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DGP1111

Recap of first-time-ever NCLer going on EPIC . . .

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It was one month ago today, that I boarded Norwegian EPIC in Port Of Miami for what would be my very first experience with this cruise line, and this really new, and large, vessel.

 

For those who (like me) have CC signatures turned off in hopes of speeding up the pages, I'll advise that this was my 72nd cruise on a variety of lines. On one I've reached the highest level in its loyalty program, and also high on others. Prior to this cruise vacation, this largest ships I'd been on was Queen Mary 2 and Carnival Dream. Both were for Caribbean voyages.

 

Since early 2006 I've done all of my sailings as a solo passenger, but very rarely has it ever felt that way due to meeting numerous great people onboard, including lots from Cruise Critic. It was the fact NCL had advertised they were now looking to cater to the needs of a solo cruiser that I even began looking at their fleet of ships. It was that notorius "the food sucks" comment that repeatedly raised its head that was my own personal turn-off during my research. I would seek to find out the truth on my own. So in early March 2010, I took the plunge and booked me an NCL cruise.

 

I know the usual 'rule' is to try to start things on a positive, but I'm not going to so that. ..I'm going to initially offer a Big Disappointment.

 

If you are what is often referred to as a "Line Specific Cheerleader" (every line has them on these boards), and you'd like to attempt to punch holes in every single opinion offered in post-review of an NCL cruise vacation, you are going to have your work cut out for your this time - I promise that. .Get your claws sharpened.

 

From even right before embarkation until I was back in the shuttle service the morning of debarkation, almost every single thing onboard the ship had that same feel, and tone, and offereings, over and over and over again . . . .

 

It was totally non-stop freakin' awesome!!!

 

Hey, I didn't say the 'big disappointment' would be mine, now did I??? :p

 

(so Cheerleaders, sit back, save your energies, and enjoy this short journey along with me). :)

.

.

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Hahahaha, you got me! I was reading while thinking, "oh noooooo, what the heck happened..." Definite surprise ending to your opening statements! Can't wait to read more!

 

coka

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Initial plan was to drive down to Fort Lauderdale a day early, spend some time with friends, and then be ready to board the ship that first morning totally rested.

 

Plans changed, and I chose to go with some of those same friends to see 'Wicked' onstage (excellent!) here in Orlando the night before, and then fly down the day of the sailing. I know that's frowned on quite a bit, but it was still rather fool-proof . . . not to mention cheap. Before adding their ridiculous baggage surcharge, my roundtrip fare on Spirit was $2. Yes, you read that correct. Since it was only a 40-min flight from Orlando, even if I got to the ticket desk and they advised, "Due to an unforseen equipment failure (hit bird, blew tire, wing fell off) your flight is cancelled", I would still be able to drive down to the ship, with time to spare. Luckily, none of the unforseen thing were seen, so I made it easly down to South Florida as planned. Only difference to original plan, was that I hadn't properly slept and would be boarding the ship somewhat tired (which plays into a Day-1 story later).

 

I got to the steps of the terminal and showed my documents, and had totally prepared myself mentally for what could be a long series of lines and embarkation processes, since I was a complete newby on NCL, and this line didn't know me whatsoever. Had no clue what it would really turn in to, but had few positive anticipations. I saw the sign directing repeat passengers to their specific lines, and the person showing me where us peons would board wasn't a gargoyle at all. Cool. I get to the end of the queue, and see that I'm the third person in line to be sent to the desk. :confused: This can't be right. Now I'm sure to have the proper gargoyle come make a public scene of me not following directions.

Nope, that didn't happen either. Somehow, this ship, by using two entry terminals, and actually having their act together . . . what a concept. I was issued my room/key card, was thanked for choosing NCL (wow, yet another concept), and pointed the direction to start following the arrows.

After following the yellow brick road (or, actually, some beige and brown carpet), I made it to the Purgatory area where we'd sit until given the go-ahead. Figured this might be where the 'newby' status might kick it, and all except me would be in that next wave to board. Nope, that was the case either. I had time to text some friends already onboard that I was hopefully seeing them soon, and then the staff started having us stand up and head to the next venture. Photo with face recognition.

 

Very shortly after that I was facing about a half dozen crew and officers at the entry doors, saying, "Welcome, and thanks for choosing NCL". Ok, there's a pattern going on here . . . and I'm lovin' it. :)

 

I'd diligently studied deck plans, and figured that would offer a great start to onboard navigation, but it only helps so much. For some things, a 2-dimension map in no way matched the 3-dimension reality. Holy crap, I'm already getting twisted around after only 10-12 minutes. What I goober. :o Helen Keller could have handled some things better than I was initially doing.

 

I stayed with my Plan A for lunch, which was to visit the Noodle Bar. Was very excited about this option being available on the ship, and knew I'd be there several time during the week if the quality was good - - I ate there several times during the week. :D

 

But the question now was . . .

What to try first:

 

.

 

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Turns out I was the very first passenger to choose the Noodle Bar for lunch. A really nice lady at the welcome podium offered me my choice of seats (we had a nice chuckle when I told her they all seemed occupied). She explained the process, which I'd already studied, but she was so very nice that I just let her finish. Or, perhaps, she'd seen me wandering aimlessly earlier, and was just showing pity.

 

This place is really nice and confortable . . . but to sit at the actual bar you'd have to be able to get up onto a tall stool, or stand (as one interesting passenger did later in the week). I had zero problem with the seating, but since I'm on an ADA committee for a large corporation, I tend to really notice some things.

 

Loved this place!!

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My very first server onboard was Perlita here at the Noodle Bar. She was everything NCL could hope for in onboard crew. Amazing passenger interaction. She said she hoped I return during the week, and she definitely got her wish. :)

 

EDIT TO ADD: I got the Pot Stickers & the Shanghai Noodles - - deeeeelish

Edited by DGP1111
missing info

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Now was the task of communicating with my onboard friends via cell phone. Sheeesh, this ship has a lot of metal and stuff to make a quality mobile signal more than a wee bit challenging.

 

I was attempting to contact Tom and his wife Cheryl (Tom-n-Cheryl here on CC), friends whom I've had the extreme pleasure of sailing with numerous times, and on multiple lines (CCL, Celebrity, & now NCL).

 

The conversation went something like, "Tom, this . . . . Don, and . . . at . . . dle Bar . . . Where . . . later?" His reply was close to the same garble. Hang up / Re-dial. .Hang up / Re-diail. .I finally gathered they were at O'Sheehan's, which I knew was somewhat close, but I was once-again sorta twisted around on navagation. .Helen, Help!!!

 

About that time a cosmetologist stationed in the barber shop stepped out and tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I needed assistance. She'd heard the failed phone attempt. I was surprised, and in a very good way. She didn't owe me any help, and I'd have never known if she'd stayed tucked away in the shop. I told here where I wanted to go, she gave me great direction, and I thanked her sincerely.

I bit later in the week, I'd offer her that same thanks again, as she was standing with one of her supervisors. She was very appreciative of that.

 

O'Sheehan's was in some ways exactly what I was expecting, but also a bit more. This was a location of one of the few glitches I had onboard, but the Guest Recovery process that used was amazing. Will 'splain that one later.

 

O'Sheehan's is definitely a relaxed atmosphere, and I'd dine there several times during the week.

 

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Easily connected with Tom & Cheryl (T-n-C from here on), and was glad to hear that their whole boarding process had been good. I'd sort-of planted an 'idea seed' in their head much earlier about EPIC, and even though they are completely in control of all their vacation plans, I was still hoping that I'd made a good initial suggestion. At this point it seemed a clear Three Thumbs Up, but we were only in the first few hours - - would that continue to be the case??

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I am also enjoying the review Don. You tell the story so well, it's almost as if I was there!

 

:D

 

 

Tom

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Easily connected with Tom & Cheryl (T-n-C from here on), and was glad to hear that their whole boarding process had been good. I'd sort-of planted an 'idea seed' in their head much earlier about EPIC, and even though they are completely in control of all their vacation plans, I was still hoping that I'd made a good initial suggestion. At this point it seemed a clear Three Thumbs Up, but we were only in the first few hours - - would that continue to be the case??

Well, you can add three more folks to the list of people you have brought over to Epic. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Don you are one of the reasons I am sailing on this ship. I am thoroughly enjoying your review. Great start:D Can't wait to read more.

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DGP - You win the prize for the absolute BEST opening for a review!!!!! What a great opening post!!!

 

LOVE IT!!! We don't sail the Epic until next year but I am loving your review and your pics.

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Aha, I forgot a step in the embarkation schedule, and that was to make reservations for the Ice Bar. The three of us would be doing quite a bit of dining and activities together during the week, and we'd (much more Tom than me) strategically planned the schedule, and done all the online reservations for things that could be pre-planned.

 

That one morning in the wee hours, with us in our respecitive homes, computers zeroed in on the NCL web site, and cell phones to our ears, we accomplished all the plans the moment the web site allowed entry.

'Freestyle Crusing' my ass!! :D With computer keyboards blazing, we were scheduled to the day and hour on numerous things . . . and loving it.

 

But Ice Bar has to be arranged once onboard, and I wanted to get that done soon. Checked with crew to make sure where to go for that, and I got the 'very obvious' anwer. "Just go to Le Bistro".

Huh, What??!! :eek:

No, I need to make Ice Bar reservations, hopefully for three people tonight.

Yes, go to Le Bistro, and they'll be happy to assist.

 

Well, who am I to question things as this point, still rather dependent on the map I was issued at check-in (Yoo-Hoo . . . other cruise lines . . . there's an interesting concept as well).

 

Got to Le Bistro and the two nice ladies at the table wanted to know if I was making restaurant or Ice Bar arrangments. Well, what do you know, I am in the right place. Go figure. Easy peasy to make those plans, as we were the first three on the list for the evening (and we were scheduled for right after it opened)

 

 

.

OK, back to O'Sheehan's where I tried the Tuna Melt Sandwich, which was really really tasty, even after that great noodle meal. Reminder this was my first time eating anything since 6:00 the night before, and that was a small snack.

 

And then soon to make the trek to my Studio Cabin, where I get a reality check (fully expected) of what that cabin size was really going to feel like. Had I made a big mistake of not??

Edited by DGP1111

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Can I say one word Don???

 

 

YEAH!!!!

 

You are 99% of the reason I'm getting around to doing this.

Thanks for the push. :)

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You are 99% of the reason I'm getting around to doing this.

Thanks for the push. :)

I don't give up very easily as you can see:p. I am the thankful one here! (now, can you give Tom a push to upload his photos .... hehehe j/k Tom, I know you are busy ... I will wait ... patiently ... :tapsfoot: :) )

Edited by kerrytens

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I'm really enjoying this read! I have to admit, you had me snookered in that first post. I was thinking "here's a person that's going to compare the Epic food up against Cunard" or something. I'm glad you had a great time!!

 

One thing I noticed is that the Noodle Bar prices have gone up since July of 2010. The potstickers were $2.00 for 4 of them, and let's just say we ate a LOT of them. I agree about the noodle dishes too. They were incredible, and cooked right in front of you.

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The time has arrived for my Studio to be ready for entry, and this is going to be a BIG impression on the sailing. I've seen the artist's renderings, the brochure, the actual photos, the YouTube videos, but still this is going to be reality. After a teeny-tiny cabin on Sovereign of the Seas, I swore I'd never trap myself in anything smaller. . . and I kept that promise for quite a number of years.

 

The entry of the Studios is from several locations, but mine was quite close to the elevator corridor, and never a problem to find. Put my issued keycard in the slot to grant access and immediately got the Green light. Success!.

 

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My Studio was 12516, immediately past the Living Room (Studio Lounge) doors. I'd researched the location, and had great advise from several here online, including one who'd been in the exact Studio. Easy access to everything, if you can just get past the size issue. Deep breath, and here I go.

Keycard into the slot, and another Green light.

Ta-Da!!

 

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My first impression . . . "OK, I think I can do this without issues".

 

My lasting impressions . . . "Yep, I can definitely do this without issues".

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I'm really enjoying this read! I have to admit, you had me snookered in that first post.

 

Mike, I've got to say a BIG Thank You to you, as you were a great part of my pre-cruise research . . . and much appreciated. :)

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Mike, I've got to say a BIG Thank You to you, as you were a great part of my pre-cruise research . . . and much appreciated. :)

 

Glad to have helped, Don. Keep the review coming! I'm loving hearing about the ship again and seeing pictures that I had not seen before. It really takes me back!

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I am also enjoying the review Don. You tell the story so well, it's almost as if I was there!

 

:D

 

 

Tom

:) I beg that you chime in with anything whatsoever, as you both were/are a BIG part of this recap. :)

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[/color]

 

:) I beg that you chime in with anything whatsoever, as you both were/are a BIG part of this recap. :)

Where is that "like" button anyway:confused::)

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It seems that more often than not, any discussion of Norwegian EPIC bathrooms sends the Bat Signal out to Michael Buffer (you know, the "Let's Get Ready To Rumble" guy), and then words, opinions, and excuses start flying.

 

Well, when you are traveling solo, toilet offerings and etiquette are not a big issue. But it certainly did offer some initially funny challenges nontheless. I decided to go into my own little personal 'water closet' and shut my solid door. Nanny Nanny Boo Boo to the rest of you on the ship. :p It truly makes no sense why only Studios are that way, but dat's the way it is.

 

So I go into my little fortress, close my little fortress door, get a slight bit comfortable, and begin thinking I'm glad I'm only 5'7", as I don't have a lot of clearance for my knees. But I'm certain this isn't going to be any sort of deal breaker, it's just a case of . . .

 

<< CLICK>>

 

Hello??

Hello??

It's dark in here.

 

I reached to see if there's a light switch, and then suddenly it's bright again.

I start thinking about my luggage arriving on time because . . .

 

<< CLICK >>

 

Hello??

Dark again.

OK, this isn't good. I reach for the door handle, and suddenly lights on.

 

It didn't take too long to figure out this game. You had to become somewhat 'aerobic' during potty time in order to have illumination. I did the move/stop/move/stop routine and precisely determined that I had a grand total of four seconds between required movements (physical, not the other kind) within the stall.

 

So I knew that I'd need to check with the room steward to get that fixed because I had little intention of doing full choreography each time I chose to visit the loo.

 

The next day, two Russian gentlemen in jumsuits came in and adjusted the motion sensor that's inside the stall. They said it was set wrong, but their efforts paid off for the rest of the week. Yea!!

 

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Edited by DGP1111

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too funny.

 

Don, I hypothesize that the reason the studio door is solid is because if there IS anyone in the room with you, you probably didn't know them before you got on the ship

 

(wink wink, nudge nudge)

 

:p

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I'd mentioned to T-n-C earlier that I'd be bringing several packs of the Coleman hand warmers onboard with me so we could use those while in the Ice Bar. I also had my own gloves and knit hat. I put them all in my carry-on bag in the event my luggage didn't arrive before our 5:30 reservation. For someone who was never a Boy Scout, I was definitely being prepared. Or was I??

Somewhere in the conversation at O'Sheehan's, Tom made reference to having on short pants. Oh, crap!! :eek: So did I.

Here I am equipped with items ready for climbing Everest, and all my long pants are in my luggage. What a total doofus. :(

 

Well, luggage did arrive in time, and we all went off to visit the Ice Bar, and have a few fun drinks. I'd already 'activated' the hand warmers, and they were toasty. A bit of delay getting into the actual bar, as the remainder of the 5:30 peeps were not as punctual as the three of us, so . . . we start coming out of layers, as we are gettin too warm, as well as looking a bit ridiculous in the walkway.

 

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But the time eventually came, and in we went. First ones in, and last ones out. Several of the others had shorts and sandals. Not a right fit for the venue at all. I got the Creamsicle (with added vodka) and a Polaris. Loved both!!

 

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They've all been seen in pictures here online before, but here's a few photos I took while inside.

 

By the way . . . can anyone on earlier (or perhaps very recent) confirm what was playing on the TV on the far wall?? Here we were in this frigid, well-themed, specialty bar - - with ice sculptures, and forzen glasses, and a basketball game playing on the television. :confused: It would seem SO much more appropriate to have some type of winter scenes playing, and the sounds of wind. Not a sports game with commentary.

Shoot me if I'm being picky, but there were a few 'theming issues' onboard this ship, with none being critical for sure.

 

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Edited by DGP1111

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Ice bar comment - Inniskillen wine!!! Great local winery for me. I've taken their tour a 'few' times:D

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Prior to going in this cruise, I'd purchased another new camera because of it being waterproof and freeze-proof (FujiFilm XP10). It lived up to the hype, as I was able to take Ice Bar and Water Slide pictures/video without technical issues.

One of the onboard photographers I got to chat with quite often during the sailing was inside the bar to take pictures as well. Her camera was not freeze-proof, and she had to grumble a few times when it locked up on her.

 

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As we were leaving, we gave the hand warmers to both the bartender and the photographer. Both were very happy with that offer, and said thanks several times during the week.

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Good night, Ice Bar . . . next stop . . . Cagney's Steak House.

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An epic time on the Epic ship deserves an epic write-up! Keep it coming!

Edited by sdmike

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Ahhhh . . . a pre-Cagney's story needed:

 

Also a part of my onboard list o' things to get arranged was checking on availability of a Posh Pass for the week. I got in line at Guest Services to inquire, and there was a line of about a dozen people or so. While in line, one of their crew members went to everyone in the line to see if there was any general info she could offer, and possibly direct them to another location if this wasn't the right one. Very nice! Disney Cruise Lines does that as well, but some cruise lines just let you fend for yourself, and "it sucks to be you", if you're in the wrong place. Five minutes later a separate person came by with the same offer.

 

I got to the desk and didn't even have to use my practiced sad face to see if they'd offer just one more pass for a solo passenger. He merely asked how I'd heard about that arrangement being available, and I easily told him Cruise Critic. He filled out a form, then he walked over to the cashier to process, and then asked for my keycard to set it up for access. Cool!!

 

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.

T-n-C, and I later went to check the place out, and my card worked (thankfully) but one of theirs didn't get the Green light. No big deal, and easily overcome, but a bit ironic since their beautiful villa has that already in the total package. Really liked the Posh area, and knew it would be a perfect location several times during the week when I fell into iPod/book mode.

 

Another irony was that I had easy access to this somewhat exclusive area, but now could no longer get back to my own cabin. :confused: My keycard would get me into the studio, but not into the hallway door to get to my studio. Twice during that afternoon I had to wait for someone to either enter or exit and slip in with them. Figured it was because of the new card, but still odd that the hallway would give me Red light.

A visit to the nice folks at Guest Services came to full conclusion (and they said it was new for them as well). Your keycard can have access to your cabin and ONE zone, and most on the ship don't require any zones at all. Villas/Studios do (and perhaps even more).

It seems (to me) very unlikely that I was the first person ever in a Studio to take advance of the Posh Pass arrangement during the months of sailing, but they seemed to think it was a unique situation. They easily found a solution by putting my original card back to the way it was, and creating a separate card for the Post access. Win/Win :)

 

While at Guest Services for those needed visits, I asked several of the crew members what they personally preferred at Cagney's. They were more than pleased to offer opinions, and two were very quick to say, "Definitely get the ribeye". So that was my plan, and I stuck with it.

Edited by DGP1111

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Cagney's was delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and, of course, my dining company. Interesting that is shares the same entrance as Moderno, but it totally works.

 

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A running joke for the week began this first night, when at the start of the meal Cheryl commented that she really enjoy enjoyed having a black napkin at dinner (a lipstick thing I don't totally grasp but it does sorta make sense). All I could think of was that with a black napkin in my lap, my pants being black, and the restaurant being a bit dark, I feared I might wipe my hands on my pants in error. Suddenly Cheryl dabs her mouth with her napkin - - it's white. What the deuce?? Didn't we just have this whole conversation about black. I take the black napkin from my lap and show her. Tom raises his own white napkin and we all look puzzled. We try to by sly are we check around the restaurant, and lo and behold every single person has a white napkin except one . . . Me.

 

It's probably on of those "you had to be there" moments, but it did create some fun chatter during the week.

 

My meal was so wonderful, and filling, that I skipped dessert entirely.

 

A good meal can often make you a bit sleepy, but we still had Blue Man Group to go before the end of this very full first day. That will certainly get you back wide awake . . . or will it??

So it's off to the EPIC Theatre for a night of entertainment.

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Prior to the Blue Man Group show, bar waiter Michael strongly suggested the 'Blue Experience' cocktail. A concoction of Malibu, something else, blue curacao, and a frozen marshmallow on top. It looked a little bit ridiculous, but thankfully it was quite amazing. Really amazing. I contend there was also a sleep aid in it that wasn't advertised. Yep, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

 

As you might have guessed, after about fifteen minutes of the show, in a very comfortable seat, and low lighting . . . I began to study the inside of my eyelids. I fought it, and I fought it hard -- but lost. Once I opened my eyes to see one of the performers walking on the chair arms into the audience. :eek: Oh, good Lord, is he coming for me??!! Whew, not me. :o

 

Loud percussion, strobe lights, backup musicians, and other effect just didn't do it for someone who'd been been awake since Friday morning. Yowza!! Luckily, T-n-C didn't make too much fun of me for it -- they were good sports.

 

Well, the first day on the ship is now complete, and that was A LOT to cram into just a few hours. This ship has SO much to offer, and we were determined to just about see it all. Did we succeed??

 

Yes!! :D

 

More coming to this thread soon.

Edited by DGP1111

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Oh my gosh. I can't imagine falling asleep in Blue Man! LOL. Out of all the things to do on the ship it had to be the most raucous.

 

I know this is your thread, but I can't resist posting this picture of my normally calm teenagers

 

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Edited by sdmike

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Wow Don, Love your review!

 

BTW, I'm Kerrytens sis, so I have been anxiously awaiting your review, yes, she is persistent!! :D

 

Kath

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What a fantastic review Don!! I'll loving it and it's making me wish the next 3 weeks would hurry on up and get gone so we can leave UK and get onboard again (we did inaugral from Rotterdam last June)!!!

 

If you have any photos of POSH could you post please? we're thinking of this but still undecided at the moment.

 

Can't wait to read more...............keep it coming!!!

 

Lynn

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If you have any photos of POSH could you post please?

 

There are a couple of recent Posh threads where I posted a lot of pictures. You should find them in the last several pages, or do a search.

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Don, thanks for the fantastic review as well as the photos -- they are some of the best I have ever seen of Epic.

 

I look forward to reading more...

Tracy

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Well, I for one think this review sucks:mad:. After swearing that I'd never be interested in ever, ever sailing on Epic this review has piqued my interest enough to maybe, just possibly sometime thinking about doing just that :cool:(I have sailed on a ship with 6,000 people before and am not in a hurry to sail on one again, but the Epic doesn't have F-14's landing at all hours of the day and night). I'm also regretting even more not being on the Sun this October:(. Can't wait to finish reading your review, Don:D.

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Well, I for one think this review sucks:mad:.

 

Tee-hee!! I'm going to add even more to that 'grief'. :D

Thanks!!

 

 

 

Can't wait to finish reading your review, Don:D

 

Will do what I can today, but away at an event much of the day, but will complete the two seas days for end of day. :)

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Awesome review, you have me sitting here laughing out loud, of course my dogs are looking at me like I'm crazy!!!!! Can't wait to read more, we board in 5 weeks. Yay!

 

Deb

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