SEPTEMBER 8 ' 15/13
Recently back from our Breakaway cruise to Bermuda.
This may go without saying but that's never stopped me before so I will say it anyways. This review is based on our experiences of our particular cruise. I am sure the other 4,000 passengers on this cruise had different experiences, and each cruise has unique experiences in its own right.
Firstly we a couple in our 50's from the Niagara region in Ontario. This was our tenth cruise and 8th with NCL. Spirit (1); Dawn (3); Gem (2); Jewel (1). We sailed with two friends from Queens NY. We all had balcony spa cabins.
Prior to sailing we joined the roll call for this cruise, more on that to follow, and read many reviews. Those reviews were for the most part very negative. Those reviews described a ship with 4,800 + passengers, our cruise had just over 3,900. Those 900 extra bodies were mostly under the age of 21 as we heard that two weeks prior there were 1,350 kids on board and our sailing had only 350. Those extra bodies will occupy every chair, clog up the elevators, stairs, passageways, gangways, hallways, restaurants and will wear on the crew. Maybe that is why the reviews expressed negative feelings about the over crowding and rude or disinterested crew. We experienced none of that.
Embarkation was easy and smooth and took less than 30 minutes from the time we entered the terminal until we were on board. The time was close to noon and cabins were not ready so we headed for lunch at O'Sheehan's. O'Sheehan's is Breakaway's version of the Blue Lagoon on other NCL ships. It serves pub food and is open 24 hrs. The menu we found is not as extensive as Blue Lagoon's but the food was served timely and was very tasty. We ate there a few times for lunch, or late night snack. This restaurant is an included or complementary one. However they did have a separate, pay for ice cream treat menu with sundaes, banana splits, floats etc.. This extra pay menu confused me because on the free/included menu was a brownie sundae, which was delicious. Why would I pay for a banana split when I could have a free brownie sundae?? If you were desperately in the need of a banana split bring a banana from the buffet and add it, or better yet go to the buffet, pick up a banana, go to the ice cream station get three scoops of different ice creams add sauces and topping and bingo a banana split. I am still confused, but enough of my problems lets move on. O'Sheehan's late night menu was limited but we could always find something to eat and late dessert included pound cake, banana loafs and cookies.
By the time we finished lunch the cabins were ready. We were in a Spa Balcony on deck 14. They call it a balcony cabin but I almost missed the balcony the first time I looked. Let's just say it was the smallest balcony we have ever had. It was just big enough for two chairs and a small table. This room can accommodate 3, if there had been 3 of us I don't think they could have fit a third chair there. The room itself was fine, smaller then some cabins we have had in the past but had adequate storage space. Our bed was against the closet and though tight there was enough room to access the closet. The bathrooms are the nicest features, well organized with lots of counter and shelf space. Our room steward Dennis was the best we have ever had; he was very accommodating and helpful when we needed him especially after we broke a vase in our room with flowers our friends had brought on board. Never open the door while the balcony door is open, the wind can rip right through the room. Lesson learned. We rewarded him accordingly.
After we meet up with our friends we went up to the spa. Full use of the spa is included with these cabins and we enjoyed the spa almost every day. The spa with its thermo pools, hot tubs, saunas, steam room and heated loungers was a joy. Only once did we have trouble finding a lounger. We did locate two empty ones by the far wall and though most loungers had personal items on them a few had only towels. A few minutes later an attendant came along and removed all the towels from the ones that only had towels. Do your fellow passengers a favour, if you are going to take up a lounger please remove your towels when you leave? The gym is located at the entrance to the spa. The gym has a fair number of machines but very little space to move around. There are adequate weights but again little room to use them. Every morning the gym was packed but there were still one or two machines available, and there was a sign asking to limit use to 20 minutes if there was a wait.
For dinner we went to the Manhattan Restaurant, in fact we ate every dinner here. The restaurant is nice but lacks the elegance you feel in other main dinning rooms. The main staircase coming into the room is gone. However they have added live music every night and a small dance floor. We thought this was nice touch and enjoyed occasionally a little dancing between courses. Service, except the first night was always timely and meals served in the goldilocks amount of time, not to slow, not too rushed, just right. On the first night the waiter came by twice to tell us he would be right with us. He wasted more time doing this then just taking our order. Only on the last night did we have to wait for a table as that was the only night they employed the pager system. We were told the wait would be 20-30 minutes, within 10 minutes we were seated. My one complaint or question regarding service would be that they kept trying to give us a bigger table then we needed. We were 4. They kept trying to seat us at a table for 6. This happened almost every night. The first night we sat there, however we found it harder to hear and converse around this big table. After that whenever they took us to a table for 6 we asked for a change to a table for 4. Within a minute or two we were seated at a table for 4. Why we weren't taken to a table for 4 initially confused us, but it all worked out. We ate most of our lunches and a few breakfasts in the smaller Taste and Savour restaurants. Same menus and they had the same menu as Manhattan for dinner.
As for the food we found the quality to be good to excellent. We are not foodies and personally I enjoy almost anything especially if I didn't have to prepare it, cook it, or have to clean up afterwards. The food was always delivered hot, sometimes too hot to immediately bite into. If a particular dish was not to our liking or expectation it was gladly and quickly replaced with another selection. Variety was the issue for us. Most nights we had no trouble finding something to suit our palate but variety is definitely less then on previous cruises. In the past the entire menu changed every night. For the last few cruises one side of the menu is static and remains unchanged every night. The other side does vary. However we found more variations in the past. Disappointingly where was the lobster? Apparently it was served on the second night in the buffet only. Really?? Where was the shrimp cocktail or escargot? Desserts also had less variety. Lunch was a static menu as was breakfast but there was always something to enjoy.
On the second morning we attended the Cruise Critic meet & greet. This was extremely well attended and very well organized. Several officers attended, NCL always does a good job with that. A card was handed out that listed all of the officers direct phone numbers and we were asked that if we had any problems what so ever to not hesitate to call. We saw the officers many times throughout the cruise and they were very willing to talk and engage. Dan the cruise the director stayed and answered any questions. After the M&G there was slot pull that was very well attended and a lot of fun. The next morning a cabin crawl was arranged. It is always interesting to see the size and configuration of other cabins. Kyle showed us his Studio cabin, including the studio lounge and arranged for a bar set-up. He lugged drinks and mixes onto the ship. He provided drinks for all and it was very impressive. Thanks Kyle.
I will try to keep this very lengthy review to mostly about the ship but I will say this about Bermuda. A beautiful Island, a swimmers, divers or snorkelers paradise. However our time there was shortened by Tropical Storm Gabriel. Prior to sailing Gabriel had been downgraded and was breaking up and our time in Bermuda looked like it was going to be beautiful. Gabriel had other plans, reformed and headed straight for Bermuda. As a result the ports in Bermuda were closed and we had to stay out to sea and extra 12 hours. The captain did an excellent job steering us around the storm and remaining in calm waters. We never encountered any ill effects and had a very smooth sailing. Locals we talked to said it was very windy and rainy and everything was closed so it was best we stayed out at sea.
Back on the ship we were keep occupied if you wanted to be or relaxed if that was your desire. As for entertainment it to had good quality but lacked in variety. The ship was the biggest we have ever sailed on yet the theatre is the smallest we have ever seem. The capacity is only 800. Therefore in order to accommodate everyone they repeat the same show several times. I believe Rock of Ages was shown twice a night on three different evenings and Burn the Floor was on 4 evening, perhaps it was vice a versa but never the less you had the opportunity to see it. But once viewed then what? They had an excellent band from New Orleans in the Fat Cats lounge, but again their set tended to repeat each night. There was Howl to the Moon ' duelling pianos in the Headliners Club, again excellent but even though they would play songs requested by the audience they too repeated a lot of songs. The comedy/magic show I thought was very funny, my kind of humour, and all slight of hand magic however his afternoon show was the same as his night time show.
There were the games and activities but some were at very strange times, or in strange locations like the Quest in the Headliners lounge. Not an ideal venue for this. One of the most popular activities was movies late at night on the large atrium screen. This was always packed, and they even provided popcorn, nice touch.
The layout of the ship is very different. Instead of the shopping, speciality restaurants or the casino being a destination they were placed in the middle of the ship so that you would have to walk through them. Decks 6, 7 and 8 were the hub of the ship and were open in the middle. The casino was on deck 7, to avoid walking thought it you could travel deck 6 or 8 however since all three are open the smoke from the casino would drift to the other decks. Fortunately our cruise the smoking was not too bad and both of us are very seniste to it. On a very smoky cruise we could see where people shopping would be bothered by it, and anyone sitting outside at Le Bistro's would be in the smokes path.
The pool like on many ships is way too small to accomalte all. However there were lots of lounges available though out the ship. If you are a sun worshipper you could always find a lounger, just not necessary right by the pool. There is spice H20, the upper sun decks, the waterfront.
The ropes course and the water slides are fantastic and a must try. I love water slides and each was a lot of fun. Let's be clear I do not like heights, I don't like getting up on my own roof to clean gutters. However I had to try the ropes course. At first I was like, what am I doing up here, but quickly became comfortable with the security of the rope. Even went out on the plank, 8 feet over the side of the ship, what a thrill. They automatically take your picture out there, that was a must buy for me.
Speaking of photos, finding yours was the easiest system ever. On your sign and sail card there is a photo location number. This indicates a column and binder numbers. Go to the photo area, locate your column and it's very easy to find your binder. That is your binder and only your photos will be in it. If a photo is not in the binder go to the touch screens, follow the menu to the location and approx time your photo was taken and you will easily find yourself. Order on the screen with a swipe of your card.
Disembarkation was the easier we have ever had. We did express walk off taking our entire luggage with us. Walked straight off the ship and straight through customs with very little delay standing in lines. Entire process took less than 15 minutes.
As this review has dragged on for too long I will wrap it up here with a few final comments. Will we sail NCL again? We better; we purchased a future cruise reward. What a great deal pay $ 250 for a future deposit, receive an immediately $100 on board credit. So in reality I spent $ 150 for a future deposit that I will receive $ 250 credit for. My investments should pay off so well.
Will we sail Breakaway again? Yes, of course if the price and itinerary are right. Is the Breakaway perfect? No. We missed the spinnaker lounger, the variety in the menus, and variety in entertainment. But the ship also had many pluses that we would love to enjoy again.
I could add a lot more, so if you have any questions please ask away.