15 Mar 2014

No matter how comfy the bed, the last 'sleep' before disembarkation (at least for me) is never a truly restful one.  Your mind races with silly things....did I get everything out of the drawers/cabinets, did I accidentally pack my return transfer voucher, will I oversleep???  I was awake before the alarm went off @ 7:30.  While I was in the shower, Lou texted that she was in the lounge having coffee.  She has a kinda early flight back to Dallas; & her group will be one of the first to leave the ship.

I chose not to hurry; we had (or rather I had) my tearful goodbye last night.  It was deserted when I got to the lounge for my last free capp.  First thing I noticed was the label that had been placed on the capp. machine marking the mysterious button that (we finally learned) would dispense hot water for a cup of tea.  Mr. Sean (Hotel Dir.) was true to his word again.  Sitting there, I realized I would probably miss this place after all.

After several groups had been called to disembark, I moved up to O'Sheehan's until the last group (local transport) was called.  Everyone seemed to be crowding around the forward atrium exit, even though there was another gangway toward the aft.  It wouldn't have made any difference, the baggage claim area was smack dab in between the two.  It's easy to spot your luggage when there's so few pieces left.  The Cruise Connection agent was just outside the door; & steered us toward the end of the sidewalk to await the arrival of the bus.  Thank God the temps were in the 60's.  Cruise Connection buses cannot pull up until all the other airport buses have completed their pickups.  I believe we waited another 45 mins; finally pulling away about 11 am.

Today's driver was also very personable & entertaining.  There were only 15 of us; & most seemed to ignore the movie that was playing on the overhead TV screens ("Out to Sea", chosen just for us, by the driver).  There was no way I could block that out; & read.  So I watched the movie again, much to my chagrin.  I called my friend, Marshall, about 15 miles out to let him know we would soon be approaching the drop off point (back at Burger King on Pine Ridge Rd.)  I was back at home by 1:30.

While waiting for Marshall to pick me up, I checked my voice mail; & sure enough, reality awaits me.  Two calls, from mid week, about condo "issues".  If I'm REALLY lucky, I can cap off this mini-vacay with 2 more days of solitude.  My plan is to TRY to ignore these issues until Monday.  The annual homeowner's meeting is 4 days away.  If all goes as planned, I will pass the condo board presidency off to someone else; & also resign from the pool assoc. board.  It's time for a change; & this is the first step.....................


My first 2 cruises (ever) were with Norwegian Cruise Line back in the late 60's.  NCL has (IMO) always been a very good cruise line.  Entertainment has always been their strong suit; & even though I didn't partake of it, I bet they're still on top of their game.  I always felt their food was good & sometimes VERY good.  Except for a few poor choices from the buffet on my part, they're still doing a very good job in food service.  I have no way of gauging the quality of dining service, except for our one night in Moderno Churrascaria (which was outstanding).  The choices available to entertain oneself, are mind boggling.  It would take more than 7 days to actually explore all these options.  Being a brand new ship, she is immaculate; & the decor is like 'eye candy' (but not overdone in my own wacky opinion).  If bright primary colors, "pop art" inspired hull artwork & ever changing colors of accent lighting are not your thing........then you'd be better served to take your business elsewhere.

My heart belongs to Crystal Cruises; & probably always will.  They offer EVERYTHING I want from a cruise vacation, without my having to pay for things that are of no interest to me.  Deluxe verandah staterooms are fantastic; & I certainly would never turn one down (if you gave it to me).  But there are some of us out there who can be quite happy with a nice inside "cabin", as long as the food/service is top notch & you don't "nickel & dime" us to death!  At the risk of making a fool of myself, I even mentioned "inside staterooms" to a Crystal District Sales Mgr. (friend) a few years ago.  As in....wouldn't it be nice if each ship had a handful of inside cabins available at the 125% sgl surcharge; thus leaving the rest available for dbl. occupancy"?  The answer......"that will never happen".  This response could be interpreted several different ways.
If I want to continue to cruise fairly often, my travel budget will no longer support sailing with Crystal exclusively.  I will have no choice but to fill in the gaps with "mainstream/mass market" lines.  IMO, NCL's studio cabins hit the mark with (for the most part) an acceptable cabin layout at a very fair price point.  Coupled with the private studio lounge area, complimentary specialty coffees & a nightly cocktail party; their Epic-class of ships are on trend.  Itinerary choices are quite limited; but that's almost insignificant to me when I just need to get away from it all.  I hope to test these waters again sometime.  God willing & the market doesn't crash!

Some other photos from onboard the Norwegian Getaway:   




Sugarcane's Mojito Bar

Spice H2o


Le Bistro

Entrance to the Illusionarium


Flamingo Bar & Grille

Bliss Night Club

14 Mar 2014

I was unable to get to sleep for a long while last night.  Since I had been waiting for some 'wave action', I laid in bed; & savored the rocking.  There is no more comforting feeling in the world to me.  If every day of this cruise had been like yesterday.......I would be healed!

I was so cozy when the C.D. sang this morning, I barely acknowledged the intrusion.  But I REALLY wanted cappuccino.  I threw on the muumuu; & rushed out w/o even looking in the mirror (bad omen).  Lou was in the Lounge; she'd had a fitful night.  A few people came & went.  Everyone seemed to be in a rrush; having big plans for our arrival in Nassau.  A while later 2 very nice looking men in crisp,white uniforms came in; asked how we were enjoying our cruise.  Lou & I just started joking about noise; & how we were probably too old for this big ship.  We were still rather bleary eyed; & didn't realize that we were talking to the Hotel Dir. & his Asst.

We admitted that we were Holland America/Crystal Cruises fans.  They seemed generally interested in hearing our thoughts (as old people).  Lou  mentioned not being able to get the Pepsi machine in the arcade to work.  I mentioned the vending machine in the upper level of the Lounge only offering water & Gatorade.  They agreed that would make sense if this were the gym.  I figured this sgl. crowd was more the cola; & red bull type.  I mentioned that it was strange to have tea bags & hot cocoa packets, but apparently no hot water in the lounge.  They both went over; & scrutinized the machinery.  After touching a few buttons, they found one that dispensed hot water.  Voila!  We also made some other suggestions; they made notes; & gave each of us their business cards.  We were amused & impressed.

I went back, put on some clothes; went out on deck to take photos of the sail in.  Six mega ships in port at the same couldn't pay me enough money to go out in this.  Obviously last night's weather brought a cold front through.  I found a quiet spot on the shady side of the waterfront to read; & I actually got a little chilly.  Lou texted about 12:45 saying she was ready for lunch.  I met her in the Garden Cafe.  I tried a little gumbo, curly fries, beet salad, ham & orzo salad, stuffed zucchini.  When I got back to my cabin, there were 2 diet Pepsis & a red bull (compliments of the H.D.).  Right away Lou texted that she found the same in hers.  After a rough start, NCL is slowly redeeming themselves in our eyes.

                                                                        Cable Beach

                                                                      Atlantis Resort

I put jammies back on; & crawled in the bed to read; but I ended up falling asleep.  I woke when I heard the ship's horn announcing our pending departure at 7:15.  There were some stragglers, so we left a little late.  I had the TV turned on to the bridge camera station; & I watched the ship make a 180* pinpoint turn in the tight basin.  We were the last ship in; & the first one out.  Lou texted  right afterward to say she was going up to the Cafe.  I dressed; & joined her for our "last supper".

Nothing on the buffet really stood out; & I picked at a few things.  A couple of cold salads were okay.  Stir fry beef & snow peas over rice from the Asian section, a pretty decent chili rellenos casserole.  I though I'd give the pizza a try.  They had chorizo & jalapeño; & it was to die for.  I mean REALLY, REALLY good.  Keep that in mind for next time.  We stopped by the lounge for a snack; & then said our goodbyes.

Even though the first half of the cruise was a little disappointing, I am sad to see it come to an end.  Sad to have to say goodbye to Lou.  It was a joy to have her company.  When I went back to my cabin, I noticed that Jerome failed to bring the required custom & immigration forms.  I suppose he opened the door, saw the disaster area; & ran out.  With the luggage strewn all over the bed, there was no way to do a proper turndown service.  A quick call to housekeeping; & they brought everything I needed for disembarkation in the morning.  Got my luggage out well before the 11 pm deadline.  Filled out all the forms; & settled in for one last sleep in this delightful bed

                                                                    "Cwazy Wabbit"
13 Mar 2014

I had finally found the perfect little piece of heaven.  It was right here in my little cubby hole of a cabin, on this wonderful new mattress.  And it only took me 5 days to figure it out!  Next time I'll know not to bring friends or make friends.  (This excludes Lou, who is the only person I know who wants to be alone as much as I do.) I now know not to search an enormous ship & expect to find tranquility.  There ain't none!

Of course, I was awakened by the C.D. with his morning "you are my sunshine". The rest I tuned out.  A little later, my cell phone rang.....somehow I had turned off airplane mode....was roaming (internationally) & a robo-call came through........"How would you like to win a cruise to the Bahamas?"  (No thank you, I'm on my way there right now.) I shudder to think how much that mistake will cost me when the phone bill comes.

Went right back to thing I hear is the Captain's (calm & quiet) voice.  (Oh no...... it must be noon.). I could barely hear his nautical report coming in under the door.  But he did seem to talk a long time. I just hope it wasn't something important cause I couldn't make any of it out.  Lou texted that she was off to her wine lover's lunch (she'll probably be worthless the rest of the day.)  I put myself together; & was off  in search of sustenance.  Went to O'Sheehan's to try their famous chicken pot pie.  Not overly impressed....3/4 of it was crust, not enough stuff.  So, I switched to fish (w/o the chips). As with most of the fried foods, you wished for paper napkins to soak up all the grease.  I know, we should be grateful they use cloth napkins.  The noise from the Nickelodeon trivia for the kiddies in the atrium down below was just too much.  Made a quick dash to the internet cafe to check email ; & then on to find a reading spot.  It was crowded & too hot out on the Waterfront.   I started a new book in the lounge outside of Cagney's Restaurant; but had to stop when the waitstaff started piling in about 4.

I headed to the Studio Lounge; & was surprised to find Lou sitting in there.  She had already had her wine induced siesta.  We sat for a good while having coffee; & chatting with some of the other "singles" that came through.  Although she's not the carnivore that I am, she said she would go with me to Moderno Churriscaria for dinner.  This dining concept is fashioned from Argentinian beef houses, which we did not partake of during our So. American cruise in 2010.  For a $20 surcharge, gauchos will carve an array of meats tableside.  This is the one alternative restaurant I was really interested in trying.  We went home to rest until such time as one of us got hungry.

We did not have reservations; but they we're able to seat us right away.  They brought a basket of little Brazilian cheese rolls, hot & luscious.

Next we visited the salad bar, which is unlike any other on this ship.  This display looked as if it had come from the galley of a Crystal ship. There was prosciutto, chorizo, Brie, Stilton, artichoke salad, hearts of palm salad, marinated asparagus, sweet corn & pecan salad, and a fabulous grilled portobello mushroom salad. There were other things from which you could make a salad.  I just focused on the unusual stuff.  I was in heaven!

Next came a nonstop parade of skewers of grilled meats, each one better than the next.  It was impossible to try everything; but we did our best.  My favorites by far were the lamb chops, beef marinated in garlic & sea salt, chorizo with red wine & Parmesan cheese, and the Portuguese sausage with herbs & garlic.  Side dishes were garlic mashed potatoes, buttered rice, black beans & fried plantains.  There was grilled pineapple to clear your palate.

We were each given a coaster sized plastic card: one side green, the other red.  As long as you keep the card green side up next to your plate, they keep coming & coming & coming....... We were able to stop just short of "miserable".  IMO, it was an outstanding dining experience; & well worth $20 (plus tip).  Table service was excellent.  No room for dessert.  But.....

As we took the lonngggg walk to the forward elevators, we passed the Svedka ice bar (another NCL FIRST).  Since I had never visited an ice bar while in Scandinavia, I really wanted to experience it.  Lou sat outside; & people watched.  There's a $20 cover charge, which includes 2 drinks.  They provide fur lined ponchos & gloves.  (I had to pretend like I wasn't wearing sandals.)  The bar itself was much smaller than I thought it would be; & they never let more than 25 in at a time.  It was just the bartender & I for a good while.  The decor is South Beach Miami, carved in ice.  There is a huge ice throne.  The sweet Indonesian bartender took some photos of me; & we got to talk a bit about his home. He certainly wasn't comfortable in this frigid cold; & I wondered who he must have pissed off to get assigned to "Siberian Hell".  I downed my drinks pretty fast, as the glass made of ice freezes your lips.  When I came out my glasses were so fogged over I couldn't see to sign the check.  I found this evening so enjoyable, I didn't mind spending the extra money.

As we made our way home at 10:30; others we're just heading out for the big "glow party".  Another wild &crazy night on deck at Spice H2o.  One party a week is enough for me.  The icing on the cake.......we had passed through some rain storms; & the ship began to shimmy & roll a bit.  My book & cozy bed were calling.

                           Is it just a coincidence that my towel "animal" is an Eskimo tonight?????

12 Mar 2014

I really got invested in this silly spy novel set onboard a cruise ship.  Had to make myself stop at 3:30, after which I slept like a rock in between crazy cruise related dreams.  Barely remember hearing the announcement that the ship was cleared about 8:10.  Next thing I heard was the announcement for crew safety drill just before 10.  Made a coffee run; came back to read a little while in bed.  Lou texted at lunchtime to let me know she was up at the buffet.  It was quite civilized up there.  Most everyone is obviously ashore. And it's hot as blue blazes out there.  I caught Lou up on last night's events.  Showed her the videos I took of the fireworks & the "Thriller" flash mob. Being so close in age, we took a walk down memory lane musically.

The lunch menu provided a few treasures: grilled brats with sauerkraut sautéed with a little corned beef seasoning, garlic roasted potatoes, seasoned curly fries, & the mushroom blue cheese stuffed burger (sans bun).  The one miss was a poor attempt at a muffuletta sandwich.  I had a refreshing scoop of pineapple sherbet for dessert.  She wanted to go rest her hip for a while.  I decided to go up to the promenade deck to take a few photos.   Quit a few mega yachts in the harbor.  I see Larry Ellison's (Rising Sun) is still home-ported here.  The sky a vibrant blue with big puffy white clouds.

                                         The larger "Solandge" in front of the "Gallant Lady"

The "Gallant Lady"

The mega yacht "Rising Sun" dwarfs the "Drizzle" (middle) & the "Feelin' Free" (left)

          There's loud drunken hollering coming from Señor Frogs, as usual.  And did I say it was HOT?

So today, day 5, they finally declared "quiet zones" in today's program. I found a few hours of blissful peace in the lounge area outside 2 of the alternative restaurants (Moderno & Cagney's on deck 8).  Later, I found a table in the shade out on the waterfront during sail away.  There was a cooling breeze.  I stayed there until long after we set sail; & I finished my nautical spy novel.

                                      The always present Coast Guard escort in & out of port

I felt a little crusty from the salty air.  I was afraid if I went down to clean up, I might not get back out for dinner.  So, I texted Lou to let her know I was going to the buffet early.  She liked the idea of calling it an early night; so she came right up.  Guess we're slow learners......we realized that it's much quieter at the very aft section of the Garden Cafe.  There's nearly a 180* view from there; & we watched the Disney Fantasy following us, as they've done just about every night.

Everything I tasted tonight was a winner.  Two cold salads: white beans with roasted red peppers, andouille & chorizo sausages and marinated asparagus with red onion.  My main course was medallions of veal scaloppine with a blue cheese sauce; stir fry of garlic, soy beans, green beans, bean sprouts & rice;  and an asparagus & broccoli casserole with baked Brie topped with sesame seeds.  That casserole was without a doubt the best thing I've had all week.  We sat & talked a good while; but we were ready to give up the ghost by 9.

I really intended to shower; & then start another book. I just couldn't muster the energy.  I must have dozed off the min. I laid down.  I woke up a short time later.  But rather than reading, I opened my "window shutters"; & just laid there watching the accent lighting from out in the hallway change colors.  Turned on the rain (sound machine) app on my iPad; & soaked up the quiet.  I was out in minutes.

                                                                      "Kitty Kat"