Solo Trip Journal - Norwegian Epic - 7-Day Western Caribbean - 02/24/18 to 03/03/03

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United States
105 Posts
Joined May 2015
About Me

I'm a female purely solo traveler in my mid-40s who started cruising a few years ago and now does 3-4 weeks of cruises a year. I've traveled on NCL previously to Alaska, with my other cruising experience being in the Caribbean on Royal and Carnival. I've traveled in all the standard cabins, but never suites. My 'price point' usually puts me at ocean views, though I have several solo studios booked on longer 2-week trips in the coming year.

Me January 2017 in St. Maarten

As one can tell I am rather a large person, though I did lose a bit of weight since this photo (I think). I've been on Weight Watchers for a few months and had good success, and one of my concerns about cruising is that I would fall back into my chaotic and excessive eating habits on the cruise and -- even worse -- not rebound into a healthier routine when returned from the cruise. Given that I'm trying to get healthier I decided to put some effort into it, while not sacrificing the good food that I do associate with cruising.

(Spoiler alert: I was reasonably healthy and moderate given that it was a cruise and managed to drop a pound and a half during the week.)

I don't really drink too much in the way of alcohol, and my onboard interests tend toward the lazy. I can be lured out to some of the less physically demanding (and weight-restrictive) shore excursions, and will splash about in the pool if it's not too crowded (ahahaha I said 'not crowded' ahahaha!), and otherwise like to lounge about and watch shows and read and enjoy downtime in the room with TV or movies or video games or books and venture out to shows or music or short activities like trivia and oh I love playing small-stakes blackjack. That's really it.

This cruise was really a spur-of-the-moment purchase around November of last year. I was stressed at work, stressed about the holidays, stressed about being stressed, and -- anticipating an upcoming end-of-year bonus -- decided the sensible thing to do was book a third cruise for 2018 with little to no advance thought given to the cost or planning requirements. As a solo traveler, I either need to pay double the cost for what's normally a double-occupancy cabin all to myself or book a last minute cruise where they waive the single supplement or book a single-priced studio cabin. The good news is the cruise I was considering, the Norwegian Epic, had those studio rooms and some were available. The bad news is that I was sucked in by the 'get all the perks!' promotion and got a balcony by paying double cost.

Um, whoops?

Oh well, I was sure it would all work itself out by the time February rolled around!
United States
105 Posts
Joined May 2015
(Incidentally, I am hoping to finish this journal up one post per day by the end of the weekend, or perhaps sooner, before my scattered brain mixes it all up. I'm more than a bit sick at the moment and legally drugged up because of this, so I am not responsible for devolving into any rambling incoherencies, appalling misspellings or typos or other grammatical indecencies, or self-serving and bald-faced lies along the way. Please fasten your seatbelt, and make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in the full upright and locked position. This journal is now resuming.)

Day 0, aka The Day Before, aka the Final Countdown

My flight left Saturday morning for a cruise leaving Saturday afternoon and, feeling no need to impose planning and organization at this late stage in the game, worked a half day Friday morning and then put off packing until about 10 pm Friday night. Actually, I had done a little planning. I had quite wisely booked a flight to get me from my city to Orlando, and even had booked a shuttle (cortrans, for those keeping score at home, which I would not hesitate to recommend for all your shuttle-y needs in Orlando) to whisk me along to the pier. Why, I had even pre-booked some restaurants and entertainments, which seemed positively like overachieving for it being a 'freestyle' vacation and all.

So at about 10pm, I packed.

All I have to do is zip it and I'm done!

Okay, even I had to admit that wasn't quite cutting it. I folded and prioritized and consulted a list and removed a stowaway cat once or twice and double-checked that I had underwear and medication and a credit card and passport. I didn't really pack anything dressy aside from some black slacks and a nicer blouse or two. No shoes other than walking shoes and crocs. No jewelry. A few toiletries and medicines. A laptop because I'm a computer geek by trade (software engineer) and it was stuffed with Netflix TV shows for my anticipated middle-of-the-night insomnia. All in all I managed to pack everything I needed except, as I would discover later, a toothbrush. More on that saga later.

I live alone so I had to secure and clean the house, deal with trash, handle the mail, clean out the kitchen, etc. Remarkably I managed that all around midnight, with the one little exception of forgetting I had cooked a potato in my Instant Pot and needed to clean out the scraps. Whoops. That was fun to return to seven days later. Since my two cats, Miss Mousey and Jax, were not allowed on the ship they had to stay at home, despite several concerted attempts by Miss Mousey to very casually stow away in manners she thought I would not notice.

Maybe if I sit very still and avoid eye contact Mom won't notice me

I was paying my standard pet sitter a small fortune to check in on them daily, to scoop and supply kibble and dangle feathers on a string for their amusement. As a random aside, in the past I've had them come every other day which is really fine in 99.9999% of the cases, where one of the 0.0001% cases where it wasn't fine happened to my friend whose kittens managed to flood the entire first floor of her house and cause roughly $30,000 of insurance-covered damage before the cat sitter made it over for their 'every three day' check. Just something fun to reflect on if you're having cats you leave behind!

And that was that for day 0. I set two separate alarms, piled my purse and bags in front of the door to the garage where it would be impossible to miss them, made a few last minute notes of things to do in the morning, took a quick shower, and crashed into bed far too late for someone with an early morning flight to catch.
524 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
So glad to read you are happy to recommend Cortrans. I'm using it next Wednesday after disembarkation from the Epic. I've been rather stressed about the whole transportation issue.
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Norwegian Dawn Nov 2016 canceled...son diagnosed with Testicular Cancer Stage 3
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Norwegian Pearl Nov 2010
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United States
105 Posts
Joined May 2015
Originally posted by realcindylouwho
So glad to read you are happy to recommend Cortrans. I'm using it next Wednesday after disembarkation from the Epic. I've been rather stressed about the whole transportation issue.
It took longer than I expected because of issues outside of cortrans control, the port area was just backed up with four ships in ports and they had to wait in line for a slot at NCL which seemed a bit of a disaster. Maybe 10 minutes added to the time to get a slot to pull in.

I was a little stressed for disembarkation because it said we arrived at 8, and I booked my shuttle at 9:45 thinking we'd take an hour to get cleared for disembarkation before I could 'self-assist' myself and my suitcase off. I thought I might be time-pressed, and that was the latest I was comfortable leaving for a 12:15 flight. But then, turns out the day before disembarkation I learned we got in before 7 and I emailed them to change my return to 9:00am. They responded pretty quick and said no problem. I got there a few minutes early and they seemed to just be loading people up and crossing off names as the buses swung through, making sure whoever reserved the timeslot had space and then let early people on extra seats. It wasn't super crowded, the driver was fine and safe.

One note on arrival at the airport: MCO has two sides, north and south, and a bunch of different airlines at each side. Though they picked up at both north and south, they dropped off at only one of the sides for everyone (possibly because the traffic was pretty bad, but maybe they always do that). If your airline is on the other side like mine is you have to cut through the shopping & food court area. Plan on another 3-4 minutes, no biggie after shlepping bags across the freaking cruise ship and terminal but if you're packing a dozen steamer trunks without wheels while herding half a dozen children under the age of 10 all by yourself, say, you may want to track down a porter.

Edited to add: And if for some reason you're pressed on time, you can shave off 5-10 minutes in customs line by bribing a porter to take you through, probably should throw them $10-$20 depending on lines and baggage and number of people. And then if you're stressed on the airport run and think you're running late there's always the option to ditch the shuttle and take the loss there, and find an uber for $70 to $140 depending on how many people and how much baggage. But really, we got in a lot earlier than I thought so though there was more traffic than I expected, I actually got to the airport earlier than expected.
110 Posts
Joined May 2013
Following. I love the Epic. I probably enjoy the solo cabins even more than the Balconies. Yes, weird, I know.
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Norwegian Epic, February 2018
Disney Dream, February 2018
Norwegian Getaway, December 2016
Freedom of the Seas,December 2015
Norwegian Epic, December 2014
Norwegian Epic, February 2014
Carnival Valor, October 2012
Carnival Liberty, October 2011
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Delray Beach, Fl
373 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
Originally posted by DukeBlueRN
Following. I love the Epic. I probably enjoy the solo cabins even more than the Balconies. Yes, weird, I know.
I agree 100% on the Epic. I love it but prefer the Studios
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Perpetual Flip-Flop State
6,444 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
I am really enjoying your review!
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Instagram: apdmomcruzr
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United States
105 Posts
Joined May 2015
(Okay, this is going slower than I thought. I'm still recovering from cruise plague, might be walking pneumonia, plus I managed to slice my finger open making homemade chicken noodle soup because of the aforementioned cruise plague and had to go to Urgent Care. It's been a rough return from vacation.)

Day 1, aka Embarkation Day Fun

Getting to the pier was relatively drama-free. It went: drive to the airport, TSA Precheck, short flight on the plane (Atlanta to Orlando), meeting up the cortrans shuttle people, and traveling out to the port. (Incidentally, I can recommend cortrans company for port transfers at Orlando, they worked well for me and had good communication.) I checked my suitcase as it was just slightly too big to carry-on and was relieved to see that it made it. There were no flight delays, so no worries about missing the boat. The longest waits were related to traffic at the port, as it took about 20 minutes for us to get a stall at NCL to drop us off. Oh, and I did see the longest line of the entire cruise in this portion of my travels.

Longest line of the trip: the morning Starbuck's line at MCO

Embarkation was slow. It took about 90 minutes for me to go from getting to the port to getting on the ship. It was about 1:30 before I got on the boat and I was hoping that my room would be open so I could drop off my smaller bags, but nope! Rooms ended up not opening up until 2:00 on the dot, which I gathered was their ship-imposed deadline. There were consequently a lot of people milling around with their bags and carry-ons, filling up the ship. It was super extra crowded.

And elevators were a nightmare in terms of lines, as typically happens on embarkation and debarkation days. It was so bad that I actually walked six flights up, with a few small bags, that first day. Being way too out of shape to do that routinely my threshold for stair-climbing quickly dropped to 'two flights up, six flights down'; by the end of the week, I caught myself taking the elevator for a single floor trip sometimes, as stair enthusiasm waned.

Eventually, I did get into my room and dumped my bags, a laptop bag and a CPAP bag. I had booked a balcony room all to myself, as a splurge. Gotta say, I'm not a fan of the room design on the Epic. The wavy walls seemed more annoying than anything, and for some reason, the room seemed smaller than its square footage should've made it. There was a lot of storage space, which I think took away from some of the floor space and made it seemed more cramped than other rooms I've been in. The drawers in the dresser were huge. This would be great for people traveling with a lot of clothes and such, but it was overkill for me and my single carry-on's worth of clothing.

And then there's the split bathroom. I actually liked it, but that's because I was in the room by myself. It seemed to make the shower a little bigger than others I've seen. My opinion would probably change if I was sharing the room with someone as that frosted glass on the bathroom compartments is a bit revealing. I did make sure to flip the door lock when using the shower, to prevent any inadvertent arrival of the room steward.

With my bag dumped I went out to find some much overdue lunch. I didn't want anything heavy as it was 2:30 at this point and the buffet was just about closing up for lunch anything. I grabbed a slice of cheese pizza and made up the world's laziest salad to scarf down. A note on the salads: I kinda liked it that there were containers of fat-free Kraft dressings to choose from, made for a nice lower-calorie dressing option. I did have a moment of confusion trying to find the silverware, which led to this exchange with the serving staff: "Where is the silverware?" "On the table, ma'am." "....oh."

After a quick lunch I found a diet Pepsi (which is inferior to diet Coke in every way, but we all must make sacrifices) and roamed the public areas a bit before retreating back to my cabin for a few minutes. My suitcase was waiting for me in the hallway. Hooray! Muster drill was nice and civilized, with my station being in the big top spiegel "tent". I'm not entirely sure how useful it is as a muster drill when you never go to the boats, but hey, it made it a lot more comfortable to just sit around for it. Then it was upstairs to the main outside deck for sail away!!!!

Sail away! I was hanging out on the starboard side of the ship. At least, I think it was starboard.

I found another drink (diet Pepsi, as I only had two glasses of wine the entire trip; I'm not much of a drinker) and watched until we well out of port, after which I braved the throngs of deck mongers to find some folks I met on a Facebook group prior to sailing. I got some mardi gras beads and met some people but didn't really stick around much, as I'm not much for drinking or dancing and there was mostly that going on. I decided to go back downstairs to prepare for dinner.

Dinner was at Taste, and it would be the only time I ate at that restaurant for the cruise -- not because it was bad, I just ended up at specialty restaurants or Manhattan for other nights. Now, I'm not really picky when it comes to food, which means that the majority of the food I ate can be reviewed as "tasted good to me!" I had an Asian noodle soup with shrimp as an appetizer and pan-seared hake fillet over some mashed potatoes and spinach as the main course. I got something for dessert but I can't really remember what it was at this point, so I guess it wasn't super memorable. Everything "tasted good to me!"

The rest of the evening was pretty low key. I tried going to the family karaoke event, which was fine at first -- some middle-aged and older folks were singing some country songs I didn't know but they were decent enough -- but quickly took a turn for the worse when a quartet of pre-teen boys did what I guessed at the time was a rap song. It was bad. It was really, really bad. Turns out it was a song by Beyonce called "Run the World (Girls)", which I'd never heard before. Mostly the boys mumbled and laughed and shouted the one line of the song they knew. I left midway through to save my ears. Now, I didn't mind the kids at all, they were clearly having fun and they weren't being rude (just awful singers!) and it was family karaoke, but it was oh so very bad.

I stopped into Headliners for a comedy show I'd booked, and like all of the comedy acts I enjoyed it a lot. Comedy shows are one of my favorites, and why I like Carnival so much, they have lots of comedy. But this was good, there was the intro act and then the headliner. And then the night was capped off with Howl at the Moon dueling pianos. I really knew nothing about what to expect but it quickly became a favorite event of mine and I stopped in for at least a few songs every night they were performing it.

Oh, I also decided that one of the performers was going to be my secret cruise boyfriend, but then I felt bad because he was probably young enough to be my son and I got all these Mrs. Robinson vibes. I decided that he could not be my boyfriend after all for age differences, but he was very easy on the eyes, I must say.

As I'm an old fuddy duddy I was in my cabin before midnight. This was when I discovered the one thing I forgot to pack for my trip, which was my toothbrush. I was too tired to go and see if a shop was open to sell me one so I figured I'd sort it out later, and make do with the approximately 300 flossers I did apparently pack.

Next day: Nassau!
1,022 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Thanks for doing this review, I’m really enjoying it. The elevators on the Epic were a pet peeve of mine and not just on embarkation and debarkation day. For many people my age taking the stairs is not an option.

I preferred the Manhattan Dining room over Taste because it had a classier look. On all my cruises there have only been a few dishes that I didn’t like and I’ve never had an issue with the buffet food.

My favorite singers at Karaoke are the ones who are singing their pea picking hearts out but have terrible voices. Participation in Karaoke seems to have increased since NCL began the UBP.

I’m looking forward to the rest of your report.
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2018 Norwegian Jade 4 day Cozumel
2017 Norwegian Star Panama Canal full transit
2016 Norwegian Epic E. Caribbean
2016 Norwegian Jade W. Caribbean
2015 Norwegian Dawn W. Caribbean
2014 Norwegian Star Panama Canal full transit
2011 Carnival Valor W. Caribbean
2009 MS Giselle Nile River Cruise
2005 RCI Rhapsody of the Seas W. Caribbean

Future cruises:
2018 NCL Jade British Isles
85 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
So happy to have stumbled on your review! Thank you for taking the time to write. I always wanted to know more about solo cruising. Hope you feel better soon.

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