When my family and I heard about the new Norwegian Breakaway, we were eager to go on it even though I already had a feeling that the stops weren't gonna be as good as the Caribbean stops (we have been to both west and east Caribbean). As a seasoned NCL taker, I thought the Breakaway was only alright.
For embarkation, for starters, NYC in end of November was unbelievably cold and made worse by the raging wind. We arrived at the Manhattan Port at around 10am and got our room keys and everything. Unfortunately, we had to wait around 10-15 minutes to board the ship. One thing I immediately noticed was that there was not much of any cheering or any enthusiasm from the staff when boarding the cruise. When we previously board the Gem and the Star, the staffers were outside clapping, playing music, and being very cheerful.
So our room (a mini suite on the 9th floor) wasn't ready until 1pm so we just went to go eat and check out the cruise at the meantime. We previously took Epic so the Breakaway was highly reminiscent of the Epic. NCL definitely took people's criticisms about the Epic seriously because the shower and the toilet are no longer separated. A Breakaway balcony cabin looks like a cabin in a smaller NCL ship (like Star). However, the mini suite definitely seemed small and it was definitely smaller than the mini suite in the smaller Norwegian ships. I thought our cabin attendant was nice but apparently he was rude to my parents.
The complimentary dining options were pretty meh. The Garden Buffet essentially recycles their recipes and then throw it together and turn it into a soup or a new dish using a different meat. Today, it will be curry chicken and later, it will be curry beef and then curry fish and then repeat. One dish I do like a lot is the grilled chicken breast but I highly recommend getting it RIGHT after the chef cooks them. They also had a lobster night on Monday night so take advantage of that! I believe I ate around 14 lobster tails. I don't think they ever serve lobsters tails in Manhattan Room, Taste or Savor. I also thought the staffers were very slow on refilling the utensils cloths. The Manhattan Room looks just like the one in Epic but the menu wasn't very good. The daily dishes were stuff you can get in the Garden Buffet. For me, I just got the Striploin steak twice and it was delicious. We did try the Teppanyanki and the serve treated us very well while the chef was awesome until he gave my shrimp order to someone else who did NOT ordered the shrimp. That was pretty bad. O'Sheehans is great if you stay up late and want some grub. However, I recall waiting 5 minutes at the counter at like 2am in the morning and they weren't even that busy. 2 waiters would pass me and didn't acknowledge me at all until one finally did.
As for activities around the ship, I highly recommend the Ropes Course even though it can be a little scary if you are afraid of heights. You want to have fun and conquer some fears? Do the ropes course! The rock climbing was also fun but if you have previously taken the Epic and is hoping for a rock wall just like the Epic's, you will be somewhat disappointed. The water slides are also fun. The purple and yellow ones are the ones that turns a lot while the blue and red ones are the free drop ones. Yes, you get into a little pod and 3, 2, 1...you get dropped and then it's like a mini roller coaster for you. You do have to be at least 100 lbs to ride the free drop tubes. If not, you won't make it past the hump and you get stuck. So again, if you want to conquer your fears, take the free drop tubes! Your heart will be pounding while you are in the pod but do NOT give in to your fears! The miniature golf course is also pretty fun if you want to kill like 10-15 minutes. I know people also complain about the lack of space on the Atrium for activities but it's not really an issue as people barely show up as it is.
As for the gym, the gym had a very interesting layout. The free weights and weight machines were on one side while the cardio equipment was on another side and they are separated by a hallway. The Breakaway does have a Smith machine but I didn't use it. Even though the cruise carries over 4000 people, there's only 2 benches (3 if you include the bench that comes with the Smith Machine) so the weights room can be a little crowded at times. I would drop by the fitness center sometimes just to do pullups and pump myself up and it was rarely crowded at night. It's a shame they don't open the TRX ropes room to the public unless you sign up for one of their seminars as TRX can make for a good bodyweight workout.
As for the staff, they were a hit-and-miss. Some of the staffers I came across were less than enthusiastic about being there (ie Rockwall guy, guy at the counter of the Magic Show giving attitude about us not making reservations, casino bar staffers) while others were awesome like DJ Franco, the bar guys at Bliss Lounge after 11pm, and Silan the cruise director. My mom also received some less-than-stellar service at the casino and Garden Buffet. I especially like Jessy, the Mexican guy who teaches the merengue sessions and is always present during any dance event. I showed up a couple minutes late to a merengue session he was teaching and I asked him if he could go over one of the steps. He was more than happy to do so. I am not a fan of the other staffers (the two girls and the fat guy that talks too much and would make rude comments to people during events) that show up at the dance events as I get a really un-genuine and borderline fake vibe from them.
All and all, I found ways to have fun on the ship and I had a blast going to Bliss Lounge every night after 11pm. If you are flying solo or your parents do their own thing and you do yours, I invite you (in fact, I challenge you) to just attend events that you would feel uncomfortable attending and just go there and try to have fun. Make time go by faster by chatting with random people (including staffers) in random areas of the ships.
I would give the Breakaway a 6/10 and would be hesitant to take it again.