My boyfriend and I returned yesterday from our very first cruise. We are both in our early 30s, and it was also our first vacation together. We took the Norwegian Star from New York to Bermuda on a seven day cruise. I miss it already. :( I was going to try to break down the cruise day by day, but there's just no way I'll remember when we did everything. Instead, I'll break it down by category and try to go fairly chronologically.
Embarkation - It was very easy to get on the ship. We took the train from northwestern NJ to Penn Station in NY, then took a taxi to the pier. After I almost left my carry on bag in the taxi (oops!), we proceeded to hand our luggage over to the attendants. We then took the elevator upstairs to check in. I would say we were in line for only about 15 minutes. We checked in, and they took a picture of us and gave us our keycards for the ship. Then it was right on to the ship where the staff members were waiting with music and smiles!! We walked around the ship for about a half hour until it was announced that the rooms on our deck (deck 8) were ready. We then went to our room and checked it out. Our luggage got delivered to the room within the next hour or so.
Room: We booked an obstructed oceanview room, which means that while there are 2 windows in the room, there is a lifeboat in front of them. We didn't want to spend the money on a balcony, as we figured we wouldn't be spending much time in the room anyway. The windows were nice because we could get some sunlight in. Additionally, we could see straight through the lifeboat on my boyfriend's side of the bed. The room itself is pretty tiny, but it works with 2 people. I couldn't imagine being in there with 3 people. There were two twin beds pushed together with one set of sheets and a duvet, but you couldn't really tell that it was 2 separate beds. I only knew from reading all about the rooms online. There was also another bed that you could pull down from the wall to form sort of a bunk bed above our bed. There was plenty of storage space in the room - a closet with 4 shelves inside, 6 drawers, a vanity, and another table. After reading all of the message boards on Cruise Critic, I brought an over-the-door shoe organizer, which I placed over the outside of the bathroom door. Super handy. I put all of the little things in there like sunscreen, our sunglasses, my little wristlets, etc. I don't like clutter, so it was nice to have a place to put everything. I had also brought a hanging cosmetic organizer which I hung on one of the hooks in the room. We (well, I) kept the room very organized, so I never felt like we were cramped. The bathroom was also very tiny, but it works. There was a sliding door between the toilet and the rest of the bathroom. The shower was fine, and there was a bit of storage space above the sink where we placed our toothbrushes and such. There was also a clothesline in the shower where you could hang wet clothes.
NCL Star Crew: We loooooooved our stateroom steward, Gede. From the first day, he greeted us with a smile - and by name! I was always Miss Sheri, and my boyfriend was always Mr. Mark. :) He cleaned our room twice a day, and he did such a wonderful job. We also loved the towel animals he left us. On the last day, he left us a handwritten note thanking us for cruising. Aw. Overall, the crew on the NCL Star was fantastic. Almost all of them were super friendly and said hello each time we passed. One of my favorite moments was when we boarded the ship from Bermuda for the last time on Friday afternoon. We were so sad about leaving Bermuda, but there were about 15 crew members singing and handing out jello shots, exclaiming, "We're so happy you're back! Welcome back on the ship!" It was difficult to be sad after that reception. :) The only people who were not super friendly were a couple of our waiters/waitresses in Aqua, one of the main dining rooms, and Blue Lagoon, the 24 hour restaurant. They weren't exactly rude, but they weren't super friendly, and their service was a bit slow. Otherwise, wonderful crew!!!
Food: We ate at four places throughout our cruise: the buffet, the poolside grill, Aqua, and Blue Lagoon. I am a vegetarian and my boyfriend is a burgers/chicken fingers kind of guy, so we had decided not to pay extra for any of the specialty restaurants. From what I heard, they were great. We ate mostly at the buffet, which was good. We usually had breakfast, dinner, and an evening snack there. There was plenty of good food for each meal. The poolside grill was open from about noon until 5:00 each day. They had burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings, and assorted potato, macaroni, etc. salads. We also ate there on the first day when there was a big sail off BBQ. If you like that kind of food, it was great. We ate at Aqua 2 nights for dinner. Like I said earlier, the service wasn't great, but the food was pretty good. My boyfriend had spaghetti the first night (he liked it), and I had some sort of amazing sweet potato tart goodness. Best thing I ate the whole cruise. The second time, my boyfriend had grilled chicken with mashed potatoes and broccoli (also liked it), and I had mushroom ravioli, which was pretty good. Overall, we ate at weird times because we were always doing something. So it made more sense to go to the buffet. We also ate at Blue Lagoon a couple of times. Nothing wonderful - but quick and open 24 hours. My boyfriend had the chicken fingers and I had a tomato and mozzerella panini. So overall, if you're not super picky, the main dining rooms and buffet are good. If you like more of an upscale menu, check out the specialty restaurants.
Entertainment/Activities - There was always plenty to do on the ship. Events were starting every 10 minutes it seemed. We did trivia night a couple of times, spent a lot of time in the casino, entered a blackjack competition, and played in a ping pong competition. As far as shows are concerned, we saw a bunch in the Stardust Theater. We saw Shout! the Musical, which was pretty good. Mostly the girls singing and dancing to 60s music. We also saw Jorgos the magician. Loved some of his tricks and thought a couple were silly. We saw Shark Bait, which is a juggling/comedy act. I really, really enjoyed that one. It was hilarious, and those guys were really good. We saw Elements on the last night, which is kind of a mixture of singing, dancing, acrobats, and music. It was wonderful. We also participated in Quest the Game Show on the last night in the Spinnaker Lounge. I won't give anything away, but it is adults only and unbelievably hilarious. Do it. But don't be shy. :) We also saw an improv show from Second City, which was great. We spent a lot of time at the Red Lion Pub on the ship. Kenny the Human Jukebox played live guitar and sang. He was wonderful. We also played some board games there, which was tons of fun. Plus, they had fresh popcorn all of the time. :) Let's see, what else... we played a lot of ping pong and shuffleboard up on deck 12. My boyfriend also like to shoot hoops up on the basketball court. The pool was usually too crowded during the day - there's only one fairly small pool on deck 12. However, we realized that it was empty at night, so we went swimming a couple of times around 8:30 pm and had the pool all to ourselves. Ahhh. I had read that it's impossible to find a deck chair on the ship. It wasn't super easy, but you just had to walk away from the pool and then it was possible. Yes, people leave their stuff on the chairs and walk away, but we were still able to find some.
Overall Ship - Before I left, I had read a lot of posts from people who said the ship was falling apart. Definitely not true. I really didn't see anything falling apart, and there were always crew members painting and cleaning wherever we went.
Bermuda - AMAZING. Sigh. I miss it already. We had booked 2 shore excursions through the ship and really enjoyed them both. On our first port day, we took the Rising Sun Catamaran excursion. They sailed us out for about 40 minutes or so. Our guide, Xander, answered any questions we had and pointed out homes and landmarks around the island. We then anchored for a little over an hour and went snorkeling and swimming! They also had kayaks available. It was wonderful. Then they had free rum swizzles on the way back. On the second port day, we took the Sunset Catamaran Swizzle Cruise. We got to see a gorgeous Bermudian sunset, and our guide Dante was wonderful as well. I would definitely recommend both excursions. Otherwise, we walked around the Dockyard and went to the Clocktower Mall and Craft Fair. Both are not to be missed. We also went to the Maritime Museum. If you like history, you'll love it. On Wednesday night, we wanted to take the ferry to Hamilton for Harbor Night, which is an outdoor street fair that they have each Wednesday. However, it started pouring on the way there, so we never got off the ferry. We just took it right back. We were pretty bummed, but then we remembered seeing and hearing about a bar by the ship called Frog and Onion. We ended up spending about 2 hours there - it's wonderful! Make sure you check it out. On the second port day we also took the bus to Horseshoe Bay Beach, which is unbelievably gorgeous. On the last day, we took the ferry to Hamilton, where we walked around the city and did some souvenir shopping. Overall, Bermuda is breathtaking, and I'm glad we had three days to see it. We didn't make it to St. Georges, which is at the other end of the islands, so now we have a reason to go back!
Disembarkation - We decided to carry our luggage off the ship, which was fine. We only had 2 suitcases, a carry on bag, and a backpack between us. We were off the ship in about 25 minutes and through customs in another 15 or so. My boyfriend strangely got escorted into a private room where he was asked all of 3 questions (do you have any food with you, how long was your trip, did you have a good time) and then released. Very strange. We then walked across the street, hopped right into a taxi, and returned back to Penn Station.
I would also recommend joining a Cruise Critic Roll Call. We had a Meet and Greet at Le Bistro, where we met other Cruise Critic members, as well as several of the senior officers on the ship. On the last day, we were invited up for a bridge tour where we got to see where and how they navigate the ship. Very cool.
I think that's everything! If I can answer any specific questions for you, please let me know! Oh, and we will definitely be cruising on NCL again. They had a deal... if you put down a $250 deposit on a future cruise, you got $100 off your bill from the current cruise. The deposit is good for 4 years, and you can use it on any NCL cruise. You don't have to decide which one until you want to. We've already started looking at cruises!!