Norwegian Star, 3/3/11 ...THIRD Day At Sea

Okay, so first off, I referred to the Cruise Director as "Jamie". Her name is, in fact "Jaime", though she still pronounces it "Jay-mee" even though everyone in California knows that name is pronounced "Hy-mee". It's a Canadian thing. I talked to her last night and she gave me a long winded explanation of the gender ramifications of the placement of the "i", but I think it's just more Canadian sillines, like putting random "u"s in words that don't need them, or calling ham, "bacon". Don't get me wrong, I have many friends who are Canadian (or Canadien). But they have to get over acting like they are still tied to the Old Country, and accept their lot as a suburb of the United States.

But, back to my story. We got up in time for a leisurely breakfast in the buffet, before the morning trivia. The topic was Europe, and it went badly for everyone. I know I am starting to sound xenophobic today, but let's face it: Dead Presidents and pointless American wars are more interesting than Dead Monarchs and pointless European wars. Plus we have taller mountains and longer rivers, and our history is easier to remember, because there is less of it.

After trivia was the morning bingo. Still no winner. Then I ditched the family at line dancing and did the Signature Scavenger Hunt. Somehow I got hooked into a team of really old people (as opposed to just "old" like me), so I had to do the running towards the end. We did okay, though.

Next up, lunch at Cagneys. Sea Scallops and fries. As good as ever.

After lunch, Patrick tracked me down and told me the Hotel Director wanted to treat us to dinner. Decided to try the Teppanyaki, so he made us a reservation for the 5 o'clock sitting. Bad idea. I will explain in a minute.

Before dinner, we cruised around a bit, listened to the band by the pool until the cool wind drove us in. Headed down to the casino, where mom did good, and I did not. I decided to get in the Blackjack Tournament. I am on the leaderboard and headed for the final tomorrow, probably. As usual, I took the interesting route. Starting with $2000 in chips I lost the first three hands. Down to $400, I bet it all on the fourth hand, won, and let it ride. Hand 5 BLACKJACK. So, back up to my original $2000 with two hands to go. No choice but to just leave it all out there. Dealer busted on the sixth hand, and on the final hand, I had to bet first. Me and one other player had $4000. The qualifying score was only $3300. If not for the other guy, I would have just bet $100 and played it safe. But, like I say, I had to go first. So I pushed out my whole stack, and so did he. I got dealt a 12. He got a face card. Dealer had an 8. So, I hit the twelve and got a 5. 17 against the dealers 8....what the hell, gotta do it. Hit one more time and pulled a 3. Dealer had the 18. I win. But,so did the other guy. We are tied for 3/4 place. If it happens that we get bumped to 6/7, we'll have to have a tiebreaker. Keeping my fingers crossed. But I am pretty sure the $8000 will hold up.

Anyway, after the Blackjack, the mom cashed in her winnings and went on upstairs. There was a 4 o'clock bingo with the cruise raffle drawing, and we had dinner reservations for 5. This is where it gets tricky.

They really should coordinate the dinner times at Teppanyaki with the rest of the ship. All the other restaurants start dinner at 5:30. So, the cruise staff knows they can drag out the bingo, and keep upselling stuff to build the pot and the raffle until 5:15 or so, and not interfere with anyone's plans. Except the one guy (me) out of 2,400 passengers who NEEDS to be somewhere at 5. And with the Teppanyaki, where they sit all 15 people at the same time, if you are late, it's pretty rude. I wouldn't mind being a little late if it was just me, but I was wanting to be courteous to the rest of them, you know. So, I got to bingo at 4, sat thru interminable sales pitches, til 4:30 when they finally started playing. Got thru the first three games (without winning, by the way), and then at 4:50, they decided to do a little MORE selling before the raffle draw. I finally had to give my last card to the lady next to me, and just pray this wasn't the one time I was destined to win the free cruise with one of the 50 or so tickets I had accumulated.

Fairly ran to get to the restaurant on time, and it was excellent. We all had the "Shinto" combo, shrimp and scallops. The meal was tasty, the chefs were fun (though they were not as flamboyant as some I have seen, they had all the basic tricks down). And we were at the table with an extended family of 5 adults and 6 kids. Just watching the kids watching the chefs was a good time. And the chefs hammed it up for them pretty good. So - Thanks Filipo and Claus, for the excellent dinner...but work on changing the schedule, yeah?

After dinner, we listened to the piano bar guy, Michael for a bit, before the show. They have a new show, "Elements" on the Star. It was the best production I have seen in a long time. Music, dancing, magic from the Extreme Vegas couple, etc. The best part was the "Water" portion. Two of the dancers in blue bodysuits and flippers descend from the ceiling on trapezes with bungee cords and drop down to just a few feet above the middle of the audience, and then bounce around and turn flips, like they are swimming. Then back on the trapeze for some synchronized flippering, then another jump, etc etc. Like a water ballet, only in mid-air. Very cool.

I then deposited the early-to-bed crowd in the cabin, and walked around for a bit. Tried my hand at Name That Tune Trivia, but is was on movie songs, and I am just not a movie person. I actually knew most of the songs, but didn't know what movies they came from.

I ate dinner too early, and by 9:30 I was feeling a little hungry, so I went over to the Blue Lagoon for some wings, and listened to the Melodic Trio in the Atrium for a bit, before heading to Spinnaker for he White Hot Party. That was fun. Got me a glass with trippy lights in the bottom, talked to Jaime (whatever) and the Cruise Staff. It was Beverly's birthday, and she looked to be enjoying it. Talked to a couple of the dancers...after two shows of Elements, they also have to dance at the White Hot Part (but just for one quick set, but still). Also had a long conversation with the Asst. Systems Manager (so, you know, the #2 Geek On Board). He has recently come over to NCL from Carnival and loves it here with NCL.

It's that kind of thing, by the way, that makes me enjoy NCL more than any other cruise line I can think of. Real, personal interaction with the crew and the staff. They are almost all very approachable, willing to talk about their jobs and their lives both onboard and at home. It is nice to be able to have that kind of interaction.

Anyway, it was fast approaching midnight, and I was not really liking the music all that much (a little to pop for my taste - cuz I am getting old). On the subject of music, though, I hope DJ Keith (for the most part a good DJ) would get the memo that soul Sister is about as over as the Macarena. If I hear that song one more time this week, I am probably going to hurl.

So...ciao for now, mon amies.


Norwegian Star,3/2/11 Puerto Vallarta

Upon arrival at Puerto Vallarta, it was cloudy, foggy and looking like rain. We weren't sure we really wanted to go out in it. So, breakfast in the room, while watching the Disney Wonder pull in alongside us.

Fortunately, within an hour or so it started burning off. By the time morning trivia was done (by the way, we finally won a trivia, as only two teams showed up), it was completely sunny and warm (if a tad humid), so we headed down the gangplank, got a van to take us to the Malecon, and did a little shopping. Also watched the Palantla flyers. Sat in a cafe, had a cold drink and watched the tourists. Oh, and got the refrigerator magnet, of course.

After an hour or so, we headed back to the ship. Up to the buffet for a little lunch. Patrick the concierge tracked me down and told me the Guest Services Manager was looking for me. We went back to the room to let Steve rest up a little, and I went and met with them, as reported yesterday.

We then headed down to the Folklorico show in the main lounge. The dancing doesn't really excite me, but I do love the music, and the costumes were great. After the show it was time to sail away. Went up to the pool, had a little snack and listened to the band there until Bingo. Didn't win, again. Bingo has not been good to me this week. But there's always tomorrow.

The afternoon trivia, unlike the morning, was completely packed. Had to sit in the back of the room, where the thru traffic combined with Henry's Filipino accent made it quite an adventure. We still missed winning by only one point, so I am declaring it a moral victory.

By this time, mom and Steve were completely shot (those lousy sidewalks, foot tall curbs and cobblestone streets in PV are tough for slow walkers and wheelers both). So they opted for room service for dinner. I decided to take this opportunity to dine at Cagney's (good beef is completely wasted on those two).

Started with the salmon appetizer. LIke the Fatoush with lamb chops on the lunch menu, this "starter" would be a meal most places. A serious chunk of smoked salmon, warmed and served with toasted brioche. Excellent. Then the Lobster Bisque. a tad saltier than I remember. And for the main course, an 18 oz T-Bone, with creamed spinach and fries. The filet side of the t-bone was so tender just a fork practically mashed it. We are talking seriously melt in your mouth tender. The rest of it was excellent too. I know I have waxed rhapsodic before about the Cagney's Fries AND the creamed spinach. Both are simply wonderful. For dessert I went with Creme Brulee. Not bad. Not the best I have ever had, but passable. If you ever find yourself on an NCL ship, you simply have to give Cagney's a shot. That and the Moderno churrascaria if it's available. They are both "don't miss" experiences.

Afer dinner I got the old folks settled in for the night, and headed down to the "Battle of the Sexes" game show in the Spinnaker. Oddly, the men won. That almost never happens. I credit that, in large part, to my willingness to take my shirt off in front of several hundred strangers. The game was to make a line of clothing laying end to end across the lounge. NONE of the girls were inclined to take their shirts off for their team. So, they deserve their defeat...and the scorn of all their fellow cruisers.

And the next round, which was basically a serious group hug, wherein the men got 39 people standing on a regular double bed sheet. Yep. 39. 30. Plus 9. The weak sisters only managed 34.

After the game it was off to the Stardust for a Second City performance. They were really good. However, as a venue for sketch comedy and improv, the giant main theater sucks. The EPIC, where they perform in a little tiny comedy club, 5 feet from the audience is way better. But it is what it is, and simply by having Second City, NCL is miles ahead of the competition on entertainment.

Finally, the Dancing With The Stars thing, back in the Spinnaker. As usual, the dancing ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. The best part was the interviews in the Loser's Lounge, conducted by Jamie, the Cruise Director. She was perfect in mocking the losing contestants, without being mean. The judges, a couple from Second City, and the wardrobe guy were also hilarious.

So, by the time that was all wrapped up at midnight, the city walk in PV was catching up with me too. Off to bed.

Tomorrow is a full day at sea. Gotta bingo/trivia/slot tournament the day away.

Later, kids


Norwegian Star, 3/1/11 ADDENDUM AND UPDATE

Okay, I am going to get this out of the way, now, and drop it. Apparently a series of miscommunications. I WILL give NCL major points for, at least reactivelly, responding to customer service issues. Bottom line, I was mis-informed. While NCL is "in the proccess" of having "access managers" on board every ship, the person I was under the impression was so designated, says that she is not (although she apparently will be, once trained). And apparently, she did not get my message, either from the Access Desk at Corporate, or thru the person I talked to on boarding day.

She did come and meet with me today, and we had a "frank exchange of views" as they say in the political world. She told me the only communication she was aware of was my message to the Hotel Manager, Jean-Micelle, re: moving a headboard to facilitate transfering my brother to bed. At this point I really can't say if the fault is in Miami, or onboard here, or both, or neither. And if I misconstrued what I was told, I apologize for that. I can say, thank God I have direct access to the Hotel Department higher ups.

And while I am at it, I would like to say that NCL is far from the only cruise line with issues as far as accessibility. With the exception of Princess, HAL and RCCL, they are all way to slow to respond and embrace the PWD (persons with disabilities) community. And it seems the whole industry's attitude is to do what the lawyers tell them they have to, rather than to do what is right from both a moral and financial standpoint. Again, with the exceptions above, they don't seem to recognize what a good business decision it is to accomodate people with disabilities. Apparently they think of the disabled as mostly people scraping by on Social Security or a veterans pension. What they're missing is how many of that community have been on the receiving end of multimillion dollar settlements of various sorts. Usually structured to provide a consistent lifetime income rather than a big lump of money. So, not rich, but certainly able to afford to travel. And, pretty much by definition, with plenty of time on their hands.

The few cruise lines who DO make a serious effort to work with the PWD community are reaping rewards for it. And, again, the community is not asking for a lot of "special" treatment. But, if an able-bodied person can get on an airport shuttle, or a bus tour around a port, why shouldn't a wheelchair user?.

Anyway, I am tiring of the subject, and I am sure you are too.

We are in the midst of a great day here in Puerto Vallarta, and I am going to get back to it.

Manana, mi amigos!

Norwegian Star, 3/1/11, CABO SAN LUCAS

Okay, no Cabo for the wheelchair. There was breakfast at Cagney's though. Steak and eggs. First piece of beef I have had all week, and it was most excellent.

And then morning trivia. And then, hang out and admire the scenery from the floor to ceiling windows in the suite. Shortly after the tendering got underway, the captain did a slow 360. Kind of nice to sit and watch the panoramic view. After the extra day at sea, everone was dying to get off the boat. so it was pretty much empty for those of us who stayed on board.

We grabbed lunch in the buffet, met a nice couple from Montana, and went to check out the golf putting contest. I am pretty sure I won, since I was the only contestant. Maria sat and chit-chatted with Steve and mom for half an hour or so, and then I took Steve to the Spa for a massage/facial/scalp treatment/etc. Winnie from Zimbabwe worked him over for an hour plus and he came out glowing...or shiny from oil, or something.

By the time that was done, the Afternoon trivia was on. People were making it back on board, so there was a pretty good crowd.

We had an early dinner at the Aqua main dining room. Prime Rib for me, Sea Trout for mom and some sort of pasta something for Steve. All the food was good, and the service was excellent. The maitre' d and the hostess both greeted us by name, and during the meal Sawant, the Restaurant Manager, again came by to say "Hi" and see how we were doing. He really is great. He has shown up nearly every time and every place we eat, and never fails to greet us.

After dinner we caught the show "Shout". A Mod 60's musical. Lot's of Dusty Springfield tunes and the like. Great, colorful costumes. While it was a pretty typical cruise ship show, musical numbers interspersed with fairly lame comedy vignettes, the five girl singers were all excellent.

After dinner we did a quick trip to the casino. Mom won a little. Me and Steve compensated for her by losing a little.

Steve was done, so I took him back to the room, and headed to the Spinnaker for the game show. Not as good as Pyramid the day before, but fun. I was feeling a little hungry, so I decided to try out Endless Summer, the tex-mex restaurant. As someone who grew up in a Mexican restaurant, has family in New Mexico, and has spent a LOT of time in Texas, I know a little about tex-mex food. My expectations were fairly low, given this is Tex-Mex, as designed by a Jamaican Executive Chef and implemented by cooks from various South Asian countries. I was pleasantly surprised. A few things, like the guacamole, were perfect. Everything was good. I had a quesadilla to start, tortilla soup and the signature warm lobster tacos. The tacos were filled with some sort of lobster bisque-y stuff, and it did slide out of the tortillas, which is definitely not how we would do it, in Tex-Mex land, but it was tasty. During the meal, the F&B Manager, Claus, came over to inquire about my day, and to see if we have gotten the wheelchair ashore in Cabo.

After the late dinner, I went down to check out the party at Spinnaker. Apparently the port call wiped out some of the late-night partygoers. It was pretty quiet (the last couple nights, I have been impressed with how many people have been out dancing late). So, I decided to join them and turn in pre-midnite.

Now, one thing I have got to get off my chest. I don't really like to blow in bad employees. You can see, I make a point of singling out the good employees, and pretty much ignore the rest. But the so-called Access Manager on this ship is completely pissing me off (even now, I am not going to name her...the people who should, know who I am talking about). I put in a call to her the first day, which has never been returned. So far the only contact, as I mentioned in an earlier post, was a letter stuck in the door, with a key coded for the elevator to Versailles (which, by the way, quit working after one day, and had to be replaced at the Pursers Desk). And while I can't go anywhere without Andrew the Concierge, or Maria, Ray-Ray, Sam, Beverly and Henry from the cruise staff saying "Hi", and I can't go to any dining room without Sawant and Claus and various others checking up on me, etc, I have had the Access Manager walk right past me and look the other way EVERY SINGLE TIME. It appears she has an aversion to people in wheelchairs. Which is not uncommon, but not a very desirable trait in someone whose job description includes dealing with people in wheelchairs. Seriously, maybe someone at NCL needs to actually take the time to find someone on each ship that WANTS to help disabled guests, rather than assign it as a task to a certain job, regardless of the person holding that job on each ship. What they have done would be analogous to assigning Equal Opportunity compliance duties to someone, and not bothering to ask if they are KKK members, first.

Now, the ship, as a whole, is pretty good, access-wise, given that it's 10 years old. The suite, which was designed and built more recently, is EXCELLENT. And still I am in a position where I can NOT recommend this ship to my disabled clients. Which is a shame for NCL and for me, as I really love their product in a lot of important ways.

Anyway, down off that high horse.

We are now in Vallarta, it has rained during the night, and is still cloudy, but with a promise of sun later...stay tuned for more...


Norwegian Star, 2/11 SECOND Day at Sea

Slow start to the day. Breakfast in the room. Finally got out on deck just in time for morning trivia. Huge crowd for that. Off to bingo for another round of losing. Lunch was at Cagney's. This time I went for the Fatoush with lamb chop. They call it a "starter". It's got half a rack of lamb on it. Y'all know I am a serious carnivore, but I find it hard to believe anyone thinks three lamb chops is an appetizer. It was delicious, along with some Cagney's Fries.

After lunch we went out by the pool for a bit. It's finally warming up, as we head south. We chilled around the pool, listening to Xcite for a while, then one more try at Bingo. Still losing.

For dinner we went to Ginza. Steve and the mom ordered off the Chinese menu. Spring rolls, egg drop soup and some sesame chicken something or other. They both seemed to enjoy. I, on the other hand, attacked the sushi menu. Starting with Ahi, Mebachi and Ebi nigiri, and then a spicy tuna roll, spicy scallop/maguro roll and a tempura shrimp roll, and finished off with a plate of mebachi sashimi. EXCELLENT. As good as the sushi on the EPIC, which is to say, as good as I have ever had on a ship, and better than all but a few of the land-side sushi bars I have gone to. Again, the value of the premium restaurants on NCL is incredible. For a measly fifteen bucks I had a sushi fest that would have cost me fifty or sixty bucks back home. All while being serenaded by Michael at the piano bar in the atrium below.

After dinner we took in the show "Extreme Vegas". Half a dozen staffers had told me it was a "don't miss". They were right. Magic, music, acrobatics. Personally, I was most impressed by Daniela working a half dozen hula hoops, while being hoisted to the ceiling. That takes a lot of strength to keep those hoops going when your feet are off the ground.

It was bedtime for the dead heads after the show. Got them safely tucked in and went to the game show in the Spinnaker. My homegirl, Maria wasn't there, so Sammy and Beverly got all the chocolate strawberries. Talked to Beverly for a while after the show. Nice lady, from the Phillipines. We listened to karaoke and talked ship for a bit, til a really bad "Bridge Over Troubled Water" came up, and I was driven away. Took a quick turn at roullette. No go. It was almost time for the party at the pool, so I ducked in the cabin to get a sweatshirt (it's warmer, but not really warm), and went down to the Lido. The pool party was great. Good turnout. The band, who have been forced to play disco and 80's and Country so far, got to let it out a bit with some rockin' music. Green Day, Blink182, that sort of thing. I know, as a musician, you gotta do what you gotta do for a steady gig, but you could tell they were playing "their" music for this one. So, lot's of fun. I also met and talked to the Food and Beverage Manager, Claus for a while. He's been with NCL since the 80's, and worked with all the other hotel staff I know. Another really personable guy, who obviously loves his job. Among other things he told me he already has menus for the Moderno Churrascaria for the Star. I had heard last week that they put the churrascaria in the Sun, and were going to do it on the Dawn when she dry docks in May. Now the Star. I think it is safe to say it's going fleet-wide, which is Great News, as far as I am concerned. While I might not choose or recommend NCL JUST for the Moderno experience, it will be a big factor.

So, the band wound down about midnite, and so did I. Cabo in the morning. I am getting conflicting information on tendering the wheelchair. Some say I can, some say I can't. In the end, it's gonna come down to what the crew at the gangplank decide. I will let you know!

By the way, plug time: If you are ready to book a cruise on the Star, or any NCL ship (or any other ship, for that matter) give us a call at DAVE HOLMAN TRAVEL SERVICES, 760.265.3687. Or zip me a message at http://www.facebook.com/HolmanTravel


Norwegian Star, 2/11, First Day at Sea

I hit a Royal Flush on a poker machine. $1000. Yep. One thousand. Dollars. U.S. Just had to get that out of the way.

Okay, I finished yesterday by saying we had to turn around in the middle of the night and drop someone in Ensenada for medical attention. Consequently, no Cabo today. Someone needs to drill ship officers on basic P.R. techniques. In a fashion typical of most, in my experience, the Captain made his announcement over the public address system, in the public areas of the ship, but not in the cabins. I am not sure what time it was, but it was pretty early, and I only heard it because I was out on deck typing this up. And I can tell you that the area was desserted. A pretty huge number of passengers were still in their cabins, and did not hear the announcement. Of course, rumours flew around all day until the Cruise Director, in the afternoon, repeated the announcement to the entire ship, including in the cabins. In my experience , it's best to just get the bad news out there, to everyone, fast. Most people are going to understand a medical emergency, and those who don't, won't. Leaving it up to the cruise director to step up, hours later to explain the situation is just weak.

But, hey, I wasn't getting off in Cabo anyway, so...

Had breakfast at Cagneys. Good Eggs Benedict. Then back for the morning routine, and finally to Bingo at 11. Not so good. The only thing I won was in a raffle. I got a lotto entry. In order to claim that, I had to go to the Casino Hostess. But first, lunch at Versailles, the larger of the two main dining rooms. A little note here about wheelchairs and accessible cruising. I have yet to see the designated Access Manager. NCL has a person on each ship who is supposed to be the "go to guy" on accessibility. I expressed an interest in meeting with this person, and was assured at the corporate level that she, among other duties, meets wth all guests with disabilities. So far, nothing. And this repeats a pattern I have seen at NCL, where there is a severe disconnect between the Corporate Office and the Shipboard personnel. I did get a note and a key to operate the elevator to Versailles. Fortunately, I was aware of the keyed elevator to get to the accessible entrance, as it's the same setup as on the Pride of Hawaii/Jade, which I only discovered THEN because the Maitre'd explained it the first time we tried to get in there on our Hawaii cruise. Anyway...back to the story. Lunch was good, we had a table towards the back. looking out the huge windows,at the wake of the ship. Too far north for any whale or dolphin sightings. I had the fish and chips. Better than the fish and chips at the Blue Lagood, if memory serves. After lunch we sat by the pool and listened to Xcite for a while. We actually found a table in the sun, so it was nice, and not quite as chilly as the day before, though I expect it will be even nicer today, as we have gotten a little farther south.

After a bit, we checked the casino to see if the hostess was there to give me my lotto ticket. She was not. So I wheeled Steve up to a poker machine, sat down next to him, put $20 in each machine. Just to kill some time til the hostess came back from her break, right. About five hands in, BADDA BING, BADDA BOOM!!! The Royal Flush. Awesome! Nothing like winning early in the week. Certainly upgrades my dining and shopping plans. So, we played out the $20, cashed in the $1000 and went back to the pool deck for a while, then to the room to rest up for dinner. Back in the room was another plate of chocolate strawberries. No more wine.

Dinner was at La Cucina, the premium Italian eatery. Most excellent. The service was awesome (we were there early, and the waitstaff outnumbered the customers). The bread was to die for. The antipasto was interesting, and the Pasta e Fagioli well done. I also had the Carpaccio to start, and the Saltimbocca was a huge portion, tender and tasty, if just a tad over-saged. Mom and Steve both had the vegetable lasagna, and it was, likewise, huge and filled with all manner of healthy vegetables. Finished with the ricotta cheesecake, and I might have to go back for some more. It was the best!

After dinner we went the the Captain's Cocktail Party, nibbled and drank and met the officers, as well as a few of our fellow guests. It was then time to drop mom and Steve off (they really are party poopers) at the cabin for the night.

Afterwards, I went across the hall to get a book at the Library. The Star really does have a nice library. Decided I had gone long enough without Blue Lagoon hot wings, so I headed down, rectified that situation whilst reading, and then at 10:30 to the Spinnaker for the 70's party. The Village People (actually a bunch of drunk guys from the Pub Crawl, aided and abetted by the Cruise Staff) showed up for the YMCA. That was cool. I hung out, discoing with Maria until 11:30 when they do the lotto drawing at the casino. I didn't win. Hard to feel too bad about it, though. I did hang out and play a little roullete, but that didn't go so well, either, so I decided to call it a night.

One note about this Family Suite on Deck 12. It is directly below the jogging track on 13. Most of the early morning joggers are actually light on their feet, and not at all disturbing. But from the sound of it, some extremely large person has decided to take up jogging in clogs today.

So, that's all for now. Stay tuned tomorrow for further adventures of one more Day at Sea.


Norwegian STAR, 2011, Boarding Day

BOARDING DAY - We got to the port just before noon, went thru security, walked right up to the VIP check-in line, took ten minutes there, then about 10 minutes in the Concierge lounge waiting for our butler, Andrew, to escort us onboard. We were in the stateroom by 12:30. Doesn't get much quicker than that.

There was a bottle of champagne and some chocolate strawberries waiting for us. The room is awesome. Basically, a little less than 500sf, all open, except the bathroom, with curtains to divide the bed from the couch/bed, and both from the dining area/desk/vanity/closet area. I have a bunch of pictures, but I probably won't post them til I get home, satellite internet being so slow and expensive. The bathroom is very large, with roll-in shower, large sink, plenty of grab bars and a fold down shower seat. There are also two sets of closets (for a total of 4), half a dozen night stands, and a Lavazza coffee maker. Very cool, that: pop in the pod, hit the button,out comes coffee (or espresso, depending on the button). And it just eats the pods, so, nothing to throw away.

After checking out the digs we went up to Cagney's for lunch. One of the nicer perks of a suite is breakfast and lunch at Cagneys. Better food, AND no lines. We all had the pan-seared scallops, mom and Steve started with the shrimp cocktail (the shrimp are simply HUGE). I went with the crab cakes. Oh, and some Cagney's Fries. I have been missing those. It was all very good.

When we got back to the room, there was another bottle of sparkling waiting for us, along with some canapes, and an invite to the Lattitudes Party at 1 tomorrow, and the Captain's Cocktail Party at 7. We chilled in the room, figuring out the light switches and coffee maker til 4, when we went to the Sailaway party and BBQ. Based on the weather reports all week, I didn't think it would happen (The mighty SoCal Blizzard of '11 was a complete bust, by the way). It was cold and a tad windy, but no rain, so we listened to XCite, the pool band that's been here since the last time I was here (or maybe they left and came back, I don't know). It was fun, if a bit cool. We did finally decide to have a bite to eat in the buffet, rather than continue to brave the chill, though. As soon as the casino was open we went down, at mom's insistence. (My gambling Jones doesn't come from nowhere, you know). Bloody awful for all of us. 'Nuff said.

After dinner and casino it was back to the room. Busy time. First, Patrick, the Concierge came in, then the two stewards (whose names escape me at the moment), and then Andrew again to see if I was going to be in the room for a while, as the Hotel Director, Filipo wanted to drop by. So, got Steve ready for bed, watched an episode of HOUSE, and waited. Filipo finally called and asked where I was having dinner, I told him I was heading to AQUA, one of the main dining rooms. He said he would meet me there. So I ditched the family and went to dinner.

When I walked up to the desk at Aqua, the restaurant manager. Sawant, greeted me by name. He said he had just been looking at my picture. I love how they do that. lol. Anyway, he seated me and called Filipo. I started with the Smoked Salmon appetizer. Excellent. About a pound of salmon, and three leaves of greenery...the perfect ratio. Then the beef broth with ravioli thing. Also good. Just as my Mahi-Mahi showed up, so did Filipo. We talked for a few minutes. He apologized for not getting to me sooner. Poor guy - first day on the job, and a bunch of trucks didn't show up, etc. I assured him I understood what a hassle boarding day is for everyone on the staff. Anyway, I finished my meal, virtuously eschewing dessert, and went up to the showroom to check out the Welcome Aboard show.

Good News! My favorite cruise staffer, ever, is onboard. Maria, the Transylvanian Princess Herself. We talked for a bit before the show, but she had to go be introduced and stuff.

After the show, I ran up to the room to get the strawberries, then down to the Spinnaker Lounge for the 80's party. I have to say, as much as I love the suite complex they put here on Deck 12, (replacing, along with some other stuff, the Spinnaker Lounge up front with glass all around), I do not like the new lounge. The ceilings are too low, and the seating is terribly boring. Just several lines of cocktail tables, and a few boothy things along the wall. I understand they have to try to accomodate a bingo parlor by day/nightclub by night in the same area, but, especially after partying at the Bliss Ultra Lounge on EPIC, this just doesn't get it. However, I did talk to Maria a while, caught up on what we've been doing the last year, and she introduced me to all the cruise staff and dancers, while sharing out the strawberries.

About 11 I was done in - boarding day, with the drive and all, is always tiring. So, off to bed. And, as I type this, the Captain is announcing that we have turned around and are heading to Ensenada to drop of an injured passenger. Which explains why I woke up with a view of ocean, instead of land. Anyway...TTFN.