MITSUGIRLYS GRADUATION GETAWAY CRUISE review and pictorial
This cruise was our 7th cruise and included us plus my oldest daughter and family and my youngest son and girlfriend.
This Getaway cruise was supposed to be the cruise of a lifetime. We booked this cruise when NCL offered the special of pay for the first 2 cruisers and the 3rd and up were free. I figured I would convince as many of my kids to go, and their families, that I could. I managed to get 3 of my 4 kids to book with me (and their family) and I was so excited. I was going to party like a Norwegian to celebrate my graduation! :D
Now, to start with our Getaway cruise...I have to say this was probably the worse cruise experience I have had so far. :( Not really the fault of NCL or the Getaway. The Getaway is a BEAUTIFUL ship with so much to see and do. The staff is amazing as always...bloopers did happen along the way, but what made the cruise experience not the greatest this time around were issues that happened to us along the way...from the beginning, to the cruise, to the very end. Sigh.
I am going to apologize in advance. I did not get the pictures I normally do of everything on the ship. I did not take the time composing my pictures as I normally do or taking the pictures of things I know cruisers on here would ask about. I will be the first to admit, I should slap my hands for being such a failure this time around. I did not experience a lot of things on the ship. If you don't see it in my review, we didn't/couldn't do it. I just came back from this cruise with this feeling of emptiness, frustration and wanting to just stomp my feet, cry, and scream "I want a do-over!!!" :p
So who cruised this time? My husband and I with our now 6 year old daughter Sakari. My oldest daughter (Kendra-25), who usually cruises with us at least once a year, and her bf and my grandson. Kendra just had a baby 3 months ago, but left her at home with family this time around. My youngest son (Kolin-19) and his girlfriend of 2 years (that lives with us) also came along. Kolin has only cruised once, back on RCL when he was about 6. Kolins gf was a cruise virgin (but I think we have her hooked now).
So here we are, 3 families so excited to get this cruise started and it was hard to sleep the night before. Since I had so much going on the previous 2 weeks with graduation and moving, I waited until the last moment to start packing and didn't finish until the day before we were supposed to leave. SO NOT LIKE ME!! I'm a planner!
Our flight was to leave at 6:30am out of Columbus, so I was up and getting ready with last minute packing and getting the family in motion at 3:30am. Since there were a total of 8 of us this time around, my daughter had a pull a car off the car lot (her boyfriend owns) that was big enough to haul all of us and our luggage to the airport to drop us off.
We booked with Southwest, as we always do, since it's always cheaper for us with pricing and the first 2 bags are free with each passenger. HOWEVER, this is the first time that we have ever booked a flight straight from Columbus to our destination both on the way there and on the way back. WOO HOO. We have always had a connecting flight and a lay over between flights. I was excited because this meant that we would arrive in Ft Lauderdale around 9:30 and be able to spend the day walking around, getting things we needed (soda) at the store and swimming in the pool. Plenty of relaxation and time to build the excitement for the cruise the following day.
We (my husband, myself and 6 year old) have always flown when cruising UNLESS my oldest daughter goes, then we drive (her bf has had this fear of flighing and is convinced we will all die in a crash if he boards). After our last "adventure" of driving, I vowed (as I always do) to never drive again. But this time I meant it. I feel so drained and anxious when having to take 2 days in a car with that many people to do it again. No way! I told her this time I'm flying with or without you. You can drive and take 2 days and I'll be there in 2 hours and 45 minutes. Meet ya there! So she convinced her bf to fly. WHAT?!?
Since this was her first experience with flying, she had no idea what to expect or how everything works. The night before we made plans...I would be at her house at 4:45am and so would our "driver". The suburban was to be packed ahead of time and we would only have to put our luggage in there and off to the plane terminal by 5am. Check our luggage in by 5:30am and check in with security by 6am for a good 1/2 hour leadway to get on the plane.
We arrived at her house to find that 1) the suburban was not packed yet. 2) KENDRA and family was not packed yet and the entire household was in an uproar. Kendra discovered that she couldn't find their birth certificates that she just had in her hand the night before. When we arrived, I could already tell this was not going to go well. We started packing the suburban with all the luggage we could find, transferring car seats over for the little ones...and of course a lot of pacing and nail biting. We had to drag out luggage to look for the birth certificates with no luck. It was pushing 5:30 at this point and I was half tempted to put my luggage back in my car and head to the airport to meet them there.
She finally found the birth certificates and we all piled in and off we headed to the airport in a racing frenzy. I tried to explain to her over and over the "time frame" of having to check in luggage and ourselves with security and this could be a lengthy process depending on how many other people were checking in at the same time.
We arrived and got in line at the luggage counter outside the terminal only to find that once it was our turn, they informed us that we would have to go inside to check our luggage in because we had to be there 45 minutes before our flight times to check in out there.
We headed inside and gasp...:eek: the lines were rediculous. My heart sank and I had "this feeling" that the morning was only going to get worse. After checking in our luggage, they were tagged with the bright YELLOW tags that said LATE ARRIVAL, notifying the entire world that we were losers. I felt like hiding my head in shame at that moment. They explained that our luggage would NOT arrive with us on the plane and would be coming in later. This is where I turned to my daughter and gave her that "mother look" that you give your child when you are in public and they are misbehaving when they are young! Of course what I got was the "How was I supposed to know?" Um, because I have been telling you our timeframe, that's how. You can't arrive late!
Then we headed for the security line as quickly as we could. It was a little after 6am at this point and the lines were long. For some reason they pulled us over to the express lane (the lane where you don't have to take off your shoes or anything) and I was a little relieved. However, we were "dinged" as the "lucky ones" to get "checked" randomly...which meant we ended up having to take our shoes off and walk into the xray machine and the whole 9 yards. GACK! This delayed us even more.
Once we were done with security, I looked at my watch and it was 6:25am and I felt the sudden urge to puke! We RAN....YES RAN, in our socks to the terminal to only arrive and see the plane was backing up and leaving. I just wanted to sit there and cry. My daughter and her family didn't arrive for another 10 minutes. Now you talk about wanting to crawl in a hole and hide while other people starred at us with that "Did you really miss your plane?" shame on you! look.
This is the first time I have ever missed a flight or even came close. I had no idea what they do from here. Did we have to purchase new tickets and pay thousands of $$ at the new rates now? We talked to the attendants at the counter and they explained to us how they would see if there was any room on the next plane heading out, but there was a good chance that we would all have to split up on different flights to different places and we would be on standby for seats that weren't full from not being booked or people like us (do they really exists?) that miss their flight. This meant that we would not get to sit together and this also meant that our young children probably would not be sitting with us on the plane and would be forced to sit with a total stranger. This also meant that it would no longer be a straight flight to FLL, but we would have to do a connecting flight and do the same routine over once we arrived there...on standby, being split up again on different planes at different times.
The next flight heading out was at 10am and they would be able to probably put 3 of our party on it. Then another 2 of our party on the next flight after that, then the other 3 some time around 6pm. Everyone should arrive in FLL by 9:30pm they said. My heart was breaking. If my daughter could cause this much damage on her first flight, how was she supposed to know what to do during connecting flights without us? Or even my son and his gf, who both had never flown before either? I was playing out the worse senerio in my head and already had us pegged for missing our ship as well and probably never seeing our luggage again.
Well, I guess it's time to sit down and put our shoes back on...we weren't going anywhere for hours now!
So it was almost 10am and the next flight was due to go out. We are all anxiously awaiting to see if there will be any seats available and if so, how many. They told us that it looked like there would be at least 2, maybe 3 seats and we needed to make a decision on who will be going for sure and who will be waiting behind. I jumped right on that and said "We will be the first ones to leave" (meaning myself, hubby and daughter)...since this wasn't "our" fault after all. However, after thinking about it, since both of the other 2 families were "flight virgins", we decided that one of us should stay behind to fly with them so this scenario didn't replay itself. So Sakari (our 6 yr old) and I boarded along with my son Kolin.
The flight attendants immediately made an announcement for others on the plane to please give up their seat and sit in another one making room for a mother and a small child to be able to sit together. Some nice person immediately let us have his chair. So Kolin was the only one left sitting with strangers by himself, but said they were nice and they laughed at his story about his sister causing them to miss the plane.
Then....here comes Kolin's girlfriend. They managed to find a seat for her too. I did manage to notice that there were quite a few empty seats on the plane and I kept wondering why they couldn't put us all on the plane if there were this many seats?
Then right before they closed the doors, here come the hubby and my grandson. :eek: Oh gosh. Anyone who has read my reviews that involved my grandson will know that he's a handful. (Well, that's putting it lightly). Our daughter (Sakari) is so well behaved...until she gets around the grandson. We try to split them up as much as possible when out in public together because it is just chaos. Then here's my husband stuck with him on a long flight. I was both nervous and scared for Braydens life. hehe
So once again, the attendants made an announcement about giving up a seat for a family with a small child. Someone up front immediately gave up their seat and all was good...well, as good as you can expect at this point.
I'm still noticing that there are more empty seats...and I'm holding my breath with my eyes pealed at the front of the plane to see if Kendra and her bf are going to come around the corner. They didn't.
So off we went. When I later talked to Kendra after we arrived at the next airport, she said she was in tears when she sent Brayden on the plane with my hubby because she figured he would not get a seat with any of us and the plane would stop and Brayden wouldn't know what to do...get off or stay on and he would be lost in the big blue skies forever. Yea right. The hubby said when they said they had room for 2 more people, she eagerly pushed Brayden toward him and said "take him with you". :p
When we arrived at the airport (we ended up at Nashville, which it was 9:30 our time and only 8:30am local time since there was a time change), the attendants were aware of our entire situation already. They were keeping in constant contact with the airport at Columbus and the rest of our family stranded there. The communication went above and beyond IMO. Kendra knew everything that was going on with us from when the next flight was going out, how many of us might make it on that flight, where we were going, and what time we would get to FLL. The attendants kept us informed too about when they expected Kendra to fly out and where they were flying to. They were FABULOUS! I have to say that even during this horrible experience, Southwest made it a positive one for us!
They thought they would have us out on the 3pm flight and had some time to kill. My daughters plane was to leave at 10am. The attendants at Columbus thought we would be flying to Tampa next and be there at 4:10pm and they would be flying in to Tampa at 5:10pm...so eventually we would all meet up and fly into FLL together. However, we stayed close to the attendant, only leaving to make potty breaks and they informed us that they would be able to get 3 of our now party of 5 on the 9:15am flight. Here we go again getting split up. We made the quick decision for my hubby, Sakari and Kolin's gf to go this time around and I would stay back with Kolin for the next flight at 3pm. I gave the hubby all the necessary things needed for his arrival in FLL and the info on the hotel and sent him on his way. Kolin and I just looked at each other like "Ok, so what do we do for the next 6 hours?" They were making announcements for 3 "missing" people for the flight when they decided to go ahead and print me off a boarding pass, but they were still waiting to confirm a seat for Kolin. I stood at the gate telling them that if they didn't find a seat for Kolin, I would not be going either. I was not going to leave him behind by himself. They found a seat and literally had us RUN down the ramp to get on the plane informing us they were closing the doors.
I informed my daughter...who was still at Columbus, that we all made the flight and we would be landing in FLL at 2:50pm. We did manage to get the 3 of us seated together in the next to last row on the plane and then Kolin and his gf were split up by a couple seats right next to us. So good to go this time around.
I texted Kendra when we arrived in FLL at 2:50pm to let her know we arrived and she informed us that her flight had now been delayed unil 3:10pm. Then another delay until 4:30pm. They had originally gave them the offer to fly into Tampa or to fly to Chicago earlier, but there was only a slight chance of catching a flight out of Chicago any time soon in the day. They chose Tampa.
We went to see if we could locate our bags and I just didn't have a good feeling about finding them. I mean this couldn't be the end of our bad luck right?
We immediately spotted several of our luggage. The only luggage missing was mine and Sakaris. (Was there going to be a quick shopping spree for new clothes for me prior to this cruise?) After they all came out, we ask an attendant where we might go to find them and when she pointed out the area, I immediately seen Sakaris (can't miss it...bright purple with hearts all over it) and mine which was bright pink with hearts. I just purchased this luggage (since I've been using my prior luggage...black with bright pink poka dots all over it, since our 2010 cruise) because it has lost a wheel (thanks to Kendra), the bottom handle came off (thanks to a porter at FLL...Kendra was with us...see this pattern?) and the stitching had started coming undone.
First trip and it encountered some wear and tear:
However, we discovered that the hubbys luggage (which we also bought brand new this time around) was not exactly in the same shape it was when it left port Columbus. It was missing the front outer pocket and the front upper outer pocket was open with the hubbys "80's party hat" was sticking out. :eek:
So much for getting new luggage. We were just cursed this trip I tell ya.
We would later discover that the hubby was also missing clothes that I KNOW I packed and it wasn't in the outer pockets either!
So now it's time to call for our transportation from the hotel we booked at.
We were staying at Springhill Suites close to the airport and they provided free transportation upon calling them. We gather our luggage and headed outside where I continued texting my daughter getting updates.
She complained of how freezing it was back home and what do you think I did? I took every opportunity to snap chat her pictures of the beautiful sunny and warm Florida and palms trees, rubbing it in as much as possible. :D
Springhill quickly arrived to pick us up, but informed us they were at the "hotel pick up" area at the OPPOSITE end from where we were. We started walking that way as quickly as we could. They picked us up in a real nice extended Mercedes van that looked brand new and took us and a few others to the hotel. You can find info on the hotel located here
We quickly arrived at the hotel and checked in. The service at the desk was friendly and our check in was fast. We managed to get 2 rooms next to each other on the 2nd floor.
Upon check in they also gave me 2 goodie bags for being a repeat "stayer" with them. It had pretzels, bottled water and oreos in them.
Now before booking this place, I had read several reviews on TA about them remodeling the place, so I was prepared for this. They still seem to be in the remodel stage, but it didn't bother us. I had read that you would hear a lot of hammering (we didn't) and that the elevators were constantly down (which we never encountered), but we had a decent stay.
We have stayed at the Springhill Suites hotel in NOLA in the warehouse district and we loved it. The place was beautifully decorated, clean, and loved the breakfast. So by looking at the pictures on the website to this FLL Springhill, it looked about the same as the other. The rooms were set up the same and are huge. With 8 of us staying in 2 rooms, we needed a bigger than average room.
When we arrived to our room, it was the same set up as before. But for some reason, it just didn't look as nice and fresh as the last place. It was still do-able of course...I'm not "too" hard to please after all.
Small kitchen/office area. There was a sink, refridgerator, microwave and deck for your computer there. The ceiling fan was a nice added touch since right in front of here was the couch that pulled out into a bed and it would be where Sakari slept.
There was an a/c unit built into the wall (like normal hotels) and also a wall mounted thermostat. It was really hot in the room when we entered and I immediately turned the ac on. It really didn't feel like it was getting any cooler and I tried using the wall thermostat and the one on the unit and discovered that they both controlled the same thing. LOL Yea, my brain was in overload by that time.
We decided to gather our now smaller group (and against my better judgement...the grandson who absolutely refused to stay back at the room locked up by himself) j/k, and decided to adventure out and across the street to the shopping area.
Meanwhile, I got an update from Kendra letting us know that they had landed in Tampa and while they were sitting on the plane, they discovered their connecting flight was sitting beside them....pulling out. She said they were stuck waiting for people to SLOWLY get off the plane and they were sitting in the back of the plane, therefore missing their flight and having another delay. I hear from her again when they were boarding the next plane around 7: 40pm.
We walked across the busy street, shuffling as fast as we could with the little ones, while having the death grip on my grandson and giving that "I dare you to try to get away from me look" in my eyes while crossing and safely made it to the other side. It was hot out and I did manage to find a grocery cart in the parking lot and immediately put the youngins in it for safety. I had a big talk with the grandson and I got a "I'll be good mawmaw" promise from him. So now the remaining trip to the store composed of a lot of "Am I being good mawmaw?" repeatedly over and over and over to the point I had to tell him "if you say that one more time, you are bad!" and I threatened him with something (that I can't remember what it was now) like "I won't feed you, you won't go swimming, or your mother will never show up for you" type of saying just to scare him in to stopping. wink wink Hey, what can I say? It worked. ;)
Kolin found a baby lizard to let his sissy (Sakari) check out because she is such an animal lover, while holding Brayden back as far as he could from it...after all, we wanted the baby lizard to live.
We ended up at K-Mart to do some shopping. Some how I couldn't find the new flip flops that I had just purchased for Sakari this trip and decided to get her some more while we were there. We bought our soda to carry onto the ship with us and then decided we were starving since we hadn't ate all day. Kolin originally wanted to go to Burger King, since it was right next door to the hotel, but they had a Little Ceasars Pizza inside of K-Mart and we decided that we were just too hungry to make the trip back to the hotel/Burger King area without food.
I have to say this was the worse idea ever. I wish I would have listened to my son. We stood in line forever to order, even though there were only 4 people in front of us. (First sign). Then when my son ordered, they told him it would be a 15 minute wait on the breadsticks he ordered with his pizza. So much for hot and fresh fast. Then when I placed my order, I was told a 10 minute wait on the pizza and 20 minute wait on cheesy bread. Geesh. (Second sign). We should have just left, but figured we had a lot of time to kill anyhow.
When it was time to get our pizza, breadsticks, and cheesy bread, our order was so mixed up and there was a lady that ordered after me that kept trying to take our order. I quickly stood up and ran over to the counter to confirm that was my order. Then they discovered that they hadn't even made my cheesy bread. Sigh. Another 20 minutes. It was just a mess. By the time we were done with this place, I was fed up. Of course going out the door, there was the Walmart greeter at K-Mart wanting to check your receipts for your purchases, which by now was buried in a mound of soda already packed in our carry on rolling luggage we brought with us. By the time I found it, I was completely frustrated when all they did was mark on it and didn't even check to see if what I purchased was really what was in our cart.
We made it back over to the hotel with no other problems (other than a few "stop Brayden's" coming out of my mouth) and headed for the room to let the little ones put on their bathing suits for a swim.
I got an update from Kendra and they said they would be in some time around 8:30pm or 9pm and they were going to eat before catching the ride to the hotel.
We kinda hung out in the room for awhile (hoping that Sakari would forget about going swimming...no luck) and I was drained, completely drained and so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. I really didn't get much sleep the night before (I think maybe 3 hours tops) and all I wanted to do was go to bed. But, with a little one who did get sleep the night before, it was impossible to deny her the opportunity to get in water. She loves swimming. So she got dressed and we headed down to the pool area. Kolin was supposed to be bringing Brayden down there and swimming with him, but he was nowhere to be found. I assumed that they all must have fell asleep.
The pool area has a lot of potential. It's a very nice area, but it just wasn't up to par with what you would expect. The water was a little dirty, the hot tub was really dirty and ice cold, the chairs were worn out and missing straps on them and also rusting, and there were cigarette butts everywhere...and not just the pool area. They had a designated smoking area outside the hotel, with ashtrays, and it looked like everyone just threw their cigarettes down on the walkway, in the mulch and dirt. There wasn't anyone cleaning up and there was trash here and there.
Or course Sakari had a good time. There was a nice ledge to sit or stand on in the pool and there was a nice little waterfall in that area that had lights at night.
Both the pool and the hot tub had handicapped lifts, which I thought was a nice added touch and you usually don't see this at hotels. Well, I guess it would be a nice added touch if you wanted to get in ice cold dirty water in the hot tub. Broken dirty chairs that need replaced.
Both the pool and the hot tub had handicapped lifts, which I thought was a nice added touch and you usually don't see this at hotels. Well, I guess it would be a nice added touch if you wanted to get in ice cold dirty water in the hot tub. Broken dirty chairs that need replaced.
Once Sakari got her "swimming fix" I convinced her we needed to head back to the room to take a shower and get ready for bed because we needed our rest for tomorrow when we get on the ship. I think she was worn out by now and didn't even fuss about having to leave the pool. (I think she was cold too).
They do have a mini-store at the hotel and you check out at the customer service desk. Soda's were $2.25 and for some reason ALL they had were diet (which I drink diet, but the rest of the family doesn't). I was told that they were waiting on their delivery to come in.
The last time I spoke to Kendra, she had boarded the plane and was getting ready to leave for FLL. I told her how to get the transportation to pick her up and bring her to the hotel, let her know we had already ate and went swimming and that we were going to bed. Her final words..."Blast off love u bye".
I had a knock on the door after getting out of the shower from a very sleepy eyed 19 year old asking me to please take Brayden in our room because they were trying to sleep and he was crying because mommy wasn't there. I informed him that I was going to bed myself and Kendra should be getting in soon. I think I fell asleep before my head actually hit the pillow.
I woke up bright and early (I think around 7am) so that we could shower, do our hair, and have breakfast. I was hoping for a much better day today and could put everything behind us. I hoped that Kendra didn't have any more screw ups and if she did, she was on her own. I was leaving on the ship with or without her.
I text Kolin's girlfriend and she was up already (she's an early riser and never late to anything since she goes to work at 4am every day). We headed down to get breakfast and I gathered the gossip about what time Kendra actually made it to the hotel (around 9:30pm) and what took place while I was sleeping (they went over to the gas station to get their cruise soda and headed to Burger King for dinner).
The breakfast area was pretty good (of course breakfast is my favorite meal and I love when it's an all you can eat buffet smorgasbord).
They had eggs (which looked like the egg beaters, which I don't mind at all), sausage (which was a really light gray and didn't look appealing at all, so I didn't try them), toast, bagels, cereal, fruits, and make your own waffles...which were awesome!!! They also had whipped topping to go with the waffles, which I love.
Their breakfast was from 7am-10:30am, but we had scheduled our pick up time with MJS Transportation for 10:30 and I wanted to be ready, with or without Kendra. Believe it or not, Kendra and family did show up to breakfast by 8:30am, which was shortly after we got there.
After eating, we headed back up to our rooms to grab our luggage to head out of the room and downstairs to wait on the transportation. For some reason, Kendra walked back over to the gas station to get more soda with her bf, son, and Kolin's gf and only Kolin was left behind. Guess who wasn't packed all the way to leave the room? This time Kendra AND Kolin's gf. Kolin got stuck doing the packing and taking all the luggage downstairs. He's such a nice boy. I would have packed my own things and left theirs up there at this point. ;)
There were tons of people sitting in the lobby catching their rides to cruises. Most were off on cruises from Port Everglades. We were the minority going to Miami. The lobby is huge (which is good) and accommodated everyone. I think it's a lot bigger than the last Springhill we stayed at.
We checked out "officially" at the service desk at 10am. I had found a snail the day before (just the shell) for Sakari when we were out by the pool and she had discovered that I left it behind in the room (purposely) and well...when Sakari puts her mind to something she wants, she makes sure it happens. I kept telling her that it's locked up in the room and we can't go back up there. I don't have the keys anymore. We'll have to leave it and we'll find you another one at the beach during the cruise. She got up, walked over to the service desk, talked to the lady there and before long they were handing her a new room key. She said "Now we can go get my snail shell mommy." I gotta hand it to her, she's a "take action" type of girl to get her way. ;) :p
MJS Transportation. I read up on them before booking (we have used SAS for prior needs) and the reviews seem to be good both on TA and on here.
Since we had 8 in our party, we were able to get a discount of $11 pp instead of the normal $15, which was an added plus.
When I emailed for the reservation, they got right back to me the same day to confirm our booking along with their phone number and directions on what to do prior to our booking.
I have to say, this company was outstanding. He (Jeff) text me 2 days prior to our trip to let us know he was ready for our arrival and confirming our pick up time and date, then also said if we needed him for any other transports (if we came in early or wanted to go somewhere or if we needed transportation from the airport to the hotel), then he would be more than happy to do it. He also advised me that he would call me when he was on the way to the hotel the day of pick up.
On Saturday, he called (which I missed the call because we were eating) and also text again to let me know that he would see us at 10:30am. He text again to let me know he was on his way and would be there in 10 minutes. At 10:30, he text again to let me know he was leaving the airport (with some passengers) and was minutes away.
Even though he was a little late, it didn't bother me. He kept in constant contact with me and let me know what was going on every step of the way (which in my opinion went above and beyond). This also allowed a lot of the people in the lobby to clear out on their rides, making it easier to navigate the 8 of us and our luggagepalooza :D to get out.
He pulled up in a nice newer extended Mercedes van (is there something with Mercedes transportation vans down there??? Not that I'm complaining) and quickly loaded us in. For some reason we headed back to the airport to pick up another couple that came in a little late, but it only took a few minutes of our time. Jeff was extremely nice and very talkative and told us about things along the way. He also made me very jealous when he said he gets phone calls with offers all the time for last minute cruises for $149 for the week and as low as $89 once. Ah, the luxuries of being a Florida resident. Maybe some day this will be me.
Coming up....getting on the Getaway!