Written By: Coach Jeremy Williams
While my blog posts are generally focused on business, every once in awhile, I like to slip in something about my family and travel. Our family loves cruises, and we just got back from a 7-day cruise aboard the Norwegian Getaway out of the port of New Orleans. The 5 and a half hour drive from Houston to New Orleans was well-worth the experience our family had despite the noise around the Corona virus (COVID-19).
Before I dive into our experience, I would like to thank Chris Grum with Premier Custom Travel for putting together this family cruise including a surprise up an upgrade to The Haven that he kept secret along with my wife and daughter all the way up to the boarding process. They got me good. If you’re looking to book travel, you need to connect with Premier Custom Travel.
A Stop of Darrell’s on the Way to New Orleans
The road trip from Houston to New Orleans is about 5 and a half hours. One of our friends insisted that the best Po’Boy in Louisiana can be found at Darrell’s in Lake Charles. I have to say he was right. This was a nice break on our way to the cruise.
An Evening in the French Quarter
If you are going to cruise out of New Orleans, I recommend tagging on a day or two before or after the cruise to take part in the food and culture of the city. The Creole-French influence can be seen in the architecture of buildings and in the food. Here are a few of the sights and food we took in the day before leaving on our cruise.
One of the must see stops in New Orleans is Cafe Du Monde. Enjoy hot, fresh Beignets and Chicory Coffee. Cafe Du Monde is located across the street of Jackson Square along the waterfront. Travel Tip: There is a location located at the Riverwalk in New Orleans. Grab some Beignets before getting on the ship, and you don’t have to wait in too long of a line.
St. Louis Cathedral is absolutely gorgeous. You can see this in the background while we were touring Jackson Square. You can walk into the church, and you may even be able to catch Mass. The cathedral has significant meaning to our family as my wife’s Great, Great Grandfather attended school at St. Louis Cathedral.
Red Fish Grill, a Ralph Brennan’s restaurant, located on Bourbon Street near Canal is a great place to dive into Cajun cuisine. These BBQ oysters were amazing. My wife enjoyed grilled red fish, and I had a loaded crab cake. My son had his first oyster. The desserts were off the chart. Be ready to loosen up the belt after eating here.
Bourbon Street is the hot spot. Probably not the best family-friendly place after about 9:00 pm. The street is littered with restaurants, bars, shops, and more bars.
Some of the other places we visited while in the French Quarter was the ACME Oyster House (the line is always long so we did not partake this time), and we stopped by the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone (I’ve stayed here previously, and it is a great hotel).
We woke up Sunday morning to board the Norwegian Getaway. We found parking for the port a little difficult because of the construction. If you plan on parking at the port, make sure you read the website about parking. At this point, I still did not know that my wife was to surprise me with the upgrade to The Haven. I was about to get in the regular line to board the ship (if you know me personally, I despise lines), when my wife called me over to a roped area off to the side. There I had my temperature taken because of COVID-19 protocol for the port, and I passed. From there we were personally guided past all the lines directly to the check-in counter, and at this point I knew something was up. My wife finally broke down to tell me she made a few arrangements with Chris Grum over at Premier Custom Travel to upgrade us to a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom suite in The Haven. I underestimated what was to come, and I am grateful for the opportunity.
The Haven – Norwegian Getaway
The Haven was a secluded part of the ship made up of suites, a restaurant, a bar (where literally every bartender knew your name and what you liked to drink), pools and hot tubs, a lower and upper deck over looking the pools exclusive to The Haven guests with amazing cushioned lounge chairs, a butler, room service, and much, much more. It was definitely cruising in luxury. Disembarking the ship at ports included a private escort down a utility elevator by-passing all the lines. Private escorts also included getting to events on the ship along with preferred seating.
Pictured is the living area of the 2 bedroom suite. Every day we would come back into our room in the afternoon to a trays of sandwiches, fresh fruit, and desserts. The kids loved ordering room service when my wife and I went out to a few of the select restaurants on the ship.
The bathroom for the kids was a fairly standard bathroom for a cruise ship. The bathroom for my wife and I was over the top (for cruising standards) with a tub and a separate shower overlooking the water, dual sinks, and a toilet with a closet (for those that cruise, you get the importance of this feature). The entire suite had controlled lighting that could be accessed from multiple locations, multiple thermostats, a mini-bar, and 3 televisions. With the concerns of COVID-19 and quarantine, I would have no issue being quarantined in this setup.
This is The Haven Courtyard. A great place to relax or take a dip in a pool or spa.
Stop One – Cozumel
Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of our time in Cozumel. We went out on our own for our island excursion to Paradise Beach. It is about a 15 minute cab ride from Punta Langosta. Our kids enjoyed the fun pass giving them access to the inflatable water park, kayaks and paddle boards, and snorkeling. We saw absolutely 0 fish in our snorkeling outing. The bottom here is primarily sand. If you’re looking for a better place to snorkel from shore, I would recommend Chankanaab which has a nice reef system directly off the shoreline.
Stop Two – Roatan Honduras
Roatan is a size-able island off the coast of Honduras. For this excursion, we booked through the cruise ship Maya Key. Taking an excursion through a cruise ship is a little like herding cattle so it felt this way at first prepping the group for the short tender from the pier to the island. The tender was approximately 5 minutes, and once at the island given a short briefing of what activities were available, and then they turned you loose. If it did not rain most of the day, I loved the stop.
The island activities included interacting with Capuchin monkeys, hand feeding a sea lion, touring an animal rescue facility, snorkeling, touring a replica of a Mayan temple, and the opportunity to support local artisans at the gift shop. The tour included an excellent lunch of chicken, coconut rice with beans, and banana chips.
The video shows our experience with the Capuchin monkeys. Upon entering the cage, the handler warned us that they really liked men.
You could find several conch shells in the water along the shoreline at Maya Key. Here is one that Logan found in the water.
Stop 3 – Harvest Caye, Belize
Harvest Caye is the private island for Norwegian located off the mainland of Belize. Typically the ship would tie up at the pier, yet due to recent damage, the ship required tendering to shore. Being part of The Haven, we did not have to wait to board a tender, and we could disembark at any time. The concierge would, like at all ports, take us down a service elevator to a separate line to catch a tender without wait. Yes, I felt spoiled not being a fan of tendering to begin with.
After a 10 – 15 minute tender, we arrived at the island. The island offered beach areas, shopping, restaurants, and a large resort style pool. The facilities were well maintained, and you would find many of the amenities offered by an American resort except you are on an island off the coast of Belize. It definitely has a chill vibe.
Stop Four – Costa Maya, Mexico
Costa Maya is located on the mainland of Mexico. This once quiet fishing village is now a thriving port. This is one of the longer piers on our trip so be prepared to walk. I did notice they had a shuttle to assist people to and from shore. Once we got to the shore, our first stop was to watch the Dance of the Flyers ceremony celebrating the Mayan culture.
Of course you can take a multitude of excursions from the port area, and since we only had a few hours, we chose to stay around the port. We enjoyed watching the dolphins, we did the Aviarius Vuelo en Libertad experience, and spent time relaxing at the resort style pool. After a few hours on shore, we walked back to the ship to grab lunch and a nap.
Entertainment and Dining on the Norwegian Getaway
Having cruised Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Princess multiple times, the entertainment on the Norwegian Getaway was by far the best. There was so much going on that it would be impossible to do everything. You definitely need to look at the Freestyle Daily newsletter and plan. The shows Burning the Floor and The Millionaire Quartet were excellent. We so enjoyed Million Dollar Quartet that we watched it twice. As a family we also enjoyed Escape the Big Top (an escape room game), the comedy shows (before 11:00 pm was family friendly), and Cirque Dreams and Steam. Once the kids went to bed, my wife and I enjoyed Howl and the Moon.
Million Dollar Quartet is a Broadway musical inspired by the famed recording session the brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. The show was spectacular. Being a guy that loves guitar, the guy that played Carl Perkins rocked the house.
Howl and the Moon, or in this case, Howl at Sea was a lot of fun for my wife and me. This sing-a-long for hours of requests that covered all genres was just plain fun. My only complaint was they did not know any Lyle Lovett, yet they were well versed in Baby Shark.
Cirque Dreams and Steam was a great show for the family. Our seats were right next to the stage, and the show featured many acrobats, knife throwers, and much more. The plated dinner lasted about 45 minutes followed by a 45 minute show. This show required an additional payment to attend.
Our kids spent hours on the sports deck especially utilizing the ropes course which included a zip line across the ship.
Outside of the buffets, the ship offered several specialty restaurants. The Haven restaurant was so good that we only ate outside the restaurant for two dinners. The specialty restaurants we ate at included Ocean Blue that featured seafood and Le Bistro a French restaurant.
Time for the Food and Drink Porn
The food on the ship was great especially in The Haven Restaurant. Here are a few photos from our trip:
Triple Chocolate Cake – This one was so rich.
Old Fashioned from The Haven Bar – The bartender made the best Old Fashioned Drink and the best Sazerac Cocktail I’ve ever had in my life. I might of had a few.
I wish that I had taken more pictures of the food from The Haven Restaurant including the surf and turf, prime rib, pork belly, and much more. It was first class dining along with first class service.
Meeting the Captain
Early in the week, The Haven guests had a special event meeting the captain of the ship along with the executive staff. Cool experience though we could not shake hands or touch the captain in light of COVID-19.
Ghost Ships and the Return to the Port of New Orleans
When we were in route back to New Orleans, we found out that at the request of the government that cruise lines shut down for the next 30 days because of COVID-19. Ships would disembark their guests, and then return back to sea with crew only. The last night heading up the Mississippi River, my wife and I witnessed something we will probably never see again. Empty cruise ships heading towards the Gulf of Mexico with crew only. The night was dark, the ships were dark, and the fog made it seem ominous.
The Carnival Valor heading to the Gulf of Mexico for at least 30 days upon request of the United States Government.
Despite all the information and fear around COVID-19, our family felt safe on our trip to the Caribbean aboard the Norwegian Getaway. I highly recommend sailing on this ship, and to upgrade to The Haven. You will not disappointed, and once you experience The Haven, it will be hard to do anything different in the future. Contact my friend and Travel Agent, Chris Grum of Premier Custom Travel to book your future cruises. Even with everything going on currently, they are still taking future bookings, and I can only imagine there will be many deals. The cruise industry will be back and strong I am sure. My family is a cruising family, and the experiences and memories created over the years are many.
Have you taken a cruise? Share in the comments your experiences. I would love to hear about them, and who knows, we may run into one another on a cruise in the future.
BTW – The only Corona I got being on the Norwegian Getaway
Onward and Upward,
Coach Jeremy Williams
Red Hawk Coaching