BACKGROUND INFORMATION So a few close friends and family members decided to take a short weekend cruise as we saw that the rates for October were super low. Living in South Florida, we've been on several quickie cruises on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas, as well as Carnival's Imagination and Fascination. We were happy to hear that NCL was bringing over a ship that was going to do a 3 and 4 days runs to the Bahamas... and never having tried NCL (freestyle cruising)we decided to give it a try. We've been on Holland America and Celebrity as well.
SHIP INFO The SKY is a typical smaller ship without too many "extras"... If you are looking for ultra-luxury or white glove service you will not find it on the Norwegian Sky. The decor is nothing special. Remember that this ship used to sail a Hawaiian itinerary, and remnants of that region are still plentiful (hawaiian lei style carpeting in some of the public areas), and framed artwork of Hawaii and its culture. Not ugly, just not new or modern. We did experience some of the sewage odor on the first day of the cruise prior to sailing, but it dissipated later. Yes, the ship is extremely cold. Bring a sweater or sweat jacket for lounges, dining rooms, and indoor walking areas.
ACTIVITIES Shipboard activities were available, but it seems like you have to look for the nooks and crannies aboard this ship. The "Freestyle Daily" which is the daily schedule/informational newspaper that is delivered to your stateroom nightly lists the activities, but in no way is it packed or user friendly. You'll find 2 pools, hot tubs, kid's pool in the front of the ship (deck 12), some sports competitions (ping pong, golf, batting), etc. The gym was small but we did take 2 early morning stretch and relaxation class with Antonio. the gym instructor. he was very pleasant and personable.
SERVICE This is where you have to be careful. The service can be hit or miss. You may have fantastic service at one area of the ship, and at another you feel like they are doing you a favor. You might be thinking that you'll find that everywhere, but on other cruise lines, they can't do enough for you. That is the big difference. NCL's motto of "you're free to do whatever" has definitely been adopted by some of their employees, because it felt like some individuals did not go the extra mile or even take you half way there.
GREAT STIRRUP CAY
HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT!!! We have been on cruises with private islands and this is by far the worst. No comparison. Beach space is limited or nonexistent. Chairs are one on top of another as well. We arrived on time to Great Stirrup Cay, but as soon as half the ship was tendered over the the island, the crew made a decision to cancel this port due to rough weather conditions. The tender boats were banging against the side of the ship making it dangerous for the tendering services to continue. The ride back to the ship from the island was that similar to a roller coaster which the waves at about 10 feet. We were rocking and rolling the entire way back. Once back on board, it took another hour for the crew to load all of the food back onto the ship. Passengers were complaining, but NCL is not to be blamed. They were just considering safety of the passengers. Conditions must have worsened after arriving to the island.
SHORE EXCURSIONS In Nassau we did not book any excursions through the ship. Instead we took the water taxi right off the ship for $3 which took us to Atlantis on Paradise Island. There we walked around the hotel and the aquarium which is amazing. On board we found out from one of the dancers that Cabbage Beach is beautiful and walking distance from Atlantis. Actually, (it's right next door). So we walked there and had a great time. We jet skied, and got massages on the beach. It was very nice and inexpensive. The massage therapists were professional and equipped with tables, massage oils, and fresh sheets. a half an hour for $25, or an hour for $50. They start out asking for $60, but you just work them down. From there we took a taxi back to the downtown area (only $4 per person). We shopped around for a while and then headed back to the ship. STATEROOM
The stateroom was fair. We had an outside cabin on Deck 8 (forward) really close to the elevators so that was great. We had easy access to everything. The room itself was not spectacular. They have not even upgraded their TVs to flat screens, which is much needed. NCL has to get with the times. Their were some chips and scratches on the bathroom fixtures, but the water pressure and temperature were both great. Stateroom service was adequate. No bells and whistles. Since there is no set dining time, the cabin stewards don't really know when to come and makeup your room or turn down your beds, so it's a good idea to put a reminder in your key slot that you need your room serviced. Our steward didn't even replace our wine glasses that we used on the first night. He left them sitting their, dirty. This is what I mean about the extra touch. On Royal Caribbean or Celebrity, that would NEVER happen. Also, our friends has inside cabins that were even smaller than ours (Category K). Storage is an issue as well.
We picked NCL to check out Freestyle Cruising, which if course means "freestyle Dining" as well. Our group was not a fan of Freestyle anything. Here's why. Unless you have a reservation which you can make for parties of 5 or more, then you may have to wait to eat in the main dining rooms. As we boarded the ship on Friday, we went directly to make reservations for dinner. Every seating after 7:30 was taken. We don't like to eat early, so we chose 7:30 PM which was the latest time. That was fine, but it was going to cause us to miss the show. On other cruiselines, they have 2 shows. We arrived for dinner and when we did not get served our main courses for an our and a half, we decided to leave and go to the buffet. The Maitre' D followed us up to deck 11 and told us that he apologized and that the grills were broken and they were waiting until they were fixed. He apologized and asked us what time we wanted dinner the next night and that he would meet us there at the door. We got there the next night and he was there. We were seated at the Captain's table and comp'd three bottle of wine. (which we were allowed to choose from the wine list) Since we are wine people, it turned out to be a sweet deal. From then on we were treated like royalty after the "royal" screw up on the first night. The food was very tasty. lobster was great. Order two. They split the tails in half. As far as the buffets go, they are ok. Nothing special, but you can certainly find things that you will like. We like being served, so breakfast in the dining room was good for this morning (before disembarking)
We traveled with 3 teens who seemed to occupy themselves well with the basketball courts, the ping pong tables, and the WII room.
The onboard entertainment was fine. The two live bands that are playing on the pool decks during the day are great. One was a latin band, and the other a Caribbean themed band. Both were high energy and got the crowd moving. The production show on the 2nd night was good, despite the lounge being very small comparatively to other cruise ships. It was a musical theme. (60's, 70's , and 80's). Karaoke was fun. They have it every night in the Outrigger Lounge. There was a lone piano player who was ok at best. He never generated any interest. Many people frequented the casino at night as well. The highlight of the entertainment on the ship was the WHITE HOT PARTY on the 2nd night. They do a good job with this. The pool deck turns into a club atmosphere with a live DJ, dancers dressed in angel costumes, and everyone having a great time. Very fun.
This was a breeze. No lines. Just as easy to get off as it was to get on. Also, they don't rush you off.