Barcelona and Norwegian Epic cruise 2013
My latest solo trip was a 2 night stay in Barcelona followed by a 7 night western Mediterranean cruise on the Norwegian Epic.
I flew out to Barcelona late afternoon on the 12/7 from London Luton airport on Easy jet which is a budget UK airline which to be fair was an ok experience no major issues (apart from the extremely long line to check in.)
We arrived at Barcelona airport around 9pm local time and I met up with my pre-arranged shuttle service to my hotel (major tip is to book your transfers before you go away anywhere as it almost always works out cheaper and much more convenient to do so) http://www.shuttledirect.com/en/airport/BCN.
My driver was really friendly and helpful and gave me some tips on where to go while in town.
We arrived at the hotel Barcelona Princess a 4 star hotel slightly outside of town near the beach.I was very impressed with the hotel at first glance. I checked in and went to look around, the hotel was nice but had a few issues for instance the hotel is very tall and the elevators seem to take forever and stop on every floor and I found during my 2 night stay the walls were paper thin so had issues sleeping due to noisy neighbours.
During my stay at Barcelona I made the most of my time using the underground to commute into town and found that with a map and a little common sense it was quite an easy town to navigate around . I also took a bay tour on a sightseeing boat which was really nice lasted 90 minutes and cost less than 15 euros so well worth it as I got to see the coastline and the beaches and take loads of pictures.
In the evenings I tended to stay in the hotel and hit the bar for a few drinks and rest my tired feet from all the days walking.
I left the hotel for my cruise on the 14/7 and took a taxi to the cruise port to check in and arrived around 11 am.
The Norwegian Epic
The ship itself is massive at 1081 feet long and 155,873 GT and carries up to 5000 guests plus staff.
I have been on the Norwegian Epic twice before and I can tell you this ship is a dream for the solo traveller as it has single studio cabins especially designed for the single guest and the best part is you do not pay massive single supplement like on almost all other cruise lines. Norwegian cruise lines are very singles friendly and have really shown the way for the cruise line market for the future.
The great thing about cruising solo is that you have everything in on place and your choices of things to do are massive. I enjoy sitting round the pool during the day which I did on the first day as the ship did not set sail until 5pm so went to the gym first and then went to the adults only pool at the back of the ship where you can get some peace and quiet to enjoy the sunshine and have a dip in the pool or the Jacuzzi. One issue on this ship is it can get very crowded on the pool deck or promenade deck 15 so you do have to search a bit for a sun lounger but there are a few hidden areas up on deck 19 where you can get one if all else fails. I like to sit out in the sun during the sea days listen to some music and pay regular visits to the bar to have a little medication to ease my thirst . Like I said before I have been on the ship before and as I know many of the staff I tend to get extra fast service as they pretty much know what I want to drink. One thing that amazed me is the bar staff remember people’s names by the second day which is rather impressive considering the vast numbers on the ship.
During the sea days there are plenty to do on the ship if you are not a sun worshipper like climbing walls water slides and much more.
Like I said earlier this ship really pushes out the boat for the single guest (pardon the pun) and on the first night you are invited to attend the welcome meeting with the other singles at the studio lounge which is a bar especially for guests staying in the studio cabins. On my previous trips before on this ship I didn’t really get involved with the other singles and just done my own thing but this time I decided to really make the effort and get involved with meeting the others on the ship so I attended the meeting at 6 pm and met about a dozen or so people which was nice.
The ship actually assigns a staff member in our case Fernando who was really nice and he booked a table every night for singles to eat together at the main restaurants and he would actually come with us and eat which was a nice touch.
After dinner some of the group would go their own way as many had bookings for shows on the ship but on many nights we would hang out together and go to one of the many entertainment options throughout the evening like karaoke or the nightclub and on one evening we all arranged to go to the ice bar which was fun but it is very cold in there 17 degrees Fahrenheit (rather chilly).
There is so much to do in the evening on the ship and so many bars to visit and if you feel like a flutter the ship has the largest casino at sea.
On day 2 of the cruise we arrived in Naples around 7am and I decided as I have not been there before to go onshore and check out the town. As I walked into town I spotted an open top tour bus which I decided to go on as was very hot and the bus was the lazy option. The bus actually was really good as it took us through the extremely narrow streets of the town and we had headphones telling us what took look out for along the way. I have to say the Italian drivers are truly crazy zipping around on their scooters with no helmets. The tour lasted about 2 hours in total and as I had taken loads of pictures and it was so hot around 34c I decided to retreat back to the ship and take full advantage of the ships facilities starting at the bar.
One great thing about cruising is if you decide to stay on the ship when docked in port on one of the stops chances are the ship will be pretty quiet as most people are off on excursions so the ship will be all yours to enjoy.
Day 3 Civitavecchia (Rome)
On day 3 the ship docks in Civitavecchia which is the stop for people who want to visit Rome which is about 90 minutes away, I have been before so I decided to stay on the ship and enjoy the peace and quiet but having been before it is a long old day as excursions start early and you do not stop all day until returning to the ship around 5pm so although worth it very hard on your feet.
During the evening I again had dinner with the other singles and spent a little alone time checking out the activities going on around the ship and paying a fair few visits to the many bars around the ship.
Day 4 Livorno (Florence/Pisa)
Day 4 is the stop at Livorno where you have a choice to go to Florence or Pisa for day trips .I decided just to have a walk round town and take a few pictures and do a little people watching.
Day 5 Marseille (France)
On day 5 we docked in Marseille and I decided to go onshore and hit the beach which was very nice. I had time to do a little shopping as well while there.
Day 6 Palma (Majorca)
On day 6 we arrived on our final stop on the Spanish island of Majorca which is a new addition to the western Med itinerary but as we did not actually dock until 1 pm we did not get very much time to be able to explore so I decided to stay on-board the ship as I have been to Majorca before but many left the ship mainly to head for the beach as very hot.
We left Majorca around 8 pm that night and headed back for Barcelona.
On our last night the ship had a big last night party which was a lot of fun as most people stay up and make the most of their last night on the ship .
The Norwegian Epic is such a great option for the solo traveller who wants a bit of excitement in a safe environment where other singles are almost certain to be on the ship. The ship appeals to a variety of ages and tastes.
Generally speaking on the European itineraries the ship is not quite the party atmosphere of the Caribbean cruises as the Mediterranean cruise guests are more interested in the ports of call along the way rather than just enjoying the ship like in the Caribbean so as people are off on long excursions on most days a lot of people tend to go to bed pretty early compared to the Caribbean where the nightclub is buzzing up until around 3am.
I will return to the Epic for the 4th time for sure as just an amazing ship.