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Old April 20th, 2008, 06:47 PM
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Day at Sea- Apr. 20
Another opportunity for a Freestyle morning – sleep ‘til whenever.
But once I got moving, it was a non-stop day. We began the day in a leisurely enough fashion, with the Jazz Brunch at Le Bistro, which carries with a $15 pp cover charge. The crowd was slight, the brunch menu was not, with quite an extensive selection of buffet items as well as served entrée choices.
Here’s the brunch menu and some pictures of Le Bistro.

As many of these Freestyle 2.0 events are new, they will be experimenting with timing and dates for when they’re going to be held. After brunch we set out to tour some of the ship, and get a look at some of the changes made to bring the ship to the desired standards of 2.0.

I’ve previously mentioned the use of the Star Bar, and Cagney’s extension for suite guests, but also new is the Latitudes Member’s Lounge, on Deck 12. It’s available to all members of NCL’s Latitudes Past Passenger Program; which is everyone who’s previously sailed NCL.

Just down the hall from the Latitudes Lounge is the ship’s library, which now features a complimentary coffee set up, as well as an honor system for checking out books. The intent is to give it more of a “Barnes & Noble feel”, as an area for reading and relaxing.

Another change on Deck 12 is out doors on the Pool Deck. The idea is to create a more relaxed atmosphere pool side. You’ll no longer find pool games such as Sexy Legs Contests, nor will you find steel drum reggae bands hammering out Caribbean tunes. Throughout the day a solo guitar artist plays easy listening music. It’s intentionally being transformed to somewhat of a quiet zone.

I’m well past the need for children’s or teen programs, but we toured these facilities as well. NCL divides their programs into 3 age ranges; 2- 5, 6-9, 9-12. Over 12’s have their own separate Teen facilities. The Teen Center is very similar to an adult lounge, with an extensive drink menu, very similar to adult drinks, only without the alcoholic content. There area has a large flat screen television with all the latest games, i.e. Wii, Xbox360, etc. as well as a computer center, and free to use foosball, air hockey tables, and video juke box. And it is supervised during operating hours. After touring the facility I longed to be 15 again.
The children’s facilities are available for the younger age groups on port days as well. If parents choose to leave their children on the ship while they tour the ports there is a $5 per hour charge. Only children already toilet trained may be left.

We also toured the Ying and Yang Spa. It’s a very large well equipped spa, with all manner of treatment rooms, including acupuncture, thermal suites, etc. I’m hoping to try out a treatment before the cruise ends. I heard they do some facial treatment that can make me look like Brad Pitt. Or perhaps they’ll just give me drugs that will make me think I do.

Afterwards we met with Hotel Director, Armando DaSilva for a Q&A session. We discussed how the implementation of 2.0 affected his job and his perspectives. He did say that as 2.0 had just recently been implemented the most noticeable effects have been the positive responses from the guests.

We discussed a little bit some adjustments they’ve made with staffing to improve in service areas. One change was to have staff throughout most of the restaurants dress in more standard uniforms. This somewhat seemingly insignificant change allows them the flexibility to move wait staff around to the different restaurants as demand in those restaurants change through dining hours. I thought this to be a very innovative and well thought out approach.

I offered one question about the 2.0 “perk” being listed as “dedicated check in, and priority disembarkation” for those in balcony cabins and mini-suites. I inquired because it struck me, with so many balcony cabins and mini-suites on the ship, that this would be an awfully difficult perk to deliver. Armando stated this wouldn’t be an issue on the Jade because of the itinerary she sails, and the varying arrival and departure times of guests, and with that I agree. However, until I hear from someone on how they plan to deal with on ships with different situation, such as on Caribbean itineraries, I’ll have to be left wondering.

I’ve whined in an earlier daily report about the error in locations of the desk and vanity tables in the cabin; with the smaller and oddly angled table having the Ethernet connection, and telephone, and being darker because of the television shelf located just above it. I had assumed that all cabins in the category would suffer from the same design flaw because they are after-all simply completed modules put in place during the ship’s construction. Though they are indeed modules, I’ve found that not all these cabins are in fact the same, and not all suffer through what I perceive as a design flaw.

I haven’t yet been able to get what sounds like a reasonable explanation, but I’ll keep trying, and see if there’s any way to get a list of which cabins are set up which way.

Later this afternoon I was given the opportunity to meet with the ensemble cast of Second City, to interview them, learn a bit about them and the Second City program, and to chat about their lives at sea. I mentioned how much I had enjoyed the one show of theirs I got to see, and what a talented group I thought they were. I’m going to write a feature article about them and our meeting at a later date. Interesting stuff, I promise.

This is a picture of the Second City ensemble (minus one member who was feeling ill), and Guest Activities Director (and guitar hero) Paul. We met in one of the private “what ever” rooms, next to Medusa’s Lounge. You can use these private rooms for a group Wii or Karaoke get together or party.

Second City is currently on 7 NCL ships, but at the moment, on all ships other than the Jade they do two shows during a normal seven night cruise. On the Jade this ensemble is doing full shows 5 times during the cruise in Spinnaker’s, plus a number of NCL U seminars. Today they did an NCL U session for kids, titled Class Clowns. They told me that kids groups are a lot of fun to do, because the kids are used to role playing; tell a child they’re a doctor, and they are. Tell them they’re a pilot and they are.

Tonight, after dinner, I headed up to Spinnaker’s to see the Second City troupe again, and once more they demonstrated how talented a group they are.

After watching their show I went to check out the casino for the heavily promoted Monte Carlo Night.

Jason, the Master of Ceremonies for all the shows was there pumping the crowd for this event as well. He’s been all over this ship throughout the cruise, and kudos to him for his high energy. It’s contagious, except for old sloths like me. Jason was also my favorite character, Vinny, at Tony and Tina’s Wedding.Here’s a shot of Jason and the Jester at Monte Carlo night.

By the way, we had dinner tonight at 6 P.M., back at the Pacific Garden Dining Room. I thought tonight’s menu the weakest selection of the cruise, but it was certainly edible. It just didn’t wow me as much as the previous meals have.

Tonight I’m trying to get to bed a bit earlier than I have been. Tomorrow’s port of call is Corfu and I have a ship’s tour booked.

Ah yes.. talked to Mrs. Kuki back at home and they’ve had a spring snow and ice storm, so I’d much rather be here!
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