Hi LI_Pets, welcome to Cruise-Chat. Congratulations on your upcoming cruise! Your kids did a great thing! I assume you'll be on the same itinerary we were on, Nassau and Coco Cay. In Nassau, grab a cab over to the Atlantis. You can walk around the Atlantis for free, then there is a free beach adjacent to the property (Cabbage Beach). Coco Cay is their private island, there's a nice beach and snorkeling available. The ship's crew man the bars and they have a bar-b-que. I believe parking at the port is around $20/day, but since you won't be gone long, it's not a bad deal. At least they have some patrols and it's a secured area. We didn't do any of the specialty restaurants, so can't help with that, but the food in the dining room was great. The main buffet has wonderful sticky buns for breakfast. The ship is easy to get around and clean as can be. The crew were very friendly. Word of warning-cruising is addictive Best wishes for a fantastic cruise!
Enjoy your trip on the NCL Sky...it is quite the ship. I have attached a link from another NCL Sky cruiser who posted some detailed photos on the web of the NCL Sky. The ship was originally ported in Hawaii, so the ship has some very nice Hawaiian themes. It looks great. You may want to spend a few minutes reviewing the link just to see what kind of ship you will be on. I am sure that you will find some of the same ports of call that you will be heading for.
Booking your own excursions will save you some money..BUT...remember if you don't get back to the ship on time, for whatever reason...it will leave without you...one reason to book with the ship is that they willl wait....and the vendors have been certified by the cruiseline....but many people do their own bookings and do well....but I always go with the ship's choices....it's a personal choice....Happy First Time sailing...and it does become addictive....but what a great addition....
My general rule for booking ship excursions vs. going on our own is that the further the site is from the ship, the more likely I am to book through the cruise line. This is precisely for the reasons Bob E stated in his above post.
For instance, we once had a tour in Norway that took us well inland into small towns. On the way back, our bus broke down. As we were on a ship excursion, our location and predicament were known to the ship staff, and another bus came to retrieve us about an hour later. I have no idea what we would have done if we were on our own. We would have been at the mercy of the tour organizers, with no guarantees.
On your itinerary, Nassau is pretty easily done on your own, as Penny stated. Great Stirrup Cay is NCL's private island, so the only excursions you'll find are through the line. Of course, you can still snorkel on your own if you have your own gear.