Freestyle is the norm when it comes to dining on Breakaway. This means you can eat virtually when you want, where you want. This applies to the free or included dining, as well as extra-fee dining. Traditionalists will love the three "main dining rooms": The Manhattan Room and more-intimate options, Taste and Savor. Quality is generally good, thanks in part to Norwegian's 2014 drive to improve all of its dining options. (Passengers had complained about declining quality, and the line listened, investing in new menu options and improving on standards.) Vegetarian and healthy options are always available at these three venues.
Savor (Deck 6): Savor, like Taste, its identical counterpart, has restaurant-style dining at breakfast (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.), lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.) and dinner (5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.) Menus are largely the same throughout the cruise. Options at the two restaurants are identical, and decor is similar. For lunch, you'll get casual and tasty meals such as salmon burgers, meatball subs, shrimp and arugula salad and Vietnamese chicken pho (soup). At dinner, choose from entrees like pork loin, steak salad and Indian curry, and desserts like pecan pie, creme caramel or a warm chocolate volcano. Hot breakfast options include eggs prepared to order, pancakes, waffles, French toast, hot and cold cereals, pastries, fruit and fruit juices.
Taste (Deck 6): Located across the corridor from Savor, Taste offers an identical ambience and menu at slightly different times, and it doesn't open for lunch. Otherwise, breakfast (8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) and dinner (5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.) offer the same menus daily, with specials each day.
The Manhattan Room (Deck 7): While the Manhattan Room offers the same menu throughout the week as its counterparts Savor and Taste, what's unique in this venue is that it's styled as a supper club, with a large dance floor, live band, and gorgeous views out the aft-facing multi-deck window. The Manhattan Room is open for dinner only, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Make sure to save room for dessert: The line's signature Opera Cake, made from almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup with a coffee creme anglaise and candied almonds, is worth a splurge.
O'Sheehan's (Deck 7): One of the most popular venues aboard Breakaway, O'Sheehan's is open 24 hours a day, though breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. It's mostly pub fare. In the morning, its English breakfast (eggs, bacon, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes) will really jump-start your day. Beyond that, there's excellent fish and chips, burgers, chicken wings and French fries. O'Sheehan's Ice Cream Bar is the only place where you need to spend money; it offers chocolate sundaes and milkshakes for a fee.
Shanghai's Noodle Bar (Deck 7): Tucked in a corner beside the casino, the noodle bar was one of our favorite dining spots onboard. Grab a stool at the bar and, courtesy of the open kitchen, watch the show as chefs slice, dice, steam and fry delectable potstickers, shrimp dumplings, beef chow fun, and Peking shrimp and chicken. We loved the noodles, which either come with broth or from the wok (the Signapore Noodles were a favorite). Dessert's got two choices -- there's chilled mango pudding and five spice chocolate cake. Our only beef with Shanghai's is that it's open for limited hours at lunch and dinner -- this would be a great spot for all-day dining.
Garden Cafe (Deck 15): Breakaway's buffet venue, the Garden Cafe is open for breakfast (7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.), lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.). There's also an early riser's light breakfast (6 a.m. to 7 a.m.) and late-night noshing (9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.). The venue, which wraps around three sides of the ship, is divided into different food stations (hot breakfast food in one cafeteria line, cold cereals in another, fresh fruit in yet an additional area) but lines form habitually and the scene is a bit chaotic. The food is steam table fare and is adequate if you want a quick snack break from the pool deck, but seating is tight when the ship is full and the Garden Cafe can feel extremely cramped. At dinner, its themed menus -- from Asian to Mexican -- show the Garden Cafe at its best. With so many other options for evening dining, the venue's not crowded, and the fresh-rolled sushi -- prepared on the spot -- and wok dishes on the Asian night were delicious.
Uptown Grill (Deck 16): Just upstairs and offering a nice respite from the crowds in the Garden Cafe is the Uptown Grill. This more intimate buffet venue focuses on comfort foods, like sweet and savory pies, sausages, grilled burgers and fried eggs. On our trip, it took passengers a while to find it, so it was rarely crowded.
The Haven Restaurant (Deck 16): Passengers who book Haven category accommodations -- the nicest onboard Norwegian Breakaway -- are entitled to dine at an exclusive restaurant located within the Haven complex. There's no charge for qualified passengers, and the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The menus are dynamic and delicious, but do not change throughout the cruise, assuming that even Haven guests want to sample other restaurants onboard. For breakfast, the menu includes crab cakes benedict, steak and eggs, and open-faced omelets. Lunch features bistro fare, like smoked salmon, shrimp cocktail, swordfish and beef burgers. Dinner's menu offers the most choices; these include starters such a gazpacho, polenta cake, Ahi tuna and a delicious shrimp cake. Entrees such as pan-seared scallops, chicken breast and New York Strip steak with white truffle fries are featured. The restaurant's signature dessert is its warm espresso chocolate brownie (but the banana cream pie's also dishy).
Room Service: Offered 24 hours, the room service menu features Continental breakfast fare, soups, sandwiches and a handful of entrees. Passengers who reside in suite accommodations, included but not limited to the Haven, can order hot breakfast items, as well. Room service is free for Haven and suite passengers, but all other room service orders are subject to a convenience fee of up to $7.95 per order. It's also considered appropriate to tip the delivery person a few bucks.
One of Norwegian's greatest strengths, across its fleet, is the vast range of dining options, and Breakaway ups the ante on variety. Passengers can try a steakhouse, French bistro, Brazilian churrascaria, Asian Teppanyaki, a seafood restaurant and a raw bar, an Italian trattoria and a noodle bar. All specialty and entertainment dining carries an 18 percent auto-gratuity.
Nearly half of the restaurants on Norwegian Breakaway fall into the extra fee category, with service charges that range from $14.95 to $39. Uniquely for a cruise ship, it also has eateries, like Carlos Bake Shop, Dolce Gelato, and Ocean Blue's Raw Bar, where there's no up-front charge but you pay for what you order. You'll pay anywhere from $3 for a cupcake to $35 per person for a shellfish sampler that includes oysters, prawns and lobster.
If you want to make sure you have the chance to dine at specific alternative restaurants, you can book before your cruise via Norwegian's website. We highly recommend that you do that. Otherwise, you can reserve onboard or, if you want to play it by ear, keep an eye on monitors throughout the ship that show how full (or empty) restaurants are by the half hour.
Also, if you're planning to eat in more than a few fee-extra restaurants, you might want to buy a dining package. For $119 per person (and all passengers in a cabin must purchase the plan), you'll get dinner access to Le Bistro, Teppanyaki, La Cucina, Moderno Churrascaria and Cagney's Steakhouse every night during a seven-night sailing. Ocean Blue and a la carte restaurants aren't included, though you'll get 20 percent off at those restaurants if you've purchased the package. There's a kids' policy in these restaurants; kids 4 to 12 who order from the restaurant menu pay a half-price surcharge. Those who order from the ship's standard children's menu eat for free.
A heads-up: Even in the fee-extra alternative restaurants, diners still pay extra for coffees like espresso, cafe latte and cappuccino.
Most fee restaurants are open for dinner only, from roughly 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Ocean Blue on the Waterfront, Shanghai Noodle Bar and Wasabi Sushi are open for lunch, generally from noon to 2 p.m.
Le Bistro (Deck 6); $19.95 per person: The French influenced Le Bistro offers classic French fare with an American twist. Incidentally, this venue was the contemporary cruise industry's first alternative restaurant (on a ship no longer operated by Norwegian). With floor-to-ceiling glass windows fronting a mini-atrium, the venue offers great people watching from inside. Menu highlights include starters like escargot, steamed mussels and Coquilles St. Jacques Provencal (seared scallops). One interesting reasonably new addition is Les Quatre Cornets, four cones filled with savory tastes from duck confit to smoked chicken salad.
Main entrees heavily favor classic Bistro dishes, and you'll find a delicious pork with Calvados cream, butter-roasted lobster tail, bouillabaisse, coq au vin, a decadent duck duo and a 32-ounce Cote de Boeuf (to be shared). Desserts were right on point as well, and the chocolate fondue is just fantastic.
One disappointment: Le Bistro's wine list offers way more American than French wines.
Teppanyaki (Deck 6); $25 per person: Consider a night at Teppanyaki to be dinner and a show, with the chef as star. At this 96-seat venue, which sells out just about every night, chefs send onions, eggs and vegetables flying through the air before the ingredients are turned into flavorful meals. Entrees include combinations of chicken, beef and seafood (including lobster) served with miso soup, ginza salad, vegetables and garlic fried rice. Green tea cake and fruit sashimi are dessert options.
Cagney's (Deck 8); $29.95 per person: One of the most popular restaurants on any Norwegian ship, Cagney's is a steakhouse (with terrific seafood). On one side, it's bounded by The Waterfront promenade -- and has outdoor seating. On the other, it overlooks The Manhattan Room, the ship's supper club. And in the center, there's an open kitchen, always abuzz with activity. The menu is superb, with so many choices you could dine there numerous times. Particular specialties include steaks, of course; grilled rib eye, New York strip and filet mignon are all available, with a choice of sauces like Cajun seasoning, Dijon mustard, garlic butter and pepper. Other options for meat-eaters include smoked ribs, truffle chicken, grilled bison and lamb chops. There's also a lobster and shrimp entree, and the sea bass is delicious. For starters, the split pea soup -- a broth, not a cream -- was so fresh and delicious we wondered if the chef had a garden somewhere onboard. The salad range is impressive, as well.
La Cucina (Deck 8); $14.95 per person: Ambience-wise, La Cucina, the ship's Italian restaurant, is warm, cozy, family friendly (lots of big tables) and has its own bar and even a pizza oven, not to mention tables outside on The Waterfront. The menu itself is reminiscent of The Olive Garden; it hits the expected dishes but offers few surprises for those who've traveled in Italy. So you'll find, as starters, bruschetta, salads like Caesar and caprese, and a minestrone soup option. Entrees include chicken parmesan, osso buco, pork marsala and rib-eye. The pasta choices are of the comfort food variety and there's spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccini carbonara, spaghetti with sausage, and lasagna -- in both meat-lovers and vegetarian varieties. Risotto is also offered. For us the stand-out was the freshly prepared pizza menu; we loved the Salsiccia e pancetta (mozzarella, Italian sausage and pancetta) and the peperoncio (mozzarella, beef and garlic). Despite our lukewarm experience with the food, the dinner-only restaurant is quite popular and could easily be a solid option for lunch, as well, especially with its alfresco seating.
Moderno Churrascaria (Deck 8); $19.95 per person: If you're planning a visit to the Brazilian inspired Moderno Churrascaria for dinner, here's a tip: Try not to eat much all day. Located across from Cagney's (and with similar alfresco seating), the venue is a carnivore's dream. You start off by helping yourself to cold appetizers from the best salad bar onboard. There's plenty for vegetarians with potato salad, artisan cheeses, fresh vegetables, roasted garlic, and hearts of palm, as well as cured meats. Then the show begins as "gauchos" (aka waiters) bring around a variety of meats that they shave off skewers onto your plate. You're given a disc to place on your table that's green on one side (which means more meat!) and red (stop!). The offerings include Portuguese sausages, lamb, both beef and pork ribs, lime-infused chicken, filet mignon, and garlic beef, among others. Sides are served family style; there's rice, garlic mashed potatoes, black beans, and the most delicious sweet fried bananas. Dessert, if you've got room, is on the light side -- coconut flan and mango rice pudding were good choices.
Ocean Blue (Deck 8); $39 per person: Positioned as the ship's most upmarket restaurant, seafood-oriented Ocean Blue is noted New York chef Geoffrey Zakarian's first onboard restaurant. This is a date night spot, elegant and sleek. It's located on The Waterfront Promenade, but the outside tables are rather too close to a cigar smoking area. The menu by the one-time Iron Chef features starters such as a delicious curry and carrot bisque, mussels in chicken confit, and a fried chickpea salad. For entrees, there's wild salmon, crab risotto, sea bass, monkfish and the restaurant's signature dish, Dover sole. Carnivores will find Delmonico steak and Peking duck on the menu as well. Dessert options include a cheese plate, a gorgeous lemon tart with fresh blueberries, and apple strudel with aged cheddar cheese and whiskey sauce.
Editor's Note: Ocean Blue is moving to a la carte pricing October 2015.
This restaurant was often one of the only alternative venues to have spare tables each night. But if you're celebrating something special, don't take chances and make a reservation.
The Raw Bar (Deck 8); a la carte: A companion restaurant to Geoffrey Zakarian's Ocean Blue, the raw bar -- it's literally a bar facing outward into Deck 8 -- features snacks and seafood along with a superb wine list. Crudo options include salmon tartare, tuna, yellowtail and black bass ceviche. Prices range from $6 to $7 per item. The menu offers a range of shellfish, all at market price, including oysters, prawns, clams and even a half pound Maine lobster. Desserts, which are identical to those served in Ocean Blue, cost about $3.50 apiece. Open for lunch and dinner, The Raw Bar was never too crowded.
Ocean Blue on The Waterfront (Deck 8); a la carte: It's a terrific option for lobster roll and crab toast and other casual fare -- think boardwalk-style food with an upscale twist. Dishes here are inspired by the more upscale Ocean Blue, but seating is outdoors and much more casual. It's open for lunch only.
Wasabi (Deck 8); a la carte: Another good option for lunch and dinner is Wasabi, which specializes in freshly made sushi and sashimi. Price, per piece, ranges from $2.25 to $4.50. Also offered are Yakitori dishes, grilled and accompanied by dipping sauce; varieties include Tsukune (chicken dumplings), Gyu (short rib), Ika (squid), and Kuruma Ebi (prawn); price ranges from $2 to $3.50 per piece.
Carlo's Bakery (Deck 8); a la carte: The first cruise bakery for Buddy Valastro, popularly known as the "Cake Boss," is located on the Waterfront and sells cream-filled pastries, cannolis, "lobster tails," cupcakes, biscotti and elaborate cakes. Right outside the bakery is the Gelato Bar for yummy ice cream. It's open from noon to 5 p.m. daily. A second cafe on Deck 6 also serves up a smaller sampling of Carlo's baked goods. Prices range from $2.50 for ice cream to $49.95 for a cake.
Chef's Table (Deck 16 in the Haven); $99 per person: A spectacular dinner with wine pairings, this once-a-cruise event is seriously limited in size (there's only room for 12-passengers) so sign up early. The gracious, three-hours-plus meal starts with cocktails in the Haven's lounge -- typically open only to residents of the ship's chic luxury complex. There you're greeted by the ship's executive chef, who stays close by throughout the evening to not only introduce each course but also describe its preparation; a sommelier is also present to discuss each wine pairing. The multicourse meal features small tastes of a variety of dishes -- decadently creamy asparagus and cauliflower flan, veal chop with truffle veal jus and plantain crusted sea bass, to name a few -- and doesn't leave you overstuffed at the end. The service and hospitality were superb, the cuisine and wines top-notch. What really made the evening special for us was the chance to dine with 11 other passengers who were equally interested in food and wine and get to know them.
Cirque Dreams and Dinner (Deck 6); $39.99 for Cirque Dreams and Dinner; $24.99 for Wine Lovers the Musical: A sort of theater-in-the-round, The Cirque Dreams and Dinner show in the Spiegel Tent has a jungle-themed twist. Lots of animal-print fabrics adorn the interior, where acrobats dressed as various African animals perform gravity-defying feats while patrons dine on shrimp and steak. A handful of the acts are definite stunners, and the show is family-friendly. The mediocre three-course, banquet-quality set menu features shrimp and filet mignon as the entrees, and the service is haphazard. "Wine Lovers the Musical" takes place at lunchtime only. The 50-minute show encourages giggle-worthy audience participation in addition to a sampling of three white wines and three reds. You'll also get a Prosecco at the end for a toast with the actors. Food options include banquet-style dishes served to maximize efficiency and minimize interruptions. Menu options include a duck and asparagus salad, steak and Cajun shrimp, and a mochacino cheesecake.