August 11, 2008

All Ashore.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:13 pm

All eleven of the Cruisin’ Usuals arrived back in New York City yesterday after a week of overeating, overdrinking, overspending, overpartying and undersleeping. Everyone started/resumed their diets, effective today.

Last Sunday, we assembled in the morning at the home of Ken, the Bodyguard and the Deckmistress to await the arrival of the chartered bus that would take us to the pier in New York. Of course, there were cocktails. We started out being veddy, veddy civilized by drinking Mimosas.

After five bottles of champagne were gone, we learned that the bus would be arriving a half hour later than had been anticipated.

Whatever shall we do? Simple. Break out the orange-flavored vodka with appropriate mixers (white and red cranberry juices mixed approximately two to one – our new summer drink) and a bottle of chocolate vodka. The bus driver was greeted by eleven very happy peeps, primed to experience “Freestyle” cruising (I’m sure you’ve seen the very clever TV ads).

Boarding the ship was a bit of a pain in the ass, given the long line of people waiting to board, too many of whom looked like this may have been their first vacation to anyplace other than Coney Island or the Jersey Shore (considerably more than a few sported pants hung just slightly north of their sharonas and sideways flat-brimmed baseball caps – and, yes, there was lots of “big hair”). The presence of this category of passengers prompted one of the Usuals to note that cruising may have become “too affordable.”

Freestyle, baby!

Our prior five or six cruises to Bermuda had always been with Celebrity Cruise Lines, and it became immediately apparent that the “Freestyle” thing was something we would have to adjust to. Yes, as promised, in addition to the two regular dining rooms and a huge buffet room (which was more like a cafeteria than a dining room and which attracted the serious multi-helping grazers), there were several specialty restaurants on the ship.

The specialty restaurants (e.g. Italian, French, Cagney’s Steak House, Mexican and Asian) all require an advance reservation, which depending on the timing was sometimes a bit of a hassle. (Special shout out to daughter, who managed the reservation morass for all of us). In addition, all of the specialty restaurants required an additional per-person cover charge which ran as much as $25.00 per person, which tended to keep out the sideways baseball hat crowd. Even though “freestyle” dining was perhaps more of a pain in the ass than it was worth, no matter where one ate, the food was always good.

Because everything (and I mean everything) was subject to a 15% “auto-gratuity,” the service was not at the same level that we experienced on previous cruises. We regularly added to the “auto-gratuity” for particularly good service, but I suspect that most people do not, and the service showed it. We did manage to attract the attention of an enterprising young waiter at the pool bar who broke his ass to see that our glasses were never empty. Needless to say, he had a good week.

Of course, none of the foregoing stopped us from having a helluva time. We saw some exceptionally talented entertainers, and I believe we did all the bars. In addition, most of us spent a fair amount of time getting dusted in the casino: I know I did (Oy! Don’t ask!), and I know that Mrs. Parkway did as well (Oy! I didn’t ask!).

All in all, it was a great week, even though “Freestyle” cruising is not something we’re likely to do again.

NOTE: A special thanks to Teresa for her excellent posts while I was away. Of course, Thanks (I think) to the Wiseass Jooette who couldn’t resist the opportunity to place my Great Farookin’ Hair atop the cruller of a fatass cat from Jersey. OK, I admit it. It was funny as hell.

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