Norwegian Breakaway: First Impressions

April 29, 2013 | By | 12 Comments

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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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    Comments

    12 Responses to “Norwegian Breakaway: First Impressions”

    1. richard
      April 30th, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

      One of the biggest complaints I read on Cruise Critic about Epic was the fact that because the casino was open to the rest of the atrium, smoke from the casino filled the air of every other establishment in the atrium. Did that prove to still be the case on Breakaway?

    2. Cathy
      May 1st, 2013 @ 10:21 am

      Actually the biggest complaint by FAR is the size of the balcony’s. The smoking threads come up every single time it falls by the wayside on the forum.

    3. Diane Schneider
      May 8th, 2013 @ 6:58 am

      The above two comments are true, the open deck of the casino on deck 7 where smoking is permitted traversed through other decking. And the balcony’s are small. Beautiful ship.

    4. ReginaP
      May 8th, 2013 @ 9:03 am

      We just completed the transatlantic crossing on the Breakaway and want to commend the crew on their superb efforts to create a very hospitable and welcoming environment. They are well trained, hard working, and seem to genuinely delight in being there to serve the passengers. This ship is beautiful. While there will always be those who find faults with anything new they experience the positive aspects of this ship, which are numerous, and the journey it provides far outweigh the harshest critics. Complainers will always exist and unfortunately, that population will continue to feed their megativity. The entertainment, the restuarants, the energy and activities on board will be more than enough to keep the passengers glad they came on board

    5. Paul Pormen
      May 8th, 2013 @ 9:50 am

      We did Rotterdam to New York. Yes this is a beautiful ship. Yes it is aimed at a younger, family crowd it as an older cruiser, I found that many things that were included in y our initial price are now an extra charge. This includes some shows, steam room, sauna. Most of the 27 restaurants are extra fee and there is no washer/dryer on board. Since I am to old for rock climbing and several other options, I prefer the old fashion cruise ship. I also found it exasperating when we were all put off the ship at Southampton and told to fend for ourselves for the night and get back on the next day in spite of the fact that I had an email from my NCL personal consultant confirming that I would be able to stay on the ship. The staff said to bad, Get off. Needless to say I and many others were not happy and NCL didn’t seem to care!

    6. Ned Soltz
      May 8th, 2013 @ 11:15 am

      My wife and I were on the inaugural transatlantic cruise and I have written more extensive comments which, as of this writing, have yet to be posted to Cruise Critic.

      It is a beautiful ship and we did have a wonderful time. I must, however, demur from the glowing comments of the reviewer.

      To answer the first point, the casino is indeed open and smoke is very evident around the casino and on adjacent decks.

      Certainly NCL customer service leaves much to be desired and this will of necessity color any review of the ship. We had to argue for spa thermal access which was according to the NCL site included with our spa balcony room. This set a negative tone.

      While there may be three uniquely-appointed main dining rooms, the food was the same and the monotony clearly seemed geared to up-selling the specialty restaurants. Food was not nearly as good as last winter on our Gem cruise out of NYC.

      Public spaces seemed extremely crowded even on this cruise of some 2800 passengers. Deck space also seemed small for a full 4000 passenger capacity in warmer weather. Spa Thermals and exercise area were definitely to small.

      Spa Balcony stateroom did indeed have small balcony. But greatest criticism is layout of cabin, with closet directly beside the bed.

      I detail these and other likes and dislikes in my longer CruiseCritic review.

      But while we booked, waited for months, and boarded with great anticipation, we did feel let down by the ship and by NCL itself.

    7. Caroline
      May 8th, 2013 @ 11:44 am

      My husband and I did the trans Atlantic to NY. Ship is stunning and refined. Yes, balconies are smaller but room is larger (in mini suite). Smoke did not seem an issue as casino is not above the Atrium but on top floor of an open area. There is now a non smoking casino area too.
      Manhattan diningroom is tops. Boardwalk will be a hit in warmer weather. Very easy to find your way around.
      Design, decor, staff, all excellent.

    8. Susan Halverson
      May 8th, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

      Did not notice smoke from the casino filtering into other areas.
      Agree with CC – it didn’t take long to get used to the set up — loved the new set up for the elevators.
      One hint for women with dresses – avoid the glass stairway.
      Only problem was the docking at 4 am and off the ship just in time for morning rush hour in NYC.

    9. Chris
      May 14th, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

      My husband and I took the Southhampton to NYC first transatlantic cruise and we had a wonderful cruise, but there were several things that made the trip only average. We are older(over 65) and there is very little space to read a book and just sit and watch the ocean go by, where there isn’t loud music, or busy areas. The library, card room, fitness center, Fat Cats, Headliners, Atrium, theater were all small. We only had 2800 people and everywhere was very difficult to get into. The seating in the Headliners was very uncomfortable. Missed having a theater presentation every night. Theater is small and difficult for waiters to get drinks to those who wanted them. Had an inside cabin for the first time in over 20 cruises and it was compact, but felt storage was good and the bathrooms were very nicely sized. The 3 main dinning rooms were good, but did have some difficulty with getting in and slow service. The Pub was the best of all the free food venues, Moderna was wonderful and so was the Spiegal tent production and dinner. Felt they gave too much area of the ship for paid venues and shops. Food was very good and the Garden Buffet was huge. The ship is geared for families and younger people than for the older crowd. In room tv was poor, but the interactive tv was great to book shows and dinning. There was only 1 movie in the Atrium one night, during the 7 days. Fireworks were nice, and many were disappointed not seeing our
      docking in NYC. I was dissappointed that we never got a list of activities to see the christening and what was planned for NYC. Feel it was a good cruise, but I wouldn’t go on this ship again. The ship was beautiful, but the inside plans need work.

    10. carol cohen
      December 16th, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

      what floor is customer service on

    11. carol cohen
      December 16th, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

      on the breakaway what is the deck of customer service?

    12. Donna Martucci
      November 7th, 2014 @ 10:03 pm

      We were on the Breakaway on October 5-12, 2014. We were in cabin 11156. We did have two problems on the ship.
      1. Was I did not get my suit case until 8:30 pm. My husband’s suit case came to the cabin two hours after we got tour cabin. When mine made it to our cabin. The side where the handle is was caved in. We did empty the suit case and brought it down to cusomer service. They were very sorry that it happened. Told us that it was not NCL fault. They told us that about five times. Then they told us they would try there hardest to fix it. Before all this happen I was down to customer service to tell them that my suit case did not come and it was 8:00PM. Plus I had told them I had nothing to wear after tomorrow. This is what they gave me a NCL BINGO shirt and toileties. It was good if I was going to plan on staying in my cabin for the whole cruise.

      2. We had our toilet back up. I called right away to get someone up. It took them over one hour to come. Plus a second phone call to report it. Once they came to fix it. It was done in less then five minutes.

      We did have fun at the casino and playing BINGO. I came home with $330. From winning at BINGO.

      We also enjoyed all the restaurants on board the Specilitie or not. Boy did they give us BIG portions in everything. The only time we had control over what we ate was when we went to the buffets. We loved all the food.

      We really enjoyed Rock of Ages. That was really good. We would have saw a second time but thought we should give other people a chance to see it too.

      I did not like the Cirque Dreams and dinner I thought the show was too long. The dinner we did not like. In matter of fact we came out of there hungry. My husband loved the show.

      Cagney’s Steak House was fantastic. We had so much food. I asked if there was a way they could wrap it up. So we coud bring it to our cabin. They were glad to do that for use. I had two meals out of one.

      We went to see Burn The Floor. That I did not like at all.

      We were suppose pet the stingrays but I could not walk the five minutes in heavy sand. When I found out that we could have had a ride up there. I was not in no mood to go. So we spent about two hours on the beach. Which was very enjoyable. Then we went back to the ship. We went to the atrium to listen to a good singer. We also went to the atrium to watch the Newlywed and Not So Newlywed Game. that was fun to watch.

      Most of the time we had a ball and fun. Would go again on the Breakaway in an instant.

      By the way, my suit case did come back to me on the third day. They fixed everything that was wrong. They even sewed patch that I did not mention to them.

      So we were very pleased with our cruise.

      Donna and Richard Martucci Jr.

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