NCL Epic: A mixed bag of both good and bad
If you've watched the evening news in February of 2016, you couldn't help but see the footage of the NCL Epic crashing into two piers while trying to dock in San Juan, after having to cancel the cruise due to only one working engine. Although our cruise didn't have anything like that happen, I sort of wish it did, because then I'd have something worth writing about. It's known as a ship that you either love or hate. The Epic just wasn't OUR bag...
Rather than do a traditional review of things, I am going to list out the things in a Pros & Cons format. Remember that this is just OUR opinion. There are people who love this ship and let me tell you, they can get really nasty on the message boards if you dare say anything otherwise. We get it, you LOVE the ship and you've been on it 8 times and it's the best. Some people also liked driving PT Cruisers and think that wearing a gold ankle is cute & fashionable. It's all about perspective and taste. We all have opinions and they can and will always differ. Without varying viewpoints, the world would be so bland and generic.
Sort of like this ship.
Norwegian sent me a survey last week, which I filled out, but when it came to the comments section, they give you such little space to give your true opinions, so I contacted NCL to see if there was an additional comment form I could fill out. I'm sharing with you EXACTLY what I shared with them. Disagree with me if you want to. Once again this is just our thoughts on our March 16, 2019 Spring Break cruise.
As you read this, just know that neither myself, nor my family, are hard people to please. We travel the US and Caribbean quite a bit and we have experienced all different levels of service. When we were on the NCL Pearl in June 2016, we LOVED it and it was because of the great time we had that not only did I book this cruise on the Epic for my family, but I also strongly recommended Norwegian Cruise Lines to my boss, who in turn, based on my recommendation, booked a Western Caribbean sailing over Thanksgiving last year on the Epic. She was NOT impressed and after talking about our separate experiences, we had very similar thoughts and opinions on the quality of our sailings. She told me that based on her Epic cruise, she will not go back on NCL, instead will go back to RCCL or Disney, with whom she has sailed before.
We are not the type of people to complain, but rather I wanted to share these thoughts, that would be considered constructive criticism, with your company because I want to let you know that it is not all sunshine and rainbows on board that ship.
Embarkation was not too bad of an issue, although the NCL terminal at Port Canaveral is very undersized for the amount of people you have boarding. by 11:00 it was standing room only. We arrived at the port at 10:30 and when we checked in, we received Boarding Group 12. On our way to go sit down, there was a lady waving at us, gesturing for us to come over. She saw we had Group 12 and she had Group 2, but found out she could board all at the same time as the others in her party who were in Group 1. She gave us her #2 group, so we were able to board early and take a look around the ship and take pictures.
No issues with getting an elevator at all, except the first day when everyone was going to their cabin and after muster.
The employees of the casino were nice, especially the pit bosses, specifically Michael from the UK.
We loved the Teppanyaki restaurant. You definitely do not leave there hungry. We loved that the food there actually had flavor. I think that is where they stashed all the garlic on the ship. I will say the wings at O'Sheehans were great...they had flavor.
We loved our Mini-Spa cabin, although the bed was WAY too firm for my taste. I felt like I was sleeping on a wooden board. The split bathroom worked well for us and it was nice having the Thermal Spa to use at our leisure and get ready there, so our cabin wasn't all jammed up while getting ready. Loved the hair dryer in the rooms. the ones in the spa were less than stellar.
The Thermal Spa was positively heavenly and my husband enjoyed it so much, he requested I purchase him a pass when we are on the NCL Bliss in June.
The garden Cafe "Washy Washy" staff were awesome! Their smiles are so contagious!
Disembarking in ports of call (Virgin Islands) was a simple easy process. The time in port in St. Thomas was way too short though.
The lack of communication as to why/when we would leave Port Canaveral as scheduled was horrible! We didn't leave until 9:30 at night due to "Scheduled Maintenance" that they just initially told us was going to be a slight delay! A little communication goes a long way. If you were to ask an employee what time we were leaving, you got a different answer from each person you talked to. I called guest services and was told 9:00, our next door cabin called and spoke to someone else who said 11 pm. Doing maintenance is great, but just let your passengers know how long the wait will be. When you keep people guessing, they are not happy, especially when they have to pay additional taxes on their drinks while stuck in port and they are not allowed to gamble since we have not left the dock and still have to wait until we are in international waters.
Speaking of casino's, we were booked with Casinos at Sea and all of the tables were $10 minimums, as opposed to the standard $5 you see on every other mid-priced cruise line, because “there are 700 passengers booked through casino at sea on this cruise, so we raised the table minimums”. THAT. SUCKS. You double the price on the people who literally are GIVING YOU money? My husband and I gambled MUCH less on this cruise that we have in the past on other ships or land based casinos because 1) it sucks you are taking advantage of your casino clients, knowing they are a captive audience and 2) with higher minimums, you lose your money a lot quicker if the cards or dice are not in your favor and we are not going to continue to throw good money away when we could use that same cash in Vegas on a fully comped stay at a casino there and play for a lot longer.
The teen club, as my 15 year old daughter put it, was "Cheesy" and that the employees were trying way too hard to be what they thought was "cool". Telling the kids their real names but telling them to call them "(Nitro, Wakonda, etc...)". She said it was like they had no concept of what teenagers like and enjoy doing. At one point for the "graffiti wall activity", they were given paper to draw and color. My daughter, who is an artist, was like “what is this? Are we 9 years old?”
Just like with any cruise line, the chair hogs are absurd. They expect to "claim" something that is not theirs. They should NOT be allowed to do this. Yes, staff may give them an hour, but what about the people who are actually ready to enjoy the sun and can’t get a chair for anything. HORRIBLE.
Don't serve people so much alcohol that they can't even walk or talk. The Waves bar was seriously understaffed and the lines were crazy long. Also, they need to have a designated place at a bar that is designated as a line for sodas only for children. A 10 year old is old enough to go get a soda if they wish, but there were way too many kids having to try and fight their way through the throngs of people at the bar waiting on cocktails, with them just wanting to order a soda. Disney does this…
While we are on the subject of drinks, the remixed drinks at the Martini bar are positively disgusting. I ordered the Rum Cake Martini on two occasions and both had a curdled milk texture from the premix that is used. Majorly gross. It was like drinking small curd cottage cheese.
If you're going to have a non-smoking section of the casino, actually have it open just as much as the smoking section. There were 2 smoking areas open at all times, but the non-smoking section was closed 2/3rds of the time. And if you're going to have a non-smoking area, when there are people smoking there, even when it is closed, employees need to tell them to move or put it out. It's not fair to non-smokers who want to have a smoke free (as much as possible) route through deck 6.
I HATED (and yes that is in BOLD) , Utterly HATED that kids had to traverse the casino in order to get to where they wanted to go on the 5th or 6th floors.
Cagney's Steakhouse was SO overrated. Our server was fabulous and the filet was good, but everything else served to me was lukewarm or cold, such as my creamed corn side, the lobster bisque was lacking enough cream and was too generic of seafood flavor. It did not taste at all of lobster and it was lukewarm at best.
The flavors were SO one dimensional, as was most of the food on the ship, from the Garden Cafe to the French restaurant, Le Bistro (who serves escargot without any discernible garlic flavor?) The fajitas at O’Shehanns Pub were an insult to Tex-Mex food everywhere, the Spinach and Artichoke dip was lukewarm with zero seasoning.
At two different restaurants, Wasabi, and Noodles, our service was horrendous and we were not served our correct orders. At Wasabi, we were still charged for appetizers we didn’t receive and did not realize until after we had already left. At the Noodle Bar, we sat there for 45 minutes watching seemingly mass confusion as the cooks and wait staff tried to sort out orders. Eventually, our noodle bowls were just handed to us over the glass partition when they realized we still did not have our order. Although the flavor was a little more as it should be, it really was sub-par. Having eaten Asian food all over the world (Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese), it was obvious that rather than trying to make something authentic tasting, NCL just chose to prepare what they thought the American palette would like.
And lastly, our disembarkation was a total example of mass confusion and utter lack of communication from the staff. A few people mentioned they heard that NCL was trying a new disembarkation process. There were lines just looping around, virtually NO signage, no one knew where they needed to get into line or how long it would take to get off. We had green tags and it took 2 1/2 hours in line to get off the boat. They should have had MUCH more personnel on deck 7 directing people in lines. We were waiting in line from 8 am until 10:30.
So there you have it...Our thoughts on the Epic. Not quite an Epic failure, but we are looking forward to trying out MSC Cruise Line in December on the MSC Meraviglia. An Italian Cruise line branching out to here in the USA. We are looking forward to the NCL Bliss in June and we are going on that trip with as open of a mind as we always do. We take information from reviews and don't let any negative comments hape our trip or impact our enjoyment, but it is something that we like to know about (others experiences) so we know if these negatives are more of a norm than an exception to the rule. One thing though...I sure as heck am packing a small container of Tabasco and Garlic Salt in my purse. I HAVE to have flavor!!!
Here's to future cruises....may we all have smooth sailing.