I travelled on the Norwegian Breakaway on its journey from Southampton to New York.
I was traveling by myself on this trip, leaving my wife and Son at home. Whilst a transatlantic crossing has always been on my wish list, my wife didn't like the idea of that many days at sea, so we decided I should go on my own. The Breakaway crossing seemed ideal as it went from the UK to New York, which was my preferred route.
This was my third cruise, all with NCL. We did a Baltic cruise on the Norwegian Dream back in 2003 before starting a family and in 2012 we returned to cruising on the Norwegian Epic in the Med. We have plans for a number of further cruises over the next couple of years, starting with the Epic again in a couple of weeks time. We very much like NCL and the freestyle concept, and really don't like the idea of traditional cruise dining.
I won't say much about the boarding process as the Breakaway is unlikely to visit Southampton again, but it was very efficient and I was on the ship by about 11.30am. Whilst the rooms were not available at the time, I was able to drop off my bag, which was very handy and made exploring the ship much easier.
I spent a few hours getting to know the layout of the ship. Having been on the Epic, many things were familiar, although it was easy to get mixed up with some things, such as the garden cafe being at the rear of the ship compared to the front on the Epic.
Overall I was very impressed with the public areas of the ship. O'Sheehans has very similar to the Epic, other than the fact that there was no view of the sea as it is on the lifeboat deck. The lobby was also similar but seemed much busier all through the week than on the Epic.
The entertainment venues (Fat Cats and Headliners) were very similar to the Epic, although the seating was different with more tables as opposed to the rows of seats that I was used to.
I heard a number of complaints about the size of Bliss, although I don't generally go to the night club so it didn't effect me much. On the Epic, Bliss is used for other events (some Nickelodeon events were held there and also I believe it is often used for Meet & Greets). I wonder whether the loss of this venue for such events may be a problem in the future.
I absolutely loved the Waterfront. We had some good weather before sailing from Southampton and sitting outside Fat Cats with a beer was the perfect way to start a holiday. For most of the week, the weather wasn't good enough for the Waterfront to be used fully, but on the second to last day the sun came out and it was a perfect place to sit and relax. When the ship is sailing in good weather this will be a wonderful place to spend time, although I do have concerns about overcrowding.
On the first morning, I looked for somewhere to be able to walk on the ship and started off at the jogging track at the top of the ship. There were a number of issues here. The track is short, meaning that you needed to do 8 laps for a mile, and there were often people in the way, especially where it passes the rock climbing wall. I then went to the Waterfront and this is a much better place in my opinion.
A lap of the Waterfront is about quarter of a mile and takes around 4-5 minutes to walk. A few of us were walking there each morning, and there were two ways to do it. I favoured complete laps, which meant having to cross through the ship at the point where the Waterfront ends, whilst others turned back at this point and stayed outside. Overall, it was a fairly popular place for early morning walking, but never got to busy. I spent about 90 minutes a day walking round, which set me up for the day and (I like to think) earned me an extra beer or two.
Overall, the Waterfront will be the thing I miss most when I'm back on the Epic.
I was staying in an Oceanview cabin on deck 5, which was more than adequate for just myself. On the CC cabin crawl, my cabin looked quite big compared to the Balcony Room and Mini Suites we were shown. This was because I didn't have a sofa which made the room seem more roomy. Overall I was pleased with the room.
It has been mentioned many times, but I must reiterate that the balconies on this ship are very small. When I go back on the ship with the family we will certainly be looking at booking one of the M6 Mini Suites or an Aft room, as the standard balconies are just too small especially as my wife and I often end up sitting out there at night after our son has gone to sleep.
As I was travelling by myself, I went prepared to spend the time reading and relaxing, but on the first evening I attended the solo travelers function in the Studio lounge.
I understand from others that the lounge is significantly smaller than on the Epic, and overall it attracted a lot of negative comment. Having never been in the Epic lounge, it seemed OK to me, although there were not enough seats for everyone at the solos meet up.
Another negative comment was about the lack of a flipchart to help people organise meals etc. Apparently this is something which had previously been discussed and Meghan, the NCL Rep, had been told that they couldn't have one. I hope that NCL reconsider this for the future.
However, a number of events were arranged, including a visit to Cirque Dreams, the Ice Bar and Modernos, as well as a meal at the Manhattan Room. Of these, I only attended the Manhattan Room dinner as the others either didn't appeal or I was doing them separately.
Having met up with some other solo travellers, I spent much less of the cruise by myself than I had planned. I formed part of a larger group, some of whom previously knew each other and some who didn't, who joined together or went our separate ways as we pleased. It made for a very enjoyable holiday as I was able to do things with people, but could also spend some time doing my own thing whenever I wanted with no pressure. Thanks to everyone who I spent time with during the week.
Having expected to eat by myself most nights, I ended up having meals in the Manhattan Room, Taste, Savor, Moderno, Shanghai's and Teppanyaki with various other people. Overall, the food was pretty well as I had expected. I have previously eaten in Moderno and this was as good as on the Epic. Teppanyaki was also very good, with the show as enjoyable as I had previously heard reported and excellent food.
I was very impressed with Shanghai's and as well as having an evening meal there, I also went by myself one lunchtime for a snack. As it is an a la carte menu you can just nip in for one dish instead of having a full meal.
The main dining rooms were also very good, and the New York Strip I had at Savor one lunch time was probably the best meal I had all week. It was cooked just how I like it.
I also ate in O'Sheehans a couple of times for lunch. The menu is the same as the Epic, and the Chicken Pot Pie just as good. I also tried the burger which was better than I remembered it. Breakfast at O'Sheehans was also very good.
I had booked to see Rock of Ages, although I didn't have great expectations of the show. It did exceed my expectations, but I probably wouldn't bother with it again. I'm not saying the show was bad, just not really my thing.
I also went to Graffiti Classics in the main theatre, which was quite enjoyable. A string quartet playing a variety of music, with some comedy thrown in, it was a nice way to pass an hour.
My favorites, as I expected, were Slam Allen in Fat Cats and Howl at the Moon in Headliners. I had seen Slam almost every night on the Epic and did the same this time. However, for some reason I had missed Howl at the Moon last year, but didn't make the same mistake twice. They were great fun, and it was just a shame that at times both Slam and Howl were on at the same time.
I did try out Second City, which was OK but after half an hour I decided that I would enjoy myself more in Fat Cats.
I didn't go to Burn the Floor, but having heard the comments of others I think I should have. We will certainly go to that show when we return to the Breakaway.
It was a bit of a disappointment to hear that we would be arriving in New York in the middle of the night, but a lot of people were up between 3 and 4am to see us go under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and up the Hudson. I suspect that early morning entries into New York will be quite common as ships usually dock early so if you are on the Breakaway then make the most of leaving from New York, but I would also recommend being on deck for the return, as seeing the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline lit up is quite an experience.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Norwegian Breakaway. Yes there are some issues like the size of the Balconies and at times the service was slow, but other things more than make up for it and I'm sure that the service speed will improve in the coming weeks. The staff were, as usual, very friendly.
I was also very impressed with the Solo traveller experience on NCL. It is easy to meet up with others and, whilst I turned up by myself, by the end of the cruise there were probably about 20 people that I could stop and chat with around the ship. It really is an excellent way of solo traveling.
I'm looking forward to taking my family on the ship, hopefully next year. I'd recommend it to everyone.