So after an enormous buildup and endless reveals, Norwegian Breakaway is finally here.
Norwegian Cruise Line‘s latest ship set sail from Rotterdam yesterday, making her way to Southampton, where she’ll stay for a couple of days before setting sail for New York Tuesday evening.
A lot has happened since Epic first burst onto the scene in 2010. The third-biggest ship in the world divided passengers and critics alike.
Epic remains a one-off, and it says a lot that Norwegian hasn’t built any more like it. However, what the line has done is take the best bits of Epic (which was a trailblazer) and either recreated them or improved on them.
If Epic is a big, brash teenage boy, Breakaway is like its younger sister. And to continue the analogy — just like girls and boys — she’s way more grown-up, even though she’s younger.
Norwegian has come a long way in the past three years. CEO Kevin Sheehan has steered the company to a successful IPO, and the line is in rude health.
Speaking of Sheehan (who’s onboard, by the way, and will be on the ship for the transatlantic), this ship has his mark all over it.
A born and raised New Yorker, Sheehan has unabashedly made this ship full of touches of his hometown.
First, there’s the hull art by Peter Max. You can’t escape it — it’s loud, it’s brash — and when we first put it on our Facebook page and asked you what you thought of it, let’s just say there were mixed views.
But guess what? Up close and personal, it’s beautiful. Really. Renderings and photos do not do it justice, the colors and subtlety (yes, subtlety), of the design are stunning when you see it for yourself. The different shades of blue, the shooting stars and the planets provide a stunning backdrop for the Statue of Liberty, staring out impassively. Mark my words: New Yorkers are going to be proud of this ship when it sails into the city.
You’ll also find interior artwork by Peter Max dotted around, as well as other nods to New York in the art and design. For example, you’d think Spice H20 had been renamed Fire Island, as there is a huge painting on the wall named that, plus a map of Long Island (with the word ‘Manhatten’ misspelled — not sure if Mr. Sheehan’s spotted that yet!).
The other inspired change is the Boardwalk, which runs around the whole of Deck 8. For readers unfamiliar with this concept, it allows a number of the entertainment venues and restaurants to have outdoor seating. It’s a simple and brilliant concept.
I’d wager Sheehan spent some of his youth in Atlantic City, because walking along here yesterday brought a strange familiarity. As a Brit, it reminded me of Brighton Pier — all that were missing were penny slot machines and candy floss vendors.
In some ways it was almost old-fashioned, like stepping back in time to a Victorian promenade. (I imagined people dressed up in all their finery, greeting each other as they made their stately way from one end of the ship to the other.)
It really works, and although our North Sea crossing was a bit cold to spend too much time outside, I guarantee when this ship starts her itineraries in the Caribbean, you’ll be fighting to get an outside seat.
And the other big addition is Geoffrey Zakarian’s Ocean Blue restaurant, which is squeezed in behind Wasabi and the Raw bar on Deck 8. It’s all clean lines and subtle colors and serves a mainly seafood menu with a few other dishes like steak (of course) and duck. There is also outdoor seating. It’s a lovely addition. Again, it’s low key and subtle. Teppanyaki it ain’t. And speaking of which, such is the popularity of that restaurant, it’s doubled in size to 96 covers.
I must also make special mention of two of the three Main Dining Rooms — Taste and Savor. These are inspired. They invert the whole idea of MDR’s, and with their banquette seating, dividers and tables for two or four, they give the impression of specialty restaurants.
The flows are also better. It took me two or three days to find my way around Epic, but it took me two minutes on this ship. Almost all the entertainment venues are located on Decks 5 to 8 midship, so you don’t get lost.
In summary, Norwegian has taken a blueprint and refined it, removing what doesn’t work and smoothing out the rough edges, creating a great ship for a great city.
Continue following our live coverage or share your own thoughts on Cruise Critic’s Breakaway page.
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