Monday, August 24, 2015

Family Cruising - Norwegian Breakaway Ropes Course

Norwegian Breakaway anchored in Bermuda

     The Norwegian Breakaway was launched in 2013 with a capacity of 3969 passengers for it's 1262 staterooms and suites. It was not the largest ship to join the fleet of Norwegian Cruise Line, but it was the first Norwegian ship to boast a ropes course at sea. This family-friendly activity incorporates a feature called the "Plank", where climbers live out their pirate fantasies (or nightmares) by walking out 8 feet from the side of the ship on a beam no more than 4 inches wide, with nothing but the sea below - far, far below!

     We recently took a family cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway from its homeport in New York City to Bermuda, and got to try out the ropes course for ourselves. The course is located on deck 17 at the top of the ship, and takes up most of the aft sports deck. It is really quite challenging for those with any fear of heights, so be forewarned!

View of NCL Breakaway's Ropes Course from the Waterslide

     There are height and weight restrictions: one must be higher than 48 inches and weigh less than 300 pounds to climb (and yes, they have a scale!). Climbers are also not permitted to bring any loose items with them, and must wear secure, closed shoes.

    The first step is to get into the safety harness. There can be a long lineup for this, as each guest is strapped securely into their gear, then individually checked by crew members to be sure that everything is correctly attached. The straps are checked again at the entrance to the ropes course, and then the safety rope that keeps you from falling off the course is clipped to your harness, and off you go up the stairs!

Safety equipement is checked by crew members

     Once up the stairs and onto the tiny beams making up the Sky Trail, it suddenly becomes clear just how high up the ropes course is. Even for those without a fear of heights, it can be a little unsettling to see how high off the ground you are, attached to safety by what feels like a pretty flimsy and unstable security strap. However, rest assured that the straps are really quite strong - the kids tested them by hanging off the beams by their harnesses. (Please do not do this yourselves - it is frowned upon and can get you kicked off. And your mother will get mad!)

Here we go! Pretty high up...

    There are multiple routes to take on the ropes course, and all are quite fun and challenging. The metal beams are fairly easy to walk on without losing your balance, but there are also "tight-rope" like sections to test your nerves and your proprioception at the same time. There is no "one way" to do the course, so if you want to avoid the tight-ropes and also the "Plank", you can.

At times, it seems like you're the only person up there!

     There is only one way down from the Sky Trail, though, unless you decide to walk against the flow and go down the up staircase at the entrance. The way down is a zipline, which takes you from one side of the ship to the other, passing in front of the climbing wall. It is surprisingly exhilarating, considering that you are on a cruise ship. 

Course ends with a zipline exit, so be prepared!
     Doing the whole ropes course on the Norwegian Breakaway can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or even more. There is no time limit, and since it is not a one-way only course, you can happily stay up there quite a while if you enjoy it. This is a popular activity on board, so try to go early in your voyage, especially since it can be closed if it is windy. Highly recommended!


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