This is my 6th NCL cruise (first for the Sky) and I have been on 5 RCI cruises and 2 Disney cruises, including other 3 night cruises to Nassau, The cruise was booked the week before with a last minute special that my neighbor and I couldn’t resist and we drove from our homes in Gainesville, FL to Miami early Friday morning.
The ship is small compared to many I have been on with about 2200 passengers. The good news is it never really felt crowded except on the Great Stirrup Cay beach. The promenade deck on deck 6 goes all the way around and is a great place to walk and see your surroundings. You can access the large well-stocked library and game room from there, too, on the port side. I used the fitness room one time and there appeared to be plenty of nice machines, towels, and a great view.
The balcony stateroom we were in, 0213, deck 10 forward, was smaller than most balcony staterooms with few drawers, but on a 3-day cruise you don’t have as much stuff to store anyway and I just kept some stuff in the suitcase that slid under the bed. I brought extra coat hangers, but didn’t need any, as there were plenty. The hairdryer is stored in the one drawer in front of the mirror in the stateroom. Originally we were on the other side of the ship, but some reviews of that cabin indicated that we were right under the free weight section of the gym and might hear constant thuds as the weights were dropped. I called NCL and a very nice and helpful customer service representative changed my room to the other side even though I had booked this as a guarantee cabin. It was even a little upgrade with the location.
The Sky staff and crew were all very friendly and helpful and I had no complaints about the food. We ate in the 2 main dining rooms for all dinners and I thought the cuisine was great. The service did take awhile in between courses, but it wasn’t like we had to go somewhere. There was 1 main show per night. The first night at 9pm and the 2nd and 3rd were at 9:30. I did not see the comedian the 2nd night, but did enjoy the last show, which featured Broadway tunes with singers and dancers. The cruise director, an Australian, John Ibrahim, was just a little too obnoxious and loud for my personal taste and constant announcements on the PA system, but then again, many of them are.
Embarkation in Miami at noon was a breeze. In fact, I would say it was the easiest I have ever had. There were special lines for Latitudes members, but all the other lines were short, too. There does not appear to be any other perks for Latitude members, as I am a “silver” tier and there were no other little gifts, meetings, or cocktail parties, etc. I’m sure this is because the cruise is so short. The lifeboat drill is at 4:30pm and you don’t need to wear your life jacket, although some folks apparently didn’t hear the repeated message and showed up with them anyway. It does not pay to get to the drill early as the first comers are stacked in the back and the late arrivals get more breathing room up front.
Our luggage arrived by 4pm, and we became acquainted with our adjoining balcony neighbors. One of them complained that his wine had been confiscated from his checked luggage, and another neighbor explained that his wine had arrived safely in his luggage because it was Black Box wine. He had removed the wine bladder from the box and put it in a gallon size Ziploc bag, and then flattened the box and reassembled and taped the box back together it when it made it to the stateroom. Apparently the x-ray machines don’t pick up the wine this way. He was generous enough to share a glass with us all and we toasted our sail away with a Bon Voyage merlot before dinner and the show.I noticed at all dinners that most folks dressed very casually and the “no jeans or shorts” policy was not enforced (not that I minded).
We arrived in Nassau and I disembarked around 8:15am and I wore my bathing suit, grabbed my mask, snorkel and towel and headed straight to the wharf just past the arrivals building. There I saw a group of Carnival shore excursion passengers boarding a nice vessel, the M/V Manta, a double deck catamaran, for a 2 ½ hour excursion for snorkeling, clear kayaking, or sea scooter snorkeling. I asked the Captain if I could pay him privately to go snorkeling with the group and he agreed to let me go for $30. He also supplies mask, fins, snorkels, and vests, if you need them. We had an interesting harbor tour while heading out to Rainbow Cay where I had a great time and saw plenty of tropical and colorful fish. I had a refreshing local beer, Kalik, (for $3.00) on our boat journey home. I went back to the ship, showered, and we had lunch at the buffet before heading back to Nassau again. We took the #10 jitney bus towards Fort Charlotte and had the driver let us off at the Cricket Club. The cost for the jitney bus is $1.25 and you pay the driver exact change when you get off. A taxi would have cost $15.00 for the same trip. (You can just use your U.S. money all around Nassau). I have been to Nassau many times, and there is not much there I haven’t seen, so the Cricket Club is my favorite place to just go get a beer, watch sports, and surf the internet for free on the computer there. Across the street is a public beach where my traveling companion went for a little swim while I watched our stuff. We walked back to the ship after stopping at the local Junkanoo Summer festival where we saw crafts, heard bands,drank another Kalik, and sampled some conch fritters that were fabulous. That night we had dinner in the Crossings restaurant and since it was so hard to decide between the lobster and duck, I had both.
On Sunday we spent the day at NCL’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay. I was on the first tender over a little after 8am to try and find a spot in the shade and go snorkeling before the crowds got too large. I have my own snorkeling vest, but if you don’t have one they will require you to rent one for about 6 bucks, even if you have your own snorkeling equipment. The best snorkeling is way over by the rocks where the fish are feeding, and I must say that I did see a good deal of fish. The snorkeling was the best part of being on the island and the BBQ was ok, but nothing to write home about. The beach was crowded by noon and there is a real lack of shade to escape to. The island beach seems much smaller than the nearby RCI island, Coco Cay (which you can see from where we were) and neither of those islands can hold a candle to Disney’s Castaway Cay in terms of size and offerings of activities and options on the island. The best place I found was just past the large new Hippo slide (they charge $20. for kids to have an all day pass to this slide) where I drug a lounge chair up from the beach to a small shady spot. I couldn’t see the ocean well from there, but it did afford a small respite from the blazing sun. I went back to the ship by 2pm and checked out the buffet that had a much better and tastier selection of food than the beach buffet.
We opted for the self-disembarkation on Monday morning and again it was very easy with no wait at all when we left at 8:15am. The Miami traffic is another story, but that isn’t NCL’s fault. I would say the cruise was relaxing,the service friendly and helpful, the food was good, and I had a great time and would definitely consider doing it again. I would say this cruise is comparable to the RCI Monarch of the Seas cruise from Port Canaveral (although the RCI island is better), but not as upscale (or as expensive) as the 3 night Disney cruise, also from Port Canaveral.