We just returned home after 4 nights on the Sky. We had a wonderful time and I wanted to share my review. I had read several reviews after booking the Sky that made me nervous but posters on this board put me at ease and they were right. We are a family of 3, ages 38,42, and 14. This was our 5th cruise, but our first on NCL. Previous cruises were Carnival and Royal Caribbean. We flew out of St. Louis on Saturday afternoon arriving in Miami at close to 10pm. The wait for the luggage was not fun, and luggage issues seemed to be a theme for this cruise. 2 of the bags came out right away but third was another 15 minutes later. There had been an announcement that there was a problem with the luggage and I was already standing in line with at the luggage counter to start the paperwork for lost luggage when it finally arrived. No problem, we did buy travelers insurance and we cross packed our clothes and swimsuits in 2 different bags so if the luggage was delayed no big deal. Next we proceeded to the Avis lot to pick up our car. I booked a compact car through Priceline for $18 a day, they offered to upgrade us to an SUV but we declined. Our agent disappeared for close to 10 minutes, came back finally and gave us the SUV for no additional charge. Apparently they were out of compact cars. I never purchase the upgrade for this reason. Just like booking a guarantee cabin, book the lowest class car you will accept and then take the free upgrade if they are out of the class you booked. Coming in at 10pm, there is a good chance they will be out. A few things to watch for with AVIS: They now have a device in the car to get you through the tolls without having to pay. They will automatically charge your credit card the cost of the toll, plus $2.50 per day service charge. It doesn't matter if you only use this feature once, you are charged for each rental day, with a maximum of $10 per rental period. So a 5 day rental using the toll saver feature one time will cost you $10 plus the toll, which was up to $1.25 in our case. Hmmmm... $11.25 to avoid waiting at the toll booth. Not worth it to us, we did not bypass the tollbooth even once. Another sneaky practice, if you drive less than 75 miles you are automatically charged $13.99 for fuel unless you can show a receipt that you got fuel, in which case they will reverse the charge. I don't care for these types of charges or practices, seems like they are hoping you mess up in some way or another. Our day after cruise car rental, also booked through Priceline for $19 a day was with Alamo. They had none of these practices and the rental process was smooth as could be. We finally made it to our hotel around 11pm, can you guess who we booked through......Priceline. We booked the Hotel Indigo Miami Dadeland. $55 a night, the rack rate was $129 for our dates. We were told when we checked in that they did not have any rooms with 2 beds (Priceline only guarantees double occupancy). I understood this and asked if we could be switched the next day if there was availability. The front desk manager was very apologetic and I let them know that it was ok, thats the way the system works and we knew when booking through Priceline this could happen. They noted the folio to change us the next morning if possible. I then asked about places to eat that might still be open, it was now after 11pm and nothing was open except maybe some pizza delivery. The manager offered to order for us....now that is service!! Being that my DH was waiting in the car to unload the luggage I declined. He encoded our keys and we were on our way. When we walked in the room I was stunned. 2 double beds. The room was beautiful and very luxurious, a walk in shower instead of the usual tub shower. The furnishings were very upscale and I was pleased with my priceline assignment. In the morning I visited the manager and told him the room would be fine for the day, he was surprised but when he double check the computer he had a puzzled look on his face. I suspect the computer only showed a queen bed. It appeared that several of the rooms were being refurbished and probably their system did not show the newly refurbished rooms correctly.
In the morning (late morning, we are not morning people). We headed down to the Keys, the traffic was horrendous, it was Memorial day weekend. It took about 3 hours to go about 40 miles. We drove to Islamorada to feed the giant tarpon at Robbies, had lunch at Lazy Days, the conch salad was amazing., We swam at the beach there and on Key Largo at John Pennekamp state park. This brought us to dinner at The Big Cheese in Homestead. We ordered the house special pizza which consisted of ham, pineapple, mozzarella, ricotta cheese and cinnamon. Also served were garlic rolls. It was incredible!! Back at the hotel we worked out in the gym for about 30 minutes trying to work off the days meals. Although we never use a gym a home, the equipment was nice and no one else was in there so we decided to give it a try. We then took a swim in the hotel pool which was now guarded by bullfrogs since the sun had gone down. On Monday we returned our car to Avis, took the shuttle back to the airport and then caught a cab to the Port of Miami. Shame on the Miami police. They pulled our cab over in the airport, right outside of the taxi stand. They essentially set up a speed trap in the airport. We were one of many pulled over that afternoon, 4 officers took turns writing tickets. The people drive like maniacs everywhere, yet the police feel compelled to fine the cabbies who are trying to make a living. Not to mention the bad taste it leaves for tourist who are trying to get their vacation underway. We were in no hurry, but I definitely felt their police could have found other people to harass. We arrived at the port just after noon. The boarding process moved pretty slow, there were only about 12 people in line in front of us at the station we were checking in. The agent who checked us in was as nice as could be. We had 2 cabins reserved and she linked our reservations so that we had only one folio. Once aboard we dropped a backpack at the carry on drop off and headed to the teen zone and then the pool deck for some lunch and a bucket of beer (by 5 get one free). We also purchased one adult soda card and a teen passport at the table in Dazzles lounge. Next time I would skip the soda card, with 3 ports on a 4 night trip we weren't onboard enough for it to pay off, never seemed to have the cup with us when we wanted a drink and got tired of carrying it around. The teen passport was $15 for 10 drink coupons. My son only used 3 of these, so that didn't pay off for us either, but I still think it was a good value and would do that again. Around 2pm they announced our cabins were ready and we headed to the cabin. We had 2 cabins. Originally only myself and son were going to go, but 2 weeks before my DH's work schedule cleared up and he was able to get the time off. We tried to add him to our inside cabin but the ships occupancy was approaching full and they would not allow a 3rd or 4th passenger in our cabin even though it was a quad cabin. By this time the prices had dropped and we were able to book the porthole cabin across the hall for DH (also had to pay the single supplement). This worked out so well for us in the end. 2 bathrooms, 2 showers, a private place for DH and I when we wanted to be alone. Our cabins were on Deck 8, aft. I booked 8158, which is furthest aft inside cabin, DH was in 8075. 8158 was amazing. If you look at the deck plans this cabin appears larger on the layout, yet a google search and a CC search could not tell me for sure if it was. Well....IT IS!! Our cabin was at least 3 feet wider than the other inside cabins near us. It was also wider than the porthole cabin DH was in. I'm posting pictures under the Topic "Sky cabin 8158", but to get an idea, usually the night stands next to the bed touch the bed. We had at least 18 inches between each nightstand and the bed. Also, the entrance usually has a bathroom on one side and a closet on the other, when you open the cabin door the hallway between the closet and the bathroom are only about 3 feet wide. In 8158 it is about 6 feet wide. I would definitely book this again, I would go so far to say that we actually spent more time in this cabin that the porthole cabin. The one downfall, not much drawer space, which I believe is identical to other inside cabins. A family of 4 would have plenty of space, but you would be living out of your suitcase for the week. There is plenty of room under the bed to store the suitcases. This cabin is located above the stardust lounge. You will hear everything going on in the lounge. This was not an issue since we are still awake at showtime anyway. I don't think any show went later than 11pm.
We dined in The Crossing the first night and the palace the other 3 nights. I felt the service in the Crossing was better, don't know for sure, could be that we had an exceptional waitress that one night. You could wear shorts in The Palace so that's why we chose that for the other dinners. We did not eat at any of the specialty restraunts, maybe on a 7 nighter I would but for 4 nights I saw no reason to pay extra. I enjoyed each of my dinners every night and was always able to find something that I liked. Most nights it was hard to decided between two of the entrees and I usually ordered 2 appetizers. I love the soups! For breakfast we usually ate at the garden cafe or omletts from the station by the pool. We ate lunch while in port each day.
Freeport - we booked a day at the beach and snorkeling at Paradise Cove on our own. A van driver picked us up (along with 9 others) and took us to the resort. $41 each included transportation, gear rental and lunch. Snorkeling is off the shore at Deadman's reef, which is quite a swim but definitely worth doing . The water was quite choppy and I heard that the ships snorkeling tours were cancelled, but we were able to swim out to the reef and spent quite a bit of time out there. The owners of the resort would watch through binoculars and we felt safe snorkeling there despite the rough waters. After lunch we swam back out again. At the end of the day there was no need to even think about exercise it was clear that we had burned off the days meals and then some. The driver took us back to the boat and 3pm. What a wonderful day. Nassau - We booked the Discover Scuba tour on the web before leaving home. Once we boarded the ship there was an envelope in the cabin with a note to come to the shore excursions desk to sign a waiver. At the desk we found that DH's reservation was processed, only myself and my son were registered. Thankfully, they had one spot left which we quickly reserved. Next we filled out 2 forms / waivers for each of us and answered the questionnaire. One of the questions asked if you had ever suffered a collapsed lung or pneumothorax. My son, now 14, had pneuomothrax at birth that resolved itself after 24 hours on pure oxygen. It was truly just a complication of his birth and not a permanent problem. It did not require surgery or anything. Unfortuantely, this disqualified him from being able to dive. I understand the cruiseline being cautious, I'm sure a private dive operator wouldn't have batted an eye. I wished that I had seen these forms ahead of time. A doctors note about his condition would have cleared him to dive but I never even thought about this. We cancelled the dive for all 3 of us and told our son it was because of dad's blood pressure medication. He is a sensitive kid and I didn't want him feeling it was his fault we were missing out. Instead we took the water taxi to Atlantis, walked around for a bit then headed back for an 11:30 snorkel tour being offered at the pier. We paid $30 a person for the tour and after boarding the Blue Manta catamaran we were joined by other s from this ship that had paid $59 for the same thing. We did not tell anyone what we had paid, why spoil their fun. We were taken by boat to a reef and snorkeled for about an hour. This was an amazing site, we saw so many fish, but the highlight was a trunkfish. We have never seen one of these while snorkeling. I had hoped to have enough time to make it to The Fish Fry for a late lunch, but we thought it was pushing it a little to tight so I settled for cracked conch in the pier building and it was very good. We also bought a few t shirts from one of the shops outside the pier (3/$10) and one at Del Sol (changes color in the sunlight). We are not huge shoppers and spent only about $100 on souveniers $25 of this was on shot glasses which we collect. Great Stirrup Key - We slept in late today, and headed ashore around 10am ( 2 hours after we arrived). I expected to find no chairs available but was surprised this was not the case. I do believe it was much more difficult for those on the next tender. We rented snorkel gear and headed out. Dang...leaking mask, back to the gear booth. Back in the water.....another leaking mask. Now I am getting frustrated. I have my own mask that I bought at a dive shop several years ago. I have a small face and it fit me perfectly, but I left it at home somewhat accidentally. Never again, the mask will go with me every time. I tried 3 masks before I found one that would fit my face, and had the same problem on the Blue Manta the day before. I did feel as though the equipment wasn't well taken care of, many of the snorkel vest were filled with water and the quality of the masks and snorkel were subpar. My personal snorkel has a purge valve which is very helpful when you are freediving into the deeper water. I'll definitely bring my own gear next time even if it means leaving something else home....such as my hairdryer or flat iron, neither of which I used the entire trip. The lunch on the beach was nice, the band attracted the partying crowd with the limbo and a few group dances. We again swam out twice to the reef to snorkel and were amazed by the number and size of the fish on the backside of the rocks. Here we saw a flounder and a lobster. Entertainment - We went to the welcome aboard show, the Not-So-Newlywed game, and the comedy show. Didn't make it to the white hot party or the farewell or broadway shows. Just to tired after all the snorkeling. A previous cruiser had mentioned never cruising again if Rob Sugar were aboard but I could not see the reason. They mentioned gay jokes, but I did not hear a single one. Perhaps it was because of the shows we attended or perhaps he has toned it down. I think he did a fine job and wasn't bothered a bit by him. Repeated gay jokes would have offended me when travelling with my son. Casino - I had vowed to never play in a cruiseline casino again. With such a captive audience I have never done well, usually losing my $40 allotment within minutes. I'm a video poker player. I was pleasantly surprised with the casino on the Sky. The first night I played video poker for well over an hour on just $20. Figuring this is the way they get ya, then tighten things up as the week goes by I avoided the casino for the rest of the trip until the final night when I went in with intentions of just getting cash ($100 minimum) for tips for our stewardess and the teen club staff. Well, you can't just walk in a casino and walk out. I sat down and played video poker again for another 1 hour, then discovered the video roulette machine/contraption in the back corner. I love this game and have never seen it anywhere else. I love roulette but hate playing at a table because I just don't feel comfortable. This machine is a large table with maybe 8 seats. Each player has a video screen for placing bets and in the center of the table is a roulette wheel. A real wheel with a real ball. I sat down here and proceeced to win about $70 in just a few minutes. Then I got greedy and started making sucker bets and such, after giving back about $50 of my winnings I headed back to start packing. Disembarkartion - We chose the yellow tags (the last group). After they called yellow it still took a good 40 minutes to get the luggage and a cab. Thumbs down on the luggage system. I much prefer the carnival method of searching the warehouse for your bags. Watching them scroll by so painfully slow made me dizzy and once again it seemed ours was the last. Turns out someone had removed our bag from the belt and set it down on the concrete floor. Arrghhh, now we can go. A taxi took us to Alamo and within a few more minutes we were checking into the Marriott. It's now right at noon. Check in is not until 3pm and we are tired. There are no rooms clean yet, except for the hypoallergenic room, which is a $20 upgrade; Considering we again were paying the priceline rate of only $55 per night (seems to be the magic number), we decided to upgrade and check in right away. The room was nice, a clean pure aromatherapy smell. I don't think it was worth the extra $20, but to get it early it was. We napped a few hours and then headed to the Venetian Pool a few miles away. This was an incredible place. The quarry turned swimming pool is a local attraction and a bit pricy for $11 a person to swim, but it was fresh water and after 3 days on the beach we were ready. DH is not a great swimmer, jumped in and realized he was no longer boyant in the fresh water....funny for us, but not to him.
Our flight home was at 7:35 am, so we woke up at 5am and headed out by 5:45. We were flying American and because of the late booking for my husband we had 2 itinerearies. We would all fly to Chicago together but then change planes. DH would have an earlier flight back to St. Louis and son and I would be about an hour and a half behind. We checked in online and then checked our bags at a self-serve kiosk. Here DH was offered an upgrade to 1st class for only $45. We should have taken it, would have included 2 bags for free, but we wanted to sit together and it didn't seem fair that DH would be first class after having the outside cabin as well. So we paid the $25 per bag to check 2 bags and all sat in coach. Duh....that was the stupidest move ever. At the gate in Chicago we tried to fly standby and get on the flight with DH but the fee for standby was $50 each and it didn't seem worth $100 total to save an hour and a half.
Comparison to Carnival and Royal Caribbean: I loved freestyle dining, we waited 20 minutes one night for a table but were given a pager. Show the pager to your bartender and you will get 20% off cocktails while you wait. I did miss dining with others, it's always been fun to meet new people at dinner and get to know them throughout the week, but that was fine. I know we could have requested a shared table, but we just sat by ourselves. I love not dressing up for dinner every night. The week before we sailed my son insisted on buying a new suit for his 8th grade celebration, saying he could wear it on the cruise too. In the end we left it home. With a suit comes more clothes for DH and I as well as shoes for all 3. I just didn't want to deal the extra clothes and I'm glad I didn't. I missed the 24 hour ice cream and pizza. You can get pizza at IL Adiago at lunch and ice cream was available from about noon until 3pm out near the pool. I missed the GPS locator which showed where you were enroute. Was gonna bring my own GPS and wished I did.
Our previous cruises have always had sea day. I did miss that a bit, but that was okay. With the close proximity of the ports in the Bahamas the ship moved at a snails pace. I felt very little movement, even in the aft on deck 8. I usually suffer from a swaying feeling for sometimes up to a week after getting off the ship. I'm feeling it just a little this time, I think the speed of the ship on the longer itineraries lead to more ship side to side swaying.
On Carnival there seemed to be more activities each day, this could be because of the itinerary and the number of sea days on those sailings. It is hard to tell, there were definitely fewer announcements on the Sky, so that was nice. I would definitely consider NCL again and was very pleased with our choice of the Sky and the Bahamas itinerary. I only wish that my DH had found found out sooner that he could go, would have saved us a ton of money. Next time I will book him from day one and get the cancel for any reason insurance for him.