Norwegian Getaway Cruise Review by PITTSBURGHV: Fantastic Family Cruise! Highly Recommend The Haven!
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Fantastic Family Cruise! Highly Recommend The Haven!
Our family just returned from a fabulous 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Getaway. It was our first cruise as a family, though my husband and I had cruised once several years ago. We brought our 12-year-old daughter, 15-year-old son, and our son’s friend, also 15. Another couple joined us, along with their preschool age sons and their babysitter. Our group spanned a big age range and everyone had a blast.
Here’s what I loved:
THE STATEROOMS: A+
Because we needed 2 adjoining rooms for my husband, myself, and the 3 children, we ended up in Staterooms 11106 (The Haven Forward-Facing Penthouse with Balcony) and 11108 (Balcony Stateroom), which connect. I couldn’t believe the amount of space we had! My husband and I had 2 huge closets and tons of built-in drawers. We hadn’t even filled half the space after unpacking. Our gorgeous, modern bathroom had a corner air jet tub, glass shower, separate toilet area, 2 large Villeroy More & Boch sinks, and plenty of storage. The bathroom had a generous supply of Elemis toiletries. There was a mirrored vanity area in the bedroom with a seat, blow dryer and magnifying mirror for doing hair and makeup. The beds were very comfortable and the rooms had plenty of light: our bedroom had a giant porthole, and the living/dining room and the kids’ bedroom each had a balcony that fit 2 chairs and a small table.
THE HAVEN: A+
Our room qualified us for Haven status, though it wasn’t located within the Haven (a designated area on floors 15 & 16) and all I can say about the Haven is WOW! The Haven is amazing! The Haven has its own restaurant, bar/lounge area, courtyard, pool, hot tubs, and an upper deck for lounging under cabanas or facing the ocean. While the main pool areas of the ship have a party atmosphere, with loud music and wall to wall people, the Haven is very Zen and spa-like. If you’re a Haven passenger, the moment you arrive at the cruise terminal, you’re whisked away to a private waiting area with snacks and drinks. That level of service continues right up until the day you disembark, when a concierge will personally accompany your family down a crew-only elevator and enable you to avoid the line of people waiting to disembark. The restaurant could qualify for Michelin stars, and the maître d and her staff are sweet and friendly, yet polished. We don’t often splurge on this type of luxury/upgrade, but I am so glad we did!
I didn’t see my 15-year-old son or his friend the entire trip! If I caught a glimpse of them, they were bungee jumping, on the rope course or climbing wall, playing soccer, headed to Entourage (the teen club), or helping themselves to a snack at the Garden Café.
My 12-year-old daughter had plenty to do, too. She loved the water slides and didn’t mind the lines, which moved quickly. My daughter, my husband and I also went to a few fantastic shows. The dance show, Burn the Floor, was excellent and only about an hour long, so it didn’t exceed my vacation attention span! Legally Blonde was fun, too, and only about an hour and a half long.
There was plenty of evening entertainment for the grownups, too. We had drinks one night at the Dueling Pianos show, and another night at the Reggae show with a Bob Marley cover band in the Atrium. Get there early if you want seats. We also enjoyed having drinks with our friends before or after dinner at the Sunset Bar and the Sugarcane Mojito Bar, which had outdoor seating along the waterfront. Very relaxing! I’m not a big drinker and had thought that all margaritas were made with that mysterious margarita mix, but the margaritas on the ship were amazing! We watched the bartender make them with lots of fresh squeezed lime.
COMPLIMENTARY DINING: A+
We are a family of foodies who are used to eating tons of fresh fruits and vegetables, which the Haven restaurant offers in abundance. I was a little concerned about venturing out into the main ship when the Haven food was so wonderful, but I was very pleasantly surprised. We had a few excellent lunches at the Garden Café on days when my daughter did the water slides. I made myself big salads with fresh mesclun greens, chickpeas, roasted beets (from the hot food area), etc., along with crusty French bread and butter. You could choose from several salad dressings, but I was happy to find containers of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The Garden Café is a buffet and the staff is obsessed with food safety, so they are constantly changing out the serving tongs and they watch the food like hawks. A chef dumped out an entire container of French fries after a child stuck his hand in it, gently explaining to the child to use the tongs.
On our last night on the ship, we had dinner at the Tropicana room, which shares a menu with Taste and Savor. Very good food, very good service, and a fun atmosphere with live music. We shared a bottle or two of wine with our friends at every restaurant and were pleasantly surprised by the low markup.
SPECIALTY DINING: B
I loved the food and service at Ocean Blue, but $49 per person is a hefty upcharge. Cagney’s was good, but the hostess started our evening by coming to our table and telling me and my friend, “You have a big problem.” Between our two families, we were a party of 10. We had booked a month ahead and the online reservation system was very difficult to use. Somehow we ended up double booked for 2 parties of 10. It was resolved, but I was disappointed in the way the hostess handled it.
FITNESS CENTER: C
The fitness center was always jam packed, so my husband and I paid for fitness classes, which seemed to be the only way to get a workout. My husband did TRX, which he loved, and I ended up signing up for boot camp because Pilates and Yoga were full. You could only purchase the classes as a set, so it was $149 for 4 boot camp classes, which was more than I wanted to spend but did make me feel compelled to go to class and get my money's worth! (Run to the Fitness Center as soon as you board if you want to sign up for Pilates or Yoga!) There were 2 trainers on board, who alternated teaching the classes. The male trainer was great, but they both pushed us hard, especially the female trainer who called me out for not doing extra reps of burpees or pushups if I'd done them fast and finished early! I work out 4-5 days a week at home, but I'm 47; I know my fitness level; and I didn't want to be hurt or in pain on my vacation! They also push hard to sell you detox products, like algae pills.
Overall, this was a wonderful vacation. The staff throughout the ship was excellent. We loved Norwegian and have no desire to try another cruise line. In fact, we’ve already booked a cruise for next year on the Epic! Less
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Cabin review: 11106
Because we needed 2 adjoining rooms for my husband, myself, and the 3 children, we ended up in Staterooms 11106 (The Haven Forward-Facing Penthouse with Balcony) and 11108 (Balcony Stateroom), which connect. I couldn’t believe the amount of space we had! My husband and I had 2 huge closets and tons of built-in drawers. We hadn’t even filled half the space after unpacking. Our gorgeous, modern bathroom had a corner air jet tub, glass shower, separate toilet area, 2 large Villeroy & Boch sinks, and plenty of storage. The bathroom had a generous supply of Elemis toiletries. There was a mirrored vanity area in the bedroom with a seat, blow dryer and magnifying mirror for doing hair and makeup. The beds were very comfortable and the rooms had plenty of light: our bedroom had a giant porthole, and the living/dining room and the kids’ bedroom each had a balcony that fit 2 chairs and a small table. Our cabin steward was amazing! He knew our names the minute we boarded and kept the room immaculate.
Port and Shore Excursions
We did the Atlantis Aquaventure, which cost a fortune but was a great day. Choosing the Aquaventure excursion gave us access to the entire water park, including the fantastic water slides and lazy river/rapids. Our 12-year-old daughter and our 15-year-old son and his friend had a blast! We left the ship at around 12:15, got to the park at around 1:00 and had several hours until the last shuttle bus back to the ship at 6:00, which was plenty of time to do everything. We had stayed at the Atlantis a few years ago and were familiar with the property, so it wasn't as overwhelming as it might have been if it had been our first time there. Towels are provided at the Atlantis, but no food or drink is included, so you need to bring cash. We also needed to bring our passports. Being afraid to leave passports and cash unattended, we had to take turns swimming and doing the slides and rapids/lazy river, which was tough because it was a sweltering hot day and the only free lounge chairs we could find were in the sun. One other thing I'll mention is that the entire water park is very slippery. Everyone is wearing a ton of sunscreen, then they get wet and the sunscreen runs off leaving every surface super slick. Toward the end of the day, my daughter slipped, her feet went out from under her and she hit the back of her head on the concrete. I brought her to the nurse on the property, who gave her an ice pack and described concussion symptoms to watch out for. Thank God she was ok, but it was very scary. Not the Atlantis' fault but definitely something to be aware of if you go!
We did the Afternoon Beach Bash excursion through NCL and it was fine. You get on a big bus and take a somewhat harrowing drive to Orient Bay beach resort. Your fee includes a cushioned lounge chair on the beach. You have to bring your own towel from the ship (and ride home on the bus with a big wet towel) and you can pay $3 for a beach umbrella (we got 2). The beach was very pretty with white sand and warm water, but there were substantial waves, which was fine for me, my husband, and our pre-teen and teens, but our friends and their preschool age sons stayed close to shore and built sandcastles. There was a little bar set up with fruit punch and rum punch, which were included in the excursion fee. You could also sit at the resort's bar and order beer or mixed drinks on your own dime. No food was included. Clothing is optional at St. Maarten's beaches, but everyone from the Norwegian ship was wearing a bathing suit, with the exception of one woman who took her top off.
St. John Snorkel/Sail
We did the St. John Champagne Catamaran Snorkel & Sail and it was a great day. We boarded open bench buses and took a long ride to the marina. I was surprised at the poverty, even at the marina. I've never seen so many boats in such sad condition. The catamaran used for the excursion was in excellent condition, though. The crew members were friendly and professional. It was a hot day and they served plenty of cold water as soon as we boarded. Champagne, rum punch, and juice were included, but I was thrilled that they had water available. Sailing from St. Thomas to St. John gave us a scenic tour of both islands and some smaller nearby islands. The crew members shared island history, points of interest, and their personal experiences of living on the islands. We anchored at Honeymoon Beach, which was picture perfect with white sands and palm trees. It was like something you dream about. The crew provided each of us with flippers, a mask, a snorkel, and a flotation vest that you had the option of blowing up or wearing flat. You're anchored in 30 feet of water and can go right off the ladder, but a few people preferred to be brought to shore on a little inflatable boat. The snorkeling was pretty good. My son and his friends saw some lobsters and we all saw big turtles and plenty of fish. On the return trip home, the crew provided fresh bread, cheese and fruit, along with the drinks. One thing I will mention is that everyone is pushing for a tip, including both bus drivers and the crew. A crew member told us that the majority of their income is from tips and that 15-20% of your excursion cost is appropriate. That would have been $40-$45 for our party of 5, plus additional tips for the bus drivers and I definitely hadn't brought that much cash. They did a nice job and deserved a tip, but I would have preferred to have it factored into the cost of the excursion rather than finding out on the boat when I think I'd only brought $20!