NCL Sky - November 2-5, 2009 Bahamas (Freeport, Nassau and Stirrup Cay)
Before I start, please don't yell at me because inevitable comparisons to Princess creep in. I've been on 26 Princess cruises and this is only the 3rd NCL one. Princess is what I have to compare cruise experiences with.
We arrived at the ship around 12:30 p.m. Embarkation was smooth and quick. We were impressed that they took our photos for the cruise cards right at the check-in counter. Very efficient since there was one less line to stand in, better than Princess. But we weren't aware that we had to wait until 2:00 p.m. to get access to our cabin and were confused when we were herded down through a series of displays advertising the spa, the specialty restaurants, etc., totally the opposite direction from our cabin. We finally heard an announcement that explained it and we went to the buffet for lunch. There was a long line at what we and others assumed was the only buffet line, so we went to the Pizza restaurant, ate there and just hung around until 2:00, about a one-hour wait.
The ship was very attractive and was in pretty good condition. We did have some mildew in our bathroom and the rubber "carpet" on our deck was torn up in places. It obviously still had its Hawaiian theme but that was fine. The only complaint I had about dEcor was the [url=http://i455.photobucket.com/albums/qq279/gooch47/IMG_5122.jpg]artwork[/url] on the wall in our cabin. It was obviously something they wouldn't be able to sell in the art auction and to be honest, it gave me the creeps.
Our Cabin was an aft balcony cabin on Norway Deck. I would not recommend getting an aft cabin on this deck. The Outdoor Cafe was right above us, and it seemed that there were people there at all hours of the day and night dragging chairs and/or tables around. It was not unbearable, but just an annoyance. Contrary to what I had heard, people at the cafe cannot see you on your balcony unless you are standing at the rail. That is the same for the balconies below us. We could see them if they were standing at the rail. However, I could very easily look at the entire suite balcony next to us and even look into the suite a little if I chose to do so. The angle of the dividers makes it easy. Of course, they could see ours, too, but I never saw that couple out on their gorgeous balcony. What a waste. We did get some soot on our balcony the second night but never experienced any of the sewage smells that others have commented about. We did enjoy the aft cabin experience. We liked being able to see both sides of the scenery.
When we first entered our cabin, I was a little surprised at how small it seemed compared to a Princess Mini-suite. Ours was the highest balcony category before the full suites (BA). I know we paid for the aft location and the cabin was adequate, of course, but I was just expecting more room. The large balcony was worth the extra cost all by itself. Another shock came when I started to unpack. I only took one carry-on full of clothes so it wasn't a big problem, but there were only three shallow 18" square drawers for folded clothes. There was a lot of room for hang-up clothes except they use those darned hangers that people can't steal. I hate those things. Had this been a 7-day or more cruise, I honestly don't know where I would have stored our clothing.
My husband tried to see if we could get wireless Internet in our cabin but didn't have any success. We would have been willing to pay for it.
The shower was tiny. I saw quite a few people on the cruise that physically wouldn't have fit in the shower. I'm no lightweight and it was a relatively tight squeeze for me, too.
The bed was very comfortable despite having enough bedding on it for an Antarctic cruise. I really don't like those duvet thingies. Too heavy and too hot.
We were also surprised at how long it took for our cabin steward to do our cabin in the morning and at night. We were used to going to breakfast and having it already done when we returned. We were lucky to have it straightened up by 11:00 or later. Same thing in the evening. Our cabin steward seemed to ignore the "Make up Cabin" signs and just start at one end of her assignment and do them in order. But she did a good job and we tipped her a little extra for that.
Food was typical cruise fare. We did go to the buffet for one dinner and was a little disappointed with the selection. The breakfast buffet was great, especially the sticky buns! We didn't go to any of the specialty restaurants. We cruise so often that food isn't a big draw for us. We did enjoy the service and food at the main dining room. We went when it opened and not only did we not have to wait, we even got window tables each time.
The casino was the big high point of the cruise. It was the largest and most up-to-date we've ever seen. The first night the slots seemed very friendly, but it went down hill from there. We were on this cruise because my husband received it free from the Harrah's casino in St. Louis. I don't know if all "Casinos at Sea" passengers receive these perks or not, but we got free drinks in the casino, cookies in the cabin when we first embarked, chocolate covered strawberries one night and chocolate truffles another night. The only complaint I had about the casino was we both were positive that the players' club cards weren't registering points correctly. We are high enough rollers to receive big perks from Harrah's but we only received about 300 points each and that didn't sound right. (You needed 2500 to get anything for your play.) Several times I got over 50 points on a single machine and I know my husband plays much higher limits that I do. And yes, we were SURE the cards were registering correctly. They often didn't when you first inserted them in the machine. One night I checked my points when I first went in and after playing the first machine checked them again. I had five points LESS than when I started.
The first stop on the cruise was Freeport. The ship was docked eleven miles from the city at a commercial dock. There were some shops next to the ship so we got off and walked around a little. The cost to get to Freeport was $5 per person each way. It was very much like being in St. Thomas where they load up a cab to capacity before they leave. We decided it wasn't worth the hassle to go to town.
The stop in Nassau was better. We'd been there many times and decided to take a water taxi to Paradise Island and Atlantis. We'd stayed at Atlantis three times before so we just spent some time in the casino and then went back to the ship. We also walked to the Straw Market and bought a large straw placemat type thing. Then I remembered I only had one small carry-on to pack it in. But it worked out OK. It was fun sitting on our balcony watching the passengers who had spent too much time at Señor Frog try to walk back to the ship. And my husband was able to connect with some wireless service somewhere near the ship with just enough bandwidth to read our email.
The stop at Stirrup Cay was a disaster. They were supposed to start sending passengers ashore around 8:00 a.m. That time came and went and they eventually announced they were having trouble getting clearance. Around 9:00 or so they came on and said they still didn't have clearance due to a "severe medical emergency" whatever that meant. They said they would start sending people ashore around 10:00. About that time they announced they would start the tender process by deck. They first called Deck 10 and Deck 4. It was 10:45 before we saw the first tender heading to shore. A very long time later they called two more decks and then another deck. Then they announced they were suspending tendering until a rain front came through. THEN they announced they were terminating tendering because of high wind. They eventually started bringing the people back from the island but it was a [url=http://s455.photobucket.com/albums/qq279/gooch47/?action=view¤t=tender.flv]very rough ride[/url]. It rained on and off the rest of the day and the ship left around 4:00 p.m. I thought the ride back to Miami would be really rough, but it wasn't bad at all.
Debarkation was a snap since we only had the one carry-on and a couple personal items. We got up around 8:00, had breakfast and then sat on our balcony for a while to let the crowd thin out. Bad idea. Without warning someone on the balcony next to us started squirting us with a hose. My husband got soaked. I was a little further away and didn't get it as bad. That is one way to clear people off the ship, I guess. It wasn't on purpose, I'm sure, but he definitely didn't look to see if the balcony was empty. We also saw him squirting water on the balconies below us.
We got a cab to take us back to the airport which brings me to the biggest error we made. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale because Southwest Airline had the best fares. But then we spent everything we saved on airfare on cabs and shuttles to and from the airport and to and from the ship. We used a shuttle, SAS transportation (http://www.ridesas.com) from the airport to the hotel for $15 per person. We had transportation as part of a "Port Package" from our hotel to the ship, but the taxi back to the hotel after the cruise was $40. Then the taxi to the airport was $65. We stayed at the Best Western on the Bay on the 79th Street Causeway. We really enjoyed staying there and would recommend it highly EXCEPT that it was far away from both ports.
We enjoyed the cruise even though we didn't do much. We bought a future cruise package since we expect that my husband will probably get more free cruise offers and the money can be spent on upgrades as well as bookings.