This was our first cruise with NCL and our first freestyle cruising experience. I previously sailed with both Carnival and Royal Caribbean on the same 3 night Nassau itinerary. I traveled alone with my 8 year old daughter to start her Spring Break vacation (my husband hates cruising, but that doesn’t stop me). Timing is everything when cruising and some of the reviews on this site are bad merely because of things beyond the control of NCL. We had a wonderful cruise and lucked out with perfect weather. Boarding the ship in Miami was quick and easy. My husband dropped us off at the port, so as to save the $20.00 per day charge to park your car. Upon boarding, the photographers take a few welcome aboard photos and then you are free to help yourself to the buffet and to start exploring the ship. Cabins are ready around 2 pm and luggage arrives shortly after. The concept of freestyle cruising is genius! No worries at all and no reason to wear a watch while aboard, except if you want to see a show or participate in an activity. Aboard the Sky you will find casual dress and casual dining. Participate in as much or as little as you like.
FOOD: Buffet is basic, but enough choices for everyone. If you decide to dine at one of the more upscale reservation needed restaurants, be prepared to be charged a surcharge. On the last night my daughter and I decided to try the Italian restaurant called Il Adagio. The food and service is a step up from anything else offered on the ship. That old saying, “you get what you pay for,” is certainly applicable here. There is ample food selection on the Sky & quality was slightly above average. We ordered room service for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, so that we could get a jump start before everyone else to debark and enjoy our day. It pays to be the early bird. Not a lot of food choices, but enough to hold us until lunch time.
CABIN: Overall, the ship was pretty nice considering its age. The ship was the prefect size ship for a 3 or 4 night Bahamian cruise. The cabins are on the smaller side, but more than enough room for me and my daughter. The bathroom is tiny. We are tiny, petite girls and I had a hard time imagining some of the people we saw aboard being able to use the shower! We had a cabin with a balcony, which we absolutely loved and was worth the extra money. Our cabin was in the front of the ship. There’s only 1 outlet at the desk and 1 in the bathroom. Charging electronics, cell phones, and camera batteries is challenging, but I managed. There was a hairdryer in the desk drawer, but I ended up using the one I brought. There’s a bucket of ice, which is always restocked for you, a large bottle of water and a stocked mini bar. The 2 room stewards were great, attentive and they enjoyed surprising my daughter with towel animals every time we left the cabin.
ENTERTAINMENT: The on board entertainment was excellent and kid friendly. Two of the nights were all ages show. The cruise director, Matt Baker, was the best I've ever experienced. He’s multi talented and he really knows how to do his job. He’s high energy all the way and you can tell he goes all out to make the passengers feel it. He’ll be a hard act to follow, since he announced that he will soon be leaving to another NCL ship out of NY to Bermuda. We both enjoyed the comedian/magician Rich Purpura. He invited the kids back the day after the show to learn how to do some magic tricks. Of course I ended up purchasing his dvd and magic set for my daughter!
PORTS: I’ve been to Nassau twice before and felt pretty confident taking my daughter over to Atlantis. We spent the day at the Aquaventure water park at Atlantis. We did not book an excursion through the ship; instead we took a taxi at $4 per person and went straight over. The water rides don’t open until 10 am, so we were able to look around The Dig and grab a locker and get situated before the crowds arrived. From reading other reviews on this site, I took the advice not to book the excursion through NCL. It is actually more money and they take you on a boat via the harbor tour and waste a lot of your time. My daughter and I were able to spend 4 hours at the water park and still have a few hours to look around Atlantis, eat lunch and have ice cream and shop! Get off the ship, walk through the colorful building and the taxis are waiting for you. You can be at Atlantis in less than 15 minutes! Lucky for us it was a beautiful Sunday and the ship was able to anchor out at sea, so that we could enjoy NCL’s private island called Great Stirrup Cay. My daughter and I took the first tender boat over and it was worth waking up early for. Most of the ship didn’t come over until mid morning, so we had the beach and Hippo water slide to ourselves. My daughter must have gone down the slide a hundred times! There are plenty of activities and chairs with cabana type covers available for a price. The restrooms are clean and better than I imagined on an island. There is a straw market to do some shopping at and a tropical band to entertain. The BBQ buffet was really good.
DISEMBARKATION: Another great freestyle experience! Hands down the fastest and least stressful of any cruise thus far. We slept in a little more than we had during the entire cruise. We ate some breakfast at The Palace Restaurant. We went back to the cabin for our bags, walked to deck 5, scanned our cards for the last time, and walked off the ship toward customs. You have until 9 am to leave the ship, however. If you don’t want to carry your bags off early, you could grab a color-coded tag and set your bags out the night before in the traditional manner.
Overall, my daughter and I had a wonderful cruise. This was my daughter’s first cruise and it won’t be the last. She’s already asking when we can go again, but for a longer time! I found the Freestyle concept is a perfect fit for us.