This review includes Tips and Tricks from the NCL Epic sailing date March 10, 2018. The cruise was during Spring Break and there were a lot of Spring Breakers on the cruise. Three large groups were on the ship, a podcast group (Tom and Dan), a board gamers convention (CruisieCon 8), and a poker players group. Some 550 people were from the Tom and Dan podcast which is a humorous, adult oriented morning type show. This group will be on the same cruise in 2019. In general, the passengers were cool and chill and which made this cruise awesome. The people make the cruise. I heard an estimate that 75% of the adults got the Ultimate Beverage Package (UBP). NCL offered many passengers a freebie and most took the UBP. But keep in mind you still have to pay gratuities/taxes which comes out to ~$71 for a 4 night cruise, when booking through the NCL website. On NCL, 18-20 year olds may drink outside of the port. I enjoyed having the Spring Breakers on board.
Now on to some tips and tricks. Many things take reservations including shows, tenders, and some restaurants. The shows can be reserved online before the cruise with the exception of the comedy shows. Many of the things that take reservations you don't really need reservations for. But I would recommend making reservations for the 18+ comedy shows and restaurants for dinner. When first getting on the ship, I would recommend grabbing the Freestyle Daily on Deck 5 that has the daily schedule and head over to the Headliners comedy club to make reservations for the shows. For embarkation, NCL starts letting passengers on the ship at 11:30 a.m. When booking cruise you pick a boarding time with the earliest at 9:30 a.m. Not sure if I see any value to the pre-selected boarding times as embarkation is just a big herd of people lined up to get on the ship at 11:30 a.m. Using the porters to take your bags is a good idea but keep the things you need until late afternoon when bags are delivered to your door. Had to wait until all cabins were cleaned before the passengers could go to their cabins ~2 pm. The Howl at the Moon dueling piano bar is popular so I would recommend getting there 10-20 minutes early. As for smuggling alcohol on board, NCL Epic are really tough about this and it would be very difficult to smuggle alcohol on board. They do not allow water bottles on board. What they catch is returned on the last day of the cruise at 5 p.m. at the Towel Station on Deck 15 as long as it is a sealed container. When I returned from Nassau, the x-rays caught many passengers with alcohol in their bags; beer had to be disposed of but hard alcohol returned on the last of cruise. Passengers who bring bottles of wine at embarkation are charged $15 corkage fee for each 750 mL bottle. NCL has the iConcierge App for smartphones. The app only works while connected to the ship's Wifi but you can use the app with the ship's Wifi for free; no need to purchase the Wifi package. Wifi signal on the ship is spotty, understandably due to all the steel walls.
NCL is known for innovation and NCL Epic is the only ship of its design. The ship first sailed in 2010 but is in excellent shape. I did sneak up to the Haven and just peaked into the lounge and the small dining room. These areas are nice and upscale. To sneak up there wait at the elevators on Deck 15 outside the buffet area and jump in an elevator that is already going up. There is a neighborhood for solo travelers with a Solo Lounge which is awesome. This has a bartender from 5-7 pm each night with Vladimir, the best bartender on the ship. In general this area is busy with people socializing and making friends each evening from 5-7 pm but otherwise is slow. The cruise staff, Ruby, helps organize and reserve a table for solo travelers each evening. The lounge also has cookies, breakfast muffins, cereal, orange juice and coffee. A high end coffee machine freshly grounds coffee beans and coffee drinks with frothy milk. I am a coffee drinker but was not really big on this machine; also did not see this machine being used often.
As for the shows, the comedy shows are mostly clean / family shows but there were two 18+ shows. The headliners were good. If you like drag shows, you will like Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Burn the Floor was an excellent dance show. The ship no longer has Blue Man Group. Many passengers were ordering mixed drinks, there were long wait times for drinks and the bartenders were slow.
Overall, a great cruise and I'm booked again for the same cruise next year.
The Studio (T1) cabins are for solo travelers and I was happy with the cabin. The bed was a good size and comfortable. But I imagine for someone who is 6'2" their feet would hang off the end. There is a great flatscreen tv where reservations can be made for shows/dinner/tenders; its software was half baked and could not tell which reservations had already been made. Closets were just big enough with little cubbies. There are 9 light switches in the 100 square foot cabin and it took me 4 days to figure these out ;-). Cabin did not have a refrigerator but there are 2 outlets with one close to the bed and one hidden in the towel space. I would recommend getting a cabin close to the Solo Lounge and Deck 11 might be better than Deck 12 because the Lounge is on Deck 11. The bathroom arrangement is different with the vanity in the living area and separate areas for shower and toilet. The shower is the size of a telephone booth and can't bend over; next time I'll bring a back brush along. I would stay in a solo cabin again.