Christening Norwegian Breakaway in New York City

Welcome aboard! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Welcome aboard! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Note: please bear with us as we try to file these reports. Onboard internet access is very spotty as everyone vies for a reliable connection!

My Air Canada flight touched down at New York’s LaGuardia airport just before 10am this morning, in an unusual lull in between the heavy rain that lashed the Big Apple for the better part of the day. But I wouldn’t be staying in the city that never sleeps for long; instead, I was headed for the christening and maiden United States voyage of the ship that never sleeps: Norwegian Cruise Line’s brand-new Norwegian Breakaway.

Norwegian Breakaway's forward stair tower: attractive and colourful. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Norwegian Breakaway’s forward stair tower: attractive and colourful. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


I had planned to write an entire paragraph about all of the different dining, lounge, and entertainment venues onboard. But after a few hours spent wandering around Norwegian’s latest and greatest, I realized it does no good for me to just rattle off facts that can easily be found in the brochure because while she may have over 20 different bars and 28 dining options, the real story here is all about the experience.

First and foremost, Norwegian Breakaway is clearly a winner. There’s hardly a trace of Norwegian Epic’s clumsiness or awkward features; instead, the very best and brightest ideas that Norwegian pioneered aboard the Epic have made it onboard. What’s more, they have taken those ideas and built upon them, creating what I feel is quite possibly the best ship Norwegian Cruise Line has ever built.

The Waterfront, by night: Norwegian Breakaway's new dining venue and promenade deck combination. Awesome! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Waterfront, by night: Norwegian Breakaway’s new dining venue and promenade deck combination. Awesome! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My favorite feature, hands-down, is The Waterfront. In an age where so many cruise lines are killing off the traditional promenade deck, Norwegian’s has not only returned it (there was no Promenade Deck, as such, aboard Norwegian Epic), but they have made it a sexy and desirable feature again.

Stunning fireworks, as seen from The Waterfront on Deck 8. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Stunning fireworks, as seen from The Waterfront on Deck 8. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Tonight, guests lined the rails of the Waterfront, eager to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and the fireworks spectacular put on at 8:45pm. It brought a tear to my eye to see all these people enjoying dinner, drinks, or friendly conversation on The Waterfront. I had nearly accepted that the Promenade Deck – always my favorite feature – was doomed to extinction in the never-ending quest to maximize revenues. With Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Cruise Line has redefined this traditional space in a way that, I think, will make passengers on other ships very jealous indeed when they see her pull into port.

The second thing worth mentioning is just how well my stateroom – a Category MB Mini-Suite with Balcony – has been designed.

The first thing you might notice is that stateroom doors open outward from the hallway, and not inward as is typical aboard most cruise ships.

My Category MB Mid-Ship Balcony Mini-Suite aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My Category MB Mid-Ship Balcony Mini-Suite aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


The second thing worth noting is the bathroom: it’s gargantuan for a stateroom of this size. The shower in my suite has a rainforest shower head, supplemented by six adjustable jet nozzles that can be activated by choosing one of the four water modes indicated on the shower.

There’s no cylindrical tube showers here; this has a full glass door that slides open and shut, and there’s plenty of room to move around. Ditto for the bathroom itself, which starts approaching a spaciousness that’s typically found aboard ultra-luxury lines. Did I mention the sink is dual-vanity?

This photo doesn't do the bathroom in my stateroom justice: it's much larger! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

This photo doesn’t do the bathroom in my stateroom justice: it’s much larger! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The room itself has been cleverly designed, with multiple light source options and switches that are conveniently placed. The desk is big enough to comfortably hold my laptop, and the flat-panel television is recessed into its own section.

The closet is very adequately sized for a weeklong voyage to the Caribbean, but the positioning could be better, as it’s tough to squeeze in between the couch to access the door closest to the wall.

The bed area is particularly well-designed, with recessed lighting and convenient storage. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The bed area is particularly well-designed, with recessed lighting and convenient storage. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I had read comments on some message boards reflecting discontent over the size of Norwegian Breakaway’s balconies; for sitting and enjoying the view – which I did last night – they’re just fine. No, you can’t stretch out and no, you’d never fit a lounger on them, but for time spent reading a book and relaxing with a drink, they fit the bill.

The view from my balcony, looking forward. The white "cover" is the top of the Waterfront promenade one deck below. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The view from my balcony, looking forward. The white “cover” is the top of the Waterfront promenade one deck below. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Also worth noting is that my Mini Suite is very much a middle-of-the-road category; there’s several cabin grades that are lower, and many that are higher. Yet the line has chosen to add some of these luxurious touches to these rooms.

Yesterday, I had the chance to tour one of the Category O1 Family Oceanview staterooms on Deck 5. Their bathroom has been designed slightly differently, but these rooms still offer an unusual amount of space inside; a theme that also applies to the stateroom corridor, which is the most spacious I’ve ever seen on a ship.

Ocean-view staterooms return aboard Norwegian Breakaway! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Ocean-view staterooms return aboard Norwegian Breakaway! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

All around the ship, I have been thoroughly impressed by the beautiful design of the Norwegian Breakaway’s public rooms. Nothing is enormous or gargantuan; instead, intimate spaces that seat 50 or 60 guests have been created in a way that spreads everyone out – though Shaker’s Martini Bar was smoking busy well into the wee hours last night.

Spacious corridors on Deck 5. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Spacious corridors on Deck 5. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

What’s really great about these rooms is that they build on the distinctive style that Norwegian Epic pioneered. It’s given Norwegian a real voice aboard Norwegian Breakaway; there’s absolutely no chance the ship will ever be confused with Carnival or Royal Caribbean, and I think that’s a good thing, particularly these days when the lines between, well, lines, seem to be blurring at an alarming rate.

My favorite location onboard has to be the gorgeous home of Le Bistro, with its black-and-white photographs of Paris. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My favorite location onboard has to be the gorgeous home of Le Bistro, with its black-and-white photographs of Paris. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


The other thing that made an enormous impression on me today was Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Kevin Sheehan’s remarks during the christening ceremonies that were held around the vessel.

Sheehan himself is a former New York resident. He grew up here. He went to school here. He even drove a cab here. But he took the time on such a busy day to thank – by name – his team at Norwegian Cruise Line who were instrumental in bringing Norwegian Breakaway to life. He had them stand up in the Breakaway Theatre to be recognized. Suddenly, people all around me were standing up, their pride in this ship – and in their efforts being recognized – palpable.

CEO Kevin Sheehan, right, stands next to artist Peter Max, middle. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

CEO Kevin Sheehan, right, stands next to artist Peter Max, middle. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Sheehan also paid tribute to the officers and crew, not just here but throughout the entire Norwegian fleet. And I’ve never seen that done before, ever. I have seen CEO’s put out a “shout-out” to “all the people who helped”, but to watch Kevin Sheehan personally take the time to recognize each of these groups of people was very moving.

Members of the Norwegian Cruise Line team begin to stand up for well-deserved recognition during the christening ceremonies. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Members of the Norwegian Cruise Line team begin to stand up for well-deserved recognition during the christening ceremonies. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


Norwegian Cruise Line has a rich and storied history. They’ve flirted with brilliance and danced along the thin red line of disaster. Yet they have always been willing to try something new. They’ve always innovated in ways that other cruise lines couldn’t conceive of. Witness how Freestyle Cruising was mocked – then immediately implemented – by their competitors upon its introduction over a decade ago. Ditto for multiple dining venues. Let’s be honest; had anyone ever thought of having sushi aboard a ship until Norwegian made it cool? Or accessing the internet before the Norwegian Sky popularized the internet café concept back in 1999?
Cake Boss Buddy Valastro stands next to The Rockettes for the naming of the ship. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Cake Boss Buddy Valastro stands next to The Rockettes for the naming of the ship. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My first cruise was with Norwegian back in 1998 aboard the newly-stretched Norwegian Wind. I have sailed with Norwegian numerous times since then, each time with a different iteration of the line. But I’d still fondly look back and secretly wish for the “old” Norwegian. Until today.

Norwegian Breakaway is officially christened! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Norwegian Breakaway is officially christened! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

With Norwegian Breakaway, I feel like Norwegian is finally on the right track. The old “NCL” that I sailed with in 1998 is long gone, and that’s okay.

The new Norwegian Cruise Line is better than I could have ever hoped for.

The Manhattan skyline - and the new World Trade Center - at dusk as we sail towards the Atlantic. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Manhattan skyline – and the new World Trade Center – at dusk as we sail towards the Atlantic. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


The Casino is much-better designed aboard Norwegian Breakaway than on Norwegian Epic. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Casino is much-better designed aboard Norwegian Breakaway than on Norwegian Epic. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


Tides Boutiques, Deck 8. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Tides Boutiques, Deck 8. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


The fantastic Thermal Suite Spa aboard Norwegian Epic, located all the way forward on Deck 15

The fantastic Thermal Suite Spa aboard Norwegian Epic, located all the way forward on Deck 15


Take a dip in the Spa's hydrotherapy pool... Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Take a dip in the Spa’s hydrotherapy pool… Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


...or relax in the Salt Room! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

…or relax in the Salt Room! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


The stylish Reception Area and nearby Coffee Bar on Deck 6. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The stylish Reception Area and nearby Coffee Bar on Deck 6. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


MIXX Bar, located aft on Deck 6. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

MIXX Bar, located aft on Deck 6. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


The gorgeous atrium at 678 Ocean Place spans, as the name suggests, Decks 6, 7 and 8. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The gorgeous atrium at 678 Ocean Place spans, as the name suggests, Decks 6, 7 and 8. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


Elevator lobbies are attractively designed and feature different artwork on each deck. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Elevator lobbies are attractively designed and feature different artwork on each deck. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


The Splash Academy is designed just for kids, and is located on Decks 12 and 13. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Splash Academy is designed just for kids, and is located on Decks 12 and 13. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


Guests can enjoy Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar both indoors and out! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Guests can enjoy Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar both indoors and out! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


Binocular viewing sights are also available on the Waterfront - and you don't need a quarter for these! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Binocular viewing sights are also available on the Waterfront – and you don’t need a quarter for these! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders


The New York skyline fading into the distance, as seen from The Waterfront on Deck 8 aft. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The New York skyline fading into the distance, as seen from The Waterfront on Deck 8 aft. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Norwegian Breakaway continues tomorrow, as we spend an entire day at sea trying to take in all this feature-laden vessel has to offer!

 

8 Responses to Norwegian Breakaway Christening Live Voyage Report – Day 1

  1. Kalle Id says:

    A delightful report (as always). The more I read about the Breakaway the more I like it. Norwegian seem to have done superbly well this time.

    As an interesting (and utterly irrelevent) tidbit about the Freestyle dining concept is that it was first actually pioneered on Baltic Sea ferries in the 1980s. The Finlandia and Silvia Regina of 1981 had four different restaurant options when built. Star Cruises adapted the concept when they bought their first ships (the Athena and Kalypso of Viking Line) in 1993-1994, and Star in turn introduced the concept on proper cruise ships.

  2. Peter says:

    Great pics and commentaries. Feels like we’re on board! I like the use of the promenade deck for dining.

  3. Kim says:

    Absolutely amazing! Just looking at the photos makes me think its a luxury ship with how much space they have. I want to go out and book a cruise on it right now! I actually watched the christening yesterday and i found it great to watch and really lived how each person was recognized! The pictures are beautiful and the color palate they have used is gorgeous.

  4. What a great report… and the pictures are fantastic! I’m sailing in March of 2014 and can’t wait!

    One question I had: I’m baffled by the outward opening doors. Doesn’t it seem as if they might be disastrous? I picture people constantly being hit with doors unexpectedly opening!

    Richard/Tralfie

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Hi Richard – thanks so much for the nice comments! I think you’re going to have a great time next March!

      Each set of stateroom doors are recessed in from the main corridor, so opening them outward won’t cause them to hit anyone. I have to say, though, I’ve never seen that arrangement anywhere; every hotel and cruise ship I’ve ever stayed in has always had inward-opening doors. I found myself constantly pulling or pushing the wrong way on them!

  5. […] Read our Live Report from the Norwegian Breakaway Christening Ceremonies in New York! […]

  6. […] Read our Trip Report from the christening of Norwegian Breakaway in New York City! […]

  7. […] Click here to read our coverage from onboard Norwegian Breakaway! […]

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