Norwegian Breakaway - Transatlantic from Southampton to New York
On the 18th October 2011, NCL announced their new ship, Norwegian Breakaway, would be doing a week long transatlantic from Southampton to New York on the 30th April 2013, just as Epic had in June 2010.  They went on sale the following day, so I filled in an enquiry form on the NCL site, asking for prices of a Studio and Oceanview.  Stuart from NCL phoned back on the 19th and said there were no preview cruises this time to give them extra time so there wasn’t a repeat of Epic’s issues.  We’ll see!  I booked OC 5828, an Oceanview for an unbelievable £1077 including flight!  Travel agents were selling it at a higher price without the airfare.  By July 2012, an overnight from Rotterdam to Southampton was on sale, arriving the day before this.  I paid it off on the 16th January after calling them since there was no online pay facility.  I was also given my flight home - yay! - though didn't get the actual flight details until the e-docs were ready, which you had to find as they kept saying in My NCL to complete online check-in.  It WAS complete and had been since last year but I did it again anyway and up came the docs.  The flight was Virgin Atlantic from JFK.  Never flown with them before and people say how great they are so I was looking forward to my first time.  Virgin virgin!

The day dawned.  Breakaway had arrived the day before and was continuing her showcase which began with British press on the overnight from Rotterdam I'd been told they wouldn't be doing, while others, including Becky from my local Thomas Cook, boarded for the night in Southampton.  Now they would all be booted off and it was the turn and me and many others.  I was even more excited as this would be my 50th cruise so something new to explore and celebrate on.  Two other ships were in with us, Crown Princess which was replacing Grand for a year and Mein Schiff 1.  Vision of the Seas was also originally in but they changed her itinerary when they moved drydocking to September instead of March.  I was wearing the Epic T-shirt I had on when I disembarked her disastrous 2010 overnight from Rotterdam and had my photo taken with the ship behind then so thought it was apt doing it for the other way.  I came to love Epic after the cruise from hell and am glad I returned in October 2011 to fully experience her.  Breakaway was supposed to have fixed her issues and made some changes so I couldn't wait to find out!  As I was in Mayflower Park, I received a text from Mark Kennedy, who was already in the terminal with wife Marie and in-laws Carol and Will, saying he hoped I had two copies of the ESTA (the 2 year visa non-Americans have to pay for to get in for those who don't know) otherwise I'd wait ten minutes for them to photocopy it.  ESTA???  NCL never said you needed to have a printed copy.  I phoned them up to ask if you did need to take one to hand over but she didn't understand what I was saying, insisting I need one to get into the US but kept missing the point of the printed copy they wanted at check-in.  I went to the Holiday Inn to see if they could help but then they had a power cut.  I had a feeling things were going against me or the trip was cursed.  She refunded my one hour lounge internet (£5 which is a bit pricey!) and suggested I try the DeVere.  No one let us cross the road so my dad grabbed my case and just went.  The power cut affected them too as well as Southampton generally, but then it came back on and I managed to print them off for free!  And so back to the terminal, where I said goodbye to my dad later than planned and headed to my new shippy.  I have to say, I wasn't a fan of the hull art when NCL introduced it but it's better to me now than boring white and this looks much better than the rendering.  City Terminal is my least favourite yet coincidentally the one I've been through most.  Unlike the rest, you have to go through security FIRST then check-in, which is a bugger.  There were about four people ahead of me when they stopped security due to the massive check-in queue.  Bottled-necked, the woman from Intercruises called it.  Bet it was because of those bloody ESTAs!  We were kept waiting over thirty minutes.  The bloke in front of me has done over one hundred cruises and his wife only two but she was really enjoying them.  Once through security, I was so glad to be a Latitudes member because I joined the really short queue to check-in.  I noticed a camera team and wondered who they were working for.  At the desk the woman was glad I had my ESTA copies and kept one then I was off to board that beautiful ship.  Unusually, one of the doors was open before the escalator and slightly cordoned off but you had enough space to pop out for pics.  Up we went and they did your boarding photo just outside the gangway.  Once onboard, I went to find by cabin and it was by a lovely wide corridor, the widest part as midships and above were narrower.  Not a lot I can say about the cabin except WOW!  No sofa which gave it far more space than it would have had.  No drawers, only shelves and the hangers in the wardrobe were white plastic, the wooden ones hidden inside the stool.  It was thanks to John Honeywell's (Captain Greybeard) Daily Mirror blog I knew about the switches for Make Up Room and Do Not Disturb.  A good idea as long as they work or the wires don't get crossed!  The bed and pillows were comfortable but the bed itself was higher than on other lines.  It was too easy to hit the picture on the wall though if you went to the right side as it was very narrow along there.  The bathroom was reminiscent of Celebrity Solstice class, understandable with the same yard building both.  The shower cubicle was either glass or plastic with a door which opens outwards and, like Celebrity, has a little ledge inside for ladies to put their feet on to shave their legs.  The shower head is detachable, unlike on Celebrity's, making that function much easier to do.  The TV had some awful channels and not even the webcam connected to channel 22.  It wasn't even a blank screen, just jumped from 21 (info channel) to 23 (BBC World News).  The room and bathroom were a definite improvement on Epic's and even the sockets were in full view, not hidden like Epic.  The slot for power can take even a business card but when you remove what you put in, the power goes off instantly rather than giving you a bit of time.  Phone signal on my phone was diabolical though.  I went to the Garden Cafe for some lunch, which is back to being aft though I do prefer it overlooking the bow as on Epic and even Vision of the Seas.  Unlike chief culprits P&O and Royal Caribbean, they don't shove bell peppers into everything or use them as garnish meaning I had a lot to choose from without worrying about my allergy.  I always said they have the best food at sea even before peppers exploded elsewhere but they still have.  The layout is a bit frustrating but there is such a vast choice.  By the entrances are sinks to wash your hands as well as the usual sanitisers which most people just walked past.  Then it was time to explore after buying the soda package (and they have nicer flasks than when I was on Epic in 2011)!  As much as I love Epic, she is very passenger unfriendly in the deck department with no forward observation area (blocked by Havens) and an awful Promenade deck.  Thankfully NCL have corrected this too, though much of the media have failed to mention this.  The common folk have the forward observation area which is a lovely size too, though the Haven starboard side barrier is annoying.  There is a glass windscreen but unlike their earlier ships, this has horizontal gaps between the glass so you can stick your camera through but with the handrail, it is a bit difficult for the lower gaps.  There is also The Waterfront on deck 8 I hadn't found at this point, which was a semi-wrap around Prom deck with outdoor seating for the bars and restaurants.  Plenty of time to discover it since I'd be on a week unlike the mad rush to see everything on Epic's overnighter.  Then it was back to the cabin to wait for our 4.30pm muster and it was busy out my window when CMA CGM Christophe Colombe first blocked out my light then the smaller Auto Bay went by.  Just watching the info channel made me not want to leave - and we hadn't even set sail!  That was the result of instant lurve for this ship.  How would I be once we reached New York?

For some reason there were absolutely NO muster announcements in the cabin or via the TV.  My muster station was Taste restaurant and I have to say it's much nicer than that on Epic.  We didn't need to take our lifejackets.  Many people didn't turn up and I wondered if it was because they were in their cabins so didn't know it was happening.  At muster an American called Bill, who recognised me from my site, said we had a mutual friend we'd gone cruising with.  Was easy to work out it was Rob O'Brien, who I went on Discovery with last year.  Then it was time to go on deck.  It's amazing.  For the first time EVER I wasn't waiting ages for the lift after muster.  Crown Princess had been scheduled to sail at 4pm but that was put back half an hour so I was delighted to see she was only just moving when I got there at 5pm.  We cast off fifteen minutes late due to visitors not leaving when told to bugger off and set off with three deafening blasts.  When we neared Mein Schiff 1, a horn battle ensued which we resoundingly won!  It was such a beautiful day for sailaway but I had to listen to some stupid Americans constantly commenting how slow Crown was going.  Did the expect 20 knots???  "She's still there," the bloke said thinking she was by the pier when she was at Netley.  I don't know whether she was a tad slower than normal or we were faster since we caught up pretty quickly, but they weren't the slightest bit interested when I pointed out it takes us an hour to reach Calshot and her only 40 minutes.  Just kept going on about how slow she was.  A little bit of cool wind soon saw them hurry off.  Most people soon buggered off complaining it was cold so I managed to find Mark Kennedy.  Once we passed East Cowes, we went inside to find Marie, her mum Carol and step-dad Will, who were having a cuppa in the Garden Cafe.  Carol and Will went to see if their case turned up leaving the three of us to watch us drop the pilot and spot Crown passing Nab Tower before we went our separate ways.
The show was Graffiti Classics, which I'd seen on Independence of the Seas, so didn't bother.  Instead I got chatting to one of the cabin stewards down the corridor who had opened Epic as well as this one so we have a nice natter.  I decided to go shopping - well, you have to, don't you?  This was very confusing.  They had a minimal amount of things (fridge magnets and stuff) in the shop and clothes in the rest of it.  It turned out the rest of the stuff (models, T-shirts etc) was outside so you would pass as you walked through.  Very clever!  Meanwhile the photo gallery was opposite but looked like a shop so easy to miss.  As I wandered, contemplating where to eat, I came across La Cucina.  This is difficult to find on Epic as the stairs are inside the Garden Cafe so you can go around in circles as I did, but I loved it and the food was absolutely fabulous.  This one is opposite Fatcats so annoyingly the music and any conversation can be drowned out when the door is opened.  It's now $15, so an increase of $5.  I was sat next to the window and thought it must be nice to dine on the Waterfront when the weather was warmer.  I made the mistake on Epic of ordering pasta and pizza so just had a starter, pizza and dessert.  All was just as wonderful and only one pizza came with bell peppers so again, I had plenty to choose from.  Afterwards I went back to the room with my shopping before waiting outside the Manhattan Room to meet Mark and Marie for a drink only Marie found me and said they couldn't get in so went elsewhere.  We went to O'Sheehan's which was fun but during our time there, an alarm went off after 11pm.  A short while later, the Captain came on to say it was a false alarm (though we could barely hear him) before Julie the cruise director announced the same thing.  They told me the PA system in the theatre during muster wasn't working  Once Mark and Marie left, I went to explore a little after going to Guest Services first for deckplans, which I think ought to be in the cabin.  The card room and library I came across by chance as they're tucked away on deck 6 to the right of the Spiegel Tent.  The internet cafe is also along there but I didn't know that at the time.

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© Patricia Dempsey 30th April-7th May 2013
Not to be reproduced without permission