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kbnovak

Review: Epic Western Caribbean March 15 (Long with pics and vids)

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Hi, we are Kevin and Laura, youngish retirees from Panama City Beach, FL, by way of the Baltimore area. I served over 31 years in a large law enforcement agency, retiring as commander of the SWAT Team, and Laura worked for an accounting firm for over 30 years, retiring as office manager.

 

This was our 7th cruise, and first on NCL. (3X Royal Caribbean, 2X Carnival, and 1X Disney).

 

Laura and I both agreed that this was our favorite cruise of all. I think the Freestyle Cruising had a lot to do with it. We just felt much more relaxed on this one. We both found all the food to be fresh and prepared well. I don't get where some folks rip NCL's food.

 

We drove to Ft. Lauderdale the day before (less expensive hotel room) and stayed at the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale Cypress Creek. Made a big mistake driving into Lauderdale by the Sea: spring break was in full swing and traffic was very heavy. Ended up finding Umbertos, a local Italian restaurant and had a very tasty brick oven pizza for dinner.

 

We arrived at the port at around 10:15, parked, checked in and were in boarding group 4, waiting to board by 10:50. Boarding started right around noon and we were in O'Sheehans having lunch by around 12:30.

 

Sail away was a little late due to "government issues," but when we got underway, the cruise down the canal was as beautiful as always.

 

 

 

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We booked balcony stateroom 11188, port side. It was definitely on the small side, but like others have said, it offers plenty of storage. It took a bit of getting used to, but we eventually got the hang of moving around. I certainly wouldn't design a cruise stateroom like that,but c'mon people, you're on a cruise! We’ve been on the RCCL Oasis of the Seas, which had a shower so small, I almost had to get out, turn around and go back in to rinse off the rest of me. The Epic had a shower roomy enough to move around.

 

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Many have said that the Epic is showing age and is in need of updating, etc. frankly, we didn't really see that. Everything is a matter of personal taste, and we are quite easy to please. It's ll what you make of it.

 

After taking a little while to explore the ship, we grabbed a quick dinner at the Garden Cafe, then headed off to see the 7:00 showing of The Blue Man Group. Although we'd been to Vegas many times, we never took the chance to see them out there. Glad we caught them before they left the Epic. The show is really interesting and engaging.

 

After the show, we fed some slot machines for a bit, then turned in.

 

Mon, March 16, At Sea

 

After visiting the omelet station at the Garden Cafe, we headed off to the fitness center to try to work off some cruise calories. Wait, but I thought calories didn't count if you were in international waters.

 

OK. Calorie burn in the bank, now off to Spice H2O to enjoy some sun and adult beverages. We were finally able to meet up with our neighborhood friends there and shot the bull for a while. The small buffet lunch back there was quite tasty.

 

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Explored the ship a bit more and just sat on our balcony for a bit, enjoying the smooth sailing and a bit of shade.

 

On a whim, we decided to check out Nadeen, the hypnotist. We were not impressed. I don't know if it was the group, or what, but it just didn't appeal much to us.

 

We met up with our neighbors for dinner at The Manhattan Room. There was no wait for a table at 6:30, and the meal, service and entertainment were great. After dinner we strolled around a bit and fed the slots again, then headed off to see Second City in the Headliners Comedy Club at 9:15. This show is billed as "PG-13," and is totally improvisational. All of the sketches used suggestions from the audience and it was hilarious. We're now trying to get reservations for the late-night "adult" version of the show, but so far, no luck.

 

Tues, March 17, At Sea (St. Patrick’s Day)

 

Hit up the Garden Cafe again for breakfast, then off to the gym, you know, to try to stay ahead of the calorie demons. After a little cardio action, it was back to Spice H2O for some quiet, some sun, and some libations. Darn those calorie demons!

 

The kids looked like they were having a blast on the water slide, so we decided to give it a go. We did the "Drain" slide. I now know what it feels like to be flushed, though not as forcefully as by a ship's toilet.

 

Lunch found us back at O'Sheehans where we played along with the progressive trivia game taking place below us. Wow, some of those questions were really tough, and I usually pride myself on my knowledge of the rare, arcane, and useless. After that, it was back to the balcony to chill, read, and update this review. Then, a two-hour nap became the order of the afternoon.

 

Taste was the restaurant of choice for dinner for us tonight and it was quite, er, tasty. Following dinner we strolled a bit and fed the slots (picking up on a theme here?).

 

Legends in Concert was playing in the Epic Theater tonight, featuring impersonators of Jimmy Buffet, Adele, and Aretha Franklin. They all put on a great show, with Adele being the highlight. After the show, we headed back to the cabin where we encountered a minor hiccup with our steward. He removed our pool towels, but did not leave fresh ones. OK, no big deal, right, but it shouldn't take trying to call housekeeping for more than 15 minutes to rectify it. We finally got someone to pick up and the towels were delivered shortly thereafter.

 

Before turning in, we put out our room service breakfast order, requesting a 6:30 delivery time, because we had an 8:00 meeting for our excursion.

 

Ahhhh, time now for a nice slumber, but that two-hour afternoon nap came back to haunt us as we layed awake until well after 1:00 am--and we're no night owls. So, we had a bit of a short nights sleep.

 

Weds, March 18 Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

 

Room service arrived at exactly 6:30. We enjoyed that as we watched our approach to the pier.

This was our first visit ever to this island and we booked the mystic Mountain Bobsled and Zipline tour through NCL. It was a total blast! After a 5-minute bus ride to the mountain, we were given a quick briefing on what we would be doing. We then got on a 4-person chair lift for a 15-minute ride to the top of the mountain.

 

There we we put into our harnesses and fitted with helmets and followed our guides to the first tower. I was really pleased that they let me keep my GoPro camera with me, on a tethered handle. The zip lining consisted of five rides from tower to tower, and there was also a 30-foot vertical rappel involved. We really wished we could have continued doing that all day.

 

The final traverse took us to a platform in the middle of the chairlift, where we boarded the lift for a ride back down the mountain, around the pulleys and back up to the top. Once at the top we got in line for the bobsled portion. I thought I was at Disney waiting for an attraction, but without a FastPass. Actually, the wait was only about 20 minutes and we were belted into the sled for a high-speed run, twisting and turning down the mountain. The bobsleds then ride on a track, much like a roller coaster lift hill to take you back up to the starting point at the top of the mountain.

 

 

There is a pool up there for you to enjoy, and they also have souvenirs, drinks and food available for purchase. Instead, we decided to take the lift back down the mountain and catch the bus back to the pier. We then walked to Margaritaville to grab lunch, but mostly for the free wifi. After catching up with some folks online and clearing the email box we strolled back to the ship and hung out at Spice for a bit before a very noisy group in the hot tub drove us away. Sorry, but they were just completely obnoxious and were hashing our Jamaican chill.

 

Anyway, it was about time to head to the balcony where we watched a Celebrity ship set sail, and we followed shortly behind. It was a nice evening, sitting on the balcony and watching the Jamaican coastline go by.

 

As we cruised westward along the coast, a handful of young, playful dolphins started jumping out of the sea in the boat's wake. Looked like they were having a blast.

 

Dinner was at The Manhattan Room again tonight and again, it was delicious. After our appetites had been satisfied, we helped fill up this hungry slot machines for a bit. I thought a little snack was in order, so I went to Carlos and got a peanut butter cupcake. It was just so-so, kind of dense for a cupcake, but it helped fill a peanut butter craving.

 

We decided to turn in early tonight because we cheated ourselves out of a good nights sleep the night before.

 

Thurs, March 19 Georgetown, Grand Cayman

 

The ship arrived in the harbor by the South Pier at around 7:00 and dropped anchor. That's what shuddered me awake. We just grabbed a buffet breakfast and hung out on the balcony until our tender time of 9:45. The ship uses its life boats as tenders and I found the process quite orderly. We had to wait a bit near the pier for other tenders to clear a spot for us. Grand Cayman was very busy, with five ships in port. (3 RCCL, 1CCL, and the Epic).

 

This was our first visit to this island as well, and we did not book any excursions for this stop.

We just walked to the end of the pier and took a $4pp taxi ride to the Royal Palm on 7-Mile Beach. The club has a $2pp admission fee and lounge chairs were $8 each. We really enjoyed just sitting on the beach, relaxing and snorkeling.

 

It was quite hot on the beach, so after we ate some lunch we took a stifling hot taxi ride back to the pier area, shopped for a few minutes and hopped a tender back to the ship, to avoid the mad rush.

 

Today is our 32nd wedding anniversary, and the day before we left, I went online and purchased the anniversary gift package through NCL. I really didn't know what to expect because the description was not very thorough. When we arrived back at our room, I was very pleasantly surprised. There were several balloons hanging from the ceiling; a Happy Anniversary banner strung from the ceiling; some white streamers in the shape of wedding bells; two kissing swan towel critters on the bed; scattered on the bed was confetti spelling out Happy Anniversary; and a rather large cake, nicely decorated, along with a card with my message in it.

 

 

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She cried.

 

For our anniversary dinner we went to Cagney's and enjoyed delicious filets.

 

Fri, March 20, Cozumel, Mexico

 

This was our second visit to Cozumel (our fourth trip to Mexico).

 

We booked the Jose Cuervo Tequila Tasting Experience through NCL. A quick cab ride had us meeting our guide Martin (he says it has five R's) who greeted our group with a margarita for each of us. Following some brief introductory remarks, he took us into our tasting room. Prior to each tasting--there were three--Marrrrrtin explained a bit of how and where it was produced, along with some other interesting tidbits. Each sample was a few ounces each.

 

Our first tasting was a Blanco tequila. This tasted a little harsh, but keep in mind we were tasting, and not just throwing back shots.

 

The second tasting was a Reposado, or rested tequila. That one was quite a bit smoother.

 

Ferdlee, weee had Añejo, or aged tekweelah. Dish wun wuz de shmoovesht of the free. Thennnn we all walked in a staggering line to the giff shopppppp. Oh, yeah, dey had moooore twekila to shample. Can you beleeb it? I fink I bought a bottle. Maybe more, I can't member.

 

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Guesh what Marrrrrrrrrrrrrrrtin had for us next? Bahahahahaha, he giveded us all nother Margeereeta!

 

Den we had tacos for lunch, and nudder Marmareegah.

 

We somehow wound up back on the boat just in time to rest up for dinner, which actually consisted of solid food. Which stayed down. Taste again served up a very nice meal. Now, the slots were getting impatient and wanted a bit of a nibble, too, so we obliged.

 

Sat, March 21, At Sea

 

This was our final sea day. The gym and buffet were quite empty this morning, and we had no problem finding a table and chairs at Spice H2O. That was our favorite place to hang out during the week.

 

For dinner, we had booked Cirque Dreams & Dinner Premium Seating. We are huge fans of Cirque du Soleil, having seen lots of their shows in Vegas. The venue is really small and you are very close to the performers. This show is not on par with the Vegas shows but it certainly was worth the price. I was seated right next to the aisle, which made it convenient for the cast to pull me into the show. Twice. The first time, the ringmaster put a balloon in each of my hands and one between my legs. He then blindfolded me and proceeded to pop the balloons with his whip. Well, he actually popped them with a pin, but I couldn't see. The second time, I was one of several audience members making a silent movie.

 

Sun, March 22, Miami

 

Nuts!

 

We did self-debarkation. It was somewhat confusing to actually get off the ship. We had to take one elevator to Deck 7, then cross over to the starboard side and take the elevator to Deck 6 where we walked off. We breezed right through customs, walked to the parking garage, and we were on the road by 8:00.

Edited by kbnovak

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Thank you for your thorough and awesome review - the photos are wonderful. Now it's easier to talk my husband into going on this cruise!!

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Great review and wonderful pictures! It looks and sounds like you had a fabulous time! Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences:).

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Opens fine for me. Not sure what might be going on.

 

Okay...I just opened it up on my PC and it worked fine. Thanks for posting the awesome pictures.

 

Diana

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Your pictures are so beautiful and professional. I sail April 12th and can hardly wait.

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Great review and pictures. We are on the Epic in December and really looking forward to it. We were on the Celebrity Reflection in Ocho Rio when you were there on the Epic. It was exicting for us to see it parked there knowing that was our next ship.

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It's interesting that you make no mention that others have of kids running through Spice to get to the Sports Deck. Maybe you weren't around the bar?

 

I enjoyed your tequila tasting review. I feel guilty that I could understand what you were saying!

Great review.

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Great review! You were boarding as we were disembarking :) we also had a great time and looking forward to our next ncl cruise. Now off to see the rest of your photo's hoping there are more of the anniversary room, we almost bought that also but decided not too. I want to see what we missed!

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Your pics could be post cards; they are that good!

We were docked next to Epic in February while in the Sun in Cozumel.

Loved the big welcome back from the crew of both ships.

Thanks so much for posting your review.

Happy Anniversary to you both!

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It's interesting that you make no mention that others have of kids running through Spice to get to the Sports Deck. Maybe you weren't around the bar?

 

I enjoyed your tequila tasting review. I feel guilty that I could understand what you were saying!

Great review.

 

I was also on this cruise and actually mentioned to DH how well behaved all these kids seemed to be

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The tequila review was written exactly like it happened. :-)

 

All I can say is y'all are glad I wasn't driving the ship.

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