About the Reviewer:
I’m a 33 year old male who traveled with two friends I made on a previous cruise in the studios. This was also my 33rd cruise overall and my 21st Norwegian Cruise Line cruise. I’ve been on other lines including ... Read More
About the Reviewer:
I’m a 33 year old male who traveled with two friends I made on a previous cruise in the studios. This was also my 33rd cruise overall and my 21st Norwegian Cruise Line cruise. I’ve been on other lines including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and twice on Carnival with my last cruise being on the Carnival Inspiration. I sailed on the Norwegian Epic in 2011. The Epic recently underwent an extensive refurbishment so some comparing may take place in the review from the way she was before to now.
The following is a review surrounding the Norwegian Epic’s 10 day Canary Island itinerary which departed on November 29, 2015 from Barcelona, Spain and returned on December 9, 2015 and is done in the order of which the ports, entertainment and specialty restaurants were done.
Pre-Cruise Stay: H10 Raco del Pi
I arrived one day early and stayed at the H10 Raco del Pi. After a cab ride from the airport to the hotel, check-in was fast and efficient. I stayed on the first floor in an astoundingly spacious suite for the price paid. The room had a balcony which overlooked the street below and featured his and her sinks, Jacuzzi tub with shower and huge bathroom for European standards. Cost was $100 USD for the night. I was surprised by the size of the room for the price paid.
Day 1 – Embarkation Day – Sunday, November 29, 2015
I shared a cab from the hotel to the pier and arrived shortly after noon for check-in. The check-in lines were split with new comers to the cruise line in one queue, lower tier Latitudes (past guests) in another queue, Gold and Platinum Latitudes in another queue, Casinos at Sea in another queue and lastly the Haven and Suites guests in the last queue at the end. There was no one in the queue for the Platinum Latitudes which I was so I got waited on very quickly but had to wait for my two friends who were in the much longer Bronze and Silver Latitudes line. Overall, everyone’s check in was fairly fast and smooth or so I thought.
We headed up the gangway. On the way up cruise staff were by the escalators greeting us and welcoming us to the Epic for the week. When I boarded the ship and was to be swiped in, my photo and keycard were not working already! I couldn’t get swiped on and had to go to guest services immediately and get a replacement keycard. Since we were on our way to lunch at Taste Restaurant, this was on our way there. There was no line at guest relations and we were on our way in a jiffy to Taste for a cruise kick off lunch. I had a philly cheese steak without the bread. During our lunch which was no closer to 1:45 when we finished, the cabins were announced as ready.
Cabin 11570 – Studio Cabin
The Norwegian Epic was the first ship in the Norwegian fleet to have solo studio cabins. The original is always the best as the studio cabin featured four multi-lighting schemes over the block containing the sink and closets. Featuring the colors of white for day, blue for night, red for love and green for the sake of it, the color change feature is missing on the newer Breakaway class ships. As a 100 square foot room, if you know how to pack it right, you have plenty of space to move about. The room was well maintained and the bed was soft to sleep on. I would NOT recommend staying in this specific cabin if you’re a night owl as when the ship pulled into port you were vibrated out of bed and definitely awakened. As a side note, this room was not a connecting room so I could blast my music from a portable speaker as loud as I wanted to. The room was so far aft that it had its own separate entrance from the aft elevators with separate keycard access. Given the amount of vibration felt in the cabin during the morning hours, I will not pick this room again as I like to be up late.
Touring the Ship
After dropping off the carry-on bag, it was time to explore the ship and see what changes were in store. I was excited to see the newly re-done Bliss. Gone are the cages on the side of the stage where you could get in and dance if you wanted to. The color scheme was also brightened so it was not as dark as I remembered. The lights could be raised and lowered depending on what event was being held in there. The bowling alley was also removed in favor of more seating. The lighting refresh also included low to the ground tables by the ramps which had housed lamps. On a previous cruise a passenger tripped over the table and crushed the lamp. The tables are a huge trip hazard at the end of those ramps and should be removed. While I didn’t encounter any issues with them, several of the other passengers on the sailing did trip and end up with bruises on their shins and almost falling. It was mentioned to the cruise staff a few times during the nightclub hours but nothing ever came of it.
Other areas of the ship changed but the most noticeable was the change at LaCuccina which was not open the first few days of the voyage as they had to finish up some of the tile work which was not done during the dry dock. The large tree and the Olive Garden décor was replaced with marble and a fountain sink in the middle of the floor to wash your hands. Moderno also had two sinks installed for handwashing during dry dock as it has the buffet.
Carpeting was refreshed everywhere and you could tell by how plush it was and it was shedding in some places. The casino seemed a lot less smoky this cruise compared to the last time I sailed on the Epic. I don’t know if they added more air purifiers or what but they were always on, even when the casino was closed to help make sure the smell of smoke stayed in the casino only. The shops received a refurbishment as well and I would pass through the center shop every night heading from my aft cabin to Bliss Lounge forward.
It was noticeable early on in the cruise that there were several ethnicities on the ship as the announcements were coming in English, Spanish and German. The number one country represented was the UK followed by the US. Israel, Germany and Japan all rounded out the top five ethnicities on the ship. Why this was important is because the different cultures have a different way of doing things and putting them together meant some ruffled feathers amongst other passengers. There were also far less children on this sailing. The average age was much higher as well. The 10 day length probably helped that.
Nightly in the studio lounge at 6PM is the solos meet and greet hosted by a cruise staff member. This weeks was hosted by William. Lots of people showed up and we met some new people. This cruise had a diverse set of solos ranging in age from 29 on up to late 70s. Most people were just looking for dinner companions and maybe people to share a game or two with. I had dinner companions already but we found a new one this night and would dine together and hang out together for the rest of the cruise.
After the solos gathering, it was time for the Friends of Dorothy gathering or the GLBT gathering at the Shaker’s Martini Bar. This is nightly and unhosted from 7PM to 8PM. The first night’s turnout was amazing and so big in fact that we ended up taking over the whole bar seating area. There was a nice bar waiter from Argentina who took very good care of us during the cruise.
SPECIALTY DINING: Shanghai Restaurant
Our first dinner on the Epic was at the fairly new non-cover charge Asian restaurant. We ordered all the appetizers to share at a table of four of us. We had several of the main dish plates including the General Tsao’s chicken, sweet and sour chicken, veggie rice and some seafood dishes. Thereafter, it was late so I checked out Bliss Lounge for the first night’s social mixer and welcome aboard party. The opening hour of the nightclub featured beats by DJ Alegre who played some interesting mash ups and kept a constant beat going with awesome transitions. When the DJs switched, it was noticeable. I approached the DJ Alegre and told him that I appreciated the mixes and looked forward to hearing him more during the cruise. Sadly, the other DJ who was just hired and came from RCCL (can’t remember the guy’s name) sucked and killed the vibe so I cleared out by 1AM.
Day 2 – Sea Day – Monday, November 30, 2015
I was up early and decided to head to the gym to catch the Fab Abs class at 7:30AM. It was tight but I made it and had a nice abs workout augmented by using some of the other resistance machines in the gym. I did a 1.5 hour workout. The gym was well appointed and all the equipment was in good working order.
After grabbing breakfast at the buffet and dining outside in the windy and somewhat chilly Mediterranean air, it was time to freshen up for the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. Held at 11AM in Bliss due to the size of our Cruise Critic group, the officers stopped by and said hello. I saw some of the officers I recognized from previous sailings and talked with them briefly before the CC roll call leader did a raffle for answers to random roll call questions. It was very well done by the Group Service Coordinator on the ship.
After the CC Meet and Greet, the group of us grabbed some lunch and visited the box office to fix the shows. We had pre-booked the shows before sailing but when we arrived we had discovered the show times were all changed and conflicted with dinner plans and other social events happening during the evening hours. After getting that straightened out, it was time for lunch in Taste before heading out for some cold sun and scoping out the top decks for the best place not to freeze to death.
Tonight was Norwegian’s Night Out and after having dinner in the Manhattan dining room, it was time to go to Bliss Lounge. For the second night in a row, Bliss seemed to be stuck in a 70s / Latin circular setup with no changes to anything remotely close to Top 40. It was a complete buzz kill and I turned in early as I had to get up early for the next day’s tour.
Day 3 – Tangier, Morocco – Tuesday, December 1, 2015
NCL Shore Excursion: Cap Spartel & Tetouan
The full day tour started with a narrated bus ride to Cap Spartel for a brief stop for photos before heading to Tetouan. Unfortunately the guide failed to mention how far Tetouan was from the first stop resulting in several passengers needing to use a bathroom. The tour bus did not have a bathroom on it and passengers were in need. At one point the bus pulled over to let male passengers get out and pee on the side of the road. Classy with the rest of the bus looking on. Eventually there was a stop made at a restaurant for ladies to use the facilities.
The tour continued into Tetouan and we arrived at the School of Traditional Arts and Crafts where artisans of all ages are making traditional handicrafts to be sold later. Across the street you enter old medina surrounded by a wall and several little streets within. A traditional Moroccan lunch was served in a restaurant which provided entertainment of a belly dancer, percussion band, string band and a fire dancer. On the way back to the ship, the driver let us all sleep and did not provide much narration. The cost of this tour raised since I booked it. It was a good tour but highly overpriced.
Back on the ship, it was another dinner in the Manhattan room with great service followed by a short stint at karaoke before Bliss turned over to the nightclub. Tonight’s theme night in Bliss was the 50s and 60s Sock Hop Party. Unfortunately the party was only supposed to last 1 hour but carried on well past midnight so I went to bed at 1AM.
Day 4 – Sea Day – Wednesday, December 2
Another early start to a relaxing day at sea. The weather had finally started to warm up a bit and since I was up early, I figured I would head to the Fab Abs class at 7:30AM. I made it up there with time to spare and when the stretch class ended, a group of people from the tour group went right in and ignored the line. I was forced to be outside the door due to the rudeness of these passengers. I was not happy but still managed to enjoy the workout anyway.
Latitudes Perk: BEHIND-THE-SCENES TOUR: The rest of the morning was taking a behind the scenes tour for Platinum Latitudes members. The tour featured stops in the provisions, recycling, laundry and main dining room galley. This tour was the most informative tour I’ve taken in a while and went way beyond the time it was scheduled to because of it. George Kassis, the CruiseNext Manager, led the tour and explained what we were seeing along the way and how the crew lives. The provisions master explained how they stored the fruit for a 10 day cruise since the ship only provisions in Barcelona on such voyages. The head chef in the galley tour brought us to all the stations in the kitchen and explained how it worked for the menu preps. He was very thorough in his explanations and when I told him I loved strawberries, he arranged for me to get some whenever I dined in the main dining room (breakfast or dinner). It was very nice of him to do!
On this sea day and every sea day that Moderno restaurant had a themed buffet lunch. Today’s theme was Mexican cuisine with burritos, rice, soup and salad offered. It was a nice buffet lunch!
After a leisurely afternoon attempting to get some sun while not freezing in the crosswinds up on deck, it was time for an arranged birthday party in the studio lounge. Some of the solos on the Cruise Critic roll call arranged a birthday party for those who just had, were having or about to have birthdays! One person brought cards and had all the officers sign them at the Cruise Critic meet and greet earlier in the voyage so it was really personalized! What an awesome thing to do!
Latitudes Perk: LATITUDES COCKTAIL PARTY: Held at 7PM in the Bliss Lounge this cruise it combined many of the latitude tiers because there were so few higher tier members on the ship. I was able to go with my friends who had not yet attained their Platinum status. We hung out at the bar and mingled with the cruise director and hotel director. Both of them were open and receptive to some suggested changes for Bliss and making the music a little more current. It was nice that they were listening and taking the comments to heart.
Tonight’s dinner was in Taste Restaurant which ran really late. After it was over I checked out the FABBA party which ran from 10:30PM to 11:30PM before the rest of the night being the Glitter Ball 70s party. I went to bed early as I was feeling exhausted and the music was just more of the same in Bliss as it had been since embark night.
Day 5 – Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands – Thursday, December 3
Today’s port call featured touring via the public transit system. My friends and I hopped city bus number 30 direct to Masoplomas in the southern part of Gran Canaria to see the beach, dunes and ride the camels. The bus pass cost $12.50 EU for the entire day with as many uses as you wanted. When we arrived in Masoplomas, there was a brief walk to the camel vendor. The camel ride was $12 EU per person. The camel ride lasted about 40 minutes and took you through the dunes. It was a nice jaunt and the camels were extremely photogenic. The guy leading the camels took pictures with people’s cameras if you asked which was nice of him. We had a brief lunch at a shopping mall close to the bus terminal and bought some souvenirs. We headed back to Gran Canaria and went into the supermarket inside the huge shopping mall right at the pier to get some goodies. Just a note during our bus ride at one of the stops, a pick pocketer tried to steal a tourist’s wallet. This guy happened to get caught doing it and the bus driver chased after him. It was an older gentleman with salt and pepper hair. Just be careful with your wallet at this stop.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Teppanyaki
Tonight the solos went out to celebrate the birthday of William, the Cruise Staff overseeing the solos for the week. Teppanyaki is dinner cooked before your eyes with a show. The chef put on a show and did a great job. Unfortunately the waitress took forever to return with the dessert and the check. She pushed it so late that I barely made the show and had to stand in the back.
EPIC Entertainment: OTHER GUYS: The late show was at 9:30PM and featured tunes from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The performance was great for standing room only audience and last approximately 45 minutes. I stayed the whole performance as it was enjoyable. They would play again at Headliners at other times during the cruise as well.
After the show ended, I went up one deck to Bliss Nightclub for a 90s music hour with DJ Alegre. Thankfully tonight’s one hour of dance songs was amazing and I FINALLY got out on the dance floor. I was sure to thank Pedro, the Cruise Director and the Hotel Director for taking the disco out of the 70s it had been stuck in during the preceding nights of the cruise. It was a long day so I retired around 12:30A when the other DJ took over and threw us back into the same 70s and Latin music that was heard the other nights of the cruise.
Day 6 – Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands – Friday, December 4
Today was another independent tour day which featured the Hop On, Hop Off Bus. The bus takes you around Tenerife with a narrated tour in different languages that you use ear buds for. It was cost effective and gave you history of the city while dropping you at different sites to visit. I enjoyed the large park. There was a large department store also during the route which had very reasonably priced souvenirs for sale. It was the perfect thing to do at your own pace. The problem was that the busses were crammed with people as there were three other large ships in port with us. Make sure you get off the ship early in this port to avoid lines for the bus. Cost was $18 EU.
EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
What an amazing performance by the cast. Keeping the musical true to the actual movie, the show flowed seamlessly. A small technical glitch with the computer that ran the LED wall for visuals gave the audience a few moments pause between acts but the show went on with the same energy and vigor that was in the first half. The show features two drag queens and a transsexual who head on a bus to the center of Australia to perform with the lead character hiding the fact that he was married and had a kid waiting there. The show has some suggestive scenes and at times some raunchy language so it’s definitely not for the easily offended and not for children either. With that said, it was a perfect show for adults and it is very progressive of NCL to offer such a show at sea. I LOVED IT! I sat second row center for this performance and it was so good I had to go back again!
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Le Bistro
We were sat promptly at a window seat at 9PM for our reservation. This was the Latitudes perk dinner with some friends who also attended the show prior with me. I had escargot, the lamb and crème brulee. It was a nice dinner service. I tried another person’s scallops and they tasted horribly fishy like they had gone bad. It was the first time I had tasted bad food while at sea. Dinner service was great and attentive though and food was always hot and presented nicely. Tonight was 80s night at Bliss. I didn’t even bother going and just went back to the room and to bed.
Day 7 – Funchal, Madeira, Portugal – Saturday, December 5
A Cruise Critic member organized a huge private tour group with David Madeira Taxi with four separate tour busses. The cost was $18 EU per person and featured all the major stops the ship tour was doing. If you wanted to do the cable car up to Monte it was additional and the toboggan ride back down was also additional but still far less than what the ship was offering. We drove all over the island to amazing heights and along the side of mountains. Since I have a fear of heights, my anxiety level was elevated the whole tour. The tour operator Sergio spoke perfect English and was very knowledgeable about the island, the places we were visiting and what was best in the short time we had at some of the stops. My favorite part was the little fishing village we stopped in. The tour was just over 5 hours long.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Moderno
For $20 it’s an all you can eat meat fest! I love Moderno restaurant. The salad buffet has an extensive selection, not just of make your own salad but other salads as well. Picanha, garlic beef, filet mignon, chorizo are all my favorites and I had plenty of them while dining off to the side. In dry dock they did put handwashing sinks in this restaurant since it includes a buffet. Very neat but poorly used by the guests. We spent just about 2 hours in this restaurant eating. The papaya cream dessert is amazing too! Shout out to Melvyn, the restaurant manager, and the maître ‘d who got us attentive service so we could make the second show of…
EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Yes, the girls and I went back to see the show again at 10PM. This time the show went straight through with no intermission and it was just amazing. It was the last show of the cruise for the Priscilla cast. They truly brought their A game after performing many times already in the week. It was hilariously enjoyable and I sat stage left in the third row back. Great sightlines no matter where you are in the theater. The tunes are catchy and it’s a toe tapping good time! Glad I got to check it out again and my friends tagged along as well. They were not intending on seeing it a second time but after the first time they wanted to as well! It was just THAT good! Tonight was Country Western Night in Bliss so after the show and stopping up briefly, the vibe wasn’t there so I took off to bed.
Day 8 – Sea Day – Sunday, December 6
It was a quiet day at sea. Not too much was going on except getting some sun while bundled up to stay warm. It was chilly on the top deck with highs in the 60s in the sunlight without a cross wind, which there was one. The buffet lunch in Moderno was Mediterranean cuisine with an extensive selection of Spanish and Portuguese items available. After lunch it was back up to the sun deck for a little while longer before a disco nap. Dinner tonight was in the Manhattan dining room with service which was fast and efficient until dessert. I don’t know why when you ask for coffee and dessert, service seems to slow to a crawl. It happened every night coffee or tea was asked for. It made some of the people I dined with miss the show.
EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: Burn the Floor
I barely made it into the show. It was standing room only at the back. During the opening number, a female dancer missed her mark and fell. The audience gasped. She got up and continued as gracefully as she could. It set a bad tone for the entire production. I don’t know if it was the format of it but for burning the floor, the production lacked passion, fire and a desire to engage the guests. They had a high energy Burlesque number and it was so subdued it seemed tortured. I love the Burn the Floor production on the Norwegian Breakaway but this one was just awful. I stayed until the end hoping it would get better but it never did. When you have songs with a beat, it helps if the cast is actually bringing it. The group choreography was also off. Being up the back and in nose bleed gave me the vantage point to observe it all from a distance. The singers, who were from the Priscilla cast were great but the dancers and the routines need some help. Breakaway’s Burn the Floor production blows this one out of the water.
EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: White Hot Party
The White Hot Party kicked off with the obligatory line dance songs for the first hour and really rolled into a huge dance party with DJ Alegre taking over for after hours at 11:30PM. I stayed up much later than I had planned as the music was on point. It was the BEST night of the disco the whole trip second to the 90s night. DJ Alegre didn’t disappoint and I was happy the night stayed true the south Florida roots of the White Party from which it was based upon. Well done DJ Alegre. I stayed in the disco until 2AM, having wings afterward and being up late enough to catch the ship transiting the Strait of Gibraltar at 2:45AM.
Day 9 – Malaga, Spain – Monday, December 7
After sleeping in most of the morning, it was time to get off the ship for a walking tour or so I thought. It turned out we were an hour off from when we thought to meet and didn’t make it. An alternative was the hop on, hop off bus around the town of Malaga. Once again the HOHO bus was on point with history lessons between the stops of what we were driving by and about the upcoming stop. For $21.50EU, it was a good deal for the day. Most of the stops worth seeing are coupled in the Eastern side of Malaga with the Western side being more for connecting to other methods of transportation.
For lunch we dined at El Pimpi, a famous tapas restaurant in Malaga. Get there prior to 2PM as locals tend to queue up at that time to get a table. We sampled some of their signature wine along with some tapas. I got the pallela for lunch with calamari and clams. It tasted great and it was a great time to sit down and have an outside piazza style lunch. We walked all over the old town afterward before I headed back on the HOHO to other stops I missed. On Malaga beach there’s a sign that’s a good photo op.
Back on the ship I got to enjoy a special dinner with my friends who I made during the Breakaway cruise the previous year. It was a great dinner arranged by Grace, the Hotel Directors Secretary and meant to be special. It’s not often that you can reconnect with people you’ve cruised with in the past. It rarely happens that schedules can come together like they did on this voyage. Thanks to Grace for the special evening and the Hotel Director for having her arrange it for us.
EPIC ENTERTAINMENT: Four Stations
The 9:30PM show in the theater featured four guys from four different cities in Spain. A tribute group to Il Divo largely but included some Spanish favorites and Spanish covers to other popular English songs. It was a good show. Keeping with the Latin theme, it was Latin night in Bliss. I was exhausted so I just went to bed.
Day 10 - Sea Day – Tuesday, December 8
A leisurely day at sea meant having a leisurely breakfast in the Taste Restaurant. It was far too cold to be topside for sunning so after a nice breakfast in Taste, it was the future cruise presentation with some friends to try and plan a reunion cruise. Lunch was in the Moderno restaurant again with a Spanish style buffet featuring Spanish rice and salad bar. It was a very nice lunch.
It was a quiet afternoon which became the evening and time to say goodbye. I missed the studio lounge solos gathering but my friends made it and got the contact info for me. It was the last night for the GLBT meeting as well so everyone was exchanging information to keep in touch. We dined in the Manhattan room one last time with some of the new solo guests we had befriended during the voyage. The dinner ran later than expected and then it was time to head to Bliss for one last night. DJ Alegre took over at 11:30PM and did a great job to close out the cruise.
Day 11 – Barcelona, Spain – Wednesday, December 9 – Debarkation
Since the ship vibration woke me up in every port of call, I felt our arrival shortly after 5AM local time. NCL was not joking around about getting the passengers off the ship either. I had breakfast in Taste Restaurant. Debarkation started with easy walk off very early on around 7AM and all passengers were off the ship by 10:30AM at the latest. We got off the ship around 9:30AM and they were calling all the passengers off shortly thereafter. It was a fast and efficient process. While NCL was offering a bus transfer for $30 USD per person to the airport, if you had friends going like I did, the $39 fare for a taxi was a much better deal being split 3 ways. NCL did offer varying departure time busses depending on when your flight out was. Debarkation was fast and efficient.
It’s not a good cruise without the crew being there. It’s important to thank the good crew members in a review so they get the recognition they deserve. Some of these folks were given a Vacation Hero card on the ship as well. With that said, these crew members made the trip an amazing experience: Quimson Aquino, Bartender at Spice H2O and Bliss. Quimson recognized me and I him from the Norwegian Jewel which I sailed on quite a few times in 2010. George Kassis, the Cruise Next Manager for helping out with a special request and for an incredibly informative behind-the-scenes ship tour. He also provided the tape I needed to fix my luggage which was destroyed during embarkation. Grace, the Hotel Director’s Secretary for being available and making our reunion dinner one to truly cherish and remember. DJ Alegre for being a great DJ when he had the late night slot in Bliss. With two DJs you never know who had the late night slot but when DJ Alegre had it, he did a phenomenal job. Jaime on the Cruise Director’s staff for being a positive energy experience no matter where I saw her out and about on the ship. Melvyn Lobos, Restaurant Manager for helping get our dinner service going so we didn’t miss any shows and the Moderno restaurant manager (female – can’t remember the name) who really stepped up that night. A ship is only as good as her crew… by and large this crew was super friendly!
Overall, this cruise was a good cruise. It wasn’t great for reasons stated already throughout the cruise but it wouldn’t stop me from sailing on the Norwegian Epic or Norwegian Cruise Line again. The warm welcome back by familiar faces is one driving factor which keeps me returning to NCL. The fellow passengers and their behavior was out of the control of the cruise line so I can’t fault them for it, however, it did annoy the heck out of me at points during the vacation. Priscilla is not to be missed and the cast members who were out and about in the ports were equally nice and friendly to talk to. The show is something truly progressive at sea and I’m happy NCL offers it. It’s my favorite production show now on NCL (replacing Elements). This itinerary was a cold weatherand it’s something I knew going in but it is not an itinerary I would likely repeat at the same time of the year. It was far too cold but warm service from the crew and staff helped to make it a good experience. Read Less