Take two: trying to reach Bermuda during peak hurricane season. We attempted this itinerary last year, only to be rerouted last minute to Florida and the Bahamas. For ex-cruise ship staff, this is the last run you want to do again- our home port used to be Canaveral or Ft Lauderdale for Caribbean runs, and we only thought of these locations as an opportunity to pop off and buy toothpaste.
Of course, we made the most of it and had a great time, but I really didn’t want to miss Bermuda again this year. Weather reports a few days out showed Hurricane Gabrielle whipping through our exact course, and I mentally prepared myself for another 3 days in Florida. But no! Our fearless captain would take us as scheduled into the fray, fingers crossed we wouldn’t become yet another mystery wreck buried at the bottom of the Triangle.
The NCL Breakaway is currently Norwegian’s newest and largest ship to home port in NYC. With new onboard activities, open promenade called “the Waterfront”, and top-notch entertainment options, the sea days that await you will not be boring.
Our cabin was a starboard balcony that our cabin steward fluffed with pool loungers for us. The contemporary water-themed decor appeals to the modern New York aesthetic, and the adults-only “Spice H20” lounge at the back of the ship is the perfect vantage point to watch as you sail away from the city that never sleeps.
The top deck holds the Ropes course, complete with a zipline that runs the width of the ship and an open-air platform extended over the edge to venture out on. Also new- an aqua park with 5-story water slides and a vertical freefall. There is also a climbing wall and mini-golf for the less adventurous.
When the weather is less than lovely, the Atrium hosts trivia, shows, and movies which you can watch from the Irish Bar above. I admittedly spent one afternoon with “Pitch Perfect” and a bucket of Buffalo Wings, even though it was beautiful outside.
One thing that we missed on this ship was the indoor lounge area at the bow of other NCL ships- Late-night shows could be housed in here, thereby allowing more “R-rated” content without offending the kiddies. I once spent a lovely rainy day reading in one of these lounges, curled up on a tacky velvet couch watching the storm though floor-to-ceiling windows.
Upon getting settled, we made all our reservations for the week- including Burn the Floor, Second City Comedy, and Rock of Ages. Pre-cruise, each room was only allowed to book each show once over the course of the week- in reality, we went to see each multiple times just by showing up 5 minutes before showtime. Our favorite- Rock of Ages. The cast was excellent, the show surprisingly racy for a cruise ship, and the music undeniably ’80s. We even hung out in the hot tub with some visiting friends of the cast, reminiscing about our own days at sea.
We also love Second City, but be aware of which show you are attending. Some of the shows are scripted, meaning they pull from the annals of the famous comedy troupe to recreate famous skits. The “Scriptless” shows are freeform, where audience suggestions are used to make up a show on the spot. I prefer the latter, as you really get insight on how hard it is to be funny.
Have a spare minute? Bring a whiskey out to the Waterfront by Fat Cats Blues lounge and listen while enjoying the fresh sea air.
As usual on NCL, we found the food in the main dining rooms quite nice, and the addition of Burn the Floor dancing in the dining room was a bonus. We brought our own wines with us, paying the extra $15/bottle for the assurance that we would drink well. (Side note, we also had Casino free drink cards, which once you wrap your head around being cheap, can prove quite useful.)
The Waterfront is one of those “why haven’t they done this sooner?” design solutions, which provides many of the specialty restaurants with outdoor seating. Additionally, it holds Carlo’s Bake Shop, a Gelateria, and Ocean Blue on the Waterfront, with beachy snacks like fish tacos. The seating out here is hard to come by, but a great place to while away the hours in a comfy lounger.
Cagney’s Steakhouse is a bit of a staple for us, and we go everytime we “cruise like a Norwegian”. This Cagney’s menu is different then the rest, and they have taken away some of our favorite items. Where are my Oysters Rockerfeller? And what, no crab cakes? I’m sorry, crab salad is NOT the same. Something else to note about specialty dining- they now note additional fees for extra main courses. How anyone fits that much food in their mouths, I have no idea, but you’ll be paying for that extra T-bone.
Of course we love our fancy steaks and truffle fries, but an addictive favorite of mine- pub food. I definitely ate too many fish and chips and drank too many German Hefeweizens at O’ Sheehan’s Pub. Bathing suit season will be over soon, right?
That land of pink sands and mystery was trying to evict us again- the hurricane winds disallowed our ship to approach until the evening of day four. At 8 o’clock and too excited to wait, our feet finally touched down in Bermuda. The winds ripped, the rain drizzled, and with a quick lap of Kinds Wharf, we got right back on board.
The following day was much nicer, so we purchased our ferry tickets to Hamilton and headed out early. If you have been to the Caribbean before, this town is very similar to all the other port towns- but more expensive. Prepare yourself for $9 beers and $25 lunches, along with all the standard tchotchkes for purchase. This was the first holiday that I didn’t buy anything.
Though Bermuda is quite easy to navigate by public transportation, I would advise a well-thought out plan of action to ensure you don’t miss that last bus/ferry in order to avoid the $100 taxi ride. After checking out Fort Hamilton, we boarded a #10 bus along the coast to the famous Crystal and Fantasy Caves.
Our guide told us how the caves were discovered by two little boys playing cricket in the early 1900s, who found the hole their ball had dropped down, and decided to drop down there as well. Tip of stalactites had been sawed off by early visitors, who thought their perilous descent into the caves earned them a souvenir.
From there, we continued north to St George, a Unesco heritage sight steeped in history. This was the original British settlement, and there are museums, churches, and forts scattered throughout the parish that bring you back to the 1600s. Personally, after walking around for about an hour, we felt about ready to go home. Going against everything I usually believe, we opted against $20 rounds at a cheesy port bar in favor of lovely wine on board for much less.
We dedicated the next day to beaches with the weather completely on our side. Another ferry and 45-min bus ride down the coast landed us at Horseshoe Bay Beach- the most famous and crowded of them all. This beach has all the amenities, plentiful cabs by the road, and much less lounging space because of them. We used this as our starting point, walking north through a few smaller beaches and swimming holes to Warwick Long Bay Beach. Less than a mile from the first, Long Bay was practically empty and completely beautiful.
After full day soaking up the sun, we returned to the ship. We may have missed out on diving and had a shortened visit, but I don’t feel that we missed much. I am thankful we made it to Bermuda finally, but doubt we will return.
Overall, we love the convenience of sailing from New York, thought the NCL Breakaway offered a great variety of entertainment, and for two very busy individuals, this cruise offered the perfect opportunity for relaxation. Was this our last cruise? Probably not.