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Thursday, August 4, 2022

[Day 7] Christmas on NCL Encore - Last Day at Sea

 It was the seventh and final day of our cruise, and also Christmas morning!!


Judy requested that we have Christmas Brunch in the dining room. There are two dining rooms open for breakfast - Savor and Taste. They're located directly across from one another - Savor is port side, and Taste is starboard. They're basically the same. We had planned to dine at Savor, but we got a late start, and they were only seating at Taste, so we dined at Taste.

Breakfast at Taste was good! If we had dined here earlier in the cruise, I think we would have come back.

I got an egg and avocado wrap. Much better than breakfast in the Garden Cafe.


After breakfast, we headed to the Park West Art Auction in The Social. The Shinglebells have been cruising for over two decades, and this was the first time we ever set foot in an art auction.

Park West Gallery is the world's largest art dealer. They're based in Miami, and host art auctions on most cruise lines. This isn't a hoity toity art event. Their goal is to make fine art accessible to a larger group of people.

We remembered to bring our raffle tickets from the night before. The raffle tickets got us an additional entry into the raffle. What we didn't know at this time was that the raffle was held at the very very end of the auction, and that the entire auction would take around two and a half hours.

When we checked in, we were given a number sign to hold up, as well as stickers with our number on them.

When we first arrived, there was one row of artwork that was available to view, but the back room was roped off. We sat down and waited for the show to begin. There was a little introduction by the auctioneer, and then they opened the rest of the gallery for viewing. If there's a piece you're interested in, you put a sticker on that piece. That would ensure the piece was brought up to the stage for auction (not all pieces would be). There was also some bit about being one of the first ten people to call over one of the Park West people to get a pre-auction bid price for the piece you were interested in. Supposedly, this was the lowest price it could be offered at.

We got up to roam. I didn't think to take a photo of this... I also wasn't sure if it was appropriate. But it was actually very crowded. There were many people interested in the artwork, and many people who were taking advantage of that pre-auction bid thing.

I enjoyed looking at the pieces, but none caught my eye as something I'd like to bring home. I'm more interested in learning about new up-and-coming artists, and most of the Park West artist works are more mainstream - lots of Peter Max, Britto, and Thomas Kinkade.

After a timed viewing of the gallery, we were directed to sit back down, and the auction began.

They brought a piece to the stage, the auctioneer read a description, and then the bidding period opened. If there was a sticker on it, they brought it to the stage. So you may want to refrain from placing stickers willy-nilly because it could just be a waste of time, prolonging the event.

Stove placed a sticker on a psychedelic dog painting as a joke.... but two other people also place stickers on the piece which generated a lot of interest and led to a bidding war.

The large numbers were used for bidding. It was a typical auction cadence. Hold your number up, and you agreed to the price he was calling. "500 going once. 510, can I get 520? 510 going once, going twice, going three times. Sold! 510 to 35." It was fast-paced, so at times it was difficult to tell what was going on. There were a few occasions where we were pretty sure that someone outbid their own bid. I'm not sure if they were really going to hold them to that bid price, or if they would honor their bid that they then upped for no reason other than confusion.

Earlier in the week, I had asked one of the Park West guys if they had any Autumn de Forest pieces onboard. I've been a fan of Autumn, the child prodigy, since reading about her in American Girl Magazine back in 2011 (no, I was not a child in 2011... but I still subscribed to AG Magazine because it's the best). If I ever become so wealthy that I start collecting original works of art, I would want to own Autumn's (age 9) "My American Girl."

They did have Autumn de Forest's Maslows Hierarchy (2019), numbered edition of 99. Unfortunately, out of my price range:


They also had some fun blind bids. For this blind bid, they brought out four backwards paintings. For $300, if you were one of the first five people to put your number in the air, you would get to choose two of the four mystery pieces. There was a hint... he said the painter is a well-known American landscape artist.... which I think makes it pretty apparent who the artist is.


Landon popped his number up, and Stove did, too. Both were proud new owners of two....

Thomas Kinkade landscapes! (Note: these are numbered editions, not originals)


They did the mystery game again, this time $500 for two of the three mystery pieces. This time, I raised my number.

They turned the paintings around to reveal Michael Godard "She Devil Red Wine," "Halloween 2," and "Red Wine Dance." Gorgeous work, but it doesn't fit my decor style.


Luckily, the mystery bids weren't binding. To get the artwork from the mystery bid, you need to arrange an appointment for later in the day to select the work and arrange for payment.

The kicker with the Art Auction is that the raffle for free artwork wouldn't happen until the end of the auction. We weren't expecting the auction to last two and a half hours. About an hour to an hour and a half in, we were ready to go.... but should we just wait a little longer for the raffle?

Finally, it was Rachel and Aaron who had had enough. We were wasting our last sea day in a dark room. I got up to leave with them, and Landon and my parents stayed back for the raffle. We didn't win the raffle. But Landon and Stove did schedule appointments later that evening to pick out their artwork (they got to choose two Thomas Kinkades). I didn't set up an appointment, but I did go to the gallery later with Stove and Landon, and the Park West guys took me around the gallery and offered other pieces and art "bundles," but ultimately I didn't buy any art, and they were very respectful of that decision. It did not feel like high-pressure sales.


Finally, time for some sun! The pool deck was poppin. We had to search for chairs and ended up bringing some from the shade into the sun.

We decided to try the waterslides again. This time Stove joined us (errr... forged ahead of us) on the Ocean Loop. I was ready to try again and confident that I could make it all the way through this time.

And I did! Verryyyy slowly over the first hump, but I made it out! We think it may have helped that this time I didn't have to wait in a long line, so I was still wet from the shower when I went down the slide. Also I tried to focus on holding my body stiff and minimizing surface area on the slide (I arched my back up so I was sliding on just my shoulders and heels - keeping your booty off the slide minimizes friction).

We went for a second time, and I wasn't so lucky. This time I made it over the first hump, but got stuck in the tube part. I was able to scoot my way out, so I didn't have to use the hatch.


Aaron and Landon agreed to join us for the Ocean Racers. Rachel and I did this earlier in the cruise and learned that there is a maximum weight for the 2-person tubes. Usually, it's fun to go on a 2-person tube with someone heavy in the back so you can pick up speed. However, they capped the weight at I think 300 lbs. for 2-person tubes. So Rachel and I were able to go on it together, but not with the guys.

While we were waiting in line, we were behind a crew of boys, probably age 8-12. Some of them started spitting on guests below. Rachel asked them to stop spitting on people. Then they mocked her and called her a B-word. Kids these days.



We stayed on the pool deck as late as we could before having to go get ready for Laser Tag.

That's right, we had signed up for Laser Tag earlier in the cruise but needed to move it because Landon had a work conflict (yes, he worked while on this cruise). So today was the day!


I took these photos earlier in the cruise, in the morning before the Laser Tag course was open.

Laser Tag is not something that I particularly enjoy or am good at. I'm not fond of warfare, even play warfare, and handling guns in a battle situation makes my heart race. What I have learned to do is use that war-fearing adrenaline to run around like a mad man and throw myself into the game.

There were a lot of rules, and I was worried about remembering all of them. A lot of the rules, while are certainly there for our own safety, make things less fun. No climbing over/crawling under? Lame! No running, jumping, or lying down? LAME LAME!


We checked in and were paired with another family. Our opponents were a bunch of kids. Which was frightening.


Apparently there is an unlimited pass for Laser Tag, and all of our child components had that pass and had been practicing all week! They were good.

They were so good that the staff member that was stationed at our base grabbed a gun and got in there to try to help us out.

It was a LONG game... 15 minutes? For the first five minutes, there was a big learning curve. We all had to learn when to recharge, how to boost, where to aim on our opponents, etc. If our opponents were adults, they'd probably be bored of playing a bunch of n00bs, but kids get satisfaction out of beating anyone, especially if they're really truly butt-kicking a bunch of adults. They had no mercy.


I finally got a strategy that the kiddos weren't expecting - I creeped around the perimeter to the back of their base, blended in with the kids, and started shooting them from behind. I was able to do that twice before they all caught on to what was happening.


We lost. Big time.

My recommendation for laser tag would be to do it earlier in the cruise. That way everyone is learning the game and the course, and you don't get stuck playing a bunch of kids who have been practicing all week long.


Last sunset of the cruise - 


We were still on that adrenaline high and decided to go down to the Trash Bar for a drink before getting ready for dinner.


Landon and Stove had to go meet the Park West guys and pick out their Kinkades. Landon also purchased "Dapper Dan" (200 edition series) by up-and-coming artist Kre8. That piece had been catching my eye all week, and I considered bringing it home as well, but it wasn't Aaron's favorite.

The artwork is shipped from their warehouse to your home. You can also choose to have Park West Gallery frame the artwork (additional cost), but personally I like to have a better idea of where the artwork is going before deciding on a frame. The artwork has since been delivered, and it arrived rolled in a tube. Also, the two Kinkades were slightly different sizes, so some adjustment will need to be made when framing to hang them together in a uniform frame size. The sizes are listed in the description of the pieces, so that's something to pay attention to when picking out multiples.


We met up at the A-List bar for pre-dinner expresso martinis from our favorite bartender of the cruise, Harvey -


A-List Bar

We ate dinner in The Manhattan Room again. Remember how I told everyone that the classic entrees would be there again the next night? Well, they weren't. Tonight we had a special Christmas menu.


I had to photograph the menu in sections, so rather than posting those, I'll just list it here:

Norwegian Cruise Line 2021 Christmas Menu

French Onion Soup
Butternut Squash Soup
Red Beet Salad
Caesar Salad
Strawberry Spinach Salad
Mushroom Ravioli
Asparagus & Artichoke Risotto

Roasted Atlantic Salmon
Baked Country Ham
Roasted Turkey
Sauteed Gnocchi
Chef's Special: Beef Wellington

Warm Old Fashioned Apple Pie
Strawberry Napoleon
Baked Alaska
Warm Chocolate Lava Cake
Pumpkin Pie
Christmas Log

I don't remember who ordered the Asparagus & Artichoke Risotto. It could have been me.


I do remember the Strawberry Spinach Salad. I appreciated NCL's salad variety and quality in the Manhattan Room.


For an entree, I had the Sauteed Gnocchi -


The Chef's Special was Beef Wellington. I believe this was Aaron's entree -


And for dessert, this is the warm chocolate lava cake -


After dinner, we went to pick out our photos from the night before (nothing like procrastination) and do some last-minute souvenir shopping. Aaron and I wandered away from the photos to look at jewelry and watches, and I thought everyone knew where we were, but apparently not.

We stumbled upon Landon in the atrium, and he didn't know where Rachel or my parents were. The mojito bar was really crowded, so we ended up making our way back to The District Brewhouse which we hadn't been in since muster on the first day. They have a much more diverse beer selection here, and I also found a tabletop game of beer pong.


Stove found us. Apparently there was a plan to meet Stove and Judy in Maltings, but I hadn't heard this plan. So while we were hanging around mid-ship waiting for people to stumble upon us, Stove and Judy were being stood up at the whiskey bar. We felt really bad about this because it was Christmas night and also the last night of the cruise - what a lousy time for a meet-up miscommunication.

We had a beer with Stove and then decided to call it a night.

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