Norwegian Cruise Line just announced a new feature known as "The Waterfront" for the new class of ships they are currently building at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. The idea is insightful and represents a major leap forward in the realm of cruise ship design in what has previously only been done in baby steps.
The idea is to open up the Promenade Deck (number 8) to restaurants and lounges by adding open air entry ways and seating areas for the venues on this relatively close to the sea and often under-utilized strolling deck - lending the ship an enhanced connection to the sea.
On Breakaway, the first of two new NCL ships set to debut in April of 2013 and April of 2014, the Waterfront will feature eight outdoor venues, including the traditional Brazilian eatery called Moderno Churrascaria, the signature Cagney's Steakhouse, the Italian trattoria La Cucina, Shaker's Cocktail Bar, Malting's Beer & Whiskey Bar and two new additions, Ocean Blu on The Waterfront for sea food, including a "raw bar" with outdoor seating and a special takeaway menu and another first for Norwegian - a gelato bar serving a selection of flavors.
All of these restaurants and bars will have open air seating, where one can dine in outside seating on the deck in the tropical weather or dine indoors but still have exposure to fresh air from outside. These open air Waterfront venues are located on deck eight - so while it is not quite as low as the typical promenade deck, it is closer to the water than most cruise ships that only have open air restaurants on the top deck; often deck 12.
The promenade deck is a full wrap-around deck, meaning one can walk completely around the ship. There is a "yet-to-be-announced" entertainment venue that will also be on the Waterfront with an outdoor entrance and seating. My guess is that this will be the Bliss Nightclub.
This is an evolutionary design, where Breakaway will offer a unique and inspiring connection to the sea, although it wouldn't be right to say Breakaway is the first ship ever built with this concept.
Carnival Cruise Line built a similar concept into the Carnival Dream class introduced three years ago, with its Ocean Plaza Lanai restaurant and entertainment venue on the promenade deck. This was the first modern cruise ship to have indoor-outdoor seating on the Promenade deck, and the Carnival ships even have cantilevered hot tubs on the deck outside the restaurant to further engage people who want to mingle outside on this lower deck.
However, the Waterfront on Breakaway appears to offer a far more extensive indoor-outdoor connection with a larger number of venues opening to the outside Promenade deck, each with extensive seating and a separate entrance. While the Carnival ships have just one spot that opens up to the Promenade deck, the Breakaway will have a "waterfront" that feels like strolling along a boardwalk.
In many ways, it is also reminiscent of a long gone but once very popular ship from Norwegian; the Norway which was retired in 2003. That ship (built as the ocean liner SS France in 1961 and converted to a cruise ship by NCL in 1979) also had a full wrap-around promenade deck lined with shops, restaurants and access to various nightclubs along the way. The difference is the Norway's Promenade deck had been fully enclosed in glass, so while it seemed as if one was walking along a waterfront promenade deck (and one was) there wasn't the same level of beneficial exposure to the outdoors.
The 678 Atrium
While the Waterfront is the outdoor connection for these dining and drinking venues on deck 8, the interior connecting point is a three-deck atrium with a grand chandelier called "678," the numbers 6,7 and 8 representing the three decks the atrium will encompass. These restaurants will open up on the inside to the top deck of the atrium.
Deck 7 will have the Breakaway Casino, spanning more than 18,000 square feet with over 300 slot machines and 26 gaming tables. Deck 6 will be the floor of the atrium where guests will find the signature video wall with the Café and Bar at The Atrium offering special coffees and fresh baked pastries and other food as the seating area for watching the video screen. The Bar at The Atrium will feature mixed drinks, along with a self-service wine bar. The Shore Excursion Desk, Internet Café and Art Gallery will be nearby, along with two meeting rooms, card room and library. The location of O'Sheehan's Pub, one of the best features on Norwegian Epic, has not yet been announced but it is likely it will also be situated near the video screen, as it is on Epic.
In fact, the Breakaway series appears to have many similarities to Norwegian Epic in terms of public rooms, especially the three-story atrium, the video wall and the dining rooms. The Manhattan Dining Room at the stern of the ship appears to be almost identical to Norwegian Epic. But more remains to be revealed about this new class of ship between now and its debut in April, 2013.The La Cucina Italian Restaurant The same restaurant with the view from the terrace (promenade deck) The general look of "The Waterfront" on Breakaway