NCL Epic - Barcelona

Su Dillon on 01 September 2021
Anyone who knows me, know I love a cruise. It’s been so upsetting seeing all the cruise ships laid up over the last 12months. Even on my recent visit to the South coast saw three ships anchored in Torbay

So, imagine how excited I was when invited on a “test-cruise” for Norwegian Cruise Line. A 4-night trip for travel trade and NCL staff. To trial all new systems and protocols, before the first commercial sailing. The ships have been out of service commercially for over 500days

Not only was I excited to be getting on-board a ship but also to be flying again. I'm now able to give some first-hand feed back to my clients who are keen to get away Being double vaccinated was a rule to travel, but on top of which were tested before we left home. We used Randox service, delivered to our home and then a local drop off box in Hull mid afternoon

I received an email shortly before midnight to acknowledge receipt of the test at the lab. By 06:30 the following morning – negative test result came back. So – we we’re off!

Flying from East Midlands,. The airport was very quiet- and considering that it was August and still the school holidays. The flight was not full and so we were quire lucky to have a row of 3 to the 2 of us. We wouldn't usually buy food and drink on a flight to be honest. Having the option to remove face coverings to do so was a welcome break for half an hour or so.

On arrival we were taken to the ship by short coach journey. We were then greeted by NCL staff and guided through their testing facility. It was exceptionally well organized. Less than 30 mins we were both tested, results back and free to get on board.

We have done a ship visit before on Norwegian Getaway and loved the vibe on board the ship. We were thrilled to feel the same once we got on board EPIC . It's one of total relaxation, space , modern decor and friendly staff First stop of course the cabin with a Balcony. Personally, I don’t like Inside cabins. Yet, I have lots of clients who are happy with them - as simply want the best price. It depends how long you think you’ll spend in there. I love the outdoor space. Albeit not that big it’s great the fresh air and spend some time watching the world go by out on your own deck.

I’ll not detail exactly how the next few days were spent, but in outline we were blown away. All the crew were attentive, couldn’t do enough for you – and so glad to be back to work after so long. Understandably. there were not as many people on-board as would be. None the less, we could tell the public areas are so well spaced out you have lots of your own room.

We were asked to wear masks when moving around the ship. We could take them off in the bars/restaurants once seated or in the outdoor areas. As the sun was out in Barcelona it seemed like the best place to see the sail-away of the ship.

The choice of dining options on board was fabulous. Sadly, we didn’t have time to sample them all. We experienced Moderna the Brazilian resultant – a must of any meat lover. A spectacular dinner show – Zambuka. This took place inside the “Big-top and” features acts from the World of "Got talent" shows. We also enjoyed a 3 course dinner in Taste one of two main dining rooms. Possibly our favourite was “O’Sheehans “. Open around the clock for food on demand and we enjoyed a couple of LATE breakfasts in here too.

O Sheehans was also our favourite spot to enjoy a drink as it was centrally located. Spacious and could see around the main atrium from here. Our other favourite for an evening was Shakers. Here we enjoyed had live-entertainment in the evenings. Also close to the Ice-Bar where you can book to go in for an ICE cold Vodka Frozen chamber (warm clothes provided)

As well as "Zambooka" I mentioned there are other theatre shows which feature on all ships. On this one was Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Our favourite bar was the Headliners. One evening featured a Tina Turner tribute who was amazing . But the best fun was "Howl at the moon" - 2 guys playing pianos taking requests. They were on stage non-stop for about 4 hours. They had the place rocking! it was an absolute tonic to enjoy live music, dancing and people generally having a really good time!

Like most ships you can do as much or as little as you want with sports , games , quizzes etc going on around the ship all day . We managed to come joint 1st in a quiz on world-wide land marks. The ship was full of travel agents if we didn’t get them right there’s something wrong??

A cruise isn’t a cruise without a shop sale?! Lots of bargains to be had from sunglasses and bags, to perfume and gifts. We saw most people walking through the bars with plastic bags it was hard to resist! I don’t think I need any more handbags but like I say too hard to resist at $16 right and a bit of Xmas shopping to boot!

Being an American ship the casino was larger than you might see on some ships. Lots of slot machines and gaming tables. Not so many passengers on board meant this was quite empty most evenings. Again great cleanliness was being adhered to – social distance etc and we felt safe. We love a game of Craps even though we haven’t got a clue what we’re doing but it’s good fun!

The ship only docked in one port on this cruise - so we saw Sardinia from afar. We opted not to get off as there was so much to see and do onboard we wanted to see as much as possible.

A few my colleagues and I were invited to take a look around the “Haven” section on board. With it’s larger suites and extra facilities , we could sure see the value in the upsell to this category . Also on board they have an area for solo traveller. Single passengers can stay in the purpose- built studios. They are not paying the double premium for single occupancy. They can also get together with like-minded travellers if they wish too

Dress code on board is relaxed, nothing formal. Although shorts and swimwear are not allowed at dinner. This is pretty norm and most cruisers will tell you they love dressing up for dinner anyway

One final things on board was the arrangement of testing for coming back to the UK. We were given a time and a venue to attend, again very slick operation and results delivered to the cabin

I thoroughly enjoyed my first time back to sea since December 19 – and loved NCL. I am now looking to book a group cruise in July 2022. If anyone would like to know more and perhaps join the party – please get in touch