Norwegian Star Cruise Review by cruise pup: A Last Minute Bargain
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A Last Minute Bargain
I first sailed Norwegian Star during its maiden season when it sailed the Pacific around the Hawaiian Islands and Fanning Island. Lots of changes were made but I still had fun recalling key events on that first cruise aboard here.
Car service picked me up in Forest Hills, Queens at 11:00 am and I was sitting down for lunch in the Versailles dining room by 12:30 pm. Needless to say it was an uneventful trip into the city and pretty painless check-in process. And this was without having edocs printed. All I had to do was fill out a blank luggage tag for the porter and right past the entrance to the terminal was a desk I was directed to where I showed my passport and an NCL rep filled out a sailing contract with my name, booking # and cabin and off I went. I found the ship to be in spotless condition. I don't think I've seen more immaculate public toilet facilities. A nice touch is that a hand sanitizer dispenser is positioned outside. The other noticeable (positive) feature is More how friendly the staff is and that extends all the way up the ladder to the ship's officers and most importantly, the captain. Sean, the hotel director is every bit as friendly and accommodating as I had read on these boards. It seemed that he and his colleagues were frequently found touring the ship to make sure not only everything was functioning properly but also that the passengers were content. The final outstanding feature was the weather which cooperated, I'd say about 80% of the time. We had a cloudy and windy final day in Bermuda and the final sea day had its share of clouds and choppy seas (ever so slight), although the ship performed beautifully and the ship remained stable.
I had booked the cruise as a last minute bargain where the price was way down and no single supplement was charged. So of course I wasn't assigned deluxe accommodations but my inside on deck 9 right before the forward elevators was a pretty good assignment. Unfortunately the cabin had a few flaws. There was quite a bit of vibration, some coming from the bunk bed which was attached to a wall. My cabin steward said he would try to fix the problem but it didn't work 100% of the time. Fortunately, I always bring ear plugs so at least when I slept it didn't annoy me. But still, when you're trying to watch tv or read it can get on your nerves very quickly. Secondly, the a/c just would not shut off no matter how I adjusted the thermostat. Well, better that it wouldn't shut off than not turn on. I managed to get used to it but I think I heard others discuss having the same problem. Fortunately, the public rooms on the ship were not affected. But the cabin layout was fine and the bathroom is a decent size for a cruise ship, especially the stall shower. Water pressure from the tap was strong but not so much in the shower, just adequate.
Back to the subject of noise, I found that this ship was just too noisy for my liking. The dj really pumped up the volume at sailaway so that no one could carry on a conversation. And this was at the Bier Garten which is nowhere near to the speakers. Same thing was true outside by the gangway when the dj blasted music as the ship was getting ready to leave Bermuda. The atrium was also a trouble spot as demonstrations were held there and even the classical music group felt the need to raise the volume so that while dining at Moderno you could not hear your table mates. The ironic thing is that my hearing isn't so hot so I can't imagine how someone with good hearing managed. It was way too intrusive to me and I found it difficult to find a place to settle down and read or listen to my iPod.
Another issue I had is that for the 3 days no deck furniture was permitted out on deck 7. This is supposedly out of a safety issue which I respect but nevertheless since it's my favorite part of cruising was a major disappointment. However, it turned out that someone had set up a few chairs for the first 2 sea days before Bermuda so I managed. On the sea day returning from Bermuda, I borrowed a chair from the pub but after a while 2 crew members came by with a lounger and offered it to me. I asked if I could have an upright chair instead and they came back with a deck chair with an adjustable back. So I did manage to have a comfortable spot. I'm sure anyone who was on this cruise and reads this report will know who I am.
Food was almost a non-issue for me because you are probably going to run into it. There was always something to find to eat (even pop corn and hot dogs in the pub). Even on 2 evenings when I slept through dinner the good old reliable Blue Lagoon was more than adequate to substitute for the mdr. The 3 evenings I did eat in Aqua were very good. Prime rib was especially delicious and quite a generous slice and thankfully not fatty at all. I also enjoyed to the point of overindulgence, the spaghetti bolognese which is available both at lunch and at dinner. Lobster is served on the first night of an NCL cruise and it wasn't bad at all. You only get half a tail with a piece of red snapper on the plate, but I knew this and requested another half lobster tail. It was served on the same plate (I hate when they have to give you another entire plate for presentation purposes. It's such a waste). In addition, my waiter was standing by with another half tail which I didn't request but also didn't refuse. However, when he asked if I wanted more, it was time to cry "Uncle!" This waiter, Indra is so cordial and one evening brought out a special Indian dessert (sweet carrot pudding) the chef had prepared for the staff. The people at the next table who was chatting with were also offered some and they said they were so thrilled to be sitting next to me an experience this wonderful dessert. I believe it is called Gajar Halwa. As a Platinum Latitudes member I was given a certificate good for dinner for 2 at a specialty restaurant where the fee was no more than $20. per person. In addition, a complimentary bottle was wine was included. I asked Sean, who already speak highly of, since I was sailing solo if I could have 2 separate dinners for one instead. In an instant he called over Kati, the restaurant manager and set it up with him and there was no problem. In fact, every time I ran into Kati he immediately recited my cabin number, never once forgetting. So believe me when I tell you that these guys do their best. One evening I dined at Le Bistro and the other was at Moderno, the Brazilian steakhouse. I was a bit disappointed in both, although Moderno has an excellent soup and salad bar, which might be the problem. When you are ready to sample the meats you've already eaten enough. I would have been happy with a small steak by then. I also found the meats to be over-seasoned. NCL does tend to be too liberal with the salt shaker and this was no exception. Working backwards, lunch was either taken at the sit down affair in Versailles, the grill by the pool (the fresh melons and pineapple were awesome) or Blue Lagoon. I went into the Market Cafe (buffet) once and only sampled a few items and decided I wouldn't bother going back. As for breakfast, the reliable Blue Lagoon and serves up a wonderful breakfast. Not much variety but the food is cooked to order and everything comes out right. I've had many a screwed up breakfast in cruise ship dining rooms (hear that RCCL and Carnival) but somehow Blue Lagoon gets things right. And their bran muffins come out warm (the tops are what you want). If you ever feel peckish, cookies, coffee and tea are set out in the Atrium by the cafe. In addition a waiter walked around at various times with pound cakes. Why NCL is setting up complimentary stuff where you order premium coffees at a fee is just astonishing (although coffee connoisseurs will always be willing to pay for the good stuff). Funny thing about that pound cake is that on another NCL ship the waiter said you were obligated to purchase a coffee in order to get any. As a final mention, you should try the steaks at the sailaway barbecue (if you can handle the noise. lol).
Entertainment was very good on the ship and I especially appreciated having the ship's orchestra play jazz sets on days when they weren't needed in the theatre. I even asked them in the atrium if they played any Jobim (the Brazilian responsible for the bossa nova). Not only did they say yes but asked me if there was any particular song I wanted to hear and a few moments later they were playing it.
I'm not the recreational type, which you probably gathered by my preference to veg out on a deck chair but I do enjoy swimming. Unfortunately this was a problem as the Star has only one pool in the main pool area. The room for a second pool is taken up by either a few water slides on one end or terraces for loungers on the other side. So sea days were just crazy. I prefer ships that have a separate pool area for adults only so you aren't constantly trying to avoid the horseplay. I was a kid so I know how they play but with that given there should be a place where you can get away from it (like the Solarium on RCCL ships). Secondly, on the first day in Bermuda, I went to the pool in the a.m. when everyone was off the ship and the pool temperature had to be in the low 70's, if that, and not the 84 stated on the in-cabin tv Ship's Log channel. Happily, Sean and company happened to walk by me on the pool deck during one of their rounds and I mentioned this. Next time I tried the pool the water was much better.
We had a small turnout at our Cruise Critic Meeting but Sean and company plus the captain himself paid a visit. We were given a card with each dept. member's phone extension. Plus we filled out an attendance sheet and were sent invitations for a private tour of the bridge on the last sea day which yours truly slept through. (Doh!).
The restructured Latitudes reward program elevated me to Platinum and in addition to the 2 free dinners at the specialty restaurants there were some other great perks. I got a free bag of laundry done. I came home with 3 garments needing laundering. I could leave me suitcase as is and be ready for another cruise (those 3 items were placed in a plastic bag and then packed in my carry-on so don't worry!). I also received a nice bottle of Merlot in a fruit basket, a plate of chocolate covered strawberries with chocolate sea shells, and several private event invitations (won another free bag of laundry during the past passenger party raffle!).
Disembarkation came all too soon. It's a pretty smooth operation. I was able to sleep until 8 am. I skipped breakfast and just got myself over to a public room in time for my luggage tag color to be called. We ran a little late but I was in my apartment by 10:30 am so that was pretty good. One final noise issue. While waiting in the Stardust Theatre to disembark the same video was played over and over again with the same stupid NCL theme playing. I wasn't the only one annoyed by this. It's almost up there with water boarding (Karl Rove, take note).
As for Bermuda, I never stepped food on her this trip. I've been there before and only became tempted on the final day to head over to Snorkel Park but the weather wasn't really snorkel weather (overcast and windy) so I remained on board where I didn't have to shell out $15. for a lounger to look at the same beautiful water.
This cruise was a totally impromptu affair and despite my cranky complaints I hope you also noticed what I really enjoyed about the ship (forgot to mention how smooth the bed linens are and bath towels that don't feel like sand paper). If I had to pay top dollar for this cruise I would probably look elsewhere but I'd also grab it if I were offered a similar rate and just handcuff Sean to me (Oops! That may not have come out the way I meant it to.) Right now they are not waiving single supplements just lowering them and offering an on board credit so the rate is still a good $500. more than what I paid so I don't think it will happen again. I guess you have to be there at the right time (just like the weather). Less
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