10 Norwegian Sky Caribbean - Southern Cruise Reviews

My husband and I cruised on the Norwegian Sky. The ports of call were exceptional. The two excursions we booked with NCL were adequate as well. If you're looking for excursions that involve snorkeling and kayaking as we did then I ... Read More
My husband and I cruised on the Norwegian Sky. The ports of call were exceptional. The two excursions we booked with NCL were adequate as well. If you're looking for excursions that involve snorkeling and kayaking as we did then I guess it's best to use the "excursion" desk. However if you have researched where you would like to sightsee on an island then getting off the ship and hailing a taxi can be just as rewarding. We have been to many Caribbean islands and have always had great experiences with local drivers. They have lots of interesting information and generally cost less than booking with the ship. Remember the ship gets a cut. You can also have the satisfaction of knowing your putting your money straight into the hands that could use it most. The service on the boat was adequate overall. If service was really exceptional we directly tipped the employee. I think it's more humane to include the tipping in the cost anyway and liked that NCL does it that way. On one day they ran out of ice-cream. The juice machines were out of service the entire cruise. The last night there were not enough color coded luggage tags for disembarkation. You have to ask yourself how can a business as large as this not know how much to order. The food was adequate as well, sometime better than average. We somehow managed to try every eatery including the ones you pay extra for. Actually they were not significantly better then the other restaurants, but they did have a nice ambiance. We had a balcony and it was great. I will never cruise again without one. It makes a huge difference. My biggest complaint is with NCLs booking and Club ABC Tours. Although I booked the trip in Sept. 03. NCL did not book our air until March 22, 04. As a result our flying time went from 4 to 8 hours both ways with stop overs, when a multitude of direct flights exist. This was for spring break week. We were not able to get on the boat until 9PM, the boat left at 10PM. Going home we were trapped in the airport for 5 hours before out 8 hour flying time even began. Never let NCL book your air. It's all about the money. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Overall, our vacation was great. We really enjoyed ourselves. The weather for the most part was beautiful. And since we were there with 4 other couples, it was a great time. However, we were very disappointed with the Norwegian Sky. ... Read More
Overall, our vacation was great. We really enjoyed ourselves. The weather for the most part was beautiful. And since we were there with 4 other couples, it was a great time. However, we were very disappointed with the Norwegian Sky. Although the main areas of the ship were very nice, the service was terrible. Our cabin was tiny (in comparison to my inside cabin on Celebrity), lacked storage space and the bedspread was dingy. They were not good about cleaning the cabin, turning down the bed, changing towels. They left a bucket of ice in the room every day, but no water pitcher. We didn't get towel animals until Tim finally spoke to the room steward on our last day. We also had problems with the food service. Breakfast was a disaster almost every morning -- long lines, not enough food, runny eggs, no omelette or waffle stations until someone complained, and then when they were out, the closed earlier than listed in the daily newsletter. The 24 hour pizza service was also horrible, burnt pizza, not enough to serve so you were always waiting and when you finally got to the counter, they'd only give you half a slice in order to try and accommodate the crowd. The ice cream service was also horrible -- again, long lines, the soft serve machines rarely worked, it was only open for a short period of time each day, the ice cream was melty, and when Tim tried to get ice cream for the both of us, he had to argue with them about getting 2 cups. The outside BBQ every day was also pretty bad -- overcooked burgers and ribs, they would run out of buns, cookies, etc. The dining room experience overall was good, once we found a good waiter. The first night our friends ate at one of the dining rooms and had a great experience (we didn't board until late, so we were not there). Our second night, we chose a different dining room to discover that it had the same exact menu. We though with the free style cruising that the menus would be different. We soon discovered that the menu was only different at the three other restaurants that require additional cover charge. The two free dining rooms (those included in the price of the cruise) were identical. Anyway, the second night experience was horrible. We were there for over 3 hours and ended up missing the show that night. So the third night we decided to go back to the original dining room and try and get the same waiter as the first night. However, we were informed by the maitre'd that our waiter had been reassigned to an area where there were no large tables (we were a party of 10). So we ended up with a different waiter who was not very friendly, very slow, and once again, we were there for over 3 hours. We spoke with the maitre'd and we were promised that the next night we could have the waiter we wanted at the time we wanted. However, the next day when we called to confirm the time, no arrangements had been made, and we had to put up quite a stink to have it arranged. They did however change the arrangements to please us. So finally by the fourth night we had a pretty good experience. Dinner was still taking a bit of time, however, we started attending the earlier show performances to avoid missing them. Some good things -- - we had a great time at the casino every night, the casino staff was very friendly - bar service for the most part was also very good, although we found pricing a bit inconsistent - the shows were pretty good (although I felt that my Celebrity experience was better) - the art auction experience was fun -- Tim and I actually won a piece of art - disembarking/re-embarking at ports was seamless -- no long lines Anyway, I know this is probably more information that what you were looking for, but I hope this helps others sailing on the Sky so that they have a better experience that we did. The sad part of this whole story is that my fiance and I were planning to take the Norwegian Dawn out of New York for our honeymoon (departing November 7th) and now we have many reservations and concerns. So we are now looking at alternative options. Norwegian would have to promise us the world at a ridiculously inexpensive price to get our business right now. NOTE: I am sending the basics of this post to Norwegian directly also. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
NCL Sky Southern / Exotic Caribbean 7-14 March 2004 We chose this ship mainly because of the itinerary but also because we had sailed on the Sky before and this had probably been our best cruise to date. Exceptional service, wonderful ... Read More
NCL Sky Southern / Exotic Caribbean 7-14 March 2004 We chose this ship mainly because of the itinerary but also because we had sailed on the Sky before and this had probably been our best cruise to date. Exceptional service, wonderful staff and crew and a nicely laid out classy ship - no neon and glitz. A small, but 'perfectly formed', CC group had been conversing on the boards prior to the cruise. Part of the group were in San Juan the night before and we arranged to meet in the Wyndham Old San Juan. Within minutes of the appointed time Sunnylady and her husband, SweetMelissa and her better half and Weemo (my wife) and myself were enjoying our first drinks together. We have been very fortunate on all our cruises to have met some lovely people. This cruise was to be no different. The six of us hit it off straight away. Despite having spent most of the day travelling we decided to give Barachina in the old town a quick visit and get the holiday off to a good start with one of their famous Pina Coladas. Then it was off to bed to rest for our eagerly awaited cruise. The Wyndham Old San Juan hotel is (as the name suggests) in the old town and within walking distance of the forts and attractions of the old town. It also affords wonderful views of the port. We woke on the Sunday morning to see the Sky berthed at the Pan American peir next to the Adventurer of the Seas. Also in port was the Carnival Destiny and the Dawn Princess, both ships were to shadow us for virtually the whole of the first week. We had arranged to share a taxi with a couple of our new found friends and left for the pier just after 12 noon. Embarkation began at 1pm and was a quick and painless process. We are Latitudes members but found it to be much quicker to join the normal queue. A minor recommendation would be for NCL to look at the apportionment of check-in staff as it should be a perk to be in Latitudes. The time we were there it was a definite disadvantage to join the Latitudes queue. Once through check-in there was the usual drink check...... I mean security checks on baggage and then we were on board. NCL have introduced sanitization stations at the security checks as you come on board as well as at the buffet stations. These appeared to be well used. Anything that helps prevent the Norwalk virus has to be a good idea. Once on board we were met by a crew member and escorted to our cabin, always a nice touch and something that was not done on our cruise on the Dawn last year. We had booked a guaranteed balcony cabin and were allocated stateroom 0202, the very front balcony cabin on deck 10 (starboard). Very handy for the pool decks, gym, spa and observation lounge. This cabin is directly below the spa and since this is not used at night there was no overhead noise. Some of the cabins on this deck do suffer from noise as they are directly below the pool deck - especially early am when the sun beds are being moved. As we had been on the Sky before, and didn't need to find our way around, we elected to start relaxing immediately, ordered a bucket of beers and sat in the sun. Quite by chance, a short while later, we met with almost the whole group at lunch in the garden cafe. From that moment on we were all good friends and enjoyed a terrific week together (2 weeks for some of us). Any way enough of the preamble and on with the review (I have marked the various areas out of 10 to help those who may not want to read the detail): Ship: General 9/10 Having read so much recently about the Sky on these boards and despite having sailed on her in 2001 we were prepared for a ship ready to be refurbished. We were very surprised at just how good her condition was. The atrium area was very well kept as were the restaurants, theatre and bars (in which we did spend a good amount of time). You would have to look long and hard to find any real wear and tear. The carpets in the corridors and the staterooms were probably ready to be replaced but not badly enough to be an issue. The ships exterior was also extremely well kept and like all ships we have been on was constantly being cared for by the ever attentive crew. We were completely aware of the unique situation the Sky is currently in vis-à-vis the transition to coming under the American flag and the fact the crew will be practically all American. Again we were prepared for this to be much more evident than it actually was. We were pleasantly surprised by how well the transition was being handled. Overall the staff were as good as we have experienced on any other ship. For those who maybe don't know the details, when the Sky rebrands to the Pride of Aloha the crew are required to be virtually all American. This has meant a huge exercise for NCL in recruiting staff. Especially since circumstances involving the Pride of America have meant this has had to be done much sooner than those involved had envisaged. The one exception to service levels was at dinner (more on this later). The condition of the Sky was just as good as it was when we sailed her 3 years ago. Cabin: 0202 8/10 We don't spend a huge amount of time here so don't feel this is of huge importance although we do like having a balcony cabin. The staterooms on the Sky are fairly small but not much different to other ships we have been on. Many have written about the amenities and the space for clothes so I will not repeat the obvious. Our room stewards were great. The room was always ready for us on our return, either made up or turned down depending on the time of day. We ran out of shower gel quite early in the cruise but a post-it note left for the steward was enough to have that rectified. Clean and comfortable (except for those damn lights over the bed) what more could you want. Dining : 7/10 Had no problems with the quality of the food. From breakfast through to dinner everything was as good as could be expected. We ordered room service a couple of times and got just what we ordered. I know others had problems getting exactly what they had ordered for breakfast. Other breakfasts were taken in the garden cafe. Typical buffet fare with a wide selection of hot and cold. Impossible to go hungry in my opinion. Lunch was also mainly taken from the garden cafe although we did eat lunch in the Seven Seas restaurant once. Again no complaints, we enjoyed the sandwich station on a few occasions as well as the hot buffet. Cakes were always plentiful. If there was one suggestion to make it would be to have more fruit available. Also please be warned the layout in the garden cafe is fairly poor. You just can't help getting in each others way. Perhaps this will be addressed when the refurb takes place. We ate all our dinners with the exception of one in the Four Seasons restaurant, this is in the centre of the ship and is least affected by the motion. We enjoyed all the meals we had there, the food was invariably hot and very tasty. Do not miss either the lobster or the crab bisque - both excellent. Other highlights included the veal marsala and the various steaks. Even though the menus were repeated the second week there was still plenty variety. NCL beats Princess hands down, in our opinion, for dinner menus. And now for the negatives: this was probably the worst cruise we had been on (7 in total) for service at dinner. This was where the situation regarding the training of new staff really showed. We found that there was a waiter assigned to our table with little or no back up from an assistant. On one occasion we were seated at a table with no assigned waiter, a quick word with the maitre'd solved this and a stand in was found from another restaurant. More often than not the table was not properly set when we were seated, water glasses often needed filled and at times the waiters were just stretched too much. Other minor issues were some people at the table had their plates cleared while other did not. No real big issues but it shows NCL's previous very high standards were not being met. One evening we sat for 20 mins after having had our appetizers to be told the entree ordered had run out and would we like to reorder. When we decided not to bother and to have a cheese plate instead (it was quite late in the evening) the waiter returned having miraculously found the missing entrees. It turned out not to be the waiter's fault but a communication problem in the kitchen. Embarrassing for the waiter and the assistant maitre'd who had also become involved. On one other occasion we had to serve our own wine as the wine steward was so overwhelmed she couldn't possibly keep up with the number of tables allocated. Service was not up to the standard we have come to expect on a cruise and this was the only disappointing part of the cruise. This was more symptomatic of the situation rather than any of the individuals involved. All of whom were extremely personable and keen to do the best they could under the conditions. How did we deal with this? We passed on our comments to the maitre'd and left it at that. Did this effect our enjoyment? Not at all. The company at dinner was always good enough to negate any disappointment with the service. On a positive note we had the pleasure of meeting Ephrim the wine steward in the Four Seasons who after the first evening knew our names and the name of the wine we had left from the previous night. This is impressive for traditional dining but even more so in the Freestyle dining concept. We bumped into him on numerous occasions and he always greeted us by name and with a smile. It's a pity wine stewards will not be on the rebranded Sky. I think anyone going on the Sky in the near future should be aware there are issues with the level of service in the main restaurants. You should go with the knowledge that a degree of patience and understanding may be needed. However the end result was always pretty good. It might just take a little longer than you are used to. We also enjoyed one dinner in Ciao Ciao. Fine chinese/japanese food for a nominal charge of $10 per person. Well worth it for the service and for the opportunity to try food not available elsewhere on the ship. PS I came back 8lbs heavier so they must have been doing something right. Entertainment 9 ½/10 So much has been said about the Jean Ann Ryan company which supplies the entertainers for NCL ships. I do not need to add much more except the high standards and quality of entertainment continues onboard the Sky. We enjoyed the shows we saw. NCL triumph over other lines for their entertainment. We caught one of Jane L Powell's shows and enjoyed it very much. That woman has one great vocal range and is amusing with it. We also enjoyed listening to Mark Farris who played piano in either Gatsby's or the Windjammer bars. He had a great repertoire of tunes. We especially enjoyed his tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber. Public Areas 9/10 We found the restaurants, bars and lounges to be in good condition and service to be very attentive (with the exception of the occasions previously mentioned in the dining room). All the staff we encountered were extremely polite and keen to do their jobs well. I think someone had written in a previous review that they had found some to be rude, eg crew members not stepping aside and letting the passengers pass. We found the opposite and always received a friendly smile from those people we got to know during the trip. Helpful hints If you enjoy wine with dinner there is a wine package where you pay for 5 bottles and receive the 6th free of charge. Talking of wine James Deering hosts a very good wine tasting. Not too formal and an enjoyable and interesting talk on wine production around the world. $10 charge but $5 off any purchases. Bar hopper cards are available at most bars. If you have a drink at 6 named bars you get a free shot glass with the liqueur of your choice. Collect 2 cards and receive a cocktail glass (real glass not plastic) with the cocktail of your choice. Collect 8 cards and you receive a free bottle of liqueur of your choice - you might have to go into training to achieve that one. This review is long enough without going into our trips on the various islands. I will put together a short summary of these later. In the mean time here is the itinerary for our trip; Week 1 San Juan, St Thomas, Dominica, St Lucia, Barbados, St Kitts, at sea and San Juan. Week 2 San Juan, St Thomas, Tortola, St Maarten, Antigua, Martinique, at sea and San Juan. We would also comment that we have found CC to be a fund of useful information. This was the first time we had met up with people from the boards and it certainly added to our enjoyment of the cruise. We had such good fun with our new found friends right from the off. Many thanks for your company, we had a blast. Hopefully we can all meet up some time soon. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
What can I say about this cruise, it was the worst I had ever taken. My husband and I booked this cruise for our 5th anniversary. It was planned from the time we took our honeymoon basically. Let me start by saying that I am travel agent ... Read More
What can I say about this cruise, it was the worst I had ever taken. My husband and I booked this cruise for our 5th anniversary. It was planned from the time we took our honeymoon basically. Let me start by saying that I am travel agent but we paid full price for this cruise, as we wanted to travel at this specific time. We booked our own tickets into San Juan and hailed a cab from the airport. No problems here. Our documents were to be a pier pick-up so I did not have NCL baggage tags for our luggage. When I entered the cruise terminal and got to the desk, the staff had no idea what I was talking about and said that the ship was sold out. After 10 minutes I finally got a supervisor to understand that we were booked on the cruise. I then received my boarding pass, cabin keys, etc. The boarding process was very easy; just walked right onto the ship. There we were greeted by the staff and asked what our cabin assignment was so they could escort us. I'm feeling better now and am looking forward to the week. My joy was short lived as the gentleman took us to the opposite side of the ship than we were on. (Not port versus starboard but aft versus bow) When we got to our cabin #5201, we were pleased with the cabin itself. Its location is at the very front of the ship down a private hallway. We originally thought it would be nice and quiet. What is also down this hallway and not reflected in any deck plan are the crew cabins. Every night I had to open the door anywhere from 1-4AM to advise the crew to be quiet. Directly above our cabin was the jogging trail on the Promenade Deck. Although there are signs prohibiting jogging from 9PM - 8AM, the notices were ignored and continuous complaints were not answered. Needless to say we had to come home to get a full night sleep. Went to dinner in the Four Seasons Dining Room. Food was OK; service was slow although it was very early in the evening. Took 1 ½ hours for dinner. When we arrived back at the cabin our bags were there and 1 was damaged. I brought the bag to the reception desk and they advised that the carpenter would repair it. Monday - St. Thomas Scheduled to be in port from 8AM - 5PM and had pre-arranged a tee time at Mahogany Run Golf Course. I am not a golfer myself but I enjoy the ride and this was one spectacular course. For those of you who are golfers, you are basically hitting blind, the whole course is quite challenging, especially Devil's Triangle. The beverage cart is constantly coming around and you can pre-order lunch at hole #7 to pick up after hole #9. The food was good and reasonably priced for a golf course. Full pro-shop with a good selection of items. Price per golfer through the cruise line is $180.00. We paid $130.00 and $20.00 for me to ride. Cab from the pier is $9.00 each way. Tuesday - Dominica My husband specifically chose this port so he could go to some cigar factories. There were none to be had. Where we did find cigars, not only were they overpriced but not stored in humidors. Originally scheduled to be docked in town but we arrived late and were docked at another pier. Cab into town was reasonable $1-2 per person each way. Let me say that arriving later than the other ships was a common occurrence on this sailing. Since I was up during the middle of the night, I noticed that we would not be moving. All I can figure is the captain took a siesta in the middle of the night instead of sailing to our respective port. This night was also formal night. Since NCL offers Freestyle Dining, the choice to dress up is optional. I have always enjoyed formal night and look forward to having our pictures taken. This too would not happen as the cabin steward ruined the dress. I had the dress hanging on the inside of the bathroom door to steam the wrinkles out. That day while we were in town, the cabin steward cleaned the room. No problem except for the fact that he sprayed cleaning solution across the dress. So obviously I am mad at the fact that my new dress is ruined. When I take it to the reception desk they advise that they will fix it and have it delivered to my cabin by 600PM. At 630PM, my husband goes back to reception to see where the dress is while I finish getting ready. At this point we are advised that they will clean the dress but only if we release them from liability. Obviously this was not acceptable. The next morning I am called back by reception and told to claim the dress on my homeowners insurance!!! What I realize later in the week that the person who advised me to do this was none other than the first officer. Dinner that night again in Four Seasons Dining Room. Over 2 hours to be served dinner. Wednesday - Barbados Again, we arrive late and have to be shuttled to the main pier. It was raining that day so we decided just to shop. Shopping plentiful at the pier and we made a number of purchased, one of which was a print by a local artist. I'll bring this print up again later. We had reservation this evening at Le Bistro. We had dined at Le Bistro on previous NCL cruises so we were looking forward to the experience again. This was also the evening of the Latitudes party. Now NCL is fully aware who on board is a Latitudes member, yet we had to go to another desk to receive our invitation. Basically they handwrote our name on a form letter and gave it to us. Doesn't give the "warm fuzzy" feeling. The party was lame and the captain gave wrong information regarding the deployment to Hawaii. Before dinner I decided I would play Bingo as we had time before our reservation. The staff was more interested in playing with each other than running the game. My husband had to go to Le Bistro without me as the game was running behind. I met up with him 20 minutes later. Service at Le Bistro was the worst I had ever experienced and the food was not as good. The only highlight was a little girl from Poland who was as friendly as can be. Thursday - St. Lucia Golf again. My husband went alone on this excursion, which again, was less expensive booking directly with the course. $95.00 for a golfer versus $109.00 through the cruise line. Since they were already picking golfers from the ship, they gave him a free ride. Another beautiful course and very challenging. He had a good time. I was not feeling well and needed to see the ships doctor. $50.00 to just speak with someone. There are 2 doctors on board. After speaking with other passengers on the ship, I was treated by the good one, a female doctor from South Africa. Very nice. She gave me some antibiotics (enough to last 2 days) and some over the counter medication. Overall my 10-minute visit cost me $125.00. I did get some shopping in right at the pier and found some lovely shops. The people were very friendly and helpful. After my husband returned we went up to the pool area so he could smoke a cigar. We sat there for an hour before I finally grabbed a waiter and asked him how long we had to sit there before someone took our order. He said that we must have just sat down. When I advised him that he walked past me at least 10 times, he just walked away. This day I buy a cute souvenir cup, which is made out of a coconut in the shape of a monkey head. $9.95 for the cup and first drink and refills are $4.95 (normal price). Great little investment as the drink stayed cold much longer. I chose to eat dinner in the cabin that evening, as I was still not feeling to well. Room service was very friendly and the food was better than what I had received in the dining room. Friendly staff as well. My husband went to the dining room and actually found an area where he could eat in less than 1 hour. We asked specifically for this area the next night. Friday - St Kitts Originally we were schedule to go on the Kayaking excursion through the cruise line but decided to cancel since I was still not up to par. From those we spoke with, the excursion was a hit. We went into town and did some shopping. For the best prices for Alcohol and cigars, St Kitts is the place to go. My husband had a field day in the walk in humidor. In the center of town there is a Piccadilly like in London with shops all around. We found Tommy Bahamas shirts for $59.50 (normally around $100) and ate at the Circus Restaurant for lunch, which overlooks the center of town. I highly recommend the Seafood Kabobs. Service was good, food was excellent. My best meal on the trip. When we get back to the cabin I become enraged. My print from Barbados, which was rolled up and lying on the couch, had been knocked to the floor and stepped on by the cabin steward, thereby creating a huge crease through it. Our "monkey cup" which had a "hinged" top was obviously picked up by the top and broken. Now in 5 days my luggage has been broken, my formal dress ruined, my print crushed and a cup broken. What is so hard about cleaning a room without wrecking the contents? I immediately make a beeline to the reception desk and demand to speak to whoever is in charge. My husband and I are led back to the First Officer's cabin where lo and behold, there is my suitcase, which was supposed to be with the carpenter. So I proceed to tell this woman al that has happened to my belongings on this ship and my demand that it be replaced. What I am told is that she will see what she can do. Now, after all that has happened I want some sort of guarantee; at a minimum I was a guaranteed time that I will be gotten back with. She refuses and tells me to go back to my cabin. I tell her I'm not leaving until I get some sort of guarantee. At this point she looks at my husband and tells him to escort me out of her office. Basically he laughs and advises her that she better start producing some answers. Finally she relents and tells me she will get to me by 6PM. Now I have a guarantee and I leave the office. At 6PM she arrives at the cabin as promised (progress). The cup is replaced (easy to do). I am advised that when the ship returns to Barbados that my print will be repurchased and sent to my home address. The dress will have to be handled by the home office. The suitcase damage is now being blamed on the Port Authority in San Juan and there is nothing they will do. I tell her that I want some written guarantee for all of this, which she states she will get me. While thinking more about the suitcase issue, I grab my brochure and look at their Terms and Conditions. There is a reimbursement for damaged luggage. I go back to her office and show her the documentation, which is issued by NCL, not me, and demand a $100 shipboard credit. I go back to the cabin where I receive a call stating that the shipboard credit will be applied. Saturday - At Sea We decide to try and sleep in, as we have received no real sleep on this cruise so far. Due to all the noise we realize that this is impossible and get ready to go to the buffet breakfast. It was pitiful. The eggs were water, the juice machine was broken (as it had been all week) and the breakfast meats were literally sitting in pools of grease. When we attempt to find a place to sit we see that there are no clean tables yet there are 3 busboys talking to each other. I take it upon myself to bus the table myself. At this point a busboy arrives and takes the linens off the table and leaves. And they expect to be tipped for this? I proceed to lead him back to the table and advise him that he may not know it but cleaning the tables is his job, not mine. I did have a massage appointment at the Spa but cancelled it the day before as I could only imagine what other bad experience I would pay for. While in the cabin early that afternoon I am watching the TV about booking a future cruise. The one that catches my eye is the Norwegian Sea traveling out of Houston. Since I am from Dallas I sell a lot of this ship. The information about the sailing is wrong. It incorrectly lists the ports of call. Now this was not a recent change, it had been done months before. I go to the Cruise Desk and advise Duncan, the Port and Cruise Consultant that the information on the Sea is incorrect. He asked me what ship that is. So I tell him and he says, "Oh yeah its doing 3 and 4 day cruises". No Duncan, it's doing 7 nights out of Houston. "Yeah" he says, "What ports of call?" I asked him if he was joking with me. He said he was serious. Now I'm sorry, but here is a gentleman who is paid by NCL to be an expert on their product and I have to tell him? I just walked away disgusted. When I met my husband at the pool he just laughed and said it was typical. We actually had an enjoyable afternoon in the casino. The blackjack tournament was holding its last round of qualifying sessions that afternoon with the finals at 430PM. $10.00 entry fee, free beer, glass of wine or soda and $2500 to play 7 hands. I never got into the finals but played 10 qualifying rounds anyway. $100 spent but I had 10 drinks. I did stay in the casino and won back the entry fees so I broke even for the day. Sunday - Disembark No problems this morning as I still had not received my written guarantee from the first officer regarding my print. When I reach her by phone she tells me that the Hotel Director is taking care of it. Since I trust nothing she says at this point I advise her I will not leave the ship without something in writing. 20 minutes later I receive a beverage receipt with a 2-line guarantee and a stamp of the Hotel Director. Yes, it's in writing but not very professional. What scares me most is that the Sky is being renamed the Pride of Aloha and will be deployed to Hawaii. Not only are these cruises expensive but also a very discerning traveler purchases them. I not only will not sell this ship but also have given serious concern to selling any NCL product in the future. When speaking with other passengers on the ship, my experience was not unique. I did not find one person happy with the cruise. One gentleman had booked back-to-back cruises and was considering leaving the ship and going home versus spending another week on board. One gentleman advised me that things should get better once the ship is in Hawaii with an all American crew. Really, I said. Do you feel that strongly about the work ethic of the American youth? I have 2 children age 15 and 21. Considering I can't get them to bring their dishes to the sink or their laundry to the washing machine I have a hard time believing that the service will be that much improved. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Okay, so this was my 5 friends' and my first cruise, so everything was sparkly and new to us, and we were ready to be pleased! That being said we still had some ups and downs, but overall it was a vacation to remember! The rooms were ... Read More
Okay, so this was my 5 friends' and my first cruise, so everything was sparkly and new to us, and we were ready to be pleased! That being said we still had some ups and downs, but overall it was a vacation to remember! The rooms were small, as expected (being poor college students we had three girls to an inside state room), but we ended up with plenty of shelf and closet space to unpack all our bags (we had been expecting to have to leave most of our clothing in our suitcases under the bed). I actually volunteered for the sofa bed, and found it comfortable, though it got in the way of anyone trying to enter the room, or go to the bathroom. Also a word of caution- if you fold up the foot of the bed to give a walk way after it has been turned down VERY sharp edges stick out- we all are sporting black and blue marks to prove it. The bathroom easily held all of our cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, etc that girls have to bring with them. We ended up with rather poor service in terms of the room steward. They only turned down my bed twice, towards the end of the 7 days, after we had finally given up calling the reception desk at 12pm every night, and just opened it up ourselves. It wasn't that big a deal, but the other room had their 3rd bed turned down every night- which lets me know our steward just wasn't doing their job. we also had one night when nothing was turned down- but we do keep rather strange hours, and the steward did knock on the door a couple of times while we were there, so I forgive them that. In terms of Freestyle dining, we loved it. We never had to wait more than 15 minutes to be seated, even if we were just out of a show- and since in our area it isn't unusual to wait an hour or more to be seated at a restaurant, we didn't really mind. We had a rather poor waiter the first night in the Four Seasons restaurant (again, poor students that we are we didn't eat at any of the cover restaurants) and the second night we ate at the Seven Seas with a much better waiter, but he was brand new and rather nervous (serving 6 pretty girls probably didn't help much ) after that we ended up with Simon...... Simon was the best waiter I have EVER had, and I have been lucky enough to eat in many fine internationally acclaimed restaurants. We made things as difficult as possible for him, each ordering a different number and combination of courses "can I have this entree as an appetizer sized portion, AND that appetizer, plus the salad, no soup, and that entree" or "No Appetizers, but soup, salad, and this appetizer in an entree portion" or "give me one of everything" and he never missed a beat- 3 courses, 6 courses everyone different, the food was exquisitely timed in its arrival, so you were never the only one eating (even if you were the only one with that course), the food was warm, he was at your elbow with the black pepper or the parmesan cheese in a second, he NEVER had to ask "who gets the steak and who ordered the pasta?" We had all the proper utensils without ever noticing him replacing a fork or removing an unused soup spoon. He was amazing. Needless to say we requested him every night after that, and were always able to sit with him. We all felt like such princesses- we had all the male dining staff doting on us (for us, going on a cruise without too many other spring breakers was a plus!). The food was very good, with a good selection- though occasionally a few things were over done, which is understandable when you are feeding that many people at once. We ate at the buffet every day at lunch (one day being seated for lunch was enough to realize we couldn't handle all that food AND dinner!) and I quite enjoyed it - especially the desserts! It was still buffet fare, but several notches up from dorm food! All the stops were wonderful- we did our own thing rather than book a cruise tour, except the last day when we booked a Rainforest bus tour which worked out perfectly, since they dropped us off at the airport at about 3:30 pm and we checked our bags then headed back into San Juan to while away the hours before our 11pm flight. Of the islands we all liked St Maarten (we went to the French side and ate in a beautiful little cafe) and Antigua the best (we managed to hit 3 of the purported 365 beaches). On the last day we took an NCL tour of El Yunque which worked out wonderfully since they delivered our bags to the airport for us and we were able to check in for our 11pm flight and then leave the airport to explore old San Juan for the evening- what a wonderful town!! We danced the nights away in the Cabaret club and managed to see several of the shows- Sea Legs Cirque was as awesome as everyone says! Overall it was a really phenomenal trip, and we are already planning our reunion! Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Contrary to some of the things that were previously written, I must say that my cruise on the SKY was so exceptional, I didn't want to get off the ship. My husband and I had such a wonderful time that we can't wait to go again. ... Read More
Contrary to some of the things that were previously written, I must say that my cruise on the SKY was so exceptional, I didn't want to get off the ship. My husband and I had such a wonderful time that we can't wait to go again. We met many of the crew who were exceptionally wonderful to us, and we met many people on board who were friendly and warm, and also there to have a good time. We had started a group on the "boards" for the Sky, previous to the cruse, and spent a lot of time with our group as if we were old best friends, and we all had a ball............. As far as accommodations, they were just fine. Just enough room for everything in some corners and spots which led to using your imagination, but for changing and sleeping we were very comfortable, and had no complaints. The stewards were always there with fresh towels, little towel characters on the bed, and the room was spic and span at all times. The dining room food was exceptionally good, the buffet was okay, pizza was good, but all in all, the eating was an OK experience. We just loved it, and I know that Norwegian Cruise Lines really goes out of their way to make sure that you truly have an enjoyable and memorable vacation. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Freestyle dining - This was everything that we hoped it would be, and one of the reasons that we chose NCL in the first place. The hours that the dining rooms are open are quite liberal, and it is really no different than eating in a ... Read More
Freestyle dining - This was everything that we hoped it would be, and one of the reasons that we chose NCL in the first place. The hours that the dining rooms are open are quite liberal, and it is really no different than eating in a regular restaurant. You show up, and most always are seated right away. A table for two is never a problem. The food and service are both of good quality. Just like going to a restaurant, sometimes it was better than others. There was very good variety within each day, and the menu changed from day to day. We appreciated that they always had healthy options, and there was always a vegetarian option. The specialty restaurants - They are well worth it. There are 3 specialty restaurants. French, Italian and Asian Fusion (whatever that is). They are between $10 and $12.50 extra per person. The dining rooms are both very nice, but the restaurants are a step up in terms of food and dEcor. For $65 total the two of as ate at all 3 specialty restaurants. That's still a lot less than 1 decent meal here in NYC. Advice: Make reservations at least a day in advance. Particularly for Le Bisto, the French restaurant. Alcohol - Everything's moderately priced. They have some kind of package where if you buy 5 bottles over the course of the week, you get one free. They then provide you with free transportation to the local AA meeting when you debark. Little did I know that my girlfriend would step us up to the challenge. We were locked and loaded, and fully charged for our free bottle on Saturday, the final day, which is the day at sea...sick! Yes, we missed out on our full bottle of wine because we were sea-sick on our last day. Room service - Food delivered to your room 24 hours a day within a half hour, at no additional cost, what more can you ask for. Well, maybe a better menu, but if you stick to the basics it is more than adequate. The Stateroom - We had an oceanview room with a large porthole, that was about 150 square feet. Believe the other reviews when they tell you that the room is small. And Norwegian does not do anything in the way of shelves or drawers to help you make better use of your space. However having lived in Manhattan for many years, we are used to living in tight quarters and quickly adjusted. Although the room was small, I think the window really helped out. I also have to commend the housekeeping/steward. They were in there several times a day and did a great job keeping the room neat and clean, it made a big difference. If you want more space, you have to pay for it, or find a boat with a more liberally sized basic room. The Fitness Center - It was a good size with a fair number of machines for both cardio and weight training. Even more impressive was the very large aerobics studio where they taught classes ranging from classic aerobics, cardio kickboxing, cycling, yoga and pilates. The instructors were very nice, and if you attended 6 fitness events while you were on the ship you got a free t-shirt. They could definitely stand to modernize their cardio equipment. All in all they do a good job in promoting a healthy lifestyle throughout the cruise. We got off the boat in better shape than when we got on, which is uncommon for vacations in general, but particularly rare for cruises. Entertainment - There were three main shows. They were all very different from each other and all of wonderful quality. I would suggest seeing all three. We have been to a number of Broadway shows and these were right up there. With the theatre so expensive these days, take advantage of this fabulous entertainment provided at no additional charge. Who was it that wrote in their review that Sea Leg Cirque had no plot? It was one of the most impressive performances that we have ever seen in our lives. Gambling - We steered clear of the casino, it seemed pretty standard. We did get sucked up in the bingo. It was a lot of fun although a bit expensive if you ask me. I thought Bingo was a harmless little game but a day and a half and 150 bucks later I wasn't so sure. Tip: If you do play, buy the "power bingo" machines, they are a far better bang for your buck. Passenger Demographics - We are in our late 20's. Aside from an occasional child or teenager, the median age was well above ours. There were some young couples, but most people were somewhere between there late forties to late sixties. Everyone was very nice though, and in great spirits. If you are single, or looking to party, find another cruise. The Boat - The boat was very nice and very well kept. I don't know how they do it, the thing is occupied 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but everything looks great. Maybe they can give me some tips for my 3 year old couch and furniture that looks not a day less than 15 years old. There was plenty of everything to go around on the boat. Ample seats in the dining rooms, theatre, chairs at the pool, stools at the bar, you never felt like you had to race people or battle it out for accommodations. The excursions - You probably pay more by booking them through NCL, but they seem to be well run and of good quality. We did one excursion, in Dominica. Sari Sari Falls, it was one of the more strenuous excursions offered. It was fantastic. Tip: If you are going to do only one excursion, do it in Dominica. It is a beautiful island but there appears to be limited things to do there without a tour guide. I am not sure that there is really a beach. Ports of Call - The weather was fantastic and if you are looking for a warm sunny place to go in the dead of winter, the Southern Caribbean is a great choice. There a certain themes with all of the islands. Cabs are more like minivans, you can get just about anywhere you want to go for 3-6 bucks. Town is usually relatively close to the boat. If you go to the more popular beaches and attractions, there will be ample cabs available when you want to go back to the boat. St. Thomas - As soon as you get off the boat there are cabs there waiting to pick you up. The prices appear rather standardized. Its about 3 bucks to get to town, and another 3 to get you to the beach. A lot of people go to Meghans Bay, which is where we went as well. It is a beautiful and tranquil beach. We went Kayaking there and had tremendous fun. The beach itself is a bit crowded, so maybe its worth checking out one of the other beaches if less people is a plus. Some say that the best part of St. Thomas is its proximity to St. John, which is a short boat ride away. This may be true, but it seemed like a lot of extra work to get too. There are some excursions that go to St. John as well. Dominca - This is an island of tremendous natural beauty. It is largely a rainforest, I am not sure if there is a beach in the traditional sense. As mentioned earlier, this is a great place to do an excursion. Dominica is a beautiful island to see, but we are glad we didn't go it alone. Barbados - By the luck of the drawer we kind of got a bad flavor for the place. It is actually a very beautiful island. The problem with a lot of these places though is that the island natives just hassle you to no end. It starts off with the cab, the driver takes you pretty much to the beach that he pleases, you don't know the difference. They get kickbacks from bars and other merchants for dropping you off in certain places. They try to sell you anything that's not tied down, and some things that probably were (like other hotels beach chairs). Everyone has the right to make a buck, but there was a lineup in front of our chair half the day. My advice would be to find the beaches where people with these agendas are minimized. And if you know these places, please email me because that is where I will go to on my next cruise. St. Lucia - A very pretty island, we took a water taxi ride back to the ship which was quite an experience! St. Kitts - This is another gem of an island. There are tour-guides waiting when you get off the boat. Tours included climbing a volcano and a walk through a rainforest, they all looked great and the local chamber of commerce vouched for them. We didn't have time, but its on our list for next time. We went to Frigates Bay, which was a very nice beach. Embarkation, "Saving the first, but certainly not the best, for last" - I didn't have the heart to begin my review with the most logical thing, embarkation. Terrible. Several different people really did their best to give us a lousy first impression. Maybe the people on the pier are different than the people on the boat. None the less, it took me a few hours on the boat to come to terms that everything was going to be alright. Overall - This is only my second cruise, but I think on an overall basis they are a great value. NCL wasn't perfect, but they were very good, and most importantly they came though on everything that was important to us. As long as NCL is the only line offering freestyle dining, we will likely remain loyal to them. I can't stress enough how delightful it was not to have to run to catch the same seating, in the same restaurant, at the same time, with the same people, and the same waiter..., help the walls are closing in on me! But different strokes for different folks, and if you like a bit more structure, are traveling with a large group and need a bit more structure, or are accustomed to an institutionalized lifestyle (clank), don't let me hold you back. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
Cabin Fever Cruise 2004 (This cruise was taken when the Pride of Aloha was the NCL Sky) I'd like to start this review off with a short story of how I found this particular cruise. Maybe it'll help some future cruisers think ... Read More
Cabin Fever Cruise 2004 (This cruise was taken when the Pride of Aloha was the NCL Sky) I'd like to start this review off with a short story of how I found this particular cruise. Maybe it'll help some future cruisers think through the process of booking. For those of you not interested in my lengthy ramblings, feel free to skip to the next line and save yourself twenty minutes of suffering. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I was feeling like the thief who didn't get caught. The exhilaration of getting in and getting out undetected. And the subsequent irresistible feeling that I want to do it again. With the same result - leave the premises with a treasure trove of riches and revel in my good fortune. That's what sailing on the Sky the week of January 18th to 25th felt like. Maybe it wasn't robbery, but it still was a thrill! Here's how it all came about..... I was browsing the net one cool fall Sunday afternoon. The football game was about to start. The Redskins were pathetic this year, so the better of two alternatives was to check my email. Something popped up on my email cruise specials "radar screen." Could it be? A 7 day cruise for UNDER $300! Did it include port charges? There must be some catch. It must be some second rate cruiseline. It must be some old smelly, smoking, worn out garbage scowl with bunk beds, bed bugs and leaky toilets. But wait. Says here it's the Norwegian Sky. We've been on that ship. It was our first Freestyle cruise and we had a ball! And that includes port charges and tax! AhhhhHA!... There is a catch. We have to fly to San Juan in January. The rates must be astronomical, or you must have to switch planes three times to get there. I'm not going to switch planes in Chicago or St. Louis in the winter. Or JFK. The last time out of there, Barb had a COMPLETE nervous breakdown on the prop plane coming home (this is not an exaggeration). But hey, the Skins game was usually over by half time, so I thought I'd do a little research. An inside GTY for $299. Well, we'd stayed in an inside the last time on the Sky. In fact in 18 cruises, it's the only inside we had ever had. It would be a long way from the penthouse on our last cruise on the Radiance OTS, but the price was just too tempting to ignore. But last time we had the highest category inside- an II. Who knows where we would end up? I knew the lower categories were smaller, but I also knew we wouldn't get a bunk bed. (Hey, what's romantic about bunk beds!?) I could live with a small inside. The ship itself was nearly new when we sailed her last. Had she deteriorated to the point that NCL now had to give cruises away her to fill her up? Hmmmmm...says here the ship is almost full. And balconies and suites are almost sold out. At a lot higher prices. Let's check the reviews. I waded through a half dozen or so. I found the usual "everything was great," and "everything sucked" reviews. But most were positive. I emailed a few people and posted some notes on the internet boards. Most responses were positive. I decided it was time to look for airfare. I love the matrix on Orbitz.com. It's great for researching the airfare of most major airlines that fly to the same destination. (But I'm boycotting them right now for a big snafu from our cruise a year ago. For reasons why, read my NCL Dawn review). I typed in one of the available dates and voila! Round trip, non-stop from Dulles International to Jose Marin in San Juan arriving Saturday at 2:30 PM the day before. $281 per person. That's almost $100 less than we paid last time and we had to fly to JFK and back! We'd get back the following Sunday at around 8 PM. That's kinda late, and we normally like a day to decompress before getting back to the real world, but this wasn't shaping up too bad. We always like to get into the port city a day ahead, too. Travel in this day and age can be iffy, but especially in winter. So the next step was to look at a hotel. Last time we stayed at the Wyndham Old San Juan. We like to get in the middle of the action instead of at the airport and this would have been our preferred location. But as most of your experienced travelers to San Juan know, there is no such thing as a cheap, GOOD hotel in old San Juan. We were prepared to spend up to $200 for a nice hotel room as long as it was in the old part of the city. Just cab fares alone would cost a lot if we stayed somewhere else. Besides, we love old San Juan, and we HAD to go to the Parrot Club and some of our other favorites spots. The ability to walk to them was worth a few extra bucks. A search on the usual search engines didn't yield anything we were interested in. The Wyndham was booked solid. El Convento was, too. Seems all the hotels were near capacity. We found out why. The San Sebastian Festival was that weekend. Some people compare it to Mardi Gras without the "Show your Tits" mentality. To me it was a big friendly outdoor party and street festival. All the bars and restaurants on San Sebastian Street remained open nearly all night. During the day San Sebastian Street was filled with artists, food vendors, musicians, and lots and lots of people. It turned out to be a great festival! We didn't know too much about the other hotels in the area and didn't want to stay at the airport, Isla Morada or 50 miles away in Condado. Then we'd have to spend a lot of time and money in cabs or rent a car and drive it to OSJ. Have you ever tried to find a parking spot in Old San Juan? And with the festival that weekend, it would be a tough time for a cab driver. Then we heard about a small hotel on Frommer's website - the Gallery Inn. It was at the top of San Juan Hill and overlooked the ocean on Calle Norzagaray Street. That would also mean that the hotel would back right up to Calle San Sebastian, the epicenter of the Festival. Kewl! It had rooms for under $200. I found their website, www.thegalleryinn.com and checked it out. I sent them and email to check on the availability of a room fronting the ocean on Calle Norzagaray. We wanted to at least get a LITTLE sleep before the cruise! They had rooms. With the steep hotel tax it came to around $222. That was almost as much as a whole week's cruise for one of us! But this wasn't unexpected, so I started to do the math. I guess it's my estimator training. Anyway here is how it was starting to shape up for our winter relief "budget" cruise: Cruise- $274 X 2 = $548 (My agent discounted the fare by 5%) Airfare- $281 X 2 = $562 Hotel - $222 Cab Fare - Average $15 per trip X 5 = $75 (We planned to spend disembarkation day in OSJ, too, so I figured SJU to OSJ, OSJ to Sky, Sky to SJU, SJU to OSJ, OSJ to SJU) Tipping - $10 X 7 X 2 = $140 Miscellaneous - $800 (I always figure $100 per day for shopping, excursions, food and beverages on shore, extra tips, etc.) Onboard Account - $500 (Of course this was assuming we didn't go overboard on drinks, alternative restaurants, souveniers, etc.) Airport Parking - $8 X 8 days = $81 So all of a sudden, this $299 had turned into......$2,923!! OK, so maybe it wasn't all that cheap. But I still felt like I was stealing something. And considering the fact that just the cabin on our last cruise on the Radiance was almost the same amount, at least it looked manageable. Yes, it's possible to do it for even less. Fly in the same day. Drink only smuggled booze. Don't take any trips on the islands. Don't shop or buy any souvenirs. But get REAL. I'm on vacation for crying out loud! I wanna do and see and enjoy as much as I can!! I'm thinking that NCL knew this when they dangled that tantalizing chuck of fresh meat in front of a "Cruisivore" like me. Naturally, I ate it up, biting off each bit at a time and savoring every last morsel. I can honestly say that I would never have booked this cruise if I had not been on the Sky previously. I would have been scared off by the price alone. I'm a firm believer in, "If it's too good to be true, it usually is." But if there is such a thing as a "Bargain" cruise, then this might have been it! We had a glorious time on a beautiful ship with good food, a friendly crew, great new and old friends, near perfect weather, interesting ports, and the price including airfare, pre-cruise hotel and ALL expenses was under $1500 per person. Put in perspective and with the riches I came home with, I still consider that a bargain. So now I'm booked. All that's left is to go and have fun. And we did in BIG way. Was everything perfect? No. But the little things that weren't just right were not cruise wreckers and most were not really unexpected. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- As usual, I'll start my review with some basic info, demographics, a disclaimer and the THREE QUESTIONS: Ship: Norwegian Sky Itinerary: Exotic Southern Caribbean. San Juan, St. Thomas/St. John, Antigua, Martinique, St. Maarten, Tortola BVI, Day at Sea. Travelers: Jerry and Barb Hoehn and some "Friends of MrTractor" or FOMT as we are affectionately know on the chat boards. Travel Date: January 18th to the 25th, 2004 Ages: Mid to late 40s (OK, so maybe one of our group has slipped into the 50s) Cruises: 17 total (I think)- CCL, RCI, Premier, HAL, NCL, Celebrity, Windjammer, and Princess. Stateroom: 0317. Category II Superior Inside. Starboard Amidship. Agent: Cruiseshopping.com (Free Plug). As in the past, I'll start my review with a quick summary and some tips that might help you get more out of your week at sea. Then I'll go into detail for those of you brave enough to continue reading my ramblings. *************IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT************* This review is just one man's opinion with some input from his wife. I am reviewing MY experience on the Norwegian Sky during this one week. YMMV (Your mileage may vary). I go into every cruise expecting it to be the cruise of a lifetime. I try not to get my expectations up too high, but sometimes this isn't possible. The short version of MY cruise review is that we a great time and nearly every aspect met or exceeded my expectations. Your expectations and your experience will undoubtedly be very different. I spend the time to write these reviews with one purpose in mind. To help the next guy have a great cruise, too. ******************************************************* What I Liked About This Sky Cruise - Cabin - for an inside it was more than adequate. Cleanliness - the ship was well maintained. Price - see above The Passenger Mix - not an overwhelming number of kids or the elderly. We were talking to one couple that was on a Carnival ship and they said it was chock full of people pulling oxygen tanks. That was surprising. Room Steward- hardly saw him, but he did a nice job. Wine Stewards- we missed having someone to handle this on the other lines. The Windjammer Lounge- great place for a martini and the music was fun. We even danced right there on the carpet! Disco- it was always happening after 9 PM either with live music, fun and games, karaoke or a DJ. Way to keep the party going, CD staff! Security - I felt like they had the program down pretty well. I suppose nothing is foolproof, but I thought they took every reasonable step to insure our safety. Pools and Hot Tubs- plenty of pool space and never crowded. The hot tubs were a little crowded from time to time, but that made for a lot of camaraderie! Alternative Restaurants (Especially Horizons) - some people resent having to pay an extra fee for something that used to be free. But I didn't feel the dining room experience was diluted to encourage the use of alternatives. I just felt like the alternatives were just that much more special if you wanted to upgrade your evening's meal. Entertainment- All around the best at sea from the dancers, magicians, comedians, musicians, singers, lounge acts and game shows. Bar Service- they stayed in the background until you needed them and fixed a great drink 24 Hour Pizza- it was nice to know there was always someplace you could get a bite after a long night of revelry Freestyle- it's all about the freedom of choice. I know that presents some challenges for some people who don't mix easily, but for us, the trade off is more than worth it Ports- I would have liked to have one more sea day, but other than Martinique, I wouldn't have wanted to miss a single one of them. They were all interesting and different in their own way. And because the islands weren't that far from each other, it didn't seem like the ship was racing from one to the other. Casino - yes, I made my contribution to the casino, but the dealers were generally friendly and patient and it seemed like you could always find a seat at a table when you wanted to. Room Service- we used the cards the first couple of mornings, but then we just called. We had our order within minutes each time. Photographers - very professional and not at all pushy or intrusive. We had a great group shot taken with the Captain, and since this was his LAST WEEK before retirement, he stood with us as proud as a peacock. Good Luck, Old Salt! Food- not spectacular, but a varied menu and the food was nicely seasoned and presented reasonably well. Not a bad meal all week. Embarkation- Quick and painless Disembarkation- the best in the business for mass market lines HANDS DOWN! No Tendering - we docked at every port on this itinerary. No pushing and shoving or VIP's getting off ahead of you What I Didn't Like About This Sky Cruise- Drink Prices- And they wonder why people smuggle Formal Night- still a mish mash of dress codes on that night. They could tidy this whole concept up a lot or do away with it all together Cruise in Review Video- None Offered Dining Room Service- Especially slow for Breakfast Sightlines in Stardust - Especially the Balcony they were very poor Phone System- no voice mail, so it made it hard to meet someone for a drink before dinner unless you went to their room and left a note Summary- Rating on a scale of 1-10 - 9 I really thought about rating this cruise higher - 9.5. But in fairness to our past cruise experiences on other lines that do some things better, Barb and I settled on a nice tidy 9. But in terms of meeting our expectations going in, this cruise was a 10. We knew that with Freestyle, you give up the friendly personal dining room service, but you get the flexibility that we enjoy. We knew we would have a basic inside cabin without a butler, concierge, balcony or even a window. But we actually find that we get out and do more on the ship and meet more people when we don't have a fancy room. I think I would have been content to stay out on the aft balcony of the Radiance and just get room service all week. But we would have missed the fun! We didn't miss much this week, mainly because we didn't have any reason to hang around the room. From now on our "non-budget" cruises will probably just be a standard aft balcony or maybe a mini-suite. We don't want to miss the parties!!! This was a very port intensive itinerary. We much prefer having the first day as a sea day. It gives us a chance to get settled, find fun people and get familiar with the ship. And after all, the SHIP is the most important destination on any cruise! But none of that detracted from our overall experience. Since we had sailed this ship before, we knew we what we were getting and didn't need to spend a day exploring. The ship was showing a little wear in a few areas, but the Sky and her crew did not disappoint the second time around. When deciding if I had a good experience on a cruise, I ask my wife and myself a few simple questions: Did I get my money's worth? In a word, "Yes." See above. Would I go on this ship again? Absolutely. It may be called the Pride of Aloha, but I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up on her in an island tour of the 50th state! Did we enjoy ourselves? This was a slam dunk. A wise man once said, "Quitcherbitchin, It's a cruise for cryin' out loud!" Me! But the truth is that I hardly had a moment that raised an eyebrow about something I didn't think was right or fair or inappropriate. I'll make a few suggestions later, but I won't spend any time nit picking. There was just too much fun going on to even bother. And now a few tips that might help you enjoy your cruise a little more. Freestyle - One of the cruise lines had a slogan that was something like, "It's different out here." Well if you are coming from a traditional cruise experience, you'll find a lot of things different out here on the NCL ships. Go in with the idea that you will have a great deal of freedom, but it won't be as easy to connect with crew members. Not impossible, but it takes a little more effort. Freestyle is more about the other passengers than it is about the crew. Connect with others on the internet even before you get on the ship. If you aren't computer savvy, don't worry. PEOPLE are generally different on a cruise. Friendlier and less guarded. Just mingle and don't be afraid to talk to people. You'll find someone to go on excursions with, have dinner with and maybe make some great friends. If you want to. If a table for two with your sweetie and a week sitting on your balcony or on the forward decks away from the crowds is what you want, you can have that, too. Think of the service in the dining room as more like going to a restaurant in your own town. You'll have a different waiter, generally, each night. Some will be better than others. If you find one you like at your favorite restaurant at home, the next time you go there, you might ask for them by name. Do the same here. Dine with them every night if you'd like. One of the things that is most confusing to passengers, me included, is the dress code. Particularly just exactly what is formal night supposed to mean. I've started more than one thread on the chat boards about NCL's "Formal Optional" night. The last time we were on the Sky, there was one dining room, The Four Seasons, that was the "designated formal dining room." In the Freestyle Daily newsletter, passengers were asked to use one of the other dining rooms if they chose to dress "resort casual." On this Sky cruise, there was no such announcement in the Daily and no indication that the Four Seasons was the designated formal dining room. It seems that the staff has decided it's just easier to have a totally open dining experience. This isn't my way of looking at it, but just as a way of helping you prepare for your cruise, I would characterize the dress code as this: Men can wear a long pair of pants and a shirt with a collar if you want to - on any night in any dining room. If you want to eat in your shorts, just go to the Garden Cafe or the Great Outdoor restaurant. Those of you like us who want to go formal, there is one night for that. "Attire: Formal Optional" is the way it's shown on the front page of the Daily. Call me old fashioned, but after 5 Freestyle cruises, I still don't get it. Why can't there be just one formal dining room? Even if it's only in one part of it for a specific period of time? Those of you accustomed to formal nights on Princess, HAL, Celebrity or even Carnival might be a little taken aback. Don't be surprised if you look over at the table next to you and see people dressed like they just came back from the "Jolly Roger Party Boat" excursion. They probably did! Oh, well. This isn't the first time this has happened and unless NCL decides to give passengers a clearer idea of what "formal optional" is, or maybe just reinstitute the original designated formal dining area, this will probably be the norm. Down off my soapbox now. I'm OK. Blood pressure returning to normal. Walt and the EMT staff - stand down. Just a few thoughts about what has worked for us with Freestyle. With Freestyle you should try to look at what YOU want to do when YOU want to do it. In the morning or the night before, check at the Freestyle Daily newsletter and see what is going on that you want to see or do. Then shape YOUR day around YOUR schedule. If you don't want to miss the Billy Joel Tribute in the Windjammer at 8 PM, then go to dinner early. If Crackpot Jackpot Bingo until 6:30 PM is your thing, then go to dinner late. That's what Freestyle is all about. Once you get the hang of it, it's the greatest. And NOBODY can touch Freestyle disembarkation. That alone is enough to bring me back to NCL again and again. No lining up at the crack of dawn, a leisurely breakfast and then step off the ship when you're ready. Why is this so hard for others to figure out? Alternative Restaurants - Here is an important tip for "steerage urchins" like myself. Unless you are in a suite, you can only make a reservation for an alternative a day in advance. The first night or two, there didn't seem to be much problem getting in. But as the week went on and people wanted to try something different, it got harder and harder. So if you think you'd like to try an alternative on Friday night, for example, call the restaurant reservation desk when they open up on Thursday morning. You can always cancel, but if you wait until Friday morning, often suite passengers and others will have them booked. Hope this helps you get the table you want! Drinks - As with most lines these days, bringing alcohol onboard is prohibited. Security reasons. HA! I won't discuss smuggling here; I'll just say there may have been some of that going on. But if you order a drink, be specific about the size drink what you want. Our friends John and Cynthia like large rum and cokes. In order to avoid getting a souvenir glass every time, they ordered them, "in a tall glass but not souvenir." I saw many souvenir glasses left on the pool deck each day ordered by people who just wanted a large drink. And every one of them cost an extra $2 plus 15% gratuity. If you want to carry a glass around with you all the time, consider getting the "Icicle" glass. It's large and they will refill it for a standard drink price. Ask bar service for details. Embarkation in San Juan- This ship is docked at the Pan Am pier. It's about a 10 minute cab ride from downtown or most hotels. So don't figure on staying downtown and dragging your bags to the boat. Also, embarkation is later than most domestic cruises. You can get there around 11 AM or so and stand in line for a while, drop your bags and go back to town if you like. Or you can stay on the ship until she sails. Or you can do what we did. We went there about 2 PM after having a beer at the end of Calle De Christo and shopping in Old San Juan. We checked our bags at the pier, walked right up to the counter for check in and stepped on the ship whenever we were done in the duty free store. We lost a couple hours of "ship time," but we had a nice day in OSJ and the easiest embarkation since the concierge escorted us on the Norwegian Sun. Your choice. OK. Drum roll please....................... And now ladies and gentlemen, the full "MrTractor" review of his trip on the Norwegian Sky......... (Cue the snappy music from the duo of Rick and Vince, one of Mr. Tractor's favorites)........... (MrTractor bursts from behind the curtain at the Stardust Show Lounge. A white hot spotlight follows him onstage as he enters. This time he's wearing his white tuxedo jacket with silver and white paisley bow tie and cummerbund). (Rick and Vince finish with a flourish and MrTractor salutes them like Jay Leno acknowledges the Tonite Show Band) Good evening fellow cruisers and thanks for listening! Tonight I'm inviting every one of you to embark upon a voyage on the first ship ever built with Freestyle cruising in mind. Join the FOMT, new and old, on a voyage where the weather is always perfect. Where there is no rain, only "liquid sunshine." To a place where no one can be grumpy or whiny (for long). Sad faces become happy. And otherwise sane and normal people become cross dressers. Come with me and my fellow adventurers to a place where....... Doctors don't mind making house calls as long as there's beer! So turn on some rumba music, get yourself a large rum and coke (tall but not in a souvenir glass), some Wadadli beer or a Painkiller of Guavaberry Colada. Just relax and try to get through this incredibly long but hopefully informative review. As usual, I didn't take any notes during the cruise, so some of the events may be a little jumbled. All I had time for was doing fun things and meeting nice people. And no grading on spelling or grammar. I am writing this as I decompress from a whopper of a vacation and struggling to use what brain cells I have left. Besides, while I'm on the ship, I'm too busy enjoying myself to write anything down. No flames or nasty email. This is just one man's opinion. Remember, your mileage may vary. (YMMV) Getting there - United Airlines Nonstop both ways. However, going down was very different than the way back. Mainly because on the way there, we flew in a "Coach Plus" plane. It was more like the American Airlines new coach seats. Lots more leg room and fewer seats total. On the way back, besides the fact that our plane was delayed for mechanical reasons in St. Thomas (that gives you a secure feeling, doesn't it?) and then flew into a snow storm, we were packed in like sardines. And of course at 6'4" I'm crammed into the middle seat with Barb at the window. That's because a guy who weighs around 300 lbs. is in the isle seat. Things weren't too bad at first. But when he falls asleep and relaxes, he begins to expand. Soon he's into half my seat. Stewardesses and passengers heading to the lavatory bump him in the aisle waking him occasionally. This might have been a bad thing, but it was the only thing preventing him from going into full fledged apnea and snoring like a chain saw. This makes for a long ride home. When he is fully rested and awakes, he wants to talk. He did. I listened. When he starts talking about "we" this and "we" that, I finally figured it out. I guess the altitude and the loss of brain cells during the week must have slowed my thinking. As we landed and everyone leaped to their feet as if they could get off, I saw her. HE WAS ON THE PLANE WITH HIS WIFE AND SHE WAS BIGGER THAN HE WAS. SO SINCE THEY COULDN'T SIT TOGETHER, THEY HAD TO SIT NEXT TO AND TORTURE TWO SEPARATE PASSENGER GROUPS. Thank goodness for armrests or he would have been in my lap. Whew! I knew we should have gotten bumped. They would have flown us back first class in those nice big wide seats!! Pre Cruise - Don't be afraid to stay in San Juan. I felt safer there than I do in most other U. S. cities. The Parrot Club is our favorite, but Dragonfly, Concierto and Barrachina's (Home of the original Pina Colada) are all good places to dine. We stayed at the Gallery Inn on Norzagaray Street. What a fascinating and warm experience this was. Do yourself a favor and consider staying there. It's everything they say it is and more. The hotel is so unique because the entire hotel is a work of art. Indeed it is the life's work of a wonderful artist and is filled with her own works as well as the works of other fine artists. But besides that, the hotel is warm, friendly, alive with animals and is just like having a home away from home in San Juan. The owner, Jan DeEsposo's artistic abilities were only exceeded by her charm and hospitality. I strongly urge you to consider staying there. I have posted a number of pictures from our stay there on www.webshots.com. Try this link: http://community.webshots.com/user/bronzegoddess100 or go to www.webshots.com and search for the member "bronzegoddess100." One of the photo galleries is of our stay at the Gallery Inn in Old San Juan. They also have a website where you can learn more about this exceptional hotel. http://www.thegalleryinn.com/. Thanks, Jan, for your friendship and hospitality. I truly did feel like it was my home away from home. See you next time!!! Embarkation - Because the time for embarkation lasts 10 hours, roughly 11Am to 9 PM, there just isn't the press of humanity trying to get on the ship like in Dante Fascell or Port Everglades. We decided not to rush to the ship, but enjoy a nice lunch in Old San Juan. We picked up our bags at the Gallery Inn where they were happy to store them for us and headed for the port around 2. There wasn't a soul in line in front of us. We spent a leisurely 20 minutes tasting some of the free liqueur and rum in the lobby and shopping at the duty free store. From the time we stepped up to the counter to the time we were on the ship could not have been more that 10 minutes and that was with being stopped every 20 steps to show someone else our boarding pass and cruise card. This seemed a little excessive and more for show than to actually accomplish anything. But hey, it was like having priority embarkation without paying suite prices! Cabin- The cabin was adequate for the two of us. But we actually were in a quad cabin. One pullout loveseat and a pull down bunk. I can only imagine what it would be like with four in that room. It had the usual amenities like a TV, phone, fridge, safe, and vanity. It lacked a small table, though, so when we called for room service we had to put the tray on the vanity, chair or the bed. The bath was small, but well laid out and the water temperature was easy to regulate. A few more comments: Small things in the room were starting to show some wear and tear. Things like door hinges, upholstery a little frayed, scrapes and scratches on the doors and furniture. No big deal. And maybe I was comparing it to my last time on the Sky when she was new or recent cruises on newer ships. I think they would do well to go through each cabin with an eye for some of these little things when they pull her in for refurbishment in March. Also, as has been mentioned before, there is not a lot of drawer space. Plenty of hanging space, so bring a shoe hanger for some extra room or use your suitcase under the bed for a little more storage. My wife who only uses Lancome products at home LOVES the lotion on NCL. I caught her smuggling a few bottles OFF the ship. That's a switch! Ha! The ship- The Norwegian Sky is not "Disney World at Sea" like a megaship. It's not a classic Grand Dame like the SS Rembrandt or the SS Norway. What it is, is a comfortable and well laid out ship, with great entertainment, sunny decks, nice pools and comfortable lounges. It has everything I want when I go to sea. I'm sure we'd enjoy a planetarium, a rock climbing wall, an ice skating rink and a revolving disco. But those are not really the things we go to the Caribbean for. We go for sunny ports, sandy beaches, warm water, good friends, good food, comfortable clean cabins, stimulating activities and entertainment, an accommodating crew and a deck chair in the sun. The Sky provided all this and more. Dining - Dining Room service was adequate if not overwhelming. It did seem like the larger the group, the longer it would take you to get served. Except at breakfast when it was slow pretty much all the time. I'll offer this tip: If you absolutely have to be done in less than an hour, dine at the buffet. But if you want to be done in less than 90 minutes, let your waiter know and you'll be pleased to know that they will try to accommodate you. They really are a hardworking crew and aim to please. I'll talk about the food later. Deck Areas- The Sky has some great outdoor areas. Pool deck has the usual noisy pool games. LOTS of saving going on. On our one and only sea day, we strolled out onto the pool deck at 10 AM to find every single chair reserved. It was 10% people and 90% towels. And at 10 AM, it was too late for breakfast. And don't tell me people just slipped in for a quick lunch. We found a nice spot not to far from Champs and camped there, but we had to "steal" a small table for our drinks from between a couple of chairs that were guarded by only a couple towels and a paperback for hours. If someone could figure a way to eliminate chair saving, they could revolutionize the industry. The deck on the fantail was home to some great barbeque for lunch and has a wonderful view. All the way forward on deck 13 was a nice quiet spot for sunning and relaxing and even had it's own hot tub and pool with waterfall. It did seem that there were quite a few families with kids using this area, but they were well behaved. That tub is perfect for a late night dip with a cocktail if you are interested! They had the usual basketball court, golf driving nets and shuffleboard and the upper deck was used by some for walking. But the promenade deck was the favorite of walkers and joggers because it went all the way around the ship so you could count your laps. Not sure how many there were to a mile, though, since my form of exercise was usually in the cabin with the lights off. He, he, he..... Aesthetics- The ship was well appointed and very modern. The colors, the furnishings and the architecture seemed to fit. It wasn't gaudy or garish and each public room was interesting and tasteful if not ornate. I'll be interested to see what they do with some of the lounges once the Sky becomes the Pride of Aloha. Some of the artist's renderings look fantastic! Entertainment- Like on our past NCL cruises, the entertainment was some of the best you'll see anywhere. I've been to Vegas, London and Broadway. And maybe it wasn't Siegfried and Roy, or Phantom of the Opera, but the Jean Ann Ryan troupe, the magician/comedian, Jane Powell and Rick and Vince are as good as any performers in their respective venues as you will see. The comedian was good, although we had seen his shtick before on the Grandeur OTS. We missed the big band concert and the ballroom dancing music in the Observation Lounge, but I heard some mixed reviews - some great and some not. But overall, we enjoyed the entertainment immensely and once again our expectations were met or exceeded. CD and Staff - A couple we have cruised with before, John and Cynthia, aren't big fans of the CD Linda. But while I never had a chance to talk with her personally, I have to disagree with their negative review. She didn't seem to have the warm fuzzy charm of Paul Baya or display the musical talent of some others, but she seemed pretty professional. When we saw her at the Liar's Club show, she displayed a great sense of comedic timing that honestly was quite unexpected. She seemed to handle her on stage, on TV and administrative duties quite well. And she left her assistants, who were a ball of fun and energy, to do the meet and mingle part of the job. I think this was just her style and I was tickled by the young men and ladies that kept the party going in Dazzles and the various fun and games that week. Just don't ask me to crossdress again. Bama, Tom "Vera" Botka and MrT have paid their dues. It's now time for someone else to step up and "take one for the team." Remember FOMT Handbook RULE # 37: NO FOOLS, NO FUN! Food- I would say that over all I was very pleased with the food. It was, and I realize this is very subjective, superior in overall quality to the food we just experienced on RCI's Radiance. The menu's were more varied, the food had better flavor and the presentation was equal to that of RCI. That being said, the lobster tails were the langostino type and not Maine quality. The only dish I had to send back was the Pasta Trio in Horizons. It was just not what I had expected. But of the folks that went with us on the Radiance, we agreed the first night that the meal we had that night was better than anything we had all week on the RCI cruise. As far as alternatives, I personally prefer Horizons. Not necessarily for the food although the food is very good. After 17 cruises, it is our favorite restaurant at sea. It has elevated booths for 4 or 5 and tables for two in front of large picture windows. It's a long narrow room that seems so much quieter and more intimate than a large open room. No foot traffic trudging by you. Quiet, comfortable, softly lit. Service is friendly and attentive and the food is above average to excellent. The veal chops, fillet, Caesar salad made table side and desserts were scrumptious. But it's the atmosphere alone that puts this place above nearly every other eatery at sea. Again, YMMV. Le Bistro is an NCL signature restaurant and the food there is also excellent. The menu never varies and is consistently good. The soups, appetizers, Caesar and chocolate fondue were great. Although Barb missed the little flaming fondue pot. This time it just came in a metal casserole bowl. Not nearly as fun! Chow Caio's food presentation and service was good, but the atmosphere in the converted pizza parlor detracted somewhat from the experience. It was a fun night together with the gang for "Chinese New Year," though! I even learned how to say that in Chinese. But don't ask me say it now that I'm home. I'll probably be saying, "Your mother is a polar bear" or something. Maybe one or two more weeks with Helen and I'll be able to order a couple of beers in Mandarin. Survival skills are important while traveling. WhooHooooo!! Our List of "Favorites" - Restaurant- Four Seasons, Included; Horizons, Alternative Martini Bar- Windjammer Quiet Spot- Forward Deck 13 Noisy Spot - Windjammer Excursion- Charles, Our Taxi tour driver in Antigua. Place to Shake a Tail Feather- Dazzles Disco Hot Tub - Pool Deck Outdoor Bar - Pool Bar Best Place for a Beer- Pool Bar Best Piano Bar - Observation Lounge Place to Meet for Cocktails and Hors de' oeuvres - Windjammer Cocktail Waiter(ess)- Greg at Pool Bar Other topics......... Phone System-For a modern ship, it seemed to me that the phone system was a little out of date. No voice mail. For a freestyle ship, this is an important component, because there is no "touchstone" like dinner at the same time and table. The only way to find people was to run into them or leave a note at their door. I wonder if when the ship goes into dry dock for refurbishment if this system will be upgraded. Wine Service- It was nice to have wine stewards. Our recent cruises outside of NCL - Princess and Royal Caribbean - had done away with that position. I can only assume this was done as a cost cutting move. So you had either your waiter, who was busy trying to serve you dinner, or his assistant, who likely knew nothing about wine, taking care of this duty. For what you pay for a decent bottle of wine, it seemed only reasonable to get someone who was knowledgeable performing this task. It was no problem getting an unfinished bottle of wine stored for you. Unlike some past NCL cruises, they seemed to have the program down pretty well. When I told the sommelier about a re-corked bottle, it appeared in just a few minutes - even when I had opened it on the other end of the ship. Also, there was a "Buy 5 Bottles and get the 6th bottle free" program. No problem. Barb had her one bottle for the week and I had the rest! HA! Although, I'll say in my defense that when MrTractor starts drinking wine, he gets pretty generous with it. It made for a lot of conversation and good spirits! Bar Staff- I didn't feel pushed or overwhelmed by bar servers anywhere on the ship. They were attentive, but not overly so. Unlike the Royal Caribbean ships, they don't have someone in the dining rooms going around with after dinner shots. Even though I didn't really miss this, I think they could have sold us a few! SHOTS FIRED! The bar staff at the pool bar was pretty fun and kept up with Stan's beer helmets and our frothy rum drinks. Drink prices are high. Higher than most of the places we can afford to go to, but not higher than most other ships at sea. I'm guessing that about half of all onboard revenue is made at the bars. My bar bill reflected that. OuCh!!! Disembarkation- As usual, NCL is THE BEST at this. We chose the time we wanted by luggage tag and got off the ship after a nice leisurely breakfast. Short lines for Customs and Immigration. There was a short line for a cab with some cutting in line here, but we didn't care. We had a long wait at the airport anyway. Hats off to NCL for both Embarkation and Disembarkation - AGAIN! Ports- I'm not going to spend a lot of time with a travel log of each port. I'll just mention a few tips and ideas that you might find helpful. San Juan- Get a free guide at the visitor's center. Take the free trolley's to El Morro Fort, follow the walking tour down the harbor side of old town. Stop for outdoor sunning, drinking and eating where it ends at Calle de Christo. Turn east on Calle Fortaleza and stop at the Parrot Club (on your left with a yellow awning) for a Parrot Passion drink. If you have time for dinner, try the tuna. Yum! For a unique pre-cruise stay, try The Gallery Inn on Calle Norzagaray. www.thegalleryinn.com. In a word - GREAT! (See above). St. Thomas/St. John - Catch a cab to Red Hook and get the ferry to St. John. The closest thing to paradise on American soil this side of Hawaii. The surf was kinda rough, but Trunk bay was still nice. Get a group together and rent a car and stop at Cinnamon, Trunk and several other beaches on the island. I was a little disappointed we couldn't recreate our last tour of St. John on this trip. (Bama and IslandFan, I guess we'll always have St. John). But there are plenty of cabs and vans to take you to whatever beach you want to visit. In St. Thomas go to Mountain Top for a Banana Daquiri and check out Gladys's Restaurant in town for a Mango Colada. If you're lucky, Gladys will give you her Tina Turner Floor show. Antigua - Get a small group together and rent a cab for the day. We paid $100 and our driver, Charles took Bob, Marilyn, Barb and me all over the island, to Nelson's boatyard, and to some breathtaking heights for panoramic picture taking. We ended up at Pineapple Bay beach for a couple hours. There is an all inclusive there also that seemed to satisfy our friends John and Cynthia and Stan and Helen. Maybe next time we'll do that now that we've seen most of the island. Martinique - I don't get a warm fuzzy from this port, but it isn't as bad as some people make it out to be. It rained, so we didn't take the ferry over to the resorts. I heard that there are bikini vendors there that give what you might say is an "Ooo, La, La" presentation of their wares. But the beaches and hotels are nice there. Maybe next time. Don't get to far out of the tourist district here. It can be pretty rough. And they are not the most tourist friendly people in the world. St. Maarten - Stop by the Rum Jumbie liqueur tasting stand as you get off the ship. Yum. The only place in the world you can get it. Catch a tour at the tourist center for half the price of the ship's tour. You'll get in most of the standard sights. Orient Bay for gawking and a guavaberry colada. Shopping on the French side and a tour of most of the island. Dawn Beach is nice and is not nude. Downtown beach is full of beach bars and you can take the ferry right over to the docks when you are ready. Cheaper and more fun than a cab. I heard good things about the Divi Resort, too, and I hear they have a website. Tortola - Again, step off the ship and get on a tour bus for a look around the island. $20 per person. Half the ship's tour price. Then spend the afternoon on a nice beach. Cane Garden is popular with plenty of watering holes. Rent a beach chair and camp for the afternoon. Plenty of cabs and the people are accommodating if not overly friendly. Don't just get off the ship and wander into town thinking you are going to find great shops and restaurants. That part of the island is just not all that wonderful. Final Thoughts - I am happy that the Sky will find a new life in Hawaii, but it will make me kind of sad that I won't be able to go on her again in the Caribbean. Between the Sky, the Sun and the Dawn, I can say that the Sky is the least "fancy." But I prefer it by far over the Sea which was not designed with Freestyle in mind and many other ships on other lines. With each successive generation of the "Freestyle" ships, each one seems to get better. But the Sky still has the power to please in a big way. Looks like the Sun may become our new preferred ship in the Caribbean by default. I'd like to see the Sun start an alternating eastern/western itinerary. Then maybe I could join Stan and Helen for another one of their famous back to backers! I would like to mention one particular incident that happened on the ship while we were still in our port of embarkation. The Sky had a show by Juan Carlos. Naturally, he was accompanied by his famous "Rumba Girls." He is an exceptionally talented and entertaining Spanish guitarist and the "Rumba Girls" come along for fluff and sizzle. As interesting as the choreographic stylings of the Rumba Girls are, I would happily go to see Juan Carlos alone. It was at this performance that we first noticed our new friend Bob. Seems he unwittingly volunteered to perform a poignant rendition of a traditional folk dance, the "Bumgooloo," which when loosely translated from the original Carib Indian vernacular comes out something like "Shake Your Booty While Wearing a Ridiculous Belt That Makes You Look Like You Have Maracas Sticking Out Of Your Butt." I was aware of what was about to transpire, since I was one of his victims on our previous Sky cruise. And Barb thought I enjoyed my encounter with the Rumba Girls just a little too much the first time. First the Rumba Girls demonstrated how this was done. Man they sure made it look easy! Then the crowd sat in stunned amusement as the Rumba Girls harnessed the unsuspecting participants. Juan Carlos challenged the four gentlemen to give it their best shot. The music played and the men jiggled. The Rumba Girls flashed their toothy smiles as their showgirl feathers fluttered under the warm colored spotlights of the Stardust Lounge. Suddenly the music stopped. Juan Carlos' eyes focused on one particular participant. The crowd shuddered. Some of the elderly even recoiled in horror. A mother had been shielding his eyes of a small boy from the spectacle that was unfolding. He lurched from her grasp and gazed upon this gruesome sight. One look at Bob and he shouted, "LOOK, MOMMIE, THAT MAN'S BUTT IS ON SIDEWAYS!" Seems Bob had gone all out in attempting to duplicate the Rumba Girls technique. (Knowing what I now know about Bob, this was impossible). Things were looking grim. Bob had experienced a "BUMGOOLOO BLOWOUT" He was in serious trouble. Someone shouted," IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?!" The theatre fell silent. Until one voice rose above the stillness....... "Uh.... Wait.... I'M A DOCTOR!" It was Bob! Instinctively, he sprung into action. It was obvious that he had performed this procedure before. He quickly called one of the Rumba Girls over to assist. Momentarily confused by the position of the maracas, Bob calmly guided her in carefully removing the belt. "That's it. Grab the latch. Now pull it open. That's right. That's it. That's the one. Who's your Daddy. HO YEAHHHH......" "But, Sir, that's not the Maraca Belt!" "Never contradict the Doctor in the middle of a procedure!" "Oh, never mind." zzzzzzzZZZZZZZIPPP...... Dr. Bob skillfully unlatched the belt and handed it to the Rumba Girl. She wasn't sure what had just happened, but the concerned passengers breathed a collective sigh of relief. The ship's medical staff could stand down. A cruise crisis averted! And that's the story of how Dr. Bob....... SAVED HIS OWN A$$!!! See? I told you it wasn't the first time he had performed that procedure. In fact I recall it came in handy a couple more times on this trip alone! Bob was now one of those people on a cruise that you just seemed to notice. Later that night at the deck party, we introduced ourselves and invited him and Marilyn to join our sailaway at Champs. Along with John and Cynthia, Stan and Helen, Bob and Vicki, and Walt and Patty they became hardcore FOMT during this cruise and fast friends with Barb and me. It just goes to show you that if you go to have fun, you'll find other fun people, too. Welcome to FOMT, Bob and Marilyn. Your membership packet is in the mail. Top Ten Reasons to Sail the Norwegian Sky- As has become our tradition, here are the top ten reasons we enjoyed our Sky cruise. 10) The blue brick streets of old San Juan 9) Tour of Antigua with our native driver Charles. 8) Late leisurely embarkation and disembarkation 7) Getting our picture taken by some nude guy at Orient Beach 6) Kareoke with the BiCoastals 5) Having the Blackened Tuna at the Parrot Club and walking home in the moonlight to The Gallery Inn in San Juan 4) The beaches of the Exotic Caribbean 3) Horizon's Restaurant 2) New and Old Friends of MrTractor and the Bronze Goddess And the Number One Reason why we enjoyed our Sky Cruise.... 1) GETTING OUT OF THE MISERABLE ICE AND SNOW WITH MY BEAUTIFUL, SEXY, PATIENT, LOVING, CLASSY, INTELLIGENT, WITTY, CHARMING AND ALL AROUND WONDERFUL WIFE! Did I mention sexy and beautiful. Oh, yeah, I guess I did. This was real climate relief. And if I can find another ship anywhere near this price range next January or February, I'll be ready to head south for more adventure and high jinx on the high seas. And temperatures above freezing! Thanks again to all the fun people who made this a wonderful cruise! Jerry "MrTractor" Hoehn Locust Grove, VA Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
The Sky will soon be renamed the Pride of Aloha and moved to Hawaii. We'll miss it in the Caribbean, having sailed on it twice, 1/04 and 11/02. The Sky is a wonderful ship. The layout is excellent, it rides very well, and there is ... Read More
The Sky will soon be renamed the Pride of Aloha and moved to Hawaii. We'll miss it in the Caribbean, having sailed on it twice, 1/04 and 11/02. The Sky is a wonderful ship. The layout is excellent, it rides very well, and there is almost no noise or vibration. The cabins are on the small side, but workable. The cabin furnishings are beginning to show wear. I recommend a balcony if you are going to have a child in the cabin with you; you'll need the extra space. The Great Outdoors Cafe, a canvas covered eating area on the fantail, is our favorite space. It's wonderful to eat outside in the shade while taking it the panoramic views. More ships should have a fantail setup like this one! The public rooms are handsome, spacious, and clean. The crew is young, international, and delightful. While smaller than some of its peers, the ship is plenty big enough and had ample amenities for our taste. The main dining rooms are handsome and enjoyable. Unfortunately, the food quality was not as good as on our first cruise on the Sky; there is a new head chef. The ingredients used seem less expensive than before, and preparation is erratic. Our last two dinners were quite good, the others were average. The menus promise more than is delivered. It's a good idea to avoid the "popular" entrees such as the lobster. It was bland and overcooked. The cafeteria style food in the cafes was quite good, except that there were some problems with it being hot enough. Food served in the Gatsby Wine bar was stone cold. But room service was excellent. We had glitches on this cruise we did not have on our first one. The cabin was not clean at check-in. It had not been vacuumed under the bed or behind the sofa; we found fingernail clippings and food crumbs. The crew also needs to do a better job of clearing the inevitable trash people leave scattered about the pool deck and deck 12, particularly at night. In the cafe, my wife's ice tea glass had lipstick on it, and I picked up a supposedly clean tray that had egg stuck to it. Service in the main dining room, which was fantastic on our first cruise, has deteriorated to erratic depending upon what table you draw. This is freestyle cruising where you have no assigned seating or time for your meals. We like that A LOT! There is an air of sadness among the crew, which probably explains some of these problems. Many will not be eligible to work the Sky when it is re-registered in the USA. On a positive note, the execution of the stage shows has improved since our last cruise on the Sky. A sport coat will do nicely for dress on this ship. It is necessary to bring a suit or tuxedo only if you want to attend the Captain's reception. We were very disappointed that the NCL dock in San Juan has been moved to the Pan Am pier. Instead of an easy walk, Old San Juan is now a $10.00 cab ride from the ship. NCL should provide a water taxi. Carnival now occupies the desirable pier space that was NCL's last year. Despite the unexpected glitches, we enjoyed our cruise on the Sky very much. But I would have to rate it a 3.5 star experience, down from 4.5 stars last year. That's not a recommendation to stay away from the Sky because it does have much to offer. You can have a great time on it, and you may be able to save money compared to similar cruises from other lines. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
We started boarding the ship about 12:30, smooth and easy. Had lunch at the Garden Cafe buffet, nothing spectacular. Went to cabin which was a decent size; the only problem was the top cover on the inside of the toilet was not cleaned. ... Read More
We started boarding the ship about 12:30, smooth and easy. Had lunch at the Garden Cafe buffet, nothing spectacular. Went to cabin which was a decent size; the only problem was the top cover on the inside of the toilet was not cleaned. Went to the desk and reported it and it was cleaned before we got back. That evening, we went to Seven Seas for dinner. The food was so-so; the service was very slow. It took 20 minutes to get a cup for coffee and another 15 to get the coffee. We found this to be true in the Four Seasons dining room also. Must commend the people who clean the tables at the Garden Cafe and assist guests needing help. We were always greeted with a friendly smile and a "hello, how are you?" Our room steward was more professional and courteous, keeping our room neat and clean. Very friendly and helpful. We found the ship itself very clean and well appointed. We have sailed on other lines and would rate the service and food on the Sky below what we've come to expect from previous service on other lines. We found that the dining room service suffered greatly because of the tipping setup on NCL. We think the servers feel that they get the same tip as the others do, so there's no need to go out of their way for you. We heard this also from so many other passengers about the tipping and the service. What they call the ice cream bar, which is only open for three hours, serves four flavors of ice cream with only chocolate sauce and topping. I also missed the Taco Bar as on other lines. You can only get eggs to order/omelettes, and belgian waffles/pancakes poolside. So you have to get what you want there and go into the buffet for everything else. The toast was always hard and cold. The best thing on the ship was the entertainment. The singers/dancers were so talented and put on a great show. Our last day, at sea, was spent going in circles with San Juan visible. They did this in order to open the casinos, gift shops and bars for one last time so they could get more money out of you. The airport, SJU, is one of the worst ones I've ever been in and I've been in a few. Had to find someone who knew where the baggage area was and follow them to it. The taxi setup at the airport is good, with the voucher system. After that, the taxis seem to charge you whatever they want to take you to where you're going. The only good thing about San Juan for us was the fort El Morro due to our time restrictions. We thought arrival at SJU was bad. Leaving, we found that it was good compared to what we encountered departing. There's no curbside check-in for baggage so you have to tote your own bags and get in a long line at your airline counter. Going thru security to get to the boarding are, everyone had to take off their shoes and men to take off their belts. The airport is in disarray with construction everywhere. P.S. We'll never go out of SJU again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
Norwegian Sky Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.6
Dining 4.0 3.5
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.7
Family 3.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 4.5 3.9
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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