Fantastic and Fun Cruise on Norwegian Jewel April 2009
One Fantastic and Fun Cruise on Norwegian Jewel in April 2009
Being the seventh son of eight boys in a row and two girls, I am a member of a fantastic and close family with personalities spanning the crosscut of those a person would meet in a lifetime. We lived on the Detroit River at the mouth of Lake St. Clair. Our home was a massive English Tudor on the River with a man-made / dredged one mile long horseshoe-shaped canal 150 feet wide and 10 feet deep. The story about the house and how we lived is another writing. The upper mouth of the canal was so designed to capture the current of the River water as it entered the River from Lake St. Clair and divert some of the flow into the canal so we had fresh and clear circulating water through the canal. Our home was on the lower mouth, or exit, of the canal to the River. We had 350 feet of concrete seawall providing us with a solid water front face for boat dockage, swimming, shoveling the hockey rinks from seawall to seawall and more. We shoveled paths through the snow on the ice for the many skating parties hosted.
So much of the focus of our activities shared was centered at our home on water-related fun with all the students of St. Martin School welcomed to our home every day for the pleasures and experiences of hockey games, skating parties, swimming, hand-ball, baseball, football, running down trails in the fields, flipping outboards and cleaning them out and swimming on them, going out on the River and Lake in storms, rescuing overloaded or stalled boaters, swimming around the canals, swimming across the River to Canada, boating to wander the wilderness of Peche Island and swim its beaches across from our home in the middle of the River, keel boating on the ice floes in the canal and the River, and enjoying the fresh air and water while watching passersby on boats. The Great Lakes Freighters were a special design and breed of ore, wood, coal and other cargo locked in the Great Lakes and dozens of these ships passed our home every day sounding their horns and the familiar rumble of their engines. We were able to tell the freighter by the sound of the engines before we would see the ship. There were Great Lakes Cruise ships – North American and South American as well as the later Aquarama – offering passenger service while the historic BobLo Boats transferred passengers to and from BobLo Island, a thrilling park in the Lower Detroit River. When Queen Elizabeth II of England entered the St. Lawrence Seaway and cruised to Chicago, Illinois in July 1959 on the Royal Yacht Britannia, she passed our home. The historic Yacht Delphine, now moored in Monte Carlo, Monaco, on the Mediterranean was owned by the Dodge Family and docked at their Rose Terrace Estate in Grosse Pointe on Lake St. Clair, used to come and anchor just off the freighter channel in front of our home each summer for a month. My dad used to play cards on the ship with the Dodges. The story of the Yacht is better left to another writing though readers may research it on the Internet.
Each of my siblings and I held responsible positions of honor and trust as Captains of private boats and yachts and these experiences cultivated in me an exceptional desire to travel and experience the world and its peoples on land and by Sea. Thus I found myself desiring to reach out and find a new part of myself while traveling and so I pursued that with the encouragement of my parents and never looked back. This cruise at hand is my number eleven and my thirty-third trip to Europe with another (#12) already scheduled for September 2009.
Each event in my life prepared me to respond to the Call of the Unknown and pursue Cruising. Planning and executing my plans became my purpose because at age 19 I had made a list of all the far-out things I wished to do with and in my life. In 1993 I completed the list with a month-long trip to Russia. So I made a new list on which I am working now and it includes travel and cruising as much as possible. Since I have no self-limiting beliefs, I accept no boundaries as to what I might do and experience. Before traveling to a destination, I look at the Five Arts as related to the region as that presents the character of the destination. The Five Arts are: Music, Dance, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. Understanding the part these play in the area enables me to maximize my experience and know what I have done. I am blessed that I can recall day, date, time, place, persons, cost of my trips. This is not because I memorize. On the contrary, it is because I so totally experience everything good that it becomes a part of me, and need not be remembered or memorized. The information is just in my mind as part of me. This ability supports my continuing to go and meet the wonderful persons to whom I introduce myself and with whom I find great pleasure in sharing the experiences of the day. It is noteworthy how my interests and pursuits differ dramatically from my siblings. While each of us has had the opportunity for incredible experiences spanning the globe, my focus on travel and its personal growth opportunities and experiences has widened my horizons and positioned me as one focused on relationships to the discharge of value as related to worldly goods. Outside of basic needs, I have few needs and wants and my desire is to continue to live my blessing to meet great people and share the day. I would be happy to move from NCL ship to NCL ship for the rest of my days meeting happy people and sharing the beauty of each day with them as an NCL Ambassador.
My travel arrangements are handled directly with the Cruise Line and Airline with no reliance on a travel agent. The person with whom I deal at NCL has been my personal representative for many years and we have a relationship according to which she will call me and advise or recommend a certain trip based on destination and price because she knows my interests.
Past Cruises: NCL Dynasty July 1998 Inside Passage Vancouver to Alaska 7 days NCL Sky November 2001 Hawaii to Mexico 15 days NCL Sun Western Caribbean October 2002 NCL Dream May 2004 14 days Dover, Baltic, Scandinavian, St. Petersburg NCL Jewel October 2006 Barcelona to Miami 14 Days NCL Pearl November 2006 Southampton, England to Miami 11 days Carnival April Easter 2007 Mexican Riviera from San Diego, California NCL Sky September 2007 from Hawaii to Mexico 15 days Carnival Freedom October 2007 Rome to Miami Holland America Line Rotterdam October/November 2008 25 Day Athens to Fort Lauderdale NCL Jewel April 2009 11 Day Miami to Dover – this cruise NCL Jewel September 2009 11 Day Northern Route Dover to NY – Booked
Obviously Norwegian Cruise Line is my preferred Cruise Line and this preference has been confirmed and reinforced by ventures on Carnival and Holland America Line.
A Bit of My Philosophy:
You can always read the ship specifications on line or in brochures. Therefore, though some writers give all this information, I prefer to share the experiences of cruising, as that is what I believe you read to learn. The persons met on the ship and the fun of cruising and the unique experiences are my reasons to cruise and share with you. A person’s behavior and presence reflects the personality of the moment – or what we call state. State is how a person is with someone else. It is how one represents or presents self to and with others. Some persons are active and engaging. Others are passive and merely observers. My personality is Extrovert / Pragmatic and so I am active and engaging and will be found participating in activities and choosing to share time and experiences and be with persons of a similar focus on living life to the fullest. My action plan by which I live is to maximize every moment and I do that best by sharing my time with interesting and interested persons and offering my friendship to each knowing that I risk possible rejection by persons passive in nature. The person I offer is myself and when I offer, it is with the knowledge that the offer may not be accepted. This deters me not because I know that there are millions of persons to whom I may offer my friendship and with whom I may share my thoughts and philosophy as well as experiences of life. While we walk in the same direction sharing, we grow and in doing so we find ourselves.
Out of my respect for the privacy of those persons mentioned and with whom I shared the cruising experience, the names are changed to preserve their identities.
This eleventh cruise is another most memorable trip both because it is recent and because of the wonderful persons who befriended me and let me be myself.
When asked why I cruise frequently, my answer is always because of the persons I meet as well as my ability to respond to the call of the unknown. Since age 21, I have been traveling and meeting wonderful people by looking for the face of God in each person. A stranger is a future friend and I allow for this to be true for me. My goal is to share myself with no conditions because when I offer friendship and it is received the gift I give of myself to others is my own gift to myself while being unattached to the results. Persons quickly realize that I seek nothing for myself while wanting what they want for themselves. It is nonsense for me to want for another what that person fails to want for self. This belief frees me from conditions, which stain many relationships and create guarded interaction instead of freedom. Being outcome oriented, my goals are to maximize every moment of every day and to share that concept with each person nearby. When I die, I will slide into death as a great baseball player slides into base under the guarding eye of the baseman trying to tag the runner out. Until then, my plan is to live each moment to the fullest and share the fun, knowledge and experiences I have gained. Each of us believes we know what is in our minds. Yet I challenged myself to prove this by being able to speak or to write and have my communication received and understood by another. This serves as proof that I truly know what I think I know. Each of us is born with Talents and then we build on this base and strengthen it with skills and abilities, which we learn and improve by testing in real-life situations. This blending of the talents, skills and abilities coupled with our belief system and our physiology creates the presence with which we are with others – our state – and how we present ourselves and see ourselves. Some of us live “as if” and this is beneficial because then we create that which we seek to become and on which we focus. Often we find the measure of the person is determined by how the person handles that which comes to him/her instead of what comes to the person. Realizing this we are able to understand more fully the integration of self-determination and self-reliance and the other self-words into our thought process and behavior as being the basis of finding self and success as each of us defines it.
Finding self is an interesting challenge and concept. My mind is conceptual and I live in a conceptual world whereas the world in which we were taught to live in is mechanical. We are taught to put on socks before shoes and to put on pants before shoes. Books and resources are available to guide one step by step through the mechanics of doing or learning anything - computers, roofing, siding, drywall, and whatever. Yet, my living in a Conceptual World is like being in an umbrella world in which I quickly see at arm’s length the situation and objectively gain an understanding of the mechanics of how something is done or put together because my conceptual approach allows the mechanics to fall into place more easily and more clearly for me. Thus, I contend that most persons do not know the person, whom they see in the mirror each morning and moreover they are not aware that there is a conceptual approach to the world in which we live. Therefore, to share my life more fully, I have written a book titled “The ABCs of Conceptual Daily living” and am re-editing it for another release on the Internet for the purpose of offering choice to persons seeking to find self and create or re-create or re-frame their lives. My belief is that it is a disservice to myself and to God and to you and to society as a whole if I were to fail to share this information and way of life as well as hold it to myself as my domain. Each of us is placed here on earth for a Purpose. Purpose may be defined as the reason you were plunked down in your family where ever you are and in whatever geographic location and with the certain Talents given you and upon which you have expanded yourself by developing skills and abilities to further serve mankind by using your talents, skills and abilities to serve others. When focus is on a program of life-long education of self, then one finds within self anew and a much larger dimension of self by which to help others while and by pursuing excellence of purpose. Purpose also includes determining on your own that which you wish to do for a career – something fun – something you love to do such that when it is Thursday afternoon you would be pleased if it were Monday AM. That is a career pursuit in which your personal growth may be exponential and lead you to continually challenge and expand your own capabilities. The time required for me and few friends to determine our purpose and write it into a three-sentence short paragraph was seven months of writing, reviewing, crossing out and changing words, deleting, restating, synthesizing and culminating in a typed and framed Statement of Purpose particular to myself as I see and have come to know myself. Because I am in a constant state of becoming, I am committed to being a better person today than yesterday. Because this commitment is to myself, it is easy to change myself because I know that change comes from inside and no other person can change me - just as I am unable to change another. This is why I seek to be a catalyst of change for others by my sharing my knowledge and experience because by doing so, perhaps a kernel of information shared may be the catalyst for a paradigm shift in a person’s life. That would be success and satisfaction for me.
Most persons do not know that they do not know what they do not know. Most persons do not know that this concept even exists. Yet I live seeking to come to know that which I know I do not know. Hence, my life-long learning plan pursuit.
Understanding that simplicity of thought and design is the fundamental principle of and the basis of daily living is key. As a child, we learned that the approach to a puzzle or math problem was best designed as one determining the elements of the situation and therefore reducing a problem to its least common denominators offering a solution more easily found that struggling with and being stonewalled by the size of the overall problem.
Travel to Port of Embarkation:
In the past two years, I have traveled between Detroit and Fort Lauderdale on the same low-cost Spirit Airlines flights approximately twenty times and so I set my air to arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 9:35 AM for the 35 –mile transfer to Miami Port for boarding any time after 12 Noon the same day. Historically, the plane is inbound from Las Vegas to DTW and arrives on time at 5:21 AM allowing for a timely 6:35 AM departure. As might be the case, the inbound flight was delayed and so we departed late from DTW and arrived in FLL at 10:10 AM. I have learned to travel light and strategically pack knowing that whatever I might need on the trip is sold in the destination. So I arrived with my carry-on and made my way to the GO-Shuttle service at FLL for transfer to Miami Port. There were other persons on the same flight retrieving baggage before coming to the Go shuttle and I thought I would ride to the Port with them and fill a shuttle directly to the Pier though they were boarding a different NCL Cruise Ship. Well, as it would happen, the Go man directed me into a Shuttle filled with persons being transported to six various destinations in Miami and they were to be delivered before I would get to the Pier. So, OK, I will ride in this Shuttle and paid the $23. The Causeway in Miami was shut due to a dump truck overturned and having spilled its load. This caused a backup on I-95 Freeway. One party in the van was on his cell phone loudly discussing business and personal information and each of us was disturbed that he was doing so. Arrival in Miami brought us to a Freeway exit far from the destinations and so I ended up with a 3-hour tour of Miami streets and neighborhoods before arrival at the NCL Jewel with less than an hour to spare. Reflecting on the mishap brings up a story to be told later.
Arrival at the Pier and entry into the Terminal was delayed by a long snaking line both outside and inside the terminal. In the line I met many persons with the most memorable being Irkl, a gal from Nuremburg, Germany. We found common ground based on my visits to her city. We both arrived at the registration counter at the same time for quick check in and processing including photo for the NCL boarding card computer check. The stateroom key card is used as a credit card for your charging purchases and services on the ship and the total will be charged at the end of the cruise to your credit card registered when you cleared for boarding in the Terminal. The ship photo staff members were on hand to take the first Welcome Aboard photo before stepping on the gangway onto the ship where I was greeted by crew offering champagne gladly received. Having been aboard the Jewel for its Maiden Voyage from Barcelona to Miami in October 2006, I knew my way and was familiar with the ship so I made my way to my Inside Stateroom, 10019. Stateroom:
My stateroom is on the inside of the exterior starboard forward hallway three doors forward of the forward elevator bank. It provides quick access to the elevators and stairs and positions me approximately midway between the ranges of decks I will frequent – decks 6 through 13. Two single beds against the walls provide more floor space in the center of the room. My second bed became a display of the dozen towel animals fashioned by the crew with a new one each day. I wrote a note on the second day stating that I liked the animals and thanking them for adding to the family of guests entering my room. So, as a result of the note, the staff left the animals there on the bed instead of removing them after a day. The condition of the stateroom was such that I immediately unpacked and settled in and placed my carry-on bag in the closet on the floor with shoes. The lighting in the room is soft and could be better because as I sat and wrote at the desk, it seemed dark. For a woman applying makeup in the room, it would be a challenge. A wall-mounted hair dryer was next to the small room vanity. Closet space, shelf space, drawer space were adequate. Life jackets are stored on the top closet shelf. Emergency instructions are on the door. The phone does not provide the time. Additional stateroom information as well as other ship specifications are provided in NCL brochures and on the Internet so I will not be detailing specs as other writers seem to do by lifting information for restatement.
The ship publishes like the Federal Government. I would like to be selling it paper and printing equipment and supplies. Pages of promotional and department-specific sales and ship activities and information are delivered to your stateroom daily and extra pages are available in public displays near the Front Desk where you can get an answer to any question or find resolution to any situation. The Freestyle Daily is a folded publication offering highlights on the day’s activities and schedules of events so you may choose to be involved or dismiss certain events. It is very comprehensive and an ideal reference document for the day. A handy fold-out pocket card provides you with a schematic of the ship detailing by deck the identity and location of each public area, elevators and stairs so it is easy to find your way around the ship and familiarize yourself the first days aboard.
Your choices for dining run the range of grille to Specialty Restaurants ($10-$20 Cover Charge). The Specialty Restaurants offer the experience of truly fine dining for the price of the cover. Dress is normally causal. Occasionally, the Freestyle Daily will note that the night will be a “Dress Up or Not” night coordinated with Portraits by the Photo Crew. While there is a grille at the pool for swimsuit attire, a cover-up is worn when in the Garden Café or Great Outdoors Buffets on Pool Deck 12. The Dining Room meals are tastefully prepared and served with such courtesy found only in the finest of dining establishments. There is never a sense of time pressure to finish the meal and exit the room. As to the Buffets, I feel the same as to the service and food choices as well as presentation though I did come upon an Ugly American taking issue with a kind service person behind the Buffet counter stating to the effect that he is dissatisfied because this is the third day he is at the Buffet and he finds some of the same food offered as has been offered since the cruise began. There is always the possibility that on board will be a person for whom the world is not right. For those persons and those they bother, I say a prayer and move on. Certain persons without restraint and self-discipline in their daily lives will not demonstrate these qualities on a Cruise Ship filled with strangers, who will remain strangers because of the personality of the certain persons.
The Cruise Director and Staff offer a choice of activities throughout the day and these are listed by time in the Daily. My fun day generally begins with a swim 7 AM to 8 AM followed by my shower and then release of my stateroom to the Stewards. Breakfast in the sit-down and be-served Dining Room or in the Garden Café Buffet offers the opportunity to meet and share a meal with new friends. Sometimes these meals linger because the conversation is most interesting and perhaps there is not a scheduled activity of interest such to cut the meal and visiting time short. Often I would receive a voice mail message from a new friend as to where the person (s) would be found should I be available and choose to meet. Leaving these messages is also my open invitation in the event a person is interested to come. If the person appears, then I introduce to the new friends and vice versa if I were the one responding to the invite to come and join at as certain location and approximate time. In the morning I always review the Daily to target certain activities and know their times and then flexibly plan my day. Normally, 2 PM Dance Class or Dance Review is offered in the Deck 13 Forward Spinnaker Lounge and that is the perfect place for refreshing a dance as well as meeting the single persons on the cruise. Those are persons who will be dancing in the Spinnaker each night after the Theatre. I target to be at a meal table for six as a table for eight is too many for good conversation with all persons. This way I offer myself the potential of meeting dozens of persons at each mealtime. Early Dinner at 5 PM enables you to go to the 7:30 PM Theatre presentation unless the meal consumes too much time and you find yourself going for the 9:30 Theatre. The stage show presentations are fantastic and professional. The added acts brought in for the cruise add variety and talent. The pools are heated and sanitized seawater and offer depths to around six feet. Hot tubs are large and popular spots for friendly conversation while meeting new friends. Large glass panels shield the Deck 2 Pool area from cross winds. Large glass panels shield the forward portions of Deck 14, over the Spinnaker Lounge, offering guests choices of spots for sunning as well as just observing the ocean or approaches to ports. Deck 13 aft includes a jogging track, basketball court, golf practice area, deck chess set and shuffleboard.
The Staff are most sensitive to the desires and needs of the youth on board and provide guidance and care so that the parents may rely on the program and the best behavior of their children. The staff brings them to the Theatre and offers a respectable and exciting program. Lunch with the director revealed to me that the program is admirable and offers youth many positive choices to reinforce their lives with meaning.
Staff and Service:
It is obvious that the members of staff are committed to providing the best of service, as this is the basis of the relationship with prior guests that will bring them back to NCL. “How May I Help You?” is the popular offer you hear from each staff member. It is my commitment to myself and others to learn and remember names so that when I see guests or staff, my recalling their names demonstrates that they are important persons to me. Because the world is a mirror of you and of my presence, the staff is exceptionally pleasant and kind to me in the most respectful and comfortable way and each remembers me. One morning I exited my stateroom and in the hallway was a housekeeper, whom I had not seen yet on the cruise. I looked at her and recognized her and stated same to her at which time I told her that I recalled her name as Lily and she and Rose were my room stewards on the Jewel on its Maiden Voyage in October 2006 and that I was in Stateroom 4345 Starboard Forward. She recalled; we hugged and she stated Rose is no longer aboard. Another instance was when we were doing the Mandatory Emergency Life Boat Drill before embarkation. The gal leading my station looked familiar and I stated so and that she was aboard in October 2006 and a dancer in Jeanne Ann Ryan Company on stage port side. She acknowledged it was she, whom I recalled. Never did I witness a staff member in a hostile or unwilling behavior situation.
The Cruise Director and Staff offer more choices than there are hours in the day so I will touch on some of the major presentations. Come with me and experience some of the fun of the cruise days and nights. This story is my life aboard ship.
Out of my respect for the privacy of those guests mentioned and with whom I shared the cruising experience, the names are changed to preserve their identities.
The professional Theatre presentations were spectacular and enjoyed although I had seen them three times on other cruises. The piano man and the guitar man have a tough job and seem to have a problem keeping a following of guests in their areas. The outside entertainers were all great. This brings me to much of my fun as Joe was the Kick-Off Showtime Comedian the night of departure and he was terrific. He knew how to connect to the crowd. I was sitting in the first row center seat before the stage and Joe asked for guest input as to how one arrived at the ship. I told my story of transport from Detroit until at the Miami Pier and he took it from there and I was the brunt of his jokes for the next 1.5 hours of a normally half-hour show. Joe called me up and gave me his CD in front of the audience and so from that moment the guests knew me by name and sight and story so from then on it was fun day after fun day for me as I interacted with persons who were in the audience that Friday night.
Saturday 2 PM was the first of the Dance Classes and I was there to meet guests and have fun dancing the Fox Trot. Cathy was a great partner. The Theatre was great that night and we had a time! Before dinner I was invited to a party in the Spinnaker Lounge. Earlier in the day I had called EH, who had come up to my table when I was eating BBQ on the Pool Deck before Embarkation yesterday. She recognized me from the Pearl 2006 crossing from Southampton to Miami on its Maiden Voyage, during which we went through a Hurricane in the Bay of Biscay. We met on that cruise and I took her bowling, rock-wall climbing, Theatre, Dancing, Dinner enjoying Il Popo in Tango’s Mexican near the balcony. She introduced me to T and we planned to share together and I offered dinner in Tango’s to give T the same experience and have fun. We parted with having shared stateroom numbers. So on Saturday afternoon I phoned EH inquiring whether she were invited to the party and she was. I invited them to dinner that night and suggested that she bring the invite for the champagne bucket for the drawing to win a prize. We did not see each other upon entry into the Spinnaker Lounge and so we took seats, as it happened, directly across the dance floor from each other. The first prize-winning name pulled from the bucket was for EM and she jumped up from the seat with T and went to the dance floor to Sylvia, Future Cruises Executive. With that, I jumped up and ran out onto the dance floor and danced with EH in celebration of her win. We each returned to our seats. The next name called was mine and so I went up and danced with Sylvia before receiving my DVD Towel Folding prize. The next name called was Irkl, with whom I boarded the ship. So I ran out there on the dance floor and danced with Irkl. Afterward while talking to Sylvia, Sau came up to me barely able to stand. He had been drinking much champagne for too long and so I told him I would get him back to his stateroom before going to dinner with these two beautiful women, EH and T. We went over to them so I could introduce the three and let them know my plan and determine where I would meet them. We sat and talked. Sau gained composure. When leaving, he indicated he wanted to eat and so I took the three to Tapas for Il Popo dinner before theatre. I was custodian of Sau’s pewter mug engraved 1901 by his grandfather. Sau has been on 63 cruises and will re-do the Baltic when we disembark at Dover, England. After dinner, Sau wanted to go to Theatre with us and so we four went to see “Band on the Run” before I took him to his stateroom and then went dancing in the Spinnaker. There was an interesting personality clash when we arrived in the Theatre. Next to me was a woman to whom I spoke and she was indifferent. I told her I had seen the show and that I hoped she would enjoy it as much as we four will. She thought I was from a different planet. She failed to enjoy the show. The Spinnaker Lounge was wild with a 1970s Disco Party when I arrived to dance the night way.
Sunday and I was concerned as to the condition of Sau. I checked and found he was OK and later met him in the Dining Room for lunch. The day brought us the Art Auction at 1 PM and was remarkable because at 2 PM I was at the Waltz Dance Class and in walked Sue and Lana without partners and my partner was leaving to go help her ill husband. Lana found a partner and Sue and I graciously met and became partners. We found common ground and enjoyed the class fun and so I asked her to dinner at 5 followed by 7:30 Comedy Hypnotist then followed by dancing in Spinnaker. She accepted. My volunteering for hypnosis in the Theatre followed our delightful dinner. Years ago I had been hypnotized by my dentist and am therefore susceptible. The experience was fun, so I am told. While I do not recall what I did, apparently I am now a Victoria’s Secret Male Model as well as a Trombonist in an Orchestra among other things. After the show we danced and then I took Sue to her stateroom. Sue had been a suspect in a Murder Mystery earlier in the day and I had been allowed in as an observer. On the way to my stateroom from her room, I saw another suspect, Granny, in the hall and called out to her that she could not get away from me. Before turning, she said, “That is Ralph’s voice.” She turned, we hugged and I walked her to her stateroom talking. I left her and walked to stateroom 019 and inserted my key card into the locked door only to hear a female voice inquire “Who is at my door” to which I replied “Housekeeping madam, sorry, we will be back in the morning” because my stateroom is one deck up. I chuckled to myself as I went up the stairs to my deck level.
Monday began with a swim followed by meeting for breakfast with a group and 2 PM Dancing, followed by basketball and golf practice on Deck 13. Walking the Promenade Deck or the upper Deck 13 for fresh air exercise is contagious and many persons are walking and visiting as they walk. Dinner and Showtime were shared and then Joe was scheduled for an extra Late Night Comedy session in Spinnaker at 10:30 PM. Needless to say, we were in the front row and Joe knew we were there and again made me the brunt of many jokes. Following Joe, the Lounge was again a hot spot of dancing.
Tuesday, the stretch and relax 7 AM class replaced my swim hour. The day included Chess on Deck with the giant chessboard and pieces. Meals with different persons were most interesting. Saying hello to new friends fills the days. The 2 PM Dancing filled the afternoon with fun and some new people. Phone messages delivered and received made for invitations to meet for a meal, something to see, someone to meet or just to be together to talk and enjoy the day together and consider choices for evening. Entertainment spots abound on the ship with offerings to fit every palate so it is easy to say, “Let’s meet at X.” During the day, the hypnotist offered sessions in the Theatre regarding stress control, diet control and more. They were filled with an audience of attendees seeking guidance and alternative solutions. Dinner at 5 followed by another 7 PM Party. The girls were having a dinner together and when we met during the day I mentioned that I had received another party invite and wished to have them join me at 7 PM in the Spinnaker Lounge after Dinner. They agreed to eat early and we agreed to meet at the forward deck 13 Elevator at 7 PM. The doors opened and I walked over and to the two by each arm and went into the party.
We skipped Theatre at 7:30 for lack of time and missed a great Violin presentation. That allowed for evening time to walk the decks before the Hypnotist had another late show in the Spinnaker Lounge before late night dancing. A few of us volunteered to be on the floor for hypnosis and from all reports, the feats were funny. Both guys and gals put on a show for the audience. Again I was a Trombonist in an orchestra and was awakened on the dance floor as a Chippendale with my shirt in my hand. We men had been told we were Chippendales.
Wednesday began at 3:40 AM at which time I awakened and was compelled to write a download of y thoughts clarified during my sleep. Years ago while at IBM I studied the mind and computer programming and built in my mind a relational data base into which the events of the day are merged and inter-related as I sleep so that I have total recall of most positive events in my life and that they are also connected by relational anchors. Writing is important to me. Years ago I challenged myself to prove to myself that I know what I believe I know. The proof I assigned is to be able to communicate to you oral or written word and you understand. My philosophy and belief system as well as my way of life may offer value to others and that is for them to receive and determine for themselves. I wrote until 7 AM and then swam until 8 AM. 2 PM was dance followed by Library reading and visiting in the Spinnaker in the large lounge chairs looking out at the ocean. Visiting the Library is important to me as a means of keeping up on current events. While in the Library, I always deposit the Tour Books and Maps I intentionally bring aboard ship to give to persons I meet who might be intending to travel to certain places post-cruise. Those books and maps not so given are deposited in a general shelf from which any guest may draw. I also take a set for each of my Stateroom Stewards or Stewardesses to give them a personal resource because they are not permitted to utilize the Library information. My dinner was with new friends with whom I then went to the Theatre and sat in the front row for a comedian juggler, who picked on me and told me to roll down my socks as he has his so that the girls would be attracted to me. When standing to exit the Theatre, there was Sue signaling to me. She is a beautiful woman who whom any man would be drawn. She is composed and has an exceptionally global perspective nurtured by her travels and having lived abroad for a year. There is a reason why the Lord puts certain persons together – even if as ships passing in the night or fog. Each encounter enables us to share value and receive value resulting in our continuing to be becoming each day. We become better each day. The reason we are together is to reconfirm to each that the unique offerings of each to the other is a demonstration of balance in life and that each contributes to the overall balance of society and nature.
A group of us went to dance the night away in the Spinnaker Lounge White Hot Party! The dance was electric and hot. Confetti snow fell from above the dance floor. I took to the dance and shared a tray of chocolate covered strawberries, which was delivered to my Stateroom in the afternoon compliments of the Front Desk.
Thursday opened with Stretch and Relax and Aerobics at 7 AM followed by my regular routine. Meeting with friends, more aerobics in the fitness center, Casino, 1 PM Art Auction, 2 PM Dance, 3 PM Hypnosis for Weight Loss filled much of the day. Dinner was followed by a Crew Show, in which the Ship’s Crew presents their talent and comedy in the Theatre at 9:30 only. At 10:45 PM Joe held court again in the Spinnaker Lounge and needless to say I was at a front table for him to be able to jab at me. The reality is that going day and night wears out the body and mind.
Friday we dock in Ponta Delgada, Azores for shore excursions. Visiting the Azores is a new experience for me. The area is clean as a whistle and the islands are garden-like. Theatre tonight is another fantastic Production Show titled Country Gold. Dancing theme for tonight is Country with Line Dancing fun.
Saturday is another fun Day at Sea with more of the same choices during the days- Lunch Buffet or in Dining Room, 1 PM Art Auction, followed by an incredible evening presentation by a Soprano Vocalist in Theatre. A 10:45 PM American Idol competition in the Fyzz Lounge offers the chance for awards after Karaoke.
Sunday we arrive at Vigo, Spain to find the city quiet and the stores and restaurants closed. There is a complimentary shuttle into town for a short visit as we depart at 2:30 PM. Tonight The Jean Ann Ryan Company presents Showtime: Cirque Bijou featuring aerialists, gymnasts and more. At 10 PM is the Chocoholic Buffet in the Garden Café where you may see and taste all the chocolate fantasies. To see it is to believe there could be so much chocolate in one room and in so many different designs and shapes. Chocolate buffet would be better served and received and more appreciated if it were scheduled for 4 PM instead of 10 to 11 PM.
Monday is our Last Day at Sea and Last Night aboard the Jewel. The Disembarkation talk spells out what need be done by guests for easy disembarkation upon arrival in Dover, England. 2 PM Dance was not crowded as many wanted to catch up on things they may not have done. Many were out on the Pool Deck in beautiful weather. The scheduled Customs Processing consumed an hour and half of the mid-day time. I had asked Sue to join me for dinner in the Chin-Chin restaurant and later added Lana and Joe as my guests. We enjoyed a three-hour dinner and missed the 8 PM Theatre show-time presentation. Tonight the halls are crowded with luggage to be offloaded in Dover in the morning.
Some readers may conclude that not much was done on the ship. That is the choice offered by NCL. You choose what you shall do or not do. Yet, much fun and activities in which I participated were left unsaid due to the length and detail in this writing as it is. Rest assured, the Freestyle Daily publications lists so many activities and lectures and more that each person may find something of interest.
Two Island Ports offered visits. The first was a Friday visit to the picturesque city and area of Ponta Delgada, Azores, 930 miles from Lisbon, Portugal. The reports of persons on each tour were positive. The second was a Sunday visit to Vigo, Spain. The city is large and known for it commerce. The tours were dampened by the fact that the city and other villages are closed on Sundays and so stores and restaurants were not open to receive travelers. Most tours were reportedly nice. The shuttle from the Port to the town was timely. It would be a better disclosure of service if the Shore Excursions desk were to advise guests whether a shuttle would be provided because some guest purchase tours based on the probability that no shuttle service will be provided. Both of the tours I selected were managed well and most interesting. On Sunday, we gathered with extra time in a Plaza near the Cathedral, to which I was drawn and in which I found a Mass being said in the beautiful structure. That alone made the shore excursion worthwhile.
Representatives of the United Kingdom Customs somehow came to the Jewel on Monday and the ship provided a schedule by which all guests were to pass through Customs. The process was lengthy with long lines and few Customs Representatives. Spreading out the schedule would have reduced the line wait while not lengthening the overall time required by the Customs Process. To wait and go at the end of the schedule when all the guests had been processed would have been a better choice and would have saved a guest 1-2 hours in line. The process did speed the customs process in Dover Terminal and was favorable to me.
Since I carried my carry-on bag off the ship, I was ready to exit the ship upon clearance. Yet, I waited for my friends though I got them early-exit luggage tags for their bags so we could be among the first off the ship. When ashore, the queue for the taxi stand was long with no taxis in line and few arriving to assist the volume of persons seeking shore transport to train or bus. We did get a taxi and transferred to the Dover Priory train station for rail travel to Victoria Station in London. From Vic the traveler can take the tube direct to Heathrow Airport (LHR) for one-way 4 GBP (35 minutes) so I purchased that ticket in advance for the day I would transfer to LHR Terminal 4 for NW/KLM as well as my one-way 4 GBP ticket to the Gloucester Road Tube Station on Cromwell Road where I was staying at the Crowne Plaza London Kensington. My choice is to walk London and so I did not purchase tube / tickets. My rail ticket Dover to Victoria was 18 GBP and I purchased mine first and told the ticket agent to duplicate my ticket for my friends. He stated a quantity of tickets of three or more is 505 off so the group rode to Vic at half price. Upon arrival at Victoria Station, I took my friends to the Taxi Queue and placed them into taxis before going to the underground - destination Gloucester Road Tube Station on Cromwell Road across from my hotel.
A friend, whom I had met on the NCL Pearl in November 2006, came to the Crowne Plaza and we had a wonderful dinner visit after which I took her to the Gloucester tube to go to catch the train for a 4 hour train ride back home in northern England. She called me at 10:30 from the train to let me know she was OK and I could rest easily. She represents the kind of long-lasting friends I make on the NCL Cruises.
The Crowne Plaza is recommended for its location and accessibility. It is close to Museums, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Big Ben and the London Eye, Parliament, Hyde Park and much more. Reservations were made and confirmed on the Internet. $230 per night.
My tube ride to Heathrow Airport was shared with a young family with a boy age 4. Their destination was New York. The early morning commotion was tough on the boy and he became ill and vomited his guts out on the floor of the train. Because I am always prepared for any unexpected occasion, I offered a leak-proof plastic bag and papers to clean up the floor, a fresh water bottle to clear the burn in the boy’s throat, soft large wet wipes to assist the family in bringing stability to the situation. Then I retrieved from my bag three balloons and offered them to the boy and his mother. He immediately perked up and smiled happily and stabilized for the short ride to Heathrow Terminal 4.
My overall plans included that this return flight via Amsterdam direct to Detroit is the first leg of my round trip flight with the second leg being the flight back to London in September to again catch the Jewel for the Northern Route Cruise to New York. The round trip flight cost me $760 as opposed to the one-way NW/KLM cost of $1,230 when booked in February. Looking ahead to my flight from NY to DTW September 30, it was booked on Spirit Air for $69 on special instead of the normal $228 for a one-way ticket. Planning ahead and being outcome-oriented permits you to create your own flexible travel plans to fit your style of travel at a cost-effective rate. That makes you happy as you anticipate the trip.
My love of cruising and meeting the choice persons who do cruise is nurtured by the fact that I do meet those persons in abundance and form bonds with them. Norwegian Cruise Line is my Cruise Line of Choice because I have had wonderful experiences on each and every cruise to the point where I have taken my family members to give them a taste of my experiences. The memories of my trips and the fun and persons I have met are such that I am called to continually cruise. As a result I am already scheduled for an NCL Cruise in September 2009. I have tasted the other Cruise Lines and prefer NCL.
The Comedians, Singers, Musicians, Jugglers, and especially the Jean Ann Ryan Company Theatre Productions are such that I continue to return for more as they complement the experiences of meeting people and making new friends and sharing the day with them while at theatre, dancing and generally having fun aboard ship. The courtesy of the general crew and the programs of the Cruise Director and Staff signal the type of environment in which I choose to travel.
Cost is the only offset to traveling single. It takes a big bite out of the budget to pay for two as a single. Hence, I am open to any interest by a non-smoker wishing to explore our sharing a stateroom. I m aboard for fun and offer no conditions or expectations other than respect for the individual and for myself and my values and standards of thought and behavior. I have Stateroom 11023 booked for the Jewel for 19 September 2009 Dover to New York and the cruise promises to be most interesting as it follows the northern route.