I just got off the Norwegian Breakaway (NYC-Bermuda / 07/7-14/2013) and wanted to provide some feedback for those thinking about sailing on her. I had read many reviews here on CC prior to boarding and while I was excited to finally get to see her, I had fairly low expectations based upon what I read. I was pleasantly surprised. I will say that this cruise was a very different experience than any I have ever had. I'm not sure if I can explain it, but it was just not a typical cruise experience (maybe due to a very different ship design, layout, etc.). It felt much like a boutique hotel on water (boutique hotel meaning small). I am giving the Breakaway 4 ribbons for one reason and one reason only (I really wanted to give her 5 but just couldn't). Overall, it was a great experience once I let go of the one and only thing wrong with her - it was the first time in all of my cruises I ever felt crowded on a ship. I will talk more about that in a bit.
* My Cruising History * This was my 9th cruise (2nd on NCL). I have done 5 on RCL, 1 on Celebrity and 1 on Carnival (my first cruise, 8 years ago). I have done everything from 7 days to 18 days and have sailed most of the Caribbean Islands, sailed through the Panama & Suez Canals as well as the Mediterranean. I would count myself as a "Frequent Floater" with a varied set of experiences on varying sizes of ships. I have my next one already booked on NCL (Jade) for this November sailing the Eastern Mediterranean.
1.) Embarkation (NYC): [5 ribbons] Because I am a Latitudes member, I got through the lines very quickly. I arrived at 1:00pm and was on the ship by 1:30pm. I was able to go right to my cabin and then went to the Garden Cafe (buffet) for lunch.
2.) My Cabin (Studio Lounge - #11573): [5 ribbons] I was excited to finally get to sail alone and to try out these cabins for solo travelers. In a word, it was AMAZING! You can see my video review of my cabin here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjVb7gCjHEY&feature=c4-overview&list=UUthA0SxLm_-thzllH-ykyZw . I loved the Studio Lounge that you get access to and I liked that NCL posts a crew member there every day at 5pm for a Solo Travelers Reception to help you get acquainted with those solo travelers cruising with you. The arranged several outings for us together. It's of course, optional, but it was a nice touch. One cool thing to note is, in the lounge there is a high-end coffee machine that allows you to make good latte's, cappuccino's, etc. which was very nice (and free). Overall, I would do this cabin type again many times. The only thing I missed was the balcony (my 1st cruise without one). I didn't take long to get used to not having it - I mean, how much time did I really spend in the room anyway? :)
3.) Dining: [4 ribbons] I do love NCL's Freestyle Dining format. I had dinner in Taste 2 nights, Shanghai Noodle Bar 1 night, La Cucina 1 night, Garden Cafe (buffet) 2 nights and Cirque Dreams 1 night. I found the food across the ship to be good (not great - but certainly good enough). RCL's Italian specialty restaurant is better than La Cucina. I liked the Garden Cafe for breakfast and lunch. I wanted to try Moderno but didn't get around to it. The service was good to great in most venues, but I still felt a little like a herd of cattle in most places (not usual for me). Overall, the quality of food was good and the experience was good (not great).
4.) Pool: [2 ribbons] In all my cruising, I have never seen something so ridiculously small. for 4,000 passengers, NCL simply did a very bad job of thinking this through. The water slides are very cool (I did all of them and they were great fun), but they take up so much space on the pool deck that the main adult pool simply didn't have the amount of space it needed. The comments I heard around the ship from other passengers was the same. It is just too small and the space allotted for chairs to sun is just terrible. I saw people become very aggressive in the saving of lounge chairs. I saw the crew place small stickers on chairs with a time on it. Supposedly - there is a time limit of 1 hour to save chairs - but I saw people ripping those stickers off just as soon as they were put on - haha. I am not much of a sun bunny (even though I do like to lay out by the pool under the coverings), but for those who are - you will want to walk into this with real expectations so you are not disappointed.
5.) Spa/Fitness: [not rated] I took a break from exercising on this cruise and didn't hit the fitness facility or the spa at all this time. I normally do a massage but chose not to this time. I did tour the facility on day one and it is very nice and well outfitted. The only thing I didn't like is that I love to sit in the steam room to relax and normally, they are in the individual men's/women's locker rooms, but on this ship, the only steam room is in the Thermal Spa that comes along with a charge. But from what I understood, you can't buy day passes (don't quote me on that) - you buy access to it for the whole cruise or nothing. And I didn't want to spend the $199 to get access to it. It looked very nice, but was doing this cruise on the cheap I guess.
6.) Beverage Packages: [3 ribbons] I don't drink alcohol so I always buy the soda package and I did on this cruise as well. It was priced well and I was happy with it. The reason I gave this only 3 ribbons was because I had a friend on the ship who wanted the Premium Beverage Package that includes alcohol and when we went to inquire about it on day 2, they said you have to pay for all 7 days for it, even if you buy it days into the cruise. They wouldn't consider pro-rating the package because some days had already passed. Now, I think if I were a drinker, $49 per day for unlimited wine, beer & liquor is a GREAT deal, but to not be flexible with it depending on when you buy it is not very good customer service. She opted not to buy the package. In the end, she probably spent more on her alcohol than the price of the package (which is probably the ships strategy), but still…. So, if you are interested in purchasing that alcohol package, make sure you do it on day 1.
7.) Entertainment: [5 ribbons] As I mentioned, I have been on 8 cruises prior to this one and I can tell you - the quality of entertainment on this ship is by far, the very best I have ever seen. Being a musician/performer myself, I am a bit jaded by cruise ship entertainment for the most part, but was happily surprised at the level of talent on this ship. Every single venue I experienced that had entertainment (e.g., Fire & Ice, Howl at the Moon, Fat Cats Blues, Burn the Floor, Cirque Dreams & Rock of Ages, etc.) was spectacular. I was a little forgiving with ROA because the show is silly, but the quality of vocal performances was outstanding. My favorite by far was "Burn the Floor." This show was on Broadway and I can tell you it is that same quality on the ship. These dancers are AMAZING!!!!!! It is a must see! Overall, I was incredibly happy with the entrainment. Oh, and Julie, the Cruise Director - best CD I have ever had on ANY ship!
8.) Service: [4 ribbons] At every turn, the service was good, verging on great. From my cabin attendant, Winston, to the various crew I interacted with all over the ship, it was a good experience. I did have to take into account there were 4K people on the ship and sometimes the crew seemed a little rushed to "get it all done", but over all, I was happy with the service. There were many crew who seemed genuinely happy to have me on board and to meet my needs. My mantra for this cruise was "Feed Me & Flip Me" and I will be happy. :)
9.) Bermuda: [3 ribbons] I guess I am a little jaded in that an island is an island (and I have been to so many on cruises), but I was not all that impressed by Bermuda. Remember, I am not a sun bunny so I didn't go to the beaches (which I heard were beautiful). I did, however, make one very strategic move that paid off big dividends. We were docked in port 3 days and I chose to stay on the ship on day 1 & 2 and get off on day 3. Smart move! The ship that felt crowded most of the time, was perfect on those days. And because everyone went off ship on day 1 & 2, day 3 was quiet in St. Georges. I didn't go to Hamilton, but enjoyed the laid back, "old town" atmosphere of St. George's. If you want picturesque, go to St. George's. If you want shopping, go to Hamilton.
In the end, I was glad I took this cruise, glad I got to experience this new ship and glad I got to see what NCL has on the horizon for it passengers. I will say, however, I don't need to sail on her again. This also means, I am not jumping to sail on their sister ship, the Getaway anytime soon. I enjoyed it, but don't need to repeat the experience.