Occupation:independent travel agent
Number of Cruises: 28
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sky
Sailing Date: July 5th, 2003
After 27 cruises, this was our first time aboard NCL. We found it a delightful experience and we would surely sail NCL again, although it would not be our line of choice. It is a lovely and exceptionally well maintained ship. I fault the design in having a surprising number of varying levels on a single deck. This means that often there are two steps or an incline, making it difficult for handicapped and elderly people to maneuver. Another design problem is the smaller than normal staterooms. We had three people in our cabin. We expected limited space and adapted to it, thanks to the height of the beds which allowed us to store our luggage underneath. However, even with two people, the space is rather cramped. A nice surprise was that the mattresses were probably the most comfortable we have experienced. They were actually level instead of concave.
In general, we enjoyed the “Free Style Cruising”, but it does have some drawbacks. We never managed to adapt our schedule so that we could eat at a convenient time and still see the shows, but that was our problem.
Do tell your clients that the dress code in the brochures is mostly correct when it says “How you dress is up to you” (pg. 10, Freestyle Alaska 2003). I was turned away from the main dining room because I was wearing jeans. I don’t object to a dress code, but they should adhere to their stated policy. What if a person read this and brought nothing but jeans?
The food in the main dining room was excellent; far superior to what we had expected. The dining service was courteous and usually efficient, although not always prompt. We had a delightful dinner in the Chiao Chow alternative dining room, but did not sample the other two specialty restaurants. Nor did we eat in the Garden Cafe (lido deck) except for morning smoked salmon and cream cheese. The buffet selections always looked good, but there was far less selection than other lines.
While most of the crew were friendly and helpful, we found the Maitre’d and the Reception Desk personnel to be surly and unhelpful.
We objected to the interminable and redundant announcements by the cruise director. I realize they have to make money on their various activities, but the constant commercialism cheapened the experience.
The other major negative was the worst cabin steward we’ve ever had. Not only did he not make himself known to us, but he failed to recognize that there were three of us in the stateroom. He never left 3 glasses, rarely vacuumed, varied the number of pillows from 5 to 7, failed to refresh our ice bucket several times and was generally careless in many details. For this reason, we do not favor the tipping policy which puts it on your bill and distributes it to the entire service crew.
We thought about tipping at each meal but realized that our servers would still get their share of the total billed to all passengers. Likewise, there was no way of penalizing our cabin steward without shorting the entire staff.
We thoroughly enjoyed the ports of call and had wonderful experiences on shore excursions. We took a wonderful helicopter to the glaciers in Juneau, a calm but delightful ride on the Yukon and White Pass Railroad in Skagway, and a zodiac boat for whale watching in Victoria. Our guide took us a long way from the city, as he looked for a pod of 27 Orca whales. He found them and we were able to view them from two locations.
Debarkation was the easiest ever. Because we took nothing but carry-on luggage, we were able to debark as soon as the ship was cleared. There was still no luggage in the terminal when we walked through, and we caught the first cab in the line.
I would have no compunction recommending NCL to clients.