Norwegian Sky Cruise Review by zeno: Pride of Aloha - Eastern Caribbean
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Pride of Aloha - Eastern Caribbean
This sailing is was on board NCL Sky, BEFORE refurbishment as Pride of ALoha.
Embarkation: Totally smooth. We arrived at the pier at about 4PM and were on the ship by 4:20PM.
Cabin: Waiting for us in the cabin was a bottle of champagne - nice touch. We also had 2 bath robes for our use. Later on in the week we received a fruit bowl and a cabin credit for $150. Needless to say we were very pleased. We had a balcony cabin for 3 adults and believe it or not, we found it roomier than expected (I think we were psyched up to expect a REALLY tiny cabin). We only felt a bit crowded in the evening when the sofa bed was made up. It was kept spotlessly clean and tidy by our room steward and his assistant. We experienced 2 minor plumbing problems which were dealt with incredibly swiftly (When our sink stopper broke, the plumber was there so fast, we thought that he must be hiding around the corner). I have only one (minor) complaint about the cabin - shampoo and More soap gel containers in the shower were not clearly labeled. We even felt that the small shower stall was quite adequate (and two of us are on the large side). Lots of shelves in the bathroom came in handy. Hanging closet space was adequate but we could have used more drawer storage. Overall we were quite satisfied with our cabin.
Food: Overall we were quite satisfied with the food. We ate at both main dining rooms, at two of the specialty restaurants and one evening at the Garden Buffet. All our breakfasts except one were in the buffet area where we were quite pleased with the variety of choices. I particularly enjoyed the cheese blintzes and the smoked salmon. We had breakfast one morning in the dining room and quite frankly I preferred the buffet. Since we were onshore nearly every day, for lunch we mainly just grabbed a couple of slices of pizza when we returned to the ship (the pizza is fresh and tasty). Twice we managed to eat at the lunch buffet which had a good variety and changed every day. I especially liked the swordfish skewers we had one day.
My only disappointment was the Indian vegetarian buffet. I love Indian food and was looking forward to it but there were only a very small number of quite bland choices. (The vegetable curry was acceptable and the daal was OK).
Dinners: The only dinner I was somewhat disappointed with was the first one. The lamb kebab did not even taste like lamb. This was odd since later in the week I had a very good rack of lamb. Except for the lamb kebab, we enjoyed all our meals in the dining rooms. Our favorite dining room meal was on Presidents Night. Our favorite meal of the week was definitely at Le Bistro. The filet was delicious and the service was excellent. We enjoyed our meal at Horizons (the best dessert - and amazing chocolate covered chocolate cake thing - I wish I could remember what it was called) but the service was as good as at Le Bistro or the main dining rooms. On our last night we wanted to get back to the room to pack - so we just went to the buffet. It was Mexican that night and adequate for our needs. We also enjoyed the Chocolate Buffet.
The Ship: Very well maintained and kept very clean. Needs a bit of paint in a few areas. Service: Excellent except for some minor problems in the Horizons restaurant (bill confusion and slowness).
Ports: The itinerary was excellent. At the first stop (St. Thomas) we went on an island tour including a 1.5 hour stop at Coki Beach. For a group of seven people we negotiated a rate of $20 each. In Antigua, we had pre-arranged an island tour and beach stop with Lawrence of Antigua. It was excellent. For $100 (and we added a small tip) Lawrence took us across the island to The National Historical Park (Nelson's Dockyard etc), We saw and enjoyed Nelson's Dockyard, Shirley Heights, the Dows Hill interpretation Center. Lawrence made sure we took advantage of all free presentations and tours and showed us all the best spots to get pictures. Afterwards he took us to the Natural Bridge - very interesting and some nice photo ops. Then he took us to Long Beach, where we stayed for 2 hours. Lawrence picked us up at the appointed time and returned us to the ship. We recommend him highly. He is professional, organized and informative. In Martinique, we joined a group who had negotiated a van tour and needed a few extra bodies to bring the price down (which is important on Martinique where a 3 hour tour for 3 people will cost $140 unless you can find others to share). We ended up paying $20 each.
The tour included Sacre Coeur at Balata, drive through the rain forest, and stop at a small banana processing facility. (This was a quite interesting spur of the moment thing. Our driver asked us if we wanted to stop and he asked the supervisor for permission to show us the facility. Everyone was very friendly. The supervisor took time to explain what was being done and the workers smiled and waved as we watched them.) We also stopped at a rum distillery - much more touristy and less charming. We say St. Pierre and drove back along the coast. On St Martin, we went to Orient Beach and did a little shopping. On Tortola, we took the ferry over to Virgin Gorda and went to the Baths. The ferry was a bargain. For $20 we received a return ferry ride AND a free taxi ride to and from The Baths. The Baths were in one word - amazing.
Entertainment: After a full day we were usually too tired to go to most of the shows but we did make one of Jane L. Powell's shows. We really enjoyed her performance - great range and versatility. But (and this is my opinion only) we found her closing numbers to be cynical pandering to American patriotism on a ship that is neither American owned, flagged or crewed. When this ship becomes American flagged such demonstrations will be more appropriate.
Disembarkation: Reasonably fast and problem free. It was VERY nice to wait in our cabin until our color was called.
Overall: We loved the ship and the ports. Our only BIG negative was the absolutely hideous airport experience at San Juan which is why we will never cruise out of this port again. This airport is a complete nightmare. There is literally NOWHERE to sit down on the departure level before you go through security (and I do mean NOT ONE SEAT) except in the few small fast food restaurants (which of course are full). Elderly people looked about ready to faint from exhaustion. Anyone who has arthritis (like myself) will be in constant pain. Check-in lines are long (it took us 1.5 hours). The security line is exhausting (that took over 1 hour). There is no information desk to direct people to the appropriate areas.. Signs are inadequate. Announcements are inaudible in boarding areas - we actually NEVER heard our boarding call. Quite frankly it is the WORST airport I have ever been through and I have been to some 3rd world airports. Less
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