I decided to try a Mediterranean Cruise. The Norwegian Epic lined up perfectly with my schedule. The itinerary was a dream. Seriously, doesn't this look amazing (the port of call were!)??
- Sun. - Barcelona, Spain - awesome
- Mon. - At Sea
- Tue. - Naples/Pompeii, Italy - AMAZING
- Wed. - Rome (via Civitavecchia), Italy - Cool, extremely historic
- Thu. - Florence/Pisa (via Livorno), Italy - awesome
- Fri. - Nice (via Villefranche), France - awesome
- Sat. - Provence (via Marseille), France - Ok
- Sun. - Barcelona, Spain
We decided to splurge (mostly because we booked so late and the balcony's were full) so we got a suite. The balcony was incredible - it was an aft facing view. With the suite came extra privileges, including access to "Haven".
Haven was an exclusive club, with its own pool, hot tub, restaurant and grill. If you have not been on the Epic before, there are 4,000 + guests on board, which equals a lot of mouths to feed. Norwegian has 2 sit down restaurants (with wait times) and 3 buffets included in the price of the cruise ticket as well as room service (pizza is extra), and 9 restaurants NOT included. Of course, the quality of the food is much better in the paid restaurants. Here's a summary of the options:
- Outdoor choices - Courtyard Grill & Garden Cafe & Great Outdoors
- O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill (24 hours)
- Room Service (Pizza - $5)
- Dining Room Dinner - Taste or Manhattan Room
- Cagney Steakhouse - $25
- La Cucina Italian Restaurant - $10
- Le Bistro French Restaruant - $20
- Moderno Churrascaria - $20
- Shanghai's Noodle Bar - A la Carte
- Shanghai's Chinese Restaurant - $15
- Cirque Dreams & Dinner - $25 or $35
- Teppanyaki - $25
- Wasabi Sushi Bar - A la Carte
The first night we ate at Haven. The good -- No line, no wait. Seated right away, spectacular table next to the window with a wonderful view of the ocean. I had a butternut squash soup and a filet for my main course. The soup was terrific, buttery, flavorful. The blah -- The filet, average at best. We've had better filet's from Publix. The menu is the SAME every night. If you want quick seating, quiet, beautiful surroundings, then same ol' same ol' will have to do.
We tried the French Bistro the next night - $20 a person, and well worth it. When I arrived and advised I was gluten free and was really hoping for the duck, my server immediately said, I don't know that I can accommodate you, you may have to come back tomorrow. I NEVER would have heard this on Holland America. I asked her to please ask the chef - she did - and he was great, and said he'd make it work. I'm glad they did. All was great thereafter.
The next night we tried Shanghai's Noodle Bar - A la Carte. The chef there was the best yet. I previously asked if there was gluten free soy sauce on board and was advised there was. When I asked my server, he was quick to say no, they don't have it. I didn't stop there, I sat at the sushi bar and asked the chef. He'd been working as a chef on the ship for many years and immediately said they do have it on board, and he'd do what it took to get it. It meant calling a lot of people, going through the food storage in another location and bringing it to the restaurant. This took 15 minutes, but, was WELL worth the wait.
Norwigan prides themselves on freestyle dining. I was interested to see what Taste or the Manhattan room (the 2 sit down restaurants that were included) were like. We'll... there was a 20 minute wait to begin, what did I expect with 4,000+ mouths to feed and us going around 8pm. They gave us vouchers for a glass of champagne at the bar while we waited.. Nice touch. Finally, we were seated and ordered. It was loud. Likely at least 500 people. I ordered a filet. It was ruber, likely one of the worst filets I've ever had. I was done. We went to Haven. We wanted a relaxing environment, a server who spent a whole minute with us, and ok food. Haven fit that bill. I have to say, without Haven, we would have been miserable, or would have tried every pay to eat restaurant.