We booked a 7 night Bahamas cruise package to fly premium economy with Virgin / Delta from London Heathrow to Miami for a 2 night pre cruise stay, followed by a 5 night Bahamas cruise on Norwegian Sky. The headline offer price in the Black Friday Sale was £849pp for economy flights including Free at Sea. We upgraded our flights, chose an oceanview cabin (1415), then selected the premium drinks package and internet package as our two options.
We put in a cheeky upgrade bid of £100pp for a balcony cabin (0058) and got it!
The Delta premium economy service from Heathrow was excellent. It’s only a small section on the Boeing 767 with a 2-2-2 layout with 3 rows of window seats and 4 middle rows. Everything worked as it should with a spacious seat, foot rest, recline and the entertainment system. The food and drink service was very good. I watched 3 new release movies with the complimentary noise cancelling headset. We had indirect flights out with a stop in JFK New York. We thought the first connection time was too tight as under 2 hours and our first point of entry into USA to clear immigration. Therefore we had a 5 hour layover between flights. Immigration was packed, even in the returning estas lanes, it was around an hour to use the verification machines and be cleared by security. You have to collect your luggage from the carousel and walk it around the corner to drop off again. We then made the transfer from terminal 4 to 2 for our internal flight to Miami.
We were beginning to feel the 4am start in London, however the 3 hour flight from NYC to Miami went smoothly. Premium Economy passengers are seated in the comfort section on the internal flights.
We loved our short time in Miami, walking the Art Deco area of Ocean Drive, Collins Ave and Washington Drive. We discovered the Time Out Market food hall to lunch on oysters & lobster as well as browsing the shops on Lincoln Road for some retail therapy. We found a fabulous Greek restaurant called Poseidon for our evening meal, and used the classic American Diner on 11th for our breakfast. We were ready to start our Bahamas cruise.
Our taxi from Miami South Beach to the Port Terminal was $25. Norwegian departs from terminals A-C, it wasn’t stated which one on our joining instructions, however there is electronic signage with the name of the ship on the road signs, so our taxi driver knew where to take us. We handed over our large cases to the porters, taking hand luggage on board. It could be as late as 8pm before these would be delivered to our cabin.
Boarding was from 12:00 – 15:00 we arrived slightly early, there were others eager to get on board and we cleared security quickly. Once the health form to check for any recent sickness was completed, we were allocated boarding group 8. In no time at all we were welcomed on board, lunch was being served on deck 11 and the pool bars were open for drinks. There was a secure hand luggage drop off area, so we didn’t have to lug our small cases around with us.
Balcony cabin 0058 was the last in the row, so we only had neighbours on one side. Situated at the aft, this is a quiet position and close to stairs & lifts. We were under The Local Bar & Grill, it wasn’t noisy from the patrons, however we could hear chairs being dragged along the floor, particularly in the evening. The layout has the bathroom on the left on entrance, and wardrobe on the right. The large bed was very comfortable with storage underneath for your empty cases. There was a sofa and small desk, with a porthole and door leading onto the balcony which was furnished with two chairs and a small table. This is an interconnecting cabin, at times we could hear our neighbours through the internal door. It also sleeps up to 3 passengers, as the sofa can convert to a bed. NCL Sky was refurbed in February 2019 so everywhere felt fresh and clean.
We enquired about upgrading to include the speciality restaurants, it was $99 per person for 3 nights. Having looked at the menus, we decided to pay the à la carte prices instead, as we wanted to try the complimentary restaurants too. To get value out of this package we would have to dine out for 3 of our 5 evenings in the speciality restaurants.
Internet is important for us, so we had already upgraded in advance from the standard wifi to the premium service (£77.23), the problem was this was only for 1 device at a time. Usually we have 4 devices including our iPhones and Macs on the go. Once on board we could add another internet account at $174 for the 5 night duration. This still only gave us our Macs permanently connected, but it was essential for us to be able to continue working whilst travelling.
Incidentally the drinks packages once on board ranged from $99-$129 per passenger, per night if you hadn’t previously opted for this on a Free at Sea offer. Whilst in Miami port, the tax element of your drink is charged to your on board account. Speciality coffees (Starbucks) are not included on the premium drinks package.
A strict “washy washy” policy is in place at the Garden buffet restaurant, employing staff on entry to make sure all passengers comply with the hand cleansing routine before dining.
First night dined buffet & Stardust show 9pm meet key crew and spotlight on performances to come. No photos or video allowed. The introductions to both the entertainment crew on pool deck and the senior management team in the theatre were fun, each with their personal theme song and dance routine.
Port or Starboard?
It can be difficult to choose which side of your cruise ship to select your cabin. As we had an upgrade we were allocated our cabin 0058 which was port at the aft. I made a note of which side occupied the best position on our Best of the Bahamas cruise:
Sailing out of Miami for the beach view – port
Docked in Grand Bahama for the port view and sunshine on your balcony – starboard
Docked in Nassau at Prince George Wharf, the port looked out to Paradise Island (shade) and starboard (sunshine) would have been to Nassau however there were other cruise ships in dock blocking the view.
Great Stirrup Cay was a tender service, the best view of the island was from the starboard side.
Please don’t book a particular side based on this information, as a lot depends on which position the ship is allocated, as well as the direction the ship is facing. Some captain’s prefer to reverse in, whilst others reverse out!
Grand Bahama: Swimming with pigs
Swimming with pigs in the Bahamas was on my bucket list, so this was the only excursion that we had booked in advance. You need to have something planned for this island, as other than a few tourist souvenir shops and Señor Frog there was nothing close by you could walk out to.
We had a great guide called David on our 711 tour bus. A Bahamian he was full of passion for the island and locals, telling us we were warmly welcomed by the residents and an essential part of their economy. There’s still so much evidence left by Hurricane Dorian, many roofs remain covered with tarpaulin. The old style of tiles is being replaced with metal roofing, which can greater withstand the storms.
Our first stop was at Crystal Beach and the Norwegian excursion buses from Pearl and Sky took priority over the smaller groups. We were ordered about by General Brooks! This guy was such a character, making us dump our belongings on the beach, only phones and swimsuits were allowed. Next we had to line up in straight lines and listen to our instructions of how to interact with the pigs. Armed with a wooden skewer each, we waded out in the sea to waist height and received a handful of apple chunks to spear onto our skewer. A hand bell ringing alerted the pigs that there was food waiting and they came rushing out along the shore to swim out to us.
At first it was a bit daunting, especially when the larger pigs swim towards you. However there was no need to be alarmed, they were very adapt at swimming around the group to take the apple pieces offered. The trick is to hold the stick to the side of you, wait until they take a bite, then pull the stick out, leaving the apple behind. Once your apple had been gobbled up it was easier to be more sociable and give a belly rub or two.
After swimming with the pigs it was time to relax. There were sun loungers and picnic tables on the beach, with a shack serving cocktails, buckets of beer and some local dishes such as conch fritters.
Around 1pm we boarded the bus to Port Lucaya Marketplace, where we had free time to shop and get some lunch. Our guide had recommended we dine at Afterdeck, however we discovered Go Native towards the back of the market which was excellent. We tried our first taste of chicken jerk with rice and peas, plus cracked conch. A lot of the stalls were selling repetitive tourist clothing and souvenirs, with some more individual shops dotted between them.
We decided to walk out and explore Downtown Nassau, rather than booking an excursion. Although it was Sunday, the majority of local shops were open in and around the Bay Street area. We started by walking in the direction of the John Watling’s Distillery, for a taste of Caribbean rum. On route we stopped by the Heritage Village and Graycliff Hotel. There’s quite a few interesting shops here including Graycliff Chocolatier and Bahama Barrels winery. Continuing uphill we reached the distillery where we took a complimentary tour, before taking a rum flight tasting of 4 different types.
Our next stop was Fort Fincastle, the view down from here is restricted, it may be better if you paid the $3 entry fee. The Queen’s Staircase and waterfall gave some cool respite from the heat. We headed back onto Bay Street to find the Bahamas Rum Cake Factory. We were encouraged to taste some free samples, it’s delicious! This cake ring is moist, light and sweet, available in different flavours. We finished our 10.5 km walk past the Straw Market, into Pompey Square and back along the waterfront.
Complimentary dining on Norwegian Sky
More about the complimentary dining options on Norwegian Sky.
For buffet the Garden Café has breakfast 07:00-10:30, snacks 09:30-01:00, lunch 12:00-15:00 & dinner 17:30-21:30.
The Great Outdoor Café is an open terrace area serving buffet for breakfast 07:30-12:00, lunch 12:30-15:00, snacks 15:00-17:30 & dinner 17:30-21:30.
The Palace is waited table service and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. Freshly cooked food to order with a varied menu choice, we were never stuck for a different option each time. We adored the broiled kippers for breakfast! This is a walk in restaurant, if busy a pager will be offered for a short wait.
Crossings is waited table service in the evening, you can make a reservation in advance at this restaurant.
With both of the complimentary waiter service restaurants on Norwegian Sky, we were always given a table for the two of us. We were never asked if we would share, unlike Princess. For us this was nice, however we kind of missed the opportunity to meet other interesting passengers. Personally, I think it would be good to have the choice. We noticed a few solo passengers who wanted to share, but were then allocated tables on their own.
Dress code is very relaxed in the evening. Basically it was no beach / pool wear, flip flops, vest tops for men or baseball caps allowed. The majority of passengers were dressed smart casual, with some guests making more of an effort to dress up.
Great Stirrup Cay: Chill Out
Norwegian have a privately owned island in the Bahamas, called Great Stirrup Cay, which is part of the Berry Islands. It was touch and go if the sea was going to be too rough for the tender service required. NCL Breakaway had to abort and redirect to Nassau instead, only 2 days before. We were in luck and our ship was able to continue as planned. There is a lovely white sand beach with turquoise water and plenty of sun beds (free of charge) lining the bay.
Food and drink is included whilst ashore. We hired snorkels and fins to enjoy the water, this was $30 per person for the day if you prefer to bring your own. There was also some fabulous floating sun beds at $16 each if you just wanted to laze around on the water. The tender service worked really well, we walked straight on to a craft about to depart in both directions. Other activities including jet ski tour, kayaking and a zip line.
Miami Airport Storage & Shopping
We had a full day at the end of our Bahamas cruise in Miami, as our overnight flight departed at 22:50. I had researched luggage storage options by the port however they all seemed to close too early for our requirements. We decided to book the cruise airport transfer at £12 each. This was a great service, Joe our driver entertained the bus with an amusing commentary along the route. At MIA airport we headed to Central 9, floor 2 E where Communitel run a baggage storage facility. Our two large hold cases were $10 each, and hand luggage size cases $8 each for the day.
Next we took a cab to the Dolphin Mall, this is the largest outlet shopping centre in Miami. The cab fares were just under $40 each way including a tip. We spent a few hours browsing the shops and enjoying some retail therapy. Followed by a meal at the Cheesecake Factory. It’s a good place to head for if you have some time to kill before flying home. Back at the airport, we made use of the Avianca lounge in the South Terminal Concourse J, which is upstairs at Gate 4. We flew back on Virgin Atlantic premium economy and was underwhelmed, maybe we expected too much for a night flight.
This Bahamas cruise was our first experience of NCL. It was not the right destination to base our final opinion of this cruise line, as it was a short itinerary and the clientele were predominantly American. We weren’t wowed by the shows or particularly interested in the type of activities scheduled. We did enjoy the comfort of our balcony cabin and the quality of food served on board. We would definitely cruise with NCL again, however next time we’d like to try a different ship and destination with a more interesting mix of nationalities. The NCL Free At Sea upgrade offer is excellent value, our advice would be to take the Premium Drinks Package and Speciality Dining Package. We tried to book one of the speciality restaurants during the cruise but found that all of the decent dining times were fully booked. If you have the speciality dining package you can book your table reservations from 90 days before departure. We particularly liked the Spinnaker Lounge when it wasn’t being used for private functions. The only quiet and comfortable spot on the ship, where we could work / read our books whilst sailing with a panoramic forward viewpoint. Personally I didn’t like the enclosed wardrobe in our cabin, it was awkward to access with the bathroom door opposite. I prefer the walk in wardrobe style cabin which can also be used as a dressing area. I missed not having a quiet pool for adults only.
You can see our photo album from this trip here: NCL Best of the Bahamas Cruise