We flew Southwest to Fort Lauderdale from Nashville on Thursday evening (Feb. 16). Stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66. Booked via Priceline bidding. Won it for $70. Very happy with the hotel. We were given two beds as requested. Also we were upgraded to the Tower and an ocean view. Very large balcony. Sixth-floor room overlooked a rooftop but also the tennis courts, intercoastal waterway and the ocean.
Made arrangements to leave at 11:45 a.m. Used my usual guy, Ricky Aguero, who I have posted about before for transportation to and from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. I highly recommend him. Made a stop at a convenience store to purchase some Diet Cokes for the trip. Had no problem carrying these on but they were loose in a bag and at the initial security stop, they wanted to inspect. Checked our carry-ons as we were carrying six bottles of wine.
We previously sailed on the Sky Labor Day weekend 2010. This trip was meant to push us over the Platinum level in Latitudes. After the revamping of Latitudes were had 75 points and Gold Status. We were one point away. We were not expecting any Latitudes perks since no perks are given on shorter cruises. Was quite surprised to get two plates of chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to the cabin early evening on Embarkation Day. This was our eighth NCL cruise.
Just checked today and our accounts have already been updated to reflect our new status. Goal met. That was our main purpose. If we ended up having great food, wine and warmer temps, just all the better. We had it all and I have a great tan to boot! What a great escape. The weather was perfect. Drinks were cold and we had some amazing sunsets. Also, won trivia twice!
Here is the link to the perks in case anybody needs it: http://www2.ncl.com/latitudes-rewards/rewards-points-and-benefits
Check in was quick and easy. Probably ten minutes or less. We had priority embarkation but all the lines were pretty even.
Ship was in very good shape. Sure there are touches of rust here and there. It is an older ship. Crews were doing touch-up paint and cleaning. Was surprised that we didn't get the "Washy, Washy" like our previous cruise on the Sun in June. Only had that one time this go around. Hand sanitizer stations were all around.
Cabin: #9250, mid ship balcony. Great location for midship and aft activities. Room was small but still comfortable for three people.
Our 14-year-old son slept on the pullout sofa. It was comfortable. Our cabin stewardess did say if it was not comfortable enough to let her know after the first night. The only problem with this arrangement was we were not able to get into the mini bar without having to put away the sofa. It was, however, an improvement over the sofa bed from our previous Sky trip. That bed (can't really call it that) had horrible, noisy springs and was torture to sleep on.
Drawer space was at a premium but again for a short trip, it is completely doable. Mostly used hangers. Managed to overpack by a few pieces but not much. Brought along a pop up hamper (Dollar Tree, $1) were we put dirty clothes in the closet. Asked for and received two waffle robes.
Had to ask for our mini bar to be opened via a note left on the bed. Also, we only had towels and beach towels for two, not three people. Didn't see our cabin stewardess until late on Day 1. To her credit, everything I mentioned in the note was taken care of. She also washed our wine glasses daily. The television was a 13-inch tube but reception was clear with a variety of channels.
Balcony was a nice size with two chairs and one small round table. We were starboard side and had a lovely view. I did bring along some Clorox-type wipes because that is just how I am. Was glad because our little round table had tanning/bronzer on it. Cleaned it right up and it was white again.
Also, if you want your mini bar to remain open until embarkation, tell your cabin steward, otherwise it will be locked. I didn't bother having her remove the items from the mini bar and merely rearranged myself and added drinks to the fridge as needed.
Definitely check the water temperature in the shower as it seemed like it was poorly regulated, really too hot most of the time even when on the coldest setting.
Announcements (made in English and Spanish) were heard from the space coming under the cabin door. Before going to bed on Day No. 2, I pushed all of our beach towels into the crack. Still heard some loudmouths running down the hall and cussing in the middle of the night despite ear plugs.
We dined at Crossings, LeBistro and Longboard's for dinner. Did the buffet and Great Outdoors for lunch as well as the BBQ at Great Stirrup Cay. Food was excellent and plentiful. If a pan was getting low, it was replenished quickly.
We had mild wings and fish and chips at Longboard's and my husband said it was the best we have ever had on an NCL ship. Son and I agreed. We liked them so much we ordered a second order of 10 mild wings. Artichoke dip was tasty but it was only about 1/3 cup with 10-12 round corn chips. Looked lost on the plate.
At Crossings, we ate dinner on the first night around 8 p.m. and there was no wait for our party of three. Service was excellent. I had the thinly sliced beef loin and it was excellent. I even liked my son's rosemary chicken better than mine (every night choice). My husband ordered the same beef dish as myself but added the lobster tail for a "Surf and Turf" dinner. Here comes a second tail compliments of the waiter and assistant waiter. Key lime pie, cheesecake and bread and butter pudding rounded off the meal. It was really good and we finished in plenty of time to make the show that evening - "Soul Rockin' Nights."
Chocolate croissants were heavenly as usual. Always found these at The Great Outdoors. Garden Cafe very crowded so we would head out to The Great Outdoors instead.
My son really enjoyed the wok station and had this two or three times. Plenty of sugar-free dessert options were available at the buffet. We would also run up and get a plate of cheese, crackers, olives to enjoy with our wine on the balcony.
People still congregate on one side though a majority of the same items are available on the other.
Pretzel rolls and sticks were available for lunch and dinner in the buffet.
Never got to hit the chocolate fondue fountain or ice cream parlor this time around but it was open. Soft-serve ice cream (vanilla, chocolate and swirl) was available pool side. During lunch, this area has ready-made sandwiches, a panini of the day and you can also make your own custom sandwich. Chips available too. Other fixings like cole slaw, Greek salad and cous cous salad were available on the buffet.
During the Nassau stop, a Mexican taco bar was set up on the pool deck. Also, there was a sailaway BBQ on Embarkation Day.
Bad: At two different times, I saw individuals taking food with their hands.
"Soul Rockin' Nights" didn't blow me away. The lead singers were .... I don't know what to say. They tried, however. Liked the music just not their interpretations.
Comedian Andrew Kennedy was pretty funny on the second night. We were seated in the front, left-hand side and discovered a door that led us to the Promenade. Allowed us to leave very quickly instead of trying to make our way back up the aisle and out.
Didn't bother making it to the Farewell Show on the last night but it was supposed to encompass the entertainers from the previous two nights. They were also doing the "Fountains" routine. Have seen that several times. Cruise director Johnny Cash Sanchez was good. If not mistaken, I think he emceed the "Perfect Couple" show that my husband and I participated in back on the Sun three years ago. There was also the Newlywed/Not So Newlywed Game, Quest, the Perfect Couple, Deal or No Deal (twice) and a Toga Party.
Great Stirrup Cay: It was an absolutely perfect day. Sun was out, drinks were cold (as well as the water) and the sky was blue. Love the improvements made so far and when completed (end of this year), it will be amazing. The new tender dock has only been open since Feb. 2. There will be space for four tenders. There is a pavilion with bench seating, fans, cold water etc. Saw a garbage can that said "used face towels only" and it was full. Because we were some of the last to leave, I assume all the cold towels had already been given out as we didn't get any. Arriving at the new dock, it feels like a completely different place. Nice new buildings, good signage. Walked past all that and finally saw Great Stirrup as I remember it from my previous four trips.
Plenty of activities like ping pong, volleyball, a limbo contest, family scagenger hunt and sand castle building. Caribbean Wave played also.
The new food pavilion is very nicely done. The BBQ had great jerk chicken, beans and rice, burgers, hot dogs , rum pineapple bread, banana bread etc. It is laid out much better than before. There is also a pizza oven. Plenty of spaces to sit and eat. Some people didn't have the courtesy to clean up after themselves and throw away their plates. The Straw Market buildings are very nice....Little cabanas. Didn't buy anything though as the selection seemed like the typical stuff. Also didn't want my hair to be braided. Cash only is accepted at the Straw Market. Everything else on the island goes on your shipboard account.
Cabanas that can be rented are going to be built but nothing has been done so far. According to the new map of Great Stirrup Cay, they will be going along the left-hand side. Couldn't venture over there because the area was roped off because of a private group.
Tender ticket distribution began at 9 a.m. in Dazzles. Last tender is at 4:30 p.m.
Nassau: Decided to stay on the ship and enjoy it. We have been to Nassau numerous times and didn't want to spend the money to go to a beach resort when the ship would do just fine. I still had Diet Cokes so no reason to get off and purchase any additional. The day was beautiful. We had great spots by the pool and just vegged in the pools and hot tubs.
Pub Hop (Pub Crawl) is alive and well.
Five bars, five drinks in 55 minutes. $25. Signups began at 5:45 p.m. and the Pub Hop began at 6 p.m. in Breakers Bar, Pool Deck 11 midship. We didn't participate in this one but came upon the group at Longboards. Probably 40-50 people participating. We followed them around to a couple of the bars. People had a great time. Drinks were served in plastic cups.
Sky Club Casino - Didn't make it there either on this trip. Embarkation day there were free gaming lessons and rum punch from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Sign ups for your Casinos at Sea player's card is free. There was a raffle for a 5:45 p.m. drawing. The Casino is located on Deck 7, mid.
Internet - Embarkation Special. Purchase time plan today and receive up to 10 minutes free. This is the same offer that is in the coupons that NCL sends out. You don't need the coupon to take advantage. Wireless access is available on decks 6, 7 and 11. We didn't have any signal in our cabin and had to go to the Internet Cafe on Deck 7 Aft to access.
Pizza delivery: Saw several people partaking in this and they looked very satisfied. One couple had their pizza delivered poolside. The pizza was delivered in one of those thermal bags so it remained very hot. It actually came in a classy looking cardboard box if there is such a thing: solid black with red lettering. During lunch, free pizza (and pasta) also available at Il Adagio. I only saw one group eating there the entire cruise.
Exercise room -- Five treadmills were out of order. Husband had to wait several times in order to use.
Buckets of beer. Still buy five and get one free in open deck bars. We also had this on GSC.
There was a sign advertising two for one martinis in the Plantation Club. The sign was posted at the staircase on Deck 12 by the elevators.
Day One Daily Special: Painkiller, $7.95; Day Two: Going Coconuts, $7.95.
Sailaway Special: Bon Voyage $8.50 served in souvenir glass.
Viva Vino Package: 20 percent off selected wine, Dazzles Nightclub and Pool Deck.
Fresh roses available in Crossings and Palace Main Dining Rooms every night.
Lifeboat Drill: 4:30 p.m. on Embarkation Day. Services closed at 4 p.m. Makeup sessions were held every day in Captain's Cook.
Majority Rules Game Show: 9 p.m. Embarkation Day, Dazzles.
Karaoke: 10 p.m. to midnight, Outrigger Lounge
70s Groove Dance Party: 11 p.m. Dazzles Nightclub, Deck 6, mid.
White Hot Party Drink Special: Moet and Chandon Ice. The WHP was held later than I have seen on any NCL ship -- 11 p.m. with the after party starting at 12:30 a.m.
Bottled Water Package: Six bottles for $21.95 (all open bars)
Behind the Scenes tour: Fee applies. Go to Guest Services for details. Have to sign up by 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.
There were a lot of families onboard or large groups. It seems like they were accommodated with huge tables in Cagney's or the dining rooms. Saw this also in the Freestyle Daily so this may be helpful if you are part of such a group.
"Traveling in a group: Let us arrange your dinners, gatherings and other tips to make it smooth sailing for your entire party. Visit Guest Services on Deck Five for more information and assistance."
Disembarkation: Disembarkation began at 7:45 a.m. Everybody was off by 9 a.m. Left the "Do Not Disturb" sign on our cabin door and grabbed a quick breakfast at The Great Outdoors. Came back and got our suitcases, left at 8:30 and was out the doors waiting for our driver, Ricky, by 8:35 a.m.
In retrospect, if sailing on the Sky again, I will declare my wine after going through security instead of letting it be delivered and sent to the Naughty Room. We have no problem paying the corkage fee. We just didn't want to check our bags at Captain's Cook until the rooms were ready and didn't want to deal with pulling them around. Turns out the cabins were all ready by 1 p.m.!
Security on the Sky has found 12 of my 12 bottles of wine in two sailings. They know what they are doing. Also, someone pulled the "I just have a bottle of iced tea - that's all." They are onto this trick as well. You could clearly see the seal had been broken. Liquor purchases made onboard are allowed to be picked up on Monday morning before you leave the ship. Also, confiscated alcohol (IN ORIGINAL CONTAINERS) is also picked up Monday morning but at a slightly different time.
Back to the Naughty Room: I saw the bar staff putting letters on the cabin doors as we were leaving for our muster drill. Knew ours was forthcoming. Sure enough, it was there when we returned. We always go early to the Naughty Room to beat the crowd. This time around, there were four ahead of us and we were there at 4:45 p.m. They would not open until 5 p.m. exactly.
Turns out they had floors 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 go to one room and floors 9 and 10 to another. I moved up a couple of spots. when the announcement was made. I think the bar staff member setting up was new as he kept moving the table back and forth, shutting the doors etc. Just didn't seem to know what he was doing.The official security people showed up and put on their plastic gloves. There was a big line behind us and another long line at the second Naughty Room.
The first lady up had a suitcase full of formula, diapers, rubber duckie, water bottles. Each bottle was inspected for bubbles etc. I should note that our letter did indicate what was found -- six bottles of wine. I told them that I had wine and wanted to pay the corkage fee. They just kept saying "You want to pay the corkage fee?" like it was such a surprise that someone wanted to do so. We had three carry on-sized suitcases with two bottles each. I had to open and produce each bottle. They did help put the wine back into the suitcases folding in T-shirts etc.
When taking wine to the dining room or bar, you are going to be asked your room number. Went to get some glasses at Longboard's and the bartender asked for our cabin number immediately and took the sticker off the bottle. They are definitely double checking to make sure the corkage is paid. This is also how the server will get his $5 share of the fee.
To summarize, had a great time on the Sky. Wouldn't hesitate to sail on her again. Love NCL and everything about the line.