What to Expect on Your First Cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line
Updated: Jul 16
This past January of 2020, my boyfriend and I went aboard the Norwegian Getaway cruise! We luckily went away before all the Coronavirus havoc happened - thank goodness or else we would’ve been stuck on the ship for God knows how long! Our cruise ran from January 12 to January 17 and we stopped at 2 ports in Mexico: Cozumel and Costa Maya. We had such a great time on this trip! This was our first time cruising, so we definitely learned many useful tips and tricks for our future cruises.
Getting to the cruise port:
The ship was docked at the New Orleans cruise port, so we had to fly into NOLA. When we booked our cruise through Norwegian Cruise Line, they had a promotion in which they would cover our flight expenses.
Travel tip: go on their website and check for promotions to save $$$
We didn’t have to pay a DIME on our flight tickets due to this promotion! They organized our round-trip tickets and notified us regarding our flight itineraries about 2 months before our cruise. If you are thinking of cruising with NCL, make sure to pay attention to this promotion! Not only will this save you money, but it will lessen the stress of having to book a flight that will get you there in time before the cruise leaves the port. Want to fly out a day early or stay one day later after your cruise? Give NCL customer service a call and they can help arrange the flights with you (although I’m pretty sure there is a fee to change the flight itinerary).
Our cruise package also included transportation to and from the cruise port. We were met by an NCL representative at the airport and handed our transportation vouchers to them. In return, the representatives gave us luggage tags to attach to our bags so that they can be delivered to the correct room on the ship. They brought us to the cruise port on a coach bus. The process of getting to the airport & cruise port was NOT as stressful as I imagined, largely thanks to NCL for organizing everything seamlessly.
The process at the cruise port:
When we arrived at the cruise port, we were directed to check-in with the representatives at the counter. Beware- there will be long periods of waiting here! We were instructed to have our passports ready to speed the process. The lines to check-in took a while because they required everyone to fill out health questionnaires and basic personal information. After checking in, they gave us our cruise ship ID and told us to wait for our assigned boarding time.
About the ship - Norwegian Getaway:
The Norwegian Getaway is a sister ship to the Norwegian Breakaway. The term “sister ship” refers to multiple ships having identical designs. The Getaway was built in 2014, but was recently refurbished in 2019 and holds about 3,900 guests. This ship is a BEAUTY! I personally think this ship is a perfect size. Reason being that it’s not too small where you run out of things to do and it’s not overly humongous where you have to walk so far to get to different sections of the ship. There are so many activities and entertainment to choose from on this ship, you will never be bored!
Norwegian Cruise Line App:
To make your cruise experience easier, download the Norwegian Cruise Line app on your phone! This app has EVERYTHING you need to know about the ship! You can find the schedule of entertainment for the day and even reserve tickets for shows or restaurants. Also, this app has a map of the ship, which is definitely useful when you’re not too good with directions (like me! lol). This app will also keep track of all the transactions you make on the cruise and will act as a final, digital receipt. Downloading the app should be one of the first few things you must do when you get on the ship- trust me, it will help you so much!
Free at sea promotions:
Earlier, I had mentioned that we booked the cruise with free-at-sea promotions from Norwegian Cruise Line. This promotion is something you need to look into when booking a cruise with them. They almost always have these free-at-sea offers on their website, but with various twists. For us, our free-at-sea promotion included: free flights, free unlimited drinks, and $50 excursion credits per port. Do keep in mind that if you choose the “free” unlimited drinks option, you will be charged with a beverage service charge ($99/person). If you’re not much of a drinker, definitely think it over before opting for the “free” unlimited drinks option as it probably may be cheaper for you to do without.
Also, another thing to note regarding the drink package- if you’re docking out of NOLA, you will get taxed on the drinks you order when the boat is still on the Mississippi River. This is because you’re still in U.S. territory which means taxes on drinks are still valid.
This ship comes packed with activities fit for any age! There’s a space for teenagers to hang out and attend events called Entourage. They also have Splash Academy for kids (ages 3-17) where they can play, do sports, and more. What’s a cruise ship without water slides?! They have a big aqua park with water slides for all ages and a few hot tubs along with a pool for anyone to enjoy! My personal favorite is the sports complex. They have rock climbing, mini-golf, ropes course, and a basketball court! I mean c’mon… how awesome is that… to be able to go on a ropes course… on a big boat... in the middle of the ocean! There is almost always a big line for the ropes course, so make sure to take that into account when trying to go.
If you’re not so much up for the thrills, then you can head to the pool area and soak up some vitamin D! There’s usually live music or games in the pool area for your entertainment. Sometimes, it may be hard to find lounge chairs but don’t lose hope! If you are 18+, you can also find lounge chairs at Spice H2O! Not only do they have lounge chairs, but there’s also a bar and a hot tub. I’m a simple gal, so laying out on the lounge chairs and soaking up the sun was one of my favorite activities to do on the boat! There’s nothing like enjoying a nice cold piña colada while gazing at the endless ocean waters.
For towels, you will need to head to the towel area (located by pool on deck 15). They will ask for your room number before giving you the towels. Make sure to return the towels before heading back to the room or risk getting hit with a charge on your card.
Norwegian Cruise Line does a great job of making sure there’s entertainment for you during any hour of the day! They put on many shows in the theater and live music at the bars & atrium. They have 12 bars to choose from throughout the ship! They also have arcades, a casino, nightclub, and a comedy club. My favorite show I saw on the ship was Burn the Floor! It’s a 45-minute show filled with Latin dancing and music. I definitely recommend making time to see this production! The crew exerts such great energy when they perform, they make you feel like you’re on the stage with them! You can reserve tickets either through the app or at the box office (deck 6).
Another favorite entertainment of mine was Howl at the Moon. Howl at the Moon is a dueling piano bar where they perform many oldies and modern hits! The vibe at this bar is great - especially when everyone is singing along with the performers!! No need to reserve tickets for this one, you can just head in and sit wherever you please.
They also put on game shows in the atrium in the evening. My boyfriend and I enjoyed watching these because they were all so funny to watch! I swear I had one of the best laughs of my life while watching a couple’s game show there. They choose the couples from the crowd - so if you and your significant other want to play, make sure to get noticed!
Pay attention to the daily schedule you receive daily in your room! This schedule will list all the entertainment going on for the day. You can also check out the NCL app for the daily schedule.
My boyfriend and I had an oceanview cabin and felt that it wasn’t worth it. If we were to go cruising again, we would either do an inside cabin or balcony. We barely even looked outside our little window, because we were rarely in our room. If you want a view of the ocean, then go big and upgrade to a balcony. Our oceanview cabin wasn’t bad at all though. Even though the room was small, we still felt comfortable spending the week there. The room does come with a hairdryer, towels, soap, and shampoo. Also, we had the friendliest cabin steward who helped us tremendously with our luggage. He was great at checking in on us and making sure we had everything we needed. Make sure to tip your cabin steward at the end of your trip, because they work hard to keep your surroundings nice and clean!!
The room comes with a TV that has shows, movies, and events on the ship that you may have missed! There is also a channel displaying where the ship is on a map and a live camera feed of the ship’s bow. You can also find information regarding cruise entertainments and restaurants on the TV.
The cruise comes with 6 complimentary dining areas and 9 specialty dining restaurants. We tried all 6 of the complimentary dining areas and preferred the buffet at Garden Cafe. The buffet offers plenty of selections from Asian to Italian food and I felt that the food tastes better there. Also, the buffet has really good chicken tenders!! I literally couldn’t go a day without thinking about their chicken tenders when I was on the ship! Savor and Taste is across from each other and they’re basically the same restaurant. They have the same menu for the most part (maybe one or two different entrees or dessert) and the food is mediocre. If you want nice entertainment while enjoying dinner, head on over to The Tropicana Room. They either have live music or a dance performance in the evening. The atmosphere in this restaurant was great! The only specialty dining restaurant we paid for was a Brazillian steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria ($39/person). You can start your evening with a 43-item salad bar and eat the night away with 12 selections of meat carved tableside. This was a great experience and the food was delicious! I definitely recommend trying this specialty restaurant out!
Our ship stopped at two ports in Mexico: Costa Maya and Cozumel. We did excursions at both of the ports and had such an amazing time! Check out our excursion adventures here.
More important tips:
If you’re a first-time cruiser, don’t forget to pack motion sickness relief pills, patches, or bracelets. Even if you think you don’t get motion sickness, pack it anyways! I usually don’t get motion sickness at all, but there was one time when I had to take Dramamine to keep myself seeing straight lol!
Don’t forget to bring a lanyard or phone pouch (if you have one). Or to my ladies out there- bring a small little purse (preferably a crossbody). This will help keep your cruise ID card in a safe place. It’s important to not lose your card as this card is the key to everything on the ship! You buy things off of this card, you get into your room with this card, you get drinks with this card… KEEP THIS CARD SAFE!
Bring a reusable water bottle! This will be extremely useful for you and will save you money. My boyfriend and I would refill our water bottles at the buffet. Also, you can bring your water bottles to quench your thirst on those long excursion treks!
Let’s get personal! Since the cabin is already small as it is… the bathroom is even smaller. Don’t forget to bring Poo-Pourri or other air fresheners for when you go number 2! This will definitely help eliminate unpleasant odors in an especially small space like the cabins.
If you’re not a fan of paper straws, bring your own reusable straw. The bars will give you paper straws that only work for the first 3 minutes you get your drink. After that, it turns into moist, unusable mush!
Have a sensitive stomach? Make sure to pack some probiotics in your bag. This will help protect your gut from foreign bacteria that you may encounter from eating food you’re not used to!
Norwegian Cruise Line gave us the best experience as first-time cruisers! All the staff we encountered were great and helpful. We did not run out of activities to do on the boat and we enjoyed the entertainment that we saw. With Coronavirus still standing its ground, it’s hard to predict when the cruising industry will run back up again. As of now, they are currently postponing all 2020 sails, but are booking sails for 2021. NCL did a great job of making sure almost all areas on the ship had hand sanitizer when we went in January. So, I would imagine they will be more cautious and adopt other sanitization practices when they are back up. If you’re thinking of a cruise getaway after this 2020 quarantine, I 100% suggest you check out Norwegian Cruise Line! They will deliver you a stress-free vacation filled with unforgettable memories alongside your loved ones.