We arrived at the Port of Miami to embark on our 7 day Norwegian Epic. Transportation to the Port of Miami from Port Everglades (from which we just took a Caribbean Princess cruise) via taxi cost $90 including tip.The ship looked massive- certainly the largest cruise ship we have been on. There were two different terminals for to board the Epic it was so long. Upon arrival, it took about 20 minutes to go through security. It took about another 20 minutes to get get checked in, then thankfully there was no longer any more waiting.
Upon getting onto the NCL Epic, loud club music greeted us, though no welcome drinks like we were provided in previous NCL cruises. One plus was that our stateroom was ready immediately. We boarded at about 1:15 PM, and I'm not sure if the rooms would have been ready for the earliest people. Finding our cabin (a family inside on Deck 14) was a bit of a challenge, however. We had to make our way through the the massive casino, and after getting out of the elevators, it was confusing as odd and even sides cabin room sides were not clearly marked. We did figure out that an easy way to remember the wing/side our cabin was at was to focus on the color of the stairwell walls- blue for odd numbered rooms and red for even.
Norwegian Epic Interior Family Stateroom Cabin Review
Our first impression upon entering the cabin was how modern it looked. But we quickly found many negatives. We quickly discovered that you had to leave your stateroom key card in a slot to turn on lights in the cabin. It's just an added step that is unexpected. Then there was the size of the room- it was tiny. Compared to our previous NCL inside cabins, this one just felt noticeably smaller. The Caribbean Princess we were on offered a "walk-in" closet, when this Norwegian Epic family inside stateroom offered pretty much a large cabinet to store clothing. The compound the issue, the life jackets inside the cabinet took up quite a bit of space, leaving even less space available.
There was a sink that was wide open to the cabin which was a big negative for us. Our toddler loved playing with it. The basin was shallow and water could easily splatter onto laptop and electronics you have on the same table. Yes- unbelievably, the sink and the desk share the same table top without any separation. We had to stack beach towels to act as a protective barrier. Lights switches for the desk were difficult to reach too as they were placed under mirrored cabinet
Then there was the noise. Apparently our room was next to some sort of crew-only work room, which we discovered later on to be the food pantry. Banging noises from above and to the side of our cabin were clearly heard by us even after midnight. In fact I was startled out of bed by a loud banging noise at 2AM the first night. Complaining to the front desk did not help the situation- we were told that they would ask the staff to be more quiet. We were also offered earplugs. But the problem was that We were already wearing our own earplugs and still heard the noises. Plus our two year-old toddler doesn't wear earplugs. The next night, we complained again. A staff member from Nicaragua (forgot his name) came up to investigate and confirmed the loud noises, and said that he would have us moved in the morning to a cabin on deck 12 which had a cancellation. Throughout the night, sounds of rolling carts and banging/rumbling noises woke us up several times, again despite the fact we were wearing ear plugs. In the morning, we received a phone call from Laura from the front desk telling us that there was a "system error" and that a room is not available, but they will "monitor the situation" and talk to the workers to be more quiet. We were not at all happy, but we weren't happy at the prospect of moving to another room either, so hoped that this "escalation" would help quiet things down at night. Obviously something had happened and the room became unavailable, but I definitely disliked how this service rep said that no room was available in the first place, completely contradicting the information provided by the gentleman who came to check the noise in the early AM.
There were a few positives to the Norwegian Epic cabin, however. The separation of toilet area and showers into separate compartments was convenient. The desk also featured a pull-out to extend the meager desk space. The cord-management system of the desk was also nice to keep things looking tidy on the desk. There were also two LED reading lights- one for each side of the bed that were nice additions.
In the end, however, the Norwegian Epic stateroom paled in comparison to the interior cabin we had aboard the Disney Wonder in terms of space and design. Despite a modern look, functionality-wise the room had a lot we wish could be improved. Perhaps in the upcoming Breakaway, the cabin ergonomics and available space will be improved versus the Epic.
Impressions of Common Areas of Norwegian Epic and the Ship in General
We were really impressed by the decor of the Norwegian Epic. The style was modern chic, and reminiscent of a nightclub.
The pool deck was amazing. There was a long, winding water slide that was a ton of fun to go down on. We went on it during the second sea day- it was an exciting ride. You had to use a NCL-supplied tube which took about 20 minutes of waiting to get, then you take it up the stairs where the wait was shorter- about 10 minutes. On the tube, you are accelerated down the yellow tube and on to a circular "bowl" where you slowed down and floated towards the next and final segment of the ride.
There was also plenty of pools with water features that kids especially simply loved. There was a small water slide, water squirting out from in-ground circular stubs, and raining down from mushroom umbrellas.
The Bliss Ultra Lounge was a truly funkily designed place as an extremely cool nightclub. Two giant black horse lamps greeted you as you entered. And once inside you cannot find any two sets of seats and tables that were the same style. The dance floor glittered gold, and there was even a 3 lane bowling alley off to the side.
The jogging track was outside on deck 7 on one side only, as the other side was dedicated to shuffle boards. It was smart to separate them, but personally I would have rather that the shuffle boards be removed completely so that the jogging track can go around the ship. Loud venting noises kind of put you off to spending too much time walking/jogging out there as well.
The only thing we really disliked (hated, in fact), was the gigantic casino on deck 6. It was wide open, and unless you are quite experienced in finding your way around the ship, the casino and the nasty cigarette smoke emanating from it are constantly in your face.
Norwegian Epic Food
The food quality of the Garden Cafe aboard the Norwegian Epic slightly surpassed the buffet from the other NCL ships we have sailed on. The huge crowd there, however, is certainly a negative. I recommend eating at the sit-down restaurants such as The Taste for lunch and breakfast for a much more serene experience. But if you want a large buffet with a wide variety of tasty food and don't mind the noise, waiting, and even stress- the Garden Cafe certainly delivers. We did notice that the selection of Indian food was paltry compared to our previous NCL cruises.
We ate dinner several nights at the Manhattan Room. It had a nice ocean view and a band playing classical and jazz music in the 2-story atrium of the dining room. It was a nice experience. The same dinner entrees were also served at the Taste Dining room, and usually the wait was shorter there.
We also dined at two specialty dining restaurants- the Teppanaki for lunch one day and at Cagney's Steakhouse one night. Teppanaki was fun, but the fried rice was too salty. Cagney's was a disappointment. It was the only remaining NCL Specialty dining restaurant we never tried (this was our 7th NCL cruise). Service was terrific there, but the the food was not very memorable. We had much better dining experiences in the past at Le Bistro (French) and the Moderno Churrascaria (Brazilian Steakhouse).
We also tried the Shanghai Noodle bar which had a-la carte pricing. It was kind of a rip-off as they gave you small portions for pretty much regular restaurant pricing. In fact we found a tastier stir fried noodle upstairs at the Garden Cafe the same night we ate at the noodle bar. The Spicy Seafood Udon soup was probably the best dish there, but again- just too small of a portion. The tiny, tasteless steamed shrimp dumplings was a joke and an insult to any decent Dim Sum dumplings you can find. The Mango pudding dessert was yummy, however.
O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill did serve up a tasty burger. The chicken pot pie was also delicious. The wings were not very good, however.
Overall, especially in the main dining rooms, food was overall pretty mediocre and usually did not come out as fast as we liked, which was a little bit of a step back versus our previous NCL cruises. Overall, the food taste and service at the dining rooms were not quite to the execution level of the Caribbean Princess Cruise we took a week before.
Norwegian Epic Entertainment Review
The Epic had top-notch entrainment options. The Blue Man Group show was a true spectacle- a loud, exciting and funny performance unlike anything we had seen. We definitely highly recommend it. The Second City adult-only show was pretty funny- they certainly did not hold back on profanity and innuendos. And there was certainly mostly new material versus what we have seen from the Second City in past NCL cruises. Too bad the Headliner's Comedy Club venue did not make it easy to see all the performers as everyone sat in chairs situated at the same height. So if you are not in the first row, and there were some tall people sitting in front of you, be prepared to have to shift left and right to get a view of the stage.
We had mixed feelings for the "box office" ticketing system. This system allowed you to book online, via TV, or by phone in advance for performances by The Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert, and the Second City. You then arrive at least 10 minutes before the show and use your stateroom key card as your "ticket". This is a good idea to ensure that you will get a seat, instead of waiting in line and then be denied entrance or have to stand. But the problem comes as we try to book shows for the current night- they were mostly "sold out". This left us for the first time ever on our cruises of zero show for certain nights. We definitely were not happy about that. And the system also knows that you already booked a show, and if you want to watch it again- too bad- it won't let you book it. This was especially dumb when it came to the Second City performances. They had a family friendly show, a 16 and over show, and an adult only show. But once I booked a Second City show, we could no longer book another one, despite the 3 different types of shows available.
This type of system also kind of obviate the need for a "cruise director". In fact, for the first time ever, we never even saw our cruise director the entire cruise. We thought we'd see him at the Sail-away deck party, but nope- in fact the only staff we saw on the pool deck during the party were the ones serving drinks. There was no barbeque either for the party, which was an NCL-first for us.
In the end, we missed the "old-style" dance and song productions, and despite the positives of using a ticketing system, we rather be guaranteed to watch a show (or two) nightly as per our previous NCL (and other cruise line) cruising experiences. You just show up at the venue, get in and watch the show. If NCL added a traditional nightly dance/song production to augment those other shows that need ticketing, then the whole situation would seem much more rosy. On the first port day, it was nice to have a "ticket-less" show, however. It was put on by magician Jeff Hobson in the Epic Theater at 11 PM. He also performed a different show 2 nights later.
Overall we had mix feelings about our cruise aboard the Norwegian Epic. We certainly enjoyed the cruise, but it was by far not perfect. Our cabin, 14029, which apparently is situated next a loud crew work space that is working 24/7. This is especially annoying as we had to pay a premium for "Family Inside" over regular Inside. We were unable to even select the regular interior cabins because we had a third passenger (our son a 2 year old toddler). What I was really appalled with was how this particular cabin is put on sale. I was told by NCL that there had been no prior complaints with this particular cabin, and I was and still am highly skeptical of that. So if you ever had a similar situation with loud noises coming from crew work areas next to your cabin, please share with us the experience by posting a comment below.
The Norwegian EPIC 7 Night Caribbean Cruise receives a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. It was fun, impressive, different, crowded, and a little disappointing all the same time.
Norwegian EPIC Pros
-Cabin was ready upon boarding
-Blue Man Group show was creatively entertaining- the best show we have seen on cruises
-Fun slides and pools for adults and kids
-Detachable shower head in cabin
-Lobster was cooked better than other NCL cruises we were on
-Wonderful view from Garden Cafe with superior food versus the Garden Cafe on other NCL Ships
-Many flavors of ice cream in Garden Cafe
-Informational iTV system enables you to, from inside your cabin, make specialty restaurant/show reservations and view menus (including those from main dining rooms) + see your current account charges
Norwegian EPIC Cons
-We had to stand for mandatory drill in a hot, super-crowded room (Bliss Ultra Lounge)
-The casino is wide open and prominent, exuding disgusting cigarette smoke
-Long waits for elevators and crowded elevators at times
-Constant loud banging noises from above and behind our cabin at night past 12AM despite complaints
-Massive amount of people at the Garden Cafe during breakfast and lunch