My family and I went on a cruise last week from NYC to Cape Canaveral to Nassau, Bahamas. We were supposed to also spend a day on a private island owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, but the 8′ swells prohibited use of the tender boats (read: small ferries) because risk of maiming or dismembering people as they anything’d anywhere near the anything off the anypart of the ship. Think of it this way: trying to get onboard a bar of soap bobbing about in a community pool from the third-floor balcony of a parking garage. So we didn’t sink our toes in the pristine white sands of Great Stirrup Cay or spend time with sea rays or anything at all that day. We stayed on the ship.
The sun was out and the island was very inviting. From our balcony doorway. But I’m getting off course already.
Get used to it.
I just wrote the subheads for this post. Knowing me and my tendency to be verbose, they could each be their own post. I will see how things go and if it’s too massive, I’ll break them out into smaller posts and you all can read as you choose. Or simply ignore me.
FIRST DAY CHAOS / PEOPLE SHOCK / EAT IN YOUR ROOM / HAND SANITIZER
We woke very early and departed our home to drive to NYC in hopes that we would have plenty of time to park and settle in. There was a half-marathon that day in the city, so let’s just say we were really lucky we left when we did. We spent an hour in traffic from exit 9A to get off the GW Bridge to the parking ramp on W. 79th Street.
If you can tolerate Alec Baldwin and his tendency to rudely interrupt his interviewees with his own droll stories, I highly recommend subscribing to “Here’s The Thing” podcasts as Baldwin has some really interesting guests. We listened to almost two podcasts while sitting in traffic.
Once you get out of your car, unload your luggage and descend the depths of the cruise ship / customs area, prepare to stand in line among the people corral ropes. That will take another hour. Then you will have your photo taken which will NOT show on your keycard but will display upon a screen everywhere you use it on the ship or at ports. (Hint: if you have a lanyard, bring it. More later.)
Then you will go through customs.
Then you will be funneled to an area where you stand in front of a sheet for your family photo. I did not even bother to look at it — I’d JUST been in line for sixteen years, standing with people who all lied on their “have you sneezed since the Reagan administration?” forms. I simply wanted to get on the ship.
Walk down another hallway, take a right, up the gangway and FINALLY! On the ship.
I have to say this was delightful. Everyone reminded me of Bruno Mars or Jennifer Lopez and they were smiling and happy and dancing to loudish nightclub music as they welcomed you aboard. That was a welcome relief. It really was a party atmosphere. But not a dark and seamy scary Studio 54 party; a safe fun and exciting party. They are also totally ready with the hand sanitizer. It was everywhere.
We entered an area with a GLEAMing and sparkly black floor and then found our way to our rooms. The lines for the elevators reached back to the GW Bridge, so we opted for the steps. Because we booked late, my kids were on the interior port aft of the ship and my husband and I were on the forward starboard balcony side two decks down from them. I had decided before we left home, that this whole thing was going to be an adventrure. So finding their room was a little like discovering Narnia after stepping into the wardrobe.
Our rooms were ample. The shower was strong, the hot water was hot, the tap water was totally potable. The beds were slightly higher than you’re accustomed to so you can stow your luggage beneath them. How big do you need your room to be? You’re going to be out and about on the ship, taking advantage of its shopping mall cum Times Square ambience. People are everywhere all the time at all hours walking around with a beer, a drink, or a sandwich. There is no “living room” rule like when you were a kid: you can eat anywhere you want.
The hangers in the closet: they sway. So make sure you close the door to the closet every night or you will hear the swaying and knocking while you sleep. Or, if it still bugs you, take a towel and wrap the hangers together with it so you don’t have to listen to them swing independently. Or drink so much you pass out and you hear nothing.
Speaking of sleeping, the beds were very comfortable. I give them a B+. The towels were soft, the soaps were not drying. The blow dryer was like standing in the mouth of Hades.
So when you board and settle into your rooms, you realize you’re hungry, because it’s after 3:30 or so. And the last thing you ate was a BelVita bar in the car with a cup of Keurig coffee. Six hours ago.
So it’s time to eat… DON’T DO THIS: Do NOT go up to the 15th deck and expect things to be calm and orderly and to have a table available.
Do NOT plan on sitting INSIDE. Do NOT expect to find eating utensils if you manage to claim a table somewhat near the door, in hopes that the heat from the interior area of the cafe will occasionally blast your way as you shiver and watch your herbal tea frost over.
Here is my position: it’s day 1. It’s a shitstorm. A clusterfuck of humanity on the 15th deck. Everyone is hungry. There are no tables. The silverware is hard to locate. The food is fresh… it will be there… It’s going to be OK. But we are talking about all walks of life from all sorts of places with all kinds of manners or lack thereof. You’re going to be offended. You just are. It’s not like Pensylvania Dutch “family style” dining however (if you want to see my head come off, put me at a table with a bunch of perfect strangers who ask me to pass the taters and the catsup while I’m at it, “will ya Hun?”). You will eventually have your own table. On the ship, you won’t have to scoop food off a common serving plate and pass it to someone named Elvira who’s sitting to your whatever. (I realize that buffets are just like standing next to Elvira…)
My advice: either wait it out for an hour in your cabin, or simply bring food back to your cabin after you grab a few rolls of silverware in wrapped in napkins. Eat in your room as the sea flows by. Nothing is worth that chaos. But do get the bread and some lots of butter, because come on, you’re on a cruise. Indulge.
While in these eating areas — even the basic restaurants, the automatic hand sanitizer stations are every 10 feet. Should you prefer the non-cyborg treatment, a crisply dressed, professional human stands at every entrance with a spray bottle loaded with rubbing alcohol or vodka who will look you Right In The Eye and will say, in a strange sing-songy way, “Washy washy…?” And then you, like the good little Oompa Loompa you are, will open your palms for the spray. And then you will rub your hands together and proceed to the buffet station. The hand sanitizers are also in the elevators lobbies; if you use basic hygienic common sense, you won’t get sick on an NCL cruise.
Desserts are everywhere all the time. There is a 24/7 soft serve (and swirl) ice cream dispenser on every corner of the cafeteria. The food, excepting the burgers, is outstanding even in the cafe lines. The burgers are disgusting. Everything I ate though is very tasty and the sites are very clean. I had a seafood salad with dill dressing on shrimp and steamed calamari that was heavenly. Steak or chicken (or hell, both! Mix it UP!) fajitas as far as the eye could see. A tub of guacamole. Embarrassing amounts of food.
I realize I’m saying all this while people are starving in Syria, bring driven out of their homes and enduring other nameless atrocities. I realize I sound like a jerk. But this is the context I’m writing about, and will likely continue to write about for the next several posts, so … deal.
After you eat, you will either be people’d out (like I was) or curious and you will mill around the ship, realizing you won’t ever get “lost” but you could get disoriented. No worries: On this ship, there is about one staffer for every three passengers. You will find your way to your room if you need assistance. My husband and kids milled around the ship. I sat on our balcony and read a book, A Little Life: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara — big, dense and intense.
All this said, if I owned NCL I would do this: meet guests in a lobby with small cucumber sandwiches, petit quiches, California rolls, spring rolls, a cheese plate and fruit kebab or small spare ribs…. Adults would be offered champagne and that would quell the nerves. Kids would be offered little snacks of the above or their interest such as chicken tenders, small hot dogs, fruit and cheese, and their drink could be fruit punch laced with negligible amounts of Valium. All kidding aside, I do feel NCL blew it with the lack of welcome food / take-the-edge-off moment upon boarding.
It’s really hard to describe the magnitude of The Norwegian Breakaway in words. Here are some stats: It’s three times the size of the Titanic; it berths 3,969 people, and the crew of 1,651 lives onboard as well. It has 16 decks; so yeah: it’s like at least 200′ tall. It has a soccer / basketball court on it. It has two pools and two massive water slides. It has two huge movie-theater-sized screens (one inside and the other outside). It has a 300-seat theater / stage. It has at least a dozen “specialty” restaurants. A casino. A video arcade with ath air hockey tables. Three fitness studios. A cardio room. A spa and sauna. They offer acupuncture! BOTOX even! A barber shop! A salon (of course!). A large jewelry store, a mediocre gift shop, a liquor store, a clinic, a library about the size of most 1970s living rooms. It was built in 2013 and it was valued at $870 million then. You’ll never see your kids (if they’re over 12).
Here are some photos to attempt to give perspective.
So far, on Day 2 back at home, I still feel as though I’m on the ship — a little imbalanced. Teaching yoga last night and then taking it earlier today was interesting. I’m at about 80% operating capacity.
The following headlines are proposed post titles.
WHO IS THAT SLEEPING MAN ON THE PA SYSTEM?
BRING YOUR OWN WATER BOTTLE
BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME: DON’T BOTHER GETTING YOUR HAIR DONE
PACK A SMALL PHARMACY
TAKE THE ELEVATOR IF YOU WANT TO WAIT ALL DAY
KEY CARD / DETACHABLE LANYARD / HOLE PUNCHER
ROCKING SHIP — THE HIGHER AND OUTER YOU GO, THE GREATER THE SWAY, BALCONY ROOMS
PACKAGES / DRINKS / GRATUITIES – JUST DO IT
SELL SELL SELL! FLOATING SHOPPING MALL
reserving deck chairs and the assholes who do that
LAUNDRY SERVICE – WAIT UNTIL WEDNESDAY
PEOPLE WHO WORK THERE / RATIO / THEIR STORIES
STEPS vs ELEVATORS / WHERE IS YOUR ROOM?
NASA / ROCKET LAUNCH
RUNNING ON A TREADMILL ON A SHIP / WORKOUT ROOMS / FEE FOR STUDIO CLASSES?!
24/7 ICE CREAM
ENTERTAINMENT / Looney Tunes?!
Conch shells and the lying liars who sell them / DON’T BRING SAND
WHERE ARE MY KIDS? / NCL TEXTING APP / CURFEW / ZONES / WALKIE TALKIES
OTHER KIDS ON THE SHIP – WTF?
LIBRARY / CARD ROOM : HELLO… OFF THE HALL FROM THE NOISIEST INTERIOR PART OF THE SHIP?!
ENTERTAINMENT PART 2 — THE DESPERATION OF THE LAST 2 DAYS — TOGA PARTY
LET’S NOT KID OURSELVES: THE ATLANTIC IS COLD, FRIENDS
PENULTIMATE PLANNING FAMILY MEETING — DO HAVE ONE
DISEMBARKATION – CLUSTER, BUT ORGANIZED / DO YOUR OWN THING vs TAGS?
BACK TO REALITY / SEA LEGS / LAND LEGS / MY KEY CARD WON’T WORK IN MY HOUSE
Ps — Next post is right here! http://mollyfield.me/2016/04/01/when-youre-going-on-a-cruise-travel-i-cant-hear-you-its-too-no/