What a great start to the New Year! Jackie and I (well, mostly me) planned this trip to celebrate our 70th birthday milestones – choosing the brand new Norwegian Cruise Line Prima ship. Actually, a year ago when the ship was announced and open for booking I jumped on a reservation, since the design just wowed me. The amount of outdoor space and outward facing design really seemed like something very different. But, booking a ship that was still under construction for another year meant not knowing much else beyond the early renderings.
What a nice surprise this ship turned out to be.
I searched out and watched posts and videos of the launch, the naming ceremony and Katy Perry’s christening of the ship in Iceland and then caught every new reveal about the ship that was posted. This was going to be wonderful – oh! and a three story racetrack, too? Are you kidding me?
Turning 70 and celebrating this way is going to be a blast. So let me recap the adventure for you, post some pictures and remind you that a video of this whole trip is posted to our youtube channel ( A PRIMA VOYAGE ) and here on our video “Places” page.
Heading to the Ship
Most of a day’s drive takes us from Atlanta to Orlando and an overnight stay near the airport. We like the direct drive to the cruise port the next morning – less than an hour east. You know that our usual habit is to find a local brewery, such as Rockpit here in town. This time we checked out Gatlin Hall Brewing for pizza, salads and beer, with a repeat visit to Hourglass Brewing. Ok, back to the hotel (which was way more bargain basement than I had expected). Ah well, only one night and we would soon be onboard.
We were able to check in pretty early for the cruise and we were on board well before noon, gazing at the gorgeous lobby, searching out that first drink and arranging reservations for entertainment. If you cruise, you know the excitement of walking the gangway and stepping aboard – such a rush! And of course checking out all the decks of the ship and finding your cabin, getting ready for that marvelous sail away celebration as you head out to sea. Actually, as we were standing in line at the bar my brother texted that he was watching us leave the dock on the harbor camera. Yikes, we were indeed on the move and we hustled out to the rail to wave to the folks on Wonder of the Seas.
Aboard the Ship
This is certainly a different ship design and layout and while I won’t detail it like the many travel bloggers, I will try to point out what we noticed. Lots of artwork all around the ship. The colors and design are muted, classy and well thought out. Technology is evident everywhere, from the ipads for ordering food at the Indulge food hall to the room alerts and the VR Galaxy Pavilion. Navigation around the decks has been a source of discussion, but you do find lots of nooks with seating and bars that are spread around the ship – you just have to explore a bit.
This was our first time booking an outside balcony and I worked hard to get one that looked out and down along the side of the ship. Generous space that made it nice to gaze out as we entered or left our ports. The room was gorgeous and comfortable, no complaints.
Some adrenaline maybe?
Onboard we just had to try out everything. Jackie was game for doing both dry slides – the curly tubes that wound down the side of the ship, one of which was the Drop – a pretty quick whoosh straight down before spiraling to deck 8. The Wave waterslide was a quick rush down a tube, then up and out over the side of the ship. That one was pretty fast since you were riding a tube. We went to the sports deck and tried foot soccer, ping pong, mini golf and actually played a short game of pickleball, but it seemed like a small court.
And of course we had reservations for the race cars! I strapped my GoPro to a chest mount hoping to catch it all on video, but it caught more of the steering wheel and my feet than the wild ride around the 3-level track. It was nearly 10 minutes of absolute exhilaration – even though my car was last in line and I only managed to pass two cars. I booked a second run later in the week and I knew enough to get the first car in line. Wheeee!
What about food?
If you know me, you know that food is pretty high on the list. We had two nights booked in specialty restaurants: Le Bistro and Palomar. Both were excellent meals of seafood and with the offerings of the main dining room there was plenty of good stuff for dinner. I particularly enjoyed my grilled octopus, lamb chops and oysters – Jackie ordered her veal oscar without crab, but was a bit disappointed by her strip steak. After all, we do steak pretty good at home.
But hands down the best meals were in the Indulge food hall. You sat at a table or counter and ordered your tapas size choices on a tablet and whoosh they arrived hot and fresh. You can see by the pictures we had salmon from the Texas smokehouse, gnocci from Nudls, tenderloin from the rotisserie, naan and chicken tiki from the Indian kitchen and my favorite: bacon wrapped grilled dates. Definitely fun for tasting and sharing.
So what about ports of call?
Great Stirrup Private Island
NCL’s private island is just a stone’s throw from Royal Caribbean’s Coco Cay, but we didn’t miss the excitement of that other private island. We tendered over early with no problems and hiked across the beach of lounge chairs to find a spot “in the shade” as Jackie insisted. Well, most of those spots were already taken but I did find a lounge chair under a wonderful palm tree. As you can see, the not-so-robust tree of maybe 3 fronds had little shade to give, but we stayed anyway. The water was definitely on the brisk side, but it was clean and a nice way to cool off.
I had a zipline reservation, so off to the lighthouse I went to get set – figuring I would have to climb the stairs to the top. Ah, but they had an elevator to the platforms above. Each of us got strapped into our harness and clipped to the safety cable so we could walk gingerly to the launch spot. Amazing view from up top, and more than a few were hesitant to walk around without any railings. But the three zips were so much fun. Two of them were pretty long as they crossed over the beach and loungers below. Again, I had the GoPro fastened to a chest mount, but caught more of my harness and gloves than I wanted. O well, the only way to really enjoy it was to be there and do it. Really, really fun.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
This was a gorgeous port to slip into and the ship slowly made the passage to the dock and past Celebrity Reflection. Our excursion started with a short van ride to the Mystic Mountain Skyway where we rode chairlifts to the top of the mountain and got ready for the Jamaican Bobsled run. In preparation for this we watched “Cool Runnings” to recall the story of the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team. Jackie strapped into her sled just ahead of me and with a big starting push from the staff we were both off and running. This was full tilt speed down that mountain and a real rush. I had the GoPro on a head mount this time, so I got more of the action than just my feet.
Once at the bottom, the sleds are pulled back up the mountain through the woods to the starting point. Really cool. At the top there was an infinity pool, a waterslide, restaurant and shops, but we were pretty much ready to head back down the lift and onto the ship. Before leaving, however, we spotted an Eastern Streamertail hummingbird in a feeder area. This fella had pretty amazing wings and tail and would definitely be a sight at our feeder back home.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman
We had an excursion planned for Stingray City and some reef snorkeling here, but we learned that the excursion would arrive back at port just as the last tender was headed to the ship and figured that might be a little too close for comfort. So we opted to skip it and stay aboard. Two other ships were tendering just offshore too on a nice sunny day, so we soaked in the infinity pool and just relaxed.
And then there was Cozumel. We booked a 3 reef snorkel, something we have done before, grabbed our gear and walked down the pier. Once checked in we were told “your boat is here, go get on it” and we walked back to a large catamaran loading up with guests. “No, not your boat” we were told as we prepared to board. “You have red boat.” The two dozen of us looked around, there was another big catamaran, not red, and well … not much else. Wait, there was this little skiff, not much bigger than a rowboat – could that be it? Yep, that was us. Hmm, well we were packed in pretty tight, shoulder to shoulder and heading around the pier to a reef along the shoreline. Just past the big ships.
Into the clear warm water we all went to look for fish. And the fish were there, but so were snorkelers, so Jackie and I tried our best to stay outside all of the swimmers. I wasn’t that successful and found myself bumping into folks a bit. But it was decent viewing. I saw many of the familiar fish and when we picked up and moved to reef 2 I saw a couple of French angelfish that always delight. Plus parrotfish and the pesky Sergeant Majors (attracted by the photographer who was feeding them). Whadda ya gonna do?
Hey, it’s looking kinda dark over there, I thought as I surfaced. As we climbed back onboard and our guide said reef 3 was next, the captain up top nixed that plan and good thing, too. Suddenly the wind whipped up, the rain began and we were in the middle of a drenching, windy rainstorm. Heck, we were already wet, so what was the big deal? Well, the waves were doing a good job of splashing over the boat, soaking all our towels, gear, sandals … it was a slow, wet slog back along the shore to the ship. We all had a good laugh about it, as we squeak-squished our way onboard. Jackie and I both got in our shower and turned the water to “hot” and tried to warm up. Fun!
Two shows were featured in the theater and we got into both of them. Summer! The Donna Summer story was in the style of most of the bio/musicals that featured her life and songs. Three singers who played her at different ages were terrific and did a fabulous job with the songs. The Noise Boys was the other show that combined tap dancing, beat boxing and rap for a lively, loud presentation. Not bad and I enjoyed the tap dancing. Around the ship were other small groups performing Motown, classic rock, ballads and such and we sat in the atrium to listen.
Of course no cruise is complete without a trip to the Craps table for Doug. First night was a winner! Followed by up and down nights at the table and going into the last night in the hole. BUT somehow that last night the table got hot and I was able to cash out a winner for the week – having had a lot of fun shooting the dice, placing my bets and collecting my winnings. Yay. But that last day was a whopper – the wind whipped up late afternoon, rain came down and it was pretty much rock and roll with the ship. And of course it was raining when we arrived in Orlando. Yep, welcome home.
And the sad, sleepy trip back home.
You know it’s coming, that last morning when you grab the last breakfast, disembark to collect and drag your bags back to the car and start back home. Orlando didn’t seem that far away at the start, but somehow driving north is longer uphill. That’s ok, we had time to review all that we had done during the week. It was an adventure.
What’s next for us?
Motorhome has some minor tweaks and needs to get out of the deep freeze here, so we will start up 2023 with some maintenance. Then a family camp in Tennessee followed by a celebration of spring in Panama City Beach, Florida. There are two more cruises (yes, we ARE nuts) coming up, but more about that later.
Stay happy, healthy and thanks for joining us for the trip. Be sure to check out any and all of our videos, prior posts and adventures!