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Norwegian Breakaway

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Norwegian Cruise Line long has been a pioneer in creating a contemporary cruising experience, most notably with its Freestyle philosophy, which deconstructs the traditional style of cruising (set dining times, fewer dining options, set schedules and relatively limited entertainment options). Instead, Breakaway offers resort-like, rather than ship-like, entertainment and dining. While other cruise lines have been catching on to this style, Norwegian Breakaway -- the largest ship in Norwegian's fleet, along with nearly identical sister Norwegian Getaway -- outpaces its competitors with sheer number of restaurants, shows and entertainment venues. Our experience onboard a seven-night cruise felt so much like a jam-packed stay at a really good Las Vegas resort that we only remembered we were on a ship when looking out to sea.

This is a good thing. Our time on Breakaway was a fantastic experience with so much to do that the only downside was we simply didn't have time to try everything.

That said, Norwegian Breakaway is not for everyone, especially those on either extreme of the traditional cruising spectrum. Norwegian claims Freestyle means "what you want when you want it," an appealing concept for those who wish to be spontaneous and in control of their vacation experience. However, to make the most of your time onboard, you really must plan ahead and make reservations before your trip (or early in the cruise), especially when it comes to dining in speciality restaurants or booking spa treatments. While you can take your chances and walk in, you need to give up some flexibility so as not to miss out.

On the flip side, Breakaway is also not a ship for those who prefer cruise traditions. The only old-school elements are singles gatherings, a small library (best to bring your own books) and mainstream ports. There's little true enrichment, and it can be hard to mingle with other passengers.

Anyone who cruises Breakaway should know the cruise fare is a starter price. While many restaurants and activities are included in the cruise fare, it's really the extras that create a special experience. You have the choice to spend extra on exclusive spaces such as the Vibe Beach Club and the spa's thermal suite, on a handful of entertainment offerings or on speciality restaurants. For a more traditional cruise traveller, that approach can seem like nickel and diming, but for those accustomed to resort stays, it's quite similar.

The beauty of Breakaway is you can opt not to pay extra and still enjoy great outdoor spaces like Spice H2O and The Waterfront, all of the ship's marquee entertainment, and dining at the lovely, casual Uptown Grill buffet and O'Sheehans pub, not to mention delicious menus at Taste and Savor, two sit-down restaurants. No matter your cruising style, Breakaway offers a terrific experience.

Daytime: Casual dress is the norm for Breakaway, as that's what Norwegian's Freestyle Cruising is all about.

Evening: Though passengers are encouraged to "dress up" one night (e.g. suits for men and anything from cocktail dresses to gowns for women) for pictures, maybe 25 percent do. Khakis, linen pants and collared or cabana shirts are common for men at night, while women tend to wear sundresses or skirts or nice pants with blouses most evenings. Shorts also are common throughout the day and sometimes into the evening, depending on the dining venue.

Not permitted: Shoes are required in all dining venues and restaurants such as the Manhattan Room, Cagney's and Le Bistro require a collared shirt and slacks (shorts don't count). Tank tops and baseball caps are also never permitted.

Theatre

The 800-seat Breakaway Theater hosts the ship's most elaborate singing and dancing extravaganzas. It's here you'll find the Broadway musical "Rock of Ages," a boy-meets-girl love story set with an '80s soundtrack and backdrop. (The content is a bit racy, with language to match, so parents of young children might want to consider other options.) The super-popular "Burn the Floor" is a dance revue show that is slickly choreographed and extremely energetic (the sweat literally flies off the male dancers), taking in a variety of different genres and styles that range from Latin and Rock to '50s. The 55-minute show has no storyline or dialogue, but the dancers are backed with a live band and a singer. Note: "Burn the Floor" is also performed, one night, in the Manhattan Room.

While there's no charge for any performance in the Breakaway Theater, it does operate on a ticket system. Shows are offered at varying times -- and on varying dates -- to ensure that anyone who wants to go has a chance. (We liked "Burn the Floor" so much we went twice.) The ticket office is just outside the theatre, and operating hours are posted in the Freestyle Daily.

Daily Fun

The ship's three-deck Atrium is abuzz with activity throughout the day. There's morning trivia, a Nintendo U Dance 4 competition, towel animal folding and cooking demonstrations, dance classes and a "Deal or No Deal" game.

Elsewhere, other activities include wine tastings, seminars for detoxing and puffy eyes, bingo, an international crew talent show, art auctions and solo travellers' meet and greets. The once-a-cruise "Wine Lovers The Musical," offers a wine tasting event, with lunch, framed in a Broadway-esque musical-comedy setting (see Dining section).

At Night

Evenings are punctuated by music all over Norwegian Breakaway. Hotspots include the Atrium, where a duet sings pop tunes; Maltings, where you can listen to guitar music; and Shakers, the ship's martini bar, host to yet another duo.

A highlight onboard is the fabulous Howl at the Moon, a duelling piano show, where singing along and making requests is encouraged.

The popular Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club was replaced during a summer 2018 refurbishment with the new-to-NCL American rock 'n' roll bar and lounge, Syd Norman's Pour House. Modelled after influential rock houses such as CBGB's, The Rainbow and the Fillmore, the space features vintage decor, diner-style seating and a playlist of classic rock from the late 1960s to 1980s. Three times a week, cast members from "Rock of Ages" treat passengers to speciality cocktails during an interactive Syd Norman's Experience. Six nights a week a five-person rock band plays classic rock 'n' roll hits. 

Gamblers will find all the usual slot machines (303 in total) and table games on Breakaway, though the layout is a bit different than it is on other ships. Rather than just one large square area, the Breakaway casino is centred on the 678 Ocean Place circular staircase and expands out in several directions.

Post-dinner, Spice H2O, on Deck 16 aft, is transformed from an adults-only pool area to an adults-only entertainment venue with a massive television screen, dance floor and bar. Themed events include a 1970s "disco groove" bash, a "glow" party where everyone is given light sticks to wave around, and a tribute to the 1980s dance party.

Norwegian Breakaway Bars and Lounges

At night, more than a dozen bars and lounges hum with activity. On pleasant evenings, there's nowhere more special to be than outside on The Waterfront on Deck 8, where Maltings Beer and Whiskey Bar and Shaker's Cocktail Bar have alfresco seating. (A heads-up: These are very popular with passengers who wish to smoke.)

During the day, one of the quietest spots to have a drink is at the Uptown Bar and Grill; we also love the Atrium Bar when there is no entertainment going on (fairly rare, alas). It's got a handful of tables and a key location near a bakery stocked with delicious pastries. Another find away from crowds was the bar located within the adult-only Spice H20.

Norwegian Breakaway offers a variety of beverage packages, from sodas to wine to cocktails and these can be a good value. In general, the wine selection was rather utilitarian though bottles were priced fairly.

Mixx Bar (Deck 6): A great place to meet-up before dinner, Mixx Bar is located in the centre of the hallway between the Savor and Taste dining rooms.

Atrium Bar (Deck 6): Open from morning to night, the circular Atrium Bar is a fabulous spot for participating in Atrium-oriented activities or simply just people-watching.

O'Sheehans Bar (Deck 7): O'Sheehans Bar, adjacent to the casual eatery of the same name, serves up casual bites and the ship's best selection of beers. The most fun bar at sea, it's the place for games, from a pared-down pair of bowling lanes to carnival games and darts. (Note, though, that most charge a fee to play.) O'Sheehans also offers fantastic atrium viewing; its circular bar and stools face directly onto the atrium's two-deck-high flat screen.

Bliss Ultra Lounge (Deck 7): Located in a dark, inside room illuminated only by crazy, colourful light installations, Bliss Ultra Lounge serves as the ship's late-night disco.

Prime Meridian (Deck 8): Located in between Moderno Churrascaria and Cagney's Steakhouse, Prime Meridian offers a clubby ambience and a quiet respite at its circular bar. We particularly love the comfy armchairs scattered around.

Maltings Beer and Whiskey Bar (Deck 8): A convivial spot along the Waterfront, Maltings offers indoor and outdoor seating. Inside, the bar features dark leather chairs and two large-screen TVs. The theme continues outside, with wooden bar stools and a black marble bar. One downside to Maltings -- for those sensitive to smoke, anyway -- is that its outdoor bar is a smoker-friendly spot and inside, where smoking is not permitted, passengers might still catch a whiff from the adjacent Humidor Cigar Lounge.

Shakers Cocktail Bar (Deck 8): It's no secret that Shaker's is the ship's best martini spot. It's also an indoor-outdoor venue.

Svedka Ice Bar (Deck 8): Inside the Svedka Ice Bar, the temperature's a frosty 17 degrees Fahrenheit. The bar features New York-inspired drinks made of vodka and/or Inniskillen ice wine; nonalcoholic beverages are offered as well. The cover charge ($20 per person) includes two drinks -- and the use of a warm parka.

Waves Pool Bar and Waves Bar (Deck 15): These bars serve passengers in the pool area and also those who patronize the ship's Garden Cafe buffet venue.

Uptown Bar & Grill (Deck 16): The grill is a terrific casual alternative to the Garden Cafe, while the bar itself is under cover -- and thus offers a place to get out of the sun.

Vibe Beach Club Bar (Deck 16): At this fee-extra beach club bar, tucked away forward, the bar serves a full range of cocktails and specializes in festive beach drinks.

Spice H20 (Deck 16): This corner bar is part of the adults-only Spice H20 pool area and is open day and night.

The Haven Lounge (Deck 16): Open only for residents of Breakaway's exclusive Haven area, the lounge has a full bar and a particularly good selection of wine and Champagne.

Outside Recreation

Pools

Breakaway's main pool is on Deck 15, midship, and it's flanked by four hot tubs. On a ship packed with families, we found the pool -- and the deck space around it -- to be cramped and insufficient for the capacity. Deckchair saving was rampant.

The Haven, the ship's luxury area, has its own pool on Deck 16, and two decks of lounge seating. It's available only to residents of the Haven.

Kids must be potty trained to use onboard pools.

Recreation

Adjacent to the main pool, the Aqua Park offers Norwegian's largest variety of waterslides, including two that send you into a 360-degree spin before spitting you into the pool and two side-by-side Free Fall slides in which daredevils are plunged 250 feet (when a trapdoor beneath their feet opens) into a looping tunnel.

A splash area for kids is located next door to the main water park. Kids may wear swim diapers here.

The ship packs a lot of outdoor action into decks 15 through 18. One of the ship's absolute highlights is its fabulous Sky Trail, a vertigo-inducing ropes course that includes a bungee trampoline, zip-line and an 8-foot-long "plank" that extends over the side of the ship -- with nothing between you and the lifeboats 10 decks below. Kids must be at least 48 inches tall to climb Sky Trail.

A rock-climbing wall, also with height restrictions, and nine-hole miniature golf course are located next to the Sky Trail. Climb a set of stairs to Deck 18, and the Sports Court provides a spot for basketball and soccer. Tucked away in a corner is the Spider Web, a six-story crawl space that requires a slide ride down. Little ones will love it.

Sun Decks

As noted, prime pool-adjacent sun deck areas are cramped and crowded, and a lawless spirit of deck chair hogs pervades. But there are numerous areas, especially on decks 16 and 17, where chaise lounges are often available. They're still packed in like sardines, but you can usually find one, even during prime time on sea days. One nice touch: Crewmembers offer cool towels on hot days.

SpiceH2O on Deck 16 is a lovely space with a two-deck-high flat screen that during sunbathing hours is fairly tame. It's off-limits for kids, and crew enforced the policy. It's free to use at all hours of the day. At night, it heats up; this is where most of the ship's theme parties take place.

Vibe Beach Club, on Deck 16, is another adults-only space with a pair of whirlpools, cosy wicker chair/sofa set-ups, and a handful of extra-fee cabanas. It sells only a limited number of daily and weekly passes, so deck chairs are always available for all. The fee ($79 for the week; $20 per day) to use Vibe includes water spritzers, chilled towels and fruit skewers.

Norwegian Breakaway Services

Passenger service areas such as the shore excursion desk and the purser's desk are located on Deck 6, adjacent to the atrium. Also here is a restaurant reservation desk, open throughout the day. Menus are available to help you make your choice.

The library and card room are tucked away behind the atrium on Deck 6. In the card room, you'll find old standards like Yahtzee, Trivial Pursuit and other games, while the library offers a very small selection of books and e-books for borrowing. Both rooms also host the Rockettes mini-museum as a nod to Breakaway's godmothers; in the card room, you'll find photo timelines, and in the library is a display of costumes.

A small Internet cafe with 12 workstations is nestled into a corner of the atrium, also on Deck 6. You'll pay 59 cents a megabyte for pay-as-you-go, but you can purchase data plans -- the only ship in the fleet that offers them -- which will reduce the cost (300 mb for $59 or 1000 mb for $125).

Click Photo Gallery and shopping are on Deck 8. Breakaway features traditional cruise-ship shopping, including fine jewellery, duty-free alcohol and cigarettes, various sundries, clothing and accessories, and lots of Breakaway-branded items.

There are no self-service laundry facilities on Breakaway.

Spa

The spa on Norwegian Breakaway, operated by Mandara, is about 40 percent larger than the spas on the line's other ships (excluding Epic and Getaway). Offerings include treatments such as massages, body wraps and facials. A barber shop for men offers shaves, grooming treatments, facials, manicures and pedicures, and, yes, haircuts.

The women's salon, across the hall, offers a full range of nail and hair services.  A Medi-Spa offers treatments such as acupuncture, cosmetic services like Botox and teeth whitening.

A full range of couples-themed experiences is offered, including a couples massage and bathing ritual, and steam Rasul therapy. The Teen and Kid Spa, for the under-18 crowd, features "fabulous fruity facials," a "father/son chill out massage," a "mother/daughter paradise massage" and styling sessions.

Also in the spa is the ship's thermal suite, which costs $199 per person for a weeklong sailing and is capacity-controlled. It's a lovely, serene space with steam rooms, a dry sauna, a Vitality pool, hot tubs, waterfalls and heated tile loungers. Two small salt rooms encrusted with layers of salt crystals said to improve respiratory problems and skin ailments, are also located in the thermal suite.

Fitness

Breakaway's fitness area on Deck 15 is extensive, and the cardio area is smartly separated from the weight-lifting area. Each offers a solid variety of equipment: exercise bikes, ellipticals, treadmills and a rowing machine in the cardio area, as well as dumbbells up to 100 pounds, barbells, Smith machines, weight racks and resistance machines in the weight area. The layout is a bit odd, though, in that rooms are especially long, so there's a bit of tripping over other exercisers, especially in the weight area.

Breakaway also offers classes, including the wildly popular TRX suspension training, Flywheel indoor cycling, Pilates, bootcamp, Fight Klub and yoga. While most classes incur additional fees, ranging from $12 to $30, it does offer a number of free options, such as abs and stretching classes. Rockettes exercise classes, taught by Rockettes-trained instructors, are also complimentary.

The jogging track on Deck 16 is one lane, so it will get a little tight when crowded, though it wasn't a problem when we were onboard. You'll have to run eight laps to get a mile. We didn't see walkers on the track; perhaps they preferred to walk The Waterfront on Deck 8.

Norwegian Breakaway Restaurants

Free Fee
  • Savor
  • Le Bistro
  • Taste
  • Teppanyaki
  • The Manhattan Room
  • Cagney's
  • O'Sheehan's
  • La Cucina
  • Shanghai's Noodle Bar
  • Moderno Churrascaria
  • Garden Cafe
  • Ocean Blue
  • Uptown Grill
  • The Raw Bar
  • The Haven Restaurant
  • Ocean Blue on The Waterfront

 

  • Chef's Table
 
  • The Bake Shop
 
  • Wasabi

Free Dining

Freestyle is the norm when it comes to dining on Breakaway. This means you can eat virtually when you want, where you want. This applies to the free or included dining, as well as extra-fee dining. Traditionalists will love the three "main dining rooms": The Manhattan Room and more-intimate options, Taste and Savor. Quality is generally good, thanks in part to Norwegian's 2014 drive to improve all of its dining options. (Passengers had complained about the declining quality, and the line listened, investing in new menu options and improving on standards.) Vegetarian and healthy options are always available at these three venues.

Savor (Deck 6): Savor, like Taste, its identical counterpart, has restaurant-style dining at breakfast (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.), lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.) and dinner (5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.) Menus are largely the same throughout the cruise. Options at the two restaurants are identical, and decor is similar. For lunch, you'll get casual and tasty meals such as salmon burgers, meatball subs, shrimp and arugula salad and Vietnamese chicken pho (soup). At dinner, choose from entrees like pork loin, steak salad and Indian curry, and desserts like pecan pie, creme caramel or a warm chocolate volcano. Hot breakfast options include eggs prepared to order, pancakes, waffles, French toast, hot and cold cereals, pastries, fruit and fruit juices.

Taste (Deck 6): Located across the corridor from Savor, Taste offers an identical ambience and menu at slightly different times, and it doesn't open for lunch. Otherwise, breakfast (8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) and dinner (5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.) offer the same menus daily, with specials each day.

The Manhattan Room (Deck 7): While the Manhattan Room offers the same menu throughout the week as its counterparts Savor and Taste, what's unique in this venue is that it's styled as a supper club, with a large dance floor, live band, and gorgeous views out the aft-facing multi-deck window. The Manhattan Room is open for dinner only, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Make sure to save room for dessert: The line's signature Opera Cake, made from almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup with a coffee creme anglaise and candied almonds, is worth a splurge.

O'Sheehan's (Deck 7): One of the most popular venues aboard Breakaway, O'Sheehan's is open 24 hours a day, though breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. It's mostly pub fare. In the morning, its English breakfast (eggs, bacon, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes) will really jump-start your day. Beyond that, there's excellent fish and chips, burgers, chicken wings and French fries. O'Sheehan's Ice Cream Bar is the only place where you need to spend money; it offers chocolate sundaes and milkshakes for a fee.

Shanghai's Noodle Bar (Deck 7): Tucked in a corner beside the casino, the noodle bar was one of our favourite dining spots onboard. Grab a stool at the bar and, courtesy of the open kitchen, watch the show as chefs slice, dice, steam and fry delectable potstickers, shrimp dumplings, beef chow fun, and Peking shrimp and chicken. We loved the noodles, which either come with broth or from the wok (the Singapore Noodles were a favourite). Dessert's got two choices -- there's chilled mango pudding and five-spice chocolate cake. Our only beef with Shanghai's is that it's open for limited hours at lunch and dinner -- this would be a great spot for all-day dining.

Garden Cafe (Deck 15): Breakaway's buffet venue, the Garden Cafe is open for breakfast (7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.), lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.). There's also an early riser's light breakfast (6 a.m. to 7 a.m.) and late-night noshing (9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.). The venue, which wraps around three sides of the ship, is divided into different food stations (hot breakfast food in one cafeteria line, cold cereals in another, fresh fruit in yet an additional area) but lines form habitually and the scene is a bit chaotic. The food is steam table fare and is adequate if you want a quick snack break from the pool deck, but seating is tight when the ship is full and the Garden Cafe can feel extremely cramped. At dinner, its themed menus -- from Asian to Mexican -- show the Garden Cafe at its best. With so many other options for evening dining, the venue's not crowded, and the fresh-rolled sushi -- prepared on the spot -- and wok dishes on the Asian night were delicious.

Uptown Grill (Deck 16): Just upstairs and offering a nice respite from the crowds in the Garden Cafe is the Uptown Grill. This more intimate buffet venue focuses on comfort foods, like sweet and savoury pies, sausages, grilled burgers and fried eggs. On our trip, it took passengers a while to find it, so it was rarely crowded.

The Haven Restaurant (Deck 16): Passengers who book Haven category accommodations -- the nicest onboard Norwegian Breakaway -- are entitled to dine at an exclusive restaurant located within the Haven complex. There's no charge for qualified passengers, and the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The menus are dynamic and delicious but do not change throughout the cruise, assuming that even Haven guests want to sample other restaurants onboard. For breakfast, the menu includes crab cakes benedict, steak and eggs, and open-faced omelettes. Lunch features bistro fare, like smoked salmon, shrimp cocktail, swordfish and beef burgers. Dinner's menu offers the most choices; these include starters such a gazpacho, polenta cake, Ahi tuna and a delicious shrimp cake. Entrees such as pan-seared scallops, chicken breast and New York Strip steak with white truffle fries are featured. The restaurant's signature dessert is its warm espresso chocolate brownie (but the banana cream pie's also dishy).

Room Service: Offered 24 hours, the room service menu features Continental breakfast fare, soups, sandwiches and a handful of entrees. Passengers who reside in suite accommodations, including but not limited to the Haven, can order hot breakfast items, as well. Room service is free for Haven and suite passengers, but all other room service orders are subject to a convenience fee of up to $9.95 per order. It's also considered appropriate to tip the delivery person a few bucks.

Fee restaurants

One of Norwegian's greatest strengths, across its fleet, is the vast range of dining options, and Breakaway ups the ante on variety. Passengers can try a steakhouse, French bistro, Brazilian churrascaria, Asian Teppanyaki, a seafood restaurant and a raw bar, an Italian trattoria and a noodle bar. All speciality and entertainment dining carries an 18 percent auto-gratuity.

Nearly half of the restaurants on Norwegian Breakaway fall into the extra fee category. 

If you want to make sure you have the chance to dine at specific alternative restaurants, you can book before your cruise via Norwegian's website. We highly recommend that you do that. Otherwise, you can reserve onboard or, if you want to play it by ear, keep an eye on monitors throughout the ship that show how full (or empty) restaurants are by the half-hour.

Also, if you're planning to eat in more than a few fee-extra restaurants, you might want to buy a dining package. For a per person  fee (and all passengers in a cabin must purchase the plan), you'll get dinner access to most of the restaurants onboard. There's a kids' policy in these restaurants; kids 4 to 12 who order from the restaurant menu pay a half-price surcharge. Those who order from the ship's standard children's menu eat for free.

A heads-up: Even in the fee-extra alternative restaurants, diners still pay extra for coffees like espresso, cafe latte and cappuccino.

Most fee restaurants are open for dinner only, from roughly 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Ocean Blue on the Waterfront, Shanghai Noodle Bar and Wasabi Sushi are open for lunch, generally from noon to 2 p.m.

Le Bistro (Deck 6); a la carte: The French-influenced Le Bistro offers classic French fare with an American twist. Incidentally, this venue was the contemporary cruise industry's first alternative restaurant (on a ship no longer operated by Norwegian). With floor-to-ceiling glass windows fronting a mini-atrium, the venue offers great people watching from inside. Menu highlights include starters like escargot, steamed mussels and Coquilles St. Jacques Provencal (seared scallops). One interesting reasonably new addition is Les Quatre Cornets, four cones filled with savoury tastes from duck confit to smoked chicken salad.

Main entrees heavily favour classic Bistro dishes, and you'll find delicious pork with Calvados cream, butter-roasted lobster tail, bouillabaisse, coq au vin, a decadent duck duo and a 32-ounce Cote de Boeuf (to be shared). Desserts were right on point as well, and the chocolate fondue is just fantastic.

One disappointment: Le Bistro's wine list offers way more American than French wines.

Teppanyaki (Deck 6); $29.95 per person: Consider a night at Teppanyaki to be dinner and a show, with the chef as star. At this 96-seat venue, which sells out just about every night, chefs send onions, eggs and vegetables flying through the air before the ingredients are turned into flavorful meals. Entrees include combinations of chicken, beef and seafood (including lobster) served with miso soup, ginza salad, vegetables and garlic fried rice. Green tea cake and fruit sashimi are dessert options.

Cagney's (Deck 8); a la carte: One of the most popular restaurants on any Norwegian ship, Cagney's is a steakhouse (with terrific seafood). On one side, it's bounded by The Waterfront promenade -- and has outdoor seating. On the other, it overlooks The Manhattan Room, the ship's supper club. And in the centre, there's an open kitchen, always abuzz with activity. The menu is superb, with so many choices you could dine there numerous times. Particular specialities include steaks, of course; grilled rib eye, New York strip and filet mignon are all available, with a choice of sauces like Cajun seasoning, Dijon mustard, garlic butter and pepper. Other options for meat-eaters include smoked ribs, truffle chicken, grilled bison and lamb chops. There's also a lobster and shrimp entree, and the sea bass is delicious. For starters, the split pea soup -- a broth, not a cream -- was so fresh and delicious we wondered if the chef had a garden somewhere onboard. The salad range is impressive, as well.

La Cucina (Deck 8); a la carte: Ambience-wise, La Cucina, the ship's Italian restaurant, is warm, cosy, family-friendly (lots of big tables) and has its own bar and even a pizza oven, not to mention tables outside on The Waterfront. The menu itself is reminiscent of The Olive Garden; it hits the expected dishes but offers few surprises for those who've travelled in Italy. So you'll find, as starters, bruschetta, salads like Caesar and caprese, and a minestrone soup option. Entrees include chicken parmesan, osso buco, pork marsala and rib-eye. The pasta choices are of the comfort food variety and there's spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccini carbonara, spaghetti with sausage, and lasagna -- in both meat-lovers and vegetarian varieties. Risotto is also offered. For us the stand-out was the freshly prepared pizza menu; we loved the Salsiccia e pancetta (mozzarella, Italian sausage and pancetta) and the peperoncio (mozzarella, beef and garlic). Despite our lukewarm experience with the food, the dinner-only restaurant is quite popular and could easily be a solid option for lunch, as well, especially with its alfresco seating.

Moderno Churrascaria (Deck 8); $24.95 per person: If you're planning a visit to the Brazilian inspired Moderno Churrascaria for dinner, here's a tip: Try not to eat much all day. Located across from Cagney's (and with similar alfresco seating), the venue is a carnivore's dream. You start off by helping yourself to cold appetizers from the best salad bar onboard. There's plenty for vegetarians with potato salad, artisan cheeses, fresh vegetables, roasted garlic, and hearts of palm, as well as cured meats. Then the show begins as "gauchos" (aka waiters) bring around a variety of meats that they shave off skewers onto your plate. You're given a disc to place on your table that's green on one side (which means more meat!) and red (stop!). The offerings include Portuguese sausages, lamb, both beef and pork ribs, lime-infused chicken, filet mignon, and garlic beef, among others. Sides are served family-style; there's rice, garlic mashed potatoes, black beans, and the most delicious sweet fried bananas. Dessert, if you've got room, is on the light side -- coconut flan and mango rice pudding were good choices.

Ocean Blue (Deck 8); a la carte: Positioned as the ship's most upmarket restaurant, seafood-oriented Ocean Blue is a date night spot, elegant and sleek. It's located on The Waterfront Promenade, but the outside tables are rather too close to a cigar smoking area. The menu by the one-time Iron Chef features starters such as a delicious curry and carrot bisque, mussels in chicken confit, and a fried chickpea salad. For entrees, there's wild salmon, crab risotto, sea bass, monkfish and the restaurant's signature dish, Dover sole. Carnivores will find Delmonico steak and Peking duck on the menu as well. Dessert options include a cheese plate, a gorgeous lemon tart with fresh blueberries, and apple strudel with aged cheddar cheese and whiskey sauce.

This restaurant was often one of the only alternative venues to have spare tables each night. But if you're celebrating something special, don't take chances and make a reservation.

The Raw Bar (Deck 8); a la carte: A companion restaurant to Ocean Blue, the raw bar -- it's literally a bar facing outward into Deck 8 -- features snacks and seafood along with a superb wine list. Crudo options include salmon tartare, tuna, yellowtail and black bass ceviche. Prices range from $6 to $7 per item. The menu offers a range of shellfish, all at market price, including oysters, prawns, clams and even a half-pound Maine lobster. Desserts, which are identical to those served in Ocean Blue, cost about $3.50 apiece. Open for lunch and dinner, The Raw Bar was never too crowded.

Ocean Blue on The Waterfront (Deck 8); a la carte: It's a terrific option for lobster roll and crab toast and other casual fare -- think boardwalk-style food with an upscale twist. Dishes here are inspired by the more upscale Ocean Blue, but seating is outdoors and much more casual. It's open for lunch only.

Wasabi (Deck 8); a la carte: Another good option for lunch and dinner is Wasabi, which specializes in freshly made sushi and sashimi. Price, per piece, ranges from $2.25 to $4.50. Also offered are Yakitori dishes, grilled and accompanied by dipping sauce; varieties include Tsukune (chicken dumplings), Gyu (short rib), Ika (squid), and Kuruma Ebi (prawn); price ranges from $2 to $3.50 per piece.

The Bake Shop (Deck 8); a la carte: This bakery is located on the Waterfront and sells cream-filled pastries, cannolis, "lobster tails," cupcakes, biscotti and elaborate cakes. Right outside the bakery is the Gelato Bar for yummy ice cream. It's open from noon to 5 p.m. daily. A second cafe on Deck 6 also serves up a smaller sampling of baked goods. Prices range from $2.50 for ice cream to $49.95 for a cake.

Chef's Table (Deck 16 in the Haven); $99 per person: A spectacular dinner with wine pairings, this once-a-cruise event is seriously limited in size (there's only room for 12-passengers) so sign up early. The gracious, three-hours-plus meal starts with cocktails in the Haven's lounge -- typically open only to residents of the ship's chic luxury complex. There you're greeted by the ship's executive chef, who stays close by throughout the evening to not only introduce each course but also describe its preparation; a sommelier is also present to discuss each wine pairing. The multicourse meal features small tastes of a variety of dishes -- decadently creamy asparagus and cauliflower flan, veal chop with truffle veal jus and plantain crusted sea bass, to name a few -- and doesn't leave you overstuffed at the end. The service and hospitality were superb, the cuisine and wines top-notch. What really made the evening special for us was the chance to dine with 11 other passengers who were equally interested in food and wine and get to know them.

Cirque Dreams and Dinner (Deck 6); $39.99 for Cirque Dreams and Dinner; $24.99 for Wine Lovers the Musical: A sort of theatre-in-the-round, The Cirque Dreams and Dinner show in the Spiegel Tent has a jungle-themed twist. Lots of animal-print fabrics adorn the interior, where acrobats dressed as various African animals perform gravity-defying feats while patrons dine on shrimp and steak. A handful of the acts are definite stunners, and the show is family-friendly. The mediocre three-course, banquet-quality set menu features shrimp and filet mignon as the entrees, and the service is haphazard. "Wine Lovers the Musical" takes place at lunchtime only. The 50-minute show encourages giggle-worthy audience participation in addition to a sampling of three white wines and three reds. You'll also get a Prosecco at the end for a toast with the actors. Food options include banquet-style dishes served to maximize efficiency and minimize interruptions. Menu options include a duck and asparagus salad, steak and Cajun shrimp, and a mochacino cheesecake.

On Norwegian Breakaway, there are 2,014 cabins in 11 main categories, including 42 cabins in The Haven, Norwegian's exclusive suite-only area (with gated access to a private pool, workout area and concierge). It has 356 adjoining cabins and 42 wheelchair-accessible cabins.

Generally, cabins are decorated in a light-coloured palette, with dark wood finishes, and feature 26-inch flat-screen TVs, tufted leather headboards, minibars and hair dryers. Each cabin comes with two lower beds that can be converted into a queen-sized bed. One nitpick: While cabins, shelves and nooks abound for clothing and gadgets, you won't find drawers. Still, we didn't run out of room to stow our stuff, instead stowing our T-shirts and delicates on shelves in the closet.

In the name of energy-efficiency, all cabins require key cards to operate lighting and power, which makes it difficult to charge devices while you're away from your cabin. (Tip: The key cards are credit card-sized, so just slip any card inside should you need to charge gadgets while you are out. Just beware that some stewards might remove the renegade cards.) All cabins also feature an intriguing lighting system that notifies stewards when passengers don't want to be disturbed, are ready for their cabins to be made up or are away.

In general, bathrooms are spacious. Shampoo/conditioner and body wash dispensers are available in all showers. Lotion is not provided, so pack your own. Those staying in balcony cabins and above receive robes for use during their cruises.

Interior: Inside cabins start at 151 square feet and are located on various decks throughout the ship. Each Family Inside cabin, also 151 square feet, can accommodate up to four passengers with two twin beds and one or two pull-down beds, a bathroom with shower and little living space. A number of these cabins offer connecting options, for larger families. Norwegian was thinking ahead here; most of these cabins are located on Decks 12 and 13, near the kids' areas.

Oceanview: At 161 square feet, Oceanview cabins aren't much different than Inside cabins except, of course, they feature picture windows. Family versions of the Oceanview sacrifice living space for large bathtubs.

Balcony: Balcony cabins offer slightly more space, at 226 square feet. Balconies are small, but each comes with a stool-sized table and two chairs. Those who yearn for larger balconies should book the aptly named Large Balcony cabins (245 square feet), located on Deck 9.

Minisuites: This cabin category provides slightly more space than standard balcony cabins, though balconies are still on the small side. Square footage varies greatly depending on deck location and category; it ranges from 239 square feet to 585 square feet. Mini-Suite passengers have king-sized beds and larger bathrooms that feature double sinks and oversized showers with fabulous body spray jets. Mini-Suites with Large Balconies are also available. Aft-Facing Mini-Suites are 513 to 585 square feet, with larger balconies.

Suites: Passengers who seek privacy -- even on a 4,000-passenger ship -- will get just that in The Haven, which requires a key card for exclusive access and features 24-hour butler service, concierge service and access to a private courtyard area with a small pool. An exclusive lounge and restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Note: Not all Haven suites are located within the facility; 22 are in other parts of the ship. Those who stay in either Forward-Facing (452 square feet) or Aft-Facing (655 to 824 square feet) Penthouses, located outside The Haven, will also have access to Haven amenities.

Courtyard Penthouses (366 square feet) are also located inside the Haven area. The highlights of these cabins might be the huge walk-in closets. They also include a little space to sprawl: living and dining rooms and single sofa beds.

We were surprised to see that most of the Haven's suites, save for the most high-end categories, have comparatively small balconies.

Families looking to spread out can book one of the Haven's 20 Two-Bedroom Family Villas. At 543 square feet, each features two bedrooms and two bathrooms, along with separate living and dining rooms. Each master bathroom has an oversized oval tub that looks out over the sea. Family Villas can accommodate six passengers.

The Haven's two Owner's Suites come in at 572 square feet. These accommodate four passengers and have oversized tubs, freestanding showers, king-sized beds and separate cloakrooms in the living/dining areas.

The two Deluxe Owner's Suites, which also accommodate four, are 932 square feet and include wraparound balconies. Passengers can book one Owner's Suite and one Deluxe Owner's Suite and adjoin them to create one grand suite, which can accommodate up to eight people.

Studio: Banking on its solo success on Epic, Norwegian built 59 Studio cabins on Breakaway. Studios are even cosier than insides -- 100 square feet -- and feature just enough space for one passenger. The funky layout puts the sink in the living area to maximize square footage, and the circular shower is separate from the toilet space. Cabin decor is deep purple and white and also features a window looking out into the hall. For such a compact cabin, storage is pretty generous, whether in a pair of closets or in baskets tucked underneath the bed. There is a small desk/vanity.

Solo travellers staying in Studio cabins get the perk of access to the exclusive Studio Lounge on Decks 10 and 11. The shared private area has a 50-inch TV and a self-service wine bar, as well as a tea and coffee machine. Passengers who stay in this area tend to intermingle in the two-deck lounge and often form on-ship friendships with one another.

Spa: Spa cabins come in three categories; all offer complimentary access to the spa's thermal suite. Spa Balcony cabins (208 square feet) are located on Deck 14, adjacent to the Mandara Spa. They are decorated in soothing spa tones (browns and beiges). Spa Mini-Suites have more space at 239 square feet. At 309 square feet, Spa Suites are located inside the Haven, on Deck 14. They have in-suite whirlpools and give access to all Haven perks and privileges. Spa Suites also include oversized showers with waterfall showerheads and body jet sprays.

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