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I just returned from the June 23, 2019, sailing of the Norwegian Breakaway in the Haven. After a stellar cruise on the Breakaway in the Haven earlier this year in February, I left the ship disappointed this time.  I planned this cruise as a belated 70th birthday gift for my mother, and it was just she and I traveling. I had booked us two cabins in the Haven—a Deluxe Owner’s Suite (16102) and a Haven Courtyard Penthouse (16704). I had previously sailed in the same Deluxe Owner’s Suite in February, so I felt confident in my cabin choices. To be clear, everything on our cruise was fine. Other than some minor annoyances, there were no major issues. The butler and cabin stewards were, not surprisingly, absolutely exceptional. The food in the Haven dining room was, with few exceptions, very good. And both suites were spacious and comfortable, if not particularly luxurious—think a nice Hilton, rather than a Four Seasons or St. Regis. With that said, it’s time for NCL to decide what it wants the Haven to be: a true first-class experience or something more akin to premium economy on an international flight. With recent price increases in the Haven, NCL is trying to have it both ways. They’re charging Haven passengers a first-class fare, but they’re providing a premium economy experience—which means the value proposition for booking the Haven is currently out of balance. So, it’s from this perspective that I’m writing this review. If you’re not interested in reading about the Haven experience, you may want to skip over to the next review. HAVEN EMBARKATION: The embarkation process was considerably better in Miami than in New Orleans or Vancouver, the only two other ports we’ve sailed on NCL with in the Haven. There was a Haven desk outside the terminal, and once you show your boarding passes, you’re escorted to security and then taken to a private holding area to check in and wait to board the ship. This holding area had snacks and drinks, and the entrances were staffed. However, there was insufficient seating. Toward the end of the 40 minutes we sat there, there were people left standing because there weren’t enough seats. I suspect this issue will be resolved when NCL opens its new terminal building later this year. We were then escorted on the ship and up to the Haven before general boarding started, and we were on the ship by 11:30am. HAVEN BUTLERS, STEWARDS & CONCIERGE: Every Haven stateroom is assigned a steward and a butler. We were fortunate to have an excellent butler, Naveen, who was a consummate professional. He proactively learned our preferences and, without fail, delivered exceptional service. Our stewards, Maria and Radwell, were comparably exceptional. They kept both staterooms spotless and went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. On the other hand, we encountered challenges with the concierge, Roy. He was either unwilling or unequipped to provide the level of service NCL advertises in the Haven. While he was occasionally friendly, simple requests seemed like a burden. For example, the app wasn’t letting me book a reservation at a restaurant even though it showed the time we wanted available, so we asked him to book it for us. He wrote it down in his legal pad, but after two days, we still hadn’t heard anything back from him and the reservation wasn’t appearing in our app. We just happened to cross paths with him outside the Haven in the atrium, and he told us he made a reservation for us—but wasn’t able to tell us what time he made it for. That left us with two unnecessary days of uncertainty regarding our Friday evening plans. Frustratingly, the concierge also didn’t communicate well. He’d tell us the wrong times to arrive to be escorted to a show—and then tell us we were told different times. He also never communicated the times the Haven staff would be available to escort guests back on to the ship at ports, which presented us with another unnecessary challenge. In general, these were simple problems to avoid. Part of it I blame on this particular staff member, but the other part I blame on NCL’s lack of clarity around Haven services to its guests. More on this later. Aside from mediocre service from the concierge, it’s staff members like Naveen, Maria and Radwell that have kept us sailing in the Haven. Unfortunately, because NCL has not invested enough in updating its Haven hard product, that means that the burden of providing the advertised Haven experience to guests rests entirely on the shoulders of the Haven staff. More on this later, too. HAVEN DINING ROOM: The food in the Haven dining room has always been good, and this time was no exception. There were new staff serving in the dining room, which came with its challenges—drink orders not fulfilled, general uneasiness with the job. But that should work itself out quickly with more experience. The maître d’, Jenipher, was very good, and when alerted to any issues, he took them seriously and worked to make things better.  Given the price premium for the Haven, it’s surprising, though, that NCL hasn’t done more with the menu in the Haven dining room. No lobster, not even once, on a Caribbean cruise? I can get that on a Carnival ship in a main dining room. While the items on the menu are well thought out and well prepared, the menu should provide greater variety. On my February cruise, the Haven dining room offered daily specials. But on this June cruise, no specials were offered, which meant I found myself eating the same items again and again for lunch and dinner . NCL has an opportunity to do more here, and, at least, provide consistency in service and more variety in its offerings. PORT EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION: Priority embarkation and disembarkation is supposed to be one of the big perks of the Haven, but I’ve never found it to pan out the way it should—particularly not on this cruise. For the record, part of the reason I book the Haven is specifically for this service. If this is important to you, too, don’t book the Haven thinking you’re getting a real value add in getting back on the ship. You’re not. For example, during our port day at Harvest Caye, we were escorted down to the gangway by the concierge. The real benefit of this is that you get to take a staff elevator, saving you from stopping at nearly every floor down from the top deck as you do every other time you use an elevator—because there is no dedicated Haven “express” elevator. The weather was miserable, and after a break between thunderstorms, we and everyone else tried to get back on the ship before it started up again. This meant an incredibly long, wet, chaotic wait. When I asked one of the ship’s officers where Haven guests should go, I was met with a dismissive, “There’s never special boarding for Haven.” They might want to check the NCL website because that is precisely the service that the cruise line is selling. An officer should know this. To be clear, my issue isn’t with waiting in line. However, when you specifically pay for a service focused around not having to wait in line, you get frustrated when it’s not offered. And traveling with my aging mother made this missing service important to us. Later, we were told that priority embarkation was only available during a limited, one-hour period of time––a time after nearly everyone had already boarded the ship. HAVEN HARD PRODUCT: As mentioned previously, Haven staterooms are certainly better than average. They provide ample space—particularly the Deluxe Owner’s Suite—and better amenities than you could find in a typical stateroom. But for whatever reason, NCL hasn’t emphasized luxury. Aside from a few tweaks, it doesn’t look like the furnishings in the Breakaway’s Haven staterooms have changed since the ship launched in 2013. The couches are dated and worn; the TVs are ancient with terrible, over-modulated sound; the table and chairs, while clean, are also dated and worn; there are obvious electrical issues that cause the main light fixtures to burn out repeatedly; and there were maintenance issues on the balcony that caused loud rattling noises while sailing. Again, none of these on their own are deal-breakers—but when you’re paying through the teeth for a product that’s promoted as “luxury,” it’s reasonable to expect that these Haven staterooms would get more attention than they’re obviously getting. One other thing to note is that staying on deck 16 has positive and negative attributes. On the positive side, you’re afforded some of the best views on the ship. The view from the Deluxe Owner’s Suite really is stunning—breezy, but stunning. On the negative side, it takes forever to get anywhere on the ship because there’s no “express” elevator for the Haven and only four of the eight elevators go to deck 16 on the forward side of the ship. Plan 8-10 minutes minimum for the elevator rides during busy times, and be prepared to stop at every floor. This would be an easy thing for NCL to adjust to make an immediate improvement on the Breakaway’s Haven experience. We’ve always been willing to overlook these shortcomings because the Haven staff are so amazing. But with one or two weak links in the staff like we had on this most recent sailing, it does cause you to start paying more attention to your surroundings. And as I’ve said before, the Haven burden falls too much on the backs of the concierge, butlers and stewards. IN CLOSING: With rising fares and no improvement in the quality of the services offered in the Haven, NCL needs to step up its game to make the Haven worth the extra cost. If they don’t, the value proposition is no longer there for this product. I think that this is a correctable problem for NCL, and I hope they’ll work to get things back in alignment. Until then, it makes me sad to say we’ll be looking for other options, and we’d encourage other travelers seeking the luxury “ship within a ship” concept to consider alternatives.

The Haven on Breakaway: First-Class Price, Premium Economy Experience

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by ARCJCM Travel Videos

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Trip Details
I just returned from the June 23, 2019, sailing of the Norwegian Breakaway in the Haven. After a stellar cruise on the Breakaway in the Haven earlier this year in February, I left the ship disappointed this time. 

I planned this cruise as a belated 70th birthday gift for my mother, and it was just she and I traveling. I had booked us two cabins in the Haven—a Deluxe Owner’s Suite (16102) and a Haven Courtyard Penthouse (16704). I had previously sailed in the same Deluxe Owner’s Suite in February, so I felt confident in my cabin choices.

To be clear, everything on our cruise was fine. Other than some minor annoyances, there were no major issues. The butler and cabin stewards were, not surprisingly, absolutely exceptional. The food in the Haven dining room was, with few exceptions, very good. And both suites were spacious and comfortable, if not particularly luxurious—think a nice Hilton, rather than a Four Seasons or St. Regis.

With that said, it’s time for NCL to decide what it wants the Haven to be: a true first-class experience or something more akin to premium economy on an international flight. With recent price increases in the Haven, NCL is trying to have it both ways. They’re charging Haven passengers a first-class fare, but they’re providing a premium economy experience—which means the value proposition for booking the Haven is currently out of balance.

So, it’s from this perspective that I’m writing this review. If you’re not interested in reading about the Haven experience, you may want to skip over to the next review.

HAVEN EMBARKATION:

The embarkation process was considerably better in Miami than in New Orleans or Vancouver, the only two other ports we’ve sailed on NCL with in the Haven. There was a Haven desk outside the terminal, and once you show your boarding passes, you’re escorted to security and then taken to a private holding area to check in and wait to board the ship. This holding area had snacks and drinks, and the entrances were staffed. However, there was insufficient seating. Toward the end of the 40 minutes we sat there, there were people left standing because there weren’t enough seats. I suspect this issue will be resolved when NCL opens its new terminal building later this year. We were then escorted on the ship and up to the Haven before general boarding started, and we were on the ship by 11:30am.

HAVEN BUTLERS, STEWARDS & CONCIERGE:

Every Haven stateroom is assigned a steward and a butler. We were fortunate to have an excellent butler, Naveen, who was a consummate professional. He proactively learned our preferences and, without fail, delivered exceptional service. Our stewards, Maria and Radwell, were comparably exceptional. They kept both staterooms spotless and went out of their way to be friendly and helpful.

On the other hand, we encountered challenges with the concierge, Roy. He was either unwilling or unequipped to provide the level of service NCL advertises in the Haven. While he was occasionally friendly, simple requests seemed like a burden. For example, the app wasn’t letting me book a reservation at a restaurant even though it showed the time we wanted available, so we asked him to book it for us. He wrote it down in his legal pad, but after two days, we still hadn’t heard anything back from him and the reservation wasn’t appearing in our app. We just happened to cross paths with him outside the Haven in the atrium, and he told us he made a reservation for us—but wasn’t able to tell us what time he made it for. That left us with two unnecessary days of uncertainty regarding our Friday evening plans.

Frustratingly, the concierge also didn’t communicate well. He’d tell us the wrong times to arrive to be escorted to a show—and then tell us we were told different times. He also never communicated the times the Haven staff would be available to escort guests back on to the ship at ports, which presented us with another unnecessary challenge. In general, these were simple problems to avoid. Part of it I blame on this particular staff member, but the other part I blame on NCL’s lack of clarity around Haven services to its guests. More on this later.

Aside from mediocre service from the concierge, it’s staff members like Naveen, Maria and Radwell that have kept us sailing in the Haven. Unfortunately, because NCL has not invested enough in updating its Haven hard product, that means that the burden of providing the advertised Haven experience to guests rests entirely on the shoulders of the Haven staff. More on this later, too.

HAVEN DINING ROOM:

The food in the Haven dining room has always been good, and this time was no exception. There were new staff serving in the dining room, which came with its challenges—drink orders not fulfilled, general uneasiness with the job. But that should work itself out quickly with more experience. The maître d’, Jenipher, was very good, and when alerted to any issues, he took them seriously and worked to make things better. 

Given the price premium for the Haven, it’s surprising, though, that NCL hasn’t done more with the menu in the Haven dining room. No lobster, not even once, on a Caribbean cruise? I can get that on a Carnival ship in a main dining room. While the items on the menu are well thought out and well prepared, the menu should provide greater variety. On my February cruise, the Haven dining room offered daily specials. But on this June cruise, no specials were offered, which meant I found myself eating the same items again and again for lunch and dinner . NCL has an opportunity to do more here, and, at least, provide consistency in service and more variety in its offerings.

PORT EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION:

Priority embarkation and disembarkation is supposed to be one of the big perks of the Haven, but I’ve never found it to pan out the way it should—particularly not on this cruise. For the record, part of the reason I book the Haven is specifically for this service. If this is important to you, too, don’t book the Haven thinking you’re getting a real value add in getting back on the ship. You’re not.

For example, during our port day at Harvest Caye, we were escorted down to the gangway by the concierge. The real benefit of this is that you get to take a staff elevator, saving you from stopping at nearly every floor down from the top deck as you do every other time you use an elevator—because there is no dedicated Haven “express” elevator. The weather was miserable, and after a break between thunderstorms, we and everyone else tried to get back on the ship before it started up again. This meant an incredibly long, wet, chaotic wait. When I asked one of the ship’s officers where Haven guests should go, I was met with a dismissive, “There’s never special boarding for Haven.” They might want to check the NCL website because that is precisely the service that the cruise line is selling. An officer should know this.

To be clear, my issue isn’t with waiting in line. However, when you specifically pay for a service focused around not having to wait in line, you get frustrated when it’s not offered. And traveling with my aging mother made this missing service important to us. Later, we were told that priority embarkation was only available during a limited, one-hour period of time––a time after nearly everyone had already boarded the ship.

HAVEN HARD PRODUCT:

As mentioned previously, Haven staterooms are certainly better than average. They provide ample space—particularly the Deluxe Owner’s Suite—and better amenities than you could find in a typical stateroom. But for whatever reason, NCL hasn’t emphasized luxury. Aside from a few tweaks, it doesn’t look like the furnishings in the Breakaway’s Haven staterooms have changed since the ship launched in 2013. The couches are dated and worn; the TVs are ancient with terrible, over-modulated sound; the table and chairs, while clean, are also dated and worn; there are obvious electrical issues that cause the main light fixtures to burn out repeatedly; and there were maintenance issues on the balcony that caused loud rattling noises while sailing. Again, none of these on their own are deal-breakers—but when you’re paying through the teeth for a product that’s promoted as “luxury,” it’s reasonable to expect that these Haven staterooms would get more attention than they’re obviously getting.

One other thing to note is that staying on deck 16 has positive and negative attributes. On the positive side, you’re afforded some of the best views on the ship. The view from the Deluxe Owner’s Suite really is stunning—breezy, but stunning. On the negative side, it takes forever to get anywhere on the ship because there’s no “express” elevator for the Haven and only four of the eight elevators go to deck 16 on the forward side of the ship. Plan 8-10 minutes minimum for the elevator rides during busy times, and be prepared to stop at every floor. This would be an easy thing for NCL to adjust to make an immediate improvement on the Breakaway’s Haven experience.

We’ve always been willing to overlook these shortcomings because the Haven staff are so amazing. But with one or two weak links in the staff like we had on this most recent sailing, it does cause you to start paying more attention to your surroundings. And as I’ve said before, the Haven burden falls too much on the backs of the concierge, butlers and stewards.

IN CLOSING:

With rising fares and no improvement in the quality of the services offered in the Haven, NCL needs to step up its game to make the Haven worth the extra cost. If they don’t, the value proposition is no longer there for this product. I think that this is a correctable problem for NCL, and I hope they’ll work to get things back in alignment. Until then, it makes me sad to say we’ll be looking for other options, and we’d encourage other travelers seeking the luxury “ship within a ship” concept to consider alternatives.
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