Post # 2 in my Mediterranean Adventure series…..The Cruise!
This adventure all started because I saw a friend posting photos of a cruise she was on. The photos were all of places that I still had on my bucket list and they were so amazing! I messaged her and asked her what cruise she was on. She told me it was on Norwegian’s Epic and was a seven day Mediterranean cruise. So, I looked it up and fell in love with the itinerary…..the the current deals! Like WOW!!! I gave it a lot of thought over the next few days – could I afford it, could I get away, when would be the best time to go, etc….I finally decided to just bite the bullet and go! I picked a week that had the best rates and I booked it! I ended up sailing August 9-16.
The Norwegian Epic – docked in Barcelona
The cruise began and ended in Rome, Italy and consisted of seven ports in seven days. The itinerary included stops in:
Bucket List Items to be checked off:
This was my first cruise since I cruised the Hawaiian Islands in January 2020 – just before Covid hit and changed the travel world! I considered another cruise late last year and this spring, but I wasn’t ready, yet…..I felt like the cruise lines were still feeling their way through the post-Covid era and it just didn’t feel right – yet! But, I was ready when this opportunity came up! Also, the negative Covid test requirement to be allowed to return to the US had been dropped and the negative Covid test requirement to get on the cruise ship was set to be dropped before my boarding date. So, that stressful step was no longer a concern. I still had to have proof of vaccination before I could board the ship, but that was no problem at all. So, I’m back on the cruise scene and so happy about it!
I do want to make note of a few MAJOR disappointments on this cruise……First and most importantly – NO TOWEL ANIMALS!!! I absolutely LOVE towel animals – some cruises leave one every day, some every other day, but this one didn’t do any at all….I kept waiting to find one and was not a happy camper when I got to the last night and didn’t get a single one! Second — NO CANDY ON MY PILLOW!!! My room steward was awesome and he did do turn down service every night and was very attentive…..but, he didn’t leave a single piece of candy on my pillow for an end of day treat…..yeah, not a happy camper about that, either! And finally, NO lobster night or formal night! Sad!
Two big changes the cruise line(s) have made – at least Norwegian, can’t speak for sure about the others – post-Covid that I hope they continue on with regardless of what else goes back to “normal”:
1) The boarding process – you used to arrive at the port whenever you wanted to up to the final boarding time. It usually resulted in massive lines and crowds. Now – you sign up for a boarding time and they only allot a certain amount of people for each time slot. I felt it went much more smoothly and it resulted in our rooms being ready much quicker – they used to clear rooms by deck, now they clear them by the boarding time slots.
2) The muster drill – you used to have to gather at your muster station all at once at a specified time before the ship could sail, listen to the safety instructions, and be checked in that you were there. Now, you watch the safety video on-line prior to getting to the ship, the web site verifies you watched it, and then, when you get on ship, the first thing you do is go to your muster station to get your key card scanned to prove you know where it is and off you go! There is a drill later in the day before the ship sails, but it is only for anyone who didn’t follow the instructions and do what they were supposed to do. Sooooooo much better!!!
So, let’s get on with it – all about the cruise ship!
I started the trip with two days in Rome – see the post called “2022 Mediterranean Adventure – Rome, Italy” for more on that. Then, Tuesday, August 9th, I boarded the Norwegian Epic to start the cruise part of the trip!
Pulling out of the Port of Rome
I did something a bit different for this cruise. I usually choose a balcony cabin – I like sitting on the balcony in the morning with a cup of tea, at night to watch the sunset and relax, or to read during the day on “at sea” days. I just really like having the balcony. But – it comes at a cost! I am usually a solo cruiser – my travel buddies don’t always like to do cruises and I do, so I typically go them alone. The cost of any cabin is based on double occupancy, so a solo cruiser generally has to pay roughly double what it would cost if there was a roommate to share the expenses – of course, sometimes you can find deals that bring that down, but that’s the basic idea. But…..now, many of the cruise lines are offering solo cabins – Norwegian was the first to do this, from what I understand. Norwegian calls their solo cabin “Studio Cabins”. They are smaller and only inside – no ocean view and no balconies. But, they do have some benefits – first, they are priced for single occupancy….next, they are in their own section of the ship that can only be accessed with a studio key card…..and, finally, the section has a Studio Lounge that is only available to those who have a Studio Cabin – it has ample comfortable seating to read, mingle, etc., games and chess boards, a TV, a bar, and a 24/7 coffee / tea station with snacks. So — since this cruise didn’t have any “at sea” days and all the cruising between ports was at night, I decided to give the Studio Cabin a try. I ended up liking it — oh, I still missed my balcony, but, given the right cruise and situation, I would choose the Studios again! My cabin was comfortable and all I really needed and the lounge was a nice perk.
The room is 100 square feet with a bed, ample storage space, a desk, a sink, a shower, and a water closet (toilet in a room with a door). I did have one complaint on my first night – the mattress pad was hard, lumpy, and had a hard binding around two sections that was bunched up causing much of the bed to be painful to sleep on. I told the room steward – said I understood they needed to protect the mattresses, but was there anything he could do to make it more comfortable? He asked if I could get by one more night and he would find a solution the next day (I caught up with him towards the end of the day after my first sleepless night). I said yes……the next afternoon, he showed me that he changed the pad and it was perfectly comfortable from then on! Don’t be afraid to mention issues to your room steward – they are more than willing to help if they can!
All the photos that look “blue” is due to a blue ambience lighting in the hallway…..
My room steward – Nurdiantara Yatiman – he was awesome!
I did three review videos that I’ll include at the end of this post, if you’re interested in more details about these studio cabins.
Some other photos from around the ship:
All the officers of the ship – the department heads – introduced by the Cruise Director
That’s Corsica in the background
I have mixed reviews of the food on the ship. The buffet had a lot of very good options – tons of fresh fruit that was amazing and a different theme each night. I also had a voucher for one specialty restaurant that I used on my first night and it was AWESOME. But, the main dining room was a disappointment. I remember feeling the same way on the one other Norwegian cruise I was on.
All these plates were from the buffet — fruit, ice cream, breakfast — all very good!
For my specialty dining night, I chose Cagney’s Steak House – EXCELLENT!!! I had a shrimp cocktail, a delicious ribeye steak cooked perfectly with a baked potato, raspberry creme brulee, and a glass of Riesling. It was all so delicious!
For the main dining room – the first night I had the Singapore Pork Potstickers and the Hawaiian Pork Belly with mashed yams – VERY GOOD!!! The next meal I had there started out good with coconut shrimp with orange marmalade – awesome – and ended with delicious eclairs, but the main course was pecan crusted turkey medallions with some kind of weird mess under them – not a fan! But, the last time I gave the main dining room a try was the last straw…..I got the roasted butternut squash soup that was OK, a salad with candied walnuts and sliced pears that was delicious, and the prime rib – I was really looking forward to it and it looked so good……but, I couldn’t cut it – it actually hurt my hands trying – and the one bite I did get torn away to eat I had to chew forever before I could swallow it. So, I left it and went up to the buffet and got some fruit and ice cream! hahaha
The entertainment on cruises is always top notch! But, this cruise went way above top notch! They had a group called “Epic Beatles” – a Beatles tribute band and they were amazing! They played in the main theater three nights – each a different show! And, there was a lounge on the ship called “The Cavern Club” after the original Cavern Club in Liverpool where the Beatles used to play when they were getting started. They did two shows there – a “Sgt Pepper” show and an “Abbey Road” show – I missed the “Sgt Pepper” show cause it was a rough day and I fell asleep. But I did catch the “Abbey Road” show and it was wonderful! I sat with two other ladies who both said they were major Beatles fans “even though they broke up before we were even born”…..hahaha!!!
I saw two other entertainment shows that were both really good, too — both announced that photography was prohibited, so I only have photos of the posters. One was called “Burn The Floor” and was a musical about ballroom dancing through the ages. The other was “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” – a Broadway musical about three drag queens traveling across the Australian Outback in a broken down RV – very good!!!
Another really cool club was the “Ice Bar”! I was curious about it and made a reservation for one evening – so glad I did! It was fun! It is a room that is kept at 17 degrees F. Everything in there is a frozen ice sculpture – the bar, the seats, the glasses, the decorations – everything! They give you a poncho and gloves and you’re allowed to stay inside for up to 15 minutes and have up to 2 drinks. I chose the non-alcoholic “Day at the Beach” – strawberry puree, pineapple juice, and lemon juice — sooooo good!!! What a fun experience!
That’s me behind the bar that kept changing colors!!!
A few other ships I saw in various ports:
So, that’s the cruise……every day we did a different port and that’s what the next few posts will focus on…..watch for the specific posts for each port coming soon!
Here are some videos — first, the finale number of the Epic Beatles in the main theater performance:
And, here are the three review videos I did about the Studio Cabins – Part One is the Cabin, Part Two is the Lounge, and Part Three is the Verdict:
PART ONE – The Cabin:
PART TWO – The Lounge:
PART THREE – The Verdict: