Sunday, October 20, 2013

The CruiseOne/Cruises Inc. National Conference is now in the books, and what a wonderful week we enjoyed on the
Breakaway in Bermuda
brand new Norwegian Breakaway!  This year’s event sailed from New York City to Bermuda and was filled with general sessions, workshops, training seminars, and cruise line presentations—all mixed with interaction with our headquarters staff, fellow agents, and cruise line representatives.   Our Catalina, Combs & Associates franchise (now Combs, Catalina & Associates) was honored to again be named in the coveted Circle of Excellence by topping a million dollars in sales.  This is quite an honor on both since there are now over 800 CruiseOne franchises and only 1% are selected for Circle of Excellence.  We also received the top producer award again for AmaWaterways river cruise line, which is always an honor.    We cannot tell you how fortunate we feel to be part of our parent company World Travel Holdings with the support our owners and executives consistently give us.  Thank you, WTH and CruiseOne/Cruises Inc.!
Aqua Park
The Breakaway is an amazing ship.  True to Norwegian Cruise Line’s style, she offers plenty of innovative venues, dining options, and nonstop possibilities for guest participation.  The only bad thing about conference cruises is lack to time of us to take full advantage of what a ship has to offer.  Want action?  Head to the ropes course, basketball court, bungee trampoline, mini-golf course, and climbing wall.  Need to cool off?  Whiz through The Whip and Free Fall aqua-slides or swim some laps in the wave pool.  Like Jewel Class ships, the Breakaway Class has a little bowling alley, too, and she adds a wonderful water park for children.  For something a little more tame, let them eat cake by enrolling in a themed cupcake decorating and fondant layer cake class, inspired by TLC’s “Baking with the Cake Boss.”  Nickelodean characters will interact with the kiddos in a Pajama Jam buffet breakfast (reservation with fees require).   

Entertainment on NCL is quite different from other contemporary lines.  Although there were a couple of review-like shows called Burn the Floor (which we missed due to conference engagements), other options are a little edgier like the musical, Rock of Ages and The Second City comedy troupe.  For dinner and a show, don’t miss Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy in the Spiegel Tent (fee applies).  During a conference session we did get a sneak preview of a Fire and Ice performance of Tina Turner hits--wow.  The gathering place for events on the ship, however, is Spice H20 on the top deck, where a huge  screen forms the backdrop for various dance parties including the Awesome 80s Party. 

To me the best thing about NCL is the variety of dining venues—28 in all, a far cry from ships of long ago that basically
Moderno Outdoor Area
offered the main dining rooms and a casual restaurant on the lido deck.  The Breakaway still includes those same complimentary dining venues plus others like O’Sheehan’s Irish pub, an ice cream bar, and a couple of grills;  but she adds oh-so-much more at a small cover charge:  the Bistro (French), Teppanyaki and Wasabi Sushi (Japanese), Cagney’s (steak), La Cucina (Italian), Moderno (Churrascaria and my favorite), Ocean Blue and Ray Bar (seafood), Carlos’ Bake Shop, Dolce Gelato.  Whew.  Some restaurants even offer both indoor and outdoor seating. Try them all and then go hit the gym hard.

After some of the feedback regarding cabin/bathroom design on the Epic, Norwegian switched back to a standard stateroom layout on the Breakaway.  We liked this better.  Ben and I booked a balcony that gave us plenty of space, an actual decent hairdryer (a huge plus), and a bar in the shower which is handy for leg-shaving.  We had ample space for everything. 

Norwegian was the first line to offer studio staterooms that continue to be a hit for single cruisers.  A studio lounge in the studio stateroom area provides a gathering place for those who wish to mingle.  At the other end of the spectrum is The Haven, where you’ll find the three-bedroom Garden Villa and various suites with butler service, a private pool, hot tub, and fitness area, and other perks.  A great way to sail. 

Godmothers of this New York City based ship are none other than the Radio City Hall Rockettes, and you’ll find a dedicated channel on the ship’s television programming featuring these legendary performers.  Ben’s only complaint the whole week was that the Rockettes were not onboard!  (NOTE:  Two Rockettes sail every four or five weeks.) 

The Breakaway’s sister ship, the Norwegian Getaway, will begin home-porting in Miami next year, and the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders have been awarded godmother honors, as just announced this week. 
Lady Liberty
Norwegian Cruise Lines ships offer great value for families and adults alike.  For cruisers who prefer a more structured type of onboard experience, with the option for set dining times, the same waiter each night, and not as many decisions to make, this might not be your cruise line.  However, the freedom and casual nature can really grow on you.

Several cruise lines sail to Bermuda from the East Coast, but New York City offers arguably the most majestic sail-away.  It doesn’t get much better than cruising past the Statue of Liberty.  The Breakaway docked three nights at Kings Wharf in the Royal Naval Dockyard, as do most ships sailing there.  Some of the smaller guys dock at Hamilton and St. George’s, such as Regent Seven Seas.  Transportation from Kings Wharf to Hamilton is either by ferry or bus, and Ben and I tried both.  Ferry is better and faster.  Bermuda is a golfer’s heaven, boasting more courses per square mile than anywhere else in the world.  Plenty of cruisers we saw were packing their golf bags.  Snorkeling, diving, and other beach activities are just as popular. 

Ben & Me and the Fish in the Sea
Based on a fun experience I had on my only other trip to Bermuda over ten years ago, Ben and I booked a helmet dive adventure with Greg Hartley After donning wetsuits and heavy helmets constantly provided with pumped-in fresh air, we dropped about 15 feet into Greg’s underwater schoolhouse where he taught us about coral formations and sea life and invited us to pet his friendly fish.  What fun!  Check out this video of our little group’s dive.  
For the past few years, our conference has chosen the Make-A-Wish Foundation as our benevolence, this year raising over $100,000 through a Zumba-at-Sea event, auctions, and Sean Tolkin's marathon-at-sea. 

Thanks, NCL, for hosting a wonderful conference for CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. on your brand new honey of a ship!

Important note: 

The annual World’s Largest Cruise Sale takes place this week, October 20-27, 2013.  If you have not booked your vacation for next year, NOW is the time!  Every cruise line and many land and tour operators are offering special deals such as onboard credit, upgrades, and reduced deposits on select or all sailings and destinations, depending on the supplier.  Call Susan at 866-786-6732 or Ben and me at 888-522-7447 to assist you!

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