Admittedly, we sometimes cruise for the ship and not the journey, as was the case during our recent (10/3/08) weekend to the Bahamas aboard the NCL Sky. Since the rates were incredible we booked an inside cabin and looked forward to a cruise on a ship we had never sailed before. All in all, we give it a moderate thumbs up.
EMBARKATION: Smoothest ever. From the time I stepped out of our car to the time I stepped foot on board, it was 22 minutes. We were totally impressed. The worst part of embarkation was dragging our two suitcases down the stairs in the parking garage, and whose fault is that? Next time I better park nearer to an elevator. When we boarded we were greeted with a glass of champagne, which is a nice touch. Celebrity has been doing it for years, so it's good to see that NCL has started to do the same.
SERVICE: The staff was very friendly, actually better than I had expected, with one exception. On our last night we dined in the Palace main dining room, the service was haphazard at best, and we felt like they couldn't wait to get rid of us. On the first night, we dined in the other main dining room (Crossings) and found the service to be very good. Both nights we ate around 6:30, so it wasn't very busy. The only other service issue was with our room steward, whom we NEVER MET. That is a first in our cruise history. He/she took their time doing our room, which was not the greatest, but they did the job so that much was good. Most of the staff greets you, but not all the time. When it comes to saying hello, Celebrity still beats everyone hands down. As I said, the NCL Sky staff was better than I had expected.
SHIP: For a ship as old as the Sky is, I thought it was quite clean for the most part. The dEcor was obviously Hawaiian. They could have toned it down more when they converted it back to the Sky than they have. It looked to me as though they put in a casino and that was it. Sometimes it works, as in the Outrigger Lounge, but other times it was a bit much, like in Dazzles, and in the hallways, and in the centrum, and on the pool deck, and so on. A few coats of paint would solve that. Some wear and tear here and there, but for a 9-year-old girl, she looked pretty good.
CABIN: OK, call me cheap but we booked an inside cabin (0349). When you're used to OV or balcony cabins, the insiders seem really small, as was the case. Not much for storage, but it was a short cruise. The shower was actually bigger than what I had expected.
FOOD: All in all, good to very good with exceptions. The sail away featured a BBQ. Sounds great, but it was burgers and dogs. Big deal. If they had ribs, I would have been more thrilled. The pizza in Il Addagio was not edible the first day. The crust was incredibly hard, making it difficult to eat. If you really want pizza, order room service. For some reason, it was better. Not great, but better. The buffet had limited choices, but was good for both breakfast and lunch. The first night we dined in the Crossings dining room and it was very good. We ate at Le Bistro on night 2 and it did not disappoint, but it was not as good as the first time we dined there (NCL Jewel in '06). Also, it felt like they turned a hallway into a restaurant, which we didn't like, but the food was good. The last night in the Palace was not good. My wife had pork, which was dry and I had the monkfish, which tasted like it was nuked to thaw it out. After 10pm there isn't much food to be had anywhere, and if you want something, the best thing to do is head to the Sports Bar. Problem is, you have to sit and order your food instead of going to a buffet and get it yourself. Makes no sense to me. Why can't I just walk over to the grill where the guy is grilling the burgers and get my own? I didn't like that. I'd like to see more food available til maybe midnight. As for beers, they had Stella on draft and Red Stripe in a bottle, two of my favorites. But why would you have a specialty drink called a "dark and stormy" on a cruise? Think about it...
ENTERTAINMENT: Very good. The CD Matt Baker was probably the best we have ever had. He truly gets it and was refreshingly spontaneous, compared to other CD's who seem to be more like Bob Barker, if you get my drift. The sail away party had a salsa-type band playing on deck instead of the traditional tropical/reggae band. I'd rather have heard the tropical band, who was very good the few times I heard them. Night one is the "Carnivale" night. Note to NCL: why would you call a theme night "Carnivale?" You know, Carnival, Carnivale? That was odd. Night two was the "White Hot Night" party. They should just call it a South Beach party, because that is really what it was. It was fun, especially if you're under 40. We're not, but still managed to have fun. Night three was the toga party, which we skipped. The shows in the theater did not disappoint. The comedian was very funny. We liked him a lot. What I really enjoyed was when the captain came out on stage on the last night and snag "Sweet Home Chicago" with the band, playing the bass guitar as well. VERY cool!
KIDS: Yes, there were lots of kids on board. Activities for the kids? Can't tell you as we do not have children.
ITINERARY: Nassau is Nassau. Been there, done that. We just go ashore and hit a local restaurant and then head back to the ship. The private island seemed nice, but we didn't stay too long.
DEBARKATION: Equally as smooth as embarkation. High marks.
PROBLEMS: Much has been said (criticized) about the problems on the Sky. I have good news and bad news: the good news is that the AC seemed to be working. Our cabin was cool as well as most of the public areas. The bad news is that there was a distinct odor of Carpet Fresh when we boarded the ship, which gave way to a sewerage odor later. It didn't last for the whole cruise, but it was prevalent, especially towards the aft part of the ship, deck 7. On day two our toilet stopped working for a short time. I called the front desk and they said they were working on a problem. A short time later the toilet worked again, and someone from maintenance came to our room to make sure that it was working.
Another issue was the bedding. It's new and extremely hard. I guess it's part of the new Freestyle 2.0. What I want to know is if the bedbugs are also part of Freestyle 2.0? My poor wife got bit several times. Beware!
Finally, thanks to NCL, we no longer enjoy bingo. NCL has really overcomplicated this simple game just to make a few bucks. You can buy the standard card for $29, or you can buy this hand held device for more, and then add this for even more, and then add this and on and on. Thanks but no thanks. We left. Call me old fashioned, but I can't see me spending $60 at bingo. I stuck a twenty in a video poker machine and walked out with a $30 profit. That's more like it.
All in all, for the price, it wasn't a bad cruise and would recommend it for someone looking to do a quick weekender. It's great to now have a choice between the Majesty OTS and the NCL Sky. Both are about the same in most categories. We'll be back.