Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by dramqueenuk
- Sail Date: June 2019
- Destination: Western Mediterranean
Embarkation was easy and as I'm disabled, we got to skip the line. Was nice and smooth.
I had an inside cabin. I also peeked into other cabins as they were being cleaned so I got a look at oceanview and balcony ones too. In general , they were a lot smaller than other ships I've been on. I also wasn't keen on the bathroom set up. Basically, the toilet is to the left of the door when you enter the room, and the shower is to the right. There's a curtain you can pull across that will cover them both up. I was sharing with my dad so showering was a bit challenging if he wasn't in the room, as I was always worried that he'd enter and be able to see me naked!
I had requested twin beds but this didn't seem to reach NCL (maybe my agent didn't pass it on). On other ships I've been on, the stateroom attendant happily changed it, but the one we had on this ship was obviously really annoyed and almost lectured us for not requesting it at the outset.
When we looked in our mini-bar, there was an empty can of soda. I obviously didn't want charged for this to advised guest services. I think that made the stateroom attendant hate us for the rest of the trip!
Bars and Restaurants
One thing I did like was that there was a choice of restaurants included, not just the main or buffet restaurants. There was an Asian restaurant, 2 main restaurants, a buffet one that was much calmer than Royal Caribbeans, with more seats available, and an Irish bar. This gave the potential for more variety without having to spend more money.
When we ate at the Manhattan Room, I was really disappointed that the jazz band stopped playing shortly after we got there. This band doesn't seem to be utilised anywhere else so why not have them playing for the whole time the restaurant is open. It went from having a really nice atmosphere to a horrible one as there wasn't even any other background music turned on.
I'd have liked to have been able to view the menus from the restaurants in one place so I didn't have to walk all over the ship to compare them. You have the interactive boards where you can book restaurants for future dates, but you can't seem to do it for that night, which is a real pain. They also don't seem to show the menus. I'm used to being able to view the menus on my TVs, but you don't seem to have that feature.
The service at the pool bar was atrocious! We regularly waited 25 minutes to get served. This was mainly because there weren't enough staff based there, but also because those that were didn't have the ability to remember which customers had arrived first. One guy kept only serving those who were right in front of them, anyone outside his initial field of vision just had to keep waiting, getting more and more frustrated!
I was disappointed with O'Sheehans. It was really noisy because you had noise coming from the atrium venue, the bowling alley, the casino, and the bars above when they had live music. It all clashed into a horrible racket. I was also really disappointed that the menu, at least for dinner, never changed. It felt like there were often dirty tables when you tried to get a seat. I struggled with there being a lot of high tables as I can't use them being disabled. It was also weird that you couldn't eat at the table that's facing down to the atrium, but you can at the same type of seating that's at one of the speciality restaurants. That doesn't make any sense.
On sea days, there literally wasn't ever any day time activities I was interested in doing. Celebrity and Royal Caribbean have way more variety, e.g. colouring classes, table tennis tournaments, board/card game sessions, etc., with multiple free activities happening at each time slot so that there was something for everyone.
I was extremely disappointed by the evening entertainment. I am used to there being a stage show every night, with 2 performances per night on every cruise I've done previously. What was on felt dated, e.g. I saw Priscilla on Royal Caribbean last year.
Howl at the Moon was on far too much - there needs to be more variety. I can't believe that the Headliners Comedy Club never once had any comedy on! Royal Caribbean have musicals, ice shows, comedians, game shows, etc. every single night, and we often struggle to fit them all in, whereas on this cruise I often found myself bored as there wasn't any entertainment I was interested in!
One activity we were actually interested in was karaoke. The bar was always full when it was on and everyone was having a good time. However, as soon as it ended, the bar emptied. This shows that it should definitely be on for a longer duration, even all night, as it was so popular! The first time we went, the entertainment staff member running it (I don't know his name - I think he was Japanese) could not have sounded more depressed! I have never been to karaoke before where the host wasn't standing on the stage in person, which gives more energy and a personal touch, but even offstage, he needed an injection of energy and personality. He was honestly monotone and sounded like he'd rather be anywhere else! The guy that did it the next time we went was more enthusiastic, thankfully!
In general, the ship was very noisy. I'm used to bars being like the Cavern Club where you go into them and enter the atmosphere of that bar, whereas the majority on Epic are out in the open so you have the noise of the casino, the bowling alley, music from other venues, people walking past, etc. The atrium was a particularly horrible venue for drinks and entertainment. I felt like I couldn't find a quieter spot that was comfortable. The day we were doing search and rescue, I really wanted a bar that had comfortable sofa style seating where I could relax but still get brought drinks, and that really just didn't exist.
I'm also used to their being some themed nights on the cruise that everyone gets involved in, like 80s night or white night, etc. There wasn't anything like this on Epic.
I understand why they have people boarding and leaving at different ports in that it increases sales as it fits in with everyone's vacation dates, however what it does do is change the dynamics on board. I'm used to everyone being in a real party mood when we sail away and then there being a final night party too. I appreciate that's not something you can change, but it did change it for me.
Pools & Spa
I had booked a spa offer that said it gave a mini facial and access to the thermal suite. However, I felt it was missold to me as it actually was sitting in a room with other people getting sold Elemis products and getting tests of these to put on our faces ourselves. That's not a facial in my book! Another thing I wasn't expecting was that there was no sauna or steam room available to all. On other ships I've been on, these were accessible to everyone in the fitness suite. Another reason why it wasn't good value for money.
I normally enjoy using the hot tubs on the ship pretty much every day to easy my aching muscles. However, I found that the ones on Epic were barely luke-warm so I often quickly got cold and had to leave.
I think this is the first cruise I've been on where the sauna and steam room wasn't accessible to everyone. The thermal suite is really nice, but it's expensive - 60 USD a visit or you can buy a package - so that made the cruise seem like less value.
The drinks package covered drinks up to 15USD. It didn't include the mini bar or the atrium cafe, which did speciality teas, coffees, and cakes. I was disappointed that bottled water wasn't included in my premium beverage package either. These have always been included on other cruises, so this reduced the feeling of value for money on the drinks package.
Also, all previous cruises have given you a large drinks cup so that you could get it refilled at machines yourself or at bars, which makes it easier for you as a guest, but also is more environmentally friendly, and it's something you can take away as a souvenier, which adds value to your drinks package.
It felt like the casino was too big, dominating almost an entire level. Travelling with someone who's had a gambling problem in the past, it was challenging as it felt impossible at times to avoid the casino! You could smoke in the casino if you were playing games.
I couldn't believe there wasn't any duty free on sale on the ship. I now understand why this is (when it's entirely within Europe, they're not allowed to sell it), but a sign telling us that before we boarded would have been useful so that we could have chosen to buy cigarettes in the duty free shop at Barcelona.
The sales staff for jewellery were very in your face whenever you passed through the shops as you couldn't avoid the shops if you were on that level.
Ports of Call
This is the first cruise I've done in Europe. You visit a port most days and the port days tend to be long hours. You're walking a lot in the European cities too so it's generally a pretty tiring week.
We didn't book any shore excursions with the cruise line as they're really expensive. I did pre-book a couple of tours with 3rd parties. One for Florence and Pisa as it was just the same price as making your own way there, and one for the Vatican in Rome. We made our own way to Rome by taking the port shuttle to the town, then a local bus to the train station, and finally, a train to Roma St Peters. We walked from there. The tour started at 10am and we were just able to get there on time by getting off the ship as soon as it was ready for debarkation. We did have a problem getting back though as the train was delayed. There were about 14 people on that train with us, and thankfully, some of them were on a ship organised tour so the boat waited for us (we were about 40 minutes late in the end!). I'd therefore say if you're doing Rome on your own, make sure you're at the train station by 3.30pm for a 6.30pm all aboard time.
The tenders were really badly organised. To not be given any indication of when your colour might be called was a nightmare because it meant we had to be up and ready early then sitting around for hours when we could have been having a long lie! I have never had a tender done this way before.
On all the other cruises I've done, the staff have been really happy and friendly, always trying to pre-empt your needs, and nothing you asked was too big of a problem. The stateroom attendant didn't look happy whenever I saw her, though that's maybe because she may have gotten into trouble when we had to report that there was an empty can of Sprite in our mini bar from the previous guests! She took away one of our pool towels and never replaced it too.
I also expected our bedding to be changed at least a couple of times during our trip, but I know it wasn't as there was a dirty mark on my duvet cover from near the beginning of the cruise, and it remained there throughout.
One of the hostesses at O'Sheehans also looked miserable, and I felt like I was causing her a problem by asking for a table, particularly when she had to clean one for me. When all the staff seem to be unhappy, it makes me question how life is for them on the ship, and how they're treated.
Value for Money
I felt like I was constantly being pushed to spend more money. It was very in my face, way more than any other cruise I've been on. It felt like most of the activities during the day I might have been interested in doing were at an additional cost, which means what had initially seemed a good price for the cruise, actually wasn't great value.
Again, on the theme of being pressured into buying things, it was really hard to make the photography staff take no for an answer. Getting on and off the ship, they were jumping in front of you and following you even after you'd said, "no thanks" several times!
We had to get our luggage tags the day before disembarking from guest services. We could choose the time we got off as long as the corresponding colour of tag was still available. Bags had to be placed outside the room by 11pm the night before departure unless you were going to take them off yourself in the morning.
The one positive about not everyone's cruise ending on the same day was that we could take our time having breakfast and getting off the ship as it was staying in port all day.
For me, this cruise was really disappointing when I compared it to the others I've done (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Celebrity). The entertainment was particularly poor, I didn't like constantly being hassled to buy more/spend money, and I didn't get the energetic, enthusiastic, friendly, and helpful crew I'm used to. It's put me off sailing with Norwegian again in future, and I won't be recommending them to anyone else.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
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I had read that it took an hour and 10 minutes roughly to get to Florence, but the guides said it would be 1hr 40 mins. Not sure if it's because of traffic or because when you do a coach tour, the coach can't get right into the centre, it has to park about a 20 minute walk outside. Alessandro gave us info on the city as we made our way there but it was hard to stay awake with the coach rocking you to sleep!
Our first stop was a place where we could taste Tuscan red wine and 2 types of traditional food, Pappa Al pomodoro (which tasted to me like ravioli minus the pasta) and Panzanella. I couldn't quite figure out what this last one reminded me of, but I didn't like it anyway. Unsurprisingly, dad didn't like either of them, but at least he tried them! And although he made faces at the wine, he still drank the whole glass! Lol. This wasn't actually what had been on the itinerary. We were meant to stop at the food market for cantucci (a kind of cookie). Pamela told me it was because something was wrong with the market, which I can understand.
The name of the tour included the words, "fully guided" so, understandably, people were annoyed when the guide said he'd show us the meeting point and leave us to explore on our own. After they complained a lot, Alessandro said he'd show us around. However, with a group size of around 40, without the radios, you'd end up just following a group of people around with no time to stop for photos or knowing where you were. Plus, as he hadn't expected to take people around, he wouldn't have had detailed info to give. Dad and I are generally both 'make the best of things' people, so we just went off on our own to explore for just under 2 hours (the itinerary had said 3 hours in Florence).
We saw the impressive Cathedral, Basilica di San Lorenzo, and Giotto’s Campanile from the outside. We couldn't go in as there was a massive queue and we wanted to have a wander and see other things. Or at least I did. Dad could probably have done without the wandering part! Lol. Though I did give him the option of staying in a cafe and he said he was fine to walk.
There were quite a few impressive buildings, fountains, and statues in the city. In the Piazza della Signoria, there was the fountain of Neptune and the Loggia dei Lanzi, which house many statues and a fountain. They were all pretty violent and/or grotesque, which I reckon makes them much more interesting to look at!
We walked to Ponte vecchio Bridge, which is one of those bridges that has shops (mostly jewellers) and apartments on it, some hanging out further then the bridge itself.
We wandered back to meet our guide then walked about 20 minutes back to the coach. Heading to Pisa, a journey I thought was about 45 minutes but took 1hr and 20 mins, the guide told us there was an accident in the road but our driver Valter had found a shortcut to avoid it. He drove down small country/village lanes, getting us to Pisa (or at least the nearest parking lot as it was still a 15 minute walk away) without delay.
I hadn't realised that the leaning tower of pisa wasn't standing on its own. It sits in a large square beside the Baptistry and cathedral. You can climb to the top for 18 euros but neither of us could face the 300 stairs! And yes, nearly every tourist was trying to get that iconic image of them holding the tower up. I tried to get dad to do it but he wasn't really understanding the instructions! Lol
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We walked to the fountain of Neptune then continued on to San Pietro Martire Church. The church wasn't very impressive as there wasn't much of it to see from the outside. Google seemed to get a little confused with the journey to the next church so we found ourselves wandering into a very peaceful square that's part of the museum of palaeontology, plus walking up a load of stairs, which, of course, dad complained about! Lol
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