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Norwegian Breakaway


A city of endless possibilities, high energy and great diversity, New York has always been the benchmark for first-rate dining, unparalleled shopping and cultural activity. For visitors, it's an exciting city and, at times, is more than a little intimidating. New York natives always seem to be in a hurry, but with midtown traffic often at a complete standstill, it may be faster for them to walk across town than to take a bus. When you hear a foreign language, it could be international tourists -- flocking to the city in droves because of the weak dollar -- or it could be a New Yorker.

It's love at first sight when the Empire State Building comes into view, and the Statue of Liberty awes even the most blase tourist. Broadway shows will wow you; browsing Bloomingdale's will amaze you. It's always possible to stumble upon an unforgettable meal -- an oven-fresh slice of perfect pizza, Chinese food in Chinatown or a haute-cuisine dinner by candlelight. The views from the Staten Island Ferry are a knockout, and downtown nightlife will keep you busy in the city that never sleeps.

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The Azores form an archipelago of nine beautiful mountainous islands, located well out in the Atlantic Ocean, significantly closer to Europe than North America. Ponta Delgada, the chief port and administrative center on the island of Sao Miguel, lies 900 miles west of Lisbon. Cruise ships on repositioning voyages between North America and Europe often call there.

Discovered in the 15th century by exploring Flemish and Portuguese sailors, Sao Miguel Island became a favorite stopover for passing ships because of fresh farm food and the abundance of fish in the surrounding waters. Ponta Delgada attained city status one hundred years later, and today the city's population numbers 45,000 with a further 20,000 residing in smaller towns and on the countryside. Since 1976, the Azores have status as an autonomous region of the Portuguese Republic.

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Dominated by a mighty neo-gothic cathedral, Cobh -- pronounced "Cove" -- lies on the Great Island, one of three islands in Cork harbor linked by roads and bridges. The small town is the gateway to County Cork and has one of the world's largest natural harbors.

Originally called Queenstown to commemorate a visit in 1849 by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Cobh has a sprinkling of brightly colored houses and steep, winding streets leading to the center. However the center itself is quite flat with a waterside park and varied selection of bars, shops, cafes and restaurants. Monuments -- to sporting legends, Antarctic explorers, emigrants and Maritime tragedies, including the sinking of the Lusitania and the Titanic -- are everywhere you look.

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Le Havre, which lies along the English Channel on France's western coast, is the common port of entry for big ships calling on Paris and most typically a place to go through on your way to the City of Lights. By no means would we dissuade cruise travelers from making the long slog to "tres magnifique" Paris on a first visit, but on a return trip, Le Havre itself, both on its own merits and because of its proximity to Normandy (which is also quite magical), is worth a look-see.

While Le Havre is an ancient and textured city, dating back to the 16th century, it was badly bombed during World War II, losing much of its historic appeal. Still, it's been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the way it was rebuilt; the organization noted that Le Havre is "exceptional among many reconstructed cities for its unity and integrity."

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Located on the south coast of England, Southampton served as the historic ocean liner gateway for the British Empire and the intense North Atlantic passenger trade to the U.S. and Canada. Today it is the U.K.'s - and indeed Europe's -- leading cruise port.

Best known as the homeport of Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Southampton now hosts a wide variety of cruise ships in the booming European cruise market with the principal lines being Cunard, Fred. Olsen, Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises and Saga Cruises.

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Cruise Critic Editor Rating:
2,408 reviews
Why Choose Norwegian Breakaway?


Exceptional variety of restaurants and entertainment


Shore excursions and destination enrichment lacking local flavor

Bottom Line

Great, fun, easy-going vibe onboard for all ages

Norwegian Breakaway Overview

Norwegian Cruise Line long has been a pioneer in creating a contemporary cruising experience, most notably with its Freestyle philosophy, which deconstructs the traditional style of cruising (set dining times, fewer dining options, set schedules and relatively limited entertainment options). Instead, Breakaway offers resort-like, rather than ship-like, entertainment and dining. While other cruise lines have been catching on to this style, Norwegian Breakaway -- the largest ship in Norwegian's fleet, along with nearly identical sister Norwegian Getaway -- outpaces its competitors with sheer number of restaurants, shows and entertainment venues. Our experience onboard a seven-night cruise felt so much like a jam-packed stay at a really good Las Vegas resort that we only remembered we were on a ship when looking out to sea.

This is a good thing. Our time on Breakaway was a fantastic experience with so much to do that the only downside was we simply didn't have time to try everything.

That said, Norwegian Breakaway is not for everyone, especially those on either extreme of the traditional cruising spectrum. Norwegian claims Freestyle means "what you want when you want it," an appealing concept for those who wish to be spontaneous and in control of their vacation experience. However, to make the most of your time onboard, you really must plan ahead and make reservations before your trip (or early in the cruise), especially when it comes to dining in specialty restaurants or booking spa treatments. While you can take your chances and walk in, you need to give up some flexibility so as not to miss out.

On the flip side, Breakaway is also not a ship for those who prefer cruise traditions. The only old-school elements are singles gatherings, a small library (best to bring your own books) and mainstream ports. There's little true enrichment, and it can be hard to mingle with other passengers.

Anyone who cruises Breakaway should know the cruise fare is a starter price. While many restaurants and activities are included in the cruise fare, it's really the extras that create a special experience. You have the choice to spend extra on exclusive spaces such as the Vibe Beach Club and the spa's thermal suite, on a handful of entertainment offerings or on specialty restaurants. For a more traditional cruise traveler, that approach can seem like nickel and diming, but for those accustomed to resort stays, it's quite similar.

The beauty of Breakaway is you can opt not to pay extra and still enjoy great outdoor spaces like Spice H2O and The Waterfront, all of the ship's marquee entertainment, and dining at the lovely, casual Uptown Grill buffet and O'Sheehans pub, not to mention delicious menus at Taste and Savor, two sit-down restaurants. No matter your cruising style, Breakaway offers a terrific experience.

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Cruise Reviews

Sail Date: December 2017
Our captain took us right into the Bomb Cyclone in the middle of our cruise. It was clear that the weather was getting back when we arrived at Norwegian's private island in the Bahamas on January 2. They should never have let anyone off ... Read More
Our captain took us right into the Bomb Cyclone in the middle of our cruise. It was clear that the weather was getting back when we arrived at Norwegian's private island in the Bahamas on January 2. They should never have let anyone off the boat that day. We watched the tender returning to the ship at noon. The waves were so rough, the boat looked like it was going to capsize. People were screaming. According to a couple we spoke to who were on the tender, there were barely any life jackets, and people were vomiting everywhere. Instead of docking in the Bahamas to wait the storm out, or leaving earlier to try and beat it, our captain took us right into it. For two and a half days, we were hit with 30-foot waves. Water was leaking in on almost every floor. Carpets were soaked through. Doors, windows and glass were broken. Many people slept in the atrium one night to comfort one another. This was the first time in my life that I genuinely thought I was going to die. Nearly every show and event on the ship was cancelled during the second half of the voyage, due to the extreme turbulence. Our captain failed to keep us updated on our location and status. He checked in every few hours to regurgitate the same vague comments -- that we were optimizing our speed to lessen the movement of the vessel, that we were sailing through rough waters, that no one was allowed to go outside on the balconies, etc. He lied to us about the size of the waves, saying they were only 15-feet high. I don't have a single positive thing to say except that the crew did an amazing job. They were as scared as us, but they smiled and powered through to keep everyone calm. Norwegian has refused to accept responsibility for how they put our lives in jeopardy. They are trying to downplay the trauma we experienced, claiming that weather can be "unpredictable." They never very well that this storm was coming. Every other cruise line that docked in Fort Lauderdale on New Year's Eve took the necessary safety precautions to avoid this storm. Ours was the only ship, as far as I know, that sailed right into it. The reason for this was simple greed. There was a 14-day cruise scheduled to take off when we got back to New York on January 5. They wanted to get us back on time so they wouldn't have to issue any refunds. We ended up getting in 8 hours late anyway, and guess what? The passengers on the cruise after us got a one-day refund. I've heard that there is a stomach flu going around on the ship currently. That's likely due to the fact that the crew had no time to clean up all the vomit and water leakage in one day before embarking again. We have so far been offered a discount on a future cruise that must be used within 12 months. I wonder how many of the 4,000 terrified passengers even want to cruise again after this? It was surreal seeing all of the lifeboats frozen to the side of the ship when we finally docked in New York. This cruise was my mom's Christmas gift to our family, and instead it turned into the worst experience of our lives. NCL cares more about revenue than they do about keeping their passengers safe. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2017
We have traveled on Cruises before. This was our 1st time traveling on Norwegian. First, the good: Embarkation, getting aboard the ship was very easy. The ship is kept in fantastic condition. The Staterooms, dining rooms, ... Read More
We have traveled on Cruises before. This was our 1st time traveling on Norwegian. First, the good: Embarkation, getting aboard the ship was very easy. The ship is kept in fantastic condition. The Staterooms, dining rooms, theatre, bathrooms are all kept in excellent condition. Our Room Steward was wonderful. Food in the Specialty Restaurants (especially Ocean Blue) was delicious. We had the unlimited drink package and it worked beautifully. The bad: While the crew seems polite, for the most part they lacked warmth. With open seating, you have different servers each seating, so no building a rapport. The Atrium, where lots of activities take place has limited seating. In addition, the Internet area is adjacent to the Atrium; people take the Internet users chairs to get some additional seating. We never had a chair to sit in while checking emails. There should be someone at the Internet desk making sure this does not happen. There should also be additional folding chairs for guests that want to take part in the Atrium activities. The Gym, where cardio equipment is located is NOT nearly large enough. There needs to be more elliptical machines (and they need to be in working condition). It was always difficult to get a machine and when you finally got on one, it was not working correctly. While two of our shows were canceled during the storm, the shows we did see, Burn the Floor (which was to long with just a lot of the same dancing) and Rock of Ages were just okay. The ugly: During our cruise we sailed directly through a Nor'Easter. Our Captain was vague in keeping us informed, and he was very difficult to understand. The carpets became saturated during the storm and there was not enough crew members on the decks to help people or keep them from falling near restaurants and elevators. The Ugliest: Disembarking was a total nightmare for anyone carrying off their luggage. We were told to be on Deck 7, but yet, the elevators wouldn't stop on Deck 7. Actually, no passengers disembarking later could even get on an elevator. People were using the stairs and their was people stuck on the stairs as everyone was waiting. There was no crew to be found anywhere handing out water or offering help. We had to get off at Deck 8 wait about an hour and a half to two hours to begin to travel one deck down by steps. VERY UNORGANIZED. Other cruise lines had passengers with luggage disembark using 'Crew Only' elevators, so other passengers could still have access to passenger elevators. Norwegian needs to re-evalutate the way they disembark. A family with strollers were told to wait for help and 2 hours later, help hadn't come and no crew member seemed to care until passengers got involved. Previous to this cruise, we have NEVER, EVER witnessed this chaos aboard a ship before. My husband and I would take another cruise, but not sure it would be on Norwegian Cruise Line. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2017
This was a complete WASTE of the $4,000+ that my husband and I spent. 1. The last 3 days of our cruise was HORRIFIC. On Tuesday, January 2nd we were supposed to spend a full day at Great Stirrup Cay but the weather was not good, so ... Read More
This was a complete WASTE of the $4,000+ that my husband and I spent. 1. The last 3 days of our cruise was HORRIFIC. On Tuesday, January 2nd we were supposed to spend a full day at Great Stirrup Cay but the weather was not good, so Captain Matko cancelled the day AFTER he sent multiple tinder ships of people over to Great Stirrup Cay. If the weather was already bad, he should have NEVER gave the okay to send people. My family and I watched the tinder ships bring back loads of guests and we were scared for their lives as several times the ships almost lost control. Based on the present weather conditions we were disappointed that our day trip to GSP was cancelled, but understood Captain Matko’s decision. 2. On Wednesday, January 3rd and Thursday January 4th we encountered Winter Storm Grayson. We felt incredibly unsafe as Captain Matko sailed directly into the storm. For a good portion of one of the nights the boat was tipped on its side. Our balcony door was frozen shut. Items flew off of our desk, doors slammed open and shut, we almost fell off of the bed, our bathroom flooded, and we spent the better the 3 days sea sick. Captain Matko gave incredibly vague updates and he was not reassuring us that we would be safe. Lights flickered, staterooms flooded, elevators and tv's stopped working, and water leaked into the ship. We all wondered why he would continue to sail into a storm, rather than change the itinerary to keep us safe. With today’s technology it is unacceptable that NCL supported Captain Matko’s decision to continue to sail into this storm as weather forecasts indicated that Winter Storm Grayson was going to be powerful. There were several times during the storm that we all wondered if the boat was going to sink. 3. There was a lack of communication from shore excursion staff. We booked the Atlantis Aquaventure & Dolphin Cay Interaction and were really looking forward to seeing Atlantis for the first time. This was ONE of the reasons why we booked this cruise!! The day before this excursion, we went to Shore Excursion staff to get transportation information from them because we hadn’t received any. Upon talking to a shore excursion staff, he advised us to cancel this excursion because this was an 8 hour excursion and NCL only gave us 6 hours on the island. We asked the staff why this excursion would even be offered, and his response was “I don’t know.” We then booked the Balmoral Island Dolphin Encounter & Beach Day- thinking that we would have at least 4 hours to enjoy the day. Instead, we spent approximately 2 hours on a ferry being transported to and from the island, which meant that we only got 2 hours of beach time to try to enjoy the day. So again, if the shore excursion staff COMMUNICATED to us better what the trip was like we would not have wasted $298 to spend two hours at beach and 30 minutes with a dolphin. 4. In addition to shore excursion staff lacking in their communication skills, staff on the cruise ship were unable to answer many of our questions. Very often they would say “I don’t know” or “let me find out” and never get back to you. For example, we noticed a sign that said unlimited prime rib for NYE at O’Sheehan’s, we asked the host and waiter to confirm this, and both were unaware of this special. 5. There were plumbing issues on the ship. On Tuesday, January 2nd we attended Rock of Ages and needed to use the restrooms prior to the show beginning. Two sets of bathrooms for men and women were out of order, so I and my family had to rush back to our rooms to use the bathroom. In addition, the public bathrooms and our stateroom bathroom had a distinct odor of urine and fecal matter the entire trip. Also, the toilets would stop randomly, so you would often find yourself searching for a clean, working bathroom. 6. Prior to the cruise I tried booking the Spa Thermal Suite for 2 people via phone, online, and through my travel agent, but could not. When I spoke to NCL staff on the phone they told me that I had to wait until I got on the ship and the cost was $200 per person. Once we got on the ship, the Thermal Suite Pass went up to $246 per person- I tried explaining to the spa staff as well as Guest Services that I was told this pass was $200, but staff would not adjust the price. When we went to the spa, there were days we couldn’t use the pool, find a chair to sit together or sit at all, robes weren’t available, or the water was cold in the pool/ hot tub. Not to mention that we couldn’t even use the spa at all during Winter Storm Grayson because the winds were so bad. So again, this situation left us feeling like we were deceived into paying more for a service. In addition, to booking the Spa Thermal Suite, I also booked a hot stone massage for 1/4/18 PRIOR to Winter Storm Grayson. The day of the storm, I asked spa staff if I would be charged to cancel my massage due to the weather. Spa staff would not give me a clear answer of whether or not I would be charged, so I went ahead with the massage- barely being able to walk upstairs, almost falling off the bed, and feeling quite unsafe. Another example, of feeling like I was being cheated out of a service and money. 7. We were charged random service charges without notice. We ordered the water bottle package for $45 and when we checked our bill the price went up to $54. I called guest services and asked why we were charged extra- there was a delivery fee for the water. Also, we went out to dinner at Moderno and were offered their restaurant’s signature cocktails, it was not communicated to us that the alcohol in the beverages were not included with the drink package that we already upgraded to. It would have been common courtesy for the restaurant to mention this in their menu or for the waiter to communicate it to guests. 8. The common areas are so crowded that you could not find a place to sit comfortably. We tried to use the hot tubs and pool, but it was so busy that you were touching/bumping into people while trying to swim. This made it impossible to relax. Also, the gym is not spacious and does not have enough equipment for 4,000 passengers. Very often we would wait in lines to use the cardio or weight machines and eventually gave up because we got so frustrated. 9. Activities were lacking. There were not many options on things to do during cold sea days and if you wanted to do an activity it was cancelled or a fee was attached to it. And again, if you tried to attend one of the activities it was so crowded that you couldn’t find a spot to sit or you were bumping into people. 10. A good portion of the ship smells like cigarette smoke. There are designated smoking areas but with the casino being open the smoke filters the ship and you can't escape the smell. 11. We purchased the unlimited internet package for $200 and that was AGAIN a complete waste of money. We had to change our login several times AND it would take minutes to load pages. 12. When we watched TV we were disappointed in the stations that were picked as our options were incredibly LIMITED. When we watched favorite TV shows, shows were often ended without notice and a new show began. Also, the sports package ONLY included soccer, cricket, and Canadian hockey. With a cruise leaving from NYC Port, one would think NY sports would be an option to view. Read Less