Cruising the Norwegian Epic Review

Cruising the Norwegian Epic and sailing the Western Mediterranean? In this Norwegian Epic review, you will find everything we loved and didn’t love about this cruise ship and its itinerary.

This year we were not going to cruise. We planned to spend it exploring parts of Spain and maybe even hop over to Portugal. We played around with the idea and a few itineraries, but nothing that overly excited one or the other.

That was until I found a great deal on Norwegian Cruise Line for a week cruising the Western Mediterranean on the Norwegian Epic.

It fit our budget and is docked at multiple ports of interest. Plus, it started and ended in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

We wouldn’t be able to explore Southern Spain with our limited time, but at least I would get to check off Barcelona and some other nearby areas off my bucket list.

On this cruise, we chose not to take advantage of Norwegian’s Free at Sea promotion and only purchased a soda package on embarkation day. We also chose not to participate in the cruise roll call activities, which probably was not a good idea.

The Epic is Norwegian’s cruise line’s first mega-ship. It launched in 2009, and at the time of its christening, it was the 3rd largest cruise ship in the world. It was last refurbished in 2015.

In the past couple of years, the Epic has been exploring the Mediterranean before returning to the Caribbean during winter.

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This article was originally written in 2018.

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Before booking this cruise, we discussed the mixed reviews of the ship. We had heard about the weird ship layout, the closed-off public spaces, and the oddly shaped cabin with the not-so-private bathroom.

We decided the itinerary was enough for us, and we’d judge the ship later. In the past, we read many mixed reviews on certain ships due to the variety of personalities and expectations and found it was far from what we ended up experiencing.

We now understand what makes this ship different from the others and noticed the service’s downfall compared to all our other cruises.

While the itinerary was fantastic, we can’t say the same for the cruise ship itself. The Epic left a lot to be desired. We will be honest about our experience cruising on the Norwegian Epic.

Was it the worst cruise that we have taken? No.

Did Norwegian lose points with us? Yes.

Cruising the Norwegian Epic Review

Norwegian Epic HullPin

Barcelona Cruise Port Embarkation

We were pleasantly surprised by how painless the check-in process was at the Barcelona cruise port. Lines were short, close to non-existent. A rarity in our experience on cruise embarkation day. They were also efficient and informative.

For the first time, we were given a ship map (we later find out that a map is desperately needed to get around). We waited 15 minutes for our number to be called to embark. It was a relatively great start.

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Sail Away

Nothing exciting to report. The ship sailed away at the expected time. We watched the sunset from the top deck and popped into the sail-away party at Spice H20. We decided to explore the ship’s interior when it started to rain.

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Our Balcony Cabin: Cabin # 10163

Our cabin was mid-ship on deck 10, cabin # 10163. Sadly, we did not get a proper room video this time. We wouldn’t book a room mid-ship if you would like to be near the elevators.

As mentioned, the cabin is oddly shaped in curves, like the room was one big wave. We don’t think anyone would be comfortable sleeping on the curved sofa in that room, but there is storage space behind it if needed.

The bathroom was different, and if you’re sharing the cabin with someone you are not 100% comfortable with, you may be in for a rude awakening. There is no actual separate room for the bathroom itself. As soon you enter the room, you’ll find the shower to your right and the toilet to your left.

Both have frosted slide doors you can close for “privacy.” The sink is next to the shower for all in the room. We didn’t have any issues with this arrangement, but I can see others who would.

The cabin is modern, with a flat-screen television. A plus is all the storage space in the room to put away your belongings. You can shove your luggage underneath the bed for storage space.

There were two outlets available, but no USB outlets. Don’t forget to pack a USB adapter.


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Service on the Norwegian Epic

Service was hit & miss throughout the ship. O’Sheehan’s had the worst service. We usually love this establishment on the other ships, but there was always a problem at the 24hr pub on the Epic.

The main dining room depended on where you sat and who your waiter was for the night. Some waiters seemed severely overwhelmed and spread out thin, which we can only blame the management for.

Our room steward was great. We met him a few days after our cruise started, but that didn’t bother us. He always cleaned up our room during the day while we were gone and turned it down for us at dinner time. He did ask us multiple times if there were any special requests he could take care of for us.

Many crew members on the ship were kind & hospitable, but there were plenty that seemed miserable to be there.

We understand we are all human and have days we don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning, but when you keep facing the same attitude throughout the ship, you have to wonder what the management is doing wrong.

As always, our favorite crew members were the washy-washy folk. Thank you for always being cheery and brightening my day before we even had our coffee.

NCL Epic’s Spa & Barbershop

I convinced hubby to treat himself to the spa because he works his butt off and rarely gets to do nice things for himself like this back home. He did a men’s facial with a shave and a hot stone pedicure.

The pedicure turned out to be fantastic and better than he expected. The fire and ice pedicure is highly recommended. The facial and the shave, not so much.

There is a cute old-school-looking barbershop on this ship that looks great for a nice shave. This is where the facial took place, not at their spa. The problem with this barbershop is that it’s open to everyone passing by it and not far from the casino.

So as you’re trying to relax during your facial and shave, you hear casino bells and rings going off in the background. Far from the relaxing spa environment, they have an upstairs.

The staff there was wonderful; they did their best with what was available. In my honest opinion, they shouldn’t offer spa facials that will take place at the barbershop.

Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship Docked in Palma De Mallorca PortPin

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Tasty Itinerary: Norwegian Epic Restaurants

The food is the heart of our travels, and sadly, I do not have much to report under this section of the Norwegian Epic review. Perhaps it’s partially my fault for not purchasing a specialty dining package and not eating at their finer dining establishments. However, that is a splurge not everyone can make.

When you’re on a cruise vacation, you expect even the food included to be up to par with all their other dining establishments. On their other ships, I had wonderful meals all around.

Cirque Dreams Dinner

We booked this dinner show in advance, and the pre-fixed menu is the same as the magic show from our Norwegian Getaway cruise.


They could never get the order right. Their hot dogs were not edible. Their fries were nibs of soggy potatoes. We tried eating here a few times, even once sending an order back multiple times because the description on the menu did not match what they served us.

Nowhere on the menu did it say the item comes with chili, but they argued it was the way it came. Well then, folks, if you’re going to contradict your menu description, update it. That’s a big no-no to add-on to add to anyone’s order just because you feel it belongs.


We had our embarkation lunch here, which should have been a sign of things to come – the food was tasteless. The fried chicken they served hubby tasted like they tossed the chicken in some breadcrumb, fried it, and forgot to add a dash of salt or seasoning.

My lamb was tough and needed extra TLC.  We returned for dinner a few more times that week, and there were a few highlights worth mentioning: popcorn shrimp, crab cake, baked ziti, and crème brûlée.

Manhattan Room

Overall the best service and food, compared to the other restaurants. Not sure why there is a discrepancy because they serve the same menu from Taste and probably from the same kitchen.

We were given a table right by the stage on the last night and had a fantastic meal with wonderful service.

Highlights: prime rib, onion crostata flatbread, and scallops.


On the night we tried Shanghai’s, we tried to get reservations at one of the specialty restaurants to no avail. We wanted something different, so we decided to try the included Chinese restaurant.

We had it on the Norwegian Pearl, which was fairly good, so we thought it would be the same. Well, this was barely edible. Everything was severely salty. The service was severely lacking. Skip this one.

Norwegian Cruise Tip: If you plan to eat at any of their specialty restaurants, make reservations as soon as possible. You can start making reservations 90 days in advance.


We mostly ate breakfast at the buffet, and it was always great. It’s the same every day, so it does get old after a while. We always found something to eat. When we’re on a cruise, we snack, especially in the late evenings, way past having dinner and spending time in the casino.

Unfortunately, their late-night snack section was not up to par with what they served on the Norwegian Pearl. It was the same poor choices every night.

Don’t Miss: What’s included in a Cruise Ship Vacation?

Entertainment on the Norwegian Epic


Drum set on state of Beatlemania show on Norwegian CruisePin
Beatlemania on Norwegian

The cover band for the Beatles dressed sounded and acted very close to the real Beatles. The band is even fitted with the appropriate wigs.

As a huge Beatles fan, my husband loved this show. We watched The Beatles the first night in the theater, and then they played in one of the smaller lounges throughout the week.

We suggest you get there early if you want to see them on one of the other nights outside the theater. It fills up quickly. Norwegian should give them a bigger space.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

We loved this drag queen show! It reminded me somewhat of the movie Birdcage with Robin Williams. Have you seen it? It was flamboyant, hilarious, and fun. We enjoyed every minute of the show.

*Do not recommend if you’re easily offended.

Cirque Dreams

Fantastic circus act. We enjoyed this show immensely—a talented acrobatic cast with unhuman-like skills that we’ll never have in our lifetime. We closed our eyes many times. Cringed. Gasped. Gawked. My heart leaped into my throat a few times.

Our only gripe was the seating arrangement. They should have the tables horizontally facing the center of the room. Instead, they have them vertically, and you’ll have stiff necks to try to see around the person in front of you.

We guess they fit more seats in this way. There is a surcharge for this show.

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Other Observations Cruising the Norwegian Epic

  • Andre, the cruise director of the ship, is fantastic. He’s personable, funny, and engaging. We loved when he took the stage at any event.
  • The ship is closed off, and it is the biggest downside. There isn’t enough outdoor space for a ship that carries over 4500 passengers. We are unsure how this ship does during a Caribbean itinerary, where most people like to lay out on the deck and sunbathe.

    At least the Getaway and the Escape have the waterfront and a deck that almost wraps around the ship to walk through.
  • We appreciate the pool and hot tubs in H20, the adult section of the ship. That extra pool is missed on the other mega-ships. This area does feel cumbersome, though, compared to the Getaway.
  • We felt very at home on the ship on our past two cruises. Not on this ship. It was due to the crew, the layout, and the vibe. There was just a complete disconnect.
  • The layout is a messy flow. We couldn’t help but wonder when this ship was designed if all they thought about was how many cabins they could cram onto each deck.
  • While we may favor the itinerary, the ship is also part of the vacation. This time, it simply served as our transportation from place to place. When it was time to disembark, we were ready to leave. That’s a first for us with Norwegian.


Unlike previous cruises, we were ready to get off and continue our extended time in Spain. As requested, we didn’t rush to disembark but were out of our cabin by 8 AM. We had breakfast and walked off the ship with our luggage by 9 AM.

Read more: 12 Tips for a Smooth Cruise Disembarkation Day

Final Thoughts of the Norwegian Epic

This ship did not live up to its name. It was not as Epic as we expected it to be.

Due to our disappointment with the Epic, we did not buy Cruise Next vouchers. We also weren’t even compelled to take photos of the ship.

This was our third cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, and it may be our last for a while as we would like to try other cruise lines in the future.

Now, don’t completely hold me to that.

If we see an interesting NCL itinerary at a great rate, it will be difficult for us to stand by this self-imposed NCL break. We can’t help ourselves when we see a great price combined with a brilliant itinerary. Unless it’s on the Norwegian Epic, then most likely not.

We will not cruise again on the Norwegian Epic ship. It wasn’t a terrible cruise, as we’ve heard horror stories of other ships, but it lacks all the wonderful things that other Norwegian ships have and was dearly missed.

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You are probably reading this Norwegian Epic review in preparation for your upcoming Epic cruise… don’t fret. Just take the knowledge I provided and use it to your advantage. Learn from it. You will have a completely different experience than we did. It is a ship people either love or are disappointed with.

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Quick Cruise Planning Guide

Where to book a cruise?
We like to shop around before booking by going directly to the cruise line and checking out the deals on GoToSea,, Costco Travel, and Cruise Compete. Ultimately, the best advice is to find a travel agent you can trust to help you book a cruise.

Hotels for pre-cruise and post-cruise stays
We always use or to book international accommodations and Expedia or for US accommodations. Airbnb or Vrbo for vacation rentals.

Can I book my own shore excursions?
Yes, you’ll save money booking your own excursions and not with the cruise ship. We like to use Viator or WithLocals. Don’t forget to read up on our tips for booking.

Car Rentals
We like to rent a car at cruise ports and for the freedom to explore on our own when the destination makes sense. We also sometimes rent cars during our pre-cruise stay or on embarkation day.

Should I book cruise insurance?
Yes! Cruise insurance is essential. We always book with a third party rather than the cruise line. Compare pricing on

Packing for a Cruise? Don’t miss our essential cruise packing list.

Kathy Ava

Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she's become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

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  1. Looks & sounds amazing! I didn’t even know that you have to make reservations in advance on these cruises. I love acrobats and circuses so much. 🙂 I’m sure it was an amazing show!

    1. I don’t know about every cruise line, but for Norwegian you should make reservations for the speciality shows like the Cirque Dreams and their specialty restaurants. I posted some acrobatic boomerangs to stories on Instagram. I should probably update a few to this post. 🙂 It was a great show.

  2. I really got hung up at the beginning of this post. TWENTY bars and lounges?! As you know, I don’t cruise for tummy reasons, but is that typical? Also, I would have to personally try ALL 20 lounges for myself. Please tell me you tried quite a few for me? What did you drink? Any signature cocktails? I hope they had fall ones! I read your foodie list so I’m sure a few of these count as some of the lounge/bar spaces.

    P.S. I love the Tasty Itinerary heading ; ) Definitely use it for every post! AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT THOSE SHIRTS IN THE SIDE BAR!?!!?! LOVE IT!!!!

    90 days in advance for reservations for a cruise ship restaurant seems crazy?! That doesn’t sound incredibly relaxing, and I wouldn’t love getting screwed if I forgot to make them. Which I would. Then again, I live near Disney, and one year out, I am already toast. Do they penalize you if you cancel? Can anyone sneak in without them if there are cancellations? But then again, why would people cancel, and where would they go. Unless they are seasick, already drunk, or passed out asleep…

    Thank you for an honest review. The shows sound nice, and I love your pictures. I am sorry the boat was not EPIC. Pun intended. A room shaped as a wave would make me seasick. I don’t love curved couches either. No privacy bathrooms, I can semi-deal.

    I vote Portugal next time…by foot!!! In fact, I’ll come with.

    1. Yes, there are lounges and bars throughout the ship. They want you to drink and buy as much alcohol as possible. Some groups get together and do a bar crawl on the first night. Sadly, I was mostly sober during this trip. Glass of wine here and there for me. I can’t hold my liquor like I used to and I wanted to be able to get up in the mornings. I know, I know, boooo… boring! It was my choice though. Hubby doesn’t drink either – he’s sober because he functions better without alcohol in his life. I do recommend getting the all-you-can-drink package!

      Yes, I’m definitely keeping the Tasty Itinerary heading.

      You are too funny! I would love to be able to read your mind for a day =D

  3. Bummer. I’m sorry this ship was such a letdown. At least you had good shows and a cool cruise director. But did you have towel pets? That’s what I’d really like to know! I forget now if you put one in your insta stories. I’m so forgetful!
    What really stinks is that you had such bad food. That is such a mood crusher. Did you find good stuff to eat when you left the ship? That will probably be in another post, right? ?
    This was a great honest review! Very helpful for anyone who needs to decide on a cruise. Do you have any posts on the other cruises you’ve been on? I’ll have to read those if I’m ever going to be brave enough to step on a cruise line. ?

    1. Yes! We had towel pets every night. I’m sorry I didn’t include it. Gonna try to gather up those pictures for you. 🙂

      The food was either bad or edible, not amazing. It sucks. That’s okay cause we ate some amazing stuff off the ship. We didn’t starve. There is always something to eat. I mean, worse case you just get simple stuff to eat.

      I have two other reviews on my blog for Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Pearl. Only Norwegian. That’s why I want to try other lines. Stay away from Carnival though, that’s the biggest advice I can give you.

      Thanks so much for always stopping by and commenting! Hugs.

    1. Hey KB! I totally thought I had responded to your post, but obviously I did in my head. Sorry for the delay! It is a bummer, but at least we know the Epic ship is not for us and we won’t return to it. I like to be honest with my posts, good and bad, you know? I will definitely be posting about each cruise port. I’m writing about our first port as we speak. So, stay tuned!

  4. oh man how disappointing! i always have wanted to go on a cruise but it certainly won’t be on the epic. if they can’t even cook a hot dog right- yikes! 🙁

    1. Hi Joy –

      Thanks for stopping by and reading. Yes, we were very disappointed with the ship and the service. I try to give a fair review and be honest. I know others who have had a great time on the ship, so you just never know what experience you’re going to get. Thankfully there are many other cruise ships out at sea. =)

  5. My daughter and I also sailed on the Epic – the exact route. We were blessed to have booked a suite in the Haven. The best bang for the buck. Service was impeccable, food was amazing. Sorry that yours wasn’t as great!

    1. Hi Karen – The Haven is spectacular. We were able to experience it on the Getaway and it was fantastic. If we had booked the Haven, I think our experience would have been a little different. Our cruise before this on the NCL Pearl, we did not do the Haven and the service was top-notch and so was the design of the ship. Unfortunately for us, the Epic fell flat. Thankfully, it wasn’t the most terrible experience and we had a wonderful time off the ship.

      Happy to hear you had a great time!

  6. I have a 7 day cruise in April on the Epic hoping g things are better. I am in the single cabins. There is a lounge just for us so wonder how that will be.
    The website and app were not working day 90 out to book restaurants or shore excursions.
    Will definitely take a pic of the map and carry it with me as well as my phone.
    It is a strange looking ship and there is only one like it. Guess the NCL people realized it looked good on paper but doesn’t work in Practice.

    1. Hey Tammy – So excited about your cruise! The Epic is one of those ships that people either love or hate. But I hope that it surprises you and that your experience surpasses what we experienced.

      It is a great tip to take a picture of the ship’s map and put it on your phone!

      I have only heard great things about the single cabin and its lounge. Plus, you have the rest of the ship to enjoy if it’s not your cup of tea.

      Have a great cruise! Hopefully, NCL is reading all our comments, taking notes and applying them where they see fit.

  7. I totally disagree with you. I did this western Mediterranean cruise on the Epic and everything was perfect. The staff was the best friendly attentive caring. The cabin was beautiful…the food amazing as well as at O’Sheehans. Delicious. Everything was perfect!! Sorry you don’t agree.

    1. Hi Sharon – That’s fantastic! We are happy that you had an amazing cruise on the Norwegian Epic, as you should have and is expected when going on a cruise vacation.

      And you are welcome to disagree with our cruise ship review, but that doesn’t change the experience WE encountered during OUR TIME on the cruise and what this review is based on.

      It wouldn’t be authentic if we didn’t share the bad and the good.

      As we stated at the beginning of this post, this is a cruise ship that people either love or hate. However, we encourage cruisers to book a cruise on NCL Epic and experience it for themselves.

      Love to hear everyones experiences! Happy Cruising! – Kathy