How to combine Luxury, Premium, Family and Solo Cruising without Compromise
The new Norwegian Breakaway is a standout when it comes to accomplishing the near impossible—to make a large-scale vessel that can truly “work” in the family, premium, and luxury cruise markets, and then, do something special just for singles too. Usually a product that tries to satisfy a wide variety of needs ends up making so many compromises that none of the desires are well-served. This is just not the case on Breakaway–Norwegian has proven that divergent cruise experiences can thrive comfortably side-by-side and in high style.[fblike]
A Luxury Cruise: The Real Deal, Plus Some!
Here’s the thing about luxury—it’s not a fancy cabin and some added perks that will satisfy the truly affluent and experienced traveler. They expect, and for the prices they’re willing to pay, deserve a sense of exclusivity. In fact, luxury travelers are often paying for the privilege of escaping the masses (there, I said it)! Norwegian’s Haven Complexes are like a “ship-within-the-ship,” delivering authentic luxury, privacy and exclusivity.
Norwegian does this first by putting all Haven Staterooms behind a private, key-card only access area where you’ll encounter only other Haven residents, preserving exclusivity. They take it seriously—you can’t pull a “spring break” move by booking several regular cabins and one Haven, and then let all the others into the complex—that’s not allowed and the concierge at the entrance is there to make sure!
Once in the complex, you’ll find luxuriously appointed suites of all sizes from owner’s suites that don’t give up any ground to other ships, to an innovative two-bedroom family villa that will accommodate up to five guests. There’s a private pool complex, a concierge, a private lounge, and an out of this world private restaurant only for use by Haven residents.
What The Haven surrenders to some of the luxury only brands is that it’s not all-inclusive. Cocktails, beverages, shore excursions and other specialty dining venues will cost extra, just as they do for all guests. But while the Haven isn’t cheap, even when you add in these extras, it’s still a great value and compares very favorably with the traditional luxury cruise pricing.
But you also get access to an incredible array of entertainment options, production shows, nightclubs, activities and a fantastic youth and children’s program that you simply can’t find on the pure luxury ships. As a Haven resident, you’ll also get preferred, reserved seating at shows, priority embark and debark and host of other privileges that ratchet up the experience. Finally, when you compare to a pure luxury cruise, you’re likely to find a generally younger and livelier clientele (there, I said it again) which may be a better overall fit. But remember, unlike other ships that offer beautiful suites where you can retreat from the masses, The Haven offers much more than just your stateroom when it comes to “escape.”
Norwegian Makes a Leap: Premium Cruising
I’m paraphrasing Norwegian’s CEO, Kevin Sheehan, but essentially he suggests that the Breakaway-class ships have jumped them into the premium cruise experience. At first, this seemed to be a stretch but after two days onboard, I came around to his point-of-view. My accommodation was a standard, Oceanview balcony room and it had pretty much all the comforts and nice touches I’d expect to find on a premium cruise. I also found that the design sensibility of the stateroom was a “notch above” in terms of the look and feel of the finish materials with a clean, modern design that felt well above “standard” for cruise ships.
There were other hallmarks of a premium cruise experience—such as venues that offer a wide variety of dining options and experiences. I ate in both optional and included restaurants and was delighted at both. Among the cost-optional restaurants, there’s a mix of both cover charge (one price to dine there) and a la carte pricing as in a traditional restaurant.
It’s here that I also want to make a point about included vs. extra cost dining. While there is certainly a long-term trend on cruises to offer more diverse dining experiences, they often cost extra and Norwegian follows the same pattern. BUT (and this is an important one), there are 11 dining venues on Breakaway that have no added cost! Of course, fold in a couple of cost-extra specialty dining nights, coupled with a nice balcony stateroom, and you still have a very affordable premium cruise experience, sailing conveniently from mid-town Manhattan to Bermuda, the Bahamas and Southern Caribbean depending on time of year.
Family Cruising: Norwegian Gets It Waaay Right
With Breakaway, Norwegian is burnishing their reputation for a great family experience that looks after all ages—from their radical water slides to their terrific youth programs. I did take the time to visit and talk with several of the youth staff, and you can just tell by speaking with them that they’re engaged (and they probably feel they have the best gig on the ship). There’s a wide variety of accommodations that comfortably accommodate four guests (including decent-size interior staterooms), and plenty of adjoining cabins so larger families like mine can enjoy some space and privacy while staying close.
One particular stateroom type that appealed to me and my wallet was the Family Oceanview on Deck Five. These accommodate five guests (I have three kids–always a challenge when traveling), and also have a regular bathtub making them a great choice with younger children. In the picture below, you can see that berths 1 and 2 are regular beds, berths 3 and 4 are conversions from the daytime sofa, and the fifth berth (not seen) comes down out of the ceiling (and is stowed away each day for your convenience):
Because they’re sold at an Oceanview fare basis, a family of five can get all that Breakaway offers at a very affordable price. In fact, a fall departure on a 7 night came out to less than $750 per person, fully inclusive of taxes. The total of $3,720 was about what I paid to rent a two-bedroom lakeside rustic cabin on a lake in Minnesota a couple years ago. . .and we still had to bring in our own food and cook it, as well as make up our own beds, and entertain ourselves. Of course, they’re entirely different experiences, but I think the price comparison illustrates what a great value this cruise is.
Single Cruisers: Finally, a Rational Approach
Breakaway (along with Epic and the upcoming Getaway) has a “Singles Studio” complex that’s really innovative as well. This is a set of cabins on two decks that share private entrance access and a private meeting lounge/snack bar/wine and cocktail bar. These cabins are all interior (no windows) and are smallish by normal accounts (about 100 square feet) but plenty ample for a single guest and the space is well designed.
There’s a full-size beds (not a twin) and instead of a walled-off bathroom, the sink is in the room behind a sliding divider and the shower stall opens right into the cabin (the toilet IS in its own private room). The décor and lighting evoke a modern, urban vibe that just seems right for this area. While these cabins are somewhat of a premium price-wise, they’re a better value than paying a single supplement and your residence is among other singles so breaking the ice is a bit easier.
What makes the Breakaway (and her soon to launch sequel, the Getaway) truly successful at satisfying all these cruise desires is summed up in two ways:
- First, the sheer number of choices they offer in terms of entertainment, dining and activities can and will delight any traveler, no matter which “set” they belong to. Families, singles, and luxury travelers all want to be engaged and entertained!
- Second, Norwegian dedicated the space and thinking to create unique zones and facilities to appeal to each group’s needs. These are well designed and well executed and shows their seriousness about fulfilling the promise they’re making to each type of cruiser.
While a lot of lines can say they have something for everyone, Norwegian can say they have lots of things for everyone. I applaud the fact that they took each groups needs very seriously and in my opinion, they’ve succeeded masterfully. Highly recommended!
Book a suite in The Haven and we’ll pay your gratuities–this is for all Norwegian Cruise Line ships that offer Haven staterooms and we’ll extend the offer for all stateroom occupants! Just call us for your price and details.[box] Love Cruise Reviews, Tips, and Deals? NY Times recommends CruiseSource. Click here to Subscribe [/box]