Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by airhead&seashore: First Cruise
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This was the 1st cruise for myself and my 2 children (15 years and 13th birthday on the ship). I have over 20 years of customer service in the travel/airline industry so my perception was a bit different than most passengers. By chance, the itinerary I planned was also different from most of the ship, so we never really felt crowded and if we were in queue/line at all, it moved quickly. One of my goals of the trip was to introduce my children to different cultures which was well achieved, especially due the variety of passengers on board (including India, China, Japan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and Australia, just to name a few). My son even played a game of basketball with two Russian men in their late 40's who spoke very little English. My kids who speak some Portuguese, laughed, hung out and muddled their way through multi-lingual conversations with a group of kids from Spain and Norway in the Teen Entourage.
Day 1 (Barcelona)
We boarded More quickly around 11:30am. Toured the ship on our own until our room was ready. I chose an interior room since I read beforehand that the traffic flow/spatial layout of the balconies was awkward. And also because there was only one sea day on the itinerary and finally, none of us wanted to sleep on the 3rd bed/sofa thing. Room 13069, excellent location, we avoided the elevators and took stairs 2 decks up to 15 (Garden Cafe, outdoor dining, pools, and sea views). We spent the majority of our time up here and usually found seating within 5-10 minutes. Toward the end of the cruise we heard footsteps above us; we realized the Kids Recess Center was directly above-but overall the cabin was well insulated from outside noise.
We met our cabin attendant-Josef upon our entry to our cabin. He was polite, friendly and professional; we saw him every evening-he checked in on us during the turn down service, and personally delivered the daily newsletter. We were never wanting for anything but felt well taken care of since we knew he was always available. Excellent [cabin] location, we avoided the elevators and took stairs 2 decks up to 15 (Garden Cafe, outdoor dining, pools, and sea views). We spent the majority of our time up here and usually found seating within 5-10 minutes. Toward the end of the cruise we heard footsteps above us; we realized the Kids Recess Center was directly above-but overall the cabin was well insulated from outside noise.
We booked all of our events before the cruise. We attended Blue Man Group at 7pm. We sat in the front row. The theatre was only partially full since all the passengers were on Deck 15 watching the ship leave port. All of us LOVED this show. My kids saw it again on Day 7 with the Teen Entourage. We never really had a set schedule for dining and we were extremely pleased with the freestyle dining. We could find something to eat anytime we were hungry.
Day 2 (Sea)
Perfect time for a sea day. We became acquainted with the ship, did some ironing, unpacking, and walking around. Also worked on our sea legs and settled in from jet lag and the time change from Eastern Standard Time.
We attempted lunch at Taste but our waiter was aloof/apathetic. It was odd that the restaurant was 25% full, with lots of window seating available but after several requests for a window seat, he refused to seat us there. We watched the seating remain empty even up until we left. When our food arrived, we took a couple bites, stared at the open window seats and quickly left for the Garden Cafe on Deck 15. We sat ourselves in the open air directly in front of a window.
My kids did some rock climbing and played basketball. Only 2 people in queue for the rock climbing. I never saw more 8 people on the basketball court at the same time during the entire cruise. I just want to add the every staff member working in the kids' areas were fun and friendly.
We had dinner and watched the Cirque Dreams show. The show was good. We were are all short in stature so we booked the premium seats. We sat front and center. We were so close to the action that we were literally in the show. My daughter was selected as a volunteer. It was a bit difficult to eat and try to watch the show at the same time.
Day 3 ( Naples)
I had booked the Naples Underground Walking Tour from 8:30-1 for my son in the morning and Pompeii from 1:30-5 for my daughter in the afternoon. We booked these excursions through Norwegian for 2 reasons: 1. It allowed us productive use of our time and to meet all of our choices. 2. We felt secure in our transportation with Norwegian since I had been told that some of the locals in Naples can be a bit a tricky/gypsies.
The walking tour was excellent. Our guide Luca, also a teacher, was very knowledgeable of his city, sarcastically funny, and friendly. I also had some great conversations with the others in our group. The Bourbon Tunnel tour was very interesting. The tour ended with a whole margaherita pizza per passenger and a beverage of our choice, followed by an espresso in celebration of the culture of Naples which had been especially arranged by our guide, Luca.
The tour ran late and we arrived in port at 1:20. We are in great athletic shape and sprinted to the Epic Theatre, only to realize that the Pompeii tour had already been called. The Excursion representatives were very helpful and quickly contacted a representative in the parking lot who said our bus was still there. We again sprinted off the ship, 10 feet ahead of our Norwegian escort, only to find that the same parking lot attendant/excursion representative had let the bus go, just seconds before we arrived. He then proceeded to talk us into another tour, which we didn't want. At this point he became angry, and told us he would have to verify that we arrived late from the morning tour and also to verify that we had even really booked an earlier tour. And just maybe "Out of the goodness of his heart, he might be able to refund our money." At this point, I became angry, headed back to the ship, and tried to resolve this issue with guest services. However, most of their experienced personnel were all working elsewhere, which I understood.
Here is where I saw the Norwegian Epic customer service really shine. It took some time to find the right person to resolve this, but eventually they did and I was very pleased with the outcome. It appears that I was supposed to have at least 1 hour between tours but the ncl.com website allowed me to book both of the excursions.
Since we had some free time, we enjoyed our favorite spot-Deck 15 and my daughter spent some time at the Epic Bounce. Only 2 people in the queue.
We had my daughter's birthday eve dinner at Moderno at 7pm. Our window seats gave us a great view the Epic's disembarkation from Naples. Only 3 other tables were booked at this time, so we basically had the restaurant to ourselves. We are of Brazilian background and although the restaurant wasn't 100% authentic, we were impressed. There was a Spanish influence which is understandable since there were a lot of Spanish passengers and the ship was catered through the local European ports. This was my children's favorite restaurant on board the Epic.
Day 4 (Rome)
This was my daughter's 13th birthday. We ate breakfast around 6:30 in the Garden Cafe, so there were no crowds. Before the cruise we had arranged through Rome Cabs for a private driver to take us on a one-way trip into Rome. Our driver was ready and waiting outside the ship at 7am. We had booked a private tour to see the Colosseum with Dark Rome (the tour guide arranged for our entry tickets into the Colosseum). Our driver, Rosella of Rome Cabs, informed us that every day they drive passengers to Livorno since it is common for people to arrive late and miss the ship. She gave me her business card just in case but told me, if I chose to take the train back to the ship to return immediately after the tour. I took her advice and skipped a previously planned walk to Trevi and the Pantheon. The Colosseum tour was extremely thorough, very private, with just 12 people and included a tour of the animal quarters beneath the colosseum and the 3rd tier. It also included Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. The last 30 minutes of the tour my teenage children's energy started to die out but they were impressed nonetheless. Our guide, Francesca, even brought drawings along to show us how the area we were touring had progressed through time. The Colosseum tour ended at 1pm, and with the Metro, train & cruise ship bus, we arrived on board at 4:15pm.
I didn't have anything booked for the evening since my son and I arranged to have the room decorated and a cake delivered for my daughter's birthday. My daughter opened the door to our cabin and was really excited to see balloons, banners, streamers and a very pretty cake. It was odd though, because we had 3 individual beds made up in our cabin and they left 2 plates and 2 forks. Not too worry though, I quickly headed up to Deck 15/Garden Cafe and retrieved an extra plate and fork. We had a slice of cake in our cabin and a quick dinner on Deck 15. Never encountered any queues.
It was my daughter's idea to sit in the hot tub. It was a bit breezy on the top deck, but there was no one in sight. We had our choice of 5 empty hot tubs. We must have stayed an hour or so and saw possibly a total of 10 passengers walk past us the entire time. We spent the remainder of the evening relaxing in our cabin, basking in the air conditioned breeze as it softly whistled through the streamers, eating cake and watching movies.
Day 5 (Livonro)
Once again, we were off the ship by 7am, so there were no crowds at breakfast. I had pre-booked the Norwegian excursion to Cinque Terre for a couple of reasons. First to save time in transport, rather than attempt public transport. Second the tour/price included a ferry rides and train transport. This excursion was well worth the money and my children's favorite tour. Our bus driver, Bruno, stopped the bus a couple times on the edge of the cliff on the way up to La Spezia. This provided us with jaw-dropping views and great photo opportunities.
Our first stop was Manarola. The terrain was very hilly but was absolutely gorgeous. This was a quick little tour with about 30 minutes to explore. Next, we boarded the ferry for Vernazza. On our ferry ride we encountered stunning views from the sea. We walked around a bit in Vernazza. The kids had a slice of pizza. (On this Cinque Terre excursion, there were very few places that took credit cards-cash only). We had maybe an hour or so to explore. Then another ferry ride to our last stop, Monterosso. We did some souvenir shopping, bought gelato and sat near the park listening to a 5 year old little girl sing her heart out in Italian while swinging away on the playground. I don't think she realized we were listening. We giggled to ourselves but loved this secret little serenade. There was also time to swim in the sea, if you brought a swimsuit. (We spotted the Cirque Dreams acrobat troupe, incognito, walking through the streets of Monterosso.) Lastly, our tour group boarded the train to Levanto, hopped on the bus and headed back to the ship. On our way back we passed the marble quarries of Carrara. Incredibly massive. We also had a distant view of Pisa and the leaning tower. Our guide, Cinthia, provided fascinating commentary on the entire trip.
That night we attended the Legends show at 7:30. My daughter really wanted to see Adele. Although the impersonator didn't sound exactly like her or look exactly like her. She sang well and we really loved the background entertainment of this portion of the show.
Day 6 (Marseilles)
I had planned this day to be a tour of the city on our own, but we were exhausted so we stayed on board and my kids discovered the Teen Entourage, later in the evening.
We visited the Mandara spa on this day. My son had spent the majority of his time playing basketball and his feet hurt. He was booked for a reflexology appointment which he said really helped. My daughter and I did a couples detox seaweed wrap followed by a 50 minute massage. They gave my daughter a light milk based skin softening wrap which was less intense than the detox. They felt it suited her better since she was not an adult. I really valued the way they created a treatment to specifically suit her needs. After the treatment was over my masseuse introduced me to the Elemis 3 month detox capsule program available for $308. I was very interested in this but chose not to buy it because I was concerned that the U.S. Customs might not allow the ingredients into the United States. The staff on board was not sure. (On a previous trip, I had spent $60 on tulip bulbs in Amsterdam that were confiscated by customs because I didn't buy the ones with a U.S. FDA sticker on it.) Anyway, once I was home I found the entire package available on the internet for $240 but chose not to buy it. The internet reviews are equally split right down middle as to whether it is helpful or useless.
We ate dinner around 6 or 7 at La Cucina. Very good food. My kids really liked it. Only one other table was occupied. Our server spoke to us about the ship and where she was from, great conversation and the service was excellent, very personable.
After today, my kids basically lived in the teen entourage.
Day 7 (Palma de Mallorca)
We got up late (11am) and really noticed the crowds and the queues at breakfast in the Garden Cafe.
We went on a Norwegian Excursion to the Caves of Ham and Monte Cristo. Our guide had a very strong accent and was slightly difficult to understand. She didn't talk very much and repeated her 5-6 statements of the history of Mallorca over and over.
Upon leaving the port, I learned very quickly that Palma is playground for the wealthy. We noticed the yachts in the harbor (one with a helicopter on it). We are from Fort Lauderdale and I think some of these yachts are the same ones we see in our town in the winter time.
We were bored at the pearl factory tour and were thankful it was on the front side of the trip. The tour of the caves went by too quickly but they were beautiful. My kids took lots of pictures (without a flash) inside the cave.
We had about 1 hour and half to explore the Port of Monte Cristo. We ate at Burger King simply for wi-fi access. We checked-in for our flight home and tied up loose ends. We did a nice long walk around the harbor and headed back to our bus and onward to the ship.
My kids had dinner at Taste with theTeen Entourage group, followed by the Blue Man Group show, while I dined solo on deck 15 and later packed. They were mad at me for making them return to the cabin at 10 pm but we were waking up at 4:30 am the next morning. They were definitely not ready to leave.
Day 8 (Barcelona)
We were ready to easy disembark (walking off with all our luggage) at 5:30, but the ship/port was not ready. They told us it would be about 15 minutes, so we had breakfast at O'Sheehan's. The kids preferred breakfast here to the Garden Cafe. To me, the food was basically the same, but the presentation was better.
We waited in queue to disembark at 6pm for about 10 minutes. The queue had about 20 people in it. We were easily directed by friendly, Epic and Port staff to a Taxi. The taxi was about 36 Euros and we arrived at the airport with plenty of time, since our flight departed at 11:40 am.
Drinks- I didn't invest in a drink package for myself since my kids and I wouldn't be spending time in the bars/nightclubs. I had brought a few extra sodas on board for the kids and we always had ice available in our room or in the dining areas. My daughter could not attend the teen entourage until she turned 13, so we spent the first 4 days as a family unit, after that, good-bye mom.
Dining-We realized half way through the cruise in the Garden Cafe, that the Indian-Far East/Asian dishes were excellent. But of course, this is where most of the staff originates from and they were basically serving their twists on a home cooked meal. Less
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