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!