My wife and I recently sailed on the second voyage from NYC to Bermuda. This was our 12th cruise overall and 2nd with NCL. We are Platinum members with RCCL and Princess. Our first cruise on NCL was not good to say the least. Not all was the fault of the cruise line but we felt they could have made things much better. Terrible weather on the initial crossing and a person going overboard wasn't a great start. Anyway we didn't really see a cruise on the other two lines that appealed to us. We love going to and sailing out of NYC. In addition Bermuda being one of our favorite ports (4th visit)and the Breakaway being a new an innovative ship we opted to give NCL another try. I like to consider ourselves as the average cruiser who doesn't nit-pick every detail but one that expects to receive what you pay for, comfort and relaxation.
We arrived in NYC Thursday and stayed at the Holiday Inn on West 57th Street. This choice was made based on a couple of things. NCL offers a special rate and transfers to the ship. There are other properties we have stayed with and enjoyed but for the mentioned above offers we thought why not try it. My full review of the hotel can be found on Trip Advisor but needless to say we wont be back. The best thing about the hotel is the location. The transfer was smooth 10-15 ride to the pier.
Embarkation was an ordeal. Some people didn't have an issue and got right thru and on to the ship. We arrived about 12:45 and was after two before we got on. They had several locations to check in based on deck number,(odd or even) Booked in The Haven and for their priority members. Many aggravated people were standing in long lines. I found it odd that nobody was there to greet us as we boarded. If memory serves me correctly they even offered a glass of champagne on our previous cruise. No big deal.
The ship is big, beautiful and clean.(which it should have been) Once we got a map of the layout we headed to the buffet for a bite to eat to plan our exploration of the ship. We headed to deck 17 and proceeded to work our way from forward to aft on each descending deck of interest. For a ship this size it was quite easy to navigate. Inside be sure to look at the carpet as the pattern of fish will tell you which way you are headed. There are touch screens throughout the ship to tell you what and when things are happening. Screens are also set up to show the availability at specialty restaurants. This is definitely a "high tech" ship. One feature we liked i need to mention before forgetting is unlike previous ships we were on looking for you pictures was so easy. You scanned your room card on a monitor and your pictures appeared on the screen. They were then put in numbered album folders. Beats looking at pictures on a wall.
Our room was on deck 11 mid-ship on the port side. The room was nice, the bedding was comfortable. BIG THING to know is there is a slot on the wall you must keep a key card in for the lights and TV to work. Took us a few minutes to figure this out. Kudos to NCL in trying to conserve energy. The bathroom was huge. Long vanity with to two faucets and the shower was big enough for multiple people easily. As others also mentioned the deck was very small. Two chairs and a small table was all it would hold. There was ample closet space a couch and room underneath the bed for luggage. David was our room attendant and did a very good job. Be careful if you are a light sleeper when booking your room. The boardwalk is on deck 8. On the port side you have the Jazz Club and some other venues that tend to draw people outside. It can be noisy above them on lower decks. Didn't bother us as we were out late anyhow.
I thought the food in the buffet and dining rooms were standard in taste and selection. My wife thought it was a notch below. We ate at Ocean Blue and the Brazilian Steak House. Ocean Blue was good but for the $49 per person up charge not sure if I would do it again. The Brazilian restaurant was well worth the extra $20 for me. The food was excellent and plentiful. Don't get sucked in by the salad bar. It's really big and good but I was there for the meat. There are other places scattered around that offer the burger, brats and hot dog and pub fare. O'Sheehans is a nice place to grab a bite. It sits above the atrium where you can view from above and also has video games, pool and bowling. With so many places to eat there are a lot of places to get get water, juice, tea etc without going to a bar. My final comments on the food are that NCL offers many options to dine which is great. Does NCL cut back a little on quality of food to push people towards the specialty places? Oh yeah some places allow shorts and others are more formal dress.
Entertainment was top notch with something for everyone. Many people raved about Burn The Floor. We thought it was just ok but that might have been based on the type of dance. Rock Of Ages was good. It helps if you like 80's music. It is also not G rated. There is profanity and sexual innuendo. Fat Cats and Slam Allen was packed every night. If you are looking for a quaint setting with good Blues here is your ticket. Get there early if you want a good seat. We saw an early show of Second City. Very entertaining improv. There main show was at a strange time 12:30 pm on our last sea day. In addition there was a charge which we both thought was a little high. Thus we didn't go. Lastly for us the best entertainment was Dueling Pianos-- Howl at the Moon. From the looks of things they are not a fixture on the ship. This is a shame for those who will miss the opportunity to see them. For those that did you know what I'm talking about. Very entertaining and always had a packed house. The last night the room was filled with cruise staff and the Second City folks in addition to regular cruisers. There were also the standard cruise ship game shows, trivia, bingo, theme nights etc. The last thing I mention is the fireworks display they did.
This was really neat and a must see.
Pool area is nice but small for that many folks. If the ship sailed year round in the Caribbean or warmer climate then a lot of folks will spend time looking for a place. Front of the ship on deck 16 has some cabanas you can lounge in and for lack of better word bed you can lay on. These are open and premium spots. The water slides are a big draw and a lot of fun. The ropes course with the zip line and walk the plank are another big draw. I spent a lot of time in the Spice H2O area. Back of the ship for adults, bar and hot tubs. You have The Haven which I can't help with and it's pool but only one more pool for adults..
Ok, A few more things I would mention and these are again purely subjective. we thought the service overall was indifferent. Exceptional in the specialty restaurants and dining rooms but bar service and other venues seemed lacking. Most people had to go get their own drinks Crew you passed by would speak but seemed like they did so because they had to. The Ice Bar we passed on. It cost $20.00 per person and included two drinks but they were their specialty drinks. No other options. Spa was nice with plenty of exercise equipment. If you want to eat at a specialty restaurant book early. The same with the shows. To get good seats at the shows show up 30 mins early as some of the venues especially the Theatre are small.
As for Bermuda it is just a beautiful place with some of the nicest people you would ever want to encounter. Throw in clean, safe, beautiful beaches and lots to do that equals the perfect place.
Getting off the ship was a lot easier. We did express checkout. Took our bags down to the designated are at 7:40 and we got right off and through customs.
In closing, for those of you that read all the way through. I can tell you we had a great time. NCL made up a lot of ground with us from our previous experience. Yes there are personal preferences we like better with RCCL and Princess but I would not have any issues going on NCL. This cruise was not 100% booked so I can only imagine more people trying to get reservations for shows and food being even more difficult. We like to free-wheel things and not have everything so planned out like we felt needed to be on this ship. This was probably the biggest issue for us. If you are looking for different food and entertainment options this is a great ship just be prepared to plan a little more than usual. Calm seas and smooth sailings to all