3 day Bahamas cruise on the Sky. Introductory cruise for my 20 year old daughter, and a happy birthday present to me! I have cruised a few times before, the most recent being last summer on the Carnival Destiny. The Sky was not my best experience, though not a horrible one by far. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale, and were met at baggage claim by NCL reps who guided us to the shuttle. The cost is about $25 per person to the Port of Miami, which you need to arrange for ahead of time. Smooth, no problems, but about a 45 minute wait for the shuttle to arrive. We got into Ft. L at about 11:00 a.m., and were lunching on the ship by 1:00 p.m. We were shocked to see what looked like a thousand people waiting outside the embarkation office when we arrived at the port, but they were actually waiting for the Dawn, not the Sky. Our embarkation took less than 10 minutes.
Ship Info - The Sky is recently remodeled, and the remodeling left the footprint of the ship rather awkward. You are pretty much constantly walking to the opposite end of the ship for whatever you want to do. It is very clean, showing a tad of wear (loose trim on the bedside tables, worn material on the sofa), and very colorful. The layout is not the best. The buffet is awkwardly positioned, and does not have abundant seating because it only takes up one side of the ship. Plenty of seating outside, but this could be a real problem if the weather was bad, or lots of people were eating at once. Our stateroom was an oceanview with a large port hole. It was fine for daughter and I for this short cruise, but I prefer a balcony. Room was clean, bathroom roomy for a cabin this small. Be aware that deck 4 is the lowest cabin deck, and you will hear engine noise if your cabin is on this deck. This is a smaller ship than some, and we really felt it rocking back and forth. Be sure to take Bonine or some sort of seasickness medicine. You WILL feel this boat move!
Activities/Entertainment - We played a few dollars in the casino, which was generally pretty busy when it was open. Saw one show in the theater, the Broadway one. It was excellent. We heard that the comedian was hysterical, but never made it to one of his shows. We did see him out and about around the ship several times and he was always friendly. Didn't really do any of the other on board activities. Be prepared to be photographed every time you turn around. Photos are available for sale, and relatively expensive. No pressure to buy them, however.
Service - Never even met our room steward, although the room was straightened daily. This was different to me, as on previous cruises the person in charge of your room generally at least introduces themselves to you. Everyone on the crew was friendly and spoke as they passed you in the hallway, etc., but I have no idea who our steward/stewardess was. Towel animal on the bed only 1 night, which was a bit of a disappointment to my daughter. Previous cruises had them nightly. It did get a bit annoying having different bar staff ask every 2 minutes if we wanted drinks whenever we sat down anywhere out by the pool.
Dining - LOVED the Freestyle dining! It was great to be able to eat when we wanted, and where we wanted. The food was average everywhere, dining rooms or buffet. We didn't try any of the restaurants on board that charged a fee. If you're a foodie, you'll be disappointed in the fare. However, I'm happy to eat and not have to cook, so although the food was average at best, it was still better than having to cook it myself!
Excursions - Nassau was fine, took no paid excursions there. Shopped the market area, then took the ferry to Paradise Island, ($6 round trip, about 10 minute ride) to see Atlantis. Very cool place, but didn't have much time to look around. Great Stirrup Cay was a waste in my book. I LOVE the beach, but be aware that EVERYTHING here will cost you, except sitting on the beach and eating lunch. I paid $70 for snorkel gear for the 2 of us, which we got to use for about an hour before the sky blackened and we were advised to return to the ship. Once back on the ship, however, the skies cleared (of course) but returning to the island would not have gotten our gear back for the rest of the day, so we stayed on the ship. I will try from now on to skip cruises with a "private island" option. They're strictly money makers.
Disembarkation - completely painless. We carried our bags off ourselves, although you could have chosen to have them taken off for you. Since we traveled carry-on, it was simple. Walked off the ship, through customs, and out to a car rental shuttle in about 10 minutes time.
Highlights - The spa offered a special one day of $99 for 4 different treatments. Since it was my birthday cruise, I splurged and DD and I indulged. It was heavenly! Of course they try to sell you the products they used, but were not pushy at all. It was a lovely hour for each of us. The quiet area on the pool deck at the front of the ship is nice. It was never crowded and the view is lovely. Nice late night buffet with outside seating.
Lowlights - The food. As I said, average at best. It wasn't a make or break for me, because I would be happy to sail with NCL again, just based on the Freestyle experience. But when you order steak in the dining room 3 different times, and each time it is more fat than meat? Maybe it needs shaping up. Also, understand that EVERYTHING costs you. DD and I wanted to have a fancy drink one night. I ordered a strawberry daiquiri, and a virgin one for her as she doesn't drink. I knew I would be charged for them, but $8.50 apiece, when hers didn't even have booze in it? I thought that was a bit much. Photos, etc. seemed pricier than other cruises I've been on as well.
All in all, a nice weekend getaway. I was not disappointed overall, but just a few things rubbed me the wrong way. I will definitely sail with NCL again, but on a bigger ship and skip the private island day.