Friday, August 26, 2011

The Sky is the Limit

That would be the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Sky sailing out of Miami. This was a 3-night cruise from Miami with Saturday docked at NCL’s private beach island, Great Stirrup Cay. We spent that day onboard the ship relaxing, touring the ship some more and (of course) eating. Sunday we were in port at Nassau after a high-speed transit to Nassau. Someone on board had a medical emergency and the ship needed to be picking up speed to arrive earlier in Nassau. We went out on deck to watch the light chop go flying by.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was my first cruise and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, I, who has resisted cruising for years, actually had a really good time. Thanks to Frank for his encouragement and prior experience on cruise ships for navigating us efficiently around the ship.

We arrived at the Miami port about 1PM and after check in, we were escorted to the Longboard Bar for a buffet lunch (hamburgers & fries) – nothing special. Now is probably a good opportunity to discuss some of the dining options. Other than the hamburger from the buffet, the food was universally good, and service was outstanding. Since NCL offers 3 specialty restaurants as part of their “Freestyle Dinning Option”, after lunch we reserved our tables for the next three nights.

         Friday Dinner: Le Bistro. The space was nicely decorated in a somewhat Victorian style and the entire restaurant was in a couple of long rooms reminiscent of a long elegant dining car. The food was very good. Frank had the Duo of Duck (duck breast and duck confit). He enjoyed it although the breast was slightly over cooked. I ordered the Bouillabaisse. The seafood was all cooked perfectly, however the broth was underwhelming, lacking in flavor. Oh what critics foodies we can be.

Before I continue, let me say our dinner “issues” were minor quibbles on preparation and flavor, nothing that would turn us away. Also the appetizers were really good in all three restaurants. I ordered Escargot, served in a typical escargot dish with plenty of garlic and butter.

         Saturday Dinner: Il Adagio. I ordered a fried calamari appetizer, which was excellent.  Very tender, and the right portion size for one. Unlike the trends in the US, the Sky served reasonably sized portions of all the food, which was a pleasant surprise (to us). I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara, which I rate with some of the best. Frank enjoyed the Seafood Fettuccine, again the seafood was properly cooked, especially the mussels according to Frank. 

         Sunday Dinner: Tonight we dined at Cagney’s Steak House. OMG, we both rate this as our best dinner of the three. I started with a bowl of Lobster Bisque. The bisque was perfect, with a nice creaminess and a WHOLE LOT of flavor; 5-stars on the bisque. Frank enjoyed a typical steak house Shrimp Cocktail with 5 or 6 large, tender shrimp. It was very good he reported. For our main course we both ordered the 5 oz. medium rare filet mignon served with a side of potatoes gratin. The beef was our pick for #1 item of all our meals. The filet was cooked perfectly medium rare throughout with a nice crust on the outside and was wonderful. I would go back for the Lobster Bisque and the steak. What time do we board?

Other meals: I will just run through our breakfast and lunch options, again by day.

Friday: Lunch: As mentioned earlier, lunch was at the Longboard Bar.
Saturday: Breakfast at The Palace, one of the main dining rooms:
         Frank ordered classic Eggs Benedict and I ordered French Toast

Saturday: Lunch was at one of the buffets.

Sunday Breakfast was at Il Adagio, where they serve made to order omelets and waffles.
Sunday Lunch was split at two places. We had pizza at Il Adagio to start, and concluding with Hot Dogs and a beer at Longboard.

We quickly settled into a routine on board. Mid-afternoon usually included a short nap followed by a drink at one of the lounges. Our favorite quickly became the Plantation Club and our server, Ruel, who we ended up with for every visit. He remembered my name after one visit which I consider amazing and he, (like most of the staff) was always smiling. The other bars, such as the Pool Bar, the Atrium Bar, and Longboard all served good drinks but we preferred the décor and atmosphere of the Plantation Club to the others. The Plantation Club was offering 2-for-1 martinis (Frank’s choice). I opted for an Italian favorite, campari & soda. Drinks were usually followed with dinner, and then either some entertainment, a stroll around the ship or another drink.

The highlight of the entertainment was a piano tribute to Billy Joel and Elton John. The pianist and singer (same person) was very good and we enjoyed the performance. The last night after dinner we went to the main theatre (large and ornate) for a staff variety show. It was interesting but no wow factor.

Saturday we were in port at Great Stirrup Cay, which we did not plan on visiting, so we made it a relaxing day on-board ship. We went to the library to play a crossword puzzle and a Sudoku. The temperature in the library was very cold so we decided go to the deck to read for a while, as we did on Sunday after the visit to Nassau. Frank then managed to win $40 at the slots, while I managed to lose $30. Of course on Sunday, Frank lost his $40 and I again managed to lose my daily betting limit (self-imposed).

After lunch at a buffet and a post-lunch drink at the Pool Bar and a nap we went to the spa for our appointments that we booked earlier in the day. I had a facial – ooh very nice. Frank enjoyed a manicure – he didn’t want to leave.

Sunday was a day in Nassau. We had booked a NCL promoted land tour in a 22-passenger bus. We opted for a riding tour to a couple of historic forts and a local museum, The Junkanoo Museum. What is that you ask? So happy you did. To quote from Bahamas Getaway.

Junkanoo is a Bahamian festival that occurs during the dark hours of morning on the 26th of December and again bringing in its first hours of light on the first day of the New Year.” The museum was in an old Bahamian house operated by a husband and wife who grew up here and are active participants in the Junkanoo festivities. She makes all her own costumes, which remind me of Mardi Gras or the Philadelphia Mummers Parade – very colorful and ornate.

We next stopped at Fort Fincastle and the Queen’s Staircase (all 65 steps). It as an impressive accomplishment considering is was chiseled out of solid limestone by slaves in 1793

I did not climb the stairs (nor descend them). Due to my fatigue problems I did not attempt the stairs; even the tour guide and Frank recommended I not do it.

The driver took us through some very low-income residential neighborhoods on the way to the next stop, which is always eye opening and sad to see.

Our final stop was Fort Charlotte, the largest of the three forts in Nassau. Here I DID get off the bus and go down a flight of stairs to the dungeon then back up to where the mini-bus was parked. That caused me some fatigue and weakness problems. Instead of lunch in Nassau we opted (Frank insisted) that we head back to the ship so I could rest a bit. It was the right thing to do.

On Monday morning, before disembarking, we had breakfast at Il Adagio. Pancakes and Omelets. It was a nice way to begin the day and the long drive back to St. Petersburg.

Being my first cruise I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this 3-day trip was a great way for me to decide if cruising is for me. I would answer with a definite YES. I enjoyed the ship, the staff was great, and I really liked the Freestyle dining options and the food. The ocean view room was very clean and nice, and bigger than those Frank had been on with Carnival. We even had a small sofa in the room. Thanks again to Frank for encouraging me to give cruising a try. I like it and hope to have the opportunity to go on another one – maybe the Mediterranean or the Baltic areas – let’s book it now!

Photographs to follow, probably next week.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I'm so glad you had a good time! I wasn't really sure how you'd like cruising (or not). As I've said many times, it's certainly not perfect (though, what ever is?), but it has its advantages as a relatively hassle-free means of travel tapas!

We've got Dubai booked in March and the Western Med out of Rome(including Corsica and Tunisia!) in June. Now that you've got your "sea legs"... just saying. :-)