Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Our All-Inclusive Weekend on Norwegian Sky

Norwegian Sky


We booked this cruise just two weeks before the trip. We were stuck at home during Tropical Storm Hermine, bored and dreaming of sunny skies, so Ron started searching around on the internet and found a good deal on a 3-day cruise on Norwegian Sky. We sailed on Sky a few years ago, but since then it had become an Open Bar ship, meaning that alcoholic beverages were included in the price. No need to sign for drinks, no 3-page statement at the end of cruise. Sounded great!

Since Ron didn’t want to deal with driving, we flew to Miami on Friday morning. It was a quick cab ride to the port using the new Port Miami Tunnel and we were onboard by noon. Our first stop was to drop off our carry-on bags at Captain Cook’s Lounge. This is a great feature on Sky – you can bring your bags onboard with you and check them in the lounge until the cabins are available. I loved not having to leave our luggage with a porter, wondering how many hours it would be before it showed up outside our cabin. It also meant that there weren’t 2000 people dragging their suitcases around the buffet. :-)  I wish every ship had this option.

After ditching the bags, we headed to the pool deck in search of lunch. Just past the Garden Café buffet, there was a shaded outdoor area called the Great Outdoor Café which had two more food lines, a bar and great views of the Miami skyline and MacArthur Causeway. Il Adagio, the Italian restaurant next to the buffet, was also open and serving fresh pasta and pizza. I went with pasta (of course) and Ron had pizza, which we ate under the tent of the Great Outdoor Café. It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed just sitting and watching all the people trickling to the back of the ship to take their selfies.

Miami skyline

tug boat

Great Outdoor Cafe
Great Outdoor Cafe

Great Outdoor Cafe

At 1:30, the cabins were ready so we retrieved our luggage and made our way to our ocean view cabin on Deck 8. The cabin was very “cute” (read: small). I’d seen the bathroom described in a review as a “luxury porto-let” and that was not entirely inaccurate. :-)  Fortunately, it was only a 3-day cruise and we’d packed lightly so storage space wasn’t an issue. Most importantly, the bed was comfortable and the air conditioning worked great.

Then it was off to explore the rest of the ship. Sky had, at some point in the past, cruised from Los Angeles to the Hawaiian Islands, so it had a Hawaiian motif with tropical flowers painted on the hull and bars with names like Outrigger and Longboard. It used to have murals of surfboards and palm trees around the pool deck too, but I noticed that since our last cruise in 2011, they had been painted over. I kind of missed the murals because without them the pool area seemed kind of bland. Also new since our last cruise were the touch screen monitors around the ship that listed the daily activities. If you selected an activity, the monitors gave you directions on how to get there. That was pretty nifty.

Norwegian Sky atrium
the Atrium

atrium stairs

Susan in the atrium

Stardust Theater
Stardust Theater

theater seats

We set sail at 5 o’clock, following Enchantment of the Seas and Carnival Fantasy down the channel and out into the Atlantic. Ron and I watched the sailaway from the back of the ship where the bar was hopping with people taking full advantage of the all-inclusive drinks. It was interesting seeing how the Open Bar concept worked. I decided it was great for people who liked beer but not as good if you wanted a hand crafted cocktail. A lot of the popular drinks had been premixed, even the mojitos, although the bartenders would make one from scratch if you requested it. Premixed mojitos? :-)  The bartenders were great though. NCL must have chosen their most cheerful and energetic bartenders to work on this ship. They didn’t make weak drinks either.

Sailaway mojito

leaving Miami Beach

Miami Beach


At around 7 we were ready for some dinner, we just had to decide where to go. There were plenty of options. In addition to the buffet, Sky had five restaurants. There were two main dining rooms, The Palace and Crossings, which I called “the Pink Dining Room” and “the Blue Dining Room”. They both had the same large glass chandeliers, but The Palace had pink curtains and flowered carpeting while Crossings was decorated in blues, browns and golds with striped curtains. The specialty restaurants were Il Adagio, Le Bistro (the French restaurant) and Cagney’s Steakhouse. I’d been looking forward to going to Le Bistro because we ate there on our last Sky cruise and the food was soooo delicious. But unfortunately, the specialty restaurants had switched from a flat surcharge to a’ la carte menus where you paid per item, and the prices had gone way up.  Ahh well, I was pretty sure we’d be able to find good food somewhere. :-)

Neither of the main dining rooms required reservations (or long pants for the men, which made Ron happy), so we thought we’d try The Palace first since it was closest to our cabin. But somehow we took a wrong turn and ended up in front of Crossings. Crossings it was! The dining room was surprisingly empty. Everyone must have been partying on the pool deck or eating at the buffet. I ended up ordering spaghetti Carbonara because none of the other entrees sounded that exciting. It was good, but my dessert, the warm chocolate volcano, was to-die-for. It was similar to Carnival’s warm chocolate melting cake but even better because it came with chocolate chip gelato. Nom Nom!

Crossings Dining Room
Crossings, the Blue Dining Room

The Palace Dining Room
The Palace, the Pink Dining Room

Le Bistro
Le Bistro

After dinner we took a walk around the pool deck and out to the bow. The seas were perfectly calm and we were heading straight towards a bright, full moon – so pretty. We could hear reggae music and followed it to the atrium, where the band, Essence, was playing a Bob Marley tribute. We had a drink at the atrium bar and listened to the music until the set was over, then went to bed.


Our bed was so cozy and comfortable that I didn’t want to get up in the morning. So I just kept right on sleeping until I realized it was 8 o’clock and we were sleeping away our day in Freeport.

The 3-day Sky cruises normally go to NCL’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, not Freeport. But Great Stirrup Cay was closed for two months for remodeling so the itinerary was changed. That was fine with me and Ron. We had been to Great Stirrup Cay several times but we hadn’t been to Freeport since our honeymoon! We were excited to see it again.

We had booked day passes in advance at Memories Grand Bahama, an all-inclusive resort next to the Port Lucaya Marketplace. Ron and I love all-inclusives so we figured this would give us a chance to find out if Memories would be a good place to stay on a future long weekend trip. I’d read online that there was a shuttle from the cruise terminal to Port Lucaya for $10 a person round trip. So after a buffet breakfast at the Great Outdoor Café, we headed off the ship in search of the shuttle. We found it easily enough but getting to Port Lucaya turned out to be a bit of a cluster. First we had to wait some time for the shuttle to fill up. Then our driver tried to talk everyone into going to Junkanoo Beach Club instead. Dude, we already had our plans! Just take us to Port Lucaya, please! Of course, some people on the bus decided they wanted to go to Junkanoo and the driver dropped them off first, even though it was farther away. Gah!

But finally we made it to Memories and checked in at the front desk with no problems. Memories was a mid-sized resort on a pretty stretch of beach between the Grand Lucayan hotel and a public area with a rustic bar/restaurant and jet ski rentals. I really liked Memories’ pool. It had lots of waterfalls and a neat swim-bar built into an old sugar mill. We parked ourselves under one of the waterfall columns by the pool so we could have some shade. I’d planned to take advantage of the included watersports, like the paddleboards, but ended up having a lazy day instead, reading by the pool and walking around the beach while Ron hung out at the swim-up bar. Some of the activity staff members were making fresh conch salad by the pool and I had a couple of samples. Yum! We ate lunch at the buffet and I got an iced latte from the hotel’s cute coffee shop. It seemed like a fun and friendly place, and Ron and I decided we definitely wouldn’t mind coming back for a longer stay.

Memories Grand Bahama
Memories Grand Bahama Resort

pool fountains

pool fountains

lounge chairs

Memories beach chairs


beach rocks

jet skis

conch shells

Lucayan beach

At around 2 o’clock, the clouds started to look ominous so we thought we’d check out the Treasure Bay Casino next door before going back to the ship. Unfortunately, it was a very quick gambling session since I’d forgotten to bring extra cash. The lowest limit Black Jack table was $15 so I only had enough money for one hand, which I lost. Oh well, at least I brought back another $1 chip for my collection.
The ride back to the ship was much quicker since our shuttle driver didn’t take any detours this time. Back on board, we got showers and went up to the pool deck where there was a big BBQ going on. I picked up a plate of paella for a “light snack”, and we went to the Great Outdoor Café to watch as we left port. Freeport Harbor was very industrial but the sailaway was still pretty. We even passed a lighthouse on the way out. I looked it up after we got home and it was Pinder’s Point Lighthouse, built in the early 60’s around the time the harbor was built. Goodbye, Freeport! We hope to be back before another 25 years go by!

Freeport Harbor
Freeport Harbor

pilot boat

Pinder's Point Lighthouse
Pinder's Point Lighthouse

ship bow
Calm Seas

bow at dusk

ship leaving Freeport

That night after dinner in the Pink Dining Room we hit the casino. I even remembered to bring money this time! The $6 Black Jack table was crowded but I waited a bit and eventually a seat opened up. Ron found a spot at the $15 table but had such bad luck that the other people at his table were trying to pay him to stop playing. :-)  But I was doing pretty well and played for almost two hours before I called it quits. When I cashed out my chips, I was up $15 – exactly the amount I had lost at Treasure Bay that afternoon. Not bad - two hours of free entertainment, and now I had TWO new $1 chips to bring home.

From the casino we went up to the pool deck to check out the White Hot Party, but didn’t stay long. The music was awful and way too loud, the same beat over and over with occasional incomprehensible words that sounded like "diggy diggy diggy”. That was music?? What happened to songs with actual lyrics? It was after midnight anyway, so we decided to call it a night. I guess we’re getting old…


The disadvantage of the Open Bar on Sky was that there were lots of loud, drunk people on our cruise. This was by far the loudest cruise we’ve ever been on. And unfortunately for us, there was a large group on our deck that liked to yell to each other down the hallway. At 1:45 in the morning, the White Party must have ended but the group continued to party in front of our cabin. I went back to sleep but the yelling started up again at 2 and at 2:15. Finally I stuck my head out the door and said, “GET OFF MY LAWN!” Just kidding, but I did tell them to take the party elsewhere. They left but were back again at 3:15. Argh!!!

I never really went back to sleep after that so at 6 o’clock I gave up and went out on deck to watch the sunrise. We were approaching Nassau Harbor and the silhouette of Atlantis stood out against the golden sky. The massive Oasis of the Seas was already docked. Enchantment of the Seas and Carnival Fantasy were behind us, waiting for a pilot boat to bring them in. What a beautiful morning! As much as I hate not being able to sleep, there is something magical about those early morning hours on a ship.


Atlantis silhouette

Nassau Harbor

Oasis of the Seas

Paradise Island bridge

Good morning, Nassau!

When I got back to the cabin it was almost 8 o’clock and Ron was still asleep, so I pounced on the bed to get him up and moving. We were in Nassau! Our plan for the day was to take a cab to Paradise Island, where we had day passes at RIU Palace, an all-inclusive resort on Cabbage Beach. Hey, if we were going to have an all-inclusive weekend, we might as well go all out, right? :-) This was our 4th time at RIU so we made ourselves at home right away, snagging a couple of lounge chairs on the edge of the pool deck with a view of that amazing turquoise water. Since our last trip, RIU had replaced the umbrellas around the pool with canvas awnings, which provided a lot more shade. Very smart.

Before Ron got too comfortable at the swim up bar, we took a long walk on the beach, walking past the One and Only Ocean Club and then back down to Atlantis. Last year the public access point next to RIU had been closed due to some kind of property dispute. Evidently the issue had been resolved because the vendors were back in full force and the beach was busy with people renting lounge chairs, jet skis and banana boat rides. Lots of people were bobbing around in the water, enjoying the unusually calm waves. Cabbage Beach is normally too rough for swimming but not that day!

RIU Palace swim up bar
RIU Palace

RIU Palace pool


Cabbage Beach

blue water

jet skis at Cabbage Beach

Ron in the water

Atlantis beach


We had lunch at the buffet and then I settled into my lounge chair while Ron went to pick up drinks for us at the swim up bar. He came back with two cups of Sky Juice. I was introduced to Sky Juice on our Segway tour in March when we’d made a beverage stop at the Fish Fry. Sky Juice is a traditional Bahamian drink made from coconut water, condensed milk and gin or rum. I really liked it because it was refreshing and different. The Sky Juice made me sleepy (or maybe it was the 3 hours of sleep I’d gotten the night before) and I immediately nodded off. The next thing I knew, Ron was waking me up to tell me that Oasis of the Seas was leaving port. What, already? That meant it was almost 3 o’clock and time to go. We didn’t hit any traffic jams on the way back to town so we had a little time to shop at the stores around the cruise terminal before getting on the ship. I bought a beautiful print of a sea turtle by Bahamian artist TIFF Barrett - a little reminder of our home away from home in the Bahamas.

Bahamian artwork

After the sailaway and dinner, we went to the casino for some more Black Jack, but we probably should have gone to the show instead. First, the automatic shuffler kept jamming, and every couple of hands the pit boss had to come over and fix it. The pit boss said they called the shuffler “Sam”.  Well, Sam was killing everyone at the table. Ron joked that Sam actually stood for “shitty a$$ machine”. Bad Sam! :-)  Before long, we had both lost our daily gambling allotments so we took one last walk up to the bow to see the full moon. The ship was moving much faster now that we were heading home to Miami but the seas were still calm and smooth.

Miami Again

In the morning when I pulled our Sign and Sail statement off the door, there was nothing on it. Not one single charge! That was a first. Since there was no reason to rush off the ship (our flight wasn’t until 2 o’clock), we had a leisurely breakfast in the Pink Dining Room. On the way back to the cabin, I spotted our embarkation photo hanging in the photo gallery and couldn’t resist buying it, so we ended up with one charge after all. :-)  You can't beat an all-inclusive vacation!

planes at sunset
Waiting to fly home


  1. Another great report! I loved the pictures of Bahamas dawn, and the beautiful blue water in Nassau...and also you turtle print. I sure do enjoy traveling with you, Susan, even if it's just in cyberspace!

  2. Thanks for sharing your vacation.Looks like you had a lot of fun other than those rude passageway party people.