REVIEW: NCL Sky 10-31-11 and 11-04-11 (LONG-Part 1)
Itís taken me this long to get home, settled in, and down off the clouds after my back to back cruises on the Norwegian Sky. What an incredible cruise, and what an even more incredible crew!!
My trip starts out with the usual arrival at the port of Miami. If youíve not sailed out of Miami yet, have no fear, itís completely painless. Youíll be dropped off right in front of where you need to be. If you were smart and put your luggage tags on back at the hotel, youíll simply drop them with the luggage handlers and go directly to the port house. At that point, youíll receive a little form to fill out to make sure you donít have the flu or other assorted bugs, and go thru an airport-security type screening checkpoint. As long as you donít have any opened bottles of anything, like at the airport, you will be fine. If you have an unfinished soda, youíll have to leave it behind. If you are staying in the suites or have a VIP designation, then head right over to the VIP Registration office and they will take great care of you while you snack on treats. If not, then proceed to the general registration counter with your flu form, your eRegistration docs (you did print them off, right?), and passport in hand. Hand the agent the paperwork, smile for the camera, present a credit card, and receive you stateroom key card. From there you will go to the waiting area (if you are early) to pause for full clearance of the ship, if itís after twelve, you will saunter right on board. I can tell you that it took longer to type this paragraph than it took me to board. It was smooth, seamless, painless and actually quite fun!
As I made the final zig-zag turns and arrived on board, I was met by Richard Matic and Gio, the Cruise Director and Assistant Cruise Director respectively. They were grinning from ear to ear, waving, and joyously welcoming the guests on board. Now when you consider that this crew does 3 and 4 day cruises back to back, itís no small feat to be so upbeat, charming and energized time after time. Not to mention they are adorable! Iím already excited and Iím not even inside yet! In all fairness, I had met Richard before on the Pearl for my Alaska cruise, but none the less it had been nearly three months and a few thousand passengers for him. Yet he recognized me right away, we shared a big hug and promises to catch up later. He kept that promise and made this cruise one of my favorites.
Upon entering Deck 6, you will marvel at the atrium lobby. Unlike the new ships with just 2 or 3 decks of atrium, the Skyís atrium ascends all the way to the top of the ship. The lobby is flanked by glass elevators that offer a fantastic view as you ascend! The lobby is bright and cheerful as are the assorted crew members all awaiting to take your wine order, sell you a soda package, hold your carry-onís while you wander and wait for your stateroom, take your dinner reservations, and direct you to where you might find lunch or anything else your little heart desires.
As the days passed, I experienced nearly everything possible on the Sky. And I do mean everything! From food, to fitness, to entertainment, to relaxation, to exploration, to more fun that I though imaginable sailing alone. Thatís right, this was a solo cruise for me, and I must say that I was attended to with as much care and interest as the larger parties and full families staying in the Suites.
The cuisine was fantastic! I did eat in the Palace Main Dining room once and the food was delicious and the service perfect. I also ate in my favorite haunt, Le Bistro and the meal was nothing short of exquisite. Donít leave without trying the French Onion Soup and the Escargot. There is an up-charge for this restaurant but it will be the best $20 you spend on board. Another up-charge restaurant I sampled was La Cucina, and it didnít disappoint. Try your best to avoid the traditional pasta favorites and delight in some non-traditional but scrumptious Italian delights! Not because they arenít good, but because you shouldnít miss out eating something truly out of the ordinary. My breakfasts in Cagneyís were way too yummy with my favorite being what I would call ďpound cake turned into French toastĒÖneed I say more? Then there is a buffet of fresh fruits and pastries that should be enough to fill you for the entire day. The Garden Cafť Buffet was adequate with plenty of selections that you would expect at a buffet, with some surprises such as some Indian and Asian food selections. I do miss the fresh chocolate chip cookies that are usually there, but can I really complain with a dozen other desserts to choose from?
I do enjoy comedy and magic, but typically these shows on a cruise ship are more of an option for your eveningís entertainment, rather than a ďmust seeĒ. My mind was changed when I attended Rich Purpuraís comedy and magic show. I was hooked, and attended each and every one of his shows and events. I laughed so hard, and I canít begin to tell you why. There isnít a joke I could retell, because it wasnít really so much an ďactĒ as a conversation with a man musing about things on the ship and in life. It was total hilarity on a level Iíve not experienced in a long time. The Norwegian Sky Production company was yet again another surprise. Iíve sailed several NCL ships, and Iíll be the first to say that I miss the Jean Ann Ryan Company (JAC) performances. Most shipís productions companies Iíve seen were good and entertaining, but not the caliber of the JACís. This theory was dispelled on the Sky. The Sky Production Company not only met and matched but exceeded what Iíd seen with JAC. The connection between the performers was authentic and electrifying. You could see the chemistry and feel the energy among them and it was contagious!
In addition to the regular stage entertainment, the Cruise Director Staff kept anyone and everyone that wanted to be involved very busy with an assortment of on-board activities that not only pleased but genuinely entertained. There was something for everyone among the assorted classes, tastings, clinics, game shows, bingo events, and exciting nightclub entertainment. Just to name a few of my favorites: Dancing with the Stars; The Fountains Show; Adult Quest (if you are over 18, you MUST do this); 70ís and 80ís Disco; White Hot Party; the Ship-N-Males Revue; and the assorted crazy pool deck antics such as the Mr. ***y Legs Competition; Ice Sculpting demo; the Pub Hub crawl; and more. All that was just on the ship! They continued to carry on with more activities on the beach on NCLís private island ďGreat Stirrup CayeĒ. Now admittedly, I spent my time holding a beach lounger down and not participating, but there were ongoing events on the beach such as a Hula Hoop Competition; a Limbo Contest; Para-sailing; Snorkeling; Jet Ski use; and Kayaking, along with great live Caribbean music and a beach BBQ that left nothing behind.
I would like to pause here and take a moment to mention the Cruise Director by name, Richard Matic. He has to be one of the most dedicated and under-rated Cruise Directors in NCLís fleet. You will not only have the time of your life on a ship with him, but you will leave the cruise with a new friend and having a better experience for knowing him. Richard went out of his way to make his guests feel personally welcome. If you sail the Sky, and Richard is still the CD be sure to tell him that ďTonette says helloĒ and if you are so inclined give him a great big hug. Richard heads a fantastic Cruise Directors staff including Assistant Cruise Director Gio, who also is an amazing personality that will leave a great big smile on your face every time you chat with him. Iím sure we will see Gio on a ship of his own as CD very soon! Please tell him hello for me also, and donít forget the hug!
Another person that single handedly made my cruise everything it was, is Concierge Omar OíBesso. You simply cannot find a more dedicated concierge in all of NCLís fleet. Omar loves his job, but more than that he takes a very sincere interest in his guests in a way that Iíve not encountered before. By the time your cruise is over, you will want to take him home with you! Here is another chance for you to hug another NCL crew member for me! Give Omar two!!
The Hotel Director Ė Steven Knot, F&B Director - Mike Van Bokhoven, and Beverage Director - Raj Rodrigues, were also outstanding examples of Officers who take great pleasure in what they do, and that being making sure you are having the best experience possible. I donít think these men ever slept, as I saw them first thing when I got up and they were still going late into the night. I just have to add a couple of points of interest, and insist that you verify these facts. The Hotel Director and the Guest Services Manager can dance a very steamy, albeit rough tango! The Beverage Director is from India and quite possibly a reincarnation of Michael Jackson. These details may seem silly (and they are), but they attest to what lengths the Officers of this crew go to in order to not only entertain guests, but have a good time with each other!
Iíve just been mentioning Officers, but let me assure you the remaining crew is equally as dedicated. I can attest that my room steward Gusti on the Norway deck, never sleeps and spent the entire cruise posted outside my stateroom door awaiting my every request. The charming young lady, Uneza Shaikin selling the ďchain by the inchĒ in the gift shop never failed to stop me for a hug and a hello. The Cruise Consultant Martin took it upon himself to personally resolve an issue I was having with my Latitudes number without my even asking. Christian in the Crossings Dining Room met me on embarkation day, and she never failed to remember my first name. I could go on and on.
Continued in Part 2
"Well behaved women seldom make history!"
~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
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