Day by day review of our pre-cruise to Miami, cruise and excursions on the Norwegian EPIC to the Eastern Caribbean 9/11-9/18, 2010. About us: both my husband and I started the cruise at age 52 and I turned 53 while on the ship. This was our 4th cruise in 4 years. This was our first time on Norwegian but definitely not our last. We have taken two cruises on Carnival and one on RCI. I actually don't have anything negative to say about any of them, but we did love the freestyle cruising and it probably fits our lifestyle the best. We booked our cruises back in February 2010 on the NCL website http://www2.ncl.com/. We each had our own solo studio, which were adjoining on Deck 12; cabin's 12567 & 12569. It was great having 2 beds, 2 showers, 2 sinks and 2 toilets. We had twice the space we would have had if we had shared a cabin. That was also a deciding factor in choosing The EPIC! Overall: we thoroughly LOVED the EPIC, the food, the entertainment, the staff and the Eastern itinerary and would do it again without a doubt!
Day 1, Friday 9/10/10: We left our home at around 9:15 am for a flight at 11 am from Indianapolis to Ft. Lauderdale. We arrived at 3:30 pm the day prior to our cruise. We took a taxi to South Beach Miami, which cost us $45 each with tip. It took us about an hour with the traffic at that time of day. Flights were cheaper going into Ft. Lauderdale than Miami, but with the cost of the taxi and the additional time it probably all came out about the same. I have some great travel tips to share which I have included at the end of this post if you care to read. We stayed at the Hotel Ocean http://www.hotelocean.com/ on Ocean Drive. I made this reservation thru http://www.easyclicktravel.com/, and reserved the room for $116/night (total) as compared to the posted hotel rate of $179/night (not total). We would probably stay there again. Nice room, nice staff. We spent the afternoon at the Lincoln Road outdoor mall http://www.lincolnroad.org/ which was about a 5-6 block walk from the hotel. We ate steak at one of the restaurants, visited some stores (bought something at Apple), then walked back to the hotel and rested for awhile. We showered and then walked along Ocean Drive. We mostly spent the rest of the evening people watching as there were a lot to watch (see picture link below). The restaurants/bars are all with outdoor dining and the hostesses are all trying to entice you to sit down for drink specials or dinner. Finally at about 11 pm we ate a snack at the News Cafe, retired for the night about 1am and had a quiet restful night's sleep.
Day 2, Saturday 9/11/10: EMBARKATION DAY; We slept in, checked out of the hotel and took a taxi, $5 each for the 5 minute drive to the Miami Pier at about 11:30 am. Check in was extremely streamlined and we were on the ship eating lunch in the Garden Cafe on Deck 15 by noon after taking a few pictures of the Cascade Chandelier on Deck 6 (which is where you enter). The lunch was quite tasty. Attractive displays of food, and a good assortment of choices. You could leave your carry-on luggage in Headliners on Deck 6 if you didn't want to keep it with you, although we did. We had packed our swimsuits in our carry-on bags, but decided to just check out the ship instead of getting on the slides at that time. There were not any lines though. We lounged around on the mattresses in the shade as it was 92 degrees and again people watched, read and enjoyed the views of Miami. We bought one soft drink glass for the week for $50. An announcement was made at 2 pm telling us our staterooms were ready. So we headed to our studios. The door was locked between our rooms, but Abraham our cabin steward for the week (who was wonderful) promptly found a manager to unlock it by the time we returned after the Muster (lifeboat) drill at 3:30pm (took about 15-20 minutes, no lifejackets required). We had received our luggage by around 2:45 pm and spent a little time organizing our rooms, playing with the mood lighting and checking out the "living room". You have to leave your key card in the slot by the door to turn on the lights, or as we figured out, any other kind of card (we used our Delta skymiles cards). Otherwise we would leave the room sometimes without our key card and couldn't get back in. This way, we always put it back in our billfolds after unlocking door, so we would never be without it. Also the studio didn't have a hairdryer, so I was glad I packed my travel size one. We then found seats at the Waves Bar on Deck 15 for the sail away party.... Front row seats! There was a lot of dancing and partying going on which we enjoyed watching. We were introduced to Silas Cook, the cruise director (who is quit the dancer) and the rest of the cruise entertainment staff. After a few drinks, we walked up to Deck 16 to glimpse our last sights of land for a few days. We explored the ship some more until returning to our cabins to get ready for dinner that evening. Showers were wonderful. We always had hot water and good pressure. No problems with sinks splashing. We decided on The Manhattan Room Deck 6 that night, was seated at a table for 2 by the window and although the restaurant was almost full we were seated right away. This was around 8:30 pm. Everyone was in casual to more dressy attire, no shorts. Our dinner was excellent as well as our service. I had the pork loin, sweet potatoes and asparagus. Hubby had the chicken. There were several other choices as well. We each had tasty appetizers and dessert. The band Legends Unplugged started playing at 9:30 pm. We left shortly thereafter and went to see Blue Man Group at 10pm, which I booked online prior to the cruise. They were excellent. We then visited some of the lounges thru out the ship, especially enjoying Howl at the Moon and then retired for the night around 1 am.
Day 3, Sunday 9/12/10: AT SEA DAY; We slept in again (well, it was my birthday)! Hubby went to the "Living Room" and grabbed us some pastries and juice, prior to us going to the Meet and Greet which was organized online on this site at the http://boards.cruisecritic.com/ Norwegian Epic Roll Call for 9/11/10. It was in the Bliss Ultra Lounge on Deck 7. They gave us Epic T-shirts, we had time to mingle (probably 50-60 people or so that had met pre-cruise online) and meet face to face. Silas Cook then introduced us to Denis Prguda the Hotel Director, Richard Janicki the assistant Director, Steve Knott the Food and Beverage Director, Errol Nelson the Executive Housekeeper, Julie Valeriote the Entertainment Director, Al Almazan the Guest Service Manager, Anil Kumar the Executive Chef, Serhat Kati the Restaurant Manager and Captain Svedung the Captain of The EPIC. We spoke to several of them one on one and told the hotel director that the door into the hallway to the solo suites slammed each time it was opened, waking us early that morning. He got right on the phone to maintenance and had it checked out. The door was fixed by the time we returned to our cabins later that day. Top Notch Service in our opinion! We ended up seeing Silas everyday but one, as well as several of the aforementioned staff and each stopped to chat with us and/or ask us how we were doing. Very impressive! We were told that the previous week there were 4,600 passengers on board and that week 4,000. We then went to lunch in the Garden Cafe, again excellent...then went to the slot pull with the Meet and Greet people. We won back our $10.00 each, plus an additional $2.75 each. There was a cabin crawl after that and they went to an owner's suite, balcony suite and a solo studio, but we decided to skip it and went to the pool for the rest of the afternoon. We didn't have to wait at all in line for the water slides not requiring a tube, and about 5 minutes for the Epic Plunge which did require a tube. Adults should try to get the larger tube, kids the smaller tube. We never seen anyone slip or fall on the pool deck, although with flip flops on that first day, it was slippery if you stepped into standing water. When we went to the pool we wore our water shoes and surprisingly we only saw a few other people wearing them, but it wasn't slippery at all with those on! Besides the slides and pool which we just got in to cool off, we read, drank a little (waiters were always available and helpful and brought me the color glass I wanted each day, no problems if we just wanted our soft drink glass refilled). We ate a light snack from the Great Outdoors Cafe. We returned to our studios to get ready for the night. Hubby was trying to find NFL games, which O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill Deck 6 was showing, but not the Colt's game. In studio he mostly only got ESPN 2 which showed a bunch of Cricket and Soccer that he doesn't care for. We lined up for the Cirque Dreams (again booked online pre-cruise) at about 7:45 pm. There were 2 other couples ahead of us. Doors open a half hr. before the show starts. We used the time to talk to people in line. There is a premium line, which we were in and a regular line on the other side by the elevators. Make sure you get in correct line! We had front row seats and were seated with 3 other couples. The show was wonderful, the food was great, chicken and steak. We then went to the NCL White Hot Party in the Bliss Lounge Deck 7. You are supposed to wear all white if you have it, if not, go as you are. These are the kinds of things I wish they would tell you ahead of time! After about 15 minutes, we went to catch some of the NFL game showing on the Atrium Screen (2 levels) from O'Sheehan's. We then ended up again in Headliners Deck 6 to watch Howl at the Moon. We retired to our cabins about 1:30 am.
Day 4, Monday 9/13/10: AT SEA DAY; Surprise! We slept in again. Do you see a habit forming here? We went to the Garden Cafe for lunch. Lots of choices, I never ate the same thing any time we ate there. Went to pool, went on slides, read, people watched, listened to the bands playing. Today was pretty much the same thing as yesterday afternoon. We had professional pictures taken this evening. We put deposits down for another cruise to take within the next 4 yrs., but we will take another one next yr. We both received the $100 credit to out online accts. We chose Taste for Dinner tonight. This is a bit more casual atmosphere than the Manhattan Room, as we saw a few men in shorts. We were again seated right away even though place appeared full. We both had appetizers, the crab cakes were awesome, steak cooked just as we liked it and wonderful desserts. We spent some time in O'Sheehan's watching Monday night football. After that we went to the adult Second City Show at 11 pm in Headliners Deck 6 which I had booked pre-cruise. It was very funny. We decided we would try to go to a few more of their shows.
Day 5, Tuesday 9/14/10: ST. MAARTEN; Ok, so we slept in again. Let's just suffice it to say we slept in every morning, even on disembarkation day. This was the only port where we had pre-paid for an excursion online, and the tickets were in our cabins on embarkation day. It was $49 each for the 4 hour excursion. We again ate at the Great Outdoors Buffet Deck 15, prior to heading down to pier. We met shipside at 11 am for the Best of St. Maarten and Beach Combo. We walked about 10 minutes to our air conditioned buses, which was smart on our part since it was 95 degrees that day with what seemed like a 100% humidity. We first toured thru Phillipsburg, the Dutch Capital. Our tour guide was very informative and pleasant, although sometimes we couldn't understand what he was saying. I think some of it was because air was blowing full force, and he was too close to microphone. We went thru a lot of countryside passing the great Salt pond. We stopped to take some scenic pictures. There was a roadside stand to buy water and soft drinks. On the way to the French side, we passed the Border Monument. We traveled past the picturesque seaside town of Grand Case before reaching Marigot, the Capital of French St. Martin. We spent one hour (exactly) experiencing the European atmosphere, sidewalk cafes and trendy boutiques. We got online at an internet cafe and sent an e-mail to our friends and family on our iPod Touch to let them know how we were doing. Hubby bought a hat at the straw market. We then reloaded bus and drove to supposedly one of the island's best beaches. We were advised to either wear or bring our swimsuit and a towel, which we did, but we did not change. We decided to just eat at the Boo Boo Jam cafe, which was a good lunch for about $15 total. Then we walked the beach, took some pictures and saw a few people sunbathing nude. We had exactly one hour there as well. We reloaded bus and headed back to the pier. RCI Oasis of the Seas and Carnival Dream had to change their itinerary because of Hurricane IGOR, so this was the first time that the 3 largest passenger ships were in port at the same time (see link for pictures below). We walked around shops at Pier, and then reloaded the ship by about 4 pm. We immediately changed and went to pools on Deck 15 to lounge around for a while, read and etc. We went back to cabin before the sail away party started and took a nap. We decided we would go back to The Manhattan Room that night since they were having Lobster, which is what I had. Hubby had steak since he has a seafood allergy. We went to the Legends in Concert in The Epic Theater Deck 6 at 10 pm, which we had reserved pre-cruise. The show was again wonderful, very entertaining. We then went to The Bliss Ultra Lounge Deck 7 for FABBA=Fabulous ABBA party. Wear 70's or 80's attire if you have it. We had a lot of fun and retired to our cabins around 12:30 am.
Day 6, Wednesday 9/15/10: ST. THOMAS; We ate that morning at the Great Outdoors buffet Deck 15. We had decided ahead of time to do the walking Tour down the 99 steps after visiting Blackbeard's Castle. For more information see http://www.vinow.com/stthomas/attractions_stt/attractions_town.php. We took a taxi up to the castle, which cost us $5 each. We each paid $12 for entrance into the castle grounds and a map of the walking tour. We sampled some of the rum, and the rum cake and took lots of pictures (see link below). We visited the houses built in the 1800's and the amber museum. It was 90 degrees that day and very humid, so we enjoyed the refuge of the cool buildings and the breezes. At the end of the steps is Main Street and if you turn right it takes you right to the shopping areas. We again walked into several stores, just to stay cool and get something to drink. We ended up buying some t-shirts and a sundress. We walked along the waterfront, which took about 20 minutes back to the pier. We had a snack and a drink at one of the restaurants, and looked in some more stores. We were back on board by about 3 pm. We immediately changed and went to Spice H20 pool Deck 15/16 aft to watch sail away. There were 7 people that missed the ship. It clearly states on the Freestyle Daily what time everyone is to be back on board. The time remains the same thru-out your trip as the embarkation city time. Silas walked by and talked to us and we asked about them and he said they would have to fly to the next port to meet us. He said it happens frequently. We then showered and went to Headliners again at 7 pm to see The Second City as they have several different shows. We booked this from our cabins. We ate dinner in The Manhattan Room again, as we preferred it over Taste. The menu was the same in each restaurant, but we liked the atmosphere better in The Manhattan Room. After dinner a group of waiters gathered and sang "Happy Birthday" to me. (The ship had given me a card for my birthday to use, which we could use on any night we chose). It sort of sounded like the Fa rah rah rah rah (which was supposed to be Folla la la la) from "The Christmas Story". They brought me a 6 inch one layer white cake, which we had them cut and we took back to the studio cabin. The song was really cute and the cake a nice gesture. We then went to Fat Cats Deck 6 and listened to guitarist Wesley John for about a half hr. and then to The Atrium Deck 5 and sat and listened to Wildfire: A Musical Variety Duo and watched people dance. At 11 pm we went to The Epic Theater Deck 5 and saw Comedian/Magician Jeff Hobson. He was great, just great. Funniest entertainer we have seen in a long time. After that we ended up at Howl at the Moon again to finish the night out.
Day 7, Thursday 9/16/10: AT SEA DAY; We had reserved the Mystery Lunch for 12:30 pm online pre-cruise which is put on by the Second City Comedy Troupe. We got in line about 11:55 am. The lunch was tasty, the show was good. We again sat in front row seats with 3 other couples in the Spiegel Tent Deck 6. We then changed and spent the rest of the afternoon at the pools/slides reading, drinking, people watching. We visited some of the bars/lounges we hadn't been to yet, like Shakers Martini Bar Deck 7 and Malting's Beer and Whiskey Bar Deck 7. We had dinner reservations reserved online pre-cruise for the Brazilian Moderno Restaurant at 8:30 pm. We arrived at around 8:15 and were seated at 8:30. There were plenty of seats available. Meat was great, salad bar was good, the service was good. The rest of the food was okay, and overall well worth the additional money. We didn't have room for dessert. We then spent the rest of the evening in Howl at the Moon. We thoroughly enjoyed Charlie, Eddie and Tommy. It ended up being our favorite place to go each night they were playing. They play 2 nights, off 2 nights, play 2 nights.
Day 8, Friday 9/17/10: NASSAU, BAHAMAS; We ate a late breakfast at the Great Outdoors buffet Deck 15. We then headed down to deck 4 at noon once the all clear was announced to spend the day in Nassau. There was probably a hundred or so people waiting to disembark, and we thought it would take forever, but it actually only took us about 5 minutes or less. We found a taxi $4 each, each way (or really they found us) and a van took 10 of us to the Atlantis Resort. The Aqua Venture http://www.atlantis.com/thingstodo/waterpark.aspx cost $110 each, but it was worth every penny we spent for the water slides, pools, lounge chairs with umbrella's, towels provided, the lazy river, the water rapids, picture, the aquariums and all the other things that we didn't even get to see! We ate lunch for about $7 each. Make sure you have credit/debit cards as they are a cashless resort. And yes, we even did the "Leap of Faith" water slide a couple of times. Not bad for a couple of 52-53 yr. olds! There were no lines, and it was a lot less crowded than when we visited last year in August on a Saturday. Definitely the time of year (and week day) to go! We then caught a taxi back to the ship arriving back about 5:15pm. I thought we would be exhausted, but surprisingly we were not. We packed each of our bags to set outside our doors for pick up at 10pm that night. We had picked the lime green tags (from the customer service desk area) for our luggage to pick up after 9 am the next morning. We showered and headed out for the evening. We had some more pictures taken, although we weren't happy with any of them and didn't end up buying any. We did buy a cruise DVD though for $29.95. I bought some Chanel Coco Mademoseille Eau De Parfum Spray and love it! We decided to skip the Ice Bar, because we figured we would both freeze anyway so why bother. We ate dinner at Shanghai's, which was a walk up, no pre-reservations and was seated right away. It was ok, not great, but good. We went to see Second City 9 pm show, went back to cabins, set out bags. We went to Spice H2O Deck 15/16 to catch some of "The Quest". We spent about 45 minutes in Fat Cats Deck 6 watching the Slam Allen Blues Band, which was excellent. Mike did a little gambling. The casino was somewhat smoky, but not horrible. We didn't mind walking thru it to get where we needed to go as there was a lot to see. We played the Lotto every night, but of course didn't win. It was over $334,000. We hit the sack again that night at about 1:30-2 am.
Day 9, Saturday 9/18/10: DISEMBARKATION DAY; This is the only morning we set our phone for a wakeup call, which we slept until 8 am. We left the ship off Deck 6 (which is the same place we did embarkation) about 9:30 am and it only took about 20 minute's total. Customs was a breeze! We took a taxi, which there were tons of them waiting to pick everyone up. The cost was $10 each to the Miami airport for our return flight to Indianapolis at 12:20 pm. We arrived back at our home at 5:30 pm. Summary: While we don't know for sure, this is only our perception, but it appeared as if the average age was somewhere around 40 yrs. old and there were probably only about 200 kids (if that many) on board the week we cruised. This was great for us, and why we usually choose September as our month to cruise. We LOVED the freestyle cruising. It fit us perfectly. We NEVER waited more than a minute on an elevator and all the staff was pleasant, courteous and helpful. Would we do it again? Heck yeah! We had a wonderful cruise, a beautiful week on a beautiful ship and I had a fabulous 53rd birthday. It was well worth every dime we spent. View Photos of trip here: http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/sharing/memberLandingPage.jsp?sourceId=533754321803&cm_mmc=eMail-_-Share-_-Photos-_-Sharer
Travel/Packing Tips: 1.Verizon customers: Before leaving home, call Verizon to make sure your cell phone is set for roaming. Dial *228, then send, then pick option 2 to program phone. Let the phone do its thing and you should be all set up for traveling out of the country. For voice calls it is $2.49/min., sending text is .50, for receiving text is .05, picture/video send .50, picture/video receive .25. Most of the time we had service while we were gone. 2.Pen: Take a pen. Keep handy with passports as you'll need it to fill out the health survey to board the ship. 3.Suitcases: Just bought this year at http://www.amazon.com/International-Traveller-0-1-Piece-Luggage/dp/B003GVUYJM the "International Traveller IT-0-1 4 Piece Luggage Set", which is supposed to be the Worlds lightest luggage. It made such a difference having this luggage. We each took a bag that we checked and a carry on. Largest bag: 28.5 Upright - 28.5 x 18.3 x 9.84; 5.86 pounds; next size bag: 24.5 Upright - 24.5 x 16.3 x 8.66; 5.35 pounds; next size bag: 20.5 Upright - 20.5 x 14.2 x 7.77; 4.4 pounds; smallest bag: 16.2 Upright - 16.2 x 11.6 x 6.6; 3.8 pounds.
4.Wrinkles: To keep clothes, especially dresses and men's shirts from wrinkles, put them on hangers (plastic weighs less than metal), place a plastic dry cleaner bag over each individual item, then after packing everything else, lay the items in the suitcase. These can be doubled over or even tri-folded. As long as everything is tight in the suitcase and they don't slide around, when you reach your destination you can hang them right up and they are usually wrinkle free. You can buy these bags at your neighborhood dry cleaner for around .25 each. Of course buying wrinkle free light weight clothing helps out this whole process as well. Take a travel size bottle of Downey for Wrinkles as that comes in handy as well. 5.Jewelry: After trying every imaginable travel jewelry container known to mankind (and lots of money), I finally spent about $7 on a clear plastic craft box with dividers from Walmart. This fits easily in my carry on, as well as the cruise cabins safe and I found the solution to carrying all my earrings, bracelets, watches and etc. I lay each necklace flat on a Kleenex or handkerchief and roll it up and put them in a divided space to keep the chains from becoming tangled.
6.Hand held scale: Buy one and weigh bag before you leave home, take it with you and weigh when you repack your bag on your return trip. It has been invaluable in making sure our bags are under weight for the airlines. We bought ours at Brookstone. JC Penney's sells them also. 7.Hangers: There are only about 7 hangers in each cabin, so take extra ones if you have more to hang. They weigh very little, don't take up much space and are well worth it. 8.Water shoes: If you don't have some, buy them. Again they don't weigh much and are well worth it. 9.Sweater/light wrap: Take one if you tend to be cold natured, as it can get really cool in the shows, restaurants and bars. 10.Cologne/Perfume: Instead of packing/carrying with you, before going to dinner or shows, go to ships stores each evening and try on a different one and then if you find something you really like, buy it before you leave. 11.Drink bottle: Take one with you and then fill it up with your drink of choice when you go to the pool, excursions and etc.