My husband and I just returned from a Norwegian weekend cruise on The Sky. We had a perfectly good time, but I'll go back to cruising with Royal Caribbean from now on. The Norwegian weekend cruise on The Sky is probably best for new cruisers or people with very low expectations. Here are some highlights and some comparisons if folks are trying to decide between the Norwegian Sky or Royal Caribbean's (Monarch or Majesty) weekend cruise.
Going/getting back: Embarkation was very easy at the Port of Miami. We had no problems and there was no wait (we arrived at Noon). Parking was $60 for the weekend. It was also easy to walk from the parking garage to the port. Upon arriving back to Miami, disembarkation was the easiest we've ever had it. The Port of Miami has Port Canaveral beat with the ease of getting through security. In fact, there were no lines at all to get off The Sky. We opted for the 7:45am walk-yourself-off and it worked out perfect. We wait at least 45 minutes to get off ships in Port Canaveral. Norwegian/Port of Miami was great about disembarkation and was the best surprise we had all weekend. Well done Port of Miami!
Food: Overall, we enjoyed the food very much, with one exception. We checked the menu's at both dining rooms each night. There are very few differences. One night, only one cut of meat was different. The menus were the same each night with different nightly specials highlighted on the left side of the menu. Upon arriving to the ship, we headed straight to Il Adagio for the Pizza and Pasta lunch (normally an upcharge for dinner). I really liked eating here because not many people knew about the complimentary lunch and thus was not crowded. The pizza was NOT worth the upcharge. But, the made-to-order pasta was one of the best things I ate all weekend. I would recommend Il Adagio for lunch. We also ate in the main dining room for lunch one day. It was perfectly lovey with a good selection and great service. The beach BBQ on Great Stirrup Cay was very good and the ribs were the best. The most disappointing meal we had was at the upcharge, Cagney's Steakhouse. I would not recommend it. I had read so many wonderful reviews about it, but we didn't have good service or good meals. My husband found his lobster bisque inedible, my wedge salad was very watery and tasteless, and neither one of us liked the small onion rings. We were part of a bigger party of eight, but even with the crowd, the service should have been better. I would not recommend Cagney's Steakhouse. We ate all our breakfasts in the Main Dining Room. The food was good but the service was VERY, VERY slow. I was happy we didn't have anywhere to be. We tried to avoid the buffet on the 11th deck as much as possible. It was VERY crowded, limited seating, and just not laid out conducive to crowds. In my humble opinion, the food on The Sky is comparable to the food on Royal Caribbean, but Royal Caribbean has it beat for buffets, service, (and prompt service).
Ports: I was excited to see Great Stirrup Cay, as I only have experience with Royal Caribbean's private islands. We didn't care for Great Stirrup Cay, in fact, Great Stirrup Cay isn't even close to being as great as Coco Cay (Royal Caribbean). The island is under construction (but after reading Cruise Critic, we were prepared for that). The island lacks the charm and "island feel" that Coco Cay has. There are a few boring bars, many sun lounges, a nice buffet, very nice bathrooms, and NO SHADE. Bring your sun block. In fact, we noticed there were only very young palm trees which provided no relief from the sun. Coco Cay is so nice because it's larger, has sun and shade, hammocks, has many fun bars, a better beach, and is just better in every way. If given the choice again, I would just say on the ship instead of losing time on Great Stirrup Cay. The tender system on The Sky wasn't as good as the system for Royal Caribbean. The Sky passed out tickets for all tenders. We went to retrieve our ticket, but then just decided to head down to the 3rd deck and try to get on a tender. This worked perfectly and no one asked for our tender ticket. Why have tickets if they are not used? There were tons of guests waiting in the general waiting areas for their tickets to be called. Silly, waste of time.
We really enjoy Nassau. We always do our own thing and don't sign up with the ships. We were happy to go back to the Crystal Palace Casino (Cable Beach). A day pass at the Wyndham can be purchased for $40 which includes the beach, a buffet lunch, and two drinks. Next door at the Sheraton, the beach pass is $25. Both properties are very nice and the casino connects the two hotels. The beach wasn't crowded. I would recommend doing this shore excursion on-your-own to save time and money. We always take the #10 bus (pick up on George Street, just pass the straw market) for $1.25 one way. Best deal you can find. The busses are nice, fast, and efficient. Forget the taxi... take the #10 bus. The Crystal Palace Casino has started charging for drinks while you gamble ($1 for water/soda, $2 for wine or spirits, and $3 for local beer). I was a little bummed about the charge, but just a few of the $2 drinks were all we really needed (wow, they were strong)!
Shows/Entertainment: We went to most of the shows on The Sky. The Perfect Couple was good for a laugh. The comedy shows were ok. But, The Sky didn't have the high energy, produced shows that the Monarch/Majesty has. It was basically a singer and her band. She was very good, but the "show" was just the main singer/band. The "variety" show was disappointing and somewhat confusing to me (not a fan of people spitting on one another for laughs). We attended the White Hot party and felt very old (most of the people there were under 25). But, I can see how a young person would have liked it a lot. The music selection catered to the Miami locals, but everyone looked like they were having fun. We really liked hanging out at Outriggers (Deck 11 Forward). The room was beautiful and the Karaoke was very fun.
Casino: We really liked the casino on The Sky. Table minimums for craps were $5 and we saw one Black Jack table for $5. There were lots of other tables with higher minimums. The ship also had Let it Ride. The casino on The Sky was comparable to other cruise ship casinos we've played. Be sure to sign up for the Casino Club on your arrival day. At 5:45pm they had a lot of drawings and folks must be present to win. We didn't win, but the odds of winning were pretty good.
Staterooms: Our stateroom was fine (we had ocean view on Deck 8). There was plenty of room for my husband and I, with plenty of storage space. The hot water worked GREAT! The small refrigerator and safe were unexpected surprises. We are huge fans of room service. But, we were unable to call from our cabin phone (either we didn't connect through or the phone didn't work). My husband would order room service from a house phone in the lobby. We've never have trouble with Royal Caribbean phones and dialing instructions are always included. Be sure to bring some bar soap for the shower.
In conclusion, we had a good time, we enjoyed the ship, we liked most of the food, but we'll stick with Royal Caribbean. If anything we'll stick with Royal Caribbean to avoid the pre-paid service fees they charge on Norwegian and for Coco Cay.