Just returned home from our Feb. 9 cruise on NCL Breakaway and here is my review of the trip. Forgive me for the length of this review, but there is so much to talk about.
We have cruised on Princess (4 times), RCCL (3 times) and NCL twice before this cruise (both on the Jewel and both with the same itinerary as this trip). Obviously, it was the ship and the embarkation port - not the itinerary that prompted us to book this cruise. My husband and I are young middle-agers who love to cruise. We live in New Jersey and, after the miserable winter we have experienced, this was a welcome break from shoveling snow.
We arrived at about 10 am and got priority boarding through Casinos at Sea. We were on the ship well before noon and our cabin was ready when we boarded. Our cabin steward brought our luggage in the room for us as it arrived and we had everything well before the muster drill.
This for us was in the Bliss Lounge on the 7th floor. It was your typical Norwegian muster drill, which was short, sweet and to the point. There is a safety channel on the tv that gives more information if you are interested. Note that each passenger's cabin card is scanned at the muster for attendance. If you do not attend on the first day, you will be required to attend the following morning's muster drill. After the muster, we lingered in the Bliss Lounge and spoke with one of the staff for a bit. Therefore, we missed the mass crowding following the drill. We had no problem catching an elevator by the time we left.
There are two elevator banks (one forward and one aft) with about 8 elevators in each. Note that only a few of the elevators go to the 16th floor. The rest only go to the 15th floor. We never waited an extended period of time for the elevators but the doors did close slowly. And, people, we are from the New York area so we understand the functioning of the elevators. The major issue would be if an elevator was full, there would always be someone pushing the button before the door closed. This would cause the door to reopen and cause more delays. We found that if you hold the close doors button in, the door would close despite the impatient people still waiting for an elevator.
The ship is nicely appointed and I am glad we experienced her. There is so much to see and do on this ship even when the weather is not so nice. The 6th, 7th and 8th floors are the main hub of the interior public spaces and surround the atrium. As this was a Casinos at Sea trip, I will start with that. I was disappointed with the layout of the casino. Unlike most ships that have an intimate casino area, the Breakaway's casino is in the main public area on the 7th floor. Because of the layout, everyone on the ship has to walk through the casino to get to the Manhattan Room or O'Sheehans. It is difficult to get to know the staff at the casino because of the layout. There is one smoking section in the casino. The machines are set up in various hallways as well as in the round section surrounding the atrium.
Also on the seventh floor are the Manhattan Room, O'Sheehans, the Ice Bar and the Breakaway Theatre. The sixth floor is where you will find Le Bistro (more on that later), Taste and Savor, the Headliners lounge and other public bars and sitting areas. On the 8th floor, you will find.other various eating venues, shops, bars and outdoor seating areas.
On the first couple of days on a ship, I always seem to have trouble figuring out which way is forward and which way is aft. One of the staff noted that the schools of fish in the carpet swim forward, which was extremely helpful while navigating this massive ship.
I will only review the dining areas that we experienced. The Manhattan Room is the main dining room and the food was good, nothing really spectacular, but good. On the first night, we had a server by the name of Ramona, who was terrific. They did have surf & turf on the menu on the first night. One person at our table ordered a pistachio creme brulee on the first night that was delicious. I could not possibly have eaten dessert that night, so I asked Ramona if it would appear again on the menu and she said she did not think so. However, she offered to send some to our cabins so we could enjoy it later. Sure enough, when we returned to the cabin later, there were 2 of these desserts waiting for us. There were nights that we went to the Manhattan Room and there was a wait (sometimes up to an hour). It seemed that the really busy times were between 6 and 7:30. Before and after that time, seating was easy to find.
We ate at Taste one evening because the wait at the Manhattan Room was too long. My only real complaint about Taste was the chairs. They were terribly uncomfortable for dining chairs. Since Savor has the same chairs, we chose not to eat there.
The Garden Cafe is the buffet on the 15th floor. I am not a fan of buffet food and we only went there for breakfast and an occasional lunch. Breakfast was always good and the coffee was really good (as it was everywhere on the ship). Perhaps it was the timing, but seating was not really an issue for us at any time. There are several omelet stations throughout the buffet and there were usually short lines. The only issue with that was that the lines sometimes went into the areas where others were trying to get food from other stations. On one day while eating breakfast, the captain announced that the ship was surrounded by hundreds of wild dolphins, who put on quite a show for us as they were feeding in a very large bait ball.
We had lunch at O'Sheehans and the corned beef sandwich was very good. It is a typical Irish pub design and the food was okay. We did not care for the spinach and artichoke dip.
One evening we opted to eat at La Cucina (Italian food) because we did not like the choices in the main dining areas. We had no problem getting a reservation. La Cucina's food was surprisingly much better than on the Jewel. The service was good and the $15 pp cover charge was well worth it.
Prior to the cruise, we booked Le Bistro (our favorite specialty restaurant on board NCL ships) for Valentine's Day. We knew reservations would be difficult to get for that evening. Because we pre-booked Le Bistro, the charge was $20 pp instead of the $30 pp you would pay if booked on board. On the first day, we went to Le Bistro to add our friends to our reservation. They did not pre-book because we wanted to sit together. When we went to add the other couple to the reservation, she was informed that the charge for Valentine's Day would be $49 pp because they were offering a special menu. The special menu was a shortened menu with 2 choices of appetizers, 2 choices of soup and several choices for the entree. After speaking with the maitre de, he allowed her to reserve at our table for the same pre-booking price that we paid and assured us that we could choose from the regular menu, as that was what we were looking forward to. When we arrived, however, on Valentine's evening, we were informed that they did not offer the regular menu that night. We ate from the special menu but were disappointed that we were not offered the regular cuisine from Le Bistro. The service was extremely slow and there was a loud table next to us with very foul mouths. We are no prudes, but I could not even write here some of the language that came out of their mouths during dinner. Unfortunately, the people at this table had absolutely no class, which also made our evening less enjoyable. The dinner itself was good and we all chose the surf & turf over the other entree options. Because we were so disappointed, I went to complain the next day (nicely) about our experience. I was directed to speak to Maureen, the assistant maitre de at Savor. When she heard what happened, she called the maitre de at Le Bistro that we spoke with on the first day. He offered us a free bottle of wine as compensation. Maureen knew that the problem was that we did not have the opportunity to enjoy the food on the regular menu, so she then called the hotel director, who offered us a free meal that evening (Saturday). Le Bistro is set up as a typical French cafe with outdoor seating (which of course is indoors). We were given a table in the outdoor seating area and were treated like royalty that night. The food was spectacular and our waiter, Ben, was attentive - the best on the ship. Prior to ordering, the chef sent out bread and salmon spread with his compliments. The rack of lamb was delicious and my husband loved the beef tenderloin. Throughout dinner, the maitre de checked in on us to ensure we were enjoying the dinner. And, during dessert, the hotel director even stopped by to check on us. I think they did everything they could to make this right and we were very grateful.
We saw Rock of Ages and, since there were not many children on this voyage, we did not see any in the audience. The show was fabulous. The music is loud but if you like the music, you will enjoy it. We also saw Burn the Floor, which was quite good as well. The dancers were terrific.
The staff on this ship was great. We did not experience any "rude" staff that I have read about in other reviews. They went out of their way to make sure we were well taken care of. I will say that I did not care for the cruise director, Dan the Man, who we also had on the Jewel. I don't find him to be very engaging. There is also a member of that staff, Skooter, who we only encountered in the tendering process to Great Stirrup Cay, and I found him irritating.
This was a great vacation from the miserable weather in NJ and vacation is what you make of it. We did find some rude passengers, but the ship's staff did all they could to make it enjoyable for us. I am glad we experienced this ship but we will more than likely return to a smaller ship such as the Gem on our next cruise.