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A break with NCL on the Mediterranean was a wonderful reminder of what we’ve missed

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Norwegian Getaway

Norwegian Getaway

©Danny Lehman

Norwegian Getaway

In the months before the pandemic hit I found my sea legs and fell in love with cruise holidays.

But, my plans for further such holidays obviously hit choppy waters thanks to coronavirus.

The cruise industry was decimated by Covid-19 with outbreaks on ships halting sailings before the rest of the world shut down. Those headlines also made nervous holidaymakers think twice about booking.

But, after a recent Mediterranean cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), it is clear just how the industry has responded with Covid protocols to give you such a safe sailing.

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FLOATING CITY: The Norwegian Getaway has just about everything one could wish for... including a water slide park

FLOATING CITY: The Norwegian Getaway has just about everything one could wish for... including a water slide park

FLOATING CITY: The Norwegian Getaway has just about everything one could wish for... including a water slide park

As well as operating with reduced capacity, all guests and crew are required to be 100 per cent fully vaccinated and you are required to take a Covid-19 antigen test, administered and paid for by the cruise line, prior to boarding and receive a negative result. Make sure to show up a bit earlier to allow time for queuing for the tests and for the results to come through (mine were back within a half hour). As I was sailing in Europe, masks were required to be worn moving around the ship due to local government regulations but this isn’t always a requirement on cruises in other parts of the world. Ships have also been fitted with medical-grade air filtration systems.

Such steps immediately gave me real peace of mind and should do for others when booking their return to the seas.

Little wonder then that all signs are pointing to a turn of the tide for the cruise industry.

My home for my 10-day cruise was Norwegian Getaway, one of the stars of NCL’s fleet. I flew from Dublin into Rome to board the ship and set sail around Italy, Greece and Croatia. Stops included Dubrovnik, Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Naples and Florence/Pisa.

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The beautiful city of Dubrovnik

The beautiful city of Dubrovnik

The beautiful city of Dubrovnik

Cruising is such a brilliant way to see the world, falling asleep in one country and waking up in another at a new town or city. Being a Game of Thrones fan, Dubrovnik has always been on my to-do list and wandering through its streets felt like walking around Kings Landing. Santorini has quickly become one of the most Instagrammable locations in Europe and the island is as stunning as it appears in those pictures.

Touring the ancient Italian city of Pompeii, which was buried in volcanic ash in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius, a volcano near the Bay of Naples, erupted, was such an amazing experience. Excavated over the last few hundred years (the work is still ongoing), Pompeii is almost exactly as it had been almost 2,000 years before. Buildings and some of their contents remain largely intact with the marks of carts even still visible on the cobbled streets. Walking through the preserved streets of the city is really like stepping back in time.

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The ancient city of Pompeii

The ancient city of Pompeii

The ancient city of Pompeii

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Pompeii

Pompeii

Pompeii

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The ancient Pompeii streets

The ancient Pompeii streets

The ancient Pompeii streets

There is so much to see and do on board though, it isn’t surprising that some guests rarely leave the ship.

Norwegian Getaway boasts more than 30 bars, lounges and restaurants offering a variety of dining options so you can try a different one every day if you wish. (Buy a premium dining and beverage package when booking as it’s well worth it to make the most of what the ship has to offer).

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SHEER BLISS: Stunning views at the bar

SHEER BLISS: Stunning views at the bar

SHEER BLISS: Stunning views at the bar

We were at sea a few days during the cruise and I was never bored. If I wasn’t eating or drinking I was trying to be something of a daredevil with a few of the activities on offer.

The on-board activities are not just all about stuffing your face. On the Getaway you can experience the thrill of five water slides 17 decks above the sea. I even plucked up the courage to experience the fastest water slide at sea — Free Fall — which rapidly plunges guests through a trapdoor down the slide.

There are also three levels of action-packed activities in the sports complex including the largest ropes course at sea, where you can conquer over 40 elements as you masterfully manoeuvre through the multi-level structure, or you could take a walk on The Plank like Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean, which (safely) extends eight feet over the side of the ship. If not quite that brave there is also a basketball court.

If those all sound too exhilarating you can choose to simply relax on a sun lounger or in one of the two swimming pools or four hot tubs. Inspired by summer beach parties on Ibiza, Spice H20 is an adult-only escape with contemporary Asian influences.

Or treat yourself to a spa day in the Mandara Spa & Salon which offers more than 50 treatments, including hot-stone massages, oxygen facials and acupuncture. There is also a fully-stocked fitness centre on board which offers classes such as yoga, pilates and spinning.

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The ship in the bay of Santorini

The ship in the bay of Santorini

The ship in the bay of Santorini

For teenagers who want to escape their parents or parents who want peace and quiet for a while, there is a hang-out room for them called Entourage, which at night is turned into a dance club party. Importantly, it’s all supervised by certified youth staff. Due to the vaccine requirements, there were no children on my cruise.

I am not a gambler but plenty on the ship were judging by the numbers in the Getaway Casino playing games like Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Texas Hold ‘Em and Poker as well as slot machines.

I also got to catch some music shows. The star of the show for me was at live music venue, Syd Norman’s Pour House where I watched a wonderful Fleetwood Mac tribute show. Other shows on while I was at sea included Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet showcasing an extraordinary twist of fate that brought Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley together for one of the greatest jam sessions of all time.

Food wise I tried out a variety of specialty restaurants, their three main dining rooms and The Garden Café buffet restaurant, which had different food themes each day. Reservations for specialty restaurants can be all done with the Cruise Norwegian App, which is free for everyone to use with no internet required. You can also book with guest services.

My highlights were the Brazilian steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria, which was a carnivore’s dream with a dozen slow-roasted cuts of different meats on offer, the Teppanyaki restaurant where the theatrical chefs ensure a fun dining experience and the French restaurant, Le Bistro. It is fantastic fine dining with elegant interiors, crisp white linens and attentive servers as well as exquisite French-influenced food.

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Lamb chops at Le Bistro

Lamb chops at Le Bistro

Lamb chops at Le Bistro

Late in the evening everyone seemed to gather in O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill (open 24 hours) which offered a great range of drinks, pub grub (epic chicken wings) and the chance to play pool or darts. I even met 2010 X Factor star Mary Byrne there.

The Sugarcane Mojito Bar was also a big hit with a great choice of refreshing drinks but if you fancy the ultimate chill, there is a Vodka Ice Bar which is a unique arctic-like frozen chamber where the bar, seating and glasses are made entirely from ice. The bar is kept at -8c but the staff ensure you are well wrapped up with an insulated coat and gloves.

Some afternoons I just chilled out in my Oceanview stateroom watching the sea outside or sitting on the balcony. There was a good selection of movies on the room TV if you just want a duvet day. The cleaners were superb, ensuring the room was spotless and leaving information leaflets and little gifts in the room each morning or evening.

The ships have a variety of accommodation options including their most luxurious, The Haven, which is hidden away at the top of the ship. It includes a 24-hour butler service, concierge service and private sun deck.

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The atrium of the ship

The atrium of the ship

The atrium of the ship

Even though the experience has slightly changed due to Covid (let’s be honest, what hasn’t in the world?), I am as much in love with cruise holidays now as ever before.

I already have my sights on a trip on NCL’s new ship, Norwegian Prima, which will launch in 2022. Tony Award-nominated musical, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical will be the headlining show and it also boasts the world’s first venue that transforms from a three-story theatre into a Vegas-style nightclub and the largest race-track at sea.

As the only cruise line to offer go-karts at sea, NCL will debut the largest and first ever three-level race-track with the Prima Speedway. More than a quarter mile in length, the speedway will now go around and through the funnel of the ship where 15 drivers can simultaneously race on the open ocean, reaching speeds of more than 30 mph.

- For the latest cruise deals with Norwegian Cruise Line call 0333 2412319 or visit www.ncl.com.


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