Cruise Travel

The Best of NYC at Sea: How the NCL Breakaway is like New York City

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This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending two days on board the brand-new Norwegian Cruise Line ship, The Breakaway.  This fourth-largest ship in the world featured several innovative designs meant to recreate ‘the best of NYC at sea’–as Norwegian’s tagline goes.  Because I love New York–as the t-shirt tagline goes–I was intrigued.  How could a ship possibly recreate the experience of one of the greatest cities on earth?  Here’s how:

How the NCL Breakaway is Like New York City

Note: all venues and events featured in green bold below will be the subject of a soon-to-be-published future post, so stay tuned for more on this exciting new ship!

It’s Tough to get a Dining Reservation

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On this short, two-night sailing, dining reservations were at a premium.  The brand new Geoffrey Zackarian restaurant, Ocean Blue, was the reservation to snag.  If you’ve ever tried to score a reservation at a high-demand restaurant in any city (Per Se, I’m looking at you), you’ll be perfectly at home on the Breakaway.  And if you do score a table at a high-demand venue, you get the added bonus of reservation-envy.  Prepare to watch your fellow cruise-mates turn green with envy (and  who doesn’t like to be envied?)

Of course, on longer sailings, I don’t expect this to be a problem (and really, if  ‘I can’t get a reservation at the restaurant I wanted‘ is your biggest problem, you’re doing pretty well in life).  Because there are simply so many different dining venues, you’re almost guaranteed to have a shot at one of your top choices at some point during a seven-day sailing.

Shows Sell Out

There are a number of big-name, big-ticket shows on board The Breakway, from a Broadway musical to a Cirque dinner show.  And reservations are are required.  This is done quickly and easily from any number of  touch screens located throughout the ship or, even better, from the privacy of your own in-cabin television.  I used the system to reserve a seat at the afternoon Second City comedy lunch and found the process to be extremely intuitive; anyone who has ordered a movie on-demand or operated a DVR will be familiar with the process.

Sadly, I was not able to get a seat at the Cirque show.  But that’s ok, because I was able to take in the afternoon improv show as well as the (fabulous) Broadway musical, Rock of Ages.  And this was during only one full day aboard The Breakaway.

Space is at a Premium

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My cabin on The Breakaway was larger than any other cruise ship cabin I’ve ever had–but it was still a cruise ship cabin.  I’m always entertained when I see people bemoaning the size of New York City hotel rooms.  Of course they are small; they’re in New York, and space is at a premium.  I’ve been in New York City one-bedroom apartments that are smaller than most standard hotel rooms.  The same is true with any cruise ship–space is tight.  But on the Breakaway–as in many nicer New York hotel rooms–the modern decor makes the space seem large, even when it isn’t.  And the bathroom (pictured above) is lovely.

You’ll Walk a Lot

The Breakaway has seventeen decks, and there are fun things to do on just about all of them.  Decks six through eight feature dining and entertainment venues as well as the exciting new outdoor space, The Waterfront.  And decks fifteen through seventeen are a riot of outdoor activities, from the traditional pool area to a larger-than-I-thought-possible water slide complex to a would-be-impressive-even-on-land ropes course.

Will you walk off all of the calories you’ll likely consume in the dozens of eateries?  Probably not.  But the same is true in New York City.  Sure, you may have walked from the Met to Chelsea Market (which, if you don’t know, is pretty darn far), but when you got to Chelsea Market, there were cupcakes.  And olives.  And crepes and hot dogs and pizza and a wine bar and house-made root beer and cheese.  Oh the cheese.

The Clubs are Exclusive

I witnessed more than a few people begging for reservations to the Svedka Ice Bar.  I may have been one of them.  How did that work out for me?  Well, you’ll note that nowhere in this post is there a photo of the inside of the Svedka Ice Bar.

I did, however, spend a fantastic night at the standing-room-only Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club.  And I’m glad I did, as it was definitely a highlight of my short time on board The Breakaway.

There’s A Trip for Every Budget

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Want to visit New York City on a budget?  You can find budget lodging even in New York (though it may be tiny and windowless), and there’s tons of free things to do–go for a walk in Central Park, gape at the glitz of Times Square, walk along the Highline.  Add a few slices of pizza and some street-cart hotdogs and you’ve got a city break on a budget  If you want to spend a bit more, there’s mid-range boutique hotels, visits to museums, and the bars and restaurants of the East and West Village.  Big spenders can stay at the Plaza and eat, well, I don’t know where they can eat because I can’t afford to eat there–but I’m positive there’s a plethora of expensive dining options in the city (Per Se, I think I’m looking at you again).

The same is true on board The Breakaway.  While I stayed in a standard balcony room, that’s not your only option.  The Haven offers luxury suites with their own spa-like pool area and private sun deck (pictured above).  And while I dined in the no-charge main dining room on Saturday night, I enjoyed dinner in Cagney’s, a for-fee specialty restaurant, on Friday.  The Cirque show is a paid ticket; Rock of Ages and Burn The Floor are not.  You could realistically spend an entire week on board The Breakaway for nothing more than the cost of your cruise fare; or you could easily double it.  The choice is yours.  And in my opinion, that’s exactly the spirit of Freestyle cruising that first appealed to me several NCL cruises ago.

You’ll Find Undiscovered Gems

On my most recent trip to New York City, I stayed in a hotel three blocks away from the dozens of amazing restaurants that make up the Hells Kitchen area–and I didn’t know I was three blocks away until the last night of my visit.

On my second evening on board the Breakaway, a woman showed me a photo of the lobster roll she had that afternoon.  She procured said amazing-looking lobster roll from a takeout window attached to Ocean Blue along The Waterfront.  I had no idea that lobster roll was even an option.  I am sad that I missed out on the lobster roll.  But she was sad that she missed on on the afternoon improv show that she didn’t know about.  There’s simply so much happening on board The Breakaway that, like in New York City, it is impossible to keep up with it all.  Which brings me to my final point…

There’s Far More to Do than You’ll Have Time For

I never made it to the gelato bar.  I wish I could have had some sushi.  I didn’t sit in a jacuzzi, climb the rock wall, or pull the handle of even one slot machine.  I didn’t even see the inside of the spa (or the health club–whoops!)  As in New York City, there’s just no way to see and do everything in the course of one weekend.  In fact, I’m willing to bet that even given a traditional seven-day sailing, there will be things you’ll miss.  But that’s ok–if you love The Breakaway as much as I love New York, you’ll be back.

The NCL Breakaway is currently on her maiden voyage to Bermuda, docking at King’s Wharf tomorrow morning for the very first time.  Would I sail back to Bermuda on the Breakaway?  In a New York minute.

Disclosure:  This tw0-day preview sailing was provided by NCL.  However, all thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.  

 

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