This was a 12 night crossing of the Atlantic from New York to Southampton, England with port calls in Ponta Delgada, the Azores; Cobh, Ireland: Portland, England; and Le Havre France. (See also a slideshow of Breakaway in these ports).
Regulations require that after five years in service, a cruise ship must be taken out of the water. This allows the hull to be inspected and it gives the cruise line the opportunity to do maintenance tasks that cannot be done when the ship is underway. To comply with this mandate, Norwegian Cruise Line scheduled Norwegian Breakaway for a session in dry dock in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Rather than have the ship sail empty from New York, her home port for the last five years, Norwegian offered to take guests across the Atlantic as far as Southampton.
Breakaway does not usually do transatlantic crossings. Indeed, this was only the second one she has done. Thus, this was a relatively new experience for the ship.
The ship was not built as an ocean liner and thus a fair question was how she would handle the sometimes demanding Atlantic weather. For most of her career, she has plied the calm waters of the Caribbean and the Bahamas. However, she has also had to handle winter storms going up and down the East Coast in order to go between New York and her cruising territories.
As it turned out, Breakaway handled the weather very well. She took a southerly route across thus avoiding the stormiest part of the Atlantic. In addition, the ship was able to keep in a relatively calm area between two frontal systems. The skies were grey across the Atlantic but there was little motion.
A crossing also differs from a cruise in that there are more consecutive sea days. On this voyage, there would be five consecutive sea days. Breakaway handled this by making a few adjustments to her normal programming. In fact, the programming was not much different than on one of Breakaway's long Caribbean cruises in which there can be as many as three consecutive sea days.
The biggest difference in the programming was that there were no performances of Rock of Ages, usually the main show in Breakaway's theater. Instead, there were more shows by visiting entertainers. Inasmuch as a very high percentage of the passengers had been on Breakaway before, many of the guests had already seen Rock of Ages. Furthermore, the shows by the visiting entertainers provided more variety.
Other than Rock of Ages, Breakaway had her regular shows including the dance show Burn the Floor, the dinner theater Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, the Howl at the Moon dueling pianos and stand-up comedy from the Levity group.
One show that has been on Breakaway for some time but which we had not seen before was Wine Lovers, the Musical. This is a wine tasting and a meal. In addition, three members of the ship's cast perform a musical comedy that spoofs the more pretentious aspects of a traditional wine tasting. The wine, the meal, and the performance were all good. (This is an extra-charge event held in the Spiegel Tent). (See Wine list and Menu).
Above: Irish singer and comedian Harry O'Donoghue.
Below: Wine Lovers, The Musical.
Of the visiting entertainers, we found Irish comedian and folk singer Harry O'Donoghue the most enjoyable. His show is low key – he plays the guitar and occasionally the goat skin drum as he sings Irish standards. However, what makes the show so captivating is the monologues between the songs, which are full of wit and humor. By word of mouth, his shows in the theater were packed as were the additional shows that he did in the Spiegel Tent.
Other visiting performers who were well-received included the Rave-Ons, a Buddy Holly tribute act, and hypnotist Nadeen.
Inasmuch as this crossing was an unusual experience for the crew, one might have expected service problems. However, we encountered none. Instead, the crew seemed to be in top form.
Of course, since the ports of call were not ports that the ship regularly visits,most of the crew were not able to provide insights about the ports. However, an outside expert cruise destination lecture gave talks on the various ports of call.
We also enjoyed the food, not just in the specialty restaurants but in the main dining rooms. In a change from Breakaway's usual procedure, the elegant Manhattan Room was used for breakfast and lunch on the sea days. While we enjoyed the smaller Taste and Savor during our last cruise on Breakaway, the Manhattan Room is a much more visually impressive room.
Most of the passengers on this cruise were from North America. Most were experienced travelers at or near retirement age. There were very few children on this voyage.
Each of the ports of call was interesting and enjoyable.
In the Azores, the weather is known for its rapid changes. We had both heavy rain and bright sunshine. A rainbow hung over the city in the morning. The island offers a choice of venturing out into the scenic countryside or staying in the picturesque town. Since it is somewhat off the tourist track, it has an unspoiled European ambiance.
Cobh offers a variety of options for exploring the Irish countryside. Alternatively, one can go into nearby Cork City, which has historic sights and a good art museum, the Crawford Gallery. It rained for most of the day in Cobh. However, as Breakaway was leaving the sun came out and there was a double rainbow over the city.
Portland is the cruise port for the county of Dorset in England. The cruise lines bill it as a jumping off spot for going to Bath and Stonehenge but those are actually quite a distance away. (They are much closer to Southampton). Furthermore, there is much to see in Dorset including the spectacular Jurassic Coast and historic Corfe Castle. We had sun in this port.
The last port of call was Le Havre. The cruise lines bill this port as Paris. However, while it is the closest cruise port to Paris, it is quite far away. Tours to Paris can be an unforgettable experience but they require a lot of time riding in a coach. Alternatively, there are numerous things to be seen in Northern France that are much closer to Le Havre. Indeed, the excellent MuMa art museum is close by the cruise port.
The voyage ended in Southampton on an overcast day. Many of the passengers went immediately to Heathrow or Gatwick airports to fly home. This was unfortunate because there is so much to see and experience in England. Unlike cruise, a crossing should be only the beginning of the adventure.
Above: An inside cabin.
Below: An oceanview cabin.
Cruise ship review - - Norwegian Cruise Line - - Norwegian Breakaway - - Transatlantic crossing 2018