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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.


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 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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Norwegian Breakaway

Breakaway Live Blog, Day 7: The Final Sea Day



As expected, our final sea day started chilly and got progressively colder, driving all but the heartiest of folks inside and making the atrium – often considered the heart of a ship – into the place to be. But before we discuss the day’s events, a confession.

Remember how yesterday’s blog ended with me calling it an early night? Well, I’m afraid something unexpected and borderline tragic happened soon after: I picked up the phone, called room service and ordered a pizza. Not just any pizza, but an ultimate supreme big enough to feed several people but… well, I travel solo, so it was mine, all mine!

That’s why as our final sea day began, I wasn’t necessarily feeling the need to seek out food, perhaps for the first time this week! Instead, I joined a lot of other folks in the atrium, watching a series of events – Guess the Celebrity Headshot, a cake-making competition – and even dragged by a new friend onto the dance floor for a samba lesson from the cast of Burn The Floor.

Drink Up!

The atrium bar was packed all day, as was nearly every other booze-selling place on the ship. As afternoon approached, the casino seemed to have a surprising number of winners, and the mood there, which had been fairly dark most of the week, seemed lighter, more celebratory. Personally, I found a machine that let me play for about two hours on a $50 investment. I eventually lost it all, but losing at a rate of $25 an hour in a casino doesn’t seem all that bad to me.

Atrium Bar

Atrium Bar Rendering

Ocean Blue’s Window on the Waterfront was closed, meaning I’ll have to give it a try next time I’m onboard, so I hit Savor for lunch. While chowing down on a Cajun grouper sandwich (served on a warm, soft pretzel roll), I chatted with a woman seated at the table next to mine. She proceeded to open up to me about a recent tragedy in the way that often happens amongst cruisers. We’ll likely never see one another again, so for a half hour or so, I made the perfect confidant to things she might never feel comfortable telling her actual loved ones.

The Last (Onboard) Supper

I was invited by a couple of friends to check out the Studio Lounge and one of the studio cabins designed for solo travelers like myself. The lounge was a bright, fun little spot in which to hang out, meet fellow solo travelers and make plans. I’m not sure I could do one of the studio cabins – I love a balcony and need a horizon to stave off seasickness – but I’d be lying if I didn’t say touring them led to temptation. My friend Dawn, a big lover of the studio cabins, said, “I feel like Jeannie in her bottle when I’m in here!”

Rendering of a Studio Room

Rendering of a Studio Room

Anyone who’s been keeping up with my trip report probably has a pretty good guess where I went to dinner: That’s right, the Manhattan Room. A duck harissa soup and Caesar salad set the stage for the main attraction, an 18-ounce ribeye. I knew this would come with a $19.99 surcharge, but having kept to my promise all week of only eating in the main dining rooms, I decided I’d earned the treat. And it was worth every penny.

Dinner wrapped up just in time for me to hustle over to the Breakaway Theater, where Broadway singer Carla Stickler was doing her second show of the night. I’d considered bypassing the performance, despite being a huge fan of several of the shows she’s appeared in (especially Wicked, in which she played Elphaba or, as she explained to the uninformed, “the green one.”). Missing this show would have proven to be my biggest regret of the week, because Stickler delivered an hour of powerhouse performances and humor. I love Rock of Ages and have seen it numerous times, but amongst the Broadway shows currently being featured on the Breakaway, Stickler’s was the one to beat.

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After the show, I went straight back to my cabin to pack my bags and read until I fell asleep, visions (or were they nightmares?) of the next day’s disembarkation dancing in my head.

Say Farewell, For Now

I admit I was dreading disembarkation. During two previous trips aboard Breakaway, attempts to get off the ship in a timely manner had proven downright disastrous. In theory, it should be simple: I do self-assist, so it should simply mean grabbing my bags, heading to the designated area and walking off the ship. But in the past, it has meant long, frustrating waits with other equally frustrated people. This time, I headed down to O’Sheehan’s around 7:30 am and was literally off the boat less than a half-hour later. Interestingly, even as I and others were walking off the ship, announcements were being made telling people that the ship had not even gotten clearance yet. Worse, a friendly but ill-informed staffer directed me to the wrong venue for priority disembarkation. Each night at Walt Disney World’s various parks, they send you off with a splashy fireworks show, known as a kiss goodnight. It is their attempt to make sure that you leave the parks on a high note. For a cruise line, disembarkation is the last thing that a passenger is going to experience, making it the freshest in their memory. During past trips, I have heard people who were stuck in long, disorganized lines vow to themselves and anyone who will listen that they will never do the ship in question again. Thus, it’s incredibly important that every ship works hard to make sure disembarkation is the smoothest it can possibly be.

Today, I lucked out. However, had I listened to the staff – whether via their instructions or even the printed directions left in my room – this would have been yet another disaster. I later heard from others who said that, as I’d experienced in the past, disembarkation turned into what one called “a hot mess.”

Final Thoughts

This wasn’t a trip I’d initially planned to take. Upon receiving the Casinos at Seas offer a few months ago and realizing just how inexpensively I could do this voyage, I knew I had to do it. Sometimes, good things really do come in small packages (or, in the case of the offer, envelopes), because this turned out to be one of the most relaxing cruises I’ve ever taken. In the past, my trips have been more hectic, with a bit of rushing around to see, do, taste, and drink everything. This time around, I spent more time simply chillaxing, whether in bars and restaurants or my cabin. I came back re-energized and ready to face the rest of the holiday season. After which, I’ll de-stress again by taking a March voyage upon Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, and we can do this whole thing again!

Featured photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Catch up on my other days aboard the ship!

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