Couples looking for a short but relaxing sun and sand filled get-away will find it aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s three night trip to the Bahamas. After reading through more than 25 pages of user reviews, and having sailed on the Norwegian Sky, I’ve compiled a quick look at why couples would enjoy this cruise and how to get the most out of the trip. After finding the right port and passing through security, you can turn off your cell phone, blackberry and brain until it’s time for disembarkation.
If the goal is to get there fast, do mostly nothing in the sun, and enjoy good food and drinks, you’re looking at a few options. From the Mid-Atlantic regions, you can sail from Port Canaveral or Miami for most NCL three-night cruises. If you book two to six months in advance you can get an inside cabin for $169 to $259.
Catching an 8 a.m. flight, means you can be sunning by the pool, sipping a Piña Colada by 1:30 p.m. (Don’t forget to put your swim suit, suntan lotion, and flip flops in your purse because you won’t have your luggage until 4 p.m.-ish.) Not a bad way to spend your first vacation day. Again, the goal here is do almost nothing for three days.
The NCL cruises had some of the best customer reviews online, the best prices, and the best itinerary since it not only stopped in Nassau, but also Stirrup Cay, part of a remote island owned by NCL where there is lots of nothing to do. There are plenty of lounge chairs along the beach, but the cabanas will cost you $30, so you’ll have to decide if you want that or four drinks for the same price. Snorkel gear and wave runners can also be rented. Food is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the grill, where you’ll have a selection of hot dogs, hamburgers, fruit and more. When this offering closes, there is nowhere else to get food on the island, unless you’re handy with a coconut and a machete.
We noticed that the early birds enjoyed the worms here, meaning that by 3 p.m. the island was hot and crowded, while the pool deck back on the ship was nearly empty. We also really appreciate the adults-only swimming pool and hot tub. Of course, it is hard to tear yourself away from the white sand beaches and turquoise waters where you don’t even need a snorkel to see the tropical fish swimming around you. While on board the tender, which takes you back to the boat, a small child sitting behind me asked his father if “all those people” back on the beach were also on our cruise. Yes, son, all of them — which just tells you how well NCL manages the flow of events and people onboard. At any point in time it’s hard to comprehend you are sharing this boat with almost 2,000 vacationers and 900 crew.
NCL also offers upgrades from the basic freestyle dining rooms which allow guests to show up and be seated for dinner at any time. For an extra $15-$25 per person, you get a few more restaurant options, which are a small to moderate step up in food quality but a huge step up in ambiance. The Le Bistro French restaurant features rustic dishes from the south of France such as duck breast or lamb roast. We even had chocolate fondue for dessert. The portions are moderate and the quality of the food is above the level of the main dining areas. Nothing really blew our socks off, but nothing we ordered was a disappointment either.
Lovers of southern Italian style cooking might prefer the Il Adagio, which also has romantic seating arrangements and ambient lighting. Because of the quality décor and furniture arrangements in many of the dining rooms and bars on the Sky, it’s easy to forget you’re on a boat. The two-for-one martinis in the Plantation bar were a favorite. It’s easy to forget that the Sky is the oldest ship in their fleet. If this is how they maintain their boats, I am really looking forward to the release of their brand new Epic, which sets sail later this year.
If we had been traveling for more than three days, or if we had been traveling with children, we probably would have sprung for the balcony or suite. Both offer larger rooms, but the suite also comes with a huge private deck and white glove V.I.P. service. Guests of the suites get to enjoy an exclusive breakfast and lunch that comes at your own leisure in Cagney’s restaurant. And, after a rum-filled night, it offers some peace and quiet while you enjoy their delicious French press coffee.
Overall, the one aspect of the NCL brand that stands out is how well the staff treats all of the passengers. We spoke with another couple that had sailed on Celebrity and they said the personal attention and attentiveness of the staff about the Sky surpassed their previous experience. Cruisers who understand that some things are beyond the control of the staff (such as the weather, the mandatory fees and taxes, etc.) seemed to have a better time on board. Just remember, you’re on island time.