The cruise industry's been in the news a lot recently, but not for good reasons. Carnival Cruise Line in particular has had more than its fair share of bad press, starting with the stranding at sea of passengers for five days on the Carnival Triumph and continuing until this week when two passengers on the Carnival Spirit in Australia went missing.
But finally, some good news for cruise enthusiasts: Wednesday's christening of Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway marked the entry of the newest mega ship to the industry. It's also good news for its home port of New York City: Breakaway is the largest ship ever to call the Big Apple home.
Mega ships are often called floating cities, and this floating city has taken much of its inspiration from what some call the world's greatest city. Being on Breakaway is a little like being in a fantasized version of the Big Apple itself, if the Big Apple could possibly be contained on a 4,000 passenger pleasure cruise the length of three and a half football fields.
"I grew up in the city. I was born in the Village and drove a New York City taxi in college," said Kevin Sheehan, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line. "I wanted this ship to resemble a New York experience. It's for both New Yorkers, and people who want to come and have a New York experience and see it from the sea."
And Sheehan's love of his city is seen everywhere, starting with the art on the ship's exterior, a montage of iconic New York City attractions by famed pop artist Peter Max, who's a local.
Inside the ship's ice bar, the sculptures are of the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and the Chrysler Building and the drinks served are all New York City-themed (think Rockettes-tini, named for the famed New York City Rockettes, the ship's godmothers).
Famed New York City chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian has come on board and opened the Ocean Blue restaurant. And there are even real Sabrett hot dogs stands – the very same carts you see on New York City street corners – handing out free hot dogs on board. There are three Broadway shows on each sailing, including the huge hit "Rock of Ages."
Even the Cake Boss has come on board. (Yes, he's technically from New Jersey, but most New Yorkers count him as one of their own).
Sheehan said the cruise industry has long looked at New York as a sort of "stepchild." Despite its global importance, the Big Apple's long been passed over for cities south, particularly Miami, as a favored home port.
"We're a tough group, New Yorkers, and difficult at times," said Sheehan. "But if you do the right thing for us, we walk away saying, wow, they really did it. And then we'll know we got it right."
In other words, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere.
But Norwegian Cruise Line is in no way diminishing the importance of Miami as a port by choosing New York as its choice for Breakaway's home. Its second ship in the Breakaway class, the Getaway, will debut in January 2014 and home port in Miami. That ship, Sheehan said, will have more of a Latin feel.
Breakaway will sail seven-night cruises to Bermuda and the Bahamas from New York City. It's the first ship in the line's new Breakaway class of ships; Getaway will be the second. After Getaway, the line will launch the Breakaway Plus class of ships, similar but slightly larger than Breakaway and Getaway. The cruise line has two ships planned for that class, bringing a total of four new mega-ships to Norwegian Cruise Line over the next several years.