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

Never Again

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by AlanB75

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Jul 2019
  • Destination: the Western Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Balcony Stateroom

My family traveled on the Norwegian Breakaway to the Western Caribbean from 7/7/19 through 7/14/19. The following outlines issues we experienced leading up to and during the cruise along with recommendations to prevent these issues from arising in the future. This was our first family cruise and at this point I cannot say we intend to repeat the experience.

Multiple issues outlined below. No communications starting with post-booking 5/15/19 through submission of this feedback on 8/7/19 has been received. At this point I have filed an ADA complaint and a BBB complaint against NCL on 8/20/19. Awaiting any response. Update (no response received so BBB & DOJ complaints filed 8/21/19).

1- Food Allergy

a. My eldest, age 13 at the time of travel, has Celiac, an immune system deficiency that causes extremely violent physical reactions if she ingests wheat/barley/rye. Typically referred to as gluten intolerance.

b. 5/15/19 The cruise was booked via the NCL.com website. Nowhere in the booking process did I see an indication of where to mark if any “guests” in the party had a food allergy. For a vacation where the majority of the meals are taken onboard that seems to be a miss and is a relatively standard question on most travel websites I have booked through in the past whether it be a hotel or amusement park.

c. 5/20/19 I received my first of many emails from my “personal cruise consultant” trying to sell me additional items but offering little in meaningful information.

d. 5/30/19 I found a note on NCL.com advising that if my party had a food allergy I needed to make NCL aware 30 days prior to embarkation. No noticeable information was shown online how to make NCL aware, so I contacted my NCL consultant via email at 9:09am. In this email I asked how to note the account, what steps needed to be taken by us when dining onboard and how allergies were handled for excursions booked via NCL where meals were provided. To date (8/20/19) no response has been received from him in regard to these questions.

e. 6/3/19 Getting closer to the 30 day window, I then attempted contact at the phone number/extension provided in the email (1-877-416-9722 ext 44252). I was placed in voicemail where I reiterated the prior questions and the urgency since I was 4 days outside the 30 day window. To date (8/20/19) no response from him has been received.

f. 6/5/19 Still having not received any form of response, I called the number again but without the extension so I could find a live representative. The rep who answered the phone still first attempted to locate Vmy consultant despite my protestations but fortunately was unable to find him so this rep handled the call. The rep was able to note my account as Celiac, but was unable to answer any of the additional questions regarding dining both onboard and on shore. He provided a phone number to “call closer to the time of sailing” to get additional information (1-866-584-9753).

g. 6/26/19 After booking our excursions through NCL my wife called the number we had been provided. This number, as I’m sure you are aware, is NCL’s main number, not any form of information line in regard to dining or food allergies. After 22 minutes on hold someone answered the call. He was unable to provide any usable information and placed her on hold again for an additional 3 minutes before transferring her to Shore Excursions. She was on hold an additional 8 minutes with that extension until another rep came on the line. The only information he was able to provide was that “the allergy info should carry over to shore excursions but check with the shore excursion desk once on the ship." My goal was to get all this taken care of before vacation so I wouldn’t have to waste vacation time chasing this so that wasn’t a very good response in my estimation.

h. 6/27/19 Whilst again combing through the website for any usable information I came across a webform to contact the Access Desk. I again filled out the form with all the above questions and was thrilled to get an autoreply from the Access Desk informing me that Case: 02729318 had been opened and I would hear from them within 72 hours. To date (8/20/19) I have not received any additional reply aside from the autoreply.

i. 7/7/19 We boarded the Norwegian Breakaway at approximately noon EST. As rooms were not yet available we were advised by staff to “go get some food”. We approached the first restaurant we came across at 12:18pm, O’Sheehans, and upon reaching the front desk advised the woman seating customers of our need for GF. She then called for a manager who advised us that we needed to provide our meal choices 24 hours in advance so they couldn’t serve us at this restaurant. They directed us to Savor, one of the main dining halls, instead. This response was a tad confusing as we had only been aboard for 18 minutes and had been provided with no access to any menus beforehand so how could we have provided them a meal option and dining location 24 hours in advance? This behavior is what is referred to as a Denial of Service when it comes to the Americans with Disabilities Act which recognizes Celiac as a disability. We proceeded down to Savor where we were seated without issue and enjoyed a good meal. The waiter, was knowledgeable in our needs and did ensure the soup my daughter ordered was prepared GF as in the standard preparation it contained Hoisin sauce which generally contains a wheat extract. Great job on his part. The maître d did come out to our table and again mentioned the 24 hour notice item again. Given that we did not know at this point day by day what our dinner plans were for dining location or time we were still unsure how this would work. NCL very much stresses the “freestyle dining/freestyle cruising” experience and this certainly seemed to deviate from that expectation. For dinner we went to the Buffet and had a fine experience more akin to what I have found to be the norm in most locales. We approached each station, asked what was GF, were advised what she could eat and had no issues. No 24 hour notice was required for the buffet so that was a tad confusing.

j. 7/8/19 We went to the buffet at Moderno for breakfast and had a similar experience to dinner, station by station asking for options and having a fine meal. At 11:15am we knew what our dinner plan was, so we approached the restaurant desk to see that night’s menu. The menu was provided and after reviewing the options my daughter made her selections. Upon stepping back up to the desk to place our order the representative attempted to call a separate line to convey our order. When no answer was received on that line the rep advised us she was unable to help us further and directed us up to the buffet to place our dinner order…the buffet 9 floors up from where we were currently standing. Just another example of the lack of ownership for any problems/issues by many of the staff I encountered. If security cam footage is reviewed for 7/8/19 at approximately 11:20am you will see me standing by the door to said desk debating if it was time for me to just walk through the door and stand behind the desk until my issues were resolved, though I opted instead to continue to do NCL’s job while on vacation. You may also see the look on both my face and my family’s face as we took the elevator up to the buffet. Those looks will tell you that 24 hours into our vacation we were most assuredly not having a very good time. Upon reaching the buffet we found anAsst maître d. She was as confused as us as to why we were sent up 9 floors to place a dinner order for a different restaurant but she took ownership of the situation and took down and sent in our dinner order. Since we were already up there we decided to have lunch at the buffet and again no issues. Prior to heading out to dinner at 4pm we called the allergy line we were provided in a letter when we got in our stateroom the day before(28704), where it rang incessantly and eventually disconnected, called another line that did the same(26363) and continued back and forth in this fashion for 15 minutes until someone answered at ext 28704. After my wife explained our issues the rep agreed to meet us for dinner at Savor at 5pm, advising us to request at the desk that they page her upon our arrival. Over the course of approximately 45 minutes we requested the desk at Savor to contact her 3 times and my wife even walked out to Guest Services to try and get assistance. On the 3rd attempt to communicate that the rep was supposed to join us it all finally clicked with someone and she was at our table a few minutes later. She did a wonderful job of listening to me lay out for her the same items I have noted above for 10 minutes at which point she apologized for the confusion and provided us our first detailed information on dining with an allergy on an NCL ship in 39 days. She was concerned with the constant push off given with the phone reps and very concerned we were denied service on 7/7 and not assisted at the Reservation Desk on 7/8 asking for times and descriptions of the individuals involved so she could better educate them in the future. She also gave us the rundown on the 24 hour notice, advising us that our dining location and time were not necessary as the meal could be sent anywhere on the ship at any time we requested it. That would have been fantastic information to have had prior to boarding. She advised that breakfast dishes could be ordered for items not readily available at the buffet and brought up once requested. We later did this with pancakes, eggs benedict and French toast and my daughter was delighted. She advised that certain items such as GF pasta were available in the buffet area and could be requested at the counter (more on that later). However, the most important bit of information she provided was that, despite booking excursions via NCL, NCL had no knowledge of what items were being served and what may or may not be gluten free. She also indicated no food could be taken off ship at any of the ports which meant we were essentially on our own in foreign countries trying to explain a gluten allergy to folks who did not necessarily understand all the nuances associated with cross contamination. To the credit of the 3 establishments we dined at on shore, my daughter had no reactions. Any reaction would have disabled her for approximately 6 hours and would have inevitably resulted in our missing departure for a particular port. Though 2 of the 3 were booked via NCL which guaranteed they would not leave without us if we booked an excursion through them, it was best not to put that to the test as I had seen little from NCL to this point to make me feel confident in that guarantee. After speaking with the rep I can say our vacation did finally begin. We enjoyed dinner, saw the comedian and I enjoyed my first adult beverage 31 hours after boarding. The process of pre-ordering was not especially cumbersome as we just took the next days menu while we dined and made selections before leaving from dinner the night before. We did encounter one final issue regarding dining that evening when we went to the buffet later in the evening. We had previously been informed that GF pasta was available but upon approaching the first pasta station were told it was at the other pasta station. Upon reaching the other pasta station we were informed the GF pasta was at the first pasta station. We stated that’s where we started so the person looked around for a maître d. None was readily visible, so the person informed us they could not help us and my daughter had to do without her preferred option for that meal. This was the only negative instance we had at the buffet, but I wanted to make sure it was called out. On a side note, the maître d at Savor was our constant companion for the duration of our trip and did a wonderful job taking care of my daughter. So hats off to the Savor staff. Their assistance was greatly appreciated. However I would have to give a failing grade to the others mentioned above.

This issue was by far and away the biggest detractor from the trip. That I spent hours and days chasing information before the trip with no response and was met with a refusal to serve at our first restaurant was inexcusable.

2- Excursions

a. Roatan, Honduras trip to Gumbalimba Preserve and Tabyana Beach booked via NCL

i. Tabyana Beach, while very beautiful, needs to have some items addressed and since NCL supports this location via their offerings/bookings then NCL can be a point of contact.

1. The shore vendors were no problem and the meal was very good and we found a person who understood GF and walked us through the offerings.

2. The individuals working the snorkel kayaks that are employed by the beach resort are a different story.

a. I was approached at my seat and asked if we wanted them to take us out further to snorkel and have them feed the fish to draw them in. I advised no and the individual went back to his area.

b. Upon entering the water and gearing up the same individual approached the 4 of us and I again advised we were all set.

c. 10 minutes later, while snorkeling 100 yards or so from shore he again approached on a kayak and circled us until we surfaced and again asked about taking us out further where we again indicated we were all set.

d. Shortly thereafter my wife and my eldest child went off in a different direction on their own as my eldest was uncomfortable near the fish. Another Tabyana Beach Resort employee kayaked over and after being advised they were all set, proceeded to drop fish food into the water anyway, attracting a large number towards my daughter that was already uncomfortable.

i. Under no circumstance do I want myself or anyone I know to be associated with food in regard to wildlife. Feeding fish causes them to associate people with food. The smaller fish come in, quickly followed by the larger fish until eventually you end up with a large aggressive fish coming after you…or worse case…a shark. This behavior is inexcusable and needs to be addressed. In reading reviews, I am clearly not the first person that has experienced this.

b. Harvest Caye, Belize

i. This will be a discussion on a communication failure and the negative impact it had on our day.

1. Prior to departure I researched each port of call and looked for points of interest. The main call out on this island was the Flighthouse, a lighthouse located about ¾ of a mile from the ship with ziplines that carry you over the beach and other areas.

2. In the Freestyle Daily for Day 4, Wednesday July 10 2019, left in my cabin the night before there was an insert on Harvest Caye with bullet 4 calling out the Flighthouse. I retained a copy of this paper for this discussion, not an action one who is truly “on vacation” would need to take.

3. In the Atrium the morning of Day 4 the slide show for Harvest Caye included a slide on the Flighthouse. So at this point all indications are that the Flighthouse is an option when we arrive, yes?

4. That morning I discuss options for the day with my children. Since they wish to partake of the zip lines and they figure it makes the most sense to do this first when they’re dry, we exit the ship in full dress (shirts/shorts/sneakers) carrying all the swimming/snorkeling gear in 2 beach bags and 2 backpacks and exit the ship. It is a pretty long walk to the Flighthouse in full sun much of the way, but we followed all the signs and continued past all the other Harvest Caye attractions. The closer we got the more concerned I got that, not only did I not see anyone ziplining, I didn’t even see a zipline cable anywhere in the sky. But we carried on because there was no indication anywhere that this was not a viable option. Upon reaching our destination I wish I could say I was surprised to see a chain across the entrance with a closed sign attached. At this point we retreated to the beach nearby to figure out next steps. My wife and kids went off to change into swimsuits while I remained at the beach watching as one family after another reached the Flighthouse only to find it closed. I located a staff member wearing a Flighthouse nametag and asked if this was closed just for a bit or if it was closed for the day. The person then indicated that it is undergoing renovations and has been closed for a while and will be closed for the foreseeable future. This leads me to understand this wasn’t a last second cancellation and that instead NCL had operated in bad faith by continuing to promote an attraction that was not available thereby costing my family an hour of travel time and time spent changing into suits we would have worn off the ship had we known beforehand. So instead of carrying just the 2 bags, we were stuck with 4 for the day.

c. Algae/Sargassum

i. The Western Caribbean is currently inundated with a massive algae bloom the evidence of which was clearly visible both on and off the ship. Any south or east facing beaches are covered with mounds of rotting algae that is surrounded by flies. This algae reaches out several feet from shore that must be waded through to get to any sort of open water for swimming. 2 of the 4 beaches we visited were covered to a point where utilizing the beach for any water activity was greatly inhibited, one of these was the beach in Cozumel booked via NCL.

1. Under no circumstance am I holding NCL responsible for the algae problem, however I would note that I found no mention of this anywhere in regard to NCL’s website or Excursion listings. This problem has existed for 5 or so years apparently but is a guarded secret. That is again unacceptable. Communicating these issues ahead of time allows people to manage expectations and make more informed choices for excursions. It wasn’t until I returned home 2 days later and saw a story on MSN.com outlining the issue up and down the coasts of Mexico and Central America that I was truly aware of the scope.

3- Onboard

a. An inclusive list of items in need of addressing onboard.

i. Climbing Wall

1. For all amenities onboard I would recommend a whiteboard listing the hours of operation for that day posted early in the morning. There were times when we approached an activity during the timeframe called out in the Freestyle Daily and the activity was not open.

2. Specific to the climbing wall and the “ropes” course, have an assortment of socks available for purchase at or nearby these attractions. I was aware of the restrictions as I always research ahead of time. However, on Day 2 while we were awaiting our turn to do the rock wall a young girl ahead of us was turned away as she did not have socks on. She immediately broke down but there was no available remedy. I did step in and offer her my younger daughters socks and she and her father accepted and averted a meltdown. This is something that bowling alleys have had for decades and would be a relatively easy implementation and would result in better customer experiences as well as a small revenue source.

ii. Spider Wall

1. As noted above, a few times we went to this attraction during its scheduled operating hours it was closed with no indication of why or for how long. Simple enough to add a whiteboard and post hours and messages if items close unexpectedly. Set the expectation.

iii. Bungee Trampoline

1. This attraction was not operating at all during the duration of the cruise. That was disappointing to my children. No reason was given for why it was closed. Again, communicate and set the expectation.

iv. Main Pool

1. This attraction was also closed a couple times when it was listed as open. In addition, when kids then went over to the adult pool to swim they were chased out. That’s not acceptable. As above, whiteboard with hours and any updates for why it’s closed and when it’s expected to reopen. And if it’s closed unexpectedly, especially on a sea day, allow the kids into the adult pool.

v. Waterslides

1. From a safety perspective, this was the first place I had ever encountered waterslides where there was not a staff member present at the exits of the slides to assist anyone that may be having an issue at the bottom. Both sets of tube slides had very restrictive access should someone need assistance since there were plexiglass walls around them. I would certainly address that before a real accident occurs.

vi. Shuffleboard

1. We went to the shuffleboard areas every day during their scheduled operating hours and pucks were never present. Over the course of the cruise the condition of the sticks deteriorated as folks unable to find pucks began using the sticks for swordplay and such. Finally on Friday, Day 6, I sent my wife to Guest Services to request the pucks while my children and I played “shuffle phone” with my Samsung. I only had 1 phone though so it didn’t quite work. The Guest Services rep was confused by the request but did call it in and a few hours later we were finally able to play. After the pucks came in you can see that the courts were occupied consistently so we were not the only ones waiting. Both courts are in a very highly trafficked area for crew, so that this was missed for what easily could have been the duration of the cruise had we not brought it up is disheartening. I would expect that someone is responsible each morning for getting these loose items like shuffleboard/chess/ping pong/foosball set up.

vii. Casino

1. Only issue here was in utilizing the machines. There is no information posted on/near the machines telling you how to set up an account and then transfer money onto the machine. I did successfully load money onto my card Saturday morning, Day 7, but was then unable to place bets. Nobody was around to assist so I came back later to the main desk in the Casino and the staff member handed me a card that gave the instructions on loading to the card and then transferring to the machine. These cards need to be located in multiple locations, most notably near the machines.

viii. Toilets

1. For a billion dollar cruise ship I was surprised by the number of low level maintenance issues I encountered. Most notably the near constant signage for restrooms being out of order. In some instances there was no signage, but upon entering the facility it inevitably encountered an issue. There are 2 key examples, but multiple other times we ran afoul of the restroom.

a. One morning I entered the men’s room by the Manhattan on Deck 7. Upon entering the first stall I noticed that the stall had been recently cleaned as the toilet paper was still folded as they do when they replace it. However, upon lifting the lid of the toilet I was greeted by someone else’s leavings. I did attempt to flush but the toilet did not respond despite numerous attempts. This tells me that a staff member actually went into the restroom to clean, found the offending item, continued on their cleaning and left the mess without any effort made to resolve the underlying issue or put up signage that that stall was Out of Order. I then went to the next stall and, upon completion, found that this toilet also would not flush. This toilet also had the blue cleaning solution still in it so this tells me the toilet wasn’t tested during cleaning. On a ship where toilets were constantly out of order I would recommend adding the step of checking the flushing mechanism during each cleaning and having signage to warn customers of any that may be in need of repair. Repairs also need to be swifter in coming.

b. On the morning of debarkation the toilet in our stateroom decided to act up. We had no issues for the entirety of the trip with out restroom until this day. Unfortunately this issue resulted in my having to leave a mess behind for the cabin steward. I was very appreciative of the work he had done for us during our cruise up to and including having to come up and retrieve a match I had found in an elevator lobby on the 9th floor. I did not want him to think my decision not to flush was an indication of my feelings toward him or the service he had provided so I was left scrambling to write a 1 page note to leave him apologizing for the mess and making sure he did not perceive it as a reflection on him in any way. All while trying to get everyone and everything off the ship in a timely fashion. This was a sad conclusion to our trip.

ix. Trash cans

1. Over the first 24 hours I was surprised by the amount of trash customers were leaving laying around and I would pick items up as I came across them (cereal boxes, napkins, etc). What I soon discovered though was that, while there were recycling containers around the main decks I could not locate a trash can anywhere but the restrooms. As such I stopped picking up garbage as I found it.

a. I’m not sure if this is a standard cruise ship issue or if there’s some maritime rationale for not having them accessible, but if there is not then I would set some up by the recycling bins.

x. Touch Screens

1. These were a great idea and very useful the first couple days, but like so many other items they quickly fell into disrepair. By the midpoint of the cruise I would estimate 50% were out of order in some way or another. Particularly the card scanner when making show or dinner reservations.

xi. Bowling Game by O’Sheehans

1. Almost constantly Out of Order. When we finally found it working we paid the $6/person for the 4 of us to play and by the 3rd frame it was offline again. There was no phone to contact maintenance, so my wife had to go down a level to guest services. While she was away someone did happen by and fixed the issue, but my wife was not back yet and the game immediately resumed with a countdown so she ended up missing a frame. My feeling here is that ship phones or call buttons need to be installed in many of the areas around the ship so that a quick call can be put in when an issue is found. Make it easier to report issues so hopefully they get reconciled faster.

xii. Phone calls

1. Frequently our calls to the operator or specific extensions rang until the call would disconnect unanswered and would require multiple call backs to finally get someone to pick up. That was not a great experience.

xiii. Contacting NCL online while aboard without paying for wifi

1. Several companies provide a way to access their website and download their app while onsite. NCL needs to provide a way for all customers to access while aboard and provide pertinent updates like attraction closings or storm warnings on that site.

As can be interpreted from this write-up, this was far from the relaxing vacation I thought I was booking. There were positives, the food was great, the shows we saw were wonderful, the bed was comfortable, and the steward was magnificent, however the negatives far outweighed the positives making me rate this vacation a 2/10 and perceive it as a waste of my time and money.

AlanB75's Full Rating Summary
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Balcony Stateroom
Cabin BD 9302

Room and ship steward were excellent, however the horrendous communications outlined above were insurmountable.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews


as described in review for Roatan excursion, the snorkel staff at the Tabyana Beach Resort will relentlessly follow you in the water and continue to try and get you to agree to go further out and have them feed the fish around you, going so far as to circle you while you are under until you come back up. Despite our protestations they went ahead and threw food in near my eldest child drawing a frenzy of hungry fish towards her and deepening the association for those fish that people = food and making them more aggressive towards people as a result.

View All 460 Beach Reviews

Visited a beach resort. That whole side of the island is inundated with sargassum/algae to the point that they spent the day raking it and extending a catch fence a little off shore. Food and drinks were good.

View All 389 Beach Reviews
Harvest Caye

As called out in the review, NCL hammered the concept of the flight house ziplines into my family right up through debarkation that morning. Never did they indicate the attraction was closed until reaching it approximately 3/4 to a mile on shore and no staff was present to advise at the site why/when it would be available. Another example of awful communication by NCL. Although to call it communication is misleading as to date I have received nothing but advertisement emails from them.

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