Wednesday's launch of the Norwegian Breakaway, the newest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line's fleet and the latest mega ship to enter the market, is a "game changer" for the industry, said Kevin Sheehan, the line's CEO and president.
"This is a ship," he said, "that will change this industry forever more."
He cited the Waterfront, a quarter-mile stretch of restaurants, gelato stands and shops; the five water slides in the ship's water park, the most of any line; and the three theatrical shows, including the Broadway hit, "Rock of Ages."
But the Breakaway is more than a game-changer for the industry: It's a game-changer for NCL. With the first ship in the line's new class of ships debuting, the cruise line feels it's positioned to compete with premium and luxury cruise lines.
"With the beautiful ships we have, with freestyle proposition, we always had the opportunity to be at the top of the premium category, Sheehan said. "We're on our journey. With this ship, we have the leader in the premium category, and soon Getaway following behind."
Getaway will be the second ship in the class, debuting in Miami in January 2014.
A luxury, all-suite area known as Haven is at the top of the ship. It has its own pool, concierge service, butlers and lots of luxury and hand-holding for the highest-paying cruisers. It's how NCL caters to the luxury customer without losing amenities of a mega ship.
It "rivals any of the luxury lines," Sheehan said, but the "kids can still go downstairs and see Nickelodeon and you can go see the big shows, things you can't do on a little luxury ship. And then you can go back to your protected little enclave, your Haven."
But little enclaves aside, the Breakaway, at its core, is a true mega-ship. It's the largest ship ever to homeport in New York City. It's got a 23,000-square-foot spa and fitness center. It has 28 dining options. It has more than 2,000 staterooms and carries more that 4,000 passengers.
After Getaway debuts next year, the cruise line will move on to another ship class: Breakaway Plus. Sheehan said there are two ships planned for the Breakaway Plus class, and they'll be even bigger than Breakaway and Getaway.
Breakaway will sail seven-day itineraries round-trip from the Big Apple to Bermuda and the Bahamas beginning Sunday.