What a trip certainly the GOOD the BAD and the UGLY. Let's get the UGLY out the way yes the EPIC will never win any prizes for her external looks - slab slided like many with the Garden Villa's perched on top adding to the odd look.
The trip on Sunday to Rotterdam was a breeze we got the Eurostar at 1157 and caught our connection in Brussels at 1518 and were in our Hotel room by 1710 so 4 hours 10 minutes allowing for time difference. Hotel Manhattan was in a great location and for a small charge we got an upgrade to the executive floor with free bar. Let's say we more than drank the amount charged. Ate out at a restaurant suggested by the hotel and the food was good.
On Monday had a good breakfast - which was to prove a smart move. We walked down from the hotel knowing that their should be some good options for photos as we crossed the Erasmus bridge.
So first sight was a bit of the GOOD and the UGLY, GOOD the EPIC is here, UGLY the external view of the EPIC. As we crossed the bridge it was busy with locals taking pictures. After crossing we were treated to the Erasmus bridge opening. Crossing the bridge gave the first suggestion of problems as a few people stopped us to say they were late getting off.
On the E-ticket boarding was from 1000 we got there about 1045. The GOOD - first ticket and passport check nearly empty and get our colour card and head upstairs, the BAD - upstairs in Rotterdam Cruise Terminal very busy odd think I but we find a seat with another group of Brits and do what the Brits do best - yep gossip and moan about the situation. So suddenly just about 1140 they start calling card colours - GOOD. Hang on why aren't those people getting through passport control - BAD who knows as they call more colours. Then a message if you have checked in please sit down until called for embarkation - BAD - problem no seats left as they are filled by new comers so terminal is starting to heave. So our colour is called about 1210 and like all good Brits we charge as a group to the queueing ropes. They had two separate queues each served by about 20 terminals - GOOD think I. Hang on why are all those people still not through passport control - possible BAD looming. BAD - apology announcements start for delayed check in and boarding. I feel an UGLY coming on. UGLY - an announcement - we have suspended check in - so we stand for nearly an hour in the check in queue. Then the announcement we dreaded "EPIC has a problem which will not effect safety but will delay arrival until 1730. You have an option to cancel with refund and cruise credit, if you travel NCL will refund up to 100 euro's per person towards travel arrangements". Suddenly embarkation starts for some and the check in queue moves only 3 in front nearly us. BAD - why are they not calling people forward. UGLY - check in systems and ships security card scan system has failed another 45 minutes going no where you could cut atmosphere in terminal with a knife. By this time rumours of queue outside terminal and facebook and twitter are getting messages from all angles and sources, NCLs facebook is battered black and blue by all and sundry. GOOD - we are on the move again and checked in. Then through yet another passport control and we are on board. GOOD as we feared this cruise would be cancelled after the previous announcements.
Who is to blame for the fiasco hard to tell, I think terminal panicked and started check in too early leading to the overcrowding, NCL did not help by not supplying information in the terminal.
The Cabin We had a stern facing balcony cabin (9294). First thoughts were that it seemed smaller than the similar Eclipse cabins.
OMG look at the toilet and shower - could be interesting. Oh look there is a modesty curtain that will be good sound proofing then. The shower and toilet were functional and the shower powerful. The big but here is the basin is the wrong side of the curtain so when you come out the toilet you touch the curtain before you can wash hands - probable noro virus source in the future I think.
Good sized TV with stop start movies, a geek lovers phone to play with. 2 euro and 2 usa sockets hidden in a cupboard with a hole to feed cables up through - an idea which really works and keeps cables tidy.
Tea and coffee in the cabin, storage ok not brilliant but not bad, Comfortable bed and some interesting lighting used. Balcony a good size but tiny table. As stern is vertical all balconies are private and cannot be looked down onto. Safe and minibar also in cabin. Hairdryer is powerful.
Overall a good cabin if you can see past the shower toilet arrangements. In this instance you want the bed nearest to balcony, not the toilet area.
And yes cabin is curvy.
Pictures including a using toilet (with clothes on) example later.
The vibration at night was terrible and when sailing the noise on the balcony very loud. I would not recommend a stern cabin and would certainly not book one.
Many of the NCL favourites are on board we sampled the following.
The Garden Cafe for late lunch on Monday and Tuesday breakfast. Very well organised and plenty of duplication of stations so no wait time. Quality of food was good. Head Waiters and Assistant Head Waiters wear head milkes to keep the area flowing and direct you to available seating the highlight is the bow facing sitting area with marvellous views forward.
The Moderno Churrascaria Restaurant is a Brazilian style restaurant where your servers serve the meat from skewers. You start with a huge self-service salad and soup bar. Once ready for mains you have a green card face up and the servers start. There is a constant stream of food until you flip the card to red to stop the mains. You also get some sides of rice, garlic mash and re fried beans. Desert was a coconut creme caramel. This is something we have always wanted to try and the experience did not disappoint. More than worth the $18 per person surcharge.
For Tuesday lunch we ate coming up the Solent in the Manhattan main restaurant. This is very contemporary styled with understated colours in fact a very beautiful dining room. As an added bonus the Legends (tribute acts were playing) and were really good. They had played the previous evening too and the dinner show or dance concept is a good idea.
Bars and Entertainment We sampled a couple of the bars and found the service and selection good. I will add prices when I get the receipts out. H2O spice could be great on a warm evening. We tried the ice bar and enjoyed the experience. The $20 surcharge included 2 strong cocktails so was probably a fair charge for the 45 minutes you do need to book though. Bliss Ultra lounge is a very modern nightclub concept and was really busy. Projected the DJ onto a smoke screen at the front entrance before you go in – very quirky. Howl at the Moon in the comedy bar was great duelling pianos and a lively crowd so was great fun a simple concept that worked.
Blue Man group Simply superb and great entertainment we really enjoyed their show. I think the Broadway at sea concept will really catch on across many companies. If pre-booked for the Blue man group you just present your room card at the entrance to the theatre There was lots of live music around the ship.
Deck Space There were seats on the promenade deck but with the lifeboats hanging here next to no view. Top decks had a myriad of places to find a lounger as well as multiple flumes and pools, which looked great fun.
Other Areas Spa is very large spa and gym certainly bigger than any we have seen at sea with all the usual facilities. Gym included a squash court which has now become an additional gym area rather than a squash court. Theatre - Not as large as you would think comfortable seating and drinks holders at each seat. Casino – verrrrryyyyyyy verrrrryyyyyyy verrrrryyyyyyy large. Shops - A wide selection laid out differently to other ships and they still manage to get the $10 tat out. They were selling at duty free prices with no VAT added. Photo area - Lots of screens but we never managed to try them.
Other cabin types We did see into some of the other cabin types and there was not a great difference in size between them. Some had a bath behind the Perspex screens very odd. The studio rooms are a good concept and probably an OK size for one - a full king bed is in there. The lighting changes colour so if a single cabin not to sure about the love lighting mode. Unfortunately we could not get into the suites.