I really wanted to give this cruise a higher rating… There were many positives (e.g. The ship, the ports, the entertainment, etc…), unfortunately, there were a few negative issues that overshadowed my experience. Hence, the lower ... Read More
I really wanted to give this cruise a higher rating… There were many positives (e.g. The ship, the ports, the entertainment, etc…), unfortunately, there were a few negative issues that overshadowed my experience. Hence, the lower overall rating.
We sailed on the Norwegian Epic. It was a 7-day cruise which departed out of Barcelona and made a loop through the western Mediterranean before returning to the same port. There were 4 friends in 2 cabins in our party. I’ve been on 9 (week-long) cruises, 6 of which have been with NCL. I reside in the US, but I’ve been on 3 Mediterranean cruises. So, I believe I have an adequate basis for comparison.
As I mentioned, there were numerous positives about the trip. We arrived in Barcelona 3 days before the cruise. As always, Barcelona didn’t disappoint…it’s a great launching point. We sailed in later October…a great time of year to be in the Mediterranean. We also enjoyed the ship immensely. The Epic is one of NCL’s largest. We prefer the larger ships due to the variety of options. We found to ship to be clean, fairly modern, and decorated nicely. We had balcony cabins which were well appointed but a little smaller than we are accustomed. The cabin size worked well for a couple, but I would not want to attempt to add a third person to the room. The food was good (not spectacular, but not bad either)… on par for NCL. We found the entertainment to be excellent. The main production, “Pricilla, Queen of the Desert” did not disappoint …the best I’ve seen on a ship. The Cirque show as also worth the upcharge. The house band, playing in the Cavern Club, was also pretty decent. Due to the hectic port schedule, we didn’t get a chance to experience the balance of the entertainment. The ports were also a big hit with our group. 5 great stops. It’s rare that one finds a great ship that also has great ports of call, but this cruise delivered!
Unfortunately, there were a few items (all easily under NCL’s control) that cast a negative shadow over what would have been a 4 or 5 star cruse rating:
I do not agree with NCL’s new “water” policy. I understand NCL’s business model; give the cruise away at reduced margin’s and make up the margin on “upsell” items. I really don’t have a problem with this approach; however, water (the basic element of life) is a foolish place for NCL to fight this battle. We passed through the port security screen with no issues. We then checked in with NCL and subsequently purchased bottle water from the shop in the port (presumably an acceptable thing to do). Upon boarding the ship, we went through a new second screening where our bottled water was confiscated, apparently based on NCL’s new policy. We aren’t talking about juveniles sneaking booze on board; we’re talking about mature adults with plain drinking water. This is ridiculous! The tap water is the cabin is non-potable. Refilling water bottles in the café is prohibited due to sanitary reasons. Room service will no longer deliver a picture of water to your cabin without a surcharge. We had the unlimited beverage package (including alcohol and soft drinks), but this does not include bottled water which needs to be purchased separately. Without incurring extra costs, how is one supposed to get a drink of water when one wakes up in the middle of the night? Wander the ship in your PJs looking for a bar that’s still open to get a cup of water? I’m concerned NCL is changing, and not for the better.
Our second issue involved the advance booking of the Cirque show. A few weeks before the cruise, we phoned NCL to book the Cirque show along with some specially dining reservations. (We had to use the phone due to the obvious limitations/problems with NCL’s website) The gentlemen we spoke with confirmed our entertainment reservations as well as our dining reservations. I requested a confirmation of some sort (e.g. confirmation #, email, ability to view reservation on-line, etc…). I was told not to worry about it… all would be visible once we were on board. Once we were on board, we found our dinner reservations were in tact, but all entertainment reservations had been lost. Fortunately we were able to rebook the reservations, only to find that the Cirque show had a 3X price increase from what was advertised and reserved. I had to revisit the Guest Services desk no less than 4 times to try and resolve the issue…unsuccessfully I should add. The level of incompetence at the desk was truly staggering. In addition, NCL’s accounting system was extremely rigid and did not allow for any charge reversals without applying (unusable) credits. Getting frustrated on 5 different occasions for the same issue is not how I planned to spend my vacation.
One other (less significant) issue was the adjoining balcony doors. We paid for cabin upgrades for the sole purpose of assuring we could select adjacent cabins in order to share the balconies. We always request the Cabin Stewart to unlock the door between the two balcony’s in our group. This has never been a problem in the past (assuming both parties provide consent). On this cruise, however; we were informed this was not possible due to a safety concern with the doors flopping open/close while underway. As I stated, this issue was not as significant as the other items I discussed, but I would recommend NCL simply upgrade the latching mechanism holding the door open. On a positive note, the balconies on the Epic are considerably larger (deeper) than the Breakaway class.
In summary, the ship, the entertainment, and the ports were all positives on this cruise. However, a few simple, but frustrating, NCL business decisions really put a damper on the overall experience. Based on the direction I see NCL heading, I’ll have a hard time recommending this cruise line in the future. Read Less