The Norwegian Breakaway is a beautiful ship, that is until you realize they've crammed 4000 passengers onto a ship that would better accommodate 3000 people. New Yorkers, who comprise the vast majority of Breakaway passengers, are used to tight spaces and crowded conditions, but on vacation they rightfully expect more. Getting a deck chair on the Breakaway was a little like fighting for a seat on the subway and that's not anyone's idea of a vacation. My sons referred to it as "Chair Wars". By 7:00 am, people would go up to the pool deck and reserve chairs and then not come back until the afternoon to use their chairs, making it impossible for people who showed up at 9:00 or 10:00 am to locate a deck chair. And I don't mean you couldn't find a deck chair near in a good location near the pool -- I mean you could not find a chair anywhere on Decks 15, 16 and 17 either in the sun or the shade. Norwegian says people can not reserve chairs and leave and threatens that they will remove towels from unattended chairs after two hours. However, in practice this didn't happen. We were told that if people left any personal item, even a newspaper, it could not be removed. People ended up getting aggressive and nasty about the chair situation and it definitely detracted from the cruise experience. Just about every Breakaway review talks about this problem, and Norwegian would be well served to figure out a solution before the ship's well deserved reputation for being too crowded devalues its many otherwise attractive features.
There are also only two fairly small pools on the Breakaway for its 4000 passengers, another poorly planned decision for an itinerary with four days at sea in tropical weather. The huge water slides, while an attraction for kids and fun even for adults, would have been better utilized as space for another pool, preferably a quiet pool for adults. We learned after boarding that for a significant upcharge there was a private pool area, but it was sold out before the ship sailed.
So many things about the Breakaway are just not quite what they should be on a brand new ship. We traveled this time with our two adult sons and their girlfriends. We got both our sons balcony rooms and we took a mini suite with large balcony. The balcony rooms are an adequate size, nicely furnished with comfortable beds, good closet storage and large drawers beneath the sofa. The balconies however are unbelievably tiny. Two small schoolroom sized chairs and a tiny table completely fill the balcony which is really better for standing than sitting. Another foot or two would have made it a lot more comfortable. Our mini suite on the other hand had a huge balcony, but it was furnished with the same tiny hard back chairs and tiny table that barely fit on the tiny balcony. Having paid extra for a huge balcony that could probably have accommodated four full size lounge chairs, we were extremely disappointed to not be able to sit comfortably on the balcony, especially when confronted with the extreme competition for deck chairs. On our prior Norwegian cruise on the Dawn we had a smaller balcony but comfortable reclining chairs and we spent a lot of time on our balcony and had anticipated doing so on this trip. The downsized mini suite was the size of typical balcony rooms on other ships but was more than adequate and the luxuriously sized bathroom in the mini-suite made it worth the extra price. A large double sink and a huge rain shower were treats.
Food in the three dining rooms and the buffet was adequate but there was nothing notable or special. The food in the restaurants with upcharges was markedly superior. The minimal quality of the free food was clearly designed to push discerning cruisers to pay for the upcharge restaurants. The French and Brazilian restaurants we ate at were worth the upcharge. Even room service had upcharges for after midnight service or for pizza. Some of the shows had upcharges including the Cirque dinner show, which was a unique show experience but a very expensive upcharge for a pretty boring steak dinner worthy of only the main dining room.
The one really positive note was that service on the Breakaway was excellent. From the cabin stewards to the dining room to the bars, they went above and beyond to meet your needs. However, one odd thing was that the bathrobes didn't show up until midday Day 2.
The shows we got to see were good, but like everything else, competition for show tickets locked us out of a number of things we had hoped to see. We reserved Rock of Ages on line before the cruise and enjoyed the nearly Broadway quality show. The comedy club was too small and shows were too infrequent for 4000 people. Bingo was held in the comedy club and even that was far too crowded with standing room only.
Despite the issues we managed to enjoy our family cruise because it's hard not to take pleasure in a week of sun, ocean, booze and food indulgences even when not up to par. But it could have been a lot better. Norwegian needs to do some rethinking to address the overcrowding and especially the deck chair situation..