Norwegian Getaway Offers Families Freedom and Flexibility with Freestyle Cruising #UltimateGetaway
Our family travels quite a bit and has traveled over 30,000 miles across the U.S. visiting 45 of the 50 states, Canada and Costa Rica, mostly by car. With all that travel we’ve only done one family cruise to Alaska, so we didn’t understand all the flexible options that a ship like the Norwegian Getaway has to offer.
That changed this past week when we were invited by Norwegian Cruise Lines to experience the Norwegian Getaway, also know as “Miami’s Ultimate Ship” for a 7-Day Eastern Caribbean cruise to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and the Bahamas. The ship incorporates elements from the Magic City into its design that includes beautiful hull artwork of a mermaid holding the sun above the waves by Miami’s own David “LEBO” Le Batard, as well as Miami inspired décor throughout restaurant and entertainment venues like the South Beach themed SVEDKA/Inniskillin Ice Bar, Sugarcane Mojito Bar, Tropicana Room and The Flamingo Grill.
Since we often travel with our family that includes children from the ages of 2 to 14, we were especially interested in learning more about Norwegian’s innovative Freestyle Cruising that was designed to meet the needs of today’s travelers. Freestyle Cruising allows cruisers the freedom and flexibility to create their own personalized vacation experiences with no fixed dining times, relaxed embarkation at ports, casual attire, an array of creative restaurants and lounges and lots of entertainment and activities to choose from. These flexible options are appealing for families like ours that are looking for ways to keep everyone from a rambunctious toddler, to tweens, teens, and parents entertained.
We spent our time on the cruise discovering what Freestyle Cruising is all about. The itinerary offered the perfect amount of time to relax on the ship, while getting to experience the plethora of dining and entertainment options that the Getaway has to offer. Below are the top highlights from our 7-Day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Norwegian Getaway.
The Splash Academy
Since we were traveling with our two-year old we were especially excited about the Splash Academy’s Guppies Program (6 months to 3 years) that offers fun and stimulating classes like Art From the Start, Baby Disco Time, Colorful Construction and Gloopy Glop. Our daughter loved being able to have messy fun, and paint with non-toxic and edible paints. All Guppies Program activities are parent supervised, hosted by certified staff, and allow your children to explore and have fun with children their own age.
The Splash Academy also offers complimentary programs for older kids in a safe and supervised environment including: Turtles (3 to 5 years), Seals (6-9 years), and Dolphins (10-12 years). If you have teens between the ages of 13 and 17 then you’ll want them to experience Entourage, a cool lounge filled with video games, movies, music, and sports and the opportunity to mingle with other teens. Based on our previous Alaskan cruise experience, your kids will probably want to ditch you and hang out with travelers their own age meaning that parents will have some much needed adult time for themselves.
Interactive Nickelodeon Experiences
In addition to Splash Academy and Entourage, Norwegian is the only cruise line that has teamed up with Nickelodeon to create one-of-a-kind activities and events like Dora’s Dance Party and Nickelodeon Arts and Crafts.
Our favorite was the Nickelodeon Pajama Jam Character Breakfast that included dance and song performances by Team Nick and the rest of the Nickelodeon gang, followed by a meet and greet with SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Diego, among others. The colorful breakfast buffet included cupcakes, doughnuts, waffles, yogurt parfaits, pigs in a blanket and just about anything else that would make a kid – and some adults – squeal in excitement.
For families wanting to cool off, the pirate-themed Nickelodeon Kids’ Aqua Park includes colorful characters from Bikini Bottom where little ones can splash around.
Three-Story Sports Complex
The three-story sports complex offers so many options that we didn’t get a chance to experience all of them. The Aqua Park has five thrilling water slides including the Free Fall, where guests stand up and the floor drops underneath them before they’re propelled into a loop, The Whip, that twists riders through winding curves, and a family-friendly open slide. I tried the Whip because I chickened out of the Free Fall, but apparently all the twists and curves make it faster which I realized in the middle of one of the seemingly never-ending loops.
The complex also includes two swimming pools, four hot tubs, a multi-level ropes course with a zip line for adults, a separate ropes course for kids, a rock climbing wall, a bungee trampoline, a full sized basketball court, and even a nine-hole ocean-themed miniature golf course. If you’re more of a thrill seeker you might want to try out The Plank, a platform that extends eight feet over the side of the ship and offers breathtaking ocean views.
Creative Dining Options
If your family is like ours and enjoys trying new foods, then the Getaway has you covered. You can choose from 28 restaurants that offer guests a world of distinct dining possibilities from casual and fresh buffet-style dining at The Garden Café, authentic Italian at La Cucina, Japanese at Teppanyaki, Latin fare at The Tropicana Room, French at Le Bistro, and private dining for exclusive guests of The Haven. Also, noteworthy are the three dining concepts from Food Network star and Celebrity Chef Geoffrey Zakarian that include: Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian; Ocean Blue on the Waterfront and The Raw Bar.
When dining on most cruise ships you have the option to choose from complimentary restaurants (The Garden Café, The Tropicana Room, The Flamingo Grill) or specialty restaurants that require an additional fee that can range from $15 (La Cucina) to $39 (Ocean Blue) per person on the Getaway. Our favorite specialty restaurant was Moderno Churrascaria ($20 pp) a Brazilian steakhouse that served succulent cuts of beef, lamb, and even some seafood. We felt that the quality of food and service at Moderno was well worth the additional charge.
If you’re too tired to leave your stateroom you can order complimentary room service or order a fresh-baked pizza for just $5.
High Caliber Entertainment
The Getaway offers lots of unique entertainment options for families and adults to choose from. Our trip highlight was Illusionarium a dining and entertainment experience that transports guests into a mystical world of supernatural and magic. The centerpiece of the Illusionarium is the 30’ diameter video dome that plays a central role in the production, and invites guests to experience the illusions of world-class magicians. It really is the best magic show that I’ve ever seen, and our two-year old was so mesmerized that she couldn’t take her eyes off the stage.
The Getaway also offers two award-winning Broadway productions that include Burn the Floor, a 45-minute Latin-inspired dance extravaganza, and Legally Blond that is based on the popular movie. One thing to note about Legally Blonde is some mature language that may make watching it with older kids a little awkward.
If you love wine, then you’ll want to check out Wine Lovers The Musical that blends a six flight wine tasting with lunch and a musical comedy about wine and love.
The Getaway offers so many on-board activities that it can be hard trying to decide which ones to do. If you’re a fan of TLC’s “Cake Boss” then you’ll probably want to visit Carlo’s Bake Shop for some freshly baked goodies, and take a Cupcake Decorating class where you can learn some of Buddy Valastro’s decorating tricks. We enjoyed this activity as did our two-year old, who was all smiles as she squeezed tubes of colorful buttercream frosting onto cupcakes.
Other Norwegian Getaway activities that were designed with families in mind include pizza making, family balloon twisting, game shows, an Awesome 80’s Party and a Glow Party (formerly know as the White Hot Party).
We weren’t sure what to expect with the Glow Party, but as we entered Spice H20 where the party is held you could feel the energy and excitement. Guests of all ages were dressed in neon and white, with neon painted faces, glow necklaces and glow sticks. Once the music started the floor began to vibrate as the crowd danced and jumped to the Latin inspired techno-music. It was way more fun than we expected, and our toddler who had been on the go all day didn’t want to leave.
Shore Excursion Highlight: Coral World in St. Thomas
Norwegian Getaway’s 7-Day Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes stops in St. Maarten (or St. Martin if you’re on the French side), St. Thomas and the Bahamas. You can select from a variety of adventures depending on what you’re interests are.
The highlight of our shore excursions was our visit to Coral World in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. I was a bit skeptical when I saw it on our itinerary, and thought that it would be like Miami Seaquarium of which I am not a fan. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived by the cleanliness, interactive animal displays and friendly staff. The park is small, but includes informative exhibits and a great selection of activities for visitors of all ages including a Sea Lion Encounter, Sea Lion Swim, Sea Trek, Snuba, and Turtle and Shark Encounters among others.
The Sea Lions are not on public display so you can only see them if you select one of the activities. Since our little one’s weight didn’t allow us to do the Sea Lion Swim (participants must weigh at least 50 pounds), we opted for the Sea Lion Encounter that allowed us the opportunity to get up close with one of Coral World’s friendly South American sea lions. The 50-minute program included a brief orientation with the trainers, animal interaction (about 15-20 minutes), and high quality photos that are provided to you at the conclusion of your experience. Our toddler was a little apprehensive when she first saw the sea lion, but she quickly warmed up when she saw him bouncing a ball and clapping. You can purchase a combination ticket for the Sea Lion Encounter and Coral World for $86 (adult)/$77 (child), or purchase discounted family packages based on the activities that you’re interested in.
Coral World also offers two unique options to view natural underwater surroundings in a comfortable and air conditioned setting. The three-story Undersea Observatory Tower is located 100 feet offshore, and consists of three levels with the lowest taking you 15 feet under the ocean surface. From the bottom level visitors can view natural coral and all of its inhabitants, while the top level offers breath-taking views of the St. Thomas shoreline and nearby Coki Beach. The mid-level predator tank was under construction so we didn’t get to see it.
The Caribbean Reef Encounter is an 80,000-gallon coral reef aquarium that is open to the elements so that reef inhabitants receive natural light throughout the day and natural rainfall just like natural reef would. This is important to make sure that the corals and sponges are kept alive. Our two-year old loved both underwater exhibits and couldn’t get enough of all the colorful “fishies”.
We really like that Coral World is active in helping to protect the environment through its ongoing outreach and educational programs, and special projects that include the Coral Restoration Project and Turtle Conservation. Their goal is to educate visitors and the community about the ocean and its inhabitants, while encouraging them to play an active role in its preservation.
The Haven Experience
We spent a good amount of time lounging in The Haven, which is like a ship-within-a-ship that is reserved for Norwegian’s most special guests. If you’re looking for a more luxurious and exclusive cruising experience, then The Haven is for you. The Haven offers guests with elegant suites and villas that are appointed with the finest amenities including Bliss Collection bedding, personalized concierge and 24-hour butlers. We loved the two-bedroom family villa with a queen-size bed, a separate children’s bedroom, a balcony and lots of extra room for relaxing.
Once you leave your luxurious suite or villa, you can relax in your own private paradise that includes a secluded courtyard with pools, a luxurious lounge and a private restaurant and cocktail bar exclusively for Haven guests.
Hydrotherapy Courtyard & Mandara Spa
The adults-only Hydrotherapy Courtyard offers breathtaking views and a relaxing oasis to help you unwind with multiple therapeutic offerings. I was overwhelmed with so many options some of which I had never heard of, but I did try them all. The Hydrotherapy Courtyard includes a Thermal Suite, which offers a Laconium Chamber (a fancy name for dry heat) with heated benches, and a Caldarium Steam Chamber that helps the body to eliminate toxins. The Thalassotherapy Pool, includes Dead Sea salt and minerals to help to ease muscle pain while de-stressing and relaxing your body. And exclusively available on the Getaway is the Salt Room, created to mimic the multiple health benefits of Eastern European salt caves.
If you’re a Haven guest you will get to enjoy the Hydrotherapy Suite as part of your amenities, otherwise you can purchase a VIP pass for $199 per person that gives you full access to the pool and thermal treatments during your cruise.
And no cruise would be complete without a relaxing visit to the spa. The Mandara Spa offers an extensive menu of services and daily specials – some as low as $89 – that will help to enhance your overall experience without breaking the bank. I enjoyed a one-hour Heavenly Massage that included a full body massage, shiatsu scalp massage and reflexology foot massage for only $119.
Overall the Norwegian Getaway surpassed our expectations from the friendly and attentive staff, immaculately clean ship and attention to details like special daily treats for our two-year old, and festive décor to celebrate my birthday that made our trip even more special.
I have to admit that I once said that I would never go on a cruise. That changed with our first family cruise to Alaska in 2011, and now the Norwegian Getaway has left us wondering where our next family adventure should take us. Norwegian offers over 200 travel itineraries around the world to exciting destinations like Hawaii, Europe, Latin America, Asia and more so the options to “Cruise Like a Norwegian” are endless.
Latina Mom Bloggers was invited by Norwegian Cruise Lines to sail on the Norwegian Getaway as part of a media trip. Coral World provided complimentary admission for the park and Sea Lion Encounter. However, all opinions are my own.