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Old July 5th, 2009, 02:44 AM
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Paul Motter Paul Motter is offline
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Default Day 3

Day 3

A few hours after the flag ceremony it was time for this ship to take to the high seas for the first time since the short sea trials. This is the first time she has carried passengers. When a ship is built in a shipyard the locals watch her take shape from the bow up. She is a permanent fixture in her berth for well over a year. Many of the locals work on her at various points in time.

So, when it was time to drop the lock that had held her in her berth a tugboat came and tied up to the stern and help to pull her straight out of the tight space and into the bay at St Nazaire, France. There were thousands of locals standing on shore waiting to see her leave, and they all broke out in applause once the ship was fully in the bay. Naturally, we were all out of deck, thousands of us, watching them watch us.

crowds line the shore to see the ship take her first cruise

The tugboat ties on to the bow of the ship to pull her from the narrow dock

As we turned to sail we got the best view of NCL Epic yet (I have pictures) from the stern. As we proceeded forward suddenly a fireboat came alongside and saluted us with long plumes of seawater from it firehoses sending waves of water through the air and created a dual rainbow. Locals in speedboats, yachts, jet skis and even a helicopter escorted us from the harbor for several miles. It was exhilarating to be part of such a grand celebration.

Fireboat leaves plumes of rainbows

jet skis and power boats escort us from the bay
See ALL of the pictures at the photo gallery here

After a lot of picture taking yesterday afternoon I finally hit my wall after traveling 6000 miles and decided to turn in early. I checked out the room service menu and found it to be fairly limited. The only things like a meal they have is a club sandwich or a smoked salmon sandwich (neither warm). One must remember this ship caters to Europeans, so don’t expect the usual fare you will get when sailing on a US-based line. No hamburgers or pizza in the room service.

You can get a cheese platter, a Mediterranean salad, a bowl of fresh fruit or the dessert of the day. The only hot food is the soup of the day. What is even more surprising is that outside of the Yacht Club cabins (which include a LOT of prepaid extras in your cruise fare) you will be charged for almost anything you order from room service. The club sandwich is 3.30 Euro (almost $5.00). Everything comes with a price if you order room service from a standard (non-Yacht Club) cabin.

This is also surprised me.

In the buffet area or the dining room you can get regular coffee or fruit juice free of charge. I asked for an iced tea in the buffet area and the server asked for my card. I asked how it was and he said “I think 3.30 Euro”. It turns out that is because the iced tea is served in a can – like a soda. This will be a surprise to Americans who drink iced tea like water. If you are the kind of person who always buys a soda with your meal then no problem. Special coffees with any meal come with a service charge, just like on any ship. All the coffee served onboard is that heavy, thick and bitter European-style brew. For room service it comes in a porcelain teapot which allows it to cool down within minutes. They would do well to get more insulated coffeepots for room service.

The Yacht Club concierge lounge is a beautiful room overlooking the bridge of the ship with magnificent sea views over the bow. There are booths next to the windows each with a flat panel television that feature a variety of programming including free very recent release movies. They are also have travelogues and other things to watch. This is handy since to rent a movie in your cabin costs E. 9.90 (almost $15).

They also serve appetizer portions of excellent food in the lounge in individual plates. These are absolutely delicious. Brie and apples, pea soup, chocolate mousse are example. The concierge said I as allowed to order these appetizing dishes for delivery in my cabin.

The Yacht Club information booklet in my suite said that we receive a “proprietary menu” for room service. But that was all it said. I asked my butler where it was and it is apparently the same menu as everyone else, described above, except with no prices. So, I called the concierge and explained that I needed to catch up from my jet lag but that I really preferred some hot food. She checked with her superior and told me they could serve the Concierge lounge menu in my stateroom.

So I had pea soup, a salad with anchovy and a surprisingly large tenderloin filet that melted in my mouth. When you add in the free mini-bar where I obtained potato chips and a soda, it was a perfect meal.

I was dying for something interesting to watch on the cabin television. But on MSC here in Europe there is not much for English-speaking people to watch. The ubiquitous CNN International, plus BBC News (I watched a piece on how to select the right wood for cricket bats). Then suddenly CNBC came on with repeats from the first week of the new Conan O’Brien Tonight Show. That kept me up past my bedtime.

I bit the bullet and rented Frost / Nixon for about 10 Euro. Yes, it seems like a lot of money, but I have lost $20 in 10 minutes in so many cruise ship casinos just because I was bored and meandered in, I realized I could more than justify the cost of the movie just by heading to my cabin instead of the casino. Plus, there is a “save” feature where if you “save” a spot in the movie towards the beginning of it you can back to it at any time during the cruise even if you have already watched the whole film. Basically, it is your movie throughout the cruise.

It is now day three and I have caught you up. The butler brought my breakfast and I will soon face the ship now full of people with my first full night of needed sleep under my belt.

So far, this ship is beautiful and I have a number of new pictures to share with you in the photo gallery. I had heard MSC ships are stunning and I agree. This is a very tasteful ship with fountains, modern art statues, plenty of theme rooms such as an Italian Piazza that has tiled benches and gelato. The nice thing is that the decor is never pretentious, silly or resembling the sometimes faux quality of Carnival, for example.

Now it is time to see how crowded this 133,000-ton ship feels now that it is full. There isn’t a soaring atrium or a wide-open promenade as one might expect on a ship this size. There isn’t even a long walkway as you see on the Carnival mega-ships. I am interested in how the crowd flow works here. More later.

BTW: I am posting from the Internet here in my cabin. What an excellent connection, it is very fast being a wired connection. I believe most of the ship has wi-fi should you want to use it, but here in the Yacht Club suites you have access to a special concierge lounge where they will give you an ethernet cable and hook you right in.

FYI: If you are reading this Sunday Morning I will be postingmore pictures soon.
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