by Don McCann
Norwegian Breakaway with her Peter Max New York themed hull
Ah, that new ship smell which hits you when you first step onboard a brand new ship! OK, so maybe it’s not the same as a new car, but you get the idea. As I mentioned previously, it’s always exciting to see a new ship; any new ship. Norwegian Breakaway offers it’s company’s brand distinction of ‘Freestyle Cruising’, which means a host of options. Most notable is with the dining. This ship offers 27 dining venues and all are ‘Freestyle’, meaning that none are assigned to you. Also of note are the charges; 11 of the 27 are included in your fare (no extra charge), but the rest have an additional charge (click here for complete dining guide). The dining is such a major part of this cruise that I’ll do a separate post on that later. The myriad of dining choices is nearly rivaled by the selection of entertainment venues, as well. In fact, one place even combines the two with the Spiegel Tent which is a sort of dinner show with a Cirque Dreams show taking place overhead during your dinner (yes, this is at an extra charge). There is, of course the main show lounge, Breakaway Theater, for big productions. Rock of Ages is currently being featured and Ihave to say I found this a very ‘interesting’ selection for a large, mainstream cruise ship. It’s billed as edgy, or adult, but will surely catch many off guard with it’s use of risqué dress with sexual overtones and several ‘F bombs’ dropped during the dialogue. Regardless, I guess with Freestyle you
Fat Cat’s Jazz & Blues Club
are free to approve, or simply venture elsewhere. Moving along, there are other great options such as Fat Cat’s for jazz & blues, Headliners for comedy, disco in Bliss, or a great outdoor option at Spice H2O for the cool set (or those who want to at least try to feel ‘cool’). Of course there is the usual cruise ship inclusions of the casino and a host of great bars, too.
When it comes to accommodations, I have to say that our standard balcony cabin was more spacious than many I’ve seen. There was a full-size sofa, good storage space, and a very nice sized bathroom. It was interesting that there was no chair in the cabin. There was a dual purpose ottoman for sitting at the dresser which also had a fitted hard top cover to use as a side table and it opened up for storage inside. Clever and practical, but a simple chair with back support would be preferred by most folks, I think. As for other accommodations, there are many choices, with the most notable
The Haven private pool deck
being The Haven. This is an Norwegian trademark and functions as a cruise within a cruise. The Haven are suites and deluxe cabins in their own private access area, located forward on the top of the ship. Here you’ll find your own private pool area, private lounge area, private dining room, and private deck all for Haven guests only. It has great snob appeal and is honestly a great appeal to non-snobs, too! Their concept is to cater to those who would want a deluxe more intimate experience (think Seabourn, or Silversea), but would appreciate the amenities of a large ship, such as multiple entertainment options and facilities for kids (The Haven is perfect for grandparents bringing on the whole family for an inter generational cruise experience). Another Norwegian exclusive for accommodations is the Studio. Here they have built a good number of single occupancy cabins for solo travelers who don’t want to pay the usual high single supplement in a standard cabin. These cabins are cozy, but very well designed and even have their own lounge area where you can mix & mingle if you so desire. This makes such good sense and I think they’ve done very well so far (this is the second Norwegian ship with Studio cabins).
So enough factoids. Did I like the ship? Yes! Norwegian Breakaway has great facilities and really seems to ‘flow’ well to me. It’s very large, but does not really ‘feel’ all that large. Most areas have a very open design and this seems to bring it all together, rather than being chopped up into multiple locations as on some ships. Most of the décor is quite pleasant and not ‘in your face’ like you may find elsewhere on other ships. The only ‘over the top’ feature is the huge waterpark and ropes course on the back of the top deck, but then that’s just another example of having something for everyone! Overall, I found it all much more appealing than my last Norwegian experience a few years ago. They have different management now and have honestly been trying to upgrade their product and make improvements the last few years and it shows. This is good for us to see as we’ll have a Norwegian ship sailing from Houston starting next year. While it won’t be a brand new one like the Breakaway, it will have the Norwegian Freestyle trademarks and facilities so we’ll look forward to this new option for our Texas clients! In the meantime, the Norwegian Breakaway is sailing from New York to Bermuda this summer and will offer itineraries to the Bahamas & Florida from New York in the winter. In early 2014, she’ll be joined by a twin sister, Norwegian Getaway, which will be based in Miami for year-round sailings to the Eastern Caribbean.