Norwegian Getaway Cruise Review by bosco8381
- Sail Date: May 2015
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Large Balcony Stateroom
We are generally pretty easy to please people, but I will note any potential negatives that might bother others during my review. Also, I'm a very detailed person, so you can stop reading now if you don't like details.
Embarkation was easy after finding the parking garage. I read very mixed reviews on using off-site parking so I decided it wasn't worth the time or the risk just to save $50-70. The "C" garage was a 3 minute walk from the ship and cost $140 for the week ($20/day). It took probably 20 minutes to get through the line to get our Ship ID cards and then probably another 20 minutes of waiting in the lobby before our boarding group was called. Once you're on the boat, (like other reviews have mentioned) they kind of herd you towards the buffet for lunch, but we ducked down to level 6 and had lunch in the Taste main dining room, which was almost completely empty. After lunch we checked out our room, which was open even though our luggage hadn't arrived (we got it around 2:00 that afternoon).
The ship itself is huge and it took us half the week to remember which of the three inside floors many of the main places are located. They do have maps posted at the elevators, which we had to reference several times a day. The ship is set up fairly well with many of the main attractions (Theater, Main Dining Rooms, Gangways for port days) set up near the elevators. The place is immaculately clean and they have hand sanitizer everywhere to prevent norovirus, which greatly pleased my wife. If I had any general complaints about the ship and layout they would be (1) How much room the casino took up (we're not gamblers) and the gaming machines were awkwardly placed in several locations where you had to walk around them. (2) The photographers were everywhere during the evenings and it wasn't possible to walk by them without interrupting them trying to take others' pictures or just waiting 30 seconds until they stopped long enough to let the line of people pass through. They really need to rethink how inconvenient the photography is as this was the biggest correctable issue on board.
(3) You could definitely smell smoke from the casino like other reviews have mentioned. My wife and I don't smoke, and personally, I didn't think it was that bad. It was definitely not like being in a bar or a Pool Hall where you can actually see the smoke and I never smelled it on my clothes back in the room. It was simply noticeable. (4) The pool situation is pretty bad since it's tiny. We waited until the last 2 days of the cruise hoping most people would be burnt to a crisp, but it was still packed. I managed to lap the pool one time during our second visit while avoiding everyone else and then gave up. We routinely bumped into people just trying to tread water. It's not really something they can easily correct now that it's done, but there was definitely room during the design phase to nix the ridiculous trinket shop and half of the towel exchange in order to get a pool that's double the size. Or they could have had an additional pool in one of the 10 different places you had to sunbathe on decks 15 and 16. (5) The hallways leading to the guest rooms are tiny. Two people can pass each other only if they partially turn sideways or duck into the space where the room doors are. Plus, they routinely have cleaning carts sitting in the hallways, so you end up having to take turns with people to use the remaining space.
There were definitely more activities than we ever imagined. The daily activity list was a full page, with 2 columns and small print. If you're bored, you're either hard to please or it's you're own fault (so essentially, it's your own fault either way). The water slides were awesome and there were never more than 5 people in line since there were so few children on board. The ropes course was fun, but not for those with a fear of heights (like my wife, who lasted 30 seconds before getting back down). We never made it to mini golf, even though we planned on it, but it looked decent when I saw it from the ropes course. The shows were great, not exactly full Broadway quality, but definitely more than I expected from the ship. The real deterrent to quality is just the smallish size of the stage and how much that limits the performances and stage props. The acting/dancing was actually really well done. Our cruise director Jo-el (Not Joel) and assistant director Tyler were always exuberant as they were expected to be. Kudos to them as I could never keep up that level of excitement (or pretend excitement) all day every day.
There were many services we didn't take advantage of and I can't really speak to, notably the Children's facilities (our kids weren't with us), the fitness facilities (I'm overweight and lazy) and the spa (I'd rather not hear about how clean my pores could be and how lots of money can somehow fix how overweight and lazy I am). Based on the other reviews I've read, it sounds like the spa is kind of like getting a massage while going through the Nassau welcome center.
Dining was average to above average, but that's what I was expecting based on the reviews. We didn't get the Dining package and I wasn't going to pay $40 to $60 (For 2 people) to get a slightly better meal than the one we could get for free. I saw a lot of complaints on this site about the lack of a traditional Lobster/Filet Mignon night and it looked like they tried to compensate with a couple of "Prime Rib" nights. If your expectations are Chilis/Applebees/Olive Garden, then your expectations will be met. If you're expecting quality like you'd get at a $25-$50 a plate restaurant, then you'll be disappointed. The amount of time it took to eat was also a little lengthy (typically an hour and a half for dinner). If you show up to dinner an hour before your show starts, you'll either watch your show hungry or miss your show, so plan accordingly. We planned for an hour and and half each night, so we made all of our events on time.
Overall, we enjoyed the Tropicana the most for ambiance. The other two main dining rooms (Taste & Savor) seemed to be the slowest of all the free venues and we only ate one evening meal there. All three main dining rooms had the same menu so the focus was more on where than what to eat. O'Sheehans was pretty good, with an Applebees kind of feel to it. Unfortunately, it had the same crap sports channels that were in the room so it was all Tennis all the time. Menu was limited (as it was with all the restaurants), but what they did have was typical of Applebees fare and was enjoyable. The Noodle Bar (Shanghai's) produced my favorite meal of the entire cruise (don't remember the name of the dish, but it was some sort of noodle/curry mixture with shrimp). Unfortunately, the place was tiny (maybe sat 40 people) and we only ate there once since it typically had an hour wait. If you want to eat there, I'd recommend showing up an hour before you actually want to eat and then find something to do until they page you.
Drinking was plentiful. You can't walk 20 yards on decks 6-8 without finding another bar. There has to be at least 20 bars on board, including the ones in the entertainment venues. I enjoyed the Mojito bar the most, both for the drinks and the bartenders themselves. They also had a lady playing piano and singing most nights of the cruise and she was pretty good. It was on the ocean view boardwalk on deck 8, so you could get a drink from outside as well. We don't drink much, but we still picked the free Ultimate Beverage package so we didn't have to pay for what we did get. Last I checked, however, this promotion was gone. I'm by no means a drinker so I can't speak to the quality other than to say what I got (mostly Coco Mojitos) was enjoyable.
The ports were pretty much as expected based on the other reviews as well. Shopping dominates St Thomas. The main shopping street probably has 50 jewelry stores packed together. The ship does do a shopping review the day before, which mostly just touts their sponsored stores and gives you some coupons for free or cheap stuff. It was an easy way to get trinkets for family though so I would recommend. Rita the shopping coordinator on board was definitely very helpful. If you are going to make larger purchases (more than $800 per person), St. Thomas is the place to do it. The Duty-Free exemption is $1600 per person in St. Thomas instead of $800, although the $1,600 has to cover your purchases from the Ship store as well. My wife and I spent ~$2,200 in St Thomas and paid no duties, whereas we would have had to pay duties on $600 if we spent that amount in Tortola or Nassau. Also, we had cell phone service (Sprint pre-paid network) on St Thomas so it was a good place for us to catch up with the kids at home without paying the ridiculous $5 a minute that the ship charges for calls.
Tortola was a complete construction zone next to the port, but was also the best in terms of not being accosted by the vendors/taxi drivers. They actually had a great setup on the port to direct you to the right taxi for what you wanted to do or give you info if you weren't sure. The island tour ($20) lasted 2 hours and did produce some great scenery and 45 minutes at a pretty (but slightly overcrowded) beach. Our particular taxi had a broken speaker and a heavily accented native giving us the tour so we didn't actually hear or understand what we were looking at in most cases.
Nassau almost made me want to stay on the ship if I ever stop there again in the future. They herded two cruise ships worth of people into a tiny "welcome" center where you had to fight your way past vendors and taxi drivers all vying for your money until you came out of a fence gate barely big enough for two people to leave simultaneously. Once you get out of that area, they have the usual trinket shops and bars/restaurants to visit. I'm sure they probably had some decent beaches somewhere as well, but I wasn't about to pay cruise ship prices ($60+ per person) to go to a beach and have lunch when I live an hour from the #1 rated beach in North America.
Disembarkation was even smoother than Embarkation. We opted to carry off our own bags and were off the ship and through customs in 15-20 minutes.
Overall, I'd definitely recommend this cruise to others, and I'd do it again, but probably to different ports just to have the experience of going elsewhere. You definitely have the potential to get nickel and dimed if you try to do everything on board, but you can still have a great time and skip the extra-cost stuff. Other people mentioned having issues with their on-board account getting messed up, but we had no such problems. Also, I saw lots of reviews regarding how disappointed people were in the number of children running around during their Spring Break cruise. It's a Spring Break cruise people, that's a break from school, not retirement. If you don't want to see kids, don't go on a cruise that corresponds with a school holiday or summer vacation. 90% of the kids we saw were under the age of 5 since school was in session.
Having fun takes preparation and a good attitude, so be prepared and don't focus on the negatives and you'll probably have a good time.
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The room itself was adequate for 2 people and we had plenty of drawer/storage space. Just make sure you utilize all the space that's available (Under bed, under sofa, & ottoman aren't readily noticeable spaces, but they were very handy). The only minor complaint I have about the storage is that the drawers under the sofa were a little hard to open since they compete with the carpet and the handle is in an awkward location under the lip of the sofa. They were huge drawers though so they were a must to use. I also highly recommend bringing a power strip as they only have 2 US-Style outlets in each room. They had a decent number (20ish) of hangers, but we brought extras as well, just in case.
The TV is really limited: 4 news channels, 2 unusable sports channels (unless you are a tennis fanatic since that's all I saw all week), 1 Nickelodeon channel for the kids, and 3 general channels that showed random rerun TV shows and movies. The movie channel actually had a few decent movies play throughout the week, so it wasn't a complete waste, but definitely don't plan on having much in terms of options. There also isn't a DVD player, but you could probably bring a portable one if you wanted to.
The bed was firmer than we're used to, but still pretty comfortable with plenty of pillows and blankets (We found extras in one of the drawers).
Bathroom was perfectly fine for 2 people even though the water pressure probably isn't going to be what you're used to at home (still functional though). I definitely wouldn't pay more for a mini-suite just to get a bigger bathroom unless you're trying to cram 4 people into the room and still get ready in a decent amount of time.
I never used the mini-fridge, but I wish we would have brought more water/soda from home. Getting a drink of any kind is a 10 minute excursion to either a bar or the buffet on deck 15. Other reviews said you could have your room steward clear out your fridge of the mini bar items so you could use it for your own stuff (I'll do that next time). Room Service is now an $8 charge for the "service", so just a heads up since the menus says the food is "free".
Our room steward (Michael) was great. He was friendly and always said hello when we saw him in the hall, but we never once found him in the room. He was like a cleaning ninja, where you'd leave for 20 minutes and come back and the room was spotless (which was great since I'd rather not have to uncomfortably watch someone clean my room while I sit there like a lazy bum). We got the usual towel animals on 3 or 4 nights of the cruise.
The only other potential negatives about our room category are: (1) the rooms sell out months in advance so there's not really an opportunity to price watch and get room credit if the prices drop. (2)The rooms above you can see the front half of your balcony so it's not completely private. Neither of these were an issue for us as I never saw the price drop for regular balcony rooms more than $50 after we booked and I couldn't care less if someone wanted to creepily watch me read a book on my balcony (which never happened to my knowledge). You may want to avoid doing anything you'd prefer others not have the chance to see though (remember, you do have a room).
(3) Also, many other reviews complained of the "hike" to get to the elevators from the front of the ship. While it was probably 75-100 yards, I can't say that it was noticeably inconvenient. Personally, I'm 60 pounds overweight and I'm all about sitting on my butt; however, I wouldn't pay more for a mid-ship room just to save myself some steps to the elevator. I even took the stairs (gasp) if it was only a couple of floors to where I wanted to go. On the plus side with the location is that you get almost no foot traffic by your door. I can count on one hand the number of times I heard a door slam the entire week and all of those times were before 10pm. Also, with this location, you are not directly above or below any entertainment venues so you never hear music thumping or drunk people screaming/singing. Also, since you're at the front of the ship and all of the outside entertainment is either middle or aft, you can't even hear music from your balcony. I sat on my balcony several nights during the evening "party" on deck 16 and never heard a sound.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
NassauThere has to be better options out there, but I know many cruise ships consider this their home port so they are obligated to use it. The city could do a lot to make it a more pleasant experience though, especially with the "welcome" center. We were able to find some trinket stores that didn't shove merchandise in your face and allowed us to shop in peace.View All 5,917 Nassau Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Nassau Cruise Port Review
St. ThomasShopping was good and double the duty-free exemption ($1600 pp instead of $800 pp) made shopping worthwhile. There were clearly-posted regulations preventing aggressive sales tactics, but they were somewhat unenforced as shop owners repeatedly tried to lure you into their establishments. Nowhere near as bad as Nassau though. We also did the Skyride, which provided great views of the island. $20 was pushing it for such a short ride, but it's definitely something to do at least once. We waited until the afternoon to go, so it was far less crowded.View All 4,679 St. Thomas Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's St. Thomas Cruise Port Review
Island TourLoved the scenery and the beach, but the guide spoke very broken English and the bus speaker was broken so we never knew what we were looking at. The price was good though ($20). There was construction everywhere as they just started accommodating cruise ships this year.View All 13,326 Island Tour Reviews