This was our first ever cruise, so I will apologize in advance for my long-winded review.
(My wife, Toni, is a terminal cancer patient who, after surviving non-Hodgkins lymphoma for 12 years, was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer and given 6 months to live in December of 2012. And, after nearly dying twice from complications due to her chemotherapy, she's still holding her own.)
So, we decided to do it as first class as we could, and booked the Breakaway's second-largest stateroom in The Haven. We were treated like royalty from the moment we got on board on the 15th, until we disembarked on the 22nd. And, it actually it began during the week before we left for the trip.
Four days before we were scheduled to leave, Toni had to have an emergency root canal (she had it on her birthday on Wednesday, 12/11). Her regular dentist in Westerly, RI, put us in touch with an endodontist in New London, CT, Dr. Milos Janicek, whom she had never been to prior to this. Dr. Janicek fit her in, did the root canal, and even filled the tooth again, so that Toni would not have to return to see him after our cruise. The next day, Thursday the 12th, Dr. Janicek called personally to see how Toni was feeling. (Remember, she had never been to see this dentist before.)
Then, on Sunday the 15th, when we arrived in our stateroom aboard the ship, we found two $100 gift certificates (one for each of us) and two $50 gift certificates (one for each of us) for individual spa treatments from Dr. Janicek. We were completely stunned by this, and we put them to good use on Thursday, the 19th, with Toni having 2 treatments, including a facial, and Bill having acupuncture.
However, as the old saying goes, “But wait … there’s more.”
There were a dozen red roses for Toni in the stateroom (delivered compliments of Bill prior to the cruise), along with two complimentary bottles of wine (Merlot) and a bottle of scotch (compliments of Norwegian). Plus, there was a bowl of chocolate covered strawberries, and a platter of 30 shrimp (again, from Bill). We also had an electric scooter and wheelchair waiting for us in our room which we had ordered ahead of time from the Special Needs at Sea group.
Next, we opened an invitation to attend a casino VIP cocktail party for Sunday evening. But after the trip from RI to NY, the boarding process and the “muster drill,” we were too tired to go. Instead, we had dinner in our stateroom, served by our butler, Carlos Ragasa. We were also invited to, and did attend, the Captain's cocktail reception on Monday night at 6:15pm where we met many of the ship's officials.
On Monday morning, when we went to the Breakaway Casino for the first time, the Casino Manager, Ms. Grace Frias, came right over to introduce herself to us. Bill had been in contact with Norwegian’s Casino Marketing Supervisor, Ms. Julie Balbuena, in Miami prior to the cruise, to ask about which slot games they had on board.
(Apparently, Julie made sure to let them know to expect us, because most every staff member in the casino came by to welcome us and let us know that they were there for whatever we needed. And, EVERYONE fell in love with Toni.)
Grace asked why we hadn't come to the VIP reception the previous evening, and told us she was ready to place an “Out-of-Service” sign on one of the "China Shores" penny slot machines they were told Toni liked to play, so that it would be available to her when she arrived at the reception. (More on the casino later.)
Each morning, by 5:30am, our nighttime butler, Rogin, delivered a pot of coffee to our room (whether we were up or not), so it would be on the table for us when we woke up. Then, our daytime butler, Carlos, would serve us breakfast -- usually Eggs Benedict, orange juice, fresh fruits, assorted muffins and pastries.
Every afternoon, our Concierge, Adrian Bica, delivered either chocolates, fresh fruit, cookies and/or hors d'oeuvres to our cabin, compliments of our Concierge, the Captain, our Executive Casino Host/Casino Hosts, or the ship’s Hotel Director.
On Wednesday afternoon, Adrian delivered a personal letter from the Hotel Director, Mr. Hugo Vanosmael, inviting us to enjoy a complimentary dinner for two, along with a bottle of wine of our choice, at any of the ship's specialty restaurants. We had made reservations at world famous chef, Geoffrey Zecharian's "Ocean Blue" restaurant for Saturday evening, 12/21, but by that time we were just too exhausted to go back out.
We had already had exquisite dinners at four of the Breakaway’s top specialty restaurants: La Cuccina (Italian) on Tuesday, Moderno's (Brazilian) on Wednesday, Cagney's (NYC Steakhouse) on Thursday and Le Bistro (French) on Friday.
In addition, Bill had a decadent sushi experience at Wasabi's on Friday afternoon while Toni was one deck down playing in the casino. So, on Saturday evening, our last night on the ship, we dined in The Haven’s luxurious and exclusive restaurant.
Our Concierge, Adrian Bica, also had a belated chocolate birthday cake for Toni delivered to our stateroom on Wednesday afternoon. (We barely touched it.)
We only got off the ship once -- on Tuesday afternoon in Port Canaveral (Orlando), FL. Toni's brother, Johnny, who she had not seen in over 30 years, drove over from Oldsmar, FL to surprise her. So they spent about two hours together catching up and getting reacquainted. It was one of the highlights of the cruise for Toni (and Bill, too).
Unfortunately, due to weather conditions, the ship was not able to go to Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, on Wednesday (we weren’t going to get off the ship anyway). Instead, we went straight to Nassau for two days, before heading back north at 6:30pm on Thursday evening.
We spent an inordinate amount of time in the Breakaway’s lovely (and large) casino.
On Monday morning the 16th, we played and immediately won over $820. Unfortunately, Bill couldn't sleep that evening and returned to play from 2:30am until 7:30am (while Toni slept), and gave back most all of those winnings ... plus a little bit more.
Later that day (Tuesday, the 17th), we returned and Toni bailed us out.
On Wednesday the 18th, we both played a China Shores slot machine and had our ups and downs. After a while, Bill wandered over to a video poker machine, and played "Triple Double Bonus Poker." In about 10 minutes, he hit four aces for $800, cashed out, and returned to play the China Shores slot machine.
On Thursday afternoon the 19th, the casino bruised us a bit. But, on Friday the 20th, Toni carried the day, and we won over $1,700. So at that point, were we only down about $1,100 for the week.
On Saturday the 21st, Toni again played one of the China Shores penny machines, and was getting beaten up pretty well. Meanwhile, Bill was bouncing from machine to machine, winning on most everyone he played, including another quick hit on the Triple Double Bonus Poker machine for $800 (this time, it was four deuces with a 3).
At one point, Bill went diagonally across the casino from where Toni was sitting to play a dollar "Wheel of Fortune" machine. At first, he wasn't doing much, and one of the slot attendants, Joy, with whom we had become very friendly, "suggested" that he should get off that machine. When he politely refused to do so, she said she couldn't watch and started to walk away. Before she got 20 yards away, Bill hit a free spin of the bonus wheel and it landed on $1,000.
So, he yelled, "Oh, Joy ...," and she ran back, arriving at just about the same time as Casino Manager, Grace Frias, who had dropped by to chat with him again.
Grace congratulated Bill and said, "It's always great to win, especially on the last day before you leave."
(But, even Grace had no idea how prophetic her words would be.)
About an hour later, as we were preparing to leave the casino for the last time, Toni said, "You really didn't play a lot of video poker, so why don't you play a little before we leave?"
Someone was playing the Triple Double Bonus Poker machine that Bill had already hit for $800 twice, so Toni pointed to another video poker machine for him to play, and inserted her Slot Rewards card into the machine, since she still had some funds remaining on it.
On just the third spin, Bill was dealt the "Ten, Jack and King of Spades," along with two other cards. He held the three spades, discarded the other two cards, and pressed the "Draw" button. He was dealt the Ace and Queen of Spades, for a Royal Flush that paid $4,000.
(The bad news for Toni was that Bill was playing with her Slot Rewards card inserted, so she got to get the "tax ticket.")
Then, while we were waiting for our slot attendant, Joy, to return to pay us the $4,000 in cash, Toni started playing the video poker machine right next to Bill. She hit "four-of-a-kind" three times within about 15 minutes, and cashed out for an additional $1,400.
Needless to say, we left the casino ahead, which helped offset some of the cost of our cruise.
We arrived back in NYC on Sunday morning, the 22nd, at around 5:30am.
We had breakfast one final time in our stateroom, said our emotional good-byes with our butler, steward and Concierge, and disembarked at about 8:45am.
Our Concierge, Adrian Bica, had arranged for a wheelchair for Toni, and an attendant took us down via the "back-of-the-house" in order to avoid the crowds.
Adrian had done this all week long for us ... personally wheeling Toni down for our various dinner reservations, using his private, "express" elevator key card, then taking us directly to the Maître d’ for seating at our table.)
We located our luggage – they had taken our suitcases away the night before – cleared U.S. Customs with ease, and were taken to meet our car service, Ground Link, right outside of the terminal.
We were in the car at 9:10am, and arrived back in our home in Rhode Island at 11:30am.
It was an unbelievably wonderful experience. And, we have only touched on some of what was done for us personally.
For example, we had brought along our stuffed bunny rabbit – Toni's lucky charm, since being diagnosed with her original cancer in 2002 – and each night while we were at dinner our cabin steward, Celio, made a different animal friend for him, using towels when he turned our bed down. First it was a bulldog, then a rabbit, an elephant, a pig and, finally, a seal.
The best way to put it is, that there were more than 4,000 passengers on the cruise (along with over 1,700 crew members), yet we were made to feel as if we were the only two people on the ship.
Needless to say, we're eager to do it again soon (and have already booked a 1-day cruise for April) – but, only on the Norwegian Breakaway – and only with the same incredibly hospitable crew, headed by our incomparable Concierge, Adrian Bica, and his assistant, Kadlik (“Special K”), our extraordinary butler, Carlos Ragasa, and nighttime butler, Rogin, our cabin stewards, Noel (for the first three days) and Celio (the master of towel animals), Grace Frias (Casino Manager) in the Breakaway Casino, along with her entire staff, including, Trendafil (Casino Shift Manager), Kristin (Executive Host), Joy (Slot Attendant), Leavy (Slot Attendant), Karil, Christian (Player’s Club), Ines (Cage) and many, many more whose names and titles are simply too many to remember … but all of whom helped in some special way to make our 7-day cruise a wonderful and memorable experience.