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Friday, July 8, 2022

[Day 3] Christmas on NCL Encore - Sea Day & Speedway

Day 3 was a Sea Day, and we planned to spend our morning relaxing by the pool!


Rachel, Judy, and Stove were able to snag some chairs on the second row of the pool deck, and it just so happened that when Aaron and I came to join, two chairs beside them were open.

The pool deck was very entertaining. And as the morning progressed, DJ Fly beats started hitting hard.


Aaron had only been on Disney Cruises, so this was his first more traditional "pool deck" experience. They had a "Sexy Man Competition," and I think this was a great introduction to cruise game trashiness. There was a "no touching the judges," rule. A teenage boy started grinding on one of the judges and the activities director tries to stop it, then he clarifies, "It's okay, she's my mom."

I'm not sure that's okay.

Here's one of the more PG-rated acts.... this man participated while dressed as Buddy the Elf. He did not dance sexually. I think he won... it was either him or the teenager who gave his mom a lap dance.


Rachel and I decided to go try out the drop slide called "Ocean Loop." I had done a drop slide like this before on the NCL Escape.... but it turns out that this one is even crazier. First, they weigh you, and I think the minimum weight is somewhere around 120 lbs. They don't say your weight - you just stand on the scale and the arrow will tell them whether or not you qualify for the slide. The lifeguard at the bottom told me, "Just so you know, you might get stuck." I wasn't really worried - I know how to go down a waterslide to reduce friction, and I never had any issues on the Escape.

After the weigh-in, you have to shower. I don't remember doing this on the Escape. It's unpleasant because after getting wet, you walk up the stairs and wait in the cold wind for your turn on the slide. We had to wait for several minutes, and I think I dried off completely in the wind.

Rachel went first because she didn't want to have to wait behind me if I did get stuck. Welp. I wasn't nervous at all about the bottom dropping... I was nervous about getting stuck! "I'm gonna make it. I'm gonna make it."

I didn't make it. So after the first descent, you shoot up vertically. It's a long vertical run right from the beginning, and that's where most people without enough mass/with too much friction get stuck. So I was in the clear tube going vertically, and I could see the hump I needed to get over..... but I stopped feet away. And then I started sliding backward. I was in a loop of backward/forward/backward/forward until I finally was able to stop at the flattened location where they had already opened the hatch and were waiting for me to slow down to a stop so I could exit.


The freaky part is that the hatches to get out of the slide are actually located over the side of the ship. Don't worry - they're fully enclosed by guards, but it's still over the side of the ship.

So I didn't make it down my first go, but that wouldn't deter me from trying again. Aaron was watching and said that I basically free fell down that first vertical enclosure, so if I press my back hard against the slide, I may have better luck next time.

There was a Reel/TikTok that people kept sending to me because a girl got stuck in this slide three times. And the comments were all, "After the second time, why would you try again?" And there's no point in reasoning with people on TikTok or Instagram, but I know why she kept trying - because there's no real harm in getting stuck in the slide (as long as you're not claustrophobic or afraid of heights.... in which case, you probably wouldn't be doing this slide to begin with). Even if you get stuck, you still get to do the fun part which is the first drop, and you get a little back-and-forth sliding before you exit out of the hatch. And, there's always the chance that you'll make it over the hump. (Another comment on the Reel was, "why is she pushing herself backward?" and the answer is because at that point, the exit hatch is located behind you, so if you're physically stuck at the top and don't have the momentum to make it over the hump, you have to push backward to get out.)

These are two hatches which you can exit from, depending on where you get stuck in the slide -


I only had time to try the slide once because we had to get changed and ready for the Speedway at 2PM. The Encore Speedway is a 1100-ft go cart track which is an additional charge of $15 per person, or $199 for an unlimited pass. Rachel signed us up on the first day. It's not typically something that I would feel the need to do on a cruise, but Landon was really interested.

The Speedway is located on Deck 18 Aft. It's really tucked out of the way which is probably a good thing as far as hearing the noise from elsewhere on the ship. However, its location is not great for marketing purposes. You don't just see people racing cars while you're out and about, so guests aren't thinking, "Oh, that looks so fun, we need to sign up!" Of course, this could be a great thing if you have kids and don't want to pay the surcharge for them to race... you could probably keep them away from this area the entire cruise. (There's also a minimum height requirement of 55" to drive that will keep a lot of kids from being able to do the Speedway.)

Rachel had told me not to bring any bags or valuables because there would be no place to store them.... but they did have lockers, and I noticed another family putting their belongings in a locker. Oh well, we didn't have any belongings with us, so we didn't have to worry about that.

I did not bring my camera - I went back and took these photos the next morning. I also didn't bring my GoPro because when I was on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas back in 2019, I wasn't allowed to take my GoPro on any of their activities (zipline, slide, etc.). However, Landon had read that you could wear a GoPro if you have a head mount. I did have a head mount, but I didn't know to bring it to the Speedway - oh, well!



There weren't a lot of crew members there to guide us. We walked until we got to this screen, and then we were told to wait there and watch a video.


They tell you how to operate the vehicles and go over the rules.


They had us put on these black ski masks. I think it's to make it more sanitary for us to wear the helmets.


The go-karts are electric (notice they're plugged in and charging below), which makes sense because can you imagine having a bunch of canisters of gasoline out at sea and all of the pollution that a go-kart track would create if it was gas-powered? However, unlike your traditional electric vehicle, they were noisy.... so I think it was an artificial noise that they added to make it seem more like a traditional "speedway" experience? I could have done without the "vroom vroom" noise.

There are single and double go-karts, but they only take out all singles or all doubles at a time. Judy and Rachel weren't so keen on driving and would have happily sat in the passenger seat in a double car, but that would've meant waiting for a doubles lap.

They assigned our cars and then gave us helmets. They swapped out my helmet for a smaller one and Landon's for a bigger one. The go-karts are lined up single file, and I was first off the line. Which meant that I gunned it and then I never saw anybody again until I started passing some random people at the end. Actually, I caught up with Rachel and almost passed her, but they called us in.

It was a long time on the track. I think 7-8 laps, depending on where you were in the starting lineup and how fast you drove. I basically kept my foot pressed all the way on the gas the entire time.

Aaron says that the cars were really slow, so we had different perspectives there because I was content with the speed that I was going.


When we got back, there was a showing everyone's place.... except not everyone was on the board. My go-kart didn't make it on the screen. Boo!

The Speedway was fun and cool to try, but not something I would want to do more than once in a single cruise. I would not buy the unlimited pass.

After the Speedway, we headed down to what we called "The Trash Bar" (a.k.a. "Sail & Sustain") where the drink of the day was a Croissant Mai-Tai. They juiced a croissant??


I guess they used almonds from a croissant? Not really sure. The drink was not good. Do not recommend.


The Waterfront on Deck 8 is a really fun place to hang out. I think Deck 4 on the Disney Wonder still takes first place because it's lower to the ocean and you can really hear the water crashing beneath you, but The Waterfront bars and dining have great atmosphere.




We had a Laser Tag reservation for 5PM, but we needed to cancel because Landon had a meeting scheduled for 5. We decided to move it to our last sea day.


Our dinner reservation that evening was at Ocean Blue. It was another late 9PM reservation. Once again, we were one of just a few parties in the restaurant.


Rachel had heard great things about Ocean Blue. Seafood on a cruise ship definitely feels appropriate.


To start, they brought us out this bread which was tasty, but we didn't want to fill up on bread.


For an appetizer, I ordered the Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower, which is basically the same thing that I ordered the night before at Cagney's. However, I love ahi tuna and avocados, and this is a seafood restaurant. Well.... the ahi tuna tasted better at the steakhouse. This tuna was a really firm texture. It tasted like it was frozen and they thawed it too fast. Not great.


These are the pan-seared scallops which Aaron ordered. Scallops are amazing when prepared correctly, but again, these tasted like they had just been frozen. The texture was tough and rubbery. Not good.


Now, Rachel and I were eyeing Aaron and Stove's Iceberg Wedge salads at Cagney's the night before, so we decided to order the Iceberg Wedge from Ocean Blue.


The Cagney's iceberg wedges were literally cut in a wedge shape. This was like the heel of lettuce. The part you typically throw a way. Maybe they should label this as a "Sail & Sustain" trash salad.


Okay, I feel like the first two pictures made it look too good. Luck at the inside! They literally gave us the stalk. It was inedible.


Aaron ordered the Gumbo, which was probably a better choice, but he said it was mediocre gumbo. At least it was edible.


Not only was our food tasting like frozen garbage, but it was taking forever to get to us. And we were one of three parties in the restaurant at this point! Were they literally pouring warm water over frozen fish in the back attempting to thaw it?

Finally, our entrees arrived. Rachel had ordered snapper from the "Simply Fresh Fish" menu. It was not fresh. It was Simply Nasty Fish. She actually made us all try it, and I must say that was the most disgusting food I tasted the entire cruise. Ocean Blue should be ashamed.


I ordered the Cioppino which was a better-tasting entree, but I am very sensitive about eating hot foods, and it was just too hot for me to eat when it arrived. By the time it was cool enough for me to consume, everyone else was done picking at their disgusting seafood.


When a server came to clear our dinner entrees, she asked Stove how his food was. He responded, "Awful." She laughed, and said, "Oh, you liked it?" "No, it was terrible. I did not like it." And then she just laughed a little and walked away.

Time for dessert. Surely, they can't mess that up.

I ordered the Key Lime Meringue Pie.


This was not Key Lime Pie. This was some disgusting room temperature lime-flavored custard. The consistency is way too goopy, and key lime pie should be served chilled.


This is the French Apple Tart a la Mode. As you can probably tell from the photo, the best part of this dessert was the ice cream. Otherwise, it looks like they just arranged a bag of Bare baked apple slices on a personal pizza crust, charred it in the oven, then sprinkled with cinnamon.


Our final thoughts for Ocean Blue were that we absolutely hated it and would never dine there again. We did wonder if Covid had put their typical kitchen crew out of commission. Surely, they must be operating with a brand new, inexperienced chef. The other thing that was weird was that this must have been the worst service we had so far on this cruise. The servers really didn't care whether or not we enjoyed our meals. But they also weren't standing around waiting for us to GTFO. I would describe them as apathetic and inattentive. Overall: yikes.

By the time we got out of Ocean Blue, it was around 11PM. We walked around the ship to see what was happening. There was an Awesome 80s party on the pool deck.


We weren't really in a party mood, so we went ahead and turned in for the night.

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