Prior to my cruise aboard the NCL Breakaway on August 25, 2013, I would read every review written with anticipation. On several occasions, I almost canceled the cruise after reading some low rated reviews. Well, glad I didn't!
Cruise Date: August 25 - September 01, 2013
Itinerary: Bermuda! 7-day cruise. Three nights out. Two nights in Bermuda. Two nights back to New York.
Background: One previous cruise which was on the NCL Jewel back in 2012 to the Bahamas.
Embarkation: Live in New York so the car ride was about 1.5 hours. Crossed over the NYS Thruway heading towards Bear Mountain and took the Palisades Parkway down to the George Washington Bridge. Crossed her and arrived around 10:15 AM and parked at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal. Two hundred forty five dollars for 7-days. Passed the dog sniff test and parked the car taking noting not to park under a lamp post knowing that birds would be near. Unloaded and locked the car. Wheeled luggage to the terminal elevator. Went down to the lower level. Walked outside and handed the baggage to a handler with a small tip and proceeded inside where we walked through customs and were immediately directed to the NCL check-in counter. With passports and cruise tickets in hand, process was quick and painless. Moved ahead and had a photo taken. Were given a boarding number 21 and sat down to relax and watch the people show for about an hour.
Announcement was made and passengers started to board the ship about 11:30. Wasn't long before our number was called. Were on the ship by 12 o'clock or shortly after.
Cabin: At some point, it was announced that cabins were ready so we proceed to our B1 AFT Balcony cabin number 11312. Bed is located by the sliding door so access to the closet was not an issue. All was good except for a missing seat cushion on the coach. A little later, our cabin steward knocked on the door and told us that the cushion was being cleaned. If finally appeared later in the evening.
The balcony had two loungers, a table and one chair. Booked an AFT balcony on my first cruise and was hooked. This time was no different. Was a nice size deck and the view was great. Not as "private" as on the NCL Jewel (deck 8) when leaning on the railing but knew this before hand not that it mattered.
Found a pair of shoes under the bed from a previous guest. How long they were they there? Who knows. Obviously no one vacuumed under the bed after each cruise as the shoes were not mid way under the bed. Actually slightly under the skirt. There was also lots of finger prints on the closet doors and such indicating a less than thorough cleaning prior to our cruise.
Noticed some trim or sealer if you will hanging off the shower door. Shame it was left that way and that a new ship is already showing signs of wear, poor craftsmanship and/or design. I put the trim back in place where it remained for the duration. We did see a few other examples around the Breakaway.
There has been some concern over noise levels from Spice H20 in the past. Especially on higher decks. I'm very noise sensitive and sleep with a "noise" machine. On the first or second night in Bermuda, the noise was easily heard in the cabin. (With balcony door closed.) Like living near a bar or night club I suppose. When the ship was moving, you noticed it less. I originally booked a AFT balcony on deck 14 and later switched to deck 11. If noise is a concern of yours, I'd suggest you stay around deck 11 or lower if possible.
Dining: Always dined early between 5:30 - 6:00 to prevent crowds or waits as were complaints in the past. No reservations except for the Moderno. Did see some small lines later in the evening many times but nothing not unseen on land. We are not foodies but do know a good meal when we have it. As we all know, this is a very subjective but I will briefly state was we observed during this particular cruise.
O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill: Had dinner her one time. It was Prime Rib Night and O'Sheehan's was also serving the meal. We were immediately seated and service was the best we had anywhere. Very good waiter. Checked in a few times to see how everything was. If the meal came with a baked potato, it would have been better but every thing was fine. Enjoyed the meal. Finished with a brownie sundae. Yummy!
Taste Restaurant: Promptly seated. Waitress was very polite and efficient. Chatted with us a little. Overall, enjoyed the meal and window view. Being a party of two, we always got a window view table which was nice.
Savor Restaurant: Same as the Taste. Opposite side of the ship. Same deck. Similar in many ways. Same menu. Food was good once again. Waiter however was not. Worse one during our entire cruise. Polite to a point. A little hard to understand. Even though it was early and they weren't busy at the time, he would walk away quickly. Had to ask twice for some ice tea as we only had water. Did finally get the ice tea. A couple sitting next to us waiting for quite awhile had nothing appear during our meal. Was wondering why this would be. As we were leaving, the same waiter was asking to clarify what they had ordered. Not good.
Manhattan Room: Did not eat here. Really do not like sitting on top of other tables or next to a table with one or two feet of spacing. Thus, the Taste and Savor was a better choice for us. Also hearing the Manhattan was loud at times steered us towards the other avenues.
Garden Cafe: Ate here many times for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Never disappointing though with buffets, depending on the time, can be trying dealing with fellow passengers. Did see "Washy Washy" girls and guys in the early morning. Think every day in fact. For some reason, later in the day and evening, I don't recall this to be the case. At least not every time I was there. Others may have experienced a different scenario.
Most selections were good. We always saw a carving station serving the evenings special each night we were there. Was nice compared to my last NCL cruise to see more choices for drinks such as Lemonade, Tropical Mango, Strawberry Kiwi and Iced Tea. There was coffee, water available. Also milk which could be found next to the coffee aside the cream dispenser. Had apple juice one morning in the Uptown Grill and Grill. There was also orange juice. Not sure about other choices.
Moderno Churasscaria: Dined at Moderno while in Bermuda on day two for my birthday. Price is $20:00 per person. Had a reservation. Seated with little wait. They had just opened and there were a few parties waiting ahead of us. Service was very good. Food was very good as well. Only item I didn't care for was one of the two different types of sausage. I didn't find any of the food to be overwhelming or too salty. When it was time for desert, our waitress brought a small cake for two and with others, sang Happy Birthday.
Entertainment: Had reserved three shows prior to our cruise. Burn the Floor. Rock of Ages. Michael Finney Comedy/Magician act. I have very limited show exposure so your opinion may differ from mine.
Burn the Floor: Early show. Fast pace, high energy. Amazing dancers. Enjoyed it very much. Ah, to be young, talented and full of energy.
Rock of Ages: Early show again. Kind of mixed on this one. Good story. Entertaining. Have nothing to compare this with. Did see a couple folks leave here and there during the show. Many with children who I thought would leave at one point or another remained. Would I have brought a child to this show given the warnings and comments read on Cruise Critic? No. After seeing the show? No. Overall. Enjoyed the show but liked Burn the Floor more.
Michael Finney: Did not make it to this show. Was planned as a "filler" from the start.
Bermuda: Woke up early as I usually do to watch our arrival. Could see the Celebrity Summit in the distance. Always love pulling into ports. Breakaway docks first followed by Celebrity soon after. We docked Port Side while the Summit docked Starboard. I preferred this as you could do some people watching. See the ferry's come and go and such though docked either way would have been fine.
Activities: With three days in Bermuda, you have time to do plenty. Knowing it was our first visit and that it would be impossible to do everything prior to this cruise, lots of thought and research was put into the planning. Here is what we did...
Wednesday: First thing was head to Oleander Cycles. The scooter rental office is located at the dockyard within view of the ship. They have multiple locations with some sporting newer bikes. After a lengthy wait, we go our 2 wheeled chariot which was rented for two days. The driver rides around "the block" and when you return and all is well, you get the thumbs up from a worker and away you go. NOTE: If you rent a scooter and ride double, bring a towel or something to throw over the basket to prevent your back from getting sore. Read this before the cruise and was prepared. Would think Oleanders' would have a cheap piece of foam padding or something already on the scooter. There are bunggee cords to help keep items in place but anything of real value might better be place under the seat if possible. Just a precaution. Nothing more.
WARNING: If you have NO experience riding scooters or motorcycles, I as others have, would strongly advise against renting one. Having rode motorcycles on and off during my years which included most recently a Harley-Davidson Street Glide which is a heavy touring bike, I found it to be trying at times due to lack of power and being so nimble. Add to that narrow roads you've never traveled on before with locals passing you in areas you would not think they would, one could easily get in trouble. And then there's the fact that you ride on the left side of the road which for most of us, is not the norm. Took it easy. Moved to the left side when a vehicle was near and tried to follow locals when possible to help "guide" us through areas such as traffic circles. Would I rent a scooter again? YES!
Second line of business was to confirm a reservation at Somerset Bridge Watersports where I had reserved a 15 foot Boston Whaler for four hours on Thursday prior to the cruise. The online reservation worked but did not have a confirmation number. Brought a copy with me incase there were problems. Wanting to be sure everything was set, we buzzed along on the scooter and found the business which is tucked next to a gas station which a local without asking helped point out. Not the nicest place but the owner was polite and had everything in order. It was a good thing that we stopped in a day early as Tony said he had tried to contact us via the Breakaway to say we would be better off going out today given the weather forecast. Together, we looked at the forecast on his iPad. He had a Boston Whaler available and we took advantage of this and after some explanation regarding operation of the small boat and brief conversation with aids of maps as to where we might want to go, off we went!
Weather was threatening so I figured if we got two hours out on the water it would be nice. Turns out, it cleared up nicely. Made our way around looking at the shorelines and homes. Seeing the Summit and Breakaway in the distance was neat.
Finally found a small "island" with and actual beach (most are nothing but rocks) and beached the small craft. Walked around. Fed the fish some bread provided by Somerset. Found a young couple snorkeling around the corner so never assume you are there all alone. After some time, a pontoon boat came along. We then decided to leave and venture on. Eventually saw a couple sea turtles. Not up close but at a distance. Could see them pop their heads out of the water. Would go near them and shut the boat off. Drift. Never did get a up close and personal view but were happy none the less. It was about 3.5 hours into our tour so decided to return the boat in case others were waiting. Total charge with fuel was $194. Well worth it.
On a side note. Did get the letter from Somerset Watersports on the Breakaway hand delivered the next morning verifying what the owner told us the day before. Of little use now. Simply glad we stopped in a day early. Worked out perfectly.
Thursday: Headed back out on the scooter early. Found South Road and saw some priceless views. Was nice to pull over at will. Explore on our own.
Stopped at Horseshoe beach and after a brief walk, moved onward. Ended up spending some time at Jobson's Cove and the beach which had very few folks there. Went in the water and soaked up some sun. The sun would leave us shortly after.
There was a food cart at the beach in the parking lot. Had a hot dog and soda which cost $6.00. Not bad. Dog was good. Soda was cold. Saw a couple folks riding horses. One thing that is on my bucket list for a future Bermuda visit.
Headed towards Hamilton. With showers threatening and becoming heavier, we headed back "home." By the time we arrived, we were soaked. Riding on a underpowered scooter during a rain storm in Bermuda. Not something I care to do again though would if need be.
Friday: Stayed at the dockyard as weather was threatening. Went to the Bermuda Rum Cake Company. Bought a couple cakes to take home. In the same building, there is the Dockyard Glassworks which one can see live demonstrations. Nothing we haven't seen before but nice to watch. Crowded at times. Beautiful works of art. A little pricey.
Then walked around the Clock Tower Mall. Started to rain outside. Was not looking good. With a few items and souvenirs in hand, headed back to the Breakaway. Feeling a little sad as we knew soon, we would shortly be leaving Bermuda.
Pools: We all have read about this a hundred times and it was no different on this cruise. Crowded. Chair hogs galore. Enough said.
Slides: Wow!!! Not much of an adventure park type of guy but must say, for a ship, I thought they were pretty good. Rode all 3 slides. Waits were not that bad. Children tended to slow things down a tad. Changing minds, etc. There is a smaller slide available. This one usually had a longer line.
Ropes Course: "Walked the Plank" or at least was I on it. Did this on the final day and when I was on it, one could not walk all the way out on the plank. A little disappointed but glad I did it.
Ship Wear: As mentioned earlier in this thread, you did see some signs of wear and/or poor craftsmanship. Not much, but more than one might expect for a "new" ship. Hopefully, the crew stay on top of things as the Breakaway is a beautiful ship.
Smoke: Yes, you do smell it. Sad that when you walk and get near the main areas around the atrium, you smell a stench. Didn't bother me but in today's age, one might wonder why this is the case. Why smoking isn't a little more isolated in some way or fashion. Not saying no smoking allowed by any means, just more control that can keep passengers happy. Smokers or not.
Decks: No true walk around deck. The Waterfront is nice but has room for some more seating which can be hard to find at times. Some seating is soiled in spots. Deck 7 with the lifeboats hinders your sea views. No seating that I recall. Probably due to safety regulations.
Pool Deck: Read about it before. Saw it first hand. Folks falling due to water. Some hard. NCL staff did squeegee the areas often to no avail. Poor design I guess.
Disembarkation: Breakaway docked around 6:00 AM. Opted for walk-off. No sure of the time. Early. There were two exits from the ship at the time we left. Painless exit from the Breakaway. Customs check point took seconds. No line. Biggest wait was for the cargo elevator to bring us up to the parking lot deck.
Final Thoughts: After reading each and every review I could, there were days where I would get discouraged to the point of almost canceling this cruise several times. As sail date came near, reviews did seem to get better. That with the fact that I would lose a good chunk of money by canceling, I began to concentrate on the positives and noted the negatives and planned accordingly. This seemed to work well as I was happy with the ship, crew and activities.
Yes, the ship does feel crowded especially on the first day. Then again, there were times where it was hard to believe that there were forty some hundred fellow passengers aboard. (Heard an actual number which I think was about 4,800 but not sure.) Except for one dinner seating, service was very good. Even then when not, was okay. One of my biggest complaints on the NCL Jewel was waits and service during dinner along with mediocre food. Fortunately, this was not the case on the Breakaway. In fact, I thought the food in general was much better.
Another concern was staying in port a few days. Well, I would do this again in a heart beat! It was really nice to actually be able to explore a port instead of rushing back to a ship after a few hours. Being able to work around the weather if need be was a plus. I do not gamble but for those who do, having the casinos closed may sway them in a different direction. Walked through the stores enough that having them closed during port days did not matter either. Found other things to do.
Aside from a cabin that could have been cleaner initially (partner used wipes and went over many areas), I have no real complaints about staff aboard the Breakaway. Most addressed you with a hello when passing by. Of course, a very few did not. Big deal.
Bottom line. Overall. A pleasant cruise with no real negatives. Perfect? Certainly not. Would I sail on the NCL Breakaway again? YES! Would I go to Bermuda again? You bet! Hopefully, sooner rather than later. Would I sail another cruise line in the future? Of course. Have the RCCL Quantum of the Seas on my radar.
Thank you for reading a very brief recap of my 7-day cruise to Bermuda. Hope you enjoyed and found it of some value. Should you sail on the Breakaway, I truly hope you have a enjoyable experience.