Bermuda Cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL's) Star, 6/10/12 to 6/17/12
This was our twelfth cruise with NCL having previously sailed on their Crown, Dawn, Gem and Jewel. We were a party of four senior citizens. My wife and I are NCL Latitudes Platinum members and as such received comps including priority boarding and disembarkation, a complimentary fruit basket and wine in the stateroom, complimentary afternoon hors d'ouvres, and sweets in our stateroom, complimentary dinners and wine in specialty restaurants, bath robes, a behind the scenes ship tour and cocktail parties.
As were our previous eleven cruises with NCL, this was a very enjoyable one; ease of embarkation and disembarkation, good food, great entertainment, great crew.
Departure from New York City Pier 88:
Concerned that the Puerto Rican Day parade on 5th Avenue would cause street closings and disrupt city traffic we arrived at Pier 88 at 10:00, earlier than we usually would for a 4:00 sailing. Since one of our party required wheelchair assistance for boarding we had to wait until the chairs used for passengers departing from the previous week's cruise were available. Once a chair was available, an attendant breezed us through security and check-in, escorted us up the gangway for on-board check-in and took us all the way to the main dining room where lunch was being served. Our staterooms were available at 1:00, earlier than usual, so that we didn't have to carry our hand luggage for very long. NCL however, does offer temporary secure storage for early arriver's hand luggage until staterooms are ready, something we haven't seen on other cruise
NCL's Star is very similar in size, capacity and layout to other "Dawn Class" ships we had sailed, with only minor differences in the location and names of public rooms and dining rooms. The Star has been in service since 2001 and appeared to be in very good condition and very clean. It was particularly smooth sailing in rough seas that were encountered on the way home. A major change since entering service was the relocation of the Spinnaker lounge from Deck 12 forward, aft to a location above the Versailles dining room. More about this later. This allowed additional staterooms to be installed in its place. In addition, two giant water slides were added on the Oasis pool deck.
The staterooms were typical for this class ship, small, and the bathrooms even smaller. There were no "extras" such as DVD players. TV's were CRTs rather than flat screen as found on newer ships. The bathrooms were equipped with step-in showers. Coffee makers were supplied. The stateroom attendants were friendly, timely and efficient.
Two main dining rooms, Versailles and Aqua, were available, both nicely appointed. The Market Cafe offered buffet style breakfast, lunch, dinner and in- between. Extra-cost specialty dining rooms; Le Bistro (French), La Cocina (Italian), Cagney's Steak House, Ginza (Asian) and Moderno Churrascaria (Latin) were available. The extra costs ranged from $10 to $25 per person. The Blue Lagoon dining room offered twenty-four hour service for breakfast, lunch, in-between and late night snacks. The Oasis Grill had barbeque and salads, poolside. We used our dinner comps for Le Bistro, which we considered the best dining on the ship. We also dined in La Cocina which was a nice experience as well. The food in the main dining rooms was generally adequate both in selection, preparation, taste and portion size (for us). However, bigger eaters might have ordered additional entrees and seconds. Pool deck barbeques were available on some sea days. The service in the dining rooms was normally very good; however breakfast service in the Versailles was sometimes spotty.
The Versailles was also open for breakfast and lunch which provided quieter dining but with less selection than the Market Cafe.
The main dining room menus were arranged so that one side contained standard daily fare and the other side, specialties for the day.
In our experience, NCL's entertainment, in both its theater shows and various music venues, has always been first rate. This cruise was no exception. Several of the theater performances received standing ovations; among those a Russian dance- silk acrobatic team, Dmitri and Maria, a song and dance performance of "Shout, Music Through the 70's", by the Star dance ensemble, a comedy-juggling team and the grand finale show which featured reprises from those acts just mentioned.
Music was available throughout the ship all day in various locations, indoors and out. Our favorite was the song stylist, Stan Sykes, "Mister Motown", to whom we listened to nearly every night in Gatsby's lounge.
The ship's newspaper, "Freestyle Daily" was crammed full with activities; morning, afternoon and evening. There was plenty to do if you chose to.
We've toured Bermuda, swam at its beaches and snorkeled in its coves on previous cruises, so we didn't take any shore excursions, preferring the nearby Snorkel Park beach and a water taxi into Hamilton for casual shopping.
We arrived back in New York City at 7:00 a.m., an hour earlier than scheduled. There were the usual delays so that we ended up leaving the ship at our previously scheduled time. Since we needed a wheelchair assist, we were directed to a comfortable waiting area until our disembarkation color (priority one after "easy walk-offs" were complete) was called. An attendant then took us through baggage retrieval and customs to the street where he waited with us until our transportation arrived.
What We Liked:
We've cruised other lines; Celebrity, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean and they all were fine. However, we've always considered NCL to be ahead in passenger to crew relations. That was true for this cruise from the Captain on down to the senior staff and to the rest of the staff. The captain, his senior staff as well as the rest of the staff participated in shipboard activities.
The cruise director was one of the best we've had.
We liked the Freestyle dining and since we were early diners were always able to get a table at our convenience. However, had we elected later dining, there might have been a considerable wait for a table, a negative for Freestyle dining.
We particularly liked the theater and lounge entertainment.
What We Thought Could Be Better:
With the relocation of the Spinnaker lounge, several rooms once available for quiet reading or card and board games were removed. There were few locations for those who wanted a quiet area during sea days.
At times, getting a breakfast order straight in the Versailles was a problem, though not a serious one, considering the early hour.
In the past, use of the spa pool, sauna, quiet areas and hot tubs had been free. It was perfect for winding down before dinner. On the past several cruises there has been a fee, somewhat exorbitant. The reason given was to keep young people away. We feel that this could have been done administratively by limiting access to adults, only.
The two giant water slides were very functional but aesthetic horrors. One, as on the Gem and Jewel, would probably have sufficed.
What We Didn't Like:
Although no fault of the crew, the filling of dishes in the Market Cafe and leaving most of the food uneaten annoyed us.
Again, although no fault of the crew, the reserving of deck chairs at the Oasis pool at 6:00 a.m. and not using them again all morning was rude.
All in all this was a fine cruise. The weather was perfect for five of the seven days, rain spoiling the last day in Bermuda and high winds limiting outdoor activity on the final sea day. However, the entertainment staff worked extra hard to provide activities for those days.