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My Vacation Lady took our adult kids and their spouses on a New Year’s week cruise on board the Norwegian Breakaway. This was our first family vacation in many years. I’m happy to report that we didn’t kill each other and we all had a good time 🙂
I’m very critical of cruise ships and resorts so when I travel, I look at it from my client’s point of view. Without a 5 page review, let me give you some of the highlights.
The itinerary was Port Canaveral, Florida; Great Stirrup Cay (their private island) and Nassau, Bahamas. We didn’t travel for the itinerary but rather for the dates since 3 out of 4 of our kids are school teachers. The ship was packed— 1500 kids on board – so if you don’t need to travel Christmas or New Year’s week, don’t. These destinations were ones we visited recently but we did enjoy our excursions at each. We took an air boat adventure in Port Canaveral. We relaxed at the beautiful beaches of Great Stirrup Cay (bring water shoes) and we walked over to Junaknoo Beach in Nassau (again, bring water shoes) and had another relaxing day before heading back for a bit of shopping.
The Breakaway is a beautiful ship, less than 2 years old at this point and still has the new ship feel. It looks impressive upon arrival and we were impressed with the décor and the cleanliness. We had 3 midship balcony cabins and the cabins had a good amount of storage and closet space (even the bathroom) and the bed was comfortable. Balcony was a bit narrow- only about 4 feet deep so there wasn’t room for a lounge chair- just 2 chairs and a small table (large enough to old a plate). The cabin had a mini fridge (we asked the cabin steward to empty it) and one of the amenities that I didn’t notice last time was a coffee/tea maker. Since I usually get up and check email before hubby gets up, I love to have a cup (or 2) of tea in the morning. This was a nice unexpected perk.
FOOD- This is always a biggie so I’ll spend a good deal of time on this.
With NCL’s Freestyle Cruising, there are no set dining times and there are a handful of complimentary dining venues and a number of specialty restaurants with additional charges. We only pre-booked 2 restaurants in advance- Cagney’s (steakhouse) and Moderno’s (Brazilian BBQ). We were concerned about dining reservations for a party of 6 since NCL was offering options for the specialty restaurant dining packages and we thought it might be impossible (or long waits) to get a table for 6 so upon boarding we checked the inter-active screens (located near all of the elevators) and decided to make reservations that evening for Le Bistro (French). The cost was $19.99 per person but then NCL adds on an 18% gratuity in addition, so the meal came to a bit over $47 per couple. the meal was excellent. The duck was the popular item of the evening.
We loved Moderno’s Brazilian Barbeque. After a very nice salad and soup bar, the wait staff was constantly coming around with skewers of food. The highlights were the lamb chops (I think my son ate 12 or so) and a fabulous sirloin steak. This was in addition to chicken, sausage, ribs, seafood and so much more. The dessert was a grilled pineapple on a skewer and we all just about rolled out of there. (This is definitely a restaurant to go to hungry!)
We ate at the Manhattan Club once and at Taste and Savor on the other nights and the food was all good.
Breakfast and Lunch
For breakfast and lunch, we typically ate in the Garden Cafe Buffet since it was convenient. There was a large selection to choose from for lunch including salads, pasta stations, carving stations, pizza, burgers, soups and more. Breakfast was pretty typical- omelets made to order, pancakes, waffles, eggs, cereals and fruits. There is a great grill on deck 16 (Uptown Grill) that very few passengers know about that has fabulous burgers and waffle fries. The Uptown Grill also has a chopped salad station (usually with no lines) so we ate there a couple of times, It also has a a limited breakfast menu (with no lines at the omelet station!) They also had “take out service” which we appreciated. We would have loved to see a take out option from the Noodle Bar and the sushi restaurant but they were both only open for dinner and sit down only.
O’Sheehan’s Bar has 24 hour dining with breakfast and then a more casual lunch and a sit down dinner with prime rib specials most nights. It is also complimentary and the kids had wings and fries one night because they were hungry. Room service has a fee for it, unless you’re ordering a continental breakfast.
We had no complaints with the food and I think we all gained a few pounds on the ship (in my case– the coconut ice cream did me in 🙂 )
I should probably say something here about the Ultimate Beverage Package. Norwegian has been offering your choice of up to 4 different amenities to choose from when booking a cruise (not just the Breakaway) and the best value is the Ultimate Beverage Plan, if you like to enjoy a few beverages a day. One of the things my son really liked about this package was that it included drinks up to $15 each, so he was pleasantly surprised that he could order the scotch he liked while on board and it was free. You can only order 1 drink at a time and both guests in the cabin have to take the package) so you can actually get 2 at a time with 2 cards. I did enjoy a new drink while onboard– a BBC-Bailey’s Banana Creme.
Norwegian is known to have very good entertainment and the shows that we saw lived up to the expectation. We did see Rock of Ages (Broadway style show) on our previous 2 nite cruise and I have to say— they cleaned up the show. It may have been that it was holiday season but this show was much more sedate (in terms of dropping the curse words) than when we saw it before. While not everyone’s cup of tea (my young adult kids weren’t in love with it), it was well performed and we (the old folk) enjoyed it. Burn the Floor (dance show) was very good as well and there was an entertainer on board for the final night show. I think we saw either 2 or 3 Second City Improv shows (both family and adult) and they are always fun to watch- just amazing how the team can come up with funny things to say when prompted with a theme. There were games, musicians and activities held in the Atrium but the area is smaller and seating was very limited. We only got to see a couple of musical acts and they were also entertaining.
Recreation and Activities
Rope Course- All of my kids tried it this and really enjoyed it. It was very windy the day they tried it, so it was pretty scary. Some younger kids had to be backed off it because they were too small and they were petrified. My daughter also did the “walk the plank” and said that that was fun but also pretty scary.
Water Slides- my daughter did it and said it was pretty scary. TIP: use a boogie board on your back to make it easier to slide. There is a longer course and a shorter one so I can’t remember which one was more “see through” (where you can see light) vs. closed and darker.
Rock climbing wall- This was only open a couple of hours a day so we didn’t try it but lots of other guests were- even kids.
Bowling- $5 per person/game and only 2 lanes. We honestly kept forgetting that it was there so we didn’t try it but we saw some families bowling on one of the last days
Pools- While there are a number of pools and a kids Aqua Park, there was only 1 covered pool (limited to the Haven suite guests) so keep that in mind on the cooler days. We did like that the adult only pool (actually 1 side of the pool) was actually monitored and kids were asked to leave. There were also a good number of hot tubs.
SPA/Gym- I used the gym once. My kids used it more frequently and my son and daughter in law took some classes. My daughter and son in law had a great couples massage. I had my first hot stone massage. My massage therapist was good but I think I’ll go back to my standard deep tissue massage- since I think it’s more relaxing.
So who would My Vacation Lady recommend the Norwegian Breakaway to?
- First of all, this is a great FAMILY ship. While I didn’t talk about the kid’s program, they do have great activities for kids and teens.
- Of the 7 night cruises going to Bermuda from the NY/NJ area in the spring, summer and fall, the Breakaway is the most family friendly.
- During the winter, the Breakaway does some unique 9-14 night sailings to the Caribbean. So for those who are looking to sail from NYC and get to islands like Dominica, Barbados, Antigua, St Kitts, St Lucia, Tortola, Martinique and more, the Breakaway would be a good option.
- Singles– the Breakaway offers SINGLE STUDIOS for guests traveling alone.
- LUXURY cruisers- who want to try a bigger ship from NYC. The HAVEN suites are a separate entity on board the Breakaway, as well as their own covered pool and pool deck. According to Norwegian,
“most luxurious, well-appointed and spacious accommodations. Not only will you have access to all the ship has to offer, you’ll enjoy the personal service of a concierge and 24-hour butler throughout your entire stay. On top of that, complete privacy and tranquility are just steps away on a sundeck reserved exclusively for guests of The Haven. From embarkation to debarkation, boarding of tenders to shore, onboard entertainment to dining times you will have priority. In your own ship within a ship, the haven will make for a unique experience you’ll never forget.”
Would I sail on the Breakaway again- YES, I would– just probably not Christmas or New Year’s week, and I would love to book a Haven Suite!