In April of 2013, I talked my girlfriend into going on a cruise with her daughters. I wanted them to experience the almost 16 hours of daily fun and excitement that I had cruising before on Carnival's cruise line. We also brought my daughter and her husband.
Since my girlfriend didn't like being 'stuck' on a ship, I looked for a cruise that had a single port of call, so that she would have a few days of getting off the boat in a row.
I found two ships I liked with activities for the 12 year old that sailed the week of 8/25/13. One Carnival Ship whose name I do not recall, and the NCL Breakaway. We ultimately chose to go NCL, since we could simply drive to NY and avoid the hassle of flying.
During the booking process, I reviewed the cabin categories, and finally chose to purchase the spa-deck mini-suites with balcony, which included unlimited access to the spa facilities. Total cost so far, about $13,000 for 6 adults, 1 child in 2 spa suites, and 1 inside cabin.
As part of the fun plan we had, we hired a limo to take us from NJ to NY. On 8/25/13, at 8AM, the Limo driver showed up with a super-size bus, and our excitement began. We enjoyed the trip to NY, and arrived at the port on schedule at 9:45AM. This cost us about $275 each way, not bad considering parking in NY alone was $210 per vehicle.
We were checked in by 10:30AM, and waited to board the breakaway at 11:30am.
We boarded the ship, enjoy the view from the top deck, and had lunch. We went to our Mini Suite with Balcony, and laughed at how small these rooms are, and how super-small the balconies were. The chairs barely fit. That evening we a elected to see the first performance of Cirque Dreams Jungle Fever dinner show on the ship, at a "today only discounted rate of 25% off list price." ($209). This show was amazing. We truly enjoyed everything about the show.
That evening we explored the ship, and found the "Howl at the moon" dueling pianos performance and enjoyed this performance until about midnight, at which time I stumbled to bed almost drunk. Yeah!!!
Since I already had about 10 drinks on day one, I decided to get the "Ultimate Beverage Package (UBP) for $49.95 per person per day". Total price about $800 after 15% included gratuity. I could now drink anything, without having to worry about how much my bar tab would be at the end of the week.....and this is where the real fun begins....
Here are the rules for the UBP, some of which you'll find out after you pay for it...
1. If you have the UBP, you can't order two drinks without both cards being present. Only 1 drink at a time. Even
2. Only drinks under $8.25 (I believe this is the amount) are included. If the drink was 25 cents more, it was not included at all, and the full price would be charged to your room.
3. All your drinks are charged to your room. At the end of the day, they remove up to 15 drinks per person.
So instead of worrying about not spending over $800 in alcohol in the week, I now have to worry about if each drink I order is included, and if I'll drink enough to cover the expense of the UBP.
The only pro to this was that if I didn't like a drink, I simply ordered another, but even with that, we still didn't order enough to cover the $800. Guess we don't drink the way we used to.
We're now on Day 2, and we're on the ocean. So we're off the find things to do. Since we had the spa package, we went to find the spa. We checked in, and received our stickers to give us access for the week. The spa itself was simply fantastic. Super-size tubs sauna, solarium, salt room, steam room, etc.... and a few loungers.
The spa was only for those 18 and over, so our 12 year old that was booked in the spa category, couldn't get in, but we couldn't 'transfer' this to our daughter who didn't stay in the spa suite. Another waste of money.
At dinner time, we chose to eat at the buffet, which was OK. Although the seating areas were filled, we eventually found areas to sit.
Day 3, tried to get some time on the pool deck. This is where we found out that there are a total of six loungers pool side, and more than half of the other loungers are in the shade. Try to find pictures of the pool deck on the breakaway, and you won't find many, except for NCL's CGI images. We picked a few out on the top deck in the sun, but once they started to play the music, it was so loud we just left and went back to the room and our 'private balcony'. You could hear and feel the bass from the music in our cabin, so we found other things to do...back to the SPA we went.
I spent some time at the Casino tables as well, earning the 1500 points necessary to get the 'free drinks on us while at the casino'... but since I already had the UBP this didn't mean anything to me except a sign that I spent too much time in the casino. Please note, that the ship's casinos are UNREGULATED, and you may win some the first few days, but that quickly changes on return voyage, when I'm certain they change the odds. The automated card shufflers can be programmed to give out winning or losing hands as they desire.
Day 4, we arrived in Bermuda, and set out to enjoy the island, which we did. Since this review isn't about Bermuda, I won't go into details on this.
Day 5, St Georges.
Day 6, Rained out. Our Bermuda Triangle snorkel tour which was a 5 mile out catamaran excursion was changed to a short boat ride to a near-by area, or we could cancel... we elected to cancel this excursion.
Day 7, Cruising back home, and eager to get there....the ship was packed, every area of the ship were there was anything to do, was simply packed beyond capacity.
The ship itself was clean (it's new after all), and the cruise staff was very polite, as I've come to expect, but when I paid $13,000+/- for the trip, I didn't expect to get nickeled and dimed on everything on the ship. Only 2 shows are included as "complementary", and those shows aren't that price of free. In the end, this cruise cost us about $20,000+/-, and ended with us never wanting to cruise again, with any cruise line. I know not all cruises are like this, but the fact that once you set sail, you're there until the end, makes us all uncomfortable cruising again.
Carnival, I'm sorry I didn't come back to you instead. I never felt cramped there, and enjoyed the evening entertainment on the ships, and all at no extra charge.
Beautiful Island with many beaches.... rained often, but still joy to visit.