So as you’ll see from part one of my cruise diary from my trip aboard the NCL Breakaway, we were mightily impressed with all the facilities on board. A big part of ‘cruising like a Norwegian’ is the amount of flexibility in the choices you have: gone are ‘formal nights’ and, indeed, formal dressing for most of the restaurants, and instead you’ll find informal dining at a time that suits you. That’s not to say you can’t push the boat out, dress up and have a proper evening out, oh no – they even have a name for it: Norwegian’s Night Out is your chance to get dolled up in your favourite outfit and have some fun, but if you want to wander to the buffet in your shorts, that’s fine too. So dining aboard the Breakaway can be as formal or casual as you like. There are a wide range of complimentary dining experiences, and then there are several restaurants that charge a small fee. You can dine wherever you like, but if you want to dine at the speciality restaurants, it’s best to book (you can do this via the screen in your stateroom).
The largest and most informal dining area is the Garden Café Buffet. This is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serves pretty much anything you can think of: burgers, pizzas, snacks, roast dinners and everything in between, plus an amazing array of desserts, cookies, cakes and ice creams. At peak times, especially if the weather isn’t great, it can be very busy. Several of the speciality dining restaurants have breakfast buffets available that are quite quiet, so we tended to head there instead. Having said that, the food was hot, fresh and very good, so we often ended up here.
Near the main atrium, O’Sheehan’s Irish pub and restaurant is open 24 hours serving a good range of complimentary food: fish and chips, good burgers and a really good cooked breakfast. Beer lovers also told me their draft beer was good too.
Two restaurants either side of the central 678 Ocean Place area of the ship, one called Taste and the other Savor offer more formal dining. We were really impressed with the menus here (they serve more or less the same thing at both restaurants). The atmosphere was that of a ‘proper’ restaurant, with very good service and excellent food. Every time we went there was plenty of room, which surprised us as there is no booking needed.
Our favourite restaurant by far, though, was the Manhattan Room. This one is slightly more formal, so men are required to wear long trousers, closed toed shoes and a shirt with a collar. Shorts aren’t allowed either, and the dress code was rigorously enforced, which I felt kept the restaurant feeling like it was a special occasion. The menu is similar to both Taste and Savour but there were often special additions. The filet mignon was incredibly tender and full of flavour and they had several of my very favourite wines on their list (nice to see lots of American wines on there). One of the desserts was a pretty spectacular macchiato cheesecake. I was really disappointed that it wasn’t on the menu every night! One night we dined at the Manhattan, we were treated to a taster of the Burn the Floor ballroom show, which was absolutely incredible. It felt really special to watch the dancers as we were dining. Our waiters had a little bit of a dance as well, which cracked us up, especially as they were generally quite polite and reserved!
For a special night out (or frankly, just to experience top class dining at a fraction of the price you would in any other decent restaurant), the Breakaway has several restaurants where you pay a cover charge to dine. New York Chef and Iron Chef America star Geoffrey Zakarian has a lovely seafood restaurant called Ocean Blue on board ($49 cover charge) and there is also a pretty special place called Teppanyaki ($25 cover charge), where Japanese Teppanyaki chefs show off their crafts.
We really enjoyed the Brazilian themed Moderno Churasscaria ($20 cover charge) where ‘gauchos’ bring out loads of courses of amazing barbecued meats. They carry on bringing more and more to the table while you have your Moderno place card on green, meaning ‘yes please’, and only stop when you turn your card over to red, meaning ‘no more’. It’s great fun. The meats varied from more of that deliciously tender filet mignon and a gorgeously rosemary scented barbecued lamb, to spicy sausages and chicken. There’s also a huge salad bar with all sorts of accompaniments too.
There is also a very popular French Le Bistro ($20 cover charge) and the Italian La Cucina ($15 cover charge) jwhere our friends dined every night as they loved it so much. Both of these restaurants have outside space and seating in the lovely Waterfront area, meaning you can dine outside with a wonderful view of the sea. Just perfect.
We also took in a show at the Spiegel Tent. The ‘Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy’ show was incredible, with all sorts of breathtaking acts like contortionists, acrobats and dancers. The dinner served during the show was okay, but nothing special – a salad to start, a slightly overdone steak with a couple of prawns and some broccoli, plus a couple of small taster puddings – and we weren’t massively keen on being seated with complete strangers on long tables. I’d rather just watch the show and not dine as you can’t see what you’re eating anyway, and as you’re trying to look at your plate you’re missing the show, but I’m sure that’s just personal preference. The show more than made up for having to make polite conversation with my neighbour all evening.
Of course, after all this amazing food, it was imperative that I actually got off my bottom and did something active, so with Charlie happily away at the Entourage teen club, or whizzing down various slides, I headed off to the stylish Mandara Spa. I was lucky enough to have a week’s pass to the thermal suite ($199): a hydrotherapy courtyard with various saunas, steam rooms and a therapeutic salt room. The suite has a decent sized therapy pool with various different jets and fountains, plus two jacuzzis. I did actually swim, but it was also just lovely to lounge on one of the heated beds and read a book or just enjoy the view to the front of the ship of the sea shimmering all the way to the horizon. I chatted to a couple of the very friendly spa therapists from the UK about their range of Elemis treatments, and they also recommended getting a blow dry in the hair salon before a night out, which I thought was a lovely holiday treat. For the sporty types, there’s the very well equipped Pulse Fitness Center, and also loads of fitness sessions including yoga and boot camps.
Again, while you’re reading, I’ve been shortlisted in the Best Blogger category in the Cruise Awards 2014 – it would mean so much to me to win this as cruising really is a thing close to my heart, so please if you’ve got a minute, I’d be really delighted if you’d vote for me. Just click here (you don’t have to fill in all the categories if you don’t want to). Thank you x
VIRGIN HOLIDAYS CRUISES: 8-night New York Stay & Bahamas Cruise from £999pp
Departing on 15 November 2014, Virgin Holidays Cruises offers an eight-night New York Stay & Bahamas Cruise with one night at the 4V+ Westin New York at Times Square in the Big Apple before joining Norwegian Breakaway for seven nights on a Bahamas cruise, sailing from New York, calling at Port Canaveral (Florida), Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas) and Nassau (Bahamas). Price is per person based on two adults travelling, sharing an inside cabin on a full-board basis (cruise), room only accommodation in New York, Virgin Atlantic flights direct to New York from London Heathrow and Virgin Holidays Exclusive Extras including $100 per cabin onboard spend. Offer is subject to availability and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. To book, visit www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk, call 0844 488 3084 or visit one of our 130 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.