November 2013 - Norwegian Epic to Caribbean
Norwegian Epic Nov 30th-Dec 7th.
Upkeep of the Epic:
During 17 years in the travel industry I inspected dozens of cruise ships. On the Epic I found over 80% of the deck chairs faded, tattered, unraveled, torn, or broken. Many Café’s tables were chipped, broken, or wobble side to side. These tables also remain dirty (during mealtimes), although clean utensils were refilled regularly. Exterior announcement horns had cracks, chips, or broken. Public rest rooms in all areas of the ship had one or more toilets out of service and the upkeep in these facilities was questionable at best. The elevators also continued to suffer from one or more of them being out of service. Cruise lines that do not maintain basic visual appeal, equipment, or cleanliness, especially in public areas, come across as attempting to make money quickly; opposed to the concern for the upkeep of their brand.
You absolutely cannot get to deck 5 without passing through the casino. There is also no button on the elevators to level 5. You must travel to level 4 or 6, head mid-ship, and take the stairs or an escalator up or down. This is so passengers continuously walk through the casino (mid ship). This is a complete lack of consideration for those with health issues. I dealt with hives from head to toe during this cruise from cigarette allergies. I am also still hoarse, congested, and ill. I just have the use of my right lung (pleurisy took the left in 1995).
Freestyle Dining/Free restaurants:
The last cruise I took also had freestyle dining. You were able to tentative make a reservation (each day) for the free restaurants. If you didn't you knew and were prepared for a bit of a wait during busy times. On the Epic you cannot make a reservation except at paying restaurants. Each evening (on Epic) thousands of passengers stood in ridiculous long lines waiting for free dining. One confused crew member stood at the end logging in passengers to be seated. If this method is done to force passengers to make reservations at paying restaurants, to avoid long lines, NCL needs to prepare for less repeat business. Disgusted, tired, and hungry, we went into the café incredibly disappointed at being dressed up to eat cafeteria style food. It is unimaginable to me that NCL is allowing itself to come across as 'punishing passengers' who wish to eat in their free dining rooms.
Manhattan Dining Room:
In the Manhattan dining room we encountered two amazing restaurant staff that should be commended and promoted: Krisma and Joanneline. These two women need to be training others how they do things effortlessly, while still giving fast, friendly, and impeccable service. We requested them whenever possible but could not always be seated in their section. The food was exceptional and flavorful. The specials and options added each day were good. The only incident was the last night Dec 6th. My Caesar salad had a passenger sprinkled with Parmesan cheese walking across it. I called over the table staff and maître d. At first I don’t think they believed it until I pushed the bug’s backside and it began walking. They were extremely apologetic and brought a new salad.
Paying Restaurant- Brazilian Moderno:
We loved the food. The salad bar bowls remained almost empty and not replenished but what we could scrape out and sample tasted fantastic. The meats brought to our table were also fabulous. Crew members in uniforms came by our table to ask how our meal was. They did not introduce themselves. We had to ask the wait staff if they were part of the ship or the restaurant. It’s great to make sure our experience is going well but please introduce yourself. It is only takes an extra minute and comes across professional and personal.
I enjoy bingo. The Epic’s cheapest package started at (I believe) $49.50 for three cards. Instead of playing I would walk by. Only 30 or less were participating. Deal or No Deal cost $20 for each card (you play 2 games). This is just an idea but the Epic could also make profits by offering these games at more realistic costs and get far more participation.
Pool/Hot Tub Facilities:
There are two pools mid-ship for the general public/children and one pool at H2O (adult area). The word tiny does not properly describe them. For over 4500 passengers, roughly 7 to 9 people could stand in each comfortably. Not swim. STAND. This is how small they are. The temperature of the hot-tubs, in the adult area, were often no warmer than the pool. These tubs did not get wiped down, and with the heavy usage they endured, had visible brown and green slim rings (tubs are white).
Room Steward and Cabin:
We were fortunate to have a wonderful room steward (Winnie) cabin 11304 who gave us exceptional service. She was amazing. The cabin itself is almost impossible to navigate for two people. We had to crawl over the beds if one of us needed to get to the closet and the other was putting on make-up. I can’t imagine how anyone with weight issues, disabilities, or the elderly manages this. After sailing on 22 cruises I have also raved about the perfect sleep you get on a ship. Unfortunately, this was not the case on the Epic. Even with taking sleeping aids I was lucky for two hours of sleep each night. I truly have no idea why this happened on this ship.
Epic’s other Crew members:
As far as the other over 1700 crew, although smiling, they appeared to be thrown on this ship and told to “improvise”. From the front desk, down to the simplest employee, no one knew anything, had any answer, or could assist. This was a running discussion among passengers. We could not understand how so many employees were clueless to the ships policies, procedures, protocol, or how to handle a situation.
Strange/upsetting occurrences on the Epic:
Dec 5th. We were at the Cirque de Soleil Dream 9pm show. The boat completely listed to the right. Things crashed around us, show props, bottles, plates, glassware, etc…. I was hit in the leg by a falling champagne bucket and open bottle of champagne. Everyone was terrified. The boat finally righted and rocked back and forth before stabilizing. We did not hear any announcement of what happened. Crew members said they had never experienced anything like it. It was reminiscent of a scene from Poseidon Adventure. Passengers who actually heard an announcement were on the top decks. Here is a concern: each individual cabin does not have an intercom. If there had been intercoms, those still in their cabins would have possibly known what was happening to the ship. The only time you can hear the captain’s announcement (when in a cabin) is if you open the cabin door. We understand and were grateful these cabins are so well insulated but would have preferred an option to raise the volume on a room intercom; instead of opening a cabin door in PJ’s and standing there. Many passengers were upset because they didn’t hear from the captain until the next morning. The way this ship is equipped to deliver information, especially with this circumstance, was a huge concern for many.
Dec 6, the electrical power went out for several minutes. Same day, 5 p.m., our cabin toilet stopped working. We reported this to our room Steward. After dinner I went down to the service desk (830pm) to report the problem and stood in line for 50 minutes. I was told someone would be to our cabin shortly. At 10 p.m. the toilet was still not functioning. After placing our luggage in the hallway (for pick up) I went back downstairs. I stood in line for another hour. Again, I was told someone would be to my cabin. As I was walking away, frustrated, I saw an officer. I stopped him. He was annoyed and upset that I had. Explaining what was happening with our cabin toilet he said, “I can’t help you. Go back to the end of that line and let them know”. Well, at this point I went off on him. By the time I returned to our cabin my friend informed me they’d called to say the entire 11th floor aft was out of toilet service. Okay, so we started reporting this at 5 p.m. That’s no cabin toilet for 6-1/2 hours. Not one person could tell us the entire aft was out and not just our toilet??!! By 11:45pm our toilet button began working again. We only knew this from testing it every few minutes.
Billing and purchases on board:
I liked the ability to view our statement on the TV monitor. In doing so we found both of our bills were overcharged with duplicate drinks. The H2O bar charged for the same drinks twice. We went down to the service desk to resolve it. Others were in line with overcharges. One woman had an entire bottle of liquor she never bought. She showed us her statement. Nothing was on it but $12 a day service charges and one $98.50 bottle (same pool bar). She explained she did not drink. There was no signature on the receipt when the service desk pulled it (the same applied for our overcharged drinks). I HOPE I am wrong in this thought but so many people drink large quantities on these ships. We can’t help but wonder how many passengers didn't know how to decipher how much they drank, bought, or what they were actually overcharged.
It was like an exodus. Passengers could not get off this ship fast enough. It was a maze of lines, waits, and disorganization. All we heard around us was, “I have never wanted to get off a ship; as much as I do this one.” And “I will never cruise on NCL again.”
I must say in my closing, I whole hardheartedly concur. I take cruises every year. I will not be traveling on an NCL ship ever again.