Elected the Oct 13 sailing of Breakaway, the first on the Florida/Bahamas route from NYC. This was our 3rd trip with NCL, previously on Dawn 9 years ago also to Bahamas and 2 years ago on Dawn from Boston to Bermuda. Only other experience is 15 years ago on Royal Carribean Majesty of the Seas.
Getting there: We opted for bus charter through Norwegian. We live in RI, and were picked up at TF Green airport (PVD). Scheduled departure time for bus changed from 7:45 to 6:30am (gulp!), but we had excellent follow-up with both NCL and bus company (Academy) confirming that we were aware of the change. Smooth ride, totally worth it I would definitely do this again as traffic while travelling from RI to NYC along I-95 can be a crap shoot under the best of circumstances.
Embarkation: Dropped off at NYC pier right outside terminal building around 11:30am. Porter supervisor clambered on board and told everyone their tagged bags would be taken directly to the ship, and $2/bag tip is customary. Failure to do so could lead to bags being misdirected etc (nervous laughter, welcome to NY). Pickup of credentials was fairly smooth for such a big operation, passengers were divided by decks into different rope lines, moved along fairly well. I think we walked aboard around 12:15; went looking for lunch options. Figured we wanted to avoid Garden Café, so we headed to O’Sheehan’s pub for sandwiches (and a beer for me!). Got acquainted with some of the key areas, including Splash Academy (for our 12-year old twin boys), pool deck, other dining venues, and so on.
Sailing away: Lifeboat drill at 2:30pm, and this was quite different from experience on Dawn. We went to our muster area (Bliss nightclub) and swiped in with muster group leader crew members we just had to wait, and we did not have to put on the lifejackets. We did watch a demonstration on that during the drill, and then we were dismissed shortly after. 1st time you really felt the impact of the full complement of 4000+ passengers. We decided to ease our way back by going up a few decks and seeing more sights and letting the crowds subside.
Cabin: Mid-ships balcony mini-suite, deck 11. Liked it very much, 1st balcony for us (we thought boys were too young on previous trips). While I still think it is a stretch to refer to as a suite as there is no separation of the master bed from others, it was still confortable for 2 adults and 2 near-teens. I would look for this category again. Bathroon was quite spacious compared to previous experience on Dawn. Nicely appointed, shower just a bit narrow for me as I am broad-shouldered but good overall. We had a great experience with our cabin steward, but we did hear after debarkation that some folks were without steward service for a significant portion of their trip due to a staffing issue, and were given a refund of around $200.
Dining: First, a few disappointments:
1. No poolside barbecues as on sailings with Dawn ''" probably a function of # of passengers, but still missed it.
2. Great Stirrup Cay bbq ''" bit of a disaster, lines were bad. Food was fine once we got to it, but the length of lines brought out short tempers and bad behavior (line crashing etc). I know if was 1st time on Bahamas run, but they need to do better.
3. Garden Café ''" the other place where the number of passengers was evident. Although the food was fine, the revised layout with glass partitions and excellent views was very attractive, it just always felt busy. Wife and I avoided completely after day 2 breakfast.
4. Sushi and asian noodle station were gone from buffet ''" not surprising, as these are now a la carte restaurants on Breakaway.
5. Seafood night (including lobster) on 2nd evening (Monday) limited to Garden Café ''" boo! We didn’t want to go there, at all. Make these choices available in MDR’s!
Now for the rest:
• Reservations in Moderno 1st night ''" in a word, fantastic, imho the best value in premium restaurants. Knew from experience on Dawn to go easy on the wonderful salad/starter buffet ''" really enjoyed it.
• Dinner in Le Bistro 3rd night ''" meh. Delivery of first course was sslllooowww, and proximity to the central atrium, with the noisy concourse (Headliners comedy club across the ''"street”) and the persistent smoke smell lingering from the casino 1 deck above killed the atmosphere for us. Food was ok when it did arrive, but by this time it is a recovery effort. I will pass in future.
• Cagneys ''" very good, shrimp cocktail seems to be dwindling from years past. At $30/pp, they should fix this. Steaks and sides very good, service very attentive.
• Wasabi ''" Enjoyed sushi twice, once for appetizers before a late dinner and once for lunch while at sea. Reasonable prices, around $3-5 per item. Worth it.
• Teppanyaki ''" Food was fine, show was ok. Entertainment value varied by chef. Do it again? Maybe
• MDR’s ''" Ate in all of them, and really enjoyed them. Quite oasis away from the crush of the café, especially for breakfast and lunch. Started to let the boys sleep and we would go for quiet breakfast, as the service hours in Taste or Savor were usually fairly narrow, like 8 ''" 9:30, but worth it! Manhattan Room very active and fun.
• O’Sheehan’s ''" wings and burgers, convenient for a quick bite and boys loved it for a late snack!
• Room service ''" used it a few times for breakfast, it was fine ''" a nice option for sleepy kids or morning coffee.
• Pizza ''" didn’t try it, but as they are charging $5 each, and have an Italian venue on board, I think it would be nice to offer make your own combos, rather than cheese, pepperoni, and vegg.
• Carlo’s Bakery ''" tried the cupcakes, they did not change my life. Just ok.
• Also didn’t try La Cucina (we have great Italian food in RI), Ocean Blue (ditto seafood), or Shanghai Noodle Bar.
Generally quite good. Did not spring for Cirque Dreams, so no comment there. Also not the comedy/magician guy. What we did enjoy:
• Les Getreaux Blues and Gospel @ Fat Cats ''" went back 3 times.
• Fire and Ice ''" very high energy, passable tribute to Tina Turner ''" hardest working entertainer on the ship I believe. Voice is just ok, I would pass on Michael Jackson tribute night.
• Howl at the Moon ''" these guys are entertaining, but I wish they weren’t so overt about requiring a tip with a request ''" again, we’ve paid a lot already just to be here. A bit of a turnoff.
• Second City ''" saw an Improv performance, fun!
• Burn the Floor ''" very talented troupe, enjoyed it.
• Rock of Ages ''" Fun, enjoyed hair band music from the 80’s. Glad I did not include the boys, a little edgy for them still.
• Dance parties ''" Sail away party @ Spice H2O was partially rained out. 80’s party was fun. Also fireworks night of GSC stop were brief but fun.
Did not take any excursions as we have been to Orlando parks and will likely go again approx $150 pp steep for what amounts to afternoon trip. I did have to leave the ship in Canaveral for a few sundries, and the round trip cab shuttle for $12 to Cocoa Beach center was exceptionally well organized. I believe it was a new vendor for this trip ''" 2 thumbs up.
Resent pricing for Snorkel rental @ GSC, they can refer to it as an excursion all they want, but it’s really gear rental and a map of some faux artifacts dropped around the lagoon. $15 kids/ $29 adults is a ripoff.
Stepped off ship in Nassau with intention of visiting beach @ British Colonial Hilton w/ kids as we had 9 years ago. They now want $65/pp for use of the facilities ouch! They were nice enough to let us walk in and take a photo from the beach. Shopped a little @ Straw Market, and back to ship. Could have water taxied to Atlantis for walkabout oh well.
Casino: We don’t gamble, but the fact that this smoky venue is open to the heart of the ship (midship decks 6-8) is a poor idea. We will refrain from sailing on Breakaway-clas ships partly due to this design.
Recreation: Ropes course ''" awesome. Enjoyed by kids of all ages. Great idea. Water Slides ' also very good. Free fall slide is pretty intense. Pools ''" as many others have commented, main pool is too small. However, if you just want sun, there are PLENTY of venues ''" Sun Deck forward, Spice H2O aft ''" there really is no reason you can’t tan your hide. Also, when we wanted to sit poolside, I did not have any real problems. Fitness center ''" It was fine, not as attractive as that on Dawn. Bummer that any use of spa is tied to a flat fee of $200 for week. My wife had enjoyed lounge chairs and hot tubs in spa on Dawn which were comp to use and adult only.
Drinks plan: We became aware of the corks and caps (beer and wine $44 I think) and ultimate drinks plan ($49). Seemed like it would be worthwhile if you were having 10+ beers daily, 8+ glasses of wine or cocktails. Also, there are restrictions within the plan on what is included, so be very certain that what you like is included. Also, I think adults travelling together both have to have the plan, and the language also indicated that kids would have to have the soda plan, which we didn't want. We did not meet the threshold where this would payoff for us, so we passed.
Debarkation: Smooth and easy. We were in the category for charters, so our call time was 8:30 or after. We decided on one last sit-down breakfast in Savor around 7:45am, and we strolled off around 8:45. There was about a 15 or 20 minute wait on the ramp to the terminal building, and we exited customs around 9:30 or so with our luggage. Charter bus picked up around 11:15am.
Summary: Did we enjoy the trip? Yes, definitely. Great for families with kids, particularly tweens and teens. Will we sail NCL again? Almost certainly, but I think we will go back to Jewel-class ship. Not a fan of the ship design with smoky center. Also, enjoyed some trip elements that I believe may have been subtracted due to number of guests. I am also ready to visit some new destinations. Thanks for reading.