Monday, June 10, 2019

Oklahoma 50th Class Reunion Weekend



This is not my normal travel review, only a short trip and not very exotic location, but I had such a wonderful time that I wanted to document it for myself as the weekend was so full of marvelous memories.  The DW and I are traveling to Oklahoma City for my Del City High School Class of '69 50th class reunion.  I'm also revisiting the famous Oklahoma Onion-fried hamburgers of my youth.

June 6th 2019  -  Thursday  -  Midwest City
Lizards - Class of '69
A nice day for travel.  We left Twisted Oak Ranch about 9:30 am and after a brief stop at Gary Creek Ranch to drop Maisie, our dog, we were heading north towards Oklahoma.  As a fan of good hamburgers I am combining my reunion with a tour of Oklahoma's famous onion-fried hamburgers.  First stop is in Ardmore Oklahoma at the Hamburger Inn in old downtown Ardmore serving burgers since 1938.  This is one of the original onion fried burger diners as the burger is a depression era innovation.  I ordered a double onion fried with fries and DW ordered Cheese Tots.  Good.  Also great pie and breakfast here.  We continued north to Midwest City and my DS/BIL's (dear sister/brother inlaw) new house.  Of course my DW had just recently decorated the home so she was very familiar.  We have the Africa room.   Only a short visit as we were soon off for our first function.  In High School I was a member of a group of twelve fun friends who decided we would really enjoy our senior year.  We had our signature look of v-neck sweaters, our own parking spaces, our own seats (row 1) in the auditorium, and more.  We were called the Lizards and we had the Lizard reunion in Edmond Oklahoma at Ted's Cafe Escondido.  Very good food and we had our own function room.  We had nine Lizards with spouses attend and it was a fantastic evening.  Each member in turn had to review several subjects including: founding of group, meeting your spouse, outlandish activities we did senior year, and more.  The memories were jogged and what a way to begin the reunion weekend.  A fun day.

June 7th 2019  -  Friday  -  Oklahoma City
Sid's Diner - El Reno, OK
My BIL fixed us a wonderful breakfast with his signature Pecan & Blueberry Waffles...very good.  We had a relaxing morning and the DW had a decorating / shopping project today.  So I was free to travel with a Lizard brother to El Reno Oklahoma the 'Onion-fried Hamburger Capital of the World'.  El Reno has an annul O-F burger festival and three excellent diners/restaurants featuring the onion-fried burger.  We chose Sid's a diner and I think the more traditional of the three.  I again had a double and onion rings.  It was fantastic and well worth the drive.  We then drove out to the old Fort Reno cemetery to see the graves of early military soldiers from the Indian Wars.  I checked into the host hotel, Hilton's Embassy Suites in the Medical district, about 3:00 and soon the DW was dropped off from her day of shopping.  The first official Reunion event was at 5:00 pm at the HeyDay Center in Bricktown, the great entertainment district in OKC.  It was a good Welcome Mixer and it was great seeing classmates.  I di have a new drink: Loaded Blue Moon.  I had some of the families season tickets for the Oklahoma City Dodgers so walked across the street and canal to the Bricktown Ballpark.  I was really more interested in seeing the ballpark architecture, statues of famous Oklahoma baseball players, the billboards, the local fans, and happenings on the field and concourse than the game itself.  It was fun, and we got to visit with DCHS class of '69 'MrBaseball' and his DW who attended with us.  We bailed in the 7th inning and drove the short mile back to the hotel to rest.  It was very enjoyable Class of '69 mixer and fun evening overall.

June 8th 2019  -  Saturday  -  Oklahoma City
Lunch at 1492 - OKC
I had a very nice hotel breakfast and then visited with classmates this morning.  For lunch the DW and I took the events chief organizer and an old 'sweetheart' out to lunch at 1492 a very trendy restaurant with a Latin/Mediterranean/OkieMex menu.  It's located in the new revitalize Mid-Town area of OKC and I was impressed with the neighborhood and food.  We ordered the specialty appetizers and various entrees.  All very good.  For dessert we had to have a Tres Leches cake and it was amazing.  Afterward we drove through the downtown area before returning to the hotel.  Not much time to rest before events began to unfold.  The hotel has a complementary happy hour so many classmates began early for apéritifs.  Our banquet area opened about 6:30 pm so the party moved there for the evening.  It was a nice large room with a nice bar set up and well decorated with DCHS memorabilia. Impressive.  Dinner was salad, a steak entree with vegetables, and nice dessert choice of Chocolate or Creme Cheesecake.  Our entertainment was Ronnie Kaye a very popular disc jockey from our days in the 1960's in OKC.  He was fantastic and had most of the crowd up and dancing.  I've never seen so many old folks dancing the night away.  There was plenty of time to visit classmates, see the old yearbooks and photos, and enjoy the evening.  Everyone really had a wonderful time.  Seems the next Class event will be in two years and will be a cruise...this will be most classmates 70th birthday year as well.  Yes I will be organizing that.  We retired about 10:45 p.m., no way I could make it to midnight, so the 81+ year old Ronnie Kaye outlasted me.  It was a great day with great old friends.

June 9th 2019  -  Sunday  -  Midwest City
Sunday School 50+ years on
About 7:00 a.m. we were wakened by alarms on the TV and from my telephone.  Seems a huge thunderstorm was passing through the Oklahoma City area.  DW was going to get to experience some typical Oklahoma weather.  This was not a tornado warning so not the full weather experience. Breakfast in the hotel was again good and a lot of classmates there to visit with as well.  The weather began to clear and we packed and checked out about 11:00 a.m.  We drove to Del City and met up with two of my old friends from Church 50+ years ago.  Eight of us had a delicious lunch at Ted's Cafe Escondido in Del City.  Another wonderful meal and visit.  At 2:00 pm we went to the beautiful  Del City Community Garden to meet other members of our 50 year anniversary Church youth group.  The weather was now completely clear and pleasant as we had an informative garden tour conducted by my BIL the Gardener and founder.  Another good reunion with friends.  Afterward we returned to the house in Midwest City and later visited with other family and friends.  Another great reunion day.

 
June 10th 2019  -  Monday  
J&W Burger & Fries
We slept very well and decide to head south by 9:30 am.  We drove to Chickasha and ate an early lunch at the J&W Grill.  Another of the original Oklahoma Onion-Fried burger diners.  These burger have more onions than the previous two and they apply onions twice in the cooking process.  I had a double and half order of fries, DW had tots.  Very very good burgers.  Hard to judge the best of the three, it depends on your 'like' of the onions.  Sid's and JW are best for me.  If your keen on the onions then JW,  if you prefer fewer onions then Hamburger Inn, if you want the middle ground then Sid's is you place.  Basically Hamburger Inn cooks the onions on the meat, Sid's mashes the onions into the meat, and J&W mashes the onions into the meat and then adds them on the meat again.  Four hour drive home from Chickasha and we traveled basically the old Chisholm trail (Hwy 81) most of the way.  Home by 4:00 pm.  An easy travel day home.

Highlights
Truly the entire weekend was a highlight, but the Lizard gathering on Thursday night was a great prelude for the weekend.  The official events were wonderful and certainly exceeded my expectations...I thought it was an exceptional weekend.  As for food I enjoyed my Oklahoma onion burgers and the lunch at 1492 was really fantastic.  Of course visiting with Classmates, Friends, and Family was the best highlight of all.


More Photos:

Thursday:  Lizards & spouses

Friday: Fort Reno Cemetery


Saturday:  Ronnie Kaye


Sunday:  Del City Garden







Sunday, April 21, 2019

Liberty of the Seas Review / April 21, 2019


Liberty of the Seas Review  
April 21, 2019

Just The Facts:
Ship:  Liberty of the Seas  /  Class and Type:  Freedom Class Cruise Ship
Maiden voyage: May 19, 2007  /  Tonnage:  155,889  /  Length: 1112 feet
Captain:
Cruise Director:
Ports: Galveston, TX - Cozumel, Mexico - Gerogetown, Grand Cayman - Falmouth, Jamaica
Weather:  Very nice typical Caribbean weather

This is my 5th time to cruise on the Liberty of the Seas, my 29th Royal Caribbean cruise, and my 143rd cruise overall.  I am sailing solo. I booked only a few days before sailing and it was a good value, enough that I had to do it.

Day One—Sunday—Embarkation
Sail away from Galveston  (click to enlarge)
I have enjoyed the leaving later and arriving later at the pier scenario on previous Galveston cruises so did so again.  There are so many VIP’s that it now actually creates problems at embarkation…so the later arrival is a much smoother process. I left the ranch about 7:45 am and headed south to Galveston arriving at EZ Cruise parking about 12:05 and I was shuttled over to the Liberty of the Seas fairly quickly. Unfortunately I discovered a huge glitch to my plan…they had not yet begun boarding.  Apparently there were over 2500 (non English speaking) foreign nationals that had to be processed though U.S. Customs and Border Security and that was not happening easily.  They did not have everyone off the ship until 1:30 and did not begin boarding until almost 2:00 pm.  By this time there was a mass of people ready to board.  It looks like this cruise will be a repeat as the vast majority of the guests look to be Mexican nationals, primarily extended families with lots of children. They did seem to take the delay in stride, better than experienced cruisers for sure.  I luckily had a line place holder so I was able to sit for half the waiting time and finally made it past security where the D+ status was recognized.  It was then 3:00 pm but I was on board soon afterward.  I dropped my bag in my cabin and went straight  to Lido where they were trying to close, in fact I insisted that they open the doors for me.  The staff should have known that with no guests from 11:00 am until 2:00 that there had to be many hungry guests still boarding.  Not a good move by Lido staff as they were delaying boat drill, the excuse they were using to close.  I was again lucky to get something to eat.  I went straight to my muster station on deck four, had my card scanned, then went into the lounge to sit and await safety instructions that was done in Spanish first, then English.  It was 4:45 when drill ended, I know exact time as the bar there opened and I had a complementary ginger ale and Mai Tai using my D+ card and bartender asked me the time.  Wow I can finally relax and not fight the unfortunate embarkation situation.  By the time I finished my cocktail the elevators were somewhat cleared and I was at my cabin and began unpacking.  Looks like everyone made it aboard as the ship pushed off and began sailing just a bit late.  Luckily I’m able to watch Galveston slip away from my starboard side balcony cabin.  Relaxing on my balcony I knew that as bad as the boarding process was today that it could have been worse if not for some luck and my cruising experience.  Since I rolled on my bag I began to unpack get set up for the week. There is a lot of room and storage especially for just one guest. I purchase the surf & stream Zoom internet package ($55 with discount) a reasonable price compared to Rotterdam earlier this month. I finished cabin set up and was cleaned up for dinner cocktails by 7:00, but as I looked at my card to confirm dining I see that I have a 5:30 dinner…well that wouldn’t be possible or even doable today.  I went up to deck 14 for cocktails and also surprised at how empty was the Diamond Lounge.  Usually they are using half of the Olive & Twist main lounge for overflow, but not today.  Very different day.  The good news was that Alexander made top notch Cosmopolitans…thank you sir.  About 8:00 pm I went to the Marketplace buffet on deck 11 for dinner.  I had roast beef from the carving station, a freshly grilled pork chop from specialty area, a small chicken marsala, nice mashed potatoes, and vegetables.  Rice pudding for dessert.  A nice meal.  Afterward I returned to the cabin went straight to sleep after a busy and somewhat difficult day.

Day Two—Monday—at Sea
Solarium adult pool
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I went down to the MDR for breakfast about 8:20 am and had a very nice fresh egg breakfast with hot milk too.  I spoke with a Maitre’D and no tables available for late main sitting, but she changed me to MyTime dining and said I should be fine from 8-8:15 pm and there should be sharing tables available.  The pool deck was already busy when I did a walk about mid-morning.  I did some travel agent business the rest of the morning, looks like two bookings to complete.  I went up to the Windjammer for lunch, they had nice Texas style ribs at the carving stations, the highlight though was a pistachio creme puff…it was wonderful.  Great weather with a breeze that keeps it nice and cool. The pool deck is body to body and this is a cruise of firsts this afternoon.  I have never seen so many little kids in one hot tub, I’ve never seen so many adults in a large hot tub at one time, I’ve seen chair hogs, but never choice table hogs in the buffet, I’ve never seen that many guests in the adult solarium pool, and I've never seen so many beautiful Latin ladies lined up in one continuous row of sun loungers on deck 12...I thought it was a advertising shoot. But everyone is in good spirits, must be that latin persona and the rum punch.  Heather, my cabin steward came by late, I’m last cabin on her list, but that’s fine I can work with that, I’ll just get early ice as needed.  Afternoon was cabin and balcony time.  Really nice to have that private balcony when public decks are so full of people.

Day Three—Tuesday—Cozumel, Mexico
Guacamole at Woody's Bar & Grill
Rolling seas overnight with high winds until we entered the Straits of Cozumel and then it was much smoother. It also looks like another perfect beautiful day.  We were docked and gangway open about 7:00 am.  I was awake so I thought I would leave early.  I had a banana from my fruit bowl and left the ship about 7:45 am. I had no problem at security nor getting a taxi that early ahead of the of majority guests.  I was in San Miguel about 8:00.  I thought that local time would be an hour later, but they changed last week and are now back on CST so I’m a full hour ahead of schedule.  It was a beautiful morning in the plaza and I made my way to El abuelo Gerado for a nice Yucatán breakfast.  In northern Mexico and Texas we have Huevos Rancheros, but it the Yucatán the local breakfast dish is Huevos Motuleños.  The eggs are sunny-side up on a tortilla with local sauces and extras, and served with plantain and frijoles negros.  Very good food and they had wifi as I passed some time drinking a Coke.  My barber Martin saw I was early (Facebook) so he came by and opened up his shop located next door so I could my hair cut strait away. Thanks Martin.  After my haircut I went down to my Cozumel HQ at Woody’s Bar & Grill.  I got my favorite table 7 and had a very busy morning in the Mexico office. Quoted a cruise, made final pmt. on river cruise, and deposited a cruise. Also my new phone plan includes Mexico so an added bonus if needed.  I had my nice Mexican Coca-cola then eventually Woody’s fine Guacamole & Pico de Gallo with a Bohemia cerveza.  I made my visit at the pharmacy for antibiotics then went to Zensi Spa for a much needed Pedicure since I ran out of time last visit.  Zensi Spa was wonderful...nice and clean, friendly staff, and the price was right @ $20USD. I took a taxi ($8) back to the pier about 3:30. I appreciated the fact I brought my personal cabin fan when I got back to the cabin to cool off and rest.  The feature show Saturday Night Fever was tonight at 6:00 and 8:30 in the theater, a good show but I have seen it a few times and passed on attending.  After a few hours I was hungry since I didn’t have a full lunch  today so I went to the MDR for YourTime dinner about 6:00 pm.  I ordered: the Escargots à la Bourguignonne, Spaghetti Bolognese, and the Braised Short Ribs entree with Crème Brûlée for dessert.  A very good meal.  After dinner I went up to the Diamond Lounge for my Cosmopolitans before retiring to the cabin.  It was a productive day in Cozumel and on the Liberty of the Seas.

Day Four—Wednesday— Georgetown, Grand Cayman
A Grand Cayman Tender view from above
Calm seas overnight and I slept very well although up early.  The weather is again perfect. I went to the MDR this morning for a nice breakfast trying the Eggs Benedict with Bacon, Hash Browns, mixed Fruit, and my hot milk.  Very good breakfast and we arrived at Georgetown as I finished.  We are anchored along with the Carnival Paradise, NCL Edge, and a Pullmantur ship today, but I have decided to stay on the ship.  Today I’m starting to binge watch a popular TV series I missed (living in the country with limited access) called MadMen.  I enjoyed doing this last cruise and we still have two full sea days coming so I hope to see a lot of it before we end the cruise.  I did break for a late lunch and they served a Mongolian Grill plate and Hearts of Palm salad from Jade.  I also found some large Minute Steaks in the Windjammer so a very nice meal for a port day. The rest of the day was cabin time and streaming video.  The wifi is actually very good, much better (and cheaper) than the Rotterdam wifi on previous cruise.  I watched sail away from Georgetown, some day they will have a pier here, but the tendering seems to be improved.  I skipped cocktails this evening and only had light snacks since I had such a nice late lunch.  More Madmen this evening and I actually completed the full first season today…I very interesting show.  It was a very relaxing day on the Liberty of the Seas.

Day Five—Thursday—Falmouth, Jamaica
Historic Falmouth Cruise Port
Fair rolling seas overnight and I slept well.  Nice weather as the breeze kept it fairly nice all day.  We were docked at the Falmouth cruise terminal by the time I went to the MDR for breakfast at 8:30 am.  I had a nice fresh 3-egg breakfast with ham, sausage, bacon, hash brown potatoes, and fruit.  I have no excursion planned but about 10:00 am I went for a walk around the Historic Falmouth Cruise Port.  Created in 2011 and located in Jamaica's north coast town of Falmouth the port is positioned between the popular ports of Ocho Rios (60 miles west) and Montego Bay (18 miles east).  The port is well guarded and closed to locals, save for Jamaicans who work at the dozens of shops and handful of restaurants. With a faux-Georgian terminal building leading to a large square bordered by red-roofed, Caribbean-style buildings housing various businesses, the port may strike you either as attractive or as artificial and Disney-esque, depending on your point of view. Most guests visit Margaritaville, I had a malt from the DQ and listened to the live local band performing in the courtyard area but was back on the ship by noon.  We were the only ship so it was not busy today.  After a nice lunch from the Windjammer I had serious binge watching time in the cabin.  I’m watching MadMen and to me it’s more relaxing than a book that many guests seem to do on a cruise.  The view from the cabin was very nice too.  I went up to the Diamond Lounge for nice cocktails this evening, the usual guests and servers were there.  Still amazed at how few Diamond guests are on this sailing.  About 8:00 pm I went to the MDR for dinner, not a sharing table, but the two tops are basically the same as they are so close.  I ordered a very nice Crab Cake, the Spaghetti Bolognese (my pasta as starter), the Sliced Roast Beef entree, and the Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert.  I retired after dinner.  It was a very nice day in Falmouth and on the Liberty of the Seas.

Day Six — Friday — Day at Sea
Smooth seas over night and I slept very well.  I did my blog/review updates this morning before going up to the Windjammer for breakfast.  The pool decks were already filling up with guests when I walked by them after breakfast…as the weather is great. I had balcony time this morning before I started my binge viewing of Madmen videos.  I was able to get through the entire season three just taking a break for lunch and dinner in the Windjammer.  I even skipped cocktails this evening.  They have plenty of activities on the ship today such as  Arts & Crafts, Sudoko Challenge, Music Trivia, and Liars Club, but I’m preferring my primary activity today.  When you have a LOT of cruises your really do not feel any pressure to do anything or worry that you are missing something.  You have the freedom to do whatever you wish.  I really enjoy catching up on these great TV series that I missed when we really didn't have Wifi in the country.   I was another very relaxing day on the Liberty of the Sea.

Day Seven--Saturday--Day at Sea
Main Dining Room at breakfast
Smooth seas overnight and negligible movement in the cabin and I slept very well.  Another beautiful day today as we sail north in the Gulf of Mexico.  I went to the MDR for a very nice breakfast, the eggs, ham, bacon, toast, potatoes were all good.  After breakfast I had a walk around and enjoyed the sea breeze.  Balcony time and videos when I returned to the cabin.  About 3:00 pm I went to deck 12 and Johnny Rocket’s for lunch/dinner. They brought an Onion Ring & French Fry combo straight away and I ordered a Route 66 and an original hamburger.  I liked the Route 66 much better (mayo, fried onions & mushrooms) and my Vanilla Shake as well.   After lunch it was cabin time and I finished season five of Madmen.  I really enjoyed it very much. I packed for tomorrows debarkation and skipped dinner, but it was off to say farewell to friends made in the Diamond lounge and final Cosmopolitans for the cruise.  Activities on the ship today included:  the production show-In The Air, Battle of the Sexes, Dreamwork’s Parade, 3D Movie, and more. It was a relaxing and great final day on the Liberty of the Seas.

Debarkation—Sunday—Galveston

Smooth seas overnight and we were docked well ahead of the Captain’s time stated yesterday.  I suspected they were beginning Self-debarkation early so I went down about 7:30 am and basically never stopped longer than a few minutes at any station along the way.  They make good use of the deck 4 open deck with the ship check-out outside just before the gangway.  Customs went easy as well.  It was a mess when I debarked in October.  I took the EZ Cruise shuttle to the car, but I had a panic when I could not find my car keys.  I always put them in my backpack, but overlooked them a dozen times before I actually found them exactly where they were supposed to be.  Even with this 20 minute delay I was still on the road and on my way about 8:30 am. (Galveston Raceway gas price $2.55) and off the island about before 9:00 am. I took I-45 to the Beltway, to 290, to Highway 6 to Bosque County.  I did stop at Ama’s Restaurant in Hearne for great brunch Migas.  Home at the ranch about 1:45 pm..







Sunday, April 7, 2019

Holland American Lines - MS Rotterdam - April 7, 2019

Holland America Lines
MS Rotterdam  April 7, 2019

Just The Facts
Ship:  MS Rotterdam
Sailing:  April 7, 2019 from Tampa Bay, Florida
Captain: Bas van Dreumel, from Perth, Australia
Cruise Director: Rhys Williams from Cape Town South Africa
Ports: Tampa, FL - Key West, FL - Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala  -  Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras - Costa Maya, Mexico - Tampa, FL

This is my 1st time on the MS Rotterdam, my 3rd Holland American Lines cruise, and my 142nd cruise overall.  I am sailing as a solo.

Day One—Sunday—April 7 — Embarkation
Sailing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge
I am in Florida visiting the DD (dear daughter) in Spring Hill, FL, so taking the opportunity to sail this cruise while the DW visits the DD and the new GD (grand-daughter) for bonding time.  All three dropped me off at 1:00 pm as I wanted to arrive after the rush of guests who try to board early.  The timing could not have been better.  There was just a short 2-3 minute wait at security then no wait at all at the check in counter.  It was like being a VIP on other cruise lines.  I proceeded direct to boarding and was in my cabin by 1:18 pm…unbelievable.  I was hungry so went up to deck 8 and the Lido buffet...I had the Pork Loin from the carving station with mashed potatoes, some wonderful creamed spinach, and mixed vegetables.  It was all very good.  HAL is know for their Bread Pudding so that’s what I had for dessert.  Servers bring the drinks to your table, a service I really appreciate.  Silver is at the table very similar to NCL but a bit more formal.  I found the Taco Bar near the pool area and a custom grill, The Dive, as well.  You can order customized Hamburgers and custom Nathan's Hot Dogs.  You order with attendant and he gives you beeper…when he beeps you you go back and pick up you item.  I could not  eat a burger at this time, but I did order a coney just to test the system.  It works very well and my coney was on a poppy seed bun with mustard, sauerkraut and bacon.  Excellent.  When I returned to my cabin about 2:30 my bag that I had just checked at the curb was inside the cabin. Wow.  My first impressions of the MS Rotterdam are very good.  Boat drill was at 3:00 pm and fortunately it’s on my deck.  I had my card ‘dinged’ and we had about a 15-20 minute safety instruction.  So easy to walk back to cabin as it was at embarkation, just one deck above the gangway.  I have an Oceanview cabin on lower promenade with a nice outdoor wooden deck that goes completely around the ship.  A nice and roomy cabin especially for a solo.  I purchased the premium (streaming) internet package ($139) as I want to watch both NCAA championship games this week.  I’m also in middle of binge watching the seven seasons of The Closer so I can get a couple of those in as well.  I watched us sail away from Terminal Six about 4:15 pm, it’s great having a deck just outside my window, I’m next to the doorways so it’s really like a huge balcony for me.  I finished cabin set up then about 6:30 I went up to Sky deck to watch us sail under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  Very cool, I was told 21 foot clearance, it was interesting, but Golden Gate Bridge is my favorite so far.  I have 8:00 pm dinner in the MDR (main dining room) and assigned a six top table, four ladies and one empty tonight.  I ordered the Salade Niçoise (an entree as a starter) and the Beef Short Rib Stroganoff entree.  For dessert a small slice of Key Lime Pie and Crème Brûlée.  All good.  After dinner I retired to the cabin. It was a very easy and nice embarkation day on the MS Rotterdam.  Baylor women won their National Championship game tonight too.

Day Two—Monday—April 8—Key West Florida
Custom eggs this morning
Smooth seas overnight although it wasn’t a completely restful night, but I watched an episode of The Closer until I could fall asleep again.  I was up and around about 8:30, but too late to go to the MDR that closes at 9:00 am so I went to the Lido Buffet and had a very nice eggs to order breakfast.  They load your plate for you so just say more bacon please until you get what you want.  My 3 fried eggs sunny side up were perfect and the hash browns and bacon were also very good.  I could see us approaching Key West as I ate so we were ahead of our 11:00 am scheduled arrival time.  The weather is beautiful today with blue skies and scattered clouds.  We are docked at the Naval Station and have shuttles into town, not the best choice, but it’s what we have. I went off about noon and the shuttle dropped us at Mallory Square.  The Carnival Freedom is docked here today and there are a LOT of people in Key West today both cruisers and tourists.  I walked by the familiar sites and ended up at the First Flight Bar and Restaurant or what used to be Kelly’s Caribbean Bar located in the old Pan American Airways building. It was very busy with live music and I sat at the familiar airplane wing bar and had two craft beers.  On my KW walk about I found a place selling everything for $5 so I got some sunglasses and a hat.  With the humid heat, so many people in town, and since I have seen all the KW sites and most of the bars, I took a shuttle back to the ship about 3:00 pm.  I went straight up to Lido and the Grill where I ordered two Nathan hot dogs and fixed two tacos from the Taco Bar while I waited…a large late lunch as it turned out.  I really enjoyed my cooling shower and nap once I returned to the cabin.  I went to the MDR this evening as I noticed that they had Prime Rib on the menu and it was very good too.  They have a Comedian as the entertainment tonight in the theater, but I returned to the cabin in order to watch the NCAA National Championship basketball game.  It was a fun day in Key West and on the MS Rotterdam.
 
Day Three—Tuesday—April 9—at Sea
Very smooth seas overnight and I slept very well…until 10:30 am in fact.  Fortunately we turn back our clocks one hour so I was able to go to the Lido in time for breakfast.  I had a western omelette from the omelette station plus extras.  It looks like another perfect beautiful day for us.  I really like the HAL app Navigator.  You can use it both on your iPhone and online on your laptop.  The app has the schedule of the day, ship maps, cruise information and even the daily menus for the MDR.  A very helpful application and no you do not have to purchase an internet package to use it.  I’m having a nice cabin day streaming TV, but I went up to the Lido Marketplace for lunch, a nice Turkey on the carving station.  I had a nice walkabout around the ship and guests are really enjoying the pool and outer decks today.  More relaxation on deck three most of the afternoon.  Tonight is the Captain's Gala Dinner, and the food was very good in the MDR.  I ordered the Orange Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Escargots Bourgignon, the entree of Cracked Pepper Tenderloin with sauteed greens, carmelized pineapple, & green beans, and Black Forest Cake for dessert.  A very enjoyable dinner.  Our table service has been excellent as well No more than one hour for complete dinner service.  Music throughout the ship tonight, as most nights with three primary groups who rotate among the lounges.  It was a very relaxing day on the MS Rotterdam.

Day Four—Wednesday—April 19—Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala
San Felipe Fortress Guatemala
Calm seas overnight and I slept very well.  I set an alarm since I had an early excursion, but since we set the time back again I was up in time.  I really have never been on a cruise that change the time twice in the Caribbean…very unusual.  I went up to the Lido Marketplace for a custom breakfast as we were docking this morning in the industrial port of Santo Tomas de Castilla.  I had an 8:15 meet time for my excursion:  San Felipe Fortress & Scenic Drive so debarked soon after 8:00 am.  We were on the bus and on our way by 8:30 for the 1.5+ hour drive to our destination.  The industrial area around the ports are really nothing to admire but once in the countryside it was interesting.  We saw Rubber trees, Mangos, Banana trees, Pineapples, and more.  We went through some mountains until we reached the Rio Dulce river valley and soon afterward the San Felipe Fortress.  The Fortress built in 1644 is a Spanish colonial fort at the entrance to Lake Izabal. Lake Izabal is connected with the Caribbean Sea via the Dulce River and El Golfete lake…a very strategic location.  It is now located in a park area and today seemed busy with local school groups.  It’s a smaller fortress but many unique towers or bastions and fully restored.  I enjoyed it.  I had time for two Gallo beers before the bus began its return.  Once back at the port I went through the nice large facility built for area Guatemalan crafts, stage, tours, wifi, and more.  I was able to get a Guatemalan belt I’ve been wanting for 15 years, but could never find one in 'barn' size before today.  I had to go to the source and now pleased to have one.  Once back on the Rotterdam I went to Lido for a burger and coney… both very good.  Then it was to the cabin for rest, relaxation and a nap.  I was going to skip dinner in the MDR as I usually do on a long excursion day, but with the nap and reviewing the menu I decided to go.  Tonight I ordered the Calypso Shrimp Cocktail, Spaghetti All'amatriciana (my pasta as starter), and Chef Rudy’s Classical Wiener Schnitzel “Wienna Style” entree.  All was very good, best Wiener Schnitzel since I was in Wien last year.  I had a nice look around the beautiful and very large Library area on deck five.  Lot’s of Games, three jigsaw puzzle tables, reading areas, lots of books, and more.  It was a great day in Guatemala and on the MS Rotterdam.


Day Five—Thursday—April 11—Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras
MS Rotterdam from lagoon bridge
Fair seas overnight and I slept very well.  About 8:00 am as we were docking at Mahogany Bay  I went up one deck for my first breakfast in the MDR. I usually prefer an MDR breakfast when sailing and it didn’t disappoint.  I ordered a unique Fruit plate (mango, banana, apple, cottage cheese) and classic Eggs Benedict with side of bacon and hash browns.  It was very good.  I soon noticed that we were the ONLY ship docked so changed my plans to go over to the beach a.s.a.p.  Usually there are two large Carnival ships and the beach gets very crowded, but with just our small ship it was like a private beach break.  I was able to get a lounger in the shade of palm trees…hard to do.  The water was great and I later splurged the $ I saved by not having to rent an umbrella on a nice large Pina Colada.  A nice beach outing although I did get too much sun on my face while in the water.  I returned to the ship about 2:00 and had a burger and coney from the Dive Inn Grill.  I spent the rest of the day with cabin time relaxing and watching some online video.  We sailed away a bit early as everyone was on board and I noticed that the large old shipwreck that was in the middle of the bay has been moved west and towards the shore…that will make it safer for the ships on a windy day.  I went to dinner at 8:00 pm as usual.  Tonight I ordered the Rustic Home-Made Lasagna (my pasta as starter) and Chef Rudy’s Classic Yankee Beef Pot Roast entree.  Very good with excellent service as usual.  For dessert I had the Mango Creme Horn and a Blueberry Sundae.  They have an evening Happy-hour as well as the afternoon one in the Crow’s Nest, second drink is $2.  My face was rather red from the sun so I retired after dinner.  It was a Fun day at the beach today.

Day Six—Friday—April 12—Costa Maya, Mexico

My deck 3 with Mahahual lighthouse in background
Smooth seas over night and I slept very well.  The waves are really pounding us as we are docked on the outer pier.  We were probably lucky to get docked this morning and I'm worried about getting away.  We are the only ship here today.  I went up to the Lido about 9:30 for a nice custom breakfast.  I’ve never had a wait, they have several stations set up and the chefs are filling several orders at a time, similar to short order cooks at a diner.  You do get hot fresh eggs this way.  After breakfast I walked around deck three and watched the waves smash into the pier, I hope we will be able to push away later today.  I’m not getting off and I'm going to have a ship day today, I was just here a few weeks ago.  I had not had lunch in the Lido Marketplace until today, I was amazed at the food choices for a port day.  They had a sushi bar set up it the international food area and two meats in the carving stations, I went with the Fat Back or Pork Belly selection with Mashed potatoes.  Then I took some Bread Pudding for dessert back to the cabin.  I discovered that my new Verizon unlimited plan includes Mexico and although we are as far south as one can go in Mexico and in a remote area I was able to call the DW and check on things.  Nice to have.  I watched streaming videos most of the afternoon then went outside on the deck to watch us attempt a sail away.  As I suspected this morning we couldn’t get off the pier, the winds were too high.  Soon the Captain made an announcement that the wind gusts were up to 30 knots and they would attempt to leave again at sundown.  About 7:00 pm we again tried to get away from the pier and on the second attempt we made it off…it was touch and go but we began our return to Tampa.  It was the second Gala Dinner tonight.  I ordered: Roasted Beets and Orange Segments, Ricotta and Spinach Tortelloni (my pasta), and the Surf and Turf entree.  The Lobster was OK, but the Tenderloin was tasty.  For dessert I had the Passion Fruit Cheesecake.  We turned our clocks forward for the second night so we will be on Tampa time tomorrow morning.  A great day in Costa Maya and on the MS Rotterdam.

Day Seven—Saturday—April 13—at Sea
Mariner's Club Luncheon & Captain
Rolling high seas initially overnight but much smoother by morning and I slept well. I went up to Lido about 10:00 am for a lighter breakfast then took a walk about to enjoy the perfect weather this morning. Stopped by the Crow’s Nest to watch us still fighting a bit of headwind.  I was invited to the Mariner’s Luncheon today at 1:00 pm.  The Captain and Officers attended and they had a nice menu, I ordered:  Spiced Chicken & Okra Gumbo, Braised Beef Brisket with Plantains, Mashed Yucca, Root Vegetables and Coconut Pie for dessert.  We had a Champagne toast and brief remarks by the Captain.  The rest of the afternoon was cabin time and videos.  I did finish my binge watching of LAPD crime based The Closer, seven seasons, 109 episodes over two weeks.  I really enjoyed it.  I laughed, I cried, I was on edge…binge-watching is the 21st century version of a good book and perfect for this cruise.  I went to the final dinner in the MDR and it was agin very good.  I ordered: Spinach Salad, Fusilli Primavera, and the Sauteed Pork Chop entree.  After dinner I went to the cabin to pack my luggage. It was easily done then I placed them outside the cabin for the midnight pick up.  A nice final day on the MS Rotterdam.

Debarkation—Sunday—April 14—Tampa Florida
Smooth seas overnight and we were docked on time despite leaving Costa Maya late.  I went up to the MDR for a very nice breakfast at 7:00 am then returned to the cabin to pack backpack.  DW & Friends are picking me up at 10:00 so I just chilled until my color was called.  Debark is very smooth on this ship, not that many use self-debark, most wait for luggage color process.  Very easy debark and pick up in Tampa and especially this smaller ship.

Ship
MS Rotterdam is the lead cruise ship of the Rotterdam class (R class) in the Holland America Line. Built in Italy in 1997, she is the sixth Holland America vessel to bear the name. She is named for SS Rotterdam of 1959, and also named after the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands. Rotterdam carries an art collection onboard worth over US$2 million and features fine art and antiques.
Tonnage    61,849        Speed      25 knots  (29mph)
Length       780            Beam       106
Capacity    1404          Crew        600

Cabin
I have cabin 3397 an ocean-view cabin mid-aft on deck three on port side.   Also close to elevators, stairway, and outer doors to promenade deck. The room is a standard+ size interior with: key pad safe, hair dryer, makeup mirror, small couch, full chair at vanity/desk, small bath with shower, TV, and good lighting. Very well designed.  The air conditioning & water pressure was only average, I wish I brought my personal cabin fan for circulation.  Very pleased with location although some door slamming of outer doors on final windy day.

Food
I found the food to be very good, well above average for most cruise lines. Service always above average to exceptional.  Plenty of room for tables in both MDR and Lido…you are not hitting or bumping into adjoining chairs or tables. 

Comments
I really enjoyed this slower paced relaxing cruise.  Yes guests are older.  I didn’t attend any shows although there were not many offered.  I also never purchased a cocktail on the ship…I think that may be a first.  Overall the crew & staff were very good.  My cabin steward Nopi from Indonesia was very adequate as I always had ice and clean cabin. My MDR waiters were also great.  It was a great cruise.





Saturday, February 16, 2019

NCL Breakaway B2B Cruise Review

 NCL Breakaway B2B Cruise Review
February 17 & February 24, 2019
 
Just The Facts
Ship:  NCL Breakaway
Ship Captain: Matko Candrlic from Croatia
Cruise Director: J.C. Sanchez from Philippines
Ports: New Orleans (3), Isla Cozumel, Mexico (2), Harvest Caye, Belize (2), Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico (2), Belize City, Belize.

This is my first cruise on the NCL Breakaway, 6th & 7th time sailing Norwegian Cruise Line, 4th time sailing from NOLA, and 140th & 141st cruises overall. The ‘dear wife’ (DW) and I are sailing with the Snoozemates on their 10th annual February group cruise.

Saturday / Travel / February 16th / Day 0
A good cruise friend stayed at the Ranch Friday night and the three of us were off about 9:15 am headed south using some pretty Texas blue highways. We had a very nice lunch at the Ranch Hand Cafe near Cleveland, Texas…my second time at the unique country cafe. CFS is specialty, but I had the Hawaiian Chicken.  The sandwiches looked really good.  We continued and joined the Interstate highway system in Beaumont and had an uneventful trip although I didn’t enjoy the interstate as much as the rural Texas blue highways.  Soon we crossed the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge and arrived in Gonzales, Louisiana about 6:10 pm. to stay overnight at the LaQuinta.  They have opened a new burger place next door named Mooyah with a good selection of hand crafted hamburgers.  The fries are great and identical to Guy’s...all was good including the shake.  A good travel day.

 Sunday / Embarkation / February 17th / Day 1
Mississippi River Bridge at NOLA
I was up early and used the fast hotel internet before going  down to lobby for my complementary breakfast waffle.  While the girls were getting ready I serviced the car and we were all ready by our designated departure time of 9:00 am.  We were in NOLA about 10:00 am and after some confusion about official parking for the cruise terminal we were parked and in the terminal about 11:30 am.  The Julia Street terminal used by NCL is not nearly as guest friendly or as easy as the Erato Street (Carnival cruise line) terminal. I seriously question if I would ever sail from NOLA using this terminal again as the parking is a big mess.  It was actually a short walk to the terminal once we were able to get into the official parking area.  The check-in actually went well and we were processed and soon boarding the NCL Breakaway.  We were on before noon and went immediately to O’Sheehan’s and got a table since cabins are not yet available.  Very soon we were joined by various members of our Snoozemates’ group and we basically had a great welcome aboard party for several hours.  We did order food and the cocktails very much relieved the anxiety of the parking situation. We even extended the party once we realized that our muster station was on the same deck aft…some of us had a nice 4 hour party overall.  Muster (safety) drill went well then we proceeded to our cabin on deck 14 aft.  The great relief was seeing our bags out front of our cabin door when we arrived as we questioned if we dropped them at correct location during the parking fiasco.  We have a nice cabin on deck 14 with an angled (slightly larger) balcony near the aft elevators. I think a good location.  We began unpacking and familiarized ourselves with our cabin home for the next 14 days. About 5:30 we went up one deck to the Lido Buffet and I had a very nice specially cut Prime Rib from the carving station.  It was excellent.  Our group met on deck six in the atrium area at 6:30 and from there everyone split into groups for dining.  NCL has a unique ‘Freestyle’ dining system with a variety of specialty restaurants and three regular dining rooms with no set-time dining.  More on those as we explore the next two weeks.  Everyone in the group selected two benefit packages, most going with the UBP Unlimited Beverage Package and the 4-night premium dining.  We chose the UBP and paid Gratuities since the DW is a vegetarian; however, I personally will do some premium restaurants. The entertainment tonight is the Welcome Show, but it didn’t fit into our freestyle schedule so did not attend…it did seem to be a bigger show than other lines.  We retired to the cabin soon after everyone was off to dinner.  As we perused the TV channels I noticed that the Fox News Channel is an option, something not seen on Carnival…a nice variety.  It was a interesting day of travel and discovery on board the NCL Breakaway.  The highlight was seeing our good cruising friends in the group.

Monday / Sea Day / February 18th / Day 2
Atrium area of NCL Breakaway
Since we retired early I woke at 4:00 am so I purchased the social internet package ($90) and worked on this review for a few hours before sleeping again.  I awoke with a 8:44am phone call and thought I had time to make an MDR for breakfast but soon realized that we set our time forward last night and 9:00 am became 10:00 am so I went upstairs to the Garden Cafe buffet for breakfast.  They have several omelet stations, fruit stations, hot & cold cereals, bread & toast stations, and the usual egg choices with bacon, ham, english bacon, and more.  I had a pre-made vegetable omelet (excellent), scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, and watermelon.  It was very good breakfast.  I began settling into the cabin opening my packing cubes and hanging some shirts and pants.  Certainly a better morning than yesterdays parking/embarkation circus.  We did a walkabout and went to see a friends cabin in the solo Studio area, a very nice option for solo guests not wishing to pay a supplement.  I went to deck six lobby area and had a Bloody Mary and filled my yeti with ginger ale (NCL has Pepsi products).  I saw a travel agent friend and her husband at the bar…small world, she did ask if our group had our matching shirts.  Correct group but we have outgrown (literally) our shirts, I know I’d have to have a size larger. Went back to cabin to push our make-up cabin light for the cabin steward, but it was already done by 12:30.pm.  We went up to the Garden Cafe, so convenient just above our cabin, for a light lunch about 1:30 pm.  I had an excellent Pecan crusted chicken, a Pork cordon blu, and a Cherry cobbler with ice creme from the ice creme station.  We explored the ship especially on decks 7 and 8 where we had not been previously.  We ran into a group of friends on deck 8 that grew to a bigger group of friends that lead to cocktails.  Fun people.  Returned to the cabin about 5:00 to prepare for evening cocktails and dinner. DW got a light meal from the Garden Cafe and is having a cabin night tonight.  I met many of the group about 6:10 pm in the atrium and arranged to eat dinner with friends in Savor Dining Room.  Met the assistant Matre’D from Romania and she critiqued the photos of my Romanian dishes in my iPhone.  She thought I did an excellent job of getting the right traditional foods.  I had the Cobb Salad, New York Strip Steak, and a very nice Roast Beef entree. All very nice. For desert I ordered an Apple Strudel and a Boston Creme Pie.  Lots of activities on the ship, but I retire early as we have an early excursion tomorrow.  It was a fun spontaneous day on the Norwegian Breakaway.

Tuesday  /  Cozumel Mexico  /  February 19th / Day 3
Fun with boats - Cozumel
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  We were docked by 7:30 am next to the Disney Magic at Puerto Langusto in Cozumel close to the town of San Miguel.  About 8:00 am I went up one deck to The Garden Cafe and as the early guests were off and no line I had a very nice omelet from the omelet station. Very nice. DW is staying on board this morning so I met our Snoozemates’ CozBoatPeople group about 9:00 am.  Eleven of us rented a private boat to take us to El Celio for four hours so we taxied to Marina Fonatur to board the SeaRose. Nice crew. It was windy and El Celio was muddy so we sailed south and had a semi beach day for those brave enough to go into the water.  It really turned out to be a ‘booze cruise’ as the crew made up for the wind with lots of beer, tequila, guacamole, sandwiches, fresh fruit, snacks, and more.  We even had a Bohemia beer restock. We tried to do some fishing on the way back, but decided to cut it short if they would drop us off at one of the San Miguel piers.  That was close enough to walk back to the ship and others to walk to Woody’s in town.  Soon we were joined by DW and others for a little party with our friend Nelly. I had one of her huge Margaritas.  About 4:00 pm we strolled the shops to Puerto Langusto to board the NCL Breakaway.   A stop at Garden Spot to take food to the cabin and balcony to watch the Magic sail away then a view of San Miguel.  Since I had enjoyed the hospitality of the boat and Woody’s (i.e.—drinking all day) and we already had food we decided to make it a cabin night.  I watched some TV but know I fell asleep early.  I did wake in the night and updated to Facebook photos of our day (I only did the Social Media internet package) and watched some reruns of days news and commentary before sleeping again.  It was a FUN day with friends in Cozumel.

Wednesday / Sea Day / February 20th / Day 4

Manhattan Dining Room - main dining room
Fine seas overnight and I had a long restful sleep. I was famished having skipped dinner and went for breakfast in the Savor MDR.  I loved the tablecloths (changed after each guest), excellent service, and great food.  I ordered tomato juice, hot milk, melon plate, the days special of Eggs Benedict on a biscuit, sides of bacon, tomato, and country potatoes. It was very good and I prefer the eggs on the biscuit better than the English muffin.  I may do some at the ranch.  I really feel energized (for an old guy) after the long sleep and breakfast.  I had balcony time the rest of the morning updated the blog and reviewing the rest of the cruise.  I tried to make show reservations and many already filled so looking at options to book early next week.  I had a nice Asian grill lunch in the Garden Cafe and filled my Yeti with ginger ale for an after lunch walkabout.  The deck 8 outdoor promenade style walk is great place for outdoor air, bars, and some seating without the mass of humanity on the Lido deck. I did have a beer with friends as they came by. I was able to get in a short nap before prepping for dinner.  We met the group on deck six after 6:00 pm for apéritifs and nice music then to the Manhattan MDR on deck 7 aft where we had a table for nine. This is the primary MDR (main dining room) and is very nice with entertainment or music while dining. There was mixed reviews from the group on the dinner, but I really enjoyed mine.  I ordered the Pasta Fagioli Soup, a Tomato salad, and two entrees:  Tenderloin Beef Skewers with Asian Vegetables & an excellent Hawaiian Style Pork Belly.  For dessert a Carrot Cake (too dry) but a nice warm Bread Pudding.  It was 10:30 pm when we finished so we retired to the cabin.  It was a nice relaxing day on the NCL Breakaway.

Thursday / Harvest Caye, Belize  / February 21st / Day 5
Ship view from Havest Caye
Seas calmed and I had a very nice sleep. I woke early and worked on review and some FB time as we were docking at Harvest Caye.  About 8:15 am I went down to the nocchi MDR for breakfast.  I ordered three sunny-side Eggs, Bacon, Ham, hash brown Potatoes, hot Milk, Tomato Juice, Toast, and an assorted Melon plate.  The food was very good but the service was better in Savor.  Odd since they are basically the same restaurant, but it may have been just the server.  Relaxed this morning then I went down to deck four to exit the ship and look around the island.  They have a nice covered walkway onto the island and a small golf cart type shuttle for seniors.  The island is a Norwegian Cruise Line owned destination site with the convenience of a dock.  There is a very large pool and very large beach that are the primary destination of guests.  Also shoppes, a wildlife area, Zip line from the Lighthouse, a lagoon, and more.  It is easier than stopping at Belize City especially if your just looking for sun and a beach.  It was warm and humid and since I didn’t wear a bathing suit I returned fairly early to the ship.  I met the DW as she was going ashore with friends and warned her about the heat.  I went up to the Garden Cafe for lunch and as on other cruise line many of the crew is allowed to eat at the buffet.  Rather busy since only one side of buffet was open.  I had a Caribbean meat-loaf and vegetables.  I had cabin and balcony time in the afternoon.  Only time for one cocktail before the 6:30 pm curtain time for the show ‘Rock of Ages’.  BTW-If attending the shows be sure to make reservations early.  We had great seats on row three for the Broadway style show and it was a very entertaining show.  I never saw the theatrical play before tonight but I did see the movie so was somewhat familiar with story line of the one hour forty-five minute production.  Very professionally done and a must see show.  We had dinner in Savor about 8:30 pm.  It was a nice meal with just the two of us.  DW ordered the Bruschetta and Potato Gnocchi entree.  I ordered the Mozzarella and Plum Tomatoes, Lime and Dill Shrimp, and the Pan-seared New Zealand Haki Fillet as an entree.  For dessert we had: Black Forest Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake, and a Banana Split.  After a long evening we retired to the cabin.  It was a fun day on the Breakaway.

Friday  /  Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico  /  February 22nd-Birthday / Day 6

Waterfall cool off
Very smooth Caribbean seas overnight and I slept very well.  I was awake before we docked at 7:00 am in Costa Maya.  Weather is nice and the water looks best of the cruise so far.  I had a relaxing morning reading the numerous birthday posts on Facebook.  I am a very lucky guy.  I went up to the Garden Cafe for breakfast about 9:00 am and no line at omelet station as many are already off the ship at this short port call.  After my casual breakfast I went up to deck 16 aft about 11:00 am where we had our annual Bloody Mary morning with most the group in the Spice H2O area.  They have a bar and very nice cool off waterfall, the only negative is that it is a smoking area.  Most actually stayed until our early sail away about 1:30 pm.  A Fun spontaneous party.  A stop at the Garden Cafe for light lunch of pork cutlets and potatoes then retired to the cabin for a much needed afternoon nap.  We did something a bit different tonight, we met at Shakers the cocktail lounge for our aperitifs, and Cosmopolitans for me.  A group of us had a late dinner at  Cagney’s, the steakhouse, on the NCL Breakaway.  I ordered: the Slow-Roasted Pork Belly, the Iceberg Wedge, and the Porterhouse Steak.  It was very nice.  To be honest the pork belly in the MDR was better and not that big an upgrade from the MDR.  IMHO.    I retired to the cabin about 11:00pm.  I was a nice relaxing birthday on the NCL Breakaway.


Saturday  /  Sea Day  /  February 23rd / Day 7
Teppanyaki Chef
Smooth seas and I slept very well.  For a change we went up to Margaritaville for breakfast. Basically the same as the Garden Cafe with fewer selections but not as busy.  We then began a walk of the ship just to stretch the legs a bit.  It’s a large ship and also busy with 4300 guests on this week.  We then had cabin time and watched two good movies.  It was time for a late lunch 1:40 pm in the Garden Cafe and we had a very nice table and watched the Carnival Dream as she sailed along side of us on the starboard side. I enjoy that.  I enjoyed a couple of beers in the Atrium with the boys, I went with Peroni beer for my Italian friends.  We had cocktails and apéritifs in Shakers again tonight with more of the group.  Tonight was the best meal of the cruise…most all the group ate at the Teppanyaki restaurant.  They have tables of eight guests for each chef and it is quite the experience.  I ordered an Asian cocktail with the Lychee fruit to start.  We were served the traditional beans spouts to start as well as well as two dipping sauces. First courses were a Soup and Salad.  As an entree I ordered a Beef fillet and Sea Scallop combination. They also served everyone an extra  shrimp course as well.  Very filling.  Of course the show while cooking the fried rice is something to see…it starts with the tools, in which the knife, fork, and spatula are tossed, flipped, drummed, and clanged together. Next, the chef skillfully chops and dices the food, and then quickly sets the grill aflame, creating a feast that’s both culinary and visually entertaining for the guest.  I retired after dinner and unlike most other guests I don’t have to pack tonight.  It was another relaxing sea day on the NCL Breakaway.

Sunday  /  New Orleans, USA  /  February 24th / Day 8
Circus friend on deck 6
I woke very early, about 4:00 am, and noticed that we were in the river with internet available on my iPhone so started my mail for the week I missed.  Also posting to the blog.  I will get a different internet package this week.  We began approaching NOLA about 5:15 am interesting to see the big city lights as we sail by on the river.  I had a very nice leisurely breakfast in Savor:  very nice mixed fruits, 3 eggs sunny, bacon, ham, hash browns, toast, tomato juice, and hot milk.  DW went up to the buffet and returned with her balcony breakfast.  We heard debark announcements and it seemed to going very well in fact they were making last calls about 9:15 am. I had just told DW that they may ask for the B2B people early and then they announced and called on phone.  The B2B people met on deck 8 and most where our group.  We were taken down to U.S. Customs, then back through port Security, then boarded the ship again.  About a 45 minute process.  We were back in cabin by 10:30 am.  Everything going so smooth that cabins were open to guests an hour earlier than previous week. I made reservations for the shows we didn’t see last week and we had some cabin time with movies until time for Muster Drill.  I want to mention that we sat in the Taste MDR during drill and the table settings were covered by table coverings, on Carnival for example, they do not do that and I always felt that those guests eating dinner (especially on first setting) will be exposed to the germs of guests from safety drill.  Good work NCL. Most of the group ate in O’Sheehan’s as last Sunday, but I’m having a work day and got a quick lunch at the buffet.  About 6:00 pm DW and I went up to Shakers for a cocktail then back down to deck six atrium to meet friends.  The atrium is really the only area with enough seating for our group. We went to eat at the Garden Cafe just as we did last Sunday as it is Prime Rib night up there. This week I discovered that they do have a hot grill associated with the carving station it was just out of site.  My thick cut perfectly seared Prime Rib was excellent, second best meal of the cruise (so far).  We retired to the cabin after dinner since I have been at it since 4:00 am. today.  We did turn our clocks forward to EST so time evened out.  I basically used all my data on my phone, but it was successful, uploaded Blog for last week and even booked a cruise for a client. Also downloaded the NCL app so that will make monitoring my ship board account easier. I also purchased 250 minutes of internet for this week ($125.00), enough to check mail and update blog. It was a smooth and interesting transition day on the NCL Breakaway.

Monday  /  Day at Sea  /  February 25th / Day 9
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well.  We sat in river for a time that actually woke me as I had been so used to being rocked to sleep at night. Clear blue skies and water, but a bit breezy.  I went up to the buffet for a light light breakfast as I have plans for lunch today. Today I was insulted to my face by staff.  I went to the Cruise Next desk to purchase a single future certificate,  the desk is well known for their up sell philosophy so I said upfront that I am an experienced cruiser with 141 cruises and a travel agent and that I am fully aware of the program.  After stating all that she said if I only got one that it was stupid, i.e. I am stupid.  Stupid was her word. I know that the next level up, two futures offers a better return of OBC (on board credit) than what I wanted the single. But I only want one now as I can get more on the next cruise when I will not be in a group and will need more OBC.  Still deciding what to do about this but to insult a guest is surely not in their training.  Went to Moderno Churrascaria for the Seaday BBQ, this was excellent.  Beautiful room with excellent salad and dessert buffet and various BBQ dishes served in chafing dishes.  I had some nice salads and a selection of Ribs, Steak, Chicken, and Sausage.  They have service and not too busy as it had not been discovered as yet by guests, but only two sea days this week to enjoy it.  We had a relaxing afternoon enjoying balcony (with cloudy skies) and cabin time.  We met the group for cocktails in the atrium then went to the theater for excellent production show Burn the Floor.  A very high energy show featuring the dancers and two feature singers.  Great exhibition of dancing.  After the show we went to Savor for dinner.  It was a nice and relaxing dinner, I ordered:  the Scotch Beef Barley Soup, Cobb Salad, Parmesan Crusted Pork Chop grilled entree, and Cherries Jubilee for dessert.  It was a good dinner with good service.  We retired after dinner.  It was another great sea day on the NCL Breakaway.

Tuesday  /  Cozumel, Mexico  /  February 26th / Day 10
Fun at Woody's  -  Cozumel
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  Sunny and calm seas this morning, but wind increased in Cozumel in afternoon…perhaps we should have done our boat hire this week. I had a great breakfast in Savor MDR as most guests were preparing to leave the ship.  Three eggs with the works and biscuits.  Since we are docked at Punta Langosta I left the ship and walked to downtown San Miguel.  I was at Antonio’s Barber Shoppe by 10:00 am. and Martin cut my hair as he has done for about 12 years now.  Then to Woody’s table 7 to use the internet.  The 250 hours on the ship is a bit short of my needs.  The Coca-Cola sure tastes good here and they have a new female musician too.  Soon friends began arriving and we had 13 people for lunch.  Woody’s was busier than I have ever seen them...very busy.  The girls shopped, I went to the drug store, we enjoyed the guacamole and chips, and listened to music.  It was great FUN as always at Woody’s Bar and Grill.  I took my time walking back to the ship and stopped for a Bohemia beer at the Thirsty Cougar, much better to be docked at Punta Langosta to have this walking option.  As I was boarding the ship I saw the Assistant Hotel Director whom I have had a very friendly relationship all cruise.  He welcomed me back and was quite aware of my situation yesterday.  Soon the Hotel Director arrived and headed straight for us.  She was on the problem.  I stopped by Shakers to fill my yeti with ginger ale and soon after arriving in the cabin had an apology phone call from the Cruise Next manager.  Apology accepted and all now good.  In fact I’m sending her clients to get a B2B booked and I’ll still need my single future as well. Thanks NCL.  I met the group for cocktails at 6:00 pm in the atrium and six of us ended up at Manhattans MDR for dinner.  I ordered the  Potato Soup, Beet Salad, Roasted Beef entree and Bananas Foster for dessert.  Service was a bit slow, but it was prime dining time, I think I like Savor MDR much better.  After dinner it was cabin time.  We finally had a one of the ladies win in the casino, but personally I haven’t really done the casino on any cruise in a while.  It was a very nice Cozumel day on the NCL Breakaway.

Wednesday  /  Belize City, Belize  /  February 27th / Day 11
Moderno Churrascaia Salad Bar
Smooth seas continue and I slept very well and late…until 8:30 am in fact when they began announcements for tendering into Belize.  I went to Savor for breakfast as it’s Biscuit Benedict day, I ordered them and a Huevos Ranchero plate as well.  A very nice casual and filling breakfast.  We are staying on the ship today as we have been to this area many times. We’ve done it all: our favorite Caye Caulker (many times), River rafting, Belize Zoo, two Mayan ruins, Snorkeling, old Belize City, and more.  I went up to deck 16 for some waterfall and hot tub time then met the guys for a Bloody Mary.  Just a light lunch in the Garden Cafe then balcony and TV time in the cabin in the afternoon.  DW and I had date night, going to Shakers for some apéritifs, the bartender creating a cocktail for me consisting of Titos Vodka and Elderflower.  We then went to Moderno Churrascaia where we were seated at a two top window facing the impending sundown on the Caribbean.  This is a Brazilian style churrascaia where the meat is served on skewers brought to your table.  We had not eaten in one since we were last in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil many years ago.  I started with the Brazilian cocktail Caipirinha.  You begin with the best salad bar I have seen on a cruise ship.  The display was fantastic and items included: Lettuce, Arugula, Spinach, Pickled Hearts of Palm (very Brazilian), Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes, Beet-root, Couscous, Potato Salad, Tabouli, Pickled Onion, Asparagus, Artichokes, Sweet Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, and much more.  Also a variety of sushi and cold meats including Prosciutto.  With Two Soups and Various Breads including small Cheese Breads on your table.  Cheeses included: Mozzarella, Toasted Provolone, Oregano Cheese, Chanco and more. They served a wide variety of meats to your table on skewers, my favorites were: Fillet Mignon, Lamb, Strip Steak, and Bacon-wrapped Chicken.  For dessert we had the Mango Rice Pudding and Chocolate/Coconut Tres Leche Cake. It was a fantastic meal, thank you Vesna and NCL.  Allow two hours for this wonderful experience.  After this wonderful dinner we retired for cabin time.  A wonderful day on the NCL Breakaway.

Thursday  /  Harvest Caye, Belize  /  February 28th / Day 12
A bit of rolling seas overnight and we were docked by sunrise this morning.  I had some internet time and watched news on TV early this morning.  I had a light breakfast in the Garden Cafe then walked about the ship this morning.  Balcony and cabin time until lunch at O’Sheehan’s, I had Buffalo Wings, Rueben Sandwich and a Perone beer. It was very busy at O’Sheehan’s and it’s a good option as food is available almost 24/7.  Beautiful weather so guests really enjoyed the private island of Harvest Caye, but it’s a ship day for most in our group.  We had reservations for Rock of Ages (again), but there’s illness in the cast (washy-washy) so it was cancelled.  We met all the group for cocktails and I was also able to book a couple on a nice B2B fall foliage cruise in 2020 through the Future Cruise desk. We went to the substitute show Three Tenors of Rock in the theater that sing rock music and basically a glorified Karaoke Show. It was a full house.  We are fortunate that we saw the feature Rock of Ages last week as it was never done this week. Most of our group are using their dinner vouchers this evening in the premium restaurants, DW and I ate in Taste MDR this evening.  I ordered: the Broccoli Soup, Southwestern Salad, and Chinese-style BBQ Pork.  For dessert a Banana Spilt.  About 4000 guests this week 300 fewer than last week and more locals, I love hearing the Cajun accent around the ship.  Another nice day on board the NCL Breakaway.

Friday  /  Costa Maya, Mexico  /  March 1st / Day 13
Costa Maya Mexico
Smooth seas overnight and I again slept well.  We arrived early in Puerto Costa Maya and ready to disembark at 7:00 am for those that wished.  I went down to Savor for a very nice breakfast: 3 eggs, ham, bacon, hash browns, fruit, hot milk, and more.  The HAL Rotterdam is also docked with us and I sail that ship next month.  Thankfully after we were on the dock the MSC Armonia attempted to dock and was battling high winds.  If we had not already been ashore we would not have been able to debark for a half hour+ due to safety.  DW and I walked into the port area about 9:30 and we enjoyed a few Coca-colas and she shopped a bit.  Pricing is much too high, they must have a high fee to the port authority.  It actually makes us want to take a trip to Progreso Mexico for some bargains as we could use a few things.  We returned to the ship about 11:30 am as the MSC Armonia guests were pouring off…a noticeable more international group.  Once on board we paused at the Atrium Bar for some refreshing cocktails to cool ourselves.  Yusef, our very congenial Turkish bartender, also fixed me a special cocktail and the Hotel Director Vesna stopped to say hello…she is so great.  I went up to deck 16 and did the waterfall to cool off…very nice concept.  The bar there also specializes in a frozen Mango drink as I discovered last week so I had two  of those with floaters.  Nice.  About 2:00 pm-ish a light snack of fresh Chicken Breast from the carving station in the Garden Cafe.  We sailed about 2:15 pm and are now heading back towards NOLA. Balcony time and an actual nap in late afternoon…it was nice.  We went to our group meeting area for cocktails with most of the group about 6:00ish then DW and I attended the encore production show Burn the Floor at 7:00.  We scored great seats again on row three center for this high energy show…I’ve never seen so much high energy dancing in a one hour time frame.  Amazing.  They had a great farewell with crew and we got to see our favorite members of the staff.  Very Nice.  After the show we went to the Garden Cafe where they are having Asian Night.  I had Peking Duck and some of my favorite Asian dishes…The Duck & Vegetable rolls were very good.  We had cabin time and communicated with the DD in Florida after dinner. We turn back our clock to CST tonight so a good night to rest from a busy day.  It was another good day in Mexico and the NCL Breakaway.

Saturday  /  Sea Day  /  March 2nd / Day 14

Much visited Garden Cafe
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I went down to Savor for my final proper breakfast and it was also Biscuits Benedict day.  Great breakfast experience:  good food, service, table setting all week.  Beautiful day so I had balcony time then ran into friends on deck 8 and had beers.  About 1:15 I went to Moderno for lunch.  It was Spanish food day but it was more Mediterranean IMHO with Spanokopita, two pork entrees, chicken, and fish in the buffet chaffing dishes and they had a great salad bar.  I had a very nice green salad with pickled artichokes, onions, and peppers. I also had the Spanokopita, and Pork cutlet  entree with Rice pudding for dessert.  More Balcony time after lunch as the Carnival Dream is approached us on starboard (my balcony) side.  Loved watching it sail along with us and enjoying perfect weather.  We did some packing this afternoon, I’ll finish early in the morning.  We met the group for cocktails in the Atrium.  It’s really the only place that 10-12 can meet and get cocktails on the Breakaway.  MSC for example has three large banquettes for groups in their atriums.  We did make our own area by moving chairs each evening.  It was a FUN final gathering.  DW and I had our final dinner in Savor, I ordered the Scallops and Prime Rib, and it was good.  Adriana from Romania stopped by and DW happened to be wearing her traditional Romanian blouse this evening that caught her eye.  We retired early as the plan is to wake early.  It was a nice final sea day on the NCL Breakaway.

Sunday  /  Debarkation Day  /  March 3rd
We were awake from 3:00 am when we were notified that the DD was in labor and admitted to the hospital.  Several weeks early.  Well no sleep from then on.  We will soon be in NOLA exactly half way between the Ranch (home) and DD in Tampa Florida.  It’s about nine hours drive either way.  What to do?  We have another passenger riding with us to complicate matters.  Who will use air and where do they go.  Poor connections to TPA so driving would be faster, but ultimately we decided to go home as probably would not be  in Tampa in time for delivery and there is also a lot of items we are supposed to be transporting to Florida.  Long story short we made it home before delivery so probably would have made it to hospital in time.  We will head that way after a bit of a rest.  Drive was rainy at times, but uneventful and we enjoyed a great TexMex dinner at Los Pericos in Huntsville, Texas.

Ship
The NCL Breakaway entered service on 30 April 2013. She was constructed at Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.

Tonnage:     145,655 GT                             Length:     1068.3 ft
Beam:         169.7 ft                                    Draft:        27 ft (8.23 m)
Decks:         18                                            Speed:      22 knots            
Capacity:     3963-double occupancy         Crew:       1,657

Cabin
We had cabin 14842 a balcony cabin (with extended angle balcony space) located on deck 14 near aft elevators. The cabin has a double bed, a push button safe with light, two-section closet, small couch, two electrical outlets on counter/dresser, interactive TV, Telephone, excellent Hair dryer at counter/dresser, refrigerator (never used), and nice fixed doors at shower. My cabin steward, Aquilino Bathan from Philippines was very good, the cabin was always clean. This is the first cabin ever that was actually too cold if we had the thermoset on coolest setting.  We never needed the fan we brought along.

Dining / Food / Bars
Huge difference with the Freestyle dining on NCL.  There are NO set dining times anywhere, but the option to dine in six or seven dining venues or six premium venues with an extra cover charge.  I really like the Tablecloths in the primary dining rooms…very classy compared to Carnival Cruise Line.  They also have one MDR with stricter dress code and one MDR with more casual dress code.  Something for everyone.  I like it.  The food was very impressive, but also different to me so change is good.  They did have a REAL steak, among other nice entrees offered every night on a set menu if you wished, or the daily menu that changes with special entrees.  Very impressive menus and waiters were very friendly and helpful.  The BBQ on sea days is great.  The bakery is very good as all breads were excellent. There are two almost 24 hour soft serve ice creme machines in addition to an ice creme station in the Garden Cafe. There are 21 bars on board, my favorites were Shakers the martini bar and Headliners bar in Atrium.  One of the few items that need improvement IMHO is slow bar service, but it is due to that the vast majority of guests (75%) have a drink package.

Crew / Other
Most crew were friendly, helpful, and efficient.  The NCL iPhone App is wonderful, especially for checking your account balances or reserving entertainment.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CRUISES
Moderno Churrascaia
Private boat tour in Cozumel
Teppanyaki Dinner
Rock of Ages theatrical production show
Woody’s Day in Cozumel
Burn the Floor production show
UBP