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Super Mega Awesome Getaway Cruise and Haven Review

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January 27, 2019 Western Caribbean on NCL Getaway out of Miami.

 

Let me tell you about our super mega awesome family vacation.

 

Day minus One  

 

We awoke north of Barrie, Ontario to six inches of fresh snow and minus 26’C.  We are a family of four with kids aged 10 and 12.  After some coffee and loading the truck we were off to Pearson.  Our 12:15pm direct flight to Miami was with Air Canada. We were about 40 minutes late for some reason or other. We has the second last row seats on this Air Bus 320, right by the rear rest room.  Less than ideal but we got them only the week before on points so I should not complain (but I just did...lol).  We arrived in Miami and took a minivan taxi to the YVE hotel in downtown across from the Bayside Market.  It said on the stand that it was a flat rate but it did not work out that way... with tax and tip it was somewhere about $50.  The Miami marathon was on the next day so much of downtown was blocked off including the streets to our hotel. We walked the last two blocks. Fortunately the rain held.  

 

This was my first time in Miami but Niki had been here in May for a conference.  Very pleasant, but I think we are spoiled in Toronto when it comes to hotels in the $250 - $300 range.  Really spoiled.  Oh well, again I should not complain as it was free due to points redeemed. The only upside to the majority of the monthly expenditures going on the Aeroplan Card for the points.

 

We wanted to stay at the Holiday Inn just up the street or the Intercontinental, but they were both full up the week before.  Checking in was quick but the elevators (only two) were SLOW and much in demand. It was a gong show.  We took the stairs to our third floor room from then on.  We had a view of Bayside and could see some of the Carnival and RCCL smoke stacks from our window seat. The room was clean but super super small.  Makes a Paris or Amsterdam hotel look down right spacious.  The bathroom was tiny.  Ice machine on the 4th.  There is a CVS pharmacy next door (north) and a 7/11 a block south.   We got two free drink coupons at check in but never used them. We walked over to the Bayside Market and did some shopping. We went to the food court for a quick and easy dinner.  The kids and DW liked their fried seafood and grilled fish but my donair and fries was sad.  At least the beers were cold. I would skip the food court.  They give you free samples as you walk around. Too much bad grease smell for me. 

 

There is a Marshall’s three or four blocks south.  I went down for and hour and found a few bargains before a few beers a movie on tv and bed.  

 

Day 1

 

We awoke early at 530am to see 25,000 race participants marshalling outside our room window.  It was rainy and windy and warm.  I got breakfast to go from a Starbucks a few blocks away.  We checked out at 930am and walked a few blocks north to catch a Lyft to the port it took about 30 - 40 min for the Lyft to arrive due to all the road closures. 10-15 min later we were pulling up to terminal C.  NCL has a new terminal under construction. It will be ready at the end of 2019 I read somewhere.  We dropped our bags off with our tags and we walked to the priority check in for the Haven and were walked to a small check in room with cookies.  Were were there maybe five minutes and were then walked upstairs to a large roped off Haven waiting area. There were snacks and beverages and large leather loungers. By about 11:15 we were walked onto the ship and up to the Haven. There was a wonderfully (very) brief intro talk from the concierge.  He told us we could eat at Margaritaville free of charge that first day for lunch.  We dropped our bags in our room and headed down.

 

While our room had been made up it had not been fully cleaned as the tables and surfaces had not yet been cleaned yet.  We initially thought they had forgotten but there was no time or need to say anything as our cabin steward arrived to say he was about to finish cleaning and that by the time we were back from lunch it would be ready; and it was.  

 

More to come about Our first food experience...(I am at the Miami airport writing this in stages)....

 

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Lunch at Margaritaville 

 

We did a seven night Cruise out of NYC in March of 2017.  That was the NCL Breakaway and we had an Aft Haven Suite on that cruise.   On that cruise when we arrived in the Haven they spread us out and served us sliders and fries.  I had read before we arrived on the Getaway that a free meal at Margaritaville was likely on offer for that first lunch and it was really really good.  

 

By 1130am it had gone from cloudy and windy to sunny and getting hot.  We were among the first to arrive at MV.  The first drink was called a 5 O’Clock Somewhere.  Really good as we munched on some apps of Conch Fritters, Pretzel bread and the famous volcano nachos.  All very good and very chill with out starboard view of the pier.  We had fish n chips and fish tacos. Awesome (the oil was fresh, unlike the previous night’s slop). Very tasty.  No room for desert but that was due to the second cocktail called Non-Stop Carnival. Wife and daughter went back the last Sea day for lunch as they liked it so much. I think it was $15 each.  We finished off and with a Red Stripe (traveler) in hand we were off to explore.  I ran into a guy in a Captain’s hat with a beer in hand and asked if he ought not to be up in the bridge preparing to head out.  Turned our his name was Randy from an hour north of me in Muskoka, and I was not the first to make the joke.  Alex and Anea from Vancouver beside Randy had a good laugh.  A pic with captain Randy and were off the kid’s arcade to check it out as we were considering the Ultimate Arcade package.  It was $161 before hand and $175 on board. We got it and it was a big hit.  We used it as a family daily.  After getting that signed up with the concierge we went and played some games for a half hour before heading back to unpack after grabbing a few Bombay Tom Collins at the Haven Bar.  

 

Gotta board the plane. More tomorrow on the train into the office.  Cheers.

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Looking forward to reading more about your cruise!

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About the Arcade package.... it was not cheap but we really enjoyed it and we certainly got our money’s worth.  We used it several times a day in both the arcade on 16 Aft and in the pub on 7 mid ship.  The games covered are all the green swipes.  These are not ticket/prize games.  In the pub we played sonic basketball challenge, a dual race car game, pool, darts and the buck hunter and air hockey. There are a dozen or more in the arcade including this ride simulator which has two seats that move, vibrate and shimmy along with surround sound and fans that blow to simulate movement and storms.  It is called Typhoon.There are about 15 different 2-3 min. Selections.  We did them all at least 2-3 times and at $5.50 per ride we got good value.  Anyway.... we felt it was like an excursion expense and we got similar time out of it.   However when we checked the bill on the last day we saw many many charges on the bill.  It was in error and the concierges corrected it.  The package went on my daughter’s SnS card and we had it disabled by the concierge so that it would not work for any of the other not included games.  It was worth it in our opinion. 

 

After unpacking it was almost time for the life boat drill.  This took place in the theatre, forward on 7.  The bars closed and you need to leave your drinks at the back during the mercifully short 10 -15 min drill.

 

We grabbed some drinks from the Haven bar and watched the sail away from our port balcony cabin on deck 16.  Nice view of South beach. 

 

We then hit the pools and explored some more. I met some nice folks in the H2O hot tub Aft, before it was time to get ready for dinner at Cagney’s.   

 

Niki and I had the free UDP so ours was included.  Our kids love steak so there would be no kids menus for them. It would be their only specialty restaurant so we just paid a la cartel for them.  I think it was $62 ish.  Niki has a fillet and we three had porterhouses.   It was a good meal but I would stick to the fillet.  Every bone in steak I have had there had too many lines of tough sinew in each cut.  But give. The size of the cuts there was no shortage of well cooked medium rare meat to fill u up.  The sides were all good and the seven layer cake was also good with ice cream. The signature cocktail there was a sidecar.  It was a sour cocktail.  Not sure what was in it. Was good.  They only sugar coat a third of the glass rim so I assume that goes with the name.

 

After dinner we were pretty much done for the day. We had another cocktail or two and called it a night.  Interesting and nice to note that they never charged us for any of the drinks our kids had at dinner or the Haven bar.  They had no beverage plan.  The bar tenders also gave us any beer we wanted unopened for our fridge.  No issue. It was the same when we were on the Breakaway in 2017.  We got the butler to empty the fridge. 

 

More about the room and our first sea day tomorrow.  

 

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The 2 Bedroom Haven Suite

 

We had originally booked a Mini Suite and submitted a minimum bid on one of the three remaining Aft Suites and on the 16 remaining two bedrooms.  We found out we had won the bid 9 days prior to departure.

 

While I preferred the size and layout of the Aft Suites (huge balconies, larger master bedroom, etc), our suite, 16122 was directly level with the Haven bar and that proximity was certainly preferable.  The kids bedroom had a sofa that converted and a pullman that came down from the roof.  They had their own bathroom and a 32 inch flat screen.  It worked really well for them.

 

The master bedroom we had was certainly smaller than the aft suites but it still had a king bed and was very comfortable.  It had a pocket door to the living room but there was only a curtain between the bedroom and the bath.  There is a floor to ceiling window out to the ocean in the two person multi head shower and a big picture window over the tub.  There are two sinks and tons to shelving, drawers and storage.  I really did not like the curtain vs. the door we had on the Aft Suite.  Our balcony was obviously small given the placement of and size of the master bath, but it was fine.  

 

There is a sofa, a couple of stools and a coffee table/padded seat.  There is a chair and a small diner with four chairs.  There was no LAVAZA drink machine like last time but there was a functional Nespresso machine.  There are hooks behind the door and a little shelf to put dirty dishes, keys and such by the door.  they printed up a special card for us that was left in the electricity slot 24/7.  

 

Every day they would bring some treats like cookies, choc Strawberries, chocolates, cheese board, canapés, etc.  We hardly ever saw our butler.  We ordered room service a few times and we got our cabin steward to fill a cooler I brought with ice a few times.  The cabin was very nice.  Aside from the items mentioned above, it really was a great cabin and an ideal location.

 

They never unplugged any of our chargers while we were out and I brought some heavy magnet hooks that I used on the balcony to run a small clothes line at night to dry suits.  The staff never took that down even though I believe it is not technically permitted.  By the way... those magnets are the bomb for running a clothes line when there is nothing to tie a line to.  There were however retractible clothes lines in both showers.

 

They also brought us a really fancy flour arrangement, fruit basket and bottle of Cava bubbly.

 

DAY 2

 

The first night was a little rocky but I find that rather soothing.  Great beds. Great bedding.  Great Sleep.

 

I was up really early on the firs morning.  I grabbed a self serve coffee in O'Sheehan's around 6am as I did not want to wake everyone with the loud pump on the Nespresso. I played a few games in the pub and by the time I was back, my daughter wanted to go to the buffet.  She is ten and cannot understand why anyone in their right mind would turn down a buffet option to WAIT for your food to be brought to you.  Anyway, my son does not have such misgivings and so after the buffet, we sat down window side for stead and eggs in the Haven.  He is an egg snob and simply adored the fact that the Haven staff would get his eggs just right now matter how he ordered them, sunny side up, poached or over easy.  It is a bit of a wait but the fillets and small sirloins they serve there are cooked just right (med rare in our case).  The haven menus do not change.  I went to Savour one morning to check it out.  The menu is pretty much the same, only most of the the cold items one can order at Savour on Sea days are simply set out in a mini cold bar buffet in the Haven.  There are a few items that I saw on the Haven menu for breakfast that I did not see on the Savour B Menu.

 

Service was slow that first morning.  I had to go to the bar to get my own bloody caesar (it was waiting there for me but it had been 20 min.).  While the service was slow it was very tasty.

 

We spent the sea day at the pool and the ropes course and the arcade.  We played superhero trivia in the Atrium in the afternoon.  We only knew 2 of the 20 heroes and villains.  One guy got 19!!! (He was wearing a superman T-shirt though!).

 

Lunch was in the Haven again.  We had the seafood Bisque, Prosciutto and cheese salad and seared sea scollops.

 

The Spider Webb and trampoline opened around 5pm and the kids were first in line.  That was kind of fun.  Kids have to be a certain height and below a certain weight.  I think it was 42 inches and less than 120 lbs.  

 

Dinner was in the Haven again.  Bouillabaisse and prime rib and Merlot.  Very nice.  We were so stuffed we had to turn down desert.

 

Some of the other drinks we tried that day included Miami Vice, Long Island Ice Tea, Strawberry Mojito, Whisky Sour, and Rebellious Fish.  

 

I went to a Comedy show that night and but left before the end to take in the Newlywed, or not so Newlywed game (don't miss that).  The comedy was only OK.... As a Haven guest you simply fill out a form and tick off all the boxes of shows you want to book for the week and they take care of it.  All reserved seats a released at about 10 min before  the shows.  Headliners always had a long line of people there for standby.

 

My pedometer said a walked about 8km that day on the ship which was the most of any day. We ended the night by watching a movie in the room.  The pay for view fees are waived in the Haven.  They had a good list of movies to choose form.  Then it was bedtime as the next day we were off on our first port visit to Hug a Sloth!

 

 

 

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Following and love it so far. We are concerning NCL vs Carnival for our next family cruise this time next year with our 10 year old daughter and 19 year old son. thanks for taking the time to review. 

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Sorry for the delay... take a week away from your business and it takes some catching up.  I am going to try and finish this now.  

Becca.... I enjoyed Carnival as much as I did NCL.  Carnival was truly a fun ship.  I think Carnival had better and more varied food during the day, which NCL's dining room food was a bit better.  The day time and and evening entertainment on Carnival kicked butt but NCL did do some pretty elaborate and professional full blown shows.  You will have fun on either.

 

If this was not our best family vacation ever... it was second and the day in Roatan was part of the reason.

 

DAY 3

 

We started the Day in the Haven Restaurant for Breakfast.  The staff were so good with kids.  The mostly Philippines and Malaysian staff just love kids.  My ten year old had her forth steak of the cruise... she is very particular about it being the rare side of medium rare and they did not disappoint.  Jack had the steak and eggs again and Niki had the Guacamole toast.  I had the waffles and fruit (and two caesars LOL) and it was all delightful.  They will also bring a little bailey's for your coffee if you like.

 

Then it was back to the room to get ready for the day and watch us pull into the pier in Roatan.  We had a port room so we had a great view.  There were two other ships already in port (Carnival and RCCL) a few KM further down.  There was also an Oceana ship tendering people in.  You may or may not have seen the Youtube video of the MSC Armonia's crash into the pier at Roatan last year.  I cannot be certain but from our state room you could see sunken pier pilings and a platform below our room as we cam in and left.  We ran into the ship in Costa Maya and we tried to see where it was dinged up and patched but they did a great job of fixing and painting it.

 

I had a room attendant fill up a soft sided cooler of mine with ice and bottled beer and water from the fridge to have later on.

When you want to leave, you just meet in the Haven lounge and a butler will take you into a crew area and down a crew forward elevator and to the head of the line out to the pier.  We were among the first off the ship.  In Roatan they have built a little outdoor mall with shops, bars and restaurants and there is also some activities on and above the water including a zip line.  Heavy equipment was at work on what I assume will be a beach, which will be nice.

 

I parked my but on a bench across from two very old gentlemen playing a home made xylophone while the kids and mom did some souvenir shopping.  We had booked a non ship based excursion with Daniel Johnson's Sloth Hangout.  They said they would pick us up outside the port gates an hour ofter we docked.  Sure enough there was someone with a sign there when we got out.  They walked us about 100 meters down the road to a parking lot and we hopped in an immaculately clean small Kia SUV and a twenty something "Mark" drove us to the other end of the island to the hang out, giving us a guided tour along the way.  At the hang out we paid the $210 cash to Daniel's wife at the front and waited maybe  5 minutes before going as a group back to see the animals where we waited our turn to hug the sloths and go into the cages with the monkeys and parrots.  Great great great experience.  Lots of pics.  When are you ever going to hug a sloth again?  Seriously.  They were quite busy and i commented that I bet they were looking for a bigger property and they admitted that they were.  Lots of guests.  It was really fun.  The washrooms were clean and there was a small refreshment bar and souveniers on offer.  After that we were let to a very nice and new Boston Whaler boat to go out with Daniel to go snorkelling for 45 minutes just off the property.  Very fun.  The real is skeleton to it's former self but was still fun.  I had a few beers on the boat from the cooler and chatted with Daniel.  Then Mark took us to a private beach club half way back to the port called Las Palmas beach where we hung out had had some drinks and chicken wings.  The beach was well maintained as were the washrooms.  It was inexpensive and good.  There was a big US made Offset BBQ smoker with lots of pork on it that smelled great.  They also had palapas with small tables around the trunk actually in the water at waist height which is something I never saw before.  We ate our snack actually 20 meters from shore which was fun.  Then it was time to pack up and head back to the ship but Mark would have stayed there and waited for us as long as we wanted.  That was a crazy good deal.  $55 per adult and a lesser amount for the kids.  Amazing amazing.  I highly recommend it.   Back at the port we shopped for the usual fridge magnet to add to the collection and then back on board we went.  We did the ropes course, rock climbing and the arcade and another snack.  The kids had room service and we never made our 9:30 reservation for Le Bistro.  The nap turned into an early night and that was that....ZZzzzzz!  Amazing day.

 

 

 

 

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A little more about the ship.... one thing that was different on Getaway vs our 2017 stay on the Breakaway was that you could get food ordered to the little bar height railing overlooking the Atrium in O'Sheehan's.   On the breakaway you had to be at a table to order food.  The Bar area has an abbreviated menu than the sit down area.  

 

They really really push the art on this ship.  We got daily flyers and invitations every morning.  The had free sparking wine at several events.  We never went this time.  

 

If you are childless or want a peaceful retreat but don't want to shell out the coin for the Haven then try and get on board early and go directly to guest services and buy one of the limited spots for VIBE.  I did it last time because I thought I could smoke cigars there but it was restricted to cigarettes.  The Vibe is really nice and it is good value.  There are lots of posts on that so I won't repeat it here.

 

The staff on the ropes and climbing wall are great.  We all did the plank walk.  That was fun.

 

The AFT H2O area allows cigar smoking.  It is adults only until 7pm.  You need to get there early to snag a good seat for the day. Great place to meet people from all over the place.

 

DAY 4

 

I started the day with my boy in the Haven.  He had steak and eggs again and I tried the seafood benedict.  The seafood was good but they use thick toast with a 2 inch hole cut out of the centre.  It was just too much bread and therefore dry.  The haven coffee is served in french presses left on the table.  

 

We then packed the cooler again with some water and beer and chocolate milk and headed off the ship to NCL's private island in Belize.  Harvest Cay was very pretty but reminded me of being at Disney.  It was all very carefully controlled. and policed.  It was so safe it felt sterile.  We were one of the first off the ship and like most ports they design it so you have to wind you way through the shops before you get to the beach.  We had  our choice of spots and found two sets of loungers that were next to each other (each with umbrellas) and two palm trees to add more shade.  I hate getting sand in stuff so I always bring this little gear hanger my wife bought me that is basically a meter lone length of looped nylon that has plastic carabiners all along the length.  i use it to loop around trees or beach palaces to hang bags, binoculars, shoes, etc out of the sand.  Harvest Cay is all pay as you go.  Aside from the pool bar I did not seem many people spending a whole lot of $$ on drinks and food as the ship was only a 10-15 walk to eat and drink for free for lunch.  That is what we did.  We were on the beach by 8:30.  The kids played in the sand and pool for a bit.  We did a walk.  Maddy got her hair braided ($35) and then we went back to the ship and came back after lunch.  When my cooler was empty we headed back to the ship (after getting the fridge magnet of course) around 2pm and did the water slides, arcade, trivia, drinks, pool and the whole range of fun.  Jack and I must have played the buck hunter for a good hour. He kicked my but.  I cannot compete with the reaction times of a 12 Fortnight fanatic.  Great fun.  Had some wings and a wonderful drink called a Rebellious Fish.  

 

We had rebooked Le Bistro for that night.  Maddy wanted to try the Shanghai Noodle place so the Concierge got us in there around 830.  Service was great and the food was OK, but it was only my daughter eating.  Jack had room service (no fee in Haven) and we just had drinks.  Maddy had Udon Noodles which she loves but god love her... she said Dad's made at home have more flavour!

 

We took in the Comedy show earlier that night and the kids had some good laughs but we left before the end as Jack was fading.  

 

Our dinner was at 9:30 at Le Bistro.  We both had the French Onion and Search Sea Scollops.  Both excellent.  Creme Brule for desert and it was an A+.  A few more cocktails and some shopping (bought an inexpensive automatic watch) and we retired, falling asleep to an inform movie.

 

DAY 5

 

We hung the breakfast card out the night before again and got fruit and coffee delivered for "first breakfast".

 

For our day in Costa Maya we planned to take a cab to Mahahaul beach.  We tried to get reservations at one of the better know beach clubs for the day but with 3-4 large ships in Costa Maya that day, they were long since booked.  We walked through the maze of shops and found our way out of the port where we flagged a cab.  the owner of one of the places we had tried to book from Canada told us to just take the taxi ($2 each) to the 40 Cannon's hotel (I think that was the name) and then just walk down the boardwalk and pick a hotel or beach club.  We did so and found a nice place called Maramao (maramaomahahual@gmail.com).  As long as you are eating and drinking you can use the chairs, shade, internet, clean bathrooms and shower.  Great spot.  Great food and we bought some nice unique art that was hanging in the hotel on the other side of the boardwalk where the bathrooms and showers are.  The artist takes driftwood and mounts it on canvas in the shape of fish, etc.  Very cool.  Our piece was about 18 x18 and cost $70 (we did not haggle as we felt it was really worth it). They brought a table down to use when the food was ready and we ate.  The kids snorkelled and they found a very old and worn conch shell.  About noon we walked down the boardwalk past all the spots and it reminded me of a beach side version of the main Avenue in Playa del Carmen.  We bought a cab back to the ship after getting another fridge magnet.

 

We took the kids to the Haven for dinner this night.  We had some soup and drinks as we were going the Cagney's later.  The kids had... yes... steak again!  They love beef.  Cagney's that night brought the only dish that I could not each.  Tuna tar tar.  I was expecting a diced up cool 1/2 cup with some toast.  It came in a volume three times the size with the smallest pieces about as bing as finger. HOWEVER... when i put in my mouth it was warm!  The plate was actually hot.  I am no restauranteur or chef, and I am sure it was cool before they put it on the HOT plate.  Yuck.  They were very professional and good about it.  It told them it was fine and that I loved the food and it was no big deal.  It was literally the ONLY bad thing about the whole seven days and it was NOTHING!  They were literally mortified!!  Seriously. The manager came and said she talked to the chef.  I again told them it was not a big deal and that is how you improve.  They were sooo professional.  The rest of the meal was good.  I think I had the lamb which was wonderful.  I was too full for desert.  Niki had the poached Pear.  I took in a Comedy show that night and then it was bedtime again.  The next day was Cozumel.

 

 

 

 

 

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Such a great review!  Thanks for sharing!

 

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Awesome review!

We will be in one of these suites in a few months and love reading about peoples experiences.

Thank you!

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DAY 6

 

Our fourth and final port was Cozumel.  I have been to Cozumel before and driven around the Island. Before we had left home we had looked into taking a taxi to a beach club such as Mr. Sanchos but it was fully booked.  It will have to wait until next time.  We had simply booked too close to the departure date and with six giant cruise ships in Cozumel that day, there was little doubt as to why.  We looked at a few others but by this point I knew I could not handling another beach day.  My son wanted to stay on board, but my daughter wanted to collect some Cozumel beach sand and shells for her collection.  We decided to compromise and just go ashore and stroll around town for a hour or so and see if we could get some sand and shells.  

 

Breakfast was a nice fluffy made to order Omelette in the Haven.  Jack had steak and poached eggs (steak was a more well done than medium... I know you must be laughing but my 10 and 12 year olds could be steak judges on one of those next chefs shows... I just have to laugh).  Anyway, breakfast was lovely as always.  Table clothes and cutlery changes at breakfast of all things is quite a treat.  I had the usual bailey's and coffee and a spicy caesar to start the second last vacation day.  Soon enough it would be a cup from the Kurig in the truck to work, so I was enjoying the treat very much.

 

The butler came by and asked if we needed ice for the cooler but we would be packing light that morning with just our has, glasses and cameras.  We were able to dock at the first cruise pier south of the pier for the Playa del Carmen Ferry.  While at breakfast, the MSC Amaronia pulled in beside us (that was the ship that hit the pier in Roatan). The butler took us down and we got priority walk off.  For the first time we encountered at least some semblance of boarder control which basically consisted of a line for anyone with a bag so they could toss any fruits or such into large garbage containers. That was the extent of it.  Once through it is another maze to get through.  You have to take an escalator up into what looks like a mall to an overpass that goes over the shore road and then down on the other side into a large mall with all  the same gift shops, humidors, restaurants, etc that you saw at the last ports but only a lot more.  We got through the mall and walked north on the sidewalk towards the Ferry Pier.  Next time I am in Cozumel, if we can't get to Mr. Sanchos, I think we will take the ferry over to Playa and walk 5th Avenue and chill at a beach club for a few hours.  

 

We crossed over the the waterside sidewalk which cut down on the gauntlet of store owners hawking their wares on the east side of the street.  There is a sea wall but at a few spots along the way we were able to collect a bottle of sea sand and some sea glass for the collection so my daughter was quite pleased as that was literally all she wanted to accomplish that day.  We got to the pier and walked into a little plaza where there was one of those colourful set of letters spelling out Cozumel.  There as literally a line of people taking turns with photos with the letters.  It is like the one we have in Toronto or saw in Amsterdam.  We just went off the a bench nearby and took a phone from there.  One stop in a shop and my son was totally done and ready to head back so the girls soldiered on for the next fridge magnet and Jack and I headed back to the ship.  When you reverse the rout back through the mall there is a spot on the overpass bridge where there is some rope lines and a security person.  You go left instead of right and it takes you to another escalator that is down only and you find yourself back on the pier.

 

Back on the ship Jack and I headed to the pub so that I could try and redeem myself at the Buck Hunter game (he had been creaming me all week, but I had been practicing late the night before!!) and I managed to squeak out a win!  By the time we headed back to deck 16 and the Haven the girls were back as well, fridge magnet in hand.  We headed back down to deck 7 forward (I think) on the starboard side to have a game of shuffleboard. It is a challenging sheet. It is really slow fo for the first two thirds of the sheet but the last third is super fast!. There is nothing more cruise ship than shuffleboard.  They have the gear stowed in a case mounted to the wall.   By this time it was near lunch. Kids were not hungry so Niki and I headed to O'Sheehans for some grub.  I had the clam chowder which was the soup of the day and it was very very good.  I was not expecting that frankly.  I got a Black and Blue burger (blue cheese) and asked for cheese fries which they happily accommodated.  Niki had the artichoke dip, which as previously reported by others was in fact a little on the watery side (but still decent).  The burgers are BIG.  Like 8 oz big.  The buns are really nice and soft but I prefer a smaller patty myself.  These ones are so big they kinda "shoot" out the side of the bun if you are not careful LOL!  We both liked this pub option.  It is 24 hours.  I had a cheeseburger one morning at 3am.  It hit the spot.

 

After lunch I decided to actually start the book I had brought (aka I knew a nap would be in the future).  I grabbed a Long Island Ice Tea and headed to one of the big shaded round loungers on the Haven sun deck on 17.  I had a lovely lounge/nap for about 90 minutes.  A very brief sun shower woke me up.  Another LIIT from the Haven bar (you can ask for plastic to go but only if you want to).  I should point out that they have paper only straws.  They hold up pretty good. One trick is that if you are careful or have a napkin you can flip the straw over to finishing the last of your drink.  After a bit the straw can get soggy at one end.  Anyway (yes I digress... ALOT) LIIT in hand is was time to grab the troops and hit the waterslides.  But the family was MIA so I lounged and finished watching some Marvel movie they had left on.  It was just about the laziest most wonderful Friday afternoon you could imagine.  Shortly thereafter the clan arrived back from another arcade and ropes coarse adventure and we all changed and went down to the slide.  Unfortunately only the lower purple slide was open due to the MSC ship getting underway and smoke fumes were a little more than they wanted the guests breathing up there.  Breakaway is a much taller and longer ship than the Armonia.   This was one of the nice things I encountered on this ship.  Instead of just saying... sorry closed.  One of the staff came and found me a minute later and told me (apologetically) it would be open at five, which was only a half hour later (enough for another cocktail... they made no money on the free drink package).  Turned out by the time I was back from the H2H with some Miami Vices it was open.  You have to be 99 lbs to do the drop slides.  Jack was 98.5 most of the week and had been turned away with the advice to go have a cheeseburger and a few glasses of water before the "weigh in" at the tope. So he did and it work!....

 

Sorry... Gotta get the kids off of basketball and soccer.  I promise I will finish this tomb soon.

 

Later...Mark

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DAY 6 Cont...

 

So we did all of the waterslides, including the vertical drops which were the most fun.  I swear they only last about 6 six seconds.  You have to be at least 99 lbs as you need the weight to get up over the loop.  You can see there is an escape hatch half way in case someone is too light for whatever reason.  We had a great afternoon on the slides.  Then it was back to the room to get cleaned up and go for some drinks at the Haven and dinner.

 

Every evening there was a second bartender named Christian... he was a true mixologist.  He made this drink that I do not recall the name of but he took a cinnamon stick and would burn one end of it and that end would stick out of the drink.  When you drank through the straw you got this smokey cinnamon flavour... really cool.

 

Dinner in the Haven was wonderful yet again.  Tried the mushroom risotto for a starter and the lamb for dinner.  The kids steaks were BANG on Medium rare and they told the waiter as much.  They also had shrimp skewers which were also large and nicely done.  Meals are not exactly fast in the Haven but it is made to order and it is always good.  There is just a commitment there.  Our kids and DD especially don't like the lone wait so sometimes we would order for them and then just use the cordless phone or pop over to the room which was right there to bring them over.  It was a one time thing and just made it a little more pleasant for everyone.  They have a nice three layer cake for desert.

 

Then it was off the the million dollar quartette which was excellent.  The show is in the theatre.  The haven had three rows topped off half way up the port side with an attendant there until about 10 minutes before showtime.  After that the attendant removes the rope and  all reservations are released to the standby line.  There is a bar on the port side at the back that serves for about 20-30 min prior to the show and then closes down.  There are also about seven comfy bar type stools at the very back on the port side with a little bar ledge behind the last rows of seats at the back.  It is a great spot to get if you get there early.  Our four seats basically covered a entire back port side row so we had it all to ourselves and if the show was tool long for the kids or if Jack did not care for it (he is not a show guy) one could leave without interrupting and the bar was right there.  Just a tip. You will need to be there 15-20 minutes before hand to snag the stools.  Again, I thought the first 40 minutes of the show was good but it kind of lost momentum I think and was a maybe a little long for my liking but maybe it was just that my 10 year old lost interest.  Worth going.  

 

A few other random observations... the Haven master had blue night lights around the nightside tables.  There were also lights in the closet.  There was plenty of room under the bed for suit cases.  There was a basket of life preservers under there as well.  The cordless phone was a nice perk to call the room but the battery on ours seemed to have a problem holding a charge.  It may just be at the end of the battery life.  We did use it a fair bit.  Great to call the room from the back of the ship.  It is nice and small.    There were always four beach towels in our bathroom.  The haven had a towel stand on the sun deck on 17.  I was told there was a towel cart by the pool/tubs on 16 but I never saw them.  There is no special Haven towel.  They are just white bath towels.  On the MSC Yacht club they have separate coloured towels.  

We never bought or posed for any of the photos so we cannot comment on that.  We never ate at Ocean Blue, the Sushi bar, Japanese show cooking, or the main dining room.  One evening I went to Taste for a soup and a salad before our late dinner to just to check it out.  Service was pleasant and quick but the quality of the Caesar salad and french onion soup was not up to the quality as we had in the Haven or Le Bistro.  For example when you looked in the bowl of the soup you could clearly see the outline of the square slice of cheese floating on the bread.  The caesar had no anchovy, egg or much in the way of shave Parm.  They put a long skinny dry piece of bread but it was not crunchy (all that dry) so the mouth feel was all wrong.  It was not bad, just not as good.  But again, great service.  I also tried breakfast at Savour one morning to see how it was. I ordered one poached eggs and one piece of white toast and tomato juice.  Service was very friendly but it took 30 minutes.  My egg was perfect it just took a while.  The ladies next to me waited quite a while to only to get the wrong meal delivered.

 

Our last day would be tomorrow.  We had a few cocktails at the Haven and then fell asleep with another movie.  Another great day.  Our last sea day would be up next.

 

  

 

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Since you’ve had both, how does the Haven 3 layer chocolate cake compare to Cagney’s 7 layer cake?

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Pretty much the same. You just get a completely frosted mini cake in the Haven vs. the big slice in the Steakhouse.  Get ice cream with them.  You will need the excess moisture to tone down the richness.

 

Cheers

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This will be our first time on the Getaway.  We booked forward facing haven penthouse balcony Cabin 12706.  We had a huge balcony on the Princess ship we were on but really disliked walking the full length of the ship (knee surgery).  Will the forward facing cabin be near the Haven?  Are there any steps to go to the different Haven activities?

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Momma

 

The Haven Facilities (Concierge, Bar, Lounge, Restaurant, pool, spa, hot tubs) are on deck 16.  The private Sun deck is on 17.  You will have short walk and an elevator ride whenever you want to go to the Haven for something, which will be less of a pain than walking from one of the Aft Penthouses. When I was on the Breakaway, there were stairs in the main pool area to access the sun deck.  To access the Haven sun deck you have to walk to the starboard end of the pool area and go through the min spa hallway to a set of stairs up.  I frankly never saw (or looked for) and elevator to take you up there, but I am sure there is one somewhere.

 

There were really no "Haven Activities" while we were there other than the welcome talk by the head concierge.  The Captain's cocktail party was in a room in another part of the ship (we did not attend).    When you arrive, the Concierge will give you a sheet of paper that lists all of the shows and entertainment for the week that requires a reservation.  You just fill it out and hand it back and they will make all of those bookings for you.  

 

When I was on the Breakaway, the Haven staff would walk us down to the reserved seats before the theatre shows.  They don't do it that way now.  You just make your reservation and then go down the the show at least 10 minutes beforehand and you can walk to the roped off seats for the Haven.  The only other time the Haven staff walked us anywhere was when leaving the ship.  When in port you just walk to the concierge desk and wait there and staff member will walk you down to the exit on Deck four.  The staff elevators are right next to the exit and you will bypass the line.  The same goes for disembarkation.  They will have  meeting the morning of the last sea day and will give you your luggage tags and outline your options about leaving the ship.  We skipped the briefing and the stuff was simply placed in our room that day.  

 

Enjoy your cruise.

 

Mark

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DAY 7

 

I was up an hour or more before everyone else on our last full day.  I went down and grabbed a coffee to go from O'Sheehans and got some Bailey's for it from the bar.  I packed up some stuff and went aft to get a deck chair at H2O and read for a bit but it was still being cleaned I think it is open 6am to 7pm for adults only and then wide open to all after that.  It was roped off for cleaning so I sam back a half hour later and there had been lots of people there ahead of me to mark their territory.  They have umbrellas in stands at various places on the deck but there are less than a dozen.  Those chairs are always taken first but keep in mind that the staff will take them down if they feel it is too windy or whatever.  While I was picking a lounge chair the staff came by and took down most of the umbrellas where people had laid out their towels.  

 

We all did the Haven for breakfast.  i had the eggs rancheros and the kids had their usual steak.  

 

We got our interim account bill and in reviewing it I saw about of $100 worth of Arcade charges despite having the ultimate arcade package.  My wife asked about it and they took care of it and reprinted the bill.  i was expecting a hassle but there was none.  Thank you NCL.  The last day was just a lazy day of reading, shuffleboard, waterslides, cocktails and the arcade with the kids a few times.  The Miss Getaway contest was in the afternoon but it was really crowded, so I just treaded water in the deep end and had a great view!  It was fun and in good spirit.  We did some wings in O'Sheehans and played some more buck hunter and sonic basketball after that followed by a few day dreamer's daiquiris on the patio at sunset.  Very nice. 

 

After packing we headed off to one final dinner in the Haven and then did some shopping and a final cocktail before bed.  It really was a great trip.  We planned to stay on the ship until around 9 or 930 (I think you have to be off at 930) the next day as our flight was not until 4 and welcome had too much luggage to go anywhere before hand.  We usually just walk off ourselves but as we were in no hurry we put out four bags with the provided tags outside our door before bed.

 

 

DAY 8 .... Heading Home.

 

The next morning was just a matter of showering and packing our carry on.  We had our last breakfast in the Haven around 8am and then went back to the cabin to chill until they came to kick us out, which was at 8:45... when there was a knock a the door.  We took the hint and dropped out stuff in the Haven and went for one last walk around.  Our internet ended some time during the night.  We came back to the Haven and were walked down and off the ship shortly after 9am.  

 

Unlike when we got off the Haven in NYC from the Breakaway, once off, you get in line with everyone else to go through customs after you grab your bags.  Last time we got walked to a priority line but in Miami there were only three officers so we had maybe a 10-15 min wait.  The cabs were just across the street.  We needed a mini van so we had to wait.  While waiting some guy came by who I think tries to fill the vans dropping people off... Not sure if that is really allowed but he said $35 buck and we were cool with that and we did not have to wait so we walked the 15 feet to the other side of the drop off/pick up island and we were at Miami international by 9:40am.  Air Canada is the LAST and I mean the LAST departure space in Terminal/Section J (I think).  Unfortunately on arrival our flight was listed as being delayed by and hour or so and we could not check in for a few hours and that time kept increasing.  I think they finally let us check in around 12:30.  Thank kind of sucked as there was very few places to sit at that end of the terminal and all of the food and retail is about a 5-7 min walk down to the other end.  Jack did some homework and we got the kids a snack.  As you know, they almost always allow you to check you carry on for free at the gate to free up stowage space.  But here in Miami they gave you that option at check in.  They also had you check the size of your carry on in the provided apparatus.   

 

Once through security there is a food court and some shops and lots of seating.  

 

We flew on points and so our flight selections going back to Toronto were limited.  If we do this again and cannot get a noonish flight, I would either rent a car for the day or spend the night in Miami to avoid the rather long day with the kids in the airport.

 

Landing in Pearson lead to a quick and easy line through customs and our luggage was one of the first off for a change and we are home north of Barrie by 10:20pm.  

 

It was really the best family trip we have had and if not it was a close second.  The extra $2400 for the Haven two bedroom upgrade was well worth it.  The food was great.  The staff were great.  The activities were plentiful and fun.  An A+!!!

 

If you read off this, I hope you found it helpful.  I do this as a process each time to help book the next cruise which I am presently doing.  I hear that the away ships are going to be refurbed soon. They are amazing condition given that there are scheduled for dry dock I am told... so I expect they will be even more wonderful once that happens.  Great Great Great vacation!

 

Cheers.

 

Mark

 

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    Thanks very much, Mark.  Very enjoyable and well-written.  We'll be on her for the 1st time in Dec.  

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