I feel like a special snowflake being seemingly the only sunburned person in Chicago. Yesterday I returned from a three-day Bahamas Cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line. It was the perfect weekend getaway and a wonderful reminder that Chicago is way too cold. Why would anyone want to live here when you live somewhere where it’s actually pleasant to be outside?
I chose NCL because they had amazing deals, i.e. OPEN BAR! And the price was quite affordable, about $300 a person. That’s quite a deal for three days in the Bahamas with unlimited food and drinks.
We left Friday from Miami with drinks in our hand.
The send off party was full of classic cruise-ship cheesiness (see the congo line above). There was an abundance of classic cruise ship activities like game shows, Bingo, and a white party. We kept telling ourselves we’d make it to one of these but the fun of the days mixed with overexposure to sun and alcohol kept us from doing too much exploring.
We left the ship around 9 am for a snorkeling excursion. I would definitely recommend it as a low-key activity for the budget pressed. A 35-minute boat ride took us past the classic Atlantis Paradise Island resort, along with the homes of superstars like Johnny Depp and Oprah Winfrey.
Coming from Chicago, I thought the Bahamas would be similar to the Sahara Desert. But the tropics are famous for their moody weather patterns. The morning started out fairly chilly, and I would recommend that you learn from my mistake and pack a light jacket. That being said, the water was absolutely freezing for the morning snorkel, but the snorkeling was amazing. I was surprised to see a rather healthy reef booming with life, and not just your standard run of the mill fish, but cool creatures like lion fish!
After that, we decided to head to Senor Frogs, as it is “world famous” according to our excursion director. The place was very touristy (with touristy prices), as expected, but had a fun vibe. Bartenders lead a drinking contest and a bachelorette party was pouring shots into everyone’s mouths.
I would recommend skipping the tourist restaurants and heading straight for the beach. There are amazing beach deals (4 shots and 4 beers for $10) and amazingggg smelling barbecue for $2-5. The morning chill burned off and we spent the rest of the afternoon warming ourselves and being generally relaxed.
I am obsessed with this bikini from Target. I thought I left cheetah print back in 2005, but I wanted a change from my standard one-color bikinis. It was extremely flattering (IMO) and the bikini top was perfect! I feel like bikini tops generally make you choose between awesome cleavage or functionality. The top was the best of both worlds with a perfect shape and cut. I was impressed with the difference the top made in my décolletage but it was stable enough for me to snorkel in. Major win!
Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
Day 2 and we were ferried over to Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay. The day was absolutely gorgeous.
The island is pretty big, comfortably accommodating everyone from our ship. It was lovely to feel more secure on the island, and we were able to leave our bags unattended as we took a dip in the water. There were hundreds (thousands?) of chairs and lounging areas, and snorkel/floaty equipment for rent. We hung out near the Bacardi bar (also open bar), just across from the complimentary island bbq lunch.
Because my travel buddy was a snorkel lover, we rented snorkel gear on day two as well. We were going to go on another excursion, perhaps to go snorkel with stingrays, but the tour was canceled due to ‘low visibility’. We went out on our own and there didn’t seem to be much to see. The cruise advertises an Underwater Sculpture Garden: this doesn’t exist. When we asked a lifeguard where to find the garden, he informed us it had been destroyed ‘awhile’ ago. We snorkeled around where he said it once was, and there were about two sculptures sitting in the sand. Nothing special. There also happened to be no coral and, therefore, there were little to no fish. However, there were FIVE turtles swimming around! There isn’t much cooler than snorkeling with turtles.
Just two of many drinks: a Piña Colada and Miami Vice.
Notes on the Norwegian Sky
The Food and Drink
1. Like any cruise, there was the unlimited, complimentary buffet. The food was standard and generally pretty average, with a few winners and losers.
2. There were two complimentary restaurant style establishments. There was little to no difference between the two, with matching menus which changed every night. We tried something different every night, and the general consensus was that the food was alright. Working in catering, I know that amazing results can come from complicated conditions, so I don’t think cruise food should be excused. The best thing I ate was the bechamel gnocchi, and the worst was the prime rib.
3. For unlimited free drinks, the drinks were good. There is a specific menu which you can order off of, with the least froo-froo drink being the mojito. The drinks weren’t particularly amazing, but the bartenders went heavy on the pours and they did the job of messing you up pretty quickly. I mainly stuck to mojitos as I didn’t want my drink to give me diabetes, but all of their drinks were alright.
We were in an interior room because we’re poor kids in our twenties, but it was perfectly spacious and comfortable. You have the ability to make the room anywhere from hot to freezing, but don’t make it too cold, as the blanket is little and didn’t feel quite big enough for two people. The biggest negative was the bathroom. For some reason, it reeked of old urine, which was pretty nasty, and the shower would go from warm to ice cold to fiery hot.
The Service was absolutely amazing. Our waitstaff was lovely, bringing us random drinks (like Fireball and Bailey’s) and the cleaning staff always greeted us by name.
The other guests were generally a mix of older folks and bachelorette parties. I assume that it’s easier for college students and retirees to get away than working middle-aged people. The bachelorette parties were ridiculous, as expected, but it was fun to watch their shenanigans on the pool deck. The people watching was A+.
We extended our vacation with one more day in Miami, and a blog post will be up later this week about my 24 hours in Miami Beach!