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  #1  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:21 PM
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sdmike sdmike is offline
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Default sdmike's review & daily diary of Epic's inaugural western Caribbean cruise

I typed a diary of our entire week on the ship which I will post here in multiple parts. Just a warning...it's long! I will have pictures up in the next couple of days showing what I'm writing about. I hope you enjoy the write-up!

Arrival Day

The two nights before the cruise we stayed at the Hilton downtown in Miami. We had arrived very late on Thursday night (midnight) and easily found a cab downtown to the hotel. The cost was $23 plus tip, so for $30 we got door to door service without messing with any shuttles. I had looked at shuttles and the cost would about been about triple what we paid for a cab for the 5 of us, so I’m glad decided to just “cab it”. The hotel is showing a little age, but the staff is great and it’s well maintained. We stayed in a HUGE Junior Suite that had two queen beds and a large sitting area with a fold-out queen couch. These units are on the corner with floor to ceiling windows, and being on the SW corner of the 12th floor we had a great view of the cruise ship terminal and downtown Miami. Thursday night while we were sleeping Tropical Storm Bonnie came calling, throwing up 50mph winds and a large amount of rain. We were worried that the weather would not pass fast enough for the Epic to start her trip on Saturday, but by late afternoon on Friday the sun came out and things were looking great for the trip. My folks and my brother’s family got in from Philly on Friday afternoon and stayed at a different hotel. We didn’t meet up until Saturday morning at the port just due to logistics (no cars, staying in different parts of the city). On Friday evening I took the family over to Bayside Marketplace. It was a $6 - $7 cab ride (plus tip) and it was nice to get out and walk around. My wife wanted to do a little shopping, but there are some empty shops now. The place is still like I remember, with most of the fun coming from people watching, grabbing a quick ice cream or water ice at a stand, or standing out by the harbor watching the water. There are a few places to eat (Chilis, Hooters, a food court), but not a lot of “good” restaurants. Worth spending some time though. Did I mention the people watching? World class. J

As I type this on Monday morning the ship is rocking and rolling in 50mph winds and 10-12ft waves. More on that later J
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
Dragable deck plans: http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Ma...rwegian%20Epic

Other NCL Info:
NCL Dining Guide: http://www.ncl.com/sites/default/fil...ide-022814.pdf
Helpful NCL documents http://www.ncl.com/downloads/docs
NCL ship Virtual Tours http://www.facebook.com/Norwegiancru...85302731539795
Shop NCL: http://www.nclgiftshop.com/

HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/faq.p...arch#faq_basic


NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994


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  #2  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:23 PM
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sdmike sdmike is offline
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Embarkation Day (Saturday, July 24th)

Saturday morning we got up at 9am and got packed up for our cruise. We left the hotel at 10:30 after waiting 15 minutes for an elevator that wasn’t full to come by our floor. Keep in mind that the hotels will be full of cruisers, all heading out at the same time so it seems. Be patient. It was already hot in Miami, and when we got down to the moto-port where the bellman and cars came in it only took us 5 minutes to get a van-cab for the 5 of us. By 10:45 (and about $9 plus tip later) we arrived in front of terminal B/C. The porters are all lined up on a long concrete island about 50 feet in front of the terminal, and they directed our cab to a certain spot and immediately opened the doors to let us out, and also grabbed our 3 suitcases out of the back. After a short “interview” about things like passports, making sure the bags are unlocked, etc., I handed them a $10 tip and walked across the street to the terminal. At this point the curb was about half full, and there were plenty of racks full of luggage that they were rolling over to the terminal. A guard at the entrance of the terminal checked to make sure we had a ticket and passports, and then we went into a security checkpoint. The checkpoint is just like an airport, but a little more laid back. Same rules (no liquids, no metals on you, etc.), but the personnel were very friendly. Once through security we headed into a larger area where we were greeted by a cruise representative that handed each adult a health questionnaire that asked if you had any recent illness, etc. You needed to answer for your kids too, and sign the form. We then walked up to the empty check-in counter (have I mentioned that there were no lines yet?) and pulled out our ticket and passports for check-in. Of course we couldn’t make it easy on them. I asked if we could check in my son who was with us but registered to my parent’s room. Since we had the same last name and my son was there, with ID, it wasn’t a problem. He got his key for his room (14024) and the other 4 of us got keys for our room (14022). By the way, I’m convinced these are the best BA cabins on the ship, but more on that later. J The check-in took about 10 minutes as he checked the IDs, took pictures, registered my credit card, and produced the cards. We then walked past the counter and went up an escalator to a larger waiting area. By then it was maybe 11:15. There were several hundred people waiting patiently in this large seating area, and they had a station with water and OJ available. There was a VIP lounge for suite passengers, but since I was common folks I didn’t go in there. J At just about noon the first passengers boarded…the “VIPs”. Within 20 minutes we were on board, with the only bottleneck being where they wanted to route everybody through a couple of picture stations. My father, who we will call “mister patient”, complained that he didn’t want a picture and wanted to go through. They let me, but they seemed confused. He was proud of his small victory. J Our rooms were not ready yet so we toured around the ship, stopping for lunch at the grill above Spice H2O. It’s open to the public and it wasn’t crowded at all. It was hot out on the deck, but a cold beer with lunch made it ok. After lunch we signed the kids in at Recess and the teen club so we go that out of the way. We then took a tour of the Spa and the gym, and HOLY CRAP THESE PLACES ARE HUGE. Lol! My wife, who works out every day for at least 2 hours, decided that she didn’t need a room, she would just stay in the spa/gym all day. Hahaha. Well, I talked her out of that, but we did sign up for the couple’s spa pass. It’s $119 per person, or $199 per couple. They set a limit of 60 couples passes, and we found lat later they sold out by evening. At this point the water slides and pools were open, so the kids changed into swim suits (we carried them on) and headed for the pools. On the way we stopped at the Spider Web on the pool deck, and the kids all had a blast in it. My 15 year old was a complete monkey, scaling to the top a couple of times. It was hard work because all of the interior cords were giant bungees! Funny to watch the kids. My 13 year old sports freak was on the basketball court in minutes and shot for a while. Finally we got them to the pool deck for some wet fun. We DID notice that the pool water was FRESH, but probably only since we were in port. My guess is that it will be salt on sea days, but we will find out later.

Around 2pm they announced that all the rooms were ready for occupancy, and when we got up to 14022 our luggage was out front..sorta. You have to hunt around for the bags. We had 3 large samsonite suitcases in school-bus yellow, which is the ONLY color luggage to have when you’re trying to find them among a million black bags that all look alike. The hallways are narrow and a strange shape. Even without suitcases in the hall they are too narrow for two people to pass each other. With bags in the hall it was crazy. The hallway walls are flat opposite the cabin doors, but wavy on the cabin side. The doors are in the indent, and the bulge part of the wave provide easy access to the plumbing & AC behind each cabin toilet area. If you walk down the hall and someone is coming the opposite way, one of you will step into the indent to let the other pass. Not a pain, but narrower than my last couple of ships.

Now for information on the room

My first impression when I walked into my room was “HOLY CRIPES this is small”. Well, it is, but first impressions can be deceiving. They’re small, but very efficient. Once you get the hang of them and discover all of the unique attributes of the room, I actually grew to like them quite a bit. However, I WOULD recommend the deluxe family stateroom for the extra room. We had 11 people in three rooms, and it did get a bit crowded sometimes. We did this because we wanted a couple of connectors, but in hindsight this wasn’t necessary. In fact, I would recommend against connecting rooms because the connecting doors take some of your space away. For the rooms with bed by the balcony (the layout I’d prefer, but my parents have), there are shelves on the size of the closet that fold out over the connector door if you want. We left it down so we could go between rooms. If you don’t have connectors, you get another closet! We could have used an extra closet. J Why don’t you need connectors? Well, because you can open the balcony dividers! We were able to do it ourselves (yes, we are MacGuyvers), but your steward could do this too. We leave our balcony doors unlocked, and the 11 of us move freely between cabins using the balconies. I HIGHLY recommend this approach to connecting rooms instead of losing the storage space with connecting rooms. However, we made it work. The rules are simple too. If the curtains to the balcony are closed, you don’t go in. Works out great!

So, here’s what you need to know about the rooms. First, there is storage everywhere. Anywhere it looks like there might be space, pull on the front panel and it likely opens. After my initial panic of “where the heck are we going to put all our stuff?” we found a spot for everything, and it’s not even cluttered. There is a huge area under the bed for suitcases, plus all kinds of cubbies. I’ll give a rundown of those in a second. Each room also has a mini-fridge loaded with expensive mini-bar stuff. It’s tempting for kids, so my brother decided to have his emptied by his steward so he can use the space. The rooms also come with a tray with coffee-maker and ice bucket, and we stowed ours away underneath to give us more counter space. My brother had the steward remove his from the room. Each room has a 27” flat screen, a blow dryer, a touch screen phone, LED reading light next to the bed, and lots and lots of lighting options. The switch for the sink light is under the medicine cabinet. Otherwise you should be able to find the rest easily. There is an electrical outlet for razors in the medicine cabinet, and another outlet next to the stool and across from the hair dryer. It’s only 2 plugs (the coffee maker is using one of them), so you might want to bring a power strip for back there.

Here are some of the storage areas that might not be evident. First of all, you probably know there’s lots of storage behind and under the couch. In front of the couch you will find the only two drawers in the room. We used those for my son’s and daughter’s clothes. There’s also storage behind the back rests. We used that for all of our carry-on backpacks. The other “secret” place is in the ceiling unit above the bed. The first ¾ of this encased unit is for the A/C ductwork. However, the panels closest to the sliding balcony door open up for more storage. It’s deeper in the room with the bed by the balcony, but they both have it. It’s hard to open, but don’t give up if you need the space. By the sink there’s a small drawer that we’ve used for vitamins and medications, and underneath the sink is a multi-purpose plastic bin with a metal canister inside. We are using the bin for dirty laundry and the canister for trash. There are a lot of hangers in the closet, and like I said, almost every panel pulls open and has space behind it, even where the outlets are. You can pull that panel open too. You can also store things on various shelves, like on top of the TV. The medicine cabinet is huge and you can put lots of things inside. It also has water glasses in there, which is added convenience. Again, be creative and you’ll find a home for all your stuff.

A couple other observations. It’s easy to keep the sink from splashing. Just don’t turn the water on all the way. We have no issue at all with the sink. It’s shallow, but we’ve not experience “flooding” issues at all. You just need to be careful. The toilet area has a small trashcan inside, and the flush is very loud (airplane suction toilet loud). We don’t flush pee in the middle of the night. J The shower is awesome. Lots of space and great water pressure. The temperature fluctuates a bit, but not too bad. There’s also a line in there to hang wet clothes. They provide shower gel and shampoo in a dispenser, but if you need conditioner or want a bar of soap you’ll have to bring your own (or buy conditioner on board..but I didn’t see bar soap). Both the toilet and shower have air vents that run all the time. We’ve not had ANY steam or smell issues in the room due to the fan/vents. It’s unanimous from our group…we love the bathrooms! We don’t care about sound effects from the commode, and with the separate units we basically have 3 toilets, 3 showers, 3 sinks and 3 changing areas for the 11 of us. We can all be doing something different instead of all trying to share 3 bathrooms. Love it. Hmm..what else about the room. On the outside where your room number is there is a wheel that you can change between Welcome, Do Not Disturb, Please Make up Room, and Please Turn Down Room. That’s convenient. Your cabin steward won’t even knock if it says not to disturb. The A/C works great, but when it’s hot outside you can blow all of the cold air out at once if you open the cabin door and balcony door at the same time. You’ll get a 50mph suction gust that will take hours to recover from. J The ship has only a handful of channels, but all are commercial free. They have BBC, CNBC, MSNBC, ESPN, NICK, FOX and a few others. There’s also a channel where you can track progress, ship speed, etc. Overall, we are very, very happy with the rooms. We’d love more space, but you can never have enough space, right? We have 4 of us in two of the rooms, and while they are scary-cramped when the upper bed is down, you can still get along ok. Oh, that upper bed is built like a fortress. It will definitely hold you of you’re anything short of 250lbs. It’s got some serious structure to it. The main problem is that adults will have difficulty walking between this bed and the cabinet, and adults will hit their head on the bottom if you try to sit on the couch. Not a big deal because this bed is only down when it’s time to sleep, but it sure makes the room feel like a pillbox.

One more thing about the lights in the room – it’s bright in there at night! There are LEDs all over the place. Each reading lamp next to the bed has a small blue LED on the button. The phone is extremely bright at night. Even the small green LED on the AC control unit casts a glow around the room like a night light. We had to cover the phone with a black shirt, and the little blue lamp LEDs with towels. Some won’t mind this, but we wanted it darker.

Ok, enough about the room unless I remember something else. Let’s talk about what we did. The additional reviews will be shorter, mostly because they will be repetitive otherwise. J

We toured the ship for a while to get the lay of the land. You can do a ton of walking for sure, but almost everything you want is on 5, 6, 7 or 15. Things are clustered too, like the shopping on 7, and much of the entertainment on 6 at the front of the ship. We opted decided to see Blue Man the first night in case we wanted to see it again later in the week. So we had planned on arriving at getting in line at 6:30 for the 7pm show. We had dinner up at the buffet (it was very good for a buffet!) and got down to BMG at 6:30 as planned. Surprisingly we went right in and got 11 seats in the first two rows in front of the stage. Huh? How is this possible? Well, it’s not sold out the first night! It was sold out every other show except for the first one, which was great! No lines, great seats, and an awesome show! I’ve seen them a few times, as have the other adults in our group. They did much of the same stuff from their Vegas show, but it was always great to have their percussion-based music thumping in my chest. We laughed and had a great time. The first two rows are a “splash zone” where they provide ponchos and have plastic seats. I won’t spoil the show, but there are no bad seats in the joint. The theater is small for ship standards, and even the back row would have been considered premium seats in Vegas. We had a great time, and afterwards you can have your picture taken with the bluemen with the ship photographer. We got lucky and got a couple of pics with our own camera. Yeah…as stated before..ship pictures are about $20 each, or you can get them all on CD for …gag…$349! We’re going to take as many pictures as possible, and if we manage 30 or more J we might consider the CD. Lol

After BMG we all went our separate ways for a while. My daughter went to Recess, whose two entrances are just about 100 feet from our cabin next to the elevator bank. Very convenient. My boys went up to the Entourage teen club to hang out with other teens. We picked up our daughter at 10:30 when the “late night” fees would have started. From 10:30 to 1:30 it costs $6 per hour to have your kid in the program. If you have 2 kids, the second is $4. Curfew is 1am for all kids unless accompanied by an adult. We had our boys check in with us at 11, then we let them go back out to the “teen crib” until closing. At 10:30 my wife and daughter and I went to O’Sheehans for a late bite. We had the spinach-artichoke dip (don’t bother), a Newcastle draft (oh yeah) and hot brownie sundae’s (also, oh yeah). We were sacked out by 1:30am and slept like babies. The beds are all comfortable, and the calm seas made for a very restful night. In fact, we didn’t wake up until 10am Sunday! J

Oh, I said I would let you know why I think this might be the best set of rooms on the ship. Here goes. First off, we are directly under the buffet area. It’s very, very easy to just go upstairs and grab a quick bite, coffee, or soft serve ice cream (the kid’s favorite). We hear a little extra noise at night as they clean up upstairs, but this only lasts an hour or so from 10 – 11. Not a big deal, you can just occasionally hear some piece of equipment roll by. However, here’s the main reason I love this room… the extended ceiling over the balcony! Many of the rooms on the 14th floor are underneath an extended protrusion of the 15th deck. This provides increased protection from the hot sun and, as we’re finding out on Monday, rain! We are still able to go out on our balcony even though it’s been raining almost all day, and we enjoy watching the big white-capped waves and the frothing water the ship pushes out to the side. Any other balconies would be wet and too windy. In the sun they would be too hot, keeping the room too hot. Love this setup.

Oh, one more thing, my daughter (9) danced at the sail-away party for about 2 hours. She’s in the ship videos and had crew and everybody else joining her. It was a great moment for her and she was the life of the party. I watched us leave port from the comfort of our connected balconies, waving at people that stopped along the causeway in Miami. I also posted a half dozen times on cruise critic as we were leaving, and I couldn’t believe how long I had my ATT signal for my ipad.

Ok..as I type this (Monday evening) the ship is really rocking and rolling in gale force winds. It’s a very, very stable ship considering the conditions. A lesser ship would have people barfing over the side. More on this later.
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
Dragable deck plans: http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Ma...rwegian%20Epic

Other NCL Info:
NCL Dining Guide: http://www.ncl.com/sites/default/fil...ide-022814.pdf
Helpful NCL documents http://www.ncl.com/downloads/docs
NCL ship Virtual Tours http://www.facebook.com/Norwegiancru...85302731539795
Shop NCL: http://www.nclgiftshop.com/

HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/faq.p...arch#faq_basic


NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994


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  #3  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:23 PM
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sdmike sdmike is offline
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First Day at Sea (Sunday, July 25th)

On Sunday we got up and hit the buffet for a late breakfast and started our day. The boys (teens) ran off to the teen club, and my daughter went to Recess with her cousin for some free play time. Recess has some times when it’s structured time with games and projects, and others where it’s free play time in the HUGE play area. I’ve never seen a bigger kid’s area ever. It’s 5x the size of the teen club, and has tons of video games, play areas, tv screens, etc. She’s really enjoying it. My wife and I used this time to hit the spa. J What can I say about the spa other than its big and awesome? You enter through the same lobby as the gym at the aft of the 14th deck. There is a reception desk, and to use the spa you show your spa wristband and give them your room card. In turn they give you an elastic bracelet that includes a locker key and a key card to get into the spa area. To prevent sharing of the bracelet they also put a sticker on the back of your cruise card identifying you as a spa customer. There are separate M and F dressing rooms that include towels, showers, toilets, and some private steam rooms and saunas. They sometimes have slippers and robes, but I didn’t see any in the men’s side. I’m not sure if they just have those on the women’s side or if the men’s side was out of them. I didn’t ask. I met my wife in the common area and we headed straight to the giant relaxation pools. They are very warm, but not hot like a hot tub. They are more refreshing. There are jets in several areas, plus very forceful wide streams of water coming down like out of a giant faucet. You can get under it and massage your shoulders, but it’s so hard I feared bruising. J There’s also an area along the back of this pool with submerged rollers shaped like a lounge chair that you can lay across, and underneath comes a steady stream of bubbles. You can fit a half dozen or more people across those rollers, and you will know what food feels like when you boil it (although warm, not hot). After this we spent about 30 seconds in the sauna (it was already 95 out, why the heck would I want to get hotter), some time in the hot tub, about 30 minutes on the heated tile loungers, and even found a seat on the aft balcony for a bit looking out over the sunny ocean. The people using that area were camped out seemingly permanently. They were on that balcony when we got there, and they were on that balcony when we left 2 hours later. Hogs. Anyway, I guess first come first serve. I also found a secret entrance to the spa, but I’m not tellin. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble for sneaking in.

Oh..one thing I discovered while looking at the aft of the ship from the 14th deck is that the ship doesn’t always run on both screws. We had a 40 knot tail wind on Sunday, and the ship only needed the starboard screw to maintain about 16 knots. I guess they were saving fuel by doing this, but it made a lot of sense. Later when we turned south and start battling the wind and weather I noticed that both screws were cranking away.

For the rest of the day we did various things on the ship, explored all of the common areas, did a little shopping, watched a great guitarist and violinist in the atrium lobby area, and generally just hung out. It was too hot on the pool deck for my liking so I decided to stay inside. Oh, one thing I discovered about the pool. The slides are fresh water, and the pool is salt water (pulled and filtered locally). I will say, however, I would not have known this if I did not ask. The salt water was so well filtered that it had no taste or smell that would give it away. Quite frankly, it might as well have been fresh water. I would have never known the difference. They do an incredible job with filtration (and a lot of chlorination).

Sunday night we were booked for Cirque Dreams at the 5:30 show. The theater is quite small, but big enough for what they do. We arrived at the Spiegel Tent at 5pm hoping that we’d get there early enough to get all 11 of us seated together. Well, this wasn’t a problem. There are two lines to get in. Lining up in front of the elevators are those with standard seating. Around the corner to the left is for the premium seating. Standing in front of the box office behind a rope were those hoping to cop an extra seat. When we got on board the only two things that were completely sold out for the trip were Cirque Dreams and the Nick Breakfast. There was availability for every other show (by Sunday night all the Blue Man shows were sold out too). We walked up to the check-in desk and the woman there scanned each of our cards to confirm our reservation. Because we had standard seating we were escorted upstairs to the left. I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of the standard seats were actually ringed around the railing overlooking the show floor! I think we had the best view in the house, except for the plexiglass barrier intended to keep your salad from landing on someone below if you knocked it over. J We were very happy with the seats, mostly because a lot of the folks below were pulled into the show in semi-embarrassing ways. The exception was a bit where participants rang oriental bells when prompted by the “conductor”, and it was quite neat. The show itself was well worth it. The skill acts were amazing and worth the price of admission themselves. Hula hoops, aerial acts, feats of strength, amazing balancing acts and more. The entire story was build around the premise that these acts were auditioning for some kind of show, and that’s the part of the theater I could have lived without. It was loud and unfunny, but you can live through it all and get to the good stuff by being patient. The show is a bit risqué and uses double entendres in several jokes. It also uses stereotypes bound to insult some groups (like the costumed rabbis), and has lots of gay and sexual references. The lead female opening fawns over audience members and actors like she was in heat, and while I didn’t find any of it offensive (just not funny), some might. Oh… Hercules, Himcules and Bicules was definitely a sexual reference, not a reference to “biceps”. Also, Prince Charming’s open gay character who chased around the good looking men was a bit too much for a couple in our group. Anyway, I’m not homophobic or anything, but I wonder why it was necessary to include all of this stuff that might either 1) offend people that are bothered by it, or 2) offend gays, jews, etc. Again, it was worth it for the acrobatic acts for sure, but know what you’re getting going into the show.

The food at Cirque Dreams was pretty good. I wasn’t a fan of the salad, but the filet was tender and the stuffed chicken tasty. The sides were good too, as was desert. I also like the coffee they serve on board. I read what it was but I forget. I think it’s an Italian brand.

After Cirque Dreams we headed out onto the ship again, with my 13 year old son and I finally hitting the noodle bar (he didn’t enjoy the Cirque dinner much and was still hungry). There were only 2 other people there and we sat right down and ordered promptly. It was fun to watch the cooks making the fried rice and other dishes for Shanghai next door, and within just a few minutes we had 4 of the BEST grilled potstickers we ever had! They were so good that we got another order. J I talked with the waiter for a while about his trip from Rotterdam and the TA, and he asked me about the Cirque show. After chatting for a while we headed off onto the ship for more fun and exploring.

One stop we made was the photo gallery. They have kiosks set up where you scan your card and it will bring up any pictures assigned to your stateroom. If you do posed pictures you present your cruise card so they know where to assign the pictures, otherwise they use facial recognition. They also have racks with a folder for each room. Any printed pictures they have can be found there. Most of the pictures are stored this way, but some are laid out for public viewing like on most ships. I think these are the multi-stateroom ones from ship events and table pictures with multiple people. There are only a few racks of these, unlike other ships with thousands of pictures displayed. I also browsed the shops and picked up a few things we were short on, like conditioner. The sundries shop is in the back of the liquor store, not at the gift shops. Oh, booze is cheap on board. They had a 3L bottle of Chivas I lusted after for only about $65. A 1.5L bottle of Gray Goose was about the same price. If I was an alcoholic I would have been in hog heaven. J The gift shops on 7 are plentiful and have everything you could imagine. There is a jewelery/watch store, cosmetic store, souvenirs (lots of neat “inaugural season” items), a candy store and several others. There are $10 watches and other inexpensive items for sale up on the 15th deck aft by the teen area/arcade. We discovered after the first night that my teens needed watches! For $20 for the pair I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to eliminate the “I didn’t know what time it was” problem. There are virtually NO clocks on this ship. It’s like a casino. The only public clock is a large one on 15 on a 10 foot high pedestal (aft by Spice H20), but it’s been stuck at 12:00 since the cruise started. J We strolled by Howl at the Moon and stuck our heads in around 11pm, just in time to hear one of the raunchiest (and funniest) songs I think I’ve ever heard sung in public. I shuffled my young teen out of there pretty quickly, but we were both sorta giggling as we left. They had the doors open to the club and the hallway outside was full of people who could easily hear what was going on inside. I couple of ladies gasped at what they were hearing, and several children were pulled to “safety”. Lol. I don’t think the staff expected things to get that raunchy, I suspect in the future they’ll close the doors. Haha.

Sunday night was also the “white hot” party at Spice H20. Problem is, nobody is using that area at night for some reason. The first night it was empty except for a loud DJ on the stage with wild graphics on the screen, spotlights, lasers, etc. making it a huge party barn. But nobody was there Monday night we strolled back to overlook the party from the top deck and again, nobody really there except the DJ. It was starting to drizzle at that point, but it was warm out and the rain sporadic. It was actually pleasant to stroll around in. What was really cool was that the green lasers and the huge spotlights were illuminating the low clouds while loud techno music bounced the rear of the ship. I bet we looked and sounded like a huge party barge if there was any ship within a mile or two of us. During the day this area is very busy, and I’ve heard a lot of people say how great it is. It’s just been a dud so far at night.

There’s still a lot we have not done yet, but the week is young. Oh, we set our clocks back one hour tonight as we moved west.

After some more exploring we packed it in around 1am, preparing for our big day on Costa Maya on Monday.
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
Dragable deck plans: http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Ma...rwegian%20Epic

Other NCL Info:
NCL Dining Guide: http://www.ncl.com/sites/default/fil...ide-022814.pdf
Helpful NCL documents http://www.ncl.com/downloads/docs
NCL ship Virtual Tours http://www.facebook.com/Norwegiancru...85302731539795
Shop NCL: http://www.nclgiftshop.com/

HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
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NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994


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Old July 31st, 2010, 11:24 PM
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Costa Maya (Monday, July 26)

Well, this section is labeled Costa Maya, but it’s in title only. I set our alarm for 7:30am so we could get up and out for our day at Maya Chan in Costa Maya. We were looking forward to all 11 of us taking a cab down to this private beach and hanging out for the day. I woke up briefly at 4am and noticed quite a bit more movement in the ship. Even though we are up high and up front (14022) we had not had much movement. Tonight was different. I peeked out and noticed that my balcony was wet, which was pretty amazing since we were 12 feet under an overhang. While it was dark I could tell the weather was nasty. I was feeling about a 30mph wind across my balcony, and I could see the white caps on the waves. Oh boy. Well, I went back to bed and slept well, only to get up at 8:00 and notice that I could not see land (we were to dock at 7:30 or so). The waves were at 10ft and it was raining pretty hard and blowing like heck. I turned on the TV in the cabin and went to the channel that shows the ship stats and course. Well, at this point we were in gale force winds with high seas, and the map tracked out course to Costa Maya, and then a hard left away from the port. About this time the captain came on the speaker and explained that Costa Maya was an unprotected port and with the high waves he would not be able to dock. I don’t blame him. Beating your brand new $1.5b ship on a concrete dock in high waves would have been stupid. Worse yet, the pressure on the ropes could have broken them free, and it would have been very hard to get people off the ship anyway. I was glad to not be hitting the beach in this weather anyway, and Maya Chan said they would refund anyone’s money who could not (or chose not to) make it there due to weather. About that time I noticed that my cell phone had a connection through the ship’s cell service and it had downloaded about 100 emails (work and home). One of the emails was from Mark at Maya Chan saying that he was standing on his beach in the rain and wind and saw the Epic head to port, only to turn around and head away to the south. He said not to worry, that our refunds would be back in our accounts before we got home. I feel bad for Mark and others in Costa Maya, as I’m sure they were counting on the mobs from Epic to visit them. As Mark said, such is the weather in the Caribbean. Nice guy. I hope to get another chance to visit there.

We went up for some breakfast and milled around a bit, and at 10:00 the captain came back on and said that he decided to scrap Costa Maya altogether (he had been casually circling off shore) because the prediction was for even higher seas later. He sounded very sad and apologetic, but I know nobody blames him or the crew for any of this. We had another sea day in front of us, and for the rest of the day we made big loops at about 7 knots off shore past the main weather front. On the map it looked like a big paper clip. We could see the darker clouds to our west, and with how much we were rocking around I could only imagine what it was like 10 miles to the west by Costa Maya. At noon we were mostly out of the rain, but it was still breezy with low overcast clouds. They opened up the pools around 1pm, and my entire family spent the next several hours riding the slides. We had a blast. My daughter rode the Epic Plunge a half dozen times, and I think my wife was on the green and purple slides a dozen times. Even my 70+ father rode the slides. It was a good time had by all. On occasion it would start raining, but we were having too much fun to care. Besides, we were wet anyway. Even though it was still warm, it wasn’t uncomfortably hot. I also didn’t get sunburn. The sunbathers didn’t like it outside today, but we had a blast.

After playing in the pools all day I went back to the room and took a shower and a nap. Ahhhhhhh. J When I woke up around 5pm I was notified that we had come across a major thunderstorm and they shut down the outer decks again due to lightning. One thing just came to mind that I want to share. The 15th deck of this ship is gorgeous at night. The pastel lighting around the deck gives it a gorgeous look, and there are several places where you can get food up there until late. Last night my mom, dad, brother and I just hung out in a covered area and snacked on a variety of egg rolls, pizza, nachos and other things that were available. It was great bonding time, and the ship was beautiful. The weather seemed to be stabilized, and we enjoyed hanging out. When you take this cruise make sure to set aside time to just hang out on the pool deck in the evening. With the beautiful lighting, the music from Spice H20, and available food, it’s just nice to hang out. Oh…one more thing, the band that plays on the pool deck during the day is awesome! J

This brings us to Monday evening. After my nap we all decided to hit Taste for dinner. Shorts are allowed in Taste, but not in Manhattan. They have the same menu, so no big deal. We got down to dinner around 6 and were seated promptly at a large table that held all 11 of us. So far, nothing seems very crowded. I even found some places back by Moderno/Cagneys that were quiet and unoccupied, even during the busiest part of the day. O’Sheehans is always hopping, but there are an amazing number of quiet spaces where somebody could sit and relax and either read or people watch. There’s really something for everyone here, so it seems. Quiet areas, really hopping areas, and any food you can imagine. I’ve never had this much variety before, and I’ve only scratched the surface. Anyway, the food at Taste was fine. I thought my NY steak cooked “medium” was more like the sole of a flip-flop well done, and I didn’t eat it. Others didn’t seem to mind. The server was concerned about me and offered to bring me another steak or something else, but I was fine with the veggies, baked potato and desert. I didn’t need to order something else, but rest assured I’ll try something different next time.

After dinner the boys ran off the meet with their friends, my super-tired daughter and my wife watched Mama Mia on the large screen in the Atrium, and I did more exploring with my dad. By this time the ship movement was getting worse, and I could tell that as we tried walking straight lines down the hall that the weather had picked up again. We tried to get into the bridge viewing area at the front of deck 13 but it was closed. We went down to the front of 12 and saw that there were officers cabins in that front hallway. We thought there might be some access to some outer balconies, but there wasn’t. We went down into the main public areas to sit and people watch, but soon we were back upstairs. I’m typing this at 11:30pm on Monday night, and my daughter is asleep, my wife is reading, and the room is rocking. My brother and I were just out on the balcony observing the weather and we both agree that these rooms simply ROCK because of the extended balcony roof. We could stand out on our balconies out of the rain and even go up to the rail. The seas are pretty big as I type this, and for the first time we can hear the creaking of the ceiling and walls in the room. It’s still darned quiet in these rooms despite the movement. Occasionally the ship will shudder a bit when hitting a larger wave, but the fact that she’s this stable in gale force winds and high seas is a testament to her design and size. We’re heading for bed as soon as I round up my boys. We hit Roatan in the morning, and with any luck this storm blows by and we can take our Victor Bodden day tour as planned.

Oh, and we each received a hard-bound Epic book in our room this evening. It’s mostly advertisements, but it has some info on the ship, some history and pictures too. It’s very attractive and would look good as a coffee table book. We’ll keep it.
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
Dragable deck plans: http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Ma...rwegian%20Epic

Other NCL Info:
NCL Dining Guide: http://www.ncl.com/sites/default/fil...ide-022814.pdf
Helpful NCL documents http://www.ncl.com/downloads/docs
NCL ship Virtual Tours http://www.facebook.com/Norwegiancru...85302731539795
Shop NCL: http://www.nclgiftshop.com/

HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/faq.p...arch#faq_basic


NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994


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  #5  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:25 PM
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sdmike sdmike is offline
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Roatan, Hondouras (Tuesday, July 27th)

Best
Cruise
Day
Ever.
Honest.
Wow!

We awoke Tuesday morning to pleasant sunrise and decent seas. We were just outside the semi-sheltered NCL port at Roatan. We watched as the ship sidled up to the dock, with a hero’s welcome lined up for us on the dock. There were dancers, TV celebrities, and even someone surrounded by cameras and microphones. We found at later it was the wife of the governor of Roatan doing interviews with the local media (if you can call it that). There were dozens of vans lined up waiting for passengers with people, and flags, waving. It was a grand entrance for the Epic, her first visit to this small island about 35 miles off the coast of Honduras. I think this is a good time to mention that we were the only one of three ships scheduled to dock that actually did so. The port that NCL uses is just west of where Carnival and RCI docks, and as stated earlier, it is semi-protected by a couple of small islands and sand bars/reefs. It turns out that the other port was too rough to dock at, and the other ships (not sure which they were) headed off for another day at sea. They also were unable to dock in Costa Maya (as were we), so they’re 4 days into this trip and not have hit any ports yet. This turned out good for us though, as we had Roatan to ourselves. J

We docked at 8am and by 9 we were heading down the elevators to the 4th deck forward to disembark. We took our time. Down at the gangway there were two ramps down to the dock, with 3 crew members scanning your cards. Adults need to take a picture ID and their cruise cards. Kids just need their cruise cards, but have to return to the ship with an adult. I decided to take my driver’s license and leave my passport on the ship. The last thing I want to risk is having my passport off the ship and possibly in the hands of someone on a Honduran island. But I digress. Leaving the ship was quick and easy, with no waiting. I guess they space things out a bit for the different excursions. When we got down to the dock there was the typical scene, with people holding signs, photographers with actors dressed as pirates for ship photos, etc. As we walked out we noticed various dignitaries, plus there were some locals selling trinkets and offering cabs/cars for rent for the day. We walked out to the transportation kiosks and found the booth for Bodden Tours. We checked in and followed a rep out to the waiting cars, and we were introduced to our driver, William, driving a Nissan van in pretty decent shape. All 11 of us fit just fine, and the AC worked great! And oh my was it needed! J William drove us through town heading out to the Victor Bodden property, and like most Caribbean nations there were clear signs of different classes and economic situations as we drove along. The island is beautiful, with rolling hills covered in green rain forest. After about a 15 minute drive we were at the property, which was smaller than I thought. Victor was having a new house built next to his smaller one, but even his new home was very modest. You could tell they were re-using whatever wood they could find, which is very common on the island. The house was up on stilts like most homes, but not because of water. They do it for ventilation purposes. We had also passed kids in uniforms, which is standard for both public and private schools here. Public schools go year round, but private schools often have summers off. Seeing lines of kids in uniforms in 90+ heat, plus seeing shacks made of scrap wood, made my kids appreciate what we have a bit more.

Once we got to Victor Bodden’s place we paid ($65 per person) for their “Zip and Dip” private tour, and quickly were in the staging area for their zip line. This is tamer than others up at the top of the hill (we passed several “canopy zip tours” later), but perfect for our mix of folks that ranged from 9 to 71 years in age. We got strapped into the latest high-tech equipment and were given helmets and gloves. We did a short hike up the hill to a starting platform, and our 3 guides got us going. Victor’s zip line has a dozen different lines that range from about 200 feet to several times that length back and forth across the valley from platform to platform built into the trees. Again, if you’re into wild adventure, visit one of the other zipline companies. However, this was a BLAST! It was hotter than heck and we were sweating up a storm, but we didn’t care. It was the most fun I’ve had in some time. The guides gave us tips and tricks, and soon we were flying across the zip line upside down with our arms reaching towards the earth. Even my 71 year old father and my 9 year old nephew did the “upside down” thing. My oldest son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, decided that he was going to be first and jumped right in. My wife and I LOVED seeing him get into this, as he’s normally very reserved and shy. He was upside down on just his third line, grinning the entire time. We took tons of pictures and videos of this, and I’ll share some when I can. We tipped our guides heavily, and we even purchased the CD with dozens of great shots for a very reasonable $40. Zipping was a blast, and the day just kept getting better!

After we got unstrapped from our equipment and bought several bottles of water ($1 each) we headed over to Victor’s huge animal cages. Visitors can visit these cages for $5 per person, and it’s included with the Zip and Dip tour. I also managed to find a small hose and was allowed to spray our group with water to cool down. I took the opportunity to douse my head, which felt really, really nice. The animal visit was amazing! One of our zip guides gave us a tour of the animals, starting with a cage of about 5 Capachi (sp?) monkeys that were very friendly and mischievous! I have to state here that we are all animal people, and even though I never like to see animals in cages Victor’s facility provided them with a huge, safe natural environment to live in. All 11 of us fit easily into the monkey cage, and immediately the friendly monkeys jumped down onto our shoulders and started cuddling with us. Yes, I said they were cuddling with us! We had monkeys on our heads. Monkeys on our shoulders. Monkeys on our backs, in our pockets and down the back of our shirts. On my gosh did we have a blast. One of them took my wife’s ½ empty water bottle and ran off, only to return for help opening it. He then very expertly poured it on himself, drinking some and bathing in the rest. It was adorable. After about 20 minutes of visiting with the adult monkeys (no bigger than a small cat) we visited the other cages. One had 4 monkeys that were about 5 months old (babies!) and we were able to interact with them in their cage as well. Three of the babies were more comfortable clinging to each other most of the time, so we passed around a “ball of monkeys”. They were very sweet and friendly, and enjoyed having their heads rubbed. There were also some very friendly small deer and large cages with parrots and macaws (national bird of Honduras). There were several other exotic animals as well (Toucans, lemurs and others) who were also very friendly and very used to people. You could not wipe the smiles off our faces. We were 2 for 2 for the day, with everyone in our group participating and having fun.

By now it was around noon and time for lunch somewhere. We told William that we wanted to go somewhere with 1) food and beer, 2) lots of shade, and 3) a beautiful beach. Off we headed to the west end of Roatan, heading up over the mountains and down to a resort called Infinity Bay. This is a timeshare community on the beach that allows visitors from the ships to share their facilities. You can use the beach and shade for free, but it costs $15 for a pass that gives you access to their giant pool and use of their beach chairs. We decided against this as the free shade, beach and shower was fine for us. We staked out a couple of tables under a giant shade canopy and ordered some lunch for the group. Lunch was reasonably priced, and we fed 11 of us (including me having a couple of local beers) for something around $70. After lunch we headed out to the beach which was only about 100 feet away. My GOSH this beach is beautiful. It was very, very busy, but it never seemed crowded as there was always plenty of space to walk and swim. There were boats giving “banana boat” rides, sail boats, kayaks and snorkeling as well. We rented snorkel gear for $10 each for the afternoon and had a great time. There is a coral reef just off the beach and it was a very easy swim out to this area full of fish and only about 5-6 feet deep. We all loved it, and even my 9 year old was able to snorkel around with no problem. The water was a beautiful turquoise blue and about 80 degrees. It was simply amazing! Here and there you could see NCL pool towels, so you know there were a lot of folks from the Epic here. There was a group of about a dozen young women from South Carolina lounging in the water drinking beer, and we laughed that you’d never be able to do this on their beaches OR mine (in San Diego). There were plenty of tropical fish, and there was a kayaker throwing food in the water creating colorful swarms that we swam around in. My son claims to have seen a couple of barracuda eyeing everything from a few yards out past the reef, but who knows what he saw. We DID come across a fairly good sized sting ray cruising the shallows, and we positioned ourselves between him and the oblivious swimmers and “herded” him (and the small flounder-like fish following him) back out away from the swimmers. Yes, we got pictures of this too. I could not have imagined a more beautiful beach. The weather was perfect and sunny, and everyone had a great time. We generally ignored the beach vendors, but if you’re into buying watches for $10 from a guy carrying them on a stick, there’s plenty of that tool. Lol. We were now 3 for 3 for the day. At around 2:30 we decided to pack up and head back towards the ship. We wanted to do a little shopping on the way, and we had scheduled Moderno for 5:30 and wanted to get cleaned up. William was hanging out with several other Bodden guides at a table near the beach, and when I let him know we wanted to leave in about 15 minutes he ran up to the van and started up the AC. Nice guy, that William.

On the way back to the ship we stopped at a roadside stand at the top of a hill and got a couple of hand-made necklaces, a locally made bracelet for my daughter, plus a couple of t-shirts for about $20 total. Expect to pay from $6 to $8 for t-shirts at almost all of the stands you see, and of course most things are very negotiable. There are a lot of vendors selling hand carved chests of various sizes, and ornate mahogany bowls are available in abundance from $10 on up. Beautiful stuff, but we were limited on space. I DID buy a large, beautiful decorative ceramic bowl with lid (I’ll take a picture) that was handmade on the mainland. My wife and I always pick up something decorative for the house on our vacations, just to commemorate the good times we had. This is our item for this cruise. It had been marked $45 and we ended up at $30 after some back and forth. I got this in a string of shops just outside the gates to the port area. Once you arrive back in port just walk out the gates to the right and there are lots of small shops. The sellers are fairly aggressive, but the items are beautiful and locally made, and I think it’s worth the visit. My father, brother and I shopped while our wives escorted our exhausted and sun-drenched kids back to the air conditioned comfort of the ship. We joined them about 45 minutes later, and of course our first stop was the unlimited soft-serve ice cream machine at the buffet. Oh yeah…did I mention that we’re right below the Garden Café and it’s a short walk up the stairs? I LOVE how close we are, as it makes it a quick trip for meals, snacks and ice cream. We have the bonus of the extended shade over our balcony too. We started routing people through the showers to get ready, and I took the opportunity to hit the Spa for 45 minutes, choosing to get showered up there after hanging out in the tubs for about 30 minutes. Ahhhhhhhh… 4 for 4 today.

For dinner we ate at Moderno. The place was empty when we arrived at 5:30, and they easily accommodated our group of 10 (my oldest son opted out). We’ve noticed that most restaurants are available on most nights, so everyone should be able to eat where they want regardless of reservations. I think there are a lot of cancellations or changed plans which frees up space. Ok..back to Moderno. The salad bar shared by Moderno and Cagney’s is incredible. I went in thinking “stay away from salad, the meat is what we’re here for”, but we could not resist. I filled a plate with very small portions of several items that were simply delicious. I ate slowly so I didn’t get filled up. I also avoided the bread, but I was told the cheese/bread balls were awesome. Oh, by the way, the Garden Café has pretzel balls that are to die for. Just thought I’d throw that in there. After we got settled with drinks our server started arriving with long skewers of meats. They encourage you to try everything, but I held off on the first items because I was waiting for the “good” stuff. They started with a couple of tasty chicken items (I tried bites of my wife’s), then some pork ribs, two different kinds of sausages, and then lamb chops. All tasty. Then out came the big guns – garlic steak (marinated in lime juice and garlic) which was my favorite, filet mignon, a Brazilian meat sort of like prime rib done with sea salt and herbs, and more. They also brought out trays with fries, beans, rice and fried bananas (OMG were they good!) and some dips/salsa to go with the meat. We ate, and ate, and ate, then ate some more. MEAT COMA! It was incredible. They then brought out about 4-5 different deserts for the table and we shared some wonderful items. Finally, after about 2 hours, we were done. Really done. We were now 5 for 5 on the day.

I’d love to say we went out partying after this, but I think we were all asleep by 10pm except for my son who used the opportunity to stay out until curfew with his cousin. I don’t mind. He’s being great on this trip now (as I type this he’s taking his little sister around the ship for a tour), and he got a chance to party. Haha. He did sleep through breakfast though, but that’s ok. We’re all still a bit sunburned (ok, maybe it’s just me) and looking to lay low today (Wednesday) after yesterday’s adventure. We are seeing legends tonight, and my wife is signed up for some class at the gym. I’ll meet her in the spa after she works out.

Ok, enough about Wednesday in Tuesday’s blog entry. Let’s just say it again. Roatan. Best cruise day ever!
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
Dragable deck plans: http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Ma...rwegian%20Epic

Other NCL Info:
NCL Dining Guide: http://www.ncl.com/sites/default/fil...ide-022814.pdf
Helpful NCL documents http://www.ncl.com/downloads/docs
NCL ship Virtual Tours http://www.facebook.com/Norwegiancru...85302731539795
Shop NCL: http://www.nclgiftshop.com/

HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/faq.p...arch#faq_basic


NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994


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  #6  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:26 PM
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sdmike sdmike is offline
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Second “Official” Day at Sea (Wednesday, July 28)

Well, we slept in on Wednesday because we didn’t have any big plans. We had been tired after our day on Roatan, and we didn’t get up until after 9 on Wednesday. Looking back, I’m not sure what we did from 10 to around 3. I know we had breakfast up at the Garden Café like we have every morning (I’m really enjoying their omelet station), and also know that the sunscreen I used in Roatan must have washed off while snorkeling. Ouch! The ship wanted $13 for a bottle of aloe gel, but it was worth it. As I type this it’s Thursday afternoon, and I’m still nursing the burn enough to keep me off the pool deck during the heat of the day. Anyway, around 3pm my wife and I hit the gym and then the spa. I figure if we use the spa 4-5 times we’ll have gotten our money’s worth out of it. It was pretty funny in the spa today. The ship was tossing around a bit in relatively calm seas, but the water in the spa pool was moving quite a bit. If you layed down on the rollers at the end of the pool you would go from being in water up to your neck to being out of the water every few seconds. There was actually a current in the pool, and you had to hang on as it moved water around. Pretty fun, actually. For dinner we just ate at the Garden Café, simply because we were not in the mood for ordering off a menu. We were in sort of a hurry too because we wanted to be at the Legends show in time to get a good seat.

Around 6:30 ten of our group of 11 went down to the Legends show. My nephew (13) wanted to stay at the room, and that was ok with my sister-in-law and brother. I wanted my kids to at least see the beginning of it to see if they liked it, so off we went. I was almost certain we’d be met with a line and/or a full theater, but neither was true. We were able to get all of us in one row at the center of the theater without any problem. In fact, the theater wasn’t full when the show started. We just have not experienced crowding in the shows so far, even when they are “sold out”. Apparently there are a fair amount of no-shows for everything, as people decided to do other things. Anyway, the Legends show was “ok”. Not great, but worth going. The Tina Turner impersonator had the best voice but since I’m not a big Tina fan she mostly gave me a headache during her 10 minute set. The Madonna impersonator looked more like Madonna than “Tina” looked like Tina, but her singing was off enough to notice. Still, I love Madonna’s music and enjoyed her 20 minute set. The best of the bunch, and really the headliner, was Elvis. Not only did he sing like Elvis, he looked just like him. I’m not a huge Elvis fan but I can sure appreciate the hard work and talent put into the show by this guy. The three piece band and backup singers were awesome too, and the finale was a good time. It’s worth going, even though my teen boys left after Tina because they were not into it at all. Oh, and the lead guitarist looked exactly like Bill Gates. Too funny.

After dinner we strolled the ship and stopped in at Fat Cats (a guitarist was playing) and Howl at the Moon. The guitarist was good, but there were only about 30 people in the place and no excitement. Howl at the Moon was loud and fun, but my mom and dad weren’t into it much and left after 30 minutes. We followed shortly. We also hit the Noodle Bar again, and once again everything we tried was great. I have probably spent about $25 there this trip, and it’s the best $25 I’ve spent so far.

The last thing we did for the night was attend the comedy/magic act by Jeff Hobson. I won’t give away the show, but go see this guy. Unless you’re WAY homophobic you will laugh your butt off. He combines slight of hand tricks with comedy in a way that had us laughing out loud. I would say it’s safe for kids, but some might not think so. There is no cursing, but like I said he’s pretty flamboyant..sort of like Robin Williams meets Liberace. His “magic” was basic but impressive, and combined with the rest of his show it was a really good time. Don’t miss Jeff. I think I was in bed asleep by midnight, and I didn’t even hear my boys come in at 1am at curfew. They’re doing great on this trip. Very responsible, and they’re having a wonderful time.
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
Dragable deck plans: http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Ma...rwegian%20Epic

Other NCL Info:
NCL Dining Guide: http://www.ncl.com/sites/default/fil...ide-022814.pdf
Helpful NCL documents http://www.ncl.com/downloads/docs
NCL ship Virtual Tours http://www.facebook.com/Norwegiancru...85302731539795
Shop NCL: http://www.nclgiftshop.com/

HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
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NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994


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  #7  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:27 PM
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Cozumel (Thursday, July 30)

Another beautiful Caribbean day greeted us in Cozumel when we arrived around 8am. It was partly cloudy and a little bit cooler than it had been in Roatan. My brother and family had a SNUBA grip scheduled, but we were free for the day. We had not planned anything since we thought after beach days in Costa Maya (didn’t happen) and Roatan (best ever) we wouldn’t want to spend another day on the beach. Besides, we live 5 miles from the beaches in San Diego. So after our normal routine of breakfast and mingling we decided to head off for a walk around Cozumel. The Epic docked at the downtown pier, which is the one furthest to the North. Off the bow of the ship, a couple of miles away, was the Oasis. Sitting in front of her was a Vision class ship (forget which one), and the Oasis made her look like a bathtub toy. You could stand on the upper pool deck of the smaller ship and still look up at several decks of cabin balconies on the Oasis! I was hoping we’d get a closer view of the Oasis when we departed Cozumel, but we left before her and never saw her again. I took some pictures and will post them when I get a chance.

Well, the first thing that I checked is on the use of US Dollars in Cozumel, having read the message threads about some new Mexican law impacting the use of US$ in Mexico. Well, I’m happy to report that EVERY place we saw in Cozumel not only accepted US$, but all had all their tags and signage in US$. They took US$, gave change in US$, and charged credit cards in US$. It’s NOT an issue using US Dollars in Cozumel at all. We might as well have been in Miami.

So, with that behind us we walked down the long pier into the mall at the entrance of the pier. There were some interesting shops with t-shirts for about $5 each, but we wanted to head off into town away from the stores where we were a “captive audience” at the port. If you head left out of the port mall and along the main drive the first place you’ll hit of interest is Carlos and Charlies, with Senor Frogs right next door (and upstairs). We were with my mother and father so we didn’t stop at C&C’s for the typical ceremonial “drinking of the yard long frozen drink”, but I can tell you that the people in there were having a helluva time. We continued to stroll down the main drag checking out the shops, and eventually tired of all the hawking (SIR! Get your lovely wife a bracelet? SIR! Come in and see my leather. I will make you a great deal!), and settled into a large store next door to the McDonalds. There we found $6 t-shirts of high quality, $5 baseball caps, and anything else we needed to commemorate our visit to Cozumel and provide gifts for friends watching our house/dog/fish. Local booze is cheap (big bottles of Kahlua for $9), but we found that most alcohol is cheaper on the ship. We picked up two different brands of vanilla in two of the shops, both manufactured by the Orlando factory. Orlando claims to be the only “natural” vanilla mass-produced in Mexico. 99% of the vanilla you buy is synthetic. Any clear or dark brown vanilla is synthetic, including all the vanilla you buy in US grocery stores. Natural vanilla is amber colored, which comes from soaking the bean in alcohol (like rum). Anyway, one of the Orlando brands is Reyna, and the other is sold at Los Cinco Soles (5 Suns), who have a shop at the mall at the port. The 500ml bottles are around $5 - $6, to give you an idea. Read up on vanilla before buying because there’s a lot of junk out there, not all of it good. Make sure to avoid any product that contains Coumarin. In fact, make sure the label says the product is Coumarin free.

After visiting Cozumel we hung out on our balcony and read for a while, and socialized with our travel mates through our connecting balconies. We had dinner at Taste again (you don’t need pants in Taste and it has the same menu at Manhattan) and the Curry was great. I hear the tilapia and salmon was good as well. Of course we finished off with cheesecake and key lime pie, and a couple cups of coffee to keep our motors running. Oh, I forgot to mention our departure from Cozumel. I had noticed that the water was shallow (and beautiful blue) in front of the ship, so I knew some kind of maneuver was going to be required to get out. It turns out that we end up doing a 270 degree backwards spin to head back out into the channel. The captain pushes her away from the dock with bow and stern thrusters, then spins the ship counter clockwise (her nose coming within 50 feet of the dock) until she’s facing back out to sea. It was strange to sit on the balcony and feel the ship essentially doing a slow donut. I kept hoping that the Oasis would be departing at the same time so we could drag race with her alongside us, but alas she was still in port as we pulled away.

After the dinner we didn’t do much. As always the kids went off and had a great time with my son watching my daughter in the pool until they closed it at 10pm. My oldest son was exhausted and stayed in for the evening, but my 13 year old stayed out until curfew again. He’s having the time of his life, and I’m really enjoying his freedom. Half of our group was asleep by 10, and I was deep into sleep when my son got back at 1am. I think it was at dinner tonight that we discovered a few things about the trip. First, my daughter estimated that by this night she had exceeded 20 soft serve cones for the trip. I bet it was more than 30. There are two soft serve stations in the Garden Café, and they’re open from noon until 10pm (and sometimes later if they are slow to clean up). I’ve never seen so many ice cream cones running around in my life. Lol. The other thing we discovered was mentioned by my mom in the elevator when we were going somewhere…we cannot find one thing wrong with this cruise. Yep. I agree. The rooms are find, we LOVE the ship, the ports have been fun, and the food and entertainment great. Let me repeat… we cannot find one thing wrong with this cruise. Wow!

This was the night that we started to prepare for our departure. We picked up luggage tags down in the Atrium area, and had instructions and Customs forms delivered to our room. Bags need to be out Friday night (Saturday morning) by 1am, and they want you out of your rooms by 9am. You can have lunch and hang in the common areas until around 10am, which is what we plan on doing because our flight is mid-afternoon. You need one Customs form per family. I filled out or tags and form in preparation for tomorrow night (sob!) just to stay ahead of the game.
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
Dragable deck plans: http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Ma...rwegian%20Epic

Other NCL Info:
NCL Dining Guide: http://www.ncl.com/sites/default/fil...ide-022814.pdf
Helpful NCL documents http://www.ncl.com/downloads/docs
NCL ship Virtual Tours http://www.facebook.com/Norwegiancru...85302731539795
Shop NCL: http://www.nclgiftshop.com/

HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/faq.p...arch#faq_basic


NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994


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  #8  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:27 PM
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Last Day at Sea (Friday, July 30)

The last day at sea was mostly a pool day for us, soaking in the rays and water slides one last time before going home. We also got our souvenir shopping done since there were some sales on the ship the last day. Like most days we started mid-morning with breakfast in the Garden Café with the family. While it’s not as elegant as some other options, having everyone be able to pick what they want to eat from a huge selection is priceless. Like all other breakfasts, the coffee is good and the OJ and AJ were flowing as well. After breakfast we headed to the pool, and we encountered the largest crowds of the entire trip. Seems everyone else had the same idea, plus there were some pool games going on that had the crowd level higher than normal. We still found several loungers by the slides to sit in, plus my wife and I made some discoveries while exploring that I wish we would have discovered earlier in the week. What’s that, you ask? Well, the public sun deck up on 18 (on top of the suites where Posh is) is virtually empty! Not only that, but there’s a bar plus all of the loungers and chairs are big and padded. It’s like a huge living room in the sun! There was nobody up on the “Freestyle Deck”, so I didn’t feel bad checking it out. There are about 15 chairs up there in a small area, but again, nobody was there. I wish we would have discovered how empty this was earlier in the week because I might have just lived up there. J

For lunch I had the chicken pot pie at O’Sheehans and it was awesome! I even had a second one because it was so good. Mid-afternoon we went up to the Marketplace on 15 to check out their 2 for $10 shirt sale and pick up a couple of Epic items for the kids. These are shirts they don’t have in the gift shops, and we didn’t see any of these designs until this day. They also started selling watch/calculator/keychain gift sets at the center counter on the 7th deck for $19.99 each. Lots of people bought these for gifts, so watch out! They also had some nice sweatshirts, jackets, hats and other items for 50% off. However, again, none of the “Inaugural Season” items that they had in Tradewinds was available on sale. None of the good jewelry or watches were discounted any more on Friday either, so if you want something buy it early or it might be gone. Don’t expect them to be cheaper later.

This was the afternoon that my son’s cruise card was stolen from the “book” at the Entourage Teen Club, and the little felon that stole it ran up over $150 in video game charges on my card. The club had a loose system of letting the kids put their cards in a book in order to check out a PS3 game to play in the club. However, the staff didn’t monitor this process. So the little jackhole took my son’s card and started spending. We didn’t realize it until my son went to leave the club later and his card was missing. The one girl working in the club was no help, and my first (and only) issue on the ship was her attitude that it wasn’t her problem and there was nothing she could do about it. I trudged down to the information desk, had the card killed, got new cards for all of us (both rooms), filed a report with security, and submitted a request for refund with the Casino manager (the game room is technically part of the Casino). After an hour at the information desk and a couple of phone calls (one to the teen program director, and one with the head of casino operations and security), I got my credit the following morning. I can assure you that after this little event that their processes in the teen club will change. The head of teen programs was shocked at what happened and even more shocked at the attitude of the staff member that brushed us off. By the way, they know exactly what time games are played and by who, and have cameras everywhere. Combine that with facial recognition I suspect they’ll catch the little turd that took the card. He’s lucky that I didn’t catch him. He’d still be swimming.

Around 7 we all had dinner at O’Sheehans and it was pretty empty. Between the 11 of us we had fish and chips, pot pie, meatloaf, chicken fingers, burgers, brownie sundaes and apple crisp. It was ALL excellent, I’m happy to report. We did some final shopping while the kids played in the pool again, and started the painful job of packing around 9pm. Bags had to be out by 1am, but since we had to be up early we didn’t want to wait that long before going to bed. We thought we’d sneak in one more visit to the spa, but it closed at 8pm the last night instead of midnight. Bummer. I also went back and forth on a potential watch purchase, and I managed to keep myself out of the store until they closed the gate at 11 and I breathed a sigh of relief that the internal struggle was over. J We added the final gift tally to our Customs form, put our three bright yellow samsonite suitcases out into the hall (I love these!), and headed off to bed.

We had a great night’s sleep, until the Epic woke me while turning around in the Miami turning basin on Saturday morning.
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
Dragable deck plans: http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Ma...rwegian%20Epic

Other NCL Info:
NCL Dining Guide: http://www.ncl.com/sites/default/fil...ide-022814.pdf
Helpful NCL documents http://www.ncl.com/downloads/docs
NCL ship Virtual Tours http://www.facebook.com/Norwegiancru...85302731539795
Shop NCL: http://www.nclgiftshop.com/

HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/faq.p...arch#faq_basic


NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994


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  #9  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:29 PM
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sdmike sdmike is offline
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Debarkation Day (Saturday, July 31)

All great things must come to an end. I woke up early because the ship was shaking during her basin turn. Miami was beautiful at 5:30am, and my daughter and I stood on the balcony for a bit before heading back for another 2 hours of sleep. I couldn’t sleep though, so I posted a few messages on the internet and started planning our morning. The “freestyle debarkation” was fast and easy for us. The day before you choose your own luggage colors, even though NCL makes recommendations to ease the flow. The light blue tags were recommended for 14th floor passengers, and they suggested we leave at 9:30 (the latest posted time). We could have picked red and left at the same time, or left earlier with blue. They really didn’t care. However, we picked blue because it fit well….14th deck and leaving late. J

I got everyone up at 7:30am when the PA announcements started. We grabbed the stuff off the patio that dried overnight and packed them in our carryon, then we went up for breakfast in the Garden Café. It was scheduled to close at 9am, so it was very crowded at 8am. Everyone had to be out of their rooms by 9am and off the ship by 10:15, regardless of colors, floors, etc. After breakfast we departed our rooms as instructed, and went down to O’Sheehans to sit until they kicked us off the ship (our flight was at 3:30pm). There were two debarkation ramps, both on the 6th deck. One next to Bliss, and the other at the casino. At 10:15 Silas the cruise director politely told us to get the hell off his ship (lol) and we headed to our gangway at the casino. Just as we got there we were stopped and told to go to the other exit. Seems Customers closed their line at that terminal (Terminal C) and we had to be processed at Terminal B. Exit was easy, just scanning our cards one last time. We found our luggage easily in the terminal (which is why I love leaving late and having school busy yellow suitcases), and there was no line to speak of at customs. We were done and at the curb by 10:30, which is the LATEST you be done. Others walked off at 7:30am.

Once we got out there were cabs everywhere! Since it’s only a 15 minute and $25 drive to the airport, I don’t recommend trying to hire vans, etc. for the trip to MIA. Just take a cab. However, my brother scheduled a van so we had to wait a while for it to arrive. However, it was a fast trip to MIA and an easy trip through security with one exception. I forgot that I had the vanilla packed in my bag of t-shirts and other things I bought on the trip. However, instead of throwing it away the TSA guard did a test on the vanilla to verify it wasn’t dangerous and let us go through. She said she could have just thrown it away, but a test is available. I’m glad she did this! In fact, so is she. Since some of the vanilla spilled her whole security area now smells like vanilla. I quote… “It smells a hell of a lot better than shoes and feet!”. So, with my fingers smelling like vanilla (yum) and dragging stuff through the airport, we settled down for a 3 hour wait for our flight. I’m now typing this while sitting in the waiting area AGAIN! Yes, again. We got on the plane and settled in, then the pilot came on and announced we had to get off the plane for 2 more hours because the first officer had gotten in a car accident and the replacement needed a couple hours to get to MIA. Here we sit, one hour into this wait. If you can read this and you’re not staring at my laptop, you’ll know that eventually we left MIA to our final destination.

One more note. There were a couple of Carnival ships parked behind Epic when we got off and they looked like pool toys. They were fading and much smaller, and it made me proud to have been on the gorgeous white NCL monster. Yeah, stupid I know. But she’s so majestic sitting there, regardless how you feel about her “hat” or her flat ass. She’s a work of maritime art.

Looking back, this was truly an Epic vacation. We had SO much fun both on and off the ship, and things that worried us were non-issues. I would do this cruise again in a heartbeat and recommend it to anyone. Until next time, keep the pool-side up and enjoy your cruises

Misc Notes

Ok, I posted all kinds of info about the ship during the logs, but a few things stuck out that were either persistent questions, incorrect, or interesting. Here are some observations.

· The bathroom and showers have fans that run all the time


· The doors between balconies open using a tool that your room steward has. Any balcony, not just for connecting rooms.


· We LOVE the bathroom layout, never once had any of the noise, smell, intrusion, etc. issues that people feared


· Cigarette smoke was not an issue for us at any time on the cruise. Yes, people smoke in the casino, but we were never bothered by it when walking through. We were also not bothered by it on the pool deck. Quite frankly, it seemed that not that many people smoked on our cruise.


· Nothing is crowded. Even on sunny days the pools and pool deck were not jammed. Busy, but very tolerable. We always saw empty loungers around the ship. The only exception to crowds is on deck 6 by the theater when BMG lets out as people are waiting in line for Cirque. Then you get congestion for about 15 minutes.


· The rooms are well insulated for sound. You can hear neighbors occasionally, but we were surprised how quiet everything was


· We did not see any Keno in the casino. There were craps, poker, blackjack, roulette, and several other table games, and lots and lots of slot machines.


· Food was plentiful and good. We never ordered room service or pizza because of all the other choices (Noodle bar is my favorite), but we hear it was top notch.


· Not everything goes on sale the last day. The watches and jewelry are “on sale” all week. The main gift shops don’t have sales the last day. There were 3-4 days where they would “introduce” new sales either at the Marketplace on 15 or in an island sales desk on 7 among the Tradewinds shops. Items included $10 items, such as watches and other things, perfect for teens that needed to be reminded what time to check in. J On the last day they had Epic T-shirts 2 for $20, and other items 50% off, up at the Marketplace. At the same time they introduced the typical $19.95 watch sets that also included a keychain or calculator in a gift box. I’m sure it’s all junk, but might make nice gifts for people watching your pets.


· Pastries in the Atrium coffee shop are free, coffee is free, but specialty coffees cost money. It’s good stuff though


· There is an ATM on the ship in the Casino where you can get cash before going ashore. The information desk will also change this into small bills for you. The ATM is pretty steep. The one time I used it I paid $5 to withdraw $200. Yikes.


· Having elevators only at the ends has not been an issue for us. There are 8 on each end and they are fast and efficient. The ends of the ship are where you will do the most travelling, as the entertainment venues and Garden Café are at the ends. It’s also easy to travel between decks 5, 6 and 7 (the public areas) at mid-ship using escalators and stairs. Maybe if your room was mid-ship it would be a little bit of a hassle, but since we were right below the Garden Café it was very easy for us to get around.


· Red elevator signage and even numbers are port size. Blue elevator signage and odd numbers on starboard


· There are only a couple of power plugs in each room. One is in the medicine cabinet (multiple voltages) and one two plug outlet next to the stool. We brought a power strip so we could charge multiple things, like my ipad, laptop and phone, as well as the kid’s Nintendo games.
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
Dragable deck plans: http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Ma...rwegian%20Epic

Other NCL Info:
NCL Dining Guide: http://www.ncl.com/sites/default/fil...ide-022814.pdf
Helpful NCL documents http://www.ncl.com/downloads/docs
NCL ship Virtual Tours http://www.facebook.com/Norwegiancru...85302731539795
Shop NCL: http://www.nclgiftshop.com/

HOW TO USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/faq.p...arch#faq_basic


NCL Jewel - Alaska 2012; CCL Paradise - Mexico 2011; NCL Epic - Inaugural Western Caribbean 2010; RCI Vision of the Seas - Mexico 2008; Disney Magic - W Caribbean 2005; RCI Viking Serenade - Mexico 1996; RCI Sovereign of the Seas - E Caribbean 1994


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  #10  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:31 PM
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sdmike sdmike is offline
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Location: San Diego, CA
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I hope you guys enjoy our journey. I also have a few extremely unique Epic pictures from today (Saturday). Our flight was delayed, and by the time we took off from MIA the ship was about 20 miles out to sea. We flew right over it, and I got the first pictures of Epic from about 10,000 feet. lol! I will post these in the next couple of days.

Also, feel free to ask me any questions that I might be able to answer for you. It was a GREAT trip!

-Mike
__________________
My Reviews:
Jewel Alaska 2012: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1684157
Epic Western Caribbean 2010: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1246585
Carnival Paradise 2011: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1468875

Epic Info:
From the Deck Chair trip Review - Epic: http://avidcruiser.com/ftdc/2012/03/...-report-day-0/
Malcolm Oliver's Cruise Blog - Epic: http://malcolmoliver.wordpress.com/n...iew-june-2010/
Epic "hull" cabin info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1522322
Epic uncovered balcony info: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1523109
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  #11  
Old July 31st, 2010, 11:34 PM
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Wow a lot of info. Guess I will have to wait till I get to a printer to read it all. Thanks for the info. Just got an email that our edocs are ready for our Oct. cruise now we are getting excited.
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  #12  
Old August 1st, 2010, 12:35 AM
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Great review -- very thorough! Now I'm even more excited for my Western Carib. cruise on the Epic in Jan 2011!
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  #13  
Old August 1st, 2010, 12:54 AM
awesome2010 awesome2010 is offline
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Awesome review! Thanks!!
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  #14  
Old August 1st, 2010, 01:53 AM
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mitsugirly mitsugirly is online now
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Wow. That was the longest hour to hour 1/2 of excitement that I've had in a long time. I LOVED the write up, play by play, and details. One of the best write ups I've read and enjoyed every minute of it. Of course I wouldn't expect anything less from King of Ness!


Thanks so much! You make me want to start planning a western cruise now to those ports of call.

I hate that you missed a port, but it sounds like you and your family had a blast anyhow. I am so looking forward to this cruise now. Thanks for the tease!
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  #15  
Old August 1st, 2010, 01:59 AM
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Are you kidding? This is like the best review ever! Had some serious laugh out loud moments too! Brilliant stuff. Makes me want to cruise EPIC right now!
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  #16  
Old August 1st, 2010, 02:17 AM
lusitanica lusitanica is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmwnc1959 View Post
Had some serious laugh out loud moments too!
Yes, I had laugh too.
It's word for word how I see this ship and what I know about this ship.

I like some helpful comments about embarkation/disembarkation though.

Unfortunately an important detail is missing (sorry if I missed it) - the number of passengers onboard.
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  #17  
Old August 1st, 2010, 07:23 AM
scottyg scottyg is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdmike View Post
Roatan, Hondouras (Tuesday, July 27th)

Best
Cruise
Day
Ever.
Honest.
Wow!

We awoke Tuesday morning to pleasant sunrise and decent seas. We were just outside the semi-sheltered NCL port at Roatan. We watched as the ship sidled up to the dock, with a hero’s welcome lined up for us on the dock. There were dancers, TV celebrities, and even someone surrounded by cameras and microphones. We found at later it was the wife of the governor of Roatan doing interviews with the local media (if you can call it that). There were dozens of vans lined up waiting for passengers with people, and flags, waving. It was a grand entrance for the Epic, her first visit to this small island about 35 miles off the coast of Honduras. I think this is a good time to mention that we were the only one of three ships scheduled to dock that actually did so. The port that NCL uses is just west of where Carnival and RCI docks, and as stated earlier, it is semi-protected by a couple of small islands and sand bars/reefs. It turns out that the other port was too rough to dock at, and the other ships (not sure which they were) headed off for another day at sea. They also were unable to dock in Costa Maya (as were we), so they’re 4 days into this trip and not have hit any ports yet. This turned out good for us though, as we had Roatan to ourselves. J

We docked at 8am and by 9 we were heading down the elevators to the 4th deck forward to disembark. We took our time. Down at the gangway there were two ramps down to the dock, with 3 crew members scanning your cards. Adults need to take a picture ID and their cruise cards. Kids just need their cruise cards, but have to return to the ship with an adult. I decided to take my driver’s license and leave my passport on the ship. The last thing I want to risk is having my passport off the ship and possibly in the hands of someone on a Honduran island. But I digress. Leaving the ship was quick and easy, with no waiting. I guess they space things out a bit for the different excursions. When we got down to the dock there was the typical scene, with people holding signs, photographers with actors dressed as pirates for ship photos, etc. As we walked out we noticed various dignitaries, plus there were some locals selling trinkets and offering cabs/cars for rent for the day. We walked out to the transportation kiosks and found the booth for Bodden Tours. We checked in and followed a rep out to the waiting cars, and we were introduced to our driver, William, driving a Nissan van in pretty decent shape. All 11 of us fit just fine, and the AC worked great! And oh my was it needed! J William drove us through town heading out to the Victor Bodden property, and like most Caribbean nations there were clear signs of different classes and economic situations as we drove along. The island is beautiful, with rolling hills covered in green rain forest. After about a 15 minute drive we were at the property, which was smaller than I thought. Victor was having a new house built next to his smaller one, but even his new home was very modest. You could tell they were re-using whatever wood they could find, which is very common on the island. The house was up on stilts like most homes, but not because of water. They do it for ventilation purposes. We had also passed kids in uniforms, which is standard for both public and private schools here. Public schools go year round, but private schools often have summers off. Seeing lines of kids in uniforms in 90+ heat, plus seeing shacks made of scrap wood, made my kids appreciate what we have a bit more.

Once we got to Victor Bodden’s place we paid ($65 per person) for their “Zip and Dip” private tour, and quickly were in the staging area for their zip line. This is tamer than others up at the top of the hill (we passed several “canopy zip tours” later), but perfect for our mix of folks that ranged from 9 to 71 years in age. We got strapped into the latest high-tech equipment and were given helmets and gloves. We did a short hike up the hill to a starting platform, and our 3 guides got us going. Victor’s zip line has a dozen different lines that range from about 200 feet to several times that length back and forth across the valley from platform to platform built into the trees. Again, if you’re into wild adventure, visit one of the other zipline companies. However, this was a BLAST! It was hotter than heck and we were sweating up a storm, but we didn’t care. It was the most fun I’ve had in some time. The guides gave us tips and tricks, and soon we were flying across the zip line upside down with our arms reaching towards the earth. Even my 71 year old father and my 9 year old nephew did the “upside down” thing. My oldest son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, decided that he was going to be first and jumped right in. My wife and I LOVED seeing him get into this, as he’s normally very reserved and shy. He was upside down on just his third line, grinning the entire time. We took tons of pictures and videos of this, and I’ll share some when I can. We tipped our guides heavily, and we even purchased the CD with dozens of great shots for a very reasonable $40. Zipping was a blast, and the day just kept getting better!

After we got unstrapped from our equipment and bought several bottles of water ($1 each) we headed over to Victor’s huge animal cages. Visitors can visit these cages for $5 per person, and it’s included with the Zip and Dip tour. I also managed to find a small hose and was allowed to spray our group with water to cool down. I took the opportunity to douse my head, which felt really, really nice. The animal visit was amazing! One of our zip guides gave us a tour of the animals, starting with a cage of about 5 Capachi (sp?) monkeys that were very friendly and mischievous! I have to state here that we are all animal people, and even though I never like to see animals in cages Victor’s facility provided them with a huge, safe natural environment to live in. All 11 of us fit easily into the monkey cage, and immediately the friendly monkeys jumped down onto our shoulders and started cuddling with us. Yes, I said they were cuddling with us! We had monkeys on our heads. Monkeys on our shoulders. Monkeys on our backs, in our pockets and down the back of our shirts. On my gosh did we have a blast. One of them took my wife’s ½ empty water bottle and ran off, only to return for help opening it. He then very expertly poured it on himself, drinking some and bathing in the rest. It was adorable. After about 20 minutes of visiting with the adult monkeys (no bigger than a small cat) we visited the other cages. One had 4 monkeys that were about 5 months old (babies!) and we were able to interact with them in their cage as well. Three of the babies were more comfortable clinging to each other most of the time, so we passed around a “ball of monkeys”. They were very sweet and friendly, and enjoyed having their heads rubbed. There were also some very friendly small deer and large cages with parrots and macaws (national bird of Honduras). There were several other exotic animals as well (Toucans, lemurs and others) who were also very friendly and very used to people. You could not wipe the smiles off our faces. We were 2 for 2 for the day, with everyone in our group participating and having fun.

By now it was around noon and time for lunch somewhere. We told William that we wanted to go somewhere with 1) food and beer, 2) lots of shade, and 3) a beautiful beach. Off we headed to the west end of Roatan, heading up over the mountains and down to a resort called Infinity Bay. This is a timeshare community on the beach that allows visitors from the ships to share their facilities. You can use the beach and shade for free, but it costs $15 for a pass that gives you access to their giant pool and use of their beach chairs. We decided against this as the free shade, beach and shower was fine for us. We staked out a couple of tables under a giant shade canopy and ordered some lunch for the group. Lunch was reasonably priced, and we fed 11 of us (including me having a couple of local beers) for something around $70. After lunch we headed out to the beach which was only about 100 feet away. My GOSH this beach is beautiful. It was very, very busy, but it never seemed crowded as there was always plenty of space to walk and swim. There were boats giving “banana boat” rides, sail boats, kayaks and snorkeling as well. We rented snorkel gear for $10 each for the afternoon and had a great time. There is a coral reef just off the beach and it was a very easy swim out to this area full of fish and only about 5-6 feet deep. We all loved it, and even my 9 year old was able to snorkel around with no problem. The water was a beautiful turquoise blue and about 80 degrees. It was simply amazing! Here and there you could see NCL pool towels, so you know there were a lot of folks from the Epic here. There was a group of about a dozen young women from South Carolina lounging in the water drinking beer, and we laughed that you’d never be able to do this on their beaches OR mine (in San Diego). There were plenty of tropical fish, and there was a kayaker throwing food in the water creating colorful swarms that we swam around in. My son claims to have seen a couple of barracuda eyeing everything from a few yards out past the reef, but who knows what he saw. We DID come across a fairly good sized sting ray cruising the shallows, and we positioned ourselves between him and the oblivious swimmers and “herded” him (and the small flounder-like fish following him) back out away from the swimmers. Yes, we got pictures of this too. I could not have imagined a more beautiful beach. The weather was perfect and sunny, and everyone had a great time. We generally ignored the beach vendors, but if you’re into buying watches for $10 from a guy carrying them on a stick, there’s plenty of that tool. Lol. We were now 3 for 3 for the day. At around 2:30 we decided to pack up and head back towards the ship. We wanted to do a little shopping on the way, and we had scheduled Moderno for 5:30 and wanted to get cleaned up. William was hanging out with several other Bodden guides at a table near the beach, and when I let him know we wanted to leave in about 15 minutes he ran up to the van and started up the AC. Nice guy, that William.

On the way back to the ship we stopped at a roadside stand at the top of a hill and got a couple of hand-made necklaces, a locally made bracelet for my daughter, plus a couple of t-shirts for about $20 total. Expect to pay from $6 to $8 for t-shirts at almost all of the stands you see, and of course most things are very negotiable. There are a lot of vendors selling hand carved chests of various sizes, and ornate mahogany bowls are available in abundance from $10 on up. Beautiful stuff, but we were limited on space. I DID buy a large, beautiful decorative ceramic bowl with lid (I’ll take a picture) that was handmade on the mainland. My wife and I always pick up something decorative for the house on our vacations, just to commemorate the good times we had. This is our item for this cruise. It had been marked $45 and we ended up at $30 after some back and forth. I got this in a string of shops just outside the gates to the port area. Once you arrive back in port just walk out the gates to the right and there are lots of small shops. The sellers are fairly aggressive, but the items are beautiful and locally made, and I think it’s worth the visit. My father, brother and I shopped while our wives escorted our exhausted and sun-drenched kids back to the air conditioned comfort of the ship. We joined them about 45 minutes later, and of course our first stop was the unlimited soft-serve ice cream machine at the buffet. Oh yeah…did I mention that we’re right below the Garden Café and it’s a short walk up the stairs? I LOVE how close we are, as it makes it a quick trip for meals, snacks and ice cream. We have the bonus of the extended shade over our balcony too. We started routing people through the showers to get ready, and I took the opportunity to hit the Spa for 45 minutes, choosing to get showered up there after hanging out in the tubs for about 30 minutes. Ahhhhhhhh… 4 for 4 today.

For dinner we ate at Moderno. The place was empty when we arrived at 5:30, and they easily accommodated our group of 10 (my oldest son opted out). We’ve noticed that most restaurants are available on most nights, so everyone should be able to eat where they want regardless of reservations. I think there are a lot of cancellations or changed plans which frees up space. Ok..back to Moderno. The salad bar shared by Moderno and Cagney’s is incredible. I went in thinking “stay away from salad, the meat is what we’re here for”, but we could not resist. I filled a plate with very small portions of several items that were simply delicious. I ate slowly so I didn’t get filled up. I also avoided the bread, but I was told the cheese/bread balls were awesome. Oh, by the way, the Garden Café has pretzel balls that are to die for. Just thought I’d throw that in there. After we got settled with drinks our server started arriving with long skewers of meats. They encourage you to try everything, but I held off on the first items because I was waiting for the “good” stuff. They started with a couple of tasty chicken items (I tried bites of my wife’s), then some pork ribs, two different kinds of sausages, and then lamb chops. All tasty. Then out came the big guns – garlic steak (marinated in lime juice and garlic) which was my favorite, filet mignon, a Brazilian meat sort of like prime rib done with sea salt and herbs, and more. They also brought out trays with fries, beans, rice and fried bananas (OMG were they good!) and some dips/salsa to go with the meat. We ate, and ate, and ate, then ate some more. MEAT COMA! It was incredible. They then brought out about 4-5 different deserts for the table and we shared some wonderful items. Finally, after about 2 hours, we were done. Really done. We were now 5 for 5 on the day.

I’d love to say we went out partying after this, but I think we were all asleep by 10pm except for my son who used the opportunity to stay out until curfew with his cousin. I don’t mind. He’s being great on this trip now (as I type this he’s taking his little sister around the ship for a tour), and he got a chance to party. Haha. He did sleep through breakfast though, but that’s ok. We’re all still a bit sunburned (ok, maybe it’s just me) and looking to lay low today (Wednesday) after yesterday’s adventure. We are seeing legends tonight, and my wife is signed up for some class at the gym. I’ll meet her in the spa after she works out.

Ok, enough about Wednesday in Tuesday’s blog entry. Let’s just say it again. Roatan. Best cruise day ever!
Mike - regarding Roatan, is it a short distance from the gangway onto Excursion / Victor Bodden Staff? I have trouble walking. TIA!!

Scott
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  #18  
Old August 1st, 2010, 07:34 AM
culley24 culley24 is offline
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We are doing the Western as well and were waiting for your return. Fantastic review.
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  #19  
Old August 1st, 2010, 08:25 AM
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It's people like you that will never allow us Ness members ever to get well.
After reading your daily diary, I'm worse now than ever. How many more days till 10/30???

thanks ...
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REGAL:
Princess - 4x
CARNIVAL:
Ecstasy - (1st cruise) - 1994
Fantasy - 1995, 1998
Inspiration - 10/99
Imagination - 1997
Victory - 8/00, 7/01, 6/03
Triumph - 3x
Glory - 11/05
Freedom - 11/07, 5/08, 10/11
RCI:
Voyager of the Seas - 10/00, 9/04
Radiance of the Seas - 3/01
Serenade of the Seas - 8/03
Adventurer of the Seas - 10/03
Grandeur of the Seas - 2x
CELEBRITY:
Zenith - 2x
Galaxy - 2x
NCL:
Sea - 2x
Sun - 10/02
Dawn - (my home away from home) 16 x
Jewel - 3/06
Spirit - 2/07
Epic - 7/2/10, 10/30/10, 5/7/11


Looking forward to:
Norwegian Gem - 2/26/12
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  #20  
Old August 1st, 2010, 08:34 AM
Sailaway Girl Sailaway Girl is offline
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Thank you Mike. You continue to feed my EPIC addition. I am Eastern on August 28th but now will do Western in 2011.

Amazing posts, descriptions and insights.
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