We just got back from a 7 night Norwegian Epic Western Mediterranean Cruise, leaving from Barcelona and stopping at Naples, Civitavecchia/Rome, Livorno/Florence, Cannes, and Palma de Mallorca. Our rate came with a balcony room, the Unlimited Beverage Package, Specialty Dining Package, and prepaid gratuities. I was a little hesitant about the negative reviews I saw about this ship but the cruise truly exceeded my expectations. I've cruised with Norwegian before and had a wonderful time, and this was no different.
Embarkation/Disembarkation was a piece of cake. We got to the ship around 11 and were able to board at 11:30 AM! The whole process was nothing. Disembarking was even easier on the last day. As for the ports, we had no trouble disembarking except for Cannes and Palma, since for Cannes we had to wait to board a tender boat to shore and for Palma there was a bit of a line to disembark the ship (we got to that port at 2 pm so everyone was looking to get off the ship at the same time).
The food was AMAZING. We dined at every specialty restaurant and loved Cagney's the best, along with Teppanyaki and Le Bistro. We made good use of the package and also the UBP, which is a fantastic deal if you love to drink! There were also always a great selection available for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Garden Cafe and other buffet areas.
The room was fantastic! We were in 8024, which is towards the front of the ship and has a balcony with no covering above, leaving it exposed to the sun which was nice. We didn't hear much of Bliss nightclub below, despite people's complaints about this. We were always so wiped by the end of the day anyway! We also didn't have any negative experiences with people throwing trash/cigarette butts from upper balconies onto ours below. Also, there was nothing wrong with the bathroom! So what if the toilet and shower are separate? There was a curtain to separate the toilet/shower with the rest of the room if you're concerned about privacy issues. It wasn't a big deal at all - it seems like people will find anything to complain about.
Disembarking was no trouble at all. We got breakfast and then left the ship around 9:15 AM. We decided to stay two extra nights in Barcelona at the Hotel Grums Barcelona in Montjuic. We had an incredible stay and Barcelona was my favorite stop on the trip. We saw it all, and did the Barcelona City Sightseeing Tour which I highly recommend, since Barcelona is quite a big city and it's difficult to see everything in such a short amount of time. We went to 7 Portes for paella (near Barceloneta), and also went to Viena on La Rambla for the jambon d'iberico sandwich which NYTimes said was the best sandwich in the world (it was quite delicious). We also had the best tapas EVER at Quimet y Quimet, which is a must do when you're there. The restaurant can only hold 15 people and is a bit overwhelming since it's standing room only, but it was one of the best meals I've ever had! We also saw Barceloneta beach, Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, etc.
Naples is on the coast so you can immediately just get off the ship. We walked along the waterfront which is absolutely beautiful! I recommend checking it out. Naples is a little hectic, which busy, narrow streets. Naples is the birthplace of pizza so naturally we had to get some pizza. We went to L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, the pizzeria where Julia Roberts eats at in Eat Pray Love - it was fantastic! And so cheap too! I highly recommend going.
There is a shuttle bus that takes everyone from the ship to the entrance to the port. Once you get to the port, it's a bit overwhelming, with lots of people trying to get you to do cruise excursions. Grab a map from the info tent set up there and then walk along the waterfront (about 15 minutes) east until you reach the Civitavecchia train station. When you cross the street from the port entrance to start walking towards the train station, there's a newstand on the corner - walk in there and buy a BIRG ticket, which is only 12 euros. This is good for roundtrip travel on all trains and public transit metro/buses in Rome, and well worth the money if you're there for a day only. Remember to validate your tickets once you get to the train platform at the little green machines - stick the ticket in and slide it to the left until you hear the machine stamp the ticket, after which it has been validated. Catch the next train to ROMA TERMINI. We got off at Roma S. Pietro, which is near Vatican City. We walked around Vatican City a bit then walked towards the city center. Rome is so beautiful and every side street holds something different to see! We saw the Pantheon and then grabbed lunch at Armando Al Pantheon, located right nearby - I highly recommend going to their website and making lunch reservations for the day you will be in Rome. With so many touristy restaurants around there, this place is truly a gem and extremely authentic. I recommend the All' Matriciana. Afterwards we walked a few blocks away to Giolitti for gelato - another highly recommended spot. We took our gelato cones to go and walked towards the Colosseum, taking in the sights of the ancient ruins along the way. Afterwards, we hopped on the metro at the Colosseum stop and took it two stops to Roma Termini, where we grabbed the train back to Civitavecchia. I wish we had more time in Rome to explore, it was so beautiful!
After a rough night at sea, we finally made it to Palma on Saturday afternoon. Palma was absolutely beautiful. It reminded me of Cannes except way less crowded. As soon as we got off the boat, we hopped onto the #1 bus (towards the airport), which was only 1.50 euro. The bus takes you right from the port to city center. We were headed to the beach, so we took the bus and got to see the sights of the city as the bus looped around it and then headed down back towards the waterfront. We got off at the stop called Joan Maragall, 18. From this stop, the C'an Pere Antoni beach is literally right there. We spent the afternoon lounging in the sun on this beautiful beach, and then had a nice long stroll along the waterfront back to the ship at the end of the day.
The cruise offers a $12 RT shuttle to the Livorno train station, which we took. From there, we purchased a ticket and took the train to Firenze Santa Maria Novella, which is the train station in Florence. Florence is much smaller than Rome (or so it seemed) so it was very easy to navigate. We walked around and saw the Duomo, and all the other famous churches. We got a cappuccino and some pastries at Scudieri, located right across from the Duomo. We stopped and got lunch at an INCREDIBLE sandwich shop near the Uffizi Gallery called All'Antico Vinaio, where the line is out the door for these amazing sandwiches that cost only 5 euro - they're HUGE and you can get it with any combination of meats/cheese/spreads that you'd like. I highly recommend. We took our sandwiches and sat along the riverfront, and then walked along the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Once we crossed, we walked along the riverfront on the other side and stopped for gelato at La Carraia, which Conde Nast rated among the best gelato in Italy! It was absolutely delicious. We didn't have time to wait in line for the Uffizi or see the statue of David so I recommend buying tickets in advance if you want to go to these museums.
We docked offshore and had to take tender boats to the shore. The Cannes Film Festival was going on which was so exciting! Once we arrived at the port, there was a tourist center with information and maps provided. I recommend going to the Marche Forville, which a is a huge open marketplace located just a few blocks away from the port - the maps will show you where it is. We picked up a few baguettes and some french cheeses, and then walked along La Croisette to check out the city and also the film festival booths that were set up. Once we had our fill we walked back towards the port and then walked past it to go to the Plage du Midi, a quieter beach located not too far away. We camped out on the beach and sunbathed and swam in the Mediterranean, while enjoying our goodies from the marketplace in a makeshift picnic. It was a lovely day! Getting back to the ship was a bit difficult however - there were EXTREMELY long lines since everyone was trying to get back on the tender boats at the same time. We must have waited an hour. In addition to this, there were strong winds that forced the ship to halt tender boats since they couldn't dock properly, so it was a bit of a mess. Thankfully, we had already made it back on the ship by the time this happened.