We had booked a trip to China in early March. Since it had to be rescheduled due to C-19, we looked around for a cruise. The 7-day Southern Caribbean on the NCL Epic sailed from SJU, which I've never visited, and the ports of call were 83% new to both of us – so, we picked it. We had a nicer-than-expected experience to Cuba the first time we were on Norwegian in 2018; the word "Epic" sounded famous and grandiose (little did I know at the time that the fame was yesteryear's news - this ship, while massive, is beginning to show its age). Also tempting was a "free" pkg: beverage (premium, but not the top one), 3 specialty dining nights, “shore excursionS”, and 250 minutes of internet - in quotation marks because the fine print revealed they aren’t quite as generous in reality. They charge you the 20% service upfront for the first 2 up front; the bev pkg is regularly priced at $99 per day, while dining is $99 for the 3 nights; so even the gratuity for the bev pack is a whopping $140 per person for the cruise. Frankly, unless you are aready a ripe candidate to join AA, I wouldn't pay to get it - $99 (or $119 with tip) of drinks per day, even at cruise ship prices, is a lot. Now, when it's "free", sure, I can drink $20 worth easily day in and day out. And yeah, there are some sore points even in the freebie (more in a sec) Likewise, I personally won’t spring $33 for specialty dining per person per night (+ tip of course). – better to save my money for when I’m NOT on a cruise, since “specialty” does not always mean “superior” when compared to the alternative (regular dining). The internet was tricky, and while not Flash-like, not as slow as feared. The “shore excursionS” was just $50, for ONE of us – try as I may, I could not come up with any excursionS that would justify the plural number; I forfeited that $50 so that I could save more money buying my own excursions. Even before Viator came on the scene big time, there have always been options that are less expensive and/or restrictive.
We spent a couple of days in San Juan before the cruise, did some prep work booking our own excursions while we were there, and looked forward to the cruise with great anticipation. Please be sure you know where you board in SJU, as there are two different cruise terminals, and they are not exactly next to each other. Embarkation was one of the smoothest – a bit of walking, but practically no line, and made even better by an enthusiastic agent.
In the interest of brevity (too late, you might complain!), I’ll quickly cover some general areas and focus on a few aspects of this cruise in more detail. You already have my thoughts on excursions. Entertainment was fine, with many options when it’s a ship this size. The two main shows in the Epic Theatre were good to very good. Tthe dueling piano sessions are always helped by the free flow of liquor (guests and artists), and the mentalist guy was impressive in blowing your mind. I cannot comment on any of the kids’ programmes; the water slides were not always operational (they’re fine), and the hot tubs are always crowded. and (as usual) not nearly hot enough. I like the fitness room too – seems to be enough at least for the cruise crowd I was with – not crowded at all. So now, onto the other areas (other than Cabin, which is found below).
I went to our cabin with a little trepidation, since so many other cruisers did not care for the "wave design" that turned a lot of structures and walls from the more traditional straight lines into squigglies, which you find not just inside the room but in the hallway! Size of the cabin was neither generous nor terribly cramped. I personally had no real issue with the curves, other than the overt gimmicky "look how different WE are" aspect - it just doesn't get you any benefits, with a potential sacrifice. See, the bed is housed in one of those concave lines, and whether it's on account of that or not, the bed is suitably wide (perhaps even a smidge wider than the 'queen' advertised), but man is it short! I'm just below average in height for North America, and I had to be careful to slide up, or else I'd have a reason to be singing "Rain Drops Are Falling on My Head" (you'd know what I mean if you know the lyrics). I did find that there are enough nooks and crannies, plus under the bed, to sock away all our stuff - not always true of all the cabins we've experienced in other cruises. The balcony was also on the roomy side, even if we didn't take full advantage of it (any more than hanging wet clothes). On the other hand, we hate, hate, HATE that little bird bath that poses as our 'sink'; the TP is possibly proof that there is a God, vengeance is His, and you’ve probably done some bad things that deserve your 7-day punishment: it should be renamed “SP”, (as in “sand paper”), meaning you better know how to take care of your delicate back-side. The toilet flush is noisy as hell, but at least we had no disaster - can't be said for that other room well down the hall that the SWAT team was attending the second day into the cruise. We could have used brighter lights in the cabin.
Took taco to the beach