Our June 2 cruise on the Breakaway was our first experience on a “ginormous” ship. We enjoyed ourselves immensely but wonder if bigger is better. Here are our impressions:
We arrived at the cruise terminal around 10:30 a.m., a bit early but, in the end, it worked out very well. Keep in mind that there might be street closures in Manhattan on Sundays; there were two major parades on our day of embarkation making for delays to the terminal. Don’t worry about pier parking, there is lots of space. By 11:30 a.m., we were onboard and able to drop our carry-on luggage in our cabin—a great new feature of the Breakaway. Before having lunch in Savor, the dining room that is open the first day at noon, we purchased tickets for Cirque Dreams and arranged for dinners at Le Bistro and Ocean Blue. More on that later.
Unbeknownst to us, our balcony cabin (10784) was on the curve of the ship, had a larger balcony and was mid-ship, too. The room, like the ship, was decorated in neutral colors. Already, there were stains on the beige areas of the carpet reminding me of our attempt to have an ivory carpet in our bedroom; as hard as you try, it doesn’t stay clean. There wasn’t much shelf space and we only had two carry-ons for the week. There is additional storage space under the television. Our Platinum Latitudes “perks package” was in the room and it was a delight to have all these goodies for the first time. Our iPad fit in the safe (not lying flat); a larger netbook or laptop would not fit in. Our bed was near the balcony and comfy, too.
FREESTYLE CRUISING ON A LARGER SHIP
With so many passengers, the concept of freestyle is quite different from other Norwegian ships with the exception of the Epic which is a tad larger. It is necessary to register for shows and reserve for dinner as well. On sea days, the specialty restaurants were filled up. If you reserved an early show that started at 7 p.m., you had to be in the theater by 6:50 or your seat went to a stand-by. That meant, for us, eating in the buffet the nights we reserved Burn the Floor and Rock of Ages. If you don’t mind eating at 8 or 9 p.m., this isn’t an issue.
The Daily is filled with activities but some aren’t really activities: library open, Deal or No Deal cards for sale, spa “seminar,” etc. The gym was terrific and early in the morning, we had no wait for treadmills. The are many outdoor venues that appeal to families- the ropes course, a trampoline, mini golf, water-park, kids’ pool, but our good weather was in Bermuda. The activities that needed a waiver, like the ropes course, were open for a few hours in the late morning and then again in the later afternoon weather permitting. Because the ship had over 4,000 passengers, there was a seating issue whenever activities that had widespread appeal like meeting the Rockettes (excellent) or a Question & Answer session with the officers were scheduled. Coupled with the fact that our sea days didn’t have good weather, there were huge crowds at many indoor activities. Sometimes, there were two activities scheduled at the same time. I would have loved the cooking demo, held in the theater, but it was the same time as the Cruise Critic meeting and not repeated. There were no pastry demonstrations or food carvings. There was lots of trivia which I enjoyed and met lots of nice fellow cruisers and trivia buffs. There were zumba classes and dance lessons with the Rockettes, a nice touch. For families, the Nickelodeon staff was on-board. There wasn’t a noticeable presence of children, other than toddlers, since school is still in session in the Metropolitan area. I wish that NCL would have speakers on board; that would enhance our experience.
One perk of Platinum Latitudes is the Behind the Scenes Tour. When I went to sign up, I learned that it was the same time as Cruise Critics. I did want to meet the people who were on the roll call so I was quite disappointed. However, Shaun, the Cruise Consultant, was a life-saver. I asked him after the fact if they would do the tour again and he arranged for us to go on the regularly scheduled tour for guests. It was a highlight for us. We visited the dressing room of the Cirque Dreams Spiegel Tent (a venue with 360? viewing); the provisions area (meat locker), laundry (high tech) and environmental center. All the guides were so proud of their jobs and loved what they did. On Friday, we were taken to the bridge which was more modern than those on the Jewel and the Gem.
If you sign up for the Meet and Greet, you’ll meet fellow cruisers and some officers. It’s always fun. Thanks, Sheila, for arranging the meeting and thanks, Lee, for organizing the cabin crawl. We got to see several balcony cabins and the Penthouse Suite. We weren’t part of the slot pull. About 80 people showed up for the Cruise Critic Meeting.
The Cirque Dreams show, Jungle Fantasy, is spectacular and worth the price. Alas, I hear that standard seating will be eliminated in July. It is the one show that kids would like but at $39 a seat, it is very pricey. Maybe, there could be a children’s price but that is wishful thinking. The meal was fine and after some “pleading,” we substituted grilled shrimp for the fried coconut shrimp.
Slam Alan in the Jazz Club, Fat Cats, is superb. You don’t have to like jazz to love his show. He related so well to the audience and is a real gem. We went once to the Dueling Pianos. Fire & Ice is a very good duo but again, we couldn’t get seats in the atrium. If you want to go to the game shows conducted by the cruise staff and held in the atrium at 8 p.m., get there early for a seat. I enjoyed What’s My Line (showing my age here).
If you like dance, you’ll love Burn the Floor. It is pretty sophisticated and enjoyable. The troupe also performs on several nights in the Manhattan Dining Room, which has music and dancing. We never ate there. As for Rock of Ages, I’m glad I didn’t buy tickets for the Broadway show. It wasn’t family friendly but the story and music weren’t “our cup of tea.” Not having an aisle seat, we were captive for more than an hour and a half. I think it’s admirable to attempt a Broadway show but I’ll take Oklahoma! However, lots of fellow cruisers enjoyed the show. The comedian-magician was a C-. With that said, there are so many entertainment options that there’s always something to do at night.
UNIQUE FEATURES OF THE SHIP
The technology on-board is amazing. Your photos in the photo gallery are accessed via your room card-innovative and fun. You can access your folio (account) through the iConcierge app on your iPad or phone. Of course, you can do the same on your tv screen. Make sure to check your account regularly. Our free laundry was first charged $56 because they didn’t see Platinum on the bag. The laundry was done in a day and came back pressed and on hangers. Very nice. The mistake in accounting was straightened out in a day. Be aware that any on-board credit, labeled non-refundable on-board credit, cannot be used for the gratuities. For some reason, the gratuity charge is deducted from the on-board credits and then straightened out the last day. I think that should be adjusted and explained more clearly.
The Waterfront on the 8th floor is a fun concept. It’s a great idea to have the out-door seating, hot-dog stand, gelato (charge), etc. Too bad we didn’t have good weather.
The fireworks show is at 11:15 p.m. Too late for me and for young children who would love it. I heard it was great but so, so crowded.
We like the specialty restaurants. Had two free dinners at LeBistro (Moderno or La Cucina could be substituted) with wine. Terrific. Loved the lamb chops and crème brulee- a great meal at a fair price. I love cooking and food shows and had to try Ocean Blue. We had our complimentary champagne that we brought to the restaurant. The service was impeccable and the shrimp panzanella extraordinary. We both had the Dover sole which was good. The desserts were beautiful to look at and delicious. Contrary to many reports, tea and coffee were not extra. Loved it but don’t know if I’d pay $49 a person. We also tried Cagney’s for the first time, great food prepared to order. For breakfast, O’Sheehan’s cooked omelets to order. It was terrific and a good alternative to the buffet.
We really missed the Java café. Although Carlo’s Bakery had great cappuccino, I didn’t want to buy rich cake to have with it. The Java café had plain pound cake at no charge and coffee at no charge. That is a loss. Buddy Valastro is very telegenic but somehow I didn’t feel a need to try the pastry when we have a premiere Italian bakery a short walk from our home. It might also be nice if Buddy Valastro or Geoffrey Zakarian had some cooking or baking demo.
Wifi is available in Bermuda for $3 an hour among other plans. Walk to the gazebo in the Dockyard Terminal and purchase a package that is good for you.
Debarkation was a cinch. We left 15 minutes after our color was called and was home by 10 a.m. We easily found a porter who took our luggage to our car, had no wait at customs. Perfect.
Contrary to what I’ve read, the ship did feel crowded, especially on sea days. Perhaps, it is because we had bad weather. I don’t think it’s worth extra for the same length cruise to opt for the Breakaway over the Gem. We’re glad we tried it, had a great time but don’t think that bigger is necessarily better.