This passenger on the crazy golf course knows how to relax
There was a lot to write home about from Norwegian Breakaway – although not quite everything was all right on the night. Teething troubles can send the best-laid plans awry and I don’t know of a single new ship that doesn’t still have a snagging team aboard putting everything right for weeks (and sometimes months) after the first passengers have boarded.
No point getting worked up at the fact the wooden hangers in my cabin wardrobe were not clipped to the rail, because housekeeping had provided an ample set of plastic substitutes. And in any case, I was still trying to get my head round the unexpected fact that there was tea and coffee maker sitting on the dressing table – almost unheard of apart from on ships that sail regularly from the UK.
The cabin itself – or in my case a mini suite – looked unfeasibly long and narrow when I first opened the door. It was spacious and there was a convertible sofa-bed to accommodate a third passenger if required. Wardrobe and shelf space is perfectly adequate for the 7 and 10-night itineraries Breakaway will be sailing – there was additional storage under the bed and sofa and inside the stool.
Apart from the coffee and the television (which connects to the accounts system if you want to check how the bills are adding up) there was not much in the way of the extras which have become standard issue elsewhere. Just one picture on the walls; no fruit or flowers, no clock and no iPod dock – though there’s a hair dryer and four electrical sockets – two US flat pin and two European round pin.
Lights are activated by a power-saving card-in-the-slot which goes to blackout instantly rather than giving a few seconds’ grace. A discreet red light/green light system replaces the “Do Not Disturb”, “Please Make Up My Cabin” signs to hang on the door handle
The balcony has two chairs and a (very) occasional table – just about enough room for breakfast al fresco. My mini-suite bathroom was larger than those in standard cabins and more spacious than those I have had on almost any ship. Not quite sure what advantage there is to having his ‘n’ hers taps over a single trough basin, but the roomy shower with rainforest head and six powerful body jets was a real bonus. Less happy about the dispensers for soap, shampoo and shower gel.
From my situation on Deck 9 I looked straight out onto the plastic roof of the Waterfront. Not a problem in itself, but I did wonder how the flat surface would drain after a heavy shower.
So what else is hot about Breakaway? And what’s not? Here are a few thoughts.
NCL set new standards for cruise ship entertainment when they introduced Blue Man Group and the Cirque Dreams to Norwegian Epic.
Didn’t get a chance to sample the Cirque Jungle Fantasy dinner show on Breakaway, but those who did tell me the acrobats were fantastic. And the food wasn’t bad, either. Sadly, we were denied the promised performance of West End and Broadway musical Rock of Ages – a bad case of tendonitis for one of the cast was the reason we were given. I’m looking forward to hearing from passengers on the Transatlantic crossing to see whether performances resumed after the 72-hour recovery period I’m told was necessary. Verdict so far: LUKE WARM.
The Waterfront is an excellent concept, re-uniting passengers with the sea – which together with multiple destination itineraries, is what cruising was all about. It was too chilly to make use of them during the crossing from Rotterdam, but in the relative warmth of a sunny Southampton they were a popular gathering place for thousands of travel agents. They are particularly popular among smokers. Verdict: They will be HOT.
The Howl At The Moon duelling pianists in Headliners and the sublime Slam Allen blues band in Fat Cats are unbeatable late-night entertainment. Verdict: RED HOT. Bliss night club, however, was a disappointment and nowhere near as exciting a space as those on Epic or Norwegian’s Jewel class ships. I know it’s all about the DJ and the music, but the ambience is not quite right. Verdict: NOT COOL.
Taste and Savor are cleverly designed to disguise how big they are. The soaring triple-deck barns of restaurants on some ships are impressive, but can leave a diner feeling they have been part of a mega banquet rather than an intimate evening a deux. Breakaway pulls off the trick of making two of its three main dining rooms more welcoming. Verdict: HOT PLATES. Service, however, needs to be improved; it was woesome at breakfast, but will improve with practice. Verdict: NEEDS WARMING.
The Garden cafe main buffet restaurant, high up on Deck 15 is light, bright, spacious and welcoming. Importantly, it has a good selection of food and not just the same dishes presented at multiple serveries. Up one deck the Uptown Bar and Grill dishes out burgers, hot dogs and fries by the bucket-load, and there are fresh bottles of ketchup and mustard on every table. Verdict: HOT AND SPICY.
The Haven is the gated community reserved for passengers travelling in suites, most of which are clustered around its courtyard pool and lounge. I couldn’t quite work out why some of the sun loungers had their feet in the water of a shallow pool – at first I wondered whether I had stumbled across the remains of a rowdy party the night before. The retractable roof helps create a peaceful sanctuary, far removed from the lively open decks further aft. It’s the same concept as MSC’s Yacht Club and actually refines the Cunard Grills class (although without quite the same level of intimate dining excellence) but I do know that if I were to be given privileged access to its private restaurant, efficient concierge service and relaxing lounge, I might never want to leave. Verdict: ÜBER-COOL.
The casino was kind to me during the crossing from Rotterdam; with 300 slot machines and 26 gaming tables – including craps and Texas Hold ‘Em – it is one of the biggest at sea. But it permits smoking which is no longer an attraction for me. In fact it’s a deterrent. Despite promises of efficient air extraction systems, the smell lingers throughout the day. Fortunately, it’s easier to avoid passing through the space than it appeared to be on Epic. Verdict: SMOKING HOT if you enjoy a cigarette. Otherwise, it’s CRAPS.
So there you have it for now, and I haven’t even got to the Spice H2O open-air night club, the Splash Academy kids clubs, the AquaPark, the Studio singles complex or the Mandara Spa with its unique salt room.
Breakaway has an awful lot of the ground-breaking stuff that made Epic a big (and I mean very big) hit, but it’s been refined and perfected. The bits that Epic got wrong (don’t mention the bathrooms) have been left behind.
Next up, in 2014, Norwegian Getaway – an almost identical twin but themed on Florida instead of New York. After that there could be Attaway, Thataway and Bataway if chief executive Kevin Sheehan is to be believed. But there will certainly be at least one and possibly more Breakaway Plus ships, with an extra deck and carrying 4,200 passengers.
If they get their prices right, Norwegian have a Runaway success on their hands.
This passenger on the crazy golf course knows how to relax