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We booked this trip to Tortola, St Thomas, and Great Stirrup Cay because it offered a great way to combine relaxing days at sea with some fun adventures on the beaches of the Caribbean. Leaving Colorado in February for warmth and relaxation made it the perfect vacation for us, and it the first vacation vacation without kids for me in almost 20 years. Wahoo for a cruise that included Valentine's Day!! The ship didn't "feel right" from the moment we left port, with an odd shuddering periodically in addition to the normal rock and hum of a cruise ship. On our second day at sea, it was announced that "power issues" were going to divert us from our scheduled itinerary, and we'd be sailing slowly to San Juan for repairs. We docked with a bang, crashing into two dolphin piers and sinking them into the harbor. We were told we'd have a 50% credit on a future cruise, and that they hoped to make repairs quickly to get us underway to Great Stirrup Cay as scheduled. It's important to note that information was difficult to get - the captain was unintelligible, the cruise director that always repeated his message was vague - and doled out with an eye-dropper. Each day was a new variation on "not at all what you planned for." Our tour company was told that we'd be leaving in the evening, although the sign when disembarking said 5:30pm. We were halfway through our tour when we were rushed back to the ship because they wanted to leave at 5:30. We boarded and they closed the hatch behind us, but we didn't sail for several hours, as we needed a tugboat to take us out of port. Once underway, we were told that we would not sail to GSC as planned, but would in fact go back to Port Canaveral. The next day, we were told we'd arrive at 8pm, which was the final injustice. Frantically changing airline plans and transport plans, the wifi and phone systems were overwhelmed. It was helpful that the cruise director gave the wrong code to get a landline in the announcement... it made it easier for those of us who asked at Guest Services to use the right one, but led to a massive crowd in a very warm atrium as a result. Many passengers had change fees and flight costs in excess of $500 per person because they were buying much more expensive tickets two days ahead of flying than those they'd purchased well in advance. The cruise line reimbursed them a maximum of $300 per person. Transport fee changes were not reimbursed at all. More importantly, since the cruise for the following week would be cut short, they were rescheduled to a 5 day cruise to Nassau (rather than a 7 day cruise to Jamaica), given a 50% credit AND a 50% refund, as well as the option to not sail and receive a full refund. We asked for a refund or the ability to use the credit on one of Norwegian's other cruise lines, and received a form letter in response that they were sorry we were "disappointed" but they stood by their offer of a 100% credit to be used within 24 months. A six page letter from me was answered via a form letter. "Disappointed" was not a word I would use. The engine problems and propeller problems were out of their control, but communication was horrible, consideration for guests who suffered significant financial hardship, and their complete failure to adjust the onboard schedule so that people wouldn't have run out of things to do by Thursday (virtually all Sea Days will do that) was absolutely in their control. Without valid data, when traveling at 10-12 knots with one propeller, people tend to fill in the blanks themselves. Anger, fear, panic attacks... that's not a vacation. It was a nightmare. It was being kidnapped with a buffet. Speaking of buffets and speaking of food... the specialty restaurants were incredible. I'm grateful we took advantage of the "3 free" offer. The main dining rooms can best be described as "dorm food." Steaks are too thin to truly be cooked to order, chicken was rubbery, seafood was overcooked and oversauced, the buffet food suffered from too much time under warming lamps, and portions were small and often disproportionate (picture a "Philly Cheesesteak" which has a large bun with a minimal amount of filling). Finally, not once did I see anyone changing out the serving utensils in the buffet lines. Hand sanitation standards on this ship were much lower than what I've experienced on others. I've been on ships where you were not permitted to enter a dining area until you'd taken a hand wipe. It was very much optional and often inconveniently located on the Epic. The rooms are smaller than I've experienced on other cruise lines and oddly laid out. The "queen bed" was far shorter than a standard bed. so prepare to sleep with your feet hanging off the end. One closet had no hangars, so be sure to bring your own. The other closet has those "unstealable" hangars that hang from a holder on the bar in the closet which can't be removed (or moved to the other closet). Finally, "freestyle cruising" means that rather than tipping individuals based on your service experience, you are charged a daily service fee that requires a form to change... and I couldn't increase it, only decrease it. My apologies to Marco, our cabin steward, who deserved more than the standard but wasn't able to get it because of the process. The ship is very large, with insufficient elevators for the number of people aboard. It was rare to be able to board the first elevator that stopped, as they were often full. It wasn't unusual to wait 10+ minutes to have an elevator you could ride, particularly from 6pm-10pm. In short, our experience on the Epic was #EpicFail. I would not recommend it to others.

#EpicFail

Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by cbizarro

Trip Details
We booked this trip to Tortola, St Thomas, and Great Stirrup Cay because it offered a great way to combine relaxing days at sea with some fun adventures on the beaches of the Caribbean. Leaving Colorado in February for warmth and relaxation made it the perfect vacation for us, and it the first vacation vacation without kids for me in almost 20 years. Wahoo for a cruise that included Valentine's Day!!

The ship didn't "feel right" from the moment we left port, with an odd shuddering periodically in addition to the normal rock and hum of a cruise ship. On our second day at sea, it was announced that "power issues" were going to divert us from our scheduled itinerary, and we'd be sailing slowly to San Juan for repairs. We docked with a bang, crashing into two dolphin piers and sinking them into the harbor. We were told we'd have a 50% credit on a future cruise, and that they hoped to make repairs quickly to get us underway to Great Stirrup Cay as scheduled. It's important to note that information was difficult to get - the captain was unintelligible, the cruise director that always repeated his message was vague - and doled out with an eye-dropper. Each day was a new variation on "not at all what you planned for." Our tour company was told that we'd be leaving in the evening, although the sign when disembarking said 5:30pm. We were halfway through our tour when we were rushed back to the ship because they wanted to leave at 5:30. We boarded and they closed the hatch behind us, but we didn't sail for several hours, as we needed a tugboat to take us out of port.

Once underway, we were told that we would not sail to GSC as planned, but would in fact go back to Port Canaveral. The next day, we were told we'd arrive at 8pm, which was the final injustice. Frantically changing airline plans and transport plans, the wifi and phone systems were overwhelmed. It was helpful that the cruise director gave the wrong code to get a landline in the announcement... it made it easier for those of us who asked at Guest Services to use the right one, but led to a massive crowd in a very warm atrium as a result. Many passengers had change fees and flight costs in excess of $500 per person because they were buying much more expensive tickets two days ahead of flying than those they'd purchased well in advance. The cruise line reimbursed them a maximum of $300 per person. Transport fee changes were not reimbursed at all. More importantly, since the cruise for the following week would be cut short, they were rescheduled to a 5 day cruise to Nassau (rather than a 7 day cruise to Jamaica), given a 50% credit AND a 50% refund, as well as the option to not sail and receive a full refund.

We asked for a refund or the ability to use the credit on one of Norwegian's other cruise lines, and received a form letter in response that they were sorry we were "disappointed" but they stood by their offer of a 100% credit to be used within 24 months. A six page letter from me was answered via a form letter. "Disappointed" was not a word I would use. The engine problems and propeller problems were out of their control, but communication was horrible, consideration for guests who suffered significant financial hardship, and their complete failure to adjust the onboard schedule so that people wouldn't have run out of things to do by Thursday (virtually all Sea Days will do that) was absolutely in their control. Without valid data, when traveling at 10-12 knots with one propeller, people tend to fill in the blanks themselves. Anger, fear, panic attacks... that's not a vacation. It was a nightmare. It was being kidnapped with a buffet.

Speaking of buffets and speaking of food... the specialty restaurants were incredible. I'm grateful we took advantage of the "3 free" offer. The main dining rooms can best be described as "dorm food." Steaks are too thin to truly be cooked to order, chicken was rubbery, seafood was overcooked and oversauced, the buffet food suffered from too much time under warming lamps, and portions were small and often disproportionate (picture a "Philly Cheesesteak" which has a large bun with a minimal amount of filling). Finally, not once did I see anyone changing out the serving utensils in the buffet lines. Hand sanitation standards on this ship were much lower than what I've experienced on others. I've been on ships where you were not permitted to enter a dining area until you'd taken a hand wipe. It was very much optional and often inconveniently located on the Epic.

The rooms are smaller than I've experienced on other cruise lines and oddly laid out. The "queen bed" was far shorter than a standard bed. so prepare to sleep with your feet hanging off the end. One closet had no hangars, so be sure to bring your own. The other closet has those "unstealable" hangars that hang from a holder on the bar in the closet which can't be removed (or moved to the other closet). Finally, "freestyle cruising" means that rather than tipping individuals based on your service experience, you are charged a daily service fee that requires a form to change... and I couldn't increase it, only decrease it. My apologies to Marco, our cabin steward, who deserved more than the standard but wasn't able to get it because of the process.

The ship is very large, with insufficient elevators for the number of people aboard. It was rare to be able to board the first elevator that stopped, as they were often full. It wasn't unusual to wait 10+ minutes to have an elevator you could ride, particularly from 6pm-10pm.

In short, our experience on the Epic was #EpicFail. I would not recommend it to others.
cbizarro’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
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Cabin Review

Large Balcony
Cabin B6 9017
Narrow walking space near the bed would have been much worse if the bed had actually been long enough for the adults sleeping in it. It's not a queen size bed when a 6'0" tall man has his feet hanging off the end. They shouldn't say it is. The second closet is useless without hangars. Had I known they would not be provided, I'd have brought my own. The bathroom area is too dark. The frosted glass for the toilet is awkward and lacks privacy.

While this was purported to be a large balcony, it was also an obstructed view. The space would have been better the extra space been part of the room, since most trips to the balcony involved going all the way to the opening in order to see anything. A large porthole or a narrower balcony would be far better.

Linens were comfortable and the cabin steward was excellent. Storage was sufficient but awkwardly laid out, with a lot of cubby-type space but not a lot of drawer space.
Deck 12 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • San Juan
    Planned for 4 hours, the excursion team told us that it would take longer but, not to worry, we would not sail until later in the evening according to the cruise line. We were still at the Bacardi distillery when we were summoned back to the ship. Not having a mustering area on board or on the dock made it a very unnerving experience to board the right bus, and meant we left later than planned because they couldn't find all of our passengers. Never saw Old San Juan.
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