Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by ExtonTraveler: Breakaway - July 7 to 14, 2013
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Breakaway - July 7 to 14, 2013
My wife and I booked this trip to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary which occured during the cruise. Here is some context: while it was our first cruise (yeah, I know - pretty amazing especially given the extensive cruise experience of so many of the people posting on this site - but one has to start sometime) but we are not atrangers to travelling. I've travelled extensively internationally during my career, we've done a lot of interesting vacation trips in Europe and Asia, and we lived in Asia for a couple of years. So the comparisons we drew from the trip were from land based hotels, resorts, and restaurants. We picked this route for a couple of reasons: Norwegian free style dining, ability to drive to New York rather than fly, I've been to Bermuda on business but have wanted to go on vacation there, and the Breakaway seemed like a a cool ship. There are a number of detailed fact based reviews about the Breakaway (kudos to Gambee - after reading his ultimate review we knew so More
much of what to expect), so I'll take these few minutes to write about what we did and what we liked, and why.
First the cabin. We booked a balcony, because we wanted to use our room as an oasis to which we could periodically retreat from all of the hustle and bustle of the ship. So we got a mid ship balcony, deck 10, aft, port side. We got a lot of great suggestions from the Norwegian reservations guy we worked with to book the trip, who asked a lot of questions about the kind of stuff we wanted to do during the week. It turned out to be a very quiet room. There were cabins above below (public areas create sound!), it was near the aft elevator bank (this is big ship, that saves time), and as luck would have it, we were docked portside in Bermuda so that meant we overlooked the dockyard activity. We spent a lot break time out on our balcony - what a great place to have a bottle of wine. Sometimes good times are defined by little things - like the afternoon when we were sitting out and we saw a pod of dolphins coming by very close to the ship (glad we brought our stadium binoculars!) or the Wednesday morning the ship was arriving in Bermuda. We had ordered room service breakfast for 6:30 and sat out on the balcony eating breakfast while the sun rose, as the ship was making its way through the zigzags of the channel through the reefs, as the sun rose over the ship and the Bermuda coastline. Another bonus was watching the fireworks from our balcony on Friday night - they shoot them off port side. The cabin seemed reasonably big, it was well laid out and it was easy to unpack all of our stuff, store our bags under the bed, and the bathroom seemed well designed with lots of storage space and bigger than a lot of the bathrooms in European hotels we've been in.
We enjoyed the included restaurants. We had dinner in all three MDRS throughout the trip - the Manhattan dining room twice. We walked in to Taste and Savor and got seated right away. Once in Manhattan we had made reservations and were seated at the time of our reservations, and the other time we walked in and were seated right away. We always had tables for two. A comment about reservations - I had thought that one could only make reservations at the specialty restaurants. One night we had bookings for Rock of Ages and Second City with about 2 hours in between, so I called the reservation line that morning to see if I could make a reser for the Manhattan room and it turned out that we could. The person I spoke to said that they take resers for up to about 35% of the availability. That was great to be able to make that reservation - it was the only evening we sort of had a tight schedule. Otherwise waiting would have been a good excuse to enjoy the bar. (Not that we realy needed excuses!)
I wouldn't describe us as buffet fans, but we really ended up liking the Garden Cafe and the Uptown Grill. The main reason is the way they are structured - with food stations rather than long buffet lines, with the chefs cooking for each station right at the station; the food was always fresh and attractive looking. And if you wanted something slightly different, they were always happy to make it for you while you were there. I have to say the Asian choices were great- one lunch I had a nice spicy Thai coconut curry that was fairly respectable.
We tried one of the specialty restaurants - Le Bistro - and really enjoyed it. The food was a cut above the MDRs (which in their own right were pretty good), the presentation was great, and the service was also great. It was well worth the $20 p.p.surcharge. We had dinner there on Sunday night, and they gave all the bookings that night a bottle of house wine. We had had a couple of cocktails before dinner, so the house wine seemed pretty good. If we were to sail on the Breakaway again, we'd try some of the others - we just didn't have time.
The Uptown Grill at the top of the ship is open for breakfast and lunch, and seemed like a great find. As others have noted, this ship can feel crowded and we sailed on a peak week at peak capacity, and the Uptown Grill always seemed to be calm with lots of open tables. It's a great place for al fresco breakfast and lunch, and it has its own bar too.
Stuff to do on the ship. There were far more things to do than we could possibly fit in a week, especially with 3 days of port time. We had sort structured our week by booking a number of bigger things in advance - Rock of Ages (they did a good job, it was a good musical and we liked the 80's music), Burn the Floor (less impressive - the cast is a group of super dancers and the music is good, but there is no plot line to string it all together), and Second City (it was an Improv performance and really hilarious). Other random stuff: we both went to one of the martini tastings - it was fun to try things we would probably never order - and seriously we felt we got a lot of bang for our buck. Theoretically they were 2 oz martini tastes, but those regular size martini glasses were pretty well filled. The white wine tasting was fun too.
We balanced all this good eating and drinking with the spa and gym. We both got massages and my wife also got a facial. The treatment facilities were on a par with very nice resorts. While they weren't cheap, we thought the pricing was pretty reasonable. We knew we wanted to book massages, so we went to the spa on the first Sunday afternoon after boarding and lunch, and they had sort of an open house with tours of the whole facility. I liked the gym - it's pretty neat to be on a machine with a sea view! I used my gym time every morning to also catch up on world news on the TV imbedded in the eliptical machine. The gym could have been bigger, but with going almost every day, the only time I waited for a machine was Monday morning (around 8:30) and that was for about 5 minutes. All the other times, while the place was busy, I was able to get an eliptical machine right away.
Going to the pool area and getting a lounge chair isn't high on our list of stuff we like to do - so the fact that this is probably the most hotly contested real estate on the ship didn't bother us. For somebody who does like lounger time, though, be prepared to go early (especially in a peak week like we were on). I would usually be done in the gym around 9-9:30 and noticed that the pool area loungers were really filling up when I'd go walking around the pool decks while cooling off.
I did get up my nerve to do the slides, though, and was glad that I did. There is something, well, breathtaking, to have the bottom drop out beneath to launch you into the big slide. It was pretty cool.
Bermuda was a fun place to be for three days. On Wednesday afternoon we took the ferry to Hamilton and explored all the shops and stuff near the waterfront. We ended up having dinner at the Pickled Onion Pub and Restaurant (they are related to the Dockyard Brewery, so you can get that great local microbeer there too). We had a table on the balcony overlooking the harbor. Thursday we took a ferry to St. Georges. What a neat town 18th century town. It deserves its designation a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We took the train tour of the town and the area and afterward had a great lunch at Wahoo's Bistro which is on the main street about halfway between the ferry pier and the town square. Apparently there is a local fish called wahoo, and the place is named because they specialize in it. We had a table on their deck which goes out over the water. We would go there again. Friday we concentrated on the Dockyard area. I've always wanted to do a swim with dolphins thing, and DolphinQuest from Hawaii has a research outpost in the Dockyards less than 10 minutes from the ship. It was pretty amazing. I did the 30 minute dolphin swim, where you are with about 5 guests and one of the DolphinQuest people. I learned so much. It was worth the $210 (I booked it there, not through NCL) and bought several of the photos they shot of me with with the dolphins.
This brings me to booking all the shore stuff. It was really easy to do ourselves. There's a ferry ticket office on the pier shortly after you get off the ship. We had researched St Georges and bought our tickets for the tour we took there at the tour office on the town square. And as mentioned above, I booked DolphinQuest directly. The savings from doing this organizing ourselves compared to the NCL excursion pricing was significant.
Cruise Critic - since this was our first cruise, this was our first time exploring Cruise Critic. I found this site to be so valuable in getting a lot of suggestions and knowledge of what to expect on board. But there's more to it than that. A friendly Cruise Critic member had organized the CC Meet and Greet which took place in Cagney's on Monday morning. It was fun to meet her and several other people who had posted on the roll call. NCL provided nice food, but more importantly most of the senior officers of the ship came and spoke, and made themselves individually available. They handed out their contact info, and sincerely seemed to want to know about anything they could do to help solve problems etc. I spoke to one of the senior officers at length - I was curious about how stuff worked on a ship - and amazingly enough a steward later that afternoon delivered an invitation from him to a reception to meet the captain that evening. It was nice meeting the captain. It's worthwhile to go to the Meet and Greet!
I could write for hours as memories come back, but let me wrap with a few notes on things I'd like to see Norwegian do a bit better. First and foremost, given that virtually all North American and Western European countries have gone smoke free, it was quite a negative surprise to encounter indoor smoking. It seemed like a giant step back in time, and not a fun one at that. We'd really prefer it if NCL would go completely smoke-free indoors. And I would suggest that for balconies as well. Why? It's no fun to have smoke rolling in to our cabin through our open balcony door. We paid a lot for this cabin, and having a completely smoke free environment would have been a lot better.
The other thing we would suggest is more comfy chairs on decks such as the Waterfront/Deck 8. There is a lot of space where the restaurants are not, which could be great for reading, lounging, and having a drink.
All things considered, it was a great trip. We really enjoyed it. We'd like to do another cruise, and hope to do so soon.
If you have questions, we're happy to try to answer them. Less
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