Norwegian EPIC, 11/27/10, Second Day at Sea

I slept in until nearly 7 this morning. After typing up the Costa Maya report, I went for breakfast at O'Sheehans, AGAIN. 
Lolled around until 9:30, when I went up for the big Bridge Tour. We were shown around by Carl, the Navigation Officer. First off, the view from the bridge is awesome, of course. It is also huge. All the way forward, and center is the Helmsman's station. Different than other arrangements I have seen where the helmsman is behind the cockpit. Carl explained that this made communication with the cockpit easier. Then the cockpit itself, a two man station, surrounded by every kind of gadget and geegaw you could imagine. While the ships course is nearly always laid in to the auto-pilot, and the controls used to maneuver manually would fit on a Wii controller, every conceivable bit of information needed to keep an eye on things surrounds each chair on three sides. Behind the cockpit is the "radio room"...actually an open space, but filled with all the radios, phones, and computers to communicate everything and everywhere around the ship. At the back, center is the safety station where all the monitors and alarms fills a good 10 foot square area. From cabin smoke alarms to monitors for breaches in the hull, if anything bad happens, they know it here first. Moving to starboard is the chart table and more comm equipment (and a very high tech coffee machine, no more three pot Bunn apparatus emitting the smell of burnt coffee), and then all the way over the side steering station, protruding over the edge of the ship, this has a clear view all the way down the side of the ship, as well as a glass floor, to see the side straight down, and some large flat screen monitors that are fed by cameras showing the areas blocked by the life boats. All of this is duplicated on the port side, to allow docking from either side. Between the center cockpit and the port station is a giant conference table. Also against the wall there was a continental breakfast set up, so I assume the table is for breaks and meals as well as Staff Meetings. I know I am more fascinated by all this stuff than most, so I'll get off it now...but it was cool to see, and Carl was good at answering questions and seemed to know what all the lights, switches, buttons and screens were for, so all y'all can rest assured you're in pretty good hands on board the EPIC.

Finished up the bridge tour just in time to hit the first Trivia contest. Ah, sweet, glorious VICTORY! Finally. We took down the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by the huge margin of 19 to 18. Self esteem issues resolved, I went up to soak up some rays by the pool and listen to music til lunch time. Lunch was at Wasabi Sushi Bar. The sushi itself was excellent, but I have to say I don't really like the whole set up there. First off, I don't know how much more it would cost to hire some actual Japanese sushi chefs vs. putting bandanas on Filipinos and pretending, but it can't be that much. Secondly, if you are going to go the faux-Japanese route, at least teach them to say a few words of Japanese...a little "konichiwa" and "Domo aregato, tsomotsai" goes a long way towards making it feel like a "real" sushi bar. Also, the bar itself is built up too high and opaque, so, while you can see their heads, you can't see them actually making the sushi. And finally, telling your waitress what you want, and having her write it down and hand them the slip is inefficient. I much prefer to order my time, direct from the chef. I have been in sushi bars all over Asia and the West coast of North America from Canada to Chile, and watching the preparation and socializing with the chefs and other customers is an integral part of a good sushi experience to my mind. But, as I said,the sushi itself was excellent, and the prices are very reasonable...about half what I pay in my local places.  After lunch I did a little more Bingo, to no avail. Just to prove it wasn't a good day for gambling, I left there and dropped a few bucks in the casino. Went down to the stateroom for a minute and found another bottle of wine and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. I think I now have enough wine and NCL corkscrews for my next "Cruise Night". Thanks, Klaus. It was time for the Digital Scavenger Hunt. Lot's of fun, but I hooked up with a couple of people that were too old to cover the whole ship in half an hour, so we fell short of victory. But that filled the time til the next Trivia contest, where our dominance continued. We won, convincingly, again. Just to prove it wasn't a fluke. Spent a little more time topside til dinner. Now that I have discovered Taste is nicer than I thought, I figured to give it another try. For some reason I decided to start with the French Onion Soup. The offering in the Manhattan Room was not a fluke. They just really on't do a very good French Onion soup. But the little potato salad and shrimp appetizers was very good, and against my better judgement I had the special of the day. A pork burrito. Mostly I ordered it because my waiter Frederick spent so much time explaining to me what a "burritos" is, obviously reciting from a script, and having no idea I grew up in a Mexican restaurant. It was actually a lot better than I anticipated, with a real tortilla rather than some spinach wrap or something, and smothered in a passable Ranchero sauce. A little cheese on top is all that was missing. Finished with a chocolate truffle cake. Very good.

After dinner, I went and got the chocolate strawberries, and as is my wont, took them to Hannah and Cat, my new best friends from the cruise staff. They were doing the karaoke in the Bliss Lounge. I endured a half hour of karaoke waiting for "The Weakest Link" game. The random draw for contestants yielded four dumb people, plus Rob, one of the guys from the other good trivia team, and myself. They should have re-named it from "Weakest Link" to "Rob and Dave and the four HATERS". After the first round, wherein me and him are the only ones who got any correct answers, there were two votes to eliminate each of us, forcing a five question Sudden Death round. I shaded him, 4-5, and he was eliminated. After Round Two, I was eliminated by unanimous vote of the othe four. They carried on for a couple more rounds,and finally ended up with the two finalists who had given a total of three right answers each, in the whole five rounds. As Hannah was having the crowd pick a winner by acclaim, a bunch of my buddies from several of the trivia teams started chanting, "Bring Dave Back"...It was kind of funny, but poor Hannah decided she couldn't violate all the rules in my favor...despite the chocolate strawberry bribe earlier...and one of them was declared the winner.

By this time Howl at the Moon, the dueling piano bar act, was on at Headliners. Went in for a few minutes. They were good, but the crowd was still light. Headed over to Fat Cats, but Roadside Louie and the Dusters had the night off. So, back to Howl at the Moon. It was getting a little livelier, so I hung out til 10:30 when "Zouk" started up in the Bliss Ultra Lounge. Zouk is a caribbean/reggaton themed party. I was having a perfectly fine time watching and schmoozing. Then the girls from the cruise staff dragged my creaking carcass out on the dance floor. Mike was passing out hats. I think I looked pretty stylish in the neon green plastic fedora. I am not sure where in the Rule Book it says you can't take a break once you take the dance floor, but it's apparently the policy here...every time I tried to slip away, someone else dragged me back. So, a couple hours of hard time on the dance floor. And leg cramps this morning as a souvenir.  The party wound down about 1am and I took the opportunity to run into O'Sheehans for a spinach dip nightcap. Bliss was
winding down so I decided it was time to finally get to bed at a decent hour.

And that, as they say, is that...be back tomorrow to report on our day in Cozumel.

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