We set sail out of Miami to Barcelona on the evening of April 12, 2012. It is a date immortalized by the sinking of Titantic. As we sailed into the evening, approaching the fateful hour, I was reminded once again of the power of Water. Being far from land and surrounded by the Element, I heightened my respect for Water, and in the ways we use the Precious Resource, on our first trans-Atlantic some 6 years ago: it is a necessity to keep us alive and it has a force that can take that same life away in an overpowering instant and so Water deserves our respect. I happened to look out a window while we were having dinner, and I noticed that the ocean was extremely calm, very similar to how the waters were described on the night of April 14, 1912. It seemed to me the Ocean wanted to pay respect to and to honour those who had perished 100 years ago in its waters several thousand kilometres north from where we were.
Now I take you to our trans-Atlantic crossing of April 2012.
Over the years we have accumulated 15 cruises on four major cruise lines. Most of our cruises, (11, in fact) have been with Norwegian, and it is with them that we find the best cruise experience. We come back to them cruse after cruise because they offer us the freedom and flexibility that other lines have not. We like freestyle because we don't need suits/tuxes and ties. We don't have to dine at a given and set time, and we don't have to share a table if we don't want to do so. But it is much more than that which brings us back. We feel we are travelling with friends and family who work on board a Norwegian ship.
This cruise was our third on the Norwegian Epic in about 6 months. The first time we boarded the ship, it was so huge and difficult to get around. The third time, it didn't seem so big anymore and it wasn't so daunting. But now it does feel like home.
This was our second trans-Atlantic on board the Norwegian Epic (we've done 5 trans-Atlantic reposition cruises) and we enjoyed it very much. It is a great way to get to know a ship, and it is so much less tiring than flying between Europe and North America. In fact, I'm looking forward to my next one!
On our first cruise on Norwegian Epic, we had a mini-suite, and on the second, we had a standard cabin. Both had balconies. On this cruise we were assigned to a stateroom adapted for handicapped cruisers. The doors for entry (which opens automatically after inserting your keycard into the key-slot) to the room and the bathroom as well as access to the balcony were much wider to accommodate a wheelchair or other mobility device. The room itself was substantially larger than any other stateroom we've ever had (except for the half-suite we had on SS Norway), and the balcony was huge. The bathroom had toilet and shower in the same unit, not separated as in other staterooms, and the shower stall itself could be closed off from the toilet by a shower curtain, and it contained the necessary accoutrements (bench and handrails) for a handicapped individual.
The sink itself was still outside the bathroom area. Unlike others we've seen on Epic, it had a faucet with a much longer handle. This was not convenient for shaving -- I like a wet shave -- as the handle either got in the way or stabbed me when trying to wet and rinse off my face. But, we must remember that this room was designed with handicapped persons in mind, and a non-handicapped person, like me, has to find a way to cope. Nevertheless, it provided a good lesson to me to learn how much more adaptation it takes for a handicapped person to cope in a non-adapted world. In all other respects, the stateroom was superb, and our stateroom attendant was fantastic.
We generally had breakfast at O'Sheehan's and lunch in Taste, O'Sheehan's or Garden Cafe. Dinner was usually in The Manhattan Room, but we did go the Le Bistro and to Moderno. The food was excellent in each of these restaurants and the service was top-notch. We also went to Cirque Dreams and Dinner in the Spiegel Tent, and it was our second time seeing the show. It was well worth the money we spent for this venue, and, with the show bring so captivating, we actually forgot (again!) that there was a meal to eat. We will very likely dine at Cirque Dreams & Dinner again the next time we find ourselves on the Epic. I highly recommend the performance.
The first time at Cirque we opted for the upper level, and the second time we chose the lower level. On the lower level, you may be asked to participate in the show (there is some audience participation). On the lower level, the show happens right at your level or above you, requiring you the look up and twist around to see every aspect of the show. I preferred the upper level because you could look down to see the performance without contorting and straining the neck and back to see the show. If ever we see this show again, it will be from the upper level.
We did not do any of the other available entertainment options presented in the evening. We had seen The Blue Man Group on our first Epic cruise and we were not impressed. We thought about Second City, but when we heard they were not even funny, we decided to give it a miss. We'd seen snippets of Legends in Concert and Howl at the Moon advertised on the stateroom TV, but we were not impressed enough to attend. Even though those venues were included, we preferred sitting on our balcony looking at the moon and the stars and trying to find other ships, enjoying a nice glass of wine or a good cup of coffee.
Norwegian Epic has a myriad of activities to do, staring at 6 am and going through the day and well into the night. One thing is certain: you can find a lot to do to keep you busy all day, or you can choose what you'd like to do throughout the day, or you can do nothing but relax. It is impossible to be bored. The key word here is choice.
Our only port-of-call before reaching Barcelona was Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Portugal. This gave us 7 relaxing and stress-free days at sea. Having been to Ponta Delgada twice before, we spent our day roaming the streets, doing some shopping at a linen shop, and enjoying fine European desserts and coffees in a quaint cafe-bar.
Disembarking in Barcelona was an easy process,as it alwyas is. Our oassports were checked at Immigration, something that has never happend before. After this, we walked through the terminal building and out to the buses or taxis. The Customs agents did a random luggage check and we were amomg those chosen to be checked. I think this should happen at all ports and airports, and with nothing to hide it was a painless and non-embarassing process for us.
As we were staying n Barcelona for a few days, we opted for Easy Walk-off. As NCL request that passengers disembark by 9:30am on Disembarkation Day, we stayed on board till about 8:30am, as we usually do. This gave us plenty of time to have breakfast and then to get ready to leave the ship.
We have found over our years of cruising that a cruise ship is a cruise ship is a cruise ship. It is simply a vessel to transport you from one place to another, and a cruise ship does that in full luxury. You will feel pampered and spoiled, and you will enjoy every minute of it, thanks to the hard-working people on board, from stateroom attendants to wait-staff to all others on board, who spend months away from home and family, striving to do their best and beyond to make sure that your cruise vacation is the best it can be.
One thing I always forget to mention about trans-Atlantic cruises is the time change. As you sail across the ocean, you experience 4 or 5 different time changes. Sailing from Miami to Barcelona (west to east) takes you through 4 or 5 time zones, which means you must advance the time on your watch by one hour each time. (On the east to west run, you gain an hour each time by setting your watch back an hour when you change time.) A card is placed on your bed the evening of a time change and you simply adjust your watch when you see the card. The clock on the telephone is changed automatically, and the light on the phone, which can be annoying when you're trying to fall asleep, can be switched off at night by touching the light-bulb icon on the phone screen.
On this particular crossing there was an accidentonthe ship: a pipe burst in the ceiling above the Manhattan Room. The restaurant, which is open for meals at dinner time only, was flooded and the water leaked out into part of the casino. The restaurant was closed for 2 days in order to clear out the water and to dry the carpets and floors, not to mention clean all the tables, chairs and serving stations. The staff and crew worked night-and-day to get the restaurant up to functioning order, and in my opinion, they surpassed all expectations. As there were few reservations for Moderno and Cagney's, those restaurants substituted for Manhattan Room. The Manhattan Room was re-opened the night before reaching Barcelona, and no one was really inconvenienced by its closure.
Now sit back, relax and enjoy your Epic cruise!