With international sailings making a comeback for many cruise lines, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) embarked on their first international sailing of 2021 on 7th August with a Caribbean sailing on-board Norwegian Joy. NCL currently have many international sailings including itineraries to the Mediterranean, Greek Isles, Transatlantic, Caribbean and many more for 2021, 2022 and 2023.

We were fortunate enough to have Cruise118.com colleagues on NCL’s Barcelona round-trip sailing, embarking 31st August for four nights on-board Norwegian Epic. Our team provided us with feedback surrounding the boarding process, what’s on-board and health and safety protocols during their time on this incredible ship.

Embarkation and Boarding Process

You can check-in via the NCL app, which will also allow you to pre-book any speciality dining. However, if you would prefer to check-in at the port, it’s not a problem and doesn’t cause any delays to your boarding process.

Top Tip: Flying from Manchester airport, we would recommend getting to the airport 3 hours early (rather than the usual 2 hours for short-haul and domestic flights), due to social distancing practices, along with the COVID vaccination status and protocols, baggage drop can be a bit of a slower process. 

Embarkation Checklist

  • Country entry form for Spain needs to be filled in before you board your flight
  • Travel insurance with adequate COVID cover is required
  • You will need to provide proof of your vaccination status at your departure airport, as well as any transit airports along with embarking on the ship.
  • You will need to provide a negative COVID test result, this was done at the port- they used the information in the target country’s passenger locator form to verify you and do your rapid lateral flow test
  • For debarkation, you will need to provide a negative COVID test result. This was provided by the cruise line; however, you will need to pre-book a COVID test for the second day of your return to the UK.

Top Tip: Download the pdf version of your proof of vaccination to your phone and/or print it off for a more streamlined process.

First Impressions of Norwegian Epic

For a first-time cruiser, the size of the ship can be overwhelming, we entered what looked like a beautiful, boutique hotel lobby, with plenty of staff on-hand to offer help and guidance to find our rooms and answer any queries.

The ship has a contemporary style, reminiscent of Las Vegas hotels with dark wood and creams as the colour schemes, glass desks for the customer information points and modern, crystal chandeliers.

Accommodation

We stayed in a balcony stateroom with a view that looked out of the side of the ship. The room was very comfortable for 2 adults and 1 child, with ample, integrated storage space.

The décor matched the rest of the ship, with dark wood furnishings and cream/off-white soft furnishings. The full-size wardrobe has an automatic light that comes on whenever you open the door, which was a very useful feature.

The shower is sensibly designed to prevent water from leaking out and the toilet is in a separate area to the shower altogether, meaning when you travel in a group nobody is fighting for the bathroom!

The room came equipped with a coffee machine, whilst coffee pods etc. were available via your cabin steward. The balcony door had extra locks to keep children safe- a brilliant feature in my opinion. There are three plug points in the room – next to the dressing table.

Top Tip: Bring a European or USA plug adapter for electrical appliances and for mobile phones and tablets, ensure you pack a mains plug.

Entertainment and Activities

Entertainment on-board included live music such as a Beatles cover band at the Cavern Club which was amazing. Live music on the pool deck added to the fun, holiday feeling and Ice & Fire show at the Headliners Comedy Club covered popular music from the 60s to the 00s.

Howl at the Moon duelling pianist show at Headliners Comedy Club is an amazing concept, it really got the crowd involved and engaged, while the Epic Theatre showed Priscilla – Queen of the Desert production which was a brilliant Broadway-style production. Social distancing was maintained within the theatre and the show was spectacular! The audience can submit song requests for the pianists to play, it’s very casual but raucous, great if you feel like your days of clubbing are over, but you still fancy a night-out feeling.

The entertainment venues were easy enough to navigate to, there are deck plans provided at all the elevators, but all members of staff were happy to help. Reservations for activities/shows can be done through the app, but reservations are on speed-dial in your cabin so you can call up and reserve any activities you’re interested in. There is a big focus on music and dance on-board in terms of entertainment, with something for adults of all ages. 

Another favourite activity is the Aqua Park which consists of two pools, five hot tubs, a kids pool, three multi-storey water slides and the 200-foot Epic Plunge as well as the only bowl slide at sea.

All venues are signposted with their maximum capacity to maintain social distancing.

Dining and Drinks

Dining on-board was brilliant. The service was exceptional, with plates cleared away quickly and glasses topped up frequently. Hard copy menus are available on request, but menus are also available digitally via QR codes. The restaurant capacity restrictions were clearly sign-posted and with so many dining venues on-board, if one restaurant was full there were at least three more on the same deck that you could visit. 

In terms of allergies, if you provided details of these pre-departure, the staff always check and advise on the menu if there are any items that might cause issues.

We had two speciality dining options built into our package, we managed to make reservations at La Cucina and Moderno Churrascaria. 

At La Cucina, the speciality Italian restaurant, the food was delicious, and the portion sizes were very generous. We had a couple of special requests, such as half portions on the desserts, which the staff happily accommodated.

The garden café (main dining hall) provided so much variety, the buffet no longer works as a self-service restaurant, you simply point at the items you want and a member of staff will serve them on your plate.

On our final evening, we visited Taste restaurant, which was great, it had an upmarket, contemporary feel with a condensed bistro style menu and ambience.   

The portion sizes everywhere on-board were very generous and the staff had no issues accommodating the requests we put to them.

With the corks and caps package, you have access to a selection of beers and wines. Drinks were priced similarly to up-market bars, with cocktails costing between $10 and $15. For a nice evening meal, my favourite place was Taste, the food was exceptional there. For a more relaxed feeling, I really enjoyed the food and ambience at O’Sheehan’s bar, a combination of an Irish bar and an American Sports bar.

Service

The service on-board Norwegian Epic was unparalleled, everyone greets you wherever you go and their smiles are genuine, you can see how pleased everyone is that cruise is back.

Service in Moderno’s was especially exceptional, they checked on allergies in our group and escorted us around the salad bar to ensure no cross-contamination. In addition to that, the restaurant manager asked where we would be dining the following day and passed on a note to the restaurant making them aware of allergies, a true demonstration of exceptional service.

Overall Review

It was nice to know you could do the cruise without spending a penny on-board. The food, including the buffet, exceeded expectations and the quality was far better than some of the dining venues you can find yourself in when on a city break. In terms of shows and the variety of entertainment options on-board suggested any interests could be catered for, again without having to pay additional costs for. Overall the experience on-board Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic was great, for a first-time cruiser it’s certainly started a new trend for the annual holiday!

If our review on Norwegian Epic interests you, browse our itineraries and secure your sailing on-board Norwegian Cruise Lines!

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Mandi Webb

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