Cruise Critic Review

breakaway-nycharbor

 

 

This review is available now on Cruise Critic at http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=506152 and on Cruiseline.

Meanwhile:

Three of us travelled: my husband (Tom), our adult son (Michael) and myself. I’ve been on several cruises – NCL, RCI, Celebrity, and some Windjammers. My husband NCL, Celebrity, and some Windjammers; and our son one other NCL.

Our son lives and works in Manhattan and we had seen the Breakaway when we were visiting him in November. I chose this particular week because it included my husband’s birthday.

My husband and I took Amtrak from DC on Friday and stayed at a hotel in SoHo for 2 nights. We had used RCI points so there was no cost for the hotel.

On Sunday, our son and I were playing in a recital at the temporary Steinway Hall at 11:00 am and this worried me a lot, getting from 1155 Avenue of the Americas to the cruise terminal by 2:00 all aboard.

We left Steinway about 12:15 and took an Uber to the terminal. The driver left us the terminal by the Gem about 12:35 but it was an easy walk next door to the Breakaway terminal at Pier 88.

We left our checked baggage and went through the terminal process very quickly. We never even had a chance to sit down and we were on board by 1:00.

That was the fastest I have ever boarded any ship.

The Garden Cafe was crowded but we found a table without much effort. Before we finished eating, it was announced that the cabins were ready.

Our cabin – 9918 – was fantastic! It was a bit tight for the 3 of us but we made it work.

The balcony was the best part. I had chosen an aft balcony on 9, starboard. We had 2 loungers, 3 chairs and 2 tables and plenty of room to move them and ourselves around.

Looking up to the other decks, we could see from the angle that ours was larger than the others above us.

As it turned out, looking out over the balcony, we could see the fireworks just fine.

There was a lot of storage but some was tricky to find.

The bathroom was a good size, as was the shower. There were more shelves in the bathroom than usual and I liked being able to leave my cosmetics and stuff in there. I had read that there was no conditioner in the showers so I brought my own.

I also followed advice from Cruise Critic and brought magnet hooks for the walls and those were great for hanging hats, card lanyards and so on. Giant clips, meant for holding towels to chairs were repurposed for clipping our last day paperwork under the TV.

About the TV – we never watched it so we can’t really comment on the programming. We did watch the info from the deck once or twice to find out about the sea conditions.

Our bed was great, very comfortable king sized with 2 pillows each. The steward, Bradley, turned the couch into a nice bed for our son.

The end tables on each side of our bed were pretty narrow but we made that work. The lights beside the bed were a little high up, so I’d have to get up to turn mine off. Luckily, I read a Kindle before bed so I never really needed to use the bedside light.

Our luggage arrived before 4:00 pm which was really nice.

I had been concerned about going on a ship this size but there was really no problem. The elevators were crowded the first day but after that, no big deal. I would like to point out that we mostly always took the stairs going down and walked up if it was only 2-3 decks.

When we were in the elevators, they were clean. Both of the RCI cruises I took had sticky elevator buttons, presumably from children using them after eating ice cream or something. One thing that RCI has that I would like to see on other ships was the “day plate” on the floor. Often, I get involved in a cruise and have no idea what the day is, so that would be helpful on all ships.

We got the unlimited internet package and it was well worth it for us. On other cruises, I would get the max minutes and always be watching the time – and I would still often run out at the end. I am the web master for a couple companies so I need to spend some time online each day. This internet package was a life-saver for me and we were able to share it between the 3 of us.

We also made good use of the iPhone iConcierge app. We used it as a messenger to let others know where we were and we made reservations for 3 restaurants and 2 shore excursions with it. I also checked how our account was doing. That cost us $7.95 per phone and was well worth it.

Everywhere we went, crew was smiling and friendly – and everything was very clean. At the end of the cruise, we took the behind the scenes tour and everything was so well run. Amazing.

We mostly ate in the Garden Cafe. We also ate once each in Taste and Savor. Our specialty restaurants were Moderno Churrascaria, Teppanyaki and La Cucina.

We had been at the Churrascaria on another Norwegian cruise and loved it. This time, we knew not to eat too much earlier in the day! This time, I went lighter on the salad bar portion. The “gauchos” (aka waiters) brought sausages, lamb, both beef and pork ribs, chicken, filet mignon, and garlic beef, among others. Of those, I had the sausages, lamb, chicken and beef before I was too full. All excellent. Michael gave up even earlier than I did! For dessert, I had mango rice pudding – nearly as good as Thai sticky rice with mango.

Teppanyaki was a pretty standard Japanese food, on this ship cooked by a Philippines chef (he called himself fake-Japanese). Because it was on a ship, with no flames allowed, there was no onion volcano although another chef tried it with an onion and water for steam. Not as impressive as with oil and fire but clever nonetheless. There were combinations of chicken, beef and seafood (including lobster) served with miso soup, seaweed salad, vegetables and garlic fried rice. I had green tea cake/ice cream for dessert and the others had fruit sashimi.

La Cucina was good Italian food. The minestrone was unusual (for us, anyway). We got bowls with a little bit of pasta stuffed with vegetables and a piece of Italian bread on top. Then came the “surprise” when the waitress brought around the tureens of broth that was poured over all.

We also attended Cirque Jungle Dreams and Dinner.

I had read many complaints about the Cirque dinner so we ate in the Garden Cafe a bit before the show. The food (and show) were great. I told the waitress that I was allergic to shrimp so she offered double filet mignon but I declined. My portion was excellent.

The show itself was fantastic, especially for being at sea. The costumes were very clever.

Tom was using the Internet Cafe one morning so Michael and I played the 15 minute Sudoko challenge. One of the main challenges of that was they gave a blank form and we had to fill in the starting numbers. I messed up some in copying from the big screen and that made it harder to figure out the answers.

After that was Trivia and we did ok as a team.

The library was very small and open only certain hours. Tom went back later and checked out a book.

The library, game room and halls outside were decorated with photos/history of the Rockettes – the “godmothers” of this ship. 2 of them were on board, giving exercise classes, Q and A periods and photo ops.

We played Scrabble a few times in the games room and that was fun. Others played board games like Clue, chess, Yahtzee and card games.

Michael did the ropes course. I had planned to go, too, but I was wearing sandals and couldn’t go. Tom checked everything out and said he’d try it “later”. Unfortunately, neither of us ever got a chance to try that later.

On a different day, Michael also climbed the rock wall. Even if I’d been wearing closed-toed shoes, I wouldn’t have tried that!

Our star athlete, Michael, also used the gym all the sea days and reported that it was really good. The treadmills and ellipticals have sudoko and other games to while away the time.

We had no use for any of the Children’s Clubs.

Generally, we found the service to be excellent and friendly everywhere we went on board. We had occasion to visit Guest Services a few times – Tom cut his hand on something and they were fast with bandaids, antiseptic pads and so on. Michael lost his apartment keys the very last sea day – those never turned up :(

We didn’t do any entertainment other than the Cirque Jungle Dreams and Dinner which I mentioned above, under restaurants.

Tom and I had been to Bermuda on a land stay before but Michael had never been. The first day, we did a bus tour of the whole island. That was very interesting but we had some folks that had trouble getting back to the bus on time.

One person ended up being on a regular bus to Hamilton from St. George and we spent quite a bit of time locating her and getting her back with us. If I’d known that would be the, we would have just stayed in St. George and taken the ferry back. Instead, we rushed out lunch to get back on time.

The next day, Thursday, we took a bus to BAMZ and the Crystal Caves. When we were in Bermuda before, we’d tried to take the bus from Hamilton to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo but somehow missed the stop.

BAMZ and Crystal Caves were well worth the trip. Someday, we will go back to BAMZ when we can spend more time.

Friday, I’d arranged for the Restless Native for snorkeling. I had arranged that not through the ship but through CheapCruises and saved $30 per person over others who booked through NCL. I had never done that before so this was a trial run and worked very well. We were back in plenty of time for 4:30 all aboard.

This was one of the best snorkel boats we had been on. Shallow enough that I didn’t have to worry about drowning getting back on the ship but lots of caves and coral to support fish swimming around. This sailboat also offered noodles for floating with, kayaking, banana boats and paddle boards. Lots of fun – and boat-made cookies.

We were in the “Orange” disembarkation group so we had a leisurely breakfast, went back to the cabin to pick up our carry-offs and down to the Atrium. WiFi still worked so I checked my email and we read.

The giant screen was showing the staff singing and waving goodbye to us.

There was some hold up at Customs on shore so they stopped offloading for a few minutes, then resumed.

Our color was supposed to be called about 10. It was called around 9:45. We were off the ship, got our luggage, through Customs and in an Uber by 10:30. Very fast and efficient.

We had a great time overall and wouldn’t hesitate to take this ship again. I loved our balcony! Having only one port was great so we could use the ship as a hotel was really nice.

The one “problem” was Saturday night coming back into New York. There was a lot of cabin shaking/noise (remember, we were on 9 aft). I had read about that in one of the reviews so I wasn’t too concerned. I had been expecting noise/vibrating when leaving Bermuda but that wasn’t so bad.

Coming back to NY was the loudest/shakiest.

I’m ready to go again, as soon as I can save up enough money :)

 

Beach Buddies
MaryO

Costa Rica, Day Nine: August 23, 2014

This was another easy day.

When Tom was making reservations for Costa Rica, he set out searches on both RCI and Interval.  We had one week here at Coco Bay Estates, then we were going to move to Flamingo Beach Resort.  That was ok, sort of.  Then a second week became available here but we kept the second week at Flamingo and gave it to friends, Bev and Pete.

We mostly spent the morning online checking Facebook, I worked some on a final exam that is due at 9:00 am Monday – UK time on a Coursera course – and trying to figure out how to get to Flamingo Beach Resort.

flamingo-routeWe had all kinds of maps, including the Google one at right.  The trouble with all of them is the route numbers.  None of the roads here have signs that say what the route number is, or the name of any street.

The little directions that come with that map were also no good since we were to go through the towns of Filadelfia, Belén and Huacas.

Luckily, we had been through Filadelfia before, when we went to Palo Verde but the other ones had no signs letting us know where the town limits were, “Welcome to Huacas” signs or anything.  The maps would be better if they said turn right at the fruit stand or something.

We rented a GPS when we first got here but today it had trouble acquiring satellites and we would be driving along and it appeared to suddenly download new (or updated) software, then restart.

But, as always, we persevered.

2014-08-23 11.28.15 2014-08-23 11.28.29We set out about 11:30 am.  Before we even got to the little town, we saw an odd sight.

That boat, aptly named Fear Not,  is being towed by that backhoe(?).  The boat is taller than the electrical wires above so the guy on the left, in orange, is standing up, holding up the electrical wires with a piece of wood.  The woman is holding a piece of aluminum or metal.

 

We retraced our steps towards the Liberia Airport but when we got to that fruit stand, we turned right instead of left.  All new territory now.  Between the in-and-out GPS and sporadic signs to Playa Flamingo, after only one wrong turn, we made it to our friends place about 12:45.

flamingo_beach_resortWe met them in the lobby and then went and had a very nice lunch in the little outdoor restaurant.

We went out on their beach (white sand) and got a view of the buildings just up the coast.

I have to sat that their place is much nicer than ours on a whole – room is smaller – and more friendly/helpful people around.

Here, we’re kind of by ourselves on this mountain and have to drive to even get to the pool.  Most of the “staff” here seem to work for another company which is selling timeshares/vacation clubs/something slimy.  More on that later.

Our front light is still out and our elevator may or may not be working after nine days here.  We still have our 15 issues since day one and some new ones have been added.  Those will be in a summary after we get home.

But, I digress.  We had a great time with our friends but had to head home at 4:30 or so since it gets dark at 6:00.  On the way back we were stopped by police for a routine traffic stop.  Tom said it was right around Costa Rican Mother’s Day when all the family gathers at home.  That may involve drinking and/or fighting which may have triggered the traffic stop.  In any event, they let us go after seeing Tom’s driver’s license.

Most of the drive went well except when we went around a corner and there was a kid skateboarding in the street.

We got back to our place just as a big storm was brewing.

2014-08-23 17.57.50 2014-08-23 17.57.47 2014-08-23 17.57.45 2014-08-23 17.57.42 2014-08-23 17.57.28 2014-08-23 17.57.10 2014-08-23 17.57.07

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And there was a huge thunderstorm.  The power went out on one wall where modem, router and telephone is.  Then the fridge went out but it came back fairly soon.

Someone came to our door to ask if we’d reported a fire.  Uh, no.  We wouldn’t be sitting around if the place was on fire.  We don’t even have a phone to report a fire.

Finally, our modem, router and phone came back and all was well for another day…

Costa Rica, Day 2A

I thought I was being so clever last night. I had a thing to plug into my iPad which I could plug my camera SD card into. I downloaded my pictures and and wrote my post. All was well until I put the SD card back in the camera. It says the card is damaged but Tom’s computer can read it.So I need to find an SD card here. I asked Michael to bring one when he comes on Thursday. I definitely want the camera for whitewater rafting that day. Meanwhile, pictures will be from my cellphone.

What I alluded to yesterday… On Saturday I realized we didn’t have a confirmation for this place so we called RCI. They said that they would resend. Still didn’t get it.

When we got here, very tired, on Sunday night they wanted that confirmation,of course. Tom managed to convince them we would have it and to let us stay.

I tried to log on to the RCI site and login didn’t work so I asked for that info to be resent to me. When the confirmation page came up I saw that they had my email address wrong. Someone else had our confirmation and login info.

A long phone call to RCI finally straightened that out and we got the confirmation info yesterday. I had asked them to send it to the resort as well so I figured all was well.

We stopped by the desk to see and they hadn’t gotten anything. Trying to communicate was kind of hard with them speaking mostly Spanish and me mostly English I got their email address and forwarded it to them. The email came back undeliverable.

I took the iPad down to the office so they could see we had the confirmation but they needed a print out. I couldn’t do that from the iPad and I couldn’t send it to them so I asked if I could use their computer. Yes! Logged on to RCI with new info and printed the thing out. The computer commands were all in Spanish which was a bit of a challenge but we are now here legally.

Tom has a conference call in a few minutes so I’ll be going to the pool to “read”. I’ll post more later…