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Cloudyrain

First Time Cruiser Review: NCL Epic West Med

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Background

 

This isn't going to have pictures or dailies I'm afraid: there are millions of Epic pics on the web and people have already uploaded the dailies. Besides, I'm an iPad user and to do anything other than write would mean dusting off the laptop and winding it up! I have post-holiday blues, I can't cope with that stress at the moment! :D

 

I'm just going to write each section of my review on a separate post with a coloured heading. That way I thought it would be more user friendly, especially for any first timers (cruise/NCL/Epic) trawling the threads.

 

If anyone has any questions about anything specifically please feel free to ask!

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Getting to Port

 

We booked our cruise with a high street TA, and decided to go for the package of flights and transfers too: it was our honeymoon and I had enough planning with the wedding and realised I am definitely not a good planner!

 

We stayed at the Manchester Hilton the night before and used their car parking service which was really easy: I would definitely recommend it. If we were to stay again though we would definitely eat dinner before arriving as the price of the food in the restaurant is ridiculous!

 

Check in with Jet2 was straightforward and then we went into the executive lounge. To be honest I'm glad we didn't pay for this (perk of the husbands job) because the food and coffee is not good, and it just looks dirty!

 

The flight was nice and quick, but our luggage was last out. By the time we got through to the arrivals hall there was no NCL rep anywhere! We walked up and down the arrivals hall asking anyone with a lanyard if they knew where BC (the NCL transfer agent) or NCL were. Everyone gave us the same answer - saw them earlier but haven't seen them in a while!

 

Starting to get a bit stressed out, and tired from the travelling/walking/dragging luggage we sat down and called every number we had for BC and NCL. Eventually I managed to get hold of a very helpful lady working for BC and she arranged for someone to collect us. If I had realised how close the port was to the airport I would have just got a taxi, and in future we would, but at the time I didn't realise how it all worked.

 

Arriving (eventually) at Port we left our suitcases on the bus as instructed and went to queue. First impressions of the ship were "it's massive - we are going to be queuing forever"! Luckily, although it was a long line it moved quite well and took little over an hour to get through security and check in. At this point we were literally skipping down the gangway to get on board. I even let out a little "eeeeeekkkkkk!" noise :D

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I look forward to reading your review.

 

Keith

 

Thank you - I tend to ramble a lot without saying a great deal, so at the very least it should help you sleep if you have an attack of insomnia! :D

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First Impressions

 

When we got on we were totally overwhelmed and excited, but mostly totally starving! We hadn't eaten since 7am and it was now 2pm and I had a very grumbly tummy! Taking advice from what I read on Cruise Critic we headed to O'Sheehans which was nicely quiet. I had a burger and my husband had fish and chips. We were really impressed with the quality of the food here and would end up revisiting this peculiar non-Irish Irish bar quite a few times for luck during the rest of the week.

 

We then had a wander around the ship to familiarise ourselves with the layout: no amount of reading can prepare you for being on it, and things are a lot easier to find when you are there than when you are looking at plans on the net. We played table tennis (badly and briefly), and giant chess - although this was ruined by passers by who started playing our game and didn't even seem to know the correct rules: safe to say we didn't play again!

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Room: Balcony Mini-Suite 12074

 

We went to our room despite not hearing a "bing bong" and were very happy with it! As it was our honeymoon we got a bouquet of roses, chocolate covered strawberries, and some fizz.

 

Our room was very near to the forward lifts and stairs which meant it was really easy to find.

 

The bathroom was a shower over a big bath which meant that we had a good amount of space and never had water on the floor. The whole "open" bathroom layout didn't bother us at all, and there is a curtain for people who want a bit more privacy.

 

The sofa was near the bathroom, and the bed was near the balcony, which I do think worked well and was preferable to the alternative. Although the room wasn't huge it was perfectly fine and we loved it. The finish of the decor was lovely and the storage was wonderful.

 

We had a coffee machine, but I barely used it - I preferred the latte in the Atrium.

 

The TV had BBC World News, Sports 24 (replays of football and tennis, and a few documentaries), Comedy Shows (kids, family and adult), film channel (classics like Forrest Gump and Pretty Woman). There were also 50+ paid for films ($9.95) that ranged from Les Mis to Django and kids films: but all were quite recent films.

 

The balcony was a good size with two chairs and two low tables. Just a note: when you look down you can see life boats, that didn't bother us, but I know some people on here have mentioned it before as being a negative - though most balconies look down on lifeboats.

 

I am also pleased to confirm that I never heard any noise from anyone in the corridors or from our neighbours. The toilets are loud when they flush, but you never hear them when you aren't in the room (i.e. Walking down the corridors) so I don't see it as a problem.

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Smoking

 

I'm going to be brief, and don't want to start a debate as it has been done to death on here. However, as a recent ex-smoker (last year) I was very worried about cigarette smoke in the casino and especially on the balcony.

 

On one occasion, on a port day, I could smell smoke. I didn't choke on it, it just was a bit stinky, but that was only once and it didn't bother me.

 

Walking through the casino I could smell it, but it wasn't horrific. Mr C spent a lot of the time in the casino and (never having smoked on his life) was concerned that it would ruin it for him. Fortunately only once did he have an inconsiderate smoker next to him, other than that people tended not to breath all over him and he said he barely even noticed it once he got over the initial smell!

 

This is just our opinion, and I'm sure everyones experience is different.

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Great review so far....

Looking into doing an NCL cruise next year.... and very much looking forward to hearing some more :D

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Food!!!!

 

O'Sheehans - loved it! Service was quick and we loved the burgers, wings, fish and chips, and shepards pie. Not fans of the Chicken Pot Pie, but think that's mainly because we prefer more pie than pot!

 

Manhattans - Our favourite place to eat. The staff were brilliant and couldn't do enough for you. It's true that the steak comes over-done, so take it down a notch and it should be perfect. The specials and the standard menu was brilliant. Most nights we arrive at peak times and had to be given a pager, but we got a free glass of fizz so were happy to wait.

 

Taste - took us a while to realise the menu was the same! It was ok, but service wasnt as good as it was in manhattans.

 

Garden Cafe - Super food, super busy! Separate stations for separate foods so there wasn't any major queuing, and some food was made fresh to your specification. There really was everything to choose from, and the only complaint I had was that there was too much ice cream to try!!!

 

Outdoors - small selection of food, but always managed to fill a few plates full. Again, food made fresh and constanltly being topped up. Top tip is red velvet cake, I literally ate several pieces every day it was out!

 

Atrium Cafe - yummy cakes and sandwiches/wraps to take away or eat in.

 

Room Service - small selection, but perfectly adequate.

 

NOTE: I am a bit of a skinny-Minnie and live off plain food (love salad and fruit normally), and I loved the food on the Epic. We had a free meal in Le Bistro, but didn't go as I didn't like anything on the menu. I also felt that we didn't need to pay to eat anywhere as there was so much variety we were happy with all the free food!

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Blue Men Group

 

I have to be completely honest here, but we hated it. We sat there gobsmacked that people were laughing, and were trying to work out what was funny! Normally I would say I'm really easily pleased when it comes to humour, so was surprised at myself. I find Monty Pythons Ministry of Funny Walks one of the funniest things ever, so thought I had a silly sense of humour, obviously not! We were fortunate to have been sat at the very back and therefore after 20 minutes we legged it! :eek:

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Legends

 

We had Tina Turner, Adele, and Tom Jones. Personally I really liked it - and found the Welsh-Dutch Adele hilarious! I thought the singing wasn't bad, and the whole production was good. It was a bit cheesy at times, but that's what I expected. Some members of the audience seemed a little reserved but most people seemed to be happy to sing and clap along. However, our seat neighbours left during Tina Turner - I don't think they appreciated my Proud Mary!

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Karaoke

 

Every night in Bliss they did karaoke for 2 hours. The songs are selected from a touch screen machine, and there seemed to be a decent selection. The lyrics are on large screens, and the microphone is on the stage, making it all feel quite "proper". As a karaoke pro (if you believe that you will believe anything) I did think the actual singing was a little quiet, and the backing a little loud - but it's not massively important and quite helpful when people are bad!

 

The only word of warning - for karaoke pros like myself - is that the usual monster stalked the machine: the "I could have been professional" singer. You know, up every other song, trying to look nonchalant, hogging the mic, trying to out-sing everyone else, and generally taking the fun out of fun times! There's nothing anyone can do to stop this monster other than to find the drunkest people in the room and persuade them to sing Sweet Caroline; therefore the balance or order of karaoke is then restored! :D

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Bowling

 

We loved the bowling and went few times. Mr Cloudy thought the movement of the ship affected his game, but I just think he wasn't his usual athletic self after all the wings :D

 

It was $5 per person per game, and you need socks and shoes, but we generally got straight on and didn't have to wait.

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Casino - Poker

 

We didn't go on the slots, but the are loads!!! I have been in quite a few casinos, but was shocked at the size of the casino bearing in mind it was on a ship! There were quite a few card tables and craps. They also had Texas Hold Em Poker cash and tournaments - which is our game of choice. Personally it was too big a game for me to join in, but Mr C loved it! $1/$2 cash, $100 re-buys. Apparently there was some people on the cash tables that appeared to be in cahoots, but it didn't stop my lovely new husband winning enough to keep me in rum runners and also meaning we had no am-ex bill to pay at the end of the week :D :D :D :D :D

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Water Park

 

The weather wasn't brill so this may have partly contributed to the fact that there was never a problem finding a sun bed - even though the ship was full to capacity. I didn't go on the slides, but Mr C was a big toilet bowl fan and went on it repeatedly, even on days where we hadn't been on deck: he would just get in his trunks for a few goes on the slide! Again, probably a lot to do with the weather but there was hardly anyone on the slides or in the pool. The kids water park area looked brilliant for the little ones too. We loved the jacuzzis, and (again) found them to be mostly empty and always had one just for the two of us. In fact now I'm home I very much miss those lovely jacuzzis and think about them every time I'm cold and achey in the miserable UK!

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Great review so far....

Looking into doing an NCL cruise next year.... and very much looking forward to hearing some more :D

 

I can definitely recommend NCL - we loved it that much we are booking another cruise with them this weekend for later in the year :D

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Feel free to ramble. Sometimes we get some of the most interesting details that way.

 

Thank you - hope you had better med weather than we did!

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Bingo

 

There was bingo most days, with prizes including $$$ and even a cruise. The tickets were $20, $30, $40 and $60 (I think) and were the sort you pop out so no dobber required :(

 

Although we had loads of fun we didn't win a penny. When we go again I would just play the super game (with the cruise prize raffle) to cut down on cost!

 

They also did a really fun Deal or No Deal game which we sadly were too late to get tickets :(

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Howl at the Moon

 

We loved this show and I could go every night given half the chance.

 

Duelling pianos isn't something I had ever experienced before and i didn't think I would like it, I thought it would be too over the top. However, it was so entertaining and fun - it was so different. The music was good, but I wouldn't have paid them to do a song: but I'm British, I can't help it! :D

 

They did get people to go on stage and made them look silly, but i don't think they would have forced people to go up. Some nights when it was quiet it didn't look as fun, and it was definitely a "gig" that benefits from standing room only!

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Shopping

 

I was surprised that there weren't any shops selling things like toothpaste, paracetomal, toothbrushes etc. However, there was loads of jewellery (though some of it was so expensive, I can't imagine they sell a lot), perfumes, a decent selection of things like flip flops and T-shirts. They also had souvenir shops.

 

After each port they sold items in specially themed sales. I would say that a lot of it seemed to be a lot more expensive than it would be on land though.

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Bingo

 

There was bingo most days, with prizes including $$$ and even a cruise. The tickets were $20, $30, $40 and $60 (I think) and were the sort you pop out so no dobber required :(

 

Although we had loads of fun we didn't win a penny. When we go again I would just play the super game (with the cruise prize raffle) to cut down on cost!

 

They also did a really fun Deal or No Deal game which we sadly were too late to get tickets :(

 

I'm loving your review. Which night was Deal or No Deal, and how do you get tickets? This is something my daughters would love, but I didn't know tickets were required.

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Congratulations on your marriage! :) Why don't you just book another cruise! We'd love to see you August 7-14 embarking in ROME!

 

So enjoying your review! Keep it up!

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Shopping

 

I was surprised that there weren't any shops selling things like toothpaste, paracetomal, toothbrushes etc.

 

There is a small selection of expensive necessaries available on each NCL ship including items for personal hygiene, painkillers, medicine for flu/cough/sea sickness, etc. IIRC on Epic the shelf was in the far left back corner in the shop that sells liqour, it's quite well hidden so missing it is very understandable - hopefully you didn't need anything of the kind too bad. :)

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