Initial Impression of Norwegian Cruise Lines: Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by MyEsoteric

Norwegian Epic 3
Member Since 2013

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Initial Impression of Norwegian Cruise Lines

Sail Date: January 2013
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
This cruise was sponsored by Park West Gallaries VIP program, consequently I can't comment on the value of the cruise, other than they were correct, this was the most expensive free cruise my wife and I ever taken.

The embarkation was a snap because ... this was a VIP cruise, so they whisked us right through to board the largest ship we had been on to-date, over 4000 passengers plus crew; the Epic was certainly an impressive ship. We went to our balcony room, which turned out to be almost perfectly amidships on the port side; it was definitely surprise.

The cabin was the smallest I have seen and its set-up the strangest. Stepping through the door, I saw the toilet behind a translucent door/window on the right and shower behind a similar enclosure on the left. A couple of more small steps brought us to the queen bed where we spied the wash basin below a reasonably sized medicine cabinet to the left. Moving to the left a little, we worked our way single-file and a More little bit side-ways between the bed and the counter until it opened up a little, where both of us could more or less exist side-by-side between the couch and the clothes closets. From there, you could take about three or four steps out onto a small but adequate balcony. What the cabin lost in human space, it made up for cabinet space; there were cabinets and cubby-holes everywhere, more than we could fill. (BTW, (by the way), I didn't like the toilet set-up, but my wife actually liked it. The shower and wash basin were actually practical.)

Most of our time was taken up with Park West Gallery activities, getting introduced to artists, viewing their work, and participating in their auctions. Parts of the activities were cocktail parties and dinners in the main dining rooms, but grouped together. I offer this as a lead in to the ship's service. At the cocktail parties, you couldn't ask for better service, I would definitely rate it a 5. In the dining room, except for the last night, I would say a 4; the last night, a 2. But, as a regular passenger it was probably the most mediocre service of the nine cruises my wife and I have enjoyed. The staff simply wasn't around when you needed service or they stood around when you clearly needed help. Consequently, it was easy remaining sober at the pool or at the casino; and they were by far the unhappiest crew we have had the pleasure of sailing with.

The food? The food was adequate; no better. The specialties each night on the menus were rarely that special. Having said that, the Epic did have the best selection of specialty restaurants of any ship we have been on. We only ate at one, the teppenyaki restaurant; which was very good. The reports we received about several of the other venues were just as positive. The only problem that I see is the cost is similar to what you would see off the cruise ship.

The size of the ship allowed it to be rather creative. The Epic had the standard rock wall, the most elaborate set of water slides I have yet to see, an outdoor market, wind-protected, more-or-less, ping-pong (Carnival needs to take a note), and more hot tubs than you can shake a stick at. They also had a rather spacious adult's only area, which strangely ended at 8:30 PM; after which it was open to all. Missing was a main pool section, a la Island Princess, that was covered and conditioned keeping it in comfortable light shade for those of us who don't find the bright sun ... fun. Another detractor, for me anyway, was the constant beat of loud, raucous music -- everywhere on the Lido deck, even in the adult area; I don't how well that set with the mainly over 55 passenger cohort, but I didn't like it. Below the Lido deck they had an Ice Bar kept at minus 17 F°, a two-deck high TV screen in the middle of the ship for movies and sports, and one of the largest casino's I have seen; it even had Pai Gow, which is the last game of chance I have a chance of lasting more than five minutes before losing my bank; you simply cannot conceive how bad my luck as gotten over the last 30 years.

Unfortunately for Norwegian Cruise Lines, the most memorable part of the cruise, besides the Park West experience, was the disaster called "walk-off disembarkation". Because we had an early flight and Norwegian had no other accommodation for this fact, we had to use their walk-off feature which means we take all our bags with us but get off an hour and thirty minutes earlier than anybody else. Their written instructions were to be at disembarkation point at Epic Casino "forward". Well there is no casino in the front of the ship, there is a theater, and the casino is amidships, where we boarded; and that is where people began lining up at 6 AM. We arrived about 7:10 AM to find the line was all ready around the rear end of the casino heading back down the other side; that is where we took our place and began patiently waiting. More people showed up and we sent them to the back of the line. 7:30 AM went by, then 7:45 AM. Finally there was an announcement they were about ready to disembark at casino forward. Did I mention there was no crew in sight to provide information or crowd control, which were beginning to get unruly? Around 8:00 AM we found the passengers we had been sending to the rear of our line, which was the forward of the ship, were now debarking through door near the Epic Theater, NOT the Epic Casino; we had to wait another 20 minutes. To say the least, we were not happy and if we had been at sea, there might have been a mutiny!

The last thing I would like to mention is the elevators, or the lack thereof. The Epic is a very long ship, to say the least. When you are in your cabin amidships, you have to walk almost the whole length of the ship to anywhere above you, where much of the activity is, like the casino, the garden buffet, etc. Now, if Norwegian has your health in mind, and feels it is necessary to walk off all of that food you eat, they did a good job by not allowing passenger access to the central elevators. What they did have were two sets of eight elevators, four on each side; one set forward and one set aft. Then they put them on slow for the whole trip.

OK, that wasn't the last thing, this is. The life-vest safety drill before sailing was scary. When the announcement to assemble finally came, the crew wasn't ready, we didn't know where to go, because they had to set up the signs in the casino still, unlike Carnival and Princess which had these places permanently marked. Once we located the right place, the crew made no attempt to make sure they had the right number of people, it was impossible as we were comingled with the group to our left just sort of gaggling around the blackjack and pai-gow tables. Then the barely audible instructions on how to use the life vest were given and some of the crew followed them ... As I said, it was scary and I am glad we didn't sink. Less

Published 01/28/13

Cabin review: BB9189 Mid-Ship Balcony

Toilet too exposed for my taste, but it didn't bother my wife. No maneuvering room for two people to get comfortably around. Sufficient closet, but large amounts of storage space. Balcony was adequate. Smallest balcony cabin to-date.

Read All Mid-Ship Balcony (BB) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

In Nassau, we took a taxi into town as well only to find Nassau different from all others; it was not a jewelry mecca. Instead, they had a wonderful mix of a large variety of different stores. The city itself wasn't quite as nice as St. Thomas, but almost, although the streets were much more crowded with vehicles. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get back to the ship (four people were stranded in St. Maarten and had to fly to St. Thomas.)
Read 5044 Nassau Reviews

We took no excursions at any of the ports we stopped at, we are excursioned out from our other cruises and was dropping too much money at the art auctions anyway. At St. Maarten, however, we did hire a van with several others at the taxi stand to take us over to Orient Beach on the French side of the island. Orient Beach sits on a wide bay on the Northeast side of the island. There are two small and one large islands in the bay itself to add to the beautiful scenery. Even in very early January, the water easy to get into, and I do not like cool water; I keep my pool at 88 degrees when my wife lets me (I recommend heat pumps). The setting where the the van drops you off is very rustic, dirt road rustic with a couple of hutch restaurants and a few stores linings the beach where you can access it. One warning, if you don't like seeing boobs and other private parts, stick to the middle of the beach. If you travel only a little to the South, you will be in the Orient Nudist Resort which starts with a clothing optional section before getting the full nudity required area. You can, however, travel quite away North before you run into another clothing optional section. If you find a place you want to enjoy the water, you can rent a lounge chair and an umbrella. As far as activities, I know there is para-sailing, jet skiing, windsurfing and the like, but I am not sure where you go on Orient Bay for those fun things; I just know it wasn't on Orient Beach itself.

For St. Thomas, of the U.S Virgin Islands, we were going to take a tram ride to a high point that overlooks the bay our ship was in until a local told us we could see almost as much from the top of our ship; we went into town instead. If either my wife or I were in the market for jewelry, watches or shoes, we would have been in hog heaven; but, since we weren't, you can guess were we thought we were. That said, the stores were, for the most part modern, unlike Philipsburg, St. Maarten, and well kept on busy but neat streets. As you walked down the streets you could turn into very interesting "alleys" full of ... you guessed it, shoe, diamond, and watch shops, but each alley had its own atmosphere, which was nice. We were in the market for some sort of native craft and as we walked past one diamond store, the shill asked us to come in for a "special deal". Of course we shook our heads and began to move on when he asked what are we looking for, crafts? To that we stopped and he proceeded to give us directions to a shop further down the street, then into one of the alleys called the International Bazaar, then look for a shop called Tropical Creations. We did, and son-of-a-gun, we found it and it was a craft shop; a very lovely one at that. The artist was the proprietress and we ended up buying one of her works. While looking at the island from the ship and from the streets, it looked like a pretty island, dotted with obviously nice houses on the hillsides, etc; it was a comfortable looking island, one I might like to come back to for a visit, just not on a cruise. I can only say this of one other island I have visited, the Cayman Islands.
Read 4002 St. Thomas Reviews

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