Cruise notes: NCL Breakaway, November 2022

Beware: I didn’t get this cruise documented in a reasonable amount of time after sailing, so have lost some context, but still want to keep track of all sailings for key reminders and later reference.

Our first time in New Orleans was a delightful experience full of culinary excellence. Like many of my travels, though, the initial city is mainly a precursor to boarding a ship. After two days in Louisiana, Norwegian Breakaway would be our home for a week’s time. This was the same vessel Kayla and I took our semi-belated honeymoon on in December 2016.

On the voyage we revisited Harvest Caye and Cozumel – where we would repeat one of our first shore excursions, Salsa and Salsa. We also made good use of Vibe, saw and enjoyed SIX, and once again made out pretty well on NCL’s air program. The biggest complaint from this sailing was probably the pervasiveness of smoke from the casino – midship Deck 7, and the venues immediately above and below it, are noticeably affected.

I absolutely would consider sailing from New Orleans again. It was a great way to start a vacation, and really the main detractor is that Breakaway just lacks a few key features from Norwegian Joy and newer ships.


A behaviour on the CruiseCritic forums is for people to start their reviews or “Live!” posts with a lot of preamble about them getting ready for a sailing. Some even begin their journaling months beforehand. People show pictures of meticulously packed suitcases, describe their menagerie of pets that all require expensive attention, give the full medical history and involvement of any vaguely-related family members, and even document gas station washrooms on the way to the port. Inevitably, a number of the Live posts from first-timers with this format peter out early as people determine that doing things on the ship is way more fun than posting on a forum.

(If you think I’m throwing shade here, I actually like reading about most of these topics, but the two-months-to-cruise thing is certainly overdone. For all the hate of YouTube and social media influencers you see on those boards, this just screams of attention-seeking in the same way.)

While I’m not going to share progress pictures of suitcase packing, there will be a large chunk about airfare, which is a topic near and dear to many Canadians because it’s so easy to both complain about and empathize with.

Two-day inbound air deviation

As neither Kayla and I had been to New Orleans before, and wanted some time in the city before embarking, we arranged a two-day air deviation (that is, arriving two days before the cruise) to give us some time to explore and experience the food, drinks and history. This was easy to arrange through our travel agent, as well as providing a $31.25 CAD credit on our total NCL invoice.

The credit was then quickly consumed twice over with our choice to keep the Norwegian-offered port-to-airport transfers on disembarkation day ($31.25 CAD, but per person). On our previous cruise ending in New York, we’d opted to arrange our own taxi from the ship back to LGA, but Uber estimates and the USD to CAD conversion basically made taking the pre-arranged coach bus back to MSY a wash in terms of cost.

The round-trip flights between YYZ and MSY were $311 CAD total as they showed up on our guest copy invoice. This was about half of the cheapest option listed on Google Flights – so even out of Toronto, NCL’s advertised promotion of free airfare for second guest (or 50% off first two guests, whatever the marketing language was that week) rang true.

We had expected to be assigned a connecting flight in both directions and had steeled ourselves to expect the worst options (eg: 2am arrival; 9pm departure) but were pleasantly surprised. At 59 days out from the sail date, we received the following flights:

  • Outbound: direct, Air Canada YYZ-MSY, 9:40am to 11:45am
  • Return: one-stop, American MSY-CLT 12:30pm to 3:24pm, then American CLT-YYZ 4:34pm to 6:24pm

This same itinerary would have cost around $1100 CAD for us to book independently, so I continued to feel very lucky about our experiences with the NCL air program.

There was a delay leaving – first, our original 9:40am departure time was pre-emptively pushed to 10:30. We were still on the ground in Toronto at 11:47am due to a double-whammy of a broken lavatory and ground crew reassignment, which meant they couldn’t close the plane door. We did get kept up to date by the flight deck and the cabin crew did circulate with obligatory water. Arrival at MSY was closer to 1:50pm.

New Orleans

We stayed at the SpringHill Suites New Orleans Warehouse Arts District, a Marriott property that was known as SpringHill Suites New Orleans Downtown/Convention Center at the time I booked. This property was a 15-20 minute walk from where you actually needed to embark at the Riverwalk Outlets/Julia Street cruise terminal, and making the trip on foot was a pleasant, stress-free way to start embarkation morning.

The SpringHill Suites also included a decent complimentary hot breakfast, which closed at 10am sharp.

During our time in the city, we went to (and enjoyed) the following eateries:

I highly suggest reservations for the last three. Mother’s doesn’t take reservations, but we were able to get a table without too much trouble on a Friday around 3:30pm for a very late lunch/pre-dinner.


Arriving at 10:45am, we started our trip in the terminal winding through a security line and were through priority check-in and in cramped seats by 10:59am. This time included a redirection to a separate check-in area to collect our pre-purchased Vibe wristbands/letters/keycards. We noted that the WiFi in the terminal was oversubscribed (phones unable to get IP address and therefore connect), so govern yourself accordingly. Notably the Haven waiting area also looked oversubscribed; not necessarily a pleasant way for suite passengers to begin their cruise.

At 11:20am, the (unclear, low-volume) overhead announcements asked for special assistance guests to board, followed by an 11:25 call for Platinum-and-higher Latitudes members. We stood up immediately and walked on the ship by 11:30am. Another 20 minutes after that and we’d made it up to Vibe to begin our cruise. It was smaller than Joy but certainly proved to be an excellent secluded-access zone, where I could enjoy the World Cup games and pretend I knew anything about soccer [football].


We had a fairly standard Balcony BF cabin, 9862, which was just slightly more aft than midship. It had the “bed closer to door/couch closer to balcony” configuration. We didn’t use the balcony much this sailing, admittedly – with Vibe and Waterfront we had our outdoor requirement well in hand.

Drinks and dining

Because you spend a good chunk of your first afternoon and evening sailing down the Mississippi River, you get hit with port tax for drinks until much later in the evening than on Florida or New York sailings. We had a $25US nonrefundable onboard credit that was nearly entirely consumed on Day 1 by surcharges for our lunch, afternoon, evening and dinner drinks.

This sailing didn’t seem to have as many supply chain issues as Joy, with popular spirits and prosecco consistently available throughout the voyage. A week or so before we sailed, various Internet commenters noted NCL, or perhaps just certain ships, may have been changing their policies about the types of drinks served (eg: “cracking down on shots/mixed shooters”) or number of drinks permitted at a time. I was able to get Angry Orchard bottled cider and a shot of Fireball at O’Sheehan’s at the same time, as well as a Lemon Drop at Vibe to test these reports, without any trouble.

For those of you familiar with Carnival’s 15-drink-a-day hard cap, or Princess’ softer version, I can attest NCL does not have a practical limit in this regard.

With the balcony cabin booking and our Latitudes status, we ended up having four specialty dinners this cruise, eating at Le Bistro, Cagney’s, Ocean Blue and La Cucina. We hadn’t eaten at Le Bistro in quite a few cruises, but I was pleased with filet de boeuf (at the time, included – now listed with a $10 dining upcharge for foie gras.) The scallops were also good, but the dish was more like a cauliflower soup.

On Day 6 we went for dinner at 9pm at Shanghai’s Noodle Bar, which had been packed solidly most of the cruise but finally freed up later in the evening. Unfortunately, the restaurant is directly connected to the casino, merely separated by trellis-like structures (in contrast to the solid wall implied on the deck plans), and the entire casino allows smoking. Therefore, the proximity to the slot machines and wafting fumes from gamblers made the dinner experience suboptimal. While I really liked the Singapore Noodles and all the appetizer selections, it’s not worth Kayla’s discomfort.

In the main dining rooms, we had two instances where we were advised of a 15 minute wait for a 2-top. The wait was only about half that, so just enough time to grab a drink at Mixx beforehand. MDR food was reasonable and service excellent on the two nights we went.

There were a couple notable misses in the buffet: the Greek salad station one day lacked olives, and the sandwich station was missing tools to cut buns (Celebrity Edge did not have either of these situations.) Food quality here also ranged from good to excellent.

Ship features

Breakaway was a nearly 10-year-old ship at the time we sailed her, and lacks some of the features added on Escape, Joy, and Bliss that we’ve come to enjoy over the years. The Observation Lounge of the latter two and District Brew House of all the Breakaway Plus-class ships are worthy venues that do contribute to the onboard experience. Without DBH and Observation Lounge, the Atrium was too loud, O’Sheehan’s is not quite comfortable, Vibe can get pretty warm, and the pool deck is a zoo. Crowding was most noticeable there, and in the buffet at peak.

Upkeep was generally good. Maintenance such as painting was a daily occurrence, but some furnishings (buffet chairs) and fixtures (bathroom walls and panels, some patched with electrical tape) had suffered the ravages of time and impact of hundreds of thousands of cruisers.

Breakaway was also a Norwegian test ship for Starlink, and there was a series of dishes on the upper deck to support it. We only used our limited number of Free at Sea internet minutes, and I didn’t seriously keep track of it, but based on adhoc speeds and latency, it didn’t seem as if Starlink were consistently activated and the connection fell back to the slower MTN satellite.

One other design advancement on ships newer than Breakaway was the simplification of where to enter and exit the buffet. We got turned around numerous times going to or from lunch and are reasonably familiar with this class of ship. To us the forward-facing buffets of Joy and Bliss seemed much more logical, with the bank of elevators outside the food and dining area rather than in the middle.


We attended a showing of SIX, which reinforced the high quality of NCL production shows. I’d rank it comparably with Footloose and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and slightly below Million Dollar Quartet and Jersey Boys – although that’s entirely personal preference for show content. From a technical perspective, the sound, costumes, lighting and performances were all excellent.

Another venue we went to was Howl at the Moon, which was a fun dueling pianos experience that I would have liked to attend more than once. The pianists took requests for songs and comically bickered with one another; request sheets with heavy tips attached got priority sequence. I’ll be on the lookout for this or similarly branded entertainment on future cruises.


We exited at two ports, Harvest Caye and Cozumel. Harvest Caye was a nice morning beach/pool experience. Make sure to grab a beach towel from the ship before heading out. I stayed until I got hungry and then walked back to the ship on my own, as food and drinks are not complimentary here. It took about a ten minute walk out of the gate, down the dock and to reach the ship itself, but then I spent another ten minutes waiting in the security line as only the forward gangway was open.

In Cozumel, we repeated a shore excursion from our 2015 sailing, Salsa and Salsa. It was at a different venue this time (Coco Mama Tiki Room) and we were placed at a table with some somewhat standoffish folks. Kayla and I kept to ourselves but did enjoy the food and drinks. The drink service wasn’t quite as good as our first time – again, possibly due to limited interest from our tablemates – but you could always ask for more margaritas and “volunteer” for tequila shots.

They do drag the salsa dancing segment out, and there was a weird part where you had to vote for other people on the tour on topics that you’d expect to appear in a high school yearbook; think “this person is most likely to…” We’ll probably look for more food-oriented tours in future and see what CruiseCritic recommends – or save the cash and just try new food and drinks onboard.

Return to land

On our last night sailing back up the river, there was an incredible amount of fog – we couldn’t even see the water from our balcony. Just before 11pm local time, the ship activated its horn every few minutes, and I’m certain that those in forward cabins on higher decks (including the Haven complex) would have had a hard time sleeping. The picture below is disembarkation morning, where you still couldn’t see much of the city.

Exiting the ship required weaving in and out of long lines but wasn’t too painful overall. Our NCL-arranged coach was uneventful and fulfilled its purpose of getting us to the airport in time. Flights home were also on time and there were no issues with the connection in Charlotte – there’s not much else to say for our return trip.


When I’ve tried to plan another cruise out of New Orleans, it looks like Getaway is the NCL ship from October 2024 until April 2025, and Escape takes over for the winter season beginning in November 2025. Escape certainly is a more attractive option for my dollar, but once again lacks the Observation Lounge which provides for an alternate food, drink and visual venue. Between Escape and Getaway, though, the choice would be clear for me: wait for Escape in 2025/2026 when District Brew House makes an appearance.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean are still sailing much older ships from this port, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but these sailings aren’t that much cheaper than the NCL ships when it comes to total trip cost and comparing like-for-like features (drink package, specialty dining.)

Next after this? We’d secured a booking on Norwegian Bliss for February 2023 with our friends Jon and Steph, in which we would attempt to recapture some of the great times from Sky in 2019 and hopefully enjoy it as much as our December 2018 cruise.

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