Unlike our several other cruises on NCL ships, my wife and I were generally disappointed with our July 21-28, 2013 Breakaway sailing.
The ship is beautiful, and the execution of the New York City theme is very well done. If this ship were sized to carry 3000 passengers, it would be a delight. Unfortunately, NCL has gone too far in seeking to maximize revenue at the expense of quality, service, and a pleasurable cruise.
The most distinguishing feature about Norwegian has been its Freestyle Cruising. This alone has made up for an otherwise mediocre offering. Sailing the Jewel, Gem, etc. is a relaxed, pleasant experience; but not so aboard the Breakaway.
"Freestyle" has been replaced with "Reservations required" for meals and most entertainment venues. Relaxation has been replaced with Stress. Even reservations don't guarantee prompt dinner seating.
Because Breakaway has been sailing with 4600 to 4800 passengers, everything is overloaded and service is suffering. The already weak crew-to-passenger ratio at nominal capacity (1600 to 4000) is being stretched by an additional 15 to 20 percent.
This is most evident in the MDRs where service runs from excellent to abysmal.
Time between delivery of appetizers and delivery of entrees ranged from two minutes to over thirty minutes. On some occasions, wait staff were clearly overwhelmed. This reflects a lack of Quality Control by the Maitre d' and Captains. In fact, they were mostly nowhere to be found when needed most.
The overloading problem extends to all public areas. The public space on the Breakaway is about the same as on the Jewel Class ships, but the passenger load is about double.
The tiny pools are a joke. They could fit about 60 to 70 standees. Where do the other 4000 go?
The Breakaway Theatre seats about 850, about half the size of the Jewel Class ships. How could they shrink the main entertainment venue?
The Atrium can accommodate less than one hundred. On days with rainy weather, there is no where for people to go. NCL has squeezed out all non-revenue producing features and used every available square foot for up-sells.
With a brand new ship, debuting in the high season, NCL can get away with this for a while. But the New York/New Jersey market is tough and smart, and will punish them if things don't change.
Living in New Jersey, the New York based ships are very convenient. Nevertheless, I will probably never step aboard Breakaway again.
I am currently booked on the Breakaway's Bahamas and Florida itinerary for February 23, 2014, but not for long.
It's time to investigate Celebrity and RCCL.
Too bad. Freestyle is a myth on Breakaway.