My husband and I arrived in Barcelona with our two adult children and met up with six other family members two nights prior to our cruise. We stayed at Hotel Sixtytwo, which is centrally located and makes it possible to walk to many of the ... Read More
My husband and I arrived in Barcelona with our two adult children and met up with six other family members two nights prior to our cruise. We stayed at Hotel Sixtytwo, which is centrally located and makes it possible to walk to many of the sights. We had a family room with two bedrooms & two baths. While there, we visited La Pedrera and took a half-day tour of the city that included Sagrada Familia, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, and the Gothic and Jewish quarters just to name a few. There is so much to see in Barcelona, and we plan to return for a longer visit.
We used Ziptransfers to transport us from the hotel to port. The driver was on time and skillfully dodged traffic to get us there as quickly as possible. We arrived around 11:30 am.
At the port, we handed our luggage to the porter and waited in line to enter the cruise terminal. Although the line was already quite long, it moved fairly well. After going through security and having our carry on scanned, we once again lined up to check-in and have our key cards issued. We weren't overly impressed with staff there. They all seemed miserable; no one smiled or wished us a pleasant cruise. One man directing the passengers kept yelling "hurry up"; not very hospitable at all. It wasn't until we were on the ship that we saw smiling faces and were welcomed aboard.
We've taken more than a dozen cruises, mostly with Royal Caribbean, one with Carnival, and this was the third for me with NCL. Having read all the reviews on the Epic, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect but kept an open mind. We had the "Free At Sea" promotion and chose the beverage package, specialty dining package and 250 minutes of Wifi.
We first headed to the Garden Cafe to grab some lunch since our cabins weren't scheduled to be ready until 2 pm. We couldn't help but smile at the attendant with spray bottle of hand sanitizer "Washy, washy; Happy, happy!" The ten of us managed to find tables together and squished our carry ons between us. The food at the buffet was okay, about average compared with other cruises we've taken.
After an announcement that the cabins were ready, we departed the Garden Cafe and made our way to our respective rooms. Our steward brought our luggage ten minutes after we arrived. The odd design of the balcony cabin was no surprise to us. We made it work but would much rather have had a separate bathroom than having the shower on one side and the toilet on the opposite side of the cabin entrance with frosted glass sliding doors and the sink basically at the foot of the bed. The sink was so small that when you washed your hands, they almost touched the bottom of it. It reminded me a little of the spit sink in the dentist office. You could actually sit on the bed while brushing your teeth. My husband and I are both tall, and our feet hung over the edge of the mattress, but the bed itself was comfortable. There was plenty of closet space, drawers, and storage for everything. The empty luggage fit under the bed easily. I can't imagine three people sharing this space. Sleeping on the odd-shaped sofa would be difficult. The lighting was terrible, especially for putting on makeup.
Our adult children shared an inside cabin, which was similar to inside cabins on other ships with the exception of the odd bathroom design.
Once unpacked, we met up with the others in our group. I was in charge of making the dinner reservations and did my best to arrange them prior to the cruise, which was an exercise in futility. We ended up with 9 pm reservations, and I was informed by NCL that only 30% of the reservations are available pre-cruise and that I wouldn't have a problem getting earlier ones as long as I did it as soon as I got onboard. I went to Headliners where representatives from the various restaurants and shows took reservations and was lucky that there was no line. I managed to secure space at both the specialty and complimentary dining rooms at the times I requested as well as to reserve the Burn the Floor show.
We spent a bit of time orienting ourselves and exploring the ship before our dinner reservation at La Cucina. The ten of us arrived and were seated right away. We enjoyed our meals and celebrated Mother's Day and the start to our cruise. The service was excellent, and the food was pretty good overall.
After dinner, we saw the Beatlemania show at the Epic Theatre. The band did a great job imitating the Beatles. We all had a wonderful time and found ourselves singing along with many of the songs.
The first night we experienced a storm, which made the ship rock quite a bit. I'm an experienced cruiser, and this was the first time I felt extremely ill from the motion. The next day was a full day at sea, and even though the weather was a bit better, I still felt lousy. I ended up buying some Seabands in the gift shop which helped. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy the day. Thankfully, everyone else in my group was unaffected.
We had dinner at the Manhattan dining room that evening. The food was better than expected and the atmosphere was pleasant. Service was very good and we didn't have to wait long to get our meals.
That night we saw "Burn the Floor." A very creative and lively dance performance that we all enjoyed.
We arrived on time and getting off the ship and onto the pier was fast and easy. The pier itself was crowded with tour operators both looking to sell excursions as well as tour guides holding signs for pre-arranged private tours. We had pre-booked the Pompeii, Sorrento & Amalfi Coast tour with ItalyTours.eu and located our guide within minutes. Our first stop was Pompeii where we met the guide who would take us into the open-air museum. She was knowledgeable and easy to understand. The place is massive, and we could only see a small portion of it in the time allotted. Our guide said it would easily take eight hours to see the entire thing. We did enjoy the bit that we saw and having the guide helped us to understand and appreciate what we were seeing.
After Pompeii, we drove to Sorrento and had lunch at O'Schizzariello as suggested by our tour guide. She even spoke with the manager and asked for quick service so we wouldn't use up all of our time at the restaurant. They accommodated her request and our meals were amazing with fresh pastas all made in house. We were finished with enough time to walk around the town, get gelato, and enjoy the sights.
The tour continued on with a drive along the Amalfi coast. The views were breathtakingly beautiful, and we stopped along the way for pictures. We returned to the port in plenty of time and never worried about missing our departure time.
That night we dined at the Taste dining room. We appreciated the more casual atmosphere and the service was very good. The menu was basically the same as in the Manhattan dining room, but there was plenty of variety to choose from.
After dinner we chose to sit in one of the lounges to talk about our day over a drink or two before retiring. Our only complaint is that it is almost impossible to find a quiet area to sit and have a conversation. Music in most bars is quite loud, which we found annoying.
There was mass confusion because the ship wasn't allowed to dock at its usual spot near the terminal building and ended up at a cargo dock. We had pre-booked the Rome & Vatican excursion with ItalyTours.eu, and although NCL arranged free shuttles to the terminal building, it was cutting it close to the time we were to meet our driver. I called to notify them of the change of docking location and was informed that our driver would come to us. This mix up caused a traffic nightmare that forced our driver to park some distance away and walk in to get us. Our tour started late, but we managed to get it to the Colesseum in time for those who had tickets to go inside. Having been there before, we opted to walk around the grounds while we waited. Unfortunately, the weather was cool and wet, but our driver did his best to see that we were comfortable and provided us with commentary as we drove around the narrow streets and back roads of Rome. We stopped at St. Ignatius Church, Trevi Fountain and drove by the Spanish Steps. We had a quick pizza lunch before heading to Vatican City and meeting our tour guide who was to take us through the museum, Sistine Chapel and to St. Peter's Basilica. Despite being early in the touring season, the crowds here were unbelievable. Add a wet, miserable day into the mix and the wow factor steadily decreases. Regardless, we got through the day without losing our cool. The joys of travel!
That night we split our group. The guys went to Cagney's and us girls went to Teppanyaki. We enjoyed watching the dinner "show" at Teppanyaki, and the food was much better than expected. After dinner, the girls saw the Queens of Rhythm perform at Headliners. They put on quite a show! When I later caught up with my husband, he said that he and the others were quite pleased with their meals at Cagney's.
We arranged a tour of Florence & Pisa with ItalyTours.eu. Our driver was waiting for us in the cruise terminal and we were on our way within minutes. The first stop was Pisa. We were the first ones to arrive there and were fortunate enough to get tickets to go up into the leaning tower. We even got to stay in the bell tower while the bells rung. It was quite an experience! Another benefit of being there early is having the ability to take pictures without crowds of people in them.
Our tour continued in Florence where we met our guide. She took us on a walking tour that was both interesting and informative. We enjoyed learning about the history of Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, and seeing the Piazza Della Signoria and the replica of the statue of David where the original once stood. Our guide also took us around the Duomo & Cathedral. When the tour finished, our driver returned us to the ship with plenty of time to spare.
That evening's dinner was at Taste and was a bit disappointing. The steak was almost inedible, but after ordering something else, the meal came quickly and made up for it in taste and quality of service.
This was the only port where tendering was necessary. We had pre-arranged a tour of Cannes, Antibes and St. Paul de Vence with Liven Up through Viator, so I reserved our spots on the tender a few days in advance to ensure we would get to the shore in time for our excursion. The half-day tour consisted of a quick drive around Cannes before heading to Antibes, a quaint little town with a lovely market. Our final destination was St. Paul de Vence, a medieval walled town with ramparts and stone buildings featuring narrow pathways. It was like going back in time. We thoroughly enjoyed this historic place.
After the tour, we spent time wandering around Cannes until it was time to catch the tender back to the ship.
Dinner that evening was the Manhattan dining room, which we enjoyed.
Palma de Mallorca:
We had no excursion booked at this port. I arranged for us to take the NCL shuttle into the town at a cost of $15 per person US return. Although the buses were running on a constant loop, we waited for quite some time. The town is an approximate 30-minute walk, and had I known that, I wouldn't have bothered paying for the shuttle. We wandered around Palma, enjoying the views and ended up walking back which was pleasant.
Our last dinner onboard was at Le Bistro. It was amazing in every way; the atmosphere, the service and the food. I would highly recommend it.
That night we packed our luggage and placed it outside our cabin for pick up. The next morning, we had to be out of our rooms by 7:30 am. We had a nice breakfast at Taste before slowly making our way off the ship. Our transportation to the airport was once again with ZipTransfers but wasn't scheduled until 10:45. We waited inside the terminal building before being told we had leave by the staff. Luckily, the weather was nice and waiting outside wasn't an issue, and we managed to contact ZipTransfers to arrange a slightly earlier pick up.
We didn't partake in any activities onboard since we were always out and about with excursions, but I did use the gym and the outdoor track. Although well equipped, the gym was stiflingly hot and cut my workout short. I opted for a run on the outdoor track, which is a small loop on one side of the ship with the view blocked by the life boats. It was okay, but nothing like the top deck jogging tracks on other ships.
We took a walk on the pool deck our first day onboard but didn't sit out there at all during our cruise since the weather was too cool. The pools themselves seemed rather small for the enormous size of the ship.
The Wifi worked best in the common areas of the ship and hit and miss while in the cabin.
My daughter is a vegetarian and found that most dinner options for her consisted of pastas with some type of vegetables. Le Bistro offered a tasty vegetable dish in a puff pastry, which was a nice change from the dinners she had eaten all week.
We found the ship to be rather dark and closed in compared to other ships we've been on. There is a small open area mid ship, but it's not enough to even be noticeable. The casino is located on deck 6 mid ship and the open area carries the sound from it up to the higher decks. We didn't appreciate having to go through the casino to get to the restaurants on that deck either.
Summing it Up:
Overall, we had a great trip. Everyone in our group was of the same opinion. We chose the Epic because of the itinerary, which was fantastic. The ship was clean, the service and crew onboard were great. The food was good, with the exception of the steak dinner at Taste one evening, and the meals were always hot. The coffee wasn't all that good unless you paid extra for a cappuccino or espresso, and we found the beverage package that covered drinks up to a cost of $15 adequate for our needs.
We would likely cruise with NCL again at some point but not on the Epic. It's size and odd design just didn't do it for us. Read Less