This is our 6th Cruise on NCL plus one on Carnival and one on Disney. We read and re-read the reviews on the Breakaway. Frankly, we were concerned after seeing so many bad reviews. Many of the concerns posted on other reviews were fair and accurate. However, as a whole it did not prevent us from having a good time.
Our embarkation was great as always. The port staff is friendly and helpful. Parking at NYC is great, pricey ($35 per day) but great. We were given access to our rooms around 1 p.m. for a 4 p.m. departure. We upgraded to a mini-suite so we could have adjoining cabins with my daughter and granddaughter. We got an exceptional price. It was a wonderful room, but I would never pay full rate for that room. It's just not worth it.
The Breakaway is built around revenue generation unlike any ship I've been on before. Along that line, it has the largest casino I've ever seen on a ship. It's location was a problem. It was on the 7th deck on both sides of the atrium allowing smoke to rise to the 8th deck (shopping) and the 6th deck (specialty restaurants).
While the ship is huge, it does not feel any larger to me than ships much smaller. After giving this some thought, I believe it again goes back to the focus of this ship which is revenue generation. It has a ton (something like 20) of paid restaurants. These take of much of the public space that would have otherwise been available for other uses. The Waterfront is a great concept, but it was too cold (snowing actually when we left) to fully appreciate it. Again lots of space taken up for the upcharged restaurants. The was nothing like a lounge in the forward of the ship. The space was taken by high-end suites and the SPA.
The shows we saw were ok, but not great. The main theatre only seats 750 people. A quick calculation you can determine they can not seat everyone in one night, so they run the same show two times per night two nights per cruise. I've never experienced that on a cruise before. Again, the use part of space normally allocated for the theatre for a up charge dinner theatre adjacent to the main theatre. Some of the entertainment was done in the main lobby, which was just too tight for a ship with 4,000 guest.
The Ropes and water park course were the highlights of the cruise. They is large, fun and the staff was awesome. Walking the plank 8' over the side of the ship at sea with 40 mph winds was wild. The Freefall Water slide was wicked, in a good way! The water park area for my 2 year old grand daughter was adequate, but was tight at times for all of the kids.
Now to the food, one of the major things we love about cruises. The main dining hall, the Manhattan Room was nicely decorated for Christmas with live entertainment. We had to wait in line each night to get in and with the line so long it pushed us into the smoking area of the casino. Back to dining, the food was ok, but not great. Many of the items we were used to getting are no longer on the menu. Those items seemed to have found their way to the upcharge restaurants. The menu repeated itself frequently. The buffet was good as we've come to expect, but the space was tight for this size ship. The did extend hours past the published hours I believe to accommodate the full ship. I read some reviewers commenting on bad staff. We never had a bad experience. However, what we did notice more than ever was some very tired and burned out crew. If you look at the number of crew on this ship vs a smaller ship, you will find the ratio of crew to passengers is off. This ship needs lots of behind the scenes support people and I have to believe they've cut down on the wait staff to make up some of the difference. I had a conversation with some of the crew and they said I was spot on with my assessment and hoped I would write int NCL with my observations.
In closing, I will not be searching for cruises on the Breakaway anytime soon. However, if the price was right, I would consider giving it another shot.
I've been to this island twice and absolutely love it. The food is great, with so much accessible beachfront and tons of places to explore.