This was a 19-day cruise from Copenhagen to New Orleans, with stops in England, France, Ireland, Azores (cancelled), Bermuda, Great Stirrup Cay and Miami. For the first time, this ship ended the transatlantic cruise in New Orleans. This was our third cruise on the Getaway, but the first after its spring drydock. It was our first Transatlantic cruise. The trip was quite memorable for many reasons.
The ship was nicely spruced up in a number of areas, most noticeably along the Waterfront on deck 8, but nothing really big. The biggest change that we saw from previous cruises was a friendlier staff (maybe just due to the length of this cruise allowing them to get to know us better with 10 days at sea). Another noticeable change was the conversion of a jazz bar to a rock themed bar called Syd Normans with an outstanding band and three very energetic and interactive performers. It was so popular that it was packed every night. We also thought the food was better with more choices than our previous cruises on the Getaway.
Although this ship is large, it has small public areas. There were nearly 4000 guests on this sailing so it was REALLY crowded. (Balconies and above were sold out 6 months ago.) Because of the cooler weather during the first two weeks, we were mostly inside. Needless to say, it got crowded and noisy. Long lines were the rule everywhere. Lines for Guest Services and Shore Excursions. Getting on and off the ship was a pain. Tendering to and from their private island took hours. The theater was packed early for most shows with standing room only. There were lines for the earlier dinner times. The buffet was packed in the morning, like most ships. And the WiFi was almost useless due to the high volume of use.
Because this was a unique re-positioning cruise, there were a few different port and passport procedures that were not fun at all. On the sea day before we docked in England, everyone had to bring their passport to a room to have a face-to-face meeting with an immigration officer and get their passport stamped. There were long lines that got longer as the day went by and many guests were upset. Then, two days before we got to Ireland, we had to turn in our passports to get them stamped. They were returned 3 days later after we left Ireland. Again, many upset guests. Then, when we arrived in Miami, US immigration required all guests get off the ship to go through US immigration and then, after everyone was checked, we could get back on the ship. We were told this ahead of time so many guests booked sightseeing excursions to pass the time. (We took a taxi downtown to shop and have a beer.) However, many guests apparently did not totally understand that there would be a long delay before they could get back on. For those that stayed, some as long as 5 hours, the small Miami terminal was packed for hours, with not enough seating for seniors, no water, food or communication. A lot of guests just sat on the floor. I think the NCL staff could have helped with better communication about the expected conditions (of course I recognize that the US CBP were running the process but this was not NCL’s first time in Miami) and more signs and staff to direct guests, not to mention providing some vending machines and water.
Of course, our sightseeing trips in Copenhagen, England, France (Normandy) and Ireland were quite rewarding and memorable. However, our transit through the North Atlantic to the Azores was quite memorable for a different reason. We had to pass through a low-pressure area that turned into tropical storm Pedro which then quickly turned into a hurricane with up to 115 mph winds. The captain turned the ship into the wind so we were not significantly impacted because the ship is so large. In fact, we were in the theater watching the dancing show Burn the Floor during that period. (The dancers kept their shorter high heels on instead of the high stiletto heels.)
We also experienced high winds for the next few days due to a storm named Rebekah and we could not dock in the Azores because the winds were greater than 40 mph. We were really looking forward to seeing that island. We were also supposed to pick up supplies there so there was some shortage of fresh foods, like lettuce, pineapple and wrapped butter pats. So, we ended up with 7 days at sea until we got to Bermuda. A lot of guests were happy to get off the ship.
My biggest complaint is about the loud atrium. This atrium has a large screen and seating area where many activities are held. For some reason, the technicians kept the speaker volume up so loud on most events that it made it difficult to talk to the Customer Service, Shore Excursion, Cruise Consultants and Internet Desk staff which share that open space. People with hearing aids found it almost impossible to talk to the staff with all the background noise. NCL can't change the design of the lounge but they can reduce the volume of the speakers so that the other business activities can take place. There is no need to have the volume turned up that high. It seemed like they thought that the higher the volume, the more guests would participate.
My second biggest complaint was about the disastrous disembarkation at the New Orleans terminal. We had all gone through immigration two days earlier in Miami so all we had to do is collect our luggage and get through the terminal to our transportation. The terminal and surrounding streets just cannot handle 4000 guests getting off the ship in a timely manner. Construction in the area limited taxi and Uber access. Even buses to the airport were running late due to the congestion. After an hour, we finally broke out of the still longer line ahead of us to go outside. We walked up the street a couple of blocks and met up with an Uber on a side street. Even he was delayed due to the traffic backups in the area. Be prepared and allow extra time. I cannot imagine what it will be like combining immigration along with luggage pickup during future disembarkation in New Orleans. Again, NCL staff should have set up separate lines for buses, taxis and Ubers.
On the positive side, the Getaway staff was mostly friendly. The bar service was efficient. There were plenty of waiters on the pool decks when the weather got better. The food in the dining room and in Taste and Savor was very good with lots of choices, even over the long 19-day cruise. The common areas were clean. Our steward was great. There was a very popular Halloween party and costume contest. That contrasts with two poorly organized and poorly attended Spice H2O parties that played tunes that did not appeal to the guests on this cruise.
The outside Waterfront areas on deck 8 were great, after the weather improved, allowing us to sit in soft lounge chairs, have a drink at the Sunset bar or walk or jog along the outside in the shade. The pool was heated on a number of days and quite a few guests took advantage of that luxury. Beach balls were quite popular. The Captain was quite talkative and informative in his morning announcements. He also did a good job keeping us informed during the rough sea periods. The shows were very good, especially the Million Dollar Quartet. The Cirque Dreams and Steam show in the Illusionarium was quite unique. We had a good time at the Wine Lovers Musical in there as well.
Something new and perhaps unique to a Transatlantic cruise was a professional naturalist who made a number of very informative presentations in the theater about the history, economy, geology and culture about upcoming ports. This was not the usual “port shopping talk”. It was quite popular because the theater was packed for most of his presentations. I hope NCL continues these types of presentations.
In conclusion, we will no longer sail on this ship again due to its poor design.
Nice layout with bed next to balcony.
Hop on Hop off buses were useful. Tivoli Gardens was all decorated for Halloween.
The bus did not even pause at The Hague.Just drove past it???? Delft's Blue ceramic factory was interesting but we really wanted to stop at The Hague. We complained to the front desk - nothing they could do about it.View All 11 The Hague Reviews
Independent Normandy Beach excursion in a small bus. Very wet but quite interesting. It gave you a better appreciation of the difficulties our troops had.
Very unique ancient hot water bath buildings - nice displays and building restoration giving you a good idea what it was like.View All undefined undefined Reviews
NCL Cork on Foot and Pub tour. Not bad. Many guests took the train to Cork instead.
The ship could not dock at the port due to high winds.
Just go off the ship and shared a taxi with another couple to Horseshoe Bay Beach. A little rough water. Nice pink beach.View All 172 Horseshoe Bay Beach Reviews
Horrible. Tendering took hours to get to the beach. Did not know how to use Platinum status to get an earlier tender. Cay itself was not all that impressive compared to other cruise line private island.
Everyone had to get off of ship for US CBP. Long lines. 5 hours before we could get back on. Just took a taxi downtown. Got ripped off by Taxi driver who did not use meter. Found out later it should have only cost $13. NCL terminal extremely crowdedView All undefined undefined Reviews