Post Cruise Review: Norwegian Breakaway, New York Inaugural 2013
…Catch up on our Live Cruise Review.
Much like the Rock of Ages production show featured onboard, the new Norwegian Breakaway from Norwegian Cruise Line is in itself a perfect manifestation of rock ‘n’ roll, shaking up the cruise industry something fierce. The vessel is making waves with unparalleled innovation in features and layout, enhancing the overall shipboard experience from staterooms and suites to dining and entertainment.
The anticipation for this ship’s launch has been remarkable. Popular Cruising alone has followed her construction progress religiously, and we were thrilled to experience her first hand, albeit for only two days. Those two days, however, provided enough time for us to fall in love with this ship and the sheer abundance of things to do while onboard.
While I have not personally sailed on the Norwegian Epic, the cruise line’s second newest ship, all signs indicate that – although 9,000 tons smaller at 146,600 gross tons – the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway is the more refined younger sister. This is first apparent from viewing the ship’s exterior. Gone is the Epic‘s ugly block of a forehead sitting atop the ships bow. Instead, the Norwegian Breakaway is sleek and sports one of the most impressive cruise ship features ever conceived: The Waterfront, a secondary promenade deck separate from the lifeboats that acts as a boardwalk for al fresco dining, entertainment and shopping.
Part of 678 Ocean Place, the ship’s three-deck epicenter of activity, The Waterfront provides unobstructed views 270-degrees around the ship and takes window shopping outside along with restaurant and lounge patios. Wind blocks do a decent job of cutting down on any cold breezes, but this feature is clearly prime for the warm weather destinations of Bermuda and the Caribbean where the ship will sail to year-round from New York, New York.
In fact, the Norwegian Breakaway has been defined and designed by the cruise line as New York’s cruise ship. The ship’s bow dons the New York iconography of Peter Max’s art, and the city is well represented onboard with three Broadway shows, Rock of Ages, Burn the Floor and Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy; The Rockettes as the ship’s collective godmother; Big Apple-themed ice sculptures; Brooklyn Lager; genuine Sabrett’s hot dog stands and Carlo’s Bake Shop, famous from the Cake Boss TV series. New York influences further extend to the food of Geoffrey Zakarian and the blues of the Slam Allen Band.
Staterooms and Suites
There is a staggering amount of cabin configurations available on the Norwegian Breakaway ranging from inside staterooms to The Haven deluxe owner’s suite, all of which are expertly appointed. We had the pleasure of staying in a midship mini-suite onboard that was very comfortable and accommodating. These rooms feature a unique offset design that maximizes space for the bedroom and narrows towards the couch and desk, alternating in orientation with each adjacent cabin.
Bathrooms are spacious and come complete with a luxurious shower featuring a Hansgrohe rain head and body spray array. A wide sink basin conveniently accommodates two faucets helpful for couples and families alike. The inclusion of a body wash dispenser instead of a soap bar for lathering is a little annoying but not unbearable. Welcome technological enhancements in the room consist of a make-up-room/do-not-disturb set of switches instead of the usual door placard and interactive TV for making dining and entertainment reservations. Due to limited seating at shows and restaurants, pre-booking on this ship is required.
The creme de la creme of onboard accommodations is found at The Haven, Norwegian Breakaway‘s ship-within-a-ship wherein booking higher category suites affords exclusive access to The Haven Courtyard, 24-hour butler service and priority reservations. Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, touts The Haven as a means for families to experience luxury cruising with kid-friendly features that are often absent on dedicated luxury cruise ships.
Upper Deck Features
The outdoor recreation compound of water slides, pools, sporting venues and ropes course – with fun options for all ages – is truly impressive. The Aqua Park features five water slides including two with a free fall that launch riders into a high-speed downward and upward helix. These are top on our list of things to try when we surely return to this ship soon. Two pools and four hot tubs round out the offerings, and a Kid’s Aqua Park features Nickelodeon characters from SpongeBob SquarePants amidst playful water jets.
What’s more, the sports complex includes an extensive list of attractions: the largest ropes course at sea complete with The Plank that stretches 8-feet over the side of the ship, a nine-hole mini-golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline and climbing cage. Fun for juniors continues at a video arcade for all ages, Entourage for teens and Splash Academy for kids, and adults can play in the casino or relax at the spa.
Such activities are sure to build up in you an appetite, and the 16 dining choices onboard will astound you. Six restaurants are entirely included in the cruise fare like three handsome main dining rooms, The Manhattan Room, Savor and Taste; O’Sheehan’s 24-hour Irish and American pub; the Garden Cafe lido buffet and the poolside Uptown Bar & Grill. From our experience, the Manhattan Room was a timeless treat of a venue that served tasty meals with hot ballroom numbers for entertainment; O’Sheehan’s was a great gathering place to grab international favorites; and the Garden Cafe had extensive buffet options with a delightful wraparound interior that extended to the back of the ship in lieu of an aft terrace.
Culinary choice is most evident with the ship’s remaining 10 specialty venues. Among those are Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian-style steakhouse where delicious meats are delivered to your plate right off the skewer continuously for as long as you wish. Here you can eat indoors or outdoors along The Waterfront. Also along the boardwalk is an offshoot of Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian that does not require reservations. Here you can (over)pay for selections like a very small but mouthwatering crab tostada or a zesty lobster roll sandwich with large chucks on a brioche. Walk down a bit farther and you’ll find a stand for great gelato and probably the most universally praised pastry shop at sea.
Carlo’s Bake Shop, made famous on TLC’s Cake Boss TV program and operated by beloved Buddy Valastro, offers the same treats available on land on the Norwegian Breakaway, and they are mighty fine. Cakes are available to take away or preorder for special events, and smaller pastries like cannolis and lobster tails entice. The lobster tails are exquisite cream-filled flaky delights that absolutely must be tried while onboard. Buddy himself jokingly claims these will be his last supper, and you can easily see why. You do indeed feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven upon biting in.
Similar to the wealth of dining options is a wide selection of bars and lounges. One unique offering is the Svedka Ice Bar which is essentially a small freezer room lined with ice blocks. The New York theming continues here with drinks and ice carvings inspired by the city. The experience is a novelty for a cruise ship, but land-based alternatives are more enjoyable with more room to move among patrons.
Food and entertainment come together at Cirque Dreams & Dinner Jungle Fantasy, a acrobatic dinner show housed in a two-deck spiegel tent. Impressions of this experience are fantastic, and we’ll be sure to report on it once we have a chance to try it for ourselves. As I’m sure it is becoming clear, the sheer number of dining and entertainment options ensure that there is plenty to see and do while onboard the Norwegian Breakaway with even a seven-day cruise bursting at the seams. We’ll also have to come back on the ship to take in the Spice H2O Fireworks extravaganza – one of only two fireworks displays at sea – which sadly had to be cancelled during our sailing due to rainy conditions.
As far as productions shows are concerned, Rock of Ages is an impressively full-scale and full-length Broadway remount of the 1980s-themed musical. The irreverent show itself may not be for everyone, but the majority of guests will likely appreciate the energetic music and comedic characters. While some of the vocals are a tad sloppy, perhaps intentionally so, the show slowly but surely draws you in and is undeniably fun. Burn the Floor also stages a full production which we got a taste for in The Manhattan Room with their abridged high-energy dinner show.
Entertainment onboard also includes Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano show; improvisational comedy sketches from The Second City; and top notch blues from the extraordinary Slam Allen Band at the Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club. Even with only two nights onboard, we frequented this standing-room-only haunt each and every night. This venue and band alone were enough to keep us entertained in to the wee hours of the morning.
Norwegian Cruise Line has unquestionably knocked it out of the park with the Norwegian Breakaway to the point where we’re just itching to get back onboard to try out those features we missed and also return to our favorite spots.
Are you planning on taking a cruise onboard this wonderful new ship? Please feel free to share your excitement and thoughts in the comments section below…