A Detailed Review of Our New Years Cruise on the Getaway

Norwegian Getaway Cruise Review to Caribbean - Western

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Reviews: 6
Helpful Votes: 173

Overall rating:

4.2 out of 5
Verified Review
Norwegian Getaway

7 Night Western Caribbean (New Orleans Roundtrip)

Sail date: December 29, 2019

Ship: Norwegian Getaway

Cabin type: Balcony

Cabin number: 14126

Traveled as: Family (older children)

Reviewed: 1 year ago

Review summary

I have found that no cruise is 100% perfect - my advice to fellow travelers is always don’t waste your time focusing on the very few negative things that happen and take pleasure in the abundance of positive experiences that occur during your cruise.  You’re on vacation - have fun and enjoy yourself!  My goal in writing detailed reviews of our cruise ship experiences is to provide future travelers with some information on what to expect and some tips to help you make informed decisions and ultimately better plans.  I am also hoping that someone at NCL will read these reviews and make some improvements.  I have seen changes in the past and hope they will continue in the future.  My family likes cruising on NCL, but we feel that many of the experiences offered by their ships could be much better with some adjustments and improvements.  This was our third cruise out of New Orleans on an NCL ship, each time was a memorable experience and overall very enjoyable.  In order to have the best experience, we recommend that you spend a couple of days in New Orleans before your cruise and plan ahead for your stay on the Getaway.  To set the background for my review, I want to note that this was our 8th cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines, and our 20th cruise overall.  My wife and I have cruised over the Christmas/New Years' holiday fifteen times.  This was our first time on the Getaway, but we have sailed on the sister ship, the Breakaway, three previous times.  We also have a good deal of experience cruising with multiple cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Carnival.  Over the past year, I had read a fair number of negative reviews about the Getaway on Cruise Critic, so I was interested in finding out why this ship seems to bring forth so much negativity from other reviewers.  We enjoyed almost all of the cruise and I would not hesitate to recommend sailing out of New Orleans.  We had a good experience on the Getaway, but there were definitely some areas on the Getaway that need improvements such as service, entertainment, and Internet access.  Our experience was not exceptional, but it was very good.  My best recommendation is that you plan the major details of your cruise ahead of time.  If you know what to expect ahead of time, preplan, and adjust your expectations, you will have a much better time.  One thing that I think causes a great deal of frustration and negativity among NCL cruisers comes from the way the company markets its cruises.  Their freestyle cruise ads suggest that you can do whatever you want whenever you want and have the time of your life.  This is not really true.  If you want to experience the most an NCL cruise has to offer, you have to prebook everything (your specialty dining, your shows, excursions, etc.)  Forget the freestyling - you will have a much better experience if you book your specialty dining and shows ahead of time in your Cruise Planner.   As an example, you cannot just show up for the Comedy Club and Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos and expect to get a seat.  We found that we had to get to the venues about 30 minutes ahead of time to get a decent seat.   Booking ahead of time will help you to get the dining times and restaurants that you want along with the shows you want.  If you wait until you get on the ship, the optimal dining times and shows will already be full.  If you are given the opportunity to book something like a comic or other show, book it as soon as possible.   The same strategy applies for excursions.  If you choose the $50 a port reimbursement as one of your Free At Sea options, go online and learn about your excursion choices, then decide ahead of time and book them as soon as you get on the ship.  A little bit of planning and booking will greatly enhance your onboard experience.

Embarkation

4 out of 5
The process was fairly quick and simple. We arrived a little after 11:30 AM. The only wait we encountered was the 10 minutes it took us to get through the security check. We filled out our cruise documents online ahead of time. The only issue we encountered was getting the billing correctly set up. Since we had two rooms, we wanted all charges to be on one credit card. The registration attendant did not know how to do this. A supervisor was quickly called who quickly set up the billing correctly. This took about 15 minutes. We were on the ship by 12:30. A little tip: We arrived a few days early for our Sunday cruise departure. We stayed at the Hilton Riverside in a room that overlooked the Mississippi River. The hotel was very conveniently located and quiet. In the morning, we walked down to the Cafe Du Monde in the Riverwalk Mall (not the original in Jackson Square location) for some beignets. We left the hotel at 11 AM and walked through the Riverwalk Mall right to the cruise terminal entrance. It was remarkably easy and uncomplicated. It is worth staying at the Hilton if you arrive a day or two before the departure of your cruise so that you can easily walk to the cruise terminal.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

3 out of 5
For lunch and breakfast, we ate at the buffet on the 15th floor.  We tend to eat less for these two meals, so we like the convenience and casualness of the buffet option.  If you want some variety for breakfast and lunch, you can eat in some of the dining rooms.  Don’t complain about the food being the same each day at the buffet.  Seek out the other venues if you are looking for variety.  For dinner, we booked specialty restaurants for 3 nights to optimize our use of the Free at Sea promotion.  We ate in the Tropicana Room for the other 4 nights.  We chose La Cucina, Cagney’s, and Le Bistro.  We booked these restaurants 3 months before our departure to get a prime seating time.  By far, we experienced our best meal for food quality and service in Le Bistro.  Our meals were very good at Cagney’s and La Cucina, but there were large gaps of time between some of the courses.  This was a problem we also experienced in the Tropicana Dining Room.  It appears there is some miscommunication between the kitchen and the servers.  At Cagney’s, we saw our desserts brought out but waited 10 minutes for our server to bring them over to us.  We are not fast eaters, nor do we like to be rushed, but our ice cream did melt while it sat out.  The dining experience on NCL is different than other cruise lines because you have different servers each night.  That means that you do not get that bonding experience found on other cruise ships whereby your server seems to know everything about your dining habits and preferences.  You would think that service on NCL would be at least as good as you get in a very good restaurant, but often we found that there does not seem to be any negative repercussions for poor or neglectful service.  We rarely saw supervisors.  On our recent trip, we were approached twice by dining room supervisors and when it happened we gave informative feedback both times. We like to gather together to eat our evening meal in the main dining room.  We like the presentation and the slow pace of the meal.  We usually found that evening meals took around 90 minutes from start to finish including desert, but a few were closer to two hours.  We like a casual pace and enjoy having drinks and talking about our day, but three times our meals seemed to drag out as we were waiting for our entrees or dessert.  The pacing of most meals was not consistent and sometimes there were 15-20 minutes gaps between course servings. The dinner offerings in the main dining rooms were not exceptionally fancy, but more on the basic side with seafood, beef, chicken, pork, and pasta offerings.  We were fairly pleased with everything we ordered, but some dishes were well below the standards we have experienced on other ships.    We found that the appetizers were far superior to the entree choices, and we often found ourselves ordering 2 to 3 to enhance the variety and taste of our meals.  Remember that you can order more than one appetizer or entree in the main dining room.  Out of our 4 nights in the Tropicana Room, we had 2 good meals and two that were not up to par.  There was only one meal where we felt that we had excellent service in the main dining room.  Service at the other meals was average at best.  One important piece of information to know is that on the first day, from the time you enter the ship until almost midnight you will be in Louisiana.  Even if you have the Premium Drink Package and have prepaid your tips, you will still be charged the tax on each drink.  It is not a lot, but it is an annoying charge.  The tax charges for some wine, a few mixed drinks, and a few soft drinks came to about $13.  The same would apply to the last night when the ship enters the Mississippi Delta.  Besides this little annoyance, the Free At Sea drink package was a great feature and we used it often.

Onboard Activities

3 out of 5
This is one area that we definitely found below par.  Most of the activities were the normal selection of poolside, game show, and trivia activities.  There was a fair selection, but some nights it seemed rather boring on the cruise ship.  The other passengers on board seemed to enjoy the activities and they were very well attended, but that may have been because there did not seem to be an exceptional number of choices.  There were the normal cruise ship things to do, but we did not find them as interesting as past cruise experiences.  We enjoyed the dance classes but thought there were too many game show type activities.  It would have been a great idea to have some learning experiences onboard that helped educate the travelers about Mayan Central America.  My wife enjoys playing Texas Hold’em and spent multiple nights at the casino. There was only one table and many nights there was a long wait to get a seat. On some nights the game started at 7 PM and on other nights it did not start until around 10 PM. My wife enjoyed playing but remarked that the house’s rake of 10 percent up $25 was excessively high compared to casinos throughout the United States as well as other cruise lines. One of our Free At Sea package choices was the 250 Internet minutes/cabin.  The regular Internet speed on the Getaway was painfully slow.  It was barely good enough to check email, but did not allow for any downloads.  The ship’s onboard access seemed like Internet access found in old hotels ten years ago.  We know that it is possible to good access on a cruise ship because we had really good access on a Royal Caribbean ship only a few weeks prior to our cruise on the Getaway.  We ended up using our T-Mobile foreign data benefits to check emails and make simple phone downloads.  We were not able to do this through NCL’s Internet access.  If we had purchased an Internet package, we would have felt that it was not worth it.  We used the Exercise Room every day of our cruise.  It was very crowded on the first and last day, but it was noticeably less crowded on all other days.  There were 18 treadmills, 7 elliptical machines, 6 standing cycles, free weights, and exercise machines (some partially broken).  The two main rooms felt small and crowded compared to what we have experienced on almost every other cruise ship.  They almost seem like an afterthought in the design of the ship.  I did have to wait to use an elliptical machine was the first day and last days of the cruise.  One thing I want to mention was that our cruise was a New Year's Eve cruise.  We attended two of the dullest New Year’s Eve parties we have ever experienced on a cruise ship (many of our holiday parties have been over New Year's Eve).    We abandoned the first party hoping the second would be better, but it wasn’t.  It did not seem like a lot of thought went into planning the New Year’s Eve parties on the Getaway.  We know it is possible because we attended some fun parties on the Breakaway in previous years.

Entertainment

4 out of 5
Even though there are some very good entertainment options on the Getaway, in general, there did not seem to be enough for us.  One problem with the Getaway is that to accommodate everyone, the shows The Million Dollar Quartet and Burn the Floor were repeated on multiple nights.  We found that on Days 4 and 7, we had limited entertainment options because we had already seen everything that was offered.  We attended the Broadway musical the Million Dollar Quartet.  It was by far our favorite.  Stay to the end, because the finale concert segment is outstanding.  Some of us greatly enjoyed the show Burn the Floor, but others in our party were only so-so about it.  I especially liked it and saw it twice.  We attended the mainliner comedy show in the theater as well as some individual performances in the Comedy Club.  We enjoyed them, but get to the club early to get a seat.  We also attended one session of Howl at the Moon - it was fun to sing along with other travelers.  On the last night, there was a headline act by the Journey Tribute Band that had played Sid Norman’s Pour House all week.  There were also multiple musical acts in the Atrium and at the various bars.  We listened to many of them but did not find anyone to be outstanding.  NCL does offer for an extra fee the show Wine - the Musical and an acrobatic show called Cirque Dreams & Steam, but we did not feel strongly enough about either show to pay extra.  Unfortunately, this was it.  The cruise ship needs at least one more major show in the theater either in the middle and the end - how about a magic act or notable singer?  Here is a great tip for anyone future cruiser who has made it this far into my review.  One of the best show experiences on the Getaway occurs in the Tropicana Room for one or two nights during each cruise.  The cast of Burn The Floor does a show on the dance floor.  The show will take place on different nights during each cruise week (never on nights when Burn the Floor is performing in the theater).  During our cruise, the shows started at 5:45 PM and were on Days 5 and 6.  These shows are really fun to watch while you are dining, but scarcely anyone knows about them.  Find out which nights the show is on and show up at the Tropicana Room at 5:30 PM.  Ask for a table around the dance floor.  No one realizes they can do this, so you will easily get a table and have a front-row seat for an incredible dance show.  While you are eating, the dancers will be spinning and twirling around you.  It is an amazing experience, that most people on the cruise do not even know exists.  Trust me on this, you will enjoy this entertainment and dining experience very much for no extra cost. Even those in our group who did not enjoy the Burn the Floor in the theater really enjoyed the performance in the Tropicana Dining Room.

Children's Programs

We did not have any children under 18 with us.

Service and Staff

3 out of 5
This is an area where the Getaway often receives much criticism, and in our opinion, some of it is warranted.  The day after we returned from our cruise, we received an evaluation to fill out from NCL.  The only crew member who we believe went out of her way to provide exceptional service was the check-in hostess at the Tropicana Dining Room.  The fact that we could not think of anyone else whom we felt showed exceptional service is telling.  On a previous cruise, we took with Royal Caribbean three weeks prior to our sailing on the Getaway, we named 5 crew members.  Due to the way the cruise experience is organized on NCL the interaction between the staff and guests is by its nature less personal.  For the most part, we found 90% of the cruise staff to be very attentive, courteous, and friendly.  We had only a few under par experiences, such as some poor service in the Tropicana Dining Room.   I would definitely agree that some of the staff were not as friendly and helpful as other cruise ships we have been on.  At times on the Getaway, there definitely seemed to be a coldness toward passengers that you usually do not find on other cruise lines.  Again most hotel and dining service staff were consistently helpful and friendly, many other staff members were also, but some of the support staff could use more service industry hospitality training.  One thing we did notice is that we rarely found supervisors asking us about our experience.  On other cruise lines, this happens continually.  This issue only mildly affected our vacation, but we could see why it is often an issue with other passengers.

Ship Quality

5 out of 5
The Getaway was in great shape and well maintained.  It felt like a newer boat.  Even though it holds many passengers, it did not seem like some of the mega-ships found on other cruise lines.  The crew seemed to work hard to keep the ship looking in top shape.  It was constantly being cleaned to help prevent the spreading of colds and cases of flu that occur during this time of the year.   Most of the nightlife happens on floors 6, 7, and 8.  It was lively there each night, and the venues that offered entertainment were crowded - especially the comedy club and music venues.  Arrive early to get a seat.  One nice area on the ship that very few people made use of was the outside promenade on deck 8.  It was really a nice place to sit quietly or take a peaceful stroll.

Cabin / Stateroom

5 out of 5
We stayed in Spa Rooms on the 14th floor which included access to the Thermal Suite in the Mandara Spa on the 15th floor.  We love the Thermal Suite, so to make sure everyone in our party had access we choose a Spa Room which was just a standard balcony room that included access to the Thermal Suite.  If you have another category or room and want access to the Thermal Spa Suite the price on the ship is an additional cost of about $250/person.  Our balcony stateroom was set up with one large bed.  The Getaway is a relatively new ship, so the rooms are organized more efficiently than some of the older cruise ships.  There was a good size closet with a lot of hangers and a fair number of drawers for us to easily store all our clothing.  We met our stateroom steward, Philipe on the first day, but did not see him for the rest of our cruise.  Our room was cleaned twice a day and everything was in working order.  Each cabin had a light system that you can use to tell your room steward when it is okay to clean your room.  One is for privacy, a red light, and the other, a green light, lets your steward know it is okay to make up the room.  Of course, the bathroom was small and the room, in general, was compact, but it’s a cruise ship - the rooms are always small.  Cruise ship rooms are priced like seats on an airline.  You pay for space.  If you want more space, you will have to pay for a larger room.  Our room had two 110 volt outlets for the entire room (two is a luxury on a cruise ship).  It would have been nice if there were some USB ports for recharging as I have seen on other NCL ships, but there were none in our room.  I knew that for our electronics (iPhone, iWatch, laptop, camera, iPod, etc.) two plugs would not be enough, so I brought along a USB hub that also featured an additional 110-volt receptacle.  This allowed us to easily recharge everything each evening.  If you like to bring along multiple electronics, plan some strategy ahead of time.  One criticism that often appears in reviews of the Getaway is that there is a mild sewage smell in the bathroom.  We experienced this also on occasion.  Perhaps it is a ship design problem or perhaps some stronger cleaner could be used, but we suspect that this is an ongoing problem that should be addressed by NCL.

Ship tip

Even though NCL advertises Freestyle Cruising and loves to tell you that you can do whatever you like, whenever you like, don’t believe it. If you want to make sure that you get good seating times for dinner and access to the shows, book your times and dates well ahead of time online at ncl.com. You will have a much better experience on the ship if you plan and prebook.

Ports of call

New Orleans, Louisiana

5 out of 5
New Orleans - We arrived three days before our trip, so we could spend some time in New Orleans. If you are coming from out of town, spend some time in New Orleans. It is a great place to spend 2 or 3 days. Eat beignets, tour the town, and enjoy the exceptional food choices. One of our highlights was the 9:30 PM Ghosts and Haunted Cemeteries bus tour by Haunted History Tours. It was fascinating and creepy at the same time.

Cozumel, Mexico

4 out of 5
We chose the $50 credit per port excursion credit as one of our Free At Sea options, so we booked excursions at three different ports.  There was some confusion about how to get the credit, so we booked our excursions as soon as we got on the ship the first day to make sure we got the excursions we wanted and the credit.  We received the credits each night after we finished our excursions.  At Cozumel, we booked the Island Discovery & Chocolate Experience Tour.  It consisted of three different stops.  First, we rode to The Mayan Cacao Chocolate Company where we learned some Mayan history and the significance of chocolate to the native people who lived in this region.  We also had a demonstration of how chocolate was made.  All of it was good and in the end we had the opportunity to sample the different types of chocolate made by the company and of course, make some purchases.  Our second stop was to a scenic lookout point on a Cozumel beach along the Gulf coast.  It was beautiful and was by far my favorite stop.  Our third destination was at the Mayan Bee Sanctuary where we learned about bees and honey production.  It was not exceptional, and everyone seemed to be getting tired by this point.  It was interesting riding back through the city and seeing the communities where many of the residents of the island lived.  Overall, this excursion was an opportunity to get off the ship and around the island for a relatively small amount of money.  I found the guide annoying, but the other members of my family were fine with him.  It was not an exceptional tour, and I would have been more critical if we had paid a lot of money for it, but the cost with the Free At Sea reimbursement, made it a relatively cheap day.  It was a good excuse to get off the ship and see part of the island. 

Coxen Hole, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

5 out of 5
My daughter petitioned us to visit the Gumbalimba Preserve and Animal Sanctuary.  It turned out to be one of the highlights of our cruise.  I strongly recommend it.  The cost was reasonable and all of us enjoyed it very much.  We were taken by bus to the sanctuary where we were assigned a guide.  At the sanctuary, we got to see some beautiful scenery and some different types of animals such as iguanas and a sloth.  The highlight was that we got to see and take some photographs with Macaws and free-roaming white-face monkeys.  Our local tour guide was very informative and friendly.  The photograph opportunities were a lot of fun.  The monkeys were very tame and climbed on each of us.  At the end of the tour, there was a pool and beach for us to use for the remainder of our stay at the sanctuary.  On the day we were there, the skies began to look rainy, so we headed back to the ship shortly after the tour.  You can depart at multiple times.  We really enjoyed this experience.  If you are traveling with children, this is a must-do experience they will talk about for a long time.

Harvest Caye, Belize

5 out of 5
Some of us stayed on the ship, while the rest went to the beach and had an incredible experience.  Their assessment was that of the private cruise ship islands they have been to, this had the nicest beach of all.  The beach was very clean, wide, and the water was beautiful.  They stayed at the beach the entire day.  The one drawback was that NCL does not provide lunch on the island.   If you want to eat for free, you have to walk back to the ship (many people did).  There was a very nice Landshark Bar and Grill in the middle of the island, but you had to pay extra for your burgers and nachos.  Please be aware that you cannot use your cruise card account on the island - bring a credit card or cash.  You also have to bring any beach towels you wish to use from the ship.

Costa Maya (Mahahual), Mexico

5 out of 5
This was a fun stop and a good place to pick up souvenirs.  There were a lot of shops and some Mayan oriented entertainment at a shopping complex at the docking pier.  It was an easy walk from the ship.  There were many souvenir shops as well as the normal jewelry stores and cruise oriented stores found in every cruise stop.  We spent about 60 minutes on shopping.   On the day we stopped, there were rough seas and windy conditions.  Some of our party booked an ATV experience and enjoyed it very much. They were able to ride along the beach and trails for about 3 hours.

Disembarkation

5 out of 5
Getting off the ship in New Orleans seems to be harder than most other ports we have experienced.  I don’t think this is an NCL issue, but rather a New Orleans Port issue.  Last year we had a 1:30 PM flight so we decided to leave the ship at 9:00 AM.  The experience was chaotic.  This year we decided to walk off with our luggage at 8:00 AM even though we had the same 1:30 PM flight.   We knew we would be spending extra time at the airport, but we wanted to avoid the long lines and wait times we experienced last year.  This turned out to be a good strategy.   Even though NCL stated in their departure information that self assist walk-offs would be available between 7 and 9 AM, we heard the last call for self-assist walk-offs around 7:45 AM.  We left five minutes later, quickly got an elevator, and made our way to the 7th-floor departure area in the forward section of the ship.  There was only a short line to check out and a short back up of passengers walking off the ship.  The pace was steady down a series of ramps and one escalator (or elevator) and all we had to do to get through customs was to show our passports. The process took about 25-30 minutes from beginning to end.  After leaving customs, we went to departure Door 4 and summoned a Lyft XL to take us to the airport for around $38.  It was quick, easy, and uncomplicated.  By leaving at 8 AM, we beat the rush.  If you leave later, you will be competing for transportation with the Carnival ship that lets passengers off at 9 AM.  The transfer traffic will also be competing with the trucks which will be bringing in deliveries of supplies for the departing ships.  My recommendation is to give yourself extra time and leave as early as possible.

Traveler Photos

The Getaway docked at Cozumel The entrance to Gumbalimba Park in Roatan Taking a photograph of a monkey at Gumbalimba Park in Roatan A view of Harvest Caye Beach from the Getaway Shops and activities by the ship at Costa Maya The Getaway docked at Costa Maya
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