Saturday, January 16, 2010

At Sea 12/10/09

I literally slept all day long. I don't think I have ever been that sick and tired in my entire life. I woke up just a few times when Natashia was coming in and out of the room, but for the most part, I was out cold. I did manage to stomach about 12 saltine crackers and some ginger ale, but my stomach was still hurting quite a bit, so I just stayed in bed. I was pretty disappointed to miss a few things that day, like brunch at Le Bistro with Chad and Scott (although I heard it was the exact same food that is served in all the other restaurants, just in a fancier setting), the guest talent show (they did play it over and over on TV later...after hearing some if it while I was in and out of conciousness, I wasn't too disappointed that I missed it!), a meet and greet with Il Divo Fourever (heard it was too crowded to even get close enough to talk to them), the towel folding demonstration (learning to make swans and monkeys and dinosaurs!), and the Cruise Critics Farewell Dinner. I think the dinner with all of our new friends is what I missed the most. However, this particular day was the worst day in terms of the weather and the movement of the ship. There was a storm, complete with thunder and lightning. The few times I got up that day and looked out the window, I could not see more than 50 to 100 feet from the side of the ship! Visibility was horrible, and the ship was rocking and creaking as usual! For that reason, I was glad I slept all day and straight into the night!

At Sea 12/9/09

The sea was very rough all night! The worst it had been the whole trip...30 foot waves and winds at 95 knots (over 100 mph!). We slept until about 11:00am, and it felt great! At about 11:30, Chad and Scott called and invited us to join them for lunch in the Grand Pacific Dining Room. We met them at 12:15pm, had a nice lunch, and then they took us to Cagney's for dessert and cappuccino's! It was delicious! After lunch, we wandered the ship a bit and then decided we would try our hands at bowling! We headed to Bliss Ultra Lounge and got our lane, our bowling shoes, and bowling balls. The rocking of the ship made for a very interesting game! Our scores were very low as the ship threw many of our balls into the gutter...but I won!!! We found out later that we could have had bumpers put up, but I think it was more fun this way! At one point, Chad jokingly asked the attendant if we could ask the captain to stop the ship while we bowled! Haha!

After bowling, we took a swing through the Casino. Natashia did really well and doubled her winnings, but poor Chad went from $100 down to $.03!!! From the casino windows, we also had a great view of the incredible waves outside!

At 5:00pm, we went to Bar City for trivia. Again, it was a popular place since it was one of the most stable spots on board. After trivia, we said goodbye to the boys for a bit and went to our cabin to get ready for dinner. We had a 7:00pm reservation for the four of us at Teppanyaki, the hibachi grill. It was a fun experience, but difficult to carry on a conversation with the group since we were seated in a line. I did get to speak with a lovely older couple from Ireland...great accents!!!

After dinner, Scott was not feeling very well so he went back to his room while the rest of us went to the 9:00pm show of Il Divo Fourever. We sat with Chad in the VIP area, which was up in the boxes on the sides of the theater. It was nice, but we prefered more central seating. The theater is not huge, so there are really no bad seats. The show was average, and I couldn't help laughing at some of the "dance moves" that the guys tried to perform during their songs. They also terribly butchered a few Queen songs..."Somebody to Love" and "Bohemian Rhapsody"... which made me very sad. During the show, the boucing and shaking of the ship started to get to me a little bit, but I didn't think too much of it.

After the show, we said goodnight to Chad and went back to our room. By that time, I was not feeling well at all. I was sure it was the shrimp that I ate at dinner. I was the only one in our group to have it, and the only one who was ill. Later, we found out that there was a stomach virus going around the ship. I still am not sure exactly what it was, but no one else had any symptoms of what was supposedly a very contagious virus. Even with sharing such close quarters with Natashia, she never got sick, so I really don't think it could have been the virus. Anyway, I ended up spending most of the night with an upset stomach sleeping curled up on the cold bathroom floor. :-(
See more pictures from "At Sea" HERE

Monday, January 11, 2010

At Sea 12/8/09

Again, the time change allowed my internal alarm to wake me up bright and early at 7:00am. I felt great in the morning, thanks to the motion sickness patch! I got up and moving and went to check my email, get some breakfast, and walk around the decks to see just how bad the waves were!


I went back to the room to shower and relax a bit. Both of us got up and moving around 1:30pm and went to Garden Cafe for lunch. At 2:30pm, we went to the Crystal Atrium for a showing of a short film by Disney, "Destino." It is a collaborative work begun by Walt Disney and Salvador Dali in 1946 and never released to the public. I did find it on YouTube, so here it is for all of you to see! :-)

After the film, we were feeling a little queasy and sleepy, so we decided to go to the room to rest a little. At 4:45pm, we headed to the Spinnaker for Salsa lessons, but the ship was litterally bouncing up and down so hard, that I decided to sit the lessons out and just watch. The lessons were a bit disorganized, and they covered just the basic steps I already know, so I really didn't miss out on anything. I did get to sit with Dawn and Antohony and have a good laugh watching Natashia dance with her stalker! He had his eyes on her throughout most of the cruise!

After sitting in the rocking lounge for 45 minutes, I was feeling really nauseous. Again, we went back to the room and took a short nap until about 6:20pm. At 6:30pm, we had plans to meet Jonathan and Maureen for dinner at Tequila, the TexMex restaurant on the ship. The cover fee for Tequila is normally $10, but they were running a two for one special, so we decided to try it. We received complimentary margaritas and chips, which was nice. We all ordered fajitas, and they were pretty good! After dinner, we went right down the stairs to the Crystal Atrium. Il Divo Fourever was scheduled to perform a "sneak peek" of their show on the steps in the atrium at 8:00pm, so we thought we would go see if they were up to par with the real Il Divo. In the end, we decided they weren't horrible, but definitely not the same! The man with the longer hair (third from left) was my favorite. He was the only one who managed to consistenly sing with any kind of emotion or dynamic variance! (Although the guy on the end got sorta close sometimes!)

While we were in the lobby, I decided to grab some of the more powerful motion sickness pills available at the Guest Services desk. Even though the patch was supposedly good for three days, I think it lost some of its potency in the shower. I was desperate to not feel so woozy! We decided to brave the Spinnaker once again to go watch karaoke at 9:30pm. After karaoke hour, Andy led a game called "Quest." The audience was divided into 6 teams, each with one team leader. To play the game, Andy would call out an item and each team leader had to go through their team to find the item. The first team leader back to Andy with said item got a point! For example, one item Andy called out was a set of keys! That was definitely not easy to find! Another item Andy asked for was a man wearing a bra! It got a little R rated at this point when old ladies started stripping off their clothes to help their team! The last challenge was to dress a man entirely in women's clothing. They then had to parade around the room! That was a good laugh!

After "Quest" there was a 50s Sock Hop! We stayed and watched for a little while before heading to our cabin and collapsing into bed. Not only did the rocking of the ship make us made us so sleepy!!!

See more pictures from "At Sea" HERE

Sunday, January 10, 2010

At Sea 12/7/09

Day two on the Atlantic Ocean. Even though the sea was still pretty rough, we made it our resolution to try to stay out of our cabin as much as we could. When we got up at 8:15, we turned on the TV while we were getting ready and saw that the wave height was still very high...26.2 feet!

There was also a very nice collection of sea salt that had formed on our balcony!

We went to breakfast at the Grand Pacific. We opted for open seating and sat and chatted with with a very nice couple. They became new friends for us to bump into around the ship! After breakfast, we walked around the pool deck a bit. The pools were netted off, and the water was being slowly drained. What was still left of the water was sloshing back and forth! We joked that it was now a wave pool!

At 10:30am, we went to learn how to Cha-Cha with Charlie in the Spinnaker! There was a good turn out, and we had fun learning how to do the cha-cha. It made it even more interesting that we were all trying to keep our footing on the rocking floor!

(There weren't enough men to go around, so I had to be the boy.)

(With Charlie, our dance teacher)

After dance lessons, we went to the see the Bridge of the ship. It was really cool to see all the controls, monitors, and crew that were working around the clock to sail us in the right direction and keep us safe! They had a pretty nice view of the ocean, too!

After that, we couldn't find any planned activites that appealed to us, so we went to our cabin to rest and wash some clothes. After a while, Chad called us and invited us to come to their suite for dinner. They also invited us to come with them to the exclusive Captain's Cocktail Party later that evening! It was "Dress Up Or Not Night" on the ship, so Natashia and I decided that we would get all dolled up for the party! We went to a late lunch in the Garden Cafe, and ran into many of our new friends: Judi and Patsy, Helen and Frank, Suzanne and Barbara. Making new friends and running into them over and over is one of my favorite parts of cruising! After lunch, we went back to our cabin once again. The ship was passing by the Azores, so we watched the island of San Miguel roll by for a few minutes. It was a bit too chilly to be on the balcony, but we could see just fine through our big floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door!
At 6:00pm, we went upstairs to Chad and Scott's for dinner. They also invited Barbara and two nice women (Barbara Anne and Carole) from North Carolina they had met on an excursion.
They had quite the spread laid out for us...appetizers of cheese, fruit, and crackers, delicious champagne with strawberries, and cranberry vodka martinis! At 7:00pm, we went to make an appearance at the Captain's party. We met him and the other officers, had a drink, and sat and talked for about 45 minutes. Then, we went back to the suite for dinner. The table looked beautiful, and we even had namecards showing us where to sit!

For dessert, Chad and Scott had requested a special item not on the menu in the ship's dining rooms and restuarants...chocolate creme brulee!! It was so delicious! During dinner, we were discussing the rocky ship and sea sickness. Chad mentioned that he had some motion sickness patches, and offered one to anyone who needed it. I took him up on the offer, and Scott helped me put it on behind my ear. Right away, I noticed a difference! At 10:30pm, the other guests left, and the Fab Four went to Bliss! It was salsa night, and we had a super great time dancing and hanging out!

At 11:45pm, we all decided it was time for bed, so we said goodnight. When we got back to our cabin, there was a friendly little dinosaur waiting for us with a very important message about the overnight time change once again!

For more pictures from "At Sea" click HERE

Saturday, January 9, 2010

At Sea 12/6/09

Since we got an extra hour of sleep, my internal alarm clock woke me up nice and early at 7:30am.

Natashia decided she wanted to stay in bed a little while longer, so I decided to get out and head to breakfast to ease the rumblings in my tummy. However, my excursion was made difficult by the ship's rocking. Sitting in a restaurant at the back of the ship trying to eat while bobbing up and down did not go over so well. After a few bites, I decided I had better get back to the steady confines of my bed before those few bites made an unwelcomed reappearance! We ended up spending a lot of time in bed due to feeling a little bit seasick. We weren't alone in that! From this day until the end of the cruise, the sea only got rougher (up to 30 foot waves!) and stormier. A lot of people experienced seasickness and stayed in their cabins! It was even hard to walk...everytime you took a step in one direction, the ship would pull or toss you the opposite way! It made for some laughs, but overall, I think most of us would have prefered a smoother ride! Even the crew said this was the worst they'd had it in a long time. We tried Blue Lagoon again, this time for lunch at 1:30pm. The quality of the food seemed to be a little bit better than the first time we ate there, but nothing to get too excited about. After lunch, we went back to our cabin to settle ourselves a bit. The Wizard of Oz was the movie playing on loop for the day, so we watched a bit of that. It was funny because later that afternoon, I heard someone down the hall whistling one of the tunes from the movie! I guess since almost everyone was in their room, and there were only about 5 TV stations, we were all watching the same thing! At 5:00pm, we went to play trivia in Bar City. On our way out, we stopped to take a picture with our room stewards, Joseph and Cris! They were tons of fun and always so happy to see us, even though they told us they weren't feeling that great, either!

It felt a bit steadier during trivia in Bar City since it was in the center of the ship. Our team won!! The prize was another Norwegian Cruise Line pen, so I decided to pass my prize on to someone else. :-) At 6:00pm, we met the Cruise Critic group for dinner in La Cucina. Snorklin' Barb, aka Barbara Bush (yes, that is her real name!!) was the organizer of the event, and she did a great job! The restaurant was closed down just for us (I think there were over 100 of us there!) and we had a special menu with complimentary appetizers and wine. I think everyone really enjoyed the dinner, although there were so many of us, I did not get to talk to everyone! I tried to take some pictures, but, again, the ship was bouncing so much that it was hard to steady myself enough to get a good shot.

After dinner, we wanted to try and stay out and about so we didn't end up sleeping the whole day away. We walked around, and ran into Jonathan and Maureen! It was so much fun bumping into people all the time! It was like a floating mini-city where you get to know all of your neighbors! Jonathan and Maureen said they had been in bed all day, too, and were not feeling so great. On top of everything else, Jonathan said he had suffered from a pretty bad case of food poisoning the night before! We had planned on going to the show that night (it was an encore of The Second City improv group...we were really looking forward to seeing it), but just the thought of the rocking we would have felt sitting in the Stardust Theater (at the very front of the ship) made us nauseous. So, we decided to take some motion sickness pills and call it a night!

See more pictures from "At Sea" HERE

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Granada 12/5/09

On our last day on land in Europe, we woke up at 6:00am. We went to breakfast at the Garden Cafe, and then went to meet our tour group in the Stardust Theater at 8:00am. We met up with our old friends, Judi and Patsy, as well as new friends, Helen, Frank, and Lorraine on the bus from Malaga to Granada. We really enjoyed spending time and getting to know all of them on this excursion! We drove about an hour and a half through the mountains to our destination. We passed groves of Olive trees and drove through the middle of clouds!
On the way to Granada, we made an inexplicable pit stop at a restaurant/souvenir shop. We weren't really sure why we stopped when the drive was relatively short. With such a packed itinerary, we didn't think an unecessary stop would be the most productive way to spend our time. When we got to Granada, we went on a short driving tour through the city. It was really hard to see anything through the bus windows, and I was sad that we didn't really get to see the Cathedral aside from a quick drive-by with limited visibilty. I would definitely love to go back and see more of Granada someday. We kept climbing through the mountains, and finally arrived at the Alhambra. We met our guide, Carlos (very cute!), and started our walk through the gardens at Generalife. The gardens were pretty with the tall trees and hedges, but I'm sure it is much prettier in the spring and summer when the trees and flowers are in bloom. The view over the main palace and the city was also very pretty.

We walked through the palace at the Generalife, and then started to head for the Palace of Charles V. Before we went to the palace, Carlos let us have a brief restroom break. Natashia and I made use of the time by taking silly pictures, of course!

(With Carlos!)

When we got to the palace, it was really hard to keep up with Carlos (one woman put a glove on top of her cane and held it in the air to help everyone find the group if they got separated!), hear everything he was saying, and take pictures at the same I opted for the pictures! I'm sure I could have learned a lot and probably enjoyed the tour more if I had been able to hear all the history of the Alhambra, but I also wanted to get some good pictures.

The architecture was pretty, however, after a couple of hours of going room to room (most of which looked an awful lot alike), Natashia and I were ready to be done with it and move on the next part of our excursion. Finally, it was time to go. We left Carlos and reboarded our bus back to the center of Granada. We went to a hotel where there was a huge buffet style lunch set up for all of us. It was a bit hectic at first, but once we got situated, we enjoyed the food and complimentary wine! They had some traditional Spanish dishes, as well as some American favorites. I was brave and tried some of the Spanish food, but I prefered the more familiar stuff (sorry, Raquel! ;-P). After lunch, while we were waiting for our bus to come around and pick us up, we noticed it was getting pretty late. We asked our guide if we were going to make it to the Albaycin. The Albaycin is the old Moorish part of town. It is set up on a hill opposite the Alhambra, and gives great views of the city and the Sierra Nevada mountains. According to our excursion description, we were supposed to go there for a short tour and photo stop. But, our guide said he did not even know that we were supposed to go there! We were pretty upset. Going to the Albaycin was one of the main reasons we chose this tour over others...and it was not cheap!! We had a pretty view of the Albaycin from the Alhambra, but it was not the same as being there!
Our drive out of the city gave us some really nice views of the snowy Sierra Nevada!
Ok, so some of you may have heard stories, but on the bus ride back to Malaga, while most people were napping peacefully, Natashia and I got a little silly! (Shocking, I know!) In our delirium, we took a series of incriminating photographs...I won't post any here, but if you scroll to the bottom of this entry, you will find a link to an album with all my pictures from the day. View at your own risk! Hahaha! We arrived back on the ship at 6:00pm. Along with Judi, we decided to go to the excursion desk to inquire about why our tour was cut in half. We were hoping for a bit of a refund, but were told we would have to wait a day or two before we could get an answer. Jumping ahead a few days, the first remedy that was proposed was the offer of Norwegian t-shirts. Needless to say, we were absolutely not thrilled with that idea. Judi took it upon herself to talk with Prem, one of the officers on the ship. Prem said that he would gladly get us a 10% refund on cost of the tour. It wasn't much for missing half of the excursion, but at least it was something. He said the refund should show up on our account within a couple days. We kept checking our account a couple times a day, and noticed that the charge had only gone down one cent. Finally, Natashia and I went back down to the excursion desk to fix the situation once and for all. The man we were talking to said that it showed the full 10% refund on his screen and that he didn't know why it wasn't showing up for us. He turned his monitor around so we could see what he was looking at, and I immediately noticed what the problem was...they had raised the price of our excursion $20 before issuing the discount so that it would still break even!!! We couldn't believe they would have done such a thing just to keep their money! Did they not think we would check on it?!?! Anyway, we definitely made sure it was put back to the original price and then discounted. Whew! So, back to the day at hand...after our visit to the excursion desk, we decided to wander the ship a little. These are two of my favorite pictures I took of the pool deck!

We ended up in the Spinnaker Lounge. We found a comfy seat and watched the sun setting over the water at port.
The ship was delayed about an hour in leaving, presumably because there were some stragglers getting back to the ship! As I was taking pictures of the sunset, my camera battery died. I left Natashia to save our seat, and went back to our room to grab my backup battery. When I got to the room, I saw that we had a voicemail message. It was from Chad! He and Scott were feeling better and wanted to know if we were up for doing dinner! I ran back to get Natashia, we called the boys and agreed to meet at Le Bistro at 7:30pm. From the company and service to the drinks (I had 2 delicious cocktails called "Passionate Kiss," some cabernet, and an irish coffee!) and food (onion soup, beef tenderloin, potatoes, and HEAVENLY creme brulee!) right down to the Versace plates we were dining on, dinner was amazing! It was a leisurely meal, taking about three hours. I missed seeing the Rock of Gibraltar as we passed, but, considering it was dark anyway, I think it was worth it! After dinner, Chad and Scott invited us up to their Garden Villa Suite for an exclusive tour. All I can say is that it was almost 5000 square feet of incredible!
After a little while, the boys decided it was time to go to the Casino to play the quarter pushing machine (haha, I don't know what it's really called!) and to the Champagne Bar for another drink (a yummy fruity martini)!

Chad was getting sleepy, so we went upstairs to put him to bed, and Natashia and I got to try out the fabulous massage chair in their suite! Then, Scott, Natashia, and I went to Bliss for a little bit before heading to our respective rooms for bedtime! When we got to our room, we received the first of six notices to turn our clocks back one hour that night. I definitely have to say that the gradual, 6 day change back to U.S. Eastern Time was very nice considering the jet lagged alternative!

See more pictures from "Granada 12/5/09" HERE