Fodor’s Expert Review
“New York’s Ship” is modern, has dozens of dining options, a unique outdoor promenade deck and excellent entertainment.Read More
Best For People Who Want
A fun mega-ship with lots of nightlife, great entertainment, romantic staterooms and a large variety of alternative restaurants. One of the best ships for Solo Cruisers with 96 “Studio Staterooms” available with no singles supplement.
The highly anticipated Norwegian Breakaway arrived in Southampton, England for its first cruise with regular passengers on the night of April 29th, 2013. This was our first chance to see actual pictures of the real ship, not just designer renderings, so we can see how she really looks.
Since it takes at least two years to design and build and new cruise ship, from 2008 through early 2011 the industry was still bringing out new ships that had been ordered before the economic downturn.
Notably, Breakaway is the first of a whole new generation of cruise ships designed, built and delivered after the world economic collapse of 2008. This is hugely significant. There is a fundamental philosophical difference to this new generation of ships. In the past idle and open space denoted luxury, but today efficiency per passenger is the key metric. New generation ships are slightly smaller but have far more efficiency in utilizing all available public space on board. Rooms that were once kept closed for most of the day, like discos, piano bars and even production shows theaters, are being eliminated or re-designed to make them into “transformational” space that can be repurposed for various activities morning, noon and night.
Norwegian Breakaway has a very similar floor plan to the line’s previous ship, Norwegian Epic, except that the new ship is smaller. Norwegian Epic is 156,000-tons (a measure of indoor space) for 4100 berths and 5183 passengers total, while the new Breakaway is a smaller 147,000 tons for 4028 passenger berths and also about 5000 passengers total.
So, while it may sound like Breakaway is more crowded, the way the space is purposed makes the ship feel bigger and more open than Epic. For example, Breakaway has 27 dining options, 22 bars & clubs, Three Broadway shows and the largest water park at sea with five water slides, two of which are the fastest at sea.
Those numbers indicate that Breakaway boasts the “Free-style Cruise” format like all current Norwegian ships. This means a wide variety of smaller but more diverse dining and entertainment options that are each open every night of the cruise. Each guest makes his or her own course throughout the cruise to eventually seeing “everything” on board.
While the previous ship, Epic, was supposed to represent the epitome of “Free-style Cruising,” unfortunately there were some negative features, mostly in the design of the staterooms, which knocked Epic’s reputation down a few pegs with the larger cruise community.
Gladly, Norwegian Breakaway fixed any design mistakes made on Epic, and even added some important innovations, such as the “Waterfront” outdoor promenade to open up many of the middle deck public venues to the outdoors – a feature still surprisingly rare in the cruise industry. Most importantly, the staterooms have been retro-designed to industry standard, so there are no bad surprises, only good ones like coffee makers and a plethora of American 110-volt AC-electric outlets.
The Norwegian Breakaway differences: to sum up, the biggest differences between Breakaway and Norwegian Epic begin with the staterooms. The daring “New Wave” style staterooms on Epic were not carried forward to Breakaway. The biggest difference is the fully enclosed singular bathroom instead of having separate rooms for the toilet, shower and sink facilities.
The Waterfront is the next major difference. This “sea-view” public area with access to the dining rooms and lounges is an entirely new concept in cruise ship design. Other ships have come close, but this is the first to offer food, drink and a view, all in one spot on a lower deck.
The entertainment lineup is different; but I should mention Breakaway also has the Fat Cats Jazz Club, Second City and Howl at the Moon, just like Epic has, but Breakaway does not have Legends at Sea or Blue Man Group.
The addition of the two new restaurants by Geoffrey Zakarian are new, otherwise Breakaway has the very same dining venues as Norwegian Epic.
There are more, and more varied water slides on Breakaway, including two of the fastest at sea called “The Plunge.”
Perhaps more will be revealed, but so far this is all we know about Norwegian Breakaway until she hits the shores of America.
While Norwegian Breakaway has some eye candy, decor is not its calling card. The focus is on activities; especially dining and nightlife. The three main public decks, 6, 7 and 8, include most of those venues, which makes strolling through the deck feel much like a Las Vegas casino, especially with the low ceilings and garish brown carpet with beige swirls. Breakaway (like Epic) does not have any soaring atriums, the tallest open spaces being just three decks.
This ship does is an upgrade to the Epic, which has a bit of an “old Las Vegas” feel with burgundy carpet with creme colored accents. But still with no soaring atriums (the tallest open vertical area on the entire ship is a mere three decks) the ship tends to feel small and crowded. The views from deck seven looks down on penny slot machines one deck below just reinforces the “Reno Casino” look. On deck seven the decor and finishes are more modern, but not with the sublime decorative dignity of Celebrity or Holland America ships. NCL ships are light-hearted and welcoming, modern but not necessarily high-tech. There is very little nautical sense onboard at all, nothing to remind that you are on a ship.
The nightclubs all feature comfortable but flashy colors and fabrics, except the Ice Bar which only features ice. The more high-energy places have colored LED lights that look something like neon. Many of the restaurants are themed in decor to match the style of cuisine.
The main lobby area is dominated by a large “TV Screen” two decks tall. Surrounding it is O’Sheehan’s Pub – a great place to unwind and drink, if only the entertainment was better. This is the only “public” area – the rest is restaurants and entertainment venues.
Nighttime is when the ship’s entertainment comes alive with the shows described above. There are outdoor nightclubs such as Spice H2O by the aft pool and Posh “beach club” where during the day you can lounge on white-cushioned day beds and in private cabanas by the pool and at night enjoy exclusive bottle service, gaming tables and a DJ.
The indoor Bliss Nightclub is even more decadent with its king-size bed chaise lounges that evoke the silent question “What time does the orgy start?” Deep blue, orange and gold sateen cover every surface except the cocktail tables, dance floor and the the four bowling lanes on either side of the room.
The Ice Bar costs $20 for 45 minutes and includes two shots of vodka in “glasses” made of ice. You get a parka for the duration as the indoor temperature is 17 degrees (F).
The beautiful Breakaway Club Lounge is for the exclusive use of the Courtyard Villa guests and showcases premium liquors, LED screens make framed video displays showing montages of the world’s best artwork, music videos, films, celebrities, fashion and more.
The regular bars onboard include O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill where you can dine on American classics and comfort foods served 24 hours a day. Sporting events are shown on multiple flat screen televisions and you’ll find three lanes of bowling, dart boards, pool tables, foosball and air hockey.
Shaker’s Martini Bar lives up to its name as a classic martini bar. Maltings Whiskey Bar offers whiskies from around the world; Canadian, Irish, American, Welsh or Scotch.
Cascades Bar is next to the Epic Casino. Cagney’s Bar is located inside Cagney’s Steakhouse & Churrascaria. Waves Bar is poolside for relaxing in a lounge chair, frozen drink in hand. The Humidor Cigar Lounge is a fully stocked humidor of premium-brand and hand-rolled cigars with comfortable seating, signature cocktails, and an extensive drink menu.
The Sake Bar at Wasabi offers hot sake, saketinis or the infamous “ichi ni san” sake bomb.
O’Sheehan’s Pub: this is the focal point of the ship on Deck seven. This accommodating pub is open 24 hours day with hot food available at no added cost. There is beer on tap by the pint and plenty of tables and chairs interspersed with table games and even a few lanes of bowling. Dominating the room is a large movie screen, spanning from the floor of deck six to the ceiling of deck seven. The lower deck (six) also has plenty of chairs in front of the movie screen, along with a bar, Internet cafe, and another cafe.
Spiegel Tent: Forward of this atrium on deck six is the Spiegel Tent, home to the Cirque Dreams theater company.
Breakaway Theater: all the way forward on decks six and seven is the Breakaway Theater which shows the hit Broadway Show “Rock of Ages” on most nights, as well as showings of “Burn the Floor” (see “entertainment” below).
678 Ocean Place: This is the only space on the ship that ascends three full decks. There is a similar open space on Epic, but it has been vastly improved on Breakaway. Stairs have been added so one can go to each level (Epic only had an escalator located some distance away and only going between decks seven and eight). Each level has open-view entrances to various restaurants, making it feel more like a piazza. On deck six is the iconic Le Bistro French restaurant with open seating on the atrium, the Teppanyaki Restaurant is next door and the Headliners comedy club is opposite.
Aft of the atrium floor is the Mixx Bar and the entrances to the two of the three “included in the cruise fare” dining rooms; Taste and Savor Restaurants.
Manhattan Room Restaurant: this is the third and largest “included” dining room, on deck seven and covering as much floor space as taste and Savor Combined. This room features a large bandstand and dance floor. There is pre-dinner dancing followed by “impromptu” showings of “Burn the Floor” on select nights which start as dinner is winding down. This dining room fills up first, so get there early and keep your seats for the best views of the shows.
Breakaway Casino: keep in mind that Norwegian is partly owned by the same company as Harrah’s Casinos, and you understand the size and unavoidability of the Breakaway Casino which spans deck seven amidships and surrounds 678 Ocean Place.
The Waterfront: obviously is not a room, but it is an important public space. This is the open air deck on deck 8 which offers al-fresco seating and relaxing for a number of public rooms. Aft on deck 8 are Cagney’s Steakhouse and Moderno Churrascaria (Brazilian restaurant) which both have entrances on the inside of the ship, with open seating juxtaposed to the Prime Meridian Bar, and both have outdoor seating on the Waterfront for true seaside dining under the stars.
But The Waterfront extends far beyond these restaurants – it spans both sides of the ship on deck 8 and also provides open air sea-side space to Shaker’s Martini Bar and La Cucina Italian Restaurant on the port side; and to Dolce Gelato, the new Ocean Blue Restaurant (more on this Breakaway exclusive dining venue below), Maltings Bar and Fat Cats Jazz Club on the starboard side.
Breakaway is actually the first ship to offer this extensive outdoor access to seaside al fresco dining on a lower deck. Previous ships, notably Carnival Dream-class, opened up the Promenade deck to some chairs and a few hot tubs, but Breakaway takes the outdoor promenade deck concept to an entirely new level.
Prime Meridian Bar is a round bar that lends a piazza effect to the open inside deck 8.
Carlos Bake Shop: comes next on deck 8. This is essentially a bakery where guests can order custom cakes and take classes on cupcake design. It has display cases of some complimentary treats like brownies, macaroon cookies and tortes. Special confections come with a slight surcharge.
Tradewinds and Tides Boutique: the gift shop area fills out deck 8 along with the photo gallery.
Shaker’s Cocktail Bar: moving forward to the top deck of 678 Ocean Place we find the large Shaker’s Cocktail Bar, featuring expert bartenders making frozen cocktails. This contemporary decor bar opens up to the three deck plaza on the inside
The Raw Bar: also facing 678 is the “Raw Bar” oyster bar which is an adjunct of the new Ocean Blue (more below).
Though it appears Breakaway has most of the same dining venues as we see on Norwegian Epic, the new ships not only have a few additions but all of the restaurants appear to have have more decorative flair – especially with the introduction of true outdoor al fresco dining along “the Waterfront.” There is also more open feel to the interior with the introduction of “Atrium Al Fresco” dining in some restaurants – meaning seating outside of the restaurant in the more public areas of the ship. We like this idea of opening up the vessel by blending different environments together.
The new ships also feature a new concept in cruise ships first done on Carnival; opening up public rooms to fresh air by placing tables and chairs on lower outdoor decks. While open “promenade decks” are very common on most ships, until recent years that deck was never utilized for much more than taking strolls and access to lifeboats. But a few newer cruise ships; Carnival Dream, Magic and Breeze, and Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway among them, are offering outside strolling and seating areas for bars and restaurants on the these lower promenade decks. This is an idea we like a lot.
While Carnival was arguably the first cruise line to do this with the “Ocean Plaza” concept on the Carnival Dream in 2010, Norwegian is arguably going further with the concept by using the deck above the Promenade deck for its Waterfront walkway. The deck below will also open up to an outside deck outdoors for access to lifeboats – not sharing the same deck for both functions as Carnival does.
Here are the restaurants with outdoor seating along “The Waterfront”:
Ocean Blue Seafood is a new venue for Norwegian, not offered on Epic. Norwegian boasts, “Take a seat by the sea at Ocean Blue on The Waterfront, the newest addition to our Freestyle dining lineup. Seafood lovers will rejoice at our fresh approach to menu items as well as the variety.”
Norwegian introduced ‘Moderno” Churrascaria on Epic and it became such a hit they plan to add it throughout the fleet. They are taking it a step further on the new ships with true al fresco dining on deck. “Norwegian was first to bring this dining concept to sea, and now we’ve taken it a step further with outdoor seating at our signature Brazilian-style steakhouse. Whether you dine indoors or out, your mouth will water as different grilled and slow-roasted meats are carved tableside.”
La Cucina Italian Restaurant on Epic feels almost like an afterthought – if you can even find the entryway buried below the most forward section of the buffet and only accessible by a staircase. Once you are inside, however, you get stunning sea views over the bow of the ship. Apparently Norwegian decided Italian dining deserves more flair on the new ships, so this restaurant will also offer true al fresco dining on The Waterfront.
Finally – the last Waterfront eatery is “Gelato” which offers the namesake. Norwegian boasts, “Slow churned, dense and intense in flavor, gelato is Italy’s answer to ice cream and our version is the perfect accompaniment to a leisurely stroll on your exploration of The Waterfront. Choose from a variety of flavors and drift off in sweet thoughts as you walk in the breeze.”
There are also several bars and lounges that will have access to the fresh air including Maltings Beer and Whiskey Bar and Shakers Cocktail bar for martinis.
Additionally, it appears the new ships have the same configuration as Epic for a spot called “678 Ocean Place” where you can view three decks simultaneously topped with a distinct chandelier. The new Norwegian ships will have restaurants with seating along this atrium.
Le Bistro French Restaurant is one and Norwegian says, “If you’ve always dreamed of dining at a sidewalk cafe in France, Le Bistro can satisfy your craving. Our new seating option, Atrium Al Fresco, is reminiscent of sidewalk-style dining – overlooking the social hub of 678 Ocean Place. Be mesmerized by the 3-story cascading LED chandelier and the constant flow of people as you dine on classic French favorites.”
Another popular spot is Cagney’s Steakhouse, which on Epic was placed on deck seven aft – above the Manhattan Dining Room and adjacent to Moderno. But on the new ships Moderno and Cagney’s are on deck eight and share “an opening to view The Manhattan Room below.” Both of these restaurants also have true al fresco outdoor dining on the Waterfront.
Here is another departure from Epic. The two new ships will have the same Manhattan Dining Room at the aft section, but Epic only has one other main dining room, Taste, located mid-ships. On the new ships there are two additional main dining rooms, but located on deck six below the Manhattan, not mid-ships, so they also have views off the aft end of the ship. The first one is also called “Taste,” but across from it and also sharing the aft view is a new main dining room, “Savor.” All three dining rooms are included in the cruise fair, but unlike Epic, where both main dining rooms have the same menu each night, on the new ships Taste and Savor will have different menus each night – along with completely different decor, so the “included in the cruise fare” dining has more options nightly.
And just to be clear – the new ships will also have O’Sheehan’s Pub with its small but delicious menu included in the cruise fare, as introduced on Norwegian Epic. The buffet area will also be open at night for people who just want a quick bite at night.
The staff, recruited from all over the globe, is generally attentive and pleasant. Expect a number of Asian room stewards and restaurant staff, Filipino and Chinese.
The main stage show – Rock of Ages is one of the longest running shows in Broadway history. The New York Times called the show, “Absurdly enjoyable! About as guilty as pleasures get!” The musical is based on “classic rock” hit songs of the ’80s, featuring bands like Journey, Bon Jovi and Styx. These bands are also called “Hair Bands” because hair spray was also as important to their act as guitars. The hair on these guy got so high that if you put them next to the real housewives of New Jersey you couldn’t tell them apart. Rock of Ages appeals to the MTV generation who grew up watching “corporate rock bands” lighting up the airwaves with “power ballads” like “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “Can’t Fight the Feeling,” and, of course, “Don’t Stop Believing.”
As a show, Rock of Ages is pretty age specific to people in their 40s and their kids who grew up listening to their parent’s music. But that music is still considered some of the best ever recorded, especially since the music industry went downhill with the Internet making it virtually impossible to sell “albums” anymore.
The show, already nominated for five Tony Awards, is one of the longest running shows on Broadway, and according NCL president Kevin Sheehan, “As a lifelong New Yorker, it’s critically important to me that Norwegian Breakaway becomes New York’s ship. Our goal is to bring elements of New York on board so that guests will feel a real connection to the ship as New York’s true flagship”.
I have to admit I am impressed with Norwegian’s resolve to keep the entertainment onboard Breakaway at “Epic proportions.” In addition, Breakaway will also feature Second City Comedy, the “Slim Allen Blues Band” in the Fat City Blues and Jazz bar and the “Howl at the Moon” dueling piano shows. All of these shows are really great, interactive fun.
A secondary entertainment venue on Breakaway will be called The Spiegel Tent, the same as on Epic, but on the deck plans it appears to be much larger than the one on Epic, taking up the full width of the ship. That room will also show another attraction similar to one on Epic, the “cirque-based” show “Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy.”
There is already a Cirque Dreams show on Epic, but the one set to debut on Breakaway is an adaptation of the same title the Cirque Dreams people debuted on Broadway in New York in 2008. The show is called “Jungle Fantasy” and it has played to over 3.5 million people in more than 200 cities throughout the United States, as well as thousands of U.S. military troops and their families throughout 10 countries.
“Burn the Floor” featuring “dazzling ballroom dancing.” This will also show in the main Breakaway Theater as well as the Manhattan Dining Room. According to Norwegian, Burn the Floor “is a groundbreaking show, serving as a melting pot of styles, energy and excitement for today’s generation of dancers. It is ballroom “supercharged” and includes all the Ballroom and Latin styles, including The Waltz, Cha Cha, Samba, Salsa, Rumba, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Mambo, Tango, Swing, Jive, Lindy Hop, Viennese Waltz, and Paso Doble. The music is described as “eclectic,” from Swing and Waltz classics to J-Lo and Credence Clearwater. Two vocalists perform in many languages including English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Burn the Floor premiered in London in 1999 and toured the US for the first time in 2000 including performances at Radio City Music Hall. After touring a variety of countries, including Japan, Singapore and Australia, Burn the Floor premiered on Broadway in 2009. Originally intended to be a limited run, the show opened to rave reviews in New York and extended its original run into January 2010, performing 193 shows.
Cirque Dreams and Dinner – a dinner show presented in its own proprietary “Spiegel Tent” theater will present a show called “Jungle Fantasy,” featuring acrobats, jugglers, contortionists, tightrope walkers all mixed in a fantasy background with comedy and spectacle.
Other features onboard include the fun and interactive “Howl at the Moon” dueling piano sing-along and comedy show. This was first presented on Norwegian Epic and is packed every night as two singing piano players improvise with their music and their wits to “keep the hits coming” for a receptive audience.
The Second City comedy is back, as they are on every ship in the Norwegian fleet, presenting their special brand of improvisational comedy that inspired shows like Saturday Night Live and has been entertaining audiences on Norwegian ships since 2006.
Norwegian Breakaway will also have a Fat Cats Jazz Club, featuring New York’s Slam Allen Blues Band. The music tends to lean far more towards the Blues than Jazz, at least on Epic. The live electric band of guitar, bass, piano and drums sets the stage for authentic Mississippi Delta-style blues with a large dance floor, plenty of seats and of course plenty to drink.
The staterooms on the previous ship, Norwegian Epic, went too far with a Euro-modernism concept conceived by the former company president, Colin Veitch who called them “Free-style 3 New Wave” cabins.
So, the staterooms on the new ships bring a return to much more traditional style; no curved walls, colored lights, or dramatic decorative accents like glass panels instead of real walls. They have regular cruise ship bathrooms – a topic that current Norwegian president Kevin Sheehan eventually heard so much about than when he introduced the design for the new ship’s bathrooms he literally said “and the new staterooms will have normal bathrooms – Yay!”
In addition, there are two categories that come with private common areas only available to the denizens of those staterooms, for a “ship within a ship” effect.
The Courtyard Suites occupy the front of the ships definitely have the most beautiful public areas of the entire ship. The private pool, hot tubs, indoor and al fresco dining rooms and the private bar are all exquisite.
The other ship within a ship area is the set of 96 “Studio Staterooms” a semi-private enclave of small (100 sq. ft.) cabins sold to single cruisers with no single’s supplement fee. This is the best arrangements for single cruisers I have ever seen on a cruise ship. All studios share a common corridor which leads to a shared “studio lounge” where denizens can hang out and meet one another. There is free espresso, sandwiches, salads and desserts, and best of all a hostess to keep people talking and a bulletin board to extend messages to everyone like “let’s all meet for dinner in ‘Tastes’ as 7:00.”
As with NCL’s Freestyle 2.0 enhancements; the staterooms include upgraded bedding, linens and towels, Euro pillows, Elemis bathroom products and MP3 connectivity upon request. Balcony and deluxe staterooms have bathrobes, a customized fruit menu, a fresh-baked cookie at turn down on the last night of cruise, an escort to the stateroom on embarkation day, priority restaurant reservation and reception hotlines and special color keycard for ship-wide recognition.
There are 960 balcony staterooms and 449 inside staterooms, with these two categories accounting for 70% of all rooms. Most importantly, the staterooms have been retro-designed to Norwegian Cruise Line standards, unlike the staterooms with some bad surprises found on Norwegian Epic. There are only good surprises; like coffee makers and an abundance of American 110-volt AC-electric outlets.
The 204-square-foot balcony staterooms have a clean, contemporary design with queen beds that can be converted into two twins. The streamlined, built-in desk and storage area features a 26-inch flat panel television, mini-bar and coffee maker. The desk area has four electrical outlets, two of them U.S. standard and two European standard. All cabin categories come with a mini-bar. The actual balconies have two chairs and a small table.
The biggest difference between a Mini-Suite and a balcony stateroom is bigger and more elaborate bathrooms with an extra-wide sink with two faucets. The showers feature rain-shower heads and multiple spray jets for the entire body.
Norwegian Breakaway also has 449 inside cabins (no windows) that measure 151 square feet and come with two twin beds that can be converted into a queen. Many of these inside cabins have additional pull-down beds so they can sleep up to four people all together. They also have a small desk area and television. There are 120 oceanview cabins with windows but no balconies.
The Family Oceanview stateroom measures 161 square feet and has two twin beds that can convert into a queen. Families can also opt for the 20 Haven Family Villas, which each have two bedrooms and two bathrooms; measuring 559 square feet and able to sleep up to six people.
There are also 96 “studio staterooms” decked exactly the same as those found on Norwegian Epic at 100 square feet and made to sleep one person in a double bed. They have a toilet and a separate shower along with a 26-inch television. All of these studio staterooms share a singular corridor that leads to the “Studio Lounge.”
NCL attracts a lot of families, first-time cruisers and people who enjoy a more “free-form” cruise experience. The nightlife is fun and interactive, especially good for gen-X music buffs.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Quiet settings, uncrowded ships, no kids, all-inclusive cruises where all dinners are taken at pre-set times in the dining room with the same table and waiters every night.
$10 per adult per day and $5 per child are added to your folio automatically. Fifteen percent is automatically added to bar bills and spa services. NCL suggests that concierges and butlers be tipped separately in accordance with the services they provide.
The Health Spa and Salon has two dozen treatment rooms for such exotic treatments as algae detox, lime and ginger salt glows, coconut rubs, and milk ritual wraps, including three for couples. Men’s and women’s sides are set up with stream and sauna rooms, whirlpool, indoor lap pool, jet-current exercise pool, hydrotherapy pool, and Jacuzzis.
The Fitness Center, open 24/7, has 25 treadmills with their own TVs, more than 25 other pieces of fitness equipment, abundant free weights, and a large workout area with lots of aerobic equipment, such as steps and balls.
The usual NCL children’s facilities will be available onboard. Breakaway has the Nickelodeon characters.
Norwegian Epic is wild about them, as witness: interconnecting cabins, a kids-only pool and water slide, and the Splashdown Kid’s Club, featuring a kid cinema and video arcade. Where most at-sea children’s programs turn their backs on the under-threes, NCL welcomes even those in their terrible twos.
NCL recently signed an agreement with Nickelodeon to feature the characters onboard the ships for special events for kids as well as just having the characters onboard often to brighten the day of your young one.
In addition to selections from their own menu, young passengers can eat hot dogs and chicken nuggets in the Kid’s Corner buffet, with mini stools and low tables. The complimentary Kid’s Crew program is organized by age group: Junior Sailors (2 – 5), First Mates (6 – 9), Navigators (10 – 12) and Teens (13 – 17). Families can gather in the Card Room for a game of Monopoly or Clue, sing together during family karaoke night, or compete in a “Family Feud” game show.
Norwegian Breakaway is featuring the first Aqua Park at sea with five full-size water slides, including twin Free Fall slides. A “free fall slide” is one where the angle is so steep it feels as if one os going over a waterfall rather than going down a slide. The Atlantis hotel in Nassau is famous for having two of these slides, one in total darkness.
In addition to the five slides, Norwegian Breakaway will also have a “ropes course,” an idea that was first implemented on a cruise ship with the Carnival Magic (Carnival Cruise Line). A ropes course is a series of climbing apparatus including platforms extended from ropes interspersed with areas where kids have to swing on gymnastic rings, catch trapeze-like bars or navigate through rope nets along an “obstacle course” from one end to the other.
The entire course is off the ground by several feet in places, although the “floor” below is a soft landing material. To “win” one must make it along the entire course, although falling from the ropes course to a soft landing is always part of the fun. Norwegian says that when it debuts this will be the largest ropes course at sea – and kids will have a special rope course just for them.
The older kids’ ropes course will be a multi-level structure that offers 40 different challenges, including a zip line portion. Another element is “The Plank,” a see-through platform that extends eight feet over the side of the ship (although it will be safe for kids). Those who choose to test their courage on The Plank will be have their photo taken. Adding to the three-story sports complex will be a nine hole miniature golf course, a basketball court, a rock climbing wall, a bungee trampoline and the spider web, a 24-foot enclosed climbing cage complete with a spiral slide.
Norwegian Breakaway will be the fourth Norwegian ship to offer Nickelodeon experiences, including the Character Breakfast, (recently re-styled as the Pajama Jam), Dora’s Dance Party, Story Time with Dora, Nickelodeon Arts and Crafts and character meet and greets.
Most of these events are centered around the Nickelodeon themed Splash Academy, the ship’s two-story youth area for kids ages three to 12 which includes a children’s’ pool and slide where kids can meet Nickelodeon characters from Bikini Bottom, such as star SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends Patrick and Squidward.
Nickelodeon’s Splash Mobs lend an element of surprise with spontaneous, impromptu pie attacks, slimings and other surprises.
Determinedly casual, though T-shirts, shorts, and tank tops are forbidden in the dining rooms after 5 p.m., except for the Garden Cafe/Great Outdoors. Very few people dress up for the one “formal optional” night.
Norwegian Breakaway, the New York–themed follow-up to the popular Norwegian Epic, sails year-round from New York City to the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Caribbean. It’s a large, 4,000-passenger ship offering a wide variety of restaurants (many specialty restaurants with cover charges) and entertainment and is particularly family-friendly.
Norwegian’s newest class of ships is impressive, slightly smaller than Norwegian Epic but with improved flow in the main dining and entertainment district, 678 Ocean Place. A major innovation is the addition of outdoor dining at almost all specialty restaurants. You can check wait times and make reservations on digital screens throughout the ship. As on other Norwegian ships, entertainment is a strong suit and includes not only a Latin ballroom dance show and a full-fledged Broadway show. Norwegian Breakaway has a branch of Carlo’s Bakery.
Outdoors, there an impressive ropes course on the sports deck, as well as five waterslides and an aqua park for smaller kids. The kids and teen clubs are impressively large and offer a wide variety of programs and activities. The adults-only Vibe Beach Club has a cover charge. The ships’ electronic screens now make reservations for dining and entertainment as well as giving wait times. Automated wine dispensers in the atrium and buffet let you buy a glass (or taste) whenever you want.
Norwegian Cruise Line set sail in 1966 with an entirely new concept—regularly scheduled Caribbean cruises from the then-obscure port of Miami. Good food and friendly service combined with value fares established the line as a winner for active adults and families. Innovative and forward-looking, Norwegian has been a cruise-industry leader for decades, and its fleet is as much at home worldwide as in the Caribbean. Several of the line’s ships cruise Alaska’s Inside Passage, including one of its newest, Norwegian Bliss.
Noted for top-quality entertainment, Norwegian combines action and high-energy activities as well as a variety of dining options in a casual, free-flowing atmosphere. Norwegian’s freestyle cruising signaled an end to rigid dining schedules and dress codes. Norwegian ships now offer a host of flexible dining options that allow passengers to eat in the main dining rooms or any of a number of à la carte and specialty restaurants at any time and with whom they please. The ships’ accommodations include some of the largest suites at sea, studio cabins for solo travelers, and a private ship-within-a-ship complex called The Haven, a more luxurious area with personalized service.
From a distance, most cruise ships look so similar that it’s often difficult to tell them apart, but Norwegian’s largest, modern ships stand out with their distinctive use of hull art. Each new ship is distinguished by murals extending from bow to midship.
- 18 passenger decks
- specialty restaurants, 3 dining rooms, buffet, ice cream parlor
- Wi-Fi, safe, refrigerator
- 3 pools, children’s pool
- fitness classes, gym, hot tubs, sauna, spa, steam room
- 22 bars, casino, dance club, library, showroom, video game room
- children’s programs
- dry-cleaning, laundry service
- Internet terminal, Wi-Fi
- no-smoking cabins
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
Cabin decor is more understated and modern, but balconies are small. Storage is merely adequate, with drawer space seriously lacking. Bathrooms are good-size, with small showers, or expansive multijet showers in minisuite categories and above, but few cabins have a tub. Sinks are quite large, and minisuites and above have extra-wide double sinks. All cabins have a safe, hair dryer, minibar, flat-screen TV, and improved lighting. Shower gel and shampoo dispensers (but no conditioner) are attached to shower walls.
Haven suites include access to an exclusive concierge lounge, restaurant, and shared private courtyard with pool, hot tub, sundeck, and small gym. Spa suites include access to the spa and its thermal suite throughout the cruise.
These small cabins are strictly for solo cruisers. Although each is tiny, it has a private bath, and occupants have access to the shared Studio Lounge.
Forty-two cabins are wheelchair accessible.
Food & Drink
Three main dining rooms serve open-seating breakfast, lunch, and dinner (the Manhattan Room has entertainment on some nights). There are myriad specialty restaurants, including Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian, which serves seafood (reservations, cover charge for all). Casual choices are the Lido buffet for all meals; O’Sheehan’s Pub for sandwiches and snacks; and the poolside grill for lunch. The Atrium Bar serves specialty coffees and cakes for an additional charge; Carlo’s Bakery serves specialty cakes as well as gelato for an extra charge (only on Breakaway). While the 24-hour room-service menu is limited, made-to-order pizza will be delivered to you anywhere on the ship for a fee.
Almost two-dozen bars are throughout the ship. These include an ice bar, Bliss Ultralounge (disappointing here), the outdoor Spice H2O, and the adults-only Vibe Beach Club. Entertainment is a strong suit, with a jazz and blues, dueling piano bar, Burn the Floor (a Latin Ballroom production show), Second City on Breakaway (to be replaced by a comedy club on Getaway), and Rock of Ages (on Breakaway). There’s a fireworks display one night per cruise. Cirque Dreams has a dedicated theater on Breakaway; on Getaway the space will be occupied by the Illusionarium magic experience. Most shows require free reservations.
Spa & Fitness
The Mandara Spa is huge, with more than 50 treatment rooms offering both beauty and Medi-Spa treatments; a full-service salon; an expansive thermal suite with multiple pools and hot tubs, a heated salt room, sauna, steam room, and more than a dozen heated loungers; and an extensive health club with a wide range of machines and free weights, spinning classes in a dedicated room, and special exercise classes by the Rockettes (on Norwegian Breakaway).