Norwegian Sky 4-days Bahamas cruise Miami - Freeport - Nassau - Great Stirrup Cay - Miami December 08, 2008 - December 12, 2008
We, for the most part, did have a good time. Having read previous reviews, many negative, we were skeptical of what to expect ... so "plan for the worst & hope for the best" became my motto going in. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on one's perspective, we had such a dismal experience on the Carnival Celebration (4-day Bahamas cruise) last December that we figured NCL could only be better.
For the benefit of those reading this review we were in a category "BA" cabin (#0067, balcony aft) which slept 3 persons ~ we had ours configured as a Queen bed & sofabed. (Dogstar Jr. slept soundly on the sofabed but an adult would definitely find it less comfortable than a proper bed.) Ours was an adequately sized room for a short cruise with bright decor, comfortable bedding, clean & efficient lavatory with shower, spacious balcony, tv with plenty of channel selections, stocked refrigerator, constantly replenished ice bucket, courtesy fruit basket upon request, loaner bathrobes in closet, in-room electronic safe, & three small in-closet drawers with additional storage space in the two nightstands.
The ship was, for the most part, well kept. Maintenance crews could be seen periodically throughout the ship, quietly in the background, attending to the usual things needing regular attention in a ship/hotel ... banister varnishing, carpet repair, broken stair, etc. Nothing big & definitely not anything that appeared to be of any noticeable inconvenience. This was good to see as it meant that they were paying attention to some, if not most, of the details previous reviewers may have commented on. We liked the ship's Hawaiian tropical theming as it was cheerful & bright, just what we needed to keep us in holiday mode for a brief 4-night warm climate cruise. Mind you, we can see how some folks may be turned off by the sometimes overly-bright pastel colors. To each his/her own they say.
Scheduled activities were plentiful for those who wanted to partake. We mingled throughout the various options, taking in the major nightly shows (good but not spectacular), comedian (very funny), "kicking back" to the Big Band oldies in the Outrigger Lounge on a couple of occasions (stepped on Mrs. Dogstar's toes a few times while trying to remember the Waltz), & busted our guts laughing while participating in The Quest Game (hint: wear comfortable shoes!). We were not interested in the casino nor bingo (we're not gamblers) but they seemed nice & busy nonetheless, Toga Party or White Hot Party (not our thing but others said they had a good time). Dogstar Jr. did not attend the Kid's Zone as he was having too much fun in the Sports Court playing basketball, challenging Dad or his newfound friend to shuffleboard or ping pong, or lounging away in the pools or hot tubs.
Crew service was, once again for the most part, pleasant. We arrived later in the embarkation period (3pm, as we explored Miami's art deco district of South Beach to start our holiday) so we were not personally escorted, let alone directed, to our cabin. A brief letdown until our 1st encounter with our cabin steward, a friendly & attentive woman who promptly provided extra bath & pool towels for Dogstar Jr. She quickly & quietly kept our cabin turned up/down efficiently. No problems with our room as previous reviewers experienced with theirs.
Bar staff was always available but never intrusive, on ship & in Great Stirrup Cay. Drinks priced similar to our other cruises so we knew what to expect. (Canned soda accepted on board as luggage without problem so came in handy as nice treat for Dogstar Jr.) FYI, juice selection for adults outside of breakfast service now incurs $$$ charge so beware; similar for children if outside a restaurant.
Food & restaurant service is where we experienced a "mixed bag" of quality. Daily buffets were the same basic food fare each day ~ nothing special to write home about. Adequate & sufficient as far as buffets go. We alternated dinners between the Crossings & Palace main dining rooms, experiencing great & dismal service in both restaurants. Food was definitely better than the buffets, as they should be, nicely presented, generally tasty but smaller portions than we were accustomed to on Princess ships. Feel free to order extra servings! Service staff seemed more "polished" in Crossings but having said that our server the 2nd time in there was absolutely dismal; Palace service staff appeared to be junior but definitely tried harder to please. It was hit & miss so your experience may vary depending on luck of the draw. We did not try any of the so-called premium restaurants ~ call us ol' fashioned as it just rubs us the wrong way having to pay extra for dining service on a cruise ship.
Room service was available & being used by many folks judging by the number of food trays periodically spotted outside cabin doors. These were never left around for long on our end of the deck nor did we notice an abundance of them elsewhere for any extended periods. We ordered pre-breakfast coffee, juice, yogurt & pastries to our room every day ~ a cruising tradition for us ~ to pleasantly start our day on the balcony overlooking "wherever". Each day they arrived on time exactly as ordered, nicely delivered by a smiling staffer. (Cash tip always given for this delivery service.)
About the ports:
1. Freeport - skip it if you want to. Not much to see or do unless you want to venture to far side/end of island. We went over to Port Lucaya via taxi ($5 pp each way; 20 minute ride) which is essentially a touristy strip of stores on marina adjacent to the Westin & Sheraton hotels complex. Nice beach area to use freely, which we did until the heavy rains poured in on us. (Thank goodness for our leftover Walt Disney World rain ponchos we now always pack around just in case.) Weather was cool & overcast, except at one point when the slight drizzle turned in to a tropical rainshower! Ocean water cool but swimable for those just had to.
2. Nassau - 8am docking too early for 9:30am store openings so we headed straight over to Atlantis Resort via taxi ($4 pp each way; 10 min. ride) right way. Checked in to Comfort Suites hotel ($135 USD) across street to gain full access to Atlantis Resort complex, including full use of pools, waterpark, beaches, etc. Far cheaper than doing the ship-booked excursions or at-the-door passes. (We learned this trick before last year's Bahamas cruise so had to take Dogstar Jr. to Atlantis this year to let him experience it.) We had a great time lounging around at the main pool, tackling the water park then sunning ourselves on the beach while Jr. built sandcastles & tackled the rolling waves. Visited the Dig & walked through lagoons on our way out. Weather was sunny & warm; ocean water cool'ish warm but easily swimable.
3. Great Stirrup Cay - 8am first tender on shore & 3pm 2nd-to-last tender off shore. Secured loungers at far end of "left" beach (aka swimming/snorkeling beach). Played in the sand, went swimming in the shallows & outer waves, & snorkeling (we brought our own gear but had to pay $5 mandatory floatation vest fee ; still cheaper than $29 all-gear rental fee so bring your own if you can ... here fishy fishy fishy ), plus lots of tanning, socializing & laughter with other cruisers sharing general area of beach. Drink service easily accessible, clean restrooms & plenty of basic BBQ food, fruit & liquids. DJ music in the morning & live band in afternoon easily, but not overpoweringly, heard in the background from our end of the beach. Hammocks, massages & some basic watersports available if you wanted them. Hint: arrive early if you want best selection of location &/or loungers vs. chairs. Weather was sunny & hot; ocean water comfortably warm & easily swimable.
Disembarkation in Miami was a breeze. With a 1:30pm flight out of Miami Int'l Airport we opted for the latest luggage tag color (9am). After the final-final-final call for disembarkation we reluctantly departed the ship at 9:30am, having already had breakfast, played some basketball, lounged on deck & toured the ship briefly one last time. Luggage had been placed outside our cabin the night before as we chose to not opt for early-morning express self disembarkation. We easily retrieved luggage on the pier after clearing US Customs, a quick run through the gauntlet of taxi hustlers then we were on our way to the airport ... $20 for 3 persons negotiated with a shuttle company, otherwise it would have been $24 for a taxi. No biggie as we were in no hurry.
And so ends the cruise component of our brief Bahamas holiday. No need to bore you with the air travel & pre-cruise hotel/car rental segments. Overall a satisfying, rejuvenating, albeit too brief, journey for some cheap fun in the sun. Just what the doctor ordered since we're not likely to see much sun on the We(s)t Coast now until April or May. Our experience on the Norwegian Sky was definitely better than some & worth the insanely cheap cruise fares going around right now ... your mileage may vary. Enjoy!
P.S. Don't miss the self-serve ice cream stand on starboard side of main pool during the day for a refreshing treat. Plus there's a full-serve ice cream offering (with chocolate fountain & choice of toppings) during the evening in the Garden Cafe ... sometimes two helpings didn't seem enough!
P.S.S. We did notice the "odd" smell briefly as it lingered between Decks 5-7 aft around the stairs near the Crossings restaurant. Did not notice it elsewhere on the ship nor in any of the adjacent public areas, lounges, show theatre, restaurant, etc. Seemed to be some sort of poor ventilation/stale area problem isolated to that small area of the ship.