Winter Escape on the Sky turned out to be both a lot of fun and a lot of disappointment. I am still trying to sort it all out! I planned this trip with my husband, son and daughter-in-law (30+), single daughter and old friend (29 yrs), and newlywed daughter and son-in-law (mid 20s). Some veteran cruisers and a couple of newbies. This was NOT a good intro to cruising for the newbies...
Six of us drove down from Michigan, arriving in Miami early on the 12th. One person flew in to FLL Thursday night and stayed with friends at a hotel by the beach. We picked up the last cruiser at FLL around 1pm and drove to the Port of Miami. Parked at their lot for $60 (20/day) and had a very short wait to board (5-10 minutes). The staff who were selling soda cards, etc were all packing up or gone by, and we were able to go right up to our rooms to drop off our carry on bags. Lunch was mediocre, but I was able to put together a decent salad. Most of us agreed that you could find something to eat, just nothing really great. We certainly NEVER went hungry! A previous poster outlined the chaos of the buffet areas very well - no particular order to where things are set up and tricky navigating around people/kids to figure out what you want. We decided on a late dinner and were able to make a reservation at Crossings, one of the 'regular' (ie free) dining rooms. We were a little worried about long lines since we wanted to have a table for all 8 of us, but were told by staff that it was never a problem, especially eating at the early or later times. The muster drill was the least painful of all I've endured. Did not have to sit in an auditorium, did not have to put on the lifejacket...
I wasn't expecting a luxury suite since we'd booked at the very low end of the staterooms, but this was the very smallest room I've stayed in. Since it was only a 3 day cruise, we did have room to unpack but I have no idea where someone would unpack for a week cruise in this stateroom! I have friends who cruised HA for 11 days on the Sky, and had to live out of their suitcase, which was stuffed under the bed. A bedside light was broken but was fixed promptly the next day. My daughter's shower reeked of mildew/mold, and was cleaned within hours. Smelled a lot like bleach after that but quite an improvement! She also received a note of apology and a plate of 4 beautiful chocolate-dipped strawberries! So they are trying hard to please guests. Our shower was small but the newish rounded-bar held the shower curtain away from clinging to wet bodies. Only noticed an occasional nasty odor, but have noticed that on many ships, only worse. We were in an inside cabin on the 9th level, and noticed moderate rocking at times, but there were storms in the area. Those who drank the most, felt the most rocking!
I don't remember being awakened by very loud ship announcements in the past! Not nice! We ate breakfast at the buffet 2 mornings, and were pretty disappointed, although some of the group had no complaints. My omelet was very oily and the fillings were cool (cheese wasn't even thinking about melting). Did not see toast available but found out later that it was on the other side of the buffet (the two sides do not have all of the same foods). The bacon looked about half cooked. Coffee was surprisingly decent, but I am certainly not that picky - just hate weak coffee. French toast was overdone and crispy, but the sausage links were good. Very hit-or-miss it seemed. The third morning we tried Crossings, but weren't a lot happier. My 'medium' eggs were solid, and the bacon was hard as a rock! The 'hashed browns' looked like the McD's. Toast was stale and cold. We had taken our own 12-pack Coke products on board, leaving them with the curbside luggage porters, and they arrived at our rooms intact. That saved us the $6.75/day soda card charge. We did order several buckets-or-beer at various times and at various bars, but the beer was always barely cool, not icy like you would expect it to be. But we found several bartenders willing to mix up the variety so we didn't have to get 6 of the same brand. There is a $5 deposit on the bucket itself so be sure to return it and not just leave it laying around.
The weather just did not cooperate all weekend long. Nassau was overcast and a bit cool. We walked around the straw market so the ladies could get purses/wallets/kid's souveniers. Found a little bar with an upstairs deck to enjoy a local beer and some people watching. The younger portion of our group headed over to Senor Frog's while hubbie and I went back to the ship. I had left my photo ID in my daughter's backpack while shopping and didn't have it, as required, to get back on the Sky. I did have my room key-card however and the gentleman waved me through! The next day we were supposed to have a beach day on their private island, but the captain woke us up announcing that he was unable to safely tender us in and that the beach sand had blown away, leaving a rocky beach anyway. He steered us around, looking for spots of sun, but it was breezy and chilly all day so we didn't even want to sit out and read in the lounge chairs. There were several musicians here and there, and a band by the pool, but we never found music that we wanted to sit and enjoy for more than 5 minutes. The band always seemed to be playing Latin music, which I normally love, but it was just way too much and too loud. Even at the 'white hot party' Saturday night, the music was in Spanish! My daughter told me they switched it up later, after I'd left and gone to bed. I grew up in a Mexican neighborhood, love the culture, the music, the people and the food! But this cruise felt like it was the theme. We've cruised out of Miami before, as well as Puerto Rico, and never encountered this before. We were also disappointed that NCL did not offer any type of compensation for the missed port. Though it was no fault of their own and we all agreed that safety is the priority, it still seems that an offer of a free cocktail or onboard credit would have been nice. Instead we were stuck onboard with not a lot of interesting activities.
Entertainment is weak. I tried the line dancing lesson (which was to country music - I love it but hubbie is not a fan) and also the salsa lesson. 'V' was an excellent teacher and we had a lot of laughs there. The comedian reminded me of the guy in high school who is a little funny but makes fun of people. Really nothing worth sitting through. Skipped the Broadway type show, after reading reviews and never enjoying them on previous cruises. The Newlywed game was very funny, mostly because they had 3 great couples participating. The cruise director was quick and funny that night as well. But during the 'Quest' game on our last evening he was pretty strange. The game started out fun but deteriorated about midway. To be fair, we were warned that it got a bit lewd, but no one in our group enjoyed it and were embarrassed to watch by the end. The most fun we had was playing Skippo together - I guess that says it all...
Dinners were ok, and not much different than my previous cruises. The selection seemed smaller, and the portions were definitely smaller, which I liked - didn't feel as guilty ordering more items! Dessert was not worth the calories. Steaks were very hit-or-miss. My son had a wonderful steak the first night, but nothing compared on his subsequent orders for the same steak. They are either rare or very well done (crispy). Baked potato was fine, and you can always order a regular salad, specifying what you want on it. The jerk chicken was tasty but my was very hot (remember I grew up eating wonderful mexican food...). My daughters wasn't as spicy - go figure! Four in our group decided that they wanted to try the nicer Cagney's for Valentine's dinner, but it was all booked up.
We needed to get off the ship early to start the long drive home, so took our own bags off. We did not encounter long lines and sailed through customs quickly. One of the quickest exits we've ever made! All in all, I had a nice weekend, but it had more to do with being with my group than anything about the cruise. We all agreed that in the future we would need to cruise further south in February to find warm, sunny skies. And not sure we would return to NCL.