This review focuses only on our experience as parents of a 4-yr old boy (4th time cruiser), 2-yr old boy (2nd time cruiser) and 8-month old girl, trying out NCL for the first time. We've sailed solo on RCL and Celebrity, and brought a child or two on RCL and Carnival, and know well that the information provided on cruise line websites and by cruise reps is not to be trusted. So here is what we saw and heard in the "Kids Korner" camp for 2 to 5 year olds and other kid-friendly areas of the ship:
SCHEDULE: On NCL Sky for the January 5-9 Bahamas, all 3 days were in port. Days in port cost you extra ("Port Play") while days at sea are included in your fare. Here are the free and $$ times for each day (all $$ times = $5/hr for first child and $3/hr each additional child) * Monday (departure): 8pm to 10:30pm (free); 10:30pm- 1am ($$) * Tuesday (in port): 9am to 5pm "port play" ($$); 5pm to 10:30 (free); 10:30pm- 1:30am ($$) * Wednesday (in port): 9am to 6pm "port play" ($$); 6pm to 10:30 (free); no Kid's Korner after 10:30pm (might have been typo in the bulletin and there really was an after 10:30 paid play, but we picked our kids up early) * Thursday (in port): 9am to 5pm "port play" ($$); 5pm to 10:30 (free); nothing 10:30pm- 1:30am ($$)
On Tues/Wed/Thurs while in paid "port play", we were told we could not leave the ship because I (stupidly) told the Kid's Korner staff that our 2-yr old had an accident that morning. We were told that staff cannot change diapers nor *touch* a child to change pants if there is an accident. Instead they would beep us (beeper given each time you drop off your child) and if we could not be reached, they would call the nurse who would change the child, and we would be billed for that as a medical visit.
A reviewer had warned us to sign up for Port Play the night before because the Kid's Korner would be closed early the next morning if they did not anticipated any children. Staff told me that was not the case, that whether any child signs up or not, they always have at least one staff member there. Which made me feel better, since our children were the *only* kids in port play for 2 of the 3 days.
I noticed that Kids Korner was closed around midnight on the first and third nights, so appears that they don't have much call for late night paid sitting. During the free times, about 7 to 10 kids were in the room.
REVIEW: Kids Korner was far better than Camp Carnival on the Inspiration or Fascination - more space, more to do, livelier staff, and they got them tired out with lots of running and games. On Carnival, the boys cried when dropped off and didn't look too thrilled when we came to pick them up. On NCL Sky they came out with faces painted (pirates) talking about finding buried treasure and capturing "Stinky Pete" the pirate. Both boys barely made it to bed each night before falling asleep. Now that's what I like to see! Gives mommy and daddy a chance to have a night of quiet.
The Kids Korner staff (Leprechaun, Eggo, Wedgie, and other odd names) were very helpful and felt safe leaving the kids with them. On two occasions one of the staff just off-duty would see us elsewhere on the ship and stop to take the time to tell us that our kids were doing fine.
During port play the staff take the kids to lunch. During free play you cannot send food with your child (fear of food allergies), so we just brought plates of dinner and had a picnic out in the halls with the boys before they returned to Kids Korner.
POOL: The kids splash pool is very small, off-handedly built into deck 12, with no shade from sun available. It was open every hour of the day that we visited (unlike RCL and Carnival where it seemed always closed for cleaning), closing once at 5:30 after we were ready to leave for dinner and sun was setting. An all-ages hot tub sits atop the splash pool and there are plenty of chairs & tables nearby, with lounge chairs off to both sides.
OUR ROOM: We had connecting balconies 9267 and 9268 and I'd highly recommend this arrangement with kids sleeping in one room and parents in the other. Left us with plenty of space and was actually cheaper than the suites that could accommodate 5. Always had enough towels and amenities that might have been shortchanged if we were a single room. We pulled the couch and crib in front of the balcony door and pulled the curtains so the kids never realized they had a balcony for safety sake.
UNDER 2-YR OLDS: Sorry, on your own - no babysitting on this ship. But we knew that going in. Worked out just fine: with boys in "camp", we took turns watching baby versus exploring the ship.
PORTS: Freeport - just got off the boat long enough to browse the Straw Market, because nothing else can be reached by foot.
Nassau - took a carriage ride (no beach within walking distance) for $25 plus $5 tip of about 20 minutes. Nothing really to see - you're in the government center so you're looking at government buildings. And condom ads on the sides of the non-government buildings...
Great Stirrup Cay - the kids loved the tender ride and the beach.
OVERALL: We would highly recommend NCL Sky for your 2 to 5 year olds. If no kids in tow we would never go on a lame itinerary like this one, but picked it specifically because we had no ability to do excursions we would want to do (snorkel, scuba) having a baby in hand, so planned to stay on the ship for most of the trip.
Most everything you read in other reviews on the Sky is pretty realistic: the waitstaff and food and activities and entertainment are all two giant steps below RCL and Celebrity (and on par with Carnival). With no food stations and pretty much the same meals coming out day after day, a 4-night cruise was time enough to eat everything at least once. But for the ridiculously low price we paid, plus $125 in promotional on-board credits, plus the great care of our children (and the world's fastest embarkation procedure), we knew we were trading WOW-factor for dollars saved and simply overlooked the below average experience on board.