I was on the 7/6/14 to 7/13/14 NCL Breakaway sailing to Bermuda from New York City. I traveled with my wife and son. Also on the sailing were my sister, her partner and her partner’s parents (celebrating 50th wedding anniversary, I’ll refer to them as The Parents even though not my parents). We live in South Jersey, but didn’t want to take any chances with traffic so stayed in NYC on Saturday night. I used points with Hilton, so it only cost the overnight parking, so it was worth it not to stress about traffic in the morning. We had a Haven Forward Facing Penthouse with Balcony (10706) cabin. My sister was in an Ocean View cabin that faced forward and was right next to our cabin (10704). The Parents were in a Haven Spa Suite with Balcony on 14. We were originally in a mini suite and upgraded to the Haven about 2 weeks prior to the cruise, the same thing with The Parents, they were in a handicap accessible balcony and upgraded prior to the cruise. More
One of the Parents, I’ll call him Bob rented a scooter and used it to get around the ship.
We left the hotel for the short drive to the pier and arrived at the parking area around 10:50 or so. The setup was strange where you pulled into the first lot and paid the attendant, who gave you a receipt. You then had to make an awkward u-turn to exit that parking area and continue to the next parking area that was actually next to the ship. We exited the car and were in the pier area at 11:00. There was a separate Haven line for security and this only took a minute. We were then directed past the check in desks to the Haven check in area which was a small (too small room) with seating and 3 or 4 check in people. There was a large group and it was taking them a while to get checked in. They started boarding the Haven guests while we waited for check in. After a few minutes it was our turn and we got our key cards and were then escorted in a group onto the ship and up to the Haven lounge at 11:36, so it was about 35 minutes from exiting our car to being on the ship. In the Haven lounge, the concierge (Adrian) explained some of the Haven perks and let us know that our rooms were ready.
The Parents weren’t as fortunate with an easy embarkation. When they got to their cabin, their key would not work. It appeared they keyed it for their old cabin before the upgrade, even though it was a Haven card and had the proper information on it. The deck supervisor (not sure of his title) opened the door with his master key to make sure the room was ready, but then closed it and told The Parents they needed to go to guest services to get their key fixed even though it was NCL who caused the issue and Bob was using a scooter and had limited mobility. They were forced to trek to guest services to get it straightened out. During dinner at Cagney’s the woman in charge of the Haven and I believe guest services stopped by to ask how the cruise was and they told her about the issue. She indicated that the NCL person should have taken care of fixing the issue and not had them go do it. She took down the information for follow-up.
Our cabin was better than expected, the pictures we as of the H7 category (previously S7) did not do it justice. As others have noted the balcony is small but it was big enough for us. Having the separate bedroom and huge bathroom were great. The shower in the bathroom is one of the best. It has a rain head, jets and a hand held wand. The water pressure was excellent. I wish I had that shower at home. And it was huge; there was plenty of room. There were separate temperature controls in each room including the bathroom. There was plenty of storage available, so much that we had lots of empty drawers and cabinets. There were slippers and an umbrella in the main closet. There was a hotel like safe that was barely large enough to hold my IPad Air, but my wife’s older IPad did not fit. I really like the décor of the cabin. Our butler was Jose who we met on the first day and asked for Chocolate Croissants to be delivered each morning at around 9:30 for my wife. Other than that we didn’t ask for much from the butler. He brought the nightly canapés around. On a few nights he also brought cookies and a big bowl of gummy bears. Our room steward, Greatchelle was also very good. The room was always made up no matter when we left or came back. We would see her in the hall and she would greet us by name. I really liked that the Suite comes with a cordless phone that can be used throughout the ship; this came in handy to meet up. It would be better if it came with 2 per cabin so each adult could have one.
My sister’s cabin (ocean view next door) was actually a pretty good size, larger than I expected. They liked it and didn’t have any complaints.
We checked out the Parents cabin (spa Suite), and they were disappointed in the size, as they would have had more room had they kept their handicap accessible room. The spa suite is one room that really wasn’t that large and has a big spa tub in the corner with a window to look out. The balcony in their cabin was larger as it was the width of the suite, which was wider than a normal cabin. They had wood or laminate flooring instead of carpet, most likely because of the tub next to the bed.
Our concierge was Adrian. We only used him a few times, for “standard” requests. We used the concierge service for:
• Making a spa reservation for my wife to get a pedicure
• Getting tickets to a Second City show when it was “sold out”
• Seating at the Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy show.
• Getting a 7:15 same day reservation at Moderno, when the only times available through dining reservations were 8:45 pm.
• Disembarkation, escorted down crew elevator to ship exit.
SHORE EXCURSIONS / BERMUDA
We bought the 2-day transportation pass. It was $25 per adult, and $12.50 for kids, and good for the buses and ferries. I actually purchased on the ship, so I could charge it to my on onboard account. Buy them early, since I waited until Tuesday and got the last 2 adult passes.
Hartley’s Helmet Diving – This is not offered through the ship and we booked directly. It was $95 per person, plus $15 per person for pictures and then $10 for the CD of the pictures. This was awesome and I highly recommend. There were only 13 people on our trip and they did 2 “dives”, each one lasting about 45 minutes. This was a great way to see fish and sea life, since you can keep your prescription glasses on and your head stays dry. You go down together and move around together, you are not freely walking around. Greg Hartley was our guide; he not only took pictures but also a short video. He had a “Happy Holidays” sign we held up underwater to use the picture as our Holiday card this year. Our tour was at 9:30 and they pick you up right in the dockyard by moon gate, a short 5-minute walk from the ship. We returned back around 1:00 pm.
Dockyard Segway Tour – We booked this excursion through the ship, I believe it was about $79 per person. They show each person how to use the Segway and then we were off. The tour lasted about 1 hour 35 minutes and not only went around the dockyard but also left the dockyard to a nearby park, where we road on some “dirt” trails. This tour was great and I highly recommend it. The guide told us about points of interest as we went around.
Behind The Scenes Tour – They normally only have 2 departure times for this, but they added a third at 10:30 which I signed up for. This was good because there were only 6 people on our tour rather than the normal 16. This was very interesting, they took you to Waste Management, Laundry, Main Kitchen, Food Storage and the Bridge. They took your picture in the kitchen with a large whisk and this photo was given to you “free” as part of the tour.
Horseshoe Bay Beach – We did this on our own, by taking the bus. The bus was easy to catch in the dockyard and also to come back from the beach. We planned on taking the 8:50 am bus and there were 2 busses there to Horseshoe Bay. Our bus left at about 8:45 and went directly to the beach. Apparently this was the 8:20 bus that waited to fill up before it left. My sister was on the 8:50 bus that actually left around 9:10. The ride took about 20 minutes. Since we got there before the official excursions, the beach was not crowded at all. Even after a few hours, it still wasn’t that crowded. We went on the second port day, my sister said when they went past on the first port day, and it was jammed with people. So, I would wait until the second day to go.
Harbor Nights – We took the ferry to Hamilton for Harbor nights. This was a good time walking around looking at the local vendors. They also had food vendors as well.
Dockyard – We walked around the dockyard and checked out the shops. They have miniature golf course called “Fun Golf”. It is really more of a mini golf course, as it doesn’t have windmills etc. My sister took my son and they enjoyed it.
ENTERTAINMENT / ACTIVITIES
Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy – This show was very good. They served beef and shrimp for the entrée. Service to the different tables seemed mixed, we were served very quickly but other tables were just getting their dessert and we had already finished ours. We were escorted to the show by our Concierge and allowed to enter through a crew door before anyone else who was waiting in line. This allowed us to get tickets in the center right in the front of the table. My sister was joining us, and we were able to tell them we were a party of 5 so we had 2 seats saved for them to join us.
Deal or No Deal – This game is ok, as it is “only” $20 per card, but the setup they have is ridiculous. It is very easy to buy cards; they take your key card, and scan the deal or no deal card(s) you are buying. The game is held in the Atrium and as I commented earlier, this area is just not big enough for the crowds. Many people were jammed in, standing around to play. I won an instant ticket. Julie (Cruise Director) told everyone to go to the Bingo activity to redeem your card for the instant ticket. It was confusing as people were waiting in the bingo line, but then they said to wait in the back of Headliners by the piano. So, there was a long line of instant ticket winners and the cruise staff said it takes about 15 minutes for the computer to verify and provide the winner information. Well, 15 minutes was about 35 minutes and they use a printed list of names that they compare the key card you bought the deal or no deal car with to the names on the list to see if you won an instant ticket. Why it takes so long to get the winner list, and why they can’t do something electronically to verify a winner is ridiculous.
Bingo – We only played the last session of Bingo as it was “Budget” bingo where you could buy only 1 chance for each of the 3 games for $20. This was held in Headliners and there was enough room for all that wanted to play. I liked that they used manual bingo cards (unlike our last RCCL cruise where they had devices that did everything for you), but I didn’t like that they used an electronic bingo program on a laptop, no real bingo balls here. The payouts didn’t seem that great, as the winners won something like $150, $220, and then the snowball jackpot was I believe around $2,500 for the week.
Movies – They were showing the movie “Frozen” in the Spice H2o area, which again was not large enough for the crowd. There was barely any seating and when we asked a crew member, they just shrugged as if they didn’t understand English. We finally sat on the edge of the fountains and this was fine until half way through the movie, the fireworks crew came and told everyone on the port side that they were closing that section for safety as they were setting up the fireworks and everyone had to move to the starboard side which was already jammed and standing room only. Why they schedule the movie here and then close half the venue midway doesn’t make sense.
Trivia / Scavenger Hunts – We participated in some trivia which was fun as well as the scavenger hunt and photo scavenger hunts. They aware activity points to those that attend and 2 points to the winner, which you then redeem at the end of the cruise. Of course, they have the redemption for 1 hour in the library at the end of the cruise and we missed it, so didn’t get any plastic shi”p” prizes they kept joking about.
Miniature Golf – They have a pretty nice miniature golf course, unfortunately for some reason they don’t use really golf balls but plastic whiffle ball like balls that are the same size. This made it difficult to play as they always rolled and blew in the wind.
Ropes Course – This was great. I did it twice and was scared to death both times. It was very crowded at the beginning of the cruise but not as much later on. I also walked the plank, unfortunately it was at night and the picture didn’t come out too well. The end of the course is a zip line that was fun, but I wish they had a way to do the course without doing the zip line as there were quite a few kids, including mine that were afraid and then had to try and backtrack on the course to get off. They have “locks” setup on the course that prevents a lot of back tracking so this made it difficult to avoid the zip line. They should have an optional route to end the course without doing the zip line.
Water Slides – I only did the yellow and purple which were pretty good. They yellow for me was better as the purple I stopped at the bottom with about 15 ft left in the tube and had to butt crawl out. My wife did the red slide where the bottom drops out and like it. You have to remove jewelry and glasses to do that slide. The slides were usually crowded, so we did them on a port day after we were back on the ship.
Fireworks – The fireworks were on Friday at around 10:45. You can see them from the outside decks; you don’t need to be in the Spice H20 area. On the backstage tour, the technical director said the fireworks show lasts about 5 minutes and 35 seconds. They are made specifically for the ship and are either biodegradable or turn into fish food. There seemed to be quite a few duds during our show.
Main Dining Rooms – The food in the main dining rooms was pretty good, and they had a wide variety of choices. We never had to wait for a table for lunch or dinner.
O’Sheehans – The food here was ok. They had great skinny French fries. Many times they would bring appetizers and the meals at the same time.
Cagneys – The food here was just OK. They say the sides are big enough to share, but they really didn’t seem to be that large. I don’t think this is worth the $30 cover charge.
Moderno – This was pretty good. Lots of meat choices. I liked some better than others but overall it was good and I think worth the $20 cover charge.
Haven Restaurant - We ate at the Haven restaurant for breakfast and lunch, we never tried dinner. The breakfast food was ok, the lunch food was very good. I really liked the French dip sandwich and my wife loved her burger.
Garden Café – I was not impressed by the buffet and it was my least favorite dining spot. Breakfast was OK, since it is hard to ruin normal breakfast foods. Lunch and dinner were so-so. They kept running out of lemonade from the dispenser, and you would get plain water instead. One good thing is that they had hard ice cream at the buffet with sprinkles and chocolate sauce available. The ice cream was scooped by NCL crew, it was not self service. Although the buffet was usually crowded, we never had trouble finding a table.
Room Service – We only ordered room service once, which was from the Suite breakfast room service. We ordered eggs, potato, bacon, fruit etc. This was good and they gave you a lot of food.
Ocean Blue – My sister and The Parents ate here and said it was terrific.
Overall, I felt service was lacking on this ship. There were individual incidents of good service, but overall it seemed the crew just did enough to get the job done.
Cagney’s Service – The worst service was at Cagney’s. The waitress didn’t seem to know what she was doing. After 50 minutes, we still did not have all of our bar drinks, we had to flag down the waitress to remind her that someone ordered wine and didn’t get it yet. Then we had to remind her that a few people didn’t receive their soup. She also didn’t get the sides order correct and brought extra of some items by mistake. The dinner lasted almost 2 and half hours. My sister’s partner discussed this with the Maître d and he was going to comp a bar bill at a dinner later in the week to make up for the bad service.
We were provided Priority luggage tags. We chose not to do self-disembarkation because we had too many bags. In either case, we could go to the Haven Lounge to have the concierge escort us off the ship. We ate breakfast in the Haven Restaurant and then went up to the Haven around 8:30 to be escorted off the ship. The concierge took us down the crew elevator and out a separate door to join the line and exit the gangway. There was a huge line of people waiting to get into the building and down to the luggage. There was a woman with a Haven sign that told us to go to the right past the line. We ended up through another door and an NCL employee stopped the large line to have us merge in the front of the line. We found our luggage right away and had to wait a few minutes for customs and then were out the door. It was about 30 minutes from cabin to car.
The public areas always seemed very crowded, especially the outside decks and pool area. It seems the venues are not large enough for the crowds. They had a lot of activities in the atrium, like Deal or No Deal, Newlywed Game etc in the atrium and there is limited seating and a lot of people need to crowd around and stand. The pool area was always jammed with many loungers and very congested.
The Haven was great and never felt crowded and I could always get a lounger or chair.
The elevators were very crowded many times and it was faster to use the steps when possible. It was very easy to get on and off the ship in Bermuda, there were never any really long lines, it moved pretty fast. You were able to leave/board anytime while docked. Less
Cabin was great, seemed larger than pictures make it appear. Nicely decorated. Mostly quiet but loud during docking and entering/leaving port. Also, front window overlooks crew party area, so slight noise on port nights around 1:00 am. Huge bathroom, with great shower. Lots of storage space, had lots of empty cabinet/drawers.