This was our 3rd NCL cruise; we've also sailed on Carnival and Princess. We took advantage of cruise offer from a casino through the CAS (Casino At Sea) program, the Breakaway was one of the choices so we decided it was a great way to try out NCL's newest mega ship. It also gave us an opportunity for a pre-cruise visit to New York City, definitely one of the highlights of the vacation!
We based our expectations mostly on our previous experience on NCL (which were all excellent). The CC reviews were mixed, surprised with the amount of negative reviews for an NCL ship so we valued them more for factual content than for the opinions.
EMBARKATION: Our hotel was in the vicinity of 47th and Broadway and used a car service to the port. Arrived around 11:30, checked our bags curbside with the porters and headed to the check-in area. We were directed to the CAS line for check-in, no waiting, given a CAS card number for boarding and sent to a CAS guest waiting area. After a short wait, we were allowed to board, on the ship from the time we arrived in less than an hour. We didn't notice long lines or any issues anywhere in the boarding area during our short stay.
SHIP: Absolutely beautiful exterior with the Peter Max artwork. Interior is well done; the atrium is different than what we've seen on other ships. The layout for the most part works well with easy access to the public areas on decks 6,7,8 using the stairs. The outdoor activities are mainly located in the upper decks. The only annoyance we had with the ship was access to the stairs or elevators from our cabin which was as far forward as you could be. Our cabin was an OA overlooking the bow of the ship and it was a hike to get to the nearest stairs and elevators that are located mid-ship and aft. There are no forward stairs or elevators.
CABIN: As mentioned earlier it was an Ocean View forward on deck 13, the window view is what you see on the ship's webcam with a wider angle. There's a ledge by the window where you can sit and look out, below are storage cabinets. Overall size was adequate and the bathroom layout works. Again the only drawback is the distance from stairs and elevators if you don't like walking. I would still recommend this cabin or select it on a future cruise.
DINING: We dined at all the free venues except for the Savor and only one premium venue at the Shanghai's Noodle Bar. The foods at all the venues were excellent and service was never an issue. Wait times at the MDR and Taste was never more than 15 minutes for our party of 4. A tip on Lobster night served at the Garden Cafe (buffet), to avoid crowds and long lines, do an early light snack at the MDR, then go to the buffet for a late dinner around 30 mins prior to the 9:30 closing for lobster. No lines or crowds, lots of open tables. The lobster and other seafood dishes were excellent. Shanghai's Noodle Bar's menu has a good variety of selections, all ala carte and all under $6, I had the seafood udon, good flavor and a generous amount of food. We did room service for a starter in the morning, the service was prompt. Breakfast at the Garden Cafe, good selection of breakfast items, my favorite was the eggs benedict, although it's pre-made, they cook up a batch of both hard and soft, if there isn't one out that you prefer, ask and they'll bring some out for you. We had lunch at Uptown Grill and O'Sheehan's, no disappointments at either venue, chicken pot pie at O'Sheehan's was excellent. Manhattan and Taste menu's varied slightly from day to day, there was always a selection that appealed to everyone. O'Sheehan's featured prime rib one night and our cuts were all good. Only one slight negative, Garden Cafe had carved roast that was much too rare, I had to have them grill my portion.
ACTIVITIES: Being CAS guest, the casino was our primary activity. Its layout is spread out on deck 7 midship. The area next to Shanghai's and Bar 21 are non-smoking areas, you can still smell the smoke but if you don't like having others smoke next to you on the slots or tables at least there's a designated area you can go to. The 5 story Water slides were fun, the free fall is a 5 second thrill, and the whip is tame in comparison but thrilling in its own way. Be sure to remove ALL jewelry before going up, including wedding bands, they won't let you down the slides if you have any on you. I didn't do the ropes course or the rock climbing because of an issue with my right arm. Spice H2O has a nice water feature, lounge chairs was always available. The waterfront was a nice area to just hang out at.
ENTERTAINMENT: Burn the Floor and Rock of Ages were excellent! Attended a magic show during a down time, I don't recall the magician's name but his performance was surprisingly entertaining. There are a lot of activities always going on in the atrium area featuring audience participation.
PORTS: Port Canaveral, didn't have any interest in the activities since we've done most of them before, we did disembark just to check out the port area. There are shuttles to and from Coco Beach offered at a nominal cost.
Great Stirrup Cay, tenders are used here, the line that brings you to the tenders goes through an area of the ship that is normal limited to crew access, I found it interesting. Best vantage point is on the top deck of the tender. We took a tender that got us on the island at noon, BBQ lunch being served, burgers and ribs were good. The main beach was the most crowded with the most activity, there are several more beaches beyond that with less people and at the end is a lagoon where many of the families with smaller children had gone to. We parked ourselves at a smaller beach; the water was cool but didn't take long to acclimate to. Mostly sand bottom but there's scattered rocks throughout, not to deep, I was about 50 yards out and my head was still above water. Small fishes all around and also saw a large sting ray that I nearly stepped on. It was all good at GSC and back on the ship by 5 pm.
Nassau, we decided to taxi over to Atlantis, cost is $4 per person for taxi. Access in Atlantis is limited the casino unless you opt for one of the activity packages. There's walkway outside of the casino which gives you some good views of the property. We ended our day with a stroll around the town to pick up some souvenirs.
CREW: Crew we had contact with was pleasant, cheerful and had a caring attitude. By the second day, areas of the ship that we frequented knew us by name, our preferences and service was always excellent. During an early morning episode with 30-40 ft seas, they promptly came to clean the mess of broken bottles and items that fell off the shelves.
DISEMBARK: We decided against easy walk-off and choose the first available color tags for 8:45 disembark but we disembarked before our color was announced when we noticed the walk-off crowd had dissipated, picked up our bags in the bag area and through customs in 30 mins.
Summary - Breakaway's onboard experience was excellent, we would definitely sail on this ship again but not on this itinerary. The port stops are good one and done ports except for NYC if you count it as a port stop.