Southern Caribbean out of San Juan is a Hidden Gem

Norwegian Epic Cruise Review to Caribbean - Southern

Cruises: 2-3 cruises
Reviews: 3
Helpful Votes: 26

Overall rating:

5 out of 5
Norwegian Epic

7 Night Southern Caribbean (San Juan Roundtrip)

Sail date: March 01, 2020

Ship: Norwegian Epic

Cabin type: Suite

Cabin number: 8169

Traveled as: Couple

Reviewed: 5 months ago

Review summary

A lot of Caribbean cruisers tend to look only at cruises originating out of Miami, Orlando, Tampa and New Orleans. Porting in and out of San Juan is a terrific option because it's a great place to visit, it's a US Territory so you don't have to mess with customs and immigration at airport, and face it, we've all been to those other cities so many times. The Thermal Spa package is definitely worth trying - if you're trying to decide where to spend your money, the Specialty Dining isn't that much better than the main dining rooms (Caveat - my wife and I are not big eaters, so we never do the buffet, and don't eat things like breads and desserts), and you might be happier spending money on the Thermal Spa package. Summary - we liked this cruise enough that we're doing the Epic again in 2022 on a slightly different Western/Southern Caribbean itinerary.

Embarkation

5 out of 5
San Juan terminal was fine - no issues. Not luxurious but organized and efficient

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

5 out of 5
We did a couple of specialty dining nights but actually enjoyed the main dining rooms as well. Cagney Steakhouse was not up to its usual acclaimed status. Everybody has an off night though

O'Sheehans Neighborhood Bar and Grill

5 out of 5

We did quick lunches here a couple of times. If you go a little early or late around lunch hour, there was no line, and if you have to wait, there's a bar right there! The food is good, not great - but it's quick bar food

Maltings Whiskey Bar

5 out of 5

Best bar on the Epic. The bartenders here are funny, attentive and engaging.

Onboard Activities

5 out of 5
We booked this cruise 5 weeks before departure so most of the good shore excursions were taken, and so rather than book a lot of independent excursions, we did the Thermal Spa package. It was incredible - 2 saunas, steam room, heated tile loungers, hot tub, massage pools. We went off-ship at each port for a brief port area self-guided walking tour in the morning, had lunch off-ship, and then spent each afternoon at the Spa. Pro-Tip: When the ship is moving the Spa is crowded. When it''s docked, it''s not. Don''t tell to many people though OK?

Entertainment

5 out of 5
We actually really enjoyed the entertainment on this cruise better than most. We did the Escape Game (it was OK). The Comedy Club was pretty good - hard to find a seat so show up early. The Priscilla Queen of the Desert drag queen show was surprisingly great! Finally, the Burn the Floor was pretty spectacular - didn''t expect that!

Epic Theatre

5 out of 5

Great little theatre - comfortable seats, bar in the back, good sound system. The shows we attended were VERY well produced

Service and Staff

5 out of 5
Great service everywhere. The Maltings bartenders were over the top great!

Ship Quality

5 out of 5
Being the first week of March at the beginning of Covid, they were cleaning all the time, sanitizers were everywhere.

Cabin / Stateroom

5 out of 5
Aft to Mid-Ship area Club Balcony Suite room on 8th Deck near stairs and elevators. There''s a door between the hall and the elevators to block noise from people around elevators, so it was as quiet as any room. The nearby elevators are below the Spa so it''s an easy commute to the Spa. We like being near stairs as elevators get busy during certain times. 8th Deck is nice on this ship as it''s a quick one or two flights walk down to bars on 7, and restaurants on 6. If you like being near the pool or Garden Cafe, it''s not the best area, you''ll want to move forward.

Ship tip

Pick forward, mid or aft based on being near the things you'll go to most frequently. If you're a stairs person, get a room near some stairs on a level convenient for you.

Ports of call

San Juan, Puerto Rico

5 out of 5
We had never been to Puerto Rico, so booked a flight early morning on the day before so had all that day and most of the next day before embarkation. We stayed at '352 Guest House' which is an 8-room boutique hotel/B&B in Old San Juan. It's in an 18th Century building and owned by a wonderful family. Great food and terrific view out balcony of historic Old San Juan street. While in Puerto Rico, we ate, drank, shopped, and walked every bit of Old San Juan. Beautiful and historic area.

Oranjestad, Aruba

5 out of 5
We went on a self-guided walking tour of the area around the port, had some great tacos and beer.

Willemstad, Curacao

5 out of 5
Did a walk-around in Willemstad. A lot to see and take in just within a mile of the port.

Kralendijk, Bonaire

5 out of 5
Not the best area to just walk around near the port, but found a nice little bar nearby and had some beers and small lunch. Probably best to book an excursion here.

Castries, St. Lucia

5 out of 5
We did the 'BETWEEN THE PITONS CATAMARAN CRUISE' which including passing through Marigot Bay where the original 1967 Dr. Doolittle movie was filmed. The crew was fun and drinks were flowing! We also bought some local made "Chairman's Reserve" rum here as St. Lucia is known for it. Tip: Spend a little more and get one of their higher level rums, as their cheap rums are not that great

Basseterre, St. Kitts

5 out of 5
The area just right around the port is touristy, but if you walk a little past it, you get into some of the local areas. Very quaint and beautiful area. We had some beers and lunch, bought some rum and had to get the St. Kitts tourist t-shirt LOL). Rum prices here were better than most other ports. Tip: Norwegian will check in your liquor and hold it until the end of the cruise if you want to take a couple of bottles home in your checked luggage

Disembarkation

5 out of 5
Easy. We took a cab back to the hotel where we had stayed the week before as the owners told us they were happy to hold our bags until we needed to go to the airport. Also, the Barrachina Restaurant in Old San Juan will hold your bags after disembarkation while you take a walk around, if you have a flight late in the day
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