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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 5: Friday, Ocho Rios
Ocho RiosThough it was 6 a.m. and still dark, the sound of a steel drum band playing "Margaritaville" at the pool deck made everyone want to dance. I did a double take. It wasn't the professional ship musicians, but a band of girlfriends from Aurora, Illinois who started playing the steel drums years ago at their community college.

The girlfriends were up early this morning, gathered in matching T-shirts, feather boas, even pashmina shawls. They were putting the final touches on their signs, like "Minnesota Girlfriends Welcome Diane" and "We Love Our Marines -- Thank you GMA and NCL."

There was a definite sense of anticipation in the air, as the girlfriends awaited the arrival of "Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer. There was a lot of talk about when she came onboard and where she would first appear.

The sun was rising in soft shades of orange and pale blue over Ocho Rios. I was upstairs on the sun deck when Gayle King appeared to get wired for the 7:00 a.m. segment. She was stylish in her lime green top, green plaid slacks and matching green sandals. She quickly headed back down to the pool deck, where she and Mike Barz rehearsed dancing and doing the wave with the girlfriends to the steel drum band.

While waiting for Diane's entrance, one of the audio engineers described the tremendous effort that goes into this type of remote taping. She estimated that there are about 50 lighting, camera, audio and communications folks onboard, plus an additional 25 production people.

A few minutes later, I noticed Diane standing about 15 feet away by the stairs. She was wearing a long-sleeved black top with nautical trim, white slacks, and black and white sandals. Below, the girlfriends also began to notice her arrival.

On cue, Diane walked down the flight of stairs and greeted Gayle, who welcomed her warmly onboard and proceeded to introduce her to one of the girlfriends who's celebrating a birthday, as well as to the ladies from the steel drum band. Diane was very charismatic in person and the girlfriends were thrilled to see her. One shouted, "I love you, Diane!"

Before the next taping, I met the ladies in the matching green pashminas. They were sorority sisters from Penn State who met one another in 1994. For the past 12 years, they had been there for each other through good times and sad times.

"These girls supported me through the death of my mom from breast cancer and my dad's business failure," said Ally Frank. They had also made a point to be together at happy occasions like weddings, births and bridal engagements. Krissy Brush used Excel worksheets to plan their reunions. This week, they were sharing cabins with their college roommates.

Downstairs in the atrium, a combo was playing big band music. Mike Barz reported on the weather and introduced a group of girlfriends, teachers from Colorado. In one of the most touching moments of an emotional week, Diane Sawyer and Gayle King surprised one of the girlfriends, Amy Reed, of Indianapolis. To the tune of "It Had to be You," her husband, Bryan, walked down the grand staircase with a bouquet of red roses.

There wasn't a dry eye in the crowd. Bryan and Amy kissed on camera. Even Diane and Gayle were misty-eyed. It seemed that Bryan was the only fellow to write GMA about how much his wife deserved to win the trip. The couple was treated to a romantic day in Jamaica that included horseback riding, a massage on the beach, lunch, and a horse and carriage ride. After listening to Bryan read part of his touching letter, some girlfriends said, "We want Bryan!" To which Amy replied, "He's taken."

Diane and Gayle raced up to the pool deck to tape a segment with the participants in the "Dancing on the Sea" contest. Tomorrow morning, each couple will have one minute to impress a panel of three judges (Gayle King, "All My Children's" Finola Hughes and Charlotte Jorgenson) -- with their version of the cha cha.

Later this morning, I caught up with the dancers at a rehearsal. Three girlfriends, none professional dancers, had been teamed up with three pros. While the couples practiced, "Dancing with the Stars" Charlotte Jorgenson glued patches of suede to the soles of the women's dance shoes so they wouldn't slip and slide on the dance floor. She explained that the girlfriends had been practicing several hours a day for the competition to be covered live. For the three girlfriends, the experience was the proverbial dream come true.

During the GMA activities, many passengers began to disembark to explore Ocho Rios. After yesterday's unscheduled extra sea day, there was a frenzy of duty-free shopping. My sister Ruth and I joined a group of adventurous souls for an afternoon of tubing down the White River.

In the 45 minutes that it took to get to our starting point, our driver, Bishop, who was very knowledgeable about herbal medicine, stopped his Jeep a number of times and plucked plant specimens from his window. Among the most unique was ackee, which is carefully cooked (because it's actually poisonous if not prepared correctly) with saltfish to make the Jamaican national dish. Bishop also taught us to say, "No problem, mon." "There are no problems in Jamaica," explained Bishop, "only situations."

After a brief safety briefing (we were promised that only a few of us would flip over in the rapids), we jumped onto the yellow inner tubes and floated down river. In keeping with the trip motto "No Wet, No Fun," our tubing guide, Raphael splashed each of us as we started.

Raphael began singing and we joined him, loudly, summoning all the Bob Marley lyrics we could remember. This distracted us until we reached the rapids. We'd been advised to enter the rapids feet first. Despite my best paddling, I found myself spinning like a top. It wasn't pretty, but I didn't flip the tube and it was actually great fun.

In calmer moments, we had time to appreciate the natural beauty all around us. There were egrets and red herons. The amazing plant life included breadfruit trees, large bromeliads and a striking orange-blossomed tree called African Tulip. The water was clean and refreshing.

This evening, I stopped by the girlfriend bachelorette party in the Fyzz Lounge. GMA's Diane, Mike and Gayle were on hand to celebrate the impending nuptials of six girlfriends. Champagne flowed while friends danced and sang. "I had not a clue they were putting a party together," said bachelorette Marisa Medrano of Brownsville, Texas. She was easy to spot in a wedding veil made by her girlfriends who composed new lyrics to "Going to the Chapel." Diane and Gayle teamed up for a crowd-pleasing karaoke performance of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

Having worked up an appetite river tubing, Ruth and I headed off to Cagney's, a specialty steak restaurant with a $15 cover charge. By coincidence (or maybe it's genetic), Ruth and I ordered the same thing for dinner: a Caesar salad, a 14-ounce New York cut striploin steak, a baked potato and asparagus.

Among the other diners was Finola Hughes, one of the judges for tomorrow morning's dance contest. You might also remember her dancing with John Travolta in "Staying Alive." She's on Style Network's "How Do I Look" show, here to select dresses and accessories for the three girlfriends.

Tune in tomorrow, when we'll be at sea for GMA's last day of taping.
Day 4: Grand Cayman red arrow Day 6: At Sea

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