Due to how our school district handled our February Break, we were looking for a last-minute trip somewhere warm for not a lot of money. Additionally, the on-again-off-again government closures during the winter of 2108-19 made us hesitant to plan a national parks road trip. After much consideration, we decided cruising the Bahamas aboard the Norwegian Sky fit the bill.
We started scanning last-minute cruises and found a good deal through Cruise Direct for a four-day Bahamas cruise to Nassau, Freeport and Great Stirrup Cay. We found the right price so we booked it and made reservations for hotel rooms on the way down and back.
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On the way down, we booked the DoubleTree near SeaWorld in Orlando, which proved to be quite comfy, a good bargain and a relatively easy drive to Miami. Even after a hearty breakfast, we were able to easily make it to the cruise terminal in Miami by noon.
While there are other Hilton properties closer to Miami we could have stayed at, it was the weekend of the Daytona 500, which made getting a room at the last minute tough. As a bonus, we were able to have dinner with one of Bonnie’s dear friends. It was a win all around.
Why Cruise the Norwegian Sky to the Bahamas
First and foremost, the Norwegian Sky is the second smallest ship in Norwegian’s fleet. It is fully 18% smaller than the Norwegian Pearl, which we sailed upon in Alaska this past summer. The Norwegian Sky is also 44% smaller than the Adventure of the Seas, which we sailed upon to the southern Caribbean. It feels small as well. While it has nice features and the ship was enjoyable to cruise on, you will be able to tell if you have sailed upon larger ships.
That said, the Norwegian Sky has one major advantage, price-wise: complimentary open bar! An open bar saves a significant amount of money aboard a Norwegian cruise ship ($99 per person, per day). With this deal, we enjoyed several great drinks at various bars and on Great Stirrup Cay.
Even with the small size, we found the ship itself quite comfortable with plenty of quiet places to relax throughout the cruise. Honestly, this was a great use of a smaller, older ship. There was just enough stuff on the ship to keep us busy for a four-day cruise and we never felt bored with the lack of the options.
Dining Aboard the Norwegian Sky
As with most cruise ships, the Norwegian Sky has both complementary and additional charge dining options. Yes, it is nice to have a little more variety and choice for your meals. That said, it’s not fun to feel like you’re being nickel-and-dimed for those options.
If you are not interested in spending additional money on dining while cruising, you do have a few options to choose from on the Norwegian Sky.
Main Dining Rooms
The Norwegian Sky offers two main dining rooms, the Palace and the Crossings. The Crossings is a bit more modern in its decor versus the Palace, which is a bit more classic. Both offer the same menus for dinner and the Palace is also open for breakfast.
We particularly enjoyed breakfast in the Palace. It is a much more quiet experience than the Garden Cafe, the main buffet.
The staff did a great job with dinner in both of the dining rooms. We enjoyed every meal we had in both dining rooms and the service was good all around. That said, the dinner menu was not always awe-inspiring. There were some decent options, but we have seen better options on other cruises.
For whatever reason, neither dining room is open for lunch. My guess is that’s because most folks are off the ship at lunch time.
The main buffet is the Garden Grill. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and has plenty of options for all tastes. That said, it is always crowded and noisy. It is easily my least favorite place on any cruise ship. One of the main drawbacks of the Garden Grill is the limited bar.
Fortunately, just outside is Great Outdoors. This lovely space is located at the stern of the ship and is open-air with canvas sunshades AND it has a full bar.
While the buffet is relatively limited compared to the Garden Grill, you can easily grab a plate from the Garden Grill and walk out to the Great Outdoors. We didn’t get to use the Great Outdoors that much in Alaska, aboard the Norwegian Pearl, but we made great use of it this time while cruising the Bahamas.
There is also a buffet right by the pool, Topsiders Bar and Grill, with burgers and hot dogs to enjoy.
Complimentary Specialty Restaurant
The Local Bar & Grill
The Local is the Norweigan Sky’s only complimentary specialty restaurant. The food is pub-style, with sandwiches, wings and fish and chips. The food was good but the bar also serves as the sports bar for the ship and was a bit loud.
The biggest difficulty with our meal at the Local was the service. While the server was good, they were seriously understaffed and getting anything took quite a while.
Specialty Dining – Cagney’s Steakhouse
The Norweigan Sky has four specialty restaurants: a French bistro, an Italian restaurant, a sushi bar and a steakhouse. Each restaurant has limited availability, so be sure to make reservations early if you want to eat at one of them.
We chose the steakhouse for this trip. While we love a good Italian meal, we didn’t see any of our favorites on the menu. The pricing for the restaurant was a la carte, which we are not fans of. While we are happy to pay an upcharge for dining a specialty restaurant, I don’t want to have to think about how much the bill will be on a cruise.
The service and the food, however, were outstanding. Bonnie had the petite filet and I had the t-bone. Tasty!
Bars Aboard the Norwegian Sky
There are eight bars located throughout the ship and we quickly found some favorites.
The Sugarcane Mojito bar had some creative takes on the classic Cuban cocktail. In particular, the Jalapeño Mojito was just spicy enough to feel it but still quite refreshing. The bar never seemed to be crowded, which we enjoy in terms of finding a quiet place to enjoy a drink. It is also located right next to the Bliss Ultra Lounge, so it was very convenient for grabbing a cocktail and then walking over to watch a show.
The Spinnaker Lounge, though, was easily our favorite spot on the boat. It has a 180-degree panoramic view from the aft of the ship. The Spinnaker was quiet, the view was great and the service was spot on. It was a great place to relax before or after dinner and to watch the sunset.
Things to Do Aboard the Norwegian Sky
Just like any cruise, the activities staff aboard the Norwegian Sky makes a point to plan plenty of scheduled activities for you to enjoy. You will also find standard amenities, like a fitness center, basketball court, golf driving net, a library and a video arcade.
With exception of a small kids pool and hot tub, there is one large open area for the pool and hot tubs. For those who are looking for a party atmosphere, this is perfect. There is a pool-side bar, plenty of lounge chairs and live music/DJ fairly often.
For those looking for a more quiet experience, like us, it is a bit of a disappointment. We like having an adults-only pool and hot tub area like we found on the Adventure of the Seas. The lack of a second, adults-only pool is a drawback of sailing on a smaller ship.
The ship has kids clubs for those with children. We imagine they are similar to what we found aboard the Norweigan Pearl but we didn’t use the service so can’t really comment.
There was plenty of scheduled nightlife and we did attend a couple of events at the Bliss Ultra Lounge which were a lot of fun. We aren’t night owls, so didn’t stay up for the late-night events. Plus, I prefer to get in some gambling.
The casino had plenty of tables and good folks working them. The casino changed the minimum bet from $5 to $10 for blackjack. Typically, I like to sit down and play for a while but with the increased ante, the dealers cleaned me out quickly, which was a first for me. Typically, I either break even for the trip or come out a little ahead. Not this time. Double the ante means I need double the money to play long enough to break even after a streak of bad luck.
My biggest grumble along these lines: The casino had several tables with a $25 minimum that were completely empty. It seems to me the casino priced itself out of a lot of their customers.
Also, the casino is one of the few places aboard the boat where you can smoke so it was a bit smokey for us. We may be more sensitive than others though.
We did make a point to go to the Stardust Lounge to catch the comedian, who was quite good. I really enjoyed that this theatre space was really more lounge-like, with plush, comfy seats. It made for a less-cramped experience than some of the other theaters we have been to aboard cruise ships.
Great Stirrup Cay
Great Stirrup Cay is Norwegian’s private island and beach club. While there are some extras you can do on the island, Norwegian designed the area as a place to relax on the beach, do a little swimming and enjoy some drinks.
One of the best parts about Great Stirrup Cay is the free drinks from the Norweigan Sky follow you onto the island and there are several bars to accommodate your thirst.
There are two restaurants on the island: a buffet and a taco stand. The buffet had a few good choices like jerk chicken but was mostly just hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza. The tacos were tasty but with just a smidge of meat. Still, they were a nice break from the buffet and make a good snack.
In terms of exploring the island, we felt pretty roped off from just walking around and exploring. Part of the island seemed to be under construction which limited our ability to see more. It also seemed like they were working on a zip line as well. Hopefully, in another year or two, you’ll be able to see and do more at Great Stirrup Cay.
Originally, the schedule had us visiting this spot on our last day but was moved to our first day, I imagine due to the weather forecast. It bummed us out a little because we wanted to spend our last day of the cruise relaxing on the beach. But once we got to the island, we understood why they would not want to dock here in rougher weather.
In order to get to and from Great Stirrup Cay, you have to tender from the ship, requiring tender tickets. The process was easy for anyone who paid attention to the announcements that morning but it did take a while to get ashore and back to the ship. I can imagine rougher seas would make this process very difficult, if not impossible.
Still, we enjoyed relaxing on the beach. We found PLENTY of lounge chairs, including some in great shade (Bonnie burns very quickly) and found the entire experience to be relaxing. You may not have a ton of options, but if all you want is some quality time on the beach, it’s just about perfect.
Oceanview Stateroom Aboard the Norwegian Sky
For this cruise, we got an Oceanview Stateroom on Deck 4. While that made for a bit of a hike to get up to the top of the ship, the room was nice and relatively spacious. It was laid out like the interior room we had aboard the Norwegian Pearl but without the bunk and rollaway bed, it was much roomier for two people.
While we prefer having a balcony to be able to sit out and read on, this was a cheaper option and we were happy with the cabin.
Overall Impressions of the Norwegian Sky
In all, we enjoyed the Norwegian Sky and would cruise on it again. While the ship is small, it is well-suited to a short cruise with no at-sea days. I would not take the ship for anything longer than a four-day cruise, though. At that point, the lack of additional amenities would probably get a bit wearisome.
The four-day Bahamas cruise with three stops proved to be just the right mix of activity and relaxation. We got to explore Nassau on our own, kayak through Lucayan National Park and relax on Great Stirrup Cay. It was a good time!
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We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. We can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
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As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
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We have found some amazing prices booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
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We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
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We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.