You can even take our “Go BIG or Go Home” mantra to the ocean, as I learned two weeks ago when I was invited on the inaugural two-day cruise of the Norwegian Breakaway, the largest ship to homeport in New York City. Even though I was sans kids (yes, an entire 48 hours to myself!), I went with the perspective of a parent. I explored the entertainment areas, restaurants, and guest rooms with kids in mind, so I could share with you the highlights of taking a Breakaway cruise with children. Which are:
The Aqua Park
The ship’s top decks feature the Aqua Park, which includes five multi-story water slides, including twin Free Fall slides. This is where you (and not me) stand up and have the floor drop from underneath, propelling you into a loop. There’s also a tamer, open-flume body slide which doesn’t cause your stomach to lurch up into your throat.
Another part of the Aqua Park is a three-story sports complex which includes the largest ropes course at sea, a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall and more. Adjacent to the Aqua Park is a fully-stocked indoor video arcade, as well.
As part of NCL’s partnership with Nickelodeon, you’ll run into many of the network’s popular character mascots – Dora, Diego, Sponge Bob, Patrick, etc. — during your cruise, particularly at the Pajama Jam Character Breakfast, Dora’s Dance Party, and Story Time with Dora.
You’ll also find them in the kids’ pool, which recreates Bikini Bottom, with Sponge Bob, Patrick, Squidward and Sandy keeping watch over multiple water features.
Splash Academy and Entourage
Touring the multiple floors dedicated to the Splash Academy supervised kids’ program was the first time when I really missed my kids on this trip, because I knew they would love this facility. Located on deck 12, there are different areas for specific age groups: Guppies are six months to two years old; Turtles are three to five years old; Seals are six to nine years old; and Dolphins are 10 to 12 years old.
Youth counselors provide a “high-energy” curriculum where video play is limited, and daily themes run the gamut from Hollywood, Super Sports, Circus, Jungle, Cowboys and Aliens, and Spy Nights.
Teenagers – from 13 to 17 – have their own lounge on deck 16, Entourage. There are gaming areas, air hockey, and a dance floor where instructors teach street dance moves. What caught my eye was the professional touch screen D.J. mixing board, used in the D.J. classes. Oh, how my tech and music-lovin’ son would love to get his hands on that!
Nightlife on a cruise is generally when parents get their chance to go out, and luckily, the Splash Academy programs and the Entourage teen club are open until 1:00am with supervised activities for kids. But there are evening fireworks at sea which can’t be missed; they’re especially spectacular against the completely dark sky in the middle of the ocean! Also, the Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy performs nightly in the Spiegel Tent, with a highly acrobatic show suitable for all ages.
There are areas where the Norwegian Breakaway falls short for families. Primarily, dining. The Garden Café on deck 15 offers an abundant buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s plenty of kid-friendly fare here. Beyond this, there are more than 15 other eateries, yet only two – O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, and Uptown Bar & Grill near the pool area – felt casual enough where I would consider bringing an active toddler to eat. The others were steps above in formality, and appropriate only for the most well-behaved older children.