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DandDM

Epic Haven Review

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Instead of a full review of our trip on the Epic, I thought I would focus on the amazing time we had in the Haven on our recent (March 29-April 5) spring break trip. Overall, a fantastic trip!

 

First off, some quick background on this trip. We were originally booked with Royal Caribbean as we really enjoy their ships and have had good experiences with them. However, we needed to modify our reservation to add an addition person (went from four people to five) and it became a huge hassle with RCCL. After attempting to modify our reservation for a few weeks, we ended up cancelling the RCCL trip and rebooking with NCL. At that time, we booked two connecting balcony cabins for less than we were asked to pay for a balcony and an inside with RCCL.

 

We had cruised once before with NCL on the Pearl and had mixed feelings about going back. To be fair to NCL, and in retrospect, most of our issues on that cruise were caused by the size and make-up of our group (three generations/ten family members), so it was hard for us to separate the vacation experience from the group dynamic.

About two weeks before sailing, I discovered that prices for the two bedroom family villa had declined, plus I saw the promotion which included UDP, UBP, OBC, and pre-paid gratuities. I called my TA and after much back and forth, was able to secure the Haven 2-bedroom for the five of us. In addition to the perks, the TA was able to offer us a much better rate than we saw online (by $1000) plus secured us an additional $150 in OBC. When considering the value of the packages and OBC, the increased cost for the villa was quite palatable.

 

Boarding – easy as can be! We got to the cruise ship terminal around 11:30 and it was pretty busy. However, after we waited just a few minutes to get through security, we saw the priority check-in room for the Haven and the rest of the process was like a dream. There was one other couple checking in when we entered the room and they were done quickly. Then we got checked in and got our cards and pictures taken – maybe five minutes tops. Unfortunately, one of the cards didn’t work, so they had to print a new one. So we waited for the card in a small room across the hall with snacks and beverages. A couple of workers stopped by to take us on the ship, but we had to wait – took about 15 minutes for the new card. Once we had it, we were escorted around hundreds (maybe thousands) of people straight to the ship. I actually felt a little guilty walking past so many people waiting in line! At the gangplank to the ship, we were handed off from our initial escort to a new one that took us on board and directly to a dedicated elevator and up to the Haven. Once there, we settled in the Epic Lounge for a few minutes until a butler took us on a tour of the Haven. All-in-all, a very calm and easy process.

 

Cabin – we had stateroom 16025. Great location – near the side entrance to the Haven and close to the pool and bars. Very little noise from the hallway or cabins above us (there was an irregular banging at night around bedtime that we never did figure out, but no big deal). We were a little disappointed in the size of the balcony (it is about the same size as a standard balcony) but we did really enjoy the view from the master bath! Because of the layout and multiple rooms, the space felt more cramped than other suites we've been in - but we have never had five people in one suite before.

 

My wife and I had the master bedroom, we had two kids on the bunks in the second bedroom, and the third kid on the couch in the living room. There would have been enough room for all 3 in the bedroom, but our 17-year old didn't want to be with the 13-year olds. We found storage space to be a little lacking; many of the cabinets had weird angles that made storing clothes difficult and there was very little storage space in the living room. We had enough room for all our stuff, but we had packed light. We absolutely loved the espresso machine. We used it a lot and other than getting supplies (I’ll talk about that later), it was one of the best suite perks.

 

Haven area – this was our favorite part of the experience, by far. I quickly realized how special the Haven is: our boarding process and tour were very calm, then the Haven itself was very peaceful and quiet. After we got settled, we decided to investigate the rest of the ship; as soon as we walked down one flight of stairs to deck 15 (by the buffet) we were in a different world! Being on a cruise ship during spring break, it was crazy and loud. Lines, people gathered, no seats, etc, etc. At this point I fully understood why our area is called the Haven.

 

Ok, back to the Haven (where we spent a huge part of our week). It has its own dedicated restaurant, a “grille”, two bars, pool deck, two hot tubs, a sun deck, workout area, spa. . . One could easily spend all their time in the Haven and never leave! We got to know the bartenders quite well (Romel and Siti in the Grille and Lily in the lounge). The first day they didn’t have the right liquor to make my wife’s favorite drink – but they had it the next time we came by and for the rest of the week. The bartenders even found us when we were out of the Haven (they also worked other bars and shows) and remembered us and our drink preferences.

 

The restaurant was very nice and quick. We ate a few breakfasts and lunches there; it is a fixed menu but decent choices and very good food and service. A couple times we also ordered snacks in the Grille and took them to our room; quick and easy. They also had coffee, orange juice, and cookies each day.

The pool was never crowded and we could find a lounger just about any time we wanted one. The sun deck (on deck 17) was very lightly used and available any time we wanted. We also had access to the Posh area, but we spent little time up there; apparently smoking is allowed and the one time we were there a guy lit up a large cigar next to us. So we didn’t go back and didn’t miss it.

 

Concierge – our concierge was David and he and his assistants were fantastic. They managed our reservations, escorted us into shows and off the ship and answered (quickly and absolutely) any of our questions. They were always smiling and willing to help out. David even came to check on us at dinner time – I noticed that we usually got one of the better tables in each restaurant and I’m sure he was the reason for that.

 

Butler – our butler was Jamal (I think) and he was a completely different story than the concierge. Actually, we found him to be worthless. Sorry that I am going to rant a little here as it really didn’t impact our enjoyment of the trip, but we didn’t find him to be helpful at all. Our first meeting was in the hallway on the afternoon of the first day. He introduced himself and asked if we needed anything; I mentioned that I would like some milk for the espresso machine, and he agreed to bring it by. Fast forward to the next morning; I went to make coffee and no milk. No big deal, I called him up and asked for some. He brought some quickly, but then pointedly told me that our Do Not Disturb sign was out. . .that was correct as I had just got out of bed, but I wondered why he didn’t bring it the night before when we were at shows/dinner and the steward had made up our room. I then noticed we only had decaf coffee and tea and had to call him back to get some actual coffee. Next day – again had no coffee (with five people in a room, we went through the little canisters pretty quickly) nor any clean coffee cups. I called the butler and again he got aggressive about the DND. This troubled me as not only did he have all the previous afternoon to attend to our room, we had turned the DND off about an hour before I called. When he came with supplies I asked him for a lesson on how to use the machine (he had never offered). Although we figured out how to make a basic cup of coffee, I knew that it could do much more than that. He went to the machine and proceeded to turn it on and off many times. . .when I asked, he said he was resetting it. After about a minute, he was happy that it was reset and showed me how to make a basic cup of coffee. Then he left. I was astounded, he didn’t ask if I had questions, didn’t offer any tips, nothing. On the third day I had to call because the machine was giving me an error that it was full and had to be cleaned out. (Tip - there is a very useful button on the machine with an up and down arrow - that allows you to control the size of the pour. My kids figured it out.)

 

Over the rest of the week, I didn’t reach out to the butler at all. He never spoke to us at any length, never offered any services, didn’t show us how to use the little cordless phone in the room that is supposed to be to reach him. I guess he eventually figured out that we needed supplies for the coffee machine in the evenings and by the third or fourth day we never ran out of supplies.

 

He did bring us the few items of room service we ordered; don’t know why he bothered – the regular delivery guy could have done it just as well. I guess he also brought afternoon snacks (weren’t we suppose to get to chose what we wanted for snacks? That never came up). Backing up here I should disclose that we have been in suites on Royal and Princess. While neither of those cruiselines have butlers, we received at least as good, if not better attention by other staff then we did by our butler.

 

Again, sorry to rant of this subject; I had read a lot about the butler on the boards and was looking forward to having his services. Maybe I should have asked more questions and engaged the guy more, but after our first few encounters, I had no desire to talk to him. We were expecting him to ask our preferences, make an effort to come by and say hi every once in awhile, etc.

 

UDP/UBP – while not specific to the Haven, these two packages greatly added to our total enjoyment of the trip. At first we were a little perturbed to have to sign a receipt with each purchase (RCCL doesn’t have you sign if you have the package), but it really was no big deal. We ended up in the habit of tipping our Haven bartenders (maybe that’s why they were so friendly with us!) and the receipts made that easy to do. No problem getting two, or sometimes even three or four drinks at a time.

 

We ate every dinner at a specialty restaurant and as mentioned previously – usually got a very nice table close to the window. We greatly enjoyed the service and food at these venues – our only disappointment was the Italian place at which the food was not that great. Cagney’s was our favorite and we ate there twice.

Shows – as a suite perk, the concierge escorted us to the shows and in the Epic Theater we had a dedicated seating area at the bottom left of the theater. Really good seats. The concierge asked us to be there early and escorted us to our seats, which was nice, but also meant we had to be at the shows very early. On RCCL, suite guests have a specific seating area for shows and the benefit is that you can get to the show about ten minutes before it starts and still get a good seat. In hindsight, the Haven area never filled up for the shows, so we could have arrived late and still got a good seat. At the Speigel show, there was not special Haven seating, so glad we got there when the concierge asked as we were escorted in a back door before the rest of the ticket holders and got the best seats.

 

Misc – Another great benefit for the Haven was to skip the line for tenders at Grand Cayman. When we were ready to get back on board, the line stretched for blocks! It was hot and we were tired; and we were able to skip the line and jump on the waiting tender. Again, I felt bad for all the folks waiting.

Events - compared to our Suites on other lines, we didn't get many invites (except of course for the almost daily invites to the art auction). There was a sail away event at Posh, then the Captain had an event the first sea day (unfortunately, I didn't notice the invite to that until too late so didn't go). While a little disappointed (was hoping for a tour of the bridge), not a big deal.

 

In the end very happy we paid for the upgrade. Am I ruined for non-suite cabins? I don't think so - if the price hadn't worked out, I'm sure we still would have had a great time in our original cabins, and will surely sail again with or without a suite!

Edited by DandDM
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Thank you so much! My hubby and I are taking our very 1st cruise and we have booked the Haven on the Escape 11/28/15. We are so excited and you clarified alot. Any more details or tidbits and tips would be very welcome!

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Thanks for the review. Very informative.

 

About your butler, I posted on another thread about the various things butlers have done for my family over several cruises. We've had a good experience overall with very helpful and good butlers. It seems you didn't get one. Honestly, I probably would have spoken to either the Concierge or the Hotel Director about it because your butler was not performing the basic duties required of him.

 

We've had some who were fantastic, intuitive and all-over-it in terms of service; and others who needed a little push; and others still that we asked very little of (just because that is the way that particular cruise went). They left me with a very good impression that having a butler was a perk I felt was worth the price.

 

I'm sorry you didn't feel that way, and I wish you had informed his boss so that his performance could be reviewed and improved for future guests - and for you and your family.

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I understand you may have had some frustration with your butler but you basically took this person to a public woodshed. The cruise lines and the butlers peers, read these boards. Personally I would have expressed my dissatisfaction directly to the hotel director or would be sending NCL a note.

 

Did your rant solve the problem?

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Thank you for your review. As far as you know was the Haven suites completely sold out? We are booked for next March in a Haven Spa Suite when we sail to Morocco & Canary Islands. I have just discovered that we sail during the same week as spring break in the UK and I am hoping that the Haven will gives us some respite from too many kids.

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I understand you may have had some frustration with your butler but you basically took this person to a public woodshed. The cruise lines and the butlers peers, read these boards. Personally I would have expressed my dissatisfaction directly to the hotel director or would be sending NCL a note.

 

Did your rant solve the problem?

 

On board we expressed our opinion on the butler; we also celebrated the very good staff I mentioned in my review. As far as a problem, maybe I went overboard in my comments, but it didn't ruin our cruise or make a big impact on our trip. Just a service we thought we had that did not develop.

 

My goal was to provide a review; I don't think it would have been fair if I just brought up the good points and avoided the negative.

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Just want to say I really appreciated the review (good and bad). I'm still looking ahead to my first-ever cruise but your review made me price out some Haven sailings, as I am allergic to crowds. :)

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Thank you for your review. As far as you know was the Haven suites completely sold out? We are booked for next March in a Haven Spa Suite when we sail to Morocco & Canary Islands. I have just discovered that we sail during the same week as spring break in the UK and I am hoping that the Haven will gives us some respite from too many kids.

 

I think they were full, or just about. As most of the suites are family villas, there were a few kids in the Haven. I didn't see it as issue; sea days there were usually kids in the hot tub and pool, but not a huge number. We didn't have any problems with them running around or getting in the way. A couple times I had to wait a couple minutes at the bar as kids got sodas and smoothies (or whatever they were drinking) but again, not a big deal.

 

If the kid activity on the rest of the ship was a 10, the kids in the haven came in at a 2 or 3.

 

And if the kids did get in the way, the Posh area is only a deck up and no kids allowed there :)

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Just want to say I really appreciated the review (good and bad). I'm still looking ahead to my first-ever cruise but your review made me price out some Haven sailings, as I am allergic to crowds. :)

 

Thanks. I usually don't write reviews, but the haven was so amazing, I figured I had to! Again, disregard my negative comments on the butler - I'm sure you will have a better experience!

Edited by DandDM

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We've never chosen our snacks on the Epic, but our butler did seem to notice by the third day or so what was eaten and what was not. We did leave a note and request more grapes and green apples and we never went without for the rest of the trip -- it actually became a joke to us.

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Thanks for the review. Very informative.

 

About your butler, I posted on another thread about the various things butlers have done for my family over several cruises. We've had a good experience overall with very helpful and good butlers. It seems you didn't get one. Honestly, I probably would have spoken to either the Concierge or the Hotel Director about it because your butler was not performing the basic duties required of him.

 

We've had some who were fantastic, intuitive and all-over-it in terms of service; and others who needed a little push; and others still that we asked very little of (just because that is the way that particular cruise went). They left me with a very good impression that having a butler was a perk I felt was worth the price.

 

I'm sorry you didn't feel that way, and I wish you had informed his boss so that his performance could be reviewed and improved for future guests - and for you and your family.

 

Good points. When we've had butlers on land based AI resorts, I've never had an issue forming a rapport, probably just an off week for me and the butler.

 

Again, a fantastic trip and I would do it again in a second!

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Hi! We were on Epic cruise in 16021 the following week after you, had David and Jamal as well. We travelled with 3 kids same as you. Your review (other than the fact that our week the Haven was crowded with families monopolize the chairs early and the pool area was full by 10am with adults and kids and no where to find a chair in the main area) David was amazing and Jamal was less than all of that. Pretty much the same requests, delays and clueless. We sailed on the Getaway last year and had an amazing butler that was always one step ahead of our needs. Just thought you would like to know it wasn't you! Lol

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