We chose this cruise because it was a repositioning, and because it was going to Aruba, which I had not been to on our previous cruises. Our first sailing on the Star in 2006 was "interesting" as it was our first exposure to freestyle cruising. Having been use to the structured dining schedules, the freestyle took us out of our comfort zone and we left the Star having a so-so experience. The focus of this review is on the Star and her fantabulous crew.
This time was different. We didn't pack formal wear and we went in expecting to try the different venues and, simply put, we just decide to kick back and relax. What a difference our attitude made. We had a blast, enjoyed the ship, the crew, and more importantly, our free time.
In Tampa, embarkation was a little slow, taking almost 45 mins from time of drop-off to entry on-board. We got to the port around 1045 and was on the ship shortly before noon. So embarkation was "average" even though we were Latitude members and went through the process via the Latitudes line. Once on-board, we had to wait until almost 2pm before gaining access to our cabin. We spent the time exploring the Star (again) and booking a massage in the Spa for Pebbles.
Our cabin steward was Ari, a quiet but very good steward. We asked for an egg-crate mattress pad, which he delivered almost immediately. Next up at 330 was the muster drill. Our station was in the Starlight Theater, and bringing the life jackets was not required.
Sail Away was very energetic, a lot of happy sailors on-board. I might add that for this cruise, we had close to 200 CC members, the largest CC group ever, for us. The only nerve-issue was our luggage, which didn't arrive until almost 6pm. It was a little unnerving to be sailing along, wanting to go to dinner, but not in the Versailles as no shorts were allowed, and no luggage to change pants. Just as we left for the restaurant, the bags arrived. You might consider packing dinner clothes in your carry-on.
We ate at most of the optional restaurants, with Le Bistro and Cagney's offering the best food AND service. But our advice is this: eat at Aqua and ask for Paul and Ashok (table 11 for 2). We found them on day 3 by accident/chance. Clearly, the best tandem servers we have ever had after 12 cruises on 6-different lines. Incidentally, Paul was selected as the best server by the cruise previous to ours and won a night off and dinner at the specialty restaurant of his choice. We ate dinner at Table 11 5-times, and each time, we had a great dinner in less than an hour with enjoyable conversations with both Paul and Ashok. We missed Paul twice as he was selected to be the waiter for the Chef's Table. Ashok covered without missing a beat.
For drinks and family friendship, you simply have to go to the Gatsby, it on deck 6 mid, next to the casino and right outside the Bistro. There is a piano there with nightly music. The master mixologist is Lorelie. We wrote her up as being our cruise "hero." She showed how to make drinks (martinis, let us try different combinations, and had many chats about family life at home. If you sail the Star before October, be sure to stop and say hi, she is leaving for the NCL Epic after a short vacation.
The shows on the Star were fabulous. Great singers and dancers, very good comedy and magic acts, and a fabulous final show called "Elements." A word of caution: it seems as though many, and I mean many, of the seats in the Stardust Theater are broken. When you fold down the seat, they will angle downward. This results in an awkward posture and left our legs hurting after each show. Go early and pick the right seats.
Lastly, the bad part was disembarkation. It seems that the Captain had a problem getting the Star into the port (Pier 88 in NYC) due to the Hudson River current. Instead of starting the disembarkation process around 8-830am, it wasn't started until after 10am. We didn't get off the ship until 11:15, and we had a 130 flight out of JFK. Yes, we got our luggage, raced outside, got a cab and made it to JFK at 1:10. Not a good ending, but we survived.
We did not see any of the "aging" previous posters had talked about. The Star was clean. The only aging we noted were the seats in the Theater.
Since this was a repositioning cruise, I will report on each of the Ports of Call boards our experiences at Jamaica, Curacao, Aruba, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas.
For the New Englanders sailing out of NYC this summer, enjoy the Star - we now rank the 2012 version our "best" cruise ever.