Our family of 6 purchased the pre-cruise with NCl and arrived in Rome on July 28, 2013. There was someone at the airport as promised to pick us up and transfer us to our hotel. The hotel - a four star - in Rome was quite central and we really enjoyed the tours in Rome. I think that that was our favourite part of the trip. This was our first time in Rome and the first time that our children had been to Europe.
The transfer from Rome to the port in Civitavecchia was as promised and was included as part of the cruise tour- about a 1 1/2 hour transfer to the ship. We had not realized that the Epic had more than one embarkation port during the cruise. People boarded at 3 different places. Civitavecchia, Marseilles, and Barcelona. Apparently 80% of the passengers embark and dis-embark in Barcelona which made anyone getting on and off the ship at the port of Barcelona rather hectic. We had to wait 1 1/2 hours to get off the ship in order for us to get to our shore excursion. There wasn't a separate line for people who were not dis-embarking at that time.
The ship is really too big. Too many people on the sun decks and in most public areas!! We could not get a deck chair and there was always long line-ups for the water slides and pools, especially on our 1 day at sea. Some of the lines for the water slides were 45 minutes. The food was really disappointing too. Both my husband and I have been on several cruises and told the kids that the food was fantastic! Maybe there are too many people for the chef's and the kitchen staff to handle? I am not sure. We ate at 2 of the specialty restaurants and ended up sending our food back. Cagney's - the steak place, was especially bad. This was suppose to be their premier restaurant. The appetizers came at different times and our side dishes came before our entrees. The staff seemed very disorganized and not caring. La Cucina was ok but not worth the extra $15 per person. The other restaurants food wasn't great. The entrees were cold and undercooked. Overall not great food experience. The kids did order rooms service. The fruit trays were good!
I booked 2 excrusion throught NCL. Florence and Pisa on your own and Sorento and the Amalfi coast. We enjoyed both of these.
For the other days, I booked my own excurisons. We did an e-bike tour in Barcelona and a Segway tour in Plama de Mallorca. In Marseilles we took a 3 hour city tour in a mini van. All in all, we booked this cruise because of the differnt ports of call, which we thoroughly enjoed, however, the ship is way too big and the food is not good. The Blue Man group and The Legends show needs improvement.
I booked my own transfer from Civitavecchia to the airport. I use Rome Taxi's. Our cost was $150 euro's tip included. All you have to do is go on their website to book and you don't have to pre-pay.