Tag: Cruise Page 1 of 9
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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.
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.
After 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.
The 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
After a wonderful day exploring the Azores, our next port stop was Madeira. Originally, I booked a third-party tour for the day, but a few days in advance, I was looking at the tour and comparing it to our times in port and I realized that the tour was scheduled to get back two hours after the ship was set to depart. Obviously, I canceled it and quickly booked one of the available tours on the ship called “A Taste of Madeira”.
Our tickets said to meet in the theater so we headed down a little early and were shocked to see the line for the theater stretch all the way to midship. We waited at least half an hour to get a sticker that told us what bus to board. We have taken several ship excursions on other cruise lines in the past year and I have not experienced anything like this. This was not how I wanted to begin my day in Madeira.
We followed the line of people to our enormous bus where we stopped at a few roadside pullovers to look at the view. Our last overlook was at Cabo Girão, a popular destination with the highest cliff skywalk in Europe. There were so many people, it was hard to get to the edge to take a picture and if you wanted a picture of yourself, it was near impossible to get one without anyone else in it (left). This was a far cry from our amazing, small group tour of São Miguel at the last port stop with a driver that seemed to take us away from the crowds.
After seeing the sights, we finally got to the tasting part of the tour. There was a snack table of Madeiran cheese and crackers and we got to try Madeiran still wines. The wine was interesting and not something you can find in the States. This was probably my favorite part of this tour, but I’m sure we could’ve found a restaurant to do something similar if we had chosen to explore Madeira on our own.
After our bus took us back to town, we took the Teleférico up to Monte to see if we could ride the famous toboggan. Unfortunately, the line was too long and we weren’t sure if we would make it back to the ship on time. So, we took the Teleférico back to Funchal and walked back to the ship.
While Madeira is a beautiful island, I feel like we barely got to see it. Part of that was because of my poor pre-planning and part of that was the limited time we had. We will have to return sometime with time to wait in line for the toboggan and really get to experience the island. This experience compared to our day in the Azores really has me thinking about how great third-party excursions are and how people who are afraid to step out from the cruise ship’s safety bubble are missing out on some truly amazing experiences. Expect a post on this in the near future!
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I review the Norwegian Getaway after 12 nights onboard! 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.
After seven days at sea on the Norwegian Getaway, we arrived at Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island in the Azores. The Azores are a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that are an autonomous region of Portugal. Because of its location in the middle of the Atlantic, Ponta Delgada is a common port of call on transatlantic cruises. I booked the Furnas Crater Lake Small Group Tour for the day on VentureAshore.com and I have to say, it was one of the best shore excursions I have ever taken. When they say small group, there were only six of us, and with such a small group, our guide was able to take us to spots where the big tour buses from the ship just couldn’t go.
Our tour guide met us at the port with a sign with my name on it which is something I’ve seen in movies but have never experienced myself before. The two of us and one other family loaded into a van and we headed out to explore the island. Our first stop was at a black sand beach where we could feel the volcanic sand (top), although it was a little chilly for a swim. Our next stop was at Nossa Senhora da Paz, which is a chapel to Our Lady of Peace. According to the plaque on the wall of the chapel, a statue of Mary was found on the hill and it was given to a priest who put it in a church. The next day, the statue was found on the hill so they began to build a chapel to store it. Later that night the foundation of the chapel was moved to a place nearby, where the chapel is standing today. The chapel itself is beautiful and the view from the top is breathtaking.
Our next stop was Caldeira Das Furnas which is a park with hot springs on Furnas Lake. The walkways with the bubbling hot springs and mud pots around them reminded us a lot of Yellowstone. The biggest difference between Furnas and Yellowstone is that in Furnas, they use these geothermal features to cook. One area of the park has big holes where local restaurants put a giant pot of Cozido das Furnas (a traditional Azorean dish) in the ground to cook for six hours. While we were there, we watched the chefs pull their pots out of the ground to take back to their restaurants for lunch. Of course, we wanted to try it so our tour guide made us a reservation at a local restaurant, Já Se Sabe, so we could try food cooked underground. We had a little bit of time to kill before our reservations so we drove to an area with more hot springs, some natural springs where we could drink bubbling water right out of the ground, and a snack bar that served corn on the cob.
After lunch, we hiked up a hill to see Furnas Lake from above and to burn off some of the calories from lunch. It was great being so high up and seeing where we were earlier in the day. From there we headed to Gorreana Tea Factory, an Azorean tea plantation where we saw how tea is processed and got to sample some of the teas they make. Their tea was delicious and we brought some home for ourselves and as gifts. This is the first time in the day that we encountered crowds. It was so full in the tasting room that there was no place to sit, so we sampled some tea and headed to our next stop.
Next, we got to see the north coast of São Miguel to the Santa Iria overlook. This was a nice place to stand and watch the waves crash against the cliffs for a little while.
Our final stop of the tour was at Lagoa do Fogo which is a crater lake in the center of São Miguel island. One of the people in our group said they booked this tour for this view because she saw a picture of it on her Windows login screen. Our tour guide took us to the top of a hill to get this viewpoint that the big tour buses couldn’t get. From where we were sitting we saw the buses down below and all the people walking around and we had this view practically to ourselves. It was a pretty awe-inspiring moment and I would say, one of the best of the whole trip.
We had a wonderful day seeing the sites on São Miguel, but we really only saw half of the island. I would love to go back and spend more time exploring this island and the rest of the Azores. One thing I hope you get from reading this is how amazing third-party shore excursions can be. I am so glad we chose this small group tour where we could escape the crowds and try typical Azorean food.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I recap our day in Madeira! 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.
We are back from another crazy, life-changing trip! This time we spent 12 nights at sea sailing from Florida to Portugal. When we arrived on land, we explored Lisbon, Porto, Toledo, Madrid, and Reykavik getting around by train, plane, and boat. This trip involved four separate flights on four different airlines. Here is a sneak peek at what is to come over the next few months:
Day 1: Orlando
Day 3: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
Day 10: Ponta Delgada, Azores
Day 12: Funchal, Madeira
Day 14-16: Lisbon
Day 16-21: Porto
Day 21-23: Toledo
Day 23-24: Madrid
Day 25: Reykjavik
The trip alternated between a relaxing week at sea without much to do and jam-packed days exploring European cities. We saw many historic sites and beautiful churches. We tried some of the most amazing food of my life and drank some delicious wine. Without much time at each place, we got a feel for many of our stops without really being able to see and do everything so many of these places have been added to our “must return” list for future travels.
Thanks for stopping by! 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.