Norwegian Getaway Inaugural Experience

On February 6, 2014, Norwegian Getaway arrived to her new permanent home port of Miami, Florida. On February 7, my mother and I drove down to Miami to participate in the ship’s inaugural event, a 1 night sailing dubbed “Norwegian Lights Up Miami”. We had the privilege of joining fellow travel partners, journalists and other VIPs for the event, which offered a chance for us to tour this magnificent ship, dine in the amazing restaurants, enjoy on-board entertainment and party the night away. The cruise was a bit of a tease – being only 1 night – but we had a wonderful time and am looking forward to sailing aboard the ship again!

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Driving up to the terminal, we were immediately impressed with the size of Norwegian Getaway – it was the largest ship in port! Standing tall with 19 decks, she is a sight to behold. The hull art, designed by local Miami artist David “LEBO” Le Batard, gives the ship a flavor all its own. You can sense the Miami culture throughout Norwegian Getaway, from the interior design to the music to the mojito bar. There is no question that this ship belongs in South Florida.

Due to our late invitation to the event, we were lodged in an interior cabin on deck 13. Since the cruise was just one night, this was not a big deal (normally, I’m a balcony girl). We were impressed with the fact that the interior cabins were housed in their own separate hallways, away from the main corridor. Although they are the least expensive cabins on the ship, they offered a feel of exclusivity. Our cabin itself was cozy; interior cabins are small, but well-organized. The bathroom was much larger than we expected. Truth be told, we had no plans in remaining in the cabin for any period of time, so we didn’t need anything larger for that one night. A longer cruise, however, and I would’ve at least wanted an Oceanview. 🙂

After putting down our overnight bags, our next goal was to tour the open cabins. We headed straight for Deck 16, where The Haven is located. I had yet to physically lay eyes on this uber-exclusive area on any Norwegian ship, and this was my chance. For those who do not know: The Haven is where the suites are housed on Norwegian’s newer ships. Guests staying in a Haven suite have a private shared courtyard, restaurant, bar, pool and hot tubs. The Haven can only be accessed via keycard, which explains my lack of prior access to the area. (not “baller” enough, not yet anyway). We were able to tour the Penthouse Suite, the jaw-dropping Deluxe Owner’s Suite with its wraparound balcony and incredible closet (I might’ve literally left some drool on the floor of this cabin), and Owner’s Suite. Amazing, beautiful cabins. I can’t say enough. Anyone who books a cruise in one of them will NOT be sorry.

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Our tour then took us down a few decks to the 2-bedroom Family Villa, which is designed specifically for parents and their children. It even comes with a child-sized shower. J

At this point it was time to eat. We chose to visit Sabor, one of the complimentary dining venues aboard the ship. I had some incredibly yummy calamari, roasted chicken and peanut butter cup cheesecake. This food was DELICIOUS. The drinks were amazing.. (did I mention that there was no charge for alcohol? This was a VERY special cruise, lol)

Our self-guided tour continued to the other entertainment decks on the ship and eventually outside to the AquaPark and pool deck. The AquaPark has an impressive 5 waterslides, including 2 “drop” slides that are too scary for me to try. The main pool is flanked by hot tubs, two pool bars and faces the main entertainment stage. Spice H2O, the adults’ only entertainment venue in the aft of the ship, also features a stage, hot tubs, and grotto-type pool with waterfalls and built-in seating. (This is where the VIP-Only Inaugural Festivities were held, complete with a concert by “Mr. 305” himself, Pitbull).

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One pretty cool feature aboard Norwegian Getaway are the touch-screens throughout the hallways. Although other cruise lines feature these, they add a touch of convenience as you roam about the ship. You have the ability to view a map, see what’s currently happening onboard, reserve show tickets or make your dinner reservations at a specialty restaurant. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t realize that the specialty restaurants were free of charge until they were completely booked for the night. We wanted to check out Ocean Blue or the Imaginarium, but were unable to do either. Next time. Since there are 28 dining venues aboard the ship, we knew we wouldn’t go hungry. We chose to have dinner at The Tropicana Club, another complimentary venue that is designed after a 1920’s Miami supper club. The food was incredible and the ambiance cannot be put into words. There was a live band playing American and Latin-American standards, and several guests got up to dance throughout dinner. My mother said that she’ll dine there every night when she returns to Getaway. 🙂

After eating, it was time to party! The Sail Away party was held in Spice H2O, where everyone was handed glow sticks. The DJ played a mix of house and Top 40 music while we danced and sailed past South Beach. We looked out on the shore and saw a group of about 100 people with their own glowsticks waving at us. And once we were away from shore, we were treated to our own fireworks show. What an incredible and surreal experience; I was so honored to be part of it!

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From there, we headed to Bliss Ultra Lounge for more partying, although at this point we just sat in the curtained “VIP” section and watched everyone else party. It had been a long day, we had walked about 4 miles, and were exhausted. However, since the cruise was just one night, we wanted to take in as much as possible.

Of course, there was plenty we missed – from the aforementioned Imaginarium show, to Legally Blonde, to The Grammy Experience…so much more to see, not enough time. We are planning to re-experience this ship in 2015, so we’ll have time to catch up. I also have cabins available on the 7/26/14 sailing – why not book your space and experience Norwegian Getaway for yourself? Check out this link for more information!

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6 Awesome Benefits of Group Travel

When I founded Bon Voyage by Barbour in 2012, my goal was to specialize in cruises. I knew enough people who liked to cruise that I figured I could book one or two, here and there, and make it something fun to do on the side. I also figured I’d dabble in some all-inclusive resorts; my experience at the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe was so incredible that I wanted others to experience the “AI” life too!

Almost immediately I received a request for a group cruise. Then another. And then yet another. Now, I’m finding myself working on 3 group cruises (so far) for 2014, a group AI getaway and two destination weddings. WOW!

I’m not sharing this information in a boastful way whatsoever. I never intended to work with groups, but I’m finding that they are SO much fun to work with, as everyone is SO excited about their vacation. Furthermore, group trips can often offer additional incentives to make this type of travel even MORE beneficial than they already are.

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So here are my reasons why group trips are awesome, in no particular order:

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Jamaica FAM Trip: Sandals Whitehouse

Sandals Whitehouse

Sandals Whitehouse

 

After a VERY relaxing and fulfilling night of sleep, the next stop on our Jamaican adventure was Sandals Whitehouse, the only resort located in the southern part of Jamaica.  We had a VERY early wake-up call, which is why I can’t call this trip a “vacation”…I sleep in on vacation. :-/ Thank goodness that Cafe de Paris was open @ Beaches, because I needed a pick-me-up before we boarded the bus to Whitehouse.

Sandals Whitehouse is known as the brand’s “Jewel of the South Coast”, as it is the only Sandals resort on this portion of the island. It’s ideal for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and are looking for a true retreat. Since we were coming from Negril, the ride to Whitehouse was approximately 90 minutes. If you were to transfer directly to Whitehouse from Montego Bay, it would take a little over an hour. I was impressed by the resort upon arrival,with its long winding driveway and impressive entryway.

We were first treated to a Sandals Certified Specialist class led by the warm and knowledgeable Iesha Hibbert. It was a form of torture being in a room for 4 hours when there was all sorts of resort beauty to be seen, but the class was informative and went quickly. And now I’m Sandals Certified! (Still waiting on my certificate to prove it…).
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