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SLMS

Late, Long, Hopeful Helpful, Sprit 10/8 Review

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First let me say that the ship is beautiful (love the Asian influence left from the ship's former life as the Super Star Leo), the food ranged from good to very good with the occasional excellent and a couple of misses), the shows were generally entertaining, the staff was friendly and helpful and the musical performances in the various lounges and venues were quite enjoyable.

 

I kept a diary of our cruise, that I hope will serve as a "review". It is quite long and I have not yet entered it all into a WORD document. However, I thought it was time to start posting some of it already. Thanks for your patience. Here's the first few days:

 

10/8/06: Having flown in the night before from California, we grabbed a taxi from the Ramada Plaza JFK after checking out around 11 a.m. We arrived at the Pier around Noon and priority embarkation was announced just as we were being directed to the Latitudes waiting area. Therefore, we went directly to the check-in tables without ever having to wait prior to embarkation. After going through the various desks, we received our ship cards and were onboard within 10 minutes of starting the whole process. The rooms would not be ready until 2 p.m. This gave us time to have lunch in the Raffles Buffet (excellent Vegetable Curry) and spend some time exploring this beautiful ship. We chose an inner cabin for this trip and it was quite comfortable for two people. It was initially set up as twin beds with one bed converted to a couch during the daytime hours. We had them put the beds together and the only problem with this arrangement is that the combined bed was against the wall so that you could only get in the bed from one side or from the end of the bed (not a big deal). Our luggage stored under the bed quite nicely and the closet, shelves and drawers were sufficient to hold all our stuff (we are not heavy packers). The joy of this ship is that all the rooms have real sized showers with sliding glass doors. We went on deck as the ship left NY, passing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It is very moving to sail away from the NY skyline and pass these important and historical sights. This evening, we dined in Windows, one of the main dining rooms. This is an extremely large and beautiful room with large two story windows at one end. DH ate Onion Soup, Caesar Salad and Orange Roughy. I had a Beef Empanada appetizer, a salad of an Iceberg Wedge served with tomato, avocado and Chipotle dressing plus Turkey Milanese as my main course. All of these were quite good and a bottle of Spanish Sparkling wine went very nicely with this meal. Desserts were a delicious chocolate-pecan cream cake and a mediocre bread pudding (not bad, just boring). DH had a Double Espresso and I had a Cappuccino to end the meal (NCL does not charge extra for specialty coffee drinks when ordered in a restaurant after dinner). We attended a musical showcase for all of the acts playing around the ship and all of them are quite talented. The evening’s main entertainment was comedian-juggler, Peter Sasso. He has a dry wit that grows on you and you find yourself laughing more and harder as the show progresses.

 

10/9/06: A nice relaxing day at sea began with breakfast in Windows. Like all NCL ships there are “Cooking Light” selections and I have found all the Cooking Light egg dishes to be quite good. Today I had the Eggs Sardou (Poached eggs on a bed of spinach served with artichoke hearts and sour cream. DH, a very healthy person, had oatmeal with raisins. Spent the day reading, attending lectures on the ports, attending the Latitudes party after inadvertently missing the Cruise Critic gathering (was in my memory as a 10/10 event, guess the memory was also on vacation) and just enjoying the ship’s activities, including the Sushi making demonstration. Tonight we ate in La Trattoria (in the evenings a corner of the Raffles Buffet is turned into an Italian Specialty Restaurant for which there is no additional charge). We enjoyed Buffalo Mozzarella with tomato, basil and olive oil, minestrone (could have been hotter), an excellent Caesar Salad (prepared tableside) and each chose a different “make your own pasta & sauce combination.” Linguine Pesto for DH and Linguine alla Putanesca for me (for those who don’t know that’s a sauce of tomatoes, olives, anchovies, red pepper flakes, and other ingredients that can be put together quickly and the name means “in the style of the Streetwalkers.”). We shared a nice bottle of Chianti with the meal and at our waiter’s insistence (Thomas gave us excellent service), we also shared a piece of Tiramisu along with our Espresso and Cappuccino. While this was one of the optional formal nights with the Captain’s Dinner with Beef Burgundy and Lobster on the menu, we decided on La Trattoria based on our prior experiences with NCL’s Captain’s Night menu (neither of us are big beef eaters and we have found the main dining room Lobster to be small and dry). The show presented by the NCL Production Company was a lot of noise and energy and not much more. We did not find this show to be very enjoyable; however, later we went to hear Jose & Patty sing their Neil Diamond set and that was quite nice.

 

10/9/06: Another day at sea that also started with a nice breakfast in Windows (Cheese Blintzes with pear sauce for me and eggs, turkey sausage and toast for DH). I attended some more Port lectures (both the ones about the shopping opportunities and the ones about the sights and tours). I am happy to report that the lecturer on the sights and tours did not push ship excursions and spoke about the best way to see the islands on your own if that was your preference. It is for this reason that I believed him when he said that in Dominica your best option is a ship’s tour. I tried the Fish & Chips in Henry’s Pub for lunch (only served from 12-2 on sea days) and it was quite tasty. This battered fried fish was white, moist, and flaky and the coating was crisp and crunchy. Tonight we ate in the Garden Room, another main dining room. While both Windows and the Garden Room have the same menu, this is a smaller venue and more like a restaurant than a banquet hall. We found the service to be better here. Of course, this could be due to Noviza, an excellent waitress and her assistant, Fatima. We chose to request one of Noviza’s tables whenever we dined at this restaurant. We both had the Falafel Ball appetizer, DH was still “stuck” on Caesar Salad and I had the Zucchini, Fennel and Roasted Red Pepper Soup (quite delicious). We both had Duck ala Orange, which was served with Almond Potatoes, red cabbage and carrots and this was all cooked to perfection. A nice Australian Chardonnay accompanied this meal. Dessert was Baklava served with cinnamon ice cream (this may have been our favorite dessert combination of the cruise) followed by our now “routine” of Espresso and Cappuccino. We took a walk on deck and the sky was so cloudy neither stars nor moon could be seen. It was very, very black, sort of like entering the Void. Tonight we were entertained by the Second City Improv Group and we found them quite funny.

 

10/11/06: We had a leisurely morning as the ship did not dock in St. Thomas until 11 a.m. We breakfasted in Windows where DH had lox, bagel & cream cheese (excellent quality lox) and I had the Cooking Light Potato O’Brien Frittata (probably my favorite Cooking Light Egg creation). We took one of the open air group taxis from the pier to Charlotte Amalie, which let us off in front of Fort Christian. The Fort is closed for repairs, so no tours on this visit. On our last visit to St. Thomas, we spent most of our day visiting St. John’s (stunningly beautiful island) and only took a quick look around Charlotte Amalie along with a healthy walk up the hill to the beautiful synagogue (oldest on U.S. soil). Since we are not big shoppers, this time we chose to walk around and visit some sites that were noted on a Walking Tour I had downloaded from either Frommers.com or Fodors.com. We checked out the building where the French Impressionist Camille Pissarro was born, worked in his father’s shop downstairs and lived upstairs before changing his name from Jakob to Camille and moving to Paris to paint. We also checked out the Library building, the 1829 Hotel (yes, it was built in 1829) and the murals in the Post Office, which were painted by a man who became an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post. We found the 99 Steps (more like 106), a “street” built by the Danes and walked up to the Stone Tower Fort bearing the name of Blackbeard’s Castle. We bought a few souvenirs at the Open Air Market and headed back to the ship after having a couple of beers at the Shipwreck Tavern across the street from Havensight Mall. We had dinner in Windows, where we both enjoyed the Cream of Cauliflower Soup. DH had a Chicken Salad appetizer and Grilled Mahi-Mahi. This time I had the Caesar Salad followed by Roasted Lamb with Forty Cloves of Garlic (tasty, but a bit chewy). We both had Chocolate Velvet Cake. This was one of those desserts that looked better than it tasted. The meal ended with our “regular” coffee choices. The comedian who performed tonight, John Pinney, also called “the cookie man”, had some funny material. However, some of his routine was on the gross end of things and neither of us enjoys humor of that type. We next went to hear one of the performers sing a Frank Sinatra set and then headed off to our room to get some sleep.

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10/12/06: Given the raves yesterday from DH, I had the lox & bagel breakfast (he was right about the quality of the lox) and DH had the Cooking Light Walnut Apple Pancakes (a bit dry). There was some rain today for our visit to Antigua. When I checked out the taxi prices ($50 roundtrip) for a trip to and from the Nelson Dockyards, I decided it would be better to use a ship’s excursion for this island ($52 person with multiple sights and visits) and given the rainy weather, I believe this was a good choice. The Nelson Dockyards are in English Harbor, a natural inner harbor providing protection from hurricanes. This is the only surviving Georgian dockyard in the world and it provides a unique look back in time. The English also built a series of hilltop forts to protect the dockyards. Due to hurricanes and earthquakes, the forts have all gone to ruin. However, they all have fantastic views and that makes them interesting. Driving back to St. Johns, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda, we traveled through many small villages and in each one you would find a Bar next to the Church. We also drove by sugar plantation ruins, farms and the new cricket stadium being constructed “for free” by the Chinese government as Antigua will be one of the sites of the upcoming World Cup of Cricket. We went into the guidebook recommended Big Bananas in Paradise and tried the local beer, Wadadli Lager, a rather ordinary lager. We found the Cathedral of St. John the Divine built around 1858 (earthquakes and hurricanes destroyed prior structures). The outside of the cathedral and the headstones of the surrounding cemetery reflect heavy “weathering”. The inside, however, appears well maintained and the cathedral is definitely worth a visit. The Museum of Antigua & Barbuda is located in the former Courthouse and the exhibits there give one a good overview of island history. We visited a few shops and walked back to the ship. St. John’s is one of those places with uneven sidewalks that are in a state of disrepair. The guidebooks notes and we would concur that the people living on Antigua are not the friendliest; at least when compared to the folks we have met on other Caribbean Islands. While we found the Dockyards, the views and the Cathedral well worth visiting, this was our least favorite island on this cruise. We returned to the Garden Room tonight and asked to sit at one of Noviza’s tables. We both had a delicious Scandinavian Yellow Split Pea Soup. I had Mixed Lettuce Salad and the vegetarian entrée (vegetable risotto, fired artichokes and eggplant piccata). This was a tasty meal; however, the fried items were not crispy indicating they had sat around a bit of time after frying. DH thoroughly enjoyed his Caesar Salad, Salmon and a baked potato. Tonight we finished the bottle of Pinot Noir that we had first open with our meal on the prior night (NCL will hold you unfinished bottles of wine for you to use at a later time in any of their restaurants). DH skipped dessert. I could not resist the Apple baked in a Jacket (pastry crust & marzipan) with a bit of vanilla ice cream. Tonight’s female singer was pretty good and we also enjoyed Peter Sasso’s portion of this evening’s entertainment.

 

10/13/06: The day began with breakfast in Windows, DH gave another Cooking Light pancake (Oatmeal Buttermilk) a try (also a bit dry) along with some tasty turkey sausage. I had the Cooking Light Huevos Rancheros (quite enjoyable). We walked into Bridgetown, Barbados past the many taxi drivers offering to tour us around the island. We found the synagogue (one of the oldest, perhaps the 1st or 2nd oldest in the Western Hemisphere as it was first built in 1654; however, the current structure dates from 1833) and its surrounding cemetery. It has been lovingly restored and now they are building a museum of Jewish Life in Barbados. We also found the Parliament Buildings (very British in appearance) and across from Parliament is Trafalgar Square with its statues of British heroes, including Admiral Nelson. Nearby is St. Michaels Cathedral built in 1655, destroyed in a 1780 hurricane and reconstructed in 1789. This is probably where George Washington worshiped in his one visit outside of what became the United States of America. We did a bit of shopping and looked for an air conditioned spot to try the local Bank’s Beer. For some reason this was not easy. We ended up going into one of the malls, buying the beer from a small store and drinking it in the Mall’s Food Court (lot cheaper that way, $1.50 a bottle). Bank’s Beer is an excellent brew. After our refreshing drinks, we went back to where the taxi cabs were lined up and took a taxi tour of the island ($70 for both of us). Our driver first took us thorough the Red Light/Drug District stating “I don’t want to hide anything from you.” He drove us though poor, middle class and very rich neighborhoods including a view of Mick Jagger’s home. We went up one hill for a view of the Atlantic coast of Barbados and up another hill for views of other coasts. Next it was up to the island’s highest point, Gun Hill, where the British built their signal tower and someone put a British Lion statue up on one of the slopes. We also stopped at the Adventure Park to see one of the Bajan Green Monkeys up close and personal (they really do have a greenish tint to their fur). We also saw several old churches of various denominations all made of coral stone, including St. Patrick’s. We stopped at a few local beaches, Surfside and Tamarind Cove and drove through the Sandy Lane Golf Course where some Green Monkeys were running wild. This is the hotel that Tiger Woods booked out for his wedding and ordinary rooms there go for $6,000 a night. Our Taxi Tour included Holetown, the first British settlement and now a resort area, although it still has several Chattel Houses (small houses in the style first used by the freed slaves and/or built to be rented out to the poorest of the poor). We also drove by the Emancipation Statue (a slave with arms held high with broken chains); slavery ended in Barbados in 1835. Back at the cruise ship terminal we did a bit more shopping at the open air market and went back to our rooms to shower (it was a bit humid and sticky throughout this trip) and rest up before dinner. We went back to La Trattoria tonight. DH had the Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomatoes, Brodo di Pollo (Italian Chicken Soup with vegetables and pasta) and Chicken Parmigiana. I had the Prosciutto & Mellon, the Brodo di Pollo and the Lasagna. We split a bottle of Spanish Sparkling Wine and while we were not planning on dessert, we somehow ended up sharing chocolate frozen yogurt and a ricotta cheesecake. This lovely and tasty meal ended with our “standard” coffee drinks. The show was a comedy magician, Ed Alonzo, a little silly, a little gross, sometimes funny and sometimes amazing. We spent some time walking on deck before heading off to bed.

 

10/14/06: We were up early and had breakfast in Windows, fruit plate and oatmeal for DH and Apple-Oatmeal pancakes (again, a little dry) and sausage for me. We set off to explore the Market Square of St. George, Grenada (we arrived on Saturday, one of the two big Market Days, the other being Friday). This is a lovely island, the harbor is quite picturesque and the market is full of spice vendors, fruit and vegetable vendors and folks selling everything from frozen chickens to shoes. Afterwards we went back to the terminal building and picked up a taxi tour for $20 per person. Grenada is quite hilly and the drive up to Annandale Falls along small roads full of curves (originally cut by hand to be used by folks riding mules and horses or walking) was “interesting” especially in the spots where our drive would back-up so he could reverse direction. Annandale Falls is a Mountain Stream that cascades about 40 feet into a pool and there are some fellows who will jump into the pool from the top of the falls for whatever tips or as they say “blessings” that come their way. We continued until we reached the highest point on the island and then went for a visit to Grand Etang National Park. Here we saw Grand Etang Lake, a very large volcanic crater lake, and just a bit of the rain forest. It is still quite lush even after the destruction of Hurricanes Ivan and Emily (90% of Grenadian homes lost roofs among the other destruction caused by these hurricanes. Just driving on our taxi tour revealed lots of damaged buildings. Back at the terminal, I took our purchases (mostly bags of whole nutmeg) back to the room and then joined DH for a walk up the hill to Fort George, which was built by the French and is now the Grenadian Police Academy. The views of the city and the harbor from this fort are quite extraordinary. Afterwards we found ourselves back in Market Square to buy yet some more whole nutmeg. It made me smile that they label their Turmeric as Saffron. I realize that both spices will color things yellow; however, that is about their only similarity and it hardly makes them the same spice. Except for the Market Square, most places are closed in St. George on Saturday; therefore, we went to the ship’s Bier Garten and had some Shiner’s Bock Beer made in Shiner, Texas (population: 2,500). The ship must have a refrigeration issue when you get to the 13th deck where the Bier Garten is located as the beers were not really cold enough. I also tired a fish cake in the Blue Lagoon (the 24 hour “restaurant/bar”). I was a bit disappointed as it was rather chewy. We showered and took a short nap before dinner. I also signed up for Ladies’ Night in the span (2 hours of pampering for $59). Tonight was Italian Night in the Main Dining Rooms and we ate in the Garden Room at one of Noviza’s tables. We both had Bruchetta and a Tortellini Soup. DH had Swordfish and I had the Cooking Light Chicken Parmigiana. We shared a bottle of Chardonnay and had Italian Cream Cake and Tiramisu with our “regular” coffee drinks. When I went up to the spa I found the 8 p.m. Ladies Night had been cancelled because not enough people signed up. I complained to both the Front Desk and the Spa that the advertisement said nothing about a certain number of persons being required and a few days later the Spa made good on my complaints and I received a complimentary mini-facial.

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Diary of Sea Days and our After Cruise Days in New York will hopefully be entered later today. Here's the rest of my diary of our Port stops.

 

10/15/06: We were up early as the excursion I selected (Dominica’s Favorites) has an 8:25 a.m. start time. DH had a Spanish omelet and Turkey Sausage for Breakfast and I had lox & bagel (this was in Windows). We are docked right at the start of “downtown” Rosseau. The Princess Sun is also in port and they are a bit further down shore at the commercial port. Our tour first took us up for a view over the city and the harbor. Dominica is a volcanic island, so no white sand beaches. However, it is also the Nature Isle with 365 rivers, lush green mountains, rain forests, hot springs, waterfalls and a boiling lake (that’s a 6-8 hour roundtrip hike, so we’ll have to save that hike for another visit). We were driven through the Botanical Gardens for a view of the different vegetation that grows here (Dominica is that rare Caribbean Island that can feed itself and even export food to other countries). We stopped at Trafalgar Falls, where after a brief and slippery hike you come to two waterfalls, one on each side of the same cliff, as they come from different sources, one from the boiling lake and the other from various rivers and streams. We stopped by an old Plantation House where they served Guava Juice and we had a chance to explore the grounds and get a close-up view of some of the vegetation. Our next stop was Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a primordial rainforest. Deep in the park is the Emerald Pool Trail that passes through the forest. It can be quite wet and slippery and one needs to be careful on their walk to the Emerald Pool, which is in a lovely grotto covered with ferns and has its very own waterfall. You really have to hike all the way to the Emerald Pool to see it, the lookout point only had a very partial view (however, it is a much shorter hike to the lookout point). It was an uphill walk back to the bus and our trip back to the capital city, Rosseau. Most businesses were closed as this was Sunday. However, the bar at the Fort Young Hotel along the waterfront was open and we tried the local beer, Kubuli, made with Dominica’s natural spring water. We also did some trinket shopping in the Market Square. This was once the site of slave auctions and is now where they sell T-shirts and native crafts to tourists. The only surviving large Carib Indian population is on Dominica (there is a reservation here), so this is the place to buy Carib Indian crafts if that is one of your interests. Back on the ship, we showered and rested before dinner. DH tried to take a Sunset Photo today; unfortunately, we found ourselves in a downpour. While the downpour was fast and furious, at its end there was too much cloud cover for a good photo. Tonight was French night in the main dining rooms. We both had the Cooking Light Lobster Bisque. DH had a mushroom crepe and Coq au Vin. I had Spring Greens with mushrooms and walnuts and the Strip loin with truffle sauce. We split a bottle of Shiraz Cabernet from Australian and both had Tarte Tatin with Vanilla ice cream for dessert. While the Strip loin was neither as tender nor as flavorful as I would have liked it to be, the rest of the meal was quite good and very tasty. We found the sound system at tonight’s show to be two loud and it was distorting the singer’s voice. We left after a few songs and head off to bed after checking out our photos in the Photo Gallery.

 

10/16/06: We got up early as we will only be in Tortola until 1 p.m. Breakfast was in Windows. DH had oatmeal and I had the Cheese Blintzes. We were off the ship around 8:30 a.m. and picked up one of the open air surrey taxi tours for $20 per person (about half the price of the ship’s similar tour). After stopping at the island’s only traffic light we set up on Ridge Road and up Joe’s Hill for a series of scenic photo stops. One gave us a view over Road Town and the Harbor and several others, including the Sky World vista area, provided views out over the many other islands that make up the British and U.S. Virgin Islands including Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda and St. Thomas plus lots of smaller islands and cays. If this had not been a hazy day, we could have seen to St. Croix and Puerto Rico! We also stopped at Cane Garden Bay Beach, which is everything you hope to find in a Caribbean beach. Large, lovely, white sands, palm trees and more all set in a perfect horseshoe bay. After our walk on the beach it was time for a few more scenic stops on our way back to Road Town. We shopped a bit at the open air market set up next to the Cruise Ship docks. There were three ships in port today and with only two berths. Carnival and NCL got the berths and the Sun Princess had to drop anchor and tender their passengers into town. We didn’t find just the right spot for a beer in town (given the short time in Tortola, we did not have time to go walking around to find the Prusser’s Pub), so we had some draft Heineken in the ship’s Bier Garten. I had a bit of the ship’s poolside BBQ for lunch (tasty hot dog and chicken; however, it could have been hotter). DH had some vegetable curry from the Raffles Buffet. I played some Bingo and had a very nice conversation with a gentleman from Denmark. Tonight was the Star Spangled Dinner and everything had an American Theme. We both had a delicious Chile Cheese Chowder. We found it hard to believe that this chowder was a Cooking Light recipe as it was both delicious and tasted very rich. DH had a Caesar Salad, while I had the Santa Fe Salad (mixed greens with oranges, star fruit and cilantro dressing). DH had the fried catfish (tasty, but not crispy) and I had the Cooking Light Chicken Creole. We shared a bottle of Fume Blank. DH had the Cooking Light Chocolate Lava Cake with Pistachio Cream and said “get this recipe.” I had the New York cheesecake (it was a fluffy cheesecake and my expectation of NY Cheesecake is that it is dense, not fluffy). The singer tonight was an Italian crooner, Tony B. We enjoyed this show with the selection of American standards first sung by the likes of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and Bobby Darrin). We both did a bit of reading before heading off to bed at the end of a perfectly lovely day.

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Thanks for a wonderful, well written review. We are sailing on the Spirit beginning November 19th on the same itinerary, and your review is certainly helpful and appreciated. Thank You!...keep it coming...I'm sure I'll have some questions for you soon...:)

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Here's my report on our final few days at sea and our time in New York. In New York we stayed at The Gershwin in Midtown. This is a funky (hotel's "muse" is Andy Warhol), well-located and reasonably priced hotel that is recommended by both Fodors and Frommers. Of course, they have boiler problems and no circulating pump so you may have to wait for hot water on certain days and you will always need to run the water for at least 10 minutes to get the water warm enough to shower.

 

10/17/06: A nice leisurely day at sea that began with breakfast in Windows. DH had oatmeal (I told you he’s a really healthy person; he walks 3 miles every day!). I had the Cooking Light O’Brien Frittata. We made reservations in the Garden Room for tonight’s Captain’s Farewell Dinner and for tomorrow in La Trattoria. We both attended the Ship’s Virtual Tour, an excellent PowerPoint presentation by CD Julie followed by Q&A with the Captain and the Chief Engineer. I have never seen a Captain or a Chief Engineer do this type of Q& A before and it was most informative. We had lunch at Henry’s Pub, splitting an order of Fish & Chips plus a Bass Ale on Tap for DH and a bottle of Carib Beer (from Trinidad & Tobago) for me. I played some Bingo and it looks like this might be my first cruise ever where I don’t win at least one Bingo jackpot, perhaps my winning jackpot was at one of the Bingo sessions where I did not participate.  We both did a lot of reading, resting and listening to the various musical acts today. Dinner in the Garden Room began for both of us with Mozzarella & Tomato Salad (this one used regular mozzarella whereas the one in La Trattoria used fresh mozzarella) and a truly yummy Cream of Broccoli Soup. DH had Group and I had some delicious lamb chops. We both had crepes filled with vanilla mouse and topped with orange Curacao sauce for dessert. Of course, we needed to get some vanilla ice cream on the side to use u the extra sauce! The meal also included some Spanish sparkling wine and our “regular” espresso and capuchin after dinner coffees. Tonight’s entertainment was another show by the NCL Production Company. We enjoyed this show better than the prior show; however, we still preferred the shows of the Jean Ryan Company that we have seen on other NCL ships. We went to the Chocoholic’s buffet to take photos only. Neither of us felt like pigging out on chocolate at 11:30 p.m. Tonight was the Ship N Dales show in the Maharini nightclub. This is the male crew members “take” on a Chippendale’s show. Unfortunately, I found myself so tried that I went to sleep and missed the opportunity to see all those young fit crew members bare their bodies. Guess I’ll have to settle for my regular view of DH’s body. 

 

October 18, 2006: We slept in a bit later this morning and missed the sit-down breakfast in Windows; therefore, we went up to the Raffles Buffet for breakfast. Fruit with yogurt for DH plus some lox and cream cheese on French Bread (he missed finding the bagels, as they are located by the toaster). I had a Bran Muffin and coffee as I wasn’t very hungry this morning. I went to the Bingo Cruise Raffle drawing. Unfortunately, I was not the winner of the free cruise. The guy who won, just put his hand in the air, he did not shout out or scream and they almost pulled another ticket thinking the holder of that winning ticket was not present (you have to be present at the raffle to win the cruise). We also had lunch in Raffles today, DH just had fruit and I had the vegetable curry (we both really liked the vegetable curry). We read, sat out on the Deck 7 Promenade, where they have real wooden deck chairs and attended the Cruise Talent Show. The crew performers included several excellent singers, some good dancers and a couple of silly acts. About 90% of the crew members who preformed where from the Philippines. We had our last dinner on board at La Trattoria. DH started with a half order of Linguine Puttenesca, while I had the Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato Salad. We both had Brodo di Pollo (Chicken Soup) and Caesar Salad made by our excellent waiter, Thomas. DH had Salmon and I had Chicken Parmigiana. We shared a nice Australian Shiraz with dinner and Espresso or Capuchin accompanied our desserts of Tiramisu and Ricotta Cheesecake. After dinner we attended both the passenger talent show and the final variety show, which was the crooner, Tony B, and the comedy magician, Ed Alonzo. After that it was time to pack the luggage and get some sleep.

 

10/19/06 NYC: After eating breakfast on board, leaving the ship, finding our luggage and being waived through Customs, we got in the taxi line and were (eventually) taken from JFK Airport to our hotel in Manhattan. Our room was not going to be ready until later in the day, so we walked up the street to the Empire State Building and waiting in various lines and got up to the observation deck for the views of New York. Next we spent some time in Madison Square Park (a block from the hotel) where we watched people and the very tame squirrels (they eat out of people’s hands). We had dinner at Mesa Grill (one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants). We started out a bottle of wine before dinner in the bar while eating some very spicy and very long breadsticks (Bobby’s version of bar food – something spicy and/or salty so people drink more). DH had Roasted Pumpkin Cinnamon Soup and Ancho Chile Honey Glazed Salmon. I had Sophie’s Chopped Salad & 16 Spice Chicken, which was served with a Butternut Squash Tamale (yummy). We also shared a bottle of Chardonnay and a couple of side dishes of Cauliflower Green Chile Gratin (very good) and Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Walnuts and pomegranates (not my favorite; however, I am not a big Brussel Sprout fan). Desserts were Spicy Coconut Tapioca with raspberries for DH and Burnt Vanilla Flan (tasty and creamy) served with Molasses Cakes for me. We took an evening walk as the weather was just lovely today and we needed to burn a few of those calories.

 

10/20/06 NYC: A busy & rainy day for two tourists in New York. We purchased a 48 hour hop-on – hop-off tour bus ticket and package that included the Ellis Island Ferry, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, two day-time hop-on/hop-off loops (downtown & uptown) and a night tour. We started on the Downtown Loop today, which took us by Union Square, Greenwich Village, Soho, Chinatown & Little Italy before we “hopped off” at the World Trade Center site. You have to look at the site through a fence as construction has commenced (although with the recent discovery of more human remains, that construction may be delayed). The nearby Trinity Church (oldest church still standing in NY, built in 1766 and where they held the prayer service after Washington’s inauguration) has a very moving exhibit on the events of that day and the aftermath, including some of the original fencing with the makeshift memorials and missing posters that people were posting. We hopped-on the bus and went by Wall Street, Battery Park, South Street Seaport, Lower Eastside/Chinatown (where what was once a Polish synagogue where Eddie Cantor had his Bar Mitzvah is now a Buddhist Temple above a 99 Cent Store), East Village, UN, Rockefeller Center to Times Square, where we once again hopped off to walk around and ended up walking back to our hotel, getting caught in some heavy rain in the process. After a brief rest, we took the subway to Grand Central Station (quite beautiful, quite large & quite impressive) and walked to Rockefeller Center to view the plaza, the Skating Rink and a temporary outdoor art exhibit entitled “Sky Mirror (a very large reflective disk). We also went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral today. Tonight we ate at one of Mario Batali’s restaurants, a Trattoria called “Lupa”. We had appetizers of marinated eggplant and the cured meat sampler (all but the Procuitto are homemade by the restaurant). To our surprise, the one we found the absolute tastiest is called Testa (fortunately, we didn’t know it was Head Cheese, the meat from the head of the pig, until after we ate it). We split a homemade pasta dish (very wide noodle with a chicken sauce). DH had the fish of the day (Sea Bass served with little tiny dumplings cooked in broth). I had the Pollo alla Diavolla and this was probably the best chicken I have ever eaten in my life, moist inside, crisp skin, nice spicy coating served with caramelized brussel sprouts and grapefruit segments (I actually wanted more of these brussel sprouts and they are my least favorite vegetable). We had a Chilean red wine with dinner. Dessert was Dates stuffed with almonds over mascarpone cheese for DH and Buttermilk Panna Cota (eggless custard) for me. After dinner we took the subway back to Rockefeller Center and went up to the observation deck for terrific night views of the city.

 

10/21/06 – NYC: Woke up to a beautiful, crisp, clear day. We hopped back on one of the tour buses and got off at the Ellis Island Ferry stop. Since we already purchased tickets, we just had to wait in the Ferry line (took 30-40 minutes). The first stop was Liberty Island; however, you can only go up to that observation deck if you make advanced reservations on line; therefore, we contented ourselves with close-up views of Liberty Island. The next stop was Ellis Island and we got off to explore the building and the exhibits. They try to give you some idea of the immigration experience from the large reception area with wooden benches to the medical exam area, the mental exam tests, the literacy tests, the dormitories, the hospital and how frightening the whole experience must have been. They also have photos and exhibits of items that people brought with them. After spending a few hours at Ellis Island, we took the ferry back and hopped back on the bus to pick-up the Uptown Loop. The Uptown Tour took us by Lincoln Center, along both sides of Central Park, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Grant’s Tomb, Riverside Church, Harlem & Museum Row (NY has almost one museum for every day of the year). We ended up back in Times Square and were right by Carnegie Deli so that’s where we had dinner. DH had Matzo Ball Soup, I had Chicken Soup with Kreplach and we split a Corned Beef Sandwich & onion rings. We both agreed that Brent’s Deli, right where we live is a better deli.

 

10/22/06 – NYC and going home: I packed up our luggage while DH took his daily 3 mile walk. We checked out of the hotel and had them store our luggage before taking the subway to Greenwich Village to take a walk and people watch before our planned lunch at John’s Pizzeria on Bleeker Street (every person seemed to agree that this is the best example of NY Pizza). There was a line to get in when the place opened; however, we got in and were able to have a very tasty Pizza & wine lunch (we had a little salad first because the waiter said “it’s good for you”). The crust was thin & crispy and it held up to the sauce & toppings so that it could be picked up. After lunch, we took the subway back to the hotel, picked up our luggage and flagged down a cab to take us to JFK. We boarded promptly, only to find ourselves sitting in line for take-off for another hour. The flight itself was uneventful. I played the in-flight trivia game (I had the second highest point total on the plane). We landed around 10 and with waiting for luggage and the time to drive home, we got in around 11:30 p.m. So it’s a good thing that I did not plan on going to work on Monday. So now it’s back to the “real world”. No more daily gourmet meals and people waiting on me hand and foot. Guess I’ll have to start planning the next vacation soon.

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thank you for posting the details of your dining experiences including your wine pairings. I love Spanish cava so you got my attention right away.

 

Very interesting that you found such good choices in the non extre fee dining locations. did you buy your wine onboard or carry it on and pay a corkage fee?

 

I surely felt like a kindred spirit looking at your choices. Very nice.:)

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Glad you enjoyed my review and comments. As to food choices, I always found the non-fee restaurants to have something I would enjoy eating. That being said, I think if you are a big beef (filet mignon, prime rib, etc.) fan and/or really want good and large lobster, you will probably need to eat at one of the extra fee restaurants for that experience. That's just not an issue for us. The few times I crave beef, I either go to Tam O' Shanter for Prime Rib (it's a Lawry's restaurant and the oldest restaurant in LA that is still family owned and operated) or I go to Gardens of Taxco in West Hollywood for some Carne Asada.

 

We utilized the ship's wine list. The Spanish Cava, Chilean Reds and the Australian Whites were reasonably priced (we also had a some nice Chilean Red in NY at both Mario Batali's Lupa and at John's Pizzeria in Greenwich Village). Since we flew to NY from California, we did not want to take our own wine with us. Next time we sail out of LA or San Diego, we are considering bringing our own wine and paying corkage.

 

My approach to cruising is that I don't need the services of a butler or the concierge, I don't need a fancy room or even an ocean view. I'd rather spend my money on things that I do in port or on meals and wine during my pre and post-cruise stops. I'm not even a big shopper (I come home with a few t-shirts and lapel pins for my collections, no big jewelery or alcohol purchases or any other big duty-free purchase). The nice thing about cruising is that it has something for everyone from the party animals to those who just want to vege out on deck and sit in the sun.

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Glad you enjoyed my review and comments. As to food choices, I always found the non-fee restaurants to have something I would enjoy eating. That being said, I think if you are a big beef (filet mignon, prime rib, etc.) fan and/or really want good and large lobster, you will probably need to eat at one of the extra fee restaurants for that experience. That's just not an issue for us. The few times I crave beef, I either go to Tam O' Shanter for Prime Rib (it's a Lawry's restaurant and the oldest restaurant in LA that is still family owned and operated) or I go to Gardens of Taxco in West Hollywood for some Carne Asada.

 

We utilized the ship's wine list. The Spanish Cava, Chilean Reds and the Australian Whites were reasonably priced (we also had a some nice Chilean Red in NY at both Mario Batali's Lupa and at John's Pizzeria in Greenwich Village). Since we flew to NY from California, we did not want to take our own wine with us. Next time we sail out of LA or San Diego, we are considering bringing our own wine and paying corkage.

 

My approach to cruising is that I don't need the services of a butler or the concierge, I don't need a fancy room or even an ocean view. I'd rather spend my money on things that I do in port or on meals and wine during my pre and post-cruise stops. I'm not even a big shopper (I come home with a few t-shirts and lapel pins for my collections, no big jewelery or alcohol purchases or any other big duty-free purchase). The nice thing about cruising is that it has something for everyone from the party animals to those who just want to vege out on deck and sit in the sun.

 

Pretty scarey, we are kindred spirits.

 

1) We only go to the specialty restaurents to order beef, and we bring in a nice Cab about the only night we will have a cab.

 

2) I could have written your last post word for word just sustitute home city and local steakhouse choice and keychain for label pin.:p

 

That's when you know you have read a review that you can relate too.

 

We will be on Hal in 7 days and are carrying on our wine and paying the corkage fee. They only have one speciality restaurent and we plan on eating there for the steak one night with our Alexander Valley cab.

 

Are looking at the Dawn out of NY for Canada next fall. that's how I happened to read your review, I'm trying to learn about the NCL experience and you gave me avery good impression. THANKS!

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I think there are a few kindred spirits lurking on these boards. If you do a Fall Foliage cruise, you'll have a great time. We did the NCL Dream out of Boston a couple of years ago. We stopped in Corner Brook (Newfoundland), Halifax, Quebec City & Bar Harbor (we missed Sydney, Nova Scotia due to passenger illness). After the cruise we spent 4 days in Boston. Corner Brook is this little tiny place with a beautiful walking area (Corner Brook Stream Trail) which was all decked out in Fall colors. Quebec City is one of my absolute favorite places (just download the walking tour from either Fodor or Frommers.com). Take care and keep enjoying those cruises.

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I think there are a few kindred spirits lurking on these boards. If you do a Fall Foliage cruise, you'll have a great time. We did the NCL Dream out of Boston a couple of years ago. We stopped in Corner Brook (Newfoundland), Halifax, Quebec City & Bar Harbor (we missed Sydney, Nova Scotia due to passenger illness). After the cruise we spent 4 days in Boston. Corner Brook is this little tiny place with a beautiful walking area (Corner Brook Stream Trail) which was all decked out in Fall colors. Quebec City is one of my absolute favorite places (just download the walking tour from either Fodor or Frommers.com). Take care and keep enjoying those cruises.

 

Canada/New England is just a beautiful cruise.

 

I've done it twice in the past two years and want to do it again.

 

Quebec...there are no words..just beautiful as were the locals:)

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Thank you for the excellent review. You painted the picture of a perfect vacation. I especially enjoyed you dinner reviews..I really could almost taste the food!!

My first NCL experience will be on the Spirit June 2, 2007 with daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren (3 and 11) I am so enjoying these reviews and the boards in general. I was on HAL last year and it was fabulous..will be hard to beat but my daughter swears by NCL and it will be really terrific to sail from NY.

Thanks again for a great review

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I am very interested in the Canada cruise. I'm just suffering with sticker shock comparing the price to low season in the Caribbean.:D

 

Love the Dawn's itenerary.

 

well, we will be off to the Southern Carribbean in 3 days. We finally selected our 8 bottles of red wine to pack in our checked luggage. All red since DH is the mastermind of this process. I will be purchasing the whites once we board, at least one sparking wine and one French Chard to have by the glass with my appetizers. followed by all the lovely red wine he has picked.:D I'll be back lurking for NCL info after thanksgiving.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!:)

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My dear, you did a wonderfull job, did not miss a thing of what is so important to know before sailing on a new ship.Thank you so much and promiss to get some views of my own.We will be sailing on 12/10 southern carribe.Have a good year till your next vacation.

Netty

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review...well organized, terrific read. I am also happy that you enjoyed my (I am very possessive) city. We New Yorkers get a bum rap alot of times...I sincerely hope that everyone treated you...well like we treat everyone! Some confuse our speed as rudeness...and it isn't. Ask any New Yorker a question, especially "how do I get to___?" and you'll get an answer from the first person, and usually another passerby who believes he/she knows a better way..and so on and so on. Anyway, come back and visit us again.

 

When I read your description of sailing out of NY harbor you tugged at my own heart strings. I will never tire of it...never! I guess I'm a sentimental fool about this...I just keep thinking of how my beloved Grandparents and my Dad felt as they saw Ms. Liberty welcoming them to their new home. How they left everything behind and took this adventure to this wonderful country. How, if not for their courage, I wouldn't be here today enjoying my life in the US.

 

When are you sailing next? Our next cruise will be out of LA next September, transiting the Panama Canal. Maybe this time you could leave a little closer to home? We'll be flying in the same day, most likely very early out of NY. It should be a wonderful trip...and there's a roll call already up and running, albeit only 4 of us posting...but it's a start!

 

Thanks again for a delightful review. Good work!

 

Ciao,

 

W A W W

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So glad to read your wonderful review. We are sailing November 19th on the Spirit-sounds like we will enjoy our cruise. Also thanks for all the food references, love the cooking light menu. Glad you had a wonderful cruise, and took the time to share it with all of us.

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review...well organized, terrific read. I am also happy that you enjoyed my (I am very possessive) city. We New Yorkers get a bum rap alot of times...I sincerely hope that everyone treated you...well like we treat everyone! Some confuse our speed as rudeness...and it isn't. Ask any New Yorker a question, especially "how do I get to___?" and you'll get an answer from the first person, and usually another passerby who believes he/she knows a better way..and so on and so on. Anyway, come back and visit us again.

 

When I read your description of sailing out of NY harbor you tugged at my own heart strings. I will never tire of it...never! I guess I'm a sentimental fool about this...I just keep thinking of how my beloved Grandparents and my Dad felt as they saw Ms. Liberty welcoming them to their new home. How they left everything behind and took this adventure to this wonderful country. How, if not for their courage, I wouldn't be here today enjoying my life in the US.

 

When are you sailing next? Our next cruise will be out of LA next September, transiting the Panama Canal. Maybe this time you could leave a little closer to home? We'll be flying in the same day, most likely very early out of NY. It should be a wonderful trip...and there's a roll call already up and running, albeit only 4 of us posting...but it's a start!

 

Thanks again for a delightful review. Good work!

 

Ciao,

 

W A W W

 

I know what you mean thinking about your grandparents (and in your case your father) coming to the United States and opening up the world of opportunity to their future family. My family came in through other ports on the Eastern Seaboard (Philadelphia, I believe) so no searching through the Ellis Island records for them. However, I did find three of my husband's great-uncles in those online records. Our grandparents and parents were made of very strong and determined stuff.

 

You'll enjoy the Panama Canal trip. Last year my husband and I did it on the NCL Sun. That trip was Los Angeles, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Canal Transit & Aruba. It ended in Houston (originally it was to end in New Orleans; however, Katrina caused some changes). It was a lot of sea days; however, there is always something to do on board and I really just enjoy having quiet time to read a good book (or even a guilty pleasure such as a trashy novel). I will never forget how that trip started out. We were having one of California's big wild fires and the night before we were leaving, the fire came to the backyards of the houses around the block from us (there is a nature preserve in back of us). I didn't know whether to pack for vacation or for evacuation. The fire fighters did an amazing job and only 3 homes (none in our area) were lost in days and days and acres and acres of fires.

 

I didn't find any of the New Yorkers rude. They were all very nice and helpful. Personally, I found your city to be very friendly.

 

I hope you can figure out a way to spend a few days in LA before your cruise. While LA is very different from NYC as it is very spread out and distances are large, there are actually many things you can do with public transportation. There was an article on Frommers.com about using public transportation in LA to see the sites. If you are able to spend any time in LA, feel free to ask me questions.

 

I have yet to pick the cruise or tour or whatever for the next vacation. The list of things to see still has several items that I need to check off. (grin).

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