had booked NCL Air package from Manchester UK. The flights were with Jet2 who I hadn't used before but found very good. They allowed me to check in online and print my boarding pass before I headed to the airport which saved a lot of time on the morning. Landed at Terminal 2 in BCN on-time and luggage arrived quickly.
The NCL rep was there waiting but said the transfer coach would be soon, then 10-15 mins, then 20-30. I reckon we waited about 40 minutes in the end before boarding the coach and heading via T1 to pick up some more passengers and head the 20mins drive to the port. We arrived at the port at about 13:30.
After the check-in fiasco mentioned above I eventually got onboard just after 2PM. As last year they boarded via the Promenade deck which always seems odd as a first sight of a ship walking along and into the stairwells.
Knowing the ship I headed to my inside cabin deck 9 foreward and it was ready, a quick check of where my Muster station was (In the Epic Theatre) and I always take a change of clothes in hand luggage to slip into shorts/t-shirt and headed up onto deck.
Popped into the Garden Cafe and grabbed a nice salad, the rush was over by this time so got a window seat admiring the view over Barcelona.
Windows could have done with a clean mind you
A quick beer at Spice H2O and a look around the ship showed that she was as I had left her a year ago, maybe the carpets starting to show some 2yrs wear.
Muster Drill was at 4:30 so I headed down to the theatre at about 4:20 and most people were already heading there, last year they scanned my cruise card this year it seemed to be low-tech as they had a printed list!!
Dragged on a bit longer than last years with it repeated in different languages.
Went up for the sail-away where we were introduced to the CD "Richard from Dominican Republic" , I don't think I ever heard his last name as it was always Richard from the Dominican Republic ..
The solo travellers meeting was at 6:30PM so I popped down to see that, a handful or so, not as many as last time, and signed up for the meal in Taste on the Monday night. I think this and the Mon was my only time in the Studio Lounge as I was inside and key card doesnt allow access, I've read elsewhere it does seem a bit hit and miss for solos not in the Studios but the doors are opened for the meetings. But you miss the opportunity to review the messages posted by fellow passengers.
Back to the cabin and last time they left my case outside and so I didnt see it in the corridor and thought not arrived but it had been placed inside the cabin. Lots of paper stuff on the bed, Except a daily of what was happening that evening, I also had shore excursion tickets for 2 neighboring cabins which I re-delivered, again enough said about my Room Steward (worst in all my cruises to be honest).
I didnt fancy a big meal so after unpacking I popped to O'Sheehans for a lovely chicken pot-pie and and a slice of apple pie and cream.. with a large draught of Newcastle of course!
The welcome aboard show was at 9PM in Spice, went up and Richard FTDP was there with a few CD staff and they outnumbered the passengers, he carried on but it was probably embarassing from them. I had a drink and headed back inside and spent the night at Howl at the Moon in headliners from 9:45-1:30 before nipping upstairs to Bliss for a couple of hours. For us Brits we lose an hour so leaving at 3AM was more like 2AM before heading to O'Sheehans for some spicey wings and some ice water before bed and a long deep sleep...
Day 2 - At Sea
The only Sea day and due to the previous nights partying a late-ish start around 10/11 so missed the meet and greet which someone had planned for 8:30 (silly time! ) . Got the last orders for a nice cooked country platter at O'Sheehan's. I tell you this place is the best.
The waitress kept me tanked up with orange juice and tea and toast and..
Grabbed my ipad and some sun lotion and headed up to deck 18 sundeck and as before half empty wherwas the main pool decks were a bit busy.
I'd asked staff and we were sailing at around 3900 pax, they only had about 2,000 on the crossing, but were picking up 600 in Rome (and some getting off to take us nearer 4000 for the 2nd half of the cruise)
Dinner for solos was booked for 6:30 in Taste so we met in the lounge and headed down to have a nice dinner (I went for the Ceaser Salad, Atlantic Cod and cheesecake). Left feeling a lot fuller at around 8:30.
I'd met some really great fellow pax the night before at Howl and so we took up our usual spot and sang and drank and chatted before heading to Bliss again.. You'll probably spot a trend soon..
Day 3 - Naples
I've been to Naples at least a half-dozen times before but was awoken by the loud tones of Richard from.. err.. anyway informing us light sleepers that we could now go ashore ...
I'd booked Legends in Concert for this evening 10PM performance, Sun decks empty and Sun was out so I curled up with my ipad and a good book until sail-away which was due to be a special 60s one at Spice at 6PM.
The problem with such late sailaways 7PM is that its A) colder outside and B) clashes a bit with when to have/get ready for dinner so they are often scarcely attended. By contrast the 4:30 from Marseille one was so much better.
Anyhow due to an accident on the roads to Sorrento a number of tour coaches had been held up and so sail-away was delayed, the capt first said 0.5hr and then 1hr. After a hr some indepenent travellers could be seen sprinting from a taxi (obviously they had been caught up as well, fortunately for them the tour coaches had been else they would have been left).
Sailaway party was cancelled, I think we sailed about 9ish, can't recall as I went down to O'Sheehans for a pint and then off to see Legends which was much better than last years acts. Madonna is always a good pull.
It was the last Howl at the Moon for 3 nights, they do 3 nights, miss 3 then 1 (the last night) as on the alternate days the venue is used by the other acts..
Day 4 - Civitavecchia
We were docked alongside a couple of other ships but with the late departure from Naples the night before and some work being done on the Starboard side gangway were docked bow in which led for an interesting late departure and manoeuvre.
The port authority here provide a FREE, yes FREE shuttle bus service from ship to the exit of the port.
Last bus back at 6PM. We were late leaving again, about 8PM when we eventually sailed but it did allow for some great sunset shots.
No howl at the moon tonight or any booked ents so it was 70s Disco night from 10PM at Bliss.
Day 5 - Livorno
So first some important info, as they did last year due to the nature of this industrial port no foot passengers. Instead a shuttle bus was required to take you to downtown at a cost of â‚¬5.00 or $7.00 per person unless you caught the taxis on quayside or on an NCL excursion.
Tonights ents I had booked the great Lost Locos Ole. As there was NO comedian onboard this was the only comedy act that needs to be reserved as its in the headliners bar. I went for an early showing at 7:30PM to do other things, the performance was about 50mins and then on to Fat Cats to see Slam Allen.
Last year I got some great vid clips of this but it appears they have tightened this up along with the Blue Man/Lost locos/Legends etc with a no pic/vid policy, although odd nights it said it in the daily, other nights it didnt have the ^ restriction, I tried I got told off..
Finished with the 80s remix party in Bliss.
I also booked as suggested over the tannoy by Richard, you know the bloke from Dominican Republican to reserver my tender ticket for tomorrow in Cannes, I decided to go for the late one near 11, simple to do via the iTV like booking events.
Day 6 - Cannes
A tendering port and according to the captain the first time Epic had done it, I'm sure they must have tendered into a Caribbean port at some stage?? anyone?
Anyhow as explained in the early post on this thread. You scan you card to get entry no earlier than 10mins before your time slot and they allow two lots into the Manhattan Room, one left, one right side. Then after a few mins sitting down you get taken down to the tender embarkation on deck 4, the lifts on these decks are locked out to stop people from attempting to sneak on.
We were in with Liberty of the Seas (who were using the ports tenders, Epic using her lifeboats) but the town as you can imagine was very busy. I stayed about 2-3 hrs walking around and on the beach before catching one of the tenders that now ran freely every 10 or so minutes for the approx 15mins trip back to the ship.
Even though I'd seen them before I had booked the Blue Man group for 10:00 again for tonight the week before, I hadn't realised that it clashed with the White Hot Party at 10:30 but the Blue Man Group performance on the Sat at 7:30PM was half empty so I switched.
The white hot Party started at 10:30, was just getting going when all of a sudden this bloke Richard (I think he's from some Caribbean island) said that he'd had a call from the bridge to say high winds ahead and it had to be relocated inside. Chaos then followed as both the main white hot party as well as the family white hot party were relocated to Bliss which was mid Karaoke session. The most packed I have ever seen the place and I didnt think it was very appropriate with the kids in there with lots of alcohol and adults enjoying themselves as it was after 11PM now!!
Why they didnt move the kids party into say Entourage I don't know!!
Day 7 - Marseille
I've said it before but 7 day cruises are too short but as most Americans tend to get only a few days holiday as opposed to Europeans who average about 5 weeks paid holiday a year I can see why they only do one week itineraries I would love it to do at least a few 2-week itineraries
But this was our last day and as we had to ensure early arrival in Barcelona for change-over the ship was only in port until 4PM. All onboard by 3:30PM.
The first big shock was that port berth is just over 3 miles away from the city but to get there the shuttle bus was $20 per person (not 30 as I mentioned earlier), still a big amount if there are two or three of you in your group just to get there for a few hours. A lot stayed onboard and some who ventured out did find a public transport bus a mile or so walk away for a couple of euro into town.
The sailaway however was the best as it was early and so people were on deck as opposed to getting ready for dinner or even ents that started at 7PM.
All the luggage tags had been delivered, I'll scan in the disembarkation bit but its early!!
between 5:30 and 9:00am. I had an NCL flight at 12:45 from BCN airport and had to be off at 7AM! It kind of spoils it as it means that the last night ents is curtailed somewhat. I saw Blue Man at 7:30 and then just caught the first part of the last howl at the moon.
Cases have to be outside your cabin by midnight.
Day 8 - Barcelona
So the time comes to say farewell, quickly rush gulp down some breakfast and head out to scan out, I was a bit late at 7:15ish and my case had already been removed from the belt in the luggage reclaim area and stacked.
Out to the transfer bus and back to the airport where we were left 5hrs!! before our flight and 3hrs before we could even check-in to get to the departure lounges/shops etc.. so that first 3hrs dragged.
Overall, a great cruise, and I would definitely sail on NCl and Epic again, I'm booked on Breakaway next year and I know that will be even better!!