Wednesday, June 04, 2008

St. George's Dream Part Two - St. George's Reality

It's a calm day at sea as we travel from Bermuda to Boston. Yesterday we were leaving a mostly overcast St. George, a port we were intended to reach on our first cruise, but didn't make it in until our third. Later this afternoon we'll have the first Starseekers of the season, and tonight I'll cap off this cruise by spitting water at people dressed in bedsheets. It's all another day at the office here on board the Norwegian Dream.

A couple of cruises have gone by since we last spoke, and not to sound like an ungrateful Betty, but not a whole hell of a lot has happened, especially on land. You'll recall a few pictures from our alternate Bermudian port, Hamilton, from my first letter out. Our second cruise had much the same weather as our first, with the crossing to Bermuda windy and tumultuous. That sea night we performed two rocky Rock This Town's, and afterwards the cast consensus was to change the running order of the shows for the following week. I guess it can be difficult to dance, do back hand springs, or lift somebody in the air with one hand and catch them in another... as long as the ship doesn't keel over, I'll just stand in a wide second.

Our second cruise to Hamilton was identical to the first, in that we saw very little sunlight and a good amount of rain. It certainly didn't make me want to get off the ship, and none of us really did that much. We did discover the Mariner's Center a short walk away from the ship, which offers the all important free wi-fi, and at least while it's raining continues to be the most popular spot for the crew to hang at.

Fedé, my buddy in the Shore Ex Department, did take some of us out on a sunset catamaran trip. When we got to the boat, the skies were dark and cloudy... it didn't look so much like rain as it did an evening trip without a sunset. But hey, when you have a never ending glass of rum swizzels, who really gives a damn about the sun anyway? But we got lucky as the evening waned on, and the sun soon appeared as it set under the clouds. Here are some pictures:

Here is the catamaran we took. There were a handful of pax on board with us. They mostly sat in the back, and us crew hung out on the front.

Fedé and Emma, hanging loose.

The sun finally broke through the clouds.

When we got back it was almost two hours later. We had a performance of Country Gold in a little over an hour, so we started to head back towards the Dream, stopping once to take a picture.

And aside from our sunset sail, there wasn't much happening in Hamilton that week. Our cross back to Boston marked the first calm sea day we'd had since boarding on May 9th. Fortunately, the days at sea since then have been equally uneventful, and as I look out the window sitting here in Lucky's, all I see are blue skies and a flat horizon.

Our days in Boston have been a nice break from the rainy monotony of Bermuda. We actually left nicer weather in Boston our first two Bermuda cruises, much to the dismay of our paying guests. The subway is a short bus ride to the terminal building, so we pretty much have all of the city within our reach. I've spent most of my time in an area which has a lot of shopping, and is close to a large park and a couple of extremely old cemeteries. An ironic feeling of relief washes over me as I walk around the city... there isn't any rain, and there are lots of people lounging on the grass enjoying a warm spring day. Our last trip up brought us to Newberry Street, which has a whole lot of boutique stores and small cafés. It was here that I reached one of my goals for this cruise:

Here I am kicking back a Sam Adams Summer Brew in Boston... Dammit.

Speaking of Boston, we had an interesting E mail come in a few days before. Turns out the BPC (We're guessing that stands for the Border and Port Control; although Bacon, Pickles and Cheese doesn't sound so bad either.) wants crew off the ship first thing. Usually we have to wait for most of the pax to disembark, which only gives us a few hours in Boston. With this new system, our window for getting off the ship is from 8:00 to 8:15. Now we have more time off the ship to enjoy the day. Of course, nothing is open 'till after ten anyway, but we can crowd the door until they do. Here are some random pictures of Boston:

Newberry Street

Random fountain in front of seemingly important building in a park that I am sure everyone reading knows the name of, except for me...

Art imitating life? Life imitating art?

So after a day of shopping, and a couple pints of beer to accompany a big ol' hamburger, it was back on the ship for week three of our Bermudian season. On the way over, the sea was calm once again, so we were all wondering if we'd get to see St. George's this cruise. Rumor had it that we were actually going this time around. Imagine my surprise when I awoke the following morning, opened the curtains, and caught my first glimpse of Belize... Wouldn't that have been nuts? So, we made it to St. George's.

I caught the sail in right as we were entering the cut. True to what I had heard, it was an even narrower passage than entering Hamilton.

We shared our small bay with the Norwegian Majesty, an even smaller ship than us who is headed for the same fate as the Dream.

In case I never mentioned it, St. George's is a small island in the North East tip of the Bermuda island chain. When I first got off the ship, I grabbed a map, which has several points of interest for the tourist to visit, including several beaches; the only thing I could not find listed was a ratio of inches to miles. With the ship docked on the south side of the island, and the closest beach, Tobacco Bay, on the north side, I made my way towards the beach. It took me 15 Minutes to reach the beach from the moment I started my walk away from the ship... This island is small.

There are three beaches listed on the map, and they are all within a quarter mile of each other on the northern shore. Around the corner from Tobacco Bay is Gates Bay, which is a longer stretch of sand and water that is next to St. Catherine's Fortress, which at the moment is closed to the public, but is pretty much an old stone wall fort with huge rusty cannons rotting away along the shore. On the other side of the fortress is the third beach, Achilles Bay, very small and secluded, with very little room for people. Below is a picture of Tobacco Bay, and following that is a picture of Gates Bay.

My time in St. George's was spent going to the beach, and coming back to the ship. I jogged once, went for a walk around the city... nothing monumental. One night Fedé invited us to a party being held on a local boat that was docked out near the Majesty. The boat was more or less a two story flat deck affair, with an open bar at one end, and countless drunk crew members taking up the rest of the space. We had gotten there fairly early, and were welcomed by several drunk representatives from different departments of the two NCL ships.

We weren't there an hour before people started stripping down to their underwear and jumping from the top deck into the freezing water below. Back on the boat, our Russian dancer, Victor, was feeling particularly amorous... becoming sort of traveling Russian kissing booth, pouncing on his unsuspecting victims with a kiss on a cheek that would eventually move towards the mouth like... well... like a drunk Russian... no sly metaphors here. The evening ended with more drinking, jumping into the water, and a healthy mix of tropical rain... Next week they will charge a little more for the drinks, but I am sure the water will feel just as cold.

Things on the Dream are interesting, and if you can believe it, different. At the moment we have a whole bunch of suits from NCL HQ on board to check on the state of the union on our smelly little home away from home. Even though the Dream is taking a dirt nap later this year, it is still being included in NCL's big changes. NCL is upgrading it's Freestyle to... wait for it... Freestyle 2.0 (no kidding), and things on this ship are changing, let alone the idea of Freestyle on the entire fleet. Pretty much everywhere I go, I see one of a handful of people walking around with department heads and writing things down on official NCL stationary.

So, what's different? Well, everyone is tense, that's for sure. I mean, not me... while I would welcome a fresh set of sequins on my teal colored pants, I live my life on board with the realistic notion that ain't nothing gonna change in my office... although we do have a meeting this evening with one of the suits... Anyway, the biggest difference I've seen thus far is in the Sport's Bar, our little buffet afterthought located on Deck 12 Aft.

Last night I went for a bite in between Sea Legs shows. Normally, there is only one buffet line, even though we have the capacity for two. The Dream usually only has one line operating, since we understand there is nothing better than a long line of people waiting to dip their thumbs in vats of food. But someone decided that tonight we would have TWO lines of food! What a concept... Not only that, but the buckets in which the food was served were half the size... which not only made more room for variety, but also ensure a better chance at a fresher bucket... amazing. Plus, gone is the constantly repeating song such as “Love Shack,” which literally will play on a loop for an impossible amount of time. Instead, all of the TVs (in the SPORTS BAR) were tuned away from CNN to ESPN (in the SPORTS BAR) and for once were taken off of mute so you could hear the sports you were watching (IN THE SPORTS BAR). That, my friends, is Service, Teamwork, and Yes Leading to Excellence Two Point Friggin' Oh.

Plus, last night the Captain hosted a deck party which was open to all pax and CREW. Huh? This is the same Captain that doesn't allow any music in the Observatory after midnight... the same Captain that never socializes with the pax or takes pictures, the same Captain that has never, until the suits came on board, delivered a farewell speech to the audience after my stirring rendition of “Home Away From Home” (the other Captains do). No, this Captain is a homebody, and if I ever get a picture of him, you'd agree that he looks just like Andy Griffith... a tall Norwegian Andy Griffith.

So, out of the blue (it wasn't even in the Freestyle Daily) the Captain hosts a deck party so the pax can mingle with all the crew, who were attending with the promise of free booze. Plus, the Chocoholic Buffet was also being offered at the party. Wow, our Captain is quite the host, in theory, since I saw him there for all of five minutes. He smiled and waved from his post way off the side of the party, and then, like a ninja, disappeared into the night. The party was a lot of fun, with dancing, chocolate, and pretty decent weather. Here is a picture of the party, as it was winding down.

Later that night I was leaving the party, walking forward on deck 12 towards the gym to get back in the ship. On my way, I discovered the remains of the Chocoholic buffet. Want to see what hundreds of pounds of uneaten chocolate dessert looks like?

So, the party was a big success... another direct effect of this new fangled Freestyle 2.0. However, I am reserving my full belief of all these changes until next week when all the suits leave. Sure, things are great now... but come on, seriously, the Dream is an old ship who is set in her ways... do you really believe that she's gonna want to change things around just because some seemingly important people come on board and start pointing at this and changing that.. I don't think so either. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

So, next week, I expect the lines in the Sports Bar to extend out to the bow of the ship, with only one line of food to serve them, all to the soothing sounds of the same damn song being played over and over and over and over... The captain will burrow himself back in his cave on deck 11, and all the crew will be barred from ever traveling upwards of deck 2... Row! Row! Row! Row!

But whether things change around here or not, no matter if it's Freestyle, Freestyle 2.0, or any other little thing, the crew morale will remain the same. Take this next picture for example. The other day I was coming up the stairs from personnel when I came upon this. Feel free to blow up the picture and play a game of find the hidden items. How many can you find in this picture?

  1. Key Card (to room 3212)

  2. Beer Bottle (extra points for brand)

  3. Milk Carton

  4. Used Condom

  5. Crew Internet Cards (can you spot all three?)

Well, I gotta get going. I am sitting in the Stardust behind a gaggle of red hat ladies, and it's almost time for Starseekers... I think they're going to be playing kazoos! (UPDATE: They did, and it was awesome.) Life does not get any better.

Keep on Livin' The Dream,

Michael Lamendola

(With Steve, getting ready for another rousing Rock This Town)


I just got out of a meeting with one of the afore mentioned suits. He gathered all of the cruise staff, Youth Counselors, JARs, and members of the assorted bands and duos on the vessel for a talk about Freestyle 2.0, how it affects the entertainment department, and how we can implement it during future cruises. For the better part of this cruise, that's all I could hear anyone talk about... 2.0 this and 2.0 that... Freestyle 2.0 dining experiences, and Freestyle 2.0 entertainment options. Well, this fella from NCL HQ gets done telling us about how 2.0 is going to affect this ship, and how we can expedite the changes, and finishes by asking us if we have any questions. From the back of the group, a band member raises his hand and asks, after a week of hearing about NCL's Freestyle 2.0, “So, does this affect the entire fleet or just this ship?” Steve and I could not keep our cookies together. Thank you, numb nuts... you really made my day.


1 comment:

  1. Dola,
    So awesome to walk in your sea legs for a while. I just walked on my sea legs - wait, make that martini legs - through Times Square at 1am and took the 2 train which was of course running local, to my Brooklyn apartment, where I just chased down and murdered in cold blood a bastardly little cockroach trying to eat the crumbs of my morning english muffin. HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A DRUNK WOMAN TRYING TO KILL A COCKROACH!!!!!!! God I love and hate this fucking town!! Can't wait till I get to San Francisco and can chase, um,....hippies?