We sailed on the Norwegian Sky on February 5th,2010 out of Miami. This was a 3 day sailing to Nassau and their private island. We are two guys that have cruise more than 25 times mostly on Royal Caribbean. We picked NCL because we wanted to try another line and because we liked the "freestyle" concept. We did our research and had great expectations for NCL.
We arrived at the port around 1:30PM and immediately checked in with no wait. The check in staff was very friendly and fast. We were on board by 1:45PM. As soon as you board, you are directed to an area where they have set up tables marketplace style trying to sell you anything from dinning reservations, to drink packages, spa specials and so forth. The usual cruise tactics but here they group everything together in one room. We did not feel pressured to purchase anything, but we have never seen this done this way before on other lines. By the time we were trough the "marketplace", it was announced that the staterooms were ready so we proceeded to our room. We had an oceanview room on the 4th deck. The room was what we had expected so no surprises there. We dropped our carry-on bags and went to find lunch.
Welcome lunch was at the Garden Buffet on the top deck. This is where our disappointments began. The Garden Buffet has plenty of seating inside and out on deck so we had no problem finding a table. The food stations are set with no logic whatsoever. As soon as you walk in from the elevators there is an action station for pasta, next to the dessert station. Following that is the hot food, then, salads. Around the corner is another hot food station followed by fresh fruits. In a corner between the last two is another action station for burgers and hot dogs. This configuration leads to confusion. Since there is no logic behind the line set up, people are tripping all over each other trying to reach different items, specially the kids that are waiting for burgers. The other problem was the quality of the food. The selection was limited and the quality was below what we expected. Even though it is a buffet, we thought the quality was way below what we had experienced on Royal Caribbean before. The drink selection is only tea, coffee and water. The tea is from a machine and was terrible. Because of this, we ended up buying the soda package.
Muster drill was quick and efficient. You are no longer required to wear the lifevest, which makes it quicker and more comfortable. We sailed promptly at 5PM. We explored the ship for a couple of hours after sailing. The ship is very nice and well maintained. Around 9:15PM we went to dinner. For our first night we went to the Palace dinning room. It was very nice not having to go to dinner at a set time. Service in the restaurant was ok. Nothing spectacular. Since you wont be dinning with the same servers, no one knows your name nor do they care. They seem unmotivated and provide the service that is required, nothing else. The menu is very simple at best. Nothing we tried was great. Not even the presentation. One thing we noticed is that the service staff is mostly from the Philippines and there are huge communication problems. Our server was not able to really talk to us. Could not give us any recommendations or wine ideas. All she could do is say yes to anything we asked. We realized by our second day that it was pointless to have a conversation with any service person, as they could not understand. After dinner we went to the show.
The entertainment was horrible. This was supposed to be the headliner show for the weekend. "Soul Shakers" is an NCL production. We did not care for it at all. The singers were horrible. After the second show we, and a lot of other people, walked out. The comedian on the second night was just not funny. We did not stay for his show and left after the first few minutes. The thrid night was Super Bowl night and everybody was watching the game in evry tv all over the ship.
Our first port of call was Nassau. It rained all morning. We skipped breakfast and had lunch at the Palace restaurant around 1:30PM. Once again service was just ok. Food was not great. We had the mahi-mahi over rice. It was a white fish over white rice on a white plate. No imagination at all with the presentation and no real flavor too. After lunch we headed to the pool deck. We had planned our shore excursions for the beach day on the private island so we spent the afternoon at the pool. We have been to Nassau many times so we did not get off the ship. There was live music and the weather turned out great after the rain went away. There were plenty of pool chairs available. The only concern was that there were parents that let their kids roam free with no supervision and of course they were all over the hot tubs. Don't get me wrong, I love kids, but I have no desire to relax in a hot tub with two 5 year old girls! There was no one from NCL enforcing the adult only rule. The afternoon was very pleasant.
Our second dinner was at the French Bistro. This is one of their "upscale" options with a $20 upcharge. The restaurant is tucked away in what it looks like a hallway. The setting is very nice, very French. The menu is exactly what you would expect in a French restaurant, nothing more. The one thing they don't tell you ahead of time is that the $20 charge does not include everything in the menu. If you want any kind of seafood is an extra $10. The escargot was ok. The sea scallops were the size of a dime and only three per serving. I ordered the fillet of beef rare. The first time it arrived almost burned to a crisp. The manager took it back very apologetically but returned with a second fillet that wasn't any better. I explained to her that I had ordered it rare and she assured me it was; of course it wasn't. She tried to argue and I really wasn't in the mood to argue specially since I was paying $30 for my meal, so I just ate lobster. Dessert was chocolate fondue. Overall it was the worst meal I've ever had on a ship.
Our 3rd day was the private island day. Unfortunately the weather did not allow the ship to tender ashore so around 9AM the captain made an announcement that we would spend the day at sea. We were very disappointed but understood the situation. The sea was rough in the morning. It quiet down later in the day but it became very cold and windy. We relaxed in our cabin most of the morning. The cruise staff did not add anything to do for that day even though we had to skip the beach day, so there wasn't much to do the entire day. It was too cold for the pool so we watched movies most of the day. It was a relaxing day after all but we wished we could have enjoy more activities. Dinner on our last night was at Cagney's. By the 3rd night we had resigned ourselves that we were not getting good food anywhere on this ship. Cagney's was different. Service was great and so was the food. The steaks were cooked to perfection and the wait staff was very attentive and knew what they were doing. This restaurant has a $25 upcharge plus $10 for seafood. Our meal that we thought would be $50, ended up costing $110 after seafood and wine. This one was worth it.
Disembarkation was a breeze. Breakfast was at the Garden Buffet then you can take your own bags as you disembark. Customs was no issue so we were off the ship and trough customs in 10 minutes. They also let you stay on the ship until 10AM.
Overall the cruise on the Norwegian Sky was ok. Nothing spectacular,just ok. The ship is great for a small ship. The accommodations, oceanview, were good. Getting in and out of the ship was the fastest we have ever seen. Service is spotty. The food service staff is clueless and the quality of the food is below standard. For our two "upscale" restaurant experiences we paid almost $200, but I'm not sure it was worth that much. Only Cagney's was worth some of it. We had read before that NCL nickel and dimes you to death and I think the previous reviews about that were right. We don't mind paying extra for certain things, but if we are to be charged $20 and $25 for the so called "upscale" options, it should be all inclusive, not just for part of the menu. We enjoyed the "Freestyle" options and flexibilities and the casual look all over the ship. The Sky is a nice ship if you are looking for a quick and inexpensive getaway but don't expect anything great.