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Our EPIC review - westbound transatlantic crossing 4th – 17th November 2018

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EPIC review - westbound transatlantic crossing 4th – 17th November 2018

 

Background 

 

We’re Peter & Patrick from Manchester U.K. who began cruising back in 2004. We sailed exclusively with Royal Caribbean for 11 years and then started to widen our choices to include Celebrity, MSC, Cunard, P&O and NCL. This was our 4th Transatlantic crossing (or TA for short), our 3rd westbound with another 2 eastbound booked for 2019 & 2020!

 

As we booked in the U.K. we had what is known as the “Ultimate All Inclusive” package which provided the Ultimate beverage package, gratuities (both daily service charge and beverage package gratuity) and 2 litres of water per person per day. 

 

Itinerary 

 

This is a 14 day, 13 night crossing from Barcelona, Spain with stops in Funchal Madeira, Philipsburg St Maarten, Charlotte Amalie St Thomas ending in Port Canaveral Florida USA. We’re still 1 full day at sea (after today) before we reach St Maarten on 13th November. 

 

A total of 9 sea days are split as follows:- 

Barcelona 
2 days at sea
Funchal, Madeira
5 days at sea
Philipsburg, St Maarten 
Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 
2 days at sea
Port Canaveral Florida, USA 

 

I’ll be splitting this review into sections dealing with embarkation, accommodation, dining, entertainment, activities, disembarkation with a summary and conclusions at the end. Due to limited and very slow internet connection, I doubt this review will be completed until we get home to the U.K. on 19th November at the earliest, so please bear with me. If it appears I’ve disappeared, it will be that I can’t load CC as it is very hit and miss. 

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Embarkation 

 

We arrived in Spain 2 days before sailing staying in Sitges (a beach resort approximately 40 minutes drive south of Barcelona El Prat airport) for 1 night at the hotel El Xalet, and the next night, pre cruise in the city at the H10 Metropolitan hotel, next to Plaça Catalunya which is a large popular square at the northern end of the famous La Rambla. 

 

We checked out of our hotel just before 11am on Sunday, 4th November and took a taxi for the 15 minute ride to the port (Moll Adossat) where NCL Epic was awaiting us at terminal A. The cost was around €15.  

 

Upon arrival we lined up to leave ours bags with the porters loading cart after cart of numerous pieces of luggage to be taken onboard and delivered to people’s staterooms over the next few hours. 

 

We then joined the long line that wound around the side of the terminal building and shuffled continuously forward to the terminal entrance where our documents were checked, we, and our carry on were security scanned and then we completed the health questionnaire. As we were neither suite or Haven guests, nor higher level Latitudes members, we just joined a regular line for check in. 

 

Once we reached an agent, our passports and most importantly the paper copies of our ESTAs were checked, our key cards provided and we were on our way to boarding Epic. 

 

As in all terminals in Barcelona we passed the various shops selling souvenirs, wine, spirits etc before having our boarding photo taken with a backdrop of Epic. 

 

The whole process took around 50 minutes from our taxi drop off to stepping foot onboard the ship. Painless. 

 

Once onboard with our map of Epic and the Freestyle daily provided by the check in agent, we started to explore the ship as our cabins wouldn’t be available until 2pm. 

 

Of course, by now it was time for a spot of lunch for which I tried a burger from the outdoor grill of the Garden Café washed down with a beer (Peroni) from the Waves pool bar whilst sat at a table in the outside section. Good complimentary burger, superior to some other lines we’ve sailed on.

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That’s all for today folks, it’s taking ages to upload, so I’ll write up the next section and post later. 

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Accommodation 

 

At 2pm after it was announced that staterooms were available, we made our way to our cabin on deck 10 which was a category BB mid ship balcony – 10189. 

 

Upon entry we had the toilet to our left, with the master electric socket below the master light switches, that required you to slot your key card in to operate the power for the cabin, and the shower to the right (with a curtain that could be pulled across to aid privacy). 

 

A bow shaped sofa to the left with the air conditioning control next to a wall hung magazine rack (you needed to stretch over to reach it) with the wash hand basin and vanity unit to the right.

 

Next there was the mirrored wardrobe which is connected to the desk area leading to another small wardrobe and set of drawers and cupboard underneath next to the sliding balcony door. 

 

The life vests (x3) where in the main wardrobe as the sofa could obviously be pulled out to be made up as a 3rd bed. In my opinion, 3 people in that cabin would be challenging. 

 

There was a large rounded cupboard above the desk that contained shelving providing more storage and the in-room safe with the mini bar underneath the counter.  There was a flat screen tv with the coffee maker, tea, coffee and milk cartons below, together with glasses and an ice bucket which was filled daily (without the need to request it) by our room steward. 

 

There was a round stool under the desk and a hairdryer could be found hooked under there too. 

 

The available electrical outlets are hidden behind a door below the desk, not above the counter and comprise of 2 x 110 volt US type and 2 x 220 volt European 2 pin type sockets, one of which the coffee maker was plugged into.

 

Strange set up meaning you have to open a door, reach inside to the back to connect any gadgets for charging such as your tablets, phones or cameras etc. These were the only outlets we could find, none on the other side of the cabin by the beds. There was a electrical shaver socket behind the glass door above the basin. 

 

Opposite were the two beds, which although made up separately, were extremely close together with no room to move them apart. Two pool towels had been provided and placed on one of the beds. There were no bedside cabinets, just a couple of narrow shelves moulded into the bed head. 

 

Flexible reading lights were provided on top of the shelves with individual switches. Above the bed nearest the balcony were 2 cupboards for more storage, but could be a little challenging for those who are not too tall and not really obvious as there are no handles, they just press shut. 

 

The telephone was located on the shelf above the sofa of which the back rest opened to reveal more storage, if somewhat narrow. There were 2 more sliding metal drawers below the sofa for even more storage. 

 

The shower cubicle was a good size, accessed by a rounded sliding door made of obscure glass with a large shower head which provided a good spray. On the wall were 2 dispensers, 1 for body wash and the other containing conditioning shampoo. There were a couple of shelves for your own storage of cleaning products. 

 

Opposite is another rounded sliding obscured glass door which gave access to the toilet.

 

This is the unusual bathroom set up, specific solely to Epic and not repeated on any of their other ships. It is slightly strange getting out of the shower with the cabin door immediately behind you, but you get used to it. 

 

The wash hand basin though is far too small and the lighting is abysmal (when you eventually find the light switch, which for some strange reason is located underneath the glass cabinet towards the back and you have to feel for it!). 

 

The cabinet itself provides a good deal of storage with glasses for when you brush your teeth (but don’t leave the door ajar otherwise you’ll crack your head when using the basin!). A complimentary soap bar, liquid hand wash dispenser and a tube of body lotion were provided. 

 

There was also a large sliding drawer that reached to the floor below the basin together with an other drawer and a tissue dispenser. 

 

Whilst we awaited the delivery of our bags, a steward delivered our complimentary 2 litres of water per day which were included in our cruise fare, all 28 bottles at once!

 

They took up all the available space on the desk which already had 2 bottles of Pellegrino (for purchase) and our complimentary bottle of ‘Duc de Valmer’ sparkling wine provided as returning NCL guests. 

 

So the sliding drawer under the sink became the home for the majority of those bottles!

 

Floor to ceiling windows at the end of the cabin, one of which was the sliding door to the balcony. The furniture comprised of 2 upright chairs and a small table on what was a really good sized balcony compared to those on the Breakaway class of ships which are tiny. We found on Breakaway (and acknowledged by the Epic hotel director) that if you did not sit sideways onto the balcony, your knees touched the glass! Not on Epic, plenty of room to stretch out. 

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We will be on the Epic in January so I'm enjoying your review, hope you have a wonderful cruise!

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Thanks for your feedback. I would like to add some photos but internet access onboard isn’t good enough so it’ll have to wait until later I’m afraid. Taken 4 mins for this 1 photo!

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If you can, any of the updated menus would be so appreciated. No big deal if you can't-enjoy your holiday first and foremost! Thanks for the pic of the cabin, this is the same layout as our room. It seems to be roomier with the bed by the balcony from what I can see.

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Small world!  We got off the boat when you got on.  I hope you enjoyed/are enjoying.  I have to say, the food was the best of any ship I've been on.  I was delighted.  The staff was lovely too.   Our cabin was the same as yours.  I thought the bathroom layout was a bit odd but that's neither here nor there, just a different use of space than to what I'm accustomed.  The internet worked pretty well for me until the last night when everyone was trying to get their boarding passes and such.  As long as you're diligent about logging out, I had no issues.  I heard others had outrageous bills because they forgot or weren't able.  But yes, pictures were impossible to send.

 

I look forward to hearing the rest of your review.

 

Best,

Jenna

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Hi folks, apologies for the delay in responding and adding more to my review, but internet access has been nearly non existent since the last time I posted. 

 

We’re now docked at Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas and have to complete mandatory US immigration before we can go ashore. 

 

We we have been given a time slot of 10:45 am so still have a while to wait. US, Canadian and ASC guests go to the Bliss Lounge, all non-US like us have to go to the Manhattan Room. 

 

Since my last post we had a change in itinerary due to a tropical storm. 

 

So, yesterday instead of visiting St Maarten we were diverted to Antigua. Better safe than sorry. Great day, although we have also been there, last time in 2016 as port stop, but we have also spent time there on a land based vacation years ago. 

 

Although it was raining when we arrived, it cleared to be a great day, then rained when we left. The Epic staff did a great job on organising new shore excursions at short notice and we did a great one booked via the ship with Heavenly Tours. Well recommended. 

 

I doubt I’ll have time or connection to post more sections of my review before we get back to Florida but at least I can post some photos now. 

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Just an aside, of the speciality restaurants we have now tried Cagney’s, Teppanyaki, La Cucina, Le Bistro & Moderno. The best for food and especially service was Le Bistro. The most disappointing was La Cucina. But then again food is very subjective. 

 

We have yet to try Shanghai (complementary) but will be this evening, so my feedback on that will have to wait. 

 

We have another visit to Cagney’s so hopefully we won’t experience the dreadful service we received last time. We’ll see. 

 

As we also enjoyed Teppanyaki, we’ve decided to return there too. 

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Interesting prices on the steaks at Cagney's, it looks like the prices have increased recently.

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7 minutes ago, Oakman58 said:

Interesting prices on the steaks at Cagney's, it looks like the prices have increased recently.

 

Interesting but as we’re not regular NCL sailors I wouldn’t have noticed that and our visit was covered by our 6 dinner package. 

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great review and your partners blog too

we did the Eastern TA on Epic April this year

Andre was also the cruise director and a really entertaining guy[originally from South Shields]

his progressive trivia was hilarious as each daily winning team got to add a decoration to Marley the towel animal who ended up becoming Marlene by the end

did he do the same this cruise?

 

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Thank you for taking the time to post all this information.  We will be on the Epic for a 15 day TA in April, and I am happy to see postings of the menus, in fact I really hope they stay the same and don't change before we cruise.  There are several things that remain on the Epic's menu that have been removed from other ships offerings, such as Ribeye and Fried Fisherman's Platter in Cagney's, Pizza in La Cuccina (yeah, we actually have enjoyed it).

Hope you really enjoy your cruise on the Epic!

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I just wanted to say thank you for posting the menus. Other reports have been that the ribeye is gone off of the Cagney's menu, but no pictures of an updated menu. Here's hoping that it remains the same for our cruise in January.

 

I hope you are having a wonderful time, again thank you for taking the time to report!

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Hi Pete - if you see this question while you're still on board and you happen to be near the Cruise Next folks could you ask what the current bonus offer is on the Epic for Cruise Next Ultimate (i.e. buy certificates and book your next cruise on board)?  Either that or just enjoy your last night at sea 😉

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On 11/14/2018 at 10:15 PM, fabnfortysomething said:

great review and your partners blog too

we did the Eastern TA on Epic April this year

Andre was also the cruise director and a really entertaining guy[originally from South Shields]

his progressive trivia was hilarious as each daily winning team got to add a decoration to Marley the towel animal who ended up becoming Marlene by the end

did he do the same this cruise?

 

He did the same with Marley but as 1 team dominated the trivia, I don’t think he was decorated as much as he could have been. There was only 1 day when another team kept Marley. 

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11 hours ago, cdnsteelman said:

Hi Pete - if you see this question while you're still on board and you happen to be near the Cruise Next folks could you ask what the current bonus offer is on the Epic for Cruise Next Ultimate (i.e. buy certificates and book your next cruise on board)?  Either that or just enjoy your last night at sea 😉

As first timer on NCL I’m not that familiar with the next cruise deposit stuff, but this the flyer we kept receiving all cruise to try and entice us down! 😄 

 

As we’ve already got another NCL sailing booked for 2019 (plus another TA on another line) and 2020. 

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On 11/17/2018 at 1:00 PM, www3traveler said:

Thank you for all your wonderful postings.  I hope you had a wonderful cruise.

Thank you. We had a great cruise and love arriving into Florida without the dreaded jet lag! 

 

 

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Disembarkation

 

I have to say disembarkation was was painless compared to what we have experienced with other lines. Really appreciated being able to choose our tag colour and so our preferred departure time. 

 

We must have docked around 5:30 and were followed in by Disney Fantasy, Carnival Breeze and RCI Navigator of the Seas (which an ex colleague of mine was on). As Navigator had radically changed its itinerary due to Atlantic storms, Port Canaveral wasn’t a planned stop, and so US immigration weren’t expecting them, so they were in for a long wait to be processed for entry into the USA. 

 

We chose a departure time of 8:00 am and so awoke at 6 to have breakfast, which again surprisingly wasn’t manic as we’ve had on other lines. I suppose it helps having multiple venues open for breakfast. 

 

We left our stateroom around 7:45 and sat in Shakers at first, moving towards O’Sheehan’s later. 

 

Andre, the cruise director, had already advised that, due to US immigration, the delivery of all baggage was to be delayed by approximately 30 minutes, and so as a consequence, so was disembarkation. 

 

So so just about 8:30 our tag colour was called and we departed the ship from deck 6 forward, but there was also a gangway on deck 5 forward which helped tremendously in terms of crowd control. 

 

As as soon as we were in the terminal we spotted our bags and as we’d cleared immigration in St Thomas we were just waved through. 

 

My only disappointment with this process is the rudeness of the porters. Pushing their trolleys right across your path nearly tripping you up, shouting at you to move, especially at the exit. Perhaps it’s because we didn’t take up their offer of transporting our bags (or others who they touted their service to) which makes them display no manners. 

 

Anyway, we were soon on the Hertz car rental shuttle and could not believe it was the same driver that dropped us off for our Oasis of the Seas cruise in April this year! I suppose it’s not surprising as it’s his regular job! 

 

Thank goodness we we chose early disembarkation because the line was out of the door at the rental office, and grew rapidly. But with 5 ships in port (we spotted Oceana Insignia when we drove away from Port Canaveral) it was a busy day and the staff were bringing vehicles from another lot. 

 

However, my tip would be to make sure you’re enrolled in the frequent renter program of your car rental company of choice. This will usually help at pick up as most companies have separate lines for those members. Certainly helped on this occasion as we were on the road by 9:45. 

 

My other major tip, is pre book at Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach, because the rental offices are small and as a result don’t have large fleets at their disposal. Turning up without a reservation will most likely result in disappointment. 

 

So off we set for our overnight stay at Universal Studios newest hotel, Aventura, where we arrived by 11:00. Obviously our room wasn’t ready as check in is normally 4pm. 

 

Anyway we were checked in, my telephone number taken as I would receive an sms message when our room was available. 

 

So we left our bags with luggage services and headed to the parks. We got a message at 1:30pm as we were having lunch, to say our room was available, so we headed back and were installed by 2pm! Result!

 

Anyway that’s not related to my cruise review, but I’m currently sat at Orlando Airport awaiting our homeward flight, I thought I’d give an update. 

 

Once we get get home I’ll provide the other  topics I promised of entertainment, activities and summary and conclusions. 

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Entertainment 

 

There are so many options it is difficult list them all, from the production shows in the Epic theatre for which reservations, although not mandatory, are recommended (Priscilla the Musical and Burn the Floor) to the entertainers at many of the lounges and bars around the ship in the evening. 

 

There are other shows performed in the Epic theatre, Headliners, Atrium, Bliss Lounge or the Cavern Club that don’t require reservations, but as the venues are relatively small for the number passengers onboard (for example the Epic theatre only holds 800 which is pretty small with the possibility of there being 4100 guests on board) it’s necessary to get there early to make sure of getting a seat. 

 

There are numerous ‘events’, weather permitting, in Spice H2O or the main pool deck. 

 

These range from 80’s & 90’s music parties to the famous NCL Glow party which was a great event with complimentary face painting before the start of the event.

 

However, unfortunately 5 minutes before the party was scheduled to start in Spice H2O, the heavens opened and so everyone (mostly dressed all in white) were sheltering undercover near the bar. The staff relocated the event to the Bliss Lounge, so it must have been quite an amusing sight to see lots of us working our way from deck 15 aft to deck 7 forward, dressed in white with painted faces, especially by those sat in Maltings, Shakers and O’Sheehans!

 

Every evening the Bliss Lounge hosts events too, turning into the main disco later until the early hours. 

 

All I would say is check the Freestyle Daily and the ‘At a glance’ sheet if you are given one at check in. 

 

As we’re not ‘show’ people we only saw ‘Priscilla’ and ‘Burn the Floor’ but can’t recommend ‘Priscilla’ enough. Absolutely fantastic, earning a standing ovation. 

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I am so looking forward to our January cruise and I can't wait to see Priscilla-from the pictures it just looks so colorful and bright, I already love the costumes!

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1 hour ago, marktwothousand said:

Were the beds already pushed together when you checked in to your room?

They were made up as single beds when we arrived and to be honest, there isn’t much room to separate them so they might as well be made up as 1 double/king (we wanted separate and to honest this is where I found the difference between NCL Epic and other ships, you can’t really have space between the beds, well not in a category BB mid ship balcony cabin). 

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