July 2014 - Norwegian Getaway to Caribbean - Eastern
The good things - not much movement felt even in rougher weather. New, clean, standard layout so easy to find your way around. Good shows, rope course, rock wall and mini golf. The main dining rooms were worth a visit, particularly Tropicana when the professional dancers are on. Savor and Taste are identical so pick one and stick with it. Quieter breakfasts could be taken in Savor or O'Sheehans. Excellent cabin steward. Plenty of evening entertainment if that is what you enjoy. If you like to exercise, Get up early and enjoy some peace and quiet, run on the track (up to 9am only) or walk up and down outside deck 7 or around deck 8 ( you can only go partway around the outside here but can then cut through inside to go round again). The island visits were great - see below.
The not so good - with so many people on board, it was difficult to find any quiet areas and once the daily newspaper started to print where the quiet areas are.....well, they were not so quiet! Most of the entertainment is in the evening, so if you prefer to go to bed early, you miss out. Shows have to be prebooked so you may not get to see them, though I think you can wait in line and seats are released 10 minutes before the show starts, but by then, all the good seats have been taken. The food was not as good as other cruise lines although there was plenty of it. Buffet was almost always crowded but take breakfast before 9 and you will generally find a seat. Layout of buffet in one long line was not what we were used to. We tend to eat evening meal quite early to miss the crowds. When we did eat later at 7.30 in Savor, we waited an hour for main course. This cruise line does not allocate a time and a table to you, it is a free-for-all. As a result, you never see the same wait staff twice and it is difficult to build relationships with them. This made them come across as indifferent or not as friendly as other crew members. The ship has now started to offer a set table and time in Savor for the whole cruise but when we did this once,(same table and time as the previous evening) we had different wait staff!
There were limited organized activities during the day compared to other cruise lines we have been on and many incurred a charge such as behind the scenes tour for $79.
Dress codes are not enforced and it was a little disconcerting to stand in the buffet line next to men with no shirt on. Food hygiene/ hand sanitizing not taken enforced as much as on other ships.
Shore excursions - since this was our 6th cruise, we have learnt not to take up the ships excursions but to do our own thing. We met many locals and had a great time. If you take the hustling as you exit the port gates with good humor, the locals respond in kind. We never felt overwhelmed by it.
At St Maarten, we took the water taxi into town and walked along the beach front. You can hire a chair and umbrella with wifi and drinks for a very reasonable price. We went to the Blue Lagoon and had frozen smoothies - mango or lemonade. They were delicious. My husband had local rum in his! Wow! Not sure how he made it back to the ship! So tasty! We picked up a shopping passport at the port gates and there were many many freebies in there. My teenage daughters went in many of the shops and got 6 pairs of pearl earrings, a pearl necklace, a topaz necklace, three charms. Larimer is the only gem from the Caribbean and most shops sell it. Do not settle for the first price offered, even with the passport discount! We were shopping at the cheap end of the jewelry range but eventually got a sterling silver larimer pendant and chain, earrings and bracelet for $80 with another pendant thrown in. My daughter got a chunky sterling charm bracelet and two charms for $10. The shops furthest from the terminal gave the best offers, especially for cash!
St Thomas - we walked across to the butterfly garden which is right by the cruise ship terminal. It is very small but well stocked with butterflies and we spent an hour there looking at four types of butterflies and listening to a talk by a knowledgeable guide. We then walked to the cable car and went up to the top of the mountain. There was only a short wait at each end. The views were incredible. We sat in the cafe at the top just looking out over the bays and the harbor.
Nassau - here is where the most hustling takes place, but there were four cruise ships in port so thousands of tourists coming through! You can take a horse drawn ride, hire scooters or get a taxi to Atlantis, but we decided on a three hour guided tour in an air-conditioned taxi for $25 each. Felton our very knowledgeable mature guide showed us areas you would not see on organized tours. We saw a Rastafarian parade, visited a very quiet beach where local school children were taking swimming lessons, also visited the Fort and Queens staircase, then on to Atlantis. We were only there for 45 minutes, but found we could only access the casino and marina without paying for a pass. Food and drink here were very expensive. The resort was massive and slightly overwhelming! Our guide told us that there is a new one being built on one of the other 700 islands.
Overall, a good cruise on a great ship. It felt crowded at times and still has teething problems. We are a quiet family, have cruised with Princess, Royal Carribean, P and O and now Norwegian. We still prefer Royal Carribbean for cruising, but enjoyed this itinerary and the relaxed nature of the ship.