Written By: Craig Satterfield, CLIA ECCS
These days as a cruise agent, it is almost impossible to keep up with all the ships available and what they have to offer our clients. True ships are more the same than they are different but each has her own personality, her own style and now amenities that go on and on and on.
Here is my experience on board Norwegian Breakaway. She has been currently sailing 7 night cruises to the Western Caribbean from Port Canaveral Florida. After her Summer season arrives, she will be moving down to Miami for the same type of cruise itineraries.
This cruise was my graduation cruise from being an NCLU Phd, doing all of the training modules with Norwegian’s training program I had two years to take this cruise and time flies, I was running out time before the cruise offer expired so I was luckily I found this one.
This cruise had several first-time experiences for me, which is exciting since my cruise experience covers over 40 years. First was the fact that Breakaway was sailing from Port Canaveral Florida. This port turned out to be a very easy and relaxing experience. The port is about 90 minute’s drive from my house so it is a very easy drive up the 95 to Port Canaveral. The drop off of luggage is not stressful like at Miami. There seems to be a more relaxed atmosphere as you give your bags to the porters and park. I parked at the lot right across from the terminal which runs $17 per day. There are other options to park that are way less expensive but the location and ease of it all was worth the extra cost. After all this was almost a free cruise!
I had realized that I had not sailed from Port Canaveral since the days of the Big Red Boat in the 1990’s.
The second part of the experience had to do with my wife and her new mobility scooter. Unfortunately, she suffers from bad knees so long walks are extremely painful for her. In the past we would run around the ship with her in a wheelchair but now we used the battery-operated scooter instead. She did real well with it and the ship was very easy to navigate. We had an ADA cabin (inside) which was well equipped and even had a plug near the door for recharging. The door opened automatically after swiping our key card so entry and exits were much easier.
I was leery of Breakaway based upon my experience with the Escape a couple of years ago. I found Norwegian Escape much too large for my taste. Escape seemed crowded everywhere. Not so on Breakaway, even thought she is almost as big. Yes it seemed always busy in the main lobby area where O’Sheehan’s 24 hour bar and restaurant was, along with two bars, the front desk reception, the casino and a gigantic digital TV screen. These all seem to collide in one area. The rest of the ship had a good flow and except for the muster, which is always a mob scene, the elevators and walkways were easy to get around in.
I was extremely impressed with the friendliness of the staff on board. Everybody was positive and had a good attitude. I asked one of the maître d’ hotels I made friends with about that and he said, “it comes from the top down.” Captain Dan seemed very friendly and approachable when he was around the decks. It truly shows in the positive attitude and helpfulness of the ship’ staff.
So how was the food? Everybody wants to know that. You generally expect the food in the Lido and Main Dining Rooms to be pretty good and the specialty restaurants to be real good. Well, the food in the dining rooms was excellent. Always delivered hot or cold whichever it needed to be. The selection was varied and interesting. We took most of our meals in the Savor dining room, which is one of the smaller ones on deck 6. Many loved the food and added entertainment in the Manhattan Room but we made good friends in our dining room so we went back over and over again.
Our expectations on the specialties were met as we dined in La Cucina (fantastic panna cotta for dessert) for the Italian menu, Le Bistro twice (first night and last night which is our tradition on NCL cruises) for the escargot and French Onion soup and Cagney’s for the shrimp cocktail and filet Mignon. O’Sheehan’s is a good place for breakfast and lunch too.
I am personally not a big fan of the buffet unless there is no other option. The only exception to that is on Holland America, where the staff serves you the item off the buffet with you NOT having to touch the serving utensils (no I am not a germ-o-phobe but it is a nice way to avoid a cold or norvo). I did have lunch at the buffet one day and the food was of high quality and selection was very good.
Tip: the coffee is really good at the Lido and is free. Starbucks was very popular too but I found the free coffee darn good.
Ports included Great Stirrup Key which has some updates which make the island one of the best, Cozumel which is always great for a trip to Chakanaab, Grand Cayman, which is always a hassle with tendering, and Ocho Rios. There are two docks at Ocho Rios. The good one has a pier that gets you to the Margaritaville and a nice beach without a big effort. The one we docked at was next to an old Bauxite refinery with a broken walkway and lets you off right at a busy street. OK if you have booked a tour but not hospitable if you are going it on your own. The Carnival Breeze had the good dock.
Another first was my Thermal Suite Spa pass that I had purchased for the whole week. That gives you access to the Thelassotherapy pool with all the water jets, the sauna, the steam, the salt bath, heated loungers and rain showers. This is something I will truly look forward to on my next cruise! It is truly a bargain since you can swim in the pool without the crowds from the main pool on the same deck but more mid ships.
Shipboard activities were plenty. Good live band around the pool, and the two big shows we saw were excellent. I liked them because they were entirely live, no prerecorded music. Six was a new featured show on Breakaway which starred 6 female singers/dancers…..very talented. The six of them were on stage the entire 90 minutes and I could not believe the energy they had to entertain this well and twice in the same night. The other big show was Burn the Floor with a cast of about 16 singers and dancers along with a live orchestra. This is the same show that is now on Broadway. They ask you to make a reservation either on the NCL website or on a touch screen in the main lobby of the ship. We found that although we made reservations, those that had not still got in ok right before the show was to start.
Disembarkation was just as easy since they now use photo recognition which you are still aboard. As you leave the ship you show your passport and they take a photo of you. It matches up with the photo you took for your key card and your passport details instantly and you are good to go. You leave the ship, find your bags and Ta-da, all done.
I found the ship great, even though she was bigger than I thought I wanted to sail on. The food and service top notch. The friendliness without equal and the entire cruise was expertly done. I have no issues suggesting Breakaway to my cruise guests. Also her sister Norwegian Getaway would also be a good choice for a Caribbean cruise or anywhere these two sisters might sail.