We have just taken our 2nd cruise this time on the NCL EPIC and much as I was concerned about crowding issues they have designed the ship very well and this is hardly ever a problem
Cabin - this was great, had required safe, fridge, coffee machine with drinkable coffee supplied (note ensure if you take a kettle you do not leave it visible when not in cabin we go told off) the bathroom area whilst a little unusual is not a problem - loo on left hand side shower on right hand side off corridor and there is a curtain you can pull across to close both these areas off from the main cabin - only problem I would foresee was in the unlikely event room service arrived whilst you were using one or other! The cabin girl was great she made herself known to us from early on was very attentive helped us out with a small problem we had with a suitcase lock by drafting in a joiner and was always friendly and asking if we needed anything else. The flat screen TV in the room is great you can watch TV, check your on line account status, book excursions, view restaurant menus & book seats - a fantastic idea all in all.
Food - we ate at the garden cafe and O'Sheehans mostly -
Garden cafe got really crowded from 7pm onwards so we often went about 5.30pm when it was easier to get a table. Plenty of choice (compared to the Jade last year not as well organised and not as much choice) salads, soups, breads pizzas sausages burgers, hot carvery vegetarian indian section - all food was well cooked and tasty just not very inspiring.
O'Sheehans - mainly burgers, hot dogs etc so a limited menu of deep fried items the exception to the rule being a Salmon & Avocado salad which was nice.
Room Service - we used this one day - arrived very promptly and were quite large portions considering this is a Free service was very good
The first day was a full day at sea which i was dreading due to the experience of overcrowding last year on the Jade - I was wrong - although many people were out and about on deck it did not feel overcrowded and you could always find a lounger. We went to deck 18 the first day which is a haven as few people go up that high was good and at the very front of the ship there is the 'Posh' seating area which always seemed to be open if you wanted to sit on soft furnishings.
Our other days at sea were spent at the adults only H20 club at the rear of the ship this is a really nice area with its own bar and small pool under a large TV screen also a few hot tubs on each side much quieter than the main deck.
We saw Blue Man Group which my husband loved & I thought was OK we also booked for the Cirque Dreams dinner - this was excellent although at $35 per person somewhat pricey - you do get food for this but a set menu and no drinks (do not believe the myths that once in you can NOT leave this is discouraged but NOT true) we had premium seats so were sat just on the outskirts of their stage so you had a great view but were petrified of being dragged up to participate - be warned!
It is worth mentioning you do have to book to go to these entertainments as someone we met had not known this therefore not managed to attend any shows
Shops & Photos
There are quite a few shops selling sweets, sun products, T Shirts, jewellery & a duty free shop with drink, tobacco & perfume all on the same deck- they do have 'SALES' throughout the week so listen out.
You will find your photo being taken by NCL staff on a number of occasions and you can even have them take your photo in the evenings against a back drop - there is a photo station on one of the decks where you will find a binder for your cabin with all the photos they have taken in it you can then choose which if any to buy - beware expensive !! We got a CD of 6 photos for $99.
Ports - Barcelona, Naples, Citavecchia (Rome), Livorno (Florence and Pisa), Cannes and Marseilles
Naples - we had booked a private driver through APT tours - this was great. We were met my Aarron just outside the entrance with his Mercedes we were then driven to Pompeii with Aarron giving us information of things we passed along the way . At Pompeii we met Louisa (our archeological guide) who took us around Pompeii for a few hours - I am really glad we paid the extra for this service as it brought the place to live and we could stop when we wanted and ask question all of which is not available to you when you book a large group tour or take on of the pre recorded machines on the tour. After being here Aarron picked us up again and drove us the 1.5hrs to Sorrento he stopped along the way for photo shoots and at interesting points when we got to Sorrento he recommended a few places for the best food, Lemoncello & Gelato and left us for a few hours. We wandered around and tried the best Gelato and Lemoncello a lovely town if somewhat busy we also wandered down to the Sea where some of the Hotels have spectacular views. After 2 hours we were collected and driven back to the Port and by this time we were chatting away to Aarron like long lost friends the whole tour including entrance fee & Arch guide cost us about 390 Euros but was worth it and would certainly use or recommend APT again.
Livorno - we had booked an NCL tour to take us to Florence with a quick stop at Pizza. There is a lot of driving involved in this one. It took us about 45 minutes to get to Pizza and then we had a little walk from the coach drop to Miracle Square - the place was stunning with immaculate gardens, lots of local traders on the outside of the walls and lots of lovely buildings not just the tower within the grounds I could happily have spend a good half day here. We then went on to Florence - we had a guide on the coach who was pointing out places of interest along the way and gave us a map of Florence on which he had marked a few extra points of interest. Again he walked us from the coach park into Florence took us to a leather shop which was where we met later and then left us to do our own thing we had about 3.5hrs in Florence we headed for the Domo and then we just ambled along the streets taking in the atmosphere. Our return journey was about 1.5hrs so back on the ship about 5pm ish - another good tour but pricey at $129 per person.
Cannes - we had booked an NCL tour here to take us to the walled village of St Paul de Vince - beware on these as the start time is from the mainland and as you have to get a tender across this can take between 30 & 45 minutes of queuing before your get to the other side. We were then taken to a perfume factory which I thought was just a brief stop but was nearer to 2 hours worth we then set off up in to the hills on very narrow bendy roads so the journey took some considerable time. When we go there we had about a 15 min walk from coach stop to entrance to St Paul' s which really only left us with about 1 hour to explore which was very disappointing as this was a lovely old quaint village with some great unusual shops and again i could easily have spent an entire afternoon here.
The other Ports we did not get off at and instead enjoyed a quieter day on the ship
Embarkation & Dis embarkation - this was far quicker than we experienced previously on the Jade which was impressive and we had our bags with us until Mid night of the night prior to disembarkation day.
All in all a great holiday which would certainly encourage us to cruise with NCL in the future