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John Fern

Age: 47

Occupation:machine operator

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Jewel

Sailing Date: February 12th, 2006

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL Jewel Cruise Review
Eastern Caribbean

John Fern

It was a little disheartening to see the weather was cloudy and cool in Miami when we arrived, but we were prepared to roll with any of the little things that didn’t go our way. When we got to the embarkation, we found our way to the Latitudes line, but were only there a short time before someone pulled us out and put us in the US citizens line.

Both seemed to move at the same pace. I can’t remember exactly how long it took, but I’m guessing it couldn’t have been more than half an hour to 45 minutes.

We found the Jewel to be a beautiful ship, and walked around in awe of the architecture and design, and were not disappointed in the balcony room we had on the 10th deck.

Of course the bathrooms are still small, but they’ve made a much bigger shower on the Jewel than the Sun, the ship we cruised on last year.

Our luggage arrived around five, which had me a little concerned before it got there, but they tell you that 7:00 is the deadline. We did the emergency life jacket training, and this time they did actually check to see who showed up, unlike on the Sun the year before.

We wandered into the casino the first day, and sat down at a couple of machines. Most of our money was already in the room safe, so my wife took out a twenty, and I fished a five out of my pocket. We are not gamblers and this was one of those rare occasions when we play the slots.

I figured my five would last longer if I only bet one credit at a time, and this turned out to be a colossal mistake. Three symbols came up in a row on the bottom.

“Hmmmm,” I thought. “I wonder what those would have won.” I followed the little chart over to the third row where it said, “Progressive.” I don’t know what the jackpot was, and I don’t ever want to know, but I did see the photos of some of the big winners and what their cash prizes were and figured it may have been a nice chunk of change.

This horrible incident proved to be an omen as to how the week would end.

Since the seas were a little rough, we noticed the ship creaked. I chalked it up to being new, and maybe it had to settle like houses. It wasn’t bad, except at night, when it was more noticeable. It reminded me of a dead oak tree blowing in the wind, or a Clint Eastwood western, with someone swinging from the gallows. Of course it stopped while in port, and went away altogether when the seas were calmer on the way home.

I can’t comment on the excursions, since we decided to keep our expenses down this time around. Usually we just went into town, and walked around, checking out the stores, shops, and maybe a taxi ride to a beach or to see the area.

By the time we made it back to the ship, we were spent anyway, so we rested and then walked around the ship while most everyone else was still gone.

One expense that is well worth the money was the sky ride at St. Thomas. We paid $38.00 for the two of us to ride to the top, and then spent most of the day checking out the view, buying souvenirs, and climbing the trails that take you higher up. When you’re ready, you take the ride back down.

One word of caution about that area. As we were walking toward the sky ride, there’s a long sidewalk where these guys who are trying to get you to a timeshare type meeting swoop down. The way there, the first guy kept hounding us as we walked along, with me just saying: “No, thank you. No thank you,” over and over.

He didn’t leave until we had reached a populated area.

On the way back, another started in, and kept it up relentlessly. When he finally left, another one came out of nowhere and started up. They are very aggressive, and at one point, I thought he was getting mad because I just kept saying, No thank you to all his questions about where we’re from.

I’m not sure what organization they are affiliated with, but they will ask if you want to go to the Blue Pirate, or see a castle or something like that. I almost thought it would have been worth taking a taxi just to avoid these jerks.

We went to all the shows at night, and in my opinion, they were mostly entertaining. Or, at least they started out that way, and kind of fizzled. The Second City comedy thing started out with some pretty funny skits about being on board, but many reminded me of what we used to do in junior high school. We always got our seats on the end so we could sneak out a few minutes before the show finished, because if you leave when everyone else does, you will not get an elevator for a long time. Also, if you do get there early enough to get a seat on the end, you get a lot of exercise getting up and down for everyone else that comes later and want to get into your row. The place fills up fast.

The only show I really enjoyed from beginning to end was the comedic juggler, Charles Peachock. Don’t miss this guy! Most of the other shows are a lot of flash and glitter, talented dancers, and gymnasts and acrobats. There is one guy who kept appearing at all the Broadway type shows. He didn’t have much dancing ability, and his singing was kind of annoying. He was the main attraction the first night, and reminded me of Arnold Horseshack from the old Welcome back Kotter show. We figured he’s somebody’s nephew.

All week long during the shows, I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to get on that stage!”

I entered the talent show last year on the Sun, and for this year, I was re-writing an old Beach Boys song: “The Sloop John B.” so it would be a satirical song about when the vacation was over, since the passenger talent contest is usually held at the end of the trip.

For those who are unfamiliar with the song, the last line of the chorus goes: “I wanna go home,” which I had changed to “I don’t wanna go home.” Pretty clever, huh?

This time around, I was going to have my wife record it on a small camcorder, and we went to Karaoke at Fyzies bar so she could practice with it.

This place was a blast. Sometimes people would be more than a little inebriated when they took the stage, but it was fun to see. I was disappointed that they didn’t move the Karaoke to different places like they did on the Sun.

When the day came to sign up for the talent show, my wife and I went to the Star Bar to enter. The deal was that the band had to have the music for the song you wanted, and hopefully your song would be in their music books. I figured finding the music for the Beach Boys song I was going to sing (with my own lyrics) would be a breeze. On the Sun, they had a book with popular songs that was the size of a phone book with every conceivable song you could imagine.

When I asked the music director for the book, he said they didn’t have that one. What they did have was a book for: Broadway shows, Jazz, Latin, and Country, and none of them were going to have my Beach Boys song. I was almost ready to settle for a country song, when the music director said if I could download the music off the Internet, and print it out, that would work.

The problem with that is that the majority of the times I used the Internet café, it ran veeeeeeeeeerrrrrrry sloooooooooowly, and would have cost me a fortune just to find the music, and print it out.

He then told me if I could write my words and chords down, and make 6 copies for the band; I wouldn’t need the sheet music.

So, I figured out the chords in my head and wrote out the lyrics, then made the copies. We went to dinner at Azura’s, saw the show in the Stardust, and did one last night of practice singing in front of a crowd. (Sorry to those who had to hear “Lodi” and “When I’m 64” over and over)

That reminds me, for those of you wondering about the restaurants. We only ate at two of them. Mamma’s kitchen, and Azuras. Both were pleasant and the food was good. Most of the time we ate in Garden Café. It can get crowded, but we always found a place, and all in all, the food and desserts were good. I love the cappuccino machines they had, and miss them now that I’m home.

The last day (in the port of Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas) I saw a beautiful sunrise from the balcony listening to my mini-disc player when my wife was just getting up.

Some of you may know where this is going, if you read a previous post of mine.
“I don’t feel good,” she said. “I’ve been going to the bathroom a lot while you’ve been out on the balcony.”

She usually takes Imodium for a problem like this, but didn’t bring any with. I told her I would run down to the ship’s store and get some. When I arrived, there was a sign saying it was closed while in port. I went back to the room, and she wasn’t getting any better.

From the looks of the island, it didn’t seem like they would have any there, and the tenders were taking a long time.

I went to the reception desk to ask if perhaps they had anything like that available. It’s an over the counter drug, so I figured it was worth a shot. They suggested calling the ship’s nurse, which I did. She said they have it, but they couldn’t give any out until they saw my wife.

We went down to their little medical office next to the gangway where mobs of people were boarding the tenders. The nurse had my wife fill out a form before the doctor would see her. When she was done, we could see the doctor working on his computer, and seemed to be in no hurry to see us.

Finally, he called us in, and after a quick exam (poked her in the stomach) said it wasn’t food poisoning. I told him that she sometimes gets this at home and takes Imodium. He left and returned with some of the tablets in a small bag, and gave it to her. And then added….

“Because it may be viral, you and anyone else staying in your cabin will have to be quarantined for 24 hours.”
The world seemed to stand still as the sound of that word echoed into every recess of my brain. It was such an ugly, scary, official sounding word: Quarantined.
“But…we leave tomorrow,” I said.
“I know,” he replied, with all the personality of a soap dish.
There was no compassion in his words, and he was so matter-of-fact about it all.
“I’m signed up for the talent show tonight,” I said. I don’t know why I thought passing this little tidbit of information along would make any difference to him. Did I really think he was going to say, “Well, bust my buttons! Why didn’t you say so? Of course you can go to the show!”
Instead, he said nothing.
“Is a quarantine really necessary?” I asked.
“It’s policy,” he said, and instructed us to use room service for anything we need.

We left the office, stumbling past the gangway as my talent show dream shattered like a crystal wine glass on a cement sidewalk. When we got back to the room, my wife kept apologizing. At first, I started raving about all the things she did bring, but neglecting the Imodium that could have prevented all this, but then realized it was just one of those things that came back to bite us. I reassured her that I did not blame her for this. It was nothing she did or didn’t do; it was just bad circumstances, and our ignorance on NCL policy.

The Imodium made her tired, and she lay down to nap. I stood out on our balcony watching the tenders head toward the island. The ship had swayed so now I could see the beautiful beach filled with people.

I felt like the little crippled boy sitting in his wheelchair at his living room window, watching the other kids going off to play baseball.

I tried to scrape the positives together in a little pile: It was a gorgeous day, and we were in a nice balcony room with a great view. We had books, a portable DVD player with movies, and room service. The latter of the three would prove to more of a negative for any of you who have had the pleasure of room service food. (I don’t know how the kids on board choke down that pizza or what their idea of a cheese sandwich is.)

I love my wife dearly, and was glad she had what she needed, and was resting comfortably, but I couldn’t help but think about sneaking out and going to the rehearsal. Then later, I would have to sneak off to the show and perform.

Of course, I’m too much of a straight arrow to ever follow through. Besides, what if the doctor was sitting in the front row, and not be all that thrilled that I had chose to ignore his quarantine. Maybe I would be taken away in handcuffs and thrown into the ship’s brig. Maybe the authorities in Miami would be waiting for me on the pier, and I would make the front page of the Miami Herald with the headline: “CRUISE PASSENGER PUTS ENTIRE SHIP AT RISK IN ORDER TO SING AT TALENT SHOW,” along with a picture of me holding my trophy.

No, the best and only thing to do was to accept the inevitable, and ride this one out. Which is what we did. We ate the bad food, watched movies and read our books. Before the night ended, we packed our suitcases and put them out before the 2:00 AM deadline.

We both felt better about everything by morning, but the whole thing left a cloud over our heads that followed us to the airport, onto the plane, and back home.

I think it finally left after we unpacked and sat back in our living room. It was so good to be home, and as each day has passed, I’m recollecting more of the fun and laughs we had instead of the last day.

Especially when looking back over our photos and videos, we are aware that we did have a good trip, in spite of what happened.

I don’t really blame NCL for the policy, but I do feel enacting the quarantine for both of us was hardly an effective measure on a ship where germs and viruses run rampant. Whenever we fly, we always hear someone with a bad cough or cold. Many times they’re boarding the same ship with those germs, and nobody is going to quarantine them.

It’s also very obvious that many choose to ignore the hand sanitizers, and then are using the same handrails, elevator buttons, door handles, and slot machines.

This includes the crewmembers, especially the waiter we had at Azura’s who was fighting a cold while he took our order. People tend to let things like this go, but if I thought for one second that she caught something from him, I would have grabbed my wife and run out of there, and perhaps our vacation would have ended on a much higher note.

It wasn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened, but I think it’s something that everyone who takes a cruise should be aware of. I had no idea how helpless and confined you really are on a ship if something like this happens, and how easy it is for a doctor to make that decision based on an uncertain diagnosis.

Update:

I’ve since discovered that the doctor won the talent show. He obviously knew I would beat him if I was allowed to enter, and saw his perfect opportunity to keep me out. I heard he did a rousing rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot.” A sure-fire crowd pleaser. Wait till next year. They haven’t seen the last of me.
I’ll be back.

 

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