June 26, 2010
Last night in the Living Room there were people meeting for dinner, which I took as a positive sign. Unfortunately, because there has not been a host from the cruise staff in the Living Room since the first night, the singles had decided to meet in another bar (Malts), and some of the people didn’t get the message. So a couple of stragglers were wondering where everyone had gone.
The next morning I made my way to the living room about 9:45, and again no host ands this morning there is nothing here – no coffee, no TV, no food. I’m Sorry NCL, but this room was sold as place for Studio Stateroom denizens to gather and socialize. There is nothing inviting about this room this morning, especially if you have to go elsewhere just to get a roll and coffee.
Now, someone had managed to get a signboard and magic marker for studio singles to leave notes; one said “scrabble? Call Joannie in 12345,” and another said “Swing Dancing at 2:00 – let’s meet” I thought that was a good idea when one of wiser guests suggested it and I suspect he managed to get to signboard. But the absence of food, drink and entertainment in the Studio Lounge this morning makes it seem barren and sad. This idea is either going to work or fail miserably, and it all depends on NCL making sure the living room is maintained by a staff member.
One the other hand, I have to say the Garden Café buffet area is one of the best I have seen on a cruise ship – and that says a lot. There are eight separate waffles stations, and near each on is a tray of freshly created Eggs Benedict with hot Hollandaise sauce – delicious. There are several types of breakfast rolls, hot and cold cereals, all kinds of fresh fruits and even carvers who will make you a custom plate of fruit.
Even more interesting, the indoors English Pub, O’Sheehan’s, serves a breakfast (no charge for food in O’Sheehan’s) with a British theme. It features corned beef hash, an omelet with the works, eggs of any style, optional hash browns and of course beans for breakfast as only the English can tolerate. Word that they serve this breakfast 24 hours had indeed gotten around and it was packed this morning. I have to say this looks like a delicious breakfast, and the idea that you can just walk in, sit where you please (many ships seat you with strangers if you want to eat breakfast in a dining room) and be served a complete, hot breakfast makes this a very attractive morning option.
And that takes me to my next topic – the food on the ship is surprisingly good. My eggs Benedict were hot and the Hollandaise was fresh and tangy this morning. Last night I had to opportunity to dine in the Charascurria with NCL President and Chief Operating Officer, Roberto Martinolli. Now, I don’t have Roberto’s resume memorized and being on a ship it is hard to do research, but Roberto is the cruise “genius” NCL recently stole after his many years of working for Costa and Carnival. Roberto has passenger vessels in his blood, his very grandfather being one of the early shipbuilders in the city of Trieste, Italy, to where I will be flying next month to see Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth in the process in the shipyard.
Robert relayed to me how the Epic launch was extremely complicated, which explains many of the growing pains we are seeing this week. Remember, there were three fires in the shipyard, the last one just days before the ship was handed over to NCL. But Roberto says the first one, about two months earlier, was most devastating. That fire, in a crucial technical passageway, completely ruined 700 different cables of varying kinds. Some cables; phone, and power for example, can be spliced. But some cables cannot be spliced and they had to be pulled all the way from the engine control room to the bridge or elsewhere and replaced.
Then, on the second cruise of Epic the ship developed a bad bearing in an engine that caused an almost eight hour delay in leaving Rotterdam and several hours delay in arriving in Southampton as the ship only sailed about 14 knots. Roberto told us (Doug Ward joined us) that the bearing was a simple problem but they just had no way to fix it in Rotterdam, they had to fly to part to Southampton.
Now, ships are basically floating power plants. They have “turbines” that convert burning bunker fuel to electricity. Epic has six of these and it was in of these that had the bad bearing. Meanwhile, the engines that turn the propellers are powered by this electricity. Si, it was not a propeller shaft that had the problem, according to Roberto, and he even said the ship could have run without that motor with no problem. So, I am still trying to figure out why the ship was only moving at 14 knots and arrived in Southampton late. You see how complicated this is? And you thought my job was easy. In case, Roberto is a very gracious host and certainly knows as much about cruise and other passenger ships as anyone in the world.
Today I have a live interview with Rudy Maxa at 10:40 Eastern time. He is on some 110 radio stations so if you care to look for his station in your area I am sure you can find it on the Internet. Tomorrow he will interview me on KFWB – the CBS station in Los Angeles at 2:00 Pacific time.
We are now in waters 40,000 feet deep. 2518 miles left to go to New York City. Today we are experiencing some high seas; average 9-12 feet, as high as 15 feet; this is the middle of the Atlantic, after all. I won’t say this is a smooth ride, but it isn’t radical enough to need any medicine. I think this ship should ride very well in the Caribbean.
Anyway – the Charascurria was just excellent last night, with one of the best salad bars I have ever had. It is the same salad bar as is offered in Cagney’s Steakhouse. I saw thr blue band in Fat Cats last night and they are hot. Notably, this is not a “Jazz” club as advertised, this act is solid blues, with the leader Slam Allen “tellin’ his story,’ both musically and literally as he talks about playing the blues professionally and gives examples of the styles of his hero’s BB King and Albert King.
I am heading off to see Second City Murder Mystery with author Scott Turow (he is onboard and helped create this entertainment offering) in a few minutes. Then its my interview with Rudy, and I will catch up with you later.
By the way – both the Gibson Guitar rentals and the Legends shows are so far not scheduled to happen during this cruise. Legends has a technical problem that may get sorted out, but the guitars have licensing issues. But by the time of the first Caribbean cruises this should all be fixed. More pictures coming later today.