Background: I was travelling with my wife, son(2), in-laws and niece(4). I have been on 5 cruises, all with Carnival. This was my first NCL cruise, so all of my comparisons are going to be with Carnival Ships (Miracle/Pride).
Embarkation was fairly easy. We drove to the terminal and parked our van. It was $280 to park for the week, but the ease of having our van for the return home beat out having to get to the train station, wait for the train, etc. We walked downstairs, got our number and were on the ship within probably and hour and a half around 1:45. I have waited for several hours at the NYC terminal before, this was an easy experience. Our rooms were ready by the time we got there. We dropped our luggage and were upstairs getting fat within 20 mins. The safety brief was quick and easy. They scan your card to ensure you attend.
We had rooms 13118 and 13120. They were two separate rooms that had an adjoining door we could close if we wanted to. This feature was nice because we were travelling with two smaller children and three of us could go to a show and one can stay to watch the kids. If any of them needed naps we were able to let them sleep. It was just real convenient. My first impression walking in to the room was one thing, it seemed small. The bed was really big and the sofa was fine, but there was very little walking room. This extended to the balcony. This is the smallest balcony I have ever seen on a cruise ship. So small that you cannot simply go out to your balcony to sit and enjoy the day with someone else. If you sit in the chairs your knees will hit the railing. The only way you could enjoy the balcony was to stand at the railing and look out. The bathroom was pretty big and the shower was great. You were given shampoo, conditioner and body wash. The water pressure left something to be desired, but it was enough to get a decent shower in. If you are looking for the hairdryer, it is in the main room under the counter. Initially we asked for a crib for my son. When we got it, it was the pack-n-play type that I could put together without having to wait for the steward. There was literally only one place we could put it, and when we put it there (diagonally was the only way it would fit) we could not get to the balcony without jumping over the bed and the couch, which if you exercise your inner ninja, you can do without waking a sleeping toddler. We gave up after one night of this and just had the steward make the sofa into a bed too. My son fell asleep with us then I moved him when he was out. The storage in the room was abysmal. The closet was pretty small and it was located in the most bizarre location. You had to literally sit on the bed if you wanted to get in and out of your closet. There are other random shelves you can use as well by the TV. The TV left a lot to be desired. They had basically news channels, a sports channel, nickelodeon, a "favorite TV shows" channel and a "favorite movies" channel that played movies in a loop. They were decent movies though.
Aside from a couple of things she was great. The room always got cleaned when we wanted it to and the beds always got made. One mild annoyance was that we kept pretty much the same schedule for each day of the cruise, but it always seemed that when we came back to the room from whatever we were doing she was always working on our rooms. We had adjoining rooms so we would simply wait in the one that was done, if either one was, while she was cleaning the other.
Dining: My favorite part about cruising. We were on the dining plan, so we were able to eat at most of the specialty restaurants. Make your reservations for the specialty restaurants the second you get on ship or the only thing that will be available will be 9:30 slots. While the free-style dining thing was good in some instances, if you wanted to go to a show it was an annoyance. Even if you booked the earliest dinner at 5:30, the shows began around 6:30-7:00. Plus you had to get there at least 10 minutes before the show or you lost your reservations. There were several occasions where the party that was going to the show would have to leave dinner early before dessert was even served, and the person watching the children was left waiting on their own for the completion of dinner.
Night 1-Tepoanyaki (included in dining package)
The first night we ate at the Teppanyaki restaurant 5:30 reservation. Dining with a 2 and a 4 year old, this is the ideal place to go. The Chef was great and the food was really good too. I ordered the Filet and Shrimp, but there were other offerings that you would see at a typical Teppanyaki restaurant. Started with Miso soup, then the salad and edimame, then the final meal. The food was pretty good, but the entertainment was the best. Noticeably absent were the onion volcanoes for obvious reasons. We were the only ones there, probably because it was the first night. I would definitely recommend this restaurant.+
Night 2-Cagneys (included in dining package)
We ate at the steakhouse the second night. We had 5:30 reservations and a reservation for two at burn the floor at 7:00. The service at the steakhouse was very slow. Initially we though it was that we had a group of 7 come in right before us so maybe the kitchen got busy, but later on in the cruise confirmed that the service speed was simply the norm for the steakhouse. After we sat down, it took the waiter 20 mins just to acknowledge that we were there. We put our drink order in (sodas and milk) which he got completely wrong and it was 45 minutes before we even got our appetizers. The menu was typical steakhouse fair, the appetizer option was pretty bad. I got a shrimp cocktail and baked potato soup. The soup was amazing and the cocktail was good. After another 1/2 hour we got our main course. That's over an hour just to get our main course. The two that had reservations stayed to enjoy their main courses then left immediately after but before dessert. They were late for the show but still got seats. I got the rib eye. It was pretty good, not amazing but good. I had a side of baked potato as well. After dinner we got our desserts and left, I cannot remember what I had. We were out of the restaurant around 7:45. I would recommend Cagney's for people who do not have anything to do for a few hours. The food was good, but not that good.
Night 3-La Cuchina
We had made reservations for 5:30 and two had Rock of Ages at 6:30. Considering the night we had before, I was not optimistic. This was the Italian restaurant. This place was great. The service was quick. We had told them we had to catch a show and they did what they could. Bread and olive oil are served as are typical Italian fare. I had fried calamari and the chicken Parmesan and it was great. I love when the breading is really crunchy and does not get mushed up by the sauce. It was great, but I did not have time to savor as we were rushing to make our show. We left before dessert but I was told they had Tiramisu. I wish we would have gone back to this place instead of Cagney's again.
Night 4-Moderno (included in dining package)
This was harbor night in Hamilton, so we had a late reservation at 9:30. This is the place I was the most excited to go to. It turned out to be somewhat disappointing because I had in my mind what I thought it was going to be, and it was not that. They have a huge salad and soup bar that has some pretty delicious seafood chowder. I was saving room for the meats though. These guys come around with different meats on skewers and if you have your card on green they will stop and give you what it on it. They only come buy once each type of meat though, so it is not like it is all you can eat. I think because it was late, they did not want to cook more meat. When the meat came out hot, it was great. If you were getting one of the last two that were on the skewer, it was not very good at all. This was the case with my wife and the filet. She got the last filet and they had to bring out another for me. Hers was chewy and warm, mine was tender and hot. I felt for her because that is what she was looking forward to. I got every choice of meat they brought out. My favorite things were the Portuguese sausages and surprisingly the lamb. I am not a huge fan of lamb, but it was great. The fried bananas were also very good. Another place I wish I would have gone to instead of Cagney's again.
Night 5-Cirque Dreams show (extra cost)
We had reservations for the cirque dreams show. This was an extra cost that was not covered in our purchased dining plan. The show itself is brilliant. My 2 year old son was amazed by all of the people that were dressed as animals doing acrobatic things. He loved it. I found myself watching his reactions and the enjoyment in his face more that watching the show itself. You have to get there early to get a really good seat, but the stage raises up so you can see it from almost anywhere. The food was okay, it was not really my cup of tea. The menu was set. They had prosciutto and mozzarella for an apetieizer and coconut shrimp and steak for a main meal. I ate only the prosciutto, and then the main meal. The steak tasted like it had some sort of Salisbury steak sauce on it, which I like but others in my company did not. I was honestly not expecting too much from the dinner because we went for the show. This was a great dinner for a family with little ones.
Night 6-Cagney's again. (included in dining package)
This only confirmed that the service is slow. We went again, reservations at 5:30, this time without a time limit and the service took just as long. I had the same exact thing for appetizers because nothing else really appealed to me. They have a short rip confit and drumsticks, if you search the internet people have put menus out there. This time I had the bone-in rib-eye. It tasted a little better than the plain rib-eye. This place is just not good for people with children. If you like taking a while for your meals, then it is great for you.
Night 7-Teppanyaki (included in dining package)
We voted that with the kids, this place was the best and decided to eat there again. We had the same experience as the first time, only this time the place was packed and we had to wait about 10 mins for the chef to come over to the table. The chef across from us was doing teppanyaki for the first time with real customers. He did a great job, but the highlight of the night was him breaking about 4 eggs trying to get one to land in his chef's hat.
We ate at O'Shehans's for lunch one day. They have pub-fare type food available, and they are apparently open 24/7 which is great. I ordered the hot wings and a hamburger, and my wife had the spinach and artichoke dip and the pot-pie. The wings sucked. They were mushy and I had to force myself to eat them. My wife's spinach and artichoke dip was pretty watery and not very good either. I love hamburgers. This hamburger was pretty good. It is far better than the ones they served at the buffet (we'll get to that later). My wife said the pot pie was good, I did not try it. Service was a little longer than I expected, but we did not have the kids so we didn't care.
Wasabi Sushi (a la carte)
My wife and I stopped for some sushi at Wasabi after we saw Burn the Floor. We ordered two rolls, caterpillar and spicy tuna. They were both very good. We also had a small carafe of sake to enjoy with our rolls. It was nice place to stop for some quick sushi to snack on.
Shanghai Noodle Bar (a la carte)
I had wanted to try this place the entire cruise because I have never had noodles. We forced ourselves to finally go on the last night of the cruise. I am glad we went. We got pot stickers as an appetizer and I had the glass noodles in chicken broth. It was definitely a new experience. At first I felt like I was eating jellyfish, but it grew and grew on me, now I am looking for places around my house to get noodles like this. I added a touch of soy sauce to the broth and it was perfect. I cannot remember what my wife had, but she was still full from Teppanyaki so she did not eat all of it.
Carlo's Bake Shop (a la carte)
Went here because it was the "Cake Boss" place. I've never heard of him but his cupcakes were great. I recommend the one that has the cream cheese topping. I think it was a carrot cake cupcake.
Dolce Gelato (a la cart)
We got gelato for the kids and I had mango sorbet. It was my first sorbet so it was a new experience. I loved the chunks of fruit in it.
Nickelodeon Breakfast (extra)
We signed my son up for the Nickelodeon pajama jam breakfast. The show was great, the food sucked. It was basically fruit and finger foods for kids. They gave each kid a cup with a streamer and bubbles and a bracelet. At first it is only the NCL team dancing in the main dining room. Then they bring out each of the characters to dance. They are all in PJs. There is Spongebob and Patrick, the Fairly-Odd parents, and Diego and Dora. They come out and dance around, then you have a chance to dance with them and take pictures. My 2 year old knew who Spongebob was but none of the others. My 4 year old niece knew Dora.
Aside from the Nick breakfast we ate breakfast each morning in the buffet upstairs. It was never really overly crowded as they had numerous stations for each type of food that looped all the way around the back of the ship. The space that seemed the most crowded was right through the double doors where they had the washy-washy people. My son loved them. If you just walk further back you can always find a table. What irritated me the most are tables for 6-8 that had two people sitting at them. Cruising with 6 people, this really made me mad. There were always plenty of meats (bacon, sausage), fruit, cereal, eggs, bread, bagels etc. for everyone. My favorite thing about the cruise is the omelettes. There were so many omelette stations on the Breakaway you could always find a line no longer than 3-2 people. It was great. I ate two omelettes every morning like a fatty.
We ate lunch every day except for one at the Buffet. They have various sandwich and pizza stations, as well as an Asian station. My wife said their Asian station sucked, but I never tried it. Like I said before, I love hamburgers. One other favorite thing of mine about the cruising is having the option to eat a nice burger for lunch every day. The burgers on the Breakaway are bad, and they are bad for one main reason. The buns. It's not that the buns are stale, its that they seem really stiff. So they do not look stale, but they have the texture of it. It ruins the burgers for me. I ended up just getting pizza or hot dogs and french fries every day. Not bad but like I said, I love hamburgers.
My wife and I did the Ice Bar. It was kind of gimmicky but I thought it was fun. $20 per person and you get two drinks. Good to do once.
There was a generic children's menu for the entire ship. It has items such as pizza, hot dogs, mac-n-cheese etc. I will say at every restaurant (except Cagney's) they were quick to bring out the kids food right away.
I did not eat at the following:
Ocean Blue (I thought they had an outside walk up window with a la carte items but it was closed every single day of the cruise. I would have like to try the crab toasts), Raw Bar, Manhattan Dining Room, Taste Restaurant, Savor Restaurant and Le Bistro.
Entertainment: I'm not much for going to shows on cruises. Often I am the one that volunteers to watch the kids. I just do not really enjoy people singing and dancing very much, so take these reviews with a grain of salt. You can actually make reservations before you cruise. I highly recommend doing this as there are always stand by lines for the shows.
Burn the Floor
A bunch of people dancing different forms of dance. Like I said, I'm not big on the shows. My wife usually is and she did not like this one either. We ended up leaving a little bit early to go get some sushi.
Rock of Ages
I thought this was very entertaining. It was a great show with 80's rock songs. They say don't bring your kids for a reason people, don't bring your kids unless you want to be explaining the meaning of a lot of things. We left mine with my in-laws. I would recommend this to anyone going on the Breakaway.
Ship Design: I'm just going to describe some things that I noticed that I really could not put anywhere in the places above.
This concept was kind of neat. Basically it is an outer promenade that wraps around the back half of the ship on the 8th deck. All of the inside restaurants also have outdoor sitting eras. There are also various places to sit and enjoy the view.
There are two pools open to everyone on the upper decks. The first has 4 hot tubs around it and it is close to the stage. The second looks a little deeper and it is by the splash area and slides.
Nickelodeon Splash Area
Like I said before, we were travelling with children, so this is where we spent 90% of our cruise on ship. It was simply great. Any negative aspect of this cruise was cancelled out by how much my son LOVED this Nickelodeon splash area. There was a little pool about 8 inches deep with a slide sliding into it and a couple little slides inside of it. The whole pool was surrounded by a wall with wooden bench material on top of it. It was so easy just to sit on the benches with your feet in the water and watch your kid play. One thing I will say that is bad is that the mortar that was used on the bench material can rub off, so a little one climbing in and out to go down the slide that slides into the pool can get black marks on their bathing suits and sometimes skin. It rubs off in the shower. Outside of this little pool is a splash area with streams of water shooting intermittently all over the place.
Fitness Center/Running Track
The fitness center was great and never too crowded to get a machine. The running track was decent size, but you always had people walking across it. If you run down on the Waterfront there is less people you just cannot make a complete loop.
I did not utilize the children's programs.
Bermuda: This was our second cruise to Bermuda, so we knew what we wanted to try that we had not done the first time out.
The first day we were in Bermuda we purchase the 3 day transit pass and hopped on the bus right to Horseshoe Bay Beach. Crowds or not, there is a reason this beach is one of the most beautiful in the world. It is gorgeous. I recommend walking a ways down the beach, the crowds thin out and it is far more peaceful. There are chair and umbrella rentals available, as well as a snack bar and bathroom facilities. Caught the bus back and got dropped off right outside the ship. Then we got ready for Harbor Nights.
The city of Hamilton closes its main street on Wednesdays and has something called Harbor Nights. There are local vendors where you can buy anything from jewelry to doughnuts. It was neat just walking around. There are also inflatable areas for kids and food booths serving up various types of fish, jerk, and BBQ. There is also a parade and that is fun to watch for the kids.
I recommend the Maritime Museum in the old fort. We did not do it this time but we did it last time. I was really neat to walk around the fort and be able to see all the old cannons and everything in the museum. You can also hit up the little snorkel park right outside. The sand is a little rough but once you get in the water it is pretty fun. There are bathroom facilities, rentals and snacks available here as well. There is a spray fountain out front kids can play in too as well as a playground. There is souvenir shopping a plenty here. The Bermuda Glassworks actually makes it in front of you, and attached is the Bermuda Rum Cake Factory where you can try different types of rum cakes. The clock tower shopping mall is a tale of two cities. The back part of the mall has more of a clean feeling while the front part is kind of just thrown together.
Elevators-There are simply not enough for a ship this size and they move terribly slow. There are two banks of elevators and unfortunately for me our room was forward on the ship and the closest bank was mid ship. I had to walk across half the ship just to get one. It seems it would have been better if they had three banks instead of two. It was almost impossible to get an elevator during debarkation.
This was bar far the best debarkation from a ship I have ever experienced. I was off the ship by 7:45 and in the van on my way home by 8:30. Expensive but worth it to park there. Customs was awful and moved terribly slow. There were two lines but one had 5 people working it and the other had 3. I literally waited in line as people came after me in the other line then were through and I had only moved a few spaces.
In the end this cruise was fun, but I do not think I will be going back to NCL. It was just too expensive. The food alone does not justify it. I'd rather just go back to Carnival where the main dining rooms are so good you don't have to specialty restaurants and it does not cost and arm and a leg to get a decent sized room with a decent sized balcony. It was not worth the cost. Great kids splash area though.