1.) Choice of itinerary
We booked this cruise after a sampler cruise on the Epic in 2010 which was a 1 night from Rotterdam to Southampton. We were so impressed with what we saw on the one night so we just had to come back and have a better look at what was on offer. Another prime objective for this cruise was to enable our 11 year old to take his second cruise and when we saw the price for this cruise at half term we just had to go for it. It wasn’t so much the itinerary that sold this cruise to us; it was the ship and what it had to on offer.
2.) Choice of cabin
Last time on Epic we had a deluxe balcony cabin and we were really impressed with the size and layout. We were aware of the bathroom situation from our previous encounter but we didn’t consider this to be too much of problem and judging by the amount of people on board it doesn’t seem to have put others off either. It will probably not suit some people but I never heard anyone mention anything about it the whole time we were on the ship.
For our cabin this time round we opted for a standard balcony which is a bit smaller, it’s not as long and there isn’t as much storage and with 3 of us in it at times it did feel very cramped. The beds are very comfortable and amongst the bits and pieces in the cabin the is a coffee maker, hair-dryer, flat screen TV which has an interactive area for access to your on board account and it also has the capacity for you make bookings to dining, entertainment & Spa. There is also a safe and a mini bar which are built into the wall unit opposite the bed.
Due to our flight schedule (via Munich), we arrived in Barcelona at 1.30pm where we were met at arrivals by our driver for our pre booked transportation to the cruise terminal. (Sun Transfers – http://www.suntransfers.com/). I can recommend these for punctuality and price. Probably a little more expensive than a taxi but its nice to know this important stage of the journey is taken care of.
The transfer to Barcelona cruise terminal took about 30 minutes and our luggage was immediately taken by the handlers and we were directed to the desks for checking in. It would have appeared that most of the other passengers were already on board and our check in was very swift and without any problems. We were on board within 20 minutes maximum.
This is where I will not be able to give a conclusive review because many of the speciality restaurants on the Epic carry a cover charge and as we prefer to keep our on board spend down we seldom give these restaurants a go. For those with bigger budgets there is something there for everybody. The following restaurants we did not use as they all carry a cover charge. There were however many people using them and feedback from fellow passengers we spoke to about them was very positive
1. Noodle Bar – Chinese American
2. Le Bistro – French Bistro
3. Moderno Churrascaria – Churrascaria
4. La Cucina – Italian / Tuscan with a modern twist.
5. Shanghai’s – Chinese American
6. Cagney’s Steakhouse – Steakhouse
7. Teppanyaki – Japanese Hibachi
8. Wasabi – Japanese Sushi / Sake Bar
9. Spiegel Tent – Entertainment Dining
The following venues did not incur a cover charge and are ones we did try out.
10. The Manhattan Room – Aft Main Dining
We only used this on one occasion and found the experience very nice. Very busy and food was very well presented and cooked nicely. There is a dress code in this restaurant, no shorts but oddly enough jeans are accepted?
11. Taste – Atrium Main Dining
We used this on 3 nights; it has the same menu as The Manhattan Room but is less formal with no dress code required. We also used this for breakfast on the last 2 mornings and found it to be a very nice way to take breakfast. You are waited on and you can basically have anything you want from the breakfast menu. The eggs were cooked to perfection, with freshly squeezed juices too which you did not get in the Garden Café unless you paid for it. If I went on the Epic I would dine here for every breakfast.
12. Garden Café – Indoor Buffet
At the start of the cruise we used this venue for breakfast, lunch and diner. The food is well cooked and presented but at busy times it is very difficult to view what is on offer let alone get to the front to get served. Getting a seat can be a problem too and we often ended up taking our food outside to eat in The Great Outdoors.
13. O’Sheehan’s – Neighbourhood Bar / Fast Food
We only ate here once and what we had was satisfactory enough, the menu consists of bar type snacks, burgers, chicken wings etc…. It’s right next to a 3 lane bowling alley which we unfortunately never found time to investigate.
14. The Great Outdoors – Outdoor Buffet
This is really an extension to the Garden Café and is only ever opened up at what seemed to me as the busiest times of the day. It’s a great place to sit and munch outside when the weather is good.
15. Spice H20 – Pool Grill
There were snacks available here but we never utilized this and it is an adult only area and because we had an 11 year old with us it wasn’t somewhere that we ventured to.
The Blue Man Group is a must. We were lucky enough to see them last year and wanted to share this with our younger companion. No words are spoken by the 3 Blue Men and it is just an amazing visual experience. Don’t miss it!
Legends was a big disappointment, we had look alike’s for Elton John, Whitney Houston and Shikira of which Elton was probably the most entertaining. They all did about 20 minutes in an hour long show.
The only other show we went to was in Spice H20 and was the Beatles Tribute act. Very impressed with what I saw, the only downside was it only lasted 50 minutes. It could have been twice as long. The place just emptied after they went off. I think NCL need to rethink this a bit!
During the day by the pool you are entertained by[i] The Iguana trio[/i] which is OK to start with but after 7 days of the same set list it becomes a little tedious. There were also some games held poolside which they struggled to get people to participate in. Is this really what people want these days? Judging by the way people ignored the poor organiser it would appear not!
A couple of evenings during the cruise we enjoyed the sounds of one of the pianists in Shakers bar, he was very entertaining and it is nice area to relax and have a drink listening to his playing.
We only got off the ship once and this was at Naples and there we organised our own excursion. After e-mailing three different companies we eventually employed the services of AP Tours (http://www.aptours.it/) and arranged the itinerary to suit what we wanted to do. There were 8 of us in total and we were picked up dockside at 8.00 am and driven straight to Pompeii where we were almost the first in. No queues or crowds. AP Tours had also taken our instruction to book a guide for us and we were escorted round by the informative and delightful Pina (as in Colada). Tours around Pompeii are regulated and there is a fixed price and set time. Towards the end of the tour it became very busy and the queues for tickets actually stretched out of the compound. Pina told us that she had known it stretch right up the road on some occasions. I am glad we went early. Look out for the traders opposite the entrance with the huge lemons hanging from their stalls.
Our time at Pompeii went very quickly and it seemed like within no time we were back in the air conditioned van on our way to Vesuvius, our next stop. The drive took about 30 minutes and the van seemed to make very light work of the climb. Where the road terminates there is a small car park which again was very busy and this is where you buy your entrance ticket and proceed to climb up to the rim of the volcano. It took us about 20 minutes to reach the rim of the crater and we spent about 30 minutes up there enjoying the views of Naples.
Our next stop was along the Almafi coast to Positano where we had lunch booked at the La Tagliata Restaurant (http://www.latagliata.com). We took in some spectacular views along with some excellent food and highly recommend this place if you are ever in the vicinity. The last thing to do on our trip was to catch the ferry back to Naples from Sorrento. It costs €11 and takes approximately 30 minutes. It was a great way to round the day off.
7.) Low points / High lights
The highlight for us was the enjoyment our young companion got from the whole package. The pool and water slides, being able to eat what ever he wanted, go where ever he wanted (within reason) and just enjoy the cruise as it should be enjoyed.
I can’t really think of too many things which I would consider was a low light. One thing I could possible fault would be the variety of food. It was all excellently presented and prepared but not a lot of variation. Also making the Spice H20 an adults only area was perhaps over the top, there were a couple of functions there which we would love to have gone to but because of the rule didn’t.
8.) Overall impression
Considering there were over 4000 passengers on board, the ship did not feel crowded. NCL have done a good job of making the public areas easily accessible and you can get around the ship freely without bumping into people all the time. One possible grumble would be the fact that there are only stairs and elevators at the front and back. This means to get up and down decks you have to sometimes walk the length of quite a large ship.
We had what many would consider the perfect steward, we met him day 1 where he introduced himself and we never saw him again but our cabin was always made up and turned down in our absence. He even made 5 towel animals for our young companions enjoyment.
All crew on board seemed very happy in their work and were always polite and courteous. I would say this has been one the happiest crews we have encountered so far so well done NCL, you must be doing something right.
10.) Problems and their resolution
The only problem I can recall is that our sea pass lost all its information on day 1, we took it down to guest services where it quickly replaced for a working one. We we advised not to keep 2 cards together as the magnetic strips would erase all the information stored if the got too close together. I have never experienced this with any other cruise lines sea passes.
11.) Ports of call
Sun May 29 Barcelona, Spain 6:00pm
Mon May 30 At Sea
Tue May 31 Florence / Pisa (Livorno), Italy 7:00am 7:00pm
Wed Jun 1 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 7:00am 7:00pm
Thu Jun 2 Naples (Capri), Italy 7:00am 7:00pm
Fri Jun 3 At Sea
Sat Jun 4 Palma de Mallorca, Spain 8:00am 6:00pm
Sun Jun 5 Barcelona, Spain 5:00am
We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise, it gave us immense pleasure to see the enjoyment our young companion got from the whole package and would love to give him another opportunity like this again in the future. Not to mention the fun we had despite only getting off the ship once!
The question that everyone ends with…….. would I cruise the Norwegian Epic again? YES!