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Norwegian Breakaway Trip Report Day 4



Today the Norwegian Breakaway stopped at the cruise line’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay. Belinda Carlisle sang that heaven is a place on earth, and I’m pretty sure she meant this island.

Before heading over to the island on tender boats (more on that in a moment), I realized I wanted to have a little breakfast. With time limited, as it was 9 a.m. and I was supposed to meet the group with whom I was sharing a cabana, I hit the buffet for the first time on this sailing. Rather than load up a plate and sit down to eat, I sort of grazed, cow like, grabbing a hash brown patty from here, a couple sausage links from there. Then I headed down to the Spiegel Tent, where those with priority tendering were meeting.

For those unfamiliar with the tendering process, when ships can’t actually dock (the way then do in say, Port Canaveral or Nassau, they anchor off shore and use smaller boats (called tenders) to ferry people back and forth. Via the meet and greet group I’d been in charge of, I connected with several people who wanted to rent one of the private cabanas on the island and split the cost. Those who rent the cabanas get priority tendering. My group had agreed to meet at 10 a.m. in the tent, but I headed down early when they began announcing that the tendering process was starting.

No one from my group was in the designated meeting space, so I assumed they’d already gotten on a tender and jumped on the first one available, which left around 9:30 a.m. As it turned out, they all showed up at 10 a.m. and, thinking I was running late (as opposed to early), the woman who’d arranged the cabana sat waiting for me totally unaware I was on the island waiting for her!

Spoiler alert: It all worked out fine in the end. We had an amazing day on the island, with warm weather and a beautiful breeze that kept it from being too hot. (If you’ve ever been on Great Stirrup Cay when there’s no breeze, you know just how brutal it can be!) A few tips to our amazing server, Rowena, and the drinks were flowing. We’d pre-ordered some food and life was good.

Update On Great Stirrup Cay

As many know, Norwegian has been working hard to renovate their private island. Everything is still under construction, but you can already tell just how fantastic it will be when completed. In the middle of the island is an under-construction lighthouse which will, like its sister structure on Harvest Cay (NCL’s other private island, in Belize), offer breathtaking views and the opportunity to zipline over the island. At the far end, the lagoon area is still closed off, but construction is well under way on what promise to be incredibly high-end cabanas (featuring air-conditioning!) for Haven guests.

Currently, there are two types of cabanas available on Great Stirrup Cay: Large and small. While the recently-refurbished large cabanas are gorgeous and chock-full of amenities, they also seem to be more about the view than access to the ocean. Elevated as they are, with a ramp leading up to them, they are a bit removed from the beach. The smaller cabanas, on the other hand are a bit further away from the crowded main area and much closer to the water.

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Nightlife On The Norwegian Breakaway

After a full day of fun on the island, I headed back to the ship around 3:30 p.m. to collapse for my daily siesta. I eventually roused myself for dinner at the Manhattan Room — easily my favorite dining spot on the ship, and complimentary to boot — where I had an incredible lime dill shrimp appetizer, a peking duck salad and a roasted lamp main course. While the lamb (and accompanying au gratin potatoes) were fantastic, the appetizer and salad were so extraordinary I almost wish I’d eaten the entire meal in reverse!

If the previous night had been all about dancing until dawn at the Halloween party, tonight was, at least for me, more mellow. Wandering somewhat aimlessly, I first wound up on the Waterfront, sitting outside Fat Cats. One of the amazing things about the Waterfront is that venues such as Fat Cats offer both indoor and outdoor seating. That meant I could sit outside, enjoying the warm breeze and the view of the ocean, while inside Charlie Love and his band crooned their tunes.

When the jazz band took a break, I wandered over to the Shakers Martini bar, where an amazingly talented young woman named Aliyah was playing the piano and singing the kind of soul-stirring tunes that can’t help but make you wistful. This young woman is the kind of talent that shows like The Voice claim to be looking for. She’s the real deal. Between Aliyah and Charlie Love, the evening left me thinking that all those folks who mock “cruise-ship entertainers” (thanks largely, I’m sure, to their memories of Charro performing on The Love Boat) have no idea what they’re missing.

Eventually, I wandered up to SpiceH20 for that night’s Latin Sizzle party. Before the DJ kicked in with some amazing tunes, the cruise director’s staff taught the basics of salsa. And while they insisted it was so simple that “anyone could do it,” I quickly proved the exception to the rule. I might spend the rest of my life praying that video of me attempting those moves never, ever surfaces.

A quick note about the cruise director’s staff: On past Breakaway voyages, I’ve had several cruise directors, including the wildly popular Dan Dan, who — like the best in his business — seemed somehow to be everywhere at once. You couldn’t turn around without Dan Dan being there. I can’t say the same about Alvin. Even at events which I’d normally expect the cruise director to host (such as the Halloween party), it has been his staff who’ve been the public face of the ship. And for the record, they’ve been fantastic.

At around midnight, I wandered down to the casino to do a little gambling. Again, I haven’t really spent nearly as much time in the casino as I normally do, whether because it’s been incredibly crowded or maybe I’ve just been finding other (cheaper) ways to pass the time. I put $100 in a Quick Hits slot machine and watched it vanish in about 5 minutes. A Total Meltdown machine was kinder, giving me at least a half hour or more of play, but it, too, eventually stole all my cash. Hey, they aren’t called One-Armed Bandits for nothin’.

Tomorrow is our final port of call, Nassau. Having been numerous times (and especially enjoyed the Atlantis water park in the past), I’m debating whether or not I’ll explore. Time will tell…

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Recap: Carnival Magic Western Caribbean Cruise



If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself reflecting on a cruise weeks after disembarking, partially because you wish you could go back and do the whole thing again. In this case, I figured that while I’m reflecting on my recent seven-night sailing on Carnival Magic to the Western Caribbean, I might as well combine all of the sea blogs I wrote about this particular trip in one place (the links to which you’ll find below). I’ve also included a link to the show on which I chatted with one of the most popular guys out there, Carnival’s Brand Ambassador, John Heald. Hopefully, if you’re planning a trip on the Carnival Magic — or have sailed her in the past and just want to recreate some of those great memories — you’ll enjoy taking this trip down Memory Lane with me.

Carnival Magic

Carnival Magic is an amazing ship and perhaps one of my favorites in the Carnival fleet (even beating out Carnival Sunshine, which is really saying something). I flat-out love the outdoor promenade that the Dream-class ships have on deck five, which wrap around the entire ship. On the new builds, like Carnival Horizon and Carnival Vista, the ability to walk around the entire promenade is restricted because of the restricted area which houses the Havana cabins toward the back of the ship. On the older class vessels, the walking deck would be deck three, which is also partially restricted because of the dining rooms at the aft of the ship and the crew areas toward the front.

To read a day-by-day account of the trip, click on the links below:

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The ports of call on this Western Caribbean cruise were mind-blowing. Two of my favorites were Belize City and Mahogany Bay in Roatan. In the past, I probably would have stayed on the ship during both of these stops, but I’m so glad I didn’t. You can read more about the excursions below.

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize

Shore Excursion Reviews

If you would like to check out the interview with did with Carnival’s Brand Ambassador John Heald during the sailing, you can listen to the podcast below.

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Norwegian Gem Trip Report, Day 8: St Thomas



I did two things on this cruise aboard the Norwegian Gem which I never really imagined I’d ever do. The first was two days ago, when I ziplined through the rainforests of St. Lucia. The second was early this morning, when I wound up having to visit the medical center.

This was not, as you might have guessed, how I intended to spend the morning.

The view of St. Thomas from on board the Norwegian Gem, shortly after we docked.

The original plan was that once we arrived in St. Thomas, I’d disembark early and head to the pier for my shore excursion, during which I’d take a catamaran to some exotic place and do a little snorkeling. Our time in St. Thomas was going to be very limited — the ship arrived around 7 a.m., and we were departing at 1 p.m., which meant even this snorkeling excursion would be cutting it close. (I’d booked it through the ship, so I wasn’t worried about them leaving without me if for whatever reason we wound up running late.)

But everything changed when I woke up upon our arrival, looked in the mirror and realized there was something really wrong with my eye. Assuming I had pinkeye — and absolutely terrified I’d wind up quarantined to my room as a result — I made my way down to the medical center. (In a cruelly ironic twist, the medical center was located on deck 4… mere steps away from where people were disembarking to enjoy their day in St. Thomas.) The good news? I didn’t have pinkeye. The bad news? I did have an eye infection that required treatment. (It’s worth noting that I was up around 7 a.m. waiting for the medical center to open at 8:30 a.m., and as you can see in the below picture, the chair hogs had already staked their claim. I would return to this same spot about 2 hours later and those same chairs would still be staked out, nobody in them, nobody anywhere near them.)

Clearly, these folks got up at the crack of dawn, staked their claim on the pool deck… then went back to bed for several hours.

Now, I’m not a fan of going to the doctor under the best of circumstances, and having to do so on a cruise is definitely not the “best” of anything. But I will say the medical center staff was fantastic and made the entire process pretty easy. My eye needed a medication which, fortunately, they had available on board. The doctor thought it best that I skip snorkeling, however, so that was out. (Armed with a note from the medical center, a quick visit to the shore excursion desk and the charge for the cancelled daytrip was almost immediately processed.) Suddenly having a lot more time on my hands than I’d thought I would, I joined my friend Dianne for breakfast in Moderno.

Afterwards, I disembarked and wandered from Havensight, where the ship docked, to Charlotte Amalie. I’d been to St. Thomas years ago when friends and I rented a villa for a week, and had fond memories of Charlotte Amalie’s shops and restaurants. Wandering the alleyways, I found all kinds of wonderful stores and cute restaurants. I sort of wanted to sit in one of the cute cafes and have a few drinks, but it was still early in the day and the ones I really liked weren’t even open, let alone serving alcohol.

St. Thomas is a wonderful place to simply wander around, with its shop-lined alleys and hidden bars.

One thing I’d hoped to do in St. Thomas was take the tram to Paradise Point, a spot I loved visiting a decade earlier. Unfortunately, the sky ride was out of commission, as it had been since the hurricanes hit the island in the fall of 2017. (I’m happy to report that only a week or so after our ship’s visit, the Sky Ride re-opened for visitors!)

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The sky ride to Paradise Point was sadly closed during my visit, but reopened a few days later.

I’m not a photographer by nature — as you may have noticed, based on the quality of my pictures from this trip. But wandering the streets of Charlotte Amalie made me want to be a better one. Everywhere you look, there is something interesting. (At least everywhere that isn’t housing a jewelry store… seriously, how many of them are there here? Do people really buy enough to keep all these places in business?) Bright colors, cool shops, hidden alleyways. It’s just a fantastic spot for aimless wandering… which is what I did for several hours.

I wish I’d had longer in St. Thomas, but it was actually the shortest of all our port stops, with the ship arriving at 7 a.m. and departing at 1 p.m. 


Eventually, I wandered back to the ship and headed to the Great Outdoors bar, aka my home away from home on the Norwegian Gem. The bartenders here can get incredibly busy, but they always make time to smile and chat with their regulars. By two or three days into this trip, Simon (pictured below) had become for me what Norwegian refers to as a Vacation Hero.

He’s as quick with a smile as he is with a drink… and on this particular afternoon, as several of us who’d become big fans of his gathered for cocktails while the ship sailed away, Simon helped me to get pretty buzzed. How buzzed? Well… I wound up going to the casino around 4 p.m. … where I sat at one of my beloved Lock & Link Diamond machines (I suspect that if I could, I’d marry one of these amazing slot machines!) until nearly 2 a.m.  I skipped lunch and dinner, not wanting to give up the machine. I played that machine so long I got sober… and then got tipsy again… and then sober again. I had an amazing server in the casino who would, every few drinks, bring me a bottle of water and insist I hydrate.

It was definitely the best night of the trip, casino wise… and yes, I wound up walking away with money!

Drink Of The Day: Daydreamer Daiquiri. Weirdly, on day 8 they went back to the beginning… as if there aren’t more than 7 drinks to cycle through! (Based on the number of cocktails I tasted on any given day, I can attest to the fact that this definitely isn’t true!)

High Point of the Day: The casino was very, very good to me. Not handpay good, but good enough that I walked away very happy.

Low Point of the Day: I’d really, really been looking forward to going snorkeling, so having to miss it was a bummer. As was the $600 bill for my visit from the medical center. Yes, I have travel insurance which will cover it, but ugh… the paperwork!

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Norwegian Gem Trip Report, Day 7: St Kitts



Another island, another paradise.

The Norwegian Gem, approaching the beautiful island of St. Kitts.

Today, the Norwegian Gem arrived in St. Kitts. To be honest, I considered staying on board as we were tendering and I’m just not a big fan of the whole process. But instead, I got up early, had breakfast at Modernos. It’s nice having a sit-down breakfast in a relaxed atmosphere, and the menu of offerings is decent enough that I struggled before finally deciding on Crabcakes benedict. While waiting for our meal, I perused the breakfast buffet area, where they have a nice selection of breads, fruits, yogurts, cereal and more.

In researching St. Kitts, I’d discovered a resort called Palm Court Garden which seemed like it might be an awesome place to spend the day. Upon E-mailing, I was given simple-to-follow instructions and told the cost to rent a lounger/umbrella by the pool was $12 for the day. At that price, what did I have to lose? If it turned out to be a bummer, I could just leave and find something else to do. But bummer it most definitely was not!

The beautiful little resort was an easy 10-minute walk from the pier, and even the tendering process was pretty simple. I had priority status, so I got to skip to the front of the line when I was ready to go, and the ship-to-shore trip took maybe 10 minutes, tops. (The only thing I didn’t particularly care for was that unlike the Breakaway, which has open-air, two-level tender boats, the Gem uses its enclosed lifeboats, which can be a little claustrophobic.)


The pool and hot tub at the Palm Court Gardens in St. Kitts make for a pretty awesome place to spend an afternoon.

I’ll have a full review of Palm Court Garden coming up, but suffice it to say that this is an amazing little resort to spend a day at. The gardens are lovely (if not particularly large), but the real selling point here is the pool area, complete with a hot tub, comfy loungers with umbrellas, tables and chairs and more. There’s a small bar and a restaurant serving up a pretty nice selection of food. Did I mention that the pool is of the infinity variety, and the whole thing is on a hill overlooking the ocean? It really is a gorgeous spot, and I can’t think of a better $12 investment I’ve ever made.

Palm Court Gardens features several quiet, peaceful spots.

If there’s one caveat, it is this: Palm Court Garden grants free access to cruise ship employees with valid ID. I arrived around 10 a.m. and for the first few hours, there were about 20 or so guests lounging by the pool. By mid-afternoon, cruise ship employees began to arrive and the vibe definitely changed. Not necessarily in a bad way, but the place quickly got more crowded, a bit less laid-back, a bit less relaxed… and not for nothin’, but a whole lot prettier. Several members of the entertainment staff arrived and… yeah, that’ll make you feel every year of your age and pound of your weight!

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Around 2:30 or so, I wandered back into town and explored a little bit before catching a tender back to the ship. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so I swung by O’Sheehan’s to grab some nachos and a Caesar salad with blackened chicken… just enough to hold me over until dinner. When I got back to my room, I was thrilled to find my laundry had been delivered, all freshly folded and presented in a nice little basket. Lemme tell you… getting clean clothes halfway through the trip is definitely one of my favorite perks of being a Platinum cruiser with Norwegian!

The basket the laundry was delivered in was nice enough that I kinda wanted to steal it… but didn’t.

After a nap, I met up with Aldo and Dianne for another dinner at La Cuchina. This time around, I had the carpaccio appetizer and an order of calamari, followed by perfectly prepared lamb chops. I must have had a few drinks at some point along the way, because I even allowed Dianne to convince me to let the ship’s photographer snap a pic! (Confession: I actually love this pic… we all look fantastic!)

Hey, we clean up pretty good, don’t we?


Afterwards, I hit the casino again for a little while. Before setting sail on this cruise, I’d told members of a Facebook group I’m in that I was bound and determined to get my first-ever handpay on this trip. It hadn’t happened yet, and it didn’t tonight, but I did get quite a bit of play on some fun machines. Sometimes, that’s all I ask… give me a few hours worth of bang for my buck, and I’m a happy camper. I also spent some time sitting at the casino bar chatting with random folks, which as you know by now is another of my favorite pasttimes.

I didn’t stay out too late because I knew tomorrow was our final port, St. Thomas. We were only slated to be in port from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and I had plans to take a catamaran out for some snorkeling. Obviously this would mean getting up and off the ship early (or so I thought), so I called it an early night, figuring that after St. Thomas, I’d have two full sea days (and nights) during which to stay up late. That was the plan, anyway… but things definitely did not go exactly as I thought they would!


Drink Of The Day: Mai Tai. Somehow, I’vd never actually had one of these before. Not really my thing, but it was tasty enough.

High Point Of The Day: The resort was amazing, but the best part of the day was dinner. Ever have one of those meals where you’re hanging out with friends, maybe a little bit buzzed, and you just sort of silently take a moment to acknowledge how great life can be? Yeah, that’s pretty hard to beat.

Low Point Of The Day:  A fellow tourist offered to take my picture with the mermaid statue next to the pool at the resort. In fact, he took 10 of them to make sure at least one would come out. Awesome, right? Except… as shown below, his finger obscured my head in every single shot! Well, guess I’ll just have to go back some day and try again!

If this were a promotional photo, it could read, “I lost my head for Palm Court Garden!”

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