Norwegian Breakaway is a popular ship. We sat down with Captain Alf Mikael Hilden and Hotel Director Mario Markovic to get their views on what makes Breakaway successful.
Breakaway is equipped with a wide variety of features including such things as pools, water slides, a state-of-the-art theater, a casino and some of the best specialty restaurants at sea. However, the ship's management team does not just rely on Breakaway's hardware to create the cruise experience.
Mr. Markovic used an analogy to explain the atmosphere that he and his colleagues strive to create on Breakaway. “My parents have very good friends that are coming over for lunch. I have never seen them before myself. They are very important to my father and so they are very important to me as well. I open the door and I offer my hand and say welcome to my house with heart, even though I have never seen them before. That's how we try and spread the spirit around.”
Key to creating this atmosphere is cooperation. “Senior management has a lot of experience. But also we need a good chemistry between the senior management. We work together.” Captain Hilden pointed out.
“We help each other. You really don't see any separation [between departments] like at some of the other companies. Whatever any one of us does, it affects everyone else, directly or indirectly, so it is all in our interest,” added Mr. Markovic.
“When the crew see us officers having friendly relations, working together, reacting to each others needs, the crew just starts following. [They] get Breakaway-ized. Then when the crew are working together, everybody is more comfortable, they enjoy what they do more. Guests can feel the warmth.”
“You get the feeling that the crew really want to please and do the right thing.” Captain Hilden noted.
The senior management team also seeks to encourage communication, not just within the crew but also with the guests. “Freestyle is really what you want to do. We are not always able to accommodate everything that you want but most of the time we can. But we need to know what you want.” Captain Hilden commented.
Therefore, if something is bothering a guest about the cruise, let someone know. “Most of the challenges that we have with guests is [with things] that they have never told us. When people talk with us, 99 percent of the problems are solved.”
“There are options for everybody. You just need to communicate.” Mr. Markovic added.
Feedback is also important to the ongoing development of the Breakaway cruise experience. Norwegian has been operating year-round in New York since 2002 so Norwegian feels that it has a good understanding of the market. Nonetheless, the line places great value on guest comments.
“We always focus on doing better. It is understanding the market and the guests who are coming aboard,.anticipating guest expectations. This is all a matter of experience. It is a learning process for us. That is why you always see progress in service, food. The company is also in general listening to the guests fleet wide.”
In the four years since her arrival, Norwegian Breakaway has been embraced by the New York cruise market.
“ We fill up the ship from New York all the time. It is convenient just to jump in your car and then you just walk aboard the ship. You control everything,”
Of course, the weather the ship may encounter sailing up and down the coast to the Caribbean is also a consideration. “If you live in this area you know. It is not the Caribbean and it might be cold and a little bit rough when you pass Cape Hatteras but it is not really that much more than you are used to. So it is really popular.”
Not every winter voyage involves a storm and by the day after sailing, the weather is often warm enough to spend time outdoors. In any event, Breakaway is prepared to handle bad weather.
“The Jewel class and this class are really, really good at sea,” Captain Hilden observed. “The underwater hull is really beautiful. The ship is stable, really, really good. We have a very good ship, she could almost be a liner.”
To make for a more comfortable ride, Breakaway tries to go around storms. However, due to the size of the area covered by some storms, this is not always possible.
“Where we can't go around, we will try to get the waves straight from the bow. Waves coming from the quarter is the worst angle we can get. If we can choose the direction of the waves that is what we try to do.”
In addition, announcements are made well in advance if the ship is going to encounter bad weather. “I have learned that it is good to make these announcements to make the guests calm and prepare them.“
The announcements also help prevent motion sickness. “You prepare yourself mentally so that you know that there is a difference between what you feel and what you see. I am told that the brain can't really figure it out but you can tell yourself, it's okay. That's when you can deal with motion sickness.”
Along the same lines, “if you have to take a pill, you have to take it before you get sick. The risk is that you throw it up instead of [having it] in your system.”
The officers also are out and about the ship explaining the sounds that a ship will make when there is movement. “Every cruise you meet one or two guests who you can see in their eyes that they are scared. We tell the guests don't worry about this and that normally calms them down.”.
“If people don't know, the smallest movement will have them jumping. You calm them down and they don't think about it.” Mr. Markovic elaborated.
Cruise ship interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Breakaway - Captain and Hotel Director