The Stardust Lounge is a two-level theater that takes up the back of decks 6 and 7. This is where the bulk of the ship's formal entertainment takes place. The theater features white chairs and banquettes, with purple carpet and brass railings. Because Sky hosts shorter cruises, you'll only see one or two production shows onboard. An older ship, Sky wasn't built to accommodate high-tech lighting and set pieces, as some newer ships are, but the shows on Sky are high-energy and feature talented singers and dancers performing. One of the things we really liked about the productions is they brought in more modern music that had passengers singing along. Stardust also will host acts like comedians and jugglers, and it serves as the spot for bingo and games like Deal or No Deal.
You'll find plenty to keep you busy during the day on Norwegian Sky. Typical options include team trivia (several times throughout the day), wacky golf challenge, poolside line dancing, paint and mingle classes, digital scavenger hunts and napkin-folding demonstrations. Most activities are free, and those that come with a fee are marked as such in the daily cruise planner.
There's often something fun, be it live music or interactive competitions like Ms. Norwegian Sky or Mr. Sexy Legs, going on poolside during the day. In Cuba, you'll find mostly Latin beats, which sets the tone of the trip perfectly.
Shops offer liquor tastings in an effort to boost sales, and there are a number of art auctions held throughout the cruise.
Passengers can also play for-fee games in the arcade, located on Deck 7.
Norwegian Sky heats up at night, with a festive atmosphere that permeates the whole ship. Pack white clothing so you can participate in Norwegian's famous White Hot Night, which includes blacklights and lots of dancing. The ship also offers karaoke, games like the Not So Newlywed Show and Quest, and a 70s dance party. Passengers stay out late, and they're committed to having fun. You'll hear music -- live or recorded -- virtually everywhere you go.
The ship also has a good-sized casino, located on Deck 7, which is open when the ship is at sea. (Because the ship is in port often, the casino isn't open as often as casinos on other ships.) The Sky Club Casino has slot machines as well as table games, such as blackjack, craps and roulette. At night, it offers a lotto draw. We didn't have any casino tournaments offered on our sailing.
With an all-inclusive drinks package for every passenger, Norwegian Sky's bars and lounges are always hopping, often with music pumping and lots of conversation. The bars are simply a lot of fun, and while they generally look a bit dated, it doesn't stop anyone from having a good time. Cocktails flow freely, and bartenders and wait staff are friendly and fast. There's a chill vibe onboard. Music onboard is heavily Latin, especially on cruises to Cuba.
Bliss Ultra Lounge (Deck 6): The ship's true nightclub, Bliss is the place to be after dinner and into the wee hours of the morning (it stays open until 2 a.m. most nights). A mix of live music and DJed hits keeps passengers dancing, and the energy is great. The room has a small stage and good-sized dance floor. Bliss is large enough to host late-night salsa dance classes and evening game shows like the Not So Newlywed Game, Sing if You Know It and Quest, all of which make passengers part of the show. During the day, it hosts art auctions and trivia.
Starbucks (Deck 7): Get your coffee fix at Norwegian's first Starbucks at sea outlet, which serves cappuccinos, espressos and lattes along with iced creations. Tea also is served here. All beverages at Starbucks are considered premium and therefore aren't covered by the drinks package.
Sugarcane Mojito Bar (Deck 7): The signage and cruise dailies still call it the Atrium Bar, but the menus -- and staff -- say Sugarcane Mojito Bar. Cuban cocktails -- specifically the mojito -- are the specialty here, but passengers can order pretty much anything they'd like. You'll find live music here throughout the day, you can hear it from any spot in the atrium. It's a great option if you're a people-watcher.
Casino Bar (Deck 7): The Sky Club Casino features a small bar, where passengers can grab a drink while playing video poker.
The Local Bar & Grill (Deck 11): The ship's dinner/sports bar is decked out with memorabilia and gear. It's the best place onboard to catch a game -- the bar has plenty of flat-screen TVs -- while drinking some brews with friends. Open in the evening, you can also grab a bite to eat; The Local serves complimentary snacks like chicken wings and fries.
Topsiders Bar and Grill (Deck 11): Topsiders is the ship's pool bar, and it's one of the biggest we've seen, stretching across Deck 11, midship, and is busy all day, though bartenders and waiters deftly move through the congestion, and wait times are low. The most popular drinks -- strawberry daiquiris, Floriditas and Hotel Nacionals, for example -- are premixed and stored in huge decorative vessels that line the bar, then ice and booze are added to individual glasses to make fresh cocktails. There's a cocktail of the day every day, which comes with a price and souvenir glass. (If you want the cocktail but don't want to pay extra, ask the server for it in a plain old bar glass.)
Spinnaker Lounge (Deck 11): Probably our favorite spot onboard, thanks to stellar views and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in bright light, lending a warmth and tremendous comfort to the space. There's a large bar as well as a dance floor. During the day and into the evening, Spinnaker hosts get-togethers for groups like Friends of Bill W., and solo traveler and LGBT mixers. At night, you can catch live music and put on your boogie shoes.
Champs Bar (Deck 12): The only bar on the sun deck, Champs is a short walk for anyone getting their tan on. A seating area, where smoking is permitted, is adjacent to the bar, and passengers looking to get out of the sun can sit at the bar itself, which offers a bit of shade.
Two large, deep pools take up the center of Deck 11, and they're busy when people aren't in port. Four hot tubs separate the pools. While there are ample lounge chairs, these are removed to accommodate events like the Pool BBQ, so seating space can be hard to come by. We love the real teak deck, a rarity among more modern ships. Shade also is tough to find, but many passengers like to retreat to tables near the bar, which provides relief from the sun and better bar service. Hot tubs and pools stay open until midnight, and passengers seem to enjoy having the opportunity for some late-night swimming.
Outdoor recreation is limited to a sports court, shuffleboard and golf driving nets, all located on Deck 12. Deck 11 also features two Ping-Pong tables.
The ship's sun deck essentially wraps all of Deck 12, with hundreds of blue mesh lounge chairs. On a sea day, it's bustling, to the point where it congests walkways a bit. But the atmosphere tends to be really friendly and gregarious. Part of the sun deck is designated as a quiet zone, though we didn't see anyone observing this. Perhaps it's because the quiet zone includes a small pool and hot tub, along with a serene waterfall; while signs say the area is called Splashes Kids' Pool, we only saw adults using the pool or hot tub during our sailing. There's no built-in shade.
There's also sun deck space in front of the Outrigger Lounge on Deck 11. This is actually one of the best spots for viewing the sea or sail-in to Havana. Get here early as you sail into Cuba so you can click great pics to your heart's content. The space on Deck 12 also works, but chest-high glass panels can obstruct your view, unless you're willing to climb on top of lounge chairs for a better vantage point.
Most of Norwegian Sky's services are offered on decks 5, 6 and 7, around the light-filled atrium area. Guest services and the shore excursion desk are located on Deck 5. This is also where passengers embark to start their cruise and disembark at the end.
Several shops are located on decks 6 and 7. Here, passengers can find various necessities, snacks, Norwegian Sky souvenirs, jewelry and watches, clothing and duty-free alcohol and tobacco. (Cuban cigars are sold from a cabinet in Captain Cook's Bar on Deck 6.) Deck 6 also is home to three meeting rooms and a decent-sized library, where you can find board and card games as well as a daily trivia sheet. The ship's photo gallery is also on Deck 6. Here, passengers can purchase photos of them taken by the ship's photographers or buy camera equipment.
You'll find a tiny, mostly unused, internet cafe on Deck 7. Most passengers elect to skip the cafe and instead purchase a Wi-Fi package, available by the minute or in packages. Internet speeds are slow -- you won't be able to stream -- but sufficient for surfing, posting social media and checking email.
Self-service laundry isn't available, but you can send out your laundry to be done -- a full laundry bag will cost you about $20. Pressing services also are available, for a fee.
Norwegian Sky's Mandara Spa sits at the front of the ship on the right (starboard) side. The spa is adequately sized for the number of passengers onboard. Decorated with an Asian theme (think Buddha and lotus artwork), the spa and adjacent salon are open each day from roughly 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., though hours change depending on the port schedule, so check your cruise daily for times. There are 10 treatment rooms as well as a waiting area, where passengers can enjoy hot tea. The spa has men's and women's changing rooms, which include separate showers, lockers, steam room and sauna. (These are complimentary for all passengers.)
Run by spa giant Steiner Leisure, the spa and salon feature Elemis products and offer treatments like stone, Swedish and deep-tissue massages, pro-collagen facials, ionithermie cellulite reduction treatments, manicures, pedicures, keratin blow outs, and hair cut, color and styling. Prices are about what you would expect to pay at a spa on land, with a 75-minute Swedish massage coming in at $179 and manicure starting at $45. The spa offers men's treatments as well: shave, deep grooming, beard trim and hair cuts as well as waxing. Couples massages are also available. As is typical with Steiner-run spas, staff are skilled and courteous, but chances are, they'll give you a hard sell following your treatment, telling you about the products you should buy to improve your health. If you want to skip this part, kindly tell them before your treatment starts that you won't buy anything and would prefer to skip the upsell.
Discounts on select treatments are available when you buy several treatments -- called a 10/20 special. You get 10 percent off your first treatment, 20 percent off your second. Daily specials also are offered; these generally bundle together a series of treatments for a reduced price. An 18 percent gratuity will be added to your spa and salon bills automatically.
Body Waves Fitness Center is located opposite the spa complex, on the left (port) side of the ship. The space is small, as it was built before passengers started demanding more fitness options while cruising. Still the space is adequate, provided you don't visit during peak times, especially in the morning between 8 and 10 and in the afternoon, after lunch. (On our sailing, several pieces of cardio equipment were out of order, and there was a wait to grab treadmills.)
The fitness center is divided into two rooms: one for cardio equipment (stationary bikes, treadmills, ellipticals) and free weights, and a second that serves as an aerobics studio and weight machine area. Free weights go up to 75 pounds. The aerobics studio has equipment for classes like TRX suspension training, kickboxing (with heavy bags) and spinning. Classes are offered several times each cruise, and the prices vary based on the class, though you can get a discount if you sign up for multiple classes. A couple of classes, like stretching, are available for free. Personal training also is available, for a charge. Children under 16 must be accompanied by adults in the fitness center. There's a jogging track on Deck 6; 3.5 laps equal 1 mile. It's open for limited hours -- roughly 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. -- because running on it might make noise that would affect people in cabins below the track.
Norwegian Sky has fewer families traveling than other ships, in part because of the ship's weekly visits to Cuba, an itinerary that appeals mostly to American couples. Programming feels fairly adult in nature, with late-night parties and the all-inclusive drinks package. Still, the ship does have good programming for kids under the company's Splash Academy program, and many of Sky's cabins can accommodate families, thanks to third, fourth and even fifth berths. The kids' facilities tend to operate from morning to night on sea days, and from the time the ship leaves a port until late at night, though they generally close during dinner. Parents and their kids can visit and walk through the facilities to get a sense of what they're like on their first day onboard from late morning until late afternoon. Facilities are colorful, decorated with bright animal art. Passersby (and parents who want to check in without being obtrusive) can look in on the action via portholes in the hallway.
Splash Academy, located at the front of the ship on Deck 7, divides kids into age groups and assigns activities based on kids' ages. Turtles (3 to 5), Seals (6 to 9) and Dolphins (10 to 12). The youngest group is the Guppies, ages 6 months to 36 months. Parents must accompany Guppies, who have a playroom designed to stimulate the wee ones with bright colors and plush toys. Short (around 30 minutes) activity sessions are also offered, where parents and kids color and play together. Turtles (ages 3-5) have more organized activities, and parents aren't required to stay. This group might engage in storytime, learn about the ocean by playing games, dress up as super heroes or compete in the Turtles Olympics. A late-night group babysitting option runs from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.: Turtles, Seals and Dolphins can hang out supervised in Splash Academy for a fee of $6 an hour for the first child in a family, $4 for additional siblings. (Signup ahead of time is required; if there aren't enough signups, the session might be canceled.) Club counselors can supervise kids during mealtime for a flat $6 fee; breakfast, lunch and dinner options are available most days.
Seals, those kids ages 6 to 9, will participate in roll play games (with fun titles like, The Crook Who Took The Snook), learn circus skills and get crafty. There's also free time for things like Wii gaming. Parents and kids in other age groups can join in the fun with things like cupcake decorating and dodgeball.
Tweens on Norwegian Sky are called Dolphins (ages 10 to 12), and they participate in themed activities, trivia, video games and sports events, plus have more built-in free time. They also might take part in activities based on the ports they're visiting, so a stop in Cuba might inspire a session of traditional Cuban arts and crafts or games, such as chess. Dolphins can sign themselves out of the clubs if parents have given their consent.
The teen program on Norwegian Sky takes place in the Entourage Teen Club on Deck 11. The space is designated a "parent-free zone" so teens feel comfortable just hanging out in the club, which has wood floors, purple and blue chairs and sofas, and games like air hockey and foosball as well as Wii gaming stations. There's also an adjacent arcade, exclusive to teens. (A second arcade, on Deck 7, is open to all passengers.) Stateroom keycards are required to play the games, but parents can limit how much their kids can spend.
Teen programming is far more casual than that for younger kids, and a lot of it takes place outside of Entourage with things like basketball and dodgeball tournaments. The club can transform into a teen disco at night, where nonalcoholic drinks are served.