This trip was a solid 'B' rating for me. I've cruised before on NCL (1 time) and RC (4 times) out of Miami and the Breakaway had a lot going for it. There were a few things I think could use some improvement, but I don't think it is as bad as the negative reviews lead you to believe (and I have read them all).
Was really impressed with the staterooms. Had a standard balcony room and thought it was really well-designed, in our room the couch was next to the balcony and I think it made the room feel even more spacious. There was TONS of storage for 2 people- way more than we used. Two big drawers under the couch, shelves and hanging room in the closet, storage in the vanity and in the bathroom. You could ask for more hangers if you needed them. The bed was comfortable, and while the balcony was a little small, it was fine for just sitting out there for 2 people. The bathrooms were a major improvement over all other ships I have been on- really big! The shower even could have fit 2 people semi-comfortably. Not bumping into everything in the bathroom was a major plus on this ship. We felt some slight ship motion on the 13th deck (aft, port side) especially in the rougher weather you can get with this itinerary but nothing major. We did hear some noises in the room at night that I believe was our neighbors flushing their toilet, but overall room noise was pretty minimal.
I thought the dining was so-so. The 3 main dining rooms have the same menu, and even the nightly specials didn't seem to offer much of a variety from the everyday menu. We ate in the Manhattan room one night and found it to be crowded, rushed and too loud (even though the band was great). It just didn't feel luxurious. We much preferred the smaller dining rooms for their decor and the dividers throughout, which made the meal feel more cozy. The smaller dining rooms are also open for sit-down breakfast and lunch and were great for that. The Garden Cafe was large with several options, and despite the ship being full I never felt overly crowded in here even at peak times. Loved the hand-washing stations in the GC! The outdoor dining for the GC was a big plus, as was the Uptown Grill which was never crowded at all. We only ate at one specialty restaurant (Cagney's), and it was amazing (both food and service). Way better than the Cagney's on the Sky. Several people in our party had to eat gluten free and the ship did a great job accommodating that. We spoke to the Maitre D on the first day and she advised us on what to have. It was easier to pre-order our meals several hours before eating in the main dining rooms to ensure they could be made, but we could also get GF bread in the buffet and GF pizza delivered to the room. Side note: the GF bread was so good! The best tasting GF bread any of us has had!
The Burn the Floor show was a good, standard cruise-ship performance. Rock of Ages was great! Definitely NOT for kids, but really talented performers and way above the quality of other cruise ship shows. The Cirque show was out of this world. It takes place in a small venue, and the things they are able to do on a cruise ship blew my mind. I personally don't know if the meal is necessary, it was distracting to eat during the show-I didn't want to look away from the performance! I can't recommended the Cirque show enough, it was worth every penny. We missed the comedy show by 1 minute and our reservations were given away, so can't comment on that. The dueling pianos were also good, as was the easy-listening piano music in Shakers. There were many small events going on throughout the cruise on sea days, we went to the wine tasting which was a great deal at $15. They served reasonably priced wine ($25-40/bottle) and we found several that we liked and ordered with dinner. Bottled wine was a much better deal than single glasses of wine.
We LOVED the water slides and the ropes course was fun (but scary at first). The pool area is small as other reviewers have said, but we found that we were always able to get chairs in Spice H2O in the afternoon and it was a quiet place to relax. The Vibe beach club looked awesome, but was sold out in hours, so if that is something you want to join get there early to board and do it ASAP. The Waterfront on deck 8 was really nice, great to sit outside at bars and also a nice place to walk around after dinner. The jogging track was really small, and wet from the water slides. It was OK to walk there, but I wouldn't run. The spa was nice (had a decent massage), but I hate how they always try to up-sell you to buy more products. The gym was smaller than other ships and was divided into a cardio area and a weights area. The first day they were packed, but it got better throughout the week. I took the TRX classes (3 for $45) which were good- although extra-challenging with the ship swaying in rough weather. The casino was smoky and did not feel very grand. Actually I felt that the entire main atrium and public spaces on 6, 7 and 8 didn't feel very luxurious. The decor on the rest of the ship is nice, but these areas felt gaudy and bright without any finishing touches.
The was probably my biggest disappointment. The service was OK- everybody did their job- but I didn't feel like very many people went above and beyond. Some of this may come from the Freestyle approach: if they don't see you every night, you lose the personal touch. But even our room stewardess, who cleaned well and always said hi, seemed guarded and not overly friendly like I have always experienced on RC. There were a few notable exceptions- Rogeliza, the Maitre D who helped us with the gluten free stuff the first day, was outstanding. She remembered us from the start, always came over to say hello, and often recommended food that wasn't on the menu and talked to our servers for us. Julia (another Maitre D?) was also great. The girl playing piano at Shakers recognized us and always made us feel welcome. The bartender at Mixx before dinner (Christopher I think) remembered our orders after just one day(!) and was really personable. These individuals saved me from rating this trip lower, but I feel like in my past weeklong trips on NCL everyone I encountered gave that amazing level of service that was really missing on this trip.
Bermuda was amazing! It was our first time there and we loved it. It matches/exceeds the beauty of the Caribbean without the poverty (no trash!). It was easy to get around on the public buses and ferries, there are great historical things to see right in the Dockyard and throughout the islands. We didn't do any ship-sponsered excursions but did a private tour and a shipwreck snorkel booked on our own and both were fantastic. The people of Bermuda was really nice (and not just because they wanted something out of your like in the Caribbean). Can't wait to go back to Bermuda!
I would recommend this ship, especially for the Bermuda Itinerary. Two days at sea at the start were not too long, it was a very relaxing start to vacation. For me, I think I prefer organized dining at pre-arranged times over the Freestyle approach. The wait was often 30-40 minutes for the main dining rooms around 7-7:30, and if it took 2 hours to eat you missed your 9 or 10:00 show. Having to make show reservations was understandable based on the smaller entertainment venues, but I think it takes away from the Freestyle by adding stress about making your show times. I think the main things that would have made this ship even better would have been better service, more food variety, another pool, and a more "grand" feel to some of the public areas. I thought that overall the guests on this ship were friendly (at least they seemed nicer than the most recent Miami-based trip I took). It was pretty easy to get on/off the ship in New York, and sailing by the Statue of Liberty was a thrill. We got really lucky with great weather until the last day, but you could see how in rough weather the 3 sea days could be crummy. All in all, this was a great way for 3 couples to travel together without being together 100% of the time, but if I go back to Bermuda again I will probably fly. to spend more time their rather than on a ship.