Looking for a less expensive December cruise? Try an older ship!

When it came time to look for a winter holiday cruise in 2022, my family and I were astounded at the prices. Before the pandemic, we cruised every winter holiday and weren’t forced to eat ramen the rest of the year. The pandemic changed a lot about cruising — especially the pricing.

So we made two choices that drastically changed our costs.

First, we chose an older ship that had recently been redone — The Mariner of the Seas.

Second, we took a five-day cruise.

This was our second December in a row doing a five-day cruise. I thought I’d be disappointed, but actually I wasn’t exhausted at the end of our trip and we all had an amazing time.

The Mariner of the Seas has so much to do and great entertainment. Laser tag was big with my teens and I loved the ice show. They are so talented. In addition, there was amazing music and singers all around the ship.

And can we talk about The Bamboo room? OMG, favorite bar to date on a ship. My drink looked like it came in a Caprisun, but it was amazing!!!

Check out my photos from the trip. If you have any questions, I’m here to help. Send me an email at Samantha.kappalman@gmail.com

Heaven on the Norwegian Escape June 2017

Day 1

Norwegian Escape



We pulled up in front of terminal B at the Port of Miami around 11:15 on Saturday, June 17 and it was a bit of a nightmare. There were many cars still picking people up from the last cruise. We finally found a place to briefly stop the car and with the help of a porter, we unloaded our bags along with me and the kids while my husband went to park the car in the garage.


Same cruise line, different cruise, different experience. When we walked up to the terminal, there was a line to get in. We got into line all the while looking at the beautiful ship. What a tease!


The line did not move quickly, but on the bright side, my husband caught up with us before we got to the front. We showed our documents and passports and walked through the security area. Right on the left in Terminal B after security is the Haven area. In Terminal C there is a separate check in and snacks area, but in Terminal B it is all in one room.


It was crowded, but soon enough a helper came to take folks who had already checked in up to the ship leaving those of us who still needed to some space. When she came back, she also cleaned up the snack area and put away empty glasses and such so that it looked nicer.


We filled out our health forms and after a few minutes, we were called up to check in. Unfortunately, my sea card was wrong, again. This is two cruises in a row that Norwegian had my amenities wrong. It was right on my reservation (I know, because I made it and I had it printed out and with me), but somehow it wasn’t right in their computer. FYI, the person at the computer in the terminal can’t do anything about it. She was going to get a supervisor, but my husband wisely said, we are in the Haven, let’s get on board and have the concierge fix it. Stress level down. Great idea.


We were escorted passed the lines and up to the walkway where we merged with others, but stayed with the person escorting us up to the Haven. We walked on and were up in the Haven by 12:00. The Concierge, Rishida, was very welcoming, gave us the spiel about the Haven and that the first day lunch at Margaritaville was complimentary and that evening only Food Republic was 50% off for Haven guests. We could eat at the Haven restaurant, but we wanted to try Margaritaville. After she was finished, we approached Rishida and she immediately took care of the amenity issue. Ah … I was officially on vacation! While the presentation was ongoing, waiters were handing out plates of sliders and fries and nonalcoholic drinks. Our boys were ecstatic. I looked over and they were all sitting down with the plates and drinks. Vacay had officially begun! I walked over to the Haven bar and got my first official drink, a Miami Vice (half Pina Colada, half Strawberry Daquiri and blue curucao liquer). Yes, I paid tax, but no worries, I was on vacation.


We dropped the bags we brought on board at our room, which was not ready yet and met our lovely Steward Marta. She was amazing throughout the cruise. Our room was spotless and she was very nice. We toured the Haven pool area including walking up to the sun deck and then walked across the ship to Margaritaville. Our cabin was on deck 17 and so was Margaritaville so we walked straight to the back of the ship. We gave our key cards and were immediately escorted to a table. Not everyone was hungry since the kids had just had sliders, so two of our kids went to play minigolf, my husband and remaining kid had nachos first. I had fish and chips. It was good, but nothing really special. A fun experience to be able to try for free though. My son had a cheeseburger in paradise for lunch – and that is a neat treat!


We then split up and my husband took my older son to Entourage (right next to Margaritaville inside) to sign up and I took the two younger ones down to Splash Academy on Deck 5. Signing up went smoothly. We then returned to our cabin, which was ready.


We had 17106, a two bedroom and it was beautiful. We loved the bathroom with the double sinks and being able to look outside and the bedroom had enough room to walk on either side of the bed. As many say, the second bedroom is tight, but it was perfect for two teenage boys who like to sleep late. They shared the second bedroom and bathroom and our youngest slept on the couch in the living room. There is plenty of storage. One thing I haven’t read about before is that that bedroom has a door, but no lock. I was pretty surprised, but it was not an issue. We enjoyed our room and toured the ship and before we knew it, it was time for sail away. So exciting! We changed for the pool and we went up to the Haven Sun Deck for sailaway. It was very windy up there, but great views from the front and sides of the ship of us leaving. Bye Miami!


At this point, I got my second drink, a Strawberry Daiquiri and we hung out at the pool until it was time to change for dinner. We had dinner at the Haven. Service every meal at this restaurant was fantastic. The manager of the restaurant, Maria, made every experience really enjoyable. We were so spoiled and it felt amazing. Not only was the service good, but the food was also really good. Every night the menu is the same, but there is so much on it that it would take more than a week to be able to try everything! My kids and I had a pork belly appetizer (that they then ordered every night we ate there!). My youngest son really wanted lobster, but the only restaurant that has it now on the Escape is Bayamo. He had a soup that had seafood in it at the Haven, it had lobster, and he loved that. The other kids got surf and turf and I had a delectable duck dish. It was all delicious. We were completely full and decided to take a walk. The sun was setting and the views were just gorgeous. The kids went to Splash Academy and Entourage to meet kids and my husband and I went to the District Brewhouse. There was a singer playing the piano most nights. He was from Texas and very good. We were surprised on the screens there to see that the person with the most brews the past cruise only had 29. What?!


Our favorite thing to do is relax and people watch so we walked around the ship for a bit doing that and we walked up to the buffet to see what there late night options were so that we knew for future notice. We hung out, enjoyed the relaxation and eventually got the youngest and called it a night. The older ones had a curfew each night and were very good about coming back when it was time.  End Day 1 – great start!



Day 2


We started each morning with breakfast out on the patio at the Haven restaurant. We had it mostly to ourselves just my husband, my youngest and me. Great views, always yummy food and great service. Almost every morning I had Tahitian Vanilla Challah French Toast with a berry sauce (it comes with marscapone cheese, but I get it without). They had lots of good options, but I had this on our last cruise on the Getaway, and I really liked it! One thing we really like about the Haven restaurant is that they always serve French Press coffee. It is so good!


After breakfast, my son, husband and I got changed and went to be by the slides for when they opened. They were so much fun! I only wish I had done them more. There is so much to do and seriously not enough time to do everything. After we did the slides a couple of times, they went to the pool in the Haven and I got changed and went to the atrium to watch a Food Republic food demonstration. The chefs had a lot of personality and the demonstration made me hungry again (why are we so hungry doing nothing!!) Soon it was time for our Meet & Greet.


Our Cruise Critic M&G hostess did an amazing job and NCL went all out. Our hostess had name tags for us and cards with all of the officers names on it. It was fun meeting folks from the forum! Waiters walked around with food and brought flights of beer to the tables. It was in the District Brewhouse and was completely packed!


A couple of the officers spoke including the amazing cruise director Tyler. One thing he said that really rang true is that they are here to make our experience better. If there is something that we aren’t happy with, to say something to one of the officers on the card so they have a chance to make it right! The hotel director Deepak came by to our table and we told him how much we were enjoying the ship – our youngest son was with us and he gave us a business card to take to the Gelato shop for free gelato. They were all very, very nice!


After the Meet & Greet, we decided to try Food Republic for lunch. Obviously the food demonstration was still on my mind. It was really, really good. It is seriously a no miss. We had great drinks, great food and it comes pretty quickly. It was quite busy, so the word is out on how good it is at Food Republic! We had eel rolls and crunchy spicy tuna along with Pad Thai, Edamame and some sort of fried rice dish. Everything was delicious. My drink was called a Ciao Venezia and had Aperol, pineapple juice, fresh lemon juice, rosemary and sparkling water. Seriously, really good!


After lunch we went to see if the ropes course was open. It was very windy Saturday through Tuesday and the ropes course was not open yet so we played Mini Golf. We did mini golf and then went back to hang out at the Haven pool area. There were always snacks and drinks in the courtyard. We were spoiled and relaxed and it was a good time. We got changed for dinner and had dinner in the Haven again. It was delicious once again. We walked around the ship for a bit, tried to get in to see Howl at the Moon, but couldn’t even get in to stand and eventually went back to the Haven to have dessert. This chocolate layer cake was so good.


The boys were at Splash and Entourage and we went to the Haven bar. Guess who was there? Bong! He had been there for about 2 weeks and was so much fun to have in the Haven! This night we had our first towel animal – a puppy. So cute! It was a late night (for us) as the older two wanted to stay out late, but by 1 am we were all in the cabin and it was the end of another amazing day on the Escape.


Day 3


It looked like a beautiful day, and the wind started to die down. We had our regular breakfast out on the patio at the Haven restaurant and spent most of the day at the Haven pool. The best part of the Haven pool is that they can keep it covered or not depending on the weather. This day they opened up the roof. That was pretty cool to see. We ate lunch at the buffet to check it out. The options for lunch at the Haven aren’t great for kids (they can always order from kids menu), but we wanted to try out the buffet.


We went up to try and do the ropes course, but it wasn’t open yet. Part of the mini golf course was closed while they were fixing something on the ropes course, but we were still able to play. People were lined up at the ropes course waiting for it to open, but eventually someone came over to tell everyone it wasn’t opening. Our little one wanted to try the splash area. He had a great time in it.


We had a fantastic day of just relaxing, reading and enjoying the hot tubs and the water. Overall a very sleepy day. We aren’t used to having this second sea day and we used it to catch up on sleep and relaxation.


We fed our boys at the buffet and then brought them to Splash or sent to Entourage because we had dinner reservations at Le Bistro.


The atmosphere inside of Le Bistro is so different than outside due to the smoke from the casino and the general noise level. It’s intimate and cozy. While it did take a little while to get a server to take our drink order, we had a delicious meal.


We got the Seafood Medley and Green Asparagus with Puff Pastry and Lobster Bisque. I can’t eat the Bisque, but my husband had it and said it was really good. I loved the seafood and puff pastry – it was light and fluffy and delicious. For my meal I got the Veal medallions in morel sauce. Really, really good. I can’t eat dairy and they easily switched out the twice baked potatoes for fingerling potatoes. Overall it was a really lovely meal.


I was way too full for dessert – which pained me because I really wanted the fondue … so we said goodbye to Le Bistro and strolled around the ship to walk some of it off.

We hung out in the bar at the Haven a lot. It was convenient, and because Bong was there, it was a lot of fun. We met a lot of neat people in the Haven as well so we had a lot of people to talk to each evening. Soon enough we went to collect the kids and head back to the room.


We got a cute elephant towel animal tonight and called it a day early so we’d be ready for our full day in St. Thomas the next day.


Day 4

St. Thomas


We got up bright and early since we had an early excursion – Snorkeling with Turtles at Turtle Cove. We ate breakfast at the buffet, which was quick and delicious and had a great view of us pulling in to St. Thomas.


We headed back to the Haven to collect our things and be escorted off the ship through the priority line. This is the coolest perk. You go to the lobby of the Haven and they take you out a back staff elevator that lands you right at the podium area where you are being let off the ship. You hand over your sea pass, which they scan, and off the ship we went.


We easily saw the guy holding the sign for our excursion and we stood with others in our group to wait. While we waited, we put on sun block and took photos. We waited maybe 20 minutes for the whole group to get there and then they walked us about a quarter mile down the pier past the open air taxis to where the small boats are docked. We heard the safety lecture and overall what would happen and then we were escorted onto the catamaran. Please note that you have to hand over your shoes before you get on the catamaran and then they line them up on the dock for you to get when you get off.


As we started out, we passed by the Escape. She is so beaufitul! We sat around the netting at the front of the catamaran and it was exhilarating to feel the wind and the waves. As we hit some larger waves, our eight year old announced, “I’m having the time of my life!” That was definitely worth the price of the excursion!


As we went out, they gave us the equipment we would need. We headed toward Buck Island. Once we were just a bit away, they anchored and explained to us that Buck Island is a nature preserve for birds. The cove in front of it had extra salt so you float more, which is neat, but bothersome at the same time. They also have a reef from a wreck. There are so many turtles and rays. They had us split up and beginners went from one side of the boat and those with a little experience could go off the back. My husband took our youngest son off the front of the boat and I took our other two off the back. It was a little awkward, but we made it in and swum around to the front of the boat to meet up with our guide.


Almost right away, the guide told us to get in a large circle around a turtle that was on the bottom. I was frantically taking pictures, while being kept at the top because of the salt content in the water. Sure enough, the turtle swam up to the top. It was so beautiful.

I also saw some rays and generally just enjoyed the swimming and the beautiful water. Unfortunately, at this point, I looked over and my husband and youngest son was back on the catamaran. He’s had some issues with salt water in the past burning his skin. Is it possible to have a sea water allergy?? Of course because this water had a higher salt content, he wasn’t happy from the minute he hit the water, so I swam back to the ship and switched places with my husband.


He swam out to the reef with our other two children and I stayed on the catamaran with our youngest. Other catamarans were docked in our same area and we saw a lot of turtles from the catamaran. Everyone had a great time and eventually (about 45 minutes later) everyone had to get back on the boat. One side note here, you are not supposed to touch the turtles, it stresses them out and they can die from it. On one of the other catamarans, they didn’t give as good instructions and a girl near my husband was chasing a turtle and kept touching it (he got it on video). The guides on our ship were really mad and yelling at the guide on the other ship to pay attention to their guests.


We had a relaxing ride back to the pier. They gave us rum punch (regular punch for the kids of course), tried to sell us shirts and of course, at the end as we were exiting made a pitch for tips, which we had already had out to give them as we exited. We really enjoyed it. I’m not sure I’d do it again with my kids due to the youngest kid’s issue, but maybe when they are older if we went without them, I would definitely do again. I have to find some more catamaran excursions, because I really enjoyed that!


Our plan after the snorkeling was to go back to the ship, change our clothes, eat and then walk over to the tram to take us up to Paradise Point. I was really excited to see those views.


The walk back to the ship seemed longer than when we went, but we were probably a bit tired from all of the swimming. We easily exchanged our towels at the checkpoint in front of the ship, got back on and went back to our room to change.


We ate lunch at the buffet to save time and then off we went. It’s very easy to walk to Paradise Point, but you do go through a little bit of a shady area. We stayed on the sidewalk in front of the shops across from the pier and then walked through the shops just past the shopping center to cross the street to Paradise Point. At this point, we were approached by a man trying to sell us a drive around the island and we quickly said no thank you.


There was a bit of a line at the tram center. I’d say we probably waited 20 minutes to buy our tickets. I had thought kids were $10, but they were now $18 and adults were $21. You also wait for the trams to come down and around, but waited maybe 10 minutes and then we were able to get on. The windows of the tram are open (they are slat windows) so there was a breeze. It was a beautiful view.


It was really cool to see the homes as we rose up the mountain and the view of the harbor and the cruise ships in port. Once we got up there, we took pictures from the highest point and then walked down to the bar/restaurant area.


They had some fund photo areas set up and then we sat down once a table of folks got up and ordered drinks. They have plenty of food there too, but luckily we filled up on the ship.


Just a word about their drinks – they are no joke. They don’t give you half alcohol or hold back at all so be aware. I had a key lime pie frozen drink that was ah-mazing, but after one drink I was completely tipsy. My husband had a raspberry other berry thing and our boys got similar berry/strawberry drinks made alcohol free. They were delicious!


I really couldn’t get over the views from this point. I saw it in so many reviews on Cruise Critic, but seeing it in person was truly amazing. We spent about an hour up there and then went down the tram and walked back to the ship.


There was a bit of a line to get back into the port since you have to show your driver’s license and see pass, but it went quickly. We love coming back to the ship on Norwegian. The music and party atmosphere is so much fun. They always offer cool drinks and cool towels. Then washy washy, go through security and back on the ship you go.


Our older kids went on the ropes course. According to them, this course is much harder than the one on the Getaway, but it did have more zip lines and another plank. They were just happy to finally be able to go on it.


My husband and I and our youngest went up to the top sun deck in the Haven for sailaway. We had a great view from the hot tub.


We ate dinner in the Haven that night, which we loved since the service is so amazing. Our youngest ate from the kid menu that night. Our oldest went to Entourage, middle went to Splash and our youngest hung out with us in the Haven courtyard in the hot tub/pool area. We called it a night since Tortola is an early port. We had a cute little mouse/rat towel animal when we got back to our room.


Day 5



Each port we go into in the Virgin Islands is more beautiful than the last. Just gorgeous views, incredible blue water and nice breezes. We had a leisurely breakfast out at the Haven restaurant and then got our things to get off the ship. We decided to do an excursion to the beach. The walk to the parking lot to find out excursion host wasn’t bad, but we did wait a bit (they had a covered area) before we got our ride to Cane Bay. The beach was gorgeous and we had an awesome day.


Day 6

Sea Day


There is so much to do on board the Escape that we never had time to do it all. We spent the day lounging around the pool in the Haven and in the evening at the District Brewhouse. It definitely felt like a home away from home


Day 7



We’ve ben to Nassau a number of times and debated not getting off the ship at all. We decided to go to Blue Lagoon. We weren’t impressed despite the fact we had been there before to meet dolphins and Sea Lions. This excursion just wasn’t planned well. We waited outside in the sun and heat for a very long time before being walked in a long line (of which we didn’t retain our place) to where the boat to the island was located. Why didn’t they just have us meet them at the boat?


The 45-minute ride to the island was lovely and the views are gorgeous. When we got to the island, there wasn’t a seat left. All the other ships or however other folks got there prevented us from really enjoying our time on the island.


The lunch wasn’t bad at all and there was plenty of food, but with no shade and no seats, it didn’t make for a very comfortable, relaxing day.


The kids really enjoyed the inflatables, but there was no relaxing beach day for the rest of us.


Day 8


Disembarkation could not have been easier. I can’t say enough how wonderful it is to be in the Haven. The ship within the ship really is a slice of heaven. From being helped by everyone we see, to extra help from the Concierge, a little bar and restaurant of our own and a pool that wasn’t crowded, it was well worth the money.


What to pack for a cruise?

As we get ready to depart on the NCL Escape, I went back to my trusty cruise list for those things that I simply can’t do without on a cruise. For a family of 5, we have a lot of “must haves” that cost a lot more if we don’t prepare. Preparing is key. We usually drive to Florida, so room is not the issue.

Here are my must haves!

  • Tide pen
  • small blue tooth speaker for music in room
  • Bonine for kids and adults
  • Downey wrinkle release  (smells great and no more wrinkles!)
  • nail clippers
  • ear plugs (in case the cabin is noisy!)
  • wet ones (small children, plus melting ice cream es no bueno!)
  • camera and extra sd cards and extra batteries
  • headphones
  • Power strip (Make sure your power strip DOES NOT have the surge protector. They’ll confiscate it. )
  • multi usb charger for charging devices
  • Highlighters for the Daily Schedule
  • First aid and over the counter drugs (we bring kids cold medicine, pain relievers and tummy medicine)
  • bandaids and antibacterial cream
  • waterproof bag for phone
  • magnet hooks (can hang wet stuff up or hats or jackets — walls are all magnetic)
  • sunblock (bring enough for the whole time, it’s expensive in port and on the ship!)
  • spf lip balm
  • aloe for after sun in case get burnt
  • bug spray
  • garbage bags (for dirty laundry)
  • dryer sheets (just a few to put in dirty laundry bag so don’t smell)
  • nightlight
  • copy of passports and driver’s licenses (keep separate from actual passports and licenses — bring copies of passports into port with you)
  • blister feet rub stick (if your excursions will take you far)
  • powder gatorade (in case of tummy trouble or hangovers)
  • kids snorkel stuff
  • large towel clips (so you know which chairs are yours)
  • lanyards for kids room cards (so they don’t lose them)
  • special stuffed animals or blankets for little ones
  • beach bags
  • water shoes
  • hats and sunglasses for all
  • goggles
  • air spray for bathroom
  • anti-itch cream
  • cards
  • snacks (only take ones that don’t melt and remember you can bring small cereal boxes with you off the ship for snacks in port)
  • ziploc bags (for receipts, snacks, small items)
  • small umbrella
  • glow sticks from dollar store and white clothing for glow party (if on NCL)
  • 80s costume if want to dress up for 80s night (if on NCL)
  • hanging up bathroom organizer to hang on back of bathroom door
  • One set of something with sleeves/pants in case cool
  • back up eye glasses/contacts
  • sanitizing towelettes for room (door handles, remote control — anything you touch)

After that, Bon Voyage!

Can’t wait to share our experience on board the NCL Escape!

When’s the best time to purchase a cruise?

Just like with airplane tickets, this question gets asked a lot. The answer isn’t easily defined.

Why not?

Cruise lines run many different types of sales throughout the year. Sales vary whether you can plan last minute or if, like me, you are a long-term planner.

What can you tell me?

The good news is that January through March is known as Wave Season. The major cruise lines run various sales throughout this time period. Hey, guess what? It’s March 23! Get on that next cruise!

I’m not ready to purchase now. When’s the next time?

Another good time to purchase is September and October for the following year. At this point of the year, cruisers are done with summer vacations and are starting to look at the following year. Usually additional amenities are added into sales prices this time of year. Items like free gratuities, drink and meal packages.

How far in advance should I book?

If you are free of responsibilities and don’t need airfare, you can wait to see what cabins need to be filled, and go from there to find the best deal. For the rest of us, book as far out as you can and during the Wave season, when dates are just released or in the fall post-trip haze. You can also get special deals on board if you book on board your current cruise — either by getting a certificate toward your next cruise or by actually putting a deposit down.

So, what’s next?

Email me and let me help you find the best fit and best deal for you!

NCL Getaway — The Haven — June 2016

Our family of five recently went on the Getaway for the second time the week of 6/12-6/19. We have one son 13 who was in entourage, one 11 who was in splash academy in the 10 to 12 and one son 7 who was in the 6 to 9 group.


Originally, we had planned on two connecting balconies toward the aft on deck 13, but 25 days out from sailing, we were able to upsell to an aft penthouse suite that connected to a regular balcony for the kids. Being a part of the Haven truly made this cruise for us.


About a week out, I called to cash in our rewards points for the Norwegian credit card to on board credit. That was easy enough. In addition, the person who answers the phone is also part of the pre-concierge for the Haven. So they welcomed us to the Haven and wanted to make sure we would have everything in our room that we needed. We asked that the fridge be emptied (because we were bringing water on board), asked for orange juice and creamer to be in the fridge, asked for hypoallergenic pillows and made sure they knew that I am lactose intolerant. We also double checked and were reassured that our children would have full Haven privileges. All went very smoothly and they were very nice.


We drove down from North Carolina for the cruise, but we weren’t driving the whole way the first day so we stayed overnight in Titusville at the Hampton Inn just off I-95. I mention this because it is not far from Port Canaveral. Although the room was clean, this was just not the place for us. The air conditioning unit in the room was a window-type unit and was so loud that it kept us all up all night. We were close to the elevator and also heard others in the hallway late into the night. If all of that wasn’t bad enough, I had to do gymnastics to get into the shower. It was a spa-type tub, but was at least three feet high, making it very hard to climb into it to take a shower. It had free breakfast and that seemed average for this type of hotel.


We were up and out very early so that we would make it to port of Miami by 11:30. We arrive at the port just a bit after 11 and then had to park and get our luggage checked and walked into the priority check in location just a bit after 11:30. Great timing on our part. One note on the parking garage at the port. There is a limited amount of oversized parking so if you have an SUV with a luggage holder on the top of your vehicle, you may need to take it off in order to park (my poor husband had to do this).


Back to check-in – once through security, it was super easy. The priority check-in was right there and there was only one other family in the area. We filled out our health form and received our key cards. One note here, I had read on these boards that I could limit my son’s spending while on board by placing a limit on his account. This was not the case. It had to either be a card that was open or closed. We had a talk with our eldest two sons to ensure they understood and we were done. They then sent us across the hall to a priority check-in lounge that had seats and snacks and drinks. We loved having a place to hang out until we were escorted onto the ship. We had a short wait and then we were escorted past the lines and right onto the ship. We went in a side entrance and were escorted right up the Haven lounge. We were in the lounge by 11:45. Virginia, the concierge gave a speech about everything available to us as waiters gave out drinks and snacks of sliders with onion rings. The restaurant opened at 12. They said our rooms were ready so we went down to check out our room and leave the bags that we had brought on board.


Just as we saw from pictures on here, the room was incredible. The balcony was ginormous, the bathroom amazing and just having all of the space was great. With having the connecting balcony room, it meant we had three bathrooms for the five of us, which we definitely needed. We enjoyed the room, took pictures and then headed back up to Haven to have lunch.



We ate lunch outside by the pool so our little one could get in the pool. Like every meal we had at the Haven, it was delicious!

Photos from our aft-balcony Haven suite:








We signed the kids up for splash academy and for entourage and then went back to the room for sailaway. I couldn’t wait to see it from our balcony. We all split up for sailaway, but it was fabulous from our balcony. Our luggage was delivered to the room by 4:30 p.m.












We also were delivered beautiful flowers and some neat little snacks. We got snacks like this every day. There was also a chilled bottle of bubbly in the room for us.




After sailaway, we all changed and made sure we had sneakers on. We ate at the buffet for dinner and then did the ropes course and the climbing wall.



We took showers and then the kids went to splash academy and the teen went to entourage. My husband and I went to howl at the moon. I have to digress here and say we loved Howl at the Moon on our last cruise on the Getaway, but this time it was a huge disappointment. The stars of the show last time were personable and talented and did a great job getting the crowd involved. This time, all they cared about was their tips and they were not nearly as talented as the last time.

We made it an early night, got the kids from splash academy and headed to bed. Attached is the Day 1 daily. We had to put the clocks back one hour before going to bed this night. We didn’t have turn down service or a towel animal this first night. Overall, Day 1 was amazing. We were blown away by the service you get in the Haven and were already savoring our little slice of heaven.


Day 2


Day 2 we were at sea and didn’t do much of anything. We had breakfast in the Haven, which was amazing. Tahitian Cinnamon Vanilla Challah French Toast (I had it almost every morning!) and we hung around the Haven courtyard most of the day.

The second floor of the Haven courtyard is right next to the Vibe Beach Club. It is very quiet and secluded. There are waiters walking around with a water bottle to spritz you with and take drink orders. It was a bit windy up there so we didn’t spend too much time up there.





We didn’t see much of the older kids. They were having fun with kids they met in entourage and splash academy.


We all got back together for dinner. Our first dinner reservation was with Moderno’s. Two of our kids got the dinner package free with their room and we paid for it for our room and for the third child. I checked on these amenities several times including after we did our upsell and it was confirmed to me each time that we had these amenities. I also printed out the confirmation I got for the purchase of the SDP. Unfortunately, when we got to Moderno’s, the SDPs that we paid for were not showing up. Much aggravation ensued including going to guest services and coming back and my husband ended up having to speak with management. Overall, it was a big dark mark on our trip. I felt like the customer service for this part was not good at all and I was disappointed. It was eventually all figured out and we had a delicious meal, but all relaxation was out the window because of this aggravation.


We did get turndown service this night and this cute little towel animal with a note saying to turn clocks back again another hour.




Day 3 Roatan


I did extensive research as to what we should do in Roatan and decided that we’d go to Little French Key. You don’t have to, but we did email through the website in advance and reserve places. We decided to do the cheapest reservation, which was $55 for four of us and half price for our 7-year old. I was very worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the drivers, but it turned out to be very easy.


These photos were from our balcony as we were pulling in.









When you get off the ship, you can take a tram down the long pier or just walk. We opted for the tram and then walked through the many shops until we saw walkway to the parking lot – there are tour information booths on either side of this outdoor hallway. Many people tried to get us to buy a tour, but we just kept telling them we were going to Little French Key and were looking for Larry or Dave. They are all very friendly and kept pointing us in the right direction. You have to walk through the parking lot and out then out the front gates and to the right. We then saw many guides in Frenchy’s 77 and Little French Key polos. Many of our fellow cruisers were there, but they had some sort of system and everyone was put in a line for transportation. We only waited maybe five minutes and then a car pulled up and they told us to get in and the five us were on our way to Little French Key.


The drive is about 25 minutes and we learned some history from our driver Arnie. He pointed out sights along the way and before we knew it, we were pulling up to where we would purchase our tickets and take the boat across. There was a bit of a line to pay, but it went very quickly. We pulled in to Roatan around 10 and were on Little French Key by 11:30. It was as gorgeous as I had seen from photos … possibly even prettier than I remembered.


This was where you walk up to pay:





You can see Little French Key in the very near distance:


The guide takes you around the island when you first get off the boat. We went through the zoo area and saw the birds, monkeys, the lion and a lemur.








Then we walked through and saw the area that you can jump off of – this was a huge hit with our family.


The water was so clear:




There are many different areas where you can set your stuff down and use as home base.








We chose not to get the package that included food because I read on here that each plate of food could feed a couple of people and boy they were right. This was what you get for $22.



I also got a strawberry daiquiri, which was $8:



Four of us picked from that one plate and then my oldest son also got a chicken and beef plate, which was $16 – items were a couple of dollars less if you went up to the food place and ordered it yourself rather than be served by a waiter or waitress.


We had a great day swimming and playing around. I walked around a bit to explore and found these other areas that had hardly any people. This is where the pizza place was that I had read about as well.




Menu for pizza place:





We never got to hold a monkey and take a picture, but that was because we were being impatient as there were two large groups in front of us. We said goodbye to Little French Key and headed back to the ship. It was very easy. We ate dinner in Haven restaurant and the waiters/waitresses already knew our names and made sure we had everything we needed to be comfortable. Our littlest kid was all tuckered out after playing and swimming all day so my husband took him to bed and I went to see Burn the Floor. The dancers were amazing, but it is a very strange show. There are some Latin numbers and then songs like Stairway to Heaven are weaved in to the mix. Also, it seems like the show is going to end three different times. Overall, dancers are entertaining, but not a great show. We had a towel animal this night, but somehow I forgot to take a picture. Horrors!


Day 4 Belize City


We decided after much research to not go ashore in Belize. I think if we were to do it, we would have gone cave tubing, but just felt that our youngest was too young for it. So, we stayed on the ship, enjoyed an empty Haven courtyard, a leisurely breakfast in the Haven restaurant and rode the slides as many times as we wanted with no lines. The kids swam, rode the ropes and had fro yo to their hearts content.


This is the kids area now that Spongebob is gone:



My drink of choice this trip:


We had a lot of peace and quiet and an overall great day.


We finished up a great day at Cagney’s. As always, it was amazing. Great food, great service – really enjoyable.


The towel animal joined all of the “stuffies” on my son’s bed:



Day 5 Costa Maya


I was so worried about the weather once we got to Mexico, but it proved to be a beautiful day.


Our balcony was so amazing so each morning (I woke up ridiculously early each day, which I can only hope was because of the time changes)




Pictures of port:






One more photo of the port:



We had decided to go to Blue Key. We walked through the shops area until we saw the palapa to the right where they were selling open air tram tickets. It was $3 pp. The tram quickly filled up and took us for a little tour. We got off at the first tram stop – which seemed quite a bit further away from Blue Key than I thought it would be – we had seen the signs for Blue Key before the stop. Right away someone was trying to get us to go with them at the stop, but we told them firmly we were going to Blue Key and they even directed us there. We opted for crossing the street and walking back to Blue Key along the beach. No boardwalk, but a nice sidewalk. Lots of different shops along the way. It was probably a quarter of a mile to a ½ mile back to Blue Key. We finally made it and were very happy with the location. We thought we would have to pay $5 and get a wrist band, but we never had to do that. We just got to enjoy the beach for free. Yay!







It was really gorgeous at Blue Kay as I had seen in previous reviews and everyone had a great time. We did rent one kayak for $10 and I ordered chips and guacamole and a strawberry daiquiri. It was very cheap – I think $12 total.

My chips and guacamole:




A couple of vendors did come buy and try to sell some things, but they were not intrusive. I did buy some plaintain chips and they were delicious. One bag for $1.


It was a fantastic day and when we were ready to go back to the ship, there was a taxi waiting in the parking lot. We confirmed it was $2 pp to get back and hopped in. We were back in less than 10 minutes.


Back at port, I had to take a photo of this store:


This was from pier:



Our beautiful ship:



We ate dinner at the Haven this night and I took a photo of my warm peach crumble dessert. It was so amazing:


We were exhausted after an amazing day.

Our towel animal tonight:


Day 6 Cozumel

The cruise went by so fast. After researching  for almost a year, I truly cannot believe how fast it went! I knew Cozumel was our last port and couldn’t believe it was almost over!

Once again, I was up early and took photos from our amazing balcony.








The pier at Cozumel looks longer in photos than it was in person and we had no trouble walking to the end and finding where our excursion for the day would be leaving from just off the pier.




In Cozumel, we decided to do the NCL excursion “Everyone loves Rays.” We had practiced snorkeling at home in a pool so the kids would feel comfortable and we bought a Watershot underwater housing for the Iphone so we could take pictures when we were snorkeling with the Rays.


It was definitely cloudy here so I was a bit worried about the weather, but it turned out fine in the end.


We first got to feed the Rays and touch and kiss them. Then we took our water shoes off (definitely bring your own for this excursion) and they even washed ours out for us and then we got our snorkel equipment and got to go in with the Rays. One of the employees periodically went down to the bottom and brought up Rays for us to see while we snorkeled. It started to rain while we snorkeled, but it was actually quite refreshing.




After we were done snorkeling, we looked at photos they took while we were feeding the Rays and the kids got to do a hermit crab race. They also had iguanas in cages that the kids liked.




From our balcony, we saw other ships and said goodbye to Cozumel.




Funny enough, our towel animal tonight was a Ray!



Day 7 At Sea


We once again decided to enjoy the Haven for breakfast and laze around the courtyard. It was busy, but still full of serenity for us. We were very happy to have gotten Haven for this trip. It really made it just the relaxation we needed.


Overall, Virginia was lovely, the restaurant staff included Kesher at the front were awesome and all of the people that worked in the Haven, really made our trip.


Our butler brought us some additional luggage tags as I had mentioned to Virginia that we needed a few more and that really put a damper on the rest of my day! Our older children enjoyed entourage and splash academy for much of the day, but the younger one spent it with us in the courtyard. He’s part fish and just wanted to swim.


That night we had dinner in Teppanyaki. It is a bit loud in there as the different chefs are putting on their shows, but we definitely enjoyed it. One comment here, the photographer in here was far more aggressive than in the other specialty restaurants. He went around taking photos and then would print them out and bring it framed to the table to try and get people to buy it. That just left a bad taste in my mouth. I saw him coming when it came our table’s turn and I just told him no thank you to a picture and that was that. The food was great as always here and we overall had a great time.

All the kids went into splash academy or entourage after dinner so we tried Howl at the Moon again, but again, it just wasn’t my thing this time, which left me disappointed. We enjoyed Jim Morris who played piano around the ship and listened to him a few times at Sugar Cane Bar. I think I neglected to mention the awesome mojitos from there. I had Raspberry Guava and the Pineapple Coconut and they were both fantastic. I

We had our bags packed and out by 11 and went to bed very sad that it was our last night!!




As a Haven guest, this was the easiest we ever had it. We had breakfast in the buffet and then went back to the room to get our stuff and then went to the Haven. They escorted us down a back elevator (same as they did in each port) and we ended up right at the area where you put your card in to leave. Lots of friendly staff were waiting as you get off to sing and wave and say goodbye. Very festive. We went down to baggage and our baggage was in a priority area. We scooped up someone to help us, he put all of our bags on a trolley and went with us through customs. He even brought our luggage all the way to outside the parking garage.


Other than the one snafu I mentioned, overall service was really, really good this cruise. We did buy a cruise next certificate, and we were not sure where we would use it, but turns out we are going on the NCL Escape June 2017. This was an awesome cruise and we truly enjoyed the Getaway again! It will be hard to book a cruise not as Haven after experiencing this one!