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  1. We are aboard the NCL Epic on a transatlantic cruise from Port Canaveral to Civitavecchia, Rome. We booked with free at sea so have the standard beverage package, 3 specialty dinings, 300 internet minutes and $50 shore excursion credit. I also booked the AT& T cruise package, which has not worked at all. I will be seeking a refund when we return home. This package was meant to include unlimited texting, calling and some data, but has been absolutely worthless. The only way I can receive texts is via iMessage using the NCL internet package. That is also the only way I can access the internet. Photos will be posted at the end, most likely after we are home, due to internet challenges. The NCL internet is fast though; Starlink is working well! Just some thoughts from the cruise. This will not be a detailed day by day blog, but just overall general impressions. Our last TA cruise was in 4/28/2019 on the Epic, from Port Canaveral to Barcelona. We have seen some differences in the service and ship in those 5 years. Our most recent cruises have been on MSC and Celebrity, and I think the buffet at MSC is better than NCL. In 2019, we saw much more variety in NCL breakfast buffet offerings, but those have been cut back. The cheese selection is not as good and Brie seems to have been removed. They do still serve scones in the late afternoon on one of the side stations. We booked this cruise rather last minute, in January. The price was good and since Port Canaveral is our home port, we only had to book flights for our return home. We will spend 4 nights in Rome post cruise and then fly to London one night before flying back to Orlando. Before the cruise, I booked the following: Flight from Rome to London Gatwick 4 nights hotel in Rome Transfer from Civitavecchia to Rome hotel with Cab Roma Day trip to Amalfi Coast from Rome by train with Get your Guide Jewish Ghetto and Campo De Fiori by Night Food, Wine, and Sightseeing tour in Rome with Food Tours of Rome Evening tour of Sistine chapel with Tour Guy Transfer from Rome hotel to airport with Cab Roma Hotel at Gatwick airport Flight to Orlando with Norse Airline West End theater tickets in London Once on board, we booked the Two Towns shore excursion in Alicante, Spain. In Gibraltar, our plans are to buy cable car tickets and tour on our own. We were in Gibraltar in 2019 on our previous TA cruise and took a ship’s tour from Malaga to Gibraltar. We are excited to have the entire day in Gibraltar and to walk the glass walkway and suspension bridge. I have attempted to purchase cable car tickets from the ship, but keep receiving error messages. I’ll keep trying or worse case, we will purchase them when we arrive. Kudos to those who do carry on luggage only. With the colder temperatures, we took 2 large suitcases that we will pay over weight charges on the flight home. Sweaters and jeans and jackets are not light! Cruise Day: We booked an Uber from our home in Orlando to pick us up at 8:30 am. For the drive to the port, the Uber driver took a wrong turn on the way to the port, but we arrived around 9:45 am. The doors to the terminal were closed when we arrived, but they opened at 10 am and we went through security and check in with minimum wait and were given boarding group 7. Boarding began shortly before noon; I was surprised that those who purchased priority boarding were able to board ahead of the latitudes. We thought about purchasing this, as I was hoping to get Posh Beach Club passes, but decided against it, thinking the beach club passes were most likely sold out. Upon boarding, we did go to Guest Services, who confirmed there were no Posh Beach Club passes available to purchase. Our next stop was to the restaurant reservation line to make our dining reservations for the cruise. We received 3 specialty dining restaurants when booking the cruise and booked an additional 2 specialty dining restaurant visits via a package online before sailing, for a total of 5 specialty dinings. I was only able to book one dining reservation prior to the sailing so making those reservations was a priority. I was able to get what we wanted at our preferred dining times of between 6:45 pm and 7:15 pm (with about a 20 minute wait, during which my husband went to a bar and procured us some drinks) so with that taken care of, we headed to check in at our muster station. We had received an email (or 6!) prior to the cruise to watch the safety video, so once onboard, it was just a matter of having our card scanned and verifying we had indeed watched the video to satisfy the muster requirements. One note regarding specialty restaurants, the gentleman who made my dining reservations was adamant that gentlemen must wear collared shirts and closed-in shoes to Le Bistro. The lines were long for reservations, but he gave the same spiel to everyone. However, during our two meals at Le Bistro, we did not see this enforced. There were men in short and T-shirt’s dining there. Your mileage may vary. Lunch was being served in the Taste dining room and O’Sheehan’s Pub, as well as the buffet. It is so nice to have a sit down lunch option rather than the buffet. Lunch in Taste has been consistently good this cruise, but to me, the embarkation day menu is the weakest. My notes are non existent for this meal, but I had the cheeseburger without a bun and the chocolate orange mousse and I think my husband had blackened chicken pasta. The chocolate orange mousse dessert is one of my favorites and easily the best part of the meal. Rooms were to be ready at 3 pm, so we walked around a bit, ending up on deck 18 in some loungers in the shade. When it was announced that rooms were ready, we made our way to our balcony on deck 14. We found our luggage in the hallway on the way to our room, several rooms down from our room, so wheeled it to our cabin. Our last cruise was on MSC, and there is a substantial difference in the balcony sizes. On the Epic, there is very little space between the foot of the bed and the dresser. It was difficult to wheel our suitcases through that narrow space. We got the suitcases in the room and promptly took the best cruise nap! We slept for nearly 3 hours, which was heaven and the longest nap I’ve taken in years, but the lead up to the cruise was very busy. Upon waking, we tried to call our steward to request additional hangers, a coffee maker and robes, but either no one answered or the voicemail box was full. We unpacked what we could. We travel with strong magnetic hooks, which are invaluable in hanging up jackets, hats, bathing suit coverups, etc. We also have the over the door shoe hanger which we use for small items. The Epic does not have a separate bathroom, but rather one area with the toilet enclosed in a tube like booth and another shower area enclosed in a tube like area, kind of like a telephone booth. The sink is in the cabin area. There is a nice sized medicine chest over the sink to store toiletries. We had enough room for our clothes between the closet and various cabinets, however some drawers would have been appreciated. We usually dress for dinner, but for the first time ever, decided to go in our clothes we wore on the ship. On our 2019 TA on Epic, there was the opportunity to reserve your MDR dinners, however this time, we were told that reservations were not taken in the MDRs. We were given a pager when we requested our table and went to the Maltings whiskey bar while we waited. The grass clippings is a favorite cocktail and it was as good as I remembered. After dinner we went to the adult comic in Headliners, Paul Morrissey, who was pretty good. Later in the cruise we saw Julie Barr, another comic, who made the comment that the movie “Cocoon” could be remade from the passengers on the ship. The fellow passengers do skew older. My husband and I are 61, but still working. I’d say the average age of the passengers is at least 10 years older than us and retired. There are a few kids, but not many. Our cabin is near the Splash Kids’ Club and it has been very quiet. There are 2 dogs onboard, one is an obvious service dog, the other looks to be barely 2 lbs. Not sure how he qualifies as a service dog, but we’ve only seen him once and he was very well behaved. Day 2, sea day( one of many!). We left our room steward a note and tip requesting our hangers, coffee maker and robes. NCL has gone to once a day servicing of the rooms. We do miss the twice a day service on MSC. Breakfast in Taste was good. Eggs Benedict for me and an omelet for my husband. With the time changes, that might be the only time we make the 9:30 am breakfast end time in Taste. After breakfast, we found the jogging track, which had some serious power walkers. It was like merging onto the freeway to get on the track! Next was a very well attended dance class by two members the Burn the Floor cast. We browsed the shops and bought 2 tshirts for $30 and some other buy 1, get 1 free polo shirts. Since we were not successful in getting Posh Beach Club passes, we went to the adult Spice H2O at the back of the ship. Every day has been consistently colder and windier, but day 2 was pleasant for sunbathing and using the hot tub. Our 2019 TA was later in the year and warmer and smoother. This cruise we feel the movement, nothing crazy, but it is more movement than we felt in 2019. At times, the main pool is sloshing a bit. The freestyle daily shows snacks at Spice H2O in the afternoon, but on at least 3 days, nothing has been served. When open, there is a nice selection of burgers, hotdogs, chicken wings and some salads, but with colder temperatures and less crowds, the food service is not consistent. There has been no issue in bar service though. The bars are open and waiters come to the loungers to take orders. Dinner in the Manhattan dining room has been very good. Having a band play live music and a singer during dinner is a nice touch and not something I’ve seen on other lines. One note about food service, with the time change, one morning many people were lined up at the supposedly 24 hour pub, O’Sheehan’s, for breakfast, which was listed as being served until 11 am in the Freestyle Daily. At 10:45 am, people were being turned away, being told to return for lunch at 11:30 am. There was a mutiny among the passengers. The hostess was telling people Garden Cafe was open for breakfast, but a gentleman was telling her it was not. Come to find out, the Garden Cafe was indeed closed at the main entrance, but if you went in the side doors, from the pool deck, there was breakfast being served. There seemed to be a lot of disgruntled guests, and a bit more communication on NCL’s part might have been helpful in this regard. We ended up just waiting until noon and enjoyed lunch at Taste, which soon became our routine with the almost daily time changes of losing an hour each day. Burn the Floor is not to be missed, a spectacular show! I booked one night before the cruise and we did a second night in the standby line. What I have missed are the nightly shows of singers and dancers. Hypnotists and magicians are not our thing. In 2019, Priscilla Queen of the Desert was on and we enjoyed it. It seems that NCL is phasing out the broadway shows, which is a shame. One night there was a 1980s Broadway Revue which was good. Ryan is a featured singer in the Burn the Floor show and he also performed in the Broadway revue. He is very good. Howl at the Moon was our favorite in 2019. This version of Howl at the Moon has 2 very talented sisters who perform and one older gentleman. Love the women, the man is not our favorite; he skews a bit country for our tastes. Shakers Martini Bar has Roel, who also plays the piano and sings. He has been fun to watch. One night we left Howl at the Moon when Sweet Caroline was being performed, only to find Roel doing the same song! Ugg! We met another couple who had also bailed at Howl at the Moon when the dreaded Caroline song started. Not sure why this is a favorite! Modern is the Brazilian steakhouse and comparable to Texas de Brazil in Orlando. It is a lot of food. I like my meat more well cooked, so they brought me a plate of all of the meats more cooked. We were so full we skipped dessert, as there is also a very extensive salad bar. Le Bistro was good. The dress code is not enforced, but that doesn’t bother us. The filet is a $10 upcharge from the dining package, which is a change from 2019. The steak was good though and worth the cost. Our second night there, I had the lamb, which was also good and my husband had coq au vin. No issues with food or service. Cagneys steakhouse was good. The shrimp cocktail and lobster bisque were good. We get better steaks at Fleming’s Steakhouse at home, but the sides and dessert were good. It is a lot of food, with appetizer, soup/salad, entree, two sides, and dessert included with the dining package. The portions are very generous. The regular beverage package has been fine, we thought about upgrading, but my husband was happy with the bourbons/whiskies on the regular package and I am fine with the regular wines and spirits , so it’s all good. At Shakers Champagne and Martini Bar, I showed the bartender the recipe for a classic champagne cocktail, made with cognac, bitters, and lemon peel and he made me one with the Prosecco on the regular package. It was wonderful. Another bar tender made one with simple syrup and a cherry, which is not the classic recipe. I made sure to visit the one who follows the recipe after that! We attended the Q&A session with the officers about running a cruise ship, and that was interesting. The captain has been with NCL since the 1980s. One night was a Silver level Cocktail party, which was nice. There was a band and cheese snacks and the senior officers were introduced and a pitch made to purchase Cruise Next certificates, which no longer expire. We saw the gold level and then platinum, diamond, and ambassador parties listed another night in the Freestyle Daily. I guess this is on the honor system, because no one asked to see our ship card to verify our status when we attended. We decided we like the NCL product enough to purchase 4 Cruise Next $250 certificates for $500. The fact that they don’t expire is a selling point and being able to sail an hour from home is a plus. The Beatles cover band plays in the Cavern Club. This is much too small a venue for the people who want to attend. In 2019, we could arrive just prior to showtime and not worry about seats, because we spent the entire show on the dance floor. Now, there is a person monitoring the entrance, who will not allow anyone in once the venue is full, which is about 30 minutes before showtime. No one danced during the one show we attended. The band also plays 2 shows in the large theater, which was packed during last night’s show, with standing room only. I think all of their shows should be in the theater, as there is such a demand for them. Cavern Club is much too small. I will write more as the cruise progresses. We arrive in Gibraltar on Tuesday so tomorrow is another sea day.
  2. Thanks for this information. Can you pay the bus fare on the bus or do you purchase bus tickets in advance? Thanks again.
  3. Thank you. And, is walking the best way to get to the cable cars? Are there no taxis or buses available? Thanks again.
  4. Thanks for your post. We are planning on purchasing the cable car tickets ahead of time to try to save time. We are in decent shape so am not afraid of the walk, just hoping to get to the cable car quickly to avoid the crowds. Thanks again.
  5. We are docking in Gibraltar next month on the NCL Epic. We are scheduled to be in Gibraltar from 10 am to 6 pm, so we planned to take the cable car on our own to to the top of the rock. We've done the bus tour previously, so this time really wanted to go on our own. Looking at google maps, it appears to be a 38 minute walk to the cable cars from the cruise dock. Does anyone know if there is a shuttle bus available or even a taxi? We don't mind a walk, but would rather spend our time on the rock, rather then walking to it. Thank you.
  6. MSC did the same thing to us. We were in the Yacht Club hot tub with plastic cups but they made us sit them by our lounge chairs, not even to the side of the hot tub. We didn’t understand it either. We never disembark in Freeport either. Maybe cruise lines should skip this stop.
  7. We are taking our first post-COVID NCL cruise next month. Is housekeeping down to once a day now? MSC is still doing twice a day, but I thought I read that NCL had changed. Curious as to your experience. Thank you. BTW, we did the NCL Star to Alaska years ago. Is the Sun the same class of ship? Enjoying your review!
  8. GSC is gorgeous. Does the drink package work on the island?
  9. Thank you for the replies. Still on the fence.
  10. Hi: We are booked on the NCL Epic transatlantic cruise in April. We booked a balcony cabin and I see now that there is an aft balcony on deck 8 for slightly less than we paid. We are on a higher floor, deck 14, which is our preferred location, due to being able to take the stairs up one flight to the buffet to bring back snacks to the room while we are dressing. I know the rule about not booking directly under the pool deck, but we had a room on that deck on our last TA in 2019 and loved it. We have had an aft balcony once before on Celebrity Summit and loved it too. I'm hesitstant to switch, knowing that we will have a long trek up to deck 15 for snacks, but I'm wondering if the aft balcony would be worth it. I am seeking opinions from seasoned cruisers... If it makes a difference, our last TA in 2019, Port Canaveral to Barcelona, was smooth as glass with no rough seas. Hoping for the same for this cruise, which is Port Canaveral to Rome. Thank you!
  11. Our last crossing was 2019, Port Canaveral to Barcelona on the NCL Epic and the weather was perfect with calm seas. Hoping for the same this year.
  12. Great review. I wonder if you would share details about your day trip to Tuscany from Rome before the cruise? We are doing a TA that ends in Rome and spending several days in Rome afterwards. Thank you.
  13. Thanks. I was hoping for a group tour due to the cost frequently being less, but I will check the private tour operators. Anyone you recommend other than Rome in Limo? Thank you.
  14. We have a TA cruise in April, arriving in Rome. Our last TA cruise ended in Barcelona, and we uses Spain Day Tours for a tour that picked us up at the port with our luggage, stopped at Montserrat and Park Guell before dropping people off at their hotels. It was a bus of about 20 people and very reasonably priced. I’m wondering if something similar is available from the Civitavecchia port, including a tour and drop off at Rome hotels. Thank you.
  15. Can I just say that Patti is my hero for traveling with 2 flat irons!!
  16. Can you elaborate on the differences between the two? Thank you.
  17. We are doing the TA on the NCL Epic departing on April 7, 2024. Online there are no Posh beach club passes to book. I called NCL and was told that I might be able to book the day of embarkation. I was wondering if anyone has had a positive experience with this. Thank you.
  18. @MeganGC1983 So, would you sail Carnival again? I remember reading in one of your comments that this might be your last Carnival cruise. I'm curious, because we have not sailed Carnival since 2013, but the Venezia looks interesting to me. But gangs of teenagers blocking the stairs does not appeal. Just wondering your general opinion after this sailing. Thank you.
  19. Can you get lunch in the Yacht Club on embarkation day? Thank you.
  20. Really enjoyed your take on Princess. I have only sailed this line once, 2010, on Emerald Princess, but I am so intrigued by the medallion and being able to order drinks wherever you are, that I wouldn’t hesitate to try the line again! I know you had glitches, but if they can get this to work properly…what a game changer! Looking forward to following your NYE cruise. Dec 31 is my birthday, so have always wanted to cruise then. I will make it happen one year! I hope the remaining weeks of school go by quickly for you. I tried my hand at teaching 6th grade science once upon a time. You are a true hero, my friend, because I did not last long in middle school! I think that is the toughest population of kids to work with! Kudos to you and all the best to @HelloItsMeB
  21. I remember when cruises left a pen and writing pad in the room. More cutbacks! Have not been on Princess since 2010 on Emerald Princess, so looking forward to your take. Enjoy! Teachers and nurses are the unsung heroes of our time!
  22. The student tour group? My daughter did one of those in high school , but I thought they were just for student groups. Enjoy your trip!,
  23. If you had been there at the start time, would you have been first in line and on the ship by now? We have never sailed from Galveston but on our last two cruises from FL (MSC from Port Canaveral and Celebrity from Miami), by arriving early, we never stopped walking from the time we checked in to walking in the ship. This line is crazy.
  24. Wait, St. Greg and Tx Teach are so close and are not going to meet! What a shame that a rendezvous was not arranged! I so enjoy your cruise reports and am looking forward to this one. I saw some photos of your partner’s travels in S America and it looked fab. Is she with a tour group? I’d love the details as that trip looks amazing! I loved your summer report on Pride too. Enjoy your cruise!
  25. I have never flown Southwest. Do they not have the inflight entertainment where you can watch TV from the monitor at your seat? I guess I’ve mostly been on Delta and Jet Blue and thought this was standard.
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