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Home > Virtual Cruises > Norwegian Jewel: Good Morning America's Girls' Week Out
Norwegian Jewel: Good Morning America's Girls' Week Out
Day 1: Embarkation in Miami, Super Bowl Sunday
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: Roatan
Day 4: Grand Cayman
Day 5: Ocho Rios
Day 6: At Sea
Day 7: Great Stirrup Cay
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Day 4: Thursday, Grand Cayman
Grand CaymanIt was 6:45 a.m. on the Jewel's basketball court. The girlfriends were out in full force -- most in the stands, some on lounge chairs on the opposite side of the court. They were here to cheer on the University of Maryland cheerleaders versus the Florida firemen (plus Mike Barz) in a volleyball match.

But Mother Nature wasn't cooperating. Gusty winds were wreaking havoc with the equipment. Hats were flying. So was the volleyball. The "Good Morning America" crew was trying to make the best of a difficult situation. Over a megaphone, one of the GMA producers yelled, "Let's go, girls! Play volleyball!" Mike Barz proceeded to tip a winner over the net for the firemen.

Who were these hunky firemen, anyway? They were, GMA folks tell me, brought on the cruise both to add color to the live segments and to mix with the girlfriends.

Between takes, Gayle King graciously found me by the stands and made time to chat about the girls' week out and about the Jewel. Despite the breezy conditions, she managed to look great in a butter-colored short-sleeved top and pastel skirt.

"I like the fact that everything on the ship is so contained and they give you everything. You cannot get bored," she said. "It's a very welcoming environment where someone wants to meet your every need. How can you not have a great time?"

Among her favorite hangouts was the fitness center. "I called before I came on the cruise," she explained. "I no longer like to go on vacations where I can't work out -- though I had to change clothes two times this morning because nothing fits. Now that's nobody's fault but mine," she said with a smile.

What did she think of the inspiring girlfriends? "I love the fellowship and the camaraderie we share. We came as strangers and we're bonding very quickly."

It's hard not to feel inspired by Andrea Stradel of Nebraska and her pals. In December 2004, Andrea, then 22, was diagnosed with Stage Two Hodgkin's disease. The same week, her boyfriend Ryan proposed. Today, Andrea is pretty in pink, in remission, and celebrating with her bridal party, her mom and future mother-in-law. "My friends and family are the people who got me through it," she said, surrounded by her girlfriends. "Nothing will top this cruise. We'll never all be together on a trip like this."

Another group I met this morning has made an extraordinary effort to stay connected, their friendship spanning decades. The Roommates met in 1966 as freshmen at Madison College in Virginia. Four decades later, living in six states, they manage to remain dear friends, thanks to an annual reunion. "We have a five-year calendar so we know ahead of time to keep our schedules open," said Karen Davenport.

All the terrific stories have affected Mike Barz, who shared his experience this week during a break in the taping. "I just talked to three women from Louisiana who lost their homes and they're still positive," he said. "Some of these women have faced serious adversity. They have taken a positive approach to life and it rubs off on you. It's contagious. You can't help but smile."

Smiling comes naturally to this sincere weatherman. "I'm having a blast," he said. "I'm a guy surrounded by all these incredible women and they call it work." Did he know he would be flying on a trapeze in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico? "A lot of times I find out the day before." What's the best part of cruising? "What I love about cruising is chilling out and reading a book. It's very relaxing."

Later in the morning, the girlfriends along with plenty of regular female passengers lined up outside the hospitality room on Deck 12. The firemen were signing their 2006 calendar. No one seemed to mind the wait.

We anchored in Georgetown around 10 a.m., but the wind showed no signs of abating. The captain announced that strong northerly winds were causing large swells which made the tender operation too risky. Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas and Carnival Triumph were anchoreded nearby, both in the same jam. The plan was to lower the ship's own tender and reposition the ship.

Ruth and I waited out the captain's decision by watching "How Stella Got her Groove Back" -- incidentally, a great pick for a girlfriends' getaway -- in our cabin. Speaking of which, our cheerful balcony stateroom on Deck 10 was decorated in bright fuscia, turquoise and orange -- shades that look surprisingly appropriate out in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Even the sea turtle motif on the bedspread worked here. Mirrors made the space appear bigger.

My only complaint? The placement of the desk was a bit distracting since I had to force myself not to look out at the sea while working at my laptop. Ruth was totally enjoying our balcony -- reading "God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy while sipping a glass of merlot. The in-cabin movies were good, but our absolute favorite was the videotape of the newlywed and not so newlywed game. The show host asked three couples incredibly embarrassing and funny questions, like "What does your husband look most like when he comes out of the shower?" Well, you get the idea ...

After awhile, we optimistically grabbed our snorkel gear and headed down to the Stardust Theater, where the shore excursion manager was reading a long list of canceled tours. Ours wasn't among them. While we waited, optimistically, to tender into Georgetown, we headed to the Great Outdoors buffet for a healthy lunch of tuna, salad and fresh fruit, enjoyed alfresco. We notice the ship's tender had been hoisted back up. That wasn't a good sign.

Passengers were pretty much on standby -- eating lunch, relaxing by the pool and working out at the fitness center. I ran into Gayle King at the gym where she was taking a quick water break. She asked me if I was going to work out and I explained that I was still hoping to see the island. "I don't want to get off," Gayle replied, looking out at the choppy sea from the gym's floor-to-ceiling glass windows. "It looks a little scary."

I stopped by the library, also on Deck 12. It was very pleasant with wood burl shelves, gold chairs and a spectacular view. I learned that passengers can check out up to three books for the entire cruise, except for travel and reference genres. There's quite a nice variety in eight languages, everything from self-help, science and history to art, sports, fiction and children's books.

At 12:30 p.m., the captain came back on the P.A. system to announce his decision to cancel the port of call due to safety concerns. The ship quickly hoisted anchor and headed for Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Ruth and I decided not to pout. Plan B included exercise and a Caribbean line dancing class. "There might even be time for another cellulite treatment," said Ruth, laughing.

The Caribbean line dancing class in the Fyzz lounge turned out to be fun. Our instructor, Ruby, walked us through numbers like the Hitchhiker (sure to get you a taxi in Jamaica) and Peel the Banana, which involves shimmies and a lot of hip. At one point, Ruby stopped the music. "You're all facing different directions!" she said, laughing. One of the passengers replied, "It's freestyle dancing."

From there, we navigated our way up to the fitness center. I hit the treadmill, enjoying the gorgeous view and watching CNN, while Ruth went to work on the elliptical. The large space was busy. We rewarded ourselves with a sauna and Jacuzzi at the adjacent spa, before returning to our cabin.

With so much action focused on "Good Morning America" and the girlfriends, I began to wonder how the non-girlfriend passengers were feeling. So I spoke to a number of regular passengers, and while this is not a statistical survey, the general consensus is that the "girlfriends' week out" either isn't bothering them or more commonly, it's actually been a positive.

"We're getting up early and watching the taping," says Ruth Gelfand of Orlando, who's celebrating her birthday this week. "I'm loving it!" One woman I met from Glasgow, Scotland put it very charmingly, "It's added a wee bit of excitement to the cruise." Like Ruth Gelfand, many passengers watch the daily tapings, take pictures and are generally excited by the cameras, celebrity hosts and activities. A large contingent of regular female passengers waited patiently alongside the girlfriends to have the Guy Squad autograph their calendars.

This evening, we dined at Le Bistro, NCL's signature restaurant. While it may not have the original Impressionist paintings of the Dawn, the dinner really was memorable, making the $10 per-person cover charge very palatable. The space was elegant, with fine china and silver domes atop the entrees.

Lena, our attentive waitress, recited the decadent dessert menu. We choose the flambe du jour (peach compote flambeed in peach-flavored brandy) and the bistro special (chocolate fondue with fruit served in a half pineapple shell). Both were worth a little extra time on the Stairmaster tomorrow.

Toward the end of our meal, a "Good Morning America" cameraman and producer appeared and quickly shot some footage. We ran into the same cameraman in the elevator after dinner. Seems that Diane Sawyer, who will board the ship tomorrow in Ocho Rios, was planning a segment that will include the ship's dining venues. There was a definite buzz about her appearance tomorrow morning. The girlfriends have been asked to be at the pool deck at 6 a.m. wearing their T-shirts and toting their signs.

After dinner, we checked out the magic show. With a humorous monologue, the magician entertained an appreciative crowd. Ruth proceeded to hit a $60 jackpot at the slots. "It's the closest I got to gold in Grand Cayman," she said wistfully.
Day 3: Roatan red arrow Day 5: Ocho Rios

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