We were guests on the “NCL Epic Failure” cruise 2/12/18. (Just Google it!) I’m going to try to be as honest as possible, both about our ship experience and our "unfortunate experience". This was our third NCL cruise, our ... Read More
We were guests on the “NCL Epic Failure” cruise 2/12/18. (Just Google it!) I’m going to try to be as honest as possible, both about our ship experience and our "unfortunate experience". This was our third NCL cruise, our first on the Norwegian Epic.
We booked a Fly, Snooze and Cruise package with the Quality Inn and Suites Port Canaveral. This included pickup at the airport, transfer to the hotel, one night's stay, transfers to the port and transfers back to the airport. All went smoothly except for confusion about transfers back to the airport because of late arrival back to port. Overall, I would recommend this package.
Boarding: We were lucky to have arrived early. We checked in with no problems and had boarding group 3. The seating area was already almost full. After two announced delays, boarding started about 12:30. When our group was called, they stopped halfway through. They were closing the main gangway because a semi had run into the top and they weren’t sure if it was safe. We were redirected to where they board passengers in wheel chairs and told it would slow boarding. We talked to other passengers who arrived later who waited outside for hours because there was no room in the terminal for them to sit and there were evidently some computer checkin issues. Our rooms were ready about 2:30. By the way, at our Cruise Critic meet and greet, we were told that the Epic is just too big to be sailing from the Port Canaveral terminal (because it couldn't handle the passenger capacity) and would be transferring to San Juan next year.
The ship: Unusual layout. We had an aft facing balcony cabin. From the rear of the ship, there is no direct access to Deck 5 where most activities, Guest Services, Taste Restaurant and Epic Theater are located. You need to take the elevator down to six, walk all the way through the extremely smoky casino and take the escalator(!) down to Deck 5. You could also meander through the narrow hallways, avoiding the room steward carts, until you reach the front of the ship elevators and take that elevator down to Deck 5. This is also a problem to reach the Buffet at the Garden Café (which is on Deck 15) without going outside to walk through the very busy pool/Lido area. Some areas of the ship are showing wear, but it usually clean and well kept. Sometimes there was a wait for elevators, but usually, apart from shows/activities releasing, this was not a problem. The ship has too many passengers for the design to have a smooth traffic flow from one end to the other.
Due to ongoing work on the stacks, the climbing wall was partitioned off and there were very few activities held in the Spice H2O area aft. (By the way, we talked to passengers with a cabin near the stacks that said the ongoing maintenance resulted in pounding noises all night long.) Two tiny pools, very few people able to use them, but lots of full loungers and hot tubs. Most of the time we actually observed a lifeguard in the kids pool area. Sometimes the kids pool area was ripped off and unavailable. During the day, the Lido deck around the pools and bars is completely packed. Just walking through the area is difficult.
Be aware that there are not a lot of areas on this ship to just sit and gaze out at the ocean. The Lido deck has tall, tinted railings with visibility through small slits between glass panels. The best views were from the gams/card room and library hidden away behind the photo gallery. The small running track is next to the lifeboats with almost no visibility.
Activities: We did not go to most of the shows – just the opening night overview. Enjoyed the piano player near Shaker’s. Most venues were REALLY full and did not want to deal with the crowds. Enjoyed Trivia and game shows, watched a few movies. Spent a lot of time on balcony.
Daily activities were not originally planned for our extra days at sea. Let’s just say that not a whole lot of interesting options were provided on those days.
Garden Café was the usual buffet style. Nice to have Indian and Asian selection at lunch and dinner. Each night had a dinner theme. Food was fresh and tasty. Great made-to-order crepes and wonderful homemade ice cream at lunch and dinner. We had three specialty restaurants as part of our package. We were able to make reservations the first at sea day before our cabin was ready. Teppanyaki was fun and tasty (a bit noisy, but a couple of Birthday celebrations going on). Moderno had a good variety of meat offerings. Good soup and salad bar. Great grilled pineapple! They even shared a couple of recipes! Cagney’s was also tasty, with a good variety to choose from. We choose not to eat in the main dining rooms. Many of the menu items were also being served in the buffet and we did not want to eat in the Taste dining room with a ceiling completely open to the smoke from the casino or get dressed up to go to the Manhattan dining room.
“Adventure”: We had an aft balcony because I love to watch the “swirly water” at the back of the ship. As we headed out to sea, I commented to my husband that there was about half as much “activity” from the port side engines as usual, resulting in an uneven trail of “swirly water”. This continued until the second day, when it was announced that one engine was having problems but there was nothing to worry about. While playing Trivia, a message showed on the screen that announced a “Code Red Engine Room”. A code Bravo was also announced on the PA. We returned to our room and saw that for about 4 hours, we were completely dead in the water with no engine activity. After a few spurts of engine activity, the captain announced that we would not be stopping at our scheduled ports of Tortola and St. Thomas and would instead divert to San Juan for engine repairs. It was also announced that we would receive 50% of our paid cruise price on our next NCL cruise. We limped along until the next day at about 5:30 when we would dock in San Juan.
San Juan: We took out two of the mooring piers while docking in San Juan. No one admitted who was responsible. They blamed high winds. We could get on and off the ship as we pleased. Divers were active checking out the ship damage and pier damage. Although deep gouges were on the port side of the ship, it was determined to be seaworthy. A few excursions were thrown together for the next day. We took an NCL bus tour of Old San Juan and Fort San Christobal. Okay excursion, but almost missed departure because of misinformation from NCL guide. Three people did miss the departure and the bus had to return to pick them up. Again, miscommunication. Departed San Juan about 5:30. Engines looked okay then.
At sea on Thursday, second Code Alpha announcement (gossip was that there was a fight). Once again at Trivia, when the Captain announced that we would not be stopping a our last port. We were across from Guest Services at the time and people were very angry. Mandy, the cruise director came to the “translate” the Captains accent and announced a 100% credit. Cheering ensued. Still expected to arrive at port on time. Later that evening….an announcement that we would arrive late in port at 8:30 pm. Two(!) phone lines and computers were provided (for 4000+ passengers) for free calls and 60 minutes of free internet so everyone could change their flights/hotels. We were also given to option of staying onboard Saturday night or disembarking. By the way – Daytona 500 was that weekend – NO hotel rooms anywhere! We were told that we all had to put out our luggage as scheduled, disembark with carryons, go through customs, then get back on board if staying.
Saturday morning – an announcement that we would get into port earlier than expected – at 3:30. Many passengers could have kept their original flights! The communication at this point totally broke down. Disembarking passengers were to go to the terminal and do the usual check out procedure. Those remaining on board were to meet in the Epic Theater at 7:00 to go through customs. To compress this as much as possible, at least six different staff members gave at least 6 different directions. Everyone get off, no, stay onboard if spending the night and every variation of what else to do. After finally being assured by at least three different officials at Guest Services that we should just stay onboard and get something to eat at 5:00 pm before going to the Theater at 7:00, at 5:15 it was announced that EVERYONE must disembark, go through customs and get back on board! Between conflicting advice and multiple lines, we spent over 6 HOURS in line before getting back onboard to spend the night.
Overview: The cruise itself was mostly pleasant. We were assured that our safety was never threatened. We had electricity, working plumbing and lots to eat. Those with a drink package certainly got their money's worth! We did get to experience a cruise with almost all at sea days, even though that had not been our preference. It was probably not anyone’s fault that the engines gave out. (Although I did witness the engine weakness on the port side on our first night.) Staff (until Saturday when all hell broke loose) was as helpful as possible. They seemed to not have any more information than the rest of us. It would have been so much better if administrative staff had just told everyone the truth from the first problem. I can assure you that the rumors and gossip going around between the passengers was MUCH worse than reality could have been. Our biggest criticism is the total lack of communication with passengers about what was happening. Yes, we will probably sail NCL again (we have to use that cruise credit!), but it will probably not be our first choice from now on. No, we would probably not choose to sail on the Epic again. Read Less