So, I am a relative rookie when it comes to cruising. I am also very spoiled as the first cruise I took was on one of the most expensive lines, on a really new boat. This was only my second cruise. But even with this I am not so naive to ... Read More
So, I am a relative rookie when it comes to cruising. I am also very spoiled as the first cruise I took was on one of the most expensive lines, on a really new boat. This was only my second cruise. But even with this I am not so naive to think the Norwegian Epic is a great ship. The design is terrible, there are no views except from the top deck. So on deck 5, where customer service and photos are, there are 3-4 windows where you can see the ocean without being in a specialty (meaning pay extra) restaurant. On Deck 6 there are no public windows that I remember. 6 is also the casino deck, with the casino laid out in no particular pattern, across the entire center of the deck. There is nothing like not being able to transverse a deck without being totally covered in cigarette smoke and having to squeeze between people shoving their way to slot machines. Then on deck 7, again no windows except if you are in a specialty restaurant. Then decks 8-14 are cabins, with the spa and kids care squeezed onto deck 14. Finally on deck 15 is the pool deck, where EVERYBODY is as it is the only deck with: a view, coffee/water stations, the buffet, the pool(s), the adult lounge in the aft. So basically of the 4000 or so people on board, at any given time during the day about 3000 of them are on deck 15. On top of this deck being way overcrowded ALL the time, there is ONLY TWO BARS!!! One in the middle and one way at the back, again trying to serve 3000 people, at least half of which are wet, just EPIC (pun intended). Oh yeah, because only deck 15 holds anyone's interest everybody is trying to get here on the elevators. I waited once 36 minutes on deck 8, where my cabin was, to get an elevator that had enough room in it to get in. This was on day 6 at sea and I did it out of spite just to sea how long it would take. Fortunately I am still a young athletic guy who didn't mind 7 flights of stairs every time I wanted to get to deck 15 in less than 45 minutes. And one last thing, this one really blew my mind, the only deck with and outside walking area is Deck 7 but your only view on deck 7 is of the life boats which totally obscure the ocean. While sitting in the different ports we saw a couple of Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Celebrity. Not a single one of them put the life boats in front of the walking deck. They were all immediately above or below the walking deck, except one other ship did block that deck, the NCL Escape, their NEWEST SHIP!!!!!!! Guys, do you actually have anyone who knows how to design a ship that promotes the ocean it is in??? Royal seems to be the only one that gets it as they has giant atriums in their ships that got from top deck to admin deck with matching windows on both sides. NCL, your ships travel the oceans blue, try letting people see that!
The part that really confused me was that this ship is neither old nor neglected as it was built in 2010, and refurbished in 2012. But they obviously had someone travel through time, pluck an interior designer from 1976, and used them to color coordinate the ship. It is dark brown everywhere. The main "atrium" in the casino has a chandelier I am pretty sure hung in Liberace's house in Vegas in '73. The cabins are REALLY AWFUL, they tried some wavy design that totally kills any usable space. Cabins are small, we get it, but NCL trying to give the impression of more space by using curved walls that crush the ROUND bed against the sink/counter area, unwise. Also they put the toilet right next to the head of the bed. I love my spouse, but there are something we don't, and honestly don't need to, share in the morning. The shower was the only part I liked because it used a round, glass door instead of a curtain. I am a big guy, and fighting off a curtain while showering in a small shower is a pain, so this they got right.
The other big issue I had was they don't seem to obey ANY normal rules of running a hotel or entertainment venue. I had read reviews of this boat that said the staff were very rude. In all honesty I found that to be completely false. The staff were awesome, it was their hours and being wildly understaffed that wears on them. No joke, the bartender on Deck 5 across from the customer service counter was there at 11:30AM, 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, and 11:00PM when the bar closed EVERY DAY. If I worked a 12 hour day 7 days in a row, with hardly any breaks, in the ONLY bar on deck 5 (which is also wildly understaffed) I might occasionally be rude too. Being observant of this, I made sure to never be demanding when seeking a beverage, as I could see she was trying to keep up with demand as best she could. Our room porter, Raul, was awesome but the poor guy was the only person I ever saw on our side of our deck and he was working at 8 am and still cleaning rooms and getting stuff done at 10 pm. This must be another reason these ships never fly the US flag, none of them obey our labor laws. It is awful nice of them to take US money but ignore US laws with their staff. As for the entertainment, most was very good to excellent, but the venues so dated and their reservation system was pointless, they never validate anyone has a reservation. and the WORST, ABSOLUTE WORST situation was The Beetles show in their Cavern Lounge, this was a REALLY popular show and the room was at capacity every show. You couldn't get reservations for this, there was no one controlling how many people were in the room. I promise you the room was wildly over fire code every show. People were pushing and shoving to get in the room, fights were on the verge of breaking out everywhere. Our Hotel manager, Mustafa, walked by once, looked inside and just shrugged. I asked him if he would do or say something about it and said "No" and walked away from me?????????
So in recap the NCL Epic is an awfully designed ship, BUT it is a ship in the ocean that has lots of alcohol that was the CHEAPEST cruise I could find other that Carnival, that goes to the Virgin Islands for 7 days. The crew is very nice as long as you are nice to them. The captain did a very good job in rough winter seas. The ports of call were awesome, and the shopping assistance was also awesome. These are all things I expect, what I didn't expect is the ship's deep desire to be JUST a hotel that happens to be on the ocean. If drinking, gambling, and waiting for elevators in the dark brown'ess of the 70's is your thing then this isn't the WORST choice, as for me I will save up a bit more and make a more ROYAL choice next time... Read Less