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Old January 29th, 2015, 03:51 AM
eroller eroller is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
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<Part Two>

Moving outside and topside is the Aqua Park with five fun filled water slides that I enjoyed over and over again. The blue slide was my favorite, maybe because it's the first one I tried. There is a rock climbing wall, mini-golf course, the spider net, bungee trampoline, a full size basketball court, and the Ropes Course. I especially enjoyed the Ropes Course as it features The Plank, which is a narrow plank extended over the side of the ship which proved to be a harrowing experience to be sure. Not so harrowing that I didn't do it twice! Don't forget to pull the chain to have your picture taken! The toddlers have a great splash pool area featuring all their favorite characters from SpongeBob Squarepants as well as a full size family swimming pool just adjacent. Not to be left out the adults have their own area all the way aft called Spice H20. It includes a large video screen, a full bar, a couple hot tubs, and a waterfall splash zone to cool off. There is another pool midship that is designated adults only and might be considered the main pool and the most active on the ship. The topside space on GETAWAY does not feel spacious and open like on other ships. It's more sectioned off and a bit disjointed, but somehow it works and I really liked it. Up one deck on 17 is the Vibe Beach Club. I touched on this earlier but let me go into more detail now. $79 for the week gets you an uncrowded and quiet deck with two hot tubs, a full bar, a rain-shower type shower to cool off, luxury cushioned chairs, unlimited towels, and superb service! The service from a dedicated staff throughout the day included cold towels, water spritzes, cookies, lemonade, and fresh fruit skewers all brought directly to your lounge chair. Talk about service! Having access to Vibe really enhanced my experience as I prefer a quiet spot where I don't have to fight for a chair even if I don't make it outside till noon or 1pm. I felt it was worth every penny. If you like to be in the center of the action by the main pool then Vibe is probably not for you. As much as I enjoyed the upper decks of GETAWAY, another main pool is badly needed as the two pools for 4000+ passengers are simply not enough. Just forward of the main pool area is the Mandara Spa and fitness center. I enjoyed a week pass to the Thermal Suite in the Mandara Spa, and this included a thermal pool, saunas, a Salt Room, steam room, heated loungers, and fantastic views over the bow of the ship. Just aft of the Mandara Spa is the fitness center. It's actually divided into two sections, with cardio facing the ocean with large windows while bodybuilding and weights were across a hall in an interior section. The fitness center is one of the few opportunities for improvement as it was far too small and crowded for a ship the size of GETAWAY.

One of the biggest surprises on the GETAWAY was the vast improvement in NCL's food and service. I believe there are 28 dining options on the GETAWAY and during my week onboard I never had a bad meal. The included main dining rooms (Savor, Taste, Tropicana), the Garden Cafe (buffet), the Flamingo Bar & Grill, and O'Sheehan's were all included and all excellent. You could exclusively dine in these venues while not spending an cent extra and be quite content. Of course there are many speciality restaurants available as well for an added charge, and all looked very inviting with beautiful surroundings and appetizing menus. Being solo this cruise the only speciality restaurant I dined at was Wasabi. This is the sushi restaurant and I must say it was excellent. Pricing was a la carte which works well for this type of dining experience. I found the Garden Cafe to be an excellent buffet restaurant with a great variety of choices, good quality, and even some surprises like hard scooped premium ice cream with toppings daily. It's rare to find this on any cruise line these days, let alone a contemporary mass-market one. A terrific alternative to the Garden Cafe is the Flamingo Bar & Grill just a deck above. In keeping with the Miami theme of GETAWAY this venue serves Latin inspired cuisine with a Cuban flair. None of these dining options could be successful without the hard working crew that brings it all together. I found the staff and crew onboard GETAWAY to be visible, motivated, friendly, and sincerely happy to be there. Management is obviously doing something right as this is probably the most profound change I found on NCL compared to previous cruises. Visibility of officers is something I rarely see on other ships, but on GETAWAY every day in the Guest Relations area the senior officers from the Hotel Director and Cruise Director on down were not only visible but actively socializing, interacting, and problem solving with any passengers that approached them. I don't think I've seen this level on interaction on any cruise line including the luxury lines like Silversea. The closest in comparison might be Disney and Azamara both of which have top notch crews based on my past experience. Even my cabin steward left me a personalized note on the last night of the cruise, something that has never happened in the past and something I will always remember. As an added bonus on this cruise I was placed on the VIP list which entitled me to some extra special treatment and events. A private Bridge visit, VIP parties in the Ice Bar and The Grammy Experience, front row seating in the Illusionarium, dinner in The Haven (it was excellent), and special treats in the cabin all enhanced my overall experience and made GETAWAY truly one of a kind!

NCL has always been known for entertainment. This goes back to the days of the NORWAY when NCL was the first and only line to feature full scale Broadway productions such as Hello Dolly. Fast forward 35 years and NCL is still delivering top notch entertainment. I place NCL side by side with Disney and Royal Caribbean as having the best entertainment at sea. Onboard GETAWAY we were treated to the Broadway production of Legally Blonde. While I'm not a particular fan of this musical it was very well done with excellent production value and talented singers and actors. Another show was Burn the Floor which received a standing ovation and was simply one of the best shows I've seen at sea. The Illusionarium is a specially created venue to house a magical dinner show complete with special effects, a story, and slight of hand to entertain while you enjoy a lovely dinner. The entire concept really reminded me of something I might find on Disney. A hint here, request the salmon as the main course. It's not on the menu but far superior to the usual offering. Other top rated entertainment can be found in Headliners where comedians from Levity Entertainment Group perform and The Grammy Experience where Grammy award winner artists entertain nightly. While I'm not much for comics, I loved the live performances in The Grammy Experience. Sugar Blue was one of the performers and his harmonica playing is not to be missed. In addition to the shows you can enjoy a supper club in The Tropicana Room, a massive casino, a piano bar in the Sugarcane Lounge, Dueling Pianos in Headliners, a DJ in Bliss Nightclub and Spice H20 outdoors, and Groove International in the atrium nightly. NCL is also known to throw some great parties, and the tradition continues on the GETAWAY. Most are in Spice H20 located outside on Deck 16 aft. Included were the Glow Party (formally the White Party), Norwegian Night Out Dance Party, and the Awesome 80's Party & Fireworks night. Yes fireworks at sea! NCL can't claim to be the first as that honor goes to Disney, but they do a nice job all themed to an 80's party. The fireworks start at 10:45pm (day 4) and are shot off the Portside of the ship. No matter how you look at it, watching fireworks at sea from a moving vessel is a lot of fun!

The ports on this cruise included St Maarten, St Thomas, and Nassau. The "milk run" as it's known in the industry and ports I've been to countless times. NORWEGIAN GETAWAY docks in all ports so no tenders are necessary. This makes for easy on and off the ship. We enjoyed excellent weather throughout the entire cruise with the exception of the first day at sea which was a bit cloudy. I didn't book any tours and basically just strolled around each port on my own, with one mission being to photograph all the other ships docked with us in port. Perhaps you have heard of train spotters and plane spotters? Well I'm a ship spotter! Our numbers are not as great as the more common train & plane spotters, but as a group we are growing as more and more people become interested in ships. In St. Thomas I did take the Paradise Point Tramway up the side of the mountain for excellent views of the island and of course ... ships!

Disembarkation was as easy as embarkation and I was off the ship in no time. It was well organized and I truly left the GETAWAY feeling that I had a vacation of a lifetime on a ship I loved and on a line I have a new admiration for. Onboard I took advantage of a future cruise deal where you put down a $250 deposit towards a future cruise and receive a $100 onboard credit on the current cruise. It's a great deal if you're certain you want to sail NCL again, and I was! It didn't take long to decide on the next one, which will be the maiden voyage of NORWEGIAN ESCAPE sailing 10 days from Southampton to Miami this October. It's hard to imagine ESCAPE will be an improvement over GETAWAY, but I'm willing to give it a shot! NCL is once again finding itself in the midst of management changes as a new President was brought onboard from Darden Restaurants and chief Kevin Sheehan abruptly resigned. Mr. Sheehan has been credited with the reinvention of Norwegian that I so enjoyed on GETAWAY, so it's a little unsettling to see him depart just as I've become reacquainted with the line. My wish is that the new leadership team can stay focused on what was started, keep the momentum going, remain innovative, and continue to evolve Norwegian into a world class cruise company.

Please enjoy the pictures that accompany this review at the links provided (top of page), and any questions are welcomed.

Ernie
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