More new Marrkech photos…The saga at sea story continues….One year ago today…Recalling an adventure….

A small black cat was cuddled into this massive collection of yarn.

It was a year ago that we were traversing the Atlantic Ocean aboard the top heavy newer ship, the Norwegian Epic.  This particular ship proved to be our least favorite of all the ships we experienced after eight cruises in 2013.

However, the Epic served us well in the manner whereby the captain handled her during an intense storm at sea which he later explained was one of the worst he’d seen.

During the storm, the captain mentioned 30 foot, 9.14 meters swells, a fabrication in an effort to keep the passengers calm, later apologizing for not being upfront.  When in fact, the waves were actuality 50 feet, 15.24 meters.

The wear and tear in the hundreds of year’s old souks is evident as we walk from
souk to souk.

In the prior four months, we’d been in four cruises and had our “sea legs” never having suffered any motion sickness.  Much to our surprise, we had no motion sickness during this storm or anytime after on the remaining cruises with many more yet to come.  

In only four months from now we’ll be boarding another transatlantic crossing.  Less than a month later, we’ll make a partial crossing of the Pacific Ocean on our way to Hawaii.

After witnessing many ill passengers and crew retreating to their cabins over the three days of the storm, we felt fortunate not to be ill.  A smaller group of us diehards continue to enjoy day to day life aboard ship during the storm, as we raucously swayed from side to side, using our hands to support ourselves as necessary while hanging on to walls, furnishings or crew in our path.

These clothing items were offered for sale on clotheslines.

Dining twice a day aboard ship, was another experience.  Extra staff was available to assist us in maneuvering our breakfast trays and beverages from the buffet line and beverage carts to our tables. 

At one point, my extra hot coffee spilled on my hand resulting in a scalding, although not serious enough to seek medical care.  I was so wrapped up in the excitement, I hardly noticed the discomfort that only lasted a few hours.

We had a favorite booth in the buffet dining area which magically was available for most of the 15 days aboard the Epic.  Well padded and comfortable, we ended up spending most of our mornings during the three days of the storm in that booth, as we wrote here each day which provided us and our laptops with much needed stabilization.

Occasionally, we’ll see signs pointing to popular destinations in the souk.

We continued to dine in the main dining room each night, sharing tables with other passengers as we commiserated over our personal experiences during the days of the storm.  Many of us had braved attending a few seminars during this period, in awe of how well the speakers and  video equipment managed while bouncing about.

Were we ever scared?  I was, during the first night of the storm when the creaking in our cabin was outrageously loud and the sliding shower doors rolled back and forth all night long.  Add the fact that our belongings were falling off the shelves, I ended up staying awake most of the night. 

Many vendors combine item types to attract more tourists.

When I did finally fall asleep for a short period, I had a dream that water was running down the hallway outside our door which was not the case.  It had only been a few days earlier that we’d watched the news story about a Carnival cruise that had lost power and supposedly had sewage and water running through the halls. 

The next morning morning, I called guest services asking about the noise in the cabin’s ceiling.  Was something broken or wrong?  No, they assured me, it was a result of the storm causing the creaking throughout the ship. (Of course, Tom was able to sleep through the entire experience).   From that point on my fear dissipated as we embraced the excitement, actually enjoying the adventure of it all.

It was a back-to-back cruise with 11 days at sea and then another four days in the western Mediterranean Sea.  We stayed in the same cabin when the second four days began, having to exit for a few hours to later re-board the ship, a requirement when linking two cruises together.  Our luggage stayed in our cabin during this period.

This area in the souk is particularly vulnerable during bad weather.

Three full days of the storm ensued.  It was easier to maneuver the hallways and entertainment areas of the ship as opposed to spending time in the cabin.  As a result, we spent our days and evening talking with other passengers in the dining and lounge areas who, like us, suffered no ill effects.  As we all bounced about in our chairs, the conversation was certainly lively and animated. 

It was during this cruise that we had the opportunity to meet several wonderful couples, some of whom we remain in touch via our website, Facebook and email.  We imagine that they too, will always recall the excitement of this cruise.

After the storm ended the captain finally admitted to the 50 foot, 15.24 meter swells none of which was surprising.  All in all, it was an experience that most certainly prepared us for future storms at sea.  We heard many cruisers admit that they aren’t willing to go on a transatlantic cruise due the risks of such storms. 

The view from the spot where we dined on Wednesday at one of our favorite restaurants, Le Jardin, located in the souk a 20 minute walk from our location.

For us, the adventure was worth it all adding confidence for both of us with our newfound ability to adapt to less than perfect experiences, some of which we anticipate are awaiting us in the future.  As long as we are healthy and safe on the other side, we proceed with enthusiasm leaving concern regarding storms at sea in the wake of the Norwegian Epic’s storm at sea in April, 2013.


Photo from one year ago, April 25, 2013:

We shot this photo while sitting on a window sill on the guest services level of the ship as the
waves pounded against the window on the first day of the storm at sea on the Norwegian Epic.  For more details from this date, please click here.

Teaching an old dog…disembarking the Norwegian Epic soon…

Disembarking Day.  We’re getting off the Norwegian Epic, at long last.

It was is with much pleasure that we’re leaving this ship. The
crowds, the lines, the noise and the chaos over the past four days since
departing from Barcelona on May 1st has been unnerving for both of us.
This ship, although modern, clean and attractive leaves much
to be desired.  The food, the service, the
entertainment and the floor plan are severely lacking. The service staff is
exhausted, overworked, all of which is evidenced by the fake smiles plastered
on most of their faces in a futile, although well intentioned, effort to seem cheerful.
Our sweet cabin steward, to whom we gave $60 tip, started
out cheery and animated.  Halfway into
our 15 day cruise, he started going downhill, forgetting towels, ice, and other
amenities.  Many of the crew members
became ill during the three days of 50 foot swells, never seeming to get back
on track.  Most of them were used to the
calm seas of the Caribbean Sea as opposed to this rough transatlantic crossing.

The food: frightful.  The only item I found
delicious, other than the dinner in the “pay for” restaurant, was the
“real eggs” omelet I had every morning, especially after I told them
to stop adding the 1/3 cup of oil to the pan and to use the spray instead.  Tom said nothing was memorable including the
specialty restaurant. 

Their compliance to my low carb, grain free, starch free,
and sugar free diet was a gallant effort but the resulting food was dry, bland
and unseasoned.  Every night, my “steamed”
vegetables, a staple of my meals, were either undercooked or sautéed in gobs of
butter, making them inedible. 
Whether I
had fish, shellfish, chicken, pork or beef, it was a miniscule overcooked

Our final bill for the 15 days was $1021, including $200 in Internet fees for days out to sea, cocktails, beverages and tips charged on our bill daily of $24 (totaling $360), one night in the specialty restaurant plus $150 for the excursion to Marseilles, France.  This proves to be around $400 for all beverage and tips for beverages for this extended period. 

Hopefully, tomorrow when we board Royal Caribbean’s Mariner
of the Seas for a 15 day cruise to Dubai, we’ll find the food and service more
to our liking.  Based on conversations
with many passengers, they’ve particularly enjoyed this older ship’s attention
to detail, something we found to be the case on the older Celebrity Century,
our favorite ship thus far.

At the moment, we’re sitting in our favorite booth in the
Garden Cafe as passenger’s colors of their luggage tags are called to proceed
to disembark the ship, go through customs and find their way to their next

It’s now 8:00 am.  Our
color has already been called but we’ve chosen to disembark “last” since our
hotel room won’t be ready until 2:00 PM. 
We’ve done this on each of our last cruises which resulted in a shorter line
going through customs.  Hopefully, this
will be the case today as well.

Once outside, we’ll grab a cab for the short ride to Hotel
Grums, where we’ll have them store our luggage until our room is ready while we
wait in the lobby for our check in for the one night.  With books to read on our phones and our MiFi
we’ll busy ourselves reading and writing.

Speaking of luggage…OK, here’s the final tally.  After donating the three 30″ orange
Antler bags, we’re down to one 30″ orange bag for Tom and one slightly
larger black Samsonite bag for me, one carry on, one computer bag plus…two
duffel bags with our dirty clothes that we couldn’t fit into the suitcases and a
small bag with the cords for our digital equipment and a small doctor bag with
our toiletries.

As for the vitamins, I took 80% of them out of the bottles
placing the pills in Ziplock bags and scattering them throughout the luggage.  I should have done this to begin with but
then again, who knew we’d be held up for 24 hours by security over
vitamins?  Live and learn.  It’s all a part of the process.
Our goal, at the end of the upcoming cruise as we pack for
our 13 night stay in Dubai, is to be rid of the two duffel bags, the doctor bag
and the other overflow bag.  It will
require us donating more “stuff” or throwing it away.  After the disposition of the three bags,
we’re ready to let go of more of our favorite items.

The clothes we’re wearing today are the same clothes
we’ll wear to dinner tonight and again tomorrow since we don’t plan to open any bags
other than the computer bags and the doctor bag with overnight toiletries while
we stay in the hotel tonight. 

In my old life, I wouldn’t have imagined wearing the same
clothing two days in a row, let alone the same clothing during the day as when
going out to dinner in the evening. 
Alas, we keep adapting and somehow, in the process, we find these
adaptations to be liberating and to a degree, life changing.

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Learn enough new
tricks and perhaps the old dog isn’t so old anymore.

Unbelievable news revealed today!!!…

This afternoon, during a presentation made by the captain aboard the Norwegian Epic, he revealed news that literally knocked us for a loop.

After he’d revealed earlier that the waves at sea were 50 feet, not the original 30 feet, he said it the roughest seas he’s experienced with this ship but was impressed by how it handled it so well.

If you’ve seen the photos that I posted about the “looks” of this ship, it appears top heavy. Oh, my! 

He expressed the reason that he “told us” that the waves were 30 foot swells as opposed to the actual 50 foot waves was to avoid panic by the passengers and crew. 

There’s a special station on our cabin TVs, whereby the ship’s navigational stats are updated by the bridge in real time. He’d made a conscious decision not to post the actual statistics as the waves escalated instead sticking with the stats of 65 miles per hour winds and 30 foot waves. 

In addition, he didn’t reveal that he intentionally shifted the ballast, gradually increasing it up to 6 degrees, resulting in the ship listing to one side to counteract the waves as they slammed against the ship. 

He made the right decision in not revealing these horrible stats.  Many passengers would have been extremely distressed with this information. Tom, of course, said he would’ve been fine, but agrees that the captain did the right thing.

On this particular ship, the lifeboats are extended beyond the superstructure of the ship. As the 50 foot waves smashed against the ship, the lifeboats were in danger of damage and flooding. By listing the ship to one side in the direction of the waves, the risk of damage was diminished. The maximum shifting a ship of this size can withstand in 7 degrees.

It’s no wonder we had trouble walking in the hallways, and even in our cabin, as we leaned to one side. I told Tom it reminded me of a “fun house” type room that they had at Knott’s Berry Farm, when I was a kid, when one stepped into this particular room, it was impossible to stand up straight. 

That was us, aboard the Norwegian Epic only, tilted to one side, bashing around on unsure footing, empty barf bags all over ready to be used. Some passengers didn’t leave their cabins for three full days, too sick to get out of bed.

I must admit I didn’t work out during that period, but we did go about our days, not missing a meal, attending available evening entertainment (some shows were cancelled) and daytime seminars with few in attendance.

At least we’ve hopefully experienced the worst seas we will experience cruising. Anything less will be quite tolerable. Whew!

Traveling styles…Where do we fit in?…

“Dino,” our towel, pet last night.

Time changes continue. At our present location, 12 hours from entering the Straits of Gibralter we are 9 hours later than Los Angeles and 7 hours later than Minnesota.

Last night during the night, we hit rough seas again, not as bad as a few days ago, the three torturous days of 50 foot swells. 
Sleeping still seems to be an issue for us but also other passengers revealed that they, too, continue to be unable to go to sleep until 2:00 or 3:00 am, awakening at 9:00or 10:00.  It’s the nature of the beast.

Yesterday, after only four hours of sleep, we awakened early. Sluggish all day, I’d hope an
early night would be in order. After dinner and a live show last night (comedian/magician) we returned to our cabin at 10:45 pm to find yet another card on the bed informing us to forward our
clocks yet another hour.

Suddenly, it’s almost midnight with nary a desire to sleep. By 2:00 am Tom dozed off. At 3:30 am, I did as well. We awoke at 9:00 am, still tired, struggling to get up and ready for the day.

During the night I was up several times with a funny stomach, not “ha ha” funny but “oh oh” funny.

Never one to suffer with abdominal distress,immediately my mind went to either food poisoning or norovirus. My fish tasted funny last night at dinner,not “ha ha” funny but “oh oh” funny. With an absence of other distress or nausea, I dismissed it as a fluke, refraining from eating anything yet today.We’ll see how it goes.

Still reeling from the joyful experience yesterday of meeting Gina, the owner of the house we’ll rent in Madeira Portugal next yearand having an opportunity to tour of portion of the tiny island of Madeira.

Pilot boat picking up the pilot that had come aboard as we approached the pier to aid in maneuvering the ship to the dock, which we’ve observed as we enter each port of call.

Today, we’re content to spend a lazy day, reading our books and perhaps watching a movie on the giant screen in the Atrium, the main lobby area of the ship. 

Every three or four days, I consume a novel, many of which either free or under $5 on, mostly books popular a few years ago with four and five star reviews. Mostly some simple stories,  some more significant.

Tom, a slower reader has been wrapped up in many books written by Vince Flynn, a Minnesota author who’s series of well-written novels center around CIA stories of international intrigue, an ongoing saga of a character, Mitch Rapp. So far, he’s read five lengthy novels with many more to go.

Most of our reading occurs at night in bed with only an hour or less during the day. With no US
TV shows other than a few news networks, we seldom watch anything. Occasionally, a 10-15 year old movie runs, many about baseball.  We’ve seen “Field of Dreams” three times and “The Natural” four times, mostly in bits and pieces since there’s no way to know in advance when a movie is on.

When we’re online for short periods each day to read email, look at Facebook, handle financial matters and post this blog, Google often comes up in German, Portuguese, mainly based on the majority of the populace in the areas we’re sailing

“Pirate” type boat for tourists, observed while still in the Port of Madeira.

Last night, we dined in the “included” Manhattan Room, the food again mediocre, but made memorable by the four women at our shared table, many experienced travelers, two coincidentally from Minnesota. 

It’s enriching to hear the suggestions by other travelers with much more experience than us.
We’ve observed how each traveler has their own specific style of traveling. Our human nature is
to believe that “our” methods are the best. We are no exception, although we’re curious about the methods of others. 

Many factors determine the style travelers we all choose to be: financial constraints or desires, time constraints, need or desire for comfort, personal interests, personality and lifestyle. 

Pier as we pull away from Madeira.  A ship, the MSC Sinfonia remains at the pier.

We find many travelers content to backpack, stay in hostels and sleep in tents if need be. Others are in the middle, as we are, desiring comfort while willing to pay a little more for it. Others will only travel staying in the most plush cabins, finest hotels and dining in the most posh restaurants. 

Whichever style the travelers we meet choose, we find them interesting, often picking up a tidbit of information that we may find useful in the future. On we go, to the port of Barcelona in two days while we continue on our second leg of this back-to-back cruise for four more days to Majorca and Marseilles. We’ll have get off the ship to go through customs but able to keep our stuff in our cabin.

Goodbye, Madeira.  See you again next year.

On May 5th, we’ll be back in Barcelona  for our next leg of our journey, the 15 day cruise through the Suez Canal to the Middle East. Some say we’re crazy to explore this highly charged area of the world while we feel excited for the opportunity. We plan to explore Barcelona, sharing photos and stories of how we’ll avoid the rampant pickpockets, for which Barcelona is so well known.

Another time change…We’re now 8 hours later than Los Angeles, 6 hours later than Minneapolis…

This morning, we awoke at 10:10 am, new time, after yet another time change during the night.  By the time we showered and dressed and sauntered to the Garden Cafe it was after 11:00 am. We decided on lunch as opposed to breakfast requiring we only wait until 11:30 am when lunch is served at the buffet.

Once again, our favorite booth was awaiting us while all booths around us were filled. In October 2014, we’ve booked this same ship back-to-back to return to the US to work our way toward Hawaii to be with our family at Christmas. At this point, we’re considering canceling both cruises and booking another line for this long journey. As soon as we can use our MiFi, we’ll be contacting our cruise guy Joaquin, at Vacations-to-Go, to make the changes.  This far out, we won’t be charged cancellation fees.
Without a doubt, this is a beautiful ship mostly appealing to the older population, but with many amenities most passengers don’t use: a rock climbing wall, giant slides, two bowling alleys and a wave pool.

Also, there’s the Ice Bar, with a temperature of 27 degrees requiring one to wear a coat provided (who wants to wear a coat someone else wore???) paying a $20 cover charge per person. We’ve yet to see anyone enter. Most passengers aboard this ship are from cold climates. Why would they want to sit in a freezing bar sipping a frozen drink, the only options available?

When booking a cruise, all of these amenities are appealing. Once on board, we find little interest by us or others to partake of many of these “attractions.”

With lifeboats consuming all of the deck space, there is no deck on which to walk, read and relax. With our romantic expectation of lounging in a chaise, covered with a blanket, reading an enticing novel as we cross the ocean, we  are sorely disappointed.

Then, there’s the food. Today, after a full week aboard the Norwegian Epic, we’ve come to a conclusion: the food aboard this ship is by far the least desirable we’ve had after cruising on three cruise (five cruises) lines: Celebrity, Carnival and now Norwegian since January 3, 2013.

However, the overall service although good, leaves much to be desired in their communication with one another. When the same mundane tasteless plate of food is placed in front of me each night, I’ve become bored with eating: a salad, a piece of unseasoned fish, a plethora of bland steamed vegetables. 

Last night it was tilapia, the prior night a 3 oz steak and a few unseasoned small shrimp and the prior night, a small chunk of bland snapper riddled with bones. (A properly prepared snapper shouldn’t have any bones).

To avoid liability, they require that I order my meals the prior night, so the cooks can ensure the pan is free of corn oil, flours and sugar. I’ve asked for seasoning other than salt and pepper but have yet to have a bit of flavor in the food. 

Pre-ordering is awkward with other guests at the table curious as to the special attention paid to me by a man dressed in formal attire waiting while I select something from the next night’s menu. Inevitably, I’m asked by the rightfully curious table mates as to why I require this special diet leaving me no choice but to graciously explain. 

If I didn’t explain, assumptions may be made that I’m a prima donna, on an Atkins diet trying to lose weight, inconveniencing the staff and the table while I rattle off all of my restrictions.

Little do most know that I have to eat huge amounts of fat along with the foods I can have, to
avoid losing weight. I don’t want to lose weight. Is it any wonder that Tom lost 45 pounds
following along with me? Neither of us can afford to have clothing that doesn’t fit us!

On the Celebrity Century, their regular menu included several exquisitely prepared gluten-free options using natural juices, seasoned to perfection. The side dished were varied options, such as mashed garlic cauliflower or pureed carrot soufflé. Although the Carnival Liberty didn’t have an
exclusive GF menu, they provided me with some good options, varying the menu each night.

Here on the Epic, most night, my order arrives with an item on the plate that contaminates the entire plate, requiring I send it back. Last night, while dining with two delightful world traveling couples, I sat there without a main course while the others were into their dessert. 

They’d brought gluten free bread (no GF flours allowed except nut flours) with the tilapia covered
in a flour-like red sauce sitting atop a pile of white rice (no starch allowed for me). They knew this.

There is a file under each passenger’s cabin number that appears when they check into the restaurants each night. The kitchen, the chef and the servers receive a printout of what each passenger may and may not consume along with a list of what was pre-ordered for the night.Not rocket science.

The conscientious assistant maitre d, Steven, seems equally frustrated that my food continually goes back to the kitchen to begin anew. He has carefully outlined my diet: any meat and sauce without sugar, flour or starch, steamed or olive oil or butter sautéed non-starchy vegetables, cheese plate (no fruit, no bread, no crackers) for dessert. It’s not that hard.

Tom is equally frustrated, almost having had the same dinner and dessert night after night, bland and uninteresting. Presentation lacks originality and appears comparable to what an inexperienced cook would throw on a plate. 

Tonight, we’re booked a reservation for dinner in the Moderno Restaurant, a Brazilian barbecue with a variety of seasoned meats, none with starch, sugar or flour coatings. Last night, we spoke to Clive, the Moderno chef and he assured us there won’t be an item served by skewers that I won’t be able to enjoy. The salad bar literally made me jump for joy with most options suitable for me. 

At $20 per person for this specialty restaurant, plus drinks and additional tips, most likely our bill for tonight won’t exceed $65. Should we dine in specialty restaurants the remainder of this leg of the cruise, ending on May 1st, we’ll still be well within our budget of $900 for the 11 day ocean crossing.

Currently, our bill is around $575, $300 of which was for the Internet connection, the remainder for drinks and mandatory daily added tips of $12 each. We’ll post the actual amount of our bill once this leg ends. 

The second leg of this back to back cruise is only four days for which we’ve budgeted an additional $400. Our Internet bill will be considerably less since we’ll spend two of the four days in port, making it possible for us to use the MiFi to post our photos. Plus, in each case, we’ll be getting off the ship to explore Majorca Spain and Marseilles, France.

Tomorrow, we’ll be in port for the first time in eight days, spending the day in Madeira Portugal.
As mentioned earlier, Gina, the owner of the house, we’ll be renting from 5/15/2014 to 7/30/2014, is meeting us at the pier to show us the house and to tour the island. How exciting! 

Photos will follow tomorrow afternoon as soon as we return from our tour with Gina. With the
MiFi working again, we won’t have difficulty uploaded photos.

So, please look for us tomorrow with photos and story of the island of Madeira, Portugal, 1200 miles off the coast of Lisbon, Portugal and our experience with Portuguese speaking Gina.

Rough Seas…Proved to be 50 foot swells!!!…The Captain lied to avoid panic…

This photo was last night when the swells were only 15 feet. Today they’re 30 feet!

After a fitful night’s sleep as a result of loud creaking in our cabin as the sea wafted from one giant swell to another, I gingerly crawled out of bed, exhausted and unsure on my feet on the rolling floor.

Cautiously entering the shower, I gripped the well-placed grab bar hanging on for dear life. Not only did I drop the soap three times, but my Venus razor hit the floor twice dislodging the shaver head.   

Usually, when I shave my legs each day, I stand on one leg while bracing the other leg to be shaved on the shower wall. Not today. I shaved half of each leg, the front, the part most likely noticeable. Hell, who’s looking how close I shaved my legs? Tom would notice only if it became braid-worthy.

We’d left the drapes open last night in hopes of getting up early to begin to reset our disrupted biological clocks. A lot of good that did when I didn’t sleep more than three or four hours. 

Tom slept through it all.  He says that for the first 12 of his 42 years on the railroad, he’d stand atop of the roofs of the boxcars, jumping from car to car as the boxcars were rolling down the track. That’s how he earned his sea legs. Thirty years ago that dangerous practice was stopped.

The most balancing I’ve done had been skiing years ago with my kids and simply walking on my two clumsy legs on ice and in snow for the past 42 years that I’d lived in Minnesota, falling at least once a year.

As the waves have escalated over the past few days we’ve wondered how seasickness has escaped us as many passengers swarm the medical clinic located on our floor, the 10th.We’ve yet to use the patches our doc in Minnesota prescribed before we left.  Why not us?  I don’t know.  

This morning as we wobbled along the narrow halls to breakfast, we noticed the common areas, the hallways and the Garden Cafe, our favorite breakfast spot, were sparse compared to the calmer days when we first sailed last Saturday, April 20th. 

As I slid over to the beverage area for our usual routine of me getting the coffee with Tom getting the omelets, the ship lurched and the hot coffee, fresh out of the machine poured all over my wrist and the long sleeve of my shirt. 

As I write this now, I am using an ice pack I’ve made on which to place my left wrist, from front and back, while I type single handedly, with my right. No blisters yet, just raised and red. Later, when we return to the cabin, I’ll dig out our trusty medical kit to put on some antibiotic cream and wrap a sterile bandage.  See, I am clumsy.

As we sit in our favorite booth, which opened up shortly after we arrived awhile ago, only moments ago we heard plates, glasses and flatware falling to the floor in the kitchen behind us with a loud, “Ooohhhh,” from the crowd who grabbed the items on their tables to keep them from falling off.

A few moments ago, the captain’s voice came over the loud speaker and this time, everyone hushed and listened. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the “Old Man” (as he refers to himself, “old man of the sea”). “We are experiencing 30 (he later told us they were 50 foot waves) foot waves and I appreciate that you are uncomfortable. We are attempting to veer our course, but it looks as if this may continue until after dark tonight.  There is nothing to fear.”

Another shot of a mere huge swells.

Fearful, are we? No. We’d anticipated that crossing the ocean would be rough. We’re in awe of how our ancestors crossed the sea on ships without stabilizers, navigational equipment, weather reports, doctor clinics and a wide array of safety and emergency equipment. How did they do
it? Many ships didn’t make it.

A few days ago, we made it through the Bermuda Triangle without incident.  Safely passed, we were inspired to attend a seminar yesterday about “the Bermuda Triangle, Fact or Fiction” albeit while the ship was rocking and rolling to 15 foot swells, now at 30 feet. We learned, as we’d suspected, that many of the stories as to its dangers, were either coincidence or not, unlike lost ships and planes in other areas of the sea.

Now five hours ahead of the time in Belize, a mere 16 days ago, we have yet to adjust to an upcoming three additional hours. For now, that is a moot point, as we watch the waves engulf the balconies on the first several decks of the ship. Taking good photos is nearly impossible, let alone walking to the 25 feet to get a vantage point at the window.

Our monkey towel pet awaiting us last night when we returned after dinner, along with a note on yet another time change.

Tom tried to get some photos today, but it’s impossible to stand still long enough to get a good shot.  

We’ll report back. Stay tuned

Sailing across the sea…

Rain and clouds as we cross the ocean.

The threat of rough seas has subsided for the time being. The ill passenger was dropped off by tender in Bermuda. Within hours the ship was back on course for the Atlantic crossing. We sighed with relief.

When returning from dinner each night we find these little towel characters on our turned down bed.

The Norwegian Epic, rated a five out of six stars by Cruise Critic, lives up to its reviews as a quality vessel with the utmost of amenities and services.  A few items we’ve observed in the three days on the Norwegian Epic include:

1. There are only two banks of elevators resulting in very long walks getting from one end of the ship to the other.
2.  One of the two pools is currently under repair. This is located in an area where hundreds of passengers could conceivably relax on lounge chairs with no pool in which to cool off, weather providing.
3.  The evening meals, in the “included” restaurants, is mediocre at best. Is this a ploy to encourage  passengers to use the “cover charge” restaurants ranging from $10 to $40 per person? Breakfast in the Garden Cafe is quite good, cafeteria style, food is fresh with real eggs upon request and they have smoked salmon, a favorite of mine.
4.  Our prior four cruise ships since January 3, 2013, have had traditional long decks on both the port and starboard sides of the ship, suitable for walking and lounging. The picture we’ve always had in mind, was of crossing the sea, in expected inclement weather, covered in a blanket while lying on a lounge chair reading a book. That’s not possible on the ship.  Lounge chairs are near the pool areas only.
5.  No indoor daytime movies which would be a treat with the cool, windy weather.  Few educational classes are available (although Tom will attend a WWII seminar this afternoon).  Big push for the “pay for” services:  gambling, shopping, spa and cocktails.  None of this is unusual by cruise standards. 
6.   Limited evening entertainment as compared to our experience on the Celebrity ships when each night there was new entertainment options.  We went to the “Blue Man Group” on our first night aboard the Epic, which was quite enjoyable but it repeats every night in the main venue, leaving only two other shows with are included in the cruise fare plus,  one “pay for” option, a Cirque de Soleil type show at $40 per person including dinner for which we won’t partake.
7.  Poor Internet connection, slower than old fashioned “dial-up.”  Price for the Internet at $.40 per minute is outrageous, highest we’ve paid thus far.

This morning we attempted to attend a seminar entitled, “Running a Floating Hotel” presented by three top officers, including the captain.Without a seat available after arriving 15 minutes early, we only stayed a few minutes when Tom was unable to hear the presentation and I preferred not to stand for over an hour in a crowded area. With the older crowd aboard this ship, we will need to arrive at least a half hour early for events in the future.

Some items we like about the Norwegian Epic:
1.  Our cabin steward, Arnold, is absolutely among the finest.
2.  Our cabin has tons of storage space, a huge shower, with a comfortable bed and exquisite bedding with extra pillows.
3.  The entire ship is impeccably clean and organized.
4.   All of the staff is friendly, saying hello when passing, ultra courteous when providing service, referring to us as: Ms. Jessica and Mr. Tom
5.  Last night when dining with yet a new batch of four delightful passengers in the Taste Restaurant, the Assistant  Maître D, Steven Metzger, immediately tended to me when I had requested a gluten free, starch free, low carb, grain-free, and sugar-free meal. He couldn’t have been more helpful, checking back several times during the carefully prepared meal and showing me the next night’s menu to order in advance to ensure my order complies. I didn’t mind ordering in advance when doing so results in less attention drawn to my complicated diet while others are trying to order.  Tonight, when we meet our new friends for dinner, my order will already be posted with the chef, listed under of cabin number, streamlining the process.
6.   Due to the sheer size of this 6000 potential passenger ship (including crew) there’s less sensation of movement. With five days remaining crossing the sea until our first port of call in Funchal Madeira, Portugal, we expect rough seas, as warned by the captain over the loud speaker.  Yes, doors sway open and closed, along with the endless creaking and cracking sounds, day and night. One may feel they’re losing their footing when walking as the ships rocks to and fro. None of this bothers either of us, nor have we had a moment of seasickness thus far.  We shall see how it progresses.
Mr. Penguin.
Overall, we’re pleased to be aboard the Norwegian Epic for the this cruise.
Breakfast this morning in the Garden Café.
Embarking on our next cruise on May 6th, we’ll sail through the Suez Canal to the Middle East, ending aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. We’ll visit Jordan and Egypt ending in Dubai, United Arab Emirates where we’ll stay for 13 nights. 
Next time there’s a seminar, we’ll arrive a half hour early to ensure we are able to find seats.

We’re doing well, meeting interesting people, relishing in our pleasant surroundings, living life one moment at a time, happy to be together and totally in awe of the world around us.  At times, we look at each other, shaking our heads one of us saying, “Can you believe we’re
doing this?”

We changed ships!…Heavenly!..Back to back cruises again, same cabin…

Our new huge ship, the Norwegian Epic with 4200 passengers and 1750 crew. 
Comfortable bed, covers, soft towels, huge shower and vanity area.
 Cruise #1

Norwegian – Norwegian Epic, departs 4/20/13, 11 nights
Day Date Port or Activity Arrive Depart
Sat Apr 20 Miami, FL 5:00pm

Sun Apr 21 At Sea
Mon Apr 22 At Sea
Tue Apr 23 At Sea
Wed Apr 24 At Sea
Thu Apr 25 At Sea
Fri Apr 26 At Sea
Sat Apr 27 At Sea
Sun Apr 28 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 10:00am – 6:00pm
Mon Apr 29 At Sea
Tue Apr 30 At Sea
Wed May 1 Barcelona, Spain 5:00am

Cruise #2
Norwegian – Norwegian Epic, departs 5/1/13, 4 nights
Day Date Port or Activity Arrive Depart
Wed May 1 Barcelona, Spain 7:00pm

Thu May 2 Marseille, France 8:00am – 7:00pm
Fri May 3 At Sea Sat May 4 Palma de Mallorca, Spain 6:00am – 6:00pm
Sun May 5 Barcelona, Spain 5:00am

We couldn’t be more thrilled to be on board the Norwegian Epic as shown above to find it much more modern and classy than the Carnival Liberty.  Also, with a more mature crowd there isn’t the loud blare of rock music filling the air as in typical on Carnival Fun Ships. 

 Our mini suite with balcony.  Plush amenities.

Yes, we are old, preferring the more elegant, quiet, less frenzied pace of this ship.  Initially, we were concerned about the enormous size, but after wandering about for the past three plus hours, we feel we have a handle on the layout.

 Tons of storage space not only to unpack our clothing, but to hide our bags under the bed.
With over half of our bags already unpacked, soon we’ll run to the Internet Café to set up our wireless package.  Once we sail in the next hour we’ll lose our ability to use our MiFi connection and be subject to this ships $.40 a minute charge.  That’s the highest rate we’ve seen thus far. 
  Coffee in our cabin, not available in the past four cruises.
Having budgeted for these expenses, allows us to communicate with loved ones and of course, keep our blog and photos posted on a regular basis.  The connection is secure which enables us to do our banking, pay bills online and check our credit card balances.
All of our credit cards, do not charge an exchange rate.  Thus, we use them for everything we possibly can, paying them off every few weeks, to keep them from accumulating huge balances and avoid interest charges.  So far, we’ve yet to incur a single dime in interest or fees. 
 Easy to use safe, wine cooler/fridge.

Our final bill on the Carnival Liberty came to $672 which included $159 for Internet, $100 for dinner in the Diamond Steak House, $12.50 for contact lens solution, $44.98 for one bottle of Cognac for Tom, cocktails and beverages, plus, the cruise line charged our bill $161.60 for tips plus additional tips we paid as we ordered beverages. 

Oversized shower, vanity with lots of drawers and medicine cabinet plus, an outlet. It’s an odd configuration with the sink in the bedroom and having to walk through the two sections of the bathroom when entering the cabin.

In addition, last night, we handed out additional cash tips to our cabin steward, dining room service staff, restaurant hostesses and luggage handlers.  This totaled approximately another $180, leaving us over by $82. On the prior cruises we were under budget, making it a wash. 

Our balcony for the next 15 days.  Love the two little tables.
Have to run and get to the Internet Café since we’re about to lose our signal.  We’ll be back in touch soon with more photos of this amazing vessel. Tonight we have a reservation to see the Blue Man Group, included in our fares. 
Back in touch soon.