Cruising the Norwegian Epic and sailing the Western Mediterranean? In this cruise Norwegian Epic review, you will find the good, the bad, and the ugly.
This year we were not going to cruise. My plans were to spend it exploring parts of Spain and maybe even hop over to Portugal. We played around with the idea and a few itineraries, but nothing that overly excited one or the other. That was until I found a great deal on Norwegian Cruise Line for a week cruising the Western Mediterranean on the Norwegian Epic.
It fit our budget and docked at multiple ports of interest. Plus, it started and ended in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. We wouldn’t be able to explore Southern Spain with the limited time we had, but at least I would get to check off Barcelona and some other nearby areas off my bucket list.
The Epic is Norwegian’s cruise line’s first mega-ship. It launched in 2009 and at the time it was the 3rd largest cruise ship in the world. It was last refurbished in 2015. In the past couple of years or so, the Epic has been exploring the Mediterranean before returning back to the Caribbean during the winter months.
Before booking this cruise, I had warned hubby about the mixed reviews of the ship. I had heard about the weird layout, the closed-off public spaces, and the oddly shaped cabin with the not-so-private bathroom.
We decided the itinerary was enough for us and we’d make our own judgments on the ship. In the past, we read a lot of mixed reviews on certain ships due to the variety of personalities and expectations and found it was far from what we ended up experiencing. We now understand what makes this ship different from the others and also noticed the downfall with service compared to all our other cruises.
While the itinerary was fantastic, I can’t say the same for the cruise ship itself. The Epic left a lot to be desired. I will be honest about our experience cruising on the Norwegian Epic. Was it the worst cruise that we have taken? No. Did Norwegian lose points with us? Yes.
7 Day Western Mediterranean Cruise Itinerary
Day 1 – Barcelona, Spain
Day 2- Sea Day
Day 3 – Naples, Italy
Day 4 – Civitavecchia, Italy
Day 5 – Livorno, Italy
Day 6 – Cannes, France
Day 7 – Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Day 8 – Arrive & disembark in Barcelona, Spain
See how we spent Three Days in Girona, Spain after we disembarked in Barcelona.
Please note: this post was written and published pre-COVID.
Keep up to date with COVID guidelines by visiting Norwegian’s health and safety protocols.
In the meantime, take advantage of the cruise deals for a 2021 cruise vacation.
Cruising the Norwegian Epic Review
Barcelona Cruise Port Embarkation
I was pleasantly surprised by how painless the check-in process was at the Barcelona cruise port. Lines were short, close to non-existent; a rarity in our experience. They were also efficient and informative. For the first time, we were given a map of the ship (we later find out that a map is desperately needed to get around). We waited no longer than 15 minutes for our number to be called to embark. It was a relatively great start.
Nothing exciting to report. The ship sailed away at the expected time. We watched the sunset from the top deck and then popped into the sail away party taking place at Spice H20. When it started to rain, we decided to explore the interior of the ship.
Cruising the Norwegian Pearl
See why the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship is one of our favorite ships.
Our Balcony Cabin
Our cabin was mid-ship on deck 10, cabin # 10163. Sadly, I did not get a proper video of the room this time. If you would like to be near the elevators, I wouldn’t book a room mid-ship.
As mentioned previously, the cabin is oddly shaped in curves, like the room was one big wave. I do not think anyone would be comfortable sleeping on the curved sofa in that room, but there is storage space behind it if needed.
The bathroom was different and if you’re sharing the cabin with someone you are not 100% comfortable with, you may be in for a rude awakening. There is no actual separate room for the bathroom itself. As soon you enter the room, you’ll find the shower to your right and the toilet to the left. Both have frosted slide doors you can close for “privacy”. The sink is next to the shower for all in the room to use. We didn’t have any issues with this arrangement, but I can see others who would.
The cabin is modern with a flat-screen television. Tons of storage space room to put away your belongings. You can shove your luggage underneath the bed for storage space.
Service on the Norwegian Epic
Service was hit & miss throughout the ship. O’Sheehan’s had the worst service. We usually love this establishment on the other ships, but on the Epic there was always a problem at the 24hr pub.
In the main dining room, it all depended on where you sat and who your waiter was for the night. Some waiters just seemed severely overwhelmed and spread out thin, which I can only fault the management for.
Our room steward was great. We met him a few days after our cruise started, but that didn’t bother us. He always took care of cleaning up our room during the day while we were gone and turning it down for us at dinner time. He did ask us multiple times if there were any special requests, he can take care of for us.
Many crew members on the ship were kind & hospitable, but there were plenty that seemed miserable to be there. I understand we are all human and we have days we don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning, but when you keep facing the same kind of attitude throughout the ship, you have to wonder what the management is doing wrong.
My favorite crew members were the washy-washy folk. Thank you for always being so cheery and brightening up my day before I’ve even had my coffee.
NCL Epic’s Spa & Barbershop
I convinced hubby to treat himself to the spa because he works his butt off and rarely gets to do nice things for himself like this back home. He decided to do a men’s facial with a shave and the hot stone pedicure. The pedicure turned out to be fantastic and better than he expected. The fire and ice pedicure is highly recommended. The facial and the shave not so much.
There is a cute old school looking barbershop on this ship that looks like a great place for a nice shave. This is where the facial took place, not at their spa. The problem with this barbershop is that it’s open to everyone passing by it and it’s not far from the casino.
So as you’re trying to relax during your facial and shave, all you hear is casino bells and rings going off in the background. Far from the relaxing spa environment, they have upstairs. The staff there were wonderful though and did their best with what is available to them. In my honest opinion, they shouldn’t offer spa facials that will take place at the barbershop.
Tasty Itinerary: Norwegian Epic Restaurants
The food is the heart of our travels and sadly, I do not have much to report under this section of the Norwegian Epic review. Perhaps it’s partially my fault for not purchasing a specialty dining package and not eating at their finer dining establishments. However, that is a splurge not everyone can make.
When you’re on a cruise vacation, you expect even the food that’s included to be up to par with all their other dining establishments. On their other ships, I had wonderful meals all around.
Cirque Dreams Dinner
We booked this dinner show in advance and the pre-fixed menu is the same as the magic show from our Norwegian Getaway cruise.
They could never get the order right. Their hot dogs were not edible. Their fries were nibs of soggy potatoes. We tried eating here a few times, even once sending an order back multiple times because the description on the menu did not match what they served us.
Nowhere on the menu does it say the item comes with chili, but they actually argued with us that it was the way it came. Well then folks, if you’re going to contradict your menu description, update it. That’s a big add-on to simply add to anyone’s order just because you feel like it belongs.
We had our embarkation lunch here and it should have been a sign of things to come – the food was tasteless. The fried chicken they served hubby tasted like they tossed the chicken in some breadcrumb, fried it and forgot to add a dash of any salt or seasoning. My lamb was tough and in need of some extra TLC. We returned for a dinner a few more times that week and there were few highlights worth mentioning: popcorn shrimp, the crab cake, baked ziti, crème brûlée.
Overall the best service and food, compared to the other restaurants. Not sure why there is a discrepancy because they serve the exact same menu from Taste and probably from the same kitchen. On our last night, we were given a table right by the stage and had a fantastic meal with wonderful service. Highlights: prime rib, onion crustata flatbread, and the scallops.
On the night we tried Shanghai’s, we tried to get reservations at one of the specialty restaurants to no avail. We wanted something different, so decided to try the Chinese restaurant that is included. We had it on the Norwegian Pearl and it was fairly good, so we thought it would be the same. Well, this was barely edible. Everything was severely salty. The service was severely lacking. Skip this one.0
Norwegian Cruise Tip: If you plan to eat at any of their specialty restaurants, make reservations as soon as you can. You can start making reservations 90 days in advance.
We mostly ate breakfast at the buffet and it was always great. It’s the same every day, so it does get old after a while. We always found something to eat. When we’re on a cruise, we snack, especially in the late evenings, way past having dinner and spending time in the casino. Unfortunately, their late-night snack section was not up to par with what they served on the Norwegian Pearl. It was the same poor choices every night.
Entertainment on the Norwegian Epic
The cover band for the Beatles dressed, sounded and acted very close to the real Beatles. The band is even fitted with the appropriate wigs.
As a huge Beatles fan, my husband loved this show. We saw them the first night in the theater and then throughout the week, they played in one of the smaller lounges.
If you want to see them on one of the other nights outside of the theater, I suggest you get there early. It fills up quick. Norwegian should really give them a bigger space.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
I loved this drag queen show! It reminded somewhat of the movie “Birdcage” with Robin Williams. Have you seen it? It was flamboyant, hilarious and fun. I enjoyed every minute of the show. *Do not recommend for the easily offended.
Fantastic circus act. I enjoyed this show immensely. Talented acrobatic cast with unhuman like skills that I’ll never have in my life. I closed my eyes many times. Cringed. Gasped. Gawked. My heart leaped into my throat a few times.
My only gripe was the seating arrangement. They should really have the tables horizontally facing the center of the room. Instead, they have them vertically, and you end up having stiff necks to try to see around the person in front of you. I guess they fit more seats in this way, and there is a surcharge for this show.
What to Do Before Going on a Cruise
Booked a cruise or thinking about booking one? See our 11 cruise prep tips to prepare for your next cruise.
Other Observations Cruising the Norwegian Epic
- Andre, the cruise director of the ship is fantastic. He’s personable, funny and engaging. I loved when he took the stage at any event.
- The shipped is closed off and it is the biggest downside. There isn’t enough outdoor space for a ship that carries over 4500 passengers. I’m not sure how this ship does during a Caribbean itinerary, where mosts people like to layout on the deck and sunbathe. At least the Getaway and the Escape has the waterfront and a deck that almost wraps around the ship to walk through.
- I appreciate the pool and hot tubs in H20, the adult’s section of the ship. That extra pool is missed on the other mega-ships. This area does feel cumbersome though compared to the Getaway.
- On our past two cruises, we felt very at home on the ship. It had to do with the crew, the layout, and the vibe. Not on this ship. It’s a beautiful ship, don’t get me wrong. There was just a complete disconnect.
- The layout is a messy flow. I couldn’t help wonder that when this ship was designed if all they thought about was how many cabins they could cram onto each deck.
- While I may favor the itinerary, the ship is also part of the vacation, and this time it just simply served as our transportation from place to place. When it was time to disembark, we were more than ready to leave. That’s a first for us with Norwegian.
Unlike previous cruises, we were ready to get off and continue with our extended time in Spain. We didn’t rush to disembark but we were out of our cabin by 8 AM as requested. We had breakfast and walked off the ship with our luggage by 9 AM.
Final Thoughts of the Norwegian Epic
This ship did not live up to its name. It was not as Epic as I expected it to be.
Due to how disappointed we were with the Epic, we did not buy Cruise Next vouchers. I also wasn’t even compelled to take photos of the ship. This was our third cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, and it may be our last for a while as we would like to try other cruise lines in the future.
Now, don’t completely hold me to that. If I see an interesting NCL itinerary at a great rate, it will be difficult for us to stand by this self-imposed NCL break because I can’t help myself when I see a great price combined with a brilliant itinerary. Unless if it’s on the Norwegian Epic, then most likely not.
We will not cruise again on the Norwegian Epic ship. It wasn’t a terrible cruise, as I’ve heard horror stories of other ships, but the ship is lacking all the wonderful things that other Norwegian ships have and it was dearly missed.
You are probably reading this Norwegian Epic review in preparation for your upcoming Epic cruise… don’t fret. Just take the knowledge I provided and use it to your advantage. Learn from it. You will have a completely different experience than we did. It is a ship people either love or are disappointed with.
Did you find this Norwegian Epic review helpful? Will it keep you from booking a cruise on the Epic? I hope not as it still has a fantastic itinerary. I have a friend that booked it right after reading this review.
Have you traveled on the Norwegian Epic? What was your experience like?
Don’t forget to share the love on Pinterest: