“Norwegian has never focused on gimmicks,” says Captain Evans Hoyt of Norwegian Breakaway. "It is not about any bell and whistle that only a fraction of your people would experience, a hook to draw you in. [Breakaway] is about an evolutionary step down a road that we have already traveled in terms of the focus on the entertainment and dining options. The things that have been added to enhance [the cruise] experience are things that everybody is going to experience. It essentially is a further refinement of the Freestyle concept, which most all cruise lines are going towards even if they have to call it something different. This is the next step.”
Breakaway's immediate predecessor was Norwegian Epic, a ship that, along with Royal Caribbean's Oasis class ships, has created a new model for cruising. Under the traditional model, an evening on a cruise ship revolved around dinner in the main dining room and a show in the ship's theater. Norwegian put a crack in this model when it gave guests a number of quality choices as to when and where to dine. Epic, in the vanguard of this new generation of cruise ships, also gave guests a number of quality choices as to their evening's entertainment.
“We're getting further and further away from the ocean liner concept of transportation with a little extra on the side. If you are going to get away from first and second seating [dining], the next obvious step beyond that is to get away from the main theater show that you are locked into.”
Breakaway, however, is not a mere clone of Epic. “The Breakaway owes a lot of her innovation directly from what we got from Epic. We had a lot of really bright people taking this new experience that we had put together and saying, how do we make it better? That evolution, taking everything we learned from Epic design and bringing [it] together, that works really nicely.”
Perhaps the most notable innovation on Breakaway that is beyond Epic is The Waterfront, a broad outdoor promenade along Breakaway's sides and stern. Outdoor promenades date back to the days of the great ocean liners but The Waterfront differs from those of the past in that there are restaurants and bars with outdoor seating along the promenade. There is also greater access to the ship's interior which has the effect of opening out the ship's public space.
“For me, the promenade is a great idea. During the inaugural cruises one of the industry folks I was talking to said from now on everybody is going to have to do something like this. I think he is probably right. It has worked out very well for us. Of course, one of our concerns right from the get go was how is she going to react with the winds across her deck. The baffles work quite well. [The restaurants] can still be used in many different wind conditions. That whole concept of looking outward to the sea rather than inward to a central mall, being a mariner and a traditionalist, I like that approach. It is almost back to the days of a more aesthetic pace and open promenade decks.”
The atmosphere of the two ships is also somewhat different. Epic is a bigger ship with large spaces. “Although [Breakaway] is a big ship with a fair number of people on it, the way the spaces are put together, it seems like it creates more intimate spaces. You go into the Taste or Savor restaurants, they are main restaurants, but each alcove is its own small area. You don't have this feel like you are in a big hall. Whereas we celebrate that feeling in the Manhattan Restaurant where you are creating more of an event atmosphere.”
While Norwegian has had colorful murals on the sides of its ships for years, Breakaway is the only ship in the world to be signed by a world famous artist. Peter Max created the artwork that appears on Breakaway's hull. A special team was formed to put the design on the ship's sides. The colors that Max had used in his design were not available in off-the-shelf marine paint so the team had to mix colors. In addition, the team had to transfer Max's design to the hull in the correct proportions. “A lot went into it.”
Since then “Peter has been quite in evidence. I don't know about last Sunday [the day the ship is in New York] but every other Sunday before that he has come down aboard and been in the atrium.”
Breakaway also gets high marks from a mariner's standpoint. “She is a good looking ship, she handles well and she is well put together.”
She was built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Pappenberg, Germany, Norwegian Cruise Line has “had a long relationship with Meyer Werft. There was a desire on the part of Meyer Werft and a desire on our part to rekindle that partnership that we had had very successfully through the Jewel class ships. They have great pride at Meyer Werft and they are very concerned whether you are finally happy with the production at many levels. For me, I am quite happy.”
From a nautical standpoint, the ship exceeds her predecessors. “In terms of integration of systems this is far advanced from anything I've seen in our fleet and I think anything out there. She is constructed to the Safe Return to Port protocols, which gives us a lot of added redundancy, not only in systems but in design survivability. That is a big step forward.”
“There were innovations in the hull shape. They redesigned the bulbous bow area. Part of that was optimizing the water flow for particular speeds.”
“One of the things that we haven't had before [relates to] the bow thrusters.” Bow thrusters help to maneuver the ship while docking. Propellers housed in tunnels that are cut through the bow of the ship push the front end of the ship sideways. However, since the hull is not shaped to go sideways, water builds up against the side of the hull causing resistance. With Breakaway, the designers put in “three bow thrusters and then they put a fourth tunnel in, an open tunnel. What they suggested was that this would enhance the response of the thrusters, this extra place where the water could flow through where you normally get jammed up against the water pressure. It appears to be true because she does respond very well to the thrusters and I think that is part of it.”
Like Norwegian's Dawn class and Jewel class ships, Breakaway has an azipod propulsion system. However, here too there has been an evolution. “The pods [are] the latest generation from ABB and they have a different shape. They managed to streamline them and they are smaller. There is a cross piece on the back [for better] water flow. These all seem to have enhanced thrust and gained improved flow.” The result is a more efficient design that requires less power to move through the water. ”A green ship is also a less expensive ship to operate.”
The last ships built for Norwegian by Meyer Werft, the Jewel class, are among the fastest cruise ships in service. (see article). Beyond just being cool, having the ability to do 25-plus knots has practical uses. The Jewel class ships use their speed to get to the warm weather from cold weather ports such as New York more quickly and in avoiding bad weather. Nonetheless, it was decided not to build Breakaway as a high speed cruise ship.
“She doesn't have the same kind of speed as the Jewel class. But when you look at the size of her, the fuel consumption that she would have to have to do that would be enormous. [Furthermore,] the cost of fuel from the time the Jewel class ships were conceived and today [has skyrocketed]. And it is not necessarily an economic environment where you can pass that cost on to the consumer. The focus is really on the economies of fuel. The idea is that the ship has to be sustainable for the long term.”
While Breakaway's New York to Bermuda cruises do not require great speed, the itinerary does require the ship to be very maneuverable. In New York, Breakaway docks at the New York Passenger Ship Terminal. These piers were originally built in the 1930s for the Normandie and the Queen Mary, ships that were just over half the size of Breakaway. In addition, ships entering or exiting these berths have to make a 90 degree turn across the river's powerful current.
“It is a challenging maneuver for any of our ships and this one takes up the greater part of the basin. She is a podded ship and she handles well with the thrusters. So far, we have had tugs [standing by] a couple of times. Neither time did we actually use them to push but we had them if needed. Kind of a belt and suspenders approach.”
In Bermuda, the island is surrounded by coral reefs. “Before a ship like this comes into Bermuda, you have to go through simulator evaluations with the Bermuda pilots and they decide whether the ship is going to be able to come in and what wind restrictions you are going to have She behaved so well in the simulator there was some suspicion about the quality of the model. In fact, she handles well.”
Cruise ship interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Breakaway - Captain Evans Hoyt