OVERALL: My husband and I are in our 30s/40s and took this cruise for our 5th anniversary. We have cruised on NCL twice before and have been loyal to NCL and "Freestyle" cruising, except that our most recent cruise was on Celebrity. We booked this cruise because of the Breakaway's amenities and the itinerary to Bermuda and back. Overall, we had a great time and loved Bermuda and the ship. However, we noticed some differences in NCL from our last experience that made us reconsider whether we truly will be as loyal to NCL in the future as we once thought. There was a lot more nickel and diming going on, and there were no midnight buffets, etc. Staff was fine but no one really stood out as being exceptional.
BERMUDA: We took the bus and ferry. St. George is definitely worth a trip and can be seen in several hours. This was my favorite part of the trip. We went to Horseshoe Bay the last time we were in Bermuda, so we went to Jobson's Cove and Warwick Long Bay this time (same bus), and we had the beach all to ourselves. Jobson's Cove also doesn't have the long walk that Horseshoe Bay does. It has some pretty scary toilets but no beach chairs, restaurant, etc. We loved this beach. The public transportation is great and inexpensive.
EMBARKATION: Leaving from NYC was fun and sooo easy. From the time we got to the port to the time we boarded, it was roughly an hour. Lines were controlled.
PASSENGERS: Leaving from NYC, you'll have a lot of NY passengers. There were a lot of families. It was not a party cruise but a much younger crowd than some cruises we've been on.
SHIP COMMON AREAS:The ship was not as big as I thought it would be, so it really was a manageable size. The common areas were really nice -- modern and really not tacky for a ship. The outdoor restaurant seating was nice, and the bars/lounges were lovely. We liked the Spice H2O area and unfortunately didn't use it much except to see what was going on at night. It would have been nice to have a third bank of elevators mid-ship. The layout of the ship was great. O'Sheehan's was so cute -- it looked just like an Irish pub. We didn't go to the ice bar -- it was $20 pp, which included two drinks each.
DINING: Overall, the food was good. The Garden Cafe buffet was pretty good. We noticed some inconsistencies -- sometimes there was real whipped cream for berries, and sometimes it was Cool Whip. The caramel sauce for ice cream was gross, but the bananas foster sauce for French toast was amazing. We would get hors d'ouevres there (cheese and fruit) and take them to our room before dinner. Overall, the buffet was OK. O'Sheehan's food was pretty bad, but we loved the atmosphere. The Manhattan Room was good, especially for main dining room food. It tended to be busy, with a short wait. We also ate at Savor and thought it was good. We got a specialty dining package before we left -- Le Bistro, Cagney's and La Cucina for about $110 for two people, plus a bottle of wine.
Le Bistro - The four cornets appetizer was disappointing, but everything else was very good. Service was great, and we loved the ambiance.
Cagney's - What a disappointment! The steak was great, the appetizers were OK, but the sides were awful. Dessert was good, but our waiter was a jerk!
La Cucina - This was the surprise favorite. We went twice, and the service was great. The bread with four dipping sauces was good. The first time was had pizza, it was amazing! The second time it was OK. The entrees were really good, as were the desserts.
Raw Bar - We had appetizers at the Raw Bar, which is next to Ocean Bu by Geoffrey Zakarian. The ceviche and tuna tartare were great. Sadly, the fish had a slightly odd texture due to having been frozen, but the quality and flavor were great, and at a great price. All the items on the menu sounded great. They ran out of oysters halfway through the cruise but said they'll be sure to have enough for future sailings.
I have to say that the food isn't quite as good as our last NCL cruise and also not as good as Celebrity, but the range of specialty restaurants is great.
ACTIVITIES: There are the usual activities -- bingo, art auctions, zumba, hawking stuff from the spa, etc. I was glad to see some crafts and trivia. We didn't participate, but it seemed like they had a decent number of activities. We enjoyed the table tennis (4 tables), ropes course, climbing wall, and water slides. The water slides were fun and scary! The ropes course was a blast. The staff was friendly and also seemed attuned to safety. The casino was a good size and mid-ship, such that it gets a lot of foot traffic each day. The shopping was standard -- store selling clothes and ship logo merchandise, duty free liquor and cigarettes (which had great prices), perfume/beauty store, and jewelry store. The daily store promotions revolved around $10 Bijoux Terner items and $20 watch sets, etc.
SPA/GYM:The gym was nice and of a good size, though there wasn't enough equipment for peak times. Generally there was space, though, and peak times seemed limited. We bought spa passes, which were $200 per person for the duration of the cruise. We each got two small loofahs and two small jars of mud with our passes. The spa is beautiful and well-equipped. It has great views, too. There were heated loungers (which were at a premium, but I went to the spa daily and there was only one time I didn't get one), a large hot tub pool, a smaller hot tub, sanarium, sauna, steam room, and salt room. This was perhaps the quietest area on the ship. Even though the pass was rather pricy, it was worth it. There were some minor issues such as the caulk coming up in places, etc., that obviously NCL didn't anticipate on a brand new ship, and I'm sure they'll fix these. The spa also comes with use of a locker and robe. The locker room staff was so friendly! BTW, there weren't any sizeable spa promos. The big deals seemed to be an extra 15 minutes of massage if you have the 8:00 a.m. appointment and small discounts off certain facials on port days. Generally spa prices were more than they are on land, even at a nice spa in a major metro area.
ENTERTAINMENT: Another reason we booked this ship was the entertainment. Burn the Floor was great, and I felt that Rock of Ages was as good as a touring production. Both were excellent. Rock of Ages is NOT for young kids. We didn't see Cirque Dreams, as we heard the food wasn't that good and would rather pay the money to see Cirque du Soleil, but heard nothing but positive reviews from other passengers (it's $30 pp, and $40 pp for premium seats). We sadly missed Second City. Howl at the Moon was great. The NCL entertainment is really top notch. Each show is repeated enough so that you can see all the shows at least once. Getting reservations in advance was a new concept to us, but we booked all of them online, and this worked great.
ROOM: We stupidly booked room 5706 -- an inside cabin on deck 5. This was the smallest inside cabin I've ever been in. I liked the modern styling. The bathroom was a decent size and had plenty of storage. The room itself had enough storage but some of it was awkward to access. Also, there weren't any drawers or shelves with railings, so socks, etc. were prone to falling off the shelves. The room had a hairdryer, safe, and cheap shampoo and body wash that was in a dispenser. No robes, slippers, conditioner, etc. There was plenty of well-conceived lighting. Overall, the room was fine. Our room steward was great -- not overly friendly but very nice and did a great job. We got lots of towel animals! We got turndown mints, but I'm sad to see that NCL limits these to Latitudes members only. It's not like providing Andes mints for the duration of the cruise is going to break the bank.
I strongly urge people to avoid rooms in the front of the ship on deck 5. This is under the Breakaway theater and the theater storage area. NCL entertainment is great, and Rock of Ages had a very elaborate set. Unfortunately, this meant we heard every part of the set being put together and dismantled from 11:30 p.m.-3:00 a.m. I'm pretty sure any of the rooms in the very front of deck 5 will face the same problem. It was like sleeping under a construction zone.
In utter frustration, I went to guest services and called guest services on multiple occasions, including putting my clothes back on in the middle of the night and going in person. To their credit, they were always friendly, but I don't think they handled it satisfactorily. The first night, after determining the cause of the noise, we were given earplugs. Even with the earplugs and a white noise app on my cell phone, i was still like a construction zone. When I complained again that night, we were temporarily moved to a different room. The next morning, we were called and told to leave the room and go back to our original room, as "people are getting on in Bermuda" (even though we weren't arriving in Bermuda until the following day). I found this to be suspicious and said that we didn't need a balcony room, just any other room, even if in the infirmary or with the crew, just somewhere quiet! We were told we would be first to get another room if one opened up. On the night it happened again, I was told there was "nothing they could do." I said that they could have the set take-down moved until daytime hours, but to no avail. They sent someone to "locate the noise" while my husband was in bed naked! Plus, they were the ones who told me where the noise was coming from, so I'm not sure why they needed someone to locate it. They ended up giving us a $200 on board credit, but the next day was our anniversary and we were so tired from the lack of sleep that it was ruined. I still don't think NCL fully understood how loud it was.
DISEMBARKATION: We walked off the ship and got a cab. It was all very simple.