Norwegian Cruise Lines - EPIC

Pippa Wilson on 30 August 2021
I was very fortunate to be invited to join the Norwegian Cruise Line Ship ‘Norwegian Epic’ on their soft opening experience. After 500 days of no sailings this was a chance to test out staff and crew procedures before paying guests were on board. We were given the ‘cork and caps’ wine and beer package, a complimentary speciality dining package (on top of the other restaurants) so that we can sample a wide array of unique restaurants on board and free internet.

I flew from Liverpool to Barcelona which was my first flight since the start of the pandemic. The airport was like a ghost town and the flight pretty empty. Everyone wore face masks and everything was clean, hand sanitiser available everywhere and it all felt very safe. I took the train into Barcelona where I had booked an overnight hotel in the El Born area of the city close to the docks. I was due to board between 10 and 10:30 the next morning.

A short cab ride to the docks and what an impressive sight, seeing EPIC waiting for us – she looked spectacular. After being dropped off my our taxi, the suitcases were tagged and whisked away and I was guided to the covid testing tents where QR codes were checked and a nasal swab taken. Not ten minutes bad passed before my negative result was received and I made my way to the check in area. I had completed online check in so it was all very swift and it was 25 minutes from arrival at the port to opening the door to my balcony stateroom on board.

My case had not yet been delivered so I made my way up to the top deck to meet colleagues and to grab a snack and a drink. Deck 15 is where the band play, the larger pools and hot tubs are and is the main area on sea days to relax. There is also the Haven area two floors up at the front of the ship which is more exclusive and is additional cost.

Sailaway was at 5 and it was lovely to be up on deck to wave goodbye to Barcelona and head out to sea.

Knowing that I had two speciality dining options (only 21 restaurants on board and 8 of them were speciality) it was necessary to do a bit of planning and prebook the options. It was also necessary to prebook some of the shows so there is a need to do a bit of social planning. Every restaurant that we ate in was very different but with excellent quality and delicious food. Wines were great and the service on board from all staff was second to none. I tried the breakfasts in the main dining room ‘Taste’ and also the Irish bar ‘O’Sheehans’ and they both had a great variety of offerings. The main dining room did offer more in the way of waffles, fruits, muesli options and it was a brighter and preferable place to enjoy breakfast. The garden café on deck 15 also served a full buffet style breakfast option.

The entertainment ranged from fully blown shows with amazing costumes and choreography to cirque du soleil style acrobats, to Tina Turner tribute acts to dueling pianos. Such variety and certainly something for everyone. There were some very talented people on board. We found somewhere different every night both before and after the prebooked shows and never struggled to be entertained. My cabin was extremely comfortable with plenty of room. I was on my own however and it is advertised as 2/3 people so might have been a bit of a squash if there had been 3 of us. There wasn’t a huge amount of floor space or storage. The bed was very comfy though, and it had a good shower, plenty of towels and 2 chairs on the balcony with floor to ceiling windows. My steward came to introduce himself when he delivered my case and Dexter would make up my room each day and turn down my bed each evening.

On day 3 we woke up in Sardinia and I had booked a wine tasting excursion. We left the ship around 11:30 and drove through Cagliary with our guide giving us information at every turn. Due to covid restrictions we could only leave the ship on planned excursions and had no free time in the city but we were able to get off the bus at view points and take photographs. Once at the vineyard we had plenty of time to walk around and were expertly guided through the winery by the owner. We were introduced to their range of wines and also given a plate of Sardinian snacks to sample. The wines were delicious and I would have loved to buy a case but travelling hand luggage only with Ryan Air just didn’t allow me to do this. It was a great way to get to know some of my fellow travellers as we relaxed with a variety of glasses of wine.

I loved the sea days and the ability to just relax in the sun, lounge in the pools and enjoy the company of my colleagues and the new friends that I had made on board. Travelling on my own is a great way to get to know others and is all part of the fun. You’ll never be lonely cruising on your own.

Cleanliness and safety on board was paramount and facemasks worn by all when moving around the ship. It really did feel very safe. We all had to take a covid test within the 3 days before returning to the UK and NCL provided this on board – again this was all very efficient and expertly organised and the negative result was emailed to me and a printed copy placed on my bed in my stateroom. Norwegian Cruise Lines are an excellent company and I cannot fault the staff and crew on board. I wish them the very best of luck now that they are back cruising again. I am so grateful to them for the opportunity to experience all they have to offer on board and can confidently sell their cruise holidays to my clients.