Norwegain Breakaway in Southampton
The highly anticipated Norwegian Breakaway arrived in Southampton, England for its first cruise with passengers on the night of April 29th, 2013. This was the cruise world's first chance to see actual pictures of the real ship, not just designer renderings.
Breakaway is a very significant ship because it represents the first of a whole new generation of cruise ships designed, built and delivered after the economic downturn of 2008. This means it represents a fundamentally different era and approach to cruise ship design. It takes at least two years to design and build a new cruise ship, so from 2008 through early 2011 the industry was still introducing "new" ships that had been ordered before the economic collapse of 2008.
One hallmark of the previous generation of ships was the use of open space to imply a note of luxury. For example, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 is a ship bigger than Norwegian Breakaway, but it is made to only carry about half the number of passengers. QM2 uses space as a sign of opulence, but today there is a far more important consideration: efficiency rated on a per passenger basis.
Today's new generation ships need to carry more people in a smaller space, without sacrificing passenger comfort. The key is efficient utilization of the available public space. Rooms that were once kept closed for most of the day, like discos, piano bars and large production show theaters, are now being eliminated or re-designed to make them into "transformational" space that can be repurposed for various activities during the morning and afternoon.
Notably, while Norwegian Breakaway has a very similar floor plan to the line's previous ship, Norwegian Epic, it is slightly smaller. Norwegian Epic is 156,000-tons for 4100 berths and 5183 passengers total, while the new Breakaway is only 147,000 tons for 4028 passenger berths and also about 5000 passengers total.
So, although it might seem like Breakaway is more crowded, it does not feel that way. By opening up and making the available space on board "transformational" the ship actually feels bigger and more open than Epic. In fact, Breakaway actually has more features than Epic: 27 dining options, 22 bars & clubs, three Broadway shows and the largest water park at sea with five water slides, two of which are the fastest at sea.
Biggest Changes on Breakaway
Breakaway boasts the "Free-style Cruise" format like all Norwegian ships, and while the previous ship, Epic, was supposed to represent the epitome of "Free-style Cruising," unfortunately that ship had some drawbacks, but Norwegian Breakaway fixes those design flaws and even adds some important innovations.
To sum up, the biggest differences between Breakaway and Norwegian Epic begin with the staterooms. The daring "New Wave" style staterooms on Epic were not carried forward to Breakaway. The biggest difference is the fully enclosed singular bathroom instead of having separate rooms for the toilet, shower and sink facilities.
The Waterfront is the next major difference. This "sea-view" public area with access to the dining rooms and lounges is an entirely new concept in cruise ship design. Other ships have come close, but this is the first to offer food, drink and a full water view, all in one spot and on a lower deck closer to the sea.
The addition of the two new restaurants by Geoffrey Zakarian are new, otherwise Breakaway has the very same dining venues as Norwegian Epic.
There are more, and more varied water slides on Breakaway, including two of the fastest at sea called "The Plunge."
Perhaps more will be revealed, but so far this is all we know about Norwegian Breakaway until she hits the shores of America.
What's New on Breakaway
Let's start with the "Waterfront" outdoor promenade deck. This lower public deck (number 8) opens up many public venues to the outdoors - a feature still surprisingly rare in the cruise industry. This allows al-fresco seating for many restaurants and lounges.
The Waterfront layout starts aft on deck 8 with Cagney's Steakhouse and Moderno Churrascaria (Brazilian restaurant) both having open seating entrances on the inside of the ship and both restaurants also having outdoor seating on the Waterfront. They both offer true "sea-side" dining under the stars.
Better yet, the Waterfront extends far beyond these two restaurants - running forward on both sides of the ship to also provide open air space to Shaker's Martini Bar and La Cucina Italian Restaurant on the port side; and to Dolce Gelato, the new Ocean Blue Restaurant (more on this exclusive dining venue below), Maltings Bar and the Fat Cats Jazz Club on the starboard side.
Breakaway is actually the first ship to offer such extensive sea-side access to outdoor al fresco dining on a lower deck. Previous ships, notably the Carnival Dream-class, opened up the Promenade deck to some chairs and a few hot tubs, but Breakaway takes the outdoor promenade deck to an entirely new level. You can actually see, smell and feel the open ocean air as you dine or relax.
678 Ocean Place: This is the only space on the ship that ascends three full decks. There is a similar open space on Epic, but it has been vastly improved on Breakaway. Stairs have been added to access all three levels. In addition, the area around the open space on each deck has been enhanced with open-seating for many various restaurants, making it feel more like a piazza. On deck six is Norwegian's iconic Le Bistro French restaurant, with the Teppanyaki Restaurant next door and the Headliners comedy club across the plaza.
Aft on deck 6 is the Mixx Bar and the entrances to the two of the three "included in the cruise fare" dining rooms; Taste and Savor Restaurants. Meanwhile, the Manhattan Room Restaurant is the third and largest "included" dining room. It is located a deck higher (deck 7) and covers as much floor space as Taste and Savor combined. This room features a large bandstand and dance floor for pre-dinner dancing followed by "impromptu" showings of the new show "Burn the Floor" on select nights. This dining room fills up first and the shows will start as dinner is winding down, so get there early and keep your seats for the best view.
Breakaway entertainment features three Broadway shows never seen at sea before. First is the five-time Tony Award nominated "Rock of Ages" - showing in the main theater. Another Broadway show appearing for the first time is "Burn the Floor," a dance-exposition with some of the finest exotic "ballroom-style" dancers anywhere. The third Broadway show is a new Cirque Dreams and Dinner offering called Jungle Fantasy that has played in more than 200 cities. That dinner and show costs $29.99 for general seating and $39.99 for premium seating. This is the exclusive show for the Spiegel tent, a special dinner theater venue with a distinct circus atmosphere.
The entertainment lineup is different; but I should mention Breakaway also has the Fat Cats Jazz Club, Second City and Howl at the Moon, just like Epic has, but Breakaway does not have Legends at Sea or Blue Man Group.
New Dining Venues
Breakaway has all of the dining venues already represented on Norwegian Epic - plus a few more. First is Carlo's Bake Shop. This is essentially a bakery where guests can order custom cakes and take classes on cupcake design. It has display cases with a large variety of treats like brownies, macaroon cookies and tortes. There are also special coffees and confections available at a small surcharge. Special occassion cakes can be made, reportedly at a $49.95 surcharge.
Also new and likely to be extremely popular is a new restaurant created by renowned New York chef Geoffrey Zakarian called "Ocean Blue" along with his own take on the infamous Manhattan "Oyster Bar" which he calls "The Raw Bar." Both of these restaurants not only open up to 678 Ocean Place on the inside, but they also have al fresco seating on The Waterfront promenade deck.
There are 960 balcony staterooms and 449 inside staterooms, with these two categories accounting for 70% of all rooms. Most importantly, the staterooms have been retro-designed to Norwegian Cruise Line standards, unlike the staterooms with some bad surprises found on Norwegian Epic. There are only good surprises; like coffee makers and an abundance of American 110-volt AC-electric outlets.
The 204-square-foot balcony staterooms have a clean, contemporary design with queen beds that can be converted into two twins. The streamlined, built-in desk and storage area features a 26-inch flat panel television, mini-bar and coffee maker. The desk area has four electrical outlets, two of them U.S. standard and two European standard. All cabin categories come with a mini-bar. The actual balconies have two chairs and a small table.
The biggest difference between a Mini-Suite and a balcony stateroom is bigger and more elaborate bathrooms with an extra-wide sink with two faucets. The showers feature rain-shower heads and multiple spray jets for the entire body.
Norwegian Breakaway also has 449 inside cabins (no windows) that measure 151 square feet and come with two twin beds that can be converted into a queen. Many of these inside cabins have additional pull-down beds so they can sleep up to four people all together. They also have a small desk area and television. There are 120 oceanview cabins with windows but no balconies.
The Family Oceanview stateroom measures 161 square feet and has two twin beds that can convert into a queen. Families can also opt for the 20 Haven Family Villas, which each have two bedrooms and two bathrooms; measuring 559 square feet and able to sleep up to six people.
There are also 96 "studio staterooms" decked exactly the same as those found on Norwegian Epic at 100 square feet and made to sleep one person in a double bed. They have a toilet and a separate shower along with a 26-inch television. All of these studio staterooms share a singular corridor that leads to the "Studio Lounge."