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Being all-inclusive enthusiasts, we were not keen on cruising, but a too-good-to-be-true deal spotted on vacationtogo.com and confirmation of the fact that there are 2 ping pong tables sealed the deal (more about ping pong later). We paid the lowest possible balcony price, paid 0 extra (no Norwegian excursion, no fine dining option, no Unlimited Beverage Plan, no Internet package), but enjoyed all 6 port-of-calls on our own with minimal expense, walking 20000+ steps most days and gained only a combined total of 3 lbs for both of us. Long story short: This pair of first-time cruisers had a dream vacation and had maximum enjoyment at minimum cost. Read on if you want to benefit from my tips as I had benefited from some tips from other reviewers. Of course I am speaking to those who enjoy long walk and love exploring by themselves as opposed to following the flag-waving tour guide. --------------------------- Day 0 Barcelona, Spain: --------------------------- We stayed a night in Barcelona before sail date. Hotels in Barcelona are very, very expensive, upwards of €200 a night but we managed to find Sugar and Coffee Hostel with private bath for €65. Some hostelS like Sugar have room for much less with share bathroom, and much much less if share bed? Our room is one in a 4-room private apartment above a retail storefront. It was a little cramped, no TV, wifi works well by the room door, not so well by kitchen table area. Shower okay but no soap provided. No big deal nor any complaint from us for 1 night of good sleep. We had prepaid transfer from airport to Sugar through the Rideways.com for €38. But the greet and meet at arrival hall did not happen because Alfredo the driver was held up by Police checkpoint at the airport. We had to use cellphone from a nice airport agent to contact the Rideways office after waiting 30 minutes. Alfredo showed up after another 30 minutes. He spoke fluent English and helpful other than the fact that he wasted 1 hour of our time and caused my wife to panic a little. Note here that Barcelona Terminal 2 arrival hall has no public telephone, while airport wifi may be available, Rideways do not use whatsapp for communications. Almost immediately after unloaded our luggage in the room, we took taxi from hostel to Playa Catalunya (€7) where a Catalonian peaceful demonstration for independence was in full swing. We walked and explored the whole length of La Rambla and surrounding. Visited the shopping center at the waterfront 5 minutes from Columbus Statue which is the other end of La Rambla. Then at 8pm feeling a little jet lagged, took metro subway back to Sugar, a 5 minute walk from Hospital Clinic station. We bought a T-10 metro pass for 10 trips costing €10 which can be used by multiple riders. Turned out that we only used 6 trips, so we gave the T-10 to a young lucky couple after our last metro trip. --------------------------- Day 1 Barcelona, Spain: --------------------------- Checkout by 10am as required but left our luggage with Sugar. We took a short metro ride to Sagrada Familia, the iconic church architecture which has been in ongoing construction for the past many decades based on Gaudi's initial design. At 1:30pm took metro back to Sugar to call for taxi to take us to pier. That ride cost €16 on the meter, but somehow we had to pay €22 (perhaps surcharge of something or Sunday extra). The cruise checkin for 500+ people at 2pm was very surprisingly orderly, kudos to Norwegian Epic. Luggages were handed over to the Norwegian agents from curb side or taxi trunk. The entire checkin process took 20 or 30 minutes. At 2:30pm we laid down for a rest on a very clean, well-appointed balcony cabin on deck 13. The possibly partially blocked view balcony cabin as warned on my booking confirmation turned out to be totally unobstructed, what a bonus, considering that we had paid the lowest possible price for a balcony unit 3 weeks before sail date. The room was comfortable, compact yet spacious, 10ft x 22ft, long and narrow with balcony spacious enough for 2 chairs and a table. Ample storage space. Loved the 2-level shelf closet that houses the free in-room safe. Shower water pressure and hot water are adequate (though not the best). Separate toilet stall is nice. --------------------------- Day 2 At Sea: --------------------------- To be terse, all free meal options and night time entertainments exceeded our expectation by a long shot, comparing with all-inclusive 4+ star offerings in Cuba, Mexico and Dominican Republic. No need or reason to fuss over free meals and free entertainment. Loved the theatre shows/musicals/productions: the Beatles, Priscilla the Desert Queen and Burn the Floor. Very nice theater with the comfortable and spacious seats and we were able to get good seats for the those 3 free shows on a first come first serve basis. Loved other the night time entertainments as we strolled along the various decks after dinner. No wine, fine dining or $$show$$ for us and yet we cannot see how paying extra could have enhanced our already enjoyable experience. As for beverage, any order from the bar is extra even for a cranberry juice or soda. So we did without this little sugar-spiked indulgence the entire 7-day which is a good thing. We learned later that the tap water is fit to drink, which would save us the US$14 for 6 1-liter water bottles. The orange juice from Taste or Manhattan breakfast is the best orange juice you can have, tasted like freshly squeezed juice with pulps and real flavour. If you are not hurried for time in the morning, do breakfast in Taste and Manhattan where you are served with extra thermos pot of coffee on the table. There are numerous activities for the young. Massive water slide, video arcade, mini swim pool, etc. But the 2 mini swim pools, 20 feet in length are not swimmable, so the pool decks are really good for sunbathing. There is a hidden away card room with 8 card tables and a supply of board games and mah-jong sets. Library with mostly fictions has nice sofas good for hours of quiet reading. There is a jogging track along one side of the ship that we did one day (2 circuits equals 1 km). For us, sea day was planned for a serious ping pong, for ping pong enthusiasts like us. But while the 2 ping pong tables by the wind-tunnel area are in good conditions, the windy conditions make them almost unplayable (even when the ship is not moving on other days). We only played for 10 minutes and gave up, so did others we witnessed on other occasions. We were very disappointed by this, having been told how lovely the 6-table ping pong room was in Royal Caribbean's Allure of The Sea (silly of us to think Epic would have equivalent or better facility). We would not have come to this cruise had we know of this unplayable ping pong conditions as it was one of my 2 criteria for trying a cruise as opposed to going for all-inclusive. It is like if you are into yoga and the yoga room is noisy and musty. Yes, you can do yoga there, but do you want to? Enough of my rant on ping pong. Back to regular programming.. --------------------------- Day 3 Naples, Italy: --------------------------- Leisurely had our breakfast in Taste before disembarkation at 10am to explore Naples by foot. With a map from the Tourist Info, we navigate our way to Piazza Plebiscito where the Royal Palace is. But the most impressive building in Naples is the un-heralded church of no name. I think it is San Francisco Church or something, the stone engraving has .. FRANCISCO DE PAVLA FERDINANDUS .. You got to take a panoramic photo of this impressive church, yet it is seldom mentioned anywhere, not even on the tourist map. We stumbled upon via Chiaia, a narrow pedestrian street lined with small shops, boutiques, gelateria, pizzeria. Had gelato on the sidewalk table and enjoyed the perfect 20°C Mediterranean weather. Bought a €30 Made-in-Italy down jacket marked down 70% from Diagonale boutique, this to my wife was the highlight of Naples. Galleria Umberto is a nice indoor plaza with high glass ceiling that make it seems like outdoor. MacDonald there has free wifi. --------------------------- Day 4 Civitavecchia/Rome, Italy: --------------------------- By far, this is our best moment. We had prepaid the €19 bus-transfer to Rome by SmartCruiseTours.com for 9:30am pickup at port. So no need for wakeup call and had ample time for breakfast then disembarked, took the free Epic bus shuttle to port building at 9am. Outside the port building, the SmartCruiseTours people has staged an area advertising the bus transfer for the same fare (so no need to prebook if you don't want to). Arrived at Rome parking area shortly after 11am, 5 minutes walk from Vatican City. We were given a city map and told to meet at 4:30pm for trip back. Walked to Vatican along the Tiber river. Rome Marathon was taking place in the Vatican square area which congested the area more than normal. We dared not lineup for any ticket or inside tour as the line was long. Unable to see the inside of Sistine Chapel as it required ticket and lineup. Perhaps next time in Rome, not as port of call visitor. The nearest metro station from Vatican is Ottaviano, a few minutes walk away. Took metro (€1.50) to Spagna (Spanish Step) to begin our 20000+ steps of doing Rome in 5 hours. From Spanish Steps we walked about 10 minutes to Trevi Fountain. The navigation was complicated by the fact that in Rome as in Barcelona, street signs are not easily seen as they are on the side of a building only some of the times. So trying to determine what street you are on is a challenge. You can always try to follow the crowd if lost. Trevi Fountain is a mess, not at all impressive and much too small to accommodate 500 people trying to throw a coin in the fountain in an area meant for less than 100 people. You will be squeezed and elbowed away when trying to get in or get out of the way. All we got was a not-so-nice photo of a non-functioning fountain and hurried out of the madness. From Trevi Fountain to Pantheon is quite a long walk through a few non-parallel streets with hidden street names. On the way we stumbled upon a faked Pantheon which could be mistaken for the real one because it had real weathered columns that seems like 2000 year-old. Since it has no name or inscription and few tourists gathering, we proceeded onwards along the map route and found the real Pantheon 10 minutes later. We could have a better time if we had the foresight of downloading google map of Rome for offline use and navigate using GPS and google map direction. Well, now I know. About 2:30pm, we walked to Piazza Navona to marvel at the big square with an impressive sculpture. The longest walk from Navona to Colosseum was about to begin when I sensed that my wife was a little jet lagged. I asked a nearby waiting taxi how much to go to Colosseum, he did not answer and waved to me to get inside the taxi. After asking 2 more times, in his exasperation, he said €15. I became suspicious and decided to walk, after wife reassured me she would be okay. The long trek should take 30 minutes or so according to person at Tourist Info in P. Navona, but we did it less time with a pleasantly surprised stop at Alice Pizza along the way where we had a really good square pizza sold by 100g and the place is a standing room only establishment. Bonus was that it has a washroom and free wifi. At intersection of via Vittorio and Imperiali, we saw Altar of the Fatherland, the wedding cake monument. It deserved a tourist snapshot. From here the Colosseum was in sight, albeit some 1 or 2km away. Colosseum and Forum can easily consume a few hours of exploration, but not for this pair of port-of-call cruisers with a 4:30pm pickup time. At 3:30pm, my wife was getting nervous feeling that I might not know the way back. But I knew there was a metro stop near Colosseum (the metro map shows Collosseo). After being assured that Colosseum and Collosseo are one and the same, the metro ride back to Ottaviano station was only 5 minute requiring a transfer from blue line to green line at Termini station. Back at meeting place at 4:00pm, we had time to browse and linger around the bridge over Tiber river. Rome-in-a-day final tally: 20000 steps, 12 km, 4.5 hours. 12 km may sound intimidating, but we never felt it, never felt tired, perhaps we were really excited about the unscripted Rome exploration. --------------------------- Day 5 Livorno/Florence/Pisa, Italy: --------------------------- We walked out from the ship into the port building at 10am after breakfast. In the small port building, a few tour operators were soliciting and answering questions. One van driver wanted 2 more persons to fill up the 8-person van for round trip to Florence and Pisa for €50 each. After weighing our options we agreed and made the 6 waiting people very happy. My guess is that it would be easier to round up 8 people to share van before 9am when the majority of 4000+ passengers were disembarking. Van arrived 11:30am in Piazza Giovanni which is the tourist hotspot where 3 iconic church buildings are clustered. We were given a map and told to meet at 2:30pm for trip back to Pisa. We wanted to see Statue of David which is not shown on the map. Told by a fridge magnet vendor to head towards Accademia, which we learned later is in fact the Art Gallery which housed the real Statue of David. Somehow we managed to walk way past the building as it is not well marked and lost our way for a good 15 minutes. Eventually, after finding Accademia, we decided to skip the line and the price in favour of exploring the surrounding shops and streets around the 3 iconic church buildings. After a nice coffee break to rest our feet with a good serving of gelato, cake and cappuccino, we were lucky to stumble upon Piazza Signoria. Oh boy, was it ever a real find. It is a square which no tourist should miss, in my humble opinion. This plaza has many gorgeous sculptures in open air including the replica of Statue of David which to our eyes is good enough (hence no longer wish to see the real one). Our mission was accomplished. All 8 of us were ready for the van driver at 2:15pm. We arrived at Pisa around 3:30pm and told we have 50 minutes to look around. The Pisa plaza is very spacious and pleasing to linger and wonder. The Tower of Pisa looks brand new with white-washed marble. Did not have time to pay and line up to climb to the top. We left Pisa at 4:30pm and arrived at pier around 5:15pm. A drama unfolded when the driver cannot accept credit card and I did not have the cash. So he drove us to an ATM a short distance away and luckily the ATM worked with my bank card as well as MasterCard. Balcony stateroom is a joy to experience the docking, sailing and going-ons. On this day, an unlucky group committed the unspeakable sin of missing-the-boat, all played out before our eyes. Around 7pm the scheduled sail time, there was an announcement for some passenger names to report to the Service Counter. Shortly after, from our balcony on deck 13, we saw luggage being loaded onto a solitary taxi on the now deserted concrete pier, gangplank had been raised and now lowered. We speculated among ourselves on what could have happened, perhaps missing an earlier train from Florence or Pisa or some unfortunate incidence. At 7:30pm, Epic was pulling away from the concrete pier very slowly inch by inch. At 7:40pm, a taxi sped through the port area and screeched to a halt at the loading pier beside Epic which was now about 4 or 5 feet in the water away from the pier. Four frantic passengers jumped out and waving furiously in the air. What could they do and what will they do? This is the worst port to missing the boat as the next port of call is Cannes in France. --------------------------- Day 6 Cannes, France: --------------------------- We were told to make reservations for tender boats to shore the night before. I booked tender #13 thinking it should be of later time but all this proved unnecessary as the tendering seem to be just first come first serve at 10am. There were perhaps 4 tenders plying between the shore and the ship and each tender has 150 capacity. The wait was about 10 minutes with 15 minutes of travel time. I imagined things would be more hectic between 7am and 9am. Once on shore, we hopped onto a €10 tram for a 20 minute spin around Cannes' waterfront and shopping district. The headphone guide alerted us to each seaside famous hotel like the Carlton. Each famous hotel prompted a recount of some Hollywood legend and movie. After that we explored the beach, open market area and the low-end shops (not the high-end design label shopping area). The small open market was rather boring to us. We stopped by a MacDonald for coffee, washroom break and wifi connection to touch base with family back home. Then on Cannes sandy beach which is nice but not really remarkable, I just laid down on the pool towel that I brought along and enjoyed a 30 minutes of perfect weather in the sun. If the water had been warmer, I would have swam and boasted that I swam in Mediterranean Sea. --------------------------- Day 7 Palma de Mallorca, Spain: --------------------------- We walked off the ship around 10am to the port area as there was no port building to speak of. This had been very relaxing, stress free and leisurely vacation days, no hurry to catch early morning booked excursion as we never had one. This gave us ample time to enjoy our breakfast in either Taste or Manhattan restaurant, savouring free pot of coffee and a plate a fresh fruit to round up our breakfast. We declined the $15 Norwegian shuttle bus to Palma city center because I knew from other reviews €1.50 on #1 airport bus will take us there. Got a map from a nearby bike rental kiosk which proved to be useful. In retrospect, renting a bike in Palma is definitely the best way to explore Palma, something I did not learn from others. The bus was there for us and we noticed that the bus driver had banks of coins and bills to make change. Many fellow cruisers got off the bus at the first or second stops in the city center which I think was a mistake since the city center was not interesting on a Sunday morning. Perhaps they did not learn as I did that the stop to get off is some 5 or 6 stops away at Joan Maragall, which is the stop by waterfront after looping through the city center. There were just a few passengers to get off on this stop. Just 50 meters away to the left is a very beautiful beach, way better than Cannes beach. Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll along this beach. Best spot to take the most memorable vacation picture on this beach with wide walking promenade and bicycle lanes. On this 22°C midday, sunbathers were scattered around the wide and clean sandy beach where swim top is optional, as we discovered later upon magnifying our gorgeous photo and examined the faraway background scenery. The beach must have been more than 1km long, forming a bend around the Mediterranean Sea providing a beautiful vista for aspiring photographer. We debated whether to take the bus or walk back to the ship. On this day, ideal temperature and soft sun and with Norwegian Epic visible in the distance, we opted to walk. We guessed the distance may be 2 or 3km and probably 30 minutes. It turned out to be 1.5 hours and may have been 8 km because the waterfront promenade arcs around our line of sight to the ship. No regret here, as we enjoyed the brisk walk and cherished the picturesque setting of sea, mountain, marina, expensive yachts and cruise ships in the distance, all bathed in soft sun. It was such a great pleasure to walk this vast expanse of waterfront promenade lined with ample long benches. We were lucky to encounter a couple of fridge magnet vendors along the way as there was no other place to buy souvenirs this Sunday. We were so envious of many cyclists on rental bike going past along the bicycle path. We would have liked that and it would have been perfect from port to the beach which we now know is some 8 or 10 km away. I think many fellow cruisers missed seeing this beach. Those who got off from city bus in the city center would have a hard time finding their way there. Mid way back to the ship from the beach, we saw the Norwegian shuttle bus parked along the road. If that is the drop-off point for the port-to-city-center transfer, then most likely the passengers might miss the beach which is 5 km away and perhaps not visible from that vintage point. After this unplanned long walk (21000 steps), we were relieved to finally arrive at the mighty Norwegian Epic at 2:30pm. Just in time for buffet lunch which close at 3pm. --------------------------- Day 8 Barcelona, Spain: --------------------------- Epic docked at 5am. The disembarkation day was handled very well and showed the experience and professionalism of Norwegian Cruise Line. All passengers where asked to put their luggage outside the door before midnight with color tags of preferred disembarkation time. These luggages would appear in some 10 or 15 carousels in the NCL port building next morning for pickup. Otherwise those chose to handle their own luggage can disembark any time of their choosing as they would lugged the luggage along ramps, escalations and long walk. We opted for US$30 airport transfer by NCL and told to disembark 8:15am for our 12:40pm flight time. Things went smoothly considering there were 4000+ luggages to be sorted out for 4000+ passengers eagerly and frantically wanting to make their flight times.

Maximum value for first-time cruiser

Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by Ramliw

17 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Being all-inclusive enthusiasts, we were not keen on cruising, but a too-good-to-be-true deal spotted on vacationtogo.com and confirmation of the fact that there are 2 ping pong tables sealed the deal (more about ping pong later). We paid the lowest possible balcony price, paid 0 extra (no Norwegian excursion, no fine dining option, no Unlimited Beverage Plan, no Internet package), but enjoyed all 6 port-of-calls on our own with minimal expense, walking 20000+ steps most days and gained only a combined total of 3 lbs for both of us.

Long story short: This pair of first-time cruisers had a dream vacation and had maximum enjoyment at minimum cost. Read on if you want to benefit from my tips as I had benefited from some tips from other reviewers. Of course I am speaking to those who enjoy long walk and love exploring by themselves as opposed to following the flag-waving tour guide.

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Day 0 Barcelona, Spain:

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We stayed a night in Barcelona before sail date. Hotels in Barcelona are very, very expensive, upwards of €200 a night but we managed to find Sugar and Coffee Hostel with private bath for €65. Some hostelS like Sugar have room for much less with share bathroom, and much much less if share bed? Our room is one in a 4-room private apartment above a retail storefront. It was a little cramped, no TV, wifi works well by the room door, not so well by kitchen table area. Shower okay but no soap provided. No big deal nor any complaint from us for 1 night of good sleep.

We had prepaid transfer from airport to Sugar through the Rideways.com for €38. But the greet and meet at arrival hall did not happen because Alfredo the driver was held up by Police checkpoint at the airport. We had to use cellphone from a nice airport agent to contact the Rideways office after waiting 30 minutes. Alfredo showed up after another 30 minutes. He spoke fluent English and helpful other than the fact that he wasted 1 hour of our time and caused my wife to panic a little. Note here that Barcelona Terminal 2 arrival hall has no public telephone, while airport wifi may be available, Rideways do not use whatsapp for communications.

Almost immediately after unloaded our luggage in the room, we took taxi from hostel to Playa Catalunya (€7) where a Catalonian peaceful demonstration for independence was in full swing. We walked and explored the whole length of La Rambla and surrounding. Visited the shopping center at the waterfront 5 minutes from Columbus Statue which is the other end of La Rambla. Then at 8pm feeling a little jet lagged, took metro subway back to Sugar, a 5 minute walk from Hospital Clinic station. We bought a T-10 metro pass for 10 trips costing €10 which can be used by multiple riders. Turned out that we only used 6 trips, so we gave the T-10 to a young lucky couple after our last metro trip.


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Day 1 Barcelona, Spain:

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Checkout by 10am as required but left our luggage with Sugar. We took a short metro ride to Sagrada Familia, the iconic church architecture which has been in ongoing construction for the past many decades based on Gaudi's initial design. At 1:30pm took metro back to Sugar to call for taxi to take us to pier. That ride cost €16 on the meter, but somehow we had to pay €22 (perhaps surcharge of something or Sunday extra).

The cruise checkin for 500+ people at 2pm was very surprisingly orderly, kudos to Norwegian Epic. Luggages were handed over to the Norwegian agents from curb side or taxi trunk. The entire checkin process took 20 or 30 minutes. At 2:30pm we laid down for a rest on a very clean, well-appointed balcony cabin on deck 13. The possibly partially blocked view balcony cabin as warned on my booking confirmation turned out to be totally unobstructed, what a bonus, considering that we had paid the lowest possible price for a balcony unit 3 weeks before sail date. The room was comfortable, compact yet spacious, 10ft x 22ft, long and narrow with balcony spacious enough for 2 chairs and a table. Ample storage space. Loved the 2-level shelf closet that houses the free in-room safe. Shower water pressure and hot water are adequate (though not the best). Separate toilet stall is nice.


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Day 2 At Sea:

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To be terse, all free meal options and night time entertainments exceeded our expectation by a long shot, comparing with all-inclusive 4+ star offerings in Cuba, Mexico and Dominican Republic. No need or reason to fuss over free meals and free entertainment. Loved the theatre shows/musicals/productions: the Beatles, Priscilla the Desert Queen and Burn the Floor. Very nice theater with the comfortable and spacious seats and we were able to get good seats for the those 3 free shows on a first come first serve basis. Loved other the night time entertainments as we strolled along the various decks after dinner. No wine, fine dining or $$show$$ for us and yet we cannot see how paying extra could have enhanced our already enjoyable experience.

As for beverage, any order from the bar is extra even for a cranberry juice or soda. So we did without this little sugar-spiked indulgence the entire 7-day which is a good thing. We learned later that the tap water is fit to drink, which would save us the US$14 for 6 1-liter water bottles. The orange juice from Taste or Manhattan breakfast is the best orange juice you can have, tasted like freshly squeezed juice with pulps and real flavour. If you are not hurried for time in the morning, do breakfast in Taste and Manhattan where you are served with extra thermos pot of coffee on the table.

There are numerous activities for the young. Massive water slide, video arcade, mini swim pool, etc. But the 2 mini swim pools, 20 feet in length are not swimmable, so the pool decks are really good for sunbathing. There is a hidden away card room with 8 card tables and a supply of board games and mah-jong sets. Library with mostly fictions has nice sofas good for hours of quiet reading. There is a jogging track along one side of the ship that we did one day (2 circuits equals 1 km). For us, sea day was planned for a serious ping pong, for ping pong enthusiasts like us. But while the 2 ping pong tables by the wind-tunnel area are in good conditions, the windy conditions make them almost unplayable (even when the ship is not moving on other days). We only played for 10 minutes and gave up, so did others we witnessed on other occasions. We were very disappointed by this, having been told how lovely the 6-table ping pong room was in Royal Caribbean's Allure of The Sea (silly of us to think Epic would have equivalent or better facility). We would not have come to this cruise had we know of this unplayable ping pong conditions as it was one of my 2 criteria for trying a cruise as opposed to going for all-inclusive. It is like if you are into yoga and the yoga room is noisy and musty. Yes, you can do yoga there, but do you want to? Enough of my rant on ping pong. Back to regular programming..

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Day 3 Naples, Italy:

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Leisurely had our breakfast in Taste before disembarkation at 10am to explore Naples by foot. With a map from the Tourist Info, we navigate our way to Piazza Plebiscito where the Royal Palace is. But the most impressive building in Naples is the un-heralded church of no name. I think it is San Francisco Church or something, the stone engraving has .. FRANCISCO DE PAVLA FERDINANDUS .. You got to take a panoramic photo of this impressive church, yet it is seldom mentioned anywhere, not even on the tourist map.

We stumbled upon via Chiaia, a narrow pedestrian street lined with small shops, boutiques, gelateria, pizzeria. Had gelato on the sidewalk table and enjoyed the perfect 20°C Mediterranean weather. Bought a €30 Made-in-Italy down jacket marked down 70% from Diagonale boutique, this to my wife was the highlight of Naples. Galleria Umberto is a nice indoor plaza with high glass ceiling that make it seems like outdoor. MacDonald there has free wifi.

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Day 4 Civitavecchia/Rome, Italy:

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By far, this is our best moment. We had prepaid the €19 bus-transfer to Rome by SmartCruiseTours.com for 9:30am pickup at port. So no need for wakeup call and had ample time for breakfast then disembarked, took the free Epic bus shuttle to port building at 9am. Outside the port building, the SmartCruiseTours people has staged an area advertising the bus transfer for the same fare (so no need to prebook if you don't want to).

Arrived at Rome parking area shortly after 11am, 5 minutes walk from Vatican City. We were given a city map and told to meet at 4:30pm for trip back.

Walked to Vatican along the Tiber river. Rome Marathon was taking place in the Vatican square area which congested the area more than normal. We dared not lineup for any ticket or inside tour as the line was long. Unable to see the inside of Sistine Chapel as it required ticket and lineup. Perhaps next time in Rome, not as port of call visitor.

The nearest metro station from Vatican is Ottaviano, a few minutes walk away. Took metro (€1.50) to Spagna (Spanish Step) to begin our 20000+ steps of doing Rome in 5 hours.

From Spanish Steps we walked about 10 minutes to Trevi Fountain. The navigation was complicated by the fact that in Rome as in Barcelona, street signs are not easily seen as they are on the side of a building only some of the times. So trying to determine what street you are on is a challenge. You can always try to follow the crowd if lost.

Trevi Fountain is a mess, not at all impressive and much too small to accommodate 500 people trying to throw a coin in the fountain in an area meant for less than 100 people. You will be squeezed and elbowed away when trying to get in or get out of the way. All we got was a not-so-nice photo of a non-functioning fountain and hurried out of the madness.

From Trevi Fountain to Pantheon is quite a long walk through a few non-parallel streets with hidden street names. On the way we stumbled upon a faked Pantheon which could be mistaken for the real one because it had real weathered columns that seems like 2000 year-old. Since it has no name or inscription and few tourists gathering, we proceeded onwards along the map route and found the real Pantheon 10 minutes later. We could have a better time if we had the foresight of downloading google map of Rome for offline use and navigate using GPS and google map direction. Well, now I know.

About 2:30pm, we walked to Piazza Navona to marvel at the big square with an impressive sculpture. The longest walk from Navona to Colosseum was about to begin when I sensed that my wife was a little jet lagged. I asked a nearby waiting taxi how much to go to Colosseum, he did not answer and waved to me to get inside the taxi. After asking 2 more times, in his exasperation, he said €15. I became suspicious and decided to walk, after wife reassured me she would be okay. The long trek should take 30 minutes or so according to person at Tourist Info in P. Navona, but we did it less time with a pleasantly surprised stop at Alice Pizza along the way where we had a really good square pizza sold by 100g and the place is a standing room only establishment. Bonus was that it has a washroom and free wifi.

At intersection of via Vittorio and Imperiali, we saw Altar of the Fatherland, the wedding cake monument. It deserved a tourist snapshot. From here the Colosseum was in sight, albeit some 1 or 2km away. Colosseum and Forum can easily consume a few hours of exploration, but not for this pair of port-of-call cruisers with a 4:30pm pickup time.

At 3:30pm, my wife was getting nervous feeling that I might not know the way back. But I knew there was a metro stop near Colosseum (the metro map shows Collosseo). After being assured that Colosseum and Collosseo are one and the same, the metro ride back to Ottaviano station was only 5 minute requiring a transfer from blue line to green line at Termini station.

Back at meeting place at 4:00pm, we had time to browse and linger around the bridge over Tiber river. Rome-in-a-day final tally: 20000 steps, 12 km, 4.5 hours. 12 km may sound intimidating, but we never felt it, never felt tired, perhaps we were really excited about the unscripted Rome exploration.


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Day 5 Livorno/Florence/Pisa, Italy:

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We walked out from the ship into the port building at 10am after breakfast. In the small port building, a few tour operators were soliciting and answering questions. One van driver wanted 2 more persons to fill up the 8-person van for round trip to Florence and Pisa for €50 each. After weighing our options we agreed and made the 6 waiting people very happy. My guess is that it would be easier to round up 8 people to share van before 9am when the majority of 4000+ passengers were disembarking.

Van arrived 11:30am in Piazza Giovanni which is the tourist hotspot where 3 iconic church buildings are clustered. We were given a map and told to meet at 2:30pm for trip back to Pisa.

We wanted to see Statue of David which is not shown on the map. Told by a fridge magnet vendor to head towards Accademia, which we learned later is in fact the Art Gallery which housed the real Statue of David. Somehow we managed to walk way past the building as it is not well marked and lost our way for a good 15 minutes. Eventually, after finding Accademia, we decided to skip the line and the price in favour of exploring the surrounding shops and streets around the 3 iconic church buildings.

After a nice coffee break to rest our feet with a good serving of gelato, cake and cappuccino, we were lucky to stumble upon Piazza Signoria. Oh boy, was it ever a real find. It is a square which no tourist should miss, in my humble opinion. This plaza has many gorgeous sculptures in open air including the replica of Statue of David which to our eyes is good enough (hence no longer wish to see the real one). Our mission was accomplished.

All 8 of us were ready for the van driver at 2:15pm. We arrived at Pisa around 3:30pm and told we have 50 minutes to look around. The Pisa plaza is very spacious and pleasing to linger and wonder. The Tower of Pisa looks brand new with white-washed marble. Did not have time to pay and line up to climb to the top. We left Pisa at 4:30pm and arrived at pier around 5:15pm. A drama unfolded when the driver cannot accept credit card and I did not have the cash. So he drove us to an ATM a short distance away and luckily the ATM worked with my bank card as well as MasterCard.

Balcony stateroom is a joy to experience the docking, sailing and going-ons. On this day, an unlucky group committed the unspeakable sin of missing-the-boat, all played out before our eyes. Around 7pm the scheduled sail time, there was an announcement for some passenger names to report to the Service Counter. Shortly after, from our balcony on deck 13, we saw luggage being loaded onto a solitary taxi on the now deserted concrete pier, gangplank had been raised and now lowered. We speculated among ourselves on what could have happened, perhaps missing an earlier train from Florence or Pisa or some unfortunate incidence. At 7:30pm, Epic was pulling away from the concrete pier very slowly inch by inch. At 7:40pm, a taxi sped through the port area and screeched to a halt at the loading pier beside Epic which was now about 4 or 5 feet in the water away from the pier. Four frantic passengers jumped out and waving furiously in the air. What could they do and what will they do? This is the worst port to missing the boat as the next port of call is Cannes in France.

---------------------------

Day 6 Cannes, France:

---------------------------

We were told to make reservations for tender boats to shore the night before. I booked tender #13 thinking it should be of later time but all this proved unnecessary as the tendering seem to be just first come first serve at 10am. There were perhaps 4 tenders plying between the shore and the ship and each tender has 150 capacity. The wait was about 10 minutes with 15 minutes of travel time. I imagined things would be more hectic between 7am and 9am.

Once on shore, we hopped onto a €10 tram for a 20 minute spin around Cannes' waterfront and shopping district. The headphone guide alerted us to each seaside famous hotel like the Carlton. Each famous hotel prompted a recount of some Hollywood legend and movie. After that we explored the beach, open market area and the low-end shops (not the high-end design label shopping area). The small open market was rather boring to us. We stopped by a MacDonald for coffee, washroom break and wifi connection to touch base with family back home. Then on Cannes sandy beach which is nice but not really remarkable, I just laid down on the pool towel that I brought along and enjoyed a 30 minutes of perfect weather in the sun. If the water had been warmer, I would have swam and boasted that I swam in Mediterranean Sea.


---------------------------

Day 7 Palma de Mallorca, Spain:

---------------------------

We walked off the ship around 10am to the port area as there was no port building to speak of. This had been very relaxing, stress free and leisurely vacation days, no hurry to catch early morning booked excursion as we never had one. This gave us ample time to enjoy our breakfast in either Taste or Manhattan restaurant, savouring free pot of coffee and a plate a fresh fruit to round up our breakfast.

We declined the $15 Norwegian shuttle bus to Palma city center because I knew from other reviews €1.50 on #1 airport bus will take us there. Got a map from a nearby bike rental kiosk which proved to be useful. In retrospect, renting a bike in Palma is definitely the best way to explore Palma, something I did not learn from others.

The bus was there for us and we noticed that the bus driver had banks of coins and bills to make change. Many fellow cruisers got off the bus at the first or second stops in the city center which I think was a mistake since the city center was not interesting on a Sunday morning. Perhaps they did not learn as I did that the stop to get off is some 5 or 6 stops away at Joan Maragall, which is the stop by waterfront after looping through the city center. There were just a few passengers to get off on this stop. Just 50 meters away to the left is a very beautiful beach, way better than Cannes beach. Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll along this beach. Best spot to take the most memorable vacation picture on this beach with wide walking promenade and bicycle lanes. On this 22°C midday, sunbathers were scattered around the wide and clean sandy beach where swim top is optional, as we discovered later upon magnifying our gorgeous photo and examined the faraway background scenery.

The beach must have been more than 1km long, forming a bend around the Mediterranean Sea providing a beautiful vista for aspiring photographer. We debated whether to take the bus or walk back to the ship. On this day, ideal temperature and soft sun and with Norwegian Epic visible in the distance, we opted to walk. We guessed the distance may be 2 or 3km and probably 30 minutes. It turned out to be 1.5 hours and may have been 8 km because the waterfront promenade arcs around our line of sight to the ship. No regret here, as we enjoyed the brisk walk and cherished the picturesque setting of sea, mountain, marina, expensive yachts and cruise ships in the distance, all bathed in soft sun. It was such a great pleasure to walk this vast expanse of waterfront promenade lined with ample long benches. We were lucky to encounter a couple of fridge magnet vendors along the way as there was no other place to buy souvenirs this Sunday.

We were so envious of many cyclists on rental bike going past along the bicycle path. We would have liked that and it would have been perfect from port to the beach which we now know is some 8 or 10 km away. I think many fellow cruisers missed seeing this beach. Those who got off from city bus in the city center would have a hard time finding their way there. Mid way back to the ship from the beach, we saw the Norwegian shuttle bus parked along the road. If that is the drop-off point for the port-to-city-center transfer, then most likely the passengers might miss the beach which is 5 km away and perhaps not visible from that vintage point.

After this unplanned long walk (21000 steps), we were relieved to finally arrive at the mighty Norwegian Epic at 2:30pm. Just in time for buffet lunch which close at 3pm.


---------------------------

Day 8 Barcelona, Spain:

---------------------------

Epic docked at 5am. The disembarkation day was handled very well and showed the experience and professionalism of Norwegian Cruise Line. All passengers where asked to put their luggage outside the door before midnight with color tags of preferred disembarkation time. These luggages would appear in some 10 or 15 carousels in the NCL port building next morning for pickup. Otherwise those chose to handle their own luggage can disembark any time of their choosing as they would lugged the luggage along ramps, escalations and long walk. We opted for US$30 airport transfer by NCL and told to disembark 8:15am for our 12:40pm flight time. Things went smoothly considering there were 4000+ luggages to be sorted out for 4000+ passengers eagerly and frantically wanting to make their flight times.
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Cabin Review

Family Balcony
Cabin B2 13194
A little narrow but comfortable. Temperature control was perfect. Nice TV, hot shower, ice bucket fill-up everyday, excellent coffee maker, lots of storage space.

Balcony was a big bonus, to be able to watch the docking and sailing from Deck 13.
Deck 14 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Cannes
    We were told to make reservations for tender boats to shore the night before. I booked tender #13 thinking it should be of later time but all this proved unnecessary as the tendering seem to be just first come first serve at 10am. There were perhaps 4 tenders plying between the shore and the ship and each tender has 150 capacity. The wait was about 10 minutes with 15 minutes of travel time. I imagined things would be more hectic between 7am and 9am.
    Once on shore, we hopped onto a €10 tram for a 20 minute spin around Cannes' waterfront and shopping district. The headphone guide alerted us to each seaside famous hotel like the Carlton. Each famous hotel prompted a recount of some Hollywood legend and movie. After that we explored the beach, open market area and the low-end shops (not the high-end design label shopping area). The small open market was rather boring to us. We stopped by a MacDonald for coffee, washroom break and wifi connection to touch base with family back home. Then on Cannes sandy beach which is nice but not really remarkable, I just laid down on the pool towel that I brought along and enjoyed a 30 minutes of perfect weather in the sun. If the water had been warmer, I would have swam and boasted that I swam in Mediterranean Sea.
    View All 485 Cannes Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Cannes Cruise Port Review
  • Florence & Pisa Tour
    We walked out from the ship into the port building at 10am after breakfast. In the small port building, a few tour operators were soliciting and answering questions. One van driver wanted 2 more persons to fill up the 8-person van for round trip to Florence and Pisa for €50 each. After weighing our options we agreed and made the 6 waiting people very happy. My guess is that it would be easier to round up 8 people to share van before 9am when the majority of 4000+ passengers were disembarking.
    Van arrived 11:30am in Piazza Giovanni which is the tourist hotspot where 3 iconic church buildings are clustered. We were given a map and told to meet at 2:30pm for trip back to Pisa.
    We wanted to see Statue of David which is not shown on the map. Told by a fridge magnet vendor to head towards Accademia, which we learned later is in fact the Art Gallery which housed the real Statue of David. Somehow we managed to walk way past the building as it is not well marked and lost our way for a good 15 minutes. Eventually, after finding Accademia, we decided to skip the line and the price in favour of exploring the surrounding shops and streets around the 3 iconic church buildings.
    After a nice coffee break to rest our feet with a good serving of gelato, cake and cappuccino, we were lucky to stumble upon Piazza Signoria. Oh boy, was it ever a real find. It is a square which no tourist should miss, in my humble opinion. This plaza has many gorgeous sculptures in open air including the replica of Statue of David which to our eyes is good enough (hence no longer wish to see the real one). Our mission was accomplished.
    All 8 of us were ready for the van driver at 2:15pm. We arrived at Pisa around 3:30pm and told we have 50 minutes to look around. The Pisa plaza is very spacious and pleasing to linger and wonder. The Tower of Pisa looks brand new with white-washed marble. Did not have time to pay and line up to climb to the top. We left Pisa at 4:30pm and arrived at pier around 5:15pm. A drama unfolded when the driver cannot accept credit card and I did not have the cash. So he drove us to an ATM a short distance away and luckily the ATM worked with my bank card as well as MasterCard.
    Balcony stateroom is a joy to experience the docking, sailing and going-ons. On this day, an unlucky group committed the unspeakable sin of missing-the-boat, all played out before our eyes. Around 7pm the scheduled sail time, there was an announcement for some passenger names to report to the Service Counter. Shortly after, from our balcony on deck 13, we saw luggage being loaded onto a solitary taxi on the now deserted concrete pier, gangplank had been raised and now lowered. We speculated among ourselves on what could have happened, perhaps missing an earlier train from Florence or Pisa or some unfortunate incidence. At 7:30pm, Epic was pulling away from the concrete pier very slowly inch by inch. At 7:40pm, a taxi sped through the port area and screeched to a halt at the loading pier beside Epic which was now about 4 or 5 feet in the water away from the pier. Four frantic passengers jumped out and waving furiously in the air. What could they do and what will they do? This is the worst port to missing the boat as the next port of call is Cannes in France.
    View All 230 Florence & Pisa Tour Reviews
  • Naples
    Leisurely had our breakfast in Taste before disembarkation at 10am to explore Naples by foot. With a map from the Tourist Info, we navigate our way to Piazza Plebiscito where the Royal Palace is. But the most impressive building in Naples is the un-heralded church of no name. I think it is San Francisco Church or something, the stone engraving has .. FRANCISCO DE PAVLA FERDINANDUS .. You got to take a panoramic photo of this impressive church, yet it is seldom mentioned anywhere, not even on the tourist map.
    We stumbled upon via Chiaia, a narrow pedestrian street lined with small shops, boutiques, gelateria, pizzeria. Had gelato on the sidewalk table and enjoyed the perfect 20°C Mediterranean weather. Bought a €30 Made-in-Italy down jacket marked down 70% from Diagonale boutique, this to my wife was the highlight of Naples. Galleria Umberto is a nice indoor plaza with high glass ceiling that make it seems like outdoor. MacDonald there has free wifi.
    View All 1,384 Naples Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Naples Cruise Port Review
  • Palma de Mallorca (Majorca)
    We walked off the ship around 10am to the port area as there was no port building to speak of. This had been very relaxing, stress free and leisurely vacation days, no hurry to catch early morning booked excursion as we never had one. This gave us ample time to enjoy our breakfast in either Taste or Manhattan restaurant, savouring free pot of coffee and a plate a fresh fruit to round up our breakfast.
    We declined the $15 Norwegian shuttle bus to Palma city center because I knew from other reviews €1.50 on #1 airport bus will take us there. Got a map from a nearby bike rental kiosk which proved to be useful. In retrospect, renting a bike in Palma is definitely the best way to explore Palma, something I did not learn from others.
    The bus was there for us and we noticed that the bus driver had banks of coins and bills to make change. Many fellow cruisers got off the bus at the first or second stops in the city center which I think was a mistake since the city center was not interesting on a Sunday morning. Perhaps they did not learn as I did that the stop to get off is some 5 or 6 stops away at Joan Maragall, which is the stop by waterfront after looping through the city center. There were just a few passengers to get off on this stop. Just 50 meters away to the left is a very beautiful beach, way better than Cannes beach. Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll along this beach. Best spot to take the most memorable vacation picture on this beach with wide walking promenade and bicycle lanes. On this 22°C midday, sunbathers were scattered around the wide and clean sandy beach where swim top is optional, as we discovered later upon magnifying our gorgeous photo and examined the faraway background scenery.
    The beach must have been more than 1km long, forming a bend around the Mediterranean Sea providing a beautiful vista for aspiring photographer. We debated whether to take the bus or walk back to the ship. On this day, ideal temperature and soft sun and with Norwegian Epic visible in the distance, we opted to walk. We guessed the distance may be 2 or 3km and probably 30 minutes. It turned out to be 1.5 hours and may have been 8 km because the waterfront promenade arcs around our line of sight to the ship. No regret here, as we enjoyed the brisk walk and cherished the picturesque setting of sea, mountain, marina, expensive yachts and cruise ships in the distance, all bathed in soft sun. It was such a great pleasure to walk this vast expanse of waterfront promenade lined with ample long benches. We were lucky to encounter a couple of fridge magnet vendors along the way as there was no other place to buy souvenirs this Sunday.
    We were so envious of many cyclists on rental bike going past along the bicycle path. We would have liked that and it would have been perfect from port to the beach which we now know is some 8 or 10 km away. I think many fellow cruisers missed seeing this beach. Those who got off from city bus in the city center would have a hard time finding their way there. Mid way back to the ship from the beach, we saw the Norwegian shuttle bus parked along the road. If that is the drop-off point for the port-to-city-center transfer, then most likely the passengers might miss the beach which is 5 km away and perhaps not visible from that vintage point.
    After this unplanned long walk (21000 steps), we were relieved to finally arrive at the mighty Norwegian Epic at 2:30pm. Just in time for buffet lunch which close at 3pm.
    View All 813 Palma de Mallorca (Majorca) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Palma de Mallorca (Majorca) Cruise Port Review
  • Rome on Your Own
    By far, this is our best moment. We had prepaid the €19 bus-transfer to Rome by SmartCruiseTours.com for 9:30am pickup at port. So no need for wakeup call and had ample time for breakfast then disembarked, took the free Epic bus shuttle to port building at 9am. Outside the port building, the SmartCruiseTours people has staged an area advertising the bus transfer for the same fare (so no need to prebook if you don't want to).
    Arrived at Rome parking area shortly after 11am, 5 minutes walk from Vatican City. We were given a city map and told to meet at 4:30pm for trip back.
    Walked to Vatican along the Tiber river. Rome Marathon was taking place in the Vatican square area which congested the area more than normal. We dared not lineup for any ticket or inside tour as the line was long. Unable to see the inside of Sistine Chapel as it required ticket and lineup. Perhaps next time in Rome, not as port of call visitor.
    The nearest metro station from Vatican is Ottaviano, a few minutes walk away. Took metro (€1.50) to Spagna (Spanish Step) to begin our 20000+ steps of doing Rome in 5 hours.
    From Spanish Steps we walked about 10 minutes to Trevi Fountain. The navigation was complicated by the fact that in Rome as in Barcelona, street signs are not easily seen as they are on the side of a building only some of the times. So trying to determine what street you are on is a challenge. You can always try to follow the crowd if lost.
    Trevi Fountain is a mess, not at all impressive and much too small to accommodate 500 people trying to throw a coin in the fountain in an area meant for less than 100 people. You will be squeezed and elbowed away when trying to get in or get out of the way. All we got was a not-so-nice photo of a non-functioning fountain and hurried out of the madness.
    From Trevi Fountain to Pantheon is quite a long walk through a few non-parallel streets with hidden street names. On the way we stumbled upon a faked Pantheon which could be mistaken for the real one because it had real weathered columns that seems like 2000 year-old. Since it has no name or inscription and few tourists gathering, we proceeded onwards along the map route and found the real Pantheon 10 minutes later. We could have a better time if we had the foresight of downloading google map of Rome for offline use and navigate using GPS and google map direction. Well, now I know.
    About 2:30pm, we walked to Piazza Navona to marvel at the big square with an impressive sculpture. The longest walk from Navona to Colosseum was about to begin when I sensed that my wife was a little jet lagged. I asked a nearby waiting taxi how much to go to Colosseum, he did not answer and waved to me to get inside the taxi. After asking 2 more times, in his exasperation, he said €15. I became suspicious and decided to walk, after wife reassured me she would be okay. The long trek should take 30 minutes or so according to person at Tourist Info in P. Navona, but we did it less time with a pleasantly surprised stop at Alice Pizza along the way where we had a really good square pizza sold by 100g and the place is a standing room only establishment. Bonus was that it has a washroom and free wifi.
    At intersection of via Vittorio and Imperiali, we saw Altar of the Fatherland, the wedding cake monument. It deserved a tourist snapshot. From here the Colosseum was in sight, albeit some 1 or 2km away. Colosseum and Forum can easily consume a few hours of exploration, but not for this pair of port-of-call cruisers with a 4:30pm pickup time.
    At 3:30pm, my wife was getting nervous feeling that I might not know the way back. But I knew there was a metro stop near Colosseum (the metro map shows Collosseo). After being assured that Colosseum and Collosseo are one and the same, the metro ride back to Ottaviano station was only 5 minute requiring a transfer from blue line to green line at Termini station.
    Back at meeting place at 4:00pm, we had time to browse and linger around the bridge over Tiber river. Rome-in-a-day final tally: 20000 steps, 12 km, 4.5 hours. 12 km may sound intimidating, but we never felt it, never felt tired, perhaps we were really excited about the unscripted Rome exploration.
    View All 152 Rome on Your Own Reviews