Oct 23rd sailing Barcelona to Miami via Punta Delgada and St. Thomas, USVI.
this my 95th cruise, 13th on NCL and 3rd transatlantic.
Booked Swiss Airlines economy for 2 one way MIABCN via ZRH. Checked in 4 hours early and informed while on line at Lufthansa ( who owns Swiss) that the flight was overbooked and would we do them a big favor and leave early on the Lufthansa flight with service via Frankfurt,, the attraction being it was their huge Airbus A380 but an upgrade was not possible. Acquiesced and were rushed through check-in and then waited in long security to arrive at gate only 20 minutes before departure. Never saw our bags, which were tagged through to BCN go down the conveyor belt. assigned two seats alone with plenty leg room row 75 emergency row as we are both ex airline employees ( Eastern). On time flight and decent service in economy. Over 2 hours to make connection in FRA so go through customs maze and out to concourse for connection to Barcelona. Assured that our boarding passes are fine , at boarding set off alarm showing not confirmed...apologies and then a another quick fix and onboard to BCN. get there 3 hrs earlier than our Swiss flight would have brought us but no checked bags down the belt. File claim , wait for next flight from Frankfurt, still no bags. Go to Hotel ( Hesperia Del Port) 3 star , only 10 blocks from cruise port. Nice hotel, clean room, settle in. try to nap. Go out for dinner at close by sidewalk cafe recommended by hotel concierge. All ok. Upon return call Lufthansa baggage and assured bags are on the way, will try to get then hotel asap. Sunday morning the 23rd we got for morning coffee and a roll and upon return the hotel concierge calls Lufthansa baggage again for us. Bags made it in at midnight and will be on their luggage van direct to ship. We leave hotel at noon and get on board vessel by 1 PM. huge crowds but under control. Non US citizens outnumber US/Canadians by 2 to one and separate checkins for each type.
Board ship and rooms are ready for entry. Mini -suite 9243 is impressive. If a perfect rectangle ( curvy walls) the dimensions would equate to 8.25 feet wide by almost 25 feet long plus a balcony 6 foot deep by 8.25 feet wide. Oversize shower a plus. Tremendous storage areas with the equivalent of 4 full size closets and 10 cupboards plus underbed storage. Huge flat screen TV. No longer necessary to insert key card for lights due problem fixed. The sink in the bedroom pullman is small but doesnt spray like others have complained. over 15 different lights but the single fixture over the medicine cabinet for the sink does not provide enough wattage to see well by ( especially for men shaving)!
We are mentally exhausted from the aggravation caused by the lost bag problem so hide in cabin and skip boat drill like always! At the end of drill go to cabin door and , Hallelujah, the checked bags are there!!!! It's like Christmas and now the cruise can really begin.
We unpack, tour the ship, check out all the restaurants and bars. Check to see if our extended group of over 40 friends from all over the world are on board and have a meet and greet. The food in the 7 free eateries was just fine for our taste so never went to any of the a la carte places. Cocktail prices not outrageous either.
Now we are not a big fan of any cruise ship entertainment and NCL really has gone overboard here with choices . Since we have seen all the originals in Orlando or Las Vegas or other cities we visited we didnt go to any of the big venues. Those we spoke to enjoyed all the productions. My female travel companion won "Queen of Bingo" so was quite content playing her favorite shipboard pastime for free.
It rained in Punta Delgada and ST Thomas and ruined some passengers excursions. We walked around Punta Delgada during a rain break and enjoyed ourselves but purchased nothing or ate anything. In St. Thomas where I have been over 50 times since June of 68 we only walked around Havensight Mall and bought 12 litres of duty free liquor to be delivered to the ship at extremely low prices. Again, no other purchases or onshore food.
The reason I mention the no food part is as follows. On Thursday evening the 27th I started to feel stomach cramps. After midnight the pain was intense and I spent the next 36 hours on Loperamide and pain-killer from the constant diarrhea ( No nausea, fever, chills). I went to the ships hospital at 3 PM Saturday afternoon and was checked out completely and put on an IV drip to rehydrate me plus more Loperamide and anti-spasmodic meds. Kept for 3 hrs then released with the diagnosis of Gastro-enteritis (but not Norovirus). Seems NCL is loathe to admit their spoiled buffet food may have caused the problem. I was cabin quarantined for another 24 hrs. By Monday morning I was much better and able to start eating solid food again. The total hospital bill was only 92 bucks for all the meds and IVs as the illness originated onboard and I should get half of that back from my health insurance company. The rest of the voyage I could eat normally again.
This ship is not pretty to look at from the outside but internally is quite beautiful with a tremendous array of public rooms to suit any mood or style you're in. There should be a dedicated movie theatre but instead they have a Stadium size flat scree in the atrium that at times was quite overfilled despite the eclectic use of available furniture and 3 types of overflow chair seating.
The guest relations staff was excellent and we personally never heard the word NO. Our room stewardess went out of her way to care for us, especially during my bout of sickness. Every waiter and assistant in the 2 main dining rooms was pleasant and efficient and only once at a breakfast in "Taste" was our food lukewarm and/or cold and overcooked.
We had some Force 9 gale winds and high seas coming across the Atlantic and on several occasions the ship pitched, rocked and rolled and caused some others onboard sea-sickness but not us. I felt sorry for the people in the most expensive Courtyard suites up top forward over the bridge as they seem to have gotten the worst of it.
There had to be passengers from over 20 different nations on board and announcements and tv programs were made in 5 languages. Several passengers obviously had different personal hygiene regimens and Body Odor problems ruined many an elevator ride. there were enough TV channels to keep me amused but no movie channels except for pay as you go ones. watched a lot of Nickelodeon and learned to love Sponge Bob in Russian!
Disembarkation on Saturday morning Nov 5 was almost painless and we were in a the Crown Plaza hotel to pick up our car by 8:45 AM.
Long transatlantic trips with few ports are not everyone's "cup of tea" but we enjoyed the trip despite the rough seas, the rainy weather in port, the Epic's design flaws and the constant complaints from other passengers that the ship was "nickel and dining them to death" due to all of its a la carte pricing for meals and other functions. I felt the ship's souvenir shops prices were in line with other companies but the their duty free liquor and cigarettes were pricey. We only puchased 2 tee shirts on board. And, oh yes, one female passenger's wallet was pick-pocketed during the 5 dollar sale at the ships mall on the last day.
I am sailing on the NCl Star from Tampa Nov 27th as I still enjoy free-style cruising. I'm just not a big fan of the Epic due to her size and new wave cabin bathroom design and wont hurry to sail her again.