Stern's Guide to the Greatest Resorts of the World, Stern's Guide to the Cruise Vacation, Stern's Guide to European Riverboats and Hotel Barges, and The Indispensable Guide to Foreign Words and Phrases--by Steven B. Stern (Sponsored by Stern's Travel Guides, Ltd.)
We boarded our seven-night cruise in Miami, the ship's
permanent home port for the foreseeable future. As usual, boarding a large ship
in the port of Miami is a hassle
with long lines of passengers waiting to get checked in. Boarding started at affording passengers the
opportunityto spend the afternoon
aboard ship before it sailed away at
The passenger demographics seemed to
cover everything across the board. The median age was 40 which included
couples, singles andfamilies
spanning49 nationalities.The crew was composed of 61 different
nationalities. This was a truly an international ship.
First on our agenda was getting settled
in our category BB stateroom which was located on Deck 8. Waiting for us in the
room was the excellent daily program with detailed explanations of the dining
venues, entertainments andactivities.This was one of the
lower priced balcony cabins. At 172 square feet with a 30 square-foot balcony,
it was manageable, but could not be described as spacious.
The cabin includedtwin beds with pillow-top mattresses that
could be converted to Queen-size, a couch convertible to a sofa bed, a
medium-size flat screen TV, an electric safe, a stocked refrigerator/mini bar
(charges applied for all beverages including the bottles of water), a coffee
maker, bathrobes, a long combination desk and makeup area, both 220 and 110v
outlets, a telephone, two narrow closets one with shelves, a small balcony with
two chairs and a table, and a bathroom with a large glass-in shower, good
storage, and a soap and shampoo dispenser, but no other bathroom amenities.
There were no umbrellas for passengers other than for occupants of The Haven.
The Haven is the area with large suites
at the top of the ship known as the "ship within a ship" since its
occupants have their own dining room, lounge, pool, outdoor deck area, gym,
spa, butler service, numerous amenities.
The Getaway has dozens of categories
ofaccommodations, many considerably
larger (and more expensive) than ours.
Since our luggage had not yet arrived,
we decided to venture out and explore the ship. As expected, this is somewhat
of a confusing task; however, the diagrams we were given when we checked in, as
well as the diagrams posted near the elevators were most helpful in enabling us
to get from point A to point B.
From experience, we knew that it was
advisable to make our dining reservations early for any of the specialty
restaurants that required advanced reservations. In order to make the choices
that would suit both of us, we attempted tolookinto each of the major
restaurants and take a peek at their menus. The more appealingvenues had cover charges ranging from $15 per
person at La Cucina to $89 per person for Chef's Table. There was even a charge
at the numerous specialty venues offering gelato, freshly baked desserts, dim
sum, wok-fried dishes, sushi, and seafood. I understand why ships thatrun special low fares need to charge for
specialty restaurants; however, for some reason it still galls me to have to
pay for food aboard ship.Of course, on
the Getaway, there were some excellent "no charge" dining venues so
you need not have to pay to have a meal.
There also was a charge for games in the
electronic game room, to use the sauna and steam, in-room movies, bottled water
in the room, all soft drinks and alcoholic drinks, specialty coffees,
attractions at the sport complex and certain entertainments. This would seem to
be the wave of the future. As the hotel director explained, the younger, non-seasoned
cruisers are attracted by the low per diem prices and are not disturbed by
paying for onboard items as they cruise just the same as on shore. Of course
with Norwegian's "Free-Style" cruising, there is no obligation to pay
for special dining, drinks or activities; they can just make do with what is
Our seven-day itinerary included visits to
Phillipsburg St. Maarten, St. Thomas US virgin
Islands and NassauBahamas, all ports
in which the ship could dock and avoid using tenders. Having visited all of
these ports countless times before, we did not take the excursions and settled
on spending our days on a beach. The ship tour department offered a plethora of
tours to suit every taste, pocket book and mobility level; however they offered
little or no information for the passenger who wished to explore on their own.
days after boarding were spent at sea, and there was plenty of attractions
tokeep us busy. Our daily routine
included a trip to the state-of-the-art fitness facility before having
breakfast at the Garden Cafe, followed bymornings in the AquaPark lido area.
Wishing a bit more privacyin which to
relax away from the maddening crowds, we bought a day pass for the VibeBeach Club, a
private area with lounges, cabanas, whirlpools and a bar.
The second day at sea we tried all of the attractions
at the Sport complex. I should say that I limited myself to the basketball
court and a challengingmini golf;
whereas my son felt compelled to experience the bungee trampoline, Spider
Web,and the challengingrope course with a multi-station zip track
plus a chance to walk the plank.
That evening we attended a VIP cocktail
party, largely orchestrated for guests residing in the Haven. Following the
party we dined at Ocean Blue the highly toutedseafood restaurant created by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, TV's
"Iron Chef". This was the best dining experience on the ship and for
$49 per person, one would expect that it would be.
Our evenings were filled with possibilities, one being
more attractive than another. Possibly the most intriguing feature of a large
ship is the varied night life. One night we took in the Legally Blond
performance in the theater which turned out to be Broadway quality. Another
night The Headliners Comedy Club and the Dueling Piano's Show.The evenings we ate at Tropicana and
Illusionarium, shows were part of the dining experience. After dinner we either
went toBliss Ultra Club or H2O for a
bit ofjumping late night musical
entertainment. Sometimes we made a brief visit to the enormous casino for a
stab at black jack, roulette or the slots (without much success). One evening
we donned complimentary parkas and enjoyedan iced vodka at Svedka Ice Bar, a unique cavern-like room where the
counters, tables and chairs are all made of ice. Every evening there was a
variety of musical and game show entertainment in the atrium lobby in front of
the giant screen.
By the time we reached St.Maartin the next morning, I
was exhausted. We opted to take a bus to OrientBeach (St Martin's version
of beaches at St. Tropez) where we could people watch as well as swim and have
lunch. Some of the people we watched were the endless parade of lovely topless
As in each of the ports, the ship offered dozens
ofexcursions, mostly oriented to
beaches, sailing, snorkeling, scuba, snuba, jet boating, dolphin encounters,
playing with stingrays, kayaking,and
island tours. Also available in several were helmet dives, segway tours,horseback riding and golf (in St. Thomas).The tours generally cost between $60 and
$159. Some more and some less. Children were given a slightly discounted price.
As previously mentioned, there was little information for passengers wishing to
explore on their own.
The next day we arrived at St.Thomas. As is our
custom, we took a boat over to the island of St.John to spend
the day at CaneelBay, a resort
with five of the most beautiful, pristine beaches in the Caribbean. Here
again, the ship offered numerous excursions, mostly taking advantage of the
beaches and sea.
Following another sea day, we visited our last port of
call, Nassau. Most of
the excursions here involved the water park complex at Atlantis or visits to BlueLagoonIsland. All of the
water activities described for St.Maartin were offered at Nassau as
well.Prices for some of these tours
were in the $199+ range.
the Norwegian Getaway, as with her sister, Norwegian Breakaway, the cruise line
has raised the bar for number of outstanding restaurants and entertainment
options, making these ships ideal for active families and couples seeking a Las
Vegas type vacation, creating tough competition for Royal Caribbean and
same time, the Haven offers a more exclusive, upscale experience for passengers
who wish to be separated from the action while still having the option to
participate in the activities and restaurants when they choose to leave their
Passengers seeking bargain fares will
be accommodated; however they must be prepared topay for some meals, facilities and
entertainments while aboard ship. Shipboard expenditures can easily exceed the
initial cost of the cruise.