Arriving at the port in NYC was easy and boarding was not difficult. We traveled as a group of 4 - my DH and myself and good friends who were married the day before. CG (new bride) had never been on a cruise. I have been on 4 with NCL, this was my DH's third with NCL and RG (groom) had sailed previously on the Dawn. We spoke on the drive to NYC of all of our past experiences which were all exceptional and we were so excited! We boarded the Breakaway loving all the hoopla, taking in all grandeur of the magnificent ship. After dropping our carry on's off in our individual cabins, we broke apart our little group to do individual exploring. My DH and I raced to the spa because we have always purchased spa packages because we enjoy the less crowded Jacuzzi's and sauna. After purchasing our package we were given a tour of the facility which was awesome. Love the salt room and the area was just spectacular. I reserved a massage and we continued to explore. Hungry, we checked out the Garden Cafe. This turned out to be our salvation for this cruise. I embraced the buffet for the first time ever on a cruise and enjoyed people watching as well as it's variety of food options. During these first hours on the ship, I viewed everything like a kid with a new toy.
During the walk around, I really took in some first impressions. The Breakaway is extremely easy to navigate (much easier than the Dawn-LOL). It is clearly marked and the touch screen menus are located in various, easily accessible areas that will navigate you from where you are standing to where you want to go. Prior to this cruise, I had downloaded Iconcierge on my iphone and was unable to use it on the Dawn. Now, I was able to use most of it's features after getting some help from the IT manager and myself and the groom paid $7.95 each for the messenging service. This never worked appropriately and ended up being one of several instances of inconsistency with services on the ship. On day 5, I finally went to guest services to be refunded as we could never use it appropriately. They referred me to the internet manager - who referred me to guest services. At this point, I had too many issues going on with the ship and basically told guest services that I was tired of the run around and to please figure it out between the two of them ( as I pointed to the manager across the way - they could see each other for pete's sake). It was refunded. Second impression is that for such a larger ship, many of the venues and areas were much, much smaller. The auditorium is small and without a balcony. The pool area has also been downsized (this might be the breakup of adult vs child areas and the addition of water slides). There is still 4 Jacuzzis but a much smaller salt water lap pool. The dining rooms are smaller (except Cagney's), Garden Ca is the same size.
The casino is much larger, but has some issues. It is $100 to enter a Texas Hold Em tournament (opposed to $60 on the Dawn) and you can buy in 4 times. This really makes it difficult for the vacationer who wants to play as opposed to the heavy hitter with money to throw away. There is many more slots - but $1 and 2cent and 1 cent machines. Only saw about 4 or 5 quarter machines. I was particularly irritated by the amount of people who were playing 2 of the most popular machines at the same time without any NCL representatives saying anything with people waiting. I do not smoke and I, personally did not smell the casino until I was near it.
On the first night we made reservations and ate at Moderno. This began a slow downfall in regards to our restaurant experiences. It began well, we ordered drinks and then we waited and waited. I finally grabbed another waiter and asked if anyone was going to serve us food as we continued to watch skewers of meat passing our table with no one offering. I actually grabbed one with a skewer and asked for us to have some. He looked at our table without plates and we all emptied our bread plates and said we were hungry and to just please put meat on the plates. We finally got the sides but we never were given the pork option. That was our first encounter with restaurants. The next morning my DH and I ate breakfast at Savor, one of the main DR's. We waited and waited and finally received breakfast. DH's eggs were cold and my waffle was actually still frozen. We got one refill of coffee and decided to go to Garden Cafe to get our own. The buffet was wonderful throughout the entire cruise both in selection and quality. The second night we ate at O'Sheehans and that was okay. Service again was slow so I had to dismiss the waitress when she brought out dessert because we were missing events we wanted to participate in. We ate at Manhattan one night and, unfortunately again, had a dismal experience with dry Mahi Mahi and overcooked meat. We did eat at the raw bar one night as our companions were pushing us to eating outside our comfort zone. That was an amazing meal with amazing service. Our companions were able to secure reservations ( by calling each day and checking for cancellations) at OceanBlue and raved about both the food and the service. We tried Taste (main dining room across from Savor and it's twin) one night and had a pleasant meal with timely service. On our last night at sea we finally ate at my very favorite restaurant Cagneys. I have raved for years about our experiences here and was so excited - until I read the menu. The prime rib, which I have been waiting one year for, is now gone. So bummed. I had shrimp cocktail for appetizer and received 3 large cocktail shrimp and for dinner had the ribeye that was perfectly cooked medium rare. Desserts were also very good. Service was not good and our waitress even seemed irritated at the end of our meal. Cagneys is much larger on this ship, larger and much noisier. I have always eaten at Cagneys on the last night because I enjoy an intimate dinner before returning to life as we know it. That was not possible here.
Other areas of interest was the much hyped Ice Bar. We experienced this on our first night for $20 per person. As we were gowned with parkas and gloves, we were herded like cattle into a meat locker that was skimply decorated with ice sculptures. We were given en masse, two drinks each served in a ice glass. It was so crowded with people - including children- it was not enjoyable at all. The spa was exceptional and I loved every single moment I spent there, and I spent a lot of time there. The salt room is amazing and the pools and Jacuzzis equally so. It was relaxing and comfortable.
Now, let's talk Bingo. Ever since I was exposed to a Bingo game on my very first cruise on the Majesty, I have been a cruise Bingo nut. I love the game. NCL has totally dropped the ball on this experience on this ship. Bingo was either held in the Manhattan room which was a mass of tables and chairs and difficult to see the one main screen or it was held in a small cramped Comedy Club that had no room for people. The Bingo staff had technical difficulties with each Bingo game and several staff members had no idea on charging or products. The last Bingo game with the cruise giveaway was a complete disaster and it was held in the small cramped club. Really- the biggest draw of the cruise and they held it in a venue that could only comfortably hold 1/4 of the people that came. I felt so sorry for little old ladies that were forced to stand for 15 - 20 minutes waiting in line in order to hopefully get a seat. What a shame.
The biggest let down for me was the staff. We had an awesome steward that met everyone of my expectations. He was communicative and conversant and always smiling, unlike most of the other staff I encountered. Staff would smile if you smiled at them but in performing their daily duties and watching from afar, there was no smile. I was also privy to a Officer (uniformed staff member) publicly berating a staff member in the Garden Cafe. That was the first time I had ever seen that on any cruise. I don't know if I had unrealistic expectations because I have had awesome cruises on the NCL Dawn and that we have grown accustomed to happy staff but I do know that this is far from what I expected from this cruise.
I know many people are thinking, well why didn't you tell them. Here's the kicker. For the first time ever, I filled out one of the notes to the manager and I very nicely explained the good, the not so good and ways I thought they could improve on customer service. I left my Name and Cabin number for them to contact me. I heard nothing from them! I am so upset about this. On my last cruise, people we were traveling with had some concerns and were contacted immediately. So this is my review. I would still like to remain loyal to NCL and I certainly am loyal to the NCL Dawn but it really has struck a blow to my confidence in providing me with what previously was excellent customer service.