Norwegian Sky sails on three and four day cruises from Miami to the Bahamas. This is a very competitive market as both Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International have ships doing similar itineraries. Indeed, during the cruise that I was on, Majesty of the Seas was in sight from the time Norwegian Sky left Miami until both ships returned.
The Sky is one of several Norwegian ships based in Miami for all or part of the year. Her role is two-fold.
First, she provides an introduction to Norwegian's style of cruising. “We give a good overall taste of what it is like on our other ships for those people who aren't sure whether they would really like to go on a cruise or not. We also get a lot of people who have cruised loyally on Carnival or Royal Caribbean who come and want to try Norwegian. [They] don't want to commit to a full cruise but want to see what we are like for three days, ” explains Calvin Lodge, Hotel Director on Norwegian Sky.
“It is an ideal thing, you do not have to lay out lots and lots of money compared to other cruises. But you do get a taste of our product in that short period of time, the general taste of Freestyle - - whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. It is not as big as our newer ships but you do have a number of the specialty restaurants. You also have the main dining as an option.”
In addition, the Sky packs a lot of activity and entertainment options into a short cruise. “We want them to experience everything that we do while they are on the ship; give them the option of what to do and when to do it. Again, it is giving them the taste of Freestyle.”
Norwegian Sky's other role is to provide a brief escape from the rigors of everyday life. “Lots of repeat guests come back, some of them cruising two times a month, if not more than that. They keep coming back and coming back. They love it for a great weekend away.”
This includes people who have sampled the larger Norwegian ships that are based in Miami such as Norwegian Epic. “They don't compare us [to the bigger ships]. Here, it is just more of a chance for them to get away again. They like coming to us - - they get service, they get food and they get a traditional ship. They openly discuss with us that if they want all [the options available on the larger ships], they will go back [to those ships] but for a weekend away, this is ideal for them.”
Although the Sky is based in Miami, its passengers do not just come from Miami or the South Florida area. “We find quite a lot of people come from Europe and South America.. They are spending some time over in the States and they like to jump on a cruise for a few days and do something different.”
Norwegian Cruise Line proudly points out that it has one of the youngest fleets in the cruise industry. The Sky, which entered service in 1999, may be one of the senior members of this fleet but Norwegian makes a point of keeping her well-maintained.
“We [recently] had a 10-day refit or drydocking in Freeport, The Bahamas. We didn't change any venues or reconstruct anything. It was more decor-related: carpets, we did quite a lot of work in the staterooms, a deep cleaning went on as well. They did a lot of woodwork on the pool deck, buffing and bringing up the teak, making it look fresher. Not things that you think about much but they do make a difference.”
In addition to her physical assets, Norwegian Sky has the advantage of having a crew that is very enthusiastic about Norwegian Cruise Line and about working on Norwegian Sky. “We want them to feel happy in their positions. If they are happy, they are going to make sure the guests are happy. I think we have a good system here. We are in a good place, we have the crew on our side.”
Mr. Lodge went on to note that this was despite the fact that Norwegian Sky has a demanding schedule. Each week, “they are doing two turnaround days and two calls at the island - - that is four days a week that are very intense work days. You really need the team to be performing at 100 or above percent to achieve all that and I think we have all that.”
The “island” is Norwegian's private island, Great Stirrup Cay - - “our pride and glory.” A call at GSC is on the schedule for every cruise of Norwegian Sky and so its attractions should be taken into account in considering a cruise on Norwegian Sky. In the last few years, Norwegian has spent millions of dollars to transform the island, adding new beaches, facilities and activities.
“There are still more things to happen there. There is still more and more to come for the island to improve it even better. It has come a long way in just a few years. It is really great, we get good feedback on the island.”
Cruise ship interview - - Norwegian Sky - -Norwegian Cruise Line - Hotel Director