Now, when you consider Norwegian Epic, the newest ship already in service for Norwegian; entertainment is extremely critical. So this announcement has a lot of potential - but that is not a given. Epic has a specially designed theater to feature the hit show "Blue Man Group," one of my favorite stage shows of all time. But I personally wonder what Norwegian can possibly do to top Blue Man Group. At this point I am just hoping for something even remotely on par.
But, since we have to wait until Friday for that announcement, I thought we could look at what we already know about Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, the new Norwegian ships currently under construction. A little speculation on what the upcoming Norwegian cruise experience could entail can't hurt.
About Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway
In case you haven't heard, Norwegian Cruise Line is currently building two brand new ships; Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg Germany. These two new ships will each come into service one year apart; Breakaway in April of 2013 and Getaway in April of 2014.
So far we have seen deck plans, dining options and stateroom renderings for these new ships. While they are largely based on the last ship Norwegian built, Norwegian Epic, even NCL had to admit there were problems that needed to be fixed with Epic.
The staterooms especially went too far with a concept conceived by the former company president, Colin Veitch who called them "Free-style 3 New Wave" cabins. He proudly said they represented a departure from the usual and staid stateroom towards new design territory, something like Euro-modernism. In concept they had potential, but in the end certain design elements overshadowed the intent. The bathrooms especially promoted fashion over function; an area where I think most people agree the other way around is preferable.
So, the staterooms on the new ships bring a return to much more traditional style; no curved walls, colored lights, or dramatic decorative accents like glass panels instead of real walls. They have regular cruise ship bathrooms - a topic that current Norwegian president Kevin Sheehan eventually heard so much about than when he introduced the design for the new ship's bathrooms he literally said "and the new staterooms will have normal bathrooms - Yay!"
Dining Options - Some Things Borrowed, Some Things New
Though it appears Breakaway and Getaway have most of the same dining venues as we see on Norwegian Epic, the new ships not only have a few additions but all of the restaurants appear to have have more decorative flair - especially with the introduction of true outdoor al fresco dining along "the Waterfront." There is also more open feel to the interior with the introduction of "Atrium Al Fresco" dining in some restaurants - meaning seating outside of the restaurant in the more public areas of the ship. We like this idea of opening up the vessel by blending different environments together.
The new ships also feature a new concept in cruise ships first done on Carnival; opening up public rooms to fresh air by placing tables and chairs on lower outdoor decks. While open "promenade decks" are very common on most ships, until recent years that deck was never utilized for much more than taking strolls and access to lifeboats. But a few newer cruise ships; Carnival Dream, Magic and Breeze, and Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway among them, are offering outside strolling and seating areas for bars and restaurants on the these lower promenade decks. This is an idea we like a lot.
While Carnival was arguably the first cruise line to do this with the "Ocean Plaza" concept on the Carnival Dream in 2010, Norwegian is arguably going further with the concept by using the deck above the Promenade deck for its Waterfront walkway. The deck below will also open up to an outside deck outdoors for access to lifeboats - not sharing the same deck for both functions as Carnival does.
What do you think about this new ship's features? Talk about it in the Norwegian Cruise Line forum.
Here are the restaurants with outdoor seating along "The Waterfront":
- Ocean Blue Seafood is a new venue for Norwegian, not offered on Epic. Norwegian boasts, "Take a seat by the sea at Ocean Blue on The Waterfront, the newest addition to our Freestyle dining lineup. Seafood lovers will rejoice at our fresh approach to menu items as well as the variety."
- Norwegian introduced 'Moderno" Churrascaria on Epic and it became such a hit they plan to add it throughout the fleet. They are taking it a step further on the new ships with true al fresco dining on deck. "Norwegian was first to bring this dining concept to sea, and now we've taken it a step further with outdoor seating at our signature Brazilian-style steakhouse. Whether you dine indoors or out, your mouth will water as different grilled and slow-roasted meats are carved tableside."
- La Cucina Italian Restaurant on Epic feels almost like an afterthought - if you can even find the entryway buried below the most forward section of the buffet and only accessible by a staircase. Once you are inside, however, you get stunning sea views over the bow of the ship. Apparently Norwegian decided Italian dining deserves more flair on the new ships, so this restaurant will also offer true al fresco dining on The Waterfront.
- Finally - the last Waterfront eatery is "Gelato" which offers the namesake. Norwegian boasts, "Slow churned, dense and intense in flavor, gelato is Italy's answer to ice cream and our version is the perfect accompaniment to a leisurely stroll on your exploration of The Waterfront. Choose from a variety of flavors and drift off in sweet thoughts as you walk in the breeze."
- There are also several bars and lounges that will have access to the fresh air including Maltings Beer and Whiskey Bar and Shakers Cocktail bar for martinis.
Additionally, it appears the new ships have the same configuration as Epic for a spot called "678 Ocean Place" where you can view three decks simultaneously topped with a distinct chandelier. The new Norwegian ships will have restaurants with seating along this atrium.
Le Bistro French Restaurant is one and Norwegian says, "If you've always dreamed of dining at a sidewalk café in France, Le Bistro can satisfy your craving. Our new seating option, Atrium Al Fresco, is reminiscent of sidewalk-style dining - overlooking the social hub of 678 Ocean Place. Be mesmerized by the 3-story cascading LED chandelier and the constant flow of people as you dine on classic French favorites."
Another popular spot is Cagney's Steakhouse, which on Epic was placed on deck seven aft - above the Manhattan Dining Room and adjacent to Moderno. But on the new ships Moderno and Cagney's are on deck eight and share "an opening to view The Manhattan Room below." Both of these restaurants also have true al fresco outdoor dining on the Waterfront.
Here is another departure from Epic. The two new ships will have the same Manhattan Dining Room at the aft section, but Epic only has one other main dining room, Taste, located mid-ships. On the new ships there are two additional main dining rooms, but located on deck six below the Manhattan, not mid-ships, so they also have views off the aft end of the ship. The first one is also called "Taste," but across from it and also sharing the aft view is a new main dining room, "Savor." All three dining rooms are included in the cruise fair, but unlike Epic, where both main dining rooms have the same menu each night, on the new ships Taste and Savor will have different menus each night - along with completely different décor, so the "included in the cruise fare" dining has more options nightly.
And just to be clear - the new ships will also have O'Sheehan's Pub with its small but delicious menu included in the cruise fare, as introduced on Norwegian Epic. The buffet area will also be open at night for people who just want a quick bite at night.
Entertainment - What's in Store?
While we still have not heard the specific plans for entertainment on Norwegian Breakaway, let's see what the deck plans for the new ships tell us.
Norwegian Epic has a much larger production show theater than what is planned for the new ships. The Epic Theater is two decks tall but still only seats about 681 people - which is barely big enough for one-eighth of the passenger load (5283 people maximum capacity on Epic) per showing. This is the at-sea home to the highly rated Blue Man Group - one of the most popular cruise ship shows ever. This is also the venue for "Legends at Sea," the very polished "tribute shows" Norwegian licensed from the Las Vegas company "Legends in Concert."
The Epic Theater is notoriously small, yet the proposed theater on Norwegian Breakaway (and its forthcoming sister Getaway) as shown on the deck plans appears to be even smaller. It only has a single story on deck six and is less deep and wide than the main showroom theater on Epic.
But next to that theater is another space simply titled "entertainment venue." Right now we cannot be sure what NCL has planned for that space, but there is a similar spot on Epic as the venue for Second City Comedy and the Howl at the Moon dueling piano shows.
The planned room for Breakaway appears to be much bigger than the similar locaation on Epic. In fact, that room takes up the space used on Epic for the circus-like Spiegel Tent dinner theater shows that have not been proven to be overly popular. Breakaway also has another entertainment venue in nearly the same spot as Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club on Epic, so it seems a given that will be repeated.
Still - we will not know until Friday soonest, perhaps much later, but just going by deck plans it does not appear as if production shows will be as important on Breakaway as they are on Epic. I seriously doubt there will be a show of the caliber of "Blue Man Group" although I hope I am wrong. The room does look big enough for "Legends at Sea" to appear nightly and seat all of the guests comfortably at least once or twice per cruise. But this is all pure speculation right now - we'll know much more on Friday.
What do you think about this new ship's features? Talk about it in the Norwegian Cruise Line forum.