We have been to Italy and France before but never the Mediterranean region and were excited to visit these ports. The Epic fell short of our expectations because of previous better experiences on Princess, Disney and RCL.
Ports - Barcelona, Naples, Citavecchia (Rome), Livorno (Florence and Pisa), Cannes and Marseilles
Arrived in Barcelona three days early and glad we did. Flight from San Francisco got canceled and we were changed to Lufthansa from United through Frankfurt. Luggage was delayed a day so having arrived early, was plenty of time to get it when it arrived the next day. Don't know why people take the chance of getting to European ports the day of the cruise. Know of one family who spent the whole week with only one out of five pieces of luggage arriving for their cruise and that one was delivered to Naples on day two. Too much stress for me.
Stayed at the Renaissance Barcelona Airport, only 15 minutes from city center. They offer free and paying shuttle service (5 euro each) during the day and free shuttle from the airport. Stayed here because it's a Marriott and we are lifetime Platinum members and get all the perks. Plus reviews said hotels near Las Ramblas could be noisy. Hotel was safe and conveniently located to airport, city and port. Port shuttle was 10 euro each and took us right to the ship.
Barcelona - Some people we met on the cruise were pickpocketed so watch your belongings! Liked the Hop On/Hop Off bus, aquarium and Gaudi architecture. Did not like the threat of the pickpockets so didn't feel as comfortable here. Also went to the Royal Barcelona Yacht club to exchange flags. Glad we got a welcoming email from them as the guard didn't want to let us in.
Naples - Hired a private driver, Mariano from pleasantravel.com. He was fabulous and took us Pompeii, Positano and Sorrento. (350 euro for the day for the three of us in a new Mercedes van. Could have saved money by sharing with others but decided to splurge and be flexible with just our family.) Tip - go to Pompeii right when it opens (8:30 am) and miss the heat of the day and all the tourists. You can actually get pictures without tons of people in it. Would not want to do this trip in an large bus. They can't make it to the tiny streets of Positano but make people walk down. A van is perfect.
Rome - Went with smartcruisetours.com for a full day tour of Rome. Much cheaper than NCL ($85 each)). NCL wanted $99 each just to drop us off for the day on our own. This company does not make you find others to share the van with which holds 8 people. Driver was said to be English speaking but wasn't. He did take us to each place described. We had been there for a week a few years ago so this was a nice, easy overview of Rome so we could see it again. Don't expect a tour guide which the drivers are not for this price. Rome in July is too hot and crowded. Enjoyed it much more in the spring.
Florence/Pisa - Did a ships tour to Pisa for the leaning tower climb and loved it. An easy day and a fun climb of the tower. It is 294 steps but small so not too bad. We don't use the ships elevators so get exercise by using the stairs to all decks so we were ready for this climb. Pisa is beautiful and has amazing sites. We visited Florence before so did not go there.
Cannes - Did this on our own. Found out ahead of time to book a tender ticket via the tv if you want to get off before 10:30 though if you are simply walking around you don't need to. Took the number 8 bus which is on the main street 5 minutes from the ship. Went to Palm Beach to the yacht club to exchange flags from our club. (We emailed ahead of time so they were expecting us.) Walked around the Film festival palace, marveled at the large yachts and walked up the hill around the old town for some great views. Beaches were crowded but farther from the port not so bad.
Marseille - Booked a ship tour to Aix-en-Provence and was not disappointed. Had a lovely morning getting a walking tour and going through the markets. It was nice getting there early before all the tons of people showed up. I love Provence and lavender so got some nice things in the shops there. There are also some shops right next to the ship selling Provence items and souvenirs.
Epic - The cabin was nice looking but the curvy design seems to make it quite small. Three people in this cabin made for four was too much. We could never pass by each other and had to crawl across the bed if someone was getting ready at the sink. Did not like the separate bathroom area. If you were in the shower, room service had to walk right by you to deliver the food. Not very much privacy there. We were used to the bigger cabins of RCL and Disney. Balcony was a good size though would have preferred to have a larger stateroom. Have always got a balcony cabin and could not imaging being in the inside cabins, especially on rough sea days which we had one of. Would have loved more days at sea instead of only one.
Food was okay. Preferred Taste to the larger Manhattan. Menus seems similar and you can't wears shorts in Manhattan. Going earlier than 7:30 had no waiting in line. We did not pay extra to go to the other restaurants as we preferred to spend our money on port trips and $20 to $25 seemed to pricey. Buffet salad bar was excellent. Being a vegetarian on this ship is more difficult because the restaurants don't cater to them. Had to customize a lot of meals or just eat soup and salad. The vegetarian section of the buffet was always Indian food. Have had much better dining experiences on other cruise lines.
Staff - Was always helpful and wanted to accommodate us whenever they could. Many of the wait staff in the buffet couldn't be bothered to talk to you or even smile though. Upper management staff were wonderful as was our cabin attendant.
Entertainment - Sat through the Blue Man Group though wasn't sure why. Cirque was good and glad we paid extra for the premium seats to see it. Liked the balcony view. They served steak for dinner though did bring Eggplant Parmigiana for me. Husband liked Fat Cats for blues and jazz. Lots of things for teens and younger kids to do but there was no mention of anything for young 20 somethings. The All White Party was fun to dance to.
There seems to be extra charges for many things on this ship though I guess they need to make their money somewhere. Cruises are a great value having gone to Europe other ways. It is nice to have American food, safe water, English speaking staff and outlets we are used to and to not having to pay outrageous prices in some cities to eat and for hotels. Transportation to different cities too. Cruises are great for families and afford lots of options.
Embarkation and Debarkation were the easiest and fastest of any cruise we have ever take. Wish others were this good.
Overall I think if you haven't cruised before you would love this ship. Having been spoiled by other cruise lines I wouldn't do Norwegian again nor the Epic. RCL's Oasis of the Seas is another large ship that is much more fabulous. Princess for Europe ports is better too.