Cruising the NCL Breakaway Review the Highs and Lows

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Cruising on the Norwegian Breakaway? We took a 7-day Caribbean cruise on the flagship of this class. Read our NCL Breakaway Review.

This marked our sixth cruise ship with Norwegian Cruise Line. A cruise line that usually feels like a second home to us. Although our trip was enjoyable, and the familiarity of NCL was comforting, the Breakaway did not quite meet our expectations. While it wasn’t my least favorite ship— that title still belongs to the NCL Epic—the Breakaway was a close second, which was disappointing given my love for the NCL Getaway and other Breakaway Class Plus ships.

This cruise was particularly special as it was the first time we brought family along; for them, it was their first-ever cruise experience. They were thrilled, constantly smiling, and, as they put it, “having the time of their lives.” Their enthusiasm was a joy to witness, especially since they were unfamiliar with newer ships or the changes due to NCL’s budget cuts. They were oblivious. Me? Not so much.

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Norwegian Breakaway Review

  • Norwegian Breakaway is the flagship of the Breakaway Class.
  • It made its debut in April 2013.
  • Its original homeport was NYC. The hull has colorful art of the NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty by Peter Max.
 the grand main atrium of the Norwegian Breakaway, featuring a stunning, multi-tiered chandelier made of cascading lights that dominate the central space. The area is further enhanced by elegant, white columns and contemporary blue lighting along the staircases, creating a luxurious and inviting atmosphere aboard the ship.Pin
The chandelier on NCL Breakaway.

Unfortunately, the Norwegian Breakaway needs some TLC; supposedly, a refurbishment will happen in 2025. The ship is on the older side, and wear and tear are evident. It feels like NCL has put this ship on the back burner. It needs the same TLC that their other ships receive. There is no focus on what makes NCL cruises special on this ship. Frankly, this ship does not live up to the NCL standard I’ve come to expect.

The cutbacks NCL is known for are apparent in the lack of staff, reduced food options, smaller portions, and diminished production shows and entertainment. Suffice it to say, with all these reductions and considering this is one of their older ships, the base value did not match what we paid for this cruise.

The NCL Breakaway is the ship you decide to cruise on because you found a slammin’ deal and need a quick getaway. Otherwise, the ship’s offerings are blah.

I almost forgot to mention that after the final payment was made, they canceled our stop in Tortola to economize on fuel, which I find questionable. It seemed like an excuse to keep us on the ship, spending money on games like Bingo and Deal or No Deal and playing in the casino all day. The rope course was always closed, the pool decks were cramped, the atrium was always loud, there was never enough seating, and the entertainment was limited. Most importantly, the staff seemed overwhelmed.

Have you noticed the lack of extensive port itineraries for cruises these days?

We had a great cruise because we were with family. We upgraded to the Free at Sea Plus package. We ate well. Our days in port were wonderful. And we are seasoned cruisers who will have a great time no matter what. We disembarked happy with some thoughts. We still left the ship with 4 Cruise Next vouchers, as NCL remains one of my favorite cruise lines. I still enjoy their overall product. I have two more cruises booked with them between this year and the next. For now.

However, my reviews will always be fair and honest. If I were to describe everything as perfect, you’d question me after disembarking this cruise. It’s also worth noting that this cruise was paid out of pocket using our hard-earned money. Now, let’s get into the details.

Embarkation in Miami Cruise Port at the Norwegian Cruise Terminal

  • Port of Miami, 1015 N American Way, Miami, Florida
  • Google Map It

Tip: Attach your luggage tags before arriving at the terminal.

Embarkation at Miami Cruise Port in the Norwegian Cruise Terminal was exceptionally smooth, thanks to NCL’s Priority Access—a worthwhile investment for us after the long lines at Seattle Cruise Port last year.

When sailing with NCL from Miami, it’s important to have your check-in document and passport ready as soon as you enter the terminal. You’ll encounter a preliminary checkpoint before being directed upstairs for security. After clearing security, you’ll be guided to the appropriate check-in line.

With Priority Access, you’ll find significantly shorter lines for both security and check-in. Thanks to this expedited process, we were checked in by 11 am and were among the first to board the ship.

Muster Drill

Thankfully, NCL has kept a digital muster drill. As soon as we boarded, we headed to our muster station and checked in without issues. This was easy and seamless, and it is one of the top things to do on embarkation day as soon as you board.

NCL Breakaway’s Club Balcony Suite

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We booked a Club Balcony Suite for this cruise, which is essentially a Deluxe Balcony with added perks. These cabins stand out for their prime locations, double sinks, and larger showers compared to standard balcony cabins. Additional benefits include dinner reservations 120 days before boarding, a complimentary bag of laundry, daily standard breakfast delivery, two special afternoon treat deliveries (chocolate-covered strawberries one day and cookies another), and priority tender service when applicable.

Our cabin, #11194 (our family stayed in 11196), was ideally positioned mid-ship on the port side. It was conveniently close to the forward lobby and elevators, just one flight of stairs away from Splash Academy—perfect for our young traveler—and a short elevator ride to the Spa and Pool Deck.

Our cabin attendant responded to our requests, including providing extra towels daily. He was tipped well for his attentive and friendly service and managed to meet all our needs throughout the cruise. It’s worth noting that turn-down service is not available unless you’re staying in the Haven category.

We were comfortable in the cabin after I got my mattress topper and extra towels.

Points to Note About the Cabin

  • Mattress Firmness: The bed is firm. Hard. We asked for a mattress topper, which helped.
  • Lack of USB Ports: The cabin currently lacks USB ports. Until the scheduled refurbishment and we know more, it’s advisable to bring an extra plug that includes USB-A and/or USB-C ports.
  • Electrical Outlets: The suite includes three US and one European electrical outlet.
  • Balcony: The balcony is unobstructed, but it was the smallest I’ve encountered on any ship. I couldn’t even stretch my legs from the chair to the glass, and I’m not that tall. While snug, it’s still adequate to enjoy those beautiful ocean views.
  • General Condition: The cabin shows signs of age so that you might notice some worn items.

Service on Norwegian Breakaway

The Norwegian Breakaway staff were generally friendly, helpful, and dedicated to ensuring we had an enjoyable cruise. The importance of their role cannot be overstated. I am particularly grateful for the middle-of-the-night maintenance team, who assisted our family in the cabin next to us with a plumbing issue and helped them clean up after their child fell ill. Their quick and efficient response left a strong impression.

Throughout the cruise, my family said they never felt so catered to, which says a lot. We had a fantastic cabin attendant and ate four nights at specialty restaurants with attentive service.

However, NCL does not have enough staff on this ship. This was most noticeable at the bars, the buffet, the main dining rooms, and even the ‘washy-washy’ staff were missing disinfecting our hands. This does not reflect the crew’s efforts to provide the best service possible.

Complimentary Dining Aboard Norwegian Breakaway

We splurged on the Free at Sea Plus Package, which scored two extra specialty restaurant meals on top of the two included in their promo. During our week-long cruise, we visited the Main Dining Rooms only a handful of times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Taste, Savor, and Manhattan Room

Overall, the food in the Main Dining Rooms was pretty good for the most part, especially on the first day; we had the best lunch and dinner there. Later in the week, the service struggled to keep up with the number of passengers, and the food would come out lukewarm, sometimes soggy, depending on what it was. The menu isn’t as diverse as it used to be, and many dishes appeared multiple times throughout the week, with just a few tweaks to appetizers and main courses.

The Manhattan Room had the slowest service, as the waiters were swamped with more tables than they could manage. It’s usually my favorite MDR cause of the live entertainment, but it was the worst service of the week.

The Garden Buffet

This buffet’s layout isn’t my favorite. It gets super busy with two entrances off the pool deck that leads right to the washing stations! The space feels cramped and was usually packed. We dropped by a few times, and while the options weren’t extensive, what we did try was tasty. As usual with NCL, the Indian food was a hit.

Finding a seat at peak times can be tricky—you might have to circle around a bit. If you can’t find anything inside, there’s outdoor seating by the pool.

Tip: Skip the first few stations and head to the back. It’s usually quieter there, and you’ll find the same stuff.

O’Sheehans

This 24-hour pub still knocks out of the park with some of the best burgers, wings, and carrot cake on the ship. I did notice that they had halved the portion size of the carrot cake. I even took our photos from a past cruise to compare. I love the Wrangler Burger. Hubby tried the Reuben sandwich this time and was impressed—it lives up to the hype.

Even when it was packed, the service here was actually great. The food always came out hot and quick.

We only ate lunch here and late at night. You can get breakfast here until 11 am on most mornings. The menu is bigger for lunch and early dinner, but late at night, the menu is shorter.

FYI on Prime Rib Night: Heads up, Prime Rib Night is no more at O’Sheehans or any of the Main Dining Rooms. I checked with the maitre’d, and yep, it’s been axed. But you can still get your prime rib fix at Cagney’s.

Room Service

We thought we’d give the free standard breakfast delivery a shot on an early port day since it was part of our Club Balcony Suite perks. It wasn’t great—the food came cold and tasted bad. That was our first and last order from room service this trip. We stuck to the MDR or buffet for breakfast after that. Plus, we had Starbucks included in our drinks package, which was a win.

Note: Room service food is free, but there’s a delivery charge. You can order as much as you want, though.

Other complimentary dining on Breakway we did not get to try:

  • American Diner
  • Shanghai’s Noodle Bar

Specialty Dining on Norwegian Breakaway

The service at all the specialty dining restaurants was top-notch. I wish the same level of care and attention in these paid venues were also evident in the complimentary dining options.

Cagney’s Steakhouse

Dining at Cagney’s felt like a royal feast. We ordered prime ribs, ribeye, and filet mignon for our party of four. The Prime Rib, advertised as 16oz, was generously larger than expected. The portions were so substantial that I struggled to finish my steak and sides. My tip for those planning to visit: opt for lighter appetizers to save room for the main course.

Cagney’s Dinner Menu on Norwegian Breakaway
Cagney’s Dessert Menu on Norwegian Breakaway

Moderno Churrascaria

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It’s been a while since we last visited Moderno on the Norwegian Pearl, and it’s a shame this restaurant won’t feature on the new ships. Moderno offers an all-you-can-eat experience with various roasted meats served in stages. Diners control their service with green and red tiles, signaling ‘continue’ or ‘stop’ respectively. My advice? Arrive hungry and pace yourself at the salad bar, no matter how tempting. The nice part was that they started you off with the exquisite cuts of filet mignon, sirloin, and lamb before moving on to others, like chicken. And don’t skip the roasted pineapple with cinnamon—it’s so good!

Moderno Dinner Menu on Norwegian Breakaway

Teppanyaki

Our Teppanyaki experience was both fun and delicious. Originally booked for my nephew, who couldn’t make it, we adults went ahead and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The presentation alone is worth the cover charge, even if you don’t have a dining package. It is the hardest reservation to get, so make them as soon as possible.

Teppanyaki Dinner Menu on Norwegian Breakaway

Le Bistro

Le Bistro remains our favorite spot on NCL. Every meal here is lovely. We kicked things off with escargot, which even my typically picky 12-year-old nephew enjoyed. The Filet de Beouf, despite a $10 supplemental charge, is worth it—three of us chose it as our main course, while my husband decided to go for the braised shank and roasted lamb chops this time. The île Flottante was my favorite dessert, followed by the Marquise au Chocolat, but my sister-in-law couldn’t stop talking about the poached pear with chocolate sauce drizzled (see decadent video here).

A special note for champagne lovers: Le Bistro is the only place on board to indulge in a glass of Veuve Cliquot Champagne. At $30 a glass, it’s a splurge, but it was included in our upgraded drink package, allowing us to enjoy refills throughout our meal. They even provided a thoughtful touch with non-alcoholic champagne for my husband.

The French Press Coffee Pot is one of the nicest parts at the end of dinner at Le Bistro.

The maître d’ of Le Bistro was super kind to my nephew, even offering him two desserts instead of one. It was very sweet.

LeBistro Dinner & Dessert Menu on Norwegian Breakaway

Other specialty dining establishments we did not get to try:

  • Ocean Blue
  • Wasabi
  • La Cucina
  • The Raw Bar
  • The Bake Shop
  • Dolce Gelato

Starbucks on Norwegian Breakaway

Starbucks aboard the NCL ships is a whole different ball game compared to their land counterparts—and even my sister-in-law agrees, which says something because I thought I was alone in this opinion. I’ve stopped going to Starbucks at home because it doesn’t do it for me anymore; I’d rather save the money. But on the ship? They craft each latte with real care and attention, making it enjoyable.

However, the location of Starbucks on the Norwegian Breakaway could be better. It’s awkwardly situated next to the atrium and atrium bar on deck 6. This area is always buzzing since it’s where most ship activities happen, and the seating from the atrium almost spills up to the bar. This leaves just a narrow path to get your coffee fix.

Expect lines in the mornings, but they usually move quickly. Plan extra time if you’re heading there for your morning brew.

Norwegian Encore Activities and Entertainment

Burn the Floor: This is Breakaway’s flagship production show. We decided to skip it this time around. We caught it a few years back on The Getaway and ended up leaving mid-performance. That said, if you’re a fan of dance productions, it might be worth checking out—I know plenty of people who enjoy it. Reservations for this are a must.

Howl at the Moon: The Dueling Pianos at Headliners is a blast and has been our favorite since our first Norwegian cruise on the Getaway. It’s a lot of fun singing along to classic hits in a lively atmosphere filled with enthusiastic passengers. It gets pretty crowded when it first opens, but if you hang back a bit, seats tend to free up after a while.

Deal or No Deal: Hosted in the Atrium every sea day, this game is a money-maker for NCL. It’s entertaining, though. We joined in once—my sister-in-law dropped $60 and, unfortunately, we didn’t win anything. From what I remember of past prizes, they aren’t what they used to be, both in quantity and quality.

Levity Comedy: We caught the first family-friendly show and then an adults-only one later. The comedians were top-notch and really brought the laughs.

Syd Normans: This place was impossible to get into. A huge line was often outside the door about 45 minutes before it opened. From outside, you could hear they had some great performances.

Ropes Course: This is a FREE activity. It was closed whenever we were at sea, only opening when we were in port because it was too windy otherwise.

The Pool: Like many active areas on the ship, the pool was overcrowded. It feels like there isn’t enough space for the number of passengers, but this seems to be a recurring issue across NCL ships. I prefer finding a quieter spot, usually on Deck 16 and 17 near The Vibe area. It’s less crowded, with plenty of loungers and a bar far from the busy pool scene.

Lifeguards: I witnessed lifeguards diligently doing their jobs by the kid’s pool area.

We missed Bingo, the 80s Broadway Show Tunes, and the theme parties. We were so worn out by the day’s activities (which is a good thing, I guess) that we headed to bed much earlier than on other cruises.

The Casino on Deck 7

We typically enjoy a bit of gambling each night before heading to bed, but we opted out this time around. The cigarette smoke in the casino was overwhelming. Although there are designated smoking and non-smoking sections, the lack of effective separation meant the smoke pervaded the entire area. We hope the upcoming refurbishment will introduce a separate enclosed smoking section, similar to what’s available on the Breakaway Class+ ships.

Aside from the smoke issue, the casino is nicely sized and equipped with various slot machines and tables for those interested in gaming.

The Waterfront

the Waterfront deck on the Norwegian Breakaway, offering a long, expansive view with modern outdoor furniture. The deck overlooks the picturesque Miami skyline and calm blue waters, providing a serene setting for passengers to relax and enjoy the scenery.Pin

The Waterfront has been my favorite spot on the NCL Breakaway and Breakaway Plus ships. It’s the perfect area to escape and enjoy tranquility during the cruise. However, the seating is limited, and the outdoor furniture is quite worn. I’m hopeful that the upcoming refurbishment will include replacing these older pieces. Despite the need for updates, it remains a fantastic place to relax and soak in the atmosphere.

The Mandara Spa and Thermal Suite on Norwegian Breakaway

Before we set sail, I was swamped with work and cruise preparations, leaving no time for my usual self-care. So, I decided to treat myself on board—my overgrown gel manicure of two months desperately needed attention.

This cruise marked the first time I’ve spent so much on spa services, and it was utterly worth it. I indulged in the Fire and Ice Mani-Pedi with gel, a body massage & a mini facial combo, and waxing. The mani-pedi was exceptional, better than I got home in LA, and not much pricier. The massage and facial were amazing, though I could have done without the upsell pitches before and after my treatments.

My husband opted for a full shave and facial, while my sister-in-law treated my nephew to a haircut and herself to a Keratin treatment with the same stylist. All around, they were happy with the services they received.

Thermal Spa Pass

We opted for the Thermal Spa Pass, which was $299 for the 7-day cruise. All three adults in our party got one, but the only one who truly made the most of it was my husband—he loved it and used it almost daily. I visited once and quickly realized it wasn’t my thing, especially not on a Caribbean cruise. I much prefer soaking up the sun on deck. In retrospect, a Vibe Pass would have been a better choice for me.

The Thermal Spa is still a fantastic part of the ship for those looking to escape the busier pools and public areas. It features a hydrotherapy pool, a hot tub, cushioned and heated seating, a sauna, and a salt room. While it’s not the largest thermal spa I’ve seen on NCL ships, it was clean, well-maintained, and provided a tranquil retreat.

Disembarkation on Breakaway

Tip: Review your cruise account before the morning of disembarkation. On our last day, a family member found she was double-charged for a spa service before guest services opened. We urged her to go down immediately. She arrived as they opened and was first in line, but by the time she was done, there was already a long line behind her. Avoid the stress by checking it daily and getting it fixed at guest services beforehand. Once you’re off the ship, it will be difficult to rectify.

Disembarkation day was one instance where Priority Access didn’t offer us much advantage, as we prefer the flexibility of walking off the ship with our luggage whenever we’re ready. Though we were assigned priority tags, we noticed the luggage color for priority was called almost immediately after the “Self-Assist” group.

We skipped breakfast onboard that morning, eating in Miami since our flight was later in the afternoon. We vacated our cabin by 8:00 am and headed to deck 7 to join the disembarkation line. The process was swift; we quickly moved through the line and were off the ship, heading straight to customs with our passports. At customs, each of us had our photo taken, and then we were out the door to catch an Uber to our car rental for the day.

While we didn’t use them this time, porters were readily available as we descended the terminal escalators. For those traveling in large groups or with substantial luggage, employing a porter can be a great help. They not only manage your bags but can also expedite the customs process by bringing you to a shorter line. They will expect a tip for their assistance.

Other Observations While Sailing Norwegian Breakaway:

the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship anchored in clear, blue waters. The ship is large and colorful, adorned with vibrant and playful artwork on its hull.Pin
  • Spice H20, the adults-only area, was always crowded and smelled like cigarette smoke.
  • The Norwegian ships have new bar menus. Some old-time favorite NCL drinks, like the Painkiller and Mudslide, are missing. However, bartenders still make them upon request.
  • The Atrium Bar and Shakers were mixing the best drinks.
  • The theater on this ship is small. Not even two levels. If you want to see anything in the theater, go early.
  • There is no longer a dinner or live show at the Spiegel Tent for an extra charge. Broadway 80s Tunes are now played there at various times throughout the week.
  • NCL did not have a crew at the ports to hand out towels for the day or even bottled water to be purchased on the way out.
  • When did they start serving you little envelopes of milk with your coffee at dinner rather than a saucer of milk?
  • There may be no washy-washy people greeting you upon boarding the ship at ports, but at least they haven’t eliminated the tradition of welcoming you back with cold drinks and towels.
  • What happened to the small welcoming party NCL used to have on the last port day to welcome you back to the cruise ship? We didn’t see it this time.

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Kathy Ava

Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she's become a pro at crafting unforgettable tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.

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