About us: DH and I travel as a couple only, with the exception of an Alaska cruise in 2012, when one of our sons, and his wife, traveled also. (He liked it, she found cruising too rough… both of them LOVED Alaska!!!). We’ve tried several cruise lines, but tend to enjoy NCL most. This cruise had been booked for almost two years (with multiple changes, since NCL altered ships/itineraries), so we had tremendous anticipation for this trip and cruise!
Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal: We were dropped-off at 11:10 AM. We gave our luggage to a porter, tipped, and got in line at 11:15 AM. Passing through Security took less than 10 minutes. Getting to a port agent’s desk (Platinum line) took only a few minutes. Check-In at that desk took another 7-8 minutes. We were directed to take a seat until they called Platinum guest. (Boarding was based upon 1) Haven (separate waiting area), 2) Platinum, 3) guests needing assistance (Wheel chairs, etc.), 4) Gold, 5) Silver, 6) Bronze.
Embarkation: Around 11:45 am Platinum guests were called. As we headed toward the gang-way, there was a ship’s photographer offering to take pictures. However, it did not appear that any special screen was set-up.
First impressions onboard…. NCL employees were available upon entering deck 7, but they were not pushing to head to any particular deck. Some did say “Garden Café is open.” We headed to the pool deck and each got a drink at Waves. Then we headed to Taste and enjoyed a peaceful and delicious lunch. Afterwards, we walked around a bit and headed to deck ten when “the rooms are available” announcement was made.
Stateroom: We went to our Mini-suite stateroom 10274 at approximately 1:45 pm. We found our Room Steward, Barry, finishing up. DH commented that we did not get robes… not that he uses them. They arrived on Sunday!
Location: Deck 10, Port-side (left), Aft (back), just a short walk from the aft stairwell. Easy and quiet. Port-side (left) stairwells have Orange-framed mirrors on each deck, Starboard-side (right) have Blue-framed mirrors on each deck (port and starboard also reflected the orange or blue, along with tan and brown in their respective hallway carpeting). I cannot comment much about elevators, since DH and I almost always take stairs.
Bed: Our room had the bed near the bathroom area. We both found the bed to be rather comfortable. The length was not an issue for us, but we are not tall. The pillows are more firm than either of us are used to sleeping on, but we made do.
Shower: Long and narrow with a rain-shower head. The only thing we would have liked would be towel bars instead of small hooks, but we understand why they avoided the bars.
Toilet area: The frosted glass did not bother us.
Storage: There are bins, plenty of shelves, and drawers (at the sink), and three different places to hang clothing! DH hung everything he wanted, I could have used a few more hangers.
Balcony: Nice-size (6’ x 9’), with a small table and two chairs…loved it! We enjoyed some spectacular views during the week.
Room Steward: Barry was efficient, welcoming, quick and thorough.
Manhattan Room (Main Dining): Dinner on Saturday evening was the normal first night crazy. We had a 5:30 reservation, but just trying to get to the reception desk at MDR was a bit of a wait. Eventually, we were seated somewhat near the aft windows at a 4-top table, yet an entire row of 2-tops were left empty… odd! Our orders were taken, we got our salads (Bib lettuce with pecans and Gorgonzola and a traditional Caesar) and our entrees (Grilled Shrimp with white rice and broccoli, and a New York Strip “Dinah” with scalloped potatoes and broccoli) in a timely manner. We skipped having drinks and dessert, so we could shoot over to the theater to see The Epic Beatles.
Le Bistro: Sunday evening, we enjoyed the first of 2 Platinum meals at Le Bistro. Our reservation was for 5:30. DH loved the Mushroom Soup and the Filet de Boeuf (beef steak). I enjoyed a Frisee salad and the Dover Sole. On Wednesday we again had our 5:30 reservation. DH had the Mushroom soup again and the Sole. I had Stuffed artichoke and Coq Au Vin.
Taste (Main Dining): We ate lunch here on Embarkation Day. I had a salad and crab-stuffed potato skins… yum! DH enjoyed a Caesar salad and a shrimp dish. On Tuesday evening we ate dinner at 5:30. I had a salad and the Chicken Kiev… both excellent! DH had a Caesar Salad and Cavatelli with clams in a garlic creamy sauce. He loved both.
O’Sheehan’s: Breakfast here on the morning of Cozumel… We both ordered the Country Breakfast consisting of 2eggs, pile of bacon, 1 sausage link, 2 hash-rounds, baked tomato, beans… and toast we never received.
Food: DH and I constantly say that we just don’t understand why there are so many complaints about food! Maybe having grown-up in large families, and military life, made us grateful for “three-square meals daily!” With that said, while some of the food could look “tired” at some buffet tables, overall, we found the Garden Café, Great Outdoors, and Spice H2O to serve sufficient variety for the main-stream palate. We appreciate the wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh and varied breads, and multiple varieties of meats, pastas, rice dishes, etc. We found ourselves returning to the Garden Buffet for breakfast most days.
Bars: I had a plan to follow regarding the UBP, which meant I would try every “Drink of the Day” and also try drinks I ordinarily would not think of ordering! With that in mind, on Saturday, I ordered the Daydreamer’s Daiquiri. Sunday was a Long Island Iced Tea. Monday was Rebellious Fish. Tuesday was The Painkiller (needed that one!) Wednesday was Bahama Mama. Thursday was Moscow Mule. Friday was Signature Mai Tai (they were NOT available on GSC).
Drinks included in UBP (that I also tried): Aviator, Bacardi Mojito, Basil Cucumber Twist, Bushwhacker, Emperor’s Nectar, Mango Meltdown, Matador, Mudslide, and a few that I neglected to write down (and therefore, don’t recall).
DH mostly stuck to Gin and tonic, Negroni, Perfect Margarita, red wines, and a Johnny Walker Black/Rocks.
We both found Flordeliza Bolivar (Head Wine Steward) from the Philippines, to be the best bartender for our tastes. We found her during the afternoons, several days, at the Waves bar.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert – I loved the costumes, the set, the performers. Everything was well-done and done remarkably well!
Burn the Floor – Once again, the set and costumes are phenomenal!!! Burn the floor is pulse-setting… awesome!
The Epic Beatles - We saw them on Embarkation night in the Epic Theater. They were crowd pleasers for certain!
Other entertainment: The comedians Mia Jackson and Bob Kubota are each quite funny and enjoyable. The music and entertainment on the pool deck was nice, although, we did not hang-out there much. We played BINGO on the first morning and the final afternoon. Although pricey, BINGO provides a fun diversion for us onboard occasionally. We watched parts of other activities, but didn’t hang around long. The more crowded and noisy those events were, the less I enjoyed them. Especially when I got bumped or had my feet stepped on.
Spice H2O: Each afternoon we visited, it was crowded: however, for the most part, it was a fairly quiet area. Grill selections were available on the Port-side. The bar was always hopping. Unfortunately for us, the bar area is also the SMOKING section. The pool was quite warm on the one afternoon that I went in. We also viewed a movie here one evening, which was a pleasant change of pace for us.
Noteworthy on the EPIC: As others have posted, we found the lack of walking spaces to be limiting. The fitness center makes up for that with a wide variety of equipment (timing to use them is everything!!!) The “secret stairs” were not particularly impressive for us, but it was fun to check them out. The Casino was okay, smoky to me, but tolerable with my usually quick pace. Overall, we had a wonderful vacation, consumed some fabulous food and drinks, met some great people (special greetings to Andrea and Jon), saw some fantastic shows and performers, and enjoyed the lovely islands. We most likely will not book the Epic again, but that is because we enjoy other NCL ships more.
Cozumel, Mexico: Having been to Cozumel more than six times before, we decided that we would venture-out “On Our Own” (O.O.O.) for the day. We had walked to the Money Bar two years ago, and knew that we wanted to do that again. Carrying our snorkel gear, the walk took us about an hour and a half to get there from the ship and Punta Langosta Pier (we believe the distance is 4.5 + miles). The water felt fabulous when we went in. It is easy entry to the water and fish are abundant all around (think Caribbean colors)! I found some beautiful corals that I had never seen before, but I did not have a water-proof camera to take any pictures (darn it!) We decided to take a taxi back, since the afternoon had warmed considerably. The taxi driver said we walked over 10K… (Maybe?!)
George Town, Cayman Islands: We have also been to Grand Cayman several times, so again, we ventured O.O.O. Carrying our snorkel gear, we headed to Sunset House at 390 S Church St, via Church Street, for about 1 mile. We enjoyed the sea life we found here, but decided to head to Seven Mile Beach. Once we walked past the port, we hailed a bus, which took us only as far as Calico Jack’s (cost: $5 US for both of us, one-way). We headed to the beach to enjoy some beautiful warm sand and sea! When we had enough of that, we headed back towards town, walking along the beach. Overall, we figure we walked about 6 + miles this day. IF you want to walk from the port to a close public beach, it is easily done by turning left after leaving the pier. Walk north until you see a small sign that says public (or beach) access. I remember there was one of these just north of the Burger King, but if you are inclined, there are more along the way as you head further north.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica: We decided to keep things “simple” for the day, so we walked into town to see, Turtle River Falls and Gardens. The walk was much longer than the “12 minutes” that Google had estimated! If you can’t walk up the entire ship’s stairs from deck 4 to 15, DON’T try walking to TRFG!!! Anyway, we were “picked-up” (joined us on our walk) by 2 men who started telling us about the area, the flora, etc. We couldn’t lose them! We were led up, up, up the hill to a (in my opinion) “suspicious” entrance where we gave the “guard” $20 each for DH and I. The 4 of us then wandered through the garden area seeing the falls and learning about agriculture. We declined further excursion as DH was quite winded. That’s when we found out that the 2 gentlemen wanted $40 each for their escort. We offered them the $28 that we had left between the 2 of us, and headed down the hill on our own. We were not happy with the situation, definitely learned a lesson, and want others to know what to be aware of.
Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas (Berry Islands): We had been to GSC several times previously. However, the last time we were on the island was May 2012. There certainly have been many remarkable changes since then! Most notable: The grounds have been updated with:
Cabanas on the Cay have more than doubled in price since we last visited. A pre-booked Large Cabana would have cost us $499.00 at 90 days prior to cruise, but went up to $599 at some point prior to embarkation (the price can vary for different ships and dates). Small Cabanas costs were $549 during this cruise. Clamshells (shade) can be rented for the day @ $35 which are set-up over two lounge chairs. There are multiple locations open to rent them.
More water sports and excursions have been added. The Snorkeling has been expanded to include the Underwater Sculpture Garden. We snorkeled near the small cabanas, so I cannot remark on the Sculpture Garden. The Stingray Encounter is new, but we saw a small sting ray at the beach where we snorkeled, so we are happy.
More bars are open and an additional eating pavilion was added. “Included” food venues: Abaco Taco and Jumbey Beach Grill. (Ala Carte at Jimmy Buffets Margaretville.) We ate lunch at Abaco Taco, where beef, chicken and fish tacos are available with guacamole, lettuce, pico de gallo, onions, peppers, and cabbage slaw available on the side.
Drinks included in UBP on GSC are available at: Patron Bar, Bacardi Bar, Lighthouse Beach Bar, and Bertram’s Bar.
The tender back to the ship took a long time to fill.
Final evening on Epic: Sadly, we packed on Friday afternoon and then enjoyed a quiet dinner at Taste. We realized that we never did take either of our Celebration cards (for cakes) to any of the restaurants for my birthday and his retirement. (That’s okay, we still have the cards as souvenirs and we both had fewer calories to burn off!) We walked around a bit, and then decided to just go back to the room early.
Disembarkation: We were back in Port Canaveral by 5:00 am. Easy Walk Off started early. Our Yellow (Platinum status) tags were called before 8 am (maybe 7:40). We were off the ship, gathered our 2 suitcases, and had cleared Customs by 8!
10274 is a great mini-suite. Close to the stairwell and elevators, but quiet!
We had no storage problems. The bed was comfortable for us. The room steward, Barry, was great.
Other than some traffic back-ups, this was a pleasant port! The facility did get a bit crowded, but we felt that they did there best to keep things orderly.
We walked to the Money Bar and went snorkeling on our own. Beautiful fish and coral.
Several excursion boats choose this area for their snorkeling.
We have also been to Grand Cayman several times, so again, we ventured O.O.O. Carrying our snorkel gear, we headed to Sunset House at 390 S Church St, via Church Street, for about 1 mile. We enjoyed the sea life we found here, but decided to head to Seven Mile Beach. Once we walked past the port, we hailed a bus, which took us only as far as Calico Jack’s (cost: $5 US for both of us, one-way). We headed to the beach to enjoy some beautiful warm sand and sea! When we had enough of that, we headed back towards town, walking along the beach. Overall, we figure we walked about 6 + miles this day. IF you want to walk from the port to a close public beach, it is easily done by turning left after leaving the pier. Walk north until you see a small sign that says public (or beach) access. I remember there was one of these just north of the Burger King, but if you are inclined, there are more along the way as you head further north.
If you go out on your own, be aware that you are likely to have many offers for taxi service or purchasing of goods or services.
The Turtle River Falls and Garden is lovely!
Tendering takes a good amount of time because of the number of people they load onto the vessels. The island is lovely and seems to be getting better with all of the planned additions. We loved snorkeling in the lagoon near the Small Cabanas! The Tacos at Abaco Taco were good... we enjoyed the selections available.