Just back from a fabulous cruise on the Norwegian Epic, May 5th to May 12th from Barcelona. Our group of 13 family members sailed in 6 adjacent cabins on Deck 10 . For most of the group it was their first cruise, and we all really had a wonderful time.
A bit of background. We are all from Australia and New Zealand and having done a few cruises before it was left to me to do most of the planning for this cruise. Luckily, everything worked out smoothly.
First of all cabin choice. I chose mid ship, deck 10 so as to maximise stability. We had balcony cabin 10155 , and our cabins extended to 10179 on starboard side. Excellent position as no lifeboats blocked our view downwards. Slightly long walk to stairs, but not a problem at all. We all tried to use the stairs as much as possible rather than elevators to balance out some of the overeating! Cabin was fine, very comfortable. As has been mentioned in previous reviews, if you can't find the light switch for the sink area More
it is under the bathroom cabinet, just above the sink. And if the light from the phone bothers you at night, just touch the light icon on the phone screen and the phone lights go out. I was waiting for the $25 laundry bag special and when there was still no mention of it in the Freestyle daily by Wednesday I asked our wonderful cabin steward Freddy who said that although it was not being officially offered on our cruise he would organise it for me if I left my clothes in the bag provided in the closet with an itemised list for records, which I did and it was duly returned the following day.
The ship was in good condition, staff all very welcoming and happy to help. Boarding was simple at Barcelona- put your bags through a security scanner , then line up to check in. Just in case anyone is interested there is indeed a bottle shop following security and check in, but at the top of the escalator just inside the ship is another xray security bag check, and any bottles were collected and could be picked up on the last evening at 6pm. The buffet had a lot of variety. One of my favourite areas was the Indian section which was vegetarian and had rice, roti, dahl, another vegetable curry, and a selection of cucumber raita, mango pickle, and mint yoghurt. Also loved the hard ice cream, lots of variety of flavours -- they are different on the 2 sides of the buffet- coconut and rocky road were excellent, and in the evenings the crepe station made amazing sweet crepes with your choice of filling.
On our first night several of our group bought the wine package which is only available for purchase on embarkation day. There is a table set up outside the buffet on deck 15 with the various wines, but the package was also available for purchase from your waiter at the main dining rooms. We chose the least expensive package of 4 bottles for $88 which with taxes ended up costing $110. They give you 4 slips of paper which you can present at any restaurant during the cruise and your wine will be brought to you. They will store any unfinished bottles for you too.
We enjoyed the sail away party on Deck 15 on Day 1 around 5pm after the safety drill, and lots of other activities such as Mr Epic competition, team trivia, salsa dance class, Martini tasting, the Fabba party day 3 spice H2O, back to the 80's party in Bliss day 4 and the White Hot party which was held day 6 in Bliss rather than Spice H20 due to winds. The entertainment crew did an amazing job and kept us up and dancing, especially Nacho from Mexico. Interestingly I only saw the cruise director once when introducing a show and felt he kept a very very low profile. The assistant cruise director was more visible, but the entertainment staff was excellent. My husband used the internet on board one day and found it to be expensive and slow as is often the case on cruise ships.
Shows.....loved Cirque Dreams...we booked standard seats and were seated at the booths. There were only a few moments of the show where we could not see what was happening up high, but we thoroughly enjoyed this amazing show packed full of entertainment. Well worth attending. Legends in concert were great too, especially Tina Turner. The 3 legends now are Tina Turner, Adele and Tom Jones. I was looking forward to seeing Michael Jackson but looks like he's not on this cruise ship now. Blue Man Group must be a matter of taste, most of our group were not enthusiastic about this show.
The only speciality restaurant we ate at was Teppenyaki which we all thoroughly enjoyed. Our chef Ray from the Phillipines kept us well entertained whilst cooking us a most delicious meal. A couple of our group had the fillet mignon and prawns and found the steak to be extremely tender and ready to melt in the mouth. Other nights we at twice at the Manhatten Room and once at Taste. We enjoyed the entertainment at the Manhatten Room but found we had to go early if we wanted to be seated together, around 6-6.30. In fact they will take bookings at 5.30 or 6pm for a large group. Meals and service were good at both Taste and Manhatten.
We had only 1 teenager amongst our group, my 13 year old niece. I took her to register ( somewhat reluctantly) at the Teen Club on the first evening aboard and after that we hardly saw her when we were aboard the ship, she was busy with friends at the Teen Club until it closed at 1 am. She said there were only about 10 teens who registered but they got on well.
We were very lucky with the weather, smooth seas and sunny days around 20-24 degrees centigrade daily. We had some winds and slightly rougher seas on Day 6 when we left Marseille and this was the only day that the movement of the ship was really noticeable. Most of us were quite fine, only one member of our group felt a bit unwell.
Disembarkation was the most organised of any cruise I have been on yet...no lines, no crowds. Even the buffet was not overly crowded on the last morning, we chose 8.30 disembarkation and were off the ship with our luggage by 8.45. There are no customs formalities when you disembark at Barcelona, just walk off and find your bags.
Overall, it was an excellent cruise which we all thoroughly enjoyed. I had organised private tours for the ports and will outline them below. It was lots of fun being in a large group and doing things together. I would thoroughly recommend this cruise and we look forward to cruising again. Less
Norwegian Epic Cruises to the Western Mediterranean
4. Livorno- I had planned to use public transport -- taxi and train- to go to Pisa and had pre-booked tickets( 18 euros each) on line to climb the Leaning Tower at 1.15pm. However when we left the ship soon after 10 am we found only a couple of maxi taxis waiting and rather than taking us to the train station, they preferred to take us to Pisa. For a fee of 25 Euros per person they drove us to Pisa ( ½ hour drive) and then picked us up again at 2 pm after our climb, and we were back on board at 2.30pm. Actually this option worked out quite well for us, maybe slightly more expensive than taxi/train but very comfortable. I did also notice that NCL had a shuttle bus to the train station for $12 per person return I think. We had plenty of time to take photos propping up the leaning tower , browse the many souvenir shops and enjoy a gelato in the shade of the tower while the boys enjoyed leaning beers of Pisa at a nearby bar. It is important to note that no bags at all are allowed when climbing the tower, just cameras, and all bags must be checked in at the free lockers in the yellow building next to the ticket office prior to climbing the tower. It is a fairly strenuous climb of almost 300 steps with not much place to rest, so might not be recommended for people with mobility issues or who are slow climbing stairs.
6. Palma de Majorca -- We docked at 1 pm and joined the line of NCL passengers waiting for the shuttle to the city centre. Cost is $12 per person return. You don't have to prebook, they note down your cabin number and you sign at the pier for the shuttle and they put a red sticker on your seapass for the return trip. A lot of people were taking this option so there was a significant line, and some passengers were complaining, but we were on a shuttle within ½ hour and took the 20 min ride to the city centre. The drop off and return point is just near the Cathedral so very easy to find as the beautiful Cathedral dominates the landscape. From the cathedral several of our group wanted to shop so we left them to it, and my husband and I spotted a hop on hop off bus right at the cathedral so we paid the 15 euros each and did the tour which was quite good and took us up to Bellver Castle with its amazing views over Majorca. The whole tour takes 1 hour 20 mins- channel 4 has English commentry. We hopped off at Porto Pi , a shopping centre near the port which had an internet cafe, and free internet was also available for ½ hour, and also near the McDonalds there. We then hopped back on the HOHO bus and got off at the port. In retrospect on disembarkation at Majorca,we should have walked past the lines for the NCL shuttle and continued along the walkway, and out through the port building. The HOHO bus stops right there and we could have started the tour there. A taxi stand is also there. Also if anyone is interested the Porto Pi shopping centre is very close to the port building, maybe a 10-15 minute walk, across a road. It is full of many shops and department stores such as H & M, and free wifi was convenient. Majorca is very picturesque with a lovely waterfront harbour area and stunning cathedral.