Our last 6 vacations have been “All Inclusive resorts” in either Cuba or Dominican Republic, so we were looking for a change without breaking the bank. We embarked The Getaway on a 9 day cruise leaving from New Orleans on December 12, ... Read More
Our last 6 vacations have been “All Inclusive resorts” in either Cuba or Dominican Republic, so we were looking for a change without breaking the bank. We embarked The Getaway on a 9 day cruise leaving from New Orleans on December 12, 2019 with ports of call in Cost Maya, Harvest Caye, Roatan Island, Grand Cayman Island and Ocho Rios. I must admit that after reading some of the less than flattering reviews of the Norwegian Getaway on this site I have to ask myself, “Were we even on the same cruise ship?” Before giving an honest review of both the cruise ship and ports we visited, provided below are some tips which I think will help you to fully enjoy this cruise vacation;
1. We were informed more than 30 people did not make it in time to board in New Orleans due to missed connecting flights, and we had to leave without them. New Orleans is a wonderful city to explore so when you contact the NCL booking agent consider asking for a flight which arrives one or two days prior to embarkation. This will cost you $15.00 per day (though NCL will deduct transportation transfer fees since you will be arranging your own transportation to the cruise ship). This way you remove any doubts over whether your flight will cause you to miss your cruise ship, and at the same time enjoy the many sights and sounds of New Orleans for 1 or 2 days. Bonus: You can also book a flight leaving up two days after your cruise ship returns to New Orleans, allowing more time in New Orleans and avoiding long line ups with everyone else trying to transfer back to Louis Armstrong Airport (make sure you choose the self-assist option when debarking at the end of your cruise).
2.Make sure you pre-register for the cruise on line and print completed forms prior to leaving home. This will save a lot of time and stress when you embark, especially if you have children.
3. Book any dining experiences you want that require a reservation on-line as soon as you are able. Also, if you have an odd number of people in your group, when looking for reservation times enter an even number. For example if you are looking for reservations for three people, enter four people. This will result in more options from which you can choose.
4. Download the NCL app before you begin your vacation. You will not incur any roaming charges while using their app. on the cruise ship, and the app allows you to keep tabs on your on-board spending, as well as give you a detailed daily itinerary of every activity happening on the cruise ship.
5. As with almost all cruise ships you will be automatically billed a $15.00 USD service charge per person per day. So for example, if you are travelling as a family of four you will incur an extra cost of $540.00 U.S. ($60.00 each day for nine days). However, you can request this surcharge be reduced or even completely removed by simply going to the Guest Services desk prior to the last day of your cruise and informing them of your wishes.
6. Make sure you are covered for any medical treatments before going on the cruise. Getting any medical treatment on this cruise ship is VERY EXPENSIVE. Any conversation with the ship’s doctor will cost $149 USD automatically. Treatment, tests and medications will always be strongly advised by NCL medical personnel, and it will take very little for your medical bill to be in the thousands; and I say this from personal experience! Don’t say you were not warned!
The Getaway is a beautiful, clean and very large cruise ship. The ship was recently given a multi million dollar upgrade, so those that felt the need to post “shaming selfies” showing mold (I highly doubt it) in the background can now cruise with the knowledge all staterooms are in tip top shape. Staterooms are not spacious, but if you are being honest with yourself you knew that before you even booked so why complain after the fact? Besides, there is ample room to sleep, shower and dress each day, and if you are the type of person who wants to spend more time than that in a stateroom you are missing the point of a cruise, and you are also denying yourself the time needed to experience everything on the ship you paid for!
The ship was at capacity on our vacation, however I did not feel the ship was overcrowded, and in fact experienced very short wait times to order drinks at any bar, eat at the buffet, or be seated at a specialty restaurant for which I had made a prior reservation (and most of the time there were zero wait times). I am a beer drinker for the most part and there was more than enough variety of beers available, regardless of preference (though you have to try their Bushwhacker cocktail at least once). The casino was never busy, I suspect in part due to the strong odour of cigarette residue…are you listening NCL?
The entertainment was very good to excellent. Highly recommended is the Cirque Dreams show; for the entertainment, the ambiance, and the quality of the cuisine. You will not eat a better filet mignon anywhere, and I don’t make that claim lightly. Also recommended is the Burn the Floor show; a tour de force of classical and modern dancing. Try and take in as many shows as you can, as well as attend the entertainment provided in the Atrium on deck 6. Remember, part of what you paid for is the on-board entertainment, so take advantage of what’s on offer! Tip: check out the house cover band at the Pour House at least once.
I challenge those who commented on this site that the “food was the same everyday”. Each day the food on offer was different, which only irked me when I discovered their delicious bread pudding was not being served “everyday”. I’m not saying everything was five star calibre, but each day there were more than enough new tasty menu items to choose from. Try eating the food at most all-inclusive resorts for a week (especially Cuba and Dominican Republic) and tell me with a straight face the food on board is not vastly superior in taste, quality and variety.
As for ports of call, keep in mind it is very unrealistic to expect a Caribbean island can be fully experienced and appreciated in a visit of less than 24 hours. To expect otherwise should be enough to take pause to consider anything other than a cruise vacation. The main benefit of booking a shore excursion through NCL is that they guarantee the ship will not leave without you, regardless of how late their tour bus returns at the end of the day. NCL also promotes priority given to those who booked an official NCL shore excursion with respect to getting of the ship, however we did not book any shore excursion through NCL and were always off and heading to our first destination well before anyone who booked through NCL. We pre-booked online with a local tour company at each destination (with the exception of Grand Cayman which I say more about below). The cost savings were huge, it was more intimate, and we beat the massive crowds caused by official cruise line shore excursions (don’t forget there can be as many as four or more cruise ships anchored at the same time). I won’t list any of these tour companies here but if you are interested email me and I would be happy to pass on any information you want.
With that in mind, and knowing what one wants to do at each port of call is an individual preference, below are mostly tips, rather than a critique for each destination:
Costa Maya, Mexico
If you have booked with a local tour company you will have to walk about one kilometre from the ship to where you will get on their bus, as they are not allowed to pick you up inside the port gates. Take a bottle of cold water with you. First we went to the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins, and because we did not book through a cruise line we beat the inevitable crowds which will occur later on. Trinkets are expensive at this tourist attraction. Our tour also included a visit to Blue Lagoon. If you visit the lagoon try the tacos, as well as the Compadre tequila.
Harvest Caye, Belize
The ship docks at NCL’s private island off the mainland, and food, drinks and most activities on the island is an extra cost. If that is not for you pre-book the ferry to take you to the port of Placentia on the mainland. We chose a local tour company that took us to a Mayan chocolate farm, as well as a beautiful local waterfall. We asked if we could also lunch at a local restaurant. We went to the Happy Hour Ranch restaurant, and we the food we ate was excellent.
Roatan Island, Honduras
If you want to try out zip lining get there early to beat the crowds. Once in full swing wait times can be an hour or more. And waits between each zip line can also be long. Like most visitors we also visited the Iguana farm, as well as the Sloth and Monkey Hangout. Managed to do this all in one day as well as some sightseeing the tour guide recommended.
Right now you have to take a tender from the ship to get to the island. In December 2010 there was supposed to be a referendum vote on construction of a cruise pier, but that has been delayed by the courts. The island is very developed (some might say too much). The local bus is the best and cheapest way to get around on the island. Option two is take one of the local taxi buses which line up outside the duty free liquor shop located on the main strip. When you exit the port turn left, and it is a short distance away. There is no real advantage to renting a car). If swimming with dolphins is on your bucket list I suggest you wait until you visit Porto Plata in Dominican Republic, and take a pass on the one in Grand Cayman.
Admission to Dunn’s River Falls was $25.00USD, but there is a strong rumour that the cost will soon increase to $30.00USD. Once again we pre-booked a local tour guide and as a result beat the crowds. When we arrived we had the pick of any parking space, but when we left the parking lot was packed. You will need water shoes which can be purchased there, but we brought our own. Takes about an hour or so to climb, and if you do decide to bring your own camera/camera phone make sure it is completely waterproof because it WILL get wet. This is the perfect opportunity to try out your GoPro! If there is more than one cruise ship in port expect traffic delays. Booking a local guide can reduce the amount of time spent in traffic. We love jerk chicken so we had to try Scotchie’s. It was the best jerk food we have ever tasted, and the pork jerk was even better than the chicken. If you are with a local tour guide ask them to take you to Mick Jagger’s island residence; not to see the house, but for the spectacular view of Ocho Rios down below.
Well, that’s about it. If you have any questions contact me and I will be happy to answer any of your questions. Read Less