I wanted to write this review because I've read several accounts of this cruise in the media. I have to say I have a different point of view and perhaps a very different experience. In short, I would not hesitate to book another cruise with NCL. They did a good job in a difficult situation in Hurricane Dorian. I booked everything through NCL and they made and paid for all arrangements to get us home after we arrived in New Orleans. They moved 4000 people to the airport and back to Miami. They put people up in hotels and provided 300pp for flight change fees. I'm not sure what people expected in a natural disaster. At no time were we out of food or hungry as people have implied. In fact the two extra days on the ship were excellent, the ship was fully functional the entire time, with entertainment, dining and bars. Thank you NCL for taking good care of us and thank you crew of the Breakaway for keeping smiling faces even when people were nasty with you. I learned through this two things, first, take the travel insurance or buy it on your own. Keep in mind that NCL's travel insurance only covers $500 in airline and hotel. Second, book everything through NCL, we did and they took care of everything. We got a letter in our stateroom telling us they were taking care of our arrangements and that they would let us know when they were complete. On the last evening, we had our new flight reservations delivered to our room. We got bussed to Baton Rouge so that we could get home the same day. While people were scrambling and waiting in long lines on the ship for Internet or phone, we had fun on the ship. Thank you NCL. Now for the cruise review.
We booked thru NCL and got free airfare, free drink package and free speciality dining plus $100 on board credit. We requested to arrive a day early to Miami and we stayed on the beach at the Hilton Bentley Miami. I have to say I'm not a clubber so Miami wasn't really my scene, the beach was nice though. The Hilton Bentley Miami was nothing to write home about, it was very overpriced for what you got. The room was a standard room but really not worth the $300 per night. Great beach though and good service on the beach with free chairs, water and even a glass of wine. We used Uber to get to the port and arrived about noon. The check in process was very easy. We waited about 10 minutes total and were on the ship in less than 30 minutes from arrival.
Our room was 12182 a Family mini suite on deck 12 near the kids club. Having no kids it was a little noisy for us and the room next to us had some very rowdy boys who made lots of noise. The room itself was nice, with an extra large bathroom with two sinks and a full bath tub.
I have been on 14 cruises and I have to say that I was at first a little disappointed with the ship. Since the ship was fairly new I was expecting open floor plans, big atriums, lots of space both interior and exterior. This ship is a little different design where almost all the space is used. The exterior decks, pool, sundeck don't extend all around the ship and are blocked so that you can't walk all the way around the ship on them. The pool deck is closed in with two relatively small pools and two bars right in the middle. It doesn't leave for much deck space for loungers around the pool, most of the lounger space is covered by the deck above. The pool deck has 5 water slides and a kiddie splash area, it's a lot crammed into the pool deck on 15. Deck 16 above has the rock wall, ropes course, mini golf and the sports court. There's lots of outside space I just think I've been on other ships that used the space better. I will say the design grew on me over the week especially on the interior. You won't find an open mall type area like on the RCL ships, deck 6, 7, 8 are where al the common areas are restaurants and bars, theater, shops, casino. On deck 8 there are some really nice outdoor bars and seating areas, we really enjoyed them. Overall, by the end of the week the design of the ship had grown on me as being very efficient use of space I have grown to really like it.
I've seen many complaints about the food on this ship. I have to wonder if we were on the same ship because I found all the food good to excellent. Perhaps those folks ate meals at the buffet and if they did I understand the complaint. Don't eat at the buffet, eat at the restaurants you will have a better experience. The buffet on this ship is a total disaster, it's small for this size ship. It's so crowded you'll be fighting for a seat and there's not much variety on the menu. They don't help you find seats nor to they bring around drinks like I've experienced on other ships. On the brightside, don't miss the crepe station at the dinner hour, it was the best dessert on the ship! The ice cream on the buffet was very good as well with both hard and soft ice cream.
We ate breakfast daily in Taste or Savor or used the buffet in Moderno. The service in Taste and Savor was slow at times but the food was so much better than the buffet it was worth it. At dinner time, we ate at Teppanyaki, Modurno, Cagney's and the Manhattan restaurant. All the speciality restaurants were good to excellent. Cagney's was my favorite with food equal to a good steakhouse on land. If you haven't gotten a dining package for the speciality restaurants, do it. It really is one of the nicest things on NCL and to enjoy the cruise you really do need to experience the speciality restaurants. The 3 meal package is a good value. I would not plan to pay the a la carte prices on the menu, they are ridiculous. Also, make reservations online before you go. You can make reservations onboard but you may not get the time you want. I was pleasantly surprised at the free dining in the Manhattan room. Here, you needed to wear long pants but for that you were rewarded with nightly entertainment, which was great. The food was good to very good with plenty of good choices. The service was at times slow waiting for the kitchen to deliver food but not terribly so. While we were waiting there was live music and waiters were attentive keeping your wine or water glass full. When your food did arrive it was hot.
I found the entertainment on this ship excellent. You will need to make reservations for the shows, do that before you get on the ship in the app or the 1st day when you board. They opened the show to any one 10 min before the show. The Burn the Floor and Rock of Ages shows were nothing short of excellent. (and included) They had a comedy club which was good and they also had a magician that was good as well. We participated in the Escape Room on board, it was also free and fun. There were also shows in the atrium which were fun as well, but there weren't too many places to sit so go early. Another nice find was Syd Normans Tap Room. There they had live entertainment too. We saw Thunderjack an AC/DC cover band who were very good.
People have complained about nickel and diming on this ship. I don't think this ship is any worse than any of the other ships I've been on. There's a gelato shop, a Starbucks, a bake shop all for an extra fee. Starbucks really wasn't any more expensive than on land. Gelato could be had for about $3.00. The buffet though had lots of free ice cream so we didn't feel the need to try it. There is a Margaritaville on board but its and upcharge @ $14.99 and I never saw anyone in there. There is also a free breakfast buffet in Margaritaville on some days so keep an eye out for that too.
We did book two excursions through NCL, Tabyana beach in Roatan and the 3 reef snorkel in Cozumel. Tabyana beach was excellent with the most beautiful reef offshore. There were guides who for tips would take you out snorkeling if you had your own equipment like we did. There was great security here and lunch was included. In Roatan, definitely go to the West Bay Beaches.
We booked the 3 reef snorkel excursion in Cozumel because we've been there many times and wanted something different. The trip was just ok, the reefs aren't nearly as nice as Roatan but there was a lot of time in the water so it was fun.
We didn't really care for Great Harvest Caye. It was a nice beach day, but the day we were there it was very windy and there was lots of seaweed. They did their best to get rid of the seaweed but it was just everywhere. It also wasn't an all inclusive private island so anything you wanted you had to buy or go back to the ship. There was a very nice pool and kids splash area, bathrooms and nice shops. The zip line looked fun but it was expensive.
My least favorite port in the Caribbean is Costa Maya. We decided to go downtown as we haven't in many years. Don't waste your time. There is so much seaweed it smells awful. The beach clubs here aren't very nice, neither is the beach. The local shops aren't worth much either and the locals constantly hound (not rudely, just excessively) you to buy stuff. It will cost $16.00 round trip by tram and taxi. It's a great place to get cheap drinks though $1 beers. Personally, I'd do an excursion here, we've done the Mayan Kingdom on previous cruises and it was fun.
We really enjoyed this cruise, definitely in the top 5 of cruises I've been on. NCL is a little different and we really enjoy the Freestyle program. It's so nice to not have to dress up, be somewhere at a particular time, or conform to someone's schedule. We also loved the all inclusive booking experience, if you get free offers (They aren't really free) from NCL take them. We found the dining and drink packages well worth it, it makes the trip so much nicer when you're not worrying about your bill at the end of the cruise. Again, thank you NCL for taking good care of us with Dorian rolled in and for getting us home.
The balcony was small much smaller than I've had on other ships. The room itself was average for a balcony, I think it would be tight for 4 which our room could hold. The bathroom in the mini suite was definitely an upgrade. The dual sinks allowed two people to get ready at the same time. The bathtub would have been great for little ones, it's too small for most adults.
Miami isn't my cup of tea. The beach is nice. The Hilton Bentley is just ok but had great service on the beach.
Tabayana Beach- nice beach, nice lunch, great snorkeling
It's got a lot of seaweed but a great pool. It's not all inclusive so bring some water or expect to pay. You can walk back to the ship so it's not really that big of a deal.
I don't see the attraction of this port at all. It's a made up port by the cruise lines, the town is terrible do an excursion here or just stay in the port shopping area and shop. There's a decent pool in there too.