This was the 19th cruise for my wife and I, and out third for NCL. Previously, we sailed on the Escape and Pride of America. As we live in the Central Florida area, we did not fly or stay at a hotel before joining the Breakaway. We ... Read More
This was the 19th cruise for my wife and I, and out third for NCL. Previously, we sailed on the Escape and Pride of America. As we live in the Central Florida area, we did not fly or stay at a hotel before joining the Breakaway. We sailed with family (all adults) and a family friend, who was new to cruising.
I hate to start on a bad note, but embarkation was a mess. It took over an hour to get from dropping off our bags to getting checked in. We were in a Carnival building for some reason. The Carnival computers were pushed to the side and the check in staff were using rows of portable computers to check us in. The guy directing passengers to a specific check in person was so short he couldn’t see where there was space for new people to go. Another employee was trying to help him, but they weren’t communicating to each other. People were crisscrossing and bumping into each other like crazy. It was simply a mess.
We found the Breakaway to be a nice ship and laid out quite well. We did encounter some lines, but more on that later. The ship offers a variety of dining and entertainment options, and our cabin was laid out well. I found the placement of the casino rather odd. The space for the casino shares a three-deck staircase with the onboard shops, a bar, and some food options. While it was beautiful to see, it made navigating the desired locations a little clumsy.
We participated in several ship activities. We are those cruisers who sail to partake in onboard activities and entertainment, so we tend to attend a lot. For the most part, Breakaway offered some good choices. The Perfect Couple game (popping balloons in awkward poses, etc.) was very funny and the crowd seemed to agree. We found the trivia options to be lacking, however. There was always morning trivia, but only a few after that. We attended the 80s night, which had us dancing and laughing until after midnight. We didn’t make a stop in a casino this time, nor did we play any of the bingo games. We didn’t make a trip through the ropes course or water slides, but we saw guests enjoying themselves at those spaces. We had booked the Wine Lovers the Musical for lunch, but once onboard were told it had been canceled from ours and all future sailings and was being removed from the NCL lineup. I found it odd this was decided mid-cruise, as we had the reservation still showing when we boarded.
Our experience with the service onboard ran the gamut from good to disappointing. On the former side of things, the service in Teppanyaki was great, as well as in Cagney’s. Our cabin steward was friendly and greeted us whenever he saw us, which allowed us to forgive some minor errors on his part. On the disappointing end of the spectrum was, well, everyone else. For some reason one night my ship card wouldn’t open my cabin door. I went to Guest Services and was directed to speak with a crewman behind the desk. He never said hello or offered anything, just looked up from his computer with a blank stare. After explaining the problem, he nodded and began typing on his computer again, making no effort to have any other conversation whatsoever. He handed me two new cards, the other for my wife. I said I only needed mine replaced, and he said he has to replace both of them, with no explanation given. He then went back to his computer with nothing else to add. I might add this was 10:30 at night, and GS was not busy. Guest Services should have the very best on board in terms of service, as they deal with some difficult situations. This guy made me feel like I was bothering him, despite that I wasn’t there to complain or ask for anything other than to fix a technical issue on their part.
Also on the negative said was the bar staff. And not just one, but nearly all of them exhibited terrible service. They were seriously disorganized which led to guests being served in the wrong order and with the wrong drinks, almost consistently. This makes for confrontations not only with staff, but between passengers as well. Twice with different bartenders I had the choice of waiting patiently and never being served or having to be more obnoxious than the guy next to me in order to get some help. I HATE that, especially on vacation. As someone who understands that these folks are usually quite busy and working long hours, I try to show them a great deal of patience and understanding. However the service was terrible and simply unacceptable. When dining, with the exception of Teppanyaki, once you made your first drink order you never saw the bar staff again. On other cruise lines, drinks were refilled without request, and many times I had to tell them to stop bringing more! It seems NCL wants passengers to pay more money for a drink package ($99 per person per day on NCL, as opposed to around $60 everywhere else), and then make it extremely difficult to use it.
In Belize we skipped an organized excursion and just hung out at the nearby pool. The pool area and beach were beautiful. We had no problems finding seats or space to get wet. The staff provided great service (better than on the ship I’m afraid), and we had a great time. In Mexico we chose the Jungle ATV and Beach Day. This was a first for an ATV ride for me. While I was very aware the brakes on my ride were very, very weak, I still had a good time. We were then put in a bus and taken to a beach area where drinks were included. We drank, ate some good food, got massages, and had a blast. I would recommend this excursion, with the exception to those who are averse to a bumpy, muddy ride.
As stated, we drove from our home to Miami. The only input I can say is what I always say when driving to the Miami cruise terminal. PAY ATTENTION to the signs and drive slowly. It is not easy to navigate, and if you make a mistake you’ll end up on a road that leads you out of the area.
We stayed in a mini-suite on Deck 13. We had booked a balcony originally, but the price drop allowed us to upgrade with no additional cost. If you chose this category, I’ll remind you that the word “mini” is not to be taken lightly. While yes, the room provides a very small amount of extra square footage, we found it to be not worth the extra cost. The bathroom had glass doors and double sink which was nice, but in our opinion not worth the extra cost. The balcony barely allowed enough space for my wife and I to stand comfortably. I suspect that NCL wants those to enjoy the “suite life” to be in the Haven area, because had we booked this room intentionally, we would have left feeling suckered. We also had repeated electrical issues in our cabin. My wife’s hair dryer kept tripping the breaker (we assume), killing power to all the outlets. We tried to compensate by unplugging other things while she used it, to no avail. We learned quickly the last thing we did (before calling electricians) in the morning was drying her hair. Our cabin steward did an acceptable job but neglected to bring our bill or luggage tags the final night onboard. We always carry off our luggage and had enough OBC to cover our expenses, so it didn’t affect us, but passengers in need would have had to call to find their tags.
Dining was a highlight for us on the Breakaway. Teppanyaki was awesome. Our chef was friendly, accommodating, and entertaining. The service was way above what we experienced in the rest of the ship, and the food was excellent. Cagney’s also had great food but suffered from the missing bar staff. We had planned to go to Margaritaville for dinner on our final sea day but were surprised to be told it was closed for dinner and were only serving breakfast and lunch that day. How is a dining space that large closed on a sea day? Why is anything closed on a sea day? And who chose to have a space known for bar food open for breakfast but not dinner?
We didn’t sail with any kids, so I can’t speak to what Breakaway offers the younger passengers. Our sailing was during the school season, so there weren’t many kids around anyway.
Entertainment was another bright choice for our cruise. The Velvet show was a lot of fun and featured some wonderful talent. I had a hard time following the story, but the dancing and singing was so impressive I didn’t mind. After seeing video advertisements on the ship after we saw the show, we realized parts of the show were omitted for our performance. No explanation given, but it was still great to watch. Burn the Floor was also good, but not as memorable. We skipped Six, the other main show. We originally booked Breakaway specifically to see Rock of Ages as we are big fans of that production, and as far as I know the ship is the last place to see it. It was replaced by Six two weeks before our cruise, so it was a rather sore spot. We heard good things about Six though from other passengers.
Disembarkation went smoothly. CBC staff were set up to clear passengers on board the ship utilizing the new facial recognition software. This process was so much easier and faster than what we have experienced in the past. Getting off the ship, thankfully, was way better than getting on.
To summarize, our cruise on the NCL Breakaway fell short of expectations in many ways but met expectations in others. We had good food to eat, drinks to enjoy, and things to do onboard to keep us engaged. We had a good time overall. However, for the price we paid I had expected much more. From the moment we got to Miami I had the impression this cruise was disorganized and put together haphazardly, without attention to detail or effort I’ve grown to expect from other cruise lines. For the money, we could’ve gone on a longer cruise in a bigger, newer ship and had a better experience. This wasn’t so bad that I’d say I’ll avoid NCL in the future, but I won’t be rushing to book another, either. Read Less