Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sky
Sailing Date: July 12th, 2003
Itinerary: Alaska - Inside Passage
My wife and I just returned from a 7 day cruise to Alaska on the Sky we sailed on 7/12/03 from Seattle. We are both 38 years old and have kids, but we traveled without them. The Norwegian Sky is in very good condition (it was built in 1999). Everything was working (pools, spas, elevators, etc.). The only exception I noted was that the plastic outdoor tables in the Great Outdoor cafe are looking a bit rough and should be replaced.
Shaun, our port and cruise consultant, was fun and entertaining.
We ate our dinners in the Four Seasons and Seven Seas restaurants -- very good service.
We ate breakfast and lunch at the Great Outdoor Cafe in the aft part of the ship. The older passengers showed up at the adjoining indoor Garden Cafe (the other buffet) before sunrise to reserve the best spots, so we didn't even try. Watch out for the crows/seabirds at the Juneau port -- you may get some extra cream in your coffee if you are eating outside! There is a cool hidden secret for food on the ship -- the Pizza buffet. It runs 24 hours a day and serves up great cheese, veggie, and pepperoni pizza! It is located next to the Sports Bar on the aft part of the ship on level 11.
The staff overall does not bend over backwards to cater to you on the outset. But I noticed that those passengers who took a few minutes to exchange conversation with their servers got much more favorable service.
If you are not already aware, NCL has implemented a practice they call hassle free tipping. This means that you will be charged $10.00 US per day per person to cover all tips for all crew members (the only exception to this being the luggage porters at the embarkation / debarkation points). While I found this to be easier to deal with than stuffing cash into envelopes the last night of the cruise, I have a problem with using the term tipping with this program. The term TIP or TIPS is actually an acronym for To Insure Prompt Service. If you were a service employee of NCL, it would easy to see there is not much incentive to work harder at being prompt when you know your tip is already in the bank. I think NCL should rename this program Hassle Free Yet Mandatory Gratuity, which at least would true up what the money is going for.
Our room attendant stuck to a strict time schedule for making up our room in the morning and in doing the turn down service at night.
Night life was boring and, to be honest, totally non-existent. However, we booked the cruise knowing that. Activity on the ship pretty much wound down at around 8:30 p.m. at night. The ship is a ghost ship at 8:30 p.m. at night. There were a couple of folk artists on the ship who played in the smaller bars, including the Windjammer. Unfortunately, I only got to listen to them as I passed through.
Juneau was the best port and I wish we could have stayed there longer. Sawyer Glacier was breathtaking, not to mention a little chilly! Skagway was a tourist trap -- not much to see. I could not justify spending $80 to $100 for a train ride on the White Pass. All land tours can be booked cheaper if you do them yourself when you're in port. The only tour I would book with the cruise ship would be the White Pass train, since it will likely be sold out by time you can get to the ticket office in town.
We would definitely take Norwegian again, but not to Alaska too boring at night. It is also a little frustrating for people our age to have to navigate around the more senior people who abound on these cruises. If you want to see if you have what it takes to do this, try doing a few laps around the buffet lines at Old Country Buffet on a Sunday morning at around noon time.
One final note about the Norwegian Sky - I found out during a future cruise presentation that it is going to be rebadged as The Pride of Aloha in mid-2004 and redeployed as a US flagged ship in Hawaii.