Well let me start out by saying I have noticed there is a large difference between short cruises and long cruises. The two short cruises we have taken one with Carnival and this one have been a much poorer quality than the long one we took. That said in comparison to our Carnival cruise this one was much better but still lacking in many ways.
Overall you cannot beat cruising for the value. You get hotel, food, entertainment, childcare, and transportation at an unbelievable price. However I think NCL is cutting a few to many corners and dropping the ball in the customer service department.
Now specifically the SKY experience. I loved the port of Miami. It was very easy to find and we stayed at the Holiday Inn Port side and were able to see our ship come in. What fun that was. Boarding was a breeze. The crew who checked us in were awesome I wish I could have taken them on the ship with us and gotten that kind of service the entire trip.
We were greeted with Champaign but no map of the ship and I had to hunt down a Freestyle Daily. The cabins were not ready till precisely 2pm. We were able to drop off our stuff much earlier in the Dawn.
Cabin: Cabin was sufficient for a short cruise but much too small for a long one. Bathroom was tiny. Storage was very limited we kept most of our stuff in suitcase under bed. The beds were very comfortable and room was clean. We did meet the cabin steward and gave him a stocking on Christmas.
Entertainment: We found the ship-produced entertainment to be not nearly a good as on the Dawn. The stage was very small because of the size of the ship and the dancers and singers were not as good. The hired entertainment was very good, as we have found on all of our cruises. Rich Purpura the comedian was very funny and Dave Morgan guitar player singer was excellent. The Christmas Eve party was poorly planed and not overly festive but better than the St. Patrick's day party on the Dawn. The poolside band was ok but not nearly as good as others we have heard. The evening parties were not poolside they were inside which made them less fun I think.
Kids Crew: Staff very friendly. Daughter complained that children were poorly behaved and this interrupted activities. We did not have a lot of time to participate because it was a holiday cruise.
Food: Food ranged from excellent to poor. Appetizers were often better than meal. We did not eat at any specialty restaurants. Service in main dinning areas was very very slow and unorganized. They had plenty of staff but could not get anything done. We had a very hard time eating a complete meal without missing most of the evening activities. We often ate our meals in parts and often missed dessert entirely. We only ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Meals were acceptable but not great. What you would expect form a buffet. It was very hard to get an early lunch nothing was available until noon. All restaurants and the buffet closed by 10 or 10:30. The Longboard bar was the only place to get food after that. Their menu was the same as the Blue Lagoon on the Dawn but the food was terrible in comparison.
Overall ship: In very good shape for its age. As with all NCL ships it takes a while to figure out. Pool area was sufficient for size. Hot tubs were fairly hot and open late. Coffee bar is in a poor location. Much of the ship is under used and NCL should look at rearranging things. Clean and bright I did not mind the Hawaiian feel.
Port: We were not impressed with Nassau and would most likely not go back there. Our Sailing excursion was canceled the first day because of high winds. We did not leave Nassau to go to the private island because the next day was to be windy as well. The captain secured us a slot to stay in Nassau an extra day. There were 3 NCL ships there. They did not announce this very well and we were all settled into the hot tub before we knew. We may have went back out had we know sooner.
Excursions: Because our self-booked excursion was cancelled we booked the Atoll Island snorkel through NCL. This was very poorly run and the age and swimming requirements were not adhered to. Many of the people on this trip were not able to swim well enough. That aside we did enjoy the reef and were impressed with what we saw. The weather was poor but at least we were able to snorkel. We have taken 2 NCL excursions and booked our own and have found booking our own or exploring on our own to be a much more rewarding experience and a better use of our time.
Christmas: We were on the ship for Christmas and Hanukkah and found it to be lacking in festivities. There were about 8 Christmas trees and at least that many Ginger bread houses but we did not see a Menorah anywhere. There was very soft Christmas music being played in only one of the restaurants. They did have quite a few activities happening on Christmas Eve however due to the very slow dinning service it was hard to attend more than one. They had caroling which we missed due to dinner then a Christmas party which was more big band dancing than Christmas and a Midnight service, which we did not attend. On Christmas Day they had Santa and Gifts for all the children in the Kids Crew including the teens. This was nice. There was very little else happening Christmas day different from any other day.
Medical office: My daughter did become ill on Christmas night. We took her to the medical office after 11:00, which was nice they were open. They gave her an injection to stop nausea, which must have worked because she was fine till the next morning. They were not overly informative or personable but it was a free service, which I did not expect. I did have a hard time reaching them using the automated phone.
Leaving the ship was uneventful. We had gray tags because we drove and wanted to take our time leaving. We waited till there was little to no line and got off. The process was a little slow but ok. We were happy to discover Customs did not care that we purchased much more alcohol than allowed. For Christmas gifts of course. We expected to be charged and were not.
Things I missed from previous cruises: Coffee mugs at coffee bar, Dinning dress code, can do attitude by staff, food after midnight, large dessert selection in buffet, music on pool deck, spa pool, more days, Blue Lagoon food (longboard was awful), Mexican food, good theater with big stage and good shows.
Things I enjoyed: meeting CC friends, Teen smoothie pass (best value NCL offers), longer hot tub hours and more hot tubs, Dave Morgan, comedian, no snow, Tortuga Rum!!
I try to be optimistic and find the best in things. Had this not been a Christmas cruise I would have felt we got what we paid for and had a good time. Being a holiday cruise I feel NCL was lacking. I also feel their overall customer service was lacking. The layout of the ship, poor dinner service and all the activities being offered in a 4-hour block make it very hard to enjoy the total experience. We love the Freestyle aspect of NCL but we found on this cruise Freestyle was very limited and you had to choose between dessert and evening activities. We will be exploring other Cruise lines for future Cruises.
Ocean view Clean, Bright, tiny, little storage, Comfy beds. Smallest bathroom we have had. Liked the 2 pulley men beds. Doors narrow and shower small and round, would be hard for a large person.