Ocean Princess Renamed

Princess Cruises Ship Receives New Name – and First-Ever Virtual Christening

Line Seeks Honorary Godparents for Ocean Princess’ Unique Online Ceremony

With Each Participant Donation Made to Renowned New England Aquarium

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (December 2, 2009) – Princess Cruises is celebrating the new name of its ship Ocean Princess (formerly Tahitian Princess) by extending an open invitation to anyone wishing to become an honorary godparent for the vessel, with the first-ever virtual christening.In a new twist on the time-honored tradition, the naming ceremony will occur completely online, at http://content.princess.com/pcan/?TTHzmX1iMiQiarSLLCzGnprUph0SwFkUT&http://princess.pr-optout.com/Url.aspx?515440x976562x486512. Each new godparent will trigger a $1 donation from Princess to the New England Aquarium, a global leader in ocean exploration and marine conservation, up to $25,000.One of the small ships of Princess, Ocean Princess – fresh out of a two-week drydock – departed Singapore today on the first voyage with her new name. The virtual christening will run throughout the ship’s 16-day Southeast Asia cruise, ending on Dec. 18.“At the end of her current cruise, we hope to have a huge group of honorary godparents for Ocean Princess,” said Jan Swartz, Princess executive vice president. “In this digital age, we wanted to design a way that all our fans worldwide could be part of the celebration. But not only do we want to entertain people with this fun approach, we also want people to think about our oceans, and in doing so support the important work of the New England Aquarium.”In addition to virtually christening the ship and becoming an honorary godparent, participants will be able explore the following areas online:

• Honorary Godparents – Real-time collection of the names of Ocean Princess’ honorary godparents
• Ocean Princess Webcam – Live web cam from the ship
• Ocean Princess Itineraries – Link to Ocean Princess’ extensive list of itineraries
• About the New England Aquarium – Information about this renowned non-profit conservation and research organization
• Ocean Princess Drydock Photo Journal – Pictorial of the ship’s drydock in Singapore
• About Ocean Princess – Details about Ocean Princess and her offerings
• The Small Ships of Princess – Information about the small ships of Princess

In addition, people will be able to share their virtual Ocean Princess experience with friends and family, and encourage them to participate through send-to-friend and Facebook functions.“We are delighted to be honored by Princess Cruises in this innovative and exciting program. Like Princess Cruises, the New England Aquarium strives to inspire and entertain people of all ages to the beauty and wonder of our world’s oceans,” said Bud Ris, president and CEO, New England Aquarium. “We hope this online event will introduce new audiences not only to the spectacular beauty of our oceans but also inspire new ocean stewards.”During the ship’s recent drydock at the Keppel Shipyard in Singapore, the Ocean Princess name was placed on the bow and throughout the vessel. The ship also received new fuel-efficient silicone paint on its hull, and interior enhancements including new upholstery, carpet and flooring. The ship was renamed Ocean Princess to more accurately represent her global range of itineraries.Swartz added, “As this ship begins her life with its new moniker, we would also like to congratulate Ocean Princess Captain Stefano Ravera and his crew, as the re-naming celebration is the cornerstone of our contribution to the important work of the New England Aquarium.”Following its inaugural Treasures of the Southeast Asia cruise from Singapore to Shanghai, Ocean Princess will offer a season of unique Asia, India and Africa sailings, followed by a summer of European voyages.Ocean Princess is a part of Princess’ fleet of small ships, which also includes Royal Princess and Pacific Princess. Offering a classic and intimate cruise experience, each small ship carries around 680 passengers and travels to more remote destinations around the world.Further information about Princess is available through DAVE HOLMAN TRAVEL SERVICES at 760.265.3687 or sales@daveholmantravel.com


Dave Holman Makes the Dean's List at NCLU

Barbara Jamison
Frank Fiore
Dave HolmanNovember 2009
November is a triple crown month with not one, not two, but three Dean’s List recipients. Barbara Jamison, Frank Fiore and Dave Holman are the pied pipers of our November 7th PhD@Sea cruise. They started a blog, coordinated events and organized awards - all on their own. It’s enthusiasm like this that not only makes great NCL agents, but makes great people. Cheers to all three winners



For Immediate Release


Norwegian Cruise Line University’s new program at sea promotes continuing education for its star students.

Hesperia, CA 11/09/2009

As the next generation of Freestyle Cruising® continues to evolve, NCL University – NCL’s CLIA-accredited online travel agent “college” – expands the higher education program for its travel partners from the computer to a real-life Freestyle Cruising experience at sea.

This in-depth, on-board, weeklong event includes an NCL executive host, a 15-credit CLIA public relations seminar, behind-the-scenes ship tours, panel discussions and group activities. To qualify for this enhanced at-sea experience, travel partners must have completed, at a minimum, the Freestyle Specialist level at NCL U. Norwegian Cruise Line’s online university opened its virtual doors in 2008 and is one of the most innovative and successful programs available to travel agents today. With thousands of registered students and growing, NCL U has enhanced its training from the interactive experience of its online program to a continuing educational experience that includes the PhD @ Sea program aboard its ships.

“At NCL, we highly recommend the use of a travel professional when booking an NCL cruise,” says Andy Stuart, Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Passenger Services. “With NCL U, we are investing in our travel partners' product knowledge, marketing and sales skills so our guests will know they are relying on an expert who knows our product inside and out."

By earning NCL U’s PhD @ Sea certification, Dave Holman is considered among the most qualified and expert representatives for NCL’s cruise product. To reach Dave, please contact at 760.265.3687 or daveholman@verizon.net.


NCL PhD@Sea Cruise, Debarkation Day

Okay, first off, of all the upsides of Freestyle, and there are many, like a dozen dining choices, and open dress codes (wear a tux if you want, wear jeans if you want), the one I like best is Freestyle debarking.

Basically, if you want to carry your own luggage, you can get off as soon as they clear Customs. I saw people leaving at 7:45 this morning, and we didn't touch the pier until 7. Otherwise, you can go to the lobby the night before, and pick up luggage tags that correspond to the time YOU want to get off the ship. Those cruise lines that tell you when to get off are fighting a very perverse but basic fact of human nature...it's just a fact that all the people you ask to get off first want to hang out and relax by the pool, and all the people you put last are dying to beat the traffic home. Therefore, approximately 100% of the passengers get off the ship angry.

By letting people pick their own time, all that is avoided. Plus, they don't ask anyone to clear their stateroom until 9am, and EVERY public room is open, including the buffet and a main dining room for breakfast. Again, people who would choose to sit out by the pool, if they had a choice, will sit there and fume if they are ordered to do so. And by accomodating each individuals desired debark time, it all goes much faster. They manage to clear the entire vessel by 10 and start boarding the next bunch just after 11 (based on my embark last week, which was actually delayed a little from the norm).

So, I got tags for 9:05. At 8:20 I went to the dining room (the buffet was the usual last morning mess of people), and, apparently only a dozen of us heard the part where the dining room was open. So I had a leisurely breakfast, went up to the room at 10 minutes til 9, grabbed my little bag, and went down to the cigar bar for a quick smoke...sure enough, at 9:08, my color was called, I got in line with about 6 others, walked off the ship, down to the terminal, grabbed my bags, spent less than 5 minutes getting past Customs, and out the front door, to my car, by 9:20, and 20 minutes later I was on the 110 Freeway headed home. Seriously, ONE HOUR from the time I left the cabin, til I was on the freeway...that just doesn't seem to happen on any other cruise line, and I really like it. And I think it really helps NCL's customer satisfaction...the fact is, by the end of the cruise, most people have forgotten what Embarkation Day was like, but if they have had a good last couple days, and an easy, breezy debark, they are feeling pretty good about the whole cruise.

So, a few final housekeeping notes: To the guy who left his new Ray-Bans by the pool on Fiesta night, THANKS!!!, and I promise to take good care of them. To all the staff and crew of the Norwegian Star, THANKS for a great week. Service was, without exception, excellent, especially the Cruise Directors Staff, who were all wonderful folks (special note to Maria: Va multimesc, am avut un mare timp, si uitati-va inainti vi intilni din nou)(she doesn't believe I speak a little bit of Romanian), and the Senior Management that took time out for our class, and really gave us the benefit of their years of experience, not to mention a real personal conversation that you just can't get at a Captain's Cocktail party or some such...the difference between meeting the Captain or Hotel Director of a ship, and hanging out for an hour asking questions is huge, and would have made the whole week worthwhile by itself.

To the folks at NCL and CLIA who made this whole thing possible, THANKS...I think you made a good decision investing a little money in some real training, and I think you will see a dividend for yourselves, and your agents.

And, finally, to my classmates - nice meeting you all, and I hope our paths cross again.

OH, and you may all address me as "Dr." now. :-}

NCL PhD@Sea Cruise, Last Day at Sea

So, up bright and early for some more classes. Mostly inside stuff, pretty boring, but a lot about the new Norwegian Epic, NCL's new ship. Enough that I will be doing a seperate post about her. After class, I ducked into Bingo long enough to NOT win the Free Cruise Raffle, then to lunch and an hour by the pool, before I had to go back for the last event...the big Graduation Ceremony...Got the certificate, and a copy of our Group Photo from earlier in the week, and a very cool USB Flash Drive, shaped like a Platinum room key. Since I just got the new Netbook, and haven't gotten around to buying a memory card, it was just about the best gift I could get, really.

So, then, up to the room for a little nap, then back for the last Bingo. Kinda funny, the last blackout game - the guy who won was with this rather flamboyant young lady, with fire engine red hair, who was EVERYWHERE, singing Karaoke, dancing, doing the contests, etc. I had noticed him with her, but I never saw him say a word, or even get out of his seat for the whole week, while she was making sure everyone on board would remember her...so, guess who hit the $3000 plus jackpot? Yep...he almost smiled about it too... Afterwords I hung out listening to the piano player, cruised the casino, but couldn't bring myself to drop anymore, and then went to dinner at the Blue Lagoon...those hot wings are just addicting. Then over to the Trivia Contest which my new homegirl Maria was doing...FINALLY, I got a crappy little prize, an NCL key chain with LED light! WOO HOO!!!

I then hooked up with a group and participated in the Quest, and adult scavenger hunt type game...lot's of fun, but we came in a distant third... Then to the big final show with the Jean Ann Ryan company. They really are some of the best entertainment at seat. With a company of 16, 6 of whom are mike'd up singers (Some cruise lines are down to two, these days), a ballroom specialist couple and an aerial couple. They were all involved in this production which was basically 70's music, heavy on disco, but hitting some rock and roll stuff too, like Queen and Styx. Incredibly good production values for a cruise ship. After the show, several hundred of the staff, including all of the senior officers and cruise directors staff, as well as a goodly number of waiters, cooks, stewards, etc, came up on stage for a mutual love fest with the audience. It was nicely done, not too cheezy, and the officers hung out in the hallway afterwards, chatting up the guests. A nice ending to a good cruise.

I did check out the Toga Party, but it was kind of lame, with only DJ music, and the cruise staff was there but you could kind of tell they were ready to go home, and I can't blame them...no one should have to maintain that kind of energy 7 days a week. Anyway, I skipped out around midnight, headed down to the casino, just to say goodbye to the dealers and hostesses who were so nice to me, and then one last trip to the Blue Lagoon for one last plate of hot wings, before running upstairst to pack and go to bed. I will fill you in on the disembark, soon....stand by

Norwegian Star, PhD@Sea Cruise...Second Day at Sea

The day started with breakfast in the dining room, and then our big "behind the scenes" tour. We got a fascinating look, not just at the galleys, but all the storage, refrigeration and prep areas. We're not talking a couple of walk-in refrigerators here, but dozens, divided into fish, poultry, beef, vegetables, etc. They don't just buy steaks, or fish fillets...they get the whole animal and do the cutting and prepping on board, so each of those walk-ins is attached to a prep room with tables and sinks, etc...quite an operation. Then on to the Laundry, with washers and dryers you could stand up in. I think the guy there said the biggest washer would hold 600 pounds of linen. I am pretty sure I don't OWN 600 pounds of linen. And then there are the folding machines...very cool. Two guys feeding sheets in one end, and another guy stacking the crisply folded sheets shooting out the other end. We also went backstage at the main showroom, and to the dressing rooms. I have a whole new respect for the entertainers and their costume changes...the dressing rooms are up two short flights of stairs and down a hallway with a couple turns. So, they are not only changing those outfits and getting back on stage they are running stairs both ways, too...

Anyway, after the big tour we had a couple sessions with the staff. Rather than a bridge tour, the First and Second Officers/Navigation came in and did a brief lecture on the navigation of the ship. Then the Captain, Staff Captain, Engineer, Hotel Director and Cruise Director did a Q & A. Captain Lars is a crackup. He has, I think he said, 16 years in the cruise ship business, but 40 years as a merchant seaman, working everything from tankers and freighters to ferrys and tugboats. As he put it, he has captained everything but a canoe. He had tales of stowaways on freighters, and pirates in the Strait of Malacca, and funny with it. The Engineer described how the routine maintenance of the 4 main engines was done, and how they are totally rebuilt, on a regular basis, while the ship is working, along with all the statistics on power consumption of the floating city that is a modern cruise ship. They all agreed that cruise ships are infinitely more fun than freighters. In describing how quickly the could come to a stop, if necessary (about .2 miles), the Staff Captain called them the Ferrari of shipping. The Hotel Director and Cruise Director answered a lot of questions about staffing and turnover, and all that sort of thing. In all, it was a very interesting look at all that goes in to making cruising work. And they all seemed very enthusiastic about their jobs, and NCL.

After the session I had lunch in the buffet, and then bopped around for a bit, talking to people and getting some pictures of the ship. At 4 I did a video thing, down in the casino, which may or may not be on YouTube...we'll see. Then I got dressed for dinner, and hung out at Gatsbys listening to the piano man. He really is quite good, and I really wish NCL had a real piano bar. The lack of audience interaction/participation is something I really enjoy, and miss...too many Carnival cruises in a row, I suppose.

After a pretty good turkey dinner, I headed down to the casino with some friends, and played those silly penny slots (oh, the lengths I will go to, to impress a girl...) didn't get a jackpot, or even close. Then a bad turn at roullette, and an equally bad turn on the video poker. It obviously wasn't my night, so I decided to check out The War of the Sexes. Loosely based on Family Feud, with all the men on one side, and all the women on the other. Lot's of fun. You probably won't be surprised to hear the women won...it seems they usually do. After the game, I decided to call it quits, early...it's been a busy week, and more classes tomorrow, bright and early...



Norwegian Star, PhD@Sea Cruise...Puerto Vallarta

We pulled in to Puerto Vallarta around 7:300, and I was off the ship by 8, wandered out the front gate and grabbed a cab to the Malecon. A beautiful day, couple degrees cooler than Mazatlan. Stopped in to Glam for some breakfast. Quite a treat. After I ordered a guy came up to the table with a tray with bowls of roasted tomatos, peppers, onion, cilantro, etc, and proceeded to toss them into a molcajete and whip up salsa, about as fresh as it gets. Excellent. As my machaca arrived, across the street the palantla (sp) flyers started climbing their pole. So I sat in the open air cafe, soaking up the sun, while eating an outstanding Mexican breakfast, complete with fresh home-made salsa and watched them perform, and wondered how life could get any better, and then the Carnival Splendor sailed into view...yep, life is sweet.
After breakfast, I continued my walk, found a refrigerator magnet, and finally decided to head back to the ship for lunch, as it was getting a bit warm. After yesterdays hard rock cab ride, I was wondering what I might find today. Turns out I get the cabbie with Tourette's...seriously, nice enough guy, and he took me the long way, up into the jungle a bit for some scenery, but by the time we reached the dock I was twitching...
So, back on board I grabbed some wings at the Blue Lagoon, and a bowl of Won Ton Soup, then went up for a well deserved nap. About 3 or so, I wandered up to the pool, hung out with some friends, and listened to the band (Xcite from Trinidad...they are pretty good, and mix up the island sounds with some pop tunes).
I had every intention of eating in the main dining room, but as I passed the Soho room, I just decided I needed to check it out. Incredible! The Soho room is the Norwegian Stars "hip" eatery. The room itself has giant portraits of the coolest people in the world, from Sinatra, Hendrix and Jagger, to Marilyn and Farrah, to Bogey and Connery. All in false color or pixellated black and white or negative. Very nice. The food was probably just equal to Cagney's Steakhouse, but the presentations were very creative. I started with a Tuna Tartare appetizer. It was brought out on a plate with an inverted martini glass. The glass was filled with mesclun and various other greens, and on the base of the glass was a cylinder of chopped tuna with a little sour cream and red and black caviar, with chili sauces drizzled around. The waiter set the plate down, grabbed the tuna with french spoons, ran it around the base to pick up the chili, then lifted the glass so the greens sprung out, filling the plate, and set the tuna tartare right in the middle. Very slick. The Vichysoisse was served in a large bowl with three strips of smoked salmon rolled up and sitting around the shallow edge. Good combo! And the lobster was outstanding...huge, whole lobster, split and served with new potatos and shredded root veggies. I just love tearing up a whole lobster, getting all that good claw meat and coral. YUM. For dessert, I was undecided. I asked the waiter about the Tempura Chocolate Cake, and also what the flambe of the day was. Decided on the flambe, apple crepes, prepared at the table. Outstanding, and I am not really a crepe lover. As I finished them off, the waiter brought me some of the tempura chocolate cake also, and insisted I give it a try...yep...a piece of chocolate cake, battered and deep fried, then covered in chocolate and carmel sauce...took two bites, but I was really to full to appreciate it.
After dinner, back up on deck to hang out and talk, waiting for the Mexican Fiesta Sailaway Party. We pulled out about 9:30, by which time the party was in full swing. I got volunteered to help the bar staff in their mixology demonstration (there is a downside to being BFF's with the Cruise Staff). They were spinning full drink trays and juggling bottles, and then teaching some of us to shake a drink and our booties simultaneously. Fun. Then the obligatory conga line around the deck, ending with some limbo, and then some crazy group dancing which consisted of a lot of hand waving and hip thrusting. it all ended with the band singing "Jump In To The Pool", at which time, yes, the cruise staff and all the guests who cared to, jumped in the pool together. I was so sweated up from the shaking and dancing, I went for it. What a blast. Probably close to 50 people, most NOT in bathing suits. At least on wardrobe malfunction that will, I am sure, be edited out of the video. I will say, it would have been nice if they had some towels stacked around, but, alas, I finished the party in wet pants. Oh, well...
As the party was winding down, the group I was sitting with decided it was time for Karaoke, so we headed down to the Carousel lounge to finish the nite listening to the singers. About 1am, I finally had to throw in the towel. What a great day.
And now, this morning, it's back to school...actually we are starting with the behind the scenes tour of the ship and q&a with the Captain and Staff...I am really looking forward to it. One of the reasons I love cruising is that I am fascinated by the sheer mechanics of these behemoths. So...TTFN


Norwegian Star, PhD@Sea Cruise...Mazatlan

Busy day in Mazatlan...up early to watch as we pulled into port, got off early and wandered around the market for a bit
before taking a cab to the Zona Dorada. Sad to see the old Senor Frogs (site of more than one youthful indiscretion, and a
big part of the reason I no longer drink) is gone. They have relocated to El Cid Hotel. Did a little shopping. Amazingly
difficult to find a counterfit Louis Vuitton belt. I even had one vendor look shocked and tell me such things would be
against the law! I am not an expert on these things, but his stack of designer bags looked less than perfect to me...Finally
tracked one down from an, apparently, less scrupulous shopkeeper.
When I got everything on my list I went over to one of the hotel restaurants and had a cold drink and stared at the ocean for
a while. It was getting hot, and I decided to head home. Got in an open air cab and told the driver to take me back to the
ship. we headed out, and he asked me if I would like to listen to some music. Expecting Banda or Ranchero or something, I
hesitantly said "Sure", and he hit the button, and out comes George Thorogood and the Destroyers, "Bad to the Bone" from
speakers that took up the whole passenger side of the front floor! Awesome! When "Sweet Home Alabama" came on, I decided to
ask the driver, Luis, to take me on a little tour. So we headed downtown to the Cathedral, then out to the lighthouse, all
the while enjoying the wind in my face and classic rock and roll...this just might be the best cab ride I have ever had.
Got back to the ship just in time to lose a Trivia Contest and not earn a crappy prize (NCL's term, not mine). Had lunch in
the dining room and hung out by the pool listening to the band, until we sailed away at 4. Went down for yet another futile
session of Bingo. Back to the Aqua for dinner. Vietnamese Summer Rolls, Tomato Bisque and Sea Scallops on a bed of cheese
grits...all, quite frankly, forgettable. Not bad, just not worth writing home about. I spent an hour after dinner at the
piano bar. This guy is quite good, alternating between piano and guitar, but the setup on the NCL Star, with the piano up on
a little stage, makes any audience interaction nearly impossible, and nowhere near as fun as a real piano bar.
Over to the casino, to deliver the belt to Rinna. Had a nice little run at roulette. Donna, one of the Hostesses bought me
a drink, and we talked about Manchester, where she was born, and Namibia, where she currently lives, between contracts. In
the meantime my numbers just kept hitting. Finally decided it was time to quit. Went up to the Spinnaker Lounge to watch
the NCL Idol auditions. Singers ranged from near professional to truly awful. On a trip down to the cabin I found yet
another tray of chocolate dipped strawberries, so I took them up to Candy, Kat and Maria - I have gone from NBF to FFL!
Candy told me they were her second favorite thing in the world. I am pretty sure I know what is her first favorite...
The actual competition for the NCL Idol was excellent...after winnowing out the goofs at the auditions, the singers who made
the cut were all excellent and a lot of fun to listen too.
After that, one more stop at the Casino, but I wasn't feeling it, so I left at midnite or so, with most of my earlier
winnings intact. Decided it was time for beddy-bye. Early (and long) port call in Puerto Vallarta...
And as I type this I am listening to cadets at the Mexican Navy Base running and singing in cadence...time to go!!!


Norwegian Star, PhD@Sea Cruise...Cabo San Lucas

I have never had a stateroom directly above the boats used for tendering. Quite a treat standing on the balcony watching the tenders slide out, one literally five feet below me, get wenched down and launched. So, an interesting start to the day in Cabo.
Tendered ashore, took a stroll around the waterfront. Made it all the way to Mango to watch some NFL Game Day Final, and catch up on the scores and highlights from Sunday. On the way back I ran into some friends from the ship and spent an hour tourist watching and munching on chips and guac. Saw lots of marlin being carted about, but pretty small. Decided against fishing. Also was told the whale watching was not too good, yet. So I settled for buying a refrigerator magnet. I have to say, for the first time in years, the drug dealers were really getting on my nerves. Walking the strand in Cabo is worse than Jamaica. I was offered the best weed in all of Mejico at least ten times in a mile. Oh, well.
Back on board I took in another session of bingo, to no avail, and then decided to eat dinner at Cagney's Steakhouse...Oh...my...God...! It was the best meal I have had on a cruise ship in years. sTarting out with a shrimp cocktail with four shrimp, each as big as the lobster tail from the night before. Then a lobster bisque that was perfect. And on to a perfectly cooked 16oz T-Bone. Juicy, tender and flavorful, with Cagney's Fries (french fries drizzled with White Truffle Oil, and sprinkled with fresh grated Parmesan cheese), and creamed spinach (made with actual fresh spinach) on the side. Desert was a raspberry Creme Brulee that was excellent as well. Truly - the way cruise ship food used to be, before cruise ships got so damn big it is impossible to maintain quality. The service was, likewise, superb. It appeared that each waiter/busboy combo only has eight, or maybe twelve people, rather than the 30 or so they are assigned in the main dining rooms. Honestly, I don't do the premium restaurants, because, as a confirmed tightwad, I just hate to pay for anything that's so widely available for free. But the $25 surcharge is a pittance when compared to the food and service. From my home, I would have to drive `100 miles to Los Angeles, or 200 miles to Las Vegas to find a comparable restaurant, and a meal like I had would be 3 times that surcharge. My only complaint is that I ate way too much. I am getting too old for this kind of power eating. Oh, well, I will take it easy tomorrow.
After dinner, I mosied on down to the Casino, wehre Rinna from the Phillipines earned a new belt for hitting my 32 on the roulette wheel, not once, but twice...in a row. So, she is on my Mazatlan shopping list. I then went up to the Spinnaker Lounge for NCL's version of Dancing With The Stars. My other NBF's from Bingo, Candy the Asst Cruise Director, Kat, and the Transylvanian Princess Herself, Maria all told me I had to go, and, really, how could I resist? Especially from Maria with that Romanian accent. (I tried to get her to say "Ve've been expectink you, Misted-d Bond", but she didn't get it...apparently not a James Bond fan). It was a lot of fun, with crewmembers, mostly pros from the Entertainment staff paired up with passengers in a ten couple dance off. As expected, they ranged from the quite good, to the truly drunk, and a good time was had by all.
A final stop in the Casino resulted in finally breaking even for the day...and, tomorrow, Mazatlan. I haven't bothered to get off in Mazatlan my last few trips down, but I have quite a shopping list, so....Oh, and I think I will try to find a WiFi hotspot. This netbook thing is working great...type it all up, head down to the lobby, or the pool, and log on to the ships wireless. So far, total connection time under ten minutes, rather than the 20-30 mins/day I have had to burn on previous cruises. However, it's time to get caught up on email, update the Fantasy teams, etc...
Manana, mi amigos!


Norwegian Star, PhD@Sea Cruise...First Day at Sea

Started the day with breakfast in the buffet. Almost had a traditional English breakfast, but for some reason there were no
fried tomatoes to be had...so I had to settle for eggs, beans, mushrooms and authentic English bangers. Authentic in the
sense that they look like tasty little sausages. and have pretty much no flavor whatsoever.
The morning was taken up with classes, and I shant bore you with the details. After they cut us loose at 1 I went to the
Blue Lagoon restaurant, NCL's casual "comfort food" diner. On the recommendation of one of the Hosts, I tried the Hot Wings.
Now, speaking as a guy who once devoted a year of his life (while I was a traveling salesman) to finding the perfect hot
wing, I can tell you: Maybe not World Class, but a lot better than I expected on a cruise ship.
After lunch I decided to veg out by the pool for a bit, as the weather is fabulous (about 80 degrees and sunny). At 4 I went
down to the Bingo. Got a $50 package, and won a $50 jackpot, so that was fun. Then back up to the balcony for some more
vegging, without the calypso band, and all the people. I must say, the Star's pool area is really well designed to handle
all the people on Sea Days, with adequate seating, and chairs/loungers going up in three tiers from the pool, so everyone can
see everything that's going on without the crowding you get on some ships. Me and the neighbors did spot a couple pods of
grey whales, and saw one breech...not spectacular, but a good omen for the whale watching is Cabo.
So, as I was dressing for our Group Dinner, I had a half-dozen chocolate dipped strawberries delivered (last night was a
plate of Canapes), part of the whole VIP thing. Not big on chocolate covered strawberries, personally, but they came in
handy when I finally got home at 1am and wolfed them down before bed.
Our whole group assembled on the staircase by the Soho restaurant to take a group photo. By the time we all got arranged to
the photographers satisfaction we had attracted quite a crowd of onlookers, wondering what the heck we were doing. Then off
for a group dinner. One of the reasons for the group dinner was to demonstrate that NCL's Freestyle thing works for groups.
It does. They reserved about 10 table (with agents, guests, and hosts we are about 80 people) in the Aqua Dining Room. I
assume they recommended some other guests to go to the Renaissance or something, because even with our group reservation,
there was no line of people waiting to get in. I started with some kind of asparagus salad thing which was unremarkable, and
then the Pumpkin with Ginger soup taht was to die for. Almost ordered another. For the entree I agonized over the Lobster
and Grouper combo or the Crispy Duck. Finally went with the lobster...bad call. Not that it was bad, but several of my
table mates had the duck, and they were all "oohing" and "aahing".
After dinner a bunch of us went to the show, a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber "Music of the Night". Excellent performers,
and remarkably high production values. As most of you know I am not a big fan of cruise ship shows, but I was pleasantly
surprised, and may just have to hit the showroom again at some point.
After the show, I had to pop in to the Casino, where I parlayed my $50 voucher from the Bingo into a couple hundred...pretty
good night, and finally to bed at 1.
As I write this Captain Lars is announcing a one hour extension of our Cabo port call, from 5:30 to 6:30 - so the day is
starting well...no particular plans for Cabo, maybe take a whale watching boat..but I will let you know how it turns out!


Norwegian Star, PhD@Sea Cruise...Boarding Say

So far, so good. I got to the port early, and from listening to others - good thing! There were three ships in San Pedro yesterday, the Norwegian Star, and the Sapphire and Coral Princess. So, we were in "the tent" (the inflatable building at the end of everything). Personally, I dropped my luggage at 10:45, parked and got into the terminal right at 11, waltzed thru the VIP check-in, and was called to board at 11:30, so no problem there. I did hear grumbling from some who boarded later, that the process was a little chaotic and too lengthy.
Once on board I took a stroll around the ship - beautiful!!! There are several water features in the Lobby, as well as some flying sculptures. The pool deck is very cool, with palm tree lights, and two slides in to the pool. I will upload some photos to give you a better idea, but let's just say it's very kitschy and cool. As you come out to the pool area, on boarding day, there are tables set up in "the Expo", from all the different departments on board, to pitch their products.
They were all very laid back about it, answering questions when asked, but not pushing at all. At that expo you can, if you want, program your entire cruise, from spa appointments, to shore excursions, to reservations at the premium restaurants and wine packages. I talked to a few of the folks, but I am a little too spontaneous to make reservations like that. One of my memories from the Hawaiian cruise with NCLA was being asked about a hundred times if I wanted to purchase a soda card...nothing like that here. The soda card guy was there, happy to talk, but not bugging anyone. I like that.
I ducked into the buffet and had a nice, freshly tossed ceasar salad - the buffet has a half-dozen "action stations", and the layout is completely different than the Pride of Hawaii, the Norwegian Stars near-sister ship I sailed in Hawaii a couple years back. This flows much better, though there seems to be a lack of beverage stations, and NONE outside by the grill, causing some back up as people come from the burger grill outside to the inside for drinks. AFter lunch, I continued my little tour, heading down to all the public rooms on Deck 6 and 7. There are a dozen restaurants and 10 bars/lounges, as well as the main show lounge. The hallways meander, which gives each venue it's own space, and the design and decor is very different for each one. The Red Lion Pub looks very British (except for the big screen, don't recall any of those in England), Ginza, the Teppanyaki and sushi joint looks very Asian, and Le Bistro very elegant and Continental.
I was impressed. The Norwegian Star is heading into drydock (this cruise was actually added recently, as her drydock appointment was delayed, thus the tent in San Pedro, and having to tender in Puerto Vallarta, instead of docking). Sometimes that last little bit before dry dock maintenance slips, and also the cruise lines sometimes start major repairs, closing off some areas. I didn't see any of that, and the Star is definitely "ship shape".
At 1:15 or so, there was an announcement that the staterooms were ready, so I headed up to check mine out. Pretty standard. Average size balcony, with two pretty comfortable loungers and a small table. Inside is a couch which appears to be a piece of plywood with some fabric over it...definitely hard and uncomfortable. The bed is fine, not too hard, not too soft. One REALLY nice touch is the in-room coffee maker. My less addicted friends probably don't appreciate how nice it is to have coffee in the room. Sorry, but sometimes you just don't want to wait for room service! Closet space is adequate. The bathroom is very nice. As you walk in, the sink is straight ahead, with a shower to the left and the toilet to the right, each with a sliding glass door. I love a real glass shower door, and a shower big enough to turn around with out hitting a cold wall! While I was in the room my Stewardess, Crystaly, came by and introduce herself, and made sure everything was okay.
I had a little work to do, tracking down all my fellow PhD'ers' staterooms and delivering a letter, and by the time I did that, it was time for the boat drill. This was done quite efficiently, about 15 minutes total. I would give you more details, but I was meditating on my balcony. Luggage was delivered right after the boat drill, so I got myself unpacked and settled in.
I then headed up for the Sailaway Party and BBQ - one of NCL's nicer touches. A buffet line set up by the pool, with grills going, serving up roasted corn on the cob, chicken, various sausages, potatos, cole slaw, etc. The smell of the BBQ's, with the Calypso band playing, and the whole party vibe is great. Our actual sail away, scheduled for 4 was delayed a bit. On the upside, Captain Lars got on the PA to announce the delay and did about 10 minutes of stand-up comedy/weather report. By the time we actually left the dock I was back on my balcony, talking to the neighbors, and watching the sunset over the Palos Verdes Peninsula as we pulled out and headed South for Mexico.
I then headed up for a Welcome Reception and Cocktail Party for my group. They had some hot Hors d'oeuvres, and drinks. Nice to find and talk to some of the people I have been chatting with on the NCLU Forum. After that, the Casino was open, so I went a played a little video poker where I turned $100 into $100 in just under an hour, and, feeling lucky, went over to the Roullete wheel where I turned that same $100 into $0 in ten minutes...oh, well.
I decided on "Aqua" for dinner. There are two main dining rooms, Aqua, which is contemporary and cool, and Renaissance, more formal and traditional. Started with a smoked salmon appetizer, which had about a half a pound of salmon, garnished with capers and a honey dijon creme fraische, and topped with various weeds. Quite tasty. Followed that with what they call a Rich Onion Broth - basically French Onion soup with a beef ravioli in lieu of the crouton/gruyere cheese, and also flavored, I think, with Worcestershire - almost an Oxtail soup taste. Don't know that I would order it again, but it was interesting. For the main course I had a roast leg of lamb on a white bean ragout that was excellent, the lamb tender and NOT overcooked. Since this was my fourth meal of the day, I decided to exercise some restraint and skip dessert. Apparently I got up too fast, as the Maitre d' followed me out to make sure everything was okay, and I wasn't leaving mad. Funny. I assured him the only problem was too much food in one day, and he seemed relieved. After dinner I cruised some of the lounges, found a pretty good guitar player down in the pub, but, frankly, I was feeling about worn out, so, sadly, I turned in at 11pm. In fact, I only stayed up that late because there was a raffle in the casino at 10:30. Didn't win anything. So, back home and to bed, and popped out at 5:30 feeling rested and refreshed. Amazing what a night of smelling the sea air, and listening to the ocean slip past the hull can do for the spirits. I really never sleep as well on land as I do in a nice balcony cabin at sea.
Now, it is 6:30, and time to find some breakfast.
Stay tuned tomorrow, to see how the first sea Day goes!


Back Home - Carnival Elation Cruise

Okay, so I eluded to the problems at the Port of San Diego in my first post. But, while leaving day was bad, arriving back was ABYSMAL!!!

Seriously, it is kind of sad that the Port of San Diego looks trashy, ill-designed and dysfunctional even compared to Ensenada, but the authorities there probably should take a field trip to Mexico, and see how easy it is to design a functional Cruise Terminal.

And I just know that a parking garage with either a pedestrian or vehicle over- or under-pass to seperate cars and people has to be cheaper than paying 150 Jr. High School dropouts to keep them apart.

Not to mention having to pay $15 dollars a day to park in a lot with no striping, so people just leave their cars laying around anywhere, and only one functioning gate. Come on, San Diego...Where are all the Port Charges going? Certainly not being used to maintain or improve the passenger facilities.

Oh, and P.S. for all my drug dealer friends: there is no Customs at the Port! They don't even make you lie about how much cocaine you are bringing in. Why risk driving or flying in your dope, when no one at the port even asks you whether you are bringing in contraband?

Port Day - Ensenada - Carnival Elation

Okay, so after a great day at sea, we pulled into Ensenada. After breakfast we got off the ship, got on a bus and went downtown. Walked around the main drag from McDonalds to Papa's and Beer. Stopped in to use the restroom at Papa's Sports Bar, because it is no doubt, hands down, straight up, the coolest restroom in the Western Hemisphere. If you want to know why, you'll just have to go.

Bought some trinkets for the neice and nephews and a really cool stained glass nativity set for my sister, then stopped at Restaurant Garibaldi (the owner is an old friend of mine, from before he got deported) for some fish tacos, and a little people watching.

Re-boarded in the afternoon, sat by the pool for a while til dinner time. I had the Veal Parmigiana, which was a mistake (even worse, a mistake I have made before), but ended up eating most of my mothers Short Ribs, which were awesomely excellent, and a much bigger portion than she could eat.

After dinner we listened to Clifton again, and drifted in and out of the Casino. No big winners tonite, however, I did qualify for the Final in the Blackjack Tournament, and got wiped out in 4 hands. So, one more T-shirt for the collection.

It was a long day, and the piano players night off, so after the Tournament I called it a night.


Day at Sea, Carnival Elation

Wow, what a Day-at-Sea. Started with my usual omelette on the fantail, wandered about for a while, and ended up at a "Name That Song" Contest. We hooked up with a veteranarian from Sherman Oaks, and his wife, and they recognized every song we didn't. So, we won the contest and I got my first Piece of Ship on a Stick for the day.

A little later, while trying unsuccessfully to lose back the money I won at Roulette, I got in the Slot Tournament, and won that too!!! Another Piece of Ship on a Stick (oh, yeah, and $500).

It finally got sunny and warm in the late afternoon, so we sat by the pool and soaked up some rays til dinner time. It was the Captains Party, so I actually put on long pants and shoes (formal by Carnival standards), and wandered around the Promenade listening to various musical types. One guy, Clifton I think, blows a mean saxophone, and a couple guys at the atrium bar were doing the obligatory calypso/reggae thing. I like the new format Carnival has come up with to replace the Captain's Cocktail Party. During our wandering we met the Captain and most of the Senior Officers...it is a casual atmosphere, that makes it easier to actually meet and talk for a minute with the various officers and staff.

At dinner I violated a rule and ordered the lobster, which was better than I remember. I also had a Greek Salad that was to die for.

Dinner ended too soon for the Piano Bar, so one more quick trip to the Casino, and another $400 win on one of those crazy slot machines that I still don't know what I did (and didn't even realize how much I had won, cuz I can never do the nickel math in my head). Deciding to quit while I was ahead, I left and found the Karaoke, which was every bit as bad as any land-based Karaoke I have witnessed, and lot's of fun. Finally, finished off the night at the Piano Bar.

All in all a very fun and profitable day. And now, it's time to get ready for Ensenada!!!


Boarding Day, Carnival Elation, 3 day cruise

After a few delays, we got on the road at 11, and made it to San Diego right at 1pm...bad timing. I am not sure what's going on with a new Cruise Terminal in San Diego (last I heard the usual suspects were resisting it), but it is badly needed. With only two ships (the Carnival Spirit and the Carnival Elation) it is badly impacted. After dropping Steve and Mom and the luggage, I had to drive around, lost, for twenty minutes to get to the parking lot directly across the street.
Depsite the chaotic feel, we actually got checked in and boarded in a reasonable time. Found our room on Main Deck. The usual.

Bags got to the room in about a half hour, which was excellent, so we unpacked and then went up to the Lido Buffet for a bit of lunch.

Up until a year agok, I would have said the Fantasy Class ships were my favorite, but after three consecutive cruises on the Carnival Splendor, I have to say, the Elations buffet was pretty weak, and she is definitely showing her age. Nothing terrible, and she is well maintained, but lunch for 2 thousand of your closest friends, with only two short buffet lines, a burger grill by the pool, and pizza way in the back, just doesnt flow the way the multiple stations on newer ships do. Anyway, we managed to get a bite and talk a little walk around before Muster Drill. Thank God we got Muster Station "F", which doesn't require walking around.

Muster Drill took us right to Sail Away. We sat by the pool as the ship headed out to sea, and decided to head to dinner.
We are doing the Your Time Dining, the first time I have tried Carnival's open seating plan...seemed to work out pretty well. There were two groups ahead of us, and we were seated within 5 minutes, with a nice window table to watch the sun set over Pt. Loma. I had my favorite smoked duck breast appetizer and the Tilpia. As good as ever.

After dinner we stopped in to the casino. I lost $50 in about a minute, but my brother won $40, so, not too bad. Long day, so after the casino stop Steve and Mom headed to the room.

I went back up to the Casino, hit the roullette table and, with a little help, turned $100 into $300. WooHoo. Trip paid for.

After cashing out, it was time for the Piano Bar to open. Headed over and listened to Lonnie for a bit. Pretty good. He is now to the piano bar business. Good Musician, poor crowd control. I am sure he will learn how to work the crowd, until then, it was still a pretty good time - until a group of drunken faux-TA's from World Ventures (an MLM that pretends to be travel agents) invaded. It was midnite by then, and, as I said earlier, it was a long day, so I finally threw in the towel and went home. All in all, a pretty decent start to the cruise.


NCL Going Back To Paper Doc's...Sort of

Of all the things that have changed in the Cruise Industry over the last few years, the one that get's the most gripes from long-time cruisers has to be "e-docs". The move away from paper tickets to e-docs, a pure cost-cutting move, may seem like a small thing to many.

But some of us, who have been cruising since the (in my case) early 80's recall with fondness the days of waiting for the mailman to deliver your cruise documents, so you could skip, hop and be-bop back to the house, pulling out your tickets, and luggage tags, and contract with all the fine print, and the Frequently Asked Questions flyer, etc. There is even a name for it: The Doc Dance. Somehow that envelope made the whole thing real. You were going on a C-R-U-I-S-E!!!!

Well, finally, one cruise line which had gone to e-docs, has heard us! NCL, while still retaining, technically, e-docs (you have to check in online and print out a boarding pass), is introducing their "Welcome Aboard" booklet.

Like old school paper docs, the new Welcome Aboard booklet has your Ship and Itenerary, Guest Name, Stateroom #, reservation # and Travel Agents name personalized on the front cover. Then there are several pages of boilerplate on things to know before you board, how to pack, dress code, etc. The middle pages list excursions specific to your itenerary, along with two pages of detachable luggage tags, a couple more pages on on-board amenities and such and the final page with a deck plan of your specific ship.

Such a small thing, and yet, it was "just like the good old days" when I pulled mine out of the mailbox today, for my Mexican Riviera Cruise aboard the Norwegian Star, November 7th. So, hats off to Norwegian Cruise Lines!!!

For help booking your next NCL cruise, or any other travel needs, contact us here at Dave Holman Travel Services, 760.265.3687 or sales@daveholmantravel.com


Cruise Ship Gambling Pays Off....Finally

So, I get an email from Carnival today, offering me a FREE cruise. Okay, taxes and fees. I knew those hundreds of dollars spent in the casinos would pay off, some day. :-}

The Agent I spoke to even called it a "High Roller Promotion". Apparently, Carnival sets the High Roller bar fairly low.

Anyway, my Mother, Brother and I are embarking the 26th of October for a 3-day Baja Cruise on the Carnival Elation, and the grand total is $44.03/pp. It doesn't get much better than that. And it comes at a great time, since I have been trying to figure out how to get one more cruise on the Elation before she leaves the West Coast and heads to to the Gulf.

It will also be my first chance to try out Your Time Dining, since the Carnival Splendor, which I sailed in May and again in June, still hasn't adopted it.

And, yeah, a day in Ensenada is not my first choice in vacation spots, but any day spent on a cruise ship is a good day.

So there it is.


Another Offer I Couldn't Refuse - NCL Norwegian Star

Just got myself on the 11/7 sailing of the Norwegian Star, a 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise. I have been on the NCL Pride of Hawaii (now the Norwegian Jade), a near-sister ship. Nice ship, nice layout, I expect, from looking at the deck plans, to be able to navigate the Star with minimum difficulty. The 91,000 ton ship, with just under 2,000 passengers is the perfect size, in my opinion...big enough to have 13 dining venues and multiple bars/lounges/theaters, without being overwhelming and impersonal, as I find most of the 100,000 ton plus, 3,000 passenger plus vessels entering service lately.

The Pride of Hawaii was with NCLAmerica, the American division of NCL Cruises. They have gotten a mildly bad rep for service issues, which most passengers blame on having to utilize American crew.

NCL does not have that problem, and by all accounts has better service than NCLA. Personally, I did not have any significant problems on my cruise with NCLA, and in fact had some really great interactions with various crewmembers...so if NCL is even better, I anticipate a great cruise. Of course, I always anticipate a great cruise, and am seldom disappointed.

The fantastic deal is called the PhD@sea program, and is a result of my many hours of study to become "FREESTYLE CERTIFIED" by Norwegian Cruise Lines. It's wonderful when hard work pays off.

So, I will be posting my review when I return, and in the meantime, anyone who wishes to experience the Freestyle Cruising concept: give us a call at DAVE HOLMAN TRAVEL SERVICES, 760.265.3687 or by email at sales@daveholmantravel.com


Carnival Elation Mystery is Solved

Carnival Cruise Lines said today that its 2,052-passenger Elation will be deployed to Mobile to operate four- and five-day western Caribbean cruises beginning in May 2010.

It will replace Carnival Fantasy, a sister ship of the same size, which is due to begin sailing out of Mobile in November. Carnival now operates one of its smallest ships, Holiday, from Mobile.

Fantasy will move to Charleston, S.C., to launch that port's first year-round cruise program, Carnival said.

On its new Mobile-based schedule, Carnival Elation will depart the Alabama Cruise Terminal Thursdays on four-day cruises to Cozumel and Mondays and Saturdays on five-day voyages to Cozumel and Calica or Progreso, Mexico.

Carnival Elation's inaugural departure from Mobile will be a special seven-day cruise to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel departing May 15, 2010. Five other seven-day western Caribbean voyages will be offered throughout the year.

Carnival Elation is expected to carry more than 170,000 passengers annually from Mobile.


Cunard Appoints New Master for the Queen Elizabeth

Captain Christopher Wells to assume command of Cunard's newest Queen

2 September 2009 - Captain Christopher Wells has been appointed Master of Cunard Line’s new 90,000-ton liner, Queen Elizabeth, which will enter service in October 2010. Captain Wells joined Cunard as second officer on Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1992.

Captain Wells was born and brought up in Bournemouth, England. His love of the sea developed when he learned to sail in Poole Harbour and resulted in his commencing a four-year cadetship with Shell Tankers at Warsash College in 1974. He qualified as a second officer in 1978 and obtained his Master's certificate in 1985. He served with Shell for 16 years.

He also found time in 1986 to join the Royal Naval Reserve. He still undertakes two weeks' training with the RNR each year, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in 1994.

“It is a well deserved honour for Captain Wells to be appointed Master of Queen Elizabeth," said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “His experience on our longest serving ship QE2, and our flagship Queen Mary 2, will ensure that guests on our newest ship will enjoy all of the same famous traditions offered by Cunard Line.”

After joining Cunard and QE2, Captain Wells worked his way through the ranks to become staff captain. He later joined Queen Mary 2’s New Build Team and spent 18 months at the St. Nazaire shipyard. Having seen the ship develop from the beginning and bringing her into service as staff captain, Wells was extremely proud when appointed to the command of Queen Mary 2 last year.
Queen Elizabeth, currently under construction at the Monfalcone yard in Trieste, Italy, will be a classic Cunarder, offering the very best of Cunard heritage and tradition along with all of the modern luxuries Cunard guests have come to expect. She will join her sister ships Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria next year, ensuring one of the oldest shipping lines in business has the youngest fleet in the world.

Commenting on his new appointment, Captain Wells said, “Bringing Queen
Elizabeth into her British homeport of Southampton will be one of the proudest moments of my life, and I very much hope that the people of Southampton and beyond will take the ship to their hearts as they have done with all the Cunard Queens since Queen Mary was launched in 1934. Queen Elizabeth certainly will follow in that great tradition."

Captain Wells lives in Barnham, West Sussex, with his wife Hedda, whom he met on QE2, and three children.


Carnival Fascination To Get The Balcony Treatment

We are very excited to announce that the Carnival Fascination will undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation in January 2010 that will include the addition of a new water park, adults-only retreat, and resort-style main pool area, as well as 98 balconies added to existing ocean view staterooms. Carnival Fascination will be the third ship to incorporate the additional balconies, joining Carnival Ecstasy, which will receive balconies during its dry dock in October, and Carnival Sensation which had similar work done earlier this year.

The refurbishment, which will take place during a 28-day dry dock will include a number of exciting open deck features, including Carnival WaterWorks with 82-foot-long racing slides, a splash zone and the aqua park's signature design element - a 300-foot-long Twister water slide. Carnival Fascination’s main pool on Lido deck will also be transformed with oversized umbrellas, colorful tile work and thatched roofing, creating a relaxing, resort-style ambiance. She will also receive an adults-only retreat, Serenity. The refurbishment will also include upgrades to the Sensation and Imagination main dining rooms, with the Sensation dining room being reconfigured for Your Time Dining.

Of the 98 additional private balcony staterooms, sixty-two will be located aft – with several of them featuring extended balconies – while 24 others will be located mid-ship and 12 near the stern. Several of the Carnival Fascination’s existing suites will be retrofitted with larger, extended balconies.

Prior to the January dry dock, a new Circle “C” facility for 12- to 14-year-olds will be added on Atlantic Deck 8. The facility will include plasma screen TV’s displaying movies and music videos, a high-tech sound and light system, gaming consoles and a touch-screen jukebox.

Reservations open today for the 98 new balcony staterooms onboard the Carnival Fascination’s four and five day cruises from Jacksonville. The first sailing where guests can experience these wonderful enhancements will be February 1, 2010.


The VENETIAN Resort and Casino - Bigger is NOT Better

I just returned from a night at the Venetian in Las Vegas. I had an offer for 3 nights, only booked two nights, because of scheduling problems, and ended up coming home after one night.
Needless to say, not good.

First off, the Venetian is the largest hotel in the world. Secondly, they boast, at 700square feet, the largest average room size in the world. While the rooms were nice, it is quite obvious the resort was designed (I use the term loosely, there is no real "design" evident) with an eye towards setting a size record, and NOT to providing any decent guest experience.

You would think someone in charge would realize when you have to have a couple hundred extra "security guards", one at every hallway intersection, whose main job clearly is to give directions to wandering guests, that there is a problem. I am not exaggerating - these guys were NOT patrolling hallways looking for security issues. They were firmly planted at each turn on every floor, asking people what room they were looking for.

In order to get from my room in the Venezia Tower, to my car in the parking garage, took not one, not two, but THREE elevator rides. Yep...down a hall way eight rooms to the 4th floor elevator foyer, down the elevator to the Venezia Lobby....not to be confused with the Venetian or Palazzo Lobbies (yes, three different lobbies, but only one where you can check into a room, more on that later), about a 1/4 mile walk down two hallways to the elevator to the parking garage (not to be confused with the elevator that goes to the front desk and casino, but which doesn't stop at the food court/shopping mall floor...that requires crossing the sky bridge just past the elevators to the parking garage)which only stops at the bottom floor of the garage, then out of that elevator and into the elevator right next door (literally 10 feet away), to go up to the parking garage floor you are parked on. And, just to be clear, yes this was an "accessible" room, designed for people with physical challenges...what a hoot that is...while I can push my brothers wheelchair any distance, my poor mother, who is nominally able-bodied, completely gave up on leaving the room, as at 76 she just isn't much in the mood to walk a mile to play a slot machine, and was afraid she would get lost.

So, back to the beginning...Check in. As I noted earlier, the largest hotel in the world, which has three towers, and a "lobby" in each tower, has decided that EVERYONE should check in at on front desk. While it is a very large front desk, with probably 15 clerks, it does require everyone NOT in the main tower to walk an extra 1/4 to 1/2 mile and one extra elevator ride. My first thought, upon getting in the twisty turny rope line was that it better be a good ride, because the line was longer than anything at Disneyland, or any airport I have ever been in. I will give them credit, they were fairly efficient and the line moved at a good pace. Morover, the clerk, when we finally got there, was pleasant, friendly and quick. In fact, the one area where this hotel stands out was the staff. From doormen to housekeeping to the food service folks, everyone was uniformly friendly and helpful, with everyone wishing the guests a "good day" as they passed in the halls, etc.

And, the rooms are excellent, with floor to ceiling windows, lots of marble in a huge bathroom, two big screen TV's, nice couches and chairs, etc. It's just that they might as well be on the moon. My room overlooked the pool deck, which, while small by current Vegas standards, still sports two pools, a large jacuzzi, a nice fountain, and some nice landscaping. As far as I could tell the bedding was good, but I spent a total of about 4 hours in bed, the rest of my time being taken up by walking and getting on and off elevators.

The entire hotel was beautifully decorated, with lot's of fountains, marble floors, columns and frescoes on the ceilings, etc. The casino was also nicely laid out, and fairly easy to navigate, although the stakes are a little rich for my blood. Fifteen dollar minimum blackjack and $2 roulette are just silly, to me. I get no particular thrill playing for big stakes, and I feel certain most of my fellow guests felt the same way, as there were seats available at every single table and slot carousel, even on a Friday night with the checkin line still snaking almost to the door. I could not find a video poker machine for less than $1, and there were lots of seats available at those. Contrast this with the $.25 poker machines I played Friday night at the MGM, where every time one of us got up to stretch our legs, someone tried to grab the machine out from under us.

Anyway, all in all, not an experience I care to repeat, but if you are trying to lose weight, or get in shape, perhaps a weekend at the Venetian is just the ticket.


Sandusky, OHIO,The Town with no Motto

"Sluggish and uninteresting enough,... something like the back of an English watering-place, out of the season." Thus spake Charles Dickens, on passing through Sandusky in 1842.

Obviously, before Cedar Point was built. Seriously, Cedar Point is the amusement park to end all amusement parks. Eight years running, Amusement Today has named it the "world's best", and with good reason. Not just one wooden coaster, like most amusement parks, but a whole section of them. And the tallest, and the fastest and the most "G's", and all the measures of a great thrill ride. Cedar Point has most of the records. If you are a serious roller-coaster fiend, you have to go.

But there are more reasons to go to this little Midwest town of 30,000. It is located on the banks of Lake Erie, with watersports aplenty, and some of the best freshwater fishing in the country. Personally, I would recommend camping at any of the waterfront campgrounds in the area, but if you don't want to rough it, most of them also have cottages available, cheap.

It is also located just an hour or so drive from Cleveland to the East, and Canton to the south.

Among the themes I pursued during my traveling days was visiting as many "Hall of Fames" as I could find. Cleveland is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is a perfect day trip from a base in Sandusky, and an awesome experience for anyone in the Rock 'n Roll Generation.

Take the next day to drive south to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, also an experience I think everyone should have. I was lucky enough to see Joe Montana get inducted, and to watch the Hall of Fame Game in 2000.So, that's it. Couple days at Cedar Point, a day at one of the other amusement parks in the area, 2 days on the water, skiing and fishing, a day for Rock 'n Roll, and a day for Football.Pretty much your All-American vacation right there.


Carnival Splendor...6/09

Okay, so, for my third trip on the Carnival Splendor since March, there is not much to report as far as the ship.

I did have a dead-center stateroom, two doors down from the mid-ship elevators. From here it was two floors up and there's the Dining Room, one more floor and there's the Casino, and a short walk to the piano bar and lounges on Deck 5, Aft. Four more floors and the Pool is on one side and the Buffet on the other, then one more floor and there's Camp Carnival....pretty much a perfect location.

Went with my sister and brother-in-law, and their three kids. The kids seemed to have a good time at Camp Carnival, but an even better time in the pool and the waterslide, where we spent most of our afternoons.

The itenerary changed from my previous cruise, three weeks ago, and instead of Seattle and San Francisco, we went to Astoria, Oregon and Vancouver, BC, as well as Victoria.

I have no idea why anyone thinks Astoria should be a cruise ship port...a rinky dink town of 10,000 with a completely lame Maritime Museum and some comic book stores....seriously, Astoria's "claim to fame" is that it was the location for "GOONIES"...since I don't think I ever saw the movie (and if I did I have completely forgotten it), I am not sure why that is significant (unless you just can't find anything else to say). Weather was, not quite cold, but certainly not warm, grey skies and just generally yucky.

Next day, however, Victoria was fabulous. When I was there three weeks ago it was 48 degrees and raining, and we never got off the boat. This time it was 85 degrees and pure golden sunshine. And it really is a neat little town. At the Inner Harbor is the busiest seaplane port in the world, and we sat and watched the planes landing and taking off for a while. The Empress Hotel, built in 1904, was quite impressive, the biggest Chateau style building I have ever seen, sprawling over an entire block. Also the Government House, done is a more Romanesque theme, with a statue of Queen Victoria out front was quite the landmark. There is also the British Columbia Museum, which we walked around, but did not go into, as the price was a bit steep. We did take a bus out to Butchart Gardens. The gardens were nice, worth the trip, but the drive out was almost as good. Along with all the evergreen pine and spruce everywhere there is an area of oak forest, which is probably the farthest north an oak tree will grow, and we spotted several deer, and I think I saw a black bear...I am not sure, as it was just a glimpse, but if it wasn't a black bear it was a REALLY big guy in a fur coat slipping into the trees. Back on the ship, they rolled back the glass over the pool (13 days onboard the Splendor at that point, and this is the first time they pulled the lid off).

Our final stop was in Vancouver, BC - and I really wish I had planned some type of excursion, as there are, I am sure, many opportunities in the area. But Vancouver, itself, is just another big city, and where the ships dock at Canada Place is right smack in the middle of office buildings and skyscrapers, with men in suits on their lunch breaks, and women in suits making "power calls" on their headsets....in other words, it could be LA or Houston or Boston. Nothing "touristy" in the immediate area, so we walked out for 10 minutes, then headed back to the ship, as it was, again, beautifully sunny, around 90 degrees, and too nice a day not to waterslide in....

Back on board for two days at sea. The weather and the seas cooperated, and it was truly beautiful sailing...the last day at sea I went out on deck early and I could actually see the reflection of the clouds on the water, it was so glassy.

I also took the opportunity of two days at sea to compete in the Slot tournament, and did so poorly, so many times that Amber Newport (the best Casino Hostess in the Carnival Fleet), gave me a t-shirt, just for trying, and then, lo and behold, my number was called in the second chance drawing and I got to compete in the Final, anyway...so I am now up two t-shirts. I then tried the blackjack tournament, did well enough to get on the board, and hung on UNTIL THE FINAL CARD OF THE FINAL HAND OF THE FINAL QUALIFIER. Unbelievable turn of events, although the blow was somewhat softened by the fact the guy who edged me out of the Final ended up winning the Tournament. Somhow it's easier to lose to the guy who wins it all...

And, finally, I have to say a word about the Piano Bar...Ron Pass, the best Piano Man in the Carnival Fleet, was there again, and "on" again. And just like last time, though there were a couple of slow nights, as the week went on, more and more people found the place and the crowd kept getting bigger and louder and more fun, until the last night, when Ron, always the trooper, played til 3am or so, well past his "quitting time". He really is a great entertainer, engaging the crowd, dealing with the obnoxious ones, and always appears to be having a good time, even when you know he isn't. GOOD JOB, RON!!!

Oh, and one more thing: (and this is one of the coolest parts of cruising, when serendipity strikes). One night, late, after closing the Piano Bar, a few of us headed up top to have one last smoke before bedtime. It was too windy, so we decided to head down to the Robusto cigar bar, which was closed, but there are always ashtrays out. As we walked in, Ken Byrnes, the Maitre d' of the Gold Pearl Dining room was at the piano, belting out Sinatra tunes, with the orchestras piano player....just having some fun! Now, Ken sings in the Dining room several nights a week, and has a good voice, but when he was down there on his off-time, just goofing around, you could see he has a real passion for singing, and loves those old Sinatra/Bennett/Martin tunes. So we sat and smoked and had a private concert. What a blast!!!

And that about wraps it up for me...if any of you are just dying to cruise on the Splendor (I think I am an expert by now), or any other great cruise, just look me up at http://www.daveholmantravel.com/ and I will get it done for you.....Thanks


Attention: London Travelers

Just a short note to post a link http://www.comeawaywithme.co.uk/LondonAudioGuide

Anyone who is going to London, check it out...it's a very nice map of London Landmarks, with pictures of dozens of landmarks and audio information...just click on Picadilly Circus, for instance, and get a brief spoken rundown of the location, history and interesting contemporary commentary. Best of all is the charming British accent of the hostess!



For a sneak peak at the new Norwegian EPIC, click HERE . This is a truly fantastic new cruise ship, which is now available for booking through Dave Holman Travel Services...I could go on and on, but it's better you go to my site and check it out for yourself.


Carnival returning to Mexico

Miami - May 15, 2009 5:00PMCarnival will resume visits to Mexican ports of call based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, which is no longer recommending against non-essential travel to Mexico. Once all voyages with previously modified itineraries are completed, those vessels will revert to their original routes featuring stops in Mexico. Most itineraries were modified through mid-June. Click here for a ship-by-ship listing including dates for when each vessel will resume its original itinerary. Carnival is extremely pleased to be resuming our port calls in Mexico, which is one of our most popular destinations. Additionally, we would like to thank all our guests and travel agent partners who were impacted by the modified schedules in recent weeks for their understanding and patience.

from the Carnival Cruise Lines website

Carnival Splendor, again, again

Well that last cruise was so much fun, I am going back on the Carnival Splendor for the 5/31/09 Sailing. Last chance to cruise from LA to Canada. This one has port calls in Victoria (again), but replaces San Francisco and Seattle with Astoria, Oregon and Vancouver, BC.

Decided to do another, because the prices are crazy cheap. This time I will be taking my 3 neices and nephews as well as my sister and brother in law. Should be a fun introduction to cruising for the little ones.

This is the first time I have ever boarded the same ship three times in a row, and I might have the record for most days onboard the Splendor since her redeployment to the West Coast...

And I got in just in time, as Carnival announced today they are resuming their Mexican Riviera iteneraries after the 6/11 sailing. Doubt I will do another daily post, but I will review as soon as I get back.


Carnival Splendor, Day SIX and SEVEN

Ended the cruise with two days at sea. Heading south the seas calmed and it got progressively warmer, until finally it was warm enough (almost) to try out the waterslide.

Spent most of the two days running around the ship with some new friends, playing Trivia contests and Digital Scavenger Hunts, hanging in the Piano Bar with Ron Pass, the best Piano Man in the Carnival Fleet, and eating...did try the Burrito Bar, the Mongolian BBQ, the Deli, the Tandoori and the Rotisserie...they were all good to excellent, with the Tandoori still being my favorite, and the Mongolian BBQ pretty good.

Not much else to say, so I will just post the pictures, and you can decide if I had a good time.

I will tell you that I have booked the Splendor again for the 31st of May...so it must have been pretty good!


Carnival Splendor, DAY FIVE

So....Seattle wasn't quite ready for cruise ships...I had plans to meet my neice for lunch at a place 600' from the pier. Alas, we were sent to the OTHER pier.

When I looked out from my room, just before they started letting people off the boat, there were at least 50 cabs waiting, so I figured "no problem". I can just go down, have one of the cabbies radio for a ramp van, and we'll be on our way. Between then and when people actually got off the boat, the port authorities made all the cabs move to a different location. Most of them decided to go to the airport. ;-}

When cabs finally started showing up, after multiple calls from disgruntled passengers standing in the cold and damp, none of them would make a call, so I called dispatch and requested a van. Then I waited about an hour...then I called back, and they actually got all the relevant information...then I waited another half hour...then I called back again, and found out that Yellow operates a total of 6 ramped vans in all of Kings County (and it's a pretty good sized county), and they had not yet matched me up with an available van...after ANOTHER half an hour in the cold and damp, I gave up, called my neice and had her come to our pier and pick us up (could have done that ahead of time, but I really didn't think I would need transportation, based on what I was told as to where we would be docking.

Anyway, it ended up a nice lunch hour with Andrea, got caught up, and gossiped about all the family that wasn't there, etc., and then headed back to the ship


Carnival Splendor, day FOUR

keeping it short and sweet today....Victoria was 47degrees and raining...not really "vacation" weather for me. We stayed on the ship, cruised around the decks a few times, got in a nice afternoon nap, watched a James Taylor concert on the Big Screen by the pool, and had a nice dinner.

After dinner, and half a basketball game, I headed down to the promenade deck to see what was going on...amazingly both the Casino and the Piano Bar were closed on the same night...fortunately there was a good guitar player out on the promenade, listened to him for a while...the band in the back lounge was okay, but not my style, and the karaoke bar was SRO all night...finally gave up and headed to the Sports Bar to watch the Lakers kick some Rocket butt...that was fun as the bar filled up for the second half...

Seattle was good and bad, and I will tell the tale tomorrow...


Carnival Splendor, Day THREE

Today was a Day at Sea...spent the day roaming the ship...tried the Burrito Bar for lunch, listened to music in the Atrium Lobby, blah blah blah. Also spent a couple hours in the Casino...started nicely, ended badly. In other words, the usual.

Really nice touch with the magrodome over the Lido Pool...warm and bright there.

It was a formal (or, as we say these days, Cruise Elegant) night. A surprisingly large number of people dressed up. I had the Supreme of Duck, it was excellent, along with a sushi starter that was interesting, and the chocolate melting cake for dessert.

After dinner, we went to the show. It's a new production number called "The Beat"...excellent...lot's of good rock 'n roll music, and great choreography.
Finished the night in the Piano Bar. Best crowd so far. Apparently an overflow crowd in The Cool, where the "Legends" auditions were still going on, pushed some people into the piano bar, so it was packed, and Ron was in fine form, as well as my Montana and Arkansas friends (some of whom are actually from Utah...my bad).

Anyway, today we are pulling into Victoria around noon. Not sure yet what we are doing...it is around 50degrees and drizzling off and on...so it depends on the whether. However, the mornings cruising thru the Sound has been quite scenic.

All for now...


Carnival Splendor - Day TWO

Not that I had any real desire to go to San Francisco - but I am glad I did...the "Sail Under" of the Golden Gate Bridge was spectacular...I have sailed under the bridge before, in tour boats of various sorts, but I have NEVER been quite so close...it seems we cleared it by just a couple feet, and standing on the fantail as we went under, you could see the faces of the people lining the bridge to watch and wave.

And then, after docking, when we got off and started walking towards Pier 39, we caught a real break...Sunshine, glorious sunshine. Had to take my jacket off, it got so warm...a real surprise, after sailing all day thru fog. So, we walked from Pier 27 all the way to Ghirardeli Square (I forgot that last block was straight uphill, and on the way back went out the Hyde Street pier to look at the historic boats, stopped and had a bowl of clam chowder, got a sketch portrait down by a street artist (Mothers Day is coming), then walked out Pier 39 to watch the seals (some serious seal Sumo wrestling was going on, as two bulls fought for a spot), get a picture of Alcatraz, etc...all in all we spent 3 hours playing tourist and had to hurry back for dinner.

When we got back, we found our dining table had been re-assigned (the first night we were all the way in the back, and had to do some serious manuevering to get the wheelchair out). Not only did they get us a table right by the door, but the Maitre d' came and positively fawned, making sure our new table was right. Since a ton of passengers stayed in town for dinner, we spent pretty much the entire meal talking to our new waiters...I had the Jerked Pork Loin, which was as good as last time, Steve opted for the Penne Mariscos, which was loaded with shrimp, scallops and calamari - good dinner, great service.

After dinner we wandered the halls a little and listened to music. Paul and Linda, in the Atrium Lobby were excellent, Bruce, on the Promenade deck, outside the casino was as bad as I have ever heard on a ship, outside the Karaoke, and finally we ended up listening to the Legends Auditions...apparently the Legends show at the end of the crew has passenger/performers (as well as the regular entertainment cast)...the auditions were pretty much like the first episode of American Idol...from the ridiculous to the sublime. A couple of the passengers could easily be working on the ship, and a couple should really leave it in the shower. Most were just average, but they all deserve some credit just for giving it a shot!

Anyway, we finally sailed off at 10p.m., Steve went to bed and I closed out the night, you guessed it, at the Piano Bar....lot livelier crowd last night, including a couple celebrating their 60th Anniversary....nice to know it's possible, anyway...



Carnival Splendor...Day ONE

Okay so far. Got to the port about 12:00, after a brief detour through Los Angeles (no, it's not really on my way, from Hesperia, to Long Beach, but stuff happens).
Zipped thru the line, onboard by 12:30, and a room service lunch by 1:30...Steve was a bit tired from the drive, so he chilled in the room, while I took a walk around and determined the Splendor hasn't changed since I last sailed her, all of 5 weeks ago.

The room is very cool. We are in a 4G, which is sold as an inside cabin but has a window. The window looks out over a walkway, and there is no view of the ocean with out standing on tiptoes, but it does let in light and blue sky. It's a triangular shape, with the bathroom at the base, so the main part of the room is an "L" shape, with two beds at the bottom, and the closet/vanity/fridge/tv along the right as you walk in....very nice flow, actually, with the wheelchair. I have a bunch of pics and will post them when I get home.

So, we sailed off at 5:30 after the Meditation...oops, I mean Muster Drill. Met three people from the Cruise Critic Roll Call...no one else showed up. Just me, Steve, Tycruiser and his friend, and Bacardibatgirl.

Anyway, after the M&G we went to dinner. The usual...I had a steak, it was okay, Steve did the Tilapia...I should have as well...

After dinner we walked around a bit, hit the casino, lost a little money, and Steve was ready for bed. I went on down to say "HI" to Ron Pass at the Piano Bar and stayed til 1am...great bunch there...11 family members from Montana, a nice couple from Australia and 3 ladies from Arkansas...As I suspected, some people on the ship are just trying to make the best of it, as they could not change their plans when the itenerary change came along, but an awful lot of us booked in the last 3-4 days, and are just loving life and Carnival and cheap cruising.

We finally hit some waves about 2am, the ship was rocking and rolling pretty good, but this morning it was dead calm and foggy. Now, we are hitting the Monterey Peninsula and she is once again moving pretty good. The biggest downside to that cabin right on the bow...but, oh well.

We are supposed to be getting into San Francisco about two p.m. I can't wait to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge...



Carnival Splendor, 7day San Francisco, Seattle, Victoria

Okay, so one of the nice things about media hysteria, is the price of cruising goes down...I just booked me and my brother on this 7 day cruise to Canada at a stupid-low price...A personal thank you to the CDC for causing the cruiselines to pull out of Mexico!!!

Seriously, I have no particular desire to see Victoria, I have family in and around Seattle, and I can get to San Francisco a lot easier by car or airplane, and do so fairly regularly.

But with all the hoopla, I have an opportunity to take a 7 day cruise for $250...I don't care if it's sailing into a hurricane at that price.

And the Carnival Splendor, which I was just on in March, is a great ship, as I reported at the time.

So, Bro and I are looking forward to some nice sea days with the Magradome closed so it stays warm, some wonderful cuisine in the dining room, and all that great buffet food, which on the Splendor includes a Burrito Bar, Fish 'n Chips, Indian Tandoori, along with all the usual burger grill, pizza and deli lines...

And this time, unlike my 2 day in March, the Casino will be open! Maybe Lady Luck will smile...it wouldn't take much of a jackpot to pay for the cruise. :-}

Also, Ron Pass, one of the better Piano Bar guys with Carnival is still onboard, and we just love a good piano bar.

Anyway, I am leaving Sunday, the 3rd of May, and will probably be posting from the ship, so...
Stay Tuned


2009 Cruise Schedule, revisited

Well, I have the first half of 2009 lined up: In March I am sailing on the MSC Lirica on a 10 day Caribbean Cruise with stops in the Dominican Republic, Antigua, St Marteen, Tortola, St. Lucia and San Juan, Puerto Rico. MSC is an Italian line, which got some bad reviews when they first tried to penetrate the American cruise market with their Caribbean offerings (they have been taking Europeans around the Med for years). A while back they brought on the former President of RCI'S Celebrity Cruise line, and since then they have steadily improved the product, and the reviews are getting better and better. Personally, reading between the lines, most of the dissatisfaction seems to be from people who expect this Italian line to be just like their favorite American cruise ships. People who are more adventurous, and better traveled, seem to "get" the way they do things, and have a pretty good opinion. Personally, I love Italian food and culture, and I am really looking forward to this cruise, as I always look to try new things and see things from a different perspective. In any case, in over a hundred tries, I have failed utterly to have a "bad" cruise. Cruises are kinda like sex and pizza - when they are good, they are great, and even when they're bad, they're pretty good.

Following that, in April/May, I am going on the Queen Mary 2, Eastbound TransAtlantic (New York to Southampton, England). I am really looking forward to 6 days on the largest ocean liner ever built. Everything I have read about this ship and cruise has been fabulous. Despite their being absorbed by Princess and Carnival PLC, so far, by all reports, Cunard has maintained their standards, and offer a truly classic luxury cruise experience.Moreover, once in England, I will probably hang out a few days. My latest plan entails taking a train to Liverpool for a couple days of Beatle tourism, and then a ferry to Dublin for a couple days before flying home. For some reason flying from Dublin to LA is about half the price of flying from London to LA, so the price is almost the same to stay the few days extra.

And next, over the 4th of July weekend, I will be joining 30 or so of my Santa Fe High School Alumni friends for a 3o year Class Reunion. It's just a 3 day Carnival Paradise cruise down to Ensenada, but, obviously, it's more about the Reunion and hanging out with some old friends.In the meantime I am on the lookout for some good cruises in the last half of the year.But first, I have to get thru Christmas.......This just in...add a two day Cruise to Nowhere on the Carnival Splendor. Apparently Carnival has a couple open days as the move the Splendor from her current home port in Florida, around South America, to begin a new season of 7day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach. Rather than leave her tied up doing nothing, they are taking some people on a quickie two day trip...and I am one of the lucky ones.

EDIT: Okay, 86 the QM2...stuff came up.

But now I am adding a 3 day on the Carnival Elation, May 28th...taking my neice and two nephews, ages 5, 7 and almost 9...so I am sure I will be able to report on the Camp Carnival thing.

Next, I have added in a 7 Day Alaska, Sept 5th on the Norwegian Star. I sailed on NCL in Hawaii, and had a good time. This is a first time trip to Alaska (I never really wanted to go, frankly, as I don't think it's a vacation if you have to wear long pants and shoes). NCL is giving me such a terrific deal as a reward for becoming a FREESTYLE SPECIALIST, (including the full on VIP treatment) that I couldn't pass it up.

And then an 8 day Mexico Cruise on the Carnival Spirit out of San Diego, on Nov 19th - got roped into it by some new friends (ones I sailed with on the Splendor). By making it 8 days instead of 7, and leaving from San Diego instead of Long Beach, she can get all the way to Acapulco, along with Manzanillo and Zihuatenejo, instead of the usual Mex Riviera ports. While I have been to each of those ports, nowhere near as many times as the old Cabo, Mazatlan, PV thing...so that should be cool.So, that's the schedule (for now)