A sneak preview of NCL’s fabulous NORWEGIAN BREAKAWAY.
By Peter Newall
All images copyright Peter Newall
Three years after the introduction of the 155,873gt, French-built Norwegian Epic, one of the most extraordinary cruise ships ever built, NCL has taken delivery of the 146,600gt, 4,028-capacity Norwegian Breakaway the first of a new class of ships which should see the company regain much of the ground lost to the likes of RCL and Carnival.
Built at Papenburg by Meyer Werft Norwegian Breakaway is not only the largest cruise ship to be built in Germany and the biggest to homeport in New York, she is also, as her name suggests, a break with NCL’s past. She is the first to be ordered by NCL’s new management team whose CEO is the New Yorker, Kevin Sheehan.
Breakaway is a more refined version of the trend-setting Norwegian Epic and driven by Azipods instead of fixed propellers, she is slightly smaller than Epic and is definitely a more attractive-looking ship. Of the 2,014 cabins, the majority are outside or have balconies and for those who criticise the ship for being like a block of flats, I would rather have one of these cabins than an enclosed ship designed by liner purists!
Like Epic, Breakaway has her lifeboats outboard although situated further aft. She also has a hull painting by the New York pop artist Peter Max. His name is prominently displayed on the bow and it is more than likely that some people will see this as the name of the ship! Max’s painting also extends to just above the water line and with the ship having to spend much time at sea between New York and Bermuda (May to October) and New York and the Caribbean (October to April), it will be interesting to see how often this has to be touched up.
Here is a brief tour of some of the ship’s highlights.
Starting at the top decks are the Aqua Park and sports area which are situated respectively forward and aft of the exhaust pipes aka tiny funnel. Epic has two larger funnels. The sports area consists of a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall and the largest ropes course at sea.
The main feature of the Aqua Park is the series of five full-size water slides, including a pair of daunting twin free fall slides.
During Norwegian Breakaway inaugural visit to Southampton, some of NCL’s senior managers bravely went down the free fall slides. They included CEO Kevin Sheehan (below left) and Andy Stuart, Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Passenger Services (right). It is hard to imagine Micky Arison or any other cruise line CEO taking the plunge like this!
The Aqua Park was officially opened by the delightful Ellie Simmonds, the British Paralympic gold medal winner who has done more than anyone to change UK public perceptions about people with disabilities.
Although Breakaway has fantastic facilities for children of all ages, including the hands-on and virtually computer-free Splash Academy, the ship also has a number of adults-only areas including the exclusive, pay-extra Vibe Beach Club with its large private cabanas and oversized hot tub overlooked by a Barbara Hepworth-style sculpture.
Talking of exclusivity, NCL has taken first class sea travel to new heights with The Haven, a complex of large suites and penthouses situated forward with its own restaurant, pool area and private sundeck. The pool area has a retractable roof
The Haven suites are very stylish and are designed, like the Haven restaurant in the retro-1960s style popularised by the Mad Men TV series.
Not a great fan of spas, I was very impressed with the layout and design of the 2,000 square meter spa and fitness complex forward on Deck 15. The sauna complex overlooking the bow offers unobstructed ocean views and consist of heated loungers, a pool, sauna, steam room and the first ever salt room installed on a cruise ship.
One of the most revolutionary features of Breakaway is the 400-meters-long Waterfront, an open air promenade on either side of Deck 8 which is lined with bars and restaurants. This means that passengers can choose between dining indoors or alfresco dining if the weather is good. With this unique feature, which is bound to be copied by other cruise lines, Breakaway has arguably become the first ship which could be truly described as a floating resort.
The Waterfront concept has meant a change from Epic in the layout of the key, dining and bar areas. The central three-deck-high atrium, 678 Ocean Place, is now situated amidships and with its amazing hanging chandelier which changes colour, is the central point for all evening activities.
On Deck 6 of 678 Ocean Place is a large curved bar and a massive screen with a dancing area. This place certainly comes alive at night and in fact the whole area around 678 Ocean Place has been designed with a much improved passenger flow which at all levels seems to work very well.
As the ship is geared up for New Yorkers, there is a substantial shopping area at 678 Ocean Place on Deck 7, including the largest watch shop I have ever seen.
The evening musical entertainment is great with Slam Allen, a larger than life blues guitarist in the jazz club, duelling pianos in the comedy club and the two Broadway-style shows in the 800-capacity Breakaway Theatre. The show Burn the Floor is non-stop, creative and somewhat raunchy dancing and singing which had the audience transfixed for 45 minutes.
NCL first introduced Freestyle Cruising in May 2000. This offers guests a more relaxed and informal style of cruising, no more so than with eat-when-you-choose dining in a wide range of restaurants. Other cruise lines have tried to match this approach but none have come close to NCL. On Breakaway there are 27 different dining options ranging from steaks to seafood and many can be booked on touchscreens located throughout the ship. One of the most impressive restaurants on the ship is the two-deck-high Manhattan Room with its dance floor and large floor-to-ceiling windows facing aft.
One welcome change on Breakaway is the return to traditional cabin designs after the negative comments about Epic’s curved New Wave cabins with wash basins on the inside of the cabin. However, the innovative Studio cabins designed for solo travelers and first introduced on Epic, are also on Breakaway. Studio passengers also have the use of an ultra-modern private lounge.
Unfortunately space precludes more details about Norwegian Breakaway which will be officially named at New York on May 8. She has so much to offer with a great atmosphere, especially at night, for which words alone cannot do justice to this amazing break with the past. A sister, Norwegian Getaway, will be delivered in January 2014, followed by a yet-to-be-named 163,000gt Breakaway-Plus ship in October 2015 with an option for a second of this type for delivery in 2017.
NCL has produced the excellent promotional video about the ship:
Norwegian Breakaway Video on YouTube
A well-known shipping writer, cruise journalist and cruise ship lecturer,
Peter Newall is a former British Airways executive who has, in the past 57
years, visited and travelled on many famous ships. As well as numerous
articles he has written nine highly acclaimed books including the
definitive histories of Union-Castle, Orient and Cunard Line. He also owns
the Newall Dunn Collection, the extensive collection of historic merchant
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