Hello! My wife and I just returned from our weeklong cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway to Bermuda from September 1-8. A bit about ourselves before jumping into the review so those reading can equate my comments to our age group. I am 36 years old and my wife is 30 years old. We are both in the healthcare profession. This was my first ever cruise, and only the second for my wife (the last one was a bargain basement spring break cruise 10 years ago). We are very social people and were looking to enjoy great entertainment, great food, and a vibrant social scene. We also wanted an upscale experience, so we chose to stay in the Haven.
EMBARKATION: This has been covered in nearly every review. It was seamless. Probably the easiest check in I have ever experienced. We walked up to Pier 88 and simply gave our bags to a porter and they were gone. Since we were Haven guests, we were immediately directed into a separate Haven check in area after we went through general security. We walked right up to the clerk with zero wait, exchanged our documents, and got our cruise cards printed. We then waited maybe 5-10 minutes in the waiting area with maybe 10 other people. There were light refreshments such as cookies and desserts, as well as water, coffee, and juice. A Norwegian representative was escorting small groups up into the ship and directly into the Haven every ten minutes or so. I must say, Norwegian already had us feeling special even after just something as simple as check in. We were escorted to the Haven and our concierge gave us an informal 5 minute presentation. At that time we were able to fill out dinner reservation requests as well as show requests. Then we were cut loose to go explore.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS: I won't break this thing down into a day-by-day review like some others have done, instead I would like to share my thoughts in a loose time progression. Right after our concierge talked with us, we headed to the Haven bar for a drink. At this time we decided to bite the bullet and go for the Unlimited Beverage Package (UBP). It was $50 per person per cabin per day (so $100 a day for my wife and I). It ended up being around $788 because I guess they either threw in tax or gratuity. The package included all soft drinks as well as beers $5.50 or less, glasses of wine $9.50 or less, and mixed drinks $8.50 or less (don't quote me directly on those wine and drink numbers, but they are very close). They will explain to you in detail if you are interested, but really, it is great because they have set those price limits so that essentially EVERY POSSIBLE DRINK is included. There are a few pricier beers (such as a huge 23 ounce Grolsch) or mixed drinks that are above the price point, but that was never an issue. There were probably 10-12 beers to choose from. As far as liquor goes, things such as Grey Goose, Ketel One, Jack Daniels, Barcardi(s), Johnnie Walker Black, etc. are ALL included. So you can catch my drift here: there won't be a single thing you could want that isn't realistically on the list. Regarding the drink menus, they were mostly standardized throughout the ship, but some bars did have a few signature drinks. And again, essentially every drink on their menus was included with the UBP. Bottles of wine or liquor were available for purchase, but of course those are an additional charge. One last thing about the UBP: it works in all of the restaurants as well, so your drinks with your meals are covered (that is what pushed us to go ahead and get it -- if drinks in the restaurants were NOT included we would have passed on the package).
Sailaway was great, we hung out in the outside part of the Haven on the starboard forward top of the ship. I am not sure if there was a formal party in the main portion of the ship.
Our luggage was in the room by 2-3 PM. Our rooms were ready to go into around 12:30 PM. We really didn't need to change prior to our luggage being delivered, so we dropped off our backpacks and explored the ship.
The Waterfront is totally awesome. Just a super idea, and it really makes this a unique ship. It was so cool to stroll around the whole thing, stopping off at the bars for a drink and to mingle with other cruisers. The gelato shop was open, Carlo's was open, and the Sabrett hot dog stand was open in two separate locations. We actually never tried the gelato or Carlo's (kinda kicking myself for not trying the cannoli or lobster tail). A word about the hot dog stand. I don't understand why so many former Breakaway cruisers cry and whine about it never being around. I literally saw it every day. EVERY DAY. There was always one in Spice H2O and usually one around the main pool. So stop it everyone, they are available. We tried one once and were done. It was good, but it's a hot dog. Come on.
The Atrium is very nice with that huge video board. We watched some Thursday night football on it as well as bits of some movies as well. Great picture. Don't forget that you can get all of the Carlo's baked goods at the Atrium coffee shop at all times.
Because we booked in the Haven we received 3 meals in the up-charge restaurants. We were a bit nervous about getting all of the free upgrades they said we would get when we got on board, but Norwegian nailed them all. The chocolate covered strawberries were in our room right when we walked in, there was a bottle of champagne chilled on ice as well, and the free bottle of wine was waiting for us with two beautiful long stem red wine glasses. We went to the concierge in the Haven and immediately booked 3 dinners with no problems right when we boarded, and they were fully aware of our 3 free meals.
The first night we ate in Le Bistro. The food was excellent, and we received a free bottle of chardonnay for dining in the restaurant the first night of the cruise. (Yes, one of their new catch phrases should be "Norwegians Like to Drink".) One thing to note: the additional-fee restaurants I think want to make your experience "grander" so the service is I do believe intentionally a bit slower. Some people have condemned the restaurants on these reviews for being too slow. Again, I think they want you to relax and enjoy your meal as if you were truly in a French Bistro, etc. It did not bother my wife and I. Our dinners took on average 2 hours. But if you want to move things along you simply have to flag your waiter and let him or her know you are in a bit of a hurry and you will be fine. We actually missed Burn the Floor the first night because we were having such a nice dinner at Le Bistro.
Since we are on the topic of food, let's finish the dining portion. The other meals included in our package were Cagney's and La Cucina. We ate on the Waterfront at Cagney's as the sun set and it was genuinely wonderful. I'm from Chicago and now live in Texas, so I know a great steak, and Cagney's was pretty good, but not anything noteworthy as far as my filet. I am Italian and La Cucina was very good. My meal had gnocchi, and my only complaint was that they were a bit too doughy/chewy. Don't be fooled into thinking that you can't eat more than one thing at these restaurants. I'm not sure the official Norwegian policy, but pretty much every one of these places had the waiters/waitresses asking us if we wanted 2,3,4 appetizers or 2 entrees each (clearly they were not going to charge us)! Ridiculous amount of food! Of course we never took them up on it, but just know that you will NOT leave the specialty restaurants hungry, I promise.
We paid for Moderno Churrascuria and Ocean Blue. I've eaten at every mainstream high end Brazilian steakhouse (Fogo, Texas de Brazil, etc) and I can say that Norwegian did very well with this one. Their salad bar portion was actually what made the meal, and even had this unreal scallop and fish ceviche that was out of this world. The salad bar was as good as any land-based store, and the gauchos with the grilled meats did a great job. Overall the meats were very good, and they were essentially identical in variety to what you would find on land.
Ahh, and finally Ocean Blue. A true masterpiece! Mister Zakarian has done a wonderful job with this one. You can simply tell the entire staff in this place was hand-picked for their attention to detail, friendliness, politeness, and knowledge of the restaurant. The food was fresh and expertly prepared. No complaints. Was it worth $50 per person? Well, that would be a deal on land, so you do the math.
One other night we ate the Frog and Onion pub in Bermuda -- pretty good, just pub grub. And we just ate at the Garden Cafe one night because we were swamped. It was cool though, we sat next to the cast of the Second City show (more on them later).
SEA DAYS: Very laid back and relaxed, or nuts if you wanted it to be! We split time between the Haven private sun deck and atrium and Spice H20. We occasionally spent a couple of hours at the main pool. The main pool is unfortunately just like others have described it in previous reviews. Especially on sea days, there is literally like 2000 people trying to use the loungers, get poolside, and pack the bars. Don't even ask about the hot tubs. They'll pack in about 10-12 people sometimes. The whole "get up at 5 am and put my towels down on 5 chairs to reserve it all day" is very true out there. But, give Norwegian credit -- they made it very clear on their daily updates that leaving your belongings on a lounger or chair unattended for more than one hour will forfeit your spot and the staff would remove your things and bring them to lost and found. So, if you really need to, you can pick a spot, make sure it has been unattended for an hour, and then go get someone from the Norwegian staff. We did not need to do this.
The kids pool is tandem to the main pool. Chock full of kids, as you would assume. It was odd that you ended up having to navigate around the little ones running and splashing you as you walked past this area to get into the Garden Cafe, mostly at lunch. Poor planning on that one. The waterslides were up some stairs in this area as well.
The main pool had either a DJ or live music every day from what I could gather. Top 40 stuff and the typical Bob Marley covers, etc.
We did not go into Vibe Beach Club because we didn't need to (we didn't pay for it), but I think it would have been cool. I think it is a bit silly that we didn't get instant free access to this being Haven guests. Norwegian should include this. Maybe they don't want us crowding the Vibe area.
HAVEN REVIEW: Overall quite nice. The actual Haven area included a private concierge station, two private key card entrances, an indoor lounge area, a private bar, private restaurant, and an indoor private two level enclosed pool area with outside dining area. The roof here is retractable, and they did indeed open it almost daily as long as there was sun. There are two rectangular lounge pools only a couple inches deep and then a small square pool that is maybe 4 feet deep. This pool made no sense to me. They need to remove one of the separate water lounge areas and connect it to the pool. I am a pool junkie on vacation, and because of this layout, I really didn't want to go into the pool there, and therefore felt a bit cheated on my pool time. The second indoor floor had cabanas and loungers and more dining tables. This area opened up to a huge outdoor sun deck with VERY faint "easy listening" type music. So it got kind of boring out there.
So, the indoor area. I was not a huge fan. It was very nice and very pretty, but for one it is too small. There are only about 10 loungers in the enclosed area, and yep, you guessed it, they would be "taken" first thing in the morning. On our cruise it was the same obnoxious 15 person family who would take every chair and "cover it" with their towels, and then sit there and eat for about 10 hours straight. They had screaming kids that they did not attempt to control, and I had to deal with them doing cannonballs into the tiny square pool. It actually made us avoid this entire area. The Haven should have been more proactive with telling them to keep it down as well as enforcing the "no squatter rule" for hogging lounge chairs. So for those wondering if kids are allowed in the Haven and all of its areas, the answer is YES. I didn't understand why these parents didn't take the kids to the Sponge Bob play area.
We actually never ate at the Haven restaurant. We discovered that it had the same food as the Taste and Savor restaurants (we didn't eat there either), which each had the SAME FOOD AS THE GARDEN CAFE BUFFET! So, we ended up just eating at the buffet for each breakfast and lunch and it was just FINE. The food in there was delicious and pretty creative. You could get anything you wanted, all the way up to formal carving stations. My wife waited a max of 5 minutes one morning for a made to order omelette. So people complaining about the Garden Cafe are being boorish and unrealistic. Did it get crowded in there? Yes. Did we occasionally have to look around for a table? Yes. But who cares? You're on vacation. Chill out man.
The Haven is actually quite divided up. Most rooms are part of the true Haven complex on decks 15 and 16. Much to our chagrin we found out that our Spa Suite was completely outside of the Haven on a completely separate deck (14). This actually bothered us and made us feel separated from an amenity for which we paid a substantial amount of extra money. Norwegian should make this clear when people book this type of Haven room.
Our room itself was very nice, but size wise was pretty much just a standard junior suite. There was a moderate-sized hot tub in the corner of the room. The balcony was fine: two chairs and a nice drink table, with room to spare. The bathroom was fine, with a big two faucet sink. The shower had all these extra spray nozzles on it which didn't do much for me. Water pressure and temperature were perfect at all times. Closet space was very very nice, we each had one side of a large wall closet. There were drawers galore. There was a huge impressive Lavazza espresso machine that was quite nice for the morning coffee. We had a mini bar stocked with stuff that we would have to pay for, so we stayed away. Daily fresh fruit, fresh flowers were provided. We had silverware at all times as well as wine glasses, champagne flutes, glasses, and 3 sizes of coffee cups. Very large TV for a ship, at least 32 inches. My wife liked getting ready in front of the large room mirror.
We had a butler, named Chris, who was just super pleasant. He knew our names the second we walked on (but never addressed me as "doctor" -- nothing to make me mad but something I always see if people realize -- it gets them extra points with me). We used his services a few times when we needed some ice in the afternoon. We tended not to bother him too much.
Our huge suitcases fit with room to spare under the awesome king sized bed. The decor of the room was hues of purples and blues and was very pleasant.
Would I Haven again? Yes. But probably not on Breakaway. This is my first cruise but I think the Haven on Epic is much bigger and better.
SPA: We had unlimited access to the treatment deck above the bridge all week in the Mandara Spa. It was a nice perk. We went a couple times. The huge pool is wonderful with multiple high pressure bubble areas, there is ample space to lounge, and there are 4 different treatment rooms including sauna and salt room.
SHOWS/ENTERTAINMENT: Rock of Ages was awesome. So well done, felt like you were on Broadway. Contrary to what people are writing, NCL does indeed warn people in their bulletin AND on a sign as you walk into the theater that the show is very much adult-themed and includes a sex scene and some dirty language. But of course, during my show, I had to watch families get up and storm out with their 6 year olds. PAY ATTENTION PEOPLE! I applaud NCL for providing entertainment for adults and further applaud them for sticking to their guns and not trying to already change the show or water it down. But beware, yes, there is some dirty language, up to and including the "F" word. No, I am not kidding. If you're cool with that stuff and want to sing your lungs out to awesome 80s tunes from Journey et al, this one is for you!
Burn the Floor put me to sleep. My wife loved it. 'Nuff said.
Michael Finney is talented and is doing his show for the Wounded Warrior Project. He is pretty darn funny and his magic is good, but I am not so sure he is happy to be there doing the show on the Breakaway. Very dry humor that bordered on him sounding annoyed.
We didn't do the Cirque show. And no, it is NOT a Cirque du Soleil show. But other passengers said it was awesome.
Svedka Ice Bar was awesome. Just go and do it. You get a couple drinks for your 20 bucks and can take some cool pictures.
CASINO: OK, time to put some stuff to rest. It's pretty ridiculous (and just plain incorrect) the amount of screaming about the tobacco smoke. Are there some people smoking in the casino? Yep. Is it flagrant? Nope. Can you smell some smoke? Yep. Who cares. It's a casino. If you don't like it, don't go there. If you want to gamble, IT'S A CASINO, so deal with it.
They had your standard table games and slots. We burned 20 bucks one night on a slot machine and never returned.
What I want to specifically address is what I believe is actually the main source of the smoke. Maltings Bar has an enclosed indoor smoking room for cigars. Maltings is literally right next to the casino. It was ALWAYS full of guys smoking stogies. Whenenver the door would open smoke would escape. And that was what you were smelling -- that very distinct cigar smoke. Not really cigarette smoke. Once again, not that big of a deal. So please don't buy into the reviews which claim it "ruined my vacation" blah blah blah. Get over it.
BERMUDA: This thing is getting out of control, so I will wrap it up soon. Bermuda is universally beautiful, safe, well-kept, and proud. Bermudans love their country and it is literally the cleanest island we have ever visited. The beaches are perfect. Look real close, you'll see why they are pink sand. We toured and shopped, but didn't really do much else. It's a location that is now crossed off my list.
DISEMBARKATION: Just as easy as everyone says. We chose the freestyle disembark, and actually got off the ship even before those people because they let the Haven guests get off absolutely first. We were off the boat at 7:25 AM.
We were blessed with smooth seas the entire trip, and it only rained once for a couple hours in Bermuda.
OEVERALL: Hats off to you Norwegian! You made my first ever cruise awesome, and something I will never forget. I am now a true cruiser, and I was already planning our next one in the airport on the way home! We will not likely sail out of New York ever again. We are midwesterners and now Texans and we simply did not mesh well with the New Yorkers and New Jerseyans who made up 90% of this cruise. I am not disrespecting anyone, so don't write me a Nastygram. It is what it is.
The crew simultaneously made you laugh and smile, and then broke your heart in the same breath. I say this because they are all far from home, away from their families, working for what is most likely a very small paycheck. Respect your crew. Thank your crew. Talk to them, listen to their stories. Some of them are fathers and mothers whose children don't recognize them when they come home after being on duty for 11 months. They live in tiny inside quarters and have to watch all of us indulge ourselves with food and drink and never take a little something for themselves or they will be fired. And all the while they just smile and say "yes sir" and "yes ma'am" and serve you, no matter what room you are in or how much money you spend. They MAKE this cruise what it is, and they MAKE this ship special. Whatever you can spare, give your housekeeper (and concierge and butler if so) a little something extra. Twenty bucks, anything. To see them smile when you give them a tip and thank them back for a wonderful week and job well done will melt your heart.
I do believe that last paragraph is important. Thank you Norwegian for a great week, thank you for a beautiful boat, and thank you giving my wife and I such wonderful memories!