Saturday, 25 February 2012

An Epic Adventure Pt 9

Final Day

Continuing our day-by-day look at a typical voyage in the life of Norwegian Cruise Line’s wonderful Norwegian Epic, by World of Cruising editor Simon Veness

Our last full day aboard Norwegian Epic is slightly unusual in that it is a port day, but we don’t arrive in the Bahamian capital of Nassau until mid-day, which is fairly late in the day for a typical port arrival.

That means we can have a leisurely morning, soak up some sun on our balcony and catch up with a bit of email (albeit the internet connection on board is pretty slow – in keeping with just about every cruise ship).

But, almost before we know it, the island of New Providence is in sight and we are maneuvering slowly into the port of Nassau – with the Disney Dream, MSC Poesia and a Royal Caribbean ship already in dock and two Carnival vessels following us in. It’s going to be a busy day in a busy port.

True to form, the hustle and bustle around the cruise terminal is fairly intense, with several thousand people looking to get out, a myriad of taxis, horse-and-carriage buggies and tour vehicles all looking to do business. But, once we managed to work our way clear of the immediate harbour area, it is easy to wander around under our own steam unimpeded and unaccosted.

This is a friendly and open city, easy to navigate on foot, and we have sorted out our own walking tour, taking in the main sights and vantage points, including the Queen’s Staircase and Fort Fincastle. We stop for a welcome cold libation at Hotel Greycliffe – a former Colonial mansion – and visit the Colonial Hilton Hotel, which has provided the backdrop for several James Bond films, notably Live And Let Die.

A walk along Junkanoo Beach allows us to dip our toes in the sea and spy some fish and lobsters – extremely large lobsters – in the crystal clear waters. The Fish Fry is a famous area of Nassau, a collection of local seafood restaurants boasting plenty of the local delicacy, Conch – conch salad, conch fritters, fried conch and conch chowder. Perfect for a lazy lunch and a true taste of the Bahamas.

The 20-minute walk back into the heart of town is an opportunity for some more retail therapy. In all honesty, there isn’t anything we haven’t already seen in St Thomas or St Maarten, save for the new Straw Market, a huge indoor market of local arts and crafts – rows and rows of them – but it is ideal window shopping territory as we slowly wind our way back to the ship.

Once again, there isn’t anything we can’t live without, so our credit cards remain safe, but we do pick up a chocolate cake for our cabin steward, Winzyl, as a little ‘thank you’ for his non-stop efficiency and cheery demeanour.

Back on board, we enjoy some more balcony time as the other ships depart and get ourselves ready for our final dinner, at the Epic Club, courtesy of Hotel Director Richard Janicki, giving us another chance to check out the extra amenities of The Haven area.

Our waitress is Jo-Anne from Luzon in the Phillipines, and she is the epitome of gracious service as we enjoy tempura mushroom, roasted beets with arugula, salmon in lobster sauce, wild mushroom ravioli, pear and ginger crumble and a mango and raspberry soufflé, all washed down with a bottle of Ruffino pinot grigio. Simply sublime.

To complete our round-up of the ship’s vast range of entertainment options, we have a 9.15pm appointment with the Second City comedy group in Headliners, a chance to sample their improv act, which provides an hour of fairly knockabout humour in best ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ style.

It just leaves the final night ritual of suitcase packing to be completed, with both suitcases duly loaded and left outside our cabin door with the appropriate labels on by 11pm. With a 7.30am wake-up call booked, we’re not looking for a late night, but we do manage a final quick visit to Fat Cats Jazz Club and a fond farewell to Charlie Love & The Silky Smooth Band.

It leaves us with an inedible memory of this amazing ship and its vast entertainment array; one that not just breaks the mould of traditional cruising but takes it and completely re-shapes it into something new, contemporary and exciting. And just a little exhausting!

Next – final thoughts on our Epic cruise.