Overall Rating: Very Good
|Departed From:||New York|
|# of Nights:||1-2 Nights|
|Overall Value:||Very Good|
|Overall Rating:||Very Good|
It’s not easy to form an opinion about a cruise ship when a day and a half was all I had, and the outside decks were closed due to windy conditions, but I’ll give it a shot.
Pre-Cruise: I thought it would be fun to get a few friends together for this cruise, but in the end it was just a best friend and I. With the port only 4 hours away and limited vacation time, we looked forward to a quickie cruise close to home. This was my first cruise to nowhere, and it was refreshing to pack just a carry-on bag rather than having to deal with checked luggage.
We originally had booked Norwegian’s bus from Providence to NYC, but received a call about two weeks before the cruise that the bus would not be operating for this sailing. As a result, we booked seats on Amtrak, which turned out to be a good plan. With nearly two feet of snow on the ground and more falling that morning, and the fact that both the Breakaway and the Norwegian Gem were departing the same day, the road traffic would most likely be crazy, especially on a Friday. Instead of sitting in traffic, we enjoyed a leisurely train ride through a winter wonderland, something like the Polar Express, I imagine. From Penn Station, it was an easy taxi ride.
Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 pm, and boarding was efficient and painless.
First Impressions: The ship is huge, but manageable and well laid out with a hip, modern feel. With a midship cabin, it was fairly easy to find where we needed to be. The large impressive and sparkly chandelier in the central atrium is beautiful, and even more so at night when it takes on some color. The multi-deck atrium is the ship’s hot zone, where much of the action and entertainment takes place, and it was always hopping. Unlike some open atriums on other ships, this one had bar seating in areas surrounding it – not enough, but still better than most. As this was a short winter cruise, the crowds inside were sometimes intense, and getting anywhere at certain times was a challenge, particularly when large gatherings were exiting at the same time, such as after the muster drill and immediately following a theatre performance. We stayed away from the buffet area after embarking, and waited a few minutes for a seat in O’Sheehan’s pub. The only times we had to wait long for an elevator were after muster, at embarkation and at disembarkation. I was really looking forward to Boardwalk, but unfortunately it was deserted due to the cold, windy weather. More reason to return on a warmer day!
Cabin: We booked a “guaranty” mini-suite about 2 weeks before the cruise when the prices dropped, and were assigned #11832 mid-ship, with the smallest balcony I’ve ever seen.
It didn’t matter, though, because the Atlantic was too rough, cold and windy to use it. Had weather been nicer, it would have been a challenge to sit in a balcony chair with my knees up against the wall. Otherwise, the cabin was nice, though on the small, narrow side for a mini-suite. I found the single-cup coffee maker handy, especially for this 2-night cruise with no room service. I can’t really comment on storage, because I lived out of my suitcase for the 2 nights. The best feature of this cabin was the bathroom, with lots of space, a wide sink with double faucets and large walk-in shower.
Muster: We reported to our assigned muster station – seated in front of a disabled slot machine, of all places – for the obligatory drill, and waited… and waited … and waited. What we were waiting for, I’m not sure, but I suppose it had something to do with guests unaccounted for or late arrivals.
Dining: Since this was our first time on the Breakaway and it was such a short cruise, we did not bother with the extra-fee restaurants. Here is where we did eat:
O’Sheehan’s: This pub was our first stop and we liked the atmosphere and decor. My friend loved her corned beef sandwich, but my fish and chips were somewhat overdone.
O’Sheehan’s also features a large bar area separate from the restaurant, and we spent a good amount of time there on Friday night.
Savor: One of three main dining rooms, we dined here both nights, and the food was excellent. I loved the decor and intimate atmosphere as opposed to the traditional huge open dining rooms found on most ships. There was no wait for a table, perhaps because we dined after 8:30 pm both nights, after the shows, and because we had reservations.
Garden Cafe: If I was hungrier and not a tad hung over from the previous night’s festivities, I probably would have enjoyed the buffet food more. We grabbed breakfast here both mornings and found it to be nothing special, just the usual fare. Plus, I wish NCL had set up scattered individual food stations when designing the room, rather than the same tired cafeteria-line style.
Second City Comedy (early improv show): We booked this show on-line before leaving home, and found it funny and entertaining – sort of like “What’s My Line?”. I was impressed by the way these folks can think on their feet and come up with witty stuff on the fly.
Rock of Ages: I live for Broadway musicals, and while this was not on my top 10 list, I still found it to be a very funny, entertaining, high-energy show with a great set and a talented cast, and especially fun if you grew up in the 80’s. I am from a slightly earlier decade, but still got the raunchy humor, and thoroughly enjoyed the ensemble numbers, the big hair, costumes and the familiar songs.
“Howl at the Moon” Dueling pianos: It was fun for a while, drinking beers and singing along to familiar pop tunes, but after about 20 minutes, we had enough and left.
Outside decks: We ventured out to the upper decks on the first day to take a few photos and check out the view. It was freezing, but we saw a few brave guys in a hot tub. Other than that, most people were happy to stay inside. I am glad I got pics when we boarded because the next day in the open Atlantic, the wind was so intense and the waves so high, that the outside decks and infamous Boardwalk were off limits.
Service: We found the staff and crew to be friendly and eager to serve. The only time service was lacking was with the hostess at O’Sheehan’s after embarkation, who curtly indicated there were no tables available and we should go to the buffet instead, without even offering the option of waiting for a table. When we asked how long it would be for a table, she begrudgingly said 30 minutes, and we said no problem, we’ll wait. In all actuality, a table was ready for us in 5 minutes. We certainly didn’t get that warm, fuzzy, welcoming feeling for our first meal.
Disembarkation: The ship must have docked in NYC in the early hours because when I woke at 5:00 am, we were sitting tight. All clear was announced before 7:00 am, and passengers invited to disembark when ready. We had breakfast and left at about 8:00 am, passed through customs quickly, and were in a taxi and at Penn station in no time at all. Be aware that before you reach the line of yellow taxis, there is a small gauntlet of shady “taxi” drivers wanting to sell you a ride in one of their unmarked vehicles, for a ridiculous price and a round-about route, no doubt.
Final Impressions: The cabbie who drove us to the port asked us “what’s the point?,” when we told him about our 2-night cruise to nowhere. Definitely, a good question. I’ve always been curious about the Breakaway, and since the ship is docked only a 3 1/2-hour train ride away, I thought it would be a fun, quick way to see the ship. The crowd consisted of mostly locals, as expected, looking for a reasonably priced getaway, and it certainly is. With meals, shows and entertainment included, it’s more affordable than a 2-night, 4-star hotel in Manhattan. As much as I enjoyed Breakaway, I still prefer the smaller ships, specifically any ship with a real promenade deck, where I feel like I am on a cruise ship. The Breakaway at times felt more like a Resort/Casino than a cruise ship, especially when access to the outside decks was prohibited for most of the trip, which I guess is to be expected when cruising from the Northeast in the dead of winter. Some have labeled this 2-night cruise a “booze cruise”, and I probably would agree. After all, when one cruises to nowhere, there isn’t much else to do other than drink, eat, play and sleep. Still, for friends, couples and groups wanting to eat, gamble or see a show, it’s a perfect and affordable weekend escape.
Would I return to Breakaway again? Absolutely! This little cruise seemed over before it began, and I especially would love a longer cruise to the Bahamas on a much warmer day when I could experience the much talked about Boardwalk and otherwise enjoy the sunshine and the action out on deck.