I want to start out by saying that this is the first time I have ever cruised. My wife and I were celebrating our 30th anniversary and decided to try a cruise. After careful reflection and research we decided to try Norwegian and found the Sky's itinerary to be "just right" for a first-time experience.
We booked Owners' Suite 9201 located center forward over the bow. Arrival at the terminal and registration was quite quick and orderly as Norwegian's representatives led us to a separate area to register as part of our Suite "perks". We were then escorted to the gangway, where we met our Butler, Cristol. Cristol was very quick to warmly welcome us aboard the Sky and explained his duties and responsibilities to us. Cristol then escorted us to the Plantation Club, which serves as Sky's Conceirge Office. We were introduced to Karin, our Concierge, who was very freindly and welcoming as she explained processes and duties to us and worked with us to insure that we were comfortable and settled aboard. she provided excellent advice and pointers so that we were well aware of the remainder of the day's activities prior to leaving port. Karin then escorted us to Cagney's for lunch (the first of many fantastic meals aboard Sky).
After lunch we were free to roam around the ship and learn where everything was located. This activity was somewhat hampered by severe thunderstorms that blew into Miami in the afternoon (nice way to start a first cruise, huh??). At about 2PM, Karin located us and escorted us to our suite. Arriving at our suite, we were reintroduced to Cristol, and met our Cabin Steward, Reuben. Enetering the suite, we found it to be all and more than advertised: a spacious accomodation that allowed for segregation of various activites, with an ample bar area, sitting area with tv, large dining table area, large balcony with two lounges and an adequately-sized two person hot tub, king sized bed, and 1 and 1/2 baths (shower and spearate tub). Accomodations, condition, and cleanliness of the suite were exceptional. (It appeared from the condition of our suite that Norwegian's crews do one heck of a job turning Sky around for the next cruise in a short period of time!)
As we prepared to leave port, the afternoon storms parted and the sun came out, making for a memorable experience as the Miami skyline faded. Dinner in the Palace Main Dining Room was very good, food was appropriately warm, and service was excellent. (Sky had a french bread that was available at most of the dining venues that was fantastic...melted in your mouth with warm butter!) After dinner we walked around the ship (literally as after the lunch we had we made a conscious determination that elevators did not exist!) and took in some of the entertainment (Prism, Sky's house band is a very good group to listen to. Large variety of music, 60's 70's 80's, Motown, etc. played mostly at Dazzles Night Club) and checked out the comedy show in the theater (reserved seating was nice, another "perk"). Retired at about 1AM for the first of four good night's sleep in a very comfortable bed.
Tuesday morning was Freeport, Grand Bahama Island day. Unfortunately, an activity we had planned to do in Freeport was sold out and we were unable to do so. (Lesson number 1: even though quite "pricey", most activities should be booked pre-cruise, for this very reason.) After discussing options with Karin, we decided to "freestyle" and go on our own and take in as much as we could. Taxi was $10 per person round trip from the port to Our Lucayan Resort, where we spent a few hours on the beach. (Cab driver going to the resort was Hilarious! Had us laughing the whole way as he sped down the wrong side of the road telling stories and reciting the history of the island. "Left side safe side, right side suicide!) Beach was warm and sunny, water was slightly cold, but clear and beautiful. $15 per lounge chair was somewhat questionable, though. Left the beach and stopped at Treasure Bay Casino, where "someone" walked out with more money in her pocket than she walked in with! (As a whole, was not overly impressed with any of the casinos: on Sky, in Freeport, or even at Atlantis.) Stopped and browsed through the straw market area, which was quite expansive and made many good deals on a lot of the items sold there. On the way back to Sky, Senor Frog's (located right at the port in a smaller straw market area) provided a welcome and less expensive area for a few drinks than the bars/lounges onboard. Getting back on board was not at all cumbersome, as security worked to quickly clear everyone through and back onto Sky.
For a change in food venues, we decided to try the Garden Cafe' (buffet), located aft of the pools on deck 11. Found the choices and variety of foods available to be very good. Again, the meal was very good, as food was warm and fresh. Walked up to deck 12 to watch the sun set. Went back to our suite at about 9, where we met Reuben, who after meeting us only briefly the day before, greeted us warmly by name and had turned down the bed and placed his first (towel) work of art.
Wednesday was Nassau, Bahamas day. We were able to book (through the diligent and hard work of our Concierge Karin) the activity that we were unable to book on Freeport, so we had a "scheduled" late start to the day as meeting time for the Dolphin Swim was 11:30. We decided to go onshore earlier, though, and following an excellent breakfast at Cagney's (another suite "perk") served by a very attentive staff who actually called us by our first names, including Errol, the Head Waiter, we headed into the welcome center and browsed the shops and immediate neighborhood there. We met the group at 11:30, received our arm bands, and then traveled to Atlantis to swim with the fish. This is where we learned lesson number 2. Arriving at Atlantis at Dolphin Cay at 12PM, we were met by the program's representatives who explained what would be going on the next few hours. We were left to basically sit on the beach for about an hour and fifteen minutes as our "water time" was 1:30PM. The experience of actually swimming with these amazing mammals was fantastic and there was significant one-on-one interaction with both the dolphins and their caretakers. We left Dolphin Cay following our swim at about 3PM and headed over to Atlantis to explore and shop with the limited time we had left, as last shuttle back to port was at 5PM. (Lesson number 2: unless you can book early, and the activity is something that you really want to do (a once-in-a-lifetime type activity) these activities will take up a significant protion of your time. You may be better off, again, striking out on your own to explore as you desire.)
As we were celebrating our anniversary, we booked a reservation at Cagney's for dinner at 7:30. We had made previous arrangements to have our "formal" clothing pressed (no charge, another "perk") and it was delivered to our cabin at 6PM. We took the elevator (for one of the only times, as my wife was wearing high heels) and arrived at the designated time and were promptly seated. What followed was a steak dinner that was comparable in all aspects to a steak dinner at most any higher-end resturant you may find in any major city/metropolitan area. After dinner and dessert, we were surprised by two waiters who appeared at the table with an anniversary cake (Oh, Geez! MORE food??? I'm STUFFED!). They wished us a "Happy Anniversary", then took each of our hands, placed them together in the center of the table, and proceeded to serenade us with a very-well-done rendition of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart". Applause and well wishes then flowed from others in the restaurant.
Wednesday is "White Hot Party" night on Norwegian's vessels. Festivities began early in the evening with a "Kids" WHP poolside. although the "adult" party started at 10:45 and the Freestyle paper actually indicated that the party was "adults only" after 11:30, there were still a number of children and teens at the party. While the party appeared to be enjoyable to the younger sect, and the Sky's dancers were a blast to watch, we personally did not find the party to be "our bag" as the music and dances were geared toward the younger crowd and not at all toward us "older folk". There was, however, plenty of other things to do onboard, including live music and dancing in other venues. We got back to our suite at aboout 1:30, and not feeling tired, decided to just sit on the balcony and stare at the stars and we glided quietly though the water toward Great Stirrup Cay. Before we knew it, it was 3:30AM!!
Arriving at Great Stirrup Cay, the weather was cloudy, windy, and the water choppy. Tender ride to the island on the open water was rough, but once inside the "coves" being built by Norwegian on the island, ride was smooth. Norwegian is really spending a significant amount of time and money to make their private island a memorable spot for their cruisers. The island itself was well presented, with about 14 "straw market" shops for last minute shopping, three bars, and a large buffet area where the crew of Sky prepared and served an excellent lunch buffet. After spending the day on the beach, we headed back for ouor last night onboard. Heading back to Miami, it was quite amazing to watch the thunderstorms off in the distance from our balcony. After a final good night's sleep aboard Sky (including sailing though what in the morning appeared to be some quite heavy rainstorms judging fromt he water ont he balcony that we weren't even aware of!) we arrived back in Miami.
Debarkation was uneventful and very organized (except for the rum-dumb who decided to try to run past the ship's security into the customs terminal when security had to stop the line because the customs area was getting full. (Customs Agents requested this.) We were escorted off the ship by Karin, and were on our way, bags in hand, within an hour of our pre-arranged debarkation time, including clearing customs.
I cannot say enough about the crew of Sky, especially Karin, Cristol, and Rueben, who were extremely professional, cheerful, and efficient in their duties. No matter the time of day, all three of these unique individuals were always there and ready to attend to our every need or concern. We were amazed that each and every time we crossed paths with Karin, Cristol, or Reuben, we were greeted by name and each took the time out, regardless of what they were doing, to ask us how our day went, did we have any questions, did we need anything? Every crew member, regardless of their position on Sky, including the Captain and Senior Crew, always went out of their way to insure our comfort and enjoyment while aboard their vessel. Having researched extensively before deciding on the cruise itinary, cruise line, and ship, I read and saw stories about Sky, both good and bad. I cannot say that at any time during our first-time experience cruising that we had any negative exxperience while on this cruise, especially while onboard Sky. It was through our first impressions of the Norwegian Sky and its crew who did so much to make our first experience a positive one that we did book another cruise that I am able to say that this experience has made my wife and me loyal to Norwegian Cruise Line.