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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

[Day 2] Christmas on NCL Encore - Great Stirrup Cay

We woke up bright and early on Day 2. It didn't help that we had to turn our clocks an hour forward the night before.

The Encore arrived at Great Stirrup Cay at 7AM, and we had planned to take advantage of our Cabana early tender, but I got a call from Judy that we'd be pushing our departure time to 8AM - fine by me!


Great Stirrup Cay is a tender port, meaning that rather than docking, the ship drops anchor in the bay and passengers go to shore via smaller tender boats. The last tender was scheduled for 1:30 PM - not much time on the island!



Typically with private islands, towels are available on the island. However, in the Freestyle Daily it said to be sure to bring towels because they're unavailable on the island. Aaron and I went to the pool deck to check out towels, but that turned out to be unnecessary because they were available on Deck 4 to grab before getting on the tender boat.

When we boarded the tender boat, we sat there forever as they worked to fill the boat. Bobbing up and down. It's more nausea-inducing than actually moving in a boat. I guess they couldn't send any less than a completely full tender boat to shore?


The approach to Great Stirrup Cay was very funny to me - chain link fence with scrim. Not sure what kind of additions/improvements they're making here, but something was under construction -


I also get a real kick out of these signs -



The entrance is underwhelming, but I think they're working on improving it.


Before checking into our cabana, we grabbed water bottles. By "we," I mean Stove and Judy. Water bottles were included in their premium drink package.



Also available on the island (and included in the premium beverage package) is Starbucks. Not much selection, but if you didn't get coffee before leaving the ship, here's another opportunity -


To get to the cabana, we had to walk through the market to the shuttle transport.


The market area is really out of the way. I don't think they'd get a lot of people passing by from the beach.


We were transported to the cabana on these open-air golf cart "limousine" shuttles -




We were at Cabana 19 -


This is how it looked when we arrived. We rearranged the furniture to bring the comfy seating outside.



The refrigerator was stocked with waters -


And the cabana had towels (so we didn't need to bring our own!) -


Also included were four floaties hanging on the back of the cabana, as well as an outdoor shower -


The view from Cabana 19 wasn't the best, but it also wasn't a bad one!



And we could watch the zipliners overhead -



The beach by the Cabanas stayed this empty all day. I'm wondering if a lot of passengers decided not to disembark at Great Stirrup Cay considering the short duration that we were in port. You would think that a ship the size of the Encore would easily fill their private island.


Covid reminders stapled to the palm tree -


I went out on a little photo tour -


It was a bit cloudy -







We were sitting at the cabana and Stove told us, "Oh, once they zipline over to that side, they have to climb that rope ladder." Rachel thought he was full of it. But he wasn't! After ziplining, you actually have to climb up to the next platform - a bit of a workout!



Alright, so a little more about the cabana. We arrived around 9AM, and the cabana staff hadn't started working yet (they all came out dressed in yellow around 10AM). However, it wasn't a problem because the bar staff walked over to serve the cabanas until the cabana staff started. So we ended up having a self-appointed bar staff attendant and a dedicated cabana attendant.

They brought us drinks throughout our stay. There was also a menu to order food items from.




We weren't too far from the Lighthouse Beach Bar, but there wasn't really a reason to go over there since we were being served at the Cabana.


I spotted this Tiki Zoom Bar over by the Beach Bar...


It looks self-serve, but I didn't try it out... wasn't sure how that worked with a drink package.


We didn't realize that the cabana staff would bring us our food order, so we actually took turns walking to go get food from the food truck -



I got the ceviche. It was good. I thought the food on the island was better than a lot of the food I had on the ship -


Here's a dessert which was pretty tasty. I don't remember what it was called, but there was coconut -


I noticed the Universal Symbol of Accessibility and thought, "No way is that ramp accessible!"


It's not... they used the Universal Symbol of Accessibility to mark "No Access." That is not how the symbol should be used - it's supposed to be used to show where there is access.



We noticed a friend behind our cabana... an iguana!




We really enjoyed the cabana. Our only complaint was that we didn't have enough time on the island. Just when the sun had come out, it was time to go back to the ship.




The line for the ship was really long.... it made me wish that we could have hung out in the cabana just a little bit longer.




We probably waited about half an hour before catching a tender boat.



Back to the ship!



When we returned, we headed to the Observation Lounge on Deck 15 which is where Rachel had left Landon to work (unfortunately, he didn't get to enjoy the cabana with us). She didn't want him holed up in the cabin all day.


Landon was not in the Observation Lounge. But we still took some time to look around.


I feel like this is an awesome location for Alaskan cruises, to be able to sit inside and have a great forward view.


There's lots of comfy seating, a bar, and they serve snacks throughout the day.


We headed to the pool deck and grabbed some drinks from the pool bar. This is the Bushwacker -


We could see the Royal Caribbean ship docked at their nearby island, Perfect Day Coco Cay. When Rachel went to Perfect Day Coco Cay on the Freedom of the Seas earlier that year, she predicted that everyone on Great Stirrup Cay would see the big balloon going up and down and that it would serve as a big advertisement for Royal Caribbean. However, their balloon wasn't really visible from Great Stirrup Cay, and when we were on the island, we were pretty content with our location.


The pool deck was hoppin! Tchad and the NorthSound Band were playing -




We found some chairs on the upper pool deck level and hung out until it was time to get ready for dinner.


We spotted the Royal (or Regal?) Princess sailing nearby -



Dinner tonight was at a much more normal time of around 7 at Cagney's Steakhouse. Cagney's is a Specialty Dining staple on all of their cruise ships, and for good reason.

It may have had more to do with the normal dining time, but the atmosphere in Cagney's was much better than in Onda the night before. We weren't the only guests in the restaurant, and our serving team wasn't desperate to get rid of us.


For a starter, I got the Ahi Tuna Tartare -


Dad and Aaron got the Iceberg Wedge, and it looked really good. I don't think the picture quite does it justice, but it looked very refreshing -


Aaron also got the Lobster Bisque which he enjoyed. Per Aaron, "good soup." -


I got the Baked Onion Soup, and it was really rich.... I wouldn't pick it again just because it felt too rich to eat before steak.


We got several sides to share. These are the Oyster Rockefeller -


And the Grilled Zucchini.... I feel like cruises don't have enough vegetables, so I always try to order them when I can -


For entrees, we all ordered steak. I remember that Rachel and I ordered the 8 oz. Filet Mignon, and Judy ordered the 5 oz.


If you've read a Victoria on Vacation cruise review before, you're probably aware that Rachel loves steak. And Rachel has the worst luck when it comes to getting a steak prepared to medium-rare. Tonight was no exception. Take a look at Rachel's "medium rare" steak below -


Verses my "medium rare" steak -


Rachel was quite annoyed with her steak, so we had her try everyone else's, and it turns out that Judy's 5 oz. steak was the best prepared of the bunch.


Now time for dessert! I got the Caramel Butterscotch Cheesecake. Unlike the cheesecake at Onda, this was actually the consistency of a cheesecake.


Judging by the hands, it looks like it was Aaron who ordered the Raspberry Creme Brulee -


And we have here a Warm Apple Cardamom Crisp -


And that's Judy! With a Seven Layer Chocolate Cake!


Now, something annoying about the Specialty Dining Package is that even though we had prepaid for all of our meals, they still brought us individual checks at the end of every meal totaling $0.00. Every single person at the table received a check for $0 that we had to sign. I get a little heated about these kinds of receipts because it's wasteful - assuming this is thermal paper, this receipt isn't even recyclable. How does this align with the company's environmental goals? You're telling me that the cruise line that recycles pineapples and watermelons from the buffet displays to use in cocktails is printing a crap ton of unnecessary receipts? The cruise line that has facial recognition technology and encourages passengers to book their reservations in advance online or on the app is printing receipts? Ridiculous!! I have a feeling that the different lines of business need to have a conversation here and get on the same page when it comes Environmental and Technology goals compared to actual Operation.


After dinner, we sat down at the A-List Bar, located between Cagney's Steakhouse and Los Lobos, and ordered expresso martinis. This turned out to be one of our favorite bars this cruise, and also had our favorite bartender (who went by "Harvey," but I can't remember if that was his actual name or the name that the other bartender called him as a joke because someone on another sailing was confident that was his name.... Rachel has a great memory and will read this and tell me).


We then headed to the Atrium where Temperature Band was playing.


They have a wide variety of music varying from Motown to Calypso and R&B -


Also, this passenger interrupted their show more than a few times -


And that's Day 2! Join us tomorrow for our first full day at sea!

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