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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 7: Tuesday, Great Stirrup Cay
Great Stirrup CayIt was early morning in the Bahamas -- our first post-"Good Morning America" day onboard -- and for the first time all week, the pool deck was quiet. The girlfriends got to sleep in today. I was grabbing a cup of coffee en route to the spa when I noticed Diane Sawyer and Gayle King sitting at the Kid's Corner in the Garden Cafe. Without makeup, perfect coifs or beautiful clothes, the two women looked a lot like you and me -- sort of. Soon GMA's director, Roger Goodman, joined them.

The trio wasn't going to hang around for the end of the cruise. They headed into Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private Bahamian island, caught a speedboat to Great Harbour Cay and drove from there to an airstrip, where they caught a small plane.

Seemed like a lot of trouble to go to for disembarkation!

The rest of the GMA crew and other folks involved with "Girls Week Out" got a chance to play, enjoying a well-deserved day off.

I proceeded to the spa where the buzz was that Finola Hughes was having a seaweed wrap. I soaked in a whirlpool elixir that was supposed to relax my muscles and help with digestion, circulation and several other bodily functions -- and it worked as promised. After a 20-minute soak, I was in a swimsuit and flip-flops and ready for a shore excursion.

While waiting for the tender, I got a chance to chat about the cruise with Mike Barz. His favorite eateries? Cagney's Steakhouse and Mama's Italian Kitchen. Favorite place onboard? The fitness center, which he used every day. "It wasn't overcrowded. It was perfect." Biggest surprise? "The trapeze was pretty cool. I would never have thought of that."

Great Stirrup Cay is NCL's private island, part of the Bahamas' Berry Islands chain. Ruth and I started our visit by renting a kayak and paddling through the clear, turquoise water. We waved to fellow kayakers and guests in glass-bottom paddle boats and catamarans. At the boat house, we chatted with an NCL staffer who was one of four lucky people who actually live on this island. We asked him to let us know when he plans to retire, so we could apply for his job. We bet he gets that question a lot.

The majority of passengers were clustered at the other side of the beach, in a sea of blue umbrellas and beach chairs. Many were in the water, drifting atop large inflatable floats and snorkeling. The two volleyball courts and all the Ping-Pong tables were in use. So were the hammocks strung between the palm trees.

This was my definition of paradise.

Within a short time, we smelled the aroma of a barbecue -- burgers, chicken and hot dogs -- all food the ship's cooking staff brought onto the island for our lunch. Nearby there was a busy straw market run by women who traveled here to work by boat from Great Harbor Cay. Some of the young girls from the cruise stopped to get their hair braided.

After lunch, we snorkeled out to an outcropping of rocks. Ruth spotted a stingray lying on the sandy floor. But the scene-stealers were dozens of stunning bio-luminescent jellyfish (which we really hoped were stingless). They each put on a tiny electrical light show.

Back onboard, this being our last day, there was a bit of a melancholy feeling. People weren't hanging out much at bars and lounges; many of course were inside their cabins, packing.

Before dinner, I took a tour of the lotus courtyard villa on Deck 14 where Diane Sawyer stayed. The villa comes with a butler and concierge. There's also a private courtyard with a retractable roof and a pool and Jacuzzi. A separate lounge has an espresso/cappuccino maker. You'd never know you were on a cruise ship but for the fabulous ocean views. This is the cruise version of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."

Ruth and I dined tonight at Chin Chin, the Jewel's pan-Asian specialty restaurant ($10 cover charge). After starting with dim sum and chicken satay, we chose for our entree, Shabu Shabu, a popular Japanese dish. Our waiter heated up a high-tech grill in the center and brought a large pot of steaming broth. We were given all the ingredients for a feast -- the only catch was that we did the cooking. It was a delicious and health-conscious dinner, so we felt entitled to order dessert. It was a good thing we did! The Thai banana pancakes with coconut ice cream proved to be our favorite dessert of the cruise.

We left Chin Chin just as a show was letting out of the Stardust Theater. We were overtaken by a stream of passengers. "I feel like a salmon," said Ruth. We would've liked to go with the flow into the casino or the martini bar, but unfortunately we had to pack.

While Sunday's debarkation was a breeze -- NCL is one of the first big-ship lines to allow folks to depart whenever they want, without having to wait in public lounges for their color luggage tags to be called -- the airport in Ft. Lauderdale was a whole different scene.

As we cleared customs, the officer advised me to put on a sweater -- it was 60 degrees, unusually cool for Miami. Many folks we encountered this morning, including GMA weatherman Mike Barz, weren't sure how they'd get home with the giant snowstorm that was hitting the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. The blizzard was forcing passengers to get creative with their travel plans. The Boston couple ahead of us in the taxi line was hoping to get home to New York via train.

Fortunately we were headed to Los Angeles. No blizzard of 2006 there -- only a frustrating three-hour time difference. While we stayed in touch with our families via e-mail during the week, we were both anxious to call home. Much as they missed us, though, we were pretty sure they wouldn't appreciate a 5 a.m. phone call! All around us at the airport, we spotted "girlfriends" from the East Coast jabbering away to family members on cell phones -- laughing, mostly.

While waiting for our flight, Ruth and I had time to compare notes. We both agreed that the real highlight of this cruise experience was the friendly and hard-working crew, 1,000-plus strong. We also thought that whoever thought up "freestyle dining" was brilliant. Among the specialty restaurants, we most enjoyed Le Bistro. For the best restaurant without a cover charge, Azura got our vote.

Among the week's highlights: tubing down the White River in Ocho Rios with our singing guide, the relaxing hot lava rock massage, the pristine coral reef at Roatan, chocolate fondue at Le Bistro, and the fitness center with its spectacular views. Low points were the inebriated passengers on our Roatan catamaran and a couple of long waits getting on and off tenders. We regretted missing the snorkeling (and duty-free shopping) at Grand Cayman and promised to return someday when Mother Nature is more cooperative.

Another surprisingly fun part of the week was the often frenetic behind-the-scenes activity during the live taping of "Good Morning America." The "Girls' Week Out" girlfriends inspired us with their spirit, generosity and friendships. While there were many touching stories, I felt especially moved by the women who adopted orphans from Liberia, the military moms with sons in combat, and the young woman who was simultaneously battling cancer and planning her wedding.

Best of all, the cruise gave me the chance to catch up with my own dear friend, my sister, Ruth. As we headed to the gate wondering if our plane would take off, Ruth and I shared a laugh over our new travel motto. To quote our Jamaican guide, Bishop, "There are no problems, only situations."
Day 6: At Sea red arrow  

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