Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by dawnster1014
- Sail Date: March 2015
- Destination: Western Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Inside
We flew into Miami late on the day before the cruise and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express by the Miami airport. They had a free shuttle that picked us up after a 30 minute wait, but the hotel was a great place for a quick overnight stay. The hotel staff was great. We opted to get up early and forgo the shuttle to the port and took a cab so that we could get there early. We were wanting to board as early as possible to try and get POSH passes. We had booked an interior room and had read many reviews regarding the craziness of the pool deck on sea days, and had heard that Posh was the way to go. We arrived at the port at 10 a.m., which was still full of disembarking cruisers. It was a bit confusing trying to figure out how to get to the terminal door with little help from the port officials there. We finally figured it out, but we understood that we were there super early so that added to the confusion. Security was about 20 minutes late in starting the embarkation process, but we soon found out that there was some issue with the ship being cleared and we were held in the waiting section until almost noon. There were no announcements or direction from the Norwegian people in the terminal as we were waiting and people were getting anxious and crowding the entry way. I finally asked the one young man that was standing guard over the 500 of us to see what was going on and found out it was an unusually late boarding due to the clearance issues. Finally an announcement for boarding was given and the running began. We were in boarding group 1! And we were some of the first of the commoners (non Haven or suite people) to board the ship.
We quickly entered the ship, and were greeted by some very nice staff. We headed directly to deck 5 customer service, and there was already a small line. Unfortunately, there was a large group that got to the desk first and bought up all the remaining Posh passes. There were other people that were disappointed as well. But we had a back up plan and headed to the spa table. We went ahead and ordered up two spa passes for the week, which we thought were $199 per couple (old price/policy) but then found out it was $199 per person. We weren't sure if we should spend the money, but we held our breath and went for it. BEST DECISION of our cruising lives!! More on that later.
CABIN: The interior room 9069 was small but efficient. We didn't mind the bathroom set up, but I had researched it and we were aware of what was coming. As a married couple, we liked the set up. It was nice to shower and be able to have the other person use the sink or the bathroom. I can see that it would be uncomfortable if you were with someone that you didn't want to dress in front of or share those "quiet" personal moments. There is a curtain, but it would be cramped if you were trying to get dressed behind it. Lots of storage. Yes, bring an extra outlet strip. The one outlet is located under the desk, but there is a hole in the desk to run cords up through. We didn't experience splashing from the sink as I had read about previously. The little stool for the desk area seemed to always be in the way. Plenty of storage room under the bed, but it was a tight squeeze packing and unpacking with the luggage in the room. Our room steward was exceptional and very friendly. There was a chip in our full size mirror, which quickly cracked all the way up the mirror. We reported it as soon as we saw it and aside from the 7 years of bad luck that we feared, our steward immediately had it repaired.
FOOD: We were STARVING when we got on the ship and, after buying our spa passes, looked for the nearest place to eat. Taste was right there and we didn't really want to deal with the buffet just yet. It was perfect for that lunch! Good food, quick service and a great calm atmosphere to start off our cruise. We ate in O'Sheehans for dinner that night, and liked the food, although some of it wasn't hot when served. The burgers there were GREAT! They also had a good breakfast, although they do have a fixed menu, so if you're looking for great variety, then check elsewhere. But for quick, decent food, it fit the bill. We ate in the buffet for a couple of breakfasts and one lunch. Not a good set up...lots of standing in line and by the time you sat down, food was cold. We didn't feel there was much variety from day to day. Never had much trouble finding a place to sit. Ate in the Manhattan room one night, but in Taste the other nights. They serve the same food, but we liked the atmosphere in Taste better. To each their own. We decided to eat one dinner at La Cucina. It was excellent. There is a marked difference between the food in the pay restaurants and the regular dining rooms. We feel that the main dining room quality is consistently excelllent on the other cruise lines without having to pay extra, so that was a negative for Norwegian. We also love getting to know our wait staff as we have on Royal and other lines, but you don't get to know the staff here, which I think is sad for them as well. They were all very courteous and pleasant, but we missed that "relationship" that you build with your waitstaff that you have all week. So if you're looking for the traditional dining experience, you will not find it on Norwegian. If you want to have the freedom of freestyle, you can have it with the mytime dining on other lines with the superior food, The Freestyle option did not win us over in comparison to our dining experiences on other lines. DH usually gets the soda package, but the Norwegian policy is that everyone in the room had to buy the same package, so we did not get any package, and only bought a few sodas. Other lines don't required everyone to get the same package.
SHIP: The design was Epicly...flawed. Sorry, I know it's a big ship, and we have sailed on Oasis and other large ships, but the design makes for a totally chaotic, noisy experience everywhere throughout the ship. There is a reason there is only one Epic. There was no place on the interior that we could find that was quiet for reading or relaxing, except the spa. The library consists of three tiny bookshelves that are unlocked for a couple hours a day. It's not a room on its own. The noise from the the Atrium, bowling alley, piano bars, casino all mixed together to create a cacophony of sound. It was overwhelming at times. The ship does feel incredibly crowded everywhere, and yes the elevators or lack of elevators is frustrating. Older or disabled cruisers would have a horrible time getting around. And the hallways are jagged, making it difficult for those with scooters and walkers. FYI, if you are a jogger or are wanting to walk on the outside of ship on deck 7, be aware that it doesn't go all the way around and there is a terrible sewage smell on the jogging track side, which is reason number 846 I'm glad I don't jog. The pools truly are the smallest I've ever seen. No one is exaggerating this. If you are looking for a quiet, shady place to enjoy the sea, then the Epic is NOT the ship for you. The pool deck is NUTS! Yes, people put their towels, shoes and other items that they don't mind losing on the chairs very early and leave them....all day. No one is policing the "30-60 minute" rule at all. I expected that on the sea days, as I had read about it. But on the port days, I was stunned! We stayed on the ship for two of the port days so that we could enjoy the pool area, as we had been to Jamaica and Cozumel many times. We arrived at 9 a.m. or so to find 99% of the chairs on the pool deck to be covered in towels and other items "saving" those chairs for when those people got back on board. People actually came down and put their stuff out and then left the ship! I couldn't believe it. We weren't sure who was really there and so we felt uncomfortable moving people's items until it was on hour two and then we were nervous about moving anything and no help was given by the few staff members out. And here is where I review the....
SPA: As I said, it was our best cruise purchase. Had we not gotten these passes, we would have been miserable all week, no doubt about it. The spa has the wonderful saunas, mineral pool, heated tile loungers, orange and lemon water and teas, and a little deck with places for 9 people to be out in the beautiful quiet overlooking the sea from the back of the ship. We spent many hours here. If you are looking for time to enjoy any quiet and ocean relaxation, and you don't want to pay for the Haven, the spa is the place for you if you are sailing on Epic. I can't say enough about how it saved our cruise and we did feel it was worth the pricey cost. The only suggestion we had was we would have liked the beautiful music in the treatment areas piped out into the deck area....it was soothing. We wished that you could order drinks in there, but there is a no alcohol/glass policy.
ENTERTAINMENT: Of course we enjoyed the Blue Man and the Legends show, but missed having a different show each night. After you saw those two, the only options were Second City, which were fine, and the comedian Drew Frees, who was good but had one show for families and then the same show for the adults, just with a couple of naughty words added. The casino is everywhere on deck 6. I enjoy gambling, but even I felt that the layout was too much and awkward. The shame in the design is that the games like The Quest, the Marriage Game and Deal or No Deal was that they were held in tiny rooms, like Bliss or in the Atrium, which had so much noise from the upper decks, casino, etc that you couldn't really enjoy them. Here is where we missed having these events in the main theater. We liked the movie out in Spice H2O but the teens in the hot tubs were incredibly loud and disruptive. The hypnotist offered a lot of different sessions and was good.
We had no experience with the children's clubs, other than there were tons of kids, but it was spring break. They all seemed to be having fun. I know the water slides were a big hit, but they take up so much valuable pool real estate that could have been used to make more actual pool space with a more efficient design.
Disembarkation was the BEST I've ever experienced. I liked that you could choose when you wanted to get off and which color tag you wanted. We chose to self disembark and carry our own luggage off. The only trouble we knew would be getting an elevator, so we were prepared for that wait. It was only about 20 minutes until we were off and then we walked right into customs, to one of the nicest customs officers I've encountered and walked right out to our taxi. Could not have been smoother and I loved not having to search for my luggage in the warehouse sea of luggage that all looks the same.
SUMMARY: We prefer the more traditional cruise lines, but I'm glad we tried freestyle. The crew was very nice, and my first experience a few years back on the Pearl they were a surly and unfriendly bunch, so I was delighted to find a good crew. The Epic design is not good if you are looking for a quiet, relaxing and orderly cruise. We probably won't sail on Norwegian again, and definitely never the Epic, although kudos to their awesome spa! The money we spent for the spa made the cruise cost as much as the other lines, so no real deal there. Please, if anyone from Norwegian is reading this, have your crew help manage and enforce the rules on the pool deck. It was a disaster.
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