EPIC - Great Itinerary
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
This was the first time we tried NCL and sample the "third largest cruise ship" in the world that got us taking this cruise. Also we like to experience what free style cruising is all about.
The EPIC has 21 dining options and 20 bars and lounges. Every night there are lots of choices of shows to see (though you have to reserve your seats either pre-cruise or arrange via the interactive TV in your stateroom). There are lots of bars to visit and of course which restaurant to eat at (we tried the French specialty restaurant and the Spiegel Circus Dinner - worth paying the $25/person). We had pre-booked on-line the Blue Man show and the Legend (both complementary and well worth it). We liked the flexibility that came with freestyle - as one can be dinning any time with no preset sitting.
The check-in in Barcelona was very quick and efficient, and then off to the buffet Garden Restaurant for our lunch. The buffet restaurant is very busy all the time and we found this was More
always the case when the ship was at sea and at the beginning and end of the cruise.
One thing about free style cruising is the relaxed dress code throughout, so no need for the tux or suit throughout the cruise. This is a plus when you are restricted to 1 suit case flying.
Most evening we dined at one of the two main restaurants: Manhattan & Taste and had a decent meal, every meal that we had on-board was about ok comparable to a meal at a hotel nothing spectacular! I particularly liked the decor in Taste especially with the open concept in the center even though it is one of smaller of the two main restaurants. The Manhattan Room, which was very big and the window view at the back is great. We only ate once in a speciality restaurant which was just a great experience. Another great dinning was at the Spiegel Circus that was an experience on its own. We liked the relaxed atmosphere but seems lacking a bit of the formal night as expected in a cruise.
Overall, the ship is a grand one with a lots of things to do. There are times it seems everyone has to past thru the ship casino but not feel too crowded.Another novel idea is they have folders housing the pitures for each state room, no need to search for your pictures. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
The bus ride is only an hour from Cannes but be prepares to get stuck in traffic exiting the cruise port area. Also this is a tendering port, so takes longer to disembark.
The Village of Eze is worth the visit, paid the 6 Euro and visit the Garden on top of the Village. The view is spectacular.
Monaco is packed with tourists and if have time (3 hrs), be sure to visit the Oceanographic Museum and the Palace. The famous Casino is just packed and no camera allow (you must checked it before entering - they are very straight about it). Lots of nice cars around and expensive shops.
Unless you stay in Cannes, better to take the tour offer by the cruise line
Livonia is the gateway and Pisa is about 40 mins away along the Conni-sh Road that was built by the Romans. The Cathedral in the Field of Miracles is well worth the entrance fees of 12 Euro. If you have the time go straight to the ticket area checkout if there is room for walking up to the top of the Leaning Tower (only allow 30/ hour).
Florence and Pisa are quite a bit from the Port and so not likely you can do it on your own
This is a port that you likely be cheaper to head to the few areas cheaper by taxi that the shuttle ($30/person). Taxi is only $20 Euro one way to the old port area that is close by to the shops & eateries. The Catheral is about a good 30 mins walking up hill (so might take the taxi there & walk down).
Other than a bit of confusion waiting to disembark for the tour, things started to get better. The tour took us from the Port to Amalfi coast, the view was spectacular and we have our usual stop along the way until we arrive at Sorrento when we had about an hour free time exploring the old city. Then we head for the pre-arranged lunch for a "real Italian" meal.
After lunch, bus ride to Salerno for a boat ride to Amalfi. Traffic was a bit busy considering May 1 is a holiday and single lane winding thru the coast. The boat ride is worth it as the approach to Amalfi is something. We had another hour or so to explore the town. A must see is the Cathedral (3 Euro entrance fees). Check out the local shops or enjoy an ice cream before heading back to the Pier.
Civitavecchia is the gateway to Rome and is about an hour away. Traffic is good until you hit the ring road entering Rome. Our Rome tour started a city highlights of interest on the way to the Colosseum and the view of these sites are from the bus. Stopped at the Colosseum for 40 minutes just enough time for a few pictures as there must be thousands of tourists waiting in line to enter. Then off to an earlier lunch as the tour guide scheduled the Vatican tour at 1pm.
The Vatican guide greeted us o/s of the Vatican Museum and this is one tour you need to do it with a tour company as there must be thousands waiting in line to get in. Walked thru the Museum, Sistine Chapel (it was packed), Basilica (at some point you need not move as the crowd will move you along), then off to the St Peter Square.
This tour just get you a taste of Vacation and all the other historical sites of Rome. Then another 1 or so bus ride back to the ship.