For context: I traveled solo on the Getaway Dec 13-22, 2019. This was my second cruise - but first with Norwegian and first solo. I have previously sailed RCCL Allure of the Seas.
I sailed in a Studio room for most of the cruise (more on that later), and I had the drink package perk. OVERALL
This cruise had some highs and some lows, but it was generally good. I really enjoyed many of the ports, and the ship was immaculately clean. I'll do my best to be as objective as poswible, but I had a pretty big issue with my cabin, so forewarning, that may cloud my recap a bit. PRE-CRUISE
I arrived in NOLA the night before the cruise (as all risk-averse cruisers do!) and stayed in the Wyndham Garden Baronne Plaza Hotel. Overall, I'd give this a solid 3, but for the price ($80 a night), it's about what you can expect. I'd call it a bit dated, but it's clean. EMBARKATION DAY
I purchased the Priority Access but dur to some earlier reports of staff not knowing what to do with it, I wanted to make sure I arrived early so I could get an early boarding number. I was going for a VIBE pass.
I took an Uber to the port at approximately 9 a.m., and it was very quick and easy. They dropped me off on Julia Street right in front of where the porters were loading bags.
The porters were very fast and efficient. I hadn't attached my luggage tag to my bag yet, and they were able to make one quicker than I could pull it out of my bag. I also found these porters much less pushy than my previous cruise. I had previously sailed out of Miami, and the porters there were extremely aggressive demanding tips. At NOLA, they were much less aggressive, and of course I tipped.
I sat in the area before security for about 15 minutes before it opened. I was excited, but I saw many faces from the previous cruise sad that their vacations were over. I definitely know this is what I looked like when I disembarked.
I will say, the inside of the building is a bit hectic with people coming and going - the waiting area was right in the way of people exiting and boarding shuttles, so there was a little confusion.
Once they opened security, things went very smoothly at checkin. They gave us boarding group numbers before we checked in - while we were in line. As I mentioned before, I purchased Priority Access, so they directed me to a separate line to check in. Very fast and efficient.
Once checked in, everyone except for Haven guests all sit in the same very large waiting area. I'm sure this was frustrating for Platinum/Platinum+ guests. The previous cruise didn't have everyone debarked until about 11 (maybe later), so we were a bit later than expected boarding.
They never "called" Haven, but I know they boarded first, as members of the book of faces group reported being on board about 11:15 a.m. Then, they called handicapped groups. Then, the chaos started. They called Platinum/Platinum+, but they weren't actually really checking anyone's seapass card. So people were just rushing and walking past the employees. Someone else asked "Priority Access too?" and the security said yes, so that group and I also boarded at this time. I never heard them actually call Priority Access, but maybe they did after. Not sure.
I boarded the ship on Deck 7 and quickly made my way down to Guest Services to purchase the VIBE passes. I was #8 in line to purchase.
I made my way up to the buffet, and it was fairly quiet, which was nice. Very typical buffet food with typical buffet quality. I decoded to get a glass of wine with lunch, and their system was down. Turns out that meant I didn't get charged tax on that one (since that's required in port).
I made my way up to The VIBE to check it out. Didn't hop into the hot tubs on day 1 - ot was about 60 degrees and very foggy in NOLA. We would later find out that several people missed the cruise completely because the flights that NCL booked them on the day of were delayed due to the fog. This is why I fly in early.
I went to the Muster drill and then the first solo traveler meetup in Syd Norman's. There were about 20-25 people there - mostly 50+, but a few younger. Our solo host for this cruise was Junior. He seemed ok, but as I'll talk about later, I can't really judge. There were 7 of us that decided to go to dinner that night in Taste or Savor ( I don't remember which). There may have been other groups - I'm not too sure.
I went to bed early - mostly due to forgetting I can only drink so much - so I didn't really explore much beyond this. SOLO GROUP
I attended 2 solo group meetups the first two nights. The first, everyone introduced themselves. The second was much less organized. I ended up dining with the group both times, but the second time, I was stuck at a table with people who I didn't really click with, so it was a painful couple of hours. I didn't really do much with the solo group beyond the second night, as I had found another group of folks I got along with much better. DINING
I did a lot of research before the cruise, and one consistent complaing I saw was the poor quality of the food. I went into the cruise with the mindset that it couldn't really be that bad...but it was just ok. I have two areas I think the Getaway can improve: speed and temperature.
Speed: On the Allure, I was able to get in and out of seated dining in an hour or so. On the Getaway, no matter which seated venue, ot consistently took 2-2.5 hours. I really would have loved to spend my evenings doing other things than waiting. I was really surprised that they didn't want to turn tables quicker.
Temperature: in Taste amd Savor, I had consistent issues with the food being lukewarm/cold. This happened in multiple meals. I also experienced this in O'Sheehans amd the Noodle Bar. Tropicana room was better, though. So I'd definitely recommend eating there (even though the menus/kitchens are the same).
I did try 3 specialty dining venues: Moderno, Teppanyaki and Cagney's. I found their portions to be HUGE and honestly, almost a waste of food. But they were definitely generous. The food in these venues were pretty good. But I expected the MDR food to be this quality, and the specialty dining venues to be great since you pay extra.
One thing I really missed from my first cruise was having food venues where you could grab something quick like a salad or sandwich and go - Kinda like Park Cafe. There really isn't anything equivalent to that on this ship. PRIORITY ACCESS
Main promised benefits: early boarding, canapes on day 2, tender priority, free hot breakfast delivery, priority disembarkation.
I think they have this mostly figured out, as opposed to some earlier reports where staff had no idea what you were talking about. There's still a bit of work to go, but as long as you advocate for yourself, you'll get the promised benefits.
I talked about embarkation earlier. The canapes were so-so. Probably wouldn't purchase them on my own. Hot breakfast was decent - your only options are ham/cheese omelette, spinach/tomato omelette or french toast. That got a little old for 9 days. They never managed to get my breakfast order right, though. Always something extra or missing.
Would I buy it again? I think it depends on where I embark from. Miami? Sure - I really enjoyed the VIBE and boarding early would be worth it to get a pass. NOLA? probably not, as many staff said VIBE wasn't selling out there like it does in Miami. PORTS
We had 1 sea day, Costa Maya, Harvest Caye, Roatan, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios followed by 2 more sea days. We arrived on time or early in each port and usually left a few minutes to more than an hour late. Costa Maya: I pre-booked a stay at Maya Chan here, and they warned us about aggressive people in port. They were right. It is quite confusing to get out. At the meeting point, they said they had a storm the night before, which brought in massive amounts of seaweed. They showed us a photo and gave us the choice of going or a refund. I chose to still go.
The van ride took about 20 minutes. And when they say the road is bumpy, they mean it! The driver did a good job of navigating it, though.
We arrived, staff gave us a tour of the place and showed me to my area. Since I was solo, I had a beach chair and an umbrella, which was perfect. The guacamole they provide is delicious.
The seaweed was definitely abundant, but they had people clearing it from the moment we arrived until the moment I left, and they still didn't get it all. But that didn't stop the kids in other groups from getting in the ocean. I passed, however.
We arrived in port rather late, so they didn't end up serving lunch until about 2 or so, but it was as good as everyone says. Tacos - and the best part was that all ingredients were separate and you created your own plate, so you could avoid any foods you didn't like. They had an amazing hot sauce that I wish I had a bottle of for home.
One thing you hear about Maya Chan ia the amazing service. I'm not sure on this yet. I don't know if it was because I was by myself or what, but the servers would all go around to different groups to refill drinks, and just about every time they skipped me, so I had to walk up to the bar to get a drink. First world problems, I know.
The highlight of my time there, though, was the massage. They offered a 1-hour massage for $45. Worth. Every. Penny. A very petite woman (which I am also such) gave me the best massage I think I ever had.
They asked us when we wanted to leave, took us back to port, and on to the ship we went! They called three people multiple times. I'm not sure if they ever made it back to the ship.
One thing I thought was strange was that they had us turn our clocks forward one hour before Costa Maya and then back that night. Harvest Caye: This was another beach day for me. I got up, ate some breakfast and exited the ship at about 9:30 am. We were promptly greeted by a downpour, so I was thankful for the covered dock to wait out the storm. At about 10, the rain stopped and I headed to the beach. I found a chair under an umbrella and a tree, so I had plenty of shade all day. Others who arrived about an hour or two later were hunting for shade for sure. But, there were plenty of chairs.
I spent the whole day on the beach, and it was really nice. My one complaint is the sand there. It is really sharp on bare feet! Very large sant particles, and not fun to walk on. I had plans to go back on the ship for lunch, but I didn't want to lose my prime spot, so I ordered lunch from one of the servers walking around. Not cheap, but it did the trick! Roatan: I was most looking forward to this port because I'm a sucker for cute animals and wanted to go to the sloths! I booked an independent excursion directly through Daniel Johnson's. Best excursion of the whole trip. More on that in a second.
I really liked how close the port was to the dock - basically as soon as you get off, you're right there. But there is a lot of construction, so even though it's small, it's a bit hard to navigate. I found my way out of the port, but had to go through a tunnel of very aggressive tour people. By far the most aggressive of the trip. Found the Daniel Johnson's people and waited for transportation.
They called me, and it ended up being me and 1 other guy being driven around by essentially a private driver! She took us to the sloth and monkey sanctuary, which is a little bit of a drive. I got to cuddle a sloth, which was fantastic, and then went into a group of monkeys in their enclosure. They tell you to take everything out of your pockets before entering because the monkeys have sticky fingers, and they weren't lying! The other guy forgot his glasses and money in his front pocket and as quickly as we entered, a monkey named Mike picked his pocket, grabbed his glasses and went straight up the enclosure!
Once we were done with the animals, they led us to the second part of our trip, which was snorkleing. I expected another group to join us, but again it was just us two - and a snorkel guide. The best part was Daniel Johnson himself was our boat captain! He gave us the option of going to a calmer, more protected area or out to where the reef drops off. We chose the dropoff.
Once we got to it, the guide led us through a private snorkel tour for about 45 minutes. It was fantastic! The reef there is so alive and lush, and he did a great job. This was probably one of the best parts of my trip!
Once we were back, our same driver dropped us back off right at the port. Grand Cayman: we were scheduled to arrive at 11, but we ended up getting there around 9:45 or so. There were 5 other ships in port and it was BUSY!
With Priority Access, they gave us a location to meet for the priority tender. I went there and waited for a bit. Nothing was really happening, and we saw a bunch of people boarding the tenders. So someone finally asked and they told us we could go. We were on the tender with some of the entertainers, so it was still an early one. They used the lifeboats to take us to shore - I assume because other ships had the tenders booked. I was on shore by about 10:15.
I booked a NCL snorkleing excursion here, but it didn't start until 2. I explored the shopping area and learned I'm not a cruise shopper 🙂 no real deals to be had. I also wish there were more fast service restaurants to grab some food. Many, many sit-down places.
I went to the meeting point for the excursion, and it didn't end up leaving until about 30 minutes late. It poured right as we were walking to the boat, and we had to walk through it. Not great. There were about 50 people on this excursion. No guides - everyone was kinda on their own.
We boarded the boat and weren't given any instructions. People just started getting their fins and masks. We got to the first location, which was a shipwreck that was not far from shore. It was ok - not very many fish and you can only look at rotten wood for so long.
We went to the second location, a reef, which was literally between the ship and shore. The tour company threw some bread in the water, so there were more fish (someone said they were trout), and the reef. But the reef was pretty brown and looked dead.
I think had I not had an amazing snorkeling excursion the day before, I would've been happier with this one.
The tender back was an open-air tender, which was much more comfortable. Many NCL shore excursions were late, so we left port about an hour late waiting for everyone to get back. Ocho Rios: one word for this port: organized chaos. People with NCL excursions went through a building and on their way. I had a private excursion with a few other people booked through Know Jamaica tours. They told us to wait in this area, which was nicely shaded. Then they called my tour group, and put us in the dorect sun for the better part of an hour. It didn't seem like anyone knew what they were doing, but I think we all eventually found our way.
Our tour first went to Dunn's River Falls. It was really fun! We were one of the first groups up the falls that day, so we weren't dealing with huge crowds yet. I think I would have enjoyed it less had I been stuck in the crowds. I also think making everyone hold hands makes balancing harder. But rules are rules.
Once we finished that, we went tubing down the White River. It was a nice little area, really nice tubes, but boy was that water cold!! I do wish the tubing lasted longer.
A few people in our group wanted to buy some coffee at a grocery store or non-touristy place. Our driver took us to a "local market" instead, where he definitely got a payoff for bringing us.
One thing I didn't enjoy about Jamaica was how aggressive the vendors were about tips and if they felt you didn't tip enough.
Also, traffic there in the afternoon is no joke, so make sure you leave a ton of extra time to get back to port! What took us about 10 minutes to go one way, took 45 minutes to go back. ENTERTAINMENT
I saw 2 shows and participated in a few of the activities.
Burn the Floor: as others say, this is very impressive! The dancers are dancing for an hour straight with no breaks. The storyline was a bit hard to follow, but they were very talented.
Magician: the magician on board was Matthew Johnsom of Britain's Got Talent fame. He's known for death-defying stunts, but he performed a bit of lower-key basic magic for the show. It was very kid-friendly. Overall a decent show.
Escape the Big Top: this is an escape room type game and if you want to participate, book early on the first daym I was really really excited for this. However, the logistics couldbe improved. The puzzles were on tables, and there were about 75 people in the room broken into teams of 10. It felt like too many people at once. It would have been more enjoyable had there been less people and more sessions. STATEROOM (and GUEST SERVICES)
Here is where I had my issues, but I will start with the good.
I was in a Studio (10523) and I felt like it was plenty of space! It had great storage, lots of outlets and was more than enough for just me. I also really liked the Studio lounge - it was a great place to grab a snack, a coffee and fill up my water bottle for the day. Definitely a nice perk.
But, if you are a light sleeper, DO NOT book this room. Room 10523 is apparently on top of and attached to a main plumbing juncture on the ship. So every 2-3 minutes, 24 hours a day, I heard a water whooshing sound. Sort of like a washing machine or a pool splashing (not the toilets flushing)...but very very loud and echo-y. I was trying really hard not to be the person who complained about everything, so I was trying to deal with it.
But, it was waking me up 2 and 3 times a night, amd I didn't come on vacation not to sleep well. So on Day 3, I went to guest services because I wasn't sure at that point what the noise was. At first, they argued with me that I was only attached to other rooms, but looking at the deck plans, that is untrue. He finally pulled up another guest report of the same issue on a previous cruise. They said they would check on it and get back to me, but it would take at least 24 hours.
I never heard back, so I went back down 2 days later - this time with a recording of it. They FINALLY took me seriously. "Oh, that is loud!" He said. He went back to talk to his supervisor, and said there was nothing they could do but maybe some poeple would be disembarking the next day and they could move me and that they would correct the situation for the first few days.
At 9:30 pm on day 7, I receive a message in my room that they can move me. I ended up getting moved about 11:30 at night. They did provide a cart to help me transport my things. The new room, an inside room, was great and no more sound issues. They called right after I got in to check whether everything was OK and I asked about rectifying the situation that I wasn't able to sleep for an entire week before. The person on the phone said I would have to talk to the original person about that.
I went down at 1230 and they said that guy was working at 1. I waited, he didn't show up. They said no, he worked at 4. I came back at 4, he didn't show up. In fact, I never saw him at guest services again. So I spoke with another rep, who said "We are still waiting to hear about a resolution"
So I went back the next day - I was adament that I waited to get it resolved before I disembarked. This time, I spoke to a 3rd person. I spent an hour and a half going back and forth. She first said they don't do anything to compensate guests for things like this, went back to her supervisor and offered a free meal as a gesture. I declined and she said she could offer me $50 in OBC in lieu of the meal. I declined. Then said Imthey have no latitude to do anything more than that on board and I'd have to call customer service. She wouldn't give me any documentation, though, only a case number. So I told her I'd like for her to call them for me because I wanted to get it resolved before I left the ship. She didn't like that, so she went back to her supervisor again.
This time, she said they could refund my gratuities (I prepaid them). I wouldn't accept that because housekeeping and wait staff shouldn't be penalized for something that wasn't their fault. She didn't understand. Went back to her supervisor again, and finally the supervisor came out.
We finally agreed on refunding the gratuities, and guest services paying those gratuities out of their house account, plus the free meal (I was already going to eat with a group the next night so it was of value to me).
The entire process was quite exhausting, to be honest, and I am flabbergasted that they supposedly are so limited to compensate guests on board. I really wanted $200 OBC and would've been happy with that to make up for a week of lost sleep. CONCLUSION
Sorry that sounded like a lot of complaining - other than the room, it was generally a good cruise! I really enjoyed myself, the people I met and that 9 nights is enough time to really unwind!