Introduction: As background, we traveled as a family of four with two college age kids. We are NCL Platinum and usually book suites when traveling as a family. On this cruise, we booked a family suite in the Haven on the 16th floor of the ship.
Embarking and Layout: We had a smooth embark in New York. Since our last cruise from this port, NCL seemed much more organized for embarking from Manhattan. We arrived at 11 a.m. and were on the ship by 11:30 a.m. The layout of the ship is similar to Jewel class ships only on a grander scale. We were at the front of the ship so we had easy access to elevators. The 678 area eliminated the middle group of elevators. While the change is aesthetically please, I imagine that if you are in a mid-ship cabin, you got your exercise going to and from the elevators.
The Haven was splendid. It is nicer than the Haven on Jewel class ships. More sun space, better wind barriers and a good restaurant and lounge area.
Room: The Haven family suite is smaller than similar suites on Jewel class ships. The living room area is noticeably smaller and the balcony is very small for a room of this type. The room has a lot of furniture which is typically appreciated, but the size of the cabin cannot accommodate all the furniture. The master bathroom is spacious. I would have traded some bathroom space for additional living room space. The second bathroom and bedroom are small, but the layout was good in view of the space constraints. Still a very nice room, but for the substantially price you pay for a Haven suite, I would expect a bit more room both inside and outside the cabin.
Restaurants: We had dinner at Le Bistro, La Cucina, Taste, Savor, The Manhattan Room and the Haven Restaurant. The dinners were very good at all of these restaurants. However, reservations and seating were a problem. We needed to change our La Cucina reservation to attend the captain's reception. We asked the concierge to change the date but keep the time the same 6 p.m. He indicated the only time available was 5:30 p.m. When we arrived at La Cucina, there was only one other group dining. When we left La Cucina around seven, the restaurant was still less than half full. It appears they do not have sufficient wait staff or kitchen staff to handle more that a few seatings at a time.
The same issue arose when we tried to dine at the Manhattan room. The restaurant opened at 5:30 p.m and we arrived at 5:40 p.m. After a twenty minute wait, we were offered pagers for an additional wait of approximately thirty minutes. We declined, since we had reservations for a show. Based on the line in front of us at 5:40 p.m., the restaurant was at best half full when we were declined entrance at 6 p.m. Also, there was no communication between NCL staff and dinners that would have alerted dinners to seek alternative restaurants. We were fortunate to have the Haven restaurant available, but those without that option were forced to scramble for alternative arrangements.
Service: The restaurant experience is a good example of the overall service issues on this cruise. It appeared either the staff was new and still working on delivering reasonable service, or there was not sufficient staff for a ship of this size. Until we called it to the attention of staff, our nightly turn down service was occurring after 9 p.m. This was in the Haven, which presumably has a higher level of service than the rest of the ship. We did not use our butler often, but when we asked simple questions about the coffee machines and remotes for the various T.V.'s he could not address these issues. This is the first NCL cruise in which I would rate service as average at best.
Entertainment: If you like references to bestiality, simulated sex acts and sex in a men's bathroom, Rock of Ages is your type of show. On a cruise with a lot of families on board, the choice of this show as NCL's main theater production leaves a lot to be desired. I consider my entertainment tastes pretty liberal, but this show managed to be both gratuitously offensive and not entertaining at the same time. A lot of folks walked out of our seating. I stayed until the end, but the show did not redeem itself during 90 minutes of a really bad production.
The rest of the shows were good. Burn the Floor is definitely worth seeing, and our cruise had a good comedy magician who was both funny and good at his craft. We did not see Cirque as we have seen similar shows on prior occasions.
Fitness and Recreation: This section of the ship excels. My daughter and I did the ropes course twice, and is was unlike anything available on other ships. The water park was also excellent and lines were very short. Even the mini-golf was pretty fun for a cruise ship. The fitness center is laid out well with one room for cardio and another room for weight-training. I exercised early ever day so I can't comment on crowds in the fitness center, but when I went I had the run of the place.
Embarking: We did the early walk off, and we were off the ship and through customs in 15 minutes. Very well organized.
Overall: The ship still seems a work in progress. This is the first time NCL's service was a disappointment. The layout and facilities on the ship are excellent, but if service does not improve, NCL is squandering a chance to make the Breakaway the best ship in its fleet. If I cruise again on NCL, it will be the Epic or a Jewel class ship. From a service and value for money standpoint, these ships have more to offer.