Four day cruise to the Bahamas on the Norwegian Sky
Here’s the third and final post about our recent trip to Florida. If you’re joining us today, welcome, and if not, welcome back. We recently spent a couple of weeks in Florida as I had a business engagement in Tampa, attending RainbowCon. Those were “my” days, and since the convention fell into our summer vacation, we extended our stay and added a cruise and a few days at the Walt Disney World Resort. The cruise was my husband’s wish and we figured we’d do Disney for our son’s sake. I blogged about our Disney days in yesterday and the day before that.
The good thing about our family is that we kind of all like similar things, even our two year old son was totally excited about the cruise and he enjoyed every moment of it, even if he may still be too little to join any official kid activity aboard.
Now I’ll grant you that my family wasn’t too excited about the con, but they did their thing, going to museums, parks, beaches and the malls while daddy was working. The cruise however, was definitely something we all wanted to do. We opted for the four day version, which also includes a stop on the island of Grand Bahama. Lucky for us, one of my best friends, born and raised on the Bahamas, decided to join us, not just for the cruise, but for the convention as well. Thanks to her knowledge of the islands, we were pretty much set to go.
This was our third cruise, and the third with Norwegian Cruise Lines. We’re still fairly new to this whole cruising concept (which is different from the one I “grew up” with… LOL) but after three cruises we’re getting the hang of it. There are a great many cruise lines out there, competing with each other with bigger ships, more shopping, better food and attractions to keep their passengers entertained. We chose Norwegian as it was the only cruise line to offer a cruise around the Hawaiian islands when we visited the archipelago last year. And our first cruise (although a great many things had gotten wrong as we had no idea what to expect), was a huge success, and we did another one last Christmas, with several days at sea. Our family likes Norwegian because of the laid back attitude “Freestyle Cruising”, which means that you don’t have to wear a black tie for dinner, but shorts are okay, or jeans or a black tie. It’s entirely up to you. Exactly what I like. However, before you decide on a cruise line, get a feel for their culture, what life aboard ship is like. Some cruise lines are more conservative, some are more ‘exclusive’, some cater to families. But the image of cruises being the vacation of old people is no longer true, if it’s ever been.
Cruising these days is relatively inexpensive, starting at about $200 dollars (for the 4-day Bahamas trip), which includes all meals. That’s a steal! But you can also spend a great deal more money. At eleven day cruise in Norwegian’s Haven (their exclusive suite area on their larger ships) can easily cost you in excess of $50,000. But on the other hand you get the royal treatment with everything from Champagne to butler service and a stateroom (cabin sounds smallish I guess) which is larger than our house at a whooping 395 sq m / 4,251 sq ft!
Let me also tell you a little bit about ourselves and how we are as cruise line guests: we’re allergic to queues and waits, and we are not very good with crowds. Makes you wonder what possesses us to go on a cruise, right?
Because the second you walk out of the parking garage at the Miami cruise terminal you see a hug crowd waiting outside the terminal. We had booked a suite, and even though the Norwegian Sky, our ship for the four days, has no Haven (too old, too small), they have a few suites on board. As such, we had told them of our approximate arrival time and knew we could more or less just walk on (one of the many things you learn after cruising more than once.) Problem was that the security guard outside was blissfully unaware of all this and tried to make us wait. Not with me… Luckily there’s usually a supervisor nearby and we walked right on. Most passengers will have to wait for about 30 to 60 minutes, depending on whether they had stated an arrival time or not. My suggestion: either be very early and get it over with quickly, or be very late to avoid the crowds in between.
But the check-in and boarding process for a ship is always a bit of a challenge with all the health forms (they are scared of infections due to the closed space aboard) etc. But it’s also incredibly simple: drop your bags with ready porters and they’ll magically appear outside your cabin, erm, stateroom a few hours later (so if you need something urgently, carry it with you)
Once aboard, we went for lunch and then discovered our stateroom. The reason why they’ll usually keep you busy in a restaurant is because the rooms aren’t all ready yet. These cruise ships are incredibly efficient machines. They come into Miami at 7 am in the morning and the last passengers are off the ship by then. Three hours later, the first new passengers board. In the meantime the ship needs to be cleaned (mainly the staterooms), restocked, refueled etc. They also use these short layovers (the Sky departs at 5 pm, ten hours after she docked) to paint the hull and affect any needed overhaul and minor repairs. The Sky is a relatively “old” ship in today’s modern cruise industry. Her kiel was laid out in 1996 and had her maiden voyage in 1999, that’s sixteen years ago. I’ve read reviews where people complain about that, and yes, you can tell that some furniture has aged, but I found that endearing, giving it a familiar and cosy feel. But since these ships are constantly overhauled and refurbished, she feels like a fairly new ship, and who would “scrap” such a huge investment after barely 15 years? Besides, the B-52 still fly, and they’ve been around since World War II, just saying…
Because of her relative age, the Sky is a “small” ship (which sounds crazy given that there are over 3,000 people aboard), but there are ships with more than twice her capacity, not necessarily longer, but wider and a lot taller. The Sky has 13 decks, there are ships with 18, and those five extra decks make all the difference in terms of extra cabins. I am not sure I’d feel comfortable on such a ship, particularly not if you’re a newbie… During our cruise, the Sky was named the ‘best’ ship in the NCL fleet, and you could feel how proud Captain Vanja and his crew were of this accomplishment. It’s well deserved. And I’m sure the captain, who was also on deck when we disembarked, taking his leave of his guests (a first for sure) has a great influence on the atmosphere aboard, making it familiar. But the size of the ship certainly helps. We felt somewhat similar on the Norwegian Pride in Honolulu whereas this was not the case on the Gem, the largest ship we’ve sailed with so far. Therefore, the Sky is our favorite ship so far. Yes, I preferred the Gem in terms of more food options, but heck, four dinners? There’s plenty of choice aboard. The food on Norwegian in general is very good, and as suite guests, we had our own dining room for breakfast and lunch (if aboard.) But even if you cruise for $200, you’ll be well fed, and there are a gazillion of choices from an almost 24 hour buffet to your classic ship dining room.
I found the four day cruise short. Time just flew by, and even though we went ashore every day, we didn’t do any organized excursions, but trust me, there’s plenty to choose from. Norwegian’s own island has huge beaches and lots of food, and people seemed to enjoy their time.
We used the time to relax. Yes, we discovered Grand Bahama in a taxi and got to taste conch salad, and local drinks and specialities, thanks to our friend. The same in Nassau. But we also spent time aboard, just chilling, going for a massage, getting a hair cut, watching a show or a movie. After dinner, we enjoyed grabbing a beer or a drink in one of the many bars. The Sky doesn’t feel crowded, and the passengers have so many different interests that they quickly spread out over the ship. Some will sleep, some will eat, some will party, some will be shopping etc.
If you’ve never been on a cruise, these three or four day cruises are the perfect start. Nothing beats this sort of getaway from everyday life like getting a pair of sea legs. Afraid of ships? When we woke up the first morning on board the Pride of America, the ship was rocking gently from side to side, and we were unable to dock in Maui. We had gotten stuck smack in the middle of a tropical storm. We barely felt it. Trust me, these huge ships have stabilizers that will iron out almost all waves, and between Miami and Nassau, there’s little room for big waves to build, unless there’s a hurricane, and that would stop the cruise anyway. There are also no sea days, which means that all you essentially do aboard is eat and sleep. You spend your days on land. Which is typical for most modern cruises. The ship travels by night and docks in the morning, providing you with a versatile vacation, new sights every day, without having to pack and unpack every day. That is what really appeals to me with cruises. They’re floating hotels. The big challenge is to find the right destination. There’s so much to see on our planet. But if you’ve never been on a cruise, a quick trip to the Bahamas is the perfect start and the Norwegian Sky the perfect vessel. I promise you that Captain Vanja and his crew will take great care of you.
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Tomorrow I’ll look at how my blogging will continue this fall, as I have decided to introduce a blogging schedule. Why and how you’ll be able to read tomorrow. I hope you’ll join me again.
Have a wonderful day.
PS: I truly enjoy cruising on Norwegian, and we paid for every aspect of the cruise. This is NOT a sponsored post. If I ever do write a sponsored piece on anything, I’d tell you!