I wake at 9 and head straight for the breakfast bar on the 15th deck. It has everyconceivable early riser menu covered, from traditional eggs and bacon to Continental to healthy cold cereals, meats, and cheeses. Awesome start for the day!
Then I head to the fitness center. It’s very large, of course, and the equipment is in good repair. There are spinning rooms, aerobics rooms, etc. just like a land-based spa. A cute young attendant shows me the optional spa package, which has a sauna, steam room, less crowded indoor pool and lounge…and lots of gay men. I take a pass, because I am homophobic and possibly evil by today’s standards, which I utterly reject. So I get in a nice workout with free weights and machines. Great facility!
Out at the pool, I decide to go tubing from the top of the ship. It’s a wild ride, most of which I see in reverse because I can’t straighten the stupid thing out. I decide the best way to warm up on deck (where it’s about 65) is to hit one of the 5 hot tubs.
Lunch is at the Garden Café’ buffet. It’s got even more variety than breakfast. Pizza, salad bar, burgers, Chinese, Italian, sweets…you name it, it’s here. Yes it is institutional food. No it isn’t bad at all.
Afterward, I get killed at trivia with some new friends and guess the weight of a large diamond at the jewelry store. Prizes offered to the closest guess at 8:30, but you have to be there.
And now for my first real complaints. One. There are too many activities that aren’t free. Yes, I get that Bingo has prizes, and the Margarita tasting serves alcohol, and you DO get some sort of exclusivity with the Spa package. And I’m sure that the “cover charge” at the finer dining café’s buys you a better meal. But it really does take some planning to avoid costly bills. Internet charges are $.45/minute unless you buy in volume, and even then the speed is glacial. There’s just no way that any hotel (and let’s face it: the Epic IS a hotel) should charge for WiFi anymore than they should charge for the TV in my room. Ridiculous. You also pay for bowling, and the drinks are quite expensive, too. It doesn’t ruin the experience, mind you, but it does take NCL down a notch.
Two, would it be too much trouble to have a few copies of the day’s planned activities posted somewhere other than in the cabin flyer that the steward gave me? I didn’t bother with the aerobic exercise at the fitness center, because I got tired making a whole lot of 15 minute round trips to retrieve that stupid info sheet. How about just have a few where people can get them in the public areas? Yeah, they’re up on TV screens, and if you have a spare ten minutes, eventually everything will scroll through. Life’s too short, and it’s just too dumb not to have basic information everywhere.
Three, NCL makes a big deal out of the studio “Living Room”, and how you need a key to get in where solo travellers mix and mingle. When I booked my trip, it was just as cheap to get a normal sized cabin, but I opted with the Studios mostly because I wanted to meet people. Imagine my surprise when I found out that meetings in the Living room were available to any and all guests, regardless of where they were on the ship! So I could have had the advantage of a bigger room AND a better social life, if the Epic had merely advertised honestly that there is no exclusivity whatsoever to the Living Room.
Last on the whine list is the crowds. Since this is a transatlantic trip, the ship isn’t full, so I was surprised that I couldn’t even find a seat at the tequila tasting, and there was a lengthy line for Bingo as well. Plus I tried in vein to get ahold of the reception desk staff when I wanted to make a reservation for the BMG show. The TV in my cabin said I should have been able to make my own, but that feature didn’t work. The only alternative was to stand in the very lengthy line at the activities desk.
Or not. The big shows have plenty of room even at the last minute, so no need for reservations, really. That’s a huge advantage of a repositioning cruise.
A big disadvantage? If you want to meet as wide a variety of people as possible, this isn’t the best trip to take. Probably half the ship was empty. That’s nice if you want a little privacy in the library, but if you are single and hope to meet someone, the pickings are slim.
Well, actually, no…the pickings are kind of fat. Not morbidly obese, but not attractive either. The best lookers are there with husbands/wives. Or they’re part of the cruise staff. I tell it like it is, and what it is looks like is about as attractive as a Mensa meeting. Oh, well. That isn’t what I’m here for, anyway.
I did hope that, it being Sunday and all, they’d have a small chapel on their floating city. No such luck, prayer boy! Chapels? We don’t need no stinkin’ chapels! We’re all pagans now, I guess.