We’d never heard of repositioning cruises until a couple of years ago. They aren’t new; we just hadn’t been paying attention. These luxury liners follow the sun north in the summer and south in the winter. In the case of the Norwegian Getaway, that’s a two week Atlantic crossing from Copenhagen to Miami.
To keep the one-way trip from being a financial loss, the companies dangle a deeply discounted fare to prospective cruisers. It’s a pretty attractive carrot. We took the bait. We weren’t alone. This mammoth vessel accommodates 5,000 passengers; we sailed with only 4,000.
Frankly, the thought of being “cabined and confined” for fourteen days didn’t appeal to me. What would I do for so long, especially since we’d be stopping only twice during the crossing? There’s lots to do if you’re into gambling and frequenting the bars and lounges. We don’t do either. (It’s not that Joy and I are too moral to indulge; it’s that I’m too cheap.)
Still, we were never bored or restless. At-sea days are perfect for reading and ‘riting (no ‘rithmetic) and quiet reflection. We haven’t been disappointed. Joy carries her painting supplies, so she’s turned our little stateroom into a studio. The natural light from sky and reflecting ocean is perfect for her work. Before we came aboard I loaded my e-book with enough reading to last the crossing. I also had some postponed writing and rewriting chores demanding attentiion. The ship’s library has become my second home. (I know, I know, what kind of a nerd heads for the library on a cruise?)
There is grave danger in this kind of travel, though: uncontrolled weight gain. The food is plentiful, tantalizingly presented, always available, and completely irresistible. Our package included four specialty restaurants, some of the best we’ve ever sampled. Then there’s the ever-open buffet on Deck 15, a permanently seductive tempter. Somewhere in the back of my mind lurks the warning that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. But it’s way back there, where I can keep it under control—the warning, that is, not the gluttony.
The main theater presents a free show every night. We’ve been treated to standup comedy, baffling magic, dazzling juggling, Broadway show dancing, hilarious hypnosis (the hypnotist promises–if you’ll buy his elixir, of course–to cure insomnia, obesity, arthritis, etc., just like an Old West snake oil pitch man), a virtuoso violinist, dueling pianists and more. These were consistently top-quality performances. The pièce de résistance was the Broadway musical Millionaires Quartet starring Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. They reenacted the famed recording session in Sun Studios in 1956, which was the only time the originals ever played and sang together. They gave us plenty of Rock ‘n’ Roll music but much else besides: “Blue Suede Shoes, “That’s All Right,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Walk the Line, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Hound Dog,” “Folsom Prison” and more. Interesting, isn’t it? If you live long enough what shocked America back in the day evolves into a classic. (Sorry we have no pictures of the onboard entertainment.”No pictures or video-taping allowed.”)
I’m stressing the quality of the food and entertainment because it’s so much more than we expected. Since the price was cut-rate we expected a cut-rate experience, thinking the company would need to scale back from its usual offerings. We were wrong.
With all these options, we haven’t been bored at all. We’ve even profited from our near wifi-less condition. It’s available—but did I tell you I’m cheap? We got some free minutes with our package, but not nearly enough to carry on our usual correspondence and blogging, so we are letting the emails pile up and won’t publish this post until we are back on land. We’ve been in internet withdrawal.
Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel was the first of our two stops. The Azores is a constellation of nine islands, a tiny dot on the map west of Portugal, its mainland. We opted not to take one of the offered tours; instead we traipsed around town on our own (further proof of my financial conservativism).
The Portuguese-influenced architecture features black-and-white buildings—whitewashed walls, black volcanic stone trim, tile roofs—and black-and-white patterned mosaic stone street pavement. The iron–railing balconies add to the European flavor.
Spending the day on our own was a good decision, for two reasons: First, we were able to hone our practice of getting around on our own until we’re lost. On the way to somewhere else we discovered a small but exquisite city park, a tropical oasis.
Its wide variety of exotic and domestic flora nestled around streams and ponds compel you to sit and soak up the inspiration. Unless you are a photographer, of course. Then you conscientiously record every spot of beauty—for the sake of the blog readers, you understand. Camera person: No rest for you!
Secondly, Pedro. Pedro Mendonca is our Good Samaritan of the Azores. Joy doesn’t know what she did wrong, but after shooting lots of pictures in the park, her iPhone rebelled. Froze up. Refused to respond. When you are a photographer marooned in a small town on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and more than a week away from your destination, this is serious! Google came to our rescue, we thought, directing us to an Apple store within walking distance. We headed for it. We didn’t have a lot of time. We also didn’t have much hope that the instrument could be repaired. As I said, it’s a small town. And our ship wouldn’t wait.
Keeping our record unblemished, we got lost on the way to the shop. This time it was not our fault. We were following Google’s explicit instructions. We turned left as told. We had been on a modest side street; now we were in what looked like little more than an alley. We walked past two people deep in conversation. Then the older lady, who didn’t speak English, called out and motioned us to turn around. Dead-end ahead. No Apple store in sight. The young man with her interpreted the lady’s concern. Then he made it his own. He lived just a couple doors away from where we stood. He loaded us into his car, drove us to a shopping mall—where we found a computer consulting service that couldn’t help us, and another shop that also couldn’t help us—then, undaunted, drove us across town to yet another one. This one could. It was just a matter of resetting the software, the helpful clerk explained. We’d tried this ploy on our own but Joy’s phone was too new for the outdated steps we had learned a few updates back.
During this adventure Pedro captured our hearts. He’s 38, single, and rebuilding his life after some adolescent mistakes. He has a personality that won’t quit. He told us he’s in college studying geriatrics. In our opinion, he couldn’t have chosen a better field. He has already mastered the art of taking care of old people. I tried to get him to accept a little gas money for his trouble. He would not. A quality guy.
We had only one regret about the day as we boarded the ship: we had to say goodbye to Pedro.
JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS