Norwegian Breakaway Review
Our week on the Norwegian breakaway was my 16th cruise. My wife and I are in our late 50’s and we have cruised on most of the major cruise lines. We are empty nesters who are just beginning to enjoy cruising without the kids. I have read a number of negative reviews on this ship, but we really enjoyed her.
We chose this week to travel in spite of knowing that there would be over 1,000 kids on board. Many NJ schools were closed for the week due o election day and the NJ teacher’s convention. My wife, a school administrator, had the full week off so it was a good time for us to travel. Because of the number of kids, we booked a spa balcony, which is similar to a regular balcony but includes access to the thermal suite and is located close to the spa. The spa can be purchased separately for $199 per person for 7 days, but is a better deal if you book the spa cabin which includes it in the price. And it is well worth it. Only a limited number of people can purchase spa passes so it will not become too crowded. The spa is located on deck 15 just above the bridge. It includes a salt room, saunas, plenty of lounge chairs and heated loungers overlooking the ocean, a hot tub and a thermal pool. Coffee, hot water for tea and old water are available. Robes, towels and lockers are provided. It provides a great view for sail away and is the perfect place to be on the first and last sea day which are too cold to be on deck. And it is away from all the kids. I would never take a Norwegian cruise without a spa pass! We spent many hours relaxing there and reading. A real treat. My wife’s only complaint about the spa was that there was a scale in the women’s locker room. Who, in their right mind would think that a woman would want to use a scale on a cruise?
As for all the kids on board, all I have to say is that they were the best behaved kids I’ve ever sailed with. They were polite, conversational and well behaved. And from what I saw, Norwegian provided them with many good options to keep them entertained.
We live in northern NJ and the pier is an easy ferry ride away. We arrived at pier 88 early a 10 A.M. since sail away was at 3. The pier was already packed as many people arrived early in order to avoid travel complications from the NYC Marathon. Even with the crowds we had completed the boarding process in less than 10 minutes, although finding a seat in the terminal was not easy. While waiting to board we reviewed our Freestyle Daily and began planning our week. We were also given a calendar with all of the evening activities for the week which we had never received on any other cruise and found to be something extremely useful. Boarding started at 11:30 and you had to really pay attention to hear when your boarding number was called because the PA system was not working properly. Still we were onboard by noon.
Once on board, we decided to go to O’Sheehan’s for lunch, figuring everyone would head to the buffet, but O’Sheehan’s was already packed so we went to Savor, one of the main dining rooms where we had a leisurely lunch while the cabins were still being readied. During lunch they announced we could drop off our carry on luggage in our rooms, so we did hat right after lunch and went to reacquaint ourselves with the ship. We had already been on the Breakaway once before for a two day preview cruise in May so we knew our way around.
Muster Drill: B
The muster drill was at 2:30P.M. Our station was in the theater. The drill was short and sweet. Life jackets were not needed. Life jackets on the Breakaway are stored under your bed in a basket, but may be difficult to get to in an emergency if you also store your luggage there. Immediately after the muster drill we went to our cabin to gather our swimsuits so we could get to the spa for sail away where we stayed until dinner..
Our Balcony Spa cabin (14718) was tastefully decorated, had plenty of space, good storage and functionality. It included a full size couch that could be used as a bed for a third person. The bed itself was firm and very comfortable but seemed a little short. The duvet was terrific. I slept extremely well.The balcony itself though, was one of the smallest I’ve ever had. In order to have power in the cabin, including power to flush the toilet, you need to put your key card in a slot near the door just inside the cabin. In reality, any card will turn the power on, even a business card. Not only does it provide power to the room but also lights a white indicator light above the door jam in the hallway indicating that you are in the room. Two switches next to the card slot light other lights in the hallway, red for privacy, green for come in and make up the room. Note that when you leave the cabin and take the key card out, the power goes off IMMEDIATELY. On the Royal Princess, when you remove your card, there is a two minute delay allowing you time to gather what you need before leaving the room.
The thermostat in the room also worked well setting AC on hot days and heat on the cooler days. The AC continues to work even when the rest of the cabin is powered down, but does turn off if you leave your balcony door open for any period of extended time. Also the balcony door has a second lock towards the top where the sliding doors come together. I assume this is for security in case anyone decides to climb up the side of the ship to break in. Yeah, right.
The bathroom was a comfortable size, as was the shower, which had a nice adjustable shower head but minimal water pressure (the showers in the spa locker rooms were much better). The cabin included a small stocked fridge that we did not use.
The flat screen TV was nice, but could be better. Channel selection include Nickelodeon, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, Engage, and many ship stations. There was also a "Favorite” TV show station that had none of my favorites and a "Favorites” movie station that ran older films but had no schedule so you never knew what would be starting when. There also was a pay movie station where you could rent movies for $9.95. There was a bridge cam station and a ships position station which always showed the ship’s position accurately but was otherwise useless as it never had correct weather and told us every day that our next port was Great Stirrup Cay.
The interactive part of the TV was the best I’ve seen on any ship. It was very easy to use, quite intuitive. We could book excursions, make dinner reservations, see menus in all the restaurants for the entire week, book shows, check our on board account, purchase a future cruise certificate and see a summary of everything we had planned for the week.
Our two stewards were excellent. Our first steward finished his contract in Port Canaveral and flew home for a two month break, but kept working hard right up to leaving. His replacement also did a fantastic job. Both were personable, friendly and hard working. We had fresh ice twice daily without needing to request it. The quality of service is remarkable, and seemed especially so as many of those serving us this week were also concerned about their families at home dealing with a typhoon.
The Breakaway has 3 main dining rooms. Taste and Savor are directly across from one another and are identical. The Manhattan Room in the aft of the ship has a stage and dance floor. At times this room can be loud. The menu in these three dining rooms are the same each night with 3 specials and a menu of items that are always available. There is also a daily chef’s special that you need to ask about. One day it was a wonderful veal scallopini and another an absolutely horrible crab/cod cake. The menu always has pasta options that can be ordered in smaller portions as appetizers. There are no cold soups, but the hot soups sometimes come just warm. Check the menus ahead of time on the interactive TV in your room and plan your specialty restaurant meals accordingly. On the second night of the cruise they offer a seafood buffet up in the Garden Cafe, which is the only time you can get lobster. Don’t bother. It is crowded and the lobster is not that good. Food overall on Norwegian is good, but not up to the quality and variety other lines offer. the one item I absolutely love on Norwegian is the simple triangle shaped wafer cookie that comes when you order ice cream.
Breakfast in the dining room is OK but expect your toast to be cold. Do not order the fake, watery scrambled eggs. They are inedible. Note that all sweeteners provided are branded "Nutra sweet” but the color of the individual packets are what you would expect for Splenda, Equal, or Sweet and Low and have the right ingredients for each. A variety of juices are available.
The lunch menu in the dining room is good but the same each day. You can ask for substitutions. For example the bread listed for a chicken salad sandwich can be any available, not just what the menu says it comes with. She string fries or sweet potato fries can easily be substituted for curly fries.
The buffet is adequate and has a good variety, but tends to be crowded for lunch and breakfast. It offers a pasta station, salads, fruits, Asian food, pizza, grilled items and cold sandwiches. I find it to be a great place for a mid afternoon piece of fruit, slice of pizza or ice cream sort of place. The soft ice cream is not great, but the hard scooped ice cream is very good. Breads are also good, especially the pretzel rolls. At breakfast they have all the various breakfast foods plus an omelet station.
O’Sheehan’s is another great place for breakfast, lunch or anytime eating. They have a great chicken pot pie, meatloaf, corned beef sandwich, fish and chips, wings, chicken fingers and a corned beef and cabbage soup. They also offer a to die for brownie sundae that you can get any time. There is a for fee ice cream bar but it is really unnecessary. one part of this venue has a mini for fee bowling alley. The service here tends to be somewhat slow, but who cares, you are on a cruise.
Our favorite place for breakfast or lunch was the Uptown Grill on deck 16. For breakfast, they offer a variety of breakfast sandwiches, hard boiled eggs or eggs cooked to order. The ham and cheese pastry puff is wonderful as are the cinnamon rolls which are 10times better than what is offered in the dining room. You can make your own toast or toasted bagel so you know it will be hot. Lunch here offers various meatball dishes, burgers, bratwurst, salads and deli sandwiches made to order. The reuben is wonderful as is the pastrami. The bratwurst is also very good. This venue works best on the warmer weather days since it is outside, but sheltered from the wind.
The specialty restaurants are very good. We loved Teppanyaki, a Japanese hibachi steak house where chefs prepare your dinner right in front of you. The food was excellent, the preparation was fun and the chefs were incredible. They were especially good with kids. The dessert was awful.
We also like Moderno, the Brazilian restaurant. Just make sure you are hungry. We heard that Cagney’s Steak House was excellent, but Le Bistro was not. Blue, the seafood place was just too expensive and too fancy.
We did not use room service.
Deck Space: C
C stands for crowded. With two small pools, a stage, a marketplace, a kids pool, a ropes course, a rock wall, various slides, a mini golf course and more, there is not much space to lounge near the pool. More space can be found toward the front of the ship on higher decks, but with 4,000+ passengers on board it does get crowded. Again, I recommend the spa pass. For those who don’t need a lounge chair, there are comfortable chairs on deck 8 along the "Waterfront” area which is part promenade and part outdoor restaurant seating. It is a quiet place, somewhat undiscovered, to read or people watch as the ocean goes by. It is also a great place to watch for dolphins. We had several sightings. Spice H2O on the aft of the ship is an adult area offering lounge chairs, hot tubs, waterfall fountains and a large, barely visible in the sun, screen. This area is used for dance parties at night and a fireworks show one night at sea. This fireworks show can be seen from any of the upper decks of the ship.
Go to the welcome aboard show. It is a great time to sample the various entertainment offered on the ship.
There are two main shows. Burn the Floor is an excellent dance show. Rock of Ages is a LOUD, raunchy 80’s show in which the loud volume does not cover up the off key singing. There are plenty of warnings about the raunchy content yet many brought their kids and many walked out during the show. We walked out with hurting ears due to the volume and poor singing. Shows are offered at various times during the week. People who make reservations are seated first. If space permits, others are let in. When making reservations, on your TV or at one of touch screens around the ship, your reservations are all added to your key card, so no tickets are needed.
There is also a comedy magician show that is excellent. The magic is basic but the comedy is hilarious. It is offered as a family show early in the evening and an adult show later.
Other shows are done in the comedy club, the jazz club and atrium. Although we did not attend, we heard great things about Howl at theMoon and the Second City Troupe. There are also movies in the atrium as well as music shows throughout the week by a group called Fire and Ice. These were always packed, so get there early.
Port Canaveral is Port Canaveral. You can take an excursion to the Orlando theme parks, which many with kids take advantage of, but time is limited. We did an airboat tour which was excellent. You could also go to Cocoa Beach to shop or have a beach day. Otherwise, there is not much to do here.
Great Stirrup Cay is supposed to be beautiful and we were really looking forward to it, but due to high winds preventing tendering we had to skip it.
Nassau is not a great port and many stay on the ship. We arrived at 3 P.M. the day before we were scheduled to arrive since we skipped Great Stirrup Cay. The highlight of the day was our captain doing a 360 and backing the ship into the dock, towering over the other ships in port. The people on those ships were taking pictures and cheering the whole time making us feel we were on a red carpet.
Nassau is not a great port and many stay on the ship. We decided to purchase the Blue Lagoon Beach Day excursion since we missed the beaches of Great Stirrup Cay. What a waste. A ferry gets you to and from this private beach which does not offer enough shade, has a very small beach filled with rubber slides toys, etc. Lunch is included and decent, but everything, other than swimming or sitting in a lounge chair costs extra. Very underwhelming. We would have been better off staying on the ship.
Internet on a ship is often slow, but I found the internet on the Breakaway easy to use and fairly fast. I bought the 100 minute plan which comes to 55 cents per minute. I primarily used it to check work emails and update Facebook. If you sign up during the first two days you get 10 extra minutes and Latitudes members get another 15. You can use the minutes on multiple devices and it worked great on mi iPad and iPhone (just make sure you are in airplane mode with wireless turned on otherwise you could get really high roaming charges). In Port Canaveral, I used my regular Verizon plan. I did go over my allotted purchased minutes by 4 minutes and was pleasantly surprised to see I was billed at the 55 cent plan price instead of the regular 79 cents per minute.
Norwegian has changed, at least on the Breakaway. Announcements are few and far between so read your Freestyle Daily. Selling drinks on deck has been cut back greatly so you never feel bothered. In the theater, there are no scratch off card sales, making waiting for a show to start more pleasant. Photographers are not pushy and do take "no” for an answer.
We had a great cruise. We relaxed, we did what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it. The service was incredible and the ship is a marvel. Some days were hot, others quite cool and always lots of wind. We did not use the casino, the shops, the photography so I cannot comment on those. No ship is perfect, and no cruise is perfect, but a cruise is what you make of it. As I said, this was our 16th cruise and we have loved them all. The Breakaway is a wonderful ship and we would not hesitate to sail on her again.
We arrived back in NY at about 6 A.M., had a nice breakfast in the dining room and then left the ship. For two days before arrival you can pick up colored luggage tags for the time you want to get off or you can ignore the tags and just walk off at your leisure carrying your own luggage, which is what we always do. We travel with a full size suitcase and backpack each. We finished breakfast at 7:30, collected our luggage from our cabin, walked off and were through customs by 7:45. Easiest debark ever. Walked to the NY Waterway ferry back to NJ and were home before 9 A.M., unpacking and wishing we were on board again. As we always do on Norwegian, we purchased a Cruise Rewards Certificate which gave us an on board credit of $100 and and incentive to cruise again sometime in the next 4 years. These certificates are a bargain and well worth it. There is no doubt in my mind that the certificate will be used long before the 4 year deadline, probably within the next year, and quite possibly on the Breakaway again.