About a month before my cruise on the NCL Epic, I was sitting in my office and thinking…I need a mini-vacation! I decided to go solo. I did not want to overthink it. 20 minutes later, I had a room booked in a solo cabin aboard the ... Read More
About a month before my cruise on the NCL Epic, I was sitting in my office and thinking…I need a mini-vacation! I decided to go solo. I did not want to overthink it. 20 minutes later, I had a room booked in a solo cabin aboard the Norwegian Epic for a March 7, 2018 departure for Port Canaveral. Break out the sunscreen, warm up my liver, buy bigger pants (for when I get home)….oh yeah! I was ready!
Booking the trip: Booked online through NCL website for 4 day, 3 night cruise to Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay (NCL Island). Booked a Solo Cabin. These were actually about the same cost as if I booked a one person inside cabin, but I wanted the solo group experience and access to the solo lounge and meetings, which are exclusive to those staying in the Solo Cabins. I took advantage of the free Unlimited Beverage Package (UBP), which does require that you pre-pay 18% gratuity on $89 per day of the value, but it was worth the cost to me and it’s much easier to not worry about tipping on board. I prepaid gratuities. I printed out my confirmation (with the bar code) and luggage tags. I used packing tape to basically laminate my tags to avoid them tearing off.
Transportation from Orlando Airport: I took Cortrans Shuttle Service from MCO. Cost $20 one way/$40 round trip (plus a few dollars voluntary tip). I paid cash onsite. I arranged in advance on their website. They gave easy instructions on where to meet. My flight arrived early (was at pickup location by 10:30AM for 11:15AM shuttle), so I had to wait about 45 minutes until my actual shuttle time. Arrived to cruise port at 12:15AM. They drop right at the cruise port and luggage porters. I highly recommend Cortrans. They use mid-sized buses. Great service!
Arrival at cruise port: Shuttle arrived at 12:15PM. Porters waiting took luggage practically right off the shuttle. Busy time for boarding. Took almost a full hour until actually onboard. I recommend you check everything you don’t need with the porters. Otherwise, you will be carrying bags around for the couple of hours it takes to have your room ready.
Boarding: Unless you are high status ‘Latitudes’ club member, you’ll have to wait in a long line to board which reminisces waiting in a Disney line for Space Mountain. They ask if you want to leave a credit card for expenses, similar to a hotel, which I did and recommend everyone do. It was so convenient to not have to go to the desk and settle my bill. I received an itemized receipt the morning of arrival and was just able to walk off.
Since it was lunchtime, everyone heads up to the main buffet, which was very crowded. I went to O’Sheehan’s bar instead, which was good and fast table service. Had some wings and a ruben sandwich and a beer. Went topside to pool bar. Note that while in Port Canavaral, there is a small charge per drink for port taxes ($.70-$1.20 or so), so don’t be surprised to see some small charges on your bill for these.
Food and drink: I didn’t use any of the restaurants that cost extra. Breakfast at ‘Taste’ was good and was table service (Eggs Benedict!). Had dinner at the Manhattan Room, Taste, the chinese place. All were OK, but not fantastic. Next trip I’m doing specialty service. Long pants and collared shirts in dining rooms at night for men. Women look great in anything. I liked the mixed drinks better at Bliss and Maltings Whisky Bar (which besides making a good Old Fashion was also the only bar to have IPA Beer). The drinks by the pool were good if you keep basic since these bartenders are very very busy. They had Tito’s, Grey Goose, and other high-end liquors. UBP includes all drinks up to $15 and you pay excess of that. Everything I wanted was within the UBP. Bottled water and canned soda as well as specialty coffees were not included in UBP (why not NCL?), but fountain soda, iced tea, water was included.
Solo cabin: The solo cabin is small and funky. I’m a big guy…6’3” about 300lb. I found the bed comfortable and large enough. Taking a shower in the small telephone booth size shower for me was like washing a large van in a small carwash. Nonetheless, I liked the cabins. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in them anyway. After I booked, I saw that my cabin was far away from Solo Lounge. I called NCL and changed to one closer. This was a good choice since some folks were really far from the lounge and general gathering space. There are 128 Solo Cabins on the Epic. All people in Solo Cabins have exclusive use of the Solo Lounge. The lounge had an awesome coffee machine for free use, which included lattes, cappuccino, espresso functions. Baked cookies and danishes in the morning was nice. The first day at 6PM we had a meeting at the Solo Lounge to meet our NCL Solo host, Silvia. She made arrangements for those of us to go to dinner together a different restaurants at 6PM for each of the three nights. About a half dozen of us, which is a relatively small group compared to the 128 Solo Cabins on board, decided to go. We ended up hanging out together the rest of the cruise…dining together, going ashore, etc. New friends whom I’d like to cruise with again. There is also a happy hour in the Solo Lounge every night from 5-7PM. This was a good opportunity to meet others staying the solo cabins. Some folks were truly solo travelers. Some were friends who are staying in the solo cabins. Others were traveling with their others, but wanted their own cabin. Some of the cabins are connecting.
Ports: In Nassau, my new friends and I decided to head to Junkanoo Beach and hang out at the Tiki Bikini Hut. We enjoyed the drinks, beach area, DJ, and free wifi. Great server (Amanda) from South Africa. We also went ashore at Great Stirrup Cay. This is an NCL island, which means food and UBP was included there. We hung around the Bacardi Bar. If you want to go early to the Great Stirrup Cay, you should reserve a tender. These are reserved in groups…tender 1,2,3 etc. If you reserve Tender 1 and decide to go later than the first tender, you can still go in a higher group.
Shows: The cruise was short so I only went to the ‘Burn the Floor’ dance show on the second night. We showed up about 10 minutes before the show and were able to sit in third row center section. Great show that lasted about an hour.
Disembarking: You can either carry your bags off in the morning, or use NCL’s color coded system, which takes your bags for you. You then disembark according to you color coded time. I just walked off with my bags. The schedule said disembarking begins at 7:30AM. I left my cabin at 7:15AM and was through customs/immigration and off the ship by 7:45AM. It was very easy and much quicker than boarding. My Cortrans shuttle had to wait about a half an hour, but I was back at Orlando Airport by 9:15AM. On my flight back, I was already missing being on the ship and my new friends. I was also curious on why the seatbelts were now smaller than before! ;) Read Less