My view of the NCL Sky 4 day cruise. Jan 26th, 2008 Bahamas
Long and written on my new mini-laptop, so might be some typos.
Let me start by saying, like many here, after I book a cruise I come on here and go batty trying to read everything possible about the cruise ship I've just booked. Well that being said, when I booked the Sky I then read every review and some were very dismaying. But, being a realist, I know how to filter out Sincere reviews from over the top whining.
I've been on Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, Royal, some more then once, so I've pretty much seen it all.
This was my first short cruise and exclusively to the Bahamas.
Pre-cruise: Intercontinental Miami WEST (not the one downtown, this IC is by the airport). Great stay. However, far from the port, so if you do stay there, take their free shuttle back to the airport and then a taxi from the airport the cruise port.
Embarkation: Oh my gosh. People generally all agreed in previous reviews about this, and they were right. We were dropped off at the port at 11:30 and were on the ship at 11:45. That's from taxi door to sipping champagne on the ship. They need to package this embarkation standard and sell it to all cruise lines. There is a line, but it never stops, except for the couple minutes to register your credit card for the sail and sign and get your pic taken. Then walk walk walk to get your room card, then walk walk walk and bamm, you are on the ship.
They greeted with champagne or OJ. This is where you could check your carry-on if you wanted. And the free restaurant sampling was not right at the door like one poster whined about, because they were sampling at the entrance to each of the restaurants.
The cabin, an aft BA balcony: Wowsa, how can you go wrong for $219.00 per person, for a aft balc. Yes, older furnishings, appears to be circa mid 90's, with it's pickled pine furniture. And very noticeable Is the cabin is smaller then previous cruises and there is no wall of drawers and no long hallway with 2 sets of doors. This cabin had a desk/TV/fridge storage, and the hallway was only long enough to accommodate one set of closet doors. With a few very small drawers and the safe.
The bedding was wonderful and the mattress was nice and firm. The sleeper sofa was a tiny 2 seater. Carpeting was faded. Don't get me wrong, old/dated, but tidy.
Bathroom was the very efficiently laid out, and yes, it's smaller then other ships, but efficient. No Elemis products, but rather some Frances Denney (????) products. Including lip balm, eye cream in addition to the standard soaps / shampoos and body wash. 2 towels, 2 hand towels, 2 face cloths. The cabin also had 2 blue white NCL towels and 2 really colorful beach towels.
The fruit basket card was in the room and I filled it out, and the requested fruits were delivered as requested.
Towel animals were in the room most of the time.
One negative was that the dailies weren't always in the room when returning to the room after turn-down. And would show up on the door sometimes after 10pm. Not a big deal, but I like to know what's going on.
The room steward: Edward was very good, and was in and out without issue.
Yes,there is a smell of 'sewage' at the back end of the ship. Funny how you can walk the ship from the front and lovely and fresh and then once you hit the last bank of elevators, bamm, the smell. Now the word sewage is a little harsh as it's more a very mild, damp smell, not quite the smell of RAW SEWAGE. If that makes sense. Nothing to fret about. And yes, on the balcony you will see little charcoal black 'paint chips' that are pieces of soot. And I'm talking the size of a penny or smaller and only about a dozen of these over the 4 days. But, that being said, wipe down the chairs and watch where you step and you'll be fine.
Food was more then sufficient. I think when some complain about the 'inedible' food choices, they are not use to seeing a broad variety of foods that don't' include mac and cheese , processed cheese, etc. :P They cover a broad base of foods, from hamburgers and hot dogs, to a great salad and fixins (especially at dinner time). There is always some curry (the palak paneer was great). A fish dish, A meat offering. A couple hot veggie options. At dinner you can juicy shrimp cocktails in the salad bar part of the buffet as well as the made to order pasta bar. They also have made to order pasta selection at lunch in the Italian venue. Fresh fruit is always available. There is always 2 soups avail at dinner. As well as international cheeses as lunch. Soft serve ice cream is available at the entrance to the pool deck.
One thing of note is the breakfast and lunch offerings are duplicated (for the most part) on the very back of the ship, just outside of the main buffet, in the open air section.
There is never a problem finding a place to sit, just be willing to walk to the back , 30 ft :P.
Yes, there is some differences in some things. Desserts, no fancy, vast displays of cakes, pastries and such. At lunch they offer fresh bakes cookies and pound cake, banana cake and lots of fresh cut up fruits. At dinner they offer pre-portioned mousses, cheesecakes, and a crumble or bread pudding, jello, and more pound cake, banana bread. Also, the beverage selection is water or iced unsweet tea.....no lemonade of fruit punch. There is always coffee and tea, and juice at breakfast.
The main, no fee, restaurants don't offer the same as whats on the buffet and they take your entire order up front and it takes about an hour to eat.
Balconies do get the invite to the exclusive sit-down / buffet breakfast in one of the main dining room.
Shows: First I should note that, some of the nights have 2 showings. First night has one show, 2nd/3rd nights have 2 shows and final night has 1 showing. Didn't do the welcome aboard, I'm sure it's hokey like everyone I've been to. Did attend the show on the 2nd night, called 'Broadway something or other'. It was good as you get to hear them sing some of the best songs from about 4-5 popular Broadway musicals. Such as Wicked, Mama Mia, and others, don't' exactly know what they were, as I'm not a big musical person, but I knew all the songs. Think of it as a way to get a good selection of Broadway musical culture with only 1hr of commitment. The comedian was good. Didn't see the rock n roll show on final night.
The Stardust Theatre is gorgeous and the seating is very comfortable and never had a problem getting a seat.
There were other venues throughout the ship all the time.
I have all the Freestyle dailies but don't' have anyway to scan them. So here are the highlights:
Monday: Welcome Aboard show / Monte Carlo Night / 70s groove party Tuesday: On Broadway / Carnaval Espectacular Wednesday: Tim Kaminski / Newlywed, Not So Newlywed Show / NCL White Hot Party Thursday: Soul Rockin Nights / Jokers Wild (adult humor) / Adult Quest Game show / Farewell Toga Party
Movies in-room on the 2 channels were : wall-e, the incredible hulk, the dark knight, my sassy girl, get smart, rocky balboa, hot fuzz, breach, blades of glory, stardust, ratatouille, the holiday, fields of dreams, hoosiers, batman begins, narnia, cars, superman returns, miss potter, stranger then fiction, the prestige, bridge to Tabitha, casino royal, music and lyrics, freedom writers, meet the Robinsons, oceans thirteen, bee movie, license to web, bourne ultimatum, game plan, Michael clayton.
Non US citizens will be happy to note that there is no requirement for a 6am clearing of immigration that I've experienced on ALL my previous cruises. Everyone clears customs / immigration at the same time, when you leave.
We had a 2:15pm flight so selected the last debark 'color zone' grey, which will be called at approx 9am. Well it was called at 9am. Went from buffet on 11th deck, at 9am, was off ship and through immigration at 9:15. Grabbed luggage at and was in a cab at 9:30. Tonnes of taxis, no wait, was at airport at 10am.
Casino: Sign up for the Players Club and get $10 slot play with $10, sign up. Played Dean Martin slot, .02 game, turned $10 into $50, cashed out. Signed up for the $250.00 future ship voucher and they give you a voucher for $15 free slot play with $15 in and played the same machine, turned that into $60.00 , cashed out . It's the one on the left. Love that machine. Haha, I wanted to get my $68.00 down to $60 even, so was playing it down and then had 0.05 left, or something like that, so played 5 lines, instead of 25 and of course then entire screen right of the first column came up as wild, still got $5 out of that, but that just sucks. Oh well. I still made out well.
Speaking of the $250.00 future ship voucher. You now have 2 yrs to book and 2.5 yrs to travel.
Ports: Freeport. You dock at the Bahamas ship yard where they drydock and refurb ships. There was an NCL ship anchored out in the harbor. A couple of Carnival ships getting some work and some other ships in drydock also with cranes over them.
The cab into Lucaya is efficient, but don't get caught up in the driver saying, pay $10.00 now for a return trip as there are plenty of cabs there to take you back for $5. Therefore you don't' need to 'get a group rate' because that is bull. And then you can return when you want, not when the 'negotiated group rate planned to return". We tried the beach but it was windy and the water was shocking cool., felt like low 70s. Got 2 fruity drinks at the beach bar, $18 USD.
Nassau: I now have a new respect for Nassau/. I used to consider this the gateway to my real trip. But we did the Atlantis aqua adventure excursion. Was $119, and included transport there and back, via water taxi. Oh my. Sooooo much fun. All venues in the water park were heated. The Current (what some refer to as the 'lazy river' is amazing. A 1 mile route that takes you through rapids and lets your pick your route by what different entrances you take while floating through the route. The best is going up the Power Tower, via the conveyor system and then taking the upper Current to the next conveyor and up the Power Tower for the Falls drop. Holy crap.....it's a water slide big enough for the tube and one part is a down slope and then another part is an upslope where the water propels you up and then into darkness and twists and turns and then you reconnect with the lower Current to do the river all over again and pick a different route. Amazing. 1 mile route and we did the loop about 5 times selecting different routes. Also there are many points where you can join or leave the Current.
The day pass also includes access the Dig (inner aquarium) and the full outside aquarium. We did do a casual hamburger joint in the water park and that was pricey at $46 with tip for 2 hamburgers and 2 drinks. Ugh. But the service was amazing both at the restaurant and in the park.
Lockers are $5 for a small, $7 for a med, and $10 for a large. A large is ½ the size of a full locker, and the med is 1/3, etc. We rented a med and were able to fit both our backbacks and sandals in it, etc. Water taxi back is every ½ hour on the hr and the ½ hr. So that was very convenient. The whole start of the tour was kinda annoying. Meet of the ship on the pier at 9am. Get arm bands. Walk to water taxi. Take taxi. Get to Paradise island. Walk to Atlantis. Then escorted to get towel. Then escorted to get locker. Finally in water at 1030am.. In future I will leave them as we get to Paradise Island water taxi station. Also, one thing I'd NOT do this time around was to sign the waiver. While on route, the guides walk around with waivers and pens and have you sign your life away. Literally. The waiver basically states that usual, but also states that you will not hold Atlantis responsible even if they are at fault......that being said, I think their lawyers just suggested you hand them out and see who signs off, as they never did verify what was written on them or names when they picked them back up. So, it's safe to say that you could sign John Smith and no one would notice. It would be interesting to hear a lawyers comment on this waiver. Is it just a 'let's see who actually signs it'. So, I can see how there might be some bumps and bruises on the current ride. You do have to pay attention. Don't' get me wrong, it's not dangerous per say, but you are going through a flowing river with cement sides. It was really fun. And remember you can decided your route. Basically stay away from the Power Tower portion if you are worried and stick to the main route.
Great Stirup Caye: Wow, the water was wonderful.. Super clear, calm, no wind. Yes, a bit cool at first, I'd say 75-77f, but once in, it's great. It amazes me that most of the cruisers herd to the main beach instead of walking 40 yards to the right to get the other beach. We basically had about 20 folks on the 2nd beach with beach chairs for about 50. While the main beach was packed with row on row of full beach chairs. Their laziness makes a 'private beach' experience possible just 40 yards the other way.
The other passengers, was a cross mix like most of the others I've been on. More a 40+ group, 20% in their 30's, 20% in their 20's. Very few children on board. The ship never felt full, but it was. With such a port intensive cruise, there was never a deck chair problem. But even then, the ship is well stocked with deck chairs. Great ship, barely notice that it's smaller and older. Great happy crew.
As an experienced cruiser, would I do it again? Can I get a HECK YA!!!!. I, honestly, would have been happy even if I paid $400 instead of the $219, if that tells you how I felt. While on land and out of the wind you definitely get the Caribbean experience. It's the water temp that is the noticeable difference, but being a hardy Canadian I was fine with the 75 degree water. At night, it did cool down, but was still about 65+.
Take care all. Hope this helps. Any questions, let me know.