I got a great, last-minute deal on this solo cruise out of Orlando. I got a balcony room with two perks (beverage and dining). I had a great time and met some great folks through the Solo travelers and LGBT meet ups (kudos to NCL for ... Read More
I got a great, last-minute deal on this solo cruise out of Orlando. I got a balcony room with two perks (beverage and dining). I had a great time and met some great folks through the Solo travelers and LGBT meet ups (kudos to NCL for offering those). I took a shuttle from the airport to the port. Embarkation was crowded but went fast, especially for Latitudes members. I was on the ship by noon and in a non-crowded Taste for lunch. My room was ready by 2 and the bag arrived soon after.
The ship is large and feels more like a convention center than a hotel, like some have said. You walk through the center of each floor, and not the sides like on many ships, so the water isn't readily visible at every turn. There isn't the traditional, multi-story atrium like you're used to. The ship is unique. This doesn't mean it's bad, but know that some people will complain simply because it's unconventional. Most of the action is on floors 5, 6, and 7 (guest services, MDRs, casino, restaurants and lounges) and 14, 15, 16 (gym, spa, Garden Cafe Buffet, lido, pool, Spice H20, sun decks, water slides, etc.) The ship never really felt crowded except for when everyone wanted a drink at the same time for sail away. My friends and I gathered at Spice H20, the adult area, a lot and I loved Maltings, the whiskey bar (get the Matador!) quite a bit. Taste is less formal than Manhattan, but both were excellent. Shanghai was just average for me. Le Bistro was my favorite of the specialty dining restaurants, but Moderno and Cagney's were excellent too. You can order as many apps, salads, soups, desserts, as you like, by the way, as long as you only get one entree. Again, I think the MDRs are great so I'm not sure if I'd go to the specialty places again, but I enjoyed them. The Garden Cafe has a ton of variety. It's at the front of the ship, which confused a lot of veteran travelers. Tip: La Cucina is below Garden Cafe, so get your plate and go down there for great views and non-crowded dining. O'Sheehan's is great too. I love their jerk wings and burgers.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert was very well done. Do know that it centers around drag queens traveling through the Australian outback. This seemed risque to some, but the majority of the crowd loved it. Burn the Floor was an awesome dance show that was a crowd pleaser as well. The Beatles act was very good. They perform in the main theatre one night and in the smaller Cavern Club several other nights. Come early to this small club because it fills up. I didn't see any comedians or magic shows other than the heavy metal magician, which wasn't for me. Make your reservations in advance because they fill up! I attended several of the "art" auctions purely for entertainment. I don't advise anyone to buy these items and I find their tactics misleading. However, they are fun to watch. Bid wisely!
We had ideal weather. Falmouth, Jamaica is a new port with many shops, great local vendors (lots of wooden crafts - bring cash) and a couple of food stalls. I didn't venture into the town because I took a "Best of" bus tour to Ocho Rios through NCL excursions and visited a wildlife preserve, botanical garden, waterfall, etc. Our guide and driver were funny and informative and worked very hard. We got to see a lot in 7 or so hours and I recommend this tour as it was inexpensive.
Grand Cayman was beautiful. There are tons of stores, bars and restaurants and you can fill a day just browsing. I took a short snorkel excursion to a sunken ship, also through NCL. It was interesting. We spend about an hour swimming and snorkeling (plus an hour there and back). I almost missed the boat because I was the only one from Epic doing it. Keep your eyes peeled for the guy/girl holding the sign for your excursion. There is a duty-free liquor place right by the dock with great prices. They delivered my booze to my room on the last night.
Great Stirrup Cay was also beautiful but crowded with our huge ship. Lines were long for bars, buffet and taco shop. The tacos weren't special, in my opinion. I might consider staying on board next time but many of my peers loved this stop the best. So, what do I know? I'm also not a sun worshipper. Tip: go left and walk all the way to the end to find plenty of chairs. Also, the vendors are crap, so get your souvenirs in Jamaica or Grand Cayman. Jamaica by far had the best local crafts.
I walked off the ship at 7:30 after a buffet breakfast and was in my friend's car by 8. I had a great time and I was happy to be on vacation. Almost all of the service I had was excellent. The staff works so hard. Oh, and I went to the gym a couple of times in the morning. It gets crowded, but it's well equipped (lots of aerobic machines). I didn't do the spa treatments but it's big and nice. Some people complained that you have to walk through the casino to get anywhere on floor 6, but I think they did a good job of controlling the smoke. I recommend getting Cruise Next if you plan on cruising NCL again. They do great last-minute deals (within two months of departure). I only bought rum cakes from the stores on board, but they had lots of them (felt more like a mall than a cruise ship - again, no windows). There is a nice library and games room by the photo gallery, but they're somewhat hidden on floor 5.
People will complain about this ship because of some quirks, but I had a great time and would go again if I got another great deal. If you've never traveled on a huge ship, check out the Epic. I was surprised how often I bumped into the same people! Read Less