This was our first cruise on NCL, with previous ones being on RC and Carnival. We chose this cruise out of convenience as it left from Manhattan during Spring Break, so we wouldn’t have to drive. It was also going to 3 ports of call – Cape Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau.
Our thoughts on the ship were that it was the classiest of the ships we’ve been on. We’ve been on Carnival Dream, Carnival Pride, RC Harmony of the Seas. We thought that the Carnival were gaudy with the red and gold décor (not sure if they had been updated since we were on them 5 years ago). RC Harmony was a gorgeous ship and very open where you could walk down the atrium and look at the sky. The NCL Breakaway’s décor and restaurants just seemed a notch higher than the others – personal preference. There were stone walkways outside of the French Restaurant, outside seating available on some of the restaurants, dark wood paneling in the restaurants – again, all personal preference.
Comparing the way people treated us on the 3 different cruise lines, I’d have to give the RC Harmony of the Seas the top grade. Everyone smiled and was welcoming, and you got the feeling that you were a returning friend. It didn’t take a long time to get a drink, and the drinks were consistent as the bartenders weren’t in as much of a hurry as the Norwegian Breakaway.
We arrived at the Port of Manhattan at 11:00 to board the ship, with it taking a little over one hour to board the ship. First thing on the agenda was to get lunch, and since we figured we were earlier than a lot of people, we would go to one of the 3 restaurants open for lunch and get a seat no problem – WRONG. We walked into the lobby and a person standing outside of the Savor and Taste Restaurants said that they were crowded and there was a wait, so she recommended we go to The Garden on the 15th floor for lunch as it wasn’t crowded. We walked into the restaurant, and for the next 20 minutes continued to walk around trying to find a table for the 3 of us to sit. After about 20 minutes, we beat someone to a table opening and got it – not a good first impression. The buffet food was fine, typical cruise food, plentiful, a lot of options, and decent tasting. Our room was ready about 2PM, so we headed there and it was what we expected – nicely appointed, TV about a 28” (a little smaller than I’d have expected), typical layout for other ships in RCL and Carnival as well.
We were supposed to leave at 3:30 – sunny skies so we looked forward to seeing the Statue of Liberty and NYC on our way out of port, but that wasn’t going to happen. An announcement came over the ships intercom that due to the currents, we would not be leaving port till 4 hours later. Didn’t quite understand that, as they leave from this port every week, so why can’t they predict the tides or currents? Oh well, we’re on vacation, no big deal.
They did the lifeboat evacuation drill in the main atrium. The problem was that they had 4000 people there and it was very loud that you couldn’t hear what the announcer was saying. Now, toss in an announcer who speaks broken English, and you have a recipe for disaster. NCL – I know about equal opportunity, but you really should have someone with excellent speaking skills performing the Safety Evacuation Drill. The drill lasted probably at least 30 minutes as it wasn’t very well organized, and it got extremely hot with everyone standing in the same room. People were talking and not paying attention – thank God there was no emergency during the trip.
Meals – Overall A Grade
Dinner the first night was in Maderno – the Brazilian Steak House. The servers would stop by your table and ask if you wanted the meat that they were carving. All was good, but note that they bring out the less expensive meats first – chicken, pork, sausages, then onto the better cuts of beef. It was all good, as was the salad bar and dessert. The restaurant was not crowded at all, may be because it was the first night of the trip, but there were probably only 4 tables taken in the restaurant while we were there for our 7:00 seating. Bottom line – we liked the restaurant and would recommend it.
Each morning and lunch was ate in the buffets in The Garden. Same selection each day which was varied and everyone should be able to find things to their liking. They offered a warm banana/carmel sauce to put over their waffles or French Toast – we thought it was very good. No complaints about any of the food in the buffet.
We ate at The Manhattan Room the 2nd night – one of the restaurants included in the complementary dining package. They served the same food as the other Savor and Taste restaurants, but the feeling is a little higher classed with the two story ceilings. It was very loud in there, not due to music, but people talking. The meals there honestly were a bit disappointing. I got a NY Strip steak ordered “medium”, it came out well-done. My wife ordered the salmon, it was ok, but not much flavor, more or less a grilled piece of fish without seasoning. My daughter ordered lasagna, and she said it tasted like “Stouffer’s Frozen Lasagna”. I tasted it and have to agree. We were disappointed by this restaurant, would not return. This was the ONLY disappointment for meals eaten on ship.
The 3rd night we ate at Teppanyaki – one of their “upcharge” restaurants. Typical Japanese restaurant where they cook and entertain you while cooking. People laughed the entire time, the cooks were good and entertaining, the food was also good. We had shrimp, steak, and chicken and all were done perfectly – not dry, juicy, and a lot of flavor. I would suggest allotting at least 1 ½ hours to dinner here, but I definitely recommend it.
The 4th night was another “upcharge” restaurant – Ocean Blue. Definitely one of the best meals we’ve ever had ANYWHERE. The service was excellent, the waitress comping us for some additional items. Our appetizers included shrimp cocktail, NE Clam Chowder, Lobster Bisque, Fried Calamari. Main courses included lobster tail, grilled shrimp, and a grilled fish – all done perfectly. Definitely recommend this restaurant as well.
The 5th night we ate at Shanghai’s Noodle Bar. We had to wait about 45 minutes to be seated, so they gave us a “buzzer” to let us know when our table was ready. We sat at the counter in front of the chefs, so we got to see them prepare the food. Seating is at counters, no tables. You pick anything you want off the menu and write down how many of each you want. The food was very good, no complaints a pretty varied amount of food so most people should find something that they like.
The 6th night we had dinner at the Italian Restaurant – La Cucina. The décor was very nice, stone columns, easy music playing, but there was a VERY loud person sitting in the back corner of the restaurant that annoyed anyone sitting in the area. We watched 2 people move from tables near her, but no one addressed her loudness. The food was very well prepared, and very tasty.
We at O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill for lunch and the food was very good. It did take about 10 minutes for the waiter to come to us with a menu, then another 10 minutes till he returned to take our order. About 10 minutes after that we had our drinks. Service was slow but the food was good.
The last evening we had dinner at Savor – one of the complimentary restaurants. I asked for a window seat in order to watch the sunset, and the hostess was able to accommodate us. The restaurant was very classy in appearance, the noise was not bad at all as we could hear the music playing. The food was very, very good – much better than I would have predicted. Our entrees included prime rib, a whitefish called “hake”, and pasta with pesto sauce. Everything excellent.
Entertainment – A Grade
We were very happy with the entertainment in the evenings. There were family oriented shows “The Newlywed Game”, “Trivia Game Show”, “Deal or No Deal”, “Bingo”, etc. We enjoyed them all and thought that they did a very good job.
There was a piano player – Andre, that was very good as well that played each evening for 3 hours, playing songs from the 70’s and 80’s – Billy Joel, etc. He had a good crowd singing each night, thoroughly enjoyed him. The “Manhattan Jazz Band” plays each night, and we caught one of their performances in Fat Cats. I was expecting more instrumentals like Sax, Trumpet, etc. but they had a bass player, drummer, keyboard, and a person singing. They were OK, but once was enough. Arvin and Emily were a duet singing various songs from the 70’s on up and were very popular getting people to sing along with them. Melvin played acoustic guitar at various locations and was excellent as well.
I did see some guy singing outside of the Garden Café and he was horrible. He was tone deaf and ended up having people laugh as they walked by him. They should not have him singing as in the Staff Talent Show we heard better singers who had main jobs in the restaurants or doing laundry.
We caught magician/comedy show that was excellent. I watched him closely, cameras were zoomed in as well, but you still could not see how he was doing his tricks – excellent.
The Comedy shows were good as well, we were only able to get in for the “family show” and not for the 11PM show as they were booked.
One complaint about the entertainment isn't against the performers, but against people who just let their children run wild around the entertainers. I watched 4 kids running around on the floor while the entertainers were trying to sing, while their parents played on their phones. Seriously? You were sitting in the front row, how could you NOT realize that your kids were annoying the performers and people in the audience. The NCL staff really should have said something, as no one other than the parents would have been upset. This even was going on while the senior Breakaway staff were being introduced on the Atrium floor - kids hitting balloons around and hitting the staff!
Bartenders – C minus grade
We’re not people that cruise all the time, this was our 4th cruise ever, but I do recognize things that are a little sub-par at this point. The bartenders are either over worked, or need some personality training. Never a smile, always extremely busy, waited on certain people immediately and making others wait. Then when it came to mixing the drinks, only ½ the alcohol made it into the cups as they were pouring so fast that it went all over the counter. I’d give them a “D” in this area.
Ports of Call - F grade
Here’s where we were disappointed and killed us for NCL. When going on a cruise, we choose the cruise based on the ports of call. If we wanted to just stay on the ship for the food and entertainment, this ship would win hands-down over any other cruise we’ve been on.
We left the first day 4 hours late – again, not sure why, but we did. That put us behind schedule when we arrived in Port Canaveral 2 days later. We were supposed to disembark at 1:00PM in Port Canaveral for a 5 hour tour of the Kennedy Space Center. Well, we finally arrived around 2PM, then disembarked close to 3:30 with the KSC only open till 6:00. I can only imagine the people that paid to go to Disney for the day as they were still sitting there at 3:30 and the ship pulling out by 9:00 – not good. Well, we arrived at the KSC just before 4:00 – giving us less than 2 hours to spend there, NOT GOOD! Due to the time constraints, the tour person recommended we see the IMAX movie and Atlantis. Very disappointed in the lack of time at the port, and having to pay $119 for a 1:45 tour on our own.
The next stop was supposed to be Great Stirrup Cay. Before sailing I read reviews where NCL cancels 80% of their trips to GSC due to weather conditions. About 30 minutes before arriving in sunny skies, the captain came onto the loud speaker and informed us that “due to the bad sea conditions, we cannot go to GSC today, but we’ll anchor at Nassau at 7:00PM instead of 8AM the next day. Wow, we arrive at night with nothing to do – NOT happy about them aborting the trip to GSC.
Our last stop was Nassau, arriving at 7:00PM instead of the following morning due to the elimination of GSC. Our tour was to leave the ship at 8:45, and we were standing outside the ship at that time. However, we didn’t leave the pier until 10:00 AM – just unorganized. Had a decent time at Blue Lagoon, but the winds and water were a little cold. Liked the place and the options there, would recommend it. We went to The Atlantis on a previous cruise and you paid a lot of money to just swim and walk around that place. Impressive, but not worth $150 per person to stand in line 45 minutes to use a water slide!
NCL needs to organize a bit better for shore excursions. Taking an hour+ after the scheduled meeting time isn’t good as apparently this time is included in the excursion time.
Rooms – A Grade
The TVs are a bit small, probably around 26” in size but decent color. The main disappointment was the lack of options or channels. There were 20 channels with one channel being “favorite movies” which played just short clips of movies. Another one was “favorite shows” which had different TV shows with no predictability. It could be a kiddie cartoon followed by some current primetime show rerun – the problem was you had no idea what was coming on and when. The other channels were things like MSNBC, FOX, shopping channels, ship channels, etc. So basically you got the stock market report, political shows, and 2 channels that were not of that variety. It would have been nice to have more free options as well as a TV guide instead of constantly flipping channels and then settling on something we weren’t interested in. They did give you the option of purchasing a movie for $10 – a bit much. I’d suggest bringing your computer if your kids want to watch any movies or spend the money on movies. We weren’t on the ship to watch TV, but figured some people may want to know.
I read where people complained about water pressure or temperature, but we had no issues at all and we showered at various times of the day or evening. One thing to note is that there is a button to push on the temperature as well as pressure knobs. If you depress those, you can get more pressure or hotter water.
The person attending our room – Noel, was very pleasant. Each night he made sure that the room was ready, clean, and had our next day’s itinerary. The attendants on every cruise line have always been happy, excellent people. I can’t imagine how they can stay so upbeat knowing that they have to be working long hours. We had a balcony room where the balcony had 2 chairs and a small table, so 2 people could side outside at a time. It was probably 4 foot by 10 foot long.
Oddly enough, the disembarking process in NYC was very well organized, unlike the shore excursions. We were off the ship within 30 minutes – excellent.
Overall, we loved the look of the ship, the entertainment, the food. A couple things were lacking, and honestly, if they improved on those, they would blow the competition out of the water. Read Less