We did the Norwegian Epic cruise out of Barcelona, Spain on July 14 - July 21, 2019. To be honest, I was very apprehensive about the cruise after reading so many negative reviews on cruise critic BUT it was WONDERFUL!!! In fact, I joined ... Read More
We did the Norwegian Epic cruise out of Barcelona, Spain on July 14 - July 21, 2019. To be honest, I was very apprehensive about the cruise after reading so many negative reviews on cruise critic BUT it was WONDERFUL!!! In fact, I joined cruise critics roll call and was able to gain a lot of insight from other travelers on what to do and things that others had learned. We are avid cruisers and Disney is one of our favorite cruise lines but we decided to do Norwegian because of the price.
I will attempt to give an overview. We boarded in Barcelona. We took a cab from the airport to the port. It was a fixed price of 36 or 39 euros. Check in was so smooth and fast! I did the on-line check in prior to us leaving and it was one of the fastest check-ins that I have experienced. The ship was very well maintained. I did not see dirty or stained areas. We were on floor 8 in a balcony cabin. I did not care for the lay out of the room but we only got ready and slept in the room. There were 3 of us in our cabin. I did not like the frosted shower-like doors for the toilet area but we lived with it. Once again, we just got ready and slept in the room.
The dining was amazing. We had 3 free specialty dinings (for the first 2 of us) and we paid for my daughter. We ate at La Cucina, Le Bistro, and Cagney's. The food and service was superb. This was our first time to ever do any extra charge restaurants because I think you already have so much on a cruise, but since it was free, we tried it. I will say we loved it!! You felt so special, at ease and relaxed and knew you had one-on-one service. BUT, there free dining is also amazing. There is such a variety of foods. The buffet had a different them each night. (Mexican, Mediterranean, Grilled, Italian and I don't remember the others.) Also, there was a person making fresh, made to order crepes at the buffet. That may have been all nights but I used it Tuesday - Thursday for sure. Everyone in the dining rooms and dining areas were very attentive. The dining rooms and buffet areas were beautiful. They all had windows where you could look out and view the water. The front dining room at The Garden Cafe buffet was beautiful and all windows. LOVELY VIEWS!! The food reminded me of when we first started cruising 20+ years ago and that was what you looked forward to.
I cannot give an honest opinion of the activities because we were off the ship each day in port and by the time we came back, got ready, and ate, we were ready to crash for the night. We did go to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but left. I knew it would have drag queens but there were too many other things that I felt were inappropriate and were not for me nor my family. We did see a comedian and he was funny but they really needed to use a larger venue because we were packed into one of the areas and there was standing room only. We missed Burn the Floor and we choose not to do Cirque Dreams because we did not want to pay for a show. We saw the Beatles Mania show and it was enjoyable.
Our cabin steward was very nice and always checking on us. He checked with us each day to see if everything was OK and if there was anything that we needed. I did want extra blankets and when we got back to the room, they were on our bed. Everyone on the ship, from guest services to the gift shops, seemed pleasant and friendly. I know some people asked about laundry and ironing of clothes. They have a laundry service on the boat but of course it is high. On Wednesday, there was a flyer in the room that advertised that you could fill a bag with clothes and they would be washed and returned to you by Friday. The cost was $19.95. We did fill a bag with our underclothes and tshirts and they were washed and back in the room by Friday evening--all for $19.95 You do have to write the special or promotion on the bag of laundry in order to receive it.
I will try to give a run down of what we did each day. We did not book any excursions through Norwegian. We used outside tour companies that were less expensive and fewer people. I gave them a poor on shore excursions because of the prices. I learned this a few years ago when we did a cruise around the Greek Isles. Day 1, we embarked on Sunday in Barcelona and Day 2, Monday was a day at sea. Thank goodness for that!! We were exhausted after our flight from the US. We slept in and just roamed around a little on Monday. Every other day, you are at a port. The day of rest helped us--- I don't know if I could have gotten on in Civitavecchia and then had to do ports with no rest, if I could have made it!
Day 3 - Tuesday was Naples Italy. We used Italy Tours and booked Pompeii, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast. There were 14 people in our van and it was wonderful. Our driver met us at the port, we loaded into the van and started our tour. We got back to Naples about 1 1/2 hours before we had to be on board, so there was time to go into Naples if you wanted.
Day 4 - Civitavecchia (Rome)--We did not book a tour because we visited Rome for several days in 2016 so we did our own thing. We got off the ship and there were many people at the port where you could book tours or take a bus to Rome. We got on one of the Smart Tours buses and once the bus was full, they brought you to Rome. You were dropped off at a point near the Vatican and then they gave you a time to be back and the bus picked you back up at the same spot and brought you back to Civitavecchia to board the ship. The cost was 23 or 25 euros per person and you had to pay cash. They did not accept credit cards. When we got on the bus, it was almost full so we only had to sit about 15 minutes before leaving. From what I heard, some people sat on the bus almost 1 hour waiting for others to get off the ship and board. You may want to keep that in mind. Italy Tours had some small group tours for Rome but since we had spent several days here a few years ago, we just walked and revisited some of our favorite things and took our own tour. :) We stayed far away from the Vatican that day because it was Wednesday and the Pope was doing mass so it was VERY CROWDED. Make sure to get gelato. This will help cool you off and Rome gelato is so very good.
Day 5 - Livorno - We did a small group tour with Italy Tours. There were 7 of us in our group plus the driver. We did the tour called the Best of Florence and Pisa. Our driver met us at the small port (it was very easy to find him) and we went to Pisa first and then to Florence. We got to Pisa by 8:15 and the first group allowed to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa is not until 9:00 so we were able to get our tickets and be in the first group to climb the tower. Walking and viewing the grounds was great! It was a highlight for us to be able to climb to the top of the tower. After doing this, I would suggest being in the beginning groups. The lines get longer as the day goes on and it gets HOTTER!! Also, you could not bring any bags in the tower. You had to lock purses and backpacks up in a secure area before climbing the tower. We then went to Florence and met up with a guide and were put with some other group for this guide. Florence was beautiful and even with the other group, we were still only 15 and our guide. Our tour company offered to add the skip the line tickets, which we purchased, and went to the academia to see the original David. The additional group of people that we joined up with in Florence did have an elderly lady who had trouble walking and keeping up and those persons eventually left the tour and said they would go on their own. Florence is an amazing city--the bridge with the shops on it is just amazing.
Day 6 - Cannes - We did not do a tour with an outside company (but if you start early enough, you should be able to). You have to tender into Cannes. Make sure to book your tender early and don't waste 1/2 day on the ship waiting to catch a tender to get off. Once in Cannes, we went to Monaco. You can take a train from Cannes to Monaco and it is about a 50 minute ride. If you decide to do this on your own, here are a few tips that we learned the hard way! :) To get to the train station, once you walk out of the port area and get to the main road, take a right. When you get to the Cannes tourism office (it is a big mirrored building on the right), take a left onto the street that is across from the tourism office. You will walk several blocks down that road and then you will see the train/bus station. If in doubt, ASK. Once inside, DO NOT try to use the kiosk to buy your own tickets. Go in the station and go to the ticket office to the left (it is inside more glass doors and it has a working AC). Once inside, pull a number ticket and wait for your number to come up and then ask the agent to help you buy a ticket to Monaco. It was 36 euros for all 3 of us. BEFORE you board the train to Monaco/Nice, make sure you find the yellow VALIDATION machine and validate your ticket. I think you get in major trouble if you do not validate your ticket before boarding. If you don't see a machine, ask someone where to validate the ticket and they will show you. Take the train to Monaco and then follow the signs (brown, historical) to the palace. There are lots of things to see and quaint little shops near that area. We did not go to the casino but that is also available. When you are ready to leave Monaco, you can get off the train in Nice on the way back to Cannes and do some wandering there. We did not do this because we lost time trying to find the train station and getting the wrong kind of ticket and having to switch out. If you have plenty of time, others say this is wonderful to do. We spent all of our time looking around Monaco and then we were having to sprint to make it back to the ship!!
Day 7 - Palma De Mallorca - To be honest, when we booked this trip, I had never even heard of this place. I was thinking in my mind that we would probably be so tired from our other tours and adventures, we could just stay on the ship. DON'T STAY ON THE SHIP!!! This place is beautiful. It is the largest island in all of Spain. Once again, we did not book any tour. There are shuttle buses that take you from the port to the town center. BOOK YOUR SHUTTLE RIDE BEFORE SATURDAY MORNING. The shuttle ride from the ship to town is $15 per person. Book your shuttle Thursday night or Friday. If not, you will spend a long time in line on Saturday morning to buy a shuttle ticket. For those who do book their shuttle ticket prior to Saturday morning--when you get off the ship and you see a LONG line of people that look like they are waiting to get on a shuttle, do not go to the end of the line and get in line. These are the people who are waiting to purchase their shuttle ride. Let someone know that you already purchased your shuttle ticket, and they will tell you to go straight to the shuttle bus. Meaning, you will by-pass this long line of people who did not pre-purchase. Once you ride the shuttle, it will bring you into town near the church. There is a hop-on hop off bus tour you can buy here that will bring you around the entire island. I think the HOHO bus tour was 18 euros per person. This island has many sights to see and some amazing shopping. It is beautiful and I think it would be a great place to visit on a future vacation.
Once again, this was an AMAZING CRUISE, with amazing food and ports of call. For all of those who are concerned because of the negative reviews, my advice would be to ignore them and go expecting a great time and have an awesome vacation. We loved it and will definitely be trying more Norwegian cruises. Read Less