Cruise ship experience - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Breakaway - Sailing Solo
More and more cruise lines are adding single-occupancy cabins to their ships. The list now includes Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises and Cunard. However, Norwegian Cruise Line has gone beyond having a few staterooms that have no single supplement charge. It actively courts solo travelers, seeking to address issues unique to such travelers.
Breakaway has 88 single-occupancy or studio cabins. All of the studio cabins are interior cabins. They are located together in a discrete section that covers parts of Decks 10 and 11. You use your keycard to access this area as well as to open the door to your cabin.
The studio cabins range from 99 to 130 square feet. Their layout has been designed to maximize the usefulness of this space.
In one corner and extending out to cover much of the space is a full-size bed. The two walls that adjoin the bed have been padded so that you can lean back and relax against them during the day..
Along the wall opposite the door is a wall unit that provides most of the storage space in the cabin. It includes two closets and a number of shelves most of which are hidden by sliding doors. It is a rather narrow construction and only projects out about a foot into the room. You can also store things under the bed and on the pegs by the full length mirror opposite the bed. However, be sure to bring some additional hangers as most of the storage space requires hangers.
The wall unit also surrounds a flat screen television panel. This is an interactive system from which you can check your onboard account, make reservations and watch pay-to-view movies as well as watch several complimentary news and entertainment channels.
There is no bathroom per se. Instead, the components of the bathroom have been separated and placed in separate locations around the cabin. In one corner, there is a toilet in its own walled-enclosure. The shower is also in a corner and is separated from the rest of the room by a curving glass wall. This wall is partially frosted, apparently to preserve modesty if you have visitors while taking your shower. Finally, a narrow sink is located in the wall unit.
Clearly, the watchword in this interior design is utility as little space is allowed to go to waste. However, thought also has been given to aesthetics. The various light switches in the room allow you to alter the lighting in several ways. In addition, a large porthole-shaped window by the bed makes these interior rooms feel less confined. The window looks out into the corridor but frosted glass and a set of adjustable micro-blinds prevent passers-by from seeing in. You can also close off the window completely with a pair of sliding doors.
While you could not hold a dance inside them, the studio cabins are practical and comfortable for one person. Some of the studios have connecting doors to the next cabin.
As indicated earlier, there is no extra charge (i.e. “single supplement”) to have these cabins single occupancy. However, demand is such that the price for these cabins does not fluctuate as much as the price for other cabins. Indeed, on our second cruise on Breakaway, you had the peculiar situation where a studio cabin cost more than a regular interior cabin even with the single supplement.
In addition to the cabins, the studio area has its own lounge called appropriately the Studio Lounge. It spans parts of two decks. The mezzanine area on Deck 11 has tables, chairs and a vending machine while the main area is downstairs on Deck 10. It includes a bar, a wine dispensing machine, a machine for making various coffees and a counter as well as tables and chairs. During the course of a day, the ship's staff lays out pastries and fresh cookies and refills the dispensers of ice water and orange juice. A television over the bar is usually tuned to one of the news channels.
The Studio Lounge has a bright attractive atmosphere. Residents of the studio cabins passing through the Lounge often pause to grab a cookie or coffee and end up sitting and chatting with their fellow travelers. It is also the venue for the nightly solo passengers gathering, which, as discussed below, is part of Norwegian's Solo Travelers Program.
The Solo Travelers Program
Traveling solo on Breakaway does not mean traveling alone. Norwegian has developed an organized program for solo travelers that facilitates meeting other solo travelers. Solo travelers can dine together, go to shows together and participate in activities together. This interaction makes the voyage more interesting and quickly turns strangers into good friends.
It should be noted at the outset that it is not mandatory that a solo traveler participate in the solo travelers program. You can participate in as much or as little of the program as you want. While some travelers participate in all of the activities and dinners, other solo travelers do not participate in any. Most participate in some but not all. No attendance is taken.
To facilitate the interaction, a member of the cruise activities staff is assigned to be the Solo Traveler Host or Hostess. He or she helps break the ice between these strangers and arranges the dinners and activities.
Naturally, some people are better facilitators than others. The host or hostess on our first two Breakaway cruises did not leave a lasting impression but our experience was positive enough that we decided to try it again on our most recent cruise on Breakaway. This time, the Solo Travelers Hostess was Jeimy Caro. Perhaps because of her background as a television personality in her native Columbia, she was very good at putting people at ease. She also had an amazing amount of energy.
Those wishing to participate in the Solo Travelers program met in the Studio Lounge at six on the first evening of the cruise. (There were similar gatherings each evening between six and seven). The hostess asked each traveler to introduce himself or herself.
It quickly became apparent that this was a diverse group of people. Ages ranged from early 30s to seniors. While the majority were Americans, there were also people from Canada, Great Britain and Germany. The travelers included a professional artist, a teacher, an energy policy expert, a corporate events professional, a person who had worked for the U.S. Supreme Court, a physicians assistant and a retired bus driver. There were bona fide world travelers and first-time cruisers. If you put this data into a computer and asked whether such people would bond, it would probably have said no but yet they quickly came together.
Much of the bonding took place over dinner. Each evening Ms. Caro would ask those assembled in the studio lounge whether they wanted to go to one of the main dining rooms or a specialty restaurant for dinner. A few times, the group decided on one venue. However, on most days, the group split into various sub-groups each going to a different venue. In any either case, Ms. Caro would call the restaurants and make a reservation for those who were participating. Norwegian also provided complimentary wine for the solo passengers with dinner.
In addition to the nightly dinners, Ms. Caro also arranged for the solo travelers to see Breakaways' various shows together. Breakaway utilizes a reservation system for the shows in the main theater such as Rock of Ages, Burn the Floor and various visiting performers. Those solo passengers who wanted to could sign up on a clipboard in the Studio Lounge to see the various shows. A group reservation covering them would be made.
During the nightly gatherings in the Studio Lounge, bits of practical information would be provided such as where to view the ship's fireworks display and when to set your clock back or forward, A bar tender was in attendance for those who wished to buy a drink. However, for the most part, people talked, telling how they spent their day, chatting about the port the ship had visited or relating their past experiences.
The group dynamics would have made an interesting sociological case study or a plot for a reality TV program. Some early participants disappeared from the group and new faces appeared. Alliances shifted over the 12 days of the cruise and new friendships formed. Some people were surprisingly open about themselves while some others attempted to maintain a cloak of mystery. Yet, most people seemed to identify with the group as something beyond being a member of Breakaway's passenger body.
The solo travelers program is not limited to those travelers staying in the studios. Single travelers staying elsewhere on the ship can also participate. There is no additional charge to participate.