Confession time: Isn’t this a scenario we all dream of being faced with: Two equally wonderful suitors vying for our affections? That’s what solo travelers are faced with right now with two Norwegian cruise ships: The Epic and The Breakaway. Both feature innovative Studio Staterooms designed and priced for solo travelers, making them each a potentially perfect love match for the solo cruiser. But with all love triangles, eventually, we have to choose one. (At least, for the first
marriage cruise. Heh.)
The question is: Which one is best for you?
They are similar in many ways that will make an independent solo traveler happy: With Freestyle dining, you have the freedom to choose where and when to eat, just like eating out in any other vacation destination. Both offer lots of programming and activities to keep you engaged and active. Both ships offer a variety of room options to fit your cruising style and budget. But each one has its own unique personality and appearance as well.
As is true with choosing a potential partner, which ship you choose will be a very personal decision. You may have a wish list of qualities for your perfect match; some are negotiable, and others are deal-breakers. Let’s help you figure out which of these two ships may be the perfect match for you by comparing them in some categories that may be important to you:
The Studio Staterooms and Lounge
Both ships have them, and the rooms themselves are identical in size and layout. However, Breakaway is a lightweight compared to Epic. There are just 59 Studio Staterooms aboard Breakaway vs. 128 aboard Epic. The Studio Lounge is also much smaller on Breakaway, about half the size.
How does this make a difference to you? Well, the odds are in your favor of making new friends amongst your fellow solo travelers aboard the Epic, simply because there will be many more of them. You also stand a greater chance of booking a room aboard the Epic, since there are more of them. If you want to book the Breakaway, I’d do it early if I were you.
Winner: The Epic, hands down.
This may be one of the major differences to choose from: Are you more of a Las Vegas fan or a New York City fan? This may decide which ship you prefer. Epic’s major shows are The Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert, both of which are Vegas-style shows. Breakaway, however, has gone the Broadway route with its key show, the Tony-nominated Rock of Ages musical. Its other primary offering is Burn the Floor, a sexy ballroom-dance style show.
The Epic has a Vegas-style White Hot Party, where guests dressed all in white get down as a DJ spins dance music until the wee hours. Breakaway features an ’80s style dance party with retro clothing and ’80s music, which goes hand-in-hand with its Rock of Ages musical. (Party like it’s 1984, y’all!)
If you’re a huge fan of themeing, you’ll find more of it aboard The Breakaway, in little New York touches around the ship. (If you’re not a fan of themeing, this may annoy you. Especially if you’re from New York.) For instance, Breakaway’s ice bar features ice sculptures of New York City landmarks, while Epic’s features a Viking and Polar Bear (which have nothing to do with Las Vegas, but neither do many of the ice bars that are actually in Las Vegas).
The Winner: It’s a draw.
Do you consider yourself a foodie? Is dining a major part of the travel experience for you? Both the Epic and the Breakaway offer more dining choices than you would expect of a cruise ship. But Breakaway offers more.
Epic has two main dining rooms that are free: The Manhattan Room and Taste. Breakaway has those, plus a third free dining room: Savor (which, to be fair, is a lot like Taste). In addition to all the extra-fee restaurants available aboard the Epic, Breakaway also offers the celebrity chef restaurant, Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian (along with Ocean Blue on the Waterfront and the Raw Bar at Ocean Blue); Carlo’s Bakery (which is a step up from the pastries available aboard Epic); and Dolce Gelato. Also consider the fact that you can dine al fresco at many of the signature restaurants aboard the Breakaway (on The Waterfront), and Norwegian’s newest cruise ship comes out the clear winner in this category.
The Winner: The Breakaway.
If you’ve been hesitant to take a cruise because you think you’ll get bored during those days at sea, think again. Cruise ships these days offer so many activities, you couldn’t possibly do them all even if you wanted to. Both the Epic and Breakaway offer a myriad of choices to keep you busy, including spa, fitness center, sports complex, big screen wii, arcades, aqua parks, and more.
But with The Breakaway, Norwegian took the Epic and improved upon it by incorporating the cruise line’s first salt room at sea (good for your skin and respiratory system); the line’s first mini-golf course; the largest ropes course at sea; a zip line; and The Plank (as in “walk the plank”), which extends eight feet over the side of the ship. It has kicked it up a notch in the fitness center with the first-ever Nexersys® – high-intensity, interactive interval training against an avatar, the “Freestyle Fight Klub,” which combines Nexersys® training with a cardio boxing class, and a black-light spinning class, where you can pedal yourself silly surrounded by a black-lit room and neon graffiti art. There is even a fireworks show on every cruise, weather permitting.
The Winner: The Breakaway
Layout and Design
It pains me to say this, because I do truly love the Epic. It was the first cruise ship I ever set foot on. Because of this, I had no basis for comparison. Now I do. And I have to say, with the exception of the smaller Studios area, the Breakaway’s layout and design is superior.
They’ve added in the amazing Waterfront area on deck 8, where you can wander a promenade with restaurants and bars, and they’ve tweaked the locations of restaurants and bars to be more size-appropriate and more conveniently located for guests (many of them clustered around 678 Ocean Place). The regular balcony rooms don’t have the split bathroom design or shallow sinks that annoyed people aboard The Epic, nor do they have the weird wavy design. My only complaints about my balcony stateroom were the location of the hair dryer (in the living room) and length of the cord (I had to be seated to use it, because the cord was so short) and the size of the balcony: Even for a solo traveler, it seemed like a tight squeeze.
The Winner: The Breakaway
No, It Really Is The Destination
You know that phrase “It’s the journey, not the destination?” Well, that may be true for some people, but not for all of us. Ask yourself: Do you care more about the ship’s facilities than the ports of call? If so, then you can probably make up your mind which ship is right for you based on what I’ve noted above. But if you are like me, the most important part of any cruise is the destination. And some destinations are more appealing than others. Here’s where each ship goes:
Eastern Caribbean (St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau, Bahamas); Western Caribbean (Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Mexico); Transatlantic; Western Mediterranean (Barcelona, Civitavecchia/Rome, Livorno/Pisa/Florence, Marseilles, Naples, and either Nice, Cannes, or Majorca).
Bermuda; Bahamas/Florida (Orlando and Beaches/Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau); Southern Caribbean (San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, and St. Kitts).
Don’t forget about each ship’s home port. You can always tack on a few days in a city before or after your cruise to get a two-fer vacation. Here’s how that breaks down:
US home port: Miami.
European home port: Barcelona and Civitavecchia (Rome).
US home port: New York City.
The Winner: While Breakaway’s Bermuda itinerary sounds fun, I’ve got to go with the Epic. Its Mediterranean itinerary is amazing, and its winter home port of Miami very appealing—a great place for me to escape from the cold winters of Vermont. Your mileage may vary, of course.
So which ship is right for you? That depends on your tastes, your priorities–and your budget. Don’t forget to take into account the cost of the cruise, plus the airfare to get there (if applicable), hotel for before and after the cruise, ground transportation to and from the port, and shore excursions.
It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? So is choosing between any two suitors. Take your time, learn everything you can about each of them, and follow your heart. The more you know, the better able your instincts will be to choose the right ship for you.
How would you choose a cruise ship?
Disclaimer: I was recently hosted by Norwegian Cruise Lines for the inaugural of the Breakaway. My content, as always, is 100% my own.