Community Palette

Norwegian GETAWAY Baltic Cruise: Part IV

July 11, 2019

There are a few things a ship needs to make it a great cruise ship and the GETAWAY has them. One is of course the Captain. Then there is the General Manager who is responsible for literally everything from food and beverage, all the cabins, swimming pools and in general providing the great ambiance you want and Mario Markovic, the General Manager of the GETAWAY does all that. Last but certainly not least is the Cruise Director. He/she works from early morning to late at night, always smiling, ensuring the great entertainment and in general making sure each passenger always has a smile on their face.

Norwegian GETAWAY (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Norwegian GETAWAY

 

The Cruise Director during my time on the GETAWAY was Vincent Teschel and he did all that without breaking a sweat.  I had the chance to chat with him for a short time and considered myself lucky as he was literally always on the go. He oozes charm and what’s more that charm is backed up by a wealth of knowledge and experience. Vincent has been with NCL for five years and aside from the GETAWAY has worked on the Pearl, Sun, Star, and the Pride of America. Prior to that he worked on land at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, and was a traveling performer for ten years. The performing background is immediately visible when you meet Vincent as he is always performing in his job and that is a positive thing. He is entertaining people and does it superbly. 

 

He was born in Pensacola, Florida and that is where he makes his home when he is not onboard ship. He is also clearly a young man with a big heart and is currently taking care of his elderly parents who live in Pensacola. I asked him what is the most fun of his job and he said he really believes if he is having fun all the time everyone else will be having fun. He says he tends to try to live on the lighter side of life and always looks at things from a positive perspective. That helps when you have a job like his with 150 people reporting to you and thousands depending on you to make their cruise memorable. 

 

Vincent is thirty-three and once you get to know him a little better you realize more and more how his acting training adds to his ability to do his job. He went to college in the Circle in the Square in New York for Musical Theater and got his BFA in Music with a minor in Opera and Dance from Jacksonville University. He has traveled to over thirty-eight countries on five continents. On his own time he loves the Mediterranean and enjoys going back-packing where he can get off the grid. He finds that helpful and centering after always having to be on at work. He is also into yoga and goes to an annual yoga retreat. His contract with NCL like most of the staff is for four months on and two months off. But remember during the four months there is not one day off. I met Vincent toward the end of this current four month tour but you would never know that from watching him and talking with him. 

Vincent Teschel (Photo by: Courtesy of Vincent Teschel) Vincent Teschel

He has actually developed his own brand and he loves that. He is proud of being a fashion plate and owns twenty-seven suits from wild plaid to pale green and they are all with him onboard sharing his cabin. He has them made for him by a tailor in Colorado. I asked him what was the weirdest question anyone asked him and he laughed while answering. He said an older lady on one cruise came up behind him and grabbed his behind and said she was only checking if he was wearing any underwear as she couldn’t see a panty line.  I actually didn’t ask him what his answer was but from watching him around the ship surely many more men and women would like to do that test on him.  

While his great sense of humor and perpetual smile can sometimes belie how serious he is about his job if you watch him for any period of time you know he gives total attention to even the smallest details making sure every show, every act, all the games, come off without a hitch and leave passengers smiling. He is a consummate professional and NCL is really lucky to have him. 


Click here to share your thoughts.


Norwegian GETAWAY Baltic Cruise: Part III

July 3, 2019

My bucket list has always included a visit to Saint Petersburg, Russia. So it was the chance to spend two whole days there that hooked me and I booked my nine day Baltic cruise on the NCL GETAWAY.  My trusted travel agent, Scott Moster and his husband Dustin were coming on this trip and suggested we hire a private guide for the two days we would be there. Along with them and our friend John we met our guide Larissa and driver Misha at the pier our first morning in Saint Petersburg. Over two days and eighteen hours they shared the wonders of Saint Petersburg with us including one of the best museums in the world, the Hermitage, opulent Palaces and churches. Larissa was a font of information able to answer every question we had. 

Cascade fountain at Peterhof (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Cascade fountain at Peterhof

Saint Petersburg is a beautiful, well-kept modern city. On day one we headed directly to the Hermitage and on the way Larissa gave us a running history lesson which continued as we toured the museum. It is the second largest art museum in the world and was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great wanted a place to exhibit her art collection. It has been open to the public since 1852. Its total collection comprises over three million items. There are six buildings, five open to the public that comprise the museum including the opulent Winter Palace. 

Catherine was a smart lady and purchased or was gifted paintings now in the galleries along the southern facade and in the western wing of the New Hermitage including collections of Van Dyck, Rubens, and Rembrandt. Then there is the magnificent golden peacock clock made up of three life-sized mechanical birds. Larissa told us the clock is shown daily on a Russian TV channel as the Peacock spreads its feathers when the clock is wound. We saw the gold and the diamond treasuries with artifacts unearthed in archaeological digs and gifts given to the czars. It boggled the mind to see all the diamond and other precious jewel encrusted sabers and watches; crowns of gold thorns, jewelry of all sorts all really quite breathtaking. After many hours in the Hermitage we drove through the city and stopped at a number of other beautiful churches and parks. 

Day two dawned sunny and warm and we had asked to see the orthodox Jewish Synagogue. Today in Russia one can practice many different religions. The Synagogue was quite beautiful and we were there during morning services. We then headed to the main shopping street in Saint Petersburg, Nevsky Prospect, and walked along until we reached a metro stop. Larissa took us on the metro for two stops where Misha again met us with the van. The Metro stations are beautiful with marble carvings, incredible mosaics and glass columns with lots of gold leaf.   

Then a forty-five minute drive to Peterhof (also known as Petrodvorets) which is often referred to as "the Russian Versailles". Actually a series of palaces and gardens commissioned by Peter the Great as a direct response to his seeing the Palace of Versailles which had been built by Louis XIV of France. I have been to Versailles and Peterhof is even be more impressive with its fountains and gardens. Once again Larissa was a fount of information on all the rooms and how the gardens were set up and how the fountains worked. 

     Hermitage grand staircase (Photo by: Peter Rosnestein) Hermitage grand staircase

Versailles was the inspiration for Peter the Great's desire to build an imperial palace in the suburbs of his new city.  It was Peter's daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who ordered the expansion of the Grand Palace and greatly extended the park and the famous system of fountains, including the truly spectacular Grand Cascade. Larissa told us Peterhof was ravaged by German troops during the Second World War but was rebuilt thanks to the work of military engineers as well as over 1,000 volunteers. The Lower Park opened to the public in 1945 and the facades of the Grand Palace were restored in 1952. The name was also de-Germanicized in 1944, becoming Petrodvorets, the name under which the surrounding town is still known. However the palace and park are once again known as Peterhof.

The most famous ensemble of fountains, the Grand Cascade, which runs from the northern facade of the Grand Palace to the Marine Canal, comprises 64 different fountains, and over 200 bronze statues, bas-reliefs, and other decorations. At the center stands Rastrelli's spectacular statue of Samson wrestling the jaws of a lion. The Grotto behind the Grand Cascade, which was once used for small parties, contains the enormous pipes, originally wooden, that feed the fountains.

 Inlaid floor in the Hermitage (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Inlaid floor in the Hermitage

After hours in Peterhof we headed back to the city and toured the Church of the Resurrection, also known as the "Savior on Spilled Blood". It was built in memory of Alexander II who was assassinated in 1881 on the spot where the church now stands. Alexander II is considered among the greatest Russian Czars. He actually emancipated Russian serfs in 1861, which brought an end to the de facto slavery of the Russian peasantry. That was five years before the emancipation of slaves in the US.

Having a little time left before we needed to return to the ship Misha drove us through the city while Larissa gave us a running commentary on all we were seeing. Our two days in Saint Petersburg were magical. 


Click here to share your thoughts.


Norwegian GETAWAY Baltic Cruise – Part II

June 16, 2019

Day three on the GETAWAY dawned bright and sunny and cool. I had my usual breakfast delivered to the room; coffee, a muffin and orange juice and began to work on my book for most of the morning. With the balcony door open and the sun streaming in made for a really relaxing and enjoyable way to spend the morning.  My friends texted me on the new Norwegian Cruise app which we had downloaded for $10 which allowed us to text and call each other and anyone else on the ship who had the app for the duration of the cruise. We arranged to meet at 1:00pm at one of the interesting restaurants on the ship, O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill. It is one of the regular options and I had a great Ruben sandwich. Then it was off for my meeting with Mario Markovic, the General Manager.

Mario Markovic (Photo by: Norwegian Cruise Line) Mario Markovic

Like all the General Managers, again previously called Hotel Directors, he is a charming man with a wide range of knowledge of the cruise industry. My first question was why there had been a title change and when had NCL had done that. He said it was only about six weeks ago and he thought it was done to come into line with what the person doing his job in a hotel on land is called. It seems some people found it hard to believe that the Hotel Director was responsible for basically everything on the ship other than the engine room and the bridge which was the Captain’s domain. 

Mario told me he has been with NCL for about three years and this is his second stint on the GETAWAY. He was with the ship in dry-dock overseeing all the refurbishing though the detailed plans for what was done had been in the works for at least a year which isn’t surprising considering the cost of refurbishing a ship. They only came out of dry-dock on May 24th and this was its second cruise since then. From the reactions to the public spaces I have heard from other passengers the refurbishment has been a rousing success. He said he and the crew were really pleased with it as well.

Mario shared with me he is from Zadar, Croatia, and he is clearly proud of his home town. When not on the ship he is there with his wife and teenage daughter. Zadar is listed as one of the best destinations in Europe. Mario has been at sea for twenty-five years working for a number of different cruise lines besides Norwegian including Celebrity and Carnival. His interest in the hospitality industry was stoked when he began working at a hotel in Zadar at the age of fourteen. He eventually got his degree in Hotel and Tourism from the University in the city of Rijeka in Croatia. 

We were sitting in front of one of the specialty restaurants on the ship, Le Bistro, for our chat and he called a staff member and asked them to bring us some coffee from the Starbucks outlet onboard. It wasn’t that he was unwilling to get it himself but the line was long and he didn’t want to take away from the time we had to chat. If his phone call with staff and the interaction he had with the crew member who brought us the coffee are any indication of his relationship to his crew it is clearly great. His joking manner surely puts them all at ease.  He told me on this cruise there were 3,400 passengers and a crew of about 1,650. He was responsible for about 1,400 of them. The other 250 were the responsibility of the Captain including deck hands and engineers. I asked him to try and arrange a visit to the bridge and he jokingly said he would tell the Captain to invite me, but I know that is up to the Captain on each ship. I had an amazing visit to the bridge of the Norwegian Bliss. 

We chatted about the millions of dollars it costs to provision the ship for such a cruise and he explained that each area from laundry, to food, to entertainment has a budget which they prepare and then he goes over it with each director and must approve each one. It is really big business. He did explain he naturally uses the history they have on spread sheets of previous cruises to prepare the budgets and in essence they are done estimating income and expenses per passenger. Mario said it is easier to do on a large ship than on a small one as the variations per passenger per trip on a large ship aren’t as great. 

My time with Mario passed quickly and one could easily tell how much he enjoyed his job and how good he was with people, both passengers and crew, which is the crucial part of doing his job well. When I got back to my stateroom there was an invitation to the Captain’s VIP cocktail reception that evening in the Bliss lounge. Surely the efficiency of getting that out quickly fell to his secretary, Malou Colarte. 


Click here to share your thoughts.