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About ClaireAndMike

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  1. Yes, I am very lucky. She footed the bill for the Bermuda cruise as well. I will never in my life be in a position to be able to do that for people, as much as I'd love to. I'm so mad that I didn't even pack the stupid thing. Such a missed opportunity for fun.
  2. Also, I apologize for the picture of my brother giving "the finger" at Spice H20. I uploaded it from my phone and thought he was pointing. By the time I saw it on my Chromebook, it was too late for me to delete it. *Facepalm*
  3. Debarkation Day! I forgot to mention, there was a machine of a bartender putting up with everyone's nonsense at the Local on the last. He had black-rimmed "nerd" glasses on and my brother referred to him as a "wizard." This guy needed a comment card too. He was unreal. Drink after drink after drink... nonstop. That guy was awesome. So Saturday morning was a bit of an adventure. The Captain came on in the morning to inform us that the passenger who had the medical emergency had lived and was going to be okay, so that was a relief. Word had gotten around at that point that it was an 8 year old boy, so that was pretty sad. I'm actually surprised that stuff like that doesn't happen more often. When you get that many people together and there's endless alcohol... That obviously wasn't a factor in this instance. I know people die on ships and they have a morgue and all that... So debarkation began at 11. The breakfast places all closed at their usual times and everyone still had to be out of their rooms, so EVERYONE was crammed into just a few spaces. Really all we could was sit and wait. I had a later flight, so they asked that we leave last to allow people with earlier flights to be able to disembark and make it to the airport. I found a nice, quiet, somewhat uninhabited spot on the Waterfront so I had some peaceful final moments to enjoy the ship and my vacation, which was nice. This is the first cruise I've been on that I haven't carried my own luggage off. I don't think I'll do that again. I brought two purses with me, and of course left my wallet in the one that I put in my suitcase ALL THE WAY AT THE BOTTOM. And I was frantically searching for it Friday night (AFTER my suitcase had been taken) I had to hope and cross my fingers that that's where my wallet was. So I felt pretty uneasy all night and wasn't able to actually dig it out until I got to the airport. For ease, I arranged the $16 bus transfer from the port to the airport. By the way, I really do not like that Miami airport. That thing needs to be redone. I know an insane amount of traffic passes through there, but perhaps that's all the more reason to revamp it. CONCLUSION: I had an absolutely wonderful time. We had two minor hiccups, both resolved with profuse apologies from NCL. I loved the Bliss and loved the crew. I don't disbelieve the negative experiences that people have had, but it would have to be something really out of the ordinary for the average person to have a truly awful time on this ship. I know things happen, but it's got to be a freak incident because I don't think that's the norm for this ship at all. I don't know when my next cruise will be, but I think I'm going to do a smaller ship. A lot of it had to do with being part of such a large group, but having to make reservations for things in advance would have been tough. I really liked the Jewel so I'll probably try a ship in that class. I'd like to do something non-Caribbean too. Maybe a Canada or New England or another Pacific Coastal...or Alaska? If I remember anything else over the next few days, which I probably will, I'll add it. I wanted to get this done while I had the freshest memory of it!
  4. Day Seven (Nassau or, for me, NOTHING!) Ahhhh the final day. I wasn't too thrilled the last time I visited Nassau so I decided to stay on the ship. I've always wanted to do that on a port day, and today was my chance. Since we didn't arrive there until noon, and were there until 7pm, I had breakfast again at Savor. Today, I ordered the huevos rancheros without the chili con carne sauce and an English muffin. It was much better than the omelette I had the morning before. From there, I went to my Grandma's room and hung out for a little while. Everyone else got off the ship and I wandered around for a little bit. I got a glass of wine from the observation lounge, sat there for a few minutes, walked around a bit, went back to my room to change into my ill-fitting swimsuit and headed to the thermal suite. This is the day when there was barely a soul there. I swam in the thermal pool for maybe 15 minutes and then checked out the various rooms. Snow room, salt room, tropical rain shower, sanarium, steam room, sauna... And ahhhhhh, it was nice and quiet! I misjudged my time, and again missed lunch. I went back to my room and finished the bag of goldfish crackers that I'd brought on board with me. Dinner that night was a Cagney's (group dinner) and again, wasn't until 8:30 or 9. We met at 7:30 at the Waterfront Sugar Cane area for a cheap gift exchange the family had organized. I declined to participate since I knew I wouldn't remember to buy a gift, and I have a general dislike for shopping. I also had no room to bring anything else home with me. I forgot to mention that two weeks before the cruise, I'd ordered three maxi dresses online since I needed something to wear to dinners. Two of them of course needed to be altered since they were way too long on me. I picked them up from the seamstress on Christmas Eve and had them hanging up in my living room by my suitcase all week. I realized at the airport 15 minutes before my flight boarded that I'd forgotten to pack them. Long story short, my husband was able to drive them over to one of my aunts who was flying out Saturday morning who had room to bring them to me. So I had to make sure I had room to fit those in my suitcase on the way back, and I was already stuffed to the gills. SOOOOOOO... while we were at dinner, probably at about 9:45pm, we got the announcement from the Captain about needing to turn around and go back to Nassau because of the medical emergency and that we'd be arriving back to Miami four hours late. He described it as being "critical" and "life or death." They offered use of their phones at no charge for people to be able to try to call to rearrange their flights home. I wasn't flying out until 4:30 so it didn't matter to me. My mom, brother and his family were on the same flight back leaving at 1:30. They figured it'd be reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally close, but didn't bother calling to change the flight and took their chances. My brother and I decided to make a night of it (again). This time, we wore our NYE hats that we didn't wear on the actual NYE. Ohhhh!!! I forgot to mention... after our Teppenyaki dinner, I went to Q because I was so excited to try the Smoky Peach Margarita. Yeah, I didn't like it at all. I took one sip and just couldn't do it. I need to remember that I don't like tequila - no even in a smoky peach margarita. So that was a huge bummer. I actually didn't drink any cocktails all week. Just wine and a couple of beers.
  5. Day Six Pictures The shopping extravaganza Folding chairs in the Atrium! Out by the kids pool Pool deck My brother and niece. Two redheads. The best chocolate cupcakes I've ever had The crazy game Grandma's 90th birthday celebration I got like three of these right
  6. Day Six (Sea Day) Lord, I am flying through this. Had breakfast again in Savor. We had the most wonderful server in here two mornings, and also had them the night of our dinner in the Manhattan Room. I wish I'd gotten their name. Does NCL still do "comment cards"? There were definitely a few people that I should've given recognition to. I remember reading about service issues in the few weeks leading up to my sailing. Long wait times for things, seemingly clueless crew members... I did not experience ANY of that. In fact, so many people went out of their way for us. When my mom, Grandma and I were getting back onto the ship after our tour in Tortola, a woman half the size of my mom and I, and probably a quarter of my moms age wheeled my Grandma up the gangway. Whenever we were in a restaurant, they would help her get from her wheelchair into a chair at the table. Etc, etc, etc. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. In fact, it felt like the entire ship (the crew, that is) knew who the O'Shea group was. My sister in law said they were eating somewhere with the kids, maybe the Garden Cafe, and she was wearing her group shirt, the one with my Grandma's picture on it, and a crew member just started going "I know her! I know her!" They were absolutely wonderful. Every time we passed someone walking down a hallway or in a public space, they smiled and said hello. My brother and I always have kind of a guilt complex about cruises. These people from so many countries work their butts off for such long hours and low pay and have to bend over backwards catering to our every want and need... Yes, perhaps it's a better life for them than what they'd have at home, but there is no way that job is easy. I wish they were paid better. I wonder what benefits (if any) they get. And yeah, it's the job they applied for, but still... That's my little rant. So anyway, breakfast at Savor. I ordered a cheese omelette with wheat toast. It was okay, the cheese wasn't very melted, but I liked the portion size. It was on the smaller end, and perfect. After that, the shops were having one of those ridiculous "blowout" sales with loads of cheap crap. The ladies were going crazy over it, but again, not my thing. My mom wanted to go check it out. I was there for a few minutes and had to leave. It was just wild. I think you got a free tote bag if you spent $100. Wow. After that, we met my brother up on the pool deck so my Grandma could "watch the kids swim." I'm kind of with my Dad when it comes to the pool deck. Too loud, too hot, too crowded. Not my idea of a good time. Plus I've gained like 20 lbs since my last crew and am pale as a ghost so it's not really the place to be for my kind anyway. I didn't really fit into my swimsuits from cruises past so I wore leggings and a tshirt to the thermal suite 90% of the time I was there. I shouldn't give a darn, obviously there are a ton of very body confident people who don't and are out there flaunting their stuff anyway. But the fair skin thing...I can't help that. And I absolutely hate sunscreen so the less surface area I have to cover with it, the better. Lunch was in the observation lounge again. I had the most amazing mini chocolate cupcake EVER. I usually don't like frosting. Especially the thick, stiff, overly sugary kind, which is what those type of cupcakes usually have. But these cupcakes... they had that super light, like whipped cream kind of frosting and they were the greatest. I only had one, and I regret it. Do NOT miss out on those, whatever you do. In the afternoon, my brother and I went up to Spice where some of the gang was playing a game called "Donner Dinner Party." I'd never heard of it, but was told it was similar to "Secret Hitler" which I'd played once before at a party. I really didn't get this game at all, so I just watched. It got quite animated. We had a big night coming up. One of my uncles had arranged for us to celebrate my Grandma's birthday in one of the conference rooms. They decorated it and planned to have games and a big photo slideshow set to music. We were supposed to meet at 6:30 for a family portrait in the portrait studio. Here is the other snafu of the week: they studio was apparently double booked. Ohh - I remember reading something about folding chairs in the Atrium. Yes, I did see those set up for the more well-attended events happening there. The birthday celebration was scheduled to begin at 7 in the Atlantic conference room, so we headed there first. The oldest of the cousins (I'm the second oldest, phew) gave a tearful toast, which had everyone else in the room crying (except for me of course, I generally don't get too emotional over happy occasions). The slideshow was incredibly well done. My uncle really has a way of doing things. He's the one who did 99% of the legwork for the cruise. When we were done, the photographer was ready for us, but of course now everyone had puffy, red eyes and faces from crying and makeup had been smeared. Perfect time to take a family picture! After the pictures were done, we had a big dinner at the Teppanyaki place. That meal was REALLY good but my god I got so much food. I ate maybe 25% of it and felt so bad about wasting the rest of it. I feel like there is SO MUCH WASTED FOOD in general on a cruise. I wonder if they could order just 75% of what they do and have enough? They must dispose of soooooooooooo much of it. I have no idea what I did that night. I think I went to bed early. Well, "early." I don't think we were done with dinner until 10:00. My mom was babysitting for my niece and nephew in their room while my brother and sister in law went to Jersey Boys at 10:30.
  7. Day Five Pictures! (Tortola) View from our open air vehicle Place we stopped at for a drink opportunity On to the "sea" portion Grandma got up to take a look I was at the thermal suite for sailaway Looking straight out from the observation lounge The burrata caprese (caprese burrata) that I was so excited to try! Yummmmm. Tortellini
  8. Day Five (Tortola, a new place for me) Me being the idiot that I am, forgot to hang the room service thing on our door handle the night before. I had looked at it to double check because the morning before, we were given whole milk because my mom didn't check off the fat free. When I was inspecting her work, I set it down on the counter by the fridge and left it there. Oops. Luckily, I woke up early so I grabbed the reusable shopping bad I'd brought along, and the room service card, and snuck up to the Garden Cafe to snatch up whatever I could. Our meeting time for the excursion was 7:45. We got my Grandma (and her wheelchair) down to get off the ship and were there by 7:20. One of my aunts and a cousin was coincidentally in front of us, on their way out for their trip. Right after they walked off, an employee asked us if we were with them. We said no since we were on a different tour. We should've said yes, but at that point, they quit letting people off because the Celebrity Edge was pulling in. So we had to wait for about 45 minutes before we could leave. Luckily, all the tour operators knew so they waited for us. This tour was prebooked and paid for by another member of my group and it was NOT handicapped friendly. I should've checked, because I know I'd seen other "accessible" tours listed. You should've seen my poor 90 year old Grandmother who could barely walk try to get herself up into this open air bus. Like three people had to help us, and I know she was incredibly uncomfortable on the ride. I really could have done without the "land" part of the tour. We drove all over that island, and didn't really stop anywhere except for this tiny bar/shack with a view. The ride was bumpy and we couldn't hear a word our driver was saying over the noise of the truck engine. It went on FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRR. FINALLY we were able to get off of that thing and walked over to the "sea" part. We got on a boat (it was also quite a challenge getting Grandma on and off of that thing) and went out seeing some of the other islands. I enjoyed that much better. My mother made it her mission to spot the other members of our group on their chartered boats. I tried explaining to her how low those odds were, but she was having none of it. The tour was over at a little after noon. I was so hungry by this time, so it was time for lunch. I haven't the faintest idea what I had. No pictures, but I'm guessing it was in the Observation Lounge. Then I went to the spa. That night, we had a group dinner in La Cucina. Some people were seeing Jersey Boys, so they didn't make it. I think my brother and his branch of the family tree went elsewhere too. It was another late reservation and the kids needed to eat earlier. Day Five pictures coming next.
  9. On the ride up to Paradise Point Lunch at Fresh Bistro. Blackened mahi mahi sandwich. St. Thomas from the balcony Our first of two gifts from the Manhattan Room Again, not sure why these are uploading out of order. A Carnival ship coming in between us. I brought three books to read and only got halfway through one of them Jalapeno cornbread at Savor Eggplant parmesan People are gross and leave stuff everywhere Picture of my brother and I cracking ourselves up in the Haven Lounge the other night Made another appearance at Spice. It was dead this night and actually quite nice. Abandoned pool deck And we stumbled upon the go karts!!! And I found a sunburn Fourthmeal I'd be more inclined to ride the go karts if it wasn't a "race" and more of a leisurely ride
  10. Day Four (LAND HO!) St. Thomas I had been to St. Thomas once before on a cruise with my sister. The Epic Eastern Caribbean cruise in 2013. We did an island tour and saw a bunch of stuff then and while I really liked it there, I didn't feel the need to really do much this time. Or at any one of our ports, really. I've had a super stressful last six, going on seven months at work (in fact, I'm dreading what I will be returning to tomorrow after being gone for a week) and I really needed time to just relax and do very little. I ordered room service for breakfast on this day. I eat pretty light in the morning so a little box or corn flakes was all I needed. The group scattered and did their own thing this day. My brother's family went to Magen's Bay (at my suggestion), my Uncle arranged a helicopter tour for my Grandma and two others (NOT ME, HELL NO), I have no idea what everyone else did. My mom and I didn't do anything really exciting. We walked across the street to "Paradise Point" and took the cable car thing up to take some pictures. We then walked around a bit and shopped/browsed. I'm not a big shopping person - I don't buy souvenirs. Some goof in a weird "high end" store sweet talked my mom into sitting for some sort of eye wrinkle serum demonstration. Those people really irritate me. I try to say no thank you as politely as possible, but they're so persistent. The guy didn't like me at all because I'm super skeptical of ANY of those so-called beauty products. I wish I could remember what brand he was hawking. We were on our way to lunch (I was quite hungry at this point, the Corn Flakes don't keep you full for long) and I didn't want to be held up. So I was standing there with my arms crossed, probably looking very impatient. He puts this crap on the corners of my mom's eyes, holds a small fan up to them to speed up the absorption process and then asks me excitedly if I can see the difference. Spoiler alert: no. I told him I didn't look at them before so I certainly couldn't tell the after. Then he gives his speech about he's going to give her a free gift. If she bought the eye crap for $250, he'd give her some other product for free. He claimed that the eye crap retailed for $995 online, and even pulled up some probably fake website to "prove" it. Anyway, I'd finally had enough and dragged mother out of there. There were very few food options that I saw in the immediate area. I guess a lot of it was closed for New Year's Day or hadn't reopened after getting some hurricane damage? We ended up at the "Fresh Bistro" which was quite an improvement over our lunch at the Delly Deck last time we were there. I had a blackened mahi mahi sandwich and my mother had chicken wings. Oh, wouldn't you know it, the dude from the cosmetic store came in to order lunch a few minutes after we got there. After that, we walked around Havensight Mall for about 20 minutes. I went back to the ship and my mom went back to buy kettle corn. When I got back to the room, our first of the two gifts from the Manhattan Room were waiting for me. I don't drink Merlot so I gave it to my brother later that evening. I had dinner at Savor with my mom, Grandma and one of my aunts. Jalapeno skillet cornbread and eggplant parmesan is what I had. My brother and I had another one of our infamous "nights out." Tonight, we discovered the go kart track and had fun observing the last "heat." I also discovered I'd gotten a sunburn. AND we ended up at the Garden Cafe way late and ate buffet pizza. My brother found the soft serve ice cream machine. We had a very early morning the next day. A bunch of us (not me) were going on some boat ride the Baths on Virgin Gorda, followed by lunch at Cooper Island Yacht Club, and then a drink at Willy T's. I agreed to a shore excursion "Tortola by Land and Sea" with my mom and Grandma.
  11. So for some reason, these pictures are in reverse chronological order. Wth? NYE countdown on the pool deck Dinner dessert One of the three comped Veuve Clicquot bottles Afternoon thermal suite time, reading my wonderfully entertaining Parker Posey memoir NYE hats left in every stateroom on the ship My buffet gloves My nephew "Coco" (that's what I call him). I was super entertained by the fact that there was a Coco's onboard, but no one else seemed to care. Oh well. I thought it was funny. Never went there though. Sparkling wine aplenty!
  12. Day Three (another day at sea!) Also, New Years Eve! Another day that I have to consult my timestamped pictures... I really regret not taking more advantage of all that is on this ship. I did very little in the way of activities and shows. In fact, I didn't see ANY shows. No Havana!, no Jersey Boys (just not interested in either of them), no comedy shows, no live music, no go karts, no mini golf, no laser tag, ONE karaoke song, NO CREW TALENT SHOW (!!!) the entire week... Seriously, what the hell did I do for an entire week? I checked my stupid Facebook more times than I should have. Not that I was on it a lot, but I shouldn't have checked it AT ALL. Having access to it was just too tempting though. I'm not going to do ANY internet package on the next one because, as incredibly depressing as this is, I doubt I'll still have a dog at home to worry about. In fact, when she was diagnosed with her heart condition, I said I wouldn't travel AT ALL anymore. (I made a few exceptions to that rule, but as she gets older, I'm really doubling down). And at that time, the "Mike" in "ClaireAndMike" will finally be able to go on his first cruise. Anyway. I'm something of a germaphobe so those actual sinks with soap and paper towels as you walk into the Garden Cafe and Observation Lounge are about the most brilliant invention as ever I've seen. I strongly dislike the idea of buffets in general. I remember seeing a couple at a buffet once (might have been on a cruise ship) and they were wearing plastic gloves as they went around selecting their food. What a great idea, I thought. So now I travel with gloves and do the exact same thing. I remove them before I eat, of course. Breakfast today was at the Garden Cafe. Still a zoo. On the Bliss, people take food down to the Observation Lounge just below (and the obs lounge also puts out buffet style food). All I could think of was people spilling and getting food stains all over that beautiful, new furniture. Eww. We were all given New Year hats in our rooms, which I thought was a nice touch, even though I forgot to wear mine. But stay tuned, it did not go to waste. I spent the afternoon in the thermal suite and our group met in the observation lounge for our big family NYE dinner together in the Manhattan Room at 9pm. The nights that we had dinner reservations as a group were always very late dinners - like 9pm. In real life, I usually eat dinner at 6:30 and am in bed by 9:30. I'm sure those were the only times they could seat a group of our size. I shudder to think what we'd have been like had all 35 of us been able to go on the cruise. Yikes. Anyway, we got to the Manhattan Room for our reservation and were told the wait was 45 minutes. Apparently they were taking walk-ins? I guess this was the first minor snafu. I truly wouldn't have cared, and was pretty blase about the whole thing but, my Grandma is 90, we had young kids with us, and it was late and we were all hungry. My uncle did some talking with the manager and they were able to seat us quicker, but at three different tables at three slightly staggered times. This was supposed to be our nice, official family holiday dinner I suppose. Oh well, it worked out okay. My niece and nephew had to be put to bed so my mom stayed down in the room with them while my brother ate. When he finished, he went down to the room and my mom came up and ate. So it was a bit disjointed, but it worked out. As an "I'm sorry," NCL comped us three bottles of Veuve Cliquot, one for each table. That is my champagne of choice (on special occasions) so I was quite thrilled. They also took down every single one of our stateroom numbers and delivered desserts and a bottle of wine to each room the following day, and then chocolate covered strawberries the day after that. Totally unnecessary, but so nice. By the time we were done eating, it was almost midnight. We headed up to the pool deck where they were carrying around more trays loaded with sparking wine than one could imagine handing them out to people. It was really fun. Siglo was up there playing and Silas led a countdown. But about five minutes after midnight, it was bedtime for me. HAHA oh and I just realized...my husband is looking at the dailies and asked me what the 18-25 gathering was. I said I had no idea. Upon further inspection, apparently the 18 to 25 year olds had a gathering at Spice H20. That explains why we felt so old. We were literally the oldest people there. Guess we can close the file on that one.
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