An Afternoon Downtown
So the first part of this is going to sound terribly similar to our New York visit this past June. We were up early and on the road from WV at 6:40. We stopped a couple of times on the way at a Loves Travel Plaza in Cumberland, MD and again at the one in Hamburg, PA. We wouldn’t have had to stop twice for gas, but I like to fill up at Hamburg, PA on the way and then there again on the way home. Seems to be a good system for our New York runs. We also made great time this trip and were sitting at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel at 12:50.
Once we arrived at the Conrad, we had good news and bad news. The good news was that we got a complimentary upgrade to an even more fantastic suite than what we had booked. The bad news was that it wasn’t ready yet. You know, this rarely happens. We check in early at practically every hotel we visit and never have to wait for a room. Well, today she gave us the option of the suite we booked at 1:30 or a 750sf luxury suite at 3. We opted to wait it out and checked the bags with the bellman and hit the streets. Last time at this hotel was summer of 2013 and I remember the place across Vesey St. was under construction at the time. Well, today we were able to experience Brookfield Place, which turned out to be part ritzy shopping mall and part really nice food court. Rather than Subway and McDonalds though, this place was all upscale shops that appeared to have some great choices and even greater crowds. We had lunch at a place called Olives where Colton and I split a steak sandwich and Steph had a salad. Very good stuff.
Outside Brookfield Place, on the Hudson, was an ice rink that had already opened for the season even though it was 60 plus degrees outside. We watched people skate a while and then walked out to the rivers edge and admired the views. The Hudson River will always be special to us since the vast majority of our cruises begin and end there. I would love to have seen a ship go by, but it was a little early in the day for that.
Around 3 we went back to the Conrad to see if our room was ready and had to wait another 15min or so, but trust me, the room was worth it.
Around 4 or so Colton and I decided it was time to walk over to the Freedom Tower and “See Forever” first hand. The line stretched outside the building and looked very intimidating. Fortunately we had purchased Priority admission yesterday and were able to literally walk right past everyone and were on an elevator to the 100th floor in a matter of minutes. The video shown in the elevator is worth looking up. Surely its available on Youtube or something. It begins when Manhattan was merely a wooded island and winds the clock forward showing the growth of what has become by now the most recognizable skyline in the world. Again there were advantages and disadvantages to our timing. Had we gone earlier in the day when the sky was a clear blue perhaps we would indeed “See Forever.” As it was, however, it had gotten a little cloudy and at that elevation we were literally in the clouds. It was still very impressive and unforgettable even with the clouds. The plus side of our timing was that it was dark before we left so we were able to experience the night view as well. It was a very nice time and Colton and I always have a great time together.
We were pretty tired by the time we got back to the Conrad but we were once again hungry. Time to revisit Brookfield next door and try another one of the many food choices there that had been overly crowded at lunch. This time it was Asian and we brought the food back to the room to eat. Then we all collapsed from another very enjoyable afternoon in New York City.
Tomorrow we’ll call for the car around 9:45 and drive uptown to board the Norwegian Breakaway for the third time in 3 years. As Bart Scott would say…”Can’t wait!”
A Breakaway Sunday
As is the case with the first day of most every cruise, we all crashed early Sunday night so I didn’t get a chance to write anything down about our day. I’ll take a little time now to hit the highlights.
Steph was first up as usual on Sunday morning and was making a making an effort to get all of our stuff gathered up from the night before. We can trash a hotel room as quick as anyone and had done our usual job of scattering our things about the night before. We went downstairs for breakfast which is included with our Gold Hilton Honors status and found that things had changed a bit since we were last here in 2013. Previously we had ordered off menus but now there was a huge buffet which really hit the spot.
We called for the car and left the hotel between 9:30 and 10 with all of our stuff carefully gathered. We weren’t really surprised at how cold it was as we had heard what was coming from talking to those at home on Saturday. Steph thought of something she wanted to pick up at a drug store, and fortunately you pass a Duane Reade in Manhattan about as often as you do a Dunkin Donuts or a Starbucks. So she managed to get what she needed and we proceeded to drive uptown toward our home for the next 7 days, the Norwegian Breakaway.
I’ll always remember following along with the construction of this ship at various places online and back in 2013 since we were booked on her fourth cruise that June. I still like it very much, but the more we’re here, the more we long for the features of the Norwegian Gem which currently our favorite ship. Anyway we waited a bit in a queue to park the car before the drug dog came by and sniffed all our stuff.
Check in was uneventful and again our platinum status allowed us to skip the longer lines in favor of the shorter ones. Passports, documents, photos, etc. We were plenty early and still barely got a place to sit to wait for boarding time. We were in boarding group 1 which got us on right after the Haven guests, wheelchair folks and casino players.
Once on board we did things like dinner reservations, show reservations and of course my favorite…lunch which was the small buffet set up in Moderno. After lunch and sailaway we watched the New York skyline pass by from our ice cold balcony. Colton and I were out there in with our hoods up and gloves on snapping pictures. Well, at least he was snapping pictures since my phone had once again died. The one thing I wanted photos of was the Conrad, Brookfield Place and Battery Park City where we had spent the afternoon Saturday. It was really interesting passing by those sites with our new found familiarity with the area.
At this point I can’t remember all the details, but as usual, we unpacked and waited (more patiently than usual) for our luggage to show up. One actually showed up right away, as soon as the safety drill was finished. Then we proceeded to wait and wonder, would this be the time a bag doesn’t catch up to us. We went ahead and got ready for dinner and then finally the last bag arrived and with a note inside from NCL. Apparently in searching the luggage they found and seized the two water bottles we had stashed in the bag. Can’t have us bringing our own water when there is water to purchase on board for “nominal fee.” That was a definitely a first for us. So anyway, it was in a round about way our fault the one piece of luggage was late as we had tried to “smuggle” a couple half liters or water. Oh well, they taught us a lesson didn’t they.
The rest of the evening was dinner at a main dining room and the welcome aboard show in the theatre. Steph wasn’t feeling well by then so she went to bed a little early. Colton and I strolled the ship a couple more times and decided we were tired as well and turned in. All in all a very typical and enjoyable first day on board.
By this point in a cruise I’ve usually got a complaint or two accumulated and this one is no different. Nothing serious of course, just observations that I’m not crazy about. I always purchase the unlimited soda package so I can satisfy my Diet Pepsi cravings at my home away from home. In the past its always been a routine of mine to swing by various bars all through the day to easily pick up Pepsi. This cruise however, the bars are so crowded all the time, presumably because of the way NCL has been pushing the Ultimate Beverage Program. So everyone’s got these free drinks coming to them now and the bars are crazy! Anyway, its been just a little irritating. But yes, I understand that if thats all I’ve got to complain about, it must be a pretty good cruise.
Our steady southward cruising finally paid off today and the cold weather is officially behind us. So that means this morning we were up and out to the deck bright and early to grab some chairs and breakfast. We sat out there and read for a good while before we briefly hit the pool. The water was a little cold for us though so we didn’t stay in long.
Last night was Burn the Floor, a small step above the typical “singing and dancing” show that I usually don’t much enjoy. Tonight is Rock of Ages, which Colton is really looking forward to. Thats been about it for entertainment so far. We haven’t caught a Second City show in Headliners yet, but that may be coming up tonight as well. Which is probably a good thing if I’m expected to stay awake through Rock of Ages which doesn’t start until 9:30.
Dinner Monday was the noodle bar. We all enjoyed it very much. Tonight is La Cucina which is the Italian specialty restaurant. Over the summer on the Gem, La Cucina was a hit as I had a great filet and a huge piece of tiramisu. Food has been very good this cruise so far. Snack time is around 3 every afternoon where we get cookies and coffee. And even though they remodeled the Uptown Grill to be a Margaritaville, they still offer breakfast there which makes us happy.
Oh, I almost forgot about all the big boxes of Christmas decorations that showed up on board the Breakaway today. I guess it’s that time and we’ll probably see the stuff going up throughout the rest of the week. I’ll have to be sure and get some photos for my mom.
Midweek Cruise Ship Life
By Wednesday we’re usually hitting the sweet spot of our vacation and today was no different. We were up for breakfast around 8:30 before heading over to Great Stirrup Cay for a short visit to see what had changed since June. The island has been closed much of that time due to Hurricane Matthew’s visit over the summer. Everything was in pretty good shape from what we could tell. We probably only stayed an hour or so, just long enough for Colton to remind us how much he hates the sand. Since we get priority tendering we were there and back before the majority of folks had even made it to the island.
Back onboard we hit the pleasantly uncrowded deck for some quality pool/reading time. Well the actual pool time was minimal since the water was ice cold. But I did get plenty of reading time in and finished my second time through Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Dinner was at La Cucina again. It wasn’t ideal to do the same place two nights in a row, but I think we all enjoyed what we ordered. We had the same server and were impressed that he remembered our drink order from last night. I got Lasagne for my starter and gnocchi with pesto sauce for the main entree and everything was excellent.
After dinner we went to Headliners for some more Second City which is most always entertaining. The good thing about Second City is that its unscripted and different every night. Some nights are better than others of course, but its usually worth going. Which is a good thing considering its just about the only show going much of the time. As I’ve mentioned before, the entertainment is my biggest problem with the Breakaway as it hasn’t changed in the three and a half years she’s been in service.
The highlight of the evening was night time ropes course with Colton. It was very windy but still open. Fortunately there wasn’t a line when we showed up, but there was one by the time we left. It probably does lose a bit of its thrill after the first couple of times you do it, but its still a lot of fun. My only regret was that we didn’t do the plank tonight. Colton and I made it over there just not actually out on it. For some reason night time plank seemed a whole lot scarier than it did in the day light.
Rock of Ages
Somehow or another the 6:30 show that we understood had been canceled was on! That is what we learned at 5:30 as we entered Taste for dinner. But how could we eat dinner and get to the theatre in less than an hour? Turns out with a little cooperation from the wait staff it can be done. We ordered our traditional turkey dinner around 5:45 and had our food by 6 as a result of the waiter trying to help us make the show. Unfortunately we didn’t have any cash with us to tip him, but hopefully he understood we were grateful.
We scoped out 4th row seats and enjoyed the pre show ambiance of some of my favorite 80’s music, like Cinderella, Poison and Lita Ford. I don’t know if Colton understands how influential the music and scene of the Sunset Strip in 80’s was for me. As I think I’ve noted before, some of the music played in the Rock of Ages doesn’t really belong there. But rather than letting that bother me, I took in the whole thing and enjoyed it all from start to finish.
Colton is old enough now that he appreciates music and concerts the way I did as a teenager. Over the summer we took him to see Billy Joel put on a tremendous show in Pittsburgh and I can’t wait to follow that up with something next summer as well.
Today was a fantastic day. We slept in a little, although I have no idea what time it actually was when we got up. Breakfast was at the Garden Cafe and then we found some deck chairs with our names on them. It was there that we ended up planting ourselves until almost 4pm. I’d like to say tomorrow will be more of the same, but since we’ll be headed north again the weather may dictate otherwise.
Friday turned out to be almost a carbon copy of Thursday with the warm weather and extended deck time. It was quite an unexpected bonus. Saturday on the other hand was ice cold and super windy. Spoiled by the previous days on deck, I thought I might be able to pull off another few hours of reading time provided I wear a hoodie. Well, that lasted all of 15minutes as I nearly froze. Back inside I found a quiet spot in a comfy chair to get in some book time. Colton and Steph eventually tracked me down and we enjoyed the rest of our day inside. The entertainment Saturday night was Carla Stickler, a Broadway theatre veteran. She did several show tunes and got my enthusiasm up for maybe going to a show during next summer’s NYC visit.
Today is Sunday and I’m wrapping this up from WV. Disembarkation this morning was a breeze for a change. We opted to deal with all of our luggage and that combined with platinum priority got us off the ship and in the car by 8am. The trip home was a little longer than we had hoped it might be due to the post holiday traffic, but it went smoothly. Anyway, we’re home safe and full of another chapter of priceless cruising memories. Thanks for tagging along.