After a jam-packed winter and start of spring where we were both working way, way too much, it was finally time for another adventure. Note to self: never go the whole winter without a warm getaway again! This time, cruising to Bermuda.
Saturday morning started off with me at Market as usual, and Greg was off to the airport for the first time that day for a 5k race on the runway. Both back home, quickly sorted and the last few things thrown in the backpacks, we were off to the airport. Thanks Alice and Bill for keeping the car for us!
Quick flight to Montreal – in row lucky number 13… except that row 13 is at the very front and faces the rest of the entire plane (awkward!), so we swapped out and got exit rows instead. Yay leg room! Breezed through customs, so fast in fact that we had to wait 20 minutes for our bags to catch up with us before they would let us through. Quick break for coffee and tea and off on another quick flight to NYC – on a snazzy plane that even had TVs.
And now time for a very necessary shout out to our awesome friends Melissa and Mel, who not only picked us up at LaGuardia (currently a scene of mass destruction), but they also housed us for the night (saving us a shit ton on a hotel we were able to cancel), fed us (Melissa made us a very delicious meat-free breakfast), and drove us to the port in NYC the next morning. You guys are amazing! Thank you!
So after a pickup at the airport, off we went to spend the night in Jersey. Had some tasty eats and drinks at a Cuban place, stopped at WalMart because I forgot my jammies (I may have stopped packing mid-process to go have beer with friends the night before we left), quick visits with Daffodil and Lucky, and then passing out since we had been up since 4am.
After some breakfast and a visit with the M&Ms (visits are never long enough), it was time to head back to the city and catch a ship. Easy peasy. Check-in was fairly organized and pretty fast, considering NYC is not the well-oiled cruise ship launching machine that Miami or Fort Lauderdale are. We got there just before noon and the process maybe took about 30 minutes.
So normally, the first thing we do when we board a ship is head to the pub to have a beer. First impressions of the NCL Breakaway is that they ruined their pub by making it one of the restaurants where people can eat for free and putting it as the upper level of the Atrium. Second impression of NCL is that they have a lot of work to do on their beer selection. Catch up NCL, most of the other lines are bringing on at least a small selection of decent craft beer. Admittedly, I’m a beer snob – I would rather drink none than a meh option, so I had one beer the entire time I was on the ship.
Moving on, we walked around a few more decks to find a bar that was not serving food (and therefore not packed) so we could get a drink. We ended up outside the Maltings bar (this bar is advertised for beer and whiskey tastings and was closed more than it was open the entire week… and if you are going to advertise beer tastings, you need to have something more on tap than Heinekin, Stella, and Newcastle… or something along those lines). So the outdoor part of this bar was open – great! Except it’s also the smoking section, and it’s a big smoking section. So if you are smoker and drinker, you will dig this ship. If you are a non-smoker and actually want to be outside at a nice bar, too bad so sad for you.
Had a quick bite at the buffet, the one and only time we visited it. Food was edible. We didn’t look around much – just grabbed something from the very first station we saw. Dropped our bags to our room after that, and then went back to exploring the ship. We’d never sailed NCL, so we weren’t already familiar with the general layout of anything. Muster was quick and painless (in the dining room for us, no life jackets, and they took attendance).
Sailaway from NYC is worth watching for sure. It takes about an hour to get out to the open water, so there’s lots of time for viewing the NY and NJ skylines, as well as the Statue of Liberty. It was also Memorial Day weekend and Fleet Week, so there was lots going on to watch in the harbour.
It didn’t take long for our bags to show up at our room, so we quickly dumped them into the closet. We had an inside cabin on deck 5 – the cabin felt like the smallest inside cabin we’ve had, but the bathroom felt a bit bigger than normal and the shower had no curtain (hooray! shower curtains touching me when I shower, no thanks!). For us, there was plenty of room to store everything, with several cupboards and shelves getting no use at all.
This was our first experience with freestyle dining on a cruise ship as well. Timing wise, that worked out fine with us. We barely ever waited to get into the restaurants we ate at, without having made any reservations. It helps that we eat early. So for the first night, we ate in one of the smaller, free dining rooms (either Taste or Savor, I don’t remember which – they are both right across from each other). Dinner was super awkward, through no fault of our own, as we were seated at a table beside a couple that obviously hated each other right about then. She proceeded to tear him a new one loudly through all of dinner and he went between ignoring her, staring blankly, and telling her to eff off. Food was ok, service was fine.
We walked around the ship for a while after dinner, so we had a pretty good idea of where to find everything by the end of the day. Spent some time chilling on the Waterfront (open air space on deck 8) for a while, and then decided to check out Howl at the Moon (dueling pianos). Cruise entertainment is always a complete hit or a complete miss for me and there’s no in between. The piano players on our sailing were talented and entertaining, which was great. The playlists are unfortunately at the mercy of the guests putting in requests – fortunately it was pretty solid that night, so we hung out there for a couple of hours.
The next two days of our sailing were sea days en route to Bermuda. We woke up to light rain and pretty dark and ominous skies. It stayed cloudy all day, but the rain didn’t last. We were headed to the jogging track first thing, but it was way too wet so we hit the gym instead. It’s not very big, so it worked out well we got there early, because it was packed when we left.
After our runs on the dreadmill in choppy seas, we had some breakfast in either Taste or Savor (going forward, all references to the restaurants without a name is one of these two). Service was slow, food was cold and blah. Service was generally fine all week, but cold and blah were common occurrences for me for every breakfast.
NCL schedules of things to do during sea days are pretty boring. There’s only a couple of trivia sessions a day, many events aren’t free (tastings, art auctions, painting classes, etc.), and as per usual, the performers aren’t my cup of tea. Just to give you an idea from the picture below, it looks like there is a lot going on, but a lot of it is just listing when things are open, and everything with a star beside it has a fee. But there’s lots to do if you want to entertain yourself… ropes course, mini golf, sports courts, water slides, arcades
(pay) and that kind of thing. There’s even bowling in the pub (pay).
We went to the Bermuda talk this morning (one of a few things we attended for travel agent knowledge for me and not because we wanted to go). There wasn’t much of anything useful (I had already figured out a loose plan for our days in Bermuda and knew plenty about the island) and it was generally just a presentation for them to sell their excursions. They went a bit far though – Bermuda has a great and affordable (in Bermuda terms) public transportation system and they made it sound like you’d be risking your life in a third-world nation by not booking with them.
We also decided to try their version of an escape room (since we’ve never done one and it was free). We didn’t have much luck with this. They forced all the teams to have about 8-10 people, and it was race the other teams format. It was too hard to work with this many people for the tasks, especially when you don’t know them in advance. Our team only solved about 3 of the puzzles and Greg and I solved two of those three. I didn’t even get a chance to see some of the puzzles/clues.
We ate lunch in the pub (the food was hot!) and spent the rest of the day wandering around, taking pics of the ship, relaxing, and in general enjoying not having to work. I found the coffee shop (I love coffee!) and it was fine (but I would rank it 4th of the 4 lines we’ve sailed because it didn’t have much variety). You can buy baked goods from Carlo’s Bakery there as well. Heads up… the bonkers expensive 6 pack of 1 litre waters was like $14 at the coffee shop (if you buy it in advance before you sail, it’s like $35). We ate supper at the Noodle Bar (neither of us liked it).
There was a Memorial Day thinger in the Atrium at one point, but we’re not American and just passed by. For the evening, we had reservations (we made them for a few shows) for Burn the Floor, but were listening to Melvin (the acoustic guitar player) at Maltings… and he’s crazy talented, so we decided to stay there. A random family ordered a couple of bottles of really expensive champagne (I don’t drink champagne normally, but over $60 USD a bottle seems pretty high to me) and told us we needed to help them drink it – so of course we did.
Sea day number two started with much better weather and calmer seas than the day before. We hit the jogging track first thing. It’s a pretty small one and if you don’t go up first thing in the morning, it’s too busy to be useful (and deck chairs start to get the in the way). The rest of the day was drinking, eating, and relaxing. We tried the sushi place for supper (pay option) and it was one of the only meals I actually liked on the ship. Admittedly I am a fussier than most since I don’t eat meat and a bunch of other stuff.
The evening was jam packed with entertainment – first up, NCL has Second City improv on the Breakaway, and they were hilarious. We really enjoyed it (included in cruise price). After that, we went to see Rock of Ages (also included in cruise price). We’ve seen the Broadway version of this show before, and so wanted to see how a cruise ship would pull it off. This show is not family friendly and they announced that many, many times before the show started, but lots of young kids were at the show. We were pleasantly surprised with how well they did with this show.
Next up, Bermuda! We picked this sailing for a few reasons – one, we’ve never been to Bermuda; two, we loved the idea of docking in the same place for a couple of days; and three, we’d never sailed NCL before. Bermuda is amazing – I’d definitely go back.
Our must do items for Bermuda were going to the beach, checking out the caves, and trying a fish sandwich. So first things first, off to the beach. We took the shuttle from the pier to Horseshoe Bay ($7pp each way – PS: the Bermuda dollar is on par with USD and USD is accepted everywhere). It was about a 25 minute ride to get there, and as soon as we did, we trekked a few beaches over and spent hours sharing a beach with about 6 people while the main beach was jam packed. To do this yourself, when you get to Horseshoe Bay, walk all the way to your left to the end of the beach and follow the path up above the beach. You can walk along there all the way out to Warwick Long Bay Beach and pick which beach you want to hang out at. There’s lots to climb as well. For a view from above (not taken by me), check this out.
The water was crystal clear, the sand is pink and the morning was amazing! If you go to Bermuda, make sure you get to the beach. The secluded beach didn’t have any kind of facilities, so once we felt thirsty, we headed back to Horseshoe. Beers and Dark & Stormies (yum!) were had, as well as some food, and we had a lovely day. There’s 30 mins of free wifi here and some pay options as well, and drink prices are on par (actually a bit lower) than many other places we went in Bermuda. We took the shuttle back mid afternoon.
The beauty of being docked for a few days was coming and going as we pleased. We washed the sand off and headed out to explore the area around the pier (we were docked at Heritage pier in the Royal Naval Dockyard). There’s not a ton there – lots of shopping, a couple of restaurants, a man made beach (with an entrance fee), a museum, a glass blowing studio, places to book excursions and rent scooters, jet skis, etc (you can’t rent cars in Bermuda), and that type of thing. There was a bit more going on there during our sailing because we were there during the qualifiers for the America’s Cup. We walked around a bit (we’re not shoppers), went and had some beer and supper at the Frog and Onion (great food and some of the only locally made beer on the island).
During our walking around, we had booked a Bermuda Triangle night cruise (heads up, we bought the same tour they were offering on the cruise ship for about $20 a person less just by getting off the ship and walking five minutes). So we were off on our boat tour next. It lasted about 90 minutes and left at 8pm, so we get some nice sunset action, some explanation of what was going on over in America’s Cup village (we sailed by it every time we can into and out of the port area), and then we sailed out into the actual triangle (generally defined as Miami to San Juan to Bermuda). We were in a glass bottom boat, so we sailed out to visit the HMS Vixen, and sailed over top of it so we could see it and all the coral growing on it now. We also sailed over a natural coral reef. Bermuda has one of the healthiest coral deposits on earth, but it’s not as bright and colourful as some of what you would see other places as it needs to be heartier to withstand colder waters. They’ve also discovered that metal in the water helps it grow, so wrecked boats come in hand for that (and in specific areas, they throw metal in the water for this reason). It makes sailing into Bermuda a bit tricky though… you have to follow a very specific path.
Day two in Bermuda, we took advantage of their transportation passes. These can be purchased at the Visitor Information Center minutes away from the ship. We purchase a one-day pass for $19.00 – this allowed us to have unlimited use of the buses and ferries. So we took the ferry to Hamilton (about 25 minutes) and then walked to the bus station (less than 10 minutes) and took the bus out to the Crystal caves.
The caves are awesome! We did the tour of both caves, which cost us $32 each. The groups were a little bigger than was comfortable in the cave spaces, but it is what it is. If you have mobility issues, this is not the tour for you. There’s a fair number of steps into and out of each cave, and they are wet. There’s also a long ramp. Just a heads up.
So we toured the Fantasy Cave first, then came back up, waited a bit, and did the Crystal Cave second. If you are only going to do one, pick the Crystal Cave – but they are both pretty interesting. They were discovered over 100 years ago by some kids chasing a cricket ball. You cannot swim in the water in the caves (because the caves themselves are protected by law) or touch anything in them, and it’s super hot and humid in them. And if you drop anything in the water, say goodbye to it forever because it’s staying there. They only have divers come in about once a decade to tidy things up. Definitely recommend a visit.
Post cave visit, it was time for a little refreshment – so we headed over to the Swizzle Inn… where we had some tasty lunch, and of course some rum swizzles (well, maybe a couple of pitchers of swizzle, and maybe we were a tiny bit drunk when we left). Then across the street to Baileys to try their famous ice cream (mmm Dark & Stormy ice cream) – it was good, but Alex and Pete’s in the Dockyard was better.
From there, we could either go back to Hamilton or on to St. George’s to catch a ferry back to the Dockyard, so we opted for St. George’s. We didn’t stay too long because the next ferry was soon, but we walked around a bit. There’s lots of shops there and some Unesco sites. NCL offers a free ferry to and from St. George’s, but with a limited schedule. Since we had transportation passes and the NCL ferry line was hundreds of people long, we opted for the public one since they both left at the same time. The public one is about 15 minutes faster, so we raced the big group back to the ship and didn’t have to stand in a long line to get back through security.
Showered and relaxed a bit before heading back out. Normally Wednesday nights Hamilton holds a Harbour Nights festival, but this week it was moved to Thursday because of the tall ships being in port. So we grabbed the ferry back to Hamilton in the evening for the festival. We wandered off to Rosa’s to try their award-winning fish sandwich (battered fish on raisin bread with lots of fixings) and then we explored the tall ships and festival for a while. It was packed! They extend the ferry and bus schedule later for this event as well. Headed back to the Dockyard by ferry after that.
Last day in Bermuda. Boo! Our last day, we had to be back on board by 2:30, so we were debating going to the beach again or just exploring the Dockyard. So we opted for the Dockyard. We walked around, watched some glass blowing for a bit, and then headed back to the Frog and Onion for some tasty eats and bevvies. Then back to the ship. They had a dance party with red carpet and everything to welcome people back on for the last hour. Had a couple of pier runners as well. And off we went at 3:00.
We didn’t get into too much back on the ship… some relaxing, some drinks, dinner, and chilling. We went to Second City again and they were really funny again… and they pulled Greg (now Private Investigator Rick) into the show. We also went to see Burn the Floor this night… not my cup of tea.
One last sea day before heading back into NYC. We generally lazed around and did whatever… run, eat, be lazy, drink… we spent most of the late morning and early afternoon chilling out with beverages at the bar in Spice H20 (adults only part of the upper deck). We tried Margaritaville at Sea (pay option) for lunch and it was as you would expect – decent prices for GIANT portions. In the evening, we wandered around and then spent a few hours at Howl at the Moon.
We got up early on Sunday to watch as we sailed back into NYC. Much nicer weather than when we sailed out. It’s a fun sail in/out to watch. We docked around 7:00 I would say and self-assist debarkation started at 8:00. It was fairly well organized – perhaps too much so. If you live on deck five and you need to debark on deck seven and they block off all the stairs, it’s just not going to work. We don’t elevator – so we just busted through and used the stairs anyways. It was a super easy process and we were off the ship and at our hotel (via taxi) in like 30 minutes.
We couldn’t check into our hotel until later in the afternoon, so we just left our luggage at the hotel and wandered around. We’ve been to NY quite a lot, so we didn’t have any specific plans other than meeting up with friends later in the day. So we walked around a street market that was being set up on 6th Ave, got a smoothie, relaxed in the sun in Byrant Park, wandered down to the Pennsy for some tasty vegan eats at the Cinnamon Snail, and then hit up some stalls at Broadway Bites.
In the afternoon, our friends Melissa and Dionne picked us up (thanks for braving that traffic cool kids) and we headed out to Brooklyn. Brooklyn Brewery for the win – cool spot, great beer, with excellent company. And and then we hit up the Kent Ale House for eats and more beer.
Monday morning it was time to go home. We were flying out of LaGuardia again and had to be there around 8:30. Everyone we talked to in NY said to leave a few hours in advance because traffic is chaos. Well, Monday morning at 6am, there was no traffic and we were at the airport in 25 minutes, four hours early for our flight. Oh well… sat around and played on our devices and had some breakfast. Fortunately, our flight then left an hour late, so we got to spend some more time sitting around. We had a tight connection in Montreal and we were shocked we made it after that delay… but we breezed through customs, didn’t need to pick up our luggage this time, and managed to make our final flight home. It was delayed too – but we didn’t end up spending extra time in Montreal as we expected. Alice picked us up at the airport so I could get my car back and we were on our way (our luggage even made the final flight).
All in all, this was an excellent trip. Admittedly, the NCL Breakaway wasn’t personally my favourite ship, but there was nothing wrong with it. There’s just a couple of other ships I really love (Carnival Breeze, Carnival Vista). I loved Bermuda and would happily go back any time. I did find NCL a bit nickle and dimey, in that there’s an extra charge for a lot of things and I’m not a fan of that. With the Canadian dollar not doing very well right now, cruises aren’t cheap, so I don’t want to pay for a lot more stuff on them. Most of the announcements were about selling stuff, but there wasn’t a ton of them. Getting on and off the ship was always easy. I’d sail NCL again for the right itinerary and price for sure, but we didn’t buy any of their Cruise Next certificates (that they were pushing very heavily).
All vacations are good vacations and I had a blast hanging out with Greg and enjoying some sun.