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Norwegian Breakaway

Breakaway Live Blog, Day 2: Sea Days, Sunshine, and Sequins



For me, sea days are what cruising is all about. I don’t much care where we’re headed. If I’m sailing, I’m happy. Better still, by midafternoon, we’d gotten far enough away from the frigid New York City weather that you could be outside without fear of catching a cold. In fact, we even got some sunshine for a while. It wasn’t quite lay-by-the-pool-and-make-sure-you-have-sunscreen-on weather, but we were getting closer.

Early afternoon, those who’d taken place in our ship’s roll call meeting got together at La Cuchina for snacks and a chance to put faces to the names of their cyberfriends. Setting up these meet and greets is something that Norwegian really excels at. Not only do they put out a nice spread, but a selection of the chief officers, including the captain himself make an appearance. And it’s smart on their part: They know that passengers who participate in roll call meetings are clearly active on the internet. They will write reviews, post messages, and endlessly debate every good (or bad) experience they’ve had. And the easiest way to curtail complaints being put out there is to nip them in the bud. “Got a problem?” these officers say, “Call us. Give us the chance to make it right.” They even go so far as to hand out cards with their numbers on them… and yes, they personally answer.

Slots O’ Fun

norwegian breakaway casino

Following the meet and greet, many of us headed to the casino for the slot pull. You know the drill: Everybody pays $15, the money goes into a Wheel of Fortune machine, everybody gets five spins and the “winnings” are split among the players. How’d we do? Well, we all walked away with… $10. But hey, a $5 loss is probably the best you can hope for in a casino!

This is another area where Norwegian excels. The casino host provided two bottles of wine, which went to the two players who had the highest hits during their five spins.

The Secret is Out

A while back, this ship (and I’m not sure if it’s true fleet wide) rather quietly started putting out special, themed buffets at lunch time on sea days. On the Breakaway, these are set out in Moderno. Today’s was Mediterranean style, featuring everything from greek salads to fish and some pretty spectacular desserts. The first time I became aware of this hidden gem of a buffet, it seemed few people onboard knew. But the secret has obviously spread, as the buffet drew so many people that they filled not only Moderno, but nearby Cagney’s as well.

Nap Time

On past voyages, I’ve tended to be someone who spends the afternoon wandering around from bar to bar, chatting with folks… and then crashing shortly after dinner. But so far this trip, I’ve been doing the opposite. Kids may protest taking their afternoon nap, but it’s one of my favorite things to do at sea… and yesterday’s wasn’t a quick power nap, but rather a three hour snoozefest.

norwegian night out

It was Norwegian’s Night Out, meaning folks wanting to put on their fancy clothes got dressed up for dinner. It also happened that as a gold-level Lattitudes member, I’d been invited to the Captain’s VIP Cocktail Party. (Hey, their name, not mine!) One reason I love these is that they are held in the gorgeous Haven courtyard, and that’s about the only way I get to hang out in the exclusive, ship-within-a-ship enclave. But this is yet another opportunity to interact with members of the staff, and I spent the next half hour or so chatting with Shailendra Sawant, the ship’s food and beverage director about everything from how they decide to make menu changes, to how he, when first joining the cruise industry two decades ago, made the adjustment to a life at sea. He is a great conversationalist with a wicked sense of humor, and a lot of interesting stories to tell.

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Dinner & A Show: The Sequel

O'Sheehan's was packed!

O’Sheehan’s was packed!

I’d intended to hit the Manhattan Room for dinner, but wound up detouring to O’Sheehan’s for a tasty shepherd’s pie. Now, I have no clue what a genuine shepherd’s pie tastes like, but I know this one was tasty. After rushing through dinner, I headed to the theater for Burn The Floor. A lot of people skip this show, thinking it will be dancers doing their thing to pre-recorded music. But in reality, there’s a band and two great singers, and the show is a high-energy blast.

After the show… well, let’s just say there was drinking and dancing and drinking and gambling and drinking until nearly 3 am. I didn’t even know I was still capable of staying awake that late. Something tells me tomorrow will be a really big nap day.

Q: Is the Ultimate Beverage Package worth the price?

A: Like almost every question people ask about cruising, the answer is… it’s subjective. These days, it’s almost impossible to book a cruise with NCL and not be offered the beverage package as a “free” perk. But if you happen to be purchasing the package, it most definitely is on the pricey side, especially when compared to, say, Carnival’s Cheers package. There are two ways to decide if it’s worth it for you: One is to figure out about how much you drink per day and do the math. Honestly, you have to drink quite a bit to make the package worthwhile in that way. But there’s another way to look at it: For me, when I get off the ship, I don’t want to have a bill. I pay gratuities up front (and judge harshly anyone who removes their pre-paid gratuities), pay for excursions in advance… anything I can do to avoid a bill, I do. The one and only time I cruised without a beverage package, I found myself calculating each time I ordered a drink. “That’s another ten bucks… and another…” Let me tell you, if there’s one thing I don’t want to do on vacation, it’s math. So for me, the package proves worth the cost in that way, alone.

Follow along with our other blogs during this voyage!

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Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway Trip Report: Day 7



All good things must come to an end, and that includes my week on the Norwegian Breakaway. By morning, we’d be back in New York City, but for now we had one last sea day — and night — to enjoy. And I intended to do exactly that.

One Final Day On The Norwegian Breakaway

Often when sailing in and out of New York City in the late fall or early winter, your first and last sea days can be frigid. Only a few short years ago, we had a terrible ice storm in the New York City area that left some without power for days. So it was a nice surprise to wake up on this early November morning and find that it was a pretty decent day. Sure, the winds were blowing and there were clouds on the horizon, but it wasn’t snowing and that, in and of itself, was a victory. I spent several hours on the balcony reading before heading up to Vibe Beach Club.

One of the benefits of a Vibe pass is that you often wind up bonding with some of the other folks who’ve purchased access to the private retreat. So this was a nice opportunity to say farewell to new friends (and give one final tip to the bartenders who’d been taking care of me all week). Afterwards, it was time for the dreaded “lasts.” You know… the last $20 bucks you’ll put in a slot machine on this trip; the last lunch in the main dining room; the last sunset over the ocean. All those things that you’ve been dreading all week.

Sunset from the deck of the Norwegian Breakaway.

For lunch, I had chicken nachos followed by fried chicken with cole slaw. Not wanting to put it off until the last minute, I headed back to my room to get everything packed up and give my room steward a final tip. (I tend to tip at the beginning, middle and end of the trip, with the amount varying based on service. I can’t say the young woman who was taking care of me this week was particularly great, but she was fine. I’ve had better and worse, over my various trips.)

9 Tips for Norwegian Breakaway

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The rest of the afternoon and early evening is something of a blur, comprised of equal parts napping, reading and wandering aimlessly about the ship, soaking in the atmosphere. Afterwards, I got dressed and headed downstairs for a few pre-dinner cocktails.

As usual when I sail on a Norwegian ship, I’d arranged for my final meal of the trip to be at Cagney’s Steakhouse. Another order of the amazing pork belly, followed by a decent Caesar salad and an amazing ribeye with chimichurri sauce and, of course, a side of the restaurant’s signature truffle fries. It was a perfect meal, making it a great way to end the trip.

The ribeye at Cagney’s Steakhouse.

Returning to my cabin, I realized that I’d never received information on disembarkation. As a gold-level member of Norwegian’s Latitudes program, I knew that priority disembarkation was available to me (especially since I always carry on and off my own luggage), but wasn’t sure where the designated gathering spot was. A quick visit down the guest services gave me the info I needed, and I called it an early night.

Sunday morning, I woke early to enjoy the trip up the Hudson river as we returned to New York City. Heading down to the Manhattan Room as instructed the night before, I waited while the ship cleared customs and was surprised at just how smooth disembarkation was: I was one of the first people off the ship and walked into a completely empty customs hall. (This was an especially pleasant surprise given that in the past, I’ve experienced some absolutely hellish disembarkations from the Norwegian Breakaway.) Walking a few blocks away from the crowded pier, I was able to grab a Lyft and be back home less than a half-hour later.

All too quickly, real life — a leak in the basement, a problem on the work front — reclaimed me. But I signed onto my computer and smiled at seeing the countdown clock indicating it was exactly 90 days until my next cruise, this time on the Norwegian Gem… 

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Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway Trip Report: Day 6



I love sea days. People often get bent out of shape when their itinerary changes and they have to skip ports, but I joke that the ship could go out into open waters and do figure eights and I’d be happy. That’s one of the reasons I like the Norwegian Breakaway itinerary I’ve been doing this week — and have done numerous times in the past — it ends with two sea days, the first of which is today.

Like most mornings, this one began with an hour or so of just sitting on the balcony, watching the ocean while thinking about life. (Okay, truth be told, I attempted to think about pretty much anything but life, given that I was here to relax, not stress about everything back home.) Eventually, I roused myself and went upstairs to the Vibe Beach Club… where I proceeded to sit and watch the ocean.

The view from my bar stool at the Vibe Beach Club.

Lunch on the Norwegian Breakaway

As I mentioned a few days back, they do special, themed brunches on the Norwegian Breakaway, held in Moderno restaurant, on sea days. I headed down to check today’s out, but the American picnic theme — with ribs, corn on the cob, coleslaw and more — didn’t grab me. It looked great, but wasn’t what I was in the mood for. Instead, I headed down to Taste (or possibly Savor… the sister dining rooms, located across from one another, are pretty much indistinguishable to me) for a sit-down lunch. First up? A crab-stuffed baked potato skin. I’m not sure what I thought it was going to be, but it so caught me off guard when it arrived that I thought the waiter had given me someone else’s appetizer. Being game to try new things, I bit into it, realized it was what I’d ordered and found it so delicious I was tempted to order another. This was followed by the cajun shrimp salad (a favorite of mine) and, for the main course, a spicy shrimp arrabbiata.

Review: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Vibe Beach Club

Just as I was finishing lunch a hullabaloo — that’s right, an actual, honest-to-God hullabaloo — arose from outside the restaurant. As it turned out, a pub crawl of about 30-40 people had arrived at Mixx bar, which sits between the Main Dining Rooms. I’m sure the noise they were making ticked off some diners, but I wasn’t anything but jealous. They sounded like they were having a blast! I actually might have tried to crash their party (it was clearly a group travelling together, given their matching T-shirts) were it not for the head cold I contracted a day or two ago. I’d vowed that I was going to avoid drinking and medicate all day so I’d be ready for tonight’s main event: The 80’s Dance Party at Spice H20, always my very favorite night of a cruise.

Pro Tip: If you even suspect there’s a chance you’re going to get ill — whether from eating too much or because you’re susceptible to the germs of others — pack whatever meds you might need. Otherwise, you’ll pay an arm and a leg for basics like cold meds in the store aboard the ship! 

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As has become my shipboard habit, I headed back to my stateroom after lunch for a little napping and reading. I managed to finish an amazing novel called Do Not Be Alarmed (by Maile Meloy), about a cruise gone horribly horribly wrong; and then I finally had an opportunity to binge-read (and thereby catch up on) my favorite thing on all the internet (aside from Cruise Radio, of course!), the always hysterical Dark Shadows Every Day blog. If you were ever a fan of the long-ago spook opera, I can’t recommend it enough.

I managed to snag a late reservation at Cagney’s, NCL’s steakhouse and one of the best meals you’ll have on any cruise ship. Before dinner, I swung by the Waterfront to again listen to jazz man Charlie Love and his band entertain the crowds at Fat Cats. It was raining outside, and I began to wonder if my beloved 80’s Dance Party would wind up being cancelled. But rather than dwell on that, I headed to Cagney’s.

The pork belly appetizer served at Cagney’s Steakhouse

Now, lemme tell you: Most people go with the shrimp cocktail appetizer, and I can’t blame them one bit. But if you want to try something that’ll melt in your mouth, order the pork belly. As a friend of mine used to say, “It’s so good, it’ll make you slap your mama.” I started with that and the baked potato soup, then followed it up with a ginormous slab of prime rib served with Cagney fries (coated with truffle oil and a little bit of Parmesan) and onion rings. I hear you out there: “What? You went to the steakhouse and got prime rib?” Well, calm your nerves, because I’ve also got reservations tonight, and I’ll be getting the prime rib.

Here Comes The Rain Again

After dinner, I swung back to the room for a quick change of clothes before heading up to Spice H20 for the 80’s Party. It was just getting started, and people hadn’t really gotten into it yet when… the rain began. The cruise staff did their best to keep things going, and it looked as if the weather might cut us all some slack. Just as a conga line got started (to Gloria Estefan’s similarly-named hit, of course), the skies opened and people abandoned the dance floor quicker than a house on fire.

Rain washed away plans to hold the 80’s party at Spice H20.

My favorite night of the cruise… it couldn’t end like this, could it?

Nah. Two minutes later, they announced that the party would move to Bliss nightclub. And while not the same as dancing under the stars, there was still a whole lot of 80’s music and enough dancing that, as I told one of my favorite bartenders, there was a good chance I’d be feeling pain in places I haven’t for a long time.

Here’s something I’ll never understand, and I’ve seen it happen on other ships, too (most recently, Anthem of the Seas). You have a theme party that has packed the space (on Anthem, it was the Music Hall) and an hour or so into it, you change gears. In this case, they went from classic 80s tune to modern club music on a dime… and lost half the crowd, who wandered out. Now, maybe that’s on the assumption they will go somewhere else and spend money, although by this time, it was midnight, so their only real options were the casino or bed… and it sure seemed as if most were choosing bed.

Most, but not all… because of course, I hit the casino. And again, it hit back… hard. I don’t remember ever being on a trip where the casino treated me as badly as the Norwegian Breakaway’s has this week. Usually, I have at least a few small wins, some periods were I get a lot of play before eventually losing. But that has not been the case at all this week. In fact, I doubt I’ll do more gambling — and if so, not much — on this trip as we head, tomorrow, into the final day.

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Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway Trip Report Day 3



Halloween. It’s not just for kids anymore. That was definitely true on day 3 of my Norwegian Breakaway cruise. But before we get to the costumes and dancing and overindulging let’s back up to where the day started: Breakfast.

The main dining rooms on Norwegian Breakaway are open for breakfast, but the hours are very limited. So by the time I went down at around 10 a.m., I’d missed the opportunity to have a sit down meal in the MDR. Instead, I wound up going to O’Sheehan’s. Unfortunately, because both Taste and Savor were no longer serving, O’Sheehan’s was packed… and it definitely showed in the service. Although I was seated immediately, it was about 15 minutes before a server came to take my order. (There were, on the other hand, a whole lotta people serving coffee. I must have been approached at least 6 times by people offering caffeine, but what I really wanted was something to eat. When eventually my server did come around, I went with the corned beef hash and two eggs, and it was pretty dang satisfying.

After a quick swing by the Vibe Beach Club for a mid-morning cocktail, I went down and prepared for my shore excursion to Walt Disney World. Now, NCL used to offer a shore excursion which included transportation to the park as well as admissions, but a crew member told me that they got so many complaints about the limited amount of time passengers were getting in the park for the price, they now only offer transportation to the park (which runs $59 round trip). Honestly, this seems like a smart decision. We didn’t dock until around 1 p.m., and by the time the bus departed at 2 p.m. — followed by an hour-long trip from Port Canaveral to the Ticket & Transportation Center, it was 3 p.m. Given that you have to be back on the bus by 6:45 p.m., you wind up getting about 3.5 hours of actual park time. And if you’ve ever been to a Disney theme park, you know that ain’t a lot of time.

Norwegian Breakaway

Fortunately, I wasn’t there so much for park time as I was to visit the Nomad Lounge, a new upscale bar/small-plates venue at the Animal Kingdom. The spot is fantastic – one of the best lounges on Disney property – and offers an assortment of cocktails and tapas-style appetizers. My friend and I ordered everything from poutine to pork ribs, fish tacos to an African-style chili, and everything was fantastic. The venue itself is beautiful, offering both indoor and outdoor seating. We had fastpasses for a few attractions, but missed the window for all but one because we wound up sitting, talking, and just enjoying the ambiance of the Nomad Lounge.

Halloween Aboard Norwegian Breakaway

The bus from Disney arrived at the ship around 8 p.m., with the Breakaway leaving the dock at 9 p.m. The maneuevering the ship has to do to leave Port Canaveral is pretty impressive. After pulling away from the pier, the ship does a 180 degree turn so that it can sail down the channel and back out to open waters. After hanging out in my stateroom for a while and getting some work done (yes, I’m one of those people who tries their best, but fails miserably to disconnect from the office), I donned my costume and headed out for the night.

Norwegian Breakaway

As it turns out, my priest costume was pretty darn convincing, with people all night long asking if I was a real padre. (This would especially prove true in the casino, where several folks asked me to bless their machine!) One of my favorite things about the Norwegian Breakaway is the nighttime parties, which are held at Spice H20. There’s nothing like partying to loud music while in the middle of the ocean under the open sky. While I hadn’t really been “getting my money’s worth” out of the drink package up until now, that definitely changed during the Halloween party.

Pro Tip: If there’s a venue you know you’re going to be drinking at, find a bartender and tip him well. He will definitely take care of you.

The party didn’t really get started until 10:45 (and if you’ve been reading the trip report so far, you know I’ve been in bed long before that all week). Prior to the actual festivities, they’d set up a pretty elaborate Haunted House in the Entourage area (which is, under normal circumstances, a teen club). NCL did a fantastic job, turning the space into a real frightfest with great decorations and creatures coming at you when you least exepcted it.

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My normal routine is damned, because once the party got started, it was rocking, and I was on the dance floor, blessing people and boogying until nearly 1 a.m. After that, I hit the casino where I didn’t necessarily have a whole lot of luck, but I did make $120 last for a couple hours. For those keeping track, that means I didn’t actually return to my stateroom until nearly 3 a.m.

Despite being hungry, I managed to somehow avoid a late-night visit to O’Sheehan’s (which is open 24 hours) for some wings and instead went to bed hungry. But with a 10 a.m. call time tomorrow for my tender to Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island, here’s hoping there’s not a hangover in my future…

You can read yesterday’s trip report here.


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