Sailed on the Norwegian Breakaway from June 16-23rd out of NY. This was only my second cruise (first one was on the Celebrity Horizon in 2004) and the first one with my children. My companions were my husband and my two daughters, ages 12 and 10. We took the Keystone Amtrak train from PA to save money. It was cheaper than parking our car at the pier for a week! (Note that NCL does not offer a discount for the Keystone Line, but it still saved us money). The cab ride from Penn Station to the Manhattan Cruise Terminal was less than $10 before tip.
We had an inside family stateroom, #14605. It was tight, but adequate and quiet. The kids' beds were single pull-down beds, one on each side of the room. I had to be careful not to hit my head one one when sitting up in our bed. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived around 1:30. The porter took our luggage. We tipped $2 a bag, so that was $10. Then we went inside the port terminal. There are a few different lines and we were directed by the staff there in a friendly way. Security was quick and simple. Then we got our cabin keys and boarded the ship. That was the longest line as you each have to stick your key card in a machine to get checked in. But they ran it very smoothly.
The ship is huge! Peter Max's artwork is fun and cheerful. I know it's received mixed reviews, but I liked it. Were greeting by a group of very friendly crew members as we walked onto the ship. Went to our stateroom to drop off our carry-on bags, then headed to the Garden Cafe for a late lunch. It did not feel crowded. Then went to The Splash Academy to register the girls in the Dolphins program (ages 10-12). There are different groups depending on age and the Academy spans two decks. There is a separate area for teens (ages 13-17). There was a line, but again, it moved pretty quickly. Having older children in The Splash Academy, we were given the option of letting them sign themselves in and out of the program as opposed to us having to drop them off and pick them up every time. (While in port, a parent has to sign the child in and out). They get a different colored bracelet than the younger kids and those who aren't given that privilege. They must stay at least 2 hours after checking themselves in. If we didn't have that time, we would just drop them off and pick them up like everyone else. It wasn't a problem. You use a password to get your child. Your child needs to keep their key card with them so they can sign in and out, so make sure they have a pocket or bag with them. My daughter sometimes stuck hers in her shoe, or the staff let her keep it in a safe place at The Academy.
Went to Deck 16 to watch the ship pull out around 4pm. Saw Lady Liberty and watched as the ship sailed under the Verrazano Bridge. My kids were already in the pool by then! Had dinner the first night in the Manhattan Room, one of the included restaurants. This is the most formal dining room, which basically means men can't wear shorts. The first night is Surf & Turf night there. I had that and was disappointed in the Turf. It was fatty and tough. I brought it to my waitress's attention and asked for another lobster tail instead. She brought me 2! And they were delicious, as was Norwegian's Signature Cheesecake. If you want NY cheesecake on this NY ship, you won't be disappointed. Danced to the live band. It was a very pleasant first day on the ship.
The next day we woke to about 6 foot waves. My older daughter was a bit sea sick that morning and afternoon (the waves rose to 11 feet). I felt it as well, but I use Bonine and it works great without knocking me out. I discovered it on my first cruise. Even a huge ship like The Breakaway rocks in the ocean.
The Rockettes are the godmothers of The Breakaway. We went to a Q&A with two of them. I believe this was the last cruise on which the Rockettes would sail. They offered a dance class later in the week, but I did not attend it. It was neat to hear about their experiences and backgrounds and how they auditioned to become a Rockette.
My younger daughter loved The Splash Academy and spent most of her time there. She even chose it over spending the last day in port on Bermuda! She was in a small talent show on Saturday. They had tons of activities for the kids and present you with the entire week's schedule after you register on the first day. That was very helpful with planning what we would do together and separately. My older daughter didn't enjoy it as much. I think she would have preferred being with the older kids, but she wasn't old enough for this ship. That was the main reason I chose NCL over Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. They were the only line that let my kids be in the same age group. The other lines had 12-17 as the oldest group. My younger daughter is much more social than my older one. I would highly recommend The Splash Academy. Except for the first day at registration, it's a "parent-free" zone. We were comfortable with that. The very last full day of the cruise, an incident happened and my daughter was upset, but a staff member handled it very well and she was fine. I spoke with him myself and left feeling confident that the staff take their jobs seriously and look after the safety of the kids while disciplining when necessary. The Academy is closed for lunch and dinner. That was nice, otherwise I might not have seen my youngest all week! The hours are 9-12, 2-5 and 7-10:30. There is a Late Night Fun Zone (10:30-12), but that costs extra. It's $6 per person and $4 for another sibling. A note about the schedule: they may change it without notice. For example, my daughter was excited about taping an iCarly episode, but they never did that. Also, the weather can alter the schedule. They just bring the kids inside.
The Garden Cafe is typical buffet food. It wasn't until several days into the cruise that we realized they served french toast, pancakes and waffles as well. It's a very tiny part of the two-sided buffet. You have to look up at the signs over each station to find it. Not the best food and it was the same every morning, but it provided a quick meal so we could start our day. Had lunch there a few times and that varied. There is a bar in the buffet. It's the same on both sides, so don't feel like you are missing out by only going to one side. Sometimes they had portions closed if traffic was slow, but the seating was all open and we never had trouble finding a table. You can also get room service at no additional cost. We did that a couple of mornings, but the choices are very limited to cereals, yogurt, fruits and breads. You have to have the note on your door by 11pm the night before. The only time they charge for room service is if you order late night into early morning and if you wanted pizza delivery, neither of which we did. There was another small issue with the food. My daughter got a chocolate croissant at The Garden Cafe. There was a small piece of blue plastic on the bottom of it. We notified the wait staff and they apologized and asked for our stateroom number. Later that morning we found 5 chocolate-covered strawberries from the Maitre'D. Definitely made us happy. If you are not completely satisfied with something, nicely say so. They will make it right. The last night of the cruise, we ate in The Manhattan Room again. The band was AWOL a lot. We got there right when the restaurant opened, but we did that the first night as well. Don't know what happened there, so no dancing that night. Was a bit disappointed, but not really a bit deal.
There are many bars on the ship. We are wine and beer drinkers and they all offered pretty much the same drinks. The restaurants have a wonderful wine list. I had fun with it and was never disappointed. If you are a craft beer drinker, on the other hand, you won't be pleased. My husband drank Sam Adams all week. I had Corona sometimes. They have the national brands and a few others (Blue Moon, Newcastle). I never did see a Brooklyn lager on the menu! You can get mixed drinks everywhere.
The entertainment on The Breakaway is amazing. Julie, the Cruise Director, was ok. We saw her every day and she encouraged people to have fun. We attended Burn the Floor, Rock of Ages (NOT for children) and the Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy dinner theater. None disappointed us. The dancers for Burn the Floor were talented and very entertaining. Rock of Ages is a 1980's musical that is NOT kid-appropriate. I am not a prude, but when they continually tell you not to bring kids, there is a reason. Of course, there were children in the audience. They learned some new words, saw lots of scantily-clad women dancing sexily and saw some hand gestures. It's a great adult show with comedy mixed in. Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy is the only dinner for which we paid extra. It was well worth it. The fixed meal was amazing (the steak done to perfection!) and the wait staff and entertainers were great. (They do offer a couple of kids' meal choices if you ask). You do NOT have to pay extra for premium seating. Sitting in the back actually offers more entertainment as the performers come up to you at your table if you are by the aisle. Every seat is good. There are a couple of large posts which suspend the ceiling, so you want to make sure you don't get an obstructed view, but that is easy to avoid if you arrive early. Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos was fun. You don't need reservations for this. There were always plenty of seats. They take requests, but usually only play the ones with money attached. They made a production out of that, so it seemed true. We just enjoyed whatever they played without putting in a request.
Arrive early for dinner and shows if you want good seats and a short wait. There are touch screens on each deck by the elevators and stairs and near the restaurants which tell you the wait times. I did not see any way to make reservations at Taste, Savor or The Manhattan Room. You may be able to if you go to the reservation desk near Guest Services on deck 6, but we never checked that out. There was never a need if we ate around 5:30, which is when we normally eat dinner anyway.
Carlo's Bakery is a must! We had the little dark chocolate mousse cake twice! It was SO good. Also, don't miss Sabrett's Hog Dog Stand on The Waterfront deck. It is only open from 12-3 and then for a few hours a bit later. These are included with your fare and are not to be missed.
The Aqua Park is a lot of fun. I didn't go on the water slides, but my daughters and husband did. They had fun. The kid's pool is salt water. We all climbed the rock wall and did the ropes course. Even walked the plank twice; once at sea and once in port (no line then!) Great views of Bermuda that way.
My husband and the the girls enjoyed the giant chess board on the Deck 8 Waterfront. The Atruim has a huge movie screen with recent movies playing. The Casino was always crowded and smokey (we didn't use it). The photo gallery staff will try to talk you into buying more than you want. You just have to stand your ground. Didn't shop on the ship, but did browse. We actually purchased Bermudian rum at Goslings in Hamilton and it was delivered to our stateroom Saturday evening.
Bermuda was wonderful. If you book a shore excursion through NCL, they meet you right outside of the ship at Heritage Wharf. We did the Snuba excursion at Snorkel Park Beach. Ray was a very good instructor and we saw beautiful fish and reefs only 8-10 feet below the surface. We were under the water for about 30 minutes. The first part of the excursion was learning how to use the regulator and mask and getting wet suits (optional) and fins. Then he brought us into the water to practice underwater breathing. Only after we were all comfortable with that did we venture deeper. You have to know how to swim as you are wearing a weight belt to help you sink and you can't touch the bottom without going under the water.
Debarkation was even easier than embarkation. We had a late afternoon train back home, so we weren't in a hurry to get off the ship. You can choose to walk off with your luggage in tow early on Sunday (8-9am). Otherwise, you choose a colored luggage tag available at guest services starting Friday night for the time you want to get off the ship. We chose 10:15 (the latest is 10:30) and were off the ship, had our luggage and were out of the port by 10:00! They announce your color, so remember which color you chose, as your luggage is picked up from outside your stateroom Saturday night. DO NOT get a cab right there at the port. A $7.50 cab ride to Penn Station would have cost us between $25-35! You have to be smart and ignore the Yellow Cab drivers. TLC charges what the meter states. Don't fall for the flat-rate fares. Walk a block or two and hail a TLC cab.
The Breakaway was a wonderful ship. I highly recommend it. Although there were 4000 people on it, it never felt crowded. Sure, you might wait a bit for a few things, but on what vacation won't you? You have to have a cruiser mentality when you board (do I get motion-sick?), watch what you spend, then relax and let them take care of you. Happy sailing!!