This was a 14-day cruise from New York (Manhattan) to the Caribbean. Norwegian Breakaway called at the southern Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao (the “ABC Islands”) and then after a day at sea, the eastern Caribbean islands of Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. She then spent three days at sea returning to New York. (See separate pictorial of Breakaway in these ports).
My sixth voyage on Breakaway, I was pleased to find Breakaway in top form. She continues to provide an enjoyable casual large cruise ship experience.
Originally, the itinerary for this cruise was supposed to be exclusively eastern Caribbean islands. However, due to the damage to some of the eastern Caribbean islands caused by the 2017 hurricanes, the ABC islands were substituted for some of the originally scheduled eastern islands. Inasmuch as cruises from New York to the ABC islands are relatively rare, this unusual itinerary made the cruise especially attractive to experienced cruisers.
The ABC islands did not disappoint. I heard many favorable comments about Aruba and Curaco. The guests seemed less enthusiastic about Bonaire, which is less developed than its neighbors, but still happy to have seen it.
Located off the coast of South America, the ABC islands are- a long way from New York. Thus, even with three sea days, full speed was required to reach these islands on schedule. Despite the speed, Breakaway rode smoothly.
As this was a longer cruise done when the schools in the United States were in session, there were few children and most of the passengers were of retirement age. Most were from the United States although there were also a large number of French Canadians.
As discussed in earlier reviews, Breakaway is a well-built ship with numerous dining and entertainment options. However, her greatest asset is her crew.
The embarkation process on the pier in New York can best be described as chaotic. But, from the moment that I stepped aboard the ship, everything went well. Of course, there are always exceptions in every sizable group of people and there are always times when you encounter someone who is having a bad day. However, overall I was impressed by the efficiency and dedication of the crew. Any issue that appeared on the horizon was quickly resolved. Moreover, on the final day of the cruise, I overheard more than the usual number of conversations in which guests were telling crew members how much they enjoyed their service and personality.
Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its Freestyle dining concept. On its ships, there are no assigned tables and no assigned dining times. Guests can dine when and where they like either in one of the complimentary venues or in one of the extra-charge specialty restaurants.
Of Breakaway's three complimentary main dining rooms, my favorite on past cruises has been the Manhattan Room on deck seven. It has a glamorous atmosphere, live music and on some nights, performances by the cast of Burn the Floor on its large dance floor. However, on this cruise, I became a fan of the Taste dining room, one of two mirror-image dining rooms on deck six. The menu is the same as in the Manhattan Room but Taste is more intimate than the Manhattan Room with an understated contemporary décor. It also tends to be quieter as there is no entertainment. But the best feature of the restaurant was its staff who were always pleasant and efficient. As I had breakfast there most days, several of the staff came to know my name.
I also enjoyed O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill. As a result of the unfortunate decision to replace the excellent Uptown Grill with a seagoing version of Margaritaville (mediocre), O'Sheehan's has the best burgers on the ship. They are large, fresh, and flavorful. It is also a good place for breakfast omelets and morning oatmeal.
Turning to the extra charge venues, I tried Cagney's, Le Bistro, La Cuicina, Moderno and Ocean Blue during this cruise. All were very good both in the quality of the food and in terms of service. (See our menus page),
Of these, my personal favorite this cruise was La Cucina, the Italian-inspired venue. You can order an excellent filet minion at any of the aforementioned specialty restaurants. However, La Cucina's filet with Gorgonzola sauce stands out. It is also delightful to dine at La Cucina's outdoor tables on the promenade on a balmy Caribbean evening.
Many guests had dining packages allowing them to dine without further charge at most of the specialty restaurants. (Guests dining at Ocean Blue must pay an additional “upcharge” even with their dining package). When packages were first introduced a couple of years ago, the specialty restaurants became overcrowded. With experience, Norwegian now manages this process much better and there was no overcrowding on this cruise.
Breakaway offers guests a wide array of entertainment offerings. The two main shows in the ship's theater are versions of Broadway-West End shows: Rock of Ages and Burn the Floor. As discussed in previous reviews, both shows are well done.
Such shows are quite expensive to produce and so it is impractical to change the shows very often. There is a limit on how many times you can watch the same show no matter how well performed Consequently, guests who travel regularly on Breakaway (and there are quite a few) have to look to Breakaway's other entertainment offerings.
One of the alternatives is the Headliner's Comedy Club. Replacing the Second City comedy troupe that had been on Breakaway are comedians from Levity Entertainment Group. Whereas Second City had its own unique formula honed over the years by the likes of Bill Murray and Tina Fey, the Levity comedians are more in the vein of traditional stand up comedians. They appeared to be well-received by the audiences on Breakaway.
Another performer who was well-received was a solo guitarist who goes by the name of Melvin. In addition to playing in the ship's bars, he gave a series of tribute concerts in the Speigel Tent showroom. Each concert focused on the music of specific artists and so one night he played music by The Beatles and on another he played the music of John Denver.
Several visiting performers appeared in the ship's theater. Of these, the most popular was The Rave-On's who played a high-energy tribute concert to Buddy Holly.
In addition to the above, entertainment offerings included such things as theme parties, Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos, Cirque Jungle Fantasy dinner theater, trivia contests, bingo, the crew talent show, escape room contests and Canvas by U! painting classes (see separate article; see also our daily programs page). During the Super Bowl, the game was shown on video screens around the ship including the large screens in the Atrium and Spice H2O.
Most of the major cruise lines have begun to put single-occupancy cabins into their new ships. However, Norwegian Cruise Line is still the leader in solo travel.
The reason that Norwegian has been so successful is two-fold. First, on ships such as Breakaway, the 59 solo cabins are together, grouped around a dedicated solo lounge, not scattered here and there around the ship As a result, it is easy for solo travelers to meet other solo travelers.
Second, on Breakaway, a member of the activities staff is assigned to be the host or hostess for the solo travelers. He or she meets with the solo travelers each day and organizes dinners and activities. No one is required to participate but it is often fun and lasting friendships formed.
Indeed, an informal group of solo travelers has formed over the last four years consisting of people who travel on Breakaway's February Caribbean cruise each year. The number of people in the group keeps growing each year. They often meet for dinner as well as go ashore together in the various ports of call.
It should be noted that this is not a dating scheme. While dating is not prohibited, that is not the object. Rather, it is to provide companionship, conversation and fun.
Breakaway is being well-maintained. While she will travel to Europe later this year for a session in dry dock, that is due a regulatory requirement that cruise ships be taken out of the water every five years. She shows no visible signs of rust - - the great nemesis of ships. . Nonetheless, as they have on past cruises, the crew on this cruise were often out painting the ship's exterior and cleaning off the salt that would otherwise accumulate as a result of the sea spray. Good preventive measures.
Along the same lines, I saw no damage remaining from the severe storm that Breakaway was caught in in early January. The ship looked as she normally does.
During this cruise, Breakaway encountered storms both at sea and in port. At sea, the storms were enough to cause some movement but not enough to prevent passengers from being out and about in the restaurants and the public areas. In port, the storms were brief tropical rain showers that appeared and disappeared quickly. Once again, they were not enough to spoil anyone's day.
Cruise ship review - - Norwegian Cruise Line - - Norwegian Breakaway - - 2018