In this review I hope to address key points that have not been covered, as well as to emphasize ones that have in order to help you enjoy this experience to its fullest on the Breakaway.
The current rating of "63% of cruisers loved it" is just too low. While there were certainly draw backs to this ship, I would not rate it that low in the least. My overall rating would probably be about a 92%. After experiencing three different cruise lines, I hope these hints are helpful.
PARKING: We parked at a garage right near the port called Park Right, I believe. It was 25.00 a day and a driver got right into our car, dropped us right off at the port with our bags, and drove our car away. When we left we walked across the street and down a block with our bags as they can't pick you up because of the awful design of the street in front of the port. They will give you 5.00 to get the cab to go a block, though. Totally worth it to save $70.00 over port parking and be dropped off right at the port.
EMBARKATION: A breeze. We got there very early because we were interested in the limited VIBE beach club passes. Head to Spice H20 for a great sail away party and to watch the Statue of Liberty and to pass underneath the Verrazano Bridge, which is very cool to see. Julie, the cruise director, will give you plenty of warning of when to watch to see both of these.
RESERVATIONS: Although NCL is known for free style cruising, I really don't think that means "wing it" cruising. To me, freestyle means your choice of dining and entertainment--it doesn't mean don't make reservations. I highly recommend making your reservations in advance of boarding. However, as soon as you board, check your room TV to be sure show times haven't changed (which could conflict with dinner reservations.) That happened to us and affected one of our dinner reservations. We made reservations to the free dining rooms (Manhattan, Taste, and Savor) as well as two specialty restaurants: Cagney's Steakhouse and Moderno's the Brazilian eatery. We had absolutely no trouble being seated and were seated on time or early for each of our reservations in each place. Never waited ONCE. However, if you don't make reservations or show up late, you risk having to wait to be seated. So--if you want to enioy your vacation to its fullest, my first recommendation is to make reservations.
TASTE, SAVOR, MANHATTAN, MODERNO, GARDEN CAFE, CAGNEY'S, UPTOWN GRILL, OSHEEHAN'S--Manhattan room very cool and live entertainment but it is loud. The sound echos and vivacious large groups are eating here. If you are looking for a quiet dinner, please be sure to ask for a quiet table. Tables close to dance floor great for entertainment but tgh for conversation. Savor and Taste: great service, really similar in style and dining, quieter no live entertainment. Moderno: excellent food and service; well worth the upcharge. Cagney's: our best service of the cruise came from here and the food was excellent, too. If you like something in any of these places that is not a main course (side dish, dessert) you can ask for more! In Cagney's we ordered Ribeye, NY Strip, and bison, all of which were excellent. The buffet in the Garden Cafe was the best of any cruise line on which we have sailed. There was never a wait for a seat and fresh and unique food was available. Be sure to order a crepe here served in the evenings and an omelette for breakfast. Uptown grill is great if you are in a swimsuit or yucky as it is located outside and near the pool area. Great for burgers and fries. In the AM they have excellent cinnamon buns. Not a place to eat if you are hot or in need of AC. O'Sheehan's--we went here for breakfast and lunch. I recommend heading here on the first day for lunch as no one has found it yet, so it's not crowded. Great wings, great pot pie, great burgers.
ENTERTAINMENT: Absolutely outstanding. Best of any cruise ship line HANDS DOWN. Burn the Floor amazing. Saw it twice. Dancers really nice and posed for pictures when we saw them in the ship. Rock of Ages completely hysterical and perfect for anyone above the age of 15 or so. (Really inappropriate to allow non high schoolers to see this show.) Actors, musicians, and show of same caliber as Broadway. Sat next to one of the leads at Burn the Floor was leaving August 10th--was so sweet and nice to talk to. Second City--completely like the Chicago version and comedians are of same caliber as well. We love improv and were familiar with show format having seen it in Chicago. Howl at the Moon: great dualing pianos; there were three who alternated. Be sure to catch "Fire and Ice" especially when they have Tina Turner night--amazing. Dance parties in Spice H20: super fun! Be sure to head there on the last night for the 80's night and fireworks.
CROWDS: DEFINITELY a crowded ship, hands down. Most crowded I have ever felt. Ship design contributes to crowded feeling. A real downer for the first day or two, but we quickly adjusted and got used to the always slow and crowded elevators, crowded atrium, crowded hallways, etc. Our cruise had many large family groups and they tended to congregate in the hallways, which are completely not made for congregating.
NOISE: The one big complaint I have is that in the main hallways doors are grouped together in groups of two. So instead of seeing one door, then a space, then another door, then a space, you see two doors right next to each other and then the space. Bad design when you have neighbors who refuse to use cruise etiquette and close the door with their hands instead of letting the door shut on its own. That is called "slamming" on this ship and letting the door close on its own startles neighbors and shakes their walls. We unfortunately were located next to a room full of kids who refused to not let the door slam behind them and constantly ran in and out of the room.
PEOPLE ON SHIP: I am surprised no one has mentioned the clientele this ship attracts. Ninety percent of the cruisers are from NY or NJ. This is a vivacious, loud, passionate, over-the-top crowd. If you are looking for quiet, this isn't the ship for you. LOTS of kids, and some might consider many of the cruisers on this ship rude if you aren't used to folks from NY and NJ. Be forewarned. Those not from the area were shocked at what they perceived to be lack of manners: not moving to allow others in to the elevators, shouting across the dining rooms, yelling and running in the hallways, etc.
BRING FROM HOME: There are only two American outlets in your entire cabin. TWO. NONE in the bathroom. Hairdryer is not located in the bathroom and you couldn't dry your hair in there if you wanted to because there is not outlet. So, bring a extension chord! I brought one from home and with Ipad, Iphones, Camcorders--we were charging all night. The power is not on in your room without a key. Bring a dummy key (any card will do) but the room attendants may take it out, thus meaning your items may not charge if you are not in the room. There is NO CLOCK in the room. I ended up using an APP in my I pad and letting that be our clock at night, as we both wake up and wonder as to the time. There are no outlets next to your bed so you can't have your phone next to you as you sleep to check the time. So, be sure to bring a travel alarm clock or some way to see the time at night or when you wake up if you think you will need it. Bring MEDICINE: I got sick with a cold on day 2 and was sick the entire week and wished I would have brought cough medicine from home. Someone got blisters in our group but luckily I remembered band-aids and antibiotic ointment. Bring a noise maker if you are bothered by kids yelling in the halls. Better yet--book a room not in the main hallway. Also, open your bathroom door--it is a good sound barrier between the hall and your bed.
HINTS: Make your reservations. The fish in the hallway are always swimming towards the front of the ship--good to know if you don't have a good sense of forward and aft. Get the ship's APP called NCL Iconcierge--you can text anyone in your party for free and it's only 7.95. You can also check your room bill and see what is happening around the ship. This came in handy when we couldn't remember if a show started at 9:00 or 9:30. Order the ship's internet if you need to stay connected. I ordered the largest package to check email twice a day and surf very briefly at night and it was too much. Bermuda dockyard has internet for 6.95 a day or 15.00 for three days. However it did not work well for me and my Iphone unless I was right on top of the place where I bought it (the octagonal gift shop.) I also paid for international service with AT&T and it was a complete waste of money as I could not connect the entire time we were gone. Texting worked; loading emails did not. So, the best connection service was indeed on the ship. Beach chairs DO get crowded on sea days. Head to higher decks and you will find something. If we were out there by 8:00 or 8:30 on the Sundeck there was no trouble getting chairs. However if you are a group of six or 8 or more don't be surprised if you can't find chairs together. Consider the VIBE beach club. If you like to sun on a deck on your ship it was totally worth the extra money. It was never crowded and much quieter than the regular areas, but the Sundeck also was a great free option. If you want to get into the VIBE, go to guest services as soon as you get on the ship (deck six) and ask one of the staff which line is the VIBE line (it has its own dedicated line.). You have to get in line in the port by 10:00AM if you want to be assured a VIBE pass. They will let you on the ship by 11:20 or 11:30. Head straight to deck six and start your waiting for reservations and VIBE (two different lines.)
BERMUDA: We hired a taxi to take us to all of our must see beaches for three hours. It is 40.00 an hour for a taxi, flat rate as posted. We brought our own snorkel gear. One of our taxi drivers, Cheeks, told us the south beaches were "delicious" compared to the north beaches. I loved that description. Highly recommend Church Bay for snorkeling, but you need your own gear. Well worth it to get the gear--it was outstanding. Glass Beach and completely close to the ship. 200 years ago it is where all of the ships dumped their glass bottles when they were done with them. The glass is broken, polished, and smooth and the path to get down there is utterly gorgeous. You may need a taxi to get you there. You can walk back if you have stamina. Horseshoe Bay is a MUST. Best beach in Bermuda--has all of the amenities and is outstanding--soft sand and gorgeous. Warwick Long Bay is one down from Horseshoe Bay and has the pinkest sand on the island. You are not allowed to take sand out of Bermuda. You have to pass through customs each day. They don't search you. Be sure to have picture ID and room key each day. Take a ferry to Hamilton on the first night you are docked and go to the street fair--totally worth it and great stuff for sale with live steel drum music. This only happens in the summer months.
STAFF: The staff was wonderful. You can find really fun and friendly service everywhere. The cruise director and her staff are fantastic. Captain was visible. Many staff from the Philippines. Only met one server who was anxious to get home. We had two teenagers in a cabin and their cabin steward treated them like gold.
ROOMS: Bathrooms largest of any cruise ship, which was nice. Rooms, if smaller, did not feel smaller to me. Our couch was next to our patio and people complained they couldn't get into their closets with this arrangement. This was not the case for us.
DRINKS: Soda --Unfortunately I drink a lot of soda so I invested in the soda cup/sticker. It was 52 or 56 for the week. A pain in the butt to get served at the bar-at the VIBE and pool bars, the bartenders would purposely bypass me and my soda cup for someone who came to the bar after me to order a drink (most likely because they were getting tips from the drinkers.) Also happened at the bar at deck 6. My husband stood closer to the guest services side and a guy walked out of the back, right past me, and right over to him to ask him if he could help him. My husband said, "You can help her." The server in the Garden Cafe was much better. In the mornings it was a treck to find soda. I need caffeine but don't drink coffee. Sometimes a Garden Cafe worker would get it for me. (I think the pool area is one of the only areas before 10:30 or 11:00 to get it.) So it's work to get soda, and not worth it unless you are completely addicted like I am. The mixed drinks, however, were very reasonably priced, and included tip. We always tipped a little extra anytime we ordered drinks to assure outstanding service.
DEBARKATION: We carried off and had no trouble. We got up, had breakfast at 8:00 at O'Sheehans, and were off the boat with our bags by 9:00.
WOULD I RECOMMEND? The entertainment, food, and many options of things to do really cannot be beat in this price category among RC, Carnival, Princess, and NCL. Bermuda is gorgeous and I liked not having to be rushed to try and get everything done we wanted to do in one day. NCL needs to stop booking the ship to capacity to help cruisers have a more pleasant, less crowded experience. We were high-fiving each other when we had an elevator that didn't stop every floor or two or wasn't jam packed (a rarity.) The New York/NJ crowd might be hard for some to handle. My husband kept saying, "You can take the ship out of NY but you can't take NY out of the ship." However, the entertainment, amenities, service, and food outweighed the crowds for us --so I would definitely recommend.