We're from Ontario Canada and four years ago my daughter got married on RC Freedom of the seas and we all fell in love with cruising. It really is the best holiday.
My daughter said "let's go!" and called my wife, myself, son and friend in January 2012 to decide where to go this time. We looked at several cruise lines and decided on the Norwegian Epic partly from reviews and partly the freestyle cruising / amenities on this large ship and the Mediterranean was where we wanted to go.
We booked a day early to arrive in Barcelona as our travel agent always said "go a day early in case your plane is late". We booked a 7 day Western med cruise from Barcelona around Italy France then back to Barcelona. We stayed an extra day in Barcelona after the cruise to see the city smoe more. Our cruise was 07-14 Oct 12.
Let me say are we glad we booked the trip one day early as we were about to board the plane in Toronto and they announced the flight was cancelled due to a cargo latch malfunction. I thought maybe delayed an hour, no. One day. Wow were some people booked on other cruises upset and actually missed a day of their cruise as there were no other flights that night and they put us up in a hotel until 4:30 pm the next day. Lesson learned here folks.
We got to Barcelona a day late (Sunday morning at 7:30 am their time) and the Hotel Fira hotel refused to refund our money without 24 hours notice. They did allow us to drop our bags in the room as we walked about Barcelona for a few hours (hey it was paid for by us) then we headed to the ship for 12 noon.
As others said, very fast embarkation... we walked into the main NCL building beside the huge ship and friendly staff had cold drinks for us, we stood in a line for about 5 minutes while they take your photo and issue you your cruise card then tell you to walk up the stairs. We had one security check upon entering the buiding and that's it. RCL it was every 50 feet someone was poking your carry on and asking for ID.
The NCL was very fast and once up the usual long gangplank you were on board. I mean fast. Staff at the entrance to greet you with smiles and direct you to a restaurant or your cabin. Yes our cabin was ready.
Here's a hint, if you are on the port side the elevators and numbers are red. If you are on the starboard side, your elevators and numbers are blue. Easy.
At the elevators on each floor are interactive maps that show you every floor and what's on them. Easy.
The six of us found our rooms quickly and as we entered, our cabin boy, Jorge from the Phillipeens, was there to greet us and he even knew our names from the cabin rooms. Once we told him what we went by he never forgot and whenever we saw him Jorge called us by our shortened names and always had a smile.
The rooms were as everyone else says they are, and we loved them. The style is great, refreshing, different and very well planned. I can't understand some people saying the frosted doors on the shower and toilet area is offensive. It's only the doors that are frosted, there are walls that are beige coloured, and there's a curtain outside of these two rooms that can be slid across anyway. Oh and some people say they were offended even with their spouse, sorry, if seeing an outline of your spouse through frosted glass offends you there are probably other issues.
The beds are very comfortable. They push together for a big bed and pull them apart about 1 foot for single beds which my son and friend had done. If the beds seem short as others have said it's because they are rounded at the bottom to curve with the style of room, just keep your feet near one side and there's lots of room.
Storage space? This worried me reading some reviews but look around in these rooms.... there is storage everywhere, 3 closets, 4 drawers, cabinets at the sink, cabinets under the sink, hey we found more storge above the couch- pull the wood area toward you, and more storage behind the couch back... that's right, the padded couch back swings out and there is storage there also.
Lots of storage.
I brought a power bar to plug into the double 120 v receptical that's under the counter to charge my camera batteries.
The TV is crystal clear and as usual gives you all kinds of info by arrowing over with your remote controller to whatever info you desire. We don't care if there are no sports or movies on the TV because to be honest with you that's not why we cruise.
Jorge opened up the balcony deviders for us so we could get to each others balcony freely. If you smooke he brings an ashtray and you can smoke your brains out on the balconies.
Some reviews said there was too much smoke throughout the ship but honestly I guess they changed things because in Oct 2012 the only place you may smoke is your balcony, a small divided area on the Lido deck (deck 15), or the Casino area and only in their smoking section - not all the casino, so I don't know what others are talking about. Yes you smell smoke in that area of the Casino but most gamblers seem to tolerate smoke, noise, music, laughter and cheering- and that's what the Epic has. Sorry smokers, only 3 places to go.
Now the food - the only extra food area we booked was Cagney's for a steak and that was my son in law and myself as we are from Canada, just knock the horns off the cow and heat it with a Zippo- we like out meat and Cagney's didn't let us down. The others were happy with Taste, Manhattens, Garden Cafe and O'Sheehan's.
Try O'Sheehan's chicken pot pie, fish and chips and the chicken fingers.
Alcoholic drinks are expensive - E5.50 up for beer and about E7-9 each for mixed drinks. A soda card is E54 for an adult or E2.10 Euro each without.
The Garden Cafe is a buffet with the usual full monte spread of.... everything.... and it all tastes good. I'm not expecting a $1000 meal here, just a good variety and nobody gets sick. And the Epic delivers this promise.
If you want a great sit down dinner served to you then Taste or Manhattens is where you go. The two restaurants basically serve the same thing but we found Taste better as it is one floor higher than Manhattens and Manhattens is at the very rear of the ship and my wife was bothered by the engine noise and slight vibration. No other place could this be felt.
The servers are very pleasant and the food is wonderful. They all spoke English well enough to get along. The great thing we loved about the Epic was the freestyle cruising. You can eat whenever you want, and not at the same table with the same people if you don't want to. men wear collared shirts and long pants - khakis or jeans, I wore running shoes. Women can wear pants but a lot wore dresses and fancied up a little.
I only saw about 3 men in tuxedos the whole cruise and they actually looked out of place. This ship is for easy cruising and the casual attire and anytime dining is a welcome to our group.
The $5 pizza delivered to your cabin 24 hrs is very tasty and about 16" round. Good value.
Hint- Order roomservice 24 hrs and they will bring you anything, from several foods to just a single "soda" or coffee, they always say "about 20-30 minutes " but get ready in 5 - 10 they are there knocking... free. Pizza after midnight is a $4 charge for delivery. Still there in about 5-10 minutes.
There's plenty of lounge chairs on deck 15. The slides are great fun, yes even for adults. They do tend to push the alcohol drinks everywhere on this ship, and the drinks aren't cheap. You can save by buying 5 beer and get one more free. There is a wine package but they don't seem to push it unless you ask then they give you options. Once you have the bottle - wine or beer, you can go anywhere on the ship walking around with it, or they will hold your wine for your next visit.
We did Howl at the moon - great time, Blue Man group - okay, Celebrity Impersonators - great, white hot party-great.
Fat Katz Jazz club group is really good also.
We elected not to go in the Ice Bar because remember we're from Canada- we can drink like this most winters for free.
Honestly with all the ports of call and things going on with the Epic you can't do it all. You're just too tired.
We booked an excursion through Epic 30 days before departure for Pompei and Ultimate Rome.
Both were great trips and the guides - Elisa in Pompei and Suzanne and Dante in Rome were fantastic. One woman in our group was complaining this wasn't what she expected and she couldn't understand Dante. You know what? He's Italian speaking English... come on up to Toronto some day. Dante was great and they keep track of you all the time because it's busy. I don't recommend you try and save money in Rome doing it yourself because believe me it's busy there and you won't see anything lining up all day for the Colliseum and the Vatican. Trust me use the tours offered and the bus ride is guarenteed to get you back to the ship on time.
Everywhere you walk on the Epic is clean, the staff are always saying hi to you when they pass. We loved it on the Epic.
Disembaring was as quick as getting on. We used the "walk off with your own bag" departure and no fuss having your luggage out Saturday night in the hall, just get up Sunday morning early to grab something to eat because everyone is on the 15th floor eating early, then walk off the ship with your bags on the 6th or 4th floor after saying olah to Jorge and the great crew. Took us 10 minutes. Getting a cab away is slow. Big line up.
We were going to Hotel Rialto near Las Ramblos for the overnight in Barcelona and the first two cabbies refused to take us because it wasn't the airport and too short a run. No cabbies speak English it seems.
If you want a great ship with lots to do, or nothing to do if you like that, and relaxed atmosphere the Epic will be fun. If you want to complain about everything you can find wrong amongst 5000 people and expect you're the only one on board then perhaps another ship or a team of personnal butlers is what you need.
We are Canadians, and we made the most of it and would certainly cruise again on the Epic.