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New Cruise Ships: Norwegian Breakaway vs. Royal Princess

2013's marquee mega-ships are Norwegian Breakaway and Royal Princess, two prototypes already jockeying for mainstream ship of the year honors. How do they compare? We've compiled info on the cabins, dining, bars, sun deck and entertainment options in a handy chart. See what these two very different ships will bring to the seas in 2013, then tell us which one better suits your tastes in our poll below.

Royal Princess Norwegian Breakaway
Stats & Bio
Launching: June 2013
Passengers (DBL): 3,600
Tonnage (GRT): 141,000
Homeport(s): Venice, Ft. Lauderdale, etc.
Itineraries: Med., Caribbean | Find Cruises

Royal Princess, the first of two 141,000-ton, 3,600-passenger prototypes, will debut in June. The new-build, which is 20 percent larger than Princess' next biggest ships, represents more of an evolution for a line with at least a few toes still in the classic cruise camp. Princess Signatures like the Piazza, a gold-and-marble-swathed hub offering restaurants, bars and entertainment, are back -- but are more robust than ever. Ditto for the line's pioneering Movies Under the Stars option, its classic show lounges and its adults-only Sanctuary, which has expanded and added an adjacent kid-free pool. But Royal will boast a handful of novel touches, too, like the SeaWalk & SeaView Bar, cantilevered, glass-enclosed spaces that extend 28 feet over each side of the ship and dangle 128 feet over the water. Also new: cruising's first "live television studio"; private for-fee poolside cabanas; a poolside nightclub; and a fondue dining option.
Launching: April 2013
Passengers (DBL): 4,028
Tonnage (GRT): 146,600
Homeport: New York City
Itineraries: Bermuda | Find Cruises

Starting with the trippy Peter Max hull, there's nothing subtle about the NYC-themed Norwegian Breakaway, which will kick to life this spring. Breakaway will represent a blend of Jewel-class and Norwegian Epic elements -- with a twist. That means an (almost) industry-leading array of dining options from Chinese noodles to upscale French, colorful bars (Ice Bar) and entertainment ("Rock of Ages"), and a boisterous sun deck featuring five waterslides. NCL's ship-within-a-ship suite concept, The Haven, and solo cabin enclave are back. (One thing that won't make an encore? The controversial see-through cabin bathrooms.) But the ship's rapidly beating heart will be found in two symbiotic spaces. The Waterfront, a quarter-mile-long outdoor "boardwalk" dotted with restaurants and bars, will connect to 678 Ocean Place, a stretched-out (instead of up) atrium running the length of the ship. 678 will house restaurants, bars, the casino and shops.
Surcharge-free dining options include the main dining room; the Horizon Court, an action-station-style buffet venue with a taqueria, rotisserie, sandwich shop and Japanese hibachi grill; a fee-free pastry shop; Alfredo's, a stone-oven pizzeria; the International Cafe, serving pastries, paninis and salads (specialty coffees extra); Vines, a wine and tapas bar (wine extra); the Wheelhouse Pub's surcharge-free British lunch; the poolside grill and pizzeria; and 24-hour room service.

Added-cost venues include the Ocean Terrace, a seafood bar serving sushi, ceviche and caviar; a gelateria; certain buffet options (a "crab shack" station offering fried seafood, and a fondue dispensary); and two Princess signatures, Crown Grill, serving steaks and chops ($25), and Sabatini's, a family-style Northern Italian venue ($20). A "Chef's Table" option, during which an executive chef cooks dinner and explains technique to a small group of passengers, will also be offered ($95, includes wine). Royal Princess' version, called "Chef's Table Lumiere," adds a "curtain of light," which creates a private, softly lit space in the center of the dining room. Additionally, new private dining spaces inspired by wine cellars will be integrated in the main dining room (fee TBD).
Surcharge-free dining options include three mid-sized main dining rooms (one with a large dance floor); a buffet venue; O'Sheehans, a 24-hour pub with free bar food (wings, sandwiches); snacks and appetizers at Spice H20, an adult-only space that's a lounge by day and a club by night; a poolside grill; and room service ($3.95 per delivery if ordered between midnight and 5 a.m.).

Added-cost venues include the new-to-Breakaway Ocean Blu, a four-in-one seafood venue designed by celebri-chef Geoffrey Zakarian serving a traditional menu, raw bar, sushi option and takeaway menu. The line will also debut its first gelato shop and first pastry venue, Cakestand. Additionally, a bevvy of for-fee options found on other NCL ships are back. These include Moderno, a Brazilian-style churrascaria; Cagney's, NCL's signature steakhouse; La Cucina, its Italian restaurant; Le Bistro, serving French cuisine; Teppanyaki, a Japanese steakhouse a la Benihana; Shanghai's Noodle Bar; Wasabi, for sushi; and a Chef's Table option (multi-course meal presented by a head chef). Fees are TBD. Twenty-four hour pizza delivery has an added fee, too.
Royal Princess' watering holes hew to the line's more traditional oeuvre, with an unpretentious-yet-elegant wine bar, a stylish venue serving classic Italian cocktails, and signature lounges offering jazz outfits and dance bands. A dedicated disco, the flashy Club 6, should turn up the volume a touch. (At night, the main pool area will also be transformed into a club.) The Brit-inspired Wheelhouse Pub, a Princess staple serving the requisite pints (Guinness, et al.), blends dark woods with nautical touches. A fee-free sea day pub lunch -- fish-n-chips, cottage pie -- should prove popular. Casual poolside bars, like Outrigger, round out the offerings. But no doubt Royal's most coveted stool will be found at the 20-seat Seaview Bar. Like the SeaWalk on the opposite side, the glass-encased SeaView Bar will offer unobstructed views, perfect for passengers looking to mix vistas with vodka.
Breakaway is being designed as an all-night ship, with more than a dozen bars, lounges and clubs, mostly clustered around its three-deck-high, indoor-outdoor social hub. A pair of signature NCL bars -- Maltings (beer and whiskey) and Shaker's (martinis and other mixed concoctions) -- will introduce a new outdoor component. The 17-degree Ice Bar concept introduced on Epic is back, but with a NYC twist -- think ice sculptures (Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty) and themed cocktails like the Yellow Cab (vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice). Breakaway also features two pulsating discos, the indoor Bliss Ultra Lounge, with its lit tunnel entrance and illuminated bar, and the top-deck Spice H20, an Ibiza beach party-inspired venue. After the beats stop dropping, partygoers can soldier on at O'Sheehans, a 24-hour pub with free bar food.
Royal Princess continues Princess' approach to cabins: limit the number of suites (40) in lieu of affordable mini-suites (306) and balconies (~1,100). In fact, all of Royal's 1,438 outside cabins will have balconies -- that's some 80 percent of the total. Princess is making a number of tweaks to standard cabins, too. These include expanding the size of showers and making showerheads hand-held, and introducing pillow-top mattresses, upholstered headboards and bigger TV's. And suite passengers will be able to access Royal Princess' new Concierge Lounge, where they can get refreshments and make reservations for dining, spa services and shore excursions. The ship also features 36 wheelchair accessible cabins (29 balconies/7 insides).
Breakaway offers a huge range of cabin categories, from the heralded 100-square-foot, single occupancy Studios to the Haven Suites, 42 top-ship abodes composing a ship-within-a-ship complex with private restaurant, gym and pool. In between are spa cabins and suites, five-guest family cabins, mini-suites (248), balconies (960), and hundreds of traditional oceanview (120) and inside cabins (449). (Roughly 65 percent of cabins have balconies.) Design-wise, Breakaway's cabins represent a pull-back from those found on Epic. Much of what made Epic's cabins unique -- curvy walls, beds and couches, in-cabin bowl sinks and those sort of see-through bathroom doors -- has been exchanged for Scandinavian design and a curve-free layout.
Sun Deck
Royal Princess' top deck will feature the line's largest-ever versions of Movies Under the Stars, the poolside jumbotron concept it pioneered (and forgot to patent), and the for-fee Sanctuary, an adults-only haven (think massage cabanas, ultra-plush loungers and bathrobed cruisers). Amidships, two main pools will bump up against a "tropical island," which will transform into a dance club and light show at night. New-to-Royal sun deck features include an adults-only pool adjacent to the Sanctuary and seven private for-fee cabanas. But the visual highlight has to be the SeaWalk, a cantilevered, glass-enclosed walkway that will extend 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship and 128 feet over the water. For active types, Sports Central will house a portable batting cage, golf driving facility, multi-use center court (b-ball, volleyball, tennis), lawn court (bocce), laser shooting range and a new take on the at-sea jogging track that integrates outdoor exercise stations set at intervals.
Breakaway's sun deck is highlighted by an Aqua Park with five waterslides, including two side-by-side, near-vertical tubes atop which passengers stand until the floor disappears. Younger sun deckers will find statues of Nickelodeon characters SpongeBob and Squidward; a kiddie pool and mini-slide; and the requisite water-spraying apparatus. Breakaway's three-story sports complex will feature a ropes course with 40 different elements, including a "zip track" and "The Plank," a platform that extends eight feet over the side. Also on offer: a rock-climbing wall, b-ball court, bungee trampoline and 24-foot enclosed climbing cage. The obligatory adults-only space is Spice H20, which features a movie screen, bar, hot tubs, plush loungers and a dual waterfall feature for cooling off. At night, Spice becomes a dance club. Passengers 18 and up can also access the for-fee Vibe Beach Club, which features an oversized hot tub, chaise loungers, a water feature and a full-service bar.
Royal Princess will feature the fleet's largest Princess Theater, which will showcase classic song-and-dance revues and musicians. The Vista Lounge will function as an alternate evening performance venue (think comedians, dance bands and such). The multi-use Piazza will offer impromptu, street fair-style mini-shows (juggling, music). The ship will also debut a new entertainment concept for the line, called Princess Live! With seating for 280 passengers, the space is a television studio that doubles as a more intimate performance venue. Royal's "The Wake Show" will broadcast daily from here with a live studio audience. Game shows, cooking demos, art house films, enrichment programming, murder mystery and trivia games, and acoustic and smaller-scale performances by the ship's musicians will also take place here.
As it did with Epic (Blue Man Group), NCL is again focusing on big-name acts. Tony Award-nominated musical "Rock of Ages" will headline the entertainment lineup, and two other versions of Broadway shows -- "Burn the Floor" and "Cirque Dreams & Dinner Jungle Fantasy" -- will be featured. Cirque Dreams & Dinner Jungle Fantasy has an entrance fee (TBD). Additionally, a handful of previously launched offerings will be making an encore, including improv comedy troupe The Second City and rock 'n' roll dueling piano act Howl at the Moon, both of which debuted on Epic. Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club, another Epic debut, will also be back. Similar to Epic's advance entertainment reservations system, select shows on Breakaway may be reserved starting 45 days prior to sailing.

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