Norwegian STAR. Manana.

Well, they've cancelled Mazatlan.  Not a big surprise.  Other lines have pulled out of Mazatlan lately, too.  I was looking forward to it, because there's a nice trolley excursion that is wheelchair accessible.  But instead of a different port (Manzanillo, for instance), NCL has decided to spend two days in Cabo San Lucas.  Were it just me, I would be more than happy to spend an extra day in Cabo.  It is my favorite port on the Mex Riviera.  BUT, it's a tender port.  And NCL, like most but not all cruise lines, won't take wheelchairs on tenders. So, we're kinda stuck on the ship an extra day.  I have always maintained, though, that if you have to be "stuck" somewhere, a cruise ship is the first choice.

So, maybe the extra day on board I'll get Steve a nice massage in the room or something.  Whatever.  It will all work out.  It always does.

On the major plus side, since I posted about the disappointing cancellation, I have received messages from "the powers that be" at NCL.  I am impressed with how seriously they take customer service, from the CEO all the way down the line.  And their commitment to their travel partners is unmatched in the industry.

Anyway. it's almost time to go.  I am almost packed, and the most awesome thing is we are waiting for snow.  Should be here tonite. 

NOTHING is more gratifying than starting a tropical vacation by driving thru snow. 


Norwegian STAR In Two Days

And, while I wait for my ship to sail, I thought I might share some background.  The Norwegian STAR was originally launched in 2001.  Since then, she has undergone several remodel/renovation/updates.  But just this last year she had a pretty major overhaul, which included the addition of a whole section of suites on Deck 12, which necessitated the relocation of the Spinnaker Lounge and the meeting space that was there formerly.  And moving the Spinnaker forced the relocation of the shops.  By all accounts all these changes are hugely successful, and NCL announced just recently that the Star's sister-ship, Norwegian Dawn was getting pretty much the same makeover before this summer.  They also turned the Soho restaurant into an Italian eatery.  That last was a mistake, IMHO.  Soho was one of my faves.

I last sailed on the STAR in November of 2009, before all these changes.  The last time I was onboard was for a ship inspection in mid-2010.  They were in the middle of all this, then.  I don't know if I like them moving the Spinnaker Lounge, as I really like that room, with all the windows.  On the other hand, all those windows are now in my Deck 12 Family Suite, so maybe it's a wash.

Anyway, as well as undergoing all these changes, which I shall be reporting on first-hand all next week, NCL has decided to abandon the West Coast, at least for a while.  When the STAR finishes her program of 7-day Mexican Riviera Cruises this spring, and heads to Alaska, she won't be coming back.  I also think that's a mistake, but with any luck NCL will be back.  But when they do come back, it's not likely to be the STAR.

So, we have a ship I love, that just had an extreme makeover, and is leaving me soon.  When the opportunity came up, with a great deal on a suite, I just had to jump all over it.

Stay tuned, starting Saturday, for my Live From the Norwegian EPIC, 2/11 series.


3 Days til Norwegian Star

While waiting, I thought I would share with you all.  Just watched a webinar with the NCL team.  Among other things, we were told the Norwegian Dawn will be getting basically the same Deck 12 Suite additions, during it's dry dock in May, that were done to the Star last year.

Apparently the Penthouse and Family Suite additions have  been a pretty huge success.  And since the Dawn and the Star were built as sister-ships, it makes sense to keep them the same.

Also, they talked about what a huge success the Churrascaria has been on the Norwegian Sun.  Not surprised, as I think it's the best restaurant at sea, ever.  But did not get an answer about introducing it fleet-wide.  Personally, I wish they would.  I am sure it could replace either the TexMex or the Italian restaurants.

Anyway...Three days from now, I'll be setting sail on the Norwegian Star in a wheelchair accessible AJ Family Suite.  Looks like rain on sailaway, which might cancel one of my favorite NCL activities, the Deck BBQ.  However, after the rain in LA, it looks to be somewhere between 78 and 80 degrees and sunshine at all the ports.

So, I am looking forward to a great cruise - join me in my daily "Live From the Norwegian Star" posts starting Saturday.  It's the next best thing to being there.


Carnival Splendor Returns - As Good As New

And I was on it, when it was new, so I should know.

Went yesterday to Carnival Cruise Lines' Splendorous Occasion.  From what I could see, a good time was had by all.

I got to the port real early, and had to sit around for a bit, but they finally let us on at 1:30.  After checking out my room, and dropping my bag, I took a walking tour, bottom to top.  While I didn't expect any changes, since the fire and damage were all down in the engineering spaces, I confirmed that, indeed, nothing has changed.  She looks exactly like she did last year.

Finishing the tour up on the Lido Deck, I went to the Deli and got a pastrami sandwich.  Then down to the lobby to see who all was with me, after a quick stop at the Coffee Bar.  Talked to a few agents I know.  Paul and his girlfriend Kelly showed up, and we all headed up to the Lido for some Mongolian BBQ and Indian stuff from the buffet.  Delicious.  Another stop at the Coffee Bar, then back to the room to change for dinner.  There was a cocktail party by the pool.  Gerry Cahill, Carnival CEO, said a few words, and I did get a chance, afterwards to talk to him and to John Heald.  When I told John that my friends and I were seriously hoping to see SPAM on the menu, at least as an appetizer, he got a chuckle, but stated flat out:  NO SPAM!  I really think Carnival missed an opportunity here.  With all the negative press they got back in November, including the "spam allegations" in the WSJ, I would totally have come up with a dish with Spam and some kind of garnish, maybe drizzle a Miracle Whip-based sauce around it, called it "SPAM a la Splendor" and shoved it down every reporters throat.  But that's just me....

Anyway, after the little cocktail party, dinner was served in the Gold Pearl main dining room.  Open seating, cattle call.  Me and my friends grabbed a table for 10, and then invited everyone who walked by to join us.  Filled the table, and it was a nice little group.  Dinner was a formal night menu.  Guess they didn't really have time to prepare anything special.  I had some of my favorite old stand-bys - the Roasted Pumpkin Soup, White Mushroom thingie, and two entrees, because I can never decide between the Roast Duck and the Lobster/Shrimp combo.

Skipped dessert and headed up for more Coffee from Yulya, the Belarussian Barista.  Stuck my head in the theater where VROOM was playing...seen it...didn't like it all that much...So I went down the hall, looked in the Disco, which was not happening, yet, and then, of course, to the Piano Bar.  A brand new Piano Man, on the first night of his first gig with Carnival.  In fact, until last week when he caught the Splendor in San Francisco, he'd never been on a cruise ship at all.  Chris Novak, from PA.  Good guy, affable, and a damn fine piano player, HOWEVER, he seriously needs to expand his repertoire.  I am not sure how you can be a Carnival Piano guy and NOT know a single Neil Diamond tune.  And only one Frank Sinatra.  I defend a piano players right to mostly play what he likes, and to ocassionally tell a customer he does not know a particular song, but it really does get annoying after a while to hear him respond to EVERY request with "I don't know that song" or "I can play it, but I don't have the lyrics" or whatever...again, once in a while, cool.  No one can know every song.  But we're talking some real "piano bar standards" here.  Anyway, I hung out, because, as always on a Carnival ship, the best bunch is at the piano bar.  Wandered over to Karaoke for a minute, and a couple times to the Disco, but kept ending up where I always do.

At about 12:45 someone reminded us that the Coffee/Dessert bar closed at 1am, so a few of us headed down.  Got my final coffee and a hunk of cheesecake the size of a small car.  Awesome!  Then back for one more round at the Piano Bar, and finally gave it up around 2 and headed back to the stateroom for a solid 4 hours sleep before heading home.

All in all, a nice evening of friends and food and fun.  THANKS, CARNIVAL!