First off, I'd like to say that Norwegian has always been my husband's and my cruise line of choice. We enjoy the idea of a Freestyle cruise, and we love that we can leave from NYC, which is just a short train ride from home. We've cruised on Dawn, Spirit, and Gem, and have also cruised with Holland America and Princess. On this particular cruise, we felt the the Freestyle aspect was not as free as it could have/should have been. On past Norwegian cruises, we loved just deciding on the spur of the moment when we'd like to eat, when we'd like to see a show, etc. I am not a fan of having to prebook entertainment, which was a new policy on the Breakaway. When I am on vacation (especially on a cruise) I like NOT planning. I spend my regular life planning everything to a tee, and I look forward getting away from that while I'm on a cruise. This aspect certainly didn't ruin our trip by any means, but I could have done without it. That is really the only overall "complaint" I have about this cruise. For more specific information on individual aspects of the trip, please continue reading.
Yup - the ship is big. This was not news to me, as I did research before booking. True, there are a lot of people, but I never felt that the common areas were overcrowded by any means. I now know that I prefer a smaller ship (around 2500 to this one's 4500), but the size/number of people did not affect us negatively at all.
One thing I'd have liked on this ship is a big comfy lounge (like the Spinnaker Lounge on the Gem). I love to read on cruises, and there was really not a quiet, comfy place for readers to hang out. The outdoor deck was fine for this, as was my cabin, but I always like having a nice sunny indoor reading area on a ship. I was able to read a bit in the atrium, but there was almost always something going on in there, which was pretty distracting. Breakaway does have a library, but it's a joke - very tiny and very few books. Due to the number of people on board, I did feel that some of the normal features you'd expect on a ship were eliminated or shrunken in order to fit in more staterooms.
The elevators on this ship were kind of hard to figure out at first. For some reason (maybe people continually pressing the call buttons?), doors sometimes took 4 or 5 tries to close. To prevent this, just press the "door close" button right after punching in your destination. Elevators are also slow. If you are able, it's best to take the stairs if you're only going a few floors up or down.
Prebooking hassles aside, we really enjoyed the entertainment on the Breakaway. "Burn the Floor" was excellent, and the various performances of "The Second City" has us in stitches! I had mixed feelings about "Rock of Ages." I am a huge fan of '80s rock, so naturally I was really looking forward to this show. Unfortunately, I found it kind of crude, especially at the beginning. I almost walked out. I'm no prude, and I attended quite a few "hair band" concerts back in the day. They were actually more tasteful (shocker, I know!) than what I saw on this stage. I ended up staying, and am glad that I did. The cast was very talented and I really enjoyed the music and the story. Probably not a show for kids (which they did warn about), and I'm guessing older people or more conservative people may want to opt out of this one.
We disembarked at all of the ports, and despite the sheer number of people on this ship, the disembarkation process was quick and easy. The crew had everything very well organized, and we didn't experience any long lines at all.
We booked a shore excursion to Disney's Magic Kingdom for the Port Canaveral stop. If you are planning a trip to any of the Disney parks - please be warned that you really do not have sufficient time to thoroughly enjoy the parks. We arrived at the port around noon, and caught a bus (which was very well organized) to Disney World. The bus dropped us off, we took a ferry to the Magic Kindgom, and when all was said and done, we set foot in the park after 1:30. We had to be back to the bus no later than 7:00. We had about 5 hours in the park, and the lines were horrible!! We got our fast passes right away, and even with those, we only went on 3 rides before it was time to head back. Yes, only 3. Two of the rides we were waiting for became broken as we neared the end of the lines. We were very disappointed, as this was an expensive excursion. If you want to do a Disney park, you are better off doing it when your time is not limited. As for the cost of this excursion, we felt it was reasonable. It was basically the cost of the ticket, pus $60 per person for the round trip coach bus trip.
Great Stirrup Cay has changed a lot since our first visit on the Dawn in the early 2000s. It has become much more artificial-looking and touristy than we'd expected. On our first visit, it was a beach with some chairs, a rocky cliff, and perhaps a bathroom and one bar. Now it's kind of tacky (in my opinion). We enjoyed the beautiful weather, but that's about it. We were back on the ship after spending only an hour or so on the island. If you're a beach bum and love to lay out in the sun - you may enjoy this port more than we did.
Nassau was our favorite port. We have been there several times before, and we always choose just to walk around town on our own. They have the typical cruise port shopping if you're into that sort of thing. We are not big shoppers, so we skip that part of town and head to the Pirate Museum (my favorite for some reason). After that, we usually get a bite to eat, or perhaps a tropical drink, walk around a bit more, and head back to the ship. We had a nice time at this port.
The food on this trip was inconsistent. We really enjoyed most of it, but some items left a lot to be desired. We had most of our meals in one of the main dining rooms, visited the Garden Cafe (buffet) several times, and ate in the Italian specialty restaurant on our last night.
Main Dining Rooms: We started out eating in the Manhattan, which was the largest of the three MDRs. At first we really liked it, but we soon switched to Savor and Taste instead. The main problem with this dining room was the hostess. Nearly every time we approached the entrance, she would tell us that they were full and that there was a 20 to 30 minute wait. We said that we were happy to wait, and once we passed her, we were seated by another host in literally a minute. Looking around, the restaurant was maybe 1/3 to 1/2 full. We felt like we were being discouraged to eat in this dining room, and we didn't know why. We thought that the hostess might have been doing a favor for the waitstaff - trying to make their jobs easier by letting fewer people in. Who knows. This practice just kind of turned us off to eating in the Manhattan after a few days. Savor and Taste were lovely. The service was friendly and the food was (mostly) good. My favorite items were the hummus and peperonata dip that was served for a lunch appetizer, and the rosemary roasted chicken that was served for a lunch entree. Dinners were almost always good, as were the desserts. Several of the items we ordered were ridiculously oversalted. So much so that they were inedible. Items in this category include the salmon tartare appetizer, the crab salad appetizer, and the cajun shrimp arugula salad.
Garden Buffet: This is your typical cruise buffet. I am not a big fan of buffets, but as far as buffets go, this one is pretty decent. There were salads, standard main courses, Chinese and Indian selections, soups, breads, fresh fruits, soft-serve and hard ice creams, desserts, pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and more. My favorite buffet items were a cucumber salad (spicy and vinegary), Norwegian's famous pretzel rolls, and the pizza.
La Cucina (Italian specialty restaurant): We ate here on our last evening, and were very pleased. I do have to say one thing before I get to the food. As far as the specialty dining on Breakaway - it is different than it has been on past cruises with Norwegian. In the past, passengers pay a cover charge (per person) and can order freely from the menu - however many items they choose. This is no longer the case (for some restaurants). La Cucina was a $15 pp cover charge, but other specialty dining was priced a la carte. Still at reasonable prices, but I really didn't appreciate this change. Just one more thing that, in my opinion, reduces the Freestyle spirit that Norwegian is famous for. Anyhow, the food here was delicious. Bread and 4 different infused olive oils were brought to the table when we arrived. We tried not to fill up on the bread, but we wanted to try the oils - which were fabulous! My husband had minestrone for his appetizer, and I had the caprese salad. His entrees were half orders of the salmon and the lobster pasta. I had a marsala pork. We both really enjoyed our meals, and enjoyed our desserts - a very rich chocolate truffle cake and panna cotta with peaches. The service was excellent.
CABIN: Though very tiny (much more so than other ships), the cabin was fine. We had an inside room, and we are fine with that - as we just use it to sleep and use the bathroom. It was clean, comfortable, and though cramped - it worked. Flushing the toilet took some practice, but once we got it down, we were fine. Oh - and the hair dryer was hiding under the "desk." I would have had no idea had I not asked our steward.
CREW: Our steward kept our room nice and clean, made us towel animals (the monkey was awesome!), and was super friendly and attentive. Other crew around the ship, with the exception of very few individuals, was top-notch.
DISEMBARKATION: We did the self walk-off, carrying our own luggage. From the time we left our room to the time we got in the cab to Grand Central was literally 20 minutes. Could not have been easier or faster.