Let me start by saying, you have probably read the seemingly endless parade of negative reviews on this ship by now, and you're questioning why in the world you booked this cruise? That was me for about a month leading up to this ... Read More
Let me start by saying, you have probably read the seemingly endless parade of negative reviews on this ship by now, and you're questioning why in the world you booked this cruise? That was me for about a month leading up to this cruise, and I was worried we were going to have a horrible time waiting in endless lines, with mean staff, terrible unclean accommodations, and bad food.
You know what? We had a great time!
Let me start with embarkation, a process numerous people complained endlessly about in the reviews being 2-3 hours and waiting forever in the heat. Maybe that's true for them, but here's my advice: Don't be the first people to try and show up before the ship is ready. We waited until noon to get to our shuttle, we were in line for about 45 minutes, and we were on the ship, sitting in Taste restaurant at 1:15PM having lunch. It was an hour and 15 minutes from getting to the shuttle to sitting on the ship ordering food. No problem whatsoever, and the lines never stood still for very long.
We were greeted at Taste by the very friendly Akash, who took our order and had both our food and drinks to us in 12 minutes. I timed this because I'd heard stories in other reviews about the slow service. We never encountered this in any of our main dining room visits in either breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If anything they were almost TOO fast getting to us to take orders or bring us our food, sometimes we just wanted to peruse the menus a little longer :)
Drinks that afternoon were in the Atrium bar with Rajesh, another funny and kind guy who served us our drinks in 3 minutes. Again, I'd heard stories of 15 minute bar waiting times, which I found to be completely false with two exceptions. 1 - If you went to the O'Sheehans bar at prime-time (basically from 5-10PM), you'd have a long wait, and 2 - if you went to the Waves bar near the pool, you'd ALWAYS have a wait. The Waves bar was completely overworked, because it's the only bar near that area. However, my tip is that they would always open two carts on the other side of the deck area near the towel stand, and you could get beers, pre-made Bahama mamas, and some frozen drinks that were in the frozen machines. If you're not picky about having a pre-made Bahama mama (and I'm not, I had several and they have plenty of liquor in them), you're fine up there.
If you went to any of the other bars, you could easily get a drink in less than 5 minutes. My favorites were the Maltings bar, which had the best drinks and best bartenders, and also the Shakers bar, which had the best table service. You could plant yourself at Shakers near the piano, and listen to Jay (imagine a goofy dad singing piano songs with enthusiasm and cracking you up) while you had the great staff take care off all your drink needs without ever getting up.
We had the Ultimate Beverage Package, and found it had plenty of options. We both liked the fact Bombay Sapphire was included, as well as certain cognacs, and Bullit Burboun. The specialty drinks were also great, my wife really enjoyed the Painkiller, Pina Coladas, and the French Manhattan. I really enjoyed the Rusty Nail, the Shaku-Shaku at Teppanyaki, and the Old Fashioned at Maltings.
We ate dinner at 3 specialty restaurants with the Dining package that was included. The first was Le Bistro, we had a server named Celeste and our Wine Steward Tapiwai who took care of us very well, and made excellent recommendations of the Scallops appetizer, the Crab Salad, and the French onion soup. My wife had the Dover Sole with lemon capers that she gave a 7/10 score to, and I had the Filet of Beef which I also think was a 7/10. Desserts were the profiteroles, and the creme brule, both excellent.
The second restaurant was Moderno, which I didn't care for as much due to the fact that everything was entirely too salty. It was basically one big meat parade, which was filling, but I felt I had to chug water due to the overseasoning of all the meat, and the many salad options which were also heavily salted. It was my least favorite of the specialty dining we did and I wouldn't do it again.
The last was Teppanyaki, which was very enjoyable from a show standpoint. I can't remember our chef's name, but he was very smiley and made it a fun event. The drinks were great, and I honestly think the filet they did was more tender and better tasting than the one we had in Le Bistro. Then again, I prefer that garlic flavor they put on everything at Teppanyaki.
One thing that was an issue is the elevators. You do have to time things correctly or you'll be waiting forever on an elevator to get to your floor, especially in the middle decks. It's much easier to get an elevator on Deck 5, or on deck 15, than it is in the middle. You were better off taking the stairs if you were on a middle deck down a few decks to get where you wanted to go.
The rooms are exactly what the other reviews stated, except we found ours completely clean, and our steward Alvito was excellent and took care of all our requests without any issues. He got us bathrobes, made sure our mini-fridge was emptied, got us 4 extra pillows, and managed to make up the rooms twice a day even with our slightly odd coming and going times.
One of the best things about this ship was the staff. We found them to be more interactive and treated you like family than the other cruise line we'd be on. One of the bartenders, Rushane from Jamaica, is genuinely funny and will make you a great drink while chatting you up in an excellent Jamaican accent. Another fun crewmember was Maria from Argentina, who ran most of the Atrium events and the Escape Room we did, and she's always very interactive, took pictures with us, and showed me how to fold napkins in one demonstration. We really felt everyone we met was lovely and enjoyed them taking care of us on our fun cruise.
The food was very good across the board, and I think generally the buffet was better than the other ship we'd been on with Carnival. However, I think they can do more with the selections in the main dining room areas. They just need to bring a bit more variety than a rotating 4-5 items, and the rest of the menu being the same every night. I'd also like to point out that the Irish pub food for late night really hits the spot if you've been out at one of the deck parties, and you just want some saucy wings and a pile of nachos to satisfy that alcohol soaking need.
I have only two really main complaints for this cruise, so I've saved them for the end, because they aren't really that big of a deal. The first is that this cruise was in February, which we'd never done before, but many of the passengers were really old and not in great shape. We saw tons of scooters, wheelchairs, and more people with walking sticks or canes than I could count. The average age was probably 60. We're in our 30s. This made for a much tamer atmosphere than our prior Carnival cruise, and I honestly didn't enjoy hearing many of the older couples constantly complain about stuff. We also went to a cruise critic meet and greet, and we were one of the younger people in that group. If that's who's rating the Epic, I can see why the ship gets a bad rap, because outside of Stephanie (who ran the meet and greet and was very friendly, she's great), the rest of the group didn't seem interested in either meeting or greeting us after several conversation attempts.
The other complaint is that I got a cold on the ship on by Thursday, and it seems it's something that went around to a lot of folks. Norwegian tries their best, but I think this is something that was left over from the prior cruise according to some reviews I read recently, which means they may need to do a better job of sanitizing the common areas now that I know for a fact several hundred people caught this cold. Washy washy isn't really enough when the crew gets it, and if they get it the ship needs to take that into account instead of forcing them out to do more work amongst the passengers and spreading it around further.
I would go on the Epic again if the price was right, because the ship really does provide great value to get a balcony room, all your drinks and specialty dining, and some reducing port excursion costs in one package. Mandy the Cruise director was also very friendly and made things fun in her British accent.
Try it for yourself, I think if you go into it with the right frame of mind you'll really enjoy yourself. The Epic isn't perfect, but it's seriously fun, and it's not the floating disaster many reviewers have claimed it to be. Read Less