Let me begin by saying this was my first cruise so I have no point of reference. These are merely my observations as a first-time cruiser of what worked and didn’t work for me on this ship. Take it for what it is. We have no children. I am a retired professional and my spouse works for a large bank.
My spouse and I were originally booked to go to Hawaii for this week for a one-week beach vacation. We decided after having booked our Hawaii vacation that perhaps it wasn’t the right time, and decided we wanted to try something different. We had always talked about going on a cruise, but had never made the commitment, primarily because I suffer from sea sickness and was afraid to spend a significant amount of money to be ill. We live near a port (Vancouver, BC), so an Alaskan cruise would have been a no-brainer. However, because we live in this part of the world, we wanted to see something different. I had been to the Caribbean once previously, to Aruba for a beach holiday many years ago. After some research on cruise lines and ships, I settled on the Norwegian Getaway after reading reviews on Cruise Critic and watching some great videos on YouTube.
We arrived into Miami airport at 830 am after a red-eye flight from Seattle. By the time we picked up our bags and got to the port, it was 930 am and there were already people there waiting to board, even though the eDocs we received from the cruise line said not to get there until 11 am. We wanted to get there early enough so as to be able to secure one of the coveted Vibe Beach Club passes which are sold in limited numbers, but I’ll talk about that in a bit. When we got out of the cab, the porter attached the baggage tags the cruise line had supplied to us in our eDocs and we went to Terminal C, where as I said, a line had already formed by 930 am for embarkation. We waited until about 1015 or so before the boarding process began. There were about 40 agents helping people. As we were near the front of the line, the process took less than 10 minutes and we were upstairs in a lounge where we changed out of travel clothes and into some shorts and tee shirts and sandals. Embarkation itself began about 1130 and we boarded the ship towards the aft on Deck 7. We were in Group 2. Once on board, we descended to Deck 6 in search of Guest Services in search of our Vibe Beach Club pass. There were people running to Guest Services as these passes are in limited supply. We did manage to snag two for $79 each for the week.
Vibe Beach Club
I had read much about this pay-for service prior to going and after reading some of the other reviews about noise around the main pool, I decided this might be a better option for us. As I said, we did manage to get two passes and were in Group 2 for boarding. There are definite pros and cons to this pass. Pros – the Vibe Beach Club is on the forward part of the deck above the main pool deck. It is definitely away from all the hustle and bustle of the main pool area, which always seemed to be quite loud and noisy with contests and loudspeakers and music blaring. The Vibe Beach Club was a quiet oasis with like-minded travelers who just wanted to relax, sun themselves and have some drinks. There are also cabanas you can rent by the day or the week in addition to the fee to access the VBC. I am neither going to recommend nor not recommend this service. This would clearly be a personal choice. What I will say is this - in the 7 days we were on board, we used the space for probably 90 minutes in total, so for us as first-time cruisers, it was not good value for money. There were so many things going on onboard the ship that it was hard to fit in time to relax and sun ourselves. However, I can see the value if you just want some quiet time to sun and be away from the crowds and do nothing, as it was very QUIET there, unlike the main pool area which always seemed to be quite noisy. People chatted in the hot tubs and there was a bar.
In the times we did use it, it was a much needed and welcome retreat from the main activities and throngs of people. There were also towels provided there. There was one sea day where it was too windy to even sit there so that was a bit of a bust. They had to strap down the mattresses and chaise lounge cushions as they were being blown about. Let me also say this – there were other parts of the ship away from the main pool deck area where you could sun yourself and it was also quiet, but it seemed to be quite crowded in those spots and the chaise lounges were fairly close together. We never spent any time at Spice H2O at the back of the ship (adult only space) so I can’t comment on noise levels there.
I was quite surprised by the eclectic mix of people on board, which made for many interesting conversations with fellow passengers. Although I don’t like to pigeon-hole anything, I observed five fairly distinct groups of passengers. Probably for me the most surprising was the number of young families on board with babies in strollers. There were many enjoying the ship. There was also a large number of families on board with children and youth. There was a great kids area on the pool deck including a kids pool and water park, and of course, those crazy waterslides which we used. There was a 9-hole golf course and the ropes course. I tried the ropes course on a port day after we returned to the ship early, but had a panic attack once I got up there was it was so high for me. However, there were lots of people, adults older and younger, children and youth that seemed to be having a blast on it. Another definable group on board was the large contingent of lesbian and gay travelers (LGBTQ) which kind of surprised me (I am in a same-sex relationship and was a little shy about attending the Friends of Dorothy meeting but wound up meeting some great people). There were those I would dub ‘experienced cruisers’ as evidenced by their stories and ship comparisons. There was also a sizeable group of single cruisers that had their own social activities. All in all, it was a great mix of people.
Again, having no point of reference and having never cruised before, I thought the food was great. We ate in many of the specialty restaurants as well as some of those that were included in the cruise fare. Of the specialty restaurants, we ate in Cagney’s (amazing), Le Bistro (more than amazing), Teppanyaki (Vegas-style show at your table that was worth the price of admission alone including the Chinese basketball the chef made us play while he tried to shoot pieces of cooked egg into our mouths!), La Cucina (probably our most memorable dinner as we were able to sit outside and it was beautiful and warm and quiet and there were very few people outside eating and there was a warm breeze and the food was amazing). My least favorite of the specialty restaurants we ate in was Moderno Churrascaria. We have eaten at Brazilian barbecue houses in the past. It’s pretty meat-centric. There is a large salad bar and delicious bread, but I found it was just too much protein to handle for me, personally.
Of the restaurants that were included in the cruise fare, we ate at both Savor and Taste and of course the Garden Cafe buffet which was always busy and the food seemed to change out regularly. Our least favourite of these restaurants was the Tropicana, mostly because of the noise level due to the entertainment. However, if you like to dine and dance, this is definitely the place for you. O’Sheehan’s was great for prime rib and fish and chips, and hot spicy barbecue chicken wings.
Ultimate Beverage Package
When we booked our cruise, we were given the option of the Ultimate Dining Package, the Ultimate Beverage Package or an onboard credit. Initially, we chose the dining package, but after reading some reviews and doing some quick math, we changed it to the beverage package. I’m so glad we did. It was nice to be able to drink whatever you wanted whenever you wanted without having to worry about a massive bar tab at the end of the cruise. The UBP covers any drink up to $11 which for us was about 98% of everything we drank including most specialty brands. If you order a drink that costs more than $11, you only pay the difference (so if you ordered a brandy for $20 a glass for example, you only paid the $9 difference). I can see how it might get tricky if one of you wanted the drink package and one of you didn’t as both people in the same cabin have to order the same package.
The ship itself is amazing and I found it to be well laid out with lots to do. Others have mentioned the cigarette smoke from the casino on deck 7 floating down into the specialty restaurants on deck 6 at 678 Ocean Place. I didn’t notice that. You couldn’t help but notice the cigarette smoke when you were in the casino but I didn’t find it any more noticeable than any casino in Las Vegas. It is what it is and there is definitely cigarette smoke in the casino. There were many places to get away from people such as the library or card room and at times, surprisingly, found the ship to be almost empty, even on sea days. It was hard to believe the ship was at capacity. The atrium on Deck 6 was always a hub of activity for trivia and games and balloon making and family programs. The staff is very aware of how quickly something like norovirus can spread in a closed environment like a cruise ship, and there are hand washing stations everywhere, and if you didn’t wash your hands, there were attendants with hand sanitizers in bottles waiting to spray your hands. Get used to hearing ‘washy washy’ everywhere.
Romance Package and International Cheese tray for 4
As this was our first cruise, I wanted to ensure it was special so I ordered one of the Romance Packages from the NCL website (just the basic package which was $135 I think). I found this to be excellent value for money. On embarkation day, we received chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne in our room with a dozen red roses. The package also included dinner for two at La Cucina including a bottle of house wine, one 8X10 photo from one of the ship’s photographers, tea for two served in your cabin one afternoon (this was tea, banana bread, lemon bread, cookies, scones with jam and cream, and milk and/or honey or lemon for the tea), and canapés served one evening before dinner, also in your cabin. I also ordered the international cheese tray for 4 (even though there were only two of us). This was a HUGE amount of cheese and it came with crackers, baguette, dried apricots, walnuts, olive tapenade, grapes (red and green both seedless). It was so much cheese we had to empty out some of the beverages from our fridge and we managed to cover it in cling wrap and it lasted us all week. Also good value for money at just over $30.
We had Aft Balcony Cabin 14278 (B1). There were pros and cons to this as well. I will try and list as many as I can. Pros – its location works both for it and against it. You’re at the back of the ship so if you want anything at the front of the ship, it’s a walk. However, the view off the stern is amazing. We didn’t notice any noise from propellers or thrusters or anything, even on port days. Deck 14 is the top deck at the back for the aft balcony cabins. As such, it is located directly below the Garden Cafe buffet which was great. In the mornings, I would go upstairs and get a couple of coffees and some sweets and bring them back to our cabin where we would sit outside on our lounge chairs (this cabin came with two chaise lounges and a small table) and have our morning coffee. When we were ready, it was about a two-minute walk up one flight of stairs and we were right in the buffet. We didn’t notice any noise per se coming from the buffet in our cabin at any time. The balcony of this cabin is probably one of the smallest of the aft balconies. We could tell as we looked over the side it was the width of two panes of glass, whereas the balcony adjacent to ours was two and a half panes of glass wide. The other thing about the balcony is unlike an aft balcony on one of the lower decks, the walls of the balcony go straight up which makes it even more private. Our cabin steward was Sudesh, an amazing young man who really made our cruise. He was so helpful and responsive.
The cons to the cabin was primarily the noise coming down from Spice H2O on party nights which was just about every night of the cruise. One other person mentioned this but I really feel it merits mentioning again. If you are sensitive to noise, you will absolutely need ear plugs. It wasn’t so much the music we heard, but the pounding of the bass beat that came all the way down through the walls. I didn’t hear it on the first night because I was so exhausted, but by night two, it was starting to become a problem. However, once I had the earplugs in, I couldn’t hear it at all. The other thing I found useful from other reviewers was to make sure to bring some sort of extension plug or an outlet extender that has more than one socket in it because there is only one plug in the room (2 sockets) and if you’re charging tablets or phones or a camera and you need to charge multiple devices at the same time, you will definitely need one of these. Your cruise card needs to be inserted in the slot immediately inside your stateroom on the wall to turn on your power (the mini bar is independent from this – we stored bottled water in here).
The Everglades Tour was great. Hudson was our tour guide and he was a wealth of knowledge. I found out so much I did not know previously about the Everglades. As we were there right before rainy season, the water levels were fairly low and the boats were limited in where they could go. However, we saw may alligators, and a variety of interesting birds. They did tell us that during rainy season (May-October) mosquitoes can be a problem. You can buy bug spray on site but we took our own. Bugs were not a problem. There is one large step down into the air boat and they are quite loud. The tour does provide ear plugs. I may consider going again if I were going to be in South Florida in the fall when the water levels are higher in the Everglades as then the airboats can travel much further afield.View All 129 Everglades Tour Reviews
We did take the mini boat excursion in St. Thomas. It was fun but you really need to pay attention if you have any kind of back or neck issue. Those boats go very fast and if there are any kind of waves on the bay, it can be quite a ride. Shopping in St. Thomas was ok. Found the vendors at Emancipation Garden to be more interesting than all the high-end retail and name brand shops where everything seemed to cost in the thousands of dollars.
Tortola is an amazing little port. They have a new pier and it was nice to get off the boat and walk around. There is a lot of construction going on at the port and once it's done, it will look similar to (I'm guessing) the Havensight Mall in St. Thomas. I had suffered a back injury the day before on a mini boat adventure so we just hoofed it around Road Town. Found a craft market. Everybody was chill and kind. No pressure sales. Wild chickens and roosters (and baby chicks) everywhere. Made our way over to the Botanical Gardens - about a 20 minute walk from the shops. It's small but there were some very interesting plants there. It was also quiet and nice to get away from so many people.