We flew in the day before and enjoyed a lovely day in Cocoa Beach prior to the cruise. Our hotel overlooked the ocean and we could relax and enjoy a beach day before heading to the ship. On the recommendation of TripAdvisor, we went to ... Read More
We flew in the day before and enjoyed a lovely day in Cocoa Beach prior to the cruise. Our hotel overlooked the ocean and we could relax and enjoy a beach day before heading to the ship. On the recommendation of TripAdvisor, we went to Florida's Fresh Grill for dinner and it was by far the best dining experience of our vacation. Highly recommend!
We have always liked sailing on the bigger ships and booked this cruise for it's Eastern itinerary and to try NCL for the first time. Unfortunately, due to the hurricanes last season, our trip got switched to Western. Obviously, this was done due to damage at ports, and we did get an extra port because of the change, but it is disappointing to pay for Eastern and get the less expensive Western for the same price.
The ship itself was disappointing from first sight. It is very boxy and has none of the styling of previous ships we've been on. It looked like a giant floating hotel, rather than a ship. The layout was awful, from the weird bathroom arrangements to the lack of outdoor space on all but the top decks. Due to the amount of balcony cabins, there was no space on lower levels to get out and explore the ship. Only went on deck 7 once on the outside and there was no view (obstructed by lifeboats) and full of smokers.
The casino is in the middle of deck 6 and open to below in Taste, one of the MDRs. There was no way to avoid the smoke and it permeated several areas surrounding it. Even some closed off bars nearby (the Cavern, O'Shean's) were smelling strongly of smoke. I heard many others complaining of this throughout the week. Due to the layouts of decks 5,6,and 7, it was difficult to go from one end to the other without getting cutoff by a dining room or the casino. The shops were also not that exciting, with one (the one with the booze and sundries) being completely separate from the others, making it harder to locate.
We also found the deck layout tough. With so many passengers onboard, all looking to get some sun, the loungers were taken up by 8am by chair hogs and with half the deck dedicated to smokers, there really wasn't too many options.
The dining was ok. Not great by any means, but hubby and I love cooking and found the food quite boring. It seemed that all the attention was given to the specialty dining so if you wanted a great meal, you had to pay. We have never felt the need to book a specialty restaurant - the MDR food has always been very good to excellent on each of our previous cruises. Three times hubby ordered the steak from the "every night available" side of the menu because there were no appealing options. I ordered the linguine with clams one night and it was really good with the pasta cooked perfectly. Hubby ordered the spaghetti carbonara the next night and it was so salty he could barely eat a few bites. The chicken cordon bleu was inedible, prime rib was awful, there was no lobster night (which has been offered on all of our other cruises), and desserts were boring. Highlights were the braised lamb shanks, steak, and french onion soup.
We also had the Cirque Dreams dinner experience and the meal was a caprese salad with prosciutto, filet and garlic shrimp and a trio of desserts. Aside from the steak being a little too overcooked for my liking, it was very well done. The show, costumes and staff were amazing!
Entertainment was the absolute highlight of the cruise. Everything was top notch. We saw Burn the Floor, Cirque Dreams, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, two comedians and the Epic Beatles. Book ahead of time for everything ( we booked before the cruise for what we could). Every show was sold out during the cruise with some standby seating. The only thing I missed that I would have liked was the Escape the High Top, an escape room type of event. We also enjoyed the Ice Bar just for the experience of it. Drinks were WAY too strong but it was a fun time.
Service was friendly for the most part. The washy-washy-happy-happy girl spraying your hands with disinfectant at the buffet was always smiling, our room steward was nice and we had a clean room every day and towel animals most days. The entertainment staff were fun and lively. Bar service was slow but to be expected with the large amount of passengers on board. Bartenders were always friendly but I didn't have a "favourite" that I would recommend.
We had only booked one shore excursion (the stingrays in Grand Cayman) and that was cancelled due to the waves. We ended up taking a shuttle to 7 mile beach instead. For Nassau, I researched ahead and planned a self guided walking tour which let us explore on our own. We enjoyed our day there and ended with a light lunch before heading back to the ship. In Falmouth, we stayed only in the secure area and shopped in the port before heading back to the beach. We paid half the price for my husband's watch than was quoted on board. The perfume I wanted was also $20 less in Falmouth than on the ship.
We really enjoyed our day in Great Stirrup Cay. It was relaxing and sunny and we headed to the third beach area which was substantially less crowded than the other two. They are building towers to allow for zip lining in the future so there will be lots to do there when it is completed. There were plenty of loungers, and all cabanas and clamshells were sold out prior to our arrival so if that's what you're looking for, book early. People were parasailing, lounging on floaters, snorkeling and generally having a great time.
Disembarkation was easy and quick. The lineup after we got our luggage looked huge but only took us about 10 minutes to get through.
I would try NCL again but would NEVER want to try the Epic again. Even crew members at the NextCruise desk were quick to let us know that other ships had different layouts. Read Less