Archive for May 2013

Southampton and Lyndhurst England   2 comments

During our travels, we found ourselves with one day in Southampton between the two Breakaway cruises.  We hadn’t really formed any plans beyond checking into the hotel and meeting up with fellow travelers.

After finding a last minute deal we moved hotels to the Holiday Inn Southampton.  That was the best thing we did all trip!  It’s a modest hotel, but a short walk to the pier and in a great part of Southampton as far as there being things to do. 

As we dragged our luggage off of the Breakaway and walked toward the hotel, we spotted two of the friends we were meeting up with.  That was great!  No fussing about, trying to get a hold of each other to decide where to meet.  They walked with us to the hotel, where we were able to check in right away.  We  then walked across the street to the Grand de Vere where the rest of our group was staying to see what we’d like to do for the day. 

One of our friends had a rental car and kindly invited us to go driving with them.  We jumped at the chance to see a little bit of England, and found ourselves driving to Lyndhurst in New Forest.  I had read a bit about New Forest and its ponies, so I was excited to have an opportunity to go. 

Our luck with the weather continued and we had a nice, sunny, day to walk around this pretty town.  We noticed a lot of Alice in Wonderland references and found out that the Alice who inspired the character in the book is buried here.  In fact we saw a sign at St. Michael and All Angel church directing you there.  I wish we’d gone into the church as I’ve since read that there is a fresco by Lord Leighton there.  I visited Lord Leighton House in London a few years back, so that would have been neat.

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Walking around took us to a park where we found a bunch of the famous New Forest ponies grazing (and looking for handouts!) along with a handful of cows.  After taking several pictures we walked back the way we’d come in search of lunch. 

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We perused a couple of menus and decided on the Stag Hotel.  Good ale on tap, and decent food.  I had a chicken, ham, and leek pie while DH had the Game Suet Pudding.  We agreed we enjoyed them all and our desire for “typical” English pub fare quenched!

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A stop at the largest Tesco I’ve ever seen allowed us to take on provisions for the cruise.  We always try to stock up on water (sparkling and still) on land as it’s so expensive on the ship.  For me, being in England is also a chance to grab my favorite prawn cocktail crisps.  YUM!

Back in Southampton, as we walked to a pub, we passed by several sights worth seeing, including a pretty church, a Tudor house and an anchor from the Titanic.  Pretty cool in such a short distance. 

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Everyone agreed to hit a local curry house, The Coriander Lounge, for dinner.  We popped in on our way by to warn them that there would be nine of us for coming by in about an hour, then continued on to The Standing Order, a Wetherspoons pub for ridiculously cheap beer. £4.20 for 2 pints.  I don’t think you can beat that anywhere! 

The Coriander Lounge was small and hot, but the food quite good.  DH had the lamb Tikka Masala and I had the Butter Chicken.  A selection of sides was ordered for the table.  Everything was very tasty.  If I ever sail out of Southampton again, I will be sure to go to the Coriander Lounge.

We wound up the day with a pint back at the hotel. (We had poked our heads into a pub called the Duke of Wellington, but found it very crowded…and a bit smelly.)  All of us agreed that we were just anxious to get to the Breakaway in the morning and start the final phase of vacation.

            

Our Day in The Netherlands (a bit of it anyway)   Leave a comment

For those of you who followed my posts from the Breakaway, thank you! I now want to give a nod to our pre-cruise excursions.

As I realized we didn’t have excursions sailing a transatlantic cruise without any stops, I decided to blow my excursion budget on a private tour guide who would drive us from Amsterdam to our hotel in Rotterdam.

I found Private Holland tours through Trip Advisor. After reading over the reviews I felt this would meet our needs very nicely. I wrote to them regarding our desired plan and receive a response right away. Later when I proposed changes to the schedule, our guide and co-owner of Private Holland tours, Ray Vandenburg, emailed me right back.

Originally we were scheduled to go to the Keukenhof Gardens to see the tulips, but when I realized we’d have to pay an additional 30 Euros for the tour on top of the hefty price I was already paying I started looking for alternatives. I spoke with a colleague from Holland who steered me to visit the beach at Scheveningen instead, saying that this is where a lot of people go for holiday. From there we would go to The Hague, Delft then to Rotterdam.

Ray picked us up promptly at the airport (of course, our flight had been delayed and our luggage slow to come out, so I imagine he waited quite a while for us). We followed his directions to find him at the airport (easy enough…follow the signs that say “meeting point” and look for the giant red and white checkerboard). A short walk to the parking garage, our luggage stowed, and we were off.

Ray talked about the history of the Netherlands while he drove. We were blessed with a gorgeously sunny day; always hit or miss in the Netherlands. Scheveningen was nice despite the brisk wind (the wind probably helped with our jetlag though!). You could easily picture tourists stretching out on their towels and beach chairs. Ray told us that Scheveningen was used as a password during World War II as the Germans can’t pronounce the word properly and were easily identified as spies (as an American, I didn’t even try!).

From there we continued onto The Hague, the political center of Holland. He was talking about the international court there and how it’s funny how so many people think The Hague is a prison (I had to confess that’s what I’d always thought!). We walked around a little bit; saw the Peace Palace and the “famous” Hotel des Indies (I used bunny quotes because DH and I had never heard of it…a quick Google search tells me that it’s an 130 year old luxury hotel).

From there we drove to Delft. What a pretty city! We walked around a bit, taking pictures of the canal and the church before stopping for our first Dutch beer.

I bought a couple of Delft china Christmas ornaments, which makes me happy. Ray asked if I wanted to check out a chocolate shop. I told him that chocolate wasn’t really my thing and he asked “What about cheese?” Now we’re talking! He brought us to a shop that had more varieties of Gouda than I knew existed! OMG everything was so good! I sampled away before settling on a to-die-for aged sheep’s milk Gouda. YUM!!!

Before we knew it, we were dropped of at The Hotel New York in Rotterdam (formerly the headquarters of Holland America) where we enjoyed several hours with friends. My review of the hotel has just been posted on Trip Advisor. In a nutshell, the hotel was perfect pre-cruise, our room spacious and the restaurant very good.

Really a great pre-cruise day!

Final thoughts on Norwegian Breakaway   3 comments

I want to take a moment and wrap up some thoughts on the Breakaway.

First and foremost I think she’s a great ship.  The Waterfront is gorgeous and will get so much use in nice weather.  NCL did a great job of giving us back the sea after taking it away with the design of the Epic.  I can see whiling away many hours, dining al fresco and having a cocktail with a breeze on your face, watching the sunset. 

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The fun touches on the Waterfront of the lookout stations and the clear cutouts to stand on, watching the water race by beneath your feet show a lot of attention to detail.

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The Aqua Park with its five waterslides of varying terror, miniature golf and the ropes course with The Plank are all fun additions for kids of all ages. 

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6-7-8 Ocean Place improves upon the open space given to us by the Epic, making all of the spaces around the chandelier open for strolling (on the Epic, the chandelier overhangs Taste restaurant).

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Like the Epic, the entertainment is top notch with Rock of Ages and Burn the Floor filling in where Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert are on the Epic.  I have read a complaint that Rock of Ages to too adult in it’s theme.  It is true it is not for kids (and clearly stated in the Freestyle Daily), but just like Nickelodeon is offered for the kids, I see no problem with an adult oriented show. And frankly, for DH and I it was our favorite show on any ship.  It’s a mini-Broadway production crammed with very talented performers.  Breakaway is offering something for everyone.

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Contrary to original reports, it is not the new main dining room, Savor, which has a different menu from Taste or Manhattan.  Savor and Taste are identical, and being across the hall from one another, share a kitchen, so this makes sense.  The menu for Manhattan isn’t hugely different, but offers subtle variations on what the other two MDR’s offer.

I did state that all of our meals experienced some problem with service and/or food preparation and that is unfortunately true.  I am just as confident that these issues will improve with time.  However it was frustrating to see no improvement during the week with steaks and eggs being sent back daily and service being just very slow every day.

I was very impressed with CEO Kevin Sheehan’s very active presence on this sailing.  He was also on the Epic maiden crossing buy was understandably consumed with the many problems facing that ship.  He gave one presentation on the last day at sea, was part of another presentation, and was very visible around the ship (even chatting with folks at the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet).  His enthusiasm for the new ship and the direction Norwegian is going was palpable. 

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I fear he thought I was stalking him the first night as I followed him from the elevator…to the entrance of the Haven (where his key didn’t initially work)…into the Haven…nearly to my room (turns out we were neighbors).  I made sure to chat with him at the Captain’s cocktail party the next night where he decided I was okay…but he deducted two points from me for being from Boston when he’s a New Yorker through and through.  😉 

Overall I am happy with the direction that NCL is going, and think that the Breakaway, Getaway, and Breakaway Plus (due out in October 2015) are showing us where they want to go. 

 

I am happy to keep sailing with them…even as I pray they fix their Latitudes program before I reach the next tier.  75 points brings you all the way to Platinum and a host of lovely perks, including sparkling wine, Godiva chocolates, free laundry, dinner for two with wine, a behind the scenes ship tour, and priority embarkation, etc.  The first milestone is 250 points and will net me a small atlas when I reach that number on my next cruise.  😦

Last Day on the Breakaway…   Leave a comment

Today is the worst day…the last day. 😦

I didn’t bother with breakfast, settling for a banana and a cappuccino. I finally went and bought a couple of souvenirs. Be sure to ask for your Latitudes discount. It will not ring up automatically. Even asking for it, the cashier forgot to “hit the button”, and had to void the purchase and start over.

DH and I then hit the Sabrett hotdog cart on deck 8 for a free dog. I had mine with spicy Sabrett mustard and relish. Onions and sauerkraut were also available. It was very tasty (and messy!) and is a fun addition to this NYC ship.

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The weather wasn’t as wonderful as yesterday, unfortunately. In fact we spent most of the day in a pea soup fog. Oh, well, nothing you can do about that! But it did mean we didn’t linger outside too much and made me happy we took advantage of the great weather the day before.

Once back in the cabin we did a quick pack. Boo! But I was happy to find myself 90% packed and able to enjoy the rest of the day. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. It’s better to do it quick and get if over with!

I realized I was starving after having had only one hotdog and one banana all day, so I checked out the Haven snack menu. It crossed my mind to order the hotdog to see how it compared, but decided on the veggie wrap instead and a nice side of crispy onion rings instead. YUM!

We had an early dinner reservation for Teppanyaki as we had reservations for the nine o’clock Burn the Floor show. Once again our meal was off to a rocky start with cold edamame and lukewarm miso soup being the first courses. But the meal recovered nicely as our chef was awesome and the rest of our food cooked perfectly. It’s the first time I’ve found myself singing Queen’s “We Will Rock You” at dinner, LOL.

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After dinner, we decided to blow off the show and go to Fat Cats instead. But even that plan fell apart when we ended up at the Haven bar.

Everyone turned in early to finish up packing. I was saddened to find out that we’d be arriving in NYC at 4:00 in the morning. Sailing into NYC is always a treat, squeaking under the Verrazano Bridge, and gliding past the Statue of Liberty. But I wasn’t getting up at 3:00 to witness it! Instead I opened my eyes at 6:30 to find us parked and my view was now of the Intrepid Museum.

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(You can see that I am home now and I can post pics again!!!)

Second to Last Day on the Breakaway   Leave a comment

If you’re still with me at this point, day 6 on the Breakaway was great!

The sun was shining and people were soaking up the rays like we’d just broken through the icy gates of winter. The Waterfront was packed and for the first time the “take out” window of Ocean Blue was open. For a fee you have four dishes to choose from. The hotdog cart made it’s first appearance! There are two carts on the ship. One on the pool deck the other stationed on the waterfront. The dogs are free and you can get them with two kinds of mustard, sauerkraut, onions and relish. Unfortunately I found out about this after lunch. But that’s okay…I now know what the plan will be for lunch tomorrow! 🙂

Tons of people were taking advantage of the water park and we saw several people walking “The Plank”! Not this chicken though! They really show offer some sort of souvenir that says “I Walked the Plank”. Some silly little takeaway would do it…even a sticker.

Really today was about walking around the ship and getting a glimpse of how awesome the Waterfront will be in good weather. Honestly, we had better temperatures on this April/May transatlantic than I expected and therefore the outdoor spaces are far more usable than anticipated. It’s going to be great in good weather!

Tonight was dinner in Le Bistro. They’ve done something with this restaurant that I don’t like. They have what they’re calling “outdoor seating”….but it’s not on the Waterfront, it’s out in the hallway in front of the restaurant. The decor is lovely and they’ve emulated a French bistro, but to dine in front of all of that foot traffic is not romantic in the least. Now if they treated is like a real bistro and had some bar/snack service there in the afternoon, it could be a fun spot to drink, eat and people watch.

As has been the case all week, the dinner service was a bit “off”. It took 45 minutes for us to get a bottle of wine. The escargots were delicious, but over-crowded with bread crumbs, leaving no yummy garlic butter for dipping. We of course are all still pining for the old mushroom soup in the bread bowl. (I skipped that and went for the onion soup which was delicious.) DH ordered the duck and found it to be the best duck he has ever ordered on any ship and everyone else was thrilled with their beef tenderloin. After super delicious creme brûlée rounded off the evening, we agreed that overall it was a very good meal.

After dinner we raced to see Slam. Seriously I cannot stress enough how good he is. We have reservations for Burn the Floor tomorrow, but I will likely skip that for my final dose of Slam. Yes, he’s that good!

Breakaway…Day 5   Leave a comment

Wow. I’m so sad that Day 5 is already here. 😦

For some reason, no one on the ship knows how to cook poached or over easy eggs. Not only in the Haven have eggs been sent back to the kitchen multiple times, with the eggs whites running all over the plate, but we’ve been told that it’s happening in the main dining rooms as well. It seems like a small beef until you realize that people have been sending eggs back all week and the problem still hasn’t been rectified.

Other than that, the day has been fantastic! Went walking around the ship in the morning (again) just soaking in the awesomeness that is the Breakaway. The Waterfront is going to be an amazing area in wonderful weather.

Tonight was the Cirque dinner. As a Haven guest, the concierge will whisk you down the secret elevator which opens right by the Cirque entrance. We had our choice of tables and spotted two select tables that were on a platform behind the stage. The two tables sit 6 each (too small for our party of 14) and almost make you part of the show. We’ve been told that as of the 5/19 sailing these “select” tables will be $450 each, which includes a $100 credit toward the bar to be used during the show. Purchasing the table means you can seat 1-6 people. The price does not change regardless of the number of guests. I guess folks will have to decide if that has any value for them (not for us!).

DH and I really liked the Cirque show because it was all about the acts, without the frenetic plot of the show on the Epic (although I’ve read that they have changed the show). However our friends missed the “plot” of the Epic show and thought the acrobatics were repetitive. I don’t know what else they expected…it’s all going to be about tumbling, quick change artists, etc. Just different costumes. We all agree that it was the quickest meal on the ship at 75 minutes start to finish.

Tonight was the ’80’s party and we’d been clued in by Julie, the CD, that weather permitting, there were fireworks planned! From all that we’d read, it appeared that the fireworks were only going to be on the ship once we reached New York, so this was welcome news.

As soon as we were out of the Cirque dinner we beelined it to Spice H20. They were playing more of the “pop” version of “80’s” music. Depeche Mode, Bon Jovi…and they played Michael Jackson’s Thriller and had passengers dancing a “flash mob”. Cool. We got to hang out with some of the cast of Rock of Ages (I made sure to tell them how much we enjoyed the show) then at 11:15 the fireworks started. For perfect viewing (on this sailing anyway) you needed to be on the port side. Even being on the starboard, I found that if you walked to the end of the Spice H20 bar, you had an unobstructed view.

After the lovely surprise of fireworks, we caught the end of Slam’s set. I do think one of the best things NCL has ever done is hire Slam Allen. 🙂

Posted May 6, 2013 by cubechick in Norwegian Breakaway

The Breakaway…Day 4…   Leave a comment

Breakfast in the Haven went a bit more smoothly this morning. Finally they understood that they could serve our tables separately and everyone appeared to get food that was cooked properly. 🙂

Not that every day hasn’t been darn relaxing, but we were super lazy this morning with no parties or gatherings planned. Finally got moving at around 1:00 and went to watch the Zumba class in the Manhattan room. I have to say that I personally would like a little more private a venue. There was a whole lot of us peering down at the exercisers from the comforts of the Prime Meridian bar in between Moderno and Cagney’s. 🙂

Zumba only last about 30 minutes, so we decided to find some food at O’Sheehan’s. I ordered the mozzarella sticks and the mild chicken wings. This was probably the best service I’ve ever encountered at O’Sheehan’s or the Blue Lagoon. Our waiter arrived quickly to take our orders and the food came right out, piping hot. Excellent!

In the Atrium at this time was a How to Run a Floating Hotel presentation/talk with Julie the CD and Denis the HD among other department heads. The first part outlined a lot of what we’d experienced on the Behind the Scenes ship tour (galley, laundry, etc), then Denis, the Food and Beverage Director and the Executive Head Chef answered questions.

Not in the mood for planning, we split up into a few groups at dinner. Some of us opted for La Cucina, the rest for the Manhattan Room. The reports are that the Manhattan Room was great. The service fast and the food good. La Cucina started off very well with magnificent, warm, crusty bread replacing the tiny dried out breadsticks of the past. They served four infused olive oils for dipping (roasted garlic, pesto, rosemary and chilis). YUM! I could have died happy eating that bread with some shaved parmesan. The appetizers were excellent; the carpaccio, calamari and salads all much better on the new menu. The entrees were a miss, with the Osso Bucco being drowned in celery salt and my lobster pasta having old lobster and a strong, fishy flavor. The scenery is lovely though, so overall, I’d say La Cucina is worth a try.

Tonight we had reservations for Rock of Ages. I’m not a big fan of musicals, but was hopeful that I’d at least enjoy the music as I grew up during the ’80’s. Well, can I say that the show was FANTASTIC!!?? Not only was the music fun (and good…with a four piece rock band accompanying the singers/performers), but the staging great and the story enjoyable. We were especially impressed given that they haven’t been on board long and ours was one of the first performances in front of a paying audience. My only word of warning is that it is definitely an 18 and over show.

After the show, we found ourselves at Fat Cats. Unfortunately, Slam is wrapping up at midnight (due to complaints about the noise or so we’re told) so we didn’t catch his set. However we were entertained by the cast of Rock of Ages coming to Maltings and hanging out.

Tomorrow is Cirque Dreams. Today’s shows were cancelled due to the rocky weather. I’m hoping that ours go on as scheduled as it would be unlikely that we’d be able to go again (tonight’s shows are being rescheduled though, so hopefully everyone gets to go).

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