NCL’s ‘Waterfront’ feature, on their ‘Breakaway’ (and Breakaway Plus) ships, caused much excitement in the cruise world. Some commentators feel that the waterfront is a clever reinvention of the traditional ‘Promenade Deck’, others feel it is the final frontier for ‘nickel & diming’, literally “pay per view”.
If we look at older cruise ships, they nearly always had a teak promenade deck which normally passed under the lifeboats. This often completely wrapped around the ship so you could enjoy a stroll (pre-jogging) and circumnavigate the entire ship, passing around the stern and bow. The existence of the prom deck was not just due to the generosity of the shipping line, it served as a muster point for emergencies and was the place where the lifeboats were lowered and boarded from.
The great Ocean Liners, which sometimes crossed the North Atlantic in less favourable weather often had sheltered prom decks port and starboard. Passengers were protected from the rigours of the north Atlantic by windows. However dining options and shops were not normally part of the ‘prom’, and were located elsewhere on the ship.
Some of today’s mega-ship have become rather ‘internally’ focused in design, with public room and spaces often having limited windows, often limited or no sea-views. In fact the best place to get a sea-view can often be your balcony cabin.
Royal Caribbean’s ‘Royal Promenade’, introduced on the ‘Voyager’ class (1999) was essentially a street running along the middle of the ship. It featured shops, bars and restaurants. However there is no natural daylight or sea views, so not a ‘prom deck’ at all, in the traditional sense. (However the voyager class does have a more traditional prom deck. Although it does not wrap-around, fully.
RCI’s new ‘Oasis’ class ships improved on the ‘Royal Prom’ design by adding skylights which introducing daylight from above. Oasis also has a ‘boardwalk’ at the stern of the ship, which features a Carousel, shops and cafés aimed at families. At the very aft is the Aqua-Theatre, a facility for water-based shows. Although a unique area, in reality the sea-views from the ‘Boardwalk’ are limited due to the two walls of cabins which overlooked it.
NCL’s mega-ship, Norwegian Epic is guilty of offering limited sea-views from many of the public spaces. In fact the ‘Garden Cafe’ (buffet) is one of the exceptions. However it’s lido-dining area, the ‘Great outdoors’ overlooks the pool deck, not the sea. Even the prom deck has its sea views almost entirely blocked by lifeboats.
NCL’s waterfront puts Epic’s lack of sea-views, right with a rather clever design. It takes five of NCL’s favourite dining options, plus a new one, and locates them all on deck 8. Each restaurant has indoor seating and can be accessed internally, as well as having external seating area on the ‘Waterfront’ promenade deck.
Referring to deck 8, NCL say: “Guests will also find retail outlets, the photo gallery, and the Humidor Cigar Lounge. A three-story open atrium with an exquisite LED chandelier with light changing effects will serve as the centrepiece of 678 Ocean Place with openings to all three decks and glass staircases connecting the levels”.
NCL go on to say: “678 Ocean Place connects the excitement of The Waterfront outdoor spaces with interior dining venues for Moderno; Cagney’s; Shaker’s; La Cucina; Malting’s and Ocean Blu, including the raw and sushi bars”.
“The eight outdoor dining and lounging options, including signature Norwegian favourites like Moderno Churrascaria; Cagney’s Steakhouse; La Cucina; Shaker’s Cocktail Bar; Malting’s Beer & Whiskey Bar; and the newest addition, Ocean Blu on The Waterfront, with outdoor seating and a special takeaway menu. The Waterfront will also feature another first for Norwegian – a gelato bar serving a selection of flavours of the delectable frozen treat. Guests will enjoy this creamy confection as they take a leisurely stroll along The Waterfront. A yet-to-be-announced entertainment venue will also have an outdoor space.
I will be interested to see what sort of entertainment venue will have an outdoor space.
The three complimentary dining options, Taste, Savor and the Manhattan rooms will not feature an external dining area. In short you will need to pay a surcharge for outdoor dining.
Looking at the renderings, it appears that the various restaurants and bars on the waterfront will only have limited seating on the Waterfront prom area, with the vast majority of seating for each restaurant being internal. I would imagine it will be rather difficult (impossible?) to actually get a seat in the fresh air at peak times.
I would also imagine the waterfront will be a busy area of an evening, weather permitting. Noise is bound to travel up to the many balconies on deck 9 and above (seethe balconies in image above, over the bar). Would you want a balcony cabin directly over one of the waterfront restaurants or bars?
Of course I am speculating and look forward to experiencing the real thing in action.
You can clearly see in this image from the shipyard, the ‘Promenade Deck’ which will form the ‘Waterfront’ innovation.
See Video tour:
Do you have good or bad experiences about the waterfront? Send me your comments please.