Terminal (Miami) First of all, while not related to NCL per se, I must say that the Miami cruise port is a bit of a sh!thole, with virtual no way to getting there except by car. The cruise terminals are hidious nondescript buildings (inside and outside) and not very welcoming. Adjacent to the majestic cruise ships is a huge port filled with containers and massive, noisy trucks mulling about. Not the best backdrop for the beginning of an exotic cruise, visually or otherwise. To be fair, the Miami downtown skyline on one side, and Miami Beach on the other, provides for good viewing once you roll out.
The check-in process is a little messy. First off, I ended up bringing my suitcase as carry-on. I must have missed whereever you checked in your bags (and I had in fact remembered to print the luggage tag in advance).
You stand in line, and suddenly you have to figure out which free counter to go to, to check in. It's not very organized by any means.
After passing through security, and check-in, and getting my room key (a card you also use for paying for everything on board), I was sent to this huge room in the terminal to wait.
Nowhere on the NCL website does it state what time you should show up, only what time you have to check in at the latest. So I got there around noon which was a bit too early it seemed. I waited for an hour before I could board (in a crowded terminal with very few seats) and once on board, it would be another hour before my stateroom was ready (at around 2 pm).
I think the website or the emails you get from NCL should state more clearly the exact steps you go through on embarkation day. What, where and when. Would be useful for newbies who have no experience with cruising.
It would also be useful if you got a map of the ship with full info about the opening hours of restaurants etc. I did find a 'mini guide' somewhere though.
After you get on board, at a certain time, there is a mandatory security drill that you MUST attend. I thought it would be an ellaborate run though of safety procedures, lifeboats, etc. As it turns out, the big hoopla consisted of one thing: a guy showing you how to put on your life jacket.
The room (aft facing balcony room on deck 10) was larger than expected. Large bed, little desk area and small bathroom. The balcony was nice and had two beach chairs. Unfortunately, you don't get a whole lot of privacy. It's rather easy for people staying at either side of your room to look into your balcony. Not to mention that it can be seen from the public deck above. Otherwise, the balcony had a nice view.
The mini bar was locked until the next day but I'm not sure if this was intentional or not.
I would have loved a Wi-Fi option in the Stateroom, even if I had to pay for it. There is only Wi-Fi in certain public areas. It's slow and expensive.
The TV in the room was very, very small and only had a couple of channels (CNN, Fox News which I refuse to watch, and ESPN). There's also a couple of channels with a handful of movies that are played throughout the day. I know you don't cruise to watch TV, but some more options, or pay per view features, would be nice.
I was relatively impressed by the complimentary dining options. The two a la carte restaurants are very similar but each offer a lovely three course menu. The food I tried was good. When I dined the first night, I got a great table right next to a window with a lovely view.
The buffets were also relatively good, although the food was not top notch quality. For breakfast and lunch, the buffet was ok, but for dinner it was not so good.
Both the steak house and the Italian restaurant were very good, but ironically the service from staff was a little better at the two 'free' restaurants.
I also enjoyed the BBQ we had on the island.
Overall, the food was above average.
I must admit I didn't check out the complimentary shows in the evenings. They seemed a bit uninteresting from the description. While a wealth of activities happened on board, the ship is missing some of the pizazz from the larger ships - such as a small cinema or such. It can get a bit dull to be on the Norwegian Sky. I think I will try a larger ship next time.
Overall, a good experience.