Background: I am in my early 60's and have been on 40 something sailings over the years. My traveling companion, early 40's, had never cruised before and didn't think he would like it. This was the reason we picked this 4 day sailing. It was not the normal Sky itinerary; we visited Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay and a day at sea rather than Grand Bahamas Island. Needless to say my friend is now hooked on cruising and is bugging me to go again soon.
Arrival: We flew down to Fort Lauderdale on an early morning flight from Philadelphia. I own a condo there and visit often. I find fares to Lauderdale to be far less then to Miami and the airport has easy access and baggage claim. We found the NCL representatives in the baggage claim area and booked the $40.00 pp round trip NCL bus to the Port of Miami. While waiting for our luggage, we ducked into the Rest Room for a quick change of clothes from heavier fall items to light summer shorts and golf shirts. The temperature in Florida was in the high 80's upon arrival. After a short wait we were on the bus with about 25 other passengers and arrived at the port within 30 minutes.
Embarkation: Easiest and fast I have ever had, period. Paper work was waiting, photos for cabin key and on board charges taken, ID cards issued. Shown on board, Welcome Photo taken, met by staff handed a glass of champagne or OJ and shown to our cabin all within 15 minutes of our arrival at the Terminal.
Cabin: We booked a Category BB (0227) balcony on Norway Deck in early August, through an Internet Agency at the bargain rate of only $265 pp plus taxes and fuel surcharge. Had we waited to two weeks prior to sailing they were selling inside cabins @ $99. outside cabins @ $129. and Balcony cabin @ 199. We were happy with the price we paid and were able to secure reasonable airline tickets on our own. The cabin itself was very small with limited drawer and storage space. Balcony has access through an out opening glass door along side a very large porthole like window. The balcony holds two small chairs and a small table sitting upon blue rubber like decking. The small desk area houses a small refrigerator, TV, hair dryer, etc. Directly across is a very small single sofa bed. If this unit was open it would totally block the desk, and balcony door. The outside cabins on lower decks were the same layout and inside cabins were smaller yet. Don't book anything less then a suite for more then two people. We had excellent cabin attendant in Richard, who we tipped the first day and asked for our ice bucket to be keep full and refrigerator emptied of the liquors, juices and snack that they charge you for. He also called the first evening and asked if we want turn service, and each night we would return to find a towel animal and a treat on the bed. We brought some vodka and gin packed in plastic water bottles on board with us. With some juice from room service breakfast we could have a cocktail while getting dress for dinner or a night cap. We never took this liquor out of the cabin & bought beer, drinks, wine on deck or with dinner. As a Latitudes Platinum member, we where delivered a bottle of white wine and a lovely fruit basket to our cabin the first evening. Two afternoons we returned to the cabin to find hors d oeuvres and chocolate covered strawberries.
Ship: The ship is older and more classic then NCL's new builds. The decor did have a bit of a Hawaiian accent. Everything was clean and in working order. Lots of bars and lounges and a nice show lounge. Deck space was nice as were the pools and hot tubs. Staff was very friendly and helpful. There were only 1,200 passengers on board as compared to the 2,300 on the 3 night weekend sailing just prior to ours. We had no lines or wait times for anything. The casino saw a lot of action with numerous slots but there was only one crap and one roulette table. We only notice a sour smell around the ship twice on only for a second, no big deal. Shops had limited selections, in both liquor and fragrances brands. Had I know this I would have picked my favorites up in Nassau. Baths and A/C all worked well throughout the ship. It was a nice size ship for a short sailing.
Dining: Freestyle Dining but with less options than the newer and bigger ships offer. Smaller choices on the buffet as the space is tight. Il Adagio Italian restaurant is open right next door for made to order waffles and eggs and breakfast and pizza and pasta at lunch. The Palace Main Dining room is a lovely room in the center of the ship. We had lunch there on the day of departure and dinner on Lobster night. It is also open for breakfast to balcony passenger. At breakfast you order your entree and help yourself to buffet style fruits, Danish, rolls, cheeses, fish and meats. We took advantage of it twice. Room Service is available with limited sections. We did have coffee and juice delivered each morning. We would fill out a menu form at night and hang it on the door. They would call and let us know that it was on the way. Food quality and service was as good as many higher end ships.
We had three dinners in specialty Restaurants, Cagney's, Le Bistro and Il Adagio, $20.00, $15.00 $ $10.00 per person respectively. They were worth every penny for the wonderful food and service. Robbie who was the Maitre D' in Il Adagio remember me from my sailing two years ago on the Norwegian Jewel where he was the assistant Maitre D' at Le Bistro. It was fun to be remembered by a member of the crew.
Ports: Nassau is not my favorite port, we just walked around town for a few hours returned to the ship and enjoyed the rest of the day by the pool. Great stirrup Cay was a wonderful day and lots of fun. Good snorkeling etc. We took some rice off the buffet in a small plastic bag and had the fish eating out of our hands. This sailing did not stop at Grand Bahama Island but spent the day at sea which we enjoyed more. NLC should think about only doing this type of sailing. A day at sea to relax is perfect for a four night sailing.
Entertainment: Could have been better. No big production shows like NCL larger ships. I missed the Jean Ann Ryan shows. NCL ties to make this more of a party cruise but passengers are looking for more to do in the evening then drink and gamble.
Disembarkation: Fast and simple. Boarded the shuttle bus to FLL airport where we picked up a rental car for a four night stay in Lauderdale.
Overall: Enjoyed this sailing. Made a cruise nut of my travel companion. Go, enjoy yourself, No the ship, crew and food are not perfect but overall I had a great time and plan on going again.
Footnote: We just returned from a 11 night Eastern Med. cruise on Celebrity's Galaxy. While the service and staff are more professional then NCL, the food and buffets are much better on NCL.