It was a totally different experience for us on this HUGE ship. We're used to smaller ones - less crowds (we didn't realise as Canadians it was your Memorial Day weekend). The crowds were abit daunting at times (according to front desk - there were almost 6k and the crew on board!!!). Sadly - never got the chance to try out the water slides / ropes / and climbing wall seemed to not be working when we were onboard. That was abit of a disappointment - and didn't help that on our last sea day back to NYC port - weather conditions closed them all down.
We did manage to not have to reserve the complimentary restaurants (not sure why NCL agent told us we had to - bit odd). So, chose the smaller more intimate ones - Taste/Savor. Manhattan was just way too loud for us to be in. You could barely hear each other talk - even when there was no music.
We never were able to book or get a seat via Standby for the Second City shows. If we could have booked online before we left - maybe we would have lucked in. This is where I find the FreeStyle bit failed - but according to NCL agent - due to the size of the Breakaway - and more of their mega size me ships - this is the route they have to go.
We did see the magician (lucked in on getting into that one) - he was very funny. The dance show ... AMAZING!!!! If I could have just stood at the back to watch (book if you can prior to going on ship) - I would have done that (again - other cruise ships - you can do this - you don't require reservations). Rock of Ages - not to be missed!!
Eating in one of the paying restaurants - FAIL! The food is no different than what is found in the complimentary restaurants - so wouldn't pay the extra price. We found my sauce on my dish - compared to a different sauce on my DH's dish - same flavour!!! - salt, salt, more salt. I know due to cooking in quantities - food is prepared this way - but sad it takes away the unique taste of individual dishes (did I mention I'm a foodie?). Often what was listed as an ingredient in the food was present a few days before hand - then next time - it was not the same (do the cooks not read what the menu says???). A good old American steak (my preference is medium red - they did it to perfection) you could never go wrong with - so I became abit of a meat eater on board the boat! Again, due to not being able to reserve earlier - we had a hard time finding a paying restaurant that had openings suitable to my eating schedule (I'm a Type 1 diabetic of 50 years - I like to eat to a schedule) - and the one we had for our Romance Package - the La Cucina - very noisy - compared to Taste/Savor. We actually were "allowed" to have our desert and coffee outside - despite the weather conditions that were present the day of our reservation. Also, due to our annoyance with the sound (the Fat Cats and whiskey bar are across from the restaurant) - the manager was very kind to allow us to have our coffees for free (which we had thought would be part of the $15/pp fee for a reservation restaurant onboard).
We never did get to figure out when the lobster night was on the ship - if it was posted in the daily sheet - we overlooked it. It wasn't served in the complimentary restaurants like it used to be. What was funny was hearing people say that they thought the Savor/Taste were not complimentary. It was a hoot listening to them - and thinking ... do they not know??? The fill your face areas on the top floor - we tended to avoid like a plague - except for breakfast time - and on the port side of the boat - where things seemed to be abit less crazy. For some reason, people up there seemed to be so irritated - rushed - it wasn't the most pleasant place to be sad to say.
We managed to dodge the bullet of getting to a crowded beach by waiting a few days after people had gotten their bit of sun & fun. We went to a smaller beach - that seemed to have more international folks/locals there - so we avoid the large American crowds at other beaches. Going into Hamilton by local bus (1 hour - but a great way to see the real Bermuda) - and coming back by ferry (faster than a speeding bullet) - was abit of fun. Met up with some locals (ex-pats from America) - who told us how expensive it is to live on the island, as everything is shipped in, but they still live there. I personally found some great deals in Gibbons where the "locals" shop in - so came out feeling happy. I was abit disappointed in the Marks & Spencers or M&S (I'm an ex-pat) - the food section was meager - but according to staff there - in December 2014 - it will be expanded (and they're excited as well). As one staff member said to me - they are an out island - so they are kind of overlooked. Sad. I found clothing items there quite expensive compared to Gibbons.
We may try the NCL Sky from Miami (part of the Buy One Get One Free deal some of us may take advantage of ) - it's smaller.
We are basically after 15 years of cruising - partially put off on how the cruise ship industry is now run - sad to say (they are cutting corners in order to make profit from these expensive large ships probably). Now looking at different methods to have abit of R&R from the general everyday life - perhaps smaller ships run by different companies that still stick with the "old fashioned" way of cruising. I have to admit pn this cruise I met some pretty rude/unhappy cruisers - never experienced so many of them before - very unnerving at times. Even my little Sock Monkey didn't shake them out of their glum ville zone. Maybe they were put off by the crowds? Not sure, but we made the most of it as best as we could.
Also, if you do have a balcony stateroom - and it's in the port/starboard aft side - beware - if you are a person who likes to sleep with balcony door open for fresh air - rethink where you have your stateroom. We were in 14868 - and we had to close our balcony door in order to sleep (we tended to hit the hay at around midnight). This was our first time having a balcony - it was nice (though some people complained they were small - but we found it fine as we had nothing to compare it to). Next cruise, if we do go, will be back to inside cabin - more peaceful hopefully - despite not having a view of the sea.
The fireworks BTW, were awesome despite the cool temps (the day we left Bermuda we had 40 knot winds / 12-16 foot seas / and a few folks with green faces). Despite being bundled up for most nights on the boat both outside and in (remember Atlantic Ocean this far north tends to be cooler than further south in the Caribbean area) - the fireworks were awesome!!! Have seen Canada Day ones from our sailboat - but these ones - being closer off the aft of the cruise boat - wow!!!