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NORWEGIAN JADE at Alexandria. This and all photos herewith, unless otherwise noted, are by and copyright Peter Knego 2008. Note: please click on photos to view larger versions.
3:30 AM, Saturday, April 19, 2008:
After some thirty hours of flights from California to Alexandria, Egypt, a fascinating drive from Borq al Arab airport, and various clandestine stops at customs and immigration offices, I had finally arrived at NCL’s freshly renamed NORWEGIAN JADE. It was surprisingly cool outside and the quay and gangway were wet from a recent shower.
AIDA IV at Alexandria.
Verandah cabin 9618, facing port.
After checking in, I was too lagged to sleep, so ventured around the brightly lit upper decks and out to the terminal for a few shots of the JADE just as the sun began to rise over the fabled city of the ancients. Finally, at 5:30, I was able to settle in to my comfortable verandah cabin, 9618, on aft/port Deck 9 and enjoy my first real sleep in over two days.
Fountain of JADE.
Million dollar hull art at Alexandria.
Eight wonderful hours later, I arose with NCL’s plush pillow linens creased into my face to begin, rather belatedly, the day. My first stop was the Garden Cafe, where I built a step pyramid of a spinach salad to fortify another romp around the Alexandria terminal.
NORWEGIAN JADE at Alexandria.
MV OCEAN MAJESTY at Alexandria.
Alizar Restaurant, facing port.
Hibiscus in the ceiling.
Medusa Lounge facing aft/port.
Turquoise karaoke room, facing port.
Wide open space with no rock climbing wall.
Off the JADE’s stern was an interesting Egyptian training ship (a former lighthouse tender) named AIDA IV. Her lines were reminiscent of the once populous Soviet BYELORUSSIA class, while on the other side of the terminal, the diminutive 1968-built OCEAN MAJESTY awaited the return of her passengers. I re embarked the JADE before the rush of tour buses, documented a number of public areas, had a quick workout in the ship’s state-of-the-art gym and hurtled up to deck for the sail-away as the lights of the massive city switched on.
MAHROUSSA the magnificent!
As NORWEGIAN JADE pivoted out of the basin, I was thrilled to spot the Egyptian royal yacht MAHROUSSA in the shadows of the great lighthouse near the palace. The under-documented MAHROUSSA is a remarkable iron-hulled steamer that was built in 1865 as the EL HORRIA. In 1869, she led the first procession of ships through the newly-opene
d Suez Canal. Over the years, she has been cut and half and lengthened, rebuilt, and employed both as a royal yacht and training vessel. The 3,762 gt, 478 by 43 foot ship sails on day trips a few times a year and is something of a national treasure, so will hopefully exist for many more years. With her long clipper bow, white hull, and buff funnel, she is reminiscent of the legendary cruise ship STELLA POLARIS of 1927 (recently sunk off the coast of Japan) and Emily Cadwalader Post’s (and later Ataturk’s) deluxe yacht SAVARONA of 1931.
Illuminated off Alexandria.
My only prior visit to Alexandria was aboard the illustrious old ACHILLE LAURO in 1994. We sailed in at sunrise for a bus tour of Giza and Sakara, returning to the ship in Port Said. So, now I was finally sailing out of the historic harbor, this time under a rising moon. In the darkness I could barely make out three capsized ships near the breakwater but am not sure if they are the same ones I marveled at fourteen years ago.
Cocktail Bar facing aft.
Formerly known as the Cigar Club, facing port/forward.
Hotel director, Armando Da Silva.
Champagne Bar, facing aft.
I joined the press group in the former cigar bar area of Bar Central where we were hosted by hotel director, Armando da Silva, who began his seagoing career some 25 years ago on board QE2. He and Seatrade Insider’s delightful, delish Anne Kalosh shared early Royal Viking Line shipboard memories as canapes and cocktails swirled around the room. In addition to his tenure with Cunard and RVL, Armando, who was born in Funchal, Madeira, also served on board Orient Line’s MARCO POLO and CROWN ODYSSEY, and, of course, NCL’s belated, beloved NORWAY.
Teppanyaki’s Dennis chops away.
Chicken Yakisoba prior to consumption.
Teppanyaki, facing aft.
Jade Garden Restaurant, facing forward.
Dinner in the extra-tariff Teppanyaki (adjoining the Jade Garden Restaurant) followed, as our chef, Dennis, flipped utensils, juggled eggs, formed rice sculptures and laid out legumes on the grill before us. I selected my usual Chicken Yakisoba entree, which was perfectly prepared in a soy/garlic sauce.
Spinnaker Lounge, facing aft/starboard.
As the rest of the press group went off to enjoy the Freestyle 2.0 White Hot Party in the Spinnaker Lounge, I clambered off to the quiet sanctuary of Cabin 9618 for some rest.
JADE atrium facing aft from between Decks 7 and 8.
Lavassa cappuccinos erupt from the Aloha Bar.
Totally random lava carpet swirls.
Sunday, April 20, 2008:
7:00, I turned on the bow cam channel to see if any ships were in our path as the JADE made easy work of the moderate swells. There was nothing on the screen or visible from the verandah so I dressed and headed down to the Aloha Coffee Bar in the atrium for an excellent Lavazza cappuccino prepared by skilled, charming bar tender Eleonore Rueda and battled with the satellite for a decent internet connection.
Bridge Viewing Room.
At 10:00, I tagged along with some of the press group for the bridge tour. Captain Trond Kildal (familiar from the PEARL In The Passage cruise last summer) was kind enough to demonstrate some of the equipment, including the AIS satellite system, which calls up the names, stats and destinations of ships in the vicinity.
The JADE, which was proceeding at a comfortable 21.5 knot clip, is the second ship in the NCL fleet to use all electronic charts, following the NORWEGIAN GEM’s lead. I asked if there were advantages to the distinctive beak-like protrusions from this class of ships’ wheelhouses, and the captain said it gives the cockpits a 22.5 degree view of the wheelhouse and surrounding sea.
Le Jazz in Le Bistro!
Caesar par excellence with Jazz Brunch in Le Bistro.
Van Gogh in Le Bistro.
We enjoyed the wonderful Jazz Brunch in Le Bistro where the ship’s jazz trio and three singers serenaded and crooned a cross section of hits from “Summertime” and “Bless This Child” to “Feel Like Making Love”. I had the freshly-made chicken caesar salad, an onion, tomato and cheese omelet and a splendid creme brulee, along with a pair of cappuccinos.
PRIDE OF HAWAI’I/NORWEGIAN JADE builder’s plate.
Senator Inouye of Hawaii christens the PRIDE OF HAWAI’I.
PRIDE OF HAWAI’I departs L.A. for Hawaii in May of 2006.
At 1:00 we met again at the United States Library and took a Freestlye 2.0 tour of the ship, which covered many of the innovations the JADE is introducing to the NCL fleet. The JADE was built two years ago as the PRIDE OF HAWAI’I for NCL’s NCL America division and in February was renamed NORWEGIAN JADE, sailing to Barcelona for a multi-million dollar refit that incorporated NCL’s latest Freestlye 2.0 enhancements (whch will be fleetwide by the end of June).
Model of SS UNITED STATES in eponymous Library.
In the library, coffee is now available in a sort of Barnes and Noble setting and books can be borrowed on a 24/7 honor system basis. The library was packed and many people seemed to be studying the large scale model of the room’s transatlantic namesake.
New “Bliss” bedding has been added to the penthouses and top suites and new cushioned mattress covers have been added to all the rest of the ship’s cabins. The pool areas have been toned down with more relaxing music (no more 70’s style pool games) and Evian mist sprayers who are on hand for a quick spritz. Many additional features have been added to the kids and teen facilites, with updated video games and an expanded baby sitting program and hours. The Garden Cafe now features candles and table cloths for night time dining, various lobster offerings are now available on a regular basis in most restaurants, a welcome on board glass of bubbly is served all guests, and a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie is the final night’s pillow treat.
Jade Club Casino, facing aft.
Jade Club Casino facing aft.
The conversion of PRIDE OF HAWAI’I to NORWEGIAN JADE enabled the installation of the 357 capacity Jade Club Casino on Deck 6 in place of 44 cabins between the Stardust Showroom and the Bar Central area. Acres of carpeting was also refreshed during the ship’s two week drydocking at Barcelona.
JADE massage therapist Jonathan Nguyen holds a hot stone.
00 PM I enjoyed a special indulgence, a hot stone massage that even exceeded the one I had on the PEARL last summer. Incredibly skilled massage therapist Jonathan Nguyen managed to exorcise my jet travel kinks with a very intense but soothing hour of hot stones, aromatic oils and skilled pressure. He was also gracious enough to not try and “guilt” me into buying product, which actually made me consider buying some. Afterwards, I spent a half hour in the thermal suite gazing at the sea from the sauna and relaxation area.
Grand Pacific Dining Room, facing port.
King Kamehameha of the Grand Pacific.
We enjoyed dinner in the 486 seat Grand Pacific Restaurant, a soaring space inspired by the pre-war Matson Line dining rooms with their gothic deco ceiling fixtures and colorful bulkhead panels inspired by old Matson menu covers.
We went from dinner to “Shout!”, the gala NCL production show framed in a geometric midcentury “mod” proscenium backlit in warm jewel colors. The female cast wore and sang the best of 1960s and 1970s tunes in an envelope-pushing (for a ship) show that poked fun at mod culture. It would be hard to miss with hits by Dusty Springfield, Petulah Clarke, Mary Hopkin, and the like but these gals sang and moved with extra gusto.
NCL’s exclusive Second City improv show was next, filling the 372 seat Spinnaker Lounge to the rafters. I was too tired to attend the Freestyle 2.0 Monte Carlo Party, the second of two specially-themed parties newly implemented on the JADE.
5;30 AM, Monday, April 21, 2008:
After five hours of deep sleep, I found myself inextricably awake as NORWEGIAN JADE glided northward over the Ionian Sea towards Corfu. There was not even a hint of dawn, which would meekly form an hour later in the haze over the Albanian coast off the ship’s starboard side. Outside my port facing verandah, a near full moon played a final game of hide and seek in the mist over Corfu. Like a Panamax sea-going BMW, this massive Papenburg-built ship is barely quivering in what appear to be choppy, following waters.
REGATTA arrives at Corfu.
I took advantage of my recurring “jet-somnia” to consume an early breakfast in the Garden Cafe, then make my way back to cabin 9618 to catch up on this blog before heading up to deck for our arrival at the northernmost Greek island hamlet. Shortly after we berthed, Oceania’s handsome REGATTA appeared from the mist and tied up on the other side of the quay.
Eleonore Ueda with cappuccino.
Ropes that bind at Corfu.
Corfu Cafe Ships.
JADE REGATTA at Corfu.
With fortification from one of Eleonore’s Aloha Bar Lavazza cappuccinos, I tried uploading some images to the blog but finally gave up and dragged the laptop ashore to a smoky cafe blasting pulsating trance music in Corfu Town. An hour and another cappuccino later, I was off wandering the stony streets of the Jewish quarter and round the harbor back to the JADE. The mist was finally burning off and giving way to piercing blue skies and turquoise seas.
Fitness Center, facing aft.
REGATTA in reverse.
My trek on the elliptical came to a sudden end when I saw REGATTA backing away, so grabbed the cameras and got situated by the railing in the Outdoor Cafe to watch her turn about and head northwards toward Croatia. Within moments, the JADE followed her lead, then turned south along the Albanian coast toward Katakolon.
Le Bistro, facing forward.
Our group dined in Le Bistro with Captain Kildal and Armando, enjoying a range of delicacies, capped off by a Bananas Foster flambee. In a momentary blip, the satellite connection atomized my next two hours of writing and uploading, so I shut down the laptop and retreated to my cabin.
Monday, April 22, 2008
When I flung open the curtains at 6:30, the NORWEGIAN JADE was tied fast to the outer jetty at Katakolon. Just off the balcony, the brightly lit COSTA SERENA glided toward the anchorage as a cluster of tenders lined up to disgorge her passengers. As she pivoted in an artery of fog, portions of her upper decks were obscured. The sun hovered momentarily behind her, then disappeared.
Deck reflections at Katokolon.
The Garden Cafe was filling quickly when I arrived, so I ordered an omelet, dolloped some mueseli into a bowl, snatched a slice or two of smoked salmon with all the necessaries (onion, tomato, and lemon) and escaped to the relatively empty terrace in Great Outdoors. The decks were wet and a clammy chill permeated as the fog thickened to the point where nothing beyond the ship, including the COSTA SERENA, was visible.
Stardust Theater, facing port/forward.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the excursion queueing was handled, and found a seat on bus five within ten minutes of leaving the Stardust Theater. I took a deep breath of dread as our full bus head along the jetty past Ocean Village’s OCEAN VILLAGE (ex SITMAR FAIRMAJESTY, STAR PRINCESS, ARCADIA) and into the Peleponessos countryside. I wasn’t sure if I could face the throngs of tourists at Olympia but our sweet-voiced guide, Athena, skillfully soothed the anxiety with her passionate and colorful Greek mythological anecdotes.
Temple Of Hera, Olympia.
Olympian curtains of violet.
Indeed, some fifty buses were lined up near the site, with placards from OCEAN VILLAGE, COSTA SERENA, and NORWEGIAN PEARL in their windows. But the birds were chirping from the tree tops and the verdant grasses were filled with purple, white, and yellow blossoms and their potent fragrance. The slight haze kept me cool as I meandered with and without our bus group through the ruins and ancient mystery of Olympia. From the lichen encrusted stone and marble of the pillars at Hera’s temple to the wide open space of the stadium and the pulverized majesty of Zeus’ temple, it was a fascinating morning.
NORWEGIAN JADE at Katakolon.
After we returned to the ship, I decided to explore Katakolon and its tantalizing arsenal of cafes, where the aromas of olive oil, fresh bread, and espresso called out like sirens to lure me from photographing the ships in the now sunny port. MSC’s MUSICA was the latest to anchor off the breakwater, adding another two thousand visitors to the already overwhelmed little town.
MSC MUSICA at Katakolon.
I had lunch in the concierge lounge by the window, then sidled up to a railing as the SERENA departed and, shortly thereafter, the JADE slipped away, churning up the ancient silt as she pivoted backwards and then past the MUSICA for the final evening of this all-too-short cruise.
Aft section of Cagney’s, facing forward.
Completely random Cagney’s carpet sample.
Anne Kalosh Of The Thousand Veils.
The cliffy Peleponessos shoreline remained within sight of the JADE throughout the day and into the night as we regrouped for dinner in Cagney’s and that most unpleasant but necessary evil of packing.
Tuesday, April 23, 2008
SAGA ROSE blooms on a Piraeus morning.
ARTEMIS arrives at Piraeus.
OCEAN VILLAGE arrives at Piraeus.
At 6:45 AM, I was once again unable to complete a full night’s sleep. Wearily, I opened the curtain to find that the JADE had berthed in perfect position for me to see the lineup of ships entering Piraeus. Directly ahead was the most beautiful of all, the 1965-built SAGA ROSE (ex SAGAFJORD), still with running lights on, followed by ARTEMIS (ex ROYAL PRINCESS) under a full moon worthy of her Olympian namsake, and a number of familiar ferries. Anek Line’s EL VENIZELOS took the lead, apparently miscalculating the turn into the breakwater and veered in a circle like an angry bull around the roads to try again, followed by GA Line’s MARINA before the t
wo cruise ships were given the right of way. Between arrivals, I caught my last few photos of NORWEGIAN JADE’s public spaces and promenades, finishing up with NEL Line’s THEOFILOS and OCEAN VILLAGE.
Star Bar, the daytime concierge lounge, facing forward.
After breakfast in the concierge lounge, I joined the group again for another painlessly fast and well executed NCL disembarkation. Our bus trip to El Venizelos Airport took a scenic detour through downtown Athens and its historic sites.
The next leg of our journey was about to begin….
Special Thanks: Martin Cox, Johanna Jainchill, Anne Kalosh, AnneMarie Matthews, Courtney Recht
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
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