I'm writing this 2 hours after leaving the ship so that you get the most up-to-date information possible.
We had booked a week on the Norwegian Breakaway (Norwegian Cruise Line's latest ship) which is sailing the NYC to Bermuda route. Having lived in Bermuda we thought it would be a great way to return to the island..what could be better than a brand new ship? It was our first cruise. We knew the ship would be very large, but anticipated that with the amount of money we spent (about $8,000 BEFORE any spending in Bermuda), that it would be a really great experience. We were wrong. I'll try and remember as much as possible so that anyone thinking of going on this cruise gets decent information. I've also taken some photos which will be attached to the review.
Check-in was a breeze. We were traveling from a local destination so parked our car right at the car park by the ship at Pier 88. You cannot book Pier parking in advance so get there early. There are two large elevators which are staffed and the staff told you where to go to get to embarkation. There are plenty of NCL staff from that point on. Embarkation started earlier than we anticipated so we were on board and checked in by 11.30 am. You each receive a card with a bar code which identifies you and allows you to charge things to your stateroom. It's vital to keep that with you at all times.
The ship is extremely large with a 3 story open atrium at the center. The 6th floor includes Guest Services and some restaurants, the 7th Floor the casino and the 8th Floor more bars. At each side of the atrium (fore and aft) are a bank of 8 elevators each. Beside the elevators are large open stairs.
Entry was through the aft door on Deck 7 which is at the casino. Unfortunately when you come in this door, the first thing that you notice is the stink of old cigarette smoke. I hadn't realized that this particular ship is so smoke-friendly and the smell was really offputting. It also makes the ship look very used, even though it is so new.
Walking through the casino, we waited (with hundreds of others) for an available elevator. Now, this is the second issue we came across. The elevators are tiny and have no real capacity for the number of guests. Waiting for one takes ages. I felt very sorry for those who were mobility restricted as they must have got sick of the waiting game after the first hour. We gave in and took the stairs anytime we needed to go anywhere. No stateroom was available for the first two hours so everyone went upstairs to Deck 15 (where the pools are located) to the Garden Cafe at the rear of the ship. (I'll comment on the food later).
The Stateroom: We had an indoor stateroom on the 12th Floor as we anticipated our children would be at the Splash Academy often. It was a room on a small, but wide side corridor. The room was TINY. There is nowhere to sit. Literally nowhere. The closet can take one medium size suitcase but that is all. There are some very narrow shelves on the inside of the closet but because of the movement of the ship, everything would fall off. There was a queen size bed in the middle (two twins pushed together) and two pull down beds from the wall. The beds were extremely comfortable. That's the only good thing about the stateroom itself. Our stateroom had one towel, two used water glasses, no shampoo and no soap. The bottom rubber sealant on the bottom of the shower door had come off. The toilet wouldn't work. When we raised this with our steward, he immediately came and stocked the bathroom and the engineers came up to organize the toilet, but I got the feeling that the turnaround time for the staff was too small for them to be able to ready all their rooms in good time. (People were allowed to stay on the ship past 9.30 am on the last day, whilst new guests were going on board at 11.30 so that is a very tight window for stewards).
If you have children, be careful if you have an indoor stateroom that requires them to use a ladder to get to their bunks. The bunk nearest the mini-bar has room enough to allow a ladder to come straight down. The bunk nearest the closet has no room for a ladder to be laid straight and the ladder has to come down from the corner of the bunk so that one latch does not sit on where it should. We could manage okay because of the ages of our children, but for smaller children this would be a concern.
The Luggage: One of our pieces of luggage didn't arrive so I visited guest services. I found a line of about 100 people. A crew member asked us to follow him and we were shown into a back area with crew elevators. Situated outside were about 50 suitcases. We were told take a look and let me know if any of them look like yours. A couple of people recognized their cases, another couple took cases they thought might be theirs and the rest of us had to leave without cases. Mine turned up around midnight. Not exactly reassuring. Under each stateroom door the next morning was a request letter by the Captain to please check our luggage as some guests luggage was still missing!
A number of the restaurants were closed that first day due to 2 weddings on board. We didn't have any problem with that, but one of the restaurants (the Bistro) was closed EVERY day due to Private Function. In fact, this extended to other places in the ship also (including nightclub). We like French food, so we anticipated that we would have eaten there at some point in the cruise..but apparently the ship had a number of large parties on board who had pre-booked exclusive use of the restaurant! It would have been good to know this BEFORE we booked.
Our steward was named Fery and he was absolutely brilliant. Nothing was too much trouble for him and he was very patient with us and our two messy boys. Unfortunately, our location was poor. I realized why our stateroom was located in a small wide hallway it was located by the housekeeping area. Whilst the area was very quiet there was always something in the hallway usually cleaning equipment and toiletries/towels, etc. It was just a pain to have to walk past all the time. The only time we didn't see this stuff was overnight or very early in the morning HOWEVER this was obviously the place where the night crew collected all the used dinner plates from guests who had left the crockery outside their rooms. So our hallway always stunk of old food and we were greeted each morning to someone else's old food burgers, fries, ketchup; one plate having loads of squashed bananas falling onto the carpet. It was disgusting. There is nothing our steward could do about it he was really excellent and I feel was hampered somewhat by the situation of the room.
Splash Academy: This is the child play center and is split into small children, 6-9 years, 10-12 years and 13 and above. If you have a young child register the second you get on the ship as the lines were stretching very far. It is a plain space and didn't seem hugely well equipped. One of our children used the facility a little and the older child used it once. The problem is that if you have a child at the older end of each age group- it's boring for them as the activities really are geared towards the younger children of each group. There's only so much superhero stuff and crafts that your nearly-teen wants to do so, for us, this was a waste of time.
The Gym: Oh boy. The gym was well equipped but extremely small, especially given the 5,000 on our cruise. If you don't get there by 6am each morning you will be waiting in line for a machine (any machine) and the lines go down the hallway by 8am. We didn't find any period during the day when the gym was not extremely busy. If you wish to take a class (yoga being one) then sign up as soon as you get on board as the classes fill up almost straight away. They allow waiting lists but you have to turn up on the day to see if you can get in. They fill the studio space so we had no room in our class to move without hitting someone else. The yoga class caters to the most inexperienced in the class, so those of us who had done yoga before, even minimally, pulled out of the rest of the classes.
The Spa: Just as bad. Being shown round on the first day, you are shown the spa areas which looked great. I booked an expensive body wrap for the next day. On arrival the next morning, the desk was busy so I was just told to follow that man, he'll point you in the right direction'. So I went through into the corridor area and there was no,one there to show me anything. I walked around until I found the locker room and put on a towel, but had to keep my clothes with me as there were no locks for the lockers. I had to go back out to the spa desk and wait 10 minutes until I was taken to the relaxation room. The room was semi-full but some of the beds had gunk on the pillows and the beds were plastic without any covers, so you couldn't relax on them and some people were standing because they felt the beds were dirty. Rather than being relaxing there was a couple chatting very loudly about the sex lives of their vacation party. There was no staff member maintaining the room. I was collected for my wrap, late, by a spa crew member who did nothing except talk her way through the next hour. I was literally wrapped in something, talked to and then the wrap removed and I was shown the door. I wasn't shown where I could shower, or told where I could use the pool or given any mini-massage. The crew member's sole purpose was to sell, sell, sell and I paid over $200 for the privilege of a wrap and non-stop chat. I refused to buy any products.
I did make an appointment one day for a shampoo and blow out by a hairdresser. When I got there, it was the teeth-whitening technician that did the blow out as no hairdressers were around! I have to say, she did probably the best blow out I've had but when I book a hair appointment, it should be with a hairdresser!
Safety Drill: I read on another review site, someone saying that the safety drill is a lawsuit waiting to happen if anything occurs to the ship. I fully agree with that. There was a mandatory drill on the first afternoon. We attended it on time and were checked in by having our cards run through an electronic device. 30 minutes after the drill was supposed to start, the drunk stragglers started coming in and the staff was so overwhelmed that they couldn't keep track of everyone or screen their cards. Once they started the drill it lasted 30 seconds. I am not joking. 30 seconds. An announcer read how to put on a life jacket (whilst a few staff members stood in the aisles to display this) and then we were told that the demonstration was over! It would have helped if the staff member closest to us could unravel the lifejacket in order to demonstrate it but she never did. So,we didn't even get to see that!
The next day was a drill for those who missed the first one (which given how many people turned up to the first, was the majority of the ship). After the repeat drill, we received a slight slap on the wrist notice for not turning up to either of the drills. Given that we'd checked in and attended the first one, it didn't give us much confidence in the ship if anything did happen. There was no other presentation or demonstration or instruction given to guests of what to do in the event of an emergency.
Laundry Service: A couple of days into the cruise, there is an offer to fill a laundry bag and they will dry clean/launder as much as you can fit into it for $24.95. Take the opportunity especially if you have children! It is a bargain given the size of the cabins and where to put your dirty laundry if they take it and do it for you! They only offer the deal once.
Food: I know others have commented on the Cafe, but let's make it clear this is nothing other than a huge high school cafeteria. It has plenty of coffee and juice stations and plenty of other food stations but the food was the same each day. Pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you wanted; fries at any time; the same breakfast items always. Some of the food was great especially the vegetarian Asian food however this was not always offered. Burgers, hot dogs, carvery and a very limited salad were offered continually. There was always plenty of melon at each serving plus ice cream 24/7. If you eat early (beginning of the breakfast times or lunch times) only half the cafe is open, but this opens up fully at rush hour. My husband said he couldn't take any more when one day there was marshmallow and m&m pizza for breakfast. They do make omlettes for you at breakfast if you wish, but the lines were always too long for this.
Other restaurants. If you wish to go to one of the specialty restaurants where you pay extra you need to book as soon as you get on the ship as many of them fill up especially the 5-7pm slots because of the number of children on board. This applies especially on the return journey. At many of the restaurants, it was impossible to find an early dinner slot because the ship had so many large parties on board. We definitely should have been told this in advance of booking.
We went to Savor restaurant one night (this was a free one). The appetizers were good, but our entrees were bad. My fish was raw in the middle (yep, not joking) and my son was unable to cut his steak at all. The positive to this restaurant was that it had a decent wine list and many of them were reasonably priced so it was a good choice if you wanted a bottle of wine.
The other restaurant we went to on board (as we ate out in Bermuda a lot) was Teppanyaki. It is $25 per head and $12.50 for the children. I cannot recommend it highly enough. One of our children really has no interest in food and it is an ordeal to get him to eat. Boy, did this change in Teppanyaki. Our server, Maria, was phenomenal and she was really patient showing the children many different origami. She was a credit to the ship. On the first night our chef was Julius (really fun guy) and the second night (because we went back again it was so good), our chef was Ronnie (again, really funny). The chefs certainly tailor their routines to the age of the children at the table so it was very age-appropriate.
The food was spectacular. We eat Hibachi often in New York and Connecticut, but this was the best we have had. The filet was incredibly tender and cooked just right, the seafood also (I don't eat shrimp or scallop but all the others recommended it). My child plowed through salad, miso soup, the vegetables, two full bowls of rice, one filet steak, one chicken breast and some noodles with vegetables (which they brought him as a special request). I have never seen someone that size (he's a tiny string bean) eat so well! The staff thought it was great! The food was the best quality we had on the ship, by a long way and we ate there again a few nights later. The staff all remembered the children and us so it was great to have a chat with them all again. It was worth every penny, and more.
Julius (as do most of the staff) works in many places, not just one so he is the guy we'd also see flipping omlettes at breakfast and he always remembered our names and came round to say hi each day.
Mary-Jane is the waitress at the martini bar, called Shakers. She is a really lovely lady! She remembered our drinks from the first day and never forgot our names or our drinks at any point. She has a permanent smile on her face. The children were treated as well as adults. It is a nice place with a window from which to view the water, but the seats are stained (as is much in the ship). I don't know that the staff are given any time to steam clean upholstery given the hours the bar is open so that is a real let-down, but Mary- Jane was superb. In fact, when we left Bermuda (and I was crying buckets, devastated to leave my home again after revisiting it), she subtly provided me with a stack of tissues without drawing attention to me and checked that I was okay. I'm the sort of person who has my little one martini a day, so it was a nice place for me to sit and relax (other than Day 1 when a group of drunken travel agents took over most of the place and when I say drunk I mean ROLLING drunk).
Smoking and Drinking and Atmosphere: I am not a prude so don't want to sound like one, but this ship caters to the lowest common denominator. You can smoke more or less anywhere and won't be told off. The outdoor bars near the pool are always full and there are ashtrays everywhere. The air is full of drunks using the F word. Because the Atrium is open on 3 floors, that stale smoke stink on Day 1 in the Casino reaches up to the 10th floor stairs by Day 5 and there is nothing the staff can do about it. The drinking started before leaving Manhattan and never stopped. The ship offers cheap drinking packages and I think most people did that so it was cocktails for breakfast and onwards. My children got elbowed out of the way by a big family group who never shut up for 7 days, yelling into their walky talkies no matter where they were on the ship. They obviously wanted to see the Statue of Liberty when leaving port and didn't care whose children they trampled on to do it.
The atrium stairs are where the ship photographers photograph families and couples so you have to wait 10 minutes if you want to use those stairs whilst photographers are busy. This happens every afternoon and evening.
The outdoor hottubs (supposedly for adults only and with plenty of signs) were constantly filled with children or young adults smoking and with beer bottles or cocktails. I didn't see anyone policing that area at all. The outdoor pool loungers were taken over by 6.30 am. Not with people but with their towels and flip flops to save their spots. There was no policing of this either, despite notices each day asking people not to do this.
There is very, very little to recommend this ship. What I can recommend is a) the staff who work extremely hard and are always accommodating, with a smile, b) the Martini Bar and Teppanyaki restaurant and c) Bermuda. Other than that nothing.
The atmosphere on the ship is one of large parties, chow-down, get drunk and party, loudly.
This cruise is suited to those who want a cheap week of unlimited alcohol and will happily party 24/7, loudly and without any regard for anyone else. It's for those who want to eat themselves senseless in the Garden Cafe and leave a trail of abandoned food all over the ship. Lastly, it's for those who want to spend a week smoking and gambling. The ship is too big to give any sort of decent experience to each individual and it shows. It also looks used in dirty carpets, smells, stains, general wear and tear, stateroom hardware, even though it is only a couple of months old. I dread to think what it will look like in a year. I'm sorry I can't give it a decent report. I spent over $8,000 for a week for our first cruise on a new ship and didn't know what to expect, but I certainly didn't anticipate that. As I overheard one woman say on the way back I feel like I've been on this boat for a month; if I could jump over and swim home quicker, I would.
As a tip: PLEASE remember that the housekeeping, bar and restaurant staff are paid very little and tips are always welcome. They don't have room in their crew bunks to keep presents so don't need any little Bermuda trinkets. Many of the staff are married couples and most of them have children they have had to leave with relatives (many in the Philippines) so they can work on board to get some sort of decent living for their families. Each crew member with whom we had a lot of contact Fery, Mary-Jane, Maria, Julius and Ronnie worked 110% for everyone all the time and always with with a smile. I strongly suggest you tip all the staff you are in contact with on a regular basis in US cash. The casino cashiers can break notes into small ones. The staff are very appreciative of tips no matter how small. I noticed a lot of guests treat the staff as though they were invisible and I always feel embarassed as a guest when I see that.