The most important thing I learned on this cruise was that I’m not into free-styling, but then that’s me. I’m sure that free-style is well suited to many cruisers. As I dragged my fifty pound suitcase, carry-on and personal item off the ship, the couple ahead of me strolled along each burdened only by a backpack and a small carry-on. I bet they’d tell you they loved it. Groups with multiple kids had to love it. If quantity of food available is one of your hot buttons, you will certainly love the Epic. Gamblers seemed to be quite happy, too. So just because it wasn’t my cup a tea, that doesn’t mean you won’t love it.
The thing I missed most was the camaraderie around the dinner tables I enjoyed on more traditional ships. I like getting dressed up and meeting new people. I like getting to know my new acquaintances over several pleasant evenings. I like the idea of having one set of waiters, rather than having a new waitstaff every night. Traditional cruises made me feel more pampered and appreciated at dinner time. However, getting dressed up and putting up with a bunch of strangers is exactly what some people hate. You know which category you fall into.
I also missed getting to know the cruise director. On other ships it seemed like he was every where, leading silly games and contests around the pool, in the bars and various and sundry other locales. The only place I even saw ours was port side in Nassau. Norwegians free activities seemed to be directed at informing me of opportunities to spend money on the ship like spa services and exercise classes. To me, that’s not very entertaining.
My biggest complaint about the ship was that there was just too much of EVERYTHING. For many people that would translate in to excitement, variety and convenience, but I wished for a few more wide open spaces. I longed for a nice quiet library or game room to play a few hands of cards or just read my Kindle. Thankfully , I did have a balcony, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.
My husband called it the boat without a soul. The entertainment on the boat was always a franchise of something else and didn’t feel related to the destinations we visited or the ship itself. We were lucky to have some of our best friends on the cruise with us, and it was certainly good that they’d come along or we would have been very lonely.
We did love our balcony. We will never sail without one again. In fact, we might just opt for a suite next time if we can figure out how to afford one. The food was good. We have no complaints about that, beyond the short time the sit-down meals at breakfast and lunch are available.
As far as itinerary is concerned we enjoyed it, but we won’t repeat it. It was our second time to the destinations and we feel no burning desire to go back. The only exception would be St. Thomas and Sunny Liston Tours. I wouldn’t mind another dose of that someday. For us, three days at sea was too many. We anticipated we’d like the at-sea days the best, but with free-style not being our style, that’s not how it turned out.
Would I book a shore excursion with someone besides my cruise lines again? That’s iffy. I booked two with Cruising Expeditions.com. One was the best of the best and the other was a waste of time and money. If the ship did not offer any excursions I was interested in, I might look elsewhere, but I’d do a lot more research than I did this time. I depended too heavily on an experts recommendation. Also through trial and error, I’m getting more confidant of my ability to entertain myself on shore.
I’ll tell you one thing I will do next time I cruise. I’m not going to depend on my own research. I’m going to go to a professional travel agent that specializes in cruises, like Cruise and Tour Center, which just happens to be close to my home. Travel gets more do-it-yourself everyday, but for some things, there’s not anything like being able to trust a pro.
Come back next week and see where we’re headed next!