Sea Days are Me Days: Onboard the Getaway

Cruise lines are quick to advertise all of the fantastic ports they visit.  On a typical Caribbean cruise, there are anywhere from 3 -5 port stops per week;  generally,  the ship arrives in port around 8 am and departs around 5pm,  so passengers get a full day to explore the island, visit the beach, or participate in an adventure such as ziplining or snorkeling.  Just don’t miss the ship –  unless you are on a cruiseline sponsored excursion, they won’t wait for you and you may have to figure out how to catch up with your belongings from a tiny island with sketchy communication.

I’ll cover the ports we visited on our Getaway cruise in my next post.  This one, however, is about what cruise itineraries label as “At Sea”.  Most cruises include at least one, and often 2 or 3, of these luxuriously lazy days,  when the only thing you need to plan is when, what, and where to eat.  You can’t get off the ship –   you and your 4000 new friends are going to spend the day together no matter what.  All ship services are open on a sea day, including  the casino and shopping, both of which typically close during a port visit.  Our sea day activities generally went something like this:

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wine + my kindle app = ahhhhh
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Husband loves the hot tub!
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we thought the guy at the table with Husband looked like a chubby Blake Shelton

Our Getaway cruise itinerary included a sea day on Day 2 (the first full day), and on Day 7 (the last full day).  In my opinion, this is perfect.  The first sea day allows passengers to sleep in, unwind and enjoy the ship, without the pressure of feeling like they need to explore a destination.  And the last day is for revisiting favorite activities, exchanging contact information with new friends, tipping the staff, and savoring those last moments of vacation (and packing, but we don’t like to talk about that).  The seas were as calm as a bathtub, making both of our sea days a relaxing pleasure.

Evening Entertainment

In the evenings, we enjoyed the ship’s wide-ranging entertainment.  Throughout the ship, it’s easy to find something to do just by wandering around.  Musical groups grace the atrium and several bars;  the casino is always open at night, and bartenders do their thing throughout the ship.

 

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In addition, there are scheduled entertainment options,  which differ each night. In the main theater, on several nights the ship presents an abbreviated version of  Broadway’s “Million Dollar Quartet”,  which tells the story of an impromptu recording session between Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. We saw this show on our last Getaway cruise and noted that the performer playing Jerry Lee Lewis was different – and we had been incredibly impressed by the one we saw last time –  so we opted to skip it this time.  He may have been just as good, but we wanted to keep our memory.

We did, however, take the time to see the NCL version of “Burn the Floor”,  the self-described “Ultimate Ballroom Sensation”, a “high voltage theatrical dance experience” with “jaw-dropping choreography”. Our description: “beautiful sexy people dancing around the stage with no plot”.  Honestly, both Husband and I took a little snooze during the show –  maybe because we sat in the back of the theater, it just didn’t capture our attention.

We also took advantage of a comedy show, starring Vince Acevedo, a Chicago-based Puerto Rican comedian.  There are up to three comedy shows a night, with the latest, at 11:00pm,  billed as the “adult” show –   in other words, some dirty jokes and swear words.  Vince’s comedy was not particularly filthy but genuinely funny – we had an unexpectedly good time.

Another favorite was “Howl at the Moon”, a dueling piano sing-along show.  The singers are multi-talented,  singing and playing songs by request, and often adding drums, harmonica, or guitar as well.  This show’s success does depend on the crowd, however;  the first time we went,  it was a little slow due in part to some of the song requests.  The second time we went, it was much more rollicking –  we find that people on cruise ships tend to “let loose” a little more than they might at home. On the last night of the cruise,  other performers from the ship’s various shows often crash the party and sing or perform with the Howl at the Moon musicians.

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Howl at the Moon on the Noregian Getaway

Another memorable entertainment experience was the “Ultimate 80s Party”,  held at Spice H2O,  on the top deck/rear of the ship under the stars.  Classic 80s videos played on the huge screen at the back of the deck:  Madonna, Michael Jackson, AC/DC, Cyndi Lauper, Bon Jovi,  etc. while we danced with some of our new friends. Some of the cruise director’s staff, who are responsible for keeping guests entertained throughout the ship,  dressed up in 80s garb and even performed the “Thriller” dance. Husband and I both grew up during the 80s and enjoyed the flashback.

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80s Party under the stars

We missed the “Glow Party”,  which is also held at Spice H2O –  it’s essentially a dance party where wearing white is encouraged, and blacklighting makes everyone look cool even if they are bad dancers.

Towel Animals

I can’t leave a discussion of the onboard pleasures of a cruise without mentioning a quintessential element:  returning to your stateroom to find that your room steward has not only performed a turndown service, but created a towel animal!  Here are a few that graced our room:  thanks Angelo!

 

 

 

Time to Getaway in the Haven!

It’s our second cruise on the Norwegian Getaway, the second ship in Norwegian’s Breakaway class of ships.  Built in 2014,  the Getaway houses about 4,000 passengers and boasts 28 dining venues, 15 bars, a spa, fitness center, waterslides, a ropes course, shopping, and wide-ranging entertainment which I’ll cover on another post –  it’s one of our favorite things about Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Now,   4000 is a big number.  There are also about 1600 crew members on board.  So it is, like you would expect,  a small-16 story floating city.  This was our 3rd cruise in Norwegian’s “Haven”,  a ship-within-a-ship concept that provides a quieter,  less crowded option with a small pool, hot tubs, and a private restaurant –  but still allows access to all the fun available on the entire ship.  The Getaway has about 80 Haven cabins out of roughly 1800 total, so it’s available only to a small percentage of passengers. The Haven costs more, but for me, there is value in the relaxed experience.

Haven Boarding

As Haven passengers,  you get some perks. This includes being one of the first to board the ship.  So,  we arrived at the Port of Miami pier via Uber around 11 am, dropped our bags with a porter, were whisked to a priority check-in (with no lines) , then to a small waiting lounge with other Haven passengers.  We barely sat down when a crew member arrived told us it was time to board! The entire time spent from Uber dropoff to gangway was less than 20 minutes.  An amazingly efficient process.

Once onboard, we were escorted to the 16th floor Haven lounge, where the ship’s Haven Concierge, Hanno Meyer,  gave us a quick talk about what to expect during the week.  The Concierge desk, located in the Haven, can help with restaurant and entertainment reservations, shore excursions and advice, shipboard account questions, etc.  One of Hanno’s best tips was to avoid using the included free, limited internet package for the first day (we were in Miami until 5pm anyway, with regular cell access), because the next day we could access an unlimited package for a very small upgrade price.  Since the internet connection onboard can be sketchy,  having a limited package is very stressful –  how long will it take for that email to load!?

Haven Cabin:

Shortly after Hanno’s introductory talk, we were able to access our room,  cabin 14140, a Haven Spa Suite.

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King-sized bed
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Looking back toward cabin door/ bathroom/closet
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Balcony
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Private jacuzzi in the Spa Suite

 

Haven Courtyard photos:

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Haven pools, private upper deck
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hot tub in the Haven (complete with Husband!)
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seating options in the Courtyard

 

Haven bar:

Next up: get that first drink!  We had the “Ultimate Beverage Package” included with our cabin. There are some limits to the package:  Any drink with a sticker price of more than $15 results in a upcharge of the difference greater than $15.  In addition, while the “UBP” as it’s called was included in our cruise fare, we did have to pay gratuities upfront on the package, about $136 per person for the week. Still, what’s fun about the package (in addition to, um, free unlimited drinks) is that you can try new things without worrying that you just wasted $12 or $15.  Christian, bartender extraordinaire in the Haven, prepares us an “Abraham Lincoln” below.  It’s got similar ingredients to a Manhattan, but the bong smoker he’s using gave the drink a cinnamon-toast taste.  This one was a winner:

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Norwegian’s cruises tend to attract a relatively younger crowd and a lot of families and multi-generational groups, due to the wide variety of activities available.  Our cruise was no exception, although travellng in late November probably reduced the number of school-aged children on board.  The Haven bar was populated regularly by a fun-loving,  young-adult-to-late-middle-aged crowd.  We enjoyed a predinner drink there most evenings!

The Spa

We visited the spa and I signed up for a 3-treatment Ionithermie package.  I’ve seen this advertised on several cruises;  it’s billed as a cellulite reduction treatment that will help you “LOSE 9 INCHES OR MORE!”  It involved algae and electrical stimulation of my chub.  Spoiler alert:  it doesn’t really work.  But we had onboard credit to spend, and I thought it might be worth a try.  Husband was approached by the spa’s cosmetic Doctor,   who offered a free consultation to “help him look years younger!”  Spoiler alert:  we don’t know if it worked, because it would have cost over $4,000.  More than the cruise!  LOL.   Cruise ship spas are lovely,  the people who work there are lovely, and they smell lovely. There are lovely photos of (probably airbrushed) body parts all around. But the spas are expensive, much more so than on land, and they WILL try to sell you something.  Buyer beware and all that.

However, our Spa Cabin did allow us access to a very cool feature of the Getaway:  the Mandara Thermal Spa room.  This room is only accessible by those who book spa cabins, or who purchase a weekly pass for $199pp (if purchased online before the cruise; $259 if purchased onboard). Spa Passes are limited in number.   It contains a large thermal pool with jets,  steam room, sauna, salt room, and a couple of dozen chairs including heated tile loungers that look out over the ship’s bow.  The spa is stocked with oranges and fruit-infused water, towels, and a locker room nearby. A nice place to Getaway, for sure. I didn’t feel it appropriate to take a lot of photos in the thermal spa,  but I did get this shot from a tile lounger looking out the front windows:

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Haven Concierge Desk:

The first day of a cruise is pleasantly busy and hectic,  with checking in, boarding, unpacking, and generally exploring the ship.  But it sets the stage for a great week!  An important first day activity is  revieiwng any reservations made previously, and, if you have concierge access,  getting their recommendations to set up the week.  They hear everyone’s feedback:  they know where it’s worth spending your precious vacation time!  We had met Hanno on our prior Getaway cruise,  but his whole concierge staff was fabulous and we definitely benefited from their advice.

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Hanno & staff at the Haven concierge desk.   You can’t tell here, but Hanno is nearly 7 feet tall and has to duck under the ship’s exit signs!

(not-so-secret note to Hanno:) We know, you like the Baltic itinerary better!  Try to enjoy the warm weather.