thomastx

thomastx

Purser
Dallas, Texas
Joined 08/2018

3

Cruises

2

Reviews

45

Helpful Votes

Past cruises

MSC Bellissima

September 2019 - 7 Night Western Mediterranean (Barcelona Roundtrip) Cruise on MSC Bellissima

Norwegian Breakaway

July 2018 - 9 Night Scandinavia & Russia (Warnemunde Roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Breakaway

Breakaway to the Baltic Sea - Awesome Ship, Awesome Ports, Horrible NCL Service

The Breakaway is a great ship. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise as a whole. Don't expect much from the food or service from NCL, and you won't be disappointed. You don't need to buy an excursion for any port besides St. Petersburg, as all can easily be done on your own. Plan and know your transportation options and sight destinations beforehand. Be ready to GO GO GO, as you have 5 days straight in ports, and a lot of time and attention is needed to manage your travel, stay on time, and ensure you don't miss the ship. Plan to do a lot of walking. There were six in our group, and everyone from age 10 to 56 loved it. Our weather in late July was amazing. Mostly sun with temps in 80s throughout the Baltics, which was generally better than average. Throughout the cruise, we experienced less than 5 total minutes of rain. The Baltic Sea was amazingly smooth throughout the cruise, except for about 3 windy hours leaving Helsinki. In general, we loved the ship, loved the ports, loved the cruising, but was given poor service and nickel-and-dimed by Norwegian Cruise Lines the whole way. I would do this cruise again in a heartbeat, but find another cruise line than NCL.

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Norway

July 2000 - 7 nights on Norway

Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway

Sail date: July 23, 2018

Breakaway to the Baltic Sea - Awesome Ship, Awesome Ports, Horrible NCL Service

The Breakaway is a great ship. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise as a whole. Don't expect much from the food or service from NCL, and you won't be disappointed. You don't need to buy an excursion for any port besides St. Petersburg, as all can easily be done on your own. Plan and know your transportation options and sight destinations beforehand. Be ready to GO GO GO, as you have 5 days straight in ports, and a lot of time and attention is needed to manage your travel, stay on time, and ensure you don't miss the ship. Plan to do a lot of walking. There were six in our group, and everyone from age 10 to 56 loved it. Our weather in late July was amazing. Mostly sun with temps in 80s throughout the Baltics, which was generally better than average. Throughout the cruise, we experienced less than 5 total minutes of rain. The Baltic Sea was amazingly smooth throughout the cruise, except for about 3 windy hours leaving Helsinki. In general, we loved the ship, loved the ports, loved the cruising, but was given poor service and nickel-and-dimed by Norwegian Cruise Lines the whole way. I would do this cruise again in a heartbeat, but find another cruise line than NCL.

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MSC Bellissima

MSC Bellissima

Sail date: September 27, 2019

Bellissima Maiden Season in Western Med

The Bellissima is a gorgeous ship. Food on the ship is good, but was only marginal in dining rooms. Pizza at the buffet was awesome. There was too much pushy upselling of drinks and dining packages. Most of the staff encountered was great and very friendly. The only exception we had to this was in the Photo Gallery. The shows were mostly below average. I would cruise again just because of the beauty and comfort of the ship itself.

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Cruise tips

Valletta, Malta

Malta is a nice country with lots to see. Getting around the island is really easy with local buses. We took a trip to Mdina, then back to Valletta to walk around.

Marseille (Provence), France

Marseille was quite seedy. We did not feel safe walking the streets there. We rented a car and drove to Cassis which was much nicer, then kayaked to Calanque d'En Vau, which was a nice DIY excursion. For anyone visiting Marseille, it is likely best to either stay on ship or get out of Marseille to another destination (Cassis, Aix, Les Baux) by any method.

Naples, Italy

In Naples we did an MSC excursion to Sorrento and Pompeii. The tour was given in both French and English, and the tour guide did not speak either very well. She was slow and was always 10 minutes late to the times she gave everyone to be at the bus. It was excruciating. Sorrento wasn't worth the long drive to get there, as we only had an hour to either eat or do quick shopping down one street. Pompeii was great, but the guide was so disorganized that it took us 45 minutes to get in after arrival. We ditched the guide once inside so that we could see more of Pompeii than would have been possible by following her.

Messina, Sicily

Messina was our most enjoyable port. We did an MSC excursion here that was much better organized. This excursion went to Silvestri Craters on Mount Etna, and then stopped at Taormina. Although the guide was much better organized than in Naples, we still separated from her to go off on our own, which allowed ability to explore much more. The top of Etna is beautiful.

Genoa, Italy

Genoa was the prettiest port of all of the stops. Though we didn't spend any time in Genoa itself, we took train to Santa Margherita Ligure, then bus to Portofino. Both of those were very beautiful towns to visit.

Barcelona, Spain

There is no shortage of options of things to do in Barcelona. Transportation on the Metro is easy. If you want to see the La Sagrada Familia, buy tickets on their website in advance and do it on your own. Unrelated to cruise, but important to note that we stayed at Hotel Miramar post-cruise. It was the worst hotel experience we have had in 20 years. Avoid this hotel at all costs. Nasty, unclean, rude management, but with great views.

Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany

We embarked at Warnemunde, so were able to do a lot in this area before and after the cruise. If you embark in Copenhagen, then this port is a long trek to take in Berlin or Hamburg. My recommendation would be a trip to Lubeck. Although still 1.5 hours away, it has a nice charm and great medieval sites to take in. You can easily take DB train anywhere you want to go, with a station right at the port. It's not worth paying for an excursion.

Nynashamn (Stockholm), Sweden

I hesitated giving 5 stars here (due to NCL transfer debacles), but ultimately gave 5 stars because Stockholm is awesome. Our group all left with the consensus that Stockholm was the one port we were left wanting to go back to, and that we needed another full day or two to experience it. City Hall tour was very cool. Walking thru Gamla Stan was more exciting than anticipated, and you find something new down every street. This is a place needing to be explored more deeply. Ferry over to Djurgarden provides MANY more options of things to do, including Grona Land, ABBA Museum, Skansen, Vasa Museet, and more. We found Vasa Museet to be slightly disappointing, due to poor lighting and small confined space preventing you from getting a good view of the entire amazing ship. The biggest negative to this port is that Norwegian Cruise Lines has majorly screwed up the transportation from Nynashamn. While we booked 390+ days out before the port was changed to Nynashamn and told by NCL months ago that they would provide free transport, we had to argue with them to get the free transport, and they claimed that we did not book before the change. If you take the free transport, they force you to choose from only two predetermined bus times, both of which cut your port time short by three hours. This was a debacle. Others on ship who took NCL excursions into Stockholm also said that they were disasters. The best method of transportation (which we took) is the train, directly from Nynashamn to Stockholm City. However, on return there was track maintenance which forced everyone off at one station, onto buses which were hard to find, and then dropped at another station to complete the train journey. NCL could easily arrange a transportation option for all on train, smoothing it for everyone. Doing this would allow negotiations for ensuring maintenance was not being done during the much-needed return trip time, or bus options properly arranged. However, the reasons for diverting to Nynashamn in the first place is suspect, and likely due to NCL not wanting to pay Stockholm port fees. All other ships were docked in Stockholm, with none in Nynashamn. I've heard NCL claiming issues sailing the Archipelago (as was advertised when we booked), although all the ships we saw docked in Stockholm clearly had no problems as well as the identical NCL Getaway last year. In summary, Stockholm is awesome and really needs to be two days and docked directly in Stockholm. Norwegian has turned Nynashamn into a debacle.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Getting in/out of Copenhagen is easy on Bus 25, with bus station right at port. There's no need to pay for an excursion here. Biggest downside to Copenhagen was that it was terribly crowded. We really enjoyed Rosenborg Castle, which itself was not too crowded. Nyhavn area was wall-to-wall people.

Helsinki, Finland

Another port where paid excursions are unnecessary. Public transportation (tram station right at West Harbour port) is best option. Easy to get to Temppeliaukio Church (only need 20 minutes to see it). Market Square is neat with a lot of interesting foods to try. The muikku (tiny whole fried herring with a garlic sauce) were awesome. There are other great seafood, reindeer, and moose options to try also. This is a great place for souvenir hunting. Biggest disappointment was simply there were not a lot of sights right in the city to see, although you could go further out for a couple of other activities, but may limit time in city.

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn was a very enjoyable walk, with plenty of interesting sites to take in in Old Town. The biggest drawback is the length of the walk from port to Old Town. We did that anyway (~40 minutes) and did not regret it. You could also take taxi or HOHO bus if you can't or don't want to walk. Paid excursions don't seem worth the price.

Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway

Prepare yourself with low expectations about the food and restaurant service, and you won't be let down as you will get what you expect. Avoid the buffet, avoid the crowds. For breakfast, Moderno and O'Sheehans are the best choices for quality and smaller crowds, although the staff at O'Sheehans will be predictably slow ALL the time.

St. Petersburg, Russian Federation

While NCL has improved the process of getting off the ship on Day 1, it still seems exasperatingly mishandled and slow, and designed to punish passengers who have not overpaid by 3x to take an NCL excursion. This is further amplified by the freedom they give you on Day 2, where the process takes 3-5 minutes. NCL sits you in the theater, and slowly let you flow out, while the whole time blaming Russian authorities. But once you escape from NCL's grasp, St. Petersburg has more to see than you can do in two days, or even four. We were letdown slightly in that the city as a whole seems to be never maintained or kept up. Russians keep fresh flowers planted in boxes lining every street, and let every other aspect of the buildings fall into massive disrepair and needing a coat of paint everywhere you look. It seems that nothing is maintained or cleaned (except for the exquisite Metro stations and The Hermitage). The trek to Pushkin to see Catherine's Palace did not seem worth the long drive. It is also in major disrepair, and we would have more enjoyed staying in town and seeing more of the Hermitage. Church on Spilled Blood is an amazing sight, and quickly seen in 30 minutes. However there is an overall feeling in the city of being oppressed, poor, and our guide had to remind us every 15 minutes to guard our pockets. Even so, we never felt unsafe or saw any signs of pickpockets or similar activity. If you don't have your own Russian visa, you have to take a paid excursion. We used Best Guides, and we were completely pleased with them. We paid $210 each for two days and hit all of the big highlights including lunch, and had 10 people in the group transported in a new, clean Mercedes van. Our driver pretty much parked at the front door everywhere we went, and we had early entry in Hermitage, Catherine's Palace, Peterhof, Spilled Blood Cathedral, etc. We never waited for more than 5 minutes to get in anywhere, and beat the crowds. At some sights where we walked right in, we saw literally 400 people or more in line to get in who we skipped right past. NCL excursions were 3-4x more costly, and you were on a big bus with 50-60 other people.

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