Case Against Shore Excursions on the Norwegian Sky

I cruised for the first time with my wife and another couple in 2010. We opted not to click the shore excursion box when we booked the trip. Those tiny jpeg thumbnails that accompany descriptions surely don’t accurately depict the experiences. We feared we would get stuck on a tiny tour boat for three hours when what we really wanted to do was chill on the beach. Besides, booking Norwegian was a way to save cash so the more we could do for free, the better.

Glaycon, Melisa, Fernanda & Benjamin on the Norwegian Sky

The four of us friends on the Norwegian Sky deck


I interviewed friends familiar with Bahama cruising for advice on what to do in Nassau. “Stay on the ship” they said. A reception desk employee on the ship recommended a 15 minute taxi ride to Cable Beach. After disembarkation in Nassau, we pushed our way past all the taxi drivers and tour operators clamoring for our attention, determined to relax on the beach.  We asked one of the taxi representatives where to go and he suggested Cabbage Beach right on the other side of the Atlantis Hotel, close to the port. We piled into a dilapidated van driven by a man called “Top Notch” with a bunch of other tourists for the pleasant drive through town.

Map of the Port in Nassau showing the proximity of Cabbage Beach

Our trip to Cabbage Beach couldn’t have worked out better. We traveled in June and the beach got crowded, but the sand was wonderful and there were plenty of things to do.

We rented an umbrella for $20. Beach chairs were available, but we didn’t take one. I found a bar called Viola’s at a timeshare nearby, a lovely setting away from the beach that seems to be popular with locals too. They sell cold Kalik in bottles for $4.50 and wings and burgers that you can eat there or take to-go.

Entrance to Viola's Bar

Entrance to Viola’s Bar

My friend cut a deal with a drink vendor near our spot on the beach: $10 for unlimited coconut juice. A steady flow of beach vendors sold kangas, beads, t-shirts and cigars. Others pitched activities like jet skiing, banana boating and parasailing.

Cigar Salesman on Cabbage Beach, Nassau

Cigar Salesman on Cabbage Beach, Nassau

Great Stirrup Cay

The next day we stopped at Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island. Again, we abstained from scheduling a shore excursion or activity ahead of time, and again we were pleased with the results. We left the ship on the first tender boat to shore. While it seemed that there were few guests in the island this early, we were still too late to claim one of the few spots shaded by palm trees.

Great Stirrup Cay beach chairs

Great Stirrup Cay before the crowds arrive

The place was billed as a private island, but it feels like a football game just let out. Not only is the small bay packed with people by 11:00 am, but the beach chairs are laid out in a tightly packed grid and “reserved” signs hang on the best ones. A cabana boy will shade two of your beach chairs for $30. We really didn’t feel like spending $60 for four, plus these are the style that are supposed to give you privacy, so two would have cut off our two parties. The umbrella is a dark blue fabric that absorbs the heat instead of reflecting it, so it was way too hot inside. In retrospect, I wish I had brought my own umbrella.

We snorkeled on the island. They charged $30 per person to rent the equipment and you were required to wear an inflatable life vest. inflating it is optional.

There isn’t a coral reef but plenty of colorful tropical fish with many schooling close to the shore.

Here is an excellent overview of the Norwegian Sky experience from

Here are all the photos of my first cruise on the Norwegian Sky with my wife Fernanda and our friends Melisa and Glaycon:

Norwegian Sky

Tell me what you did on your Norwegian Sky shore excursions. Did you skip them because of this post? How did it go?

3 Responses to Case Against Shore Excursions on the Norwegian Sky

  1. winona February 10, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    I just booked myself and husband on the Norwegian Sky in September for four nights. I also have a group of others going too. What were your likes and dislikes of the islands and ship overall?

    • Benjamin February 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

      On the ship, we liked the sports bar where you could always get food. We went snorkeling on the private island and the food was very good there.

  2. Thanks for the advice October 22, 2013 at 2:32 am #

    Wow!!!…Good tips!…Thanks!! My girlfriend and I just returned home from our vacation in the Bahamas and we did exactly what you suggested, plus a few other things, and we had a GREAT time!!..Again THANKS!

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