There is something to be said on having your feet in the sand and a drink in your hand. I spent most of last week with a drink in hand and a couple of days with my feet in the sand. Where did I go? I spent 7 days aboard the Norwegian Epic.
For those of you that don’t know what the Epic is here are some highlights of the ship. The Epic is Norwegians new “freestyle” cruise ship what boasts a ton of entertainment for the family. At 1080 ft the Epic indeed lives up to its name. The ship is huge to say the least. There are 19 deck levels that consists of numerous activities. There are 20+ dining areas on the ship along with a rock and repelling wall, water slides, pool area, sport area, outdoor adult pool and dance area, casino and numerous theme bars and theaters.
Now that I have the specs out-of-the-way I can give you an actual account of the ship.
Let me preface this by telling you that this was my 7th cruise in all. I have cruised on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney but this was my first time on a Norwegian Ship. I was very excited to try a new line do all the cool things you could do on the ship. However my excitement was tempered knowing that some of the amenities on the ship were incremental (more on that later).
My family booked a 7 day Easter Caribbean cruise that left out of Miami, FL. Our cruise itinerary was as follows:
- Saturday/Sunday/Monday – Sea Days
- Tuesday – St. Maarten
- Wednesday – St. Thomas
- Thursday – Sea Day
- Friday – Nassau, Bahamas
- Saturday – Miami
The family arrived in Miami last Saturday and we spent the morning waiting our turn to board the Epic. One really cool thing I was able to do to pass the time was interact with a local Miami Twitter group that was touring the Epic that day. See some of the tweets below:
When boarding the Epic you walk straight into the casino area. I think they do this on purpose so that the “players” can get a lay of the land before gambling starts. Our girls were hungry so we took them up to the buffet on deck 15. The buffet was bigger than anything that I have seen on a cruise ship prior to this one. There were so many choices that my girls didn’t know what to pick. The buffet was a regular stop for the family during the 7 days. Each day the kitchen had a different entrees to go along with the regular buffet food like hamburger, hot dogs and pizza. A neat thing Norwegian does is to have different dishes from other countries on the buffet to help cater to that many nationalities on board the ship. After lunch we took the kids to the water slides where they played the rest of the afternoon and I indulged in some beverages. 🙂
Sunday and Monday were spent at sea as we traveled toward St. Maarten. Norwegian knows how to entertain you when you are not in a port of call. Both days were jammed full of events that you can do individually or with the family. One day we hit the rock and repelling walls, the next we are hitting the sports deck. One really cool thing we were able to do was be apart of the Nickelodeon Slime Time Game Show. The Slime Time Game show was held only once on this cruise and our family was one of two selected to play on stage in front of a full Epic theater. Needless to say our family won the game show but our prize was not money, a t-shirt or even a little plastic ship. No, we were slimed! Here are the pics to prove it.
The Blue Man Group was extremely entertaining. We sat in the second row and tried to get paint on us but the only thing we got was marshmallows thrown at us :). If you like impersonations then the Legends Concert series is the place for you. This cruise we say a Rod Stewart, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson impersonator. The Rod Stewart guy nailed it. Looked just like him. The events were all spaced out so that if you missed them one day you were able to see a show the next.
In a previous section I talked about the buffet that Epic puts on. The buffet is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Norwegian providing food for the ship. There are over 20 dining facilities on board. I did not go to all of them but the ones I did hit I will highlight below, I have also linked them to the Epic website so you can directly view the restaurants yourself:
- Taste (Main dining area. Food was average)
- Moderno$$ (Brazilian style restaurant. Make sure you are hunger because the food is awesome and there is plenty of it.)
- O’Sheehan’s (Irish themed bar. Food was ok.)
- The Manhattan Room (Menu is identical to Taste but there is music and dancing)
- Wasabi (Sushi bar. Make sure you try the Godzilla roll!)
- Spiegel Tent$$ (This is where you will dine while watching Cirque Dreams®)
$$ Indicated that this was an incremental charge roughly $20 per person
Ah yes, the incremental charge. Now I knew about this before hitting the Epic but let me say, I was not prepared for the “nickel and dime” treatment that I felt was way over-board (pardon the pun). Most of my post so far has been pretty positive regarding the Epic but this incremental charge business allows me to make a perfect segue into the not so great things about the Epic.
So while there is a ton of great stuff to do with the kids it’s a blessing since the cabins are like little prison cells. I had a family balcony cabin that “slept” 4 people. Once the bunk beds come down that’s it for walking out to the balcony or trying to open your closet to get close out. I felt as though I was shimming across a narrow ledge to get across to the other side.
Now let’s say you’ve had a hard night of “partying” and you want to relax and watch TV in your cabin. Well you better hope you haven’t seen SpongeBob vs. The Big One or SpongeBob goes to Atlantis because you will see these episodes numerous times during your stay since they are on a loop. There are no free movie channels like there are on other cruise lines. Instead you have on-demand and yes there is an incremental charge for viewing a movie.
One complaint that I don’t have with the cabin is the bathroom. I didn’t find it as off-putting as some people has suggested. They are a little unconventional but all in all I thought they were just fine. The room staff made sure that we had extra towels for just in case moments.
The kind of service we had from the cabin staff was fantastic but that can’t be said for the service the rest of the wait staff had during the cruise. I have two for instances…..
The first is our first night at the Taste Restaurant. We went there with some friend and we were a party of 12. We had 7 kids and 5 adults. The waitress came over and greeted us and took our drink orders. Then she turned around and went to a beverage station area just a few feet away from us where she stated to another waiter. “Great, I got the kids table tonight”. With that we should have know what to expect because the service the rest of the night was horrible. We tried to make sure our table was not the “kids table” but no matter what we did she was not going to give us great service as we have come to expect it on other cruise lines. On two occasions we even got an eye roll for asking for more chocolate milk.
From there the tone was set for rotten service (minus the cabin staff) the entire trip. The best for instance came just before the Legends Concert. I asked a waiter to stop by and he said, “Hurry up, I don’t have time for this”. Basically he was miffed that I was asking for a soda and not an alcoholic beverage for my kid. Some :15 minutes later he returned with the Pepsi in hand. If there is one thing that a cruise crew can do to ruin a trip then poor service has to be #1.
Even though there were some negative experiences on the Epic the family as a whole had a good time. Just being able to spend time with my wife and two daughters was more than enough to make up for the poor service and “nickel and dime” amenities.
Overall, the ship was a little disappointing. The service really put a damper on the ships experience. I was expecting something grand but instead was left feeling uninspired by the ship. Don’t get me wrong the ship was nice but I was expecting more.
Next up for the family will either be the Royal Caribbean Oasis or Disney Dream. But that is a year away.