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!

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!

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!!

USPPYOU NEVER KNOW!  You never know what may happen to you or a loved one in a foreign land.  It could be something that requires you to immediately fly back to your homeland, and in an emergency situation, the last thing you need is a hassle getting through those customs gates at the airport.

Many cruise lines (especially for U.S. Citizens on cruises that begin and end in the U.S.) offer an additional option (other than a passport) for boarding the ship.  The most common is an original (with raised seal) birth certificate (with your legal photo I.D.).  Cruise lines can do this because they have deals with destinations’ governing port authorities allowing them (to allow cruisers) to use legal photo I.D.’s with the Sail & Sign cruise I.D. cards, for us to exit and enter the port of call entrances. This is a nice option in a pinch, and would keep you from missing your cruise in the first place.  But…

…you’ve sailed on your cruise, you are in a foreign land, and an emergency requires you to fly home immediately, even with several days remaining on your cruise.  This is where it will become extremely difficult to enter back into your home country without your passport.  Be sure to play it safe, and think beyond the cruise, even with the gracious options provided by the cruise lines.

The Centrum on Majesty of the Seas, sailing from Miami, 2014-2015, as part of RCCI's Short Cruise Program.

The Centrum on Majesty of the Seas, sailing from Miami, 2014-2015, as part of RCCI’s Short Cruise Program.

Today, Royal Caribbean announced its 2014-2015 Short Cruise Program.  If you live near a home port that has ships sailing short cruises, you may be in luck!

My wife and I take a short cruise (Friday-Monday) from time to time, mostly out of Miami.  They are great…we can work for part of the day Friday, and, if we must, can work most of the day on the Monday we return.  If…..we…..must!!  Sometimes, if we can sail last minute, the cost could be as low as a nice dinner, drinks and a show!  One time I recall our weekend cruise costing us (after taxes/fees) $139 per person.  Let’s see…dinner and drinks at a place like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and a show at our local venue.  In one night, we could potentially spend over $300 for the dinner and show.  Don’t get me wrong…this is rare!!  But, for the purposes of comparing, we cruised for three nights, on an 80,000+ ton ship, for $278.

Click HERE for the full article on RCCI’s 2014-2015 Short Cruise Program.  And don’t forget to check on those last-minute weekend getaway deals!  Happy Cruising!

Steven Cernak is chief executive and port director for Port Everglades, Florida, and recently wrote an article for a local South Florida newspaper, the Sun Sentinel, about how the global cruise industry has affected Port Everglades.

Port Everglades has won several awards for “Best Port to Depart From” on a Cruise (by the readers of Porthole Magazine).  In the hospitality industry, the customers are the number one consultants, so I’m sure this award means a lot to Broward County, Florida.  In addition, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cernak, several members of his staff and touring the port’s operations. I have no doubts that under Steven Cernak’s leadership, Port Everglades will continue to thrive, and cruisers will typically experience a pain-free embarkation and debarkation process, and feel safe and secure throughout the entire process!

Here is the link to the article written by Mr. Cernak in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

READ HERE

I don't see anyone being forced to do anything!

I don’t see anyone being forced to do anything!

I was hanging out at the tip of Ft. Lauderdale Beach yesterday, at the mouth of the entrance into Port Everglades.  Talked with a few people and overheard some others.  One person said he would never sail Carnival because he doesn’t want to be “forced to party all day and all night long.”  Like when I am in the gym and seeing somebody doing something incorrectly, I bit my tongue and said nothing, as I try not to offer advice unless I am asked.

Granted, cruise lines have their reputations, and they certainly do market to a particular demographic, but none of the cruise lines, including Carnival, force anything down anyone’s throat!  Click on the newsletter to the left to enlarge it, and you will see a typical activity schedule from a Carnival ship.

Regardless of a cruise line’s marketing technique, there are a few things you can look at when booking your next cruise that may determine the type of crowd and atmosphere you will encounter.  The first is the time of year.  Is your next cruise going to be during a holiday, spring break, or during the (Soccer) World Cup?  Are you booking during the summer or winter (remember your hemisphere!)?  One year, I cruised during the World Cup, with a rowdy group of Soccer Fans on board.  THEY were the ones that made it feel like a party 24/7, not the cruise line.  Today’s ships are big enough, however, to get away from it all.  You can also ask your travel agent if he/she knows of any groups that are booked for your cruise of choice.

Another factor is the destination and length of the cruise.  Are you more likely to encounter a rowdy bunch during a three-night cruise to the Bahamas or on a 7-day Alaskan cruise?  A seven-day cruise during spring break (anywhere) or on a 10-day Baltic Cruise (even during spring break)?  I was on a rowdier-than-typical Celebrity cruise one time.  Why? Because this cruise was on an “in-between” itinerary “Cruise to Nowhere” with a group of folks who may not ordinarily choose to cruise with Celebrity, but did so because of length of cruise and price.

Yes…I was thinking of all of this yesterday, while watching the ships go by, taking photos.  But here I am, Sunday morning, drinking coffee, feeling the ‘tongue bites’ with every sip!!

By the way, you can see these photos on my Facebook Page.  Hope you all had a great weekend!

It was February of 1992 and I was in my second year of college in New York.  I had just finished an exam from a night course (in broadcasting).  I raced downstairs to catch my ride…okay…my parents in their car, with my brother, picking me up so we could leave New York (it was snowing) and drive to South Florida to take a cruise.  It would be the first for all of us.  I remember listening to the Jerky Boys CD a couple of time during the drive.  Sometimes I can still be heard imitating the Sol Rosenberg character!

We arrived in Florida the next evening and after one night at my grandparents condo…a very small condo…we drove down to the Port of Miami to board Royal Caribbean’s Sovereign of the Seas.  At the time, the second largest cruise ship in Miami, trailing the SS Norway (of NCL) because they added to the top of the ship, changing the face of what others knew as the former SS France.  I remember a rather long and tedious boarding process.  Heck, Windows 3.1 didn’t debut until March, so I could (now) understand “why” the long process!!

soveriegn02The next thing I remember is coughing, because I ate a bug.  That’s because something flew into my mouth as soon as we entered the ship.  I WILL NEVER FORGET the first impression when I first walked into the Sovereign of the Seas…my jaw hit the floor.  I mean, I watched “The Love Boat” and everything, but I don’t ever remember seeing glass elevators and a brass (looking) staircase and lobby in The Pacific Princess!  I could not believe that we were standing in a ship.  This was like being in a hotel that we could not afford.

The weeklong cruise was just fantastic.  I couldn’t get over the service…it was so much better than the Sizzler and our local diner!  After one night, the waiter, Ibrahim (I still remember his name…THAT’S how good he was) knew our tastes exactly.  He also knew what we would want to drink.  Two huge pools and a full service fitness center with so much more…you get the point.  It was also so much easier to meet girls, but that might have just been because it was a captive audience and choices were limited.  I was a late bloomer!

The Sovereign of the Seas looking ghostly, off the shores of Labadee, Haiti.  It's only fitting, since the Sovereign of the Seas is no longer with RCCI.

The Sovereign of the Seas looking ghostly, off the shores of Labadee, Haiti. It’s only fitting, since the Sovereign of the Seas is no longer with RCCI.

Fast forward to the end of the week…I knew I was hooked, and I couldn’t wait to go on another cruise.  Little did I know at the time that this would be the first of nearly 40, before my 42nd birthday!  In 2006, my wife and I revisited the Sovereign of the Seas and sailed on a three-night Bahamas cruise out of Port Canaveral.  While it wasn’t as awe-inspiring, it was nice to be back, and to reminisce.  There were many updates, but she had the same impressive lobby.

Today on our Facebook page, Royal Caribbean posted about the retiring of Sovereign’s sister ship, the Monarch of the Seas, and this is what prompted me to think back about my first experience.  The Sovereign of the Seas is no longer with Royal Caribbean (since 2008), and now sails as the MS Sovereign, for Pullmantur Cruises.

Cathy here, and I am a professional flight attendant.  I realize how stressful travel plans can be, especially when you have deadlines, and on-time arrivals and departures at the airport are crucial for arriving before the ship’s ‘three horn blows!’

Today’s online options to help find the cheapest flights are fantastic, efficient, and most are easy to use (thanks William Shatner!). But, there is one thing that I urge you to be careful of, especially if you don’t want the ship to depart with your stateroom empty.

Some of the cheapest rates for flights can be found by choosing itineraries that combine DIFFERENT AIRLINES. While it may cause less stress in your pocketbooks, it can add stresses in the form of ruining your vacations.  If flight #1 on airline “x” is late, and you miss your connecting flight on airline “y”, airline “x” is NOT obligated to help you with finding another flight. If you are flying on the day of your cruise, well, I do not need to tell you what could possibly happen next.

It may cost you a little more, but, whenever possible, stick with the same airline for multiple legs to get you to your destination.  Another tip, if it’s possible, leave a day earlier than originally intended.  This gives you even more time in the event of flight cancellations and delays.  If you arrive on time ( a day or so early), it’s a great opportunity to take in a new city!

Happy Cruising (and flying) everybody!  Here’s to positive Cruise Experiences!