Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by bingo3: Fantastic Cruise, staff and Ship!
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Fantastic Cruise, staff and Ship!
Background: I am a “young” 57, hubby 58 and parents 75. We Sailed the Breakaway to Bermuda
May 25 – June 1. This was my first cruise on NCL. I Have been on 2 Carnival and 3 RCCl cruises, so was a bit apprehensive after reading many of the reviews. There was no reason to be. This was a fantastic cruise and the ship is awesome. There are obviously some differences between the cruise lines, but that is to be expected. All ships will have some pros and cons. The pros far outweigh any cons. I did miss the inside promenade deck on the larger RCCL ships, but not so much that I would not cruise NCL again. The waterfront was nice and peaceful, never crowded.
The Bermuda trip is a more expensive cruise and we were on a budget, so stayed at the Country Inn and Suites in Queens, Long Island City the day before the cruise and it was a very nice property. You can read my review of that hotel on Trip Advisor. A taxi to the hotel from LGA was about $18.00 and a cab More to Times Square was about $15.00 each way. The hotel called a car service to take us to the pier for $35.00, but we could have easily hailed a cab right outside the front doors. Make sure you have the exact street address for the pier. I “assumed” they would know where pier 88 was, BIG MISTAKE! LOL! He had to stop the car so I could rifle through my suitcase in the trunk and find the street address, but he did get us there, no problems!
We arrived at the ship around 10:45am, went through check-in very quickly, then had to wait about 30+ minutes or so before they started letting us on the ship. We had to stand as there was not enough seating. This was different from other ship lines, where we went right on the ship after checking in, at the same time. We were in group 12 and they called groups about 10 minutes apart. A man had to go around the terminal area yelling out which number was boarding as you could not hear the announcements. We did notice some people boarding with higher numbers than ours, pretty much ignoring the number called.
They do allow you to drop your carry-on luggage in the room (other lines have not), but as soon as we boarded, they announced rooms were ready. Our room was a mid-ship balcony, port side and our parents were next to us in one of the angled balconies. We were surprised to see they had a lounge chair on that balcony without us even having to ask. They also had a regular chair and the small table. We had the standard 2 chairs and table. The balcony size was fine for us and we had no problems with it. There are actually times on this sailing where you can’t be out there anyway because wind is cold, and when coming back from Bermuda, seas were so high, spray was hitting not only the balcony but the sliding glass doors. I imagine in the winter months, you can use the balcony even less. It is nice to be able to see out to sea from your bed/sofa though! It was also nice while docked in Bermuda for almost 3 days, to have the balcony. We were docked port side, which was nice. The Captain did state in a Q & A, they dock port side more, because it is faster to get out on Friday to head back to NY, but do have to dock starboard 1-2 times per month to exercise the life boats. There is no way to know in advance which side will be dock side. Our room was port side, so was a nice view of the wharf.
You have views from your balcony of the Memorial tower when leaving NY and of the Statue of Liberty when returning to NY, if port side. It would be the opposite if you have a starboard room. We went by the statue around 5:30am coming back to NY. The Captain did announce the day before, approximately when we would do that. I thought that was a nice gesture.
We went to Savor restaurant for embarkation lunch and there were no crowds or waits. It was very nice and Michael, our waiter was extremely friendly and informative. The lunch menu that day was different from what it was the rest of the week. It was the same menu each day, after that first day. I am assuming that lunch menu was the one used the previous week. Evening menus also did not deviate a lot. There were a few added items each night, but many remained the same. You could go view menus each day, posted near the restaurants. I suspect there is not a lot of variety at the main dining rooms because of all the specialty restaurants. Prime rib was served about 4 different times in different venues. Lobster tails was the first full sea day, in the buffet.
The cabin was very nice and quiet. The bed was very comfortable as were the linens. Towels were nice. Josephine was our room steward and she was excellent! Never saw her when she was not smiling and so friendly! She had 16 rooms to keep clean and did that in the morning/afternoon and again in the evening. She made great towel animals. She kept the ice bucket filled twice daily. I cannot say enough about her. She has worked for the company for 16 years (including the company that bought/started NCL). She said she is going on vacation for 6 weeks starting June 8 and has put in to come back to the Breakaway). All of the stewards we encountered in the halls were friendly. I am not sure why there have been negative reviews about staff, unless things have changed! I will also take this time to mention of all our cruises, this is the first where we have seen so much of an officer presence. We saw them frequently all over the ship, including the Captain, Hotel director, Food and Beverage managers, etc. Many also ate in the buffet along with the passengers. They also gave us a card with all their direct phone numbers if we needed anything or had any problems. All were in attendance at our “meet and greet” (thank you Harry for organizing!). I have never seen this much presence from the top brass on other ships I have sailed. They are usually behind the scenes and rarely seen. We had most evening meals in Savor and there were numerous upper level staff seen working in there. We did not eat in Manhattan because the menu was very similar and we just did not feel like dressing more. Lazy!
There was more than enough storage in the cabin. There is a mini-fridge that can be emptied by the cabin steward if desired. The bathroom was very nice and more spacious than others we have been in. The shower was more than adequate and great hot water. I did manage to lift my elbow and knock the soap dispenser all the way off the wall and had to put it back together! LOL! I was more careful after that incident. We used a dummy hotel card for the light switch, because I did not want to lose/forget my room key, I prefer to keep it in my wallet area. We did not need to charge things when out of the room though, so would pull it out and hide it somewhere else in the room most times. There are two outlets under the mirror, none near the bed, so bring a very long extension cord if you need anything plugged up at your bedside. I use a sound machine and the cord came in handy. We found our balcony light switch behind the coffee maker under the mirror, but we never really needed that on.
You do have the switches inside your door for “do not disturb” and “make up room”. Also, the switch where you place your key card to turn on power, right inside the door, is also a light switch for the room. Mash it down to turn on lights. My parents did not know this until the last day!
All of our wait staff were exceptional. There were a few we saw who were less social than others, but that could just be their personalities. Not everyone is gregarious! Including me! Most of our wait staff were very friendly and talkative and we enjoyed our interactions with them. We are not foodies and are pretty easy to please. If I don’t have to cook and clean it up, I am happy! For this reason, we did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants, even passed on the promotion for the free Unlimited dining program (kept our onboard credit deal instead). We ate in O’Sheehan’s twice, Savor, Taste and the buffet. All of our food was good (chef salad at O’Sheehan’s is fresh and excellent, but not huge like chef’s salads on land. It was perfect size for me, but I am petite. Strawberry pound cake is actually like our strawberry shortcake: pound cake, strawberries and whipped cream). I understand everyone has different expectations about food. I also understand it must be extremely difficult to cook for 4500+ people and please them all! Everyone has different tastes and I may like something you hate. With everything available on this ship, I cannot imagine people cannot find something they like. Antonio, Assistant Maitre’d in Savor was very friendly and outgoing. Always smiling and a pleasure! There was more than adequate staff in the venues in which we ate. They assisted each other and food was brought out timely and dishes removed quickly. I never felt at any time there were not enough staff on the ship. We did sail full, every cabin filled and there were a good many children, despite school not yet being out. I suspect the “children sail free” promotion helped with that. Not sure how many more would be on a summer sailing.
There are so many activities and entertainment options on board this ship; we were not able to see all. You should not have any problem finding something to do! The entertainers we saw were exceptional. Fire and ice, she is full of energy!
I did use the iconcierge program to track my account. This is one area that needs an adjustment. I had read on the Boards prior to sailing that the daily service charge could not be used with onboard credit and that was fine. However, when I started checking my account, it was subtracting the service charge from my onboard credit balance, so I “assumed” something had changed. I then didn’t worry about “spending” my onboard credit as I knew it would be taken care of one way or another and the balance kept getting smaller each day I checked until I started owing money. But, the morning we dis-embarked and I looked at my statement, I had an $11.00 non-refundable balance of the onboard credit left, so it had in fact NOT taken service charges from the balance. If I had known this, I would have had a drink or something to cover the rest of the credit. I felt like this was mis-leading since the account balance each day was subtracting service charges from my credit. So beware and DO NOT trust the account balance on iconcierge to be accurate. It is too late by the last day to spend it.
I was also able to use the app to make show reservations and there is an option to make meal reservations as well. I did not use it for anything else. The touch screens located all over the ship are great at showing dining availability at every dining venue. We never had a wait when we went anywhere.
The crew talent show was great and they took that time to bring on stage many of the staff for us to thank and they to thank us. Very nice! Some very talented crew members as well! We also enjoyed all
the Q & A sessions by ship officers. It was difficult to hear the one in the atrium because of so much background noise from passengers at the bar and in other areas surrounding the atrium. The theater is quieter, but only seats 800. I had no problems with the seats, as some have mentioned concerns, but my mother was not comfortable and my husband complained about the bar at the back of the seat and said the seat hurt his back, throws you forward or something to that affect! He is not that large. I am petite and apparently, l fit the chair fine as it did not bother me! My mother is short too, but an inch shorter than me. She kept re-positioning herself, but could never get comfortable. She wouldn’t go back in there for anything because of the seats. This is again a design/furniture issue, and I doubt anything can/will be done until refurbishing time. Maybe take a pillow with you from your room!
The atrium area is used for many games/entertainment options and seating is very limited. Staff do bring out some extra chairs, but it is still never enough. People also watch from the 7th deck above as bar stool type chairs encircle the area above, which is open and you can look over into the atrium. O’Sheehan’s is up there. If you want to see something or participate, you need to go very early for a seat and if multiple things are taking place back to back, almost impossible to get seating. This is a design issue, so not much can be done about it.
As far as smoke, and I am very sensitive to it and it does give me a headache if around it much, there are times you do smell it drifting from the casino, but it was not overbearing most of the time and we just did not remain in those areas, nor did we stay in the casino. There is less on port days when the casino is not open. We only saw someone smoking in a non-smoking area on debarkation day, deck 8 aft, but she did leave. Our cabin neighbor did smoke cigars on their balcony, but thankfully, not too often and did not bother us too much. I just went inside until they were done! And shut my balcony door so it would not drift into my room.
Muster drill was, well, muster drill. It took place at 3:30, or was supposed to. You have your key card swiped and get in your assigned area, ours was in the atrium. It was hot with everyone congregated in close quarters and many passengers arrived late, not NCL’s fault; my dad suggested throwing them overboard! LOL! It is amazing how rude some people can be and don’t respect others’ time. The drill itself did not take long, once they could get started!
We watched sail-a-way (4:00pm) from deck 8 aft and surprisingly, there were not many people there, so was very nice! I guess they were all up top, but we had awesome views of the city skyline, the Memorial tower and the Statue of Liberty!
Some other observations from this sailing compared to other lines, we did not feel pressured to buy drinks as much as other lines. And we did not feel pressured to take photos. I suspect NCL has figured out if people want to buy the photos, they will have the pictures taken on their own without harassment and if they want a drink, they will seek out the bar staff themselves! This was nice and made the sailing more enjoyable without a lot of extra harassing. The bar staff were all around, but not “in your face”.
I did not feel like the ship was overcrowded, despite over 4400 passengers. Most of our sailings have been on larger ships though, so we may be more used to the numbers. There were times when things were more crowded, like sales in the shop areas, after a show let out near the elevators, coming back on the ship the last day, the pool area, etc., but this is typical on any ship I think. Most of the time, I would have no clue so many were on board.
Julie was the Cruise Director and did a phenomenal job. She is very professional in my opinion, as were the other staff on the ship. We have to remind ourselves that all of the staff are working 7 days a week, week after week, month after month, non-stop, with very little down time, doing the same things over and again. This cannot be easy and they must always remain at the top of their game, stay friendly, etc. I daresay; most of us would not be able to do it! Some passengers can’t even do it for one week, LOL! I cannot thank them enough for the experience and for giving of themselves to make it happen for us. I appreciate them all, the ones we see and the ones we do not see. Our lives are in their hands for that week and I respect them for all they do.
Bermuda was awesome and we had great weather. We bought a two day transportation pass at the shore excursion desk and this saved us waiting in a line for one after going off the ship. The pass is good on any bus or ferry for 2 consecutive days, unlimited trips. You can also just buy tokens for $4.00 each (good for one trip, one way) or 3 day passes, when you get off the ship. You apparently cannot buy the ticket booklets (15 tickets for $30.00) right now except in Hamilton. Those can be more cost effective, depending on how many trips you plan, but not convenient if you can only get them in Hamilton. We had decided to remain around the dockyard the last day, so as not to miss the ship for any reason, so the 2 days pass was enough for us.
We rode the bus to Gibbs Lighthouse the first day (it is a good walk and hike uphill to get to it, but gorgeous views, we did not walk the stairs to the top of the lighthouse itself) and then took the bus on to Horseshoe Bay, beautiful beach. They rent umbrellas and chairs there for $11.00 each with $5.00 deposit, you get back when you return them, CASH ONLY. There are restrooms, showers and changing facilities, food and beverages. It was a great relaxing day at the beach. There is a van that will take you up the hill tot he bus stop for $2.00. He'll also bring you down for $1.00, but coming down is not as hard as walking up! LOL! Water was still too cold for us southerners, but many were swimming and snorkeling. We went by ferry to Hamilton later that afternoon for the harbor nights festival. It is mainly craft vendors and foods (snowcones, cotton candy, etc.) and musical entertainment. It did not start till about 7:00, though some vendors were set up around 6:00pm. We heard there would be a party that night at the dockyard from 11:00pm-3:00am, cover charge, but halved for cruisers to I think $5.00. My partying days are long past, so we did not go! LOL!
On Thursday, we took the first ferry to St. Georges (9:30 – get out there before 9:00 as the line was VERY long, I am not sure, but they may have taken a second ferry because lines so long). We got on the first ferry, surprisingly, but had to go to the very top, no seats and VERY windy ride. The ferry does hold a lot of people. We enjoyed walking around St. George’s and also ate at a waterfront restaurant there. It is very nice and quaint. We took the 1:00 ferry back, but could probably have stayed till the 3:30 one and seen more. The ferry actually departed the dock about 15 minutes early and we barely made it, but I think they were bringing another one in. Apparently, when ships are in port, they deviate from schedules and will bring in extra buses and ferries as needed. All of the staff on the ferries/buses were professional and friendly. They were doing their best to accommodate passengers.
There is a snorkel beach park near the ship, it is a man made beach, but nice. There is a $5.00 cover charge to get in. They also rent umbrellas, chairs, etc. It is clean. There is a putt putt type golf next to it, we did not do that. I think it was $15.00 adult fee. The putt putt golf on the top of the ship is actually quite cute and fun. Is harder while at sea and if windy, to play though.
We saw many partaking of the ropes course and the slides. We did not, but was fun to watch others. The basketball court looked to be a regulation sized one and the wind was blocked quite well up there. We did not use the pools/whirlpools, but many did. There seemed to be plenty of lounge chairs in areas not directly around the pool. The adult only area seemed nice as well as the area next to vibe at the front of the ship, more secluded. It can be windy though and may be better in summer months. Lot's of live entertainment in the pool area.
Our trip to Bermuda was very smooth sailing, I barely could tell we were on a ship. The ride back from Bermuda was quite different though! I suggest taking something before you leave Bermuda if any chance you could get sea sick or a little ill. The ship was definitely rocking and rolling and it made doing things more difficult. I was worn out just trying to pack! We had to sail through a cold front and then some storms in area, caused large waves and rougher seas. Plus, you are returning to NY at twice the speed at which you sailed to Bermuda because of the extra sea day going. I felt bad for the staff trying to work on this rocking ship! I would have thought they’d be more used to it, but our cabin steward, doing it for 16 years said it was very difficult to work and try and remain upright! She did say it is not always this bad though. Just another reason to appreciate what they do for us. They can’t just go lie down somewhere like we can!
We did not have trouble with elevators most of the time, except when everyone was arriving back on
the ship at the same time, or a show let out, etc. You just have to be patient, or take the stairs. The majority of the time, a non-issue. We did encounter some passengers sitting on the bottom step in one of the stairwells one time. Not sure why??? My mother has had knee surgery and needs to use the rail, to walk down, so could not go around them, they seemed perturbed to have to get up. Really?? Some people, but again, not NCL’s fault some people are rude!
There was the usual breaking in buffet lines, elevator lines, etc., again, rude people, what are you going to do? Just blow it off, not worth getting upset over. We did see a staff member tell a passenger he could not fill his water bottle at the drink machine, and there were signs clearly stating this. Of course, he was rude to her! I imagine he would say the opposite though…..
Debarkation was easy. You are allowed to choose what time you want to leave the ship and pick up luggage tags starting Friday afternoon near Guest Services. They recommend you be out of your cabin by 8:30am so they can start preparing for the next sailing. We chose a 9:45 time as our flight was not until 2:45, but did leave our room by 8:30 and went for breakfast. We went down to wait to leave the ship and the attendant at the elevator said all tag colors were ready and could leave, so we left the ship about 25 minutes earlier. Go to the aft to debark, as you will end up there anyway if you leave from the front of the ship, deck 7. The lines moved fairly quickly from the ship to the luggage pick up area. I took the advice I had seen on the message Boards and got a porter. He took our luggage and the 4 of us straight to customs, where we did not have to wait in a line like the others. Breezed right through there and he took us on the elevator to the top level (where you embark) and got us to the taxi line right there. No crossing the 12 lanes of traffic on the street, waiting in taxi lines, etc., which would have been more difficult for my parents. It was worth tipping him to do all that for us! The taxi ride to LGA was ~$45.00. There were some streets closed off for a parade and we went through a toll or tunnel and that added about $5.00 to the fare. Not sure if there was a better route to the airport or not, but it was still less expensive than paying $120.00 for the NCL transfer for 4 of us to the airport ($40.00 per person, you have to weigh what option is best for you).
I am pretty sure we did not see everything on this ship as there is so much! We did try to tour it all on a sea day, but I am sure we missed something. I would not hesitate to recommend this ship. Not sure where the negative reviews came from, or maybe changes have been made in response to criticisms, but I did not see anything to warrant most of the complaints. Some things are design issues and cannot be changed. As far as rude/unfriendly staff, I did not see it. We did not wait long to be seated at any restaurant we went to and I did not notice lines at any others. Meals took about as long as they typically do on any ship. Staff were working hard all the time and never stopped. All staff were very professional in appearance and demeanor. Breakaway is a great ship and I could see that all the staff from the officers on down take pride in their work and in the ship. Go with an open mind and good attitude and you’ll enjoy this ship! Less
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