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Getaway Photo Review - Food Focus - Specialty Dining - Chef's Table - Viva Vino

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Late January is my usual time to escape the seasonal gloominess that often descends as yuletide festivities subside. The bleak Scottish winter is by then far-from-over, so the prospect of a sunny getaway is all the more appealing; and the bliss of a Caribbean cruise provides exactly the wintertime antidote I crave... The vast array of cruise ships sailing to the Caribbean means competition is fierce and good value for money can easily be found. However with both jetlag and the high cost of long-haul flights to contend with, it was hardly worthwhile travelling so far, and at such expense, for a short breakaway.

 

So my 7-night Getaway cruise was to be followed by an 11-night sailing on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Quantum of the Seas; so two exciting new-builds to experience. With two days in New York in between, this was going to be quite an adventure. Being away from home-and-work for three weeks afforded an opportunity to totally unwind and to savour-for-real every moment that I had already imagined in my daydreams a hundred times over since booking so many months ago.

 

Most of the major cruise lines deliver a good quality experience and I have always enjoyed comparing what each has to offer. Experiencing the differences makes me appreciate those lines that are upping-their-game or innovating, and whether such changes improve the customer experience. Inevitably one tends to prefer how one line does particular things compared to another; and for me, my perfect cruise would be a composite of all the component parts that each does best.

 

In my reviews I try to be unbiased and give my honest opinion. I do not have an agenda to favour one cruise company over another. I try to highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of each as I see them and I do not highlight any negatives merely for the sake of finding fault. My hope is that constructive criticism leads to improvements. I am sure that cruise lines have over-the-years gleaned areas of consensus from feedback on these boards that has led to changes for the better. Having said all that, I accept that my observations are skewed by the things that matter most to me and they will differ from what is important to other people. Things like the quality of food and dining options; the standard and variety of entertainment; whether I can find a quiet shaded spot on deck; the general sense of crowding; staff attitude and quality of service. Finally when I am on a cruise I like the surroundings to feel special; a bit glamorous and stimulating to the senses, so ship design and decor are important too.

 

Once again for this trip I would be travelling solo and, in the past, that had often involved having to pay double fare for single occupancy. Norwegian’s introduction of studio cabins on the Epic had brilliantly addressed that issue and had tempted me back to NCL after a gap of almost a decade. I had sailed with NCL quite often from the late nineties until the mid noughties, and have just become Platinum in Latitudes. Food has always been a big factor for me and perhaps this was the area that had been letting NCL down and the main reason I had drifted away more towards Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess and others; and, to be frank, a slight blandness in some of NCL’s ship design and decor. Whilst Epic’s design disappointed in certain areas, it certainly can’t be regarded as bland and with many innovations it was clear that NCL had reinvented itself. The entertainment was the best I have ever experienced and, with a wide choice of specialty-restaurant dining, eating-well can now genuinely be part of the attraction. With their new Breakaway Class of ships, NCL has purportedly learned from Epic’s shortcomings and incorporated all the best parts into these new vessels. I was eager to see how well it had all worked out...

 

I flew to Orlando via JFK, picked up my one-way rental car and stayed overnight at the Florida Hotel, which is connected to the Florida Mall. It’s an older hotel but has been upgraded since my last stay and, at the price paid of around $100 it was good value for money. As always, I wakened early next morning due to the time zone change; five hours behind the UK. I grabbed a coffee and hit the Florida Turnpike just after 5am. Breakfast was taken in Port St Lucie where Perkins has its southernmost restaurant in Florida. It’s a chain not unlike Denny’s that I always use for breakfast whenever I can, and their buttermilk pancakes and omelettes are really delicious...

 

I then called in at Total Wine in Fort Lauderdale simply because I knew of it from last year and that it stocked the diet tonic water that I needed for my G&Ts on the cruise. They also have a great selection of wine at good prices but I only needed one bottle for that evening, as I would be buying the Viva Vino wine package on board. Next port of call was Sawgrass Mills outlet village in search of bargains.

 

The original plan was to then drop off my luggage at my hotel before returning the rental car to the airport. As things transpired, time ran away from me and to make the 6pm return time, I had to go straight there, luggage and all. The Car Rental Centre seemed to be located in the back of beyond, no highways or main roads – thank goodness for GPS. Traffic was slow-moving and it took me to within 20 minutes of the deadline to get there.

 

It is many years since I last transited Miami airport and the Car Rental Centre is new to me. All the different rental companies use this one location. It is connected to the airport by the MIA Mover free shuttle. Also located at the Car Rental Centre is Central Station from where you can take the new Metrorail link on the Orange Line to various stops in the downtown area; worth considering if your hotel is near to one of its stations. This was part of my decision-making process in booking the new Hampton Inn located beside Brickell station.

 

 

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Before buying a ticket I had to check first that I would not have to carry my luggage down stairs when I got there; but was assured by the helpful and very-visible staff that all stations had elevator access.

 

The cost of the Metrorail train is $2.25. It felt very safe and was fairly busy but not crowded.

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Brickell is seven stops and just over 15 minutes away from the airport.

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There was nothing much to see en route as it was after 6pm and dark. As I alighted from the rearmost carriage, the elevator was right there and takes you down to street level. I couldn’t find my bearings at first so asked for directions. Basically as you exit the elevator you need to turn back on yourself and walk about a hundred yards along the well-lit busy road and the hotel is directly across the street.

 

 

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This is going to be a great review can't wait to hear it all and see it with the photos! Thank you for taking the time and looking forward to hearing about your wonderful trip....RC and NCL I want to hear your comparisons also about everything especially about the food, I can't wait and thank you.

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This Hampton Inn is very new and is currently rated number one in Miami on Tripadvisor, Cruise Critic’s parent company (hence I assume I am permitted to mention it). When I booked it about nine months ago I got a good rate for a Friday night which was about $200.

 

 

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Nice spacious bathroom but no bath, a large walk-in shower only...

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I felt it was very good value for this location, from where you can use the free Metromover to venture out and explore the downtown area, including Bayfront. As it transpired, my early rise and lack of sleep was catching me up. All I needed was food, wine and an early night...

 

However I must warn anyone who stays here to avoid at all costs the 3 Chefs Chinese Restaurant located within the hotel. I ordered a takeaway of Spring Rolls, Hot and Sour Soup, Kung Po Shrimp and Egg Fried Rice. I had read very mixed reviews but settled for the convenience, knowing I was not looking for top cooking; just an average meal of a standard that you could find at a mall food-court would have sufficed. This was so bad that I took only one bite of the rolls, one sip of the soup, one shrimp from the Kung Po which like the soup was hidden beneath a vile oil-slick and even the fried rice was appalling. I love food and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast but I couldn’t choke-down this diabolical garbage. Almost the entire meal went straight into the bin. Restaurateurs who serve such awful food that I know they themselves would not even contemplate consuming, are treating their customers with utter contempt and do not deserve to stay in business. Normally I confront restaurants over such bad food but I was so tired I couldn’t face putting my shoes back on to go down to the lobby. Oh boy, with an empty stomach, did that bottle of wine go straight to my head; so much so, I almost contemplated leaving a thimbleful...

 

Next Day 1...

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Looking forward to the rest, was on the same sailing as you on Epic last June, trying the Getaway in September and your review of the Epic was so good no doubt this will be as good.

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I wanted to check-in early to avail myself of one of the Vibe Beach Club passes that are limited in numbers and sold on a first-come first-served basis. My plan was to be at the pier for 9.30am but there was a delay waiting for a taxi, so it was just before 10am. The taxi showed $14 on the meter and took 10-15 minutes. Getaway uses two terminals so be aware you need to go to the correct one. Mine was Terminal C, presumably because my cabin was in the forward part of the ship. There were already 30 or 40 passengers waiting for security to open prior to checking in.

 

 

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My Boarding Group was number 5 but I think the groups are quite small, so I was aboard very shortly after the boarding process started. First stop was reception for the Vibe Beach Club pass. It costs $79 per person or $299 for a large private cabana for two, of which there are only five and that price includes $100 in onboard credit; so in effect only $20 per person more. They are an absolute bargain and I recommend couples snap one up if they get to reception quickly enough.

 

Next on the list was a visit to Le Bistro where I was able to book the Chef’s Table. It only takes place once and is normally limited to the first 12 passengers and usually sells out on the first day. It is $99 and, as it transpired, probably the biggest bargain I have ever had on a cruise.

 

Then a visit to the Booking Office to check availability for the Illusionarium for the first night, second show, which was showing as full before I came away. They were able to book me in and there is a 20% discount on the first night only. For those who take the Ultimate Dining Package, the Illusionarium is free on the first night. I decided against the UDP on this trip for two main reasons. I planned to dine at Ocean Blue once or twice and it is not included and similarly the Chef’s Table. So it would be less expensive for me to just pay as I went along.

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With the urgent matters attended to and as cabins would not yet be ready I headed up to get the lie of the land in the Vibe Beach Club.

 

 

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If I had intended to be up there most of the day I may well have splurged on one for myself. Be aware the most peaceful location is furthest away from the two hot tubs, so number 4 or 5. Behind those two cabanas, at the far end bordering the Haven, are two smaller cabanas that are not reserved and I was fortunate enough to experience one of those on a few occasions.

 

 

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It is idyllic looking straight out to sea without a living soul within your line of vision...

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For me, Getaway’s Vibe is much more usable than Posh on Epic, because it is more peaceful, being further away from the main pool deck where a live band often plays. There is also more shade available.

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Time for lunch and it is always best to avoid the buffet on embarkation day. However a big bonus is that NCL, unlike Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, do open one of the main dining rooms.

 

 

Lunch Menu 1

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Pho Soup – pretty tasteless...

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Crab Salad with Beets – delicious...

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Salmon Burger – not bad and probably the best of a limited choice of mains...

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Key Lime Parfait – pretty much ok without being exciting...

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Observant readers of my Epic review will notice that what I ate is a repeat of what I had before. Same items, different photos. The menu really is pretty limited and is repeated too often.

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Time to have a look at my Studio, something I totally loved on the Epic.

 

Entrance by key card off main corridor...

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Nice mood lighting in corridors, more blue compared to red on Epic, but I like it just as much...

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Everything looks much as Epic did... but it’s very white...

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Nice, but where is the switch that adjusts the coloured mood lighting?

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Still can’t find it and it seems very bright...

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Oh dear, they have removed the best feature of Epic’s studios, the dimmable coloured mood lighting...

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StudioLounge1--Copy_zps9ae0f2f2.jpg

 

Excellent Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine (free)...

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Handy wine dispenser that keeps wine fresh (chargeable)...

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Bar open for purchases from 5pm...

StudioLounge4--Copy_zps111dc7cc.jpg

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This is going to be a great review can't wait to hear it all and see it with the photos! Thank you for taking the time and looking forward to hearing about your wonderful trip....RC and NCL I want to hear your comparisons also about everything especially about the food, I can't wait and thank you.

 

Hello again,

 

Thanks so much for commenting. I hope my review proves to be useful.

 

Kind regards

megacruiser

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I am loving what I have read so far! Cannot wait for more!! :) Your pictures are great!

 

Hello MandyMommyof2,

 

Many thanks for commenting. I am delighted you are going to be following my review and really appreciate hearing from those who will be doing so. Let's me know the level of interest.

 

Kind regards

megacruiser

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Looking forward to the rest, was on the same sailing as you on Epic last June, trying the Getaway in September and your review of the Epic was so good no doubt this will be as good.

 

Hello Keith,

 

Thanks for the kind comment and I hope you will follow along as the review unfolds.

 

Kind regards

megacruiser

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Thank you for writing this review. I love the way you write, I feel like I'm reading a Fairy Tale. :D

Looking forward to more.

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That's all for now folks. I am writing this review as I go and in between work commitments. I appreciate your patience if there are occasional delays. Next time I will finish day one, including the sailaway from Miami and the Illusionarium dinner show.

 

If you decide to follow my review please take the time to type the word following, as this let's me gauge whether what I am posting is of interest. I will also try to answer any questions.

 

Many thanks

megacruiser

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Following

 

Enjoying this very much!

 

Can you tell me more about the Metromover? We are staying at the Intercontinental downtown so fairly close to it and Bayside. I just where else it may go to worth checking out since I have been to Bayside before.

 

Also, is the Chef's table adult only?

Edited by Mirrasi

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I'm following. Never been on Norwegian but looking at an itinerary on the Spirt. So I'm interesting to see food porn and your opinion.

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Before buying a ticket I had to check first that I would not have to carry my luggage down stairs when I got there; but was assured by the helpful and very-visible staff that all stations had elevator access.

 

The cost of the Metrorail train is $2.25. It felt very safe and was fairly busy but not crowded.

MiamiAirportMetrorail2-7021_zpscaebcfc0.jpg

 

 

Brickell is seven stops and just over 15 minutes away from the airport.

MiamiAirportMetrorail1-_zps5f033d3a.jpg

 

 

 

 

We are considering taking the Metrorail to Hampton from the airport. Is there an easy walking route from the main airport to the station or buses that run between the airport and train station? If not, I wonder if it would be possible to take a car rental shuttle?

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