Are you wondering what it’s like to cross the Atlantic on a cruise ship? Maybe you’re a first time cruiser, as we were on our first Trans Atlantic cruise. Everything will be new, the experience of being on these huge ships, the ocean herself and the thought of 10 or so days at sea.
I was nervous before we left Southampton in February 2014. I had no idea what lay ahead on our voyage to New York.
Want to know the good news?
We loved it.
So much so that we booked a return crossing on Norwegian Epic for later in the year.
Read on to see how our maiden cruise, Norwegian Getaway’s maiden voyage, went.
Our Trans-Atlantic Cruise On Norwegian Getaway
We’ve arrived in New York after our 10 day Trans-Atlantic Cruise on Norwegian Getaway and we’re still buzzing with excitement and swaying like drunken sailors. We didn’t sink. That’s a relief.
It was strange at first, getting used to cruise-world. I think I actually experienced culture shock for the first time and that’s not something that’s ever happened to me during my lifetime of travelling adventures.
The cruise was something so totally different to our normal lives and experiences that it just weirded us out for a short while. But we got into it quickly and we had lots of fun. We’re really, really glad we took this opportunity to cross the Atlantic the slow way when we did.
This Cruise was the Maiden Voyage of Norwegian Getaway.
It’s pretty special being on the maiden voyage of a brand new ship, we were guinea pigs in a way and had the luxury of the ship being 2/3 empty, no queues, no waiting and nothing was crowded.
The crew was fabulous and would do anything and everything they could to make everyone’s cruise experience the very best it could be. There were actually more crew on board than customers on our Atlantic crossing on Getaway. I think there were more entertainers than customers, there was a different show in the theatre ever night. That won’t continue, shows will be repeated on future cruises and customers will have to book seats. We could just turn up at the theatre and bag front row seats.
She is a magnificent ship, beautifully equipped, particularly the outdoor ropes and climbing set up, that was superb.
What’s So Weird About Being on a Cruise Ship?
No internet was top of the list. Satellite internet was available but at $15/hour, I stayed offline. I think it’s easier for me to go cold turkey than to ration myself. They teased me for the first day with free access to Facebook and Twitter, but after our first night at sea, that vanished.
I’ve not even tried to write many posts offline, we’ve been too busy. That’s not like me at all, a day never goes by without me working. But we really were rushing around from one activity to the next and falling into our beds exhausted, I didn’t miss my computer.
The activities and entertainment on Getaway were great and extremely diverse. There was a full schedule every day, but none of them were the sort of things we’d normally take part in at home or on our usual travels.
We’ve watched dance, magic, hypnosis and music shows, joined in silly competitions, done crosswords and Sudoku puzzles, won quizzes, tried our hands at cake decorating, been to a hypnosis seminar, eaten foods that we normally wouldn’t eat and played a lot of ping-pong, and that’s just for starters.
It was a little tricky to get our cruise heads on at first. We looked at the entertainments programme on the first day and just thought it wasn’t for us, but once we started having a go at everything we had a really good laugh, it was fun!
Chef developed a new interest in the highly competitive world of blongo ball, you’ll have to take a cruise to find out what that is.
We’ve done some stuff that is more normal to us, swam in pools, wallowed in hot tubs, whizzed down water slides, climbed on an outdoor climbing wall and had a go at a terrifying outdoor ropes course. Normal, other than they were 15 floors up on a constantly moving monster platform in some pretty wet and windy conditions. That was scary and weird although the boys showed no fear, as usual. It’s a very long drop to a very big ocean from the top of that rope swing.
You could even walk the plank in very calm conditions.
We were busy most of the time and it took its toll, we were worn out and slept longer than usual despite the 25 hour days as we cruised through the time zones. The evening shows started at 8pm, we’re normally in bed around then, but in cruise ship world that’s the start of the evening. It was weird, but it made a nice change.
Being around people who freely and openly discussed their millionaire status, loudly, was interesting and weird. They were in the minority, most customers were as un-cashed-up as us, it’s really not particularly expensive to cross the Atlantic this way, but you do need time.
If you keep an eye on regularly updated sites such as this one, you’ll see special offers you may otherwise miss.CruiseDirect: Special Offers & Top 10 Weekly Cruise Deals. There is a Trans Atlantic cruise on there for under $600 at the moment, our favourite, Norwegian Getaway is on sale in the Carribean too.
Hanging out with a professional world-class magician and his family was weird but super cool. Alain Nu, The Man Who Knows, was a superstar on stage and off. The boys and his family had a ball together.
Sailing through the Sargasso Sea was amazing and weird. I never thought I’d be able to say I’ve been there. Yes, we saw sargassum weed! ( I get excited about some really strange things!)
Freaky weird was the art photo on our deck. We’re 99% sure it’s Mirissa, Sri Lanka, our last slice of paradise.
We were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a floating holiday camp. That, in itself, was totally weird!
This Cruise Has Been Full of Surprises.
The route we took from Southampton to New York wasn’t what you might expect.
We went a long way south, past the Azores and on south west almost to Bermudu, taking a sharp right up towards New York. The course changed a few times, at one point we were heading south of Florida. The captain’s announcements told us that this was a ploy to catch good weather, he was expecting blue skies and sunshine down south, but we hit a patch of rain and fog, no big deal really.
The seas were mostly fairly calm. In the middle of the Atlantic we only had 1.5 m waves. We had a bumpy couple of days just after we left the English Channel, then north of Bermuda and approaching New York waves got up to 5m and the ship was rocking a bit.
When the ship was really rolling the swimming pools and slides closed but they were open for most of the crossing. They were heated enough to be comfortable. I didn’t expect to be using the water park at all on a trans-Atlantic cruise, in January, so that was a really nice surprise. It’s pretty amazing to be in a pool that sloshes about violently with the movement of the ship, you can almost swim on the spot. The boys loved the moving pools.
Rain closed the climbing wall and ropes course now and then, but we had plenty of chances to use all the outdoor facilities during dry periods, they were pretty outstanding, brand new equipment and the staff were great with all of us.
Another surprise was how focused the Norwegian team were on avoiding outbreaks of illness, the smiling, gorgeous “washy washy” crew reminded us to use hand sanitiser before entering the dining rooms. The kids loved them.
Have We Been Seasick?
No, no sea sickness at all. Which was great because I was worrying about that. I stopped worrying about sinking Titanic-style pretty quickly, too.
When we were lying in our bunks we seemed to be totally immune to seasickness. The only time the ship’s motion started to feel a little odd was when we were getting dressed or moving around in our cabin, maybe trying to balance to put socks on, that sort of thing. Other than that we were all totally fine with the ship’s motion, it was relaxing really, it gently rocked us to sleep.
Our cabin was on floor 11 high up at the back of the ship, interior, no windows and it was fine. We could hear the purring sound of the engines, nothing that would disturb anyone. Soundproofing of the cabins was excellent, I never heard any outside noise other than the engine purr and a few loud slaps and bangs as the ship hit bigger waves ( I think that’s what they were, I’m not sure).
Did We Have to Dress for Dinner?
I was wondering if we’d have to wear formal clothes on this cruise. We only have our backpacks, most of our clothes are worn out after almost 8 months of travelling but we did treat ourselves to new ( charity shop!) jeans and tidy shoes before we left the UK.
There were two evenings designated as “Dress up or Not”, a few people pulled out their best bib and tucker but we were perfectly comfortable in our jeans.
I had a dress and some borrowed shoes with me and never wore them. Most people on this ship were very dressed down. We saw a lot of tracksuits and extremely casual outfits.
Were There Other Families On-Board?
There were a handful of families with children around my boys’ ages and younger on Getaway.
We heard there were 30 kids in total. Families were in the minority, most of the passengers were older people with a smattering of singles.
We were told that in future, on Miami based cruises in holiday time, Getaway will have more like 2,000 under 18s on board. That would be a totally different experience for everyone.
The boys made friends and had loads of fun, with us, and without. We’ve met some lovely people from all sorts of backgrounds.
Most passengers seemed to enjoy having children around, very few were intolerant or grumpy with kids. That’s their problem.
The crew was fantastic with the younger passengers, particularly the chefs and front of house staff in the main buffet restaurant. I got the impression that a lot of them were missing their own families back in their home countries. The crew came from over 60 countries and it was beautiful.
Most of the school aged children on our cruise were homeschooled, it was great to meet others like us leading non-conventional lives.
Is There Much For Children to Do on A Cruise?
There was so much to do my boys now want to live on a cuise ship!
On this cruise there was a kids’ club that ran from around 9am to 1am ( crazy right?).
The boys weren’t very keen at first, they couldn’t pick what they wanted to do there and parents weren’t allowed in. We prefer to do things as a family, so we were occasional kids’ club users although D (9) and Boo (7) did get really into the club by the end of the 10 day crossing as they developed confidence and trust in the youth crew. By day 10 we were struggling to get them out of there.
We would drop them off and ring the club often to see if they were happy and wanted to stay in the club or come and try some activity with us, which worked well.
The boys made friends with another little girl, also not a huge kids’ club fan, and they played together between activities.
If the weather was good all the time Getaway would be kid paradise, they’d be in the pools and using the sports facilities all day, but bad weather drove us indoors sometimes.
There wasn’t an indoor play area, which was a bit of an oversight. We all hung out and played in the quiet end of the buffet restaurant when we didn’t have any activities lined up.
The children loved the nightly shows in the theatre and they got involved in the indoor games, throwing bean bags, ring toss, that sort of thing. They enjoyed the daily trivia quizzes. We won two, go the homeschoolers!
There were daily family craft classes and demonstrations and talks on all sorts of weird and wonderful topics.
The kids club had a very limited choice of computer games and they were only available for an hour twice a day. That was a major disappointment for the boys, they were looking forward to Skylanders after 7 months of travel. Mario was the only game on offer at first, once we told the manager how much it meant to the boys, he set up Skylanders for them.
Despite our teething problems with the kids club, we were very happy with how things eventually worked out, the manager handled our issues extremely well and with grace.
With my homeschooling head on for a moment, the cruise was an absolutely stellar learning experience, it was incredible how much learning we crammed into those 10 days. I’ll get another post out about it on Homeschool Group Hug.
One mind-blowing example, I bet my boys are the only kids in Australia to have seen the short film collaboration between Dali and Disney and some of the original 1940s story boards. They had a screening as part of the on-board art programme, just totally wow! ( But I’ve just discovered it’s on You Tube, the auctioneer made it sound like a never before seen short film, sneaky!)
What’s the Food Like on a Cruise?
There was so much food on Getaway! You could eat right round the clock if that’s your thing. We ate in the free buffet restaurant for most meals, there was a huge choice to suit us all, from fairly healthy to diet destroying and the sea views from deck 15 were pretty incredible.
The food was good, but not spectacular, mass catering and buffet dining always rule out top end food. Chef ( my husband, he’s Exec Chef at a 5 star resort back home) says they hit their market well. I really think it would be hard to put on a better buffet, based on my experience over the years of Chef’s Widowhood.
The cakes were fantastic and I think just about everything was made on board and not bought in.
We tried seated complimentary dining twice when there was entertainment on in that dining room. The food was similar to that on the buffet really, but the dancing was great.
We paid extra for the premium dinner and magic show one evening, at $25 each ( no reduction for children) it was a pretty expensive night out for us. The magic show and The Illusionarium were spectacular, the food less so. There was nothing wrong with it at all, it just wasn’t what we wanted to eat, there was no choice, steak with mashed potato and courgettes. We would have preferred the show without the meal and would happily have still payed the $25.
I guess they really go to town with the food in the pay-to-eat restaurants. Chef and I aren’t too bothered about paying extra for fine dining, we do it often enough back home as part of his work, so we didn’t try them out.
My favourite part of the buffet, the wine dispenser machine. It’s not free, ( prices are good, as are the wines) or it would be dangerous!
How Much Did The Trans Atlantic Cruise Cost?
Our tickets were $700 each including taxes.
Compulsory tipping charges came in at $12/person/day. Children pay too, so in total $480.
The ticket price included all complimentary dining, tea, coffee, juice at breakfast and a fruity drinks machine at dinner and lunch. Room service before midnight was also complimentary.
We paid for alcoholic drinks, the prices were good $7-8 for a glass of wine, about the same for a cocktail.
They added a 15% gratuity to drinks prices, even when you bought them from the machine. We thought that was a bit odd when we’d already paid for tips up front. Some of the staff were so lovely that I found myself giving them a tip on top of the 2 sets of tips that had already been added.
The ropes course, climbing wall, mini golf and water park were free.
All shows in the main theatre were free, we only paid extra for the magic show in the purpose-built Illusionarium, $25 each. Premium seats were $35 each. We think the kids got a better view from the cheap seats at the back, they could stand up, they wouldn’t have been able to do that in the premium seats.
We took part in a Margherita tasting event, it was $15 each and loads of fun. I’m now an expert on Margherita.
You could spend a lot of money on-board if you used the pay-to-dine restaurants and the spa. There were a few shows and tastings that had a fee, too. We didn’t feel we were missing out on anything by not spending more and we were very happy with what we got for our money.
We were disappointed that we didn’t get to see the ice bar, the kids were really looking forward to that. There was an entry fee of $20 US each, kids too. That gave the grown-ups 2 cocktails. I’m not sure what the kids got for their $20. I’m not usually a cocktail drinker and $80 is a lot to us, so we had to skip it. New York is still frozen solid anyway.
Update: We visited the ice bar on Norwegian Epic and loved it!
We thought the laundry service was a bargain $25 to fill a laundry bag, less than we were paying to take our clothes to the launderette back in the UK. That special offer appeared towards the end of the cruise, to get items washed individually was more pricey, $6 for jeans, $2 for socks.
Would we Recommend a Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
We had a great time on Norwegian Getaway. Even with all the research we did it wasn’t exactly what we expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, we’d jump at the chance to do it again.
We never expected to see a different show every night and to enjoy them as much as we did. The magic show in the Illusionarium was sensational, they had some top innovators from the world of magic on-board. The Burn the Floor dance show and The Beatles tribute, From The Cavern to The Rooftops were fantastic too.
We saw this Atlantic Crossing as a once in a lifetime chance to experience something completely different, it certainly was that.
We are considering booking another Atlantic Crossing, in reverse, on Norwegian Epic in a few months’ time. If we can find a great deal, we’d love to travel this way back to Europe.
UPDATE: We have booked a return 11 day cruise Trans Atlantic cruise at under $30/person/day
So whats a Trans Atlantic cruise like? For us it was awesome!
I can’t possibly fit everything we experienced on Norwegian Getaway into one post, but I’ve done my best. Sorry it’s so long, if you actually read it all I’ll be surprised, maybe stick something in a comment to tell me you did. Would you?
If you have any questions I’ll get back to you, either here or on our Facebook Page, either is good. Thanks for reading!