The beautiful weather continued, and the wind died down, so it seemed a bit warmer although it was only about 75 degrees. But, it was a welcomed change for someone who currently calls South Florida his home.

We decided to be served breakfast today, so it was off to O’Sheehan’s…and yes, they DO serve breakfast…and we were glad! It seemed to be one of the best kept secrets on the ship. All of the servers were smiling, friendly and attentive, and it was a nice experience to start the day.

Today we rode the ferry, also just steps from the ship, into Hamilton. The cost was the same as a round trip bus ride, but takes a fraction of the time; about 25 minutes compared to a 50-60 minute bus ride. NOTE: Ask the dockside workers about the ferry schedule! The printed schedules that were handed to us only noted one-hour intervals. It turned out that there were ferries every half-hour, and the schedule only showed that for weekends.

Hamilton was very beautiful, but typical of most of the cruise ship island destinations in the Caribbean. Typical meaning the same types of shops, pubs and restaurants that cater to the mainstream masses. Venture down some of the side streets and then you will find where the locals go. And THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL NOTICE THE DIFFERENCES!! In Hamilton, you will feel much safer; it just seems this way. You also do not have several people coming up to you asking for money, or if you want your hair braided! The city is well maintained, and we joked that it should be called “The Island of Boca Raton (Florida).” Definitely more upscale in appearance, offerings, and yes, in price!

We had lunch at a local restaurant called “The Lobster Pot.” Everyone in our party enjoyed the atmosphere and the food. We each had an alcoholic beverage with our lunches and the bill was a reasonable $101, and it included the gratuity. The lobster bisque was excellent, though none of us had lobster for lunch.

From there, after a little shopping, we caught a cab ($22 divided by 4 people) to the Crystal Caves. Entrance into the caves cost us $22 per person, and included a guided tour. The caves were beautiful and the stories behind how they were discovered are very interesting. The tour was brief, maybe 30 minutes, and there is a lot of climbing involved. It is about 87 steps back up, and then a subsantial incline to reach the exit (also the starting point). Don’t drop your cameras or iPhones into the waters, because that is where they will stay. The guide called it “the other gift shop!”

We returned to the ship, but not before stopping at the Rum Cake and Glass Factories at the dockyard shops. You can sample the rum cakes and watch the artists create glass art!

We had dinner at the Noodle Bar, on board, and it was very reasonably priced. I had the fried rice with beef and pork, and a vegetable spring roll. My wife had the Peking noodles, and she enjoyed it enough to order another!

Later in the evening we enjoyed the GLOW PARTY, formerly known as THE WHITE HOT PARTY. I don’t think we were the only passengers that did not know about the change, because three-fourths of all in attendance were in their white-hot get-ups! If it is on NCL’s website, either we missed it, or it needs to be more obvious. Regardless, it was fun, and is the reason why Day 5’s blog update is coming to you this morning!!

Time fell short on us yesterday, so today we are going to, hopefully, get onto the rope course, and walk the plank. Make it a great day everybody!

Today was our first day in Bermuda, docked at King’s Wharf. The beautfiul weather encountered during our days at sea continued today. Because of this, we decided to make this our beach day, so we headed to Horseshoe Bay beach.

Transportation was easily accessible, and the buses were large, comfortable and air conditioned. Tokens and bus passes were available for purchase just steps from the ship, and the buses were located close by as well. Note that they only accepted cash or travelers checks; no credit cards. It was $7.50 round trip per person.

The bus ride to Horseshoe Bay took about 25 minutes, and there were no stops between the ship and the beach. It is a winding, one-lane road in either direction. Once we reached the stop, it was another 500 yards, downhill, to the beach entrance. If it is the return to the top you are worried about, there is a $2 per person shuttle that will take you in either direction! Beach entry is free.

At the entrance, there are restrooms, showers and changing stations. Both the mens and the womens sections were fully functional and cleaned throughout the afternoon. To the left, you will find a snack bar restaurant, with seating located just outside, and beautiful views of the beach. Cold soft drinks, beer, coffee drinks and water are all for sale, along with sandwiches, wings, burgers, chips and more. By the way, beers are very reasonable here. And, Coolie made us feel very welcome!

The beach is very picturesque, but we favor a calmer surf. We call Florida home for now, and we are more accustomed to the calmer waters of South Florida and the Caribbean. The sand was incredibly fine and soft, and easy to clean off of everything, including our bodies. After a few hours, we walked up the hill (our workout for the day), and waited in line for the next bus. We boarded, and it was standing room only. If you have difficulty standing for long periods of time, I advise you to wait for the next bus (if you find yourself in this situation). It is a very winding road, and there is LOTS of stop and go traffic. It can be a challenge!

We arrived back at the shipyard and headed straight to The Frog and Onion Pub. We had fish and chips, fried pickle chips, French Onion Soup and wahoo (a local catch). They also brew their own beer, so we ordered their IPA and the Wheat Beer. We were four people, and the bill was $127, which already included the gratuity. They also gave us souvenir pilsner glasses, which was a nice surprise. Heading back on board, we had to show our stateroom keys AND government issued photo IDs.

Once on board, I went back up to deck 15, pool deck. This time, I analyzed the layout more closely. Most of the areas to lay out near the center of activity are shaded! If you want to catch some rays on Breakaway, you’ll need to head aft, toSpice h2O (adult only area), or find a lounge away from the pool area, where you really won’t hear the music. For a ship based out of the cooler Northeastern U.S., I am kind of surprised at all of the shaded areas on pool deck; and I do not mean temporary structures that can be moved. This would be more understandable in a ship based out of a warm weather climate, going to more warm weather climates! But, not complaining…just an observation, since my mind is built this way!

We will be back tomorrow, with more from Bermuda, and a plan to try the suspended obstacle course and the plank! Good night!

Another full day at sea and one day closer to Bermuda! Here are today’s experiences and observations from the Norwegian Breakaway:

1. Seems like a definite pattern. Breakfast at the Garden Cafe (Buffet Deck 15) is fully open by 7:30am (all stations). If you want to avoid the crowds, have your plates filled and be seated before 8:30am. By the way…the eggs taste real (not the powdered stuff!). In addition, don’t miss the hash browns! They are like miniature potato pancakes and have great flavor!

2. Foods that are supposed to be hot are hot; consistently now for three days.

3. We enjoyed an international beer tasting today! $15 per person for five samplings and lots of history and information. It all took place at Maltings Bar. We also experienced a Michael Jackson dance class, featuring the song “I Want You Back”, and prep for a flash mob!

4. We enjoyed a game of miniature golf on the 9-hole course. It was crowded but we only had to wait about two minutes for clubs and balls. In addition, deck space was not an issue…if you did not have to be by the two Main Pools.

5. One of the highlights of the day was a photo with two of the Radio City Rockettes. All of our photos will be posted when we are in a fast and reliable WiFi zone. Sorry to say, the satellite service still doesn’t cut the mustard.

6. The casino has an addicting “crane game” that gives you a chance to win lots of cash and iPads. The object is to make an over-sized key-shaped object fit perfectly into an opening, so that it will latch on to the prizes of your choosing. All it takes is a $1 swipe of your room key. But beware, it is not easy, although it seems so simple, and it is easy to lose track of how many turns you have taken.

7. Dinner tonight was in Le Bistro, a French restaurant venue with a $20 pp cover. Service and fare were each excellent, and the food continued to exceed our expectation, especially on a line better known for its entertainment. We have heard comments from several about their pleasant experiences with the meals and food venues.

8. An observation…seems there are more smokers on cruises out of the Northeast than on cruises out of Florida. Keep this in mind if you plan to dine outdoors, as the Breakaway has an abundance of outdoor dining venues.

9. “Rock of Ages” in the Breakaway Theater was amazing…full set, just like on Broadway. The music, and how it was used to tell the story…brilliant, and brought back fond memories. Loved the cast…and they were available for FREE meet and greets and photo opps (with your own cameras) as you exited the Theatre!

Overall, the staff and crew have been very friendly, and we are often greeted with smiles. A couple of times we encountered a shy bartender, but after a few minutes, each seemed to loosen up a bit. However, you can tell which ones are going to be more successful in the long run! That’s it for today. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow!

Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day. We are back with Day 2 of our cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway, which is a full day at sea en route to Bermuda. Keep in mind, due to the extremely slow internet speed, we will be uploading most photos on Sunday, after we disembark. You will not be disappointed! Here are today’s thoughts and tips:

1. We had a wonderful day relaxing onboard, spending most of our time at Spice h2O, an adult-only deck/pool area, aft, deck 16. Chairs were easy to obtain, whether you desired shade or sunlight. This area not only protects you from young children, but also from high winds! It is close to all of the food venues on deck 15 (Garden Cafe buffet) as well as the adjacent Uptown Bar & Grill. And, it is where one of the Sabrett Hot Dog Carts is located!

2. I started the day, however, in the gym at 9:20am. It was packed. I took the tour on the first day, and did comment how small (for a ship this size) the gym is, but did not figure it would be so busy. It was still packed at 4:00pm! I truly am surpised with its size, considering it is based out of New York City. There are less older folks on board (than cruises out of Florida, for example), and as with any ship based out of the north, you would think there IS going to be greater amounts of indoor activity, and indoor use. On the flip side, the fitness centers are rarely overcrowded on the cruises out fo the south. And, on the newer megaliners (Oasis, Allure and NCL Epic) the gyms are huge!

3. I LOVE this ship, but I must mention, it DOES feel crowded. When compared to ships of similar size, hallways are narrower, buffet restaurant walking areas are tighter and the staterooms are smaller on average. The Oasis class of ships can hold about 1,500 more people (at capacity), but during my experiences, they never felt crowded.

4. Be sure the bring flip flops to the pool decks…the floor gets hot.

5. You must place you stateroom key in a slot (by the front door) to bring power into the room and for the lights to turn on. Be sure NOT to remove the key at night to shut the lights. Your electronic items will not charge up!

6. We had dinner in the Manhattan Room, one of the main dining rooms, tonight. It is a beautiful space, and has a dance floor. We enjoyed it and did not feel rushed. Since everyone has different taste buds, we are careful not to be food critics, but in our eyes, the stretch of good food continued today…no disappointments!

7. In our stateroom, the lavatory trash bin is INSIDE the door of the cabinet underneath the sink.

8. My wife was not disappointed with the service and quality of food at Wasabi Sushi Bar.

9. The DJ and staff was excellent at getting everyone involved with the Norwegian Night Out Dance Party at Spice h2O, 10:45pm. The dance floor was packed just 15 minutes into the event.

Thanks for stopping by! We will back again tomorrow with Day 3.

We promised to report live from the Norwegian Breakaway all this week, and we are going to deliver. Here are our experiences for Day One, Sunday, May 26th:

1. We arrived at the port via a Sprinter Van. It took 22 minutes and 38 seconds from the first step out of the van to the first step into the Breakaway. Arrival at the port was 11:22 AM. Our time included walking all the way to the BACK of the terminal for even deck check-in, and we were filtered into the Latitudes Rewards line. The entire was painless, from the security checkpoint to receiving our sail and sign cards. You will, however, know you are in New York! Fast, to-the-point instructions and talkers, from the curbside baggage handlers to the staff inside the terminal. Pay attention!

2. We stepped into the ship towards the aft, and the entrance was not grand. It is always nice to be awed, and form terrific memories, when you step inside for the first time, and that did not happen here. As is typical with Day One Boarding, elevators did not arrive quickly…but they did eventually. The elevators seem larger than those on most other ships.

3. Our staterooms were ready, so we dropped our carry-ons and went straight up to the Garden Cafe. The variety of food was incredible. Pastas, brats with kraut, seafood, pizzas, Asian fare…so much to mention. The desserts were awesome, as expected coming from NYC suppliers. It’s gotta be in the water! Speaking of water, The Garden Cafe offers flavored water dispensers, along with the usual iced teas, lemonades, water and coffee. They also had wine machines! You swipe your room key, and choose your wine…it’s that simple!

4. The Muster Drill was organized and quick. Dress lightly, however. The stations are all indoors and it gets warm with all of the bodies around you…especially if your spot is in the area with the big screen. Those lights make it very warm.

5. Sail away was awesome. If you have never sailed out of New York City, put it on the list! The city, the Statue of Liberty and sailing under the Verrazano Bridge…all sights to see and experience from onboard any tall cruise ship. There are excellent photo opportunities and it was fun to hear the entire deck cheer when the ship successfully cleared the Verrazano (watch for our video to soon appear on our YouTube Channel, cruiseCX). After we cleared the bridge, we sampled a “dirty water dog” at the Sabrett hot dog stand!

6. We then had a “snack” at O’Sheehan’s Pub, on Deck 7. Comfort foods galore at O’Sheehans, and it is all included in your fare. We had the wings and cheese sticks, and I ordered a Chef’s Salad. We topped it off with some beers from their selection of 20 different ones.

7. Tonight we had reservations for the Cirque Dreams Dinner Theatre to see “Jungle Fantasy.” We paid the extra $10 for premium seating ($39 pp overall), which is worth it and just about under the “tent” portion of the Theatre….very close to the action. The food was excellent and the show was FANTASTIC. Tremendous athleticism and superb choreography which drew many “oohs’ and “aahs” from the packed house. Without exaggeration, we would see it again!

8. We rounded out our evening at Fat Cat’s Jazz and Blues Club, featuring Slam Allen. Allen has been a part of the NYC blues scene for decades, and he played to a packed room. If you ever have the chance to see Slam Allen, you will be in for a treat. He is a man full of love and soul, he will keep you wanting more, and it will be difficult to find someone who loves what he does more than Slam Allen!

We are looking forward to the week and hope that it doesn’t pass too quickly. We will be back tomorrow with more! Sweet dreams everybody, and thanks for stopping by!

NJ Transit Newark Airport Station

NJ Transit Newark Airport Station

NY Pizza at Penn Station!

NY Pizza at Penn Station!

My wife Cathy and me with Mr. Met!

My wife Cathy and me with Mr. Met!

It is difficult to top New York City when it comes to public transportation.  Upon our arrival into Newark International (Friday from Miami), getting into NY was a snap. We took the airport air train to New Jersey transit Newark train station, where we caught the train to Penn Station in Manhattan, $12 each.  Once in Penn Station (which is beneath Melo’s home, Madison Square Garden), we had our first taste of NYC, a slice of pizza!  It was awesome, and they had quite a system going at the counter; in about a minute, our order was taken, food was served and money paid! From Penn station we took a cab to meet our cruise mates (and family), who then drove us from Manhattan to their home in Queens.

Today, Saturday, we took in a Mets game at Citi Field; the Mets hosted the Atlanta Braves.  Before the game, we took the subway into Manhattan to meet more family, so that they would not be alone on the 7-train to Citi Field.  Let’s just say he (we’ll call him “John”) watches too much “Law and Order!”  Citi Field is beautiful (especially compared to old Shea Stadium) and there is a wide variety of food choices.

We took advantage of many of them, prepping our bodies for the onslaught of NCL Breakaway food!  Hopefully, the weather will improve as we board the Breakaway tomorrow and head towards Bermuda.  It’s late May and the temperature dropped to the upper 40’s with 20-30 mph wind gusts.  It felt like late fall, and we left the game in the 6th inning, went to a cafe, and ate some more; desserts with coffee and Bailey’s!

In a few hours, we will be boarding our van to head to the Norwegian Breakaway!  Be sure to check with us daily over the next seven days; we will have lots of information for you!

CCLvalorWe used to run over-night trips (including cruises) for our community.  The key words in the opening sentence are “used to!”

At one point, we took the term “Group Leader” to another level.  In the traditional sense, a group puts a group cruise together, and typically does the planning, research, arranges the fares and transportation, and typically benefits from the cruise line’s perks when a certain number of berths are reached.  Once on board, the cruisers are on their own.  In our case, we put the cruise together AND acted as chaperone for the cruise, since we were employees/representatives of the (retirement) community.  Little did we know, we were asking for it!

It started small…a dish was not served to one of our resident’s expectations.  Did the resident make the Maitre ‘d, or the server, aware of this?  The person walked to my table, alerted me, and expected me to alert the staff!  This, as it turns out, was just the beginning.

Two days later, I was sitting and eating and I heard an announcement on the ship’s PA, calling for one of our residents to report immediately to the Purser’s Desk. It turns out that her husband had fallen off of the (Cozumel) pier, into the water, dangerously close to the ship and the sea wall.  A crew member saw this happen, jumped in, and pulled the man to safety.  He appeared OK, but the ship’s doctor would take no chances, in the event the man had internal injuries.  He was transported to Cancun, where he would board a medi-plane for a flight back to Miami.  A few hours later at dinner, his wife showed up!  She ate with us and then was danced the night away…while her husband was alone on his way back to Miami!!!

The next day, it was another announcement.  Another announcement which included a name that I recognized.  One of our residents, while walking from one public space into another, tripped over a threshold, fell, and ended up with a broken collar-bone.  She was treated and remained on the cruise.

There was only one other overnight trip that was already planned after this cruise, but my mind was already made up.  We would stick to the (local) day trips and leave the overnight experiences to the community’s clubs/organizations, travel agents and tour companies.  It also taught us to include (in our advertising) that those who are not capable of traveling alone must pay for a companion (or aide) to travel with them.  I must have carried luggage for over a dozen people before and after this cruise!  Lessons learned!

Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor, Tore Berger

When a new cruise ship is on its way from a paper drawing to an actual ship, there is literally tons of work to be done besides the physical aspect. Inspection, inspection, inspection!

To be an inspector on a yard, for a cruise company on a big new build, is somewhat of an experience. The yard company is the overall responsible party, and there is probably a two-figured number of construction deliverers working for the yard. Perhaps one company for the buffet restaurant, another for the “American” styled bar, another for the nightclub and so on. Each with their special fields and skills, and, again, additional providers for furniture, electronics, carpets, and so on. Different companies for different bars, for the different areas, restaurants etc.

I repeat, the yard is responsible. The contractors have their duties and work, and the cruise company wants it all to be perfect. And here lies the work for the inspectors. A small delegation of trusted employees, from the cruise company, does the inspections. A Chef or two to inspect the galleys; Bar Manager for the bars; electrician, engineer, headwaiter, boatswain and so on. Every inch of wall is examined: scratches, marks, stains, technical, furniture, painting, and the finish in general. Everything is supposed to be shiny, new, functioning properly, and looking perfect. The inspectors do this utilizing their respective skills, and on behalf of the company and owner. Trust is the key word from the company, and pride is the answer from the handpicked inspectors.

An inspection goes on with a representative from the yard, from the deliverer, from the contractor, and the company inspector. Hours and hours, details, and notes. After as many as 10-12 inspections, the area can be signed and “delivered.” Everybody involved signs, and the inspector does it for the owner. This is always like a small ceremony, and the tension can be high. As a trusted inspector for my company, I have to say it’s a special honour. The trace of a ship is linked to me. To my name. To my job. The flip side of the coin? I am responsible for signings up to millions of dollars. Anyway, it is, and will in the future, be worth it.

Cruise ship inspector, a job to remember for life.

On behalf of the owner: Tore Berger.

“A business that only makes money, is a poor business!”

The Rockhouse Restaurant in Negril, Jamaica.

The Rockhouse Restaurant in Negril, Jamaica.

I’ll never forget the first time my mother said, “why are you going to eat in Jamaica when you can eat for free on the ship?”  I’ll tell you why!  For me, it’s more than wanting to sample the local cuisine (although it is the primary reason)…I just like having options.  And, I love having options aboard as well.

Two of the great debates (among cruisers) lately are traditional dining versus anytime dining, and whether the surcharge for certain alternative venues are justified.  Regardless of your preferences and opinions, one thing is certain…the cruise lines don’t make us do anything…we choose…and we have options!

I’ve never understood the debate between anytime diners and traditional diners, since you have the ability to choose either option!  Yes, even on NCL; the company that introduced the Freestyle dining concept.  In fact, before the terms “Freestyle” and “anytime” dining existed, we’ve all swayed from our assigned times in the Main Dining Room to eat at the buffet; or to dine ashore!  “Anytime dining” has always existed!  Although dining in the main room was what the majority of folks were accustomed to, it also served as the “fall back plan.”  We knew our settings would be there waiting for us, in the event we did not want to dine elsewhere.  Even with the assigned time, we CHOSE to dine at that time!

Surcharges seem to be another hot topic with regards to cruises.  And, I have absolutely no problem with surcharges…for several reasons:

  • The Specialty Cafe example:  Take any specialty coffee shop on any ship…if these items were included (in your fares), everybody would patronize and the wait times would be ridiculous.  Furthermore, you can still get your FREE coffees and teas at their traditional locations on board
  • The Specialty Restaurant example:  Again, you have a choice, and these choices do not have to be made way in advance.  The inclusive dining options are still there!  And, for several, when you are on holiday, you might want to take your dining experience to the next level of service.  It is nice to have the option.
  • The Cruise Fare example:  Cruise fares, on average, have decreased over the years.  If several of these extras were to be included in the fare, the cruise-only price would certainly increase, whether you take advantage of the options or not.  Currently, cruise prices are reasonable, and you only pay for the extras if you use them!

There are no right or wrong answers to the debates briefly touched upon above, but I do know this… the Bermuda restaurateurs will certainly get to know us as we “Breakaway in late May!”

spa2Our recent poll revealed that “it’s about the ship” for many, which means you may not spend all of your time in the ports (if at all) when docked or anchored.  If you’ve always wanted to take advantage of the luxurious spa amenities aboard, but didn’t want to pony up the dough, port days may be the time to do so! Most cruise lines offer discounts for most (or all) spa activities and treatments on port days!

A couple of other things you can look into:

1. Many lines offer severely discounted specials for several spa amenities upon boarding for the first time.  Sort of an “early-bird” special. But act quickly, because the packages are usually limited.

2. Sometimes you can use the spa’s showers and steam rooms, even if you do not get a treatment!

See you all in the tropical rain forest room…Happy Cruising!!