Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by coach jim: Breakaway review and observations 7/7-14
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Breakaway review and observations 7/7-14
We recently got back from our cruise on the Breakaway, 7/7-14. My wife and I were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and had our 17 yr old son with us. We had previously been on 10 cruises (RCI 3, NCL 2, Disney 2, Carnival 2, and Celebrity 1) First I want to thank those who had done early, extensive reviews, in particular Sliceoflife, Xenagurl, and gambee, they proved to be a great help in our planning and our cruise. I would also like to thank whenisthemidnightbuffet for organizing the meet and greet. That event turned out to be a wonderful experience for us, both because of the people we met and the opportunity to meet and talk with several of the Managers . We had a small issue with the UBP and a concern about our 17 yr old son who has a severe peanut and tree nut allergy. We had a great cruise and hopefully I can point out a few issues not previously addressed. By the way, there is something very special about sailing out of NYC, the skyline, Statue of Liberty, going under More
the Verrazano bridge, and seeing the Freedom Tower.
With the UBP, my wife was disappointed to find she could not get her favorite chardonnay, Clos Du Bois, by the glass. It was available by the bottle and we mistakenly presumed she could order it by the glass. We addressed this disappointment with one of the beverage managers, Jose Contreras, at the meet and greet. He took down our name and cabin number and explained it was only available by the bottle in the dining rooms. Later that day we returned to our cabin to find two small bottles of my wife’s favorite wine! That is great customer service. With regards to the UBP, while we made out fine cost wise, for us it was a little restrictive. My wife is a wine drinker, and was not thrilled with what was available by the glass, and I am primarily a beer drinker, the limited choices have already been covered. I found Brooklyn Lager in the uptown grill, but was disappointed to find it is not covered by the UBP, in addition, draft beer comes in small (12oz) and large (16oz), large drafts are also not covered, I found that a little ridiculous. I could get a double absolute and tonic and the bartender would count it as two so it was covered by the UBP, but a large draft is charged. End of the week I found three large draft charges from the beginning of the week. I went to On Board Credit desk, explained the bartender knew I had the UBP, and the charges were immediately removed without discussion!
With our son and his allergy, we had a great experience. I had always viewed Disney as the gold standard for dealing with food allergies, this experience surpassed them. We love cruising, but we always have concerns about cross contamination and language problems. Free style adds the wrinkle of dealing with new people each meal. Not to worry, the day we boarded we got a letter to meet with one of the restaurant managers. Our son was in the system, when possible they asked us to pre-order his dinner earlier in the day because it was prepared separately from the other food. When we were not able to do this we only had to wait an extra 5 minutes or so, not a problem at all. At almost every meal one of the managers came to our table to check on our son’s (and our) meal. This was greatly appreciated and gave us great piece of mind.
Cabin and the spa: We had a Spa mini-suite on the 14th floor. Yes, it is more mini than a suite, and the balcony is small, but we had no problem with the size of the cabin the balcony or the storage. My wife and I could both be on the balcony. Please know I am a big man, 6 foot 3’, north of 260, and our son is 6 2’ and my lovely wife is average size. If you are looking at the balcony or mini suites, I would recommend the configuration with the bed by the balcony. Ours had the bed next to the closet. Getting in and out of the closet was a bit tight. The bed was very comfortable, plenty wide and the length was fine. The bathroom was the largest we have had on a cruise, double sink and a big shower. As far as noise is concerned, we only heard deck chairs being moved once, and we had newly-weds next store and never heard anything. As far as the extra cost for the spa rooms, this is a personal choice. We loved the easy (but contradictory) access to the spa/exercise area and the garden café! We used the exercise area and the spa every day. We usually went there early afternoon and never had trouble getting a treadmill or working out on the machines and weights. The spa area was great and except for the heated tile loungers, we never felt it was crowded or had any trouble using the facilities. Steam room and sauna were nice and hot and the hydro therapy pool was wonderful. Again, we never found it crowded.
Pool deck, slides, ropes course: This has already been covered, but yes, the pool deck gets uncomfortably crowded, in particular on sea days, and the design of the pool deck is boxy and not easy to move around. There seemed to be wasted space with the “market place” and general open deck space is lost to the Heaven and Vibe. H2O was not as crowded, but still difficult to get a lounger and no pool. None of this bothered us because while we would normally use the pool, we are not sun worshipers and we had access to the spa. If we still had young kids however, it would be different.
The slides are great, in particular the free fall slide. Again, lines on sea days, but on the three port days there was no wait. We would normally come back early afternoon and no problem riding them multiple times. This was also an ideal time to use the pool. Our 17 yr old LOVED the ropes course. It ranged from easy to challenging, and even had a zip line section. Again, lost deck space but it was a great activity.
Entertainment: Here is another area where the ship excelled. I know people have concerns about the crowds on the pool deck, but the size of the ship allows for a great variety of entertainment. Our favorites were howl at the moon and Slam Allen. H at the M was great, great fun. We generally sat by the bar, and Vickie was an outstanding bartender. Great moment, they were playing “New York, New York” for a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, a knucklehead comes up and very vocally offers $20 not to play it, followed by a cascade of boos, then a Mother and daughter gave them $42 to finish playing, which of course they did to loud cheers and applause. Yes, request with tips generally got priority, but that is the case at every piano bar in America! The woman was the most talented singer and the two men were solid entertainers and great with an energetic crowd. Slam Allen is a wonderful musician and entertainer and very accessible when we saw him on the ship, primarily at the Garden café at lunch. As far as the big shows, we had reserved times for Burn the Floor, ROA, Second City late night and comedian Michael Finney. We are not big fans of Cirq, but people we talked to thought the show was wonderful. Burn the floor was about 50 min and was entertaining but not great. We thought ROA was good raunchy fun. The staging was great and some of the voices, in particular the male lead, were really impressive. Great to see several parts by people over 40. It is PG-13, both NCL and word of mouth has made that clear. If it was not, our 17 yr old make a good observation, part of the staging is a big sign reading “Live Nude Girls”! He said I would think that would make things clear. Second City is improv, by its nature it can be hit or miss based on audience suggestions. The late show was for adults and two of the members were really good, and the show was a lot of fun and ran about 45-50 minutes. We also saw Michael Finney, who is apparently a joke writer/standup/magician from Canada. One liners were uneven, some very funny, some fell flat, but his magic tricks were good, he just did not do enough of them, most of the act was his standup. I know many have complained about the performances in the atrium because of lack of seating. While this is true, it was nice to be able to stop by, have a drink and move on or hear the music from a nearby venue like O’Sheehan’s. Fire and Ice were really talented and worth catching, even for a few minutes. The overall variety and ability to move from venue to venue was tremendous.
Bermuda: What can I say, just a beautiful Island. We got the three day transportation pass. Day one, my son and I went on the Bermuda Triangle/ship wreck snorkel. This was a wonderful excursion. Crew was young and informative, the water was particularly calm, like being in a pool, and it was an incredibly unique experience to swim over two ship wrecks. The fish were plentiful but not particularly colorful, but the crystal clear water and the wrecks were the big attraction. Tour is a little less than 3 hours. After lunch we took the ferry to Hamilton to do a self guided walking tour thanks to Fodor’s guide book, and while my wife and son went shopping for a gift for his girlfriend, I got some me time in the Hog penny pub, a great British pub in Hamilton. Day two, we took an early ferry to St. George, joined a free historical tour, which for me was great. I am a history teacher and Bermuda over the years has played an important role in US history, in particular during WW II. Then it was time for the dunking of the town gossip and hag. Our son was chosen to participate as one of the dunkers and he loved it. We decided the third day would be our beach day and we lucked out. The locals told us it was unusually hot for July, but Friday was the least oppressive and there were a few clouds. We took a bus to Horseshoe bay which is spectacular. Got there at 10:30, rented 2 chairs and an umbrella, $11 a piece with a $5 deposit for each you get back upon return. It was only a little crowded near the entrance. Swam and climbed the rock to get great views of the beach. They have a changing room with showers and an area selling drinks and snacks. Upon our return we went to the dockyard for some last minute shopping and to tour the national museum which had a special display on ship wrecks. In addition our son got a beautiful glass rose for his girlfriend at the glassworks at the dockyard, wonderful craftsmanship and reasonably priced. Back to the boat, NCL had a celebration greeting everyone. This time not just cold towels (which were great) and water, but music, dancing and various cold treats like jello and small ice pops! A great end to three wonderful but hot days in Bermuda.
Dining: Easily the most subjective area, and while my wife and I are not foodies, we do eat out regularly. We felt this was an area where NCL had improved in the quality of the food, but the MDR menu is not as extensive as it once was. We ate most of our meals in the Manhattan room, beautiful room and the live band is a nice, classy touch. We generally went to dinner between 7 and 7:30 and only waited once for about 15 min. Service four of the five nights was outstanding. One night we got a sweet but inexperienced waitress who finally got some help toward the end of the meal. Dinner took a little longer but it was not a problem. One night my wife and I dined without our son they sat us by the aft window, really nice. As stated previously, primarily because of making contact with one of the Managers at the M & G and our sons allergy, one stopped by most meals or talked with us as we were leaving. We ate in two of the specialty restaurants because our TA had gotten us vouchers for them. Normally we would not have done this but we ended up having one of our best meals. The three of us dined at La Cucina and was good, not great. The fresh hot bread was outstanding, the fried calamari app was very good and our entrees were fine to good and my Tiramisu was outstanding. The problem is coming from the NY/NJ area there are many wonderful Italian restaurants, the bar is very high. Then there was Cagney’s. I know there has been a lot of criticism about the changes in their menu and quality. I can only report on our experience, and it was outstanding, best meal of the cruise by far, and we enjoyed all our meals. First, a shout out to our waiter Warner, his recommendations were spot on, and they were different from the “house” recommendations. My wife had the crab salad for an app, and it was truly outstanding, fresh and plenty of crab. She then had the lobster and shrimp entrée that she felt was just wonderful. She topped off her meal with the raspberry crème brulee. My wife never eats dessert, she ate this one. I had the 16oz bone in rib eye. While I am not a foodie, I have been to enough steak houses to recognize a well prepared steak. It was perfectly cooked and delicious. I had the oreo cheese cake, good, but not as good as my wife’s. The buffet had a lot a variety, and we thought good quality. We ate there most lunches and breakfasts. I loved the mushroom swiss burgers and the paninies for lunch and the omelet station for breakfast. We saw something at the carving station every day, and the salads were always fresh and had good variety. The buffet is broken up in sections with plates at each end. The “flow” of people coming from each direction was a minor problem. We also ate breakfast at Savor twice which was a nice change when we had time in the morning.
A few final thoughts, any concerns let someone know. The Managers at the M & G told us they knew there was criticism but they needed people to tell them and they could address them. We definitely found this to be true, and the M & G was a great opportunity to get to speak with them. Their actions proved their listening was not an act. So, we strongly recommend going to the M & G, even if you have no concerns, you will meet some great people. The martini tasting was great, the beer tasting was informative and attracts a good crowd, but the beer selections are not good. We embarrassed the bartender San about his choices, two light beers, and he added a sixth, Guinness! Do not lower your expectations, we did not, but recognize you are travelling with over 4,000 people primarily from the tri-state area, a lively, often demanding, but always fun loving crowd. Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff! If you have an issue, alert the crew, otherwise enjoy the new ship, the sun and the beautiful island of Bermuda!
Coach Jim Less
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Cabin review: Norwegian Breakaway 14154
Spa mini suite. Small balcony, functional room, plenty of storage, shelves not drawers. Sound-proofing was good, little outside noise. Great location, close to spa, pool and buffet. Bed next to closet made getting things out a little tight.