9/18/2011 NCL EPIC
Newly 31 year old female travelling with 60 year old mother. Our 4th cruise, 3rd on NCL. We've previously cruised Alaska twice and Canada/New England once.
We flew into BCN the night before the cruise after a 15+ hour journey from AZ. Stayed at the Renaissance BCN Hotel. It was not as bad as the reviews I'd read on Tripadvisor. The wait for the free shuttle was nearly 30 minutes, and BCN was hot an humid. The shuttle to the cruise port was prompt, and was smaller than the ones used for the NCL booked transfers. We booked a package directly with the hotel including transfers and breakfast. The room was clean and comfortable. Room service and the hotel restaurant were very expensive so we didn't use either. Breakfast buffet was typical.
Upon arrival at the port at 11:30am, a porter took our luggage. We proceeded through security to check-in and were on the ship within 20 minutes. Very quick and efficient. Our cabin was ready before 2pm.
Standard mid-ship balcony. I knew it would be far from the elevators/stairs at either end of the ship, but I didn't realize just how far having never been on a ship this size. First impression: Cabin was small compared to the Pearl. The low ceiling made if feel even smaller I agree with other reviews that say there is ample storage, but little room to move about. It was very tight for two people. Can't imagine 3-4 in this cabin. The sofa was a waste of space. We used it for unpacking and the room service tray. It was in front of the closet and away from the TV. Useless. The bath area? Awkward. The curtain went between the shower and the sink, and the towels were under the sink. The curtain really needs to be between the sink and closet. The balcony was larger than expected. Plenty of space for two people.
I missed the Spinnaker of the Pearl. Epic felt so enclosed, with no interior places to relax with a view. It really did feel like a "floating Vegas hotel" as the future cruise consultant put it. The casino is more than half the length of deck 6 and got very crowded. Smoke was never an issue. I overheard that the ship was about 90% full and at many times it felt crowded.
We ate at the Garden Buffet, Taste, O'Sheehans, Cirque Dreams, Noodle Bar, and room service. GB: huge, but disappointing. I'm not a foodie and am not picky, but this just wasn't good. No matter the time of day, the food was cold. The salad bar was pathetic, with very few toppings. Scrambled eggs looked undercooked. Ice cream was good. O'Sheehans: Ate here once for lunch. It was noisy and the bowling didn't help. Good cob salad, cold mozzarella sticks. Unfriendly waitress. Room service: For breakfast, toast wasn't offered, which we found odd. Baked goods, cereal, and fruit were good. Lunch/Dinner menu was a different story. The turkey hoagie was embarrassing. One piece of turkey, cheese, mustard, and avocado. Like airplane food. Arrived on time. Cirque: Set menu, small portions. Hilarious show. Taste: Our best dining experiences. Dinner: Good rib eye steak with baked potato. The pork chop with brown gravy and mashed potatoes was very good, but a lighter selection? I think not. The cheesecake and chocolate truffle cake were incredible. Noodle Bar: Awful. This should not have a surcharge. Pot Stickers, beef chow fun, fried rice...all flavorless.
Blue Man Group was awesome. I may have even paid extra for it. Stephen Sorrentino I didn't really get. I think his act is geared more towards the older crowd. My DM liked him.
We took NCL Excursions in Livorno (Florence and Pisa), Civitavecchia (Rome and the Vatican), and Naples (Sorrento and Amalfi Coast by Land and Sea). Florence and Rome were so much more crowded than we expected this time of year and it was still so hot. The bus rides were long, as expected. Sorrento and the Amalfi coast were the highlights of this cruise. Breathtaking. Each excursion included a meal and those did not disappoint. So much food. This being our first Med cruise, we were unsure just how far these places were from the ports. Now that we know, if there's a next time we'll be more independent and stay away from the big coaches. In Palma de Mallorca we walked to the Cathedral and beyond. It was a long walk along the harbor. Over an hour one way at a pretty fast pace. Our daily said chance of rain...and it poured... and our umbrella was in our cabin. We discovered there are few overhangs in Palma. We were pretty wet when we got back to the ship for lunch, just when the sun came out. We initially intended to take the HOHO bus, but couldn't find the stop on the port area. 4 Euros to enter the cathedral, opened at 10am Saturday, just as it started to rain.
We chose self disembarkation and it was super fast, but then again it was very early. We left the cabin at 6:15 and were in the airport by 7. 39 Euro taxi fare to BCN Terminal 1 from cruise Terminal A. BCN was a madhouse. The lines for Iberia and Delta were so long. Carnival Magic was also in port that day. The line for British Air was very short. We could've slept in. BCN is a huge, very nice airport.
I hate to say it because we're big fans of NCL, but Epic was not the cruise experience I was hoping for and would not book on this ship again. It was an exhausting trip and so very different from Alaska and Canada/New England (which are also port intensive).