In last week’s post, (which you can read here) I told you all about the first part of our trip. This week will be about the ship we sailed on and our first experience with Norwegian Cruise Lines. I apparently have a hard time with over-sharing, so this post ended up being realllllllly looooooooooooong so I will be turning the Honeymoon Adventures posts into a 3 parter… a SAGA, if you will…
Also HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODAY to my hubster Travis!
We picked a 7-day cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway to Bermuda.
The Breakaway made her maiden voyage in May 2013 and is a hulking 146,600 ton beast! As of September 2014, she is the 8th largest ship in the world at 1,068.3 ft long, she can sail 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members through the water at a max speed of 21.5 knots. She boasts 18 decks, which contains more than 27 restaurants and just as many bars, including a real ice bar. The Breakaway features three Broadway shows, a glow party, an 80’s themed dance party and fireworks. There is also a water park, climbing wall, ropes course and a bowling alley. She is the largest ship to call New York City’s port home and the world-famous Rockettes are the godmothers of the mighty Breakaway! In most ports, she takes up the same amount of space as two other traditional cruise ships!
After we checked out of our hotel Sunday morning, Travis got to flag down his very first cab hahaha! Which proved to be more difficult than we thought, since we were competing with roughly 100 other people in front of our hotel. But we eventually kind-of got there… the cabby dropped us off a block away, so we had to hoof it across 6 lanes of traffic, and after asking around (there wasn’t much signage or directions as to where to go…) but we eventually got there! The check-in process was frighteningly fast! I’d say maybe 15 minutes? On previous cruises we’ve been on, sometimes the check-in/waiting to check in process has taken 1-2 hours!
Once we boarded the ship we were allowed to go directly to our room so we could drop our carry-on bags and sit and just relax for a few minutes since we had been in what felt like a high-speed car chase for 24 hours at that point! The state rooms were a little smaller than other rooms we’ve had. But they were very modern, tasteful and our room was really clean!
We weren’t huge fans of the location of the closet because you only had maybe 8 inches of clearance between the bed and the closet doors. There was still plenty of space for two people who don’t over-pack. But we preferred Carnival’s locker-style closets right inside the stateroom doors across from the bathroom. Our biggest question was where do they put the two twin beds when they separate them? The smallest of the two night stands was only maybe 6 inches wide!
The bathroom; Although we liked having an actual glass shower stall on NCL, instead of the crazy fly-all-over-the-place-stick-to-your-wet-naked-body shower curtains, we didn’t like the placement of the toilet right between the shelves in the bathroom and the shower wall.
This photo doesn’t convey the size (to set some scale, the sink bowl is the size of a medium sized mixing bowl) the toilets were really small and the toilet in between the shelves and the glass shower wall was a very tight space. I don’t know how people any bigger than us would have fit in there comfortably.
We wouldn’t have minded the down-sizing of the room had the balcony not been the size of a postage stamp. Ok, maybe two postage stamps 😦
Which, smaller isn’t always worse, but sadly, there wasn’t even enough room to sit facing straight out in your chair. We had to turn them sideways so we didn’t smash our knees against the glass 😦 Travis is kind of ‘Squatchy at 6 foot 2, so even sideways was a bit cramped for him. Carnival’s balconies were deep enough for me and my sisters to sit with our legs straight out with our feet flat against the glass.
And, we wouldn’t have been terribly disappointed with the size of the balcony if it would have been a little more… private. Our balcony view was mostly of the edge of the roof of the dining area below us. Beside that and two decks down, was the shuffleboard deck where people congregated at night time to lean over the railing and scream… So it was always pretty loud (luckily the balcony door did completely drown out the sound when closed!) but any desire to sit on our balcony
naked in our pajamas in the morning with our coffee was pretty quickly squashed.
We also preferred that on the Carnival that we had zero blockage of the view in any direction you looked off your balcony. We could look straight up, down, aft and forward and nothing stuck out. Which made everything extra private and we could sit on our balcony and look straight down at the water, (in our under-britches if we wanted and the only people who would have been able to see would have had to rappel down the side of the ship!) which was awesome because we saw some some sort of wild-life every day, including flying fish and dolphins!
But with all of these mini bummers, don’t get me wrong, we really did have fun! The ability to completely unplug for a few days and unwind and do things at our own pace and log some serious nap time was amazing!
NCL stuff we loved:
We loved the Broadway shows! Cruise entertainment can sometimes be a little campy, but we were really into all the shows we got to see:
- Burn the Floor – A hot dance show… kind of like a full hour of just the dirty dancing from Dirty Dancing! The music was really cool and they performed several different generation’s styles of dance, including swing dancing which I’ve always been fascinated with! And the show was free!
- Rock of Ages – Also free, but I was a little skeptical about this show because, let’s be honest… I’m not a huge fan of the 80’s… (sorry Jo!) The best thing that came out of the 80’s was the Goonies. Gimme the 90’s any day! But this show was actually really awesome. It was funny and the music that they performed wasn’t all hair-band. This show is 18+ and actually had some of the older adults walking out. There was some suggestive dancing, which may have involved metal poles. I was a little mortified that people were bringing their preschool aged children to this show. NCL’s enforcement of age restricted things was kind of sucky…
- Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy – This was a kind of homage to Cirque du Soleil in a dinner show. It was extra, but we thought it was worth it! The tenderloin steak they served with the meal was the best steak we’ve ever had! The whole thing is in a “tent!” There was lots of acrobatics and the cast members ran through the crowd dressed as jungle animals. Our only gripe with this was that you had to share a table for 8 with 12 people. They really crammed them in… Travis was annoyed with the seating arrangement and asked if we could be re-seated. He pulled the honeymoon card and we ended up getting a booth all to ourselves which was way better!
- Carlo’s Bakery – Yep, the guy from Cake Boss has a bakery right on board the Breakaway! Since, as I mentioned before, we didn’t get a traditional wedding, we never got a wedding cake either. So about a month before we set sail, I ordered a cake online to be delivered to our stateroom when we got on-board. So as soon as we stepped into our room, we got to enjoy a fo’ real Cake Boss cake as our wedding/honeymoon cake!
- Spice H20 – which was the adults-only area (during certain hours) was much nicer on NCL. There was a wading pool with “waterfalls” and a bar. However, NCL as I mentioned before, was not very active in enforcing age restrictions. Spice H20 was supposed to be 18+ during the day, but there were a few instances when there were people with their young kids hanging out in the wading pool. Normally not a huge ordeal, but this was the ONLY adults-only spot on the ship, and there were several kids-only spots, including an entire splash zone and multiple kid/teen clubs.
- The iTV – The tvs in your stateroom were super convenient- you could check the menus, make reservations, buy excursions, check your account balances and order pizza and room service.
- iConcierge – The free app you can download for your mobile devices that is essentially the same as the iTV, but also features a text and calling function (for an additional $7.99) to/from other passengers and staterooms. This would have been really nice for a larger group, but for just the two of us, we didn’t need the texting function, so the free version worked just fine!
- Our Cruise Director, Julie Valeriote – This chick was everywhere all the time! We joked that there were probably trap doors and secret passageways throughout the ship for her to come and go to all of the events. Her off-the-cuff sense of humor was refreshing and didn’t feel forced or hokey. She was also incredibly (and surprisingly!) talented! She danced with the Burn the Floor cast during their show, and was in the closing number of Rock of Ages, she represented at the 80’s party, performed the Thriller dance moves… and she can walk on stilts. Hell! She even shakes her groove thang and lip syncs to Pharrel’s “Happy” in Norwegian’s own homage video! Which they played no less than 300 times per day. (She’s the brunette with the curly hair on the right at the 00:43 mark!) This song will forever remind us of our honeymoon!
NCL stuff we didn’t love:
- Freestyle Cruising – Boo! We missed knowing that every night at 8pm (or whenever) we were going to dinner, sitting at the same table, with the same wait-staff. We also really missed the relationship you build with your waiters and all the fun dancing and singing they do. We had particularly fun waiters on the Sister Cruise, sweet Julian took such good care of us. We also hated that we had to wait 30+ minutes to be seated for dinner because the other 4,000 passengers on the ship wanted to eat dinner at the same time we did. It also took a lot longer to be served for some reason. It was impossible to do dinner in less than 90 minutes.
- The Layout of the Ship – The only way to/from anything was to go right through the middle of everything, including the stinky smoky 2 open storied casino. OR you could hoof it from the forward bank of elevators right outside our state room, down the state room hallways non-stop (with no other possible exit) to the aft bank of elevators where everything was. I’m not kidding, it was a straight hallway for probably 900 feet, no option of turning anywhere, just forward or aft until you got to the elevators. So needless to say, we made that trip probably 8 times or more per day! We definitely got our exercise!
- The Amount of People on the Ship – We sailed at full capacity, and we could really tell the difference in number of people on that ship. It felt like everything was like shopping on Black Friday all the time. The buffets were like a hog trough… people had little-to-no manners and the mongoloids had absolutely no problems with just sloshing their plate down in front of yours after you’d waited patiently in line for 5 minutes and snatching up the last piece of french toast. But I will say there were far less children on this cruise than our past Carnival cruise. But we expect that is due to the Carnival cruise being in June the week after school let out. Again, we have nothing against kids… we just don’t like the kind where their parents give zero shits and just set them loose so they act like junior mongoloids.
- Onboard Shopping – Long story short, we bought a couple “deeply discounted duty-free” items that we researched when we got home and ends up we could have gotten them on Amazon for the same price or cheaper. We didn’t make any big purchases, luckily, but when I bought Travis a $100 Invicta watch for our anniversary, they made it out like I was saving $500 on this watch. Not really. Also when we had the aforementioned watch resized on-board for free, they lost one of the links and then blatantly lied to us about it. It was a huge ordeal, and they basically told us they weren’t going to do anything about it. Not cool.
- Forced Gratuities – On NCL your account is charged $12 per day, which isn’t expensive. But because the staff knows they’re definitely getting pre-paid gratuities, it felt like they didn’t really have anything to work for. So we felt like the staff wasn’t as pleasant as they have been on previous cruises. Example: We had the endless soda package and upon going to the bars to get soda, as soon as we asked for pop, the smiles immediately disappeared from their faces and it was pretty clear we were an annoyance.
- NCL’s Disembarkation – They allow each passenger to pick their own disembarkation time. Also, if you’re feeling particularly saucy, you can choose to do the “Easy walk-off disembarkation,” which just means you carry your own bags and walk off the ship. It was suggested that if you’re going to do the easy walk off, you do it before the other sections were called at 8am. Well, I don’t know if this was just a bad day or what, but this was the biggest disaster on the face of the planet. I think everyone on the ship chose to do easy walk off at the exact same time. It took us TWO HOURS (!!!!!) to get off the ship and through customs. There were 12 (I think) customs counters and a total of four people were working them. Also the disembarkation area under where you check in was a little like the set of a horror movie. It was dark and crusty and felt a little like a scene from The Bone Collector.
All in all everything was really nice! I thought Norwegian was the most beautifully decorated of all the ships I’ve been on. I think we preferred the main dining room food better on the Carnival. But I can’t remember vivid details about the food on Royal Caribbean. The buffet was better on NCL. The staff was the nicest on Carnival. But really it’s all about preference. And the big kicker for us was Freestyle Cruising… we’re not total fans and would probably prefer to go with RC or Carnival over NCL because of that. Either way, we’re so glad we got to check it out.
Stay tuned for next week’s post – Honeymoon Part 3: Bermuda!
This post is in loving memory of our travel companion Overton Prime. He has served as our travel mascot for the past year, posing with us on our other adventures. Apparently when I left a sign saying “goodbye” to our stateroom steward in O.P.’s hands, our steward thought it was a gift for him. Sigh…