September 2014 - Norwegian Breakaway to Bermuda
My wife and I have cruised Celebrity a number of times, plus Carnival, Holland America (once each) and Disney twice. This was our first Norwegian. As far as we are concerned, Celebrity still does it the best. Disney is of course great, but is very crowded and way too expensive. Now that our daughter is in college, we have no inclination to do Disney again. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the Breakaway. We would cruise Breakaway again, but probably only in the off-season.
Other reviews that we had read, as well as experiences from friends who have done the Breakaway, prepared us for the possibility of an unpleasantly overcrowded cruise. I have no doubt that the ship is overcrowded during the high season. But, we went to Bermuda the week after Labor Day, when kids were supposed to be back in school and the weather was still nice, and the ship was not overcrowded. She was crowded, to be sure, but it was manageable. There were more children and young adults than I expected, considering the week that we cruised, though. Don't get me wrong...we love kids, and love being around kids. The ship was just not overrun with kids that week, unlike Disney, which is of course the whole point of Disney. I suspect that during the times when kids are out of school Breakaway is mobbed with kids. If that is your thing, I am sure you and your family will enjoy Breakaway during the high season.
Breakaway is new, so she is beautiful and has all of the amenities of a modern cruise ship. The water slides are fantastic, and they are not just for kids. Two thumbs-up to Norwegian for the water slides. There is something surreal about doing water slides in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean...
The food was pretty good. I still think Celebrity has noticeably better food, especially if you cruise Aqua Class, like we have. The service and the entertainment were outstanding. Broadway quality shows, for certain. We are not gamblers, so we avoided the casino, mostly because it was pretty smokey. There is a main staircase that form an open public space from deck 6 (the Atrium, where guest, entertainment and excursion services are), through deck 7 (the casino) and up to deck 8 (the shopping area). You can smell smoke from the casino down into the Atrium and up into the shopping area. If you are allergic to smoke, or are anti-smoke, beware. Breakaway could probably use more smoke-eaters in the casino.
We had a BC category balcony stateroom on deck 14. The room is really nice, and the living area and bathroom were spacious enough. However, the mattress is like what I have experienced on a sleeper sofa. The mattress is rather thin on top of a solid platform and you can easy feel the coil springs. We asked the cabin steward for an extra comforter and blanket to add cushion, which helped some. Celebrity mattresses are comfortable, at least we do not remember it being a problem, but our Breakaway mattress was not comfortable. If there is one thing Norwegian should do better, they should invest in more comfortable pillow-top mattresses.
Other reviews complained that the balcony was small, and that a big guy might not be comfortable. Well, I am a 6'4" solidly-built guy and I was comfortable enough, even with my wife on the balcony, too. It was "cozy". Celebrity has a much larger balcony, for sure, and more comfortable reclining deck chairs. But, I would not say Breakaway's balcony was too small, unless you want to get a family for 4 on the balcony together. That is just not happening.
The embark and disembark procedures in NYC are pretty good. If you drive and park, however, beware the parking lot! I got screwed out of $70 because the Manhattan Terminal website offered a printable 25% discount on parking until October 31st. When we got to the park lot, the attendant said they were not honoring the discount coupons after Labor Day, even though the coupon clearly says it expired on October 31st. She said the coupon was a City of New York offering that the parking company is not bound to accept.
Also beware of the Cruise's Only on-board credit offering. I double-checked with Cruises Only before the cruise about the on-board credit and asked for written documentation for the Cruises Only rebate and on-board credit. When we got on the ship, Norwegian denied our on-board credit, even though we had documentation from Cruises Only. We spent a couple of days going back-and-forth between Norwegian and Cruises Only, and in the end we did not get the on-board credit. This issue is still in dispute between us and Cruises Only. As good repeat customers, I am expecting Cruises Only to make good on their documented promises for on-board credit, even if Norwegian denied it.
Bermuda is Bermuda, no matter how you get there. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) is rumored to have said something like, "When I die, I want to go to Bermuda instead of heaven". Enough said.
To sum, If you are looking for a very nice cruise, I can heartily recommend Breakaway from NYC to Bermuda. I would just recommend you stay away from the high season, if you can.