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An Epic Trip!

Posted by on November 1, 2012

In September I had the pleasure of sailing on the Norwegian Epic round trip out of Barcelona with stops in Naples, Rome, Florence, Cannes and Marseille.  I went with my mother and we had an absolutely amazing Cruise! There was so much to see and do in these different countries and cities, that I wouldn’t even know where to begin to describe all of it. But I’ve broken down the days below with a couple of pictures for your entertainment. But first let me show you how I properly prepared for my trip by doing some intense cabin research

Like the famous Alexander Graham Bell said ”Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

I would recommend the Norwegian Epic to anyone, and would love to answer any questions if you’ve got any! lbrasgalla@ttravel.com

 

An overview of my Epic Trip:

DAY 1 – We departed Fargo with stops in Minneapolis and Paris on our way to Barcelona.  Flying on Delta, we upgraded to Economy Comfort Seating.  This was worth every penny of the upgrade fee, especially since we were flying to Europe.  Not only did we receive priority boarding, we had extra leg room and complimentary beer, wine and spirits on the International flights.  The airports in both Paris and Barcelona are easy to navigate.  If we did get lost, which lets face, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum on the loose in Europe, it is more than likely going to happen…  there was always someone helpful there to assist us!

DAY 2 – We had set up a private transfer from the airport to our hotel.  I can’t express how lucky we felt to see a friendly driver holding up a sign with our names, waiting to take our luggage.  The driver then escorted us to our own private vehicle— another welcome perk, especially after such a long flight.  We had booked a 1-Night stay at the Lleo Hotel, located in the Las Ramblas area in Barcelona.  This is the best area for booking a stay when cruising from Barcelona:  twenty minutes from the airport and fifteen minutes from the pier.

The view from our hotel in Barcelona! Kind of reminds me a bit of New York

The Lleo is a very basic hotel, but very clean and the buffet breakfast had plenty of options.  It’s also the perfect location for shopping and restaurants within walking distance! If you you like to shop and eat, like my mother and myself, you will love that! It may come as no surprise to you that that is exactly what we did, with a few glasses of the famous Spanish sangria to celebrate our arrival of course…

Sep. 2 – After our buffet breakfast, we proceeded to the lobby to find our private transfer again waiting for us to take us to the pier.  Barcelona is such a beautiful city; I would love to visit there again when we could spend more time.  To take in all that the city has to offer would be an entire vacation in itself!

Mommy Brasgalla ready to cruise the Mediterranean!

Approaching the pier, the Norwegian Epic towered over the other cruise ships.  Check-in at the pier was a breeze.  There was a baggage handler waiting to take our luggage for us, right when we pulled up.  The Check-In process took less than 20 minutes.  Finding our cabin took a little time.  (Somehow I had forgotten which numbers were odd and which were even!)  We were so pleased to find our cabin made up and ready when we arrived.  We had a breathtaking, over-sized balcony.  The cabin itself was a little narrow but it had lots of storage space.  The shower and toilet were located on either side of the door.  We had to pull a curtain shut so we could step out and dry ourselves off after showering.  It seemed a little odd, but it was also part of NCL’s new design to give guests more space in the cabin.

Our cabin on the Epic – FANTASTIC, isn’t it?

We set off to explore the ship… so much to see!  We had our choice of 18 bars and 15 restaurants, 3 swimming pools and a two-story water slide.  I know, lost you at 18 bars right? Needless to say, us North Dakotans were overwhelmed!

For dinner our first night, we ate at the Brazilian Steak House.  Since it is one of the specialty restaurants, there was an additional surcharge, but it was worth every penny.  The entertainment on the ship was amazing!  I don’t even think we could have made it to every show if we tried.  Our first night we spent listening to a Beatles Tribute Band.  It was so much fun!  The service on-board was top notch and friendly; by the second day, staff members were calling us Miss Lisa and Mommy! Miss Lisa…. I could get used to that. It has sort of a Southern Belle ring to it. Miss Lisa approves!

That’s right boys and gals, the Beatles are alive and well jamming out on the Norwegian Epic!

DAY 3 – Oh my, we were glad we had bought the motion sickness patches; our boat was rocking all night.  This was our one full day at sea.   That night we went to the Cirque Dreams and Dinner Show.  This was another one of the specialty restaurants.  It was amazing; it was a Cirque d’ Soleil Show set up as if we were under a big circus tent.  The performers were unbelievably talented and the food was great.  They would perform on what looked like an eight-foot circular stage about two feet high.  If the boat would have rocked even a little bit, I could just picture one of the performers landing in someone’s dinner!

DAY 4 – We arrived at Naples, Italy.  We opted for the Pompeii Excavation Tour.  A few words of advice for future visitors:  always make sure to bring a photo copy of your passport with you when disembarking the ship.  Also be very aware of your surroundings.  Some of the ports are known for pick-pockets, so carry very limited cash with you.  This tour does require quite a bit of walking on uneven ground.  But we just took our time and watched our step and we were able to get around just fine.
We had an amazing guide for this tour.  It was so nice; he gave us all headsets so we were able to hear him even if we ended up in the back of the group.  We also got quite the history lesson.

I just mentioned our awesome tour guide… Here’s his finger! Oh and yes, notice that I’m standing in the ruins of Pompeii?  

We made our way along the cobblestone streets to the Agora, surrounded by temples, porticoes and law courts. Because Pompeii was so well-preserved, we were able to see many fine details that revealed the lifestyles of the residents, such as mosaic floors and colorful frescoes in some of the homes.  That afternoon, we enjoyed a rainy day at the pool and treated ourselves to the Teppanyaki Restaurant for dinner, another one of the Specialty Restaurants.  We had an amazing chef; the food was excellent!

Our Japanese chefs, born for photo shoots!

DAY 5 – We arrived at Civitavecchia, Italy, the port city to Rome.  It was about an hour transfer by bus for our Rome and Vatican Tour.  It was such a beautiful drive; farming is a huge part of their culture, as much as it is of our own.  The tour started at the Colosseum, and it was breathtaking. I can’t describe how amazing of a feeling it was to stand there, able to actually touch the magnificence that is the Colosseum… It just has to be experienced!

Later that night, we were talking with a couple from the US that had done the same tour as we did.  Their bus ended up getting a flat tire and they were two hours late getting back to the ship.  Luckily, they had booked the tour through Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), so the captain actually held the ship for them.  That’s why I always advise cruisers to book their tours through the cruise line.  If they would have been on their own, they would have missed the boat…literally!

DAY 6 – We arrived at Livorno, Italy, the port city to Florence and Pisa.  That afternoon, we went on the Tuscan Country Side and Wine Tasting Tour.  It was a very scenic 45 minute drive to the vineyard.  We arrived at Fattoria Maionchi, a beautiful Estate in Tuscany.  The owner gave us a tour of his farm and gardens.  Oh my, what a beautiful place … lush vegetation, grapes and olives growing along the beautiful country side, I couldn’t believe my eyes!  He then brought us into the tasting room where we were able to sample the different wines, cheeses and breads.  If I wasn’t a wino before this trip, I definitely am now!

DAY 7 – We arrived at Cannes, France.  We had to tender to shore.  That took a little extra time; again we were glad we had the motion sickness patches on.  Those tender boats were a-rocking!  For our last two ports, we opted for bus tours, since we had gotten the strenuous tours out of the way at the beginning of the cruise.  We went on the Scenic Golden Corniche and St. Raphael Tour.  We had the sweetest little French Tour Guide.  We started with a drive through Cannes, and I could easily see myself coming back to visit this beautiful city.  We made our way through the country side to St. Raphael, a quaint little resort town.  We had an hour to walk around and do a little shopping and enjoy the beautiful French Riviera, and eat at a Pizzeria.

 

We then boarded the bus and enjoyed our drive along the Golden Corniche.  What a beautiful drive.  It was amazing to see all of the Villas built along the French Riviera.  Some even had their own helicopters, yachts and elevators for their cars!  There is no place to park along the road, so people have built elevators for their vehicles to drop them down to their Villa.  It was unbelievable.  That night we treated ourselves to dinner in the Italian Restaurant on-board the ship.  I have to admit, it was the best tiramisu I have ever had in my life!

DAY 8 – We arrived at Provence, France—the port city to Marseille.  Travelers exploring this city on their own will need to purchase a shuttle to downtown for $12 round trip.  We did another bus tour this time:  The Scenic Drive Along the Corniche.  The tour bus picked us up at the pier and we drove along the Corniche to the Old Harbor. The drive was beautiful, so many gorgeous beaches.  We drove past the Chateau d’If, the city’s old penal colony.  It is famous for being one of the settings of the Alexandre Dumais novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, later made into a movie starring Jim Caviezel and Guy Pierce.  In the distance we were able to see the statue of the Virgin and Child housed in the bell tower of the Basilica Notre-Dame.  We made a stop along the La Corniche near the Prado beaches, and we went for a stroll, stopping to enjoy some gelato.  For our last night, we enjoyed dinner at Cagney’s Steak House, followed by the Spanish Ballet.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect cruise.

The famous Monte Cristo.. Looks a bit like Alcatraz, don’t you think?

DAY 9 – We disembarked in Barcelona.  The transfer from the pier to the airport was only about 20 minutes.  The flight back to Fargo was as smooth as could be.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to Europe.  I think anyone, for their first time, should see Europe on an Escorted Tour or Cruise.  Especially with the time constraint of a week to ten days, travelers don’t want to spend all of their time trying to figure out how to get to and from the places they want to see.  It was so nice to have everything mapped out ahead of time.  I seriously loved everything about the Epic:  the food, service, entertainment and our cabin.

Europe watch out, Miss Lisa will most definitely be back!

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