The NCL Breakaway and this eastern Caribbean cruise was much better than the one we took on the Epic last year. Very few issues this cruise, and we had a great time. The food was wonderful, the entertainment was great, and the amenities on the ship were fine. Our first visit to Tortola probably won't be our last one; it's a beautiful island. Add extra time to your embarkation expectation due to the Coronovirus issue.
3 out of 5
The embarkation was not a good sign to start the trip off. The long line I thought we had when we took the Epic last year was nothing compared to this one. It took us over 90 minutes to embark. However, there are definitely reasons for this, at least this time. There were extra forms due to Coronavirus to fill out. In any event, all of the NCL people were as courteous and professional as possible during embarkation, so I won't grade too harshly -- it is what it is.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
The food on the Breakaway was great, no other words for it. We mainly ate at the private restaurants, mainly due to our experience last time of lack of available tables at the main dining rooms. All were wonderful -- Cagneys, Moderno Churrascaria, Raw Bar, La Cochina, and twice at the sushi place Wasabi. We got 3 meals as part of the package, and we purchased 3 more -- well worth it. On this ship, the main buffet (Garden Cafe) was interesting. There were rarely any major lines for food that I can remember. I got freshly made eggs every morning, and was usually only 1 or 2 people in line at the particular station I was at. ProTip - walk around towards the back and you'll find more omelet / egg stations if the ones in the front are busy. The only quibble is that there was very little variety between all of the food stations in the Garden cafe. In the past the buffet had a lot of different choices. But on this ship, they seemed to repeat the food over and over. It did mean less crowding at the lines, though; so I can live with it. It also makes eating at the buffet less exciting than dining elsewhere, which may be one reason they are going to the multiple stations serving the same thing over and over.
5 out of 5
Wasabi was so good we ate there twice.The Rock 'n Roll was a favorite of ours - we both got one each, each time. The Surf and Turf with the beef tataki was tasty. Forget all what else we got, but it was delicious. And similarly to the Raw Bar, one can just walk up and get served. Love it.
The Raw Bar
5 out of 5
It's nice to just walk up to a restaurant and start eating - no reservation needed. Our dining package gave us a boatload of food here. My wife got the oysters, the lobster, and the salmon tartare; while I got prawns, the lobster, the tuna crudo, and the crab toast. The man behind the bar was great and got us the food quickly. It was all delicious.
5 out of 5
I love these Brazilian steakhouses where they come around with different types of meat. Moderno is great not only because of the meat, but its salad bar is also wonderful. I couldn't get enough of the flank steak - I ate so much of it I almost popped. They kept bringing it around to me, though. And for some reason, this one isn't as popular when it comes to reservations. Oh well - more for me.
La Cucina Italian Restaurant
5 out of 5
I'm not much of an Italian food eater, but we went anyway. They had a filet mignon that was the most delicious thing I ate on board that ship. My wife got the T-Bone steak that was an off-menu item, and it was delicious (I got to help her finish it). The Italian food part of the restaurant? I'd bet it's good, but I'll take steak most every time :)
5 out of 5
Cagney's Steakhouse is the most popular specialty restaurant for a reason -- great steak. We got the prime rib and the filet -- both were perfect. If you want to go here, though -- reserve early. The reservations sell out quickly.
5 out of 5
This old guy here did take in a couple of the water slides. One was probably not meant for adults -- I went so slow I almost stopped. The one called the whip(?) was perfect for me -- lots of twists and turns, but not enough to make me lose my lunch. I passed on the one with the quick drop -- they wanted us to remove our wedding rings and anything in our pockets. If it's that scary, I'll pass :p While they didn't have a full bowling alley like the Epic, they did have the more arcade type bowling in Sheehans, and that was fun enough. There was a neat putting green area, however some of the carpet needs replacing. I shot a few hoops in the basketball court, and kicked a ball or two into the soccer goal. I did a good bit of treadmill in the Fitness Center, which had a good amount of equipment. Thanks to the rough seas, I didn't need to incline it much to get a decent workout! Unlike the Epic, there's a nice outside walking area on the 8th floor called the Waterfront. One can walk outside on each side, and even see out the back of the ship. It can get a bit crowded when people are out sunning themselves on that level, but I really enjoyed that. I'm not much of a pool person on a cruise ship, but be aware that there was only one adult pool for general passengers.
5 out of 5
The shows were absolutely great. Jessica Jane did a magician show that was fabulous. Burn the Floor looked completely different to me, but it was still great. And the musical "Six" based on the wives of Henry VIII was funny and charming. Caught a bit of the 80s theme band (forget the name unfortunately) and they were pretty good. ProTip -- Reserve your shows as soon as possible. On this ship it looked like all shows were close to being full, and we went to the 10pm shows. The 7:30pm seats were reserved fast and were unavailable quickly. Although there is no cost for the shows, reserving is highly recommended.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
The staff was courteous and helpful. I know everyone loves their room steward, but ours was great and did everything we asked. Bartenders and waiters remembered us and got us what we wanted quickly.
4 out of 5
This ship's layout is certainly much more normal (for a lack of a better word) than the Epic. Getting from place to place was fairly easy, and it was much easier to get an elevator this cruise. ProTip: Not all elevators are called when you push a button, at least in the front elevators. 4 of those elevators go to the 16th floor, 4 only go to the 15th floor. When you press the button, only the 4 for that set get called. Go ahead and press both sets of buttons in order to call all 8 elevators. Don't be shy -- press those buttons. While they claimed the ship was sold out, it certainly didn't seem that way; especially compared to my last NCL cruise. The biggest complaint I have is that the cigarette smoke from the casino on the 7th floor wafts to both the 6th floor and the 8th floor. While it certainly isn't as strong as it is in the casino, it is a bit unpleasant at times.
Cabin / Stateroom
4 out of 5
Cabin was the right size for a cruise. While the balcony wasn't that big, it was enough to sit out and watch the ocean go by. The electrical outlets are still too far away from the bed, but that is probably on purpose. The bathroom is all together unlike the Epic, and is a lot more roomy than one normally gets on a cruise ship. Our cabin wasn't that close to the elevators, so consider getting one with a higher number - I think around 12176 was the elevator entrance, IIRC.
Want extra outlets on your ship? Obviously one can bring a power strip and an extension cord. But consider bringing some "C" type outlet adapters so you can use the Europe ones for things that can use that, such as most phone chargers and laptop cords. Look at your charger and/or laptop cord to see if it can take 220 (most can). If so, use the "C" adapter and plug in your phone or laptop.
We took the guided tour of Tortola, which was really good. The only issue is that the vehicle is a type of large duty truck with passenger seats added on where the truck bed used to be. This meant that the driver, who was also the narrator, couldn't hear questions from the back, nor could we ask him to repeat things we may not have heard that well. But thank goodness he was driving -- those roads were windy (as in winding) and windy (as in blowing wind). We got great shots of all around the island. We stopped at a beach for an hour, and we took the chance to visit the Callwood Rum Distillery up the road. For $4 we got a neat tour of how they make rum and how it is stored. We even got a taste of 4 different rums. A neat tour, a neat island.
We've been to St Thomas a number of times over the years, so there's not much we hadn't really seen before. We decided to take another tour around St. John; especially since we hadn't seen it since Hurricanes Maria and Irma. While there is still some hurricane damage, the island has definitely come back well. Once again, I'm glad I wasn't the one driving on the roads. But similar to the Tortola tour, the vehicle we were in didn't lend itself well to being able to talk to the driver / narrator while he was driving. St John is a beautiful place, and we were able to take some great photos. Not much time for anything else, as the cruise ship is only in port for a short time.
Private islands are always good. This time, thanks to the weather, it wasn't nearly as crowded. As temps didn't reach 70 until the afternoon, a lot of the island wasn't full. Only the taco place had a lengthy line for lunch. Still no lockers to put valuables while snorkeling, though.
3 out of 5
First, a ProTip: For those of you independent travelers not on a tour after the cruise ends or have an NCL bus to the airport, get your luggage tags as quickly as possible when they get put out in the Atrium. For us, they were put out at 12:00 on Thursday, an at-sea day. I was able to snag the earliest time for independent travelers that way. Disembarkation itself started fine. We had the 8:45am time, and actually got off the ship at 8:25; so far, so good. The new photo ID system is fast, but definitely Orwellian. The problem was that our luggage color (Lime) was placed in very narrow tables, and literally hundreds of us were looking at the same time for our luggage....because they called us off the ship by color. And since our luggage wasn't immediately visible, it took about 20 minutes of crawling in lines to get the luggage. Once we got it, though, that was pretty much it -- out the door and on our way home.
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