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EPIC 27 October 2019 - trip report


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I spend too much time living vicariously on here; I love reading reviews, especially those with lots of food pictures, and have learned so much here that made my first few cruises so much easier and more enjoyable, thank you.  I like reviews with lots of preamble as it gives me a perspective on the poster, so please excuse mine …

 

Preamble

I’m a 40-something Scot living in Ireland, I travel with my 50-something Irish friend.

 

I’d always wanted to cruise but when I’d looked into cruising in the past the whole notion of set-dining and shared tables was more of a punishment than a holiday for me and I stopped thinking about cruises and took other types of holidays. Then a colleague at work was taken on the Epic and I realized that everything had changed! Now all I want to do is cruise!

 

Travelling from Northern Ireland to Barcelona is a pain, no direct flights for much of the year and even in summer there is no direct flight on a Saturday. So all year we save our Avios points and fly business on British Airways via Heathrow. Makes for a long day but it is mostly enjoyable. We love the lounge access, especially at Heathrow terminal 3 where you are spoiled for choice, and not having to queue too much.

 

We always stay near the airport in Barcelona, using taxis not shuttles. We got to the port extra early on the Sunday in case of any demonstrations but apart from lots of armed police saw no disruption.

 

Getting On

Check-in at Barcelona was a mess this year. We were at the front of the latitude line but they opened the general line first and they all flooded the latitude desks. Then there were no checks on boarding group numbers – folk with groups 10 and above were allowed to board with group 1. Not that it really mattered, we always dither about running for Posh Passes and then never do. We were on board and sitting in a quiet O’Sheehan’s enjoying lunch before 12.

 

The cabin

We stayed in a large balcony cabin on deck 12. Plenty of space for the 2 of us. We are just friends but don’t find the bathroom set up a problem at all. The twin beds separate enough so you don’t feel you are sharing a bed. I find the beds really comfortable and always sleep really well, the motion of the ships is so soothing. Our cabin steward was great, he was always finished when we returned to the cabin mid-morning and we had ice everyday as requested. I never liked the towel animals and was happy not to get any.

 

What we did and didn’t do

This is our third cruise on the Epic and we have loved it more each year.

 

We did not leave the ship – we have been to all the ports before and just enjoy being on the ship. It seemed more people stayed on this year; the ship was never too quiet, which was great.

 

We understand that there was less than 4,000 guests on board and the ship never felt crowded. Very few children or teens, even less than we had seen in previous years, but quite a few babies.

 

We did not use the spa, buy photos, see main theatre shows, step foot in Bliss, use the pools, slides or hot-tubs, play bingo or any games, see any comedy shows or the circus show, climb any walls, go into the ice-bar, use the casino or video arcade. I hate cigarette smoke in real life but was not overly bothered by it on the ship. We only walked through the casino once in port when it was closed and cut through it a couple of times at night going down the stairs from 7 to 5.

 

We came on the cruise to relax, to escape real life for a week and it could not have been more perfect. We ate, drank, read, dozed, wandered about the ship and people watched during the day. Ate, drank, watched the entertainment and chatted with folk in the evenings.

 

Food

Food is probably the most important thing for me on a cruise and it was generally wonderful. I cook from scratch 95% of the time at home so just getting food made for me is a joy. I am a complete pain on any other type of holiday, there is always a better restaurant just round the corner, and it rightly drives my friends nuts. I love being able to try anything I fancy on the cruise and not worry if it isn’t to my taste, there is always something else to eat.

 

There are very few things I don’t like to eat but I can be picky about quality. There are lots of foods my friend doesn’t like but we both were very happy with the food on the ship, both the quality and the variety.

 

We aren’t fans of the MDRs, we did 4 specialty and ate in the buffet 3 nights. We like to graze on the days we don’t have a formal dinner. More people ate in the buffet in the evenings than on previous trips. We always got a nice, quiet table at the very front with great views. I enjoy the fresh pasta station, think the pizza is fine and love the coleslaw. I’m not much of a pudding person, some desserts were fine but the soft ice cream was always good. The benefit of not having full dinner every night was having late night wings at O’Sheehan's. I love how safe the ship feels and how I can happily walk about at 2 in the morning.

 

Breakfast were mainly in O’Sheehan's, never crowded and with one exception my omelettes and hash browns were hot and fresh. Then a small second breakfast in the great outdoors (I can’t resist a couple more hash browns) with a bloody mary.

 

Le Bistro remains our favourite, food was fantastic both times, service a little warmer the second time. The lamb was especially good, cooked perfectly medium rare. Can never order anything other than the crème brûlée for pudding.

 

Cagney’s was a little disappointing but I was partly to blame; I ate too much at lunchtime and wasn’t really hungry enough. But the prawns were tiny, the Caesar salad limp, my lobster a little tasteless, my steak was a perfect medium rare but cold. My friend was disappointed that her favourite pork appetiser had gone and alarmed that her pork main was pink in the centre despite asking for it well done. Cheesecake was tasteless, preferred the one in O’Sheehan's. We have always enjoyed Cagney’s in the past.

 

Sushi was good. 4 items more than enough. Reasonable value using a dining credit. I particularly enjoyed the surf and turf. Chefs were great, server was a bit meh. I felt really rushed even though it wasn’t especially busy – he brought me the check while I was still eating, and it wasn’t even my check or room card.

 

Entertainment

We thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment. We love live music and the music on the ship this year was by far the best we have experienced. The Beatles were great of course and we loved Let’s Groove doing Abba in the theatre. Sean the singer and piano player was wonderful; we loved his voice and how much he interacted with the audience. He played a wide variety of songs and took requests. We enjoyed Howl at the Moon so much we were there at 1am on the final night when we had to be up before 6am, it was worth the tiredness!

 

Drinks

We made full use of the drinks package and never had a problem getting a drink. In fact, we had the opposite problem, there were a couple of particularly wonderful servers in Maltings and Shakers who made sure we were never without a drink. I cannot say enough about how good they were. Even at the pool on a sea day I never waited more than a couple of minutes for a drink. Spice was never busy, we enjoyed spending time there and again never had to wait for a drink. The small buffet on sea days is great too.

 

Water and coffee

We booked under the old UK all-inclusive rules so got water, wifi and coffee. Complete waste of money for us, we used a couple of bottles of water but not the wifi and coffee. We are glad they have moved to free at sea. I’m fussy about coffee, it has to be black, usually South American beans and very strong. I can’t drink the Lavazza coffee on board, the espresso is so bitter. I was pleasantly surprised by the free coffee on board, reasonably strong with a good flavour. I did hear one American complaining he had to add 3 sugars and 4 creamers to make it drinkable but it for fine for me for a week.

 

Weather

Weather was fantastic, a little rain one morning, calm and warm the rest of the week. I enjoyed reading and dozing on the balcony every afternoon.

 

Other

We never felt any pressure to buy anything – there were desks set up for all the usual stuff but we never got more than a smile and hello from the staff. We did not spend a cent on board except for cruise next certificates.

 

Passengers were from all corners of the world, there seemed to be less Americans and English than we remember from previous years; we enjoyed talking to lots of Canadians and Irish folk.

 

The staff were almost universally brilliant. There were a couple of slightly grumpy bar tenders but generally everyone could not do enough for us, were friendly, cheerful and went out of their way to make us feel special.

 

The ship was very clean and well maintained, a few of the public washrooms were perhaps not quite as spotless as in previous years, not dirty, just not as gleaming as in the past.

 

I dislike the chairs in the atrium, far too deep, take up far too much space and my wee legs don’t reach the ground.

 

Elevators never took too long to come and were rarely too crowded.

 

We had a couple of very minor niggles and did put a note in the GM’s mailbox (having been encouraged to do so when he was on stage before the Beatles show on the first night) and were over-whelmed by how promptly and professionally they were dealt with. We filled in a good number of cruise hero cards.

 

Getting off

Getting off was sadly too easy; we had problems getting an elevator in past years but walked onto an empty one straight away this time and were in a taxi within 30 minutes of leaving the cabin.

 

Uneventful but long trip home – takes about 16 hours gangway to front door with only 3 hours of that in the air.

 

Final thoughts

We had a fantastic time, it is lovely to escape from reality for a week and get some sun before a long, cold Irish winter. We were completely spoiled by the food, drink and staff.

 

I will post some photos separately. I have copies of the dailies and will post if anyone wants them but I know it is late in the season.

 

Only 351 days until we are back on the Epic …

 

 

 

 

Well looked after on the plane

 

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First of many wings 

 

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Almost perfect cheesecake

 

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Atrium with stupidly large chairs 

 

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First breakfast 

 

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Sunny sea day 

 

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Let's Groove doing Abba

 

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Le Bitro Crab 

 

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Escargot 

 

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French Onion 

 

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Lamb 

 

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Duck 

 

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Perfect 

 

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Sean 

 

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Late night munchies 

 

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Cagneys 

 

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Sean doing Elton 

 

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Wasabi 

 

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Last breakfast 

 

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Rather lacking goats cheese 

 

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Howl with added George 

 

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Edited by amelia3171
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Excellent review thanks for sharing.  The wings in O'Sheehan's are my favorite and it's usually the first thing I have on embarkation day.  You made me laugh out loud at your comment about the atrium with the stupidly large chairs.  All of the NCL ships I have cruised on have ridiculously large and uncomfortable chairs in many of the lounges.

 

Great pictures thanks for including them in your review.

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Nice review.  I greatly enjoyed my 3 cruises on the Epic, including a 15-day transatlantic.  I would have explored the ports on a Mediterranean cruise, but I understand that you live in Europe.  Please visit my small town in midwestern America.  You will find every pizza here vastly superior to that you enjoyed on the Epic, with the possible exception of some frozen $1 pizzas in the supermarkets.  I hope to cruise on the Epic again in the next year or so.  You will find me enjoying many foods onboard, but not so much the pizza. 

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Thank you for the great review.  I did the Star out of Venice in September and swore I prefer land vacations better than cruise vacations but the Epic has always appealed to me.  Also sounds like you eat like we do - specialty or the buffet.  Sometimes I just want to serve myself and don't want to deal with a sit down dinner.  

One thing I didn't like about the Star was the many tender ports and also said I would only do a ship with mostly docked ports.  Was this Epic cruise like that?  I know you stayed on the ship but thought you would still know.  

Also it took us 25 hours to get home from Rome to Northern California.  What a long day, especially after catching bronchitis on the cruise.  I didn't realize that would take that long for you in the UK.  I always said if I lived there, I would vacation in Europe all the time!

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6 minutes ago, firstimer2009 said:

 

One thing I didn't like about the Star was the many tender ports and also said I would only do a ship with mostly docked ports.  Was this Epic cruise like that?  I know you stayed on the ship but thought you would still know.  

Also it took us 25 hours to get home from Rome to Northern California.  What a long day, especially after catching bronchitis on the cruise.  I didn't realize that would take that long for you in the UK.  I always said if I lived there, I would vacation in Europe all the time!

 

Not the OP but I was on the same cruise in mid Sept.   Cannes is the only tender port.

Fabulous cruise !  but exhausting.

 

 

 

Edited by mapleleaves
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Thanks for posting. I have been on Epic twice and loved it. I want to go again but she has not been coming back to Miami.  The Epic design still is felt on new NCL ships today.  The casino being front and center and splitting the MDR up to smaller and more intimate settings (Taste and Savor).  I was reading a Cruise Critic UK review of Encore and they were praising FDR and the concept of Taste and Savor being intimate dining since Breakaway.  I was sort of miffed because Epic's design is what launched that concept that so many other cruise lines copied (breaking up huge MDRs for smaller venues).  There are definitely some design flaws on Epic but there are so many more design awards on Epic that few seem to acknowledge.  Most just flame the ship for the bathroom situation with a curtain, etc. The atrium, The Local, casino, 678 Ocean Place - all Epic designs that are on the new NCL ships today.  Cruise critic UK was praising FDR again for 678 Ocean Place as some sort of new creation which was frustrating to read.

Edited by david_sobe
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44 minutes ago, firstimer2009 said:

I could deal with that.  Especially for Cannes.  Yes, we had 3 in a row.  Not fun.  I was so grateful to get to Arigostoli Greece and just walk off the ship.   Hmm...guess it's time to look into this!  I won't tell my husband.  He will think I lost my mind.

and if you board in Barcelona, you can fly non-stop from SFO to BCN on Norwegian Air !

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1 minute ago, mapleleaves said:

and if you board in Barcelona, you can fly non-stop from SFO to BCN on Norwegian Air !

We used to live in Bay Area but moved to Sacto a few years ago.  We flew out of SFO on the Sept trip but flew back to Sacto.  We could definitely do a round trip next time out of SFO.  I will look into this!  You have been so helpful.

 

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1 hour ago, joeyancho said:

Wonderful to  read a review where someone enjoyed their cruise. The pictures are terrific, especially the food porn.

 

It  IS  refreshing to read positive reviews, isn't it? 

There are more positive EPIC reviews to read .... near the top of the page under NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE  is See Posts About, Select Ship.  There are quite a few trip reports for Epic  Med cruises.  Not all have photos ( including mine! ).  I found the reviews very helpful when I was trying to figure out our DIY activities at each port.

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Thank you everybody.

 

Ighten – until recently you could use a dining credit with an upcharge, now it is included but limited to 4 items (which I found more than enough).

 

FLAHAM – no, not world class pizza but it was fresh and hot with a thin base and a modest amount of toppings, all good things! I have of course eaten much better pizza, but I have also eaten much much worse.

 

firstimer2009 – as others have said the only tender port is Cannes. We have got off there in previous years and it has been very easy. We had 5 nights out of 7 specialties and one MDR on the previous cruise and it was just too much, we love having a night off between each specialty and just grazing. Our long trip home is because we live in Ireland and have to connect in London and then have a 90 minute road trip from the airport.

Edited by amelia3171
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Great Review,

 

My wife and I were on the same cruise .We got on in Rome on the 30th.

This was our first time with Norwegian and loved every minute of it.  We also found the food to be excellent and was especially impressed with the Garden Cafe Buffet. The choice and quality at the Buffet was probably the best we have ever had on a cruise.  Entertainment was also great.

I would also commend the bar staff and servers. The service was outstanding and never had an empty glass whether at a bar ,theater or poolside. 

Really enjoyed Epic and not sure why it gets such negative reviews. Bars, Restaurants ,Entertainment venues where all great.  The only thing I didn't like was the Pools which are no more than glorified bath tubs. 

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11 hours ago, david_sobe said:

Thanks for posting. I have been on Epic twice and loved it. I want to go again but she has not been coming back to Miami.  The Epic design still is felt on new NCL ships today.  The casino being front and center and splitting the MDR up to smaller and more intimate settings (Taste and Savor).  I was reading a Cruise Critic UK review of Encore and they were praising FDR and the concept of Taste and Savor being intimate dining since Breakaway.  I was sort of miffed because Epic's design is what launched that concept that so many other cruise lines copied (breaking up huge MDRs for smaller venues).  There are definitely some design flaws on Epic but there are so many more design awards on Epic that few seem to acknowledge.  Most just flame the ship for the bathroom situation with a curtain, etc. The atrium, The Local, casino, 678 Ocean Place - all Epic designs that are on the new NCL ships today.  Cruise critic UK was praising FDR again for 678 Ocean Place as some sort of new creation which was frustrating to read.

 

You just named some of the things I hate about the big ships.  Also the lack of a good promenade deck on the Epic made it my least favorite ship.  I am obviously not a fan of the big ships.  Dawn and Jewel class or more my style.

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Thank you for the review. We will be sailing on Epic in February and are looking forward to the trip.  Epic will be the largest ship we have sailed on so we will see if we like the larger ship or not.  We are no longer loyal to any cruise line as we find them to be more similar than different. We select our sailings based on destination and price.  If those are very similar we will then look at ships to see which one has more amenities that we like.  

 

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