For the past year, I have been looking forward to a cruise from which I have just returned.
Being a long time Trekkie (please don’t start talking about Trekker vs. Trekkie, I find the argument as silly as Trekkie is purported to be pejorative) and now, well let’s say able, my brother and I bought berths on the NCL Jade for this year’s second sailing in the Star Trek Cruise. We had a great time!
UPDATE January 21, 22:45:
- The section on “High Lord Cuckoo Face” was added, as I had forgotten about it until after publishing
- My brother has his blog post on this trip on his website, (here’s my archive) which includes a significant quotation of my text (below).
Ports of call included:
- Roatan, Honduras (suffice it to say that beyond the small and minimal but adequate tourist zone, we turned back within minutes, disappointed in the overly ferocious solicitation by the locals);
- Harvest Cay, Belize, a private island owned by NCL best described (positively so!) as Gilligan’s Island run by Mr. Howell for tourists (yes, I am aware of “The Castaways” Resort);
- Costa Maya, Mexico, where I hope that the haggling over the price of a “Mexican” blanket in the large tourist zone, both of which I expect are about as authentic as the deed to a bridge in Brooklyn — but both of which I liked anyway — made me a little less of a mark than anyone who may have paid the original price I was quoted (assuming anyone else was labelled to be one of a given number of “marks of the day”, and outside of which I got to go out to see genuine Mayan ruins!
Actors on the ship:
On the cruise, we got to see many Star Trek stars, of course all of them anywhere from 15 to 50 years older than when they were first on TV. On the first day, we managed to get a seat around the pool with a poor view onto the temporary stage where the stars were introduced, but we had front-row seats to the open air green room where the stars waited to go onto the stage!
In my personal view, the “hard workers” amongst the actors were: René Auberjonois (Odo), Robert Picardo (The Doctor), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), Robert O’Reilly (Gowron), John de Lancie (Q), and Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun, Shran, Liquidator Brunt, and others).
And to a somewhat lesser degree: Max Grodenchik (Rom), Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar and the Romulan Commander), and Nana Visitor (Major Kira). (I learned that the correct pronunciation is “Nuh-naw”, emphasis on “-naw”, not “Nay-na” with emphasis on “Nay”).
The “Invisible Cast Members” whom I don’t recall seeing at all after the first day’s introduction of the actors:
- Karl Urban (McCoy from Abramsverse) — who apparently possibly became ill, as well as apparently developed contractual conflicts after the first day, requiring him to leave the ship prematurely, and all of which I knew about early on, although not from official sources, at least not those to which I was paying attention;
- Vaughn Armstrong (Admiral Forrest, and apparently 11 various other Star Trek characters over various series). After a bit of research into the daily schedules, I learned that he:
- hosted a celebrity bingo earlier in the week during my dinner seating;
- appeared often in the “Rat Pack” musical group who played late at night, after I usually went to bed;
- hosted Gorn’s Gong Show, when I was at another show with George Takei,
- hosted a karaoke night the last night of the cruise, to which I tried to convince myself to go, but ultimately didn’t bother doing.
Which leaves Jonathan Frakes (I saw him in two shows), George Takei (who was actually all over), Michael Dorn (whom I only saw introduce a show once, but whom I bumped into one evening), Connor Trineer (whom I saw in the Star Trek Squares game, and who apparently hosted a Karaoke night as well as the Gorn Gong Show with Vaughn Armstrong, see above), Brent Spiner (who was the star of one shows that I saw), and Gates McFadden (who was in one show I saw but who did do at least one session teaching tap dancing basics).
Here is a review of the various shows I saw, and other activities in which I participated:
The first evening’s show
- Michael Dorn introduced Levar Burton, who read a children’s book he’d written, as well as an essay he’d written.
- Later when he introduced René Auberjonois and Nana Visitor, one of Michael Dorn’s quotes was “you’d still be clapping even if I were reading from the phone book” — a comment I found fascinating, and which followed me and the shows I saw all week long, since so many of the shows were NOT Star Trek related at all beyond the actors starring in them, but were still rather entertaining.
- René Auberjonois and Nana Visitor reading various humourous quotes and a scene from DS9.
- Photo op with George Takei (basically, 15 seconds with Mr. Takei)
- Star Trek’s Script Secrets Revealed with Lolita Fatjo. Interesting points: Star Trek The Next Generation had an open invitation for the public to submit scripts, virtually unique in the TV world. And, at 10AM, people were ordering noisy-to-make margeritas.
- Scopes Monkey Trial with John de Lancie, Ethan Phillips, and Robert Picardo. As I recall, Mrs. de Lancie, René Auberjonois and Jeffrey Combs participated as well, and three people from the passengers, amongst whom one who was a dead ringer for Col. Sanders of chicken fame, who also dressed the part. The show was a dramatic reading / stage play based on the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 in Tenessee.
- T-shirt party with DJ Needles: Basically, a pool party on the pool deck offering free punch and carbonated barley water (oops, I think they called it Budweiser and Coors Light) to all those wearing the cruise T-shirt.
- A Visit to the Galley: Cooking Demo with Nana Visitor — Three recipes easy to prepare in advance party items: A crab meat dish, kiwi and tequila in watermelon cups, and a third dish I have forgotten. Apparently, Nana Visitor once was a co-owner of a catering business in New Mexico. During the presentation, Nana Visitor played the comedian, and the ship’s executive chef played the straight man.
- Interstellar Improv: An episodic overdub with Denise Crosby and Friends (René Auberjonois and Robert Picardo) — a really dumb show with the three of them ad-libbing dumb comments to a silent viewing of “And the Children Shall Lead”, including some shady comments about Captain Kirk. (Ahem, NOT along the lines of “Spock is better!”)
Day 3: Roatan, Honduras (see ports of call)
- A Visit to Original Trek with Gates McFadden and Jonathan Frakes (and Picardo, Philipps, Auberjonois, de Lancie, Mrs. di Lancie). Reading the script to “The Trouble with the Tribbles” — Hilarious! And, having had a good amount of time on my hands, I had showed up about 50 minutes early to get a good seat. Good call, it was an overflow crowd!
- Gow-Rom: A skit and then Q&A with Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) and Rom (Max Grodenchik) — in full costume and makeup, and during the first part, in character!
- In Search of Lost Time: Brent Spiner performing Broadway hits. As it turns out, despite having known about “Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back”, I learned that Brent Spiner is actually a decent singer!
Day 4: Harvest Cay, Belize (see ports of call)
- “High Lord Cuckoo Face, 3 Little Klingons & O’Reilly Too” — a very deceptive title which, lacking any further explanation or context, unless one already was familiar with the reference, ultimately only relayed that the presentation would be given by Robert O’Reilly and have a vague reference Chancellor Gowron. In fact, the talk was indeed given by Mr. O’Reilly, firstly explaining that the three little Klingons referred to his three triplet sons, who at a certain point in their childhood decided that “Chancellor Gowron” was a silly name for their father’s character, and that it should be “High Lord Cuckoo Face”. After which, Mr. O’Reilly recounted poetry, and personal vignettes from his childhood. I mentioned the deceptive nature of the title in conversation, and a cynic responded to me sardonically that it might well have been better titled “Poignant stories from Robert O’Reilly’s Life Experiences”. Overall, it actually would have been a better and more accurate title, and in the process not have set me up to expect a hilarious slapstick routine.
- Star Trek Squares, with George Takei as the centre square, and a Gorn with (intentionally) unintelligible speech. The Gorn was definitely the hit of the show.
Day 5: Costa Maya, Mexico (see ports of call)
- Notes on the visit to the Mayan ruins: The guide was excellent, and at least trilingual (she spoke French with me, to my pleasant surprise). I learned that in a very flat area, not only were the ruins all built by volunteer labour (trying to get more “points” to get to the Mayan equivalent of Heaven), but also a low mountain!
- Star Trek Online presents Gameshow Night: The Liar’s Club with Jeffrey Combs, Phil Plait and Robb Pearlmann
- Evening with George Takei: George Takei spent an hour recounting his experiences in a WWII Japanese-American internment camp as a child, his path to becoming an actor, and as a civil rights activist both surrounding the Japanese-American internment camps as well as LGBT rights.
- Behind the Scenes Tour: A two hour walking tour of the ship in areas such as waste disposal, laundry, galley, and other areas, where passengers normally don’t get to see anything.
- Klingon Pub Crawl: A pub crawl to three of the ship’s bars led by Chancellor Gowron (Robert O’Reilly) in full costume and makeup. As a part of his act, Gowron told two great dumb jokes, feigning a lack of understanding of the humour:
- Two cannibals are eating supper. One says, “I don’t care for my mother-in-law.” The other responds, “Try the potatoes”.
- Two cannibals are dining on a clown. One says, “Does this taste funny to you?”
- (Second half of) The “Women’s” View with Mrs. de Lancie, Nana Visitor, Denise Crosby, Lolita Fatjo
- Oh My! With George Takei, hosted by Brad Takei — Q&A with George Takei
- Wine Tasting with Casey Biggs: As it turns out, Casey Biggs, who played Damar on DS9, owns a vineyard in California, and is involved in making his wine!
- The Real Life Search for Planet Vulcan, a short presentation on Mercury’s orbit, which at times fooled historic astronomers into claiming to have found another planet in close orbit to the Sun.
- “BFF” with Robert Picardo and Jordan Bennet. A show starting off with the Star Trek theme lyrics sung, and a cute set of jokes, stories and slides, but which ultimately featured a ho-hum performance by Robert Picardo and Jordan Bennet with a string of recognizable songs that (armchair critic here) could have been sung better, and which had little if any discernable link to each other, the show overall, Picardo and Bennet, and obviously Star Trek in general, and which left me scratching my head as to why they were included beyond a desire to fill up a one hour time slot.
On ship television:
- In the midship bar, there was an area displaying various props (and / or reproductions, no matter) from the various shows. There were TV screens showing TOS episodes. Specifically, every time I passed by, Charlie X, The Naked Time, and at least one more which I never bothered to identify, as well as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, were playing.
- In the staterooms, where I perhaps watched the equivalent of about an episode and a half over perhaps three episodes per day (ie bed time or waking up in the morning):
- On one of the two Star Trek channels, I noticed a preponderance of DS9 episodes, then a far second of Enterprise episodes, and then even fewer TNG episodes. No TOS or Voyager episodes that I saw.
- On the second Star Trek channel, Star Trek Beyond appeared to me to be in almost exclusive rotation until about the second to last day.
To be fair, of course I didn’t sit in my room 24/7 keeping track of the episodes being aired, but I would have expected to see a far more balanced airing of episodes over the week.
Firstly, we had decided not to bother spending the premium going to the premium restaurants on board — this trip was admittedly rather expensive, even though we could afford it.
We had also discussed going to the Irish pub, such as for a late night snack (since it was pretty much the only 24/7 option besides room service), but we never did go.
Which leaves the buffet area, and the dining room.
The buffet area was large enough, and rather long — and, finding empty tables normally involved a walk.
The breakfast menu seemed to be roughly the same daily. My only observation was that the scrambled eggs were undercooked and slimy some mornings (no doubt a way of countering the hotplates on which they were being kept).
Lunch menus varied somewhat daily along with standard foods like burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, and the like.
The supper menu also varied somewhat daily, and had some nice though typical items.
The menu changed daily, save five or six items which were repeated. Additionally, there was a special menu to the effect of “From Neelix’s kitchen”, with a special of the day.
The food was definitely better-than-most calibre (only to distinguish it from that food with price tags to make the afore-mentioned Mr. Howell shiver.)
My disappointing choices in the dining room?
- Not having ordered the moussaka on the first day, which the wait staff claimed was not available a few days later. It looked and smelled great, but I was concerned about which of the many varieties of moussaka I expected I might be disappointed in.
- The cheese plate for dessert one day; a bit too frou-frou for my tastes.
- The steak-frites I chose one day; rather pedestrian, instead of the lamb shank I should have ordered.
Obviously, there were a lot of Star Trek related shirts — I had a different Star Trek T-shirt for every day. And, there were a lot of Star Trek uniforms from the various series — some home made, mostly excellent while none of the expected worst costumes ever, and a number of obviously purchased from professional suppliers.
To my mild disappointment, I never happened upon impromptu hardcore discussions about anything Star Trek. I figured that they would be hard to avoid. Of course, Star Trek was being discussed. However, no obvious friendly debates over which series was the best, or who was the best or worst captain, which ship was the nicest or sleekest or fastest, or the relative merits of holodeck training vs. traditional field training in real environments, or shuttlecraft vs. transporters ….