12.27.2013

Norwegian GETAWAY Preview Cruise, 1/27/2014 - eDOC DANCE TIME!

Okay, so we are 30 days out.  And I just got my cabin assignment.  I'll be in a Family Oceanview w/Large Picture Window.  While, obviously, I would have liked a balcony, I can work with this.  The family ocean views are 218 square feet, compared to 161 for the regular ocean views.  And in that extra square footage is a couch area AND a much larger bathroom, with double sinks and a bathtub and shower, instead of just a shower.  So, that's cool.  It's in a good location, just aft of the forward elevator and stairs.

So, a quick jaunt up to 678 Ocean Place, where most of the public spaces are.  And since it is January, and New York, I am guessing we'll be staying indoors most of the time.  Which is also why the "no balcony" thing isn't that big a deal...probably too cold to stay out there for long, anyway.

Getting exciting now!  Making plans for dinner with friends and all that jazz.

I really miss the days of yore, when they sent paper documents to your house, and you got to do the Doc Dance.  But, hey, e-Docs are kind of Docs.  And I am dancing on the inside.  Virtually.

Anyway, so, in the next 30 days, I will be spooning out information, as I get it, and of course, will be posting "Live From the Getaway" starting, probably the 26th when I get on a plane.  And posting pics, and tweets and status updates, etc...so STAY TUNED.

12.08.2013

Norwegian GETAWAY Preview Cruise, New York, New York - 1/27-1/29/2014

So, I am fortunate enough to have been invited to the big pre-inaugural festivities aboard the brand new Norwegian Getaway!  Yay, me~!

This will be a two night cruise to nowhere from Manhattan Cruise Terminal, before the ship becomes a hotel during Super Bowl week, and then heads south to Miami for another pre-inaugural event and then begins her regular Miami 7 day itineraries on the 8th of February.

Now, the Getaway is a sister ship to the hugely successful Breakaway that launched last May.  Which I dutifully reported here, as I was on the pre inaugural and the first Bermuda 7 day sailing.  As such, it is nearly identical.  Some of the new venues are radical departures, and some just reflect the Getaway's shot at being "Miami's ship", instead of "New York's ship".

So, instead of a whole series on the various venues, I am just going to go over the differences. 

And, here goes:

First off, I have heard from my sources that several of the menus are being tweaked to reflect a more South Florida/Caribbean/Latin sensibility.  No hot dog carts, like Breakaway.  But there will be another iteration of Carlo's Bake Shop for your cannoli and pastry needs.  And Geoffrey Zakarian will be re-creating Ocean Blue (and the takeaway window will still have Lobster Rolls).


The Manhattan Room, first on the EPIC and then on the Breakaway, is virtually identical on Getaway, but it's now called the Tropicana Room.  The d├ęcor is changed slightly, to harken back to the days of the Fontainebleu, rather than a Manhattan Dinner Club.

Fat Cat's Blues and Jazz Club is becoming "The Grammy Experience".  As part of Norwegians partnership with the Grammys, it will be a Grammy Museum during the day, and at night it will be The Grammy Experience, a blues and jazz club, still, but featuring Grammy winning and nominated musicians.  I gather they will rotate the entertainment more often than Fat Cats.  But, yeah...that should continue be a kickass venue for good music late at night.

And probably the biggest change, in fact a radical departure, is in the room that on Breakaway is the Cirque Dinner and Dreams.  On Getaway this will be The Illusionarium.  I will just quote Norwegians words in describing this:  .

"Come and witness the magical mysteries of the Illusionarium. Built in the late 1800s by the brilliant Professor Vernon Royce, the Illusionarium and its mesmerizing design is a place of amazement and wonder. Once inside, you'll enjoy a remarkable entertainment and dining experience while you're transported to a fantasy world like no other. Along the way, you'll meet a cast of interesting characters and witness world-class magicians, illusionists and mentalists making this a memorable – and magical – experience for all."

I, for one, am pretty stoked.  The whole Cirque thing kinda missed the mark for me.  But Magic and Mentalists?  Love.It!

Other changes:  The Uptown Bar and Grill will become the Flamingo Bar and Grill.  The Martini Bar is now Sugar Cane Mojito Bar.  And of course, the aforementioned menu tweaks.

So, yeah...that is most of what is "different" between Getaway and her predecessor, the Breakaway.

I am dying to get on board and see it all for myself.  And, of course, report it all back to you, live, as it happens.

I have my plane tickets in hand, a list of friends that will be accompanying me, and I am READY TO GO!

Oh, and, lest I forget, I have group space blocked on the Getaway from Miami, pretty much all summer, with exclusive pricing and amenities.  So, call me at 760.265.3687, or contact any of HOLMAN TRAVEL's agents.  You can find them all on Facebook at our special Norwegian's Getaway Page.  Or if you'd rather try the Mexican Riviera this summer... look at Norwegian's Love Mexico.
Later, dudes and dudettes!

10.17.2013

Carnival Miracle, 10/16/13, Puerto Vallarta

Carnival Miracle, 10/16/13, Puerto Vallarta
Good Lord, it's muggy!  By 8 a.m. we were docked and ready to go ashore.  Grabbed the laptop and went in search of wifi, which was, like, right there!  At the restaurant by the Mercado Artesiano.  So I sat down had a cup of coffee and got a little work done.  Then had some chorizo and eggs and got caught up with some friends back home. 
Then decided it was just too hot to walk around much, so I got back on the ship in time for trivia, whereupon I won one more ship on a stick, and a medallion.  So, that's 4 ships in my stick-bound fleet this week.  Grabbed a book and went up to the nearly deserted lido deck and read til lunch time.  Then just decided to take a nap.  By the time I got up for the next trivia, people were starting to come back.  By the time it was over and I headed up to the lido deck for a little iced coffee, the ship was full again and we were heading out to sea.  Rather a short port call.  And tomorrow will be about the same in Cabo.  My cruise staff friend Sarah is telling me it was a bit of a cluster last week as there were not enough tenders.  She assures me this week will go more smoothly.  I hope she is right. 
After watching the sailaway I headed down to read a little more, out on the balcony, and watch the sunset.
Got dressed and went down for dinner.  I was a little early, so I threw another $20 in a poker machine to no avail.  My dinner table was down to the original 3 of us.  I had a "one of each" on the starters...the smoked duck appetizer I always enjoy, a fried shrimp thing that was nice, with a vaguely Thai sauce and cucumber salad garnish, a wilted spinach and portobello mushroom salad that was 'meh', and the "shark and langoustino firecracker roll" which was a tasteless seafood fritter.  For the entree I opted for the seafood Newburgh.  Quite forgettable, all in all.
After dinner I tried in vain to find something interesting, as the piano bar was closed.  There was a deck party on the lido.  Lame.  Korean cover band and a few people dancing.  They were doing Legends tryouts in downstairs.  Equally lame.  So, it seemed a good night to catch up on some sleep.  Hit the rack by midnight, and now it's 7 am, they just announced the tenders are ready to, and I'm heading to Cabo for a bit.
TaTaForNow

10.16.2013

CARNIVAL MIRACLE, 10/15/13, Second Day at Sea

Carnival Miracle, 10/15/13 Second Day at Sea
This is going to be a quick one, as we've pulled in to Puerto Vallarta for our shortened port call, and I am heading out to find breakfast and free wifi.
Yesterday's day at sea consisted of a lot of trivia and reading.  Did add 2 more ships on a stick, and helped my new homegirl to win one more.  We've 6 between us.
I did go to the Comedy Brunch a little later than yesterday and actually heard a comedian.  He did less than 3 minutes of material.  So it's mostly just a disruption to the flow of food.  As a serious fan of stand up that was disappointing.
My table at dinner keeps growing.  We've now added Grace to the mix.  So dinners just get better and better.  Last night, along with excellent conversation, I had a French Onion Soup which was above average, two sushi appy's because they were so tiny, and the braised short ribs.  Got mine with polenta on the side rather than rice.  Extremely tender and tasty.
The remainder of the evening was spent in the piano bar.  Again.
Now, it's off the ship and into the mean streets of Puerto Vallarta!
TTYL

10.15.2013

Carnival Miracle, 10/14/13, First Day At Sea

Carnival Miracle, First Day At Sea

Checking last week I could see a storm headed towards Baja.  And yesterday afternoon the Captain told us we would be deviating from our normal course a little, to avoid said storm.  Yesterday, just before noon, apparently the storm was given a name.  Octave has gathered strength, and decided to be right along the coast.  So, in a series of announcements we were told they are re-arranging the itinerary.  Today will be another day at sea, we will hit Puerto Vallarta on schedule Wednesday, leave
a couple hours earlier than planned, and go to Cabo Thursday instead of today.  As I had no particular plans ashore, it's all good.  Some of my fellow cruisers are in a bit of a tizzy about excursions, but I am sure they'll get it figured out.  And Cabo will be shortened a couple hours, so we can make it back to Long Beach more or less on time Saturday. 

I am giving the Captain very high marks for making 3 announcements as changes were made, and for having a letter delivered to every stateroom, detailing all the changes.  Personally, I wouldn't mind running thru the storm, cuz I like that sort of thing.   The Captain also said we would probably run thru the southwest quadrant during the late night hours, so to be careful out on open decks and whatnot.  So, we'll get some rocking and rolling during the night.  Fifteen foot seas aren't THAT big a deal.  Though coupled with 40-50 knot winds, it might put a damper on some people's party.  And heading west around the storm allowed us to stay in warm, sunny weather all day, so that's a plus. And, of course, while Cabo isn't getting hit by the full force of the storm, it's going to be raining, windy and kinda ugly there today.  By Thursday it should be lovely.

Got up about 7.  Slept like a baby.  Nice thing about the detour is the captain is putting on the speed.  So there is lots of vibration and movement.  Did a little writing and missed the first trivia of the day.  Went to the Comedy brunch.  Sat with a couple of nice couples.  No comedians in evidence.  But the breakfast was passable.  What they called Huevos Rancheros, but appeared to be a chicken quesadilla with fried eggs and pico de gallo on top.  Pretty sure George Lopez didn't approve the menu.  We're kinda from the same neighborhood, and that ain't Huevos Rancheros.  But, like I said, pretty tasty. 

Finished up with brunch in time for the digital scavenger hunt.  My team sucked.  What can I say.  And then on to the Progressive Trivia.  This is a week long competition.  No team mates for me.  I'm gonna win it all by myself.Went up to the buffet for a late lunch.  It was pretty sucky too, until I find out Asian section.  The food there was flavorful and fresh.  Had some fish in a black bean sauce and a beef stir fry. 

Chilled by the pool for a while and then hooked up with my girls from the piano bar for a general trivia.  We probably would have won, except for the blatantly illegal team of 12 people across the way...so, still no ship on a stick.  But next up was a 70's music trivia.  Ditched the teammates and did
that one on my own.  Kicked ASS.  Finally got the coveted ship!  Not just because I won, but I have to say this was the funnest trivia contest yet.  A rather large and diverse crowd singing along and dancing and gettin' their groove on.  And not all just "pop" songs.  We had some Al Green and Barry White, some WAR.HUH.WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR.  Bowie and Jackson 5.  The Carpenters and Elvis.  Pretty much all over the lot.  And Christopher the Canuckian Cruise Staffer had a lot of fun with the crowd.

I was just gonna chill for a while but I ran into my little Asian TA friend, and she talked me into getting dressed early and going to the Captains party thing.  So, I did.  Got all spiffed for dinner, 3 hours early (it was Elegant Night or whatever), came back down to the atrium to find her and her husband there.  In shorts.  And flip flops.  They got hung up on karaoke or something and decided to meet the captain, and THEN dress for dinner.  Thanks for that.   So I dropped a couple more
dollars in the casino, just to confirm it wasn't happening for me, and gave up to go watch the sunset on my balcony and drink coffee til dinner time.

Got down to dinner just in time to miss the line.  I had a stuffed white mushroom appetizer, greek salad and the wonderful roasted pumpkin soup ahead of the lobster and shrimp entree.  Shortly after we ordered Ed and Anastasia, a couple of friends from the piano bar the previous night came strolling by and decided to join us for dinner.  Not clear what happened to their regular table, but we had a good time exchanging stories in a bit quieter atmosphere.

After dinner 3 of us headed to the piano bar for another night with Derek.  When we got there the place was packed, but over the next two hours the crowd dwindled down to just 4 patrons, the piano man and Anett the bartender.  So it was more talking than singing.  We finally got into the rough seas at the edge of Octave, and I think that might have had something to do with folks bailing out early.  It was pretty rocky rolly there for a bit.  Even woke me up once about 3am.  But as I wake this morning it's calmed considerably, so it should be a nice day.

Let me find out, and get back to you!

10.14.2013

Carnival Miracle, 10/13/13 BOARDING DAY

Boarding Day

So, first off I got to the terminal in Long Beach at 1pm.  Later than I normally would, thinking the first rush of cruisers would already be boarded.  Boy was I wrong.

 Apparently the Miracle had some issue with Customs clearance, and hadn't even started boarding when I got there.  The line, for those of you familiar with the Long Beach cruise terminal, went out the door, across the plaza, and into the Queen Mary parking lot.  So, over an hour just to get to the front door of the terminal.  The wait was made bearable by 4 lovely elderly Englishwomen who were on a two week holiday to the colonies.  They had flown in from San Francisco in the morning.  None had
ever sailed Carnival and upon learning I was a travel agent, had a million questions.  Their previous cruising experience was limited to Princess, P&O, and Fred Olsen.

So, finally got thru the line, thru security and onto the ship.  My first impression is that she is quite nicely decorated.  More subdued than many Carnival ships, with the exception of the Bacchus Main Dining Room which has ghastly purple grape clusters for lights.  The Lido pool area is nice, with darkish wood paneling.  The elevators doors have a woman done with a woodcut effect (I'll get pictures and video later) that is beautiful.  The promenade area is all very quiet and elegant.  And the Gatsby's Garden, though I've no idea what it's for, is beautiful.

Got up to my room, Cabin 5141, a balcony on Upper Deck.  Typical balcony room with a double bed, full size couch, 3 closets, etc.  The balcony is average size, but I lucked in to a brilliant location.  The ship narrows in the center, in three steps moving back from the bridge.  I am in that third indentation.  So I have one neighbor forward, but the neighbor aft is set back from me.  So it's quiet, and very well protected from the wind while under way.

So far the guests seem to be evenly split between travel agents and 1st time cruisers.  I've run into two agents that I know, and I think I'll be changing dinner tables because one agent I met on a ship inspection two weeks ago is right next to me, and I spent most of dinner last night talking over my shoulder to her and her
husband.

Anyway, back to the story.  After finding my room, I took a long walk around the ship, getting oriented.  I've been on two sisters to this one, so that was pretty easy.  She's laid out in a pretty straightforward manner with the spa, pools and buffet up on the Lido Deck and all the other public rooms down on decks two and three.

 Then it was time for muster drill which went quickly, and by the time it was done, my bag had arrived.  Got myself unpacked and took another stroll around the deck, wasting time until dinner.  Dropped a $20 in a poker machine just to see how my luck would be, and decided I am not gambling much this week. Even though the casino is huge, and very spread out.  Did a "Name That Song" trivia and got 33/40.  Winner was 36.  So, you know...close but no cigar.

I have late dining at 8:15.  Went up a little before 8 got dressed and headed to the dining room and remembered why I so much prefer Freestyle cruising.  The line at 8:13 was as long as the line to get on the ship.  One of the odd things about the Spirit Class is the single dining room.  It really is a nightmare in terms of crowd control.  So I found a seat in the hallway, and waited 5 minutes for the line to go down.  Got to my table, which is all the way back against the full length aft window.  It would be beautiful at the early seating, but with the sun down for an hour, the view was somewhat lacking. I started with a smoked salmon and candied apple appetizer.  That was excellent.  Then a gazpacho andoulouse.  Insipid.  A brisket entree that almost chewed itself it was so tender.  Seriously, it just about dissolved when hit with a fork.  So that was excellent.  I didn't stay for dessert, because the other thing I dislike on Carnival is all the announcements and singing and dancing at dinner time.  Sorry, but it's just so lame.  And quite annoying for the Maitre d' to spend 15 minutes on a bad sound sytem telling the same jokes they were telling on the Tropicale in 1981.

After dinner I went over to the Piano Bar.  I am pretty sure that's where you'll find me every night this week.  The piano player on this cruise is Derek Wayne.  Good piano player, and with a ton of personality, and REALLY knows how to work a crowd.  It was the first night, so there wasn't a huge number, but I am guessing it will grow as the week goes on.  He's just very engaging, talking with people, making jokes, putting together weird medleys.  A true entertainer.

So, yeah...hung out there til 12:30ish.  By then the long day was catching up to me, so I bid the remaining piano barbarians good night and headed home to sit on the balcony a bit before turning in.

Tomorrow is a full day at sea.  Probably find a trivia contest somewhere.  I'll keep you posted!

10.10.2013

Carnival Miracle, Mexican Riviera, Oct 13-19, 2013

Okay, so Carnival Cruise Line, in their bid to woo back the travel agent community, is giving away something like 10,000 cruises to travel agents.  During the first round I didn't bother to get in, because the only thing they had from Long Beach were 3 and 4 day Inspiration cruises.  Frankly...been there/done that, and the Fantasy class vessels all just need to be retired.

But in the 2nd round they had one 6 day Mex Riviera on the Carnival Miracle, so I gave it a shot, and YAY, ME!  I got it.  So, I'll be heading out Sunday and down to Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta.

I am looking forward to it, overall, but I have to tell you, this very program is a perfect example of why many in the travel agent community have quit selling Carnival, or at least quit promoting it.  (I am in the second group - I will sell them, but I don't go out of my way to promote them).  You see, with most travel suppliers, like cruise lines, resorts and tour operators, there is always a way to get in touch with another human being, either by phone or by email, to get answers or resolve issues.

 This is true of all the other cruise lines, and even of the other brands under Carnival Corp/PLC.  But Carnival is so intent on being the biggest and cheapest, they completely refuse to communicate, person to person, with what should be their biggest sales force. 

There is one exception, and that would be John Heald, Carnivals Brand Ambassador and CD di tutti CD's.  He is most accessible and responsive.  Sadly, most of the issues Travel Agents deal with don't come under his purview.  

When this thing came up, I put in my request, and then sent, immediately, several emails to the address listed on the site.  I explained that, ideally, I would like a wheelchair accessible triple cabin, and in the alternative, any wheelchair accessible cabin.  My thinking was that I would take my mother and brother along with me.  And if we couldn't get all three of us in one stateroom, I would pay for a cabin for the 3rd person, or just leave mom at home. 

I do understand that 3/4 occupancy wheelchair cabins are scarce, and it's close to sailing.  But, see, I didn't hear a word back from them.  Ever.  So, finally, today, the 10th of October, 3 days before sailing, I was contacted to make the small payment (They always have enough staff for that), and was told I absolutely could not have a wheelchair accessible cabin, or any cabin other than what was assigned. 

Which again, wouldn't be so bad, but there are, to my certain knowledge, not 1 but 3 empty wheelchair accessible cabins on this ship, 3 days prior to sailing.  Yeah...THREE.  So, their effort to embrace the Travel Agent Community is falling a little short already. 

You see, had they contacted me a couple weeks ago, and just said, "No", I wouldn't be scrambling around today, making sure I had my house in order, so I could leave on Sunday.  I would have had everything in place.  It's the not knowing that's a problem.  It's the not communicating that's the problem. 

Sure, they will get some good P.R. out of this big giveaway, but they almost certainly will not get a lot of goodwill from TA's.  Which is their basic problem.  They really think looking good to the public is more important than getting the sales force excited about selling them.  And that's completely backwards. I know from running salesman.  It never mattered if what I was selling at the time was solid gold or solid crap -  if the sales force was excited, they could sell it.  Again, they think that customers having direct access to a Cruise Director to ask favors is more important than assigning an inside sales person to an agency until AFTER the agency reaches a certain level of sales.  Which is RIDICULOUS in this day and age.  Having just started a new agency, I can't tell you how often business development people reach out to me, from every supplier, trying to GET US to a certain level of sales.  And that's the person I would turn to right now with any other supplier.  Because, when all else fails, that's the one person that can, at the very least point you in the right direction.  And whose sole job is to keep you happy, productive and selling their company.  But Carnival doesn't think I am important enough.

Anyway, so, I'll be heading down to Long Beach on Sunday and check it out.  I have never been on the Carnival Miracle, but I have cruised on her sistership, the Spirit, and toured another sister, the Legend.  Both are miles away nicer ships than the Fantasy class.  I'll be posting, as I am wont to do, every morning whilst I am away, and I invite you all to join me for a vicarious cruise adventure!

TaTa Til Sunday!

9.24.2013

Norwegian SUN, Let's Do Lunch, 09/23/2014

I attended another Let's Do Lunch with Norwegian Cruise Line.  This time on the Sun.  I was especially interested in checking her out since I have a group going on her in May for a Pacific Coastal cruise, and I am also organizing EWES CREWES II, a group of travel agent friends that are active on NCL U, Norwegians training program, and on a Facebook Group.

So, I got there about 10:15 for a 10:30 start time.  Milled around outside the terminal as security tried to track down "the list".  Finally got it, and got everyone checked in, and let us up on the ship 10:45ish.  BDM's Mo Adams from NorCal and Jackie Day from SoCal greeted us and gave an overview of the agenda, and then they split the group in 3 for the tour portion, and I was with Rose, the Hotel Director's secretary.  We looked at all the various cabin categories.  Nothing especially notable, cabin wise...pretty standard stuff.  Then we hit some of the main public areas.  Overall impression:  The ship is spotless.  There is no hint that she is 12 years old.  The other overall impression:  She was not built for Freestyle cruising, as the ships from Jewel since were.  In order to provide all the alternative dining, etc, a lot of retrofitting and jamming in has been done.  They've actually done a pretty good job of it, but it's a little disjointed, with various restaurants in various places, nothing like Bar Central on the later ships, etc.  At 77,000grt and only 2,000 passengers, I don't think it will take long to get used to where everything is, and, as far as I am concerned, being on a smaller ship with fewer people makes up for maybe having to spend an extra minute getting my bearings and finding a venue.
The one venue that totally stands out is the Observation Lounge.  At the front of the ship, with floor to ceiling windows, 180degrees around.  Just like the Spinnaker Lounge they foolishly removed from the Star. I think that one room is what makes it a brilliant choice for Alaska, where she spends her summers.  The Pacific Coastal cruise (Los Angeles to Vancouver) I am going on is nearly as scenic as Alaska, and we're going in May when the weather from San Francisco up is pretty dicey.  So I can see spending some time in there, rather than up on deck as we go under the Golden Gate Bridge, or into the mouth of the Columbia River for Astoria.  And especially thru the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, getting to Victoria and Vancouver.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my favorite casino hostess, Nissa, has been promoted to Executive Casino Hostess aboard the Sun.  She tells me the Sky will be her ship soon.  My guess is she'll move up that ladder and be back on a flagship soon.  Some of the other agents were surprised when she ran up and gave me a hug, and we talked a bit.  Understand, most of the agents on these ship inspections are really new in the business and getting ship inspections done as they work on their Accredited Cruise Counselor designation from the Cruise Line Industry Association.  They don't realize Norwegian is actually a pretty small company, and that after 7 years I have gotten to know an awful lot of people there.

For lunch I had a spare rib appetizer that was fabulous, the loaded baked potato soup from Cagney's that was not enough, and a rib eye steak from Il Adagio that was nicely done, if too thin a cut to get actually rare.  Or to get rare AND grill marks.  Oh, well.  Desert was something chocolate that I took one bite of, and just couldn't take the sugar overload.

During lunch, one the BDM's, Jackie Day, spotted my friend Klaus Lugmaier, and asked him to come over and say a few words.  Rather like the casino scene, he spotted me and walked over to say hi and shake hands and ask a few questions.  The rookie agent table mates were REALLY impressed with that. Sorry, but I just get a kick out of these things.  And, again, a guy like Klaus is just great at remembering peoples names, which is one of the reasons he's moved up the ladder at Norwegian.  It's also quite amazing how he seems to be EVERYWHERE. 

So, after lunch they cut us loose for an hour of self-inspection.  We didn't make it to the Splash Academy during our guided tour, and I had some requests to get some pictures, so I tracked that down, but they wouldn't let me in, so I had to settle for some pictures from the hall.  From what I could see it is a nice, airy space.  And if you are cruising the Sun with kids, absolutely get a cabin on Deck 7.  Very convenient.

By that time, it was, sad to say, time to leave.  So I did.  But I am really looking forward to returning to the Sun next May.  While I really love the EPIC and the Breakaway, and like all the stuff the larger ships have to offer, there is a part of me that also thinks ships are getting too big, and I think 6 nights on a more intimate scale will be just the thing.

If you'd like to join me in May, call 760.265.3687 or email daveholman@verizon.net.  Of find me on Facebook or Twitter.  Look for  HOLMAN TRAVEL.  We're everywhere.  Just like Klaus.

8.14.2013

Finally Taking the Plunge, capitolo tre, THE TWIST

And, now we get down to it:  The thing that all my former hosts have been missing.  The new thing we are doing with Holman Travel:

Working and living in the 21st Century. 

Yeah.  You see, for all their high tech geegaws, even those big host agencies are hopelessly stuck in the 20th.  They actually sell their agents WEBSITES!!!  We, on the other hand, are harnessing this new thing called "social media".  That's where all the people UNDER 60 are hanging out these days.  For  $20 bucks a month they will sell you a website that is identical to their other 1000 agents websites, so NO ONE will ever find you!  I, on the other hand, have all my people set up Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, Pinterest or Instagram for their photos, get LinkedIn, and encourage them to participate in groups and forums and ask.fm and stuff like that.  And I show them how to grow that Page.  I have 600 and some odd fans.  Why would I waste my time with an email campaign when I can get 600 people to see my promo with 5 seconds work?  I have 380 Twitter followers...doesn't sound like much, but they are real people.  My Klout score as of right now is 60.  It has been as high as 68, when I am traveling and blogging.  Got a 31 on PeerIndex.  And @Kred gives me a 629/5.  So, yeah...I can help you use social media to build your business.

As I said in the beginning, I've been in the business since 2007.  I've had my FB Page and a Twitter account since 2007.  Back before most people had heard of either.  I think Zuckerberg was still working on his first billion then.

Since then, I have assiduously cultivated Social Media for my business.  That is where 90% of my bookings come from.  I've learned some things (and will share them with you, if you join the team).  I am not going to talk about them here.  They aren't completely played out yet, like the WebSite thing is.  I am constantly looking for new ways to harness the internet to make money.  As I learn them, I share them.  Since I am no longer on the retail side, I've no reason to not tell my agents.

And along with the software side, we embrace the hardware end, too.  I, personally, own a desktop, a laptop, a netbook and a smart phone.  A good 90% of my business is done on my phone.  I can search a supplier, make a booking and take a credit card payment, all from my phone.  I no longer consider myself a "Home Based Agent" (something else that is soooo 20th Century).  Me and my team are the next new thing:  MOBILE AGENTS.  We don't have to be in an office.  We don't have to be in our homes.  We can do this from a coffee bar, or a baseball game, or a concert!  Most importantly, we can do this from a ship or a resort anywhere in the world!  Because we are MOBILE.

So, yeah...that's kind of "it":  We are Social and we are Mobile.  It's up to you - you can join us here in the new millennium or you can cruise your AOL chat rooms and send people to your website.  whatever. ;-)

Oh, yeah...and we know how to work smileys.


Finally Taking the Plunge, pt duex

So, yeah...corporations can't be good Host Agencies.

On the other hand, your friends can be worse.  After leaving ECSC, I bopped around, placing bookings with various people, mostly to help new Hosts get their numbers up.  Finally kind of settled in with an agent I had known for a couple years.  Or thought I did.  She knew from Day One that I wasn't there for the long haul, and that I intended to break out on my own.  Her right hand girl of many years said the same thing.  She always told us both that when we were ready, she would let us go, with her blessing.  And, you know...she was paying me 100% commission, so it's not like she was losing anything.  She kind of kept me on the outside of her core group, which was fine with me.  I really prefer NOT to be all up in people's business.  But things started getting weird and political, so me and her right hand started making plans to form our own agency.  And we did.  And then the shit started REALLY flying.  I shant bore you with all the sordid details, because it is pretty sordid.

 So, here we are:  Bridges & Holman Worldwide Travel!  Pretty lofty name.  I run the Host side as Holman Travel, because, well, it's easier to remember.  For me.

And let me tell you what I have done:  As in everything in my life, I have harnessed my varied experience, put in place some of the things that made all of those Hosts good.  Removed all the things that made those Hosts bad, and come up with a little twist of my own.

First off, I am small potatos, and will always stay that way.  I don't believe bigger is better.  I am going beyond even Peter Stilphen in maintaining a personal touch.  My agents have my home phone number, my address, my email.  We have a secret Facebook Group that I check in several times a day.   If anyone wants to know how Holman Travel does things, they can ASK HOLMAN!  Not some faceless office drone who takes several hours to respond to a voice- or e-mail. 

I will find 100 good agents, or create them.  And that is all I will ever carry.  See, in my previous business, a cleaning supply distributorship, I trained salesman literally, off the street.  I am good at it.  I have been a closer and team leader, developing new car salesman.  I am good at it.  That, more than anything else, is what I bring to the table.  If you are brand new in the industry, or just sorta new, I will work with you and develop your talent.  It is my hope that, every year, a few people who came to me as new agents, leave me and go off on their own, to make room for new people at the bottom rung.  I have no problem with that.  Conversely, if you are an experienced agent with a $1million dollar book of business already, you will keep more of your money working with me than with any other Host Agency in North America.  True fact.

Second off, I am not looking to make a lot of money.  Fact is, I am okay, financially.  I have created a commission structure that is fairly unique.  It is based on the commission structure at the first real estate office I worked in about 100 years ago.  We start new agents at 70% for their first $5000 in earned commission.  I know that sounds a little low, but some place put newbies at 50%, so...and, let's face it...it's getting someone to their first $5000 that takes a lot of my time and effort.  After that, most travel agents pretty well know what they are doing and don't need a lot of input from their Host.

After the $5,000, commission goes to 90% for the next $20,000 in earned commission.  Now, 90% is as far as any host I know will go.  Period.  But, me...I'm a nice guy.  After you have $25,000 in earned commissions, you are at 100% for the rest of the year.

 In your second year it drops back to 90% for the first $25,000, and then to 100%.  Yeah.  100% commission, with no monthly fee and no annual fee.  Bottom line is, if you start with me, today, and earn $25,000 in commissions in the next year, you will pay me $3500 total.  If you earn $50,000, you will pay me $3500.  If you earn a million dollars this year, you will pay me $3500. 

And the second year, you will pay $2,500.  Total.  All year.  No added fees, monthly, annually, or for access to programs and services.

Really, it doesn't get better than that.  Especially for some of you Big Dogs.  Even at 90%, you are getting screwed.  Why are you paying your Host $5 or $10,000 a year?  It just doesn't cost that much to run a host agency. 

So, yeah, we've got the family feel, and we've got the best commission structure...but do we have the goods?  After all, those big corporate guys all have higher commission percentage, right?  And all that great software for booking and marketing and customer relationship management, right?  I can't compete with that, can I? 

Well...yes.  Yes I can.  How about I aggregate your sales with 10,000 other agents in 3000 companies?  You only have to be so big to hit the top, you know?  And with my affiliations, we get bonus commissions, value added amenities, and all the things you need to compete with the majors.

How about a cruise booking engine designed by TravStar?  How about I get you commissionable domestic air ticketing?  How about a hotel booking site where you can set your own commission level, and add a service fee if you want?  Maybe turnkey marketing emails?  Where you keep your customer database to yourself, so you don't have to worry about anyone accessing your clients?  How about direct mail with 150 pieces, free.  And more, for cheap?

I set up webinars with suppliers for just my company, so you can stay up to date on the latest information.  Seriously, there is nothing Expedia or Nexion can do for you that I can't.  All they can do is charge you money.  I will get it for you, free to you.

So, yeah...what are you waiting for?  Honestly - if you are new to the business, don't you want someone who is committed to holding your hand and walking you thru it for the first little while?  Don't you want to belong to a community of agents that are, really, a team and a family? 

And if you are an experienced agent, I just have to do the reality check question:  If you thought you could make more money, faster, and with exactly the same tools you are using now, would you switch to a new Host?  If you said "Yes", give me a call at 760.265.3687.  If you actually read the question and said "NO", please don't ever call me.  You're just being silly.

Finally Taking The Plunge

So, pretty much since I got in to the travel business in 2007, I have known I wanted to be a Host Agency someday.  Back then, I thought maybe 3 years as a front line agent.  But this never ending recession has put a lot of plans on hold.  I just never quite felt like I had the cushion, financially, to take the leap of faith that starting a new business requires.  Having started many businesses in my lifetime, I knew what I needed.

And finally - I got there.  Yay, me?!

To give you a little background (because most of you know how I came to be a home-based travel agent in the first place, and if you don't, READ THE BIO) - I have worked, now, under 3 different Hosts.  The first, Coral Sands, is a 500 agent or so operation out of LaBelle, Florida, run by one Peter Stilphen.  I settled on Coral Sands after a couple months of research.  I liked that he maintains a casual, personal touch in his business.  I like that he is an outspoken smartass who is constantly goading other segments of the industry with his blogs and newsletters.  I like that he doesn't step over the Independent Contractor line and try to act like his agents have to do everything thru him.  I also like his fee/commission structure.  So, I was rolling merrily along, running most of my business thru Coral Sands, and working some side deals with other Hosts and Suppliers.  I was perfectly content there, and really had no complaints about my Host.  I would have continued for a few more years, and then branched out on my own.

But then, one day, Peter woke up with a bad case of stupid, and decided to merge his company with Expedia CruiseShipCenters/OVC.  Now, I am guessing he will read this at some point, and won't even be bothered at what I just said.  Because, skipping forward a couple years, almost immediately AFTER I plunged in and spent 100's of hours and thousands of dollars getting everything lined up to open my new Host Agency, I got an email from Peter.  He has pulled back out of ECSC and is restarting Coral Sands.  Had he come to that decision just a few months earlier, I would be back with him, no doubt.  The funny thing is that all his reasons for leaving are exactly the reasons I left ECSC a year ago.

Corporations just can't be Host Agencies.  They just can't.  And Expedia is just too big.  Which means they have huge overhead, as all Corporacracies do.  And all that overhead, deadweight, bloated and non-productive staff has to be paid for.  No way to do that but to charge high fees and pay low commissions.  And, of course, all those corporacrats have to justify their positions by constantly getting in the way of the front line agents trying to make a living selling travel.  So you are bombarded with useless information.  In their proprietary, fee-based email system.  And you have to try to use their proprietary, fee-based booking and CRM programs, which, again, are designed for bloat, and not for work.  And they get in the way of the agents relationships with the suppliers.  Peter never had a problem with his independent contractors reaching out to supplier sales reps to ask questions or favors or get things done.  About a week into my time with Expedia, I sent an email and asked who my business development person was with a cruise line.  The reply, 5 hours later was "Why do you want to know?".  That was followed up by a phone call telling me that "they preferred" I sent requests to the office and the office would coordinate with the suppliers.  Needlessly inserting themselves and slowing everything down.  Right then I knew I had a problem.  And when I asked him in that same phone call how they felt about me working with agents from other companies on large groups, I could hear his sphincter tighten all the way from Florida to California.  That is something I have done routinely.  I know agents all over the place, and we've been able to put groups together, let one or the other run it thru their host, and split the commission out.  Never had a problem.  But that day, I knew I had a problem.  So, within just a couple months of joining Expedia, I was plotting my escape.  Moving bookings to friends, waiting til I had next to nothing on the books for them to screw me out of, and went on my merry way.

THAT is why, I don't care what you say, Corporations CANNOT be good Hosts.  I know some of you are saying you found the exception, but you are wrong.  You are paying too much, getting lousy service, and not receiving ANY benefit that a "mom and pop" Host can't give you, by way of consortiums and affiliations.  All that wonderful tech they talk about and try to convince you is unique?  Everyone has access to it, or something like it.  Free.  And where it's not completely free, a good Host can get it and share it, so it's free TO YOU.  Why would you pay $29/month for CRM when you can get that identical CRM for free?  You wouldn't.  But the corporation has convinced you it's wonderful and unobtainable without paying them the $29 every month.  They're lying.

TO BE CONTINUED

6.22.2013

New Book, now on Amazon!

Okay, this has been six years in the making.  I have taken all my "live from..." postings from various ships, and compiled it into a lovely, lovely book.  Which you can buy.  And which you SHOULD buy.

Really.  I have labored and sweat and done my best to bring the cruise experience, as I experience it, to you.  Live.  Taken time I should be having fun, and/or sleeping, to share with you.  And now, instead of paging thru this blog, you can have it all at your fingertips.

Perfect summer reading material!

And only $12.95!!!

Get">http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-author=Mr%20David%20Holman&linkCode=ur2&search-alias=books&sort=relevancerank&tag=daveholmtrav-20">Get My Book~!
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6.06.2013

Carnival Inspiration, Day Two - Ensenada

I usually like to keep these posts chronological, but I have to start today with dinner last night.  It was, possibly, the most bizarre meal I've ever experienced on a cruise ship.
It started with arriving to the dining room at 5:45.  It was just the 3 of us, but I had spoken with the other 4, and they were making their way up.  But the hostess refused to seat us until we were all together.  Maneuvering the wheelchair around to get out of line took about 3 minutes.  By the time we got to the back of the (short) line, the other 4 were already standing there.  So, that wasted five minutes.  Then we were seated and served by a crew of whirling dervishes that either had dental appointments at 7 or were bucking for a bonus by turning the table 5 times/night instead of 3.  Seriously, the most common complaint about dinner service is too slow.  I wish these guys would slow down.  I was asked if I was thru with my shrimp cocktail while I still had the last shrimp on the fork.  The dressing for my salad was brought...then the soup...then the salad guy was standing behind me with the salad in hand as I finished my soup.  By the time the entree arrived, several nanoseconds after we were seated, it was getting freeking annoying.  And of course this is Carnival, so we had several photographers interrupting the precious moments we were allowed to eat.  Finally snapped on one of them and told him our religion forbids graven images and I was going to have to kill the next photographer that stopped at our table, in order to protect my soul.  Of course, at that moment asst waiter #7 tried to take my bread plate, while I was still working on my entree.  So I slapped his hand and told him to take a break. 
I think they all finally got the message, and we finished our meal in relative peace and at a normal pace.  The headwaiter even dropped an extra dessert of tiramisu for everyone to share.  I assume as a peace offering.  So, yeah...I am not really in a position to write about the quality of the food, because I don't remember it much.

Anyway...We started our day in a much happier place.  The cat herd was actually lined up and ready to go ashore at 10:30 as planned.  We took a shuttle into town.  The driver, of course, tried to hustle a Bufadora tour, but was a good sport and delivered us right on to the main drag instead of making us cross the highway from the regular shuttle stop.  So that was nice.  We proceeded up the road, me dodging vendors, my sister engaging every single one of them, until we got to Papas & Beer, at which time my brother and I went in to enjoy a drink and nachos and a soccer game whilst the rest of them tried to buy all the cheap crap in Baja.  Twoish, we headed back to the ship with all our crap.  It was a lovely, sunny day, and most of the rest of the day was spent around the pool and the waterslides watching the kids.  And intermittent snacks from the burger grill and the mongolian grill and the deli grill, etc.
This went on til the aforementioned dinner.
After dinner, there is nothing much to do.  Because of the late port call in Ensenada there is no production show.  The casino is closed.  It's the piano guy's day off.  I guess if you don't want to get shitfaced in Hussong's, you're pretty much SOL on this particular night.  Certainly Carnival isn't up for providing alternatives.
Finally found karaoke in the lounge for an hour.  It was good, I guess.  Turned in early.
Tomorrow - Day at Sea.

6.05.2013

Carnival Inspiration, Day One - Catalina

Chilly and overcast this morning.  June Gloom we call it here on the Left Coast.
Up at 6 to do a little writing, smoking and caffeine-level-increasing. 
Traveling with this family is a bit like herding cats, but once I got everyone in one place at the same time (about 10:30), Chris and the kids and I went over on the tender to Avalon.  We rented a golf cart to take a ride around the island.  After 4 ATM stops.  For some reason my card is deciding to be inscrutable, and the locals won't take a credit card for a deposit.  They'd actually rather have $40 than an open credit card...go figure.  But I finally acquired the necessary scratch, and off we went.  It's the best way to see Catalina.  Narrow roads wind up thru the hills around town, and there is another scenic vista and turnout around every corner.  So we did that, and made a little detour to the Botanic Garden.  Though smallish, the botanic garden in Avalon has many native and indigenous California plants that are seen but rarely on the mainland.  I've been a few times, and it's well worth the time to stroll through.
I had left mom and Steve sitting by the pool, so I needed to head back to the ship, but the others stayed behind to sit on the beach and do a little shopping and such.  As I said, I've been to Catalina enough times to not really need to spend time doing the tourist thing.
Got back in time for a little lunch by the pool.  It was still overcast, but warming up.  We enjoyed the music for a bit and just as we were heading to lay Steve down, the keikes showed up.  So we stayed a little longer and watched them frolic in the icy cold, unheared pool.  And the jacuzzi that can hold, apparently, 357 children at once.  I wasn't even tempted to join in either.
After a bit of a laydown, it was over to a sports trivia contest.  We got 16/20.  17 won.  Pretty sure they cheated.  Not sure how, though.
Then it was time to dress for dinner.  Elegant (lobster) Night.  WooHoo.  Whatever.
Since we got our dining changed to Your Time, we presented ourselves at 6ish in the Mardi Gras dining room.  They were quite obviously expecting us.  Straight to our table.  The waiter, Wilfredo, was fabulous.  He called everyone by name, immediately we sat down.  He even got the boys' right, the first time!  Since the younger one is bigger than the elder, even people who know them mess it up from time to time.
On the menu were alligator fritters, which we all shared an order.  Except me.  I have a thing about reptiles and dough.  I had the Greek Salad, and Pumpkin Soup and the Prime Rib.  Cruise ship lobsters are just not worth the effort, to me.  I can get them back home for $5 a piece at WinCo.
The prime rib was good.  Nothing to write home about.  Should have gone for the ribs.  A couple of them ordered ribs and they were excellent.  And plentiful.  In fact, I shared in a couple of them.  So, then...dessert and coffee, and time for the casino.
Again, nothing.  The poker machines are just hateful to me this week.  Stuck our head in the main show lounge, but that didn't seem interesting.  Steve decide it was time to call it a night.  So I dropped him down, and headed back to the casino, until piano bar time.  Poker was still being ornery.  Decided to try a slot machine.  Randomly picked one, because I saw my new piano bar friend, Deb.  Sat down and start hitting all kinds of stuff.  Deb said she had just got up from that machine and it gave her nothing.  I made $10 last over an hour.  I did finally succeed in losing my $10, but I was up over $50 a couple times.
Finally, the piano bar was open, and my man, Tom Grable, aka Tommy  G was in fine form.  We got the place a little crowded for a while.  But it thinned out again, midnite-ish, and by 1am it was back down to just a few of us hard-core cases, so he shut it down, and I called it a night, and headed to bed.

Tomorrow, Ensenada! 
Hasta Luego, mi amigos!

6.04.2013

Carnival Inspiration, Boarding Day

Got down to the Port of Long Beach about 11:30.  Boarding was pretty much effortless.  Once they opened the lines at noon, we were on board in less than half an hour.
Took a little walk around the ship.  I have to say, I remember why I like smaller ships.  My last few cruises have been on ships twice the size of the Carnival Inspiration.  While the big ships have the advantage of more stuff, like pools and bigger water parks and buffets, and more places to eat, the smaller ships are definitely easier to get around, and the smaller passenger complement means you get to know everyone after a couple days.
And this is my 5th Fantasy class Carnival ship.  So, I pretty much know every nook and cranny.  While they are old and completely obselete, they are also very well laid out and easy to navigate.  Especially important with the 80 year old Momster, who get's lost rather easily.
So, we got onboard, tooled around a little, had a lite bite in the buffet and went to our cabin.  It's big enough, though the accessible bathroom does take up space, so you lose the couch, which makes it fun for 3 people to find a place to sit.  I don't anticipate spending much time there, so it's all good.
After lunch and unpacking, the kids wanted to hit the pool, of course.  So, we did that.  The sun was finally burning thru the haze, so it was pleasant by the pool.  I have to say I am ambivalent about the loss of a live band by the pool with all the Carnival cutbacks.  While I like a live band, the piped in music was at least good tunes.
First speed bump:  Somehow, when I moved the sister and her kids to an oceanview from an inside, our confirmed Your Time Dining got lost.  We were waitlisted.  When we boarded, our keys said Late Dining.  Not gonna happen.  Mom and Steve don't even stay away til 8 pm.  So, I went to the dining room to talk to the Maitre d'.  He was completely uninterested in my plight and bored with his job.  So, I cranked up the Machine, blasted emails and messages and posts to everyone I know at Carnival.  A hearty thanks to Mischelle.  She came thru for me.  At dinner, with the three of us who made it, said Maitre d' came to the table and quite obviously informed my sister that we've been changed to Your Time. It was pretty funny, actually.  Not sure why he wouldn't speak to me, or make eye contact, but, frankly, I don't care.  I just want to get things done.  And I did.
Anyway, back to the story...after frolicking in the pool, it was time for Muster Drill.  I really think Carnival needs to work on this.  I am not sure what the problem is, but they take twice as long as necessary.  And they don't even check everyone in.  Weird.
So, after Muster we headed out to our first stop, Catalina.  The sailaway party was kinda lame.  I guess a downside to smaller ships, there.  Fewer passengers means fewer people to get up and dance.  But we moved to the fantail and watched Long Beach recede in the distance until time for Mom and Steve to eat.  The kids caught up to us in the buffet and had a little dessert.
Afterwards we all moved to a kids club dance party.  Kind of an icebreaker thing, with games and stuff.  I don't anticipate my niece and nephews will be spending any time in the kids club.  It's not their sort of thing.  But my sister keeps pushing it.  Halfway thru I left and put bro to bed.  Made a quick stop in the casino, to no avail, and then it was time for dinner.
Carnival has always done good with food, but I have to tell you:  they are slipping here, too, although I'll wait til after tomorrow to pass final judgement.  I did get a really good smoked duck appetizer.  Slices of smoked duck with slices of mandarin orange and a couple raspberries, on a bed of really spicy glass noodles.  The combination of smoky, sweet and piquant was a real party in the mouth experience.  However, the shrimp cocktail was not worth the effort, and the entrees were uninspired.  Had a pork steak that was tender enough, but with mac and cheese on the side and slathered with a completely flavor-free green peppercorn sauce.
Desert was okay.  I had the cheesecake whilst everyone else did the warm chocolate melting cake.  They all seemed to enjoy.
After dessert I took another spin around the casino.  Not feeling.  So, I headed to the Piano Bar, where I was supposed to meet a FB friend of a friend.
I have to tell you, this is the one place Carnival absolutely kills the competition.  Why no one else does a piano bar is beyond me.  I know, Norwegian's newer ships have Howl at the Moon, and that is good, but it's NOT Piano Bar, the way most of us think of it.  It's still some guys up on a stage, removed from the audience, performing.  A real piano bar, like on Carnival, and in bars across America, is up close and personal.  You can talk to the piano man, not shout across the room.  And you can see your fellow patrons across the way, singing along. 
And Tom G, the piano guy on this cruise was great!  I was the first one in the bar, as he was standing around waiting for the guy in the Atrium to finish up so he could get started.  Nice guy.  From Memphis.  We chatted about music and Memphis and what not.  Then he did a few tunes as people drifted in.  Finally the place started filling up and he busted out his percussion section (tambourines, maracas and a cowbell).  By 10 it was rocking and he was working the group really well.  My friends showed up and we talked and sang and played the cowbell.  It was loads of fun.  Sadly, at midnite, the long day was catching up to me, so I had to bid them all "adieu" til tomorrow night.
Headed home and went to sleep.  Tomorrow is Catalina with the kids.

THE END.

Water Works on Carnival Inspiration

Watch "VID_20130603_140117_593.mp4" on YouTube

6.02.2013

Live From the Carnival Inspiration

In about 24 hours I'll be heading to Long Beach to board the Carnival Inspiration.  I will be accompanied by my mother and brother in my aft ocean view, and by my sister and her 3 kids down the hall in their ocean view.  Sure wish the Inspiration had more balconies. But, oh, well...

When I got back from my 9 days on the Norwegian Breakaway in New York and Bermuda, they were all grumpy I didn't take them.  Except the Mom, who thinks she's too old to go anywhere.  So, I booked this one.

It should be a good time.  I've taken the kids to Catalina before on day trips, and we enjoy it.  A golf-cart ride, stop at the Casino and the Arboretum, then cruise the strand and grab a bite to eat and some souvenirs.

Next stop, Ensenada.  Pretty much the same, sans the golf-cart.

The rest of the 4 days will be spent, no doubt, in the pool and the waterslides with the kids during the day, and the casino and piano bar at night.

But come along, and live vicariously thru me as I post daily blog entries and video!  I'm told it's the next best thing to actually cruising yourself.

And if you want to book your own little 4day adventure from LA or MIA or wherever, on Carnival or any other line, give me a call at 760.265.3687.

Later!

5.21.2013

Norwegian Breakaway Inaugural - All Good Things Must End

Sorry, I have been swamped since I got home and never got around to finalizing this series.

So, last day - bummer.  Got up early and New York was back.  Got a few things done with the improved cell reception.  Wandered around saying goodbye to friends and fellow passengers, as well as the wonderful staff and crew.

Then to breakfast at Savor with a couple friends.  The main dining room being open for breakfast on debarkation day is oh, so civilized and nice.  And a lot of people are not aware it's open.  They are all banging into each others carry-on luggage in the buffet and fighting for seats, as I am breaking fast with Eggs Benedict and good company.

But even that delay couldn't prevent the inevitable, and I had to finally drag my carcass off the ship.  Thankfully I had the gold tag Priority debark, so I could just jump off when I felt like it.  So, off the ship, grab my luggage, thru Customs and out on the street haling a cab in about 29 minutes.

I had a lunch date with a friend over on 10th and 50th (Hell's Kitchen-ish).  It was raining.  I got there 20 minutes early, and the place we were meeting was closed, so I did my best to stay dry, and waited for her.  She showed up and our place was still not open, but we spied another sports bar across the street that was open, so we headed over there.  Had a croissant and gabbed.  Then we went to the original location (123 Burgers Shots and Beer).  My charger had died the night before, so I left her there nursing a beer and babysitting my luggage and ran to Rite-Aid to buy a new one.  Then back for some more chat and some chicken wings.  The bartender was a nice young lady, and she recommended the peanut butter wings.  Not bad, actually...though I prefered the spicy garlic.  I had thought to just call a car service from the bar, but, amazingly, every single one in Manhattan was unavailable until after 6pm (I had a 7pm flight).  So, I finally just took my leave, grabbed a cab and got to EWR in time to hang out in the American Airlines lounge for an hour or so.  In an incredibly cool and timely coincidence I had been given a free day pass, from Klout.com, just two days before I started this trip.  Ever so much nicer than sitting in the terminal with hoi polloi.  Hot coffee, fresh fruit, a club soda and free wifi! 

The storms that ravaged Oklahoma on Monday were already building Sunday night, so our plane was an hour late getting to EWR, and we took a trip all the way into Canada to avoid them heading West, so when all was said and done we arrived back to LAX at 1am instead of the original 10:30pm.  I finally arrived home at about 3am and hit the sack.

And thus ends one of the best 10 days I can remember.  I can't wait to do it again!

Now, I'm going to ask one more favor of you all - Check out my YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/daveholmantravel .  And, while you're here, click a link on an ad or two.  Hook a brother up.  I need coffee money!

Oh, and one more time:  If you are ready to book a cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway, or any Norwegian Cruise Line ship, CALL ME!  760.265.3687
Or if Norwegian isn't your cup of tea, I handle every other cruise line.  And if cruises don't do it for you, I have all inclusives all over the world.  Or Air/Hotel packages.  Whatever your travel needs, HOLMAN TRAVEL can help you make your dream vacation a reality! 

thanks

5.19.2013

Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural, Final Sea Day

Up early, and over to  a final 9am session with the travel agents.  This included perhaps the most embarassing  Q&A session I have ever had the burden of sitting thru.  Some of the people who call themselves travel agents are idiots.  Most of them are not really travel agents at all, but idiots who, for a few dollars, join greedy shyster host agencies, in order to get cheap personal travel.  That's the only thing that can explain what I saw.  "Travel Agents", honest to God, right in front of me and the rest of the world, referring to the MUSTARD DRILL.  You know, that's a joke amongst me and my friends, referring to certain K-Mart Kruisers.  But I actually heard it, live, in person.  And a lady who didn't know the purpose of those plastic things between you and the food in the buffet (on ships or the Golden Corral).  Yeah, lady...that's a sneeze guard...it's not there to piss you off, and get between you and your food...really...
Anyway, so amongst everything else I spent a part of the rest of my day tracking down some of the fabulous employees who had given up a part of their day to help us learn something, only to be disparaged, attacked, and had their time wasted by the uber-ignorant.
After that we were free to wander around the rest of the day.  My wanderings included a trip to O'Sheehans for lunch, another attempt at both the Slot Tournament and the Blackjack Tournament.  Both wasted efforts.  And then a bit of a lie-down, as the whole week was catching up to me and making me feel old before my time.
Met a couple colleagues at Moderno, the Churrascaria.  Lately, my favorite Norwegian alternative dining choice, though, after this week, I think Cagney's has regained the top spot.  That 18oz ribeye was kind of wonderful.  On the other hand, Moderno has a dozen different kinds of meat, all wonderful, and I am sure I had more than 18oz altogether.  Plus, it's only $20 instead of $30 at Cagneys.  Imma have to get back to you on which is my favorite...
Anyway, so, yeah -  Great salad bar, with such goodies as genoa salami and sopressata, and bleu and Stilton cheese, and kalamata olives and marinated palm hearts and mushrooms and asparagus...oh, and a little lettuce and dressing and such, so it qualifies as a salad bar.  It's really more of a deli line...
And then on to the meats!!!  Chicken breast wrapped in bacon, chicken legs marinated in lime juice, sausage from Spain flavored with parmesan, chorizo from portugal.  Beef ribs sliced thin, pork ribs served whole, double lamb chops, sirloin and filet mignon with different seasonings.  I know I am missing something.  Oh, and grilled pineapple in between to freshen your palate and allow you to savor each meat as it comes along.  And with sides of white rice, black beans, garlic mashed potatos and fried sweet bananas.
My and my friend waddled out after a Papaya Cream desert and ran into another friend who had just come from La Cucina and complained of feeling fat.  She got zero sympathy from us.
So, the three of us waddled up to the balcony for a post-prandial smoke and gab session, until karaoke.  Tonites karaoke was marginally better than the previous night, but it didn't matter.  I wasn't going to the casino again for both financial and crowd avoidance reasons.
After karaoke it was time for The Quest.  Rain forced it from the Spice area to the Atrium.  Which also made it impossible to keep the sub18 crowd away, so some of the edgier challenges were modified or replaced by (sightly) more family friendly ones.  But it didn't matter, cuz my teammates were on fire!  Having done a few of these in the past, we had all the things we thought we might need already out on the table, shoes untied, shirts untucked and ready to come off, etc.  Oh, and the odd bra laying about, just in case.  That sort of thing.  Of course we won, and I am the proud owner of yet one more LED light/keychain!  WooHoo!  Yay, ME!
After Quest it was up to O'Sheehans for a late coffee and then frankly, time to pack and go to bed.  So I did.
And that's all for now!

Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural...It's Over.

I started the day with every intention of doing a great post on my last day aboard the Norwegian Breakaway... but we all know where good intentions lead.

So, I am at the airport now, and will be home at midnite, and have had a really rough day, but I totally swear I will get the last day and debarking day done, TOMORROW!

LATER

5.18.2013

Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural, Last Day in Bermuda

Okay!  First off I have to say, I love Bermuda.  I can't imagine I went this long and travelled this much, and never made it here.  And I am glad I finally did.  And I really love a 3 day port call.  The chance to just run back and forth from the ship all day and all night is very nice.  And there is more than enough to do here to fill the time.
I got up, had a little breakfast, and then met up with a small group for a bridge tour.  It was originally scheduled for the day before, but got postponed by an emergency drill.  So, we got up to the bridge and the Navigation officer showed us around.  Pretty much the same as other modern bridges I've seen, but it's always cool.  And this time, for the first time, I got to sit in the captains seat. Very cool.  Way more comfortable than the seats in the theater, what with being a cutting edge, ergonomically designed Recaro leather seat and all.
After the bridge tour I wanted to take one more scooter ride before turning it in.  A friend of mine told me she really wanted to find a beach, so we did that.  Past Somerset, wandering thru some neighborhoods until we came upon one last perfect little beach, totally beautiful, totally deserted.  Got some pictures, wiggled her toes in the sand a bit, and then we headed back.  She did me the favor of getting some action video from the back of the scooter.  I haven't had a chance to review it yet, but it should make the final cut better, and give an idea of how exciting these roads can be with the busses and trucks zipping by on one side, and stone walls on the other with little room to spare.
Turned in the scoot, and did my obligatory souvenir shopping for the family back home, got back on the ship and took lunch on the buffet.  It was okay.  Y'all know I am not big on buffets.  Breakaways is good.  But not good enough to change my mind on that.
After lunch I really needed to get online and upload some stuff, including all the video.  So I went back down and did that, and as I was finishing up the staff all came down for the sailaway dancing and stuff.  That was GREAT!  It has become a tradition, I guess, for a bunch of staff and crew to greet passengers on the way back with music and dancing.  They pulled out all the stops yesterday.  Cruise Director Julie and A.C.C. Simon were on stilts, Simon juggling, and about 50 crewmembers lining the walkway.  The DJ was blasting some tunes and everybody was just having a good time.  I hung out for an extra half hour and got some more video.
Went and chilled on the balcony until sailaway.  Went up and watched that, said goodbye to Bermuda, and decided to join a friend for dinner at Shanghai Noodle Bar.  The Singapore noodles were excellent, as were the fried potstickers.  After dinner we hooked up with another friend and went to the casino. OMG is all I can say.  Not an empty seat.  And it wasn't open yet!  Apparently the gamblers don't tolerate three whole days without a fix very well.  And they were NOT moving!  Even when it was announced the casino would not be open for at least 15 minutes, no one moved.  I hung around a little, talking to some folks, but the crowd and noise and aura of desperate finally drove me away. 
Went back to the room and chatted with the roomie a bit until she got ready to go down for Karaoke.  Decided to join her and give a listen.  I have to say the play list for karaoke on this ship is the worst I've ever seen anywhere.  One guy was pretty good, and Crickett was dynamite, as always.  The rest ranged from "meh" to "get off the stage, you're hurting me".
But it was fun.  Stayed til time for the 80's Party.  Went up and changed into the spandex and denim and headed to Spice.  Beautiful weather for this one, unlike Saturday when we were forced into the Atrium and the fireworks were cancelled.  THIS one had it all...and the fireworks were just incredible.  I know Disney has been doing this for a while, but I've never had the experience of fireworks from a ship.  It was great.  Accompanied by a great musical track, the bombs bursting in air, so to speak were a great addition to an already great deck party.
Ended up staying and dancing until I couldn't.  Ended the night chilling on the balcony talking with a friend, recapping the week and deciding it has been a pretty great cruise, overall.
Finally turned in at 2ish, as we have to get up for one more 9am session for the seminar.
and that, my friends, is that.  If you're week has been 1/10th as good as mine, you are lucky indeed.  Talk to you tomorrow!

5.17.2013

Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural, Bermuda DAY TWO


After the 4am balcony party I slept til 8:30.  Hung around the ship, had breakfast, blah blah blah.   Couldn't find anyone to join me for a scooter ride.
So I went by myself.  And decided to keep the scooter for 24 hours instead of just 3 or 4.  Best call of the trip.  Took a little test drive into Somerset and back.  About 10 miles.  Came back to the ship for a quick lunch, and then took the grand tour.  The best afternoon on  a cruise since 19-forgotten.
In about 4 1/2 hours I managed to get to the South Shore and over to Hamilton and back.  So many beautiful beaches and little inlets dotted with boats moored.  It seems every couple miles I had to pull over and take a picture.  This really is a beautiful place.  And the people are awesome.  Unlike those 3rd world islands where everybody is hustling everybody every chance they get, when you ask directions here, they just give you directions.  It's nice.
So, yeah, that was the bulk of my day, just getting the wind in my face and dodging busses.  The roads are all very narrow and the busses very wide.  So you really do have to pull over when you see something interesting...cuz when you are on the road you have to be paying attention.
After the afternoon of touring, I came back to the ship to grab a little snack.  One of my friends wanted to take a ride, so we did that.  Just a half hour, to get a taste.
By then it was time to get ready for dinner at LeBistro.  This one was better than I recall from the EPIC.  And Klaus stopped by and chatted for a while.  By the time we finished dinner it was time to sneak into Rock of Ages.  I had just seen it Friday, but it was good the second time too. 
Got out about midnite, went with some friends to O'Sheehan's for a late night snack, talked a while, and a couple of us decided to go for a 1am stroll around the Dockyard.  So we did.
And then it was off to bed, as I have a 9am Bridge Tour.
Sorry this is so short today, but the videos on my youtube channel and Facebook page pics should make up for the lack.  It really was a pictorial kind of day.
Hasta Manana, mi amigos!

5.16.2013

Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural. IN BERMUDA!

We made it.  First off, to clarify for those of you following the story:  No, the improvements to the Heritage Wharf at the Dockyard are not yet finished.  But they are finished enough to dock the ship.  In other words, the extension the ship ties up to is all done.  But there is a construction zone still on the area where passengers would be able to debark from the rear of the ship.  It looks to be a week or two from completion.  In the meantime, I didn't see any problems yesterday with moving everybody off and on the ship using just the forward gangplank.  I think because it's a 3 day port call, there was not the mad rush to be first off the ship.  As far as I could tell (and I got off 4 different time), there was never a line either direction.
I got off the first time, took a walk down the pier and saw a full on presser happening with the Island muckety-mucks and the ship's captain.  The Breakaway really is a big f*****g deal, to quote Joe Biden.  After that I got directions to get a card to access wifi.  If anyone cares, you can purchase them in the gazebo past the gazebo.  Amazingly, I found it with those directions. 
The dockyard has recently been outfitted with pretty much blanket wifi, and the prices are crazy cheap.  $5 for an hour, $10 for a day, and $15 for 3 days.
And once you get it set up, it's pretty good.  Definitely faster than the ships satellite internet.  I can get a signal from the side of the ship facing the Dockyard, though it's not very strong.  But from the wharf right outside the ship, it's fine.  The lady who sold me the card says they will run phone lines out the wharf extension when it is finally finished, finished, at which time you'll probably be able to get a signal anywhere on the ship...at least on the open decks.
After that little project was finished I got back on the ship, ran into some friends who needed wifi, so I escorted them over and we got them all set up. 
We decided to hang out at the Bone Fish restaurant and do some work.  Sat outside on the patio.  Right next to the Boner Bar.  Just because, well...it's the Boner Bar.  How could we not?
I had a bowl of the local fish chowder.  Pretty good, I guess.  Basically it's Pepper Pot, with a dash of sherry and a bit of fish.  Chased it with a bit of the local ginger beer.  Good, but not as gingery as most of the Caribbean ginger beers.
Back to the ship for a real lunch.  O'Sheehans.  I realized that I have eaten a bunch of meals at every O'Sheehans in the world, and have never had a burger there, so I rectified that situation.  I am not a big burger guy.  I'm still not.  'Nuff said.
The girls I was with decided it was time to try the speed slides.  I took a pass as it was a little windy and chilly, and I'm still fighting a cold.  So I ran back downstairs and answered a few emails.
By the time I was done it was time for dinner.  We had a big group dinner with the Seminar at Sea thing, in the Manhattan Room.  The food was quite good, and the little performance by the Burn the Floor dancers was outstanding.  But the Manhattan main dining room is still just too big, too crowded and too noisy for my tastes.  If I eat in an MDR the rest of the week, it will be Taste or Savor.  Much more to my liking.
After dinner another bunch of friends decided to head ashore and grab a drink.  We ended up at the Frog and Onion pub.  Met a great waiter there, a former RCCL waiter.  Had another ginger beer while my friends sampled the local hard brews.  On the way out, we passed a group of guys posing for some strange, vaguely lurid photos against the wall of the Cooperage.  We made some comments to the photographer, and next thing you know, all five guys are facing the wall and dropping trou...So, yeah, a quintuple moon.  No one needed to see that.  We're not talking young, buff guys either...we're talking old fat tourist guys.  So, with that disturbing image burned into my brain, we walked on back home.
Back on board, I bopped around a little, looking for something to do.  Lost some of the friends, and it finally came down to me and Kris hitting Howl at the Moon.  Great bunch!  Two guys/one girl.  Very entertaining, getting the audience involved, making up songs, even sliding into a lullaby as a woman got up to take her sleeping baby out and to bed.  So, that was fun.
We had eated awful early, and I was getting seriously hungry.  So the two of us went to my balcony and ordered some room service and just enjoyed the cool night air.  Til about 3:30 when my roomie came home.  Then the 3 of us played musical chairs, because the balcony is definitely not big enough for three, until 4 or so, when we all kinda decided it was time for the party to be over.
Thus ends the first day in Bermuda.  The weather is supposed to get better.  I'll let you know.
But, while I have you here, it's time for the shameless plug:  If you are looking to book a Breakaway cruise, CALL ME.  HOLMAN TRAVEL 760.265.3687. or email me at daveholman@verizon.net.  And don't forget to check my youtube/daveholmantravel site for videos, or my FB page, /HolmanTravel for pics and minute by minute updates.
KThxBye!

5.15.2013

Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural, DAY THREE, FOR REAL

Cuz, apparently I can't count when I am on vacation.  Sorry about the confusion.
Yesterday, our second day at sea, was mostly spent fighting off a cold.  And apologizing to a cranky roommate.  Not that I blame her...apparently I was sawing logs big time last nite...so, today its Contac and Emergen-C.  And spending most of the morning trying to figure out the internet situation.  I have a new set up here, using my Droid RAZR tethered to a bluetooth keyboard, because my netbook finally took a dump.  I think I have it all figured out, though.
So, yeah...breakfast was at O'Sheehans.  A little casino time, including a wildly unsuccessful prelim for the Blackjack Tournament.  Went to the Sushi bar for lunch.  AWESOME.  The Red Hokkaido Roll was to die for.  Spicy tuna and scallop, with enough  Srirachi to strip the paint off a car.  And then an accidental 3 hour nap.  By the time I woke up it was time to get dressed for the Captains VIP Reception.  Lot's of fun.  It's kinda cool that so many of the officers are over here from the EPIC and other ships I have sailed on.  It's like a reunion.  Also got a chance to talk to Kevin Sheehan and point out that taking creamed spinach off the Cagney's menu is a grave mistake.  He agreed that a steakhouse without creamed spinach is a travesty.  We also shot the breeze about some trivial stuff. 
After the reception, I hosted a half dozen friends for dinner at La Cucina.  I love that place.  Had the carpaccio, the Insalata Caprese (tomato and mozzeralla), and a couple pizzas and the Osso Buco for an entree.  Everything was excellent, both the food and the company.  After dinner we got down to the theater just in time to have Rock of Ages cancelled.  Major bummer.  Technical difficulties.  Ran up to Spice for Fabba instead.  That was good.  But the cold was still trying to get ahold of me, so I turned in early.
Another installment tomorrow.
preview:  We are in Bermuda and it's beautiful.

5.14.2013

Norwegian Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural, Day 3

After a good nights sleep, I popped out of bed at 6:30 or so and spent an hour and a half writing that brilliant post the world will never see. Thoroughly disgusted, I decided to join the Seminar at Sea folks in a little tour of the ship.  Having been onboard for the pre-inaugural I knew most of it, already, but, whatever...We did get a chance to check out the Ice Bar, which was very cool.  I got some nice pics, which you can find on my Facebook Page or Profile...or I will post them here when I get landside.
After the tour I had a late breakfast at O'Sheehans with a couple of friends.  My usual Country Platter, which is Norwegians take on the classic English (or maybe Irish) breakfast, and one of my favorite things.  It was good as usual.
Following breakfast it was just walking about, stopping in the casino (which is NOT being nice to me), and whatnot until lunch time.
Lunch found me with a couple of other friends.  Actually, one different friend and one same friend.  We went to Savor, and I had the Chicken Milanese again, because it's really good.  And the portobello mushroom and goat cheese appy.  Because it's really good.  I think I've had it four times, now, in five lunches.
Afternoon was more of the same whatnot, and watching the weather steadily deteriorate.
Mid afternoon some stuff arrived at the cabin.  Chocolate strawberries, courtesy of the Hotel Director, and the chocolates I referred to in my last post.  The "KLAUS" truffle plate it shall be known as.  Forever.  Not available in stores.  Although, Norwegian might want to think about a line of signed chocolates by El H.D. di Tutti H.D.s...
One more quick spin thru the casino and it was time to dress for dinner.  Tonite is Cagney's, my former favorite which was replaced by Moderno, my current favorite.  But with a re-worked menu that includes an 18oz Bone In Ribeye, they may retake #1.
But I get ahead of myself.  My pre-prandial ablutions were interrupted by a colleague who just wanted to drop by and check out the balcony, since she is sharing an inside with two others.  I detected a hint of jealousy when she saw the plates of goodies.  And the invite to the Captain's Cocktail Party on Tuesday...and I love making colleagues jealous. So, anyway, she went on her way, I got dressed and headed to Cagney's. 
As I said they have retooled the menu, mostly for the good.  With one glaring exception.  My favorite creamed spinach is no more.  I am sad.  I don't eat creamed spinach as a rule, but I tried it in Cagney's a few years back on a tip, and it was excellent.  So, now I always order it.  Alas...
But, like I said, they added a few things.  I ordered the Shrimp Cocktail, which was perfect, the new Split Pea Soup, which was interesting.  Rather than the thick and hearty porridge most people associate with split pea soup, it was peas in a thin broth, with shreds of pork and a touch of mint.  Honestly, I wasn't sure when I read the menu description, but I decided to try it anyway, and I am glad I did.  It was quite delish.
And then the monster rib-eye steak showed up.  O.M.F.G!!!  You can say 'FABULOOOUUUSSS', but you'd be short changing this piece of prime Angus Beef.  It was like  bloody, buttery Heaven.  As I plowed thru it, I could feel my arteries hardening in gratitude.  We're all prepared to die, now, if necessary.  Truly, the best steak I've eaten in forever.  And I have eaten some steaks.  There were also some sides...the Cagney's Fries were there usual awesome selves, with the truffle oil and parmesan sprinkled on 'em.  And creamed corn, which was okay, but was definitely NOT creamed spinach.  And some roasted mushrooms that just pushed the steak all the way to Nirvana.
So, yeah...major beefgasm accomplished I waddled out of Cagney's and headed to see Burn the Floor.
Interesting show.  Up front:  I am not a dance fan, much.  I watched exactly one season of Dancing With The Stars, because my friend Drew Lachey was competing.  But these dancers were worth a watch.  And the music was excellent.  The female singer was dynamite in a dress.  And the range of styles, from tango to mambo to bossa nova to the dirty boogie was very, very entertaining.  As usual with Norwegian these days the production values were outstanding with actual live musicians and singers, an excellent sound system (which I already knew from Rock of Ages, which is in the same theater), and good lighting and effects. 
After the show, some of us took one more turn in the casino.  I finally hit a little something-something that almost got me even for the day.  So, as I rarely do, I decided to quit while I was, if not ahead, at least not too far behind.
Back down to the cabin for a late night decaf and a smoke, and on to bed, 1ish.
And now, my friends, I am caught up, and so are you.
I will be hear bright and early tomorrow.

Breakaway Rocks New York City - The End

So, I spent most of yesterday writing what was, no doubt the finest blog post I've ever done.  Pulitzer material.  When I went to save it to check one little trivial factoid, I accidently deleted it.  FML
You'll have to settle for this.  Sorry.
To end the 2 day Rocks New York City, we got up at 7 or so, went and checked my bags at Guest Services, got my new key for the Bermuda Inaugural (a process made infinitely simpler thanks to the intervention of Klaus Lugmaier, Norwegians official Rock Star and now Vice President, who told the folks at the desk I was "family" and to take care of me), and walked on out.  Me and my friend Pat sent our respective roomies off to New Jersey, as neither is staying for the Bermuda run.
We walked on up to Starbucks to grab some overpriced caffeine and free wifi.  Sat there a while catching up on emails, etc.  Decided to head back and get on the ship.  Halfway there she got  a call from one of her agents who was a block behind us, so we waited up for her, and the three of us got to the ship right at 11.  I breezed thru Security and got on board for the Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural!
Which will be in the next post.
So, you know...ciao for now!

Norwegian Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural

When last we spoke your intrepid reporter was getting onboard the Norwegian Breakaway for her inaugural 7 day Bermuda cruise.  I got on up to my cabin and my new roomie was already there.  Ive known Crickett a few years now.  We met at some travel agent functions when she lived in LA.  And it is SUCH a relief to have a platonic roomie.  Let's just say there is less responsibility.  If Crickett decides to get drunk and obnoxious, she can pour herself into her bed.  And no one is going to hold it against *me*.
We hung out a while on the balcony and got caught up, waiting for Stanley the Steward, so we could talk to him about a few things in the room, got that accomplished, and headed our for a little ship tour.  Ran into my favorite Canuckistani agents, Paul and Carol, so the four of us did our own little tour/cabin crawl.  We are in a balcony, Paul in an Oceanview and Carol in the Studios.  The tour continued with a walk around the Waterfront.  Had my first (and most certainly not last)Sabrett's dirty water dog off a cart.  Just like the ones on the streets of Manhattan, except it looks like they might change the water more often here.  Ran into Klaus on our walkabout.  He gave everyone his card and did his whole "just a humble servant routine".  Thing is, it sounds so sincere when he says it.  But it's kind of belied by the fact that, the next night, I got a plate of truffles and one of them is a rectangle of white chocolate with "KLAUS" embossed on top.  So, yeah, he's the only humble servant I know that has, literally, "signature chocolates".
Anyway, after the walkabout it was time for muster, which went smoothly, and then a Sailaway Party on Spice with all my agent friends.  Met about 20 of them.  It was also where the main sailaway party was, so we had music blasting and cruise staff dancing and all that jazz.  Based on my facebook page, a lot of you were watching it on various webcams.  Kinda creepy when you get someone posting to look to the left, they are watching you from Brooklyn. heehee
It was then time for a welcome reception for all the agents doing the Seminar at Sea.  About 120 of us.  Nice chance to meet/remeet colleagues, and also our Hosts for the seminar, Meg and Karolyn.  Two more Norwegian Rock Stars, imho.  Especially Karolyn who toils behind the scenes at Miami headquarters.  A lot of people don't realize just how much she does for the travel agents dealing with Norwegian...but she definitely is on the front lines when it comes to making "Partners First" a reality and not just corporate bloviating.
So, SHOUT OUT TO KAROLYN!
After the reception we had rezzies at Ocean Blue, Norwegians newest alternative restaurant and first foray into the Celebrity Chef craze.  It mostly works.  I know from the previous two days that Iron Chef, Geoffrey Zakarian didn't just design a menu and slap his name on it.  I saw him in the kitchen, working, making things right.  I heard he slipped out between the two pre-Inaugurals and went to Whole Foods to get some produce because he wasn't happy with what the regular wholesaler had delivered to the ship.  Actually, pretty impressive.  Though, I have to say, when I met him he wasn't the most personable person.  On the other hand, if he's letting his food talk for him, he is sending a message.  Dinner was great.  I started with a Steak Tartare that was nothing short of brilliant.  A nice patty of chopped beef topped with a celery leaf/fennel/something that had been very lightly marinated.  For the entree I chose the Monkfish Loin.  I was disappointed in the size of the portion, but only because I seriously wanted more.  However, a couple of the non-seafood-lovers at the table ordered the Delmonico steak which was the size of a small car, and one of the ladies at the table gave me about 1/3 of hers, because there was no way she was going to eat it all.  So, I had a very filling meal, and finished it off with a "Bergamont (sic) tea flavored" panna cota.  Despite the misspelling on the menu, it was delightful.  But, I have to tell you...I had a lot of fun finding a misspelling on a menu in this otherwise perfect dining venue.  I do hope someone at Norwegian will take steps to correct this.  Bergamot, for those of you who don't know, is a type of orange, the oil of which is used to give Earl Grey tea it's distinctive flavor.  BergamoNt, on the other hand, is, well...not a word, that I can find.  It might be a city in North Jersey or something, I guess.
So, back to the story:  After dinner I was about exhausted.  Cruised the casino, and dropped a couple bucks but it was packed and noisy.  So I finally decided about 10:30 to catch up on the sleep I hadn't had the previous two days.
And that's about it for Boarding Day of the Norwegian Breakaway Bermuda Inaugural!