Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by suron
- Sail Date: May 2019
- Destination: Western Mediterranean
- Cabin Type: Studio
This review is written to express my findings as a solo traveller but will, I hope, give others an insight to the cruise itself.
The flights from London Heathrow went very smoothly and as a person with mobility problems I was very grateful for the special needs assistance at the departure airport, on arrival in Rome and at the port.
Embarkation was very quick and I was on board and in my cabin by 1pm.
There was a gathering for solo travellers in the Studio Lounge at 5 pm where I was able to meet other solos, some who had joined the ship in Barcelona and others, like myself who had boarded in Rome. We soon got to know each other and some of us had linked up before via the roll calls. The bar in the Studio Lounge is open each evening from 5-7pm and the bartender was a friendly, helpful person who liaised with the group well. NCL have changed the rules regarding solo travellers having access to the Lounge at all times. If not actually in one of the Studio cabins the cruise card will not afford access to the Lounge during the day- you need to get friendly with someone in the studio cabins to let you in!!
The Studio Lounge has a crew member assigned to the solos. During the cruise we had two different members of staff and I am afraid neither of them were particularly helpful. They both more or less insisted that as a group we would need to go to dinner at 5.30pm The majority felt this was far too early but were told there would be no chance of a sizeable group getting a table together if we did not dine at 5.30pm UTTER RUBISH! The first night a group of 10 of us went to the Manhattan Restaurant at 7.15 pm and were given a table together after only about a ten minute wait. From then on most of us made our own dinner arrangements at times to suit ourselves with no problems. One evening a group of 14 went to Shanghai & Noodles and the Maitre 'D was able to accommodate us all even though we had not pre-booked. He even came to the bar to find us when the table was ready. On my previous Epic cruises the crew member was more than happy to book tables at times to suit us but our crew members were not willing to compromise at all to help us.
FOOD - The food in the main restaurants was very good with plenty of choice with different specials each evening. The buffet was very crowded especially at breakfast and lunchtimes and the food was not particularly hot. On a few occasions a group of us went to Tastes for breakfast which was a much more leisurely experience with food cooked to order with plenty of choice. It was possible to get a continental breakfast in the Studio Lounge - cereals, yoghurts, croissants and muffins and tea/coffee/fruit juice. Tea, Coffee and cookies were available all day in the Lounge.
ENTERTAINMENT -. I had seen Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Cirque de Soleil before so gave them a miss this time around. Burn The Floor was new to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Studio reps did make the show bookings for everyone interested so this is one point in their favour! Enjoyed Bliss Lounge, Headliners and the Cavern Club (Tina Turner tribute group were great). All the entertainment staff worked hard throughout the cruise and there was always something to do during the day.
There were plenty of bars and lounges and it was easy to find a quiet spot for a chat and drink with new found friends. Bar staff were friendly and efficient. I had the Premium Drinks Package included on my booking and this was most cost effective. Purchasing drinks on board as you go could, with the additional 18% service charge added to each drink, work out very expensive.
The ship itself was kept spotlessly clean and my cabin steward was most efficient, cheerful and always smiling. The nightly towel figures were most amusing.
POSH CLUB - If you feel like escaping the crowds on deck, especially on sea days, then ask Guest Services if they have availability for the Posh Club on Deck 18. It costs $59 for a week and is well worth it. Your cruise card will be amended to give access to this area where there are comfy sunloungers, towels provided, a bar where the barman is very efficient. Should you want to swim or go into the hot tubs then just take the lift down to Deck 15.
SPA - I treated myself to a full body Swedish Hot Stones Massage - used some of my on-board credit for this. I enjoyed a most relaxing massage which lasted 75 mins and it was nice that afterwards there was no hard-sell from the staff!
PORTS OF CALL
LIVORNO - Have been to both Florence & Pisa before as had another of the solo travellers. We decided to be brave , took the shuttle bus $5 into town and the caught the local LAM RED bus to MONTENERO. The bus tickets were purchased from the tobacco shop near the shuttle bus drop off. They were Euros 1.50 each way and we headed up to Montenero and the Funicular Railway. The bus ticket also gave us a ride on the Funicular - bargain! At the top we came into a quaint square with shops, bars and restaurants and a most beautiful 14th Century Cathedral. We had a wonderful time wandering around here and the views from the square were awesome. The HOHO bus does call at Montenero but the first bus is not until 10 a.m. The Cathedral is closed between 12.30 and 1.30 pm so it was best to make an early start via the local bus and it was a much cheaper option.
CANNES - This is a tender port. If you have independently arranged tours it is essential to get a tender boat pass for as early as possible. Guest Services will issue tender boat passes. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the first tender at 8 a.m. Unfortunately there proved to be a problem with the boat's steering. I appreciate things can go wrong mechanically but those tenders should have been checked before being put into service. It could have been serious in an emergency. We sat on the tender boat for almost 30 mins and the engineer then decided to take the boat out of action. A replacement boat was found and I managed to get ashore just in time to meet my guide for the tour of Cannes, Antibes and St Paul de Vendre which was booked with the shoreexcursions group by my travel agent. The Cannes Film Festival was on which meant everywhere was very busy but out guide managed to negotiate the crowded streets well. We did not see any stars along the route! Antibes is very picturesque and St Paul de Vendre a charming place.
PALMA - Have visited Majorca many so with a short time in port I played safe and booked an NCL excursion - Magical Majorca and Soller Train. The coach ride to Soller was lovely but the coach dropped us a long way from the centre and we had to walk along unpaved roads and stony ground trying to avoid cars coming from all directions. Those of us who could not walk quickly were left trailing behind whilst the guide concentrated on the more able-bodied. We did had one and a half hours to explore Soller which was a most interesting place with lots of bars, shops etc. We then had to re-trace our steps half-way back to where the coach had dropped us. Here we boarded the train back to Palma. It was a lovely train ride lasting nearly an hour and the scenery was superb.
BARCELONA - Have visited here several times before so had a restful day on board where there was plenty to see and do thanks to the entertainment staff. I would recommend the HOHO bus in Barcelona for sightseeing. It is essential to pre-book tickets for the Sagrada Familila either on line or through the special tickets offered on line by the HOHO bus operators.
NAPLES - I have visited here before and would recommend taking tours to Pompeii and/or Capri. This time I opted for Sorrento - took at taxi from the port with two others and we had a most wonderful time seeing the breaktaking scenery of the Amalifi coast. The taxi driver was very pleasant and he gave us plenty of time for photo stops along the way.
DISEMBARKATION - This was DIABOLICAL. Everyone who had an NCL transfer arranged to the airport HAD to leave the ship at 6.30 am irrespective of their return flight time. The earliest flight anyone on the coach mentioned was 1.30pm and mine was not until 5 pm. This meant I was stuck at the airport for most of the day and being a disabled person this was not ideal. Luckily the special needs assistance staff were so kind and helpful but I still felt exhausted by the time my flight was called. I appreciate that new passengers were boarding in Rome but embarkation did not begin until midday. Would have been quite happy having to leave the cabin by 8 a.m. but surely NCL could have made alternative arrangements for us to remain on board in, say, one of the lounges and give us transfers later in the morning.
OVERALL - The cruise was good, made enjoyable mainly due to the friendly group of solos I linked up with. However I will not sail on Epic again if NCL continue with the same itinerary. Hopefully one of their other ships with studio cabins might be sailing to some different ports in the Med, the Greek Islands or Northern Europe in the future. Failing that I will either have to resign myself to paying those dreaded single supplements or find another cruise line which offers better deals for solos with some different ports of call.
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Cabin steward very helpful, efficient and kept cabin spotless at all times.
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