We were slightly apprehensive going on our first NCL cruise on a large ship like the Getaway given some of the negative reviews. However, we had a great time and can’t believe why some people are so critical. There are, to be fair a few areas that could be improved but overall a lovely ship with pleasant, helpful staff.
We had a balcony cabin which was very spacious with a lovely shower (glass door – no clingy curtain) with plenty of hot water. There was plenty of storage space and tea/coffee making facilities. The only negative was the extremely small balcony, we thought the balcony on the P&O Britannia was small but it was huge compared to this one!
Our biggest worry before going on the ship was the, to us ‘Britishers’ the extremely unpleasant smoking policy on NCL. Smoking is permitted in the Casino! This is supposedly just if you are playing but I saw people just watching, smoking as well and staff just ignored this. In Scotland we have had a no smoking policy in any indoor public place for many years and I can’t quite believe that NCL are so backward in this respect. The casino opens onto the atrium and many reviewers said the smell of smoke permeated throughout. To be fair, we did not find this. I only had to leave my ‘spot’ in the casino twice due to someone smoking next to me. I feel that NCL are allowing a few smokers to spoil the non-smoking majority of passengers’ experience.
We thought the food in the ‘included’ restaurants was, on the whole very good. We ate in the 3 included A La Carte restaurants and were happy with the choice and quality. We ate in the buffet for breakfast and lunch and one dinner and, again were very happy with the choices. We never had a problem finding a seat and tables were cleared quickly. We had a ‘3 speciality dining’ package. We ate at the Teppanyaki restaurant, which was good fun with lovely food. Cagney’s steakhouse was also excellent with a varied choice of steaks and other options. We both had fillet steaks which were cooked beautifully as directed. Our third choice was the French restaurant ‘The Bistro,’ again, a varied menu. The food was nicely presented and tasty. The only strange item on the menu was ‘The Escargot’ which to Europeans is snails, usually served in a garlic sauce. Not here – under the title ‘Escargot’ it tells you in English – mushrooms! I had the mushrooms which were lovely, funnily enough served in a dish that snails would be served in. Maybe snails are not to the American palate’s liking?
On another issue much bemoaned by reviewers- drinks service. We had the alcohol package which was very good and even included Grey Goose vodka, felt no need to upgrade – plenty of choice. We also had no problems getting served, on a few occasions there was only one barman in the Headliners venue, he was run off his feet but was extremely efficient.
We thought the entertainment was fabulous, especially ‘Burn the Floor,’ not our usual entertainment genre of choice but it was brilliant. ‘The Million Dollar Quartet’ was also very good. Although I have always said cruise ship entertainment is often like a west end show these shows were a step above the usual cruise fare. The venue that had quiz shows, bands and shows such as Mr & Mrs were actually in the Atrium, very strange and not nearly large enough or conducive to this type of entertainment. Strangely enough the ‘Guest Services’ were located here as well – not very handy when trying to speak to anyone.
‘Syd’s Pour House’ was very good as was the Headliners, where ‘The Duelling Pianos were on most nights, we particularly enjoyed this. Our only issue with this was the fact people ‘paid’ for requests – that’s not to say that they didn’t play your request if you didn’t give them money but they most definitely prioritised requests saying we’ve got $5 for this one in a gleeful tone. Not at all what I would expect on a cruise ship! Maybe UK citizens are less into the tipping culture than Americans. The only other issue with these two venues were their size, the first two nights we couldn’t gain access as they were full. They really were a bit small for the number of guests on board. However, this settled down a bit as the week went on.
We decided before boarding that we would splurge on ‘Vibe’ passes for the week. They were quite expensive, around $200 each. We had been a bit worried about getting sunbeds in the shade on such a big ship. Anyway the ‘Vibe’ area was lovely with very comfy sunbeds and parasols (might not have been enough parasols if more people had bought passes). Staff were very attentive, bringing iced water, cookies and fruit kebabs around periodically. However, as the weather around the New Orleans area was not particularly warm we weren’t really able to use the Vibe area on the 2 sea days as it was a bit cool and windy so overall the passes on this specific cruise weren’t really worth it although we did enjoy the peace and quiet after a busy time in port. Other than the day when inconsiderate fellow ‘Vibe’ users decided to play their own music loudly. Unfortunately, the music was heard all over the deck so if you didn’t like it – tough!!
One other issue was the embarkation. Our taxi took us to the port and dropped us off. We found porters loading suitcases and after checking it was for the NCL ship, dropped them off. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain and the suitcases must have been sitting in the rain for a considerable length of time as when we got our cases the top two layers of clothes were wet! We called our room steward and someone came along to have a look. They took the wet clothes away and dried them for us – they did offer to launder them but we were happy just to get them dried. We had to wait a few days for them to be returned although this was not really a problem for us.
Our first port was Cozumel in Mexico. None of the excursions from NCL appealed to us. I found an excursion on Viator to Kun Che Park, a Mayan experience. It turned out to be one of the best excursions we have been on. We were taken to the park by coach after meeting at a designated point. Thereafter there was a multitude of activities, the main one being the Mayan Ball Game which was marvellous to watch. A tasty, healthy lunch was included. The effort put in by all the staff at the park was amazing. This is an excursion that NCL need to include it although they would probably charge much more! We were on a coach with Carnival cruisers so they obviously have included it on their excursion list.
Roatan in Honduras was a lovely island. We did the ‘semi sub and village’ excursion with NCL It was a nice trip.
Harvest Key, the NCL island was pleasant if you like pools and beaches. We had a wander around, had a swim, went to the small nature park then went back to the ship. Not my idea of an interesting port.
We did a trip to the Mayan ruins in Costa Maya with NCL which was very interesting. It was a half day trip which was ideal.
Overall, we had a lovely holiday and would definitely cruise with NCL again.