I was excited about my upcoming trip on Breakaway until I read reviews…then I began to doubt that this would be a wonderful trip. I returned March 9, 2014 and I have my own review to post. I will try to be fair as there are pros and cons but let me say upfront that I loved Breakaway.
Boarding in NY: I have been on three other NCL cruises that embarked in NY and they were all crowded but well-organized. This would be the second time that I boarded with “priority” as we were booked into a Haven Penthouse. As we entered I clearly saw the line marked “Assistance” and only one other line (for everyone else, presumably). I asked the lady who was directing us to the lines and she denied the existence of a “priority” line. She looked at my reservation and said “Oh, you are only silver, you go in this line.” I knew this would not be right as NCL does want to give a VIP feeling to their Haven guests so I told her this. She was extremely rude so I left her and found someone who was able to direct us to the line for Haven guests. It is not well-marked and is all the way in the back, necessitating passing through literally thousands of people to get to the right line. In fairness to NCL, this woman worked for the Port, not NCL. Just be advised that if you have priority status, the line may not be well marked so keep asking and be sure to use the word “Haven” not “VIP” or “priority”. Once we reached The Haven check-in everything changed. NCL staff could not have been nicer, check-in took about 3 minutes, and we were escorted to The Haven for lunch.
Cabins and Suites: NCL is known for not having the cabins ready until about 2pm. However, at least on Breakaway, for 4 weeks they have been allowing guests to go directly to their cabin and drop off luggage. It is with the understanding that the cabin may not be ready for you to stay there but as a convenience for you to leave your carry-on items so you can have lunch and explore the ship unencumbered. Good move, NCL!
Décor: The décor on Breakaway is distinctly different from other NCL ships we have been on. It is sleek and sophisticated with muted color tones (light browns, various shades of turquoise, etc). I was really impressed with the color palate and, as I walked around the ship I felt comfortable with it at once. Usually, on an NCL ship I need to get used to garish colors and lights and a “disco” feel all over the ship. Not on Breakaway and I loved it!
Layout: Some of the negative reviews I read spoke about how there was too much crammed in…that the ship felt crowded with too many money-making activities…that the guest missed being able to find a quiet corner where nothing was happening. I found both positives and negatives in the layout. It took me a few trips around the ship to get my bearings but once I did I could see the simplicity in it. That was good. The teen club and the children’s area were well separated with from adult activities but convenient enough to be nearby. The outdoor activities are all together in the aft of the ship (rock climbing, slides, putt-putt, rope-walking, pools, etc) and the Haven and another VIP-type pool area that you pay for are mid to forward. The center portion of the ship houses a casino that I just could not believe. It is a main thoroughfare so everyone walks through there all the time. I smelled smoking but I didn’t actually see anyone smoking. Nevertheless, it didn’t feel right to have children walking through the casino all the time. And there are restaurants and bars sprinkled at the ends of this very long and open casino which seemed unusual. The casino is also (to my mind) not user-friendly in the sense that everyone needs special instruction and a written instruction sheet to get your card to work in the machine…the roulette chips are $2 each minimum…most of the tables are $10 or $25 minimum. I have been known to have a great time gaming but I won’t buy in at $2/chip for roulette (my game of choice) and I had so much trouble using my card in the machine that I just finally gave up. That said, there were some people at the machines from early in the day until late but not many. My husband always plays Blackjack in ship casinos but not this time. It just didn’t feel right to him either.
Dining: We learned that you can request at the beginning of the cruise to be assigned a particular section and a particular waiter, if you wish. This would remove some of the feeling of crowds and beepers, if you care to do that sort of thing. We ate most of our dinners in The Haven dining area which is lovely and has a nice menu. The only problem is that it is the same menu every night so, while delicious, it does become tiresome. We thought we would go to Ocean Blue one evening for some upscale seafood but, although the restaurant was elegant, the music being played was not and we found it to be very unsettling and not in keeping with eating an expensive ($49/pp) elegant meal. O’Sheehans is the 24-hour dining in the center of the ship and is an Irish pub theme. They have menus that change based on the time of day and the service is good, the food is generally good pub fare, and it did not feel crowded. In the Garden Café you can find some good buffet choices. There was a salad bar, hot comfort food (like Mac & Cheese), vegetables, Asian, pizza, fruit, and lots of desserts. I was thrilled to find that, in addition to the hand sanitizers they have several sinks where you can actually wash your hands with soap and water. Bravo!! We found sinks at the Uptown Grill also. One note to keep in mind for the Uptown Grill is that it really has nothing for vegetarians. Usually a grill area will have a salad bar but not at Uptown Grill. It is great if you are a meat-eater. They have burgers, hot dogs, sausages, sauerkraut, pastrami sandwiches, turkey & cheese sandwiches, and another deli-type sandwich.
Keeping in Touch: NCL has an electronic app that can be downloaded onto your personal device. It is called iConcierge and will only activate once you are on the ship. It is a great idea but it appears to be still in the “works” as certain features are not there. For example, you can see your Account, which worked great. You can see most of the restaurants but not all. You are supposed to be able to see the menus but this wasn’t working. It lists many activities but still doesn’t replicate the paper schedule. Perhaps one day it will, that would be great! This iConcierge is also available on your stateroom TV.
Pools and Outdoor Activities: I was very surprised to find that all the venues were in use and full of people but there was still a sense of not being over-crowded. I really thought the space was well-defined and allowed there to be separate activities even though they were right next to each other. OK, there were moments when the rock-climbing attracted every child and parent to watch but, in general, I thought everything worked very well.
The Haven: If you can afford the Haven, do it. They take very good care of you and it really is an oasis with a pool, Jacuzzis, sauna, lounge, dining room (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), a dedicated Concierge, a Butler, and priority boarding and priority disembarkation (including at ports of call). Very well done.