New York and Norwegian Breakaway
My latest Solo Vacation was a 3 night stay in midtown Manhattan followed by a 7 night cruise out of New York on the Norwegian Breakaway on a Florida and Bahamas Itinerary.
I left London Heathrow on the 24/10/13 on a 4 pm flight to New York’s JFK airport which was a 7 hour direct flight with British Airways, it was a pleasant flight, left on time and the service on-board the 747 was very good and would happily use them again.
As we came into land I could see the whole of the Manhattan Skyline from the air, it was all lit up in the night sky and ‘really is a sight that blows you away’ (it’s like the song say’s “nowhere else in the world that can compare”).
We arrived at JFK around 7 pm local time but by the time I cleared customs and collected my baggage, it was more like 8:30.
I had arranged a transfer to my hotel with ‘Super Shuttle’ which was ok apart from the driver taking us the long way around. “I cannot believe the driving and the state of the roads in New York really shocked me how bad both were, our driver nearly run over about 5 people on way to hotel, I thought I was going to die”.
Finally arrived at my hotel this was the Hotel 31 on 31st street midtown about 5 minutes’ walk from the Empire State Building. I was slightly worried about my choice in hotels as in the pictures it looked very dated but I picked it because it received positive reviews on various sites where people said it was basic but clean and well located(tip make sure you look at reviews on hotels before booking them as more often than not are great indicators) . I should not have worried, this hotel was fine “one thing that made me laugh, it had one of those really old fashioned vintage elevators with the metal cage you pull across and always played really old school music from the 60’s and 70’s which I would sing along to”.
During my stay in New York I visited all the main attractions, such as the 86th floor of the Empire state building – An iconic New York landmark; it was really wonderful up there with a fantastic view of New York as the sky was clear. A “little tip - if you look up at the spire while on the 86th floor it is a weird sensation as feels like the building is swaying “, which because of the gravity it is!!
I also visited Times Square and went on the subway to Ground Zero to visit the Memorial Park which is worth seeing; even though you do have to go through a similar security process such as airport security. While in the memorial park I paid my respects to the people who lost their lives in that horrifying event back in 2001. Walking round even the hardest man will find it hard not to shed a tear when seeing all those names, it really hits home. People who were laying flowers and paying their respects to the people who had lost their lives, the down side being - people taking pictures, which I found a little distasteful “let these people have some privacy folks”.
I spent hours walking round taking pictures of all the iconic buildings and visiting one or two nice pubs along the way “Connelly’s, which is up on 46th street is a really cool Irish pub I recommend it - great friendly service!
In the evenings I tended just to go to a couple of pubs and have a few drinks and even though I was alone I never felt unsafe in Manhattan.
Overall I had a really nice few days in Manhattan by myself and would recommend it to anyone as one of those cities that everyone must visit at least once in their lives.
I will return.
I checked out my hotel on Sunday 27th and got a cab down to the port to board the Breakaway.
When I first saw the ship I was very impressed as it was a good looking ship, probably nicer to the eye than my favorite ship the NCL Epic which I have been on 3 times now, once to the Caribbean and twice around the Mediterranean.
Check in was a little annoying as one of the check in girls had some kind of issue with my passport so kept wondering around trying to get her Supervisor to speak to her. After approximately 20 minutes I was on my way.
We finally boarded the ship about midday and my plan was to drop of my hand luggage and hit the gym, (which is my normal routine on the Epic), due to the rooms not being ready I took myself off for a wonder around the ship.
My first impression was, I thought it felt smaller compared to the Epic, The ship was so full of different things to do with limited space; (felt cramped in some areas) compared to the Epic, but don’t get me wrong the ship is still very nice but just found myself constantly comparing it to the Epic which it could not beat.
Finally the rooms were opened and as a solo guest I was staying in the studio cabins on the 10th and 11th deck as I did on my 3 previous trips on the Epic. I was in 10537 as most the ladies found out (in my dreams).
My first impression of the Studios was that they are similar to the Epic although to my horror I found that the mood lighting is not installed on the breakaway, as it is on the Epic which is a massive loss “Seriously Ncl put the mood lighting back in”.
One great new feature is there are lights that display over your door of your room to indicate that your room card is in the door and you are in which is helpful.
One bad feature is the toilet you have to press button about 6 times before it would flush.
Another drawback about the studio’s is the lack of outside light you struggle to tell the difference between night and day which can mess with your head a bit.
The AC in the room’s works well as it was like the ice bar in my room most days.
One annoying thing I found most days is that the Captain would insist on coming on the speaker very early and making announcement’s that would wake me up (rather annoying). Especially as I had a bad head from too many glasses of Moscato the night before!
I wanted to go train at the gym but when I got there was told gym is shut until 4pm after we set sail which annoyed me as wanted to get my training out the way before the emergency drill. They let me train on the Epic as soon as I got on so don’t know what the issue was.
After the emergency drill where I met one of my new friends (pretty boy John) I went up on the pool deck and signed myself up for the ultimate beverage package which is well worth it if you like propping up the bar like myself (works out about $62.50 per day) which may sound a lot but boy does the bill add up fast on a cruise ship.
The sail out of NYC was amazing seeing the skyline of Manhattan taking pictures of the statue of liberty passing the Staten Island ferry and even got a few shots of the QM2 to boot. Really was a sight I will never ever forget.
Once we passed underneath the Verrazano Bridge, the height of the ship was so close to the top- you could almost touch it! Then we were out to sea and with my camera at the ready managed to get some amazing pictures.
Unfortunately the gym was another massive disappointment, on the Epic, the gym is spacious, but this gym is tiny and broken into 2 sections everywhere you went you were tripping over people for example I was doing Bench Press and some girl was doing squats and kept sticking her butt in my face (OK maybe it wasn't all bad) she was pretty hot although she knew it hey (think she was doing it on purpose, I won’t mention her name or I will be in trouble 😉
I don’t understand why the ship does not sell protein shakes in a vending machine; the gym I use at home does this and is really popular, I would buy one every time I trained. (NCL take note! A good idea to make your company even more cash) you can cut me in with the profits ;-).
After going to the gym it was time to go to the ‘Meet and Greet’ meeting at the Studio Lounge which was a lot smaller than on the Epic but then again the Breakaway has half the number of studio cabins than the epic.
The Studio Lounge itself is pretty small compared with the Epic and the door you enter the lounge from is not the best it looks like a normal door whereas on the Epic it has a full size glass door with the studio lounge written on it (much nicer).Also there is no fridge in this ship studio lounge as on the epic there is a fridge filled with milk and yogurt to drink in the mornings.
We were greeted by Zachary who kind of looks like a young Jim Carrey he seemed a little bizarre and wired (too many red bulls in my opinion) but really friendly guy who was always really chatty.
One by one the new faces started coming through the door and I remember thinking this is quite a large turnout as on previous cruises on the Epic there wasn't this many even though it had many more cabins on that ship. We also had a few people that joined in the solo meets as they were in standard cabins but still wanted to hang with the singles and that was fine by us so we just let them in as there key cards don’t open the studio doors.
After introducing myself to a few (which I sometimes find hard as I’m a bit shy) the atmosphere became very comfortable and the bonds started to form “a bit like the first day at school”.
After a couple of hours a few of us decided to go off to dinner together and bond even further.
We tended to meet up at the same sort of time every night(around 6 pm) for drinks and then would arrange little groups to go off to dinner together so never had dinner alone the entire week.
The fact that I met so many great people in the first few hours of the cruise set the tone for the rest of the week as we quickly formed a little pack and pretty much done everything together .Met some real characters on the ship but the main group included Rino, Sean, Pretty boy John, the lovely Stephanie, Rachel and Sarah, George Keith and Crazy Sunny from Canada who was truly and completely nuts. There was a few other but they tended to do their own thing and find us when they were bored. If there was a party going on somewhere in the ship we were pretty much the life and soul of it.
One great little tip is that you can download an app while on-board that allows you to communicate with others round the ship as long as they have same app installed you do have to pay for it but very useful to know where all your friends are at any given time, perfect for stalkers no names mentioned lol;-) .
We met a guy called Jeff who was X Special Forces, that guy had a story to tell about everything and apparently owns half the planet according to him although we were a bit more skeptical but he was a fun character who added to our enjoyment. One night we went to senior frogs and he claimed that the owned it well maybe he did! - I don’t know.
Some of the evening highlights throughout the week were the Halloween night party where some crazy outfits were worn but there were competitions for best costumes in different classes. One of my friends went dressed as a telly tubby which was brilliant (respect to you Rino). I know I wouldn't have worn it but I did wish I had brought a costume even though I’m scary enough as myself, I said I came as a drunken Englishman which was pretty much true.
Another great night was the 80’s party where we had fireworks which although were not the best, they were fun, although I did notice as soon as the fireworks stopped the crowd started to vanish which was a shame even though it did start to rain but it wasn't bad enough to all run inside (lightweights!) .the party and 80’s theme moved to bliss where we made the best of it like most nights.
Our best night by far though was when we stayed in Nassau overnight as we couldn't stop on Coco Cay due to rough seas tendering was not possible earlier that day so we docked in Nassau for the night and this gave us all a chance to hit the town and pretty much half the ship headed for Senor Frogs which was a short walk away .We had a crazy night partying into the small hours knowing our ship wasn't going anywhere so no rush.
Generally speaking though the options available later at night on ship are pretty much limited to either the Casino, or the ‘so called’ Comedy Club which’ wasn't’ funny, the Piano Bar or one of the bars throughout the ship or Bliss Nightclub.
Where do I start about Bliss!
Well for starters it is nowhere near as we laid out as on the epic, it’s way too small, with a boxy shape, too much outside light comes in through the door and the main issue with this club was the DJ (DJ Viper) he was horrible just could not judge the crowd at all so played Latin music when nobody in the club was Latin .Every time he changed the style of music the place would empty .Even the staff said he was hopeless. Seriously NCL the club is poor and I was very disappointed with it as spent so much time there.
Okay so let’s get to what’s good and what bad about the Breakaway.
Well for starters it’s badly laid out everything feels to crowded and you feel like your tripping over people with constant bottlenecks everywhere. They have included a lot of wind breaking panels which do reduce wind but also make it harder to pass people when walking the decks especially if they are fond of the buffet if you catch my drift ;-).
Good luck in getting a sunbed unless you get up at 5 am when the alcoholics like me are going to bed.
On the pool deck they only seem to play music round the pool deck later in the day which I overheard people complaining about, people were bringing out their own music players to try and create some atmosphere.
On the pool deck there are not enough pools and Jacuzzi’s and not putting a pool at back of ship in H2o zone was a bad idea as one of the best places on the Epic.(I love the H2o zone as adults only so no little monsters running about, :- ).
The water slides on this ship are awesome and rather scary as I was basically forced to go on them.
One you climb up the stairs and you step into this cylinder they shut and lock the door then the countdown from 3 starts and the bottom opens and you virtually free fall for couple of seconds scary stuff then you get spat out of the bottom to a massive slide (remember some woman saying to her child that was a big splash when I popped out bit of a cheek "what was she trying to say" Lol)
Another great feature of the breakaway is the vast climbing course with all kinds of ropes and ladders to navigate which for the less brave like myself proved rather scary however I’m proud to have faced my fears and done the course including walking the plank which is pretty scary walking right out over the edge of the ship where a camera takes your picture and the very brave people let go of their safety harness and put their arms out (I wasn't one of the brave) I hung on the harness as scared of heights).there is there a zip line to navigate before the end .It’s rather scary stuff.
The running track on the breakaway is absolutely hopeless just basically part of the pool deck they close between certain times of the day for runners very disappointing even though the only running I did was to get another drink from the bar.
The casino is large and always busy but beware of the toxic fumes from all the smokers and being a non-smoker found it really nasty. They had a machine where you had to try and push a key through a slot to win money and an I pad but nobody ever one that I saw (would have been cheaper just to buy an I pad in my opinion).
You have to do the ice bar on the ship $20 I never got to challenge my record achieved on the Epic of 3 hours in there but my group of friends went in and had a laugh but they got cold after about 30 minutes so had to leave (lightweights).we took plenty of pictures while there.
I was also disappointed with the staff through the week as didn't see to many smiles from them generally they were rather grumpy which I was told is because they were coming to the end of their contract and probably tired.
I remember speaking to the entertainment staff and I said this ship is nowhere near as good as the Epic and they replied “we know it’s not” honesty I love it!
The staff in the dining room were in general pretty poor looked like they were wondering round like headless chickens, quite often we waited ages for our main like 45 minutes one night which was not the best.
The food on the ship also was not up to much as I had dinner in the main restaurant the Manhattan room several times and Taste which the menu does not change much by the day it’s either the steak or the chicken which isn't up to much.
It’s the same on the Epic to be fair so I knew what to expect.
Did also eat at the Brazilian with my friends which was good actually but you have to pay for this even though it’s only about $20 which is fair. Make sure you wear lose pants as all that meat takes its toll on your belt buckle.You have a red and green card on the table to tell them if you want more food or not.
On the last night we had a group dinner in Shanghai’s Noodle Bar $20 charge which was really nice we all got merry and enjoyed our last supper together was quite emotional as these people had become like a family to me. The chefs entertained us and we had a few glasses of wine (why not we had the drinks package). Pretty boy John made his big speech and loved all the attention, hey mate you done it with style, respect to you pal .
Having been on the NCL Epic 3 times I found myself rather disappointed with the Breakaway as it just cannot compare with the Epic which is a shame. I read many reviews before going on the ship and the views were consistently the same complaining about bad layout, overcrowding, bad food, lack of sun beds but I went with an open mind and decided to judge for myself and to be honest most of the complaints are pretty spot on.
There are some positives about the ship the climbing frame is awesome and the water park second to none at sea.
It’s a real shame as this ship could be so much better as if they had taken the good bits from the Epic and added them to the Breakaway then this ship would be awesome but they decided to go with a new layout try to pack way too much into the activity decks and by doing so have overcrowded them making the ship feel smaller than it really is. My hope is that they learn their lessons even though probably too late for the getaway as already built but with the 2 new ships in the pipeline(bliss and escape) there is still time to change the bad bits and get it right. Can hire me for a fee NCL I will sort it for you.
For all my complaining about the Breakaway I still had the time of my life due to awesome friends I met, who said if you go on holiday by yourself it will be boring? Within a couple of hours I had made about a dozen friends and why? because of you Norwegian!, one of the best moves you have ever made was to care about the solo guest and create the studio cabins and on behalf of all singles we thank you very much for thinking of us(Royal Caribbean) listen up and get with the programme as more and more singles will start going by themselves in the future and thanks to Norwegian we get to feel special.
I will definitely return to Norwegian but think I will stick to my second home the Epic which still is my favorite by a long way.
We love you Norwegian just put the mood lighting back 😉