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Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby grannyM » 11 Aug 2015 18:09

Itinerary

Barcelona for embarkation
Naples
Civitavecchia - a different port for joining and leaving this 7 day cruise
Livorno
Cannes
Palma
Barcelona for disembarkation


We left home at 3am on the morning of 26th July to get to Glasgow Airport for a 5.40am flight. Arrived at the airport about 3.40 in time for the desk to open to discover a very long queue. Only one desk open for this BA charter flight. It took until 4.50 for us to be checked in and the flight was boarding at 5.10. The usual long walk to the gate meant we didn’t even have time for a cup of coffee.

With allocated seats we left on time and the short 2hour 50minuite flight went very well. We arrived at 9.20 as scheduled. Another quite long wait at Barcelona for the coach transfer to the ship. The check in experience at the terminal was very smooth and well organised and we were on the ship for about 11am.

Ship
First impression of this large ship was very favourable and we had plenty of time to look around before the cabins were ready at 1pm. We were no sooner in the cabin until our luggage arrived. We unpacked and had a much needed short nap before the Mandatory Lifeboat Drill at 4.30pm. Our assembly station was in a nice cool area in one of the Asian restaurants where we were seated beside a window. What a pleasant experience from standing nearly fainting with tiredness and the heat of the photo Gallery on the Princess ships we’ve been on recently. The whole procedure did not take as long either although we were slightly surprised that we did not have to take our lifejackets with us.

(Just a few words about the lifeboats at this point. The lifeboats were huge holding 250 passengers. These were used for tendering for our only tendering port, Cannes. You could book a time from arrival until 11am after which reservations were no longer required. We booked for 10am and after having our key card checked walked straight on to the tender from very short queue in front of us. The best tendering arrangements we’ve experienced yet.)

Leaving Barcelona
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First impression of the cabin was not as favourable as I have mentioned before in other topics. However we did get used to the set up and within a day or two we decided that we really liked this ship despite the tight conditions in the cabin. Our cabin steward was Elisa from the Philippines and, as we have found on most of our cruises, she worked very hard and kept our cabin spotlessly clean.

As we found on our cruises on Jade, Epic crew create an extremely friendly atmosphere and there was absolutely 100% service and commitment to passenger enjoyment everywhere. Unfortunately within the first two days the whole IT operation crashed and that made life more difficult for the staff and crew in every department. The Customer services, bars and anywhere that issued a receipt and obviously the Internet café and internet packages were all affected. The televisions and telephones in cabins were out of commission too. Most things were running properly again within 2 days but internet availability was slower and erratic so I didn’t bother buying any minutes.

Food
Choice of dining venues on Epic is quite incredible. There are two Main Dining Rooms, Taste and Manhattan Room, the Garden Café Buffet the Great Outdoors Buffet and the Spice H20 Lunch & evening Tapas Buffet which are all ‘Complimentary’ as they call what you’ve already paid for! Both the Shanghai & Noodle bar Asian restaurants are ‘Complimentary’ but can be booked to ensure a table. O’Sheehan’s fast food diner was open 24hours and served different set breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Also you can choose to pay supplements for Cagney’s steakhouse $29.95, Le Bistro French style $19.95, Moderno Brazilian steakhouse $29.95, La Cucina Italian $29.95, Teppanyaki$29.95 and Yakitori Sushi Japanese which is a la carte. Spiegel Tent at $29/$39, depending on where you are seated, combines dinner with an acrobatic circus performance.

For dinner we only went to the MDR 1 time which was on my birthday. We had the worst steak we‘ve ever had anywhere. Mine was medium to well done and slightly more edible than Ts rare cooked piece of absolute garbage. My starter of French Onion soup was not hot, in fact I’d say it was cool. We were not impressed with the service either. One of the best dinners was a Chinese meal in the Shanghai and the worst, apart from the MDR, was in O’Sheehans fast food Diner. All other evenings we ate in the Buffet The best thing about the Garden Café Buffet, which we also found on Jade, is the choice of Oriental, Indian and Mediterranean food as well as the usual Western fare. The sandwiches and salad at lunchtime were really first class as were the Burgers etc. We even had a much better steak from the BBQ section one night but the best of all was definitely the Seafood Theme Night and the standard of any seafood throughout the week was excellent.

Lighting arrangement above and Taste dining room from Deck 6 above

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Garden Cafe Buffet.
With a full ship this could sometimes be very crowded but the service area arrangement was very good and you could always take your food outside to Great Outdoors. We particularly liked to do this in the morning with our fruit and toast.

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Entertainment

Once again on a Norwegian cruise ship we have seen the best live entertainment. Every night a wonderful choice of shows, live music by various artists. I cannot comment on the Spiegel Tent dinner & show as it didn’t appeal to us but those who we met that had seen it said it is great. The very best for us in the Theatre, which we were lucky to see it twice, was 'Burn the floor' stage show. A truly magnificent performance by a cast of international Ballroom & Latin dance champions, a great solo girl singer and two immensely talented guitarist as well as the resident ship’s band. If you like dance of any kind don’t ever pass up the chance to see this brilliant show. Another good one was 'Legends in Concert' when we saw Rod Stewart, Sting and Gloria Estefan tribute artists. Epic Beatles performed several times in Fat Cats jazz lounge, throughout the week and of course we could we couldn’t resist having a sing-along and boogie with them more than once. The only disappointing show was Supreme Dream Girls in Headliners. Somehow this 3 girl tribute group just didn’t get any atmosphere going. Perhaps it was because it was the second performance of the night but it was flat and wasn’t helped by the number of people who actually walked out. You can book seats at the ship’s Box Office for any of the twice nightly performances. There is no charge and you don’t actually get a seat number but as long as you turn up 10mins before the show starts you are guaranteed a seat. After that your booking is cancelled and it’s first come first serve for the seats. Any night we were there it was full house after the 10min deadline. We had actually booked for an 11pm performance of male vocalists, 4Ever in Concertin Headliners, but then heard that unexpectedly there was another performance of Burn the Floor that night so we decided to try for that without a booking and got in no bother. We were lucky to be first in the queue at 10to10 as the word had gotten round about this show and it was full house by the time the curtain went up.

Apart from the shows, and the usual array of comedians and ventriloquists there was, as is usual on any ship, all kinds of musical entertainment both in the Atrium and throughout the many bars all over the ship. Too many to mention especially since we really didn’t visit many of them inside the ship preferring to enjoy the wonderfully warm summer evenings on deck before dinner and after a show when we could. The Latin American band who played almost every evening at the poolside bandstand was excellent and very popular especially since the ship had a high proportion of Spanish passengers with children on school holidays who were still in and around the pool area until all hours. They were not shy to sing along and dance to these very catchy songs. Obviously although we didn’t know the words a lot of the music was familiar and you couldn’t help but tap your feet to it. This was definitely our favourite place to sit with a nice cold drink and enjoy both the music and the atmosphere before we went for dinner. We met some really nice people and had special friends from Barcelona who we always seemed to accidentally meet a some point during the day or night. Only the husband could speak a little English and T and I only a few words in Spanish so it was sometimes quite frustrating but we did mostly manage to communicate. Ah! Must learn more Spanish.

Deck 15 Poolside - Our favourite Waves bar and seating area just out of view

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Another great open air venue for music and other entertainment was SpiceH2o. This was an adults only pool and sunbathing area during the day but open for all ages in the evening when the pool was drained and the floor raised to create a stage. Early in the evening some nights films were shown on the large screen but mostly it was used after 9pm in the evening for dance parties with DJs music for dancing. It was usually absolutely mobbed for these parties so we only went in a couple of times to have a look after a show or before collecting our last cuppa. Getting too old for boogieing into the wee small hours like we used to unfortunately.

Spice H2o Deck 15 Aft
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We are not into gambling but we did sometimes sit in the Casino during the day beside a window on one side to enjoy a cup of coffee and smoke our e.cigs. This is the biggest casino area we had ever seen. It was spread right across the middle of Deck 6, on both sides of the middle viewing area. We didn’t count them but there were loads of tables for roulette, card and dice games as well as what looked like hundreds of slot machines. At night it was always incredibly busy.
Casino - Deck 6



Only one sea day at the start of this cruise and the rest were ports. As we had booked this cruise last minute with the intention only to find some warm weather and totally relax that is exactly what we did. We didn’t do any excursions and did very little in any of the ports except get off for an hour or two having coffee or looking around. We only had 4½ hours in Palma so we really couldn’t go that far. I had been to Palma before and had seen the Cathedral and centre of the city. T is not into cathedrals so wasn’t bothered about going in there so we just walked across the road from the port entrance to a huge shopping area to buy some souvenirs to take home. The air conditioning in the mall and shops was appreciated and we enjoyed a frozen drink and some ice cream before returning to the ship to pack up for our early morning flight home.

I will post some photos from the different ports separately.

The average temperature throughout the whole cruise in every port was 30c. So we certainly got what we wanted away from the cold and wet we left behind. Being able to sit outside until nearly 1am some nights after dinner having a nightcap felt like we had travelled to another planet. It was a fabulous cruise on a ship we came to love and we would do it all again tomorrow given the chance.

The early morning moon above Epic at Barcelona cruise terminal after disembarking.
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I would just like to edit my review by adding a few thoughts I've had since reading Mungo's review about Ruby Princess. They are more or less a comparison between the Norwegian experience compared to Princess which has been our main line of choice these past few years.

1) On the Grand class Princess ships we have never been able to access our ship account online. However on Princess you can print out the account anytime during the cruise on the self-service machines. You also got the final print out delivered to your cabin. Despite the IT problems of the first few days on Epic we could not only access it on the television in the cabin but also on my i.pad once the i.concierge was back online. We did have to go to Customer Relations desk to receive a print out before I could not access the service. Also we were rather dismayed to find no final account delivered to the cabin. I did telephone Norwegian Customer Services the day we returned home and was surprised to get through almost immediately and the final account was e.mailed to me within that day. Very impressed with the customer service response compared to Princess.

2) Now the other side of the coin. We purchased two 'future cruise deposits' as we would normally do. We paid the two $250 deposits and immediately received $125 OBC on our ship account. With Princess when you pay your future cruise deposit your OBC is applied for your next cruise and although you can book another cruise there and then you are never pressured to do so. What really annoyed us on Epic was the hard sell to book again. The cruise consultant offered us a quote for Jade for next year with lots of advantages. We said ok at the time but when she presented the quote it was for May next year and we could not commit for various reasons. She said we could book it, secure the price and advantages then change the cruise date option as long as we did this before February 2016. We said 'No thanks' but she still insist we take a day or two to 'think about it'. This we did and I went back and again said 'Thanks but No thanks'. So, I was surprised the day after we came home to find an e.mail confirming 'cancellation' of that May 2016 cruise with a cancellation fee of £100 pp. Back on to Norwegian Customer Services. They called me back the next day to say the cancellation fee had been 'waived'. Not good enough I said this is a complaint about the cruise consultant. Duly note and will take it up with her and get back to you the nice lady said. Now nearly 2 weeks, still waiting. Not holding my breath.

3) A small but obvious niggle about lack of information about disembarkation. Princess, along with any other line we've sailed with, deliver your appropriate luggage tags with a list of times for disembarkation according to your arrangements. Nothing came to the cabin the day before and when we asked Elisa why she said we had to go to Customer Relations desk and get them. We went immediately and showed our TA's transfer confirmation and were told the time to disembark. We were directed to collect our appropriate coloured tags according to the time we needed to be off the ship. These were placed on a shelf beside the board with the list of times either side of the desk. Luckily this was early morning and there was no queue. When we passed this area later the desk was extremely busy and so was the place to check times and collect tags. This was not how it was done on Jade but perhaps NCL think this way is a better but I can't imagine why.

4) Another plus for Princess that we did miss on Epic was the excellent Enrichment Presentations by various speakers on all sorts of different subjects not necessarily about cruising. The ones we have attended have always been informative or entertaining. Although there was a paragraph of information about the particular ports every day on the Epic Freestyle Daily newsheet there were no detailed Port Guides, which again on Princess cruises were delivered to cabins for every port. These are not just shopping guides (although even these weren't available for those who wanted them). There was one Ports & Tour presentation on Epic on the first and only sea day. This was to cover all of the next 6 days. Since we had been to most of the ports and had no intention of taking any tours we did not attend this. I presume because there were 6 ports in 7 days there was probably not much else they could do but it did seem unusual to us.

5) It's been quite a while since we've had some little creature greet us when returning to the cabin at night. Princess seem to have given it up and to be honest we weren't too bothered about that. However I have some little grandchildren who love looking at the photos of the towel animals from our early cruises so I couldn't resist taking these:




To conclude I am posting a few photos of some of the ships that we saw on the cruise. We were spotting most of the same ships around the ports we visited.
Grandi Navi Veloci in Barcelona
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Norwegian Spirit and Aida Blu Naples
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Silverseas, Silver Wind in Civitavecchia
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Pullmantar Sovereign in Civitavecchia
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Aida Blu in Palma
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Thomson Dream in Palma
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Last edited by grannyM on 15 Aug 2015 19:03, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby Toongirl » 11 Aug 2015 18:20

It sounds lovely, Marie. I like sitting outside in a warm evening too with a nice chilled glass of wine! What did you think of Naples? I was very disappointed in the city itself.
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Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby tobysgranny » 11 Aug 2015 18:44

Great review Marie. Sounds as though you had a lovely cruise and the ship certainly sounds interesting. Looking forward to seeing your piccys when you post them.

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Future cruises

Royal Caribbean, T/A, The Brilliance in Of The Seas, October 2016.
Royal Caribbean, Caribbean, Freedom Of The Seas, November, 2016
Royal Caribbean, The Arctic Circle, Serenade Of The Seas, June, 2017
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Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby grannyM » 11 Aug 2015 18:55

tobysgranny wrote:Great review Marie. Sounds as though you had a lovely cruise and the ship certainly sounds interesting. Looking forward to seeing your piccys when you post them.

Joan


Thanks Joan but I did have a major problem with my camera settings that someone's little fingers had tampered with. I didn't spot this until I came home so my photos are not up to scratch but I will post the port photos tomorrow anyway. :(
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Re: Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby grannyM » 11 Aug 2015 19:00

Toongirl wrote:It sounds lovely, Marie. I like sitting outside in a warm evening too with a nice chilled glass of wine! What did you think of Naples? I was very disappointed in the city itself.
Angela


We had been before Angela and didn't rate it either. We had hoped to do an excursion next time we went but honestly could not contemplate being without cover in the July temperatures. Perhaps next time at a different time of the year. We West Coast Scots are really not equipped for these high temperatures. :oops:
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Re: Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby Hannah » 11 Aug 2015 19:31

Great review Marie. Sounded just right and as you say lovely to get some sunshine and warmth
Not been a good year here so far either.Thanks for taking the time to do a comprehensive review.
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Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby Jimmy the One » 11 Aug 2015 19:34

Thanks for the warts and all review Marie. :D Sheena has been nagging me to go on one of those fly cruises from Barcelona but it's not for me
Im just a soul whose intentions are good Oh lord please dont let me be misunderstood

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Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby bobbyoscar » 11 Aug 2015 19:53

A good read and a lovely review, Marie.

Thanks for sharing.
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October 2018 – P & O Oriana - Cadiz - Catania - Corigliano Calabro – Venice –Zadar - Dubrovnik - Kotor - Corfu - Gibraltar
February 2019 – P & O Aurora - Andalsnes – Tromso – Alta – Stavanger
September 2019 - P & O Azura - Malaga -Messina - Mykonos - Piraeus - Santorini - Katakolon - Gibraltar
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Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby adogap » 11 Aug 2015 20:27

Super review Marie! I like the sound of the public areas of this ship - a swimming pool that converts to a stage, now that is what I call clever innovation! Great choice of restaurants even though your steaks were poor (you do hail from a country which produces the best beef in the world though)
I too love to see the sights but not in extreme heat.
Did you bring your luggage from airport to ship? I understand that sometimes you don't see it from check-in at home airport until ships cabin.

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Baltic Cities, Balmoral, June 2018
Canada, Queen Mary 2, September 2018
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Norwegian Epic - Western Med 26th July-2nd August 2015

Postby Wansbrough » 11 Aug 2015 21:18

I think the Epic is a great fun ship. There is lots to offer onboard and like you we found the cabin arrangement a little odd to start with but did get used to it. Its a shame the Blue Man Group are no longer there as there were by far the best show we have seen at sea.
We saw the Beatles in SpiceH20 where they did an hour set. Not nearly long enough!

Sounds like you had a great time though and what could be more pleasing than that. Don't say a decent steak! :roll:

The big downside is the amount of walking you need to do to get anywhere.
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