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Dale and I just returned from New York City where we joined the 3-Day Inaugural Cruise on the new Norwegian Breakaway. This 4,028-passenger ship is slightly smaller than the Epic but with many improvements.
The Breakaway’s accommodations, dining and entertainment all exceeded our expectations. However, to our eyes it also represent the shift in the “new economic reality” of cruise ships.
I missed the grand, luxurious open spaces but today there’s a need to get more passengers and revenue sources into a smaller space without sacrificing comfort. I personally often prefer a comfortable chair in one of the public areas where I can relax in peace while I read or watch the ocean go by, and those areas seemed to be in short supply on this ship. Are those days simply gone on the new generation of ships?
But there was so much on the upside so let’s start with the accommodations. Our mini-suite located on deck 10, mid-ship was beautifully decorated. Our initial reaction was that the room was longer and narrower than others but that reaction soon passed with the discovery of it’s functionality and beautiful décor.
Like most high-end hotels, all guest information and reservations can now be done on the 26-inch flat screen T.V. Gone are the days of making reservations by telephone. This ship is taking advantage of today’s technology in many ways.
The Breakaway had the best bathroom by far of any ship we have traveled on at this cabin level. It has a very contemporary design with a double sink and plenty of storage. The shower was oversized with a waterfall shower head and multiple body spray jets. With the right person you could spend a lot of time there!
As an ex-Seattleite, I was trilled to have my own one-cup coffee maker in our room. Nice touch. You do not want to talk to me in the morning until I have my first cup of Java – just ask Dale. If you are one of the lucky ones in The Haven, you will be blessed with your own espresso/cappuccino machine.
If you like to be treated like a diva, check out The Haven. This is a private key-access area containing luxury accommodations, concierge, 24-hour butler, private pool and spa. You’ll even have your private lounge and restaurant. When we entered this area we no longer felt like we were on a large cruise ship but rather a luxury yacht. Truly, a diva’s paradise.
Breakaway’s dining opportunities seem endless. In fact, you have 28 options, including three main dining rooms which are included in the cruise fare. Each dining room offers distinct menus and décor which provide you with many choices. There are seven ethnically themed dining options plus Cagney’s Steak House where we ate the first evening. The service and food at Cagney’s was exceptional. Whatever your tastebuds are in the mood for, The Breakaway has you covered. Check out their website for all their offerings.
The entertainment venues on board are top-notch. From broadway musicals like ‘Rock of Ages’, jazz and blues, comedy, outdoor fireworks and much more, there is something for everyone’s taste.
OK…it didn’t have a gay bar but we certainly found ‘family’ at Shaker’s for a pre-dinner cocktail. There were many LGBT on board but unfortunately no pre-planned gathering on this short 3-day inaugural cruise.
If you like to be outside splashing in the water, the Aqua Park is for you. The Breakaway has five water slides, two of which are the largest at sea. ‘The Plunge’ will surely get your adrenaline pumping. I know this for a fact since I heard Dale’s inner school-girl scream.
Remember the old days when there was a virtual sun worshiping amphitheater around a large pool? Lots of sun, cocktails and liberal doses of skin? No more. The pool is small and there is very little area around it for lounging. There are other areas designated for sun bathing where you can enjoy your cocktails while working on that golden tan.
The sports complex has everything you need including a bungee trampoline, miniature golf, rope and zipwire course, climbing wall, basketball court and jogging/walking track. If you’re the fearless type, walk the plank. Take an eight foot walk over the sea 150 feet below.
Our 3-day inaugural sailing was 50% capacity and amazingly there were times that the ship felt crowded. Perhaps this is due to the many dining, drinking and entertainment venues taking away from large public spaces. It will be interesting to know what it feels like at or near 100% capacity.
The Breakaway will sail year-round from New York City to Bermuda, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
Note: Watch for Dale’s review of his day at the spa.
News this week of the Norwegian Epic, one of the world’s largest cruise ships, being turned away from a port in the Bahamas because the port didn’t schedule it properly was pretty darn shocking. According to Bahamas-based Tribune242.com, the 4,100 passenger mega-ship was turned away due to a “mix up in the berthing schedule.”
Holy Cow! Someone’s head should roll for that mistake, which the publication reports cost the island(s) over $100,000.
But what does a missed or skipped port mean for you and me? Have you ever been on a ship that skipped or changed a port for some reason?
I have. Many years ago, during an RSVP cruise onboard a Holland America ship, we were diverted from a stop on the Dominican Republic (if memory serves me right) due to health a health issue on the island, and instead the captain held the ship between the islands of St. Thomas and St. John, USVI, with tenders running to both those islands. We had already stopped in St. Thomas earlier in the cruise. This allowed me to visit small St. John, where the island’s business owners had zero warning the gays would be arriving en mass. The ones I talked to were certainly delighted with the bonus bucks that landed in their cash registers that day.
Meanwhile, lots of plans in the Dominican were scuttled. And while this was before it was so easy to pre-plan (and sometimes pre-pay) for non-cruise line shore excursions prior to arrival, I can only imagine how disruptive such a change must be these days when some of us do just that. Folks who booked excursions via the cruise line would be refunded, but people who planned on their own would be SOL.
It’s a good reminder that you should never pre-arrange and pre-pay for any “non-refundable” travel experience that you can’t afford to lose, and this includes the cruise itself when you arrange your own airfare–which is my method. However, I always book my flights to arrive at least a day before departure, which gives me a much stronger chance of making the ship on time (I haven’t missed one yet), plus allows me to arrive relaxed, and even enjoy the outbound port and perhaps its gay bars or shops.
I’d love to hear if you’ve ever lost money due to a last-minute change in a ship’s itinerary. And for that matter, have you ever missed the boat altogether?
Note: On one mentioned cruise, the author cruised as a guest of RSVP Vacations. The company has not reviewed this content, and the views and opinions expressed are the author’s own.
Kim Catrall christened the Norwegian Dawn back when Sex & The City was in its heyday. Until recently, I had not been onboard this
ship since godmother Kim Catrall christened her in New York City nearly 9 years ago, and on a recent voyage I enjoyed the Dawn again very much!
Nine days on Dawn was a very pleasant experience. This 92,000 ton 2,300 passenger ship offers a fun-filled cruise experience at a very affordable price. She is a spacious and never terribly crowded ship. While she rates in the 4-star category, the Dawn offers NCL’s innovative Freestyle cruise experience with some 13 restaurants and no enforced formal dress code – a plus!
This ship is spotlessly maintained except for worn balcony railings which needed sanding and varnishing quite badly but otherwise looking very good for her age. She will undergo a major rebuild in the late Spring of 2011 wherein the incredible Spinnaker (observation) Lounge will be replaced by 44 deluxe suites and cabins. The ship will reconfigure a number of public spaces and undergo a major overhaul. I am mixed in my feelings about eliminating the lounge as it adds more capacity to the ship and reduces some public space.
Nonetheless, I really liked the layout of the ship, it’s flow, and offerings for lively, exciting entertainment options and plenty of
unique restaurant like dining options. Cabins are a bit smaller than other lines but bathrooms have significantly more space and are separated into the 3 part set up with the toilet on one side, the sink in the middle, and an extra large shower on the other. The three compartments have sliding glass doors to give a little more privacy. The average cabin is 150 square feet inside/ocean view, and 201 square feet for a balcony.
While many guests complained about the non-stop hustle for onboard revenue, this has become standard on the contemporary and premium brands to offset reduced pricing to attract customers during this recession. I understand the need for the lines to draw profits to stay afloat, however, the push has become annoyingly aggressive and offensive. This is not unique to NCL but prevalent on all lines except for luxury cruise lines.
The service staff onboard Norwegian Dawn were quite pleasant from my perspective and always greeting with a smile. The bar staff never failed to learn guests names and preferences–kudos NCL!
The Norwegian Dawn rotates a 9 and 5 day Eastern and Western Caribbean itinerary which can be piggy-backed for a 14-day VERY economical cruise… Our incredible 9-day itinerary from Miami included: Samana, Tortola, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Kitts.
I have spent a lot of time on Norwegian Cruise Line ships this year and have escorted a number of groups on their ships … It has been a rewarding experience overall.
I recently accompanied a gay group of 52 cruisers to Scandinavia and Russia on the Norwegian Sun. Many friends and clients have asked how the trip was.
In a nutshell: it is one of the most-exciting cruises you can take in Europe.
The Trip. We sailed from Dover (London’s major port) on board the 3-star Norwegian Sun. 12-day Baltic Cruise sailed to Copenhagen, Denmark; Warnemunde, Germany (for Berlin); Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg (for 2 very short days, 3 would have been perfect); Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; and returned to England.
Sailing in mid-summer allowed us to experience the season called “White Nights,” so-called because the sun is up almost 24-hours. “Night” lasts only a few short hours and really is just a long twilight that gives way to sunrise—gorgeous and breathtaking sunset-sunrises. Weather in mid-summer is generally great!
Sitting on my balcony at midnight with the moon on one horizon and the sun on the other was sublime. The sea was ablaze with brilliant light and had an inky black shimmer…amazing.
The Ship. The Sun is nearly 10 years old. She has not been refurbished but is impeccably maintained and clean. She was well-painted, clean, and although her furnishings are outdated, not a bad cruise choice. This is one of NCL’s two oldest ships and was one of the first purpose-built “Freestyle Ships”.
This ship is going to get an overhaul in the near future although nobody can give me a straight answer as to when. The Norwegian Sun could use some updated color schemes and furnishings-she would surely shine!
The Sun does not have the excitement of maritime architecture of newer NCL ships. But, she offers great value. You cannot beat the prices offered for this ship. She is almost 80,000 tons, carries 1,900 passengers, and is easy to get around barring a couple of specialty restaurants high atop the ship and a lousy-designed Garden Café (the ship’s one downfall).
I love the freestyle concept as it allows a more resort like atmosphere. I am not one to eat at the same time every night, am not ritualistic, and enjoy a relaxed dress code… This part is for me!
My stateroom. I had a balcony stateroom on Deck 10. It was nearly 250 square feet with a nice-sized, well-maintained balcony. There was more than adequate storage with a double door closet, six full drawers, 11 shelves, storage under the bed, a full six-foot sofa bed (could convert for 3rd passenger), and a spacious bathroom with plentiful storage. Guests in some cabins complained about the shower stall and curtain wrapping itself around them, but I never had that problem. The water pressure was superb, and Elemis shampoo, body soap was replenished by my two cabin attendants. Anyway, the room was decorated in kitschy little boy bedroom decor with anchors abounding on fabrics and carpets and a TV that was a vestige from the past. This all needs updating but it was in great ship. The bed was very comfortable but NCL has upgraded all bedding on all ships with new pillows and thick foam mattress covers for a more comfortable guest rest.
NCL Gay Friendly. NCL was the early-adopter of Friends of Dorothy (GLBT) gatherings. They are a GLBT friendly cruise line all around and host these gatherings on a daily basis. They are also the first cruise line to use a GLBT godmother with comic icon Rosie O’Donnell being the gal who christened NCL’s beautiful Norwegian Pearl.
My room stewards had no issues with my partner and I requesting the beds being put together as one bed. We were always made to be felt as welcome guests on this GLBT friendly ship
The Service. My cabin attendants were “oh so friendly” but sometimes inefficient Indonesians. Delights as they were, they always forgot my special requests.
The service throughout the ship was good to adequate. I found the bar staff incredibly good although drinks are now very expensive. Costs have increased some 25% in the last year. I predict this is due to cruise pricing plummeting after the market crash last year. This is a chance for them to increase revenues. The dining room service was a little lackluster but food was delivered quickly and warm. The food ranged from average to quite good. I was baffled at this factor but never went hungry. I thought the poorly designed Garden Cafe (24 hour eatery) has great food, selection, and always replenished. It just isn’t big enough for this size of ship. Freestyle worked well too. I never saw any lines or experienced drama about waiting for a meal anywhere. It was also easy to get a reservation in any of the fee based restaurants (where the food is all cooked to order and better than the dining room). I particularly liked these venues as it felt more resort like to me than going to a large convention style dining hall. The food program worked quite well I just think the staff could use a little “up with the people” training in personality and finesse.
Entertainment. The shows were pretty good but activity seemed to lack. The art auction seemed to be the main event onboard. I felt a few cultural lectures might have made us all feel a little better. A shopping talk for each port is not telling the story of Russia! The lines were long at shipboard art auctions but I think the guests were going for the free art giveaways and champagne rather than buying “Art.”
Overall While I am a luxury traveler and prefer to surround myself with the best, the 3-star Norwegian Sun did not leave me with any bad taste in my mouth. She offered incredible value, efficient cruise experience, the best embarkation, disembarkation, and luggage delivery I have had in years… Even the pickiest guy or gal can be happy on a ship that makes you feel welcome.
What / when is Value for this itinerary? I have so many friends who talk about saving money and want to go when the price is “right.” To save money, some of them have travelled to Scandinavia in the early-season when the weather can be nasty. I say: make the most of your experience, shell out a little bit more, and travel during the PEAK season which is June-August. Enough of the commercial about when to go. It is true though… This season is incredible…
This is in thanks to being in the Baltic during the peak Summer White Nights. If you are going to take this cruise, please go from mid-late June to mid-August… I don’t think you will be disappointed…
Happy Cruising. Tom Baker
Morning cruise fans,
I get a LOT of emails about different cruises and deals, from a variety of sources. This itinerary struck me as
very unusual (New Orleans to Boston, with several interesting stops) and I know there is some great pricing available on it. I’ve seen it advertised as low as $549/person/inside. That’s only $45/day. Wow. Check with your favorite agent who might even be able to get you a better deal or some perks.
I’ve personally never sailed NCL, but friends report they enjoyed the experience.
There is also at least one MeetMeOnBoard user (couple) planning to take this trip, connect with them here.
If you book it (or ANY cruise), be sure to update your profile so others gay, lesbian, and friendly cruisers can find you!
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