We had the most wonderful excursions in Livorno (to Pisa and Lucca); in Marseilles (to Avignon and Aix en Provence); in Barcelona (to Monserrat) and in Naples (to Pompeii). The guides were fantastic at describing the history of the places we were visiting; keeping the groups more or less together and on-schedule; and adding a touch of personality and humor to the tours.
Our prior experience with an excursion in the Caribbean wasn't so wonderful, so by contrast, we enjoyed these trips in Europe even more.
We also learned that we'll be happier with a smaller ship on our next cruise.
The Epic is easy to navigate, but the experience was similar to being in a big factory.
Our biggest disappointment was meal service. We had one lovely dinner in Le Bistro (cover charge) and one good meal in the main dining room (Taste), but otherwise, the meals were on par with a school cafeteria...not too good.
Fortunately, because we were on excursions each day, we would grab a quick yogurt, coffee and roll for breakfast, and thus only had dinners on the ship.
We had to return one meal as inedible, and two others were way overcooked. Each time, the wait staff seemed nonchalant and indifferent to the poor quality.
Otherwise, the ports, the accommodations and the excursions were wonderful!
This was the highlight of the cruise! Montserrat is absolutely magnificent. We marveled at how the monks could possibly have built the church and their quarters in such steep mountainous conditions. The church is a work of art in itself and we were fortunate to be there on a Sunday and attend a Mass.
What a beautiful, ancient city! We walked along the city walls and wandered up and down the little narrow streets after the official tour ended.
We loved the tour--and the guide. The bus drops you off outside the city and it's a bit of a hike into the Tower area, but lovely and interesting sights to see along the way. We did not take the climb inside the tower.
We didn't have enough time to thoroughly wander around "X", but loved the parts we saw. The beautiful Cours Mirabile is worth another trip; the Cathedral is simply amazing and there were interesting squares and fountains to spend more time exploring the next time.
We would visit again, after we've read more of the Papal history. Avignon is a beautiful place.
This tour makes you hungry to go back to school and learn all about the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and what was going on in 79 A.D. in other parts of the world. The incredible artwork, mosaic tile floors, magnificent statuary, etc. really gives you an appreciation for how long our culture has existed. (And also makes you wonder if anything we are creating today will have the staying power that Pompeii does?)
We took a walk through Soller and I still don't know how no one got killed on the way! The sidewalks are single-file wide in several areas, and there were many cars trying to navigate the narrow streets at the same time. We took the train from Soller and it is totally forgettable. I wouldn't recommend this one.
The biggest issue with this tour was that the Ship had sent about six busloads of people to this tiny monastery at the same time...all trying to wedge into several monk's cells at once. It was simply a mess. The tour groups were right on each other's heels all the way, so the guides were talking over one another. It would have been interesting to actually see the cells where Chopin and George Sands stayed for 55 days, and appreciate the manuscripts on display and the artwork in each room, but it was simply too overcrowded to enjoy.