Tag Archives: Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Sky

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend the weekend aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky. I would like to share my impression of the trip. I have sold NCL cruises before, of course, but until a couple of years ago, only on request. I used to get very inconsistent feedback from clients, in terms of service, quality of the food, etc. Consequently, I only sold them by request.

NCL Sky from Great Stirrup Cay

That started to change a couple of years ago with the launch of their Freestyle 2.0 initiative, as well as the launch of their newer ships, like the Gem, Jewel, etc. I started to get more requests for these ships, and NCL in general, and clients usually came back very satisfied.

I can’t really compare my cruise on the Sky with my previous cruises, though. This is the oldest and smallest ship I’ve cruised on, and it was the shortest itinerary as well (other than pre-inaugurals). Nothing wrong with that, but you can’t compare the Sky with Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas (not to mention the Oasis) or Celebrity’s Solstice.

Here are some of my impressions on the ship:

Passengers were a mixed of young couples (incidentally, I hadn’t see so many tattoos since I accidentally went to Daytona during Bike Week), a couple of large family groups, some ladies groups traveling together, and your assorted 40 to 50-something couple, international tourists (mostly Argentinian and Brazilian, from what I could hear), small families, etc. People were well behaved, we didn’t see any public drunkenness or any loud or obnoxious behavior.

The ship is very nice in some areas, but the decor is not as polished in others, in my opinion. I liked the decor of the Crossings restaurant, not so much the Palace restaurant, but that’s just a matter of taste. The age of the ship is more apparent in areas that don’t seem to have been renovated, like the public restrooms, for example.
In general, common areas seem well maintained and very nice. However, once you start looking at the details, some parts show their wear.

The pool area was as popular as ever, but with no days at sea, it wasn’t difficult to find a chair.

We had a balcony cabin, which I think was smaller than the other ones we’ve been on (not surprised by this, though). It had the usual furniture, including a small couch and small TV (no flat screens yet).The ship only does 3 and 4 day itineraries (from Miami to the Bahamas), so storage space was sufficient for what we brought. Norwegian’s Freestyle Dining program helps with the packing as well, since there are no formal nights (so no suits are needed). One design flaw that bothered me is that the reading lights behind the bed are too low, so you either have to out a pillow against them or risk a bump in the head!

Balcony Cabin

The balcony has railings rather than a glass panel, which may be a consideration if you’re traveling with children.

Food was OK. Nothing spectacular, but nothing inedible either. We gave it a 6 or 7 out of 10 on average

We had lunch and breakfast at the buffet, which was OK quality and what was expected for a buffet. The food serving area is small and can get cramped, but they have another line in the adjacent outside restaurant. Tables are hard to come by during breakfast, but you can also take your food to the sports bar across the hall, and servers would proactively show people the way to ensure everyone was seated as quickly as possible.

Palace Restaurant

We had 2 dinners at the Crossings main restaurant. The food was pretty good, except for one dish of tortellini with cream sauce, which was too “floury”. Otherwise, the flavors were good, and service was attentive and friendly. We went after 8pm both nights and were seated immediately. I never saw a wait for the main restaurants, and the screens on several common areas alert guests of how full all the dining venues are. Premium restaurants filled up quickly, especially in the first and last nights, so plan accordingly.
The third night we had dinner at the sports bar, which serves “comfort food”, like chicken fingers, etc. We had the fish and chips, which was pretty decent. Fries come straight out of the main buffet line, so they are thin, not the thicker ones you usually get with fish and chips
The only noteworthy thing about the buffet is they always have vegetarian selections (so do the other restaurants), and they have a crepe station (so so) and an ice cream and chocolate fountain station (no way you can screw that up!)

Perhaps the low point of the cruise was the shows. We went to the musical review the first night and left halfway through. The other 2 were scheduled at 8:30, which is while we were having dinner, so we didn’t go to them. There was only 1 show scheduled per night, plus the usual karaoke, newlywed game, etc.
One weird thing about the ship’s layout is the disco is an open space on deck 6, between the atrium and the theater. I don’t know how they control access to those over 18 only (after 11pm), as we left before 11. One nice thing is they had latin music earlier for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, and we had a good time there.

If I have to complain about something, it was the lack of attention to detail in some areas. Nothing that would ruin your vacation, but things I would not have expected to see, like:

  • Paint splattered on the balcony railing that could have easily been cleaned
  • A wine order that was not taken until we had the salads served and wine that arrived when we were already having the main course
  • A napkin on a bread basket in the main restaurant that had ketchup on it. It was in plain view and wouldn’t have taken any time or effort to change it for a clean one.
  • One thing that did bother me was the remote control was not just dirty, but really filthy. I had to ask then to exchange it, and the steward kept insisting it wasn’t dirty. I had to tell him it didn’t work for him to bring another one. No reason to have something that everybody touches be that dirty.

All in all it was a good experience and I’d do it again with the right mindset. I have posted more pictures on our facebook page. Please visit and become a fan.

If you guys have any questions, shoot away!

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

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Cruises Offer More Dining Options

main_dining_hero

Celebrity Cruises just announced the introduction of Celebrity Select Dining. This new option allows passengers to dine in the ship’s main restaurant, but not have a preassigned dining time, as is the traditional dinner schedule. Instead, guests can select to dine at any time between 6:00 and 9:30 pm., and even make reservations online up to 4 days before the cruise.

The program is being rolled out sequentially to all Celebrity ships (except for Celebrity Xpedition), starting with the Equinox on the September 26th sailing. It will be completed by February. Reservations will be on a first come, first served basis, and for passengers who elect to participate, gratuities will be automatically charged to the on board account.

It used to be that cruise lines offered 2 set times to dine in the main restaurants. You chose between early and late dining, and were stuck with that choice for the duration of the cruise. If you wanted to have dinner at a different time, you had to go to one of the alternate restaurants. In the last few years, however, starting with Norwegian Cruise Lines, the option to have dinner in the main restaurant (or one of them, at least), has been introduced by several lines. The following is a summary of the offerings:

  • Norwegian Cruise Lines: They were the pioneers of the flexible options with their Freestyle Dining. You’ve surely seen the commercials; do whatever you want, whenever you want. Norwegian has done away with the set dining times altogether, and bases dining service on offering different menus in different restaurants. Their newer ships, like the Jewel and the Gem, have even been designed with the Freestyle philosophy in mind. NCL ships offer smaller restaurants, with up to 13 different restaurants on board.
  • Carnival: The Fun Ships don’t currently offer a flexible option. It’s either early, late, or one of the other restaurants.
  • Royal Caribbean: Their “My Time” dining allows passengers to have dinner at any time in the main restaurants. It’s very similar to Celebrity’s Select Dining, which is likely based on My Time. In addition, Royal Caribbean offers “Family My Time” dining. This program is targeted to families with younger children. Appetizers are served immediately, and the children’s dinner is finished in 40 minutes.¬† They are then taken to evening activities with Adventure Ocean counselors, while the adults continue the meal at a more leisurely pace.
  • Princess Cruises: Their anytime dining allows passengers to dine at the main restaurant between 5:30 and 10:00 pm. Some ships have dedicated Anytime Dining restaurants, separate from the traditional dining restaurants, but providing the same menu and service.
  • Holland America: Provides an open schedule in its main dining room, as part of their As You Wish Dining program.
  • Cunard: Guests can dine any time between 7 and 9 pm, but some restaurants offer either early or late dining only.

Any way you look at it, dining is one of the prime attractions of a cruise, and a very important part of the cruising experience for most passengers. If you’ve been on a cruise, you understand why. If you have not, I invite you to experience it. Just contact us and we’ll plan the perfect cruise for you.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Norwegian Cruise Lines Welcomes You Aboard

I have to admit Norwegian Cruise Lines has never been among my favorites cruise lines. It seems that for every good experience someone has aboard an NCL ship, there’s a negative one. However, they seem to be improving. Feedback I’ve received from clients in the last year has been much more weighted to the positive side of the balance. This does not come through coincidence. Norwegian has been working on improving its service and the overall quality of its product for the last year or so.

Norwegian’s difference from most other cruise lines is its emphasis on doing whatever you want whenever you want. They call it Freestyle Cruising. The most obvious place where you experience Freestyle is the dining rooms. Your are not tied to having dinner at a specific time, or in a specific restaurant, as you are with most lines. You can choose among several options, some of which incur an additional cost. Feedback from recent clients suggests that it’s worth it to pay for the premium restaurants, as the food is much better.

Norwegian’s improvements have focued on making Freestyle better. They call it Freestyle 2.0. The main points are:

  • As you board the ship, you receive a complimentary glass of champagne
  • Upgraded bath and body products
  • Fresh fruits delivered to your stateroom daily
  • Expanded kid’s crew hours
  • Twice weekly lobster in the main restaurants
  • Upgraded mattresses, linens, and pillows
  • Seaday Jazz Brunch

Now Norwegian has added a Welcome Aboard cruise guide. The 21-page booklet includes information on the itinerary, stateroom, deck plans, advice  on what to pack, and cruise information in general. It also includes personalized luggage tags. This booklet reverts the decision Norwegian made a couple of years ago to issue only electronic documents that had to be printed at home. It obviously makes cruisers feel better about who they are traveling with and anticipate the cruise more eagerly.

If that’s not enough, Norwegian also released a press release last week announcing that customers who purchase the now improved travel protection plan when they book their cruise, will be eligible for a full refund (minus the cost of the policy) if they have to cancel because of a job loss.

If you want to take advantage of their offers, I’ll be happy to find the right cruise for you. Their current promotion is below:

NCL Freestyle Promotion

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171