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Norwegian Mirrors its Ships of a City with Getaway, Miami and Latino Influence

 

When Norwegian's Getaway makes its grand entrance — Norwegian ships always do — come January in Miami, it will mirror its sister Breakaway in many ways…starting with philosophy. Breakaway is New York's ship and Getaway is Miami's ship and because they're from the same generation of the family, the features will be legendary.

So will the connection to the respective cities.

There is no mistaking that Breakaway is a New York ship — the tip-off is the Manhattan skyline and statue of Liberty, painted on the bow. On the bow of Breakaway Hullthe Getaway, it's more subtle that this is a Miami ship…perhaps because Miami has so many ships. The bow artist (Cuban-American David Le Batard) appears to have skipped the skyline and opted for the South Beach sun, water and mermaid effect.

On board, the decor will feature Miami's past, with nostalgic photos of Miami Beach in its heyday. Nostalgic photos are a specialty of Norwegian's boss, Kevin Sheehan, something that impressed us on the Epic, which might be called every city's ship. It's easy to spend an hour or more perusing them, and memories of Miami are certain to decorate the Getaway.

The same goes in the kitchens.

In the Tropicana Room, a complimentary restaurant on Deck 7, featured menu items will reflect the favor of Miami — ceviche de camaron, churrasco com chimichurri (steak), arroz con pollo. In the Flamingo Bar & Grill, a complimentary restaurant on Deck 16, Latin food will be served all day.

Of the watering holes, the Sunset Bar on Deck 8 is a Hemingway haven. The renowned author had a permanent residence in Key West, where he drank Ernest Hemingwaymany a daiquiri (it was no secret he was a heavy drinker), and one he's said to have inspired is on the menu. At the Sugarcane Bar, there is a Cuban influence — coincidentally, Hemingway also had a home in Havana — with banana leaves on the walls and mojitos on the menu. No, no cigars.

To cater to its clientele, every ship's cook pays attention to appropriate menu items. Then there are clients like us…we enjoy eating just about anything.

One of us loves Mexican food. If there was only one type of food available on earth, Mexican would be fine. The "other half" smiles and goes along with the idea, so long as it's not every day of every week of every year. And it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the lover of all Mexican offerings would have her taste buds dancing over anything with a "Latino" culinary influence.

Dancing? Can the flamenco be far behind?

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
December 8, 2013
Miami (return): St. MaartenSt. ThomasNassau
Inside: $459
Cost per day: $65
www.ncl.com

Cruise Cost…Above and Beyond

This one's especially for first-time cruisers, the people who always ask someone like us how much the cruise will cost over and above the fare.

The answer: "As much as you want."

If that sounds like a cop-out, it's not. The so-called hidden costs of cruising are almost all a matter of choice. The two that give you no choice are taxes and gratuities. Neither is included in the price that you shop for when you go looking for a cruise.

Taxes seem to depend on the departure port and, to give you a ballpark figure, generally run between $150 and $200 per person for a one-week cruise. Gratuities vary by cruise line but using $11 or $12 per day, per person, will cause you no surprise.

After that, you pick and choose.

Shore excursions can go from $30 or $40 to many hundreds, which is what you can expect to get on a small plane to look down on Alaska or land on a glacier. The other side of that is to walk ashore and do your own thing, using local transportation. In between are the "shore excursions" you can purchase on the shore.

Then there's drinking, and that doesn't mean just booze. Drink packages are available, depending on how many bottles of wine or pina coladas you anticipate consuming. There are also drink packages for soda pop, which is not free. What is free are things like fruit juices, iced tea and coffee (but not specialty coffees).

Food can be another biggie. With the influx of specialty restaurants — if you choose — you will pay $15 to $40 per person for an upscale menu and experience. On the other hand, every dining room we've been in on ships has been good to excellent…and included.

Entertainment? Some cruise lines charge for some shows, but there is often lots available with no extra charge. Bingo, bowling and casinos all come with a price tag and in most cases it will be more than you expect. However, there is lots to do on ships without paying more…lectures, cards and backgammon, a library of books.

As for being pampered, fitness classes and hair dressing and massages will cost what they cost you on land and probably more. But that's a choice. So is shopping, but isn't it always? So is the Internet. While it's getting cheaper, checking email can be a frustrating and costly venture (or ad-venture) at sea.

And if you buy those annoying photo ops getting on and off and staying on the ship, you can spend a small fortune. Or you can make your own pictures by asking a stranger to use your camera.

One estimate we've seen is that cruisers can spend an extra $200 or $300 per day, per person, on a cruise. We've never come remotely close to that, mainly because we've always tried to balance what we do and don't do.

Just like in life on land.


Norwegian Star
9 nights
June 30, 2013
Copenhagen (return): Berlin, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $44
www.ncl.com

Scaling Back on the Food Issue

So you're worried about packing five extra pounds, are you, after a just-completed holiday season of over-eating?

Relax.

"So you're going on a one-week cruise?" said the dentist, his fingers and instruments making it impossible to answer. "I went on a cruise once and I wasn't worried about putting on weight. You know what the experts say?"

Again, no answer.

"They say — and 'they' are the experts in gaining weight — that's it's physiologically impossible to add more than two pounds in one week. It's also physiologically impossible to lose more than two pounds in one week. Physiologically impossible!"

There's another reason to relax, one that didn't come from the dentist.

Cruise lines understand passenger concerns about obesity. Their menus are increasingly health-conscious. Check any dining room menu on a ship and you'll find what's low-cal, low-carb, low-fat, vegetarian, gluten-free…items marked to cater to just above everybody's dietary concerns. When we were on the Celebrity Reflection last month, on one evening's menu 16 of the 21 items were gluten-free.

Besides that, portions are smaller. You can still eat as much as you can fit down your throat, but not usually in one serving. Two main courses? Go for it. But the cruise lines have really thrown the guilt complex back at the passenger, where it should be, of course. 

Dessert? You don't have to chow-down on all the chocolate you can find because desserts are smaller, too. Sometimes, three or four bite-sized desserts is better…and better for you.

If all else fails, naturally, you can hit the gym and work it off.

Or…just take the dentist's word for it.


Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
April 30, 2013
Southampton, New York
 Inside: $749
Cost per day: $107
www.ncl.com

What's to Like About Epic

It was on the Celebrity Eclipse, somewhere crossing the Atlantic, that we heard the erudite author John Maxtone-Graham give the best answer when he was asked what his favourite cruise ship was.

"The one I'm on," he said.

Now that can be taken as a cop-out, or an evasive answer, or both. But for people who like cruising, that's kind of the way it is. Hold up your hand if you love cruising and you've ever been on a bad ship?

We haven't.

And so it is that this week we will re-introduce you to the Norwegian Epic, a massive ship that is sometimes ridiculed by cruise experts who have never seen it, let alone cruised on it. It goes without saying that we liked her, a lot, on both our one-week Epic cruises…the first of them when she was a baby, just six months old.

There is much to like about the Epic, all of it subjective of course…

We like the size, big enough to hold the town where we live but not so big that you get lost.

We like the professional entertainment, which Norwegian made a priority about the time the Epic arrived, because (a) it's high quality (b) the concepts stay the same while the performers change, and (c) if you miss a show you want to see, there's always another night.

We like the food. Yes, it's possible to have mediocre food on a cruise (the old volume-vs-quality thing) but we have tasted no mediocrity from the Epic's kitchen.

We like the variety of specialty restaurants, which are not over-priced. In seven nights, you can have specialty main courses that range from lasagne (La Cucina) to coq au vin (Le Bistro) to superb steak (Cagney's) to all meat Brazilian style (Moderno) to prawns cooked before your eyes (Teppenyaki).

We like the balcony staterooms (yes, even the smoked-glass bathrooms…okay, we're indifferent) with beds that seem larger than the norm and so many little compartments for storage that nothing goes unpacked.

We like the people, especially the servers in the restaurants. Nice people work on all cruise ships, especially in the restaurants, but there's something unique about the Epic's people and the pride they feel in their ship.

We like the ship because it's distinctive. You won't see another one like it, which suits all the cruise people who consider it something of an ugly duckling because the typical blueprint went out the window with this baby.

But we were destined to like a lot about the Epic. It is, after all, a cruise ship.


Norwegian Sun
7 nights
May 20, 2013
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, Anchorage
Inside:  $479
Cost per day: $68
www.ncl.com
 

Mais Oui! Chef Time on Wind Surf

Whenever our travels take us to Europe, we continue to have this argument…er, debate…er, discussion.

Is the food better in Italy or in France?

At various times, either one of us can be on either side of the…discussion. Now, Windstar Cruises is tempting us to do some research. As part of its $18-million fleet renovation, now just hours from completion, Windstar is introducing Stella Bistro.

This is not a woman of substantial girth, in case you were wondering, it's a "contemporary dining room with a French twist." Did we say that we loved French twists? This one is available only to passengers on the Wind Surf, which is the cruise line's flagship.

Here is the tasty description from Windstar:

"Contemporary dishes with a French flair, as exemplified by entrees such as Coquille St. Jacques Provençale, a seared, skewered scallops dish served on pappardelle and tossed with artichoke hearts, spinach and capers in a light, white wine sauce; or the Roasted Magret of duck, a duck breast and duck confit on cherry sauce paired with Parisienne potatoes and French beans...seasonings and flavors include escargots bourguignon; cream of wild mushroom soup; and goat cheese soufflé. Dessert is a decadent affair with dishes such as apple aumoniere, a combination of apples, marzipan and honey baked into a filo pastry and served in vanilla custard; or chocolate Napoleon, the famous French pastry that consists of layers of soft, creamy chocolate and praline."

They had us at "Coquille."


Carnival Splendor
17 nights
February 3, 2013
Long Beach, Cabo San Lucas, Huatulco, Puerto Quetzal, Manta, Lima, Arica, Santiago
Inside:  $949
Cost per day: $55
www.carnival.com

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