We came home yesterday from the Jan.5th Breakaway. Had not sailed on NCL for a while. Previous experiences were very disappointing concerning food and service. Glad to say that the food has been tremendously improved! We liked many things about this ship, and still found room for improvement in the service area. We did not want to fly to another ship during the winter, so we gave NCL and this new ship one more shot. NCL described this ship as having 27 restaurants. They count venues like the specialty coffee bar and gelato stand as a "restaurant".
I had trepidations about the reported long lines everywhere. Glad to report that except for the very first day, they virtually disappeared. Timing here, is everything. All the ports were wonderful. Got into Puerto Rico late, but we have been there many times so we did not mind. And they left an hour later to make up for it.
Ample storage! Coffee pot on counter! Never saw that before! Good hair dryer ... you do not have to hold onto the power button while using it. Telephone on counter away from bed... You must get out of bed and walk over to it to answer! Odd place for it. Most narrow night table ever...and you have to squeeze out sideways to move off the bed alongside of the wall. Bed and pillows very comfortable. Our room was mid -ship and dead silent inside, but walls creaked during nighttime. Balcony was tiny, tiny, tiny. Felt like "wasted real estate." Face the ocean and cross your legs and you touch the glass and railing in front of you. Wide enough for the two small chairs and little tray table. Just wide enough, no more.
Bathroom had nice plexiglass walls, no sticky shower curtains. Ask for bars of soap...there is a wall hung body wash that smells like my dogs shampoo and gave my hubby a rash.
Our cabin steward was terrific. Cabin kept spotless and cute towel animals every night.
Library: bring your own books! This huge ship has but a few books, and half are in foreign languages! Half the library display cases for books are filled with Rockette costumes. I have no idea why they have almost no books and Rockette outfits in this tiny space. Recently we were on the Celebrity Summit, a quarter of the size of this ship, and they had a library with two floors. Bewildered about this.
Gym: two different areas. Again, for a huge ship for over 2000 passengers, this was a small area with very few machines proportionately. We had to give up trying to get a treadmill more than once. Very disapointing.
Entertainment: GREAT! Loved the shows...all of them. We made reservations on the first sea day for everything. BE AWARE... We booked everything online weeks in advance and had a printed confirmation, BUT on the ship they had NO RECORD of it in their system! Our printed paper meant nothing. We had to REBOOK it all, so check it out when you get there. The "interactive tv." is not so interactive. You cannot cancel reservations on it. You have to go to the theatre to that.
Also, enter the theatre about 30 minutes before the show starts for your choice of seating. It fills up very quickly.
That "interactive tv " again... In this age of computers, don't you think they would give you the menus on the tv? Bewildered that you have to stand in front of the MDR restaurant to see what they have that night, and that there is mystery main entree that you do not know until seated, and...if you do not ask what it is, then your server might not even tell you. It happened to us the first two nights. There are Two different main dining rooms to check menus. Makes no sense not to post them on tv., along with specialty menus. You should not have to work on vacation to see where to eat and when.
You cannot make dining reservations on the "interactive tv. "You had to call on the phone. Be prepared to put your phone on speaker as you will hold for a loooong time...if you do not first get disconnected. We found that if you make a reservation each morning you can walk into the restaurant venue with little to no waiting. Overall, the MDR food was very good.
One night we tried La Cucina and were VERY disappointed. We live in NY and are surrounded with excellent Italian restaurants so this really fell short. Poor service... cold soup, orders messed up, long wait for wine, etc. Limited menu with some of the SAME items as the free MDR on various evenings., ( Fried calamari, chicken parm) Soft crusted Italian bread? No garlic bread ? Fried calamari with MAYO sauce? ( I asked the waiter if the calamari was tough and chewy. he said yes... you have to chew it. He was NOT joking with us either!) You gotta laugh, but seriously, train these waiters! Spaghetti carbonara that is congealed in a thick solid mass? Honestly, I picked some up on my fork to mix it and it ALL came up together out of the plate ! Soup that was microwaved to get it hotter? After that we stuck to the MDR.
Manhattan Restaurant was similar to the huge MDR of cruise ships. There is a high noise level and a dance floor. Sometimes they had a band and a singer. The service was haphazard. We ate most of our dinners in Savour. Small nooks and crannies of seating, lovely decor, more quiet and intimate and better service!
O'Sheehans: went for lunch one afternoon. Had appetizers first. Ordered a bacon burger. Burger dropped in front of me and waiter disappeared. We had not finished the appetizers and they were all left crowded on the table. No bacon. Looked around. No waiter. Finally he passes by. I asked for a few slices of bacon, explaining there was none. When I almost finished my burger the bacon arrived. That is the typical type of service we found in food venues.
Uptown Grill , above the pool, has great turkey, beef and veggie burgers, meatballs, and thick Rueban Sandwiches. If you want a Rueban without that mayo, (what is it with the mayo on this ship?) be prepared for shock and a wait. They also serve mini fried fruit pies.
Buffet: great breakfasts and lunches. Never had dinner there. Omelette and pasta stations, waffles and french toast, grilled chicken, salad bars, plus Asian and Indian fare daily. Always found something good. Just surprised at the lack of freshly steamed broccoli and string bean and veggie assortment at lunchtime for lighter, healthier vegetarian meals.
There is both hard ice cream, and a do it yourself soft serve machine. Very few dessert choices at lunch with some repeating every day. Same breads everyday. Only time we found cookies was after 3:00 at tea time.
Here again ... lack of service. At breakfast there is no one walking around asking if you need anything. No one with a coffee pot or fresh juice. Celebrity really has us spoiled and we didn't know it.
In the Manhattan, Hubby and I ordered the SAME appetizers. He also ordered soup before the main dish. He gets his soup when I get my appetizer! Then he has his appetizer brought to the table? We felt badly about sending the servers back to the galley on the escalators as it was a long trip so we often just sucked it up. we know how grueling this job can be, but really, they should be better trained. Throughout the trip it was a lack of training and polished service that stood out, compared to a Celebrity ship. Even Princess and Royal were better in the service area. Perhaps due to the huge mass of passengers, the job is just to move people in and out here.
There is also a stunning lack of knowledge on the staffs part about how the ship works. One person told us that you could NOT make reservations for dinner in the MDR. Another told us that even if we did, if we arrived with a line waiting, we would still have to stand in line. We found out by the fourth day that they were both wrong. We tried to make an eight pm reservation one night and were told on the phone that only 8:15 was open. we said great. Later, at 8 pm we arrived and they took us in immediately. Confused? So were we.
Pool: strangely we always found a chair to stretch out on, or a table to sit at by the pool. Lots of levels of chairs both in and out of sun. Great for sea days and port afternoons.
Atrium: this is where much informal entertainment takes place. Games, dancing and staff Q&A sessions with a huge screen behind them on the wall. Curiously, the Assistant Cruise Director could not read the game cards. Could not pronounce many of the places or words. It was painful. Here again, a lack of professionalism. Learn them, practice them.
Like the embarkation day...we were told that NO ONE would know where we left from or which way we were going to be led off the ship until they made an announcement. Not true! People were lining up at the doorway forming a conga line that we did not know about. By this time, I think they should get their act together and train their staff. Leaving was very unorganized. We were awakened early by the PA system with the Cruise Director, (very annoying man who constantly interrupted activities- even in the MIDDLE OF THE SHOW to announce the show coming up!) to say some people could walk off. Over three hours later they were still unable to do so. I know problems arrive, but goodness, let passengers know about it? Inform them? I felt badly for the people with planes to catch. They even had tv monitors around the area with wrong info on them. Really poorly done.
I think what also surprised us was that given the huge size of this ship, many venues were very small. Most of this ship seemed to be devoted to staterooms and many small uncomfortable bar areas. We are used to spacious lounges with comfy chairs where groups can chat and have a drink. Seating here is on too hard and too oversized chairs. The comedy club, where the art auctions took place, had very hard, uncomfortable wooden chairs in a really tightly caked space. You could not cross your legs because of the closeness of the seats in front of you. Huge ship but small venues!
Did not like the feeling of being "nickel and dimed" with the "for fee" venues. I paid for entertainment and did not like that for an extra fee I could have special entertainment. I did not like that if I paid for a specialty coffee drink, there was not a single cookie for free available to go with it there. I have bought cappachinos on Princess and Royal and Celebrity, and there were many free goodies to chose to nibble on in that spot. I did not like the elitist places that were only for more expensive cabins. If I wanted a class system I could sail on the Cunard. Not to nit-pick, but we did not even get a chocolate on our pillows at night!
Their tv programs are awful. This is an American based ship and yet they have European ESPN? European weather. Okay if we were sailing in Europe, but we were not. What about American ESPN. No CNN, just FOX? Disney animation movies? It was not a ship filled with kids, and not a school holiday. Very few movie choices here and repeated, repeated, repeated.
Overall the ship is clean and new, but it surely lacks the artwork in the cabin hallways, open venues, bars and stairs that Celebrity and other lines place throughout the ship. Lots of Peter Max art, of course, in the main lobby. In the theatre I thought of the incredible theatre curtain on the RCCL Liberty ship. This huge ship was devoid such artistic touches.
Good food, not great, lackluster dining service, poor communication skills were what we found. This was not an inexpensive cruise. As seasoned cruisers we were disappointed overall. I would do these ports on another ship, or another line, but never repeat it on the Breakaway, especially at these prices.