An account of cruise to islands of South Caribbean from New York. There are video diary for each island: Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Tortola, Sint Maarten, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts, Barbados, Dominica.
It had happen that there are not too many choices to fulfill the wish. To visit places one by one by air is crazy expensive and overwhelmingly airports depressing. As for cruises they were filtered out as too short or too expensive. Only 14 nights cruise from New York on Norwegian Breakaway to eight islands at South Caribbean looked like to fit best. There were concerns as well. We sailed with Norwegian Cruise Line before with uneven experience: Eastern Caribbean 9 night cruise: New York round-trip with Norwegian Gem.. So it was sort of gamble, game of right expectations and having cheerful attitude no matter what.
For fairness sake let’s throw out at once what was good. We had every destination at time and with smooth debarkation and pleasant returning on ship. Some weather disturbance on the way back was bearable enough. Thank you Captain Alf Mikael Hilden. Islands themselves were like the same and different simultaneously. The whether was perfect: warm and sunny for most times. Small rain at Saint Kitts was more fun than problem. The big cloud at Orient Beach of Saint Maarten was real rescuer from too cruel sun of noon that day, permitting to walk around on beach without burning skin. Water was warm and even warmer at most south islands - Barbados and Saint Lucia.
We made a lot of photos and videos during that voyage. Videos are published on youtube. There are our video log:
South Caribbean from New York on Norwegian Breakaway:
Departure to South Caribbean from New York on Norwegian Breakaway:
San Juan, Puerto Rico:
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands:
Tortola, British Virgin Islands:
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten:
South Caribbean from New York on Norwegian Breakaway, back to New York:
We had as much fun as possible against indifference or/and out of shape of most fellow guests and sort of formal attitude of entertainment team of crew. Priorities of Norwegian Cruise Line became clear. After amazing trip to Bahamas at Norwegian Gem in February 2009 we have disappointment in November 2012 on 9 nights to Eastern Caribbean and finally, I think, degradation of cruise idea from free style to fast food alike service level.
It became apparent that business plan of Norwegian Cruise Line was executed in classical manner of soulless layer vultures who will rather balance on the robe of doubles legality on semantic base of deviation from promises rather than to be proud of the service and try to make it the best. I think successful IPO (Initial Public Offer) in 2013 for NCL was the time checkpoint of shifting focal point from creating excitement among guests to squeezing money from all canals they could no matter how immoral, legal or insulting it can be.
The new ship Norwegian Breakaway made maiden voyage in 2013. Its tonnage is 146600, guest’s capacity 3963 and crew 1657 members. You could assume that the ship is 1.5 better than Norwegian Gem that has 93530 tonnages with member guest’s capacity 2394 and 1070 crew. It is very wrong. If you calculate ratio of tonnage to one human being, guest or crew numbers, they will be practically identical. There is no formal statistics on web to compare public spaces per guests and even if we could assume that they are close my personal impression is that Breakaway has much less (!) public spaces to do things.
Improvements. Ship has so named “Splash Academies” these are day kinder-gardens. It is good by obvious reason. There is aft Spice H2O outside sundeck at day times and evening party space with big digital screen. Spice H2O is the place to ne entertained at warm nights. Usually for hour or so organized by cruise director staff party takes place since about 10pm. Teenage lounge “Entourage” has some sense too although dozen young adults prefer Spice H2O party where they were very welcomed by small but active part of guests.
Diminishments. Other features at the ship was ether even at best, mostly worse sometimes useless or tools to milk money for what was used to be complementary at other ships.
Garden Cafe. It has reasonable size eatery outsize rush hours. Open space at very aft of the ship was eliminated for good. I was real disappointed to realize that my favorite minutes at any cruise before are not available at Norwegian Breakaway. There is special romantic charm to take cap of whatever drink, take a sit at table on the edge of the ship and staring at bubbling trace of ship behind thinking about mystery lands far away. Not on Norwegian Breakaway – this cheap and valuable feature is not available for ordinary folks. No thanks. Food… No more smoked salmon for breakfast. Not at every breakfast marinade hearing and green beans or juice. You will not be hungry in any way but not too happy as well.
Manhattan restaurant. It has dance floor and life music inside. There were also show dance performances not really visible from tables. Food was decent but not delicious. Small scrimps cocktail had so disgusting taste that we made formal complain on safety concerns. Cap of coffee was much worse then for automate in Garden cafe. That half transparent liquid was second or third extraction from coffee grounds I think.
Special restaurants were for extra money. We had special promotion package and attended four of them for “free”. In spite been charged tips for “free” restaurants in advance during reservation inside there were pressure to give even more tips. Food was good.
Alcohol. One of the available promotions during reservation was “free” unlimited drinks. The stated value of this feature was $79 per day. Tips were not free during reservation. So if you got this service you need to drink approximately bottle of vine every day to make balance in your favor. The calculation is not include cast of medical bills to recover from alcoholism.
Theater. It is too small for guest capacity. On good ship no matter how popular show is there are enough seats for all passengers for one of two evening performances ether 7 or at 9 pm. Not true at Norwegian Breakaway. Theater is relatively small. One must reserve right to attend online or at ticket office, place unheard for other ships, and most shows are sold out to your disappointment.
Spiegel Tent is restaurant and circle show. For additional money. Existence of the place near by the theater is the main reason why the theater is not big enough. Create deficit and charge for enter it is the business plan of evil business people.
Spa. It is for additional money as well. No, not for entrance like twenty backs for two hours what could have sense for us at sea days. You need to buy unlimited access for days you don’t need or for whole time of cruise that you’re definitely can live without - just another way to tease and insult ordinary folks who must count money.
Art gallery. It is doing official business of NCL. Nicolae Dobrota
is officer of the crew with title as Art Auctioneer Director. Can you image
that buying cruse you will subsidy business of Park West art house? Gallery
occupies big chunk of 6th deck promoting its attendance by promising
free “peace of art” that is so named seriolithigraph that is
essentially just photo of painting you don’t need or even like.
They give to Art small letter of theft store. I won at raffle
the right of being portrait by Peter Max for $13K. No kidding.
Empty frame without their art has more value in my eyes. They
have stole two hours of my life. Ok I had educative observation
of sell person in action but lesson is quite trivial – successful
seller must have no shame and soul.
Main pool - too small.
Aqua-park – is useless. 8th deck – no value for passengers, just small mall.
Casino – has adequate space, manipulates payout ratio, slots had decent at first days payout and cruelness no return after establishing addictive crowd later.
Video arcade room – empty.
Discotheque at Bliss Ultra Lounge was not most popular place. Only in first days there were some dancing crowd. Later on it was mostly empty to the point that for one hour I and my wife alone was able to perform some aerobics dance with sort of cheerful smiles of ship personal and no fellow cruise goers inside around. The room for disco is relative smaller compare to Norwegian Gem and much less cozy.
Atrium place was helpful but not big enough for dance classes.
Entertainment shows are average at best.
Cruise director Daniel Cuasito. The best word to say about him – not annoying. Really one moment during Final Formal Ball at Atrium assistant of cruise director had choice of King and Queen of the Ball giving them valuable gifts. I have only one thought associated with this decision – corruption. The man did not dance at all – women dance with other women and looks like… hmmm… not attractive. I strongly recommend to officials of Norwegian Cruise Line to exam a video of the event and make administrative decisions.
The most bad experience during the cruise was debarkation process on return to New York. It gives perfect argument that cruise ships must not be too big. The terminal was obviously not prepared for smooth handling of four thousand peoples. We were forced outside warmth of ship in 10 am and stack at the cold of terminal gallery for hour and half in line to pass passport control. Should be chiller wind that day of Jan. 29, 2017 many passengers could became ill.
My best advice to cruise planners is to avoid Norwegian Cruise Line if you have any good alternative choice to proceed. If NCL is the one in monopoly who has interesting destinations – lower your expectations below very bottom of the ship or even sea. You should also have open eyes when see advertisement price of the trip. Just multiply what your see by two and you will have very conservative estimation of expenses. Multiply by three and have comfortable stay at ship. Multiply by four and decide not to have cruise and fly directly to any Caribbean Island.
Initially submitted at Feb. 5, 2017; 16:31
Many of these islands described in the article were devastated by huricane Irma half year after the trip. Please take it in mind if considering to repat the experience. Some of the beaches there unrecognizable later on.
Dec. 8, 2017; 10:05 EST