We recently returned home from a very nice short 4 day cruise on the NCL Sky.
To give you a little background, we are a family of 4 and this was our 9th cruise and 5th on NCL. We have cruised with NCL, HAL, Carnival and Princess.
Considering this was a short cruise and the Sky is almost 12 years old our expectations were not that high. We expected more of a party cruise but when reflecting back on our cruise experience it seemed like just a shorter 7 day cruise.
Embarkation- Easy and well done. We parked our rental car across the street for $20 per day. Immediately got on line and was aboard ship within 15 minutes.
The Ship- For a 12 year old ship the Sky was surprisingly in very good shape. She was clean, pretty well laid out and looked a lot younger than her years. Although the ship was booked and probably had a little over 2000 passengers, she did not feel crowded. Her cabins, however, are among the smallest of the ships still cruising on the mainstream cruise-lines. The 2 main dining rooms were attractive and comfortable. The show lounge was typical of ships built in the 1990s or early 2000's. The atrium lobby was very pretty with sliding glass elevators something no longer available on newer NCL ships. The pools and spas were also typical of ships from that era.
The cabin- We booked 2 category "F" ocean view cabins next door to each other. Cabin numbers 6209 and 6210 were on the Oslo deck which is sort of a weird deck between the 6th and 7th decks. There is no elevator service to this in between deck but since we have no mobility issues they were fine. The cabins were on the small side at approximately 149 sq feet but they were functional.
These 2 cabins had port hole windows that did not open. We upgraded from 2 inside cabins because they measured a minuscule 112 sq feet.
The entertainment- My family attended several shows and found them enjoyable but nothing out of the ordinary. I attended the comedian/magician show and he was funny. The pool band was quite good. They made you feel like you were on a real Caribbean/Bahamas cruise vacation.
The MDR food- I have to admit our family had very good dining
experiences on the Sky. We ate all but 1 meal in the 2 MDR and found the menu selection, taste and service to be quite good. NCL seems to have a reputation of having inferior MDR food and selections compared to the other cruise-lines but in 5 NCL cruises we have NOT found this to be true. Of course we you do freestyle dining, you risk having an off day on service, but with the exception on the debarkation breakfast, we had very acceptable service.
Service- With the exception of a meal hear or there we have always found the NCL crew to be friendly and attentive. MDR service was surprisingly good considering this is an older and short cruise ship. Our cabin steward was excellent!
Ports of Call- Freeport.... not impressed at all with this island. Was here before so we just got off the ship and shopped a little at the cruise port terminal. We stayed on board for much of the day and took advantage of the pool and sundeck.
Nassau- Unlike some, we really like this port and have been here several times. We decided to book the Comfort Suites and had a full family day of fun and sun at Atlantis. We paid $225 for the room and with taxes and gratuities and fees actually paid $308.00. This gave us access to everything in Atlantis and saved us approximately $300 if we would have booked on board. The price on board was either $149 or $159pp can't remember which. The cab to CS/Atlantis was $4pp each way + tip. The weather was sunny and about 85 degrees (for the entire cruise) and we went down slides, swam in the pools , walked the beach, and visited the digs. We got off the ship about 9:15am, arrived at CS at about 9:45, and got our bracelets/towels and chaise lounges at about 10am. We left to go back to the ship at about 4:15pm arriving at the ship at about 4:45 pm and ship was scheduled to depart at 6pm.
Great Stirrup Cay- This was our 2nd time at GSC and we learned alot from our first visit. On our first visit back in 2004 on the NCL Dawn, we got off the tender and then found our lounges nearby and remained there the entire time. We snorkeled and swam and ate and had a nice time but we felt crowded.
This time- the island is being expanded. The tender came in on a separate left side of the island. We walked to the far side and since had already had alot of sun on the trip we found 4 lounges in the shade away from the crowds. We rented 2 floats, brought our own life jackets and snorkel equipment and did some water activities and ate leisurely. Had a much better time.
Negatives? If I had to nit pick, I am still not impressed with guest relations on NCL ships. On this Sky trip we only had one very small problem and it was not handled well. When we booked our cruise with an On-line Agency our deal came with a $50 OBC, bottle of wine and free photo voucher per cabin. On the first night of the cruise we found the voucher for the OBC and the bottle of wine and voucher but no voucher for the photo. So the following morning (1st full day) we went to guest relations and told her about the missing photo voucher. She looked us up on the computer and said the computer shows no record of a free photo. She asked me if I had any proof or a receipt of my final bill that shows the photo voucher. I told her I did but I didn't have it on me and she said that if I went back to my cabin and showed it to her there should be no problem. So I went back to my cabin, went under my bed to search through my luggage and found the final bill. I went back to guest relations spoke to the same woman and showed her the final paid receipt and booking complete with the OBC, wine and photo. She looks at it, compares it with her computer information and says "I'm sorry but the computer doesn't show the photo". No big deal! I didn't need the photo but why make me go back to my cabin and go through the trouble of finding her request and then waiting on line again to bring it to her only to get the same answer. I don't think we are talking about more than a dollar or two but NCL should have just given us the voucher- if not for owing it to me then for just making me go through the hassle and time of finding the receipt.
Also we were not that impressed with Cagney's Steak house. We have dined in most of NCL's alternative restaurants on other ships including Tex Mex, Italian, Hibachi and Le Bistro and was either quite satisfied or impressed. Our favorite is Le Bistro which we ate on the Dawn and Gem. At Cagney's, the atmosphere was somewhat compromised by having a walkway outside the restaurant. So instead of having a beautiful picture window view of the ocean we continue to have adults and kids walking in front of our view through out the meal. Also,we didn't appreciate the surcharge on top of the $25pp surcharge if you wanted certain menu items such as lobster or porterhouse steak.
Both of these negatives were very small nit picks in an overall very nice cruise experience.
Finally IMHO NCL continues to be the value leader among the mainstream cruise-lines. The fact that I can get 2 Ocean-view cabins on a holiday week for about $72pp per day ($62pp pd for inside) is not much more than I would pay for dining out and staying home.
We highly recommend the NCL SKY if need a short 3 or 4 day getaway.