Monthly Archives: May 2013

Norwegian Cruise Lines- The Breakaway

Well, I’m a little overdue in updating the blog this week but have been on a couple of trips lately and
you can imagine the paperwork that needs catching up on here in the office.

So, let’s talk about my recent trip on the Inaugural sailing of the NCL Breakaway which is sailing from the
NYC Manhattan Port.

I had flown into the La Guardia airport and my traveling companion (another travel agent) had taken the
Amtrak into the city from Baltimore.  I used Super Shuttle to get from the LGA airport to the cruise terminal
for a wonderfully LOW fare.  Although, for this low fare, it was a shared shuttle.  Getting to the ship wasn’t
a big deal because I was the last one to be picked up at the airport and was the 3rd one let off the shuttle in
the city.  I can’t imagine how long it took the other people in the shuttle to get where they were going, Using
the shuttle from LGA to the ship took me from 1 hour and 20 minutes, it was a Friday afternoon – lunch time
and traffic was CRAZY busy in the city. I wasn’t in a hurry but for those that just like to get where they are
going this would NOT be the best source of transfer for you.  – Wait until I tell you about the return transfer
to the airport.

I have been on a LOT of ships including the largest cruise ships in the World.  I was just on another NCL
ship this past July 2012 in Hawaii so my expectations of the NCL Breakaway were really biased because on
that ship, itinerary and sailing experience.  Let me begin by saying that this ship was in fact a HUGE
Surprise to me.

Starting with NCL’s well known hull artwork, this ship’s hull artwork  was designed by the world famous
artist Peter Max. An art lover can always spot a Peter Max piece from a mile away so when I 1st saw the
front of this ship, I said to myself “Wow, Peter Max did the Breakaway!”

The cruise terminal in Manhattan was easy to get through and plenty of NCL employees were out there to
assist in everyone boarding.  These types of inaugural sailings are normally limited to agents, press, and
cruise line employees.  But as we were boarding I saw quite a few families boarding with children.  Children
are a rare site to see on events like this.  After inquiring about who these “families” were, I was told that
these families were victims of Hurricane Sandy and were treated to this sailing by talk show host
Katie Couric.  It sure appeared that they all were having a GREAT time onboard.

Every cruise ship has a Godmother and the Breakaway’s Godmother is the legendary ROCKETTES.  There
was plenty of star power at the christening ceremony of the Breakaway.  Memorabilia from the Rockettes
can be found in the library on the ship.  Old costumes from the years & special events gone by.  Members
from the Rockettes team will be sailing on the ship for the 1st month and then, should you want to be on a
sailing with them in the future, you need to book the 1st week of the month.  Onboard that week with the
dancers, they host a Q&A session with the guests and show you footage of what it takes to become one of
these well known dancers.  Plus, if that’s not enough, you can attend a mini Rockettes dance lesion right
there onboard the ship.  Sound Fun? If so, make sure you book a sailing that they will be on for this extra
bit of enjoyment during your cruising week.

Who doesn’t know Buddy Valastro of the hit Reality TV show The Cake Boss?  Want to sample some of
Buddy’s special creations?  Just get onboard this ship and you’ll have the chance.  Buddy has cake shop
onboard the ship (extra charge for the goodies in there).  He was on our sailing but don’t expect to see him
on all the sailings…. the launching of his cake shop at sea was a special occasion.

The Atrium area on the Breakaway is one of the most open, airy and inviting lobby areas I have ever seen on
a cruise ship.  The Purser’s Desk, Shore Excursion Desk, a Café Lobby Bar, Carlos Bakery are a few of the
things that can be found in the Atrium.  There is LOTS of seating in the lobby area so gather with friends or
to watch whatever is going on, on the giant 2 story wifi wall screen that is the backdrop for the atrium.

The Casino on this ship is very large and broken up into sections.  Looking through all the slot machines, I
found that I was finding more & more as I went wound every corner.  They do offer a non-smoking section
of the casino which has table games as well as slots but the main section of the casino does allow smoking.
For the non-smokers this is a downfall.  Many cruise lines & ships are starting to make their casinos non-
smoking.  From the feedback I was getting, a large amount of people wish that NCL would have made the
Breakaway’s new casino non-smoking.

Listen up Mom’s & Dad’s – KIDS of all ages are going to LOVE the NCL Breakaway!  Who better to have a
sail away party with on the back deck than Spongebob Squarepants and all his friends!  The waterpark on
this ship has HEATED water so even in the winter when this ship is sailing from NYC to the Caribbean, the
kids (and kids of all ages) will still be able to enjoy the Aqua Park and the 5 multi story water slides!  Water
is not the only fun outdoor activity for kids of all ages on this ship.  The NCL Breakaway has a 3-story
sports complex featuring The Plank which extends 8 feet over the side of the ship- WOW!  There’s also a
miniature golf course, the largest rope course at sea, rock climbing, basketball court and a bungee
trampoline!  If all of this won’t wear the energy right out of your kids then I’m sure the certified & trained
counselors at the Splash Academy will keep them going until the evening hours.

Are you a picky eater?  Have no fear onboard this ship as you will have PLENTY of dining options to choose
from.  There are 6 free dining venues to choose from as well as 24 hour room service. For those that want
to try some of the specialty dining venues there are an additional 8 restaurants available that charge a service
fee.  I find that the additional fee’s at these restaurants are minimal and a great way to try something new for
a small additional cost.  One of the new specialty dining options is Ocean Blue by master chef Geoffrey
Zakarian.  And the ship offers 2 additional treat shop options for a fee – Dolce Gelato and Carlo’s Bake Shop.
But remember…there’s always plenty of FREE food and dining opportunities to choose from so you do not
have to spend extra for dining if you do not wish to.  Free soft serve ice cream available in the buffet area!

Let’s talk about some of the shows onboard the ship.  I am very pleased to see that a cruise ship FINALLY
has a what I will refer to as a dinner club atmosphere!  You dine in the main dining room and then at 9:00pm
the dance floor that is in the center of the dining room becomes a dance show called Burn the Floor which
you can watch while enjoying your coffee and desserts.  So, even with all the great dining opportunities,
I recommend you check out the main dining room at least 1 night so that you can see these fabulous dancers

My absolute FAVORITE show onboard was the Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy!  It’s a small
venue and I don’t think there’s really any bad seats in the house for this event.  While everyone is enjoying
the SAME menu (unless you have food allergies or are a vegetarian), you see a fabulous Cirque show. Our
dinner consisted of Lobster Tail and Filet Mignon.  I would check with the venue in regards to the dinner
being served the night you attend just in case it’s different.  There is a charge to dine in here but I think you
will find it well worth it.  I loved how the characters were always walking around in the table areas and
the waiters took care to never block the views of the diners.

A close 2nd to this show was the Rock of Ages show onboard. Note that this show would not be recommended
for children or anyone that takes offense to foul language or shows with sexual content.  If you are a fan of
80’s rock music, then this show if for you.  It was funny, full of great music and the entertainers were GREAT!

The Breakaway will also offer a fireworks display towards the end of every sailing.  Due to storms off the NYC
coast, our display was cancelled so I can’t tell you 1st hand how great it was or not.  But, I can bet based on
the write up about what they will be doing, it should be a good show for the guests onboard.  The ship also
has a lunch comedy improve show.  I am not a huge fan of improv and the luncheon selection was a bit
disappointing to me for this show.  This was one that I personally wouldn’t give the 2 thumbs up to but
others seemed to enjoy the show a lot.  The shows I have mentioned above are just a small selection of the
shows & entertainment offered on this ship.  Chick on one of the 2 links to read more about what this ship
offers.  Breakaway Shows or Breakaway Entertainment.

Accommodations….. NCL has a couple of unique stateroom options not offered by any other cruise line.  Of
course they have your standard interior cabins, ocean view cabins, balcony cabin and suites but this ship
also caters to those passengers that travel by themselves with their new STUDIO Cabins.  These are interior
cabins that have a large round window with blinds on it that should you open the blinds you look out into the
hallway.  These are smaller cabins with a private bath designed & specially priced for the single passenger
who doesn’t want to pay the 200% cruise fare for the standard cabin that will accommodate 2 people.  For
the passenger who likes the best of the best, NCL’s Breakaway offers The Haven!  This is a separate area of
the ship for passengers booked in suites.  The Haven offers suite guests their own pool area, bar with
bartenders, concierges desk, fitness area, sun deck, poolside valet, butler service, and in room butler dining.
I don’t know about you but this is my kind od treatment for a vacation!

The spa and gym onboard are very nice.  The spa offers and a large Vitality pool and also offers the 1st ever
at sea Salt Room!  Unless you are booked in a Spa Suite which includes your entry into these areas for free,
be prepared to pay a nice fee to get in here and use these items each day.  I believe the spa told me that the
normal person not booked in a Spa Suite would pay $39 per person per day to use these areas.  Just want a
hot tub to use, no problem, there are still plenty of regular hot tubs around the open deck areas that you can
use for no extra cost.  I personally hope that NCL will come up with a special weekly rate offer for the spa
because $39 per day per person will add up quickly for the common couple cruising that would like to hit
the Vitality Pool each day!

When the ship returned back to the dock after our short little getaway, my traveling companion and myself
had a wonderful walking tour that we had prearranged prior to going to NYC.  Our Guide was Brian and he
took us to the locations that we wanted to see.  Although he offers “tour itineraries”, he will take the clients
to see what they want to see. He truly was fabulous at customizing our 4 hours with him.  We started off by
taking a quick 4 minute taxi ride from the ship to Penn Station/Madison Square Garden where we met up
with Brian.  He then helped us get our subway tickets for the day and off we were on our 1st NYC Subway
ride.  We went to the 9/11 Memorial and Brian had already confirmed our 3 tickets in advance.  This was a
huge benefit because if you do not order your tickets in advance, you have to wait in line to get tickets and
then wait in another line to get into the Memorial.  I think we bypassed about 100+ people in the various
lines by having had Brian get our tickets in advance.  Brian is a born and raised New Yorker and is a licensed
NYC tour guide.  He was  knowledgable  on the events that took place on 9/11.  We couldn’t have asked for
a better guide to the memorial.  Personally as soon as the 9/11 Museum opens in 2013, I plan to make
a follow-up trip to NYC and have Brian escort me once again on the journey of remembering 9/11.  After our
visit to the memorial, my traveling companion wanted to visit Chinatown and eat Dim Sum.  Hey, I got to
see the 9/11 Memorial so who am I to complain when she wanted to visit Chinatown to eat.  Anyone that
knows me, knows I love tours and I love food!  Before heading to Chinatown, Brian took us by the NY Stock
Exchange and told us various stories about the buildings in the area and events that took place on these
streets.  Then it was onto the subway once again to head to Chinatown.  Brian took us to his favorite places
in Chinatown to eat and we all got a few different food items to share.  After our Chinatown visit it was back
onto the subway to return to Penn Station so that my traveling companion could catch her Amtrak train back
to Baltimore and where I was meeting up with my Super Shuttle to take me to the LGA airport.  Should you
be visiting NYC and want a great guide who’s not overpriced, check out Brian’s website and then call me to
get you booked with him!

Now, about that return transfer…again this was an inexpensive transfer from Penn Station to the LGA
airport.  My flight was for 4:50pm and the shuttle company told me that I had to be picked up at 1:00pm
from Penn Station.  I asked why I had to be picked up so early to go to the airport on a Sunday afternoon and
they advised me that I could request a later transfer if I’d like but then they couldn’t guarantee I’d make my
flight departure time.  So, I played by the rules, got on my shuttle at 12:55pm and was the 1st one on this time.
After 6 other stops and almost 2 hours later I was the 1st to be dropped off at the airport.  I will tell you this-
I will gladly pay 5X’s the cost of the shuttle next time I’m in NYC to give myself extra sight-seeing time in the
city.  2 hours on a transfer that should have only taken 25 minutes was uncalled for.  Word of advise- check
taxi costs or private shuttle costs before subjecting yourself to hours on a shared shuttle!

I returned home from NYC on Sunday, Mother’s Day and I cannot wait to get back on the Breakaway with a
group in the future along with spending some more time playing in NYC!

Safe Travels My Friends!

Make Group Travel EASY!

It’s definitely GROUP season in the travel world!  Small groups of a few family members traveling for Spring Break, friends booking in larger groups that
have a common interest (Hair Groups, Music Groups, Foodies, Dance Groups, -you name it and it can be a group!) and don’t forget about corporate
group travel big & small.  What can you do to make your group trip the best it can be?

#1 – Have each person that will be traveling in the group be responsible for his or her own booking with the travel agent

** The agent needs to ask specific questions about each person traveling- medical or dietary issues, special requests etc.  These are best asked directly
to the traveler and not through a 3rd person.

#2- Groups Leaders should direct all questions & concerns from the group directly to the travel agent, group leaders should not play “middle man”.

**If you want to know what the dress attire is for your trip, ask your agent.  The person that put the group together may not be well traveled and may
not be able to provide you with the best and most current information.

#3- When traveling anywhere outside the county (including  a Caribbean Cruise), make Passport’s MANDATORY for all passengers

** When cruising to the Caribbean round-trip from a U.S. port, a U.S. Citizen can technically get by with a valid Driver’s License and their original Birth      Certificate (or certified true copy of it).  However, if you run into any emergencies while on travel outside the U.S. you will not be able to fly back to
the U.S. without that passport!  Be safe, get the passport and know that all is good!

#4- Make sure each person in the group purchases Travel Insurance!

** Travel Insurance covers the unexpected!  It protects you prior to departure and it protects you while on travel! Most U.S. medical insurances do not
cover you the minute you leave the U.S. this is a great reason to have travel insurance.  A medical evacuation runs tens of thousands of dollars….
get travel insurance to protect you issues like this.

#5- If traveling with multiple rooms or cabins of family members, ask the travel agent to copy all parties involved on e-mail correspondence

** I recently dealt with a family that had multiple cabins going and each person wanted to contact the agent and ask different questions then they would  “attempt” to pass along the information to the rest of the travelers in the other rooms.  How much information gets lost each time the story gets
repeated? A LOT!  SO, to help ensure everyone in the group was getting the SAME and CORRECT information directly from me, I started replying to
the entire group when 1 person would send me an e-mail asking a question.

#6- Read everything your travel agent sends you CAREFULLY and THOUROGHLY!

** Your agent should be providing you with everything you need to know prior to travel in regards to the arrangements he/she has made for you.
PLEASE take the time to read over everything they send you!  I recently had a large group travel and 7 days prior to the start of the trip, I had
members of the group calling asking questions about things that should have been taken care of 30 days prior. Example- I arranged group transfers
for the group to get  from the airport to a cruise ship.  Each person was supposed to contact me no later than 30 days prior to departure with their
air schedule so that I could provide the details to the transfer company.  7 days prior to the trip, people were calling me asking “where’s my transfer
voucher” and the only reply I could give was “did you call me with your flight details?”  So many of these guests openly admitted to me that they
had NOT read their paperwork I had sent them and just assumed I would take care of everything or would call them personally if I needed
anything further. Remember- your group is probably not the only group the agent is taking care of.  Your agent needs YOU to be responsible for your

#7- Ask questions!  Anthing you want to know about your trip – Ask the AGENT booking it!

**As you think of questions that you would like to discuss, write them down so that way the next time you talk to your agent or e-mail them you can go
over your questions together.  Think about sending your questions in an e-mail and copying the other members of your group in the e-mail.  You may
have thought of a question that they hadn’t thought of and it might be helpful to them as well. Ask the other members of your group to share their
questions with you as well.

#8- Make PAYMENTS along the way….

** When you book group travel well in advance, your payment are normally broken down into 2-3 payments.  I always highly encourage all our travelers
to make payments  once a month or every pay day towards their trip.  This way when the final payment due date rolls around, it will not catch 1/2 your
group off guard.  More people cancel out at time of final payment when booked in a group due to not having the funds to make the final payment.
If you are making payment installments along the way, the final won’t be nearly as large!

#9 – Ask your Travel Agent for advise on booking tours & Excursions

** If your trip is the type that allows you to add in extra tours or side trips, talk to your agent about which of these would be best for you and your
traveling companions.  Also, if the entire group wants to do the same tours, a group discount can normally be gotten!

#10- Work with a Travel Agent that is familiar with booking group travel and escorting group travel!

** Don’t you want an experienced group agent who is well traveled helping your group?  It only makes sense to me to have a true professional help you
plan your trip!  If I was getting the engine of my car worked on, I would not take it to the tire shop down the street for the work to be done…It’s gonna
go to the SPECIALIST!

I have booked and escorted many groups over the years and I can tell you that the best travelers in the groups are the ones that READ the paperwork
I send them and call or e-mail me with their questions.  If you don’t ask questions, we can’t help you.

If you have never been part of a group trip,you should try it, they can be LOTS of FUN! As a group leader (the person that brings the group to the travel
agent, you have the opportunity to earn free travel or money back after the group travel.  Do you have a group of friends, family members or co-workers
would you would like to travel with?  Make it happen, call your agent and get started on putting together a great group trip!

Happy Group Travels My Friends! Diane