From the moment Norwegian Cruise Line first began talking about Norwegian Breakaway, the company made it very clear, this was not just going to be a ship based in New York City, it was going to be a New York City ship. With Broadway shows and hot dog stands, Norwegian President and CEO Kevin Sheehan, a proud New Yorker, proclaimed being on Breakaway would be like taking a piece of New York City with you when you sailed.
Before actually setting foot onboard the ship, I was a bit skeptical. I liked the idea of designing a ship around New York City, as I can entirely relate to NYC as center of the universe. But as a dubious ex-New Yorker, a pop art hull design and the Rockettes as Godmother do not a New York City ship make.
Having just come off the first two-night inaugural sailing of Breakaway out of New York, I must sadly state I was right to be skeptical.
If Breakaway is supposed to be a slice of New York City (or The City as those of us who grew up in its shadows and lived among its millions call it), shouldn’t it have felt like a homecoming to someone who lived there for 11 years?
It did not. At no point did I ever feel like I was on a New York City ship. I was constantly told it was New York’s ship. From Sheehan repeating his tale of nights spent as a taxi driver during college to Frank Sinatra crooning “New York, New York” piped into bathrooms and murals of Fire Island, others reminded me I was on New York’s ship.
Yes, there are three Broadway shows (one current and two from the past) on the ship, hull art by a famous NYC-based artist, a restaurant created by a celebrity NYC chef and a jazz club featuring a renowned NYC musician, but in 11 years of living in New York City none of those things featured prominently — or at all — in my life.
While I did occasionally hit a Broadway show, it was only after waiting on line for hours to get discounted tickets. And no one I knew while living in The City could ever have afforded high-end dining. New York City dining for most New Yorkers is about no-name eateries that serve great food and don’t cost an entire paycheck.
Even the hot dog stands weren’t enough to make me feel back in the New York groove. Give me a knish vendor and a food truck selling gyros — then I know I’m in NYC.
And if Breakaway is supposed to be New York City’s ship, why not name a few spots on the ship after New York City destinations. Instead of 678 Ocean Place, why not call the central area “Times Square” or even “Midtown”?
Or The Waterfront? There aren’t actually too many places in New York City to eat along the water. One of the nicest is DUMBO. Why not call The Waterfront “DUMBO” and create a faux-bridge above it to give it the Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass feel.
I’m not suggesting creating a theme park with Brooklyn fore and the Bronx aft; I just think putting the Breakaway Theater and maybe another entertainment venue in the “Theater District” might give the ship more a New York City vibe.
And please don’t direct me to Hoboken’s Carlo’s Bakery or show me signage for Fire Island. As a born-and-bred New Yorker, Sheehan should know how New Yorkers feel about bridge and tunnel spots. So referencing New Jersey and Long Island doesn’t add to the cause.
Breakaway is a beautiful ship and one I am sure I will visit again on vacation. But it is an outsider’s view of New York City and does not reflect a true New York City experience or atmosphere …
… with one exception. When, in desperation, I turned to my husband and said I can’t think of one way this ship reminds me of New York City, he said, “Well, it’s crowded.” It is indeed, and I did need to revive my Manhattan two-stepping skills to get around the shuffling crowds gawking at the scenery while I, as an ex-New Yorker, rushed to get around.
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