First, let me say that we had a fine time. We relaxed and enjoyed each other's company as family and friends. We laughed and joked and generally had fun. That had very little to do with the ship, and more to do with who we are as people. We didn't gripe or complain or let the little things ruin our vacation, but I do want to inform people so they aren't expecting something different and then get disappointed. So here is what a dozen of us found on our Sky cruise.
1. The cabins are tiny, with no place to put your clothes- 3 small drawers and 36" of closet rod. Luckily we pack light with only one carry one per person, but beware the traveler that over packs! They are comfortable enough and clean and only one in our group had a couple of crew guys in there with the bathroom in pieces for the first day. We were in the balcony cabin 9017, inside cabins 9122, 00317, 00319, and outside cabin 8003. We had No DVD player as advertised, an almost functional hairdryer, a fridge stuffed with alcohol that barely kept that cool, so you can't use it for your own stuff. None of them stunk and all of them flushed. Most of them had a light bulb out, broken hangers, closet doors that didn't close or bathrooms with cracked mirrors. Functional but not extraordinary. All but one already had egg crate foam pads & that one was added during the cruise. The balcony was small but usable with furniture that was in fine shape but not new. We had a great view of the tendering fiasco in Cozumel (more on that later). There was not much noise from the cabins beside us (like we had on a couple of Disney cruises) but I met our neighbors and they seemed like quiet types. Even so, we never heard their TV or talking from their balconies. It was impossible to bungee the door open, but I really recommend a door wedge. A shoe works OK, but a wedge would be less cumbersome.
2. The food was up to cruising level quality- that is, we weren't disappointed in the quality of most of the offerings. The buffet was a nightmare in its layout. Half of our group had high level food service experience of one sort or another and were so frustrated by the disorganized chaos they couldn't even walk through. The hamburgers cooked out on the pool deck were delicious, but getting tea or water was difficult. The service level at the buffet was marginal at best. The salad bar was yummy, but I had a hard time getting a six year old & myself through the line without getting knocked down, especially since there were no trays and no assistance from any of the six employees standing around directing traffic unsuccessfully. My 10 yr old was disappointed in the cold soup choices. Each one was sweet and fruity, like a smoothie in a bowl. We enjoy the cold soups, but like the ones like gazpacho, cucumber, vichyssoise, and borscht. There were never any of these- just fruit pureed. The dining room staff was competent, but not exceptional and rarely smiled. They looked overwhelmed. Breakfast in the dining room is still a treat as they cut your grapefruit into segments and offer salmon each morning & I'm certainly not going to do that at home, lol. The staff seemed unfamiliar with the offerings and we had to repeat our orders several time (using the titles printed on the menus) and still ended up pointing quite often. The day we were in Key West, we couldn't get off the boat until well after lunch, yet they had no cook-out at the pool, no hamburgers at the back end of the buffet, and only one regular restaurant opened. To top that off, there were not enough staff scheduled and they had a few of the bar staff bussing tables and even a couple of the officers in there changing the linens and refilling water as we waited for 45 minutes to an hour for a cheesesteak sandwich with potato chips. Don't even get me started on the ice cream... they could have made it self serve and we would have gotten our dessert faster and they could have used the two or three people in there to help with service in the buffet area. I guess we just prefer the soft serve out of a machine at the back of the boat better. Again, functional but not extraordinary.
3. Specialty restaurants were lovely to look at. The Italian one, Il Adagio was a waste of cover charge. My lobster ravioli was inedible & obviously previously frozen, the server never smiled, they didn't want to put 10 of us together and so just put 2 tables next to each other, even though we were in a corner and we could just slide the tables together. (we did just put them together ourselves and sat closer together as we weren't impeding the flow). We had to ask three times and wait over 20 minutes for our bottle of wine left over from the night before after the rest of the party already had the new bottle and one was on his 2nd bar drink (I wouldn't have asked three times, but no one ever acknowledged that I asked, so I just kept pestering). They wouldn't make one of the people at the table whole wheat pasta because he had not ordered it the night before, although they admitted they would make it for him if he were allergic to regular pasta, but not just because he is on a diet... Not so special. However, Cagney's was awesome, the food was exceptional, the waiter was hysterical- he even made us flowers out of bev naps. They had no problem putting us at one table & whatever we asked for was not a problem. Cagney's booked up every day, so make reservations as soon as they allow. Le Bistro was good. The service friendly and the sweet waitress even put up with us when we divided the group up with girls at one table and boys at the other (they couldn't put us at one table because it is mostly booths- I don't recommend this restaurant for big groups), the boys (our husbands) immediately starting flirting with her (as she was beautiful) and she was very nice to them anyway, lol. They dropped our tray of food and had to scramble to remake it- it was 2 hours and 50 minutes from the time we were seated, so we missed the show. No discount or free drink was offered as it would have been in a land based restaurant. By the time we added the cost of all the specialty restaurants to our cruise bill, we could have afforded a better ship that offers that kind of service everywhere. Again, the ship was functional but not extraordinary.
4. Ship amenities were few and often broken but rarely seemed crowded. Our full day at sea saw one of the two small pools closed for the whole day. Even so, there were always pool chairs available. There was a small casino area on the pool deck, but I never saw it going. It must have just been used late at night when we were stuck in the dining rooms for hours at a time. The pool bar staff was efficient, but not the most outgoing group. They never memorized our drink preferences or names, even though we were there several hours each day & knew their names. (this was our meeting spot as a group). Service was functional, but not extraordinary. The arcade (we had 4 kids in our group of 12) was the saddest part of the ship. About eight gun based machines, one Ms. PacMan, two broken race car machines and an old table being stored in the center was the whole thing. The kids still managed to spend a couple hundred dollars combined in there as there was nothing else on the ship for them to do (no tv came in for them, no dvd players in the rooms, no climbing walls or putt putt or in-line skating, etc). If you don't want your kids to use the arcade, be careful because the room key works in the machine to turn it on. On some cruises you have to buy a separate card, but here any room card works, even my 6 year old's. Luckily, my two liked the kid's club, which was really just three rooms with a few games and some good babysitters (probably the nicest group of employees on the ship). This is not the kid's club from other ships we have been on & the activities were not up to the level we are used to, but my kids are pretty easy to entertain & spent most of the time reading the books I brought along & doing homework. This was the first time in 20 years of cruising that my husband was bored on a ship. The library was sparse, but I did find a book to read on the balcony. There is little to no shopping on board. The gym is small but clean and we enjoyed it every day. Sometimes it is hard to get a treadmill because it is so crowded, so be prepared to wait or go before the 9am rush. There is a basketball court & it was usually in use. I heard there are special services for balcony guests, but I never found them, even after asking a couple of employees. I took my 6 yr old to the kiddie pool and found it unacceptable. The staff was never seen back there, so the trash had piled up- including a discarded diaper on the floor near the pool. There was a family of about eight (only one child under nine) back there that were not just monopolizing the entire pool area, but terrorizing the small children as they chased each other around, knocking down the toddlers and splashing the babies in the face. A couple of other parents said something to them, but their own parents just let them go about annoying the rest of the pool like they owned the place. After one of them (about 12?) pushed my 6 yr old off the step, into the hot-tub where the one behind her (about 10?) jumped on top of her, holding her under water until I could get to her and knock him off, we left that part of the ship. I did not use the casino, but some of our group did & enjoyed it. The air worked fine and it was plenty loud and smoky enough to feel like a big time casino even though it is fairly small. They said the dealers were nice. There was a little golfing somewhere on the ship, but never any pool games or pool deck "horse races" or any of that type of entertainment. There were some movies showing in one of the lounges, but they always had art that was to be auctioned off leaning against the walls in piles. You had to step over most of them just to get to a seat. Again functional, but not exceptional cruising.
5. Shore stops and excursions were a scramble as our itinerary was changed at the last minute due to weather. Half of our group was happy about the change, the other half would have preferred the other itinerary, but neither really cared as we can have fun almost anywhere. Unfortunately, both stops turned out to be rather a nightmare. Cozumel took so long to tender ashore that we didn't get over there until almost noon & had to be back by 3:30- but the ones scuba diving made it off the boat on the first tender at 9:40ish and got to the dive shop in time for the 10 am dive (leaving on island time luckily). Getting back was not so pretty. It was disorganized and poorly communicated (following the trend on the ship). Two of us headed back to the ship at a little after 2pm and got back on the ship after 3pm (I could have swam faster & almost passed out in the heat). The rest of the group wandered back to the pier at 3pm and at about 3:45 started making beer runs back at the bar for some in the line. At 4pm the ship had to start leaving port but the line to get back aboard was still very long & slow. By the time the rest of our group made it back on the boat, we were a long, long, long way out of port and it was almost 5pm. It took them two hours to stand in that line and get back on the ship. Since my husband had been on a "problem" tender on the way in (taking 45 minutes) and on the last tender back to the ship, he was annoyed that it took him as long to tender in and out as he had to spend in port. The offerings in port were minimal with no beach time for the kids so we were looking forward to Key West. I think they were trying to be more organized in Key West but that just succeeded in making us get off the boat even later. We had to go through customs, so once we got to port, they called us by deck or "group". I was hoping this was where the balcony rooms would pay off, but even our deck 9 balcony was behind many other decks and so we didn't get to town on the "mandatory shuttle" until 3:30. My sister on deck eight made it through customs after that, and skipped the 20 minute shuttle and went back to her room. With only 4pm to 7pm available, it was not worth it & they were a little "gun shy" after Cozumel, so they went to the pool- which they reported as being "lovely". Having been to Key West before, we wanted to take the kids on some water sports activities, but none were offered through the ship & with our late arrival and early departure, we were unsuccessful in finding anything appropriate. They do have some great wave runner tours and sailing rentals and kayak eco tours there, so if you get to stop here on a cruise, do try to do something active here- there really is more than just shopping and bar hopping. In this case, the ports of call were not even functional, much less exceptional.
6. Our cabin steward on deck nine was OK. My sister's on deck eight forward was awesome. One of our rooms never had soap, shampoo, or any of the other little sundries left in the room. Not the entire cruise. In fact, the bottle of San Pellegrino water in the room was opened and partially consumed when we arrived, and stayed that way the entire cruise even after I mentioned it. I just pushed it back to the corner and ignored it (& told the kids not to touch it). The towels were always fresh and the beds were made each day. The steward did have a habit of asking us if we were going to leave soon several times until we finally would leave just to get him to leave us alone. They all left their supplies out in the hallways the entire time they were on duty (I have seen this on a couple of other ships too) which makes it look messy and not very professional, but certainly doesn't affect your cruise. Our "guy" never introduced himself and never left a card with his name on it, but the cabins on the 10th did get cards with the cabin steward's name. Also, while cleaning the rooms, he would leave a bucket of dirty water and rags right in the little corner of our door- even if he was cleaning his other rooms, so each day there was a gross bucket of water leaned against our door for about four hours. Most nights we got a mint and a towel animal. Functional but not exceptional.
7. Room service was a HUGE disappointment. On Tuesday afternoon, we ordered my daughter cookies and milk. An hour later, she went to the kid's club. 40 minutes after that, her cookies showed up- the milk was warm. I still tipped them $2. Since the rooms have cheap containers for ice, not real insulated ice buckets, the ice was all melted. I was going to keep her milk & cookies for her, but the fridge was too warm to cool the milk down, so I called for some ice. 45 minutes later, I went to the front desk who called one of the bars and told them I would be coming to fill up my ice bucket. The bar staff evidently didn't like that and probably spit in my ice, judging by the way they acted when I showed up. Side bar: If they won't let you bring your own drinks on board, you would think they would have good enough room service that you could order some to your cabin... Not daunted by the poor room service to date, my daughter ordered breakfast with the door hanger card. Instead of hot cocoa, she just got a jug of hot water. She got a box of raisin bran and a carton of milk, but no bowl to put it in. She still tipped him $2. Her breakfast order the next morning never showed up. That was fine with my son as there was nothing on the menu that was worth ordering. A muffin, toast, three kinds of cold cereal & coffee about sums up the selection. Not even a bagel with cream cheese was offered & certainly nothing cooked like oatmeal or eggs. They have better breakfasts at the Hampton Inn, honestly. There were some other places besides the main dining room's hour plus ordeal to get a decent breakfast, but those were mostly kept secret. You had to discover them on your own as they certainly weren't advertised. I heard you could get made to order waffles somewhere but I never found them. Again, generally functional, but not exceptional by any means.
8. Drink prices were ridiculous. Honestly for the price, they should have been a better quality. I didn't mind paying over $10 for my martini, but it was not drinkable. In fact, I took it back to my room, dumped it out and made my own with some contraband alcohol a friend brought on board. I didn't feel bad as I had paid for a drink. The cocktail waitress that brought it had obviously never carried a tray before and almost cried when she couldn't figure out how to hold the tray with one hand and get the drinks off with the other. Since it had taken over 30 minutes to get her to come over in the nearly empty lounge (the singer had to go over to the bar and get the bartender to find someone to come over to our table), we didn't want to upset her, so we suggested she just put the whole tray on the table and we would take our drinks from there. There were only four of us & one of the orders was for a beer with no glass. I certainly wasn't going to risk sending the drink back to get another. The wine selection was fine, although not abundant. The wine prices were very good- right in line with any middle priced restaurant. Most of the wines we ordered were $34 to $55 a bottle & there were plenty in this price range. If you have one you really love, you might want to bring it along and pay corkage, but if you are just looking for some decent wine, they have several to choose from for just about any taste. One word of warning- no Dr Pepper on board. Bring your own if that is what you like. Also, the coffee was HORRIBLE. With four hard-core coffee drinkers, we only consumed about 6 cups of coffee the whole cruise. I even tried buying it at the coffee bar, but it still was not very good. I have no suggestion for you on that one. I just looked at it as an opportunity to refresh my body from so much caffeine.
All in all, we had an enjoyable cruise. It was nice to be with family and friends, but I will definitely not repeat the ship, nor the line. Good enough is not either.