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We were looking for a European cruise in a tight time window that would not break the bank, with good itinerary and decent onboard amenities. We had cruised largely on Celebrity (most recently, though, on the Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia), with only prior NCL sailing on Pride of America in 2009. The Norwegian Epic did not disappoint, but we continue to prefer Celebrity. A few important points to highlight: --I agree that there is plenty of "nickel and diming" on NCL. All liquor bottles are confiscated when detected with the X-ray machines, to be returned the last evening of the cruise. Corkage fee applies. They even prohibit water bottles (because NCL hawks water bottles at an astronomical mark-up), and do not allow filling of portable bottles at the Garden Cafe (buffet) to take off-ship despite hot weather. See comment on tour excursions below. --Embarkation and disembarkation is a breeze. Approximately 75% Barcelona, 25% Rome. We arrived at the port at 10:40AM, pertinent documents scanned at 10:45AM (no line), and were in the first group to board at 11:20AM. We were given misinformation about when to book flights to return to USA---we were told that the ship arrives at 5AM in Barcelona, you can start leaving the ship at 7AM, so don't book any flights before 10AM. WRONG! We were assured that we would be able to walk off the ship (with luggage in our hands) starting at 5:30AM, and that was absolutely correct--we made arrangements to be met by a taxi at 7:20AM, we walked off at 7AM and the guy was already there, 16 minutes later we were at BCN Terminal 1, and through airport security by 8:40AM. I wish we had booked a nonstop in mid-morning instead of "settling" on connecting flights, ours first departing BCN at 12:45PM. --Booking ANY ship excursion is a costly mistake. We booked our own private excursions (party of three), spending approximately 40% less than if we had done the exact same excursion via the ship. Most cost-effective was our last day (Mallorca), where we decided to take a cab to the nearest public beach (21 Euro) and public bus back to the pier (9.3 Euro for 3), rather than spending 40+ Euro/person for the NCL excursion. Particularly galling was the 15 Euro/person charge to be transported via bus from the base of the ship to where taxis would otherwise pick you up, right at the center of town--those people waited in long queues while we walked the 0.3 mile or so for same, no line, through an air-conditioned terminal, at ZERO fee. --We did not do any "specialty restaurants" for extra fees. The food is 3-4*, and fine. Maybe we are jaded New Yorkers, but we did not feel that there was added value for food that was already included in the cruise price. The two "public" restaurants, Taste & Manhattan, have the exact same menus, with the latter requiring nicer clothing, and some musicians in the background (after 7PM). We enjoyed O'Sheehans (open 24 hours) for casual food, like some decent chicken wings, but service was really slow. I thought that O'Sheehan's was a pun (O'cean's, accent on first syllable) but the restaurant was actually named for a chef O'Sheehan (accent on the second syllable). When the main course disappointed on occasion, the Garden Café has same (and many extra items), definitely worth the trip--on the Saturday night, there was delicious Beef Wellington and medium-rare steaks on the grill menu in the buffet, much more appetizing than at Manhattan. Souffles looked better than they tasted, but desserts on the whole were better than on Celebrity. Taste restaurant for a civilized breakfast is recommended rather than dealing with the throngs in Garden Cafe 15-30 minutes before people could get off the ship at each port. Pizza not as good as on Princess. --Entertainment was also better on NCL Epic than Celebrity. The two main shows, Burn the Floor and Priscilla, were well done, not quite Broadway quality, but fine for a ship. The Barricade Boys were also excellent. The Director, Andre, was excellent, never annoying. --Do NOT book Internet/WiFi minutes; do the unlimited plan for a few dollars more per night. Only one device at a time in your room, as we would have utilized the "free" 250 minutes perk before we reached Naples. Internet is MUCH slower than the recent Celebrity "accelerate" upgrade. --Do NOT waste your time or money with the art auctions. Incredibly overpriced (as always), with complimentary champagne loosening your pocketbooks. The signed lithograph of one artist they were hawking was out of 2500 copies, meaning your artwork was worth pennies on the dollar. --DO exchange your foreign currency onboard. Much better rate onboard than off the ship. We had gotten plenty of Euros before leaving NY from AAA, at a similar rate, but at various change places off the ship or in the airport, much worse value. --With a full ship (4100 customers, 1700 crew), NCL did a fine job with crowd control. The ship never felt like a zoo, but the ship was just too large for our taste.

Western Mediterranean pointers

Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by stevenpgol

7 people found this helpful
Trip Details
We were looking for a European cruise in a tight time window that would not break the bank, with good itinerary and decent onboard amenities. We had cruised largely on Celebrity (most recently, though, on the Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia), with only prior NCL sailing on Pride of America in 2009. The Norwegian Epic did not disappoint, but we continue to prefer Celebrity.

A few important points to highlight:

--I agree that there is plenty of "nickel and diming" on NCL. All liquor bottles are confiscated when detected with the X-ray machines, to be returned the last evening of the cruise. Corkage fee applies. They even prohibit water bottles (because NCL hawks water bottles at an astronomical mark-up), and do not allow filling of portable bottles at the Garden Cafe (buffet) to take off-ship despite hot weather. See comment on tour excursions below.

--Embarkation and disembarkation is a breeze. Approximately 75% Barcelona, 25% Rome. We arrived at the port at 10:40AM, pertinent documents scanned at 10:45AM (no line), and were in the first group to board at 11:20AM. We were given misinformation about when to book flights to return to USA---we were told that the ship arrives at 5AM in Barcelona, you can start leaving the ship at 7AM, so don't book any flights before 10AM. WRONG! We were assured that we would be able to walk off the ship (with luggage in our hands) starting at 5:30AM, and that was absolutely correct--we made arrangements to be met by a taxi at 7:20AM, we walked off at 7AM and the guy was already there, 16 minutes later we were at BCN Terminal 1, and through airport security by 8:40AM. I wish we had booked a nonstop in mid-morning instead of "settling" on connecting flights, ours first departing BCN at 12:45PM.

--Booking ANY ship excursion is a costly mistake. We booked our own private excursions (party of three), spending approximately 40% less than if we had done the exact same excursion via the ship. Most cost-effective was our last day (Mallorca), where we decided to take a cab to the nearest public beach (21 Euro) and public bus back to the pier (9.3 Euro for 3), rather than spending 40+ Euro/person for the NCL excursion. Particularly galling was the 15 Euro/person charge to be transported via bus from the base of the ship to where taxis would otherwise pick you up, right at the center of town--those people waited in long queues while we walked the 0.3 mile or so for same, no line, through an air-conditioned terminal, at ZERO fee.

--We did not do any "specialty restaurants" for extra fees. The food is 3-4*, and fine. Maybe we are jaded New Yorkers, but we did not feel that there was added value for food that was already included in the cruise price. The two "public" restaurants, Taste & Manhattan, have the exact same menus, with the latter requiring nicer clothing, and some musicians in the background (after 7PM). We enjoyed O'Sheehans (open 24 hours) for casual food, like some decent chicken wings, but service was really slow. I thought that O'Sheehan's was a pun (O'cean's, accent on first syllable) but the restaurant was actually named for a chef O'Sheehan (accent on the second syllable). When the main course disappointed on occasion, the Garden Café has same (and many extra items), definitely worth the trip--on the Saturday night, there was delicious Beef Wellington and medium-rare steaks on the grill menu in the buffet, much more appetizing than at Manhattan. Souffles looked better than they tasted, but desserts on the whole were better than on Celebrity. Taste restaurant for a civilized breakfast is recommended rather than dealing with the throngs in Garden Cafe 15-30 minutes before people could get off the ship at each port. Pizza not as good as on Princess.

--Entertainment was also better on NCL Epic than Celebrity. The two main shows, Burn the Floor and Priscilla, were well done, not quite Broadway quality, but fine for a ship. The Barricade Boys were also excellent. The Director, Andre, was excellent, never annoying.

--Do NOT book Internet/WiFi minutes; do the unlimited plan for a few dollars more per night. Only one device at a time in your room, as we would have utilized the "free" 250 minutes perk before we reached Naples. Internet is MUCH slower than the recent Celebrity "accelerate" upgrade.

--Do NOT waste your time or money with the art auctions. Incredibly overpriced (as always), with complimentary champagne loosening your pocketbooks. The signed lithograph of one artist they were hawking was out of 2500 copies, meaning your artwork was worth pennies on the dollar.

--DO exchange your foreign currency onboard. Much better rate onboard than off the ship. We had gotten plenty of Euros before leaving NY from AAA, at a similar rate, but at various change places off the ship or in the airport, much worse value.

--With a full ship (4100 customers, 1700 crew), NCL did a fine job with crowd control. The ship never felt like a zoo, but the ship was just too large for our taste.
stevenpgol’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin MA 12078
Weird set-up with separate bath/shower on one side, toilet on other side as one enters the cabin, then a curtain, with sink adjacent to the sofa. A little tight squeeze to get beyond sofa. More than ample storage space.
Deck 12 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews