In early August I came across a Norwegian Sky 3 day weekend sailing, for late September, with a base price of $199 per person. It caught my eye, but unfortunately the particular date wouldn’t work. However, the sailing a week later was only $10 more and those dates would work. Since my wife is a teacher and cannot sail this time of year I asked around to a few friends to see if there was any interest. One of my friends confirmed the dates would work, so we booked.
As I always do, I continuously check prices on my sailings for price drops or possible upgrades. Over the few weeks leading up to the 3 day weekend sailing, I kept noticing the price of the 4 day sailing midweek leading up to our already booked sailing, kept dropping in price. I mentioned to my wife a few times on how I wished she could take time off during the school year to take advantage of a crazy deal like this. It ended up dropping to $149 per person (base price) 10 days before that sailing. To make a long story short, my friend and I ended up booking the 4 day sailing and we were now set to do back to back cruises on the Norwegian Sky. As an added bonus the first sailing was headed to Cuba. Neither of us had been there previously and we were excited to check out someplace new.
To put into perspective how good of a deal these two sailings were, I need to remind you that the Sky is an all-inclusive ship. Meaning, booze is included for everyone on board. Total for the two sailings we paid around $700. Also, on the first leg they waived the single supplement, so my friend and I were able to get our own cabins for the same price as double occupancy. It had to be one of the best cruise deals I have ever come across.
I have sailed on the Sky a few times previously. The ship feels a bit like home to me and I was excited to do my first back to back on her. This review is going to focus a bit more on our ports of call and the logistics of doing a back to back cruise and not so much the ship itself. Let’s jump right in to the details of our seven days on the Norwegian Sky.
Great Stirrup Cay
GSC would be our first stop on the first leg and our last stop on the second leg. I was hopeful that we would be able to visit both times. Partially to make up for the two misses I had there last year due to unsafe tendering conditions. At the first stop we spent the day at the beach and I used some of our time there to get photo ops of the island. The weather was mostly good with a brief shower passing through at one point. Unfortunately our second stop never happened. We did arrive at GSC but no tenders made it over to the island, the conditions were just not safe. We were a little bummed as we had booked a cabana for the day but I was content with a bonus sea day.
Since we booked the first leg only ten days out I had very little time to plan for Havana. A few friends had been previously, so I sent out some messages to them as soon as I booked. I was really torn on what to do. On one hand it was a cheap bonus cruise and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money and on the other hand I had never been to Cuba so I wanted to take advantage of my time there. In the end, I took a recommendation from my friend to use a 3rd party company called Blexie Tours. One thing that took me by surprise when contacting a company in Cuba is how slow response time is. There is no mobile data and most people do not have internet in their homes. There are however many local (state run) Wi-Fi hot spots. These are not free and generally cost around $1 per hour. Given these details, it usually took two to three days for email responses to come regarding setting up our tour. Being only ten days out it really was a good thing that I jumped on the planning right away. The cost for the six hour tour through Blexie is 130 CUC, total for up to 3 passengers. It is payable upon completion of services. The tour is split pretty much evenly between walking and driving in a classic car. The tour includes about an hour for lunch which we ended up foregoing, so our tour only lasted about 5 hours. The tour is broken up into 4 main parts, Old Havana, Fusterlandia, Plaza De La Revolucion, and New Havana. Before leaving the cruise terminal we were able to exchange our money into CUC . I exchanged $200 USD and received 175 CUC. For this small amount it wasn’t worth my time to go to a bank at home and exchange into Euro or CAD. If I were exchanging a large amount I might think otherwise as there is an additional 10% hit on exchanging USD versus other currency. We then met our tour guide Mary just across the street from the terminal around 10:30 am and we were on our way.
Old Havana is done via a walking tour. We visited a number of public squares, hotels and bars made famous by Ernest Hemingway, Catedral de San Cristobal, and one of the forts which was used to protect the port of Havana. After this first leg of the tour we were taken to our car and driver for the remainder of the day. Our classic car was a 1955 Chevy Bel Air.
From Old Havana we took a short drive to Fusterlandia. For those of you not familiar, it is a neighborhood completely furnished in mosaics. It started in 1975 when artist Jose Fuster moved into this rundown neighborhood and decided to decorate his studio with the mosaics. Since then he has convinced neighboring homes and businesses to let him do the same to their buildings. Now the mosaics cover several city blocks in the Jaimanitas district of Havana.
Next on our drive was Plaza De La Revolucion. This is the location where Fidel Castro would give his famously long speeches to the Cuban public. It also is the location of a number of important government buildings. This was just a quick stop and after taking some photos we were on our way.
Last on the tour was New Havana. This portion of the tour would also be walking. We saw the Capital Building, the Great Theater of Havana, as well as the former Bacardi headquarters. We also squeezed in a stop at the Flordita for one of their famous daiquiris. Ernest Hemingway was a frequent guest of the bar during the 1930’s. We then hopped back in our car and headed back to the port area.
I would highly recommend Blexie Tours. Our guide Mary was very well versed in Cuba’s history and was a pleasure to spend the day with. I will be planning another visit with my wife and will most likely use them again when that time comes.
Miami Turn Around Day
As I mentioned, this would be my first experience with a back to back cruise. Being so active in the cruise community however, I was pretty well versed with how they work. The last night of the first cruise we received a letter in our cabins describing how everything would work the next morning on turn around day. We would need to vacate our cabins by 9:30 am since we were changing cabins. We had the option to throw luggage tags on for the new cabin and have the steward transport our bags, but we decided to just bring our bags to the new cabin ourselves after vacating the old one. After this we needed to head to guest services to have a new card printed for the second sailing. One thing that surprised me was having our onboard expense account carry over to the second sailing, they did not close it out after the first leg. We were instructed to meet in a particular lounge around 10:00 am to be escorted off the ship, through customs, and then back on. The ship didn’t get cleared until 10:30 am at which time we were actually taken off the ship. The process to get back on took about a half hour. At this time, there were only a few of us on the ship, and it would stay this way for about a half hour until 11:30 am when they started boarding the new passengers. Overall the back to back experience was exciting to me. You got to feel two day one’s excitement and you got to feel super special staying on after the first leg while you watch everyone else disembark. I look forward to the next time I get to do another one!
Our visit to Nassau on the second leg would be spent doing a bar crawl. I wrote a separate blog post all about it, you can read about it here. This was my 24th visit to the island and I still manage to have fun every time I go.
That’s a wrap!
I had an awesome 7 days on board the Norwegian Sky, but before I wrap this up I wanted to mention a few miscellaneous details. We ate five nights in the main dining room and two nights at Cagney’s. Cagney’s was perfect and certainly changed my attitude about it after a subpar experience on the Escape in July. The main dining room was good although we did have some slow service on the second leg as they were changing over to new menus. The Atrium bar has been converted to the Sugarcane Mojito bar. While the signage still reads Atrium, the drink menu has been converted. Paper straws are now available on the Sky. There is no need to bring your own. Last but not least, drinks are no longer allowed in the hot tubs. That one is a bit of a bummer for me, but it did not greatly affect my cruise. This was my first sailing as a Platinum latitudes member. Priority tendering, immigration in Havana, and debarkation was very beneficial. In addition to those perks I utilized the concierge each night to make dining reservations. I certainly enjoyed the added benefits.
Thank you for reading along. I hope that this post helps you with your cruise planning, either for the Norwegian Sky specifically or in general for any of the ports of call I visited. If you would like to receive email notifications of future blog posts please subscribe in the box to the right (below on mobile devices) and if you are looking for additional cruise chat and content be sure to check out Cruise Life Group on Facebook.