After spending two days aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Breakaway, I was searching for a way to describe the transformation the line has undergone since Kevin Sheehan took charge of the company a few years ago.

Norwegian Breakaway is now officially Norwegian Cruise Line's - and we'll embark for her christening in New York on Wednesday, May 8, 2013! Photo courtesy of Meyer-Werft.

Norwegian Breakaway on her sea trials earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Meyer-Werft.

I decided that, in many ways, Norwegian Cruise Line is a lot like Apple.

After years of horrifying management decisions and a lack of product focus, Apple nearly went bankrupt between 1996 and 1997. Their share price was a joke, and their turnaround expert – Gil Amelio – was struggling to make the old Apple limp along. So he brought Steve Jobs in as an advisor in 1997, and the late techno-genius quickly ousted Amelio and took charge of the company he had founded.

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan at the christening of Norwegian Breakaway on Wednesday, May 8 in New York. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan at the christening of Norwegian Breakaway on Wednesday, May 8 in New York. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The rest, as they say, is history. Apple went from being mocked to having a product in the hands of the vast majority of people on this planet – the iPhone. In 1997, that idea was laughable.

The same could be said of Norwegian Cruise Line, or NCL as they used to be called. They had brilliant ideas, like internet cafes onboard ships and their revolutionary Freestyle Dining concept, that were often coupled with horrifying execution. Freestyle was immediately derided, and then implemented, on nearly all of their competitors. And no one implements bad ideas.

The Waterfront, Norwegian Breakaway's new Promenade Deck concept, is one of the ship's defining features. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Waterfront, Norwegian Breakaway’s new Promenade Deck concept, is one of the ship’s defining features. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Once Kevin Sheehan took charge of NCL in 2008, change was swift. The name “NCL” was dropped in favor of Norwegian Cruise Line. Loads of little niceties started returning, like printed documentation and a streamlined website. Even the company’s logo changed ever so subtly, utilising a different font and opting for a single, wave-like accent adorning a modified version of the logo that has been in place on the ship’s navy-blue funnels for over a decade.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Norwegian Breakaway is the culmination of the efforts of Sheehan and his team – and it takes Norwegian Cruise Line in an entirely new direction.

Day 1 – Christening Ceremonies & Departure from New York City

Day 2 – At Sea aboard Norwegian Breakaway

She is the biggest ship ever constructed in Germany, at the Meyer Werft shipyards in Papenburg; the largest ship to homeport year-round in New York City; boasts the largest AquaPark at sea, the largest ropes course at sea, the largest number of Broadway shows at sea, and has the largest youth facilities in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet.

Numerous classy touches abound aboard Norwegian Breakaway, like this waiting alcove adjacent to the ship's elevator banks. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Numerous classy touches abound aboard Norwegian Breakaway, like this waiting alcove adjacent to the ship’s elevator banks. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

But that’s not why I loved this ship, which I truly think is the best ship the line has ever constructed. I loved Norwegian Breakaway for three things: it’s well-designed, surprisingly classy, and has features that redefine the way we think of mainstream cruising.

The gorgeous setting of Le Bistro, one of Norwegian's long-standing favorite dining venues. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The gorgeous setting of Le Bistro, one of Norwegian’s long-standing favorite dining venues. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

First and foremost, I loved The Waterfront. To be able to dine outside on the covered Promenade deck in nearly all weather conditions, in my opinion, is a gigantic home run.

678 Ocean Place spans Decks 6, 7 and 8, and conveniently places venues around each other. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

678 Ocean Place spans Decks 6, 7 and 8, and conveniently places venues around each other. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Secondly, the line’s 678 Ocean Place, with its Norwegian Epic-inspired atriums and bars, lounges and restaurants all clustered together isn’t just a great idea, it also helps improve passenger flow, there aren’t as many guests tromping around from one end of the ship to the other, or having to go from Deck 6 to Deck 14 back to Deck 6 again.

Thirdly, the new look and feel aboard this ship takes Norwegian Cruise Line in a different direction. It’s rich and elegant, with plenty of vibrant colours that complement instead of contrast, and unique artwork and niceties at every turn. Even the elevator cars felt faster and more spacious than normal.

The Atrium Cafe on Deck 6 was inspired by the same space aboard the 2010 Norwegian Epic. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Atrium Cafe on Deck 6 was inspired by the same space aboard the 2010 Norwegian Epic. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Another interesting aspect of Norwegian Breakaway is that I would recommend her to people who I might not normally recommend Norwegian Cruise Line to. Suites in The Haven rival those found on ultra-luxury lines but with the added benefit of having a 1,062-foot long ship to explore. This makes Norwegian Breakaway strikingly convenient for multi-generational family trips, because no one has to compromise regardless of budget constraints or personal taste.

Entertainment aboard Norwegian Breakaway was better than expected, with New York's The Rockettes taking center stage. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Entertainment aboard Norwegian Breakaway was better than expected, with New York’s The Rockettes taking center stage. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Do you like good entertainment? If you cruise frequently, chances are you’ve seen “A Tribute to Motown!” or the like far too many times. But you can spend a week aboard Norwegian Breakaway and never take in all the professional-calibre entertainment options, from The Rockettes to Burn the Floor to Rock of Ages, which is fantastically edgy. Finally – a cruise ship show with some teeth!

It's edgy, it's 80's - it's Rock of Ages! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

It’s edgy, it’s 80′s – it’s Rock of Ages! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

What’s more, the entertainment options aboard Norwegian Epic are completely different, with the Blue Man Group taking centre stage. It’s still one of the best shows I’ve seen aboard a cruise ship.

The only real complaint I had about the ship was that accessing the far leaf of the closet in my stateroom was a bit of a challenge. But for the two or three times a day I went into the closet, I wasn’t bothered.

The Spa area aboard Norwegian Epic features the most expansive Thermal Suite I have ever seen. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Spa area aboard Norwegian Epic features the most expansive Thermal Suite I have ever seen. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

One of the hot tubs adjacent to the Hydotherapy pool in the Spa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

One of the hot tubs adjacent to the Hydotherapy pool in the Spa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The forthcoming Norwegian Getaway will also offer a totally different entertainment experience onboard, with the Tony-nominated Broadway show Legally Blonde highlighting, along with a new comedy partnership and expanded offerings for Burn the Floor, which was just superb aboard Norwegian Breakaway.

Norwegian Breakaway's Spa is positioned high atop the ship's navigation bridge, facing forward. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Norwegian Breakaway’s Spa is positioned high atop the ship’s navigation bridge, facing forward. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Unlike other lines, where entertainment tends to be similar throughout the fleet, Norwegian is cultivating unique experiences aboard each of their ships, along with different themes. And that’s a refreshing change to the cookie-cutter approach many mainstream lines have opted to take as of late.

Like Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway features plenty of open-air atriums. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Like Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway features plenty of open-air atriums. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

If you tried the old NCL and went away discouraged, the new Norwegian has a lot of good things going for it, and this new ship only enhances the brand the line has been working hard to cultivate over the past five years.

The Jogging Track on Deck 16. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Jogging Track on Deck 16. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Now that she has officially entered service, Norwegian Breakaway will sail weeklong itineraries to Bermuda that feature three days docked in Kings Wharf. In October, she will begin operating weeklong voyages to the Bahamas and Florida before embarking on 12-day voyages to the Southern Caribbean in 2014.

Of course, I’m curious to see what changes have been made to the rest of the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet and how the product compares to the Norwegian Breakaway. So join us in two weeks’ time as we sail north, to Alaska aboard the fun Norwegian Pearl sailing roundtrip from Seattle, Washington!

New York fading into the distance from onboard Norwegian Breakaway. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

New York fading into the distance from onboard Norwegian Breakaway. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl kicks off on June 2, 2013. More Norwegian Cruise Line voyages can be found here!

 

17 Responses to Norwegian Breakaway Live Voyage Recap

  1. It is a Beautiful Ship!! I am going to sail it next year in February!!

  2. Wansbrough says:

    Can’t disagree too much with what you have said there Aaron, I notice you picked up on the narrow space between the bed and wardrobe which was one of my grumbles. I was even more concerned about the hideously small balcony. There was barely enough room to use the chair so if I had paid for a balcony cabin on a longer cruise I would be extremely disappointed. I think that Mr Sheehan would rather you were out in the public areas where there is more chance you will part with a little cash instead of sitting on your tiny balcony.

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  17. […] service early next year, Norwegian Getaway is the second sister-ship to Norwegian’s jaw-dropping Norwegian Breakaway that made her debut in New York City this past […]

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