Breakaway to the Baltic Sea - Awesome Ship, Awesome Ports, Horrible NCL Service

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Review to Europe - Northern Europe

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Reviews: 2
Helpful Votes: 56

Overall rating:

3.5 out of 5
Verified Review
Norwegian Breakaway

9 Night Scandinavia & Russia (Warnemunde Roundtrip)

Sail date: July 23, 2018

Ship: Norwegian Breakaway

Cabin type: Balcony

Cabin number: 9734

Traveled as: Family (older children)

Reviewed: 3 years ago

Review summary

The Breakaway is a great ship. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise as a whole. Don't expect much from the food or service from NCL, and you won't be disappointed. You don't need to buy an excursion for any port besides St. Petersburg, as all can easily be done on your own. Plan and know your transportation options and sight destinations beforehand. Be ready to GO GO GO, as you have 5 days straight in ports, and a lot of time and attention is needed to manage your travel, stay on time, and ensure you don't miss the ship. Plan to do a lot of walking. There were six in our group, and everyone from age 10 to 56 loved it. Our weather in late July was amazing. Mostly sun with temps in 80s throughout the Baltics, which was generally better than average. Throughout the cruise, we experienced less than 5 total minutes of rain. The Baltic Sea was amazingly smooth throughout the cruise, except for about 3 windy hours leaving Helsinki. In general, we loved the ship, loved the ports, loved the cruising, but was given poor service and nickel-and-dimed by Norwegian Cruise Lines the whole way. I would do this cruise again in a heartbeat, but find another cruise line than NCL.

Embarkation

4 out of 5
Embarkation had some confusing moments, which seemed limited to the German port authorities and not NCL. With cruisers coming and going that had embarked in Copenhagen while we were trying to embark in Warnemunde, they sent us through wrong lines, creating a lot of security problems simply trying to get in the right lines.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

2 out of 5
Food was hit and miss. The specialty restaurant dining was just ok, but in none of them did we ever have any "wow this is really good" moments. The buffet was generally horribly bad and very low quality, although with several decent standouts (especially on the ONE "Grill Night"). It continued to amaze me how many people flooded the buffet, but I guess people just want the immediate service and not sit an wait on an order from a menu. Most of the other complimentary dining remained uncrowded. It seemed pointless to have three main dining rooms that had the exact same menu, when they were always empty. O'Sheehans was a nice variety to the complimentary dining, although service was really slow and menu choices very limited. You have to beg repeatedly for water refills in every single restaurant. Don't do Norwegian for the food.

Le Bistro French Restaurant

2 out of 5

They're a little snooty, maybe by design in attempting to be French. They don't allow shorts, which isn't listed as a requirement for this particular restaurant. They take you to your table, seat the lady, before telling the gentleman to return to cabin and change to pants. I had this happen to myself, begrudgingly did so, before returning and watch the same thing happen to two other couples. They could simply post this requirement (as other restaurants such as Manhattan Room does) or inform you before partially seating your party. It seems designed to rudely put you in your place. Next up, I ordered a chardonnay and was brought a Sauvignon Blanc. I know my wines, know the aroma, know the taste, and know that the legs weren't there for the chardonnay that I ordered. I asked to correct it, server went back to bar and returned insisting that I had the correct wine. She asked if I would like to order something else, and I told her that I would still like the correct chardonnay which I had ordered. She begrudgingly took the wine glass this time, and 15 minutes later returned with a glass of the correct wine, claiming that it was still the same wine but bar was glad to pour from a new bottle. It was the right wine this time, but was definitely not the same. Sitting next to each other, you could tell the color was not even the same. Come on, just admit your mistake and give me the right wine. The food was just ok.

Shanghai's Noodle Bar

1 out of 5

My wife and I tried three times to go to Shanghai's. All three times, the same guy working the booth said that there was an hour wait. Every time, half of the seats were empty. Made no sense. Three others in our party experienced the same thing, but once was able to get in. All three said their meals were disgusting.

O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar and Grille

3 out of 5

The nice thing about O'Sheehans is that you can usually get in pretty easily. We never had to wait in line, and it is the only complimentary dining in the forward part of the ship. Some of their menu choices are fairly good, but the menu is very limited. The wings are really good, but nachos are only a few chips with a small drizzle of cheap melted cheese. Other good options are fajitas, BBQ burger, and artichoke dip. Service is always slow, and forget about ever getting your water refilled.

Garden Café

2 out of 5

The food here is mostly mediocre and low quality, although they occasionally have a few decent standouts. "Grill Night" was especially good, but that was only one night. This buffet is PACKED with people all the time, and the only reason I can think of to account for that is because you get your food immediately, and people don't want to sit down and wait on table service, which is very slow in all NCL dining rooms and specialty restaurants.

Carlo's Bake Shop

1 out of 5

I only rate this 1 star because although they advertise Carlo's Bake Shop, it actually is not there anymore.

Onboard Activities

1 out of 5
Onboard activities was one of the main draws for us to the Norwegian Breakaway, but we were let down tremendously. We had a 9-day cruise, and only saw the water slides open for an hour or two on the 2nd day, and then never again although the weather was warm and beautiful. Our 10 year old was able to catch them briefly open on the 2nd day, but said that even then they were disappointing and he didn't want go ride them again (and he loves waterslides). Pools and hot tubs closed too early at night, when it seemed that everyone was just getting started to use them (especially the hot tubs). Also, the deck chairs were always stacked and put away when we were most needing them. It seems that most of the water activities and chairs are only available if you stay on ship during port during short afternoon hours. Many of the other activities seemed designed to continue to nickel and dime you out of your money, with little in return. We also found all of the other activities (rock wall climbing, putt-putt, ropes course) to very rarely actually be open. It seems a waste to invest in these things, advertise as a huge benefit, and then leave them closed all of the time. Wifi is a huge scam. First, the Wifi signals are spotty all over the ship, so you have to move around to find a signal in the first place. Then, once you get a good signal, the service is slow (as expected though, being satellite-based). Next, the software you are forced to use is defect-ridden, and you spend most of your time fighting its bad design, and just logging in and logging out. We found that every time, you have to Login/Logout twice in each session before it works, and then Login/Logout twice again at end. If you don't do that, it doesn't actually count you as logged out. So if you simply leave your device unused or think you logged out when it actually didn't, you suck down all of your minutes to zero, being charged hundreds of dollars while never actually having used it. The Wifi really seems designed to work poorly this way, to charge you by minutes that you don't actually use, and then charging you an exorbitantly overexorbitant amount for that the privilege of running out your minutes that you didn't actually use. Wifi on NCL is nothing but a scam. Avoid it and just use cellular network while in port.

Slide

1 out of 5

My 10-year old briefly found slides open the day after embarkation, but said they were disappointing. For the next 8 days, we never once found the slides open again, even though the weather was warm and sunny. It seems like a waste of investment to build and advertise, just to never open them. Apparently they were briefly open while in port for those who stayed on ship, but for those who actually go out in port, you never get a chance to use them.

Public Sundeck

1 out of 5

The only time that NCL seemed to put chairs out for use was during afternoons while ship was in port. We actually like to go out in the ports. Isn't that one of the reasons to take a particular itinerary? After ship leaves ports, all the chairs are stacked and locked up, even though it is warm, the sun is out, and the weather is nice. Everyone is wandering around trying to find a chair to use, but NCL has decided that no one can anymore.

Photo Gallery

1 out of 5

We sat for a lot of photos. We wanted to see our photos. We wanted to buy our photos. The Photo Gallery couldn't find our photos. Even though we gave them our room number every time, when we went to view our photos, they only had three. We sat for dozens. They told us we could search through all photos, when meant going through every day, location, hour by hour. We don't recall where we were for all of the photo opportunities, meaning we would have to search through at least half of every photo that they took. We abandoned this endeavor after 10 minutes, after only managing to find about 5 additional photos. We considered going back and searching further, and finally decided to just buy some of those that we had already found. But on the last two days of our voyage, we could never find the photo gallery actually open, even though staff were there. We asked if we could purchase, and even though they were there, they claimed we had to wait until Thursday (which was the day AFTER we disembarked). They didn't actually seem to want to sell their overpriced photos after all, and we had to leave with none.

Internet Café

1 out of 5

Wifi on NCL is really just a scam. First, it is overpriced and slow. If you're ok with overpriced and slow, you still won't get what you pay for. They force you to login/logout with their software, which works horribly. You may think you logged out, but unless you login again just to logout again, it doesn't register that you logged out, and therefore runs down your allowed minutes to zero even though you are using absolutely no data whatsoever. Then, the next time you login, it thinks you're already logged in, so you must logout again just to be able to login. You have to repeat this unnecessary defective process EVERY TIME, and so you burn another 5 minutes of your limited time just getting on and off of the system. The next thing you know, all of your minutes are gone after barely having even used the Internet, and you're out $100-$300 (depending on the package) for the privilege of being scammed by NCL Wifi.

Entertainment

3 out of 5
I can speak to only five entertainment options... The band playing at Syd Norman's Pour House was always awesome, but timing seemed spotty. They would rock out one night, and they next night you would walk in to crickets. Wine Lovers the Musical was great and worth it. They give you TOO MUCH wine (not that there is anything wrong with that)! They never advertise that it also includes a big lunch, so we had stuffed ourselves just five minutes before it started, only to walk in and immediately being served a salad, steak, shrimp and dessert. It was funny and enjoyable. Burn the Floor featured good music and very talented dancers. Cirque Dreams was entertaining with the acts all wowing you by their feats. The venue made it hard for many to see, and you were always looking around columns in the middle of the theater that were in the way. They served you food in a hurried manner, and finally left you eating difficultly in darkness when the show begins, at which time they won't provide any more service, water, or anything. And finally, there was Rock of Ages. This show was embarrassingly and uncomfortably BAD. There were a couple of rare chuckle moments, but on the whole just horrific and regrettable. My biggest regret is sitting through the whole thing, because I knew by 10 minutes in that we really needed to get up and leave.

Spiegel Tent

1 out of 5

Besides the creepy monkey at the door, the biggest problem with this place is the seating and overall design. Tables are placed in rows coming out from the center of the semi-circular shaped room. The chairs closest to center are shoved against table next to them, and you really can't get in and out. For chairs further back in the rows away from center and for the booth tables around the edge, you have poor views of the show as large circular columns are all throughout the room, which obstruct the view. For the booth tables, you basically have to eat in the dark, almost pitch blackness.

Spice H2O

3 out of 5

Spice H2O is actually a nice expansive adult area at the back of the ship. The Latino band playing there on multiple occasions was good. The biggest downside was that for unknown reasons, this area was always a ghost town with less than 10 people there. It was likely too hard for many people to locate.

Children's Programs

1 out of 5
After booking, we were really excited about entertainment and options for kids such as the kids clubs, and was a major reason to choose this ship and itinerary. We signed up our two boys (10 and 12) for the kids club. After one time, they refused to go back (since we gave them that option), and they ripped off their armbands permanently by the 2nd day of the cruise. They said it was "totally lame". It was more for babysitting than anything else, and we found many parents using it as a tool to drop and forget their kids for hours on end, while not caring about those kids' time so that the parents could enjoy their own. Our kids were both also disappointed in the arcade and never went back after one time (and they love arcades). The kids still loved the ship as a whole, but mainly for the movie in Headliners, group activities such as Deal or No Deal in Atrium, and freedom to roam and go to buffet and restaurants on their own. They hated the fact that the other fun entertainment (such as waterslides) was NEVER OPEN, even though the weather was warm and beautiful.

Splash Academy

2 out of 5

I can only speak to my kids' (10 and 12) opinions of Splash Academy. After one visit, they were done. They felt it was "totally lame". It seems to be designed more for parents who want to lock their kids up with a babysitter while they go have fun themselves. But from the kids point-of-view, there was nothing fun to be done there. After one visit, on the 2nd day of cruise and since we gave our kids the option and freedom to do so, they ripped off their armbands never to return.

Service and Staff

2 out of 5

Ship Quality

5 out of 5
The Breakaway is an amazing vessel. While there are some designs that could be improved, it seemed to be in perfect condition, with staff always cleaning decks, doors, windows, etc. I never sensed anything as dirty, needing maintenance, or in disrepair (except for Wifi, which was a bit of a scam and seemed designed to be that way to further nickel and dime passengers). I'm not sure if rooms received a refresh in the last dry dock just two months ago or not, but the ship as a whole including rooms still had a new, fresh feel to it, even though the ship is now 5 years old.

Cabin / Stateroom

5 out of 5

Ship tip

Prepare yourself with low expectations about the food and restaurant service, and you won't be let down as you will get what you expect. Avoid the buffet, avoid the crowds. For breakfast, Moderno and O'Sheehans are the best choices for quality and smaller crowds, although the staff at O'Sheehans will be predictably slow ALL the time.

Ports of call

Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany

5 out of 5
We embarked at Warnemunde, so were able to do a lot in this area before and after the cruise. If you embark in Copenhagen, then this port is a long trek to take in Berlin or Hamburg. My recommendation would be a trip to Lubeck. Although still 1.5 hours away, it has a nice charm and great medieval sites to take in. You can easily take DB train anywhere you want to go, with a station right at the port. It's not worth paying for an excursion.

Tallinn, Estonia

5 out of 5
Tallinn was a very enjoyable walk, with plenty of interesting sites to take in in Old Town. The biggest drawback is the length of the walk from port to Old Town. We did that anyway (~40 minutes) and did not regret it. You could also take taxi or HOHO bus if you can't or don't want to walk. Paid excursions don't seem worth the price.

St. Petersburg, Russian Federation

5 out of 5
While NCL has improved the process of getting off the ship on Day 1, it still seems exasperatingly mishandled and slow, and designed to punish passengers who have not overpaid by 3x to take an NCL excursion. This is further amplified by the freedom they give you on Day 2, where the process takes 3-5 minutes. NCL sits you in the theater, and slowly let you flow out, while the whole time blaming Russian authorities. But once you escape from NCL's grasp, St. Petersburg has more to see than you can do in two days, or even four. We were letdown slightly in that the city as a whole seems to be never maintained or kept up. Russians keep fresh flowers planted in boxes lining every street, and let every other aspect of the buildings fall into massive disrepair and needing a coat of paint everywhere you look. It seems that nothing is maintained or cleaned (except for the exquisite Metro stations and The Hermitage). The trek to Pushkin to see Catherine's Palace did not seem worth the long drive. It is also in major disrepair, and we would have more enjoyed staying in town and seeing more of the Hermitage. Church on Spilled Blood is an amazing sight, and quickly seen in 30 minutes. However there is an overall feeling in the city of being oppressed, poor, and our guide had to remind us every 15 minutes to guard our pockets. Even so, we never felt unsafe or saw any signs of pickpockets or similar activity. If you don't have your own Russian visa, you have to take a paid excursion. We used Best Guides, and we were completely pleased with them. We paid $210 each for two days and hit all of the big highlights including lunch, and had 10 people in the group transported in a new, clean Mercedes van. Our driver pretty much parked at the front door everywhere we went, and we had early entry in Hermitage, Catherine's Palace, Peterhof, Spilled Blood Cathedral, etc. We never waited for more than 5 minutes to get in anywhere, and beat the crowds. At some sights where we walked right in, we saw literally 400 people or more in line to get in who we skipped right past. NCL excursions were 3-4x more costly, and you were on a big bus with 50-60 other people.

Helsinki, Finland

4 out of 5
Another port where paid excursions are unnecessary. Public transportation (tram station right at West Harbour port) is best option. Easy to get to Temppeliaukio Church (only need 20 minutes to see it). Market Square is neat with a lot of interesting foods to try. The muikku (tiny whole fried herring with a garlic sauce) were awesome. There are other great seafood, reindeer, and moose options to try also. This is a great place for souvenir hunting. Biggest disappointment was simply there were not a lot of sights right in the city to see, although you could go further out for a couple of other activities, but may limit time in city.

Nynashamn (Stockholm), Sweden

5 out of 5
I hesitated giving 5 stars here (due to NCL transfer debacles), but ultimately gave 5 stars because Stockholm is awesome. Our group all left with the consensus that Stockholm was the one port we were left wanting to go back to, and that we needed another full day or two to experience it. City Hall tour was very cool. Walking thru Gamla Stan was more exciting than anticipated, and you find something new down every street. This is a place needing to be explored more deeply. Ferry over to Djurgarden provides MANY more options of things to do, including Grona Land, ABBA Museum, Skansen, Vasa Museet, and more. We found Vasa Museet to be slightly disappointing, due to poor lighting and small confined space preventing you from getting a good view of the entire amazing ship. The biggest negative to this port is that Norwegian Cruise Lines has majorly screwed up the transportation from Nynashamn. While we booked 390+ days out before the port was changed to Nynashamn and told by NCL months ago that they would provide free transport, we had to argue with them to get the free transport, and they claimed that we did not book before the change. If you take the free transport, they force you to choose from only two predetermined bus times, both of which cut your port time short by three hours. This was a debacle. Others on ship who took NCL excursions into Stockholm also said that they were disasters. The best method of transportation (which we took) is the train, directly from Nynashamn to Stockholm City. However, on return there was track maintenance which forced everyone off at one station, onto buses which were hard to find, and then dropped at another station to complete the train journey. NCL could easily arrange a transportation option for all on train, smoothing it for everyone. Doing this would allow negotiations for ensuring maintenance was not being done during the much-needed return trip time, or bus options properly arranged. However, the reasons for diverting to Nynashamn in the first place is suspect, and likely due to NCL not wanting to pay Stockholm port fees. All other ships were docked in Stockholm, with none in Nynashamn. I've heard NCL claiming issues sailing the Archipelago (as was advertised when we booked), although all the ships we saw docked in Stockholm clearly had no problems as well as the identical NCL Getaway last year. In summary, Stockholm is awesome and really needs to be two days and docked directly in Stockholm. Norwegian has turned Nynashamn into a debacle.

Copenhagen, Denmark

3 out of 5
Getting in/out of Copenhagen is easy on Bus 25, with bus station right at port. There's no need to pay for an excursion here. Biggest downside to Copenhagen was that it was terribly crowded. We really enjoyed Rosenborg Castle, which itself was not too crowded. Nyhavn area was wall-to-wall people.

Disembarkation

5 out of 5
Was this review helpful? 30

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Remember: Be polite and respectful. Our diverse community is home to members with different opinions and a broad range of cruise experiences.