You know you’re excited to leave the country when you can’t sleep the night before. This reached an all time high because I had no idea where I was traveling to. My mom & dad (love you guys!) planned an entire vacation by themselves for their anniversary and all I knew at the time was that I needed a weeks worth of clothes and we were going on a cruise ship. I was so stoked and I was counting down the days. I packed up all my camera gear and clothes and we headed to O’hare International Airport (ORD) super early in the morning on Sept 24th, 2016. I arrived at the airport about two hours before departure to wait for the rest of my family to show up. There would be a total of six of us going and both of my sisters had no idea where we were going either.
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As my family members started showing up to the airport, it was like I hadn’t seen them in months, when really it was probably a week or two. I was so excited for their arrival and I couldn’t wait to start our journey together. We checked-in at the airport and grabbed our boarding passes. At this point in time, we knew our first destination, South Carolina. While SC sounded fun, I had a feeling this wasn’t our final destination because only a few cruise ships depart from SC. Once we landed in SC I had a good feeling we were transferring to somewhere in Florida because most Caribbean cruises leave from this area and my parents love the Caribbean. I was almost certain we were flying to Ft. Lauderdale and boarding Carnival cruise line again.
Turns out, we were not flying into Ft. Lauderdale, but into Miami International Airport. I had never been to Miami so I was delighted at the change of scenery. Once we landed, we grabbed our luggage and hopped into the Mercedes shuttle bus that took us to our hotel.
Pro Tip: Fly into the cruise port the night before because generally you will be cutting it too close if your plane arrives the morning of disembarkment.
We took a stroll a few blocks away from our hotel and found Moonlite diner, did some shopping at the local strip-mall and then called it a night as the sun was setting.
The next morning we began our short 25mile trip to the port Miami.
The port had several cruise ships lined up one after another so even though we arrived at port, we still had no idea what ship we were going on.
I still can’t believe that this is my fifth cruise since 2001, I just love cruising!
The entire vacation was one of the most action packed I’ve ever went on…
This was our ship. The 145,655 ton Norwegian Getaway vessel!
Getting aboard a cruise ship (or checking-in) is a tedious process but if you’re a seasoned veteran like myself, you will expect the long wait. Cruise ship security is very tight and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. For example, as a drone enthusiast, you are not allowed to take your drone on board. As well as firearms, fireworks, knives, paraphernalia, etc.
Once we got past security we headed up the zig-zagged ramp to enter the ship for the first time. You’ll see in the vlog below how enthusiastic we were. Upon showing security our ID’s and room key cards, we entered the ship. First, we took a mini tour of the boat, grabbed a drink and hit the buffet. We entered our estate room and found our daily program. The daily program is left under your door every day and it’s basically your ship bible. It doesn’t hurt to keep this with you at all times so you know what’s going on each day. I decided early on that I didn’t want to know where we were going next so I didn’t look at the program at all. I would not suggest this if you’re a first time cruiser, you will miss out on a lot of things the cruise has to offer!
The Getaway combines a ton of amenities and a industry-first open-air promenade to make you feel like your gliding across the ocean with a very open-air feel. The ship has more than 28 dining options, five water slides and three levels of action-packed activities in the sports complex.
My parents found a great deal on the Getaway cruise and we were upgraded to balcony rooms and all-you-can-drink accommodations. The balcony room was a real treat, I have never had a balcony room and it was worth the little bit extra that Norwegian charges.
It’s required by law that everybody on the ship attends the muster station demonstration. The muster station is the place you should meet if something should go wrong aboard the ship. For example, in case of an evacuation. We attended our demonstration and found out where our muster station was located. After the recommended training, it was time to leave PortMiami and officially set sail!
Hundreds of people lined the ship decks and railings to watch the Getaway sail away from the port.
If you don’t know me, I’m a huge fan of ice cream. Love, love, love my ice cream! Most cruise ships come with unlimited ice cream and it doesn’t disappoint. Ice cream after breakfast, ice cream at the pool and ice cream after dinner. Ice cream all the time! On the first day, I consumed roughly three bowls.
After sitting down for dinner and having a great meal, we took some time to get more acquainted with the ship and did some exploring.
Waking up and taking two steps out to our balcony was amazing. There is nothing more tranquil than the sea breeze and the sound of calm waters and gentle waves at the sea below. I’m not sure what it is, but some of the best sleep in my life has been on a cruise ship. Maybe it’s the pitch black rooms, the action-packed summer days or the ship rocking me back and forth, but I love it.
Today we were going to be at sea all day so we knew we had time to enjoy the big breakfast buffet and relax before we took a look at the ship itinerary for the day. The breakfast atmosphere was controlled chaos as waitresses and waiters danced through the buffet area. Finding a seat for a family of six near the windows proved difficult but once we found a good spot, the feast began! Another one of my favorite parts of cruising is the endless food options and 24/7 buffet. You can always find something almost all times of the day if you are hungry or thirsty.
But, first things first, family gym time. Families who work out together, stay together…or something like that!
The gym wasn’t the nicest I have seen aboard a ship, but it’s going to help me keep off all those bowls of ice cream and adult beverages I will be consuming this week. The best part was the “treadmill room” or the cardio-fitness area. This area had floor to ceiling windows that gave you a great view from deck 15.
After we finished sweating out our breakfast at the gym we challenged ourselves to the biggest ropes course at sea. This multi-level structure has a zip-line, 40 different elements and is one heck of a time. For the ultimate thrill, take a walk on The Plank, which extends 8 feet over the side of the Getaway. The ropes course is included, FREE, no cost at all and you can do it as many times as you want. Make sure to watch the vlog to see this incredible experience. Here is a sneak preview.
The ropes course was so much fun but we didn’t stop there, it was time for some Fireball shots!
No, not those kind of shots, ski-ball and basketball shots at the arcade center. The arcade center does cost money but you do get tickets and can redeem them for prizes. The arcade as a wide variety of games and is a good place to kill some time while waiting for others to get ready for dinner.
Tonight was our first formal night on the cruise. Usually, if you want to dine in the dining area the crew required you to dress up twice during your week stay. Young ladies, women and girls should wear cocktail or sundresses and men and boys should have closed toe shoes, dress slacks and a colored shirt. I opted to go all out and wear a navy-blue suit. We ate at the Savor, which is the main dining room. Dining here is complementary and features hot new dishes, with an extensive menu of deliciously fresh flavors along with chic and modern decor.
Dinner was very good and I can guarantee we will be eating here again.
Next up on the agenda included a date to the dance and hip-hop show called “Burn The Floor”. Now, I’m not one for attending shows, especially dance shows but for some reason this show blew me away. The dancers (male and female) had a ton of energy and rhythm. I learned later that the dancers practice seven days a week, twice a day. There is some sample footage in the vlog below, check it out!
This concludes our first full day on the Norwegian Getaway and at sea. Let’s see where we are navigating to tomorrow, but for now, enjoy the video.
Land! I SEE LAND! FINALLY! For the last day and a half we cruised between 12 and 22 knots but we finally made it to our first destination, Roatan, Honduras! This was a new island for me and I was excited to get off the boat and start exploring. I’ve been to 17 different countries in the Caribbean and some of them like Cozumel multiple times.
Before we get off the ship, we had breakfast, the most important meal of the day.
Pro Tip: You want to make sure you have breakfast on the ship. It’s free and you don’t know what you will find on the islands for food. A good breakfast could keep you full until you get back on the ship later in the day. Fill up on heavy carbs, protein and fruit. This was a very common breakfast dish for me each morning.
If you time it right, getting off the ship is a breeze. If you have something planned or an excursion you need to be at very early in the morning, you better get downstairs super early and be prepared for a long check-out process. If you can afford to wait until the initial rush is off the boat, it takes no time at all and that’s usually what we do.
We killed some time after breakfast by deciding to hit the water slides and playing some ping-pong. I can’t get over how tall and long the slides are and the fact that they are on top of a ship is mind-boggling. I was not expecting the speeds that I hit, it was awesome!
Early morning came and gone and late morning was here. Time to get off the boat. I was told by my parents that I needed a bathing suit and a change of clothes. That only meant one thing, we were getting wet. Let’s not forget, I had no idea what the day had in store and what we were doing off the ship.
Once we got off the ship we went on a small shuttle bus that was going to take us to our next destination in West Bay. When we arrived at a surf shop, we took the sandy path behind it where we found a long pier and a catamaran boat called “The Jolly Roger”.
The boat was pretty crowded but we knew right where to head, the front! The front part of a catamaran is where the netting is. Depending on the ride and wave height, sometimes you can get splashed or wet in this area. I prefer sitting here because you feel connected with the ocean and can see where the boat is headed.
The catamaran dropped us off at a well-known “hot spot” to do some snorkeling. My sisters and I jumped in the water and headed a couple hundred feet away from the boat to get away from the rest of the crowd. We found a decent amount of different fish species, but no hidden treasures, sadly.
We enjoyed our time swimming freely in the ocean but we were getting hungry and a tasty buffet waited for us on deck. We dried off and got to enjoy some bbq jerk pulled chicken, caribbean rice, pasta salad and fresh watermelon. If I had to give this tour a one out of 10 rating, I would give it a seven. It was not spectacular but it was fun and entertaining. If I could’ve changed one thing about the tour, I would’ve went to a better snorkeling spot with more to look at and a second snorkeling stop somewhere else if possible. I would’ve liked to see more sites around the island. To get back to the boat we took the same shuttle bus that brought us there.
Later that evening we grabbed some cocktails before heading off to dinner at the Savor main dining restaurant. The sun really had most of us calling for our beds early that night so we didn’t do anything besides relax on our balcony and watch the ship depart from Roatan.
Pro Tip: Bring sunblock! While this won’t stop you from getting tired laying out in the sun all day, it will help prevent cancer. Buy it in the states and bring it with you, it’s cheaper than buying it on the islands.
Day 4 started off in the bay of Belize City.
By now, I knew exactly what I wanted to eat most mornings at the breakfast buffet. Usually I would opt for a custom-made egg omelet from the chef and then grab some cinnamon french toast with whip cream and strawberries, bacon or sausage and some fresh fruit. Yes, I can eat a lot and I’m not a large person. That’s why I work out, ha!
Fresh fruit displayed above the buffet each morning.
We had to be off the ship at a decent time this morning so there was no lollygagging around after eating. I found out that for today’s adventure I would need a bathing suit, gym shoes and a change of clothes.
Something unique to our adventure on this day was that we had to take a boat tender to get to the mainland. The port is not big enough for the ship to dock so cruisers had to take a smaller boat to get from the ship to Belize City.
As we hopped off the boat tender and walked down the pier, we were greeted by our bus driver. Our bus driver walked us a few blocks from the pier and escorted us to his bus. The bus ride was a little longer than desired at around one hour. Much of Belize is not developed and the one-way roads were pretty rough at times. Nonetheless, we made it safely to our destination, that is, after we were stopped by the policia! Luckily we were not hiding anything…
We pulled up in our shuttle bus to Belize Zip Line Adventure. YES! I was stoked! I’ve done some zip-lining before but its a different experience at every location and what better way to experience the treetops, than in the jungle. There was a total of seven lines and three of them were super long, some of the longest and fastest zips I have ever done, it was really exhilarating. We even crossed above some a river on the zips and also this Indiana-Jones-esq man-made bridge. Our tour guide expressed how he help build the bridge himself and as you can imagine, it was a long process given it’s location. I can’t even describe it so it’s best if you watched the video at the end of this post instead. But for now, enjoy these photos.
The guides were super fun, nice and knowledgeable about their country and zip course. Safety was their number one priority so I felt confident in them and their equipment. Thats important when you are soaring hundreds of feet over the ground. By the end, we all had nicknames for each other and there was a lot of joking around. I would highly recommend Belize Zip-Line Adventures!
The fun didn’t stop there though, because right when we landed on the last zip-line platform, we were told to climb down and wait for instructions on where to go next. Next? There is more?!
You bet! The adventure never stopped and our tour guide took us over to the place next door called “Caves Branch Outpost Adventure”. I was a little leery about entering a cave, caves are scary and you don’t know what you’ll find but I guess that’s part of the adventure. But, not only were we entering some dark caves, but we would be doing it on a inner-tube. We picked out a tube and crossed a river by holding onto a line going across the river to the other side. Once we made it across the river we hiked 1-mile to enter the part of the river where our journey began. One by one we each climbed into our inner tubes and we were off!
The caves were dark, hence the flash lights on our heads that made us look a little bit ridiculous. it didn’t bother me though, I would rather have a light and see what’s going to jump out at me, ha! We didn’t see anything in the caves and I was a little surprised. The locals said because the caves are so busy, that bats or other wildlife do not tend to go in there anymore and that makes a lot of sense. As we exited the caves we followed a nice, lazy, river, the rest of the way. It was very surreal to be surrounded by the jungle and floating along the river. There was not a lot of wildlife that I saw but it was very hot out and it was the middle of the day so that’s kind of expected in the hot sun. The tree’s and brush were beautiful but the water was murky so I wasn’t inclined to get in at all unless we had to. Our tour guide was also in a tube and navigated us down the river. I had a great time on the tube ride but I probably wouldn’t do this exact excursion again and that’s only because I already know what to expect. The zip line adventure though, I would definitely do again because the views were amazing and I’m an adrenaline junkie.
That’s was all she wrote for our time on Belize. Once the tube ride was over, we dried off, grabbed a drink and went back on the shuttle bus into Belize City. Back to the Getaway!
After cleaning up and taking a stroll around the ship deck I noticed a Carnival cruise ship far in the distance just before sunset.
We decided to change it up a bit and try a new restaurant for dinner. This place was called Taste, how fitting.
Dinner didn’t slow us down tonight as we tried our luck at the casino for the first time. I’m not much of a gambler but I did end up winning $60 on the slots. I quickly quit while I was ahead and get out of there without any more damage to my pocket-book.
Day 5 has us at the port of Costa Maya, Mexico. I was told that I needed much of the same for the day; bathing suit, sunglasses, change of clothes, etc.
We quickly grabbed something to eat and headed down the gangway to the pier. The Costa Maya pier is ridiculously long so we took a short tram from the end of the pier to the mainland. Grandma was happy!
We got off the tram and had to walk through a tourist trap, aka a small village with a bunch of souvenir shops and places to eat and drink. The only thing appealing here were these folks, sweet costume dude and dude-ets.
We tipped the Mayans a few US dollars for the photos and made our way past the small shops to our shuttle bus. The shuttle bus took us along the Costa Maya coast, with beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea. I wasn’t sure what to expect or where we were going but I couldn’t wait!
When we arrived, we were greeted by the owner of Maya Chan Resort & Beach, Jane Ostrow. It’s very rare that the owner of a resort personally welcomes you to their resort, or in this case, private beach. Private beach you say?! COUNT ME IN! Jane is very passionate about Costa Maya and she personally helped build her resort by hand after hurricane Dean in 2007. Read her story HERE.
While a sandy beach isn’t for everybody, this was one of the best excursion experiences I have ever had! And that’s directly reflected upon Jane, Mark and David’s care for their resort. You wont see beach chairs lining the beach, paparazzi around every corner or loud music. What you will get is; excellent hospitality from the staff, tranquility, great food, a private and beautiful beach, strong tropical drinks and plenty of water activities for all ages. We even got our own Tiki hut just for us! Can you say private beach and private Tiki hut?! It was really cool and the fresh fish tacos were to die for.
It was my first time on a stand-up paddle board and I enjoyed the challenge of battling the waves in the ocean. Naturally, I fell off a few times and one of those times I even lost my GoPro for a moment. I had to run back to the beach and grab some snorkeling gear so I could find it. That was not fun, but that was on me for falling off and losing it. It was also my first time playing life-size Jenga, that was pretty entertaining and our family almost broke the height record (33 levels!). I found myself with lots to do and I was not bored for a second of my stay. Let’s not forget, there was an endless supply of adult beverages too that were included. The beach resort also overs kayaking, lounge tubes, private cabana, massages and a lookout tower.
When our time was up, Maya Chan Beach & Resort sent us off with frozen cocktails and a private shuttle bus back to the ship. We were having so much fun that we cut our time pretty close and the ship was on its last boarding call. Survey says we only made it by about 15 or 20minutes. You DO NOT want to miss the disembarkation!
Once we got back to our rooms, it was time to shower and get ready for a dinner and a show. We ate at the Tropicana Restaurant and while we were eating Burn The Floor was performing a dance number. While it was loud in the dinning room, it was a good show and gave us something to do while we waited for our food. After a nice meal we went to the comedy club aboard the Norwegian Getwaway. One of the funnier lines was; “A bears favorite food is berries and salmon…yeah, dude, because that’s what’s there. Why don’t you put a pizza tree out there or a beer pond. You’ll see some fat-hammered-bears rolling around…” I thought the comedy show was hilarious and I would recommend checking it out at least one night.
Each night after dinner we would try to fool people in the elevator by all six of us standing real close to the front like the elevator was completely fool. Kind of a mean thing to do but we were just having fun and we actually never turned anybody away. Watch the video below to see what I’m talking about.
Our last and final port of call was Cozumel, Mexico! This was my second time in Cozumel but it has been a few years. The last time was on a cruise as well. Cozumel is a beautiful island off of mainland Mexico, best known for some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving spots in the world. However, we would be doing neither of those things on this day. We were told to bring the same attire for each of the past excursions, a bathing suit and a change of clothes.
The northwestern cruise & ferry port terminal was nothing spectacular. It was very much a tourist trap because as soon as you walk down the long pier, you are forced to go up and over a bridge that has you navigate through a Cozumel mall. We didn’t spend any time here, as we quickly walked past stores begging us to come inside, we had somewhere to be!
An off-road Jeep adventure through the brush and wetlands of northern Cozumel. Talk about a wet and wild ride, this was it! We hopped in our Jeep and headed north from the cruise terminal. Once we were away from traffic, the concert jungle turned into the jungle. Concrete city roads turned into outer city dirt roads, which turned into no roads at all. Before we knew it, we were going through ditches and puddles 2feet deep. It’s a good thing the Wrangles were equipped with all-wheel-drive and good tires because we would’ve got stuck a few times. The best part about the adventure was that we were seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with nobody else around except other jeeps in our group. It was safe to say we hit every mud hole and “jump” we could on our way to the end of Cozumel. The jeep was covered in dirty water and mud. It’s a Jeep thing!
Lucky for us, this adventure was two-fold. A little dizzy and dazed from being bounced around in the Jeep, we stumbled onto a dock where a small boat would take us to a private island. We headed out to the open sea and got a good seat on the boat.
We arrived on a beach paradise called Passion Island or “Isla Pasion”! It was the perfect place to relax and enjoy the Caribbean at its best! There was so many things to do there; enjoy the palm tree-lined beach, hammocks, lounge beds, picnic tables, beach games, water activities and of course my favorite…buffet lunch and open bar, complementary.
After grabbing some grub and drinks from the Tiki bar, we sought out to find some beach chairs and layed out in the sun for a few minutes before playing a competitive game of family volleyball. Our tour guide for the day jumped in to make the teams even. It was my younger sister, mom and myself (Team 1) vs my dad, my older sister and the tour guide (Team 2). In the end, team 2 ended up beating team 1, but it was a close game and came down to only 2points. Everyone was pretty hot and sweaty from our game so we decided to take a dip in the ocean to cool off and check out the water park.
Our time on the Isla Pasion was short and sweet but we thoroughly enjoyed it! We got back on the small boat shuttle and headed back to Cozumel to get to our Jeep as the fun was not over yet. Back through the jungle we bounced around and splashed through puddles and the rugged terrain. Once we got back we had to take out some of the leaves and branches from the Jeep grill and underneath the body. Nobody wants to get charged for a damaged vehicle ;).
After dropping off the Jeep, we headed back to the pier and up the gangway to board the Getaway.
A hot and refreshing shower felt so good, the sun and water really takes a toll on your body and mind. I wanted to take a siesta but it was time for dinner and it was our last formal night so getting ready took a little bit longer than usual. I think the outcome was worth the wait if I do say so myself.
Dinner was phenomenal, as the Savor dining room was serving beef Wellington. SO, good! Dinners eat night lasted about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on what time we went, the dining room and services.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to spend this much time at dinner service, feel free to enjoy the buffet area, which will get you in and out much quicker.
There was not a better way to spend the evening than attending the musical “Million Dollar Quartet”. Normally, this isn’t my cup of tea but I wasn’t going for the acting, I was going for the music! On December 4, 1956, an auspicious twist of fate brought Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley together. The place was Sun Records’ storefront studio in Memphis. The man who made it happen was Sam Phillips, the “Father of Rock and Roll,” who discovered them all. The four young musicians united for the only time in their careers for an impromptu recording that has come to be known as one of the greatest rock jam sessions of all time. Inspired by the true story, “Million Dollar Quartet” features a treasure trove of the greatest rock and roll, gospel, R&B, and country hits from these musicians, including such iconic songs as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Riders in the Sky,” “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”
The Million Dollar Quartet show was off the chain, one of the best performances I have ever seen. OK, this was my first live performance I’ve ever seen, but still… The actors were spot on, harmonies, music notes and all. They really captured the infectious spirit, freewheeling excitement and thrilling sounds of the music industry’s most extraordinary talents. My favorite performer was Jerry Lewis, he was amazing.
Check out all the action from Day 6 below.
All good things must come to an end. Day 7 was our last full day on the ship and we were going to be sailing back to Port Miami. While we wouldn’t be getting to Port Miami until the wee hours of the morning the next day, there was still time to explore, party and have fun aboard the Norwegian Getaway.
The day started off with breakfast and then a dance lesson from the dancers of Burn The Floor. And 5,6,7,8…
After working off breakfast and having some laughs on the dance floor, it was time to head to the pool and lounge before the pool games began in the early afternoon. But first, not before a nice cold soft-service ice cream cone. I lost track of how many I had by the third day but I would say it was somewhere around 15-20. I told you I like Ice cream!
Poolside entertainment was always a good time and included a group of enthusiastic and energetic crew members. This time the pool games consisted of two teams and included things like synchronized swimming, belly flops and a dance off.
Pro Tip: You can find great musicians throughout the ship and playing at all times of the day/night.
The water slides on the Getaway are awesome and so much fun, just look at my sister’s face in the picture below. She had no idea the slides were that fast…
After the excitement from the water slides and pool games wore off, my mom and I went off to play some mini-golf. The ship had a great little setup underneath the ropes course. I’m not sure who won but we had fun navigating our way through the pirate & ship-wrecked theme course.
I get bored very easily so after mini-golf I decided to go shoot some hoops at the sport court. It’s hard for me to just sit still and not do anything for long periods of time so I try to keep busy on days like these. I like to go-go-go!
Pro Tip: Don’t drink the water or have ice cubes in your drinks on any of the islands. Always use bottled water. My dad and sister got very sick from Isla Pasion because they were drinking water on the beach. It’s great to stay hydrated but they didn’t know it wasn’t bottle water.
Dinner on our last full day was a quick one, because there was only four of us. so we went to a pub and grill called “O’Sheehan’s”. The food was your typical american-irish grill, mostly sandwiches, wraps and salads, not a ton of options. We ended up having the nacho plate to share and then each getting sandwiches. I recommend the chipotle, BBQ chicken sandwich and strawberry pound-cake.
Our last and final day is best summed up by the video below, take a look.