Norwegian Sky is not the newest ship at sea, but it packs a big punch with a fun slate of nonstop activities, lively lounges, a good variety of dining venues and terrific short itineraries.
Norwegian's Freestyle attitude -- do what you want, when you want -- is in full force on Sky, which has a surprising number of dining options for a ship this size. Passengers can be happy eating only at the ship's complimentary options, or they can visit the speciality dining restaurants for something a little special. Sky also has lounges and bars for every taste, and they stay open late, keeping the party rolling at virtually every venue.
Structurally, there are some oddities on the ship, including Deck 6A, which houses a handful of cabins but isn't accessible by elevator. Likewise, Sky's cabins are tight but adequate for two. But the ship's structure also means it has a gorgeous atrium that spans from Deck 5 all the way to Deck 12. It also has the cool, bright Spinnaker Lounge, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and an adjacent sun deck, covered in teak, that has tremendous views from the bow of the ship.
Norwegian Sky is a great option for passengers looking to let down their hair, get away from it all for a few days and just have some fun.
Daytime: Anything goes on Norwegian Sky, which doesn't have formal nights or major dress code rules. During the day, it's swimsuits, cover-ups, shorts, dresses and comfortable clothing, both in port and onboard.
Evening: At night, you don't have to dress for dinner, though a few restaurants won't allow shorts in the evening (Le Bistro and La Cucina). Pack white clothing if you'd like to participate in the ship's "White Hot Night," a dance/glow party that takes place at night once per cruise.
Not permitted: Shoes are required in all dining venues and tank tops and baseball caps are also never permitted.
The Stardust Lounge is a two-level theatre that takes up the back of decks 6 and 7. This is where the bulk of the ship's formal entertainment takes place. The theatre features white chairs and banquettes, with purple carpet and brass railings. Because Sky hosts shorter cruises, you'll only see one or two production shows onboard. An older ship, Sky wasn't built to accommodate high-tech lighting and set pieces, as some newer ships are, but the shows on Sky are high-energy and feature talented singers and dancers performing. One of the things we really liked about the productions is they brought in more modern music that had passengers singing along. Stardust also will host acts like comedians and jugglers, and it serves as the spot for bingo and games like Deal or No Deal.
You'll find plenty to keep you busy during the day on Norwegian Sky. Typical options include team trivia (several times throughout the day), wacky golf challenge, poolside line dancing, paint and mingle classes, digital scavenger hunts and napkin-folding demonstrations. Most activities are free, and those that come with a fee are marked as such in the daily cruise planner.
There's often something fun, be it live music or interactive competitions like Ms. Norwegian Sky or Mr. Sexy Legs, going on poolside during the day. In Cuba, you'll find mostly Latin beats, which sets the tone of the trip perfectly.
Shops offer liquor tastings in an effort to boost sales, and there are a number of art auctions held throughout the cruise.
Passengers can also play for-fee games in the arcade, located on Deck 7.
Norwegian Sky heats up at night, with a festive atmosphere that permeates the whole ship. Pack white clothing so you can participate in Norwegian's famous White Hot Night, which includes blacklights and lots of dancing. The ship also offers karaoke, games like the Not So Newlywed Show and Quest, and a 70s dance party. Passengers stay out late, and they're committed to having fun. You'll hear music -- live or recorded -- virtually everywhere you go.
The ship also has a good-sized casino, located on Deck 7, which is open when the ship is at sea. (Because the ship is in port often, the casino isn't open as often as casinos on other ships.) The Sky Club Casino has slot machines as well as table games, such as blackjack, craps and roulette. At night, it offers a lotto draw. We didn't have any casino tournaments offered on our sailing.
With an all-inclusive drinks package for every passenger, Norwegian Sky's bars and lounges are always hopping, often with music pumping and lots of conversation. The bars are simply a lot of fun, and while they generally look a bit dated, it doesn't stop anyone from having a good time. Cocktails flow freely, and bartenders and wait staff are friendly and fast. There's a chill vibe onboard. Music onboard is heavily Latin, especially on cruises to Cuba.
Bliss Ultra Lounge (Deck 6): The ship's true nightclub, Bliss is the place to be after dinner and into the wee hours of the morning (it stays open until 2 a.m. most nights). A mix of live music and DJed hits keeps passengers dancing, and the energy is great. The room has a small stage and a good-sized dance floor. Bliss is large enough to host late-night salsa dance classes and evening game shows like the Not So Newlywed Game, Sing if You Know It and Quest, all of which make passengers part of the show. During the day, it hosts art auctions and trivia.
Starbucks (Deck 7): Get your coffee fix at Norwegian's first Starbucks at sea outlet, which serves cappuccinos, espressos and lattes along with iced creations. Tea also is served here. All beverages at Starbucks are considered premium and therefore aren't covered by the drinks package.
Sugarcane Mojito Bar (Deck 7): The signage and cruise dailies still call it the Atrium Bar, but the menus -- and staff -- say Sugarcane Mojito Bar. Cuban cocktails -- specifically the mojito -- are the speciality here, but passengers can order pretty much anything they'd like. You'll find live music here throughout the day, you can hear it from any spot in the atrium. It's a great option if you're a people-watcher.
Casino Bar (Deck 7): The Sky Club Casino features a small bar, where passengers can grab a drink while playing video poker.
The Local Bar & Grill (Deck 11): The ship's dinner/sports bar is decked out with memorabilia and gear. It's the best place on board to catch a game -- the bar has plenty of flat-screen TVs -- while drinking some brews with friends. Open in the evening, you can also grab a bite to eat; The Local serves complimentary snacks like chicken wings and fries.
Topsiders Bar and Grill (Deck 11): Topsiders is the ship's pool bar, and it's one of the biggest we've seen, stretching across Deck 11, midship, and is busy all day, though bartenders and waiters deftly move through the congestion, and wait times are low. The most popular drinks -- strawberry daiquiris, Floriditas and Hotel Nacionals, for example -- are premixed and stored in huge decorative vessels that line the bar, then ice and booze are added to individual glasses to make fresh cocktails. There's a cocktail of the day every day, which comes with a price and souvenir glass. (If you want the cocktail but don't want to pay extra, ask the server for it in a plain old bar glass.)
Spinnaker Lounge (Deck 11): Probably our favourite spot onboard, thanks to stellar views and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in bright light, lending warmth and tremendous comfort to the space. There's a large bar as well as a dance floor. During the day and into the evening, Spinnaker hosts get-togethers for groups like Friends of Bill W., and solo traveller and LGBT mixers. At night, you can catch live music and put on your boogie shoes.
Champs Bar (Deck 12): The only bar on the sun deck, Champs is a short walk for anyone getting their tan on. A seating area, where smoking is permitted, is adjacent to the bar, and passengers looking to get out of the sun can sit at the bar itself, which offers a bit of shade.
Two large, deep pools take up the centre of Deck 11, and they're busy when people aren't in port. Four hot tubs separate the pools. While there are ample lounge chairs, these are removed to accommodate events like the Pool BBQ, so seating space can be hard to come by. We love the real teak deck, a rarity among more modern ships. Shade also is tough to find, but many passengers like to retreat to tables near the bar, which provides relief from the sun and better bar service. Hot tubs and pools stay open until midnight, and passengers seem to enjoy having the opportunity for some late-night swimming.
Outdoor recreation is limited to a sports court, shuffleboard and golf driving nets, all located on Deck 12. Deck 11 also features two Ping-Pong tables.
The ship's sun deck essentially wraps all of Deck 12, with hundreds of blue mesh lounge chairs. On a sea day, it's bustling, to the point where it congests walkways a bit. But the atmosphere tends to be really friendly and gregarious. Part of the sun deck is designated as a quiet zone, though we didn't see anyone observing this. Perhaps it's because the quiet zone includes a small pool and hot tub, along with a serene waterfall; while signs say the area is called Splashes Kids' Pool, we only saw adults using the pool or hot tub during our sailing. There's no built-in shade.
There's also sun deck space in front of the Outrigger Lounge on Deck 11. This is actually one of the best spots for viewing the sea or sail-in to Havana. Get here early as you sail into Cuba so you can click great pics to your heart's content. The space on Deck 12 also works, but chest-high glass panels can obstruct your view unless you're willing to climb on top of lounge chairs for a better vantage point.
Most of Norwegian Sky's services are offered on decks 5, 6 and 7, around the light-filled atrium area. Guest services and the shore excursion desk are located on Deck 5. This is also where passengers embark to start their cruise and disembark at the end.
Several shops are located on decks 6 and 7. Here, passengers can find various necessities, snacks, Norwegian Sky souvenirs, jewellery and watches, clothing and duty-free alcohol and tobacco. (Cuban cigars are sold from a cabinet in Captain Cook's Bar on Deck 6.) Deck 6 also is home to three meeting rooms and a decent-sized library, where you can find board and card games as well as a daily trivia sheet. The ship's photo gallery is also on Deck 6. Here, passengers can purchase photos of them taken by the ship's photographers or buy camera equipment.
You'll find a tiny, mostly unused, internet cafe on Deck 7. Most passengers elect to skip the cafe and instead purchase a Wi-Fi package, available by the minute or in packages. Internet speeds are slow -- you won't be able to stream -- but sufficient for surfing, posting social media and checking email.
Self-service laundry isn't available, but you can send out your laundry to be done -- a full laundry bag will cost you about $20. Pressing services also are available, for a fee.
Norwegian Sky's Mandara Spa sits at the front of the ship on the right (starboard) side. The spa is adequately sized for the number of passengers onboard. Decorated with an Asian theme (think Buddha and lotus artwork), the spa and adjacent salon are open each day from roughly 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., though hours change depending on the port schedule, so check your cruise daily for times. There are 10 treatment rooms as well as a waiting area, where passengers can enjoy hot tea. The spa has men's and women's changing rooms, which include separate showers, lockers, steam room and sauna. (These are complimentary for all passengers.)
Run by spa giant Steiner Leisure, the spa and salon feature Elemis products and offer treatments like stone, Swedish and deep-tissue massages, pro-collagen facials, ionithermie cellulite reduction treatments, manicures, pedicures, keratin blow outs, and hair cut, colour and styling. Prices are about what you would expect to pay at a spa on land, with a 75-minute Swedish massage coming in at $179 and a manicure starting at $45. The spa offers men's treatments as well: shave, deep grooming, beard trim and hair cuts as well as waxing. Couples massages are also available. As is typical with Steiner-run spas, staff are skilled and courteous, but chances are, they'll give you a hard sell following your treatment, telling you about the products you should buy to improve your health. If you want to skip this part, kindly tell them before your treatment starts that you won't buy anything and would prefer to skip the upsell.
Discounts on select treatments are available when you buy several treatments -- called a 10/20 special. You get 10 percent off your first treatment, 20 percent off your second. Daily specials also are offered; these generally bundle together a series of treatments for a reduced price. An 18 percent gratuity will be added to your spa and salon bills automatically.
Body Waves Fitness Center is located opposite the spa complex, on the left (port) side of the ship. The space is small, as it was built before passengers started demanding more fitness options while cruising. Still the space is adequate, provided you don't visit during peak times, especially in the morning between 8 and 10 and in the afternoon, after lunch. (On our sailing, several pieces of cardio equipment were out of order, and there was a wait to grab treadmills.)
The fitness centre is divided into two rooms: one for cardio equipment (stationary bikes, treadmills, ellipticals) and free weights, and a second that serves as an aerobics studio and weight machine area. Free weights go up to 75 pounds. The aerobics studio has equipment for classes like TRX suspension training, kickboxing (with heavy bags) and spinning. Classes are offered several times each cruise, and the prices vary based on the class, though you can get a discount if you sign up for multiple classes. A couple of classes, like stretching, are available for free. Personal training also is available, for a charge. Children under 16 must be accompanied by adults in the fitness centre. There's a jogging track on Deck 6; 3.5 laps equal 1 mile. It's open for limited hours -- roughly 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. -- because running on it might make noise that would affect people in cabins below the track.
All free restaurants onboard Norwegian Sky fall under NCL's Freestyle Cruising concept, which gives passengers open seating and flexible, extended hours. Passengers can elect to eat at the same table with the same waiters each night by informing the maitre d' once onboard. Reservations are required at the ship's speciality restaurants, which have less capacity than the main dining rooms or buffet options onboard and therefore fill quickly. Passengers have a number of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we were especially happy to discover the ship's Pool BBQ, which begins after lunch closes in other venues -- a boon for passengers returning later from shore excursions.
Quality from venue to venue -- and even meal to meal -- varied widely but generally was solid, and service was very good. Passengers with food allergies or special dietary needs should indicate those before they board and follow up with the maitre d' once onboard. A reminder each night to the waiter or waitress also is helpful, as the Freestyle concept means you'll likely have different servers every time you dine. (We recommend those with exceptional dietary needs elect to dine at the same table with the same waiter each night.) Healthier items as well as vegetarian items -- mostly pastas -- are available, but they're not marked as such on the menus, so check with a waiter to make sure you'll get what you need if you have any doubts.
Because the sailings on Sky are short, speciality restaurants get booked quickly. If you want to eat at a speciality restaurant, book it online before you sail or right away when you get onboard. Otherwise, you might miss out (or end up with a less-than-desirable dining time). An 18 percent gratuity will be added to your bill at all speciality restaurants.
Norwegian Sky received the line's popular Italian eatery La Cucina and The Local Bar & Grill during a 2018 refurbishment.
Crossings (Deck 5): One of the ship's two main dining options, Crossings is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant has a beautiful multilevel entryway highlighted by blue glass and paintings featuring fish. Inside, the decor is heavy on shades of blue, with dark wood and lots of natural light thanks to big windows and large, glass chandeliers. Breakfast includes entrees like traditional or salmon eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy or eggs and omelettes made to order. Passengers also can order hot or cold cereals, fruit, yogurt, pancakes, French toast, waffles, pastries and sides like bacon or ham.
Lunch at Crossings is fairly straightforward. Lunch can be a multicourse affair, with a starter such as soup or salad, a main entree (items like poached salmon or sandwiches and burgers) and desserts, including ice cream. We found most passengers elected for other lunch options, so seated meals in Crossings don't tend to linger longer than necessary.
Menus at Crossings change for dinner each night, and the variety is decent. Appetizers include items such as duck pate, vegetable spring rolls or salmon tartare. Main course options might include crab and fish cakes, spaghetti carbonara or New York strip. Dessert could include warm bread pudding or Mexican chocolate brownie, for example. Sky offers several "Classic Dishes": favourites offered every night. Those include roast chicken breast, flounder Milanese, spaghetti Bolognese, a burger and meat lasagna. The restaurant also offers a Taste of Cuban menu. This menu includes items such as Frituras de Malanga (malanga fritters), Pescado de Habana (Cuban-style fish) and flan, all served with Cuban cocktails, like a Havana Old Fashioned or La Floridita. The Cuban menu was our favourite from the main dining room.
The Palace (Deck 5): The Palace, decorated in pinks and blues, with a bold floral carpet, is only open for dinner. It serves the same dinner menu that you'll get at Crossings, but The Palace is the designated restaurant for passengers who wish to eat at the same time, with the same waiters, at the same table each night.
The Coffee Bar (Deck 7): Grab pastries and light snacks at the ship's coffee bar. Coffee will cost extra and is priced a la carte.
Garden Cafe (Deck 11): The ship's buffet facility, the Garden Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Decorated to look like an indoor garden, this tends to be where most passengers head for breakfast and lunch and is, therefore, the busiest dining venue onboard. While it's actually the biggest restaurant onboard in terms of capacity and square footage, the space can feel pretty tight quickly, as passengers crowd in at mealtimes. At breakfast, you'll have plenty of options, including breads and pastries, cold cuts and smoked salmon, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, pancakes, French toast and waffles, along with fruit, yogurt and juice. There's an egg station, where you can order eggs and omelettes made fresh.
Lunch includes burgers, fries, sandwiches, a carving station, a small salad bar and various hot entrees, often including Indian selections, which we routinely found to be the best options on the buffet. Fresh fruit and desserts, such as cookies and cakes, are also available. We also saw hot, just-pressed Cuban sandwiches on our sailing to Havana.
Dinner offers slightly heartier food, including entree items like roast chicken, lasagna and, again, a carving station (which has different options every night). Passengers can load up their plates with sides like mashed potatoes, rice and vegetables (including a salad bar). Asian and Indian entrees show up routinely, and the dessert portion of the buffet is extensive, with options like cakes, tarts and ice cream. There's also cheese and crackers for those who prefer a savoury finish.
The Garden Cafe closes between all meals.
Great Outdoor Cafe (Deck 11): Really just a wonderful extension to the Garden Cafe, the Great Outdoor Cafe sits at the very back of the ship, just off the ship's indoor buffet. It has its own stations, replicating what you can get indoors, but the lines tend to be shorter, and passengers can dine outside under shade. The only downside to the space is that it can get pretty windy when the ship is moving. The Great Outdoor Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch; it also is the first venue open each day, offering an early-risers breakfast, with continental items. It also is open for late-night snacks.
Le Bistro (Deck 5); a la carte: The ship's French restaurant is a long, narrow space tucked away on Deck 5. It's actually a bit hard to find; look for the sign on Deck 6, then take the stairs down to Le Bistro. The views here are excellent, as the restaurant features large windows along its entire length. Le Bistro features dark wood, deep gold booths that accommodate up to six people and a number of tables for two, topped with crisp white tablecloths. The booths are U-shaped and elevated so they face the windows but look over the tables for two, which are actually nestled right next to the windows. The design feature is smart, as everyone ends up with wonderful views.
The menu at Le Bistro is traditional French, so plan to leave full. Appetizer options include escargots bourguignonne, steamed mussels au Pernod and grilled asparagus with orange hollandaise sauce. Soup and salad courses include a cheese and brandy onion soup or a duck and frisee salad with Champagne vinaigrette. Entrees include a delicious cote de boeuf (rib eye) for two, carved tableside, as well as bouillabaisse or coq au vin. Save some room for dessert, which features creme brulee or a Napoleon. There's also a cute fondue for two, which features fresh fruit and a personal-sized pot of chocolate fondue. If you really want to go all-out, add a glass -- or bottle -- of Veuve Clicquot (not included in your beverage package).
Il Adagio (Deck 11); a la carte: At night, Il Adagio is the ship's Italian restaurant. Decorated in purples, reds and greens, Il Adagio has tables for two, four and more. The restaurant has a nice selection of upscale Italian dishes. For starters, try the beef carpaccio or classic fried calamari. Pizzas, sized for sharing, include sausage and pancetta, artichoke, mushroom and black olives, and Bolognese. The menu has a good selection of pastas and risottos; we really enjoyed the shrimp risotto as well as the beef lasagna. But the hit of the menu is probably the bistecca fiorentina, a delicious T-bone topped with herb butter and served with arugula and cherry tomatoes. If you're looking for something lighter, try the seared salmon. For dessert, choose from items including tiramisu or lemon curd cheesecake.
Cagney's Steakhouse (Deck 12); a la carte: Cagney's is Norwegian's signature steak house and features some terrific cuts of Angus beef, as well as a variety of fish, chicken and lamb, plus veggie and potato sides that are big enough for sharing. If you're going to get a starter, try the shrimp cocktail served with a Jack Daniel's sauce, or the Wagyu beef sliders. Salads include a traditional steak house wedge and blue cheese option, as well as a Mexican Caesar dish. But the star is definitely the beef. We loved our perfectly seasoned filet, and opted to skip the sauces, which include options such as bearnaise, chimichurri and green peppercorn. Our table split sides of truffle french fries (which we liked so much, we ordered them at another speciality restaurant, and the waiter happily obliged) and the mac 'n' cheese. For dessert, try the cheesecake. Cagney's also serves complimentary breakfast and lunch for select past passengers as well as suite guests.
Plantation Sushi Bar (Deck 12); a la carte: The smallest dining venue onboard, the Sushi Bar is located in Plantations, right across from Cagney's. It's easy to miss, as it's a bit tucked away. Here, sushi chefs serve up rolls and sashimi.
Room Service: Room service is available 24/7, but it carries a flat $9.95 service fee for everything except continental breakfast items (cold cereal, muffins and rolls, and coffee, tea and juice), which you can order via a paper you hang on your doorknob at night. For breakfast, you can order items like omelettes and French toast. There's a pretty extensive all-day menu, which includes sandwiches, burgers, pizza and salads, as well as kids' faves, like PB&J, chicken fingers, mac 'n' cheese and grilled cheese. For dinner, you can order meals such as spaghetti Bolognese, skirt steak and fish and chips. Desserts are also available.
Most of Norwegian Sky's cabins are on the compact side and generally smaller than the industry average. While they're comfortable enough for two people, they will quickly feel crowded when you add a third or fourth passenger -- even kids. Except for suites, cabins are decorated in shades of deep blue, with cream and bright pinks. Art includes prints of classic paintings by the likes of Picasso or Renoir. Each cabin comes with two twin beds that can be combined to create one queen-sized bed, a small cream couch, a desk, one or two night tables depending on cabin category, a mini-refrigerator, small flat-screen TV, hairdryer, safe and closet with space for hanging clothes as well as a few shallow drawers. The desk area also has two shelves, which work for everyday items like sunglasses and cameras. We found we quickly ran out of drawer and shelf space and used our sofa as a spot for storing the overflow. One bed oddity worth noting: Metal bed frames are slightly wider and longer than the mattresses they support, so they stick out a bit obtrusively. We picked up a few souvenir bruises on our cruise from whacking our knees and shins carelessly on the frames. You'll find only one U.S. outlet and one European outlet in standard cabins -- and no USB ports -- so you might want to plan to bring along a power strip (just make sure it doesn't have a surge protector; Norwegian bans them if they have this feature).
Bathrooms include a toilet, sink, shallow shelves and shower, which has a curtain rather than a glass door. The space is tight, but showerheads are moveable, so tall people can be accommodated. Inside the shower, you'll find a "conditioning shampoo" dispenser as well as a gel dispenser -- labelled "hand soap" but perfectly adequate for body wash. A hand soap dispenser is installed next to the sink, as well.
Norwegian Sky has a large number of cabins that can accommodate families, with third and fourth berths, and by connecting staterooms. Several cabins across multiple categories accommodated those with disabilities, including a few for those with hearing impairments.
Interior: Inside cabins range between 121 and 147 square feet; the bigger range generally are called "Family Inside" cabins. Many inside cabins, which have no external windows or balconies, can accommodate up to four passengers thanks to additional lofted beds that fold into the walls when not in use.
Ocean-view: Ocean-view cabins come in two styles: those with round portholes and those that have larger rectangle picture windows. Both styles come in at 149 square feet. Cabins can accommodate between two and five passengers, with the addition of lofted beds and a convertible sofa.
Balcony: At 154 square feet, balcony cabins are only slightly larger than ocean-view cabins, but they do come with 48-square-foot verandas, which are deep and feel spacious. Each balcony includes two blue mesh chairs and a low table just big enough to hold two drinks and a bottle of wine.
Suite: Norwegian Sky has two types of suites onboard: Penthouse and Owner's suites. Penthouse Suites are located on decks 8, 9 and 10, either at the very front or back of the ship. Those that face forward range between 402 and 561 square feet and have balconies that range from 96 to 238 square feet. The smallest of the suites sleep three, while the larger suites sleep up to five. Penthouse Suites are large open spaces, and beds can be separated from living space by curtains. Suites feature a desk, convertible couch, entertainment centre and Lavazza coffee maker. Bathrooms have separate jetted bathtub and shower and are decorated in marble and tile. The suites that sleep five have an additional small bedroom that features a twin bed and second lofted bed that folds down from the ceiling. Balconies are teak and include wicker chairs (with baby blue cushions) and loungers as well as a full-sized table suitable for dining for two. Passengers staying in Penthouse Suites and above have access to butler and concierge service. They also get a fruit basket, refilled upon request, a warm chocolate chip cookie at turndown on the last night of the cruise and upgraded Elemis bathroom amenities. A solid perk is exclusive access to Cagney's for breakfast and lunch.
Sky's four Owner's Suites are located at the back of the ship. These suites are 835 square feet and feature 353-square-foot balconies, which have private hot tubs. Cabins, which can accommodate up to five, feature separate bedrooms and living areas, which include a sofa bed and loveseat, dining area, wet bar, entertainment centre, desk and Lavazza coffee maker, as well as ample closet space. Bedrooms, which can open to the living area thanks to waist-high sliding shutters, have a small desk/vanity, second TV and walk-in closet. The master bathroom includes a separate shower and bathtub, marble and tile detailing and Elemis toiletries. A powder room has a toilet and sink, and is also decorated with dark marble and white tiles.