Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway has hit the cruising industry like a whirling dervish — receiving great reviews from her early passengers and creating some serious buzz.
I was one of the lucky travel industry professionals to be offered a place on the 2-day Pre-Inaugural Cruise onboard the Breakaway, and took advantage of it by checking out as many areas as possible, eating at five different restaurants, and, of course, inspecting the technology of the new vessel.
Let’s break down the Breakaway.
Norwegian Breakaway Mobile Application
Before even boarding the Norwegian Breakaway, my colleagues and I sampled the technology of the new cruise ship.
The ‘Norwegian Breakaway Rocks NYC’ application for both Android and iPhone was announced for those attending the Norwegian Breakaway’s inaugural events.
It includes outrageously helpful and attractive features such as an onboard schedule-maker for passengers (on which you can ‘favorite’ events and set reminders), a ship map, location pictures and descriptions, news, photos, and more.
This application helps passengers to plan and execute a schedule for their time onboard, keep all photos in one place, navigate around the ship, and get up-to-date event info.
Given the success of the app, other cruise lines may take note. From the post-event press release:
The result generated more than 429,755 Facebook visits over the five-day period, and Instagram registered more than 56,862 visits and 1,715 pictures uploaded with the hashtag #NorwegianBreakaway. Guests utilized Twitter on board, and as a result, Norwegian received a record number of mentions and retweets about the content shared from Norwegian Breakaway.
By focusing on ways for guests to capture and share memories while on-board, Norwegian is able to create a much more significant amount of cruiser goodwill.
The idea with the inaugural event was to “offer the best possible social media experience onboard a ship, which generated buzz among the travel agents, media and guests at the inaugural events,” which was indeed a success. The question is: how can – and will – this be replicated at scale with everyday cruise-goers?
Onboard Touch Screens
A very popular technological feature of the Norwegian Breakaway was the collection of over 50 touch-screens found around the ship.
These screens allow you to search for information about and book reservations for both entertainment and dining, as well as obtain directions to different areas onboard. A very useful feature that not only looks cool but puts customer service in the hands of cruisers, liberating crew members to focus on other customer needs.
One of the best features of these screens is their capability to offer availability for each restaurant (from ‘Plenty of Room’ to ‘Worth the Wait’).
They make placing reservations a breeze, assist passengers in navigating the megaship, and offer real-time information on restaurant availability. I used one to book reservations at ‘Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy & Dinner’, ‘Teppanyaki Japanese Steakhouse’, and ‘Le Bistro Restaurant’. You can visit The Cruise Web Blog to read our reviews of each restaurant, as well as an onboard service review.
In addition, there were some touch-screens in the lobby to take a look at pictures from around the ship, and save them to purchase for later (pictured above).
Touch Sliding Doors
One of the first technological intricacies I noticed onboard the Norwegian Breakaway was the existence of the auto-touch sliding doors pictured above. With a simple touch of the finger in the circle, the ‘button’ would light up and the doors split to the sides for the passenger.
Benefits: These speedier, more easily opened doors keep the temperature regulated, require less effort from passengers, and are visually pleasing. Staff is able to open doors with less effort (or a few dishes in each hand).
Electricity Slot in Stateroom for Key Card
This is pretty straightforward: in an attempt to save energy and increase efficiency, the staterooms require you to place your key card in a slot to turn on electricity in the room, charge your electronics, use the television, etc.
Hotels, especially in Europe and Asia, have had this feature for many years; the advantage to cruise ships is that it allows a reduction on power load, which means less taxed systems and a lighter overall fuel load.
In the Spa—Salt Room at Sea (Industry First)
The Norwegian Breakaway, in an effort to mimic Eastern Europe’s salt cave systems, developed the first-ever Salt Room at Sea in the onboard spa. This special treatment releases dry aerosol micro particles of salt through the room in a session which improves the immune and respiratory system, and leaves the passenger healthier and refreshed.
In an industry of constant innovation and competition, Norwegian took a strong step forward in the spa category. One of our veteran cruising colleagues described it as “cool, pleasant and bright – great for relaxing and detoxing.”
What do these advancements signify for cruise technology moving forward…
As you can see, the trend of integrating user experience and social sharing is becoming more and more popular.
…more sharing via expected channels
Onboard Wi-Fi will still cost you a pretty penny (for the most part), but Norwegian has communicated that they believe the best way to earn more business is to make sharing memories and experiences easier. They’re doing this via with mobile applications that help passengers connect easier with the outside world, and a touch-screen that makes saving your onboard photos (and memories) simple.
Nonetheless, people still want to be able to use their devices as if they were on land. People love to see real, unadulterated opinions, experiences, and images that show what life will be like on vacation with a particular company. Other cruise lines will most likely follow suit..
…more ‘Own Device’ apps
But why would passengers share their experience if it were anything less than stupendous? That’s why cruise technology will focus on differentiation and, put simply, making passengers’ lives onboard easier and more relaxing
How did the Breakaway do that? The mobile application allowed for a multitude of activities to be done from the palm of your hand. Small touches like the sliding doors made things smooth and even fun at times. The already impressive spa offerings were augmented even further with a thermal spa and salt room treatment. Onboard reservation screens both increased information available to passengers on each deck of the ship and made reserving entertainment and dinner a breeze. That seems like an experience worth sharing.
…continued implementation of cost-saving green technologies
Lastly, never forget about the green movement. Saving energy and increasing efficiency have become absolutely essential in almost every industry in the world. The cruise industry is no exception. If anything, it’s a focal point, given the large amounts of energy consumed. To combat this, the Norwegian Breakaway featured the card slots in rooms that will undoubtedly save a massive amount of energy (lights, TV, electricity are all connected to it). Guest rooms and much of the public lighting is also LED, offering improved efficiency and reduced emissions.
The actual construction of the ship, including many of the navigation and steering functions, was also made from a technical efficiency approach. From improved turning to the PureDry system that removes usable fuel oil from waste oil, the list of improvements is exhaustive.
Have you experienced technological features on the Breakaway that you think should have been included in this article? Tell us in the comments below.