Norwegian Sky - Best in Budget Cruises

| February 27, 2009

NCL's Norwegian Sky now offers short Bahamas sailings from Miami.

For anyone looking to test the waters of three and four-day Bahamas cruising from the Port of Miami, the Sky is the limit - Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky, that is.

Norwegian Cruise Line debuted the ship in 1999 in Miami, but then repositioned her to Hawaii where she was renamed Pride of Aloha and operated Hawaiian Islands cruises. After four years, a very - big - bucks refurbishment, and revival of her original name, Norwegian Sky is back in Miami, loading up twice a week for short Bahamas cruises.

One of the best values in a sea of cruise bargains, Norwegian Sky is ideal for people who like activity -- those ready to party, eager for fun, sun and a good time, who want comfortable cabins, good food and great service.

And Norwegian Sky is the perfect ship for first - time cruisers. It is casual: Forget about packing formal wear; slacks and a T-shirt are perfectly acceptable for dinner. Various sports activities are available, and don't forget to check out the well - equipped Body Waves Spa and Fitness Center.

The three - day itinerary - Friday afternoon until Monday morning - calls at Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line's private island, while the four - day sailing adds a visit to Grand Bahama Island as well. Shore excursions are offered at all ports, stressing water sports, a bit of island history, shopping, and the chance to sample Bahamian cuisine.

The cruise line's signature Freestyle 2.0 operation is the key to scheduling your own good times. Freestyle lets each guest choose from various restaurants (six on Norwegian Sky) and onboard amenities, theme parties and more. From the minute passengers board (and are offered a free glass of champagne in the atrium or samplings of specialty restaurant menu items) until they disembark, the level of service remains high. That's not to say butler/valet mode, but competent and gracious attention to detail and a sense that officers and crew are glad to have you aboard.

"NCL pioneered the first Bahamas cruise from Miami more than 41 years ago and last had a ship in the three - and four - day cruise market from Miami in 2003. The reintroduction of Norwegian Sky in 2008 returns NCL to its roots and offers guests seeking a quick getaway an unmatched cruise experience. There is no doubt that our three and four - day Freestyle product offers the highest quality and best value for money in the market," said Kevin Sheehan, NCL's president and CEO. "We are raising the bar on short cruising by offering a modern Freestyle Cruising ship that features a variety of accommodations, including balconies and suites, a multitude of on - board amenities and a choice of six restaurants."

Norwegian Sky has simplified the boarding process � and disembarkation � so that the long lines and longer waits have become history.

Two female attorneys from Palm Beach enjoyed a girls' getaway on Norwegian Sky and said loved everything about their cruise. It was their first, but when I saw them back in Miami, they said it wouldn't be their last. A young couple with two kids picked them up at school on Friday; book bags and all, they boarded early Friday afternoon. They seemed like veteran cruisers ready to get into the swimming pool. And both sets of their grandparents were already on board.

At 77,104 tons with 12 passenger decks, the ship has a guest capacity of 2,002, double occupancy. She still features tropical design fabrics, (these work in the Bahamas as well as Hawaii.) The lovely Outrigger Lounge with its floor to ceiling windows, Captain Cook's Bar, Breakers Bar, and Longboard Bar still reference its Hawaiian days, as do the names of its meeting rooms. The vivid blues and greens are offset by reds and yellows, and in the atrium, colorful kites soar above the fray. It works.

The new Sky Club Casino was added before the ship returned Miami, because gambling is banned in Hawaiian waters. The large casino is situated near the coffee bar, where players can sit out a hand or two with a "cuppa." The two - story Stardust Theater offers Las Vegas - type reviews, concert performances, and lectures. The casino and theater are popular in the evening, but the ship also boasts nine lounges, including a martini bar, a sports bar and two outdoor bars, while Dazzles Bar and Night Club turns into a rocking, socking disco at night. Dazzles is the sight of varied activities (including Wii games) during the day.

Other daytime options for passengers include an Internet Café; video arcade; sports deck with a golf driving net, basketball/volleyball court, batting and shuffle board. Want more? Additional onboard activities include trivia games, bingo and port lectures, and an art auction.

Nighttime entertainment includes comedians, singers, and dance theme nights: White Hot Night (everyone dresses in white), or Monte Carlo Night draw guests to Lido Deck.

Cabins on Norwegian Sky are a tight fit for more than two passengers in a room, but balcony, ocean view and inside staterooms -- all averaging about 150 square feet -- feature TVs, hair dryers, safes, mini-bars and new Bliss bedding. Storage and closet space are sufficient. Owner's Suites and penthouses feature more upscale amenities and considerably more room.

The food aboard NCL Sky is quite good overall. The main dining rooms, Crossings and Palace, have service that can be erratic and food that is standard. Expect to find the ubiquitous chicken breast and pasta dishes, along with daily specials. The Lido buffet offers a super salad bar, sandwich makings, daily theme foods (which could be any form of Asian cuisine, Italian, etc.), and day - long ice cream. Longboard, a sports bar where snacks and a bistro menu are on tap, is also popular. NCL is presently promoting lobster each day in one of the restaurants.

NCL Sky's speciality restaurants are Cagney's (steaks, $25 per person), Le Bistro (French/Mediterranean, $15), and Il Adagio (Italian, $10). All are above average in service, quality and presentation. The steaks in Cagney's are first - rate and the offerings in Le Bistro and Il Adagio are imaginative and tasty, with the added attraction of a romantic, attractive setting in all three eateries.

The ship's Kids Crew keeps the young ones busy; Kid's Korner offers arts and crafts, movies and computer games; there's also a teen hangout with appropriate entertainment, and Splashes Kids' Pool lets little ones safely get wet. Programs are offered for children age three to 17.

A fee of $12 a day is added to the onboard bill to cover tips.

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