Norwegian EPIC, No Longer In A Studio - Back to Miami

So...it's almost over...Woke up in Miami. Actually, I could see Miami when I finally turned in last night, 2ish, but we didn't pull into the port for quite a while. I almost slept thru it. In fact, I managed to lay there in bed til 8am. Then I got up and went out on deck to see what was what. Talked to a few peoples and had a cup of joe and made a few phone calls, now that we're back in domestic Verizon range.
Went up to the EPIC Club for breakfast, where I had the Fruits de Mer en Brioche (lobster, shrimp and scallop on toasted brioche bread with a poached egg on top. It was fantastic. Spent my last hour aboard talking to a couple of people I had met over the course of the week. Tone from England (who now resides in Atlanta), a trivia whiz, and Sophie, a really nice young lady who owns a tea house/bakery in Belgium.
Finally at 10am, they got serious about shooing everyone off the ship, so I departed, got thru customs in less than 10 minutes and my friend called the shuttle guy to take us to Fort Lauderdale.

When we got there we found some electrical outlets and some wifi, same place I have before, in the courtyard of the building Hooters shares with Big Kahuna and CVS and the Croc store, and whatever. I plugged in and wrote up Nassau, charged my phone and, basically frittered away four hours on the internet, catching up with the world I left behind a week ago.
At 2 I decided I was getting hungry so I went up to Hooters for some Buffalo Shrimp, fried pickles and french fries. Oh, and I ran over to CVS to buy safety pins to repair my luggage that Virgin America so rudely tried to destroy last week. And fall back on their Contract of Carriage, when I complained, saying they didn't cover damage THEY caused, to zippers, seams etc. Asswipes. Oh, well...it's not like I was ever going to used that suitcase again. It was over 6 months old and had been used before. Once. Anyway...did you know you can only buy safety pins in about $5 quantities? I am 51 years old and I don't believe I have ever actually purchased a safety pin. They are one of those things, like rubber bands, that are just 'there' somehow.
Anyway...I digress...I finished up lunch at Hooters about 3:15 and decided to go north on A1A for a bit before turning south to meet the shuttle at Las Olas. So that's what I did. I really love Fort Lauderdale. The beach is very much like home, and the business on the other side is, like wise, way more like CA than Miami. So, it fits me.
Anyway, got the shuttle, arrived to the airport in plenty of time, found more plugs and free wifi, and continued wasting my life until it was time to board, and now I am completing this weeks blog series from Seat 13F on Virgin America flight 327, 34,195 feet above the west coast of Florida, and zipping along at 476miles per hour.

I'd say the world has changed a bit in the half century I've been here.
but enough of that...GOOD BYE!!! GO HOME!!! SHOW'S OVER!!!

p.s. and finally - I do hope you all enjoy reading this, and looking at the pictures and stuff.   I also want everyone to feel free to copy, share, repeat and re-post anything and everything on this blog. I am not one to quibble over intellectual property and copyright and I don't like to threaten people with silly lawsuits.  But I will tell you, right now, that if you do any of those sharing/copying/etc things and DON'T attribute it to the originator (in this case, ME), or at least link back to THIS site, you are a douchenozzle of the first order, and karma is gonna get you better than I ever could. 
That is all.  Carry on.

Norwegian EPIC, No Longer In a Studio - Nassau, Bahamas

So, it was cold and drizzly in Nassau. And in Miami when we pulled in. So, I put on a jacket. Now I am in Fort Lauderdale and it's about 75f and blue sky, and basically a perfect day. I'm going to skip ahead for a minute, so bear with me. I have a choice on nonstops with Virgin from FLL to LAX - 10am or 7pm. I could *probably* make the 10am, but I am always nervous to leave that early, because that would be the one time there is a problem debarking. So, I take the 7pm flight, but then have hours and hours to kill. So, I usually get a shuttle to the airport, check my bags and grab a cab to the beach in Fort Lauderdale for a few hours and cab back. This shuttle company my friend found is so AWESOME, he actually dropped as at the
beach, is keeping our bags in his van, and will be back for us at 4pm. So, MAJOR shout out to MJS SHUTTLE. If you book your Miami or Fort Lauderdale cruise thru me, he will totally be the new preferred provider. Especially if you have unusual schedules, like a red-eye in and a late flight out.

Anyway, so, back to the Bahamas. Like I said earlier - rainy and cold. But I did get up to the EPIC Club for breakfast finally, and had my Crab Cakes Benedict. And then bopped around the ship. And then went back to EPIC Club for Lunch. The Flounder Milanese was fabuloso. After lunch I headed to town with Michele (or "1L" as I sometimes think of her [I know a bunch of michele/michelle/michille/mychel types, and fortunately no two of them spell it the same, so I think "1L" and "2L", and "with an I" etc...]). Anyway, so, me and Rich got off the ship, ran thru the terminal and two stores across the street, and managed to accomplish a day's shopping in about 20 minutes. Cuz, we're guys. I think the line to get back in the terminal took longer than the actual shopping. Got back aboard and Michele was missing a kid. So those two went one way to look for her, and I, The World's Greatest Uncle, went the right way and found the kid in a minute or less. Cuz that's how good I am.
Honestly I am having a hard time remembering anything from then til I went dinner at LeBistro, on Richard. Joined by Crickett. Had the lobster finally. Definitely worth the upcharge. This is real lobster, succulent and sweet, in a nice buttery sauce, with diced artichoke and a couple of little potato somethings. Also ran into Steve Metzger. Steve has been a waiter with NCL for quite some time, and was, at least for a while, the only American waiter in the fleet (not counting NCLA in Hawaii, where the whole staff is pretty much American). I first met him on the Norwegian Star, and the last time I saw him he was stoked to have been chosen to open the EPIC. Told me all about how he'd be going to France for training and sea trials, etc. Except when I went on the pre-inaugural, he wasn't there. Mike Guida, the ACD at that time (and one of the
staffers featured on Undercover Boss), and also a former Star staffer told me he had gone to the Norwegian Sun in order to stay with his wife. But now they are both on the EPIC, and he still sounded pretty stoked to be there. This is one of the nice things about staying loyal to a particular line - you get to know some of the employees. Not just the HD's and Captains, but the day to day front line staff that are the ones who make a difference. And when you get to know them and follow them from ship to ship, they really CAN make a difference. I am not saying we would not have gotten exemplary service in any case, but it was clear that when our servers found we knew Steve, they treated us with that extra little bit, you know?
So, after dinner I bopped around lookinf for something to do til QUEST. A little karaoke, a little casino, a little break out on the balcony...like that.Finally it was time for the Quest. We were about 15 people and had to split into 2 qroups. We won. I would say more, but, you know what happens on the ship, stays on the ship. So, yeah...my team won. And then I hung out in Bliss for a couple hours, with a few of the diehards. Danced Gangnam Style for about 30 seconds. Watched the rest of them acking up on the dance floor, and at 2 am WENT TO BED. It's been a long and pretty good week, over all. Which probably sounds weird for a guy whose father just died a couple days ago, but, you know - life is for the living, and it does go on. I will deal with all that other shit Monday~!

I will have wifi on the flight home, so I should get the debarking day and recap post done and posted this evening...but right now, it is just too nice a day to sit at a computer.  Think I will eat some buffalo shrimp and take a walk down A1A,  before I have to head to the airport.
Have a great weekend, y'all


Norwegian EPIC In A Studio - Last Day at Sea

Oh. lawdie, what a day we had...Last day at sea. Up early, wrote the last post, got packed and moved in to the new digs, a 12th deck balcony. As much as I liked the Studio, a balcony is better. It just is. Maybe someone can build some solo cabins with balconies?

After getting transferred I decided to sit down for breakfast at Taste, where I joined another agent and his wife. Good breakfast. We then decided to team up and do the Trivia. Honest to God, it was the hardest trivia I have ever played. We turned in a 25/40, which I thought was pretty sucky until I saw everyone else's scores. One team behind us had 28. And some yahoos got 35, which Matt, the Cruise Director said was the highest score he had ever seen on that particular test. So, third place didn't feel so bad.

After trivia I strolled around the pool talking to people, and trying to get in touch with Rashida and/or Richard to figure out the plan for EPIC Club. I think we finally decided that dinner is out, to be replaced by breakfast and lunch. Which is all to the good. I have had dinner there, previously. But I have not had breakfast or lunch. So, I'll be doing that today.
Woo Hoo.

I then went to the casino to check out the Slot tournament leader board. I was still safely at #2. So, over to O'Sheehans for a burger and some soup. Good. Nothing to die for, or complain about. Then back over to the casino to play in the Final of the slot tournament. I came in 2nd, and got one more bottle of wine. I had just managed to give away the last bottle, which I dropped on the lovely barber, Ashleigh about an hour previous. After the Slot tourney they started the last round of qualifiers for the Blackjack tournament. I went ahead and bought another entry, since I was not feeling confident my 6th place score would hold up. As it turned out, it did for the first two rounds, and I was in the third round, playing against my own score. Did not do well at all, and on the 5th hand the guy next to me went all in with $7k in chips and hit a blackjack and it was pretty much over at that point. So, no Blackjack final this time. Oh, well.

Headed upstairs to get ready for dinner. I had been invited to dine with Richard Janicki, as well as my friend Pat, and her husband and cousin, and another agent of my acquaintance, Theresa, as well as Richard Wagner, the guy who owns the Beyond Ships website. Might as well get in a plug here: Beyond Ships is a nice site, with information and pictures on hundreds of ships, some fairly obscure ones. I have been running into Mr. Wagner all week, as he is also staying in the Studio Complex. He is more interesting than he thinks he is. And if you are looking for good, solid information on a cruise ship, his site is one of the better ones out there.
So, dinner: I had a crab cake starter that was unremarkable and a nice salad with a chicken skewer and a ginger soy dressing that was quite good. For the entree I went with the Jerk Chicken. On the waiters recommendation, and with the assurance that the Exec Chef on EPIC is Jamaican and knows from Jerk. It was excellently spiced, though a little saucier than you'd find in a real jerk shack in Ocho Rios. However the fried plantains alongside were just nasty. Not soft or crisp ( I can eat them either way), but tough and basically tasteless. However...it turns out Richard Janicki is quite personable when he get's to talking. He told us about his home in Greece (he is French), and the various ships he has worked on, as well as a story about the time he cooked for the Queen of England, when he was cooking at Barclay's Hotel in London. In general, it was a nice group to dine with, and a good dinner overall.

After dinner I hanged out on the balcony for a while before changing for the White Hot Party. Decided to check out the karaoke on my way. Ran into some folks at Bliss, and listened to Anne, a new friend from the Studios, and Crickett, who were both excellent singers, and a bunch of others who, well...weren't. But, you know, that's part of the fun of Karaoke as Spectator Sport. After a little of that, I headed up to the White HOt. Got waylaid at the Family White Hot on the pool deck, and talked to some of the moms on board...I am not sure that LMFAO is really "family" friendly, but, hey...what do I know.

After a few minutes there I finally made it out to Spice/H2O for the *real* White Hot Party. It was banging. Pretty much the best one I have ever been to. One of the cruise staff yanked me out to dance before I even got all the way in, and I couldn't disappoint her. But as soon as she turned away, I made my way up to where a group of the solo travelers had a table. Joined in with them and over the course of the next two hours had a bit o' damn fun! I ran back to the cabin and grabbed the bottle of champagne I had won in the Slot tourney, and shared it around, when Jimmy Buffet walked by. I stopped him, just to say "hi", and offered him a glass of bubbly. He accepted, and then spent the next couple hours hanging out with us and telling stories and having a good time. A bunch of staff and crew were in the area also. Talked with Gunita from the Casino, Matt the CD, the Legends back up singer/dancer kids, my Jersey boys (who I finally persuaded to call me Dave instead of Jack), and, finally, Ashleigh (who also does Jimmy's hair, so now I can say I have a celebrity barber). Talked with a fellow agent, Kris, for a good long time, as well as finding out more about the Buffet impersonators life than, frankly, anyone needs to know (kind of a private "A Pirate Looks at 63" thing). All in all, as I said, the best White Hot ever.

But, finally, about 1:30, things were winding down. Or I was. So I took my leave of the last few at the table and headed home for a good nights sleep, and dreams about The EPIC Club in the morning.

Can't wait to tell you all about it.

Auf Weidershen, mein kinder!


Norwegian EPIC In A Studio - St Thomas

What a day! So much to tell and so little time...
Let's see. We docked in St Thomas. I went ashore for about a minute and a half. Got totally pissed at a shopkeeper; but it's okay, cuz I pissed him off, back. I was hoping to find some white pants for the White Hot Party. Went into a dozen places and came up empty. Then I finally found a nice pair of white linen slacks. Hugo Boss. $165! Now, look...when you are buying a suit, maybe names matter.  And most of what you are paying for is the design, but we're talking about 4 strips of linen sewn together, with a zipper in front. I can't believe Hugo Boss' Indonesian children get paid any more, or do any better work than Walmart's Indonesian children, so, you know...give me a break. Anyway, I happen to know those pants are available at Macy's, 3 miles from my house, for $120. And at the Outlet Mall, 30 miles away, for probably $80. So, I asked the guy how much he *really* wanted for them. He looked offended and told me the price was the price. I'm like, "are being serious right now, cuz that's twice what I would pay back home". He disagreed, and suggested I go back home to buy a pair. In retrospect, good advice, but not at all helpful in the here and now. So I walked out with a "have a nice day" (you know, the one everyone recognizes as "eff you" over my shoulder, and headed home.

Back on board just in time for Trivia, in which I stomped the crap out of two hapless ladies from Minnesota, I felt a little better.
Lunch today was at O'Sheehans. Again, an interesting dish, badly named. They claimed it was Irish Stew. It was carrot soup. A big bowl of carrot chunks with some nice tender beef and ONE piece of potato hiding at the bottom. All in a very thin broth. Now, maybe I have slipped into some alternate universe where the Irish Carrot Famine nearly depopulated the Emerald Isle, and some artist created a famous painting called "The Carrot Eaters"...but I don't think so. I think, sadly, no one at Norwegian has ever been to Ireland, or had stew of any sort. Sorry but STEW is not SOUP. It is thick and hearty to keep Irish farmers and fishermen full and warm on blustery days. But, like I said it was pretty good, and I probably would have ordered Carrot Soup, had that been the daily special. So, not really complaining...just wondering if the new test kitchen in Miami needs a new Director of Naming Stuff. If so, I might send in a resume.
Afer lunch I bopped around enjoying the sun shine and lack of people on board. Cruise ships really are way more fun when everyone else runs off. Played on the waterslides a bit and what not and what have you. Got dressed and came back up to the pool deck for a smoke and a club soda. Ran into a friend who told me she was headed to Bingo, and realized I had not bingoed all week. So I did. Unfortunately.
By the way, and appropos of nothing, on my wanderings, I finally found a place I can plug in, sit down, and smoke. My writing has suffered this week because the battery on my netbook is shot, and I have to be plugged in. But the only places to plug in are non-smoking areas, so I have to keep getting up and taking a break and losing my train of thought (fortunately that's a short train). But I am currently sitting in the Humidor, plugged in, lit up AND having coffee in a comfy chair, so, maybe I can get this all done in one session.
So, back to the regularly scheduled programming. AFter Bingo I got dressed for dinner, and headed to the Living Room. Tonite Jeff Hobson, Comedian/Magician was doing a live, close up magic show just for the Studio guests. Another nice little perk. Now, I have seen Jeff a few times, and he is good, but big stage magic is not something that really fascinates me. Close up magic, I do like. Because it's not all about the props...you really have to be good at the sleight of hand and misdirection. I like Jeff mostly for his comedy. But he was really good in the Living Room, both funny and some great little tricks.
After the show I downstairs to figure out my dinner plans. There were several friends waiting for the Latitudes cocktail party, so I was talking to them when Richard Janicki, the Hotel Director came over. Now, honestly, I've been a little disappointed this week. He has passed by me a few times with a fairly curt nod and little else. But apparently he got the memo...He told me that he was going to comp me and a guest in the alternative dining room of my choice AND allow me to dine in the EPIC CLUB. Which is really all I want from life right now. I got to go up there on my previous EPIC cruise, and it really is a beautiful room, with excellent food and better service. So...I finally made the VIP list cut this trip, I guess.
He also explained how they are no longer allowed, on this ship, to let non-suite guests used the Epic club for breakfast and lunch, and I understand. It's a basic capacity problem. On the Jewel and Dawn class ships, where they use Cagneys, it is a pretty big dining room and a fairly small number of suites, so there is plenty of room to slip people in. On the EPIC, the dining room is smaller, and there are way more suites and villas. So...cool.   Richard Janicki is officially my New Best Friend.
Anyway, after the Latitudes party I went over to the Sushi bar to join some friends for dinner. It was good, again. After dinner, it was the 80's Party out on deck at Spice/H2o. Couldn't miss that! So I threw on the blue leopard shirt and headed over...where I was accosted by 3 kids from New Jersey, Andy, Justin and something, who first decided I looked like Billy Joel, and then went with Jack Nicholson (although Andy kept saying Jack Nicklaus, and I have to tell you, I do not look ANYTHING like him). They even wanted to get pictures with me. It was kind of fun, for a while...but only for a while. I finally left the star-struck Jersey Boys and found some friends, danced a little (I do a mean Footloose thang), and mostly just enjoyed the music. As I was sitting there, getting into some Bon Jovi, Richard came over to me, again, and told me
there was a balcony available, if I wanted to move up!
So, yeah...now it's the full court press. Apparently some people missed their Miami flight, and then again managed to not catch up to the ship in St Thomas, so their room is empty. While I appreciated the offer, my first response was that I liked my Studio. And I was in it for a reason...to write about it, and be able to tell clients about it first hand...but on talking to him a little further, I decided 5 nights in the Studio is enough to tell the story, and a balcony would be lovely for the last couple days of the cruise. So, as soon as I finish up
here, I'm going to pack and slide up to the balcony cabin! While I have enjoyed the Studio, and would totally recommend it to solo travelers because of the price and the little perks of the Living Room, a view of the ocean on this last sea day will be nice.

So, thats it for today!

Domo Aregato for reading along!


Norwegian EPIC, In a Studio - St. Maarten

St Maarten! Land! I have to say, I don't think I like starting a cruise with two full days at sea. But, it's all good.  We pulled into St Maarten early, and I headed up on deck to take a look around. And got rained on. I don't mind a nice tropical rain, but I knew then it meant a loverly humid day when the clouds passed. And it was. Got off the ship, jumped on the water taxi to Phillipsburg and did substantially all of my Christmas shopping. As well as getting my cigarettes, 5 cartons for $75. So that was cool. I really like shopping here. The shop keepers are friendly and helpful and not aggressive like Mexico and Jamaica and some of those other spots. The first shop I went into I looked at a dozen items, and ended up only buying two rings for $15. The owner still seemed sincere when he thanked me for being his first sale of the day. Other places they'd be muttering curses. Likewise, my last purchase, a nice elderly Indian lady opened and spread out
at least 20 different table cloths for me, before I found just the right one. As I had predicted, the day turned quite hot and humid. I had to stop twice in my travels for a Ting. I loves me some Ting. Reminds me of my childhood in Puerto Rico.  And the St. Maartians (I dont think that's the right word, but it should be) don't know from ginger beer, my other favorite Caribbean soft drink. Ting is a grapefruit based soda, and here in the islands, made with real cane sugar...and lot's of it.  So, it's both thirst quenching, and as zippy as a cup of coffee.

So, shopping done and back on the ship by 11:30 for lunch. The MDR's are not open for lunch on port days, and I didn't feel like O'Sheehans, so I actually had to eat at the buffet. It was actually quite good...but still a buffet.After lunch, I debated heading back to town for another Ting. As I wandered and pondered, I passed the Barber Shop. One of the very cool ideas they implemented here on the Norwegian EPIC is the barber shop. It's on deck 7, way away from the Spa, has two chairs, pictures on the wall of interesting haircuts, and an actual barber pole out front. PERFECT for us guys that just don't want to hang out in the Spa with all the girls. I know, I know...it's just my imagination, but when I walk into a cruise ship spa, I can feel my testosterone level drop. And at my age, I can't afford that. So, this is kind of a ManSpa. I like it. so, anyway, back to my previous story, which I so rudely interrupted: I passed by the spa and the barber was not only standing there with nothing to do, she was a really cute blonde, and suddenly I felt the need for a shave and a haircut.

The barber, Ashleigh by name was a delightful young lady from South Africa. As she hot-toweled, exfoliated, scalp-massaged, firmed, shaved and masked me, we talked about her work, and cruising and surfing and South Africa. and then we got to the haircut part.  As she finished, she asked if I needed a mirror to see the back.  I told her "no".  She asked how I could know she didn't cut a big hole, or a lightning bolt or something, in my hair  I pointed out to her, that I had just bared my throat to her, as she was holding a straight razor, so I assumed we had achieved a certain level of trust...

I don't know about but I enjoyed the experience immensely. And felt way better when she was finally done. Seriously an hour of all this stuff. I have to let you know, I use an electric razor, badly, and generally spend my whole life with a 5 o'clock shadow. I really couldn't tell you the last time my cheeks were this smooth. And those bags under the eyes were nearly gone. Of course, they are back this morning, thanks to my dissolute lifestyle, but still...I wasn't expecting miracles.

As I passed O'Sheehans on my way home I saw the daily special was shepherd's pie. I decided to give it a shot. It was actually good, but it wasn't shepherd's pie. The meat looked and tasted rather like something from Taco Bell, all spicy and orange-greasey. Interesting, but unlike any shepherd's pie I've run into in Great Britain, or any other British pub, anywhere.
So, that done, I got myself dressed for dinner. I had a bottle of bubbly in my room from the day before, so I decided to take it down to the Living Room for the evening get together. It's gone now. Several of my fellow agents went to the Manhattan Room for dinner. Sadly, 'that guy' went with them. And now I remember that I haven't bothered to tell you all about 'that guy'. I assumed, when I booked the Studio cabin there would be at least one. Despite how careful NCL is to never use the word "Single", there will always be someone who thinks the Studio complex is a Singles thing, i.e. a great
place to pick up desperate women. I assure you it is not. Plenty of the women are married or otherwise occupied, and even those who are single are not all here to snag a man. They are, for the most part, here for the same reason as everyone else: They enjoy cruising, and this is an opportunity to do so, without paying a penalty for going alone, or sharing a cabin with someone they might not like after 7 days in close quarters.

 But, yeah...there is 'that guy'. He first came to my attention when one of the ladies in the lounge told me how he tried to pick her up, and when she deflected him, he told her she was probably too "high maintenance". This after knowing her 15 minutes. I have since found a couple opportunities to throw that phrase at her when he is in earshot. I don't know if he get's it, or not. But she and I are having fun with it. Anyway, 'that guy' is hitting on every woman in the complex, so far entirely unsuccessfully. But in the evening when I go down to the Living Room, I sit in a corner booth, and generally have a mixed-gender crowd, mostly
because I bring wine (being a chick magnet is pretty easy, when you are willing to resort to bribery). He always comes on over and plops down, and starts in with inappropriate conversation.
So, now, once again, back to my previous story, which I so rudely interrupted. A couple of the ladies headed down to the Manhattan Room, and 'that guy' invited himself to join them. Knowing better, I made a quick trip up the stairs to Cagney's. Good Call, on two counts. Based on the accounts I got from the women, later, in the showroom waiting for the Legends in Concert show, 'that guy' continues to be an ass, trying to impress a woman who could buy him with what she has in the bottom of her purse, with how rich he is, that he doesn't have to work anymore.

And the food at Cagney's was INCREDIBLE! I hate to be fickle, but after Moderno the first time, I decided it was my favorite restaurant at sea. I have now, officially, changed that opinion back. Cagneys, on board the EPIC is, again, my favorite restaurant at sea. Last nights meal was perfect. One thing that is often
crucial to take food from good to excellent is temperature. I give Cagney's VERY high marks. The hot food was all piping hot, and the cold food COLD.

I started with a shrimp coctail. 3 large tender shrimps. I think they used to serve 4, but it's okay when you are having multiple starters. Next up was a beefsteak tomato and Vidalia onion with something something
vinegarette. The tomato was HYOOGE! Filled half the plate. Not terribly tasty, which is not a surprise given the challenges of getting fully ripe fruit on a cruise ship. But it was good enough. And then the lobster bisque. As noted before - piping hot, perfectly seasoned and generally delightful, as always. For the main course I had a 16oz T-Bone with creamed spinach and Cagney's Fries. The steak was awesome. The filet side was fork tender, and the New York side very tasty and with minimum gristle. I had them bring me a little Au poivre sauce on the side, because I don't really like my steak dowsed with major sauce-age. The Au poivre was good, with lot's and lot's of tasty little green peppercorns. The creamed spinach was as good as I have had in other Cagneys'. I made a point of getting the Cagney's Fries. Over dinner Monday,
someone told me she had ordered them on the Pearl, on my recommendation, and was disappointed. The ones I had last nite were perfect, with just enough oil to make the parmesan stick, and not too salty. It really is a bummer when a product is inconsistent across the fleet, though. My poor friend will probably never try Cagney's Fries again, and I can't blame her, but, I am telling you...when they are done right, they are out of this world.
So, yeah, dessert was the Apple Crisp. Here, the temperature thing really showed thru. So many places serve a crisp lukewarm with the ice cream already melting, and the whole thing is just kind of mush after the first minute. The filling and topping on Cagney's Apple Crisp was scald the roof of your mouth hot, and the ice cream on top frozen solid. Chipping off a bit of ice cream and dipping down to the apple yielded a bite that was both hot and cold in your mouth, simultaneously. Which is kind of the goal. So...SCORE~! Really, the contrast lasted almost to the end of the dish, with only the last bite or two having melted ice cream and room temp apple.

So, after dinner I headed to the Legends in Concert show. It was excellent. The current offering is Jimmy Buffet, Donna Summer and Michael Jackson. Jimmy was very, very, good. Sadly, he only did 3 tunes. Then Donna Summer, and she was likewise very close on the voice and the whole disco diva look. Not a big disco fan, but looking back, 35 years later...it was a fun time. ;0) And then Michael. Y'all know I don't like Michael Jackson much, but I was impressed with the impersonator...not so much the voice, which is easy, but he had the moves NAILED. And the little girl voice and giggles between songs was, as my British friends would say, "spot on". And the backup singers/dancers I had met the previous night were extremely talented. So I am glad I went.

After the show, I cruised the casino and dropped a few bucks, but, frankly, walking in the heat and then the whole barbershop experience, plus too much good food at Cagney's had left me about worn out, so I turned in.

Tommorrow, SAINT THOMAS (not, as some assume, Maarten's brother, but whole different kind of place).

So...until then mis amies!


Norwegian EPIC, In a Studio - SECOND DAY AT SEA

Good morning. Let me start with the downer part: My father passed away yesterday morning, just as I was posting the previous entry. Suffice it to say he was very near death for a very long time and, in fact, I got on the ship just a day after being told (not for the first time), that he might not last the day. So, it's not unexpected, and it's not exactly a tragedy. Yeah, I'm gonna miss the old guy, but I have had two and a half years to come to grips with his passing. Still, though the dominant feeling is relief that it's over, there is also a sadness to the finality. So, I'm going about my vacation and my life, as I am sure he would have said "Hey, kid...dont let it ruin your day". (and so, now I am sitting in the Living Room, crying. Shit!)
Anyway, back to my story. Got up a little earlier yesterday and headed out on deck to get seriously windblown and had some interesting conversation with some of the group. Then back down to get ready for the day, which is when I phoned home and got the news about Dad. Took a little break before trying my luck in the casino. Thanks to Moderno the night before, I totally skipped breakfast. Probably should have gone ahead and ate something, as it's clear I have won all I am going to this cruise. Though it's doubtful I'll stop trying. I did do well in the Slot Tournament qualifier. I am in 2nd place with a score that will probably hold up for the Final. I also got to 2nd place in the Blackjack Tournament qualifier, but kept slipping down the board, and I am currently 6th and will most likely have to get in another qualifier on Thursday, if I want to sit at the Final table.
Next stop was the Living Room, after getting suited up, to kill some time before the VIP Cocktail Party in the Haven. I met some of my fellow solo travelers. That was fun. It is an interesting and eclectic mix in the Studio complex. As far as I can tell the ages range from 20something to 80+, and everything from first time cruisers to people whove done 50 or more. So that was nice.
So, I went to the Captain's Cocktail Party. Hung out for an hour talking to bunches of interesting people.   The total lack of caring or anything approaching VIP service was reinforced when the Hotel Director, Richard, walked right past me, twice, without a word, as his secretary, RASHIDA (who is awesome), came right across the room to say "hi" and give me a hug, and talk a few minutes about my last cruise on the EPIC, where I was actually treated well by the HD and his staff...
 Decided to skip the Blue Man Group, in favor of dinner at Le Bistro. When I went there a foursome of fellow travelers asked me to join them. Some of my California/Nevada desert peeps. Great conversation, and a new connection: The one couple own a party bus company in Vegas, AND an exotic car rental! So, if you need a Ferrari or Lamborghini to impress the valet's on your next Las Vegas run, CALL DAVE HOLMAN TRAVEL, at 760.265.3687, and I can hook you up a deal. (how subtle was that commercial plug?). So, dinner was a nice French Onion Soup, followed by the Salad Gourmande which had endive and greens with walnuts and slices of smoked duck with a nice champagne vinegarette. The entre was rack of lamb. Very tender and tasty. Desert: Creme Brulee. Because I can't say no to Creme Brulee.
Decided to catch the Second City show at Headliners. Ran into a couple of ladies from the Solo gathering in the Living Room earlier, and talked a bit. And then two of the BDM's from Norwegian came in (Tamara, who handles New Jersey and Lisa, who is the BDM for South America), along with Martin, (that's an "ee" at the end), an agent from Argentina. I have to say, the show was not great. Could have been me, as I don't think I was in the right mood for improv. Or it could just have been an off night. It happens. After the show Lisa threatened me with physical harm if I didn't join them all in Bliss for at least one dance, so, just out of a sense of self-preservation, I wnet with them. It was kinda slow, but I danced. You know that saying about "Dance like no one is looking"? I've modified it to "Dance WHERE no one's looking". Really, it's best for all concerned. And I did get a chance to meet and talk to the Motown singers. That's the kids that do the back up for Legends in Concert, as well as the great Motown revue stuff in the Manhattan Room at the Legends Unplugged show.
So, anyway, it had been a long and emotional day. I slipped out quietly while the ladies were on the dance floor, went on down for a late night cookie and coffee in the Living Room, and headed to dream land, so I can be rested up for SINT MAARTEN/ST MARTIN today.
I'll let you know how that turns out.

later, dudes and dudettes!


Norwegian EPIC - In a Studio, FIRST DAY AT SEA

So, let's see....I slept in til 9am (6am Pacific, but still...). Ran upstairs to get some caffeine and nicotine in me, and by the time I was nearly awake it was time for Trivia. Hooked up with some folks and did a respectable second place.

Then over to O'Sheehans for that wonderful English breakfast. I was as good as I remembered. Though a British friend later commented that it lacked black pudding, I have never felt the lack. After breakfast I went to the Living Room to type of the previous blog entry. I just wasn't feeling it earlier in the morning. I am doing my best to get an early start, but I have to tell you, as much as I love my Studio, it has in common with other insides, the total lack of light. I usually leave the curtains pulled back and the door open on a balcony, and get up with the sun. That's just not happening.

I spent a couple hours just bopping around, talking to people, until the Slot tournament at 1:30. Did that. Turned out badly. Played some other machines until the Blackjack tournament started at 3:00. That turned out badly. Fortunately I will have other opportunities.

The group I am tagging along with had a cocktail party at 4:30, so I hit that and hung out and had a couple of club sodas until it was time for dinner at Moderno at 6:00. We were a party of 37, taking up 4 tables. Except when I got there, almost everyone was seated, so I started the 4th table, and only one more person showed up after me. So, it was basically me and my buddy, the always delightful Crickett having dinner. I always enjoy her company because I can drop my filters, and quit pretending I like people. As far as I can tell, she has no filter, period. So, it's a lovely little snarkfest.

Anyway, Moderno Churrascaria was as good as I remembered. With the exception of a slightly dry sirloin (which was promptly replaced with some fresher, juicier pieces), all the meat was tender, tasty and juicy. The salad bar really is just outrageously good. And "salad bar" is a misnomer. There was no room on my plate for stuff like lettuce. I had 5 kinds of cheese, some sopresatta and salami, hearts of palm, marinated asparugus, a really tasty portobello, etc. It should probably be called an appetizer bar. And as I said, all the meats were excellent. steak, ribs, lamb chops, chorizo, linguica, chicken, all grilled and seasoned perfectly.
  OH, and one more thing:  Maria Ana Diola, our waitress:  AWESOME.  MAJOR POINTS FOR HER.  When the less than perfect meat was brought to her attention, she not only fixed it RIGHT AWAY, for the rest of the meal she was ON IT!  Not just making sure we were well served, but talking, asking questions, recommending...she was easily the best waitress I have had, anywhere, in quite some time!

After dinner I headed over to the casino, where I had little luck yesterday, or earlier. But all that changed, big time. Finally hit the 4 Aces with a kicker on the poker machine ($500). Took some of that and went over to a roulette table where I turned $100 into $200 pretty quick. A few more machines and I decided to cash out $500 and go watch some football. Watched my G'ints stomp on the Pack for a half, on the ginormous jumbotron in the lobby, and at half-time, when it was obvious they didn't need my help, I went back to the casino, where I soon hit the 4 Aces with a kicker AGAIN! So, I was up a buck for the day, my team was winning, and all was right with the world. Seemed a good time to call it a night. So, I did.

TTFN, mi amigos! I am sure I will have more to report, when we finally get to St. Maarten on Tuesday.


Norwegian EPIC - In a Studio! SAILING DAY

Oh, what a day...

Started with a red-eye flight from LAX to Fort Lauderdale. No sleep. Hit the ground at 6am. Could NOT find coffee in the airport. I had a two hour wait for the shuttle taking me and some of my fellow agents to the Port of Miami. About 7 the coffee lady finally opened up.

Anyway, so, I got on the shuttle at 8, swung by a couple hotels to pick up some friends, and ended up in the Port of Miami a little after 9, for our 10:30 tour. There were, I don't know, maybe 30 of us doing a tour of The Haven prior to sailing. When the doors opened at 10ish, we were about a dozen, and in the next half hour the rest showed up. Groundside personnel had NO idea what we were doing or how to deal with us. Most often, when groups of agents board early, they are doing a tour and going home prior to sailing. In that case, they are given visitor badges, and their ID is held so when they leave they trade their badge to get their ID back. In our case, since we were all sailing on the ship after, we needed our ID (in order to check in). Security and check in people were perplexed on how to manage it. I give them high marks for figuring it out, and not losing their cool. Oh, and the other glitch is that half the group was checking in at the "wrong" terminal (they use two to board the EPIC). So, someone had to run and get their keys. Needless to say it was a bit of a cluster. But, we did get it all sorted out, and got onboard for a quick tour of the Haven. Those suites have been reviewed to death, elsewhere, so I won't bother to do so here.

After the tour we all headed to Taste (the smaller of the main dining rooms) for lunch. Very nice Cobb salad and a chicken milanese that was excellent. Me and a friend spent half the lunch trying to track down the Hotel Director, who passed thru several times, in a hurry. No luck.

After lunch I went to see if my studio cabin was ready, and it was. I had been in a Studio before, on tours, but this is my first time actually trying to live in one for a week. I have to say, so far I am impressed. While tiny (100sf), they are very thoughtfully laid out, with an amazing amount of storage. HOWEVER, it takes a minute to figure out where stuff is, and how it works. The lighting is very cool, with small spotlights everywhere you need them, and cool multicolored LED lighting for the cabin in general. But, the light over the TV is just strange, and the switch for same is down below by the little shelf/table area. The switch for the light over the sink is by some plugs in a cubbyhole to the right, and there are two switches by the door to light up the shower area. Oh, and the light in the toilet area is motion activated, so when you open the door to go potty, the light turns on. And then there are 4 buttons by the bed to control which colors the LED lights go.

and two buttons above the headboard to turn on reading lights over the bed. So, I took a few minutes getting all that worked out before heading out to take a quick tour of the ship, and hang out with friends.

I should mention, my bed was covered with envelopes when I walked in. Invites to the Captain's Cocktail Party, Latitudes Cocktail Party, Partners First information, letter from the Hotel Director, some letters about various OnBoard Credits....it really was too much, so I just tossed them in a cubby to read thru later. And a couple bottles of wine. One from the Partners First thing, and one from the HD.

So, I grabbed the wine and headed out to find or make a Sailaway Party. Wandered around for a bit, trying to find someone I knew, then decided I would just sit down, and let them find me. And it worked. Grabbed a table at Spice/H2O. Within 5 minutes two agents sat down and joined me in a smoke. Then two more walked by on their way to sign death waivers. Then another couple...pretty soon it looked like a party, and we all talked and smoked til the ship pulled out. About 20 minutes after sailaway, I went to see if my luggage had shown up, and it had. It took me about 15 minutes to unpack, and honestly, I am amazed at the amount of storage. Two closets, and neither one is full. plenty of shelf and cubby space for shorts and sockes and shoes and toiletries. I am impressed. And while everything is close together, I never felt like I was falling on myself. As long as not too many shoes are left in the floor, it's just not a problem.

After getting unpacked, I took a quick tour of the Casino and lost $100. Because that's what I do. Sadly, I had to listen to a lady behind me when about $1500 while I was doing it. So, then it was time to head to dinner with some friends. Tonite was La Cucina with Pat and her husband, Scott, her cousin Thomas and Tamara, Pat's Norwegian BDM (Business Development Manager), who happens to be on the ship for a few days doing a seminar. They have changed up the menu at La Cucina since my last outing. On the upside, they have added a lobster fettucine dish and some awesome herb/spice infused olive oils for the bread. On the downside, they took away my saltimbocca, which I really loved, and was looking forward to. The four new oils, flavored with garlic, red pepper, rosemary and basil were excellent. Especially the red pepper, which started off mild, and then just kept heating up in your mouth for a strong finish. I ended up combining the garlic and the pepper on my plate, and that was a great combo. After that I ordered the carpaccio appetizer (excellent) and the Osso Buco Cremolata (braised veal shank in a tomato reduction with a creamy polenta on the side). That was accompanied by some grilled veggies that were actually the highlight of the plate. I still can't quite place the herbs used on the veggies, though I tasted both rosemary and sage, and maybe a hint of oregano. Oh, and I had the waiter bring me a small plate of the lobster fettucine. Not bad/not fabulous. I'd rather they kept the saltimbocca.

After dinner and another quick stroll through the casino, I thought I was done for the night, having been up since 5 the previous morning. On the way home I walked thru Bliss and ran into Paul, another of our group, talking to cruise staff, and found out he was going to be a contestant on The Dating Game. So, I just hadda stay up for that. Paul is an interesting fellow, an Englishman born in Bermuda, former Royal Navy, former Princess Cruise Line Officer, and currently residing in Canada. So, he's got some stories, and is really a nice guy. And, because he's with this group, he had quite a large fan base in the crowd. We cheered him on as best we could, but, alas, the lady he was competing for (who was probably 1/3 his age) chose a rave DJ from Chula Vista...but it was fun.

After the contest, I went to O'Sheehans for some hot wings, and a little conversation and, finally, about midnite, took my leave and headed home. All I can say is, I woke up this morning with the book I was going to read, unopened on my chest. And I slept in til the unGodly hour of 9am...unheard of when I am cruising. And it has taken me til now (1pm) to get this little missive written. I hope to get rested up today, so I can get back to a more regular cruise schedule.

See ya tomorrow!


Norwegian EPIC. In a Studio!

It's about 48 hours til I hop on a plane and head to Fort Lauderdale, and then to Miami to catch the Norwegian EPIC on Saturday morning.

Busy first couple days.  I am traveling with a bunch of travel agents, and we have a tour of the Haven set up for 10:30 Saturday morning.  Then back out to check in and board for real.  Then a meet and greet and lunch at Taste, my preferred of the two main dining rooms.

Hopefully I will find a minute to get up to my Studio stateroom between that and a Sailaway Party by the Waves bar, at 4:30ish.

Then, Sunday, we have a Slot Pull at 1, a cocktail party at 4:30 in Fat Cats, and dinner at Moderno, the churrascaria at 6 ( I think ).

Hopefully, I will be able to load all this in on my new Droid RAZR.  Norwegian Cruise Line has a really cool new app for the EPIC called iConcierge.  It allows phone and texting between passengers on the ships wifi with no cell phone charges (there is a $7.95/week charge for the app).  It also has the schedule of everything that's going on onboard, the ability to review your account, make reservations for tours and dining, etc.  Apparently you can also make ship to shore and shore to ship VOIP calls, with a per minute charge which is less than most carriers roaming rates.  So, I am looking forward to trying that out, and reporting on it here.

The rest of my week is pretty loose so far.  I am semi-committed to doing a walking tour in St. Thomas.  Other than that, I have no shore excursions planned.  Might do something...might not.  I also have reservations for Blue Man Group on Sunday, and Legends in Concert on Monday.  Again, the rest of the week is open as far as dining and shows.  I am sure I will want to see Blue Man Group at least one more time.

This is how I like to cruise, frankly.  A few activities planned, but most of the week unstructured, so I can just jump on any opportunities that come up!

so, yeah...WOO HOO....TWO DAYS!!!


Norwegian EPIC - Back in The Studio

Awright.  We're back on track.  Just heard back from the Fleet Hotel Dirctor, and I am in a Studio.  Now, I just have to bide my time til Saturday.  Or, I guess I could pack.

Honestly, once again, Norwegian Cruise Line comes thru in a major way.  A way that no other cruise line does.  At least in my experience.

So, YAY, Norwegian!


Norwegian EPIC, In a Studio.

Major wrench in the works of my upcoming cruise! I was REALLY looking forward to experiencing the Studio Complex on the EPIC. Paid full retail (and more than necessary, I could have got a better rate on a different category) for a Studio GTY. Just got my cabin assignment, and they have put me in a regular inside stateroom. They might consider that an upgrade, but I most certainly don't. An upgrade from the Studio, imho, would be to a balcony, at least.

So, I have some emails in, and hopefully I can get "downgraded" back to a Studio.

If not, I will deal with it, but I am seriously disappointed.   Even though an inside cabin is a little bigger, it doesn't have all the cool features of the Studio cabins.  And, mostly, it isn't in the keycard access-only complex that includes The Living Room, a private lounge area for Studio guests.


Norwegian EPIC - In a Studio. Finally!

Okay, so I booked another cruise.  Finally, after two cruises on the Norwegian EPIC (the pre-inaugural in July, 2010, and a 7 day Western Caribbean in December of 2010), I am going to try out the STUDIOs!

Ever since the inaugural, I have been intrigued by the whole Studio Complex idea.  So far, the only one of it's kind, it is 128 staterooms specifically designed for the Solo traveler. It is a seperate, keycard access only area of the ship, and has it's very own (also exclusive) lounge area, known as The Living Room.  The Living Room has a bar in the evening and coffee/continental breakfast in the morning.  A really nice, casual area where solo travelers can meet up and hang out with other solos.

The Studios have been a major hit for Norwegian.  Cabins specifically designed and priced for the solo traveler (meaning no single supplement) are almost non-existent in the industry.  An entire complex of them is totally unique.  And so successful, the new Breakaway and Getaway (scheduled for delivery in 2013 and 2014) both have a Studio Complex.

So, yeah...I'll be getting onboard November 24th, and taking another 7 day, but this time Eastern Caribbean cruise.  Port calls are St Maarten, which I last visited in 2009, St Thomas, which I have not been to in forever, it seems, and Nassau, Bahamas.  Not a really great itinerary (no monkeys, like Honduras on the Western), but...WHO CARES?  I am on a boat!

I also have everything in place with all my friends at Norwegian, so we'll see if the VIP treatment is as awesome as my last few Norwegian cruises.

There will also be 50 or so fellow travel agents, from the NCL U Ewes Facebook Group that I co-administer with a couple friends.  Many of them I have cruised with before, and  a few I have been wanting to  cruise with. 

Oh, and I found another slamming airfare deal with Virgin America, my favorite airline...just to get the vacation off to a good start.

So...just a heads up, my friends - as always, I will be posting daily from onboard the ship, and keep you posted on every pointless detail!


Travel Weekly's Cruise World and Home Based Agent Show

So, here I am!  And it wasn't easy.

I had to get up yesterday at 3am to get to LAX for a 6:30 flight.  Got into SeaTac at 10ish.  I had arranged with some colleagues to share a limo into the hotel.  But I was lacking details...so, grabbing my bags from the baggage claim area, I wandered around looking for a likely place.  Arrived to the parking garage area where shuttles and limos are parked.  About then I got a text from the guy who had hired the limo.  I was wandering the area as we shot messages back and forth.  Finally decided to head back and meet him at his baggage claim area.  Headed up the escalator, when I noticed I didn't have my suitcase.  Turned around, panicked, visions of the whole airport being locked down and my unattended luggage being exploded by a SWAT team.  Fortunately it was right where I had left it, and a lady from the shuttle company was keeping an eye on it for me. So, without further ado, I went and met my party, we got our limo and headed to the Crowne Plaza.

Got all checked in at the hotel (the young lady at the front desk told me she put me in a corner room, which is bigger than the standard rooms...if so, I feel sorry for the people in the standard rooms...it's not all that), and found the room to check in for the Travel Weekly Hosted Agent program.  My friend and Former Dean of NCL U (Norwegian Cruise Line University, their training program) Jacquie, who hooked me up with this deal was there and we hanged out for a while, so she could insult me and stuff.

Finally headed over to the first General Session.  Mostly consisted of a couple of panels and q&a with execs from various Host Agency's and Consortia.  I have to say, I have no idea what the point of  it was.  But I had a good time hanging out and talking to friends in the business.

Then back to the hotel to hang out some more, and finally ended up spending several hours in the hotel bar/restaurant talking to new and old friends.  I don't know why people who put these things together always want to have "networking sessions" that are so stilted and formal.  Cuz it's always in the hotel bar after everything is done that the real networking begins. 

But, all good things must come to an end, and about 10, completely wiped out from a day that started at 3am, I decided to call it a night.

Tomorrow is breakfast at 7, hosted by Shore Trips, one of the biggest excursion companies.  I am really looking forward to that...and I will tell you all about it tomorrow...



TRAVEL WEEKLY'S Cruise World 2012

So, next monday it's up to Seattle for 3 days as the guest of Travel Weekly.  The Cruise World and Home Based Agent Show is one of the best trade shows out there, with an emphasis on us home based agents.  Really looking forward to some great seminars and speakers, and a chance to talk to lot's of travel suppliers. 

And, especially happy to have Travel Weekly picking up the tab.  What a great opportunity, from a great organization!

I'll let you know how it goes.


Travel Weekly Cruise World Trade Show

Yay! Just got word I'll be going to the Cruise World/Home Based Travel Agent Show. As a VIP Guest of Travel Weekly (they are putting on the show, and that's the magazine my ad for Norwegian appeared in). Three days in Seattle, starting June 18th. Of course, I'll keep you all updated on the festivities!


Frank Nappi Fan Cruise
Norwegian STAR, August 5-12, 2012.


Frank Nappi is the author of Echoes From The Infantry, The Legend of Mickey Tussler (on which the movie "A Mile In His Shoes" was based), and Sophomore Campaign. He will be hosting a cruise on the Norwegian Star, from New York City to Bermuda and return, August 5th thru 12th.
Join Frank on board for a private screening of the film "A Mile In His Shoes", followed by a reading from his new novel "Sophomore Campaign", and a Book Signing/Question and Answer Session. Later in the week there will be a private, hosted Cocktail Party/Reception and Photo Opportunity.

For more information about Frank Nappi, and his award winning work, go to www.franknappi.com

NORWEGIAN STAR, August 5-12, 2012

Sunday - Depart Manhattan Cruise Terminal
Monday - Day At Sea
Tuesday - Day At Sea
Wednesday - King's Wharf, Bermuday
Thursday - Kings Wharf, Bermuda
Friday - Kings Wharf, Bermuda
Saturday - Day At Sea
Sunday - Return to Manhattan Cruise Terminal

Fare: Inside $2209.50 for two, including taxes and fees
Ocean View $2309.50 for two, including taxes and fees
Balcony $3009.50 for two, including taxes and fees

For complete fare information, CONTACT US NOW!

Seventeen-year-old Mickey Tussler is recruited to play for a minor league affiliate of the Boston Braves in the 1940s. Arthur Murphy, a scout and coach
for the minor league Milwaukee Brewers, swears that Mickey is a phenom- one who has the greatest arm Murph has ever seen, that anybody has ever seen. And it might be true. But Mickey is also autistic, before autism was given a name, and his Aspergers keeps him sealed off from a world he scarcely understands. But Arthur wants to take the chance. The minor league Brewers have had one of the
worst records in baseball history, and he needs to do something to shake the team up. But can Mickey survive? Tormented by the memories of an abusive
father and heckled by fans and teammates alike, the odds are stacked against him. But his inimitable talent -- one of the most gifted arms in the history of
baseball - just might give him a chance. Can he survive a real life dream? Or are the harsh realities of life too much for him? This is the powerful underdog story of how a young man with an extraordinary gift comes of age in a harsh and
competitive world that may not be ready for him

It is 1949. Seventeen year old pitching phenom Mickey Tussler returns for a second season with the rejuvenated minor league Brewers. Despite Mickey’s
proclamation that he will never play baseball again after last season’s violent conclusion, manager and now surrogate father Arthur Murphy, whose relationship with Mickey's mother has blossomed significantly, cajoles the emotionally fragile, socially awkward autistic boy into giving it another shot. Murph’s job is, once again, on the line. The owner’s edict is clear; win or you are gone.

The Brew Crew gets off to a fast start, with the Baby Bazooka once again electrifying the hometown fans with his incomparable pitching prowess. The Brewers seem primed to erase last year’s devastating loss to their Rival Rangers when Boxcar, the team’s starting catcher and one of the cornerstones of the club, falls ill and is replaced by Lester Sledge, a young African American ballplayer Murph pries away from a local Negro League team. Mickey has trouble dealing with loss for the first time, while Murph’s selection ignites a firestorm of controversy, beginning with the club owner who fears the public criticism. Despite Lester’s brilliance on the field, the entire team is subjected to racial threats and various episodes of violence, one (involving one of his teammates) which Mickey happens to witness. Struggling to understand the
ugliness and hatred to which he has been exposed, and fearful of reprisal should he tell anyone about what he has seen, the boy’s performance on the field
suffers. Mickey struggles with the weight of this dark secret, and Murph’s Brewers go into a mid-season slump; it appears as though they will finish behind
the Rangers yet again, rendering Murph out of baseball forever. The only one who can save them now is their enigmatic fireballer, who must now deal with a side of human nature he scarcely understands.


Dave Holman Travel Now Expedia Cruiseshipcenter, OVC/Holman Travel

Dear Friends,

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As a cruise specialist, I take the time to understand what you want most in a dream vacation and identify which cruise lines, ships and itineraries best suits your needs. I also manage all the booking arrangements and travel details, leaving you the time to dream.

Thank you for taking the time to join the 7Seas® Club. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me @ 760-265-3687 or toll free @ 760-265-3687 or via email at dholman@cruiseshipcenters.com anytime to start planning your vacation.


Contact Us

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Dave Holman Travel to Join Expedia Cruise Ship Center

In the next month or so, I'll be finalizing the details, but I thought I would let you all know: My host agency, Coral Sands Travel and I will be joining forces with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers.

This move should enable us to provide even better service and pricing to my clients. Access to Expedia's inventory and volume discounts will mean my clients who prefer to deal directly with me can continue to do so, and get even better deals, while retaining the personal service.

And for my friends who prefer to book their own travel, now you can have the best of both worlds. Just go to my website (which has exactly the same inventory as expedia dot com), and book your own travel. BUT (and here's the good part), if something ever does go awry, like cancelled flights, or cruise lines not wanting to make changes to your reservation, or whatever, and you are in a jam, instead of calling an 800 number to an anonymous order taker who may or may not be able to help you, you can call ME. DIRECT. 24/7/365. And take advantage of that personal service when you do need it.

I really do think this is the way to go. Together with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers, I can provide absolutely the best pricing in the industry, special group volume discounts and amenities, and still maintain the high level of personal service that has kept me in business these last five years.

As I said, there are a few details to hammer out before my new website goes live, and I will let you know when it happens. Just wanted to give my loyal customers and friends a heads up.

Be back soon, with all the details!

In the meantime, if you need a vacation right NOW, call me: 760.265.3687 any time, day or night.


Norewegian Pearl, Western Caribbean, 03/03/2012. At Sea

My friend scheduled herself a spa day, so I was footloose and fancy free all morning. We grabbed a quick bite of breakfast at the Great Outdoors. Miss my Cagneys, but you really need to give them 45 minutes or so, or it's kinda wasted.

So, off she went to get spa'd. I went and checked out the casino for 10 minutes or 20dollars, whichever came first. Then sat out by the pool for a while just soaking up the last day of sunshine. Down to the room for a while to catch up on some necessary work. Then back to the Casino. Didn't want to be weighed down by excess cash, doncha know...
Anyway, that's how my morning went. At noon we had tickets to the Murder Mystery Lunch, PRESUMED MURDERED. One of the Second City productions. I have tried to get in to the lunch on my last 3 NCL cruises, but it sells out fast. So, we scored this time.

The lunch itself was better than expected, and the murder mystery was great. The Second City cast on this ship is excellent. One in particular, the not-skinny (tall and lanky, but still quite handsome is how he describes himself) guy, whose name escapes me at the moment, was once again brilliant. I would not be surprised to see him break out from Second City (as hundreds before him have) to the big time in movies or SNL or something. It was quite entertaining, with lot's of audience interaction. And since we were sitting front row center, we got included in some of it. So, a nice way to burn a couple hours on a sea day.

That was over at 2, and all week the casino people had been saying the Blackjack Final would be at 3, so we went to the room, hung out, and reviewed some of the 7,397 photos we had taken over the week. At 3 I headed down to see if I could pull off a win. But when I got there I found out the started a whole new round of qualifiers at 3. 4 or 4:30 would be the actual Final. I was still second on the leaderboard, so I wasn't too worried about getting knocked off, but I was a little annoyed that I had planned my day around a supposed 3 o'clock final and had that trashed. Even then, it would have been better if the Casino Hostess Melissa didn't turn into a snarly bitch when questioned about it later (at 4 when I came back). But, we took another stroll around the deck and waited. Came back at 4 and the last qualifier was just getting underway. When that was done they called a 10 minute break, and we started right at 4:30, which is obviously when they planned it all along. And all the other bullshit, so transparently designed to get me to hang out in their casino (like I, or anyone else, probably, who plays the tournaments needs any encouragement) is just really annoying. And given that NCL's Casinos at Sea program is already the least friendly in the industry (you have to sign up for a new card on every trip, and I have NEVER earned enough to get as much as a free drink from them), it's a shame. I can tell you I gamble less on Carnival (simply because I sail them less), and I have been on a couple cruises thru their casino program where all I paid was the taxes. So, yeah...something NCL seriously needs to work on. Especially that part about points (and account numbers) not carrying over from cruise to cruise. If they would just do the math and figure out that a guy who spends $2k in the casino on one cruise is actually bringing less revenue than a guy who spends $1000 on two in a year, or one who cruises 4 times and spends $500 each time...and they can't even track those frequent cruisers. Which should be the entire point of a loyalty program, whether cruise or casino.

Anyway, on to the tournament. Again I got some pretty sucky cards, and NO action hands at all...not one double-down or split opportunity. Despite that I was #2 in the chip count going in to the last hand. The lady in the lead made a large bet, pretty much forcing me to go all in. There were only 3 of us left at this point, and number 3 was down to 500 chips. Dealer had a face card. I got 13. Lady had 12. I took the hit, got the 8 and felt pretty good. Lady got a 7 for 19. So, if the dealer has 20, I win, she loses...I get all the money. Pretty much anything else...lady wins. Dealer flips a 5 for 15, hits and busts...and I lose.

Oh,well. Seems to be my week to come in 2nd place.

After the crushing, devestating second place finish, it was time to get ready for dinner. We had a group dinner for all my fellow TA's at 5:30 at Cagney's. This one was compliments of the good folks at NCL who helped us put together this cruise, which is a Reunion of TA's who have completed NCL's PhD@Sea program). We had held off eating there all week (except breakfast and lunch), knowing this was coming. It's my favorite NCL eatery. Although Moderno is moving up fast, and I actually was more impressed with LeBistro than I thought I would be.

There was, of course, another bottle waiting for us in the room. A nice Italian proseco this time (that's redundant, isn't it?  If it's proseco, it has to be Italian, right?) So she had a glass or three whilst I sipped iced coffee. Again, the time just got away from us.

So, we got there a few minutes late, and most of the folks had already shown up. Grabbed a table with my friends Pat and Carol, and Pat's party. We had a great meal and an awful lot of fun. I had the oysters Rockeffeller and the portobello mushroom crabcake deal, as well as the lobster bisque and followed it all with the big T-bone steak with Cagney's Fries and creamed spinach. Michille did oysters, bisque and prime rib with garlic mashed and asparagus. For desert I had the raspberry creme brulee and she had the apple crisp. It was all excellent, as usual. Kinda wished we hadn't waited all week. It's the kind of place you can go twice.

Dinner and conversation went on an outrageously long time.  Entirely too much fun was had by (nearly) all (some people seem immune to fun.  They sat next to me.  For about a minute and a half, til they could flee the table), and I hadn't even begun to pack. I always wait as late as possible, as packing signals the real end of the cruise. But I ran upstairs, got it done and had time to wander the ship awhile before Second City's adults-only improv show. Got there in time, and it was a hoot.

And then it was time to crash...early day tomorrow. When we got here to Miami we had the little snafu with the shuttle, and ended up hiring the limo to get us to Miami. Which worked out really well, except I was pretty sure the shuttle company wouldn't waiting to pick us up and take us back to FLL...So, I decided to use the ships transfer service. Except those reservations had to be in by Friday, according to the desk. Thank God for Concierges. I called my new best friend, Anoop, and he got us on the bus. It's nice to have friends.

Anyway, that pretty much ends the story. I have to say, all in all, with the amount of alternative dining I got in, the shore excursions we took, and the fabulous VIP treatment from Klaus, Hotel Manager Tony Winkler, and especially Anoop, the Concierge, this is easily my best cruise in the last couple years.

Hope y'all enjoyed reading about it!

oh,and, once again...for all your cruise needs with Norwegian Cruise Line or any other, please give us a call at DAVE HOLMAN TRAVEL 760.265.3687


Norwegian Pearl, Western Caribbean, 03/02/2012. Cozumel

The artist formerly known as Swims With Horses, shall now be known as Swims With Dolphins. Belly to belly. Yes, it was a girl dolphin, and yes, I checked. More on that, later.

But to put the day in a somewhat linear fashion:

Slept in til 6 yesterday morning...which, with the time change back one hour for Cozumel was 7am the day before, so, yes...it IS sleeping in. I'm gonna blame it on the White Hot party til 1. Not on my advanced age.
Anyway, so, I got up, ran upstairs for some morning coffee, came back and Michille was up and headed to the gym to put in 4 miles in the squirrel cage, while I wrote up my daily post. We went to breakfast a little later than usual, as the ship didn't get to Cozumel til after 9, and our excursion wasn't until 10. Went with a repeat of steak and eggs, while Michille ordered the frittata I had yesterday. Both were perfect, as usual. I have to say the Cagney's thing (a Suite perk on NCL), is totally worth the price of the suite accomodations. While we've only hit it a couple times for lunch, the breakfast there every morning, compared to the main dining room or (ewww) the buffet is just light years apart. Quiet, refined, impeccable service, fresh ground and pressed coffee...all of it just makes for an awesome day starter.

So, we got done just in time to catch the tender over for our excursion at the Solaris Delphinarium. I will say, I was a little leery of a repeat of yesterday, when I saw how many people were going on the excursion. But it wasn't a problem, as they split into, like, 6 groups and each group split into 12 different stations, so that it was, basically, 8 humans per dolphin, and nearly an hour in the water with them. They got us split into groups, gave a briefing on the basic hand positions to get the dolphin to hug, kiss, high-five, and belly up and let you climb onboard for a short swim. We then got in the water with Elena, a 2 1/2 year old female dolphin who was born on site (capturing wild dolphins is no longer permitted in Mexico). Our trainer then called people up for the various interactions. First a little peck on the cheek, then the kiss. And then some double hand (or, in her case, flipper) high fivin. He alternated that with sending people out farther in the lagoon to float with one hand out, and Elena would swim around and turn belly up so you could grab first one fin, and
then the other, and once you were hanging on, she'd turn on the speed for a bit. Nearly lost my trunks (as did a few of the others), but frankly I didn't much care.

How awesome to be that close to such a beautiful and powerful animal. Anyway, we also did a little huggy thing, where she would rest her nose on your hand and let you pet her back. And the whole group in a line in the deep water, and she would run back and forth down the line, letting everyone pet her as she went by, and then got back on the shallow ledge as the trainer put her thru some paces, like splashing us with her nose, "talking" as we waved our fingers, spining as we twirled our hands, and clapping her fins as we applauded her, and also, in a more serious vein gave us some up close and personal tutorials on dolphin biology. From pushing on the "melon" to make her exhale and do various vocalizations, to an upclose
look at her 88 teeth and tongue. He even had her roll over and went down the length of her body pointing out the subtleties of her anatomy.

So, I am not sure if it was quite as good as the horse swim thing, but it was miles ahead of Stingray City! I am, once again, really glad I took the opportunity, and would recommend to anyone paying the extra to get in the water with a dolphin and actually interact with them, as opposed to the "touch 'em from outside the tank" encounters you get from Sea World.

After the Dolphin Swim we headed back to port, and did some shopping. We've both been putting off the necessary souvenir shopping at every port, and this is the last one, so it just had to be done. We managed to blast thru it in about 20 minutes, aided by a bite to eat and some music at Senor Frogs for a starter. Seriously, Senor Frogs here on the South Terminal is just a beach shack, but the party was in full swing. We ordered a couple $14 drinks and a plate of appy's that included fajitas, chicken strips and quesadilla, and talked to a nice couple from London. The table next to us was a group of 8 from Oz who had a stack of shotglasses in the middle of their table at least 10 feet tall. They were having a dancin' good time, and showed no signs of slowing down...they may still be there. But it did help me figure out what's wrong with
the nightlife on this ship: No Aussies! Anyway, fortified with some grub and drink, we hit the t-shirt shops and got our shopping done in record time, then headed home to the Pearl.

The rest of the afternoon was lazing and reading and writing. And a 3 way phone tag operation, to make a plan for dinner. We already had a 7pm reservation at La Cucina for the two of us. Carol called, and her and Pat and Pat's party invited us to join them in La Cucina at 8. We compromised on 7:30. So I changed my rez to 7 people at 7:30. Then got a call that Pat's party wasn't joining us. Convinced Pat to hang in, and we were 4 at 7:30. Didn't bother to change the rez, and later ran into Tony wandering the halls, and invited him and Lisa and Dolly to join us. He said he would check with them and show up or not. So the 4 of us got there at 7:30, the rest did not. We went ahead and started without them, and they showed about 7:45. So, it was a good dinner, with lot's of interesting and/or vulgar conversation. And with that many of us, it turned
in to full on family style, with much passing around of starters and salads and pizza so everyone could try everything.

After the dinner we cruised the chocolate buffet but go no pictures as we were about a minute late and it was a complete madhouse. I know I said I was gonna do this in a linear fashion, but...I lied. I have to throw in this one: We were ready for dinner too early, and had no fabulous goodies to speak of (no champagne, at least), so we decided to do a photo-shoot. Went from the room to the elevator to the hallways, atrium, etc doing some glam shots of Michille. I made the unfortunate decision to try a nod to crass commercialism and asked her to pose in the perfumery, in front of all the racks of scents available. For some reason (probably because SHE wasn't the center of attention) the young lady working there decided to tell me that taking pictures in the store was not allowed. Now, I can't for the life of me think why anyone would give a shit, but, fine. Michille took it personally though, and told the lady she just lost a sale (and she did, we were in the store earlier, and Michille found her favorite perfume considerable cheaper than she gets it at home, and was planning on stocking up). I just smiled and walked away...Michille, on the other hand, glowered and walked away. Then smiled. And laughed. It was kinda fun. And, seriously - someone needs a little re-training on customer service. Sadly, I did not get her name.

Anyway, back to the line: All during dinner Carol tried to drum up interest in getting a group together to do the Quest. It's a kind of scavenger hunt for grown ups, and a lot of fun. And I really tried to make it. I stopped in the casino, though, and had the first good run of the cruise when my number came up twice in 4 spins, and I walked away $150 to the good for the session. Not quite even for the cruise...but not down too much. And, by the time I got done with that, it was 11pm and I was just tired.  No Quest for me, this time.

So, home sweet home, and rest up for tomorrow, our final day, and a day at sea!

I'll be posting late tomorrow, as I'll wait til I get on the plane to write up the days adventures... but stick around!


Norwegian Pearl, Western Caribbean, Day 5, Grand Cayman

So, we rolled out at for an early excursion to Stingray City. A hurried breakfast of Smoked Salmon Frittata for me and Crab Cakes Benedict for Michille.

Then down to the theater to get on the first tender over to George Town, where we got on a bus to the boat to Stingray City. I hopped into the front seat, and had a nice conversation with the driver, mostly comparing the difference in driving styles from Jamaica to Grand Cayman, and the politics of the day, of course. That was good. I always take the opportunity to engage locals in some conversation. It is a primary reason for travel, imho.

Anyway, so we got to the dock and got on the boat, and I knew right away this was not going to be a magical mystery tour, like swimming on a horse...For one thing there were 6 cruise ships in Grand Cayman yesterday, which is about 4 more than there should be. Since we got across early, it wasn't obvious, but by the time we got back Georgetown looked like Times Square on New Years Eve. What a zoo. There were also too many people on our boat, and the sales pitches started the minute we cast off from the dock. Now, don't get me wrong, I know folks gotta make a living, but you can pretend you are interested in providing an interesting experience, and throw in the photo package and DVD as an added bonus, rather than make it so
obvious your only interest in me is whether or not I'm kicking down $30per, after I've alread paid $50 just for the opportunity to be there.

Stingray City, for those of you who don't know, is a protected cove off the coast of Grand Cayman, where for generations fishermen have come to clean their catch, and throw the scraps overboard. Over the years the wild native stingrays have gotten used to being fed, and very comfortable with people. So, they are not exactly tame (and people do get barbed from time-to-time, usually as a result of doing something stupid), but they aren't aggressive, either. They will come right up to anyone with squid in their hand and suck it in. And they will bump up on you if you don't feed them, rather like a dog begging for a treat. And you can, if you are gentle about it, pick them up, pet them, hug them and kiss them on the nose.

So, we got there and Stingray City was packed. There must have been, minimum, 250-300 people on the sandbar. I had been to Stingray City, back in the day (about 1984), and we were out there with two other small boats, and probably 40 people altogether, and it was pretty cool. Yesterday, it was just a flock of sheep feeding a flock of rays. They kept us packed in, bumping each other, and rays bumping everybody, AND they ran out of squid quick. Kind of annoyed with the whole thing, I wandered off and was doing a lazy backstroke, minding my own business (cuz just having a nice swim in the warm Caribbean can
make any day okay), when the captain started yelling at me to get back with the group. There was yet one more boat trying to get in to anchor and let yet one more bunch out on to the sandbar. And, it wasn't so much that he wanted me to get out of the boats way; I can understand that...but I wish he would have told me to swim over to the other side of the boat, rather than to get back with the group. Clearly, if I had wanted to be with the group, I would have been with the group. I knew where they were. I was TRYING to get away...and he just didn't "get" that...

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad. I did get to fed and pet a few rays, and that's fun. And my friend had never been there, so it was a new experience for her (and one you can't have anyplace else). Of course, on the way back, the guides who totally ignored us when they could see we weren't buying anything, had to give a speech about the importance of tipping...

But - we got back to Georgetown, and by now every ship had disgorged every passenger, and every one of them was looking for a drink, a ride, or a t-shirt. We made several abortive attempts to shop, lunch, and/or get a cab out to Hell, but it was just too chaotic. We decided to just head back and lunch at Cagney's. So we did. About noon.

Lunch was a hamburger for her, and the Ahi tuna burger for me. Feeling we deserved it after Georgetown, we decided dessert was in order as well. I got the marinated berries and mango, she went with the carrot cake. They were both excellent, as were the burgers.

For the afternoon she went off to read, sunbathe and get a manicure. I bopped around looking for something to do, tried to write a little, but wasn't feeling it, and mostly just walked around the ship. Ran into some of my colleagues and had some discussions, and it seemed the consensus that Grand Cayman with this many ships kinda sucks as a cruise port. At one point Tony Winkler, the Hotel Director, sat down with me at the Great Outdoors where I was having a coffee, and we talked for a few minutes, him inquiring how I was enjoying the cruise, and how well Anoop, the Concierge, was taking care of arrangements for me and all that...just a basic schmooze thing, and I didn't think too much about til later...but I'll come back to that.
After sailaway I went to the casino for a minute, had no luck, and went on up to the room to get ready for dinner. When I walked in, it was just WOW!!! Earlier in the afternoon, we had gotten a cheese platter as part of the whole Partners First thing. Nice. But this time, I came in and there were two platters of cheese (brie, gorgonzola, cheddar), fruit (grapes, melon, strawberry, kiwi), and a bottle of Moet and Chandon.

So, we sat on the balcony for a while, watching the ocean, feasting on goodies and have coffe(me) and champagne(her), and decided life doesn't get much better than this. Talked and ate and drank, and lost track to the time. All of a sudden, we were almost late for dinner. We probably would have still been on time, but we managed to rush out the door and both leave our keycards behind...so we had to track down a steward to let us in and retrieve our keys.

Dinner was at the Teppanyaki. Everyone else, including the Captain was already seated when we arrived. I have to admit I got a little thrill out of making Captain Myres wait for me...I just hope I am not persona non grata at this point. hee hee hee.

The Teppan was fabulous. Our chef was funny and skilled, as usual, tossing his utensils and telling jokes and all that. Which would have made it a good dinner, regardless. We had the added bonus of some of the best food I've had in a while. I am not sure when was the last time fried rice really got my attention, but even that was marvelous, as was the miso and salad, the veggie appetizer and the steak and shrimp. All of it was tasty beyond description. And all of it was presented beautifully. Michille got another dozen shots of serious food porn. You really will have to check out the photo album I'll be uploading as soon as I get back home. In the meantime, take my word for it.

After dinner we bopped around looking for something to do...again, there just wasn't much (don't get me wrong, NCL is doing everything they always do, but no one is participating. A great band or DJ with 3 people on the dance floor is just, well....lame). I am seriously starting to think a load of Holland America passengers got on this ship by mistake. However, as we were talking by the pool, we saw them setting up for the White Hot Party, NCL's signature "do". We went back downstairs and my roomie decided to call it a night, and I decided to at least check out the White Hot. Stopped in the Casino and talked to my friend, Pat for a few minutes, then headed up to the pool deck for the party. All I can say is, by the standards of the nightlife on this ship, it was quite jumping. But compared to other ships I've been on...not so much.

But, as I said, it's the biggest crowd of dancers, drinkers and onlookers I've encountered all week, so I decided to dive in. Found some of my friends out on the dance floor and had a good time acting up for a while. So, I am glad I went, but I still made it home by midnite, which is pretty early for me on a cruise.

So, that was my day. Tomorrow is Cozumel, where we're going to swim with some dolphins, and I sincerely hope that is more

like the horses in Jamaica than the stingrays in Cozumel.

I will let you know.