June 2014 - Norwegian Epic to Europe - Western Mediterranean
First let me start by saying my wife and I are some what snobby when it comes to food, we consider ourselves to be "foodies". We boarded the cruise and went straight to the main buffet and found had one look at the meat which they served and knew we were in trouble. The hamburgers looked like it was basically a "Bubba Burger" or something close to that low quality, the deli meats looked to be lower quality than those meats used at Subway or Oscar Myers and the chicken and beef used for the chinese food was worse than your low-end neighborhood chinese restaurant. So upon seeing this we went straight to the front desk and upgraded to the "Ultimate Dining Package", thinking that the speciality restaurants served different food, higher quality, since they are charging you extra for it. To our suprise this was not the case, the food at these restaurants were not of higher quality, only provided a set menu for the cruise whereas the main dining halls offered revolving menu's each day. We did find however one good meal during our time on the cruise which was at Le Bistro, the french restaurant on board. The whole dining experience there was good except for the cirque du soleil going on above us during our meal. You could hear everytime anyone jumped, the music, everything. So overall, the food was a major disappointment and not at all worth the upgrade to the "Ultimate Dining Package". If we would have known the food was going to be this low quality when we spent this much money for the cruise we would have definately made an effort to find the closest Disney Cruise in the area!!
The ship overall was modern, had many ammenities, and was acceptable. The thing which caught us off guard was the missing pool. The ship had about 3 to 5 pools on the entire ship (which is fine, but the size of these were ridicolous). The pools were the size of most kiddie pools you would find anywhere. The layout was not very accomodating, I have been on many smaller cruise ships which had much better layouts with a much better pool set up. This was disappointing as we were on the ship a good time going port to port.
The shows, were a bright spot for us on the cruise. We elected to purchase the dinner show for Cirque du Soleil and found it to be very good. You could definately tell that you were in Europe in regards to the show as it was a little risque, but overall was very well done. The dinner on the otherhand, I will not discuss as I have talked about the overall food earlier (Lets just say it was not the best). The Blue Man Group was good, same show as it is in Orlando, Florida or I suppose anywhere else. The other entertainment was good, the casino was large and seemed to pretty well set up.
The duty free shop on board due to it being a cruise within the EU was a joke due to the issue of having a VAT tax of 20% on all goods. So these shops did not make any since unless you were spending large sums of money on overpriced goods that you could get back home or at the airport without the tax.
The room, was good but not great. Let me explain, we elected to upgrade to a balcony which we found the balcony to be nice and accomodating. The interior of the room left somethings to be desired though. The room was very narrow due to the TV and bathroom sink to be about a foot to the end of our bed not allowing much room to pass by to get to your closets as well as balcony. Overall the room was good, much better than any Carnival or older Royal Carribean Ship I have been on but not to the standards of a Disney or one of the New Royal Carribean ships.
This last thing really got me, this cruise elected to charge passengers $5 for 24 hour dinning per order. This was the first time I had ever heard of such a thing, the next thing was that most to almost all cruises I had been on before had a large, expansive room service menu which you were allowed to order the entire night. This cruise did not have any of that. They really did not offer any late night dinning options (anything past 12 am) which I found very odd, as all other cruises had plenty. Also, they did not offer breakfast in the dining halls for an actual sitdown breakfast, the only offering was for you to eat the breakfast buffett (which was not an option by the end of the 3rd day, we ended up electing to eat breakfast as soon as we got off the ship at each port).
Overall, we were pretty unsatisfied of our experience on the Norwegian Epic. I would go as far as that we will not be embarking on anymore "Freestyle Crusing" most likely ever again.
I will say that one bright spot on the cruise was Norwegians staff and customer service was definately the best part of the cruise. All staff were very friendly, easy to find and took notice of all guests problems that we encountered.