After a week touring Italy, we embarked our first TA from Rome's port of Civitavecchia. We used RomeCabs for transport several times during the land-based portion of our holiday and we highly recommend them for any transport and tour needs you might have while in Italy.
We arrived at the port at 12:30, and boarding was a breeze! We were escorted to our cabin to drop our carry-on bags and then taken on a tour of the Haven prior to being seated for lunch in the Haven Restaurant.
Based upon our overall experiences on this cruise, booking a Cabin in the ship's Haven area is well worth the money. From start to finish, attentive service was provided and logistics made extremely easy from this area of the ship. Our cabin steward, Delma, and our Butler, Joha, were a pleasure to encounter several times each day while they provided fast, friendly and superior service. Any special requests we made were fulfilled ASAP.
The Haven Concierge, Anoop Bhanu, and his assistant, Karen, we're efficient and professional. Haven guests are personally escorted into the "show" venues via a service elevator and seated prior to general admittance. This procedure made moving around the ship very easy and relaxing.
Speaking of shows, Blue Man Group is extremely entertaining; Legends in Concert (included in cruise fare) is worth attending...first group (Tom Jones (ridiculous wig) Adele (very good) and Tina Turner (lacked the energy and enthusiasm of "real" Tina Turner); second group (after St Thomas) included Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) was EXCELLENT, Katy Perry (tried hard) and Elvis (actually, the best, thin, young Elvis impersonator we've ever seen). Go see them because you paid for them anyway and you might be pleasantly surprised!
The Cirque show was disappointing. Some of these performers are very talented, but the venue seemed way too small to really let them strut their stuff. Surprisingly, the dinner was pretty good.
We were in a two-bedroom cabin on the seventeenth deck situated right around the corner from the Haven exercise room and spa. This area is truly a haven from crowds. The exercise room is well equipped with ten workout machines, hand weights, Pilates balls, water, towels, and hand sanitizer machines. We exercised there every sea day and never had to wait for a machine. The spa area is tranquil and very relaxing with a coed sauna, his and her locker rooms with a steam room each and treatment rooms where spa personnel will come for your various treatments if you prefer not going to the main spa and salon. Wonderful pampering! Mary Joe was my masseuse and I highly recommend her.
Our cabin was 500+sq ft (including adequate-sized balcony), no curved walls, and we had no issues with the raised sinks as they were in their own bathrooms and medium water flow prevented any splashing out onto the tile floor. The first of the two bedrooms with private bath is inside and small, but perfect for husband's clothes and plenty of storage for his stuff and provided privacy for him while shaving and preparing for the day or a night out. This arrangement left the master bathroom and closets for me and my stuff (YAY!) and was a joy to not be tripping over each other while "making-up" and dressing.
The master suite is separated from the living/dining areas and able to be closed off with a sliding door. The best feature of this suite are the two huge windows, one over the soaking tub and one fronting the port side of the shower. These windows afforded a beautiful view of the water/sunrise from the bed situated on the opposite wall. I loved waking up to that view!
There are three televisions/DVD players with complimentary movies available at the concierge desk.
When we first explored the cabin, we were delighted to see that the land concierge had everything in place that we had prearranged with her a month before embarkation. Our large espresso machine was stocked with the items I had requested including specialty teas, honey, lemons, decaf coffee pods and hot chocolate packets. Upon our bed were the pillows previously chosen from the pillow menu and a basket for shoes to be sent out for shining! We commonfolk felt like royalty! Now...THIS is the beginning of an exceptional cruise experience.
Our itinerary after embarkation included consecutive port days of Florence, Marseille, Palma de Majorca, and Barcelona. Our NCL Florence excursion was excellent. We took the one entitled "Florence, Shopping & Leisure". This WALKING tour covers the highlights of Florence with adequate time to shop, lunch, and independently explore. I emphasize walking because there is much and the "activity level" is every bit a
"3", IMO. We were prepared for the reasonably brisk pace, but some were not and found it difficult to keep up with the guide who was informative, but not very willing to accommodate those lagging. My advice to those who really want to get the most from the NCL excursions they book is to seriously consider the activity level rating on the available tours before booking one that might prove to be too strenuous.
Our excursion from the port of Marseille, France was NCL's "Avignon & Aix en Provence". This tour was relaxing, did involve approx. 3 hours of walking, but the pace was slower with adequate time for exploration of these two areas without throngs of people to maneuver around like what we encountered in Florence. These two areas in France are beautiful and the drive to/from very scenic and enjoyable.
The next day, we arrived in Palma and opted to do a City Sightseeing HOHO. One loop around of about 90 minutes was adequate to see what there was to see!
Sunday's adventure was the NCL excursion entitled "The Best of Barcelona & Gaudi". Outstanding tour, fast pace, excellent guide-"Mar" and stunning architecture. The inside of the Sagrada Familia is breathtaking and well worth visiting again and again. We had gorgeous weather throughout the day and the visit to Gaudi's Park Guell was very enjoyable. If you are in good walking shape, we highly recommend this excursion as well.
The other two ports on this itinerary before arriving in Miami are Madeira, Portugal and St. Thomas USVI. We did a private tour in Madeira and on-our-own in St Thomas (since we know this area well).
Regarding Epic's pay/per person restaurants: Our experiences were 2 excellent, 1 mediocre, and 1 horrible.
Le Bistro (French) was overall excellent! Service was excellent, atmosphere was lovely, quiet, and relaxing. Our chosen courses were all delicious, appetizing temperature, and beautiful presentation. Particularly delicious is the mushroom soup and the Coq au Vin.
Cagney's Steakhouse was a pleasant surprise. We had read some negative reviews but decided to try it anyway. All my comments about La Bistro apply to our experience at Cagneys except the atmosphere is different...not bad, just as different as one would expect between a French restaurant and a Chicago steakhouse.
La Cucina (Italian) was so-so, edible but not delicious. Wouldn't spring for the extra charge again.
Ahhhhhh, what positive am I able to say about Moderno. Ummm, a big, fat nothing. Horrible service, bloody (I mean almost tartare!), cold meat that all tastes the same indistinguishable between pork, beef, chicken...yuck. Oh, I thought of something ..the rolls are pretty yummy and the chorizo, although cold, is tasty. One glass of water...no refills handy. Save your money.
As far as the food included in cruise price, we found O'Sheehan's great for late night nibbles, the Garden Buffet offered a plethora of choices and almost everything we chose was above standard buffet fare.
The 24 hour pizza not so good...our one order arrived undercooked bordering on mushy.
The Epic restaurant was consistently a winner and provided choices not on the menu...all we had to do was ask. Halloween dinner was Surf & Turf and all three lobster tails were deliciously prepared tender and succulent. The waitstaff in this chic dining room are to be commended.
The casino was fun, drink servers available without being pesky, and we did not have a problem with air quality.
Spice H2O is an adults only pool area (aft) that has a retractable dance floor over the pool and a huge projection screen behind the pool. Numerous dance parties (including a fun Halloween party) were held there various nights throughout the cruise. Fun place to mingle.
Top deck, aft, offers sporting activities such as basketball on a regulation-sized court.
Although we were not traveling with children, we did see the various activity areas designed for them, and they are plentiful.
Drugstore type shop attendant guy was jovial, even dispensing free Stoli samples one afternoon. Prices in there on limited sundries are, as expected, way too high.
Had several exchanges with Guest Services personnel and all we're very helpful.
The onboard Cruise Consultant lady was a joy to work with and very accommodating.
One outstanding aspect of this ship was its cleanliness. Considering the multitude of public spaces and the amount of passengers it carries, we never saw any area that was less than immaculate.
All in all, our first TA was a truly wonderful experience and we're looking forward to doing another one with NCL in Haven accommodations.