(6:00 p.m. EDT) -- Norwegian Breakaway was officially welcomed to its homeport of New York City this soggy May afternoon. Thousands of specially invited guests crammed the public venues, knocking elbows for a chance to watch the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes christen the ship.
But before the long-legged dancing line did its thing, guests were treated to what was essentially a first-night cruise show, showcasing the variety of entertainment onboard. Performances included short bits from jazz legend Slam Allen, dueling piano act Howl at the Moon, Cirque Dreams and Jungle Fantasy, Burn the Floor and Nickelodeon.
Performances were interspersed with sound bites from Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Kevin Sheehan and pop artist Peter Max, stilted introductions from Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss fame and celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian and a blessing by New York City's Cardinal Dolan.
Serious speeches were in supply as well, including a humorous few minutes from Bermuda's Premier Craig Cannonier, some light-hearted Caribbean rivalry from Bahamas' Prime Minister Perry Christie and a heartfelt welcome to New York City from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Sheehan, in particular, was clearly thrilled to be introducing the ship.
"It is such an honor for me to bring this magnificent ship here to my hometown." Sheehan loves to tell people he is New York born and bred, even having worked as a taxi driver while he was in college.
"I know New Yorkers are tough, but they know what they want and they respect quality. That's what we've done with Norwegian Breakaway."
Throughout the two-hour inaugural event New York City figured prominently, with lots of New York-centric video and music, and, of course, the Rockettes who appeared on stage in sparkly white, doing a traditional high-kicking routine to a variety of old-Time New York tunes before releasing the ribbon ostensibly holding back the bottle of champagne. The bottle seemed to clang harmlessly against the hull without breaking.
The gala event concluded with a rocking rendition of "Don't Stop Believing" by the Rock of Ages cast.
Norwegian Breakaway leaves Sunday, May 12, for its first Bermuda sailing. The ship will sail Bermuda itineraries through the summer, before switching to a Florida and Caribbean itinerary in the fall.
--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor