Norwegian Breakaway Debuts, UK Travel Pros Approve

Norwegian BreakawayNorwegian Cruise Lines new Norwegian Breakaway is due to arrive in New York City to be christened in the city by Radio City Music Hall’s Rockettes on May 8. This week, the 146,600-ton ship was previewed by UK travel professionals and members of the press in Southampton on a two-night preview sailing prior to its inaugural transatlantic sailing. Sailing year-round from New York, Norwegian is betting heavy on the success of the ship’s New York City theme with everything from the city skyline painted on the ship’s hull to Sabrett hot dog carts positioned around the ship. But how did the ship play out in real life? Gadling asked travel professionals on the UK sailing for their opinion.

Norwegian promotes the ship as “ground breaking” and “innovative,” something Norwegian Cruise Lines knows a thing or two about. They introduced the concept of Freestyle Cruising that broke away from rigid ship schedules for dining and activities.

Scott Anderson, General Manager of The Luxury Cruise Company told Gadling he thinks Norwegian hit their goal, saying Norwegian Breakaway is a “much needed departure away from the clashing colours and gaudiness of the Jewel class and (Norwegian) Epic. The Norwegian Breakaway cabins and suites are all decorated in soft, natural, muted tones; the ships public rooms, whilst being ‘themed’ are not over the top and the carpets throughout are not migraine inducing.”Norwegian BreakawayTop-end staterooms include The Haven by Norwegian, a luxury ship within a ship area full of suites. Guests booked in the luxury accommodations enjoy an array of amenities, including private 24-hour butlers, concierge service, in-suite dining, priority embarkation and disembarkation, a distinctive platinum keycard, priority boarding of tenders to shore, in-suite espresso/cappuccino machines and more.

“What really distinguishes it for me is the Haven area – beautifully decorated, with guests occupying Haven suites given access to their own bar, lounge and restaurant,” said Anderson.

Built to handle 4,500 passengers, Norwegian Breakaway continues the line’s innovative spirit with two signature areas. An oceanfront boardwalk called the Waterfront combines dining and drinking venues with entertainment and gaming. 678 Ocean Place will be a hub of activity spanning three decks that feature seven more dining venues, 12 bars and lounges coupled with shops and other entertainment options.

“A very innovative design and great for a bar crawl!” said Anderson. “Shakers cocktail bar was great, and I would love to sit outside at La Cucina in the evening for a nice Italian meal.”

Norwegian BreakawayBut whom will this ship appeal to? New Yorkers? Non-New Yorkers wanting a New York experience? Cruise travelers in general? What age group would like Norwegian Breakaway? The ship has plenty of bars, restaurants, entertainment options and top-deck features like an Aqua Park and Sports Complex. It sounds like Norwegian Breakaway has all the bases covered.

“If I was sailing with a multi-generational family group – who all wanted different things out of their vacation, then I would definitely sail on this ship,” concludes Anderson. “The kids clubs facilities are very good, the number of bars and clubs are perfect for 20-somethings and young parents, and there are enough areas for those who like quieter times to sit and relax. Evening entertainment and the choice of restaurants should keep everyone happy.”

Norwegian Breakaway will sail year-round from New York to Bermuda in the summer then do a seven-day Bahamas and Florida itinerary in the winter.

Want to know more about Norwegian Breakaway? Norwegian has a dedicated website for the ship and this video highlights other features:

[Photo Credit – Scott Anderson]

New Quantum Of The Seas Cruise Ship Is A Quantum Leap Forward

Quantum of the Seas

When Royal Caribbean International debuted their Oasis-class ships, complete with dual Flow-rider surf simulators, a zip-line across the deck and a host of other over-the-top features, they created an at-sea travel experience like no other. As the world’s largest cruise ships, twin sisters Oasis and Allure of the Seas are so big that the vessel is divided up into neighborhoods. Either can only call at ports designed to handle the massive ship and those who have sailed the 225,000-ton ships agree; there is nothing quite like them – until now.

Now, Quantum of the Seas has arrived.

Today, in New York City, Royal Caribbean revealed details on the line’s new Quantum class of ships. A big secret that Gadling first reported in 2011’s, “The Secret is Out: Royal Caribbean to Build New Class of Ships,” the vessels were code-named “Project Sunshine” and very few details were given. We knew they would be smaller ships, weighing in at 158,000 tons, and carry fewer people, a mere 4,100, but that was it.

Fast-forward to February of this year and names for the new ships, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, were revealed. At the time, Royal Caribbean President and CEO Adam Goldstein simply said, “The new ship will be such a leap forward in terms of vessel design and guest experiences that we thought the name Quantum of the Seas was perfectly appropriate,” and left it at that.

Today’s reveal begins to put a face on the ship and define what the new Quantum-class will be about.%Gallery-185758%

Continuing to focus on families and occupying their time, how about some bumper car action while cruising the Caribbean? Quantum of the Seas will have that, roller-skating, a full, regulation-sized basketball court and more. But the big features, those designed to satisfy Royal Caribbean’s trademark “wow” factor will no doubt redefine cruise travel as never before.

Those who thought pro-quality, rock-climbing walls were impressive will like RipCord by iFly, a skydiving wind tunnel like the ones professional skydivers use for practice, mounted on the back of the ship. Looking out of the ship-mounted RipCord tunnel, visitors will be able to see the ocean as they simulate free fall. Pretty impressive.

Moving from impressive to bizarre (but in a good way), we have North Star, a jewel-shaped glass capsule that careens visitors 300 feet over the side of the ship on a breathtaking journey. This is where Royal Caribbean shows its depth and how well it understands the nature of big ship cruise travel.

Included as part of the cruise fare, North Star will be available at sea as well as in port, and Royal Caribbean promises that no two “flights” will be the same. Premium packages also will be available for sunrise and sunset flights, or a private flight, which looks to be good for marriage proposals and wedding ceremonies. All packages include a pre-flight reception, in-flight Champagne toast, a commemorative flight certificate and a post-flight brunch or dinner.

Coming back down to earth, briefly, Quantum of the Seas will also feature some multi-use areas that transform throughout the day, utilizing space efficiently.

Two70° is a multi-level great room named for its 270-degree panoramic views via floor-to-ceiling glass walls, three decks high at the stern of the ship. By day, Two70° brings a modern and comfortable living room space for guests to sit back and relax. At night, the space gradually transforms to a venue featuring spectacular, mysterious and unexpected entertainment via new technology that immerses the audience through a combination of live performers, including aerialists, as well as breathtaking video and digital scenery.

SeaPlex will be the largest indoor activity area at sea. This transformational sporting and entertainment venue will begin the day with activities like a circus school with a flying trapeze and a full-sized basketball court. At night, its bumper cars and roller skates deliver the fun and excitement. Not into either? Guests can dance to music orchestrated from a floating DJ booth, which hovers above the activity below.

The two-story Music Hall will have live performances, DJs, theme night parties, billiards and more.

Known for well-appointed, roomy staterooms on their newest ships, Royal Caribbean is making no exception with Quantum class vessels. Averaging nearly 10 percent larger that those on previous Oasis class ships and crafted using Royal Caribbean’s new smart design concept, each stateroom features customizable layouts and larger storage solutions.

Remember Disney Cruise Line’s Virtual Porthole cabins? The inside cabins will feature Virtual Balcony Staterooms, interior cabins with real-time (simulated) views of the ocean.

Further smart use ideas on Quantum feature Family-Connected staterooms that use three different cabin categories that produce separate bedrooms and bathrooms for everyone. New studio staterooms, some with balconies, will appeal to solo travelers. New Junior Suite categories expand the possibilities of the popular mini-suite option and the top-end Loft Suites are even bigger.

Quantum of the Seas will still have popular venues like the adults-only Solarium, an outdoor pool, a rock climbing wall, FlowRider surf simulator and other standard entertainment and dining venues too. But more new features are yet to be announced.

The new Quantum class ships debut in the fall of 2014 with Quantum of the Seas, followed by sister-ship Anthem of the Seas in spring 2015, sailing out of the New York Harbor from her homeport of Cape Liberty on seven- to 12-night itineraries during the winter 2014/15 season.

[Photo Credit – Royal Caribbean International]

Maritime History Comes To Life With New Titanic

maritime historyMaritime history buffs travel around the planet to see and experience places where ships and the brave crews aboard may have helped to forge a new land and explore the unknown. The naval and passenger ships of yesteryear were an integral part of making the world we know today. Now, taking a step back to the past with an eye on the future, an Australian billionaire is honoring the legacy of Titanic, the ill-fated ocean liner that sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg, in a bold new way.

Last year, the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of Titanic was honored at namesake attractions, museums and events around the world. Adding to the slew of memorials, Australian billionaire Professor Clive Palmer will build a nearly exact replica of Titanic.

Australian billionaire Prof. Clive Palmer,

“This magnificent vessel is to be constructed in memory of the heroic people who served on the ship, the passengers who sadly shared their fate and all those that survived the tragedy,” said Professor Palmer in a Daily Echo report.

To be built in China’s CSC Jinling Shipyard, Titanic II will enter passenger service in 2016 sailing from Southampton, England, to New York City on a route similar to that of the original Titanic – minus the iceberg.Carrying 2,436 passengers, new Titanic II will cast a profile nearly identical to the original at 883 feet long (less than a foot longer than the original), 106 feet wide and have a maximum speed of 24 knots. At 55,800 tons, the new ship will be just 8,000 tons larger but have some important features that the former “unsinkable” version did not. Steam engines will be replaced by diesel electric pop propulsion units and, unlike the original, there will be plenty of lifeboats for all on board.

Staying with the “ship of dreams” motif, Palmer promises his new Blue Star Line will produce a vessel every bit as luxurious as the original White Star Line ship, with some important additions.

“Through the rebuilding of the ship I want to recognize the artists and artisans whose skill, creativity and dexterity has never to this day been fully acknowledged because of the ship’s limited service,” said Palmer.

Honoring the original design, the ship will offer staterooms and public spaces that will be nearly identical to the original Titanic – right down to having no televisions. Palmer is undecided on if the ship will have Internet access available but is adding an additional deck, air conditioning and modern toilets.

Titanic II will also feature a 400-seat theater, casino, shopping, business center, modern medical center and helicopter-landing pad.

Those sailing the new Titanic will have to choose between classes of accommodations, much like the original, or a package that allows them to sample all three classes in one voyage.

Along with nearly duplicate features of the original ship, including Turkish baths and a squash court, Titanic II is set to sail her first voyage in 2016 from Shanghai, China, to Southampton, and then on to New York.




[Photo credit- Blue Star Line]

A Tale Of Two Cruise Ships Under Construction

cruise ships

Coming up this spring, Princess Cruises and Norwegian cruise lines – two of the most popular cruise lines with mainstream cruise travelers – have new cruise ships coming out. Considering that both are under construction right now and both offer sister ships being built for later delivery, choosing one might be difficult for cruise travelers. Before we get too far down the road, let’s take a look at the two new ships, what they have to offer and how construction is coming along.

cruise shipsNorwegian Cruise Line has a whole lot of New Yorkers talking about new Norwegian Breakaway, and for good reason. To be based in New York City year-round, the 4,000-passenger ship has been customized for the New York market with everything from shops, restaurants and bars to Sabrett New York hot dog carts positioned around the ship.

Partnering with the New York City Rockettes (Godmothers of the ship), pop artist Peter Max (custom city skyline hull design) and others, Norwegian is making every attempt to pierce the New York market; it even set up “warming stations” around the city this winter.

That’s all in addition to some over-the-top features on the ship set to blow away other new builds that has everyone talking about this new Norwegian ship that will be sailing to Florida, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

%Gallery-179356%An oceanfront boardwalk called the Waterfront on Norwegian Breakaway will combine dining and drinking venues with entertainment and gaming. 678 Ocean Place will be a hub of activity spanning three decks that features seven more dining venues, 12 bars and lounges coupled with shops and other entertainment options.

Continuing what looks to be a pre-sold success story with Norwegian Breakaway, sister ship Norwegian Getaway will debut in 2014, claiming Miami, Florida, as its hometown. Embedding a South Florida theme in the new ship, Norwegian tapped David Le Batard (AKA the artist known as “LEBO”) to create art for the new ship’s hull. Set to debut in February 2014, we’ll have more on that one later.

First, here’s a gallery of photos featuring first-up Norwegian Breakaway, under construction:

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Royal Princess marks the first new build for the cruise line since 2008’s Ruby Princess, the last of Princess Cruises popular grand class ships. They built nine of those and already have a sister ship to Royal Princess in the works too.

Royal Princess
will be a careful evolution of the Princess product with a ship laid out in typical Princess patterns. Focusing on their mantra to let passengers “escape completely” Princess Cruises has designed a ship totally around that concept. It’s a success formula that has made Princess popular over the years and keeps travelers coming back for more.

But Princess goes a bit over the top themselves too, adding an over-the-water “SeaWalk” that will extend 28 feet over the side of the ship, offering views of the ocean 128 feet below off the ship’s starboard side. On the port side, a SeaView bar will be positioned to offer cocktails and some great views. Here is what that venue and others should look like when complete:

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Top-deck features are a focus of cruise ships industry-wide lately and Royal Princess is no exception. This Princess ship starts with a new adults-only pool surrounded by plush private cabanas that appear to be floating on the water. Two more pools will flank a “tropical island” that will have pool seating by day then become a dance club with a dancing water and light show by night.

Next year’s Regal Princess will be a twin sister to 141,000 ton Royal Princess, complete with a central atrium Piazza area that is 50% larger area than previous versions and casual dining options that include an Italian gelateria, a seafood bar and expanded seating in the passenger-favorite International Cafe.

Under construction right now in Venice, Princess Cruises sent along these photos from the shipyard:

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We will be heading to Venice, Italy, at the end of March for a first-hand look at construction of Royal Princess in-progress. Stay tuned for updates.

So which ship to choose? Here are some points to consider:

  • The value is there for either ship. Both will stack up nicely compared to land vacations to the same places these ships sail, allowing passengers to unpack once but visit multiple destinations.
  • Norwegian Breakaway adds an additional choice, year-round for cruise travelers departing from the upper East coast, eliminating the need for airfare and sailing to Bermuda, the Bahamas and Florida.
  • Royal Princess will sail seven-night itineraries from Florida’s Port Everglades to the Eastern Caribbean from November 2013 through April 2014 after a Mediterranean season that begins June 9, 2013.
  • Traditional cruisers will find their dreams fulfilled on Royal Princess with standard features the line has become famous for – amped up for today’s traveler. Think: turbo Love Boat.
  • Norwegian Breakaway promises an entertainment experience as good if not better than the bar-raising elements added on their last new build, Norwegian Epic. Think: epic flavor, easy to swallow.

[Photo Credits- Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises]

Secret Cruise Ships Named, Construction Begins

cruise shipsIt has been almost two years since Gadling published “The Secret Is Out: Royal Caribbean To Build New Class Of Ships.” Details were few at the time, only that the mysterious new class of cruise ships would be referred to as code name “Project Sunshine” during development, which had already been underway for a year. This week, Royal Caribbean released a few details about the two new ships set to debut in 2014 and 2015.

This week, the first piece of steel was cut for Quantum of the Seas at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, where both ships will be built. Quantum of the Seas will debut in the fall of 2014 and sister-ship Anthem of the Seas in the spring of 2015.

“After three years of design and advance planning this is the first step of the construction of the ship and I look forward to seeing it all come together in the coming months,” said Adam Goldstein, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International in a press release.

Short on details about the two new “Quantum-class” ships, Royal Caribbean reminded fans of their rich history of being first with unique ship features like rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks, zip lines across decks and more. Expect more of the same wow-factor features on new Quantum and Anthem of the Seas.”The new ship will be such a leap forward in terms of vessel design and guest experiences that we thought the name Quantum of the Seas was perfectly appropriate,” added Goldstein.

Royal Caribbean plans to release details of the ships over time, typical of most cruise lines constructing new vessels. Unique to Royal Caribbean’s rollout of all things Quantum-class, the line will release details first on its new Tumblr page.

The 158,000-ton Quantum-Class ships will be smaller than giant Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, carrying just over 4,100 passengers based on double occupancy. Oasis-class ships are 225,000 tons and over 5,400 passengers.

Here’s more about the steel-cutting in Germany and a (very) few details about the ships:




[Photo credit – Flickr user LinksmanJD]