Norwegian Breakaway, which debuted in April 2013, is a New York City-inspired ship that sails year-round from the Big Apple. You'll notice touches of NYC throughout: the hull painting (complete with an image of the Statue of Liberty) was designed by famed New York artist Peter Max, and NYC murals are painted across the ship, including on the pool deck and in the fitness area. Pastry fans can eat cannolis at an onboard Carlo's Bakery -- well known among New Yorkers and New Jerseyans (and fans of TLC's "Cake Boss"). Heck, the famous Rockettes served as godmothers to the ship and have created a workout class that will endure even when they're not high-kicking it onboard.
Breakaway is beautiful, with modern touches. Shades of blue are the predominant colors onboard, and while the color palette is more subdued than that found on other Norwegian ships, Breakaway has an air of refinement and sophistication that is still comfortable.
The high-energy ship is chock full of eateries, entertainment venues, lounges and outdoor activities. Chances are you'll never get to try everything in one sailing. Between three Broadway shows, 27 restaurants, an 80's-themed dance party with fireworks, a full schedule of day and night activities and the half-deck Aqua Park and Ropes Course, you might have a hard time deciding which activity to tackle first.
But while the ship is a lot of fun, it's also a little too packed. Wanting to take the best of everything the Norwegian fleet offers, plus include a handful of new attractions, Norwegian's design team had to downsize most everything on Breakaway from its previous ship, Norwegian Epic. Two of the main dining rooms are smaller, Bliss nightclub is smaller and the corridors between venues are more cramped. Even the cabins are smaller. Our mini-suite on Breakaway felt about the same size as our standard balcony cabin on Norwegian Jewel. Most notably, the balconies are much smaller. Taller people might need to splurge for a Large Balcony Cabin to sit comfortably outside.
The one thing that isn't smaller is the cabin bathrooms. Taking the criticism of the bathrooms on Norwegian Epic seriously, Norwegian dedicated more space to Breakaway's loos. Our mini-suite bathroom featured a long his-and-hers sink and a lovely, large shower.
A few other items worth mentioning:
The Waterfront on Deck 8 is a brilliant idea and picturesque when it's empty. It wasn't warm enough on our sailing for anyone to give outdoor dining a try, so it's hard to tell how crowded it will be. We suspect that if you want outdoor seating, you're going to need to reserve a table pretty early in your cruise.
Another bull's eye is the Aqua Park and Ropes Course. Members of the Cruise Critic editorial team were brave enough to give the ropes course (and The Plank) a go. All but one (who was pushing his fear of heights) loved it. It was too cold for the water slides, but we all agreed they would be hard to resist on a hot day.
Service on Breakaway was fantastic. With some of the best crew pulled off Norwegian Epic, Jewel, Gem and a handful of other ships, we couldn't have asked for better.
The library and card room are tucked away behind the atrium on Deck 6. In the card room you'll find old standards like Yahtzee, Trivial Pursuit and others, while the library offers a selection of books and e-books for borrowing. Both rooms also host the Rockettes mini-museum; in the card room, you'll find photo timelines, and in the library is a display of costumes.
A small Internet cafe with 12 workstations is nestled into a corner of the atrium, also on Deck 6. You'll pay 75 cents a minute for pay-as-you-go, but you can purchase plans that will reduce the cost. (The more minutes you purchase, the less you'll pay.)
Click Photo Gallery and shopping are on Deck 8. Breakaway features all the traditional cruise-ship shopping, including, fine jewelry, duty-free alcohol and cigarettes, various sundries, clothing and accessories and lots of Breakaway-branded items. There are no self-service laundry facilities on Breakaway.
Breakaway has 2,014 cabins in 11 main categories, including 42 cabins in The Haven, Norwegian's famous ship-within-a-ship area. It has 356 adjoining cabins and 42 wheelchair-accessible cabins.
Generally, cabins are decorated in a light-colored palette, with dark wood finishes, and feature 26-inch flat-screen TV's, tufted leather headboards, mini-bars and hair dryers. Each cabin comes with two lower beds that can be converted into a queen-sized bed. In the name of energy-efficiency, all cabins require key cards to operate lighting and power, which makes it difficult to charge devices while you're away from your cabin (Tip: The key cards are credit card-sized, so just slip any card inside should you need to charge gadgets while you are out. We actually used a key card from a sailing on a different line, and it worked just fine, though we did hear that some stewards would remove the renegade cards) All cabins feature an intriguing lighting system that notifies stewards when passengers don't want to be disturbed, are ready for their cabins to be made up or are away. One nitpick: While cabins, shelves and nooks abound for clothing and gadgets, you won't find drawers. Still, we didn't run out of room to stow our stuff, instead stowing our T-shirts and delicates on shelves in the closet.
Shampoo/conditioner and body wash dispensers are available in all cabins, and those staying in balcony cabins and above receive robes for use during their cruises. Soap dispensers (rather than bar soap) are on offer in most cabins. Lotion is not provided, so pack your own. In general, bathrooms are spacious.
Inside cabins start at 151 square feet and are located on various decks throughout the ship. Each Family Inside cabin, also 151 square feet, can accommodate up to four passengers in two connecting rooms with two twin beds and one or two pull-down beds, two bathrooms with showers and very little living space. Norwegian was thinking ahead here; most of these cabins are located on Decks 12 and 13, near the kids' areas.
Banking on its solo success on Epic, Norwegian built 59 Studio cabins on Breakaway. Studios are even cozier than insides -- 100 square feet -- and feature just enough space for one passenger. The funky layout puts the sink in the living area to maximize square footage, and the circular shower is separate from the toilet space. Cabin decor is deep purple and white and also features a window looking out into the hall. For such a compact cabin, storage is pretty generous, whether in a pair of closets or in baskets tucked underneath the bed. There is a small desk/vanity.
Solo travelers staying in Studio cabins get the perk of access to the exclusive Studio Lounge on Decks 10 and 11. The shared private area has a 50-inch TV and a self-service wine bar, as well as a tea and coffee machine. Passengers who stay in this area tend to intermingle in the two-deck lounge and often form on-ship friendships with one another.
At 161 square feet, Oceanview cabins aren't much different than Inside cabins except, of course, they feature picture windows. Family versions of the Oceanview sacrifice living space for large bathtubs.
Balcony cabins offer slightly more space, at 226 square feet. Balconies are small, but each comes with a stool-sized table and two chairs. Those who yearn for larger balconies should book the aptly named Large Balcony cabins (245 square feet), located on Deck 9. Spa Balcony cabins are located on Deck 14, adjacent to the Mandara Spa. Passengers who book Spa Balcony cabins (207 square feet) are decorated in soothing spa tones (browns and beiges). Passengers who book these cabins get complimentary access to the Thermal Spa Suites.
At 269 square feet, Mini-Suites, located on Deck 8, provide slightly more space than standard balcony cabins, though balconies a still on the small side. Mini-Suite passengers have king-sized beds and larger bathrooms that feature double sinks and oversized showers that have fabulous rain showerheads and body spray jets. Mini-Suites with Large Balconies are also available. Passengers who book Spa Mini-Suites get the same benefits as those who book Spa Balcony cabins, but they have more space. Aft-Facing Mini-Suites are 387 square feet, with larger balconies.
Passengers who seek privacy -- even on a 4,000-passenger ship -- will get just that in The Haven, which requires a key card for exclusive access and features 24-hour butler service, concierge service and access to a private courtyard area and exclusive lounge and restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Strangely, 22 "Haven" suites are not located in The Haven, though passengers who book these cabins have access to The Haven and its amenities.)
Those who stay in either Forward-Facing (452 square feet) or Aft-Facing (548 square feet) Penthouses, located outside the Haven, will have access to Haven amenities.
At 344 square feet, Spa Suites are available for those who want space and easy access to the spa, thermal suite and fitness center, as well as an in-suite whirlpool. Spa Suites are located inside the Haven, on Deck 14. Courtyard Penthouses (366 square feet) are also located inside the Haven area.
We were surprised to see that most of the Haven's suites, save for the most expansive categories, come have comparatively small balconies.
Families looking to spread out can book one of the Haven's 20 Two-Bedroom Family Villas. At 603 square feet, each features two bedrooms and two bathrooms, along with separate living and dining rooms. Each master bathroom has an oversized oval tub that looks out over the sea. Family Villas can accommodate six passengers.
The Haven's two Owner's Suites come in at 624 square feet. These accommodate four passengers and have oversized tubs, free-standing showers, king-sized beds and separate cloakrooms in the living/dining areas.
The two Deluxe Owner's Suites, which also accommodate four, are 1,022 square feet and include wraparound balconies. Passengers can book one Owner's Suite and one Deluxe Owner's Suite and adjoin them to create one grand suite, which can accommodate up to eight people.
Norwegian Cruise Line tends to attract adult couples and groups of friends of all ages, as well as families; Norwegian Breakaway is no different. With Nickelodeon activities on offer, comprehensive kids and teens programs, and an onboard Aqua Park complete with plunge slides, Breakaway is a natural fit for families. The facilities, particularly for teens, are impressive. But venues like the Ice Bar, Spice H20, Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy and Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club lend an air of New York sophistication to the ship. The production of Rock of Ages is geared toward adults and maybe older teens, as well.
Each passenger is automatically billed $12 per day. If a passenger is unsatisfied with service, and the line can't resolve the issue, the service fee can be adjusted. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar drinks, and 18 percent is added to spa and salon services. For passengers using concierge and butler service, Norwegian recommends a gratuity "commensurate with the services rendered." The bill can be paid in cash or with credit/debit cards.
|Fitness and Recreation|
Breakaway's main pool is on Deck 15, midship, and it's flanked by four hot tubs. The ship packs a lot of outdoor action into Decks 15 through 17. It introduces Sky Trail, a vertigo-inducing ropes course that includes a bungee trampoline, zip-lining and an 8-foot-long "plank" that extends over the side of the ship -- with nothing between you and the lifeboats 10 decks below. Kids must be at least 48 inches tall to climb Sky Trail. A rock-climbing wall, also with height restrictions, and nine-hole miniature golf course are located next to the Sky Trail. Climb a set of stairs to Deck 18, and the Sports Court provides a spot for basketball and soccer. Tucked away in a corner is the Spider Web, a six-story crawl space that requires a slide ride down. Little ones will love it.
The Deck 15 Aqua Park offers Norwegian's largest variety of waterslides, including two that send you into a 360-degree spin before spitting you into the pool and two side-by-side Free Fall slides in which daredevils are plunged 250 feet (when a trapdoor beneath their feet opens) into a looping tunnel. A splash area for kids -- featuring Nickelodeon favorites such as SpongeBob, Patrick and Dora the Explorer -- is located next door. Kids may wear swim diapers but must be potty-trained to use the pool.
Breakaway's fitness area on Deck 15 is extensive, and the cardio area is smartly separated from the weight-lifting area. Each offers a solid variety of equipment: exercise bikes, ellipticals, treadmills and a rowing machine in the cardio area, as well as dumbbells up to 100 pounds, barbells, Smith machines, weight racks and resistance machines in the weight area. The layout is a bit odd, though, in that rooms are especially long, so there's a bit of tripping over other exercisers, especially in the weight area.
Breakaway also offers classes (for additional fees that range from $12 to $30), including the wildly popular TRX suspension training, Flywheel indoor cycling, Pilates, bootcamp, Fight Klub and yoga. It also has a number of free options, such as abs and stretching classes. Rockettes exercise classes, taught by Rockettes-trained instructors, are also complimentary.
The jogging track on Deck 16 is one lane, so it will get a little tight when crowded, though it wasn't a problem when we were onboard. You'll have to run eight laps to get a mile. We didn't see walkers on the track; perhaps they preferred to walk The Waterfront on Deck 8.
The spa on Norwegian Breakaway is about 40 percent larger than the spas on the line's other ships (excluding Epic). Offerings include all the traditional treatments, as well as medispa treatments, acupuncture, teeth whitening and a full range of salon services. Also in the spa is the ship's thermal suite, which costs $199 per person for a weeklong sailing. The fee includes access to steam rooms, a dry sauna, a Vitality pool, hot tubs, waterfalls and heated tile lounges. Passengers also can try out two small salt rooms encrusted with layers of salt crystals, said to improve respiratory problems and skin ailments, located in the thermal suite.
Vibe Beach Club serves as Breakaway's true adults-only space. The fee to use Vibe includes water spritzers, chilled towels and fruit skewers. Passengers can purchase a daily pass or weekly pass for Vibe.
Children have nearly as many options as adults on Breakaway. For teens, there isn't a better place to be than at Entourage, the teen club for 13- to 17-year-olds, located on Deck 16 aft. The supervisors at this hip daytime lounge/nighttime disco are young and hip themselves, and they provide team-building activities on the first two days to get kids together. They swear kids line up at the door for the club to open at 11 a.m. each day. Special events include Mardi Gras, Casino Night, and Suit and Tie Night, where kids participate in a photo shoot, attend the Second City comedy show and then have dinner out together. One of the most popular events is the Glow Party, where black lights turn the club into a teen-friendly rave. The club features four gaming stations, air hockey, Foosball and a two-sided D.J. emulator -- one of four in the world -- where kids can learn to D.J. D.J.'s also are on hand during special events to teach kids, with pros from big nightclubs and festivals like Coachella providing instruction.
The club is open from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. in a "come and go as you please" environment. Food and drink are not regularly offered in the club, but at 10:30 p.m., finger foods, including pizza, are brought into the club. Teens can enjoy the ship and the club unaccompanied until 1 a.m., when the ship closes for the evening, and all kids must return to their staterooms.
The Splash Academy, offered to children ages 3 to 12, is a two-deck, supervised kids club. Kids are divided by age groups -- Turtles (3 to 5), Seals (6 to 9) and Dolphins (10 to 12) -- and daily activities for each are typically themed. Hollywood at Sea, for example, includes a red carpet, dress-up event after dinner and "celebrity" appearances by Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob. Other themes include Tribes at Sea, the Big Top at Sea and Rumble in the Jungle. During the programs, kids enjoy arts and crafts, games, movies and video games.
Parents check in children on tablets at the main desk on Deck 12 Forward, but the younger kids hang out downstairs and the older kids upstairs. The program does not provide any sort of pager for parents, unless children are still in diapers, in which case parents receive a spy-style wristband that can be used to call them. (Kids club counselors are unable to change diapers, but non-toilet-trained kids can still participate in activities.)
Splash Academy closes for lunch from noon to 2 p.m., and dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Parents must return to pick up their children during these hours. Late-night hours are provided from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at an additional fee ($6 per hour for the first child, and $4 per hour for each additional child). The club remains open all day on port days.
While infants 6 to 35 months are welcome onboard and have their own Guppies program, the program requires parents to participate, and the ship does not provide a childcare service. The Under 2 Zoo play area is quite small. However, the Guppies program does provide some fun for parents with babies, including the Wee Can Too program that lets infants be artists with special edible paints (made with vegetables).
A video arcade, located on Deck 16, is better suited for older kids, as most of the video games are geared for the PG crowd. Games are $1.50 to $2 per play, so be careful when sending kids with their cards to freely swipe.
Norwegian partners with Nickelodeon, so the brand's well-known characters can be found throughout the ship. For an additional $20 per person, kids can enjoy a special Pajama Jam breakfast event. Dressed in PJs, kids watch Nick performances and have fun with characters like Dora the Explorer. A character-filled buffet breakfast follows.
Families can also order a special Nickelodeon Bedtime Kit ($45) that includes a character blanket and pillowcase, toothbrush, nightlight and bedtime activities. Room stewards will even turn down kids' beds with the kit each night.
Casual dress is the norm for Breakaway, as that's what Norwegian's Freestyle cruising is all about. Though passengers are encouraged to "dress up" one night (e.g. suits for men and anything from cocktail dresses to gowns for women) for pictures, maybe 25 percent do. Khakis, linen pants and collared or cabana shirts are common for men at night, while women tend to wear sundresses or skirts or nice pants with blouses most evenings. Shorts also are common, but keep in mind some of the nicer restaurants, such as Le Bistro and Cagney's, require men to wear slacks.
Breakaway boasts more than a dozen bars and lounges. Among them are Mixx Bar, a great place to get a drink before a meal in adjacent Taste or Savor; Prime Meridian, a hopping pre-dinner spot with amazing views; Maltings Beer and Whiskey Bar, serving premium spirits, wines and beers at an indoor-outdoor area on The Waterfront; and Shaker's Cocktail Bar, an evening hotspot for usual and not-so-usual cocktails. The Atrium Bar offers views of a giant two-story Wii wall/movie screen.
The Humidor Cigar Lounge is small, lightly air-conditioned and lined floor to ceiling with cigar boxes. It's the only option indoors for smokers other than the casino.
The coolest spot, literally, on Breakaway is the Ice Bar. In keeping with the New York theme of the ship, ice sculptures feature the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and Chrysler Building. There is a cover charge for the bar, but that includes your toasty warm parka and two drinks.
Spice H2O, on Deck 16, has been given a New York feel or, more accurately, a Long Island feel, with a map of Long Island, a sign reading "Welcome to Rockaway Beach" and a huge mural depicting Fire Island, part of Long Island. The space -- for relaxing by day or partying at night -- has a huge screen at one end, a bar on one side and a Roman-style area of waterfalls and shallow pools on the other. Breakaway hosts a "Glow Party," as opposed to Epic's "White Hot Party." Spice H2O is an adults-only space.
Bliss has been seriously downsized (compared with Epic) to give it a true nightclub feel. Located on Deck 7 midship, it has no bowling alley, no big entranceway, no big beds ... and it's about half the size of the version on Epic.
Breakaway Theater hosts the usual entertainment offerings, as well as the Broadway musical "Rock of Ages," a boy-meets-girl love story set with an 80's soundtrack and backdrop, and enough mullets to remind you why it's good to be in the 2010's. The content is a bit racy, with language to match, so parents of young children might want to consider other options.
The Theater also features "Burn the Floor," a dance revue show that also plays in the Manhattan Room. It's slickly choreographed and extremely energetic (the sweat literally flies off the male dancers), taking in a variety of different genres and styles that range from Latin and Rock to 50's. The 55-minute show has no storyline or dialogue, but the dancers are backed with a hefty live band and a singer. The Theater has seating for 782 passengers and houses a ticket system, all on a single level. The ship is also enforcing a "no latecomers" policy, which is welcome.
The Cirque Dreams and Dinner show introduced on Norwegian Epic returns on Breakaway but with a jungle-themed twist. Lots of animal-print fabrics adorn the interior, where acrobats dressed as various African animals perform gravity-defying feats while patrons dine on shrimp and steak. A handful of the acts are definite stunners. The show is significantly more family-friendly than the show on Epic, though just as dessert is served the performers turn up the risque factor a notch. It costs $29.99 per person for general seating in the banquets and the upper deck, and $39.99 for premium ground-floor seating
Located on Deck 6 midship, right across from Le Bistro, is Norwegian Breakaway's comedy club, Headliners. During the day, the venue is used for Bingo and Nickelodeon family fun. At night, Second City takes to the stage for scripted standup and scriptless improv sessions. Reservations are recommended, though we easily got into the improv show as standbys. Also at Headliners, you can catch Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano show.
During the day, Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club is the ship's game show venue, but at night it's the best place on the ocean for live jazz. Fat Cats is one of a handful of bars with outdoor seating on The Waterfront. Acts include Slam Allen.
Gamblers will find all the usual slot machines (303 in total) and table games on Breakaway, though the layout is a bit different than it is on other ships. Rather than just one large square area, the Breakaway casino is centered on the 678 Ocean Place circular staircase and expands out in several directions.
We know the point of going on a cruise is to spend time out and about having fun, but sometimes a quiet evening in is nice, too. The limited TV choices were therefore disappointing. There were at least six ship channels, including one channel dedicated entirely to the Rockettes, four news channels, an international sports channel and just four entertainment channels, including one movie channel and one Nickelodeon channel.
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