“Oh, HECK NO!”
This is the first reaction most sane adults will have when asked to spend a week stuck with extended family members, cranky kids and all, within a +- 300 sqft cabin. On a ship. Traveling across the Mediterranean Sea.
Well as soon as I had committed to taking the cruise trip with members who are not that much of a stretch from the Griswold family of Chevy Chase’s Vacation blooper, those three words came right out of my mouth after I hung up.
This was going to be my first time on a Cruise Ship. And not any cruise ship. The 3rd largest cruiser on the Ocean ever to date. I had sworn not to go cruising ever. Being stuck on a floating vessel in the middle of the sea or ocean was not of my fancy. Or it may have had something to do with early childhood arrested development as a result of non-stop radio plays of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic,which probably created a permanent association of cruise ship = terror (Note: I have to date NEVER watched the Titanic. So no, it was not the movie!).
I was always the sojourner of the terrestrial where I know I can eat, walk, sit, rest, sleep, and poop to the effects of normal gravitational pulls. And cruising just sounded like a place that would be a more sterilized version of an all inclusive resort style trip and filled with noisy families with their even louder little kids – not exactly an avenue for local immersion and getting ones hands muddy, cruddy, and dirty.
Well then I arrived to this!
Travel Adventures | The View from the Stateroom
Okaaay! Forget about mud, crud, and dirt! Who wants to do that?? What an uppity travel connoisseur that person is. Vacation is meant to be a room with a view. Just like above!
Wowza! And then came the top floor deck where all the pools, hot tubs and water slides are located. Oh my god, I just truly love places so vibrant with noise and of course little Johnies and Janes are just so cute to have them running around. Nope, I don’t mind them anymore.
Travel Adventures | The Playground
Did I use the water slides and pool and hot tubs or what? Youuuuuu betcha. I was running around between slides like a little toddler with his arms held out close to torso and head bobbing side to side with eyes closed going “more, more, Mommy! more”. No really!
Here is a video I took of the slides. It is incredible fun and for all ages and difficulty levels. If I enjoyed it, ANY KID will just love it.
Well after all that sloshing around in water slides it was time to crush the hunger pang. Now the amazing thing is that Norwegian Epic, which just happens to be the largest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line company’s fleet and also the 3rd largest cruise ship at present, comes with vast dining options. I think there are over 20 different places to eat. Of course not all are free. Some of the fancier dining venues charge a modest cover ($20 per person) but that is all. Then you can eat as much as you want in there based on the menu course.
Tip: I did not experience ALL the venues of course but of the ones I did, I highly recommend Moderno Churrascaria. This is the Brazilian/Argentinian style of BBQ where the various meats are brought out to you at the table on a skewer and cut to your preference. The meat options are several and all are very tasty.
So if you don’t wanna shell out any more money on dining then best option is to visit the Garden Cafe, the flagship all you can eat buffet style dining hall. Interestingly, the entire family preferred eating here than at the specialty dining rooms because of the vast menu options and daily variety in the main courses.
Travel Adventures | The Dining Area
After a full fiesta, nothing like a siesta on the top deck of the Mediterranean Sea.
Travel Adventures | The Views
Ok, so you can’t escape from some shopping avenues while on board. Now contrary to what you will read on the internet about high prices on board shopping areas (and it may just as well be for most items; I could care less to comparison shop; I was busy at the water slides), there are some incredible bargains to be found. Look carefully.
Tip: The Ship will announce special sale hours. Be aware of this. There are some really discounted products you can get during the sale.
There is plenty to do on board in between dining, entertaining, and relaxing hours.
Travel Adventures | The Shopping and Entertainment
Onboard Dining and entertainment tips – Remember that your ticket buy includes complimentary access to several live entertainment on the ship. For example, on the EPIC we enjoyed the Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert, two very entertaining and world famous shows. Make use of those. You can book ahead of time by logging in to your account online to save time and make sure you get first priority on date selections. Some dining locations charge a cover ($15 – $25 USD per person), but that includes everything.
Tips on basic safety for first time cruisers – Modern cruise ships have in-built stabilizers to reduce the effect of sea sickness caused by rolling waves. However, it is always prudent to carry along basic medications for cough, cold, fever, allergy, travel sickness, and motion sickness. The ship maintains very high standards of hygiene and health; however, remember you are in an enclosed environment among several strangers who are disembarking at most port of calls. The ship provides in-house medical facility but remember that cost of medication will be expensive plus you are likely to be quarantined for a short period to ensure yours and other passengers safety.
Travel Adventures | The EPIC Lounge
Tips on currency conversion – Note that Norwegian Cruise ships are registered to a Miami based currency therefore they use USD as the official currency on board regardless of your tour destination. So for all purchases on board best to use your credit card (keep in mind credit cards will charge higher conversion rate) or USD cash. If you are Canadian traveller, don’t convert to EURO on land as you will again have to convert to USD on board (two conversions and exchange fee commissions)
Offshore excursion tips – The cruise ship provides several shore excursion trips to fit your timing, style and tastes. These can be viewed when you login to your account online and buy it ahead of time or on board. One thing to remember is that organized tours by the cruise company assures you of being returned to your ship in time for departure (a typical port stay duration is around 10 hours) which does not give you a lot of time to spend on shore. And you must give yourself an extra hour to disembark and embark to/from ship. If you are a small party (single, couple, party of 3) I recommend taking the cruise trips as it works out cost-effective. However, for larger groups (4 or more) I recommend using a third-party local operator. You will save LOTS of money. Do your research extensively if using local tour operators. Ensure that the operator is very familiar with Cruise off shore excursions.
So would I do it again?
“Oh, HECK YES!”
Cruising has now become another part of my arsenal of travel options. It offers the best of both worlds – all-inclusive environment within the ship while allowing for local cultural immersion at several destinations. Doing the land trip across Europe can get expensive. However, with the Cruise option you don’t get flexibility of locations and time.
It’s a good middle of the path approach to adventure travel.
- Norwegian Cruise Line orders new megaship (miamiherald.com)
- The Haven by Norwegian (travelmaestro.covingtontravel.com)
As some of you may have read in the news in early 2013 about the malfunction of a cruise ship operated by a major cruise company. In context of that event, I asked NCL media relations to provide me a statement of NCL’s policy in case of similar occurrence on the sea. Their team responded immediately with this official statement below.
At Norwegian Cruise Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance. We operate all of our vessels to meet and exceed the requirements of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention and the International Safety Management Code maritime standards, the international safety requirements which govern the cruise industry.
We have Hi-Fog fire extinguishing systems throughout our ships, including within the machinery spaces where our ships’ engines are located. These systems can be released immediately as soon as a fire is detected and are effective in that they displace oxygen while releasing highly pressured water particles which have a cooling effect to quickly extinguish fire. Our ships are also equipped with CO2 fire extinguishing systems as a back-up.
Finally to further protect our vessels in all of the engine rooms across the fleet, the switchboards for electrical power and the engines are separated, providing a redundancy in the event of a fire, so that the vessel retains propulsion and electrical power by alternate sources.
Beginning with Norwegian Epic and on all of our current new builds, Norwegian is coating all of the electrical cabling throughout the machinery space with a flame retardant material. We are also in the process of implementing this safety precaution on all of our existing ships and expect this to be completed within the year.
Every crew member is well-trained in the Company’s stringent safety protocols, participating in weekly safety drills onboard every one of our ships. Our shoreside technical and safety teams provide oversight to constantly test and re-evaluate on-board safety procedures.
Having spent a week on their ship, I have to say that the company does take passenger and crew safety very very seriously. We underwent extensive safety briefing at the beginning along with several reminders throughout and even witnessed a crew emergency situation scenario training on board on the sea. Every crew is assigned an emergency task in addition to their primary on board task.