Thursday, December 6, 2012

Family Cruise – Western Caribbean – Norwegian Star – November 18-25, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012 – Travel Day

AA3648 is scheduled to depart O’Hare at 8:05 AM so our cab has been called for 6:15 AM.  He is there ahead of schedule but we are not on our way until 6:22 PM.  The ride to the airport is fast since it is a Sunday.  Our gate G13 is in the American Eagle concourse, which is actually down the stairs from the rest of the G Concourse.  Since we were subterranean, I couldn’t get a picture of our plane until we arrived in New Orleans.

The weather is perfect for flying.  Our Bombardier CRJ700 is almost like a private jet.  We had perfect seats – Exit Rows – and we had to answer verbally that we could assist in the event of any emergency (the flight attendant wanted to make sure we could understand English).

AA3648 In New Orleans (Small)

CRJ700 in New Orleans

The climb out from O’Hare was smooth and scenic.


climbout Ohare (Small) dlimb out 2 (Small)

O’Hare Climbout

The flight was short – covering just over 700 miles in an hour and 45 minutes.  What was nice was that the jet was assigned a cruising altitude of 40,000 feet.  This should mean a smooth flight.

The plane was almost empty – maybe about 25 passengers total – so I could get shots out of the windows from just about anywhere (if only the windows were scratch-free).

At 40000 ft (Small) 

40000 ft 1 (Small)

Cruising at 40,000 feet (top two pictures)

Still no clouds as we approach New Orleans.

Nearing NO (Small)

New Orleans is surrounded by lakes – including the massive Lake Ponchartrain – and rivers (including the Mississippi).  They generally look muddy brown but not today – nice and blue.  On final approach, we flew over swampy (Bayou country) terrain.

L Ponchartrain 2 (Small)  

Final Approach – Lake Ponchartrain

Bayou approach to NO (Small) 

Final Approach to Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY).

While most people gate checked their bags, we checked ours with the agent so our bags would be at the carousel.  There were no bags there when we got there but I spotted our bags in the baggage office – I will bet that we were the only passengers that checked bags.

The kids picked us up at the airport and after a bit of a wait, we were checked in and on the Norwegian Star. The NCL Star can carry 2300 passengers and comes in at 92,000 tons.

 Bridge NO Seaport (Small)

Crescent City Connection Bridge (New Orleans to Algiers)

The Might Mississip (Small)

The Mississippi River (not so muddy today)

20121118_162537 (Small) 20121118_162541 (Small) 

Cutest Kids in the World on deck

The last time we sailed out of New Orleans, the sail away was at night.  This time, we will have a little daylight when the ship departs so we can catch some of the Mississippi shoreline on the way to the Gulf of Mexico (the entire transit of the Mississippi – Delta take about 8 hours so we will certainly not see it).

Departing ships have to turn all the way around to exit – they cannot go under the bridge.  The sail away is shown below.

20121118 NO Sailaway (Small) 20121118 NO Sailaway 1 (Small) 20121118 NO Sailaway 2 (Small) 20121118 NO Sailaway 3 (Small)

New Orleans Sail Away

Our cabin on this cruise is Deck 3 Mid Ship (4538) just down the hall from everyone else. 

 Cabin 4538 (Small)

Cabin 4538 w ET (Small)

Cabin 4538

We decided to have dinner tonight in the more casual Aqua Dining Room (pretty much the same menu as the more fancy Versailles Dining Room).  Since this ship is “Freestyle Cruising” you can dine anytime as long as it is between 5:30 and 6:00 PM for large parties.  You also need to reserve seats for large parties – makes sense since they need to set up the big table (only one that can hold everyone). 

The menu options are not as extensive as on other cruise lines but there are plenty of options for the kids – pizza, mac and cheese, and peanut butter jelly sandwiches (no crust).  There is always Salmon for the adults and generally a pasta of some kind.  The best things on the menu (from my perspective) are the mixed salad with 1000 Island Dressing and the Mushroom cheese tortilla with guacamole and salsa (I had those every day at dinner).

20121118_182343 (Small)

Amelia, Eliana, and Macie dining at the Aqua

We went to the Welcome Aboard Show – the Cruise Director is not on the ship so all of the shows are being hosted by the Assistant CD.  The singers and dancers were good but again, the sound system was blasting away.  The theater is pretty big and the seats are tight (many of them are in disrepair) so it will be important to get to the theater early to get good seats. Headliners tonight are the juggling duo “Shark Bait”.  We have seen them before on NCL and they are goofy and entertaining.  Tonight, we did not stay because their background music was deafening as were their mics.

Tomorrow, we are at sea.  The ship has a nice “Kid’s Club” so there will be many activities for the kids.

We are on our way.

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