Have you ever been on a cruise before? If yes, which cruise ship(s) have you been on? The Norwegian Sky cruise ship was my first cruise experience. Since being on this cruise I’ve been on one other. And while my experiences both times were positive, I’m unsure if I’ll be going on another cruise, at least not any time soon? Why? Well, I’ll go over it more in this post. But basically, now that I’m older I have a clear sense of the type of traveler I am/style of travel I’d prefer.
However, cruises are still awesome experiences. I’d recommend any novice travelers to try a cruise at least once. Then, like me, you can determine whether or not that is how you like to travel. The Norwegian Sky cruise ship was definitely a cool first experience. If you just booked a Norwegian cruise or you’d like to know about my experience before doing so, keep reading.
I Didn’t Want to Go
Perhaps I should start off my saying I didn’t want to go on a cruise at all. This was back in 2012. I was in my junior year of high school (gosh, where has the time gone?) and my mother planned this vacation. We went during February 20 to 24, during my sister and I’s spring break. Although I was always fascinated by the ocean and water, the times I watched the Titanic crept into my head. Of course my mom told me how irrational this was and how safe cruises today are. Which is true! Also, it wasn’t really up for debate. My mom paid for the cruise and we were going.
If I’m being honest, I think my melodramatic teenage self was probably being a tad dramatic. I don’t think I was really that scared. I was excited to go abroad for the first time that the time leading up to the trip I was more consumed with that, being in Florida and what I’d pack. Sure, I was still a little nervous about seasickness and all. But I was excited, even if I didn’t want to admit it.
Leaving from Miami
For the life of me I can’t remember if we went on a college tour trip before this cruise or the year after. I’m pretty sure it was during this trip, since junior year was the time to start deciding where to apply. That can be a post all on its own. But for a few days before getting to Miami, my mother, sister and I visited colleges. I really wanted to go to college in Florida. I was naive to how much it’d actually cost. But it was still a great experience that I’m so grateful for my mom for doing. Especially since I am now able to admit that these schools were out of my league, academics and price wise.
At this point I’ve been to Miami a couple of times and although I haven’t seen much at all from the city. Most of my time has been in cars to and from the hotel, airport, ports, etc. But each time I was there I’ve always loved the vibe. So much that I can’t wait to return and explore more of it. Miami is a hot spot for cruises to depart from. It’s the perfect place as it gets you in the mood for a tropical vacation. The atmosphere of Miami is evident as soon as you arrive. The Cuban/Latin culture is so strong.
Our taxi driver (pre-Uber days) didn’t speak great English so my mom
forced asked me to speak to him in Spanish. My Spanish skills weren’t nearly as good as they are now. Plus at that time I was nervous to speak to people in my own language, let alone a foreign one. Nevertheless, I did what I could to help translate. The entire situation is reminiscent to the time I spoke Portuguese to my Brazilian Uber driver.
If you’re preparing to go on a cruise, you can opt to solely spend the night before departure in Miami. Or if you’re able, take a few days and get to know the city more than we did. But don’t fret if you’re only able to be there the day before. Like I said, the atmosphere and culture of this city permeates the air. Although one day won’t allow you to scratch the surface of this vibrant city, it’ll leave you hungry to discover more.
Here are two Miami travel guides by bloggers who were able to explore the area more than I was:
Boarding the Ship
Depending on what time you arrive at the port to start boarding the ship, you can have a few hours to explore the ship. We checked our luggage which would be sent to our rooms later on. I remember thinking how BIG the ship looked. I mean, I knew it’d be big, but it was much larger than I anticipated. We took an elevator up to the deck where most people were there hanging out, getting food and drinks while they waited for their rooms/luggage to be ready.
By this point any fear I had was gone. I took this time to ditch my family and explore the ship. I wanted to see with my own eyes just how big it was. And again, it was HUGE. Eventually I was able to find our room which was in fact ready before they told us it was and our luggage was inside. Waiting for us on the bed was a towel folded into the shape of an animal. We had a room with a balcony view. While this is more expensive than a cabin, I think it’s highly worth it if you’re able to afford it.
Cabin v. Balcony/Ocean View
Just so you know, a cabin is a room on the lower level, they have a small window (or some may not have a window?) but you don’t get much of a view. However, if you’re afraid of looking out into the ocean or you could care less about a view (you’ll be too busy with all the activities!) then this may not matter to you. My sister was way too scared to look out into the water, particularly at night. However for me, I was enamored (perhaps the double water sign in my birth chart coming through)..
The eerie yet calm feeling I got when I looked out into the blackness at night was amazing. During the day it was vast and I was so intrigued knowing that there was an entire world beneath the ship. You look in all directions and see the same thing: water. Being able to see the ship pull off from the port the first night (and every night) from the comfort of our own balcony was amazing. At night, I was intrigued even more because it really looks like blackness. You can’t see a thing. I get how this is scary. But it’s also strangely relaxing as well.
Cruise Ship Activities
What’s amazing about cruises and why they’re so popular for people with families is that there’s always a bunch of activities to do on the ship. Most of which are free! The top deck typically has a pool, sometimes a water slide, a hot tub, a bar/buffet, seating areas, TVs, etc. We also received itineraries for what was going on each day of the cruise. They had game nights/contests, teen nights, comedy shows, karaoke, you name it!
Although I was (read: am) so shy, I’ve always been very independent. So I did many of the activities by myself! That’s one tip I have for anyone: Don’t let others stop you from doing what you want. Don’t wait for others to do something. My sister preferred staying at the pool or attached to my mom’s hip. If I followed her lead, I’d have missed out on a lot! Recognize if you have different travel tastes than the people you’re with. It’s okay to do things alone! Or even go on solo trips.
First Stop: Freeport
I won’t lie, I don’t remember TOO much detail about these places because it was a while ago. I wasn’t being as aware while traveling, which has its pros and cons. Pro: I was living in the moment and not worrying about capturing the moment. Con: When I want to revisit those memories some of it is a blur. One thing I do remember about the first stop is the colors. I remember seeing an abundance of vibrant colors from the blue sky and water, pinks houses, green plants and more.
From what I do remember and the pictures I looked back on, it reminds me of photos I’ve seen of Cuba. Of course being on a cruise we were in a tourist bubble. We ate some food, saw a guy doing a limbo act, got drinks (non-alcoholic of course for us kiddos) and enjoyed the surrounding area.
Second Stop: Great Stirrup Cay
To be frank I only remember going to be the beach here. Which perhaps that’s simply what this stop was for. I remember as the video above shows the beach being crowded. Also, I remember the waves were super strong the day we were there.
Last Stop: Nassau
This stop I remember a bit more of. I remember we stopped by a casino. When doing research it looks to me like it was the Atlantis. But we didn’t actually explore the rest of the resort of have any access to the water park or anything. But I do remember taking pictures in front of that archway. So who knows? What makes me remember this is because we went inside the casino and while my aunt was gambling I pulled the slot to a random machine and I won MONEY. Someone obviously left it there and I hit the jackpot. Okay, it was like 6 dollars or something but back then I felt like I hit the lotto.
Also, my aunt ended up forgetting her purse there and didn’t realize until we were continuing our tour. We had to retrace our steps and eventually found it back at the casino.
Final thoughts? I can’t believe this was my first international experience. I’ll forever be grateful to my mom for giving my sister and I the chance to get out of the country. And this was our first of two cruises. I plan on recapping my thoughts from the second cruise in a later post. All in all, I would recommend everyone trying a cruise once. Now that I’m older I’m not sure if I’d book another cruise myself because it’s not the style of travel I prefer. However, for people like my sister who enjoy staying at resorts and on beaches, and aren’t so much into planning their own itinerary, this is a great option.