If you utilize Cruise Critics, you are somewhat obligated to review your cruises as they happen. I would like to follow-through on that commitment. I recently went on the NCL Getaway, November 24, 2019 to December 1, 2019. It departed ... Read More
If you utilize Cruise Critics, you are somewhat obligated to review your cruises as they happen. I would like to follow-through on that commitment. I recently went on the NCL Getaway, November 24, 2019 to December 1, 2019. It departed out of the port of New Orleans.
Understand the Reviewer: I am 62. My first cruise was when I was 22 for my honeymoon. That was a stateroom with now windows and bunk beds on the NCL SS Norway. It was a great cruise and one of the best cruise experience. My wife and family have gone on over 20 cruises over the years. 10 years ago, my family started to cruise in suites class. Our family motto is, “Any cruise is what you make of it. Do the details up front, engage with people and go with the flow.” I am a very detailed person. I love to study everything about a cruise prior to going on it. This cruise was no exception. I love the process so take that under advisement when reading this review.
Overview: To fully understand this review, I will start by saying we were in the NCL Haven Spa Suite. So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Said elephant is the question, “Is the Haven worth the premium?”
The answer is, YES (to my wife and myself). Quite frankly in every way. This cruise was one of the very best of my 40 years of cruising. From start to finish, it was as close to perfect as possible. Happy to explain below, just needed everyone to understand a bit about me and that my review focuses on my Haven Experience.
Pre-Cruise: I received a U.S. Mail letter from NCL Haven Desk 60 days prior. It welcomed me to the upcoming cruise and the fact that I was staying in the Haven. It gave me a phone number and an email to take care of any of my needs prior to boarding. I took full advantage of that offer. I had them fix my specialty restaurant reservations and times; excursion data; confirmation on perks; need for special water for my CPAP and especially the Premium Plus Drink Program. These few details only scratch the surface of my pre-cruise requests. It is very important to note that having this advanced ability to handle details, made a huge difference for this or any future cruise.
Embark: Got to the port at 10:45 AM. Through security in less then 2 minutes. Found the Haven check-in area. Check in was 10 minutes tops, with no wait. My wife and I were escorted to the Haven Guest pre-boarding port lounge. The lounge was private, a bit small and kind of make shift. Still very nice. A cup of coffee and my first of many smoked salmon snacks was being consumed within 20 minutes of arriving at the port. In the lounge for about 15 minutes waiting on the ship to be cleared. Once cleared, we were escorted to the ship and up to the Haven lounge where the party started instantly. We were given sliders, a welcome aboard drink and waited a few minutes for the Haven Restaurant for lunch. They offered either the Haven Restaurant or Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville for our lunch. Little hint, do the Haven Restaurant and get the huge pork chop. Another note, while at the port, they will give you a drink eventually. The issue is they must charge you tax even if you have the beverage package and it is a pain in the butt for them.
Dinning: Dinning was the best I have every had on any cruise, ever. I am not talking about the specialty restaurants, buffet or main restaurant. I am talking about the Haven Restaurant. Last year I had a similar experience on the Celebrity Equinox in their suites restaurant called the Lumina. Similar however the Haven was better in every way from food, staffing and service.
• Haven Restaurant: Only for Haven Guests. Even though the menu never changed from day to day, it was simply incredible. The service, attention to detail, quality and taste. My wife and I started the cruise on the Keto diet. We both lost huge weight prior to cruising. We stayed on Keto for most of the cruise. I lasted 6 hours on day one until I cheated BIG. It was on the chocolate cake alamode and it was earth shattering. I had it three more times during the week. My favorite meal is and will always be breakfast with French press coffee; steak & eggs; smoked salmon; almond Danish and the list goes on. The plates were heated so the food stayed warm. Everything was cooked perfectly. Lunch was no different. Three-inch pork chop; poached salmon; and chief salad were just a few choices. Dinner I had some of the best prime rib of my life. Flawless in all accounts. I really like to eat but I am also super picky.
• Cagney’s Steak House (Cost Option): Save you money folks. This steak house is average to below average at best. It used to be something special. The only reason we went there was because we got four (4) specialty restaurants as perks. Now don’t get me wrong, it was OK and a cut above Outback™, especially the service and atmosphere. Remember I said I was picky. I was hoping for a GREAT steak like at a New York steakhouse.
• La Cucina Italian (Cost Option): Not spectacular but had promise. The bread looks better than it really was. I had a filet mignon that was huge and good. The rest of the meal was good but not memorable. Service was average which was surprising. We skipped the desert and went back to our suite. We called our butler (I love saying that) and had him bring us the incredible chocolate cake alamode from the Haven and coffee. So darn good. Not Keto.
• Le Bistro French (Cost Option): Now we are talking. Let me say that this was a perk from American Express Platinum Card. If you paid for your entire cruise on the card, you got $300.00 on board credit and dinner for two at Le Bistro. Lovely from start to finish. I had the veal and it was good. What made it better was the presentation which was a huge stainless steam cap pull off to display the course. The bread was over the top and the sauce on the veal was to die for. My desert was three scoops of vanilla ice cream, in a French pastry, topped with three different kind of chocolate candies and finally hot chocolate sauce. Don’t miss this place.
• Ocean Blue Seafood (Cost Option): The best clam chowder ever. Great bread. The fish selection was very good. I have a habit of doing way too much red meat. If I say I liked this restaurant, then it must be good. I have to say. We said next to a couple that was our entertainment for the evening. They were married forever and seemed like they hated each other. She was so loud and never stopped talking to us. He did not say much but rolled his eyes at his wife all night. It seems as the story goes, she gambles a lot and this cruise was a perk. Yet they argued about the coast of the appetizer. Great dinner show.
• Buffet (Complementary): It was exactly what you would expect a buffet to be. Looks great, lots of average food and filling. My wife was still doing Keto and she got a piece of pizza. She scraped off the meat and cheese and said it was good. I am old and have had my fair share of cruise buffets. To each his own.
• O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill (Complementary): I hated it. I was spoiled by this time. My wings were just OK, and my burger was a hockey puck. I did not eat my food. We left and went to the Haven pool. There I got a cheese burger with not bun. It was great. Take my advice and just go to the buffet.
• Final Note: I only review where I eat. Lots of food choice on this ship. I am also not a foodie. I like basic things like meat, fish and chicken. If I am at McDonalds, I know what I am going to get and enjoy it. If I am at a bar and grill, a McDonalds burger won’t due. All that said, if the food served is bad or just not to my liking, I don’t eat it. When I do, I liked it.
Adult Drink Package: Here we go again with the Elephant in the room. “Is it worth it?” NCL usually gives the “Premium Drink Package” as a perk. It is a very nice perk and you should take it if you drink at all. I got that perk and upgraded to the “Premium Plus Drink Package” for about $250.00 per person per week additional. Think I am crazy, “nah, nah, I say!”. My reasoning; I was on vacation and we like nice wines and alcohol.
Let’s start with how my wife and I used this package. At lunch and dinner, this package allowed my wife to get a bottle of great wine. Not all wines so the ones you can order has a star next to them on the wine menu. The bottle was listed at $89.00 a bottle. My wife usually drinks $9.95 litters. Therefore, this wine was the ultimate treat for her. If she did not finish the whole bottle at the meal (she did sometimes finish it), it would be delivered to the room at no extra charge, DING. Bottle water (with and without gas), energy drinks and specialty coffees were not included on the regular drink package. These were included on the Premium Plus Drink Package. I love bottled water and took it back to the room if not finished. There was no $15.00 per drink limit on the Premium Plus Drink Package. I was drinking Cuervo 1800 silver, spectacular red wine by the glass all week. They lost money this trip on our drink package, I assure you. I am now home going cold turkey at home on the 12-step program. That is a joke and I mean no ill intent.
Haven Suite: On this cruise, my wife and I had a Haven Spa Suite. It was very nice yet not the nicest suite we have ever had. Not a very large suite with a rather small veranda. In the room, it did have a Jacuzzi built for two that allowed you to see out the huge window at the sea. The spa suite comes was complementary access to the Spa Thermal Facilities. Now that was a very nice perk. The suite bed, bedding towels, robe, in-room espresso machine all were over the top from a quality standpoint. This was the least expensive Haven suite ($2,099.00 per person), it was perfect for my wife and me. Future side note, I am taking my family of five (5) in a huge Haven two-bedroom Family Villa on the brand new NCL Encore in May 2020. Now that will be a suite to be remembered. No complaints about the Haven Spa Suite though. Just book it early before they sell out.
Room Steward: We drove him nuts. First as part of my planning, we had everything in the mini-refrigerator that cost additional taken out. We would leave and come back to quickly for him to get the room completely finished. He never complained. Then we finally got the idea on the button’s located on the side of the door. Press one button, the room steward would clear your room. From then on, we were all in sync. His tip was part of the $18.00 per person per day while in the Haven.
Butler: I studied on past cruises what to do with the butler. I had a two-page document with all our needs and requests. I told you I was very detailed. Everything from no candy, cookie, fruit or sugar snacks due to being on the Keto Diet. Special water for CPAP Machine. Replace the complementary champagne with Wine. Nuts, cheese and meats would be our afternoon snack. We ordered breakfast room service once and desert once. The main reason for this was the room was too small for full meals. Every item we outlined or needed was handled. I tipped him $100.00 at the end of the week.
Entertainment: The best of any cruise ship for many years. I did not do everything, but I did do more then I have ever done in the past. Let me break it down:
• Burn the Floor: This was incredible. From start to finish, high powered Latin dance. My wife is super critical on these shows. We can sit up front but choose to sit in the last row on the isle, so we can leave early and not embarrass ourselves. Not this time. When the show was over, my wife was the first one on her feet doing a standing ovation. I was right after her. Broadway quality.
• Million Dollar Quartet: This was a Broadway show. It is about four past superstars of music and how they met for one session, on one night for Sun Records. What made this show great was the actors were also doing all the music and singing. Very talented folks doing a really nice job. Again, completely professional with a quality cast.
• Other Entertainment: There was a dinner theatre show but we did not attend. We heard good things about it. I personally did not want to waste an evening with average food. There was a wine lover show, another pass for us. I did not hear much about the comedy shows except they were very crowded and first come, first seated.
Activities: So many to do and not enough time to do them. Here are some of my favorites. First and foremost, the water slides. Even at 62 years old, they were awesome. Game shows in main area done very well. Thermal Spa was awesome. Cigars in the Haven Sun deck was simply over the top for me. I went to the humidor room however it was small and being outside was much more enjoyable.
Excursions: I have been on many cruises. After going on some good and bad excursions, I have my Favorite. It was and always be Cabana’s or Bungalows. These are also the most expensive excursions. On this cruise, it is the same. We did the “All Inclusive Bungalow” on Rutan. Great time even though the tender ride was one hour off the ship. We also did the Tequila tasting which was educational, fun and very much recommended. We had a Snorkel and Catamaran trip, but the waters were to choppy.
Conclusion: My wife and I had a GREAT time. Was it perfect? Never is on any cruise.
The key is take responsibility for your own cruise. I learned that lesson early on when cruising. Yes, the Haven is worth every penny. However, once you do Haven, there is no going back. I had a plan going on this cruise, I worked my plan and finally my plan worked out. Preparation is everything and reduces disappointment.
The one thing I will say, I was completely impressed with every member of the crew and staff. Not just in the Haven; on the entire ship. Anyone who reads this and doesn’t know me personally, I am a very tough critic. Let me tell you, I am NOT easy to please. I had such a good time and loved the size of the ship so much, I cancelled my upcoming June 2020 NCL Pearl cruise and re-booked the NCL Encore in May 2020. I hope the time I took to do this review helps you decide. Happy cruising. Read Less