Norwegian Epic 7 Night Girlfriend Getaway Caribbean Cruise

Betsi Hill Avatar

Venues for dining and bars on deck 6 of the Norwegian epic Caribbean Cruise

Who does not love time with their gal pals? Knowing how busy we are, my friend Judy and I hatched a plan to take a cruise getaway for some much-needed downtime, but with a twist—we did include our husbands!

We did not plan this getaway based on a cruise line or specific ship but instead on the itinerary.

Puerto Rico had long been on our bucket lists, and Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) had a perfect itinerary for us! We wanted a cruise that left out of Port Canaveral, Florida, near Orlando, that was 5-7 nights in length, included a couple of sea days, and had a long day in Puerto Rico.

The Norwegian Epic fit the bill perfectly with its 7-night Caribbean cruise and four port stops: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, US Virgin Island; and Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.

About Norwegian Epic

The Epic was built in 2010 and refurbished in 2020; NCL’s Epic is a massive ship with an overall length of 1,081 feet. The ship weighs 155,873 gross tons and can carry 4,100 guests and 1,724 crew.

Boasting 15 decks, the ship has:

  • a spa with a thermal area
  • a casino
  • 3 pools
  • 7 complimentary dining areas
  • 6 specialty restaurants
  • a theater
  • 16 bars
  • 10 shops
  • an aqua park with water slides and multiple hot tubs
  • a kids’ aqua park
  • comedy club
  • Internet cafe
  • jogging/walking track
  • Wii wall
  • video arcade
  • sports complex with rock climbing and rappelling, a climbing cage, and a basketball court.

There are so many things to do, you won’t be able to do all of them!

Freestyle Cruising on NCL

Norwegian Cruise Line was the first to bring a different style of cruising vacation to its cruise ships.

Freestyle cruising on NCL means cruising the way YOU want to cruise. You can choose what time you want to eat rather than being assigned a set time to dine. You can eat at a table for two, a table with friends, or make new friends at a large table—the choice is yours because there is no pre-assigned dining.

I like this type of dining because when I cruise, I often want to linger over dinner and savor my meal, accompanied by an excellent wine choice.

NCL’s Embarkation Process

This was a high point and the easiest embarkation we have experienced over our years of cruising! Our boarding documents gave us a check-in window of 12:30-1:00 pm. We arrived at Port Canaveral at 11:45 a.m. and were parked and loaded onto the shuttle bus by noon.

With our two suitcases in tow, we joined the check-in line, expecting to wait at least an hour before we arrived on the ship. Boy, were we surprised! From when we joined the line to when we walked onboard the NCL Epic, it took 20 minutes! That is the shortest embarkation we’ve ever experienced!

Rather than check us in at a counter, multiple small tables were scattered throughout the cavernous space, manned by multiple cruise staff. The staff was pleasant, quickly processed the guests, and gave us their sea passes.

With our sea passes in hand, we boarded the Norwegian Epic.

Once aboard, the first stop was our muster station. During the online check-in, cruisers are asked to watch a safety video explaining where their lifejackets are in their stateroom and where their muster station will be. Once guests board the ship, they head to their muster station and check-in.

Deck 6 is where the Whiskey Bar was open and serving drinks. There were groupings of small tables and chairs, and after we checked in at our muster station, we quickly snatched up a table for four and waited for our friends to arrive as we sipped our wine.

 It took about two and a half hours for our cabins to be ready, but we spent the time sipping wine, chatting, and making new friends.

Sip wine on one of deck 6's bars in the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
Betsi sips a glass of wine on deck 6 on embarkation day. Photo credit: Jim Hill

The Cabins Onboard NCL Epic

Judy and I checked the ship’s reviews online before booking our Epic cruise vacation on NCL. The reviews were mixed, but all shared one common dislike—the cabin design and layout.

Cabin Design

Onboard the Norwegian Epic, all the staterooms are designed similarly. Whether you booked a cabin in the Haven (more on that in a minute), a balcony suite, or an inside cabin, the cabins are designed the same. The Epic was the only ship in the Epic class for many reasons, but two main designs of the ship have created controversy in the North American cruise market—the bathroom design and the lack of a promenade area.

The staterooms are designed in a “wave design,” which significantly reduces the space of a balcony cabin. The sofa, designed to follow the wave wall, left little space for a table. The closet is spacious and includes two hanging areas, four drawers, and a full-length mirror, which is always a welcome addition!

Cabin Types on NCL Epic

The Epic has 2,114 cabins for guests, including 42 accessible staterooms, 128 studio cabins for solo travelers, 560 inside cabins, 1,351 balcony staterooms, 372 family cabins, 39 spa staterooms, and 78 suites. All the cabins are designed for families or double occupancy, except the studios, which were created with solo cruisers in mind.

  • Mini-Suites – these ship cabins have two twin beds that can be converted into a queen bed.
  • Family suites have one upper berth plus a single sofa bed.
  • Spa suites feature a dome ceiling, individually controlled colored lighting, and a bathtub.
  • Balcony cabins have curved walls, twin beds that convert into queen beds, and a nice-sized balcony with chairs.
  • Family balcony cabins are located closer to the kids’ area. These cabins have twin beds that convert into a queen and have sofa beds.
  • NCl Epic’s Studios are designed for single passengers and are available for booking as single-occupancy cruise cabins. Each stateroom has a queen bed (full size), a corridor window view, and mood/special lighting.

The Haven

The Haven is a ship-within-a-ship concept. It is the most luxurious area onboard the NCL Epic cruise ship, with 75 suites.

Perks staying in the Haven include access to the Haven Lounge, a quiet lounge with comfy seating, snacks, and drinks.

The Haven restaurant is the private dining room for Haven guests. Haven guests also have exclusive use of the Haven Courtyard and Sundeck, with a private pool, hot tubs, fitness gym, and spa just for Haven guests.

Another perk of booking a cabin in the Haven is having your own butler available 24 hours a day throughout your cruise. Haven guests have their own seating in the Epic Theatre and receive priority embarkation and debarkation.

What to Do Onboard the Epic?

I love to find a bar or two where we can sip and chat while people-watching before or after dinner. I like a more low-key atmosphere that allows me to hear the conversation. Though Judy & I found a few favorites, we did not find a quiet bar on the Epic where you can sit, relax, and chat. This point, however, is not a deterrent to booking another NCL cruise.

The bars onboard the Epic are designed as open spaces with traffic flowing around them. This makes relaxing and enjoying each other’s company difficult and inhibits conversation. The design allows for better traffic flow during non-peak times but gets congested during peak times.

Out of all the bars, we enjoyed O’Sheehan’s in the late afternoons before dinner. After dinner, we usually migrated to Shakers, the Martini Bar, or The Whiskey Bar. Both offer comfortable seating, and there were some quiet corners that we often found available.

The shows on the  Norwegian Epic cruise ship were terrific! There was a spectacular Broadway-style show, and I was left thinking I was in New York in a Broadway theatre!

A set dinning table at the Shanghai Noodle House in the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
The table setting of Shanghai Noodle House. Photo credit: Jim Hill.

Dining Venues Onboard the Norwegian Epic

The Epic has lots of complimentary restaurants to choose from, three of which completely surprised us!

The Garden Cafe is the indoor buffet; it was the best cruise ship buffet we had experienced. The food was fresh and tasty, and there was a great selection.

The Great Outdoors is located on the pool deck just outside the entrance to the Garden Cafe. It serves quick outdoor barbeque fare, including hot dogs and hamburgers.

The cruise ship offered two main dining rooms, Taste and the Manhattan Room. The food was OK; there were 3-4 entree choices each evening.

However, we all loved that we did not need a set time to dine. We could go anytime during the open hours, and the tables were not large—we had a table for two one evening and a table for four one evening. There was no having to make small talk with strangers, which can be somewhat awkward.

Order and enjoy Udon soup at Shanghai Noodle House in the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
Udon soup at Shanghai Noodle House. Photo credit: Jim Hill.

The surprise was Shanghai’s Chinese Restaurant, a complimentary dining venue offering Asian fusion dishes, including freshly prepared noodles, wok-fried choices, and soups.

Order and enjoy dumplings at Shanghai Noodle House in the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
Dumplings at Shanghai Noodle House were fantastic. Photo credit: Jim Hill.

Shanghai’s Noodle House is an open-kitchen concept that offers freshly prepared noodles. Though we did not sit at the noodle bar, we ordered several noodle dishes, which were surprisingly tasty and well-seasoned.

Fresh shrimp and vegetables at Shanghai Noodle House in the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
Fresh shrimp and vegetables at Shanghai Noodle House. Photo credit: Jim Hill

O’Sheehan’s was full of action, and we did not care for their bar food, though their breakfast choices were excellent, and they were delicious! We were very surprised with the breakfast at O’Sheehan’s!

Breakfast at O’Sheehan’s is the perfect way to begin your day in the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
Breakfast at O’Sheehan’s is the perfect way to begin your day. Photo credit: Jim Hill.

Specialty Dining

This is another area where NCL excelled! If you are considering a dining upgrade, my pro tip is to book your specialty dining before departing on your cruise, as they often sell out.

We did not get a chance to try Cagney’s Steak House, but I ordered a Surf and Turf from Cagneys one evening in Taste, which was outstanding! So next time we cruise on Norwegian Cruise lines, we will make reservations early for Cagney’s.

Moderno, the cruise ship’s Brazilian Steakhouse, was excellent.  I highly recommend trying it, especially if you’ve never experienced this dining style.

In the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise, the side dishes that come with any meal at Moderno - yucca, black beans, rice, mushrooms, potatoes.
The side dishes that come with any meal at Moderno – yucca, black beans, rice, mushrooms, potatoes. Photo credit: Jim Hill

La Cucina, the Italian restaurant, is superb. The pasta was done perfectly, the flavor was spot on, and the presentation was gorgeous. This is definitely a must-try when you plan a cruise on Epic.

Enjoy shrimp Gamberi at La Cucina in the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
Shrimp Gamberi at La Cucina. Photo credit: Jim Hill

We could not get into the Teppanyaki Grill, Wasabi, or Le Bistro, the cruise line’s French restaurant, as they were full.

Enjoy blue cheese ravioli and filet from the La Cucina in the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
Blue cheese ravioli and filet at La Cucina. Photo credit: Jim Hill

Pro Tip: book the specialty restaurants early!

The Ice Bar is one of the highlights onboard the Norweigan Epic. There is an additional $20 fee for what people told us was one of the most unique experiences they have ever had.

The Ice Bar is kept at 8 degrees below zero, and all the furniture is carved out of ice. Each person is given a poncho and glove to keep them warm during their 45-minute experience, which includes two cocktails served in a glass carved out of ice. I have titanium rods in my neck, and due to the temperature, I would not be able to move had I had this experience.

Wine Tastings at Sea

During our two sea days, the ship offered wine tastings and pairings: wine + cheese, wine + tapas, and wine + chocolate.

The table set for the wine and chocolate pairing onboard Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
The table set for the wine and chocolate pairing onboard Norwegian Epic. Photo credit: Jim Hill

We chose to do the wine + tapas and wine + chocolate tastings, which the ship’s head sommelier led. They were fun and informative, and we walked away with several new favorite wines.

Norwegian’s Drink Packages

This was another area where Norwegian cruise lines rose to the top of the list for cruise vacations. My husband and I love wine, and our friends cruising with us love scotch.

The base drink package, Unlimited Open Bar, included with our cruise booking, did not cover bottled water, Starbucks, or premium wines. We all upgraded to their Premium Plus package, and it was fantastic! It gave us so many options at the same price.

Norwegian has partnered with Michael Mondavi wines for an exclusive to Norwegian Cruise Lines wine, which we quickly fell in love with, and it became our standard choice wherever we dined. I would not hesitate at all to upgrade to a premium drink package; it is priced well, and allows for lots of options, including Starbucks coffee and drinks.

Port Calls on the 7-Day Caribbean Cruise on Norwegian Epic

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas

Leaving Port Canaveral at 6 p.m. on Sunday evening, we steamed toward the Bahamas, with a destination of Great Stirrup Cay. Great Stirrup Cay is Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas. The water was gorgeous, and the sand was soft and white.

Accessing Great Stirrup Cay is done by tender, as there is no dock, and depending on the weather, the water can get quite rough. However, the trip is worth getting off the ship because it is breathtaking! Great Stirrup Cay is in the Berry Islands, part of the Out Islands of the Bahamas. The property is 268 acres and offers lots of activities!

The island has three bars, and your NCL drink package is accepted on Great Stirrup Cay. In addition, there are dining options on the island; however, not all dining venues are complimentary.

Things to do on Great Stirrup Cay

Great Stirrup Cay offers many activities, including playing on the beach, ziplining, swimming with the pigs, renting wave runners, snorkeling, kayak tours, paddleboarding, a beach spa day, and more. Check your daily news for information on the private island.

We opted to rent paddleboards, and spent the morning working those arm muscles, and it was a blast!

San Juan, Puerto Rico

This was the port stop that Judy and I both wanted to visit, so after putting our heads together, she booked a rum distillery for herself and her husband, and Jim and I opted for the Old San Juan walking tour that included El Morro and the Fort.

The fort at El Morro, a distance from the docking of the Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise.
The fort at El Morro. Photo credit: Jim Hill

The ship was docked at the cruise ship terminal in San Juan, so it was easy to walk off right into the heart of old San Juan. The architecture of San Juan is incredible, and the streets winding up the hills are filled with many churches, restaurants, shops, and rum bars.

You’ll find vendors selling fruit ice cream everywhere. If you’ve not tried mango ice cream in the Caribbean, it is fantastic! Be sure to grab one next time you visit the Caribbean.

A rum distillery tour is one of the top draws of any trip to the island of Puerto Rico. If you are a rum lover, don’t skip a distillery tour.

Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

Amber Cove is a new Caribbean port for NCL with lots of shopping. But it is also an excellent gateway for tours and discovering this part of the Dominican Republic. 

On this cruise we opted to get off the ship and wander through the small shopping area. I did not take advantage of any of the excursions in this port, as I did not want to explore the Dominican Republic.

St. Thomas, USVI

This stop puts you in the heart of St. Thomas, known for its shopping deals. The USVI is home to lots of beaches. Some tours will visit the BVI as well. The BVI tour that was offered was a ferry trip to St. John. 

Once you arrived in St. John, you were on your own, and the ferry return time was very close to the ship’s departure time. I had been to the Virgin Islands before; I chose to stay onboard the ship because I felt the return trip of the ferry was too tight for comfort.

Are Cruise Ship Excursions Worth the Money?

If you are visiting port destinations you have never been to, I recommend taking a cruise tour. They are usually a good value, and allow you to get a small taste of the culture and vibe of a destination. Both of the excursions I took were fun and fairly priced.

I loved the paddle board rental in Great Stirrup Cay, and the walking tour of San Juan was led by a knowledgeable local. Our guide included an extra hour on the tour to show us several additional local sites, including a former convent, now the Hotel El Convento, and several churches.

Where Does the Norwegian Cruise Line Go?

With 20 ships in their fleet, NCL ships can go almost anywhere! Some of the most popular destinations for NCL cruises are the Caribbean, Bermuda, Europe, Bahamas, Alaska, Transatlantic cruises, the Panama Canal, Mexico, the Mediterranean, Canada & New England. Other destinations include Asia, Africa, and Greece.

The most popular ports include Italy, Barcelona in Spain,  New York, Aruba, Cozumel, Curacao, George Town in Grand Cayman, Rome, St. Kitts, and the Greek Isles.

Even after all the little quirks with the rooms onboard the Norwegian Epic cruise ship, I would take another cruise on the Norwegian cruise line. Some of the future cruises I am considering are Hawaii, Alaska, and Europe on NCL.

Betsi Hill Avatar
Betsi Hill is your sun-soaked guide to global wanderlust, crafting stories from every corner of the globe and bringing you closer to each destination. Specializing in luxury escapes, multi-generational journeys, and all-inclusive, all-you-can-enjoy resorts, she’s got the inside scoop on unforgettable adventures. Got a passion for fine dining and great wine? Betsi’s got you covered, taking you along to some of the top wine and cocktail bars across Florida and the globe. Eager to paint the world with the colors of each place she visits, Betsi teams up with the top Destination Marketing Organizations and tourism boards to unveil the heartbeat of every location and share its unique narrative. If there’s a travel story out there, trust Betsi to tell it, and tell it well!
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