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OVERALL Beautiful and historic destinations, ugly on the outside but nice on the inside ship, good people, great way to see the area for first-time visitors BACKGROUND This was the first trip to Europe for myself, my wife, and our teenage daughter. We've been on a number of cruises with Carnival and Princess, but this was our first Norwegian cruise. We arrived early in Barcelona and took some tours there before boarding the Epic, then flew home the day we returned to Barcelona. EPIC - ROOM We booked balcony cabin 8051 for our family of three. Room was in good condition and a bit larger than expected. The odd shower/toilet/sink arrangement worked fine for us, but it is not easy for someone to sleep in while someone is getting ready. In our room, the couch was close to the sink and the main bed was near the balcony; rooms with the opposite arrangement would feel much more cramped. No noise issues at all, and the view from the balcony was unobstructed. Lifeboats were immediately below, but they didn't block the view and provided entertainment as the seagulls visited looking for handouts. All of the indoor action on the ship is on decks 5-7, so the room on deck 8 was perfect to use the stairs and avoid the terrible wait time for the elevators. We gave up several times and took the stairs on up to deck 15 (sundeck and buffet). EPIC - DINING We bought a specialty dining package in hopes of enjoying some truly good meals on board, but were disappointed by the food in general. Maybe the Haven restaurant would be better, but over the course of the whole week, only one dining experience rose above OK. Taste Dining Room - nice, quiet, no complaints Buffet - good selection, serviceable quality, noisy atmosphere O'Sheehan's - 24 hour, enjoyed the blackened salmon Caesar salad Shanghai noodle bar - they try, but flavors and textures were disappointing for us since we know what real Asian food should taste like Cagney's Steakhouse (specialty*) - good, but not wow; had to send undercooked steak back Le Bistro (specialty*) - escargot was good, the fondue dessert was great, everything else meh Teppenyaki (specialty*) - the only really good meal on board, cooked fresh by an entertaining chef who was better than some teppenyaki chefs we’ve had back home *NOTE, with the dining package, you are limited to one appetizer, one salad, one main course, and one dessert -- maybe that makes sense for some people, but I'd rather have the freedom to order whatever I want on a cruise ship even if it’s 4 appetizers and no dinner or two dinners without additional charges EPIC - FACILITIES & MISC Maybe it's Norwegian, maybe just this ship, but they will nickel and dime you for everything on board much more than we’ve experienced on other cruises. We had the unlimited drinks package, but it didn't cover a latte - $4. Want to try out the Ice Bar? - That'll be $25 each. We did, and it was fun, but just be prepared for extra charges on food, entertainment, and anything else you might want to do. The elevators are inadequate for the size of the ship. You should expect to use the stairs often, and since they are at the far ends of the ship (fore and aft), plan to walk a good bit and work off those extra calories. We were pleased that we had a deck 8 room since most of the action was on decks 5-7. The spa was nice, we each had a very good massage. Didn't look into the exercise facilities, though. EPIC - ENTERTAINMENT The ship offers a good variety of entertainment with a likeable cruise director and staff. Be sure to order your drinks before the show starts and the bar closes. We caught the following: Cirque Dreams Epicurean (Premium Seating) – we sat in the balcony and I’m sure the view was the best there, although there was less interaction with the cast members before the show vs. the premium seats on the floor. Food was OK, but nothing special, the show was very good with talented performers and front row seats Burn the Floor – the absolute best show on board, outstanding performances with excellent dancing, live music, and a bit of humor; highly recommended, not at all stuffy or boring Priscilla Queen of the Desert – fun and just a bit raunchy, good performances Escape the Big Top – a puzzle based ‘escape room’ where none of the clues were hidden; not easy, but our group was able to complete it; an OK way to pass the time, but don’t skip other activities for this There were several other performers that we caught, but they are rotated through and may not be there when you travel – nice way to spend time before or after dinner. We didn’t get a chance to catch Howl at the Moon, but I’m sure that would have been excellent based on other reviews DESTINATIONS Barcelona, Spain – beautiful city, we stayed a few days before the departure and could have enjoyed more, see notes on tours completed below Naples, Italy – we didn’t make any plans, but took a cab to Pompeii and walked through on our own while the cab driver waited, then he dropped us off at a nice restaurant back in Naples within walking distance from the ship, 100 euros for the trip Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy – port is an hour from the city, so plan to spend a bit of time and money on transportation, see notes on tour below; we hired a shared private car from the ship to the Vatican for 85 euros, then booked with the same driver for the return from the Colosseum later that afternoon for about 120 euros (not shared) Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy – cab drivers wanted 400 euros for the day, so we rented a car from Avis and drove on our own to Lucca and Pisa (see tour notes below), company provided an easy to use GPS pre-programmed with likely destinations and the return spot, so navigation was easy, about 120 euros with gas Cannes, France – caught a shared cab with 4 others to take a tour to Monaco, lunch and shopping in Nice, and back to Cannes via some scenic roads; shared vehicle for up to 8 was about 500 euros; definitely recommend getting to Monaco Palma Majorca, Spain – we didn’t feel like leaving the ship on this last day, so we hit the spa for a massage instead Barcelona, Spain – I booked a car through GroundLink to make sure we got to the airport on time. Very smooth way to go, about $70 USD. TOURS We booked all of our tours through Viator rather than use the NCL offerings. It did require us to arrange our own transportation, though, so not sure if we really saved as much as it seemed. On the plus side, we did have a lot more flexibility and didn’t have to herd with all of the other cruisers, and we avoided a transportation strike in Rome that cancelled all of NCL’s tours that day. Be sure to wear good walking shoes even if you think you’re going to be in a bus all day since there seem to be cobblestone streets everywhere. Barcelona – Three Countries in One Day: France, Andorra, and Spain from Barcelona – great tour, a long 12-hour day but on a comfortable small bus with stops every two hours or so to interesting and picturesque places; highly recommended Barcelona – Early Access to Montserrat Monastery from Barcelona – another winner, definitely worth the early departure to avoid the crowds in this stunning area; probably the number one trip to plan if you had to choose; we got back early enough to see La Sagrada Familia that same afternoon Barcelona – Sagrada Familia Skip-the-Line Tickets and Guided Tour – the skip the line tickets were definitely worth it, the tour was interesting, but we would have enjoyed it just as much without the guide Rome – Rome in a Day – this is actually two half day tours, morning at the Vatican and afternoon at the Colosseum; due to transportation issues, we were late for the Vatican group tour, but we called the tour company and were provided our Vatican museum tickets to explore on our own with a non-guided group an hour later; on our own for lunch and a cab ride to the Colosseum, then we met the Colosseum group for the afternoon tour; skip the line tickets are highly recommended, but the guide was very slow and we ended up turning in our headsets to explore on our own before catching our ride back to the ship Pisa – Best of Pisa guided tour with Leaning Tower tickets – climbing to the top of the tower was one of the highlights of the whole week, definitely recommended; the guide was knowledgeable and adjusted the tour towards our preferences FINAL THOUGHTS Hope this review is helpful as you plan your trip. Take the extra time in Barcelona if you can; it’s a beautiful city to explore.

Norwegian Epic, Western Mediterranean Cruise from Barcelona

Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by DadsReview

7 people found this helpful
Trip Details
OVERALL

Beautiful and historic destinations, ugly on the outside but nice on the inside ship, good people, great way to see the area for first-time visitors

BACKGROUND

This was the first trip to Europe for myself, my wife, and our teenage daughter. We've been on a number of cruises with Carnival and Princess, but this was our first Norwegian cruise. We arrived early in Barcelona and took some tours there before boarding the Epic, then flew home the day we returned to Barcelona.

EPIC - ROOM

We booked balcony cabin 8051 for our family of three. Room was in good condition and a bit larger than expected. The odd shower/toilet/sink arrangement worked fine for us, but it is not easy for someone to sleep in while someone is getting ready. In our room, the couch was close to the sink and the main bed was near the balcony; rooms with the opposite arrangement would feel much more cramped. No noise issues at all, and the view from the balcony was unobstructed. Lifeboats were immediately below, but they didn't block the view and provided entertainment as the seagulls visited looking for handouts. All of the indoor action on the ship is on decks 5-7, so the room on deck 8 was perfect to use the stairs and avoid the terrible wait time for the elevators. We gave up several times and took the stairs on up to deck 15 (sundeck and buffet).

EPIC - DINING

We bought a specialty dining package in hopes of enjoying some truly good meals on board, but were disappointed by the food in general. Maybe the Haven restaurant would be better, but over the course of the whole week, only one dining experience rose above OK.

Taste Dining Room - nice, quiet, no complaints

Buffet - good selection, serviceable quality, noisy atmosphere

O'Sheehan's - 24 hour, enjoyed the blackened salmon Caesar salad

Shanghai noodle bar - they try, but flavors and textures were disappointing for us since we know what real Asian food should taste like

Cagney's Steakhouse (specialty*) - good, but not wow; had to send undercooked steak back

Le Bistro (specialty*) - escargot was good, the fondue dessert was great, everything else meh

Teppenyaki (specialty*) - the only really good meal on board, cooked fresh by an entertaining chef who was better than some teppenyaki chefs we’ve had back home

*NOTE, with the dining package, you are limited to one appetizer, one salad, one main course, and one dessert -- maybe that makes sense for some people, but I'd rather have the freedom to order whatever I want on a cruise ship even if it’s 4 appetizers and no dinner or two dinners without additional charges

EPIC - FACILITIES & MISC

Maybe it's Norwegian, maybe just this ship, but they will nickel and dime you for everything on board much more than we’ve experienced on other cruises. We had the unlimited drinks package, but it didn't cover a latte - $4. Want to try out the Ice Bar? - That'll be $25 each. We did, and it was fun, but just be prepared for extra charges on food, entertainment, and anything else you might want to do.

The elevators are inadequate for the size of the ship. You should expect to use the stairs often, and since they are at the far ends of the ship (fore and aft), plan to walk a good bit and work off those extra calories. We were pleased that we had a deck 8 room since most of the action was on decks 5-7.

The spa was nice, we each had a very good massage. Didn't look into the exercise facilities, though.

EPIC - ENTERTAINMENT

The ship offers a good variety of entertainment with a likeable cruise director and staff. Be sure to order your drinks before the show starts and the bar closes. We caught the following:

Cirque Dreams Epicurean (Premium Seating) – we sat in the balcony and I’m sure the view was the best there, although there was less interaction with the cast members before the show vs. the premium seats on the floor. Food was OK, but nothing special, the show was very good with talented performers and front row seats

Burn the Floor – the absolute best show on board, outstanding performances with excellent dancing, live music, and a bit of humor; highly recommended, not at all stuffy or boring

Priscilla Queen of the Desert – fun and just a bit raunchy, good performances

Escape the Big Top – a puzzle based ‘escape room’ where none of the clues were hidden; not easy, but our group was able to complete it; an OK way to pass the time, but don’t skip other activities for this

There were several other performers that we caught, but they are rotated through and may not be there when you travel – nice way to spend time before or after dinner. We didn’t get a chance to catch Howl at the Moon, but I’m sure that would have been excellent based on other reviews

DESTINATIONS

Barcelona, Spain – beautiful city, we stayed a few days before the departure and could have enjoyed more, see notes on tours completed below

Naples, Italy – we didn’t make any plans, but took a cab to Pompeii and walked through on our own while the cab driver waited, then he dropped us off at a nice restaurant back in Naples within walking distance from the ship, 100 euros for the trip

Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy – port is an hour from the city, so plan to spend a bit of time and money on transportation, see notes on tour below; we hired a shared private car from the ship to the Vatican for 85 euros, then booked with the same driver for the return from the Colosseum later that afternoon for about 120 euros (not shared)

Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy – cab drivers wanted 400 euros for the day, so we rented a car from Avis and drove on our own to Lucca and Pisa (see tour notes below), company provided an easy to use GPS pre-programmed with likely destinations and the return spot, so navigation was easy, about 120 euros with gas

Cannes, France – caught a shared cab with 4 others to take a tour to Monaco, lunch and shopping in Nice, and back to Cannes via some scenic roads; shared vehicle for up to 8 was about 500 euros; definitely recommend getting to Monaco

Palma Majorca, Spain – we didn’t feel like leaving the ship on this last day, so we hit the spa for a massage instead

Barcelona, Spain – I booked a car through GroundLink to make sure we got to the airport on time. Very smooth way to go, about $70 USD.

TOURS

We booked all of our tours through Viator rather than use the NCL offerings. It did require us to arrange our own transportation, though, so not sure if we really saved as much as it seemed. On the plus side, we did have a lot more flexibility and didn’t have to herd with all of the other cruisers, and we avoided a transportation strike in Rome that cancelled all of NCL’s tours that day. Be sure to wear good walking shoes even if you think you’re going to be in a bus all day since there seem to be cobblestone streets everywhere.

Barcelona – Three Countries in One Day: France, Andorra, and Spain from Barcelona – great tour, a long 12-hour day but on a comfortable small bus with stops every two hours or so to interesting and picturesque places; highly recommended

Barcelona – Early Access to Montserrat Monastery from Barcelona – another winner, definitely worth the early departure to avoid the crowds in this stunning area; probably the number one trip to plan if you had to choose; we got back early enough to see La Sagrada Familia that same afternoon

Barcelona – Sagrada Familia Skip-the-Line Tickets and Guided Tour – the skip the line tickets were definitely worth it, the tour was interesting, but we would have enjoyed it just as much without the guide

Rome – Rome in a Day – this is actually two half day tours, morning at the Vatican and afternoon at the Colosseum; due to transportation issues, we were late for the Vatican group tour, but we called the tour company and were provided our Vatican museum tickets to explore on our own with a non-guided group an hour later; on our own for lunch and a cab ride to the Colosseum, then we met the Colosseum group for the afternoon tour; skip the line tickets are highly recommended, but the guide was very slow and we ended up turning in our headsets to explore on our own before catching our ride back to the ship

Pisa – Best of Pisa guided tour with Leaning Tower tickets – climbing to the top of the tower was one of the highlights of the whole week, definitely recommended; the guide was knowledgeable and adjusted the tour towards our preferences

FINAL THOUGHTS

Hope this review is helpful as you plan your trip. Take the extra time in Barcelona if you can; it’s a beautiful city to explore.
DadsReview’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin BD 8051
We booked balcony cabin 8051 for our family of three. Room was in good condition and a bit larger than expected. The odd shower/toilet/sink arrangement worked fine for us, but it is not easy for someone to sleep in while someone is getting ready. In our room, the couch was close to the sink and the main bed was near the balcony; rooms with the opposite arrangement would feel much more cramped. No noise issues at all, and the view from the balcony was unobstructed. Lifeboats were immediately below, but they didn't block the view and provided entertainment as the seagulls visited looking for handouts. All of the indoor action on the ship is on decks 5-7, so the room on deck 8 was perfect to use the stairs and avoid the terrible wait time for the elevators. We gave up several times and took the stairs on up to deck 15 (sundeck and buffet).
Deck 13 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Pisa Walking Tour
    Viator - Best of Pisa guided tour with Leaning Tower tickets – climbing to the top of the tower was one of the highlights of the whole week, definitely recommended; the guide was knowledgeable and adjusted the tour towards our preferences
    View All 79 Pisa Walking Tour Reviews
  • Naples
    we didn’t make any plans, but took a cab to Pompeii and walked through on our own while the cab driver waited, then he dropped us off at a nice restaurant back in Naples within walking distance from the ship, 100 euros for the trip
    View All 1,382 Naples Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Naples Cruise Port Review
  • Colosseum
    Viator - Rome in a Day – this is actually two half day tours, morning at the Vatican and afternoon at the Colosseum; due to transportation issues, we were late for the Vatican group tour, but we called the tour company and were provided our Vatican museum tickets to explore on our own with a non-guided group an hour later; on our own for lunch and a cab ride to the Colosseum, then we met the Colosseum group for the afternoon tour; skip the line tickets are highly recommended, but the guide was very slow and we ended up turning in our headsets to explore on our own before catching our ride back to the ship
    View All 172 Colosseum Reviews
  • Vatican Museums
    Viator - Rome in a Day – this is actually two half day tours, morning at the Vatican and afternoon at the Colosseum; due to transportation issues, we were late for the Vatican group tour, but we called the tour company and were provided our Vatican museum tickets to explore on our own with a non-guided group an hour later; on our own for lunch and a cab ride to the Colosseum, then we met the Colosseum group for the afternoon tour; skip the line tickets are highly recommended, but the guide was very slow and we ended up turning in our headsets to explore on our own before catching our ride back to the ship
    View All 124 Vatican Museums Reviews