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Old April 21st, 2008, 06:43 PM
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Corfu – Apr. 21
What are they going to do with the Pyramids?

Last night, while playing blackjack at Monte Carlo Night I was chatting with a fellow at the table about the cruise, and I asked how he enjoyed Egypt. He went on to explain that he was very concerned. He said Egypt seemed to him to be in such a state of poverty, and with all the decaying buildings he saw, he was really worried about what they were going to do with the Pyramids.

I was very tempted to ask if he felt they should be moved to a more affluent country, but I decided I should get out of this possible “Second City skit”, and change the topic of conversation.

I’d set my wake-up call on the telephone for 8 A.M., and was up in time to enjoy the sail in to Corfu. It was foggy, and made for a rather heavenly looking entry to the harbor.


James Byrd and I were doing the same tour this morning, the Colorful Towns Tour, so we decided to meet for breakfast at Cagney’s before the tour.

As I was about to leave the cabin the Front Desk called saying I had to return to my passport to the Desk, before I could go ashore. When we boarded the ship they collected all the passports, and just prior to arrival in Egypt, they were all stamped with “visas”, and we had to pick them up to go ashore. They asked us to return the passports to the Front Desk yesterday, but I admit to intentionally not turning mine in again. I wasn’t sure what the purpose was of having to turn the passports back over to the ship, and I had thought I’d got away with keeping mine, until the phone call this morning. Rats! Now we’re going to have to stand in line again to pick them up before disembarkation.

After breakfast I obliged, and turned in my passport, and met James at the Stardust Theater, to head off on our tour. I mentioned James in an earlier report but a bit more about him today, as we got to have a more significant chat during our day on Corfu.

James is 20 years old, and works for NCL America, on the Pride of America. He’s been working as a waiter in the buffet area, and just a few months back, for his own enjoyment began a blog, telling his stories of working on a cruise ship (which you can find at shipblogger.com). Recently his blog came to the attention of NCL, and the Miami offices became interested in the concept. They’ve had some discussions about a more “official” relationship between NLC and James’ blog, but for the time being, it is his own. However, as a bit of a reward for his work on his blog, the corporate offices invited James to join this press group on this cruise, and our upcoming visit to the shipyard in France, for the Keel Laying Ceremony for the new F3.

I think it’s a wonderful story about a young man showing initiative, and being rewarded for it. James was willing to go take a job on a ship, and work hard and long hours to set out on an adventure and travel, that may soon be more adventure than he ever dreamt of. Even though I’m more than twice James’ age, I relate very well to his story.

Of all the travel writers included on this press trip, aside from James, I’m the only one who would not by definition really be considered a “professional journalist”. I was a businessman, who fell in love with cruise vacations, who had the good fortune to be “struck by lightning” when I was asked to join CruiseMates nine years ago, and given a shot become a cruise travel writer. It still occasionally mystifies me that I am paid to write about cruising, and it probably mystifies you too… possibly more than occasionally!

So it’s really nice to see someone else enjoy the same sort of good luck, even though I think the world has enough cruise writers, and I’d prefer less competition in the arena, not more.

I enjoyed spending a good portion of the day with James, and getting to know him. Next time you’re sailing on the Pride of America look for James, and be sure to say hello!

Now, on to our tour of Corfu…
Corfu is in the Ionian Sea, and with high humidity, and very hot summer temperatures is one the greenest of the Greek Islands. The tour today actually reminded me of why I don’t often enjoyed large organized ship’s shore excursions. Our guide on today’s tour had a very drone, monotone delivery, and sounded as though she was simply reading from a guide book she’d just bought at the souvenir kiosk in the terminal. She seemed to just ramble on, never stopping to ask if anyone had any questions.


At one time during the tour, while we toured the Achillion Palace, and the Palace gardens, we were standing by a statue, and as we were waiting for the rest of the group to catch up and gather, I asked her if she had any idea of the date the statue was sculpted (I was curious to know if I was looking at an original or a replica). Her response was to tell me to wait until the group gathered. It seemed it was too much trouble to repeat one sentence twice. Later, when she did answer, she told us the statue was “from the early 20th Century. This simply demonstrates the luck of the draw in tour guides.
There were, I believe, 6 buses on the same tour today, and some people I spoke to on other buses thought they had terrific guides.

When the bus reached an area of Corfu Town that I sort of recognized, from a previous visit, I let her know that I was leaving the tour, and would find my own way back to the ship. James decided to come get lost with me, and with me leading the way, we did just that. At one point the young man had the nerve to say “maybe we should go this way?” and he was right. Eventually we found our way, and walked the couple of miles back to the ship.

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I earned my right to eat lunch by the time I got back to the ship, and today the afternoon treat for me was strawberry soft serve ice cream.

Tonight we dined at Le Bistro, at 7:30 P.M. Le Bistro is NCL’s signature restaurant and it didn’t disappoint. I had my favorite, cream of mushroom soup in a bread bowl, with a beef tenderloin entrée, and the chocolate fruit fondue to finish. A wonderful meal, with excellent conversation, found us leaving the restaurant at 10:30. Afterwards I spent an hour at the blackjack table before retiring to the cabin. For some strange reason I seemed to have lost my voice tonight. I tried to say something at dinner, and someone else’s high pitched voice came out.

During dinner tonight I did learn from AnneMarie that NCL is changing the pricing of the alternate restaurants. Tomorrow she’ll get me the new list of specific pricing.

However, interestingly, she did say the cover charges are being lowered in some restaurants, and in some cases, where there was an extra surcharge for certain menu items (like the Osso Bucco at Papa’s Kitchen), those surcharges would actually be removed. This is great news for NCL fans, and tomorrow we’ll have all the details to share.

AnneMarie also let me know that new flip signs for the sun loungers have been ordered to replace the grammatical error that Jennifer had pointed out. We got a good another good chuckle over that one.

The last bit of news from our dinner conversation was the Elemis products - which have arrived, and are being used in the both cabin bathroom liquid soap dispensers, shower gel, and shampoo dispensers. The products are presently being used; they are now just waiting for the labels for the dispensers. There are also small containers of Elemis hand lotion in the cabin washrooms. The top suite categories feature more additional Elemis product selections.

The Jade will be arriving in Katakalon, Greece at 4 A.M. The Captain explained the early arrival is due to the first come, first served, docking policies at the port. The Captain wants us to have a good berth, and therefore his goal is to have us their early. It is a short port visit though, as we’re schedule to leave at 2 P.M.

Tomorrow is also the last day of the cruise. As is the case with all great cruises, I am amazed that this one is coming to an end “so quickly”. Twelve nights have passed in the blink of an eye. Even with my luggage fiasco, it’s been a wonderful cruise that’s left me quite exhausted.

I became a big fan of NCL after my cruise on the Dawn in 2006, and my taste for the Freestyle product grew even stronger in 2007, after sailing the Jewel. Now, after getting a glimpse of the Freestyle 2.0 upgrades, I do believe that NCL is very likely the leading innovator in the cruise industry.

If you’ve enjoyed this Virtual Cruise and learning about Freestyle 2.0 along with me, you really should experience it for yourself by joining us on our CruiseMates Broadway to South Beach Group Cruise this coming October, when the ship will be repositioning from New York City to Miami. Just click on the link in my signature below to learn all the details for this SUPERB deal!

You’ll find Freestyle 2.0 on ship’s throughout the NCL fleet by June of this year.

Though the cruise is ending in another day, this story is not. When we disembark on Wed. morning, we fly from Athens to Nantes, France, where on Thursday we’ll take you to the Aker Shipyard to participate in the Keel Laying Ceremony for what is soon going to be NCL’s new pride and joy, the F3. F3 (no one is even giving a hint- if they know- of the possible name), is the first of a new class of ship for NCL which will be yet another step in the continuing evolution in Freestyle Cruising.

There are 3 different Jade galleries in our photo galleries, with many more pictures I haven't posted in the daily reports, if you'd like to take a look.
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Kuki
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