|WE DIDN'T STRAY FAR, BERMUDA IS OFF THE COAST OF NORTH CAROLINA.|
Our family get-away last week was a cruise. The fun took on a new wrinkle by including Andrew's girlfriend Amanda. And even before the four of us hit the high seas, the consistent theme of our adventure would be, new knowledge.
First we found out, it's better to be lucky than good. At Amanda's house, we expected to pick her up and go. But her gracious parents gave us a party-like send-off, so we lost track of time. The lucky part was...we hit no traffic, all the way into Manhattan and up to the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) docks, (West 55th Street and 12th Avenue).
The ship boarded passengers from noon till 4:PM. At 4:15, we "lugged" our luggage into the empty football field-sized processing hall. Between us and the distant metal detectors, I saw the dormant serpentine ropes that could've accomodated several hundred people as it meandered through the great oblong space. I asked an uniformed employee, "Which way to the Norwegian Breakaway?" Electric impulses of fear shot through my body as he turned away and screamed, "Charley, is the Breakaway still boarding?" Thank goodness, they were.
A minute later at check in, the French accented agent politely informed us, "If you learn only one thing today, please remember for next time, ships do leave tardy, paying customers behind." I looked behind us, there's a chance, we were the last one's to get on.
|ANDREW AND AMANDA JUST BEFORE BOARDING. THE BREAKAWAY IS THE NEWEST STAR IN NORWEGIAN'S FLEET. IT'S MAIDEN VOYAGE WAS MAY 2013 AND JUDGING FROM THAT NICE "NEW" CRUISE SHIP SMELL, WE COULD TELL THIS WAS ONLY IT'S FIFTH TRIP.|
We went to one of the many welcome aboard parties. Twenty minutes after getting on, I was enjoying my first taste of tremendously sweet pineapple (I bet I ate ten pounds in a week), when a girl from Andrew's high school spotted him. Over the next seven days, the enormity of the ship (almost 4,000 passengers) was proven because he never saw that girl again.
|WE STAYED OUTSIDE AS THE GRAND BOAT SAILED DOWN THE HUDSON AND PAST THE STATUE OF LIBERTY UNTIL EVERYONE CHEERED AS WE COASTED UNDER THER VERAZZANO BRIDGE.|
We got ourselves situated and relaxed before dinner. I soon learned that it wasn't a good idea for me to only bring one pair of pants.
|NO I DIDN'T DROP A DOLLOP OF SPAGHETTI SAUCE ON MY LAP BUT AFTER MY FIRST |
The art deco-styled Manhattan Room was sophisticated and beautiful. The service was elegant and it included a live band and dance floor.
|YOU CAN'T TELL FROM THIS ANGLE BUT BY DESSERT, I WAS FORCED TO *UNBUTTON MY PANTS...OR EXPLODE. * NOTE TO SELF, NEXT CRUISE BRING BIGGER PANTS OR A GIRDLE.|
Later, we learned that nineteen-year olds, even in international waters are considered too young to drink. However, Sue on different occasions, let the kids sample her Pina Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri and Bahama Mama, (I brought a case of diet cherry Pepsi from home...and the kids liked that too). Now let me teach you something, out at sea, eighteen-year olds are of legal age to gamble.
Beyond the Manhattan Room, the menu was the same in other dining rooms, "Savor" and "Taste." Even though the staff was less savvy, our next few dinners were there because I was too embarrassed to divulge the secret of my tight pants.
|AT NIGHT, THE KIDS ALWAYS DRESSED WELL. AT THE TASTE RESTAURANT, (above) I'M IN STAINED GYM SHORTS AND MY THIRTY-YEAR OLD ALFRED E. NEUMAN T-SHIRT.|
I know the main focus of our excursion shouldn't be on food but...
|ANDREW DISCOVERED THE HARD WAY WHAT SCUNGILLI AND CALAMARI ARE...MAYBE I SHOULD'VE TOLD HIM THEY WERE BEETS AND TURNIPS.|
For some inexplicable reason, the ship pumped-up the air conditioning at night. I brought a hoodie for emergency purposes only so I (we) froze a lot. Sue brought some warmer clothes but she caught a cold. We're off the ship five days and she still can't kick the sniffles, sore throat and laryngitis ...and now I'm starting to feel similar symptoms. Strike-two Norwegian!
Others (not us) battled the cold temperatures by going to the Ice Bar. Norwegian, in partnership with Svedka Vodka, opened an intimate, frosty pub featuring a range of icy drinks.
|IT MUST BE "COOL" BECAUSE THERE WAS USUALLY A LINE TO GET IN. FOR TWENTY DOLLARS, THEY LEND AN ARCTIC-WORTHY HOODED COAT AND GLOVES, WHILE PROVIDING TWO DRINKS AND A LASER LIGHT SHOW.|
In our own way, we minimized the freezing. That's when I learned that it was perfectly comfortable for after-dinner strolls outside, on the boardwalk-like deck. The main reason why this became part of our daily routine was the glorious weather. I don't care what's going on inside, if the boat is going through a storm or turbulent seas, it's nearly impossible to enjoy yourself.
I think a lot of our fellow passengers assumed it was windy. So they froze after dinner because they failed to realize how nice it was outside. Of course some of those who did venture out were still in shell-shock from the recent barrage of natural calamities, like hurricanes and tornados. So some of them panicked and ran back inside when they saw the wild cloud formation in the distance. I'm no meteorologist but I can recognize peaceful waters and calm winds. Besides, I know great scenery when I see it.
|A BETTER PHOTO OF THE SKY INCLUDED TWO OLD BIDDIES FIGHTING TO BE FIRST ON THE LIFEBOAT QUEUE, (QUEUE, THAT'S BRIT-SPEAK FOR LINE), BUT THAT PICTURE CAME OUT BLURRY.|
If you've never gone on a cruise, you should remember what was told to me before I went on my first...once you go on a cruise, you'll never want to vacation any other way. I'm sure there's exceptions but if you want to be busy with organized events, you could spend every waking second being entertained. Each day the social director's staff publishes an itinery and you could take part in contests, demonstration seminars, classes, movies, swimming, sports or see a wide variety of musicians, comedians and shows.
Sue and I went to different bars to hear and dance to the blues, rock-n-roll and hip-hop. We also saw the Second City Comedy troupe twice, a salute to ballroom dancing, a terrible comic/magician and the Broadway show, "ROCK OF AGES."
|GREAT MUSICAL PERFORMANCES OVER-SHADOWED THE STUPID STORY LINE OF "ROCK OF AGES." AFTERWARDS, ANDREW AND I MUGGED IT UP WITH THE CAST. ACTOR ON LEFT LOOKED LIKE FRANKIERIO.|
|THIS CRIPPLING EXPERIENCE WAS BETTER THAN BINGO BUT IT MIGHT'VE ENDED MY DANCING THE "HUCKLEBUCK" DAYS.|
|IMMACULATE HORSESHOE BAY BOASTS PINK SAND. UNBEKNOWNST TO ME, SUE STUFFED SOME IN A BAGGIE BUT GOT BUSTED GOING BACK ON THE SHIP.|
When I saw this body-like formation of seaweed from the distance, I thought SLVRM6 had won a back shaving contest.
Our dinner that night was at Savor. The serving staff is always so nice. But few employees emphasize friendly chatter or use any personal touches. The best example of one who did was Conred.
|WHILE THE REST OF THE ROOM ATE THEIR DINNER AS IF THEY WERE IN A CATHEDERAL, CONRED ACTIVELY TOOK PART AND IMPROVED OUR HIJINX.|
Some of the demonstrations that we never took part in included; fruit sculpting, ice carving and the ancient art of towel folding. I'm guessing, the housekeepers were required to take towel art classes because to the delight of Sue and Amanda, each night a different towel animal adorned one the beds.
|WITH ORAGAMI ON THE DOWN SWING, TOWEL ART IS SWEEPING THE UNIVERSE. THE ELEPHANT WAS MY FAVORITE BUT EVERYONE SEEMED TO PREFER THE PENGUIN, (above).|
The second day in port, I strayed from the breakfast buffet, (it was tough to go without my daily pineapple fix). Plus, the choice I made at O'Sheehan's, (an English themed bar that served food), proved costly. That's when I learned that it's common practice for Brits to eat baked beans as a morning side dish. Sue made better use of her time by learning about one of the best kept secret beaches in Bermuda.
|ON THE PLUS SIDE, LATER THAT MORNING, THOSE BAKED BEANS HELPED GET ME A CHOICE SEAT, ALL BY MYSELF, ON THE CROWDED HARBOR CROSSING.|
Just like going from Brooklyn's Bensonhurst to Canarsie, after the ferry docked in Hamilton, we took the Number-7 bus. The directions that Sue got was a couple of stops past a place called Jews Bay. We got off at Warwick Long Bay Beach. We hadn't taken ten steps when we realized that we had arrived at heaven on earth.
|THE ONLY WAY TO IMPROVE THE SCENERY WAS TO PUT THESE GUYS IN THE PICTURE.|
Warwick Beach proved to be a half-mile stretch of paradise. This quiet, secluded spot featured gentle rolling turquoise waves, coral reefs and pale, white sand. I can't ever remember not falling asleep at a beach but I stayed awake for this. We hung-out in the water for hours before exploring the rock formations and the hidden coves.
The mountainous rocks were a photo-fest.
On the way back from our great outing, Sue took some amazing seascape shots from the ferry. My favorite is the one that caused me to sing, "THE GOOD SHIP LOLLIPOP."
On the morning of our last day in Bermuda, we took a longer ferry ride to the only other city, St. Georges. Whatever we were hoping to find, we didn't. So we didn't stay long.
|THIS CONTRAPTION IS CALLED A STOCK. SO IF AN EARLY SETTLER DID SOME PETTY CRIME, THEIR PUNISHMENT MIGHT HAVE INCLUDED BEING LOCKED IN THE TOWN SQUARE SO "RIGHTEOUS" CITIZENS COULD MOCK THEM. ERGO, THAT'S WHERE THE TERM; A LAUGHING STOCK, COMES FROM.|
|HE LIVES IN A PINEAPPLE UNDER THE SEA BUT COMES OUT OF THE WATER FOR SPECIAL FRIENDS.|
On their photo safari, Andrew came across the only familar business we saw on the whole island, the Bone Fish Cafe. What surprised him more was the name of their exterior bar.
The bigger mistake is thinking that the cruise would last forever. At 5:PM, we were back at sea and almost immediately a depression settled in me because we were heading home. My melancholia worsened at dinner when I chipped a tooth. Strike-four Norwegian!
We went to see the magician/comic that night. He was so bad that within three jokes, he was mocking the audience because of our lack of response, (a trend that would continue throughout his act). To his credit, I remembered the stand-up comedian from another cruise being pretty bad too. But at least I was able to steal one line from him, "The Waffle House is so dirty, I once saw a cockroach vomiting there."
|HIS JOKES WERE STALE AND HIS MAGIC WAS BORING. FIFTEEN MINUTES INTO THE SHOW, I WAS HOPING HE WAS AT LEAST GOOD ENOUGH TO MAKE HIMSELF DISAPPEAR.|
When we woke up for our last full day, the beautiful weather came to a grinding halt. No one could blame Andrew and Amanda for succumbing to the rough seas.
For our last dinner, we returned to the Manhattan Room. I was glad everyone's appetite was back but Andrew was pretty direct when he said, "And we don't want to hear about words that describe the slant of the ship."
Later, Andrew was reading the dessert menu and asked me, "How come you pronounce sher-bit as if it had an extra 'R?'" I said, "Because that's the English pronounciation. Everyone calls it sherbert." He said, "Dad, you're wrong." I said, "No, I'm not. Sherbert is the English word for Sorbert, S-O-R-B-E-R-T which is French." He laughed, "I'm reading them off the menu and neither one has a second 'R.'" I said, "I don't have my glasses..." Andrew interrupted, "Not having your glasses doesn't mean you aren't wrong." Andrew flagged down the maitre'd and said, "Please help settle an argument. Sherbet and sorbet are two different things and they are spelled correctly on the menu?" The Peruviana smiled, "Yes, they are spelled correctly and they are two different things. They might seem similar but sherbet contains milk or gelatin while sorbet is tart fruit ice." Andrew glared at me and said, "See pop, you're never too old to learn something." I said, "I'll take the Italian ices at Ices Queen, (in Brooklyn) over either one. And don't call me pop!"
|IF THE ICES QUEEN FACTORY AND RETAIL STAND IS STILL OPEN AT 1633 UTICA AVENUE, MAKE MINE LEMON ON TOP AND CHOCOLATE ON THE BOTTOM.|
Before we woke-up the next morning, the Norwegian Breakaway was already moored at their dock in Manhattan. While Sue packed, I brought her breakfast after doing some packing of my own, (my last ton of pineapple was as good as the first).
On our way out, a housekeeper from another section gave us his usual big, good morning greeting. He didn't even work for us but he learned our names (everyone on our floor?). Andrew was so taken by his sincere pleasantness that he wanted to take his picture.
|THIS GENTLEMAN (AL) HAS THE HONOR OF BEING IN OUR LAST SNAPSHOT ON THE SHIP.|
The geniuses running the city do a bang-up job hiding the Lincoln Tunnel signs but luckily Sue remained awake and spotted it. I can't say the same thing about anyone else.
|I SHOULD HAVE WOKE THEM UP WHEN WE PASSED THE "WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY" SIGN...BUT I DIDN'T...ROTTEN KIDS !|
Despite all the strikes against Norwegian, it's safe to say we all a tremendous vacation. So, let's show some tolerance and give the new ship the benefit of doubt as they iron-out their flaws on the fly. If you're more the mercenary type, chalk that nonsense up to the unpatriotic vibe I gave off by leaving the country right before the Fourth of July.
|ON THE BRIGHTER SIDE, NORWEGIAN WAS CLEVER ENOUGH TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE USA's 237th BIRTHDAY.|