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Old April 17th, 2008, 03:16 AM
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April 16 – Iraklion (Crete), Greece
We’ll begin by catching up on some random photos taken so far:







-FEEL My Frustration GROWING-
I have to admit my sense of “ha ha” regarding my lost suitcase is finally beginning to evaporate. When notified the other day that my suitcase had been located, and even what flight numbers it would be taking I felt a sense of relief. I was also told I’d have to sign a letter authorizing the NCL Port Agent to pick it up.

As I hadn’t yet received said letter by this afternoon I went to the Guest Relations Desk to check on that and get an update. This time I was told they no longer know where the suitcase is, and were still checking and would get back to me later in the afternoon.

By the time I left for our dinner reservation tonight, at 8 P.M. I had not heard any more. Aside from dining with the press group, AnneMarie, Courtney, Dan, James, Jennifer, we were joined by the Jade’s Hotel Director, Armando – who I have sailed with before, and is such of a gem of a man, he should be sailing the Gem.


I told Armando, AnneMarie and Courtney that I was at the stage of needing some pull. Armando did call the Front Desk Manager immediately, and we were informed that no one, not Turkish Airlines, not NCL’s Port Agent, and probably not the Bedouin Caravans in Egypt, knew where my suitcase was, where it was going, or when it would get there.

It had been “confirmed” earlier the suitcase had arrived in Istanbul on Apr. 13, and it would be leaving on Apr. 15, arriving in Alexandria, today Apr. 16. And now it has disappeared once again.

To this point I have taken the incident rather well because I could understand how, with my tight flight schedules, things can (and DID) go wrong. But at this point it’s no longer an unfortunate mistake; it’s incompetence. I do not (nor should anyone have to) tolerate incompetence well!

Just before I left for this cruise Turkish Airlines had announced, with great fanfare, their becoming a part of the “Star Alliance”. Perhaps it was a misprint, and they were joining the Star Wars Alliance.

I’ve been very patient for 5 days, trying not to let the situation adversely affect my enjoyment of the cruise, and the marvelous itinerary, but I am now starting to consider alternate plans for leaving the cruise early if my suitcase does not arrive during our overnight stay in Alexandria. And sadly that is taking its toll on me, and my mood is changing.

Then, as normal, when I returned to the cabin late at night to write and send today’s report I found the ship’s Internet connection not functioning at all. We gain an hour tonight due to a time change, and I had planned to spend that hour uploading a bunch of pictures to my Jade photogallery.

I had solved my problem of lack of USB chord by having the photo gallery put all my previous pictures on CD. Then I eliminated a future problem by purchasing another digital camera onboard, only to run into the connection problem. Mr. Murphy, of Murphy’s Law fame, seems to have taken a firm grip, lifting me off of the ground, and shaken me like a rag doll.

I’ll ask that you indulge my self-indulgence today, and enjoy my pity party with me. Below is today’s report.

I did indeed sleep in this morning, and woke to my find my Internet connection working again, so I put on a pot of coffee, and sent in last night’s story.
By the way, while WiFi service is available throughout the ship’s public areas, to access the Internet from inside your cabin you’ll need to bring along an Ethernet cable. There are several different lengths of time packages available.
Today I spent a lovely few hours strolling and socializing with the easily found Cretans (OK…so I’ve used that joke before, but I can’t help it, it still makes me laugh).




I do love the people of Greece. They are such a warm, helpful and welcoming people. As mentioned I speak no Greek, and venturing off solo today I came up with a plan to use in the event I didn’t accidentally stumble across the sites I wanted to get to.

It was very simple… Every time I had a question I decided to seek out a young, beautiful Greek woman. I just assumed these days the younger generations were probably taught English in school. Their beauty, of course, had nothing to do with any theory that they’d know English, but either way the view would be great.

After some twists and turns through the streets of Old Town, I did find the pedestrian markets I’d remembered, and I casually enjoyed a few hours wandering. I delightfully came across a shop selling eye glasses, and bought some lens cleaner (that is packed in my suit case), and a cleaning cloth, that I’d left on my desk at home. Constantly cleaning my glasses is a phobia of mine, btw. I also filled my backpack with pistachios, and slowly wound my way through the streets, stopping along the way at a cafe for some hummus and pita, and then back to the ship.

I was again surprised to see how many of my fellow passengers were just walking through Old Town, rather than being out on either ship’s tour, or one of the hundreds of taxis offering tours at the terminal. We did a full day tour by taxi on our last visit, and it was outstanding. On an itinerary such as this, unless you’ve explored the island before, I really do recommend getting out of the port and seeing some of the culture and history. There are just too many interesting things to see! Plan to spend some Euros and set out to enjoy and experience.

A little tidbit on the reservation system set up for Freestyle 2.0, for balcony cabins and above, that I made mention of yesterday. After a bit of sleuthing (OK I just talked to AnneMarie, of NCL), I found out that there is a direct dial restaurant reservation button on the cabin telephones (yes, I would have seen it if I had looked). If you’re in a balcony cabin you’re allowed to make reservations 48 hrs. in advance. Those booking inside cabins may make reservations 24 hrs. in advance.
A very common gripe we hear about NCL is the cover charge for many of the restaurants.

Those who are not totally used to Freestyle cruising expect the restaurant costs to be included in their fares. While you can certainly eat pretty well on an NCL ship without ever eating in any of the restaurants which carry a cover charge, to avail yourselves of everything the Freestyle has to offer in the area of cuisine, even before you book your cruise you should add approximately $100 per person to the fare you’ve been quoted. Then, with that new total in mind, if you feel you’re still getting a good deal, and value for your vacation dollar, book it, knowing you will be able to fully enjoy any and all of the restaurants available onboard. I repeat this advice any time I write any articles or reviews about NCL ships. But I do so because I do believe it to be very important information, and imperative in planning one’s NCL cruises.

This afternoon, back on the ship, I did suffer through a major disappointment! I had just finished lunch, when I noticed the soft serve, self-serve ice cream machines are out of order. I gasped for a moment, and considered marching right down to Guest Relations to lodge my formal complaint, and demand an onboard credit.

In my mind I also began to formulate the wording for petition to circulate amongst the passengers to lay the groundwork for a class action lawsuit. Recalling last week’s news of the passenger on Carnival being put off a ship for a similar act I reconsidered and let them serve me a cone of hard ice cream. I was so steamed, for a moment I thought my ice cream would melt before I got a chance to eat it, while I rushed to another station to get a pastry.

Though not a direct influence on passengers I’ve come to learn that the Freestyle 2.0 upgrades also apply to staff and crew and their common areas. As I said, as passengers you won’t be directly affected, nor will you likely even know, but there’s little doubt it will affect your cruise experience by contributing to a happier crew. Aside from extra dollars being directed to guest’s food budgets,

NCL is also directing more money to be spent on the food in the crew mess; with the goal of offering a larger selection to them as well. As well, they are upgrading the common areas for off duty crew, with art work, etc. to create a more pleasant living environment, and therefore more pleasant working conditions.

No doubt a contributing factor is the competitive nature of finding and keeping enough great crew members, with the industry in yet another spurt of new build programs. With the value of the U.S. dollar slipping so much recently in comparison to the Euro it has become much more difficult to recruit staff from many of the Eastern European countries, which previously offered a deep pool of experienced service staff.

Tonight we dined at Papa’s Kitchen, the ship’s Italian restaurant, with cover charge. I enjoyed a superb Cheese Tortellini in Alfredo Sauce appetizer, and an even more superb Veal Marsala. In fact the Veal Marsala may be the best I’ve ever had.

After my cruise on the Jewel last spring I reported the food was very good. After 5 days onboard, with the Freestyle 2.0 upgrades to the food departments, I have to say the improvements are obvious. Once the entire cruise is done I’ll be writing a full feature article on Freestyle 2.0, but I can assure you, if you have a cruise coming up on an NCL ship where 2.0 has been implemented, you can look forward to the cruise with great and eager anticipation. You’re in for a treat!

I do have one issue that while it may seem odd to some really needs improvement; even with all the lights on in the cabin, it seems quite dark. Of course it’s more noticeable to me because of the amount of time I spend at the computer, but more lighting would most certainly make the cabin more comfortable for anyone.

Tomorrow is our first, of only two sea days on this busy and intense itinerary, and after checking the schedule in the daily, it could be at least as busy as any of the port days.
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Kuki
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