Why I picked this itinerary
I picked the Bermuda itinerary with 3 days on port for a more relaxed vacay, less sea dates specially for first ti me cruisers, and my 82-yr old aunt. This is my third cruise, and I have been looking forward to the biggest, brand new ship leaving from NYC. I booked 9 months ago for two balcony rooms midship cabin 8180 and 8176, closest to the bars and restos. 60 days prior to the cruise, the price dropped so low with free ultimate dining, so I decided to rebook my reservation at 1,000 penalty! Three weeks before sailing, I managed to get an upgrade to M6 mini suite with large balcony, cabin 8118 and 8120, still on the 8th floor where the action is. I was offered a balcony "upgrade" earlier but going higher floor is not my idea of upgrade because that means I have to drag my party through the crowded elevators. The cabins I got are fwd port side, and we were lucky when she docked on that side and we had a fabulous sunset view where the girls sunbathe in our own balcony. Check the Bermuda Port cam: http://www.portbermudawebcam.com
NCL put up a " buy one, get one Sky to Bahamas free" sale even for inside cabins one week before so the ship sailed in full capacity!
Prepacking and Preordering gifts
Preorder your cakes for sp occasion. If you must have flowers, get the dozen roses, the anthurium delivered to my room was half the size of what was featured, maybe worth $10 sold for $54. The roses were sold at $6 per stem on board, so the $60 dozen arrangement is still better. You can't bring your own flowers.
Pack your own bottled water, canned soda, perrier and juices in a wine box or grocery box. You can check it in as addl luggage with a tag. The US Consulate at Hamilton advised vs. possible contaminated water, so better go safe. I also do not want to drink tap water so I brought enough liquids. I also packed wines with my luggages, even if I had to pay corkage of $15 per bottle, at least I know I am drinking the brand that I like. Luckily, I wasn't charged, I popped open a big one for the Cabin Crawl. Bring also an id holder coz that's all you need to charge drinks through your room key, then you are hands free and can dance!
The Iconcierge is good for big groups, or tracking down your kids through texting while on board $8 per phone is a good deal for your peace of mind, it won't work outside. Upon docking, you can get free wifi for the first 20 mins, then purchase addl wifi card. Or, if you are using Tmobile, it is free to text to and fr US, and to each other while roaming. Make sure, you turn off your voicemail while roaming, because even if you don't pick up incoming calls, you will be charged for roaming calls if the person leaves a voicemail.
Embarkation, Mother's Day photo-ops
We arrived before 11am, I live in Manhattan so it was a breeze. My cousin fr NJ got in ahead of us. Checking in was easy, we waited at designated benches and immediately spotted our CruiseCritic forum members. We agreed to wear mardigras beads, and I announced to everyone I will be in all green jeans and top. Part of the excitement was months of chatting in the forum, planning and getting to know each other before meeting them! I started a Gift Exchange while the forum leader tracked the attendees to the Meet and Greet, and cabin crawl. We had over 120 sign up! We had an early start for our vaca, we got to our room early to leave our carry on bags, diving/snorkel equipments. We had our first treat at Savor, tipped our first waiter $10 and we were treated like royalties :-) moving fwd, that became my std tipping. If you knew what it is to leave your family for several months or a year, in order to make a living in a cruise ship, you will feel good about helping them.
Day 1 Sunday sail away party is not to be missed, we line danced with Entertainment Director Julie and several Filipino crews. The passage under Verrazano Bridge was the highlight because it was so close to touching it! Of course Madam Liberty is not to be ignored too, but I frequently visit her during our summer yacht cruises around Manhattan. If you are booked in haven, you may wanna get out for the party. Our first dinner was at Moderno, Brazilian style of serving meats by slicing them at your table. With a party of 7, we tipped in advance as we sit, $10 per waiter in addition to the room gratuities. Let me tell you, it will be the best time you will ever have! Having the Ultimate Dining Package was a right decision, we didn't feel the crowd at all, no waiting and 5-star service. That same night, Cirque Dreams was free for those with UDP, another perks. It has surf and turf dinner too but we just had tea and desserts, better to eat ahead and focus on the show. Food was served at other tables, already preset, waiters delivering them by batches.
For those who didn't have the Udp, it was steak night at O'Sheehan. I ordered a chocolate fudge cake as welcome gift to my college girl, it was good.
Day 2, Monday morning at sea, I went to O'Sheehan for breakfast while my cousins did the buffet. Except for their ice cream station, I never like buffet specially with so many people dipping and kids drinking from the same glasses, sometimes you can't tell which dishes are clean. The Meet and Greet was held at La Cucina, a full packed affair so the Captain and all the heads of each department showed up, with Entertainer Julie introducing each one, and where they hailed from. That was unusual and mainly, due to the big turnout. I handled the Gift Exchange and raffle of extra door prizes, I requested that too, from the beginning of the forum. I asked everyone to introduce themselves, passed on the mic, and then announced the wedding anniversaries count down, starting from 60th down and some bdays. We love this group!
It's lobster night at the buffet. We opted dinner at Teppanyaki, requested extra lobsters, got a free bottle of wine for my cousin's Anniversary celeb, and I brought a special cake topper. Bday celebs get free slice of vanilla cake designed to look like a six-inch square cake. Gone are the days when we got a whole chocolate cake or vanilla fr Gem, during last year's bday cruise of my daughter. We were also booked for Manhattan Room, to catch up with the live band and dancing, while we have coffee but Bliss Lounge had the music of the 80s so went there instead. Not a good place to leave your teenager unless they can control themselves! There were broken glasses fr people dancing and drinking, while a young girl hooked up with another boy doing the dirtiest dancing, my cousin almost puked! Guards stood by and watched, in case violence erupts.
Day 3- Cabin Crawl, Tuesday at sea
We had about 20+ participants, started at my 8th floor mini suite with large balcony going up to 14th floor penthouse of our forum leader. Everyone loved the size of my balcony, the small balcony had only two chairs fitting the area, it was a joke! The inside cabins are the same as most cruise ships. The bathrooms of the mini suites have double sink with shower room much bigger than the std ca in, and shower spouts shooting from the sides for body wash option. The penthluse is really neat, wkth wrap around balcony accessible fr the bedroon and fr the living room, separate bath tub fr toilet and shower. A second toilet and bath is located by the living room. We had a martini tasting later that day, and hooked up again as a group, between shopping, art browsing and casino, time seemed never enough! The multiple shows should be booked in advance or you can miss the best ones. Aside frpm the broadway hits, I love Fire and Ice, Howl the Moon and Jazz Club, plus all the dancing hits. We had dinner at Cagney, with second booking at another resto, but there wete so many activities that we had to forego with second options.
Day 4- arriving at Dockyard: We survived the Triangle!
I didn't stay out late the previous night so I can catch the sunburst and watched our majestic ship dock. We were greeted by Bermudan authorities with waving hands, our port side faced the Governor's House. I captured teactions using my GoPro, my cousins at the balcony next to me also came out to capture the moment. Too bad we were not allowed to open the adjoining balconies because of a previous accident fr blowing winds, and unruly passengers. It was Wednesday, thete was a walking tour for free at 9:30am, it was also the day for the Hamilton Nights, though there was really nothing exteavagant or exciting other than a small street fair. My daughter was flying direct from NYC that morning to join us, she didn't want to miss her work for the sea days- fine. I booked a jet ski safari from Bridgewater Sports for 75 mins, at $129 per double seater, we drove 20+ miles around the island, stopped by Breakaway and a few other stops incl a shipwreck. The guide was really good, he fed the fishes as we captured everything in photo. The jet ski using a Seadoo was a lot better than the older version we used at Bahamas, a Waverunner without brake mech. Seadoo performed better by keeping it at top speed of 50m/hr even with waves. We took a cab for $20, got a refund, and used it for our cab ride back. Well worth the trip, we can now legitimately say- we survived the Triangle!
We stopped by the whirlpool for a quick dip, smelled funny! So we had to shower up quick. The girls laid out in our balcony where the sunset so cordially welcomed us back to our cabins. We got ready for dinner, in our usual semi formal attire, we posed for more photos and simply enjoyed dressing up to celebrate our family get together.
Day 5- Thursday all day excursion
A special thanks to "Fish" as he is popularly known among the cab drivers. I booked him for my party prior to the trip at $60/hr, tipped him extra $10/hr, for a great job. He met us a little past 10am, started our road trip from Westend to Gibbs Lighthouse stopped by Hamilton Immigration to get our passports stamped, checked out the Buei.org for a simulated shark cage bump ride, and viewed the museum's treasure finds. We had a break at 1:30pm for lunch that I prearranged at Grotto Bay Resort, mgt approval was necessary because it is an exclusive resort for guests checked in at their hotel. They are located at the northeadt end, away from the dreaded south beach sewage contamination. Reasonably priced meals, a cool dip at the their cave pool/spa with all natural waters, a. breathtaking view- we are definitely coming back to stay at their rooms. They offer all inclusive meals. Mr. Darrel, the manager, acknowledged our presence, my cousin who is a flight crew, and my daughter, Pseechung at CruisePlanners.com She recently joined the biz.
Fish, whom I learned from CruiseCritic Forum ( firstname.lastname@example.org) came back, of course did not charge me for the 3-hr break I requested, and finished the rest of the remaining 3hrs of our excursion. We went to famous beaches and stopped by Warwick to sample the pink sands, we used small liquor bottles similar to those you can buy fr the souvenir shops to scoop up a small quantity. We were aware of the prohibition, interestingly, the shops are allowed to sell them! This is the way to go if you have 7-8 persons in your group and you want to customize your trip. The ship charges 109 for a 4-hr trip, we had 6-hrs island getaway, 2-hrs lunch hotel break, for a final cost of $40+, with no waste of time waiting for buses. When we returned at 6pm, the ofher guests at the cruise ship told us they got into a bus accident!
Time to get dressed again for dinner, and Rock of Ages show. It's not quite the same broadway show, altered to fit within the hour and a half span, a lot of impt cuts left empty meaning to their flow of story. It is definitely an adult theme, dah...rock n roll, what do you expect? My favorite 80s hits weren't there. It is nonetheless enjoyable for a cruise ship show, we went back to Cagney that night. Then, the glow party. Another round of dancing, insyead of tje old White Hot Party, the glow party has black and neon lights that reflect on white and neon colors. Other than that, it is the same dance-a-thon.
Day 6 already! Friday is our last day... 4 passengers left behind!
Too little time, we can't risk going away too far, the ship will leave at 4pm. So we took a leisurely stroll at Hamilton, 20mins from the dockyard, I photographed the ferry schedules to keep us on track. A little shopping for souvenirs, a visit st Marks and Spencer, I am not a big fan since we have this at Hongkong and Manila. We continued shopping at the Dockyard and headed back at 3:30pm, welcomed back by Line dancing crew with Julie on a stilt! As we relaxed getting ready to sail away at 5pm, a woman was running for dear life! Breakaway had removed the anchor, luckily for her the Bermudan authorities put her in a life boat to catch up and the cruise ship opened for her. The entire action was caught on camera watched by applauding public. There were, however, 4 others who didn't make it and were left behind. Can you imagine having to pay for an overnight hotel at Ber uda, to catch an expensive lne way f.ignt to New York next morning, be hassled at the entry for having no US passport or visa, and having to stay another night at NYC to pick up your things on board the ship that Sunday? Whew... Easily $1800 penalty for neglect!
So, it's Dinner time at Le Bistro, where we will celebrate my aunt's 82nd bday. Manager gave us two free bottles of wine. Since not all of us drink, we used only one, and had the other one for tomorrow. We were reserved for comedy, but Fire and Ice has another concert. I slready saw the late night comedy by tje same group so I joined my family as they grabbed seats at fhe Atrium for her Tribute to Michael Jackson. We saw the Motown show earlier, and I saw her at the Fat Cat Jazz club singing the great divas songs last Wednesday night. Can't wait to watch her for the Tina Turner tribute tomorrow.
Ah Fireworks... We will catch some footage but ... So much left to do! Haven't used the casino slot play coupons we boungt online ($25 gives you $50), last minute duty free shopping and the art auction. Although most of what they sell are only prints, it is still fun to watch. My daughter bought a Kinkade art last Feb at the Sky for my birthday. This time, we missed the lectures which I enjoyed because we had our Cabin Crawl. I wish we got the Dailies in advance so we could have planned our activities for daytime. I only reserved the entertainment available at Ncl.com.
Day 7-Saturday, now we feel the motion!
Breakaway picked up speed, one day back to NYC as opposed to 3-days at sea.
We haven't done the ropes course, so we beat the closing time. It was windy but we were fitted with harness in case we fall. It was so much fun ziplining across, the reward after you walked the planks and pose for another photo at the end. We wished we did it earlier, so we could do it again. We changed and went back to Teppanyaki for dinner. Last Monday when it was Lobster night, we ordered extra lobsters instead of lining up at the buffet. Some of us opted to dine at La Cucina later that night, I joined the teens for a drink, we had our last bottle to finish. But I had to rush to watch the Tina Turner tribute, not to be missed. She has the powerful voice and energy of Tina Turner. We went to howl the Moon duelling piano that same night, it was a blast! The cast of Second City comedy joined them for singing and jamming, they played all the requests. What a nice way to end this cruise. We finalized all the photo orders, dutyfree shopping and what-have-you.
A full week well spent, I planned on buying the $250 credit but the counter closed while we were enjoying Tina Turner. Oh well, it is now offered online with $75 obc, instead of the 100 obc. Anyway, next time we cruise, I will check all obc promo offers before deciding to purchase, and I will wait closer to sail date, like 60 days before.
back to my sweet city NYC, we took the last luggage scheduled out, took our time to have breakfast, went back to our cabin at 8am while most passengers were going nuts at the gangway. We relaxed some more at the waiting areas on 8th floor until they announced the area as clear. I took one last video of the entire Waterfront deck, where each 8th floor bar and restaurant had an outside seating extension. Once our color coded tags were called to exit, we hired the porter to bring our luggages. If you want an express, no waiting in line for customs, get a porter! The car is waiting at the arrival area, so we took the elevator up, my dog barking from the car window, she was so excited to see me... Home sweet home!
Cruising can be an addicting experience if planned very well. Between flying for business and for leisure, I don't mind factoring family cruises once a year. Each time, we become smarter with our choices.