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Rockwife

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About Rockwife

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    Cool Cruiser

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    East Point, GA
  1. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    You're welcome! I don't think Escape had the newer menu items when we sailed last week. I had a solo breakfast at O'Sheehan's of the Express variety and my husband had the open-faced roast beef sandwich for a solo lunch. Service was "frenzied" for us both, but I think it's just because it's a popular restaurant. Food was decent bar food, as was expected.
  2. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    Yes. Weather had something to do with the crowding, I think. I know that I would have spent a lot more time chilling on the balcony or Waterfront had it not been drizzling or foggy. We also noticed lots of groups who tend to move in slow packs that clog things up. Lots of people with canes, walkers, scooters, etc. I do think this sailing felt very crowded, but I think another random week on the Escape wouldn't have felt that way.
  3. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    Finally, the food. Thanks for reading and happy travels, everyone. Food Republic- We practically ate alone here the first evening of the cruise because the location is a bit out of the way and if you’re new to the ship you’ll need to seek it out. I adore Asian foods of all shape and form, so it was a natural first choice. The hostess warmly welcomed us and showed us how to use the screens to order food and drinks (and pay.) My sushi tiger roll was just okay because the shrimp tempura was so hardened they were vaguely unpleasant, but the pork belly dumplings were better. Jeff had several orders of different meat skewers and enjoyed all of them. I regret not revisiting Food Republic later in the week and ordering a different variety of items because I really do love this menu. Maybe next time. Moderno- In all honesty, my memory of the actual cuisine that night is spotty, since I was a little starstruck and focused on conversation. The buffet portion was in some ways a highlight because the meats can get a bit overwhelming after a while. I paced myself, avoided the sushi and buffet bread, and really enjoyed the heart of palm, bean salad, and grilled asparagus. Do try a little cheese bread, mashed potato, and fried yuca sides they bring to the table separately. They’re all very good. Lots of meats were eaten (Jeff reports the parmesan-crusted pork was best). Lots of laughs were had. Lots of wine was consumed. Lovely, lovely evening with Chef Sanchez and his peeps, which I will not forget. Margaritaville- Like I mentioned earlier, I’m no fan of Jimmy Buffett’s music and the one time I dined at the Margaritaville at Universal Studios Florida almost 20 years ago it was among some of the worst food I’ve eaten (lol!) Luckily, this was not the case on the ship and we ate two meals here over the week. The restaurant space here gets very cold, even compared to other parts of the deck nearby, so bring your sweaters or understand that it may be closed due to weather. The pretzel sticks are excellent, as was my shrimp Caesar salad. The Margaritaville fish & chips blow away the MDR lunch offering of fish & chips and Jeff had both a good burger and chicken sandwich. He says the salsa for his chips was a bit overly salted, but the queso was decent. Teppanyaki- If you’ve been to these places stateside, there is nothing at all surprising here. They can’t do some of the flame tricks because of fire hazard, but they added some flare in the performance we’d never seen before. We both ordered the filet and shrimp, along with the usual fried rice and veggies. All were significantly under-seasoned to my palate and the dipping sauces were also bland. I doubt I’d spend the money to eat here again in the future, even though the service was great and I did love dessert. I’ve read plenty of reviews that complained about the green tea cake, but I absolutely loved it. (You do have to like the flavor of green tea, obvie.) The cake is served with a small scoop of green tea ice cream, which made a delicious 1-2 punch of green tea flavor when eaten together. Pincho Tapas- This place is not as popular as I believe it deserves to be, but the location, seating (all high-top tables or high-counter), and fairly adventurous menu probably keeps many away. We ordered the meat & cheese mixto plates, and both offered a nice variety without getting too challenging (no “stinky” cheeses.) The manchego cheese and chorizo pamplona meat were our favorites. Jeff supplemented this with some pork & beef skewers (noticing a pattern here?), but they were so similarly seasoned with chimichurri I couldn’t tell them apart. I liked my patatas bravas very much, but I wished I’d tried some of the seafood or croquetas. No albondigas on the menu seemed strange, as they seem to be a tapas staple. We discovered our favorite cocktail of the cruise here, the Matador, consisting of bourbon, ginger, and elderflower. YUM! If the service at Mojito’s Bar had been better we’d have made it our go-to. Alas. Le Bistro- Getting a table here was like pulling teeth and I honestly felt like the hostess hated my guts after politely inquiring after a table for the third night in a row. I’ll not go into it here, but we did finally get a table in the atrium and everything was fine in the end. Me, my husband, the hostess, and our server all hugged it out. The maître d was not the hugging type, so he gave us a bottle of wine, instead. Bread was just okay, but the mushroom soup was as good as people say. I could eat that every day, even in summer. The waiter insisted I order another app, so I got the seafood medley with puff pastry and instantly knew I’d ordered too much food. That “app” is a saucer-size two-layer pastry, two jumbo shrimp, two large scallops, several grilled asparagus, plus sauce. Delicious, but too large for a multi-course meal. For an entrée, Jeff had his favorite, filet au poivres, and it was “the best steak on the ship.” The server tried to gently steer me from the duck dish, but I was eating seafood so much off the ship that duck was really what I wanted. He was correct, of course, because it wasn’t very good. Imagine a heavily-seasoned layer of shredded duck topped with mashed potatoes, apple, and microgreens. Done properly, it could have been amazing, but it was not. La Cucina- Pretty sure we began with Negroni cocktails here, which I love and the bartenders made them perfectly. The fresh bread served with this meal was warm, crusty, and delicious when soaked in olive oil and balsamic- my favorite bread on the ship. Knowing our limits, we skipped antipasti and pasta courses, and began with salads- both were excellent. We each had veal- him the shank and me the scaloppini- and neither of us had a single complaint about our entrees. His side of spaghetti all olio was tasty, but my side of grilled polenta was room temperature and barely “grilled” at all. That one little dud didn’t impact our enjoyment of classic Italian desserts, though. My tiramisu was divine coffee/chocolate/creamy goodness and his chocolate tart was also on point. Now that I've discovered all of my favorites and know what to avoid, I want to go again! :p
  4. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    Hi Luis!!! So happy to see you chiming in here. Honestly, another of my small regrets this cruise was not spending more time with you and your lovely wife. I guess we were too busy stuffing our faces to socialize as much as we would have liked. It was great meeting y'all.
  5. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    Thank you! I did know Chef Sanchez would be on the cruise before sailing because the leader of our Roll Call posted the press release of the special event about a month ago. He was promoting one of his partners, Terrazas de los Andes wines and there were several events a day with him. We only attended the first sea day wine pairing/cooking demo, but there were also tastings at Cellars and other events. I'm pretty sure he got off the ship in Saint John, NB and wasn't there the whole week. I don't know how they could have known this, but my husband and I have many chef/restaurateur friends and family, so we had oodles to talk about. The conservation lagged so little that I never got a chance to confess my crush on Joe Bastianich (my Italian Pee-wee Herman)! LOL!
  6. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    It's very confusing to keep straight who is writing what when I'm in the middle of writing a very detailed review of my experiences last week, especially when your avatar is the stock Cruise Critic one. I think you're guilty of the negativity here.
  7. Rockwife

    Escape - La Cucina

    I'm not sure how a person could eat that much food at one sitting, honestly, but I think you can order one item from each section. We skipped the antipasta & pasta, had a salad, entree, a side and dessert. The entree portion was HUGE and the fresh bread served at the beginning of the meal was divine (the best bread we were served anywhere all week.)
  8. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    cus·toms ˈkəstəmz/ noun the official department that administers and collects the duties levied by a government on imported goods. "cocaine seizures by customs have risen this year" the duties levied by a government on imported goods.
  9. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    PORTS OF CALL: Portland, ME- We did not book an excursion for Portland because we’d planned to walk around town, eat, and shop. We were not disappointed, even though it was a drizzly day. Yes, Holy Donut is as wonderful as the hype suggests and just a short walk from the ship. Don’t let the line scare you away, as it moves fast, and we had no problem getting the flavors we wanted. We found two record stores and several book stores to spend some time and money. All the lobster places were mobbed by the time we got around to lunch, so we found an Italian restaurant called The Corner Room and it was excellent. I had the most amazing roasted halibut salad and the cocktails were impressive. Portland wasn’t very exciting on a rainy day, but we’d finally made it to our 45th state and ate very well. Bar Harbor- canceled due to fog and wind. We had planned to hop the free bus to Acadia National Park and hike, so the weather pretty much killed those plans even if the port had been open. An extra sea day would have made one of those spa passes worth the money for me, but you can’t really anticipate a closed port and I was out of luck. In hindsight, I should have used this as a day of rest and allowed myself to sleep and relax instead of running around the ship. I think the “free” perks of dining and beverage packages work as designed- to encourage passengers to go out and about, spend more money on optional activities than they normally would. I will be more conscious of this when I sail NCL in the future. Saint John, Bay of Fundy- this was the morning we had booked the Coastal Photography tour through the ship and we were very happy with this tour. We don’t own fancy cameras, but we are proud of our vacation photos and just wanted to be taken to pretty places all morning. The rugged beauty of Fundy is debatable, but the tour group was small and we visited places where tourists rarely go. Fallsview Park was nearly deserted when we got there, as was Irving Nature Park, Lepreau Falls, and Dipper Harbour. The guide provided plenty of photography tips before dropping us back at port in time for lunch. We found another record store downtown and I finally snagged a lobster roll at Grannan’s in Market Square. Hubs had scallops and we finally saw a bit of sun for cocktails at Cask & Kettle. Halifax, NS- Another very foggy day, but at least we made it into port and our late morning tour allowed us to sleep in. We booked another tour through the ship, the Celebrate 150 years of Canada! Tour, which brought us to Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, and a maple syrup store somewhere in between. The guide was adorable in his Scottish kilt and provided lots of info without being overwhelming. The bus was comfortable, too. Unfortunately, our day was mostly foggy and/or rainy and we couldn’t take any great photos or enjoy the vistas all that much. The sun popped out for about 20 minutes and we lucked out that it happened at Peggy’s Cove, the most picturesque spot. I had another lobster roll, this one from a food truck set up down the hill from the lighthouse and it was AMAZING. Hubby had a hotdog he also enjoyed. After lunch we hiked up the hill for photos and to get our passports stamped. The rain inhibited our enjoyment at the other stops, but we decided to spend our time where it never rains- in the pub! Bluenose (a replica of an historic schooner) was docked at Lunenburg, so that was exciting for the sailing/boating fans. Some people complained about the stop at the maple syrup tourist trap, but we were only there for a short time and I took advantage of the bathroom break. 😊 I’ll finish up with dining reviews. . .
  10. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    I don't know what the chintzy continental breakfasts were all about. I'm usually the one complaining about overly large portions and wasn't expecting a huge spread or anything. I attributed the late delivery to the time change entering Canada, but it did stress me out enough that we just gave up on that "perk."
  11. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    Sorry, no! Mine always end up a wrinkled, scribbled mess and I toss them.
  12. Rockwife

    My take on the Escape 9/23-9/30

    ACTIVITIES: As many reviewers have noted, the atrium gets very crowded during trivia, games, and other events so arrive early if you want a seat and don’t go there looking for relaxation. On the first sea day we made a point to check out Chef Aaron Sanchez’s wine pairing/cooking demo and couldn’t find a seat even though we’d arrived 15-20 minutes early. I scanned the upstairs and noticed several empty seats on deck 8, overlooking the atrium, and made a dash to snag them. Success! He prepared ceviche and a beet salad while telling us about wines, flavors, timing, etc. We were already Masterchef fans, but I was especially impressed with how he handled being interrupted by morning announcements from both the captain and cruise director. I was shocked no one seemed to realize the scheduling conflict and moved one or the other, but he did manage the poor timing with jokes and good humor. PUB CRAWL: I did not attend the Meet & Greet, so I only assume that was the reason our group was so small for the crawl. Just me, hubby, another couple with our same names(!) and Luis. We had to deviate from our schedule in a few places (Margaritaville was cold, there was an event at Tobacco Road, etc.), so it would have been impossible for folks to join us if they weren’t at the first spot. I brought reusable straws for the frozen drinks and we had a fun time chatting, drinking, and visiting different parts of the ship. CELEBRITY DINNER: Of course, we both needed naps after the pub crawl and we didn’t set an alarm, rolling out of bed around 8:00pm. We had reservations later in the week for Moderno, but I’d read that Chef Sanchez might be there, meeting folks and shilling wine, so we asked the hostess if there might be a spot for us for dinner. She asked us to take a seat in the waiting area, then brought us to a two-top. About 30 seconds after we sat down she came back to the table and said, “You have been invited to dine with Chef Sanchez this evening. Would you like to join his table?” OMG! No need to confer with my husband, we were both like, “Yes, please!” We still can’t figure out the hows or whys of this invitation, but we graciously accepted. My husband sat at the head of the table, and we dined with Chef & his stunning wife, his sous chef, and two hilarious gentlemen from the wine company. (I believe one of them picked up the tab, I only know we didn't pay for anything.) We chatted, ate ourselves silly, and even celebrated the birthday of one of the wine dudes. Oh, and we did hear hilarious stories about Gordon Ramsey (known simply as GR in our house), laughing all evening. Such a wonderful treat we had that night, and one we will always remember.
  13. I'm going to post the first half now and the second half later tonight or tomorrow so that it's not a novel. :) Individual restaurant reviews, port tour reviews and (drum roll, please) stories of hanging out with celebrities will follow. We are a couple in our late 40s who enjoy both land and cruise vacations. We are not loyal to any one brand and choose sailings based on many factors. I think NCL provides a great product. There were some hiccups, but few problems that couldn't be avoided due to better planning and attention on my part. 9/10 Would cruise with NCL again. EMBARKATION: Easily the worst embarkation I’ve ever experienced on any cruise line, in any port. We arrived to port when scheduled, just after noon, as our window was between 12-12:30pm. We dropped our bags with the porter and entered the security line, which stopped dead a few minutes later. We stood still for around half an hour. Once we got through security, the check-in line moved very, very slowly. Forms for health questionnaire and customs were not on tables, but haphazardly passed out by the people in charge of keeping the lines moving and organized. I was never actually given a customs form, but picked one up from a basket that had been discarded by another passenger. When I saw the next available NCL check-in employee raise her sign that her station was open I quickly walked towards her. The “organizer” told me to come back, which I did, and then she realized I was going where I should have been going and told me to head back to the lady with the sign. CHAOS. The whole process took 1.5 hours of standing and I really felt sorry for the older people with tired feet and bodies. DISEMBARKATION: Best disembarkation we’ve ever experienced on any line. I don’t know how they messed up embarkation so badly when they absolutely nailed getting off the ship. We did self-assist because we’re able-bodied and pack light, not because we needed to be off the ship ASAP. We just chilled in our room until 8:30am and walked off the ship! No lines. No shoving. No painful waits in public rooms stacked on top of each other. It was pure heaven compared to our previous experiences on other lines. ENTERTAINMENT: We saw two musicals, The Brat Pack and After Midnight, and both were excellent in quality and talent. I know and love all of those 1980s teen movies, so I got all the references and thought the writers did a good job weaving them together. It was a bit risqué for any ship entertainment I’d ever seen before, but people in their undies dropping f-bombs don’t bother us. YMMV. After Midnight was fantastic, especially since Melinda Doolittle was a featured singer. She blew me away and I was happy to bump into her later in the week to tell her in person. The other singers and dancers were also wonderful and I loved the costumes. After Midnight is not to be missed if you like jazz. Finally, we enjoyed the singing guitarist Orly Penate very much, especially when he *wasn’t* performing Jimmy Buffett. (Sorry, but I’m allergic to JB and Billy Joel. The pianist in the District wasn’t my cup of tea, either, but people seemed to be enjoying it.) RANDOM: Speaking of Jimmy Buffett, for some reason Margaritaville was about 20 degrees colder than the rest of the ship. The poor people working there were freezing the whole week and those of us eating there took to wrapping pool towels around us for warmth. They need to install a wind barrier there or something because it’s a nice place to get away from the crowds and slurp margs. I also loved their pretzel sticks so much I wanted to marry them, chattering teeth or no. CABIN: We had a very nice aft balcony cabin, 12312, deep enough for two loungers, two chairs, and a small table. I would book this room again in a heartbeat even though weather didn’t allow us to fully enjoy the balcony much of the time. I just really liked how nicely laid out the cabin was and the décor. The couch was large enough for two to sit AND pile a bunch of clothes on. Yes, it was a bit difficult to access the closet with the bed in front of it, but we preferred having the large open living area by the balcony. The bathroom was also very well laid out and the shower was quite roomy for a cruise ship. The décor and design felt like higher-end IKEA, which I prefer over the super-safe “beige on beige” of Princess. I LOVE how newer ships like this have the little lights telling the steward if we're in, do not disturb, remake room, etc. My husband loves to sleep in, so this is a big improvement over the stewards needing to use ESP or knocking. SERVICE: Our room steward Leonardo was perfect- available, but not up in our business every day. He said hello to us by name, kept the room clean, and replenished our tp and other items. He even won me over to the joys of towel animals by making an adorable “mouse” pop his head out of a coffee cup. I’ve just always found them a bit cheesy, but Leonardo is an artist and changed my mind. I made sure my mouse left him an extra $20. ROOM SERVICE: We didn’t have much luck with the complimentary breakfast room service. “Fruit and pastries” turned out to be one tiny bowl of canned peaches and a few 2”x2” Danish. We gave up on it completely when they were late bringing us breakfast on the only morning we had a tour booked. That made for a very stressful beginning to our day, so we just stopped hanging the request on the door after that. (My apologies to the server who delivered our breakfast late and I didn't tip. In hindsight it probably wasn't your fault and I should have been nicer to you. My bad.) More to come. . .
  14. Rockwife

    Appetizer Order Sequence

    We only dined in the MDR a few times last week and did not experience this happen. However, our server in the Manhattan Dining room was not very well trained in regards to wine offerings. We ordered a bottle of the Terrazas Malbec, which was listed on a special table tent promoting the wines and events of Chef Aaron Sanchez. She told us "Those wines are only served on the 8th floor." We guessed she meant the Cellar Bar and thought how strange it was that they would advertise wines on every table in the dining room that they could not serve. Instead of arguing with her, we just found where it was listed on the regular wine menu and ordered it. Ha! When she brought it to the table I quietly let her know the wine was the same as the one on the table tent and she kindly thanked me for filling her in. I have no idea how many people she steered away from those wines, but it was fairly humorous to us and no big deal. Terrazas might think otherwise!
  15. Rockwife

    Why did the Escape skip Bar Harbor today?

    This. Super foggy and unsafe. Disappointing to miss Acadia, but very understandable. If we'd missed both Portland and Bar Harbor I'd have been a very unhappy gal since we mostly chose this cruise to scratch Maine off our bucket list, but I'd have still sucked it up like a buttercup. Traveling we hope for great weather, but rarely get it and thank our lucky stars when it happens.
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