Home Cruise Reviews Review – NCL Breakaway Caribbean sailing – 21st to 28th April 2019.

Review – NCL Breakaway Caribbean sailing – 21st to 28th April 2019.

by Peter Horton
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Background

We’re Peter & Patrick from Manchester U.K. and this sailing was a replacement for the April 21st Transatlantic crossing of Oasis of the Seas which was scheduled to sail from Port Canaveral to Barcelona. However, this had to be cancelled following an accident on April 1st at the Freeport shipyard in the Bahamas where she was in wet dock.

So, with having a non-refundable one-way flight to Orlando on 20th April we looked around for suitable alternatives as although we were to receive a full refund from Royal Caribbean for the cruise, we would receive nothing for the flights if we cancelled. Our vacation days could not be changed due to work commitments and so we had to travel between our current dates. Obviously, a Transatlantic crossing is fairly unique and so to be fair to Royal Caribbean, there wasn’t a suitable alternative they could offer us.

Why This Cruise?

We chose this sailing for several reasons. For the ports which we hadn’t visited before (Roatan, Harvest Caye and Costa Maya), that there were still balcony cabins available and NCL had just started a new promotion for those booking in the UK – ‘Free at Sea’ where for £99 we could add 2 ‘perks’ for a balcony cabin (2 from the following – Premium Beverage Package, Speciality Dining, Shore Excursions Credit, Wi-Fi Package or Free Extra Guests). We chose the Premium Beverage Package and Speciality Dining which for our sailing allowed 3 dinners. We also received $100 onboard credit. Many other alternatives we considered (and there were a few) were either too expensive at such short notice (we were sailing on Easter weekend) or didn’t sail on dates that would fit with our scheduled vacation days.

Another consideration was Breakaway herself as we had sailed on her previously, albeit only for 1 night from Rotterdam to Southampton back in 2013 when she was launched, and always wanted to experience the unique outdoor space “The Waterfront” (more on that later) that we always considered would come into its own in the Caribbean.

However, I had 17 days before our flight to Orlando to rearrange much of our itinerary which meant cancelling a pre-cruise airport hotel in Orlando, the one-way car rental from Orlando to Port Canaveral, a post-cruise baggage collection service in Barcelona, booking a new pre-cruise hotel in Miami and new one-way flights back from Florida to the UK.

As we decided to travel to Miami directly from Orlando on the 20th April after arriving from Manchester, UK I booked a one-way flight and a pre-cruise hotel close to the airport as it would be late evening when we arrived and we would have been travelling for over around 18 hours by the time we landed in Miami.

Once the cruise ended, we decided to stay on in Florida for a few days as the most economical one-way flight back to Manchester, UK was to leave from Orlando on 2nd May via New York JFK.

So, we booked a 2-bed townhouse in the same resort (Encantada) that we used in April 2018 prior to our Oasis sailing at that time, located off US192 in Kissimmee. I also booked a new one-way car rental from Miami to be dropped off at Orlando airport on 2nd May.

It was then necessary to make as many reservations as possible for complimentary and speciality dining together with entertainment which was a challenge considering most other guests had been able to do this many weeks before. Although not all our preferred dining times were available, especially for the speciality restaurants, I made reservations for times as close as possible, especially for day 2 as this was Patrick’s birthday and I wanted to eat in Cagney’s steakhouse as a celebration.

Itinerary

This was 7-night sailing with stops in Roatan Honduras, Harvest Caye Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel Mexico before returning to Miami on April 28th.

There were only 2 sea days on days 2 & 7.

We also now had to consider new shore excursions for the ports we hadn’t visited previously and decided on one through NCL for Roatan, and one independently for Costa Maya and to do our own thing in the other ports of Harvest Caye and Cozumel.

I’ve split this review into sections dealing with embarkation, accommodation, dining, entertainment, activities, onboard shopping, internet access, shore excursions and disembarkation with a summary and conclusions at the end.

Embarkation

We arrived into the USA 1 day before sailing, staying overnight in the Embassy Suites, Miami Airport.

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We checked out of the hotel just before 11am on Sunday, 21st April and took the 2nd of the hotel shuttles (10:30 or 11:30) for the 15-minute ride to the port where NCL Breakaway was awaiting us at terminal B. The cost was $10 per person and payable in cash, but as ours was included in the room rate, we didn’t have to scrabble around for notes as some of our travelling companions had to do!

Upon arrival, we left our bags with the porters loading cart after cart of numerous pieces of luggage to be taken on board and delivered to people’s staterooms over the next few hours.

We then entered the terminal building where our documents were checked, we and our carry on were security scanned and then we completed the health questionnaire. As we were neither suite or Haven (‘ship within a ship’ accommodation) guests nor higher level Latitudes members (NCL Loyalty program), we just joined a very short line for check-in.

After hardly no wait, we reached an agent, where our passports were checked, had our security photos taken, and swiftly received our key cards then we were on our way to boarding Breakaway. Painless, and one of the best embarkation processes experienced. So, arriving slightly later at the terminal around midday, we missed the early crush and will consider this in the future.

As mentioned, the whole process took only around 30 minutes from our shuttle drop off to enjoying our first beverage (a Rebellious Fish) in Spice H2O on deck 16 aft as cabins wouldn’t be available until 1:30pm.

Of course, by now it was time for a spot of lunch for which I tried a burger from the Garden Café washed down with a beer (Peroni). Good complimentary burger, far superior to some other lines we’ve sailed on.

Right on schedule, there was an announcement that cabins were available at 1:30pm.

Accommodation

We made our way to our cabin on deck 11 which was a category BC balcony – 11294 close to the aft elevator lobby very handy for Moderno and Cagney’s Steakhouse on deck 8, The Manhattan Room on deck 7 and Taste and Savor on deck 6.

Upon entry we had the bathroom to our left, with the master electric socket below the master light switches, that required you to slot your key card in to operate the power for the cabin and above, 2 switches used to indicate to our cabin attendant whether to ‘do not disturb’ or ‘make up’ our cabin. From the outside above the door, you could see coloured lights that these switches illuminated to indicate your request.

The air conditioning control was to the right of the bathroom door above the light switch with a floor to ceiling mirror adjacent.

Around the corner from the bathroom was the closet which comprised of sliding doors concealing shelves, the in-room safe and a hanging rail with hangers in abundance. The sofa to the left which doubled as a bed with large sliding drawers below that provided additional storage. A Pullman bed was above which could be used if there was a 4th person in the cabin.

In my opinion, 4 people in that cabin would be challenging.

Twin beds were next with a narrow shelving unit next to each and a magazine rack type of shelf above.

Opposite was the vanity area with a desk containing a telephone, the coffee maker, a tray with cups, glasses tea, coffee and milk cartons. A large mirror located above with a shelf running the length of the mirror, containing 3 bottles of water for purchase.

There was a cube-like stool under the desk with a wooden top (so it could double as a coffee table). This could be removed so that the stool could be used for seating and this also had a hinged top to reveal more storage. A hair dryer could be found hooked under the desk too. Next to this behind a door was the minibar, stocked with a selection of chargeable items.

The available electrical outlets are in a panel above the desk comprising of 2 x 110-volt US type and 2 x 220 volt European 2 pin type sockets, one of which the coffee maker was plugged into.

Our complimentary bottle of ‘Duc de Valmer’ sparkling wine provided as returning NCL guests awaited us too on the desk.

Next, there was a flat screen TV with a magazine rack below and 2 cupboards below.

Two pool towels had been provided one placed on each of the beds.

Reading lights were provided above the shelves with individual switches.

The bathroom was a good size and contained a large shower cubicle with a large shower head which provided a good spray. On the wall were 2 dispensers, 1 for body wash and the other containing conditioning shampoo. There were a couple of shelves for your own storage of cleansing products.

Opposite is the counter area containing the wash hand basin with lots of shelving both at the side and above on the mirror with the cabinet below the basin giving more storage.

A complimentary soap bar, liquid hand wash dispenser and a couple of tubes of body lotion were provided.

Floor to ceiling windows at the end of the cabin, one of which was the sliding door to the angled balcony. The furniture comprised of 2 upright chairs and a small table on what was a really good-sized balcony compared to the standard on the Breakaway class of ships which are tiny.

Dining

OK, like a lot of NCL ships, Breakaway has so many places to eat that it can be confusing at first working out where all the venues are.

Several are complimentary and then there are many speciality restaurants some of which are priced a la carte, others for a set fee.

Here’s the breakdown of the places where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner or 24-hour snacks!

Complimentary Dining

Buffets

Garden Café – breakfast, lunch & dinner (Deck 15 aft.) Margaritaville at Sea – breakfast (Deck 16 aft.) Moderno – breakfast (Deck 8 aft). 

Table Service

O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub – breakfast, lunch, dinner and 24/7 snacks (Deck 7 mid) Savor – breakfast, lunch & dinner (Deck 6 aft) Taste – dinner (Deck 6 aft) Manhattan Dining Room – dinner (Deck 7 aft) Shanghai & Noodle bar – dinner (Deck 7 aft, reservations mandatory) Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville at Sea – lunch (Deck 16 aft $14.95 cover charge)

Speciality Restaurants – all table service dinner

Cagney’s Steakhouse (A la carte) – (Deck 8 aft with outdoor seating on The Waterfront) Modern Churrascaria ($29.95) – (Deck 8 aft with outdoor seating on The Waterfront) La Cucina Italian (A la carte) – (Deck 8 fwd with outdoor seating on The Waterfront) Le Bistro French (A la carte) – (Deck 6 mid.) Teppanyaki Japanese ($29.95) – (Deck 6 aft) Wasabi sushi (A la carte) – (Deck 8 mid) Ocean Blue (A la carte) – (Deck 8 mid with outdoor seating on The Waterfront) The Raw Bar (A la carte) – (Deck 8 mid)

Casual Dining (A la Carte)

Atrium Café – (Deck 6 mid) The Bake Shop – (Deck 8 mid) Dolce Gelato – (Deck 8 on The Waterfront)

Dinner Show

Spiegel Tent circus/dining (set fee) – (Deck 6 fwd.)

As NCL is noted for its ‘freestyle’ dining concept, you can choose to dine whenever you wish during the restaurant opening hours for dinner. Breakfast and lunch are open seating in the table service venues. You can make reservations for dinner if you prefer, either online before you sail, or on the day. If you don’t, then you can just turn up and either wait in line or you will be given a pager so you can relax seated nearby, maybe enjoying a beverage.

There are various ‘dining packages’ available and we had a 3-dinner package online included in our cruise fare using the ‘Free at Sea’ promotion. Once we had booked the cruise, we could make advance reservations at the speciality restaurants but not at our preferred times considering the lateness of our booking.

I really appreciate how NCL allow this in advance whereas with certain other lines, even though you have purchased a ‘dining package’ you can’t make advance reservations online but only once onboard. I know this amount of planning isn’t for everyone, but I like to be organised, especially when there’s a special event to be celebrated.

However, after boarding, I went the desks set up in Headliners Comedy Club for speciality restaurant bookings and changed our reservation at Cagney’s from the only time available online of 9:30pm to 8:45pm (citing Patrick’s birthday!) and Le Bistro from the 9pm available online to our preferred time of 8:30pm.

For those specialities that are priced a la carte, such as Cagney’s, we were allowed to choose 2 starters, 1 main, 2 sides and a dessert and this was covered by our dining package. For those with a set fee such as Teppanyaki, this was covered in total.

We chose to eat in the following speciality restaurants.

Cagney’s Steakhouse, Teppanyaki & Le Bistro

We paid separately for Moderno on day 1 which costs a set fee of $29.95 per person plus 20% gratuity.

As food is very subjective, I’m not going to say which was best or worst in terms of food quality as that is down to personal taste. All were very enjoyable for what they provided, with service better than we found on Epic last year.

We still consider that the service and ambience in Le Bistro was the best though.

As for the complimentary venues, we tried them all, except for the Garden Café for dinner. O’Sheehan’s is popular at lunch so pick your time wisely, and we got snacks there after the Glow party late at night! Except for our days Roatan and Cozumel and the last sea day, we took lunch in either O’Sheehan’s or the Garden Café. Lunch was included in our shore excursion in Roatan and we made our own arrangements in Cozumel eating ashore.

Savor for breakfast was great, never a wait (maybe we chose the right time) and service was fantastic. We only ate lunch there on the last sea day, but again no wait, and service impeccable. We ate in the Manhattan room twice for dinner and Taste once. Each time we received great service and the food was really good with a good choice of menu in our opinion.

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We ate breakfast at Moderno one morning where are good buffet selection is set up and you can dine outside on the Waterfront. We did intend to have breakfast at Margaritaville at Sea which is a great outdoor spot one deck up from the Garden Café and less hectic as the main buffet, but never made it, although many others did.

Bars and Lounges

There are numerous places to enjoy a beverage (or two)!

Several have outside areas on the Waterfront on deck 8 in addition to their indoor space.

Shakers Martini Bar, Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar and Syd Norman’s Pour House all have outdoor areas enjoyed by lots of people in the evening.

Prime Meridian on deck 8 is located at the entrance to Moderno and Cagney’s Steakhouse, O’Sheehan’s, Bar 21, Bliss Ultra Lounge on deck 7, The Atrium on deck 6 and Mix Bar in between Taste and Savor restaurants, also on deck 6.

Spice H2O has its own bar on deck 16, as does Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at Sea.

Deck 15 has several bars including the Waves Pool Bars and the 2 in the Garden Café.

There is an Ice Bar on deck 8 next to Shakers Cocktail Bar that appeared popular on this sailing. There is a supplement for this (I did not check the price but I think it’s around $25) which if like on Epic, should include 3 beverages.

Entertainment

There are so many options it is difficult to list them all, from the production shows in the Breakaway theatre for which reservations, although not mandatory, are recommended (Rock of Ages and Burn the Floor) to the entertainers at many of the lounges and bars around the ship in the evening.

There are other shows performed in the Breakaway theatre, Headliners Comedy Club, The Atrium, or Syd Norman’s Pour House that don’t require reservations, but as the venues are relatively small for the number passengers onboard it’s necessary to get there early to make sure of getting a seat.

There are numerous ‘events’, weather permitting, in Spice H2O or the main pool deck.

These range from 80’s & 90’s music parties to the famous NCL Glow party which was a great event with complimentary face painting before the start of the event.

Every evening the Bliss Lounge hosts events too, turning into the main disco later until the early hours.

All I would say is check the Freestyle Daily and the ‘At a glance’ sheet if you are given one at check in.

As we’re not ‘show’ people we only saw ‘Rock of Ages’ and can recommend it, although not necessarily our ‘cup of tea’ it is a good production.

Activities

There were so many activities arranged that it was necessary to review the Freestyle Daily closely to plan your day if you wish to take part.

A lot of the more popular activities would be highlighted in the Freestyle Daily such as Trivia held at various times of the day covering different topics to Bingo and Men’s ‘Sexy Legs’ competition on the main pool deck.

There were various lectures held in various venues, culinary demonstrations, Ice carving, game shows, dance classes, ‘how to’ presentations, workshops and Q&A sessions following presentations (e.g. Ship technical presentation). There were the usual Art Auctions too.

There were various activities where a fee was charged such as painting classes.

As Breakaway has 5 water slides and a sports court there were many opportunities for enjoying yourself on the pool decks, together with the Ropes Course and ‘Walk the Plank’

Other entertainment I omitted earlier included Comedy shows, Music renditions, Magic shows, Dance shows, ‘Howl at the Moon’, Hypnotists, Crew Talent shows, Cirque Dreams in the Spiegel Tent (fee applied for the dinner included) and the Breakaway Variety show.

Various activities were organised for ‘Friends of Bill W’, & LGBT+ etc throughout the sailing with the same time & location (where practical) suggested for the duration of the cruise.

Onboard Shopping

All shops are located on deck 8 and if you work from Shakers Martini bar towards the aft you will pass several outlets (The Beauty Shop for fragrances, Marketplace for sunscreen and other items for the pool or beach, Tides for fashion and jewellery, The Time Zone for watches, Tradewinds for boutique fashion brands, Treasures for fine jewellery and Sandbar for duty free liquor).

NCL merchandise is available from outlets along the corridor between the shops.

At the end of the shops, you will find the Photo Gallery where all photos taken will be stored in numbered folders and yours is indicated on your key card. Standard price for an 8×10 print is $24.95 but there are several options such as if you purchase 2 of those taken when boarding, these are available for $39. If you purchase 3 of the 8×10, you get a special folio frame. There are other offers available with packages, so check out what is available.

Internet Access

NCL do not appear to have super-fast internet access unlike some other lines but have several internet packages available. I purchased in advance of sailing, the unlimited social media wi-fi package, that as the name implies allows, access for 1 device for the length of the cruise to the popular social media sites. Sometimes access was at an acceptable speed, other times very slow and not available most days in the early evening for a couple of hours.

Disappointingly wi-fi is not available on Harvest Caye, even for a fee.

Shore Excursions

As 3 of the 4 ports we visited were new to us we decided on a couple of shore excursions.

Roatan, Honduras

Through NCL we booked a beach stay at the Turquoise Bay Beach Resort which was an approximate 45 ride north from the port.

It was an all-inclusive package, so we relaxed under a palapa, taking advance of the welcome breeze and the warm Caribbean Sea whilst being served cooling drinks from our dedicated server.

Snacks were available immediately, followed by a nice lunch later in the afternoon.

Harvest Caye, Belize

As this is NCL’s ‘private port’ we just decided to laze around the lagoon area. The resort is very nice, with many areas and shops to visit, with a zip line from a lighthouse at one end.

There is a very long covered walkway from the ship over the mangroves to the entrance. NCL operates regular shuttles if you do not want to make the walk.

There is a Wildlife Experience to visit, which although small, is well maintained. The beach is long but apparently, you have to rent the beds on the beach, whereas around the pool you don’t. There are many opportunities to take shore excursions from here too.

Our only complaint is that on other cruise lines ‘private islands’ the beverage package works ashore, but not with NCL and drinks in our opinion are expensive.

Costa Maya

For this port stop we booked an independent tour through Native Choice, so had to navigate the port area and walk a short distance of 4 blocks to the tour operator’s office. A detailed map was provided with the booking confirmation and I paid a $30 deposit with the balance of $80 that had to be settled in cash at the tour office.

We had chosen the Chacchoben Ruins tour and it was excellent with a very informative guide (maybe too informative at times!). The only downside were the bugs in the forest! I’d forgotten to use the insect repellent before leaving the ship, so I was bitten by the insects who must have shouted ‘buffet’ when I arrived!

Cozumel

Here we were just going to explore independently and visit Pancho’s Backyard for a great margarita and take lunch. As we docked at the Punta Langosta Pier, we were closer to downtown Cozumel than we ever have been in the past.

The heat was searing and so we wandered to Panchos for a respite in their Backyard with a huge margarita, chips & salsa and lunch. Unfortunately, this venue does not have the beautiful views of their other location which is nearer where Carnival ships dock.

Disembarkation

We really like the NCL disembarkation process as it is so uncomplicated.

2 days prior to the end of the cruise you will receive a leaflet explaining the process.

If you want to carry off your own bags, then you can, and this is known as the ‘Self Assist’ program and there’s no need to place your bags outside your cabin the night before. No luggage tags are required, and you will be able to disembark the ship in the first group leaving the ship once it has been cleared by the authorities.

If you do wish for NCL to take your bags off for collection in the terminal, then your bags need to be placed outside your stateroom by 11pm on the last evening.

You need to collect a coloured luggage tag from a stand located near guest services. You choose the colour that corresponds to either the time you wish to disembark as an independent guest or the time of the NCL post cruise excursion you have purchased or if you have purchased air from NCL.

Very simple.

On the last morning, table service breakfast is served in Savor (and it is not open seating unlike other lines who force you to share), and the Garden Café.

You are allowed to stay into your cabin until 9am which again is very generous compared to other lines who normally want you out of your stateroom by 8am if not earlier.

Announcements are made when disembarkation starts and once again each time the next colour tag group is available.

We left the ship on deck 7 with no lines, worked our way through the terminal to immigration which was a breeze (fantastic for us non-US citizens) and into the baggage hall where our suitcases were easy to find.

The only downside to this process is the lack of signage and directions for finding car rental shuttles and other transport options. However, this may change when the huge new NCL terminal is complete which is currently in the process of being built next to Terminal B and looks very impressive.

Summary & Conclusions

Taking into consideration we are still considered NCL ‘virgins’ we still naturally make comparisons with the other cruise lines we have sailed on (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, MSC, Cunard, P&O, & Carnival). The following are purely our observations and may not impact others and so please do not take the negatives as criticisms, none ruined our sailing.

Positives

Freestyle Cruising

The ‘Freestyle Cruising’ ethos of NCL which gives you the option to dress up or down is a great freedom. For gentleman, long pants for dinner are only required in The Manhattan Room, Le Bistro and Ocean Blue. From experience this does not mean people do not don their finery, they do, and we saw everything from jeans, shorts to suits and jackets for gentlemen.

Freestyle Dining

There was a great selection of complimentary dining venues including the Garden Café buffet with indoor and outdoor options, especially on deck 8 where several speciality restaurants have seating on The Waterfront.

Four main complimentary table service restaurants, The Manhattan Room, Shanghai, Savor & Taste with open seating and O’Sheehan’s Pub for table service dining.

A numerous selection of speciality restaurants – Moderno, Cagney’s, Teppanyaki, La Cucina, Le Bistro, Wasabi Sushi, Ocean Blue, The Raw Bar & The Spiegel Epicurean / Cirque Dreams.

It was great to be able to dine when you wanted, and also not being pressured into sharing a table if you did not want to. That was never even suggested.

Also, the layout of the tables for 2 was really good, not as some other lines where, although you are seated at a table for 2, they are so close together, you might as well be sharing a bigger table! On numerous occasions, we were seated at a table for 4 and the extra place settings removed as there was just the 2 of us.

The opening times of the Garden Café and especially O’Sheehan’s (24/7) were really good.

Cabin

There were many nice touches in the category BC angled balcony cabin such as coffee maker, ample storage (if a little unusual like in the stool and under the sofa), lights in the closet and the shower was very roomy.

The complimentary bottle of sparkling wine for returning guests.

Turn down service included a towel animal every night.

The door lights for ‘Do not disturb’, and ‘Makeup Cabin’, or ‘Available’ indicators and letter rack is a nice touch.

The beds were extremely comfortable and gave us a great night’s sleep.

Venues

Numerous indoor venues for relaxing and entertainment such as Spiegel Tent, Headliners Comedy Club, Bliss Ultra Lounge, The Atrium, O’Sheehan’s bowling alley, Card Room and Library.

In terms of outdoor venues, Spice H2O was a great large adult only space during the day with its well-stocked and staffed bar.

Pool Deck

Obviously, there was the main pool area and sports court together with the 5 water slides were extremely popular.

As we were not Haven guests, I can’t comment on that area but can report on several quiet areas on decks 17 & 18.

The Waterfront

This area is located on deck 8, both on port and starboard sides and we consider it one of the best areas on the ship.

Not only does this enable you to walk outside all the way from the forward lobby on the port side on deck 8 but continue around the back of the ship and back to the forward lobby on the starboard side or vice versa.

As can be seen from the photos above there are numerous seating areas that are separate from the venues that also have outside space on the Waterfront. This provides ample places to relax out of the blazing Caribbean sun if you prefer.

As mentioned earlier, several of the speciality restaurants have seating available out on the Waterfront – Moderno, Cagney’s, Ocean Blue, Wasabi & La Cucina.

Staff

All staff were very friendly and helpful, the officers were also very visible, all of them greeting guests with a smile whenever passing you around the ship.

The Cruise Director and his team were good and ensured that all guests were encouraged to attend the various events organised by them and very energetic to keep people entertained.

Service

Bar service was very good in all the venues we attended, despite being extremely busy at times. On the whole table service in the restaurants was great, again considering the number of people being served by the wait staff. There have been some comments that as many guests have a beverage package, bar service has suffered, we did not experience this at all.

Décor

The ship is attractive to look at both externally and internally, as are the cabin furnishings with many nice touches and so is pleasing to the eye and the venues have very comfortable and plentiful seating each with a style of its own.

Bars / Lounges

There is a great variety of cocktails to try and a high proportion are within the limits of the Premium Beverage Package. If a beverage is above the $15 limit, you just pay the difference plus 20% gratuity.

Please bear in mind, any beverages purchased before the ship sets sail will attract local sales tax.

There was also various entertainment provided around the ship at various such as a pianist in Shakers.

Negatives

Cabin

The floor space was fine for 2, but for 3 or 4 it would be a little cramped in our opinion.

Although ample storage was provided, it comprised of many ‘hidden’ cupboards such as drawers under the sofa and the stool under the desk. Definitely a lack of drawer space, but this was the only storage issue within the cabin.

However, if you have a ‘standard’ balcony cabin, the balcony space is very narrow from the door to the glass and in most cases, this means two people must sit sideways opposite each other to fit in the space.

Dining

Our biggest disappointment was the quality in the speciality steakhouse Cagney’s for the upcharge paid, but this seems to be a problem at most steakhouses at sea these days on other lines too. The service was good, it is let down in our opinion by the fact that there is now an upcharge of $4.99 per person for the colossal Shrimp appetizer!

Due to the popularity of O’Sheehan’s at lunch, there were often long waits, even if you wished to share a table which is understandable.

We felt that although there was a variety of food available in the buffet choice was a little restricted meaning that we were eating the same things for lunch.

We also felt that fact that the Premium Beverage Package did not include coffee from the Atrium Café a disappointment, and also the inability to get a bottle of water with the package. It is possible to purchase a ‘water package’ comprises of different quantities.

Despite the above, the issues on Breakaway were no worse than we have experienced on a small selection of our other cruises with various lines over the years, but just an honest review of this one.

Promenade Deck – Deck 7

No seating and shuffleboard took up all the width of one deck making you unpopular if you wished to relax on deck. However, this is mitigated by the seating available on The Waterfront one deck above.

Casino

The design of the casino on deck 7 meant that the whole of that deck stank of stale cigarette smoke making it an unpleasant area to walk through. This permeated to decks 6 below and 8 above at times.

Technology

Obviously, due to the reliance on satellite communication, internet access wasn’t the best, especially for the price charged but this is not unique to the NCL fleet. However, we did manage with the Social ‘package’ which allowed access to most social media apps.

Although there are several interactive screens located throughout the ship where some reservations could be made, it was a little frustrating to be unable to make bookings via the interactive TV in your cabin, nor order room service via the options available.

Smoking

Now I’ve already mentioned the odour of stale cigarette smoke that permeates decks 6,7 & 8 from the casino on deck 7, but the biggest issue for us from a safety point of view were:

the number of people openly smoking on their stateroom balcony where it is clearly pointed out at the muster drill that it is prohibited.

I reported this to Guest Services and an officer visited us so that we could clarify where we had observed it happening and he assured us they would be contacted. There was no follow up from Guest Services (and I admit I didn’t pursue it) but the offenders continued to smoke on their balcony as we could clearly see cigarette packets, lighters and glasses being used as ashtrays on the table.

We didn’t go out of our way to ‘pry’ on people, but the angled balcony gave a clear view of balconies below us without straining and several people on decks 9 & 10 were obviously smoking.

Conclusions

Did we enjoy the cruise? Yes, we did.

Did we have any issues that meant we had to visit Guest Services? No, none!

Did we value what Norwegian Cruise Line offered for the price we paid? Definitely.

Would be sail with them again? Yes, of course, we already have Escape booked for later in September 2019!

Did we enjoy the company of our fellow sailors? Definitely. A great cross-section of people, friendly and we enjoyed passing time with many of them.

So, despite our observations above, would we recommend NCL? Yes, because it has more similarities to the other mass-market lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival and MSC.

However, if you prefer the more formal atmosphere of Cunard and P&O, I wouldn’t recommend it due to the more relaxed nature of ‘Freestyle Cruising’.

Check out the blogs for this and some of our other sailings here: –

https://highseasescapades.co.uk/category/cruise-blog/

Enjoy

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Peter Horton

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