Redemption. The Breakaway provided an opportunity for Norwegian Cruise Lines to get me back as customer.
I’ve cruised on Norwegian twice before. The first was the inaugural seven-day journey out of New York on the Gem over Christmas. From the idyllic snowfall as we passed the Statue of Liberty, to the top notch service led from the ship’s hotel director Klaus Lugmaier, it was one of the best cruises we had ever been on.
So much so, I booked my next cruise on the Norwegian Pearl out of Seattle for Alaska. The service was a nightmare. From a crewman telling me “it’s not my job” to a staffer, who actually gave us the best service on the Pearl, being reduced to tears by her berating boss not 10 feet from my table I swore to avoid the line in future.
I was on a two-day sail on the Breakaway on Friday through Sunday.
The ship mostly lived up to its hype.
There are some things I would have liked done differently and things I think could be improved upon — but that’s true of any ship I have been on.
At the end of the day it fulfilled most of my expectations, those little things can be overlooked.
So how did the Breakaway do?
Hallelujah! I have been saved!
This was one of the easiest boarding processes I have experienced. Once I was past security, I was the first person in line. It was much smoother than when I was on the Gem out of the same pier.
I was in a mid-ship mini-suite with a balcony. The décor was rich wood coloured paneling and very understated. The room had more storage space than most.
The ottoman also had an attachment that could convert it into a mini-table, which was a useful add-on.
The bathroom was the biggest I have had on the ship. Just how big? It had a double sink and space to have two people side-by-side using it. I loved the bigger shower with multiple showerheads.
Nit-picks: The one improvement would be a leg bar so the ladies could shave their legs easier. The other negative was the small size of the balcony — the chairs had to be positioned sideways on it.
Tip: If you want a balcony make sure you request a large balcony.
This is one area where Norwegian sets the bar. Besides the services you can typically find on any ship, its spa facilities are top notch from the hydrotherapy pool to the heated loungers. If this had been a seven-day cruise and I was spending time relaxing rather than working, I would have eagerly purchased a spa pass.
As it was, my wife and I did a tour of the facilities and our hostess did such a great job of being friendly, my wife had a spa treatment before the Breakaway even left the pier.
This is another area where Norwegian earns top marks. With 27 dining options, there was no way to sample everything, but I did my best to make the rounds.
MODERNO: The Breakaway’s Brazilian steakhouse had plenty of options starting with a buffet salad bar. But the highlight was the Passadores who stopped at the table to carve off 10 different types of meat from large skewers. My wife has Celiac’s Disease so she has to eat gluten-free. The wait staff ensured she had an incident free meal — as did the staff at all the restaurants we ate on board. Normally cruise lines want plenty of advance notice of someone who is gluten-free and once onboard, you pre-order the next day’s meal to help avoid cross contamination.
There is a $20 upcharge per person to eat here.
DOLCE GELATO: Located on the Waterfront on deck 8, we savoured gelato on both days. They cost $2.50 for a single scoop and were well worth it. As a side note, we tried getting gelato on the Reflection the previous month and when we asked if it was gluten-free the clerk replied it didn’t have dairy…
CARLO’s BAKE SHOP: I had a lobster tail and a cannoli. The prices vary depending on what you order and you can get one of Buddy Valastro’s famous cakes here. There were two locations — one in the atrium where you could also get coffee and the one on Deck 8 connected to the gelato shop.
Nitpick: The one on Deck 8 is too small and when there is a line it’s difficult to get in and out of it.
Tip: Don’t go right when it’s opening. If you can wait until mid-afternoon, you’ll be better off.
Manhattan Room: This is one of the three main-dining rooms and is themed as a New York Supper Club. I ordered broccoli soup as my appetizer followed by steak. The room is also where The Burn the Floor ballroom dancing takes place during dinner.
Nitpick: We were about three tables back from the front and could only see the dancers above the waist, which certainly did not allow us to enjoy a good performance to its fullest.
Tip: Make sure you sit in the first two rows of tables that ring the dance floor or eat upstairs on deck eight in Moderno or Cagney’s Steakhouse at a table that overlooks the dance floor.
O’SHEEHAN’S: The Irish-American pub was always full of activity. I had a corn beef on rye. It was okay but I would order something different next time. The bar is a great location to people watch.
SHANGHAI’S NOODLE BAR: We were able to watch the chefs prepare our meal as we sat overlooking the kitchen. Just how good was it? We ate there twice. I had fried rice and a beef dish. I’m not a big seafood lover and one of them had shrimp, but I’d order it again.
TASTE: Another of the main dining rooms on the Breakaway. We ate herefor breakfast. I had biscuits and gravy along with some bacon and ham. I know I left here at least two pounds heavier after ordering seconds. My wife had an omelet, which was her least favourite meal. They did have a gluten-free muffin, which was a redeeming factor as it was soft and moist, unlike many gluten-free flour substitutes.
WASABI SUSHI BAR: I ate in here while trying to get into the Ice Bar. I wanted the Godzilla Roll, but they ran out of avocado. I ended up having salmon, which wasn’t a bad second choice.
ROCK OF AGES: I had really low expectations going in as my colleagues and I listened to the singers’ performance during the christening last Wednesday — it wasn’t very good. Two of my colleagues who perform, actually came to my desk when it started because it was so off-key.
My wife, who had also heard the singing, and I made a pact that we would leave after the second song if it wasn’t better.
Well, we stayed for the whole performance and what a campy, fun-filled romp it was. I still wouldn’t say the singing was great, but the cast gave a performance that earned a well-deserved standing ovation. Rock of Ages delivered an entertaining performance, especially the narrator.
Nit-picks: There probably should be some sort of adult content warning on the show. We saw about two dozen people walk out during the show we went to. This show is definitely not for children or people who are more conservative with both men and women dancing around in their underwear and some unsuitable language.
Also, the theatre only has two aisles to service three sections and people’s naturally tendency to sit in the seats closest the edge. That meant in the wing sections of the theatre people were having to squeeze past everyone else in the row to sit at the ends.
Tip: Go early. This show also has to be booked in advance (it’s free but with less than 800 seats on a 4,000 passenger vessel, you’ll have to book which performance you are going to) and the sooner you can do this, the better off you will be. You can likely get in on stand-by, but your choice of seat will not be great.
FAT CATS JAZZ & BLUES BAR: New York City’s Slam Allen was the natural choice to headline here. This was one of Premier Cannonier’s favourites — and it’s easy to see why. Mr Allen’s vibrant performance will have cruisers attending his shows more than once on their trip. If you don’t stop in and take a listen, you will have missed out on some really great music.
CIRQUE DREAMS: We never made this show. We tried booking it as soon as we got on the ship, but because we arrived later than most, it was already booked out. But we heard rave reviews from those who attended saying it was the well worth the $40 cover price. I’ve seen videos of parts of the performances and have to say, this was the one thing I wish we could have done.
Ice Bar: I actually never made it past the door into the 17 degree room. I went on the first night not realizing you had to book in advance. I tried to get in three times on stand by and wasn’t able to do so. I mainly wanted to just go in and shoot some media photos. She wouldn’t let me in as they were worried about the ice melting too much from people going in and out (many of the people left after 15 minutes as it was too cold for them). I tried working out a compromise for them to let me be the first to enter and when the last person walked in, I would leave so the door would only be opened once, but that didn’t satisfy her. The cost to enter the ice bar is $20 and also gives you two signature New York style cocktails.
THE AQUA PARK: This is an entertaining option even if you don’t want to step into one of the five water slides. The looks on people’s faces as they burst out the bottom of the tubes will bring more than a few smiles to your face. Besides the water slides there are two swimming pools, hot tubs and a kid’s zone with Sponge Bob and his friends. This area will be well-used on sea days.
The lines to use the water slides were not that long but the ship did not have as many kids on it as it would on a regular seven-day sailing.
SPORTS COMPLEX: This was a crowd favourite. Getting tethered up and walking along the beams is not for those with a fear of heights. It’s a fairly easy process, but you do have to sign a waiver. You can also do the Plank once you are tethered in. It extends eight feet out from the ship — and it really should be called the Beam as a plank would cause you to envision something the size that would hang off the side of a pirate ship. This is much, much smaller. There’s an electronic button you can step on and have your photo taken as you are ‘overboard’.
There’s also a trampoline you can bounce on while being hooked in so you don’t go careening all over the place. Again, even if you are not brave enough to do it, you can watch others bounce and do flips.
There is also a fun little nine-hole course. The Breakaway has one of the better ones that I have played at sea.