The Walker Stalker Cruise
The maiden voyage of the Walker Stalker Cruise hosted by Sixthman was a coveted trip for all true The Walking Dead fans. Sixthman puts on festivals on the sea, with major groups like Kiss, Train, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 311, and Barenaked Ladies performing and hanging out with a few thousand of their fans. Hang out with stars of The Walking Dead on a Caribbean cruise? Yes, please!
Once we found out there was going to be a TWD cruise on the Norwegian Pearl with Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), we rushed to sign up. Rooms booked up quickly, and we got in while several of our friends didn’t make it in time. The experience was a mixed bag, so let’s break it down:
Sign up and booking: Sixthman
Sixthman made the process easy. We registered for the pre-sale, reserving our spot in line to book a room. They sent us an email with the earliest date/time we’d have access, which did not guarantee we could book – first come, first served. Thankfully, when our time came there were still rooms available. Sixthman had already given us all the info in advance, so we knew what room type we wanted and could go straight for that, with 2nd and 3rd choices already picked out. We didn’t get our top choice…but we got on the boat! Registering was easy. Smooth sailing. But then…Then I got injured. When the accident first happened, little did we know how bad things would get. I was grasping to get back to work. When life knocks you down, you get back up, right?! Well, the recovery didn’t happen as quickly as we were hoping, if we went, I needed a couple accommodations. Which leads me to….
We had to decide whether to go on the cruise or back out. Months after the accident with a TBI, my brain gets overloaded in crowded, loud environments. I am also incredibly sensitive to loud or competing sounds. If left in chaotic environments for too long (even with earplugs, headphones, etc.), I will degrade into an almost vegetative state for hours afterwards. Which is no fun for anybody.
After months of my husband’s sacrifice, I had to try to make this happen for him. We’re both TWD fans and it was NORMAN REEDUS (ladies, see below…enough said), so if I could tough it out I was going to. We knew embarkation could take me down since there would be no escape to any dark, quiet space. At that time in my recovery, that’s all I needed. Access to relative quiet, so that when my brain started to get overloaded, the hubs could pull me into a quiet spot and keep me from turning into what actually looked like a vegetable zombie. So as long as we made it through that, we were golden. Just a few phone calls for a little help, right?
After two calls to NCL, an email, and two confusing offers for wheelchairs and no real assistance, my husband finally thought it was resolved. We’d get medically expedited embarkation, limiting my exposure to loud areas, and my brain would be salvaged to actually enjoy the cruise. YES!
But, no. Chaos. When we arrived, our POC never showed, and amidst all the chaos of hundreds of people, my brain was going into a Jell-o state. Not like, roofied by Bill Cosby (too soon?), but pain and disorientation. So I just had to stop trying to focus, grab my husband’s hand and blindly follow him as he tried to find the guy. That vegetable zombie thing I was telling you about? Yeah, that was happening.
Somewhere in that chaos, a Sixthman crew member asked for my husband’s umbrella for the VIP’s. After what felt like an eternity, someone else from NCL led us inside. He left us at the front desk, and said to enjoy our trip. We got our room key, and thought we can go embark and get me to a quiet space….but no!We were sent into a giant locked box waiting area with a huge crowd, and it was even louder. No quiet spaces to push to. I was headed even further downhill fast. My husband looked around like this had to be a mistake. He searched for the POC, called him several times but was ignored. Finally, he found him. POC took one look at me, told us to wait and we. never. saw. him. again.
Did he make a judgement and abandon us? I smiled. I worked hard to make eye contact with him. But the determination of need should not be assessed by how I appear on the outside. NCL should know that. If not, they need better training. Eventually my husband found someone else, and they let us in. It was an unfortunate way to spend our first day and NCL mishandled it. They never apologized, and they acted like we were a little unreasonable for having a disability that did not require a wheelchair. Uh, thanks bro. I’ll tell my brain to get right on disabling my legs too to make you feel more comfortable about taking care of me.
So if your group requires special medical needs, think twice about NCL. My need was ignored and it ended up having a major impact on my first 24 hours on board. Alright, now to the good stuff.
The Pearl: Staterooms
For cruise ships, accommodations on the Norwegian Pearl are actually pretty decent. The Haven offers the most luxury, with a 3-bedroom, all en-suite villa with a private garden and hot tub.
Surely, this is where Norman Reedus and Greg Nicotero had a slumber party and braided each others’ hair.
There are several other suites to enjoy, either at the mid of the ship or forward, all with large outdoor spaces (my favorite part – spending early morning with your coffee looking out over an endless ocean = priceless) and plush interiors. Even the basic staterooms were relatively nice, with decent balconies, a small desk/table, and a well-lit vanity and chair.
If you want good food on the Pearl, you’re going to pay extra. This was my husband’s first cruise, and I totally set him up for failure. I’d been on Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival before and the food on each was verging on oh-my-god, I’m going to need the next size pants up amazing.
So I thought the food on all cruises must be stellar. Don’t most people gain weight on these things?
We did room service on day 1 for lunch since I was so drained from the embarkation
nightmare experience. We were starving, but with no menu in our room, we just ordered burgers and soda. It was a little perplexing ordering drinks. Cherry coke? No. Coke? No. Ok, you must have Pepsi products. Dr. Pepper? No. Ok…how ’bout an iced tea? Sure! Oh, thank god.
The food arrived and it was…so…bad. We ate only because we were hungry. But we didn’t enjoy it. How do you mess up a burger? Our bad luck was getting comical.
By dinner, we were really hopeful for a turnaround. That first night, we hit the main dining room, Indigo. I tried my best to choke down the Caribbean jerk pork I’d ordered, but I just couldn’t do it.
Did I mention we’re foodies? There’s not much we don’t like. But seriously, where was all the amazing food?! It tasted like a pre-packaged airplane meal.
Dessert was better but weird. I ordered pistachio creme brulee, and it came looking day glow shamrock green with a one inch sliver of brulee, and all the rest was just gritty sugar. At this point, my husband was looking at me like I was crazy when I told him cruise food was usually fantastic. Sorry, love!
For breakfast, we tried to avoid the crowds at the indoor Garden Cafe, and went straight to the Great Outdoors buffet where it was much quieter (plus amazing views). Both served pretty similar food, and both were hit and miss. A focus was definitely on quantity, not quality.
The other two nights, we paid for dinner and got much better meals. Le Bistro is a French themed restaurant, and the food was stellar. Plus, they actually took their time with the creme brulee, and it was fantastic.
Oh, and they made the perfect old fashioned for me. Mmmmm, bourbon.
Cagney’s Steakhouse was also a fantastic meal. Hubs got the filet, while I got the sea bass. Both were delicious. If all of the meals had been like that, we would have definitely been in trouble with the scale. So it’s a trade off!
The quality of service depended on the source. Our steward was on top of his game, and did a great job. Our stateroom was always cozy, spotless, and full of cuddly visitors like Monkey Joe here.
Dining service was ok. I’m used to scheduled dining on other cruises. The freestyle concept was convenient, but we didn’t have a consistent waitstaff to build a rapport with.
So the waitstaff was inconsistent, and there was also a slight contempt detected a couple times when people accidentally got in their way. (That should be enough said right there.)
They didn’t have a friendly, warm, and service-oriented perspective that I’d experienced on other cruises. I’m not saying the service was bad…it was mostly just ok.
There was one instance where I was headed to a public restroom right outside the Summer Palace (shut down for photos and autographs) just before a staff member went in to clean. As I went into a stall, she dropped the f-bomb behind me and started mumbling under her breath.
No idea what that was about. Maybe I took her favorite stall? Maybe I delayed her cleaning? Maybe she’d just missed out on running into Norman Reedus and asking to have his baby? Maybe Danai turned her down for an epic Michonne-style katana battle? Don’t care, NCL. Seriously. School your people!
The Port: Grand Bahama Island
Unfortunately, the weather started out as kind of a bust, and most of the vendors who set up shop right outside the ships didn’t open up. It was a windy, cold, and rainy morning. We went to the shops that were open, and they were cute – they had the typical island kitsch and touristy gifts.
We originally planned to catch a shuttle over to one of the beach resorts and lounge the afternoon away with pina coladas. But the weather had other plans, so we returned to the ship and watched zombie movies (thanks, Sixthman!). The weather did clear up, but by the time we realized, it was too late to head out.
C’est la vie, my friends. They can’t all be winners.
Sixthman, TWD, and the Zombies!
Sixthman was fantastic – the crew were all friendly and very helpful. They sent us this little surprise for my husband lending the umbrella to get the celebs in. Class act! Since I was stuck recovering so much in the stateroom, they didn’t know how much this nice little treat was appreciated.
It’s clear they did a great job putting together all the events – panels, photos and autographs – it was a ton for them to put together, and minus a few hiccups (that seemed mostly due to NCL‘s unreliable internet), every event seemed to go well. I mean, a couple thousand people to see Norman Reedus is a big feat to pull off. Complexities of scheduling that many celebs and concurrent events had to be a nightmare, but they nailed it.
And you know, they just seem like a company you’d actually want to hang out with. Everybody had an easygoing attitude, and seemed genuinely happy to be doing their job. Honey, I think we’re doing this career thing all wrong!
My one wish is that it would have been a smaller cruise. As it was, I spent about 30 seconds total with Norman Reedus. We were being herded through very quickly. And for good reason – he was working nonstop (and seemed so sweet despite being at it for so long) and they needed to get everyone through.
So, it would be nice in the future if they do this again to make it a real experience for the people that sign up by limiting the number of people. It felt like a military cruise, where large masses of people were just constantly waiting in line for a quick, blink and it’s gone experience, only to get in the next line for the same thing with another celeb.
Danai Gurira (Michonne) had just as long of a line as Norman Reedus, and we got about 10 seconds with her as well. But look at this gorgeous badass!
On Sunday, we sat at the bar with the Steelers game on and watched poor Greg Nicotero try unsuccessfully to just watch the game. He had some folks sitting around him trash talking and having a good time. And that would have been ok had it just stayed at that.
But every time he turned around, there was somebody new trying to get his attention, excited to see him, and some drunk people who wouldn’t leave him alone. He was constantly getting pulled away from the game to take pictures.
Seeing that made me feel for the celebs. To experience anything on the ship, they’d be interrupted non-stop by people who hadn’t seen them yet, as this would be their only chance to get a real selfie with them aside from the costly posed prom photos.
So if the number of people was limited, it would actually feel like a legit experience for those of us on board who just want to hang out and not have to race to find and stalk favorite celebs, and throw elbows just to get a chance to chat with them.
Emily Kinney (Beth) performed with her band, and she was amazing. Her voice is pure beauty. Michael Traynor (Nicholas) was a hilarious riot, and we wish we’d been able to get a photo with him. By the time we tried to sign up, it was too late. But that guy is so much fun. I don’t think we saw any of the other celebs and I honestly spent most of the time recovering in the stateroom. At least my husband was able to experience the events and show me the videos afterwards.
We waited too long to hit the merch shop, and they were all out of small or medium walker stalker cruise shirts. Or tank tops. Or sweatshirts. Darn it! So disappointed. I should have done that first! Oh well. At least we got a picture of Hershel’s head.
So all in all, it was a mixed bag experience. NCL has some things to improve on, some things they’re doing well. Sixthman, keep being awesome and thanks for the champagne. Make it a smaller cruise next time on a different cruise line, and I’ll be ecstatic. It was pretty awesome to meet some of the cast of TWD. An experience I’ll never forget – just wish I could have been able to be out and about to enjoy more of it!