This was the Norwegian Breakaway's inaugural cruise (but not her maiden voyage, since that was her first trip to Bermuda after arriving in New York.) So, it was much more of a final shakedown cruise than a new beginning. That said, it was a wonderful trip.
The Breakaway fixed most of the issues I had with the Norwegian Epic (which we sailed in December 2012), and is a definite improvement. My biggest issue with the Epic was that there was no way to get outside, short of the upper pool decks or on the room's balcony.
On the Breakaway class, there is 678 Ocean Place, which is a cluster of the restaurants and bars with open walkways around the entire ship - so there are places to eat and drink outside and remind you that you're on a cruise. The Epic always reminded me of a standard Vegas hotel that floats - you could be on-board for days and never know you're at sea. For people who like cruising, that is an issue.
They are both very large ships and they carry a lot of people. While I never got claustrophobic, it is quite a step up from some of Norwegian's smaller ships. Although the crew to passenger ratio is similar (I think), it seems like the crew is busier on the larger ships - probably because the complainer ratio goes up, as well.
This was our first Transatlantic voyage (a bucket list item for me - sailing from Southampton to New York) and our first cruise without any intermediate ports. Since there weren't any ports, when we got a call from Norwegian before we left the US asking if we wanted to upgrade to the Haven, we took the upgrade. Why not have a butler and concierge if you are going to be spending more time than usual in your room?
So, bucket list, upgrade with a concierge and a butler, London to New York. What could go wrong?
Actually, not much.
I've been surprised by some of the negative comments in the other reviews of the trip, but I assume most people didn't know that it was basically a dress rehearsal. (I was amazed to find people who were taking this trip as their first cruise. ) The crew was the launch crew, the route was never going to be sailed again, and it was a chance to see that everything was actually in place.
If you went into the cruise with that expectation, it was a great trip.
(And, yes, I was spoiled. I was in the Haven.)
Embarkation was a bit hectic, mainly because I'm pretty sure we were in a temporary area, since this was the only time the Breakaway would be in port in the UK. Also, there were buses that brought many of the passengers from London that morning, so there would be clumps of people dropped onto the line all at once., Still, we did manage to board in a reasonable amount of time.
My wife had requested a handicap room, so we had a forward cabin - we were actually at the front of the ship. Our bathroom porthole looked out onto the ocean. The room was also directly below the bridge, so we were asked to keep the shades drawn when not using the window so the light would not distract the crew.
Since we are almost always midship or aft, my wife was worried about the bumpiness of the ride being forward, but it was very smooth most of the time. It was the North Atlantic in April and not the Caribbean.
It was a bit cold on deck many days, but it was the North Atlantic in April. The last couple of days were gorgeous - time to have drinks outside with a Nathan's hot dog or three.
The Circque show was different than the one on the Epic, and I preferred this show. It's well worth the extra money.
Rock of Ages was a fun show, not for the easily offended perhaps (some of the costumes are rather skimpy), but a lot of 80s music against a loose storyline.
I am one of the few (apparently - read the YouTube praises) who is not in the cult of Slam Allen, but there were always a lot of people in the blues bar. I'm more of a Howl at the Moon person - which was fun, but you have to achieve a critical mass (or enough drinks) before people actually start singing along.
Second City is always fun.
We did have fireworks - but it was pretty chilly on deck that night, so the dance party that preceded it wasn't that well attended - there were a lot of people bundled up waiting for the fireworks, but not a lot of people dancing. The fireworks were impressive, just because we were at sea.
We did have dinner at Ocean Blue and paid the upcharge and it was excellent. We actually booked a second night there because of the experience. While some people may consider $35 (now $50, I think) "nickel and diming", if you compare what you would pay for Chef Zakarian's food in the city, $70 or $100 per couple is probably cheap.
Le Bistro was excellent as on the other ships, with the advantage of sidewalk dining (albeit indoors) so you can watch people pass by as you enjoy dinner. We were watching people trying to have their group photos taken, so it was alternately amusing and horrifying.
La Cucina was also very good. It was also popular - there were a number of large parties when we were there.
There were a number of presentations about the ship from the senior staff during the trip, since there weren't any ports or excursions. Probably the best question was when someone asked the Captain how much clearance we would have under the Verrazano Bridge, and he said "I don't know - we haven't done it yet." Much nervous laughter ensued.
One of those afternoon sessions is where we found out from the Captain about the time we would be sailing into New York (about 3am or so), so we got up and did manage to take photos as we came under the Verrazano Bridge, past the Statue of Liberty and started into the port of New York. After photos, we went back to bed. It was a beautiful sight, well worth the loss of sleep. While the timing was non-optimal, I'm fairly sure that the big welcome was planned for after the christening which happened after we arrived.
We did spend more than usual onboard this trip - but we never got off the ship! We also tried almost everything there was to try.
The staff was very helpful and friendly and we did recognize crew from some of our previous voyages (or they recognized us.) We got to meet Kevin Sheehan, since he was on-board.
It was the most relaxing cruise we've ever taken, and it showed us that taking a repositioning cruise without a lot of ports was actually a lot of fun.
Plus, you will never forget that new ship smell.