December 2016 - Norwegian Epic to Caribbean
Loved the ship (prefer large ships to small any day) once we got our bearings, Shakers was our favorite bar (wish there were outside options like on the Breakaway) and you must absolutely try the dining package, it was worth it but make sure you are hungry! We did the waterslides and pool and were pleasantly surprised to find the water wasn't salt water. Couldn't make show reservations, but got right in on standby without an issue and we were a group of 12. No issues with any dining reservations or walking into the main dining room or O'Sheehan's (the wings are great) with our group size-although occasionally they would break us up. Our Room steward (Gede) was amazing-introduced himself the first time we entered our room, and greeted us every enter and exit thereafter (I missed that on our prior sailing). We had a forward balcony on 12, almost under the bridge, and the size of the balcony was 3x a normal balcony-you could change more than your mind out there-which again was great when we had 12 people marching through our rooms at times. Still love the private island-however I was unable to tender off for almost 2 hours (tender K) this time, on my two prior stops I was one of the first tenders off each time, so this was a very hard wait...especially not knowing how long the wait would really be, and needing to be ready. Loved having access to my onboard account in my cabin again (had it on my first Norwegian, not on my second).
In Between-we booked excursions with the ship this time-to use up some OBC-that was also a process of cattle herding. We had to report to the theater, wait for our excursion to be called, queue through the ship and off, and then try to find the proper place to line up and go. I have seen better signage in Mexico than I saw in St. Thomas and Tortola once exiting the ship and trying to find our meeting location. The excursions themselves were good, but it reminded me why I like to book private excursions (less people, actually hear island history, more personal, more fun, have a perfect understanding of timeframes, someone to look out for us).
Negatives-Extra charges on drinks-I had the unlimited drink package-which covers drinks up to 15$ each. When I booked, I was charged a tax and tip on the drink package. Every time we ordered a drink, there was a tax and tip assessed to the drink again, and I have several charges to my on board account for drinks ranging from 58 cents to $9.84. Mind you, I was aware of a few martini's that we ordered that cost 17.95 and on those we had to sign and authorize a 2.95 charge...though it was never 2.95 it was 3.48, and the one try of the top shelf scotch/whiskey. But you can't tell me that the drinks really cost nearly 15$ each for a drink of the day which comes in a 12-16 oz cup and is advertised in the menu for under $10 or a vodka (1oz pour) and cranberry. I just added the miscellaneous bar charges, and they total just over $90, of which we were expecting about $36 from the overpriced Martini's or the topshelf alcohol.
Deck space is very limited and deck chairs-they boast only having about 2300 onboard and there are 4100 guests, which means there are too many without a chair, especially when you have 3 sea days. People were on deck before 7am claiming chairs, and although staff tagged chairs to "remove" towels if a person was not there for an hour, they never returned to actually remove anything, and deck chairs never opened up until after 3pm.
The rock wall was only open one of the at sea days, and there were specific clothing requirements that were not posted (at least anywhere that we saw), so the one time that the "adult" kids hit the line, they had to return for socks, and then they hit the line again and the girls were told that their athletic shorts were too short, and they needed longer shorts to participate...makes sense, would have been good to have "needs" posted, then they could have dressed appropriately once and been ready-they lost interest at this point and decided to try tomorrow, and since this was the only day it was open, tomorrow never came.
The elevators, especially forward elevators often seemed to "skip" floors magically (I suspect it was related to a haven guest boarding the elevator and having that magic card to ride without the hassle of stopping to board others, so at the high traffic hours when you needed to go many floors (5 or more) in shoes that were not made for climbing, or with all your luggage/bags to beach/if you were feeling the effects of a full day at the beach, and really needed that "floor taxi" it was never available.
The main Dining rooms were only open for breakfast until 930, even on sea days. We arrived at 945 one morning (New Years day-we thought we were early risers)and were shocked to learn that they were closed already. Likewise the Sushi bar was only open for lunch from 12-130 daily. Longer hours would just be slightly more accommodating on sea days when people may recover and sleep a few minutes later?
There were 2 shows on the cruise, one a singing and dancing number and the other was a drag show. While there were certainly funny parts of the drag show, it was nearly 2 hours long and very agenda driven (I am a very open minded person working in the social services field, but couldn't help but feel that I was being chastised and "taught a lesson" throughout the entire show). Maybe it's a good show for some specific cruises (gay cruises-all the gay folks in the audience loved the show), but for a "general" cruise I think that the story line could be revamped a bit and be a little less agenda driven and more funny (my 2 cents, and that of the group who was with me, who ranged from 16-50).
We did want to speak with a wedding coordinator onboard, and guest services was less than helpful and would not put us in touch with that department, referring us to the web page, despite my explaining that I had looked at the web and had some questions, that the web could not talk back and answer for me. She was not willing/able to diverge from her script and allow me to speak with a live body, which we did share with the CruiseNext folks who were trying to rebook us-why would I rebook until someone could answer my questions!