Norwegian Getaway’s magic touch

By Tom Stieghorst

Norwegian Getaway Illusionarium Theater EntranceFor the past decade, Norwegian Cruise Line has tried at the very least to be different from its much larger contemporary rivals.

The fruits of that campaign are paying off in the new Breakaway-class ships, nowhere more so than in the Norwegian Getaway’s Illusionarium, a space that offers one of the most compelling shows at sea in a custom-designed setting that will be hard to duplicate.

The Illusionarium dinner/magic show combines comic elements, audience interaction and cutting-edge steampunk atmospherics with inspired props, costumes and backdrops.

All of this is wrapped together quite satisfyingly in a story arc about the grandson of a famed Victorian magician getting set to auction the family collection of magical treasures.

The grandfather comes to life and conjures the spirits of great magicians of his time to show the young lad a few things. Each act arrives with a fantastic display on the domed ceiling of the Illusionarium.

Norwegian Getaway Illusionarium TheaterThe room is set up in circular fashion, with long tables radiating like spokes from the stage. It is certainly worth the extra money to get a floor seat ($29.99) rather than a banquette ($24.99). The closer to the stage, the better the view of the planetarium-like oculus.

You’ll barely remember the food, a surf-and-turf duo, as your attention is riveted to the performers. There is levitation, box tricks with a woman emerging after several swords have been inserted into the crate she’s concealed in, hypnotism, sleight of hand and an astounding numbers trick.

One appeal of the Illusionarium is sitting 10 feet from the tricks and still being dumbfounded at the results. “You’re almost sitting on the stage and you can’t figure out what’s going on,” said Norwegian Sales Vice President Andy Stuart.

The final act is the grandson, Jonathan Rice, played by a wickedly funny Jeff Hobson, who conceived the show and recruited the magicians.

The Illusionarium, which takes the space occupied by Cirque Dreams on the Breakaway and Epic, seats 232. Views in the back of the room are aided by TV monitors set in the ceiling.

Kim Weinstein, who works for a consulting firm in Boynton Beach, Fla., occupied a rear banquette at the show I attended, and her only complaint was a support pole blocking her view. “Other than that it was fine,” she said. “Better than I was expecting.”

An energetic evening at sea

By Tom Steighorst

*InsightOne of the drawbacks to a long, late dinner on a cruise is that it sometimes doesn’t put me in the mood to explore the rest of the ship. It sometimes puts me in the mood to head for my cabin and that nice, comfortable bed.

On other cruises, I wonder how I’m going to spend the rest of the evening, especially if I’m at the first seating and done with dinner by 8 p.m.

During the preview sailing of Norwegian Getaway this past weekend, I was seated early, slotted for dinner at Norwegian’s newest iteration of the dinner-th*TomStieghorsteater concept it offers on Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Epic.

I will write more at a later date about the Illusionarium and the show itself. Suffice it to say that it is one of the most unique entertainment offerings at sea, and you should make every reasonable effort to see it.

But beyond that, my dinner companion and I found that merely having the show as a focal point for the dinner left us with a lot more energy to enjoy the evening ahead. It was better for that purpose than even the most enjoyable sit-down meal with the wittiest table companions. It really gave us a charge.

It’s nice to have a tailwind like that on a ship the size of Norwegian Getaway, which has three decks devoted to bars, restaurants and entertainment. I wanted to see and do it all but,  let’s face it, the prospect can be a bit daunting.

We were tempted to stop for a refreshing chill at the Ice Bar. It has been warm in Miami this winter. But it seemed a little out of keeping with the Getaway’s tropical theme.
Instead we wandered by the Grammy Experience, another new space unique to Getaway (the same space is a blues-music bar on Norwegian Breakaway).
The Grammy Experience will feature former Grammy-winning artists and memorabilia chosen by the Grammy museum in Los Angeles.

On the inaugural cruise, the showcase performer was Latin jazz flautist Nestor Torres, who continues his run this week on the first full cruise.

Torres and his band were in their element: An intimate club in front of a Miami audience that knew his music and bantered back and forth with him in Spanish.

In between sets we caught part of Legally Blonde, the Broadway musical in the Getaway’s main theater, and we took in a beautifully calm moonlit Miami night on the Waterfront promenade.

Torres played with intensity and inspiration until well after midnight.  By the time I finally hit that comfortable bed it was 1:30 a.m.
The energetic evening started with the dinner theater, which I really think set the tone for the whole night. It’s a winning idea both for both and for a cruise line bent on maximizing the use of its bars, casino and other sources of onboard revenue by keeping the party going long as it can.