The Norwegian Breakaway sailed into the New York City market with a big splash in May and like its home port, the 4,028-passenger Norwegian Breakaway is a ship of superlatives.
That’s not just because of its size. The Norwegian Breakaway, the biggest ship to homeport year-round in the city, has all the comforts of home—if your home has a whimsical hull mural, designed by renowned pop artist Peter Max; Sabrett hot dog carts; and Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro designing your meals. Oh, and also three Broadway shows, fitness classes by the Rockettes, and the largest aqua park and ropes course at sea.
The ocean not only serves as the backdrop, but steps front and center into the cruise experience with the Waterfront, a quarter-mile boardwalk-style promenade where passengers stroll in the ocean air and stop to dine outdoors at a choice of seaside restaurants. There’s an astounding depth and variety of offerings in every area of the onboard experiences, making the ship ideal for a family getaway or multigenerational reunion.
play with someone your own age
On the Breakaway, each kids club has dedicated counselors and space, with tight age groupings. “Turtles,” 3- to 5-year-olds, may be working on a “Slimy science lab” or learning circus skills, while “Seals,” 6- to 9-year-olds, create episodes of the Nickelodeon show “iCarly,” and “Dolphins,” 10- to 12-year-olds, team up for sports or games of survivor. There’s also a separate colorful play space for parents and little ones (6 to 36 months) to share activities such as clown school and finger painting. And through Norwegian’s alliance with Nickelodeon, kids get to interact with their favorite characters such Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants in the kids Aqua Park and Splash Academy programs, giving the ship a strong calling card with the younger set.
Splash Academy provides supervised “edutainment” from 8 a.m. through 10:30 p.m. and extended stays at only $6 per child thru 1:30 a.m. While there were only a handful of children on the inaugural sailing we were on, the Breakaway easily can have up to 1,400 kids on board in any given week and most participate in Splash Academy activities, says Karen Maybury, the academy’s creative director. “Kids of all ages are encouraged to develop their interests, whether it’s theater, circus skills or sports. We find a way to make every child a superstar and each one gets a certificate at the end of the cruise.”
Teens can be harder to engage, acknowledges Maybury, “but the Breakaway’s teen-only Entourage Lounge draws them together with cool counselors and cool technology such as our customized DJ unit—one of four in the world—where teens can learn to be DJs.” Teens learn to street dance, and gather in comfy seating areas with large screen video games during the day and evenings pulsate with themed teen parties, both in the club and around the ship.
walk the plank
Walking the plank is as dramatic as it sounds, and it’s just one of the adrenaline-pumping activities that kids and adults both seem to love. Think racing through a giant ropes course (the biggest at sea) and ziplining high above the ocean. Not to mention playing basketball, miniature golf and mini-bowling. If you’re still not impressed, there’s the Aqua Park, the largest water park at sea, with side-by-side multi-story twister slides, a Free Falling feet-first plunge, and more. And since the system is designed to handle more than 1,000 people an hour, there’s rarely a wait.
“The reaction has been, ‘Oh my god, this is on a ship!’” says Andy Stuart, executive v.p., global sales and passenger services, Norwegian Cruise Line Corporation. “I think people expected something much less from a scale and excitement standpoint.” 29 ways to dine
With everything from hot dog carts to acclaimed gourmet cuisine, Breakaway literally lets passengers dine in a different eatery for each meal. But be sure clients reserve in advance if they want dinner at Ocean Blue by celebrity Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian—a worthy splurge, even at $49 pp. Other specialty options (with $15 to $25 surcharges) include two other Zakarian restaurants along with sushi and an a la carte Chinese noodle bar, a French bistro, Cagney’s Steakhouse, and the family-pleasing Italian cuisine of La Cucina. Also fun is the Brazilian churrascaria with slow-roasted meats carved tableside and Teppanyaki’s hibachi-style cooking where kids can interact with the table-side chefs.
Those who prefer never to pay extra for specialty dining certainly won’t feel deprived. Savor and Taste each offer trendy decor and distinctive menus, while The Manhattan Room feels like a private super club, complete with a dance floor and entertainment. For families who prefer the casual simplicity of a buffet, the Garden Cafe serves three meals a day. And more casual fare is on tap at O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill and the Uptown Bar & Grill. A place that’s popular with both kids and adults is Carlo’s Bake Shop, with creations by Buddy Valastro.
dance, sing or cheer the night away
“‘What do you fancy tonight, a Broadway play or a sing-along?’ That’s not a conversation you can have on many ships in the world today,” says Stuart.
Stuart is right, except that in reality there are way more choices than Broadway vs. sing-along. With 20 lively bars and lounges, bar-hopping can be a weeklong affair. Two that receive consistently rave reviews are the dueling piano sing-along, Howl at the Moon, and the engaging music of Slam Allen at the Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club. And for novelty, it’s hard to beat putting on one of the bar’s heavy coats to chill in the Svedka Ice Bar, or Spice H2O’s weekly 80s-themed deck party, capped off with fireworks. And building on the pioneering success of the Epic, the 3-story atrium called 678 Ocean Place draws the ship’s eclectic dining and entertainment options into an exciting social hub where you step out of one spot into a buzz of other enticing options.
For fun with the kids (or children-at-heart), the awe-inspiring acrobatics at the dinner show at Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy or the fancy dancing at Burn the Floor at The Manhattan Club should hit the spot. And improv comedy fans can catch The Second City show.
from butlered to budget
The wide range of cabin styles lets each family determine their own budget and travel style, which can be especially nice for larger groups. There’s no question of who will pay for the cab, splitting dinner tabs or choosing between an expensive or value-oriented resort, points out Stuart.
“The Breakaway fills a gap in the cruise industry for upscale families with The Haven, our luxury ship within a ship,” he says. “Luxury lines do a good job with older couples looking for a sedate experience but if I took my kids on those brands, they might never forgive me.”
For luxury seekers, The Haven’s 20 two-bedroom family villas with butler and concierge service, a private pool area, dining room and lounge and extras like their own embarkation with access to everything the ship has to offer are the way to go. “We’ve had great feedback from consumers and our travel partners,” Stuart notes.
For those whose pockets don’t run that deep, the inside and oceanview family staterooms with one or two pull-down beds offer a workable alternative, thanks to plenty of clever storage space. Many are available as connecting cabins. More spacious are the family mini-suites with balconies, featuring a queen and sofa bed, double sink, and bathtub. Norwegian planned well; its family cabins tend to be located near the kids’ center. And for solo travelers—say, the aunt or uncle who wants to be part of the family fun, but wants their alone time, too—the Breakaway’s single-occupancy Studios cluster around a 2-deck singles lounge.
beaches, forts and wildcats
While there’s enough onboard excitement to make some people want to never leave the ship, beaches and adventure—the two top ingredients for family fun—are in high supply in the Breakaway’s destinations. Through Oct. 6, the ship sails to Bermuda, where its forts delight kids and a zippy tour around the island on wildcats delights high-speed thrill seekers.
In case you want even more parks and adventure than the Breakaway can hold, theme parks and beaches highlight the Bahamas sailings. The ship calls at Port Canaveral, gateway to the Orlando theme parks and Atlantis, with its watery adventures and amazing aquariums, and Norwegian’s private island, Stirrup Cay. Two 12-day sailings, Jan. 5 and 19, offer the chance to visit six Caribbean islands.
Through December 2013, a 7-night cruise for a family of four is priced from $1,996 plus taxes and fees in an inside family cabin; $2,896 in a mini-suite; and $6,796 in a 2-bedroom villa in The Haven. Group discounts are available for eight or more cabins.
Crew: 1,595 Guests: about 4,028 (dbl occupancy)
Cruising speed: 21.5 knots Staterooms: 2,014
Length: 1,062 ft. Draft: 27 ft.
Gross registered tonnage: 146,600
WHAT TRAVEL AGENTS ARE SAYING…
When Lynn Lappin, a cruise and land vacation specialist with Cruise Planners of Central New York, was looking for a ship for a client’s family celebration, she thought of the Norwegian Breakaway. “It was a 50th wedding anniversary. Family members ranged in age from 11 to 82,” she says.
It was a smart choice, says Lappin, who had recently experienced the ship herself. “The adults loved the shows and specialty dining venues and the kids had so many activities to choose from,” she notes. “And taking the expense and inconvenience of flying out of the equation allows a family to have a fabulous experience at a reasonable price.”
“This ship offers tremendous value,” agrees Bill Potuchek, owner of Dream Vacation Travels in Connecticut. “You’d have to work hard to try everything the ship has to offer in one trip!”
Norwegian Cruise Line: (866) 327-7030; ncl.com or ncl.com/nclweb/secure/partners.html (travel agent login)