We booked a cruise aboard the NCL Epic – one of the largest ships afloat that holds 4100 passengers and a crew of 1700. I’ve been in port alongside this monstrous ship that I’ve affectionately dubbed the brick on water – mostly because of it’s rectangular size and 19 decks! We arrive at the terminal in the warm Miami sunshine at 11:00 am and hand our bags off to the porters. We were concerned about how they were going to get 4100 people onboard in an efficient manner, so we arrived early – something we recommend to all our clients. To our pleasant surprise we quickly and easily boarded the ship with several hundred passengers. Our staterooms wouldn’t be ready until 2:00 pm, so we checked in our one carry on bag in headliners on deck 6 (a nice touch) and set off to explore this great ship.
As the people poured onboard, we made our dinner reservations at the specialty restaurants for the week (something I encourage everyone to do immediately since they book up fast) – we could only get 9:00 dinner reservations online, so we wanted to change the times and book a few more. Freestyle cruising on NCL offers a handful of main restaurants that are included in your cruise price – Taste, The Manhattan Room, The Garden Café, Great Outdoors, and O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill. The Epic also boasts nine specialty restaurants for various minimal charges ($10 – $25/p) – Cagney’s Steakhouse, La Cucina Italian Restaurant, Le Bistro French Restaurant, Moderno Churrascaria (Brazilian), Shanghai’s Noodle Bar, Shanghai’s Chinese Restaurant, Wasabi Sushi Bar, Teppanyaki, and dinner in the Spiegel Tent while watching the Cirque Dreams show. If you are staying in a suite or villa, you also have two exclusive restaurants to choose from – the Courtyard Grill and the Epic Club.
We then grabbed a bite to eat at the Garden Café, the buffet on deck 15 and sat outside in the sun near the main pool. We relaxed a bit and enjoyed the afternoon poolside. The kids were having a blast in NCL’s Aqua Park – definitely the biggest water park at sea with two pools, a kids pool, five hot tubs, three multi-level water slides and the 200 foot Epic Plunge, the only tube slide at sea. The kids were so excited, you could see they had no idea which slide to go down first! We made our way to Spice H2O in the rear of the ship and quickly ascertained that this would be where we would hang in the day while at sea. Spice H2O is an adults only area that is an Ibiza inspired beach club with a pool, two hot tubs and plenty of lounge chairs on four decks overlooking the ocean.
Next we decided to check out some of the great features the Epic has to offer. We wandered to deck 14 to check out the Mandara Spa and Pulse Fitness Center. The fitness center is by far the biggest we’ve seen yet at sea. You can stay in shape with your favorite workout equipment including treadmills, ellipticals and free weights or even yoga, pilates and spinning (20 bikes!). We continued on to some of the fun areas on decks 6 & 7 like Bliss Ultra Lounge, the Ice Bar, Fat Cats Blues and Jazz Club and the Epic Casino – bar none the biggest we’ve encountered onboard any cruise ship.
We checked out our room at 2:00 pm and continued to check out the ship before the mandatory life boat drill at 3:30 pm. We quickly signed up for our internet package and then went back up to Decks 15 and 16 for one of my favorite times onboard any cruise – the sail away party!
We headed to the main pool area, grabbed a drink and danced to the tunes the Celebrity DJ spun as we took in the great Miami coastline while sailing out to sea. It’s a little different since the Love Boat days – no streamers, but nothing but a fun party for all. We were off onto the horizon – next up for us, two glorious days at sea, stops on the islands of St. Maarten, St. Thomas, another fun day at sea, and the island of Nassau before returning to Miami. In between, great food, taking in the Cirque Dreams dinner show, The Blue Man Group, and so much more. Look for a blog later this week on all the fun things to do at sea onboard the NCL Epic!