I have taken numerous cruises on cruise ships and oceanliners, traveling the Caribbean, the Atlantic Ocean and the for 25 years. I am not a novice. On Jan 5, 2014 I boarded the NCL Breakaway at NYC's Westside
Cruise Ship Terminal for the first Breakaway venture into the Caribbean. It was a twelve day cruise. The boarding process was fast, efficient and courteous. The crew is pleasant and well trained and my room steward was excellent. I had selected an aft-facing balcony cabin (9322) with a large balcony after reading on this site. It was a good choice, pleasant and quiet. It was obvious that NCL does not want passengers watching TV in their rooms. Channel selection is VERY limited. There is a movie channel and a channel devoted to re-run TV programs, but there is NO guide for these channels.
The food was very disappointing. I ate many meals in the Manhattan Room, which is a tastefully appointed dining room with live music and dancing until about 9 PM. Two other dining rooms, also with no surcharge for meals, Taste and Savor, were smaller with no music and not as pleasant, served the same food as The Manhattan Room. The selections for dinner were limited, repetitive and lacked imagination. The breakfast menu was the same for all 12 breakfasts and the lunch menu did not change for 5 or 6 days in a row. There were no daily specials for lunch or breakfast. My worst meal was rack of lamb. I could not eat it. In talking with fellow passengers throughout the cruise, the topic of poor food often arose. I was not the only passenger who had bad rack of lamb. I have had much better food on NCL's Jewel and Sky. The Garden Café was a pleasant place to eat, lots of windows, bright and airy and the standard fare cafeteria food was well prepared, presented and served by a cordial hard working staff. I was surprised and pleased with the efficiency of this operation. NCL's greatly touted "Freestyle Dining" is pretty much freestyle in name only. If one wants the same table, the same staff and dinner at the same time each day, the fine print says that this is only available between 5:00 and 5:30 PM, otherwise one must sign up for one of those portable electronic devises that rings, flashes and vibrates when your table is ready, which can be anywhere from ten to forty five minutes later. I did not eat in any of the nine cover charge ($15 -30 pp, depending upon which restaurant) restaurants. About one week before the cruise I made a reservation for Cagney's but canceled it after talking with other passengers who had eaten there and thought it was not worth spending $30. When I canceled the reservation I was surprised to learn that it had already been billed to my credit card and now a month later, I am still waiting for the charge to be backed out.
The spa is located in the front of deck 15 with lots of windows looking out at the sea. It is spacious and well equipped. Unfortunately, the architect who designed it did not understand the properties of water and that fact that this spa was on a moving ship. There was water all over the floors, even when the ship was docked, let alone moving. There was even a drainage problem with the men's showers. There were always towels on the floor in front of the glass shower doors to soak up the water that came spilling out of the showers. A very disappointing thing about the spa was the pricing structure. One had to pay $285 for the entire 12 days. All or nothing, there was no daily rate. Even when I paid $175 + for a massage, had I not already paid the $285 spa fee, I would have to pay $29.99 to use the spa.In my experience, most cruise ship include a day at the spa with a massage.
As someone who likes to walk for exercise and, when on a ship, likes to walk around the ship on a deck, I was disappointed to discover that this ship with 17 decks does not have ONE deck that encircles the entire ship. Deck 8, the Waterfront Deck comes the closest, extending as far forward as the front bank of elevators. When one is walking around this deck, one must cross from the Port side to the Starboard (or vice versa) through the forward elevator lobby in order to encircle about two thirds of the ship. Also, while walking this deck, one encounters several of the Waterfront/outdoor areas of bars and restaurants where smoking is allowed. A smoke free walk on Deck 8 is not possible. A smoke freopwalk through the casino is also not possible.
The Atrium did not work for me. It is a large two deck (decks 6 & 7) open area, much like a large hotel lobby, with a large digital screen surrounded by 30 or 40 lounge chairs, a 10 computer Internet area against the starboard wall, a bar, hotel type desks for customer relations/ financial transactions/reservations, etc, and a large two story digital screen where movies are occasionally shown. I watched one movie in this venue and quickly realized why there were subtitles in English, it was impossible to HEAR. Just off this "lobby space", the Atrium, through a door on the Starboard are two small rooms, the Library and the Card Room, in NAME only, I would add. The card room can hold two card tables (8 people) and the library just a few more books.
When I sailed NCL Jewel I found the evening entertainment quite good. Alas, not so on this ship. The highly touted New York/Breakaway/Broadway type production, Rock of Ages was entirely pre-recorded with no live instrumentation as was "Oh What A Night"' I did enjoy "Burn the Floor" with its excellent dancing and very good live instrumentation. Cirque Dreams & Jungle Fantasy was a good production accompanied with mediocre food for an extra $39.99. Because of the way the room was arranged, I found it difficult to eat AND watch at the same time. The performance and the dinner took place simultaneously .I did spend a couple of nights with Howl At The Moon Dueling Pianos with Eddie Lawrence and friends. It was mostly Billy Joel type music which became a bit repetitive and the "off color" after 11 PM segment was just that, off color.