Eight members in our extended family signed up for Norwegian's West Caribbean Christmas cruise aboard the Epic. It was epic all right. Epic crowds. Epic lines. Epic waits. Epic disappointment. But not everywhere. You could always find a chair in the towel folding workshop in the Atrium.
The best experience was the Cirque Dreams dinner show. The "incredible" adjective is incredibly overused. So forgive me when I say the performance was incredible as were the performers and the dinner. By the time it was over, I was both exhausted and exhilarated by the fast paced show and feats of the performers. And we saw it all while we chowed down at ringside.
We spent about an hour at the dueling pianos program. It was entertaining and fun for awhile. But after awhile, it became cliched with music from the last century. Everywhere i went in the ship, it seemed some performer was singing "What's Love Got To Do With It." Hey, boat folks, Surprise! We're in the 21st Century. Mac 'N Cheese, two performers tucked away near a bar on the 7th deck, sang music from the 21st century. Really nice modern selections and they had following at the bar; but they didn't have a dance floor. Too bad. In fact i never could find a dance floor with music of at less than 115 beats per minute. There was a place for bump and grind; but, if that stage in your life has passed you by, too bad. I wasted precious suitcase space in packing a pair of dance shoes.
Excursions were too often an exercise in frustration getting on and off the boat and on and off buses and/or ferries. Visiting the Tulum Mayan ruins would have been a fascinating experience had we had any time to spend there. But by the time we got there we had to march like Sherman through Georgia in order to catch our bus back to the ferry that would take us back to the boat.
At three of our four destinations, we made it to terra firma. That wasn't the case with Jamaica. We were supposed to spend a day at Falmouth. But the captain decided the boat was too big and the harbor to exposed on the windy day we arrived. And, well, he would have liked to have taken us to Montego Bay, but another ship was already there. So we got to bob around on the sea for the day. Whoopee! My contact who was waiting for me at Falmouth said the water calmed shortly after we fled. Ouch! The captain said he would try to make it up to us. He must be still trying because I'm still waiting.
Looking back, our first stop at Norwegian's private island, Great Stirrup Cay, in the Bahamas, was manageable and the most leisurely. For the fun in the sun and sand people, I think it met their expectations. I'm not one of them. So I tried to find the nature trail. No luck. All I found were signs that said construction was under way and thou shalt not pass. Eventually, a staff member took pity on me and pointed me in a direction that allowed me to do some birding amid some very large construction related semi-trailers. A couple in our group went on an eco-excursion boat trip and said it was quite interesting. The moveable feedlot followed us off the ship and onto the island and provided a pretty nice picnic--if you are in to hot dogs and burgers, and I am.
Our midship balcony cabin looked small from the online photos, but it had surprising, if not ingenious, storage space. So that really helped. And while too short for some in our group, the mattress and the rocking of the ship rewarded me with some great sleep nights. But the electrical wiring was, like, "What were they thinking?" The only outlets were under a low shelf near the sink opposite the bed. So if you wanted to plug your phone in near your pillow and/or your ipad or your cpap machine, you had to string an extension cord across the floor through the room's only passageway and be very careful that you didn't trip on it if you got out of bed at night.
Some staff were friendly and helpful. Some were indifferent or lacked first-hand information. Most were just plain busy managing 4,000 or so passengers.
At this point I'm going to draw a distinction. Members in my family who had never cruised before were disappointed by the Epic's epic congestion. But we made the most of it, playing some really fun games that my son had brought along. And the long waits at the dinner table between courses were in good company and that made all the difference.
Perhaps, some day our family will go another cruise, but you can be pretty sure, it won't be on the Epic.
The room was small. My wife and I had to play rock, paper, scissors to decide who got to go first from one side of the room to the other through the narrow space between the bed and the sink/dresser. But, aside from the explosive and grinding sound the toilet made when it was flushed, the room was quiet and the balcony a sanctuary from the ship's noisy common rooms. I also admired the efficient use of the room's space. That might be a guy thing.