The Norwegian Epic - one of the mega ships in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet
"The thing I don't like about cruising is all these people who don't speak English."... An ignorant, myopic, xenophobic American woman aboard the Norwegian Epic in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, November 12, 2017
The Norwegian Epic, a nearly quarter mile long 316 million pound mega ship, sailed from Barcelona, Spain at 1800 h local time on November 5, 2017. Thirteen very fast days later she was tied off at the cruise terminal at Port Canaveral, Florida, near Cocoa Beach and the Kennedy Space Center. My wife and I were aboard the Epic as she cast away from the pier in Barcelona and as we watched the sun set over an ancient fort overlooking the harbor we had already resigned ourselves to the trip being over almost before it began.
We had booked the cruise in August 2016 and with our early booking (and incredibly good per person rate for the cruise) which entitled us to accepting two inclusive packages from Norwegian. Our options were 1) Unlimited drinks, 2) a 4-restaurant specialty dining package, 3) 250 minutes of Internet use, and 4) reduced rates on shore excursions.
Because we usually make our own plans when in ports, and since this cruise offered landings in only two ports, we instantly rejected the reduced rates on excursions option. 250 minutes of internet for $125 seemed like an easy thing to pas up considering the value of the other options. Later Cathy purchased the Internet package and had nothing but constant problems with the service. We were glad we didn't choose internet for our "free" package.
What we chose were the specialty dining package and the unlimited drinks package. Both, it turned out, were no-brainers to choose and the next time we cruise on Norwegian (which means the next time we cruise) we will select those same two options. They turned out to be the most cost-effective options possible.
Although our cruise departed Barcelona on November 5, we boarded an American Airlines plane in Tampa on October 28 bound for Miami where we connected to an nonstop flight to Barcelona, 9 hours away. Because I am the absolutely best husband on the planet, I used some of my American Airlines frequent flier miles and and flew us to Barcelona in First/Business Class. This was Cathy's first real first class experience including being seated in lie-flat sets that converted to a bed. We left Miami a few minutes early, not long after the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for Palm Beach County about 50 miles north. To say the departure was bumpy was an understatement. The in-flight service was impeccable, the dinner (and breakfast) we were served were tasty and filling, and the hard sleep made possible by the lie-flat seats made the entire 9 hours worth the 100,000 frequent flier miles it "cost" to fly in First Class over the pond.
We arrived in Barcelona early, quickly cleared Customs and Immigration then found a bus operated by Andorra by Bus and took off on a 3-hour drive across the Catalonia countryside to the tiny country of Andorra on the Spain/France border. Andorra was the 119th country I have visited. We spent one night in Andorra then returned to Barcelona.
For my birthday, October 31, we flew to the Balearic island of Ibiza in the Mediterranean where we spent three nights. We did some SCUBA diving with the excellent folks at Scuba Ibiza Diving Center, then returned to Barcelona on November 3. On November 4 we spent much of the day exploring Barcelona with the superb local company Barcelona Day Tours. Travelers simply cannot go wrong booking a trip with this company. Ask for Elena as your guide - you will not be disappointed. While in Barcelona we stayed at the Barcelona Airport Hotel which, not surprisingly, is quite close to the airport but about 20 minutes by taxi from downtown. The rate was ridiculously cheap for this 4-star hotel and we look forward to returning to Barcelona if only to stay here again! The breakfast alone was worth the nightly rate.
Departing Barcelona aboard the ship on November 5 we set a course for Malaga, Spain, about 500 miles south. Unfortunately there was an on-board medical emergency overnight and when we woke up on November 6 we were a mile or two offshore from Isla Ibiza (where we dove 5 days earlier). The unfortunate passenger was dropped off here for medical care shortly after sunrise and we continued on our course for Malaga.
We spent November 7 in Malaga and thoroughly enjoyed it. Established in 770 BC it has to be one of the prettiest cities I have visited in Spain and in much of Europe for that matter.
Cafe de l'Abuela near the cathedral in Malaga was a perfect place to chill with a glass of Spanish red wine and simply watch the city come alive.
Walking around Malaga was made so much easier by the highly-polished marble streets
Central Park in Malaga epitomizes the beauty of the city
Departing Malaga we spent 4 days at sea before arriving at Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island in the stunningly beautiful Azores.
Sunrise over Ponta Delgada harbor, November 11, 2017. I absolutely love this island!
We had stopped here on a Transatlantic cruise in 2014 and I thought I would never see the island again. While here we completed a 2-tank dive with the good folks at Best Spot Azores Dive Center located just a 5-minute walk from the cruise terminal. Cathy dove with this PADI resort in 2014. We dove today with a Brit living in Lisbon. Bruno the owner of the company, and Diego a PADI Instructor served as our divemaster. Despite the bottom temperature 60 feet beneath the surface being a chilly 63 degrees we enjoyed two great dives and look forward to going out with this company again.
There are five dive shops within a stone's throw of the cruise terminal in Ponta Delgada. At least 3 of them are PADI shops and one is SSI (Not sure about the affiliation of the 5th one). Despite the competition you cannot experience a better dive than with Best Spot - just make sure to wear a 6 ml wetsuit!
The following images show the approximate route we followed on this journey.
The Cruise Ship
We spent 13 nights in Stateroom 10097, a Mini-Suite located forward on the starboard side of the ship