Just back from Fat Cats and my last set of Slam Allen.
Dinner for 20 at La Cucina after an hour of open bar. Now what did I have to eat ?
We have finally hit warm air and able to enjoy the open decks at night. We had renamed the Courtyard bar and grill Ice Bar II.
The only real problem with the weather was we were never able to enjoy the entertainment planned for Spice H20 or Posh.
Did I mention the casino continues to be very bad to me. Able to make large sums of money vanish in minutes.
The bags are gone and in 6 hours we should be in NY harbor heading for the Statue of Liberty.
It has been a great week but not without its drama.
The number one question would I cruise on the Epic again. The answer is yes. With only 3450 passengers onboard this week it will be interesting to read the reviews as the passenger count gets close to 5000.
The sad thing in 12 hours I will be back at my desk working.
We have the QMII hot on our heals into New York. She left Southampton on Friday is due to arrive a couple of hours before us so will pass us later tonight.
As for the 5-6 open bar, I've never seen so many people sit at a bar on a ship with no drink at 4:45 in my life ;O)
Everyday more of the work is completed onboard and the Epic should be in good shap for the events planned in NYC. Everyone now seems to have TV and phone service as most of the IP network destroyed in the fire has been restored. The onboard cell service that was working has been down for the last two days.
The last sea day is always a bit depressing. At least the sun has come out this afternoon but the wind tunnel known as the courtyard remains almost unusable but the private space forward on 18 is still a perfect place to relax and enjoy the day. The courtyard should be much more hospitable in the Caribbean sun and heat.
I got all the admin stuff done this morning, pulled my onboard account to check it, picked up my picture from Blue Man, got my future cruise credit applied properly that NCL is provided to all courtyard passengers on this cruise to offset the construction zone.
Some thoughts before I hit the hot tub before the 1 hour open bar in all locations on the ship at 5:00.
O’Sheehans really works and is the best centralized meeting spot with food, drink, games, bowling, view of the big screen for movies and sports.
Cirque dreams is a must do but keep in mind you need to book in advance. There are no where near enough seats or shows so everyone can get in.
Blue Man was a blast and great for passengers of all ages.
Headliners with the industrial vibe not only works great for Howling at the Moon but also hosts Second City, any other comedy acts onboard, bingo, sports on large projection screen and multiple flat panels. It seems to change it face hourly.
Bliss I don’t get and is still in search of its place on this ship.
Fat Cats remains my favorite stop for a late night beverage and great music.
The Ice Bar I have yet to see. It is now open from 5:30 until 11:30 by reservation only and has been sold out for the rest of the cruise for days. It would never work without reservations with nowhere to line people up to wait and for their turn.
Well, we finally seem to have left the fog behind that has been surrounding us for the last few days. Sitting just south of Nova Scotia, and doing around 22 Knots. (really wish we had stopped in Halifax - wonderful place)
The sea is really smooth, and yesterday we sat on the balcony and in the space of an hour, saw 2 large groups of dolphins and 8 lone whales pass the ship.
Tonight to celebrate the maiden voyage, the bars are open for cocktails and drinks from 5-6. I expect a busy hour, likely reminiscent of the Travel Agent 'freebies' before the ship left Europe, but more of a frenzy since it only lasts 1 hour. If I don't get trampled in the rush, I'll report on how it turns out.
I have been very delinquent in my posting responsibilities and I don’t think I will every catch up. So here is the fast forward from wher we left off on Saturday. It was 8 for dinner at the Bistro Saturday night. Wine steward was the smartest woman in the world or should I say she believed it. I will leave it at that but I will say Stuart can select better wines then her. I will add having only a limited wine list at each restaurant and having to beg for the full wine list is driving me nuts. The dinner was prepared perfectly. Now if they could only get the right steak to the right person it would have been helpful. Those that ordered rare got the medium filet and those that wanted the medium got the rare. The 32 oz ribeye was cooked to perfection and looked beautiful until Jack the Ripper carved it into chunks of fat and nice center slices of lean rare beef. Those center cuts were selected and served to Phil and I got the 4 chunks of pure fat. The good news the food coming out of all the galleys is the best I have seen on any NCL ship in years.
Sunday was marathon day and a bit hazy. The usual 9:00 breakfast at the Epic Club and another steak. Cocktail party the NCL hosted for Barb and Tony in the Epic Lounge. Afterward quickly escorted to Cirque Dreams for the 8:30 show. That started out as a real bumer when 2 of the 20 of us no longer had reservation. The Cirque management handled it very poorly and I even worse. I can honestly say I lost it when that little sh*t said sorry you friends will not be joining you tonight. I am not going to go into the details but cooler heads prevailed and many thanks to Anshuman and Karan for calming me down and resolving the problem. In the end the show was the best thing we have done on this cruise. 2 hours that seamed like minutes of nonstop action. Who cares what the menu is. I don’t even remember eating but the Goats de Roam wine was great.
From there out the back and into the Epic Theater for a Legends preview. Tina kicked it off and I woke up when the show ended. I did hear Elvis was the best.
Have I said the casino has been very bad to me.
Where was I before I left for the Captains party and dinner at the Epic Club. Oh yes it was now Monday. Same old same old. Smooth seas and pea soup fog with wind that keep the courtyard unusable. Looks like the courtyard gym is getting to a point it will be ready soon. Paper off the windows and most of the machines are now installed. Sauna and steam room up and running. I did use the hot tub for the first time. I even have a toilet paper holder in the bathroom now. Everyday one more thing on the punch list is completed to make the Epic ready for full service is completed.
Dinner was Mondero and enough meat to cure me of any future need. It really was a special meal just wait for the good stuff to come to the table. After that it was off to Blue Man in the front row. I think you have seen the pictures. What a great show. Even with 5 lbs of beef and several bottles of wine it was impossible to sleep through.
So that brings us all to today. Another foggy day, less wind, but still in the mid 50s. That was not going to stop me from completing my punch list and after the behind the scenes tour to the galleys and the bridge it was time for the Epic Plunge. It was a hoot. Grab a tube, climb to the top, and take a ride. Forward the first time and backward the second. What a great time.
I had to get the blood flowing again after and a little whiskey was in order followed by a late lunch of sushi. $7 bought more then I could finish.
A few cocktails at the Captains reception with the remarkable leadership team onboard the Epic and it was off to our first dinner in the Epic Club. No cover for suite guests and a very interesting menu. Throw in a couple bottles of wine and you get me to this point in time on the last of the 25 hour days. The wind has finally stopped the Epic Bar and courtyard hot tubs have people in them for the first time in days.
I have list of must do and must not for the Epic I will post when I return but right now it is time for me to check out the other posts on the blog.
As it stands right now we pick up the pilot at Ambrose at 6:30 am on Thursday and first off the ship for those that want to carry their own bags will be 9:45.
Because of things not being complete in the courtyard NCL has offered a very generous future cruise credit.
I may have to purchase a picture this cruise of me with the Blue Men in our condom man outfits.
Yesterday's highlight had to be the Blue Man group. What a show! Has to be the best show we ever seen at sea. This is real top quality, mainstream theatre right on your cruise ship, lasting 75 minutes, not your usual 30-40 minute show. The show was fun, exciting and innovative with a lot of audience participation. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but try to get down the front in the first few rows of plastic seats, and wear your poncho in the 'splash zone' and have fun.
Spot Jim - Condom Man !
As expected, yesterday was a busy day, starting with the Germany Vs England match. The area around the big screen was already pretty crowded 1 hour before kick off, and wasn't possible to route the football through the many TVs around O'Sheehan's, so they setup Headliners to show it on the projection screen and the other TVs around the room. from the looks of it, they sold a LOT of beer yesterday. We ordered Pizza to be delivered (16 inch Cheese and Pepperoni available at $5 each, so we had one of each). They took 40-45 minutes to arrive due to the number being ordered around the ship during the game, but they were hot when they arrived (they use a thermal bag to carry them to wherever you want them)and they were a pretty good quality thin crust pizza with a lot of cheese. I'm sure sell, our resident food photographer will post the pictures of them online.
The evening was the Cirque Dreams dinner show, and it was quite a show. The Spiegel Tent is not that large, and seating is set out to maximise the numbers in the premiere area on the lower floor. It's not uncomfortably packed, but there isn't a lot of space. Seating upstairs is a single row around the balcony of the theatre looking down on the show, so everyone gets a great view, but not so good for larger parties. One tip though, from seating to finish, the show takes almost 2.5 hours, and you aren't allowed to leave your seat till the show is over, so it is a good idea to visit the restrooms before hand. If you like acrobats, jugglers and a well staged show, you will love this. The costumes are spectacular. The food is a fixed menu, and has the challenge that they need to serve everyone in the show as quickly as possible while the show is going on, so it won't be to everyones taste. If you want a great meal, go to Cagney's or one of the other restaurants. If you want a spectacular show with some decent food, come here.
Legends performed their first full show onboard last night, with Tina Turner, Madonna and Elvis featured. There were a fair number in the audience giving it a standing ovation, so either they saw something I missed, or I had too high expectations. I have seen many better productions shows on other NCL ships in the past. I'm am sure though, with some more time and polish it will improve.
Looking forward to the Blue Man group tonight.
Just a disclaimer for those reading one of my blogs for the first time. You will find I enjoy taking little things and turning them into hopefully entertaining stories with a some dry humor and perhaps a bit of exaggeration. These stories are not intended to represent the overall experience nor are they intended as complaints but rather shared to hopefully to put a smile on your face.
Time to catch up with yesterday before it fades. I know I still owe the details from day 1.
As I mentioned last post the navigation channel is up but
Yesterday was an early morning with the door between the bedroom and the living room sliding open and closed with a crash. This big girl was rolling with the massive 12 foot seas quartering from the northwest. It should be interesting to be on the Epic in really heavy seas as tall as it is. One of the little things that need to be resolved as NCL takes over the finish on the ship is a latch to keep that door closed. As it stands right now the door slides freely from open to closed with the motion of the ship. The simple answer the foot stool now sits in the doorway. Joerg and Petra selected the suitcase fix in the A3 next door and if position correctly can keep the door open or even closed.
Breakfast like everyday was perfect in the Epic Club. They have a great staff and the place is really off and running well. If you enjoyed breakfast at Cagney’s in the past you will love breakfast at the Epic Club only steps from your door. With the ship rolling someone decided to return their breakfast just outs ide the door by the entrance to the courtyard as we left for the day’s adventures.
We were headed into a 12 kt wind at 20.5 kt. Making winds across the deck about 42 kt. The courtyard clearly is a bit of a wind tunnel with catching it all and forming a bit of a tornado. The poor pastic palms are quickly loosing many of their leaves. The funny thing deck 18 and the forward facing courtyard sundeck is almost wind free. A perfect oasis on this sunny day. Believe or not the least amount of motion on the ship and I covered it all yesterday morning. The trick for all those sailing in the courtyard is finding the secrect passages to get to that sundeck. One thing for certain it is not wheelchair accessible.
So it was off to see the parts of the ship I had not explored yet and get a little shopping done. First stop the Garden Café. They have moved to the next generation of action stations with more open area for seating and the action stations spread around the core of the ship. All of your favorite stations from salad to pasta, carving to India, dessert to a full service bar. The forward facing ceiling to floor windows offer a view to die for. The entrance to La Cucina is in the front of the Garden Café down a stairway. It really is a nice space with equally impressive forward facing views. The library look with the bindings of old face books glued to the shelves is nice except I thing the workers forgot the glue on many of them as the books of bindings lay on the floor and chairs in front of them. As I left the NCL team was busy reattaching many of them.
From there is up the stairs and out onto the pool deck headed aft in search of the ice skating rink. “Yes Virginia there is a skating rink on the Epic”. This is a dangerous adventure as passengers looking like drunks staggered from one side of the walkways to the other in the moderate seas and the water from the the slides running across the deck making footing risky.
I made it past the Epic Plunge and too a stairway that I hoped would take me to the the sports deck and the home of the holy grail I was seeking. But alas it only led to the exit for the purple slide so it was down the back stairway the dropped me behind the green slide in an inch of water. In my effort to escape I slammed my arm into on of the ridges on the steel tubing that made up that slide. Injury was not going to prefent me from reaching my goal.
I headed further back and up the stairs to Spice H20s bar. It was interesting to see all the kids enjoying a bite to eat while their parents got hammered in the adults only area. There at the far end of the bar was a stairway that must go toward the goal I continued to seek. At the top of the stairs was a giant cylinder like cage with kids climbing inside trying to escape. This must be where they put all of them when captured in Spice H20. Next to it must be where the tourture those kids that are repeat offenders. They had they hooked up to giant rubber bands and making them jump repeatedly 10 feet into the air.
Suddenly off to my right I saw it. The Epic ice skating rink. Set up on the the basketball court 4x8 interlocking sheets of artificial ice and a room full of real ice skates. So for all of those including myself that insisted there was no ice skating on the Epic and the latest Epic catalogs were wrong it is time to eat crow.
It was odd up on the sports deck as kids ran in fear when they saw me. I did not think much of it and headed down the stairs to start the daily refueling process at the H20 bar. The bar tender took one look at me and asked if I wanted a bandaid. I turned my arm over and blood was running from just below my elbow to my wrist. The result of the attack by the green monster earlier in the quest.
All cleaned up and a couple of ban aids latter it was down to deck seven and hit the shops. $108 for 5 cartons of cigarettes, and Epic hat and t-shirt. That brings us to lunch and time to find a plug for this netbook.
To be continued. Petra did mange to resize 800 of the pictures I took so far and I will find a place to post a few later. Stay tuned.
Day 4 of the cruise and the crew are doing everything they can, and working all hours to get everything just right. We are in one of the cabins at the aft of deck 12 who's cabling was taken out by the fire. Well, last night our phone started working, and this morning the TV is working. The navigation display seems stuck, but at least we now have a picture in our room.
A busy day today with the Germany Vs England match on the big screen, Cirque dreams tonight, and Legends have their first 2 shows in the Epic Theatre.
We saw the first signs yesterday of O'Sheehan's getting busy while the football was on. One tip, don't sit over by the pool table area, the wait staff have a well trodden path between the bar and the main eating area, so sit around there and you will get served a lot faster. The Spinach and Artichoke dip was very good. They have a selection from about 8 beers on draft (but not all on board). Currently you can have Heineken, Newcastle Brown Ale, Stella Atrois or Amstel. They are also doing the 6 beers in a bucket for the price of 5 with a large selection available.
For some reason they have decided to split up the wine list across the various restaurants into much smaller selections, so you no longer get the full ships wine list, but if you ask, you can still see it.
So far one of our favourite spots is a few small tables in the bar area at the Moderno restaurant entrance which overlook the Manhattan room danced floor below with a view out of the aft windows. A very quiet area, a bit like a larger star Bar.
I waited until now--a couple days into the cruise--to post some impressions. Partly to let them gather, clarify, simmer into something coherent. But also partly because during the first day and a half I would have said something like "this ship was not ready to sail with passengers, it needed a couple more weeks of prep" and I really didn't want to say that unless I really meant it.
So do I indeed mean that? No, I guess I really don't. Maybe it could have used a couple more days though. In any case, I now have air conditioning, I am now able to open, close, get in and out my cabin without a thought, without wrenching my back. My key card now works. The Courtyard hot tub now is up and running, as is the one in the spa. The elevators now consistently work. All is well. And in retrospect, 24 hours of various frustrations was worth 6 days following of pure relaxation, good food, drink, and feeding the casino on a daily basis (it only gets appetizers from me, no big meals find their way outside this gal's wallet).
I am now so relaxed it's almost too much effort to decide what eating venue to go to to eat and relax in, what entertainment we might attend to sit at and relax during, what item off the Martini Bar menu I should try as I sit and relax and do some serious people watching. Whew. Just thinking about all those decisions make me contemplate relaxing myself right into a nap. Life is rough this week.
More another time. Time to sit, read, relax.
I just spent an hour catching everyone up on this Epic adventure and lost the file. Let me pour a little more Grey Goose and start over. Like the blog I guess the best way to go is start with tonight and work backward before the task becomes to great. Sorry I can not post many pictures since I have no way to resize them on this netbook.
Full moon in the middle of the Atlantic and the weather remains exceptional.
We are just back from Fat Cats and the Slam Allen Blues Band. It was like walking into an old blues bar in Chicago and the music just grabs you. Thee place was packed until closing about an hour ago. Tonight was special with 2 of the keyboard players from Howl at the Moon taking turns sitting in for one set. I took some video and will post when I get back.
Great news the navigation channel just went live on the TV and I now know where the ship is. We are still headed SW well south of the western edge of Ireland still headed toward the Azores at 20.6 kts.
Back to tonight it was dinner at 9:00 in the Manhattan Room with the big band sounds of the NCL band. Most of the dance floor was full of tables at the start of dinner but the continued to remove tables as people finished opening up more space for those that wanted to take advantage of traditional dance music. The band was to continue to play until midnight there. The food was excellent with some at the table having steak, some grouper, and some lamb shank. I understand why as I went out on the pod launching deck better known as the promenade daeck on most ships and met 2 of the 3 executive chefs onboard to get things running well. They are taking no chances and have duplicate and triplicate experienced people in all key rolls. Besides the chefs 2 hotel directors, 2 concierges, 2 food and beverage directors, and 2 cruise directors.
Continuing back in time things get a little hazy with the first ever martini clinic on the Epic. They did a great job and added some tests to keep those of us perhaps drinking a little too much on our toes. So name 10 parts of the body that only have 3 letters and ass is not one of them.
I returned to the cabin to try and blog but was struck by the sight of a huge school of dolphins in the middle of nowhere off my balcony. I took a picture to make sure it was not just a side effect from the 7 martinis.
I am not sure how to cover the rest of the day but at one point I had 11 NCL employees in my suite including 2 hotel directors (Sean and Klaus) all working to solve the minor issues in my room. I had 2 temperatures of water, burn your skin off or major shrinkage cold. The hotter you turn the3 controls th3e colder it got and if you went the other way it went all the way to full burn. The army figured it out. The fine workers in France had reversed the hot and cold water lines so when the temperature control of the mixer sensed the water was to hot he called for more cold and got more hot so it called for more of the same. The same was true if it sensed it was too cool. That was solved but not the end of the shower story.
I do wish I could post pictures to help you all understand what happened after my last post getting ready for dinner. The shower is remarkable in the suite with and rain head and 6 jets plus and hand held all contained in a massive chrome housing mounted on the wall. I decided to enjoy it since the water temperature issue was resolved and I did not have to use the shower in the second bathroom again. The rain shower hard was about nose high and there was a handle at the bottom of the housing that I thought would raise it. Well it raised it and the whole unit fell off the wall. There I was covered in soap, 50 lbs of shower equipment in my hands, surrounded by glass. So what else could I do but move the assembly around to rinse off and lean it against the wall, get dressed, and call for help. All I can say is when I returned this morning the shower is fixed and the best news the rain head is at the proper height .
Moving back in time lunch today was in the Epic club. They had already changed the design of the Courtyard Grill and Bar that saw furniture for the first time yesterday. They had removed much of the seating in the open air space and added tables for those that wanted to eat outside the main dining area. Today for lunch it was shrimp cocktail again but with scallops as a main dish. It is rough out here in the middle of the Atlantic but somebody has to do it.
The morning went fast. A quick breakfast in the Epic Club and off to get set up for the Meet and Greet. The Bistro was standing room only with well over 100 folks showing up along with both Hotel Directors (sean and Klaus) both Cruise directors, the Food and beverage director, Assistant Hotel directors, and the Captain. As a Joke I had added Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer to the roll call. Well they both showed up as well. You have to give Klaus credit he stayed for almost an hour after the meeting ended standing at the reception desk, little notebook in hand, addressing concerns of all those that had them until the last person left. You all need to understand the staff and crew have been working 18 - 20 hour days for the last month to make this cruise possible. They finished the last critical pieces only minutes before we boarded the Epic. I guess it does not matter how you got to the finish line but the fact you finished but these people are drained and looking forward to returning to some semblance of a normal life at sea.
I just want to say in case anyone from NCL reads this that I want o thank each and every member of the crew of the Norwegian Epic for there effort and focus on their customers. Without them going the extra miles I would be sitting in NJ wishing the Epic was ready. Is it perfect yet? No. Is it more then I expected? For certain. Those of you planning to cruise on the Epic in the future you are in for a special treat like nothing else NCL or any line has ever delivered.
A couple of notes in closing. We have not seen the congestion problems reported from the one or two night cruses where everyone was trying to everything in 24 hours. Smoking in the casino should not be an issue with one side set aside as no smoking with tables and machines including the casino bar. The sides are separated by the massive atrium area with only a small section that needs to be crossed by the none smokers. O’Sheehan’s rocks with great food and always at least one bowling alley open. Try it for Breakfast no crowds and excellent omelets.
We will see what tomorrow brings. Day 3 of 7.
Enough for tonight. It is almost 2:30. I don’t want to sleep and miss a moment onboard this ship but I need to.
So it has been a few days since I updated the blog. The reason I am having a great time. Today at sea for th3e first time I saw a couple of things. A true sparkling sea as we sailed across this mill pond it was like a 100,000 stars were on the water. I just returned to the suite to see a school of dolphins in the middle of the Atlantic. I really don’t know where to start to bring everyone up to now. Especially since I just returned from the martini clinic.
I will start here. The Epic and the crew are remarkable This is really a next generation product for NCL. Clearly it is not without its problems right now but the good news they have out of the France and working to address to shortfalls from the construction. There are still cabins with no TV or phone with the fire destroying the IP backbone on the Epic. Everyday many less . I just feel blessed to be in my courtyard villa since much of the work to open the area was completed hours before I boarded. There is still some work to be completed. Today they finished the sauna and steam area. Still working on the exercise room. We had the first meal ever served in the Epic Club at lunch yesterday. It was great with shrimp cocktail and a nice strip steak in an amazing room.
We are still head south toward the Azores to avoid a large low pressure system and the will turn northwest to NYC. There is a good change we will really get a chance to shake down the Epic with 30-40 foot seas later this week.
I will catch you all up on the last night in Southampton , boarding (I was the first onboard), dinner in the new expansive Cagney’s, the casino being very bad to me, great little know spots on the Epic, The transporter launching deck, the shower with 2 temperatures scalding or freezing, meet and greet, martuni clinic, Klaus the magic man, but first I need to get ready for dinner….Later
Knowing the problems the Epic has had, knowing this was the first couple of sailings and wanting to be on her, we would have to wait our turn to Thursday. But we were still jealous of the people that were on her. Watching the flags come down, hearing the engines start and finally seeing her start to move away from the pier was a site to behold. Seeing her glide over the water as she made her way to the channel was an awesome site to these eyes and waking up to the wonderful picture of her peeking around the buildings made this day real.
More to come as we start this wonderful journey across the pond on the beautiful Norwegian Epic..