I planned this cruise for myself and two girlfriends. We are trying to do a getaway each year and we all met up for this cruise from Atlanta (me), Chicago, and Arizona. I researched a lot and we decided on Miami and this cruise because it fit the dates we needed, but also because the Sky looked like a decent ship and they have a good reputation with gluten free dining (more on that later).
We took a shuttle from Fort Lauderdale (where we stayed for a couple days and did the A1A half marathon, SUPER fun race if you're a runner!) and it was about 25 minutes to the port. We waited for probably 20 minutes at about 11 a.m., and then when our group was called we walked on the ship. They made everything really easy and we were happily eating our buffet lunch on the pool deck within half an hour. It was good....grilled everything and salads for sides. Already better than my one other cruise, on the now defunct Carnival Holiday. Then we changed into our swimsuits (bring a small bag to change if you want, before the rooms are ready) and sat out on the deck in the beautiful Miami weather.
Our rooms were ready just after 2 p.m. as promised. The staterooms are definitely small, but there was enough storage for 3 adult women to be okay in there. We had a large porthole stateroom, and I would do that again (budget, but still a beautiful view). The third bed was not terribly comfy as it was a pull out couch, but we took turns and it was not horrible. It did extend all the way to the desk so was a little tricky in the middle of the night!
Gluten free comments (skip this if you don't care): NCL was COMPLETELY awesome as reviewed by others! I am recently gluten free due to a thyroid disorder and was nervous about it, but as long as they knew in advance that I would be at a certain restaurant ("advance" means the morning of, or the night before), they had everything ready for me.....GF bread, waffles, pizza (even for room service!), and pasta. It was truly amazing, and I actually felt like I was treated BETTER than my friends (we joked about it, that I was the GF queen). The two assistant Maitre D's recognized me and checked in with me every time in all the restaurants. Here's the thing....you DO need to check in with them and plan your meals a bit in advance if you aren't comfortable eating off the buffet. I was just in awe of how they took care of me, and would recommend NCL to anyone with gluten issues.
Dining in general....very good. I am a foodie and eat out all the time in Atlanta, so I am picky if I am going to pay for it. At the cover charge restaurants, the food was definitely a step up. Le Bistro was on par with any good restaurant on land....the desserts were disappointingly hit or miss though (we all agreed the Creme Brulee was well worth it!). My friend got the lobster ($10 more than the cover) and she said it was worth the extra too. I got the salmon which was truly great. If anything, we got too much food since the servers encourage you to order a few if you aren't sure! Il Adagio was also way worth the cover charge ($10). They made me gluten free pasta, and my friends got salmon that was divine. Also on par with a good restaurant on land. Panna cotta was a yummy (GF) dessert there too! The "regular" dining room was good for breakfast but just "okay" for dinner...we only ate there once and then hit the buffet for dinner another time (I got room service pizza) which had a great salad bar and huge variety of things. Most everything I tasted was good if not great (Indian, fajitas, chocolate mousse, crepes for my friend, "real" ice cream as opposed to the soft serve). We did not come expecting crazy gourmet food but we were pleasantly surprised at the quality and for the price of the cruise were happy to pay a smallish amount for dinner.
Drinks! Very fun. Yes, you do need to ask them to not bring the souvenir glass every time and they are not thrilled about that. But the drinks were tasty and strong, and not horribly expensive ($6.50 to $10.50). They also had two for one specials a couple nights with good stuff like Mojitos or margaritas. We are not big drinkers but it was fun to try them on vacation and our bar bill was not huge.
The shows were just okay...kind of fun but they were probably my least favorite part of the ship. No big deal though....there were plenty of things to do. Sadly we didn't really make it to any late night dance things, but there were plenty.
I reviewed the ports separately, but I will say that the private island was nice if you walked about 300 yards out of your way! It was really crowded right where you get off the tender, but if you walk over to the other part there were chairs available! So if you can, go a little farther and have a nice beach day there!
I did not take my kids but it seemed to be very family friendly without being overwhelming. I never experienced crazy kids running all over the ship, just families having a good time.
Disembarkation was no big deal...we carried our luggage off and we did have to carry it kind of a long way, but we breezed through customs and were on our way, very little waiting required.
In general, for the reviews, I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun we had, how courteous and friendly the staff was (with a couple exceptions, but you'll get that!), and how good the food was. I would go on the Sky again for the price, and I will DEFINITELY sail NCL again because of their attention to GF issues and also this really good experience on this ship.