I want to start by telling you a bit about me and my cruising experience to give you an idea of where I am coming from with my review. I am a 32 year old female and my cruise on the Star was my 6th. I have cruised on Celebrity through Alaska, Princess through the Panama Canal, Carnival through the Western and Southern Caribbean, and Norwegian last April from New York to the Bahamas. I feel that I have experienced everything from 'Four Seasons' quality down to the 'Super 8' from staying in the top suite on Celebrity with a dining room table for 12 and a butler to an inside cabin on Carnival with 4 people wedged into it. I expect to get what I pay for, nothing more and nothing less.
Although I have read many posts on this site, I have never commented on a post, let alone started my own thread. This most recent cruise made such an impression on me that I was literally compelled to write a review.
Before I launch into the Star I want to say that my cruise in April 2011 on the Norwegian Gem from NY to the Bahamas was THE best cruise I have ever been on. My best friend and I stayed in an inside cabin for $499 and had the time of our lives. We loved the ship, staff, food, and everything else about this vacation. When I saw an inside room on the Star from NY to Bermuda for only $499...I jumped on it.
Easy, easy, easy. My dad dropped my boyfriend and me off, we checked our suitcases with the porters, went through security, and waited in line to check in. The suggested tip for each porter is $2 per checked piece of luggage. We arrived at noon, which wasn't quite early enough. Last year I arrived earlier and didn't wait in line to check in, but had to wait to board the ship. This year we didn't have to wait to board the ship, but we waited at least 20 minutes to check in. I think if you arrived between 10:30 and 11:00 that would probably be the perfect time to avoid a check in line and be one of the first one's on the ship! Remember to take a credit card with you for your sign and sail account. If you use a debit card they put a hold on your money for 30 days.
We took on two 6 packs of soda in our carryon luggage and nothing was said. Moreover, a family behind us had 3 cases of water and 2 cases of soda bungee corded to a cart that they were carrying on. Needless to say, there were no issues. Wine/champagne is a different story. You can bring on as much wine as you want, but you need to pay a $15 corkage fee for every regular size bottle no matter where you consume it, even if it is in your stateroom. My bag wasn't even out of the x-ray machine yet and the security officer asked if there 2 bottles of wine in it. I told her there was and she said my options were to throw it away or move to the left and pay the $15 corkage fee per bottle. This is before I even checked in and had my sign and sail card! A Norwegian employee took down my room number and the charges eventually appeared on my account. Obviously we had wine in the dining room for 2 nights. Hey, if I had to pay for it, I was going to drink it at dinner! The charge for larger (more than 750ml) bottles are listed on Norwegian's website.
I can't say enough about the staff. Their motto is "I can" and they truly live up to it. The first night in the theater they showed a video that explained Norwegian's commitment to customer service and they certainly live up to it. No matter where we were on the ship or what we were doing, if a staff member passed us, they always said a friendly 'hello.' The drain was clogged in our shower and I asked our steward to take care of it. Not only was it fixed before dinner that night, but he practically chased me down the hallway to let me know he had fixed it. I also asked for an extra blanket and it was in our room the next time he was. I started to ask at dinner one night "would it be possible...." and was told, "ma'am, anything is possible." That about hits the nail on the head. There were nights at dinner that my boyfriend and I practically created our own menu by taking a main course from this offering, a starch from that offering, and a vegetable from yet another offering. All requests were met with a smile and an, 'of course.'
The only issue we had with any staff member was a photographer. Before I launch into this, please know that I LOVE the photographs on the ship. Whereas most people spend money on booze, I spend it all on photos. Formal night? I am posing in front of every possible backdrop. A pirate to pose with at the end of the gangway? Sign me up. Now, I understand that this is a money making opportunity for Norwegian, but the photographs while you are trying to eat in the dining room are a bit much, but I deal with them. One night, when I was literally putting spoon to mouth with my soup, this photographer approaches and tells (not asks) my boyfriend to leave his seat and stand behind me. Then she points at him with her finger and motions for him to move behind me. I looked at her and simply said, "we are in the middle of eating dinner." Well, if looks could kill. She literally gave us the dirtiest look I have ever seen, rolled, her eyes, and all but stomped away from our table. I was so shocked at her behavior because it was so contrary to the other staff we had encountered that I just sat there with my mouth open. We did lodge a complaint with guest services and the director of the photo department and were offered photographs for free, but we declined them. We just didn't want anyone to have to experience what we did and the photo manager assured us she would be spoken to.
A-MAZ-ING. I have pretty plain taste when it comes to food, so for me eating Norwegian food every night was like being in heaven. I enjoy eating at the Olive Garden for Italian, so that might make my standards lower than someone who will only eat at a 5 star Manhattan restaurant, but I don't see how anyone could complain about the food. We ate in the Versailles dining room almost every night. We tried Aqua once, but the tables for 2 were so close together we felt like we were dining with our neighbors, so we stayed in Versailles where it was more intimate. My favorite meals were the vegetable cheese risotto (final night) and the vegetable primavera pasta (available every night). The deserts were kinda bland, I never have been a fan of Norwegian's desserts, but they weren't so terrible that I didn't eat them! We didn't try any of the pay restaurants as I feel as though I already paid for my food with my cruise fare and shouldn't have to shell out anything additional. However, I will say that the wait for the 'free' dining rooms is horrendous. Plan on adding an additional 20-30 minutes to your plans each night for the wait to be seated. They don't take reservations, first come, first serve. Often, we would be seated and there would be plenty of empty tables. I found myself wondering if they invented the wait so you would walk next door to the Red Lion Pub and buy a drink.
The buffet wasn't great, unlike the setup on the Gem, which is fantastic. On the Gem there is a large area with buffet stations to your left and right with great signage. You can just walk to the section of the buffet you want your food from and grab it, no line. The buffet on the Star is the old fashioned "everyone wait in line so you can see all there is to see" set up. Lines sometimes took 10-15 minutes to go through because you can't just pick and choose what you want. You have to wait in line to get to what it is that you want to eat. The setup is also really weird. As you enter the Market Cafe from the front of the ship, the first station to your left and your right always had the same food items for lunch. On your right, there was an additional section that didn't open until 3pm and that was where the good stuff was: panini's, grinders, hot dogs, etc. On your left, there were 2 additional sections. One had pizza, pasta, and wok items and the other had fruit and desserts. So, if you went to the station to your right, you wouldn't think there were any desserts at all as you had to go to the left and walk all the way to the back of the 3rd buffet station to find them. One nice feature (not that we needed it) was that staff pushed carts with iced tea and coffee on it so you didn't have to get up and go to the machine's if you didn't want to. There is ice, water, iced tea, coffee, and hot water at the self-serve machines. At breakfast there is cranberry, apple, and orange juice as well. There are signs on the ice and water machine that say you must take a new glass and that you can't refill water bottles.
Old, outdated, small and awkward. I will only use the Gem as a comparison for this as it is the only other Norwegian ship I have sailed on, but in doing so, there just is no comparison. When we boarded the ship, we entered at the rear of the ship into a stairwell. I thought it was so odd because last year we entered the Gem and went right into the grand atrium where there was a band playing, bar, and waiters with trays full of 'drinks of the day' on them. It was very anti-climatic. Well, then I saw the supposed 'grand atrium' on the Star. The area where guest services was located was only one story. There was a ceiling right over it and it felt very small and claustrophobic. The other half of the atrium was only open for 2 decks with the grand atrium being the 'first floor,' two restaurants being the 'second floor,' and the internet cafe being the 'third floor.' I am used to huge, open atrium's that are open at least 6 decks above you. It was just disappointing.
There is a severe lack of nightlife areas on this ship. On the Gem there was a HUGE Spinnaker lounge with a really big dance floor and then a smaller 'club' named Bliss with a smaller dance floor. On the Star there is only one 'club,' the Spinnaker, but it is the size that Bliss was on the Gem. It has more seats than Bliss did, but the dance floor is ridiculously small. We went to the country and western night and they couldn't fit everyone that wanted to learn line dances on the floor. People were trying to dance in-between chairs. It's just way too small. There is another 'pub' on board called the Red Lion. You know the hallways you walk through on a ship where they display your photographs? Ya, that is where they put this pub. They try to cram in karaoke, sing a longs, and tribute nights into this place and it's ridiculous. There is the performance space, a bar, and a small area with maybe a dozen tables. Then there is a huge wall separating the bar/entertainment area from the rest of the seating, so if you get a table along the wall, you can't see a thing. It was so frustrating because they had some good entertainment there, but either you couldn't get a seat or you couldn't see!
One of my favorite activities on the Gem was the pub crawl. Since there is no formal, assigned dining with strangers on Norwegian, the pub crawl was the way I met all of my new cruise friends last year. The crawl's were done at night, maybe around 10pm or so, and after the official crawl ended, we all stayed around and hung out. It was one of the most fun activities I have ever done on a ship. When was the pub crawl on the Star? 2pm!!!!!! Who wants to go to 5 bars and get toasted in the mid-afternoon? I certainly don't. And then after the crawl is over you have to go to another activity or get ready for dinner...no opportunity to continue the socializing. A huge disappointment. Maybe it was because there were no young people on this cruise? And by 'young' I mean under 40. This cruise was primarily attended by a much older crowd, the majority being over 55 I would say.
We had an inside stateroom on deck 9. I will not complain about the size, darkness, lack of space, or anything else I expected to get for paying $499. However, I didn't expect a half an inch of dust on top of our ice bucket and glasses, mold in the shower, creaking when we were at sea, or paper thin walls. This was hands down the worst stateroom I have ever stayed in on any of my cruises. When we were at sea, it literally sounded like the cabin was going to break into pieces the creaking was so loud. The noise kept me up every night we were underway. The other major issue was the thinness of the walls. I have never been on a cruise where I could hear the neighbors. When I say 'hear,' I mean every single world. I can tell you that the guy next door decided to drink beer on night 2 because the cognac really put him on is 'rear end' night 1 and that there were sticky buns on the buffet at 7am one morning. I won't even go into the details of the arguments we had to sit through. Even for $499, no one should have to endure what we did.
THE most amazing island I have ever been to and I have been to a lot: St. John, St. Thomas, St. Martin, St. Lucia, Dominica, Barbados, Cayman Islands and more. Bermuda tops them all. No poverty, the people couldn't have been friendlier, and the transportation system is a breeze. You can't rent cars on the island, only mopeds, and I wouldn't recommend it. The drivers are crazy and the roads are narrow. Get an unlimited transportation pass for $28 for the 3 days and ride the busses and ferries all day long. We only had 2 good days of weather as Friday was a washout, but we went to Horseshoe Bay, Tobacco Bay, Hamilton, Fort St. Catherine, St. George, the Swizzle Inn, and the shops around the Dockyard. Horseshoe Bay is a must, especially the Port Royal Cove to your right and climbing the volcanic rock structure straight ahead as you enter. Bermuda is expensive. $18.99 for a pulled pork sandwich that was barely edible. If you are trying to save money, eat on the ship as much as possible. One exception is Flannigan's in Hamilton. An amazing Irish pub with fantastic food that was worth every overpriced dollar we spent on it. Get there early in the day to make a reservation to eat on the second floor outdoor balcony, go shopping, then return and your table is waiting. Wednesday nights in Hamilton is Harbour Nights, which is a street festival with Gombi dancers, live music, and street vendors. Although it wasn't a great night in terms of weather, I did get some good deals on some costume jewelry. The official drink in Bermuda is the "rum swizzle." A trip to the Swizzle Inn is a MUST for anyone going to Bermuda. Their original location is 2 floors, both have outdoor balconies for eating. We had rum swizzles and nachos...both were amazing.
I loved being on the same island for 3 days and there is no better island than Bermuda for this itinerary. Although there were some positives from the ship, overall I wouldn't cruise on the Star again. It first sailed in 2001 and was 'refurbished' in 2010, but it shows its age. I originally thought that this ship must not have built for freestyle cruising and that when they refurbished it they must have just plugged things in here and there to make freestyle work. That is how awkwardly laid out this ship is. After further research, I discovered that this was actually the first ship constructed specifically for freestyle cruising. I would have to say that Norwegian has evolved in the design of their ships since 2001 because the Star misses its mark. Although, we chatted with a couple on a ferry ride who were on the Celebrity Summit and their experience was even worse than hours. Maybe NY to Bermuda is where all bad cruise ships go to die? Maybe since you aren't at sea every night they don't send the 'good' ships there? Who knows?
I have read many, many reviews about the Star where people just love her and I just don't get it. Will you have a bad cruise if you already have a cruise booked on the Star? Other than the noise issue in the stateroom, no, you won't. You will have a fabulous vacation. Are there better ships out there that provide a better cruise experience? Yes, there are. I have been fortunate enough to sail on them. If you can take the Gem to Bermuda over the Star, DO IT!
If you have any questions about the port, ship, Bermuda, or anything else, I am happy to help. Please let me know!