Wednesday, February 26, 2014
First, I am so sorry for all of the folks in our area who experienced power outages and possible damage two weeks ago during the ice storm. We pray that all will be back to normal for everyone very soon.
Fortunately and luckily, Dwight and I were on Norwegian Cruise Lines new ship, the Getaway, which sailed to the Eastern Caribbean from Miami. We had been invited to sail on this ship’s first weekly sailing out of the United States and also had the opportunity to take a tour of the Sandals Grand Bahamian Resort in Nassau, Bahamas.
We drove to Miami from Georgetown, stopping after 8 hours in Titusville, Florida to spend the night and rest. The next morning we drove the additional 3 hours to Miami to board this beautiful new ship. You usually can’t board the ship until after noon so it makes sense to stop along the way and spend the night if you are driving. Of course, you can fly directly to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, but I highly recommend you fly in a day earlier in case of travel issues. The ships usually leave port around 4 p.m. and if you are late the ship leaves anyway ... so go a day earlier whether driving or flying.
We boarded this beautiful new ship around 1 p.m., had lunch, toured some of the exciting areas on the 19 story high ship, and then found our stateroom to drop off our carry-on luggage. (You should always have a carry-on piece of small luggage or two to carry your medications, documents, money, etc. Once in your stateroom, your valuables can be locked in the stateroom safe.) Our other luggage was delivered to the room by our room steward while we participated in the mandatory life boat drill. So we unpacked and headed to deck 16 for the “Sail Away Party” at the outside lounge called Spice H2O.
The Getaway has 17 bars, 20 restaurants, a Bake Shop, a Coffee Shop, a Main Theater, a Comedy Club, 3 pools, a Kid’s Aqua Park, 3 water slides, a ropes course, a Walk The Plank that lets you stand over the side of the ship (tethered by a safety harness of course,) a photo shop, several jewelry and other shops, a library, an Internet Cafe, an adults only sanctuary called Vibe Beach Club (cover charges apply here), a Splash Academy Youth Center, basketball courts, mini-golf area, bungee trampoline, rock climbing wall, ping pong tables, a jogging and walking track, video arcade, a spa, salon and barber shop, an art gallery, meeting rooms, a casino and much, much more.
One of the specialty bars is called the SVEDKA & Inniskillin Ice Bar. To enter (there is a charge which includes two drinks), you put on a fur lined coat and gloves.
Inside everything from the bar to the seats to the actual drink glasses are made of ice.
And it is really cold inside, so you are only allowed in there for 30 minutes.
Dwight and I enjoyed dining in the main dining room and Garden Cafe, but had breakfast brought to our room most mornings so we could sit on our balcony and enjoy the ocean views while drinking coffee and eating breakfast. There is no charge for room service for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
We also had dinner at several specialty restaurants which have additional covercharges ranging from $15 per person to $49 per person. All are worth it as “specialty” really does mean “specialty”. One night we dined at Ocean Blue, where we met the world renowned chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, who was there for this special occasion. You may have seen him on the Food Channel’s “Iron Chef” or “Chopped”. This restaurant was as great as some of his outstanding restaurants in New York City.
Another night, we dined at Le Bistro French Restaurant, where we had wonderful steak and lobster. Another night at Teppanyaki, the Japanese restaurant and another night at Moderno Churrascaria, the Brazilian steak house. As I mentioned, there are 20 restaurants and we tried to take them all in but couldn’t.
I also mentioned above that we had a balcony room. There are many categories and prices ranging from inside cabins, suites, spa suites, and presidential suites. All rooms have mini-bars, hair dryers, shampoo and body gels, televisions, on ship phones, etc. The higher priced categories come with even more amenities. There is one area entitled “The Haven” where all rooms are at least the suite category, have a private restaurant, pool and sunning areas, and have around the clock access to the Spa facilities.
This 7-day cruise was a blast. The first two days we were at sea. Day four, we docked in Philipsburg, St. Maarten where Dwight and I rented a taxi, went to the beach, came back to town for shopping and touring. In any of these ports of call, there are many excursions for additional fees which include snorkeling trips, sailing trips, city tours, jeep tours and the like. Your travel advisor can give you guidance in this area.
On day five, we were at port in St. Thomas, USVI where Dwight and I booked an excursion on a sailboat that took us to a wonderful area where we could snorkel with the Green Sea Turtles. It was amazing to see these graceful sea creatures as this was one of the items on my Bucket List. Back home in Georgetown, I am a volunteer with SCUTE, the South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiest, where we work to help the Loggerhead Sea Turtle population grow and thrive. After snorkeling, we returned to town to shop and eat at a wonderful burger restaurant recommended by Captain Mike.
Day six we were back at sea enjoying the 80 degree sunshine on the pool deck with live music and entertainment.
Our last day found us in Nassau, Bahamas where Dwight and I were invited to tour the Sandals Grand Bahamian Resort. The food was excellent as were the views, facilities and pools. It would be a great place for an all-inclusive land vacation. Of course, Nassau also is home to the Atlantis Resort as well as others including a new mega-resort, Bah Mar, to open in December.
One night we went to the main theater to see the Broadway Show, Legally Blonde. Another night the show was dazzling and entitled “Burn The Floor.” We also went to the dinner show, at the Illusionarium which is new to this ship only, where we were entertained with wonderful magic, scenery, special effects and more. And still another night, we were entertained at “The Grammy Experience” theatre by Latin Grammy Award winner Nestor Torres.
Well, I could go on and on about this ship and how much fun we had, but I am running out of room in today’s column. This ship, as many others sailing today, offer tons of fun for reasonable prices. And the fun thing is you only have to pack and unpack once. If you have not experienced a cruise, do it now. If you have, try out one of the many new ships and itineraries being offered this year.
Cruise port safety tips
While cruise ports around the world are full of specialty retailers, restaurants, bars and museums, it is always best to be cautious. Many times, when having fun and shopping, we fail to pay attention to our surroundings.
Keep your wallet close. For Dwight and I, he usually keeps his wallet in his front pocket to make it difficult for pick-pockets. If carrying a purse, keep it close to your body. It’s so easy to be distracted in an unfamiliar place.
Dress down. If you’re in your cruise port, don’t dress to impress, dress for comfort. Leave your fancy watches and jewelry on the ship in your state-room safe. The less conspicuous you look to locals, the better.
Make copies of your passport. It is always good to have a copy of your passport with you. We leave our actual passports in the state-room safe and have a copy folded in our wallet in case we would ever need it. It you don’t make it back to the ship or if something were to happen, you would be in a lot better position with a copy of your passport. Most ports-of-call in the Caribbean ask for your ship room card and a photo identification like your drivers license to return back to the ship. It may be different in more foreign ports so check with your travel advisor, cruise ship or tour operator. You may need to take your actual passport with you while off of the ship.
Party close to the pier or on the ship. Cruise vacations are all about relaxing, visiting new areas of the world, partying and having a good time. For those who wish to “party hard”, don’t party too far from the ship. Most ports have restaurants and bars within sight of the ship. Remember, the ship leaves on schedule and you don’t want to be left behind. Also remember to keep your watches set to the local time as you will usually be in different time zones as you travel.
For more information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com or visit me at my website, travelbyseaorland.com. Contact me at 843-436-0238.
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