For our 10 year anniversary, we decided to do a trip on board the EPIC with the Western Caribbean itinerary. Just a few things to consider as you read my review. We love the larger ships, but know larger ships are not for everyone. With a ... Read More
For our 10 year anniversary, we decided to do a trip on board the EPIC with the Western Caribbean itinerary. Just a few things to consider as you read my review. We love the larger ships, but know larger ships are not for everyone. With a larger ship there will be a lot of people, there will be a wait or two, there will be people you find annoying and there will be people you like. At times, the staff will seem flustered, as you never know what may have just happened with a guest they dealt with before they now had to deal with you. (I watched a Maître D' get ripped a new one by a passenger that was obviously operating under liquid courage and the problem is something he created, not the crew member). Did I mention there will be a lot of people?
Also know, I am an avid researcher of the trips I book, so I know what to expect going in when it comes to ship layout, room layout, etc. I learned there are people out there who all a TA to do everything, never do any research, and then run in to surprises when they arrive. In today's world of Tech, we have all the information needed to be prepared for a trip.
We booked all of our dining reservations as soon as I could online. I believe it was 120 days out. Due to this, we never waited for a table. Always walked right up and was seated immediately.
We did not do any of the shows in the EPIC theatre. We have seen numerous Burn the floor shows and Priscilla is not our cup of tea. If I had one recommendation, it would be to have a more appealing show in place of Priscilla, but not a deal breaker.
Below will be an in-depth review of our Trip on the EPIC April 6th -13th. At the end I will cover the themes from the week.
We drove into Port Canaveral Friday and stayed at the Homewood Suites about 2 miles for the port. The hotel was great. If you need a dinner place, Rising Tide Tap and Table was amazing. We waited for about 40 minutes to sit on the patio, but worth it for the view and the great food. They also had a great selection of beer choices from local breweries.
We decided to park at PC. Yes it is a little pricey, but we built that into our vacation budget. I really like the control of when I can arrive and being able to walk off the ship, load the car, and to be headed back home.
Arrived at Port Canaveral 9am Saturday and were in line by 9:15 (number 20 in line) doors opened at 930AM, was checked in a seated by 945 am with a group 1 boarding pass. (side note: they recently hired a bunch of new NCL port agents, so pack some patience as some information is mismatched from one agent to the next). The agent who checked us in was quite a delight and set the tone for a great trip.
Boarding started a little passed 1130am, I was standing at guest services at 1142am. We were probably around the first 20-30 people on board and I am not priority, yet. Got POSH passes - worth it since the ship was sailing at capacity ($118 for the two of us for the week). More on POSH later.
Once on board and finished at Guest Services, we went to headliners. Waited in line for about 5 minutes and made a couple adjustments to book the two restaurants I could not book online (Moderno and Shanghai's). After headliners we got our bearings until Taste was open, which we jumped into at 12:05 pm. Lunch was great and fast. After lunch we headed up to POSH for the first drink of the cruise (Red Stripe for me and something fruity for the Mrs.). Rooms were open and ready at around 2:00 pm. We had our first bag at 4:10 pm and the last three were there when we got back from the muster drill.
We were planning to watch sail away from our aft balcony, but We were delayed due to medical emergency and according to a person in the affected party, it was a legit emergency. We pulled out at 8:03 pm (while we were at dinner). Did not affect anything, except a few dollars of taxes on the alcohol we consumed while still in port and a one hour late arrival to GSC, but the Captain extended our stay in GSC by an hour, so nothing lost. There were actually two more medical emergencies on our trip. One was handled when we arrived in Jamaica (we passed the EMTs walking up the gangway as we left the ship). There was also one in Grand Cayman that delayed tendering a little.
Dinner was in Moderno and this is a favorite of ours. We did not have the dining package, so this was the only specialty restaurant we hit all week, but worth it for the pineapple. Great food and service as usual. I liked we kicked our cruise off with specialty before getting to the "I am not sure I can eat another thing" place of a cruise.
Once we finished dinner we were able to jump back to our balcony and watch sail away, which honestly was really neat as there was quite the thunderstorm in the distance so mother nature gave us a great light show.
Day 2, GSC:
I was prepared for a 50/50 chance of going to GSC, but we made it. Not much to say here, but it is a beautiful island, so I hope everyone gets to experience it. Having the ship perks carry over like the beverage package and then the free food made it that much better. Being off early helped us tremendously as we go on the island, got great seats under a palm tree and did not move much. I was about 20 10 yards from a bar, but there were also servers walking around. As the day went on, the lines at the bar got a little longer but never waited longer than 10 minutes. I would suggest to go to the outskirt bars and not the ones in the middle right by the port dump off point. We did the Taco bar for lunch and waited in line for that about 10 minutes (ate around 12:15 pm).
Excursion at GSC:
We bought the snorkeling package ahead of time. We did the $50 shore excursion credit so with that and my Silver status discount, cost me about $9.00 or something like that. Worth it for priority tendering and not having to book my tender reservations. Snorkeling was okay, but you get the stuff for the day. Saw a few fish, but after an hour we had our $9 worth.
Dinner this night was in Taste. The food was good, cannot remember what I had. I was going to do the whole photo journalism thing, but decided to leave my phone in the room. Service was friendly and fast, maybe one hour and 15 minutes total and we went around 7:30pm.
We hung out in Howl at the Moon for a little bit, which is always fun.
Day 3, Day at Sea:
I will use this spot to talk about POSH. For us, this was totally worth it. Being our 10 year and having no kids with us, we wanted a little quiet the best we could get on a boat of 4000 people. If we didn't get passes, we would have been fine with Spice or the Deck 18 sun deck (I noticed they set up a small bar on the deck 18 sundeck at sea days, which is a nice touch.
Back to POSH. This was worth it because we never saw more than 20 people when we were up there. It was quiet, the sun was always warm and there were umbrellas if it was not too windy. The loungers are padded and are covered with towel covers that hold because of elastic corners. There was always a strong breeze, so even though the sun was hot. The bar staff were awesome, remembered our names and took great care of us. You get a pitcher water on days you are up there, which for water drinkers like my wife and I, was almost worth the price of admission. I am not a tip ahead of time kind of guy, but I will tip with great service, and did.
We grabbed some pre-dinner sushi and it was some of the best I have had. Price averaged around $8 a roll and I felt worth it. We then did a later dinner in Manhattan, so we dressed up a bit and enjoyed ourselves.
Day 4, Jamaica
We had a great time in Jamaica. There is shopping right off the pier that was decent. There is a market about a half a mile from the pier, but be advised, the are quite aggressive and stuff not really special to what you could get at the other shops. Your typical straw market goods. There is a jerk chicken street vender right inside the shopping mall area that is amazing. It is a good size portion too that can be shared between two people for a lighter lunch/ heavy snack. It was $10 and came with some of the best rice and peas I had, along with some of the best chicken I have had.
We did the Zip Line and Bobsled. This was worth every penny and we had a blast. The staff was hilarious, the zip line was through the beautiful forest and the lift ride to the top gives you some great views of the ship and the forest as you ride up. The bobsled is a lot of fun and a special thanks to the guys for joining me in the "Cool Runnings" bobsled send off. If you don't know, time for you to go rent the movie.
We did a late lunch in O'Sheehans. We did have to wait about 10 minutes for a table, but it was worth it. The wings were excellent.
For Dinner this night we ate in Shanghai's. You HAVE to make reservations, so be sure to do that asap. The food was great and service was fast and friendly. Only downside for us was we were still kind of full from eating lunch at O"Sheehans when we got back from port. So come hungry, if that is possible on a cruise.
Day 5, Grand Cayman.
Grand Cayman was a great port. We had an excursion, so tendering was not an issue and we took our time getting off the boat to go. We did a little shopping in GC, but not much.
We did the Taste of GC or what I will call the Grand Cayman Booze Tour. This was a lot of fun and our bus driver/ tour guide was pretty funny and very knowledgeable about the island. We went to the Brewery, the Rum Cake Factory, and the Rum Distillery. I will say, this is all tasting alcohol. It is great alcohol, but that is really all it is. You get to see the island, you get to hear history from your guide, but if you are not really a big fan of tasting great alcohol, this is not for you. You will get a buzz, so eat a big breakfast.
We got back on board and all we wanted was so good Pub food because of all the alcohol we took on. So O'Sheehans it was. Great burger for some soaking up.
We laid low the rest of the night.
Day 6, Cozumel.
Cozumel is a great port. The Pier goes right into a great shopping mall, where you can get a lot of great deals and things for your friends and family back home. We got off early, did some shopping, and then went and met for our excursion.
We did the Cozumel Taste and Cooking Experience at Playa Mia Beach Park. This was one of the best excursions I have done while on a cruise. My wife and I had so much fun and made some great food. If you like to cook, or like Mexican cuisine (I am a lover of both), you have to do this excursion. Your drinks are included and you get to eat a fabulous meal that you cook. You also get some time to hang around and use the amenities of Playa Mia Beach Park and there is some shopping there as well. Worth every penny.
Dinner this night was in Manhattan. It was great and service was fast and friendly.
Day 7: At Sea.
You can see above about our At Sea days and how we spent them. I will add that we loved had our last day being at Sea. We got to relax from a busy three days in port. We honestly felt like it was our first day on the boat, and never felt the last day blues.
Day 8: Time To Go
Disembarkation: We decided to do the 9:30 am luggage tags. Got a great breakfast in taste and then we were in the lobby waiting at 8:20 am. (side note: this is a great place to people watch with guest services and people freaking out over what seems to be insignificant.) We got antsy and decided to walk off 8:45 AM. Was off the boat in about 10 minutes, as they have seemed to really work this issue out. There was a defined line to walk and staff spaced all throughout the walk to get off the boat. Found a porter, slipped him a $10 and we were in our car ready to pull out about 9:05 am.
Food was good to great. I made all my reservations online, went to headliners to make a couple of adjustments. Never waited for a table. Highlights were Moderno (a favorite of ours), the sushi (best I have had), Shanghai's, O'Sheehans wings and the burger and the prime rib the last night. We only ate in the Buffet twice for lunch and once for breakfast - everything else was a sit down. Side note: I live in Charleston, SC and consider myself a foodie as we have an embarrassment of riches here in Charleston for food.
The ever looming engines:
There was never an issue with engines. The last night we were doing 22kts.
-When not using the Bar in Posh, I never waited longer than 5 - 7 minutes for a drink (including pool bar and the atrium bar).
-Boat was spotless. Room was spotless (Aft Balcony 13282). There is some construction going on aboard the ship and it seems the are trying to get things in order for going back over across the big pond. Was not a bother for us.
Yes it was packed and busy, but this is a big ship. If you do not like crowds, never go on a big ship. You will wait from time to time for an elevator (we take the stairs a good bit to help with the food guilt as every calorie burned is one we can consume). Also, some people just have bad attitudes. Have a drink, you are on vacation.
The Beverage Package:
This was great to have and I did not have to worry about watching my bill all wee on what I was spending on drinks. Yes, some "premiums" are not included, but for me it did not make a difference.
It is worth mentioning they monitor and kick cigarette smokers out. Yes this is a big deal. Cigar smoke and cigarette smoke are completely different.
My five star review is not inflated. I came to review to give a honest look at how great NCL can be. Yes, I get it is all about perspective, but its vacation, always pack some patience. We had a great time and I would go on the EPIC again. We never felt smoke was heavy, but maybe once, when passing through Casino. The ship does have a different layout than most, but do some researching and you will be just fine. We were really low key on this trip, as it was our first cruise just the two of us. We did a couple dance parties, some of the game shows, some of the music. Our best night was spent at Maltings listening to the Manhattan Band and having drinks. We got a treat with a member of four blue walking up and singing a couple songs and being awesome and doing my yell out of "Fly Me to the Moon" as he had a very distinct Sinatra feel to his voice. Our last night ended with us slow dancing to this song. Perfection. Read Less