Review of Norwegian Breakaway
This was our first cruise ever. We were celebrating our 20th anniversary and our budget did not permit a stay at a resort with the same amenities as the cruise ship. My husband was 110% convinced this was a good idea and asked that I give it a try. I was very skeptical and researched it WAY too much. Going in, I had a very low bar of expectations. Why? I read the reviews (every single one) and was skeptical. Crowds? Unhappy crew? Long lines at bars? Nickel and diming us? Let me say first, we come from an urban area and I am really tired of crowds of people. I also wanted it to be clean as I am a bit obsessive with cleanliness and healthiness.
Well, turns out I should have remembered that the reviews are a small slice of the 4300 plus customers on board. They were way off. That is the short version. If you are debating based on the reviews if you should go or not…just go!
As I researched SO much, I wanted to share all that I learned.
Cleanliness? The ship was clean beyond clean. They made you wash your hands everywhere. LOVE it. This is actually how the whole world should operate…wash before you touch anything to do with food. In the bathroom, use a paper towel to open the door. Don’t fill your germ coated water bottle at the buffet! And wash down the common areas frequently. Check! All done by NCL.
Crowds? The ship had 4300 passengers (not including crew) on our trip so they were down 500 people from capacity. I did not find the ship crowded at all. Yes, there were some sunny days where the pool deck was filled…but just go up to the next level and there were tons of places to sit (and get a drink). The pool is small…but this is a ship. If you want a lazy river…then go to a waterpark. I found plenty of places to sit and read or just look out at the sea with no one else even remotely near me. (Deck 8 Waterfront and the top Adults only deck in particular).
The lines at the bars? Umm..not really. The pool bar (with Paul…who was amazingly efficient and friendly) had a good crowd at it so you MIGHT have had to wait 5 minutes or more. However, if you have ever gone to any bar with going to, then you will have to wait a bit to get a drink. Maybe the previous reviewers only went to a mythical Cheers bar. Handy tip: bring 50 one dollar bills with you and give the bartender a dollar or two per drink. This will get their attention, they won’t forget you, and they really appreciate it. Yes, I know gratuity is included, but that is spread out among a lot of people. A buck or two a drink is actually a true tip for them. So find a few good bartenders and they will remember you. They give you your drinks quickly and sometimes even top them off with a little extra.
Crowds at the buffet? Can’t figure out which way to go? This was what people complained about. I am guessing these people also complain about tags in their clothing. It is a buffet. There are people. Look up and say excuse me and keep walking. Not hard to figure out. The buffet was great. We went at many different times and never had trouble getting a seat or getting food. It was far more efficient, quiet, and less crowded than a food court at Tysons Mall (and about 100 times more delicious).
Rooms? Ours was great. You could hear the baby next to us sometimes, but that was it and he was super cute (And slept through the night…just did not like his nap time!). You could NOT hear voices from the adjoining rooms, though you could hear the hallway chatter. The room size was the equivalent of a NYC or European typical hotel room. We had the family balcony room (12760) and for the two of us it was more than enough. The bathroom is larger than our bathroom at home (keep in mind, we are urban dwellers). The balcony is lovely!
Crew? The crew was great. Previous reviews said they were surly. Nope. They were pleasant. They did not go around singing the “Happy Working Song” from Enchanted, but that would have been annoying. Some of the bar staff was more reserved, but that is OK, too. They did their jobs and were respectful (despite some passengers being downright rude to them).
Shows? Fantastic. The Rock of Ages complaint that it was not appropriate for kids (or some adults) is laughable. The show takes place in the 80s on Sunset Strip. The set is a street that has signs for “Live girls” and you can see it before the show starts. They literally announced on the loudspeaker of the ship what type of show it was and they announced twice BEFORE the show that it was not at all suitable for kids or suitable for adults who get easily offended. So I am not sure what the fuss was about. There are plenty of other shows to see on the ship if that is not your cup of tea. We enjoyed it. Parts of it raised my eyebrows, but nothing that you don’t see on cable in terms of dress or language. We were surprised that a family sat behind us with two kids elementary or middle school aged. I would not have brought the kids to this show. We also enjoyed the magician, who was on the line up on the Dailies but not announced prior to the cruise, and Burn the Floor.
Nickel and dime you? They are pretty upfront as to what costs money and what does not. To play in the arcade, you pay per game. They basketball arcade, bowling, and air hockey, are all pay per game. The prices are reasonable. We had onboard credit due to our package we purchased and despite playing multiple games of everything we ended up getting money back. On the last day we went down to the guest services and they paid us cash. We have not done other cruises so it seemed fine to us. We did not go to the restaurants that had an upfront fee as there were plenty of choices without the fee restaurants.
Excursions? Fantastic. We had booked a catamaran snorkel, but they did not have enough people to run the tour. So they helped us rebook the 3 Reef Snorkel. It was awesome. The second reef had tons of amazing coral. All of the reefs had great fish, but the second reef was the best. You had plenty of time in the water as well (see my review under excursions). They dropped us back on the pier (a little ways down from our desired spot due to an incredibly intense rainstorm) and walked us back so we knew where to go through customs. Be sure to check what your transportation is at the end of your excursion. Some folks wound up a few miles from the pier (apparently) due to the rain storm and had to get their own way back. This is just what we heard from others, not sure if that was true or not. We appreciated the crew brining warm towels to greet us at the ship after being really wet from the storm!
We did the clear bottom kayak in Costa Maya. The kayaks were nice…the glass bottom was very clear and you could see a lot of fish. The guide pointed out the areas to paddle to. It was a small group and we enjoyed the time at the beach as well.
Embarkation/Disembarkation? It was a breeze. The line for the cabs to drop off was long, but once the guy on the ground started directing traffic, it was fine. The lines to check in at 11 moved super fast. Disembarkation was simple as well. We took our own luggage and exited without fuss. We did check our bags at the service that brings them to the airport for you so that we could wander around New Orleans for the day. Well worth the $40.
Other stuff: We enjoyed the mini golf…a good course with lots of challenges. I liked the basketball court and my husband liked the ropes course. We liked having the library on board (with free crosswords!) and enjoyed the Atrium shows (Newly wed game, Q& A with the cast, Q&A with the crew).
So that is what I learned. Yes, it was a long review, but if you are sitting at home scrolling through reviews, I hope you benefit from it. We enjoyed the cruise and had plenty of quiet places together. Last tip: please bring Reef Safe sunscreen (our local Target had it or you can get it online). It makes a huge difference when you in the waters in the Caribbean. That is my only suggestion for NCL: to make sure all passengers have the Reef safe option (on board it does not matter so much).
Great room. Plenty of space. The balcony was great for two. It might be a little tight for four people.
Great interactive museum where you can spend hours. It was fascinating.
Three Reef Snorkel was great! Solid boat, but small so it was not overcrowded. Great gear on boat (or bring your own), friendly crew and great snorkeling. The second reef was particularly amazing. Be sure to bring some tip money for the 5 member crew. Well worth it. They even helped you get your fins off in the water if you wanted them to.View All 485 Snorkeling Reviews
Clear Bottom Kayak and beach. The kayaks were in great condition...you could see through the bottom very easily. The guides took you out to locations where there was a lot of fish to see and made sure you got to see the fish. Afterwards they took you to a nice beach to relax. It was a very relaxing day. It was a good day after spending the previous day snorkeling.View All 9 Kayaking Reviews