NCL's Project Breakaway - Toddlin' Along

| 09.08.11

NCL has remained coy and reserved with its latest ship announcements when some pizazz would go a long way to excite.

Norwegian's new Project Breakaway- steeped in mystery.

Frank Sinatra sang, "Chicago, that toddlin' town." My whole life I assumed that meant Chicago is bright, big and alive. But the dictionary defines "toddlin'" as "to walk casually, to meander, dawdle or mosey."

Norwegian's new cruise ship build, "Project Breakaway" reminds me of that song. While the implication is that there is a lot going on, in fact we are talking about more mosey than moxie. We really know next to nothing about the project so far, and what we have seen so far is pretty "toddlin'".

There have been two "Project Breakaway" press conferences. The first revealed the new staterooms - of great interest only because the ones on the previous Norwegian ship, Norwegian Epic, were so unusual and generally disliked. This turned the announcement that Project Breakaway will have "normal staterooms" into "big news." But what we have are just standard, mainstream staterooms.

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The next "big news" announcement was how Norwegian is changing the names of the suite complexes on all its ships to "The Haven." Not exactly big news for Project Breakaway at all - except that the suites on Breakaway will have a lower profile - only two decks instead of three as on Norwegian Epic.

The latest Project Breakaway "big announcement" is that the contest to name the two ships has been narrowed down to just five possible selections. They are (alphabetically):

  • Norwegian Bliss
  • Norwegian Breakaway
  • Norwegian Escape
  • Norwegian Getaway
  • Norwegian Journey

Unless you happen to be one of the lucky contestants who submitted those names first, I have to say each of those names sound very staid to me, and if those are the most interesting names they got out of 230,000 submissions then we have a dearth, or possibly a fear, of creativity on our hands.

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The cruise line said the names "reflect the innovation of the brand along with the freedom and flexibility of the line's signature Freestyle Cruising and invoke the feeling that these ships provide a "break" at sea from the stress of everyday life." But none of them say "what a great ship this is!" like the name "Epic."

"Escape" races my pulse more than "Getaway." An "escape" is a caper consuming undeserved riches, but a "getaway" is a Sunday drive to the country. That is, unless you assert the more nefarious connotation where you equate regular life to something like prison and your cruise to holding up banks, drinking straight whiskey and kissing women whose names you don't even know.

Now I am just trying to create excitement - because that is the direction I would like to see Norwegian take with Project Breakaway. I keep hearing the promise that we will get there, but so far nothing has actually taken me there.

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I really like NCL as a cruise line. I enjoy their ships. I even love the fact that they took a chance with some vastly unique staterooms on Norwegian Epic, and I don't hold it against them that there were certain elements that just didn't work out.

Personally, I would be happier if they said "We still believe in our "new wave" staterooms (that is what they were called, in case you forgot), but we needed to fix a few things, the walls around the shower and toilets, the faucet, and the location of a few light switches - but other than that, we still think they are the most creative staterooms at sea." I would have liked that approach, but that isn't what we got. I am actually getting the overwhelming feeling the "Project Breakaway" is about reversing the impressions that Norwegian Epic left us - and I don't think that is necessary.

I personally equate Norwegian Epic with New York or Las Vegas. It has "Blue Man Group" and "Legends at Sea." Epic is the ship that never shuts down. It is edgy and active, a bit crowded with long lines that people choose to stand in because the result is worth the wait.

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I am still not sure what we will get with Project Breakaway, but I am envisioning a "toddlin' ship, like Chicago, as Sinatra sang in "My Kind of Town."

"They do things that they never do on Broadway, say. They have the time of their life, I saw a man, he danced with his wife."

That's Project Breakaway - a man dancing with his wife. I haven't seen anything unusual or edgy yet; just the opposite. Bottom line - I would like to see more edge. There are a lot of good things about Norwegian Epic - the best entertainment and singles program yet. (Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Allure come close in entertainment - but I also dislike those names, the result of another contest.)

Norwegian, you have a lot to be proud about, but I am not hearing you blow your horn with the same conviction as you had with Epic. I would like to see you stay true to the song "Chicago" in another sense - the cruise line "that Billy Sunday couldn't shut down."

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