Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by CruisinMaterial: Breakaway - A new class or Epic copy?
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Breakaway - A new class or Epic copy?
About Me: I'm a 31 year old male who traveled with my mid-60's mother. A cruising friend of mine also came along traveling solo in a standard interior cabin. For me this was my 26th cruise and 15th with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). I've traveled several brands including Princess, Royal Caribbean and even once on Carnival. My most recent cruise was on Celebrity Millennium to Asia. I tend to gravitate to the Freestyle Cruising concept because it's easier to deal with for luggage then hauling a suit everywhere and it tends to be more hip than other lines. I've sailed on every class of NCL ships including Jewel, Dawn, Spirit, Sun and the one-off EPIC. It was mom and I and some 2,800 other guests for this transatlantic voyage.
Embarkation: Since we were so close we walked to the terminal as we stayed at the Holiday Inn next door. We happened to enter by the porters who took our luggage right away. The lines were crazy for non-Latitudes members while other queues were empty. Being a More Platinum Latitudes I entered the queue and was handled within 10 minutes time. We sat briefly in the boarding area waiting for our color to be called and tried to enter the ship. On the gangway from the terminal shore-side experienced a power outage just as we were to cross to the ship. The lady on it yelled at us and told us to stop and come back. So close to the ship and yet so far! It was a good 10 minutes in the stifling entry way before we were cleared to board. All the while Denis Prguda, Breakaway's Hotel Director, was talking to us from the ship. Finally we were allowed to board the ship and told our cabins were ready. We immediately went there to dump off our bags before grabbing some lunch.
Balcony Stateroom 11160: The first thing I noticed were the lights not turning on when pressed. I saw the keycard holder and stuck it in and voala lights! I didn't realize the keycard holder also applied to every single outlet in the room and once removed anything plugged in stopped charging! What a silly way to design the electrical system but a good workaround is to put a card of some kind in the slot and just leave it there. This posed a problem with NCL's new design for being in the cabin for the stateroom attendants. If the white indicator on the left was on it meant you were in the room, if not then you were out of the room. Our indicator was constantly on. The middle red one was for do not disturb and the green was for make up cabin. I like the click wheels on the Jewel / Dawn class ships far better than this concept! Moving into the room the couch is very spacious and the beds were in a twin configuration, when I opened the balcony door and stepped out I saw why. Where is the balcony I paid for? It was the size of a postage stamp and if I wanted just an ocean view cabin I would have paid far less than I did! The balcony was super disappointing. Since the weather was chilly I didn't get to spend too much time on it but I did spend a little time each day. You couldn't sit comfortably facing forward without having your knees in the glass of the balcony wall / railing. You had to move the chair sideways and either face forward or aft to sit comfortably. The balcony was also made out of plastic except for where the supports were underneath attaching it to the ship. I thought this was strange. I've never seen balconies like that before. I suppose it's good to cut down on rust and makes the ship lighter in weight (fuel efficiency).
I'm tall (6'4") so when I went into the bathroom I noticed I couldn't see my full face without slouching in the mirror. The light had been placed the whole length of the bathroom mirror obstructing my face. It meant I had to shave in the cabin by the mirror at the balcony. The lighting at that mirror was actually better for shaving with all lights in the cabin on then the soft lighting in the bathroom. Later I would notice the shower head only had one setting "rain" and not the options other NCL ships have with a pulsating or steady hard setting. I truly missed the shower heads of other NCL ships. The only thing I could think of as a reason for this was to save money. Most of the changes to the room were for that purpose it seemed.
There was plenty of storage space for two people in the cabin. There are shelves everywhere including drawers under the sofa. The problem with the closet was it was buttoned up against the bed so you had barely any room to get into it. The doors to the closet slid sideways and thankfully not outward! Our cabin also had a coffeemaker setup on the desk and some scuffs in the wood paneling at the foot of the bed which was there on arrival.
The rest of this review will be written in the order of how I experienced events on the ship just to make it flow better:
DAY 1: Embarkation Day
After leaving the cabin we headed to lunch in Savor restaurant before heading out to explore the rest of the ship. I had the traditional NY strip steak with fries and the Vietnamese Spring Roll. I noticed the fleet lunch menu was still in effect even for this new ship. The decor of Taste and Savor is identical with the ONLY difference being the type of artwork on display. The glass vases are orange in one restaurant and blue in the other as well as the paintings on the wall. The decor here lacks any wow factor and Taste on Epic is far better.
On Deck 6 we passed a larger Teppanyaki restaurant before coming to Le Bistro where they had dining on the terrace outside the restaurant just beneath the chandelier. Headliners comedy club was exceptionally dark inside except at the bar. Most of the ships 6-7-8 Ocean Place reminded me of the Norwegian Epic. The only difference was on Deck 6 the bottom of the chandelier was an alley way to walk through to get to Savor, Taste and Mixx Bar with the seating for Le Bistro being seen from Decks 7 & 8. The atrium area was similar to Epic. Forward on Deck 6 was the Spiegel Tent which was closed for rehearsals.
On Deck 7 was the Breakaway Theater which seemed to be of similar size to the Norwegian Epics and with the same basic design concept of exposed ceilings. Outside the Breakaway Theater was all this open space which unless you were standing in line to get into the theater was not used at all and wasted. The theater could have been made larger or something could have better used this space. O'Sheehans continues to occupy the second story of the two wall video screened atrium. This time the $5 per game bowling alley is hidden away in the far corner on the starboard side facing forward with the other arcade games. Heading aft from O'Sheehans is the Breakaway Casino. One could already smell the smoke lingering in the air. After Epic you'd have thought NCL would have fixed the problem on the Breakaway... NOPE!! The smoke still escapes from the casino and comes up to Deck 8's shakers martini bar. I can't fathom what it will be like when the ship sails full and with tons of smokers. Not only does the smoke carry up but it also heavily pollutes the Shanghai Noodle bar located adjacent to the casino and with no wall barriers to stop it.
Bliss lounge is opposite the noodle bar and if it wasn't because I knew before boarding what the entrance looked like I would have walked right past it! This was to be the highlight of my vacation. You're at sea for 7 days what else does a 30 something do but dance, drink and have a good time? I walked in and noticed the LED wall and looked at the headroom with intelligent lighting. I had plenty of head space which was one nice feature but I noticed the size of the venue and wondered what would happen if the entire ship showed up there? It's far too small and far smaller than on EPIC. I'm not sure what the thought process was behind throwing it in the smoky casino which you had to walk through to get in there but you had to walk a good distance to go to the bathroom from there as well.
Aft on Deck 7 and 8 is the Manhattan Room, Cagney's and Moderno in the same setup as Epic. Ocean Blue on Deck 8 mid-ship with its $35 cover charge and the a la carte Raw Bar with Wasabi adjacent to it. On the other side is Shaker's Martini Bar which is in the same location as the Epic with one important difference. They have put up dividers to keep people corralled in the bar area so the walkway to the gift shops from forward remains clear. Next to the Shakers bar is the Ice Bar and forward is the Maltings Whiskey Bar which has a nice Scottish theme to it. Be sure to check out the photos on the wall. The cigar lounge is also located in this area. Maltings should be by the casino if you're going to allow smoking there because you could smell the cigar smoke just by passing through the bar area. In the forward general passenger area was Fat Cats and La Cuccina. I ventured outside to the Waterfront. The funny thing about this is to get outside you have to touch the panel to open the door. With how norovirus spreads by touching contaminated surfaces, why would you add more surfaces people could get contaminated from? Luckily we didn't seem to have a problem with noro on our sailing. The Waterfont was great to use to as it was far less windy then the jogging/walking track topside. If the temperatures were warmer I'm sure they would have opened the outside seating for the restaurants. It looks like it will be quite the happening place!
Muster Drill: NCL uses a new reader based system for the bar code on your room card to show you attended the drill. It's fast and efficient scanning. Please note you shouldn't take pictures during muster, even if you can't hear anything because the public address system in the Breakaway Theater wasn't working. A lady was very stern borderline rude when I snapped a picture of the stage. The venue was closed earlier when I was touring this deck due to a rehearsal. As I mentioned the public address system didn't work in the theater and eventually it was determined they would only show us how to put the life jackets on and then release us. This was the first encounter of things on the ship not working as they should have and also dangerous. I was hoping they fixed that sooner rather than later because in the unlikely event of an emergency we wouldn't have had a clue what was going on in the theater.
Dinner tonight was in the Manhattan Room aft on Deck 7. There was a live band playing during dinner service consisting of three guys. During tonight's dinner service we saw the fleet standard menu was in full effect with one exception of the tortilla crisp not being available. It turns out some of the ingredients for it (avocados) was not provisioned on the ship prior to it leaving Germany. The ship was provisioned there before heading out on its voyages to the USA. I stuck with the traditional spring roll and one of the meat entrees which were delicious. Service was good tonight!
After dinner I went to the Friends of Dorothy gathering for a bit at Shaker's Martini Bar. It was so packed that people were going to the bar outside on the Waterfront sending a cold blast into the ship each time the door opened. Next it was off to see the featured entertainment in the Breakaway Theater.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: GRAFFITI CLASSICS
This group was amazing. They danced while playing their instruments and did comedy between songs while they caught their breath and really got the audience involved. Look them up online and you'll see what I'm talking about. They were a highlight in the entertainment line up for me out of the entire week.
Next it was off to Bliss Lounge for the evenings disco and to meet up with a crew friend from the Dawn who was spinning. DJ Keith helped the night along with playing classics to start off the night from the disco era and moving up to current top 40 remixes by the end of the evening. My friend and I said hello and snapped some photos and stayed a while for some drinks and retired. I was beat after not getting a good night sleep in anticipation of the cruise!
Day 2 -- Wednesday - SEA DAY
With the first of five time adjustments going back I woke up in time to make it to the Walk-A-Mile at 8:30AM on the jogging track. The runners were not appreciative of this and were constantly zooming past on this small track. It was clear if you wanted to walk the Oceanfront was a better location for doing so. We walked until the cruise staff member disappeared and then went for breakfast in the Garden Cafe.
The menu lineup in the Garden Cafe was pretty standard of what you'd find for breakfast foods anywhere. Nothing was too exotic and we got our food and next we were to find a place to sit down. I don't know if all 2800 passengers were in there or not but you couldn't find a place to sit to save your life! It was just after 9AM. We shared a table with some lovely folks from Louisiana and had a conversation about the ship and what their impressions were about the gym since I hadn't seen it yet.
Next up featured the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet. It was the largest I'd ever attended on any Norwegian ship. All members of NCL's senior management team onboard as well as shoreside showed up to the event. Kevin Sheehan (CEO), Klaus (now a VP) and Annemarie Matthews (PR Manager) were all present along with the Captain Haavard who was transferring to Star Cruises at the end of our voyage, Denis Prguda (Hotel Director) and Julie (Cruise Director). During this event Klaus presented our group with a very large chocolate cake saying congrats! It was a nice touch and Kevin Sheehan worked the room a bit before the meeting concluded.
I went for a super quick lunch in the buffet with a salad and met up with Mike for the Officer's Profile question and answer session. I was impressed with most of the questions the audience asked. They ranged from what the ship's average speed would have to be to get to NYC on time to Kevin explaining how he understands what the crew go through to live on the ship for long periods of time. He even answered my question about NCL expanding their horizons and going to other places around the globe. He seemed to imply that Asia may not be too far off in their deployment since Genting Hong Kong's Star Cruises operates from there so they have a training base and logistics already setup. However, this is not in the near future but may happen in 2017 when the Breakaway Plus 2 is delivered. Kevin made it sound that it's only a matter of time before they get the financing up to exercise the option.
Immediately after we headed up to the ropes course because if I waited too long to think about it I would have chickened out for sure. After signing my life away (a mandatory waiver) and getting the harness in place, it was time for some final tether checks and up the stairs into the ropes course I went. I got up the top and froze hugging the pole. I have a fear of heights and the cruise staff members up in the ropes course saw this. The one at the end of the zip line repeatedly called over to me to make sure I was ok. I eventually made it to the plank and did the zip line as well! Afterwards I went for hot cocoa and then I ventured down to the photo gallery to see the photo taken on the plank. I learned the camera on the plank was not working!! I wasn't happy about that after all I'd gone through to get out there. It was a lot for me and now I'd have to muster the courage to do it again?!
SPECIALTY DINING: Moderno Churrascaria
Tonight mom, Mike and I dined at my favorite restaurant venue on the ship. This oldie but goodie was introduced on the EPIC and spread fleet-wide due to its popularity. You start with the salad bar which is just as extensive as Epic's. The labels were missing on the salad dressing and actually on most everything on the salad bar. I stopped the Assistant Maitre'd to ask what they were and he responded. When we sat back down our first server told us he was needed elsewhere on the ship and a female server named Ruby Vallejos came over and said welcome back and that she recognized me from the Norwegian Dawn and thanked me for writing her a STYLE card. I was stunned she remembered me. I made it a point to pick up Vacation Hero cards (NCL's new STYLE card name) and wrote her yet another one. The dinner service was fantastic and the meats if they were too rare were all too happily cooked to our liking. I was the last one to flip my card to red but that's become customary! I love this restaurant and highly recommend it especially if you like sampling all sorts of meats.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Burn the Floor "Steppin' Out"
Tonight was the first of a series of performances by the dance troupe who would later do a full show in the Breakaway Theater. The performers all seemed older and more refined in their movements which I could see at the beginning. As time wore on and more passengers poured into the dining room sightlines were obstructed. People stood around the dance floor blocking everyone else that showed up early and got a seat. The only way to see the actual performer's movements was to view the reflection of the dance off the aft windows. At my angle I could see some of the movements. A show focused on dance is essential you see the performers feet movements. On Epic Legends was all singing so you just saw their upper torso it was fine. Burn the Floor didn't work quite so well in a crowded setting like this and unless they put risers on the dance floor to elevate the performers or put up a screen of some kind, the show only benefits those sitting in the front not anywhere else in the dining room. This was truly sad because I enjoyed what I could see of their performance and it made me really excited to see them at the end of the cruise.
FEATURED NIGHTLIFE: FABBA: Fabulous ABBA Party
The cruise staff seemed to want to showcase the ship so the party was held topside in a very cold Spice H2O. The mist from the cooling area was downright bone chilling. Even with a full winter jacket on I was still frozen. I talked with a cruise staff member and he said he was dancing his way to pneumonia. I wholeheartedly believed them. I felt so bad for the cruise staff that were wearing nothing but their outfits and went out into the really windy area of the dance floor and performed their numbers to hit ABBA songs. I lasted until the musical numbers were up and ditched the jacket in the cabin before checking out Bliss Lounge. Tonight Bliss Lounge had the LED lights on. It was also the first night to experience DJ Arias at the turntables as DJ Keith was topside at a quickly fading FABBA party. I didn't care too much for DJ Arias style as he was constantly remixing into and out of songs with only about a minute's worth of song plays. I don't care for scratching either, just let the song play and mix it right. His overkill of mixing was annoying to me so I ventured back upstairs to Spice to see it was dead and Julie and her cruise staff were taking down the decorations. I asked her kindly to make sure the White Hot Party was moved indoors. She said she'd take it under advisement and I went back to the disco for a little while longer before retiring for the evening.DAY 3 -- Thursday -- SEA DAY
Today was more leisurely as I woke up later than I expected. I accompanied mom on a walk of the Waterfront before getting some breakfast at the Garden Cafe. Mom went back on the Waterfront and I did the complimentary Platinum Latitudes Behind-the-Scenes Tour.
PLATINUM LATITUDE PERK: Behind-the-Scenes
We gathered in front of the Cruise Consultant desk on Deck 6 and were split up into two groups. I didn't care much for the future cruise consultant so I made sure I was in the other group led by a nice young man named Killian from Guest Services (Philippines). He'd never been to these parts of the ship before either so this was all new to him. You could tell as he was looking around just as much as we were! Our first stop was laundry on Deck 2 forward. The elevators were quite small so most of us went down very narrow steps descending to the laundry room. Upon arrival we were greeted by the laundry master for the vessel who showed us around. It was tight quarters down there with less space then I've seen on any other laundry on any other ship. Also, there's a new two deck automated laundry system on this ship. It's on no other ship! It was quite amazing. They load it on Deck 2 and it washes everything there and spins it dry then it automatically lifts it to Deck 3 and finds a dryer to put it in and then the clean laundry is spit out for folding which happens on that deck on the opposite side. Personal laundry is still done in conventional machines on Deck 2 on the other side of this new big machine.
Next it was off to the galley across the ship on Deck 6 to see where the food was made. The Executive Chef gave us a quick talk and took us around. I got to see where Carlos Bake Shop goodies were made and snapped a few pictures. I also noticed some condensation from the ceiling dripping down onto what appeared to be clean glassware in dishwashing area. I hope NCL corrects this before the CDC Vessel inspection or else they're going to get marked down for sure.
The last stop was the Cirque Dreams and Dinner as the main theater was closed for rehearsals. The production manager brought us around the inside of the venue and then to the men's dressing room. We took the black hallway around the back of the venue which allows ease of movement for the performers between acts and also leads to the performer's cabins. I honored the production manager's request with no photos in the back areas of this venue. She was quite strict about it but in a more friendly way then the muster station lady earlier in the voyage in the Breakaway Theater.
After lunch it was time to check out the Pulse Fitness center and go for a workout. Mom accompanied me up to the gym area by the spa and the gym was split up and cramped. The cardio side faced the ocean. All of the cardio equipment had their own individual TVs. I hopped on the elliptical and realized it even had games! Nice way to brain challenge yourself while balancing on an elliptical is to do Mahjong. I loved this piece of equipment. Next I headed across the hallway to the resistance area. This was a cramped space and thankfully in the afternoons it was dead. There were two benches along the free weight wall and then two rows of various machines for abs, chest, arms and legs. They had a dedicated spinning room and another aerobics studio. Both of these seemed to be a wasted space as all the times I went to workout no one was ever in them (no classes going on).
A nice afternoon was capped by an early dinner in Manhattan Room which we had to rush through for tonight's...
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Rock of Ages
Rock of Ages centers around 80s music and two main storylines featuring two young lovers and the destruction of the nightclub they both worked at by a wealthy developer. The show starts right out with risque attire by the women who wore nothing more than skimpy outfits through the whole show, sometimes to nothing more than just lingerie! I wouldn't have minded it so much if my mother wasn't sitting next to me. There were a lot of sexually suggestive movements. If I had seen this show alone or with someone other than my mother I may have enjoyed it more. The show had all sorts of elements and some I did appreciate such as the Mayor of West Hollywood at the end. Overall, I wouldn't recommend taking your mother to see this. I would also say do NOT take a kid under the age of 16 to see this show. It's grossly inappropriate for younger audiences. All in all I enjoyed the show but would strongly caution conservative people and parents to not attend this performance. I think NCL may need to italicize or bold the warning in their write-ups in the Freestyle Daily to make it stand out more. The show was 75 minutes long and ended with a mixed standing ovation. Some people left during the performance.
Rock of Ages ended with some time between the start of tonight's featured nightlife so we ducked into Fat Cats lounge and listened to the vocals of Fire & Ice - a female vocalist and male vocalist/pianist from Barbados. I like their performances a lot and would stop by their performances for a few songs when they were in the atrium the rest of the cruise. They are a hidden gem on this sailing for sure. When we were sitting there I couldn't believe the speaker on the stage right was already cracked and you could definitely hear it. Hopefully NCL gets that speaker switched out and better monitors the sound levels.
There was still a gap when Fire & Ice took a break so mom retired for the evening and Mike and I decided spur of the moment to try the Ice Bar. Reservations were not required and we just walked up and went in. I didn't try this on the EPIC and all it seemed to be was a walk-in freezer with a couple of ice sculptures: one of Lady Liberty, one of the Empire State Building and a chair made out of ice resembling the Brooklyn Bridge. The bar was made out of ice. The admission of $20 included two drinks. The place was freezing cold so that worked but the TVs inside were not functioning. We enjoyed our two cocktails and left. I come from a cold climate so I can say I experienced an ice bar but I will not be doing it again.
FEATURED NIGHTLIFE: Norwegians Night Out Party sponsored by Ultimat Vodka
Utlimat Vodka? I thought it was a joke. I've never heard of the vodka brand but the party was moved indoors from Spice H2O to the atrium with DJ Keith at the helm. I was informed by a consultant this party was mainly geared towards older folks with older songs playing and to not expect anything too current at tonight's event. It was basically to keep the older folks up past midnight. It seemed to work very well. I was not impressed with the amount of advertising for the vodka company. Since when does a night out on a cruise ship need a sponsor? It was silly enough when Svedka sponsored the Ice Bar. Don't we as passengers pay enough to get on the ship (especially this cruise) to not be subjected to such things? I guess not. I was not impressed with the night and I surely didn't try any of this vodka. The lure of the evening was to get you on the dance floor with prize giveaways every 5 to 12 minutes. Prizes ranged from a shot to free internet minutes.
I moved over with my friend to Bliss where DJ Arias was spinning. Again tonight he was not playing the songs fully and the second you got out on the dance floor to dance it'd be mixed or scratched up in some way. I had enough and decided after drinking a bit waiting for the Night Out party to heat up I headed to O'Sheehans with my friend. When leaving Bliss it seemed like we were walking uphill and the ship was listing slightly. The winds had kicked up outside quite a bit as a storm front was approaching.
I learned upon arrival that O'Sheehans late night menu has been scaled back fiercely. There are just five menu options and the favorite of several people which is the chicken tenders were not offered. A couple next to us asked for them as well and said to heck with it and left and ordered pizza. I wanted the chicken tenders as well and instead settled on a chicken pot pie. Even my late night snacks have been changed and eliminated. So many changes going on at NCL but I couldn't figure out why this one was eliminated? It's easier to throw chicken tenders in a fryolater with fries then it is to make a chicken pot pie!! Also there were no vegetarian options available on the late night menu.
DAY 4 -- Friday -- SEA DAY
This morning was interesting as the ship was rocking quite a bit from side to side. I felt it overnight in bed. I don't get seasick easily and I didn't either on this trip but the waves were quite large. I went to breakfast with mom and did the morning walk on the Oceanfront. I snapped some pictures of the waves breaking along the side of the ship and how quickly our wake was disappearing in the rough seas. I've been through worse on a cruise ship and Breakaway I thought was handling it well initially. As time went on the cabin started to creak and so did parts of the ship.
Navigating in the buffet was challenging for my mom at breakfast so we decided to let the wait staff in the restaurant try and balance the food for lunch. The fleet lunch menu was presented again with two favorites chosen. The ship was rocking me to sleep so it was time for a disco nap. Mom went back out and walked the Oceanfront for a bit. Just as I was getting ready for dinner tonight Julie came on to announce Cirque Dreams show was cancelled due to the rough seas. People were still allowed to eat in the venue but no performance was done and they could re-schedule for another night without penalties. This gives you an idea of how rocky it was. The navigation channel said we were in "large waves" and I was missing the bow camera channel which didn't work the entire voyage.
SPECIALTY DINING: La Cuccina
We were seated promptly and the restaurant's maitre d stopped by to talk with us and share her experience about rough seas she experienced on the Norwegian Dream going around the tip of South America. She said this was nothing and after going through rough seas due to hurricanes I agreed with her. The Breakaway didn't seem to be doing so well, especially in this restaurant as in two places the ceiling tiles had come apart and risked falling on passenger's heads. Unrelated to the ship's internal movements was a burned out light bulb which seemed completely out of place on the chandelier. The dinner service was incredible and the steak was cooked to order. We finished up and headed out. I would later write a Dear Denis letter about the ceiling in La Cuccina and the light bulb and about the chicken tenders being taken away from the O'Sheehans late night menu. The next day a contractor was using tape to put the ceiling back together as I checked to follow-up.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: The Second City Scriptless
This show was completely improv comedy. The cast was trying hard to make everyone laugh and was using words and suggestions from the audience to make their skits work. One word used threw the entire cast for a loop and it took forever for them to figure out what it was. They were drowning and it wasn't all that funny. I have skipped Second City on many cruises because their routine was always the same. This was different but still not that funny. I left scratching my head and wondered what they might have done with the murder mystery lunch later in the cruise.
FEATURED NIGHTLIFE: Glow (The 'new' White Hot Party)
Premiering on the Norwegian Breakaway in Bliss Lounge instead of topside at Spice H2O due to poor weather was GLOW, the all new spin on the White Hot Party. According to the consultant in charge of the change the White Hot Party was always dark with the black lights to make the white glow and NCL had always given out glow sticks during these events. Now the emphasis is to make the glow more prominent so the nightclub was done up with stretchable spandex cloths put in neon colors and neon spandex cruise staff danced the night away. Thankfully DJ Keith spun this party and it was a party like no other. Finally a good night in Bliss with the LED lights on, the black lights on and some crazy cruise staff! Bliss was the most packed I had seen the entire cruise.
Everyone looked like they were having a great time until DJ Arias showed up to spin the late night set around 1-1:30AM. He had a hard time getting setup as he appeared to have report to work drunk or at least somewhat intoxicated. Right out of the gate he played a crowd stopper of Gagnam Style. It was out of place with the rest of the music of the evening and it just deteriorated from there. I took off for O'Sheehans and while waiting for my food to arrive DJ Arias walked in with a drink in hand and had some food too. Only 45 minutes had gone by and he'd successfully chased everyone from a fairly busy disco.DAY 5 -- Saturday -- SEA DAY
Today started off like the other sea days with breakfast in the Taste / Savor complex and a walk of the Oceanfront to wait for the stateroom attendant to clean the room. We stopped in the shops for a bit and took notice of the expensive Breakaway gear for sale and I checked out my pictures from the Glow party the previous evening in Bliss. We stopped back to the stateroom to get ready for today's featured lunch:
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Dysfunktional Family Reunion feat. Second City
When this was booked pre-cruise it was billed as the Murder Mystery lunch. I'd never done one on a cruise before but figured a Trans-Atlantic was a perfect time to try. When we got onboard we heard talk the show was being changed and upon arrival we learned there was no murder or mystery but rather an improv comedy skit again using words from the audience to have multiple family members get together for a reunion. Essentially this was the same show they do for free at night only the concept revolved around family members being a drunk, a foreign immigrant and a guy who was discharged from the Coast Guard for having gynecomastia. Lunch seemed to be the root cause of the fee and it was a set menu with a chicken and salmon entree choice. The couple who sat at the end of our table, especially the male was loud and obnoxious prior to the start of the skits that I was hoping he'd leave. The crew did a splendid job putting up with his performance and he chose to stay. He was displeased about the menu choices and about the bait and switch of the Murder Mystery for the improv show. I just don't find the Second City really funny. The lunch was amusing but not worth the upcharge for it. I was looking forward to polishing my own skills with acting the murder plots with my fellow guests so I have to say the bait and switch initially disappointed me and it just continued through their performance.
I spent the duration of the afternoon resting before going to the 5:15PM Latitudes Party with my mom and my friend who were both Gold members. I snuck in with them since I'd have nothing to do for a while waiting for dinner. We sat down and talked with Rashida, the Hotel Director's secretary about how things were going and where she was off to next with the company and with Denis for Getaway. The music of Fire & Ice died down and the officers were introduced from Denis Prguda (HD), Captain Haarvard and Julie (CD) along with the Assistant Hotel Director. Captain Haarvard spoke with us about the ship and thanked us for our repeated loyalty. It was a nice gathering and it was nice to spend time with some of the staff.
Tonight was a featured entertainment with dinner night but mom wasn't attending Cirque so we dined immediately after the Latitudes Party in the Manhattan Room and I had two slices of Prime Rib. It was very tender and very good. Mom and I split for the evening's entertainment. She went and saw the comedy magician Michael Finney and said he wasn't all that funny. According to her the people he brought up on stage were funnier then he was. I later heard this echoed by two other people who went to his second night show. I never attended so I can only relay what I heard. He'll be onboard until July as a group of us bumped into him at O'Sheehans late night and he stated he would be.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy
This is a dinner and show together with yet another fixed menu of: tomato, mozzarella and prosciutto salad; coconut shrimp and beef tenderloin; and a dessert sampler trio. This dinner option was better than the Dysfunktional lunch menu but petite enough in size that I could eat the whole thing a couple of hours after eating in the dining room! Tip: Eat something beforehand or else be prepared to grab something in the buffet afterward! Back to the show, these guys and gals were spot on! They did individual acts as well as duo acts. The human juggling performance was just downright crazy! I have never seen anything like it at sea before and it's a challenge! I fully understand why Cirque was cancelled the previous day. It would have been far too dangerous to pull off half of what they do. We were in the standard seating seats and actually sitting tall I had better sightlines then folks in some premium seats. The stage rises in this Spiegel Tent as well helping get better sightlines. I highly recommend this show!!!!
FEATURED NIGHTLIFE: Awesome 80's Party & FIREWORKS!
Meeting back up with mom we headed up to Spice H2O where a sizeable crowd had gathered in the cold evening to watch the fireworks. To stay warm a lot of people took to the dance floor to enjoy classic 80s tunes. The cast of Rock of Ages was in attendance (although not in their outfits) and dancing the night away. About 45 minutes into the show a song played called "We Didn't Start the Fire" and the lights dimmed and the first pyrotechnics launched into the night sky. It was all choreographed to music. Prince's "Purple Rain" led to purple shells raining down over Spice H2O. It's important to note the port side of Spice H2O (facing forward) was roped off and for good reason. A couple of rogue embers did make their way back to the ship to be immediately snuffed out by a fire crew standing by. The show lasted about 8 -- 10 minutes and was well worth every minute standing in the cold. After the show ended I chose to stay awhile as people were stampeding to warmth and then head to bed. It was the last night of the cruise to set our watches back one hour.
DAY 6 -- Sunday -- SEA DAY
The earliest rise I'd had the entire cruise vacation led to a nice long walk on the sunny Oceanfront before having breakfast in the Taste / Savor complex. It was also a morning filled with conquering my fear of heights again and getting some pictures of me on the plank. Back up to the ropes course with a ton of new friends and one who stayed below to get pictures of us all (thanks Erika)!!
Calming down from the ropes course it was a good time to try out the 9 hole golf course below. This is quite the challenging course with obstacles to keep the untrained mini-golfer entertained for several tries per hole! We cleared through the course in about 30 minutes and it was well worth it. Sadly the course had already showed signs of falling apart though. Some of the stingrays on the ground had their wings broken. It was a poor spot to put such specially crafted items as people did step on them.
SPECIALTY LUNCH: Shangai Noodle Bar
Finding a crew friend from the Norwegian Dawn working in this restaurant was the perfect excuse to don my Asian inspired shirt for today's lunch. Shangai is located on Deck 7 in the casino. There are no walls so the sounds of the slot machines and the smoke come readily into this venue. I ordered some pot stickers steamed and the Singapore Noodles entree and had some green tea for dessert. We got to talk to Roro, our waitress friend at length about how things were going on the ship and about where we're going in the future. She offered us the same great service we'd had from her at Cagney's on the Norwegian Dawn. The lunch was superb for the a la carte pricing. Pot stickers were $3.50 and the Singapore Noodles were $4.50.
SPECIALTY EATERY: Carlos Bake Shop & Dolce Gelato
Nestled in the back of Deck 8 in a very small area on the starboard side is the bake shop which on the outside doubles as Dolce Gelato. The bakeshop sold plenty of things including specialty cakes and cannolis. My friend tried the cannoli blindly without knowing the pricing. It was $3 for the treat which seemed quite steep compared to what you'd find in the North End of Boston. While waiting I noticed the glass case to the gelato stand was shattered. I had inquired and the attendant said it had spontaneously fractured yesterday during the rough seas and therefore gelato was not being offered today. By the end of the cruise my friend reported they had changed the glass and the gelato was back open.
An afternoon nap led to the Platinum Latitudes Party gathering which I was the only one allowed to attend amongst my family and friends on the ship. It was a carbon copy of the previous day's events and I sat next to Miss Brooklyn who Sheehan jokingly accosted during the Officers Q&A earlier in the cruise. I reported to Denis about the cabin door jam face plate coming apart and wanting to have it fixed because it was causing the door to not close properly. We had told the stateroom attendant earlier in the cruise but no action had been taken. It would be fixed on the last night of our sailing.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Burn the Floor
When the entertainment was first announced for Norwegian Breakaway this show was the one I was looking forward to the most and it didn't disappoint. The Breakaway theater is a much better venue for this as you can clearly see the dancers feet movements, hand gestures and facial expressions. The show was spot on and I wish had lasted much longer than 50 minutes. The stage was simplistic in designs but the costumes elaborate and dancing friendly. I thoroughly enjoyed this show and it was the highlight entertainment of the week for me. You have to check out all their shows everywhere throughout the ship. This cast is spot on! I was never able to attend one of their dance classes but there were several offered by them throughout the cruise!
SPECIALTY DINING: Le Bistro
On Deck 6 of 678 Ocean Place just under the chandelier on the starboard side is Le Bistro restaurant. Mom and I dined here this evening and received very friendly and personable service while sitting in their outside terrace dining under the chandelier. If you want to dine inside you can do so but they do have tables outside. The food was good as usual with the escargot, the onion soup and the lamb with the crÃ¨me brulee dessert. The service was exceptional although I can't remember the lady's name.
FEAUTRED NIGHTLIFE: Dancing with the Breakaway Stars
This was held in the atrium with its smallish dance floor. The judges ranged from an entertainment consultant, Rock of Ages production manager and a cast member. It was fun to watch what the selected staff and fellow cruisers would do. One of the staff members dropped a cruiser on the floor and she whacked her head. Another staff member decided to where an adult onesy of Superman for most of the competition. You never know what people will come up with so it was definitely entertaining. Keep in mind the entertainment value is what they go for, not whether you can actually dance! The night concluded with some dancing in Bliss. DJ Arias was at the helm again in Bliss and the music was so loud in there I said something to the bartender. He said he couldn't do anything so I found a striper outside and reported to him it was far too loud in there. I wear earplugs in discos because the speakers hang at my head level. With earplugs it was far too loud. It was so loud I got a headache and went for O'Sheehan's late night.
DAY 7 -- Monday -- LAST SEA DAY
The morning I've been waiting all cruise for. It was do or die time for the water slides. After having a stroll on the Oceanfront and surveying how much I would freeze topside we went to breakfast at the Taste/Savor complex. I changed into my swimsuit to meet up with a group who were going to do the waterslides around 10AM. After waiting sometime only two of us showed up to actually go down the slides. It was now or never!!
I said if I didn't try the Free Fall (tallest slide) first I would never do it. I got down to my swim trunks and ascended the stairs with the cruise staff member who made sure my back pad was strapped on appropriately. My fear of height started as I ascended the stairs I held on for dear life to the railings. The stairs are HIGHER than the ropes course! I stepped into the pod at the top and listened to his instructions. My heart was beating a mile a minute and all of a sudden a female voice counted down saying: "3... 2.... 1...." and the floor suddenly dropped out beneath me. It was a scream heard round the ship. I didn't know what to expect and it was terrifying. I screamed so loud a small group had gathered to see what was going on! Oops! I couldn't stand up for a minute because I was shaking so much. It was CRAZY! I finally stood up and dried off and a little and then crazy as I am went up and did it again. I screamed just as loud as the first time... it's absolutely terrifying!!! It's not for the faint of heart! I concluded by doing the two twisty slides twice and the lazy blue one once. If you want a lazy experience, go the blue route. The purple "whip" slide has the most g-force as it's a tighter circle coming down. The waterslides were a nice added feature to the pool deck. My friend didn't do the Free Fall but between me and him we were the only two on the waterslides all morning and I don't know why as the water in the slides was heated!
After lunch and some rest it was off to the Breakaway Theater. This was supposed to be a question and answer session with NCL's CEO and instead it became a Powerpoint presentation about the ship and the fleet and mostly a selling point for potential investors of how the company is continuing to grow and make profits. Mr. Sheehan took three questions at the end and none of them addressed the ship per se only more chairs will be added to the Waterfront.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: International Crew Talent Show
I love this on every NCL ship. The crew work so hard in their regular positions so when they do have a hidden talent and perform it for us they deserve every ounce of appreciation one can give from clapping to standing ovations. It's not easy when you're not a performer to get up on the stage in the lights and perform for a room full of newly met strangers! We had the traditional Tinikling Dance from the Philippines, a performer of traditional dance from India (equipped with several costume changes and one crazy balancing act) and a modern Filipino dance troupe. There were two singers and a juggling act as well. Noticeably absent from the crew talent show is the always funny Fountains show and the amazing conclusion of the Norwegian Way (although I know it has changed recently) where the staff and crew come out and receive a standing ovation from the guests. The crew talent show was great and I highly recommend you go and show your support.
Tonight was the final night so nothing special was really planned. Mom and I had a farewell dinner in the Manhattan Room while the band played on. I went to Friends of Dorothy one last time to give out contact information and say goodbyes.
FEATURED NIGHTLIFE: "QUEST" Adults-Only Game Show
This game show was supposed to be in Spice H2O which is an adults-only venue. The weather had gone to fog and it was very chilly outside so it was moved inside to the atrium. As a result the show was tamed down quite a bit. The cruise staff couldn't control who was in O'Sheehans up above to make sure no younger eyes were viewing the show. It wasn't nearly as fun as other ships but if you've never seen it before I will not spoil it for you. I just hope if you book Breakaway that your sailing has it in the adults-only venue so you get the full enjoyment of it!
Once QUEST was finished my friend and I headed to the disco one last time to say our goodbyes to the new found cruise ship friends and to one of my favorite NCL in-house DJ's -- DJ Keith. He had some technical issues with the sound board in Bliss and eventually a technician had to come up and re-wire it to get the audio to work. The disco was dead as most had gone to bed to get up early the next morning for our sail into NYC. I lasted until just after midnight and went to O'Sheehans where the service was exceptionally slow and had one last early morning meal with a new cruise friend and then retired for what I hoped was a long sleep.
DAY 8 -- Tuesday -- New York City
I fell asleep for two hours before being awakened by noise outside. I got up and looked out the balcony door and saw we had just passed under the Verrazano Bridge and next up would be the Statue of Liberty. It was just after 3AM. I hadn't planned on waking up for it but since I was awakened I stayed up to watch us sail past the Statue of Liberty before falling back to sleep. I have no idea why NCL was in such a rush to get us into NYC. They couldn't have waited a little longer and made a splashier entrance into the harbor and river? The ship wasn't christened until Wednesday and no guests were coming when we got off. The ultimate publicity would have had the ship come in during the local morning newscasts where the news helicopters could have seen its arrival and broadcast it to the masses in the NYC media markets.
I neglected to shut the balcony curtains and approximately two hours later I was awakened again as a light from the pier shined into our room. I was wondering why we still hadn't docked yet although we were approaching the dock. I later discovered the new gangways were not in place yet for Breakaway and they had to drop two lifeboats to get the gangways onto the ship. The new ones were supposed to be in place for our arrival. I could see them on a barge on the other side of the pier.
After having breakfast in Savor one last time we went back to the room and cleared out by the asked for time of 8:30AM. We went to the Manhattan Room where the luggage tags were to be called from. They were running ahead of schedule in disembarking the passengers so we figured we'd be off the ship early. We were wrong. The gangway got congested as people didn't hear or heed their color announcements and stayed on the ship as long as they wanted and then everyone seemed to disembark at once. Customs couldn't keep up and the disembarkation was stopped several times. We finally got off the ship just shy of 11AM. It took us about 15 minutes once we were off the ship to get through customs and out to the taxi stand for a $52 dollar ride to the airport. FYI: NCL didn't offer airport transfers to JFK.
SUMMING IT UP: It seems the concept of for-fee everything and sponsorships is going to the extreme here. You want something NYC oriented then prepare to pay the NYC price. This ship was supposed to take the best of EPIC and build upon it merging concepts from the Jewel-class ships. Instead this was a repeat of the EPIC by and large with ship design of 678 Ocean Place with an added Oceanfront where venues can and will make money off of al fresco dining. The smoke issue from EPIC was not resolved and smoke still seeps out from the casino to Deck 8. The cabin re-design and putting the bathroom back in one compartment is a great idea but that's where the praise ends. A funky electrical system requiring a card in the slot at all times to charge devices when not in the room was not good engineering. You pay for a balcony so you should be able to sit comfortably on it and you couldn't. The weight resistance area was cramped by two rooms dedicated to for-fee workout spaces which sat empty except in the morning hours. There is so much wasted space on this ship trying to get people to pay money for extras that it cramps other areas where things could be expanded for passenger comfort. Bliss was the ultimate disappointment, not just because one DJ thought it was fun to chase off cruisers (DJ Arias) but because the size was hideously small compared to EPICs AND you have to go through the smoke filled casino to get to it.
A lot of the changes NCL has made lately are to save money and to produce money. A sponsorship for a night out -- not necessary! I pay enough for the night out and the cruise without having advertising thrown in my face to "sponsor" it. What's next? Glow Party sponsored by the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce?
Besides passengers the crew make the ship and with that thanks are in order to these people: Denis Prguda (Hotel Director) for the warm welcome back onboard and for constantly checking in to see how things were going whenever he saw me. He fixed most of the items within his ability when brought to his attention. Rashida (Denis' personal assistant) who whenever she saw me made it a point to say hello and ask how we were doing. She was also the one who handled all the Vacation Hero cards everyone was submitting during the voyage. She got her first one from me! DJ Keith Armian (VJ/DJ) who was the lead DJ for all the major nightlife events on the ship. He truly understands the art of being a good DJ and plays music in line with what people wanted to hear. No line dance songs and any scratching, just great mixing which is why when I learned he'd be onboard I was super excited! Ruby Vallejos (Moderno Waitress -- Philippines) for remembering me from the Dawn cruise and giving us such great service. Roro Ningsih (Shanghai Waitress -Indonesia) for her great service once again and for being a very familiar face on the ship. She was so close to Bliss that I got to see her multiple times throughout the voyage! Emerson (Bartender -- Shakers and early in the trip Bliss) was a nice fellow and after the first order remembered my drink which was quite impressive. Allan (Bartender -- Bliss) took over where Emerson left off earlier in the trip and became my bartender during the rest of the sailing in there. Both were great gentlemen working fast and efficiently to get me my drink order and being friendly when Bliss was slow. The whole bar staff and waitresses of Bliss were friendly and seemed to be having a great time! I felt bad for them on some nights when DJ Arias drove people away as they were not making any tips/wages. The wait staff who served us the entire voyage was all very friendly as well.
Overall, the Norwegian Breakaway for all the years of hype and being one of the first to book her on the first day she went on sale was a bit disappointing to me -- especially for the price paid. Her staterooms and public re-design didn't wow me but rather in some ways shocked me. I love the concept of Freestyle Cruising but Norwegian Breakaway doesn't seem to be the ship for my mom and I'm in the middle of the road about her. A return to the Jewel, Dawn and Spirit-class is in order. I still like Norwegian Cruise Line and do have future cruise rewards to use with them but now don't know what to do as mom and I were planning a January 2014 voyage on Breakaway and we're now exploring other options within NCL and on other cruise lines. Less
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