Number of Cruises: 8
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sky
Sailing Date: November 9th, 2001
hawaii, fanning island
Norwegian Sky, Hawaii and Fanning Island, November 9, 2001, ten days
My wife and I wanted something a little different for our eighth cruise, having been to much of the Caribbean and Mexico, and never to Hawaii. NCL's Sky appealed to us because we were able to visit much of Hawaii included four days at sea, two each way to Fanning Island.
Fanning Island was a real treat for us, but many passengers got off the tender, took one look around at the lack of stores, and got back in line for the ship. We were surprised to see as long a line to go back when we arrived around 10:30 on the island. We hiked and took in this culture and very much appreciated the chance to have this once in a lifetime experience. Time has stopped on Fanning Island. The natives are friendly, live in grass huts, don't have phones of electricity, but did have a few tables set up to sell crafts. We bought a T-shirt. There was food from the ship and drinks, including beer, that you could just sign for. This is a beautiful, unspoiled place, just like in the movies.
The ship sailed from Honolulu, with stops in Kona, Hilo, Maui, and Kauai. Fanning Island was in the middle. Maui is a beautiful town that you can walk around easily. The tenders bring you right to the middle of town. We took the bicycle ride down the "highway to Hana" and this was probably the best excursion we've ever had on any ship, ever. It takes all day, but the ship stays in Maui until 10:00 PM, so there's plenty of time to sight see after the bike trip.
The trip to Volcano National park is a "must do" in Hilo. The ship offers several ways to see it, from a bus tour, to bike trip, to a fairly rigorous seven mile hike in and out of two volcano craters. It looks like the surface of the moon and the guides are knowledgeable about volcanoes, and the animal and plant life that lives in the park. In Hilo, like Kauai, the ship docks in an industrial part of the island, so you can't really walk to any shops.
What's missing from a cruise in Hawaii? All the vendors constantly bugging you to buy their stuff. It's a little hard to get used to! But we did. We discovered the ABC stores on all the islands, a gift/drug/liquor store chain that has prices that beat everyone's. We bought wine, beer, and pop every couple of days, and probably saved enough money to go on the next cruise. It's also nice to have US pay phones, if you have kids at home with a baby sitter. Cell phones work in every port too.
The ship. We've been on the largest, and much smaller. We like them all for different reasons, but probably lean towards large as we are active and don't spend hours and hours by the pool. This ship mid-sized, allowing us to become familiar with some of the passengers and easily figure out the layout of the ship. Pools are saltwater which only matters if you like to swim laps and aren't used to it. Service was good and we thought the food was a notch above some of the other lines. Drinks were a little skimpy. They must use specially made 4oz wine glasses.
Freestyle dining was a foreign concept to us, and to those who have been around awhile, it might take some adjustment. However, we ended up loving it. For us, the early seating interferes with cocktail time, and the late seating means too much cocktail time. We had a table for two almost every meal and although we did not have the usual experience of getting to know six table mates, we found plenty of other times to meet people and dinner was more relaxed because you didn't feel the need to be social all the time. The dining room staff was good and you can ask to sit at your same table every night (you might have to wait a little) and get to know the staff. We went to the early shows some nights and the late on others. We have decided that we will always choose ships with this option.
The alternative restaurants didn't interest us much. There was a $10 charge and the main dining room menus always looked too good to pass up and pay extra to boot. We did try the Italian restaurant one night and it was very good. On other ships we've tried the smaller restaurants to just to be by ourselves. On the Sky, there's not much difference in atmosphere between a table for two in the main dining room and a cozy table in one of the smaller restaurants.
Shows were very good, especially NCL's own production of Cirque du Soleil and the Andrew Lloyd Weber show. The bars offered hot appetizers at different times and this was a huge treat. Not just chex mix, but real good stuff. Also, the sports bar had hot dogs and nachos. There was very little live entertainment by the pool, but there was always Hawaiian music inside in the lobby. Pizza was good and they'd make a whole custom pie to take with you.
The ship was very clean and the crew does a good job trying to make everyone happy. We always marvel at the things people find to complain about, but there seem to be fewer complainers (and smokers) on the west coast cruises than those of the Caribbean. We've always found ships to have mostly good workers, always an occasional exception, but that's life. There's plenty of closet space, even in the inside cabins that we always book. Rooms have a fridge (great for chilling that Chardonnay that you bought in port) and internet access. There was no huge central, multi storied, atrium. This ship was designed a little more like a ship and less like a floating version of the MGM Grand hotel. We like both, don't get me wrong.
If you like to run/jog/walk, the Sky has the biggest track I've experienced. 3.5 times around equals one mile. I've been on some where it's more like 12 times around. The track was wide enough for runners and walkers and only takes a slight incline/decline at the front of the ship. It's on one of the lower decks and was covered so you're out of the direct sun. The health club was good, more free weights than most ships and plenty of machines. The exercise classes were plentiful, especially while at sea.
Boarding and departing the ship were smooth. One thing that NCL does a great job of, and they don't talk about it enough, is their Freestyle disembarkation. You can sleep in if you want to, go to breakfast at the normal time, and not get off the ship until 10:00. Most flights from Honolulu leave in the afternoon or evening, so why rush. I've always hated setting an alarm on the last morning. Why don't the other cruise lines do this, seems obvious.
As I said earlier, we've liked all of our cruises, for different reasons. I would not hesitate to recommend this ship or itinerary. Mahalo