Norwegian Cruise Line: Breakaway vs Breakaway Plus

Sometimes when I get bored I do some light research (aka, days and days) on cruise ships. Shocking, I know. A couple weeks back, I landed on Norwegian Cruise Lines page on a little website called Wikipedia. While not always 100% reliable, when I find something intriguing, I get lost deep into the woods with research to find the truest answer possible! The path I ventured down brought so much intrigue and curiosity that I knew I had to share my search results with the cruise world.

Norwegian Cruise Lines has two classes of ships which are very similar in name to each other: Breakaway and Breakaway Plus. My initial thought was that the “Plus” moniker would mean some general enhancements and modifications (new venues, adding rooms, shifting things around, etc.). While this thought has some validity to it, there’s actually a lot more that changed between the two classes of ships.

As you continue reading, you might be like us and ask yourself, “With so much change, why not call this second class by a different name altogether?”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the basics and look at all of the ships that have been built under both class names:

Ship Nameship classyear builtgross register tonscapacity
Norwegian BreakawayBreakaway2013145,6553,963
Norwegian GetawayBreakaway2014145,6553,963
Norwegian EscapeBreakaway Plus2015164,9984,266
Norwegian JoyBreakaway Plus2017167,7253,804
Norwegian BlissBreakaway Plus2018168,0284,004
Norwegian EncoreBreakaway Plus2019169,1163,998

Right out the gate, we see that the two ships in the “Breakaway” class are identical in size and capacity. Switch gears to the “Breakaway Plus” ships and we immediately see a major change with an add of almost 20,000 Gross Tons (I’ll speak to where this weight gain comes from in a bit)! The rest of the “Plus” ships maintain the extra weight with a little bit extra added with each new ship. What really gets me is the variations in capacity across the 4 “plus” ships!

Deck 5

Looking at the deck plans, we see that the Breakaway and Getaway have a large number of staterooms on Deck 5 (the lowest public deck on the ship). In traditional form, we also see the presence of the Medical Center on this lower deck. On the “plus” ships, they gave up half of the space on this lower deck in favor of the kid’s clubs: Guppies Nursery and Splash Academy. As we head to the first Breakaway Plus ship – Norwegian Escape – the cruise line added a Private Room in the “cellar” of the Taste Restaurant. Looking at the next ship in the Breakaway Plus class, the Norwegian Joy removed the Guppies Nursery and shifted Splash Academy aft to where the Private Room was on Escape. With Norwegian Bliss and Encore, they both reintroduce the layout with the Guppies and Splash Academy, however at the aft of their design, we see the Video Arcade and Entourage (the teen club).

Deck 6, 7, and 8

Between the Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, the main differences we see are the names of several public spaces. As we look at the Breakaway Plus ships, we still observe a lot of similarities from the original class, however, there’s a new dining spot added just aft of the theatre on Deck 6. When you climb up to Deck 8, there’s a removal of a block of rooms. In place of these rooms is the addition of two new up-charge dining venues; interestingly, these dining venues change names across the Breakaway Plus class! A few of the other venues throughout the three decks get swapped around (for example, on some of the ships, Teppanyaki is port-side and others it swaps places with the Social Comedy and Night Club to the Starboard-side).

Decks 9 through 13

Rooms, rooms, and more rooms! When looking at most cruise ships, we usually see rooms on the first (lowest) public deck or two, then there’s 3 public space decks with theatres, restaurants, bars, and shopping, followed by a series of several decks packed full with staterooms. These six Breakaway-class sisters are no exception.

Deck 9 on all of these ships looks very similar to each other, comprised of several different categories of balconies flanking the exterior of the ship and a couple dozen interior rooms for sailors who love a completely dark room in the middle of the day. Arriving at Deck 10 we encounter the first level of Studio rooms in the forward of the ship. This is a new add to modern cruise ships that allow people to book a cruise alone and not have to worry about the single-supplement fees associated with booking one person in a double room. The odd thing about these ships is how the studios change from ship to ship. On the Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway we see Studios on Decks 10 and 11 with the Studio Lounge spanning both decks. On the Norwegian Escape, Bliss, and Encore, the Studio staterooms take up 3 decks – Deck 10, 11, and 12 – with the Studio Lounge as a single-story on Deck 11. Norwegian Joy is completely devoid of Studio rooms altogether and instead has unique family multi-room interior suites. This could have something to do with this ship’s intended purpose of sailing the Asian markets originally where Studio rooms were not desired.

On the Breakaway and Getaway, we see the kid’s club, Splash Academy, spanning Decks 12 and 13 in the middle of the ship. On Joy, Bliss, and Encore, Deck 13 boasts the unique location for the ship’s Medical Center (with their Splash Academy located on Deck 5 instead). And while not listed on the deck plans for the Escape on Norwegian’s website, a quick search online shows that the Medical Center is also found on deck 13 on this ship.

Deck 14

We start to see some big changes happening on Deck 14 across the ships. On the Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, we find the Bridge at the front, followed by some Spa spaces and staterooms. On the Norwegian Joy, Bliss, and Encore we also find the Bridge and staterooms (no Spa is found here; instead, the space is used for more staterooms).

The Norwegian Escape is the outlier across all these ships as Deck 14 contains all rooms (and lots of them compared to the sisters). This speaks to the increased capacity numbers compared to the other ships with the Escape’s bridge moved to Deck 15.

Deck 15

Looking at the Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, Deck 15 sees the continuation of the Spa areas plus the introduction of The Haven Suites on the port side of the ship. Moving aft from there, there are a series of sun decks, pools and hot tubs. At the aft of Deck 15 is the Garden Café, Norwegian’s main buffet restaurant. Shifting to Norwegian Escape, Deck 15 actually looks very similar to Deck 14 on the rest of the Breakaway sisters – just with fewer interior rooms.

Shifting our attention to the Norwegian Joy, Bliss, and Encore we see the introduction of the Observation Lounge at the very forward of the ship (where Breakaway Plus sister’s Escape has her bridge). On the Norwegian Joy there’s a Starbucks and Bar space in the Lounge, whereas on the Bliss and Encore, it’s listed as an open space. The Observation Lounge is open to use for all guests on the ship and sits at a unique height which is fully enclosed and safe from weather. This would be the perfect spot to watch the scenery as the ship sails through the fjords of Alaska or Norway. Aft of the Observation Lounge are several different stateroom categories. The Joy sports several suites mid-ship whereas the other two sisters are filled with many standard balcony and interior staterooms with suites aft. The buffet is missing altogether on this deck for the Breakaway Plus sisters.

Deck 16

Climbing up to Deck 16 on the Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, we see the inclusion of the remaining Haven Suites plus their exclusive lounge and pool/hot tub areas. Leaving The Haven we find the Guppies space (infants/toddler daycare), some sun deck areas, the jogging track, and at the aft is the arcade, Entourage Teen Lounge, American Diner and a pool, bar and play area.

While the Breakaway sisters are nearly identical, the Breakaway Plus ships see all sorts of changes across their Deck 16.

The forward of Norwegian Escape, Deck 16 has the spa, fitness center, and several upgraded balcony rooms. Her sisters (Joy, Bliss, and Encore) have the Garden Café in this space (the same buffet found on Deck 15 of the Breakaway and the Getaway). Moving outdoors on all four of the Breakaway Plus ships we see a series of pools, bars and the kids’ Aqua Park.

Interestingly, the aft of Norwegian Escape is where we find the Garden Café. On the Joy, you’ll find the Fitness Center, Spa services, and the Teen club with arcade.

Wrapping up the differences between the sisters on Deck 16, Norwegian Bliss and Encore have the Fitness Center, Beauty Salon, and Spa at the very aft.

Deck 17

Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway both start to dwindle by Deck 17. Each features a pair of sun decks on the forward section with one being exclusive to The Haven and the other being public. There’s also the Vibe Beach Club with a couple of accompanying bars. Towards the aft of this deck we see the launch point for the on-board water slides, the Sports Complex and Ropes Course.

Deck 17 is similar on the Breakaway Plus sisters with the addition of The Haven Suites, Pool and Lounge. The Norwegian Escape has staterooms at the front of the ship, whereas the other three sisters have the Horizon Lounge (an exclusive forward-looking lounge to The Haven guests). Moving aft on all four sisters we come to the sun deck that surrounds the pools below. The aft of these ships is where we spot some changes. The Norwegian Escape has the Video Arcade, Entourage Teen Lounge, American Diner, and Spice H2O. Norwegian Joy has the Fitness Center, American Diner, and Spice H2O. Norwegian Bliss and Encore introduce Le Bistro French Restaurant, and they also have American Diner and Spice H2O in this area.

Deck 18

This is the final deck on the Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. Forward is a large sun deck space and in the aft of the ship is the basketball court.

Switching to the Breakaway Plus ships, the Norwegian Escape has a wrap-around set of Haven Suites with The Haven Restaurant and a sun deck. Towards the aft of the ship we see the Ropes Course and Mini Golf. On the Norwegian Joy, Bliss, and Encore, there’s The Haven Library situated between The Haven Suites at the forward of the deck and moving back we find an expanded Haven Lounge and Haven Restaurant. Towards the aft of the ship, we see the introduction of the speedway loading platform. Norwegian Encore also adds in a Laser Tag arena aft of the speedway.

Deck 19

All four of the Breakaway Plus ships have similar offerings at the forward of Deck 19 with The Haven Sun Deck and Public Sun Deck and the addition of the Vibe Beach Club. The aft of Norwegian Escape features the lower level of the Ropes Course and Sports Complex with sun deck. Norwegian Joy and Bliss both have the upper deck of the speedway and feature a mini golf course. Norwegian Encore just has the upper deck of the speedway.

Deck 20

Norwegian Escape tops out the ship with a Sun Deck forward and the entrance to the waterslides and upper deck of the ropes course in the aft. Norwegian Joy and Bliss feature a Laser Tag arena in the forward part of Deck 20 with the launch point for their waterslides in the aft. Norwegian Encore expanded the Vibe Beach Club to the 20th Deck and at the aft is launch point of the waterslides.

Final Findings

After reviewing all six of the Breakaway deck plans, there were several things that I discovered about the cruise line along the way. The Breakaway class of ships (Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway) were both designed to be nearly identical and feature very similar layouts. Once the cruise line was able to learn from these two ships in operation, it appears that they discovered there was more potential for this class – both in passenger capacity, and added activities.

The cruise line jumped forward to design the first ship in the Breakaway Plus class (Norwegian Escape) while the two Breakaway-class ships were in production. We see the Bridge move up a deck and the introduction of several new features. While the Bridge moved back down on the remaining Breakaway Plus sisters, several of the new features introduced on Escape are present on the rest of the Breakaway Plus class.

With that said, the designs didn’t really get refined until the Norwegian Joy made her debut 2 years after the Escape. Norwegian Joy had intentional changes that made her ideal for the Asian market (such as the removal of Studio rooms in favor of the Family Suites), but the layout and design was closer aligned to the two remaining Breakaway Plus ships.

We see the design for this class finally solidify on Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore. It’s apparent that Norwegian really studied the wins and losses in the previous iterations of the class and found ways to make some minor (and some major!) adjustments to produce the perfect ship in their eyes. The main difference between the Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore are on the top-most decks with the expanded speedway and Vibe Beach Club.

I hope you found this article as informative and fascinating to read as I did researching and writing it! Let me know in the comments if I missed something in my research. Or, if you’ve sailed on these ships, let me know your thoughts!

If there are other classes of ships that you’d like to see a side-by-side comparison of, please leave a comment below. We geek out over reviewing and comparing deck plans and love sharing that with you!

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