October 18, 2017

That Time I Cruised Norwegian Cruise Line...

Those who have been paying attention already know that I (semi) recently went on my first cruise last February. In preparation for that cruise, Boyfriend and I watched 10s of videos and read 10s of articles about Carnival cruises, the Carnival Vista ship, and cruise tips in general.

My second cruise ever, and first Norwegian Cruise Line cruise, is 11 days (!!!!!).

I pretty much had to start all over and learn all about a brand new cruise line, and since this information is fresh, and the Carnival information is quite stale, this post is about the NCL Breakaway (and NCL in general)...
I now need to do a Carnival shortly as this post was so fun to put together!
  1. Drink Package. You can get the drink package for free... kind of. When searching for cruises you will often see NCL's "Choose Up To 5 Free Offers" promotion. The quantity of "free" things depends on the cabin type you select (Interior = 1, Oceanview = 2; Balcony & Suites = 4/5). Your ELIGIBILITY for free things requires you pick a cabin category other than "Sail Away" (aka guarantee), which is always more expensive. Once you pay more to be eligible, you will have a gratuity added on for the drink package and/or dining package, and the internet has a one time "activation fee" (though menial). Keep this in mind if you don't anticipate drinking a moderate-to-heavy amount.
  2. Dining Reservations. You don't have to make reservations for ANYTHING but you CAN make reservations for (almost) EVERYTHING! Main Dining Rooms, some specialty restaurants (I forget if it's 60 or 80 days out that reservations become available), and some restaurants are walk-in only. You can only make one restaurant reservation per night aka you can't make a bunch of reservations ahead of time, then pick day-of. Reservations are highly recommended for the larger ships, and you are able to make reservations once on board as well.
  3. Show Reservations. Some of the shows on Epic-and-newer-ships take reservations before you sail, some shows take reservations on-board only, and some shows are walk-in only. You can only make one reservation for each show per cruise so choose wisely (or else you have to call to change it, or do so on board). If you wait till you're on board, I suggest you go to the Box Office the first day to get your first choices. You can find which comedy shows are playing when in the NCL Freestyle App
  4. Adults-Only. There are two adult-only spaces, one is free (Spice H2O) and one is for-fee (name varies by ship). The latter is reserved on-board only and sells out in the first day. Go to the service desk asap if you really want it. I believe the paid area is sold for the entire-cruise based on the daily rate. Only if they cruise-long passes don't sell out, do they start selling one-day passes.
  5. O'Sheehan's. O'Sheehan's is the only place to get food free-of-charge (almost) 24 hours a day. Between meals it gets really busy so plan ahead. I recommend the wings and ceasar salad. On some ships, O'Sheehan's is breakfast food-only at breakfast time. Also the bar closes from around 2am till after breakfast sometime (varies by ship).
  6. Cabins. NCL's cabins are smaller than the equivalent rooms on other cruise lines, and have queen beds/thin twins, instead of king/reg twins on other lines. 
  7. The Ice Bar. The Ice Bar is $20 per person even if you have the drink package; gets you two drinks. It's currently only on Epic-and-newer-ships.
  8. GSC. If your cruise is scheduled to go to Great Stirrup Cay, it might get cancelled if the waters are too rough. Apparently this happens fairly often and it's because they use tenders to get to the island (it may just be during hurricane season that this is common?).  However, the island is beautiful and drinks are included if you have the drink package. 
  9. Craft Beer. The Breakaway Plus ships have the District Brew House. If you like beer, get the beer there for better options.
  10. Freestyle Dining. Unlike other cruise lines, there are no "Traditional" dining options and there is no "Formal Night." There is a "Norwegian Night Out" night, and cruisers are encouraged to dress up, but it's not the same.
  11. GLOW Party. Bring something white to wear for the Glow Party (aka black light party). The party takes place outside on the Spice  H2O deck.
  12. Upgrade Advantage. NCL's system for upgrades is done by bidding. Booked cruisers get an email 80 days before their sailing and are able to "bid" on an upgrade to one-or-two meta-categories higher (i.e. Interior to Oceanview or Balcony). There is a minimum bid amount that is fairly low (unless you are eligible to bid on suites, those are higher), and you can bid as much as you want. Cabin Assignment is random if the bid is accepted, and you are stuck with what you get, so be weary of potentially being upgraded to under a loud location. But you could potentially upgrade to a balcony for only $100! Some travel agencies opted-out of the upgrade option, so not everyone gets the offer. The more full the ship is, the less likely a bid is to be accepted.
Bonus tip for all cruises!:
There are "roll calls" for every individual cruise on Cruise Critic and Facebook. Find yours and you will have direct access to answers to your additional questions from the experts - those who have done it before! It's not uncommon for people to cruise the same ship and itinerary multiple times if it ports out of (or near) their hometown. Facebook will get you faster/more responses, Cruise Critic can be more anonymous (if desired). Personally, I prefer the former.
 More on cruising :)

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