ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Music, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Norwegian Epic Musical Acts

Our dance venue of choice - the Deck 5 atrium with the Mexcal Duo
Our dance venue of choice – the Deck 5 atrium with the Mexcal Duo


As we headed back to the Norwegian Epic after our disappointing shore excursion, St Maarten gave us its final salute.  Rain poured from the sky.  A short afternoon rain, so common in the tropics, but all I could think of was, “par for the course.”  Deb and Joe got soaked to the skin.  Bill made a dash for it and stayed pretty dry.  My very large sunhat took pretty good care of me.

Food is First

We grabbed lunch in The Garden Cafe,  then Bill and I went back to our cabin to hang out on the balcony.  We made it back to the buffet for our pre-dinner dessert, so even though were only on our third day, we’d already established a routine.  I think Deb and Joe worked out, but I was still on antihistamines and was taking it very easy.

Dinner was at Taste – the first meal Joe and Debbie ate in that dining room.  We all agreed that we liked the Manhattan Room better.  The food and service was virtually the same, but the decor and ambiance in Manhattan fit us better.

Music Next

The Mexcal Duo became another part of our routine.  Deb and Joe dance ballroom.  In fact, Deb teaches it and Joe teaches skate dance. So, dancing is important to them.  Since I wasn’t exactly to to snuff, I hadn’t been cutting the rug, too much – and that was fine with Bill.  Deb and Joe on the other hand had been scouting out all the musical venues to discover the best dance music.  The Mexcal Duo, who played nightly in the Deck 5 Atrium were their favorites.

This particular evening we didn’t spend much time with the Mexcal Duo, because we had reservations for the Legends in Concert Show in the Epic Theater.  This was one I’d been excited about.  On the NCL website and throughout the ship, I’d seen pictures of the impersonators in Legends dressed up like people I really thought were legends: Elvis, Marilyn Munroe, The Beatles – you know, the really big names.

Well the show started off with a nod of the head to Whoopie Goldberg in Sister Act.  I didn’t think it was a very effective nod, but I’m a big Whoopie fan, so I appreciated the effort. The Whoopie Goldberg impersonator was acceptable when she had on the nun’s habit, but when she tried to do stand-up Whoopie style, the act started wearing thin.

Next a guy came out and did Jimmy Buffet.  He was a really good Jimmy Buffet.  Not only did he sound like him, he could have been his twin brother.  I enjoy Jimmy Buffet and his Parrot Heads, but I thought that part went on a little bit too long, also.

Then out came the impersonator who had been Whoopie Goldberg, but now she was Donna Summer.  I’d thought the impersonator was a little small to be Whoopie, but she was particularly unconvincing as Donna Summer.  I remembered Donna Summer as this long, tall drink of water and she was being portrayed by someone who was short and chunky.  However, the music was glorious.

As good as the music was – I was still waiting for the legends.  Where was Elvis?  I’d have preferred quicker bits on each star, but more stars.  The longer the impersonators were at it, the more the illusion fell apart.

Deb and Joe trip a light fantastic
Deb and Joe trip a light fantastic

Then we got a real legend – Michael Jackson.  I can only imagine how difficult it was for this guy to be as convincing as he was.  You knew it wasn’t really Michael, but occasionally you chose to forget.  Instead of coming out and wowing us and then moving on to the next legend, the Michael Jackson impersonator did several songs. With the addition of each song the magic faded some more.

So – was the show good.  Yes, it was.  Could it have been better.  Yes, it could.

After the show, Deb and Joe headed to the dance floor, but Bill and I headed to the room.  Be back next week for St. Thomas and in the meantime, tell me which legend you think should have been impersonated.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Formal (or Not) on Epic Norwegian

Bill and his two favorite girls on formal or Not Night
Bill with two of his favorite girls on Formal or Not Night


Formal Night is one of my favorite nights when I’m cruising, but on the Epic I wasn’t feeling very good as I dolled up in crepe and beading. I gave it my best shot though, because we were going to eat in Le Bistro, the French Specialty Restaurant.

“Or Not” Trumps Formal

The Epic has amended Formal Night and changed it to Formal or Not Night and there was a whole not lot or not going on.  When I’m getting all dressed up, part of the fun is looking at everyone else that’s gotten all dressed up.  There wasn’t a whole lot to look at on the Epic.

Nor was there a Captain’s Cocktail Party.  The captain is probably thrilled to death about that, but I missed it.

Now this might be good news or bad news for you.  If you’re the kind that hates dressing up and especially on vacation, then you are absolutely gonna love the Epic.  If like me, one of the reasons you go on a cruise is to get dressed up, then book another ship.  Only about a dozen other folks on board will dress up with you when you’re free-styling.  The rest will be in sun dresses and aloha shirts, if not jeans and a t-shirt.

The picture above is about the only decent one taken of me that night, because the rest made it very clear that I wasn’t at my best.  My eyes were puffy and I could barely muster a smile.  In fact, I’m not sure why this one came out so well.

Le Bistro is Le Best

Le Bistro was wonderful.  My taste buds were not in high gear, but they were working well enough for me to know that I was eating good food.  I opted for two starters that night: French Onion Soup and escargot.  Both were excellent.

The meal started off with a bang – literally.  Le Bistro is directly beneath the Speigal Tent and the performers were in the middle of their first show as we pulled our  elegant chairs up to the Le Bistro table.  The waiters were clearly embarrassed and apologized profusely.  Thankfully, the banging was short-lived and once we’d begun our appetizers, then our meal went uninterrupted.

The menus on the Epic are designed to cut down on food costs.  On other cruises I’ve been on, the menu (and the wait staff) encourage you to have soup, salad, appetizers, a main course and dessert.  No one on the Epic tells you that you can’t have something, but the menu is divided into Starters and Entrees.  I didn’t let the divisions discourage me.  If I wanted salad and an appetizer, I got it.  If I wanted soup to start and a salad as my entree, that’s what I ordered.  The waitstaff always complied, but I’m betting that a lot of people think they are limited to a starter and an entree.

After you finish your meal, they bring you the dessert menu and we weren’t bashful about ordering more than one dessert either.  At Le Bistro, everyone ordered a dessert and then we ordered the chocolate fondue for the table.  In Le Bistro, they also serve French Press coffee and my table mates enjoyed it, but I’m not a coffee drinker.

I had cheese for dessert.  It’s one of those things I’ve seen other people do, but I’d never gotten around to it.  I’m usually sharing a dessert with Mr. Sweet-tooth, but I’d already had a crepe, in the afternoon, so cheese sounded pretty good – and it was.

By the end of the meal, I was exhausted.  I tried to interest Bill in some of the activities available, but if I was going back to the cabin, then he was going to go be my nurse.  I got out of my finery and read for a while.  Come back next week and hear what happened on St. Maarten.

Accommodations, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

The Second Epic Day at Sea

Taste - the "other" main dining room
Taste – the “other” main dining room


After getting a clean bill of health from the Norwegian Epic infirmary doctor, I found Bill in Taste. He was finally getting his sit-down breakfast.  After the meal, we headed to the Lido Deck with a couple of things in mind.

Rock Climbing Wall

The first order of business was the rock climbing wall.  Bill had been very observant of what had been happening there, every time we passed that way.  It was time to give it a try.

The rappelling part
The rappelling part

The rock climbing wall has two parts, a climbing part and a rappelling part.  Bill tried both, but rappelling was his favorite.

One of my beefs with the Epic was that it seemed as if every where you turned they were trying to squeeze another buck of two out of you.  That wasn’t the case at the rock climbing wall.  You could climb and rappel as much as you wanted.  There was no rental fee on the equipment and it was open for a while both in the morning and the afternoon.  Whenever the wall was open, there was also a crew on hand to help you through the adventure.

Bill in Rock Climbing Shoes
Bill in Rock Climbing Shoes

Every climber has to have the right shoes.  Women understand that sort of thing.  Once Bill found a pair to fit, he decided rappelling was the more compelling activity, so he got all rigged up and climbed the stair.  Soon my beloved was dangling three stories above me.

The Rock Climbing Part
The Rock Climbing Part

Though he looked very macho coming down the wall, he confessed to some dread.  They get you leaning out of the window and then they tell you to let go.  Your head is reminding you that you’re all hooked up to every sort of safety device, but your heart shrieks, “NO!”

Bill took a deep breath and released his hold on the edifice.  The rope held and he got into the swing of things, if you know what I mean.  The grin he wore afterwards told the whole story.

Getting ready for the rock wall
Getting ready for the rock wall

Having made it safely down the wall, he was ready to give the climbing wall a chance, but after rappelling, the climb was a bit of a yawn.  After that, Bill made daily visits back to the wall for a another dose of adrenaline.

Photo Safari

After that, we went on a photo safari.  Bill took pictures of the sports deck with it’s basketball court, scouted the pools for some more shots and then obliged me by taking shots throughout the ship.  But he wasn’t going to miss his sit-down lunch, so before too long we were back in Taste for the mid-day lunch.  I was still in the salad eating mode, for all the good it was doing me.

See Bill figured out that the dinner service began in the The Garden Cafe around five.  Everyone needs a dessert a couple of hours before dinner, right.  So, we’d go to the Garden Cafe and feed his sweet tooth.  I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth, but I do like crepes and they were making them fresh.  So, I’d have a salad for lunch, but there was a whole lot of dessert consumption going on.

Between my dessert at lunch and my pre-dinner dessert, that stuffy head of mine took me back to the room for some balcony time.  It was a quiet day, but a good one.  This was the Formal or Not evening and we were having dinner in Le Bistro.  Come back next week and find out how that was.

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Medical Problems Weren’t on the Itenirary

Nighty NIght!
Nighty Night!


Except for the marvelous Pulse Fitness Center and the delicious meals at the Garden Cafe, our first day at sea on the Norwegian Epic had been pretty frustrating.  What I haven’t mentioned is that my sinuses were beginning to swell and my nose was all stopped up.  That probably contributed to my discontent.

Things Got Worse

I got down right cranky as we dressed for the Cirque Dreams Dinner and Show in the Speigal Tent.  Bill finally insisted I have an antihistamine, but it didn’t do anything for my fussy attitude.  After dinner, during the last few acts of Cirque Dreams, I began to feel really punky.  I couldn’t breathe.  I’d get hot and then I’d be cold.  I didn’t want to interrupt anyone else’s enjoyment of the show but I was ready to go.  As the cast made their curtain calls, I warned Bill that I needed to get out of there post haste.

After the Show

I was almost incoherent as we made our way down the stairs in the theater, but Bill let Deb and Joe know what was going on.  Soon we were in our stateroom and Bill gave me another antihistamine.  But something more was going on.  My lungs felt as if they had a band around them and no matter how much air I gulped in through my mouth I couldn’t fill them.  Bill was terrified and I wasn’t being cooperative, at all.  Deb and Joe checked on me, dropping off some Alka Seltzer, because all Bill had told them was that I might be coming down with a cold.  Deb thought a lot more than a cold was going on.

Long story short, Bill called for a wheelchair and we went to the infirmary.  I’ve heard horror stories about doctors and infirmaries on cruise ships, but that wasn’t my experience.  I felt like I got some of the best medical attention I’ve ever had.  By the time I got the the infirmary, chills were shaking my whole body, but in a few moments, I was throwing off all the covers.  Soon I was racked with chills again.  Meanwhile they were hooking me up to everything.  I kept trying to tell them I was OK and they kept on telling me I wasn’t, but they weren’t quite sure what was wrong.

They thought I might be having a panic attack, but if I was, it was the first I’d ever had and I’ve had no re-occurrence. I didn’t have a temperature.  My EKG was fine. My blood pressure was elevated and for someone who usually has an unusually low pulse, that’s not good, but it was not alarmingly high.  My blood sugar was low, but since I had about a glass and a half of wine, they attributed it with the blood sugar count.  Most importantly, my respiration numbers were perfect.  So, even though I felt like I couldn’t breathe in enough air, my lungs were getting plenty and sending it all the places it needed to go.

Stymied, they gave me something to help me sleep and told me to come back in the morning.  And sleep I did.

The next morning I was fine.  I still had a stuffy nose, but it was a normal stuffy nose.  The band around my lungs had disappeared.  My blood pressure was normal.  My temperature was normal.  I was released to enjoy the rest of my cruise with a diagnosis of palpitations.  Isn’t that something Victorian ladies had just before they swooned?  Well, whatever.  I embarked upon my second day at sea.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.

ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Cirque Dreams on Norwegian Epic

Welcome to Cirque Dreams!
Welcome to Cirque Dreams!


OK. I’ll admit, Bill and I have been a little persnickety about Norwegian Epic, but as one of the highest rated and most rewarded cruise ships on the seas, they had a lot to live up to.  It’s not that things were awful, it’s just that we showed up with high hopes for the cruise and some really great on-board experiences in our past.  Some things the Epic did well.  Others it didn’t.

Finding Your Seat

Well, Cirque Dreams lived up to the hype. The premiere show on the ship, according to NCL, is Blue Man, but I think they should give top billing to Cirque Dreams.  If you’re alive, you’ve heard of Cirque du Soleil.  Well Cirque Dreams is Norwegian’s answer to the more famous show.  I’ve seen both cirques and Cirque Dreams doesn’t have anything to apologize for.

Of course, Cirque Dreams is played out on a smaller stage, but it’s a stage that rocking on the open seas, so I found everything that much more exciting.  The costumes were enchanting, the acts were thrilling and we had a very, very good time.

There’s some logistical challenges for the passengers though.  I’d read that even if you paid for Premium seating, you needed to line up early for a good seat.  Well, let me tell you, EVEN IF YOU PAID FOR PREMIUM SEATING YOU NEED TO LINE UP EARLY FOR A GOOD SEAT.

The real question is: What’s a good seat?  I assumed premium seating meant you’d be in the tables surrounding the stage.  I didn’t know there were tables on two levels and both levels had seats surrounding the stage in close proximity.  So, I didn’t know what to tell Bill when the hostess asked him which level we wanted to sit on.  We’d been in line, talking to other passengers with premium seating, and everyone was anxious about what exactly they’d paid for.  In fact, there was no line for regular seating, which made the extra amount we’d paid a little suspect.

I really don’t know what to tell you.  Confronted with a choice, Bill asked the hostess where she’d choose and she told him she liked the upper seats.  He trusts those kinds of suggestions more than I do.  I assume the hired help is not going to have my best interests at heart.  In a restaurant, unless it’s somewhere I go frequently and I trust the waiter, I assume he/she is either going to recommend what will net them the best tip or the dish the chef has told them to get rid of.  That’s pretty cynical, but that’s me.

The upstairs seats are not bad seats. The stage is directly below you and much of the action happens above the stage, right in front of your face.  Before the night was over, I got a little tired of looking down to see the non-aerial acts, but I bet the audience down below got tired of looking up for the aerial acts.

If you want to be one of the audience members tagged to be a part of the show – and there are many who are – then you’ll want the downstairs seats.  I’m not sure where the regular seating is.  For that, you’re on your own.

The Meal

The show is wonderful and the seating isn’t that big of a deal, but the food wasn’t very good. It was easily the worst meal we had on the ship.  That still doesn’t mean it was terrible or anything.  It just didn’t measure up to the other meals on board the Epic.

When you sit down, you’ll find a big, fancy menu at your place, but I’m not sure why, because all it does is tell you what you will eat.  A small menu card would have done the same thing and we wouldn’t have been tricked into anticipating a choice. Then they’ll come by and ask you if you have any food allergies, since the main course is coconut shrimp and beef.

The party to my right opted for vegetarian.  The men in my party asked that their shrimp be spared the coconut and were informed that because of their special request, they’d be served last.  Deb doesn’t like coconut either, but she and I made our own arrangements.  She gave me her two shrimp and I gave her half my steak.

She got the better end of the deal.  When I read “coconut shrimp,” I thought of what I always order at Red Lobster.  What I got on the Epic may have been rubbed against a coconut or dunked in coconut milk, but it wasn’t that delightful treat I was hoping for.  To tell the truth, with folks risking their very lives right in front of you, I think it would be better sans the meal.

Anyway, I loved Cirque Dreams and as exciting as it was, it just so happens that it wasn’t the most exciting thing to happen to me that evening.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about an unexpected adventure.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Playing by the Norwegian Epic Pool

Welcome to the Pool!
Welcome to the Pool!


After, walking out of the art auction in frustration, I found Bill taking a nap in our stateroom.  Isn’t that what cruises are for?  But I’d stayed so long at the auction that we’d missed the sit-down lunch, just like sleeping late had made us miss the sit-down breakfast.  (What’s that about free to do what you want to when you want to?)  However, the Garden Cafe was in full swing, so we enjoyed the buffet, again.

Deb and Joe enjoying the Waves Bar
Deb and Joe enjoying the Waves Bar

Our Post Lunch Swim

We wore our swim suits to lunch, so we could hang out at the pool afterwards.  Between the Garden Cafe and the pool is The Great Outdoors Cafe (Think Garden Cafe, but smaller and outdoors.)  Then there’s the Wave’s bar, a very pleasant area with a stage.  A reggae band played there in the afternoons.  Then you got to the main pool.

Welcome Aboard!
Welcome to the Lido Deck!

The main pool is for families.  It’s mostly a wading pool with fountains, not really a place to swim.  We rarely lingered there.  Not so much because of the families, but more because there’s kind of sardine can feel to area.  Deck chairs are crammed in as if every person on the ship were going to report to the pool at the same time.  They’re not all full.  We just didn’t find it inviting.

The other pool is called the Spice H2O Pool – an adult’s only venue. It had tiered seating around a small pool and a huge megatron screen.  You can actually stand up and be wet in the adult only pool, but did I mention it was small?  Don’t think about doing laps, you’d get dizzy.  Deb and Joe said they spent a lot of time here, but Bill and I lasted about five minutes.

The Adult Only Pool
The Adult Only Pool

I’m not sure how to say this tactfully, but the beautiful people were not at the Spice H2O Pool.  If there were any on the ship, they were over at the Posh Pool, in The Haven, and they weren’t rubbing elbows with us.  We didn’t want to swim in the tiny pool, we weren’t interested in what was on the megatron and if Bill is doing a little people watching, he’s pretty particular about who he watches.

Just your average Epic passenger
Just your average Epic passenger

I suggested that Bill might be ready for the water slides.  As you can see above, they dominate the main pool.  On a way back to that area, Bill was totally grossed out by a very large gentleman whose swim trunks revealed much more of his butt crack than anyone really wanted to see.  After pointing the butt crack out to me, not that I could have missed it, Bill planted me in the shade next to the slides.  He doesn’t find sun-burned women attractive, even if they’re me.

Since I didn’t go with him, I can’t confirm exactly what happened, but Bill was thoroughly frustrated by whatever process they had in place to provide equipment for the slides, so be warned if you do cruise on the Epic and want to use the water slides.  He tried one of the smaller slides first and then lined up for the big one, but he realized immediately that Mr. Butt Crack was standing right in front of him.  Have you ever tried to avoid looking at someone’s butt crack?  Bill gave up on it and never tried the slides again.  It must have been traumatic.

We decided to give up on the pools and head back to our balcony, but come back next week to hear about Cirque Dreams, one of the best shows on the ship.

ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL

Artless Auctioneer on Norwegian Epic

Welcome Aboard!
Welcome Aboard!


After my workout in Norwegian Epic’s marvelous Pulse Fitness Center, I returned to our stateroom and freshened up. Eventually, Bill woke up and was ready for breakfast. Unfortunately, by the time he woke up, the sit down breakfast was just about over. He wasn’t particularly happy about a buffet breakfast, but a man’s gotta eat.

The Breakfast Buffet

I’ll be honest with you.  I loved the Garden Cafe breakfasts.  You could get anything you wanted.  There were a lot more choices than we found the next day at Taste.  Bill didn’t really have any trouble with the food, he just wanted the sit-down experience with people waiting on you.  I don’t think he realized, at that point, there were people at the buffet to make omelettes to-order or Eggs Benedict or whategger else you wanted.

Art Auction at Sea

After breakfast we wandered the decks a little, learning our way around, until it was time for the art auction.  I really can’t remember which of my cruises was the first to include an art auction or when I  attended the first one, but I really look forward to them when I cruise.  The last one I’d participated in was on a Carnival ship.  To my best recollection, we were on board several days before the auction and we’d made visits to the gallery to enjoy the art previous to the actual event.

The Epic had an art gallery, too, but it was tucked away under the Epic Theater on Deck 5.  With the auction being so soon after we boarded, we hadn’t really had a chance to look over the art and fall in love with something.  Still we made our way to Le Bistro to enjoy the show.

Right off the bat, Bill wasn’t happy.  The bar they used for the auction on Carnival Ecstacy had been much larger than the Epic’s French Restaurant.  Strolling through the art on Carnival had encouraged lingering and we’d already been sampling it in the ship’s art gallery.  On Epic, too many people and too much art were crammed into too small of a place.  Bill was ready to leave as soon as we got there.  I reminded him of the champagne they’d be serving and he did stay for that, but not much longer.

The cramped display and bidding rooms were somewhat of a disadvantage to the auction, but the auctioneer was the last straw.  As soon as Bill’s champagne glass was dry, he high-tailed it out of the room. I was really interested in the art, so I overlooked the auctioneer’s lame attempts at entertainment.

Unpleasant Situation

Art is not a thing of passing interest to me.  It’s a passion.  I can’t afford to be a collector, yet, but I thrive on the opportunity to visit museums, learn about art and artists, and see pretty things.  The auctioneer for other art auctions I’ve attended aboard cruise ships understood their audience and devoted as much time to entertainment and education, as they did to actually auctioning off the items.  The Epic’s auctioneer took himself entirely too seriously.  He insulted both the audience and the art.  Someone needed to tell him we were on a cruise ship.

He was from Romania and had been working for Park West for five years.  In his opinion that made him an art authority.  If he had any formal art training, he didn’t bother telling us about it.  I’m not going to pretend that I know more than he did about financial side of things, but he wrongly assumed his audience was a bunch of rubes from down on the farm.

The auctioneer’s first sin, in my eyes, was to scold a passenger, before the auction even got going.  The auctioneer was up there bragging on himself and making jokes about Romania when the poor guy in the audience said something to his wife. Unfortunately, the passenger had one of those voices which carry further than intended.  I think the auctioneer was trying to be funny when he challenged the guy, but I didn’t see the humor.  The passenger didn’t even understand what he did wrong and was obviously embarrassed.  The auctioneer continued to pick on the same guy throughout the auction.  I wanted to punch out the auctioneer’s lights, but I remained quietly in my seat.

Then the auctioneer started his schpiel on what did and did not constitute an original work of art.  I happen to know a little something about the business of reproductions.  I understand the difference in a giclee and serigraphy, in lithography, etchings and engravings.  At least I know enough to know that this guy wasn’t someone I would trust.

I stayed in spite of the auctioneer, but I wasn’t happy about it.  Then he pulled out the Thomas Kinkades.  Now people either like Thomas Kinkade or they don’t.  I find his work pleasant, but it’s been overly reproduced, so I wouldn’t buy one.  Apparently, Park West feels the same way.  Before the auctioneer was through, he’d trotted out ten Kinkade giclees and was offering them for $1500 as a set.  I’m not saying the bidding started at $1500, I’m saying he had ten Kinkades up at the front of the room and he said whoever raised their hand first could get them all for $1500.  Even then he couldn’t find a taker.

He hadn’t read his audience at all and he made a mockery of the artist.  I looked at my watch and decided the thing had to be over soon and after putting up with all his stupidity, I should at least stay around for the free art they were giving away.  I cherish a very nice Marko reproduction I got at the Carnival auction, even though it was only am 8X10.  I survived through a trio of modern artist the auctioneer tried to shove down our throats with the same methodology he’d used with the Kinkades.

Next was a Rembrandt etching. As he extolled the value of the Rembrandt, I’d had enough.  Certainly there’s value in owning a Rembrandt etching, but he was going on about it like a carny barker and touting the etching as if it were the first one made, rather than one that had been printed several centuries later.  I relinquished my free gift and went to find Bill.

But let’s leave behind this less than entertaining activity and go to the pools.  See you here next week.

Accommodations, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Working Out on Norwegian Epic

Miami Beach, Miami Florida
Taking a stroll on Miami Beach


Working out is not my favorite thing to do. That doesn’t keep me from doing it. Land-locked in Dallas, I work-out with a trainer twice a week and ride my stationary bike for an hour on most other days.  I’ve learned it’s just what I have to avoid super-sizing myself.

Time to Work Off Some of Those Calories

Walking briskly through the deep sand of Miami Beach wasn’t a tough assignment.  Neither was going to Pulse Fitness Center on Deck 14 of the Norwegian Epic.  I met Deb and Joe in our hallway, while Bill continued his beauty sleep, and we made our way to the fitness center.

More Shopping Opportunities

One thing they do well on the Epic is keep you constantly aware there are numerous ways to spend your money on their ship.  To get to Pulse, you have to walk through the spa.  The spa is filled with before and after pictures of faces made more beautiful by a visit to their treatment rooms.  Prices for massages are easy to find.

Were money no object, I’d report to the spa and tell them to give me one of everything and two of some.  Correction, if money were no object, I’d be over in The Haven, where they have their own spa.  I’d be so beautiful when they got through with me that no one would recognize me.

Early in the morning the treatment rooms are empty and no estheticians in their crisp white coats are around.  If you follow the Pulse signs down a nondescript hallway, you’ll come to an information desk where someone will gladly sell you a training session or sign you up to have your feet evaluated.

Finally the Gym

Then you arrive at an amazing place – a fully equipped gym with hardwood floors.  This is no stinky side room with a few pieces of vintage exercise equipment.  This is the latest and the greatest and no matter what machine you choose, you can do your reps peering out over the ocean.  You may have to pay for a yoga class, but working out on your own is included in the price of your cruise.  Pulse Fitness Center was one of my favorite things about the ship – and remember, I don’t even like to work out.

Deb and Joe boarded the ellipticals, but I sat down on a recumbent stationary bike next to the windows.  I’d brought my Kindle for entertainment during my hour long ride, but I frequently found myself peering over the top of my e-reader to look at the ever-changing sea.

Along with the cardio workout, Deb and Joe did some weight-training and left before I did.  Later in the day, Bill also made his way to the fitness center and he agreed with me whole-heartedly.  Pulse is one of the things that Norwegian got very right and all four us us thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

So what did we do our first day at sea?  Well, come back next week and I’ll tell you.

ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Blue Men and Brownies on Norwegian Epic



Blue Man Group was not on my bucket list, but Deb was thrilled they would be performing on our Norwegian Epic cruise. Thanks to the never-appearing dessert, our seats were not the best. We sat far off to one side, but fairly close to the front. The theater went dark and the show began.

A Divergence of Taste

Deb loved the show.  She laughed heartily through the whole thing.  In most situation we’re twin daughters from different mothers, but when it comes to Blue Men, we’re from different planets.

I was pretty neutral towards the performance until they pulled out the boxes of Captain Crunch.  I wondered what was up as they stuffed dry cereal into their mouths.  I lost my neutrality when they smashed in their cheeks and blew saliva-covered cereal into the first few rows.  This wasn’t my kind of humor.  Regurgitating half-swallowed marshmallows didn’t get any closer to tickling my funny bone.

The funniest part to me was an audience participation skit.  Someone’s grandmother came up and the Blue Men coached her through the scene.  She was obviously very nervous about being up there, but not to the point of timidity.  Before her time on stage was over, she gave as good as she got and that was a lot of fun.

At the end of the show, the whole audience participates in a group effort.  Toilet paper is unrolled at the top of the theater and handed down to the stage like streamers at a sock hop.  Then the show is over and you too can have your picture made with a Blue Man.

On the last at-sea day there was a Q&A session with the Blue Man Group sans the blue.  Deb attended and filled me in on all the Blue Man data, like the most marshmallows swallowed and regurgitated, but I’ll spare you.

Finally Dessert

After the show, the dessert we’d missed bubbled to the top of our priority list.  We discovered that the only place to get a dessert at that time of night was O’Sheehan’s.  There was one small problem, we’d misunderstood the directions and were looking for Oceana’s.  It took talking to several folks to figure out what we’d done wrong and what we should be looking for, but eventually we were being seated in the Bar and Grill.

Browsing the menu, the only dessert that interested anyone was the ice-cream-topped brownie.  I had no business eating a brownie.  I’d had more calories during the day than I usually have in a week, but there’s something about the sea air.  I ate the brownie, but I left the ice cream on the plate.

Loaded to the gills, all  I wanted to do was go to bed, but my crazy best friend wanted to find someplace to dance.  She went to the Bliss Lounge, but after a dance or two, the music went in some un-dance-able directron and they weren’t too far behind us on their way to deck 13.

So that’s embarkation day.  For our first full day at sea we had plans to work out around eight.  Wait until you hear about the gym.  That’s the next place we’ll go.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Norweigan Epic’s First Freestyle Fail

Deb and Joe enjoy a cocktail before dinner in Maltings
Deb and Joe enjoy a glass of champagne in Maltings before dinner in The Manhattan Room


OK – I’ve already mentioned that I was a little concerned about the whole free-style thing, but we’d been on the boat for several hours and for the most part, free-styling felt pretty much like traditional cruising.

Lobster Night Chaos

After the sail-away we returned to our stateroom and did our first dressing dance.  Then we met our friends and rode the elevator down to Deck 7.  The elevator doesn’t go to Deck 6 where the the restaurant is.  Deb speculated that it was to force you to go through the casino, but since the casino’s on six, I never figured out the logic.  Anyway, we went down a flight of stairs and entered chaos.

According to the Q&A section of Norwegian’s website, the first night is lobster night in the main dining rooms, so we didn’t want to miss it.  Apparently, no one else did either.  We showed up about 8 PM with two hours to spare before our reservations for the Blue Man Group, but that just showed how green we were to free-style.  You’re free to do everything except show up for dinner at the main dining room and expect a seat.

Deb and Joe stood in line for Manhattan, while Bill and I rushed down to Taste to see if it was any more likely we’d get a table there.  We might have been slightly better off at Taste, but when we returned to discuss it with our friends. they’d gotten one of the restaurant buzzers that let’s you wander around in the vicinity of a restaurant and they’d gotten coupons for free champagne.  Our concerns took a back seat to the champagne.

We found Maltings, a whiskey tasting bar,  and enjoyed the free champagne.  Nearby, a crooner strummed a guitar and played old folk favorites, but once the champagne was gone, we heard the clock counting down to Blue Man.  We tromped back downstairs and Deb did the honors.  Her reward was a finger-wagging scolding from the hostess for returning before the buzzer summoned us.  We were obviously failing at freestyle, but before we could contemplate the enormity of our sin, the buzzer went off and all was forgiven.

We were shown to our seats and before too long a waitress showed up.  When Deb let her know we had to be out of there in time for Blue Man, the waitress gave us another lesson in free-style.  Seems we really shouldn’t book a show after dinner, if we plan on eating in one of the main dining rooms.  They don’t tell you that on the website, but our waitress was quick to fill us in.  The show was still an hour and a half away, but she behaved as if we’d asked for the moon.

Dinner in the Manhattan Room
Dinner in the Manhattan Room

For starters, Bill got a shrimp something, Deb got salmon tartare and I got a salad.  (I was still hoping I wouldn’t fall completely off the food wagon.)  Deb and Bill loved their’s, but whoever washed the lettuce for my salad failed to dry it off.  My Caesar Salad was watery and also very heavy on the anchovies.

Then the surf and turf arrived and our mood improved, but my steak was gristlely and the lobster was small.  I wished I’d copied Bill and double-ordered lobster to replace the steak.  It wasn’t the end of the world and it looked like we’d have plenty of time to make the show – until we ordered dessert and waited and waited and waited and…

As we waited we compared notes on cruising and Epic was not coming out ahead.  The dinner-time mob scene had been disconcerting.  We’d have gladly traded our free champagne for an assurance we’d make it to the show.  Then someone mentioned the entertainment.  To one side of the Manhattan stage, sat a lone man playing a guitar.  We could barely hear him, but we think he was playing Beatles songs. We hoped we weren’t seeing Epic’s best foot forward.  We’d been expecting more.

Finally, about five minutes before curtain, I announced we’d have to forego dessert.  We hightailed it to the other end of the deck to the Epic Theater and found mediocre seats moments before the lights went down.  How was The Blue Man Group?  Find out next week!