An Epic Journey?
My wife and I took off from IAD to start another adventure together. So far, it has been a very unique journey. Arriving at Miami International Airport, we had wonderful escorts who moved us quickly and efficiently in new wheelchairs that easily carried our carry on luggage. They were excellent! We were well treated by the flight crew and had been seated in bulkhead seats. Water and soda were provided. We flew on United/Mesa Airlines on a small plane that provided us with a very good flight. It was quick, without incident and pleasant.
On arrival in Miami, the people who arrived to transport us had no patience, did not listen to us. One disappeared in minutes. We waited with the other helper for about 30 minutes until a different person arrived to push us to pick up our luggage. The wheelchairs they used were old and inefficient causing them to be irritated at them. They did their best to get us to our luggage and to the NCL bus transportation from the field to the ship. They finally did succeed. We shall never fly into Miami again, but will pay a bit extra for transfers from FLL if we ever sail out of Miami again on one of the lines that cruises from Miami.
Our daughter and son-n-law met the bus when it arrived at the terminal and with their assistance and the good work of the dock/luggage workers. We proceeded to board the Epic very efficiently with the assistance of their personnel and our children. Wheelchair assistance was efficient and delivered us with our children to the elevators to go to the buffet lunch area on deck 15.
The food was varied and tasty. The room was aft and the children found a great table for us to have our lunch. We had salads, beef, chicken, fish and a few other treats as we discussed our journey together. The rum mixed drinks were very strong! We sat on the buffet deck, 15, after purchasing unlimited soda and drink cards. The NCL brochure listed the cost at $6.25 a day for a total of $43.75, so I paid $100.63 for two cards including an automatic 15% tip. We received souvenir containers and a stamp on our room key to use when we order sodas. We relaxed to music and announcements about the upcoming lifeboat drill. No life vests were required. We had our attendance checked, saw a demonstration and talk about the vests and drill procedures; we were discharged to go to our cabins.
Upon arriving at our cabin, we discovered that our room keys were not working. Having had a past experience with this same problem, we were pleased that it was corrected in about 15 -- 20 minutes. We had booked handicapped cabin 11262 on the port side of the ship. It is the smallest, handicapped cabin we have ever experienced in 11 cruises. Storage was barely enough for our needs. The bathroom, with the glazed door and the sink outside, was tiny. Past reviews were correct; my wife had difficulty figuring out how to store her scooter in our room. Surprisingly, the balcony was large and we saw some grand views as we left Miami. Mario, our room steward, was excellent. He worked hard to meet our requests as a real gentleman and friend. Thank goodness for his great service.
The cabin of our children, 11284, was a standard balcony cabin. The fancy curves took away from the usable space in the room. Their balcony was small too. As others said in their October and November reviews, people needed to walk sideways and wait for others to pass before moving around the cabin. We know that people do not spend their entire cruise in their cabin, but it should still be large enough to be a comfortable space to relax in and rejuvenate. Perhaps the CEO and the corporation really do wish to force people out of their cabins so that they increase the profits at the bars, casinos and specialty restaurants. Carnival, Princess, Holland and even RCL appear to have larger spaces that are more efficiently designed. People should not be forced out of their cabins or up to suites or the Haven cabins to feel as if they have enough space for real comfort.
Small drawers, a minimal number of hangers and limited lighting in the room, had us wondering when "epic" events would start. Our cabin is still an oven because the air is not properly set. Later, we finally solved the problem and the thermostat is now working very well. Tonight we shall dine at Cagney's Stakehouse. Reports to follow! Great food, service and atmosphere!
Tomorrow we shall see the Blue Man Group.
Our shower worked well, but is still the tiniest one we have ever experienced in a handicapped cabin. Charlie told us that this was the European style along with more European outlets than US outlets. Beautiful weather! The wind blew on deck 15 where I had breakfast. The Garden Buffet was a new experience. I ordered an omelet. It was prepared immediately with mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and salsa. Unfortunately, the cook included ham that I did not want. He did prepare crispy bacon. The sausages were cold from the counter. After I sat down, one of the wandering servers brought me hot decaf coffee, skim milk and orange juice. She was prompt and courteous. After my meal, I saw Joel, an assistant ma'tre de who we first met at the counter of Moderno and Cagney's Steak House. We spoke for a while and I shared our mixed experiences with NCL with him, including the nearly three hours spent on the phone arranging our special dinner and entertainment reservations. Unknown to me, he did contact Mario when he left me and told him what we needed in our stateroom. I did tell Joel that the service we received for breakfast was very good and that our dinner and service at Cagney's was excellent!
Upon returning to our room, our son-in-law, Charlie, told my wife that he spoke to someone about our luggage that had still not been delivered. NCL indicated that she was not the only passenger with this problem. They said that when errors are made, the luggage has usually been delivered to the incorrect cabin where some people do not realize that the bags are not their bags, or the room steward put them under the bed or in the closet. An in-depth search will be done today. Fortunately, NCL did give my wife $100 in shipboard credit so that she could purchase some needed items onboard to replace essentials that had not arrived. This will make some things better, but missing eye medicine will still be a problem. Mario arrived and told us where the "hidden" light switch was located under the shelf by the sink in our cabin. No lights exist to light up the area under the shelves where our safe was located. Later, we shall decide where to have lunch and dinner. Mario gave me more letters indicating that we received another $100 credit to use on the ship.
Tonight, we shall see The Blue Man Group! We hope to line-up around 5:00pm for the 7:00pm show. NCL stated that the doors open 45 minutes before the show and past reviews told us that people did line-up earlier than that. We were able to enter through the handicapped level entrance on deck 5 just before the crowd entered from deck 6. We found seats in the center of row 4. Do not sit any closer unless you want to wear a provided slicker to protect yourself from the spray. This fabulous show lasted 90 minutes of continuous drumming, action and music. It is a must see. Make your free reservations early to experience this amazing audience interactive show. Everyone loved it. We dined at Taste, one of the no-cost venues following the show. The service and most of the food was great. Our children did not enjoy the curry chicken and shrimp. My wife enjoyed the pork dish and the chocolate raspberry cake dessert. I found the spaghetti with carbonara sauce very good. The lime sorbet was delicious. The football games showed on a very large screen near the station of the purser. Lots of people enjoyed the games. Tomorrow we plan to arrive early for the Cirque Dreams show. We reserved preferred seating and our entire party has to arrive together to be seated together.
Monday, December 17, 2012 we spend our third day at sea. It is a new time zone so we moved our watches one hour ahead. Now off to breakfast. I plan to try another venue other than the Garden buffet on the 15th deck. A cold sausage may have upset my stomach yesterday. No luck! Up to the 15th deck. Had cream of wheat with cinnamon, a 1/2 glass of orange juice and a decaf coffee with skim milk. Better than yesterday! Warm weather, puffy clouds and a calmer sea exist today.
I plan to go to lunch with the "kids" today at O'Sheehan's at 2:00pm before we all go to the show at dinnertime tonight. Charley wants their wings. My wife will meet with the doctor today at 4:00pm to see if he can get her medication when we dock tomorrow. She has a letter from our ophthalmologist about her lost medication from her lost luggage. The purser's office called to let us know that a note will be sent to all of the cabins today asking everyone to check to see that the entire luggage in their cabins is their luggage. My wife will be filling out a form to give NCL information on the luggage and its contents so that they may reimburse us at a reduced value rate for the lost items. The kids plan to go to Spiegel Tent with us to wait for all of us to enter the Cirque Dream show all together, as required, so we hope to line up early for dinner and the show.
We arrived at Cirque Dreams! When the staff saw my wife in a scooter, they moved the four of us to the front of the line. They seated the earliest arrivals and then sat us in great seats in the preferred seating section. We saw everything of this astounding performance in amazingly close detail. One of the cast members selected Charley to participate in the show. He blindfolded him, place balloons under his arms and between his legs. He then proceeded to snap a whip and used a large spike to pierce the balloons. Charley really had the courage to remain still and allow all of this to happen to him. The acrobats, musicians, dancers, jugglers, loose ropewalkers and dramatic performers thrilled everyone as they showed off their strength and skills. Comedy reigned supreme and many audience members took part in the performance that lasted about 90 minutes. We dined on seafood type appetizers, coconut shrimp and steak and miniature special tastes of a variety of desserts. I had two small steaks instead of the surf and turf. Excellent service prevailed! As we exited the show, two powerful performers posed with customers so that they would have photo memories of their experience at the show. My wife and the kids went to one of the dance venues where she watched them dance the evening away. I decided to relax in our cabin. All in all, a grand experience was had by all of us.
Tuesday, 12-18-12, we docked at Saint Martaan, the Dutch side of the island. Had a good breakfast on deck 15 of cream of wheat, orange juice, and decaf coffee. I brought my wife scrambled eggs, bacon, a variety of rolls and orange juice. She enjoyed it on our balcony! Our kids arrived shortly after 10:00am, told us their plans for the day and left the ship. Charley targeted good cigars available on the French side of the island! After lunch, I plan to pay a short visit to the Dutch side of the island to stimulate my memory of past visits. The crew took part in safety practice drills involving rescue, firefighting and a review of the use of the tenders as lifeboats.
I arrived at 2nd City show. It was brief, about 50 minutes. The "comedy" was sophomoric with a few good, witty improvisations. They were energetic and the time passed quickly. It was moderately entertaining.
Wednesday, 12-19-12, we arrived in St. Thomas, USVI. I visited Bernard Passman's Black Coral shop downtown, to bring in a necklace with a star that needed to be repaired. I met Gabe, the manager, at the store and he asked how my wife was feeling. I told him that she needed to rest, so I had brought in the item for repair. We discussed a few new products they have developed, took a new brochure, learned that he would mail the repaired item to us and then returned to the ship
I had lunch at O'Sheenan's, the chicken pot pie, diet sprite with lime, vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and walnuts on it. It was very good! Spent the afternoon reading and relaxing on deck and in the cabin.
Our family all dined at Moderno, the Brazilian Charascurra restaurant. Joel Cabuyao, Assistant Ma'tre 'D, seated us. He took exceptional care of us as a result of the pleasant relationship we started to have as a result of having the same first names and learning of this when we finished dining at Cagney's on Saturday, 12-15-12, our first evening on board the Epic. We met a few times in different venues and enjoyed pleasant conversations each time. Our server made our experience wonderful as well. She made sure we had everything we needed or desired. The meats arrived on skewers and the young man sliced requested portions of each one we wanted onto our plates. We had started with salad. I had a great bean soup. We shared fried bananas, garlic mashed potatoes and other side dishes that were delicious. After some time had passed, our server asked us if we wished to have dessert. It took us a few minutes to recover enough to order a variety of dishes. I jokingly asked for a banana split. Little did I imagine that one would miraculously appear made with fried bananas, vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup! We all had a taste of that dish! Papaya flavored ice cream, a coconut flan, and mango and pineapple flavored ice cream also arrived. All was great! We thanked our server and Joel very much for their exceptional service and suggestions.
On Thursday, 12-20-12, I had breakfast at the Garden Buffet on deck 15 once again. This time, I had bread, a roll, well-done bacon, a few scrambled eggs, and a waffle with maple syrup and decaf coffee with skim milk. Quite a combination! I brought my wife a variety of bread, rolls, Danish, and butter. It was a good, if not the healthiest of breakfasts. I met Joel once again and we discussed how great our experience was at Moderno last night and thanked him once again.
The four of us attended the Murder Mystery lunch activity put on by the same 2nd City cast that had performed the previous evening. We were seated promptly I the Spiegel Tent where we had seen the Cirque Dreams show. The menu was very limited! The salad was hearts of romaine with Bay Shrimp. I did not want the shrimp, so they removed it from my order and simply brought the salad. The main dishes were roasted chicken, leg and thigh, or grilled fillet of salmon. I selected the salmon only to be disappointed at the taste of the fish and the sauce on it. I ate the mini-portion of mashed potato and the grilled tomato. I did eat the two miniature chocolate eclairs that were the dessert. The cast worked hard to entertain the small crowd. They were better than the evening show and moderately entertaining. The audience was involved in selecting the killer and solving the murder. About an hour and one half later, I had a light snack at the Garden Buffet, a single small slice of pizza, a hot dog with mustard and a diet sprite with a lime. I read on the deck for a while and then returned to our cabin to write this down and prepare for the Legends in Concert show at 7:00pm this evening. It should be very good!
Enjoyed Legends in Concert performance tonight. Michael Jackson had to go home so only two performers were present, Whoopi Goldberg and Johnny Buffett. The 55-minute show was good.
Bobbi & I went to Taste for dinner following the show. With the large crowd in front of us, we believed that it would take a long time to be seated. For whatever reason, we were seated almost immediately! Bobbi had the blue crab and another appetizer. I had the onion soup (which did need more onions in it) and a Caesar salad that was served hot! The rolls were good. Bobbi had a steak, potatoes and broccoli. I had the eggplant parmegian. It was good. We had coffee, regular for Bobbi and decaf for me. Our desserts were chocolate ice cream for Bobbi and Lemon Sorbet for me. Both were good!
On Friday, 12-21-12, I had breakfast at the Garden Buffet on deck 15 once again. This time, I had two pieces of bread, well-done bacon, and an omelet with green & red peppers, mushrooms, onions & cheese along with two cups of decaf with NutraSweet & skim milk. I brought Bobbi two bagels, cream cheese, onions, lox and butter. She enjoyed it too!
I plan to finish my book, shower later after lunch and relax.
We are in Nassau. The kids are going to the beach for the day. I decided not to go to the aquarium at Atlantis so that I could start to get packed. We shall eat at the Manhattan restaurant tonight, after 6:00 pm or 7:00pm, when the kids return. We may celebrate their anniversary at dinner this evening.
Friday, 12-21-12 Dinner: onion soup (hardly any onions), salad nicoise was good, strip steak not up to par, string beans & baked potato both very good. Bobbi & Charlie had lamb shank that was excellent. The "kids" received an anniversary cake that we all enjoyed. Had an excellent raspberry sherbet for dessert. Service was fair, but not great! Tomorrow, we get to go home!
Saturday, 12-22-12 I have learned how to enjoy the buffet! Had scrambled eggs, bacon, and bread with butter, decaf coffee with the children at the Garden buffet. It was very good.
At last, disembarkation! It was one of the worst disembarkations we have ever experienced in over 12 cruises! My wife arranged for one of her bags to be sent to our final destination. As a result of this, I was unable to disembark when my red color was called because her bag had not cleared customs. After she rode her scooter to the handicapped area and my wheelchair arrived there as well, we had never been informed that we both had to disembark at the same time, the one set for people who sent their bags to their final destination, so we were moved around to two different locations & finally had to sit in the path of others disembarking causing discomfort for all. We finally moved to the side of the area where we had been "dumped" by the "assistants" who were to have taken us off the ship. The bags had finally been inspected and we were directed to disembark with the guidance and assistance of members of the crew. As we left the ship, my wife looked for the area where she had been told to leave the scooter we had rented for the voyage. There was no signage indicating where it was. One of the people on the dock told us to just leave the scooter close to the point where we had disembarked. I searched for the bus that was to take us to Fort Lauderdale International Airport and located it at the other end of a long cue of busses. My wife had to walk using her walker quite a distance to finally get to the bus. I did ask if the driver could seat her near the front of the bus because of her limited mobility, but he was not able to do so. We did have very good help getting into the terminal with our bags once we reached the airport.
Wheelchair assistance had been arranged for both of us so that we could get to the correct gate after we checked in for our flight. Both of the wheelchairs were broken! Two different excellent aides located working wheelchairs for us to use and brought us to check-in and to our gate. As we waited for the earlier flight to board at the gate, we discovered that two first class seats had just become available as I went to see if we could upgrade our seats. $200 later we had excellent seats on our US Airways flight. The personnel at the gate were wonderful and boarded us first so that we could get seated and not slow down the rest of the people boarding. The cabin attendant was great! She helped us get seated, brought us each drinks and made sure that we were comfortable. We had a grand time on the flight back to Washington D. C. Wheelchairs were waiting for us as we deplaned and we were taken to pick up our luggage that had arrived with our flight. Our assistants then brought us to the pickup point for our pre-arranged transfer from the airport to our hotel. The driver gave us a round about journey, but did get us to our hotel in a little over one hour. We picked up our car and drove home. What a relief for this journey to end!
We shall never cruise with NCL again! We do know that another couple did without any luggage for the week we were away! Luggage lost & never found on board! Embarkation & disembarkation very poor! Cabin tiny compared to all other lines sailed (over 12 cruises on 5 lines) Walked cabin deck from forward to aft to avoid casino crossings. People, except pursers, were very good, friendly & real. Asst. M'de, Joel & Mario, room steward were excellent. The staffs at shows were helpful & courteous. There was no joy to be had when luggage was lost. My computer case was left alone in a hallway as we waited for luggage delivery and by pure chance I saw it and took it to my cabin. One purser was very rude to my wife! Escaping from the ship when the cruise finally ended was the worst experience we ever had on any line! Only one chair in the cabin! When we ate one night in the Manhattan room, the food was not satisfactory. By the way, have you thought of putting onions in the onion soup? There is more but why bother! We do not plan on using this line or recommending it to others in the future. The tiny cabins were designed to get us out spending cash.