By Eileen Ogintz

DAY ONE–  Ready to walk the plank?

Norwegian Cruise Lines (CEO Check Title) Kevin Sheehan challenges passengers to do just that eight feet over the side of the ship aboard Norwegian’s new ship Breakaway—which incidentally at 4,028 passengers and 1,595 crew, is the largest ship to homeport in the heart of New York City at Pier 88.

Norwegian Breakaway walking the plank
Norwegian Breakaway:walking the plank

Walking the plank?  That’s an “activity” on board that is part of the ropes course that also has a zipline –right in front of the rock wall.   You can careen down five multistory waterslides—the largest aqua park at sea— and try the ropes course in the three-story sports complex as well as play mini golf or try the bungee trampoline or the spider web—a 24-foot enclosed climbing cage.

That’s not counting, of course, the typical cruise ship amenities—the spa, the pools, including four hot tubs, the kids clubs—including  activities for “guppies” the six-month to two years-old that parents join in but are hosted by the youth staff. (Think a special Fairytale Parade, Nursery Rhyme time or babies disco.)  Let’s not forget the Nickelodeon characters –Dora the Explorer, Diego and Sponge Bob among them who are on hand to entertain the kids who might have the chance to “get slimed” during their cruise.

This ship celebrates its NYC connection with bright Peter Max art on the hull (the skyline and Lady Liberty). The Manhattan Room dining room resembles a private NYC supper club complete with dance floor, the Rockettes as godmothers.  The theater includes Broadway shows including the popular Rock of Ages and NY Blues impresario Slam Allen Band.

You won’t get bored in the evening with Second City, Dueling Pianos , a bonafide Ice Bar (Gotham themed with ice sculptures, tables and chairs all made of ice and the temperature is kept at 17 degrees).  They give you parkas, in case you are wondering.  There’s a Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy Show, another dinner dance show in the Manhattan Club, and nightly blues performances.

Kids have their own morning-till-night activities for Turtles (three to five year olds) play Slimy Science.  Seals (six to nine year olds) create their own episode of the Nickelodeon show iCarly.  Dolphins (10-12)  compete for the chance to get off Survivor Island, and Entourage is for teens 13-17 (street dance or DJ lessons anyone?)

FYI:  You have to get the kids for meals. On port days, if you leave them, they’ll feed the kids for a fee of $6 and there is a late night zone from 10:30-130 for a fee -$6 an hour.

If you are a fan of TLC, you’ll recognize  Buddy Valastro, the “Cake Boss.” You can treat yourself to his cupcakes and cakes at Carlo’s Bakery, an outpost of his Hoboken bakery.  The goodies will be baked daily on board—and you can order one of his famous decorated cakes for a birthday or anniversary on board.

Norwegian Breakaway basketball at sea
Norwegian Breakaway basketball at sea

“This is a ship built for people to have a ball and to be profitable,” said Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan during a preview cruise to nowhere in early May.

Did I mention the fireworks— we were treated to those right in front of the Statue of Liberty., which the ship will sail by every week on its way either to Bermuda this summer or the Bahamas in winter.  Wow!  It was an amazing site. But other cruisers also will be treated to fireworks every week as part of a big Eighties bash, we were told.

That this ship is home-ported in New York is such a big deal that Mayor Bloomberg was on hand for the christening.   “New York is the number one cruise capitol in the Northeast,” he said welcoming 587,000 passengers in 2012—growing 32 per cent just in one year.  “Breakaway will add to those numbers and it will be our pleasure to show them the greatest city in the world,” he said

Mayor Bloomberg noted that wherever Breakaway sails, she will never leave New York Behind.

This ship is a big deal too to the Bahamas and Bermuda which had Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie and Bermuda Premier Craig Cannonie on board to assure future passengers that their islands can’t wait to welcome them.

And while we were on board, CEO Kevin Sheehan announced that Breakaway’s sister ship, the Norwegian Getaway, will debut early in 2014 from Miami with a decidedly Miami- Latin Flavor.  Legally Blonde will be the musical and world-class comedians will be on board every week along with an Illusionairum (ready to learn to do magic tricks?) and the Grammy Experience, with Grammy winning and Grammy nominated  artists nominating the guests.

Norwegian, of course, is famous for its “freestyle dining”—you can eat when and where you want and  with 28 different dining options and venues that even enable you to eat outdoors on the “waterfront”.  You can take your pick of Ocean and the Raw Bar—presented by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian—Cagney’s Steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazillian steakhouse,  La Cucina Tuscan spot or Le Bistro French.   There’s Shanghai’s Noodle Bar, Teppanyai, Wasabi for sushi and even a Gelato bar.  Let’s not for get Pizza 24/7.

We ate in  Le Bistro–grilled asparagus with shitake mushrooms, onion soup, escargot, bouillabaisse, rosemary roasted pork tenderloin, duck breast; or roast rack of lamb, followed by your choice of crème brule,  chocolate napoleon or chocolate fondue—Yum!

There is one downside to all of this freestyle dining—you need reservations and will pay a cover charge—as much as $30 a person; others like the sushi bar are a la carte.   

But you’re on vacation, right?