We are still unpacking our suitcases, but I wanted to start writing before I forgot everything we did.
My mother, 83 years old, hard of hearing, hard of sight, and hard of walking treated us to a cruise vacation.
My husband, 50 years old, cruised for the first time.
My son (12) and daughter (11) also joined us.
And, the week before we left, we found out that my niece, (18) had spring break the same time my kids did, and since the capacity of our room was 6….we thought let’s throw in one more.
If I get through this whole thing, you will find information out about: concierge service, 2 bedroom family suites, the joys of rollaway beds, traveling with the disabled, kids club (dolphin program), NCL excursions, non NCL excursions, the medical center, cruise critic meet and greets, shows, cabin crawls, restaurants, shopping, sunning, emergency car repair in the parking lot, and the sport court.
Of course, if I get through this whole thing, I will probably be a few years older.
We drove from cold and snowy Wisconsin, so we started out after school/work on Friday afternoon. We got through a chunk of Illinois, and then on Saturday, drove down to McComb MS. That left us with only an hour or so drive on Sunday.
We tried to follow the internet directions to the Julia St. terminal….but we missed the following: follow the signs to the N.O. Business District, US90 West, Crescent City Connection to the West Bank. Take last exit before crossing the Mississippi river, which is the Tchoupitoulas Street/St. Peter Street exit11C; turn right onto Tchoupitoulas Street, take a left onto Henderson Street(at the red light), proceed down Henderson St. past the railroad tracks and floodwall and turn left onto Port of New Orleans Place. Follow the signs into the appropriate terminal.
I don’t know if the signs say that or not, but we didn’t see them, so instead, we got off and lapped the superdome and then drove down Poydras following the street signs to the port. It is very well marked….and since the ships tower over the River Walk Mall, you can’t miss it.
We got to the terminal a little bit before 10:00am; there were plenty of people directing traffic. We drove around in a big old loop until we finally got to the doors where we could drop off our luggage. Porters were there to whisk it away, everything except my 12 pack of diet coke they said I had to carry-on myself (sigh).
Once we got rid of the luggage, my husband took the car and parked in the whale lot, which is a big flat lot that is between Riverwalk Mall and Convention Center Blvd.
I took my mom and her walker, and we walked through the inside of the terminal, amongst all the disembarking cruise passengers waiting for their transportation to try to get to the bathroom. We finally made it, and then went back outside to meet my husband, niece, and children at the trolley stop that is right next to that corner of the terminal.
All of these things are right next to each other….and they connect….sort of. If you want to go from the Julia Street Terminal to the Riverwalk Mall, you have to go outside, across the road, across the trolley tracks, and up an elevator (or escalators or stairs) and into the mall. Super easy for most…a little challenging for my mother.
My niece (the 18 year old) had never been to New Orleans, so our first order of business was to take the street car down to the quarter. The street car stop is, as I mentioned, right there, and they do have the ability to on board wheel chairs and walkers. First trolley filled up before we got a chance to board, but the next one was right behind it and we were first on.
We got off by the Café du Monde…but the line even for carry out was extremely long….so we just walked by and went around Jackson Sq and up to Bourbon St. We went to Pat O’Brien’s for a bon voyage hurricane, and some munchies. We walked back by Café du Monde again on the way back to the street car, but the line was too long still.
We boarded the first street car that came to the stop we had gotten off the street car on…but the hurricanes impaired our logic, and we ended up getting on a trolley for the wrong line…this one ended at Cannel St. which is at the opposite end of the Riverwalk Mall from the terminal. Tourists!
So, we got off there, and went into the mall, which is fun to walk through anyway. And, the Café du Monde in the mall doesn’t have a line at all. Although, I personally think the beignets taste better at the Jackson Sq location. Anyway, poor mom was done walking, so we borrowed a wheel chair from the mall (no charge) and used it to move her from one end of the mall to the other. Then, my niece had to run it all the way back to security to drop it back off. Not the most convenient system, but we made it work
While niece was dropping off the wheel chair, husband went back to the car to get my precious case of diet coke, and we were finally ready to board.
OK…this is why it is important for me to try to type this up while it is still fresh….I am already getting hazy on the details for this part. Of course, the hurricane might have had something to do with that too…but let’s blame the passing of days.
We had only a very short queue to go through to get into the terminal. I think we presented photo ID and proof that we were ticketed passengers to the personnel guarding the door. Then, it was onto standard security….purse and carryons through the scanners, us through the detectors. Then, it was into the maze of roped off queues to check in.
We were in a suite, so there was no one in our queue. Of course, there was no one at our window to check us in, either….so we did still have a wait for a little bit. After only a few minutes, they tracked someone down to help us check in, and we posed for our mug shots, signed our life away on a credit card, and filled out our health questionnaire.
We wanted to pre pay our service charges and change my son’s and daughter’s card to not allow them to make any ship board charges ( I had images of a 100.00 arcade bill), but we were told we would have to do both of those things through guest services once we got on board.
Then, it was onto the waiting room to meet our concierge staff and pick up our ship cards. There were sandwiches and juice in the waiting room, but we had just finished appetizers at O’Brien’s and Beignets at the mall, so I didn’t partake in any. Plus, we were only there for a matter of minutes before they were ready to lead us onto the boat.
Since my mom and her walker had to use the elevator, we got our own escort onto the boat instead of travelling with the other passengers, but it was a very short walk onto the boat. I have only sailed on NCL twice, so I am by no means an expert, but I will tell you that the whole getting on the boat process in NOLA Is WAY WAY WAY easier for persons of limited mobility than the process in Venice. Everything in NOLA is very very compact….the longest walks are the walks from one end of the boat to the other.
ON THE BOAT:
My kids, being kids, were a few steps ahead of us as we went to board the boat. Staff was there to greet us, some dressed in carnival finery. My kids (12 and 11) stepped on board, and the window washing thing-a-ma-bob went through and dripped water on the gangway, so the staff blocked us from going forward and getting soaked. My hairdo appreciated the effort, but I was a little worried about my kids. NCL staff on the gangway yelled through the water to the other side, and NCL staff on the inside corralled my kids until we could make it across the gangway.
We entered into the atrium on deck seven, and just as it was intended, it awed us. It goes from deck seven to deck 13, with gorgeous stained glass, glass elevators, fountains, artwork and trim. It is so different from the only other NCL ship I have been on (the Jade) and so beautiful. The person who escorted us from the terminal onto the boat led us up to Cagney’s for lunch.
You may remember that I didn’t have any sandwiches in the waiting room because we had just eaten….but now we are on the boat, and there is no time in cruising for paying attention to such land bound concepts of appetite and number of calories. We ordered starters, lunch, and even a dessert. The lunch menu at Cagney’s was small…but it turned out we would only end up eating there two days….so it had plenty of variety. My son was thrilled to be able to order steak, and he loved it. My niece got the turkey burger, and…well, all of us got something or other. I had the shrimp cocktail for my starter…I remember that. And, just by coincidence, there were only four of us still capable of eating by the time it came to dessert, so we ended up with each one of us getting a different dessert. Daughter had lemon sherbet, I had a chocolate brownie, husband had the pie, and mom had the berries and cream. All of them were dee-lish.
Our suite was ready even before we started to eat, so as soon as we could push ourselves away from the trough…I mean table, we headed down two decks and forward to find our cabin.
OK….so, I don’t speak sea. Port, starboard, aft, fore, bow, stern, I know these are all terms that describe locations on a ship. I think I know the front (fore) from the back (aft), but for the life of me, I can’t remember port from starboard. So, as lame as it is, I will have to do it this way…our cabin, 11050, is on the right side of the ship if you are facing the front of the boat. We are between the fore and midship elevators, but much closer to the fore ones than the midship. The great thing about the Star is once you figure out at the doors on one side of the ship are all blue and the doors on the other side are all maroon, you just have glance when you get off the elevator before you know whether you need to turn right or left to find your cabin. Then, you can cast a very discrete glance at the little picture of the ship that shows you which way the front is and you can walk to your cabin like a pro.
Of course, we didn’t figure out all of that right away, so we were looking at the range of cabin numbers trying to figure out if 11050 came between this set or that set.
We finally figured it out, and found our suite, the Topaz Suite. 11050, an SC cabin is B E A U T I F U L. It opens up into a small foyer that has lights that remind me of an old time movie theater. There is a small interior cabin that opens up off of that foyer. That cabin has a closet with three of four drawers, a bathroom, and a bedroom area. The bedroom area has a sofa that makes up into a double bed and a birth that pulls down from the wall to sleep a third person. There is a very small TV in that room, and a small nightstand/table.
That cabin has its own door, and it will lock automatically if closed…but any of the key cards can open it. From the foyer, the main cabin also has a locking door. The third door in the foyer is to the adjoining cabin…but we didn’t have that cabin.
The main cabin is wonderful. There is a “kitchen” area….there is a table and four chairs, a refrigerator, and the coffee maker. Everything is wood paneled and very fancy. Between the kitchen and the balcony is the living area. There is a sofa that makes up into a single bed, two club chairs, a two tiered oval coffee table, a large TV, and a DVD player on a small stand.
There are two mirrored pocket doors that separate that room from the other half of the cabin. On the other half, there is a walk around queen bed in an alcove with a night stand on either side, and a corner armoire with a TV. The bed is plenty high so that you can store all your suitcases underneath.
The large closet is directly across from the pocket doors, and the bath area starts to the right. There are two sinks, and a low counter with a stool below it for doing your make up. There is, under the big window a Jacuzzi tub with a small TV over the top. There is a wonderful shower stall, with another floor to ceiling window. And, a small closet with a stool behind a glass door.
Now, all the doors in the bathroom are glass….so there is NOT a lot of privacy unless you close off the main part of the cabin from the bed/bath half. As we were such a large motley group of individuals sharing this space, we just got good at NOT looking when someone was in the bathroom part of the cabin.
All right….I have to go unpack and start the laundry. I’ll add more later, and try to do something about pictures.