Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by parrotheads: Epic Western Mediterranean June 19- 26, 2011
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Epic Western Mediterranean June 19- 26, 2011
This was a graduation cruise for our 18 year old daughter and a 25th anniversary cruise for us! From embarkation to debarkation, my family voted this the best cruise ever! The entertainment was the main reason we selected the Epic at first and then when we discovered she would be in the Med. for the summer. After 11 Caribbean cruises this one to Europe became a dream vacation for the whole family. We loved Barcelona and thanks to Cruise Critic boards, we selected the Hotel Continental for a pre and post stay. The location was the best and the accommodations were great for the price. Watching the Ramblas from the balcony of our room each night was priceless!
After 2 nights in Barcelona, we arrived at the ship around 11 am and in only a matter of minutes we were on board! (In 12 cruises, this has never happened before!We usually have to wait around an hour in a waiting room prior to being allowed to board.) Once on board we started to explore... There is so much to do on board! More We bowled, we registered with the Casino's Players Club, we checked out the Bliss Lounge where the CC Meet and Greet would take place and then had a fun lunch in the Garden Cafe.
After lunch (a little before 2 pm), the announcement was made that our rooms were ready! Our balcony cabins were on 2 different sides of the aft section of deck 8 (cabins 8199 and 8200) This way we had the perfect balcony view from both sides of the ship. After meeting our room stewards (who were very friendly and accommodating). Our luggage arrived early so we started unpacking and finished just in time for the muster drill. Then we met a few cruise critic friends in the Atrium Cafe for welcome aboard drinks followed by the sail away party on deck.
That evening we celebrated Father's Day with center balcony seats and a great bottle of "Goats in the Village" wine at Cirque Dreams. Thanks to our 23 year old son for arriving early and being first in line to give his dad the best seat in the house! The food was wonderful and the entertainment, epic!
Later in the week we watched the Blue Man Group and Steven Sorrento. Every show was awesome!
This is the best ship for entertainment! From the White Hot Party, the Casino and it's "Da Vinci Machines", bowling and pool (Billiards),the Atrium late night movies, as well as, the water slides and the Spice H20 hot tubs, view and music, we barely put a dent in the list of things we wanted to do! The Spice H20 snacks were perfect for sail away each day and our favorite restaurant was Le Bistro!(The mussels and desserts and service were to die for!)We also loved the Garden Cafe's pot stickers, crepes and pretzel balls, and O'Sheehan's entire menu provided the best late night comfort food!
And speaking of comfort, we found our balcony rooms to be very comfortable and the bathroom arrangement worked fine! The beds were great, the storage very spacious and accommodating. The room stewards were also friendly and efficient. They offered personal attention to every detail.
We really hated to disembark on our 7th day (Which actually went as smoothly as embarkation)! The ports of call (Livorno, Rome, Naples, and Palma) were also exciting and each one very different from the other! Not having to be back on board until 6 pm really gave every time to enjoy more time ashore.
If we had the time and money we would do the Epic as a 2 week back to back cruise. There is so much we still want to do! From entertainment, the great food, the ports of call...we highly recommend this cruise!!! Less
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Cabin review: Norwegian Epic Balcony Stateroom Deck 9 8199
Great beds! Expansive storage, Wonderful views! If you need to book 2 balcony cabins,(and you don't need them to be next to each other)I would recommend booking one cabin on each of the ship (one port side and one on the starboard side) This way you can always have the very the balcony views no matter how the ship docks! We booked #8199 #8200.
Port and Shore Excursions
Be sure to visit the market La Boqueria and for the best tapas go to Taller de Tapas (ask the hotel for directions). If you are staying at the Hotel Continental, they will give you a card which entitles everyone in your party to a free glass of Cava. Another great tapas place was Bar Lobo which can be found on a side street next the Meridian Hotel.
On our first day in Barcelona we met the 11 am Runnerbean Gaudi Walking Tour at Plaça Reial(next to the water fountain). It was excellent, but most important it involved using the Metro subway system. The guide was great about showing us how to get tickets and navigate the system. Because of her great instruction we felt confident to use the entire system for the remaining days and used the experience to help us do the same thing in Italy.
Don't miss Parc Guell - a great place for a picnic!(We went to La Boqueria and bought things for a picnic, then took bus 24 from Playa Cataluna on our last day!) Also you can take the Metro to Montjuic ultimately using the funicular railway and the gondola. If you want to go to the beach, you can take Bus #54 or the metro from Las Ramblas! Great beer and a beautiful view!
Finally, be sure to read a little about Gaudi before you arrive in Barcelona.
Then we boarded the train to Pisa where we visited the Leaning Tower and Campo dei Miracoli (I particularly wanted to photograph the statue of Fibonacci in the Camposanto). Then on the way back to the train station we found a wonderful cafe' and had delicious margarita and primavera pizzas with a local wine and then more gelato! After a late lunch, we boarded the train for a scenic ride back to Livorno and easily found a taxi that took us back to the ship around 5:30. A perfect day!
The museum is really cool! Around 250 years ago, according to the travel expert, Rick Steves, the ruling king ordered most of the artifacts and frescoes found in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum to be brought to his museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) for display. So, now when you visit the actual sites of the ruins, there are very few actual artifacts on display.
So for this trip, we decided to make it an easy day since we have 3 major ports of call back to back and consequently didn't feel we had the enough time or energy to adequately visit Pompeii. We do plan a return visit to actually see the ruins, first hand. But since most of the artifacts are actually in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli we felt our day was best spent visiting the museum which is also known for having one of the world's best collections of Greek and Roman antiquities, including mosaics, sculptures, gems, glass and silver, and a even collection of Roman erotica from Pompeii.
While doing the shopping thing on the way back to the ship, a shop owner directed to a local pizza restaurant called Pizzera Starita where we enjoyed the very best pizza in the world! The restaurant has been serving pizza to the residents of Naples since 1901 and you won't find Many tourists there! http://www.pizzeriastarita.it/
At that point, the NCL crew member came running over and escorted us toward another shuttle, which also drove off half empty as we approached it. Finally, he hailed a 3rd shuttle and we were off to town.
The shuttle buses are just contracted by NCL not operated by the cruise line and since this was only the 3rd or 4th time for the Epic to call on this port, I guess there are a few bugs to work out with the shuttle company. We didn't feel it necessary to complain to NCL on board, because it was obvious that the crew members working the gangway knew about the problem and were trying to make the best of the situation.
When part of our family decided to return to the ship a little early, the shuttle bus driver made everyone sit on board for about an hour until another bus arrived. (They were supposed to run buses every 15 min.) After about 20 min. My family said the bus was filled to capacity but the driver kept arguing with passengers that he had to wait until another bus arrived.
Meanwhile my husband and I found Plaza Major where a local craft market and several street performers were gathered. So we found a cafe overlooking the square and sat back sipping sangria and enjoying a few tapas. Then we started back toward the ship taking in breathtaking sites of windmills, gardens, plazas and stately buildings. We also found a lovely little jewelry shop and decided to surprise our daughter with a set of beautiful Majorca pearls (I bought a set for myself as well!)
Being sailors, ourselves, we decided to bypass the shuttle stop and walk past the the various marinas on our way back to the ship. After about an 45 min., we decided to hail a taxi because we were still quite a distance from the cruise ship docks. When we explained to the taxi driver where we wanted to go, he became annoyed and said that he would have to turn his cab around in order to take us to the ship and with a sarcastic tone he quoted us a rate of 25 euros to drive about 3 miles!
So we declined and started to walk away. He backed up his taxi and yelled that he would do it for 20. We countered offered 10. He grimaced and then said okay.
When we reached the port, his meter only read 6,50 euros and we watched him click it ahead to 10,50 euros. (I think he would have continued to add additional euros but we interrupted him as we handed him the agreed upon rate in the form of a 10 euro bill. He looked at the bill then yelled "Get out!".
Oh well, despite our unpleasant encounters with local transportation, the view of the sail away and the memories of shops, street performers, pearls and tapas with wonderful sangria made the day! We will indeed return to Palma again(hopefully by sail) and perhaps we will find local transportation drivers who are a bit more understanding of tourists.
After an extensive tour of the Coliseum, we took the Metro (A line) to the Termini Station and changed to the B line and got off at the Barberinni Station. From there we walked a few blocks to the Trevi Fountain where we tossed in our 3 coins each (to insure a trip back to Rome) and the found a lovely cafe for pasta, pizza and wine. We also bought some of their pastries to take back to the ship.
Then, we headed back to the Barberinni Metro Station and took the subway back to Termini Station where we caught the regional train for Civitavecchia. Upon arriving, we caught a taxi back to the ship. It was a busy, fun day in Rome!