Trying something new!
Day 5, October 22, 2023. Embarkation day, Seattle, Washington.
Today’s the day! We get to try out a new to us, cruise line! And we’re also sailing with friends for the first time.
Le Panier, French bakery, Seattle’s Pike Place Market
Yesterday while walking around the Pike Place Market we found a French bakery which opened at 7am every day, so Richard did a pastry run for our breakfast this morning which included my favourite almond filled croissants and pan au chocolate! Oh my. Its a good thing we will be walking around the ship after starting off the day with French pastries for breakfast!
The State Hotel where we were staying in Seattle was not quite close enough to the Norwegian Cruise ship terminal to be able to walk with our carry on roller board cases, so Richard called a Lyft ride share for us which arrived as soon as we exited the State Hotel. Great timing!
The Seattle Seahawks were playing the Arizona Cardinals in Seattle and there were a lot of fans walking around with jerseys who looked like they were heading to the NFL football game around 10am when we were in our Lyft to the cruise terminal.
We knew that disembarkation and embarkation day for a ship with the capacity for 4,004 passengers would be a bit of a zoo, so I had upgraded us to have ‘Priority Access’ to the ship. Priority access meant that we would board the ship at 11am immediately behind the ADA passengers and people with mobility concerns.
Even though we arrived at 10:15am at the cruise terminal, there were still a lot of people already ahead of us in the lineup on the sidewalk waiting to go through security and check in for the cruise.
The curb side check in for luggage did not appeal to us, and we kept our roller board suitcases with us, knowing that as soon as we had access to our cabin, we would be able to get unpacked and settled into our cabin. In hindsight this was a good move as there were missing suitcases still arriving until late in the evening to people’s cabins!
The crowds moved quickly and we were through security and checked in at the Priority Check in desk in about 25 minutes. We waited in the cruise terminal lounge for about 10 minutes and then the announcement stated that Priority Check in cruise guests, were free to board.
11:05am and we’re on board! Now what do we do since we cannot access our cabins for quite some time! We decided to head up to Deck 16 and claim a window seat at a table for 2 in the Garden Cafe buffet restaurant. Richard was hungry so he had a plate of hummus, veggies and pita, while I worked on getting access to the onboard wifi system.
When it was noon, I scoured the buffet and found a really nice chicken, vegetable noodle soup which I paired with a salad I made from the salad bar and a bourbon basted chicken leg . The food was quite tasty, fresh and delicious!
I had mentioned in a previous blog that my girlfriend friend from the golf course and her partner were also cruising with us, so after lunch we met up with them at the Observation lounge on Deck 15, while we waited to access our cabin. Embarkation day is a lot about “hurry up and wait” but at least we were with friends catching up and watching the Buffalo Bills lose on tv! At least Mahomes and the Chiefs won, as that’s my team, even before Taylor Swift started dating Kelce!
At 2:30pm we heard the announcement that the cabins were ready to be accessed, so we all headed to the elevators to try and get an elevator to take us all down to deck 9. Of course everyone was trying to do the same thing as us, so the elevators were jammed! We waited about 10 minutes before finally getting an elevator that we could all squeeze into, to go down 6 decks with our luggage.
Our first impressions of our cabin were quite favourable. The couch is a nice touch and something we did not have on the Viking Neptune during our World Cruise. Our bed is king sized, which compares with the Neptune. The closet and storage space in the built in cabinet in the closet and under the tv in the desk are better, with more capacity than the Viking Neptune. Our balcony is smaller but on this cruise I don’t think that we will be spending too much time on the balcony given the average daily temperature, so having a smaller balcony is not really a big deal!
Since Richard is ‘Mr Concierge’ we had him re-confirm all of the specialty dining restaurants we had booked for the duration of the cruise. Tonight we were scheduled to eat at ‘Cagney’s Steakhouse’ at 7:30pm. When Richard went to confirm our reservation they did not show any reservation despite my NCL app showing me clearly that I had booked 7:30pm at Cagney’s for dinner! Luckily I was able to take a screenshot of my reservation and send it to Richard and he was able to get our reservations confirmed for dinner.
The user friendliness of the NCL app while on board has some challenges such as when you book a specialty dining reservation there is no option in the app to cancel the specialty dining reservation. The only option to cancel a reservation is to go to Deck 6 where the specialty dining reservations can be made and have them cancel the booking. Not a great user experience!
We all met for drinks at MALTINGS Whiskey Bar on Deck 8 at 6:45pm for cocktails. We had passed SUGARCANE MOJITO BAR on our way to the Whiskey Bar so when we got to the Whiskey Bar I asked them to prepare me a mojito, but was told they don’t serve mojito’s in the whisky bar. Richard proceeded to give a cash tip to our waiter, who then said he would walk over to SUGARCANE and pick me up a mojito. Its amazing what a well placed tip will do on a cruise ship!
Cagney’s Steakhouse gets rave reviews on Cruise Critic and Norwegian Cruise lines have a Cagney’s on all of their ships. We were really starting off our cruise with a ‘bang’ by going to one of the best steak house restaurants at sea, on our first night…or were we?
Richard had arranged a beautiful private table for us at the aft of the ship, with no neighbours, kids or loud noise, so we could have a really lovely meal in peace, on our first evening onboard. We waited and waited for our server and finally she appeared with the menus. Then we waited and waited and finally she took our orders, but never provided us a wine menu or asked if we wanted any pre dinner drinks. After 25 minutes I finally got up to use the restroom and spoke to another waiter and asked him to please get someone to bring a wine menu and serve our table with wine. The restaurant was only half full despite the fact that restaurant guest services said that Cagney’s is always sold out and is their most popular restaurant onboard.
The specialty dining menu provided us with: 1 starter such as Oysters Rockafeller or Crab Cakes; 1 appetizer such as soup or salad. French onion soup, Iceberg wedge or Caesar salad were appetizers on the menu; 1 main such as an 8 oz Filet Mignon, Strip loin, Rib Eye, Porterhouse and 2 sides which included garlic truffle fries, garlic truffle mashed, baked potato, rice, broccoli, creamed spinach, or grilled mushrooms; and our choice of dessert which included: cheesecake, blueberry crumble, apple pie or a decadent 7 layered chocolate cake.
Wow! Who could eat all that food? Definitely not me!
The starters and appetizers were very nicely presented and were delicious, but when my medium rare filet mignon arrived, it was more like medium well done, so I had to send my steak back for another medium steak, which still was not medium rare. To say I was disappointed that at the steakhouse restaurant we had read so much about my steak was overdone, was an understatement. Our server was less than attentive and at one point asked one of us if we wanted our wine in a ‘to go’ cup as if to say “Hurry up and get out of here so I can finish my shift”, when the restaurant was far from ready to close. Food 8/10 (despite my over cooked filet mignon, because everyone else’s food was cooked perfectly), Service 2/10. Why is it that an experience in dining is both a combination of how good the Food was and how good the Service was? It somehow seems that the BAD SERVICE always trumps the food unfortunately, so hopefully our service experience over the next week improves in the 4 other Specialty Dining restaurants we have booked for the cruise.
After dinner we walked around Deck 6, 7 & 8 to get a feel for the main public areas of the ship which are all connected through internal semi circular staircases. The Norwegian Encore while built recently in 2019 lacks the “wow” or “pizzaz” of the MSC Euribia that I sailed on last month from Copenhagen to Copenhagen. The Euribia was a larger ship with 6,000 passengers, but the public open areas had higher ceilings, Swarovski crystals on the staircases and a fully LED ceiling in the main atrium which changed throughout the day with different projections and had a bigger impact than the low ceilings in the Encore. Despite having more people on the MSC ship which was also sold out like the Encore, this ship feels more crowded because of lower ceilings, smaller corridors to access the cabins and the ship just feels more jammed in than the much larger and 4 years newer MSC Euribia.
We finished off our evening in the empty Deck 15 Observation Lounge listening to a solo piano player vocalist enjoying smooth seas and looking forward to a relaxing sea day tomorrow for our first full day of sailing.
We arrived back to our cabin on Deck 9 to view Day 2’s ”Freestyle Daily” which is the equivalent of Viking’s “Viking Daily” detailed daily itinerary and we highlighted the things we might want to do tomorrow. Richard finagled the plug, with a borrowed NCL extension cord for his Cpap machine since the ship was built with NO electrical outlets next to the bed. With the amount of people we saw boarding this ship with Cpap machines it astounds us that NCL forgot or didn’t design the cabins on this fairly new ship with electrical plugs next to the bedside tables. We have USB ports to charge our phones on our nightstands, but NOT electrical plugs.
As we reflected on Day 1 on NCL Richard was getting a bit frustrated with the way people were dressed - too casual for his liking; how many people were onboard; and how everything was either an ‘upcharge’ or had to be included in a package that we had or had not purchased- such as unlimited internet vs 150 minutes with a clock counting the minutes down while using an electronic device. I had to keep reminding him this was a 7 night ‘bargain’ cruise and was different than our experience on Viking so enjoy the ship, and the destination since a NEW cruise line to us wasn’t bad, it was just different. We’ll see how “NEW” goes as we carry on with our next 6 days!
And as I write this blog, the internet will not allow me to upload photos into WIX which is the blog program I use, despite letting me upload the 1 photo that is in this blog. I will post photos to Facebook of Day 1 of the cruise.