19/04/2015 – 30/04/2015
Cruise line: Norwegian Cruise Lines
Cruise ship: Norwegian Epic
Cruise name: Miami to Barcelona
Price: $960.00 (Interior Cabin) plus $132.00 ($12.00 per day per person) for service charges
Depart: Miami at 16:00 on 19/04/2015
Arrive: Barcelona at 5:00 on 30/04/2015
Duration: 12 days, 11 nights
On my ‘Ramble On’ tour, I was determined to cross either the Pacific Ocean or Atlantic Ocean. It seems that the cheapest way to do so is by a doing re-positioning cruise. The reason I wanted to cross an ocean, is because I have a map of everywhere I travel without flying, and it is on my bucket list to be able to connect all of the lines at some point in my life, so that I have circumnavigated the world without flight. In most cases, travelling over-land is easy and in expensive, however the oceans were the difficulty to cross. Also, on my bucket list, is to go to Coachella Music Festival in California so I was hoping for a cruise that would be timed to help me do both. Cruising the Pacific seemed a lot more expensive, and the cruises I found would make me miss the festival. There were a few Atlantic crossings in the few weeks after Coachella, and when I spotted a deal on Norwegian Cruise Lines, I took it.
Norwegian Cruise Lines seemed to be the most ideal cruise line for myself as a solo traveller. First of all, they do not double the price for me as I am not travelling with somebody else, they added 50% on to the price of a single person. They do have special suites for solo travellers, however I got a standard room for around the same price. The suites for solo travellers, however, have exclusive access to a special lounge just for solo travellers.
Saturday 18th April 2015 – 1 Day prior to departure
When you’re travelling, you tell the details and itinerary of your trip a countless amounts of time. Telling fellow travellers about this cruise almost always got a response of ‘wow’. Having a catch-up drink with a travel buddy from my 2nd trip, I spoke to another guy who gave me a different response: ‘What cruise line?’, this confused me, but turns out he was also doing the same cruise as me. I did have an image of this cruise of it being very lonely, but I had already made a buddy, and someone to share a taxi with.
Sunday 19th April 2015 – Day 1
We had quite a heavy Saturday night in Miami, where I found out that my cruise buddy had spent as a nurse in Africa assisting with Ebola. After a quick taxi ride to the cruise ship, we separated and went through customs. I had to declare that I had not had contact with anybody who has had contact with Ebola. I checked into my room, and my home for the next 10 nights, and then went to explore.
I had my first meal at the Irish pub, being all-inclusive, I had a 3 course meal, and felt excited at the options. I attended the compulsory emergency procedures presentation, and dosed of in the front row.
I ran into ‘Ebola’ and went to the deck together and waited for the departure. The view of Miami from the deck is a special one, as you can the houses the rich alongside the stretches of water surrounding the area. Micah, the real name of ‘Ebola’ bought a bottle of Bacardi from the waiter, unclear of the cost, and requested the help of me to drink it. I did what any friend would do and obliged. The departure took a couple of hours, but worth the wait. Seeing Miami Beach from above was impressive, and I said a mental farewell to South Beach as we coasted out to sea.
For dinner, I hit the buffet for the first time of many. All I can eat, in numerous types of food, and desserts. It is hard to control yourself, and limit yourself to just one plate. This soon became a theme. The evening ended with a visit to Duelling Pianos, an entertaining show where 2 pianists play and sing customer requests for tips and drinks, getting louder, rowdier and funnier as they get more drunk.
Monday 20th April 2015 – Day 2
I started Day 2 with great intentions. I set my alarm for about 7am to get to an exercise class at 7:30am before breakfast. I failed to get into the exercise class as there was only room for about 20 people, and more than double that arrived. I did a quick work out, and went for a big fried breakfast.
I started a routine today, which consisted of breakfast, sun-bathing, going on the water-slides, hitting the hot-tubs, lunch, more time by the pool, and an afternoon nap. Late afternoon, I attended my first solo meeting. Every day at 5pm, there was a gathering in the solo lounge, for all of the solo travellers on board. This was a good chance to meet other people, and arrange going to dinner and/or shows together. I met some cruise regulars in the meeting, who said that this specific cruise had a lot of solo travellers compared to what they had experienced previously. I got let in to the solo lounge as my key did not work, and was told of the way into the lounge without a key. The solo lounge was a nice area to chill out in, and had better coffee, and cookies to munch on while watching TV and talking to others.
This evening, the ship was hosting Norwegian Night Out on the deck. I used this as an excuse to suit-up, in my tailored-made suit from Vietnam. I met up with a few people from the solo meeting, and had a few cocktails in the cool night air.
Tuesday 21st April 2015 – Day 3
I went for breakfast at the Irish bar, and attended what was advertised as flat tummy seminar. I was expecting some good tips to lose my beer belly, unfortunately it was more of an extended sales pitch to get some extra money for the personal trainers.
In addition to my new routine of lazing around the pool, using the hot tub and waterslides, today I had my first attempt at the climbing wall on-board. I got to the top very easily, and then realised I should have chosen a specific colour to climb up, I used whatever I could. I got down and realised this, felt like an idiot, and walked by to the pool.
I spent the evening participating in a quiz in the solo lounge, and chilled out watching a movie in my room and walking around the ship.
Wednesday 22nd April 2015 – Day 4
I woke feeling refreshed, so went down to the gym. I did a work out for as long as my patience could stand how busy it was. The treadmill on the cruise on an unusual feeling. The treadmills face the moving ocean, so you are running forwards, towards an ocean that is moving from left to right.
I continued my day as usual. As we moved away from the USA, and into the open ocean, the weather started to be cooler. This resulted in many hours spent in the hot-tub. The hot-tub become the place where I met people on the cruise that were not solo travellers. There were a lot of interesting conversations to be had with people on the cruise, notably stories from an American who was a judge in Las Vegas. Here I met fellow Englishmen Matthew and Mark, who I could talk about football with.
I spent the evening watching comedian Fred Bevill. I ran into Micah, and went to check out the Chinese restaurant on-board called Shanghai. The evening ended with a game of Trivial Pursuit in the solo lounge with other travellers.
Thursday 23rd April 2015 – Day 5
My favourite of the water slides on-board, was one with the inflatable tubes and big bowl. I would challenge myself to see how many times I could slide around the bowl, before finishing the slide. Today it was closed, so I made used slides instead before hitting the hot-tub.
I went down to the gym to attend the foot/posture measuring seminar. I hadn’t learned my lesson, as this was another extended sales pitch, for shoe insoles. However, I was told that I have great nap, so that’s a positive. I used the gym a bit more as was quieter than usual, then went for a huge lunch.
At the solo gathering, I won a pack of cards in mini golf. In the evening I went back to Shanghai Chinese restaurant, and attended two comedy improv shows, and a stand-up comedy show with comedian Drew Frees.
Friday 24th April 2015 – Day 6
I had never ordered room service before, so the evening before I filled out my form for breakfast. I was woken up this morning with repeated knocks on the door, which I ignored, and then the phone rang, so I collected my breakfast. A nice complimentary luxury.
Today there was a new item on the cruise schedule, and a new item added to my routine. There was a football match to play. On the top deck there is a basketball court and small 5-a-side goals, so a group of us got together with a member of cruise staff, and had a match. It was good fun, however we were all awful at football. I always had good intentions when I got a touch of the ball, but the thing would never go where I intended it to go.
I managed to get the waterslide all to myself today, and after 6 days, finally got bored of the slides.
Lunch was always so drool-inducing. I would walk from the pool and the first thing I would see were the gourmet burgers, with stuff such as cheese, mushrooms or pineapple. I could never resist. I would treat myself to a burger, before heading in to see what else was available for lunch. I had lunch with a couple of people from the solo lounge, before having an afternoon nap.
I visited the solo lounge, and played checkers, before heading out to Taste, one of the more fancy restaurants that were complimentary. I ended the day watching Duelling Pianos again.
Saturday 25th April 2015 – Day 7
I spent the morning having another game of football with a mixture of nationalities. I played better today, or maybe the other players were worse. However, I managed to score 3 goals, in my teams 4-3 win. Playing football was always in a hot and humid environment. I perhaps would burn off the calories for one course of one of my meals. A few regulars were appearing at the matches now, a Finnish guy who always played rough and seriously, and elderly Chilean guy who was very good and probably the best playing, and a Peruvian woman who was good and had a lot of bottle, she constantly went in for headers.
One of my concerns for my time on the ship, would be not seeing the football on TV, and not knowing the score until we met land again. I was wrong. The Liverpool games that were played while I was on the ship, were on live, on the limited TV channels that we had access too. I would be able to watch in my room if the remote had worked. I had better access to watch the game than when on land in England.
This evening I went to see a musical show in the theatre. It was called Oh What A Night, based on the story of The Four Tops. I knew nothing about The Four Tops, but that had several recognisable hits. I went to see the early showing, and had time after dinner to see some stand-up comedy to finish the day.
Sunday 26th April 2015 – Day 8
For breakfast today, I tried Taste, one of the fancier restaurants. Eating breakfast in a restaurant was aimed to limit the amount of food on my plate. I was also running out of time on the ship, and wanted to sample all of the restaurants for all of the meals. For that reason, I was back at Taste for lunch to. I had a salmon pretzel burger, it definitely got my thumbs up.
My routine was settled now, with more football playing and recovering in the hot-tub. I was getting used to this lifestyle. I could essentially have a 3 course meal, 3 times a day. Often I did just that. Dessert after dinner was a drool-inducing affair. Imagine seeing shelves full of cakes, and they all sounded amazing, such as strawberry cheesecake, chocolate gateau, and coconut pies. The issue lied with not having to choose just one of them, I could, and did have all of them, with a bit of ice cream on the side.
The evening was spent in the theatre, watching Chip Romero the comedian magician.
Monday 27th April 2015 – Day 9
I woke up to land. We had just arrived at Funchal, on the Portuguese island of Madeira. We only had several hours here, so I had breakfast, met up with Micah, and headed of as soon as it was possible.
One of the first things we saw was, a statue of Cristiano Ronaldo and a museum dedicated to him, for he was born there. We passed a McDonalds and grabbed a coffee, so I could get a small fix of WiFi. Internet on the ship is possible, but at a shocking cost. McDonalds was soon full of cruise passengers, causing the internet to come to a standstill. We moved on. We went for a walk up the hill to try to get a good view, we grabbed a local beer for the walk, and shocked how cheap it is, especially compared to the ship. The view wasn’t great, so we headed down to another bar for more beer. More walking, and tried a ponchas in a different bar. The town was pretty, and had some nice street art. We didn’t bother eating as could eat plenty on the ship. On the walk back, we stopped for some local wine.
I was saying previously, that there were quite a lot of solo travellers on this cruise. However, I seemed to be the youngest at 31 years old. I had spotted one girl of a similar age to me around the ship, and got speaking to her as we queued to get back on the ship, Nicolatté from USA.
I got back on the ship, a bit drunk, and with the munchies. Lucky for me, I had full access to a buffet to fill my stomach.
Tuesday 28th April 2015 – Day 10
A standard day, where as usual, my stomach got pushed to capacity.
In the evening, it was the White Hot Party, another excuse to suit up and head out. I dined in a fancier restaurant with Micah, before heading to the White Hot Party. I spent the evening chatting to some other solo travellers, and didn’t go to crazy on the alcohol. During the evening, we passed through the Straits Of Gibraltar, leaving the Atlantic Ocean behind, and heading into the Mediterranean Sea.
Wednesday 29th April 2015 – Day 11
The final day, and that was used as an excuse to eat even more than usual, as I would be going back to budget travelling once we hit land. One of my other temptations on the cruise, was the soft-serve ice cream machine, which was done by yourself. Today, I decide to push it to the limit, the result can be seen below.
We were now cruising through the Mediterranean Sea, however there was still no land to be seen on either side as far as we could see. It was time to pack my bag too. I had completely emptied my bags when I arrived, so I could sort out everything before my final stretch before home. It was nice to have a room to myself after months in dorms. I had wardrobes, drawers, and everything. Every little thing was a small luxury to me at this time. I had to sadly pack, and be ready for the final night.
Before the final night started properly, I attended a final show, a dance show which entertained and made a more than satisfactory way to pass some time.
I wanted to check my bill before starting to drink, and Micah said I could do it through my TV. I couldn’t as my remote didn’t work. There was a room party happening a few doors, so Micah went and asked to borrow their remote. We got more than we bargained for, we got welcomed into the party, given some whisky, and some good conversation. A final bonus, was they gave us a bottle of champagne that they had won, and as they went to dinner, we went to the solo lounge to drink and share our gift.
There was a game to be played on the final night. It was a game that consisted of the audience dividing into teams, and the first person to do a task, would win points for their team. It started with simple stuff like getting a size 9 show. As the night went on, the tasks got more debauched. From holding hands and skipping around the venue, to taking other people’s underwear, to the final task. The final task required a male and female from each team, and while on stage, changing into the others clothes. This ended, with a dance off between all the guys dressed in the girl’s clothes. It was a shame that this wasn’t on the first night, so everybody could socialise and mingle earlier on in the cruise, and not the last night.
Thursday 30th April 2015 – Day 12
We had arrived in Barcelona by the time I had woken up. I choose to take my luggage with me, instead of waiting for staff to transport it. I had breakfast, said farewell to the ship, and walked into the heart of Barcelona.
I was very pleasantly surprised by my experience on a cruise ship. I expected to spend a lot of time on my own, in my room, and watching movies on my laptop, and travel writing. As you can see, I was kept busy by the facilities and planned activities, I barely had time to make notes for this article. I met some great people, mainly from U.S.A, and many more solo travellers than I had expected. The lazy lifestyle, with all you can eat, whenever you want to eat, certainly has its appeal. I would happily do a cruise at another time in my life. It is a style of travel of complete contract to the budget travelling that I am used to doing.