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Onboard Explora 1 (Sept 25- Oct 13) with Hank


Hlitner
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2 hours ago, Hlitner said:

Yep, just pulled into Black Falcon.  For us, we will probably just take a walk and stop at Yankee Lobster for great lobster rolls.  Many of the crew cannot go ashore because they are so new to ships that they do not have their necessary Seaman’s Books needed for shore time in the US.  
 

DW used the word “creepy” ti describe this cruise.  At times, there is not a passenger ti be seen.  I had cappuccino at Crema earlier and was the only customer other than a couple of Senior staff.  Having breakfast in the Emporium, and looking from my table can see 8 other passengers.  
 

EJ has tried to create an experience that is more akin to a resort, than a cruise.  I wonder if they have taken that too far.  I think of Seabourn and their “Caviar in the Surf,”. Block Party , etc.  This line lacks what I would call “cruise soul” which some will love and others will dislike.  This concept was best expressed by the “Experience Manager” who explains their is no Cruise Director because EJ does not “direct cruises.”

 

 

Hank

 

Sounds like our experience on the MSC Seashore when we returned to cruising in November 2021.There were less than 100 people in the Yacht Club and no more than 400 - 500 on the whole ship.  Weird to walk to a venue and see NO OTHER people.  Creepy is how I described it too!

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13 minutes ago, happy cruzin said:

Weird to walk to a venue and see NO OTHER people.  Creepy is how I described it too!

Attitude is everything. DW would probably 'feel' the same creepiness. But I know better.   This, what some call 'creepy', is what the super wealthy call 'pleasurable'. That is why they book private yachts. We that book the Yachts Clubs, Retreats, Havens, Coastal Kitchens are looking for this Yacht like attention and less people,  romantic tables for two more than 6 feet away from the nearest table. Reminds me of "Funny Girl" "Isn't this a bit of nonchalance....."

Edited by morpheusofthesea
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1 minute ago, morpheusofthesea said:

Attitude is everything. DW would probably 'feel' the same creepiness. But I know better.   This, what some call 'creepy', is what the super wealthy call 'pleasurable'. That is why they book private yachts. We that book the Yachts Clubs, Retreats, Havens, Coastal Kitchens are looking for this Yacht like attention and less people,  romantic tables for two more than 6 feet away from the nearest table. Reminds me of "Funny Girl" "Isn't this a bit of nonchalance....."

Oh.....I never said we did not enjoy it.  Honestly, it was one of the best cruises we have ever taken!

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On 9/26/2023 at 10:51 AM, morpheusofthesea said:

Yes - I do wonder how much EJ has hurt themselves by pushing the “we are a different cruise line”

This appears to be the back cover of the Explora Journeys Brochure.  Please notice the proud display of the MSC logo in the very center, heart of the new mandala created by Ms. Aponte.

MANDALA.jpg

Edited by morpheusofthesea
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Good to hear all of the positives.

 

My TA stated that corporate is working on the OBC conversion.  It is a EU banking issue.  Seabourn of course is very good about this.

 

Disappointed about the back to back bookings and specialty reservations.  Going to push that button with my TA when I book my first reservations.

 

How is the coffee quality -- my DW is a coffee snob.  Yes it is Illy but good beans can be killed by a bad grind or too much heat.  She was teaching the barista on our last Seabourn cruise  🙂

 

Enjoy the Lobster Rolls....

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So let’s continue with some things that make EJ so very different.  We are now docked in Boston, which is actually a fabulous port city whether one takes a tour or simply goes off on our own.  EJ1 does have free shuttle service into the heart of town or some of us will just walk a few miles.

 

But there have been no port lectures, no port guides sent to the suites, no excursion lectures, etc.  Folks are truly on their own and are expected to do their research or book excursions.  
 

This ship also has no displayed deck plans nor a decent app.  You can find your way around with some signage (like a large hotel) but that can be a little tricky with the unique layout.  For us, all this is fine, since we are very independent travelers who do not need hand holding.  Others may not be happy.  This might help explain why we have seen some major differences in reviews.

 

The onboard public rest rooms are worth mentioning.  The beautiful sinks have 3 identical spigots.  The left one is a hand dryer/ blower, the middle is water, and the right is liquid soap.  Since there are no labels or directions it will surprise most first time users.  


Getting back to the number of passengers (NYC to Quebec) the official count is 241 (not to far from the rumored 200).  We just returned (from lunch in Boston) and did not see another passenger during reboarding.

 

Hank

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47 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

So let’s continue with some things that make EJ so very different.  We are now docked in Boston, which is actually a fabulous port city whether one takes a tour or simply goes off on our own.  EJ1 does have free shuttle service into the heart of town or some of us will just walk a few miles.

 

But there have been no port lectures, no port guides sent to the suites, no excursion lectures, etc.  Folks are truly on their own and are expected to do their research or book excursions.  
 

This ship also has no displayed deck plans nor a decent app.  You can find your way around with some signage (like a large hotel) but that can be a little tricky with the unique layout.  For us, all this is fine, since we are very independent travelers who do not need hand holding.  Others may not be happy.  This might help explain why we have seen some major differences in reviews.

 

The onboard public rest rooms are worth mentioning.  The beautiful sinks have 3 identical spigots.  The left one is a hand dryer/ blower, the middle is water, and the right is liquid soap.  Since there are no labels or directions it will surprise most first time users.  


Getting back to the number of passengers (NYC to Quebec) the official count is 241 (not to far from the rumored 200).  We just returned (from lunch in Boston) and did not see another passenger during reboarding.

 

Hank

Thank you any new info on the count from Quebec 3 sailing to new york 

 

See you soon

 

Thanks for updates 

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59 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

But there have been no port lectures, no port guides sent to the suites, no excursion lectures, etc.  Folks are truly on their own and are expected to do their research or book excursions.  

Yes, all nostalgic amenities of cruise passages reminiscent  of  the 1930's. When you get through you can write volumes like Mark Twain "Innocents Abroad". 

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2 hours ago, PaulMCO said:

How is the coffee quality -- my DW is a coffee snob.  Yes it is Illy but good beans can be killed by a bad grind or too much heat. 


We too are coffee snobs and I can report that we never had a miss when ordering barista coffees in Crema and the Explorer lounge and Fil Rouge

 

They have good coffee, I like the Ily blend they use, and machines - and most importantly they appear to have trained the baristas in maintaining the machines and making the coffee’s - good result on expresso’s, latte’s, cappuccino’s, Irish coffee’s and espresso martini’s 

 

They have a penchant for lovely art on the crema of our latte’s as well 

 

No comments on the liquid that comes out of the automatic machines - masquerading as coffee as we don’t drink it nor do we drink the filter coffee they offer in Emporium 

 

 

Edited by Stickman1990
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39 minutes ago, Waltershipman said:

Thank you any new info on the count from Quebec 3 sailing to new york 

 

See you soon

 

Thanks for updates 

Nothing but worthless guesses/rumors.  My 241 number comes directly from the security folks and is accurate, but they do not have a clue as to the future cruises.  The best part of being on a "ghost ship" is that all the venues are operating normally and with what appears to be full staff.  Where some of us had speculated about how difficult it might be to eat in the various venues, you might say we are children in a candy store.  DW and I do not need to decide where to eat until we are ready to walk in the door.  We still have to try Fil Rouge and the Med Yacht Club, so I suspect we will make that choice this evening.  It is tempting to just return to Sakura, but we do feel the need to try all the venues.  Another couple told us they had a very nice dinner, last night, in the Emporium where they only saw one other couple!  Unreal!  We walked by the Med Yacht Club restaurant about 7:30 (on our way to Sakura) and the place was almost completely empty!  Spread 241 souls between 5 venues, that are open from 6:30 - 9:00 and you can imagine how empty these places can be on most evenings.  And we are not even talking about Anthology (we have no clue what is happening in that venue but did notice some folks at their wine bar.

 

On our walk back to the ship, today, we stopped at CVS and bought a small bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice.  DW misses her "Cosmos" and we decided not to depend on EJ bringing aboard any Cranberry Juice here in bean town.  It also bothers me that a cruise line owned by the Aponte's does not have any Pelligrino!  Perhaps it will take an e-mail to Mrs. Aponte to get that issued resolved, but we shall wait and see.  Hoping that the small supply issues are all resolved by tonight, but you know what they say about "hope."

 

Hank

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18 minutes ago, Waltershipman said:

Thank you any new info on the count from Quebec 3 sailing to new york 

 

See you soon

 

Thanks for updates 

I just checked and it appears that the October 3 cruise now has 146 suites available. Assuming the website I checked is accurate, that would mean 315 suites are occupied less any suites that Explora is not selling. So at two passengers per suite, that would mean the cruise has 630 passengers. The count is probably a little lower due to solo passengers. 
 

Dave

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1 hour ago, PaulMCO said:

Good to hear all of the positives.

 

My TA stated that corporate is working on the OBC conversion.  It is a EU banking issue.  Seabourn of course is very good about this.

 

Disappointed about the back to back bookings and specialty reservations.  Going to push that button with my TA when I book my first reservations.

 

How is the coffee quality -- my DW is a coffee snob.  Yes it is Illy but good beans can be killed by a bad grind or too much heat.  She was teaching the barista on our last Seabourn cruise  🙂

 

Enjoy the Lobster Rolls....

I am also a coffee snob :).  It is a mixed bag on the ship.  Crema is all about expresso (they have two large espresso machines) and Illy Beans (which many folks would rank among the best coffee in the world).  The expresso is perfect and drinks made from espresso (i.e. cappucino, americano, etc) are all excellent!  In the Emporium (where most folks have breakfast) they will serve items like cappucino (not as good as in Crema, but still decent).   This morning I decided to try coffee, but to have some fun I asked the waiter for "french press" coffee.  Not sure he understood, but it was kind of a test.  He came back with a large coffee pot, said "french press coffee" and poured.  The coffee was the usual "lido blah" that we get on most cruise ships (Seabourn is the exception since they will actually bring a french press to the table so you can make it as strong as you please).  

 

At this point I am simply not sure if it is possible to get anything close to what we might call good strong American coffee.  Not an issue for me, because I do love Illy espresso and can also be happy with the americano made from Illy.   I will add that they also have sit down breakfast in Fil Rouge, but DW and I have yet to try that breakfast.  We have no clue as to the coffee that may lurk behind those doors.

 

Hank

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7 minutes ago, DaveFr said:

I just checked and it appears that the October 3 cruise now has 146 suites available. Assuming the website I checked is accurate, that would mean 315 suites are occupied less any suites that Explora is not selling. So at two passengers per suite, that would mean the cruise has 630 passengers. The count is probably a little lower due to solo passengers. 
 

Dave

Excellent thanks Dave

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I will talk about something that is important to some mobility challenged folks which is elevators.  On EJ1 I think the elevator situation is among the best on any ship with one caveat/issue.  The ship has two elevator areas (mid/forward and the aft bank).  Each consists of 4 elevators, and they the largest we have seen on any ship.  Each elevator is rated for 26 people!  Folks with scooters or wheelchairs (we have seen none on this cruise) would never have a problem (or wait) to get into an elevator.  The system is very good, and we seldom wait more then 10 seconds to get an elevator.  I do not think this would change, even if the ship were full.  

 

The passenger decks are primarily on decks 4-12, with 4 and 5 being the decks with most of the restaurants (and some lounges).  The one problem is that the aft elevators only go as low as deck 5, because the ship design would put them in the galley on deck 4 (this was discussed a few weeks ago on CC).  For us it is not a problem.  We simply use the aft elevators to deck 5, and if we want to go down to 4 there are several staircases (or the mid/forward elevators).  

 

There are also a few "tricks" to getting around the ship, without becoming stuck :).  On decks 4 and 5, the main thorougfare is on the Starboard side of the ship.  On deck 11, if you are in the Conservatory (indoor pool) and want to get to the aft elevators, you must enter on the Port side of the Emporium (there is no elevator entrance from the Starboard side).  Just one of those things that are common to smaller vessels and not a problem once you get used to the layout.  But as I previously mentioned, do not expect to find any deck plans (on the bulkheads) to help you find your way.

 

Hank

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8 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

I will talk about something that is important to some mobility challenged folks which is elevators.  On EJ1 I think the elevator situation is among the best on any ship with one caveat/issue.  The ship has two elevator areas (mid/forward and the aft bank).  Each consists of 4 elevators, and they the largest we have seen on any ship.  Each elevator is rated for 26 people!  Folks with scooters or wheelchairs (we have seen none on this cruise) would never have a problem (or wait) to get into an elevator.  The system is very good, and we seldom wait more then 10 seconds to get an elevator.  I do not think this would change, even if the ship were full.  


Agree they’re huge and fast lifts - the only strange thing we found was the placement of the couch seats in the middle of the waiting area for the lifts that delayed getting to lifts arriving on the other side - you have to walk around them - this may introduce a delay for someone with a disability

 

The lifts do tend to arrive very quietly so you need to keep an eye on the indicator lights to spot your lift 

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10 minutes ago, Stickman1990 said:


Agree they’re huge and fast lifts - the only strange thing we found was the placement of the couch seats in the middle of the waiting area for the lifts that delayed getting to lifts arriving on the other side - you have to walk around them - this may introduce a delay for someone with a disability

 

The lifts do tend to arrive very quietly so you need to keep an eye on the indicator lights to spot your lift 

Now that you mention it, that is strange.  We mostly use the aft elevators (close to our suite) which does not have those cushions.  I will say that, for the most part, we love the design of this ship.  Consider that in the Journey's Lounge (which is used for much of the evening entertainment) there are no obstructed seats!  The ship wide lounge has been designed without a single pillar in the field of play (so to speak).  

 

I do think the big design negative, that will primarily impact older cruisers, is the very low seating which is throughout the ship (other than in the restaurants).   Getting up from the seas and loungers, especially after a few glasses or Moet, is a real challenge.  The low seating does fit the contemporary design, and offers lots of stability in rough seas, but will annoy some folks.

 

Hank

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20 minutes ago, Stickman1990 said:

Agree they’re huge and fast lifts - the only strange thing we found was the placement of the couch seats in the middle of the waiting area for the lifts that delayed getting to lifts arriving on the other side - you have to walk around them - this may introduce a delay for someone with a disability

 

Those couches could have been separated, so you could walk between them to the other side.  But that doesn't pass the "illogical but esthetic" standard of EJ.

 

 

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  • Host Jazzbeau changed the title to Onboard Explora 1 (Sept 25- Oct 13) with Hank

I think we had 430 onboard our Aug 8 sailing and we felt the same that you are feeling about being on a ghost ship!  We had a hard time finding other passengers and finally asked one of the head Entertainment “Ambassadors” (she’s South African but I can’t remember her name) how many were on board. She told us they were having to adjust timing for shows etc., because of the numbers and she also knew the exact number of passengers on the next leg and their nationalities. Anyway, I just wanted to say that even with 430 people on board, it still felt like we had the whole ship to ourselves. The emporium was the only place we ever saw other passengers in any large numbers and that was usually at breakfast and late lunch. We made a habit of having pre dinner cocktails and oysters in emporium before we went to dinner and it was never crowded. 

 

If you haven’t already tried the Duck Salad appetizer (I think that’s what it’s called) in Sakura, you must try it on your next evening there. It, along with everything else, was delicious and I can’t wait to have it again. 
 

I love hearing about your trip with all of your cruising experience and I agree with everything your saying so far. 

Edited by KJB416
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I want to start off this post talking about the crew.  We have met quite a few and they have all been charming, friendly, and seem to share decent morale.  Many of the crew seem to be on 5 month contracts and will get about 2 months off until their next contract.  The real shocker is we have been told (by several crew) that about 80% have never worked on a cruise ship untill their first contract with EJ.  This was deliberate and goes to the philosophy of creating a new brand with its own set of standards.  All the crew members we have met have a decent background in the luxury hotel/resort industry which makes sense.  We have not met a single crew member that previously worked on MSC, much less in the Yacht Club.  

 

This evening after some interesting conversations with some other passengers at the Lobby Bar (which is becoming on goto place for pre dinner cocktails) we finally got to Fil Rouge around 8pm.  We thought this venue was very attractive and there was a pretty decent dining crowd.  DW and I started off with their Escargot casserole which we thought was OK (not great).  I than tried their Soupe Poisson which is a Provencial soup that is a personal favorite and a must eat whenever we are in NIce.  The version in Fil Rouge was quite good and had the right flavor.  DW had the Dover Sole main, which she thought was good although not up to what we get in the Thomas Keller Grill (Seabourn) which is a very tough act to follow. 

 

I decided to get the simple sirloin steak with a truffle kind of sauce.  The steak was about 3/4 inch thick, perfectly prepared, and the truffle demi glaze sauce was OK.  To be honest, our dinners were excellent, but Sakura has spoiled us.  The Sommelier suggested a French Syrah, and I thought it was OK.  I should mention that the included wines have all been Ok, but far from outstanding.  It is what we expect from included wines on luxury lines. 

 

The star of the night was my dessert which was a mille feuille (with vanilla cream filling) which is the signature dessert in Fil Rouge.  The pastry was light, had perfect thin layers, and terrific flavor.  A relatively simple dessert, difficult to prepare, which is among the best pasties I have ever had on any ship.   Sometimes the simple things can be the best :).  Like all the dining venues, we look forward to returning and trying other items on the various menus.

 

I will also add, that in our chats with other passengers, we have not heard many complaints.  And the ship did actually get some Cranberry Juice in Boston, so DW's personal supply is now housed in our cabin fridge ...just in case!

 

I will toss out a reminder (from our pre-cruise analysis of the bar list) that we are not very happy with the included single malts, cognacs, and bourbons that are offered on EJ.  It is a sad list for what is supposed to be a luxury line.  In fact, it is not even close to what is offered in the MSC Yacht Club!  An easy thing for EJ to fix, and it should be fixed!  And there are some strange lapses in what is available.  One person told us today that they could not get a favorite drink because they have no Cassis at the bars.  This is not a money issue, but just poor planning.  When it comes to booze on a luxury line, stock a little of everything so you never have to say NO!   And I again repeat my shock that one cannot get San Pelligrino on a line owned by the Aponte family!  If you want sparkling water on EJ1, you can only get what they make below decks.

 

Hank

 

 

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50 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

If you want sparkling water on EJ1, you can only get what they make below decks.

I’ll plan to bring several cases of S. Pellegrino with me in December; helps pay for Anthology if I can sell at $10/bottle. 

Edited by johng75370
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2 hours ago, Hlitner said:

I want to start off this post talking about the crew.  We have met quite a few and they have all been charming, friendly, and seem to share decent morale.  Many of the crew seem to be on 5 month contracts and will get about 2 months off until their next contract.  The real shocker is we have been told (by several crew) that about 80% have never worked on a cruise ship untill their first contract with EJ.  This was deliberate and goes to the philosophy of creating a new brand with its own set of standards.  All the crew members we have met have a decent background in the luxury hotel/resort industry which makes sense.  We have not met a single crew member that previously worked on MSC, much less in the Yacht Club.  

 

This evening after some interesting conversations with some other passengers at the Lobby Bar (which is becoming on goto place for pre dinner cocktails) we finally got to Fil Rouge around 8pm.  We thought this venue was very attractive and there was a pretty decent dining crowd.  DW and I started off with their Escargot casserole which we thought was OK (not great).  I than tried their Soupe Poisson which is a Provencial soup that is a personal favorite and a must eat whenever we are in NIce.  The version in Fil Rouge was quite good and had the right flavor.  DW had the Dover Sole main, which she thought was good although not up to what we get in the Thomas Keller Grill (Seabourn) which is a very tough act to follow. 

 

I decided to get the simple sirloin steak with a truffle kind of sauce.  The steak was about 3/4 inch thick, perfectly prepared, and the truffle demi glaze sauce was OK.  To be honest, our dinners were excellent, but Sakura has spoiled us.  The Sommelier suggested a French Syrah, and I thought it was OK.  I should mention that the included wines have all been Ok, but far from outstanding.  It is what we expect from included wines on luxury lines. 

 

The star of the night was my dessert which was a mille feuille (with vanilla cream filling) which is the signature dessert in Fil Rouge.  The pastry was light, had perfect thin layers, and terrific flavor.  A relatively simple dessert, difficult to prepare, which is among the best pasties I have ever had on any ship.   Sometimes the simple things can be the best :).  Like all the dining venues, we look forward to returning and trying other items on the various menus.

 

I will also add, that in our chats with other passengers, we have not heard many complaints.  And the ship did actually get some Cranberry Juice in Boston, so DW's personal supply is now housed in our cabin fridge ...just in case!

 

I will toss out a reminder (from our pre-cruise analysis of the bar list) that we are not very happy with the included single malts, cognacs, and bourbons that are offered on EJ.  It is a sad list for what is supposed to be a luxury line.  In fact, it is not even close to what is offered in the MSC Yacht Club!  An easy thing for EJ to fix, and it should be fixed!  And there are some strange lapses in what is available.  One person told us today that they could not get a favorite drink because they have no Cassis at the bars.  This is not a money issue, but just poor planning.  When it comes to booze on a luxury line, stock a little of everything so you never have to say NO!   And I again repeat my shock that one cannot get San Pelligrino on a line owned by the Aponte family!  If you want sparkling water on EJ1, you can only get what they make below decks.

 

Hank

 

 

or buying ashore as I did in Zeebrugge Southampton and Queensferry ...

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Good Morning,

Today is another sea day (we love lazy sea days).  Like most onboard, we gravitated to the Emporium for some breakfast.  The crispy bacon is truly crispy and delicious.  A small thing, but important to those of us who like American style bacon.  This line makes a point of saying they use “Normandy butter” and this is very high quality creamy butter.  I ordered a waffle to test the butter and it is great as was the well cooked crispy waffle.  They served it with a side of maple syrup which did taste like the real thing.  
 

So now for the negative.  We are again faced with a sea day with almost no activities other than the usual fitness stuff.  They do have morning and afternoon “chefs kitchen” classes, but these are limited to 12 persons and cost 150 Euros.  There was one morning lecture at 9 AM titled PBS Down East.  Another lecture at 11 is called Living Well - Sleep Well.  
 

No trivia today, but they have Name that Tune at 12:15. And that is it!  We have warned before that this is not the cruise line for those that want activities unless their interest is in fitness stuff.

 

Tonight we have a Guest entertainer/ singer named Sharon Clark.  She is actually pretty well known around the DC area as a decent jazz singer (in the Ella tradition) and we look forward to her show.  The normal shows here are at 9:30 and are usually two 45 min sets…   With 241 on the ship, the Journeys Lounge has plenty of seats.  If the ship were to be full….they would not be able to squeeze more than half the folks into that lounge.  That venue is set up like a nightclub with the usual very low seating and low cocktail tables.  
 

Hank

 

 

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9 hours ago, Hlitner said:

I will toss out a reminder (from our pre-cruise analysis of the bar list) that we are not very happy with the included single malts, cognacs, and bourbons that are offered on EJ.  It is a sad list for what is supposed to be a luxury line.  In fact, it is not even close to what is offered in the MSC Yacht Club!  An easy thing for EJ to fix, and it should be fixed!  And there are some strange lapses in what is available.  One person told us today that they could not get a favorite drink because they have no Cassis at the bars.  This is not a money issue, but just poor planning.  When it comes to booze on a luxury line, stock a little of everything so you never have to say NO! 

 

Got the old "supply chain issues" response to my complaint about lack of liquors.  Never had Old Vic gin on board, ran out of Nikka on day 3, and other liquors were missing or not fully stocked to all the venues.

 

On a positive note, they did have Diplomatico rum, which is quite sippable like a cognac.  Plus the interesting Bayab gin from South Africa, using bayobab fruit in the distillation.  And for pure "different" try the Shiraz gin, which steeps the gin in shiraz grapes.  For a final nightcap, go with the Ardbeg for a full peat mouthfull.

 

 

 

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