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Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
3,650 Reviews

Beautiful Destinations but a Few Kinks to Work out Aboard

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by quegend

9 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2018
  • Destination: the Baltic Sea

We were a bit unsure about sailing with NCL again after a lukewarm experience on Epic a couple of years ago; however, the price and itinerary were right for this cruise so we decided to give it another go.

We had a good arrival in Copenhagen and while the airport was a bit busy due to the IIHF tournament crowds, it was fairly straight-forward finding the train to get us into the city. We easily bought our tickets in the airport and there were many staff on-hand to ask for help.

We stayed at the First Hotel Kong Frederik which was in a great location and an easy 10 minute walk from the train station and close to many of the local sites. I luckily got a good deal through Expedia when booking well in advance as I think the cost for the room increased exponentially in this already expensive city. While I had mapped out a few key destinations to explore in advance (e.g. Round Tower, Stroget, Tivoli) we got the most out of our Grand Tour with Copenhagen Free Tours. Our guide, Jared, was amazing and in 2.5hrs we covered a lot of the city and got an intro to the main sites. One issue we had was that we arrived on a public holiday (as well our return was on a holiday) and most shops were closed so lesson learned - make sure there are no or few public holidays in your visiting countries on your itinerary.

We arrived around 2:30 for boarding and were surprised to be greeted with a huge line to get through security and then get processed. Typically when we arrive near the end of boarding, it is quite empty but not this time due to all of the delays. We didn't get on board until just before 4 and we almost missed the muster drill.

The ship was nice and clean and there were few indications that it had just come from dry dock. The new carpets on the higher decks (not the lower) were really the only indication to us that any work had been done. We were warned that there may be some more work over the cruise during the day but we didn't encounter any noise and really only saw some staff trying to fix up the carpet around the stairs since it was poorly done. Most of the crew were very friendly having had two weeks off or had just joined.

Our cabin was fine and no different from what we had experienced on Epic. I didn't see any upgrades but I don't know what the ship was like before dry dock.

Dining was again similar to our Epic experience. I found the food overly salted everywhere we ate and did not find too much variety (especially breakfast which was the exact same every day). We're more quality than quantity people though so if you like the latter, there are more than enough options and places to eat. We had the UDP and also ate at La Cucina, Cagney's and Le Bistro. Other than an amazing server at La Cucina, we found the service fast and effective but lacking anything beyond scripted unemotional conversation. The food was a bit better than at the comp restaurants but still not as impressive as what we received with Celebrity. I also found the Shanghai's menu and ambiance poorer here than on Epic.

The lines and common areas were not too bad but I think that's because our ship was not sold out. I can only imagine how busy this ship would be sold out and I think it would be very cramped.

We loved Burn the Floor and the program was a bit different from a couple of years ago. The show was delayed 5-10 minutes for some unexplained issue but nothing surprising with a new cast and crew. Fantastic dancing as always and unbelievable endurance given the length of the program. Rock of Ages on the other hand was a terrible experience. We were emailed by NCL ahead of the cruise to say our show was cancelled. When we visited the box office they said it was a glitch and they rebooked us for the same performance. The music was good and the cast did the best they could but the script was dull and the fake German accents, dreadful (I can only imagine what the many Germans in attendance felt!). I know many others have commented that the show was off-colour for their taste - perhaps we have more of a tolerance for this so I can't say this was an issue. Plus, there were copious warnings in the schedule, on the announcements, on the signs in the entrance and before the show indicating it wasn't for kids and contained sexually suggestive content so I think folks were more than forewarned. The magician/comedian was good but needs to work on his stage presence. I would say it's the shape of things to come on NCL as they try to go after a younger cruising demographic.

We didn't book any NCL shore excursions as we find them not worth the extra cost so here's what we did in each port.

Warnemunde/Berlin: We booked with SPB as the price was right and the itinerary seemed to fit the most in given the very short time allotted. Unfortunately, in comparison to our amazing Copenhagen guide, our SPB guide was a bit lacklustre as he seemed to be reading us a history book and didn't give us a lot of insight into German culture and what current life is like in the city. We did hit many of the main sites though. Beware the 2.5hr drive each way is painful though.

Tallinn: While small, the city punches above its weight. When we arrived, we grabbed the tram just outside the port after buying tickets on our mobiles (it's the home of Skype, they're very connected people!) and went out to Kadrioru park to see the palace and gardens. It's worth the short 1EUR tram ride as the grounds are beautiful. Unfortunately being Monday KUMU was closed but the reviews are very positive for this site too. We then trammed back to the old town and took a Traveller Tallinn Free Walking tour and had yet another fun and informative guide who gave us a great tour of the old town.

SPB/Moscow: We went intense for this stop and booked a 2-day Medium tour with Guide-Guru. We figured it would be a long time until we ever make it back to Russia so we wanted to make the most of it and see both cities. Upon disembarking (and dealing with the more than hour long passport and customs check) we went straight to the airport and flew to Moscow and had a fantastic driving/walking tour with Svetlana. She was incredibly informed and we got to see many of the highlights (Kremlin, St. Basil's, Red Square, Metro stations). We then took the Sapsan back to SPB and spent the next day with a new, equally informed guide visiting the sites. If you can handle the cost and exhaustion - it's a once in a lifetime shore excursion.

Helsinki: Wanting to relax a bit, we booked a Cosy Finland visit for lunch with a local Finnish family. Ahead of time we arranged a custom visit and were paired with a couple to visit their home. Our hosts were very welcoming and the meal delicious and we got to learn much more about present day Finnish culture. Before lunch though, we had lots of time to take the tram downtown (there are two separate tram stations right next to the port) and walk around the city. It's a very small, very walkable town. Make sure to get down to the old port bright and early to catch the food/artisans' market.

Nynashamn/Stockholm: Our docking experience was quite poor and we got off the ship over an hour late. I hope for future cruisers that this was an isolated experience of a new ship in a new port (the port itself is relatively new technology). Once off we were supposed to have a free bus transfer but none of the NCL staff had any idea what we were talking about. We finally found one supervisor who told us just to take the train and we would be reimbursed (which we surprisingly were - at a price higher than the train tickets). The train station is a 20min or so walk from the port along a well marked, blue line. There is however only one ticket machine so if you can, you might want to buy your tickets on your mobile. However, since the ticket line was so long, the very kind train staff told everyone just to get on and buy their tickets when they got to Stockholm. The ticket inspector didn't give anyone any trouble either. For Stockholm, we had also planned a Free Tour but had changed our mind and just ended up walking around to see the sites. There is more than enough to do and after being in tiny Helsinki the day before, we were a bit overwhelmed how much there was to see.

Disembarkation was fine for us as we just did self-assist and were off by 8. We used AirLuggage to bring our bags to our hotel - whom I would highly recommend. There were very many fair warnings about the lack of public transit. We were the first of four ships to dock and while we were able to get on a city bus back to Copenhagen, I suspect others were met with very long lines since they didn't add any buses to the route. I'd say paying for the airport or city centre transfer with NCL is likely a smart idea if you are planning on taking longer to disembark.

Overall, the places we visited and onshore experiences more than made-up for the average on ship experience. I would highly recommend the destination and found the people in each country were so very warm and welcoming (especially tiny Warnemunde which gave our maiden visit a tugboat parade and fireworks show on departure). If you are like us and the ship is simply the means to an end, this is a great cruise and itinerary. If you live for sea days and your cabin, I'd look elsewhere.


quegend's Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

City Tour

We got the most out of our Grand Tour with Copenhagen Free Tours. Our guide, Jared, was amazing and in 2.5hrs we covered a lot of the city and got an intro to the main sites.

View All 201 City Tour Reviews
Berlin

We booked with SPB as the price was right and the itinerary seemed to fit the most in given the very short time allotted. Unfortunately, in comparison to our amazing Copenhagen guide, our SPB guide was a bit lacklustre as he seemed to be reading us a history book and didn't give us a lot of insight into German culture and what current life is like in the city. We did hit many of the main sites though. Beware the 2.5hr drive each way is painful though.

View All 100 Berlin Reviews
Tallinn

While small, the city punches above its weight. When we arrived, we grabbed the tram just outside the port after buying tickets on our mobiles (it's the home of Skype, they're very connected people!) and went out to Kadrioru park to see the palace and gardens. It's worth the short 1EUR tram ride as the grounds are beautiful. Unfortunately being Monday KUMU was closed but the reviews are very positive for this site too. We then trammed back to the old town and took a Traveller Tallinn Free Walking tour and had yet another fun and informative guide who gave us a great tour of the old town.

We went intense for this stop and booked a 2-day Medium tour with Guide-Guru. We figured it would be a long time until we ever make it back to Russia so we wanted to make the most of it and see both cities. Upon disembarking (and dealing with the more than hour long passport and customs check) we went straight to the airport and flew to Moscow and had a fantastic driving/walking tour with Svetlana. She was incredibly informed and we got to see many of the highlights (Kremlin, St. Basil's, Red Square, Metro stations). We then took the Sapsan back to SPB and spent the next day with a new, equally informed guide visiting the sites. If you can handle the cost and exhaustion - it's a once in a lifetime shore excursion.

View All undefined undefined Reviews
Helsinki

Wanting to relax a bit, we booked a Cosy Finland visit for lunch with a local Finnish family. Ahead of time we arranged a custom visit and were paired with a couple to visit their home. Our hosts were very welcoming and the meal delicious and we got to learn much more about present day Finnish culture. Before lunch though, we had lots of time to take the tram downtown (there are two separate tram stations right next to the port) and walk around the city. It's a very small, very walkable town. Make sure to get down to the old port bright and early to catch the food/artisans' market.

Stockholm

Our docking experience was quite poor and we got off the ship over an hour late. I hope for future cruisers that this was an isolated experience of a new ship in a new port (the port itself is relatively new technology). Once off we were supposed to have a free bus transfer but none of the NCL staff had any idea what we were talking about. We finally found one supervisor who told us just to take the train and we would be reimbursed (which we surprisingly were - at a price higher than the train tickets). The train station is a 20min or so walk from the port along a well marked, blue line. There is however only one ticket machine so if you can, you might want to buy your tickets on your mobile. However, since the ticket line was so long, the very kind train staff told everyone just to get on and buy their tickets when they got to Stockholm. The ticket inspector didn't give anyone any trouble either. For Stockholm, we had also planned a Free Tour but had changed our mind and just ended up walking around to see the sites. There is more than enough to do and after being in tiny Helsinki the day before, we were a bit overwhelmed how much there was to see.


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