Norwegian Getaway, ULTIMATE GETAWAY, pt III or The Final Chapter

Well, after  a couple nights of, effectively, no sleep, I managed a solid 4.5 hours...up at 8:30 and down to Savor to make a 9am breakfast appointment.  My friends Lisa and Carmen, a guy I'd met way back on the EPIC when he was playing guitar for Roadside Louie in Fat Cats were already there.  My bunkie showed up a few minutes later and we waited for Crickett...who eventually let us know they seated her and her friend on the other side at Taste, rather than let them look around and find us where we were.

Breakfast was corned beef hash, pretty stingy on the corned beef, and a couple eggs, and a surprisingly good biscuits and gravy.  Descended as I am from a Grapes of Wrath Okie family, I know from biscuits and gravy.  I usually avoid ordering them anywhere north of the Mason Dixon Line.  But they did a creditable job.

After breakfast we got our bags and went up to O'Sheehans to watch the silly people standing in line.  Once the line had gone down, we walked off, hopped in the car and were in Newark a half hour later.

But, lest you think the adventure is over....there is one last installment.

See, a month or so ago, they changed the debark time from 8am to 10am.  I originally had a 1pm flight home.  But, when they changed the docking time, and then people kept yapping about the Bud Light Hotel, and SuperBowl traffic and blah, blah, blah...I started getting nervous, and changed it to a 3:50 flight.

So, yeah...I got to EWR at about 11:30.  Ran to the Southwest counter to inquire about getting back on the 1:30 flight I had originally.  But the price had gone up a mere $487 dollars since I purchased my ticket.  I had thought if this happened I would spring $50 for a day pass to the Admirals Club where I hung out last time I had time to kill at EWR.  On my way over to Terminal C from Terminal A I happened upon a very cool sight.  A band setting up in the baggage claim area, and a dude playing a flute.  Thinking to myself, how weird is this? that I would meet and listen to a world class Grammy winning flute player on the cruise, and then run into another in the airport on the way home (since, honestly, I don't know that I have spoken to a flautist since my high school choir director who also played flute on occasion, and I am a musician who has hung out with lots of musicians in the last 40 years).  So I walked up, introduced myself and started talking to him.  He is a New Jersey boy who spent 10 years in LA in the music business before returning to his roots.  Helluva nice guy.  And a pretty good band.  He wanted me to sit in but, frankly, I was dog-tired and not feeling it.  But I did so enjoy listening to them for two hours.  He also did a lot of Latin Jazz-y tunes, and even played a Nestor Torres tune or two.  By the time they broke it down, I just had time to get thru security and board my flight home.

Which were completely uneventful, and I managed to pull in to my driveway at just after midnight.

All in all, it was a brilliant 3 days, from the good seats on the plane heading out, to a great (if somewhat cold) two days on the Norwegian Getaway, to the most pleasant 4 hours I've ever spent in an airport waiting to go home.

Thus ends the tale.

But, one more time...if you are ready to book the Norwegian Getaway...CALL ME.  760.265.3687 or email at daveholman@verizon.net.  I guarantee I can get you a better fare and more amenities than anyone on the planet, including Norwegian Cruise Line!

Norwegian Getaway, ULTIMATE GETAWAY, pt II

So...Tuesday, full day at sea.

Started with breakfast at O'Sheehans.  My usual Country Platter.  Then off to explore the ship a little more until going to a session with Stuart Cohen...excuse me Stuart Lloyd Cohen (he's re-branding himself or something).  He was his usual interesting self, talking about how to cultivate loyalty and whatnot.  From there we went to an Executive Overview thing with Andy Stuart and Camille Olivere.  It was nice, all 4 of us lined up with our matching Bridges & Holman Worldwide Travel logo shirts. Among all the interesting news and updates about Norwegian's last year and the upcoming couple years, Camille threw a challenge out to the attendees. 

She told us that anyone who would walk The Plank, get a picture of it, and tag her on Facebook would get the souvenir of their choice...sweatshirt, jacket, coffee cup, whatever.

Those of you who know me, know that I have a serious competitive streak.  I just somehow can't walk away from a dare.  So, three of us immediately began making plans to walk the damn plank. 

When we got up to the top deck, the temperature according to my phone was about 22 degrees.  With howling wind.  And snow flurries.  I had second thoughts.  Then 3rd thoughts.  But, like I said...a part of me just refuses to walk away from a challenge.  So, with memories of the pulled groin muscle I suffered on Breakaway when I accepted Camille's Flywheel challenge, I suited up, and started up the course.  My hands were numb by the time I got to to the top.  So, I turned around and walked back down the stairs and borrowed some gloves from a random stranger.  They helped a little.  Headed back up, took the shortest possible route to the Plank (you can't just jump on the course anywhere, but you can pick the elements you do at each platform).  Got to the Plank, walked out a few steps and yelled at Alyona to get a picture before I froze to death.  She wanted more pictures.  Then video.  Whatever.  When she was done with the photo shoot, I scurried back the same short way I came and ran indoors to try and get some feeling back in my fingers.  So I could go back out there and get pictures and video of her...without gloves so I could operate the camera.  By the time we were all done my fingers were frostbitten and PAINFUL.  Way past "numb".  So we ran to the buffet to get some warm stuff in us.  But, hey...I'm getting a sweatshirt, right.

After I got feeling fully restored in all my limbs, it was time to go listen to Bob Becker.  That was good.  He's always motivational to me.  Reminds me a lot of the first real estate broker I worked for 200 years ago.

And then it was time to suit up for Illusionarium.  Got dressed and headed to the show. Due to a little mix up in the seating arrangements, I was not able to sit with my friends, but continuing my lucky streak of the week, that resulted in getting an even better table, right up at the stage.  So, SCORE!

It was, in a word, FABULOUS.  More than just a magic show, it's a story, with a series of magic shows by several different magicians, mentalists and whatnot, and some very cool special effects.  It's hard to describe, but I do urge everyone to check it out.  (and i'd be happy to sell you the Getaway cruise, so you can do so). 

Oh, and a word about the food.  The Cirque Dinner and Dreams food when they first started it was pretty spotty, with some saying it was okay and others, not so much.  I hear it has gotten better and more consistent.  In the Illusionarium, while I can't vouch for consistency, based on my sample of one night, the quality of the dinner was excellent.  A nice filet steak, fork tender, a couple of fried shrimpy things with a vaguely Asian flavor, some nice broccoli and a twice baked potato.  And a nice little sampler thing of deserts.  So, while I probably wouldn't recommend paying the cover charge for Illusionarium just for the food, you don't have to worry about going away hungry.

After the show we were invited to a comedy show, but it was late and we didn't feel like breaking in in the middle of it, so we all hung out in the casino, smoking and waiting for a cocktail party in Bliss.  That was nice.  A chance to talk to a few of the Norwegian folks, and some colleagues.  The rest of the evening was just bopping from the casino to Howl at the Moon, to O'Sheehans and back to the casino and back to O'Sheehans.  All kind of a blur.  And I don't even drink...

I do know the capper was Crickett's friend Andrew deciding we needed to have a SkeeBall tournament at O'Sheehans.  The last couple hours was spent there, playing SkeeBall and candle pin bowling and Deer Hunter.  And eating wings and fish and chips and just generally annoying the crew who were probably desperately hoping everyone would just go home, dammit. 

Finally stumbled back to the cabin at 2:30 or so to get some sleep.  But more talk intervened, and the sleep was postponed another hour or so...but finally...

The last morning, and my adventures in getting home will be posted soon.  PLEASE STAND BY.

and if you get bored in the meantime, please check out the photos and videos on my FB profile at fb.com/DaveHolman or fb.com/HolmanTravel.  Then shoot me a message or give me a call, and we'll talk about YOUR Ultimate Getaway.  I have group space and a special OBC deal that the big online discounters can't match.  In fact, you can't even get this deal by calling or going online with Norwegian directly!

Norwegian Getaway - ULTIMATE GETAWAY, pt I

Okay, so the trip started with a small panic attack.  At 3:05 (I was planning on leaving the house around 4), I get a text that my flight to San Francisco has been cancelled.  I immediately got online to try to figure out an alternative.  Unable to do so, I got on the phone with United.  During the call, the United rep figured out that, in fact, they had replaced my plane with another and changed the flight number, and I already had a confirmed reservation on that flight.  So, all that adrenaline was for naught.
But I decided I best hightail it to the airport in case anything else happened.  So, off I went on the beginning of my Ultimate Getaway.  As it turns out, my flight left right on time, got me to SFO and there, a bit of magic happened.  I was sitting close to the gate waiting for my flight to Philadelphia and heard a lady talking to the gate agent about wanting to trade her window seat for an aisle.  I had an aisle seat, but since I planned on sleeping my way to PHL, I wasn't really emotionally invested in the seat I had.  So I offered to trade seats with her.  Turns out she didn't just have *a* window seat...but THE window seat...exit row, with about 4 feet of leg room. So, SCORE!  Quite comfy, I stretched out and dozed my way to The City of Brotherly Love, home of Liberty Hall and the Constitution, and some really ferocious early morning traffic.  After a smooth landing I spent the next couple hours getting test updates of the progress of I95 from my friend Alyona, as she inched her way to the airport to rescue me.
Finally managed to get there and we turned around to do it again, this time heading away from town in fairly light traffic, heading to Fieldsboro, NJ to pick up another friend, the awesome Ms. Crickett.  Managed that, and, with a brief stop at WaWa for some coffee, we tooled northish to Manhattan and our date with the Norwegian Getaway. 
One of the upsides of being late is we missed the morning rush to board, and when we finally got to the Manhattan Cruise Terminal we danced right on the ship, took a quick run to the room and headed to lunch to meet up with a few more friends.  Lunch was at Savor.  They have a few new things on the menu.  One of them is a chicken Pho.  All things considered it was very good.  Not what you might find in Orange County or Houston, but a creditable job just the same.  Paired that with a nice open faced omellete with mushroom and arugula.  I was joined at lunch by Alyona and Crickett with her friend Andy, another agent Lisa and her friend Carmen a guitar player I knew from Roadside Louie on the EPIC a couple years ago.  And during the meal we had a few drive bys from various travel agents, Norwegian employees and other friends I've made in my years in the biz.
After lunch we did a whirlwind tour of the ship, mostly noting where she differs from her sister, the Breakaway.  The most notable is the Illusionarium, and the Grammy Experience.  Honestly, I was not impressed with the Grammy Experience when we walked around.  The walls are adorned with instruments and costumes and other memorabilia of famous musicians.  Not all that awesome...but later in the night when we went in to watch Nestor Torres perform, it all seemed cooler somehow.  Anyway, so we also checked out some of the show cabins, mostly in the Haven, and got a few pictures.
I should probably tell you about my cabin.  It is, in a word, PERFECT for families.  The Family Oceanview his pretty big, at 230 something square feet with a large bathroom with tub, closet, double bed, another small closet and then a most comfortable couch, and a pullman bed up above.  There is a curtain to divide the double bed in the middle from the couch (which makes a double bed) and pullman.  So, a little privacy for mom and dad.  While it lacks a balcony, it does have a nice picture window.  And whoever decided to put that extra closet there is a genius.
Anyway, back to the story.  Muster drill, then another little while spent wandering the ship, checking out the spa and even the pool deck (though that was a rush job given the temperature, and down to get ready for dinner. 
We had a table at La Cucina.  Just as we sat down, the ship pulled away from the dock and headed down the Hudson.  I have to say, when I heard we were not leaving New York til 8pm, I was a little bummed.  I love the sailaway from here.  Watching as we go past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty on our way to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge is about my favorite.  ON THE OTHER HAND, I have never sailed away at night.  And we were on the other side of the ship, at a table by the windows.  The sailawyay with Manhattan all lit up turns out to be cooler than I would have thought.  So that was cool.
Dinner at La Cucina was Insalata Caprese with the best, freshest mozzarella I've had in a minute, a nice plate of carpaccio and for the entree, since I just couldn't decide, a 14oz ribeye steak AND shrimp rissotto (don't judge me).  The steak was perfect, tender, cooked nice and rare and with a nice garlicy butter slathered on.  The risotto was also very nice with a half dozen large shrimps onboard, though the cook leaned on the salt a bit much.  Just a personal thing.  Oh, and the bread!  Between 7 of us at the table, we sent them back 3 or maybe 4 times for more bread and those lovely flavored olive oils.  Along with me and Alyona and Crickett and Andy, we were joined by my partner Micele, her daughter Morgan and Karolyn from Norwegian.  A nice bunch.  We discussed all the skyscrapers in Manhattan, Mo and Michele's shopping and food adventures of the day before, dogs, kids, cruise ships, etc.  I have to say a large party of talkers sitting at a round table with good Italian food is a lovely way to spend an evening.
We talked about trying to get in to see Legally Blonde, but by the time dessert came around it was showtime, and we were just having too much fun.  So we took a pass on that.  Finally left the restaurant and looked around for something to do.  No deck parties on this 27 degree night, but we did happen by the Grammy Experience just as Nestor Torres was killing it with his flute.  So we stopped in, and ended up staying the rest of the night.  I know flute is not the first instrument that comes to mind when you think great jazz or Latin or, frankly, any music.  But the dude really does jam with it.  It occured to me while watching him that Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull is probalby the only other flautist I can name, right off the top of my head.  Nestor was awesome, though, mixing styles and sounds.  And his back up, while "just" some of the guys from the ships show band were excellent musicians who really seemed to be enjoying the high energy music.  And as I said before, the whole room there of the Grammy Experience was different and very cool with live music and a crowd in the room.  While we were there Jeff Hobson, the magician responsible for the Illusionarium idea stopped by and we spoke briefly.  Also Kevin Sheehan stopped in for a few minutes, and seemed relieved at the positive feedback on the Grammy Experience.
Anyway, after Mr. Torres concluded his performance we peeked into Bliss which was drunk-white-girl-central by this time.  Decided to leave before any of them fell down ON me.  It's fun to watch them fall, but not so much when you're at the bottom of the dog pile, knowwhatimean?  Also checked out Howl at the Moon for a few minutes, but frankly, it was late, and we'd both been going since early, so down to the room to call it a day.
Tomorrow will be filled with meetings and seminars and such, but I am sure I'll find time for a little fun...
I'll let you know...