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philamike

Live Blog: Norwegian Breakaway Inaugural Transatlantic Cruise!

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Hello, and greetings from on board the beautiful Norwegian Breakaway! I am on the inaugural transatlantic sailing and I wanted to share some of the experience with you. This post is from yesterday's events. Feel free to ask questions and I'll try my best to address them and/or find the answers. (I'll post some pictures in a separate post.)

 

April 30 - Southampton and Embarkation

 

I got up at 8 am and found a letter from NCL under my door – the letter that I should have received from the hotel last night. It welcomed me to London and contained a map of the city. It also contained this instruction: Kindly place all your luggage outside your room at 7 am for collection by the porters. Too late for that!

 

I went downstairs at 9:15 and found quite a few others waiting in the lobby. I checked out and then went over to the NCL representative to check in with her. I asked her about my missing airport-to-hotel transfer from the day before. She confirmed that NCL did not give them my flight information, even though I had called NCL to give them my flight info, and they told me that someone would meet me at the airport upon arrival. I got the name of the transportation company so that I can follow up with NCL Corporate. As a travel agent, I would have been very upset if this had happened to one of my clients! NCL also did not provide the transportation company with any luggage tags, and guests had to use generic tags that were provided by the hotel.

 

The buses were supposed to arrive at 9:30, but we were told that due to traffic, they were running late. About 20 minutes later, the first of three buses arrived. I boarded the second bus, which left at 10:30. While the bus was clean, there was absolutely no legroom. Luckily, no one was sitting next to me and I could position my legs at an angle.

 

The ride to Southampton was quick at 1 hour and 30 minutes. We arrived at the port and got our first glimpse of Norwegian Breakaway! The bus pulled up to the side of the terminal building to unload luggage, then drove us over to the front door. The first queue was for security screening (X-ray and metal detector). Then we were directed into a large hall with several lines. Although I have Gold Latitudes status, that line was very long and I was directed into the general line that looked a little shorter. Between the security and check-in queues, it took about one hour to get my key card and head for the ship. I boarded around 1:15 pm.

 

The gangway at Southampton only reached Deck 5 (a passenger deck), so the first impressions of the ship were of an elevator lobby. I immediately rode up to Deck 11 and proceeded down the hall to my cabin. I have an interior cabin for this voyage. Interestingly, Breakaway's interior cabins are accessed via a hallway that runs down the center of the ship, rather than from the port or starboard hallways.

 

I found my cabin, inserted my key card, turned the handle and pushed…but nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing. Then I realized that I had to pull. The stateroom doors swing outwards!

 

As an energy (and financial) conservation measure, you are required to insert your key card into a slot just inside the door, and this will activate the stateroom’s lights and power. And here’s a critical flaw with the cabin design: if the card is not in the slot, the stateroom’s electrical outlets will not work. So if you wanted to charge your cell phone or your camera battery, you can only do it while you are in the room and your key card is in the slot! This is very poor design.

 

There’s an easy fix – the slot will actually take any card, and it doesn’t have to be your key card. My local supermarket’s coupon card works just fine. But there’s also a drawback due to another new feature. There are three colored LED lights atop every stateroom door visible from the hallway. Two of them are activated by switches in the stateroom: "Do Not Disturb" and “Make Up Room.” The third one activates when you have a card in the slot that controls the stateroom’s power. This is how your stateroom attendant can tell if you are in the room. But if you have a “dummy card” in the slot and you’re not there, then you might not get service from your stateroom attendant.

 

The cabin is nicely appointed with dark wood accents and bright lighting. There are two reading lights above the bed, individually controlled. The desk is small, and instead of a chair there is an ottoman-type cube that had a lid for more storage. There are several alcoves for storage in the room, and there are shelves in the closet and in the desk console next to the mini-fridge.

 

The bathroom is a nice size with plenty of counter and shelf space. The shower stall has a door and has plenty of room. Shampoo and body wash are provided in the shower; hand soap is provided by the sink.

 

(I saw my friend Jake’s balcony cabin today. It has similar appointments, but they also get a couch and a coffee maker. And the balcony is considerably small. Just enough room for two people to sit between the balcony door and the balcony railing.)

 

I locked up my passport and wallet in the safe, then set out for lunch. I proceeded to the Garden Café, the ship’s buffet restaurant. Some newer ship designs have replaced long buffet counters with individual stations, but Breakaway did not. Each side has two long counters with the individual stations, one on each side of the aft elevator lobby: salad, grill, beverages, sweets, etc. The rear of the restaurant has one more set of stations. The food isn’t any different from that on other Norwegian ships, and I can’t say there was anything new added to the Garden Café from the Epic (Norwegian’s last new build).

 

After lunch, I started exploring the ship. I started with the spa, as it was on the same level. There is a sizeable gym, divided into two main sections. One has treadmills, elliptical machines and a few others; the other section has weight machines and free weights, and an area for classes. There is a dedicated room for “Flywheel Indoor Cycling” classes. Latoya from Jamaica took me on a tour of the spa. She brought me through several treatment areas where staff will perform massages, acupuncture, facials, teeth whitening and other services. There are also hair and nail services available. The Hydrotherapy Courtyard is at the very front of the spa, and it contains several pools, steam and sauna rooms, loungers, heated tile beds and something new for Breakaway: a salt room. A weeklong pass for the Hydrotherapy Courtyard is $146. A day pass for port days (on a typical cruise) is $39.

 

I explored the rest of the ship from top to bottom, and snapped a lot of pictures to take advantage of the sunny weather. (Who knows what the weather will be like throughout the cruise.) I’m going to save details for future posts, so I can spread out the features of the ship over the course of the week.

 

But I’ll talk about a few of the public areas. Similar to Epic, there are two central points inside the ship. One is the three-story atrium with a slender chandelier hanging in the middle. On the middle floor (deck 7), the casino spreads outward. And as on Epic, smoking by casino patrons does spread to the adjoining areas; however I have not yet found it to be overwhelming. The other focal point is a two-story atrium with guest service desks on Deck 6 and a large two-story screen. This afternoon, they were running a video about the Rockettes, who are the godmothers of the Norwegian Breakaway.

 

One of Breakaway’s features is the Waterfront on Deck 8. This outdoor space wraps around two-thirds of the ship, and most of the bars and specialty restaurants on Deck 8 have outdoor seating. The actual Waterfront width appears to be more narrow than what was shown in the pre-construction renderings. I don’t think the Waterfront will be seeing much use on this chilly transatlantic cruise!

 

As I was exploring the ship, I ran into our cruise director, Julie Valeriote. I immediately recognized her as the cruise director on my Norwegian Pearl sailing in Alaska four years ago. I believe she had just started the cruise director role then, so it’s nice to see that she’s doing so well with the job. I stopped to chat with her for a few minutes. Jake and I also chatted with the hotel director, Denis Prguda, who is another familiar face to us from previous cruises.

 

We had the safety drill at 4:30, then Jake, his mom and I proceeded to Spice H2O to watch the sailaway from Southampton. The entertainment staff was throwing a party here, and a DJ was spinning music. Despite a brisk wind, it was nice weather for a sailaway. A lot of people had gathered in a park near the port to watch the ship depart.

 

We had dinner in the Manhattan room, a two-story dining room in the aft section of the ship, and the largest of three main dining rooms on board. It is styled like a New York City supper club. The upper story consists of the Cagney’s and Moderno specialty restaurants. It is not open-air – glass separates the upstairs restaurants from the view below. A live band performs on a small stage during dinner, and some passengers were dancing on the dance floor in the center. The menu is the same from other Norwegian ships I’ve been on, and tonight’s offerings included surf 'n turf – a broiled lobster tail and a small filet of beef. I had this as my entrée, and started with a roasted garlic polenta cake. All were very good.

 

Jake and I went to the “Friends of Dorothy” gathering at 8 pm in the Shakers cocktail lounge, which overlooks the main atrium. (“Friends of Dorothy” is an old term for gays and lesbians. It has something to do with Judy Garland…) Then we went to the late performance of Graffiti Classics, a string quartet that incorporates a lot of comedy into their show. They did two performances tonight, and will do two more tomorrow night, in the Breakaway Theater. The theater is on the smaller scale when you think about cruise ship theaters, and that gives every seat a great view. The flip side is that performances need to be repeated so that all the passengers who want to see it are accommodated.

 

After the performance, we went to Bliss for a drink. The entrance to this nightclub is easy to miss, as it’s just a doorway off the casino. Bliss is long and narrow, with comfortable seating at one end. A bar stretches along one side, and the DJ sets up at the other end. Half of the walls are fitted with LED lights, but they were not on tonight. DJ Keith was spinning tonight – Jake and I know him from a couple other cruises. He is very friendly and spins great music. The other DJ on board is Arias – he was spinning at Spike H2O during the sailaway party, and he also had a good selection.

 

A couple other notes – we learned that 2,853 passengers are on board, well below the ship’s capacity of 4,028 (at double occupancy). Norwegian did not intend to sail full, as it’s a new ship and some kinks still need to be worked out. But in my experience today, virtually everything is complete. There’s nothing that looks unfinished. There have been a couple technical quirks here and there (e.g., the time is incorrect on the monitors in the elevators) and I noticed that the bar staff is still looking around to find ingredients, but all are things that are par for the course and will be resolved with experience.

 

There’s so much more to write about, but I’ll stop here for now!

 

These posts can also be found on my travel blog: http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog/philamike/3/tpod.html

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Arriving at the Port of Southampton:

 

3.1367427703.arriving-at-the-port-of-southampton.jpg

 

The questionable Peter Max artwork:

 

3.1367427703.the-questionable-peter-max-artwork.jpg

 

Check-in line at Southampton:

 

3.1367427703.check-in-line-at-southampton.jpg

 

Information sign -- these are in every elevator lobby:

 

3.1367427703.information-sign.jpg

 

Information sign -- these are in every elevator lobby:

 

3.1367427703.1-information-sign.jpg

 

Interior stateroom hallway:

 

3.1367427703.interior-cabin-hallway.jpg

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Interior stateroom:

 

3.1367427703.interior.jpg

 

Interior stateroom -- There's a hairdryer under the desk, which doesn't allow the ottoman-type seat to fit underneath very well....

 

3.1367427703.interior-stateroom.jpg

 

Interior stateroom -- individual reading lights are above the bed:

 

3.1367427703.1-interior-stateroom.jpg

 

Interior stateroom:

 

3.1367427703.2-interior-stateroom.jpg

 

Interior stateroom closet -- the hangers are the "do not steal" type, which annoy me. There is a safe in the closet:

 

3.1367427703.3-interior-stateroom.jpg

 

Interior stateroom bathroom -- the bathroom is a very good size!:

 

3.1367427703.interior-stateroom-bathroom.jpg

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Interior stateroom bathroom -- lots of room in the shower, too:

 

3.1367427703.1-interior-stateroom-bathroom.jpg

 

Interior stateroom bathroom -- no more "bowl" type sinks like on the Epic:

 

3.1367427703.interior-s.jpg

 

Stateroom indicator lights -- There are switches for "Do Not Disturb" and "Make Up Room" which will illuminate LED lights atop the door. Also, a white light will display if the key card is in the slot (indicating that the room is currently occupied):

 

3.1367427703.stateroom-indicator-lights.jpg

 

Garden Cafe:

 

3.1367427703.garden-cafe.jpg

 

Garden Cafe:

 

3.1367427703.1-garden-cafe.jpg

 

Pulse Fitness Center:

 

3.1367427703.pulse-fitness-center.jpg

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Pulse Fitness Center:

 

3.1367427703.1-pulse-fitness-center.jpg

 

Pulse Fitness Center -- Flywheel Indoor Cycling room:

 

3.1367427703.2-pulse-fitness-center.jpg

 

Pulse Fitness Center:

 

3.1367427703.3-pulse-fitness-center.jpg

 

Hydrotherapy Courtyard:

 

3.1367427703.2-hydrotherapy-courtyard.jpg

 

Hydrotherapy Courtyard:

 

3.1367427703.hydrotherapy-courtyard.jpg

 

Hydrotherapy Courtyard -- this salt room is new to NCL:

 

3.1367427703.1-hydrotherapy-courtyard.jpg

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Main atrium:

 

3.1367427703.main-atrium.jpg

 

The Waterfront:

 

3.1367427703.the-waterfront.jpg

 

Follow the fish! In stateroom hallways, the fish in the carpet always swim towards the front of the ship -- helps you get your bearings!:

 

3.1367427703.follow-the-fish.jpg

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Thank you for the tips! You stated that your friends room had coffee maker and smaller balcony what type cabin category did they have and you have?

 

Are there blowdryers in the bathroom and are they powerful or should I bring my own.

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Thanks for taking the time to share your pictures and thoughts Mike. I like your writing style and the pictures are nice and clear.

 

How well attended was the Friends of Dorothy meeting? I know there seemed to be a large group on the GL rollcall for the transatlantic (compared with the 3 of us on the May 12 roll call!!!).

 

Robert and Ralph

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Great review so far. Sorry to here about the door keys supplying power. I get the idea of saving energy, I guess we might have to cheat once in a while

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Great pics! I hope you plan to continue to post during the crossing. I will be glued!

Edited by medicalma'am

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Great pictures. I am following along with much interest as this is a ship I may consider for a future cruise :)

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If the ac turns off does it get warm I mean going to Bermuda in summer lets say if the ac is turned off won't it be very warm when you get back into the cabin?

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Thank you so much for the review and pictures. Wow! the inside rooms are smaller then the Dawn. Well won't be in cabin that much. A lot of helpful things you have said already .Please have a nice time..

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Hello Mike, thank you so much for doing this for us.

 

Since you offered to answer questions I do have one, could you by any chance find out where they fire the fireworks from and where would be the best place to view them?

 

Thank you.

 

Have a great cruise!

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Thanks so much!

 

Can anyone let me know if we have 10 people for dinner a few times during the week do we have to let the MDR know in advance to set up the tables? We will be sailing in Summer so I expect the ship to be full. Is having a group of 10 a problem with Freestyle dining?

Thanks so much!

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awesome! I don't mind using the dummy card, but I don't like that it indicates it's occupied. Weird setup.

 

Say hi to Jake! We're waiting patiently to hear from him on our FB page!!

 

I'm definitely going to follow the blog :) Enjoy!!!

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We will be sailing on the breakaway on September 8th! Thanks for doing this live thread from the ship! Can't wait to hear more! We did the Epic in November and didn't like the casino in the middle with the smoke. I was hoping they did away with that part!

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Thank You!!! I will be doing the Maiden voyage of The Getaway in January. I can not decide whether to spend a night in London or go straight to Southampton. Any thoughts. I will be coming from the Pacific Northwest.

 

Mandy

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I will be following along, thanks for taking your time to do this.:)

 

What a weird setup that is with the key card slot.

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Also very interested to hear how the AC works when the cabin is unoccupied. We are thinking of booking bermuda from NYC in sept 2013

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Also very interested to hear how the AC works when the cabin is unoccupied. We are thinking of booking bermuda from NYC in sept 2013

 

I just can't imagine it goes completely off when you are not there. Maybe goes to 78. Inside cabins could be roasting if not for some ventilation.

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I love your blog and all of the pics...Cant wait to see more...I will be onboard in 186 days

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Thanks for the very informative review and photo's.

Could you ask them if they will ever upload their bridgecam to the web?

Seems to be the only NCL ship that doesn't.....

Also, it doesn't show on the deck plans, but is there a bridge viewing room?

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions....:)

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Thanks so much ... loving the live updates and pics!

 

BTW ... are you staying onboard for any of the 2-nt Inaugural sailings?

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Thanks so much!

 

Can anyone let me know if we have 10 people for dinner a few times during the week do we have to let the MDR know in advance to set up the tables? We will be sailing in Summer so I expect the ship to be full. Is having a group of 10 a problem with Freestyle dining?

Thanks so much!

 

I doubt it would be any different than on the EPIC, so I'll give you my experience from the EPIC. I was sailing solo and the solo people would eat dinner together every night. The group sizes ranged from just a few up to 20. We usually called up the dining room after dinner had started, let them know we were coming and they'd get a table ready for us. We usually had to wait five or so minutes and there were times we had to wait about 20 minutes. When we had to wait 20 minutes or more, we were given a free glass of champagne each at the bar next to the dining room. They accommodated us very easily.

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thank you for the great pictures. Can you please get one of the raw bar menu & of the brands of cigarettes available.

thank you enjoy your cruise

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I doubt it would be any different than on the EPIC, so I'll give you my experience from the EPIC. I was sailing solo and the solo people would eat dinner together every night. The group sizes ranged from just a few up to 20. We usually called up the dining room after dinner had started, let them know we were coming and they'd get a table ready for us. We usually had to wait five or so minutes and there were times we had to wait about 20 minutes. When we had to wait 20 minutes or more, we were given a free glass of champagne each at the bar next to the dining room. They accommodated us very easily.

 

Thanks so much! I think I will do as you did and once the Dining Room opens, I'll call and let them know what time we will be there. Thanks so much!

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Looking forward to the rest or your review. Thanks in advance.

 

I have a question regarding the iconcierge app. Are you using it? Can you provide any information on it? I am mostly interested in communicating with the kids while on the ship and this seems like a good way to do it. I appreciate any information you can provide.

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This is great. Thanks for doing it!

 

Could you possibly post some dailies?. I know interenet is a premium so no worries if you can't

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Love the forward swimming fishies!

 

As far as the key card, we stayed at Sandals RC in Jamaica and it was the same way. The room got really hot and if we tried to "fake" it, the housekeeper always took the card out.

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Lyndamr: re: cabin categories and hairdryers. My interior stateroom is a IA. I’m not sure what my friend’s balcony stateroom is, but it’s a typical mid-ship balcony stateroom. The hairdryers are under the desk in the stateroom, not in the bathroom. I just turned mine on, and it seems pretty powerful!

 

Beachmonkey: re: Friends of Dorothy meeting. There are A LOT of “Dorothy”s on this sailing! I’d say about 35 folks came out to the first gathering, and I’ve spotted/met additional ones. Most I’ve seen on a non-chartered sailing. In my experience, NCL attracts a strong gay/lesbian clientele, which is a testament to their company’s friendliness and respect for diversity.

 

Lyndamr: re: air conditioning. That’s a very good question, and since it’s rather chilly on this sailing, I haven’t had the AC on in the room. So I don’t know what the temperature is like after returning to the room. If I get a chance to find out, I’ll let you know.

 

Babys mom: re: interior room size. I’ve been in balcony and outside staterooms on the Dawn, and I’d say Breakaway’s are a little smaller than the Dawn’s outside room. But it’s very well designed, and I don’t think it would be too much of a downgrade. It’s a little hard to say, though, because I’m not sharing my cabin with anyone (as I did on the Dawn).

 

Gambee: re: fireworks. The great news is that we ARE supposed to get fireworks on this sailing! Of course it’s weather-dependent. I’ll share where they get launched from when it happens.

 

Igfan: re: casino and smoke. Like the Epic, the casino is in the middle and it surrounds the atrium. So far, I haven’t thought that the smoke smell has been very strong as I passed through. I’ve experienced far worse on other ships.

 

Bob brown: re: bridge cam and bridge viewing room. There’s a channel listed on the TV’s guide for a bridge cam, but it doesn’t seem to be working yet. (There is one for the navigation info/map, though.) Unfortunately, there is no bridge viewing room on board. I really like those, so I’m disappointed about that.

 

Chiapet: re: inaugural sailings. No, I won’t be on board. My cruise agent gig is just a part-time side business, and I don’t have the status that’s required to get invited. :-)

 

Angelfish: re: raw bar menu. I’ve photographed most of the menus so far, but not yet the raw bar. I will try! I’ll also see what ciggies they have on board.

 

KrazyK: re iConcierge app. Yes, I have it and I am using it! But my friend doesn’t have it on his phone, so I haven’t been able to test the communication features. I was talking to another passenger who is using it to communicate with his friend. He said it works in making calls to him, but the messaging feature is a little buggy. He also mentioned that it’s not possible to leave a message for his friend if his friend doesn’t answer the call. Otherwise, you can use the app just as you would the interactive features on your TV, including making reservations.

 

Shaun07: re newsletters. I plan to post those after I get home. Unfortunately I didn’t get a newsletter on embarkation day, so I’m missing that one.

 

Zlacruising: re Meet & Greet. I’ll post about it tomorrow! :-)

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Thanks Mike for all your info. Ummm I am wondering can you somehow sneak into 9706 and check it out for me? I saw the video of the 10th floor but am wondering if 9 is a semi hull. You can hardly see it on the front of the shi because it is so low on bow. Thanks and party on

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