Just arrived from a 7-week cruise to Florida and the Bahamas and had an amazing time on the new and beautiful Norwegian Breakaway. Before embarking on the cruise I read a lot of the reviews here on cruise critic and was a bit skeptical about certain things. Many of the reviews here complained about things that I would have a difficult time dealing with on a vacation. This was my 4th cruise and 2nd with NCL. We were a group of 13 of which I was the "leader". All of us in the group enjoyed this ship and would definitely sail both on Breakaway and NCL again. I will mention things in this review that I was told by members of my group as well and will try to be as detailed as possible so I apologize in advance for the length of this review.
Embarkation in NYC was a breeze. Breakaway uses Pier 88. If you have sailed on Gem before then you may be familiar with Pier 90. Pier 88 is much longer and allows Breakaway to use 2 gangways for embarkation. If you don't mind walking a little then you can avoid the congestion directly in front of Pier 88 and get dropped off a bit further back. You'll also get a great view of Breakaway from there. Once our baggage was given to the porter we quickly proceeded through security. Immediately after security there is a desk for checking in alcohol. We had one bottle of wine for which we paid a $15 corkage fee. From there you are directed to a line for check-in. Latitude members have a shorter line but for those that are not members the line went fairly quickly. You board based on a number that you receive prior to check-in. From car to ship it's about 45 minutes.
Once on board our rooms were not ready for us to access until about 1pm. So we had an hour before we could access our rooms. We saw some individuals carry a lot of luggage on board. Thankfully the crew had dedicated the Bliss lounge as a temporary baggage drop off so that you could have lunch in peace. We had lunch at the Garden Cafe. The food was cooked perfectly, just a glimpse of future meals we would have on board.
We had a spa mini-suite on deck 14. Room number was 14154. Here is something that I noticed that may benefit someone. Every other cabin has different bed setups. The room we were in had the bed closer to the entrance and not the balcony. That allowed us to have the balcony door open during the night and hear the ocean without having wind bother us. Note the diagram on Breakaway's deck plan and that will tell you what your setup is. I read a lot of reviews complaining about the size of the balcony. Although the balcony is smaller it's not SUPER tiny. One afternoon we were able to have 4 people comfortably sit/stand on the balcony and have a conversation. Another afternoon my wife and I had dinner out on the balcony and we were more than comfortable. If you would like a bigger balcony Breakaway has dedicated some larger balconies on deck 8 and 9. This was something I thought that I would be bothered with but when we got to the room we realized it was not such a big deal. The spa mini-suite was decorated in a very modern theme. This is something that we enjoyed about the entire ship. The decorations are impeccable. No tropical theme here. Feels a bit classy and elegant. Back to the room, there was storage in the closet and underneath the mirror/TV. We typically pack extra for our 7-day's and we had more than enough space between the two of us. In addition my wife would bring day and night outfits and everything fit perfectly between the closet and the space under the mirror/TV. We unpacked everything and fit our luggage in the closet. You could also fit it underneath the bed. The spa mini-suite comes with a nice large bathroom with a spa-like shower. The shower has adjustable jets and a nice shower head. The pressure is adjustable as well. Other than the larger bathroom we did not notice a difference in room size between our mini-suite and our friends' balcony. The balcony stateroom has a much smaller bathroom however the room size (living area and beds) are the same. In our mini-suite we were able to fit 10 people one evening to just hang out (of course using the sofa and balcony). Our stateroom steward would prepare our room twice a day. There is a card slot that you need to put something in to turn on electricity to the room. I've seen this in hotels as well. I didn't see this as a hassle but instead a place where your card could be kept (sometimes it may get lost in the room :) ). There is a make up room and do not disturb switch on the wall to let your steward know what is going on inside. There are 3 lights above your door that signal this. Being in room 14154 we were closer to the front of the ship. Right above us on 15 is the fitness and spa center. The spa-suite gives you access to the Thermal Spa area. This is for the Sauna, Saunarium, salt room, hot tubs and massaging waterfall and jacuzzis. Also the large area has many heated lounge beds. For the most part this area was quiet.
Some of our younger friends were cruising for the 1st time and thought that they would be bored so they decided to bring a monitor and video games. For those of you who have kids note that the TV's on board can not be changed from their programming. If your kids want video games or movies you will have to bring your own stuff. NCL did not have a problem with that.
For this particular sailing the ship was packed. It seemed as if families took a week off before winter break so there were a lot of children on board. There are places around the ship for adults only. One of these is Spice H20. I've read a lot of complaints about this ship being too crowded and there being no space by the pools. There are ample amount of lounge chairs on both decks 15 & 16 near the pools. There is also space in Spice H20 which has it's own hot tubs. If you would like to be further from the pools there is space on Deck 17 (no elevator access) on the port side and all the way in the front of the ship on deck 18. Do not worry about finding a space because you will find one somewhere.
For those of you who like to jog outside the jogging track is on deck 16. Get there early before people come out to lounge because the track wraps around the lounge area. Not the best place for a track. NCL probably didn't keep this in mind when designing the ship. Other sports related activities are very fun. The ropes course is a must. Typically the course is open for 8 hours. Of course when the course opens there will be a line but as the day progresses we noticed that the line subsided. If anything you may have a 10-15 minute wait. There are goPro cameras that you can rent for $20 to film the entire experience. It seems easy while looking up at it but once you get on it's totally a different experience. There are 3 parts to the rock climbing wall. That too may get busy with a line but it moves fairly quickly. The water slides are very fun and typically didn't have a line at all.
We noticed that the busiest time for breakfast was between 10-11am. The garden cafe gets filled during this time. Also the wait time for fresh omelet's is longer. We noticed people complaining about the line for omelet's but come on, it's made fresh!! Eggs take time to cook but people just weren't patient with that. The chef was doing his best cooking 2 at a time. Other stations had up to 4 going at a time. Other than omelet's breakfast was typically the same every day. This is something I appreciated. Other cruise lines may offer a variety of the same type of item, for example, waffles one day, french toast the other and pancakes the next. I was glad to see everything available each day.
We had lunch in both the garden cafe and O'Sheehans. The garden cafe had a nice selection that changed every day with some staples that remained every day. For example there was a wide variety of asian dishes and Mediterranean dishes on some days but burgers, hot dogs and pizza was always available. O'Sheehan's has amazing buffalo wings and a variety of pub food. Everything that we had tasted delicious.
Dinner was usually in one of the main dining rooms. We ate in all three complimentary dining rooms. Taste and Savor have the same menu's but are different than Manhattan. For a table of 4 or 6 we would typically have a wait of about 10-15 minutes. Again this is understandable. We did wish there was more of a waiting area in front of each dining room. The hostess will give you a buzzer that will let you know when your table is ready. You can sit in the atrium while you wait as well. This is a large ship and it is a fact that the dining areas were made to be smaller and more intimate. However this was not a big deal to us. One evening all 13 of us did eat in Manhattan and had a wait of about 30 minutes. We decided to get pictures taken with the time we had available. When we did arrive there wasn't a large rectangular table available so we were seated at two round tables that were put together for us. It wasn't a big deal whatsoever to us because we understood how hard the staff was working to make us happy. Sometimes you just have to give them a break. The food was excellent at dinner. You can always ask for something that is not on the menu but available somewhere else. Or you could adjust your meal to have sides that are part of a different meal. One evening we were craving cheesecakes and our server brought us some even though it wasn't offered on the menu. The Breakaway staff does go above and beyond to make you happy. Please note however that when eating in the Manhattan room a dress code is enforced. We saw many people being turned away because they didn't follow the code. It's not much but it does add to the elegance of the Manhattan room. Although there was a band playing we did not find it too loud that we could not have conversation.
We did not have any specialty dining as we were more than happy with the food in the main dining room. The food was presented to us so nicely it was as if it were art.
We booked this voyage online since we were offered a lot of onboard credit. There is a difference between refundable and non-refundable credit. Anything offered by NCL is non-refundable. All other credit is refundable. However when your account is charged, refundable credit is used first. Some of the people in our group believed that they could use any credit for gratuities but this was not the case. Just be safe and pay for your gratuities in advance.
Some of our friends decided to go to Universal Studios when in FL. They did not book the excursion through the cruise line rather they rented a car and drove to Universal. They said they had enough time to get there, get on the rides they wanted to get on and get back. It wasn't worth it to my wife and I but they had a blast. So for those that don't think it is possible it is but just be careful with timing.
Breakaway did not stop at GSC this time. We were disappointed since this was the 2nd time this had happened to us. We did enjoy spending that day on the boat again as many activities were planned and the staff went even further to make us happy. There is a lot to do on this boat with many shows and activities happening at different times. The Breakaway theater is much smaller than other cruise theaters. This is because the Spiegel tent is above it. So to go to a show you have to book it in advance. You can book it through your TV or through touch screens located throughout the ship. These touch screens allow you to book shore excursions as well. There always seemed to be room at each show in the theater. We only saw Burn the floor in the theater. This was an amazing dance show which is a must see. There are other shows that are held in different areas. Comedy can be found in the Headliners Comedy Club on deck 7. Jazz can be found in Fat Catz on deck 8. Movies are shown in the atrium on deck 6. Also game shows are held in the atrium on deck 6. Deck 7 of the atrium is open to deck 6 below so you can sit up there and see what is going on. That area is where O'Sheehan's is. O'Sheehan's has a nice variety of arcade games. One air hockey table ($1.50), 2 billiards tables ($2.00), basketball ($1.50) and mini-bowling ($5/pp). It's not a full bowling course but it's just as fun. The video arcade has more of these games. Deck 6 has the card room and library. Deck 7 has a shuffle board court on both starboard and port side. Deck 8 has giant chess on starboard side.
The Casino is literally in the middle of the ship on deck 7. In our opinion this was not the best location for it. Smoking is allowed in the Casino and sometimes you could smell it on deck 8. I think NCL is aware of this issue since we felt some definite ventilation and air flow while passing through the Casino. I'm sure they are trying hard to ventilate that area.
Since we didn't dock at GSC we went straight to Nassau and were cleared by 8pm. Other's got off but we didn't until the next day. There is a free beach at Atlantis. It's only a $4 one way ride to Atlantis. The beach was moderately crowded but you could definitely find a spot. We did miss the aquarium at Atlantis. It was $45 per person. The lady there told us that it is free after 5pm. So if you ever get to Nassau the night before you can go see the aquarium at Atlantis for free at night. When we were returning to the ship they had a little party outside before we docked. None of the other cruise lines that were docked there were doing that. NCL just made us feel even more special.
There are photography shoots available almost every night. We did see something about having all of your pictures put for you on a flash drive for only $20. Take advantage of that if you can. On days at sea there were sales on bracelets, watches and other jewelry. Also there was a great 75% off sale on Invicta watches.
Dress up night was Monday. A lot of people did participate and others did not. Again going to dinner in Manhattan that night is probably your best bet for some formal dining. This didn't bother us much that others were not dressed.
Every so often we would hear people complaining about something small. It actually bothered us when people would be rude to crew members who are working hard. There was an individual complaining about not having a power receptacle to charge his phone in the card room. Seriously give us a break. Others complained about paying for games in the arcade or the lines for the ropes course and rock climbing wall. There are two banks of elevators but as you can imagine they get busy. Especially when people use the elevator to travel from deck 15 to deck 14. Save yourself some time and use the stairs. We would look at which floors are already selected and then take the stairs instead of having the elevator stop on each floor. I believe these are the small issues that make people write bad reviews about this ship.
The crew members on board this ship were amazing. Sinan is the cruise director and is hilarious! We had him on the Gem as well. The rest of the staff is always smiling and ready to assist in any way possible. I've read a lot of comments about the not-so-attentiveness of the staff. I'm sure if they had to host over 4,000 people they wouldn't be so attentive either. These crew members work day and night to make sure you have a satisfying stay. They are always smiling and there to serve you in every way possible. But remember they are people just like you and I and have ups and downs. So please understand if you have to wait an extra minute to have your water refilled in the dining room. Overall these are some of the most humble people that work 270 days straight. Imagine if that was your schedule, I'm sure that you wouldn't find it easy. The last night the staff received a standing ovation at the farewell show. After the show the staff made us feel special by lining the hallways and appreciating us.
If you decide to sail on Breakaway then don't listen to all the negative reviews and try to find out on your own. If you can let go of the little things you'll realize that this will be one of your most enjoyable cruises. Breakaway will be sailing out of NYC for quite some time and for some of you who do not want to fly out of NYC for a cruise this is one of your only option. Right now I believe this is the best option out of NYC. So don't be apprehensive and give it a shot. You just might love the Norwegian Breakaway.