Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Around the World in 80 Bajillion Pictures: Part One, The Epic

I'm back!  My camera is exhausted and I have approximately eighteen thousand things to do this month to make up for my slackerness over the last two, but even though June is going to kick my ass, April and May were sooo worth it.  But before I dive into my writing hole and work my fingers to the bone, PICTURES!

We commence our pictorial journey lo, these many weeks ago when I boarded THIS BOAT:

The Norwegian Epic (or, as I like to call it, the giant floating box - is that a stylish design or what?) bound for parts European.  Now, cruise lines fall on a sort of spectrum ranging from We're-All-About-the-Play to We're-All-About-the-Posh.  Both are fun in their own way, but it's good to know which one you want.  Since I took two different lines, I had a little of both this trip, with the Epic being more on the play side.  As evidenced by the trio of Waterslides:

I also tested out the rock-climbing wall (had never done that before, but will definitely do it again) and partook of much of the evening entertainments.  There was a Cirque du Soleil troop, a Second City troop, and a Blue Man Group.  Not to mention a kick-ass a capella quartet doing old soul songs and a cast from Legends in Concert - excellent impersonators performing Madonna, Steven Tyler and Elvis (who was freaking AMAZING).  There was also a string quarter by the name of Graffiti Classic who played classical music while dancing (even the dude with the bass!).  Here I am in front of the Cirque tent with a couple of friends I met onboard.

But my favorite entertainments on this ship were the nightly ones (as I mentioned before).  Three musical acts that blew my mind six ways to Sunday.  It came down to what you were in the mood for...

For pure fun, you go to Howl at the Moon, a wild rumpus of you-say-it-they-play-it dueling pianos rocking out with everything from Queen and Elton John to Jerry Lee Lewis (yes, there were feet on the piano) and Billy Joel - but be warned, if you request Piano Man, you might find yourself up on stage being asked to hold the harmonica (wow, that sounds dirty... I might have use that as a new euphemism... hey, baby, wanna hold my harmonica?) for pianist Michael Shan as he plays and sings this classic.

For romance, drop by Shakers for the old standards with piano crooner Carlo Nuschi (which I've already waxed on about in my hand holding post).  I'm such a sucker for Cole Porter and George Gershwin.  My first night on board I was wandering past - on my way from Howl over to Fat Cats for some blues - and I was sucked in by a song I loved.  I sat down, telling myself I would leave as soon as he played one I could walk away from, but it was just one oh-my-god-I-love-this-song moment after another and next thing I knew I'd been there for half an hour and the set was ending.  I could listen to that music all night (and sometimes did), but the best part was that you could also sometimes request a little classical which was utterly brilliant.  If you've never heard Rhapsody in Blue live, damn.  It's worth the price of the cruise right there.

But if Howl was pure fun and Carlo was pure romance, the fellas of the Slam Allen Blues Band in Fat Cats each night were pure sex.  Now, it should be known that having gone to college in Chicago and dated a deeply talented blues guitarist, I'm something of a blues snob.  But these guys.  Oh my god, these guys.  They knocked it out of the park every. single. night.  Blues, soul, funk, with the last set always turning into a sort of taking-all-comers jam session.  They were, for want of a less cheesy word, epic. I can't describe it.  I can only sigh and fan myself as I remember it.

The Norwegian was a pretty A-to-B shuttle across the Atlantic, with only one scheduled stop in the Azores - though we did have to med-evac someone in Bermuda so I got to see it.  I could have swum to Bermuda, you guys!  We were that close.  I've always wanted to sail through the Bermuda triangle - though I'm pretty sure powering through on a 160,000 ton box-that-floats doesn't really count as "sailing" the Bermuda triangle.

The Azores were pretty badass.  The sidewalks had mosaics in the cobblestones. 

I tripped across this fabulous park with all these lava-rock grottoes and for lunch stopped in at this sidewalk cafe and ordered a "Franchesinha" (probably spelling that wrong) even though I had no idea what it was.  Turns out it's like a Croque Madame covered in some kind of tomato-based sauce.  Highly recommended.

We were also, I can't help but note, at sea during the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (and there were many iceberg jokes in the South Atlantic that day). 

It's funny, the transatlantic crossing was the part of the trip I was least excited about going in - just a way of getting to Europe - but now, looking back, it was one of the high points.  My rules on the boat were No Email, No Plans.  And I stuck to that pretty well.  It's amazing what life throws at you when you unhitch yourself from your agendas and schedules and just live for the now for a few weeks.  We should all be so lucky.

More tomorrow...

No comments: