Well, we just got back from our sailing 7/21-7/28/13. We had a great time. Here's a rundown:
- Room. 11274 is a BC room but we got a BX in our reservation. Frankly - If there're two of you, you won't need anything bigger. It's absolutely fine and comfortable. Any suite or larger digs won't give you any appreciable size/comfort difference at all except maybe walking room. The rooms were modern and the beds were great - very comfortable. Storage was ample and you can slide your luggage under the bed. We lucked out...11274 has an angled forward-facing balcony aft and that gave us more room for stretching out so if you can snag a forward facing view - do it. We booked less than a week before sailing so it has to be possible although this was our first time sailing NCL and they probably knew it! Deck 11 is good because it's mid height which insulates somewhat from the discos and stuff on Deck 8 and you're clear of the overhang above Deck 14 which may shield you from the sun and give you too much noise from the Garden Cafe aft. We did hear some thumping on night 1 but it wasn't that bad. On any deck, when those kids run, you will hear it!!
- The AC. Works great but READ: The switch on the wall lets you adjust temperature up and down. You'll see a "*" snowflake button that you will think is the AC on/off switch. It's not. AC is always on. That switch turns on the quick cool feature and after 5 mins it returns the temperature setting to mid - no heat/no AC. We hit that switch thinking we were turning the AC on and were trying to figure out why the AC kept shutting off until we were educated by the steward. Made for a toasty 1st night. Also, the AC shuts off after a while when the slider to the balcony is opened or the door is in the unlocked position.
- Crowding. It's a big ship and has 4000 NJ and NYers so you can imagine. The pool, the bars, everything can be crowded and sometimes obnoxious and thinking you were on a Carnival ship but if you adjust your schedules around when human nature wants to go to the pool and bars, you can find these places empty so that works for either the quiet folks or the partiers. 1st day- the waterslides had an hour wait and the lines were long on the last day too. The pools were packed and the kids, tweeners, young adults, and trying-to-stay-young adults were saturated and loud. We used the pool in the evenings during dinnertime, and in port and - poof - empty and fun!! AWESOME!! One thing that bugged us is that access to the aft upper deck and forward views are restricted for Haven members and premium cruisers. That - just - sucked!! We loved heading up to the Signature Cafe on HAL's Oosterdam and Westerdam so that we could look forward, etc.
- Shows. Burn the Floor, Rock of Ages, Cirque were all great and recommended. The last comes with dinner and was neat. Do them for sure!!! NCL really chose the venues well and it's not tough to get a great seat! Rock of Ages is for the older folks who can appreciate the big hair 80s. We had a couple of 15yr old girls sitting next to us and they were numbed and just didn't get it! :)
- Eating. It's freestyle so by and large, you eat where and when you want. The Garden Cafe is by far the easiest but amongst all the pay to eat restaurants, there are some great ones too that are part of the meal plan: Savor, Taste, and O'Sheehan's are nice sit down and served restaurants for free. The Manhattan Room is the flashiest of the restaurants and is FANTASTIC but if you want to eat, get there at 5:30. Again, crowd issue. We left at 6:15 or so and the line was way out the door. That 4000 humans thing.
- Pay Restaurants - Teppanyaki was, in a word, WONDERFUL. We were very entertained and so stuffed, there were shrimp and scallops left over on the grill for a table of 8. Like a Benihana's, just great. Wasabi's sushi bar was also cheap and delicious, albeit with some limited offerings. We were pleased.
- Bermuda. We didn't do any of the tours because, although convenient, you can do it locally and cheaper if you want. If you want an awesome local's tour of the Island, go on FB and look up "Arthur's Bermuda." Arthur Wade was out by the ship with a small, "Tour Bermuda" sign and was super friendly and pleasant. He charges the standard $40/hr taxi rate and we hopped in for a 3hr tour that lasted 4.5hrs. Totally recommended but it's not you exciting cocktail filled booze cruise or snorkel expedition, etc. He gave us one Bermudian's perspective of his home. We went where he grew up and picked peaches and wild herbs, visited some key parks and historical sights, a lighthouse, the southern beaches, and then swung over the Flatts Hill and the Aquarium to visit the large Green Turtles swimming outside. He was so friendly and so nice and honest - it was by far our highlight.
- St Georges, Bermuda. Get the bus/ferry daily pass and shoot over. It's a small town so not too much to sea but head up to St Peter's church and see the stones on the wall and soak in the history of that town. Then walk North a block and visit the local museum. We were the only ones there and saw some amazing artifacts from the days when Bermuda was first settled in the early 17th century.
- Hamilton. Just a shopping town with some nice restaurants. Nothing earth shattering unless shopping is your thing! :)
- Embark/Debark. Get there at 10:30 or so and you'll get on pretty early - by 1130 or noon. We really had just carry-ons but dumped them out front and they were delivered later that day. Just expect them around 6pm or so and not all together. Just grab your swim suits or whatever you want before sailing and you're good to go. For Debark, we schlepped our own luggage with a walk-off time starting at 8 advertised but they opened the brow and we were off at 7:15 - and out of there through customs in 8 minutes tops - it was FAST and easy!
- Alcohol. If you like wine, buy the wine bottle package. You'll find information about it dead center aft in the Garden Cafe. Called Vino Vito or something like that. You'll also find brochures on the bars located throughout the ship. We bought 4 bottles for $88 but should have scooped the 6 bottle plan at about $22/bottle for the lower end wines (including Blackstone and other great reds)! You'll add $6 a bottle if you buy in the restaurants or bars, etc.
- Bars. Numerous for all tastes. They have the signature "Ice Bar" which is basically a frozen bar that serves drinks in ice glasses. Don't go in shorts and flip-flops even though you'll be given mittens and a poncho. The prices to get in is $20/person, you'll only want to stay in there for 20mins tops and the glass are small and cocktails, pre-made limited selections. Novel but I wouldn't call it worth it. Totally if the drink sizes were the same size.
- Cigars. There's a cigar lounge mid ship on Deck 8. We burned a $10 Monte Cristo together one night and it was awesome!
- Fun outdoors. We never did the rope course. Missed opportunity but oh well, next time. I'd definitely get up there and do it. Just pick the right time so it's not so crowded. We did do the water slides and the mini-golf which was fun too. The water slides were fun and won't disappoint. The vertical dropping ones are all show and not scary at all! We did see one rather large girl get "corked" halfway through the blue vertical water slide....that was until enough water built up and flushed her out. She was in the see-through blue tube and she also had a wedgie which gave us a few giggles. Everyone else we saw go through zipped!!
Overall, we liked it! We are 41 and 48 year olds that are out of the party scene so we navigated around the loud crowds and found plenty of peace and fun. My wife has done a lot more cruising than I have (her 10 to my 3) and in order of awesome, she would place NCL's Breakaway experience 2nd behind Royal Caribbean, but above HAL and waaaaay above the typical Carnival ride! Hope this helps and thanks for the reviews we used to point us in the right direction!!