This sailing with my wife Kayla and father-in-law Cliff was the end of a saga that began in August 2018 and wrapped up in April 2022 with a successful voyage on Celebrity Edge.
I had been excited to sail an Edge-class ship since seeing one in person in December 2018, but was hoping for an experience that wasn’t as full of upsell attempts as our Alaskan cruise on Infinity. With Edge, Celebrity has replicated things we like about Norwegian Cruise Line, brought forward differences we appreciated from Infinity, but still had a few odd, unexpected, traditional, or negative elements.
Celebrity’s All Included offers, great complimentary food options, ships with unique features and decent technology will be thoughtful considerations when booking a future cruise. While I expect Norwegian will still be our primary choice for sailing, it certainly helps to know what else is out there. Celebrity is a solid backup plan if NCL devalues their overall product too much for us as customers.
Join me for my first-ever solo sailing and first time on MSC – probably the most reasonably priced and best overall value cruise I’ve taken so far. It’s certainly a cruise line with notable quirks, but they’re definitely a top contender for a future solo trip or family vacation.
Don’t believe everything on the Internet you might hear about MSC; I definitely wish my 4-day cruise on Meraviglia had been longer, and for the price it couldn’t be beat.
The opportunity to sail on a Breakaway Plus class ship with “all 5 perks” (feat. Premium Beverage Package) presented itself, and I found it hard to decline. So let’s take a bit of an alcohol-clouded, specialty-dining fuelled, Vibe pass-imbued look at a week on the “westernized” NCL Joy – with day-to-day parenting responsibilities temporarily relieved by doting grandparents.
(This post is being published over two years after the sailing, but I mainly wanted to finish it as a record of our trip – as well as to document one of the last cruises that sailed from the US in 2020 before the pandemic shutdown.)
I started writing this post in early January 2020 to extensively document our pre-cruise travel experience. After we returned home in February, I spent a few late nights writing with the goal of getting it published prior to our March 1-8, 2020 sailing on Norwegian Joy (yes, we had two cruises just over a month apart.) As we got to the end of February, I had a large chunk written and organized, but didn’t quite get it finished before we sailed again.
Returning to Canada from Los Angeles and our cruise on Joy, we were quickly thrust into a world where one night you’re out having wings with friends – and the next day you can’t find toilet paper (for bewildering reasons) and can only see loved ones through Zoom calls.
Things have improved slightly since then but I’m certainly sick of these “unprecedented times.” The cold yet carefree days of January seem like they were years ago. Much of what I’ve written here will no longer be relevant as cruises resume, but it seems like a shame to let this languish as a draft. For those of you continuing to read, I hope that it reminds you of better times on the ocean, and provides some insight into how we traveled with twin infants when they were under a year old.
I’ve been trying desperately to catch up on my personal email these past couple months, since it’s rare (with the addition of two babies to our family) to have large uninterrupted blocks of time in which to hack. One of the recurring messages has been a “high CPU” notice from Linode every few days. In my experience this can mean a variety of things, ranging from “your site got quite a few visitors in a short timeframe” to “the backup process is going wonky” to “someone hacked your box and is trying to use it to mine cryptocurrency.”
Rather than put a whole bunch of time into investigating the root cause, I know the system needs an entire OS upgrade and we’re running a bunch of services that are no longer in use like IRC and Jabber servers – these have been replaced, at the cost of our freedom-as-in-speech, with Slack.
So, in the spirit of “cattle, not pets”, my goal is to decommission the Linode VM and move into AWS, and automate as much as I can while doing it. Having the suite of services all in one place is ideal even on a $20/month budget, and there are a number of services like Lambda, IAM, Parameter Store and DynamoDB where I could make good use of them and never pay anything directly.
Many of the people I support with web hosting aren’t willing or able to give up WordPress, so we’ll have to maintain that capability, but I’d also like a migration path for myself to a static site generator that publishes to S3/CloudFront. The best server is one you don’t have to run yourself.
My employer recently divested themselves of some end-of-life hardware and several of my coworkers and I came into the possession of Lanner FW-8758 1U “network appliances”. These seemed like they’d make pretty good Linux servers, and I figured I’d document a little bit about the platform and process.
My other home servers are currently a Supermicro 5017C-MF and an IBM x3650 M2, which are both quite noisy. The FW-8758 has four small system fans plus a PSU fan, which together still seem somewhat quieter than the Supermicro. I haven’t put the system under any serious load yet though.
We eventually settled on a 5-day February 2019 voyage that met both timing and budget requirements, and surrounded it by two days in Miami – one day before and one after the cruise.
Sky also offered a unique opportunity to compare our recent experiences with the newfangled, race-track-equipped Bliss. The Sky is one of Norwegian’s oldest ships in service – possibly the oldest depending on how you calculate Spirit’s age. Fortunately for us, our sailing was the second to happen after a dry dock from January 22 to February 7, which meant that a good portion of the ship would be newly refurbished and ready for us to enjoy.
The age and smaller size of the ship did not diminish our enjoyment, and we had a number of “Vacation Hero” experiences where staff and crew went above and beyond to make things stress-free and provide excellent service. It’s a tough decision as to whether this takes the title for “best cruise” for me, since other NCL cruises we’ve taken have their unique high points. If you’re debating Sky, though, assume that any review prior to February 2019 is prior to refurbishment, and give this ship a fair chance. My only regret is that we didn’t have a longer cruise.
Apparently Microsoft has pulled down the necessary hotfix to disable automatic scheduled maintenance shortcut deletion (eg: if you have multiple unused or “broken” desktop shortcuts) from KB2642357. This has affected me in an environment where a number of users link to applications, folders or files on network drives.
I republish the x64 version of the hotfix so you can use it where necessary, then set the “IsUnusedDesktopIconsTSEnabled” and “IsBrokenShortcutsTSEnabled ” DWORDs to 0x0 in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\ScheduledDiagnostics Registry key and avoid this spurious behaviour that I’d once written off as user error.
As summer started disappearing in Southwestern Ontario, Kayla and I began to pine for another week on the ocean featuring better temperatures. With some finagling of work schedules and liberal use of credit card travel points, we secured an inside cabin on the new Norwegian Bliss for the week before Christmas.
This was our fifth NCL cruise, and the combination of ship and staff made it arguably the best sailing we’ve been on. We’ve gotten into a good position with pre-trip planning and now have a decent handle on Norwegian’s processes and amenities. Bliss is a decent refinement of the Breakaway class, so it was fairly easy to navigate having been on similar ships.