When Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of the Norwegian Sky in 1999, it marked the beginning of a new dawn for that company. The ship represented the first of a new generation of mega ships which have come to be the mainstay of the line ever since. She was, in fact, the first ship in the fleet to exceed the veteran SS. Norway in tonnage, if not in length. After the stop and go doldrum years of the mid nineties, the ship was seen as the beginning of a whole new era in the storied history of the company.
In point of fact, the ship came to Norwegian by default. She had originally been ordered by Costa Cruises as the Costa Olympia, a sister ship for that company’s then new, and very popular, Costa Victoria. For reasons that have never been really disclosed, the Italian line cancelled the order; the option was, instead, picked up by Norwegian, no doubt much to the relief of the German shipyard.
As completed, the 77,000 ton ship featured a row of balcony cabins and several alternative restaurants. A 2001 built sister ship. Norwegian Sun, would have an extra deck of balcony rooms, and integrated restaurant set ups, designed to showcase the company’s new Freestyle Dining mantra. But initially, it was Norwegian Sky that truly took the nascent company into the 21st century.
Her first years were spent on the popular, seven night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruise circuits out of Miami. Then, in 2004, she was hurriedly redeployed to Hawaii to become part of the soon massively over subscribed NCL America. Renamed as the Pride Of Aloha and refurbished in a wash of Polynesian kitsch, she started seven night sailings from Honolulu, to mixed reviews.
New management at Norwegian presaged a period of retrenchment for the company, and nowhere more so than in Hawaii. One of the main decisions was the return to Miami of the Pride Of Aloha. The ship was given back her original name of Norwegian Sky but, other than that, she remained essentially unchanged from her Pacific days.
This proved to be an offbeat, quirky, yet welcome decision. While near sister, Norwegian Sun, is cool, elegant and classically European in decor, the Norwegian Sky is a gloriously kitsch, over the top melting pot of etched glass, polished brass, and multi-hued ‘Polynesian modern’. bright, but not quite as eye popping as you might imagine.
Since her return to Miami, the Norwegian Sky has been deployed on the twice weekly, three and four night round trip circuit to the Bahamas. Leaving Miami each Friday, she sails to Nassau and the company’s recently massively renovated ‘private island’ of Great Stirrup Cay.
The four night, Monday sailings call at the same two ports, adding another call at Freeport, Grand Bahama, into the mix. While the three nighters tend to attract more of an out and out party crowd, the four night cruises are a little more sedate. As sedate as any ship with more than 2200 revellers on board can be, in any event.
Norwegian Sky has been very popular since her return to Miami. Although many of the cabins are quite small, they are just about right for a long weekend break. The ship features more balcony cabins than any of her short cruise rivals and, with the addition of many signature Norwegian dining venues, such as Cagney’s Steakhouse and Le Bistro among others, she also offers by far the most comprehensive choice of food options on the short Bahamas circuit.
And she is a beautiful ship, too. With a sharply raked prow and a single, aft placed funnel, the Norwegian Sky is almost perfectly proportioned. Inside, there are more than enough bars, clubs and lounges to play and party in, as well as a huge casino and an expansive, upper deck spa and gym. The cruise experience aboard her is roughly comparable to taking a weekend break in a small resort town; one that moves the scenery each day.
Outdoors, there is a vast, expansive sun deck with two large pools, a quartet of hot tubs, two bars, and an indoor/outdoor buffet restaurant that is open virtually around the clock. With live music and party games prevalent through the day, this area can be pretty crowded, and it is never sedate for sure. The Norwegian Sky also hosts nightly discos out here, and these are tremendously popular.
While Nassau is great for shopping and sunbathing, I tend to skip going ashore here now. Because, with most of the passengers away from the ship, that vast, open sun deck becomes a sporadically populated, pristine swathe of paradise just perfect for lounging on. And this, for me, is when the Norwegian Sky really does become a platinum chip choice.
With the decibel level right down, and the pools and hot tubs practically bereft of human habitation, pure chill out is the order of the day. You can excel at leisure and ease. And, of course.the bars and buffet are still there for you to indulge in as the mood suits you. For me, this is the best day on the ship.
And the prices are incredible bargains, too. Especially when you factor in the avalanche of included food, entertainment, and of course, the accommodation. Try finding a similar quality hotel at the same price in either Miami or the islands- even room only- and you’ll try in vain. The value is unbeatable.
Yes, there is a lot on board that is programmed the same, cruise after cruise after cruise. But if all you really want is a quick little break from the endless, highly priced hugger mugger of South Beach, or even as a bit of an exotic add on to a stay at one of the myriad of Florida theme parks, then the Norwegian Sky will give you just what you want, when you want it.
Of course, these short, fun filled jaunts pass by at a tremendous rate of knots. And no one in their right mind would call them a relaxing experience. But, short on time as they are, they are just as high on style.
And, in the final analysis, isn’t that the true return for your hard earned money? Enjoy.