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Norwegian Epic Review

4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating
4218 reviews
24 Awards

Fantastic Western Mediterranean Cruise

Review for Norwegian Epic to the Western Mediterranean
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Bartfast
2-5 Cruises • Age 50s

Rating by category

Cabin
Family
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Fitness & Recreation

Additional details

Sail Date: May 2022
Cabin: Mini-Suite with Balcony
Our family with bartender Yad-Z at Maltings.
Plage Trottel in Corsica.
Ponte Vecchio in Florence (from Livorno).
Amalfi Coast from Naples
Club balcony cabin. The shower is immediately to the left and the toilet immediately to the right off-camera.

This is a review of my family’s cruise on the Norwegian Epic from Rome to Rome beginning 5/31/2021. We had a fantastic time.

Rome

We arranged through NCL to have 3 nights in Rome before our cruise. NCL provided shuttles to and from the port, but not from and to the airport which we managed ourselves. It’s a good idea to get into your departure city a day before the cruise in case of airline snafus.

Cabin Review

Mini-Suite with Balcony

Overall, we were nonplussed by the cabins. They were a good size and we liked the balconies, but the layout of the cabins was weird. The cabins on the Gem were better.

We had two staterooms, club balconies. These were a good size with lots of storage and a good-sized balcony. Ari was our steward, and he did a good job. We had an issue with a TV that stopped working on the penultimate day as well as a hair dryer that never worked, but we did not mention it (as we had another of each). A missing free bottle of champagne was reported, and Ari got us the bottle. We also had Ari remove the for-purchase contents of the fridges in the room and used the fridges for our own water. Get water at any bar with the Premium Plus drink package and save the water in the fridge for your excursions. Half-way through the cruise we had laundry done and were happy with the resulting quick turnaround.

Our rooms on the Epic were curvy, which is style, I guess. Lighting is a bit hit-or-miss, so we brought a couple of magnetic lights (off Amazon.com) to supplement the room’s lights. Note that like European hotels, you need to put a room card in a slot in the room to activate lights, but a U.S. driver’s license of similar will do the job just fine. There are light switches everywhere, and it was hard to find the switch you needed for the light you wanted. I wish there were a master “all on” switch. The beds were comfy. We had three in one of our cabins and there’s a pull-out couch for that; it rated just okay. There is no desk to do work on, such as use a computer for work. There is a small area of counter with a stool, but it’s really small. There were electrical outlets for U.S. and Italian sockets; we had both plus a cruise-compatible power strip (no surge protector). I recommend bringing a power strip. We needed to charge two phones, one watch, and a laptop. The plugs were across from the bed, so bring an extension cord if you need power in bed (such as cpap).

It wasn’t really a problem in a real way, but one of the things we didn’t like about our rooms was the strange organization of things. The hairdryer is at one end of the room next to the sliding glass doors to the balcony and by a mirror that is not high enough to see yourself in without sitting down. At the other end the sink sits awkwardly on a counter next to the bed that you would like to use for things but cannot because water splashes out of the sink if you are not careful onto your things. The light above the sink is turned on with switch hidden on the bottom of the medicine cabinet – feel for it because you can’t easily see it.

Oddly, on the Epic, the toilet has its own frosted-glass area that is not in the same place as the shower, which is across from it in a frosted glass enclosure (one room had a bathtub). This arrangement is not convenient. By contrast, on the Gem the shower room had the sink in it and also the toilet in a separate sub-room – that was what was expected, like a hotel room. As is, on the Epic, if you use the toilet, the frosted glass lets others see that your pants are down, for example, and the toilet is airplane noisy. The toilet area is also small. At night, use of the toilet illuminates the otherwise dark room with light and the toilet roars, waking anyone who was sleeping in the bed. There is a curtain, but that just seems jury-rigged. There is a string in the shower that you can hang your bathing suit on to dry.

Port Reviews

Barcelona

We visited Barcelona for a day off the Norwegian Epic, which we got on in Rome.

We had booked an NCL hop-on, hop-off bus (HoHo) tour for Barcelona. With an NCL HoHo excursion, a coach takes you from the ship to the first HoHo stop, making getting the HoHo bus easy. In Barcelona, our HoHo company had two routes. Because of the short time in port, you really have to pick one. The HoHo bus was convenient. Also, the narrative on the Barca HoHo tour was excellent, with stories behind the facts being presented. Stops were clearly numbered and easy to find. (Note that you are not supposed to bring food and drink onto HoHo buses.)

We also had arranged for a private tour of the Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona, which I highly recommend. We arranged it though The Tour Guy (affiliated with The Roman Guy), and our guide, Marco, did not disappoint. This Roman Catholic church is unfinished (maybe 20 years to go, depending on funding). If you visit without a guide, you will miss a lot of the abundant symbolism in the architecture. This is a unique site that you really must visit when in Barcelona.

Because of a shortened cruise stop, rather than take the HoHo bus back to port, we took a couple of taxis (we were five and almost all taxis only seat four passengers). For the roughly 30-minute trip, the cost was about 15 Euros each, and the taxi drivers were friendly and easy to talk to. Don’t be afraid of using taxis in Barca for sure.

Corsica (Ajaccio)

We hadn’t planned any excursions for Ajaccio. NCL had none (at any point months before the cruise day) that appealed to us, we spoke French, and decided to just figure it out. We made it our beach day.

There are two beaches close to the cruise port; just walk out of the port and go left. Plage de Saint François is very close to the port, a leisurely 10 minutes, looks sandy, but is very narrow. From what I could see, it would be a good spot. However, we decided to go to Plage Trottel, which is about 10 minutes easy walk past Plage de Saint François. The beach is a little pebble-y, but not bad at all. In the water, you are on sand. The water is warm and clear. It was a nice beach and we loved swimming in the Med. There is a small café at this beach which has a good array of dishes.

After the beach, we meandered back through Ajaccio looking at shops and restaurants. We could find no public toilets but didn’t mind spending to have a drink at a restaurant and using theirs. We found the birthplace of Emperor Napoleon, a small house-cum-museum which had touristy tours lined up outside.

Palma de Mallorca (Majorca)

We booked a private hop-on, hop-off tour (HoHo) for Palma. We didn’t book through NCL because it had sold out. This private booking didn’t quite work out. The bus stop at the cruise peer was four buses deep in people; we waited an hour to get on a bus. Taxis nearby didn’t accommodate our party of five, and we didn’t at that point want to try two taxis.

When we did get on the bus, the audio was uninspiring. The audio told things, like that the piazza was named after Italian soldiers stationed in the city in such-and-such a year but didn’t provide the story of why they were stationed there. Also, the stops are not announced by number, but the map has stop numbers. Also, the stops are hard to find. Finally, the HoHo map for our tour also wasn’t accurate.

That said, we found our way to the center of Palma, did some shopping, bought some pearls, had a great lunch of tapas (tapas are a great idea), found an Irish pub (not hard to do anywhere), and enjoyed the day. We got back on the HoHo bus to return to the ship after we were done.

I did notice there were beaches, and you could make Palma a beach day, but the beaches are not within realistic walking distances of the cruise port, so you would need to use a taxi.

Next time, I would plan our day differently. I don’t think we got the best out of our Palma stop.

Florence (Livorno)

We booked an NCL tour for this stop for one reason: we wanted to go to Florence, which was a long distance away, traffic is bad, and if we missed departure time on a private tour we would be out-of-luck, whereas the ship would wait for an NCL tour to return. Our tour was to Florence with wine tasting – we decided to skip Pisa. (I have been to Pisa before; the cathedral is splendid and do go up the tower if you have a chance.)

Our first stop was at a winery. We had a tour of their castle, learned the history, and got a tasting of four yummy wines (white, white, red, and dessert) along with some cheese and meats. We purchased a couple of bottles to bring home. We brought a half-dozen “Bottle Hero” bags from Amazon.com with us just for this purpose and were able to package the wines in our suitcases without incident.

After the winery, we went to Florence. Traffic was thick in parts. The bus stopped in Florence where we were led to a leather shop to use as a base. The leather shop let us use the toilet, which was a convenience, and our Australian guide (who has lived locally for a long time) gave us tips for gelato and such.

We wandered Florence, grabbed some beer, gelato, and visited shops. We did use a public toilet, which is very clean, has an attendant, and costs 1 Euro. AquaFlor was great for finding perfume, Imedici had some good quality leather bags, wallets, and belts, and we did spend time on the Ponte Vecchio. This old bridge crosses the Arno and has gold and jewelry shops on both sides. These are tourist prices, but the selection is exceptional. Importantly, we visited the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Maria and its famous dome. Time was a factor, though, and visiting inside the church, or one of the museums in Florence, will have to wait for a future trip. Folks in Florence are very friendly. There is too much to do in this small city from a cruise ship.

From there, we went back to our coach and via Piazzale Michelangelo, with great views over the city, we headed back to the Epic. It was a worthwhile excursion but very long.

Cannes

The casinos at Monte Carlo were a bucket-list item from some of our family, so that is the NCL excursion we chose: Monaco and Monte Carlo. We decided to use an NCL tour because of the short time in port and for the safety of getting back to the ship without it leaving. This was a good idea because, as it turns out, the captain shortened the docked time by a couple of hours and traffic to and in Monaco was exceedingly heavy.

Our tour guide, Frederick, had an uphill battle. The time on shore was shortened, traffic was bad, and it rained for the first time in four months. He did okay, given the situation. We visited Monaco. When we got off the coach, it was raining. There were clean and free toilets in the parking garage. We passed the oceanographic museum, which would be worth visiting if we had time. Our guide led us through the picturesque St. Martin gardens, talking about the history, Prince, and his family, including Grace Kelly. We went in the relatively new cathedral of Saint Nicholas, and then to the prince’s palace. Because it was raining, they did not have the noontime changing of the guard (which takes 10 minutes, I am told). From there we had some free time before meeting at the bus. Armed with a family that speaks French (sort of) and a recommendation for Monaco beer, we found a place for lunch. Avoid the beer. It’s not good and one bottle was full of “floaty things” (we had it replaced). The food was excellent. That area of Monaco is full of small alleyways with lots of shops and restaurants.

We got back to the coach and went to Monte Carlo. There is so much money in Monte Carlo. You see it in the cars. Cars each worth several times the cost of my house. Cars painted gold.

The main casino, the Bond casino, didn’t open at all until 2 pm. We had to leave at 2 pm because of the shortened day. If we had been able to get in, it would have cost 17 Euros cash each. Appropriate dress is required. So, instead, we went to Café Monte Carlo, across the square. It doesn’t have the history, nor does it have gaming tables, but we gambled and had a beer in a real Monte Carlo casino. There is no dress code for the Café Monte Carlo casino. Note that you need a passport to get into the casinos.

And then, it was back to the coach for the slow trip back to the Epic. We arrived late at the Epic, but she waited for us.

Rome (Civitavecchia)

We began our cruise in Rome, and we stayed in Rome three nights before our cruise. It's impossible to summarize how fantastic Rome is; you have to go. We did an excellent golf-cart tour booked with Angel Tours, through Viator, and Giovanni, our tour guide, was excellent. This tour introduced us to the highlights of Rome, including the Trevi Fountain and Villa Borghese park.

We booked tours of the Vatican and Coliseum with The Roman Guy, and Darius and Loretta were exceptional guides. The Vatican is massive, and beautiful, an exceptional museum and work of art. Get an early tour to beat the crowds. We saw the underground of the Coliseum, as well as Palatine Hill (skip the Forum, there's nothing left).

We also found our way onto the metro, which is easy to use, went to the Spanish Steps, and discovered marvelous pizza, pasta, and wine. I think there was some shopping in there, also.

As a family, we are still debating whether we like Rome or Paris better, but probably the only reason the argument is close is because we speak some French and very little Italian. What I strongly recommend is that you book a cruise that leaves from Rome and include a few days before, after, or both in your itinerary to see this marvelous city and its friendly people. Rome is worth the extra time.

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