Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Day 6 - Norwegian Getaway

There will be a string of posts about our trip on Norwegian's Getaway. We went on the 7-night cruise which stopped in St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau. Our stateroom was 13234 which was considered a family cabin with balcony. To follow along or get caught up click these links: {What to Pack}, {Preparing for the Getaway}, {Day 1}, {Day 2}, {Day 3}; {Day 4}, {Day5}; below is the review of day 6.

Day 6 – Day At Sea

On our last day at sea, it was almost like we were childless. The boys had made so many friends in Splash Academy that they ended up meeting on the pool deck and decided to rock climb, do the ropes course, play in the splash pad, eat lunch together, and do the slides. TravelMan and I spent most of the day on Deck 16 enjoying the sunshine, the breeze of the ship moving, and the view of the mighty ocean. Norwegian had a ton of on board activities planned if anyone was interested. But we just relaxed for the day. Everyone was enjoying themselves and that's really what vacation is all about.

That evening we ate at Le Bistro. TravelMan was hesitant about going to a French restaurant as that wouldn't be his first choice in food. However, we all had a great meal. After dinner, the boys wanted to go to Splash Academy for Wacky Tacky night. The US Open was on, so TravelMan and I headed to a bar to watch a little golf.

On a side note, don't miss the camera kiosks throughout the ship. The boys enjoyed capturing silly photos of themselves that they could email to friends.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Day 5 - Norwegian Getaway

There will be a string of posts about our trip on Norwegian's Getaway. We went on the 7-night cruise which stopped in St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau. Our stateroom was 13234 which was considered a family cabin with balcony. To follow along or get caught up click these links: {What to Pack}, {Preparing for the Getaway}, {Day 1}, {Day 2}, {Day 3}; {Day 4}, below is the review of day 5.

Day 5 - Tortola

The ship got to Tortola's port at 7am. So it was an early morning off the ship if you wanted. We woke up and went for a run on the jogging deck. Then breakfast at the buffet. As a family, we couldn't agree on an excursion offered by Norwegian, so we headed out to explore Tortola on our own. The “thing” to do in Tortola was taking an excursion to “The Baths.” We didn't do this, but a large majority of the passengers did. If you are thinking of doing this, you need to go on TripAdvisor and read some reviews. There is some hiking and a need for water shoes. Since I didn't do the excursion, I don't want to mislead you on information. So please do your own research ahead of time. My family decided to try the beach again. We had given thought to ziplining, but the beach won out. There are several beaches that are recommended. We ended up going with Cane Garden Bay as it was supposed to have the best amenities if you have children. The taxi ride was $8/each way per person. There was no fee to get in the beach. They had activities you could rent as well as beach chairs. The boys enjoyed more snorkling. There was also a little flea market type set up. Of course, the boys had to buy some handmade bobble heads (one of their favorite things to buy while in the Carribbean).

I'm going to pause here and write a little about Tortola. It is a new port for Norwegian. The ship has been going there for approximately 2 months at the time when we traveled. Prior to this, the ship went to St. Marteen. Tortola currently isn't ready for tourist. The roads are scary. The port isn't finished. In fact, they say it's going to be 2 years before the port may be completely finished. In hindsight, I wish Norwegian had Tortola be the short 6 hour stop and made the stop at Nassau longer (more on that port in day 7 review). Tortola was fine, but I'm not really sure why Norwegian gave up St. Marteen for it. We still had a great day together, but the port was an interesting decision on Norwegian's part.

After the beach, we got back on the ship and had a late lunch. Then we played a family round of miniature golf on the sports deck.

This was the only night we had no real dinner plans. We stayed very casual and thought about going to the pools and slides as they were close to empty in the evenings. However, the boys wanted to go to Splash Academy for the Hurray for Hollywood theme night. TravelMan and I just chilled in our stateroom and on the balcony. A perfect vacation day if you ask me!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Day 4 - Norwegian Getaway

There will be a string of posts about our trip on Norwegian's Getaway. We went on the 7-night cruise which stopped in St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau.  Our stateroom was 13234 which was considered a family cabin with balcony. To follow along or get caught up click these links: {What to Pack}, {Preparing for the Getaway}, {Day 1}, {Day 2}, {Day 3}; below is the review of day 4.

Day 4 – St Thomas

TravelMan was convinced that once we were at port and the ship could empty some of the waste that the urine smell would stop. I think he was right on this, as the smell didn't come back until late in the day 6 and day 7. This was great news. I also think our cabin stewart could have done better about cleaning the room. (And not just because we weren't getting towel animals.) But I'm happy to report our sheets were changed this day. And better than that, we got our first towel animal. In the course of the cruise, we got 3 total.

The days at sea were great, but by our fourth full day, we were ready to get off the ship for awhile. We had breakfast at the buffet. (We found it easier to do the buffet with the boys than to go to a sit down restaurant for breakfast. So you'll find we ate there everyday for breakfast. Plus, the food was very good on the buffet.) We got off the ship. It was an easy process. We didn't book an excursion in St Thomas. I had done some reading ahead of time and found out that Magens Bay is a great beach. It cost $8/per person for a taxi ride there and $4/per adult to get into the beach. Once there you could rent beach chairs. There was also a convenient-type store, a bar, and a food stand. They also had non-motorized rentals such as paddle boards and kayaks. I had read to go down the beach a ways to avoid the crowd and was that right! We went just past the last picnic table and while the beach did get full, it certainly did not feel overly crowded there. The water was amazing! It was clear and warm! I had packed a few buckets, shovels, fishing nets, and snorkel gear for the boys. I am so glad I had thought to pack the nets. They boys played in the water catching fish and crabs for over an hour. We built a sand castle; the beach had great sand for this! 

We played at the beach for a few hours and then headed back to the ship where we had a late lunch. We got off the ship again and headed to the Butterfly Garden.

You may recall from day 1's review that we were able to get reservations at the magic show (which included a dinner), Illusionarium. It could be because my kids have a huge interest in being able to perform magic tricks, but they couldn't get enough of this show. It was entertaining for both adults and children. After the show, off to Splash Academy went the kids. TravelMan and I enjoyed having the Unlimited Beverage Package and checked out a few more bars on the ship.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day 3 - Norwegian Getaway

There will be a string of posts about our trip on Norwegian's Getaway. We went on the 7-night cruise which stopped in St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau. Our stateroom was 13234 which was considered a family cabin with balcony. To follow along or get caught up click these links: {What to Pack}, {Preparing for the Getaway}, {Day 1}, {Day 2}; below is the review of day 3.

Day 3 – Day at Sea

At this point in the review, you know I wasn't thrilled with our cabin's cleanliness. I thought about saying something. Yet, it was difficult to communicate with the cabin stewart for what seemed like a language barrier. So I just let it ride. We weren't in our room that much any way. 

TravelMan and I went for a jog on the track. By today, people seemed to understand better about the markings on the ground for the jogging track, making it easier to get a run in. I also went to the gym.   It was nice & a fair size for a cruise ship – split into two parts, cardio and weights. The gym is free, but the classes they offer have a fee.

We learned from the day before to reserve chairs early. We really don't like to do this as it feels rude if you aren't using them. Yet, the day before all four of us were sharing one chair. So we grabbed two lounge chairs by the adult pool and headed to breakfast. After breakfast, we went to the sports deck to check out the mini golf and ropes course. Of course, the boys thought the ropes course was great!  And I mean, great!  The boys did it over and over throughout the trip.

B on the ropes course
M on the ropes course
This ropes course actually has a “walk the plank” feature where the kids are out over the ocean. Crazy! 
M walking the plank.  He LOVED it!!  One more step off (and no harass) and he would have been in the ocean.
The boys played on the sports deck, on the slides, and in the splash pad while TravelMan and I enjoyed the adult pool, relaxing in the sun.  The ship was set up in such a way, we felt comfortable letting them go on their own between these three things as long as they stayed together.  The boys knew they had to check in with us and always tell us when they were leaving one area to go to another. After lunch, the boys wanted to go to Splash Academy, especially because the theme was Super Heroes vs. Villains for the afternoon. TravelMan and I stayed by the pool all afternoon. It was a great day – felt very relaxed and vacation like and everyone was doing exactly what they wanted to do!

At this point in the cruise, we were really starting to understand what Norwegian's Freestyle Cruising meant.  There are no pre-assigned dinner times.  No sitting at tables with strangers.  No assigned restaurants to eat at each day. We were "free" to eat when we wanted, where we wanted. We didn't feel like we were being herded like cattle.  We ate dinner as a family at Teppanyaki. It is a Japanese style hibachi restaurant that was part of the Ultimate Dining Plan. Teppanyaki took awhile to eat, which is common at hibachi; yet, when it was over, we all headed back to the room to get ready for bed. We had some busy days up to this point and going to bed a little earlier that night was a good idea.

The sheets hadn't been changed in the room still...and no towel animal...as I said earlier in the post, I was letting it ride.  The rest of the cruise was proving to be great; this wouldn't get me down.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Day 2 - Norwegian Getaway Cruise

There will be a string of posts about our trip on Norwegian's Getaway. We went on the 7-night cruise which stopped in St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau. Our stateroom was 13234 which was considered a family cabin with balcony. To follow along or get caught up click these links: {What to Pack}, {Preparing for the Getaway}, {Day 1}; below is the review of day 2.

Day 2 – Day At Sea

Our stateroom continued to smell like urine. So once again I got out the Clorox wipes and scrubbed the bathroom, especially around the toilet. Being a mom of two boys, I know that this smell might not have been a fault of Norwegian, but rather two boys being lazy with their aim in the bathroom. Yet, after scrubbing and scrubbing and speaking to the boys about being careful when they used the potty, TravelMan said he thought it was coming from the toilet when the lid was open. We all started making a point of closing the lid to the toilet with hopes this would solve the problem. I had packed a travel size of Lysol spray. I was thankful we had that.

TravelMan and I ran on the jogging track. People didn't seem to understand it was a designated jogging area. So there was a lot of weaving in and out of adults and children who had just stopped to have a chat. It wasn't an ideal place to run, but it was do-able. Sixteen times around the track and 2 miles were done for the day!

As a family we headed to the buffet for breakfast. The boys got in line to climb the rock wall. Finding chairs near the pool and in the sun was a little challenging. Yet, we were able to get one chair for the four of us to share. The kid pool is small and has a divider in the center. I am assuming this is for kids to hold onto in case they can't swim. Our boys are great swimmers, and they love a good pool. This pool was very disappointing to them. In fact, our boys never went in the pool (that's how little and disappointing it was).

Here is the kid/family pool.  You can see the divider in the center.  It is empty here (very early in the morning) but the pool was packed.  It was really standing room only.
 There was a second pool which was a good size. Yet, that pool was for adults only. If I had one major complaint and suggestion for Norwegian, it would be they need a third pool on the ship. Another one that is the size of the adult pool – but available for everyone to use. For a ship as large at the Getaway, there really aren't enough pools. The boys did like the SpongeBob themed splash area. (I don't think I've mentioned that the Norwegian Getaway is sponsored in part by Nickelodeon.) 
Splash Pad Area
The boys also went to check out the five slides. Since they don't weigh more than 99 pounds, they could only do 3 of the 5 slides. (Two of the slides launch you and without weighing enough, you could get stuck in the slide.) The morning was busy exploring the pool deck. Before we knew it, everyone was ready for lunch. At 1:15, there was a meet and greet with SpongeBob and Patrick. Of course, the boys wanted to do this; I believe in part to make me crazy as they know I'm not a SpongeBob fan. 
SpongeBob meet and greet
Splash Academy opened at 2:00, and the boys wanted to go there. TravelMan and I spent the afternoon at the adult pool.
This is a photo of the adult pool.  Also, taken early in the morning before people were really up.  But as you can see, it's much larger than the kid/family pool.

We all came back to the room around 5:00, got cleaned up, and headed to La Cucina, the Italian restaurant that was part of the Ultimate Dining Plan. Following dinner, the boys went back to Splash Academy (all at their request). TravelMan and I went to the show, Burn The Floor. In all honesty, TravelMan was being a good sport. The show was an hour of dancing. It was okay for a cruise ship show. It isn't a must do. Yet, we were trying to take it all in. Next, TravelMan and I hit the IceBar. This was not included in the Ultimate Beverage Package. There was a $20 cover which included two drink tickets. We were given a heavy coat and gloves before entering. Once inside, the drinks were served in glasses made of ice. There was a Miami theme; yet, it was all made of ice. Ironic, huh! We drank our drinks in about seven minutes flat and got out of there. It was 15 degrees inside. Even with the coat and gloves, it was uncomfortably cold. We wouldn't recommend this to others. The idea sounds fun, but in reality, it's one of the fastest ways you'll spend $20 on the ship. We didn't see anyone staying for a third or fourth drink. I would assume you can get the same drinks outside the Ice Bar; they just won't be served in a glass made out of ice.

We picked the boys up from Splash Academy (which they weren't happy to be picked up...they wanted to stay until 1:30 in the morning – LOL!) and headed back to the room. The smell of urine was even stronger. We had no towel animal. And the night before one of our pillowcases had gotten a little blood on it from a sore on an ear bleeding. Yet, the bloody pillowcase was still there. Therefore, we could tell our sheets hadn't been changed. I was feeling uber disappointed about the cabin stewart who was supposed to be taking care of our stateroom. We all fell asleep to the aroma of urine. Not ideal.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 1 - Norwegian Getaway Cruise

There will be a string of posts about our trip on Norwegian's Getaway. We went on the 7-night cruise which stopped in St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau. Our stateroom was 13234 which was considered a family cabin with balcony. To follow along or get caught up click these links: {What to Pack}, {Preparing for the Getaway}; below is the review of day 1.

Day 1

The Norwegian Getaway ship opens its doors at noon and the “all aboard” is at 3:30. Our paperwork stated we were to be on the ship by 2. Since we were driving 5 hours from Jacksonville to Miami and returning a rental car, we didn't board the ship until 1:20.

Luggage drop off, security, and check-in were all easy. (Make sure you have your travel documents printed before you arrive.) We were given our key cards (act as room keys too) which indicated we had the Ultimate Dining Plan and the Unlimited Beverage Package. The act of boarding the boat was a bit disappointing. There were some balloons, a singer, and a keyboard player as we got on; not the fanfare we have experienced on other ships. We were directed to Guest Services where we inquired about upgrading our cabin. We were told the ship was currently sold out, but we could check back after departure. (We decided not to investigate this further.) Next, we went to the excursion desk and booked our excursion to Atlantis for Friday. Then, we went to the Box Office to book the magic show, Illusionarium. If you book for the first day, you receive a discount. If you book for the first day and have the Ultimate Dining Plan, you receive the show for free. (The show for the first day is one thing you have to book once on the ship.) However, all the seats for the first day were already sold out. The lady in the box office informed us that if we booked for one of the days at a port, she could honor our Dining Plan and give us the show at no cost. We booked for Tuesday night (the day at St Thomas).

Balcony had two chairs and a small table - photo 1
The bathroom - photo 1
The bathroom - photo 2
The bathroom - photo 3
Stateroom - photo 1
There's not a lot of storage in the bathroom for all our things -- we used the glasses that were mounted on the wall to hold a few things.
Bringing an over the door shoe organizer is helpful to store medicines, sunscreens, lotions, etc
A downside was that our cabin was dirty. I had packed Clorox wipes in my carry-on so I began scrubbing the bathroom. When I cleaned the bathroom floors, the wipes were turning black. The room was dusty too. I was able to clean the cabin before our luggage arrived.

We headed to get something to eat at the buffet. There was a variety to select from and the food was better than we expected. The mandatory life boat drill was next. After everyone had been cleared from the drill, we headed back to our cabin. Our luggage was waiting for us. We took time to unload our belongs. After all, the cabin would be our home base for 7 nights. We needed to get organized and have plenty of room...which meant stashing our suitcases under the bed. Norwegian was offering 50% off items that needed to be pressed if you left them for your stateroom stewart this night only. I suggest unpacking early for this reason as well. I had one pair of pants that didn't fair well in the suitcase, so they were sent out at 50% off. I did find out later that you can call for an ironing board and iron to come to your room when needed. I have no idea where that would have been set up in our room – LOL! There wasn't a lot of extra room when the four of us were trying to get ready.

When we were all in the stateroom getting ready, I was quickly reminded that basic items I'm used to a hotel having in their bathrooms were not in our stateroom. The stateroom did provide shampoo and body wash. However, there was no conditioner, cotton balls, Q-tips, bar soap, etc. If you have thick hair like my older son, B, or me, then you cannot go seven days in the salt water without conditioner. I have read that the water system of the boats don't do well with conditioner, which is why the ships don't provide it. If you are like me and need some, then consider packing a leave-in conditioner spray. After getting cleaned up, we headed to Cagney's (one of the specialty restaurants including in the Ultimate Dining Plan) for dinner. Cagney's is a steakhouse. TravelMan and I both thought the food was average there. For a steakhouse, the steak was actually disappointing. The kids ordered off of the kids' menu.

Following dinner, we registered the boys for Splash Academy. This is the child watch area. The boys told us they weren't going to Splash Academy during the week. We asked them to try it out. The next thing we knew, they were disappointed when we picked them up and they wanted to go to Splash anytime it was open. Needless to say, they really enjoyed it! Splash Academy is one place where Norwegian really shined. If you have read my cruise reviews in the past, then you know we've been on the Disney cruise several times. My kids never seemed to love the child care on Disney. They would go, but after a while, they were ready to be picked up. This never bothered us as it was their vacation as well. However, Norwegian really makes going to child care an event. There is a different theme every day. The workers are involved with the kids. There are planned activities. It was much different than the Disney ship where the kids just sort of milled about and did what they wanted. In fact, I would almost go so far to say that Norwegian's child care was perfect. The only reason I'm not giving it a “perfect” rating is because they didn't have the ocean phones (also known as wave phones) where the child care could text you if there were a problem or send a text when your child is ready to be picked up. The staff said they followed your key card and would call the place where you last swiped it. I really think if they added ocean phones, the entire Splash Academy would be perfect.

While the boys were in Splash Academy, TravelMan and I explored the ship a little. We ran into the Headliners bar where Howl At The Moon was going on. This was a dueling piano routine. It was a lot of fun!

We picked up the kids from Splash and headed to our room to call it a night. Our room smelled like urine, and I noticed we had no towel animal left on our bed. I didn't think much of it since it was the first night, but the towel animals are something the boys have liked having on other cruises. Plus, I had already scrubbed the cabin with my Clorox wipes earlier in the day; now it already smelled like urine. Hmmm, I fell asleep wondering: Was our cabin stewart up to par?

TRAVEL TIP: If you want the electricity on in your room, you have to have your key card in the slot to turn it on.  I like having these mock cards with magnets on the back.  I hang the card on the magnetic bathroom door and then can slide the card in the slot when I need it.  This way all of our key cards stay together in our pool bag.
We have two cards - you only need one.  This photo shows one card hanging on the bathroom door while one card is in the slot.  These cards were originally made for our Disney cruise.  I'm multi-purposing them. :)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Preparing for our Norwegian Cruise

Before we left for our 7 day Norwegian cruise, there was a little planning that needed to be done. Norwegian Cruise Lines is known for its freestyle cruising. Think of it as throwing all the formal cruising rules you've known out the window (or thrown overboard). Passengers can leave their jacket and slacks at home if they wish. (Although each restaurant has its own dress code.) There are no pre-assigned dinner times. No sitting at tables with strangers. No assigned restaurants to eat at each day. The idea is that you are "free" to eat when you want, where you want. 

We opted to add the Ultimate Dining Plan to our reservation. In addition to the five “included” restaurant choices, Norwegian offers speciality restaurants where passengers can pay a flat fee to eat at these. Therefore, even though the theme is “freestyle,” we wanted reservations at specialty restaurants on certain days. We can't travel well with a 6- and 9-year old who are hungry and waiting until 9pm to eat. The first thing I did in preparing was lined up our dining reservations. This was simple to do through the NCL.com site.

As a side note, we also opted for the Ultimate Beverage Package.  This package includes all beverages that cost $11 or less.  This includes spirits, cocktails, draft and bottled beers, glasses of wine up to $11, and unlimited fountain soda.  Norwegian was offering this as a gift at time of booking.  Both packages were smooth to use.  We enjoyed having them.

Next, we decided on our excursions. Well, we tried to decide. We never could come to a full agreement ahead of time, so we actually ended up booking our one excursion while on board the ship on the first day.

Then, I completed our online check in through the NCL.com site.

Lastly, I downloaded the Cruise Packing Spreadsheet found on this blog and began to pack our bags.

The preparation ahead of time was minimal. Yet, it made for a smooth transition from land to sea for us.