Get Away With Fran

September 3, 2010

Pretzels and Beer in Lufthansa Lounge at Munich Airport

Filed under: Airlines,International,Travel Advice — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 11:02 am

Munich 

It is always a tad disorienting when you get off an overnight flight to Europe. You may have slept a little, but you haven’t gotten the full eight hours.

This is true even, as in my case, when you are wonderfully ensconced in a bed-like seat in Business Class on a Lufthansa 340-600, with a nice Riesling keeping you company.

So it was kind of a “wow” moment when I walked into the Lufthansa Business Class Lounge at Munich Airport to see beer drinkers at long tables with full glasses and large pretzels dangling on pretzel holders. At 10 a.m.

I grabbed a coffee and plopped myself in a lounge chair to take in the scene, and a buxom woman in a traditional dirndl proffered a basket, so I had a pretzel with my latte.

Gotta love Munich.

Lufthansa added the Bavarian flair to its lounge earlier this year. There is indeed draft beer, tapped from the barrel , which can be enjoyed at the traditional wooden tables below painted views of the Bavarian Alps.

The beer garden is not the only thing in the Terminal 2 lounge, of course. There is also a nice workstation corner for those who need to stay connected, cushy leather seating for those like me who want to take a little snooze and tables aplenty for those who want to grab a quick bite. There are bar areas too. It’s a wonderful place to hang out before your connecting flight.

For those who don’t have lounge access – yes, I know, my job has some nice perks – there is also a Munich Airport brewery/restaurant with beer garden outside of security, open in summer.

June 19, 2010

Epic entertainment served up by Norwegian Cruise Line

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , — admin @ 3:35 pm

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Norwegian Cruise Line has been touting its new 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic as the cruise ship for entertainment. And a first glimpse proves they deserve the bragging rights.

Now I will admit I am not always a fan of cruise ship show productions. I generally find them pretty darn boring. But I was awe struck by the dinner performance of Legends in Concert in the Manhattan Room restaurant (one of the ship’s two main dining rooms). No, that’s not Tina Turner in the top photo, but a really good Legends impersonator.

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Elvis and Madonna also made impressive appearances.

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There was an excellent Motown tribute too. And you see all this while eating – in my case a decent New York Strip steak. I love the idea of dinner with show – tomorrow I’ll check out the ship’s Cirque Dreams circus with dinner.

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Audience members get called into the show, and the performers just happened to pick NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan, who was a good sport participating in a rendition of “My Girl.”

The show in the dining room is about a half hour, but Legends also does a full-length show a few nights each cruise in the theater.

After dinner, I checked out some of the clubs in the ship’s entertainment area on Deck 6. “Howl at the Moon,” an act involving two piano players facing each other and taking audience requests, is the place to go if you like your entertainment participatory (they perform some nights in the comedy club, which other nights features the Second City comedy troupe).

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But the place with the most enthusiastic crowd was Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club, where the top notch band tonight was doing a little Prince, a little Hendrix, a lot of amazing guitar playing.

“Blue Man Group,” the ship’s headline act – and the reason for many to come on Epic in the first place – was not performing tonight due to a minor technical issue in the theater. But I hope to see their premier at sea tomorrow night.

First photos – Norwegian Epic, WOW

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 9:05 am

balcony cabin

Okay, I have been on the brand new Norwegian Epic for a few hours now (on a special invited guests preview in Rotterdam, Holland), And I am saying wow. My first wow came when I got to my deluxe balcony cabin. It is not at all the square box we all know, but feels more elegant with its curvy walls and furnishings. Dare I say it? It’s sexy. And I love the fact there are coffeemakers among the amenities.

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There has been much discussion about the bathrooms, which feature separate, translucent toilet and bath or bath/shower, and sink. But there is a curtain you can pull to separate the compartments from the bed area, and I like the look. And the colors are nice, cream and purple. There is an elegance you may not expect from NCL.

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I have already chosen my favorite hangout spot and it is O’Sheehan’s, named for NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan. It feels very much like a giant “Cheers” bar with bowling (three big lanes) and an overall fun pub atmosphere. And it’s open 24 hours per day. Fish and chips or a juicy burger washed down with a beer. Yay.

IceBar

And if you want to shell out $20 (including two drinks) to be super cold in the Ice Bar, where it’s always 17 degrees (they lend you a fake fur to wear), the space is really super cool, in oh so many ways.

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It’s too cold here in Rotterdam for the water slides today, but check them out. they sure look like fun.

Manhattan Room

Manhattan Club, one of two main dining rooms, is a nice, traditional space, again more elegant than you might expect, with two-deck-high windows. The ship has a whopping 20 dining spots, plus room service. I have bashed NCL on food in the past – they charge for many venues and my feeling has been the food is better in the places you pay for. But I have to say lunch today in the other dining room, Tastes, was delicious – I had a Caesar salad with shrimp and a wild mushroom omelet.

Okay, some more photos. First the much hyped Spiegel tent where the Cirque Dreams dinner show will take place (I’ll see it tomorrow). NCL officials tell me they think this will be the ship’s big hit.

Circus

And here’s a look at the Bliss Ultralounge, the sexy nightclub with bordello-esque decor and cages – yes cages – for dancers. And there is three lanes of bowling too.

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Now for the family crowd, the kids’ center is huge, with multiple spaces for various ages. Teens get their own club in a different part of the ship.

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I haven’t seen SpongeBob yet, but thanks to an agreement with Nickelodeon, I understand he’s onboard along with Dora the Explorer (they’ll be doing shows and character breakfasts).

The Epic’s spa is the largest at sea, and I’ll be trying a treatment tomorrow. The reception area is also huge and felt it – there’s no pretense that this is an intimate place, but presumably that changes when you get inside. The gym too is massive, with 37 treadmills among the equipment.

fitness-center

Among other much talked about spaces is the Studios area where there are a bunch of small cabins for solo travelers and a lounge where everyone can hang out. Love the lounge. The cabins are small but neatly designed with padded walls and mood lighting that changes colors.

You can, for instance, make your room red, as in “hot,” as in, well, like this ship.

First photos – Norwegian Epic arrives in Rotterdam

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 1:12 am

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The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic, the most-talked-about new ship of 2010, arrived in Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, today, and will take on its first passengers – me included – this afternoon.

I was on the pier as the ship came in. A small crowd of locals was gathered. Fireboats shooting water helped escort the ship for a time in the Nieuwe Maas river.

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Then a tug took over, giding the 153,000-ton Epic to the pier.

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Some people thought the original artist renderings of Epic looked too boxy. But in reality, it’s a big, resort ship and looks just that. Lots of balconies, some square angles. It’s different, but different can be good.

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I caught a little glimpse of the waterslides on top. It’s cold and windy here today and a little rainy too, so not sure I’ll actually try them.

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Can’t wait to get onboard, though, to check out the entertainment including “Blue Man Group” and the “Cirque Dreams” dinner theater. And then there is the world’s largest spa at sea and 20 restaurants and that crazy Ice Bar that must be explored.

(All photos by Fran Golden)

June 7, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn sets sail on maiden voyage

Filed under: Cruise,International,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 10:50 am

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The luxurious Seabourn Sojourn set sail on its maiden voyage on Sunday. The evening departue afforded wonderful views of London in the distance (we embarked from Greenwich) as we cruised down the Thames towards the North Sea.

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Seabourn President and CEO Pam Conover called the sailing a “momentous occasion,” and said it was particularly significant to her since she is British and the ship was doing its first sailing out of London. “You can take the girl out of Britain, but you can’t take Britain out of the girl,” Miami-based Conover said. She then led a countdown, signifying the official start of the cruise.

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And then the drinks flowed, including green martinis (my pal Jennie enjoying one in photo).

Suddenly the sound of drums and a surprise, the Royal Marine Guard came marching across the pool deck playing songs (including “Rule Britannia”).

One passenger, Arline Moore of Florida, said she was so touched she was almost teary. “Isn’t this wonderful,” she exclaimed.

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And then, another treat – fireworks over the Thames.

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A crew member proferring more drinks told me those working on the ship were excited to have the first guests onboard. “We have put a piece of our hearts in this ship,” he said.

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