I'm a relatively new cruiser: as of this writing I've only sailed twice: on the Jewel (June 2011) and the Gem (June 2012). Since I cruise solo and on a very tight budget, I was interested in the Breakaway because of the studio cabins "priced for the solo traveler, no single supplement required."
Through a huge stroke of luck, I was able to travel on the Breakaway on June 23, 2013. Though I wasn't able to book a Studio cabin (it cost more than the Guaranteed Inside!), I was delighted to be on board. I especially enjoy cruising because as a freelance journalist, it's the only way I can truly escape from my phone and my computer!
NCL was my first cruise line and I've returned over and over because my experiences have been flawless. The customer service and the food are EXCEPTIONAL in my opinion, and I have met many fabulous crew members and passengers alike. The same was the case on the Breakaway, and Bermuda was lovely. So my review is more about the design of the ship.
Being a bit of a ship geek-ette, I eagerly followed the building of the Breakaway and her transatlantic crossing via the Meyer Werft cams and Cruise Critics website, so I felt pretty familiar with the ship's design when I finally boarded her. And although I was expecting to be exhausted from the aft-to-forward walk, it didn't feel long at all. But from the moment I stepped off the gangway, I kept asking myself: who actually designed the interior of this ship? It wasn't long before I had a whole wish/punch list, so I'm calling it my NCL Breakaway Refit Wish List--when the Breakaway goes in for her re-fit, here's what I hope gets addressed:
-- Embarkation: I couldn't believe that I stepped off the gangway into--a nondescript corridor, with no directional information, at that! Where was some kind of multi-deck atrium to crane my neck at? Can a girl get a WOW atrium to enter into?
-- The outward-opening cabin doors. Huh? On land, isn't that a fire hazard?
-- The potentially dangerous pillars in front of some of the cabins on deck 5. Require too much choreography/dexterity to sidestep, especially after a night of liquid revelry. (Not that I would know.)
-- Cabin storage does NOT include drawers. Open shelving is nice, but in a hotel setting I take comfort in having a drawer instead of a shelf to house my tighty whities / racy lacys.
-- Theater noise bleeds through to the cabins. Can a girl get some soundproofing?
-- The A/C was really cranked super-high in the corridors and the huge Manhattan Room restaurant. We were told it couldn't be adjusted. Huh?
-- Very narrow corridors on the upper decks. If the housekeeping cart is parked there, it's a tight squeeeeze to pass. As another poster said, between the outward-opening cabin doors and the narrow corridors, in an emergency things could get tragic. Curiously though, corridors are nice and super-wide on deck 5 forward.
-- Neutral dÃ©cor on a ship? Not feeling it. It's hard to keep clean and is not at all pretty. The main areas and the cabins need pops of saturated color. Color makes people (even grumpy ones) happy.
-- The Breakaway Theater is totally underwhelming. Drab dÃ©cor, no color. I don't even remember a stage curtain! But the worst thing is that there are only two aisles in the center. No perimeter aisles. Again, in an emergency there would be bottlenecks. Refer to the Stardust Theater on the Jewel-class ships for inspiration. That theater is a WOW: three decks high and a balcony!
-- The two-level casino is not contained and spans the atrium area, thus creating lots of inescapable smoke pollution that spreads uncontrollably. On the Jewel-class ships, the casino is off to the side.
-- My inner ship geek-ette was hoping for a Bridge Viewing Room. Ain't none on the Breakaway. (Yes, I asked. No, I'm not seriously including that on my Refit Wish List.)
-- The worst design flaw of all for me was that The Breakaway has only two pools for four thousand passengers! Maybe not all passengers want to use the pool. But the Breakaway could use three or four more pools to relieve the unbelievable congestion on the main pool deck. It's not smart for those pools to be about the same size as on the Jewel-class ships, which have half the number of passengers!
I'm glad I was able to experience the Breakaway, but girlfriend needs a serious re-fit for me to consider cruising on her again. Jewel/Gem, see you soon!!