The Illusionarium drew raves from agents on a recent cruise of the new Norwegian Getaway.
A mermaid figure holding the sun above the waves seems fitting for the hull artwork of the new 3,969-passenger Norwegian Getaway, now sailing year-round from PortMiami to the Caribbean. Created by Cuban-American artist David Le Batard “Lebo,” this art is an indication of the ship’s tropical style. Inside, the vessel sizzles with new Latin or South Florida touches including the Tropicana Room restaurant and Sugarcane Mojito Bar.
But the most popular new feature for many agents just may be the Illusionarium, a magical theatrical experience that’s a cut well above anything else we’ve seen on the high seas. Veteran magician Jeff Hobson, a previous Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) performer, brought his idea to the line and it was developed into a robust theatrical production with input from Broadway director and choreographer Patricia Wilcox and Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Gallo.
“It’s a fantastic dinner show,” said Bob Newman, vice president, Cruise Brothers, Providence, RI, while Van Anderson, co-president of Avoya Travel, Miami, described the result as “mesmerizing and an awesome production great for all ages.” As guests wait to enter the Illusionarium, they’re escorted into a corridor filled with antique spell books, magical interactive artifacts and relics.
Inside, the theater has bold orange-red decor, rich fabrics, ornate props, and a 30-foot-diameter video dome above a round stage. Dome visuals and those replicated on smaller ceiling screens “transport” diners to mystical places. It’s dark—mystical but not scary. It’s also amazing that servers can adeptly deliver dinner during the action. The pre-set menu includes salad, fried shrimp, a small filet mignon and a dessert sampler.
Inspired by Jules Verne’s science fiction, Houdini’s magic and recent movie blockbusters with supernatural characters, the show features “Professor Vernon Royce,” an 1860s-era aristocrat who’s an inventor, innovator, eccentric magician and the Illusionarium’s creator. He leads a half-dozen professional magicians, illusionists or mentalists who perform individually. Clients can expect Broadway-quality costumes, sound effects, lighting, choreography and fog rising from the floor.
“Like most of us, I had no idea what ‘Illusionarium’ meant,” acknowledged Michelle Fee, co-founder/CEO, Cruise Planners. “It was a fascinating show of illusion, magic and trickery. It not only had you scratching your head, but also had you hysterically laughing with some of the comical skits during the show.” Reservations are essential for the Illusionarium’s 12 performances per cruise; price ranges from $25-$30 depending on seating.
Elsewhere on the ship, the Grammy Experience at Sea is a new concept lounge with top musicians, such as Latin jazz flautist Nestor Torres and jazz percussionist Sammy Figueroa; both played in February. Expect the line to continually announce new acts. What’s also nifty is that this musical venue displays Grammy awards as well as clothing worn by Grammy winning artists. It’s fun to view the diva dress worn by the late Whitney Houston, a quirky red outfit belonging to L. L. Cool Jay and bright yellow clothes worn by the Jackson Five for a record album cover.
For active travelers, Norwegian Getaway’s three-story sports complex has a challenging 40-element ropes course, which includes “walk the plank” eight feet beyond the ship’s side. Below the ropes course is a nine-hole miniature golf course, plus the ship has a kids’ ropes course, rock climbing wall and bungee trampoline. “There really is something for everyone on this ship,” Anderson said.
The Aqua Park boasts five multi-story water slides, including Free Fall, two side-by-side slides where standing guests are propelled into a thrilling loop as the floor drops from beneath them. Two side-by-side twister slides—called The Whip—are adrenaline pumpers. One “dripping wet” guest raced by us to tell family members what a “rush” the experience was. Families will like the milder, open-flume body slide. The Aqua Park has two pools and a pirate-themed Nickelodeon Kids’ splash park with Bikini Bottom characters.
Some of Norwegian Getaway’s 28 dining venues ring the 678 Ocean atrium, which is home to specialty restaurants, entertainment venues, casino play and shopping. Guests can’t take their eyes off the stunning, elongated white chandelier, which morphs into an even cooler personality when it’s programmed with pink or other glowing colors that light up the space. On Deck 6 of 678 Ocean are Le Bistro, the line’s signature French restaurant, Teppanyaki, and the Headliners’ Comedy Club.
On Deck 7 of 678 Ocean is the Getaway Casino. On Deck 8 is the Wasabi sushi bar, Ice Bar, Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian, the Raw Bar, Humidor Cigar Lounge and the new Sugarcane Mojito Bar, serving Miami’s signature drink. Many guests will head outside on Deck 8 to The Waterfront, a boardwalk-like area for strolls, drinks, dinner and more. “You can dine al fresco, you can stop at the Cake Boss’ bakery, and also snack on gelato,” said Newman.
Drew Daly, vice president of sales performance for CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., felt the Waterfront will allow his agents to offer customers fresh-air specialty dining options, so they can dine while enjoying a musician’s play, ocean views and a warm Caribbean atmosphere. “The Waterfront is another fantastic concept…after all, when traveling by ship, it makes sense to have more options to eat outdoors by the ‘waterfront,’” from Anderson’s perspective.
Accommodations-wise, The Haven is Norwegian’s ship-within-a-ship area for high-end guests. “They have a private courtyard, sun deck, pool, bar, restaurant and butler,” said Newman. Haven guests, though, might venture outside the enclave, joining friends for dinner and dancing at the new Tropicana Room, which is open to everyone and sports the feel of 1920s-1930s Miami Beach with Art Deco styling and a humongous dance floor.
We liked the Haven’s Two-Bedroom Haven Family Villa. It has a living room with big screen TV, couch and comfortable chairs, a dining area and entertainment bar, and a balcony. The master bedroom leads to an ocean-view master bath with large soaking tub by the window, plus a separate shower. A second, small bedroom boasts a sofa bed, another TV and a second bathroom.
Elsewhere on the ship, our balcony stateroom, #9198, had a spacious, contemporary styled bathroom with an elongated modern sink with two faucets and a large horizontal bowl. It also had a roomy shower. Space between the bed and closet was tight, though. The living space itself was fine, a coffee machine and refrigerator were nice touches, bedding was comfortable and the couch converted into another bed. The balcony overlooked the wide roof of The Waterfront, so we looked out—not directly down—to the ocean.
Overall, our trade sources liked the ship’s diversity and spaces. Fee puts it this way: “It’s a truly beautiful ship and also a great addition to South Florida’s cruise tourism.”
|Living room of the Haven’s Two-Bedroom Haven Family Villa.|