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One Day in Toledo, Spain

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After our day in Porto, we woke up early the next morning and headed to the airport. We had an early morning flight to Madrid. I’ve heard that the Lisbon airport can be really busy but flying out of Porto (especially early in the morning) was a breeze. When we landed in Madrid, we took a cab to the train station and headed to Toledo.

Toledo train station

Toledo train station

It was a quick thirty-minute train ride from Madrid making Toledo a popular day trip for people visiting the capital city. We decided to get our first taste of the city by walking from the train station to our Airbnb in old-town Toledo. Our Airbnb was probably one of the nicest Airbnbs I have ever stayed in. It felt like a luxury hotel room in a historic building right in the middle of Toledo and was very reasonably priced (which is the biggest reason why we chose to spend more time in Toledo than Madrid). I don’t get anything for recommending this, but if you are planning on visiting Toledo, I highly recommend staying at Emer’s Place! One of our favorite things about Toledo was how it emptied out in the evening after the day visitors left (much like Mackinac Island).

Toledo is known as the City of Three Cultures because throughout its history it has been inhabited by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Buildings in the city date back to the 11th Century and the architecture is unlike anything I had seen before. I have since seen pictures of Jerusalem and that is the best comparison I can make. Walking down these narrow, brick roads (where unbelievably cars are allowed), Toledo didn’t feel like a real place. The only connections I could make were to Disney World, either Pirates of the Caribbean or the Morocco pavilion in Epcot.

It quickly became clear to me that most of the visitors to Toledo are from Spain. The only English-speaking tour I could find that worked in our schedule (and didn’t involve transportation to/from Madrid) was one of those double-decker bus tours, so that was how we got our first overview of the city. It wasn’t the best tour I’ve ever taken, but we learned the history of the city and got to stop at some great viewpoints around the city for pictures (above).

Chapel in the Toledo Cathedral

Chapel in the Cathedral

After our tour, we decided to explore the most recommended attraction in Toledo, the historic cathedral. The cathedral was completed in the 14th century on the site of a former mosque. The detail in the building is breathtaking and there is so much to see. We decided to do the free audio tour with our visit of the cathedral and it added a lot of information about the history and symbolism, but at times it was a little too much information for a non-Catholic like myself. Many people choose to take guided tours of the cathedral and I think that would be a great way to see the space, but I would choose one that guarantees a small group. A lot of the groups in the cathedral that we saw were so big they barely all fit together in each area. Look for tours like this private tour with transportation from Madrid on Viator. All-in-all, you cannot miss the awe-inspiring cathedral when you visit Toledo!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week as I recount our day in Madrid! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

One Day in Porto

Porto Cathedral

After a wonderful day touring the Douro Valley, the next day we did a tour of Porto. I found a walking tour on FreeTour.com. Similar to the free walking tour we did in Santa Barbara, the idea of these tours is that you pay nothing for the tour, and at the end, you tip your guide however much you deem appropriate. These tours are usually a fun way to get to know a city without breaking the bank.

Compared to Lisbon, the buildings in Porto are much older. The earthquake and fire of 1755 destroyed Lisbon but no such disaster has affected Porto. The Porto Cathedral (top) broke ground in 1110 AD.

São Bento Train Station AzulejosThe first stop on our tour was the São Bento train station which is home to beautiful Azujelo murals from the early 1900s (left). While looking at the murals, our tour guide told us the history of this building. Before it was a train station, the building used to be a convent. The city of Porto decided that they needed a train station so they took the building over, but they allowed the nuns to continue to live there until the last nun died. It was a while before it became a train station because the youngest nun in the convent was a child at the time. The building was transformed into a train station in 1893.

Our guide also detailed some of the less pleasant parts of their history. From 1933-1974 Portugal was under a dictatorship that separated them from the rest of the world. The dictator António de Oliveira Salazar (J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for the name of the founder of Slytherin House), ruled the country, repressing the rights of the citizens until he died from falling off a chair. Democracy was restored through the Carnation Revolution only four years after his death.

Our guide also told us about the summer festival celebrating São João (St. John) that was coming up later that week (thus the decorations on the right). She explained that people flood the street during São João, grilling Sardines, and walk from the city to the ocean, hitting each other on the head with plastic hammers. I am sad that I missed what is known as Europe’s liveliest and least-known (outside of the city, of course) summer festivals. In the words of our Duoro tour guide, they celebrate summer and blame it on a saint.

Our tour ended with our guide serenading us with a traditional fado song. Fado music is a traditional Portuguese genre of music that dates back to the 1820s and is known for its mournful lyrics and tone. Saudade is a Portuguese word that captures this feeling of irrevocable loss that Fado embodies.  Later that day, we went to a Fado show at the Casa de Guitarra where we heard more of this music.

Port Barrels at Ferreira

That afternoon, we headed across the river to Villa Nova da Gaia to visit one of the famous port wine cellars we heard about on both our tour of the Duoro and of Porto. We chose to tour Ferreira because they are a historic port producer owned by a Portuguese family (most big port producers are British for some reason). It was interesting seeing how a big company differed from the smaller producers we toured in the Duoro. Of course, our tour ended with a port wine tasting. If you have a short time in Porto, this is a good way to get an understanding of the importance of Port. If you have more time, I recommend a tour of the Duoro instead of touring a port cellar. They are very similar experiences and I much preferred our full-day in the Duoro.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Douro Cruise

Croft Port House from the Duro

One Day in the Douro Valley

Quinto do Jalloto

The view from Quinto do Jalloto

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra.

One thing I knew I wanted to do with our time in Porto was a tour of the Douro Valley. We chose a tour with Oporto Tours which picked us up near our Airbnb and took us on a tour to really get to know the Douro region, its history, and what makes their wines unique. Our guide, Tiago, expertly navigated the steep, twisty roads of the Douro while telling us all about the region.

The Douro Valley is a World Heritage Site and is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. People have been expertly growing grapes in terraced vineyards for generations. Many of them are still harvested by hand with the grapes being stomped by feet. The annual grape stomping has become a tourist attraction at many Quintas with stomping having to be booked months in advance.

Viera de Sousa Winery The first stop on our tour was at Viera de Sousa, a 5th-generation family-owned and operated winery, growing grapes on 4 quintas in the Douro Valley. The current generation running the winery are women which is uncommon in Portugal. Here we learned a lot about the difference in Portuguese wines. Traditional Port is a sweet, fortified wine made of a blend of grapes (common Port Wine grapes include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (AKA Tempranillo), and at least 50 others).  White port is typically more fruit-forward and less sweet than other port varieties. Tawny Port is aged at least 2 years in barrels before going into the bottle and typically has flavors of caramel and nut on top of the fruit flavors. Ruby Port is fruit-forward, sweet, and meant to be drunk young. After the wine ages in a barrel for two years, a sample can be sent off to the Institute of Douro and Porto Wine for an assessment, and if a wine is of high enough quality it can be declared for a Vintage where it will be aged in bottles for at least 15 more years. Therefore, Vintage Port is the most expensive and distinguished wine of the Douro Valley. At Viera de Sousa we sampled some of their still wines as well as a white port (which I had never had before), a Tawny, and a Ruby. Their wines were wonderful and their ports were very different than the mass-market port we have in the U.S.

Typical Boat on the Duro

After our first wine tasting, we headed to Pinhao to board a typical rabelo boat (right) for a tour of the Douro River. These boats were used in the past to get the wine from the vineyards along the Douro to the Port Wine houses in Ville Nova de Gaia. Before the installation of dams along the river, the Douro was treacherous many small chapels were built along the riverbank to protect the sailors from the river’s wrath. Nowadays with other ways for the wine to reach Porto, the rabelo boats are purely for tourists. I was really excited about our boat ride and while the views were amazing, the boat itself was crowded with groups from other tours. Since the tour, people have asked if I would recommend a ride on a rabelo as part of a tour of the Douro and I am really torn, because while it wasn’t the highlight of my day in the Douro, I think I would have regretted it if I saw the boats and I didn’t get to go on it. That is probably the least helpful advice I have ever given on this blog, but it is the only way to describe how I feel. It is possible to ride a rabelo in Porto for a tour of the 6 bridges that is only $16 for 50 minutes on Viator.

Pinhão Train Station Azulejo

After our boat ride, we had a great Portuguese lunch in Pinhão. with a choice of beef or fish. After lunch, our tour guide Tiago took to us the Pinhão train station to see the beautiful Azulejos depicting early life in the Douro (above).

Quinto do Jalloto

From there, we made our way to our final stop of the tour at Quinto do Jalloto (above) in Casal de Loivos. Besides, wonderful wine this quinta had the most breathtaking views of the “sharks” across the river (AKA the Dow’s estate, top). We learned that just like in Mexico, grapes and olives grow together in the Douro and their olive oil was amazing! Here we sampled three still wines, honey, and the delicious olive oil. The wine here was very unique and not like anything I had ever had back home.

Our tour concluded with the beautifully scenic drive back to Porto. If you have plans to visit Porto, definitely take some time to explore the Douro. It is an amazing place unlike anywhere else I have ever been. I can’t say enough good things about our tour from Oporto Tours. Our tour was pricey but absolutely worth it.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when we take a free tour of Porto! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Final Day in Lisbon

With half a day left in Lisbon, there was one last thing I wanted to see and that was the National Tile Museum. Portugal is known for its Azulejos, murals of painted tile, typically in shades of blue. The tiles are traditionally found on the interior and exterior of buildings to help keep the buildings cool in the summer heat. Visitors to the museum are taken through the history of the time from when it was introduced in the 15th century, to the classic blue-painted tiles of the 17th and 18th centuries, and more modern interpretations. I really enjoyed the panoramic landscape of Lisbon before the earthquake which was done entirely in Azueljos. It was very interesting the examine the differences in the city between then and now.

Chapel in the National Tile Museum

Like many buildings in Portugal, the building that now houses the Tile Museum was formerly a convent. I knew this before visiting, but it was still a shock to turn the corner and find this gold-plated church. We had already toured Jeronimo’s Monastery and the chapel at Pena Palace but the decorations in this church took my breath away. If you want to see awe-inspiring religious spaces on your trip to Lisbon, make sure to visit the Museu Nacional do Azulejo. If you have the Lisboa Card, admission to the Tile Museum is included.

Alfa Pendular

After touring the museum, it was time to head to the train station. We took the Alfa Pendular (left) from Lisboa’s Oriente Station to Porto’s Campanhã train Station. The Alfa Pendular is Portugal’s high-speed train which is capable of hitting speeds of 220 km/hour (137 mph). The Alfa Pendular has tilting technology that allows the train to take curves faster. I was worried that the tilting would be uncomfortable, but I did not even notice it. It was a very smooth ride with beautiful views out the window. Before I knew it, we were in Porto with the below view just steps from our Airbnb!

Porto at sunset

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week as I detail our tour of the Duoro Valley from Porto! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

 

One Day in Sintra

Pena Palace

Sintra is a popular day trip from Lisbon and is known for its picturesque buildings and royal history. There are many private tour options that include round-trip transportation from Lisbon and there is also a train that runs to Sintra from Lisbon throughout the day. The train is included with the purchase of the Lisboa Card and the Lisboa Card offers discounts at several of Sintra’s monuments. Like many tourist destinations, Sintra gets busy during the day so it is important to get there early to avoid crowds. We decided to take an early train from Lisbon to Sintra. We used Bolt (Portugal’s version of Uber) to get around town.

Pena Palace is probably the most popular attraction in Sintra. As soon as we had our itinerary nailed down, I bought my tickets to Pena Palace online so I could get the earliest entry time and beat the crowds. For less than 3€ a person, I added a transfer from the gate to the palace to avoid a 30-minute uphill hike first thing in the morning. Lisboa Card offers a discount for entry to Pena Palace. I really enjoyed the view of the Palace from the terraces and exploring the surrounding Pena Park. If you are interested in historic furnishings and royal history, you may have appreciated the interior more than I did.

Pena Palace

Pena Palace started out as a monastery but was severely damaged by lightning and then destroyed during the Lisbon Earthquake in 1755. In 1838, King Consort Ferdinand II set out to acquire the old monastery and other nearby estates and turn it into a summer home for the royal family. Construction of the palace was completed in 1854 in the Romantic style and it includes Medieval and Islamic elements. The Portuguese State purchased the palace in the late 1880’s and it was converted into a museum. In 1995 the Palace and the Cultural Landscape of Sintra was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Quinta de Regaleira's Initiation Well From Pena Palace, we took another Bolt to Quinta de Regaleira. We did not pre-purchase tickets to the Quinta, but the line was short by the time we arrived and we were able to use our Lisboa Card for a discount. Quinta de Regaleira is famous for its Initiation Well (left). The Initiation Well is mysterious because it is a circular stairwell into the ground with no known purpose. It is recommended that if you want to walk down the Initiation Well you get there early because a line forms later in the day. We arrived around noon and had to wait a bit but it was worth it.

Quinta de Regaleira sits on more than nine acres so there is a lot to explore besides the Initiation Well. There are towers near the entrance that can be climbed, and a small chapel that be visited. Parts of the Romantic, five-floor Palace known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire” can be toured (below).

Quinta de Regaleira

After we got our fill of Quinta de Regaleira we found a little cafe for a late lunch before exploring some of the shops in Sintra. Then, we did the downhill walk to the train station for our return to Lisbon. There were so many more monuments we didn’t have time to explore. I really wished we had stayed one night in Sintra to really get a feel for the place when all the day visitors leave. As I always say, I guess we will have to go back another time!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week as we take the train from Lisbon to Porto! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Lisbon: Day 2

Discoveries Monument

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For our second day in Lisbon, we headed to Belém, a famous neighborhood in western Lisbon, on the banks of the Tagus River. We started our day at Belém Tower (below), a 16th Century fortress that is known as a ceremonial gateway to the city. Built in the Manueline style, the tower was built to protect the Lisbon Harbor and is now an icon of the city itself. Climbing to the top of the tower provides a beautiful view of the city.

Belem Tower

From the tower, we walked to the nearby discovery monument (top) that celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discoveries during the 15th and 16th centuries. The monument includes sculptures of famous navigators including Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, and St. Francis Xavier among many others.

Pasteies de BelemAfter the tower, we headed to the most famous place in Belém, Pasteies de Belém, to try the world-famous pastry (left). We became obsessed with Pasteies while in Portugal and the ones in Belém were definitely the best that we tried.

Jeronimo's Monastery

Nourished, we headed to Jeronimo’s Monastery (right), the first of many religious buildings we visited on this trip and one of the most impressive. Like the tower, the monastery was built in the Manueline style in the early 16th century. I was surprised to learn that the tomb of Vasco da Gama (and that of the two kings that he served) is in the nave of the church for visitors to come and pay their respects. The architecture of the monastery was a lot to take in with all the ornate columns and arches.

Spinach Tours LisbonAfter our time exploring Belém we decided to try a self-driving tour of Lisbon. We had seen these little Spinach tour cars around the city and we were curious to try it out for ourselves. They offer several different tours of Lisbon and we chose to tour Alfama, the oldest part of the city because that is where our Airbnb was but we hadn’t spent more time over there except to sleep.

The streets of Lisbon are narrow and mostly cobblestone so it is not a city I would want to have to drive in, but this tour gave us a little taste. It was fun to zip around in our little electric car while the car gave us directions and told us some history of the city. Of course, in such a silly vehicle, you get a lot of funny looks, but we enjoyed our tour and we wished we had chosen the longer tour that also went out to Belém. If you are interested in trying a self-driving tour of Lisbon, I recommend Spinach Tours on Viator!

Ponto Final

We ended our second day in Lisbon with what has to be the restaurant highlight of the trip. Ponto Final is a restaurant on the opposite side of the Tagus River from Lisbon that was featured on Netflix’s food travel show, Somebody Feed Phil, and is incredibly popular. I made reservations as soon as our plans for this trip were finalized, but the wait without a reservation can be up to two hours. The seafood dishes were delicious but the location is the star of this restaurant and being able to watch the sunset over the bridge was magical. It was probably one of the best views I’ve experienced from any restaurant in my life and I highly recommend a stop if you’re in Lisbon, but take the ferry, traffic getting across the bridge can take a long time! Reservations can be made in advance by emailing pontofinalrest@gmail.com.

Sunset from Ponto Final

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week as I recap our day in Sintra! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Our First Day in Lisbon

Praça do Comércio

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra.

After 12 days at sea, we arrived in Lisbon early in the morning. Since we couldn’t get into our Airbnb until the afternoon, we waited as long as we could to disembark the ship. Once we were off the ship, we used Luggage Hero to find a place to store our luggage until our Airbnb was ready and then we began our exploration of Lisbon.

When the tourist office opened, we headed inside to buy the Lisboa Card which gave us access to many museums and attractions in the city as well as public transportation. Depending on how long you are planning on using the card, the price ranges from 21-44 Euros per person. We used our cards over the few days we were in the city to visit the Santa Justa Lift, The Lisboa Story Center, Belem Tower, Jeronimo’s Monastery, and the Lisbon Tile Museum. The card also allowed us to get around the city and covered our train ticket to Sintra where it also gave us a discount at Quinta de Regalara. It also would’ve given a discount at Pena Palace in Sintra, but I bought our tickets online in advance in order to get an early entry time, but more on that in another post.

View from the Santa Justa lift

View from the Santa Justa lift

To begin our sightseeing, we headed to Santa Justa Lift, which is an elevator that has turned into a tourist attraction. Lisbon is known as the city of 7 hills and walking up and down them can get tiring. Luckily, there are elevators in several parts of the city to make your walk a little easier. The Santa Justa Lift is the most famous in the city and it was built in 1902 by an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel. There is a long line to ride the elevator up and the observation tower at the top was closed so I can see why a lot of people suggest skipping it, but the view from the top is a great way to take in the scope of the city.

Exhibit in the Lisboa Story CenterAfter our ride in the elevator, we headed to the Lisboa Story Center (left) which is a unique museum that tells the history of Lisbon and how the city played a part in the exploration of the world. The Story Center presents history in a multimedia experience where every visitor has a headset to hear the narration that accompanies the three-dimensional and video elements in each exhibit. Probably one of the most impactful parts of the museum is the earthquake room, where visitors are immersed in the 1755 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the city.

Flaming Portuguese SausageThe highlight of our first day in Lisbon would have to be the food tour we took in the evening. The tour took us around the city center to try some authentic Portuguese food and drinks including Portuguese cheese and port wine, Bifana (delicious pork sandwiches) and beer, pasteis do bacalau (salt cod fritters) with Portuguese wine, Ginjinha (Lisbon’s famous cherry liquor), and a final stop for flaming sausage and more wine (right). The tour was surprisingly affordable and we got to try things that I may not have tried otherwise. If you are looking to get to know Lisbon, I highly recommend this small-group food tour from Viator!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week to read about our second day in Lisbon! To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Sunrise in Lisbon

Ponte 25 de Abril

Norwegian Getaway 2023 Review

Norwegian Getaway

In June of 2023, we took a 12-night, transatlantic cruise on the Norwegian Getaway from Port Canaveral to Lisbon, Portugal. We had talked about doing a Mediterranean cruise this summer, but this cruise originally caught my eye because of the ports. The Getaway is in Norwegian’s Breakaway Class and its sister ship, the Breakaway, was our last cruise before COVID, so everything about the Getaway felt familiar. We were excited to get back to Norwegian because they were our favorite cruise line before COVID, but having sailed the Celebrity Solstice a few months earlier, I was worried Norwegian wouldn’t hold up. Read on to see how NCL compares.

Embarkation

I picked an 11:00 check-in time because that is usually around the time boarding begins and the lines aren’t usually too long. I was surprised to find that the NCL app wasn’t working that morning so I couldn’t retrieve our edocs from the app. Luckily, I had saved our cabin number on the ShipMate app so we were able to check in without a problem. We were all checked in and we were waiting to board when we realized that everyone else around us had a card with a number on it for their boarding group and for whatever reason, they didn’t give one to us. So, we had to go back up to the check-in desk and get one and the lady was very confused about how that could’ve happened. In the end, we got our boarding number and got on the ship not too much longer, but it was an annoying glitch that added stress to our morning. Unlike on Celebrity, cabins on Norwegian are not ready when you get on board so if you have to carry your carryon bag around with you for a bit before you can put it in your room (they do have a place to check them, but since we just had backpacks, it wasn’t that big of a deal for is).

Cabin

Club Balcony Suite bathroom

Club Balcony Suite bathroom

We had originally booked an oceanview cabin for this sailing, but I noticed the price drop as we got closer so I called my travel agent and was able to upgrade to a Club Balcony Suite. This is the fanciest cabin we’ve ever had on a cruise ship. It had a little bit more room than a traditional balcony stateroom but the bathroom was HUGE. It. felt like a regular hotel bathroom and since most cruise ship bathrooms you can easily reach out and touch all four walls, this was a luxury for such a long sailing. This cabin also came with some extra perks like canapes and cookies delivered throughout the sailing. It was nice but with all the food available on a cruise ship, it wasn’t something I would pay extra for. This was the first time we had ever had a balcony on a Norwegian ship and it was much smaller than on the other lines we sailed. It was not really comfortable to sit out there for any length of time. Norwegian recently switched to only cleaning cabins once a day. During COVID, I got used to not having my room cleaned daily so I didn’t really mind this, but since the room stewards are cleaning twenty-some rooms, it took a few days to figure out when we would need to be out of the room so he could clean it. Maybe it is because we were in a Club Balcony Suite, but our room steward did still make us towel animals every day without having to ask for them.

Entertainment

You would think with 12 nights at sea, it would be boring, but there was always something going on. Yanique, the cruise director made sure there was always something to do. There were many game shows but I really enjoyed any time there was a Q&A with the captain. He was surprisingly funny. There were so many different musical acts around the ship, even with 12 nights, I don’t think we got to see them all. There were two comedians on board and one of them was Frank Townsend who was also the comedian on our Celebrity cruise in March, and even with some repeated jokes, he was still managed to crack us up! There were two production shows that each ran for two nights, Burn the Floor (a dance spectacular) and Million Dollar Quartet (a Broadway-style show). Big dance shows aren’t really my thing, but I really enjoyed Million Dollar Quartet, which is based on a true event when Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash got together for a jam session one night. Reservations could be made in advance for the production shows and they filled up so I can’t imagine many people from the standby line were able to get in. The Breakaway Class ships have a rock venue called Syd Norman’s Pour House that had a line out the door each night. I would love to get to see a show there, but I don’t want to spend my cruise waiting in line. I wish Norwegian would come up with a solution for that, like maybe accepting reservations for some nights.

Sunset at Sea

Dining

Norwegian is known for Freestyle Dining, meaning there are no set dining times and no formal nights. The Getaway had plenty of dining options and in twelve nights we didn’t have time to try them all. As on all the Norwegian ships we have been on, the buffet, Garden Cafe, was very crowded but it is where we ended up eating breakfast almost every day. Tropicana is the Getaway’s more formal main dining room with nightly music and a dance floor and where we chose to dine most nights when we didn’t have a reservation for specialty dining. If you’re looking for a more casual dining experience, Taste and Savor serve the same food as Tropicana without a dress code. All the food that we had in the main dining rooms was very good and there were plenty of options each night. The other complimentary restaurant available on the Getaway is O’Sheehan’s Pub which is open 24 hours a day. The late-night food ended up being very handy when they changed the time back for the fourth day in a row and I had no idea what time it was anymore and was hungry for dinner around 10 pm after all the other restaurants had closed for the night.

This cruise came with three dinners in the specialty restaurants and since we had 12 nights at sea, I decided to buy a package for two more, so we had five dinners at specialty restaurants on this cruise. One of my favorite thing about the Breakaway class ships is that they have the Waterfront, which gives most of the specialty restaurants tables outside. We chose to eat outside whenever possible including a late meal at Ocean Blue when we were getting close to Europe where our server asked us if we were from someplace cold. We chose to dine at Cagney’s (the steakhouse), Moderno (Brazilian Churrascaria), Le Bistro (French), and Ocean Blue (seafood). All of the food we had at the specialty restaurants was phenomenal and the service was outstanding. My only complaint is that the portions (especially at Cagney’s) are enormous and I wasted so much food. There were several mornings I woke up after these meals feelings like I might never eat again. The Getaway also has La Cucina (an Italian restaurant) but we chose to skip it mainly because the other restaurants seemed like a better value with the dining package. I love pizza and pasta, but when the price is no object, I’m going to pick a steak or a fancy seafood meal over that any day.

Technology

Towel animal

Towel Animal in the bed

As I mentioned in the embarkation section, we started having problems with the app before even getting on the ship. It is very important that you print your edocs or download them to your device before embarkation (I had done this but forgotten about it and found them in my Google Drive when I got home). Luckily we knew our cabin number or I don’t know what we would have done. A few hours after embarking it began to work, but it would randomly crash throughout the trip. When I made my dining reservations at home before we left, it wouldn’t let me double-book them. Once we get on the ship, it let me make reservations whenever but I could only cancel them by going to guest relations or to the restaurant. That made no sense to me.

We were only able to take this trip because my husband got permission to work from the ship for the first week. Most of that time the internet was slow but worked fine. Friday of the first week it stopped working completely and the following Monday was spotty. For the average person who just wants to check their email and share pictures on social media it was probably fine, but trying to actually get work done was challenging at times. The captain told us they were installing Starlink when we disembarked in Lisbon, but I’ve heard from more recent guests that it is not yet up and running so I don’t know what’s going on there.

Disembarkation

Disembarking the ship in Lisbon was a breeze. We decided to do self-assist like we always do and we just got off when we were ready. We did have to wait in line to get our keycards scanned, but then we were in Lisbon. It was not a big deal at all compared to disembarking in L.A. on our last cruise!

Overall Impressions

At the end of the cruise, I was sad to leave the Getaway even though we still had a week and a half of our trip left to explore Europe. I really enjoyed the freestyle nature of dining on Norwegian, although if you want to catch a show you do have to do a little bit of preplanning.  The food was fantastic and there were so many options. All the crew we encountered was super friendly. I would book another cruise with Norwegian or Celebrity again. It’s possible that I have two favorite cruise lines, now.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week as we disembark the ship and explore Lisbon. To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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