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youknownothingjonsnow

I'm cheating on Carnival... for the Norwegian Epic

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Sailing Norwegian for the 1st time- Epic in February.  Not sure I totally understand freestyle cruising, but I'm excited to try it.  Any tip/tricks I should know about Norwegian?  What's your favorite thing about NCL?

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You've probably read about the "bathroom" situation that is on Epic. If that doesn't bother you or doesn't apply to your stateroom type, you should be fine. Epic is the only NCL ship with this issue. 

 

Think of freestyle dining as you would think of dining on land. You can make reservations for dinner in most restaurants or you can just walk up (expect a wait time) and eat. 

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I've sailed on the Breakaway and also the Epic and soon to be sailing on the Bliss but I really loved the Epic!  I'm sure you'll have a great time!  I didn't mind the bathroom layout at all.  

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1 hour ago, youknownothingjonsnow said:

Sailing Norwegian for the 1st time- Epic in February.  Not sure I totally understand freestyle cruising, but I'm excited to try it.  Any tip/tricks I should know about Norwegian?  What's your favorite thing about NCL?

 Freestyle dining is much like carnival's anytime dining. We switched from carnival about 6 yrs ago now the beverage package won us over. We also like that NCL offers more longer sailing than a week and has great entertainment. 

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Real 24 hour restaurants, that you don't have to pay extra for.  Main dining room open on embarkation.  At the ports, they were handing out cold towels.  Such a great difference from my cruises on Carnival.

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2 hours ago, youknownothingjonsnow said:

Sailing Norwegian for the 1st time- Epic in February.  Not sure I totally understand freestyle cruising, but I'm excited to try it.  Any tip/tricks I should know about Norwegian?  What's your favorite thing about NCL?

 

We have sailed the Epic 5 times and love her!!! One of our favorite ships.  Freestyle is like Carnival's anytime dining basically.  We have found that on embarkation day, the best place to go for lunch is O'Sheehan's, less crowded than the buffet.  The salmon ceasar salad is awesome there!!  If you haven't already done it, you can make reservations for the shows at the kiosks around the ship once you board.  Also, make sure and make your tender reservations if you are going to a tender port. 

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3 hours ago, youknownothingjonsnow said:

Sailing Norwegian for the 1st time- Epic in February.  Not sure I totally understand freestyle cruising, but I'm excited to try it.  Any tip/tricks I should know about Norwegian?  What's your favorite thing about NCL?

The big thing is that the Epic is a megaship. Reservations are required for the two main theater shows and specialty dining. Show and dining reservations opened 120 days prior to cruise and some may already be sold out. Fear not,

thet just means that you will need to deal with those reservations as soon as you embark. 
 

The Spice H20 is a great adults only sun deck at the aft of the ship. And the Bliss ultra lounge is a great place to be at night.  

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2 hours ago, ready2cruzagain said:

We have found that on embarkation day, the best place to go for lunch is O'Sheehan's, less crowded than the buffet. 

 

The Taste dining room is also open for lunch on embarkation day, and usually half empty. If I boarded after the lunch hours in Taste I would go to O'Sheehan's.

 

It can be difficult to get a table in the MDRs on embarkation night, because the sequence of boarding, lifeboat drill, and sailing puts everyone onto more or less the same schedule and thus many more people than usual show up at the MDRs around the same time. If you have the specialty dining package, embarkation night is a good time to use it.

 

I've been aboard the Epic twice now (have one more booking), and some things about the two cruises were quite different. In the winter, after school break ends, the percentage of passengers who are retired tends to be higher, as does the percentage from the Midwest (I'm retirement-aged and from the Midwest, just so you understand), and more people want to eat dinner early and go to early shows. This especially affects shows for which there are no reservations, such as comedy acts in Headliners. My second cruise on the Epic was in February, and passengers would line up for shows, and even for bingo, 90 minutes in advance. If a Headliners act has both early and late shows, I would go to the late one (note that the late comedy shows tend to be rather "blue"). The comedians will probably also do a night in the theater.

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6 hours ago, youknownothingjonsnow said:

Sailing Norwegian for the 1st time- Epic in February.  Not sure I totally understand freestyle cruising, but I'm excited to try it.  Any tip/tricks I should know about Norwegian?  What's your favorite thing about NCL?

Well, you picked what is arguably the worst ship in NCL's fleet.  However, depending on your tastes, you will probably still enjoy yourself.

 

Cue the Epic lovers in 3, 2, 1....

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17 hours ago, youknownothingjonsnow said:

What's your favorite thing about NCL?

That it's not Carnival.

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Epic was our introduction to NCL and even though I'd never sail on her again, I became hooked by the over all NCL experience.  If you find that you don't quite like the Epic, I encourage you to try a different ship before completely writing them off.  

 

Some great things were the varied entertainment in the evening, having the flexibility to eat when and where we wanted (some with a wait), and not having to pack a bunch of fancy clothes for formal nights.  

 

The bathroom situation is very unusual.  The extremely tiny sink located in the sleeping area of the cabin, is disruptive to anyone who is sleeping if you have to wash your hands in the middle of the night.  And because the sink is so small, you can expect to splash water everywhere.  And the wavy wall is super bizarre.  If you are in a balcony room, I recommend one with the bed closest to the balcony door...not the bathroom area.  Ours was closest to the bathroom and our travel companions' was closest to the balcony.  They appeared to have more walking around room in the bathroom/dressing area...but there's threads on that too...with lots of opinions.

A tip...if you haven't done so already, check your cruise planner and make some dining reservations (assuming you have the dining package) and also show reservations.  This concept was completely foreign to me and took some doing to figure out which shows we wanted to see, the times, and then coordinating that with dinner reservations.  If you can do some of this ahead of time, it's less to deal with once you board.  You can make changes later if you wish.

Despite the ship's quirks, we had a great time and I'm sure you will as well!

Edited by Georgia_Peaches

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11 hours ago, Love my butler said:

Well, you picked what is arguably the worst ship in NCL's fleet.  However, depending on your tastes, you will probably still enjoy yourself.

 

Cue the Epic lovers in 3, 2, 1....

 

I am an Epic lover and proud of it! 😁 Sailed her 5 times. Yes, Epic does have its flaws but what ship doesn't?  I will say I do not like the size of the inside cabins on the Epic and will not sail on another inside that small.  I am not claustrophobic but I was after being in an inside cabin on the Epic🤣.  I definitely do NOT recommend them!

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11 hours ago, Love my butler said:

Well, you picked what is arguably the worst ship in NCL's fleet.  However, depending on your tastes, you will probably still enjoy yourself.

 

Cue the Epic lovers in 3, 2, 1....

 

 

Like the old saying goes:  "one man's trash is another man's treasure".   To each their own.

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Threads like this drive me batty because of the people who say the Epic is their favorite ship.  Why is it your favorite Ship?  What does the Epic offer that the other large NCL ships don't?

 

People who complain about the Epic almost always list what they don't like yet those who say they love the Epic never mention what makes the Epic their favorite.  C'mon, tell me why the Epic is better than the Breakaway, Getaway, Escape, Joy, Bliss, and Encore.

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7 minutes ago, Oakman58 said:

Threads like this drive me batty because of the people who say the Epic is their favorite ship.  Why is it your favorite Ship?  What does the Epic offer that the other large NCL ships don't?

 

People who complain about the Epic almost always list what they don't like yet those who say they love the Epic never mention what makes the Epic their favorite.  C'mon, tell me why the Epic is better than the Breakaway, Getaway, Escape, Joy, Bliss, and Encore.

 

 

I doubt that most people have been on all those ships so they can't really compare them.  They are just saying it's the one the enjoyed the most that they have been on.  Do people who have other favorite ships always list why it's their favorite?  Nothing to get wound up about.

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1.  If you want the Posh pass, where there's rumored to be about 20, get the port at 10am.

2.  On the day of embarkment, the MDR Taste is open yet from noon-2pm (unsure if there's a cutoff), since both O'Sheehan's and the buffet (depending on hours) offer food, I would recommend weighing your options to explore the embarkment port/city longer and boarding later vs a free MDR lunch.  Often arriving an hour before the all aboard results in a minimal embarkment line as well.

3.  Anyone can access Deck 18 (when its open), to get there go on Deck 15 by the Buffet/Garden Café there are stairs on the Starboard side and a glass elevator near those stairs.

4.  All the way to the front on deck 13 is the bridge viewing room, I highly recommend visiting.

5.  You can book the Pascillia show and Burn the floor show along with dinner reservations before your cruise starts, try the mobile app or online, if no luck try calling reservations.  I was told by the Taste hostess they don’t accept reservations, the Manhattan room, Shanghai do allow o'Sheehan them to be made in advance.

6.  With the shows, I found you could simply walk into any (free) venue 5mins after a show started.  Keep an eye out for 2+ people to leave (1 person leaving may only be grabbing a drink or visiting the rest room; but if a couple appears to be leaving together odds are they aren't coming back) and take their seats.  While this isn’t exactly guaranteed,  I saw this first hand for several shows and band performances.

7.  This generally goes for most cruises, if you want a table by the window, politely ask and mention that you’re willing to wait.  If you have an actual reservation, consider arriving 15mins early to request the window table and perhaps you’ll get one without waiting very long.  For me, every time I visited Taste, whether breakfast/lunch/dinner I was able to get one without waiting.  I waited about 15mins at both Shanghai(no reservation) and Cagney's (reservation, arrived 10mins early).

8.  For Breakfast and lunch, La Cucina Italian Restaurant allows you to bring your buffet food in it to eat.  There is both busing staff and drink service to take drink orders.  It’s a lot quieter, the décor makes it a much better atmosphere and as far as I know there isn’t anyone enforcing any kind of dress code.  Get your buffet food, walk all the way to the front of the buffet and you’ll see stairs that go down to the restaurant.  They do have a self-serve water, ice, coffee and juice machines.  On the sea day they even had a mini buffet with pizza.

9.  One of the top complaints with the ship is the incredibly slow elevators.  Get into the right mindset that every time you want an elevator it will take a few minutes and that when the door opens it could be too full to get in especially during peak times.  There are too few elevators for the number of passengers and Haven guests get priority.  Practice patience or do what I did, take the stairs every time.

10.  At Teppanyaki, the menu lists most two meat combinations but there are some combinations that aren’t listed and are allow such as steak and scallops.

11.  Shanghai/Noodle bar and Teppanyaki /Sushi offer Sake (filtered or unfiltered) which is included is covered by the UDP.  It’s delivered cold but you can order the filtered hot (don’t order the unfiltered hot).

12.   Ordering drinks from bars can be slow; quickest place to get a drink on the ship quickly was any bar on deck 7 (unless there’s an event going on at the bar). 

13.  If you have the drink package, doubles are allowed; better than waiting for a drink, twice.

14.  There's a bar at Cagney's/Moderno, great place to people watch.

15.  Rock climbing wall may have extremely limited hours.

16.  You need your keycard to turn on the lights in your stateroom.

17.  You can request a mattress topper, rumored they run out so request early.

18.  Staterooms can have hidden storage under the bench.

19.  If hanging up clothes near the shower while showering doesn't get all your wrinkles out, you can request an iron and ironing board, you generally only get it for very limited amount of time.

20.  Taste is open for breakfast on the day of disembarkment.

21.  For breakfast at Taste to take a long time.   Buffet breakfast wasn't what I would call slammed (which happens at CCL) and breakfast at o'Sheehan was fast.

Edited by NutsAboutGolf

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1 hour ago, Oakman58 said:

Threads like this drive me batty because of the people who say the Epic is their favorite ship.  Why is it your favorite Ship?  What does the Epic offer that the other large NCL ships don't?

 

People who complain about the Epic almost always list what they don't like yet those who say they love the Epic never mention what makes the Epic their favorite.  C'mon, tell me why the Epic is better than the Breakaway, Getaway, Escape, Joy, Bliss, and Encore.


I find the Spice H2O area superior to later iterations; I prefer the pool to the “water feature.” Bliss is also superior on Epic. I much prefer the Bliss setup on Epic to Bliss on Breakaway/Getaway and Skyline on Epic. I like the size and fact it’s completely separate from the casino. I also like the gym on Epic the best. It’s the largest and therefore the least crowded. I haven’t had to wait for a machine on Epic. I have no Getaway and Escape. 
 

I have zero interest in sailing Encore because the the removal of Spice H2O and addition of go carts and laser tag take away the already limited outdoor space. 

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I went in early 2018 on the Epic

 

1 - The staff is very friendly, especially if you're friendly to them. We didn't have to tip all the time to get great service, we only tipped when we felt it was warranted after we'd received great service.

2 - The elevator situation can be awful. My recommendation is NEVER use the starboard elevators in the front of the ship, because Haven people can put them on priority service and completely skip your floor. Also on excursion days they turn two of those elevators to completely Haven use. Instead, always use the port elevators in the front, and get on them at either deck 5 or deck 15, if you're in the middle, just walk down to 5, it's way faster than waiting.

3 - The easiest bar to get a drink at is the Casino area bar on Deck 6 with the video poker machines. I never had a wait there, and the bartenders are very friendly. The best drinks are at Maltings, but it can get very crowded at primetime, so I usually opted for sitting in Shakers instead in the evenings. The reason being is that the Shakers table service is VERY good and prompt. I usually tipped them every night because they were so good, and the bartenders make their drinks faster than sitting at the bar.

4 - The Wave bar near the pool, and O'Sheehans are the worst bars for wait times. I recommend going to the carts across from the Wave bar to get your frozen drinks and beers, and if you want a liquor drink you're better off going to Spice H2O during the day because I found the lines there to be much more manageable in the afternoon. 

5 - The service at Taste was faster for us than the service at the Manhattan Room, and I honestly preferred the atmosphere of Taste better. Manhattan is just too dark and loud for me while they are playing music, and it took a little longer to get everything there, possibly due to the amount of people they serve since it's more popular.

6 - If you're going to Great Stirrup Cay, the least crowded area for us was in the back of the island near the final line of cabanas, and the guys at the "Island Bar" were extremely fast in clearing the lines. I think we waited a max of 5 minutes, and you could get 2 drinks at a time with no issues.

7 - If you're easily offended, the Epic's shows will offend you. Priscilla is a drag show, which can put some people off so fair warning. Also Burn the Floor has some extremely sexy moves and costumes in it. In our version they came out in leather gear with masks and dominatrix outfits, and in another scene all the girls were in extremely short Catholic schoolgirl outfits. It was a bit much in my mind, but the quality is good.

8 - The Cavern Club has the Beatles, but it will always be slammed and starting in the middle of dinner or at 10:30 at night, so we never bothered going. However, the Cavern Club also had a cover bad called 4 Blue, and they were phenomenally good. They even belted out a Rammstein song which I never expected to hear on a cruise ship. I love rock and hate all the normal ballady cruise crap, and these guys were a breath of fresh air.

9 - Don't go to any of the shows with D'Soul Duo unless you like the ballad crap. Seriously that's all they do. They'll bill it as something else like Motown songs, and then just sing the ballads. We didn't care for them at all.

10 - Make sure when you first get on the boat, you go to the Headliners Club. That's where they had the signups for tenders for Great Stirrup Cay, and also you could arrange you entertainment tickets and the restaurant changes. We moved everything around there before the other people on the ship because they didn't know where to go.

11 - Do the escape room if you have time, it's really fun and a good puzzle solving thing to do with a drink in your hand and some friends.

12 - People complain about the smokey casino, but I never noticed it being that bad. However, I'm not that sensitive to smoke even though I don't smoke. I recommend playing in the Casino for the first two nights, and then quitting because the machines all stopped seeming to pay out after night 2. Also, be aware that the table minimum for everything is $10, so if you're playing Craps, get your bankroll ready for that since on Carnival it was only $5 when I went with them.

13 - Make sure to use the wheel on your cabin room number to let your steward know what's going on. If you're leaving, put it on Make up room, if you're there put it on DND, if you want Turn-Down put the wheel on Turndown. When you come back you'll see if it's done because the wheel will be set to Welcome. It's the best way to get service.

14 - If you skip a port day and stay on the ship, make sure to do the water slides, and hang out in Spice H20, you'll basically have all of that to yourselves, and practically your own private bartender and hot-tub.

15 - The buffet has a drink vendor right in the center after you go by washy-washy. You can get beers and wines there, and the line is way shorter than anywhere else for beer and wine.

16 - I don't really recommend getting off the ship in Falmouth because almost every excursion is an hour bus ride. They really should port in Ocho Rios because it seems that's where everything is, but I guess they don't want to do that.

17 - If you want good seats in the Atrium for any of the big shows, you best get there an hour early because the area is tiny comparatively to the rest of the ship. Also if it's packed, you can go up one level to O'Sheehans and overlook the area from the barstools up there.

18 - They serve snacks outdoors between main buffet hours if you're hungry and just want pizza, burgers, ice cream, or some simple items. It made it convenient to stop by there on the way off the top deck going to the room.

19 - Be patient and flexible. There's ALWAYS a better option if something is crowded. If you really want to do something, get reservations or get there an hour early. If you don't care as much, be like water and flow to the next thing. You'll be much happier if you take that tactic instead of getting frustrated. You're on a huge boat with lots to do.

20 - A lot of the best activities start at 10PM, so if you're not a night owl you're going to have to make a call between having a breakfast in the main dining room, and actually staying up until midnight to see all the musical shows and parties you want to see.

Edited by Paelos

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I just cheated on NCL with CCL. Lots of things are ship specific, depending the age and size.

 

But my biggest annoyance with CCL was the food. The buffet was always crowded and the lay out was frustrating. If I wanted to get fries with a salad, I had to wait in 2 separate very long lines. Things were separated that I would have liked to be together. Also, the app said lunch was open until 3:30, but it closed at 2:30 so twice I missed lunch and was limited to burgers and pizza. 

 

CCL pizza is much better crust and overall but still bland.

 

Dinner food in the MDR was much better on CCL. Needed some salt but otherwise tastier with better vegetarian options. 

 

Our carnival ships library had a bunch of games but very few books, and no kids books. 

 

Carnival app is better - can look up all the dailies and menus for the whole week.

 

Staff was mixed, but generally friendlier on NCL. 

 

Otherwise we make our own fun and can really enjoy ourselves anywhere.

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48 minutes ago, Paelos said:

3 - The easiest bar to get a drink at is the Casino area bar on Deck 6 with the video poker machines. I never had a wait there, and the bartenders are very friendly. The best drinks are at Maltings, but it can get very crowded at primetime, so I usually opted for sitting in Shakers instead in the evenings. The reason being is that the Shakers table service is VERY good and prompt. I usually tipped them every night because they were so good, and the bartenders make their drinks faster than sitting at the bar.


Like anything YMMV; perhaps it was because there were a lot of gamblers on my cruise but I found the VP bar was slammed whenever I went resulting in an excess of 5mins to get a drink.  It seemed there was only one bartender who was making drinks and they who favored their VP players over walk ups.  The reason I mention deck 7 for a drink, there’s a ton of options including cavern, shakers, sake bar, etc.  As mentioned, usually these lounges are dead until 10pm-ish, therefore getting a drink at one of them results in fast and positive experience.  If shakers is slammed for whatever reason go to sake bar

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One more plus for NCL, on the private island you can eat at the buffet ( which isn't great but gets the job done). On carnival I just had to pay to eat at fat Tuesdays on a private beach.

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3 hours ago, Oakman58 said:

Threads like this drive me batty because of the people who say the Epic is their favorite ship.  Why is it your favorite Ship?  What does the Epic offer that the other large NCL ships don't?

 

People who complain about the Epic almost always list what they don't like yet those who say they love the Epic never mention what makes the Epic their favorite.  C'mon, tell me why the Epic is better than the Breakaway, Getaway, Escape, Joy, Bliss, and Encore.

Every NCL ship made after Epic is very similar to Epic.  Breakaway, Getaway, Escape, Bliss, and Encore all have similar or almost identical features in one way or the other.  Besides Encore they all have Spice H20 a feature that was created for EPIC.  Each ship have the Manhattan Room and another divided MDR Taste and Savor that was created for Epic.  Every ship since Epic has followed her design of having the Casino center and a giant chandelier hanging above decks 6,7, and 8.  They all have forward or aft elevators (which is something people complain about).  Epic Haven started having their own restaurant and all other ships did the same thing.  I could go on and on.  The atrium on every ship since Epic is almost identical to Epic.  
So I always laugh when people bash Epic yet praise Breakaway.  The only concept that was developed after Epic is the waterfront which was purposely created to address a criticism of Epic.  Other than that, NCL's ships are all very similar which sort of annoys me and why I really look forward to the Leonardo class.  Its not that I don't care for the Breakaway class ships its just I don't feel like I am sailing a new ship and ready to try something different.  When I sailed Getaway, it was like sailing Epic light IMHO.  The Epic is far superior to Breakaway or Getaway IMHO.  I always said if you could add a waterfront to Epic, she would still be their best ship in the fleet.

Edited by david_sobe

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I sailed Epic as a solo in a studio. I lived on Deck 18 and in the thermal spa.

- Deck 18 sunbathing- as previously posted, take the elevator up, then hook a left and go all the way around to the front of the ship. There was never anyone there and it's an understood quiet area. The Haven without paying for The Haven. People will make you regret making noise though, so this is not the area for party time.

- Thermal spa has a balcony with the nice lounge chairs and the heated ceramic ones inside. Heaven.

- Just walk down the stairs! Take the elevator back up.

- I had crappy pillows and tipped my steward $5 to find some fluffy ones. She came back with what appeared to be an entire Haven bedding set.

- I cruised in the Western Mediterranean and had to choose between the ports and the evening activities, so beware if you want to see the shows, you're not going to be off the boat at 7am for the ports. A port intensive cruise isn't really fun on the Epic.

- I had no problems getting a solo table without a wait anywhere in free dining. The folks waiting were the 3+ groups. I waited at Shanghai for 10 minutes. Otherwise it was walk in everywhere.

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