Norwegian Getaway, 11/29 - 12/6/2014 - DAY IN ST MAARTEN

Okay...rant first, then the great day, after.

For those of you who don't know (such as every employee at Norwegian Cruise Line, apparently), "disabled" can be a variety of things. From people who use wheelchairs all the time, to those who use them some of the time, to the totally blind, to the partially sighted, to those with no sense of hearing to those with diminished hearing, to children up and down the autism scale, to adults with a variety of physical, emotional and mental challenges. And guess what? Not everyone with ONE of those issues, has ALL of those issues. So, a variety of accomodations need to be made in designing and assigning rooms. One of these is a TDD room. Whether hard wired, or converted just by plugging a kit in to the wall, rooms for the hearing impaired have things like flashing lights to alert you that someone is at the door, or on the phone. And vibrators you can put under a pillow to wake you if someone is at the door or on the phone. Or just as an alarm clock.
In a completely different vein, you have wheelchair accessible cabins. These cabins have less furniture, so mobility equipment can maneuver, wider doors so wheelchairs and scooters can get it, barrier free restrooms and showers so wheelchairs/shower chairs/commode chairs can easily access the facilities. Ramps out to the balcony for the same reason. (Oh, and the light situation has me so twisted up I keep forgetting to ask about the water pressure. Something else people don't think about, but if you have to shower sitting down, it's kind of important to get water to go UP out of the shower head. The one is this room will not push water more than an inch vertically).

BUT GUESS WHAT: THE TWO GROUPS ARE NOT RELATED! People are in wheelchairs for a variety of reasons, from trauma to birth defects to acquired diseases/conditions. But they are no more likely to be hearing impaired than the general population. Likewise, the hearing impaired are no more likely to be wheelchair users than the hearing population. So the idea of combining the needs of the two groups is just, well...(the word I want can't be used for fear of offending another PWD [Persons With Disabilities] population) ...idiotic.

And here's another thing: It is not uncommon for people who are para- or hemi- or quadraplegic as a result of traumatic brain or spinal cord injury to also have seizure disorders. OH, and it's not uncommon for flashing lights to be a trigger for seizures for these folks, as well as those with other seizure disorders like epilepsy.

It is unbelievable to me that someone would create a cabin, call it "wheelchair accessible" and include a TDD system with flashing strobe lights that CAN'T BE TURNED OFF. And yet...someone did. It took several hours, and several phone calls from several departments (each one setting off the Disco At The End Of The World) to get exactly NOTHING done, except to have these nervy bastards try to quote the ADA at me. These are the same nervy bastards that routinely argue in court they are not bound by the ADA, because they sail foreign-flagged vessels. But now I have to let my brother have a seizure for his own safety because ADA requires it. Hey, guess what? I was there when the ADA was written. It doesn't really say that. trust me. If you are going to waste money hardwiring TDD systems in to rooms (and it is a complete waste of money, and is causing hearing impaired, but otherwise able bodied people to take cabins away from wheelchair users who can't otherwise cruise), how much more can it cost to put in a SWITCH?!?!

So, yeah...a great chunk of my afternoon was taken up with this. When I finally gave up finding an intelligent person (because, you know what? The light on that strobe has to be accessible to someone, somehow, because you know what? light bulbs fail and have to be replaced. Apparently when one of the 30 or so strobes on this ship goes out, they'll have to sell it for scrap), I took matters in to my own hands. I tried taping paper, then cardboard over the light. They didn't block it completely. Then, looking at the 4" round light, I remembered I had just purchased a new Citizen watch that came in a 4" round box, quite heavy duty and black...VIOLA! I have now invented a "Strobe Suppressor" which I shall patent and get rich selling to cruise lines for $200 a pop.


Today, was St Maarten. Good times! We got up bright and early, took care of business and had a quick bite of breakfast at O'Sheehan's. Amazingly, since it's been 5 years or so, one of the waiters in O'Sheehan's remembered my brother and I from the Norwegian Star. He even remembered our mother, who was on that last Star cruise with us. So we chatted with Mr. Salmat for a while, and then headed downstairs. There was someone waiting to help with getting the chair down the steep ramp (unlike in Miami), so that was nice. Wheeled over to the taxi stand and hired a van to take us downtown.

When we first got out to the boardwalk there was an old rasta lookin' guy doing pencil portraits, so I figured "Why not?". Mom will love it. The portraits kinda suck, and I only caught one word in six thanks to his mumble and accent, but, oh well. We continued on down the boardwalk, came to a souvenir store selling postcards, so I picked up 30 to send to all the wonderful people that donated to the "Send My Brother On A Cruise" campaign. And 30 stamps. And a pen. I am sure from his amused expression, we were this shopkeepers biggest single sale of the week. He also gave us directions to the nearest mailbox, so we wouldn't have to walk all the way to the post office, so that was cool.

We were looking for a spot to go inside and sit down when the lowering clouds decided to bust out a near-biblical deluge. We ran under an umbrella that managed to cut the rain in half. Looking around during lulls I couldn't find anywhere with a ramp to get inside. Finally, during a slack spell we ran around the block and found the door to the place we'd been huddling in front of. Grabbed a table, ordered a couple drinks and some chicken and shrimp sate which was delightful, and stuck wet stamps on damp postcards, addressed them all without smearing the ink too much and congratulated myself on accomplishing my mission. We tried to do a little more shopping, but I have to tell you I HATE having wet socks. HATE HATE HATE it. Back in my blue-water sailing days, I would pack for a couple weeks with two shirts, two pair of pants, foul weather gear, 3 or 4 pairs of shoes, and 12 pairs of socks. I don't care how wet my clothes are, if I can put on a dry pair of socks and shoes, I am good. So, we cut it short and headed back to the ship at noon. Donning dry socks improved my mood considerably. But then the phone rang and it was the Access Officer (returning my call from yesterday), and the whole strobe light thing happened.

That took us almost til dinner time. Tonite was La Cucina. I have to say, I hear mixed reviews of La Cucina, but I have never had a bad meal there. Tonite was no exception. We went early, and got a table by the window, so we could watch the Ruby Princess and then the MSC Divina leave, before we pulled out. I started with the carpaccio, as usual, and it was yum. Steve and I also shared a small sausage and pancetta pizza. Our server, Thanny was just incredibly awesome. She noticed my bite-sizing Steve's first slice, so when he finished that, she served him up another and stood and cut it for him. Nice touch. For our mains, I chose the Osso Bucco, while Steve went with the Grilled Shrimp. Again, the lovely Thanny de-tailed Steve's shrimp and cut his eggplant. Based on how quickly it disappeared, I gather it was adequately tasty. My osso bucco was tender and tasty. The polenta, though, was the best I have ever had at La Cucina on any ship. Whether they've altered the recipe, or I lucked out on finding a cook with a deft hand, it really was better than I ever remember. Polenta is relatively easy to prepare, but very difficult to get exactly right. Creamy, not the slightest bit grainy, flavor perfectly balanced between corn and cheese...delightful.

This might be a good time to point out something I have noticed this week: The food on the Getaway, without exception, has been served piping hot. Something that can be the critical difference between excellent food and merely adequate, and something that was drummed in to me as a young Sous Chef 35 years ago. They've really nailed it on this ship.

Desert for Steve was vanilla ice cream. Because, BORING. Personally, I am not always big on chocolate, but tonite the Torta Cioccolata was calling me. I am glad I tried it finally. Although it was a tad cloying for my taste, all you choco-philes would love it. The filling was creamy, the ganache on top was firm, the crust was light and flaky, and the berries and other garnish was tasty. Oh, yeah, another unrelated, stream of conciousness note: O'Sheehan's: The 70's called and said "STOP IT" with the little sprig of parsley on every plate. Not only is it 40 years out of date, but even when it was cool, I was trained to make it big and bold, not small, limp and inoffensive. Seriously, you could save a ton of money on your annual parsley budget and NO ONE would miss it. Including the cooks.

After dinner we spent an unsuccessful hour in the casino, at which time Steve said it was time to retire. We do have an early call in the morning in St Thomas for a pre-booked excursion, so he's not wrong.

And since we do, I am typing this up at the end of the day, instead of 1st thing in the morning, so there you have it! Our day in St Maarten. As I said, tomorrow is St Thomas. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Hasta Manana Amigos y Amigas!

1 comment :

  1. I just wanted to add in to David's post - the Accessible Rooms was the only thing I found lacking on the NCL Getaway - but when I say lacking - I mean they MUST fix them asap.

    During my stay after a recent surgery the ship started rocking heavily - no big deal for me - but apparently a big deal for my room. On Day 2 from 5:30am - 11:00am about every 10 - 15 minutes my alarms - sound, strobe lights, the door opening and closing - basically the whole works went off. I called down to the Customer Service Desk 3 times. Nobody came. I finally got my room steward at 11:00am who punched in a code and that shut it down.

    That night I told them they needed to fix it an they offered me a different room if it happened again with a stool so I could take a shower. However, that did not help with my lack of sleep ( went to bed around 2:30am) and by the next morning I was quite ill and ended up in the doctor's office.

    I'm honestly surprised I didn't get angry, as it did ruin most of my trip. I guess I care more that they realize there is an issue and fix it. Especially those *dxxx* strobe lights.


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