April 17- At Sea to Alexandria
The “suitcase saga” does appear to be drawing to a close. Earlier this evening the ship did finally receive written confirmation stating that the Port Agent was indeed in physical possession of my suitcase. It should be delivered to the ship tomorrow morning, and after my comments about the Port Agent, likely full of camel droppings. So it seems I will soon be reunited with my fruit of the loom.
I’m now very busy making arrangements for a big welcome aboard for my suitcase. My plan is to have the cabin decorated, and I’ve already ordered the romance package, complete with flowers and champagne, to make the moment we’re reunited special. And I was thinking I’d make reservations at one of the really nice alternate restaurants for the old bag and I for dinner.
I wonder if the Captain would do a renewal of vows ceremony for me and Sam Sonite?
Now we’ll get to be together at least until Apr. 25, when I have to fly through the infamous new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, where British Airways will get its opportunity to lose it when I fly to Miami.
Just to flash back to last night for a minute…
I attended an NCL U program last night, which was a presentation of Behind the Scenes from the Second City Troupe that’s onboard. Much of it was a video presentation and discussion of now famous, some since deceased, Second City Alumni. It was interesting to learn some of the history of Second City, which originally began in Chicago, in its first incarnation at the University of Chicago, then became known as the Player’s Theater Club, then the Compass Players, and in 1959 Second City. As Second City it became an almost instant success, and became known as the place for comedy in the Windy City.
The fame spread further in 1975 with the beginning of Saturday Night Live on television.
The current troupe on board consists of 8 people; an unusually high number, but it’s be structured this way to expand the number of shows, and seminars they are doing on the Jade. Later in the cruise I’m hoping I’ll get a chance for a sit down with all the members of the troupe for some interviews and fun, with the intent to write a feature article about them, and some of the new ideas they are going to be rolling out to go along with Freestyle 2.0.
Moving on to today’s action….
Do you want a break from the fast paced port after port after port, running from tour to tour, from the Grand Bazaar, to Ephesus, to Santorinio, and to the Kossos Palace?
Well, today was not the day to stop.
Beginning at 9:00 AM this morning there’s a digital presentation of the behind the scenes action by Paul Baya, and a Q & A session with the Hotel Director and the Captain. From there you attend NCL U for a seminar; the topic today, the daily lives of the Egyptians, with Dawn Brown. After that, and before the next NCL U seminar, you can head to the Sports Deck for organized Basketball with Sports Coordinator, Greg, or join in for some Morning Madness Trivia, or a discussion and demo of golf swings with Mike Vanyo , yet you can still make it back to the Sports Deck in time for the Free Throw Challenge.
While catching your breath, you can check out the sea day sales in the shops and the spa, until it’s time for another session of NCL U, with the Art of Sushi and Sake Tasting.
These are just a sampling of the options this morning, and the afternoon schedule get even busier.
At noon today there’s the special Gospel Lunch in Le Bistro, for $15PP you get an elaborate lunch while being entertained by the ship’s singers with Gospel Music. I’d heard a rumor that the cover fee for this event was inclusive of all liquor. I’ll bet the singing and guest participation gets louder as the booze flows freely. Free booze! Praise the Lord! Unfortunately the rumor was not factual; too bad, as it could have made for a great story.
Rather than the Gospel lunch we enjoyed a quiet lunch in the private section of Cagney’s for the press group. Though lunch was terrific, I was looking out the window, down at the pool deck, where they were holding one of NCL’s famed deck barbeques. The smoke wafting from the open Weber style charcoal grills with steak, chicken, and vegetable/noodle stir fry spreading their odors across the open decks is like a siren’s call, drawing you to near .
This afternoon I attended the NCL U Beer Tasting at Tankards, at Bar City. About a dozen people attended, and the cost was $15 per person, plus gratuity. Frankly I felt the bartender doing the presentation didn’t do a great job, and wasn’t particularly informative. He spent most of the time simply reading from notes. I’m not a drinker, but had spent 30 years in the Bar business, so attended mostly out of curiosity.
This afternoon there was also a Margarita Madness NCL U event, and a Tequila Tasting NCL U seminar available. If I’d attended all of them I’d imagine I could have been a fairly intoxicated graduate.
Tonight our group met for a late dinner, at 9 P.M., in Paniolos Tapas Bar, the ship’s Tex-Mex restaurant. I’m personally not a big fan of Tex-Mex cuisine, but certainly everyone’s seemed to enjoy their meals, and the presentation was fabulous.
Even with the late dinner, everyone was attempting to retire early tonight because most are doing some sort of tour to Cairo. It’s a three hour drive from Alexandria to Cairo, so the tours start early. I originally had booked one of the Cairo tours as well, but changed my mind early on, and cancelled. Having toured the Pyramids less than a year ago, and not looking forward to six hours riding the bus to and from, I decided to stay behind, and explore Alexandria on my own, and be around tomorrow night to participate in the Tony and Tina’s Wedding event, the off-Broadway hit, that’s now taking to the seas on the Jade.
I have been mentioning AnneMarie Mathews, and Courtney Recht of NCL in some of these reports.
FYI AnneMarie is the Director of Public Relations, and Courtney is the Manager of Public Relations.
They've actually been reading these daily reports, just as you have, and have also had to listen to my other bad stories, jokes and whining in person.... and they've been VERY tolerant with me!
If there's any questions you'd like to ask of them, feel free to do so. I don't know if they'll feel comfortable to come out "hiding" and answer the questions directly.... but, if not, I'll certainly ask them to pass on their answers, so I can post them for you.
did mrs kuki stow away in the bag is tat why it is not with you yet?
Home Lines Doric 78, Oceanic, Homeric 85,Celebrity Horizon, Zenith,NCl Pride of America 05 (Honeymoon), Spirit 09-30-06,NCL Gem 12-29-07,NCL Spirit 5-17-08
NCL Dawn 7-27-08,NCL Sky 7-3-09
NCL Dawn Sept 20,2009
Pride Of America
I’m truly “faklempt” this morning in Alexandria. I’ve finally been reunited with my dear Sam Sonite. Even though I had originally left the suitcase unlocked to fly, it arrived with all parts and possessions untouched. As we sat on the balcony chatting and catching up on Sam’s misadventure getting here, it was obvious Sam was jet-bagged.
To celebrate we shared a totally decadent plate of chocolate covered strawberries.. and yes, that's all shaved white chocolate in the center.
I suggested Sam take a nap to unwind.
As most everyone on the ship, other than some crew had left the ship, for tours of Cairo or Alexandria, I snuck up (well.. they let me in) to the Private Sun Deck, and Courtyard area for Courtyard Villa guests. This is one incredible area.
Much more on that later today.
In order to await the arrival of my luggage I had cancelled my tour of Cairo and the Pyramids today. We had just visited the Pyramids in May 07, and I wrote about it then… so for information purposes I am copying and pasting the material from that date below:
NCL Jewel - Virtual Cruise
May 11 & 12 - Egypt.-2007
We arrived at the Star Dust Theater this morning, at the time stated on our excursion tickets (8:30 A.M.), to find that our excursion had already begun to disembark the ship, and head out to board the tour buses. We boarded our assigned bus, and shortly afterwards the buses pulled out and our tour began.
Today’s tour was a scheduled 5 ½ hrs. dubbed “Highlights of Alexandria��?.
Fortunately on today’s tour we had a much better combination of guide, driver and bus-mates. Our driver for yesterday’s tour seemed to be the only driver in this hemisphere who was wanted to go the same speed as the camels.
Our guide for yesterday’s tour warned us repeatedly to be VERY careful of the people who would accost us at all the sights we were going to be visiting, and be very careful making any purchases from them as we were sure to be ripped off in one way or another. He then proceeded to spend half the time of the 3 hr. ride to Cairo trying to sell things to people on the bus. “For our convenience��? the “special people��? on his bus could pre-order merchandise from catalogues, that they could pick up later at the Bazaar, which was going to be our last stop of the day. The purchases would be from suppliers at the Bazaar who he knew to be “trustworthy��? (and amazingly he said this with a straight face <wink>).
As well, while traveling on the bus, he tried to sell us books and DVDs on Egypt. When he chose to share actual information about the sights with us he was quite informative. However I felt like I had been captured and held captive by an infomercial, and it made me more uncomfortable than the small space between rows of seats on the bus.
Once we approached Cairo I was amazed and shocked. I’m not sure what I expected, but our guide told us Cairo is a city of 18 Million people. It’s of course a sprawling city, but what shocked me the most as we traveled through the city towards the Pyramids, is the incredible number of unfinished, and seemingly abandoned buildings. They are everywhere, and anywhere… good areas, or bad areas, it didn’t seem to matter.
The guide explained that normally when getting married it is the responsibility of the male (or his family) to supply the “flat��? or home for the bride. And these flats (apartment/condominiums in “western��? terms), can be very expensive in relation to what the average Egyptian earns. Therefore, a family may start out building a one storey “flat��? or home on a small piece of land in the city, then as the years pass, and the families grow they build another “flat��? above their own, then another above that, and another, and so on. In many instances this process can go on for a very long time, so many of these buildings can stand unfinished for 20 years or more. The differences between the standards of living here, as compared to the western world, are obvious, and quite startling.
There are satellite dishes atop most of the structures, even the unfinished, or barely standing residences, and that type of access may help explain how some people in this part of the world may feel “hard done by��?, or resentful of the western world.
As we arrived at the Pyramids, some of the depressing thoughts that had been running through my mind while seeing the city and it’s people disappeared, at least for a short while. The sight of these structures is nothing short of spectacular!
The hucksters and local thieves are evident all over the sight… though the Tourist Police are present to try and watch over them. We got to witness police on camels chasing after suspected thieves who were also on camels.
The guides took us to three different areas to view the Pyramids from different perspectives, and then we moved on to visit the Sphinx. To get a more up close view of the Sphinx requires going along with large crowds through some narrow passageways. I had become a bit friendly with the “security officer��? from our bus (the one with the machine gun) <G>, and he offered to speed our way through the crowd. Somehow, with a man in suit, who everyone in the area was armed, the crowds got quite passable. We had a fair bit of free time at the Pyramids and Sphinx to explore.
From there we moved into downtown Cairo and boarded very nice river cruise boats to “cruise��? the Nile for about an hour. They served a buffet lunch onboard that was very, very tasty. So good, in fact, that it surprised me. I guess my expectations were low. The lunch service was friendly and efficient, and the experience quite enjoyable. During our time onboard we were entertained by a belly dancer (who interacted with the crowd) as well as a “Tangora dancer��? ( a mid eastern male dancer doing a traditional dance).
After our Nile River cruise we were taken to the Citadel of Cairo, and the large Mosque, which sit high on a hill with panoramic views of the city. This is the Mosque containing the tomb of Muhammed Ali (not the boxer). We were allowed to tour the Mosque freely, and take pictures freely as well.
Once outside, on the grounds, the views of the city, the skyline, and the Pyramids in the distance are breathtaking.
Our last stop for the day was at the “Bazaar��? our guide talked about early in the day. This was not what would come to mind when one thinks of a mid-eastern Bazaar. It was a high priced three storey high shopping center. We were given a short explanation/demonstration of the ancient process of making Papyrus, and then time to shop.
Our bus was late leaving here as some of our bus mates just had to hold up everyone else on the tour to save another $10 off their purchase, and then, at the end yet more time as the guide had to go back in to get his “commission��? on all the sales for our bus.
Today’s tour of Alexandria went much more smoothly, and was much more relaxing. Alexandria is a much larger city than I had expected as well; over 6 Million citizens. While there’s no doubt it shares some of the same problems as Cairo, there’s also some very beautiful areas, and upscale hotels, as well as beautiful beaches. A very long road, the Corniche, runs for a very lengthy stretch along the ocean, with no traffic lights. There are underground cross walks for pedestrians to get from one side of the road to the other.
As it’s getting quite late, I’ll begin another post on the Alexandria portion of our visit tomorrow.
Continuing Apr. 18
As I hadn’t gone off to a tour of Cairo I did have a lot of the spaces on the ship to myself today. I mentioned earlier checking out the beautiful sun deck area reserved for the passengers in the Courtyard Villas. I also visited the Courtyard area everyone in those suites shares, with its own pool, whirlpool, loungers and tables and chairs.
Though not for those of us on tight budgets, the Garden Villa, Courtyard Villas, and Suites on these ships are amongst the first on the ship to sell out for almost every sailing. And, for those who can afford the luxury, with good cause. I didn’t get to visit these suites this trip, as they are all sold out, but I’ve seen them before, and without doubt they offer some of the most fabulous accommodations available at sea.
Now with additional Freestyle 2.0 upgrades they are an even more attractive option for those accustomed to traveling in luxury. If you book a suite or Villa on a Freestyle 2.0 ship, and here’s a list of some of perks:
- Bliss Collection by NCL bedding- pillow top comforters, down comforters, fine linens, and Euro pillows
- Special Platinum colored key card – for ship-wide recognition. (They gave me the Platinum Key Card, but I have to close my eyes to pretend I’m living the princely life in a suite).
- Complimentary Bottle of Champagne
- Butler and Concierge Service
- Private Breakfast and Lunch in Cagney’s Restaurant
- Private Breakfast and Lunch in the Courtyard
- 6 choice pillow menu
- MP3 player connections.
Aside from Butler service in your suites or villas, the Courtyard also has its own dedicated Butler. I even noticed the gigantic bowl of M&Ms the butler was putting out for snacks.
If I knew the exact date I was going to win the lottery, I’d be booking my Garden Villa right now to make sure space was available. Naturally I’d be booking Courtyard Villas for all of you to come along.
Honestly, if I were filthy rich, I can’t imagine a much better way to have a great party than booking all of these villas, and filling them with family and friends. What a party that would be! And what a dream!!
Below is the Breakfast/Lunch area at Cagney’s.
Kuki - so glad to see Sam settling right into your shared room Hopefully, Sam didn't have so much fun with out you that he decides to depart at Heathrow :evil:
I have loved your review so far and look forward to the rest of your round the world adventure.
Sensation (without KathieLee) July 2001
Paradise (smokefree) March 2002
Valor (inaugural season) May 2005
Truimph May 2007
Fascination (1st time w/DD) May 2008
Pride (with DD & DS) November 2009
well, we are going to Lauglin for our 50th anniversary party and wedding vows renewal in just less than 4 weks. I intend on hitting the big jackpot (playing pennies and nickels I want you to know) the first thing I will do with the money after paying taxes is:::::: stay in the courtyard suite on any NCL ship, I am not particular.
Tony and Tina’s Wedding
I enjoyed getting ready for dinner tonight. For a change, I had a choice of what to wear to dinner. It was a surprising treat to use my own toothbrush tonight as well.
Another two members of the press group arrived to join the cruise today. One had actually flown in to Istanbul the same day as I had, but somewhere between leaving New York City, and arriving in Istanbul, she’d lost or misplaced her passport. And with no sympathy or any offer to look for another solution, and without a blink of any eye, authorities in Istanbul had put her right back on a flight back to New York City. When she arrived back to JFK in New York City she found her passport had shown up there. She stayed a few days, and then flew in to Cairo yesterday, stayed overnight, and joined the ship today. That situation certainly sounded like much more of a pain in the “derriere” than losing your luggage.
Most of the others in the group left the ship today for shore excursions to Cairo. AnneMarie and I stayed onboard, and then tonight, joined by the two new arrivals, we went to dinner at Papa’s Kitchen, before going to Tony and Tina’s Wedding being held in Spinnakers. At Tony and Tina’s wedding they do serve a pasta buffet, but we decided to go to dinner prior to attending “the wedding”.
The Veal Marsala I ate the last time we ate there was so good, I had it again, and it didn’t disappoint. The cover charge at Papa’s Kitchen is $10 PP.
As we left Papa’s Kitchen to make our way to the Spinnaker Lounge, we passed through the Garden Café. As part of the Freestyle 2.0 upgrades, in the evenings the tables are now set with table cloths, as well as place settings for a casual alternate dining experience. Even the special section that is set aside for a children’s buffet, is set up in the evenings with table clothes and full place settings; quite cute.
Tony and Tina’s wedding begins with meeting the families over drinks; though as is customary you don’t see the bride before the wedding. You do however meet the cast of characters; the Nunzioto and Vatali families from New Jersey, and my favorite character, Vinny Black the lively caterer and co-owner Vinny Black’s Coliseum, where the wedding takes place. All of the characters are played as caricatures, and do an excellent job of staying in character throughout the evening, even in interpersonal exchanges with members of the audience.
This is only the second cruise where they’ve attempted this event on one of the NCL international ships, and they admittedly chose a bit of an odd evening to do it, during an overnight stay in Alexandria, where many of the passengers were not back onboard yet, from their very full day excursions to Cairo. Even so, they seemed to draw a reasonably sized crowd.
It’s a very interactive event, and once it starts to draw crowds, it will get to be more fun, and I think it will grow to be quite a popular event.
This was just another example of how much effort NCL is putting into offering an extremely broad variety of entertainment onboard.
Day 2 Alexandria – Apr.19
I have absolutely incredible news today from Alexandria… the self serve soft ice cream machines work now! I had the Raspberry.
The Jade spent the overnight tied up at the pier in Alexandria. There were a large number of passengers who spent the night in Cairo, to extend their ability to tour the Cairo area. This morning there were many buses at the pier once again, for all those who’d booked tours of Alexandria.
On our previous visit, less than a year ago, we did a major tour, so I made the decision this time to Freestyle – sleep ‘til whenever. I awoke, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and set out to wander the area of Alexandria closest to the docks, on my own.
If your ship overnights in Alexandria as the Jade does, and you’re up for a bit of adventure, as opposed to the ship’s tour, it is possible. Just as you exit the ship you pass a small bazaar (shopping area) selling Egyptian souvenirs. Continuing on towards the bridge that exits the docks, to the left are many taxis waiting to offer passengers tours. It seemed here you could quite easily get a tour of some of the major sites in the brochure for a couple of hours for less than $20. Several offered me a one hour tour for $5. But, who knows if I would have been brought back to the ship for that price, or sold into slavery.
I had decided I was just going to let my feet do my touring, and be my guide. As I exited the gate for the docks, I had to show my passport (keep it with you, and keep it safe). Exiting the gate you immediately step into the hustle and bustle of Alexandria. First you pass through the gauntlet of livery drivers, offering horse and buggy tours. After saying no thank you 40 times, I found myself standing in the street, almost in the center of a busy traffic circle. Getting back to a sidewalk, I began to stroll. The first thing I found is there are no traffic signals. To cross the streets you simply have to estimate the amount of traffic flow, and its speed, and determine if you can get to the other side of the street without being hit. I think the Egyptian drivers view the pedestrians as entertainment; not real desire to bounce you off their hoods, but enjoying the frightened looks on your faces.
As I wandered the streets I found it interesting that the best looking buildings faced the main boulevards, but at each corner, if you looked off the boulevard, the conditions deteriorated quite quickly.
As you stroll, every building seems to have small shops selling something. Some of the store fronts are just kiosks, no larger than 20 sq. ft., but these are obviously the livelihood for many citizens. Each one you pass invites you to come in a take a look at their goods. It would have been easier to stroll if I was wearing a T-shirt that said No Thank You in BOLD letters!
However, it should be noted that I did not ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Mind you, it was broad daylight, and I’m 6’ 4” and depending on when I last ate, about 220 lbs. (since I’m in Egypt, make that 100 Kilos).
Wandering down several side streets it seemed almost each street led to another market or bazaar. If you’re not easily intimidated it can make for some interesting shopping, or just sight-seeing. It does also require a bit of a sense of direction. If you wander from the main street some of the side street markets do take some twists and turns. I left the ship about 10 A.M. and walked back onboard about 1:00 P.M. In the three hours I saw quite a bit, and said no thank you 19,203 times.
Returning to the ship I found many more of my fellow passengers onboard than the previous day. The sun was shining brightly, with temperatures in the mid 80s Fahrenheit, so I went out to relax by the pool. The “Waikiki Pool” area is amongst my favorite at sea. I’m not sure why, but it feels much larger and more wide open than those on other ships. There are two pool areas, and the one beneath the Bali Hai Bar, as well as the whirlpools on that side are clearly marked Adults Only. This pool has a nice “feature” water fall on one end. The other, larger pool, where children are allowed, has a large water slide.
The Pool Deck has a considerable number of tables and chairs, which is appealing to me personally, as I’m not a sun-lounger type (I feel I am going to be stretched out horizontally soon enough).
With the Freestyle 2.0 upgrades, all the sun-loungers have flip up signs to call for bar service. Though amusingly, one of the other writers, Jennifer Glatt, noticed one of the flip signs has a typo. (Well, I “to” was amused; the NCL Public Relations people probably not so much. ).
The pool-side waiters also carry spray bottles of cool Evian water to spray to cool off guests in the hot sun.
Considering that bottles of Evian are sold in the cabin mini-bars for $640 a bottle, I just take an empty bottle to the pool and have the waiters spray directly into my bottle each time they pass by.
Upon returning to my cabin this afternoon I found a letter of apology from the Front Desk Manager to Sam Sonite and I for our separation, along with a copy of the incident report. I understood from the get-go that NCL was in no way responsible for losing my luggage, and did everything they could, with many ship to shore phone calls, to locate Sam.
Sadly I think this is a problem faced by all the cruise lines sailing throughout Europe, with guest arriving from all reaches of the globe. It’s truly surprising to me that so many people’s luggage does arrive to its intended destination. Those of you who’ve been reading my cruise reports for some time know that I am the lightning rod poster child for air travel fiascos. Hopefully my record in this department reduces the odds of it happening to you.
This has now passed, and I’m now feeling great and so relaxed, I think I’m going to just open my closet doors and stare at my things for several hours.
The ship left Alexandria about a half hour later than scheduled due to some late arriving tours. Three more travel writers joined the group today as well. We met for cocktails, then enjoyed dinner in the Teppanyaki Room, the Benihana style Japanese restaurant (cover charge $25 per person). At this restaurant the entertainment provided by the chefs is almost as important to the experience as the quality of the food. The room seats 32, at four different cooking tables, and there are 4 dining times available each evening.
BTW… an important note, and savings, for those who like to dine early; in Cagney’s, Le Bistro, Papa’s Kitchen, and Jade Garden, if you dine between 5:30 and 7:00 P.M the cover charge is 2 for 1! So you can eat early, and eat often!
Tonight at 10:30 was another event held that is yet another extension of the Freestyle 2.0. It’s the “White Hot Party” held in the Spinnaker Lounge. There’s no cover charge for this event. Everyone is encouraged to wear white, and there’s “White Hot Party” T-shirts for sale outside the door, for those who didn’t pack anything white. I was surprised to find the room jumping when I entered.
The cruise activities staff created a very high energy atmosphere; they got very involved with the passengers instigating the fun, and it was obvious a great many of the passengers were enjoying it. I was taken by the size of the crowd in attendance after two very full and busy days in Egypt. There was even a “special” appearance by members of the bar staff, called the “Ship n’ male Dancers”.
AnneMarie Mathews of NCL, and Armando DaSilva, Hotel Director
Sailing the port intensive, tour intensive itinerary that we’re sailing, some lines would scale back on the events and activities they schedule. This is most certainly not the case with Freestyle 2.0. In fact, there’s been so much going on throughout the cruise I haven’t found the time, or sometimes the energy, to check out all the entertainment options available. Simply put, it’s just not possible to do it all during the course of one cruise, even if it is a 13 day cruise. You really do have to “Chose to Whatever”.
I'm certain, along the way, reading this you've noticed my own typos and grammatical errors. Just please give me a bit of leeway, as I am writing many of these late at night, when returning to my cabin.
Kuki, I am at a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, and I just had to check in and see if you were reunited with yur suitcase yet! I am so glad to see that you are, and I loved the pictures, they were hilarious!
No time to read the entire story, but I will catch up later. Enjoy the rest of your cruise, and I should tell you that so far so good for our luggage. It all made it to the hotel. It remains to be seen if it all makes it on the ship later today!
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!
Kuki - wondering if you can break down what restaurants charge extra and which are included. It seems to be that even charging $10 pp isn't that much but with what you already have given NCL for the cruise why charge again? I will say we went to Scarletts on Carnival Valor and thought it well worth it. But it seems all or most of the dining rooms charge. Just some clarification please. Thank you and keep the pictures coming!
Sensation (without KathieLee) July 2001
Paradise (smokefree) March 2002
Valor (inaugural season) May 2005
Truimph May 2007
Fascination (1st time w/DD) May 2008
Pride (with DD & DS) November 2009
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.
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.