bronchitis and congestion. Sure I could have stayed away from the casino, but it was my vacation; and I had as much right to enjoy all the ship's amenities as the smokers did. With such a large ship, I still say they could have had smoking on one side of the casino and no smoking on the other side. Too bad NCL missed the boat on this opportunity, but there's still time to adjust. We never got to experience the pool and the water slides, as we had cold winds and fog most of the way across the Atlantic. But there was plenty to do inside the ship to keep us busy. We did visit the Bridge viewing room and my husband, an air traffic controller, wished we could have had a full tour of the bridge, as he found it fascinating. When we sailed into New York on the final morning, the weather was beautiful, Lady Liberty was stunning, and we got some great photos. Getting off the ship was problematic, however, as it took customs a long time to clear the ship and there were too many persons who tried to rush off before their color-coded luggage tags were called. So the customs terminal on Pier 88 got over-crowded and they had to make all of wait another hour. Many persons who had flights to catch or hired cars waiting (and charging wait-time fees) to pick them up were getting quite annoyed. All-in-all, it is a beautiful ship on the inside, tastefully decorated throughout, with lots of first-class entertainment and dining options. The staff were wonderful everywhere, even though many of them had never worked together before the Epic launched. Although there were some kinks to be worked out on board, future cruise passengers on the Epic will enjoy the improvements and probably not experience all the frustrations that those of us on the maiden transatlantic crossing endured. Don't sweat the small stuff; just relax and enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
As a "steerage" class passenger, traveling in an inside cabin, I would like to make a few comments. Worse cabins I have ever seen on any cruise ship. See-through toilet door on right-see-through bathroom door on left as you ... Read More
As a "steerage" class passenger, traveling in an inside cabin, I would like to make a few comments. Worse cabins I have ever seen on any cruise ship. See-through toilet door on right-see-through bathroom door on left as you enter the cabin Sink in bedroom area sits on top of vanity(my bird bath at home is bigger)Splashes all over vanity and floor when used. Public areas are very attractive and consider yourself fortunate if you can get a comfortable seat. Casino takes up most of Deck 6 and has smokers everywhere. Hard to even walk through for non-smokers. Maybe bring a gas mask if you decide to go. Entertainment--good shows if you are fortunate enough to get reservations and don't mind standing in line at least 45-60 minutes prior to assure you can sit together. Makes for a lot of cranky people. Crew was fantastic. They took the cream of the crop from all their other ships. Makes you wonder how service would be on those ships doesn't it. If you don't want to spend a fortune to eat, us "poor folk" can eat in the free restaurant--of course you have limited menu, poor quality of food served lukewarm to cold. Pool deck--two tiny pools and 6 hot tubs for over 4000 people double-occupancy and who knows how many with quad occupancy--NCL isn't saying. There were many problems with the brand new ship such as flooding cabins, non-working telephones and safes,lousy TV (must pay for any movie} poor disembarkation procedures, etc. These will be worked out hopefully. Pay Pay Pay for just about everything. The ship should have been named PAYALOT instead of EPIC. Would not recommend it for average person who saves to go on vacation unless they suddenly win the lottery. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We booked a Spa Deluxe Balcony to really relax and get away from it all. Unfortunately, in our opinion this ship was not ready to leave the shipyard. We expected a few teething problems on a new ship, but not to the extent we experienced ... Read More
We booked a Spa Deluxe Balcony to really relax and get away from it all. Unfortunately, in our opinion this ship was not ready to leave the shipyard. We expected a few teething problems on a new ship, but not to the extent we experienced on the Epic. We felt like paying customers on this cruise were treated as guinea pigs, and used to test the unfinished product. When we entered our room, it was apparent that a lot of things weren't working. We had no working TV, phone or safe. We visited Guest Services three times on the first day (with a twenty minute wait in line each time), but the staff appeared completely disinterested and just kept telling us that we'd been added to a list and would need to wait. Nobody took any ownership of the problems, they didn't seem to care and would say just enough to get you away from the desk. At 11pm we walked to the Spa and used the phone there to call for an update, and when we were told the same line we politely asked to speak to a manager. At this point, we were hung up on. Things went from bad to worse the next morning when we discovered we didn't have any running water in the shower. We therefore had to go to the Spa to shower, one at a time as we still had nowhere to lock our valuables. We lost count of how many times we visited Guest Services, but we got nowhere until we managed to speak to the night manager (who was very helpful and arranged for our safe to be fixed on the second evening), but the running water proved more of a problem. On Saturday evening we spoke to the Hotel Director, who was very understanding and sympathetic, and he arranged for somebody to work on this all day on Sunday to fix it. Away from the room, we were also looking forward to using the Spa facilities that came with our stateroom. Unfortunately, the Spa was so crowded at all times that this was almost impossible. Every single place to sit, every space in the pool and hot tubs was occupied whenever we went in there. We were later told by a Spa employee that in addition to the people with access from the Spa rooms, an additional 60 couples passes to the Spa had been sold. We would never choose to stay in a Spa room or buy a Spa pass until this policy is changed, as we found it impossible to use the facilities we'd paid for. The ship did have some very good points - the Entertainment was fantastic and the best we've seen on a ship. In particular, Legends in Concert and Howl at the Moon were brilliant shows. We also really enjoyed the Cirque Dreams and Dinner and the Murder Mystery. The food was also really good on this ship, and again, some of the best we've experienced on a cruise ship. Hopefully now that the early problems have been sorted out, the passengers on the next cruise shouldn't encounter the problems that we did. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
lthough it has been a little while, hopefully not having forgotten many details of the ship. Our cruise was the inaugural transatlantic sailing from Southampton to New York and arrived a week later. On arriving at Southampton the ship ... Read More
lthough it has been a little while, hopefully not having forgotten many details of the ship. Our cruise was the inaugural transatlantic sailing from Southampton to New York and arrived a week later. On arriving at Southampton the ship stood out for its size, is really great. Although there was a place you have to have a proper overview, drew wide attention floors above the deck overlooking the boat as peculiar and strange. The shipment was fairly chaotic and slow, they put us in a cue maker where we were over an hour and half from heat in the terminal. Once on board, our cabin was ready. It was indoors, is quite small and a strange distribution, since one side is the shower and the other is the toilet. The sink is in the cabinet room and was quite uncomfortable, since it is impossible to wash your face without running the faucet and the toilet water splash. It is the small cabin, just look at it is the first time that we could no clothes in the closets. It was assumed that the sail would have a party, band etc. Then nothing. The ship sailed to New York almost furtively. On the boat saw many workers who were finalizing details, especially the technical and communications. Restaurants: Taste Manhattan, both free, very beautiful and elegant (like the whole boat). The Manhattan is spectacular with its large windows aft. I found the food based on that of the previous cruise was with NCL. It was good, though somewhat short on options. The buffet was spectacular in every way, spacious, clean, diverse, probably the best buffet I know. Contrary to what one might imagine for their size, Epic has no large spaces like atriums plenty of plants, panoramic lifts or anything like that. Its corners are like those of a smaller boat, which does not mean they are much less burdensome. With what I have to be very critical is the distribution of spaces on the ship. There are only two sets of stairs and two lifts. This in a boat length 330m is a real nuisance, because if you're in the middle of the boat, you have to walk more than 200m just to get on you have immediately above. Our cabin was somewhere in the middle of the boat that had to be accessed by a maze-like corridor and had to go yards and yards to reach it. What at first seemed to be an ideal place, proved he was far from everything. I do not even want to imagine in an emergency situation you can think about the people that goes in the middle of the boat cabin. After what I find unforgivable is that the Epic is a ship that can not see the sea. No outdoor veranda bow. Aft can not see because there is a giant screen which almost always cast the bow camera! So neither. There is not the thing, but in the side promenades, plus narrow view of the sea is hampered by the boats, only a portion of 15m is not locked in a boat over 300m!! Entertainment: The Epic has a star attraction: the Blue Man Group. As the theater is only 400 or 500 locations, operating four days to two daily functions. Need to reserve date and time. This brings the theater is almost always occupied by them and no further action. Indeed, the performance is great, the best I have ever seen. The circus is really small, not fit more than 150 people per performance, you must pay 15 or $ 20, but is very good. There is also a really cool comic magician, laughter guaranteed. Pools: there are only two very small, as for a boat three times smaller. The waterslides are fine, but they occupy much larger space and takes a long mats between down and down, so the kids are queuing most of the time. This was on an ocean liner which was quite cold and with little children. I can not imagine the queues in the summer in the Caribbean. Spa: big and broad in absolute terms but in relative terms the size of the boat. Was often crowded. Ship behavior: for a few days we had waves of 3.5 meters and the ship was moving a lot, not only in the upper decks, the lower also. Our cabin had a rough sea bay when you woke up so many times and crackling noises. I think the landing was even worse than boarding. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
The Epic has some very good points and some real disappointments. The entertainment on board was excellent: The Blue Man group, Second City, the circus and a brilliant fiddle player in the atrium and much more. I like the free style ... Read More
The Epic has some very good points and some real disappointments. The entertainment on board was excellent: The Blue Man group, Second City, the circus and a brilliant fiddle player in the atrium and much more. I like the free style dining but disliked the large number of restaurants that had a surcharge. The ship seemed to be designed to take extra money whenever possible. There are too many surcharges. I liked the separate shower and toilet in the cabin but found it difficult to move about the cabin as the shape made the space very tight. The washbasin was minute. The lack of an adult swimming pool and lack of proper promenade deck was disappointing. There are too many queues. We queued to board, we queued for a very long time to get ashore, we queued to speak to reception, to book entertainment tickets and then to get into the venue we had already booked tickets for. The queues were indeed epic. The venues are too small for the size of the ship. The most distressing feature was the casino, through which you were almost forced to walk. It was full of cigarette smoke. I am surprised that such an area can be allowed with the current smoking laws. It is a health hazard and very unpleasant for non smokers to walk through. I suggest that NCL reconsider their smoking policy. The ship is designed for younger people and families and this will extend the market for NCL, which is good policy but I would not wish to have to walk my children through the very smoky casino area. Because of the queues, the large number of surcharges and the smoking policy, we will not travel on the Epic again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
As someone who was really, really excited about cruising a new ship on it's maiden voyage I can not tell you how much I was looking forward to a royal time. Shipboard Entertainment: The ship's decor is beautiful! In fact ... Read More
As someone who was really, really excited about cruising a new ship on it's maiden voyage I can not tell you how much I was looking forward to a royal time. Shipboard Entertainment: The ship's decor is beautiful! In fact there are many instances on the ship where NCL went to extremes to get it right - the Cirque Dreams & Dinner for example, is by far the best show on the high seas. Combine a very good three course meal with the cirque performers and you get a dinner show that is family friendly and exciting. Nothing on the high seas comes close. This is a definite must for those cruising the Epic The Legends in concert is very good as well. Having seen the Legends show in Vegas the show on the Epic was of the same quality just shorter. In Vegas you'll see 7-8 performers doing 2-3 songs. On board we had Tina Turner, Madonna and Elvis. All were good performers and all did 4-5 songs with Elvis doing the most. This wasn't a cheesy show but a well performed show. No extra fee. Blue Man Group did an hour show. I hadn't seen it before and enjoyed it. I was told by a casino worker from Vegas that the BMG was only 10-15 minutes shorter than the Vegas show - but the Vegas show costs $100. On board the Epic it's FREE!! This was my first time seeing BMG and it was an enjoyable show. Second City improv performances - I enjoyed the group. There were 6 performers 4 guys and 2 girls. I thought that the brunette, skinny balding guy and larger guy were the funniest. If you like improve than you'll like this. If you don't like improv you may want to pass on this one. No extra fee The Murder Mystery show was ok. If you like Second City then you will like the murder mystery. The food was good for a fixed lunch menu. I wish the actors would have stuck to a script rather than done as much improve but overall it was an enjoyable 90 minutes. Additional charge. O'Sheehans: It is located on deck 6 mid ship. It has the looks of your neighborhood Beef O'Brady's (an American Sports Bar). You can get breakfast 24/7 as well as excellent , fish & chips, sandwiches and desserts. If you're looking for comfort food than this is your place. My personal favorite was the fish & chips. The fish was FRESH and fantastic, not the frozen fish sticks. I could go on and on about this restaurant - there wasn't really anything I didn't like at O'Sheehans. Most importantly is the staff who were working there. After 2 days one of the waiters, "Ricky", would greet us by name when we entered and would wave at us if we were walking by. He remembered our drinks and what we had ordered the day before as well. He was friendly, outgoing and really made our visits to O'Sheehans memorable. In fact we filled out two (2) comment cards, which we turned in, complementing the excellent staff and food for O'Sheehans. Now realize that this is a sports pub/restaurant. There is lots of ambient noise from the 2-story atrium behind, the casino at one end and the adjacent bowling lanes. If you're looking for quiet and cozy this is not the place. However if you're looking for comfort food, smiling faces and a place like Cheer's - O'Sheehans is the place to be. Surprisingly this is a no fee eatery. La Cucina: This Italian specialty restaurant was well worth the $10 cover charge. You go to deck 15, thru the buffet area to the very front of the ship and walk down the stairs. It has a nicely decorated entrance and inside if very cozy - lots of stone, trees, faux library books, etc., We were seated at the window in the very front of the ship. We observed several pods of dolphins, turtles (my wife said seals) and birds. It was a wonderful and romantic atmosphere. My wife and I weren't pleased with the dinner rolls, calamari or minestrone soup (the calamari was better at O'Sheehans). The assistant maitre' de did everything to make us happy. We had the Margarita pizza and we LOVED it! If you like a true Italian pizza, like you get in Rome, then go to La Cucina. Given the appearance of La Cucina and the service I would definitely return to this restaurant. The churaassioro restaurant, Moderno, was a pleasant surprise. This is NCL's version of Texas de Brazil. Our waitress was friendly, pleasant and provided us with excellent service. The "gaucho's" who brought the different foods around to the table were efficient. This was a very good dining experience and we enjoyed it as much as the Texas de Brazil. My only complaint is that I ate too much of the various meats before they came around with the filet mignon! considering the price for this restaurant I would definitely do this again. Our final specialty restaurant experience was Tappanyaki - the Japanese show/dining experience. The servers were friendly and efficient. The chef was nice. My only complaint is that I was tasting garlic the remainder of the night and the next morning. My impression of this restaurant was one of having been there, done that but not likely to return. Manhattan Club. The larger of the two no fee MDR the Manhattan Club is located in the rear of the ship. The dEcor is nicely done with lots of earth tones and wood. We dined in here twice, breakfast and lunch. On each occasion the service was slower than the other places that we ate and the food was not on the same level of the other areas of the ship. Legends in Concert played in this venue but we had seen them and we weren't about to fight the crowd. In a conversation with crew we learned that the galley that serves the Manhattan Club is located on deck 4 so the wait staff has to walk up and down. I guess that explains the longer wait for food. Taste. The smaller of the two MDR's located on deck 5 right under the casino. Taste has bricks and more color than the Manhattan Club. I think it pushes the envelop in color and I really liked it. The service was good and the food was better than what we received in the Manhattan Club. My only dislike about Taste is the seats in the open area that look upward to the casino and the 7th floor. Looking down on the diners it looks nice, however, seating there and looking up wasn't very comfortable and we asked to be moved. Of the two MDR's I preferred Taste to the Manhattan Club. The casino is rather long and unlike other cruse lines has dealers at their two (2) poker tables. There is an abundance of table games and this was the first time I can remember playing Pai Gow at sea (would have preferred an automatic shuffler). Table limits ranged from $5 to $25 and there were more than enough dealers present. The slot machines where placed throughout the ship with new slots in addition to the older 3-reel slot machines. My wife made the comment that she felt like this was a real casino rather than a "ship casino". As someone who has spent too much time on land based casino's I concur with my wife. The Epic's casino has a feel of Harrah's in A.C. My biggest complaint about the casino was the number of smokers on this cruise. While playing in the daily poker tournament there were a few players who couldn't stay away from the cigarettes for more than 10 minutes. One of the machines that my wife seemed to like was on the end and located right next to a cigarette receptacle. I kept wondered why she tolerated the smokers there but that machine was one of a few that actually gave her some profits. Unlike other ships there really isn't a lot of public outdoor space in which to walk, watch the water or to sit. Deck 7 leads outdoor where there is a jogging track but the presence of the lifeboats doesn't allow you to sit or relax. On Deck 15 there are the side rails but the back of the ship consists of Spice H2O and a pair of hot tubs in the ships corners. There is amphitheatre seating at Spice and the pool raises to a dancing area where they had a "Jersey Boy" group performing the first night. Unfortunately the weather was too cold and windy for me to spend too much time. They sounded really good and appeared indoors on other nights. The rock climbing walls and repelling walls are located on deck 15 towards the back and near the water slide exits. It seemed that whenever I was on deck there was at least an inch of water that was splashing out of the water slides. It was difficult to walk in that area without getting your shoes wet. According to workers..."we told them {NCL} they need more drains." The rock walls themselves are relatively short compared to those on RCCL. The repelling wall was a letdown as it took longer to put on the gear than it did to come down. For those who have never done rock climbing it's easy enough and should be fun. If however, you're looking for a challenge you may be disappointed. One of my disappointing encounters was going to deck 17 to try the Epic bounce, a bungee/trampoline. I got in line at 5:05 and watched 5 cruisers jumping. When it was my turn the worker in charge had me get on the scale and said, "I'm sorry but the limit is 200 pounds. (I weigh 230) It's a ship's safety rule." Having done the exact same bungee 18 months earlier at a vacation destination on land (and weighing in at 225) I know that the bungee could handle my weight but it was now 5:50 and after waiting 45 minutes I was upset. "How come there's no sign?" I asked. All I got was a shoulder shrug! So adults beware if you are 200 pounds and above don't bother standing in line. To NCL - Post a darn sign will you? Considering that this ship has around 5,000 passengers I expected a larger feeling ship. There are basically 5 public area floors, Decks 5, 6 & 7 along with decks 14 & 15. While I didn't feel cramped I was surprised at how difficult it was to find quiet spots on the ship in which to relax and watch the water. The fact that this ship has no library demonstrates that NCL was striving to maximize the entertainment and bar spaces. The color combination/decor of all the areas was nicely done. This is not the bright gaudy ships that you see with Carnival nor is it the bland colorless boring type of ship. It had a trendy feel. In my opinion I thought that Deck 5 was really a wasted/incomplete deck. Upon entering the ship I observed the 2-story screen (a wow factor) and a coffee bar. Unfortunately due to the layout of the atrium we were unable to find seats to sit and enjoy our lattes. In addition when movies or the world cup soccer was being played on the 2-story screen it was LOUD! I missed having a relaxing place to sit and enjoy a coffee and cake. The front desk was right across from the screen and it was packed with cruisers from the moment we arrived and throughout most of the cruise. Moving forward on Deck 5 was the Park West art gallery and Le Bistro along with the photo gallery and internet area. The cabin that we booked a deluxe family balcony for our maiden Epic cruise was very pretty. The color scheme and initial impression created that WOW effect when we opened the door. However, after using the cabin facilities I quickly learned that while it may be pretty to behold I was not completely comfortable with the toilet/sink privacy and the lack of space to walk around. Our cabin was not completed as we had no air conditioning and were unable to use our shower for the first two days of the cruise. This cabin also had a tub but there was no stopper. We put in several work orders at the front desk and after 4 days of complaining we just gave up. The lack of TV programming was surprising as well - only 10 channels were available; two being cartoons/Nickelodeon, two were Skynews, and Skynews Sports, two were ship related (view from bridge and ship information), BBC, MSMBC, CNBC and a channel of pre-recorded sitcoms (Friends/Scrubs). No movies unless you wanted to pay $12.95 each. Since I have written about the cabin short comings at length on other threads I will not beat a dead horse. I will say that unless and until cabin changes are made in the future I will not rebook on the Epic. An interesting concept with the photos in that they use facial recognition software. You turn over your room keycard to the photographer at the time of photos. When you go to view the photos, you swipe it and your accumulated photo's pop-up. In addition the printed photo's are in plastic envelopes in a pocket identified by decks and each cabin has its own folder of photos. This eliminates the need to constantly look for photo's night after night. Nice touch. On each cruise I have been on my wife and I look back as to what our WOW moment was. Some WOW moments have been the ships, our cabins and the views. On other cruises it was the itinerary or an excursion. We were disappointed because what we anticipated as being a WOW moment; sailing from Southampton on an inaugural cruise, and sailing into NYC on a maiden voyage, turned out to be nothing more than a "delivery cruise". This TA was no different than any other NCL cruise we have taken. The time and frustration in dealing with the front desk in order to correct the problems with our cabin detracted from our overall trip experience; especially since the problems should have never been allowed to slip thru the cracks if the company had taken the time to perform a proper "punch list". Considering all the pre-sailing hype that NCL did promoting the Epic I felt jilted. I will remember the excellent service that the staff of O'Sheehans provided. We will also remember this as an entertainment cruise that has set the standard for other ships to live up to. The Cirque Dreams & Dinner show is not only the most unique but finest dinner show on all the high seas. BMG & Legends do a fine job of living up to their land based shows. Second city does an admirable job as well. I give the crew of the Epic )with the exception of the front desk personnel) huge applause for their hard work, dedication and professionalism. It was refreshing to see their smiling faces wherever we went. You could tell this crew was the best of the best! Heck, I even saw smiling pit bosses in the casino! The ship itself I give a thumbs up for the entertainment value and innovations such as the cirque dinner show, the numerous water slides, the ice bar and a "real" casino. However, I still find it disconcerting that NCL would rush their flagship to market. It was a mistake to allow this ship to sail without crossing all their t's and dotting their i's. I would expect most of the problems that I encountered during my cruise to be ironed out and corrected in the future. The ship is new and exciting however my disappoint remains. I doubt if I will remember this cruise on the Epic as "special" or inaugural. Instead I will tell people that I sailed on NCL's newest ship: The GPIC - Guinea Pig Inaugural Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Well I don't know what to say about this cruise ship, we have cruised on many ships over the last 25 years and I have to say this is the first time I have every been able to close the toilet door, adjust the a/c control, make a cup of ... Read More
Well I don't know what to say about this cruise ship, we have cruised on many ships over the last 25 years and I have to say this is the first time I have every been able to close the toilet door, adjust the a/c control, make a cup of coffee, dry my hair from the vanity unit, wash my and face in the sink all without leaving the comfort of my bed. To say our "large family cabin" was small is an understatement, the words "bed sit" is more appropriate to describe our stateroom. If you are standing at the sink getting washed or sitting on the chair looking into the mirror then no one can get passed you without climbing onto the bed, the cabin layout is a total joke. Now I would like to speak about the bathroom or should I say lack of bathroom, there is no separate bathroom at all, you have a small round toilet compartment as you enter the cabin on one side and another small round compartment on the other side both with frosted glass doors so when you are in either the shower or toilet the whole cabin can see what you are up to. There is a sink inside the cabin itself which is the size of a bird bath and when you turn the tap on it fills up in about 10 seconds and then overflows directly onto the floor next to your bed, this may be the way forward so they tell me but I am sorry to say this is not for me. What we do in a bathroom is private and should be separate to the rest of the cabin. The public areas on deck 5.6 and 7 are very nice but lack seating space, deck 5 is mostly taken up by the reception area, photo gallery, internet cafe leaving just a small amount of seating around the atrium. Deck 6 is almost all Casino with smokers scattered everywhere so its very hard to pass from one end of the ship to the other without inhaling all the smoke. Deck 7 has all the shops and a couple of small bars but once again a big lack of seating. The sun decks are great with plenty of seats and plenty of places to eat "free of charge" lol, and the kids area is wonderful. The ship has a lovely spa on deck 14 but you will need to make sure your bank loan has been put in place before you travel as everything is very expensive, you even have to pay for the steam room & sauna room. Everywhere you go on this ship you will have to stand in line, even for the dinner show (which has a $15 charge per person). If you have booked to see the Blue Men then you will have to stand in line, if you have booked for the comedy show then you will stand in line and when it came to disembarkation in New York, 5 hours we waited to get off the ship and clear customs. This was no holiday I can assure you, this cruise has left me very annoyed. With the hiked up prices of the drinks (£5 a pint and £8 for a cocktail ) good job its all DUTY FREE ha ha ha and the long lines everywhere I was so happy to reach my hotel this evening in New York. My hotel room is 4 times larger than my bed sit, the drinks are half the price and there are no lines I have to wait in to go anywhere. Sorry NCL, I don't think you will be seeing me again, you are taking the mick out of us all by over- charging for everything. Bigger ships mean more people to rip off. Lee Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
"I am music . . . and I write the songs!" If that tune and other Barry Manilow hits are looping through your head (and have been since July 1) you too were part of the NCL Epic Transatlantic disembarkation. A "thank ... Read More
"I am music . . . and I write the songs!" If that tune and other Barry Manilow hits are looping through your head (and have been since July 1) you too were part of the NCL Epic Transatlantic disembarkation. A "thank you" to the passenger who convinced NCL to turn down the volume on the big-screen Manilow/Vegas video that accompanied our extended wait in line to exit the ship. Spouse and I sat (and stood) through it 3 times and I hate to think how many times those in line way ahead of us got to experience it. (Sorry, Barry, don't hate on me!) But at last we were able to hear disembarkation announcements. Waiting in line was the thing on this cruise. In fact, my husband summed it up this way: "No wonder they call it Norwegian Cruise Lines -- it's all about the lines!" Spouse and I are not major-league cruisers like some folks on this site. We've cruised on NCL's Gem twice: once from NYC to the Bahamas and once on the Western Mediterranean cruise. We liked both experiences on the Gem and we liked the Freestyle approach and of course, we love being at sea. Then husband wondered if it would be more relaxing to have more days at sea and fewer excursions. So we started looking into transatlantic cruises. Early this year, I said, "Look -- we can go from England to NYC on this new boat everyone's talking about -- the Epic!" So we booked the TA. Like many other cruisers, our feelings are mixed about NCL, the Epic, and the TA. Here are our impressions. Apologies in advance for rambling here and there and for my many comparisons of Epic to Gem. Perhaps we should have had an inkling about how this cruise would go when we received an e-mail from NCL 2 days before our flight "un-inviting" us from an Epic Latitudes party (because we are Bronze Latitudes cruisers and they could only accommodate Gold, Silver, and Platinum). We didn't even know there was to be a party. NCL booked our air from JFK to Heathrow via Virgin-Atlantic, and it was an exhausting overnight flight -- long lines in JFK to check in (even longer lines for those who did online check-in!), more lines to drop baggage (whatup with that, Mr. Branson?), the security lines; a very late take-off with no electricity/AC in the cabin for some time, causing a passenger sitting near us to require oxygen; rushed services en route and lack of the passenger-friendly jolliness we'd experienced on a previous V-A flight. Next morning, we groggy travelers were met promptly by NCL staff at Heathrow, but had about an hour's wait for a shuttle bus; we kept nodding off during the ride. When we arrived in Southampton, I think our NCL greeter hoped everyone would "ooh and ah" over the Epic; instead, the reaction was "OMG, look at the lines!" Discouraging inside and out (fortunately it was a nice day and there was shade). At some point we were asked if we were Latitudes passengers, and that moved us along (sorry, NCL newbies!). Finally, we staggered up the stairs and aboard the Epic. I looked around, expecting (am I the only one?) maiden voyage festivities, maybe not paparazzi, confetti, or balloons, but a few welcoming staffers and champagne (we were welcomed by multiple staffers and received champagne both times we embarked on the Gem, and the thought of a glass of bubbly had kept me going through the Epic line, pathetic I know). But alas. No inaugural hoopla. A lone NCL person in white did welcome us aboard, and I blurted, "Where's the champagne?" The response was something about there not being any. Sigh. We asked if we could go to our room. Yes, we could. That was something, as we were really exhausted by this point. (Note: We did receive complimentary champagne at 2 Art Auctions, and wine and beer while we waited in line for the 5:30pm Cirque show during the last-night 5-6pm Thank You Party.) We found our way to our room. We decided to go for an aft cabin, as recommended by cruisers on this Web site. (Thanks -- we really liked our aft cabin!) There was a welcoming letter on our desk/dressing table -- addressed to another couple down the hall. We tucked it in the slot by their door. Ours was placed by our door later on. (On the last morning, we got another couple's bill, too.) The previous guest had left some paperwork that had not been cleared away, and his/her trash was un-emptied; otherwise our New Wave Balcony Stateroom seemed in order. It was comfortable, but smaller than our Balcony Stateroom on the Gem. There we had a bed, couch, coffee table, chair, and stool. On the Epic we had a bed (Bliss Bed, very comfortable), couch, and stool. There were no hangers in 1 of our 2 hanging closet areas; we reported this to our steward, but never got any. There are multiple storage areas; wish they would post a diagram of them on the door or in your literature so you could find and use them all. Communication, NCL! We checked out the infamous bathroom facilities. We have been married 20-plus years and are pretty relaxed about such things; still we ended up using the curtain as yes, you can see a lot through the glass and your activities are reflected in the room's mirrors. This blogger took a photo: http://cruisecriticuk.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/too-much-information/ (Note: There is no lock on the sliding door to the toilet area; when the ship was rocking in heavy seas during our TA, the door slid open and shut, open and shut. Also, when you are walking down the halls you can, ahem, hear people using the facilities.) We managed to minimize water splashes from shower and sink, and we liked the shower gel and shampoo. Good hairdryer. Back to Day 1: Decided to go to lunch. Scrambled through the pool area, which was hopping with kids (one naked). The water park area looked like lots of fun for them. Husband asked if there was an adult pool. It was pointed out to him; it is small, and not deep - 4-feet-something at one end, and 3-feet-something at the other, and it was packed with kids (as was the kids' pool). Sigh. Hot tubs roped off. (We did see couples using them on and off later in the cruise.) Hard to navigate the pool area, husband tripped on lounge legs three times. Started traversing ship through the never-ending casino deck, despite occasional smokiness and temptations of "Da Vinci Mystery." Enjoyed lunch at Garden Cafe. Nice variety. Returned to room. No luggage, making husband anxious. Attended mandatory emergency drill. Met couple from Miami who were looking for the library. The booklet we received pre-cruise said there was one, but we had not come across it either. Asked at Guest Services later; we were told there was no library. Library services of some kind were to be offered in O'Sheehan's one day (but another library-seeking couple we met said they walked through it 3 times and found no such thing). Returned to room and balcony and enjoyed sail-away. Waited until 7 as requested by NCL to report missing luggage, then joined the throngs at Guest Services. Spouse's luggage found on the island of misfit bags later in evening; tags had been removed. My bag turned up at our door. Yay. We went to call Guest Services to report it found and realized -- no phone in our room. Reported this to cabin steward. We received a phone mid-cruise, but it and our TV stopped working a few hours later and never worked again. Checked on Internet plans. Internet manager helpful and friendly. Explored more of the ship. Attractive dEcor, but lots of dark paneling. Nice art in the halls and photographs by the elevators. Ate at Taste. Food good. Welcoming staff. But we ended up dining the rest of the week (except for the Cirque show night) in the Manhattan Room. We really liked the food, ambiance, and service there. It would be great with more jazzy music accompaniment, though Beatles tunes one night were OK. Didn't see Legends. The specialty eateries seem always to get mixed reviews, so we generally don't take a chance on them. (Also, hello, NCL, people are eating less meat so why 2 meat-centered restaurants? And a "steakhouse" seems a bit late-20th century -- how about a celebrity chef venue to go with the Vegas trimmings?) Blue Man Group was cool. Second City OK - but we'd seen some of the skits before on the Gem. Second City Mystery Lunch so-so, both entertainment-wise and food-wise (high-sodium chicken). Cirque show very good, wonderful costumes and acrobatics (ladies, the fellow in the bathtub is a romance novel cover hero come to life), but food not so much (more chicken, plus beef). Coffee in the Spiegel Tent for S.C. Mystery and Cirque (and decaf in the Manhattan once) was just plain bad, burned and undrinkable. A couple opposite us at the S.C. lunch said the best coffee they had on board was from their in-room coffee maker, though we fared all right with the Garden Cafe coffee dispensers. About the shows: On the Gem, you could pop in and out of venues without reservations. Here there were lines to book and lines to get in for the bigger shows. One person suggested NCL issue tickets instead of scanning in room keys before performances to speed lines. Also, they are pushing drink sales within the theater venues, again something new to us. And there were more bar areas on this ship, e.g., right inside the Garden Cafe. No turndown treats but we were greeted by a cute towel animal each evening. We missed a library and the fun and informative lectures (history, geography, travel tips) we'd enjoyed on the Gem. Also, on our first Gem cruise, our director Andrea led a wonderful stargazing program one night atop the ship. (Of course, weather would not permit something like that on this TA.) The reclusive SpongeBob granted audiences to premium paying diners only. It might have cheered the rest of us up if he could have popped into the Garden Cafe on one of the cold, foggy mornings . . . and he could have absorbed a lot of the water on deck. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) At one point, husband wondered aloud if there was premium seating on the lifeboats. So . . . with the mostly unavoidable casino deck, greater number of bar areas, the push for drink purchases during theater performances, and the lack of some of the customer-centric details and lack of customer rapport, we felt like NCL, well, maybe have not gone to the dark side, but are clearly focused on new and improved ways to part one from one's money. And that's our Epic tale. All in all, this vacation was . . . interesting. We read on the boards that lots of what we experienced is typical for a maiden voyage. (But try explaining that to family, friends, and co-workers après-cruise.) Couldn't NCL let us know ahead of time to expect the unexpected? Why couldn't they send a cruise disclaimer e-mail or say something in the welcoming letter to the effect that "We are making final adjustments, please be patient, let us know if you encounter any irregularities, etc." The weather was uncooperative, but it motivated us to read (brought our own books), rest, use our balcony (we saw porpoises!), and use the gym (great facilities, great sea views). We also tried the jogging path, which is located on Deck 7 between the lifeboats and exhaust vents emitting food, machinery, and paint odors (this made us feel ill so we ended up walking/jogging on the opposite shuffleboard side of the ship for fresh air). (BTW, we never saw a place where you could practice your golf swing as on the Gem. Last time I mention the Gem.) The Epic front line staff was great, very professional, very good at smoothing ruffled feathers. NCL management a bit of a disappointment, from the booking process -- I knew more about the Epic from this and other sites than my cruise consultant (who'd never been on a cruise) -- to the actual cruise itself. They have a hands-off style and seeming lack of interest in interacting with customers. So many of the issues/glitches described by ourselves and others seemed like fairly easy fixes or as if they could be addressed with clear communication. It's hard to put a finger on it, but sometimes we simply felt like we were in the way, and like NCL viewed the TA as a routine trip -- they had to take the ship across the Atlantic anyway, so they made it a dress rehearsal. Nothing special. Many missed opportunities to impress and convert old and new customers to future cruises! But at least there were no more fires or propeller/engine woes, nor were there icebergs, rogue waves, pirates, giant squids, or kraken. (Am I the only one who worries about such things?) Best wishes to all the Epic cruisers to come. P.S. Seems our Epic experience is not quite over yet. Received e-mail survey from NCL this week, but my user name and password won't work so am unable to access it. I e-mailed the 2 contacts listed in the e-mail for assistance, but after two days, I have not received a response from either of them. But wait - received a 2nd e-mail this afternoon: Dear Valued Guest, You may have received an email from us earlier this week with a survey link that was not working. Please accept our apologies; we are working on fixing the problem. We value your feedback and will be sending another email with a revised link on Monday, July 12. We look forward to hearing from you! Sincerely, Norwegian Guest Experience Team Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
First let me say that as we approached the cruise terminal in Southampton we were amazed that we were actually boarding the ship as planned. Her "setbacks" shall we say in the build had us greatly concerned at times (for the ... Read More
First let me say that as we approached the cruise terminal in Southampton we were amazed that we were actually boarding the ship as planned. Her "setbacks" shall we say in the build had us greatly concerned at times (for the unaware, a broken engine and a few fires had caused a few hiccups!). I'd been concerned enough that I had at least two contingency plans in place in the event that the cruise was cancelled. Even as we approached the ship, I wondered if our cabin would be available as the reports from her cruise from Rotterdam to Southampton indicated that the courtyard was not finished...we of course were staying in the courtyard in an A3, in an area affectionately known as "the hat" among our CC roll call members. Oh and on the cruise from Rotterdam she experienced a propeller shaft problem, arriving hours late in Southampton, and leaving a day late for the schedule travel agent cruise. Seriously, we never thought this cruise was going to happen! The morning of the cruise, we awakened in Southampton (Jury's Inn, 69 GBP including breakfast) and immediately checked a blog being written by fellow cruisers. Yippee! A very early riser had posted a picture of the Epic arriving in Southampton at 5:30 in the morning. Yes, she had arrived and was waiting for us; her first passengers for a full-length voyage. I think my first words upon seeing her at the pier were "Holy cow!" I wished I been more eloquent, but I was stunned by her size. Truly a floating city and thankfully more attractive than the early drawings made her appear. She's huge, but more balanced than I thought she would be. Is she elegant (from the outside)? No. But none of these mega-ships today are. She is well-proportioned and definitely catches your eye. The cruise terminal was holding everyone at bay until 11:00 am when they'd begin getting us all through security. They tried to get us to go to another building to await being called (and quite a few obedient folks did leave), but you weren't going to budge us. We'd waited a long time for this moment and wanted to be among the first processed (plus we were still wondering what cabin we would have!). From the moment that they gave us the go sign and "released the hounds" until the moment we were seated in the VIP area, 30 minutes passed. Not too shabby. Concierges extraordinaire, Karan and Anshuman were there to greet us and give us our keycards. I didn't know if they'd be set up for anything yet, but had a list of the dinner reservations that we wanted to make just in case. Of course Karan took it from me speaking his catch phrase in the making: "No problem". As we waited for boarding to begin we touched base with folks that we only knew from Cruise Critic (it's wonderful to put faces with names) and the time passed quickly. DH thumbed through the Freestyle Daily and realized that the back page was perforated. You can now just tear off the strip with the day's events on it rather than carting around the whole thing. Good idea! When we were called to board, we all surged forward, so anxious we were to finally be on this much anticipated ship! Our key cards were quickly scanned by the bar code instead of being swiped through the reader. A small time savings that will make a big difference I think on port days. We entered the ship on deck 5 and found ourselves in the atrium. Would you believe that we'd been on board for about 10 seconds when the power went out? The emergency lights kicked on but it was a disorienting 30 seconds or so. I'd studied the deckplans and knew which way to head but was a bit daunted to find that the power outage had knocked the elevators out of service. The crew didn't realize this as they continued to direct us to the elevators. Well, we sucked it up and climbed the eleven floors to our floor! Thank goodness we've been working out! At last we arrived in our stateroom (it was ready as we were the first ones to use it!). A bit more narrow than the A3's on the jewel class ships, a nicely sized and appointed stateroom nevertheless. We had the small second bedroom that we'd assign to our luggage. A small dining area with a bar area (dark wood and yes, the Lavazza machine!), a leather sofa and chair in cream with deep pink accent pillows. Beautiful, bright Asian influenced artwork, a bed with slightly rounded corners and pink accent lighting above the bed. Marvelous bath with 2 sinks and floor-to-ceiling windows at the deep tub and wonderfully large shower. Ship mail was already in the room...one envelope containing all of our platinum perks. Yes, we'd be able to have laundry done and a behind the scenes tour was offered (we just hadn't wanted to count on anything with this being her first real cruise). There was also a letter apologizing for the courtyard fitness area not being ready. As a result we were getting a very generous future cruise credit. Thanks, NCL! We walked around the courtyard, so big! Two hot tubs and a small pool. Chaises in black wicker with cream colored cushions. Very elegant and calming in appearance. NCL really pulled out the stops with the courtyard area. The suites now have their own restaurant (the Epic Club) and two bars (just on the main floor). Saunas and steam rooms and a nice fitness center (once it's finished) and the only outdoor space at the front of the ship is reserved for the suite guests. Of course we were going to dine at the Epic Club for lunch and joined our new friends from CC. The menu is basically the Cagney's lunch menu so I had my beloved asparagus salad and the bruschetta. DH had corn chowder and the seared scallops. Service was slow but we were the very first people eating at this restaurant. They hadn't even gotten it set up in time to do rehearsals with the crew. In fact we found out later that the outdoor bar area (red cushions on the black wicker, more red Asian art) had been empty just that morning. The crew didn't think there was any way the space would be ready in time for our arrival. The life boat drill, as reported, no longer requires you to cart around your life jackets! Yay! But this European sailing had them giving all of the instructions in four languages, so the drill took quite a while. Once that formality was completed we darted up to the deck 18 forward area that I mentioned before. It's tricky to get to as you have to go through the changing areas to find the secret stairs, but oh what a view! Klaus Lugmaier the master of bringing out new ships for NCL and temporarily one of the hotel directors on board, came by and watched some of sailaway with us saying it was the first time he'd stopped for five minutes since he'd been on the ship. Seeing everything they'd done (and the work that we continue as we sailed) I believe him. The sun was shining as we pulled away from Southampton. Oh what a sight! There's nothing like pushing away from that first pier after you've boarded a ship. We were finally on vacation. And despite all of our worries, we were right on time and in the cabin we'd originally booked. Going back to our room to dress for dinner we discovered the first issue. Our key cards didn't access the courtyard area! Sean Wurmhoeringer (the other HD who will take over the ship once she gets through this "roll out" period) was at the concierge desk and personally took care of us getting new cards. (I'd see many replacement cards issued over the first couple of days!) Our first dinner was at Cagney's...it feels so weird to have Cagney's be on deck seven and at the back of the ship! I didn't realize until we arrived that Cagney's and Moderno (the Brazilian steakhouse) formed a circle overlooking the Manhattan room. I knew that the dance floor in the Manhattan room was surrounded by two floors, but I'd erroneously thought that the Manhattan room was two floors. Dinner at Cagney's was as great as always. Loved the crab cakes and the steak (and lamb) were perfect. After dinner we experienced our first truly "epic" moment. We went to Fat Cats and discovered the Slam Allen Blues Band. It reminded me of hole-in-the-wall clubs I'd been to in Vegas years ago (minus the cigarette smoke) and Slam and his band are a seriously talented group of guys (we'd later find out that Simon Murray discovered them in Nashville). It was truly the best hour and a half or so that I'd ever spent on a ship entertainment-wise. WOW! And even looking back at all that we experienced, they remain my favorite entertainment experience in all of my many cruises. Back at our cabin we found that our room had never been turned down. I can't say I was upset though. I am perfectly capable of taking the decorative pillows off of my bed and I figured that with the courtyard having just been opened, a routine had yet to be established. I'd also heard murmurs of no air conditioning, no phones and no TV so my issue was slight at best. Day Two...at sea...(you'll notice a pattern here!) Breakfast at the Epic Club. Same menu as the suite breakfast at Cagney's. DH had the filet and eggs, I had the warm banana pancakes. The side buffet is extensive with the best fruit selection I've ever seen at sea. The old favorites were there, including melon and pineapple, but there were also fresh sliced strawberries, blueberries, and plump blackberries and raspberries. After breakfast it's tradition for us to walk off some of that meal, so we went to the jogging track. This is the only space on the Epic that I just don't like. This is an area we use extensively on other ships and to have it be so limited is an extreme disappointment. Unlike on other ships the Epic's promenade doesn't circle the ship. The ships I've sailed on recently have a jogging track for runners and the promenade is left for people to walk, stroll and relax. With the Epic, one side of the promenade is for shuffleboard and the other side for jogging, with two narrow lanes painted on the deck that direct you to run in a loop. This is a tight area when you have walkers, joggers and runners all vying for space. This morning it was made even tighter by a "promenade zamboni" driving up and down the area, cleaning the track. To top it off the lifeboats hang down parallel to the promenade so your view of the ocean is severely hampered. A view people without a balcony will sorely miss on this ship. On a comical note (to me anyway) 3.8 loops makes a mile...which makes this track just a smidge bigger than the promenade on the Majesty which was ¼ mile even. The Epic, the second largest cruise ship in the world, truly is a big lady. A quick dash back to the room for a shower. We had a meet and greet to attend! This was the most active roll call we'd ever been part of and around a hundred folks had signed up for the meet and greet which was being held in Le Bistro at 10:30 am. We arrived a few minutes early and grabbed what we hoped was a good spot. One of our roll call members had made the most amazing nametags with our names, pictures of the Epic and the date of our sailing that she'd laminated to be worn with a lanyard. Just receiving that keepsake made attending the M&G worthwhile! Of course it didn't stop there. NCL really makes a nice effort with these gatherings, putting out juices, coffee, water and pastries. The real bonus comes though when members of the senior staff show up. Knowing that Klaus and Sean were heading things up, we knew this would be well-attended and we were not disappointed. Captain Trygre Vorren is very engaging with a wonderful sense of humor and welcomed us with a nice speech and jokes about him too not having telephone, television or computer service! Klaus and Sean were of course there along with Simon Murray (some may recognize him as the cruise director from the CNBC special about the Pearl...he's now the Entertainment Director) and a surprise visit from Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer! Klaus as always gave out his phone number and the numbers of the rest of the officers (except the Captain!) and he means it when he says he wants you to call if you have any problems. He also stayed around until the last guest left addressing any and all concerns on the spot. Now we begin our first real exploration of the ship. Not that we didn't look around that first day (and take plenty of photos!) but now we'd start to really look at the Epic's public areas and take note. First let me say that she is nothing like any other ship we've been on so we carried around our ship map for the first 4 days we were on board. Even after that we'd refer to it to make sure we knew where we were going. The Garden Cafe is an amazing buffet. Enormous and gorgeous, she easily accommodated the 3,500 or so passengers sailing with us. The space is run as efficiently as the Secret Service. A crack team wearing headsets patrols the seating areas, scanning for vacant tables, directing customers and reporting back to a central person who is stationed at the main entrance. He or she then lets customers know which way they can find seating. At no time did we have a problem finding a seat during the week. Of course the Epic can hold about 1,700 more guests than we sailed with so it'll be interesting to read what future guests think! The pool deck has the much-talked about and anticipated Epic Plunge plus two additional waterslides, which complete the water park. There are two pools in this main area plus a pool in the aft of the ship at Spice H20. (Although I have to admit I only saw this pool empty being used as a stage for performers, so I'm not sure how that will work.) There is an area called the Marketplace that was being finished. I can only guess that some shopping will occur there? You have the giant rock climbing wall and the repelling wall. The space is so large, they even have signposts directing you (you'll find the signs on deck seven as well where the shops are...I have to say they were very useful in getting your bearings!). By now we decided to take advantage of the Courtyard and veg out for a bit before dinner. The Courtyard was breezy but sunny and we relaxed for an hour our so in this very comfortable spot. I realized around now that I hadn't received a confirmation for our dinner requests. Turns out that computers weren't working and Anshuman and Karan didn't have printers. That would explain it! I couldn't remember what I asked for (I'd written it down so long ago!) but they looked it up for me and wrote it down the old fashioned way...with pen and paper. Dinner tonight would be the Epic Club. No reservations required and currently only open to suite guests. The menu is a bit different from the other restaurants (but did I take a picture of this? No, of course not!). I had a shrimp entrEe that was simply delicious and the rest of our party had the duck, which they enjoyed tremendously. After dinner we popped into Fat Cats again to see Slam and then just walked around the ship. The next night would be Cirque Dreams and we couldn't wait for this new experience! Day three... Decided to try out the buffet for breakfast. The woman at the entrance let us know that there were tables available to the left. We did the circuit, deciding what we wanted to eat. They really have everything you could want from cold and hot cereals to pancakes and waffles to made-to-order eggs to corned beef hash and sausage and biscuits. Not to mention all of the fresh fruits, breads and your typical breakfast standards of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, etc. I settled for an egg white omelet at the omelet station and DH got 2 eggs over easy to go with his corned beef hash. All were delicious and although one of us guarded our table while the other got their food, we could have picked our food first then found a table together. The seating was ample this morning. Later in the cruise people would realize that being in the front of the ship, the buffet had some stellar views. After that we'd find people staked out at the tables near the windows and seating got tighter (still never waited for a table though!). Since I was off to a good start with my egg whites, I decided to check out the fitness center (plus it was foggy and chilly out). This is a good sized space with every piece of equipment that I can think of. Ample treadmills and ellipticals meant there was never a wait. There were four stationary bikes (and only three worked) so those were a hot commodity. There were a number of recumbent bikes though, weight machines, pilates machines and a room set up for spin-classes. They offered numerous classes throughout the cruise, although most for a fee. You could sign up at the beginning of the cruise, but if you did, you had to sign up for four sessions. I found this to be both expensive and not necessarily good schedule-wise. For example four bootcamp classes were $160 and two were at 9:00 am and two at 3:00 p m (different days of course). You could show up the day of the class, but if you weren't pre-registered, you could be turned away (I noticed a few of the classes filled up that first day). I understand needing reservations with that many passengers on board, but would prefer that you didn't have to buy a package for the privilege of a reservation. We enjoyed the buffet so much for breakfast that we went again for lunch. For those of you who like Indian food, NCL has some of the best in their buffet. DH enjoyed that while I had a little bit of everything (seems like I always eat too much at a buffet) and had one of my favorite items at sea...a pretzel roll! We can see that things are slowly improving on board. There are less and less people complaining at the concierge desk, less lines at reception, less key cards being replaced, printers and computers are up and running and you can see the tension slowly leave faces as everyone, passenger and crew alike got into the routine of being on a cruise. Everyday new channels on the television go live (finally have a navigation channel!). We've been really lucky so far. The only thing we've found wrong with our room was that the stopper in our spare bathroom sink was permanently in the "down" position. We were overdue to hit a snag! Dressing for dinner had a note of excitement, as we were getting ready for the Cirque Dreams dinner. This is one of the primary reasons we'd booked the Epic, a chance to check out all of the entertainment and innovations that were unique to her. We arrived at the Spiegel Tent about 10 minutes before show time. There was a fair line (Hey, there's a couple in line that was on a tour with us in Iceland! What are the odds???) but it moved quickly. After our cards were scanned (they don't issue paper tickets, instead everything is tied to your key card) it became clear that there was a problem. The movement of the line slowed to a crawl and the woman who was seating people was clearly agitated. Other employees joined her, scanning the seating area and whispering. This didn't bode well...and sure enough, when we were next to be seated, the curtain was literally closed in our faces as my group of four and about 6 others were turned away. Now we didn't book this cruise without expecting some issues. I think you'd have to be crazy to expect the maiden voyage of any ship to be without flaws, let alone the Epic with all of her one-of-a-kind products. I'm not one to make a fuss, especially with the people who'd been behind us doing that quite well. I stood by quietly while the men from the individual parties were yelling at the poor box office manager Clair that they'd "made reservations a month ago and that this was unacceptable, I demand compensation", yadda, yadda, yadda. Clair held her composure and in between the squawking being hurled at her she told us that we could be switched to another of two shows. So no problem. After the other parties had stomped away with much higher blood pressure (I think one of them shook his toupee loose), we changed our reservation to Tuesday and she assisted us in getting into LeBistro right away, as that was what we currently had planned for Tuesday night. (In fact her assistance was unnecessary as LeBistro wasn't full, but it's the thought that counts.) Would I have been more upset if we'd been told we'd miss the show altogether? Sure. But that wasn't the case, so we moved on. Here we encountered a kink in the system. Our dinner at LeBistro is complimentary as we are Platinum Latitudes. That means we get a free bottle of wine from a limited wine list. Well the "sommelier" came over and began asking me about what wines I like, white, or red, fruity, dry, etc. I finally asked if I could just see the list and was told they didn't have one yet. Ah. Okay. So I asked for a sauvignon blanc. Well, she brought out a fume blanc that I don't really care for so I rejected that bottle. She kind of argued for a moment until I firmly told her no. She brought out a better bottle after that. I really don't like to argue, and maybe I was a little aggravated after the Cirque issue, but why should I be forced to have a wine I wouldn't order myself? Past that snafu, dinner was great. Our respective people consumed wonderful escargots, mushroom soup, French onion soup, beef tenderloin, and lamb chops. (I know, I know, some of you are thinking with all that meat, the convention is to have red wine, but I prefer white!) After dinner we paused in the atrium to watch some of the World Cup match being shown on the big screen. Klaus walked by and DH snagged him to let him know what happened with the Cirque dinner. His immediate reaction was that we should have called him, but we assured him that it had been handled, we'd been rescheduled and the main reason we were telling him was to make him aware that they had a problem (and some angry customers). Clair insisted that people had gotten in who didn't have a reservation as it was impossible that they'd over-booked. I think it was probably a combination of over-booking and people sneaking in. Regardless, it is a problem to be addressed. We returned to our room to change out of our dinner clothes when there was a knock on the door. It was Karan letting us know that the Legends in Concert would be performing the next evening. Klaus had told us the first day that they weren't quite ready yet, but that he'd been hopefully that they'd be able to have a show later in the week. As they share the Epic Theater with the Blue Man Group, they would have two performances in the theater the same night and would have two "unplugged" shows at the Manhattan Room. This would be on a first come first serve basis as they hadn't been any way to allow for reservations when they didn't know if they'd even be performing. Day Four... As I mentioned before, we'd received notice that we could take advantage of the Platinum Perk of having the free bag of laundry done (not including dry cleaning). The letter was a little confusing. The beginning of the letter stated you could do this on the day of your choosing (yay!). But the second paragraph said to wait until the $25 bag special. Well I hadn't seen the special offered at this point and decided to take a shot and gathered up our laundry. I figured I could always point back to the letter if there was a problem. So we left the bag of laundry for our steward, Orlando, and went to breakfast. Breakfast at Epic Club (eggs benny) then off to explore and do a little shopping. The shopping area on deck seven is massive compared to what is offered on the rest of NCL's ships. There are four separate stores just for souvenirs, clothes (from souvenir T's to name brands like Guess), accessories, (purses, scarves, sunglasses, etc). They have a small candy store with numerous old-style treats that you purchase by weight, which is kind of neat. There is of course a jewelry store and a central, circular area the main hallway cuts through with your perfumes and high-end cosmetics. As you continue down the hall they have an area set up where they put out the specials that changed daily (watches one day, jewelry by the inch another...). Oddly the duty free alcohol and cigarette shop isn't with the other shops. You continue toward the aft of the ship, passing bar central and Wasabi/Teppanyaki, and you'll find it by the Barber Shop. The Barber Shop is a great idea by the way and we saw numerous men taking advantage of haircuts and professional shaves. Deck six houses the casino, which is, like so much on Epic, enormous. I'd estimate that the casino takes up a quarter of deck six. If you're passing from on end of the ship to the other on deck six, you have to walk through the casino. The escalators (yes, I said escalators) from deck 5 bring you right to the casino. Pretty smart on NCL's part to facilitate the use of this money-maker. (Although I have to admit we didn't gamble at all on this trip!) For restaurants, deck six has, O'Sheehan's, (which has bowling lanes in addition to what can be found in Bliss), the Manhattan Room (a main dining room), Shanghai's and the Speigel Tent. Headliner's Comedy Club and Fat Cats can be found here as well. Deck Five houses the other main dining room, Taste (with a great view of the the largest LED chandelier at sea), Le Bistro, your reception area along with the Internet Cafe and photo gallery. The Atrium is here as well and throughout the cruise we'd see people playing Wii on the big screen or watching the World Cup. O'Sheehan's overlooks the big screen as well and on match days this area could get quite crowded. The weather was still murky, but maybe a tad warmer so I hit the jogging track for an hour. My timing was excellent as I reached a space between two lifeboats and spotted a pod of dolphins frolicking along side the ship. I paused for a minute to watch them, and then continued on. Have to do something to combat all of the food! While in our room, dressing for dinner, Orlando delivered our freshly washed and folded laundry. I couldn't believe that it arrived the same day. Neither could he. He said he was just checking on the status and found that it was done. Had I known the turn-around would be so quick, I would have sent a couple of more items! I wouldn't count on this next time though. I imagine with the ship full, the folks in the laundry will be up to their eyeballs, but it was a lovely surprise. Tonight we had dinner at Shanghai. The atmosphere is lovely and the waitresses all wear Asian style dresses in keeping with the theme. Didn't receive the edamame snack that I've had on other ships. Instead they gave us a bowl of puffed rice chips (for lack of a better description...they kind of looked like big pork rinds) and three dipping sauces to sample. The food was not the best. DH loved his lamb and my Singapore noodles were good, but the hot and sour soup had no "hot" and my friend's cashew chicken had no cashews. Oh and the chicken for my lettuce wraps was stone cold (tasty but cold) while the rest of the table's chicken was hot. Not anything worth complaining about, but not the best meal I've had at an Asian restaurant on NCL. In anticipation of the Legends show, we were at the Epic Theater an hour early. Although this was a tedious hour to pass, I'm glad we were there. Many, many people were turned away and we'd later hear that the line, after the doors had closed, stretched all the way to O'Sheehans (mid-ship). Simon finally made an announcement to those who were holding seats for friends that the doors were closed, that their friends or family weren't getting in, and they needed to stop holding those empty seats. I'm glad that the show was able to take place and that we were able to experience it. The performers currently with the show are Tina Turner, Madonna, and Elvis. They performed in that order and I think their skill level was in that order as well. Tina was okay, the woman doing Madonna better and the guy doing Elvis seemed to me to have "The King's" voice spot on. I hadn't been to a Legends show before and found it interesting that they play video of the real singers performing (except for in Madonna's case where they showed clips from her videos) the same songs and in the case of Elvis, even in the same outfit. It really brought the whole experience to life. It was a very good show and I think it has a leg up on the other shows on Epic in that the artists will change. So for example Elvis will move on and could be replaced by Michael Jackson or Tom Petty. So the Legends show will be constantly changing while Cirque Dreams and Blue Man Group will remain the same. For the repeat cruiser, the change will be appealing. Day Five...yes, we're still at sea... I neglected to mention this sooner, but for the last two days we've encountered a fair amount of wind that has turned the Courtyard into a giant wind tunnel that is shredding their decorative plants and renders the Courtyard unusable. The outdoor Epic Club bar and seating area has also not been used and in fact the wind is so bad that they closed that entrance to the restaurant and you had to go through the Epic Lounge. Today was not an exception, and I have to hope NCL is re-thinking the omission of the retractable ceiling, or at least working on a solution. Today we look forward to taking a small behind the scenes tour. It is my understanding that this was only offered to Platinum guests and it wasn't the fully comprehensive tour that we had on the Gem earlier this year. We wouldn't be going into the "bowels" of the ship to check out the galleys, laundry, food prep, etc. I was thrilled that they were offering anything at all and leapt at the chance to learn anything "extra" about the Epic. Our first stop was Cagney's and Moderno. Executive Chef Anil Kumar was kind enough to take time out of his day to talk about the operation of these two restaurants. He is one of three executive chefs currently on board. Eventually only one executive chef will run the Epic's many galley facilities. Chef Anil explained how the prep area of Cagney's works. Made me think of Hell's Kitchen the way he described it, with the head chef barking orders to the sous chefs and they had better be listening (he emphasized that the head chef will not repeat an order as they haven't the time). He took us into a portion of the galley in Moderno and showed us the rotisserie grill they use to cook all of their meats (he was anticipating another one would be installed in NYC as one grill isn't enough). Next we were taken to the Epic Theater where the production manager Jeremy gave us a nice talk. He'd been working since January to get everything up and running. He talked about the technology of the stage. There is a lift built into the floor to move stuff around easily. All of the lights lower to stage level so no more climbing into scaffolding to change lights. He talked about the unique challenge of having shows with their own production teams and set designs swapping out in the theater. In addition to Legends in Concert and Blue Man Group, once in Miami, a matinee produced by Nickelodeon will join the rotation. We learned that cleaning up after Blue Man Group is a challenge and they have to hit the stage right away with wet vacs and squeegees. We also learned that they are four "Blue Men". They can play all three parts and all of them in fact have hair. LOL The next stop was the bridge. Captain Vorren very kindly gave special permission for us to actually be on the bridge this day and First Officer Carl was generous with his time. When asked why they hadn't been sounding the foghorn, he joked that the horn was too close to the suites. But then said that in our days at sea, the nearest ship had been 35 miles away, so there was no need. Also with today's technology, the foghorn wasn't often necessary. All equipment on the Epic's bridge is state of the art, but even then they still refer to paper charts and need to know how to read the stars. DH asked how fast what the top speed they achieved during sea trials and Carl said they reached nearly 24 knots. The QM2, being an ocean liner can hit about 30 knots. At one point, what sounded like an alarm began to sound...people in our group began to look at each other nervously while Carl continued to talk, unconcerned. Finally someone asked what that alarm was and Carl looked confused for a moment and then laughed, "That's the phone!" It was a great tour, all together lasting a little over an hour. It was really generous of NCL to offer the tour while so much else was going on, working out the finishing touches on the ship. We had dinner at LaCucina. The restaurant is all the way forward on deck 14 and has to be accessed by a set of stairs in the Garden Cafe. The dEcor is lovely, including an olive tree dominating the center of the restaurant. The food is good especially with only a $10 cover charge per person. There wasn't an antipasto trolley like they offer on the Gem and Pearl. Instead they gave you a platter with a few bites including, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, olives, and what we think was a zucchini quiche. I ordered the margherita pizza wanting to compare it to the pizza in the buffet and found it delicious. (I really do like the pizza in the buffet too!) After dinner we had the Blue Man Group. We'd asked Anshuman and Karan how early should we get there for our 9:45 show and Karan suggested arriving no later than 9:20 (and told us that reservations get cancelled five minutes before the show). We got to the theater at 9:15 and the line stretched all the way back to O'Sheehan's. It took about 20 minutes for us to make our way inside, but found plenty of seats available. We decided to take the seats in the very back which, offered cushy chairs with small tables in between them. The theater is small enough that even from that vantage point we could clearly see the stage including the expressions on the Blue Men. Having never seen the show, I didn't know what to expect. I had a vague image of shiny blue men banging on various things for an hour or so. The show was so much more than that! Cleverly funny, lots of audience participation, and ultimately the best production show I've ever seen at sea. A thoroughly enjoyable 75 minutes, especially as it's free. Definitely get your reservations early, as you don't want to miss this show. After Blue Man we briefly popped our heads into the White Hot Party. It had been scheduled poolside, but due to the foggy and chilly weather, had been moved into Bliss. NCL has hired professional "scratch" DJ's and they had the place hopping. Day Six... We had a busy day planned. After breakfast and a workout (back in the fitness center...darn weather!) we decided to eat in O'Sheehan's for lunch. It was noontime and the place was hopping (another Cup Match was also being played) but we were able to find seating on the restaurant side (the other side of the aisle is the "bar" side). We placed our order (wings, artichoke dip, fish and chips and the corned beef sandwich) and then waited over 30 minutes for our food to arrive. At first I chalked this up to how busy the place was, but I saw other tables orders arriving very quickly. When our food did come it was all plopped down at once (I didn't notice this with other tables which were being served in courses). I have to admit disappointment. The wings were cold and despite hearing great things about the fish and chips and the corned beef, they were just okay. The artichoke and spinach dip though was hot, tasty and definitely the hit of the meal (and I've heard bad reviews on this item on other ships...go figure). O'Sheehan's is open 24 hours a day and has a limited breakfast menu available at all times (which we didn't get to try unfortunately). I would definitely recommend O'Sheehan's for a quick bite or for breakfast as I heard they weren't very crowded in the morning. Well, the rest of the day was busy, busy, busy. We had a cabin crawl arranged by one of our Cruise Critic members at 2:00. A HUGE thank you to Sharon for organizing all that and an equally BIG thanks to everyone who was willing to let strangers poke into your room and take pictures! We met outside of Cagney's. There were forty of us "crawling" so we were split into two groups. One of the butlers, Chris, was on hand to help us gain access to the studio area. We were able to see balcony cabins, deluxe balconies (think mini-suite with the slightly larger space and tub), inside cabin and a studio, which I know I was very curious about. The studio room at 100 sq feet is as small as expected, but decorated in a hip manner. The Living Room was smaller than I expected given the number of studios, but sported a full bar, a bit of seating from bar stools to comfy chairs and had televisions. I also spotted a vending machine area for snacks as we were walking. I can definitely see the Studio area being a hip place to hang out. We also saw a spa suite and a forward A3 which with the solarium (16001) rather than balcony. Probably the perfect room for this cruise with our problematic weather! This A3 was also a bit larger than ours. The living room was at least 1-2 feet wider. Good to know if you're looking for a little more space for a family. The crawl wrapped up just in time for us to attend a wine tasting. The president of St. Francis vineyards in Sonoma Valley was on board and gave a nice little talk along with samples of three of their wines. We enjoyed this so much that we may very well tour his vineyard when we're in the area next April. We were now off to get ready for the Cirque dinner...again. Clair was so paranoid about us making it to the show that Anshuman had been instructed to escort us down to the show at 5:00. Well at 4:55 there was a knock on the door. The friends we were dining with had been sent by Anshuman to get us. They were determined that we would not miss this show...our room was only a 15 second walk to the concierge desk where we were meeting! We went downstairs, had our keycards scanned and were quickly seated in a nice booth for four. We had opted out of premium seating as none of us wished to become part of the show. The tradeoff however was that we had a somewhat obstructed view as we couldn't see into the second story of the "big top". We didn't miss a lot, but it's something to be aware of. The show and dinner were great. The dinner is a set menu as they attempt to serve everything as seamlessly and unobtrusively as possible (they will handle requests for allergies though). There was a wedge salad with shrimp, hard-boiled egg and Thousand Island dressing. EntrEe was both a small filet mignon and a stuffed chicken breast with gratin potatoes. Dessert was chocolate decadence with berries. The show was great and seamless. They are all so talented from the singers to the acrobats to the quick-change artist. There was more than that going on but it was all amazing. I do have to say that I can see that they'd have to cancel the show if there was significant motion from rough seas. Some of the performers do amazing balancing acts that just wouldn't be safe at all if the ship were rockin' and rolling. The Cirque Dreams venue, even with all scheduled shows cannot accommodate all passengers on the ship. So if you want to go, make your reservations early. They reserve 80% of their tickets to be sold online (available to be booked 45 days before you sail), so that leaves only 20% to be gotten on board (this applies to all of the shows you can reserve with or without a fee). NCL has knocked entertainment on the high seas out of the park with Epic. Every show proved to be what it was hyped to be and more. DH and I have never enjoyed ourselves so much at shows on any other ship. After Cirque Dreams we dashed to the VIP cocktail reception (there had been a wine and cheese party for silver through platinum latitudes the day before, but we missed it). This was very well attended with the Captain and both HD's on hand. It was held at Bliss as the Epic Lounge isn't large enough to accommodate everyone. After having a couple of drinks (we passed on the appetizers though having just eaten) we went to Headliners to check out the Howl at the Moon show. This was the only show that we would attend all week where we would find the venue half empty. The musicians were talented and engaging, but DH thought perhaps the international crowd had too broad a range of interest. They played a Scottish song when they realized a family from Scotland was there. While that family sung along with enthusiasm, the rest of us kind of sat there...and that family left shortly there after, so maybe DH has something. It'll be interesting to see other reviews on this show, especially once the ship hits Miami. Heading back to our cabin we found that the tornado that had been swirling around the Courtyard had abated somewhat. Taking advantage of this reprieve we quickly donned our bathing suits and hit one of the hot tubs. A most excellent way to end the evening. Day seven... Had breakfast at the buffet (great corned beef hash and hockey puck buttermilk biscuits). We took advantage of the calm seas (and little wind for once!) and watched for (and saw!) loads of dolphins. At one point we noticed that the ship appeared to be on maneuvers. I recalled Carl telling us that they would sometimes do this to avoid whales and sure enough we spotted a pair of fins that we guessed were a mother and calf. What a great way to pass our last morning at sea. We had our last lunch at Epic Club, took a nap, then the four-letter word we all dread. It was time to pack. I always save some wine to make this process a little less painful. So a couple of glasses of chardonnay later, the bags were 95% good to go. Now it was time for an event I've never seen on a cruise ship. There was an open bar, ship wide from 5:00 - 6:00 pm hosted by Klaus and Sean. They weren't even sneaky about it, putting it in the Freestyle Daily twice and having the CD Silas remind us over the PA system (as if we'd forget!) This was clearly a thank you from them to all the passengers for dealing with the disruptions experienced on this first full-length voyage of the Epic. Well, who are we to turn down free drinks? We went to the Epic Club bar, ended up meeting more fellow Cruise Critics and enjoyed a great hour socializing. Thank you to Klaus and Sean! I do wonder how much that hour cost them...biggest bar tab ever! It was time to get ready for dinner and we'd chosen Moderno. This was a unique (and delicious) experience that I'd encourage all Epic cruisers to try. Basically, if you like meat, you'll like Moderno. There is an extensive buffet in addition to the meats being offered, but you don't want to fill up too much on the fillers (I highly recommend the Portuguese Black Bean soup though). After you've grabbed your items from the salad bar, you flip over the card at your place setting to the green side and the meats begin to arrive. There are sausages, chicken, beef tenderloin, lamb chops, pork and beef ribs. The best is the "picanha" though, which is a marinated beef sirloin that was to die for. As long as your card is on green, the meat will keep coming (you don't have to accept all offerings though). Once you've had your fill, turn your card to red. Then it's time for dessert. In the middle of dinner we had to run outside to see the Queen Mary II overtake us. She'd been coming up on us during the day (she left Southampton the day after we did) and when she passed us the two ships were sounding their horns back and forth. Talk about Epic experiences! After dinner we had coveted reservations at the Ice Bar. $20 pp got you two chilly drinks (DH didn't care for the fruity offerings and asked for and was served a straight up vodka) served in an ice glass. They gave you warm ponchos to put on with faux fur trim and gloves. Definitely do not wear sandals and do wear pants! A very "cool" experience and worth doing at least once I'd say. For those wondering, we did see a child in there...and there are non-alcoholic selections, so that question appears answered. We were supposed to go to Second City after this, but decided to pass. We've seen the Second City a few times on other ships, and have enjoyed the shows, but opted to spend our last evening in the hot tub just relaxing and reflecting on our Epic experience. Final morning... Up at 7:00 and realized the Verrazano-Narrows bridge was in sight. That had us scrapping our plans for one final breakfast at the Epic Club. Instead we grabbed a quick meal at the buffet (which we brought back to our room to eat) then went to the forward deck to watch our arrival in NYC. A news helicopter buzzed us and the cruise director began directing people to go outside as early as 7:30 trying to ensure plenty of people on decks and balconies for the photo-ops. NCL couldn't have asked for a better day as it was in the 60's without a cloud in the sky (figures!) as we made our slow passage up the Hudson. As we neared the bridge I think more than a few of us were holding our breaths to see if she had enough clearance. We passed with a bit of room to spare (thank goodness!). Measure twice, cut once! Lady Liberty greeted us, the sun glinting off of her torch (a sight that never gets old) and we finally arrived at pier 88 at 9:45. What transpired next was curious indeed. The Epic began lowering lifeboats on the starboard side. The first five in fact making it apparent that the ship couldn't dock with the lifeboats in place (they would have interfered with the gangways). So that took some time. It was a little after our 10:00 arrival time that the Epic's first rope was thrown to a dockworker. Cheers went up both from the pier and the ship when this occurred, welcoming the Epic to NYC. We passed time waiting to disembark by soaking up sun in the Courtyard. Better late than never! Disembarkation was halted due to too many people trying to pass through customs. At around 11:45 we left the ship and quickly found our luggage (after a last good-bye to Sean who was at the base of one of the gangways). When we hit customs the US line was relatively short and fast-moving. The line for international passengers was hundreds deep. We would later hear that it would take hours after our debarkation for the last passengers to be cleared. The delay was apparently due, in part, to the Epic being the largest cruise ship to ever dock in New York. By 12:15 we were in a cab headed to JFK (there is a taxi stand across the street and the fare to JFK is a fixed $45 plus tolls). Our final thought is that the Epic is everything she's been hyped to be. Unique and stunning, she's definitely a destination unto herself. We never expected everything on the cruise to be perfect. With a maiden voyage we felt that you just shouldn't count on anything, and when you start throwing in the challenges endured during her build, well we were lucky she sailed with us at all. We had anticipated some glitches and problems with the new build, and there were some, but what impressed us was the crew and staff's response to any issues addressing and fixing problems as they came to light. She truly has the best crew at sea and it was wonderful to watch them relax as all of their hard work came to light and to see the pride they all had at bringing her to us. For those of you who have her booked, you'll love her. For those of you who haven't, what are you waiting for? Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We were sadly disappointed in the transatlantic cruise on the Epic which left Southampton on June 24. Embarkation and disembarkation were poorly organized and it took an unprecedented amount of time to board and disembark the Epic. We were ... Read More
We were sadly disappointed in the transatlantic cruise on the Epic which left Southampton on June 24. Embarkation and disembarkation were poorly organized and it took an unprecedented amount of time to board and disembark the Epic. We were not welcomed aboard after standing in line for hours in Southampton and had to find our cabin without any direction from the few staff that were around. We missed the champagne welcome too - something we enjoyed last year on the Pride of America. We had booked and paid NCL for transfers to the airport when we arrived in New York on July 1 but had to find a taxi as we were hours late disembarking and barely made our flight. The cabin had a few intermittent problems with the phone and television and the sink leaked (this was repaired mid-way through the cruise)but we were a lot better off than many cruisers who encountered more serious problems. We weren't too happy with the arrangement of the toilet, sink and shower being all separate and the sink is way too small. We found it very objectionable that we had to line up (sometimes for more than an hour) to get a seat even for those events for which we had reservations and for some activities that we had paid for in advance. We think the size of the entertainment areas like the Epic Theatre (seats 800) and Spiegel Tent (seats 120) are much too small for the number of passengers on a ship of this size and the reservation system and extra costs added to the bill for entertainment are objectionable. The lack of comfortable sitting areas, a library and games room are also issues. We were astonished to hear one of the senior entertainment staff unapologetically trying to explain these problems away to passengers who had waited in line and were unable to get into the Spiegel Tent for a performance by the magician by stating that the Epic is an "activity ship" and he didn't expect that people would want to "sit around". What else is there to do on a cruise where the entertainment venues are full, the pool is not available because of weather, other problems or occupied by children and the casino full of smokers so non-smokers or people with health problems can't even venture across that deck? We were really looking forward to this maiden voyage across the Atlantic and expected a few problems as the Epic is a new ship. The problems that we found didn't relate so much to the fact that the ship is not yet finished (one technician said he would be aboard for another 2 months to finish the work still to be done) but to disorganization, poor planning and lack of attention to customer service by NCL management. We are also concerned about all the 'upcharge' restaurants which outnumber other restaurants available to passengers, the problems with the entertainment reservation system and extra charges for some of the entertainment. The best parts of the cruise were the events organized by Cruise Critic members, we enjoyed the food and some of the entertainment like the Blue Man Group was fantastic. We will likely take another cruise on NCL as we enjoyed previous NCL cruises but it is highly unlikely we would want to sail again on the Epic. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
The Norwegian Epic is an amazing ship. It has many cruise industry firsts, and even more NCL firsts. At 1.2 Billion dollars it was a bold investment by the company, and they are counting on their flagship to be deliver the goods. However, ... Read More
The Norwegian Epic is an amazing ship. It has many cruise industry firsts, and even more NCL firsts. At 1.2 Billion dollars it was a bold investment by the company, and they are counting on their flagship to be deliver the goods. However, while I can say I was impressed with the Epic, it still needs a lot of work before I would consider cruising on her again. Please read my review below before considering booking a trip and then decide if the ship is right for you. First off, a few caveats. I only give her a 2 star because of all the problems we encountered with this TA experience, but the ship itself is more like a 4+ star! We were on the inaugural voyage from South Hampton England to New York. We were literally the first people on the boat, and the crew spent the entire 7 days finishing construction as we sailed. They also spent a lot of time practicing safety drills and sorting things out for themselves. So they need to be cut a little slack. Also, the Epic is not designed for trans Atlantic crossings. She is not the QE2. She is a top heavy boat with 17 decks and a majority of her activities being placed outdoors. The seas were 10-20 swells at times and the weather was cold and windy and rainy for much of the cruise making many of her best features unusable. That being said, we knew all of that when booking the cruise so I am not interested in discussing those issues, but rather to give a constructive critique of the new boat and her pros and cons. State Rooms: The first thing people often ask about a cruise is the size of the room. Which is not a major selling feature on the Epic. They have designed the staterooms to fit as many as possible on the ship and pack folks in. There is so much to do, that why do you really even need a big room? That being said, we were in a deluxe family balcony, which is equivalent to a mini suite on any other cruise, and it was very tight. The room reminded us of an RV. Long and narrow, with well designed use of space, but a little clusterphobic. In fact, for the three of us to move around in the room, we had to orchestrate our paths since it was hard to have two people pass each other. Another two feet in width would have made a big difference. The same goes for the balconies. They were adequate, but you weren't going to be throwing a party out there. Overall, this was a disappointment, and you feel a little short changed since this is more "mini" then "suite" but as long as you know what you are in for when you book, then you can plan ahead. The next major issue with the rooms that almost everyone disliked was the bathroom arrangement. As one guest commented, "it must have been designed by a man". It makes no sense, and offers little for privacy. The toilet and the bath tub/shower flank the door and each has its own frosted enclosure. They both work just fine but the design is not flexible. If you are sharing the room with a mother in law, you won't have much privacy, and even if they close the curtain, you couldn't leave the room. It maximizes space, but at the cost of sensibility. As for functionality, they both work very well, but the toilet is VERY loud. It has great sucking power, but at night, you will wake up the entire room if you decide to flush. The sink is not located with the shower and toilet, but more inside the living space of the room. It is odd for a lot of reasons, but the most obvious is that it is not behind the curtain that separates the rest of the bathroom from the room. So if you are going to brush your teeth, the rest of the room gets to watch whether they like it or not. This can be particularly difficult if you have a child who goes to sleep before you. It used to be you could go into a bathroom and close the door to tidy up before bed. But on the Epic, that won't happen. As for functionality, the sink works fine, but while it looks cool, it splashes everywhere and is not deep at all. If you want to wash a piece of clothing in your sink, that is not going to happen. It looks great in a photograph, but you have to wonder if anyone ever tried these things out before putting them in 3000 rooms! The doorway location was another issue that raised concerns. With its central position, an open door means that whoever enters can see everything in the room. This is common is some inner rooms, but not typical in suites. Usually the door is offset and you enter down a mini hallway with the lavatory on one side and then enter the room. Thus, if you were leaving and your spouse still wasn't dressed, someone in the hallway wouldn't have the opportunity to spy in you room. You could close the curtain, but that is just a hassle. The rooms were designed to be as efficient as possible, and this was one of the sacrifices that I wish they didn't make. The wave effect in the room was highly touted by NCL and is pretty cool. Its certainly not like any room you have been in before, but once you get past the neat factor, you are left with a space that looks great in photos, but isn't as practical in real life. For instance, the bed is actually rounded on the end making it shorter then normal. I am 5'7" and I am not kidding when I say my feet were hanging off the end of the bed. The storage areas are all curved making certain items not fit, and the couch is rounded making the sleeping area for a third person a little cramped. You can pull the couch out for a bed, but then it does become difficult to pass when you want to get to the bathroom at night. Both beds are relatively comfortable, but they could have saved money by going with standard beds instead of paying for custom curved beds and I would have been much happier. Plus, it may have been just on this cruise, but the typical overlay into the two twin beds to make them a queen was missing, meaning you felt the crack every time you were in the middle of the bed. All in all, I can say the novelty of the wave is pretty cool, but it eventually wears off and you just have to make do with a less functional living space. The Lighting in the rooms is very good. You can use the carious switches to create the mood you want, and we found a way to darken the room enough for our son to fall asleep while still keeping it functional. There were a lot of switches, and the lights only work when a card is in the key slot, but overall the system works. One gust complained they couldn't find their sink light switch, which is cleverly placed on the bottom of the medicine cabinet, but overall they did a good job. The back lit buttons on the LED reading lights near the bed were so bright, that you could almost read a book without any lights on. We ended up having to cover them with various objects to make it darker. Also, the acrylic dome over the bed looked great, but vibrated a lot and was a bit annoying. This could have been only because we were in the back of the ship and the engines make a noticeable vibration, but the rattling of acrylic kept my wife up several nights. One major positive in the rooms was storage. As I mentioned above, the room is almost like an rv with every space maximized. There a endless places to put things from under the beds, to drawers under the couch. It can make for an interesting packing exercise at the end of the cruise, and one person complained that they would have liked a few more drawers, but overall NCL nailed this one. You will have not problem fitting everything in the room. I did get to do a tour of many other rooms as a member of cruise critic and it was a lot of fun. The studio rooms are a nice concept, and as you would expect are very small. The spa rooms were nicely furnished and had some great features, but would really only work for two people. The villas are of course nice and offer a completely different experience with butlers, their own eating area, fitness club, pool, and hot tubs, but they should get all that for what they are paying. I've seen a lot of early reviews from these guests saying their experience was incredible. But if you are not staying in an owner's suite or villa, then I would recommend quantifying their comments in a different context. All I can say is that you need to really look at what you need to get out of your room and do your research before you book since the categories on this ship are very different then anything else NCL has. Security: This was a new boat, and there are certain things to be expected, but there were a few issues that NCL really needs to fix to get the boat at where it needs to be from a safety level. I am sure that a lot of these will be corrected in the next few weeks, but others may take a while, or may not be changed so just be aware. First off, there are no peep holes in the doors. It's certainly not the end of the world, but they are common on many ships, and they can add an element of safety, especially in the studios section. There are several areas on deck 15 where water is pooling. This is due mainly to the water slides. The NCL crew was trying very hard to keep it under control, and even had a person or two using a squeegee all day/every day to try to keep issues to a minimum. This was obviously a design flaw when they were building the ship, and there simply isn't enough drainage around these areas. I'm sure NCL will find a way to fix the problem, but it may take a little while. Just be aware that certain areas of the ship have standing water and can be slippery. In addition to the slick decks, there was another issue around the main pool area on deck 15. This is a common issue in the ship, but basically there just isn't enough space for the large amount of people to walk around. They have packed so many lounges on the deck to accommodate guest (which is a good thing) that it is difficult to navigate your way from fore to aft. Since this is a common walkway for the ship, and the best way for aft staterooms to get to the Garden Cafe, this can be an issue. The next issue will surely be fixed soon, but led to some funny situations in various public bathrooms around the ship. These rooms are outfitted with occupancy sensors, but are only set for motion and not sound. They were also set for only a 1minute time interval, which meant that if you were in a stall for any length of time, the room would go dark, sometimes just the stall, sometimes the WHOLE public restroom.. This led to some fun conversations with fellow stall users, but could potentially be a safety issue. It certainly scared a few of the younger passengers. There is an easy fix for this, and it will surely be completed soon, but I figured it was at least worth a mention. An easy change to make is the activity of the Stewards walking in on unsuspecting patrons. The doors in the rooms are extremely thick and do a great job of keeping the sound out. If you hear a knock on the door, and respond with "I'll be there in a second", the steward might not hear you. It is not really there fault since the doors muffle the sound because they are SO good, but unless you plan to scream, there is the chance that they could walk in on you in some compromising situations. There is a dead bolt on the door, but it doesn't seem to stop them. This was not just a problem for us, but for several passengers in several levels of rooms. It can easily be fixed by changing your status to "do not disturb" but that requires you to open the door and do it manually. (More on this in the technology section) This is not an issue for us, but one guest was VERY upset about this policy. It can be a sensitive subject so if you are worried, it may warrant a trip to the photography desk on the first day. On every other cruise we have been on, photographers take pictures and place them on a big wall and you can look through and find your shot and buy it. The Epic has a really cool system that takes it to the next level. The boat has facial recognition that actually identifies who you are and places the pictures in a file that you can access on a computer by inserting your key card. It's brilliant and works very well. Its not a perfect system, but it seemed to find most of our pictures. You simply find the one you want and then you can buy it. The issue is that they also print out the pictures (which is not exactly environmentally friendly since most people don't buy every picture) and then they place them in big mailboxes for each room. Once again it is VERY easy to find your photos (which is a good thing) but it is also easy for a potential stalker to look through a cabin number and know exactly who is in each stateroom and what they look like. I am not that paranoid personally, but it can easily be fixed by simply not printing out the photos and just letting people access them on the computers. One oddity was the strange location of the infirmary on Deck 10. In almost all other NCL ships it is located in the bowels of the ship on deck 4 or below. I suppose it doesn't really matter where the room is, but considering how NCL charges a premium for upper decks, its odd to allow the doctor to occupy this space. And with large sells on one day deck 10 had a whole lot of "sick" action on it... Another major issue that I hope they can easily fix was the overall public address announcements. While there may have been a speaker in our room that wasn't working, we couldn't hear any of the announcements made by the captain or cruise director. Even emergency tones did not play loudly in our stateroom. Personally I was not complaining about this since we seemed to have 2-3 safety drills per day and I liked the peace and quiet, but I could easily see someone sleeping through an announcement if a real emergency was happening. Technology: The ship has some great technology and even more on the way, as you would expect from a new ship. Other things will be fixed shortly (like the tv's, ours broken for 3+ days). But certain things, like intranet connectivity are simply unacceptable and need to be updated immediately. There is a large LED TV from Philips in the main atrium that is used for various things over the course of the cruise. It is close to HD quality and spans two decks from 5 to 6 and can be viewed from O'Sheehan's. It was used primarily to watch the world cup (which was a horrible feed) but it was also used to show movies and even play the Wii. It's a great idea and the technology is cool, but often times it was just cycling through preset images that looked nice. Hopefully they find ways to use this feature more in upcoming cruises. The AC in our room seemed to have issues. We had it set to the lowest level, and yet the room never really got any cooler. Conversely, some friends in a similar room couldn't get their temperature up and complained of being frozen. I'm sure they just need to work out the kinks in the system, but it certainly wasn't perfect for the first cruise. Water was the same way with the controls being reversed. The TV in the room is a flat screen 32" HD, and it is very nice. It has a lot of technology built in and you can rent pay per view movies, check the status of your bill, or view restaurants. Supposedly you will eventually be able to make reservations, look at your photo's., and even play bingo from the TV, but none of that was available at the time of our cruise (nor was the tv for over 3 days?). It would be a welcome addition. They could also add the next days itinerary sheet instead of printing them out as an added feature. One issue that hopefully will change is the lack of TV stations. I understand that NCL doesn't make any money if we sit in our rooms watching tv all day, and honestly, I don't pay all that money to watch spongebob when water slides and rock climbing walls abound, but there were about 7 stations, and the two kids stations were not live feeds. They were looped cartoons that once watched were replayed over and over. This was not a huge deal for some people, but anyone with kids will get awfully sick of watching the same 5 episodes over and over. They really need to offer more stations. Pay per view was a nightmare and very expensive, we had numerous issues with the movie stopping ½ way through or the system just being a pain... The phones are pretty slick and offer a lot of features like reservations, 24hr pizza, and announcements. A lot of the phones weren't working during the beginning of the cruise, but once they sort through the mess, I am sure you will be happy with them. There was cellular service provided that worked very well, but they charge international roaming charges so just be ware. The facial recognition was mentioned above for the photos and seems to work pretty well. Of course I wonder what else they use it for? The internet speed was absolutely horrendous. I can't even begin to describe how slow it was. When we first got on the ship I signed up for the 100 minute plan and began to download my emails. What normally would have taken 10 seconds at home took 22 minutes. I am not kidding! I actually went down and found the tech guy and complained. He explained it was bouncing off the satellite and to expect only dial up speeds. I haven't used dial up in 10 years! I know I'm sounding snobbish here, but for those who want to stay in some contact, you will pull your hair out and go bonkers trying to use it. I have been on other cruise ships and they have not been this slow. The tech guy said he doesn't expect it to get much better for future cruises. I know they are limited by satellite technology, but as the internet has become an integral part of our lives, this is only going to get worse. I expected better from a brand new ship. In our room there were only two plugs to recharge things and they are located next to each other under the desk. For some this might not be a huge deal, but for others who rely on I-pads and Nintendo DS for the kids (especially when having to stand in long lines to que for shows?), I would recommend packing a power strip to have the extra versatility. There will eventually be a WNCL room located on deck 5 where they will make movies of the cruise, and kids will be able to play on green screens. Supposedly the Nickelodeon crew will use this as well. It was not set up for the TA, but that would be a very cool addition. One ongoing joke during the cruise was the "binging" of the elevators when they arrived at a floor. The second city troop actually made fun of it. The elevators make a very small sound, or maybe don't even signal at all, so if you aren't paying attention it will open and close and you will never even know you missed it. This could be fixed soon, but it certainly wasn't over the course of the week. It doesn't drive you insane, and if you have a room close to the lifts, you won't be woken at night, but it was kind of funny. One idea I did have was to have the ability to change the room occupancy from inside the room. Due to the privacy issues stated above, it would have been nice to push a button on your phone or to have a keypad where you can switch the note on the outside to say "do not disturb". Several of the higher end hotels are now doing this. Currently it's a rotating dial that you have to open up the door to spin, and while its functional, it would be nice to incorporate this technology. Entertainment This was by far the biggest complaint by everyone on the ship, and even caused a few fist fights (no I am not kidding). Whom ever designed the entertainment venues on this ship either can't count, or has no idea about the cruise habits of NCL patrons. NCL is known for its high quality shows, and the Epic is no exception. The shows are great and every venue was packed for every show and we were only at 75% occupancy. But that was the problem. People simply couldn't get into the shows they wanted to. The lines were horrible. For many shows you had to get there an hour in advance to make sure you had a seat, even if you pre reserved. We arrived 20 minutes prior to our Cirque show with preferred seating only to find our seats had been given away (we learned our lesson the hard way?). This is a major problem. The venues are way to small for the number of people on the ship, and anyone who says I'm crazy was either not going to the shows, or has VIP privileges since they were in villas. I talked to several of the NCL corporate people who were on the ship for this voyage and they admitted that they made a mistake in sizing these rooms. I'm sure they will figure it out, but just realize you need to book well in advance if you want to make sure you see the shows. The layout for the entertainment venues should help to explain this. There are three main areas, the Epic Theatre, The Spiegel Tent, and Headliners. There are several others such as Spice H20, fat cat's and Bliss, but the one's above are where most of the shows take place. They are all located along one hallway with a box office in the middle. The Epic Theatre seats about 600 people and in single tiered. There is a bar in the room, and the theater has a huge stage. But do the math, even with two shows a night, that means that 1200 people can see a show. There are 5000+ people on the ship! If the Blue Men played to sold out shows twice every night, it would take at least 4 days to let everyone just see them. And that doesn't take into account that the Legends show uses the stage, as well as the Nickelodeon crew, and in the future, there will be an entertainment troop. For a ship with over 5000 people, the main theatre should have seated around 1200 people. To give a comparison, the Opal Theatre on the Oasis of the Seas has three tiers and seats 1350 people. NCL simply dropped the ball on the size of the theatre. As for the Spiegel Tent, that was another problem. It seats about 250 people and has two tiers. Once again, do the math. Even with 3 shows a day, for all 7 days of the cruise, not everyone could actually see the Cirque show. And that doesn't include that the tent is also used by the Murder mystery troop and the Nickelodeon crew. Is it a neat space, sure, but it is simply way too small for the size of the ship. Plus the sight lines are horrific. If you get the premium seats, you can sit at tables under the tent and have a great view of a show. But if you are unfortunate and have to sit way back along the wall, your vision is blocked by the second level, and you can't see over 9 feet. This is a severe problem with a show like Cirque Dreams where half the action happens on ropes 15 feet up. Not to mention that the pillars block five tables views. Also it seemed very cramped to me with no kid's menu's and difficulty with getting a shrimp free salad (shellfish allergy.) It is simply a poorly designed venue. It seems like they created it and forced the Cirque show in it, when in reality it was designed specifically for the show. So you'd think they would have worked out the sight line problems in advance. A lot of people really liked the tent, but I thought it was a huge design flaw. Headliners is about the only venue that is appropriately sized in that it can seat about 350 people. But this is used primarily by second city and Howling at the moon, and those shows don't attract the crowds of the others so the venue works. Although the stage is small, and it's a flat floor making sight lines poor, that is to be expected in a stand up comedy type venue. Finally, since all three venues are located along the same long hallway on deck 6 it lead to significant "queuing" before shows. Since lines began at least an hour before each performance and there were several per night, you actually could have all three venue lines running into each other at the same time. It was quite crazy and lead to one guest renaming the boat NLC or Norwegian Line Cruise. I simply called it the Epic Line. Lets not forget that we were only at 75% when this happened. I can't imagine when they are at full capacity. I expect that NCL will fix many things on this boat before it goes to the Caribbean, but to expect that the shortsightedness in these venues will be improved anytime soon is a little optimistic in my opinion. The box office hours were another major issue. They were not open during a typical 8-5 schedule and instead were available until about 10AM and then reopened back up at 3PM. Once you can book shows on your tv this won't be a problem. But considering the craziness that ensued on this cruise with people not getting into shows, you would have thought they would have manned it as much as possible to sort through all the issues. The Blue Man Group is a great show for kids and adults, and is actually free to attend. If you haven't seen it before it is quite an experience. It is a bit odd, but basically is three guys with blue paint on their faces playing percussion. Its funny, and unique and a great way to spend an evening. It is a longer show then most at about 65-70 minutes, but well worth it. It is loud, so be prepared. Also, if you like to get engaged, sit in the first few rows. They give you a poncho to make sure you don't get covered in paint. I have seen this show in Chicago and Vegas and it is on par with the land based shows. Normally you would pay over $80 per person for these tickets so take advantage of it. The group is also around the ship a lot and were very friendly. It was great to talk with them and get their perspective on the show. Jeff Hobson was a comic magician who played in the Headliners club. Personally I enjoyed the show very much, but some others did not. He is more comedy then magic and most everything is simple slight of hand tricks, but he throws some surprises in at the end that make it entertaining. He does pull people out of the audience, and had the audience rolling. I would highly recommend it, but I would also say that he does several gay jokes (implying that he himself is a homosexual) so if you have issues with this, then it might not be your kind of show. The Second City troop has about 9 performances over the course of the week. All were held in the Headliners club. The group of six did sketch comedy and some a lot of improvisation. Having lived in Chicago for many years, I have seen several Second City shows and they can be great or just ok depending on the suggestions the crowd gives. Personally I really enjoyed the group and saw about 5 shows. Since each are different, you can keep coming back and get a different experience each time. They do have family friendly shows earlier in the night and get progressively more raunchy as the night wears on. If you like this kind of comedy, then this group is worth checking out. The Cirque Dreams show is held in the Spiegel Tent and is very similar to a Cirque de Solei (however it is not) in the sense that it has acrobatic performers doing some pretty amazing stunts. This is a first for a cruise ship, and as you can imagine, the activities take on a new degree of difficulty during high seas. This is not "O" or "Mystere" by any means, but the performers are very talented and as far as crusie ships go, its actually a pretty good show. Its major flaw is the small venue size and terrible sight lines listed above. It is certainly worth the extra money to see the show, but pay the $20 for the premium seats and make sure you get their early enough to get good seats. Other wise don't waste your time. Howlin at the moon is a trio of Dueling piano players (one plays drum or base) that plays late night at Headliners. The crowd puts in requests and the group sing s them. Music choices ranged from Journey's "Don't stop believing" to Metallica. There were some classics like "Mack the Knife" and even the Chicken Dance. They really are pretty impressive and a great way to spend an evening. They even played Bare Naked Ladies "If I had a million Dollars" which got the crowd on its feet. They still do the White Hot Party towards the end of the cruise and it would normally be up outside at the Spice H2O lounge which would be cool. Since it was raining on our cruise it was in Bliss. Our cruise was not exactly a typical Carribean crowd so it wasn't exactly a rocking party, but it was still fun and the staff kept everyone interested. I've been to several of these on various NCL cruises and the quality of the event depends entirely on the type of people on the cruise. The Murder Mystery is run by the Second City troop and is held in the Spiegel tent. We did it as a lunch and it worked out fairly well. In this case the smaller venue makes I easier for the audience to interact with the cast which is essential in these kinds of shows. However, that still means you will need to book very early if you want to get a spot at the show. Ours sold out long before the cruise even began. The show can be funny, but unless you ask the right questions, there is no way for you to figure out who actually was the murderer. I found it a bit far fetched, but my son and wife really enjoyed the show. There are absolutely no set pieces and the show is done completely improvisational, but the Second City group is good enough to sell it. If you like these kinds of shows, then I would recommend you see it. The Legends show was held in the Epic Theatre for one night, and then moved to the Manhattan room due to scheduling issues with Blue Man. We got to see it in the Epic and the bigger stage is needed. I have seen this show in Vegas, and I can say that the talent they got on the ship is not as good. They can sing the songs and dress in the costumes, but the performers in Vegas were definitely better. We had Tina Turner, Madonna, and Elvis on this cruise. It was advertised as a 'Pre show" since they didn't have much time to rehearse. I can buy that there would be a few technical gaffs, but Elvis actually forgot the words to one of his songs. As someone who makes a living singing these same songs over and over, I would have expected more. Plus all three actors seemed very winded. They were really gasping for air. I can understand it if we were doing this in Denver, but come on, these people should have much more stamina at sea level. Does that mean I would skip the show? Actually no, I enjoyed it and it is on par with typical cruise ship entertainment, but don't go in expecting the same caliber as the group in Vegas. The Nickelodeon crew did several activities and shows over the course of the cruise including Slime Time, a cartoon meet and greet, and some shirt coloring. They were still working out the kinks in the show (slime time was supposed to be in the Epic Theatre, but scheduling conflicts caused it to be on the pool deck) but overall, these 5 kids had a ton of energy and were great with the kids. Of all the performers on the ship, these guys seemed the most happy to be there, and they all had to do additional jobs as well (some actually on our laundry duty when they aren't on stage). If you have kids, then you definitely need to check these guys out. I didn't get to see the jazz group in Fat Cats but I heard they were very good from a lot of people. If you like that kind of music, I would recommend checking this out. Activities The ship has a lot of activities to do. I have never been on a ship with so much to do, and so many options. This is a good thing, because with 5000 people on board they have to disperse them otherwise it will be impossible to navigate the ship. NCL has done a good job of finding a little something for everybody, and while certain activities can definitely be improved, overall, you won't be bored on this ship. There are three pools on the Epic that are open to the public. Two are located in the certain of deck 15, and one adults only is located in the back of the ship at Spice H2O (never opened on our TA cruise). There are others in the spa and the Villas, but those are not open to the public. Overall the pools are VERY small. The one in Spice was not used during the entire cruise, but just by looking at it, you can tell, that it won't be very big either. Cruise ship pools are never large, but these seem particularly tiny for 5000 people. The pools are shallow and good for kids and severe their purpose, but on a hot day in the Caribbean, you might find it difficult to get in. There are several spray areas, including a cleverly designed tunnel area where the little tikes can stay out of the sun, so there are options. But overall, I think NCL could have done a little better in this area. There are several hot tubs on deck 15 including 5 around the pools that are large and were well used when they were open, (again another issue of the TA cruise.) There are also two tubs in the back of the boat at Spice that are adult only and they were used (when they were open) They did have several problems with them early in the cruise, but it looks like they have that worked out. Once again, there are others in the villas and in the spa, but they are not open to the public. The hot tubs perform well, but are not as extravagant as RCI's cantilever designs. The water slides are a great addition and truly are good. I love water slides and my son and I used them whenever they were open (including a blistery 50 degree day). There are three different types and each gives a unique experience. The purple slides along the side of the ship and goes through the rock wall and stops on deck 16. It is pitch black inside and gets pretty fast. The green is the longest and winds around a lot and you can really get some speed. This was by far my favorite. The orange is affectionately known as the "toilet bowl" and you use a tube to drop down into a big bowl where you spin around a few times before being flushed down the hole. It offers some great photo opportunities. Each ends in its own run out tube, and you can access them all from the same stairs. That being said, there are still some kinks. First off is the standing water issues caused by the slides discussed in the safety section above. Second it the potential for some pretty long lines. Our cruise only had 350 kids on it, and the weather was pretty cold. Many of the Caribbean cruises are slated to have 900 kids and should be much hotter. Its pretty safe to say that the lines will be getting pretty long. Also, the orange slide had some design problems where many of the kids get stuck at the bottom of the bowl and it takes them awhile to paddle around to the hole to be flushed. This leads to a ride time of over a minute and extremely long lines at the top. They say they are trying very hard to fix it by varying the water speed, but they never did get it right during our week long trip. Overall the slides are great, but just be aware that there will be long lines. The ship has two 3-lane bowling alleys. One is locate in O'Sheehan's and the other is on deck 7 in Bliss. Bowling on a cruise ship is a lot of fun. You have to factor in the sway of the ship (which can be significant in high seas) or your ball will veer off course. This of course makes the game a lot of fun, and well worth checking out. My only complaint, besides my score) was the cost. At $5 per person, per game, it's a little steep. I know they have a lot of people on the ship, and by charging it limits the interest, but of all the things to make us pay for, the bowling seemed a little bit like we were being nickel and dime'd. The rock climbing and repelling walls are on the back of deck 15 and are a lot of fun. There is no cost to do either. The rock climbing wall is much shorter and is primarily for children or novices. Anyone who has ever been in a rock gym will be disappointed. The repelling wall is about 30 feet high and is a little more challenging with overhangs. The harness they use has many safety features built in and the staff is very helpful. My 7 year old son was able to make it down the wall. It would have been great if they would let more advanced climbers use the repelling wall to climb up as it offers some more difficult routes, but as of this point, you can only repel down. The sport court is located on deck 17 aft and is very functional. They use it for soccer, basketball, batting cages, and ice skating. In fact, it is so versatile, that they really could have used two courts. There were always people waiting to hop in on a pick up game, and overall, it was a win for NCL. There is indeed ice skating on the Epic. Although it is not quite as cool as you think. It was a last minute adder and they decided to use a synthetic ice product from super glide that they lay down at night on half the sport court. For those not familiar with synthetic ice, it is basically like a cutting board. It is not cold, but you use real ice skates, and it does behave like ice, just slower. Its not a bad solution, and it works well, but it is not a real ice rink like on many other ships. But for those who like to at least try skating under the stars, this works pretty well. There is a trampoline on deck 17 next to the sport court. They hook you up in the harness and you bounce up and down. It's a lot of fun. There was some variation in what each staff member would let you do. Some didn't want you to go too high, and others wouldn't allow flips. They need to get the consistency better and everyone on the same page Another issue was the weight limit. It is only 200 lbs. which is a little low in my opinion. If its for safety reasons that's fine, however, they don't post any signs. After standing in line for over 45 minutes, I was told that I couldn't do it. That would have been nice to know in advance. And just beware that the lines are super long. The spider web is located on deck 17 next to the sport court. Its designed primarily for kids 12 and under and is essentially an enclosed climbing apparatus that the kids work their way up. My 7 year old son absolutely loved it and did it quite a few times. Multiple kids can be in it at once so there isn't a line, and there is no cost. The arcade is located on deck 15 near the rock climbing wall. As you would expect, it has a lot of the latest games, but some old stand buys including air hockey. There is also ping pong for free right outside the doors. During the second half of the cruise the games were set for free play, but during the first half game charges ranged from $1.50 to $5.00 per game. Since the games can be paid for by swiping a room key, you must be careful what you give to your children otherwise you could easily get a $100 arcade bill at the end of the trip, also beware as we had some issues with the games charging us more (kinks). There are also games located in O'Sheehans, including pac man and donkey kong, darts, air hockey. Shuffleboard and chess are located outside on deck 7 and are close to the outdoor running track. Although they aren't near the other outdoor activities, this isn't necessarily a bad thing as you can get a little peace and quiet. I didn't engage in either of these activities, but its nice to know the boat has them. But I did miss being able to loop around the ship. Occasionally they would hook the Wii game system up to the big screen in the atrium and everyone could watch as kids played tennis or bowling on a 20' tv. It's a fun novelty, but there are Wii systems in the kids club that work just as well. Bingo is offered on the boat, and was the only activity that the cruise directors actually promoted (I thought the cruise director was almost not even on our cruise he was so quiet). It is typically held in Headliners on deck six during the day, but it did move around. I am not a bingo guy so I can't tell you much about it, but a lot of people seemed to show up. It could have just been on our TA cruise, but the late night activities seemed very quiet. There were a lot of shows going on, but most of the activities listed above stopped by 7PM. There were often times that people wanted to continue rock climbing or using the trampoline, but were turned away. It seems like they could have extended these activity hours a little longer or at least stick to what the cruise daily said, many times we'd go to do something and find it closed, it was a bit disappointing. Kids Club The kids club location is on deck 14 near the front of the ship. It is right off the elevators and very close to the Garden Buffet which makes eating breakfast and dropping of the kids in the morning. It is a little difficult to get to if you are locate din the back of the ship, and we found ourselves having to go up to deck 15 and walk across outside to get there. Originally the family deluxe balconies were touted as being close the kids club, but in our case that wasn't true. I don't think there is ever a place to put something that is convenient to everyone, but unless you are in the back of the ship, it's pretty easy to get to. The size of the kids club is impressive. I can't say for sure, but it is definitely the largest one I have been in. It has great views and lots of sitting areas and mats for kids to play on. There is a climbing area, and even a dance pad. There are tons of Wii stations set up and a computer area and theatre (some things not working yet. They break the kids up by 2-5 year olds, then 6-9 and finally 10-12. Each group does have kind of a designated area in the club, but it does seem like there is enough room for all. The staff was friendly enough and most of them knew our sons name by the end of the seven days. They are mostly young adults in their early twenties and they have enough energy to hang with the 10 year olds. Some seemed more into it then others, but that could just be attributed to the crew being tired trying to get everything ready. I hope that they will get better, but I would say that they were not nearly as friendly as previous NCL kids club groups we have worked with. Also since it was so big, we really never got to get too friendly with staff. Also for safety the wouldn't let you "back" so it felt a little closed door and we really had no idea who our sons counselors were. There were tons of activities over the course of the 7 days including coloring shirts, having an egg drop, building rockets, a tour of the ship, and much more. The kids seemed busy and were having fun. My son did complain the first few days that they didn't seem organized, but I am sure that will be fixed as they spend a few more weeks getting the club ready. I would certainly feel comfortable leaving my kids at the club as they probably had more fun then the adults! The Nickelodeon crew was discussed in the entertainment section above, but I did want to mention that it was a bit odd that they didn't coordinate the kids club with the Nick crew better. After all, they are both catering to the same group. The Nick group would schedule an event at the exact time that the kids club was doing something special. It forced the parents to have to choose between the two. Hopefully on future cruises they can work the schedules better. The kids club hours were actually very good. They opened at 9AM and closed at 10:30PM. Unlike several cruises you didn't have to check you child out at lunch or dinner. You could simply leave them in there if needed. This was very useful and a big improvement over the past. You could actually pay an additional fee and keep you child there up until 1AM which is useful if you have a late show. There is a teen club called Entourage which is located on deck 16 directly above the arcade room. It's a great location directly beneath the sports courts which it used extensively. The room is almost a lounge with great views and a ton of couches and tvs. We met several of the kids in the program, and they were very happy with it. Common Areas First off, there currently is no library on the boat. You can get books from the bowling stand in Bliss, but until the final location is built, there is no real quiet place to read. This is not a major problem for me as I like the more active things, but I can tell you it upset A LOT of people. Obviously you could read in other public spaces, but between the smoke, or loudness, they really needed that special place where people can get away. They are supposedly converting a vacant meeting room on deck 5 near the artwork and making that into a library, but this was obviously a small oversight on NCL's part. If you don't smoke, and don't like second hand smoke, then you may have issues on the Epic. NCL is one of the few cruise lines left that actually let guests still smoke in their rooms, but to make matters worse, the way the ship is designed, most common areas can not be gotten to unless you walk through areas where smoking is allowed. This is discussed in more detail in the ship layout section, but just know that many of the common areas may be uncomfortable for you if you are adverse to second hand smoke. As an adder to the lack of a library, there really are not a lot of quiet places where people can just sit and enjoy a view of the ocean. That's not to say that you can't find places. The casino, the fitness center, kids club, the Garden Cafe, your balcony, basically the entire ship has great views of the sea, but none of them are really that quiet. For those who don't like to be around 5000 other people, it would be nice to have a place to escape. Spice H2O will be a nice outdoor venue when the boat is in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, due to the weather on our cruise it was rarely nice enough to use. As someone who has a kid, I wish it wasn't adults only all the time, one night week it would be nice to have a family movie, but I'm sure there are a lot of people that would disagree with me on that, and I can see their point. However, I do wish that NCL would have included a way to show movies on a big screen around the main pool deck. Princess does this and has nightly family movies under the stars that my son and I really enjoyed watching. You can't do that at Spice, but maybe a temporary screen can be erected on the pool deck. Experience The overall experience on this cruise was unlike any other cruise we had been on. Some was good and bad, but it did make for a very memorable week. Some of these things will be corrected on future sailings, but I thought this was important to include just so you can get the feel (at least from my perspective) on how the cruise progressed. One overall perception that I had was that this cruise was not really "freestyle cruising" in the traditional sense. Due to the shear amount of people on the boat, you need to share tables with other guests, plan well in advance of performances in order to see shows, and stand in long lines for almost anything. It just doesn't have the same feel as a traditional NCL boat. Also, I personally felt a little cramped on the Epic. She is a big ship, but with state rooms bring so small, and the main theatres always being jammed packed, it just felt like the ship just wasn't large enough to accommodate the people on board. And this will only get worse when it gets to full capacity. For the most part, things were included in the ticket price, but I did feel nickel and dime'd with certain activities like bowling or using the internet. It also seemed like there weren't enough choices for restaurants that were included in the fare and that we constantly had to pay to get some variety in the food we were eating. Even the pay per view on the TV seemed a bit over priced (and didn't work), Charging $5 for a pizza for room service seems a little crazy. I know that NCL needs to make its money, but at some point, it needs to stop. I did mention that some things were actually pretty good. The cruise director was strangely quiet throughout the voyage and besides bingo, there wasn't much being pushed. On other NCL cruises it seems that the raffle is being pushed every minute. It can drive you crazy, but in this case it was never brought up. It would have been ice to have a little more involvement from the cruise director, but I liked the trade off. Another oddity was the staff interaction on this cruise. I am very active in seeking out staff members and talking with them, and overall the staff seemed stressed, overworked, tired, and frayed. Some were a little frazzled and had short tempers. They weren't the typical happy group that you come to expect. Others were great and treated us very well. I do feel this will improve once they get past the stress of the first week. Just to set the record straight embarkation and debarkation were absolutely horrible for the average passenger. It took a long time to get on the ship, and even Latitude silver members had to stand in the normal line and wait two hours. Once we got two New York, it was chaotic and took much longer then necessary. I realize this isn't all on NCL, but unfortunately in sales, you only have one chance to make a first impression, and you need to leave you customer with a good feeling at the end, and on both these counts, the ship failed miserably. We were kicked out of our room early (at 11:00) and we didn't get off the ship till after 2pm. With no cruise leaving that night it would have been nice to remain in the room instead of dealing with 4000 angry passengers in the atrium area. Food Overall the food quality and variety were very good. I am by no means a food critic and am happier eating hamburgers the calamari, but I'll try to give you a description and a brief grade on each location. The Garden Cafe Buffet and the Great Outdoors are located on deck 15 in the front of the ship and are the main buffet areas for the entire ship. The space is huge and has spectacular views. The Great Outdoors is considered a separate space but in reality is just the outdoor eating area for the buffet. The food is fine and there are a lot of choices, but it never changes from day to day so it can get a bit boring. One problem I did see was that if you came between 8 and 9AM to eat breakfast, there was a pretty good chance that you couldn't find a seat. They even open up the La Cucina eating area on several occasions to help alleviate the flow, but even then that would fill up. We were not at full capacity on this cruise, so this may be a major problem on port days when everyone is trying to eat and get off the ship quickly. As large as this space is, I think it may need to be made bigger but it is beautiful! You can get room service at any time included in your cruise rate, but just be aware that to have a pizza delivered is an extra charge of $5. This seems a bit excessive to me, and I wish they would just include it for no cost. Manhattans is another one of the restaurants that are included in the fair. It is a la carte and the food is good. It is located on deck six in the back of the ship and has some great views and a nice stage. They actually held some shows like Legends in the venue. Service was a bit slow with the kitchen located away from the venue. Taste is another fare included restaurant that is located in the center of deck 5 and is open to deck six. It's a slightly different feeling then Manhattans, but has the exact same menu, so its' just another option with a different look. O'Sheehans is a bar/restaurant located in the center of the ship on deck six and is open to deck 5 through the main atrium. It is by far the best venue on the boat. It runs the entire width of the ship and has arcade games and even a three lane bowling alley. The restaurant is named after the head chef for NCL, but is designed to be and Irish beer pub. The restaurant was included in the fare and gives another option. It is a great place to sit to watch a sporting event, or just hang out. Cagneys is a Chicago steak house located at the back of the ship on deck 7 and shares a space with Moderno and overlooks Manhattans. It s about $20 more per person, but if you like fine steaks, its probably worth it. Moderno is a Brazilian steak house located on deck 7 in the same space as Cagneys. It is similar to Fogo de Chow or Texas de Brazil. It has a great salad bar and guys walk around carrying the meats. For $18 more a person it is a great deal if you love a variety of meats. It really is a great restaurant. La Cucina is an Italian restaurant located on deck 14 under the Garden Buffet. It's a little odd to get to in the sense that you have to walk through the buffet to get there, but it is a nice space and has great views. It is the cheapest of the adder restaurants and a nice change of pace. The Noodle Bar is a pay as you go a la carte restaurant that offers a lot of asian noodle choices for a great price. It is located on deck 6 right off the casino, which is convenient, but you still have to deal with the smoke issue. Other pay as you go restaurants on the ship that I didn't go to are Shanghai, Wasabi, Yakitori, Teppanyaki, and Le Bistro. The reviews I got on those varied, but overall people seemed pleased. Bars The Ice Bar is a novel idea and the only one of its kind on a cruise ships. It costs $20 per person to get in and includes 2 drinks. They give you a fake fur coat and you get some great photos but once the novelty wears off, you really don't want to hang out in this place because it is very cold. If you haven't been to the one in Vegas, then it's worth a visit. Spice H2O is located on deck 15 in the way back of the ship and is an outdoor adults only bar. It has tiered seating, two hot tubs, and a LED movie screen and a pool that was never open on our trip.. Its great for shows and parties like the White Hot. It is a pretty nice place as long as the weather is nice. Bliss is a night club style bar located in the front of the ship on deck 7. It has a bit of a "Goth" theme but also has a bowling alley. It's a trendy night club style, and kind of neat if you are into that type of stuff. Headliners is a comedy club bar that was used primarily for Second City and the dueling pianos. It is a flat floored venue with some high tables and a small stage located in the corner. The motif has a renovated warehouse feel and its pretty fun. If you like comedy, then you'll be happy with this space. Fat Cats is a blues bar located on deck 6 towards the rear of the ship. It is directly off the casino, but is enclosed and feels removed from the rest of the ship. They blues band inside is purportedly good, and if you like that kind of music, then Fat Cats is definitely for you. O'Sheehans is discussed in the food section Fitness and Spa The fitness center is one of the best features on this ship. I simply have very little to critique about it. It is a very large area located on deck 14 and has great panoramic views. The equipment is top notch and brand new state of the art. You can even hock your Ipod up to it and watch your shows while controlling them on your bikes screen. There were lots of weight machines and a free weight area. There were also yoga gyms, a spin room and what looked like a pilates studio. There are many detailed reviews of the fitness area and spa so I won't go into it too much, but here are some things I haven't seen on other posts. They have good classes like the new TRX training and spinning but they are a bit expensive in my opinion. $60 for four spin classes is a bit exorbitant, and I also didn't like the fact that towards the end of the cruise they started to lock the spin room so you couldn't walk in without an instructor and hop on a bike yourself. The spa area is nice but it was severely overbooked. This could be different on other cruises since our weather was poor and many people who would have lounged on deck moved down to the spa instead, but it still shows that the EPIC is not designed well for the shear number of people on board. Hopefully this improves on future cruises because the space is very nice. There is a racquetball court in the fitness center but it is currently being used for the TRX training. I don't get the sense that packing up the TRX stuff is easy so at this point, I don't think you can expect to play racquetball on the Epic. This is a bit odd considering they just built the ship. Why build a court and then put the TRX apparatus in there. Just build another gym dedicated just to that. Another bad design by NCL. Casino I am not a huge gambler but I can honestly say that this is the biggest and best casino I have ever seen on a ship at sea. It covers almost 2/3 of deck 6 and the entire width of the ship. It has every game imaginable, and its easy to believe you are actually in Vegas. The ship is designed to route everyone through the casino, so its easy to access, and overall should be a big money maker for NCL. I can say that the casino did appear filled during most times, but it was never cramped. Of course its odd that the casino was right sized while the rest of the entertainment venues were obviously not, but we can see where NCL wanted to make its money. Since you do have to walk through the casino to get places, people will stop and look over your shoulders so if you like to gamble in privacy, this design is not perfect for you. The casino did appear smokey to me, but I will admit that I am sensitive. Other posters have claimed that half the casino was non smoking, but I just don't see how that can be accomplished. And as stated below in the ship layout, for those who do not like smoke, the casino design is a VERY big issue and one that if not corrected may cause people not to come back on the ship for health reasons. There did seem to be a few big winners that I heard screaming as I passed through, but overall, I don't know if you should really expect to pay for your cruise by playing the slots on this ship. I just didn't like being aft on the boat and always having to walk my child through the smoke and bells and whistles of the casino. He was fascinated by all the different types of slot machines. They "called" to him! Ship Layout The major problem in the layout of the ship is the casino. It is huge and wonderful, but it takes up 2/3 of deck six, and patrons have to walk through it to get to just about anything including fat cats, O'Sheehans, or even the Epic theatre. This was designed to be this way on purpose, and I totally get the fact that NCL wants people to walk through the casino and maybe try a slot machine. This makes complete sense, and I don't have a problem with it. However, I do have an issue with the fact that the casino allows smoking and you can't get to any of these locations without having to inhale second hand smoke. I realize as Americans that we are more sensitive to smoking then other countries, however, my son is asthmatic and this really was a problem for us. For those in the back of the ship, it is really hard to get to the front of the ship without using deck six. You could do deck 7 but it is open to six in several places and the smoke still moves up. Plus several restaurants including Taste, Manhattans, and the Asian cuisine offer no options other then having to deal with the smoke. This is a true design flaw with the ship and one that NCL executives are trying to figure out. Several ship employees have even complained and hopefully smoking will decrease as our cruise consisted of many smokers from other countires. I have discussed this before, but the second MAJOR design flaw in the ship is that the entertainment venues too small. There is simply no excuse for the Epic theatre to be almost 60% smaller then the Opal Theatre on the Oasis. You can't have 5000 people on a boat and not have the venues to support them. The lines are extremely long and the whole process takes away from the Freestyle Experience. It seemed to me that many of the congregating areas were simply too small. I have discussed the situation with the entertainment venues, but even some of the eating spaces are cramped and even the deck space on 15 seems a little tight. There are limited spaces just to sit and chat besides O'Sheehans and they just didn't seem to use the space as well as they could. Even for those in the Villas who are posting great reviews, they too had a design flaw in their area. The main courtyard of the suites experienced a wind funnel effect that tosses chairs around and makes the area difficult to use. This occurs primarily on windy days, but they will need to figure out how to disperse this effect. The boat is a bit top heavy in the sense that many of the venues are located on the top decks. In fact the bottom 4 decks are reserved only for the crew and most of deck 5 is not accessible. Its nice that so many common areas have great views and lots of windows, but on a cruise like the TA where the weather was cold and windy, it really hampers the ability of this ship to perform. This is not really a design flaw, but just something to be aware of when booking the cruise. Another issue that was common was that there seemed to not be enough elevators. There are two main banks of lifts. One group Fore and the other Aft. The middle of the boat doesn't have anything. Let me stress that this is a very long boat so you find yourself having to walk along way to get to an elevator. I didn't seem to have to wait very long for a ride so I don't feel there is a quantity issue, I just felt that they are not spaced perfectly to minimize the need to walk so much. Overall One thing I learned from reading people's reviews on cruise critic is that everyone wants different things out of their cruises. I tried to provide as detailed account of things as possible in this lengthy review. I am not trying to bash NCL or the Epic. She is a beautiful ship, and we are already booked for another cruise (on another ship) with NCL in April. That being said, the whole point of providing a critique is to give useful information so that people can actually make informed decisions. It is not my job to simply promote NCL or justify the cruise in my own mind as others have asked us to do. The ship does need to be improved, and I'm sure it will be. But NCL won't know about it, unless we post our concerns. Honestly, I did expect more fanfare when we were leaving and coming into port, and I did feel like the ship could have used another three days to prepare before we got on it. Like others have said, I felt like this was just a repositioning, and we were simply cargo along for the ride. I could get into specifics, but I think I've said enough above. The reality is, for me personally, she is too big. I learned that I don't need to be with 5000 other people. I like the smaller Jewel class and even though she doesn't have all the features, I feel more engaged with cruise. But that is just my opinion. Would I sail on the Epic again, probably not. That's not to say others didn't have a great time, she just wasn't what I want out of a cruise especially with all the kinks which we encountered paying a pretty hefty fare. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
I was very much looking forward to this inaugural transatlantic crossing on a brand new ship. The hype had been going on for months. I had gone eastbound 3 weeks earlier on the QM2 and had enjoyed every minute of it. Now, I was hoping to ... Read More
I was very much looking forward to this inaugural transatlantic crossing on a brand new ship. The hype had been going on for months. I had gone eastbound 3 weeks earlier on the QM2 and had enjoyed every minute of it. Now, I was hoping to relive that experience, but on a more casual basis, without having to "dress up" so many nights. I had also booked the studio room, and was thrilled that a ship was finally listening to the poor beleaguered single traveler and sparing us that painful single supplement. I thought for sure we would be treated special, with at least a certificate, free champagne or button, but not even that. I won't rehash the details of what others have already written, but to say I was disappointed with this cruise is like saying the Titanic was felled by an ice cube. From the embarkation on, the mood of the passengers was dampened, due to stressful standing in line, with no directions. The welcome aboard was non-existent. The room was tiny, but I soon got used to it. It's more than ample for one regular sized person. Forget it otherwise. The configuration is totally unpassenger friendly, giving you little room to maneuver around the bed to fetch your clothing or use the safe, when it worked. The bed was much too big for one person, and deducted from living space. The closet was a joke, even for my small wardrobe, and the sink and "table/desk" were both too small to serve any practical purpose. I loved the ottoman under the table; as if you could even push it out far enough to sit on!. If you ordered room service, you had better eat it on the bed, or in the Studio Lounge, which, by the way, was supposed to be for studio guests only, with entry limited by the use of our room cards. However, the door was never locked, so after a few days many other passengers found out about it and came trooping through, even families with children in tow. I wanted to get away from that noise, not have it follow me to the last quiet place available on ship. There was nowhere on board to read a book without loud crowds or music, especially when nasty weather kept everyone inside. No library, no study, no secluded lounge, unless you found the Bliss Ultra Lounge appealing. The decor is "Las Vegas bordello" and the windows look out onto deck 7, which has most of its view blocked by lifeboats. That deck also has the jogging track. Nothing like a brisk walk with a charming view of lifeboats, plus the added insult of having the kitchens vent their fumes onto that deck, as well. I was nauseated by the smell of cooking grease at all hours of the day. Who had that brilliant idea? From day one, people were lined up at Customer Service, griping to staff about space, water and room temperatures, non-working phones, televisions, and safes and demanding upgrades or on board credits. Everywhere I sat I heard people grousing, which is no way for a ship to start out its cruising life. They didn't give us free cocktails until the last evening, and I suspect that was only because travel agents aboard made the recommendation to management, to help alleviate the ill will. Too little, too late. The food was ordinary,except for some creative appetizers and yummy desserts. I refused to pay the surcharges to eat at the "specialty" venues, as the menus looked like what I could get at a local chain restaurant or cafe back home. Therefore, I ate in the main dining room, where the menu is the same every day, except for chef specials such as roast turkey???? The lunch and dinner menus on the QM2 were changed every day and included all the luxury items that the Epic expects you to pay extra for. What a ripoff! That, and the $12.95 per movie on TV. Netflix doesn't charge that much! If you opted for regular TV, you got 2 channels of Nickelodeon, shipboard info, view-cam from the bridge, 3 news and sports channels, if you can consider MSNBC anything resembling news, and a loop relay of old sitcoms.I saw one episode of Friends 3 times. I know the idea is to be out of your cabin, but why offer TV if you only offer such meager fare? Lining up for evening entertainment, especially after you lined up earlier to make the reservation, was like rubbing salt into an open wound. People queued up an hour and one half prior to a show, blocking passage of foot traffic on that deck. No staff was around to alleviate the situation; just an occasional PA announcement to "clear the decks", or words to that effect. There were no instructions in the studio rooms on how to use anything, particularly on how to control the lights. I felt a right fool not being able to turn all the lights off; at one point using my clothes to hang over lights and get some relief. When talking to others, I found they had the same problems, but figured it out by trial and error. Is it too much to ask that some literature and a map be left on the desk/table? Why do passengers have to wait in lines to get this at the Atrium? Little things soon added up to make for an unpleasant experience. Even the bridge viewing room was only open when there was too much fog to see anything. When it finally cleared, they pulled the shades down to block your view, with no explanation. I also saw guests being escorted onto the actual bridge itself, for tours and photo ops. When I asked about it, I was told I must have been mistaken, as passengers are not allowed. They must have been "team members". Oh really, in shorts and t-shirts, without ID badges? Some security, especially as the door has a sign saying " Authorized Personnel Only". What a joke, and I hate being lied to, as they were probably people from deluxe suites, travel agents or cruise critics. The shows were Las Vegas kitsch. The comedy magician was good. Almost an hour and 1/2 of Blue Man Group was enough to make me want to flee to my room to watch Nickelodeon. Same for Cirq. If you've seen them once, that's quite enough. No recitals, revues, lectures, etc. for the older people on board. Just fun, fun, fun, bingo, bingo, bingo and beer, wine or liquor binges for extra prices, plus the obligatory art auctions. Shame on NCL. They made Carnival seem like luxury cruising. Lastly, the disembarkation process. I wasn't planning on the easy walk-off, but, after witnessing how inept NCL was at everything else, I wasn't leaving anything to chance. I had a train at Penn Sta to catch. So, I lined up on deck 5 over 3 hours early, bags in tow, only to be joined by a sea of like-minded people, surrounded by luggage. We looked like steerage on one of the old immigration ships. The mood was decidedly "I can't wait to get off of this bucket". When we finally docked, they permitted the contractors to get off first. These were the same people who made the voyage with us to complete the work on the ship; everything from cabling, to phone service, to electrical work and even last minute construction. They had been traipsing through the common areas at all hours, fixing things and carrying long ladders, power tools and extension cords. All in full view of passengers. They enjoyed the lounges with us, and now they got to get off first! A man behind me lost his temper and pushed me aside, demanding to know why those people were getting off first. He charged at the exit door, grabbing an officer by the arms. I thought we would have a riot. Still no explanation or directions from NCL staff. I think they were just as eager to get rid of us. Many people will be lenient, and make excuses for NCL, saying it was, after all, their first long trip and there are bugs to be worked out. I say too bad. You don't put a ship out, especially on a transatlantic crossing, unless it is seaworthy and ready for the comforts of paying passengers. Not unless you don't care about your reputation, or your passengers. This ship was not ready. I would gladly have paid the extra money to come back on QM2, which by the way beat us into port, even after having left Southampton a day later. I saw that the Epic was used to stage the Macy's 4th of July show, so now I know why they felt they had to make the voyage, even though the ship wasn't ready. What a farce. They will never see me again, nor many other passengers from this "Special inaugural transatlantic crossing on the most beautiful ship in the world". Dream on!!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Norwegian Epic Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 3.7
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 5.0 4.0
Public Rooms 4.0 3.8
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 5.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 4.0 3.8
Value For Money 4.0 3.5
Rates 4.0 3.7

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