Just a review of my week on Epic. I will post my pics later.
Stayed at the Courtyard Marriott near the Miami airport the night before our cruise. Nothing special: reasonable price and free shuttle from the airport. They had a shuttle to POM for $11 per person. We had 7 in our group so we ordered a taxi van instead and saved some money (it only cost $35 total).
Got to the POM at about noon. Lines were not too bad, and things moved along nicely.
You board in an area that is part of the casino. We were greeted by some staff and then decided to head to the buffet for lunch. The buffet was very crowded. In hindsight I think I would have chosen a restaurant for lunch to avoid the buffet crowd.
Rooms were ready by 1pm. Baggage arrived to the room by 3pm.
Our station was in the casino. Many stations were in the casino. Typical drill. No need to bring life jackets. I don't agree with having most of the passengers muster in inside areas on a different floor than the life boats. It was quite a bottle neck trying to leave the area. The stairs became jammed, and it took a long time to leave the casino. I see a problem with this in an emergency. I also see a problem with people not actually knowing how to get to their life boat on their own.
I booked side by side balcony rooms for my family of 5. Rooms 12180 and 12182. They are mid ship port side. The ship has elevators forward and aft. It was a bit of a walk to our rooms, and somewhat of an inconvenience. The rooms themselves were great. I had no issue with the layout. The toilet and shower area was fine. Also, the sink was not an issue. I read many complaints about the layout, but I thought it was great. The decor and lighting in the room was modern and tasteful. The bed was very comfortable but the rounded end makes it a little short. I am 6'1" and I wish the bed was a few inches longer. Btw, any card will work in the slot to keep the lights on. If you don't want to use your room key just use an expired gift card or whatever.
The balconies were nice. They were a decent size. They had the typical 2 chairs and small table. The chairs did not recline like some of the others I have had so I did not do any laying out on the balcony. The divider between the balconies is narrow. It opens the same way as others I have had. I was able to open it myself with a large car key. It is held open with a clip at the top. As I have done with other cruises, I would open the divider when we were using the balcony and lock it when the balcony was not being used. The only problem with it was that we had to book one adult in each room, even though my plans were to share a room with my wife and let our 3 boys share the other room. Because of this, my room key opened the boys' room only, and the room stewards would lock the sliding doors, making it impossible for me to access my room unless I was with my wife. Some days, we would unlock everything right after they cleaned, but on other days we were busy, so the sliders remained locked. That was sort of a pain. I'm sure there is a way around this, but we never asked. On other cruises, we had actual adjoining rooms, but not having a door between rooms did allow for more storage than we are used to.
Speaking of the room stewards, they were among the best we have ever had. Don't expect too much in the way of towel animals, though: nothing fancy here!
One small thing I really liked about the room was the phone. It had a touch screen, making it very easy to get ahold of any service, including an automatic wake up call, lost and found, restaurant reservations, room service, medical center, etc. It was lit up, which made for a nice nightlight, but it could be easily turned off by touching the light bulb icon.
The food in Taste and the Manhattan Room was very good. I have read mixed reviews, but I enjoyed my meals there. To be perfectly honest, it is almost not worth paying upcharges for the fancier restaurants. That's how much we enjoyed those dining rooms. You do have to dress for the Manhattan Room, though--no shorts, T-shirts, or men's open-toed shoes.
O'Sheehan's was very good as well. It was nice having a pub-style option that was included in your cruise. I loved the mozzarella sticks. The burgers were good. They are same everywhere on the ship. Several in my group loved the pot pie. I was not a fan of the wings though, not crispy and no kick. Being from Western NY I guess I am spoiled. O'Sheehan's was a great place for a late night snack. Many of the ships entertainers gather here after the late shows. The only problem was, it's one of the few places open 24 hours, and the late night hours were a tad understaffed, making the service slower than at other times of day.
Cagney's was great. My filet was perfect. I had the garlic mashed potatoes on the side, and they were some of the best I have had.
The buffet was excellent. It had a very good selection. There were different options each day, and to be honest, it was another aspect of the dining that almost made the upcharge restaurants pointless. There were nights that they had excellent steaks, carved roast beef or lamb, roasted duck or chicken. They also had an Asian section that changed every day, superb desserts, ice cream flavors that changed often, salad bar, deli, pizza, fast food, etc. Endless options made it impossible to take full advantage of the buffet!! I ate here most mornings. I would grab my food and walk down to the beautiful La Cucina. Awesome view and never crowded. Very nice place to enjoy breakfast when entering port. Some of my favorites from the buffet were the pretzel rolls and the crepes.
I found that other than the specialty restaurants the food is the same no matter where you order it. For example, my youngest would order a burger whether we were at Taste, O'Sheehan's or the Manhattan Room, and they were the same burgers as the buffet. The same goes for breakfast. No matter where you are, if you order french toast it will be the same as what they serve in the buffet. Speaking of the French toast, it had raisins, which were not to the liking of everyone in our party. I found it to be excellent, though.
An additional note: for a very small fee, the noodle bar and the sushi WAS worth the extra money!
The ship is a little different than what I am used to and my first impression was that I may not like it. There was not much fan fare when we entered. No large festive atrium, no large group of staff to greet us and offer directions. Also, the casino area dominates the inside common area of the ship. Unfortunately, you are forced to drag your family through the smoky, narrow, crowded casino if you want to get anywhere on the 6th floor. That was a drawback, for sure. Not to mention that the casino was a bit of a rip-off. The dealer at the card tables took 10% off the top of the pot (an unheard-of proportion), and the 2-cent slots my wife tried turned out to be 60-cent slots because you had to bet a minimum of 30 credits. Ridiculous! They also made it very difficult to actually spend your money in the casino. You cannot use your room key to add money to your account unless you take out a minimum of $100 and there is a 3% fee for it. Therefore, you have to have cash or use the ATM to gamble. Not very convenient. However, there was so much to do on the ship in the way of entertainment that I didn't even miss it.
After starting to learn my way around and finding all of the amenities on this huge ship, I knew that this was going to be a very fun cruise. There is so much to do on board and the staff was great. I loved the water slides and open decks. Lounge chairs everywhere. The inside areas were nicely decorated and the ship did not feel crowded.
We took advantage of as much as we could. Unfortunately, the Cirque show booked almost immediately after boarding, and after a couple of days, the Murder Mystery lunch was also booked. Our fault for thinking we had more time.
However, we rode water slides, took our youngest to Nickelodeon's Slime Time LIVE!, went to the comedy magic show with Jeff Hobson, bowled, took dance classes, went to a martini tasting at Shaker's (a BARGAIN at $15 for 5 excellent martinis), played basketball on the sports court, climbed the rock wall, repelled down the repelling wall, the boys climbed the giant spider web, and attended the White Hot Party. The only thing that cost extra was the bowling and the martini tasting!
Slam Allen is the best live music I have ever seen on a cruise ship!!! I went to see him almost every night. I also saw Blue Man Group, Legends, and Second City. The entertainment on this ship is simply awesome. Thank you NCL Epic for a great week.
Went to Maho beach in St.Maarten. I rode the fence behind the 747 as it took off. It was intense and I have the bruises to show for it. Once in a lifetime experience. It was like being in a 200 degree tornado. I am glad I did it but once is enough for me.
Golfed at Mahogany Run in St. Thomas. Beautiful course, took a lot of great photos.
Did a self guided walking tour in Nassau. Saw all the historic sights and got some great photos.
My wife and her brother took our boys zip-lining in St. Maarten at a place called Loterie Farms. They loved it! None of these excursions were through the cruise line, but on Friday, our older 2 went on the Athol snorkeling excursion with their uncle in Nassau, and they didn't like that too much. It had stormed all morning, so in the afternoon, the waters were still rough, making snorkeling a bit difficult. They did enjoy the boat ride back when they got to see the vacation homes of many rich and famous people.
The Epic is a great ship. I grew more fond of her as the week went on. I always enjoy my cruises, but by the end of the week I am usually looking forward to going home. On Epic, I was so comfortable and have such a great time I could have stayed for another week. The staff was great, and the huge selection of things to do make for a truly enjoyable experience.