On Sunday morning, we took an Uber to the port, arriving at about 10:20. We had a little miscommunication with our driver, who spoke only Spanish. When we attempted to tell him we needed Terminal C, he instead heard terminal si, which I’m sure was confusing. After some trial and error, plus some help from Google Translate, we circled around and made it—well, he brought us to Terminal B, anyway, and rather than try more futile discussion, we opted to simply walk the remaining distance to the correct terminal.
The check-in area for Haven guests is to the left upon entering (after passing through the security check). The woman examining boarding documents looked at our papers for a long while, seemingly doubting that we were indeed Haven guests. Maybe we looked too disreputable, I don’t know. In any case, after double-checking our cabin number and confirming that yes, that is a Haven room, she allowed us in the small Haven check-in area.
Check-in was very fast, as you would expect, and we were quickly escorted from the check-in area up to the boarding area, where we were asked to take a seat until the ship was ready for boarding. We sat in the boarding area from about 10:45 until about 11:15, at which time we were escorted on to the ship and straight up to the Haven!
We took seats in the Haven lounge and were offered some pink lemonade. The concierge, Hanno, gave everyone a brief welcome to the Haven, and he told us about some available options for lunch. This included the Haven restaurant which opened at noon, and Margaritaville, which he informed us would be free of charge for Haven guests for that first afternoon (Kathleen noted that this is how the rich get richer). He also indicated that staterooms were already available, so we could drop off our carry-on luggage before finding lunch.
However, our stateroom was a Haven Spa Suite and therefore was outside the Haven proper. When we walked down to check it out, we realized that only the staterooms in the Haven area itself were ready, so we had to wait until all staterooms were ready later in the afternoon before checking out our fancy new digs.
Undeterred, we decided to take advantage of free Margaritaville, as we’d really enjoyed it on our Escape cruise the previous September. We got there just before noon, and we were told that they would be opening shortly. We took a seat and waited…and waited…and waited some more. Eventually, Kathleen went back to ask when we could be seated, and we were then informed that they wouldn’t be opening until 1:00.
We weren’t too hungry, so we decided to head back to the Haven lounge to grab our first drink of the trip rather than sit at Margaritaville and wait. We also stopped by the concierge desk and made a couple changes to our dinner reservations, which was very quick and easy.
After our ceremonial first drink, we made our way back to Margaritaville. We were quickly seated, and we enjoyed a tasty free lunch of nachos, conch fritters, and my favorite Volcano Burger. Oh, and a couple of delicious Five O’Clock Somewhere drinks ended up on our table, as well.
We finished lunch at about 1:40, which was right when staterooms were opened. We crossed the ship and headed down to deck 14 to explore our Haven Spa Suite.
We’d initially booked a midship balcony cabin for this cruise. However, our travel agent recently began participating in the NCL Upgrade Advantage program, so for the first time we were offered a chance to bid on a cabin upgrade prior to sailing. Having never done the Haven before, and because this cruise was booked as a celebration of Kathleen’s new job, we decided to go for it and we placed two bids on Haven cabins. We bid fairly aggressively ($1000 per person), which was in the middle of the “fair” bid range. Even at that price, we ended up saving $1500 off the list price. We were thrilled.
Now, there are a lot of fantastic perks that come along with the Haven, but it would be worthwhile even if you just got the amazing cabin! Our Spa Suite, despite being the smallest of the Haven cabins, was by far the nicest cabin we’d ever experienced. It was spacious and modern (with hardwood floors), a long, if narrow, balcony, an in-room jetted tub (right next to a window, so you can look out on the ocean while you relax), and the most comfortable bed I’ve ever encountered. Far out-classing a regular cabin, the very large shower was another favorite feature.
Having been on the go in Miami for the last day plus, our first order of business in our new cabin was to test out that wonderful shower. That accomplished, we made our way to the theater on deck 7 for the muster drill.
Following an uneventful drill, we made our way over to the Mojito Bar on deck 8, which was one of our favorite spots on our last Getaway cruise. Unfortunately, the menu has changed a bit since then, and my favorite raspberry mojito is no more. I did try their rum punch though, and it was a delight.
Having allowed the elevators to clear after the muster drill, we made our way back up to the Haven lounge for a drink. It was here that I would discover my favorite drink of the cruise: the Red Light District. It’s basically a mojito with the addition of pomegranate syrup and some sour mix. It was heaven.
We stopped back at our cabin for a little relaxation, and we met our butler, Joseph. He brought us some very tasty canapes (one had shrimp, one had cheese, and a couple others had some unidentifiable but yummy meat product).
I’ve read some mixed reviews of butlers on Cruise Critic, and I can understand why. Joseph was perfectly pleasant, but I wouldn’t say he wowed us with his service. To be fair though, we are quite self-sufficient, so it’s possible we didn’t ask him for enough things throughout the week. He did bring us fun afternoon snacks, kept us stocked with ice water as we requested, and he did bring us breakfast a couple mornings. At one point, Kathleen asked him if there were any other pillow options available, as the ones on the bed didn’t really work well for her. He told us there were other options, but none ever appeared. On the whole, I wouldn’t put the butler perk at the top of the reasons to book the Haven, not that there’s a lack of reasons to do so in any case.
We enjoyed our complimentary bottle of “champagne” on our balcony. While not exactly a taste sensation, it still felt festive. We eventually made our way down to Headliners on deck 6 to check out the Howl at the Moon performers. We’ve had mixed luck with Howl at the Moon on our various cruises, but the best we’ve seen (by far) have both been on our two Getaway cruises. We stayed for a couple songs before heading up to Ocean Blue for our 9:00 reservation, but we would be back for more piano bar fun later in the week.
Ocean Blue was our favorite restaurant on the ship, and I regret not trying it out the last time we sailed on the Getaway. The meal was fantastic. Here’s a sampling of what we ate: Mascarpone sesame bread, conch chowder, New England clam chowder, Florida stone crab, seafood platter, sole Muniere, tomato salad, asparagus and hollandaise, potato gratin (best thing), and Mac and cheese. For dessert we tried the chocolate cake, which was not bad, and the lemon tart with cassis sorbet, which was completely insane! The sorbet very strongly reminded me of the Berthillon sorbet we enjoyed in Paris recently, which is some of the best in the world. Do yourself a favor and order this gem the next time you end up at Ocean Blue; you will not regret it.
We also loved the potato gratin, which also reminded us of a similar dish we enjoyed in Paris. When I asked the waiter if he knew or could find out what cheese was used in the gratin (it was really, really yummy), he said he would have the chef give us the recipe! He said to expect it delivered to our cabin the following day. More on this later.
After our decadent meal, we took a short walk over to Fat Cats to hear the band playing a Stevie Wonder tribute. I was pleasantly surprised when I read that the old Grammy Experience venue had been replaced with a blues and jazz club. Unfortunately, the venue itself left a bit to be desired. The only seating was in uncomfortable wooden chairs, and there was not a bar. I had been envisioning a venue similar to the Cavern Club on the Epic, which is still my favorite music venue at sea. Maybe this place will get an upgrade when the Getaway goes in for refurbishment.
The band was just okay (the music was good, the singing less so). We did see a woman who danced with complete abandon, which was fun. We stayed for a few songs, but then decided to head back up to our cabin for some evening balcony time, then bed.
Up next: Day 2 – Destination relaxation.