Trying to sleep through the excitement
I pulled my mobile phone under the covers to check the time without the brightness of switching it on disturbing my partner. It glared back brightly and a bit angrily that it was 4:15am. Far too early. It crossed my mind that this was probably about the time that the pilot from Barcelona would be boarding the Norwegian Epic cruise ship to help the crew safely manoeuvre the 4,000 passenger ship into the harbour and to the dock. There it would be sitting ready for me to board in just under 8 hours time.
Despite my 20 plus years of travelling pretty much every month, and often multiple times in the month, I am rubbish at sleeping the night before a trip. Especially when it is a new adventure like sailing on a ship I have not been on before. As a ship geek the excitement of getting to join the Norwegian Epic for the first time held sway over my ability to sleep properly. I gave up trying to sleep until my 4:45am alarm and got up. The extra half an hour giving me to time to page through the plans for my cruise.
The countdown to the trip was over. Getting up definitely counting as the first official step in my adventure of learning how to “cruise like a Norwegian”.
Which type of Norwegian will I be?
Norwegian Cruise Lines pioneered the concept of “freestyle cruising”. Something that is quite different to what I am used to on the more formal and traditional cruise lines like Cunard, and even P&O, that I have cruised with most regularly. On those lines routine and schedules are ingrained as part of the experience provided. I had asked Belinda from their PR agency what made Norwegian different and what I should expect and she said that Norwegian Cruises believes that your holiday should be about how you want to make it. You should be able to do what you want to do when you want to. They aim to provide everything possible to make that happen.
This means Norwegian provides lots of choices in dining, entertainment, facilities and are more relaxed about the dress code you want to follow. There is a large array of different types and styles of cabins. Not only by size but also by type of traveller from solo studio cabins, with access to a solo traveller studio lounge, through to family cabins. There are adult only areas to escape from families and children and there are family zones to encourage energetic fun, such as the three water slides in an aqua park.
It sounds like there is a multitude of holiday types and styles possible on the ship. I am expecting it may be a bit daunting and hard to chose what to do. The Norwegian Epic is huge, and the deck plans took me longer than any other to digest – as there were so many decks of facilities, rooms and restaurants. This probably explains why Norwegian sent so much information before the trip in a series of emails with links to websites to explain all the choices. They sent tips on how to plan, advice on what to pre-book for things to do on board as well as on shore. All were delivered under the banner and rallying call to “cruise like a Norwegian”. But clearly there is not one Norwegian! Which Norwegian type will I be I wondered on the flight to Barcelona – as seems there are many types to chose from?
There is no getting over the fact that transfers from airport to the ship are a pain. On coming out of customs there was a bank of Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian people to meet and greet arrivals. After handing over my transfer booking I waited with an agitated group of fellow travellers eager to get to the ship to start our cruise. The 20 minutes before we were herded to the coach seemed like an eternity. Though once we drew up in front of the massive hulk of the ship we all smiled – realising that our eagerness to get to the Norwegian Epic was to blame for our unreasonable harshness about a simple 20 minute wait to ensure a full bus load of passengers.
Check in was really fast. This was helped by the fact that I could use the V.I.P. Check-in. Within about 10 minutes of getting into the check-in hall I was on board – including posing for the usual pre-board photo against a backdrop of the ship. Something I will never buy, but assume people must do and love or they would not do it. The photo shop on the ship is massive. So they have to be popular.
Not only is the photo shop vast – the whole ship is vast. And much more stylish and tasteful that I had ever imagined Norwegian ships to be. I had always imagined them to be overly brash, loud and just a bit too neon. I was surprised at the dark tones, the plush fabrics and the tasteful artworks that I was shown on a quick ship tour by our hosts. It was not at all what I was expecting. A full tour and exploration is to come tomorrow – when I will video and explore every nook, cranny and the 23 dining options, the equal number of bars, the many bowling alleys and (of course) the water slides.
But for now embarkation is over. We are at sea.
Follow the adventure on Tips for Travellers on Norwegian Epic
Declaration: I am travelling as a guest of Norwegian Cruise Lines