Travel

Cruising Along!

Words Raul Dias

 

The Getaway is home to Svedka, the world’s first floating ice bar where drinks are served out of tumblers made from clear, crystal ice
A Baltic Sea cruise aboard the mighty Norwegian Getaway Cruise Ship on an epic eight-day, luxury-filled itinerary is the ultimate sailing vacation for the hedonistic traveller

Picture this. On a crisp autumn morning you find yourself staring gobsmacked at a behemoth of a vessel that’s docked at the Port of Copenhagen at one of its largest berths, the mighty Ocean Quay Berth 331. You rub your eyes and scratch your head—though not at the same time! All the while wondering if jet lag is playing its confusion-inducing game on you. No, it just cannot be true. “Nothing man made can be that gargantuan,” you hear yourself repeat on a loop as your mind races to find more synonyms for the word ‘large’, having exhausted quite a few specimens already.

Slowly you come to terms with its sheer size, as a fact sheet is thrust into your hands once you’re all done with the security and check-in formalities. At an overall length of an impressive 1068.3ft, with its hull bearing a colourful mermaid mural by the famous Cuban-American artist David LeBatard, the Norwegian Getaway cruise ship is not just one of the ‘big girls’ of the Norwegian Cruise Line company, but also one of the world’s largest cruise ships. EVER. Rivalling any skyscraper, it has 18 decks. With a capacity to accommodate 3,963 guests, it’s a virtual floating city. And to take care of them all, the Getaway carries 1,646 crew members and staff.

Sailing the Baltic Sea for a good part of the year, this ship makes its way to the warmer climes of the Bahamas for a series of different Caribbean Sea itineraries for the winter. The eight-day itinerary that you’re booked on is a magical one looping around the Baltic Sea, making ports of call in six different countries including Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden after returning to base at Denmark…

The Norwegian Getaway’s hull is painted with artwork by Cuban-American artist, David LeBatard

A Luxurious Reality
It was only when I lay flat on my large king-size bed in my stateroom post embarkation, that the reality of it all hit me like a tonne of bricks, jolting me from my third person referring reverie! Given my acute claustrophobia, I chose a cabin on deck 12 with a balcony and was given a super plush one at the very end of the ship in the aft section from where I could see nothing but the ocean as the ship cut a swathe through the cerulean waters of the Baltic Sea. On board, all my creature comforts were taken care of, from a well-stocked library to a fitness centre to burn off all those post-indulgence calories at. And for a thoroughly relaxing time there was always the Mandara Spa on deck 15.

And while it does have the ‘expected of a cruise’ entertainment options like a casino, illusionists and musicals like Million Dollar Quartet on offer daily, the Getaway has what few others have. To begin with, the unique Rope’s Course on its topmost 18th deck is a Pirates of the Carribbean-esque obstacle course where you can also ‘walk the plank’ on the wooden ledge that precariously teeters along the edge of the ship, dangling over the water.

The Getaway is even home to Svedka, the world’s first floating ice bar where drinks are served out of tumblers made from clear, crystal ice. But the piece de resistance has simply got to be the ultra-exclusive and posh, The Haven. Now, this members-only zone housed on the top of the ship has its own luxurious accommodations including suites, private lounges and dining options, along with a personal concierge and 24-hour butler service.

Speaking of F&B, the Getaway has 28 restaurants and bars, including an all-day buffet and a Brazilian churrascaria-style restaurant called Moderno. But my personal favourite throughout the cruise turned out to be Teppanyaki with its outstanding food and fun, interactive Teppanyaki chefs who made dining here always so full of entertainment and laughs.

The exclusive plunge pool and hot tub area for The Haven guests

Magical Pit Stops
After leaving Denmark, our first stop was at the port of Warnemunde in Germany from where we boarded a train for a 2.5 hours journey to the fascinating city of Berlin. Our very exciting city tour of Berlin took in the top ten highlights of the city with photo stops made at the East Side Gallery, a 3/4 mile section of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and at the Bebelplatz, one of the most beautiful squares in the city. We even passed by Potsdamer Platz where the first hole in the Berlin Wall was made and which today is a block of glass and steel skyscrapers.

Tallinn, the sleepy, quaint little capital city of Estonia was our next stop where we first took an hour-long ride to the town of Rakvere, before exploring the main city. After a visit to the Citizen Museum, we made our way to the partially ruined, 13th century Rakvere Castle to see weapons, the Torture Chamber and Hell Chamber. At the entrance to the castle you’ll find an enormous sculpture of a bull called Tarvas, standing in guard of the town. A medieval lunch with Estonian beer was served to us in the castle restaurant where we also learnt about distilling in Estonia and we also got to sample Estonian spirits like schnapps and vodka. Back in Tallinn, our first stop was at the Tall Hermann Tower. We then walked through the Palace Square with the Parliament House of Estonia and the Russian Orthodox Church. The stroll then took us over the cobblestone lanes for an outside visit of the famous St. Mary’s Cathedral “Dome Church” with 1233 panoramic viewpoints from where we could even see our gigantic ship docked at the harbour!

The ship’s top 18th deck is a hive of sporting activities with tube slides and ‘The Plank’

Stunning St Petersburg
Our early morning tour took us outside of the city to the historical town of Pushkin as we drove through the Egyptian Gates, the entrance to the Tsar’s village in Pushkin. Catherine’s Palace ranks as one of the masterpieces of world art. Peter the Great presented the estate to his wife Catherine in 1710 and on it, a small palace was built by architect Braunstein. From this time until the time of the last Russian Tsar, Tsar’s Village was used as the summer residence of the Royal Family. In 1756, Bartelomeo Rastrelli expanded the palace in Baroque style. Its white and gold facade stretches 978 feet.

The palace tour took us through the series of magnificent rooms, including the famous Picture Gallery, the Great Hall and the world famous Amber Room. The parks of the estate add to the splendour of the palace, and several of them are embellished with a number of charming pavilions. Pushkin is famous not only for its remarkable palace and parks, but the man it was named after – Alexander Pushkin, the most celebrated poet in the country and a resident of this town at the beginning of the 19th century. After a quick lunch, we drove back to the city for a tour of the Hermitage Museum, the largest art museum in Russia and the most prestigious museum in the world that occupies the Winter Palace, the winter residence of the Russian Tsars and four more buildings. A truly majestic end to an epic cruising voyage that was a true ‘Getaway’ in more ways than one!

For More Information log on to www.ncl.com

The freezing Svedka aboard the cruise ship is the world’s first floating ice bar

    

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