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An In-Depth Review: My First Cruise Ever! Epic March 9-16, 2013 (solo traveler)

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Hello Cruise Critic!!! You all were VERY helpful to me in preparation for my first cruise ever! So, I wanted to give something back by contributing a review of my NCL Epic Eastern Caribbean sailing, March 9th-16th. A big shout out to Don, whose famous review was instrumental in a large portion of the info that really helped me out!

 

Soooooooo….

 

 

Who am I?

 

My name’s Camden. I’m 23 years old, from Richmond, Virginia. But I’m attending graduate school in Miami, both at Florida International University, and Miami Ad School, getting my masters and building my portfolio in advertising, specifically as a writer. For my 2012 Christmas present, I asked my parents for a cruise for my spring break, and because of the studios with no single supplement on the NCL Epic, that’s the one I chose! I’ve done a lot of traveling globally with my folks to some pretty ritzy places but they were never interested in trying cruising. So not only was this my first cruise, it was my fist time traveling by myself. A lot of my friends thought I was weird for doing it alone, but a lot of other people constantly referred to me as “brave,” haha. I had mixed emotions about it, but overall I was thrilled to try cruising out.

 

The logistics:

 

My parents booked it through a travel agent in November when the price was $899. Before final payment I was able to acquire the $12.50 in OBC they offered in a special promotion (Hey, every little bit helps!), and after final payment, my TA was able to secure an additional $50 when the price dropped.

 

And now…the review:

 

 

Saturday, Day 1:

 

My roommate dropped me off at the pier around 10:00AM (I got there early because I was a man on a mission: to get into the Chef’s Table). This was the first time I truly got to see the ship up close and it really was breathtaking. Because I was there so early there was a little confusion with the porters as to whether I had just disembarked the ship or was ready to check-in, and a few minutes was spent just wandering aimlessly. But after it was sorted out, a porter took my bags (I was traveling with 2 big suitcases and 2 carry-ons…more on why so much bags later on) and I made my way into the terminal.

 

Upon having one of my bags go through the scanner, I caused a little scuffle over a bottle of Tabasco. The agent wasn’t sure if I could take it on board and it took a couple supervisors to sort it out and I was allowed through with my hot sauce. Then I approached the check-in desk. Now, this is the first thing that differed from what I have read on Cruise Critic…because I was using cash for my expense account, I had expected from my research to be able to hand over the loot at this point, but the lady told me I would take care of that on board at Guest Services instead. Immediately my panic sensors went off as I envisioned all 12 seats at the Chef’s Table filling up while I was delayed taking care of my account, but of course there was nothing I could do at that point. I also thought it was interesting that I was only asked for my passport, not my drivers license. I thought you needed to present 2 forms of ID??? I was given group boarding card 1 (Yay!), went to have my photo taken, and then found a seat in the terminal. I’d say there were probably about 20 to 30 people who had already arrived before me.

 

As I waited, I took advantage of the time to call Wells Fargo to alert them of my travel plans, and also Verizon to have my texting blocked for the week. By 11:30 the terminal was packed, everyone eagerly awaiting the announcement it was time to board. About 15 minutes later, there was a false alarm that it was time, as a few people stood up, which set off a chain-reaction, and soon everyone was standing and headed towards the boarding gate. An employee quickly got on a megaphone and told us to head back to our seats to keep the hallway clear, and that it wasn’t time. An elderly man with his wife refused to find a seat, and upon being called on it, got very nasty with the employee saying, “Somebody took my seat, I’m standing right here and if you want to throw me out, go ahead!” I had to roll my eyes at his arrogance…who wants to start their vacation on such an angry note?

 

At about 12:15 it was finally time to board. I grabbed my bags and followed the others in group 1 into the gate, which took us to Deck 6 Forward, where the theatre and box office was. I was a little confused where to find Guest Services, but an employee at the Box Office directed me downstairs. I raced downward and got in the short line. When it was my turn, I handed over the cash I wanted to deposit ($600) and confirmed that they had record of my $62.50 on board credit. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that an extra $50 had magically appeared. Fearing it was a mistake, I didn’t say anything about it. Before I left I remembered that this was the time and place to ask about the Posh Pass. She asked me if I wanted one for the day or the week and I elected for the week pass for $59. When she went to either get the receipt or find the wristband, there was some sort of problem, and she took about 15 minutes before she returned. Meanwhile, I was a nervous wreck just knowing that the Chef’s Table was surely impossible now. She returned with my receipt and an orange wristband, and wished me a wonderful cruise. Before I left Guest Services towards the restaurant reservation desk, a man beside me asked for 8 posh passes, and I figured they would probably be sold out momentarily.

 

Once at the RR desk, I asked if there was any chance of getting a spot left at the Chef’s Table…she smiled and asked. “Which one? There are two on this sailing, one on Tuesday and one on Thursday.” I immediately felt silly for putting myself through so much worry, and decided on the Tuesday seating. So with my Posh pass and Chef’s Table reservation taken care of, I felt my stomach relax and really got excited! I headed to the bar at the Atrium to have my soda sticker placed on my card and retrieve my thermos (My mom had purchased the soda package for me). I decided to go ahead and have lunch, so I headed to Taste, where I was seated at a lovely window seat overlooking the pier. I ended up having the roasted eggplant and olive dip with pita chips, and the chicken Milanese. The desserts didn’t sound particularly good so I left my meal at that (I’m VERY picky when it comes to sweets). While I was eating, Ken the Cruise Director came over the speakers to announce that the cabins were ready.

 

Once I finished my meal, I headed up the elevator to the 11th floor and made my way to my studio #11500. This was the most forward of the studios, and I picked it because of it’s closeness to the elevator and studio lounge, as well as because it didn’t have another room on either side. Now, from all the reviews I read, pictures I saw, and videos I watched, I knew exactly what to expect when I opened the door. But that didn’t stop my delight as I entered the modern and quirky little room. I didn’t find the studio to be overly tiny, and thought it was the perfect size for just one. There was plenty of space under the bed for the suitcases, and lots of cabinets. However, my only storage complaint was the lack of any drawer space.

 

After I got everything unpacked, I went up to the pool deck to check things out. The band was playing bad reggae music, which immediately got me excited for the cruise, haha. Now, one thing that REALLY caught me off guard was the pool…it’s so SMALL! I honestly thought it was just a kiddy pool until I saw the sign saying otherwise. I couldn’t believe for a ship of that size that the pool would be so tiny. After I made the rounds of Deck 15, I headed downstairs to take a tour of the Spa. Now THAT’S a pool. It didn’t take long to convince me to purchase the week pass (I think it was around $149). At that point, it was almost time for the safety drill, so I headed for my meeting station, the Theatre. The drill only took about 20 minutes, and by then it was almost time to sail away! I had read on Cruise Critic that there would be a champagne sail away party at Posh. Sure enough, when I swiped my card and entered Posh, there were trays of champagne and mimosas waiting. I took one of each and relax on one of the huge sun beds overlooking the pool deck. I grabbed my book (third novel in the 50 Shades of Grey series) and just enjoyed the luxury. A waiter came by and offered me salmon mousse and shrimp cocktail, which I very much enjoyed. Lots of applause and cheers erupted as we started to move. After we picked up speed and left the pier, a man beside me dropped his champagne glass, and it shattered. Instead of telling the staff, he just left, which I thought was very rude, so I told them instead, which they were very grateful for and immediately cleaned it up.

 

When it was almost 5:30, I decided to leave and go to the studio lounge for the Solo’s meeting. The Solo Director’s name was something like Yiena..I can’t really remember. There was quite a large group of us gathered. The first thing she did was get us to place an ice breaker game…the one where everyone says their name, and you have to remember everyone’s name before you. Thank God I was person number 2 and only had to remember the person’s beside me, who happened to turn out to be a very good friend on the cruise named Mike. After the game, she explained that she’d arranged to have a table waiting at Taste for dinner, and anyone was welcome to join. Since I already had a pre-paid reservation at Teppanyaki, I didn’t participate. At around 7:00, Mike and I both headed to the Friends of Dorothy meeting at Shakers. Mike bought me my first martini, an espresso flavored one, which was out of this world! Slowly but surely, more and more people turned up and it ended up being a pretty large crowd. It was there that I met Jeff and Dana, a couple that I really bonded with, and basically became best friends with for the week. At 7:45, I headed right across to Teppanyaki. The hostess told me to have a seat out front while they waited for more people to fill a table. However, almost just a minute later she came back and said she had my seat ready. A few steps later and almost had to stop and laugh…I felt like I was at the children’s table at a wedding. Two parents at one end, with just little kids filling the rest of the table, with the only remaining seat at the end next to them all. They had already started their meal, but only the first course, which I was glad I missed considering I don’t like edamame. The soup and the seaweed salad were delicious. For my main dish, I ordered the Samurai, which was chicken and shrimp. During the preparation the chef entertained with a rendition of Ganganm Style and Hey Baby (NCL seems to be obsessed with these two songs, having their staff dance to them at every port, and at some of the shows, so if you like those two tracks, be prepared to hate them by the end of the cruise). I was a bit disappointed when the chef prepared a noodle course and gave some to everyone except me. It looked really good. The chicken and shrimp were wonderful as was the fruit sashimi dessert.

 

After dinner, I headed back to my cabin and happened to run into Jeff. As it turned out, we both had reservations for Blue Man Group that night at 10, and we agreed to meet each other in front of the theatre before show time. I took a little nap (I was exhausted!) and then met Jeff and Dana at the theatre. We got pretty good seats and the show was AMAZING!!! I went into it thinking I wouldn’t like it all that much as I typically like plays and musical theatre with a storyline to it, but I was extremely impressed and engaged the whole time. An older Asian lady got called down to eat the Twinkies with them and it was hilarious watching her bewilderment. After the show, Jeff and Dana went to bed, and I headed to O’Sheehan’s for some of their famous wings, which were delicious! Afterwards I headed back to my cabin, watched an episode of Dallas on my computer, turned on the television for a bit, and then went to bed for some much needed sleep, and eagerly awaited the upcoming sea day!

 

Stay tuned for Day 2![/color]

Edited by ceejmaster

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Great review so far

When we had sail away at Posh last month, the drinks were served in plastic glasses. The champagne too. It was my first champagne plastic glass shaped just like a champagne flute. So I am surprised they still serve glass up there with the wind and such.

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enjoyed you reviewed - we are hoping to get posh passes too

 

One thing I meant to mention above about the Posh pass:

 

While I was waiting for the Guest Services lady to return with my wristband, the employee who asks everyone in line what they need (in case they don't need to be at Guest Services after all) was telling people that they do not sell Posh passes AT ALL, a direct fib considering I was being given one at that exact moment...) I also heard the shore excursion desk tell people that Posh is only for Haven guests and you can't buy them. I don't know if these staff members were just confused or perhaps they were told to say this in order to decrease the number sold? At any rate, they were definitely sold out shortly after I got mine so do arrive early if you want them.

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I really enjoyed your review and am looking forward to reading more about you trip.

 

My names Jeremy and am also 23 years old like you. My parents are looking to book a cruise for their 30th anniversary and for my college graduation (graduate next month) on the Norwegian Breakaway this October. They are thinking about getting a room for themselves and getting me a studio room. So while I will be with them, I will also be on my own quite a bit so am very interested in hearing about your trip as it will be somewhat very relatable.

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Mike bought me my first martini, an espresso flavored one, which was out of this world!

Stay tuned for Day 2![/color]

 

Great review so far, but I must say of all the information you have shared I am the most excited about this!!! We sailed on the NCL Dawn in January and I am having withdraws from the Espresso Martini:eek: I have tried to order them at restaurants and none compare to the ones on The Dawn. We are cruising The Epic next January and I plan to get one right when I board (well after the Posh Pass) :D Thanks for sharing!!!

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I'm contemplating on booking a cruise on the Epic. So far I'm loving your review so I'm subscribing :D I'd love to cruise solo one of these days.....

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Thank you for the wonderful review. Keep it up!!!

 

I love your single focus on the Chefs Table.

 

I was the same way on my first cruise. For me, it was well worth the worry and money.

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Lucky you to get a Posh Pass! I was at the desk and the last one was sold to the guy next to me. I was so downhearted! So I bucked up, ate lunch at Taste like you and then went up to the spa. At least I got one of the last 5 spa passes offered for the cruise :D

 

I was on this sailing too, in a studio as well. I'm looking forward to your comments before I start my own review. Keep it up!:)

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Day 2: Sunday

 

Around 8:00AM I was awoken by the cheerful but booming announcement of the Captain, who every morning wished everyone “a smashing day!” I went back to bed for a couple hours and finally got my bathing suit on and left my cabin around 10:30. I’m not a big breakfast person, as I’m normally not hungry in the mornings, but I went up to Great Outdoors and had some smoked salmon, capers, and bacon. I sat down at a table by the railing and no sooner had I taken a bite when Jeff and Dana happened to walk by. They were headed to Spice H20, and I met up with them there after I finished eating. I really enjoyed Spice. It was nice to have there and Posh to get away from the little kids. Jeff and I enjoyed the hot tub for quite a while…it was so wonderful to be able to relax in the hot tub while having a spectacular ocean view as it’s right in the corner of the aft.

 

After a bit, Jeff and Dana decided to go grab lunch, and I realized that I was late for the CC Meet & Greet! :eek: I raced to Bliss and got there right when the Hotel Director left :( I stayed and chatted a little bit, and then ventured to Posh to enjoy the plush sun beds again. Those things were absolute HEAVEN! I read my book for a while, then decided to order lunch. Food from Posh comes from a limited Epic Club Grill menu. I decided on the swordfish burger with the wasabi ginger slaw and French Fries…AMAZING! I cleaned my plate quickly. I think this probably replaced the former turkey burger, which got so much praise on this site. I then went back to my book for a bit. Then Mike (who’d managed to get a Posh pass after they were sold out) showed up, as well as Chris and Anthony (two others I’d met at FOD the night before). We took a look at the Daily and saw a margarita tasting scheduled for 2PM at Maltings. Heck yes!!! We all went back to our cabins to change and then went to the tasting. For $15, you get four decent sized margs. They should call it a Margarita wasting instead, as there’s no way you won’t be wasted if you drink them all. The first was your standard margarita, the second was a neon blue, the third a lime-green melon flavored, and the fourth a frozen strawberry marg. All of them were very tasty, but the first regular one was my favorite. I noticed a martini tasting was happening right after the margarita one ended, but I’d have gone overboard for sure, so I passed. During the tasting I really started to feel weird. It was like the ship was rocking extremely hard, but no one else said anything so I assumed it was the dirt work of the drinks. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel so hot.

 

When we finished up at Maltings, Mike and I walked down to the Box Office. I had a pre-paid reservation for Cirque Dreams & Dinner that night (the later one), and Mike wanted to see if he could join. At first the lady at the desk was adamant that it was sold out, especially when we mentioned he needed a reservation for premium seating, but we worked our charm and soon she was grinning and called her supervisor to have an exception made. Yay!!!

 

Mike and I then made our way to the Studio Lounge for the meeting. This time, no activities took place. It was strictly show up at 5:30 and then decide it you wanted to go to dinner. I figured if that’s all the solo meetings were going to be, I wasn’t interested, so I never went back to another one. Apparently that really was all that happened each night so I didn’t feel like I missed much.

 

While the group went to Manhattan Room, Mike stayed behind, too. Since the dinner show wouldn’t be ‘til 9, Mike decided he wanted to have a little snack at the buffet. Now, I was a bit hungry too (and I needed food badly after all those drinks!) but I had another mission to accomplish on this cruise: to eat at EVERY specialty restaurant. I already had one night taken up by the upcoming Chef’s Table, so if I got behind schedule and missed one any of the other nights, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it. So I decided to have a light dinner at La Cucina. This quickly turned into a heavy dinner. I didn’t have a reservation, but only a short wait later, I was seated at a table directly overlooking the bow of the ship. Talk about a GORGEOUS view! I was immediately presented with an enormous loaf of bread with four different olive oils: one was infused with chili pepper, one with rosemary, one with garlic, and the other with pesto. DELICIOUS! I then started with the beef Carpaccio that was absolutely wonderful. For the main course, I got the pork scaloppini marsala and the rigatoni with meatballs on the side. I thoroughly enjoyed both, but here’s the thing…the pasta was definitely Olive Garden quality. Now, I happen to love Olive Garden…but I’ve eaten at enough authentic Italian restaurants to know and appreciate the difference. So, I completely understand those who scoff at La Cucina, but if you’re someone like me who loves Italian food of any caliber, you’ll enjoy it. Now without a doubt, the dessert I had at La Cucina was the best dessert I have EVER had ANYWHERE: the rhubarb panna cotta with honey, peach, and grape chutney. This was worth the cover charge alone, hands down.

 

After dinner, I went back to my cabin to freshen up and then met everyone at FOD at Shakers. Not as many people turned up this time, but all the ones I’d already made friends with did. Mike and I stayed until it was time to head to the Spiegel Tent for Cirque Dreams. The hostess asked us if we preferred to sit downstairs or upstairs. I asked which did she recommend? Her reply was “Downstairs is great for interaction with the audience and upstairs has panoramic views.” I preferred to sit downstairs but Mike said he preferred the view, and I really didn’t mind that much, so upstairs we went. I’ll admit the view was spectacular. But there definitely is a drawback to the upstairs seating…it’s SO CRAMPED! You’re honestly almost leg-to leg, arm-to-arm with the person beside you. Mike and I were okay because we’re small, but if you were seated beside someone overweight, you’d better get over your personal space issues REAL quick (Jeff experienced this very problem a few days later when he went). The show was awesome. I definitely enjoyed it. There was a very scary moment, however, when two men who were balancing over each other on a chair FELL! They fell hard too. We all gasped and then just stared in shocked silence as the two men were clutching their legs, rolling from side to side in pain. A few staff members came out of nowhere and assisted the two men. Eventually, they got up and finished the act, but you couldn’t help but feel chills. The rest of the acts went flawlessly. The same can’t be said for the food. This was one of the few meals I was disappointed in. The prosciutto appetizer was really good, but then beef and shrimp were just so-so, and I only ate the flan from the dessert plate. There’s zero selection here, and I knew that going into it. At any rate, the food shouldn’t deter you from seeing the show, and I was very satisfied with the experience. (After the show I asked one of the cast members outside saying goodbye about the accident, and he refused to comment on it, but I heard from people who saw the show later on during the cruise that the act with the chair had been removed entirely.)

 

After the show, I still wasn’t feeling particularly well from earlier (I could still feel the sever rocking…but no one else seemed to), and I decided that it was probably best to go to bed.

 

Look out for Day 3!

Edited by ceejmaster

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Lucky you got to eat in Posh from their restaurant. We were on the Epic in November and non Haven Posh guests were not allowed to order off the Epic Club menu.

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Great review! I was on this cruise, too, so I'm reliving it with you!

 

One thing about Cirque -- we did it the same day as you, but the early show (5:45). The two men doing the balancing with the chair fell, too. We thought that maybe it was part of the act because my father said he saw a woman come out in a nurse's uniform. We were on the floor in the standard seats and actually had a spectacular view. I was a little afraid that we wouldn't see anything, but there was just one act that we had trouble seeing for a few moments.

 

Keep up the good work!!

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Very cool review thanks for sharing. We are due on Breakaway in a few months and still can't decide between posh (vibe on breakaway) and the spa pass. I think we might do the spa pass, but still undecided.

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Very cool review thanks for sharing. We are due on Breakaway in a few months and still can't decide between posh (vibe on breakaway) and the spa pass. I think we might do the spa pass, but still undecided.

 

I'm going to go into more detail on this later in my review, but for me personally, if I get to do it again, I would buy the Posh pass without a second thought, and just a day pass or 2 to the Spa, as I really didn't get my money's worth for the week Spa pass...but a lot of depends on what type of scene you're after.

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I'm going to go into more detail on this later in my review, but for me personally, if I get to do it again, I would buy the Posh pass without a second thought, and just a day pass or 2 to the Spa, as I really didn't get my money's worth for the week Spa pass...but a lot of depends on what type of scene you're after.

 

Are the pools and hot tubs in the spa loaded with chlorine? I'm not a big fan of that smell!

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Are the pools and hot tubs in the spa loaded with chlorine? I'm not a big fan of that smell!

 

I didn't notice any smell, so I'd say no. :)

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More, more, more!!!! :D:D:D

I'm totally enjoying this and can't wait to read the rest!

Edited by russianmom

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Very interesting read. Can't wait to know more as I'll be on it for the second time this Saturday. I prefer shaded pools. Does Posh area has lounges in shade? Which has better ocean views of Posh and Spa?

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Very interesting read. Can't wait to know more as I'll be on it for the second time this Saturday. I prefer shaded pools. Does Posh area has lounges in shade? Which has better ocean views of Posh and Spa?

 

The big flat loungers by the railing on the elevator side tended to get more shade, and there were plenty of loungers with umbrellas. As for best ocean view, the lounger balcony at the Spa probably has the most beautiful ocean view on the ship.

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Very interesting read. Can't wait to know more as I'll be on it for the second time this Saturday. I prefer shaded pools. Does Posh area has lounges in shade? Which has better ocean views of Posh and Spa?

 

The reason I wanted the Posh Pass was because of the umbrellas and shade offered up there. Posh is on a top deck so I can't answer to the views.

 

The Spa has fantastic views. There are 3 saunas that have a floor to ceiling windows to look at the sea. (One in the women's changing room, 2 in the co-ed part of the spa). There is an aft balcony area outside for lounging with 2 beds and at least 6 chaise loungers out there. It was usually always shady out on that balcony, the only time we really got sun was in Nassau and that was because of the way we were docked.

 

I really never went to the pool deck during the day, I can't answer to that, I was disappointed that you really had to work to get a glimpse of the sea. In Spice h2o I was there for sail away, but got frustrated because of the big screen tv which blocked the aft view of the ship.

 

For my money, the Spa Pass was an excellent deal, as I was not leaving the ship at the ports. I spent a few hours each day up there and just read. The spa pool was what sold me on the pass as they have the bubbly chaise/reclining area.

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ceejmaster,

 

I am really enjoying your review. Giving me memories of my Epic adventure from Feb. KEEP IT UP! Think I want a POSH pass next Epic adventure.

 

By the way, Don's review also influenced me to decide on the Epic. He was on our trip in Feb. He is as nice in person as he is in his reviews.

 

Karen

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Ceejmaster: Excellent descriptive writing style! I am enjoying your Epic saga. Looking forward to what comes next. :)

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