NCL Breakaway (aka- a la carte) not the best choice for families IMHO...
Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review to Caribbean - Bahamas
Sail Date: December 15, 2013
Ship: Norwegian Breakaway
Cabin Type: Balcony
Traveled As: Family (young children)
Reviewed: 3 years ago
Review of Breakaway random thoughts. I have delayed writing my review as I wanted a chance to thoughtfully reflect and give NCL MANY chances to respond- unfortunately they have chosen not to.
Instead of writing a day by day review of our recent cruise on Norwegian’s Breakaway, I am putting together a summary of our experiences- these are just my experiences and you can decide for yourself if this is the right cruise for you. As another reviewer recently said and I agree, this is a ship with a split personality- some fantastic things and some not.
As with any vacation the reviews will vary widely based on personal expectations, family make up of travelers and past experiences. It is not to be unexpected that a review for a family traveling with children would be different from a couple without children or a single group- this is why it is important to pick the best cruise based on what is important for you.
Some background so you know what angle I am reviewing this ship from. I was traveling as a family with a child; this was our 6.5 cruise (took half a cruise a couple of years ago when a cruise line let us board to evacuate during a hurricane). What we find important when traveling is safety and excellent programs for children- we will always have fun and make our own good time if needed as long as we feel safe and know our child is being well cared for. We do appreciate good service, but as long as we are not treated horribly any extra is considered a bonus. We also do enjoy good quality food and although I do not consider us to be picky, we do appreciate variety and quality over quantity.
Now onto my thoughts…please note- I am merely expressing my view which you may or may not agree. In an effort not to “spread rumors” I am only posting factual information I have personal first- hand knowledge of. There were several great things about the cruise and several things that made me step back and go…really and question the cruise. The absolute best part of this trip for us was meeting the most wonderful family, the meet and greet, slot pull and cabin crawl- a HUGE thank you for all took a part in organizing!!
If we had not been on other cruises or were not traveling with a child, our experience would have likely been very different. So this is mainly for people with CHILDREN that have similar expectations- had I known some of these things PRIOR to booking, I probably would not have chosen this cruise.
We booked this cruise mainly due to the convenience of traveling out of New York and it looked amazing for families. We also thought the freestyle concept fit us- but we found it really to be more like an A la Cart experience- perhaps if it was just presented this way people would not feel nickel and dimed- your cruise ticket is your base fare and includes room, basic food and some of the entertainment anything above and beyond will cost extra. Since we currently have two other cruises booked on another line, we were a little worried that this was going to ruin it for us and we would be cancelling the other cruises- not so- if anything it made us feel better about cruising on another line and spending the extra money- worth every penny to us!
Embarkation- We arrived at the port at 11 am- easily found a porter to take our bags and security all went smoothly. Note- it was already quite busy at this time and we were given boarding group 30. Since we had an aft stateroom, we were directed to the back of the terminal- the first odd thing that happened- not good or bad just odd for traveling with a child- is they were handing out the cruise freestyle daily in the terminal, I wanted one for my son to help keep him occupied while we were waiting to board- I was briskly informed one per stateroom. So, if you want one for your children, just don’t walk past the person handing them out as a group and they will never know. Keeping your child occupied when waiting and very excited may seem small to people traveling without children but it’s not. Since we have traveled on other cruise lines before, another thing I found odd was the way you boarded- you entered the ship in a non-descript area- no special entry or foyer- not good or bad just odd.
Luggage- Was a little shocked at how you had to print your own luggage tags at home and staple to your bag- I remember thinking this was flimsy and there would be a lot of lost luggage so I laminated ours and stapled multiple times at the port- unfortunately did not stop one of our bags from being lost- this was NOT uncommon. I would recommend laminating your tag and attaching to luggage with a zip cord or even the elastic loops provided by other cruise lines. When our other luggage arrived, we did ask our room Stewart about the missing bag and were told some bags take longer so we waited. Time to get ready for dinner- we had the Cirque show the first evening (would recommend doing this) still no luggage and I wanted to get ready for dinner and we inquired again-told they are still working on the luggage. Returned from show and wondering ship- still the luggage did not arrive- asked the room Stewart again still same story so went to Guest Services. They took my husband to a room with un-claimed luggage and there it was- a little odd that he did not have to identify in any way- we put ID in an exterior pocket, which was never requested. So, IF your luggage does not show up go right to Guest Services, we did not go there in the first place because we thought the room Stewart knew what they were saying and the line at guest services the first night was LOOOOOOOOONG.
Childrens Area- Splash Academy- This is where it breaks down for us, unfortunately traveling with a child this can make or break our vacation. My Main reason that IMHO not the best choice for families.
1.) When we signed our son up following embarkation, we were told that when we dropped him off we would be issued a pager if requested so we could be contacted- I also have the two page document I was given by NCL that states “if additional devices are available they can be issued upon request”. The second day of the cruise, we took our son to Splash Academy and requested a pager- I was told flat out NO- there was an entire wall of them behind the desk and I wish I would have taken a photo (note- later on in the cruise another crew member told me that there were too many children on this cruise to issue the pagers- REALLY??). When registering my son I let them know of his food allergy and I also let them know upon his first check in- when I more firmly requested a pager because of his allergy- I was told I could have one if I provided and EPI pen. Well, it is not like my son is going to instantly go into anaphylactic shock and die- he will just get sick, have stomach problems and be in a lot of pain- so I guess that is not serious enough. After having my son in there for 45 minutes, my husband checked on him since we did not have a pager and my son felt uneasy as well so he left.
2.) My son made friends and on day 5 of the cruise he was OK with going to Splash Academy with the friends he made. He was only in there a short time. The next day, other children were asking how my son was…according to the children that asked about my son, another child kicked him and slapped his face. I asked my son and he said he did not want to be a tattle tale- I was upset that we were not called when this happened or informed of it upon picking our son up. I contacted guest services when I found out and the man at the counter was cold and dismissive (did not get his name but he was from S. Africa) and said that I needed to speak with a manager at Splash Academy and I would be contacted- never happened- I also personally went to Splash Academy that evening to speak with a manager again none available and I spoke with one of the counselors there and asked for follow up. I have followed up with phone calls/e-mails to NCL since I returned to find out exactly what their policy is- to date after many attempts no response to my direct question of “what is your threshold for contacting parents”. NCL did respond to my TA saying that they are sorry our cruise did not meet our expectations and offered a $200 OBC for a future cruise, but what I really wanted was an answer on what happened and what is their policy.
3.) The last night of the cruise day 6, my son went to Splash Academy for a couple of hours so we could pack our bags and visit for just a bit with a wonderful couple we met on the cruise. I spoke with the counselor about what happened the night before and also requested that we be immediately contacted should any issues arise. The same boy started poking my son and my son asked them to contact us to come get him- did not happen. I have also asked NCL what their policy is for contacting parents when their child requests to be picked up and no response yet…
Spa-I did the cruise pass and loved it- great early in the am I was usually the only one there. Unfortunately, you have to pay for the spa pass in order to use the locker room/showers. My husband did not purchase the pass so he could not use the locker room to clean up and change after working out. I asked one of the people at the spa about this and I was told “German Engineering” because of how the locker room was located- Really?? I was just on another ship built by the same “German” company and we could use the locker room without the pass to the spa. The one thing I really wanted to do at the spa was the Rasual when I went to book this after boarding, I was informed that the steam equipment was not working and it would not be for the cruise- when I asked to at least see the area for future reference, I was given the run around on at least 3 different occasions. I did have a hair cut/color as I ran out of time before leaving for vacation- I was a little worried since I have been going to the same person for so long. I must say- Arnold “aka Mr. fantastic” did the best job ever! Near the end he did try the usual up sell, but the service was great.
Breakfast buffet- get there early for a seat! Was a little frustrating wondering around for a seat and I did not like that we had to hover around others as they finished to grab their table. The omelets while a nice touch had very long waits.
Dinner- we did not do many of the included meals as we found the service a little slow- also noticed that while there were several complementary restaurants, they all basically served the same thing. We did enjoy the food/service at Le Bistro. One comment is to just go to the restaurant to book directly and forget the phone reservation system on the ship. On one night of the cruise I called from the guest services desk around 5:15 pm to make reservations for that night at Le Bistro, I was told there was nothing available until Saturday. Walking back to my room, I passed Le Bistro about two minutes from when I hung up the phone and the restaurant was EMPTY- so I went to the desk at Le Bistro and viola- I had a reservation set for that night at 5:45. I asked for an outside table and was told there was only one left by the check in station and I said fine. Funny, when we showed up they said they had a cancelation and we were offered a better table. Funny- during our entire dinner we were the only ones dining on the outside…did they have that many cancellations for the exact time we were there REALLY????
When we picked NCL, we were really looking forward to the freestyle concept. However, you had to book everything you wanted to do right away in advance or it would say the show was sold out- so really not freestyle to me. We never had to do this on any other of our cruises and for me, I did not like having to do this level of planning. Only did the shows listed below as my son did not spend too much time in the children’s program.
LOVED the cirque dinner show and were glad we did it on the first night- they did have a fixed menu but the food was great and we all enjoyed the show. We also enjoyed the presumed murdered mystery lunch. Which is again a fixed menu. Both of these shows were nice for our entire family.
Rock of Ages- I think NCL did a great job making sure everyone knew that this was not a show for children. The cast did a nice job, but the show was just not my thing. Surprised that NCL would pick such a controversial show for their only main show.
Activities on ship-
Let me say I loved the cruise director- Sinan really funny and was great at having the crowd have fun!
Loved the dancing with the stars- I think this was one of our favorite activities- absolutely hilarious!
My son gives the ropes course, rock wall, bungee jumping and water slides a huge thumbs up! It is just a shame that it was so understaffed that the lines were sooo long! The activities were open for a few hours at a time scattered throughout the day and it seemed like it may have been that way because they did not have enough crew to have things open at the same time- I did hear crew say things like “I am doing the job of 3 people” ….
Bingo- was OK, my son usually loves bingo but this was really nothing special so it saved me some $$.
They do many of the activities in the atrium, which is unfortunately too small for the crowds. If you were not there early enough to drag a chair from another section or get a good spot it was difficult to see and/or you would be standing. If this happens go to the second floor and look down from the open area.
Bowling- Really more like duck pin and we did it once for fun but not really worth $5.
Orlando- Would have loved a little more time to do Disney or Universal. When we thought of getting to the parks around 1:30 and having to leave by 7:15, we just could not justify the expense. Many people that did were grumbling. We did Downtown Disney and the resorts and had a great time.
Great Stirrup Cay- I guess while we were in Orlando around 6 or 7pm on the an announcement was made on the ship that we would be skipping this port due to weather- no further announcements were made that I heard, nothing on the ship TV channel nothing- We found out from a Cruise Critic cruise board while in Orlando. Confirmed at the port activities counter when I got back that this was true…funny almost no one I spoke to onboard was aware of this. I would never want to do anything to jeopardize safety but, I found this odd for two reasons- first- the weather was fantastic, it was about the calmest we have seen on any of our cruises, second how would they know so far in advance what the weather was going to be like the following morning?? Several people have commented that they saw RCL cruise tendering in the same area on the same day, and some have posted photos, but I did not see this with my own eyes.
Nassau-Since we skipped Great Stirrup Cay we went to Nassau at around 8pm that evening instead of the next morning. People asked if we were going to do anything in Nassau at night, but I said because of my concerns with the safety at Nassau I did not feel comfortable going out there at night. Some guests said they inquired on the ship and were told there were no safety issues in Nassau…hmmmm I always check with the Department of State before I travel and they have the threat level as critical- http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_989.html
threat level for New Providence Island is rated as critical by the Department of State. We went to Atlantis which was great fun as always. Since we were in port the night before, I asked if we could have the bracelets for the Atlantis Shore excursion we booked early…they said the people with the bracelets would not be meeting the ship until the morning AND Atlantis might not like it if we got there too early. REALLY??? Atlantis would not like it if we got there sooner and had more time to spend money there??? As soon as the ship docked we headed off as we did not want to wait for the crowd and the bus to be loaded. I might be mistaken, but it looked as if the lady with the Atlantis bracelets was a crew member and came off the ship…anyhow, after waiting for a bit they did give us our bracelets and off we went to Atlantis to get situated before the crowd arrived.
Let me start by saying we met some of the most wonderful people on this cruise!! However, for traveling with a family the crowd was a little rougher than I am used to on past cruises so this is another reason IMHO (only my opinion) it would not be my choice for families. Random things that I observed: Met a person on the elevator that was assaulted on the pool deck by another passenger, had another passenger mock and imitate my son when my husband called for him, had another passenger draw pornography and write cursing on my magnetic board left outside our room that we use to leave notes for one another, broken dishes and items thrown around hallways etc…If I was not with my family these things probably would have had little effect on me, but the entire package together was just not the best family experience.
We were very delayed for some unconfirmed reason…many thoughts on why but nothing confirmed. All I can say is I did see security heading to deck 12 AFT around 7ish am on Sunday morning and I heard other conversations between passengers and security on deck 8. We stayed on the upper deck for quite a while until things cleared up and we were happy that we were not scrambling to make a flight.
Overall and Conclusion- We had a good time and always will, but I just felt like we had to work at it not like on our other cruises. I am really not a complainer and in all of our other bined have never had any issues that were worthy of even mentioning and on this one there were several. Many people loved this ship and cruise, but for me I would rather pay more up front and have most activities included and have better service. The service appeared to be much better in the Haven area and we had considered a room there, but I like to experience the ship and not just a secluded area- I would rather just go to a destination resort. Most of the crew were friendly and helpful and it is not their fault that it just seemed as if the ship was under staffed. I am glad we tried this cruise because we were always curious if NCL would be a good fit for us and it does not appear to be.