The reasons people choose for cruising are many and varied. What one expects of a cruise depends a great deal on those reasons for undertaking the voyage. So keep that in mind as I reflect on my recent 9-day Caribbean cruise on the massive Norwegian Getaway. If you’re going on a cruise to party, drink, and lie on the deck getting sunburned, this may be the cruise for you.
First, let me say that I love being out on the ocean, and there is a long list of things to like about this ship. My number one joy was the daily briefings by the captain. He talked about the history of the places we were visiting, about the sea conditions, the weather, and what we could expect ahead. In his capable hands, I felt informed and confident.
The food on the ship was outstanding! Being a miserly sort (and also vegetarian, which tends to limit the availability of gourmet selections) I stayed away from the “extra fee” restaurants and contented myself with the complimentary offerings. That said, there was nothing about the menus that was not satisfactory. At every meal, there were delicious vegetarian options, so I had no complaints. The buffet always has very nice dishes (I especially like the Indian veg choices), and each of the other free restaurants had good appetizers, soups (sometimes), and entrees that worked for me. So hats off to the chefs on board!
Every Norwegian staff member I have come across has been smiling and helpful. I’m sure they are told to be so, but the employees I met seemed genuinely to want to be friendly. Whatever their jobs, from big to small, they were kind, helpful, and considerate. Their congeniality made the trip so pleasant. As I said, I’m not a big spender, but that didn’t seem to matter.
I also enjoyed the destinations. I had been to Costa Maya, the private Harvest Caye, and Roatan before, and I didn’t mind going again. I always find a few souvenirs to take back to family, and one time I went on the fabulous Rio Secreto excursion, which was remarkable and fun. This time there were additional stops at the Cayman Islands (there’s a great little museum in a historic building near the port) and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, where I did the Dunn’s River Falls climb. It was absolutely marvelous. Well worth the cost.
Okay, now to the complaints (this is the curmudgeon part), and here I have to explain my reasons for going on a cruise, which absolutely color my opinion of this ship. I go for the joy of being on the ocean. I go for relaxation, to feel peaceful, and to see new places. I don’t drink, I generally don’t like crowds, and I feel like happiness and fun can be had without hard partying. I’m happier sitting with a book and a nice cup of tea in a quiet place than I am frolicking in a crowded swimming pool or trying to sit in a deck chair with noisy music on every side. So you can see why I was very sad to find it SO hard to locate anywhere quiet on this ship, other than my room – and who wants to stay in their room all the time? Nearly everywhere on the ship, even at 5 in the morning, there was peppy music playing. I did manage to find a spot on the Deck 8 Promenade that was between music broadcast areas, and that was heaven. I wonder if the management has ever ASKED the passengers if they want to hear pop music in every locale, especially in the early morning? Who decided that?
Still on the noise theme, here are a couple of other examples of poor logistical design on the Getaway. First, the Internet Café was DIRECTLY next to the Atrium, where events (fostered by loud-volume microphones) were going on all day long. Trying to have a conversation with the Internet manager (more on this in a minute) was an exercise in top-volume shouting, supplemented with hand signals. Forget trying to work on a computer. In the same area were the customer service desks, and again trying to have a conversation with one of the staff was nearly impossible without shouting, since the Atrium was constantly at top volume. Wow, poor logistics. I wonder if some of those Atrium events could be moved to a different location so that people could actually talk there?
Here’s a big curmudgeonly complaint: The Getaway has done away with the library, or rather their small selection of books is now in the same room as the game tables. Lots of people playing cards or board games, which is wonderful, but there’s now nowhere to sit to read quietly. The staff member reported that this was a recent change, that the game room that had been next door had been converted into a photo studio, so they had to cram all the game tables into the small library space. I guess they need for people to spend more money getting their pictures taken.
Let’s continue on the topic of noise. I went to a couple of the entertainment offerings, and the people in the shows were talented and fun. But again, the volume was so loud that I couldn’t stay long. Do they think that all older people are deaf? Maybe some are, hmmm. I loved the Million Dollar Quartet show, and I was smart and brought my earplugs so that I could enjoy it. With the earplugs in, I could enjoy it immensely.
I usually love the spa on a ship, because the thermal baths are so relaxing. But on the Getaway somebody decided that a strong waterfall would be a fun addition to the warm pool. I get the concept – one can stand under it and get neck and shoulders massaged. I could not stand under it without getting swept away by the force of the water. And the rush of the waterfall, combined with the jets of the not-so-hot tub, were so loud that people had to shout at each other while sitting in the tub. The water by itself was okay swishing around, but every time I went to the spa, people were basically yelling to be heard over the sound of it. So the quiet area was certainly not. The sauna and steam room were great, and on two or three occasions I found one of the lounge chairs free (otherwise people occupied them for far longer than the suggested 30 minutes). So given everything, was the $229 I spent for the unlimited spa access worth it? I would say, not really.
Here’s another puzzling logistical decision: the Shanghai noodle restaurant was positioned right next to the area of the casino that allows smoking. Why would they have a smoking area that allows the smoke to spread all over that deck area? I was gagging on my vegetarian fried rice (which had no tofu in it), due to the wafting smoke from the casino.
Speaking of tofu, in fact, I did not see any tofu used in any of the restaurant dishes. No tofu at an Asian restaurant? They offered General Tso’s chicken at the buffet one day, so why not General Tso’s tofu? It would be delicious! Tofu is such a great meat alternative and so easy to use. What have they got against it? I did see that I could order a vegi-burger at the grill if I wanted.
They’ve also done away with one of the fun things I have always liked on a ship – the bridge viewing room. Not that anything much was there to see about the running of the ship, but there were always the navigational indicators, a map of the area we were cruising, and other ship information. Other ships have put maps in the atrium area, but there was nothing like that on the Getaway.
They also didn’t have the Destinations lectures. On other ships, you could attend a session where an expert would tell you about the location you were headed to, and its history, geography, and interesting facts. Some of this the captain mentioned, but on our other trips we always enjoyed hearing about the unique features of the ports and countries in advance.
My traveling companion and I were lucky to have a balcony room where we could sit and watch the ocean. I have only one complaint about the room, and that is that there were only two plugs, situated right next to each other on the tiny desk area. I could not sit on the bench or on the bed and use my phone on its cord, so I had to leave the phone charging on the desk and not use it until it was done. I get why they make you use your card in the room to activate the electricity (so as not to waste energy) but that also meant that I couldn’t leave the phone charging when I was elsewhere. Don’t you like to sit in a chair or on the bed, plug your phone in, and use it at the same time? Not happening in this room. There were also NO plugs to be found anywhere else on the ship, except I saw one at the Internet café, under a desk, and one other that might have worked if you didn’t mind sitting on the floor. I suppose this is all on purpose, so people don’t plug things in everywhere, and I understand that, but it does limit one’s options for using a computer or phone on its cord anywhere other than the room.
The instructions for setting up and using the Norwegian app for the phone were very confusing, and not very intuitive. We finally managed it (after a loud shouted meeting with the Internet manager). That app could be used without Internet access, and it was handy to have the scheduled events and reservations, as well as ship charges, all in one place. Using this app, being able to call or message each other while on the ship throughout the voyage was useful (for a $9.95 fee per device for the messaging).
As on all ships, the WiFi was spotty and slow, so it’s a tossup whether the stiff WiFi access fee is worth it for the voyage. But you have to be sure to log out after each session online, or your minutes get used up in a very short time.
Here’s one last suggestion for Norwegian: you could do your employees a great service if you set up some way that they could further their education, if they wanted to, by taking online courses. We ran into one employee who said he would love to get a master’s degree. There is an abundance of available online programs, so wouldn’t it be wonderful to encourage and support employees who wanted to get an education in their spare time, if they so chose?
Would I travel again on the Getaway (or its sister Breakaway)? No. I’ve decided that I enjoy the smaller Norwegian vessels, which seem to be less frantic. On every ship there will be people who are determined to get the most out of their unlimited drink packages – there is no shortage of people walking around at all hours of the day with their cocktails – and the bars are packed. But on the Getaway there just seemed to be too many people, it was too noisy almost everywhere, and while I enjoyed so many things, it ended up being the opposite of relaxing at times. There is also what seems to be a constant pressure to spend money. (I always laugh at the Art sales, but I guess people do buy stuff or they wouldn’t have it.) I’ve only ever cruised on Norwegian, and this was my first time on the mega-ship. I’m a Latitudes Silver member (that gets me a bottle of sparkling wine – I don’t drink – and a discount for Norwegian-themed merchandise at the shop, and maybe something else, none of it really all that useful) and yet I will continue to look for cruises that appeal to my sense of both peace and adventure.
Great cabin, clean, lovely balcony. Our only complaint was the lack of places to plug in the phones and computers.
Plenty of shops and places to walk in the port area. The people are so nice.
Very clean, not very big. Perfect if you want to swim in the pool or at the beach. A few interesting shops.
The port area is small but fun. They were remodeling some of the shops area so maybe there were not as many this time. Again, the people are nice but seemed weary of picky passengers. The people who run the private tours really need to organize, perhaps taking turns with customers like you would at a taxi stand. There was so much shouting that we decided not to do anything there.
The port area was nice but we didn't stay too long because it rained. The tenders were okay but a lot of people didn't like them. The best thing was the little museum in an historic building near the port. Very sweet and informative.
So much fun! Challenging but they don't let you fall or get swept away. The falls guide was surefooted and very helpful, and the group effort was charming.
They should rate this excursion as a 3 (physically demanding) rather than a 2 (moderate exertion). It was most definitely demanding. Also, they need to let you know to wear a bathing suit and water shoes. It's a beautiful place and they managed the crowds well.View All 287 Dunn's River Falls Reviews