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Norwegian Breakaway, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

New York, New York

 

 

10:50 a.m. Eastern Standard Time

After a very smooth check-in, we are waiting in the Latitudes Platinum/Platinum Plus area for embarkation. There are no amenities, but vendors are set up nearby. The unmistakable aroma of a glorious New York City hot dog permeates the air.

We are in the historic Pier 88. Unfortunately, and as I had expected, no photography is allowed.

Parking was very easy. Neil drove right up the ramp, a Department of Homeland Security officer and her canine partner checked the trunk of the car, and we self-parked. We took our bags down by elevator. There, we found ourselves directly inside the terminal – and before we could ask, we were directed to the stevedores outside. We tipped $20 for three very heavy bags. I’ve heard horror stories about under-tipping and, while I can’t verify it, there’s no harm in tipping these hardworking individuals what they deserve.

Norwegian Breakaway is our largest ship yet. According to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) literature, she registers 146,600 gross tons and holds 3,963 guests (double occupancy). Our trip should be more crowded as it is a school vacation week across much of the area.

The ship was built in 2013. I remember covering the naming contests and other pre-service milestones when I wrote for Examiner.com.

 

11:10 a.m.

Just took a quick break to have our embarkation photo taken. There is a setup in the center of the terminal. I don’t know if there will be another one when we board.

Boarding seems to have started for Haven passengers. There is an announcement now about the procedure. Wait for the number on a cardboard card we were given. We don’t have a number – ours is simply labeled “my time.”

We were told upon arrival that we would board around 11:30. Pretty spot on. It is 11:20.

 

4:15 p.m.

We left on time at 3:00 p.m. I am no longer one for sailaway parties – I have a fear of crowds. So, I watched from our cabin’s balcony as we passed the Statue of Liberty.

I’m sitting in the library waiting for the bookcases’ glass doors to be unlocked. I was in here earlier and found the book I want to read – The Underground Railroad. I am on stakeout.

Two problems with the library. One is its limited hours for checking out books. Today, for instance, it’s just one hour – 4:30 to 5:30. I’ll jot down the rest of the week’s hours when I leave.

The second is its proximity to the atrium, where there is music blaring! Really – can’t ship designers do any better?

The room itself is pretty. Dark wood-like tones with art deco glass panels on the doors. There are also four large windows and lots of comfortable seating, but the music is a huge drawback.

Library hours:

Port days – 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Sea days – 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Last day – 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

 

Monday, February 20, 2017

At Sea

9:41 a.m.

I learned two things about our son yesterday. He likes anchovies and he knows the lyrics to lots of songs.

Dinner in Le Bistro was nice. It was not as special as in the past, when it accommodated fewer guests and was a true luxury, yet it was still wonderful.

I started out, as always, with escargots à la bourguignonne (fancy for baked escargots with herbed garlic butter), and was so pleased to see a favorite entrée – millefuille de champignons portabello fromage de chèvre et poivrones rouges (portabello mushrooms layered with goat cheese and red bell pepper). Dessert was crème brûlée. The restaurant is now à la carte rather than the flat fee of the past. In order, my charges were $5.99, $11.99, and $3.99. Neil had crab salad ($5.99), scallops ($12.99), and tarte tatin (warm apple tart with vanilla ice cream, $3.99).

When we booked, we were offered two of four incentives and chose pre-paid tips for two passengers and the Ultimate Dining Package (three specialty restaurants) for two. Our Latitudes standing gives us two more restaurants.

I’ll get back to this later – my behind-the-scenes tour, a free Platinum Latitudes benefit, is about to begin. (It’s also available for a fee later in the cruise for all passengers.) Neil took this tour on another NCL ship a couple of years ago and continues to give it high praise.

 

11:15 p.m.

Before every cruise – or, more accurately, in the months leading up to the cruise – I have recurring dreams that either I forgot to bring my journal or I neglect to write in it. So, although I want to get back to The Underground Railroad, I will record my thoughts on the past two days.

Random Observation (RO) #1: Efforts to reduce food wast are obvious. Several flat-rate restaurants of the past are now à la carte. Portion sizes are smaller (although that doesn’t bother me). Even the pre-cut cake slices at the buffet seem smaller. A gelato stand costs, too.

RO #2: Idea for research – the evolution (or demise) of main dining rooms. This ship has three main dining rooms – the Manhattan (accommodates 630) and two satellites – Savor (252) and Taste (270). That’s 1,170 seats – and the ship can carry more than 4,000 passengers at maximum capacity. There are plenty of other places to dine – some for a fee. And the largest main dining room isn’t even open for breakfast. “Conveniently,” there are small breakfast buffets in two venues – Moderno and Margaritaville (at least today) – that have a surcharge for lunch and dinner.

Enough of that – I don’t want to be negative. Nearly all cruise lines are abandoning main dining rooms. I note this as a future area of study – glad I have kept every daily program from more than 30 cruises in 27 years!

Entertainment, particularly in the smaller lounges (a direction I like!) has been exceptional. Last night, we saw Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos – where the pianists took requests and urged audience participation. Neil was the first selected, after he requested “My Girl” and dedicated to me. One of the pianists asked Neil to come up to the stage. He then picked three other men out of the audience to complete a group he called the Imitations. Neil was the leader – and provided dance moves the others copied. It was hilarious and sweet!

After dinner tonight (La Cucina), we went to the Fat Cats Blues and Jazz room for Charlie Love and the Silky Smooth Band. Amazing! Very personable and so talented!

Other activities we did today included the aforementioned behind-the-scenes tour, breakfast in Taste (Eggs Benedict! Fresh fruit!), lunch buffet in Moderno, reading in the Thermal Room (an indulgence that I will utilize further tomorrow), a couple of naps, dinner in La Cucina (Neil LOVED his rack of lamb) and the production show “Burn the Floor.” I liked the show, yet Neil didn’t. He noted there wasn’t a story. I can see that, yet the talent! – coordinated and tandem flips!

RO #3: There was an American Sign Language interpreter at the show.

We had to make reservations to attend and key cards were swiped on the way in. There was no extra charge for this show. A couple do charge but we won’t be seeing those. (One, however, includes a wine tasting.)

It is now 11:50 p.m., so I will close. I look forward to slumber on a moving ship, although the ocean is so calm I hardly feel any motion.

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

At Sea and Port Canaveral, Florida

 

8:02 a.m.

We decided to try O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill for breakfast. This area is open around the clock and serves the small meals (simple) that were offered in Blue Lagoon on other ships. It’s mostly eggs, French toast, corned beef hash, and baked beans – our son’s favorite – at no charge.

This is a nice space. It’s on Deck 7, right above the atrium – no – surrounding it one deck up. There’s a sea view to one side, obstructed by the lifeboats somewhat, but that’s fine. Service is slow, though, even though it’s not crowded at this time of day.

After a day-and-a-half at sea, we will make our first port of call today. We arrive in Port Canaveral, Florida, at 1:00 p.m. We have nothing planned. It’s not enough time to see anything. (Kennedy Space Center in four hours is impossible.) So, we will enjoy the empty ship. At least, we are expecting it to be.

It is now 8:20 and we have received our food just now. We had to ask separately for a danish basket. And utensils.

 

10:30 a.m.

Ah – the Thermal Suite. I’m sitting in a forward-facing deck chair. Saunas, rain showers, and a salt bath room are directly behind me. The whirlpools are to my far right. I had wanted one of the cool tiled chaises, yet all are taken.

Note for future travelers – if the towel on the chair is rolled up tightly, the chair is available.

Neil and Marty played trivia this morning and won.

Today is swimsuit day. After the spa, I will cover up with a dress and go to lunch. Then, after the passengers have left to go ashore, we will go to the outdoor water park and pools where, hopefully, it won’t be as crowded as on sea days.

 

1:05 p.m.

What a lovely sit-down lunch in Taste, one of the two main dining rooms open for the midday meal.

We are awaiting clearance at Port Canaveral. We watched our approach from Taste. Nice rocks and a beach gave way eventually to an industrial area. It’s not the prettiest approach, yet many people are looking forward to spending their day here. The family in a cabin next to ours will be going to Walt Disney World. The kids, who sound very young, are excited. Neil saw one little girl dressed as a princess.

My orange/chocolate mousse is here.

 

1:45 p.m.

Neil is going ashore to take some photos (of what?) while Marty and I stay in the cabin to listen to music and read, respectively.

The cabin is nice. Marty has a sofabed with a single/twin mattress and Neil and I have two twins pushed together. There is a TV on which we can also make reservations and check our balance. The desk area has two doors, behind which are shelves, one with three shelves and the other with two. A mini-refrigerator is hidden behind a third door. A storage ottoman with removable tray slides under the desk.

A double closet has a hanging rod on one side and five cubbies on the other. A top shelf runs along the top part of the closet’s interior. A safe with keypad is on one of the closet’s shelves. Neil and I each have a narrow nightstand with upper and lower compartments – no door.

It’s strange that we don’t have drawers. No big deal – just close the closet to hide everything.

Our bed is on the balcony side of the cabin. Others are in the reverse, with the sofa closer to the balcony. I like our arrangement more as it’s nice to sit in bed and gaze at the ocean.

 

6:40 p.m.

We finally made it to The Manhattan. This main dining room is described as a supper club. There is a bandstand and dance floor. The band is scheduled to start at 7:00.

Our table is on the starboard side of the ship in this aft-facing venue. I’m not too fond of  the table we were given tonight as it is on the perimeter far from the bandstand. Yet, it’s another advantage of Freestyle Dining – we might sit elsewhere next time rather than be assigned here the entire cruise.

We overlook a promenade deck and watched as the sky turned from a deep turquoise to dark blue.

I will order salmon tartar and sliced leg of lamb.

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas

 

8:53 a.m.

Breakfast in Taste. One item on this morning’s menu is vanilla pound cake French toast with chocolate source. I, however, will be having a yogurt parfait and a bowl of muesli.

It appears that many passengers are getting drawn to a restaurant rather than the Garden Cafe for breakfast. We first tried to go to Savor, yet there was a 20-minute wait for a party of three. And passengers we met in the elevator loved going to Moderno, open on sea days only, where there is a buffet with restaurant seating.

Those smaller buffets are about the same size as the main buffet we had on SS OceanBreeze (ex-Southern Cross) in 1996.

 

10:05 a.m.

Little Norway II is now alongside! So nice to have her here representing my favorite liner. My trip is complete!

 

5:54 p.m.

I’m glad the captain decided to call on Great Stirrup Cay today, in spite of the weather. It was cool and overcast and, eventually, drizzly.

Because – I was reunited with my Little Norway I, which was our tender craft on our way back to the ship.

The tender ships Little Norway I and Little Norway II were built for the liner SS Norway after the conversion from SS France. The ship, which had her maiden voyage in 1962 had a deep draft that prevented her from docking in most Caribbean ports. So, the idea was hatched to have the ship carry her own large tenders. Each of these tenders has a capacity of 450 passengers – nearly all of the liner’s passengers could be brought to shore in just two trips each.

We first met Little Norway I and Little Norway II in April 2001 when we took a Western Caribbean cruise on SS Norway. At that time, it wasn’t really a pain to take tenders everywhere as they could shuttle all of us to shore more quickly than the port’s tenders could.

The tenders are catamarans, approximately 70 gross tons each and were – and may still be – registered as a vessel in the same class as SS Norway, a first in the industry. Several firsts, actually.

Today there was a third, nondescript tender running, and that is the vessel that took us to Great Stirrup Cay. It bounced in the waters and spray hit passengers, who sounded both gleeful and frightened. On the way back, albeit hours later, Little Norway I handled the waves as the champ she is.

The last time were at Great Stirrup Cay was in 2001 on the aforementioned SS Norway. Not unexpectedly, the island has changed significantly. For starters, the tender area is no longer the beach – a dock was built on the opposite side, a short walk away. There are now a kids’ play area, a couple of structures that housed the lunch buffets, and private cabanas for those who wish. There were a couple of bars added – but the lagoon still had its wonderful views of our ship beyond the rocks.

It’s now 6:25 and we are in the show lounge to watch “Rock of Ages.” Goodness, these seats are uncomfortable. The pitch is a bit much, as in the front rows of a movie theater, and the gap between the seat and back is almost unbearable. But it is better than being at work!

The live band just took the stage. Show time!

 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Nassau, Bahamas

 

8:30 a.m.

It’s breakfast in Margaritaville. I don’t know why I thought this venue, added to the ship in October 2016, was an enclosed room. Perhaps because of the surcharges that apply to lunch. Yes, you can have your very own cheeseburger here for $6.99!

So, breakfast is the only time we will eat here. It’s a buffet – an older-style buffet with few, but sufficient items. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, breads, bagels, muesli, salmon mousse, fruit. All self-serve. I love it!

This is my first time to Deck 16. I’ll have to explore while most others are in Nassau.

 

10:54 a.m.

As I walked toward our cabin a few minutes ago, it dawned on me that I had just embarked Norwegian Breakaway for the last time.

We are docked in Nassau, Bahamas. Two other ships are here – Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas, which shared our journey, and Carnival Elation, on which I spent a week in 2010. On that cruise, I embarked and disembarked only once, in the then-homeport of Mobile, Alabama. I came close to spending the full week onboard again this week on Norwegian Breakaway. Other than Great Stirrup Cay (for the sole reason of reuniting with a Little Norway) and today in Nassau (for taking ship photos from the dock), I have spent my time on the ship!

Nassau looks about the same as I can remember from here – although the cruise ships have gotten larger. Much larger.

Neil and Marty walked into town. I am on our cabin’s balcony. In addition to my journal, I have another book, The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz. It looks intriguing.

 

7:48 p.m.

Dinner is over (Manhattan Room), as is the Latitudes party. We are now seated in Headliners, where The Second City will take the stage in 12 minutes.

We made reservations this time so as to not have to stand outside for excess seating. I don’t like having to reserve. It’s bad enough for dinner, yet I like the spontaneous nature of cruises past. Well, at least we got good seats.

This is our second Second City show this cruise. I enjoy improv. There is an adults-only show later this evening, too. Not sure if we will go due to the hour – we will see. There are lots of kids onboard, so the early shows have been rather tame. The kids are into it, though, which is great!

 

11:20 p.m.

One of the features of our cabin is a call light system to communicate with our cabin steward. Pressing the switch marked “make up room” illuminates a small green light outside and above our cabin door. Pressing the switch marked “do not disturb” illuminates a red light outside and above our cabin door. And, when we are in our cabin with our key card in the slot that controls the power, a white light is switched on.

Tonight, as we were leaving for dinner, we forgot to switch off the “do not disturb” sign – so, we came back to a cabin that was not turned down. No problem, as it was totally our doing. The cabin steward left tomorrow’s Freestyle Daily, usually left on the bed, in the mail slot outside our door.

This will get us to pay attention!

Sadly, counting tonight, we have just three nights remaining on the cruise. Well, as we are about to turn in, that equates to just two more full days. :(

 

Friday, February 24, 2017

At Sea

 

4:10 p.m.

Today is the first of two sea days before we return to New York. The waves picked up last night and remain at 14.8 feet per the TV navigation channel. It is rocky, but not too bad – enough to make me remember that I am on a moving ship. Wind is gentle, 10 knots. Queen Mary 2  would plow through this with nary a whimper. Royal Majesty would likely have bounced along.

It’s funny watching my fellow passengers walking and realizing that I am walking the same way.

We are experiencing something odd – we returned to our cabin after lunch to learn that our shower floor was replaced and we cannot use it until “12 pm.” As we left for lunch at 12:45 p.m., I am supposing this means midnight. Many other cabins on our deck had this same work done. It would have been nice to have advance notice. I was planning to shower before dinner! Now, I will either have to trek back up to the gym (and hope to find a shower stall) or try washing my hair in the sink.

Neil is currently taking a kickboxing class. Marty and I are in the cabin. We have 5:30 p.m. dinner reservations for the Savor main dining room. While they played trivia after lunch, I returned to the Thermal Suite and enjoyed a cool tile bed and salt bath room. The latter is kept at roughly 70° Fahrenheit and 40% to 50% humidity, so it is very pleasant.

As the name suggests, the air is salty. My first time in there a few days ago, I couldn’t stop coughing. Today was much better.

We all played BINGO this morning. It was fun. We knew the low odds of winning when we entered, so were not surprised by the outcome. We consider it a $40 cover charge (or $13 per person).

I still have so much to write about – our meals, entertainment, great crew, spa, and more. I’ll make a point to do this tomorrow when I have my final down time of the cruise.

RO #4: Although the main show lounge has no pillars, the sight lines are awful. This is because the angle of the chairs makes it so we are blacked by the backs of heads in front of us. It’s worse when others sit upright to get more comfortable. This is an area that needs to be rebuilt.

RO #5: Hooray! The logo items in the gift shop include Norwegian Breakaway-themed magnets, cups, ship models, and clothing. This differs from our last NCL cruise, on which no ship-specific merchandise was available.

 

 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

At Sea

 

7:40 a.m.

I just saw my last sunrise of the cruise. Seas are calmer right now, although we are rocking gently. Our location is 35°10’N, 74°10’W – just east of North Carolina.

I’ve started to pack – it’s less stressful to do it gradually. As we are not flying, I do not need to concern myself with what goes where. I set aside the fragile items and the paperwork. Packing the clothing is the easy part.

 

12:12 p.m.

No! Another last!

It is our last lunch of the cruise and our choice of dining venue is O’Sheehan’s on Deck 7. The larger section serves as (no pun intended) a dining room for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The bar area serves pub food – hot dogs, nachos, and the like – 24/7.

The menu in the dining room portion is more extensive. I was pleased to see my favorite item of the 24/7 restaurant – warm spinach artichoke dip – on the menu. I will also have soup.

On Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Jade, and Norwegian Star, the 24/7 dining venue was called Blue Lagoon. On these ships since then, Blue Lagoon was replaced with a fee restaurant and the menu moved into the adjacent bar (renamed O’Sheehan’s). Of course, on those ships, the pub is much smaller.

Neil remarked that this area on Norwegian Breakaway resembles a favorite Irish pub at home until you look at the windows and see lifeboats.

RO #6: Typically, you will not get a bread basket unless you ask. That’s actually a good thing. More waste reduction.

RO #7: The service staff is younger than those I recall on previous NCL cruises. That makes sense, as we started cruising this line 24 years ago and, while staff often stay with NCL for 20 years or more, a turnover is inevitable.

 

5:46 p.m.

Our last dinner of the cruise is in the Manhattan. How I love this room. I wish it were open for breakfast and lunch, but Taste and Savor are nice alternatives for a sit-down, waiter-served meal.

RO #8: The dining rooms are fairly dark. It’s hard to read the menu and even harder to write neatly.

Our waiter remembered our preferences. No anchovies on the Caesar salad for me and Marty, and apple juice for Marty.

The only times to make dining room reservations for the main dining room are 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (rather in sync with traditional early and late seating). So, there were people ahead of us when we arrived. There were also others who did not reserve and were hoping to dine between their arrival and, perhaps, 6:00. I did not catch the wait time, yet people were already sitting outside the dining room.

This is our third night here. We are in the same area were in a few nights ago. It’s really not so bad. Our second time here, we were seated further aft by the dance floor and bandstand. That was nice, too.

Whenever we are seated here, the waiter or waitress asks if we have anything planned for the evening so he or she may accommodate it. That’s a nice touch. We had a 7:00 show one night, but nothing set for tonight.

I want to stay here as long as possible.

 

11:03 p.m.

We are packed and our bags are outside our cabin door.

I read through my journal to determine how much and what I have not yet commented on. Here’s a list to get to before disembarkation.

 

  1. Photo gallery – our photos were in red binder 12-226 (as marked on our key cards) and there were also touch screens on which to view our photos.
  2. Key card readers in the slot machines are too sensitive while the keypads to enter the password were not sensitive enough.
  3. The photo backdrop we found in Pier 88 was the only place embarkation photos were taken.
  4. Marty never ate another anchovy after February 19.
  5. The complimentary behind-the-scenes tour for Platinum members is a slightly shortened version of the paid tour.
  6. Rock of Ages was marvelous!
  7. Second City was excellent.
  8. Tonight’s Broadway singer show was forgettable. She did too much about herself, but it was cool when she brought one of the Rock of Ages cast on stage.
  9. Dining room service was slow. See O’Sheehan’s entry on February 21.
  10. It’s raining! I saw some lightning before. Great weather, otherwise.
  11. Food has been superior in all venues.
  12. Rope course – yikes! I wish I didn’t have a fear of heights.
  13. Service was generally good (other than the waits in the dining rooms).
  14. We tended to stick to the same routine every night – dinner, show lounge, Fat Cats for the blues band.
  15. There is lots of live music.

 

That’s enough for starters. Yet it is bedtime and I will return to journaling in the morning. Neil set the alarm for 6:45 a.m. And our expected disembarkation time is 8:45.

One more random observation, though:

RO #9: My handwriting is terrible! I need to practice more.

 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

New York, New York

 

6:44 a.m.

I awoke at 5:00 a.m. To see a city’s twinkling lights in the distance. Now we are heading up the Hudson River around West 34th Street.

To think of all the liners that steamed up this river, then the North River, so long ago. Olympic. Lusitania. Aquitania. Île de France. And Normandie, whose final berth we will occupy in a few minutes’ time.

 

7:40 a.m.

It is our last breakfast – as well as our first in the Garden Cafe buffet. Just a quick bite before we go.

First disembark call was at 7:30, 45 minutes earlier than estimated.

 

8:46 a.m.

We just got into the car at Pier 88’s parking lot. Our tag color (for Platinum and Gold members) was called at 8:20 (estimated time was 8:45) and we had our luggage by 8:35 a.m.

 

2:35 p.m.

I usually stop writing when we are still onboard, or shortly afterward, yet our debarkation was so quick that this was not possible.

Let’s continue with more cruise musings. I’m glad my intended list turned into a series of bullet points!

I was leery of traveling on such a large ship. But, other than the lengthy corridors (two elevator banks – really?), it didn’t feel large. The main indoor areas were arranged smartly on three consecutive decks – 6, 7, and 8. There were two atria, one that spanned all three decks and another that connected decks 7 and 8. The latter had spiral, glass staircases that were decent to navigate.

Also adding to the smaller-than-4,000-passengers feel was that we tended to stick to certain activities, as did others. Neil met people during trivia and we also saw people who dined around the same time we did.

 

And this is where the journal ends. I had hoped to provide closing thoughts, yet the excitement of being reunited with our cat overtook any other responsibilities. Despite this unusual ending, I hope you enjoyed these journal entries from our Norwegian Breakaway cruise. While I still prefer smaller ships, I would travel again on this ship and itinerary.