2015 marks the year I write something new! Yay!
I have wanted to write about my travel experiences for awhile, and granted, living in Manhattan means that the bar is set pretty high in terms of quality.
So, with that as my umbrella disclaimer, let me just give you the highlights and low lights of a recent Norwegian Cruise Line (the Breakaway) vacation that I took from NYC to the Bahamas.
Here we go!
|Beef Tartare at Ocean Blue|
- Our cabin. In spite of a couple of minor issues, the minute they were noted, everything was addressed immediately and efficiently. REALLY positive experience with our cabin crew on the whole.
- The on-board hotel director tried to make things right. That was really top notch. I also enjoy sitting on the balcony off of our room - so some quiet reading and reflection time was very nice -especially with a nice, complimentary bottle of wine that was sent. **cheers**
- Port days were nice in the spa area - the rest of the ship was off the boat, so it was quieter (like a spa SHOULD be!) and quite relaxing.
- The term "Freestyle Cruising" was interesting. You don't have the same waitstaff each night at a specific dining time. You go when you want. Not having the same servers also cut back on the amount of tips that you would have automatically added to your bill.
- The kid's club talent show on the very last day of the cruise. Our son didn't go to there until day 6 of 7, so we didn't interact too much with the staff there. It wasn't as welcoming as one would want a children's play area should be and our son just felt it (we did too, so we didn't push his attendance). Although, once our son made some shipmate friends at the pool and found out that they all went to the kids club, he finally decided maybe it would be acceptable to visit. He seemed to really enjoy the couple of times he went, but we simply prefer to spend family time together on vacation and not drop our child off for others to look after all day.
- Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian was a pleasant dining experience. Presentations were beautiful and the food was much better than anywhere else we dined over the course of the cruise.
|Dining at Ocean Blue|
The low lights:
- Smoking in the casino makes the midship area stink because it's musty, old man smell combined with the humidity of the ocean. No joy.
- You feel badgered in the shopping area of the ship -much like going to the ports where shopkeepers on the street come up to you, get into your personal space and pressure you into buying something (crappy that you don't need). It's very annoying when you're in a small space to begin with and you need to pass by this area to get to someplace else. I would try to avoid that floor as much as possible because I'M NOT BUYING some crap -especially with pressure-oriented sales tactics.
- Dining options might be plentiful, but many charge supplemental amounts. The inclusive dining options all shared the same, limiting menu. However, the best ambiance was at The Manhattan Room - but it must be located above the ship's engines, as it is so incredibly noisy and your glasses rattle quite a bit - it is a bit humorous. Without a doubt we wanted to try the restaurants that offered (what we hoped would be) something better.
- Only 2 of the restaurants should have charged the supplements: Ocean Blue and Moderno. The rest were a COMPLETE joke. Case-in-point: The Japanese "Teppanaki" was basically a show like Ichiban --all performed by Chef Phillip Pino. OK, that wasn't really a chef's name -they were all Filipino (play on words, people!) and pretty much insulted not only Japanese culture, but Asian culture -with their routine. And, NO, that's not okay. EVERY single table did the same shtick and it was poorly rehearsed. I felt dumber for sitting there for 45 minutes.
- Speaking of timing, most of the organized activities with any on-board Nickelodeon characters were limited to about 30 minutes or less. On one of our first days, we planned to do a "Family Arts and Crafts with Team Nick" in one of the designated areas. We were 20 minutes late and everyone had LEFT already. It was basically a Sponge Bob t-shirt to color with washable markers (??) -- they still gave us a t-shirt and quickly waved goodbye while showing us the exit.
- I also tried another special event with Team Nick. It was a paid for a character meet and greet
Pajama Jam - 20 Minutes of Distraction and Disappointment
- Maybe it is because most employees didn't feel happy to be there. This sentiment was really noticed by all of us in a HUGE way. For example, at the check-in for the French themed restaurant, Le Bistro, wholly crap, I thought this woman was training to be in the Gestapo. She ignored people waiting in line, never cracked a smile nor did she greet anyone. She looked annoyed at you for being there and when you spoke, she looked down on her monitor, walked away and waved to someone else to take care of people waiting after speaking under her breath in her native Tagalog. NOT a good image or experience for these first time NCL cruisers - she made me believe that if you complained, you'd walk the plank.
- And another example of simple rudeness: We also wanted to try the Carlo's Bakery & Gelateria (based off of the "Cake Boss" of Hoboken) -- but guess what? They were only open for a very short window of time from noon to 5pm. I was corrected by a staff member walking by once, who overheard me say to my husband, "We'll have to come back at noon." She rudely and quickly said, "We are not open until 12pm. 12pm!" I looked back at my husband and confirmed that "Noon is 12pm, right?!" We still went back and not only was the gelato gummy, but I'm pretty sure the baked goods were never fresh and remained in a freezer. Bakery = fresh baked goods, people. And why the limited hours? You had to PAY for everything anyway. It would have been better served if people could enjoy an after dinner dessert, but no. Carlo's was closed.
- Training and service are in a serious need of an overhaul. They had a place where every customer could certainly give "Additional Gratuity" -even so drinks had it automatically configured - I didn't really feel like anyone went above and beyond to deserve more. If anything, I would have given less than the automatic charge.
- And speaking of less -I never ONCE saw "Cruise Director Julie" on board. Every other time I have cruised, the director was in the middle, all over the ship -socializing and participating everywhere. I began to wonder if there really was a cruise director at all.
Overall, we didn't find a lot of value for this particular cruise. If you EVER think that traveling over the Christmas or New Year holiday is a great time to get away from it all... you may wish to re-think that strategy. Apparently, EVERYONE is thinking the same thing. Sure, I might try another season/time on this line and give it another shot - and only if I stayed at "The Haven" level with a very reasonable price.
This was the first and LAST time that I will plan a holiday getaway --especially on a very, very large cruise ship. We boarded a boat that was like a floating version of Long Island and the Jersey Shore. For seven VERY, VERY - V E R Y long days. It was also fully booked.
It was not "ahhh-mazing" nor was there anything completely hysterical.
P.S. And yes, another disclaimer: I am a big Disney Cruise Line fan. I'm accustomed to very family-oriented entertainment that is in complete abundance, every SINGLE day. Most of the cast/crew go out of their way to make your days with them magical. People smile and welcome you -in a sincere way. People seem HAPPY on board a Disney cruise ship and glad you're there, too.
If you've ever had a "wave of disappointment" or a GREAT cruise experience, I'd love to hear it! Feel free to comment and/or tweet me!