March 2014 - Norwegian Epic to Caribbean - Western
Checking in was pleasant and speedy, we were thankful for this considering our long drive in the morning and our empty stomachs!
Our excitement level was high upon entering the ship. We have never been on any other cruise line other than Royal so we were excited to try something new. Needless to say, the writing was on the wall upon entering the Epic ship, it was immediately apparent that this company was all about skimping where ever they can based on the first impressions of the design and materials used on the Epic...cheap linoleum in some places and overall boring design throughout the entire ship...its like all their design budget is spent on the art on the exterior of the ship and that's it. I got the impression that the Epic was the Red Roof Inn of cruise ships.
That said, although noticeable, we were bound not to let that spoil our impression considering we had not even made it to the room yet. We went straight to the elevator to proceed to the 12th deck, where our balcony room awaited!
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the elevators to arrive( thinking the unusual delay was due to everyone arriving at the same time....wrong...these elevators were hellishly slow the entire trip no matter what time they were used) we decided to skip the elevators and climb the 8 floors with a few bags in tow because there was no hint those elevators were ever going to make to us any time soon...
Upon entering the room we instantly noticed that our cabin was much smaller than we were used to on Royal. It was a neat design and although the wife was not at all happy with it, I thought it was just fine if a bit cramped.
We put our stuff away( what we carried on) and hurried to the buffet happily!
Once we arrive upstairs( taking the stairs again, since elevators were still not cooperating), we entered the dining area and proceeded to feast our eyes on the cornucopia of items available to us. They were the standard fair you would find at your typical buffet and one thing we enjoyed, that Royal had never offered, is REAL Ice Cream! That was a nice treat. The dining area had awesome views and the service was decent. The tables were cleaned fairly quickly. The servers behind the counters were mostly nice, but I did run into a few here and there that gave me the impression that they would spit in your food if you gave them any perceived hassle( not saying they did, just stating I would not be surprised). They just had an attitude about them that did not convey they were happy to be there...that said, it seemed like management beat them with a stick to make damn sure they said "hello" to everyone they saw, because that was the one true consistent thing all the employees did on a regular basis.
Something I must point out that persisted the entire trip whenever I arrived at the buffet...there was always a dirty, stinky mop smell in the halls...although you got used to it, it was definitely noticeable and not very pleasant.
After this we took a stroll around the ship to get to know it better. This is when it really hit us that we had made a mistake in trying a new line...the ship was so poorly designed that it was very difficult to get around. Many stairways would be simply cordoned off, for what reason we had no idea. In order to get to the other side on some floors you had to go through those skinny hallways of rooms because that was your only option( the center of the ship had no access on some levels). Oh and using the elevators? Hahahahah...good luck...
Our biggest disappointment was the fact that there was no 6th( or 7th, whatever) deck with exterior walkway...well there was, but the ENTIRE view you would normally have of the ocean was blocked by the life boats( on Royal, lifeboats are placed way above everyone so nothing obstructs the railing views) except on one small part where they actually let you opened the view out for about 20 feet...this was a huge design flaw to us considering one of our favorite things to do after dinner is to walk on this deck( on Royal ships) and many times sit on the deck loungers to read or just relax...if you wanted to relax on the Epic, you had to go to the top floors, struggle finding somewhere to sit not in direct sunlight or simply go to your room if you had a balcony...it was a huge design flaw in my opinion and also lead to mass congregations in certain areas since there really was very few places to go on the ship. In essence, the design of the ship encouraged people to congregate in areas and made it seem like it was always crowded wherever you went...big downer. I felt real sorry for all the balcony people who had to stare at lifeboats the entire trip...those rooms should never charge for balcony views, its a crime and I was thankful we did not get one of those rooms.
Dinning in the evening was pleasant and the food was surprisingly good. Not excellent, but on par with what we were used to. Freestyle dining was a great feature.
Overall we had a good time despite our disappointment with the standards, the design and the overall perception of being nickled and dimed to death on some shows, food( like the bakery) and entertainment( they had a bowling alley but the price was silly for a family of 4 and we were used to getting such minor things included in the fair on Royal).
One last icing on the cake...our cabin steward...in all my trips on Royal, I had always fond memories of how nice our cabin steward was and always rocked him/her with a great tip at the end of the trip...I stiffed our Epic cabin steward...never had I seen such a lazy attempt at taking care of our cabin...the kids beds were never turned back into couches( giving us more space during the day in an already cramped room), the coffee sugars were not replaced every other day, creamer was not replaced on several days, no hair conditioner was provided( we had to request it), shampoo and soap were allowed to run out, our fridge was never unlocked( I just decided not to even bother asking since it was just going to tempt me anyways) and our bathroom smelled like urine...
With all these negatives you would think we had an awe full time, but we made the best of it and despite every attempt from NCL to make this a crappy time, we decided not to let any of this get to us...we simply will NEVER sail on any of the NCL ships for the rest of our lives( unless a ridiculously, extremely, almost FREE cruise is available of course...we aint crazy, heh)...save your money, spend the extra and go with Royal Carrib...they know how to treat you right and they also know how to design their ships for maximum enjoyment...and their elevators seem to work.