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Weevywonga

Newbie advice for 1st cruise 6 Oct 2019

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Hi, my hubby and I are going on our first cruise ever!! with Norwegian Epic to Western Mediterranean on 6 October 2019...last minute so not sure yet what we can still book excursion wise, dining etc...just booked this morning and have to go back to travel agent in the morning with passports and to show us how to get on Norwegian Epic site etc. any recommendations for excursions please? any newbie tips??

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Visit the PORTS OF CALL boards here on Cruise Critic.  Lots of information on how to DIY tours for the Med.  Going to Pompeii? I would rather recommend Herculeum more upscale town that was obliterated by the same eruption as Pompeii, the ruins are nicer and its a lot more shaded, so you won't be out in the hot sun.  Easy to do on the train!! AND CHEAPER

 

Also find your roll call under Norwegian Roll Calls .... others on your sailing might be looking for people to fill private tours and you'll come out cheaper and have a better tour than the masses on NCL busses.   

Lots of homework for you to do!!

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Go with an "open mind" but be determined to Enjoy Yourselves no matter what problems occur.   Talk to as many people as possible and get to know your steward!!   If you have questions, requests or comments go to Guest Services while on board, don't leave things till you get home.

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I have been to the Western Med 8 times and I have been on this cruise 4 times.  I love it.  This year we went to the Greek Islands.  i felt like I was cheating on the Epic. Ha ha.  

 

There is lots of advice on the Ports of Call boards.  The port stops are long but you are going in the cooler weather so it is easier than mid summer.  

 

You have plenty of time to plan, but it depends what you expect from your cruise and why you have booked the cruise.  If you have booked because you want to see Florence, St Peters  and Camp nou  then plan for that.  If you just wanted a nice time together and it does not matter what you see in the process, the planning is different.  Of course it also depends on whether or not you like to DIY or if you want to do the more expensive cruise tours.  Some ports are easy to just walk off and have a nice day (Cannes and Palma need little forward planning if they are your first visit). Civitavecchia, Naples and Livorno need some thought beforehand.  

 

With more information about what you expect from your cruise, I would be happy to help more.

 

i know that if I had done more homework for my very first cruise we would have enjoyed two of the ports much better.  

Edited by ollienbertsmum
I re read what the OP had said and realised that it was her first cruise.

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Thanks for the advice! How do I find the ports of call on the site please? We've been to Barcelona so don't need to do excursions there. Have heard Civitavecchia Port requires an hour long train trip to get into Rome, do these trains run regularly and where do you buy tickets? would like to try and diy some of the stops to keep prices down but also don't want to exhaust ourselves. 

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General rules of thumb for your cruise (particularly on the Epic and the Mediterranean)....

 

-Don't overpack.  That's the first "newbie" mistake that's made.  Epic (and NCL) embrace Freestyle Cruising.  That means dressing up as a pretense of formality really has no place on NCL cruises.  But, they do have "Dress up or not" evenings, where people DO DRESS UP, mainly to get pictures taken.  It seems there are specialty restaurants that require long pants and button shirts for men and dresses for women (thinking LeBistro).  But, the last couple of NCL cruises I've taken, even those requirements seemed to be loosened.  Pack about ½ of what you think you'll need, and you'll probably still be packing too much.  There is NO NEED to change clothes for the a.m., the afternoon, the pools and the evening.  Certainly don't parade around in swim trunks/suits for dinner.  But, there is no need to change from an afternoon shorts/shirt/pants/blouse for dining in the evening.  

 

-Excursions....do as much planning up front as you can.  Depending on who you booked through (either NCL's Cruise Planners or a Travel Agent), contact them for excursion recommendations.  Don't be afraid of booking an excursion that is not affiliated with NCL.  While there's always the possibility that a 3rd party excursion doesn't turn out as planned, those times are rare....very rare.  I once had a 3rd party excursion booked in France, where we were 3 hours late in docking.  She waited for me since her reputation with the cruise lines was at stake if she had left.

 

-You're embarking out of Barcelona, I believe.  Get to Barcelona a couple days early before embarking and/or after disembarking.  It's a wonderful city and worth exploring on your own (or get a tour).  Here's a good place to start....

https://www.airbnb.com/s/Barcelona--Spain/experiences?refinement_paths[]=/experiences/KG/Tag:78&af=1922719&c=.pi0.pk74812754849_356330327930_c_64396496286&sem_position=1t1&sem_target=kwd-64396496286&location_of_interest=1005424&location_physical=9015721&gclid=CjwKCAjw2qHsBRAGEiwAMbPoDKpVZ-tnoB__iasAdZp0qpSGWOmVq5jJQ50YtGn3QTjMzfnwjIo66hoCgakQAvD_BwE

 

-A Hotel in Barcelona I recommend highly as it's close to everything you might want to see is the Hotel Barcelona Catedral.  

 

 

-Look at the weather for the time and places you will be sailing and in Europe to dress accordingly.  I don't think it will be cool yet in Spain, but it's likely to still be warm in Italy.

 

-The Epic is one of my favorite ships, with great entertainment.  Please book your entertainment as soon as possible.  It's well worth it, even though you can usually go to the entertainment venue 15 minutes before showtime and find a seat, too.

 

-While the Specialty Restaurants on board are excellent (I highly recommend LeBistry, Cagney's and LaCucina), the Main Dining Rooms are quite good, too.  And, for the most part, you just show up to be seated.  If they don't have a table for you immediately, go to another dining spot and find a table.  You are most likely to find somewhere, anytime you want to eat, and they'll all be good.

 

-Your Travel Agent or Personal Cruise Consultant makes a commission from your booking.  Have them do as much scheduling as you can, as that's what they're there for.

 

-Don't know if you got any perks with your booking, but if you do, let us know and we can give you the "lay of the land" on how they work.

 

Have fun!

 

 

 

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Hoping weather will still be warm for us but coming from Ireland we're hardy! Yes dress code seems casual which is nice. We've been to Barcelona before so won't do much there this time. Have had a look at some of the tours reviewed on here and man they're pricey!! We have 3 speciality dining and drinks package as part of our deal, will check with tour operator tomorrow re excursion recommendations, thanks again x

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1 hour ago, Weevywonga said:

Hoping weather will still be warm for us but coming from Ireland we're hardy! Yes dress code seems casual which is nice. We've been to Barcelona before so won't do much there this time. Have had a look at some of the tours reviewed on here and man they're pricey!! We have 3 speciality dining and drinks package as part of our deal, will check with tour operator tomorrow re excursion recommendations, thanks again x

Cool!  You’re in good shape.  You have the two best perks on NCL.  I forgot one specialty dining venue that has just made available as part of the dining package.....Ocean Blue.  Great surf and turf, and great seafood all the way around.

 

You’re right.  I found excursions in Europe more expensive than what you find in the Caribbean.

 

I think you’re going to love it.

 

Keep us posted.

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18 hours ago, Weevywonga said:

Hi, my hubby and I are going on our first cruise ever!! with Norwegian Epic to Western Mediterranean on 6 October 2019...last minute so not sure yet what we can still book excursion wise, dining etc...just booked this morning and have to go back to travel agent in the morning with passports and to show us how to get on Norwegian Epic site etc. any recommendations for excursions please? any newbie tips??

Hope you have a great experience. The Epic is a rather unusual ship, but popular for many. AS for excursions I think at this last minute I would just wait until you board to book them. Most excursions will not be sold out. There may be one or two, especially the first port but most will still be available and yes, they are pricey.  

The one tip that comes to mind off the top of my hat: try and plan to have dinner anytime before 6:30 or after 8pm to avoid the crowds unless you have reservations. Oh and one more thing: we have always found the service better if you get to know the crew member who is serving you. This goes from your room steward to the bar tenders or the wait staff in the dining rooms. Be sure to report back after your cruise.   

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As a first time cruiser, I would suggest doing all of your excursions through NCL.  They may be a little more expensive and you will have more in your tour group, but you will not have to worry about getting back to the ship on time, etc.  We have cruised for 30 years and just within the last 3-4 years are doing excursions on our own or with CC groups, especially when we are out of the country.

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1. Don't set expectations out of reach.  Some people expect the sky but when they don't get it they are let down and can't recover.  They let one small problem get blown out of proportion and let it ruin the rest of the cruise. 

 

2. Don't burn yourself out.  There is a lot of things to do and never enough time to do everything you want to do.  Tough choices need to be made and certain things need to be sacrificed so plan accordingly.  Figure out which shows play on which day and plan in advance which shows/times you want to do.  I also recommend taking a short nap prior to dinner.  Too many times I have burnt myself out during the day only to end up in bed too early.  Relax and enjoy yourself. 

 

3. Don't let rude people ruin your good time.  Sometimes they don't know they are being rude but be aware, they are there.  People in front of you stopping for no reason, totally oblivious of the group walking behind them.  People who try to jump on an elevator before everyone else who were already standing there, and not waiting for the people already on the elevator to get off first.  Etc.

 

4. Check out the deck plans on the NCL website to get to know the ship.  Then on embarkation day walk around the ship while you are waiting for the staterooms to open to get the 3d picture.  The atrium is usually pretty busy at this time with all the people at the various desks trying to get help for something like excursions, cruisenext, or other issues.

 

4. If you don't want to gain weight, take the stairs.  I do this and it helps.

 

If I think of anything more I'll add it to the list.

 

 

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I am not sure about the need to do excursions via the ship.  You are from Ireland so this is clearly not a “once in a lifetime” trip so you are packing everything in.   The point has to be - what are you cruising for?  Is it because you wanted to see the Pope?  - he does an audience on Wednesdays so if you get out early you will get chance to see him live - if far away.  Were you going because you wanted to see the Tower of Pisa - or was it because you wanted a nice time away?   If there is somewhere you want to visit, then you need to plan for that.  If it is that you just want to see some autumn sunshine, I am sure that the ports will provide that for you.  

 

The Ports of Call boards give loads of advice on planning your own day in Ports.  You will find detailed advice about how to get into Rome on the local train.  How to get to Pisa and Lucca and the options in Naples.    If you just like wandering around a nice town, Cannes and Palma do not need planning ahead.  There are lots of options, but equally you can spend lazy days wandering around and just have fun.  

 

I do hope that you are arriving the day before.  Even if you have been to Barcelona before, there is always a nice walk near your hotel for an hour or so before you board - oh and don’t eat a big breakfast.  That was our newbie mistake.  We had lunch before boarding because we didn’t know that the buffet was open from the moment you board.  You can head down to the port from about 11 am.  You will not access your room for a few hours.  Your luggage may take longer to arrive, so if the weather is nice enough for sunbathing, make sure you take swimwear in your carryon.  

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The Epic was my first cruise ever, too. My husband and I loved it.  Our best two meals were at La Cucina and Moderno. If the Garden Buffet is busy in the mornings, take your food down the stairs and sit in La Cucina.  The Atrium area and bar are  nice, as is Maltings and the bar that runs between Moderno and Cagney's.  There's a quiet sundeck on deck 18 where hardly anyone gathered, it was amazing. On sea days they set up a small bar there. 

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