We were looking forward to our first NCL cruise for a year and can say (among many others we encountered who echoed the same sentiment) that we will not be returning. The Norwegian Epic had it's bright spots, but overall we were more ... Read More
We were looking forward to our first NCL cruise for a year and can say (among many others we encountered who echoed the same sentiment) that we will not be returning. The Norwegian Epic had it's bright spots, but overall we were more disappointed than anything.
Lets start with the ship itself. Embarkation was typical. A few delays, but the ship holds thousands of passengers so some waiting is to be expected. Once on the ship, catching an elevator is almost as difficult as hitting the lottery. NCL really needs to increase the production on these things. If you're looking for a vacation where you never close your wallet, well you've found it. NCL charges for so many things. Most shows, some seminars, games, bowling, any offered classes - it's all extra. This is in addition to the restaurants, which some are not only an initial fee, but the menu is also a la carte. The Garden Café (buffet) seating is ample, but the food was often cold and average. O'Sheehans turned out to be our favorite spot. The drink prices and drinks themselves throughout the bars were highly inconsistent - we got the same drink for 2 different prices and two completely different tastes within half an hour one day - one $3+ more than the other. You're charged $17+ for a 6 pack of water, which the crew then confiscates from you upon returning from certain ports. Totally logical. You're required to have a ticket for even the complimentary shows, and making reservations for tendered ports is definitely encouraged. NCL's highly touted 'Freestyle Cruising' is actually quite regimented and limiting due to this setup. The pools are very small and narrow, deck chairs were consistently reserved with towels beginning very early in the morning, and the crew stacked them up relatively early in the evening. The shops, art gallery, and sundries shops have all the typical cruise items. The ship overall was HOT everywhere other than the 5th floor. Our stewards were very friendly, fast, and attentive. They kept the cabins very nice. We went to the Svendka Ice Bar which is open in the evenings with reservation, costs $23+ (entry fee and 2 drinks included), but is definitely fun to see. There's things to do on the ship, but at the same time, there's not really a lot going on. NCL really just counts on spending money at the bars and specialty restaurants as your entertainment.
Let's talk about ports. Our first port was NCL's private island, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. The beach was nice enough, but it's really the only thing to do, which is great if you're looking forward to a beach chair and swimming all day. There is a small straw market which takes about 15 minutes to see the entire area, and a complimentary bbq or taco lunch. Past that, you have to pay for anything else. This is a tendered port, so be sure to get in line on time. Guests of The Haven are also given preference over the rest of us cruisers and taken to the front of the line regardless of how long others have waited.
Our 2nd port was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Corporate NCL seriously needs to walk thru and see the condition of this port. We docked at a pier which appeared to be an old dilapidated freight port. We then had to walk a good 20 minutes down a mountain on a crumbling sidewalk full of holes, trash, beggars, congested with speeding drivers, locals handing you 'gifts' and then demanding money, locals attempting to take you for a ride/tour, physically grabbing and holding onto your arms and hands, and offering/attempting to sell all types of drugs and stuffing small bags of them into the peoples pockets who made the mistake of buying whatever the individual was selling. The word 'No' is totally disregarded by the residents. Once you finally reach the town, you find a downtown that is filthy, crowded, more narrow sidewalks, stores full of cheap trinkets, and locals who stand out front and harass you to buy something. To top it all off, Jamaica was under a State of Emergency and Travel Advisory during our trip due to crime, which NCL conveniently forgot to mention. We turned back within an hour. 90% of our ship was also returning due to the same thoughts about Ocho Rios so at least we could travel in more of a pack for safety. NCL needs to remove this stop from their itinerary immediately. It is not somewhere visitors need to be.
3rd port was George Town, Grand Cayman. No complaints. A very nice port town, ample shopping, nobody bothering you, clean, beautiful water, and lots to do in addition to shore excursions. You're on a tender here also, so arrive in ample time.
4th port was Cozumel, Mexico. Cozumel's water was clear in spots. We docked at 1 of the 2 piers and the better shopping seemed to be to our south, we just chose not to take a taxi. The shops were clean, but not much variety. More locals bothering you to come into their stores and the agent prior to getting back onto the ship snatched a fellow passengers money out of her passport when checking ID's, attempted to hide it, then claimed it was a joke, but this port was still a monumental improvement from Ocho Rios.
Onto our mini suite cabin. The Epic's staterooms have a 'Wave' design and it just doesn't work in all the rooms. The beds were at the front of this room and were practically in the bathroom area. You could lean over and wash your hands in the sink. The beds can't be separated further than 6 inches because they are locked in a curve, the bathroom and shower are across from one another on either side of the room and the sink is outside of the bathroom area. The shower and toilet are separated from the rest of the cabin by a curtain with the sink and mirror outside of the curtain. The bathroom is small, beyond small. We had 3 cabins - all in one day! Our first cabin the air conditioning barely cooled, but the main problem was the cabin flooded in the very early morning hours due to something going wrong in the wall from the neighboring cabin's plumbing. We had a temporary cabin in the afternoon which was a regular balcony cabin. Due to the wave setup, this room was very small - spring for the mini suite. We were then moved late that night to another mini suite where the air worked and the beds were at the end of the wave by the balcony doors, which was WAY more efficient. And this room didn't flood! The Head Guest services manager did rectify the entire bad situation which we were satisfied with. The room itself is decorated in warm tones with mahogany and plentiful storage, the balcony is larger than most ships, so the appearance is nice, just not so much the aesthetics.
We wanted to love this ship and this line. Unfortunately, NCL misses the mark and they're not worth spending the money on. At least the Epic sure isn't. They're trying to be luxurious, but have yet to master simplicity. First cruise with NCL, last cruise with NCL. Epic fail. Read Less