“We have taken Freestyle Cruising to another level,” explains Norwegian Breakaway's Hotel Director Sean Wurmhoeringer. “The point of Freestyle is the freedom of choice, doing whatever you want to do when you want to do it. We are offering a top product to a mass market. I worked on a [luxury cruise ship] yacht and we had 80 guests and 160 crew. But we were not offering the choice we have here.”
Freestyle has long been associated with freedom of choice with regard to dining. Unlike traditional cruise ships, guests on Norwegian ships are not assigned to dine at a particular table at a specified time in the main dining room. Rather, they have the choice of when they want to dine and the choice of dining in one of the main dining rooms, a specialty restaurant, or a casual dining venue.
With Breakaway and her immediate predecessor, Norwegian Epic, guests now also have freedom of choice with regard to entertainment. Traditionally, cruise ship entertainment centered upon the shows in the main theater. You went to either the early or the late show depending upon your dining time. “We're not telling 1,200 people you have to go to seating number 1 of the show and then 1,200 people go see show number 2.”
On Breakaway, guests can see a full Broadway show in the theater, a cirque dinner theater performance, a show in the comedy club, or a blues concert, among other things. There are several shows a night and shows are repeated at various points during the cruise so when to see a particular show is up to the guest.
Thus, Breakaway and Epic offer a new model of cruising. However, that does not render obsolete the Norwegian's ships built before Epic, which do not have the space for so many entertainment venues.
“There are actually three different products [under the Norwegian Cruise Lines' umbrella]. The Jewel class ships and the Dawn class ships, the Sun and the Sky, which are different, and then you have the Epic classes so it is actually three or four different products. You will have a different experience if you first come to us and you have the waterslides, Slam Allen and the Rock of Ages and next week you fly to Miami and get on the Sky for the weekend. The experience is going to be different.”
Breakaway is a billion dollar ship, built by a shipyard known for its quality. Norwegian has spent considerable effort developing the ship's entertainment venues, restaurants, sports facilities and accommodations. New ideas have been added and preexisting concepts enhanced. However, standing alone all of this is not enough to ensure Breakaway's success.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to the crew. You can have a billion dollar ship and without the crew it is not going to be a success. And you can have an old ship that does not have all the bells and whistles and make it with the crew.”
“The concept is the same if you have five guests, 500 or 5,000. We have to treat every guest as an individual, every guest is special, every guest has to have a good time.”
“These people are policemen, firemen, garbage men, professors, doctors - - mixed ranks. The majority have two weeks vacation a year and they choose to spend one week with us and they are paying a lot of money. It is my responsibility as hotel director to make sure that we do the best we can to make sure that they have a good time.”
“It starts with the management. They are fully empowered to do what they have to do, leading by example. They need to do problem solving, fix the problem. If something goes wrong, people are okay with that as long as they know we care and try to fix it.”
“[We have to] take care of the crew and make sure they are happy - - this is key number one. A happy crew will treat our guests the way we want them to. The way we treat them, that is the way they are going to treat our guests. A very simple concept - - take care of the crew and they will take care of the guests.”
Cruise ship interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Breakaway - Hotel Director Sean Wurmhoeringer