This was our 3rd NCL cruise and we traveled with friends who'd never cruised with NCL before. They are seasoned cruisers with Oceania and Crystal and other "luxury" lines and proclaimed this the finest boat and the finest cruise experience they'd ever had. In fact, they were apprehensive about NCL given their prior experience (as were we given that we'd never been on a ship with more than 2,000 or so passengers, give or take). But from the moment we entered the boarding area to the time we stepped into our cab for the airport upon disembarkation, I don't think we had to wait in line more than 15 minutes for the entire cruise (including the ferry lines at the Dockyards in Bermuda). And our cruise was considered fully booked at 4,200 passengers.
NCL has a 1:3 (or so) ratio of crew to passengers so the level of service is exquisite. Our steward, Jovi, is easily head and shoulders above any steward we've had on a ship, a plane, a train, a resort or a hotel. An amazingly accommodating and gracious human being and a real credit to his ship and his company.
Exceptional: The ship; our spa balcony room (brilliant design - can't understand why so many other people found the storage wanting...they must be cruising on the Queen Mary or something because we had room to stow the contents of 3 suitcases, two brief cases and a dive bad AND the suitcases themselves (easily accommodated under the bed)); the service; the spa (most amazing hot tub experience I've ever encountered with waterfalls and multiple "stations"); the buffet (quality, quantity and service...even table side coffee service) and the appointment of the buffet area itself. The entire area is ingeniously partitioned out so you don't feel like you're eating in a big room. It was as close to a restaurant experience as I've ever had on a cruise ship...again, brilliantly designed. The ability of this ship to accommodate so many people so effortlessly is a miracle. She is a beauty and we will sail Breakaway again.
Just plain good: The Waterfront Experience...they should just eliminate the concept and make the associated restaurants bigger...which I'll bet they do on future ships. It was an interesting and worthy experiment, but over hyped and under utilized (especially given that they ate up jogging track and quiet deck space that could be better used for...well...quiet deck space). On cold, windy sea days, it's useless. Nice try though. The specialty restaurants (with the exception of Ocean Blue)....good food and good service. The main restaurants (Taste, Savor and Manhattan Room)...decent food, good service...but nothing truly exceptional.
Not so good: Ocean Blue is grossly over-priced...I wound up not liking any of the entrees (and you have to pay extra if you want to try something different) so effectively wound up with a $50 chick pea salad. Also, there was a cherry pit in my Manhattan cocktail that nearly cost me a crown and two successive glasses had chips in the rims, one of which cut my lip. But our server Cherry was very accommodating and helpful and made the experience liveable for me. Everyone else in our party loved their food, so the menu issue may just be me.
Also not so good the Casino. Small and irritating. But aren't they all? Also, not enough table games. Again, the Waterfront experience, while a nice experiment, really takes away from quiet deck space (see "Bad").
Bad: The constant assault of horrible rock music, cover bands and terrible reggae music anywhere near the pool. None of us got within 200 feet of the pool the entire trip...it was just a horrible assault on the senses with too much noise, not enough chairs and a too-small pool that could all go away and not be missed. But since this is true of pretty much every cruise ship out there, can't hold it against Breakaway.
Bottom line - a world-class experience. The friends with whom we traveled are semi-retired and world-travelers (and like I said, experienced cruisers). That they deemed this the best cruise experience of their life (take that Oceania and Crystal) and have already put a deposit on their next NCL cruise (as have we) is true testament to the passion and joy and professionalism that NCL infuses in every moment. If you don't like this ship, you're one of those people who simply don't like...anything.
As for Bermuda, it was Bermuda! The lack of shore excursions was surprising but not unwelcome. We spent a half day in Hamilton, a day in St. Georges, a day on scooters cruising the south beaches and visiting the Gibbons Light House and a half-day snorkeling. And what better place to come "home" to each night than the big, beautiful Breakaway and her amazing crew.