Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by ajith_v
- Sail Date: June 2018
- Destination: Baltic Sea
- Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Balcony Stateroom
Our overall experience was poor due to the low motivation level of staff and the consequent poor quality service which we experienced at every touch point in the ship - as well as poor processes with low flexibility that made every interaction with the ship- painful, long and usually unsatisfying.
We are a family of four with 2 adults and 2 girls aged 11 and 6 and this was our second cruise as a family.
Copenhagen cruise terminal is best accessed from the city center via taxi - we paid 220 DKK from danhostel in the city to the quay and on return to airport, paid about 380DKK.
NCL tried to take 100 USD for 4 of us for the same transfer - avoid them. Taxis are not difficult to find if u don't mind a 5 minute wait as you exit.
On embarkation day there was a 90 minute wait to board as the staff took very long to check people in. It would have been v easy to change the amount of time people spent waiting in a queue -as there were plenty of chairs available - but no - no one was thinking about the customer. They offered lime juice and water as you stood in a queue but would not think of letting people wait in seats rather than standing in a queue.
The luggage however was waiting for us when we reached the cabin which was great.
The ship has great infrastructure overall and cabins and public spaces are good quality.
Kids club- splash - has weird timings. It operated from 1030 AM -1030 PM with closures from 12-2 and then 5-7 which means that you are either shuttling kids to and from splash most of the time and never get a reasonable stretch of time without bothering about what is happening to them. This was a big dampener for us as, one of the reasons we like to cruise, is that we get lots of couple time while the kids are engaged - and this did not happen with NCL. They also do not take kids for lunch/dinner. Post 2230 hours, there is a paid option to keep them till 0130 hours - which is okay if you want to use it.
Garden cafe served good quality buffets throughout the day with reasonable variations in the menu and this was good for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
However the 3 main dining rooms offered very little choice and after one meal there, it was all repetitive and boring. They offer simple 3 course meals and essentially had 70% of the menu fixed for the entire cruise with 30% changing day to day- but that was largely stuff you could have at the buffet that night or the previous one. The dessert selection was particularly poor except for the final night's dinner. Staff were largely disinterested - with the exception of one in Manhattan room on the final evening.
Pools were decent and water slides and rope courses were good too - however, the crowd made each of these activities so tiresome that it took a lot of effort to force one to go. The rope course for example took 15 mins in a queue for 15 mins on the course (roughly)!
Further, with so much of demand, the timings on these things seemed ridiculous..why would you not consider advancing the hours a bit so that people can access these services with some flexibility. So much for "free style cruising".
Coming to entertainment, Russian folk show in SPB was good. The musical was average at best (it may have been good 10 years back but today, it cannot be above average) and burn the floor was OK. Given that the range of unpaid entertainment is poor, I did not get value from the cruise in terms of entertainment.
Do not book NCL port excursions as they are 30-100% more expensive than similar ones offered locally in Baltics. As all the forums will advice you alla and SPB are very very good in this region and it is totally seamless and reliable in every single port (although we did not experience helsinki as breakaway cancelled the visit at the last minute - and SPB tours refunded us promptly).
Communication from the bridge was patchy at best and left a lot to be "deciphered" by passengers. The cruise director was proactive with his communication however.
We experienced several instances of poor quality service throughout the cruise but i must recount this - in stockholm, as the port of docking changed to nynashamn, NCL arranged a transfer to and from stockholm. We were supposed to board the shuttle back at 440pm and we reached to see a long queue - not only of people waiting to board but buses waiting to pick people up - after 20-25 minutes in the queue, I spoke to one of the girls from NCL to ask why this needed to be so - and she said that she had a process that she had to follow. At this time, the hotel director (his name was Nuk or Muk - I do not recall) who was standing around and watching this, came up to me and said "I am sorry for this - may i please have your cabin number and I will make sure to redress this issue".I shared my cabin number promptly. I did not ask for it, he did.. AND that was the last I heard from NCL on this. To me, this tells a story of how leadership is happy to mouth platitudes and then the rest of the staff follows suit and is the root cause which made this cruise a painful one for us.
Our cabin steward did a poor job of cleaning mostly and looked sullen and spoke rudely with us - which was of course only when we could find him - which was not very often and usually took some 20-30 mins of trying over the phone. When asked about why we did not get our laundry back on Friday as was communicated when the laundry was taken, he said " i don't do the laundry here you know...". We did get the laundry on Saturday night and it was well done. The conversation and the bitterness it evokes, persists.
Both my kids felt that Costa offered much better and engaging activities on board than what they experienced in NCL and that the facilitators in "splash club" were not engaging enough...we felt the overwhelming need to follow a process - with no concern for the customer - on display here too. My eleven year old summed up her experience as "I thought we were not supposed to get bored on cruises but I was often bored.".
The disembarkation process was seamless and efficient - took no time at all.
I would definitely not go on another cruise with NCL as things stand.
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Bathroom was clean and efficient and everything worked.
Balcony was "tiny" but okay...
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