Touristicogay was aboard on one of the most beautiful ships of NCL: Epic. With more than 4000 passengers it is one of the largest and most beautiful ships of the fleet. We left in Barcelona and visited Pompeii, Naples, Rome, Florence, Cannes and Palma de Mallorca. The cruise lasted 8 days. Here our report and assessment.
Norwegian is known for its freestyle concept. Granted, we were a little afraid of it, but this is unjustified. With freestyle you are going to eat when you want and with whom you will. You have many restaurants next to the buffet restaurant which are included in the price: the outdoor buffet, 2 a la carte restaurants, an Asian restaurant, a noodle bar and an Irish pub (where you can eat 24 hours a day). In very few cases, you had to wait a little, but this was easily solved by giving a beeper to the guests. Also in the buffet restaurant, the crowds were limited and by the many food stations was mostly a little row. Each cruise line must have to import this concept!
We had chosen for a balcony cabin. Many people complain about the small cabins and that is not unjustified. You have little space to you to dress up, but you can ask yourself the question how much time you spend there on such a big ship. NCL is also specialized in single cabins. Thereby you pay less than other cruise lines. Decision: a little more privacy, but it was not really disturbing.
With the freestyle concept you can eat where and when you want. The buffet restaurant has a wide choice and the meals were varied and delicious. The only flaw was that many dishes there were served lukewarm. Those who like to eat a la carte could visit Manhattan Room and Taste. It was amazing! Every day you had a different menu and plenty of choices.
Also the Asian restaurant and Irish pub had delicious meals. People who love noodles, will be disappointed walking outside the noodle restaurant. The plates were to easy. If u like more variety in your choices you can always choose for a specialty restaurant: French, Italian, Brazilian,..
U have a wide variety of bars and everyone is mostly quickly served anywhere. The choice and presentation of the cocktails was less than other companies. Despite your drinks package you need to sign each of the receipts. It frustrated many guests.
NCL excels in their shows. Most cruise lines make own productions, NCL chooses for international shows and artists. Priscilla Queen of the Desert is an award winning musical. Onboard you saw the full broadway production and it was just amazing: what a show!! Burn the floor was also a great production with a fantastic decor … by far amazing. You felt if you were in a Broadway theater. The fact that u had to reserve your places, was a good choice of NCL.
In the Cavern Club (reconstructed to the original bar from Liverpool) you could watch a performance of the Epic Beatles. I am no Beatle fan, but it was by far one of the most professional cover groups.: top entertainment. But also Soulsatisfaction was purely top. An American group with motown and soul in its purest form.
In the spiegeltent you could enjoy a delicious dinner while watching the performance of Cirque Dreams & Dinner. You felt at times in a close setting of cirque du soleil. It was a stunning and unique spectacle.
But also the other groups, musicians, etc. who played everywhere on board were of the highest level. In short, if you like professional entertainment and you would like to pay more for this, be sure to choose NCL … and many passengers shared that same opinion.
Activities on board
Epic has a lot of animation on board: swimming pools, whirlpools, sports fields, bowling alleys, sport fields, a gym and supper water slides. For the gamblers among us you have one of the largest casinos aboard a cruise ship and you could enjoy the spa area.
Epic also have an entertainment team on Board for the necessary activities during the day and evening. While Epic scores high with its international shows, it lacks quality in their own animation team. The team was little to be seen during the day (out of a faint line dance by the pool) and they organized shows where I had a HI-DE-HI feeling (the American serie about a summer camp). This works with American tourists, but not with European customers. They like a higher standard of animation on board a ship.
The disco was the place to be in the evening hours, but they could not convince. They even managed to screw up the most parties by a bad DJ. There was often even more crew on the dance floor than customers.
NCL surely needs to work on a more professional entertainment staff that has more contact with the guests. Its unprofessional when they all go sit in the back with cocktails and party on their own while there are still guests. Even the macho behavior of certain team members of the entertainment team bothered me enormously (and other guests).
Despite the high excursion prices they are very well organized and you get value for your money. Both in Pompeii as in Florence we had very professional guides. If you decided to go on your own, you got very good information on board. Its a shame that the day before they gave no information about the destination. Other cruise companies have this as an activity in their program. By NCL you had to read it on a screen.
as a guest we felled ourselves at home on the ship. Epic is a week your home and then you expect your crew to be friendly and personal. That feeling we had here for sure: with the cabin steward, in the restaurant and at the bar. The crew did their job with pleasure and many guests told me to have a good feeling aboard.
One of the most gayfriendly cruises
On Board were a lot of gaypeople: couples and singles. They choose sometimes for a normal cruise rather than a gaycruise. With the musical Priscilla, queen of the dessert, NCL programmed one of the gayest musicals on earth. Many other shows had their gaymoments too: Burn the floor, Cirque@dreams, … and also the crew were very gayfriendly.
The most surprising was the daily official activity of a meeting in the bar for all the LGBT guests on board of the ship. The cruise director told me that its organized on every ship of NCL. Thank you NCL for the gayfriendly touch. Despite the good organization of gaycruises, some people like to do other cruises too. And as an LGBT member we like to feel us at home and meet other LGBT guests to have dinner together, do an excursion or party on board. This makes NCL one of the most gayfriendly cruise agencies. We hope other cruise agencies program this too.
Who likes entertainment and international shows during his cruise should definitely choose for NCL. They are by far the best in the market. Also the freestyle principle is a bulls eye. This would have to be organized by other cruise companies. They score less on the personal entertainment and their smaller cabins. NCL is by far one of the most gayfriendly cruise companies.
But would I consider a next cruise by NCL? For sure! NCL is professional, gayfriendly and if you take the small flaws, you get definitely value for money.