We were on the Epic western Caribbean cruise last week and my plan was to make a comparison between that cruise and the RCL oasis cruise we were on in Aug. but the Oasis has it beat in every category with the exception of overall cost of the cruise so ill give some highlights of our not so Epic cruise last week.
What went right.
Itinerary was great and the main reason we picked the cruise.
Coco Key – Snorkeling was great once you found the right spot. It was easy to find lounge chairs and there were plenty of places for the kids to explore.
Jamaica – not one of favorite ports so we booked an all day excursion so we weren’t wondering around town. We did the Dolphin swim and duns river climb tour and both were great. We did a Dolphin swim in Cozumel a couple cruises, but liked this one better. They let you interact more with the dolphins and there was more to do at the resort area after the swim. Dunns was pretty fun as well, although our 12yo was a little hesitant about the climb but once we started doing it, he was fine. Overall, great way to spend the day in Jamaica.
Grand Cayman – There were 6 ships in GC when we were there so do the math on the number of people in town that day… We did the sunken Ship snorkel tour which was also good, but a little deep to Snorkel. We could see if fine, but it was a little too deep to hold your breath and dive down to. Definitely on our bucket list to scuba dive when our kids are certified. That took most of the day so we did a tiny bit of shopping and then back to the ship. Another great day.
Cozumel – One of our favorite islands. We did Snuba which the kids loved. We have done it before so everyone had an idea of what to do which made it even easier and more enjoyable for our youngest given it wasn’t his first time so he was more relaxed. After that we had lunch on the water, did a bit a shopping, and then back the ship. Also, the port where the ship docks has a great shopping area. Think outdoor mall. Very clean, restrooms, great stores. Probably not the cheapest place to shop on the island, but had everything we wanted and the prices weren’t bad.
What went wrong
Ok, so if you are a diehard NCL cruiser, you may want to stop here because this is going to get ugly.
Room Steward - This was the first cruise that we actually had a bad cabin steward. Not that all of the other ones were perfect on our 20+ past cruises which I wouldn’t expect, but this one just didn’t give a you know what. We had 2 balcony cabins side by side, one for us and one for our 2 kids. We asked him to separate the beds when he made the up for the night which he said no problem. We even left him a note on the bed before we went to dinner and when we returned ready to put the kids to bed, the beds were not separated. He responded to our note with another note telling us to call a number to get them separated. When we called, they said they would do it in the morning which was not acceptable so after some arguing, they finally sent someone up to do it. Ok, so bad taste in our mouth on day 1, but we figured, that would be it. Nope, he only left 1 towel in the boys room on multiple occasions, no ice was ever filled in either room, sometimes we would get a next day itinerary on our beds, but usually only in 1 room, not both. Icing on the cake was on the last day, he informed us that he would not make up our room that night because he had to pack to get off the ship in the morning. So no clean towels and no info on disembarkation the next morning. I know there will be a lot of comments on why we didn’t complain, and my wife and I did contemplate that, but decided to do it after the cruise given he has access to a lot of our belongings that would not fit into the safe. Laptops, ipads, cell phones, etc.
Overall service – Some of the crew members did admit that they were short staffed, but it was also pretty obvious. One of the three sides was closed because they didn’t have anyone to operate it, bar staff was way understaffed, especially at the pool area. We waited close to 30 minutes to get a drink at the main bar and on sea days, it was sometimes 3 people deep just get to the bar to order something. Bar staff walking around and taking drink orders was almost nonexistent. We were asked 1 time if we wanted a drink from someone walking around. Restaurants were not much better. They were also short staffed and servicing way too many tables. We ate at the MDR once given it took close to 3 hours to get through the courses. My wife and I could handle it, but the kids got restless.
Restaurants – We bought the 3 specialty restaurant package and had a hard time using it because everything was booked. We found out that on day 1, people would book multiple restaurants each night and just show up for the one they wanted. Give that and the short staff, it was really hard to get in anywhere.
Construction – I never thought this would end up in one of my reviews but they were doing construction on the ship which closed off a good portion of the pool deck. I believe it was where the putt putt golf area was. I know there are necessary things that need to be done on the ship, but thanksgiving week with a lot of kids sailing probably isn’t the week to do whatever they were doing.
I think its obvious that we had a bad experience on Epic and I don’t think we are being overly critical because we sailed on Epic on 2013 and had a wonderful experience so the service level on NCL has either gotten really bad over the years or this cruise was just a fluke. The only positive was it was considerably less expensive than our Oasis cruise in August but you get what you pay for. I wouldn’t say we will never sail NCL again because itinerary is very important to us so we may have to, but they will be way down on the list when we look at a cruise for next year.
Im happy to answer any questions and would like to hear from someone else on Epic last week to hear their experience.