MITSUGIRLYS EPIC CRUISE--2nd time around-1st from Port Canaveral
Day 1: Flying to Orlando and spending the night before the cruise.
A little about me and the family. We "try" to cruise often (3x a year...but this year we squeezed in a 4th cruise) and my little family consist of me, the hubby and our now 8 year old daughter, Sakari. (Pronounced just as it's spelled SA-KAR-I) for all of our cruises.
I have 4 "kids" (LOL) ages 30, 28, 22 and 8. All the adult children have children of their own. Most of the time my oldest daughter (Kendra-28 year old) and her family cruises with us, which makes for an interesting cruise. :eek: My youngest son (Kolin-22 year old) and his fiance, Courtney, tries to go at least once a year with us. My oldest son (Kenny-30 year old) went for the first time with us last year to Bermuda (and once when he was 13 years old) and decided cruising just might not be his cup of tea. This time, we would have 3 of the "kids" cruising with us.
NCL EPIC would be the very first cruise for my hubby and I when we sailed on her when she first came out in 2010. I have always said that she was my favorite ship to date. I never really knew why I felt that way, but stood my ground with her being my favorite. Was it that it was my very first cruise with the hubby? Was it that I hadn't sailed in so long that it just simply amazed me at the changes in the cruising industry and ships? Was it that we didn't take any children with us? Was it that we had an AMAZING roll call that I got to know many months prior to cruising and have remained friends with A LOT of them and still cruise with some? I'm really not sure.....BUT I WAS ABOUT TO FIND OUT....would the Epic still keep her number 1 spot on my list of my "favorite ship"? Or would she fall short of my expectations and I would discover that there were a lot more factors that made her (or the cruise itself) my favorite? YOU ARE ABOUT TO FIND OUT! :D
So I had to purchase a new camera this time around. I normally use an Olympus 620 & 830. However, my 830 stopped working 1 week prior to the cruise. After researching, I decided I just HAD to have the Olympus Tough Stylus TG-4. After reading some of the things that it did, the reviews, and doing a ton of research looking at pictures taken with it, along with video, I knew that was what I had to have! Now let the search begin to find one. I would discover the next day that this camera actually came out last year and they were extremely hard to find in stores...well, actually all the stores located in my area (including the camera shops) no longer carried them or they were on back order. GASP! I did manage to order one online from a local store and they had it shipped and ready for pick up for me the next day. SCORE!
NOW>>>>>> the big PLUS of this camera is that you have the option to buy lens to put on it!!!!!!!! WOW! I immediately started searching for a wide angle lens and found that you just couldn't find them anywhere. I did manage to find a fish eye lens on amazon and did the 2 day Prime shipping and it arrived the day before we were to leave on vacation. WOO HOO!
Ok, so some of the new things that I found this camera does (and there's probably more, but I haven't had enough time to explore the options)....
*Adding different lens
*You can also do TIME LAPSE!!!!!!!!! YES! I wanted to try this out for so long
*I believe there's an added underwater option now too and they also decided to give the underwater option its own button, which makes it easier to just flip to that instead of scrolling the entire "program" mode to find it.
*There's also a new microscope button and man it's pretty awesome with the close ups and bokah.
I'm sure there's a lot more, but I really can't think of it at the moment...I just know the above made my decision to get this camera.
So I had to purchase a new camera. Olympus Tough Stylus TG-4.
Here is my new camera:
And my new lens (fish eye).
About our booking:
We decided to book a balcony room this time around. The last time we were on the Epic (just the hubby and I), we had booked 2 of the studio rooms that connected and opened the doors to have 1 big room with two of everything...showers, toilets, closets and so on. We absolutely LOVED the studios. Even though they are only 100 sq ft, we thought the design of them worked really well because the amount of storage was incredible for such a small room. We also enjoyed the "mood lighting" and thought that was pretty neat as well.
This time around, we would experience a balcony and was quite aware of the issues and complaints that everyone had with the balconies being a "wave" room. I know a lot of people don't like these (with complaints of the beds seeming too small, the 3rd bed just pulling out inches to become another bed and the "wave" making less room, plus the clear bathroom and shower located in the entrance way by the door). I was prepared for this and went in knowing about it and figured we'd make it work anyhow.
However, to make up for what I thought we were about to experience, I booked myself a balcony, located on the outside "wave" of the ship. What did this mean? It meant that I would have a ginormous whooping balcony this time around. heh heh heh. I did my research and decided on room 14049.
Here's a blue print of the Epic and the rooms. Would ya take a look at the size of this balcony? Hehe This is considered a B4 category room. It was also right at the hall entrance to the elevators (easy access to everywhere) and that elevator hallway was also where you drop the munchkins off to Splash Academy. The location (for us) couldn't have gotten any better if I do say so myself! (For those of you wondering, we didn't hear a peep out of any of the kids club from our location).
Kendra decided to book opposite of me and grabbed room 14034. The only differences are that my bed was by the balcony and hers was by the door. I would later discover there was a few differences in the storage as well, depending on the location of the beds.
By the time that Kolin and Courtney decided they would tag along with us on this cruise, they decided to book an interior room. They left the "choice" of location up to me, and I ended up finding a room on the 13th floor (none on the 14th floor was available) and it was in between the elevators and also happen to be room 13049 (ours was 14049), so easy to remember and a quick hop down the steps and you were there at their room.
So that would be our room selection for this cruise.
We picked this particular date because Nov 12th is the hubby's birthday so this date was a no-brainer.
We are not morning people. We would rather stay up late 2-3am and sleep in. So cruises are sometimes hard on us because we have to adjust our sleep habits, which can be challenging at times. I think it comes from working in the ER for so many years, on 2nd and 3rd shifts that I would just rather sleep during the day than at night. I have a bad case of insomnia and have to have Melatonin at night to make myself sleep when it's dark out. Let me sleep in the day time and I could probably fall asleep standing if I had to. Just saying...
So, when it comes to booking air flights, I desperately try to accommodate our schedules as well. The later the flight, the better for us. This time around I was able to score a non-stop flight into Orlando at 3:35pm. Perfect!
Kendra, being a perfectionist procrastinator, didn't book her flights until about 3 weeks prior to the cruise. By that time the flights had doubled in fares and she decided that she would book a flight out of a different city and have a family member drive her and her family to that location and fly out of there. Well, her being the never-punctual-to-anything type of person she is, WE decided it was best for her to go up to that city the night before and stay in a hotel. She ended up with a great location, close to the airport, and it had free airport transportation, a pool and free breakfast. Her flight was leaving at 11 something in the morning, but she did not have a direct flight. So therefore with the plane changes and delay in between, she would end up arriving 1 hour prior to our arrival and we planned on just meeting at the terminal and riding over to the hotel together around 6pm.
We slept in on Friday and had a majority of the day for last minute packing and preparations. We ate breakfast earlier in the day and took our time getting ready.
I had been messaging Kendra all morning to make sure 1) she was up and 2) she made it to the airport for her flight. Her history of being late to everything just worries me. I did not get a response from her all morning and I was getting quite annoyed at that point. I knew it was almost time for her flight and decided to message her fiancé. I got this reply back...
Yep, they had made it to the plane and were getting ready for take off. Kendra's phone was dead and even though she plugged it into the charger the night before, she would discover the next morning that the plug to the lamp (where the hotel outlet was) was not plugged into the wall so her phone did not charge. Way to give your mother a slight heart attack Kendra!
A few hours before our flight we headed to the airport. We have started parking our vehicle there at the airport while we are gone instead of having someone take the time and trouble to drop us off and have to pick us back up, and it's pretty cheap ($40 for the week) IMO and less of a hassle. It does require a little more time since you have to park and grab a shuttle to the airport, but that's ok. I don't mind and always give ourselves plenty of time to get there, shuttle, baggage check and security check.
On our ride to the airport we all received notifications on our phones that our flight had been delayed. Oh joy!
Kendra had already made it to her first location (Georgia) and we all decided that once she arrived in Orlando that they would go ahead and head over to the hotel without us and we would meet up with them for dinner once we arrived at the hotel.
There was no explanation as to why our plane was delayed (we were one of two planes on the boards with delays) other than they had "an issue" in Florida (where the plane was coming in from).
Since we had some time to spare, we decided to get some lunch since it had been awhile since we had breakfast. Donatos was right beside our terminal gate and we sat beside the windows so that we could see when our plane pulled in. The attendant had told us to stay close because once the plane arrived and they were able to get the passengers off, they would immediately be boarding us.
A picture of our double-priced full pizza that is about the size of a personal pizza at home. Geez!
Our plane finally arrived and we started immediately boarding. I got a notification from Kendra that they were landing in Orlando and it was nice and sunny out. Lucky dogs!
We were all super excited to get this show on the road, or maybe it's cloud in this situation, and managed to get seats together.
I prepared Sakari, my youngest, for take off with her airplane ear plugs in each ear and then my Bose sound deadening headphones over those and gum in the mouth. She has issues popping her ears and we have been working on it lately, but she just can't seem to get them to "work" right. She has managed to get them to pop on the way up in flight, but coming down is a whole other issue and is painful for her.
We were ready for take off at 4:30 and down the runway we went.
This plane was FULL OF NOTHING BUTS KIDS!!! Screaming, crying, yelling kids. Yikes. It took me awhile to figure this out. I mean this is November and school is in. We are traveling on the "off" season. Why are there so many munchkins on this plane???? The the flight attendant comes on a tells everyone that's playing hookie from school that they need to read a book each day they are out of school...then wishes everyone a happy trip to Orlando and visiting with MICKEY! Oh my goodness that darn mouse! He's the one causing all this chaos. I had never even considered the amount of kids that might be on this flight because of it going to Orlando. Sigh.
Off we went.
I thought this was neat that there was a sudden break in the clouds and all you could see was our down town area.
We made it above the clouds with no problem and Sakari did not experience any pain.
It was around 5pm and even the moon was out above the clouds. See, I should be sleeping right now.
Sakari and I played a little Mahjong on my phone to pass the time away. But of course with my bad vision up close, it makes it hard for me to see it, let alone match things on the screen that appear to be the exact same thing, but with one small different detail. Since I'm a sore loser and she's real good at this game, I didn't last long before I needed to rest my eyes.
Since Sakari loves to draw, we always have to take her a notebook with us and she decided to pull it out and challenge her brother, Kolin, to some drawings. She would start a drawing and then hand it back to him to see what he would come up with and finish the drawing.
Some of the things they come up with had me scratching my head.
Sakari knows her talents exceed her brothers and decides that it works better if she just does her own thing.
She scribbled this up in about 20 minutes and presented it to me.
Our flight was only 2 hours and 10 minutes, but it went from daylight to dark in no time. I really hate daylight "savings" time because it definitely doesn't save on daylight. I don't like when it gets dark so quickly. It seems like you miss half the day.
Arriving in Orlando
We landed safely in Orlando and immediately noticed just how beautiful this airport was.
The tile work on the floor.
I have to say that we were a little confused as where to go in the airport and just started following others.
We arrived at a subway-monorail type of contraption and seen people getting on. Monkey see, monkey do and we followed.
Away we went... We have only been on one of these at another airport once before, but can't remember where it was located. Sakari really liked it.
But it was a short ride.
Once we picked up our luggage we headed out of the airport to call our shuttle from the hotel.
Our hotel information:
We booked using [deleted]. Those not familiar with them, I learned about them several years ago, from these boards. They are a family that is a third party booking agent that prearranges accommodations geared toward cruisers that combine packages such as hotel, transfer, and parking while on a cruise. They usually have some pretty good deals and their package includes everything they have listed on their site for that hotel. The price you see is the price you pay. No additional charges or taxes.
We ended up booking Doubletree Hotel at 5555 Hazeltine National Drive in Orlando. It was 2 miles from the airport and of course included airport to hotel shuttle. If you were driving in, it included 14 days of free parking, but we were flying. They did offer cruise port shuttle, but at $40 pp, it was not cost effective. The price of this package was $117 for up to 4 people in the room. Since we had a total of 8 people, we booked 2 rooms and it suited our needs well.
So I immediately called the hotel for airport to hotel shuttle services to pick us up. When they ask where we were at, I told them standing outside the terminal A at marker 4. They told me that I would need to go over to terminal B at marker 41 to be picked up and "look for the cookie bus". UGH! I had no idea what this meant, but after hanging up I went inside to ask.
We had to go back into the airport, go up 3 floors, cross the airport, back down 3 floors, then back out and we would be at terminal B. Seriously???? Of course we came out at around marker 4 and also had to walk down to marker 41 for our cookie bus pick up.
Although we only had to wait for 10 minutes, this fluffy girl was out of breath from the long haul we just made. We spotted the cookie bus and piled into the van and proceeded to pull out of marker 41. Away we went, then we stopped. He pulled into marker 4. Um wait what? They told me to walk to marker 41. Grrr.
Ok, off we went again, then we circled around and guess where we stopped next.....MARKER 41 ON THE A SIDE...THEN GUESS WHERE WE STOPPED....MARKER 4 ON THE A SIDE. Exactly where we were to begin with and was told to haul ourselves over to the other side of the terminal. Yea, my blood was boiling a little, but I was on vacation and I wasn't going to let this get to me. It was a short ride to the hotel and Kendra had said last time I spoke with her that they were swimming so let this vacation begin.
The cookie bus:
We checked into the hotel with a not-so-friendly person at the desk. I don't think she smiled once or welcomed us. She was like a robot. They put us on the 5th floor and I knew that Kendra was on the 4th floor. I ask if we could be put close to them, since we booked together and all I got was a "no" while she continued to look down. Um, ok. So, we will need one of her room key cards because some of our party is staying there in that room. She was reluctant to give us a card and put me into exam mode with the questions (which is fine and I would hope they would do so instead of just handing out cards to other peoples room just because they ask for it) and we were handed our cards and off we went to check out our room.
Room pictures (a little crappy, but you get the idea).
I have to say that this bed seemed to be a twin sized bed. It was so small and I can't stand beds that are small. I'm used to my king sized bed and anything less than a queen makes for a bad nights rest for me. This happens every time we book a hotel, but this time I swear the beds were not even a full sized bed. I knew I would not be in for a relaxing night.
I can't remember the last time I actually ironed something. I do my laundry and immediately hang everything up to avoid wrinkles. I pulled out this iron from the closet in the room and found it quite interesting with it's laser beam lights to zap your wrinkles away and headlights for the blind like me.
I ironed a few things in the suitcases in hopes that they would stay fairly pressed once we arrived on the ship. If not, you would all just have to see me wondering around the ship with wrinkles. I honestly don't care...I'm on vacation. I'm one of those that could care less what others wear during their vacation, in the dining rooms or anywhere. It's your vacation and what others wear don't make or break my experience or vacation. Hopefully I don't offend too many others if I have some wrinkles...all that good food should help fill out my clothes a little more, therefore pushing some wrinkles out. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
More of the room/bathroom/closet area
The hotel was decent, the rooms were cleaned and stocked well. I don't have any complaints other than the small beds. We were only staying there over night and it suited our purpose.
On to explore the hotel itself. A majority of the pictures were taken the following day (since it was already dark out), but I will post all that I have.
This is the area you see from the road. It is actually not the entrance but the pool area.
The inside behind the glass walls was all open and included several restaurants/bar/sports area, exercise room, gathering areas, and balconies from the rooms.
The outside pool area was very nice with 2 levels. You could sit up above and there was a pool table and ping pong table, then a fence around it with steps leading down to another area around the pool.
Of course by the time we arrived, Kendra and the family were done with swimming and the air was a little chilly outside. Not exactly my kinda Florida weather.
Some daylight pictures that were taken the following day.
They had glass elevators that overlooked the glass open area below. This shot was taken from the elevator looking down.
The pool area had some nice looking cabanas. Too bad we would not be able to use any of them or hang out there. The weather was just too cold and there wouldn't be enough time the following day.
All in all...decent hotel and I guess I would recommend it, even with the hiccups we experienced with the shuttle.
After checking out the hotel and room, we headed to Kendra's "pad" and ask about dinner only to find out that they had ordered a pizza downstairs when they had first arrived and was no longer hungry. Sigh.
Well, that left us to fend for ourselves and we really didn't want to head out in the cold and walk any distance for food so we decided to stay right at the hotel and eat at their dining area under the glass dome.
It was very dark in there with little light and my pictures turned out extremely crappy because I didn't use the flash, except for one picture. Sorry...but like my wrinkled clothes from the suitcase, you'll have to deal with the crappy pictures. hehe
Even though the dining times said they closed within 10 minutes, they were still happy to seat us and served us with a smile.
They had some funny odd shaped glasses to drink from, so of course I just had to get a picture of them.
Sakari had some chicken nuggets (with fries...which she hardly ever eats fries and would prefer something like applesauce, apples, or fruit instead)
I played it safe with a bacon cheesburger, which was pretty good and I loved the fries (which reminded me of Steak and Shake fries...thin and crispy)
The hubby decided to go with a Quesadilla
We enjoyed our meal and were satisfied and decided to call it a night and headed back to our room to relax, watch a little television and go to sleep on the smallest beds ever created.
But first, I would walk over to the customer service desk and inquire about my cookies that I didn't receive upon check-in. They gladly passed out as many as I wanted and I shared them with Kolin and Courtney. They were warm and they were yummy!