Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by tjb42
- Sail Date: January 2014
- Destination: Nowhere
We arrived at the cruise terminal about 10:30 and received boarding group 7, wasn't too long of a wait during check-in, however it seemed a bit disorganized as even the port employee standing at the front of the line directing people to each check-in agent as they became available was wondering out loud where all of the agents were as there were only maybe 4 or 5 agents there. We were among the first people aboard the ship when we finally began boarding about 12:40. First impression is that she ship is more refined and has more of an upscale feel to it than other NCL ships, I think it's largely due to the color scheme, more elegant with less tropical pastels found on other NCL ships, reminded me more of a Royal Caribbean ship.
As we hadn't eaten breakfast and were later getting onboard than we had expected, we went first to the buffet and as we were among the first few people on board, there was plenty of space. The food was good, especially the pretzel rolls we've come to love and expect aboard NCL ships. We then proceeded to begin walking around the top decks of the ship, and by just before 2:00 they made the announcement that the cabins were ready.
We were sailing for the first time in a balcony cabin (we booked this only a couple weeks before sailing and the price of the balcony was only very marginally more than an inside). The cabin was excellent. The bathroom and shower were plenty large enough. The shower had a curved glass door (no annoying curtain). Our bed was closer to the closet (with small programmable safe) and the couch by the window (it appeared the cabins alternated with the bed by the closet and then by the window). Although our room was considered a standard balcony, we were right next to the first cabin that was considered a "large balcony" cabin, so our balcony was actually angled like a trapezoid, the left side of it was much deeper than the right, giving the railing an angled look toward the front of the ship. It was really great and I'd definitely recommend cabin 9110 (not to mention how easy it is to remember the number). The flat screen TV has an excellent interactive feature to review your onboard account, make dining and entertainment reservations, and review all of the activities scheduled for the day. In addition there are large touchscreens on every deck in the stairwells that allow you to do all of the things you can do on your cabin TV except for review your account.
The entertainment was the best we've seen on any ship. The Rock of Ages show (although as other have said is quite raunchy and inappropriate for children) is essentially the Broadway play minus a couple of scenes. The performance as well as the sets were fantastic. Highly recommend it! We also see the Second City Comedy Performance and they were hysterical, really able to think on their feet, although also (at least the late show) not appropriate for children, but very, very funny. The dueling pianos were also great, almost as funny as the Second City Show and they could really play and sing. They were only scheduled to play until 1:00 AM, but it was so packed and everyone was enjoying themselves so much that they played into "overtime" both nights, it was a lot of fun.
We ate plenty of in-between meals/snacks in the buffet, it was certainly adequate, nothing I'd write home about but nothing to complain about either, the food was good. We ate dinner in the Manhattan room the first evening (we were seated on the starboard side and had a fantastic view of the Statue of Liberty from our table as we sailed out of NYC). The appetizers were excellent, some of the best we've had, the entrees were very average, like the buffet they were good, but definitely shy of exceptional. The deserts were pretty good as well. Overall, nothing I can really complain about, however nothing to rave about either; unless you're a serious foody though you'll certainly leave satisfied. We ate in the Taste dining room the next night and very much a similar experience with regards to the food. We had late night snacks in O'Sheehan's, similar experience agian with the food, the check wings were as good as could be expected on a cruise ship, not fantastic but certainly edible. The mozzarella sticks were good as was the hot dog.
Worth noting in all of the restaurants (we can only comment on the Main Dining Rooms and O'Sheehan's as we didn't dine in the specialty restaurants) was that the service was on the slow side and really only adequate. I use adequate very specifically. On previous cruises, both with NCL and other lines, I feel the servers have gone out of their way to be above and beyond friendly and helpful. On this sailing, they were more perfunctory, they were polite and did their jobs but it didn't feel like anything truly special or unique. The service was also pretty slow, and from looking around it appeared as though they were understaffed/overworked. They just didn't seem to have time to go above and beyond for the guests as we have experienced on other ships. This bring us to the next point: how very crowded the ship is.
In terms of gross tonnage, this is actually the largest ship we've ever been on (just nudging out the RCCL Mariner of the Seas by a few thousand tons). However, in terms of how it felt, it felt to be one of the smallest as it was very crowded. It was sailing with every cabin sold, but we've been on other full ships as well which didn't feel as crowded as this. Granted some of it may have had to do with the weather as it was freezing outside so while normally people would have spread out at the pool deck, everyone was inside. But there were (long) lines for all of the restaurants (including lines at the buffet), you had to make reservations to see any of the shows (we were lucky/smart and made our reservations for Rock of Ages and Second City online ahead of time but when we tried to switch to a later show when we were onboard we were told it was sold out), and just trying to maneuver through the ship from one end tot he other you were constantly bumping shoulders with other passengers and navigating your way through a large crowd. This was especially true on deck 7 where the casino took up half the deck, wreaked of cigarette smoke, and you had to squeeze through the machines and table to get through it. For those who aren't big gamblers, this is not a good design.
I really think the experience onboard would benefit from a few less stateroom a few more square feet of public space. The lounges and the theater were just too small to accommodate the sheer number of people onboard. They could use a few more staff too as it was clear they were stretched thin as well.
In the morning on Saturday it was chillybut it hit 39 degrees outside according to the Captain's announcement. The ropes curse was supposed to be open form 10-12 and again from 2-6 according to the daily planner, with an asterix saying weather permitting. Now the sun was out and it wasn't very windy and 39 degrees compared to the single digit temperatures we had been experience recently in the northeast felt like a bit of a heatwave, and sailing form NYC in January the high 30's to low 40's is really the best you can expect. However when we got up to the ropes course ready to tackle it, there was a cruise staff attendant there saying it was closed because it would be too cold to staff it as an attendant would have to stand out there form several hours. This was a huge disappointment, if you're not going to open it when it's nearly 40 degrees and sunny out then I think it might be safe to say you're not going to be opening in on short cruises out of NYC in the winter. That said, they shouldn't put it in the daily planner as "weather permitting" means it would have to be some type of tropical heatwave to actually open it. However, I noticed that he stood out there to the whole time to let guests know it wouldn't open. If he was going to be out there anyway, couldn't he have opened it? This was a let down as I was really looking forward to doing the ropes course, it is a big selling point on the ship.
The last disappointment had to do with onboard credit. We had received $50 in onboard credit through a booking promotion with NCL. We were planning to use that amount to cover our Discretionary Service Charge (DSC), which is the $12 per person per night they automatically add to your onboard account. Unfortunately, only on the final morning when I review our statement did I realize they had taken back our onboard credit and charged my card for the DSC. We hadn't crused NCL in over a year, and in the past we had used onboard credit to cover the DSC (as we have on other lines more recently) without any problem. Apparently beginning in 2012, NCL changed their policy and onboard credit cannot be applied to the DSC. This is a policy that should be more prominently noted to passengers.
Aside from the few negatives mentioned it was a great weekend getaway. I wouldn't want to spend a whole week on the Breakaway due to the overcrowding of the ship, but for a weekend it was a lot of fun and a nice change of pace. While I would consider sailing NCL again I wouldn't sail Breakaway and at least this trip did help to solidify Royal Caribbean as our favorite line.
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