Subjectectiviry is te name of the game here but for yours truly at least, everything came together to make this by far, the best of the four cruises on which I've ever traveled.
The fact that this was a Crusiemates Cruise had a ton to do with it's success, of course, but we were all so saddedened when our host Trip and her husband Bruse had to leave and fly back because of illness. Thankdfully they are both well along the road to recvery. That being the casew, there remained so many other positive facets.
Let's break it down into sections with my cabin mate being first. I was honored to share a handicappped cabin with Curisemate's famous Patriarch, Ray Boudreaux not to mentntion being a guest in his home. Ray as many of you know, is one in a million and his family, especially daughter Celeste, is not far behind.
Our cabin was as a handicapped cabin; large bright, airy and had a quite large balcony that easily incorporated Ray's scooter which truly surprised me. Additionally, the large shower sported a fold down bench seat if necessary along witn a folddown towel rack. It was significantly larger than the standard "wave" cabin. Heaven knows there was tons of drawer and hanging space.
One of our party had the single supplement cabin and to be quite honest, while being despite being small, still sported a full sized bed and had very interesting mood lighting.
Of course the cruise was made by Chef Matt Sigel of Hell's Kitchen Fame who along wit his lovely wife did not only didn't plate a "nibble" of his creations on several occasions as is de regeur but provided what amounted to a complete meal which was both an unexpected and pleasant change! Not only are Matt and his wife likeable people they hung out with us throughout the cruise.
There is no doubt that Matt will shortly enjoy being a top culinary draw in his own venue. Better yet he is a born instructor and keeps ones interest glued to his entire presentation.
While outwardly (to me at least) probably the ugliest vessel to ever sail the seven seas, one doesn't usually stand and watch a ship pass by. What the ship offers in entertainment and attractions more than makes up for it's outward appearance and is enough to keep one occupied for two or three weeks. While most of the restaurants are "extra charge, the fee is certainly not exorbitant and I well worth it. That being the case, O'Sheehan's and the main dining rooms plate outstanding meals if you're either on a budget or elect not to utilize the almost twenty other restaurants.
Thanks to Matt and Cruisemates own Editor, Paul Motter, complete tours were conducted of both the galley and the bridge replete with introductions to Captain and high ranking staff. Most galley tours are conducted between meals when one can't see what is really going on or "get the feel." The tour Matt and the Head Chef provided were right in the middle of dinner service and that is in and of itself, something not to be believed.
In essence, as the Epic being prologue, Norwegian Cruise Lines will certainly become a future consideration for this cruiser.
And if you truly want an extra special time, you truly must cruise upon a Cruisemates Cruise. You will be certainly glad that you did!
Let me begin by stating that I have been a loyal NCL client for several years traveling in older ships like the Sun and the Sky as well as some of their new ones such as the Pearl the Dawn and the Pride of America, and always enjoyed the entire experience from start to finish. I especially enjoyed the freestyle approach to traditional cruising and their casual and friendly atmosphere. It was with great anticipation that I waited for the chance to sail in their newest and much publicized ship; the Epic. Unfortunately my schedule did not allow me any free time during the year except for the holidays so I decided that a Christmas/New Year cruise would be a great way to spend the holidays, yes it was almost double the price of regular sailing but I thought from previous experience that it would be a special trip.
From the very beginning it seemed that everything went wrong, the check in process was horrendous although we queued behind the line that was marked as "Latitudes Express Check-in" we quickly noticed that the other two lines for regular check in weremoving quite speedier than ours. It then became obvious what the issue was, there were three sets of desks with four agents each; the express line with four agents was handling twice as many number of guests than the regular lines because there seemed to be more latitude members than not, so the express check in became the wait forever check-in. After the hour and a half wait to check in (double the regular line) my wife and I finally were able to board, we could hardly contain our excitement as we almost sprinted to the gang way and onboard. It was as if someone had deflated the tires out of our brand new car, to our surprise and disappointment when we entered the ship there was no great entrance, no beautiful atrium or lavish lobby, whereas most ships would give you the best possible best impression upon first boarding; this ship decided that entering through the Casino was the best possible impression. The air was thick with the stench of cigarettes and it was dark and uninviting. Rows and Rows of Slot Machines and card tables was what we saw for as far as we could see. There was no one welcoming us aboard, in previous trips there was always crew members that with warm smiles welcomed us aboard, offered us a complimentary drink and directed us where to go.
Absolutely no one even acknowledge us, the few crew members we could see were nowhere near the entrance and seemed pre-occupied with other duties. This was a Christmas/New Year's trip, I had paid premium for this because the same cabin at any other date was 40% cheaper than what I paid; and there was nothing to signify that this was in any way special. Because no one directed us where to go we tried to go to our cabin, it was already past 2:00pm and assumed that the cabin was ready but the doors leading to the state rooms were locked so we instinctively went to the pool deck were we knew from experience to congregate until the rooms were ready. A novice passenger would have no idea where to go as there was no directions given upon boarding. At bout 4:00pm the overhead announcement was heard advising that there was going to be a drill in 30 minutes, there was no announcement that the cabins were ready.
Upon entering our balcony stateroom we were pleased, the room was bright, sleek and modern looking. It wasn't until we were all the way in that we noticed how narrow the cabin was, there was very little floor space and noticed we could both barely move about the cabin at the same time; it felt very cramped. The cabin was curved like an S I assume to give it a modern look but it made for a weird bend on the couch that made it very uncomfortable to sit and it added to the feeling of being tightly packed. Later that night we concluded that this stateroom was considerably smaller than any of the other balcony staterooms we had ever been in, it was about the same size as an inside cabin that we had stayed in at an earlier cruise with a smaller ship, on that occasion we paid $299 for it and thus expected to be small and cramped and therefore met our expectations. This definitely did not feel like a $1750.00 per person cabin, when we went to bed that night another discovery was abound when my 5'4' wife laid in bed and found out that her feet dangled over the bed when she laid flat, mine dangled considerably more since I measure 5'10"; we had to curl up in fetus position to fit in the bed. The bathroom was a major problem for us, at first although it was a little different than what we were accustomed to, it looked innovative and we thought it would be a good idea that we could use the shower independent of the toilet. This fact then became embarrassingly painful later on when it was time to use the facilities and we realized that it is basically a very thin plastic see-through door and wall. The feeling was unmistakably uncomfortable even with your wife of more than 16 years. There are things that are just private, going to the bathroom is one of them, it is not glamorous, it is not pleasant but it is natural and as natural as it is it is also the most private act a human should be able to do and to feel that someone can not only tell what is going on, but also hear and forgive me for my bluntness but also smell was disgusting. The worst part was that when the Cabin's door opens the first thing everyone sees is the toilet, we made every effort to make sure we were not in there whenever the other opened the door. As we walked through the hallways I cannot tell you how many times we walked by an open cabin and had to look away in order to avoid uncomfortable situations.
After the mandatory drill which is something we normally dread as it is usually chaotic, but I must admit was very well handled in an organized and expeditious way, we returned to the cabin to freshen up only to discover that the TV was not working. I tried to use the phone and call guest services but the phone touchscreen was also not working, I dialed 0 but it gave an error and would not dial. I checked the room for any type of directory or information on how to contact the guest services but there was nothing other than to use the phone's touchscreen. I went down to the guest services desk where I waited in line for over 30 minutes because there were only Two service representatives actively attending to the guests, there were others but they were so engrossed in their computers that they rarely even looked up or acknowledge the growing line in front of them. I reported the problem and asked for an extension I could call in the future, I was told to dial 00. After dinner we returned to the cabin, the TV and phone still were not working, I called 00 and again reported the problem, they said someone would check it and call me back. We left our Cabin again and came back about an hour later, still no change in the state of the phone or TV. I dialed 00 again and this time the person who answered was able to fix the problem on the spot while I held with them on the phone for a few minutes. The phone took a while longer to get fixed but it was obvious that this was a minor problem that could be fixed remotely and easily yet it took me several hours and three attempts before I reached someone who knew how to fix the problem.
We decided to explore the ship's amenities, this was not very difficult or time consuming as all of them were concentrated in the middle of the ship on floors 6 and 7 directly off the casino. It was definitely crowded; it was hard to get through the mass of bodies to get from the back to the front. Who in the right mind would put most of the public areas right smack in the middle of a ship that holds 6,000 guest and 1800 crew members? Next was the overwhelming cigarette smell; it was always present because as you must very well know most of the guests that frequent the casino are also heavy smokers. In other ships this had never been an issue as the Casino was situated separate from the other public areas and enclosed on its own. Again, why in the world would you put the casino right smack in the middle of everything? It was so bad that we noticed that there were portable air purifiers on the floor every couple of feet on each side of the halls; we tripped on them several times. This was appalling, how can you have a brand new state of the art ship with portable air filters on the floor, how more ghetto can you get? It was a clear sign that the ship had not been designed for the guests it was designed for the profits. In the next few days we began to dread having to go down to the restaurants or bars because we knew we would pass through the cloud as we came to refer to it, of smoke. Our clothes reeked of smoke within a few minutes and no matter where we ate with the exception of the Garden Café upstairs we could at least have the faint aroma of it.
As soon as the ship left port we began to feel the swaying of the waves, it was surprising to us that we were able to feel the strong waves as we did, We had been on smaller ships with rougher seas and not felt it so bad; It was very hard to walk about without holding on to the railings. For the first Two days the boat rocked and swayed uncontrollably and it was causing guest to get sick, we decide to stay in our cabin as much as possible to avoid getting sick ourselves. I would never think of blaming a cruise line or a ship for bad weather, it happens, we understand that and we rolled with it, however the following days the seas were calmer and the weather was clear and mild but to our dismay the ship continued to sway from side to side. When we inquired to the crew as to why the ship was swaying so hard, we were told that it was normal for a ship this size to sway a little. I am not an engineer by any means, but it was clear even to me why this ship swayed this way, it is by all accounts the tallest ship in the sea however it has a relatively narrow base for its height thus causing a pendulum effect when confronted with moderate wind speeds. We also discovered that the thrust engines on the sides of the vessel vibrate violently, we compared it to being on a plane undergoing turbulence. The worst part is that when the ship is docking it is these engines that do the bulk of the work and the vibration was so hard that our cabin rattled and shook feverishly. The noise was deafening as the flimsy shower and bathroom doors hit their respective frames; the first morning it was so startling and scary that we thought there was something wrong happening. We jumped out of bed half asleep and went out to our balcony to see what the whole ruckus was about. It was soon evident what it was and we were relieved when we realized that the ship was attempting to dock. The feeling of relief quickly turned to anger as we now realized that our $1750.00 per person stateroom was louder than a construction site downtown in the middle of rush hour. The docking process took 30 to 40 minutes and thus the shaking continued for that long. I have a recording of this, I knew it would be hard to believe by our friends and family and so I have had to play it numerous times. Since the ship docks very early in the morning we had to endure this on every port of call and consequently had our very own wakeup call complete with special effects.
On the second day of our vacation we had reservations for the Cirque dreams show, which was cancelled due to the weather. We were disappointed but understood why it had to be cancelled, what I do not understand is why when I tried calling the ticket desk to see if I could re-schedule no one answered. I stayed on the line for over 45 minutes being very patient and no one picked up. I decided to go to the box office personally to inquire only to be told that there were no more available shows. Like I said I do understand that unforeseen circumstances arise and it was prudent to cancel the show for safety reasons, however I cannot understand why it could not have been re-scheduled for another day. Certainly all of the evenings were already booked but how about adding a matinée performance or two, again we were met with disappointment it was becoming a pattern. Since we are now speaking of entertainment lets continue, our experiences before had always been that there was always a show or production available every evening, what we discovered was that there were about 4 shows available for free and they had to be reserved way ahead of time, but no longer were shows available if you wanted to see them again or if you missed the reservation. Was it not the concept of freestyle cruising to do whatever whenever you wanted? Now everything has to be reserved and scheduled and if for whatever reason you can't make the reservation then you are out of luck. There are 4 free shows, the Blue Man Group which we saw on the first night, it was very loud and we were not particularly impressed with the show; basically it is Three guys painted in blue paint spitting paint at each other and the audience. The big highlight of the show was when from the back of the theater Toilet paper begins to roll down and the audience must push this paper to the front of the theater until at the end the entire theater is covered in toilet paper. This was to say the least not a very sophisticated production that I would have imagined was worthy of what was called a luxury liner. The only Theater on board was the Epic Theater which was all the way on the front of the ship, it was very small compared to the size of the rest of the ship and it probably only held 600 to 700 people, it was shabby and not very visually appealing, again not what I had imagined a brand new ship would offer. Other shows included a Legends in concert which were Three artist impersonating Rod Stewart, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. The Michael Jackson impersonator was pretty good but the others especially Britney Spears were amateurish and not very good. There was also the Second City Comedy group that did improve comedy sketches; it was just OK, nothing special. There was also a Comic Magician, this show did not need reservations so anyone could come provided you got there early enough to get a seat. With such a small theater we realized that we probably needed to be there early to get a seat , however there was a performance by the Blue Man Group right before this scheduled performance and although the daily cruise newsletter instructed you to go to deck 6 the actual entrance to this show was on deck 5. Of course no one knew this including the crew members standing outside the door not letting anyone in. When the previous performance let out there was a large crowd waiting to get in and as you can imagine there was a big commotion. By the time we got in the theater it was completely full, apparently some people knew to go to the 5th floor and wait to enter the theater when the previous performance ended. We were not able to attend this show so we had to wait for the next day he was only performing Twice on a seven day cruise so if you miss them, too bad. The next day we aited in the 5th floor but again no one really knew where to go, finally I went to the Guest services and someone came over to guide everyone through a hidden corridor that led to the back of the theater where the performers enter and exit. We waited there for 45 minutes for the other show to end, it was very hot and very uncomfortable. By the time we entered the theater everyone around us including us were very aggravated, I really can't tell you if the show was any good because I was in such a bad mood that it would not have mattered how good the show was the whole experience had left a bad taste in my mouth, my conclusion was that this theater was not designed for the guests comfort. Aside from that there was the Circus dinner show which we did not see but that will cost you an additional $25 per person and the Murder Mystery Lunch which is performed by the Second City Comedy Group, it is just another improve performance that will also cost you $20 per person. There were a few performers playing the piano or the guitar from time to time at different bars or restaurants but again none that I would consider great performers.
The other thing that became painfully obvious was that if you wanted to take advantages of the amenities they will cost you extra. If you wanted to bowl, there was a fee, if you wanted the circus show there was a fee, if you wanted to go to the Ice bar there was a fee. This was such a big hype during previous cruises; this would be the only Ice bar at sea and pictures of a very cool and sophisticated place had been shown and frankly it was something we were dying to see. Well it cost us $20 each to don a furry poncho and walk into a walk-in freezer with a bar on the side. It was not lined with large Ice blocks and ice sculptures as we were led to believe. It was lined with acrylic blocks and acrylic statues made to look like Ice but far from it. This was just another way to get you to spend money and a photographer was there the entire time taking pictures by the statues of everyone in the bar. In other words we paid to get our picture taken and then we would have to pay more if we wanted the picture. Even the specialty restaurants which we were used to paying a little extra for better quality food had an extra fee if you wanted the lobster or the filet mignon. One night we were charged for a hot chocolate, I never felt so nickelled and dimed in my life. Worse yet I never felt so robbed in my life!
One of our favorite things of course is the food, who doesn't gain a few pounds after sampling so many delectable options as you have on a cruise? Normally I would rave, but the truth is that although the food was fine when we went to the specialty restaurants we would often encounter the same appetizer or dessert choices as the regular restaurants. On one occasion I specifically asked for a fried Calamari appetizer at La Cuccina, it was the exact same one I had had the night before at Taste; in fact it was the same chewy and rubbery consistency as the one I had sent back the night before. How can they consciously charge extra for something that is included free to begin with? There were plenty of restaurant choices however most of them were specialty and needed to be reserved well in advance and like I mention earlier the truly specialty dishes will cost more on top of the cover charge. And also at Cagney's Steak House we were told we could only have two sides, pardon me but hasn't it always been that you could eat whatever you wanted even at the specialty restaurants. The Free restaurants were OK, Taste, Manhattan Club, The Garden Café on the pool deck level and an Irish pub style restaurant on level 6. This one was always very crowded and reeked of smoke.
Like I mentioned earlier, most public areas were directly off the Casino on levels 6 and 7, there were several bars but they never felt separate it felt like just one large contiguous space so it was very difficult to feel like you were is a different environment. If music was playing in one of the bars it could be heard from the others and if it was a live performer it was obviously louder but you still heard the ambient music from another location. The main Atrium had a very large Projector screen TV where sports or movies would play from time to time, except they could not be heard over the massive loudness of the people traffic, music from all the bars or the overhead speakers. We tried to watch a movie once because we were so bored but could not hear a single syllable. The entertainment in the room was not better, there were only 5 available channels, 3 were news channels, 1 was the e! network and 1 is a continuous loop of all TV shows. Not to mention that the satellite feed was down most of the time so it was hit or miss.
The Pool area was something else; aside from the water slides which I am sure a big hit with the Children there are only three main pools and 6 hot tubs not including the private Villas which are private. Remember there are over 6000 guests, these pools look and feel miniscule. One of the pools is located on the back of the ship along with 2 hot tubs and a Gigantic TV Screen. This are is called the H20 Spice club and it is advertised as an adult's only section. Since my wife and I are childless we assumed this would be a good place to hang out and take some sun or read; however as we found out adults only is merely a suggestion. When we tried to lay on a deck chair we saw and heard a large number of kids running around. When I asked the bartender, who quickly came to see if I wanted a drink, why there were so many children in this are he gave me a vague response and walked off. The wait staff for the most part was polite and friendly unless for the bar staff and waiters. We had purchased the unlimited soda package as we have done on all of our other trips because we are not big alcohol drinkers; but every time we asked for a soda and shown our card we were met with a frown and at times hostile attitude. Of course they would not be getting the extra tip they would normally get from a premium drink so they were not shy about showing their disappointment. We would end up waiting 20 or 30 minutes for our drinks because they would make it a point not to go to the bar and get our order until they had another order for a premium drink. The service at from the Cabin Stuarts was not much better, our room was not made up until very late in the morning, one day it was 2:00pm and it was still not made up. Turn down hardly ever happened; it was done twice in our entire stay.
Since we had already been to these ports we did not book any excursions thinking that there would be enough activities during the day to keep us busy; that was not the case. During the days at port the ship was basically a ghost town, there was nothing at all to do. The first Two ports we stayed onboard but by the third port at Roatan we were stir crazy and needed to get off even if to just be on firm ground. When we returned later in the day we sat in the atrium on the 5th floor to rest and suddenly the lights went out, we were suddenly sitting in pitch black conditions. We stayed put where we were and the lights came back up within a few minutes but by then there were a great deal of confusion going on as to what happened. There was no explanation offered by any of the crew members nearby or the overhead speaker, it was as this had not happened or it was such a common occurrence that they were not fazed by it; they continued with what they were doing prior to the power outage. After about fifteen minutes the captain came on the overhead speaker to let us know that the elevators were non-operational and they were working on it. The elevators were down for about one hour and a half, it was very difficult to get around. After the elevators were restored there was still not an explanation for what happened, this made the rest of the trip a little uneasy as the question certainly remained as to what would happen if this occurred while at sea?
Given the way the week had gone we were cautiously optimistic about new year's eve, it was one of the main reasons we had booked this trip to be at sea at a great party for New Year's, we were told there would be several parties going on during the night. On New Year's Eve we found out there were Two, one on the Pool at H20 Spice and the other at the atrium. The festivities began at 10:00pm and at that time we went upstairs only to discover that a rock band was setting up to play, we remained optimistic that the music would be enjoyable. The longer we were there the more young adolescent and teenage kids we say gathering and by the time the band began to play it was obvious that this party was not geared to adults so we decided to go to the party being held at the atrium. When we arrived it was actually the other way around the band was playing a very nice selection of old classic standards and the crowd was considerably older. It seemed that the cruise director decided to cater to only two age groups and since we did not fit either we decided to spend the new year in our cabin. I never felt worse than that very moment, I felt robbed not just monetarily but I felt I was robbed emotionally. Instead of enjoying a great vacation I was dreading it, instead of relaxing I was aggravated and that was when I decided I had to write a review and let everyone know what a poor designed ship this is. I only wish someone would have warned me. This is not a ship designed to make guests feel comfortable and happy and relaxed, it was designed to bilk as much money as possible from their captive audience, it was designed as a pretty art project with it's over decorated restaurants and lounges but not for how people would feel or get about or enjoy it. If I was running this company I would seriously consider whether this ship held true to the fundamental concept of free style cruising and therefore belong on this fleet. If it was up to me, I would sell this ship to a budget cruise line, it would suit that style; it belongs with that trashy, tacky and ghetto clientele I would have never thought it belonged to NCL. I don't think I will be cruising NCL again, certainly no time soon but definitely never on this ship again.
We had booked the Epic's maiden voyage across the Atlantic for last June, but the old adage "God willing" popped up and we had to cancel for health reasons. So to finally sail aboard this magnificent ship was a distinct pleasure. As soon as we saw that Captain Hakan Svedung was at the helm (our third cruise with him) we were content. Also on board was our old friend Hotel Director Denis Prguda, who made our cruise a wonderful one. This trip we made a new friend Staff Captain Martin Tobias Akesson whose courtesy was outstanding. He saw a need and he filled it (more on this later).
EMBARKATION Saturday Oct. 10, 2010, I-95 was not congested --- Boca Raton to Miami was a 55 minute ride. Baggage drop off was easy, and we were in line for check-in only10 minutes at 1:00pm. After 15 minutes, we had assistance to Deck 12, but the rooms were not ready until 2:00pm; however, our Steward Richard took our walker and placed it in our room for us.
THE SHIP The Epic is a truly magnificent ship of epic proportions and deserves a back toback booking in order to fully enjoy it all. She was started in 2007 at STX Europe Shipyard in St. Nazaire, France, and sea trials began in Feb. 2010 and were completed in June just before delivery. This ship has 19 passenger decks, many with balconied cabins. Her gross tonnage is 153,000; overall length is 1,080 ft. and beam is 133 ft. Draft is only 28.5 ft. She is powered by Diesel Electric engines and cruises at 22 knots. Her guest capacity is 4,100 double occupancy; her crew numbers 1,730 --- a very nice crew to passenger ratio. The Epic has a series of Studios, inside cabins for one passenger, on Decks 11 and Deck 12, a very innovative idea which allows solo passengers to book at convenient prices. At boarding, we were given a compact pocket guide to the Epic which came in very handy. The major drawback to getting around was the exceptionally high thresholds. They created a problem for the wheelchair and the scooter. The crew was already at work correcting the situation.
Decks 1 through 4 are for crew only.
Deck 5 forward has the Epic Theater with wheelchair access and reserved seating. There is an excellent view of the stage from every seat --- not a pole in the house. Midship is the Photo Gallery and Internet Cafe` starboard. Port side is Le Bistro French cuisine, excellent ($20 fee). Also here are the Guest Service, Shore Excursion and Cruise Consultant Desks. At aft is Taste Restaurant with fine dining, where even shorts are allowed at dinner.
Deck 6 forward is the balcony of the Epic theater. Midship is the Headliners Comedy Show Bar and Spiegel Tent featuring "Cirque Dreams" ($20/30 fee) a dinner show that is very popular --- book it as soon as possible, even before you get on board, or you'll miss it! All the servers and the Maitre D' have entertainment skills and contribute to the fun.
Mid ship is also O'Sheehan's Pub with great food and informal dining (Fish and Chips, Shepherd's pie, pretzel rolls, etc...). This is the largest Pub afloat and there is a great view of the super size screen visible from Decks 5, 6 and 7. Football fans covet the specific barstools where they can watch the games, drink beer and eat the terrific pub food, simultaneously. The atmosphere was FANtastic.
Midship is also the huge Casino. Toward aft is Shanghai's Chinese Restaurant and Noodle Bar with lots of stools. Next, is the "Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club", one of the many entertainment venues, smooth. All the way aft is the main dining room Manhattan with a small live combo with a great singer and dancing every night.
Deck 7 forward is Bliss Lounge with plush seating and the Bowling Alleys. The Library is also located here with very limited hours and books. This ship is very new and we are sure that some of the odd placement of areas will be corrected swiftly. Getting around in a wheelchair sometimes means going to one floor and then going down by elevator and then going back again; i.e. La cucina is accessible by going to Deck 15 and taking an elevator back to Deck 14. Awkward, but we made it. Then, there is also an escalator midship between Decks 5 & 6, which, for wheelchairs means going the length of the ship and back again to get to Passenger Services. There are only forward and rear elevators, but no central ones. All of these logistics take a bit of time to get use to, not to mention patience.
Midship are the Trade Winds Shops on board. Also located here are "Teppanyaki" and the Sushi Bar "Wasabi." Next are two more bars "Shakers," a martini bar, and "Maltings," a whiskey bar. There are over twenty bars on board so "bar hopping" can be very possible. There is a Barber Shop and the Humidor for fine cigars. Aft are two more alternative restaurants: Cagney's Steakhouse ($25 fee) and Moderno, a South American Churrascaria ($18 fee). Both are excellent dining options among more than 20 venues.
Deck 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, & 13 are mostly staterooms and studios.
Deck 14 has La Cucina Italian Restaurant ($10 fee); midship is "Recess" for kids and toward aft is "Pulse," the fitness center, and all the way aft is "Mandara," the spa and salon.
Deck 15 forward has the Garden Cafe` with buffet dining, then the kids "Aqua Park" with the "Epic Plunge" water slide --- HUGE. Aft are the "Video Arcade" and "Spice H2O" with a small pool, bar and two whirlpools.
Deck 16 forward has the Suites, "Epic Club and Courtyard Grill" for fine dining, the "Courtyards Pool and Spa." Midship there is the "Climbing Wall." Toward aft is "Entourage," the teen club, and all the way aft are the Spice H2O "Pool Grill" and "Pool Bar."
Deck 17 forward are more suites and aft is the sports complex.
Deck 18 has the Courtyard Sundeck, "Posh Beach Club," and the "Public Sundeck."
Deck 19 has the upper levels of the Posh and Freestyle Sundecks.
This is a huge beautiful ship with a sparkling central atrium chandelier three decks high in the configuration of six rings of various sizes of lighted crystals. Very unique and lovely.
FOOD & SERVICE The food is much improved over our last Norwegian cruise, and there are so many more venues to choose from in Freestyle. First night on we went to "Taste" on Deck 5: Vincent didn't even have to change out of his shorts in order to have a sit down meal! Although the menu is sparse, there are enough selections and variety to have a good meal.
We ate at Le Bistro and thoroughly enjoyed the escargot, the pate` fois gras terrine with apples and the frisee salad with duck breast confit. Mary had a delicious coq au vin and Vincent a perfectly broiled filet mignon. French roast coffee, made at the table in a French press percolator, was excellent with the profiteroles. The Bistro is decorated with millions of dollars of 20th century artwork by famous artists.
Our first day on board we discovered that getting around the Epic was difficult. Mary's foot rest on the wheelchair was jammed and bent at the exit to the Garden Cafe`. Maitre D' Boris Kojic was very concerned and he and his staff were extremely helpful as were all the crew members we encountered. We met Staff Captain Akesson and he sent ship's mechanic Herme Tenestrante to our cabin; he took the wheel chair overnight, fixed the foot pedal and returned it the next morning at 9:00am. He and his assistant Bernardo Bautista were a Godsend. Many thanks to Staff Captain Akesson, who made our cruise most enjoyable.
We also met Captain Hakan Svedung and know why service is so great: it is common knowledge that excellent service filters down from the top. He and H.D. Denis Prguda met with us and assured us the the door jambs are a high priority with NCL, since they are already being replaced as fast as possible. Denis' assistant Rashida Faustino took us on a private tour of the "Ice Bar". It was fantastic, like being in an igloo (-17 degrees Fahrenheit)! We met Chief Engineer Tore Johansson who showed us the compressed ice blocks, made in the U.S.A. The pressurized ice is so crystal clear that the designs inside are perfectly visible. There are two larger than life sculptures: a polar bear and a Viking warrior with a horned helmet. We now know why people don't freeze stuck to the seats; they are covered with woolly sheepskin pelts! Very Cool! There is a $20 fee for about a twenty minute stay and two Vodka shots are included.
We dined in "La Cucina" and the Italian food was much improved, but alas the pizza dough tasted like cardboard. The pastas were excellent and so was the osso buco. Dessert was a creamy ricotta cheese pie and panna cotta. We recommend it, the décor is lovely, and the view at the prow of the ship is wonderful.
We found the food much improved, and the service to be excellent.
CABIN Cabin #12267 has a unique design. When entering, on the left is a single sink with wheel chair access, a quadruple armoire with two wardrobes with hangers (one which can be lowered easily with a pull pole) and two with shelves and a personal safe. Next there is a refrigerator, a TV and a long shelf with four large drawers.
When entering on the right, there is a circular bathroom with a 4'x4' shower with a fold away seat and the commode to which our excellent steward Richard Espino added a riser. There were several hooks for clothes appropriately placed, both high and low.
After, there is a desk/vanity with lighted mirror and six drawers. Next, there is a high king sized, very firm bed, with a beige leather roll and tuck head board, flanked by reading lamps and a phone in easy reach. The carpeting simulates sand dunes; the woodwork is dark mahogany. The draperies and coverlet are teal blue. The walls have a series of three plexiglas rectangles with sketched elm leaves, very interesting.
Our steward Richard was terrific, he added a table to the oversized balcony (about 150 sq. ft.), so we could have breakfast and lunch outside, overlooking the ocean. We ordered breakfast from room service where Christopher always handled our order promptly. Our steward's assistant was the excellent Sheran Stewart-Bent. Everyone treated us wonderfully.
ENTERTAINMENT We were truly amazed at the many venues and entertainment possibilities; sports, exercise programs, swimming, trivia (with the bright Aisha from Boston), Casino games and contests and finally the terrific Vegas style shows. We saw the "Blue Men" and laughed ourselves silly. "Legends in Concert" was amazing; the Michael Jackson impersonator was so spot on that the girls next to us were screaming "Michael Lives!" He wowed the crowd with his dancing and costumes. Rod Stewart's "Legs" was a well choreographed production which brought the audience to its feet. The Second City Improvisation Group was on board, and we heard good things about them. All in all we say 4 Stars for entertainment. The children's Nickelodeon at sea program is well organized and popular.
DEBARKATION Considering that over 4,000 passengers were disembarking, it was a very orderly and speedy process. We had assistance with the wheelchair off the ship, to baggage pickup and through passport and customs and were outside on the curb awaiting our son Marcello in less than twenty minutes. Excellent!
CONCLUSION This was our seventh cruise on a NCL ship, but our 87th cruise overall. There have been a lot of changes in cruising since Vincent's first transatlantic sailing in 1956 on the Greek Line's Olympia, a 22,000 gross tons liner carrying 1300 passengers. And changes have occurred not only in the size of the ships, but mainly in the activities and entertainments available to the passengers. The Epic, at 153,000 tons, is about seven times bigger than the Olympia and she offers so many types of activities, dining and entertainment that makes the comparison to the old ship mind-boggling. On the Olympia and other ships of that time, we can recall how the days were spent: Morning walk on the promenade; breakfast, lunch and dinner in the same dining room; during the day, skeet shooting in the rear of the ship, shuffle board and ping-pong on the promenade; sunning, reading a book, or relaxing on a chase lounge on the sun deck; and ending the day listening and dancing to the music and songs by a combo group. By now-a-day standards that might seem boring, but in those days we were happy to enjoy the worry-free life of relaxation and the pleasure of being pampered, as we say in Italian the joy of "dolce far niente" (sweet do nothing)! We can still do this on the Epic and much more: Freestyle Cruising gives the cruisers many choices of activities, entertainments, shore excursions and dining. There is so much to do on this ship that a one week cruise is not enough to do all of the available alternatives, especially in dining (15 or more dining options). Perhaps, a two-week back-to-back cruise will be sufficient to experience all of what this ship offers.
We have already booked a future cruise while aboard the Epic (yet to be selected). Our next cruises will be on the Crown Princess, Nov. 6-13, Western Caribbean, Allure of the Seas, Nov. 23-26, cruise-to-nowhere and Jan. 23-30, Eastern Caribbean. Happy Cruising!
The NCL Epic. The ship itself is quite nice. The shows were very good. Blue man Group and Cirque Dreams are terrific. The Ice Bar is "cool"
However- The staff and service leaves much to be desired. This was my first and last NCL cruise. i have been on 6 cruises prior to this one. Even Carnival puts the service on the Epic to shame. let's start at the top. The cruise director-silas-is a joke-I never saw him except on the ship's tv channel cavorting with other crew members on the Adults Only Spice h20 deck.
The cabin steward was a ghost. Did not even see him for the first three days. Our room keys never worker properly-oh by the way you have to put a key in a slotby the door or nothing works. it would have been nice if some one told us about that. there was no sign.
The freestyle concept works well in theory, however since tips are automatically billed to your room the service personal have ABSOLUTELY NO INCENTIVE to provide anything that even remotely come close to decent service.
If NCL expct customers to pay top dollarand get this level of service, they will be out of business vvery quickly.