Norwegian Breakaway Review, Girls Cruise 2020

Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Two weeks ago, my best friend Keri and I returned home from our annual girls cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway. I stalled on writing this recap, as the week we returned home, the first USA Coronavirus was recorded. This blog post is not about the Coronavirus, or my personal opinion on the current state of the travel industry. However, it didn't feel right writing a recap on the most amazing cruise I've been on without addressing what is going on. On Sunday night, the state department released a warning, urging US citizens not to travel by cruise ship. There are ships being denied access to port. I'm watching people on multiple Facebook groups freak out, or in reverse choose to book a cruise on a whim because rates are the lowest we will ever see. If you're wondering what side I am on, I am currently trying to figure out how many cruises I can book this year.

To date, I have been on 19 cruises, a mix of NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. After being on NCL during the Coronavirus breakout, I can personally attest that they are taking every precaution for their guests, including not allowing guests to serve themselves in the buffet, or refill individual bottles of water. The NCL Breakaway just scored a 99 out of 100 from the CDC for cleanliness.

Here are the current travel alerts & health updates for the cruise lines I've been on:
NCL Coronavirus Travel Alert
Carnival Travel and Health Update
RCL Travel Advisory Update

We did our annual sailing on the beautiful Norwegian Breakaway out of Port Canaveral. This 7 night cruise visited the Caribbean and we had one of the best trips to date. This was my third sailing on a NCL ship but the Breakaway was a class of her own. I have never experienced such amazing customer service as we did on our week long sailing. The Breakaway's General Manager Joao, and his team was outstanding. The ships interior and exterior is jaw dropping gorgeous. Famed artist Peter Max designed the hull art, and his artwork was displayed throughout the ship.
One of the reasons we love NCL for our girls cruises is their Freestyle Cruising, which allows us  customize our trip based on what we want to do. Freestyle Cruising is NCL's tiered upgrade program  based on the level of room you book, which allows you to do a semi all inclusive trip. You can choose from specialty dining, drink package, wifi, shore excursion and at certain cruises includes air fair. We always book ocean view (or higher) which gives you at minimum two upgrades. We opted for specialty dining package and the drink package.  Right now, NCL is offering a limited time promotion, allowing you to receive all upgrades for all state room categories. Meaning someone who books an interior room will receive the same perks as someone booking a suite. 
The Breakaway was the first ship introduced from the Breakaway class. It is a massive ship, with so much to do onboard, you will never go bored. We didn't get a chance to experience everything we wanted to, even with 7 nights and 3 sea days. The 6th, 7th, and 8th floors are called 678 Ocean Place, where you will find all of the restaurants, bars, shops, entertainment and the casino, all connected by a spiral staircase.
The NCL Breakaway features 12 specialty dining options. We dined at Cagney's Steakhouse, Teppanyaki Japanese Steakhouse, and Ocean Blue Seafood Restaurant (by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian). Also onboard is Moderno Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse, The Raw Bar, Wasabi Sushi, American Diner (recently Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville), La Cucina Italian Restaurant, Le Bistro French Restaurant, Along with specialty dining, The Breakaway also has a wide array of complimentary dining, including 3 dining rooms - The Manhattan Room, Taste and Savor. We had one meal at Manhattan Room and I was very impressed at the quality of the food, plus there was live entertainment. I did not once feel like we were in a dining room on a cruise ship. Savor was one of the sit down restaurants open for breakfast and lunch. We probably ate breakfast or lunch there 6 out of the 7 days we cruised.
You will never go thirsty with all the bars on NCL Breakaway. Keri and I upgraded our drink package to Premium Plus Beverage Package, which gave us dozens of wines by the bottle, including bottles of Moet (which we consumed daily), and pretty much any of the top shelf liquors we wanted. This is an upgrade from the standard Beverage Package which is included with Freestyle. If you like quality wines and liquors, I strongly suggest upgrading your drink package.

The Breakaway has the only SKYY Vodka Ice Bar at Sea, a Starbucks, Shakers martini bar, Maltings Whiskey Bar, O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar, and my favorite bar at sea, Syd Norman's Pour House.  The Breakaway has a quarter-mile oceanfront promenade called The Waterfront, which has a boardwalk like feel, allowing you to check out the multiple restaurants and bars onboard in a casual setting.
Entertainment was definitely something the Breakaway does not lack in. There was so much to do, and we would've needed 10 days to get everything in. We went to a Broadway show, saw Velvet (similar to a Cirque style show), watched Comedy shows, and spent tons of time at Howl at the Moon (dueling pianos).
One of my favorite parts of the Breakaway was the Vibe Beach Club, a limited access area with two jaccuzi's, a private bar and tons of lounge chairs. Vibe is available only once you board the ship and is an extra cost. The extra charge is totally worth it, as you never have to fight for a lounge chair!

One day, we decided to be kids and give the Aqua Park a whirl, which has five major water slides. One of the slides is a twin "free fall", where you stand inside a capsule and the bottom drops, then catapults you, surging straight down several stories before making an upside down loop). The slide is so serious, you couldn't wear any jewelry, not even studs. I got Keri to agree on going down this slide, only if I "walked the plank", an 8 foot ledge, that hung over the vessel's edge. Thankfully it was too windy on the days we were poolside so it was off limits (I got out of that one!).
We spent plenty of time at the Casino (and won!). Half of the Breakaways Casino is non-smoking!! This was such a nice change. The slot machines are spread around the 7th floor, with the center being the staircase of 678. It never felt overly crowded, even during the days at sea. Bliss night club is located right outside of the Casino, which was perfect for us - Keri could go check out the dance floor, while I gambled. I mentioned Syd Norman's Pour House, which was by far the coolest experience I have seen on a cruise. It was like being in a Hollywood Rock Club, 80's bar, while being part of an interactive live concert. We witnessed a 1980's cover band who took over Syd Norman's, and each night, the act changed up, but kept a continued a story line, ending with a 80's prom. Entertainment, Talent, and tons of fun.
Although we were scheduled to visit 4 ports, we ended up going to 3. We were unable to tender for Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas due to the weather. This made me very sad as I was looking forward to swimming with Pigs.

I will do a full post on our port days, but a quick recap:

Ocho Rios Jamaica
We purchased an all inclusive day pass at RIU Ocho Rios. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful resort. I would definitely suggest going there if you find yourself Jamaica.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
We spent our day in the Cayman's hanging out with my former boss and friend Brad. He lives there now (truly living the dream!) and had a place on the beach. Cayman is one of my favorite ports, so it was awesome catching up with an old friend, while on our cruise!

Cozumel, Mexico
We have been to Cozumel more times than I can count. The last two trips, we've done the same excursion, a build your own private jeep tour. This gives us the flexibility of doing what we want, when we want, and having a private tour guide!

New Menu Offerings at The Rez Grill, Seminole Hard Rock Tampa

Thursday, February 27, 2020
The Rez Grill  at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa recently updated their menu offerings. Creative Culinary Director Frank Anderson and his team’s motivation for the new menu highlights southern influences. This is in addition to an the existing elevated comfort food dish offerings (get the Chicken and Waffles, trust me!).

One of the things I love about all of Seminole Hard Rock Tampa's restaurants is that they are always evolving and changing their menus. Below are a few of the things we tried during our last visit to The Rez Grill, our favorite item was the fried green tomatoes with jumbo lump crab.
Fried Green Tomatoes with Jumbo Lump Crab
Hushpuppies with Pimento Cheese

Shrimp Po Boy

Crispy Pork Shanks
You can check out The Rez Grill's dinner menu here. Also, they have a great Social Hour which takes place Wednesday - Saturday from 3-6, where you can get Happy Hour pricing on select small bites and drinks!

Here is a list of the entire new menu offerings at The Rez Grill.

Heirloom Tomato ($13) bacon, cornbread croutons, fried red onions, buttermilk dressing

Grilled Quail ($19) collard greens, bacon, caper brown butter
Hushpuppies ($10) pimento cheese
Fried Green Tomatoes ($19) jumbo lump crab, field greens, tomato vinaigrette

Grilled Meat Loaf ($28) Yukon mash potatoes, mushroom gravy, crispy fried onions
Shrimp Po’ Boy ($19) fried shrimp, remoulade, lettuce
Red Snapper ($39) basmati rice, crawfish creole cream, scallion

Smokin’ S’mores Jar ($12) brownie, marshmallow, graham cracker mousse, heath bar pieces
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