Norwegian Breakaway: NCL’s best cruise ship for groups yet?

Date Posted: 02/05/2013

Ellie Simmons - Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship

Pictured: Paralympic gold medalist, Ellie Simmons opened the ship's impressive Aqua Park.

The new Norwegian Breakaway is big in size and big on entertainment. Rob Yandell joined in the inaugural celebrations in Southampton, as Norwegian Cruise Line showcased a cruise ship that connects your group holiday with it the sea like never before.

I've always held Norwegian Cruise Line in high regard; it's an innovative company that has really embraced the groups market. The fact it already lays claim to five awards from Group Leisure readers is testament to its appeal.

The last time I boarded one of its new ships was back  in 2010 at the launch of the Norwegian Epic. It was big (as the name suggests) and offered the high calibre of restaurants, bars and entertainment you associate with NCL - but there was something not quite right. The Epic followed a trend popular with some of the big new cruise ships and focused inward, rather than outward. Yes, the hub of the ship was exciting but when you're cruising you don't want to forget you're at sea, surely?

Norwegian Breakaway - connecting you with the sea

The new Norwegian Breakaway thankfully embraces the outdoors. It has kept the things I liked about the Epic and improved upon the aspects I didn't.

Inside the entertainment hub of the ship you have the Fat Cats blues club, Headliners comedy club (duelling pianos too), the Ice Bar, casino (you might be put off by the smoking though), an LED-light clad nightclub called Bliss, and O'Sheehan's Irish bar to mention just a few of your options. Top Broadway and West End shows in the theatre include Rock of Ages and Burn The Floor - the entertainment is big and it's impressive.

The Waterfront seems such a simple idea, yet it's brilliant and future cruise ships will quickly copy its concept. An open-air boardwalk allows a range of restaurants and bars to offer outside seating along each side of the ship - an inspired decision.

The Waterfront - Norwegian Group Travel Breakaway

Pictured: The Waterfront is the ship's unique new outdoor concept - simple yet brilliant.

Francis Riley, vice president and general manager international of Norwegian Cruise Line explains: "This unique outdoor dining and entertainment space adds a whole new dynamic to ocean cruising as guests enjoy al fresco dining along three action-packed decks that allow guests to fully experience the ship's connection with the ocean."

And it just seems classier - gone are the garish coloured carpets and palm tree lights by the pool. This is a cruise line chasing the likes of Celebrity Cruises for a chunk of the premium cruise market.

Eating and drinking - it's not all included

There are 27 dining choices onboard with nine included in the price of your cruise. If you think you've paid-up before your cruise holiday think again if you want to eat and drink without restrictions.

It's good for group travel organisers to knwo upfront that to upgrade to some of the restaurants guests have to pay a cover charge, which is $35 for Ocean Blue, a first at-sea dining concept from renowned US celebrity chef, Geoffrey Zakarian. Although CEO, Kevin Sheehan argues that's cheap for the standard of dining offered.

It must be said, that this is your most expensive option; others are cheaper (anything from $15-20 per person) and if you don't mind paying the extra it's well worth it. Norwegian Cruise Line has always had a good reputation for its dining and Norwegian Breakaway doesn't disappoint. The company is transparent about its cover charge policy and does point out that it is the choice of the people on your group cruise if they wish to dine in an inclusive restaurant or pay extra for one of the premium dining experiences.

Paralympic champion, Ellie Simmons aided celebrations

The overnight inaugural event in Southampton saw Paralympic athlete Ellie Simmonds open the impressive Aqua Park as Norwegian Breakaway's celebrity ambassador in the UK. Ellie was also supporting Norwegian's charity partnership in the UK with Just A Drop, which champions clean, safe water in communities throughout the world.

Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship - Norwegian Cruise Line

Pictured: The ship wil be home ported in New York and it has lots of NYC connections, including the bow's artwork.

The Aqua Park boasts five full-size water slides, including twin Free Fall slides, the first ever at sea, and a three-story sports complex that includes the largest ropes course at sea, a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court, and rock climbing wall.

Norwegian Breakaway will sail from her year-round homeport of New York City (a nice cruise and stay option) to Bermuda in the summer, followed by a seven-day Bahamas & Florida itinerary in the winter.

Things to know about Norwegian Breakaway

  • Legendary New York dance company, The Rockettes will be the ship's godmothers and will be on the first sailing of each month, taking part in special events.
  • Sister ship Norwegian Getaway will follow in February 2014 and be home-ported year-round in Miami.
  • Breakaway features a fireworks show on every cruise which will be the grand finale of a 1980s-themed deck party.
  • There is an expansive two-level spa with the first-ever salt room at sea and state-of-the-art fitness facilities.

Accommodation options

  • There are 59 100-square-foot 'Studio' staterooms for solo travellers with no single supplement, which include access to a private Studio Lounge.
  • For those seeking a high-end experience, The Haven by Norwegian is comprised of 42 suites at the top of the ship, with its own private lounge, courtyard and restaurant.
  • There are Oceanview staterooms, Balcony and Mini-Suites; along with Spa Balcony, Mini-Suites and Suites in close proximity to the spa.
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