We flew into Fort Lauderdale on Thursday the 10th. Took a cab from the airport to the Atlantic Hotel and Spa on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale. Very nice hotel with ocean views from many of the rooms. We had booked a 2-bedroom suite with a direct ocean view and a balcony. It was a very nice suite, and everyone at the hotel was very pleasant. We had lunch there, and it was plentiful and good. We walked down to Bubba Gump for dinner. Nothing to write home about there, and I think the one in Miami was much better. We spent the next day on the beach. Gorgeous day for it, and a great jump start on a cruise tan! Dinner that night was at the Rustic Inn, which is pretty much a tradition for us. If you like garlic crabs, this is the place to go! I booked my daughter's best friend on this cruise as a surprise for my daughter. My parents met us at the restaurant, and the friend was hiding under the bar counter. It was a nice surprise, and it added to the overall excitement we all shared.
On Saturday morning, our limo picked us up at 9am. We were at the Port of Miami by 9:45. I expected to wait outside - I do not recall them ever opening the doors this early, but went right inside. They opened the security line about 10 minutes later. We were thru security and checked in so fast … Record time, really. We were given boarding group 1. We sat down in the waiting room, and coffee, juice, and bagels were provided. Of course my family chose items from the vending machines instead. I believe they started boarding around 11:20 am.
My parents somehow managed to walk right by all the porters outside, and they had both of their suitcases with them when we boarded. Even though our staterooms were not ready, the steward insisted they leave their bags in their room. This was the first of many, many instances of crew and staff going out of their way to accomodate people. We headed down to Savor for a delicious lunch. It was a great first impression for my parents. I had been trying for years to get them to try NCL, and I was so relieved when they started raving about the crew and the food almost immediately. I was also very impressed with the lunch menu and the quality of the food. I really hope NCL rolls out the new menus fleet wide. They are such an improvement over the old ones.
Afterwards, we went to sign the kids up for the teen club, sign the waivers, and get all of that out of the way. This ship has a wonderful "wow" factor that you just don’t get with the Epic. I’m an Epic cheerleader, but the first 20 minutes or so had me wishing I had booked the Getaway again for our upcoming Thanksgiving cruise, instead of the Epic. My husband immediately told me I could switch the ships if I wanted to, but I suggested we wait until the end of the cruise before making that decision. She is beyond beautiful though ... From the hull art, to the way she is decorated on the inside. I was just amazed, and the pictures, IMO, do not do her justice.
We had a large balcony cabin on deck 9 forward. It was a good choice. I am so glad I moved us all from the regular balcony cabins. Those balconies really are tiny! We had a regular table on our balcony, not one of those small ones, and 4 chairs. I didn’t make the decision to add my daughter's best friend to our cruise until after final payment had passed. At that time, I could have put them in a large balcony cabin a few doors down from us, but I just wasn’t comfortable with that, so I had the 4 of us in one cabin. I knew my husband didn’t want a cabin with 4 people in it, and as the cruise got closer I did start looking into options for the girls to have their own cabin. Actually, what I wanted to do was just book an inside cabin in my own name so we would have an additional shower. It would have been an extra $1,400 to do so, and at that point, I decided to gamble and wait until we got onboard. That worked in our favor - there was an inside cabin available directly across from us and they gave it to me for $200. The girls were beyond happy. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted them in their own cabin, but they are both 17, and it worked out well. Our room steward was also their room steward, and he was good about keeping an eye out. He got a hero card at the end of the trip, as well as a nice tip. Both were well deserved!
My parents had the large balcony cabin right next door to us, and they enjoyed the cabin and location.
We spent sea days by the pool. I'm a ridiculously early riser, so there was never a problem getting pool chairs. Most days I was out there at 6:30, once by 6:45. Even getting out there that early, there were still chairs with towels on them, but no people! I can't imagine what time they got up! Anyway, we sat out there from early morning until early afternoon. The main pool was for adults only. It is a very deep pool, with a lot of waves. I would not feel comfortable at all seeing smaller kids in there. We found great seats right above the Waves pool bar, and spent most our outdoor time there. They had kids activities twice right in the stage by the main pool. They were Nickelodeon games, and both kids and adults seemed to enjoy it. Two of the hot tubs were always filled with kids. I did not see any kids in the other two, and they may have been adults only. I don’t know for sure though. The kids splash area and the kids pool is behind the main pool stage, separated by a wall. There are lounge chairs there, but they are in the shade and off to the side. There were some regular chairs set up directly in front of the kids pool, but not many. It didn’t really seem like a good set up for the parents. Most parents sat on the edge of the kids pool itself while their kids were swimming.
I did not do the water slides or the ropes course. I just ran out of time. The girls did the slides, and they loved them! They did not do the ropes course either - same reason ... Just ran out of time.
We had most of our meals in the main dining room. I did pre-book Cagney's, and the meal there was great. The waitress told us they are now using Argentinean beef, and I think it was a noticeable difference from last year's cruise. My parents had walked by Le Bistro and loved the al fresco dining area so much that they decided they wanted to eat there. I called for reservations, but they had already booked up. We were towards the end of our cruise, and our options for dining there were really, really limited. I called the Concierge to see if they could get us in, and they were able to accommodate us. My parents loved it, as did my husband. It was just ok to me. It really could have just been me that night. I was tired, it was towards the end of the cruise, and I just wasn't "feeling" the dinner. I had the onion soup, which was very good ... and the duck. I just didn't care for the duck that night. Anyway, we did not dine on the Waterfront other than eating lunch at the ocean blue one day (the calamari and crab toast were excellent!) They are only open for lunch on sea days. We also saw a lot of crew coming to the window for lunch, so it must be a popular spot! I really think any of the restaurants would be lovely for a dinner outside. I'm not sure why we didn't do that. I guess like everything else, we just ran out of time. We did see some folks eating dinner out there, but it was never crowded. We were really surprised that more people didn't utilize it.
Just about every night, either before or after dinner, we had either oysters at the raw bar, or sushi at the sushi bar. Also, the nightly hang out spot was at the mojito bar, where Bong (the bartender) and his crew were extremely funny and entertaining! We went to Howl at the Moon the first night with my parents and some friends my husband and I had met on a prior cruise. The last two cruises we took, we put out an invite on our roll call board for folks to meet up at Howl on night one. We had a great turn out for the last two cruises, but none this time. The last two cruises were on the Epic and the layout made it a little easier to "pick" each other out. It's set up different on the Getaway, so it's very possible that others from our roll call were there, and we just didn't see them or make the connection. I ended up missing so much on this cruise - we just simply ran out of time. We never made it see Sugar Blue at the Grammy Experience. We never made it to the welcome aboard show (corny, I know ... but I wanted to go) we also missed Legally Blonde. I had it scheduled for Thursday at 7:30. That is also the day we ended up going to Le Bistro, so I changed the time to the 10:15 show ... and believe it or not, we just all pooped out and didn't go. I was looking forward to that show, too!
One thing that stood out to me is how long this ship is! I mean - wow!! Did we walk! The Epic is bigger, but I really don't remember doing as much walking as we did on the Getaway. It's not a bad thing at all, it just surprised me, I guess.
If you dine in the Tropicana room, request Ruby V. She was great, and we requested her often. We filled out hero cards for her, our room steward Roy, and also Bong, the bartender. Really, if I knew everyone's name, I could have filled out a ton of them. This crew was great, and it really adds to your cruise when you are sailing with a happy crew!
We did see the Burn The Floor show. What a great, high energy show this was! My only complaint - it was just too long. If they knocked off the last 10 minutes or so, it would have been fabulous. Well, it was still fabulous, just got antsy at the end for it to be over with.
FYI - the coffee is HORRIBLE!!! I usually defend NCL when I see posts on Cruise Critic complaining about the coffee, but something has definitely changed between last year and this year. The coffee that comes out of the machines is just mud. No exaggeration. I had to have 1/2 a cup and fill the other half with hot water. My husband, who loves strong coffee, had to do the same. It was just plain nasty! The coffee in the dining room was fine.
All in all this was a wonderful vacation, on a beautiful ship, with an outstanding crew, and outstanding service. The upgraded menus in the main dining rooms are a definite plus.