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Dabsunshine

New Cruiser, Feeling Overwhelmed (Norwegian Epic, Western Med.)

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My mom, myself and my daughters are taking a girls trip on the Norwegian Epic to the Western Mediterranean this summer.  We are so excited but have only been outside of the US once and none of us are experienced cruisers. We are trying to understand everything and get the planning done, but we are so overwhelmed. This is a once in a lifetime trip for us (three generations spending time together is priceless), and we don't want to miss a thing.  What I am having the most trouble with is planning the excursions. I am not sure which ports to do an excursion in, and I was looking at Viator but I am terrified of missing the ship by planning an excursion on my own.  The one I want to do in Florence/Pisa is 12 hours! My daughters are 19 and 22 and we are each paying for our own excursions so we are on a bit of a budget. If money were no object this would be a lot easier. I am looking for advice on excursions.  Which ones are good, which ones are not worth it, should I book through the cruise ship? I am really interested in seeing the Ruins in Pompeii, the Sistine Chapel, the beautiful cities on the mountainsides, the Tuscan countryside, enjoying delicious foods, a bit of wine tasting, and some reasonable shopping (not high end designer shopping but more getting some beautiful/unique things to bring home) shopping. I am not interested in seeing every single busy tourist attraction there is to see but I don't want to miss the big stuff and I want to explore some of the beautiful small towns and villages. I love architecture, castles, etc. (things I cannot see in the US) and I also would like to have some leisurely time to see some things and spend some time. I like to enjoy and appreciate the culture and history when I am somewhere else. We are starting in Barcelona, then Naples/Pompeii, Rome, Florence/Pisa, Cannes, Palma Majorca, then back to Barcelona. I know I am asking for a lot here but any and all suggestions anyone can offer would be amazing! 

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First, I suggest you find the roll call here for your cruise.  https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/446-norwegian-epic-roll-calls/  

Look for a thread with the dates for your cruise.  That is where you can connect with other CC members on your sailing and see what they are planning.  Also visit the Ports of Call boards here for Europe  https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/8-europe/  and see what people have done/recommend.  You are not going to have the time to relax and digest what you are seeing, except in Barcelona where presumably you are going in a couple of days early, or are staying over at the end.  You can't do it all in one visit/cruise.  It's just a taster.  To help you decide where you would like to revisit.  Get a guidebook.  Rick Steves has some good ones for cruisers:  Rick Steves' Mediterranean Cruise Ports  tells you what there is to see in each port, how much you can do in the time you have in port.  On his website he has free audio tours you can download to ipod/mp3/phone and schematic maps you can print out to help you find your way.  Do you have your passports in order?  EM

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Hi,

As you are new to cruising and travel on budget, I would suggest that you compare prices with this ship/itinerary:

MSC Seaview

Barcelona, Ajaccio, Genoa, La Spezia, Rome/Civitavecchia, Cannes, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona

4 departure dates: Jun 6, 13, 20, 27 2020

 

NCL Epic requires a lot of planning in advance just to be able to enjoy the ship.

What cabin o you have?

Are you three in one cabin (balcony, interior)?

Balcony cabins on the Epic are studios with no separate bathroom (the facilities are in your cabin, but not in a separate room). It may turn your cruise into a disaster if you are three in one cabin.

If you can get a better price for the Seaview (and agree to add Genoa and Ajacco instead of Naples) don't hesitate to change your booking. It's not a big deal - just change if you see something better. Compare excursion prices as well.

You'll get far more pleasant ship that is easier to use, with better cabins.

As to the excursions..

Florence - book through the ship to make sure you don't miss the ship.

Cannes - same thing (I would take an excursion to Nice if available).

Rome & Palma - on your own.

In case of MSC Seaview - Genoa on your own. Ajacco  - not sure.

Any questions? Yes please...

Happy cruising!

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Thank you so much for this information. I will check out the links you posted. I just don’t want to have any regrets for anything we didn’t do. I am sure we will find a place or two, (or several) we will want to revisit in the future. We are staying for a couple of days in Barcelona at the end of our trip. We had an exchange student from Madrid who has become like a part of our family. If possible I would like to use that time to meet up with her but I don’t know if that will be possible. All of our passports are in order.
We are all staying in one Stateroom cabin with a balcony (B5), FOUR WOMEN WITH ONE BATHROOM! This has occurred to us and we were a bit worried about it, I did not know about the no bathroom situation though.  I am more concerned now after reading your post. I will definitely check into it a bit further.

Thank you so much for the information!

Edited by Dabsunshine
Wanted to respond to a post made to me

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Regarding the bathroom situation- I've never sailed NCL, but on the lines we have sailed on , the gym had bathrooms with showers and hair dryers. There's no reason that a couple of you couldn't use those to free up the bathroom in your own cabin.

 

As for excursions- peel back your expectations. You won't be able to do everything you want to do and that's all there is to it. Pick one thing in each port that everyone can agree on. Or agree to split up and do your own thing if necessary. Use the resources mentioned above to fine tune and narrow your choices. The cruise lines love to take advantage of the paranoia of some cruisers about missing the ship. Independent tours/guides know that their reputation depends on getting their customers back on time.  But seriously- what's the worst thing that can happen? If you miss the ship, you hop on a plane or train and meet the ship at the next port. Yeah, it will cost money, but that's not the end of the world.

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I think the best thing is to research your ports before (way before) you set sail, decide what's important for you to see....then go from there.  On a cruise, you cannot see/do EVERYTHING...and your 

 "group" may have different wants/needs, too.  I would tell everyone to write down what THEY want to do...compare lists...then everyone can join up with "like-minded" folks and go and have fun.  Honestly...the larger the group, the more arguments you will have with each other....not everyone wants to do the same thing at the same time.  Save your "together" time for meals on the ship.  Otherwise, let everyone do their own thing.

 

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20 hours ago, Dabsunshine said:

Thank you so much for this information. I will check out the links you posted. I just don’t want to have any regrets for anything we didn’t do. I am sure we will find a place or two, (or several) we will want to revisit in the future. We are staying for a couple of days in Barcelona at the end of our trip. We had an exchange student from Madrid who has become like a part of our family. If possible I would like to use that time to meet up with her but I don’t know if that will be possible. All of our passports are in order.
We are all staying in one Stateroom cabin with a balcony (B5), FOUR WOMEN WITH ONE BATHROOM! This has occurred to us and we were a bit worried about it, I did not know about the no bathroom situation though.  I am more concerned now after reading your post. I will definitely check into it a bit further.

Thank you so much for the information!

 

As others have mentioned, there isn't time to do everything.  I have found on some family trips we are so exhausted trying to be sure we don't miss anything that we barely remember/enjoy anything.  I would advise everyone listing there "must sees" and evaluate how many of those are possible.  For me, it would be better to see less but it be really memorable than have the regret of cramming too much in.

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This is a great itinerary and I loved the ship. I planned/booked every excursion separate from NCL for much less money. I’d been to some of the places already so I was probably more relaxed about some of the excursions/ports. If you prefer guided tours/excursions it might take more prep. I used a couple of sites/apps (but I don’t know if we can name them?) 
 

Having said that, I enjoyed my time on the ship just as much (if not more) than the ports! Agree with all the advice about not being able to see everything. Don’t feel like you have to spend the entire day at the ports... it can get tiring to get up early and do stuff every day. On the ship, I would definitely recommend seeing Burn the Floor if it’s playing. 

Edited by ammorgan86

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I could be wrong, but I don’t think there are locker rooms attached to the gym, just in the spa.

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Don't forget the local railways as a way to get around and see quite a lot in a short time.

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Hi Dabsunshine, 

 

Welcome to Cruise Critic. 

 

I would strongly suggest booking at least two or three excursions with the ship, this way you are assured of making it back in time. If you're NCL Epic tour is late returning the ship will wait, if you book independently it will not. 

 

Judging from your itinerary and the ports you have listed as being interested in, I think you should consider booking three excursion/transfers through the ship and doing the rest of the ports on your own. 

 

Cannes, France - Do not miss the opportunity of exploring the South of France on a ship sponsored tour. This was one of our favorite port visits. There are so many wonderful, beautiful places to visit like Nice, Saint Paul de Vence; a medieval village with a thrilling view of the valley below. 

 

NCL offers an excursion to Saint Paul de Vence don't miss it, it so breathtaking and unique. 

 

After the tour you will time to stroll around Cannes which is beautiful. 

 

Livorno (Pisa) If you want to visit Pisa, it's only about a 30 minute ride by bus. Your ship will probably  have an excursion there. You can also take a train from Livorno where the ship docks which only takes 15 minutes. Your ship is only in port for 12 hours so you wouldn't be able to book the Viator tour.  

 

Rome - Book the transfer thru the ship. It takes about an hour to get into Rome from Civitavecchia where the ship docks. You can do Rome on your own from there, whether it's the Colisseum, 

The Sistine Chapel or the Trevi Fountain or many other things. 

 

There is also a train from Civitavecchia to Rome but, the ship transfers are great. They take you right to the center of the city, you'll have 5 or 6 hours to explore before your return trip to the ship. It is much less stressful to book the ship transfer and not worry about dealing with trains and different schedules. 

 

Naples - You can walk on your own. 

 

Palma Majorca is also doable on your own. 

 

This is one option where you book at least one full excursion, two ship transfers and do the other two ports on your own. Do some research on Tripadvisor.com and check out the port of call boards here at Cruise Critics and the links provided above. Also pick up a good guide book that covers the Western Med. like Frommers or Fodors. 

 

Have a wonderful cruise to the Western Mediterranean this summer!

 

Jonathan

 

 

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Thank you for taking the time to give me such an honest and thoughtful reply. This sounds like great advice! 

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26 minutes ago, Dabsunshine said:

Thank you for taking the time to give me such an honest and thoughtful reply. This sounds like great advice! 

My pleasure. Europe is such an interesting and beautiful place to explore. You and your family will have a blast. 

 

Jonathan

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There is always a question of how much time you have to research all of the destinations.  You can get one (or more) of the Rick Steves books to get some quick rundowns on the various ports.  In my case, I always plan to do all kinds of research, but life gets in the way too often.

 

As for me, we always use private tours.  Despite the comment that the ships wait for their tours to get back, I have never heard of a private tour not getting back in time -- these people's livelihoods depend on their dependability and they know it.  Plus most of the private tour operators know the ships' schedules better than the cruise lines.

 

I start by spending a good bit of time in the Ports of Call section of CC to a) find out what people like and dislike in various ports, and to see which guides and tour operators seem to be best.  I don't go by any single comment, but rather look for what looks like the majority view on the tour companies/guides.  I then get in touch with the ones that seem to rate better, and make arrangements.  Private tours are generally cheaper if you have anywhere from four to eight people.  You can find the things you want to do, make reservations, and then go on the Roll Call for your cruise, that has been suggested already, and ask if anyone wants to join your group.  Alternatively, you can go on the Roll Call and see if anyone is looking for more people for a private tour that they have arranged.

 

Private tours tend to move around faster, can be modified if you hear of something you want to do and is not on the listed itinerary, or delete something that you hear is not worthwhile.  You also get much more interaction with the guide -- something that is often difficult on a large bus, particularly if you are not seated in the very front.  Ships' tours move as slowly as the slowest  person on the tour, so people with mobility issues often slow the tours down, as do people who are less-than-considerate in getting back to the bus when they are supposed to.  In the time allotted, private tours will generally hit more of the sights than a ship's tour.

 

As for Barcelona, in my quick reading of the other notes, I did not see anyone suggest the Sagrada Familia Cathedral designed by Gaudi.  I cannot image that you would not include that in your time there, but it is an incredibly beautiful structure.

 

 

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