NCL Epic Transatlantic Cruising - My New Fave!

Norwegian Epic Cruise Review to Transatlantic

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 26

Overall rating:

4.3 out of 5
Norwegian Epic

15 Night Transatlantic Eastbound (Port Canaveral To Barcelona)

Sail date: April 27, 2019

Ship: Norwegian Epic

Cabin type: Balcony

Traveled as: Singles/Friends

Reviewed: 2 years ago

Review summary

Very enjoyable cruise! If you love your sea days, a transatlantic is the way to go. We were a party of 5. My husband and I, another couple and a single friend of ours who stayed in a studio cabin. It was his first cruise. He loved the experience and will be back for more. Food and drinks were good. Entertainment fabulous and our ports were exceptional!

Embarkation

5 out of 5
Our group of 5 embarked in Port Canaveral for a 15 day transatlantic cruise. From my perspective, embarkation was organized and went very smoothly. I'm not sure if it was all about timing, but we got to the port around noon and walked through a small line past security that moved quickly and then into another line to actually see a representative for your check-in. That line moved quickly as well with many reps on to assist. From the check-in, we walked directly onto the ship. No holding areas after check-in like past experiences, so for me this was a great embarkation!

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

4 out of 5
I want to preface my review with the fact that I've never really had a bad cruise. I'm a true believer of "a bad day cruising is still better than a good day at work." We always make the most of a cruise and enjoy it to the fullest - having said that, here's some thoughts on food and drink: Overall food quality/enjoyment - the food was a little underwhelming compared to past cruises with NCL, including 2 other times on the Epic. However, did we have some fantastic meals? Yes, absolutely! Le Bistro was probably the most memorable, best presentation and best tasting. The service here was also the best we experienced. We loved O'Sheehan's for a quick bite during the day or a late night snack. I especially loved the addition of the chicken fajitas to the O'Sheehan's menu- they were my fave! We are not buffet diners at all. Mainly because we come on cruises to wine and dine and I find the buffet to be like a cafeteria experience, which is totally fine if that's what you like. I will say, it's great to grab something at the Buffet if you're on the go and in a hurry. We did take advantage on pool days and the food was quite good. There was lots of variety in my opinion and it was tasty. The few times we ate in the buffet during the day, we always went to La Cucina to sit. It's just a more civilized atmosphere and the view was terrific! They have seating in this restaurant for overflow from the buffet. In the evening, it's the Italian specialty restaurant. The main dining rooms were good. We ended up eating at Taste most often when we opted for a complimentary dining room. Mainly because we are late evening diners and Taste was open a little later than the Manhattan Room. I do love the Manhattan Room though. I really like the decor and having a live band play as you're dining. I would often ask for a table close to the dance floor and we were happy to wait at a nearby bar and have a drink or two while waiting for a good table to open up. We also ate at the Sushi bar which was great, Teppanyaki (always good and fun) and the complimentary Asian restaurant. It wasn't the best Asian food I had in my life, but I ate every bite. It was good and it was a nice experience. Cagney's is normally our favorite restaurant and we were anticipating it the whole cruise, but I'm sad to report it was not a fabulous experience. Perhaps it's because my expectations were high based on past experiences at Cagney's on smaller ships like the Jewel. We once went to Cagney's three times on the same cruise because we loved it so much! Unfortunately, this time the service was lacking (but I know it must be hard to deal with us day in and day out), the atmosphere was over crowded and not intimate and the steak and sides were not good at all - it hurts my heart to write this because I'm pretty easy-going and easy to please. It could have been an off night, or it could be because we were on the end of a 15 day cruise and the quality of food could have been lacking at that point. I don't know....but please know it's usually great. I almost forgot about the drinks! I have no complaints here at all. Before going on the cruise, I was a bit worried based on reviews I read about people waiting in line 30 minutes for a drink....ok, I was on a sold-out cruise, that had 7 straight sea days on the front end crossing the Atlantic, everyone had drink packages, so crazy right? Well these 30 minute wait times are baloney! I did not have that experience at all. Did I have to wait 5 minutes sometimes? Sure, but who cares! Some bars are more busy than others, so move to the next if you're in a hurry. And really, do we need to be in a hurry? My only conclusion on this one is that if you're inpatient, negative and have a certain sense of entitlement, 5 minutes can feel like a half hour I guess. And now I'll put that one to bed lol. Martini's were great, wine selection good, I'm not into fruity mixed drinks so can't comment on those but they looked good. Overall, how can you go wrong? I also did a structured wine tasting with one of the wine stewards - it was lovely with a good choice of wines.

Onboard Activities

4 out of 5
So, I'm the type that looks forward to getting my Freestyle daily on my bed when I turn in each night. The last thing I do before going to bed is read about all the activities scheduled for the following day and then I highlight what I want to do. I enjoyed the activities I took part in on the ship. We always love taking part in trivia, but I have to admit I like the smaller ships for trivia the best. It's difficult with a huge crowd and it was mostly held in the atrium, which can be a bit noisy and sprawling. We usually went to view the pool activities, sexy leg contest etc...it's always good for a laugh. After 15 days the activities became a bit repetitive, but for a 7 day cruise, it would seem varied and there's usually something to suit everyone's taste. We also did one of the structured wine tastings one afternoon. It was $19.95 pp, but there was a 20% discount if you had the drink package. It was worth it for us. It's fun to do and it's a nice way to meet other people. Aside from organized activities, our group of 5 would also do hot tub time. Also a great way to meet people. I found that we did pool and hot tub days far more than on any other cruise we've been on. Mainly because there were so many sea days and so much time to just relax without port timings or trying to pack in our specialty dining reservations into a small time frame. It was this cruise (my first transatlantic) that I decided that I absolutely love all the sea days. The ship is often the destination for me.

Entertainment

5 out of 5
I think NCL's entertainment is fantastic!! Mind you, I only have one other cruise on RCL to compare it to. We are never disappointed. Burn the Floor is probably my favorite. These dancers are world-class and often world-champions. It's a high-energy, action-packed dance show with fabulous music. Well done! We also saw Priscilla Queen of the Desert. At the start of the show I was like "Umm I'm not sure if this is going to be great," well it was really, really well done. The costumes were fabulous. The signing and dancing were entertaining and the messaging in the plot was heartfelt. I liked it! Cirque Dreams is always great and you know what? The meal wasn't bad either. My steak here was actually better than at Cagney's. Again, costumes are amazing and the performers are very talented. Splurge for the premium seating for an enhanced experience. I love, love, love Howl at the Moon dueling pianos and we usually ended each night at Headliners. It's our kind of thing. We also went to a few comedians - some were freaking hilarious, one was really not so good. It was almost uncomfortable at a few points, but he was the opener for the main act. The music around the ship was good - we liked the Beatles tribute band and a duo called Fire and Ice. They were great! I remember one night they were performing at a very small venue (Shaker's Martini Bar) and a major dance party just suddenly broke out. Everybody was dancing with everybody, the drinks were flowing, there was a conga line at some point leading from Shaker's to Maltings and back again. Yes, I was in it. It was one of my most memorable nights and it was because of this duo getting the crowd going. Great music selections, high-energy and it catered to all ages. So much fun!

Children's Programs

No kiddos

Service and Staff

4 out of 5
I thought the service was very good. There were some staff that were exceptional. Others that did their job well. I didn't have a bad experience with any staff member. Being nice on the customer's end also goes a long way too!

Ship Quality

5 out of 5
Always clean and I don't mind the layout. I quite like walking from point A to point B and seeing what's happening out and about. I took the stairs mostly, but I realize that can be challenging for anyone with mobility concerns. If that is the case, there is a lack of elevators compared to other NCL ships.

Cabin / Stateroom

4 out of 5
Our balcony cabin was just fine. We knew exactly what the Epic cabins are like, so we went in with an open mind. Everybody knows about the flawed bathroom design, but the bottom line is, NCL learned their lesson and have never repeated it in their new builds. The cabin is a little tight, but totally doable. I could see how having 3-4 people in a balcony cabin would be too close for comfort. I'd imagine a family would have to take shifts getting ready. For my husband and I, it was perfectly fine with lots of storage and the balcony itself is actually bigger than the NCL Getaway. Our room steward Chris was phenomenal and always kept our room clean and well-stocked. Super friendly guy. I would recommend a higher deck. If you're on the 8th or 9th deck in a balcony stateroom, you're mostly looking at lifeboats depending on where you at at.

Ship tip

Book your specialty dining on sea days to avoid rushing around to get ready after returning from a port.

Ports of call

Port Canaveral, Florida Did not visit port

Didn't do anything just embarked here. However, we've enjoyed the area in the past. Love the Kennedy Space Center.

Ponta Delgada, Azores

4 out of 5
It's a cool place to go to and a welcomed sight after 7 days at sea. We didn't book a shore excursion rather just walked around town and found a nice little cafe/bistro for a couple of beers and a cheese board. That was delish! I ended up going back to the ship early. I was good.

Funchal, Madeira

5 out of 5
Great terrain! It was lush and green with a couple of magnificent cliff sides. The white washed architecture was neat. We did a hop on hop off bus tour which is a fabulous way to see the city in a short period of time. We happened to be there for the Flower Festival which was beautiful. We also did the cable car to the the village of Monte which offered spectacular views. We were hoping to take the toboggan ride down the hill, but the wait in line to get on was at least 45-50 minutes so we opted out and took the cable car back down the hill. I did't want to eat into my day standing in line.

Cadiz (Seville), Spain

4 out of 5
Lovely town. Easy to walk around. Lots of beautiful churches and cathedrals and we also visited a fort. Walked through the Botanical Gardens as well which was lovely.

Malaga, Spain

5 out of 5
Beautiful! Rich streets, fabulous shopping, stylish passers-by and a great market.

Cartagena, Spain

5 out of 5
Did a couple of wineries here. That's always a good day!

Palma De Mallorca, Balearic Islands

5 out of 5
Beautiful island with many, many swanky yachts. It was nice to stroll along the marina looking at all the boats. Old town was really nice, but there were huge line-ups to go into the cathedral, so we passed. We also did a hop on hop off here.

Barcelona, Spain

5 out of 5
Great city! Amazing tapas dining, beautiful squares, shopping, architecture. The list goes on and on. Do yourself a favour if you're embarking or disembarking here: give yourself a couple of extra days to enjoy the city on the front or back end. Just beware of pick-pockets and thieves. They are ,unfortunately, everywhere! You have so be smart with your personal things. I've never experienced it, but have been near people who have. Hotel staff will also give you warnings about it.

Disembarkation

1 out of 5
Ok, this was bad. I just have to be honest and I can't really sugar coat it. None of the tag colours for embarkation worked out timing wise. There were massive lines running throughout the ship and on a few different decks. The lines continued to grow because everything inside the terminal was backed up. At some point my husband and I got out of line and went to O'Sheenan's for breakfast, despite our tag colour being one of the earliest ones at 0800. At this point it was about 1000. By the time we made it into the terminal, I discovered the problem: there were 4 Spanish custom officials for over 4000 people!! So, we're looking at a 1:1000 ratio! I remained calm...what else can you do? The funny thing is the officials just looked at us, stamped our passport and that was it! I'm not sure if we skipped the test or something, but it seemed rather a long process for that. Why bother lol? Our friends were going to spend the day with us in Barcelona before taking an evening flight back home, but by the time we got of the ship and into a taxi line it was pretty late (1200) and they just went straight to the airport. Would I do it again if it meant going on another cruise in Europe - heck yeah!
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