My husband, teenage son and I went on our first cruise onboard the Norwegian Epic, from Barcelona, on August 25th 2013. We didn't know what to expect of cruise life but so many people had spoken favourably that we decided to give it a try. The Norwegian Epic was recommended to us.
Our first impression of the ship, was that it was huge - almost like a block of flats, and not very pretty. However this turned out to be an advantage as we could spot it in any port!!
Embarkation was straightforward - there was a small queue, but we got through quickly and our cabin was available about 1.30pm.
Throughout the week we ate in the Garden Cafe, the Great Outdoors, Taste and Manhattan - we did not use any of the other supplementary dining options. The food was good in all of the Restaurants we tried but we particularly liked the Garden Cafe -there was so much variety there and the food was cooked fresh. The only problem was finding, and keeping, a table - particularly at breakfast. However we discovered at breakfast the 'overflow' could use La Cucina and so we ate there most mornings.
Throughout the ship the standard of cleanliness was extremely high - from the catering areas to accommodation. I was very impressed.
We had a balcony cabin which was a good size for 3 people, but I think I wouldn't like to have an inside cabin - we enjoyed being on the balcony leaving and arriving in port. Our cabin was deck 8, but if I was to sail again I would get a cabin higher up as we overlooked the lifeboats and there was a cooking smell coming from the kitchens.
We had pre-booked the Blue Man Group and Legends in concert - following reviews on this site. Both were very enjoyable and I would recommend them, specifically Tom Jones and Adele.
We didn't use any of the ship excursions as I felt they were too expensive, but we did get off and make our own way. We used CBM tours in Rome, as there was so much to see in one day and this proved an excellent choice.
A tip I picked up on this site proved useful in Marseilles and Palma - where we took public transport into the cities, instead of paying NCL's $12. In both cases there is a bus stop at the port that will take you into the centres. Both Marseilles and Palma are worth a visit. Other reviewers had spoken about NCL's 'upselling' so I was expecting it. Some of it is tacky (photographs at each port with NCL staff dressed as sailors etc), but you can easily avoid paying additional charges.
Alcohol is expensive. We bought a wine package when we boarded, and there was a reasonable choice of wines to choose from. However I felt that when we arrived in the restaurant each night the wine waiter lost interest when he/she was presented with our wine voucher - almost as if they had lost out on a sale!! (despite us having paid up already).
All in all we enjoyed cruise life and would definitely do it again - maybe with Norwegian, but might try another cruise line next time- out of curiosity!