We chose the cruise because of the bucket list itinerary. Only I had been to Rome, but not to the rest of the ports, and DH/DS had not been to any of them. We arrived in Barcelona several days prior to sailing, and very glad we did, to ... Read More
We chose the cruise because of the bucket list itinerary. Only I had been to Rome, but not to the rest of the ports, and DH/DS had not been to any of them. We arrived in Barcelona several days prior to sailing, and very glad we did, to have time to explore some of the gems of this vibrant city. We stayed on Las Ramblas, just south of Plaza Catalunya, which was a perfect location. Great food, little bars everywhere, fun people-watching. Did HOHO Bus first day, Picasso Museum, Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. Recommend pre-purchase tickets for all of these to avoid daunting lines, especially in summer.
Embarkation was fast and painless at 11:30 am. We had been on a number of NCL ships in the past, and as noted by a number of people, Epic has its quirks. The 2 stairways did not bother us, nor did the bathroom setup. The two tiny pools were not even close to enough for the single sea day. We had a mini-suite, which is just a curvy balcony cabin, but adequate for our needs. Lots of storage. Some said the couch bed was weird, but I think they just didn't pull it out from the wall. My 6' son fit fine. In the future, for this kind of cruise, so many ports, long days and little time on ship, I would book a way less expensive cabin and forego some of the perks.
We had drinks and dining packages for perks. Drinks were fine, but they need better wine and beer selections on board. We may end up back on Celebrity due to this issue. We were a little disappointed with the dining on board too. Not many changes in selection for breakfast in the buffet, although fairly solid overall. Due to being in port so many days, we did not eat lunch on board much. For dinners in MDR, it was okay, but nothing really wowed me. I have a dairy allergy, and informed NCL way in advance. On a prior cruise, I had been super impressed with their attention to the issue, but disappointed with their handling this time around. The Maitre'd was the designated allergy person, which was not good, because it was not his main duty; he was way to busy to be bothered, kept me waiting to pre-order and often said the things I wished to order were not possible. I had booked reservations at all restaurants so it would be easy for them to accommodate me as in the prior cruise, but it was not a priority for them this time. The specialty restaurants were good, but Cagney's not super as on some ships, and Le Bistro okay at best. At La Cucina my son had a steak that was better than the one at Cagney's. I think the specialty restaurants need to step up their game if they want people to pay the extra $. We did not go to any of the shows since we had seen them all on other ships(hint NCL, get new shows). We also didn't go out much after dinner since we had early ports, lots to see and were pretty tired at the end of the day. We did not hit the casino this time either. Teen club was okay, but DS said the counselors were not nice to the older kids at all.
Our focus was really on the ports this trip since there was so much to see. There is no way we would have visited these places all in one trip unless we were on a cruise. We did not book any of our excursions with NCL because we thought them crazy-expensive. I guess some of that may be warranted because in most of the ports, you are far away from the city center, Rome, Naples and Florence. In Naples we took the train to Pompeii (a must-see for us), which was doable on our own, but a little confusing where to catch the bus outside the port entrance to the train station. For Rome, we took the shuttle to the port entrance, and there were vendors putting groups together for van tours for 50 Euros/pp. This turned out to be entirely worth it because the drive to/from the city center to the sights is so long, and our driver was excellent at getting us down close to the major sights as well as giving us time to explore. In Florence we did something similar, but there were fewer stops and more walking. The driver also took us to Pisa on the way back to the ship. By the time we got to Cannes, we were pretty exhausted. We walked around the bay heading for the public beach, where for about 20 Euros you get a chair and umbrella, but they were closing for lunch (you can get a half day or whole day for a bit more). We settled for the free beach right beside it and swam a bit in the Med, which was lovely. On the way back to the ship, we walked through a small market street just a block off the main drag and it was perfect with little shops, and just a little touristy. If you looked up the quaint, crooked streets, you were definitely transported to another world. We did not get off the ship in Palma because our son had a virus.
We actually took DS to the infirmary on board since he had a fever and was dehydrated. They gave him a bag of fluids and anti-poopy meds and confined him to the cabin, but that was the right thing to do. They said no one else on the ship was sick, and he must have picked it up on shore, but I find that a bit hard to believe. They took good care of him though, and did not end up charging us anything for the infirmary visit. They also did not want to let us out with the rest of the passengers, so they gave us a late checkout and escort off the ship - easiest disembark I have ever had! Read Less