I'm 65 years old and have never been to Europe. What better way to see it than on a cruise?
This cruise is all about the ports, there is only one sea day and most of the port days are long. This was my first cruise on a mega ship, but it didn't really feel much different than the smaller ships. There are lines for some things, but never long.
Embarkation went quickly and smoothly. We did have Latitudes priority boarding, which helped. This cruise is either round trip from Barcelona, or from Rome. Probably 20% of the passengers embark in Rome, so they're not all embarking at the same time in Barcelona.
We had the specialty dining package as a free perk. Our first specialty restaurant was Tepannyaki, the Japanese restaurant where the food preparation is a show. Six seats are around the cook top, and it's very entertaining. If you can't decide what entrée to get, just pick one. The cook makes extra, and will share.
Second was the Cirque Dreams dinner show. This show was the highlight of the cruise, and worth the extra price. The entrée at dinner was a steak in peppercorn sauce. My wife didn't like the sauce, I thought it was great. The steak was very tender.
The third was Cagney's steakhouse. Very elegant, great food and service. The specialty of the house for dessert was the raspberry crème brulet. You won't be disappointed.
As good as the specialty restaurants were, I wouldn't go to them without the dining package, especially as a free perk. The bill at Cagney's, dinner alone without drinks, was $190, but covered by the dining package. The main dining rooms are very good, and if you don't do any of the specialty dining, you'll still have a great time.
Breakfast was served at O'Sheehan's, Taste, and the buffet. O'Sheehan's was good, the selection was more limited, Taste is one of the main dining rooms, and the best place for breakfast if you're not pressed for time. Don't miss the pound cake French toast.
The buffet was quite good, good variety and quality. We did the buffet breakfast only when we had an early shore excursion, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because we could be served at other places. Orange juice at the buffet is out of a machine, if you want fresh squeezed, you pay for it, but can get it free at Taste.
The two main dining rooms are Taste and Manhattan Room. I think they're the same menu, but Manhattan Room is a nicer room, and has live music, sometimes a show. the food was great. Always great service.
I already mentioned the Cirque Dreams show, it's mostly covered by the dining package, and is a do not miss. We missed Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Burn the Floor was very entertaining.
The casino was good to me. Blackjack can be had for $10 minimum with poor rules, but can be had with good rules for $15. Craps is $10 minimum, 3-4-5x odds. Roulette is $2 chips, I don't recall the minimum bet. Let it Ride, Three Card Poker, and Ultimate Texas Hold 'em are offered with $5 minimums. Judging by the pay tables on the video poker, the slots are probably pretty tight.
This is the fourth Norwegian cruise I've been on, and service has always been consistently good.
When in port, be sure to have some Euros with you, even if you're paying with credit cards. Restrooms charge half to one Euro, and they don't accept American dollars. If you buy something in a restaurant, bar, or other business with a restroom, you can use their restroom for free.
Barcelona-We spent four nights after the cruise, beautiful city. The two main attractions are La Sagrada Familia and the Picasso Museum. For either of them, buy tickets ahead of time, they are timed, and they will be less crowded in the morning. A good and inexpensive meal can be had at the tapas bars that are all over, about 15-20 euros for a couple.
Naples-We took an excursion to Amalfi Coast and Pompeii, not an NCL excursion. Amalfi Coast was stunningly beautiful. I've been fascinated by Pompeii since learning about it in fourth grade, so this excursion was quite memorable.
Rome-Don't let the long time in port fool you. If you have an excursion, it will probably leave an hour after arriving in port. Then it's an hour and a half into Rome, maybe more depending on traffic, an hour and a half back, and you have to be back on board half an hour before sailing. That takes four and a half hours out of the day. We did the Rome on Your Own shore excursion. When we got our shore excursion tickets, there was a note saying to not book anything in Rome for before 11:00 am. A little late for that warning.
We had tickets to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. Made it there just in time. This cruise gets to Rome on Wednesday, which is the day the Pope gives a public address. This may be the reason Rome was so crowded, maybe it's always like that, just be prepared for crowds.
The Vatican Museum was amazing, and Sistine Chapel was jaw dropping. After that, we had lunch, went to the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps (right next to each other) and then it was time to return.
Florence-If you didn't read what I wrote about Rome, go back and read the first part of it. The same applies to Florence. We took the Hop on-Hop Off bus tour in Florence. A bus takes you into Florence, then you catch the HO-HO bus. We had tickets for the Uffizi Gallery, and arrived half an hour after the assigned time (again, don't book anything before 11:00 am!) but they let us in without any trouble. Florence was the center of the Renaissance, and I'm sure the Uffizi is the largest and best collection of Renaissance art in the world. Well worth seeing. Again, we had lunch, saw the Duomo, then back to the ship without ever stepping on the HO-HO bus that we'd paid for. But it did get us into Florence, so it was worth it. My wife and I both agreed that Florence was the best part of the cruise.
Cannes-Nice city, very upscale, many stores I can't afford to shop in, it's like Beverly Hills was moved to the beach. There is a tour called the Little Bus that loads near the dock, as I recall it was 12 Euros each. It took us up to a beautiful cathedral, which had great views of the city. Cannes is a beautiful city, but other than the cathedral, there wasn't much that caught my attention.
Palma-By the time you get to Palma, you're probably still worn out from the Italian stops, but the ship doesn't dock until 1:00 pm, so you can sleep in. We took a hop on-hop off bus that took us up to a castle. Like Cannes, it's a beautiful city, but other than the castle, and maybe the cathedral which we didn't have time to go to, not much there.
To sum it up, this cruise is all about the ports, and it is tiring. Well worth it, fun, interesting, beautiful, but tiring. It was worth it, I'm not complaining, just know what you're getting.
We had an aft facing balcony cabin. All outside rooms on the Epic are balconies, the rooms have been discussed and cussed to no end on all the review boards, so I won't go into too much detail on the room layout. There are two subjects that come up, the curved wall and the bathrooms. When you look at the deck plans, the bed is on the concave part of the wall. Most people seem to prefer the bed next to the balcony, so keep that in mind when choosing your room. The shower, toilet, and sink are separated on the Epic. When you walk into the room, the shower is on one side, the toilet on the other side, and the sink a little further in next to the shower. This arrangement is what reviewers either love or hate. I preferred the arrangement, because it allowed my wife and I to get ready at the same time, i.e. I could shave and brush my teeth while she was in the shower, and you'll appreciate that if you have an early shore excursion. This also results in bigger areas for the shower and toilet. There is a curtain seperating the bathroom area from the rest of the room. The shower and toilet have frosted glass, which doesn't do much for privacy. If privacy is a concern, shut the curtain and lock the deadbolt so the room steward doesn't come in while you're in the shower.
The phone has a large LED screen, which is convenient but is way too bright at night, especially since there is a mirror directly across from it. A well placed pillow fixed that problem.
The room has plenty of storage, we only used about 2/3 of it. Some of it is a bit hidden, there are plenty of YouTube videos showing where it is, and it's easier to see than describe. The bed is a bit short, I'm 5'7", if I stretched out, my feet hung off the end of the bed.