4/19 Pre Cruise Report from New Orleans
The Drury Inn is very nice. Afternoon reception had 3 drinks per person (full bar) and wide variety of hors d'verves.
For dinner, we met Jorge & Dawn, Hank & Florence, Gary & Joycie and Gary (Levoyageur) at Mandina's restaurant, a long time Italian eatery with a Cajun twist which was recommended by our local cruise mate, Jorge. It was wonderful breaking bread together.
4/20 Special New Orleans Luncheon
We had a lovely luncheon at Antoine's, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the US (1840) The luncheon was hosted by the great granddaughter of the founder, Yvonne Alciatore Blount and her dear friend, Carrie. Yvonne's son now operates Antoine's.
We were joined by: Gary & Joycie (Sootie), Jorge & Dawn (Isu4Fan), Hank & Florence (Mr Happy), Gary (LeVoyageur), Jill & Gordon (Cmdr Cody & 8 WestiesMom), Sherri, Jacqueline & Joanne (cn308), Judi (JudiPA) and Toni (KSbelle)
The special 3 course lunch menu offered choice of appetizers, entrees and desert for $20.13 and 25 cent green apple martinis.
We had a wonderful meal, in a superb restaurant with magnificent companions.
4/21 New Orleans boarding and Sail Away Dinner
The VIP boarding went quickly and smoothly. We arrived at the pier at 11 am and were escorted aboard before noon. Knowing that the two 6000 SF Garden Villas were still available, we requested an upgrade or up-sale. We were told that they were still being marketed at full price until after Miami. We asked to be put on a bidding list. We were then escorted to our SJ Family Suite, which was perfect in every regard, except 400 SF isn't quite the same as 6000 SF.
We had a wonderful sail away dinner in Le Bistro with 4 couples (Jim & Jeanne, Gary & Joycie, Hank & Florence, and Jorge & Dawn. Gary brought some very special red Bordeaux wine for the entree and I brought some Spanish Cava (champagne) for the starters. For dessert, we enjoyed a scrumptious "bon voyage" cake that had been delivered compliments of New York City Suzanne. (Thank you Suzie, it was delicious)
We were able to wish Toronto AJ Happy Birthday when she arrived with her dinner companions (Tinman, Lori and Boston Bill) about an hour later than us. She and her daughter are both very special ladies.
4/22 Cruise Critic Meet & Greet and Gift Exchange
The CC bulletin board and easel provided by NCL disappeared overnight. The crew is still trying to locate it. NCL gave us a new bulletin board which I now secure in my cabin at night.
We had a very successful Meet & Greet and signed in about 150 persons. The Captain invited everyone for a tour of the ship's bridge.
Captain Fafalios came aboard as the new Captain. It's great to see him again since the Jade.
The new Hotel Director, Richard Janicki, is a very humorous emcee when introducing his staff but he does not convey the warmth and conviviality of his predecessor, Sean Wurmhoeringer. X8888
Yannis Kazalis is still the superb Food & Beverage Dir. and is as affable as always. X8899
Group service director, Jahaira Fernandez Robinson is responsive to all guest requests and very personable. X8877
Exec Housekeeper, Hal Brooms friendly and helpful as ever X8860
Concierge David Contreras is still the superb Problem Solver and go to guy.X7070
Immediately following the Meet & Greet, Sharon Rae (Mrs Uniall) and Joycie (Sootie) conducted the Home Town Gift Exchange with about 35 participating couples.
4/23 Miami Port of Call
A group of 15 Cruise Critics organized a taxis convoy to the famous Cuban American restaurant, Versailles, in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. We had a magnificent meal of traditional Cuban cuisine. Some of our members picked up some cigars for the voyage.
4/24 Happy Days Are Here Again.
We were upgrade to 3BR Garden Villa today. I invited Joycie & Gary (Sootie) and Jorge & Dawn (Isu4fan) to join in our good fortune
We enjoyed lounging around in the Villa's outdoor garden (using our private Jacuzzi) because of the nice weather. The evening festivities began with the Captain's cocktail party to kick off "dress up night". We had a table for ten in Cagney's for dinner. We were disappointed in changes to the menu, including the prime rib being replaced with Barbeque ribs. But, the filet ordered by most was perfectly done and very tender.
4/25 A Leisurely Day was spent reading and exploring the ship.
After lunch in Cagney's, we burned off calories with an afternoon nap. The six members of the Villa Crew dressed for the Roaring 20s theme cocktail party from 5 till 6. We returned to the Villa to have dinner served by our butler in our dining room. We ordered off the Main Dining room menu and I got my prime rib. we were joined for after dinner drinks and conversation by Rol & Judy, Hank & Florence, and Jim & Jeanne.
4/26 We did the Executive Chef's Table dinner.
Twelve couples, 9 courses each paired with wine. The chef spent 3 hours explaining preparation just prior to service of the next course. Superb
4/27 A table for 10 in the Versailles Main Dining Room was reserved by Concierge David.
Our party included Mr & Mrs Happy, Joyce & Gary, Jim & Jeanne, and Jorge & Dawn. The dining room maitre' D gave away our table. David immediately moved us to the "Special" Wine Cellar room of Le Bistro for complimentary dinner and wine. After dinner, the ten of us enjoyed the fantastic tribute show to Frankie Valle and the 4 Seasons from our reserved balcony box. Great day.
4/28 Life is an array of choices and options.
Gary & Joyce and Jim & Jeanne went to Tapanyaki (chop chop) and reported no chef's fingers found in food. Jorge & Dawn had the butler bring their dinner from the Blue Lagoon to the suite where we dined with them with plates from the buffet. Mr & Mrs Happy went to the Aqua Main Dining Room. After dinner, the entire gang, except us, went to the theater to see "Shout", a musical revue of rock & roll of the 60s, 70,s 80s & 90's. Sharon Rae and I addressed the invitations that had been prepared by Concierge David for 50 guests we are inviting to the Garden Villa for a Ponta Delgada Sail Away Party on Tuesday. We ended the evening with night cap drinks for all, except the Happys, in the Villa.
4/29 A Day of some of this and some of that.
We enjoyed our Bridge Tour in the morning. The, we spent the day finalizing plans for Azores sail away party. We attended Judy Donie's birthday party at 4 pm celebrated with a loud chorus (if off key) of Happy Birthday. I conveyed Suzanne Jacobs "Big Hug" wishes. Cocktails in Villa before dinner for 8 with Roberts, Hernandez & Cascios. Dined at La Cucina Italian and were very disappointed. Service was very sub substandard for NCL and every dish arrived warm at best. We were amazed how poorly we were received considering the restaurant was only at 20% capacity. The slow service required us to leave for the theater without dessert. Concierge David was waiting to seat us in our reserved balcony. The show was a disappointing comic who said he got his start many decades ago on the ill-fated and much ridiculed TV "Gong Show". That put his act in proper perspective. We finished off the day with our deserts and champagne in the Villa before retiring to bed. We arrive in Ponta Delgada in the morning at 10am with forecast of sunny and 63 F.
4/30 Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal
Hank & Florence (Mr & Mrs Happy) and we have been to Ponta Delgada three times previously and had done all the interior island tours. But, we had never spent time in the port city, Ponta Delgada. After the ship was cleared and the "hurry up gang" were off and running we went into town for a leisurely look. We hired a taxi driver who spoke excellent English for 2 hours for 30 Euros. He showed us the usual tourist sites (the old fort, the cathedral, the tourist shopping, etc.) but then showed us the various residential areas from poor to affluent. After Mr Happy presented him with the usual Mr Happy Greeting (a happy face key ring each for the driver, his wife and children) the two hours magically became three.
We returned to the ship for late lunch and began final preparations for our afternoon Garden Villa Sail Away Party. It was a smashing success. Concierge, David Contreras, had printed and delivered our invitations. He also provided a magnificent array of refreshments and four butlers to serve our guests and escort them from the public deck 13 to our private deck 14. Our 60 plus guests were having such a wonderful time; we extended the gala for an additional 2 hours. A good time was had by all. We will rest tomorrow.
5/1 This was a day of leisure and rest.
Temp dropped today and pool was closed. We spent the day watching new release movies on DVDs in the Villa's living room, reading and NAPPING.
Sharon Rae and I joined Mr & Mrs Happy in Aqua main dining room for chateau Briand and lobster tail special. We met out suite mates and two other couples for the late show where our butler served champagne and chocolate in our private box. We saw the superb acrobatic dance couple Jocka & Maria. They are a must see.
5/2 The Cruise Critic Farewell Luncheon was scheduled for today.
Sharon Rae & Joycie hosted the lunch in the Aqua dining room. There was about 60 Cruise Critics in attendance. It was a nice ending to the Cruise Critic events but had to be scheduled a little early to include those disembarking in Dover, UK in 2 days. We had a few friends up to the Garden Villa for coffee after lunch.
We had Chinese in the Ginza with Mr & Mrs Happy and it was superb. We met our Villa mates for the 930 show and saw a double bill of a juggler comic and a reprise of the Jersey Boys. Both we very enjoyable. Upon return to the Villa, we found a life size "towel man" sporting a hat, sun glasses, and shoes lounging on our sofa. It was the best towel creation by the best cabin steward we've ever had on any cruise: "Binji" (Benjiman).
5/3 We bid a fond farewell to two of our Villa mates tonight.
We held a farewell dinner for two of our Villa mates (Jorge & Dawn) in Le Bistro tonight, since they debark in Dover tomorrow. The Roberts & McNeals will have to tough out 4 more days in the Villa alone and abandoned by the Hernandezes.
5/4 Today is "White Cliffs of Dover Day".
I was up @ 4 am to watch our entry into Dover Harbor.
The ship was cleared by 6 and Villa mates, Jorge & Dawn we among the first off.
Gary & Joyce canceled their planned 12 hour day trip to London. Instead, they took a 630 train to Canterbury for a morning excursion.
Sharon Rae and I, having already visited London and Canterbury on many occasions, opted for a more civilized program with a leisurely breakfast aboard ship before heading into Dover for a DIY walking tour. We taxied to "Market Square" (7 BPS) which is built over the first century Roman Quay (harbor).
We visited a small excavation site of the "Roman Painted House" which was an Inn used by merchants with warehouses adjoining the ancient Roman army and naval forts. Then we did a DIY mini pub crawl. Our first stop was a bust since the "Lord Nelson" has closed. Our second stop was open (Flotilla) was open but only had 3 customers, few chairs, and no food. Third time was a charmer. "The eight Bells" had over 100 patrons enjoying 2 BPS pints and good reasonably priced food (5 BPS steak sandwich & fries and 7 BPS Fish & Chips)
Villa mates, Gary & Joyce, met as at the pub about 2pm having returned from Canterbury.
We all napped upon return to the ship and had a few guests up for Dover sail away with drinks and light supper of sandwiches at 630 pm.
The 930 show was superb. A Russian couple "Duo Platschkov" performs their multi-talented act from the Moscow Circus including mime, juggling, comedy and acrobatics. Another must see performance.
5/5 This is the last "At Sea" Day.
Had dinner with the Herzogs (Happys) in Aqua main dining room tonight. Yannis, the F&B Director, had a special treat prepared for us. Since we'd missed the braised short ribs special the previous night, he had them served as starters for us. Tonight there are three specials: lobster tails, weinershnitzel (getting ready for Germany) and braise lamb shank and mousaka (do with have a port call in Greece?). We ordered tasting plates of all three and each of was superb.
We were joined in the reserved theater section by Gary & Joyce, Jim & Jeanne, and Den & Patsy (Cline). We had our butler pour champagne and Patsy had her dinner waiter deliver mini sweets from Cagney's. The show was stupendous, The Three Tenors. They will be performing on sail away night from Copenhagen but leave the ship in Germany.
5/6 Today is Helsingborg, Sweden, our final Port of Call.
We started our last full day on a hurry up and wait note. Swedish officials were late boarding to process our passports and set going ashore and excursion plans back an hour. Helsingborg, Sweden does not have a docking pier for cruise ships (only ferries). I was able to expedite our tendering trip with the help of Concierge David Contreras. Once ashore, Excursion Manger, Mehalia, took great care of Sharon Rae and Mrs Happy by reserving the motor coach handicapped seats for them. The ship's tour was titled "The Best of Helsingborg". What an oxymoron. It was one of the worst tours I've ever seen. The guide and driver were excellent but the town and businesses are not equipped to provide a good tourist reception (e.g. very few souvenir shops, few cafes for quick cup of coffee on the tourist trail, etc.) We were told NCL Star is the first cruise ship to schedule a port of call, so maybe it will improve.
We had lunch in the ship cafeteria (food not great since few people were aboard and food sat out longer than usual). Then we took an afternoon nap.
We had begun our 16 day cruise with dinner at Le Bistro for ten (Sharon & I, The Herzogs, the Roberts, the Cascios and the Harnandezes. Since the Hernandezes left the ship in Dover we spent our last night with dinner for the remaining eight served by our butler in our Garden Villa dining room. With the Roberts and Cascios leaving tomorrow, they and others gave us their left over beer, booze and wine. We will need help from our friends who are boarding tomorrow in Copenhagen for our second leg of a back to back cruise to drink up the bar supply. I hope they are in a party mood and very thirsty.
5/7 Copenhagen, Denmark, the end of a great 16 Day Trans-Atlantic Crossing.