The Eve of my cruise arrived and I knew it would be a busy day. I had it all planned: Alarm set for 8am. Beauty salon 9.30am. Lunch with Dad at noon. Cat to Cattery 2pm. ASDA's for last minute shop 3pm. Birthday tea with girl friends home by 6pm. Re-check suit case weight and ensure lists done by 8pm. Bed by 9pm and get some sleep. Set alarm for 1am,1 hour before airport pick up at 2am. Instead Lunch over ran, cat late to Cattery, tea over ran. went out to club with Dad, then my Brother rang at 11pm and call lasted an hour. No sleep for me and lift turned up late OMG!
Due at Manchester airport 5am, got there at 4am and had to hang around until check in opened at 5am on my own, I was not chuffed and very tired. This was not the greatest start to my Epic adventure, but once in the line for check in I got talking with a few people and the time went quite quickly.
Then the disaster started! it came my turn to check in, my case went on the scales and my worst nightmare occurred. "Sorry your case is over weight Madame, by 4kg. It must be your toiletries or all the shoes you ladies like to wear" snigger. "We give you 22kg allowance! is that not enough? Before I could answer or ask if I could swap my toiletries into my hand luggage, he had slapped a sticker on my passport, handed me a piece of paper and told me to go to the excess baggage counter. It cost me £48 for my suntan lotions, beauty products and medical supplies ouch!
Through passport control was a doddle, into Boots for Pro-plus and then onto the VIP lounge for breakfast and relaxation. Booked this in advance and well worth the money. English breakfast, a pot of tea and then lazy boy recliner.
Steward stated they would waken me before my flight was called, as had all my flight info. on their reception desk. They did too and I headed towards my gate, to find my plane was delayed by 40mins. In the waiting area I was talking to a young lady going back to Dubai. She was a nurse and looking forward to seeing her boyfriend, after spending 8 weeks in Europe.
That was when I met a fellow Studio occupier, Debbie from Leeds in Yorkshire, like me a first to cruising and travelling alone. We hit it off straight away and decided to go around together on the Epic. She was 20 years my junior but that didn't bother either of us. The gate opened and we boarded the plane, unfortunately we couldn't sit together, that when I met Ian! also in Studio accommodation on the Epic. We talked non stop on the flight over, he had been on her before and was full of knowledge, plus does and don't when on board the Epic. I decided to make my own judgements on things, so I smiled and nodded in the right places. As we came into Barcelona Ian pointed out the Epic at the Docks, even from that height she was impressive and I was getting so excited.
Arrivals wasn't so easy, there was a baggage handlers strike! The cases for 6 flights eventually arrived across 3 to 4 conveyer belts and Ian bless him was hovering between them getting our luggage, by this time we had met more people on the Epic. The rep was waiting for us outside the terminal and we had to walk a long ways to our coach, which required another Caffeine tablet to keep me awake. Embarkation was organised chaos, 1st we had to take off our own cases and then a baggage guy took them from us and popped them on a golf buggy, and we entered the terminal. Passenger were walking in like headless chickens and NCL employees were giving out cold drinks and telling people which line to go into.
Debbie and I clung to each other so we wouldn't get separated and joined the queue to sort out our security photo and cabin credit. We then got our cabin pass key and were ready to go on board. This was the first of many time I would go through security to board the ship and each time was as exciting as the first.
The 3 of us agreed to meet up in an hour and have a walk around the ship, unfortunately I fell asleep in my cabin and nearly missed Muster Drill. My cabin was better than the photo, I was next to the door to the lounge as I'd planned. I decided to walk through the lounge on the way to Muster drill in Spiegels' Tent on deck 5. Ian and Debbie and some other were there. So I chatted for a little while and we made our way to the lifts. One of many journeys to that darn lift area I would make lol! The Muster drill was long winded and repeated in the languages of Europe and the world. I know it's essential, but can't they have universal translators or something if you don't speak English!
I went up onto deck 15 for a late lunch and my 1st look around, had some pizza slices and salad. I bought my 'UB package' and had my 1st of many cocktails a Pina Colada. Wow! what an amazing sight in front of me, it was awesome and my favourite music playing, the Miami Latin beat and people were dancing ready for the 'Sail Away' party.
Later I made my way back to my cabin to get ready for the 1st meeting at 6pm with our Studio rep. The crowd in the lounge were a really friendly bunch. Maria our rep organised 2 large tables at Taste and we all went on to dinner. By 9pm we were ready to hit the night life of the Epic, a little drink at Shakers and onto H20 Spice. I had to leave them early for Blue Man event, but it was worth booking, I had a blast and luckily the people in my row got them too!
Its now midnight and time for bed and the comfort of Egyptian cotton sheets. I'll unpack tomorrow, as it's a sea day.
Day 2:I slept like a log and had set my alarm for 9am, I showered and went for brunch in The Garden Cafe. Very enjoyable continental breakfast and coffee was had, then headed for H20 adult area and found a lounger and a cooling sea breeze. Planned to spend the day here basking in the sun and catching some rays, while par-taking in the odd cocktail of two.
4pm. Went back to cabin via. lounge and bumped into Ian, Marcus and 'Mandy Mae' who I'd met the previous evening. Arranged to see them in Bliss night club later as was going to Cirque to Dinner in Spiegels Tent at 9.30. On way out at 6pm met one of the Sues from Sunday night, she was off to 'Graffiti' at the comedy club, maybe I was pushy but asked if I could accompany her, we had a good laugh. Went to shaker for a Grey Goose Martini or 2 and said our farewells. It's a shame as it was her last night as she got on at Naples the week before. Cirque de Dinner was really great, although my table was with a family who moaned about everything. Oh well! You can't please them all.
Met Marcus and onto bliss, big mistake I didn't get back until 2am.
Day 3: Had to be up at 5.30am for Pompeii & Sorrento excursion.
Didn't over sleep thank god! Tired and extremely hung over though!
Followed instructions and found guide with plaque for tour. Met a family from Toronto and 3 single girls in their 40's. Had a great day, even found an Irish for a loo and long cold lager. I hope to see them on other trips. Managed to get a Jacuzzi on deck and soaked by tired muscles, before showering for dinner. Debbie was already in lounge at 6.30 and told everybody had already gone on to Tastes, we had a good natter and joined them all again, this time there were a few new faces as people had boarded in Naples.
It was FABBA night and I had put on a very 80's dress and wedges. We went to Bliss for Kareoke after dinner and had a good laugh, found a few of our crowd were extremely good singers. Then onto FABBA party, having had a few drinks already I felt squiffy and made a fool of myself. My Mum died this year and she loved ABBA, so I cried all the way through. Our crowd were so nice about it and made sure I was O.K. Went to bed by midnight as up at 5am.
Day 4: Rome in a private car. Had a long and hot day ahead, so decided to have a breakfast at o'Sheehans. It was good and filling and the waiter was fun too.
Took the shuttle to the meeting place and met the Glasgow girls again, they were doing the colosseum only option. I shared a limo with Greg and Evelyn and 2 other couples. The driver/guide was really nice and let me sit up front with him. I told him I was interested in Italian history and he was so knowledgable. I know its' his job to know! The whole day was fantastic, Rome was so large but wonderful. Evelyn and Greg took me under their wing and we really got on well. Although I got lost from them leaving the Sistine Chapel, which had the most beautiful frescos I have ever seen. No problem the driver came around a 2nd time and found me, which stopped me panicking lol! One of the other couples were also running late and kept us waiting 30 minutes.
On returning to the ship I had another soak in the Jacuzzi and felt better for it! Showered and met the others for dinner at Manhattans, they left a note on the board for me, as I was running late. I preferred this dinning option as they had a band playing swing style music. The food wasn't as good, but I don't know why! Went to 7.30 Legends show with Debbie, Julie & Stephen. Was really good entertainment, by Tom Jones, Adele and Tina Turner look a likes & sound a likes.
We went to H20 for the Casino Royale night, long dresses and tuxedos, had our photos taken by ship photographer. Left a 1pm for bed as on another excursion, felt well drunk too!
Day 5: Pisa and Florence.
Met the Glasgow girls and Carol from America again. The family from Toronto were also there, a couple from Edinburgh and a mum and daughter from LA.
Did the push the pillar straight picture and then onto Florence. I fell head over heels in love with Florence. The renaissance architecture was fantastic and the details in the statues and paintings were breath taking.
Couldn't do the Jacuzzi thing today, as all 6 were full. So had a shower and ached a bit. White hot party night, not the best look when your larger lady. Dinner in Taste, my usual crowd weren't there as gone to Cirque de Dinner at 7.30pm. Had dinner with Marcus, Emily, Lynne and Sue. Went onto Shakers for cocktails and then H20, other had already arrived and everyone looked good. Stayed out until 3am, as didn't have to get up early, trip was in the afternoon.
Day 6: Met Crowd for breakfast at O'Sheehans' at 10am and enjoyed an omelette and American coffee. Sunbathed until 1pm and changed into shorts for trip to Aix en Provence. Trip was very disorganised and guide was ignorant and rude. The town was typical French, with designer boutiques and quaint squares with cafes in. Wish I could have explored more without guide, who we couldn't hear anyways. I was not the only one who complained about guide and the excursion.
Met crowd at usual time and went onto Tastes for dinner, and had sparkling wine too.
We then went onto Bliss again for Kareoke, this time I sang 'Daniel' by Elton John, didn't do to bad. Due to slight change in weather 80's night was being held at Bliss at 9pm. Staff were dressing in costume and miming to 80's tunes.
Wasn't a good night, I got really bored. Maybe all this excursions had caught up with me, but I was shattered. Left by 11pm and made my way to Lounge for a coffee and met Lynne, Emily and Sue. Stayed up later than expected, as more people joined us in the lounge area. It was fun talking with people from all over the world and I know I will miss this the most.
Day 7: Last trip of week half day in Majorca, going to Porta Christo in the North of the island and seeing the Dragon Caves, then onto the Pearl factory. Hopefully some familiar faces will be there and we can catch up.
Had a good day, cave were surreal and the lake was a bit spooky when lite up. Especially when the boats came across and the quartet played. I wanted to sing 'don't pay the ferry man' by Chris de Burgh, when we got the boats across the lake.
Meeting crowd in lounge to go for drinks at Shakers, tonight we are booked to go to the Moderno for Ians' birthday, it should be a good night. I have already packed my main case ready to take out at midnight for stewards to collect. Put a change of clothes out for tonight and tomorrow. Last evening I cannot believe it has come round so fast. Moderno was different, salad bar was good, starters were tasty choice of cold or hot. Then they brought out the skewers of meat and poultry some spicy, some plain. I had to turn my paddle to red a few times, as I can only take so much meat at once. Finished meal by 10pm, I think everybody felt sad at leaving, as we all disappeared for a while to change and the mood was different when we met up again. Most had an early night going to bed at 11pm, I went in lounge and said goodbye to the coffee set.
Day 8: Barcelona and the home leg.
Had to be up by 5am, had breakfast in O'Sheehans' with the crowd. Exchanged numbers and e-mails, but knew I would never see them again.
We left for Barcelona airport and our journey home, then the fun began. For some reason a passenger smelt plastic burning and informed a steward, we were grounded at Barcelona for 4 hours on our plane. Engineers, mechanics and electricians eventually found the fault and we could take off. Everyone wanted sandwiches and drinks. They run out by the time they reached my area of the plane, I had crisps and their last egg sandwich. We all got a complimentary drink, but not alcoholic. Ian, Debbie and I hugged and said our final farewells at Manchester.
Steve my driver and good friend picked me up from arrivals and moaned about the weather being too hot and how we could do with some rain. Oh well back to good old Blighty!
I really enjoyed the whole studio lounge concept, it works and you meet a cross section of people from all age groups and walks of life. Some you would never mix with under normal circumstances, but in this instance you have something in common the Studios and in most cases travelling solo.