Before the review a little demographics. We are a family of 7, I'm just in my 50's, DW is mid-40's and our 5 sons are all teenagers from 13 to 18. This was our second sailing on the Sky. We drove to the port from Vermont and were more than ready for the cruise.
Embarkation We arrived at the port around 1:30, off loaded the luggage with the porter while it was raining and then parked in Garage C. The parking garage now accepts credit cards. We arrived later than we wanted to and had to wait about an hour to check in. One of my sons entertained everyone by solving his Rubix cube. One change from last year was they had the cabin keys behind the check-in counter so you received them when you checked in. After boarding we stopped at one of the tables set up to sell the soda card. The boys each received a pink plastic and metal tumbler with a sippy top along with their sticker (they had silver ones at other areas so you can go to a different area to get those). The muster drill was conducted without life vests at your assigned muster station.
Entertainment Matt Baker still has all of the energy he had last year and provided a comprehensive entertainment schedule. The first night was "Soul Rockin' Nights" with the NCL dancers. They sang and danced to a medley of tunes from different genres. Both DW and I liked it. The second night was Rich Purpura, comedian and magician. We had seen Rich last year and I was expecting to be bored, but Rich interacts with the audience so much that it is like watching a totally new show. We both enjoyed watching him again (my 17 year old watched both the early and late show). After the second show Matt hosted the Newlywed/Not So Newlywed show, which is always a blast because it stars real people and you never know what they are going to say. The third night we skipped the "On Broadway" and attended "The Liar's Club" featuring Matt, Rich and Assistant CD Rob and they each defined a word and the audience had to select who was telling the truth. After that we attended "Joker's Wild" where Rich hosted an open mic joke fest. The last night we attended the "Farewell Variety & Comedy Show", the highlight of which was a hilarious rendtion of Fountians (not going to ruin it by describing it but don't miss it if you have the chance to see it). We then attended the Quest game just to see what it was like. Our team took third place and we didn't do anything particularly outrageous. It is funny what some people will do for a key ring, but if you are easily offended you should skip it. White Hot Night was held the third night, but we skipped it.
Food and Service We ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch and didn't have any trouble finding something to eat. They have new tongs now that are much more user friendly. The addition of stations didn't noticeably help the lines because people lined up anyway. The staff throughout the ship was friendly and cheerful. We ate in the Palace MDR each night (dress up or not was the second night and we dressed up as did many others). I had the prime rib the first night, the lobster/grouper combo on night two, the always available sirloin steak on night three and the final night was beef stroganoff. All of the selections were well presented and tasted just fine to me. I did not notice any lapses in the waitstaff but we weren't offered bar service the last two nights, which didn't matter because we aren't big drinkers anyway. The room stewards were cheerful and did a good job overall, but they did miss putting the Freestyle Daily in our room twice. We received towel animals each night and they used DW's sunglasses on them. The laundry bag special was offered the last day and if you gave the bag to the steward by 11 you would receive your laundry by 8 that night. When we got back to the cabin after Quest our laundry wasn't there. A quick trip to the reception desk in the morning located it quickly (I think I forgot to fill out the slip correctly). We usually grabbed a midnight snack at Longboards and the food was more then edible.
Teen Crew My 17 year old was upset because there were only 5 other 17 year olds onboard and none of them signed up for the teen crew, but the 13, 14 and 15 year old had a blast. We hardly saw them as they did whatever they wanted to do as long as we didn't have anything scheduled. The 2 youngest signed up for the Family Gunk Challenge on the pool deck the afternoon of the second day. The youngest won the pie eating contest. The next to youngest was in a musical pie contest (pass a pie and if the music stopped with you holding the pie someone would get a pie in the face, you or a loved one). My son was caught holding a pie so the youth counselor asked him who wanted to come up and he chose me, and I received a pie in the face for my efforts. Overall they all enjoyed themselves.
Cabins We were in 0315 and 0316 on deck 10 right under the pool deck. Every now and then we would hear noise from above but it wasn't too often or too noticeable. Three of us were in one cabin and four were in the other. The cabins didn't grow in size from last year.
Ports In Freeport we booked the Sea Safari Snorkel by boat. We took a bus to the boat and rode the boat to the reef, which took about 45 minutes one way combined. We spent about an hour over the reef and saw a lot of fish (they sell food you can feed to the fish and it helps if you feed them, it is $1 a bag). They offer food and drink onboard, but we only bought some sodas to rinse the salt water out of our mouths (they were $2 each). In Nassau we had arranged for an all inclusive day pass at the Paradise Harbor Resort which was relaxing. Great Stirrup Cay has under gone a lot of changes in the past year. First, they have at least tripled the number of loungers available and they now stretch from the tender landing all the way to the breakwater. They've added hammocks, picnic tables, and chairs throughout the area. They have the Hippo Water Slide which we booked on the NCL website for the two youngest for $15 each. On the island people paid $20 a person or $5 per slide. The kids loved the slide and we got our money's worth easily. They offer beach massages now ($59 for 25 minutes) and a boat tour of the Berry Islands (not sure how much they charged). A crew member told me they were planning a Jet Ski area and a sting ray enclosure as part of the improvements.
Overall My family had a blast on this cruise and I feel we received full value for our money. There were some very minor lapses in service but nothing that impacted our enjoyment. I did notice some people that appeared to be not happy about something but overall the impression I received from my fellow cruisers was that they were enjoying themselves.