Norwegian EPIC, 11/27/10, Costa Maya

Before I get on to yesterdays activities, I want to mention something I forgot in my previous post. I also got an invitation to the Captain's Cocktail Party (more goodies) in the EPIC Lounge, the private lounge in the Courtyard Villas area. Sadly, it conflicted with my reservation for Blue Man Group, so I just had time to run in, shake some hands, and get down to the show. Still, it was nice to be invited.

So, Costa Maya: one of the things I dislike about cruising. A totally artificial port. Nothing more than a shopping mall built by the cruise lines. Not that this is new. I sailed on the Crown Monarch way back in 1988 or so, (the first of two years they were in operation). On that ship we were carrying pallets of lumber to finish construction of their private beach thing in Labadee Shores, Haiti (Later sold to Royal Caribbean, when Monarch folded). But I just don't see the point (from a cruisers perspective...I do "get it" from the cruise lines point of view...). So, up at 6:30 to type and send the Day at Sea post, then off the ship for a quick run thru the gauntlet of shops (I do have to have my refrigerator magnet, after all), and back on in time to hit O'Sheehans for an English Breakfast. If you don't know already, I love a good English breakfast, and I am pretty sure that hearty morning meal directly contributed to the rise of the British Empire. NOw I think of it, I suppose, since it's served in O'Sheehans, it's probably an Irish Breakfast. Wonder what happened to the Irish Empire? But I digress. NCL does a pretty good job of it, with fried eggs, beans, mushrooms, fried tomatoes, and sausage bland enough to be English. The only false notes were the clearly American bacon (not necessarily a bad thing, I like "real" bacon better than the English stuff), and the "hash browns", which is actually two of those little patties that are a cross between McDonald's hash browns and Tater Tots. Still and all, a nice way to start the day.

AFter breakfast I went up for the Trivia contest in the Bliss Ultra Lounge. My team came in second. Who knew that it snowed in the Sahara back in 1979? I mean, really.  After the contest, I went out to the Pool Deck. One of the things I do love about port days, artificial or otherwise, is that it clears the ship out, so there is room enough, and time, to do things on board, without lines and crowds.

I hit the waterslides first. On the two day Inaugural I never got a chance...just too much ship, and not enough time. So, the green slide is blindingly fast and awesome, and the Bowl Slide is close to the coolest thing, ever. Thru the tube and into the bowl, couple laps around the bowl, and then flushed out the bottom like a, well, you know... Lot's of fun. Did both of them three times, then sat and read for a while, hopped in the jacuzzi for a minute, and finally got too hot (I know, that's a problem a lot of you wish you had here at the end of November), and went down to the stateroom to change and kick back for a while.

When I got to the room, there were a couple more invitations from the Hotel Director...talk about your full court press! This time it's for the SVEDKA Ice Bar. Now, again...not a drinker...and besides, I HATE being cold. But in the interest of  informing you, the reader, I am going to bite the bullet, put on the parka, and freeze my cojones off for a half-hour. I was resisting going, but Alyona already had a reservation (After all, 17F is a spring day in Siberia, so it's no big deal for her). I will try to get some video, as well as pictures.

Also an invitation to dine at the EPIC CLUB, the exclusive restaurant for Courtyard Villas guests. THAT I am really looking forward to. I am so glad I bothered to pack some (more or less) formal clothes. Pretty sure the shorts and flip-flops thing doesn't work up there!

After a little cool down and kick back, I decided to find some grub. Nothing on the buffet was calling to me, so I went to O'Sheehan's (quickly becoming my favorite place onboard). This time I tried the Chicken Pot Pie. Not bad...a little thin, but not bad. Ran into a colleague there, and had some nice conversation, though. Then back up to the Pool Deck for an hour of Jimmy Buffet tunes at the Waves Bar. I had the bartender, Courtney from Jamaica, whip me up something fruity and tropical. I have no idea what all he put in there, but it was refreshing. Nice guy, Courtney, and he knew all the Jimmy Buffet tunes, too...

At 3:00 there was another Trivia contest in Bliss, with Hanna from Oz - my team came in 2nd again. This is getting annoying. Some of you know I am pretty good at the Trivia thing, but there is a group of 4 guys, all Mensa members, that know EVERYTHING, between the 4 of them. I am either going to intimidate them by trash talking, or beg to be let on the team, before too long. I am not at all cool with coming in second.

Back up topside for a little music, then down to get ready for the night. Dinner was at Taste, one of the main dining rooms. I have to tell you, I didn't think I would enjoy it. The part of Taste that is visible from the front door, and from above, where it's open to the small rear atrium, is all very sleek, with white walls and black furniture. While it looks "modern" and "cool", it doesn't look "appetizing". However, upon entering, I found out the sides of the room are completely different, with alternating red brick columns and stained glass windows. The furniture is a deep red. On the whole, very homey, almost rustic, and very much a nice atmosphere for dining. I had the Meze Mediteranean appetizer, a lamb sausage wrapped in grape leaf, with feta and peppers and a swoosh of hummus some whole chickpeas and a drizzle of some kind of herb laden oil. Small, and tasty. Followed that with the duck and noodle appetizer. I have had this one before. Just your
basic cold noodles with greens and pieces of smoked duck, but the ginger soy dressing is to die for. At first it's very sweet, with chunks of papaya or something, but then the touch of crushed red pepper appears at the finish, and all of a sudden you realize it's quite piquant (and, overall, delightful). The main course was prime rib. Tender, and exactly the medium rare that I asked for, with some julienne carrots, broccoli and a twice-baked potato alongside. Also very good. For dessert, I had the strawberry cheesecake. Not the best I ever get, but passable. Towards the end of the meal, the Maitre d' (Michelle) stopped by and we did the "I know you from somewhere" thing, until we settled on the Pride of Hawaii, where she was running the Italian restaurant when I was on her, back in 2005 ("her" meaning the Pride of Hawaii, not Michelle [just to be clear]).

Then it was on to the early show of Second City. As always with the improv thing, parts were hilarious, other's not so much...but it really depends on the audience, and the suggestions they give. The Players are uniformly brilliant, but they have to work with what they get. Next stop, Fat Cats Blues and Jazz Club. The band is Roadside Louie and the Dusters, and they are very good. I shot some video, and if it's suitable, I will post it. Frankly, the lighting in Fat Cats is excellent for the band, and awful for video. Ditto the sound...it is great in the room, but it's a bit overpowering for my camcorder...Louie was agreeable to letting me post some clips, but we both agreed only if the quality was good. So, look for that on my YouTube channel, and if not, you can check out the band at http://www.roadsidelouie.com/ . Book 'em for your next Bar Mitzvah or something.

After Fat Cats, I went over to the Manhattan Room for another dessert and Legends Unplugged. The show started with Rod Stewart doing "Forever Young" and "Sailing". He was excellent. Like Madonna on the inaugural, I ran into him in the lobby after the show and had to get a picture with him. Also like the Madonna impersonator, a very nice and personable type.  So, then back to Fat Cats to shoot a few more clips, over to the casino where I turned my $96 into an even $100 (well, at one point it was $200, but, you know how that goes). Then up to Bliss Lounge for a minute to witness some forgettable Karaoke, back to Fat Cats one more time and then to the 11pm (adult) show of Second City. Much funnier, overall, than the early show. Both the players and the audience were looser and more lively. Up to the pool deck for some air, and caffeine, then finally back to Bliss Ultra Lounge where Karaoke had been replaced by DJ D-UP or whatever. Had to visit "my" bed (yeah, that's right, MY bed). I love that bed and that Ultra Lounge... Listened to some music, watched some dancers, and felt quite proud of myself that I made it past midnight. I have finally overcome the jet lag and red eye flight! Woo Hoo! Finally turned in, at 2ish, so I could get a few hours of nappy time till we get to Roatan.

Stay tuned, and I will tell you all about it tomorrow!

OH, by the way, I have been so tired, I have forgotten the gratuitous self-promotion at the end of my last few posts. If you need help booking a cruise on the Norwegian EPIC, or any boat in the NCL fleet, or any boat in any fleet, or any travel that doesn't happen on a boat...CALL ME! Dave Holman Travel Services, 760.265.3687, or at daveholmantravel@verizon.net. And follow me at http://www.facebook.com/DaveHolmanTravel.

And now, as I type this up at 7am, I see Roatan off the port side. Beautiful. Tropical. GREEN. Gotta go find some monkeys!

Til tomorrow, then...

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