My cruise on the Norwegian EPIC continues as we begin to make our way across the Atlantic. But first we stopped in the beautiful city of Funchal in Madeira, Portugal. The Freestyle Daily, the great newsletter put on every bed each night by your cabin steward said the day would be cloudy with a chance of rain. But the day began with an incredibly beautiful sunrise.
Coffee again delivered to the room by a smiling member of the crew and after filing my column with the Washington Blade on the election returns went to the EPIC Theater to meet for the tour. There are about 400 members of the LGBTQ+ community on this cruise and a group of us had arranged to go on the Taste of Madeira tour. It began with a cable car ride up the mountain and we lucked out as the weather was beautiful.
Then we took the fun sled ride down the mountain. These are straw sleds on runners, two of us in each sled, with two drivers standing behind us holding the reins and wearing special soles on their shoes to help slow the sleds. By the time we did the sleds it was misting and the street was slippery so the ride was a little scary. I kept thinking we would hit a wall on one side or end up in a ditch on the other. But all the drivers got everyone down safely. Hard to realize this was once an accepted form of public transportation now limited to fun for tourists.
From there it was a bus tour of Madeira up the mountains and a stop above the clouds as the weather was beginning to change.
Then a final stop for tasting some famous Madeira wines. The rains began to fall just as we walked back to the bus for our return to the ship. Because of the rain there were long lines to reboard and of course everyone has to go through metal detectors. But once again the crew handled it well and Nelson Martins, the Hotel Director, was out at the gangways to help move things along. It seems he is everywhere.
Sailaway was scheduled for 4:00pm and everyone was back onboard in time. My and over 100 other people on the cruise favorite travel agent and now someone I consider a friend, Scott Moster and his husband Dustin Ruffatto, hosted a sailaway party in their beautiful suite in the Haven. There was champagne, Hor d’oeuvres and great people.
So now the transatlantic part of the cruise officially begins. We will be at sea for the next five days, the part of the cruise I like the most, until we reach Philipsburg, St. Maarten. Over the next days we will also begin to turn back our watches an hour at a time until we finally reach East Coast time when we dock in Port Canaveral, Florida. Transatlantic cruising from Europe to the United States is a great way to avoid Jet Lag.
This is the part of the cruise where the crew of the EPIC shines the most. André the great Cruise Director, is responsible for ensuring there is something exciting to do every minute of the day for those who want more than just relaxing in the sun on a lounge chair with a Piña colada in your hand.
Entertainment on the EPIC is great and one of the highlights for me has been seeing the show Priscilla. It is fantastic. The story is based in Australia and many of the cast are from there. They are uniformly talented and the costumes are stunning, their voices superb. The backstage crew handling sound, lighting and staging deserve tremendous credit as well. It was ninety minutes of fun and they had to do it twice that night.
Another night thirty-two of us took over the Teppanyaki restaurant, a Japanese steak house, where half the fun is the talented and funny chefs cooking your food on the grill in front of you. This evening was arranged by Jason Kandel, a regular on the transatlantic EPIC cruises. I first met Jason on my Panama Canal cruise on the Norwegian Bliss and he is a great guy. At the restaurant there were four grills going, lots of merriment and great food.
On Friday evening I went to the rescheduled reception hosted by Captain Marco. He is charming host and greeted everyone with a smile ensuring all of us he would get us safely to our destination.
One of the things you realize on a ship as big as the EPIC is there is always something to be fixed and upgraded and these things are often done while the ship is at sea. Yesterday it was the locks on the doors. Again it was done quickly and politely by the engineers onboard who were going through the ship room by room to ensure all doors were functioning properly.
I am writing this sitting by my balcony with the door open and ocean breezes coming into the cabin. The temperature today according to our Freestyle newsletter will reach a high of 77 F with smooth seas. I am planning to sit down with Nelson Martins later today for a short interview to find out what his motivation is for doing the job he does and what he does to motivate the crew to do such a great job.
Tags: cable car, Cruising, Funchal, Madeira, Norwegian EPIC, NV