First cruise of many with NCL
May of 2012 was our first NCL cruise. We boarded the Epic at the Rome port city of Civitavecchia. The check in went smoothly, even though we were a fairly large group and we all were NCL first timers. It had been a while since my wife and I previously had cruised, and I was a bit reluctant because of a less than sterling experience with that other cruise line. The things that impressed me most about NCL, and got me to stick a toe in the water again, were the range of on board activities, the shows, and especially the free style cruising approach to dining. It was a sheer joy. Everyone on board, from the restaurant wait staff, to the tour coordinators, to our cabin attendant all made us feel right at home. We knew at once that we would be coming back. / Since we were traveling with several members of my wife's family, we chose to arrange our shore excursions directly with local tour companies. It worked out great for us, especially in Florence and Naples, where we were in a small van that easily could maneuver the narrow streets and take us right up to our destinations. We saw many of our fellow travelers walking long distances to and from the remote parking lots where their large buses had to wait. At Cannes, Marseille, and Barcelona, we just took a cab or walked from the port into town and spent the day wandering on our own. We really didn't feel a need for a prearranged tour in those cities. / As I write this, it's been three years since this cruise. We've sailed three other times with NCL since then, including once again on the Epic. Each one of them have been fun, exciting, educational, and invigorating. We currently are booked on three more NCL cruises, and we check the website just about every week looking for last minute specials and featured tours. We're definitely sold on free style cruising with NCL!
Privacy doesn?t even come at a premium.
We booked well in advance and got a mid-ship upper level balcony before they sold out. It was definitely worth it. We were in stateroom #12221. The room was as depicted on the website and was nice. It was clean and had plenty of storage. You had enough room to walk around the bed and from the interior door to the balcony? that?s it and it?s all you really need. Cruise ship rooms aren?t large so don?t expect a ton of space. Your TV options are fairly limited but it?s to be expected. The bathroom layout was not well thought out. The designers definitely took the ?open concept? to the limit. I could maybe understand this layout for the new solo traveler rooms but otherwise, it totally eliminates any bathroom privacy (noise, smell, and otherwise) for the multi-passenger rooms. There is a curtain that separates the front door, shower stall, and toilet stall from the sink and rest of the room. The shower stall was a good size. I had no problems with the shower. Good water pressure and had my desired level of hot water. Now, I realize that not every married couple does things the same way but I personally don?t want my husband hearing my business in the bathroom. He?s the same way. (We resolved this problem by turning on the shower and TV. Do what you want but I don?t really like the idea of wasting water either.) For those of you without this problem, here?s something else to consider. If you order room service, neither of you can get a shower nor use the toilet during your food delivery unless you want the room service guy to see/hear you through the opaque plastic stalls. Doesn?t seem like it?d be a problem but a few times, one of us was in the actual bathroom (with a real door) in Alaska when room service was delivered. It?s something that you might overlook until it happens to you. The view from the balcony was wonderful. It was spacious enough for two people and had a table with two chairs. Looking down from our balcony, we could see into the balconies (no roof/ceiling) a few floors down so they basically had no privacy. Based on the cruise route, we chose a Starboard side room because we thought it?d have the best views during cruising and port days. That was incorrect but that?s all on me, not Norwegian. The ship almost always had better views at port on the Port side due to how they docked during our cruise (I don?t know if it?s the same every time). Both sides had similar views during cruising because they don?t hug the coast as close as I?d thought they might. We still enjoyed the STBD side. We did get a nice late evening view of Majorca when we were leaving. Not too far away, you could see the lights from the homes and lighthouses on the coast. FYI for all you first time balcony people? open interior front door + open balcony door = wind tunnel.