A Day at Sea
We chose to have dinner on the Epic each night in the Manhattan Room, the largest and most formal of the ship’s dining rooms (most formal means there is a dress code, albeit a very loose one. Many people dress for dinner there which I like). The Manhattan room is in the stern if the ship with large windows so most nights, we hear the engines roaring to life during dinner and watch the wake of the ship stretching back to the port as we sail away. Last night, we said good-bye to Barcelona. The Manhattan Room reminds me faintly of the Titanic’s dining room (Muri shook her head when I said that) which I saw as a good thing … it had some elegance in this age of always casual. Norwegian Cruise Lines specializes in what they call Freestyle Cruising, which pretty much means you can dine anytime and anywhere you want (except for the specialty, for-a-fee restaurants which require reservations), wearing whatever. Freestyle cruising can be very nice when you are trying to arrange your schedule to make shows or when you arrive late from an all-day excursion, but with the lack of formal dining eating aboard loses some of its class. Hence, we chose the Manhattan Room, where you feel like you are in a real restaurant. The food has been good if not excellent with a wide choice of appetizers, entrees and desserts. The service has been mostly excellent, partly because our travelling companion, Ron, has a gregarious nature and strikes up a conversation with everyone. In the past on cruises with fixed dinner times and seating, we’d get to know the waitstaff and the others at our table, while with Freestyle Dining, that doesn’t happen. Still it seems to work here on the Epic.
So, you might gather from the fact that I’m posting about the ship that this is our day at sea as the Epic transits from Barcelona to Naples. The four of us are curled up in a lounge area of the ship with a bar nearby. I’m sure this evening, it will be packed with drinkers, but this morning its a quiet place to read and write. If I have any major complaint about the Epic, it’s that it lack truly quiet places to just relax. Virtually ever public space is open to the main corridors and has music piped in (Even the miniscule library. You know it’s not really a librrary when it has a drink menu on each lamp table). I know, I know, most people are here to party, but the ship could accomodate those who want some peace and quiet outside of the cramped stateroom. OK. I don’t mean to start on a negative note … in the spirit of Norwegian Cruise Lines, I’m Freestyle Posting today, so things come out the way they come out. Our balcony stateroom is actually nice with everything we need magically arranged to fit in a 140 square foot space and an oversized balcony. However, traffic is one way by the bed. On deck nine, we are far enough from everything and everyone that the room is blissfully quiet. The public spaces are tastefully designed until you begin the approach either then pool areas or the main atrium, at which point things become party-ship flashy. Large movie screens showing scenes of the various ports, onboard game-shows, entertainers in the open public spaces, and, of course, bar after bar with drinkers talking loudly to compete with the general din screams YOU ARE HERE TO PARTY !!!!! And, of course, the Epic has one of the largest casinos at-sea, filling almost all of deck six. Big time gambler that I am, I won twenty bucks playing slots today.
OK, it still sounds like I’m complaining. Write that off to my Inner Curmudgeon, who’s a glass-is-mostly-empty guy. I like the ship. Like I say, the food has been good and the Norwegian arranged excursions have been excellent and gone off without a hitch (except in Barcelona, where the problem was weather and local festivities). Service has been excellent Last night, I somehow set the wrong combination on our stateroom safe and couldn’t open it. In five minutes, there was someone from housekeeping to open it for me. This is a massive ship, with over four thousand passengers and almost two thousand crew, but for the most part, there were not unnecessarily long lines except yeaterday in Barcelona where 3,100 new passengers boarded. The mostly Philipino crew is wonderful and friendly. Since Norwegian adds a service charge to everything, there is no need to tip but when we have tipped for excellent service, the waitstaff has been delighted. As I posted in Shows, the onboard entertainment has been fantastic, from the healdiners like Cirque Dreams and The Blue Man Group to the lounge acts and performers. The buffets have been excellent and varied but occasionally busy enough that it’s hard to find a table once you’ve fillled your plate. Once we discovered we could take our plates into the restaurant downstairs and find some quiet, it was great. There is an amazing pool area with water slides and rock climbing walls and who know what else. No, I did none of the above but I did walk by (quickly) on my way to the Garden Cafe for lunch. And there all the other amenities that come with cruising these days.
So, how would I grade the Epic? My Inner Curmudgeon would go for a B while I’d probably be generous and give an A-. I think I’d be happier on a little smaller ship and the lack of quiet spaces did bother me. But what the heck … it’s been a great vacation. Tomorrow, we’ll be in Naples for a tour of Sorrento and Pompeii. I’ll talk to you then.