As much fun as we had in Rome, it was also very tiring, so we were all very eager to get on the Norwegian Epic for some much needed R&R!
We’ve been sailing with the Disney cruise lines for the last 7 years, and it has really elevated our cruising standards, so I was a little nervous about experiencing a different cruise line this time around. The embarkation process proved to be extremely efficient, with zero lines and zero wait times. We later found out that this was because Rome is actually not the main embarkation port. Most people embark in Barcelona, and Rome is simply one of the port days for the majority of the guests on board. Therefore, I can’t really speak to the efficiency of the embarkation process had we boarded in Barcelona. We were just glad we picked to embark in Rome to skip all the lines and crowds!
Since Norwegian prices are less expensive than Disney, we decided to get balcony rooms for all of us. I shared a room with my sis and Bridgette, and we were disappointed that our balcony was one of those with just a window to the sea. I’m not sure if it was because we had a child in the room and these balconies are considered “safer” for kids, but we were totally expecting a full unobstructed view to the ocean!
The size of the cabin was fine for the 3 of us, but we definitely could’ve used more storage spaces for our clothes and luggages. It felt more snug than what we were use to with Disney, but the natural light from the balcony made up for it. Once we unpacked, we made our way around the ship to explore.
The vibe on the Norwegian Epic felt completely different than the vibe on a Disney Cruise. We were use to having this “magical” feel once we boarded the Disney, with friendly, cheerful staff greeting you in every corner and super excited kids running around. On the Norwegian Epic, there were hardly any kids in sight, and much of the guests were older and walking around with cocktail drinks in hand. The staff were courteous, but without much enthusiasm or energy.
Norwegian is known for their free-style cruising, which allows guests to dine whenever they want. While this freedom may sound great in theory, we found that in reality, it equated to a lot of lines and wait time, especially since we were a group of 7. There were 2 main dining rooms, and if you want to eat during the most popular window of times, there will likely be a line to get a table. As for all the other restaurants on board, the ones without any surcharges always had a ridiculous wait time (we waited 1.5 hours for the worst Chinese food in history!), and those that took reservations had a ridiculous surcharge up to $50+ per person! We found that we really missed Disney’s traditional dining style, where we were assigned a specific time to a specific restaurant, rotating everyday for a fresh experience, and had dedicated servers that we got to know well throughout the week. Both Disney and Norwegian have a buffet option too, if you prefer a more casual dining experience with a lot of choices for everyone, but Disney’s buffet selections were also better.
Entertainment was hugely disappointing for us too. On the Disney, there are 2 daily shows each day, and you would go to one or the other depending on the time of your dinner. Seats are guaranteed for everyone, and the shows are spectacular Broadway-shows that leave you yearning for more. On the Norwegian, we found that shows needed to be reserved ahead of time, and that means another long wait in line at designated times. We ended up not seeing any shows at all on the entire cruise.
The activities on the cruise didn’t fit us well either. Almost all were entirely geared towards adults, and the few that were more family-oriented were orchestrated in a rather disorganized and confusing way. We also weren’t used to having a casino on board. While my uncle was happy about that, I wasn’t so sure I liked seeing so much gambling and drinking in one small place.
Moving on to the Kids’ Club, I was expecting Disney to win hands-down, but surprisingly, Bridgette loved the Kids’ Club on Norwegian! I suspect it had more to do with the people she met there rather than the overall quality of the club and activities. She met a few friends that she really enjoyed hanging out with, and she also felt the counselors were welcoming and fun. What I didn’t like about Norwegian’s Kids Club is that they close during specific hours throughout the day. There would be random window of times that they are close, and also a surcharge if your kids stay during dinner time. Honestly, after paying all that money for the cruise, I just did not want to keep paying surcharges for everything on board!
Despite all the disappointing aspects of the cruise ship, the lack of activities and entertainment allowed my sis and I to enjoy a lot of laid back, quality time with one another. We’d hang out in our room to read and to chat, or find a quiet spot on the deck and enjoy a glass of wine together.
I’ll share all the different ports on this cruise in my upcoming posts, so stay tuned!