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AkKruzer

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  1. Sargemrs: I'm sorry, I can't speak to this. I believe the Haven Restaurant is for Haven Suite passengers only, which we were not. The Haven Restaurant was not available to us when choosing our 4 specialty restaurants. I would think the daily service charge would cover waitstaff in the Haven Restaurant.
  2. Settle in. It’s a long review. Background: I am a 63-year young female. My boyfriend of 20 years is 71 years young. I have been cruising for many years. I have 12 cruises on Carnival, 4 on Royal Caribbean, 3 on Princess, 2 on Holland America, and 1 on Celebrity. This was my first Norwegian cruise, and the first time I have submitted a review, although I have been a Cruise Critic member since 2005. Why this cruise: My boyfriend and I live in Fairbanks, Alaska and typically vacation to somewhere warm in January or February to thaw out and see some greenery. After our last cruise we decided that seven days was too short a cruise for the time and effort involved in flying from Fairbanks to a departure port (usually Florida). In planning our January 2019 getaway, we found this 11-day cruise fit our budget and had the added benefit of departing from New Orleans. We had been to NOLA before and were excited about spending a couple days there before the cruise. Why this review: As soon as we booked this cruise, I started reading Cruise Critic reviews. I was surprised to read so many terrible and negative things about the Breakaway and passengers’ experiences and started to wonder if maybe we had made a mistake. Our experience was nothing like what I read about in those negative reviews. In fact, my boyfriend and I agreed that this was maybe the best cruising experience we have ever had. I will make my comments by category. New Orleans: We flew in on Friday night, two nights before the cruise and were lucky to have beautiful weather the Saturday before embarkation. We stayed at the Sheraton on Canal Street. Our 31st floor room was great with a floor-to-ceiling window facing the Mississippi. The first night we were pretty tired, having flown for 15 hours (Fairbanks to Seattle, Seattle to San Francisco, San Francisco to New Orleans). I consulted Where New Orleans magazine to pick Remoulade Restaurant (owned by Arnaud’s) where we had Po-boys for dinner. Then we stopped in the Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street where we caught the end of the last set of a jazz combo with a terrific female vocalist. There is no cover charge for the Jazz Playhouse and, although we were told there was a one drink minimum, no one approached us to buy a drink, maybe because it was so close to closing time. Saturday morning we headed out to Café Du Monde for beignets and coffee. The line was long but moved very fast. We were seated in less than ten minutes. After breakfast we scoped out a path from the Sheraton to the cruise port. I had read what a nightmare the cruise port area is for cabs and shuttles and we thought we might just walk the .9 miles from the hotel to the port. Then it was on to Central Grocery for muffuletta. During lunch we sat across from Jackson Square and watched a talented group of men doing a break dancing performance. After lunch we walked a grid through the French Quarter being thoroughly entertained by the performers busking the sidewalk. Dinner was at Gallatoire’s where I did not know that my boyfriend would need a jacket. After some embarrassment, they loaned him a jacket and we had a memorable meal. We closed the evening at the Jazz Playhouse. Embarkation: Sunday dawned sunny and cloudless. We hit Starbucks in the lobby of the hotel, then gathered up our rolling luggage for the trek to the cruise port. It turned out to be a very easy trip. We dropped our luggage with the porters (on St. Joseph Street, I believe), walked right through the security checkpoint, right up to the check-in counter, and then right onto the ship. From the hotel to being seated at O’Sheehan’s for our first of many lunches in this eating venue it took us less than an hour (10:15 AM to 11:10 AM). This was easily the quickest, most efficient embarkation we have ever experienced. At around noon, they announced that the rooms were not yet ready, but that we were welcome to drop our carry-ons off in our cabins. Our room was ready, so we just stayed and enjoyed watching the river traffic from our balcony. Dining/Dinners: This is one of the areas in which the Norwegian Breakaway really excelled. One of our free perks was a 4-Night Specialty dining package, for which we were obliged to pay $16.80 each in service charges. We chose to upgrade two of our choices, one to the Cirque Dreams and Jungle Fantasy dinner show and the other for the Ocean Blue restaurant (an additional $12 per person for each restaurant in upcharges and service charges). The other two specialty restaurants we chose were Cagney’s Steakhouse and Teppanyaki Hibachi. All of our specialty dining experiences were outstanding, with the dinner at Ocean Blue being perhaps the finest dining we have done on a cruise ship or maybe anywhere. We started with the Alaskan King Crab appetizer and went on to the Seven Seas dinner, which was a lobster tail, jumbo shrimp, and Red Snapper, all cooked to perfection. Cagney’s was as a steakhouse should be. I started with the shrimp cocktail and an iceberg wedge salad, and then the surf and turf, an 8 ounce filet and four jumbo shrimp. All classic steakhouse fair, which were excellent but not better than any other steakhouse I have eaten at. The dinner at the Cirque show was a small salad, followed by steak and shrimp, and dessert. What was remarkable was that they served almost 400 guests simultaneously with a meal that was better than acceptable. The show was very good. Having seen maybe a dozen Cirque du Soleil shows over the years, I was impressed with the Breakaway acts and performers. For the Teppanyaki dinner, we joined a family of seven for a totally enjoyable performance by the Hibachi chef and a very good dinner. Of all the specialty dining choices, this one was heavier on entertainment than on food quality. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good dinner but it paled a little compared to our other dining experiences onboard the Breakaway. We ate one night at the Shanghai Noodle Bar where the food was very good but the proximity to the casino made our meal not so enjoyable. Being ballroom dancers we ate all but one of the rest of our dinners in the Manhattan Room, where we enjoyed dinner and dancing to a great combo and female vocalist. This is where the Breakaway really stood out for us. Not only was the dining room beautiful, the food and service went way beyond our expectations. I chose the fish selection almost every night and was not disappointed. The appetizers were even more exceptional. A few standouts I had were the smoked mozzarella ravioli, clams and rice, and risotto. There were always two or three soup options and an equal number of salad options. We found the food offerings varied and interesting. We were never asked to order dessert when placing our dinner order. I cannot stress how many dance couples appreciated the opportunity to dine and dance to live ballroom music. It was a highlight of our cruise. We ate one night in Savor and, although the food was excellent, the service was not and we did not return there. Dining/Breakfast and Lunch: As I mentioned above, we ate several lunches at O’Sheehan’s where they offered wings, nachos, fish & chips, fajitas, a Reuben, and maybe a burger. I don’t recall, as I had wings every time I went. I am a sucker for wings and I tried the buffalo, Thai (twice) and Jamaican Jerk . . . all excellent. My boyfriend went for the Reuben except for the day he ordered a chocolate malt ($3) and the steak fajitas. The steak was very tender (he gave me a taste). On sea days the Moderno Churrascaria offered a different international buffet choice for lunch. We went once, for Mediterranean day. The salad bar was fabulous, but the hot offerings left a lot to be desired. I do not remember the other international offerings, I think one was BBQ; we only went the one time. On sea days we had a leisurely latte in the Atrium café and a light breakfast, mostly fruit, at the Garden Café buffet. On port days we had a leisurely latte and opted for a large breakfast before going ashore, skipping lunch. I hate the buffet on all ships. I hate the lines, I hate handling utensils that a thousand other people have handled, I hate walking around with my plate, I hate trying to find a place to sit. I tried to steer my boyfriend from that option, but he likes the made-to-order omelets and fresh fruit, so we had breakfast there a couple of times. I preferred O’Sheehan’s for breakfast where you could also get a made-to-order omelet served with a hash brown patty and baked tomato, among other offerings, and you get waited on. A shout out to Jana our barista in the Atrium Cafe, who made us a delicious latte complete with foam artwork every morning. Wine: My boyfriend does not drink. I like a glass of wine with dinner. I am frugal and prefer a glass of wine in the $8 to $10 range. Most cruises I have a hard time finding something palatable in that range, and usually end up with a $12 to $15 glass to be happy. I found the wine-by-the-glass offerings to be very affordable on the Breakaway. I was happy with the Pinot Grigio, Malbec, and dry Rose I chose at $8/glass. They offered a Drink-of-the-Day for $9. I meant to try one or two, but never got around to it. Entertainment: Again, the Breakaway exceeded our expectations. Burn the Floor was so good, we saw it twice. We liked Rock of Ages. I had no idea what to expect for that one. The performances were excellent, as was the band, but I didn’t realize how corny the show is. Not the fault of the performers, of course, but of the book writers. Don’t stay away from seeing the show, though. It is very well done and super high energy. We skipped the magician. Syd Norman’s was a hoot. Those kids can really sing and entertain. We went twice and couldn’t find a seat either time. I have never seen anything like Syd’s on any other cruise ship. Howling at the Moon dueling pianos was also unique. I’ve seen piano bars before, but not like this. The three performers rotate on stage two at a time, taking requests (along with many $5 bills/bribes) from the audience. They are high energy and very talented. We enjoyed this venue twice. Entice Duo was fine, but I think the performance would be more enjoyable if the vocalist learned the words to the songs she performed instead of reading them from an I-Pad. Then there was Bernie, a solo performer, who really knows his way around a guitar. His performance is unique and quirky. We enjoyed the night a young man did a hula hoop dance routine to one of Bernie’s songs. The nightclub/disco group (sorry, I am having a senior moment remembering their name) doubled as the reggae band by the pool. They were enjoyable to me, especially when performing reggae poolside. Although we are ballroom dancers, we do not do nightclub or disco, but the dance floor was occupied to the max when they performed in the Atrium, and we enjoyed watching the band and the dancers. There were two comedians; we enjoyed one more than the other. We did not have a problem getting into the comedy club the night we did not have a reservation. I enjoyed Glory Days, the Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band impersonators, because I am a fan of the Boss. My boyfriend, not so much. Activities: We tried the rope course, again something I have never seen on a cruise ship. I even ventured out on The Plank, an 8-foot 4X4 which hangs out over the side of the ship from the 16th deck. My boyfriend did not. We participated in the Escape the Big Top escape room game to see what it was all about. We were teamed with a dozen other passengers, given a bag full of clues, and tasked with finding six magic words that would allow us to escape. I think there were four or five teams. No team solved the mystery, but our team was able to make a lot of progress in the 40 minutes allotted. We agreed afterwards that with a bit smaller team and a bit more time we may have succeeded. We’re not sorry we spent an hour on this activity as we met several more nice passengers. We miniature golfed, but we never got around to the water slides. We do not partake in trivia or origami folding, which there was much of. Nor do we play Bingo or use the casino. We are very big on hanging out on our balcony and watching for flying fish. We checked the weather at home a couple of times during the cruise. It was between -25⁰F and -40⁰F (that’s BELOW zero) the whole time we were gone, so sitting on the balcony soaking up heat was probably our favorite activity. Passengers: We met many nice people from many parts of the U.S., as well as many fellow ballroom dancers. We experienced no problems with children or teens, although there were many on this cruise. There was one belligerent scooter-bound gentleman who was unhappy from Day One. There were a few passengers who had clearly purchased the Ultimate Beverage Package and, although they were obnoxious, they didn’t ruin our experience. We did miss the Traditional Dining option. We like to have dinner with the same several couples every night and enjoy getting to know those people well during the cruise. Ship: Although huge, we found the ship easy to navigate (no pun intended). As many have noted, the casino is a problem smoke-wise, and you have to go up to Deck 8 to traverse the ship from end to end if you want to avoid it. We used the gym on sea days, and it was more than adequate. We were surprised that late afternoons were busier in the gym than were mornings. I liked that the outdoor big screen was on Deck 16 in the H2O area, and not by the main pool area on Deck 15. We never stood in line for anything. Staff: The master of the vessel, Captain Dan, was a hoot. He practically did a stand-up routine when first introduced to the passengers along with other officers at the beginning of the cruise. The cruise director, Soozy, was everywhere and very accessible. The P.A. could be turned down a notch or two for her announcements. As I said above, we do not drink to any degree, so I cannot comment on bartenders. I did ask a bartender at the Atrium Bar for a glass of ice water one night when we were dancing and he completely ignored me. Our room steward was present and efficient. He didn’t always complete the making-up of our cabin. Sometimes we could tell he got interrupted midway and then forgot to come back. We do not require any special treatment or attention, so it didn’t matter to us. All dining wait staff was amazing. Internet: We were offered 250 minutes of internet as one of our other perks. We have never had internet service on a cruise and do not want or require it. We only used it to check the weather and our emails. I think we used about one-third of our 250 minutes. It was appreciated, but did not add to our cruise experience. Debarkation: Okay, so this wasn’t so good, but not the fault of NCL by any means. We debarked on Day 26 of the Federal government shutdown. There was only a skeleton Customs & Border Control staff on duty and it took us about an hour to debark. The NCL staff kept the line orderly and moving as efficiently as possible. We had not made prior arrangements for transportation to the airport and the port area is poorly designed or, more accurately, not designed at all for the number of passengers embarking and disembarking at any given time. We secured shuttle van transportation ($18 pp) and were at the airport about an hour later. Ports: This review was meant to reflect our experience on the ship, but I will briefly mention our ports. In Ocho Rios and Harvest Caye we just opted for a beach chair. In Ocho Rios we simply walked to Turtle Beach where we paid $3 pp to access the beach and $5 pp for a chair. Harvest Caye was probably the most beautiful “private” beach we have been to. In Grand Cayman we took the public bus ($5) to Cemetery Beach for a great snorkel. In Roatan we went outside the cruise port and caught a cab ($5) to Las Palmas resort where we paid $10 pp for a chair and had the beach to ourselves most of the time and a snorkel guide who gave us a great tour of the reef in front of the hotel. We tipped him $10. In Costa Maya we took a cab ($8) to Mahahual where we had made independent pre-arrangements with Doctor Dive for a boat snorkel ($25 pp). It was okay, not great. Our day in Cozumel started out drizzly and very windy, so we opted to just walk the main street along the ocean and be accosted by the shop owners before returning to the ship for lunch at O’Sheehan’s. Finally, I would like to advise future passengers on the Breakaway that reservations should be made on-line, pre-cruise for shows and dining that is important to you. Reservations should be made for comedy as soon as you are onboard. You can use your in-room TV. I heard several passengers grumbling that they “had never been on a cruise where you had to make reservations for everything.” You don’t really need to make reservations for everything, but it would be prudent to reserve what is most important to you in advance. Thank you for sticking with my review. It was my pleasure to share my exceptional Norwegian Breakaway experience with you. I would be happy to answer any questions.
  3. Do they add the 20% service charge to the wine packages?
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