I searched everywhere for a cruise review that would address how the Splash Academy works; and if an adult can have a relaxing time aboard while their child stays occupied. Since Gambee, Slice of Life and a few others have written amazing reviews about everything from soup to nuts on the Breakaway, I am writing my takeaways re. the ship and how it worked for a single mom and her 6 year old.
1. Splash Academy was not very fun for my son, he found the themes boring, including Hollywood at Sea and Spy Night, but somewhat enjoyed the Tribes at Sea (Survivor) theme on Tuesday. I put him in only when I was in need of going to the gym to work out, or to see Rock of Ages during the first three nights. The rest of the week, he played miniature golf on Deck 17 or chess on the oversized board on The Waterfront. He made friends with other children everywhere he went, and bumped into a classmate from Maryland the second day, and would play with him. I gave him a key card and he was able to go back to our state room whenever he got bored with golf or chess, so I could do some of the adult seminars and other cool activities that would bore him.
2. They open the Splash Academy early on nights when Rock of Ages is playing, so you can drop them off at 6:45pm and still make the 7pm start time.
3. The Specialty restaurants are wonderful, and they cater to the kids with children's menu of Pepperoni pizza, pasta, chicken tenders, etc. at no charge or 50% off if they order from the specialty menu. We ate at La Cucina where I had the best Ceasar Salad I have ever eaten, and risotto that was perfectly cooked. It was a steal at $15 cover charge. Teppanyaki, similar to state-side Benihana's, which put on a good show for the kids. Il Bistro, where I had a delicious dinner of 4 cones of different salads and the rack of lamb. And, finally, Ocean Blue, where we ate on Friday night and decided to cancel Cagney's on Saturday so we could go back and eat at Ocean Blue again! I had the beet salad with rock shrimp for an appetizer, and the scallops with pork belly as my entree, both were off the charts delicious! Second night I tried the calamari and the dover sole, both were good but not as great as the first night.
4. We bought 3 day bus/ferry passes, based on recommendations here, but the buses to and from the South Shore beaches the first day were not air conditioned and standing room only. We had to constantly move and shuffle so people could get off. It was so hot and uncomfortable that I did not get on either the bus or ferry the rest of the time we were there!
5. Warwick Long Bay is a beautiful pink sand beach, one bus stop past Horseshoe Bay, with a long stretch of pink sand and big turquoise waves, and next door is Jobson's Cove, where the water is still and the snorkeling is awesome! Be sure to wear tons of sunscreen. The umbrella I rented at Warwick Long Bay could not seem to stay put in the sand. The chairs were fine.
6. Bring lots of cash, the vendors on the island, from the 3 day transport pass, to the umbrella rental, to the tour guide we hired only take cash! U.S. Dollars are fine.
7. On our second day in Bermuda we hired a car and driver to take us around the island. He was a back up because the original guy we hired, David, could not take us due to someone breaking into his car and damaging the car in the process. But, Leo Simmons, ex-police officer, construction worker, and now certified tour guide and taxi driver did a great job! We met at 10:15am, paid him $40 per hour or $200 for a 5 hour tour, and off we went to explore all the parishes and learn about the island from a life-long Bermudian. We stopped at Glass Bottom beach, where we collected sea glass, Gibbs Lighthouse, where we climbed 185 steps, to see grand views of the entire island, and Crystal Cave, to see the stalactites and stalagmites that took 2.5 million years to form! We did a drive by of Hamilton, since I did not want to go shopping at the expensive boutiques. We ate lunch in St. Georges's and drove through the Millionaire's Row at Tucker's Point, on the far eastern side of the island, where Ross Perot and Michael Bloomberg have homes. He even showed us a $15 million dollar house he built a few years back. It was stunning! We ran way over our allotted 5 hours, as it took 7 hours to see everything, but he stuck to the original price we agreed upon.
8. If you want to book a tour do not use the ship's services. I went to the pink Vistor Tourism Center, right in King's Wharf and spoke to Geri, who hooked us up with a wonderful 3.5 hour catamaran ride to a coral reef and shipwreck, where we snorkeled on our final day. It was a NCL contract, so we assured that we would be back to shore by 4:30pm and the ship would not leave without us. It cost me $55 less to book through her than the advertised prices aboard the Breakaway. She also referred me to David, the tour guide, the day before. She is a doll!
9. Getting on and off the ship is a breeze, we did it twice a day, every day we were on the island.
10. Comparing NCL to Disney, my son said Disney was much better. Disney Wonder is the cruise ship we took the last two summers, once to Alaska, and once to Canada. The kids program on-board Disney is much superior, the kids are having a blast, and they stay open throughout the day. NCL closes Splash Academy from Noon to 2pm and 5-7pm every day, and does not feed them.
11. The movies they play on Disney, courtesy of their ownership of Pixar, Lucasfilm and the Walt Disney company means they show wonderful movies every day they sail. The movies on NCL were for rent on the tv screen in your room for $9.95, although they showed one free film, a recent release, in the Atrium's big screen on a rainy day. I think it had Tom Cruise in it, I glimpsed the screen as I walked by, but I did not stop to watch it.
12. NCL was fabulous for adult entertainment, the three shows I saw, Rock of Ages, Cirque and Burn the Floor were very entertaining. Slam Allen is a true talent, his Blues show is great! Go see him at least once if you like blues and jazz and a great singing voice. The jams on the keyboard and electric guitar, by other cruisers on the stage was awesome, too! The dueling pianos is also worth checking out one night.
13. Second City Comedy is totally appropriate for young children, my son was laughing up a storm during their improvs. Go see it at 7pm or 9pm, as the 11pm show is for adults only.
14. The water slides are great fun for kids and adults, I went on all five slides and had a good time trying to race my son to the bottom of the purple and yellow slides.
15. You need to get to everything on the ship 15-30 minutes before it opens to beat the crowds. This is true of Splash Academy, the Ropes Course, the Rock of Ages and Cirque shows, and I hear the Main dining rooms, Taste and Savor. 4500 people were on board the ship during the week of June 16th, and it can lead to lines for popular attractions. But, if you show up 15 minutes early, you can be one of the first ones in to do the activity.
16. The Daily Planner is really useful - so use it! I CIRCLED all the activities throughout the day that I was interested in, and then carried it around folded up in my pocket or pool bag. It tells you when the Sabrett Hot Dog cart is open and where it will be located for three hours. It tells you about all the activities in the gym, and the games that are going on from Bingo to Texas Hold Em Poker. It is your friend, use it and you will not be overwhelmed by this massive ship.
17. I splurged and spent an extra $400 for the Aft Balcony on the 9th floor, room 9918. It was a great investment. Our balcony was 150 SF, almost as large as our 170 SF room! We ate room service breakfast out there almost every day, and the sunrise views and sunset views took my breath away! The rocking sensation in the cabin made my bed feel like a crib, and I slept like a baby. My one complaint, I found the room to be noisy the last night when we were sailing into NYC and don't know why it was so noisy that night but not the previous 6 nights. It sounded like grinding of equipment.
18. O'Sheehan's is a great place to go for breakfast, the omelettes are great and the service is speedy. We ate there on the days we were going off the ship and unsure when we would be able to eat lunch. Garden Cafe was a madhouse, with not a single table available the one time I tried to go there for breakfast at 9am.
19. Photo ops are available every night, but beware the pics cost $20 a pop. $12.95 for the smaller photos that they shoot in the restaurants and else where on the ship.
20. Check out the art auctions they hold on-board. They are fun, and offer paintings and sculptures at different price points. I had never experienced anything like this on Disney and Royal Carib, and felt it was informative and entertaining.
That's all I can think of for now. I may add more at a later date, but these 20 tips are what stick in my mind after 24 hours off the ship. Breakaway is a beautiful ship, with activities for all ages, and I stepped off feeling refreshed, relaxed, tan and like I had been on a real vacation. My son rated it an 8 with Disney a 9. NCL, thank you, for an exemplary ship and crew!