Just returned from the four day Bahamas cruise.
The Sky is not a 5 or 6 star ship, but it's definitely a good value and a pleasant trip. It's not the ship for you if you are looking for perfect food or accommodations. This trip was intended as a short get-away for my DH and me. To that degree it fit the bill. This was our seventh cruise, so we consider ourselves fairly experienced critics!
As far as Hurricane Ike goes, we were pleased that the sailing wasn't overly rough, with the exception of the first night, it was actually a pretty smooth sail. We appreciate and understand the captain's decision not to risk sailing into Freeport in over 40 knot winds with strong currents that could have led to a disaster. A day at sea can be pleasant and he managed to get us into very smooth waters, despite rather windy conditions. And the staff made sure we were very entertained during that sea day.
Embarkation: Quick and easy! We carried our luggage on board and we were in our cabin by noon and seated for a yummy (tilapia) lunch in the Palace Dining Room by 12:15 pm. Cabin had not been completely cleaned at first, but the cleaning was finished by the time we returned from lunch.
The food: Since we are basically cereal and fruit people, breakfast was not a big deal to us. I did sample the scrambled eggs and french toast, both of which were passable but got a little cold from sitting on the buffet, but basically tasted pretty good to me.
We used the buffet more for snacking than for meals fruit, ice cream, and salad and vegis. Some of the buffet desserts were decentliked the lemon mousse and some were downright awful like the caramel tapioca pudding. Also, vegetarians beware-there was one lunch entree labeled as tofu and vegi stir-fry. It was definitely not tofu-may have been chicken, but I think there was some beef in it, too.
We did not eat dinner at the buffet, but used it some nights as a fill-in for things that weren't always on the main dining rooms' menus-like vegis and plain green salad.
The main dining rooms were great the first two nights and the last two nights went a bit downhill! (more about that later...) The service was not too slow as some previous writers indicated. We really disliked the absence of basic vegetables most nights in the dining room. Most meals (with the exception of the vegetarian selection) were served with over-sauced, over cooked tiny vegetable portions like two asparagus or three brussels sprouts. Rolls and breads served at dinner and at lunch were tasty and fresh. Most food was brought out at appropriate serving temps.
The drinks: To be honest we only ordered one during the entire cruise a Strawberry Daiquiri-but we found it to be fairly strongthey definitely did not skimp on the alcohol!
The comedian, Rich Purpura, was clean and pretty funny, too. We were disappointed that Tim K. wasn't on this sailing, because of all the rave reviews he received from previous cruise critics. The Sky singers and dancers were excellent- talented and high energy! We especially loved the "On Broadway" performance on Day 2. I wish the shows had been a bit longer...the music was so enjoyable. Loved Leo the guitar playing singer in Captain Cook's. Cruise Director Matt rates an A-plus in our book for coordinating great entertainment and activities. We especially enjoyed the Newlywed/Not so Newlywed Game. The last night Adult Quest game was a little odd...one lady actually removed her top to play the game! We weren't offended, but it's amazing what some people will do to win a water bottle.
Trivia Games: We enjoy those games. Too bad most of the games were so poorly attended, but we suspect that is reflection of the guests' activities preferences and not the cruise line itself.
No question our cabin was the tiniest we have ever been in. That said, there was enough space for two people and definitely sufficient closet space. Just don't bring a huge amount of clothing with you. You won't need it and you won't be able to unpack it if you bring a huge wardrobe with you . The bathroom is tiny. My DH and I are fairly thin, but we can't imagine how a chubby person could fit in the shower. The cabin was clean, although the carpet was a bit worn. The cabin steward, (whose name we never learned) kept the cabin and bath clean and tidy at all times! The cabin was quiet at night, but beware the walls are paper thin and we could hear every conversation that our neighbors were having at all hours!
Because we are gym rats to some degree we checked it out right after our lunch the first day. Antonio gave us a nice tour and reviewed the upcoming classes. The only class I attended was the 7:30 am stretch on Day 3. It was superb-conducted on the outside forward deck by Antonio. There were only three of us and it was a gentle, but complete stretch class. Equipment was adequate and we never waited for any machines during our four-day cruise. The treadmills had individual satellite T.V. attached to themnice touch, except some of the T.V.'s weren't in working order.
We were on the eighth floor, Viking Deck. The first few days of the cruise there was definitely a slight sewage odor, especially in the mid-ship area. Also we lost all water on day 3 in the mid-morning when we were in Nassau. My DH was very upset, because he was about to shower and brush his teeth before we went on our Atlantis tour. Water was back on by the time we returned from the Atlantis about three hours later. Fortunately, the toilet was still operational. I did check and should this happen to you, you can go up to the Body Waves Spa and use their shower facilities.
The food: I don't think it's fair to classify it as all bad.. it was inconsistent. We ate dinner in the Palace the last night of the cruise. I ordered Salmon, which is always on the menu. It arrived practically raw. I bit into it and it tasted cold! Then I cut a bit more and it was red and uncooked inside. To add to the grossness, it was served with a side of greasy noodles. When I called it to the waiter's attention, at first he said that they don't cook the salmon to well-done! He did take the salmon back and about 10 minutes later another plate arrived with cooked replacement salmon and a side of the greasy, over-buttered noodles. To the staff's credit, they checked about three times to make certain I was satisfied with the new salmon!
Some nights the items on the menu were a little odd, but there was always something decent to eat. We were disappointed that while Ceasar salad was always on the menu, a plain green salad was not always available. We ended up in the buffet after dinner on those nights when we wanted a green salad or plain fruit for dessert.
We wish the Sky had a better buffet late at night. We like a decent snack before turning in. The Great Outdoor Cafe had salad and a few hot dishes at night, but nothing like cookies or cake with frosting or much chocolate. In fact, we felt there were rarely cookies available at any time-cookies with ice cream would have been soooo good!
The other guests: We were disappointed that there were so many children, especially school-age children on the ship. Don't get me wrong, we love kids-but we picked this time of year to cruise because we thought the ship would have a minimal number of kids on it. Wrong! It almost felt like a Disney cruise in terms of numbers of kids, strollers, and toddlers all over. While most parents kept an adequate eye on their kids, I would love to know why there were kids constantly in the adults only pool and hot-tub. I even asked the kids to please leave the adults-only hot tub so I could enjoy it and the comment from the kids was "but the other hot-tubs are full, so we have to stay here!" Where was NCL staff to address this concern-they certainly weren't on the pool deck? Also why did the parents bring their kids to late shows? Although comedian Rich Purpura is to be commended for his clean shows, we think he would have been even funnier if he could have had an adults-only audience.
And finally, how can a responsible parent bring babies and toddlers to 11 pm and later parties on the pool deck? Those tots need to be in bed at that hour!