Booking on a brand new ship, even its second cruise, we expected to have some issues. What we found was a very enthusiastic senior staff who work very hard to make everyone happy and are excellent at problem-solving. We also found a beautiful ship with an innovative design, most of which works.
Cabins: Our cabin was a family mini-suite. My wife insisted on getting one with a tub and the M3 class of cabins comes with one. The bathroom design is a huge improvement over the Jewel class ships and, I'm told, the Epic. Gone is the claustrophobic walled-in toilet. The tub is also easier to get in and get out and more relaxing lying down. The double sink is a real plus. The cabin seems a bit smaller than the mini-suites on the Jewels. The balcony is definitely smaller, and many folks on our deck grumbled about that. My wife looked enviously at the very large balconies in the 8th deck forward mini-suites. Good thing we didn't book one of those. On the last night a few privacy dividers on those decks broke under 60 mph wind stress. We had no clue about this, however, because the ship rides very smoothly in rough water. I'm told that they had the dividers replaced by the time we got our luggage and got off the ship. Shame that had to happen and give cause to people who want to make fun of the (regrettable) name "Breakaway." The biggest loss in the cabins is the elimination of a privacy curtain between the sitting area and the beds. You would think that in a family setting, parents should be given the opportunity to put their kids to sleep on one side of the curtain and have access to light or the TV on the other side. The Jewels have this and its great. We complained, though and the head of housekeeping, Marites, had a nice curtain erected temporarily with Velcro. She's amazing.
Restaurants -- Rather than having one giant main dining room and an auxiliary room for complimentary meals, like on the Jewel-class ships, the Breakaway has three MDRs, the Manhattan Room on the stern, 7th Deck, and Savor and Taste on the port and starboard sides on 6 -- but not reaching to the stern. It seemed that there were long waits for tables in all three rooms every night. Granted that the ship was full, but how was this not foreseen? We did not partake of the specialty restaurants as we keep kosher and ate only frozen "airline" meals, which were actually too small and lacking in variety. Where there were good options, they quickly ran out as other diners grabbed them. NCL should watch for the trends and order accordingly.
Recreation -- This is a highlight of the Breakaway. Included are four dynamic water slides (see Xenagrl's video), a rope course with a rip-line, a three-story rock climbing course, miniature golf, basketball court, pools, and arcade (open to all, not just teens). Bowling, which was available on Pearl and Gem in full-size inside the Bliss nightclub have been moved to a less-adult area and made more kid friendly duck-pin size balls, with small, arcade-style pins, and optional bumpers to avoid gutter balls. Gem had more family-oriented games, like charades and Pictionary, but Breakaway's CD has chosen not to go that direction.
Entertainment -- My wife is in a mourning period and could not attend musical functions, but we did drop in on two Second City shows, which were the best I've ever seen on NCL. Tremendous cast, all of whom make you wonder why they're not on television already. We also caught bingo, Deal or No Deal, and the Not-so-Newlywed game, which were all a lot of fun whether or not you were playing the first two for money.
General vibe -- We boarded on a dreary rainy day and so we didn't bother to go to the pool deck for the traditional party, if there was one. But I didn't get the impression, coming aboard, that there was any party going on -- couldn't here any good music. On other NCL cruises, I felt the party immediately once I got on board. The "finale" Saturday night was a huge letdown, especially after experiencing Sinan's productions on the Gem. Julie gave us a five-minute video showing crew members smiling and dancing. It will, no doubt, be reused for the rest of the season. If they're going to do a video, it should be a new one each cruise that shows highlights of that cruise. Peter Max was on board for the first half of the cruise. He wasn't on the video, but should have been. It would have been nice to have had a full production in the theater, however, with all of the acts participating in some way. Julie's looks great in her party clothes and appears to manage a competent staff, but she's not an entertainer and should delegate finale planning to someone who is one.