I'm trying hard to be fair, considering this was not a 7 day cruise and therefore the expectations need to be lowered. The Sky was attractive and well maintained and the crew was excellent. I have been on a few 3 or 4 night cruises with NCL and others and also a few 7 day cruises. I was always very pleased with the food in the main dining rooms and buffets in the past but the offerings on the Sky were blah and uninspired. Gone was the famous chocoholic night that had been on every 4+ night NCL cruise I have been on. I never heard the captain's voice on the announcements and I never saw him. I had always enjoyed hearing their accents and the funny things they would say. The cruise director did most of the announcements and was fine but reminded me of the guy on the "Sham Wow" commercials (I stole that from another reviewer when I realized that was the perfect description). Last year we were greated by champagne as we boarded but that has been done away with on all ships. This year it was like going to a yard sale (another stolen description) with the crew hawking things for you to buy as they had you herded through the rooms and they had you "trapped".
We are Latitudes members but didn't receive an invitation to a gathering and to be honest, we didn't pursue it. Just another thing that was missing. It really made us wonder if the captain took "a vacation". We were really catered to on the Pearl last year and the crew put on a Cruise Critic reception for us. A world of difference between 4 and 7 days.
Embarkment: very efficient- A+ on that.
Room: Well kept and clean and the stewards never introduced themselves but always provided anything we asked for. The TV and hairdryer were pretty old and there was no in room coffee pot. Don't expect any bathroom amenities like in the past. The room was freezing and we had the thermostat set as high as it would go- just a weird + and - dial. Comfy bed though.
Dining: Service was very good. This is a picky detail that reflects NCL has adjusted not only tangible but procedures also. Every waiter on a cruise always used his/her little scraper to clean up any crumbs from the breads. That is gone. I think NCL just has learned that their population doesn't expect superior service. Another notable difference was that the servers did not bring around trays of baked goods at breakfast. Just another little thing that is gone. The servers were all efficient and friendly, though.
The food was generally boring and uninspired. What more can I say? I am that person who takes photos of ALL of my food because, well, I'm a foodie. I can't think of any memorable foods. One irritating thing was that we went to LeBistro and I ordered Coc au vin (sp?) and it was served the next night ONLY at the Crossings (one of the free main dining rooms). Gee, I paid $20 for that meal! BTW- the meal was NOT worth $20 extra PP plus another extra tip.
Selling: While there WAS an increase in the crew trying to sell things, I thought they were not pushy and wasn't too bothered by it. I noted fewer bartenders asking us constantly about drinks. I think the staff must be fatigued! The one irritating thing was the selling of roses "for your lady" all over the place. I just took the initiative to tell them no rather than my husband being put in an awkward spot. And what are you supposed to do with those rose/s in your room?
Entertainment: The singers/dancers were very good and enjoyable. The shows were NOT packed as on some sailings. The comedian, Rich Purpura was pretty bad and corny.
Prism was very good and got the crowd moving immediately. Surprising on this sailing, I didn't see any "weirdos", like the crazy old lady last year who liked to show her undies and was best described as "flamboyant".
Passengers: I have to say this was the best behaved group I've sailed with, maybe because I tend to shut down at midnight. The kids were fine and with the adults, no overt overdrinking. Who can afford it? The group was fun too.
Dress Code: I have come to the point where the relaxed code is appreciated and it also helps me pack lighter. There is no effort to enforce the dress code on NCL and I've accepted that. No one was way out of line, though. They shouldn't put any guidelines in the dailies if they aren't going to be enforced. We are happy to not have to do tux/suits, formal attire.
The Outrigger Lounge was pretty poorly used. We went there just once during a lull and there were about 10 people doing Karaoke. I noted they used that lounge several times for Karaoke. What a waste! Of course, Karaoke is free, so I see where the NCL is going with lots of Karaoke!
The exercise facility was very nice and not overcrowded anytime I was there. Bring your own headphones to use the TV- just like at gyms.
Ports: I think Freeport is not a good choice and should be dropped. I would stay on the ship next time.
Nassau has a number of things to do and everyone needs to see Atlantis once.
The private island was wonderful and our best day. We noted from the ship that there is some major construction going on in the center of the island. I vote for TWO days there and skip Freeport!
If I had the private island to do over, I would get there early before the crowds (we did), take the tender back to the ship for lunch as the island picnic was minimal. I'd come back to the island after lunch until they kicked me out.
Debarkation was very efficient. I recommend just taking your own bag out that morning and you don't have any worries. Learn to pack light!
I wouldn't be in a hurry to come back on a cruise to the Bahamas. There are tons of Floridians and large family groups so those of us who travel with few people are really outnumbered. I envy that they get those great deals, though.
I have been a pretty loyal NCL customer only straying a few times, but this cruise made me kind of sad. Yes, I'll still cruise but the sparkle and wow factor are gone. Dining is like going to Bob Evans and there was nothing special that made me really take notice. Gone are the special programs or lectures being replaced by some effort to separate you from your money. I also feel that I can't recommend NCL to my good friends as the stories from past cruises no longer describe the experience of today's cruises. I've lowered my expectations, know how things are done and have adapted and will select cruises just based on destinations. The ship will just be my traveling Holiday Inn. Truly, I would be willing to pay $100 for a four day and $200 more for a seven day cruise with higher standards.