A Week in the Caribbean on the Norwegian Getaway

I had bought some artwork on our holiday on the Regent Voyager in 2012, and the result was that, a year or so later, we had an invitation to a free VIP cruise with Park West Gallery on the new Norwegian Getaway. We flew Alicante to Madrid, and had all of an hour and ten minutes to catch the plane to Miami. Iberia really are an appalling airline, the service on the Miami flight was effected by an assortment of bad tempered stewardesses, who literally threw the boxes of "merienda" at us. Food on Iberia is now so bad and their desire to cut costs, that on a 10 hour flight only one hot meal is served, the second meal is just a snack: a sandwich and some reconstituted "fruit bites" served in a cardboard box, and dispensed without ceremony by the crew. The days of having a drinks trolley are long since gone - one serving of drinks only per flight these days

Landing in Miami, it actually took less time than we thought to give our fingerprints and retina scans to George Bush's "homeland Security" men - memo to European leaders, please make Americans coming to Europe go through this indignity. We were soon in a taxi, driven by a Haitian refugee, and heading to the Miami Intercontinental , a cocktail reception and a buffet dinner with Park West. Our room looked out over the harbour and the cruise port.

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We were quickly outfitted with name badges, the boys settled into their hotel room, and next morning took the train on a loop round the Miami city centre
Cruise ships dominate the port of Miami We saw them from our hotel window, from our walk round the seafront, and when drinking our Daiquiri.
A short wait in the hotel lobby before being bussed to the Norwegian Getaway. Now only 4 weeks old, and sporting the art of David Lebo. And then we headed south

The Norwegian Getaway is not our sort of ship. It is vast at 17 decks high and sailing with over 4000 passengers. It was packed with children - much of their entertainment is geared at children. And everywhere there are crowds and noise, which seems to be a vital part of the North American vacation experience. For the first 24 hours we thought that we had made the wrong choice in coming on this ship, but after a while , we learnt how to avoid the screaming masses, and settled into our own routine.

The ship provided 24 hour food in "The Trough" - not the official description of their main cafeteria, but a very apt one given to me by a fellow refugee in Vibes, the private area of the ship, for which we paid $80 each for a week's pass, which enabled a very small group of passengers to escape the hurly burly of mass tourism.

Your cabin, the Trough and a few shows were the main things that your cruise ticket covered. Everything else was extra, which is how the cruise company aims to make its money. Norwegian Cruise Line seemed to want to pick up each passenger by the legs, and hold them upside down, and shake them till all their money had disappeared. Extras include

You have to hand it to them. I can only assume that the majority of their punters are so hell bent on packing as much as possible into their vacation that they are oblivious of the cruise company's extraction of money.

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There are about 2000 tiny cabins, all with a small balcony and bathroom. The highlight for the boys was Chris's birthday with a cup cake, balloons and toweling cake
The big disappointment in the restaurants was the expensive Ocean Blue - the scallops were fake, the atmosphere was less than ideal as we were sitting effectively in a corridor that waiters used several times a minute. All the other restaurants were very good, and well worth paying the premium for a convivial surrounding
We ate twice at Moderno, a Brazilian themed barbecue restaurant, where the various meat dishes are carved for you at the table. You had a place mat, green one side to indicated you wanted more food, red the other when you wanted a pause! Beef seems to play a major part in the average American's diet, and we certainly ate a lot of it.
We ate and we ate !! For a ship of over 4000 passengers the pool was remarkably small, this being the main pool, plus a smaller children's pool and a number of hot tubs
We went to 3 free shows - Burn the Floor, a well staged musical - Legally Blonde, so bad I fell asleep in spite of the noise - Levity, a stand up comedy show, where the jokes were aimed solely at the American market and were incomprehensible to me. We paid for 2 other shows - a Magic Show with all the old favourites, that I enjoyed, apart from the fact the two oversize guests were in front of me, and every so often had a cuddle, so no gap existed between them for me to see the stage - and a wine tasting musical, that was well done. It was wine tasting for the masses, done to song as we sampled six (cheap) wines that were explained to us.
Our sanctuary was Vibes. A private "club" on the 17th floor, with key card entry. For your $80 for the week, you got a decent sun bed, a sun umbrella, room to move around you, a couple of hot tubs, an onsite bar (paying), and fruit (free) brought round twice a day. The staff here were very good. The boys enjoyed living it up here.

And my silliness of the week was a couple of goes on the "death slide". There were a number of water slides available, all with a different colour. Only the blue and the green were designed to terrify. You stood on a trapdoor at the top of the slide and the door sealed you in. A mechanical voice counted down "3, 2, 1", the trapdoor sprung open, and you hurtled down vertically, then up and round to slow you down, before being unceremoniously brought to a dramatic halt in a water trough. My long suffering wife was not amused by my antics on the slide -

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

We were the guests of Park West Gallery. Most days at sea there was a morning talk on art, an auction, with cocktails. and in the evening a cocktail party and talk, followed by a group dinner in one of the specialty restaurants. At Park West Gallery auctions, the man in charge was their Senior Auctioneer, Jordan Sitter, and there were 5 other Park West staff plus a couple of "picture movers" for the artwork. As Jordan said, it was his job to make this the most expensive free cruise any of us had ever had.

Our Programme signed by David Lebo, the man whose artwork graces the hull of the Norwegian Getaway.

There were three artists, listed below in the order in which they spoke to us. There is a link to a page on each of them and if you bought any of their works, you had your photograph taken with the artist and the work of his that you had bought, which was a nice touch. David Lobo's work was the stuff that appealed to me the most, so it followed that I bought more of his work.

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Check in at Miami Jordan Sitter - Auctioneer Paintings on display and artwork being moved into position
Domingo from Peru Tim Sparks with the Boys. And Lisa and Tim tucking in to the beef at Moderno
And various of our fellow guests - eating, buying and meeting the artists

And we did stop occasionally, with strolls around the ports. Click the link to get more on our stay on each island. A rather sad result of modern cruise based tourism is that you have an island town with about 20,000 inhabitants, and each morning at 8am, 6 or 7 large cruise ships arrived with 20,000 passengers, who have all of 8 hours or less to enjoy the island, before their ship sails out at 6pm. Hence each town has now lost its own character and has been transformed into a long main street filled with expensive jewellery and clothes shops catering for the cruise passengers hell bent on "shopping". The little nuggets of the old West Indian culture are few and far between. And the Norwegian Getaway told us nothing about the history or culture of each island. Their objective was to sell tours or push you to the shops that paid to be put into the "Shopping Guide" which was handed out for each port.

After Nassau, a day at sea to reach Miami and the flight back to Spain. Though not my sort of ship, and I would never travel on Norwegian Cruise Line again, I did enjoy this "different" holiday. .

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A few rough seas as we headed back to Miami. But a ship the size of Getaway hardly rolled. Back home on the magic carpet, the boys and the two new additions "Miami" and "Martin"


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