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Epic Adventure in the Med


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Although long, this is not a detailed review of the Epic as a ship - there are many very good ones on this site - but I hope to add some observations, tips, etc. that may be helpful. My background again: mid 50s, married, traveling with DH, DS, and Mother. DH and I are Platinum Latitude members with NCL (so you know we love the brand) and have sailed on Epic one time before in a balcony cabin on this same itinerary and will be back on Epic in Dec. This time we stayed in an inside cabin because of the busy European itinerary. This was our 4th Med cruise with NCL out of Barcelona. Epic is not my favorite ship (I love the jewel class ships best), but it is a lot of fun and works well in Europe.

Balcony vs Inside: I will always choose a balcony over an inside unless there is a compelling reason, and this itinerary really wastes a balcony for us. We were up and out of the cabin by 6 am every morning and did not return until around 6pm in the evening. There was so much to do on our sea day that we did not miss it too much even then. We used the extra money for my spa pass and our excursions. For the most part the inside cabins are comfortable, but they could use more lighting, for me it always seemed to be a little dark in the room even with all the lights on - DH thought the lighting was fine, but he doesn’t make his face up every day. The closets were really great as was the medicine cabinet and we had plenty of room for our things. If you are trying to save money, the inside is fine and we never felt really closed in. DS and Mom each had a studio cabin that was just perfect for them and they had no complaints at all. Very cosy.

Tip: The beds in both the balcony and inside cabins can be a bit hard and the pillows a bit flat on all the NCL ships. Ask your room steward to bring a foam "egg carton" overlay for the bed and more pillows to choose from if you aren’t comfortable. They will always do this for you. Our steward, Jun, was very accommodating the whole cruise and did his best to make our cabin comfortable. The first night we noticed that the air was blowing in our faces causing sinus issues. The next night we switched head and foot and slept great that way. When we told Jun what we had done so that he would not wonder what happened to the linens all jumbled, he made a point to make up the bed "backwards" for us the rest of the cruise - he insisted and I am sure it was a great joke for him to tell. So don’t be afraid to mix things up to try to get more comfortable. Don’t wait until you are mad or miserable so that the whole cruise is colored by your discomfort. Start off working out the kinks and you will enjoy your cruise all the more.

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The Spa: With the busy Med itinerary I could not survive without the spa. I would come back to the ship, exhausted and achy (I have issues), but after an hour in the spa I was ready for the evening. On our one sea day I did not go to the spa until late afternoon in order to avoid the crowds and the heated bed "hogs." It was so bad that during one visit I did hear a very heated altercation between two gentlemen over the removal of stuff from a "saved" bed. I left hurriedly in case they came to blows - yes it really was that intense. Tip: Do NOT leave your stuff on a heated bed and expect it to be there on your return. It can be removed by one of the attendants in the spa or a fellow passenger. It is not your personal chaise lounge! And if the beds are full, try the sauna, it really does wonders with those aches and pains.

Laundry: As Platinum members we each got a bag for one free laundry which we used during the first few days of the cruise (we had four days in Paris and Barcelona pre cruise). If you have a discount try to use it before Thursday - Thursday is discount laundry day for the whole ship so your service may take longer with the crowd. We had our laundry back within 1-2 days.

Dining: Specialty dining always seemed to be available, so if you aren’t sure when you want to dine or where, you will not have a problem booking on ship. They had someone booking the restaurants everyday outside the Garden Cafe. This cruise was sold out, but specialty restaurants always had room, so don’t worry about it.

The "free" restaurants - Manhattan and Taste - would fill up around 7pm to 9pm. Americans eat earlier and Europeans eat later, so there was never a long wait for a table. Only once did we had to get a beeper and they gave us a free drink - which was ready about the time the beeper went off, so a win-win. We preferred Manhattan for the musical entertainment and service.

The Garden Café was always crowded. If you go to the back and down the stairs to the Italian restaurant you can eat in peace with a lovely sea view. Don’t fight the crowds if you can avoid it. H-2O is also a great place to relax without crowds - you can find places to relax and "seagaze" even when the ship is full as it was with us. And there are no children allowed so the hot tubs never had kids playing in them.

Tip: Skip dessert in the main dining rooms and go up to the Garden Café for the crepes - they are made to order every night and I really love them.

Food Volume: I have always felt guilty if I am in the garden café and take too much of something and leave it on my plate. Not anymore. We did the ships tour - which was really good - and got a lot of info on the back workings of the ship, including food prep, disposal, etc. All the food that is prepared on ship has a 4 hour window to be used. If it does not get eaten, it is thrown out - everything - ground up, processed to chum, and dumped in the ocean for the fish to enjoy. So nothing is reused - even if it has not been touched, it is thrown out. So load up those plates people, there are no starving children that will go hungry if you leave it. It is kind of liberating actually.

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Entertainment: Entertainment on this ship is always very good - there were only a few so-so performers, but overall we stayed busy each evening. The weird thing was Bliss. The last time on board the place rocked every night with a DJ and people dancing. This time there was lame kareoke every night with only a handful of people. It was completely under utilized.

Excursions: Since this was our 4th time cruising the Med, but DS’s first, we skipped some things, and re-did others: We spent the whole day on Capri instead of Pompeii or the Amalfi coast since DS did not care to go to Pompeii and Mother wanted to see Capri over everything else. I much prefer Pompeii and any of the little villages on the Amalfi coast over Capri. Capri is pretty commercial and expensive. Ana Capri, the other popular city of the island was a better fit for us - more locals and some nice little shops. Got some great sandals made on site, very comfortable. I really encourage you to visit Pompeii if you have never seen it, but Capri is beautiful.

We used Rome in Limo for Rome (3rd time using this company, they are great), and got the guide for the Vatican Museum. Rome was very crowded and I can imagine how hard it was to get around without a guide. See your roll call if you want to save money in a group. With 4 of us, and a few modifications to the usual tour, we decided to do the visit on our own.

We took 2 ship excursions this time - the Cinque Terre (skipped Florence this time - don’t you do that) and the Avignon and Aix en Provence (Marseille port) tours. Both locals logistically require some type of car or bus transport to be efficiently toured and using the bus this time was not as bad as we have experienced in the past. We had good guides that gave us a lot of free time, and it worked out great. If you want details, I will be happy to oblige.

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The "Incident"


This was our only complaint: One evening after a really hard day of site-seeing we decided to eat in Taste early (I put off my spa for later). There was a large party with very loud children in the back and they were going to put us next to them. I do NOT hate children, but when I am not feeling well I don’t prefer to dine next to them if they are noisy, so I asked to be seated at another table. People do this all the time, one night a party of 10 wanted to be moved - yikes! The waiter seating us moved us to a section that apparently was not yet open. We got water and nothing else for about 15 minutes, then others started to be seated around us - including, you guessed it, a family with children. I got God’s message on that one :-) Now others were getting water and bread and we still had not given our order. DH heard the waite staff complaining because it was not their section, how could they put people there already, and it was not their job to wait on us.... well he was now getting angry. The camel’s back broke when they took the order of the couple next to us and still ignored our table, so we got up and left. I did tell the girl at the front that we were not happy with our service and that the table was now available. We then went upstairs to Manhattan. That’s when it got weird. We checked in and were seated. I noticed the waiter looked nervous. We ordered our drinks and they came immediately. We ordered dinner and everything was delivered promptly - our tea and water were filled promptly throughout the meal. Usually you have to ask for more tea. I started to suspect we were now infamous because of the "incident" downstairs - DH’s key card had been "red flagged" or something. When the dining room manager and the officer in charge of dining came by to find out what happened in Taste and to see what they could do to fix the situation I was uncomfortable - I don’t really like confrontation if I can get around it. Sometimes things don’t work out, so just move on is my philosophy. However, DH was still mad about what happened, and explained the situation to the managers. They apologized and wanted to give us a free bottle of wine with our meal (we declined), the officer gave us his business card and number, and he asked us to please try Taste again. We did let them comp the Pepsi ordered by DS and Mom. DH refused to go back to Taste the rest of the cruise and after that we used my key card to check into dinner - hoping to fly under the radar. I stand by our decision to walk out of Taste, but you should know that if something goes wrong for you, NCL wants to know about it and to fix it immediately if possible. I don’t know if it was our Platinum status, or the waite staff realized that they really screwed up, but they were genuinely concerned and wanted to rectify the situation.

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Final thoughts....


Don't get bogged down in room layouts, split bathrooms, etc. the Epic is still a lot of fun on the sea. The crew is friendly, efficient (for the most part) hard working and caring, so don't try to get out of paying your gratuities!


My last tip: This ship is so LARGE so if you can get a cabin near an elevator or stairwell you will be better off, unless you like those long walks down the hall. I actually lost 3 pounds this trip from all the walking!

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