Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor, Tore Berger

In today`s world of professionalism, most of us know what we want, what we like, and we let our demands be heard. When we go on a cruise, and into a bar, it tends to be the same way. We know, we want, and we demand!

A bartender is like any other profession: service; knowledge of the trade; small talk by the counter; seeing the guests; and knowledge of the bottles.

Berger’s law:

A bartender is a person which the guests seek. In the opposite of a waiter, the bartender is standby at the bar counter.  That can be demanding, but also giving. People seek You, the professional, the bartender.

  1. A bartender knows all his/her bottles and what they are.
  2. A bartender knows about the production of all his bottles.
  3. A bartender welcomes all his guests, and sees them.
  4. Knowledge of alcohol law is always at it’s place.
  5. The bartender knows about alcohol limits, potential dangers, and effects.
  6. A bartender uses small talk effectively, both for pleasure and for checking the guests status.
  7. The bartender knows his bar menu, and a lot of international cocktails.
  8. A bartender always has a design cocktail for You!
  9. If the guest is having a bad day, the bartender has a solution!
  10. A bar professional can cheer me up.
  11. The bartender is always a listener.
  12. A bartender is never the same…

Like Isaac from “Love Boat”, or like Sam in “Cheers,” the bartender is your friend and guest host during a cruise. Ask him for your favorite cocktail. Ask him for something special. Ask him for his favorite. The bar menu is just the ABC’s, it is the rest that separates the pro from the others. “Cheers,” cruise lovers, and have a “cocktail dreams” next cruise!

“It’s not the mixing which is the difficult part, but to be a bartender…”

Greetings from the sea: Tore Berger

Shops of St. Thomas, USVI.

Shops of St. Thomas, USVI.

The debate goes on with regards to cruise passengers’ feelings about the ever-increasing amounts of “specialty charges” on board most major cruise ships.  One thing is for sure…numbers don’t lie!  A recent study (conducted by the Business Research & Economic Advisors (B.R.E.A.) for the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association) shows decreases in Average Percentage of Passengers Making Purchases at 21 (survey) participating ports of call in the Caribbean.  In my opinion, it is pretty clear that as passengers partake of an increased number of on-board activities (costing money), it is less likely that they will spend more on land.  Here are the stats as compiled by the B.R.E.A. (2008/09 Cruise Year, 2011/12 Cruise Year):

  • Watches & Jewelry: 18.1%, 17.0%
  • Taxis/Ground Transportation: 23.3%, 18.5%
  • Clothing: 40.0%, 40.1%
  • Local Crafts & Souvenirs: 48.5%, 46.7%
  • F&B at Restaurants & Bars: 41.5%, 45.8%
  • Shore Excursions: 56.6%, 56.1%
  • Other Purchases: 22.2%, 20.0%

The net result was a slight decline of 0.8 percent in the average weighted expenditure of cruise passengers during the 2011/2012 year to $97.12 per passenger visit, from $97.93 per passenger visit in the 2008/2009 cruise year.  Interesting of note is that while the average amount of passengers who made purchases decreased, the dollar amount per purchase, per passenger, increased!  Seems those who are shopping are spending greater amounts while in port!

Happy Cruising and Happy Fathers Day everybody!

35 CLSHSerenity01RendjpgAs a lover of the “mega-cruise-ship”concept, I remember the year 1996, when Carnival’s Destiny debuted.  It was the first cruise ship to crack the 100,000-ton barrier, and I couldn’t wait to see it.  In 1992, my first cruise was on Royal Caribbean’s Sovereign of the Seas, and at that time, she was second largest (to NCL’s SS Norway), and I thought the Sovereign was huge.  But now, 100,000-tons…wow!  The Destiny was impressive; large open spaces, a massive pool deck with a unique lounger layout, more dining and drinking venues, and, not as flashy-looking, compared to her earlier sister ships (Fantasy-class).  I had the chance to sail her again about three years ago, when a good friend announced his wedding would be in Key West, during the Destiny’s call at the port.  So, my wife and I joined the party.

In a day when companies are selling off older ships and building new ones, the Destiny-Sunshine concept is intriguing, because it is being billed as the most extensive renovation of an existing liner.  Most are saying that she is not recognizable!  There have been many exciting upgrades and additions, and we can’t wait to experience them.  Not only will Sunshine be a destination herself, but her (soon to be) home port is as well.  What better place for the excitement and buzz of Carnival’s “newest” ship than the energetic city of New Orleans?  Talk about a pre or post-cruise experience; New Orleans can certainly be one if you so desire.

OBXRF4jpg OBXRF2jpgOne of my favorite additions to Sunshine is the RedFrog Pub.  Not only has Carnival’s beer selection improved over the years, but now they also feature their own brew: “Thirsty Frog Red.”  And, those who know me have many nicknames for me, among them, “beer snob.”  Needless to say, I am excited to sample Carnival’s craft brew.  Below is an excerpt from Carnival’s website, focusing on the RedFrog Pub:

Get into an island state of mind before you even set foot on one. RedFrog Pub is our laid-back, no-worries, oh-so-lively Key West-inspired pub. Sample Caribbean fare, dominate at the foosball table, enjoy some sweet tunes from live musicians and sip our tasty signature private-label brew, ThirstyFrog Red. So kick back and feel the island vibe come to life. You’ll be a local here before you know it.

Want to learn more about the Carnival Sunshine?  Click right HERE and enjoy!

Got a later start on Friday, but breakfast foods were still available in the Garden Cafe at 11am. The staff keeps ¼ of the buffet open for breakfast while lunch is being prepped; great for the late risers!

We did not want to wander too far from the ship today, our final day in port. We walked towards the Maritime Museum, and as we got closer, noticed a sign for “Fun Golf” and “Beach Water Sports.” We actually saw these signs upon arrival two days ago, but assumed it had something to do with boarding a bus and traveling elsewhere, since neither of these amenities were mentioned anywhere on the ship; not even in any of the literature. We were (pleasantly) surprised to learn that we were already there!

That’s right…just on the other side of the wall of the Maritime Museum! A beach with chairs for rent and all types of water sports and activities, AND, next to it, a separate entrance for FUN GOLF. Fun Golf has an 18-hole putt putt course, and each hole is a miniature version of a famous hole from 18 different PGA tour stops! The facility is brand new (about 45 days since its opening), and obviously well maintained. The co-owner, Jill, explained to us that there will be more, with plans to add a restaurant to the already popular Caddyshack Bar, where we hung out for about 90-minutes, after our 18-holes! The cost to play golf is $15 per person, and is well worth it. This was not one of those putt putt courses that you can complete in 20-minutes! We wish we knew about these two facilities earlier. Be sure to check them out, and look for pictures on our Facebook Page soon!

We boarded the Breakaway about 3:30pm, had a late lunch, and then headed for the obstacle course. Not much of a wait time at all, so I was in gear in no time. I am not fond of heights, but saw all of these kids doing the course, so I had to do it! I’m happy to say that I completed the course, but did so in probably half the speed of everyone else. I got to the plank, and actually walked it…and even thought it was easier because it was a solid piece to walk on, while most of the course was suspended and gave a bit when you walked on them. It was cool, because the ship was leaving the port as I walked the plank. By the way Oasis-Class Ship Fans, there is a zip line on the NCL Breakaway too…it’s part of the course, and is about the same distance across!

After dinner we made our way to deck 16 to grab some chairs for the fireworks display, set to begin about 11:15pm. The music of the 80’s Party was fantastic, and it led straight into the fireworks display, which was choreographed to the music! The fireworks lasted for about 5-minutes, and while others expected it to last longer, I did not think it would last five minutes. What can you expect at sea? Another successful innovation for Norwegian Cruise Lines!

On Saturday, weather permitting, it is off to the water park. Enjoy the weekend…cheers!

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!

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!

For many, some of the most memorable Cruise Experiences are memories of our favorite on-board performers.  I love it all, but what does it for me…comedians!

DID YOU KNOW…you can call the cruise lines (or ask your travel agent to do so) to find out schedules of some of your favorite performers?  In addition, many of them, thanks to the internet, have YouTube channels!  Furthermore, if you were to Google some of your favorites, you may find their personal websites, or the websites of their talent agents.  In many cases, their sailing schedules can be found there.  In fact, this is how I tracked down a personal favorite of mine, The “Godfather of Comedy”, Eddie Capone!

Here is a short clip of one of Eddie Capone’s most recent performances!  Keep in mind, some of it may be offensive and it does contain some profanity:

http://youtu.be/GwFnupVMX4s