Hello fellow cruisers! My reviews are usually a little long but I try to be thorough and honest on all the points. I go on a cruise each year with a large group and this year we chose the NCL Breakaway. We were a group of 24 this year, all over the age of 18.
Embarkation was very quick and easy. We arrived at Pier 88 in NYC around 11:30am and we were on the ship before 12:30. Since we have cruised NCL before we were able to wait on the Latitudes line (NCL version of frequent flyer program). We are bronze members but after the cruise we will be silver members. Each level has some perks to it but getting on the shorter line is definitely one of them.
First impression getting on the ship was this boat is classy. Unlike many of the older boats with tacky carpeting and décor this had a more modern upscale appearance. The rooms were not ready right away so we headed to the buffet for lunch. Since this is one of the only places open to eat it was pretty crowded but we were able to get seats and enjoy the meal (the buffet on the second level is a hidden gem and you should go there for breakfast to avoid lines).
After the meal we headed to the bar by the pool and had our first drinks. Most of my group buys the Ultimate Beverage Package. In prior years this was only available to groups of 20 or more people and everyone has to take the package. NCL has updated the requirements and now offers it by cabin and all members of the cabin need to take the package. Only one package is available now for $49 a day plus gratuity or $56 a day ($392 for the week). If you are a drinker this is a must. I paid for the package by day 3 of the cruise.
After a few drinks we were able to head to the rooms. We were originally upgraded from Balcony rooms to mini-suites because of a promotion at the time of booking. Thanks to one of our friends who noticed a price drop a few weeks before the cruise we were upgraded again to a mini-suite with large balcony. Almost all of us were on Deck 8 at the front of the ship. The rooms were much smaller than mini-suites on other ships. The balcony was a nice size though. We could fit 3 chairs, 2 tables and 2 lounge chairs on each balcony. We saw the regular balconies and they barely fit the 2 chairs and little table on them so this was a nice upgrade. The bathroom was big with a double sink and full size shower. I had the bed next to the balcony which I liked and a few of my friends said it made the room look bigger than theirs (they had the bed close to the door).
The entertainment was exceptional. We saw Burn the Floor, Cirque, Rock of Ages and the Jazz Club show. All of them were amazing but the Jazz club was outstanding. This is a must see if you go on the boat. We went back more than once. I should say that all of the shows were great and the performers were nice to look at too!
The first night we went to the main dining room called The Manhattan Room. This was a horrible experience. The service was absolutely terrible. We waited almost 30 minutes to get our order taken. The food was terrible and the service was even worse. It took 30 minutes for the glass of wine I ordered. After a complaint to the Maître d’, things seemed to improve a bit but left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. The specialty restaurants are something we always like to do. I personally had La Cucina (Italian), Shanghai (Chinese Noodle Shop), Wasabi (Sushi) and the Raw Bar. All of them were outstanding but the seaweed salad and the noodle soups were my favorites. As a group we also went to Moderno Churascaria which is a favorite of ours. This was a disappointment this time as well. The service was terrible. The skewers were few and far between. They kept bringing out the same meat and we had to ask about all of the other meats listed on the menu. We had to sit at 2 tables of 12. One table seemed to have gotten better service than the other. My table had the bad service. We waited for drinks again and we were almost done with the meal before the side dishes came out. The salad bar here is great so we were able to enjoy that. I also checked my bill the next day and they charged me twice for the meal at Moderno. I had to wait at the customer service desk for someone from the restaurant to come down before they would take the error off my bill.
Towards the end of the week the restaurants were very crowded. One hour or more wait to get into the free restaurants and the specialty restaurants were sold out. This is one of my biggest complaints….I tried to get a reservation for 2 at La Cucina or Le Bistro (the French Restaurant) and everything was sold out. There went my romantic dinner that I wanted. One of the people in my group was staying in The Haven and spoke to the Concierge there and was able to add us and another couple to his reservation for 4 at La Cucina. We were at La Cucina at 7pm and left around 9pm. While we were there we counted 31 open tables the whole time we were there. How can this be sold out with all these empty tables? When I asked the manager she said the computer shows no room available. Are you kidding me? That made me disgusted.
Service at the bars was not the greatest either. There were a few good bartenders (one at Spice H20 and another at Bliss) but in general they were lazy, slow and inattentive. I was not the only one complaining about this either.
Bliss played pretty good music at night but the setup of the club was not impressive. Very few places to sit and it was basically one large room with no levels. On other boats there was much more space to sit down and the layout of the club was much nicer (NCL Dawn and NCL Epic was my comparison).
O’ Sheehans was a frequent spot for us at 4am as they serve food and liquor 24/7…OR SO THEY SAY. One night we got there at 3:30 as Bliss closed early. We asked to order drinks and they said the bar is closed. That is not what the brochure said. So there I go back to customer service. I spoke with someone there who said the bar would reopen. Back upstairs to see the bar open and immediately close and we were told, sorry but they will not be able to serve. Back down to customer service and after an argument there they finally sent a waiter over to take a drink order. Then the food came out and no fries, no hot dogs, etc, etc….we were told the grill is off now and so are the fryers so they cant make certain items. Why weren’t we told that before we ordered! This was very frustrating. This was more the principle to me and I asked to have the beverage manager contact me the next day. He did contact me and said he is aware of the service issues on the boat and he was recently brought on to take care of these issues. The correct procedure at 4am is a waiter is always available to take drinks orders if the bars are closed. He said he would speak to his staff about this problem and offered us free admission to the ice bar for our troubles. Many of us were in the ice bar on the Epic so 6 of us took him up on the offer and went to the ice bar on the Breakaway. That was fun and the drinks were pretty good.
Spice H2O was fun and it’s nice to not have any kids running around. I do like the setup of Spice on the Epic better than The Breakaway though. The Epic had a pool and different levels for the lounge chairs with the bar at the top level, which was much nicer in my opinion.
The Breakaway’s big plus is The Waterfront. This is the area you can walk around and some of the bars and restaurants have inside and outside service. This was really nice. You can walk around most of the boat from this area too which was nice. It was even better for us because this was on Deck 8 which is the same deck our rooms were on so it made it very easy to go back and forth to the rooms.
Next item to discuss are the pools and slides. One word...AMAZING. The water slides were great. The free fall slide or whatever they call it was crazy but so much fun. You have to go on this once but it will scare the crap out of you...lol. The 2 pools were nice and the water in both the pool and the slides was heated which was nice. We went in the hot tubs a few times too which was nice but they could have been hotter in my opinion.
The 70’s party was fun as was the 80’s party but it started to rain which put a damper on it since it was at Spice. They were able to put on half of the fireworks which were beautiful but were not able to finish because of the weather. The glow party which took the place of the White Hot Party was nice but I still like the White Party better. The white party on the Epic was great and they even had fake snow come down. My thoughts...get rid of the glow party and bring the white party back. The staff was much more interactive in the white party on the Epic with their angel wings on and dancing with everyone. I did not see any staff dancing in the glow party.
Let’s talk ports of call. So we found out that the ship was not able to stop at the private island, Great Stirrup Cay for several weeks due to the fact the water was rough and the tenders could not load people from the boat. Some of us were kind of hoping for the same thing since the ship would then spend the night in Nassau. First stop was Florida and most of us stayed on the boat and enjoyed the Water Park and Ropes Course (it looks easier than it is). The weather was partly cloudy but some sun came out in the afternoon which was nice. The next stop was Great Stirrup Cay. Getting on the tender requires a reservation which we found out but that was a no brainer since the boat has interactive screens near all the elevators to make reservations for this and for shows, dining, etc. Pulling into the island it looked beautiful. We rented some floats and headed to the water. The ocean floor was full of rocks to the point it was unbearable. Everyone was stubbing toes or getting cut on the rocks which I would even call boulders in some areas. It got to the point we left the island to go back to the boat because everyone was getting annoyed. I would not want to visit this island again. We did eat lunch on the island which was pretty good but the lines were somewhat long.
The next day we went to Nassau and I had given this some research ahead of time. We walked a few blocks and took a bus for $1.25 each to the Sheraton Hotel. We each got a day pass for $30 which entitles you to use their beach, pools, chairs, towels and water sports equipment. Wave runners were available at an extra cost which was expensive but 6 of us did it anyway which was so much fun. The pools were beautiful and they had a swim up bar and music going on. This was well worth the $30 and I would recommend this to anyone spending the day in Nassau. After we left the Sheraton we headed to Senior Frogs which we always like to frequent when we are in Nassau. We were disappointed they do not make their signature drink, the Firefly, anymore. They said too many people were getting crazy…unfortunately that is the whole reason we like to go to this place…it was fun and crazy.
The last day on the ship was pretty cold so we had to stick to indoor activities. We were hoping for a scavenger hunt or something but the itinerary was pretty light which I was surprised at.
You are able to choose the luggage tags you want based on the time you are leaving the boat. We chose light blue which is the first off just in case we wanted to get off early. Most of us met at breakfast at 8:30 and got off the boat around 9:15. The line was pretty long to get off the boat. Once off the boat many people had to stand outside before getting into the terminal. It was freezing so this was ridiculous. They should make people wait on the boat rather than stand outside in the cold with gusting winds. Luckily we somehow cut that line and got right into the terminal. One person in my group was told he still had charges on his account from the mini bar so they wouldn’t let him off the boat. This is their mistake somehow since the mini bar is closed and locked the night before and he paid his bill at 6am. Regardless we had to wait about 45 minutes for him to clear this up and get off the boat since we were all in the same shuttle going home. I thought the disembarkation could have been smoother as compared to other ships.
One last thing I would like to share. We met a really great person named Denise who happened to be in a wheelchair. After speaking with her it was sad how NCL does not take into consideration people with disabilities. There were very few seats available in the theater for wheelchairs, very few ramps and the worst part…no way to get to the islands if there is a tender. Shame on NCL and the other cruise lines for not figuring out a way to accommodate people with disabilities. Since the tenders entered from one level and you exited from another level it was even impossible for someone to carry her, which she said would be embarrassing anyway. My heart goes out to you. The cruise lines need to figure this out, no excuses.
To sum it all up it was a beautiful ship and we all had a great time. The service needs to improve in order to make this more enjoyable. A combination of The Breakaway and The Epic would be a perfect boat so I will keep my fingers crossed.