This was our 15th cruise and 3rd on NCL. I had a great time but that said, would probably pick a different class of ship next time. This was the largest ship we have been on and think we prefer the 3,000 passenger size better. Breakaway had a ton of options to try but if you are looking for a traditional ship feel then this wasn’t it.
Embarkation at Port Canaveral was the smoothest and quickest we have ever had anywhere. We stayed at Disney Pop Century before the cruise and took the complimentary Magical Express bus to the MCO airport. (Set this up when you check in to the resort and make sure you load your luggage on the bus you are taking) Then we took the Go Port Canaveral bus to the port. Was on the ship in about 15 minutes. No waiting more than a couple minutes for anything.
Food was great! Buffet was clean and food warm most of the time. Options changed daily but of course the favorites were there all the time. Pizza not that great but burgers were huge and the fries better than McDonald’s. Crepe bar in the evenings was awesome. If the buffet looks closed just check out the other side of the ship and you will likely find something. The main dining room food was good in taste and presentation but lackluster in options. They obviously were saving on cost by not offering much in the way of glamorous fare; a lot of chicken and pork dishes. However since most cabins are offered three specialty dining meals as a free option then that elevated the food to better than average.
We ate at Teppanyaki; fun Beni Hana style Japanese cook. Cagney’s; super good steak house. And Maderno the Brazilian bar-b-que; lots of meat. The Fillet was excellent in all. Maybe not worth the upcharge if you have to pay cash but if it is a free promotion or you have cabin credit then definitely worth it.
There is no poolside grill for a quick bite or any quick serve in the Atrium area unfortunately. O’Sheehans pub restaurant had great decor and decent food. There were some other free restaurants so lots of options but you have to look and read to find them. Overall food was good or better than average cruise fare.
Activities were always going on somewhere. I didn’t attend much but my daughter said they were fun. Went to about 45 minutes of the Glow Party. That is the new White Out deck party. It starts at 11 pm (don’t believe the 10:45 time noted in the description) It was not a typical White Out party with black lights so white clothing did nothing to enhance the atmosphere. If you want to wear something special then pack neon colored clothing and glow sticks. The program was the Cruise Director (DJ) hyping up the crowd to get them to jump up and down and dance to the loud techno music repeated 100 times.
The entertainment shows were very good. “Six” was a fun Spice Girls concert/history lesson but very hard for me to understand the British girl banter that was the bulk of the dialog. I am sure I missed a lot of humor. It would be helpful to brush up on Henry the 8th and his six wives history before the show. The magic/comedy show was the best I have ever seen anywhere. Saw a Queen tribute band that was amazing. If the show doesn’t take reservations, get there at least 30 minutes before or it will be full.
My biggest complaint was the ever-present smoking areas and how they affect non smokers. Of course the Casino is smoking and being that it is gigantic and in the middle of everything, it contaminates the venues around mid-ship. You have to pass through the casino stench to get to a lot of places. On the pool deck there is a large smoking area that is cordoned off with Plexiglas strips which are open on top, bottom and front. This is located between the main pool and the kiddy-pool. The Plexiglas strips do nothing to contain the smoke so the main pool and kiddy-pool areas are smoke filled. The starboard half of the adult deck H20 is smoking so of course that means all that deck has smoke if the wind is blowing right. Most ships set up smoker areas that are higher and downwind of the public areas but not NCL. If you are a smoker then NCL wants to make it easy for you to enjoy smoking where everyone else is located. The word must be out because there seem to be a lot more smokers on the Breakaway than a normal ship. If you are bothered by smoke then pick another class ship.
Service was great. The staff seemed happy and personable. Our room steward was quiet and cleaned well but did not interact at all. I think he is not comfortable with speaking English yet. If you asked nicely for something, the staff went out of their way to try to please you. I don’t drink but saw lots of bars with only a couple people and even bar service guys walking around the deck looking for drink orders. I saw some crowded bars during a venue but you didn’t have to look hard for a free bartender if you were willing to walk.
The single pool was crowded of course and the deck around it filled up by 8 am with chair hogs. A curse on anyone who saves a chair for more than 30 minutes without using it! NCL does not enforce the “no saving chairs” rule. The water slides and ropes course was really good for a ship.
The ship has a lot of people and NCL likes to put big events in small venues like the atrium where only a fraction of the people who want to see it can physically be present. This means you have to be diligent and get to the venue early to get a seat. Restaurant reservations are similar. You must plan well ahead. “Freestyle” actually means you have to schedule everything well in advance or you miss out.
Be sure to get a tender boat reservation as soon as you get on the ship or as soon as they are available. Although our Cruise Director just ignored the tender ticket order and announced for everybody to show up at the tender deck which created a big crowd.
Make sure you have the free NCL app downloaded and know how to use it. That tells you what is going on in the day, keeps your reservations straight, your account balance, etc. We didn’t do it but it would have been worth it to get the $10 pp upgrade for texting.
Debarkation also quick. We picked 9:15 and they released several groups all at once with ours. A long line but went quick. Got on the last Go Port Canaveral bus.
Overall, great cruise on a ship that could have been better managed to allow all guests an enjoyable time.
Our mid-ship mini-suite was actually a balcony sized cabin with a larger bathroom. The bathroom was amazing for a ship. The balcony was ridiculously small. You could barely sit two people but the chairs did not lay back which made the balcony unusable for lounging and forced every sun bather to the pool decks making them even more crowded. The room had storage enough for four adults and wasn’t too crowded for a ship cabin.
They had plenty of people checking you in. No line at all.
Tried to avoid the crowds by staying on the ship in the morning and then going out to shop at the port after lunch. It worked! Port shops were nice. Best venders I have dealt with in a foreign port. They must not be allowed to talk to shoppers unless you ask about something. Very calm shopping experience. Prices a little high and they would not haggle very much but great experience overall.
Walked a block to the Public Bus (van) depot. Bus ride is US $2.50 per person per trip. Rode it to Cemetery Beach. Snorkeling was OK close to beach and great about 75 yards out. Excellent coral. Rode bus, (just flag one down on the main road) to Turtle Farm. Had purchased discount tickets from the site online before cruise. It was great for the kids. Did the snorkeling with turtles. If you have never swam with them in the wild then it would be fine but not anything like doing it in the wild. Took the bus back to the dock. I suggest only doing one thing in port. Was too rushed to enjoy either activity enough.
Purchased discount tickets to Chackanab park before cruise. Took a taxi ($15 for 4 people). Get there early because the good chairs are taken. The buffet lunch was decent. Snorkeling not great but OK. The nature walk and Mayan recreations was cool. Wear bug spray for the nature walk. Got some mosquito bites and assume it was from there. Took taxi back. Don't wait too long to leave as taxis started to be scarce. Did shopping by the port. The prices for t-shirts and typical souvenirs were actually cheaper in the "mall like" port shops than the straw marked outside the port mall.