My Stories

NCL Norwegian Breakaway

Being on a cruise ship is hard to explain.

If you want to stay connected and have internet access, you need to pay $280US for the 8 days, plus a one off connection fee of $3.75US. Seriously after ripping you off for 8 days, they also want a connection fee. Bullshit times three.

And if you want to use it briefly, they have a 99c for 1 minute option. Bullshit times 4. It’s the same rate my phone provider offers, but on the seas I have no service.

And you feel like a prisoner on it. A prisoner who paid for the experience.

It’s shit because NCL cancelled Helsinki and Stockholm stops. They used weather as the reason but it happened three days before we are meant to dock. The call was a bit premature.

There is a general feeling that NCL cancelled because most passengers had independent shore excursions organized for those places and since NCL had a small amount it wasn’t worth docking there.

But the big secret that NCL doesn’t tell you is that the ports at Helsinki, Nynashamn (Stockholm) and Warnemunde (Berlin) are piers which cannot accommodate big ships.

In order to try, the ports have extendable piers. So if the weather is perfect, in other words, no winds, the ships will dock, otherwise it will not dock. A lady on the cruise ship has had two Helsinki stops cancelled, while another has had two Stockholm stops cancelled. And the weather was windy.

But NCL promotes these trips. This trip was on my radar because of those stops. In the end all we saw was Tallinn for two days and St Petersburg for two days and three days of sailing.

Also when we docked in St Petersburg, 70% of the ship had independent shore excursions organized and guess what, they made us wait until the NCL organized shore excursions went first. We didn’t start our tour until after 11am.

The shit thing is how NCL did it. NCL said in a note to our room that all independent shore excursions need to get a time slot for a passport check in the Breakaway room on Level 7.

But it was just a stall to get us out later. The passport checks happened at the docking port with the Russian Authorities.

But there is food galore. Some good, some bad.

So what was the point of the trip.

For the $9K I paid to be on the cruise I didn’t get the value I expected. I would have been better off flying to these countries and staying a few nights there.

I did a Royal Caribbean cruise two years ago that totally blew this one away and Norwegian Breakaway did a great job making sure I never cruise with them again.

In the end, the Breakaway captain did what was necessary to keep the crew and passengers safe. It’s a shame his parent company NCL doesn’t have the same ethos and use manipulative marketing practices to trick people.

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My Stories

Estonia

We got up at 4.50am on Monday to catch a flight from Berlin to Copenhagen. I started to feel nervous as I never questioned the email of the cruise departure point change. I started thinking it was a hoax email.

It was an uneasy feeling. So in my mind I started formulating a plan B. Just in case the ship wasn’t there.

The cab ride cost 50 Euros from our hotel to Schönefeld Airport. I made sure I got a receipt. I’m surprised at how tiny the two Berlin Airports are.

An hour plane ride later and we are in Copenhagen and catching another cab to the cruise terminal. This one cost 550 Danish Kroner. Another receipt in the wallet for the claim back.

And thank god, the ship was there and all the people who went to Berlin to board the cruise where also there. Hell this guy from a Berlin Starbucks that I was talking too a few days before was also there.

Everyone responded to the change.

Once we checked in, we went straight to the food. We were starving. Then after the safety drills, I sat down and started enjoying my Heineken’s. The next part of the journey was beginning.

One of the things that shits me is gratuities. I paid em all for the cruise before hand and also organized the Ultimate Beverage Package (UBP) for my wife and I. So I order a Cappuccino and a bottle of water and I’m told I need to pay for it, because Cappuccinos and bottled waters are not included in the UBP. Sodas and alcohol are, but not water and coffee. What bullshit?

And I pay gratuities again for the coffee. Bullshit times two. We sailed all day Tuesday and on Wednesday we docked in Tallinn and man, it was cold and wet.

Our tour guide, Piret spoke about the history. There is a lot there. The Danes, the Germans, the Swedes and the Russians all ruled the Estonians.

It’s only a small country. 1.2 million people all up.

Estonia was independent from 1918 to the start of WW2. When the USSR annexed the country, the current government ministers were sent to Siberia and killed.

The Russian rule is unpopular. The Russians tell the world they liberated Estonia, while Estonians saw it as oppression. Woman were separated from their children and sent to Siberia. Men were separated from their wives and children and sent to Siberia.

Check out a YouTube movie called “The Singing Revolution” if you don’t believe me. But the shops sell Russian Dolls even though it’s got nothing to do with Estonia. And it’s got this massive Orthodox Church built by the Russians that doesn’t resonate with the Estonians.

The Old Town in Tallinn is UNESCO listed, and is presented as it was in Medieval times. And even back then there was the haves and have nots. The rich lived up on the hill and had walls and gates put in place to keep the poor from the lower side out at night.

The first flag ever created happened in Estonia and it was the Danish flag. The legend has it that it came down from the sky into the court yard.

The Estonian flag is blue, black and white. The blue represents the sea and sky, the black represents the hardship and the wars fought and the white represents hope.

And as the day went on, the weather got worse. For that there was no hope.

And the weather went really bad after we boarded the ship, so it was no surprise that we got a Captain Announcement that due to 4m wave forecasts and severe storms for the Gulf of Finland, St Petersburg was on the verge of flooding, so the authorities closed the dam door to keep it safe. This dam closure also meant that no ships could enter St Petersburg. So we remained in port at Tallinn.

Thursday morning we woke up in Tallinn and we got another Captain message that we are going to sail for St Petersburg this afternoon and from there we are going to sail back to Copenhagen.

What the fuck?

No Helsinki, No Stockholm.

I’ll rather be safe than not but this cruise trip has seen more changes than a Motley Crue concert.

So we did our own thing today in Tallinn. And the weather was blue skies with 60km winds. We’ll take it.

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