NCL Gets it Right for Family Cruising with its New Breakaway
NCL Breakaway Cruise to Bermuda, August 4th to 11th, 2013
We have to wait fifty-one weeks to go on the Breakaway again
Tearful lament from our granddaughter, seven..
NCLs newest cruise ship, the Breakaway, is the ideal choice for family cruises, offering plenty to do for children as well as adults. The ship is New York City all the way, home based there and christened by the Radio City Rockettes.
We were a party of ten; my wife and I, both senior citizens, our two sons and daughters-in-law and four grandchildren ages four through nine. This was our twenty-first cruise since 2001, the fourteenth with NCL. Our children and grandchildren have sailed with us on six occasions so we consider ourselves seasoned and savvy cruisers. We previously had sailed on NCLs Crown, Dawn, Gem, Jewel and Star, all very pleasurable experiences. We also had sailed with Celebrity, More
Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean also very pleasurable experiences. My wife and I are NCL Latitudes Platinum members and received on this cruise, amenities including priority check-in and boarding, priority disembarkation, champagne in-room, three complimentary dinners with wine at cover charge restaurants, a cocktail party and a ship tours.
We like NCL.
Arrival, Check-In and Boarding:
We arrived at the Manhattan Passenger Ship Terminal by limo, Sunday August 4th at approximately 10:45, were whisked through priority check-in and group photos and boarded at 11:15. There appeared to be no difference between the Breakaway and other ships we sailed with only half the passengers in the time to check-in and board. This was probably the fastest check-in and boarding wed ever experienced. Once aboard, lunch was being served in the Garden Cafe and by the time we finished eating, our stateroom was ready. Following the mandatory safety drill, we departed for Bermuda at 4:00.
The Breakaway is NCLs newest ship, entering commercial service in May of this year. It is in a word, huge, at 146,600 tons, 1,062 feet in length and 130 feet at the beam. Passenger capacity is listed at 4,028 (double occupancy) although 4,800 passengers (with multiple occupancy) were aboard for this cruise, 1,300 of which were children under eighteen. The ship was spotless. There were a lot of people and crew on board and there were times that it seemed like New Years Eve in Times Square with a lot of people milling around, especially at dinner time, mid ship in the atrium area, and at the end of the evening show. However, the crowds soon thinned and the area became more comfortable. Early morning coffee and, in the Garden Cafe was a quiet pleasure. The amount of passengers would not deter us from booking summer cruises with our family.
We had booked three mini-suites on Deck 11. The suites were typical of what weve come to expect, small. The balcony was almost non-existent, only about two feet deep, with just enough room for two small chairs and a tiny table, not the deck chairs we were accustomed to. There was sufficient closet and storage space. The biggest surprise was the bathroom, huge by NCL (and other lines) standards. The shower area was roomy and the shower itself, the best weve ever had, once we figured out how to turn it on. A flat screen TV, coffee maker, robes, mini bar, wall safe and hair dryer were furnished. In order to turn room lights or the TV on, or to use wall outlets, a stateroom key card had to be inserted into a receptacle and left there as long as power was required. This was NCLs attempt to reduce power usage, a good idea and only a minor inconvenience. A complimentary bottle of wine and sweets were in our room on Day 1. Our childrens staterooms were fitted with drop down upper bunks which our grandchildren loved.
The stateroom staff was extremely friendly, efficient and timely, quickly adjusting their duties to our schedule. Towel animals were there nightly for the little ones.
In NCLs Free Style Dining system, dining venues consisted of complimentary and cover charge applies. The Manhattan Room, Savor and Taste were complimentary main dining rooms with table service. The Savor and Taste were available for breakfast, lunch and dinner (limited during shore days). The complimentary Garden Caf provided self service buffet style fare for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-between. Other complimentary dining was provided by OSheehans Irish Pub (24 hour service), the Uptown Grill, and a Sabrett Hot Dog cart. Pizza delivery was also available at no extra cost with some hour exceptions. OSheehans replaced the Blue Lagoon 24 hour service restaurant we were accustomed to on other NCL ships and which was smaller but quieter. Reservations could be made for the main dining rooms but only for seating between 5:00 and 5:30 pm. NCL should think about opening up the time slots for reservations, especially for larger groups. After all, larger groups pay larger money. However, with our Latitudes level and a friendly staff, we were able to secure reservations for the Savor, Taste and Manhattan at our requested times.
Cover charge applies venues consisted of Cagneys Steakhouse, La Cucina (Italian), Le Bistro (French), Moderno (Churrascaria), Shanghai Noodle Bar, Teppanyaki (Japanese), Wasabi Sushi (Japanese), Ocean Blue Seafood and Fresh Raw Seafood Bar. Cover charges ranged from $15 to $49 per person depending upon the venue. The $49 for the Ocean Blue seemed excessive. Seating in these dining rooms was by reservation only.
My wife and I were compd with two dinners with wine at LeBistro and a dinner with wine at LaCucina. We consider LeBistro to be the finest dining at sea (land also). The fare at LaCucina was also very good. The wines offered were from the master wine list.
Our children ate at Cagneys and considered it very good although Cagneys has become somewhat restricted offering a three course meal, no extra entrees.
The Garden Cafe offered a large variety of hot and cold food which was well prepared and tasty, especially their all you can eat lobster fest the second night out.
We considered the food at the main dining rooms adequate to good in selection and preparation.
The dining room service however, was excellent with an attentive, patient and competent wait staff.
We did not order room service or pizza which was always available.
For a reason I dont fully understand, passengers were requested to make reservations for the evening shows on-line prior to the cruise. Some of these shows were complimentary and some,cover charge applies. Burn the Floor (complimentary), a song and dance revue, Rock of Ages (complimentary), Second City (cover charge) and a magician/comedian (complimentary) were performed. We only attended Burn the Floor which was well presented, but a little too long. In our recent cruises we had found the shows to be a little stale having seen them several times. We preferred instead to listen to two or three lounge entertainers who performed nightly in the atriums or bars. On this cruise there was only Fire and Ice a singer/ keyboard musician combo whose music was simply amazing. They also performed in the main theater to standing ovations. Other typical cruise type games, mini-bowling and a game room were also available.
So much for adult only entertainment. Where the Breakaway really shone was entertainment for children of all ages. Besides the usual pools, a complete water park was provided with conventional water slides and a heart stopping free fall water slide which my brave daughters-in-law tried (only once). An obstacle course, high above Deck 17, provided daring children and adults with a hooked-up traverse over ropes, wooden plank bridges, steel beams and even a walk-the- plank out high above the water. When I first saw pictures of the water park and obstacle course on NCLs website, my first reaction was a naval architects nightmare, function trumps form. However, the architects did well to blend it into the ships superstructure. From the ground the park is almost hidden. You can see pictures of these and other features by clicking on the NCL link at the end of this review.
For the young children there was the Splash Academy, an morning, afternoon and evening fun school. Our grandchildren attended the evening session and loved it. The children performed a show in the main theater at the end of the cruise which was quite well done. Nickelodeon cartoon characters; Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer were also on-board to be photographed with the very young children and their families.
There was a fireworks display on Friday night.
We didnt book shore excursions preferring to go to the Snorkel Park and Tobacco Bay beaches and Hamilton for shopping.
We arrived at the Manhattan Passenger Ship Terminal quite early, Sunday August 11th, about 6:30 am. Our priority disembarkation was scheduled for 8:30 and we actually got off at that time, no delays. It was our smoothest disembarkation ever.
What We Liked and Loved:
We loved the amicability, courtesy and attentiveness of the ships staff. Weve always considered NCLs staffs to be the leaders in the industry.
We loved LeBistro, LaCucina and Cagneys.
We loved the fact that our children and grandchildren had such a wonderful time and cant wait to go again next year.
What We Didnt Like:
There wasnt much we didnt like, and what we didnt like is hardly worth mentioning here.
As seniors, who dont partake of the physical entertainment, we probably wouldnt book the Breakaway for our winter cruises preferring smaller ships with many fewer passengers such as the NCL Gem or Star. But, for family summer cruises, there is no doubt that we would sail the Breakaway provided it continues to be based in New York City.
As mentioned in my review, the three mini-suites we booked on Deck 11 were the usual, small but not uncomfortable. Our two children, each with their two children, could have used more space. The tiny balconies were useless except for drying bathing suits. Actually, I would prefer more space and forget the balcony but that's not going to happen in an outside room. The TV, though hardly used except for news, was sharp and clear. The A/C was spotty at times and required staff service. The bathrooms and showers were the largest we've encountered. Housekeeping service was excellent.