We took the plunge and booked not only our first Transatlantic cruise but our first cruise ever.
It all started way back in Thailand when my wife received an amazing deal via email for a maiden voyage aboard Norwegian’s newest ship the Getaway. Neither of us were sure, but looking at all the angles we decided to take the deal on Transatlantic cruising and find out for ourselves what cruising was like.
This was a repositioning or relocation cruise, the budget way to take a cruising holiday. You have to look out for them and monitor the cruise sale sites, they normally occur when a ship moves base at the beginning or end of the season or, as here when a new ship makes her maiden voyage.
The cruise holiday sat on the back burner while we rediscovered Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the UK over Christmas. Cruise preparation began in the UK where we bought a full set of winter clothes. Crocs and sarongs weren’t going to get us through the Atlantic in winter.
Concerns and Questions for Transatlantic Cruising on a Budget
We consider ourselves seasoned travellers but this was an entirely new experience for all of us.
We had some concerns and questions that would need to be answered.
Will the food standard be OK or will there just be junk food?
Will we be bored on a boat for 11 days?
Do we need to dress to impress each night?
Those four were the main questions we had and the web site was useful in making sure we had some idea of the requirements and expectations.
Jokes were kicked back and forth about icebergs and that other inaugural Transatlantic cruising experience that fell short of the advertised 11 days.
Luckily we found plenty of information about our ship online. Assured that we wouldn’t need to dress up and that the food wouldn’t resemble a rolling junk fest our only unknown was the cost of beverages. With a captive audience the costs could really be anything. BYO on wine was allowed but at $15 corkage per bottle it wasn’t an option for us.
First Impressions of Norwegian’s New Getaway Ship
Approaching the ship in Southampton dock by car, Getaway was simply massive.
Towering 18 stories high to the funnel, we saw her a good 5 miles out from the dock. I wouldn’t say she looked particularly slick, other than the brightly painted front end, she was more like a floating white box with an adventure park perched on top.
Crew took our bigger bags for delivery to our stateroom, which just left us to make our own way up to the ship with carry-on luggage.
Entering at deck seven, my boys ask the steward where the cake is located. Kids have their priorities sorted out early. “Deck 15.” she responds and the boys are off. No, not in the lift but up the stairs. I give chase and my wife takes the lift. Catching them at deck 12 we all meet up at deck 15. Did I mention how big this ship was?
We grab some lunch and head to our cabin. Again we realise how big the Getaway is. It took considerable time to finally find our cabin once we were on the correct deck. We were going to do a lot of walking on this Transatlantic Cruise.
20 foot waves photographed from the 8th deck on Getaway’s maiden transatlantic cruise.
Food Quality and Drinks Prices on Norwegian Cruise Lines
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the drinks prices were actually great.
Our worry before the cruise was based on the cost of a pre-purchased drinks package at $44.50 (or $49.50 for the premium package) per day! This would include all drinks but each person in the stateroom has to buy one. Kids too, but half price for soft drinks only.
Most wines were only $7 and even cocktails were $7.50. I had my fair share of Pina Coladas on the cruise.
Food, which plays such a huge part of our travels, was another great unknown. It certainly wasn’t going to win any awards for fine dining but was a long way from junk food.
Norwegian cruise lines have pioneered a concept called freestyle dining. You can eat at the buffet, room service or pub, 24 hours a day or have a choice of another 2 a la carte restaurants in the evening. These are all included in the cruise fare. They have another 2 restaurants that you have to pay for, a la carte style. A further 3 restaurants have a cover charge of between $20-$30 per person. The paid restaurants had fine dining food which would suit those looking for a more intimate dinner, but with the four of us, we stuck to the buffet or free restaurants, which had entertainment on some evenings.
Little Things Make the Big Differences
A well worn cliche but one that Norwegian did well.
When you have a brand new ship and more crew than passengers it isn’t hard to see how it was done.
Starting with buffet presentation, everything was displayed in state of the art dishes that seemed custom made for the food they were holding. If a steak was on the buffet it had a French grill to display it. It looked great and kept the food warm of course.
On the carvery, the chopping board had holes so that no blood would pool but run straight off.
In 18 years of cooking, I’ve never seen this, yet it was so simple.
Snacks and sandwiches were in holders again making it so much more impressive.
It would take me months and countless meetings to buy 1 of these items for my hotel restaurant and they had them lying around spare. I was jealous. It didn’t stop there. The self serve wine dispenser was like a soft drink machine and with one swipe of your key card the glass was full. A personal favourite of our Transatlantic cruise experience.
The turndown service each night included an animal crafted from towels. We loved coming back each night wondering what surprise had been left.
The crew was the biggest highlight. Efficient and attentive, they didn’t miss a beat. The hosting of the games in the atrium was a sight to behold for noncruise people such as us.
Will We Cruise Again?
Having both previously said that we would never take a cruise, it was quite a surprise to find us on a ship cutting across the Atlantic.
That’s the great thing with travel our way. We can mix it up as and when we need to. Perhaps we will take a cruise ship back to Europe. I doubt we will take a cruise that just goes in a circle anytime soon but this cruise exceeded all our expectations as a way of getting from A to B. Getaway will be a tough act to follow. Stick around to see what we do.
Any other cruise stories to share out there?