Earlier this month I boarded Norwegian Epic in Civitavecchia (the port for Rome) to enjoy four nights of fine dining, fabulous entertainment and insightful tours and excursions.
This cruise trip was organised by Cruise Nation, an award-winning tour operator offering unique cruise packages for all tastes, budgets and schedules.
Launched in 2010, Epic is a 153,000 tonne ship that has just undergone an extensive revitalisation with new venues and decor. Read on as I experience what it’s like to freestyle cruise ‘like a Norwegian’ and explore what happens behind the scenes on a 21st century cruise liner!
I took the above picture last year in Palma de Mallorca (also a port of call on this cruise). What struck me at the time was how quirky Norwegian ships are! The patterned livery and unconventional design exudes carefree fun.
This upbeat first impression wasn’t to be thwarted. In many of the ports of call that followed on this trip (Livorno, Cannes, Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona), the crew welcomed returning guests with complimentary refreshments, hot towels and a DJ.
One of the biggest attention grabbers from the recent dry dock enhancements is ‘The Cavern Club‘ (formerly the ‘Fat Cats’). The venue is based on the iconic club in Liverpool where The Beatles started out and is an ideal size for hosting private parties onboard.
I went here on the first night and the tribute band had the whole audience belting out ‘Hey Jude’ in unison before many crowded onto the dance floor for the final few numbers.
I stayed in a family balcony stateroom (#14001) that includes a sofa bed, LCD TV, mini fridge and coffee maker. On my bed were complimentary beach towels for the pool and a box of chocolates.
I was initially unsure about the ‘open bathroom’ setup for those sharing a cabin with family or friends (the curtain divides the room for extra privacy). I soon realised however it allowed for more space and unrestricted access to the sink, shower or toilet if one was in use.
In terms of storage, there’s lots of it – behind mirrors, above your bed… heavy packers won’t be short of places to fill.
Le Bistro is one of twenty dining options onboard and was also recently renovated. This speciality restaurant is where I dined on my first evening and I really liked the tasteful decor and even tastier food!
I had a very juicy and tender ‘Filet de Boeuf Grillé‘ with roquefort cheese potato gratin and peppercorn sauce, followed by a trio of flavoured profiteroles. Trés bien!
At the heart of the ship above Taste (a complimentary restaurant) is this dramatic and dazzling chandelier. This central hub offered access to many venues on other decks like duty free shops, O’Sheehan’s Bar, bowling alley and the casino.
For November the weather was phenomenal. Drenched in sunshine with silky smooth seas throughout, I used some free time one afternoon to sunbathe and try two of the three waterslides.
It was good to see both young and young at heart making the most of the 23°c weather and giving the slides a go too!
Away from the public pool area is a secluded retreat called ‘The Haven‘. This area is for suite guests only and includes a private bar, restaurant, lounge and upper deck area with comfortable sofa beds to sprawl out on.
On deck 18 there’s a jungle gym, trampoline and sports court for children to enjoy beyond the complimentary youth programmes.
For those craving a more relaxed cruise holiday, there’s plenty of areas onboard for that too, including a new library and card room. There’s also Shaker’s Martini Bar, Waves Pool Bar and the Spa & Salon which I can highly recommend.
Spice H20 and the Marketplace (below) is also an ideal spot on Deck 15 to unwind over a drink during a sail away.
On day three I enjoyed an excellent excursion in Cannes to Fragonard perfumery and the medieval town of Saint-Paul (more info available here).
In the evening I had one of my favourite dinner experiences onboard a cruise ship in Teppanyaki. I’m not so familiar with Japanese cuisine but was keen to give it a try.
I just loved the theatre of the food preparation, the hibachi chef was an absolute star and had us singing, cheering and laughing with his many jokes and utensil wizardry.
With a full restaurant to serve, the waiter service wasn’t quite as slick, but seeing the food come together so playfully was pure joy (and the results were indeed epic).
Our first course was a Seaweed Salad with ginger dressing and Miso Soup. For mains we enjoyed Egg Fried Rice, Filet Mignon or Scallops with dipping sauces and grilled vegetables.
No kidding, the beef was perhaps the best I’ve tasted anywhere – very lean and melted in your mouth! I somehow managed to save room for some green tea cake which had a really nice blend of sweet and bitter.
The next morning I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and tour the ships underbelly and bridge.
It’s remarkable to see how much effort goes into ensuring guests have a safe and enjoyable holiday. The bridge makes use of the most advanced technology to monitor the ship both internally and externally.
I later took a peak at some of the 534 costumes that are used for the ship’s production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert – an elaborate and ambitious ninety minute show in the onboard Theatre that uses 100lb’s of glitter and rhinestones.
I was curious to see how the shows onboard compared to previous cruises. Priscilla was a stand out – beyond the amusing flamboyance and dancing paintbrushes was a meaningful narrative. I found it be on-par with ‘We Will Rock You‘ on my recent Anthem of the Seas cruise.
I also toured the immaculate laundry and endless kitchen where up to 19,000 meals are made daily from around 420 cooks.
In just a typical week around 65,000 eggs and £25,000 worth of poultry will be used for up to 4,100 guests, many of whom will likely pass through the Garden Café buffet on Deck 15 at some point.
The buffet offers panoramic views at the front of the ship and the outdoor buffet and seating area leading on behind meant I never struggled to find a table.
Perhaps one of the coolest features onboard (literally) was the Svedka Ice Bar – a first to feature on any cruise ship. You’re given gloves and thick cloaks and welcomed in to a small but colourful room that’s chilled to around -8°c.
There’s six cocktail offerings to sip as you marvel at the frozen sculptures and bar. It’s a really unique, photo worthy experience.
Other dining options onboard include The Manhattan (another complimentary main restaurant) with a varied menu that includes no less than 11 starters, 15 mains and 7 desserts!
I absolutely loved the dinner show at the Spiegel Tent on my final night, what a spectacle!
It’s high energy from start to finish with incredible stunts and acrobatics that take place around and above you.
I didn’t know where to look next and the set courses seemed to appear miraculously on the table as a result. Many diner’s are also invited to participate in some of the sequences too. Not to be missed!
Overall, my first cruise on a Norwegian ship was terrific fun! I loved the feel good, relaxed atmosphere and found myself drawn to Bliss Ultra Lounge (the updated on-board nightclub) multiple nights for a dance, or the Comedy Club for a sing along with the ‘Howl at the Moon‘ band.
It’s an added bonus that the ship calls into such wonderful places around the Mediterranean too, like Barcelona where I enjoyed a tour with TripAshore to Torres Winery before our evening flight home. You can take a look at my experience by clicking here.
If this blog has you craving a Norwegian Epic cruise and some Mediterranean sunshine, take a look at Cruise Nation’s website to see their latest offers.
**This was an expenses paid trip, however all opinions are my own.