Enjoyable, but Lacking an Adult Sanctuary.
CRUISE SHIP: Norwegian Getaway.
OCCUPANCY: 3,969 (double occupancy) We sailed with 4,400.
PORT & ITINERARY: Miami Roundtrip. Roatan, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico; Cozumel, Mexico..
WEBSITE: Norwegian Cruise Lines
I’ll start out by telling you we are in our early 50’s, have been sailing for over 12 years now. We love cruising primarily because it’s such an economical way to vacation. Our primary interests are trying new foods and meeting new friends on each trip. We have sailed Disney, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity and Princess Cruise Lines, this was our first sail on Norwegian. We love trying out new ships and have heard a lot of great things about NCL from friends. While Norwegian was not our favorite cruise line of the six we’ve sailed, there is plenty to love about NCL if you’re planning to sail the Getaway anytime soon.
This review covers everything about the ship first. Destinations and excursions are at the very end. I will also add that in talking to our friends who love to sail NCL, we have learned that some of the things we found missing on Getaway can actually be found on the Epic. When we decide to give NCL another shot, we’ll most likely sail on Epic.
BOOKING THE CRUISE
As always, we booked this cruise through Costco’s website. We’ve had great luck with their travel service on all 10 of our cruises and we enjoy the extra perks. If this is your first cruise, I highly recommend you go through Costco Travel and call them directly. Their cruise agents are very knowledgeable and happy to walk you through multiple ships, itineraries and answer any questions you may have.
On this cruise, NCL was offering 2 free items to choose from. We went with the Unlimited Internet Package and the Ultimate Beverage Package.
One travel tip, purchase these luggage tags for your luggage. These are perfectly sized for the Norwegian Cruise Line eLuggage tags you print at home. This way the tags don’t get ripped or damaged in transit from the port curbside to your door. There are versions of these tags for the other cruise lines too.
We did happen to sail on the tail end of Spring Break so there were lots of kids on board, primarily high school and younger. So things were a bit crowded, especially near the pool areas and the buffet but this is to be expected when you sail with a lot of kids. We also had a cabin right next to the Aft Lobby so we had a lot of kids running about, making noise out in the lobby area and had some noisy kids on either side of our cabin. But again, to be expected on a cruise with lots of kids on board. We sailed RC with 1000 kids aboard for Thanksgiving, this was much quieter than that.
EMBARKATION – MIAMI
The Port of Miami is a busy port and we had 5 or 6 large ships all headed out the day we arrived.
There really was no information from NCL on a specific time to arrive. We knew the port opened at 10 and the earliest boarding would happen around 10:30 so we just left our pre-cruise hotel at 10:30am, arriving just before 11 to the port.
I have to say the Embarkation was the most chaotic of any cruise line we have sailed. NCL is in the process of building a gorgeous new cruise terminal in Miami and that should help greatly. Getting into the cruise terminal is not that big a deal and once you get up into the ‘holding pen’ you’re assigned a boarding number.
It’s a really ugly ‘holding pen’ hence the new cruise terminal. It’s too small for the amount of people on ships the size of Getaway, so it’s a bit of a cramped and chaotic scene until the boarding process starts. People start queuing too early for the boarding gate because there’s not enough room to sit. Once the first two boarding groups moved through, the space was much less crowded and the process went pretty well after that.
We entered the ship via Deck 7 and came in right next to the Box Office. I highly recommend going directly to the Box Office as soon as you are onboard if you have not booked any shows yet. There was literally nobody there when we walked on. During the first Sea Day there were lines up to 30 – 40 deep waiting at the Box Office.
Your cabin will not be available until 1 – 1:30pm generally, so pack light coming on board. Enjoy some time by the pool, the Waterfront or just wander around to get the lay of the land. Don’t just hang around the lobbies waiting for the room to be ready. That’s boring. You’re on vacation, start enjoying it!
We booked Cabin 11847 which has a slightly larger, angled balcony looking forward. We love these ‘bump out’ cabins because the balcony is larger and you get an unobstructed view looking either forward or back. The room had all the amenities you would expect and the bathroom had a very generous shower for a standard balcony room.
Full sized sofa has two large storage drawers underneath and there are multiple shelving compartments under the mirror and TV. The closet space was a bit smaller than what we’re used to from the other cruise lines with one side for hanging clothes and the other side with deep shelving. There is a good sized safe in there as well. The top shelf of the closet has plenty of room for 4 of those 12×12 collapsible cubes giving you even more storage space. We bring those on every cruise now. We also brought along our ‘over the door’ shoe hanger for the bathroom door so we did not have any issues with space for our 7-day cruise.
The one thing we HATED though, was the extremely narrow space between the bed and the closet. That’s the worst design of any cruise ship we’ve been on. Literally the width of two shoes, it was very annoying to get clothes and other items out of the closet. I would try not to book a cabin with this configuration if we ever sail NCL again. This cabin was rated as able to hold 3 passengers. We were told if you book a cabin that is rated for 4 passengers, oftentimes the bed is near the balcony and the sofa is near the closet, which would give you a lot more room to access the closet.
Bathroom is well laid out with a decent amount of shelf space. Celebrity still has the best and most efficient bathroom layout, but NCL has a good amount of space. As I mentioned, the shower is a generous size and has a solid glass door. Water pressure was good and it has the dual controls so you can leave the water set to a good temperature without having to reset it each shower. I will mention that the hot water was scalding hot, so be careful and test the water before getting in or putting your hands under the sink.
I’ll also mention that Cabin 11847 is right next to the aft elevator lobby and stairs, a high traffic area so you hear a lot of noise coming from that area. And on our cruise, a lot of kids running by at high speed well into the night and early in the morning.
Another thing about the room that was annoying was there is no way to leave a message for your room steward. When you call the “Housekeeping” button on the cabin phone, if your steward doesn’t answer, you’re given a message that says “he’s busy, call again in a few minutes.” I did this for a while on the first day and was never able to get through. So I left a hand-written note on the bed for him.
INTERNET and iCONCIERGE APP
Internet coverage was quite good bow to stern as promised. Some wonkiness out on the balcony of the cabin, but I think that’s because the WiFi signal was in the hallway. But everywhere else on the ship I had no problem getting onto the WiFi.
You pay per device so if you want to switch devices, you have to log off one device and onto the other. My smartphone browser kept coming up with a ‘difficulty logging in’ error but then I realized it was logging in anyway. Once I realized that I ignored. It was only slightly painful to switch the login from smartphone to tablet and back to smartphone. Speeds were not bad though we did not pay for the ‘streaming speeds’ so sites like YouTube were automatically blocked on my service.
The iConcierge app was not that useful. First it kept telling me to launch it when I was on board the ship. It did this every single day and multiple times per day. The Freestyle Schedule provided was most often wrong. I gave up using this app on Day 2, it was far too annoying.
First impressions of the ship were just how tight and narrow all the walkways were. Immediately we noticed how the ceilings seemed very low in many of the public spaces. For a ship this size it seemed there were many places that didn’t have to create such chokepoints. That aside, the ship is quite lovely inside and the variety of options of places to go and things to do were numerous.
This is unique to any ship we have sailed so far and we were immediately drawn to this space. It’s a covered promenade deck all around and has a great variety of seating from couches and chairs to regular tables. So you can relax down near the waterline, read a book, play card games or enjoy the Sugarcane and Sunset Bars. There also multiple restaurants that offer outdoor seating along the Waterfront like Ocean Blue, Cagney’s and Moderno. This space ended up being our ‘go-to’ space generally parking somewhere near the Sugarcane Mojito bar with card games books and just relaxing. It’s also a great early morning walking path as an alternative to the small jogging track up top.
Big gathering spot and where you will find gourmet coffee to one side of the Atrium bar. They do all manner of demonstrations and events here like the Newlywed/Not So Newlywed Game, Trivia, carving demonstrations and port presentations. You’ll also find the Shore Excursion, Guest Services and other services around this spot. We enjoyed wandering by this space from time to time just to see what was going on. The visual trivia games were especially fun.
WAY TOO SMALL FOR A SHIP THIS SIZE. Unbelievably small, I thought I was just seeing one part of it. If you’re not on a machine by 5am, you might be waiting until after noon. It’s crazy with nearly 4000 potential guests you have maybe 20 treadmills and a dozen ellipticals. We’ve never seen a fitness room so small and there were people waiting for machines every time we went by. My advice would be to alter your exercise routine by sleeping in or just having a leisurely morning. Then exercise sometime between noon and dinner. I started going around 2pm or so and found the place nearly deserted. Much better than trying to fight the crowds in the morning. My wife also noted it’s the least inspiring fitness room of any ship we’ve been on. It looks like an afterthought rather than something that was purposely designed with the ship.
If you like to walk for exercise I would highly recommend the Waterfront on Deck 8. It goes about 7/8 of the way around the ship and you can simply cut through the front of the ship at the large chess set to complete each lap. The Jogging Track on 16 is short and also goes through a high traffic area that includes Margaritaville and the kids pool / play area. The Waterfront is a great lap around the entire ship and it’s covered so if the sun is especially hot, you can duck under shade while you walk.
The Barber Shop:
Have to give a shout out to the Barber Shop because this was a great experience. I was just not able to get a haircut prior to the cruise and based on a friend’s recommendation decided to give The Barber Shop a go. I ended up not only getting a cut but a facial as well. Just a fantastic experience to not only get a great cut, but to give myself a little pampering. Located in the Spa, I would definitely encourage you to take advantage of this great service. Yeah the haircut costs more than on land, but I was on vacation, it was worth it.
ULTIMATE BEVERAGE PACKAGE:
It’s not really an ultimate (unlimited) “beverage” package like many other cruise lines. It’s purely alcoholic drinks up to $15/drink. If you go over that $15 you pay the difference in price.
Specialty coffees, bottled water and the like will cost you each time you buy. We’ve really gotten used to the specialty coffees and bottled water being included in the drink packages on some of the other cruise lines like Celebrity, so this was a bit of a surprise. Not a deal breaker, but be aware, you will be paying for coffee and bottled water.
DINING (including Vegetarian options and Coffee)
NCL is all about “Freestyle Dining” so you literally don’t make reservations for the main dining rooms. Just show up whenever you feel like eating. For the Specialty Dining you will make reservations.
Overall, food was quite good on the ship. The most bland and boring was the buffet, but overall really good food.
Garden Cafe Buffet
I’ll start here because this was the most boring and bland buffet of any of the six cruise lines we’ve sailed. It was also the smallest creating many choke points and very little seating availability even later in the seating times. It was unbelievably small and cramped for a ship with almost 4000 guest capacity. The circular buffet line ‘corral’ was only good for about 3 people deep. Once there were three people across, the aisle was essentially blocked. If there is a choke point, just keep walking around because the food will repeat and hopefully you’ll find a more clearer area to get the food you’re looking for.
The buffet repeats itself 4 times in the longer direction and twice in the shorter direction. The quality is equivalent to American fast food. Salad bar is very small and depending on the day, it may have more or fewer items. There is a tossed salad section where they make a ‘tossed salad of the day.” That’s nice though I will say the lemon vinaigrette with the Greek tossed salad was flavorless.
Hamburgers / hot dogs / French fries and other American fried food seems to dominate. There are carving stations with what appeared to be good portions of meat. A token Indian and Asian section are offered, but the choices were basically the same each day. I didn’t see a Mexican Station or Cheese Station or see any particular station that would rotate to something different each day. It looked it was set up to do exactly the same thing each day in each station. They did offer a few changes when in port with some ‘local flavor’ but often, these were pretty tasteless as well.
With so many buffet stations I don’t understand why the offerings can’t be more varied like they are on the other cruise lines. The ice cream was also especially bland. Vanilla literally didn’t have any flavor and the chocolate was so-so. In short, pretty bland and boring. If you are an early riser, the buffet is the only option for you other than O’Sheehan’s for breakfast as the main dining doesn’t generally open until 7:30am most mornings.
The 11:30pm “late night snacks” were just basically French fries, burgers and hot dogs along with some token desserts. Not very inspiring and honestly didn’t look that great either. If you want something quick or want to grab a drink or need that late night deep fried fix, it’ll do, but for us, meh.
Where you can get some great specialty coffees all day and well into the evening. Specialty coffee is NOT included in the drink package, so you will be paying for all your Americanos, Cappuccinos and Lattes. The cupcakes are quite good, though the cream on top is a bit thick.
Dolce Gelato and Bake Shop:
For some reason, this space is only open in the afternoons. Most other ships we have sailed has a gelato or ice cream stand open until at least 10pm so you can enjoy a frozen dessert after dinner. The gelato tends to be VERY soft so sometimes you get really cold cream. Not sure if it’s because this faces the Waterfront or the freezers are too weak. Gelato is good and I will also note they have all the specialty coffees here too. When it’s open, generally the line for coffee is nonexistent so you can get your fix a little faster. The cupcakes are quite good.
Ocean Blue: (dinner)
We dined here our first night and enjoyed dinner out on the Waterfront. Our reservation was 7:00pm and we had a beautiful view of the sunset. It was our first experience eating outdoors on a ship and we loved it. Food and the service was simply outstanding. We started with the crab cakes and the grilled prawns appetizers. Great ways to start the meal. Then my wife went with the grilled shrimp entree while I went with the Seven Seas which was lobster, snapper and shrimp. My entrée was one of the best I’ve ever had on a ship. If you are a seafood fan, I highly recommend Ocean Blue. It has the most availability the first night of the cruise so it’s a good restaurant for the first night if you have not made a reservation in advance.
We did this dinner the final night of the trip and my only regret is we didn’t do it earlier. We would have changed Le Bistro or La Cucina to a second night at Teppanyaki. One of the most fun experiences we’ve had for dinner at sea. Food was outstanding, the best meal on the ship next to Ocean Blue. Johnny was a great hibachi chef as well as a fun entertainer. He brought together all of us around the grill to where we all became good friends by the time the meal was over. The fried rice was awesome, my mixed seafood dinner was awesome and my wife’s mixed vegetables were amazing. The green tea cake was literally like eating a tea bag, but the green tea ice cream was great. All in all, our favorite dinner experience on board the Getaway.
Le Bistro: (dinner)
This was a mixed bag some good, some not so good. First off let me say that if they seat you ‘outside’ in the concourse, you’re going to have streams of people passing through the art gallery and as the time approaches 8pm, there will be people lining up to get into Headliners. I recommend sitting inside for a better restaurant experience.
We started out with two appetizers each because neither of us could decide between them. My wife went with the Crab Salad and a puffed pastry seafood appetizer. The crab salad was awesome, really fresh flavor. The puffed pastry dish was good with the vegetables and all the seafood except the scallops. They had a weird flavor is the only way I can describe them. Not fishy, just quite different and weird. That gave me a concern since I ordered the scallop main course. I went with the Escargot and the 4 mushroom soup appetizers. The escargot was awesome, it wasn’t drowning in garlic butter like I’ve had it on other ships. Just the right amount of butter, breading and garlic. The mushroom soup, however, was completely bland. I had a few spoonfuls and sent the rest back. It was surprising that it was so lacking in flavor.
For the main course my wife went with the Shrimp with butter garlic and it was outstanding. One of the better shrimp dishes either of us have ever had. As I mentioned, I went with the Scallop entrée and again, it had that weird taste. I can’t quite place it, but something was a just a bit off about it. The cauliflower puree was quite good so I just slathered the scallops with that and I did go ahead and eat the dish because I really didn’t want to wait for another entrée. But I would advise against the scallops for your dinner.
For dessert we went with the Crème Breule and the Profitteroles. Both excellent, though filling. And the coffee here appears to be true French press, though it is already pushed through when it comes to the table. I would say the Le Bistro is not a “must eat” destination, we’ve had much better French dining experiences on other cruise lines, but if it’s something you want to try, you can have a nice dinner here.
La Cucina: (dinner)
Not the best Italian meal we’ve had at sea, though not the worst, but we again sat outside on the Waterfront to watch the sunset. That was beautiful and we really loved having dinner outside. The bread was really good, some of the best we had on the ship.
For appetizer my wife went with the mozzarella caprese which was decent. My fried calamari were below average, though the sauce was good. There wasn’t much flavor in the calamari itself. For the pasta course, I went with the tortellini and my wife went with the gnocchi pesto. The gnocchi were overcooked and the pesto was ok. Too much salt. The tortellini were not bad, in a lemony type of sauce. For main course, my wife went with the while I went with the lamb chops. The lamb was cooked perfectly, really enjoyable cuts of meat. The potatoes were basically raw, but the lamb was so good I didn’t care.
For dessert I went with the espresso / vanilla ice cream while my wife went with the chopped tartlet. It’s not the best Italian food at sea, but if you sit out on the Waterfront, it’s a nice date night on the ship.
On some sea days, Moderno is open for lunch as another complimentary option and we took advantage of that offering. Now this had an AMAZING salad bar with so many Mediterranean options along with selections of meat and fish. It was an absolutely lovely lunch and did show that the buffet upstairs could have a really good salad bar if it wanted to. The spanakopita was not that great though, it wasn’t crispy and the tiny omelette things were a bit weird. Like they had flour in them for some reason. But the fish was good and the meats looked good. We never got around to trying the meats because were full by that point. My wife did enjoy the rice pudding though. We did notice that on the second full day at sea, Moderno offered an Indian inspired lunch.
We did O’Sheehans during Embarkation because the aforementioned really small buffet was impenetrable. I went with the fish and chips, which had decent fish. The chips were so-so French fries. My wife went with the Caesar salad with salmon and said it was decent enough. As the ship’s only 24-hour food option, expect basic pub / American bar food. Nothing fantastic, but will do the job if you’re hungry. We did think about breakfast here one morning, but the menu was extremely limited and didn’t really have anything we wanted. It’s basically omelettes, French toast or pancakes.
Margaritaville is a great alternative to the buffet for breakfast on the days its open. It’s a smaller version of the buffet and when we went on the morning of the Costa Maya stop, there were no lines and the place was only about ¼ full. Eggs, made to order omelets, sides, and such, just without all the lines from the buffet. Just walk in and seat yourself.
Savor / Taste: (breakfast)
These are the same menus as the main Tropicana Dining Room, but offered as two smaller dining rooms. I will say this concept is one that confused us. You have two nice dining rooms, why not offer something unique in each space? We had breakfast here one day (honestly don’t even remember which one) and it was exactly the same food and quality as the buffet. That was disappointing. I figured the food would be more cooked to order, particularly since these restaurants are nearly as busy as the buffet. But the eggs benedict was the same bland version served on the buffet on a non-toasted English muffin. The ‘country potatoes’ were exactly same as the buffet as were my wife’s ‘hash browns’ which could have been served at any fast food restaurant. Generally when you eat in the main dining room for breakfast the food is a bit better because it’s cooked fresh to order. At least the egg elements. Here it didn’t appear as they did that so there’s really no reason to go into one of these restaurants for breakfast….. except you don’t have to fight the ravenous hordes in the buffet.
Tropicana Dining Room:
This was a pretty unique main dining room of the ships we’ve sailed, especially with the live music feature. At 6pm the “Burn the Floor” dancers are often out there putting on a short show of latin dances with the live band. After that the band play regular sets throughout dinner and there is a pretty good sized dance floor if you’re inspired to get up and dance.
As for the food, it was pretty good. Wife had a fried mozzarella that was terrible, flavorless. She also had a tomato salad that was pretty good. Her main entrée of linguine with ‘prawns’ was just ok. They were small shrimp, nowhere near prawns. The sauce was a bit salty and it needed a bit more flavor, but edible. I started with the Caesar salad and again, the dressing was devoid of flavor. Not sure how they do that, but the grilled chicken in the salad was quite good. My grilled salmon was great as was the bed of pureed asparagus it rested on. Again, a little heavy on the salt, but a very good piece of salmon especially given how many meals they have to prepare in the main dining room.
For dessert my wife went with the snickerdoodle cake which just tasted like a regular yellow cake.
Shanghai Noodle Bar:
Fun concept, we were able to get in here after “Burn The Floor” on the first sea day. You’re seated family style at high top counters. We went with Udon Noodles, Shrimp Fried Rice and Shanghai noodles (as my wife does not eat meat, they were able to do it with just shrimp and leave out the pork). Food was pretty good. Not the best noodles we’ve had but we did enjoy the meal and especially the service. Great concept and a good quick dinner. This would be even better if they kept it open as a late night option. I would much prefer to come here at midnight for a late-night snack vs. the buffet.
Wasabi Sushi Bar:
We ate here for lunch our final sea day and found it to be some of the best sushi we’ve had at sea. We liked being able to watch the chefs prepare the rolls. My wife had a spider roll and rock n roll and both were great. I went with the Tuna roll and the Surf and Turf roll. Both were good, though the tuna roll was better. It had a lot more heat in the spice than I was expecting, but it was so good. If you’re a fan of sushi, definitely worth a meal.
POOLS and SHADE
This is honestly the one reason we won’t be be coming back onto another Norwegian Cruise soon or making NCL one of our ‘regular’ cruise vacation lines. Lack of a true ‘quiet adult pool’ that’s separated from the ‘party pool.’
We like the party pool and we enjoy hanging out there especially when they have some of the fun events going on. But we also like to just relax near a quiet pool too. Every other cruise line we’ve sailed has a true, separated adult pool that doesn’t require any additional cost, ala The Haven. And keep in mind The Haven is not ‘adult only,’ it’s open to anyone, including families, who purchase that Haven experience.
We sailed Royal’s Freedom of the Seas one Thanksgiving with 1000 children aboard but had a great time because we were able to enjoy the separate adult pool. Getaway doesn’t have a true adult pool where you can just get away from the noise and relax. Spice H20 is the adult area on Getaway, but it’s primarily a sun deck with a waterfall feature. Same with the Vibe Club, which is an additional fee. Spice H20 certainly has the space in front of the large screen to have installed a pool. For evening events, they could have used a solid covering like Disney does with their central pools. We have learned that the Epic does feature a pool in their Spice H20 area, but these Breakaway class ships do not.
Kids Pool area is fantastic and if you have young kids, they will love this space. The designated ‘adult pool’ is on the same deck, midship. It’s what we would call the “party pool” and it was jammed most afternoons as would be expected of the party pool area. Good music, fun events and games.
We didn’t try the water slides but the queues were constant and they looked fun. Anytime you sail, but especially when you sail a cruise with more kids than usual, like a Spring Break cruise, it’s nice to have a sanctuary pool that’s a little quieter.
As for shade, the Getaway had sufficient shade around the adult pool in the center of the ship, it’s below the upper deck and as such may not get that much of a breeze. The rest of the ship is basically open to the sun. In Spice H20 there are a few umbrellas and if you park yourself right up against the back wall you can create some nice shade if you need it.
I have to mention, the screen at Spice H20 is just awful. Can’t see it at all during the day and at night, it’s missing so many pixels on the screens the image is terrible. If NCL doesn’t want to maintain the screen they should just remove it and open up the view aft. It will be a better view than a big ugly screen.
Entertainment on Getaway is some of the best at sea, at least of the six cruise lines we’ve been on. And the variety of venues and types of shows each evening is the best of any cruise line so far. I will note that my wife and I both noticed that the audio mixes were always ‘muddy’ no matter the venue. That is, the vocals never stood out from the music. They were always, what we call in the industry, buried in the mix. Usually for live performances the singer’s voice is pronounced from the music, but no matter which venue we saw a show, the singer’s voices were buried in the music. We work in the entertainment industry so it’s something we both noticed.
Burn the Floor
A high energy show that doesn’t try to be anything other than a great celebration of Latin inspired dance. The use of live percussion to augment that recorded music was a great touch and infused the theater with more energy. The staging and dancing were great though they did stack a few slow numbers in the latter segment that could have been split a little more throughout the show. Easily the best-looking dance troupe at sea, both male and female. They genuinely looked like they were enjoying themselves out there and it’s a one of the best ‘original productions’ we’ve seen on any cruise line. Just a really enjoyable 1 hour of entertainment.
Cirque Dreams and Steam: (with Vegetarian option)
What a fun show. HIGHLY recommend spending the extra money for the floor seats so you can see everything, some of the acts are aerial and if you’re sitting back in the banquet seats you probably won’t be able to see all the aerial acts due to the design of the theater ceiling. We arrived at the theater about 8pm for the 8:30 show and the line had about 25 people in it when we showed up. About 8:15 they opened the doors and started seating everyone and we ended up sitting center of the floor right next to the stage. Dinner was actually better than we expected, considering they were making so many of the same meal for a large group. My wife went with the vegetarian option which was a caprese salad and then spinach cannelloni for the main course. I had the caprese salad with prosciutto and the surf and turf meal. I was pleasantly surprised by the cook on the steak, it was flavorful and tender, perfect medium rare. My wife enjoyed the vegetarian meal and we both enjoyed the desserts. During dinner a few of the performers will come out with elaborate costumes to pose for photos. The show itself was a lot of fun, kind of like a series of a circus side show acts, but much more high end. The closeness of the acts really added to the fun of the show. The show itself is about an hour and the dinner is another hour, so it’s about a 2-hour event. We felt it was worth the cost and arriving at 8pm was perfect in terms of getting a good seat.
Million Dollar Quartet
So much fun. Inspired by a real jam session that happened at the legendary Sun Records in Memphis, you spend 90 minutes with Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis. It’s a lot of fun with Jerry Lee providing many great comedic moments. The cast we saw was very good and as they say in the opening statement, ‘they’re not faking it,’ all the actors play instruments and sing live. Well worth the time to take in the show.
Howl at the Moon dueling pianos
Really fun show and the show we saw also had a drum kit set up so they can switch off to that and they also brought out one of those electric piano / guitar instruments too. You don’t have to throw money at the singers to get them to play your songs, but they will play the songs a bit sooner if you do offer them a tip. It’s really loud for a small venue so if you have sensitive ears at all, wear ear plugs. A really fun way to start or end an evening.
Karaoke (at Fat Cats)
This was highly amusing because we happened to catch a show with an extremely drunk woman who almost managed to take out the screen on stage. She was trying to dance to New York, New York when she went over backwards into the screen. But as a Karaoke bar, great space, great energy from the crowd and another fun way to spend an evening. VERY crowded the night we were there and we literally had to squeeze our way out the door.
Headliners Comedy Club
There’s no fee to attend, but they do recommend making reservations at the Box Office. If you don’t have a reservation they make you wait till 10 or 15 minutes before showtime and then they’ll let you in. 7 and 9pm are family friendly shows with the 11pm show being adult only. We caught the 11pm show the first night and will say that when they opened the door to ‘standby’ people, there was still over 50% of the seating open. Comedian was awesome, truly funny and managed the uber drunk guy in the 4th row brilliantly without degrading the show. It’s a great venue and at least based on the show we saw, seems like they book solid acts. I will note that as the week went on, it was harder and harder to get standby seats unless you were there when the doors opened to standby.
Getaway Technical Talk
Whenever there is a presentation by the Captain of the vessel, I try to attend them as they are often an enjoyable look behind the scenes on the operation of the ship. For some reason on Getaway the Cruise Director gave the first 30 minutes of presentation covering many areas he even admitted he didn’t know. He was just reading off the slides and showing videos. But then the captain and chief engineer joined the conversation and they were quite amusing. Each putting down what the other does in a funny way while dispensing great insights on what they do and the operation of Getaway.
After 10 cruises we finally had a need to use the medical services on board. There was a wet spot on the floor of the Garden Café and unfortunately my wife stepped in that spot and went down hard. The staff immediately came to help and soon a wheelchair was provided to get my wife down to the Medical Center. We were impressed with the quality of the medical center and the staff. They were extremely friendly, immediately took an X-Ray of her ankle which thankfully did not show any fractures. She ended up with a bad sprain which necessitated her keeping her ankle raised and we ended up cancelling all our excursions from Belize forward. A security personnel came to interview both of us to do an investigation into the fall and had me escort her up to area where the fall happened. It’s an unfortunate situation that could have been prevented. But we are thankful to the medical crew for being so quick and helpful with the situation. The injury did cause us to cancel our excursions at the next 3 ports, but we didn’t let it ruin our vacation. We just hung onboard and relaxed near the pools, H20 and Waterfront which were all quiet with folks on shore.
DISEMBARKATION / LEAVING THE PORT
As first time NCL cruisers, we were expecting some sort of notification with the Day 7 Freestyle Daily on Miami Disembarkation information and our luggage tags for disembarkation. It was later, after calling Guest Services, that we discovered disembarkation is essentially ‘do it yourself.’
You go down to Guest Services where to the right of the desk, is a TV monitor with the colored luggage tags underneath. The monitor displays the various exit times from the ship and you simply choose the colored luggage tag that corresponds with the time you want to leave. As we had an afternoon flight, we chose the latest time offered, 9:45am disembarkation. On our cruise, we had until 11pm on the final sea day to put our bags outside the room for pickup. The luggage tags were available the 6th and 7th day of our cruise.
Breakfast was served in the Buffet till 9:00am so we hung out here until our group was called. I will say they were calling exit group colors earlier than scheduled. Up to 30 minutes earlier. We got called off the ship at 9:30 and found another long, double backed line waiting for us on Deck 7. Then one of the security computers broke as we were one of the next to exit so we had to switch back to the other line. Not horrible, but disembarkation on the last day is always a cluster.
Best piece of advice I can give you is to always get a baggage porter when you get down to baggage claim. Totally worth the tip to have them take your baggage for you, you cut through the long line of people waiting to get through customs and they deliver your bags directly to where you want to go. Much better than trudging your own luggage through the lines, outside and wherever. We tip $5 per bag and are always happy to do so.
COMPARING NCL TO OTHERS
As I mentioned at the top of this review, we have sailed Disney, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland-America and Celebrity cruise lines prior to sailing on the Getaway. In a nutshell, here’s how we feel NCL Getaway compares to those other lines.
Dining: Middle of the road. More dining options than any other ship we’ve sailed but that doesn’t necessarily mean better. Seafood is a strong suit on this ship, except scallops, and the buffet is quite weak. Of the cruises we’ve taken Disney has the best food at sea followed closely by Celebrity and Princess. The single best meal we’ve ever had at sea was at Remy on the Disney Fantasy. The best buffet is a tossup between Princess, Disney and Celebrity.
Drinks: Drinks were consistently good on NCL. The bars by the pool make the fastest, weakest drinks, which is normal because they are just trying to get you back to the pool. But the rest of the bars were all consistently good at making whatever drink we requested. Our favorite was the Sugercane Mojito Bar. The single best bar we’ve visited at sea is the World Class Bar aboard the Celebrity ships.
Pools: I’ve already mentioned the lack of dedicated, separate adult pool on the Breakaway class. There is really just one pool for adults to use, the main party pool. The other pool is the kiddie section. There is also a waterfall feature in the Spice H20 that will get you wet. I don’t count The Haven because that’s a completely separate category not open to everyone. The best pools for us have been the rear pool on the Caribbean Princess which is like an infinity pool when you are in it, a clear view straight out the back of the ship. The Celebrity Silhouette Class has the best overall adult pool sanctuary area.
Shade: Getaway had the least amount of outdoor shade of any ship we’ve sailed recently, it’s basically one big sun deck. Celebrity Silhouette Class has the most outdoor shade with numerous overhead canopies even on the upper sun decks. Holland-America Nieuw-Amsterdam has the best cabana setup of any ship we’ve sailed, plenty of shade and private lounging area.
Entertainment: Getaway has the best and most varied options for entertainment, both in terms of types of shows and the amount of venues, of any ship we’ve sailed. No matter what you are into, you’ll find it every night aboard the Getaway. Princess has the best stage shows and performers of the other cruise lines we’ve sailed.
Cleanliness: I added this because it’s something that got progressively more noticeable as the cruise went on. The public restrooms were dirtier than any other ship we’ve been on. The men’s room on 8 Aft had a very bad odor for the entire trip and we noticed that toilet paper and paper towels were often strewn in the rooms. The bathrooms had a very unkempt look about them often. They also had the worst paper towel dispensers and paper towels. Super thin paper towels that required three or four to actually get your hands dry.
Crew: Overall very nice folks who did try to do what they could to make your vacation the best. One little quirk we noticed was we’ve never seen so many crew members queuing up for specialty coffees, desserts and other items. And they weren’t deferring to passengers. We found that a bit odd because usually you only see crew members in the buffet area, not buying dessert and coffee in the public areas. Also we found multiple instances of the crew discussing schedules and other management issues out in the open along the bars, especially the Atrium Bar / Cafe crew. I found that a bit odd too as ships usually try to keep all management issues and discussions behind the scenes.
All in all thought, a very enjoyable trip and if you have plans to sail the Getaway you will definitely have a good time. The quality of the entertainment alone assures you’ll have a good time. For us, we’ll continue with ships that have the dedicated adult ‘sanctuary’ area with a pool.
DESTINATIONS & EXCURSIONS
Disembarkation at port was a bit nutty. I’ve never seen a line stretch all the way through one deck and double back on itself just to get off the ship. At Roatan, Honduras that’s what we discovered as we prepared to leave the ship and were directed towards the Atrium area. Getaway had everyone get off ‘general admission’ and only had one point of exit set up in the front of the ship. Apparently, the Getaway doesn’t queue shipboard excursions in the theater like most other cruise lines do. Usually there are two points of exit in the front and rear of the ship. Front is set up for guests with shipboard excursions booked while the back is set up for everyone else to just get off. Getaway just had everyone get off in one large queue and you found your shipboard excursion out on the pier. We arrived at the queue about 15 minutes after the announcement was made to go ashore and found that crazy, double-backed line. I will say that the line moved and we got off the ship in about 10 minutes.
We booked a private tour through Victor Bodden tours. They are highly rated on multiple travel sites and we found them to be absolutely fantastic. My wife booked a private driver who was literally at our beck and call for as long as we wanted, to take us anywhere on the island for a flat rate. She had also pre-booked a stop at the Victor Bodden Canopy Tour which included ziplining. Our driver was a great local gentleman who gave us a leisurely drive to the canopy tour while filling us in on some of the sights and history of the island. We had a great chat about family, beaches and barbeque. Once at the Canopy Tour we went straight to the ziplining. This was a great zipline experience, good scenery, long zip runs and great guides who were encouraging folks to go upside down and do other tricks. The guides were also great with assisting me with my helmet mounted GoPro camera, ensuring it was correctly attached to the helmet. After the ziplining we went through the monkey and wild animal exhibits. We actually got to go in and meet Michael and Michele, two capuchin monkeys who enjoyed jumping all over us and trying to open my wife’s water bottle. That was quite fun. The rest of the exhibit was looking through the rest of the various animals you might find in Honduras. My wife also got to hold a sloth, she loves those things. After that we met our driver and as it was getting hot, we asked that he just work our way back to the ship. He took us another leisurely way where we ended up in a great chat about baseball, as both of us played in our younger years. All in all, HIGHLY recommend Victor Bodden tours if you’re looking for something independent of the ship tours. I will note that you will be doing three separate tips for the driver, zipline guides and the monkey guide.
We were supposed to rent an electric boat here but then my wife sprained her ankle on a wet spot in the Garden Café so we ended up just hanging on the Getaway.
This stop was actually the entire reason we booked this ship, this itinerary. We had a booked a tour of the Dzibanche Ruins independently with The Native Choice tours, but again, my wife’s sprained ankle caused us to cancel that tour. NCL does not offer a tour to Dzibanche but it is one of the only Mayan ruins where you can still walk up the temple steps. That’s why we were drawn to book this one. I will mention that The Native Choice refunded our tour despite us notifying them the day before we were to arrive so we will definitely choose to use that tour company again on our next visit to Costa Maya.
I’ll note that Costa Maya was a big ‘stay on the ship’ day on our cruise with the onboard pools, buffet and other public areas being quite busy for a port day.
We had originally booked a beach day at Nachi Cocomen resort. While my wife’s ankle was feeling better when we reached this port, we decided to cancel anyway instead of taking a chance of her twisting or injuring it again with walking. We did lose a non-refundable deposit which we knew before cancelling, however they did not charge us for balance of the resort fee.