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Sometimes it’s not about what goes well, but what goes badly and how it is made right that creates a memorable experience. We had a few hiccups on our Baltic cruise on the Breakaway. Because human nature is such that much of what I write may not be read, I shall address these hiccups first. And I want to underscore that I left the cruise on the last day very happy with my overall experience and I will not hesitate to sail on Norwegian again. The reason for this is the customer service I received onboard when problems arose. I still do not understand why, on the fourth day of our 9 day cruise, it was so very urgent to perform “emergency” repairs on a balcony that seemed perfectly safe and functional. Nonetheless, when we returned from our day in Tallinn, we were greeted with a sign on our cabin door and another on the balcony door warning us from using the balcony. More to the point, we were overwhelmed with a smell of varnish and chemicals that permeated the cabin and gave us headache and a sick feeling. We could not sleep there that night. Taking the note left for us, we headed to guest services where we met Severina. At first she said that she wouldn’t be able to accommodate us in a similar cabin to the one we had booked (a mid-ship mini suite with balcony), but she was able to find us a suitable replacement for the night. In addition, since it was our anniversary and we now had to spend time moving cabins, she also comped a dinner at Cagneys Steakhouse. Severina was calming and efficient and we were soon situated in a temporary cabin. Problem addressed-problem solved-passengers happy. I would like to add at this point that I have read a review where apparently this happened to another guest onboard the Breakaway. I’m not sure how this passenger handled the situation other than to complain on Cruise Critic or similar websites. My suggestion when something upsetting happens is to find the right person, explain the situation (keep it relevant to the issue at hand), mention how the situation is negatively affecting your vacation/event etc., and give the person the opportunity to make it right. And then thank them for their effort. The customer service people on cruise ships are really not in the business of ruining your vacation. They want you to be happy (or at least content enough not to have to keep visiting guest services!) and they want you to come back and cruise again. Unfortunately, we did not see Severina again during our cruise to thank her in person although we expressed our gratitude to Gina who brought us to the new cabin and switched our key cards. But we were thankful for the new cabin to sleep in while our original cabin aired out. As for our dinner at Cagney’s-well that did not go well either. It seems strange when a steakhouse cannot accommodate temperature requests for the various cuts of meat. My husband’s “medium” was presented as “well-done”; my “medium-well” came out quite “medium.” The first attempts were sent back with a very apologetic server and a visit from the maître –D. On the second attempt my husband’s filet was fine, but my prime rib was overcooked and tasteless. I sent it back again and cancelled my order. At this point, the embarrassed Maitre-D comped our comped dinner and we were able to try another specialty restaurant on another night. Good Customer Service! One additional problem we encountered on the final port day. First it was disappointing to be notified about a month before our cruise that we would not be docking in Stockholm, but instead in Nynasham. I had a really exciting shore excursion planned, which was subsequently cancelled because there would not be time to drive the hour back to the port upon completion of the excursion. When NCL extended the time in port this excursion was not reconsidered so we booked a tour that showed us around Stockholm for 3 hours with a guide and then gave us 4 hours on our own before taking us back to the ship. The cost of this excursion was a staggering $119 each but I didn’t want to stress over how I was going to get back to the ship on time. Then I received another email stating that NCL was providing free transfers into Stockholm from the port. Interestingly, no other info on these transfers became available. There was no mention of them in the daily newsletter left in our cabin and the cruise director had no idea about them when I showed him the email. It is also disappointing that NCL did this same switch of ports last summer for the Getaway sailings and, according to a local tour guide in Stockholm, the cruise line knew about this change months before. It was not a surprise “berthing issue” but one that was expected and thus, should have been acknowledged and passengers advised before final payments were due. That would have been good transparency. But back to the shore excursion at hand. The group taking this tour boarded the bus at the port. Our initial feeling that this might not go well happened when the tour guide announced as we were pulling away that he was from Venezuela and he would be our tour guide. Now I have nothing against people from Venezuela, BUT when I’m on a tour in Sweden, I would expect a tour guide who was-well-Swedish! and who was able to communicate info about his or her country in English. The tour guide’s English was very halting with lots of fillers as he searched for the correct word to express his idea. This was not helped by the faulty acoustics in the bus and was further exacerbated by the guide’s inability to distinguish between “right” and “left.” Thus, we were constantly looking frantically in both directions as we whizzed by whatever we were supposed to be looking at. At the first photo stop, I spoke with the guide and learned that he usually conducted tours for Spanish speaking tourists (that makes almost perfect sense!) but they didn’t have enough guides for all the tours that day so he was assigned to us. He also said he had been a tour guide in Stockholm for all of two years and no, he doesn’t speak Swedish. Wow! I was dumbfounded by all these revelations, especially when I considered what I was paying for this experience. But it gets worse. The main tourist destination in Stockholm is the Vasa Museum. I will not go into detail about the museum. It is amazing and a must see. However, it is crowded and following a guide who has nothing but a water bottle to hold up in an attempt to be seen and then decipher his butchered English as he tries to describe the displays is a real buzz kill. Back on the bus, we were told we would be dropped off in the old city for four hours of free time. As we approached the drop off point, this 4 hours was reduced to 3.5 hours because “there are a lot of busses.” When I questioned this and reminded the guide that we had extra time at the port because of the distance to get there, he fumbled and said he would speak to the driver. I reminded him that people had already left and he couldn’t change the departure time at that point. On the way back to the ship, instead of providing additional anecdotes and info on Sweden and Stockholm, our guide was silent. We were not silent, however. Once back on the ship we (and several other guests on this tour) descended on guest services with our litany of complaints. I’m really surprised that there were not more of us complaining. The customer rep dutifully took down our grievances and explained that the shore excursion manager would make a decision on refunding the cost of the tour. We were requesting a full refund. I would accept half. I did not accept the 30% that was offered the next day when my husband went to inquire as to the result. He was told that we had a case number and we could contact NCL when we were back on shore. In my experience, this usually is not a good way to resolve an issue, so I went back to Guest Services and took a picture of the welcoming face of Mr. Vuc Malobabic, the Hotel Director, and his shipboard extension. Then I returned to my cabin and called him. The Hotel Director is the person in charge of every department onboard a cruise ship except for Security and Technology. He basically rules the roost. Mr. Vuc answered his phone, offered to meet me in front of guest services, and, minutes later, I was seated in his office explaining again the situation on the previous day with the Stockholm tour. After listening intently, he told me he would take care of it and I would see a credit on my ship account in 20 minutes. And that is what he did! It was the right thing to do; this man exemplified good customer service and is the main reason why I will consider NCL again for a cruise. But wait there’s more! I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the situation surrounding disembarkation in St. Petersburg. Two days before we were set to dock in St. Petersburg, a note was left in the cabins with information about going ashore. For those who did not book shore excursions through the ship, the instructions stated that they must meet in the theatre at 8:00 a.m. on the first morning in St. Petersburg. Additionally, (and this was in bold!) a reservation was required to enter the theatre. Guests had the option to select groups A, B, C, and onwards with Group A being the first to be called at 8:00 a.m. The problem with this is that we (and many others) had booked tours that started at 8:30 a.m. Meeting in the theatre and then waiting to leave the ship and then waiting in line to clear Russian immigration would make us very late for our tour. Nonetheless, my husband picked up the phone and requested Group A. I then went down to discuss the situation with guest services. After the usual wait in line, I approached the desk. Two Canadian guests were next to me, discussing the same situation with another guest service agent. We were both told that because the immigration situation the previous week was so out of control and the wait times so long, that-and here’s where doubt is cast on the information-the Russian officials said that those not booked on shore excursions through the ship had to wait to get off. Both agents left the desk area, supposedly to discuss the options with their supervisor. The Canadian guests were told by their agent that she would make an exception and allow them to join one of the shore excursion groups getting off the ship at 7:15 a.m. By the time my agent returned (and the Canadian guests had left the desk) this information was deemed incorrect. I was told that the Russian authorities had emailed the ship and made this policy. I was also told that if I was not on a shore excursion and I left the ship earlier than the allotted time that Russian immigration would send me back to the ship. I decided to alert Alla tours-the company through which I had booked my excursions- to this information being dispensed by the cruise ship. I first emailed them and sent a copy of the note that was left in our cabins, then, when we were in port in Tallinn, I phoned. Alla herself answered the phone. She was noticeably frustrated and incredulous that this information, which sounded so credible and indisputable coming from guest services, was being used to basically intimidate passengers with independent arrangements and effectively bad mouth Russian immigration. The crux of her comments were: Norwegian can’t prevent you from leaving the ship once it has docked and Russian authorities have cleared the vessel for passenger disembarkation; Russian immigration agents don’t care which tour you are on as long as you present a valid passport and a ticket showing you are taking a tour from a registered tour company. On the morning we docked in St. Petersburg, the staircases on deck 6 and deck 5 were barricaded in such a way that only the passengers leaving the theatre on deck 7 could make their way down to deck 4 to disembark. My husband and I walked around the barricade on deck 6 and joined the group on the stairway. When ship personnel asked where we were going in a meager attempt to prevent this, I replied that I was getting off the ship now. Then we walked off the ship and over to the immigration area. We waited in line for about 30 minutes, had our passports stamped, and emerged into a marketplace area where tour guides waited. No one questioned us and certainly no one told us to get back on the ship! This info would have been helpful to us had we read it before we cruised. I wrote it for the purpose of providing information to others. Each person must act according to his or her comfort level. But my experience is that Norwegian’s objective is to get their shore excursion people off first and this is their way of trying to accomplish that. But what we found is that the information they were giving out was not true. Again, this was not a show stopper and the info is provided to indicate how we handled the situation. There were many spectacular aspects of our cruise-notably the Entertainment! Burn the Floor was astounding-we saw it twice! We also loved listening to and watching Bernadett Nyori, the violinist. Her talent with the violin is almost supernatural! The Cirque Jungle Show was equally impressive and entertaining (and this show comes with a delicious shrimp and filet dinner, which was cooked to my specifications with no problem!). And the musical, Rock of Ages, showcased some incredible talent, most notably, Joelle who also appeared as the female singer in Burn the Floor. She should head to Broadway! A note on Rock of Ages for anyone who is still reading this! Please, please do your research before seeing this show. It is not for everyone. If you are very conservative, are not comfortable with sexual overtones or homosexual demonstrations, please do not see this show. It’s not just a showcase of old rock hits. There’s a story line. It is very distracting to other audience members and especially to the performers on stage when people get up and walk out during the performance. I hope this information helps others who are sailing on the Breakaway. As indicated, we enjoyed our cruise. We are happy we chose this itinerary and we will sail on Norwegian again.

Breakaway Highlights and Hiccups!

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by Iweenie

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2018
  • Destination: Baltic Sea
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
Sometimes it’s not about what goes well, but what goes badly and how it is made right that creates a memorable experience.

We had a few hiccups on our Baltic cruise on the Breakaway. Because human nature is such that much of what I write may not be read, I shall address these hiccups first. And I want to underscore that I left the cruise on the last day very happy with my overall experience and I will not hesitate to sail on Norwegian again. The reason for this is the customer service I received onboard when problems arose.

I still do not understand why, on the fourth day of our 9 day cruise, it was so very urgent to perform “emergency” repairs on a balcony that seemed perfectly safe and functional. Nonetheless, when we returned from our day in Tallinn, we were greeted with a sign on our cabin door and another on the balcony door warning us from using the balcony. More to the point, we were overwhelmed with a smell of varnish and chemicals that permeated the cabin and gave us headache and a sick feeling. We could not sleep there that night.

Taking the note left for us, we headed to guest services where we met Severina. At first she said that she wouldn’t be able to accommodate us in a similar cabin to the one we had booked (a mid-ship mini suite with balcony), but she was able to find us a suitable replacement for the night. In addition, since it was our anniversary and we now had to spend time moving cabins, she also comped a dinner at Cagneys Steakhouse. Severina was calming and efficient and we were soon situated in a temporary cabin. Problem addressed-problem solved-passengers happy.

I would like to add at this point that I have read a review where apparently this happened to another guest onboard the Breakaway. I’m not sure how this passenger handled the situation other than to complain on Cruise Critic or similar websites. My suggestion when something upsetting happens is to find the right person, explain the situation (keep it relevant to the issue at hand), mention how the situation is negatively affecting your vacation/event etc., and give the person the opportunity to make it right. And then thank them for their effort. The customer service people on cruise ships are really not in the business of ruining your vacation. They want you to be happy (or at least content enough not to have to keep visiting guest services!) and they want you to come back and cruise again.

Unfortunately, we did not see Severina again during our cruise to thank her in person although we expressed our gratitude to Gina who brought us to the new cabin and switched our key cards. But we were thankful for the new cabin to sleep in while our original cabin aired out.

As for our dinner at Cagney’s-well that did not go well either. It seems strange when a steakhouse cannot accommodate temperature requests for the various cuts of meat. My husband’s “medium” was presented as “well-done”; my “medium-well” came out quite “medium.” The first attempts were sent back with a very apologetic server and a visit from the maître –D. On the second attempt my husband’s filet was fine, but my prime rib was overcooked and tasteless. I sent it back again and cancelled my order. At this point, the embarrassed Maitre-D comped our comped dinner and we were able to try another specialty restaurant on another night. Good Customer Service!

One additional problem we encountered on the final port day. First it was disappointing to be notified about a month before our cruise that we would not be docking in Stockholm, but instead in Nynasham. I had a really exciting shore excursion planned, which was subsequently cancelled because there would not be time to drive the hour back to the port upon completion of the excursion. When NCL extended the time in port this excursion was not reconsidered so we booked a tour that showed us around Stockholm for 3 hours with a guide and then gave us 4 hours on our own before taking us back to the ship. The cost of this excursion was a staggering $119 each but I didn’t want to stress over how I was going to get back to the ship on time. Then I received another email stating that NCL was providing free transfers into Stockholm from the port. Interestingly, no other info on these transfers became available. There was no mention of them in the daily newsletter left in our cabin and the cruise director had no idea about them when I showed him the email. It is also disappointing that NCL did this same switch of ports last summer for the Getaway sailings and, according to a local tour guide in Stockholm, the cruise line knew about this change months before. It was not a surprise “berthing issue” but one that was expected and thus, should have been acknowledged and passengers advised before final payments were due. That would have been good transparency.

But back to the shore excursion at hand. The group taking this tour boarded the bus at the port. Our initial feeling that this might not go well happened when the tour guide announced as we were pulling away that he was from Venezuela and he would be our tour guide. Now I have nothing against people from Venezuela, BUT when I’m on a tour in Sweden, I would expect a tour guide who was-well-Swedish! and who was able to communicate info about his or her country in English. The tour guide’s English was very halting with lots of fillers as he searched for the correct word to express his idea. This was not helped by the faulty acoustics in the bus and was further exacerbated by the guide’s inability to distinguish between “right” and “left.” Thus, we were constantly looking frantically in both directions as we whizzed by whatever we were supposed to be looking at.

At the first photo stop, I spoke with the guide and learned that he usually conducted tours for Spanish speaking tourists (that makes almost perfect sense!) but they didn’t have enough guides for all the tours that day so he was assigned to us. He also said he had been a tour guide in Stockholm for all of two years and no, he doesn’t speak Swedish. Wow! I was dumbfounded by all these revelations, especially when I considered what I was paying for this experience.

But it gets worse. The main tourist destination in Stockholm is the Vasa Museum. I will not go into detail about the museum. It is amazing and a must see. However, it is crowded and following a guide who has nothing but a water bottle to hold up in an attempt to be seen and then decipher his butchered English as he tries to describe the displays is a real buzz kill. Back on the bus, we were told we would be dropped off in the old city for four hours of free time. As we approached the drop off point, this 4 hours was reduced to 3.5 hours because “there are a lot of busses.” When I questioned this and reminded the guide that we had extra time at the port because of the distance to get there, he fumbled and said he would speak to the driver. I reminded him that people had already left and he couldn’t change the departure time at that point. On the way back to the ship, instead of providing additional anecdotes and info on Sweden and Stockholm, our guide was silent.

We were not silent, however. Once back on the ship we (and several other guests on this tour) descended on guest services with our litany of complaints. I’m really surprised that there were not more of us complaining. The customer rep dutifully took down our grievances and explained that the shore excursion manager would make a decision on refunding the cost of the tour. We were requesting a full refund. I would accept half. I did not accept the 30% that was offered the next day when my husband went to inquire as to the result. He was told that we had a case number and we could contact NCL when we were back on shore.

In my experience, this usually is not a good way to resolve an issue, so I went back to Guest Services and took a picture of the welcoming face of Mr. Vuc Malobabic, the Hotel Director, and his shipboard extension. Then I returned to my cabin and called him. The Hotel Director is the person in charge of every department onboard a cruise ship except for Security and Technology. He basically rules the roost. Mr. Vuc answered his phone, offered to meet me in front of guest services, and, minutes later, I was seated in his office explaining again the situation on the previous day with the Stockholm tour. After listening intently, he told me he would take care of it and I would see a credit on my ship account in 20 minutes. And that is what he did! It was the right thing to do; this man exemplified good customer service and is the main reason why I will consider NCL again for a cruise.

But wait there’s more!

I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the situation surrounding disembarkation in St. Petersburg.

Two days before we were set to dock in St. Petersburg, a note was left in the cabins with information about going ashore. For those who did not book shore excursions through the ship, the instructions stated that they must meet in the theatre at 8:00 a.m. on the first morning in St. Petersburg. Additionally, (and this was in bold!) a reservation was required to enter the theatre. Guests had the option to select groups A, B, C, and onwards with Group A being the first to be called at 8:00 a.m.

The problem with this is that we (and many others) had booked tours that started at 8:30 a.m. Meeting in the theatre and then waiting to leave the ship and then waiting in line to clear Russian immigration would make us very late for our tour. Nonetheless, my husband picked up the phone and requested Group A.

I then went down to discuss the situation with guest services. After the usual wait in line, I approached the desk. Two Canadian guests were next to me, discussing the same situation with another guest service agent. We were both told that because the immigration situation the previous week was so out of control and the wait times so long, that-and here’s where doubt is cast on the information-the Russian officials said that those not booked on shore excursions through the ship had to wait to get off. Both agents left the desk area, supposedly to discuss the options with their supervisor. The Canadian guests were told by their agent that she would make an exception and allow them to join one of the shore excursion groups getting off the ship at 7:15 a.m.

By the time my agent returned (and the Canadian guests had left the desk) this information was deemed incorrect. I was told that the Russian authorities had emailed the ship and made this policy. I was also told that if I was not on a shore excursion and I left the ship earlier than the allotted time that Russian immigration would send me back to the ship.

I decided to alert Alla tours-the company through which I had booked my excursions- to this information being dispensed by the cruise ship. I first emailed them and sent a copy of the note that was left in our cabins, then, when we were in port in Tallinn, I phoned. Alla herself answered the phone. She was noticeably frustrated and incredulous that this information, which sounded so credible and indisputable coming from guest services, was being used to basically intimidate passengers with independent arrangements and effectively bad mouth Russian immigration.

The crux of her comments were: Norwegian can’t prevent you from leaving the ship once it has docked and Russian authorities have cleared the vessel for passenger disembarkation; Russian immigration agents don’t care which tour you are on as long as you present a valid passport and a ticket showing you are taking a tour from a registered tour company.

On the morning we docked in St. Petersburg, the staircases on deck 6 and deck 5 were barricaded in such a way that only the passengers leaving the theatre on deck 7 could make their way down to deck 4 to disembark. My husband and I walked around the barricade on deck 6 and joined the group on the stairway. When ship personnel asked where we were going in a meager attempt to prevent this, I replied that I was getting off the ship now. Then we walked off the ship and over to the immigration area. We waited in line for about 30 minutes, had our passports stamped, and emerged into a marketplace area where tour guides waited.

No one questioned us and certainly no one told us to get back on the ship!

This info would have been helpful to us had we read it before we cruised. I wrote it for the purpose of providing information to others. Each person must act according to his or her comfort level. But my experience is that Norwegian’s objective is to get their shore excursion people off first and this is their way of trying to accomplish that. But what we found is that the information they were giving out was not true.

Again, this was not a show stopper and the info is provided to indicate how we handled the situation.

There were many spectacular aspects of our cruise-notably the Entertainment! Burn the Floor was astounding-we saw it twice! We also loved listening to and watching Bernadett Nyori, the violinist. Her talent with the violin is almost supernatural! The Cirque Jungle Show was equally impressive and entertaining (and this show comes with a delicious shrimp and filet dinner, which was cooked to my specifications with no problem!). And the musical, Rock of Ages, showcased some incredible talent, most notably, Joelle who also appeared as the female singer in Burn the Floor. She should head to Broadway!

A note on Rock of Ages for anyone who is still reading this! Please, please do your research before seeing this show. It is not for everyone. If you are very conservative, are not comfortable with sexual overtones or homosexual demonstrations, please do not see this show. It’s not just a showcase of old rock hits. There’s a story line. It is very distracting to other audience members and especially to the performers on stage when people get up and walk out during the performance.

I hope this information helps others who are sailing on the Breakaway. As indicated, we enjoyed our cruise. We are happy we chose this itinerary and we will sail on Norwegian again.
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Cabin Review

Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin MB 10240
Our cabin was adequate, with some prior planning by me. I chose this cabin because the balcony was somewhat offset from the neighboring one. The balcony, however, is very small. Most of the balconies are. I prefer a balcony that can accommodate a lounge chair, but having a bigger balcony meant a cabin in a different part of the ship and I wanted to be mid-ship for stability.
A more pressing issue was the lack of outlets. My husband uses a CPAP machine at night and this requires electricity. Thank goodness a Norwegian rep recommended that I bring an extension cord on one of the phone chats I had before departure. Fortunately, I packed an extra one. We needed two 6 foot extension cords to reach the outlet so the CPAP could be plugged in. I hope as new ships are built, they include additional outlets. There's not much you can do with existing ships except be prepared.
Our cabin was clean enough-after I asked our cabin steward to clean the needle depository that was in the bathroom.
TIP: Bring Extension cords-at least 2! ALSO if you require distilled water (since you cannot bring water onboard the ship) for a CPAP or any other reason, request this before you get on the ship. Call the customer service number and make your request. Although it was not in our cabin upon departure, when we called guest services, the distilled water showed up soon thereafter.
Deck 10 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

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