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Summary: Excellent service as always, food good in all complimentary options and excellent in speciality options, and plenty of choice for things to do both on the ship and on excursions. However, if you are not organised from the word go, you may be disappointed when you cannot select your dining or excursion options. Equally, some of the ports are tendered on this particular itinerary, and do run the risk of being avoided if the weather is bad, as was the case with 2 out of the 8 we visited. PROS: Service, speciality food, some excursion options. CONS: Some activities and dining options fully booked long before embarkation day, ports are likely to be cancelled if there is bad weather, initial costs for packages and excursions are steep. --- We were a party of 3 from England, aged 26-60, and two of us have cruised NCL before on the Breakaway and the Jade. We were impressed with NCL from the previous two cruises, and had never sailed to this side of the Caribbean before. Embarkation was busy but smooth, no issues at all. Cabin was always clean and tidy, well looked after by our wonderful stewardess Hamalinne, and any maintenance issues were fixed promptly with follow up calls to make sure they hadn't happened again. The ship has been refitted a little since our first go in 2015, not a huge amount of change but everything still looks smart. A small note for smokers as two of us do smoke - when we went previously there were at least 6 locations you could smoke, now there is only two generally and two with conditions (Spice H2O and The Pool Deck generally, the Casino if you play and the Humidor if you smoke cigars). This was a bit of a surprise as previously they had an area outside next to the Maltings bar which was fantastically social for smokers, and since taking that away the area is now not really used. Our first priority was to get dining reservations as the trip was part of a birthday celebration. Unfortunately we were told as soon as we went on the ship that Ocean Blue - our favourite from the last cruise - was fully booked prior to anybody getting on the ship. This was a shame, as it does not promote the Freestyle Cruising element NCL base their marketing on. We chose Le Bistro, La Cucina and Cagney's instead, plus two walk-in trips to Wasabi sushi. Food as a whole was good, the complimentary restaurants were of good quality. Some wait times at peak for the complimentary restaurants (around 25-45 minutes), but if you went past 8pm or before 6:30pm you never had any problems. All of the speciality restaurants we chose were excellent, especially Cagney's. If you have the Speciality Dining Package as we chose, they are extremely generous with what you can order as part of it. When the cost is added up for what this is normally, the dining package is a brilliant way of saving money (what one meal alone cost normally was more than the value of our 4 piece dining package) and well worth the initial investment. Bars had some excellent bartenders (looking at you Gilbert from the Pool Bar!), but were very busy and occasionally understaffed for the volume of people. Again we had the Premium Drinks Package and this is worth it if you have a variety of drinks throughout the day, plus wine over dinner etc. Entertainment was good, Six was a great musical and Burn the Floor was a dancing masterpiece. Glow Party was a bit of a laugh but is more spectated than participated in! Pool decks get very busy very fast and it does take a while to find some loungers if you are any later than about 8:30am. The ship does not enforce the towel removal of lounger-reservers, which can be frustrating if you want to spend serious time in Spice H2O or the Pool Deck. The ports on this itinerary are designed for beach lovers or port shoppers; Great Stirrup Cay, Harvest Caye (Belize) and Cozumel/Costa Maya (Mexico) are all geared for this, and if you want to see more of the islands for their heritage and culture, you will need a tour or a taxi. Unfortunately due to bad weather, we missed Great Stirrup Cay altogether and stayed overnight in Nassau, then ended up missing Costa Maya as it was unsafe to dock the boat. Excursions are a little pricey, but very fun! The ATV/Playa Mia combo in Cozumel was brilliant, Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica is a must, and Discover Cayman on Grand Cayman is a brilliant round trip tour of all the highlights. Once again though, several of our excursions were cancelled with minimal notice, or fully booked even after we placed our requests to be on them. Preparation is key here - but again this goes against the Freestyle cruising NCL is proud to offer. One of us also booked the Thermal Spa Pass for the week, but unless you really use this every day, I would not recommend the additional cost. Equally, where the ship encountered bad weather, they close the pool and jacuzzi/hot tub in this area as well as the upper floors, so this isn't an option for bad-weather-days either. Disembarkation was done for us as part of a tour to the Kennedy Space Center and was also smooth and uncomplicated. The tour to the KSC is well worth it as it is a VIP tour as standard and takes you out to see the launch pads and assembly building. As we didn't travel with children, we can't comment on the children's activities, nor can we comment on the solo traveller aspects of the cruise. ----- All in all, given that this is my third cruise with NCL, I would cruise NCL again but be ten times more prepared than we were. From a customer perspective this is an easy change, but this is risky for NCL as it does take away the Freestyle cruising aspect; once, we could walk on the ship and do everything/book everything we wanted. Now if you aren't prepared to lock down the things you definitely want prior to sailing, you're likely to get disappointed. 4/5 from us!

Good All Round Cruise - but Be Prepared!

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review by slclove

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2020
  • Destination: Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Balcony Stateroom
Summary:

Excellent service as always, food good in all complimentary options and excellent in speciality options, and plenty of choice for things to do both on the ship and on excursions. However, if you are not organised from the word go, you may be disappointed when you cannot select your dining or excursion options. Equally, some of the ports are tendered on this particular itinerary, and do run the risk of being avoided if the weather is bad, as was the case with 2 out of the 8 we visited.

PROS: Service, speciality food, some excursion options.

CONS: Some activities and dining options fully booked long before embarkation day, ports are likely to be cancelled if there is bad weather, initial costs for packages and excursions are steep.

---

We were a party of 3 from England, aged 26-60, and two of us have cruised NCL before on the Breakaway and the Jade. We were impressed with NCL from the previous two cruises, and had never sailed to this side of the Caribbean before.

Embarkation was busy but smooth, no issues at all. Cabin was always clean and tidy, well looked after by our wonderful stewardess Hamalinne, and any maintenance issues were fixed promptly with follow up calls to make sure they hadn't happened again. The ship has been refitted a little since our first go in 2015, not a huge amount of change but everything still looks smart. A small note for smokers as two of us do smoke - when we went previously there were at least 6 locations you could smoke, now there is only two generally and two with conditions (Spice H2O and The Pool Deck generally, the Casino if you play and the Humidor if you smoke cigars). This was a bit of a surprise as previously they had an area outside next to the Maltings bar which was fantastically social for smokers, and since taking that away the area is now not really used.

Our first priority was to get dining reservations as the trip was part of a birthday celebration. Unfortunately we were told as soon as we went on the ship that Ocean Blue - our favourite from the last cruise - was fully booked prior to anybody getting on the ship. This was a shame, as it does not promote the Freestyle Cruising element NCL base their marketing on. We chose Le Bistro, La Cucina and Cagney's instead, plus two walk-in trips to Wasabi sushi.

Food as a whole was good, the complimentary restaurants were of good quality. Some wait times at peak for the complimentary restaurants (around 25-45 minutes), but if you went past 8pm or before 6:30pm you never had any problems.

All of the speciality restaurants we chose were excellent, especially Cagney's. If you have the Speciality Dining Package as we chose, they are extremely generous with what you can order as part of it. When the cost is added up for what this is normally, the dining package is a brilliant way of saving money (what one meal alone cost normally was more than the value of our 4 piece dining package) and well worth the initial investment.

Bars had some excellent bartenders (looking at you Gilbert from the Pool Bar!), but were very busy and occasionally understaffed for the volume of people. Again we had the Premium Drinks Package and this is worth it if you have a variety of drinks throughout the day, plus wine over dinner etc. Entertainment was good, Six was a great musical and Burn the Floor was a dancing masterpiece. Glow Party was a bit of a laugh but is more spectated than participated in!

Pool decks get very busy very fast and it does take a while to find some loungers if you are any later than about 8:30am. The ship does not enforce the towel removal of lounger-reservers, which can be frustrating if you want to spend serious time in Spice H2O or the Pool Deck.

The ports on this itinerary are designed for beach lovers or port shoppers; Great Stirrup Cay, Harvest Caye (Belize) and Cozumel/Costa Maya (Mexico) are all geared for this, and if you want to see more of the islands for their heritage and culture, you will need a tour or a taxi. Unfortunately due to bad weather, we missed Great Stirrup Cay altogether and stayed overnight in Nassau, then ended up missing Costa Maya as it was unsafe to dock the boat.

Excursions are a little pricey, but very fun! The ATV/Playa Mia combo in Cozumel was brilliant, Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica is a must, and Discover Cayman on Grand Cayman is a brilliant round trip tour of all the highlights. Once again though, several of our excursions were cancelled with minimal notice, or fully booked even after we placed our requests to be on them. Preparation is key here - but again this goes against the Freestyle cruising NCL is proud to offer.

One of us also booked the Thermal Spa Pass for the week, but unless you really use this every day, I would not recommend the additional cost. Equally, where the ship encountered bad weather, they close the pool and jacuzzi/hot tub in this area as well as the upper floors, so this isn't an option for bad-weather-days either.

Disembarkation was done for us as part of a tour to the Kennedy Space Center and was also smooth and uncomplicated. The tour to the KSC is well worth it as it is a VIP tour as standard and takes you out to see the launch pads and assembly building.

As we didn't travel with children, we can't comment on the children's activities, nor can we comment on the solo traveller aspects of the cruise.

-----

All in all, given that this is my third cruise with NCL, I would cruise NCL again but be ten times more prepared than we were. From a customer perspective this is an easy change, but this is risky for NCL as it does take away the Freestyle cruising aspect; once, we could walk on the ship and do everything/book everything we wanted. Now if you aren't prepared to lock down the things you definitely want prior to sailing, you're likely to get disappointed.

4/5 from us!
slclove’s Full Rating Summary
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • ATV Adventure
    Combined ATV Adventure on a Dual ATV to the Jade Cavern and a stop at Playa Mia resort. ATV adventure was a blast, the Jade Cavern is pretty and the guides are all about fun as well as safety. Playa Mia a nice stop to relax after but ultimately you still need to pay for food and drinks here on top of your excursion cost, so this needs factoring in.
    View All 109 ATV Adventure Reviews
  • Private Resort Day Pass
    One of our party booked the Passion Island VIP Beach Day, but was told the tour had been cancelled by the operator after waiting 30 minutes at the port. NCL tried to organise an alternative to Playa Mia, but this meant the group had to wait at the port for over 2 hours, then were told upon getting to Playa Mia that no drinks or food were included. As much as NCL tried to save this, the organisation out of the cancellation was poor, a lot of time was wasted, and the party did not feel well looked after by anybody at any stage.
    View All 197 Private Resort Day Pass Reviews
  • Island Tour
    Did Discover Cayman with stops at a local beach, Hell, the Rum, Cake Factory and the Turtle Farm. Brilliant way to get to grips with the island and see what it has to offer. The turtles are cute too! :)
    View All 194 Island Tour Reviews
  • Harvest Caye
    We took the tour to the Ni Lim Punit Mayan Ruins and a local spice farm. Fascinating tour with Mayan guides around the ruins, and the Spice Farm is beautiful with a brilliant selection to buy afterwards.
    View All 1,264 Harvest Caye Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Harvest Caye Cruise Port Review
  • Nassau
    Our chosen excursion was fully booked, and we were only notified of this on the morning of docking in the port, so could not organise an alternative. A shame, but we had a wander down to a local beach, around the port town and met some locals in a nearby bar which was just as good!
    View All 5,971 Nassau Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Nassau Cruise Port Review
  • Dunn's River Falls
    Booked Dunn's River with a party Catamaran afterwards; Dunn's River is brilliant and walking up it (and getting soaked in the process) is a fantastic laugh.
    View All 264 Dunn's River Falls Reviews
  • Ocean Kayaking
    This was part of a two piece tour of West Bay Kayak and Snorkel - plenty of time dedicated to both activities and the guides are great.
    View All 8 Ocean Kayaking Reviews
  • Snorkeling
    This was part of a two piece tour of West Bay Kayak and Snorkel - plenty of time dedicated to both activities and the guides are great.
    View All 307 Snorkeling Reviews