We sailed on the Norwegian Sky 8/4/08 to 8/8/08 from Port of Miami. Our itinerary took us to the Bahamas: Grand Bahama Island, Nassau, and Great Stirrup Cay. My husband and I carried our 6 & 8 year old daughters on this cruise for vacation this year. We have cruised at least 5 times before on various lines such Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. This is our first time on NCL and had a wonderful cruise.
Pre-Cruise: We traveled to Atlanta the night before our cruise to catch an early morning flight and stayed at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel. If you are ever in Atlanta I would highly recommend this hotel, especially if you have children. The hotel is situated next to the Atlanta Hartsfield--Jackson airport and you have a perfect view of the airport and runways from your balcony. Of course you do hear some airplane noise during the night but it wasn't bothersome enough to us to keep us awake. The excitement for our cruise was to blame for our lack of sleep. We flew into Fort Lauderdale the morning of our cruise and we had arranged for a private car (through Go-Airport Shuttle) to pick us up and take us to the Port of Miami where the Sky was docked. The driver was there as promised and waiting for us in baggage claim when we arrived. The driver was very pleasant and we will definitely use them again. We had learned of them from Cruise Critic website and we were very grateful.
Check-In and Embarkation: We arrived at the pier around 10:45am and walked right up to the check-in counters. The check-in agents were very friendly and organized. After 5 minutes total of checking in, we were shown to the sitting area and explained that boarding wouldn't begin until at least 12:15 and most likely 12:30pm. While waiting there is an area with juice and water as well as snacks that included pound cake and banana nut bread slices that were yummy and a nice touch. At 12:00pm they started lining up the passengers according to the number you were given at check-in. Ours was 3 and we were probably 400 or so people back in line to board. At promptly 12:30 we were allowed to board the ship. Once on board there were many waiters walking around offering everyone either a glass of orange juice or champagne. We went to Il Adagio for lunch of pizza, pasta and ice cream that was listed in the freestyle daily as a venue that would be serving lunch that day12:00 to 4:00pm. However we were disappointed to find that they were not set up and ready yet to serve passengers. We then headed next door to the Garden cafe and the buffet. More on this later in the review.
Stateroom: We had room #9007 which is an ocean view forward room. This room sleeps 4 with twin beds on the floor (that was made into a queen when we got there, which is what we wanted) and 2 additional beds in upper berths. The room was a bit small but we find that is the norm on all cruise ships and it worked out fine for our family during this cruise.
Our AC worked fine and often we had to turn it up so we wouldn't freeze while we were in the room. There were no issues with the toilet flushing which we were relieved to find. We had an issue on the first morning where the water quit working while I was in the middle of my shower. My husband called down to the reception desk and it was fixed and back on within 2 minutes....no joke. Also, a day or so later we had an issue where the water pressure in the shower wasn't where it had been earlier in the week and when we mentioned it to someone (uniformed crew member) in the hall, a crew member from maintenance was in our room within 10 minutes and had it back to normal within 5 minutes. I was very impressed with this!!! With that, let me mention that the water pressure in the shower was heavenly!!! I sure did miss it this morning when I took my shower at home. The bed linens were wonderful but the bed was a bit firm but let me mention that we did not loose an ounce of sleep because of it!!! We had turndown service each night without fail and we even had towel animals 3 (last 3) nights of the cruise. Each morning our room was cleaned and fresh towels were given if we needed them. Our stateroom attendant was wonderful although we did not see much of him. We requested additional pillows one night and we had them immediately. Also, we were given fresh ice in our bucket each morning and night.
Ship: We were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful this ship is. We loved the tropical decor. We did not find the ship to be worn for the worse as we were prepared for it to be. We found crew members cleaning throughout the day around the ship. The AC worked fine in ALL of the common areas and the ship was quite cool at all times. No plumbing issues were seen or experienced by us while we were there. We did notice an occasional vague sewage smell but we can't remember where it was. However, we have found that to be the case on ALL the ships we have been on at some point or another. We spoke to a group of passengers on an excursion that was on RCCL Sovereign of the Seas and they were having major issues in their cabin with the toilets and shower drainage. So, it really isn't only the NCL Sky that has had issues. We loved the new leather smell in the casino but did not get a chance to use it. We passed through a few times on the way to other areas of the ship. We thought the elevators were quick and never had to wait long for one. One day there were problems with the mid ship elevators but they were fixed within an hour or so. Also, we noticed maintenance workers cleaning the atrium elevators and glass one day.
Dining: We ate at the Palace Dining Room each night. We thought the food was wonderful and enjoyed each thing we had. Some of our favorites was from the "cooking light" selections from the menu. The first two nights we had a waitress (Mary Joyce) and her assistant and they were AWESOME!!! We tried to sit in their section the last 2 nights but they were always full so we ended up in another section. The service was good but not as special as our first experience. We found that service went quick until our dinner was served. Then we ended up waiting 20 minutes or so for dessert but it was worth the wait. We liked the freestyle concept and enjoyed being able to go to dinner when we liked. We never had to wait for a table and we usually went each night between the hours of 5:45 to 6:45pm. We had purchase the soda card program and had sodas at each meal. The wait staff never appeared to mind getting those for us. We always seemed to make special requests at dinner (such as no sauce on our dishes or something to be left out of a dish that was on the menu) and they happily obliged. The wait staff was extra friendly to our daughters and that meant a lot to us. We ate breakfast once at Crossings and decided to not waste our time there again. The service was slow and I was not impressed with the wait staff. They seemed to be reserved and stuffy. We asked for French toast for our daughter but asked to have it made out of French bread or regular bread rather than the raisin bread that the menu called for. You would have thought we had asked to change THE WORLD!! I was told NO, that cannot be done. Oh well, we got over it and chose to not go there again. We ate breakfast the other days in the buffet. The food was the same as in the dining room and we didn't have to wait for it. Sometimes the line could be long and slow but we learned to skip around the people and go to parts that weren't busy. We never had a problem finding a table and the crewmembers kept the tables clean. We liked the outside dining area and ate there most of the time. We especially liked to go there in the evenings as it was such a quite spot to sit and watch the world pass us by.
Grand Bahama Island: We took a taxi to Our Lacaya for $4 a person each way. We walked across the street to the Sheraton/Westin complex and went to the towel hut to inquire about day passes. The worker there stated we could purchase the arm bands for $20 per person. While we were discussing amongst ourselves if we could pay it and still have money left to pay for the taxi back to the ship, the worker offered for us to buy 2 armbands for my husband and myself and he would throw in the ones for our girls for free. So, for $40 all 4 of us spent the day there at the pool and the beach. We had carried the beach towels from the ship but they provide towels at the resort so we just used theirs. We had a wonderful day there!!!!
Nassau: We had reserved the Sea Lion Encounter through Dolphin Encounters at Blue Lagoon. We took a taxi from the cruise ship area over to the Paradise Island Ferry Terminal (at $4 per person each way) where we picked up our armbands and waited for our boat to take us to the encounter. Once we got there, we had a FABULOUS time and would highly recommend this to everyone. As I mentioned we did the Sea Lion encounter but the dolphin programs were great as well. I was very impressed with this entire facility. The boat from Dolphin Encounters will take the cruise ship passengers over by the cruise ship dock and let you off so that you do not have to pay for transportation back to that area from the ferry terminal.
Great Stirrup Cay: We chose to stay on the ship only because we had gotten too much sun the previous days. Everyone we spoke to that evening loved the island and thought is was beautiful. I am so sad that I didn't at least take the tender over and have a look around. Next time I will be sure to not miss it.
Disembarkation: We chose to do the self disembarkation with carrying our luggage off ourselves. This worked out well and we were off the ship by 7:45 am. There were lines starting to form on the ship for people to leave but we got there just in time to walk right off the ship. We went right through customs and was in a taxi @ 8:00am on our way back to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I also wanted to mention that after we checked in at the airport and was waiting at the gate for out flight (which wasn't for another 2 hours) there was an emergency called and the entire airport had to be evacuated. After 20 minutes or so, everyone (hundreds and hundreds) was allowed back into the airport but ALL HAD TO GO BACK THROUGH SECURITY SCREENING. What a mess. We were in the front of the line so it wasn't bad but boy was it a mess.
Also, I wanted to mention that the ship was always on time when leaving port. We never left late and seemed to arrive in ports right on time. Quite impressive if you ask me. I never saw the face of the cruise director so I can't say anything about him. Oh, they will not let you in the dining rooms with shorts on. The 2nd night there were lots of angry people and I was surprised at what people came to dinner wearing. Short shorts and a spaghetti strap tank top are not good choices for dinner attire. I think the issue is that NCL advertise freestyle as to eating where you want while wearing what you want and that is not the case. People need to be smart about their dinner attire and look at the venues you choose to eat at. Buffets are okay for shorts and all but fancy dining rooms are not.
To finally end this review………We had a fabulous time. NCL has won us over and we are planning on becoming repeat customers for sure. I am not saying that they are my favorite line, but they are definitely one we will consider where as before we always overlooked them. The crew was hardworking and friendly and helpful!!!!