March 2014 - Norwegian Getaway to Caribbean - Eastern
My DW and I, having just sailed on NCL Epic in February with a large group, we decided to take a spring break trip on the new Getaway with our DS. It was hard not to compare all of the things we liked (and disliked) about Epic, but overall we found we like Getaway better, with only a few exceptions. The ship was full and we were told there were well over 1,000 kids on board, but it rarely felt like it. Since our DS is 18, we really can't comment too much on the kids’ activities, but there must have been enough to keep them busy because they rarely were distracting us from being able to relax and not feel like we wandered into a daycare center.
Since the February Epic trip was an "adults only" and we had TONS of onboard and ashore activities planned, we decided to take it VERY easy on Getaway. Also, since we had just been to the same ports (STT, SXM and Nassau) on Epic the year before, we knew pretty much what we wanted to do on each island. All of that being said, we really enjoyed Getaway most for the expanded outdoor areas (Waterfront 6-7-8 was our favorite area!) as Epic has limited outdoor areas aside from the top (pool) deck.
We loved the newness of the ship. Of course everything was spotless (this was only the 7th sailing!) and in working order. The cabins were clean and we LOVED the bathroom and large shower in the mini suite. The closest space was ample for the two of us (our DS had a Studio to himself and LOVED that too - just the right amount of space for one and the Studio Lounge was a fantastic place to get a light snack, juice or Gatorade from the vending machine - he isn't old enough to drink, so can't speak the bar in the Lounge area, but it looked nice! And they had a cool automatic wine dispenser in there - also in the Garden cafe, where you could take a "taste" up to a full glass of 6-8 wines just by swiping your ship card). The "sofa" in the mini suite was very comfortable and the size of a twin bed, so you could comfortably have a third person in there. There were two drawers beneath the sofa where they stored the comforter and extra pillows, so if there are only two of you in the cabin, it was nice to have the extra pillows and my DW used the second comforter because I like the cabin cold enough to hang meat :-)
The food was as good if not better than on Epic. We really enjoyed the Flamingo Grill (Cuban style food) for breakfast especially as it was less crowded than the buffet but still offered a cook-to-order omelet station and nice breakfast sandwiches (think Egg McMuffin) along with breakfast meats and the BEST peach turnovers and fresh fruit/yogurt cups!! There was "some" outdoor seating in both the Garden Cafe and Flamingo, but it was all covered, unlike the Great Outdoors on Epic. We ate at both Cagney's and Teppanyaki specialty restaurants and both were excellent. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn't sit outside at Cagney's but all of the tables were taken (apparently by those that bought the Ultimate Dining Package and ate at the specialties every night!). That is what drew us to Getaway, the outdoor areas, especially all of the bars and specialty restaurants had outdoor seating. Just too bad they were always filled, so either get there early or book in advance and ask specifically for outdoor seating when you do. We spent most of our evenings at the Sunset Bar which was fantastic and not too crowded. The buffet was very good, nice selection and on one of the nights they moved the lobster/seafood from the main dining room (they do lobster on the first night in the MDR on Epic and some other NCL ships) to the buffet. Well, that created a stampede and long lines to get as many lobsters as people could stuff in their mouths! We ate at Taste (or Savor, I forget which one, but they are across from each other and have identical menus) and that was very nice, but our server disappeared near the end of the meal and we never saw her or her "assistant" again, so we left after desert and before being offered coffee....we didn't eat at the MDR as we didn’t really feel like getting dressed up and were in a hurry most nights to catch a show, etc.
Illusionarium was FANTASTIC. The food rivaled Cagney's (steak and shrimp) and the entertainment was outstanding. We had premium seats (book online before the cruise if you can, it fills up fast!) and were 5 feet from the stage. I have NO idea how they did the illusions and we were sitting so close, some of them seemed impossible. Great show, do NOT miss it! O'Sheehan's was good, pub food but they did offer all you could eat ribs (kind of ironic they had to say "all you can eat" - isn't that the case EVERYWHERE on a cruise ship :-) ) and fried chicken along with Prime rib one night, but I find their menu a bit limited and a great place for a snack, not a "meal". But, it is one of the few places you can get a draft beer on the ship, so it's nice to stop there and grab a bite and a pint!
Pool loungers. I haven't cruised a lot, but on the ships I have been on everyone seems to complain about people reserving the pool loungers. NO problem on Getaway. They had so many public deck areas around the pool, at the bow of the ship (which on Epic is mostly the Posh club for Haven guest use only) and in SpiceH20 at the aft. Spice also had some REALLY comfortable "tub chairs", although I did miss the mini pool in Spice, the waterfall was sufficient to cool off if needed. We didn't spend much time there as it was adults only (and for the most part seemed like no kids were in there) and our son technically wasn't allowed there.
Balconies. Unless you booked one of the "large balcony" categories (or a Haven Suite) the balcony was barely large enough for two regular chairs and a very small table. You had to angle the chairs to be able to sit in them or your knees were up against the glass. We were constantly moving the chairs around to get the balcony door open because of the way it slides across, I liked the design, but the balconies were ridiculously small for a "mini suite". On Epic, we were able to get a full size pool lounger and a chair on the balcony with room to spare. Not a chance of that on Getaway.
The Food: As I said earlier, we were very pleased with the quality, quantity and variety of the food. We have only sailed NCL, so we don't have anything else to compare it to, but none of us were disappointed. Cagney's rivals some of the better steakhouses and where else can you get unlimited side dishes, appetizers (and probably entrees if you asked), certainly not at Morton's or the other big steakhouses! We did miss the "late night snacks" on the buffet that Epic served each night at the Great Outdoors, but you could always find something at O'Sheehan's or room service...
The Entertainment: I'm not a big Broadway musical fan, so Legally Blonde was ok. I found it "grew on me" as it went along and the quality of the entertainers was very good. Burn the Floor was excellent. Think Dancing with the Stars, but on steroids! They never stopped for 90 minutes! I have no idea how they do that 2x a night!! Also, as I mentioned before the Illusionarium was outstanding - do NOT miss it, is NOTHING like the "corny" magic shows on other ships. We had a lot of fun watching the "game shows" (Not so Newlywed game and Dancing with the Getaway Stars) from the "balcony" in O'Sheehan's. That is a great place to watch from since you can eat, get bar service and watch the show! We never laughed so hard as at the Dancing with the Getaway Stars. The CD (Sinan) really made the show, as did two passengers that were hilarious! I'm probably going to get stoned for saying this, but we were horribly disappointed with the Howl at the Moon. The piano players are very good, but the whole "dueling tips" scam is getting a bit old and you get tired of hearing the same 10 songs (with the "requests" sprinkled in). The Comedians were better than on Epic, but after seeing them 2-3 times, the jokes began to be "similar". Funny, but not hilarious.
Ports/Shore Excursions: As I mentioned in the beginning, we had just stopped in St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau last year on Epic, so we knew what we wanted to do. We didn't use any of the ship's ShoreEx's, we planned our own.
St. Maarten we did Bernard's Tour with 4 stops (Orient Beach - GORGEOUS, but some sections are "nude/topless" so beware if that offends you), Maho Beach (MUST see once in your life as the planes land practically on top of you!), Marigot (nice little flea market for souvenirs and Saraffina's bakery - excellent French pastries!) and a stop at a lookout over to St. Barth's. Highly recommend it (look it up on the Internet and book in advance though, it fills up fast!).
St. Thomas we "made our own tour" and took a taxi to Red Hook ($8/person), the ferry to St. John ($7/person each way) and a taxi to Trunk Bay ($6/person and $4/person entry into the National Park). This was probably the most scenic and relaxing day of the cruise. The beach and snorkeling ($5/person to rent full snorkel gear) were fantastic and they had and underwater snorkel trail. They had restrooms and fresh water showers and a small snack bar (expensive and cash only!) for burgers/sandwiches. It was probably only slightly cheaper than taking a similar, ship sponsored trip, but we got at least 2 more hours on the beach than they did and never felt rushed! I would go back to St. John any time I was in St. Thomas. They have nice beaches there, but there were 5 ships in port and we didn't want to be with the mobs at Meagan's Bay.
Nassau. This is my least favorite port because the downtown area and "straw market" are very dirty, run down and don't feel safe at all. The junk they sell at the straw market is just that, junk, for the most part and I found most of the people fairly pushy and rude. We were in Mexico and if you didn't want to buy stuff they were selling you on the beach, you just said "no thanks" and they would leave you alone. In Nassau, they don't give up until they have $1 from you....very annoying. So, this time we decided to take the ferry from the cruise ship dock to Paradise Island ($4/person I think) and walk to Cabbage beach. Well, the beach was nice, quite crowded and filled with vendors trying to sell you Jet Ski or parasailing rides. That aside, the waves were HUGE that day (15-20 feet tall some of them!) and our DS had a BLAST! It was VERY dangerous for smaller, less strong swimmers but the people that ventured out into the waves looked like they were having the time of their lives. There were a few beach vendors selling coconut cocktail (yuk) but a short walk down was the beach bar of the RIU hotel and a guy (Steve or Mike?) was selling "all you could drink" rum drinks for about $25/person (which was a bargain if you had more than 2 drinks from anyone else!). We took a taxi back later in the day and grabbed a quick bite at Sharkey's (nice upper patio overlooking the ships), then back on board. Still Nassau isn't my favorite place, but this time it was better than in the past.
Onboard Activities: We tried the ropes course (LOTS of fun and less scary than I thought!), the rock climbing wall (fun, but smaller than some ships) and the mini golf (not great but not bad for a ship), but really enjoyed the water slides! The one that drops you straight down was a BLAST, even for an oldtimer like me :-) The adult pool was crowded on sea days, as were the hot tubs, but we rarely saw kids in either.
The Service: Again, we were very impressed with the overall service (outside of our waitress disappearing one night in Savor) and the bar staff in particular. It was absolutely mobbed by the pool on most days and one bartender always remembered what my DW and I drank and made several trips to the wine cellar to get us a bottle from our wine package (so no additional sale for him, but nonetheless he smiled the whole time and remembered our names!) and always made sure our ice bucket was filled as we sat by the pool and drank our bottle! The cabin stewards were great. Like little Ninja's - you rarely saw them, but they always seemed to have your room made up even if you left for 30-45 minute for breakfast! They always seemed very cheerful, helpful and happy with their jobs.
Overall, I would say we preferred Getaway over Epic, except for the few notable exceptions of the balcony and we slightly preferred the shows on Epic (BlueMan is awesome!). I would sail again on either ship, but I wish the itineraries varied a little more. The same 5-6 ports (depending if you take Eastern or Western routes) are getting a bit old and when there is one you dread going to (Nassau and Jamaica for me!), it makes it hard to keep doing them over and over each year.