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!

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