First, a little background: We are a couple in our early 60s. This was our 13th cruise together, and my 17th cruise overall.
We decided to take a bus to NY from our home in South Jersey. Other than having to leave home at 6:30 a.m. to get there on time for the 7:30 bus, it was a painless process, and leaving our car there for a week was free. We met another couple--she and I "knew" each other from our roll call--taking the same bus, and since we really arrived too early for embarkation, they and we stopped for coffee in the bus terminal to kill time, then shared a cab to the cruise port.
Embarkation was quick and easy, but we had to wait a bit after checking in to get onto the ship. Like I said, we were early! Once we boarded, we headed to the buffet until our cabin was ready.
Our outside cabin was on Deck 5, midway between the front and mid-ship elevators. A tad inconvenient for getting around, but the ship wasn't so large as to make it a problem.
Everything was very clean and for the most part, well maintained. But much of the furniture in the main atrium area on Deck 7--and also in the bar area between Moderno and Blue Lagoon--didn't even deserve to be in anyone's basement! These gold crushed velvet tub chairs and loveseats all looked worn and dirty around the arms, and they really need to be updated.
I was spoiled by my trip on Norwegian Jewel, which had a great pool deck and buffet layout that included the Great Outdoors at the very aft of the ship. Star was definitely lacking in comparison; one small pool flanked by massive water slides that, for example, made visibility of the band impossible, as well as nothing but a noisy kids' area in the back of the ship took away from our desire to be there. Also, the buffet had several mostly identical lines, but lacked the station concept that Jewel had. It was just not a great space.
Others have mentioned their disappointment in the "new" and very crowded Spinnaker Lounge as well as the many seats in the main theater that sagged and slanted forward (like a sliding board), making sitting there uncomfortable. I agree with those comments.
A couple of positives about the ship: it was so stable! The waters were rough going to and returning from Bermuda, but we barely felt any movement at all. Amazing! Also, I really liked the Atrium area--it was lovely and we enjoyed spending time there, even when we were just people watching.
How fabulous is this crew?! Every single person we met seemed genuinely happy to be there and concerned with our happiness and well-being.
At our Meet & Greet, a slew of officers showed up, each of them promising to be there for us should we have a problem. Sean, the hotel manager, even had a box at the Information Desk for submitting good or bad comments. I submitted both.
This may not be the right place for specialty restaurant reviews, but it fits in with the topic. We ate at Ginza, the Asian fusion restaurant, and it was rather a disaster. We sat for 20 minutes before our waiter came to the table, and never got any food served for 45 minutes. The food itself was NOT good--but I was more upset about the lack of service than I was about the food. The maitre d' tried to make things right, although we hadn't said anything, by buying us a drink... but it really was too little, too late. I wrote about our disappointment and submitted it to Sean. At first, I received back a "so sorry" note and a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries. I was pleased by the response.
But then around lunchtime that day, we were on the pool deck and a man in uniform (officer? not sure) stopped us and asked if we were Mr. & Mrs. X. How did he know?? I'm still amazed. Turns out he was, according to his card, Ronnie Alves, Assistant Maitre D'. He told us he was sorry we'd had a bad experience at Ginza and he wanted to treat us to Moderno, the Brazilian steakhouse (which we'd already planned to try). He also said he'd provide us a bottle of wine with dinner. Pleased, we eagerly accepted his offer.
Dinner at Moderno was fabulous! Our server, Krystle, was extremely attentive, as was the restaurant's maitre d'. And the food was to die for. We loved it, even though the promised wine never materialized (nor was it mentioned--oh well!).
Another related note: we bought a Future Cruise Reward certificate the first day onboard by filling out a form and putting it in the box provided. By the third (I think) day, we still didn't have our paperwork or onboard credit, so we went to see the future cruise person, Candace. She was startled, and as it turned out, her being startled was because she'd totally forgotten to check the box! She did so then, found our form, and promised all would be well... and it was. But she came over to see us while we were in Moderno and asked us our cabin number, because she "wanted to do something nice" for us. Nothing ever materialized, though! Not important, but odd that she promised it and didn't follow through.
Two other personnel shout-outs: the next-to-last night we dined in Versailles, the MDR (as we had on two other nights--we liked the food and service and we were seated with others, which we also liked). Our server this night, Friday, was Pongen, a young woman with lots of personality. We liked her so much that we requested a table in her section for the last night as well. I highly recommend her! Another shout-out goes to Rowena, a member of the Cruise Director's staff who led us in trivia many times. What a cutie! Loved her laugh and her whole personality.
This was our third (and my fourth) visit here, so we tried to do things we hadn't done previously. We bought a two-day bus pass. The first day, we went to the Botanical Gardens. It was a lovely area, but we wished more of the plants were labeled. Walking around in the heat and humidity tired us out, so we took a bus to The Swizzle South Shore, the newer of the two Swizzle Inns. We'd gone to the original a couple of times and made it a tradition, but since this one was much closer to where we were, it made sense to try it. We had a lovely "snack" of conch fritters and sweet potato fries with our small pitcher of rum swizzles. Yum!
The next day, we took a ferry to Hamilton and just wandered around, looking for good souvenirs for the grandkids. We happened upon a beautiful little park in the midst of town and enjoyed that for a while. It was right next door to the public library, which offers free Internet service, so we stopped in for a bit and sent email home to let the family know we were alive, well, and happy.
That evening we took our very first ship-sponsored excursion ever! Yes, that's right--it was my 17th cruise and my first ship excursion. It was the sunset catamaran rum swizzle cruise, and we loved it! We'd waited to book it till we were onboard, and went to the excursion desk to do so almost immediately--and we got the last two tickets! My only "complaint," if you could call it that, is that we had to sit cross-legged on the padded front of the ship to have good views. I liked the views, but I can't say I was comfortable most of the time. Still, it was a great hour and a half; the rum swizzles poured freely, the weather was absolutely perfect, and the sunset was really something to behold.
The final day, we shopped around the Dockyard area. Although it was a bit more built up since we'd last been there 10 years ago, I was surprised it wasn't built up even more.
We chose to walk off with our luggage, as we wanted to make a 9:30 bus. Got up early, managed to enjoy one last buffet breakfast, and made it to the Port Authority well before 9:00 a.m.! Very quick and efficient.
The buffet area had some service elements that pleasantly surprised me. There were frequent carts brought around with coffee, juice, and pastries to offer passengers--I'd never seen this before at a buffet. Also, the staff gathered at breakfast time to "entertain" us. Yes, it was rather Carnival-like, but still enjoyable. I felt a bit bad for them, though--like they don't have enough to do!
I just realized I never mentioned the entertainment. As usual, NCL's entertainment was excellent. The Elements show, especially, is not to be missed.
Our cabin, 5060, was an outside to which we'd been upgraded through a guarantee booking. I'd checked it on the deck plans to see what was above, and I was pleased to see it appeared that nothing was above us. Whoopsie--it wasn't "nothing," it was a walkway! Every night as we settled down to bed we joked that the elephant stampede had begun. It sure was loud! Didn't really cause any problems, fortunately, because we sleep with a white noise machine that drowned it out.
Our bed, two twins pushed together, had obviously seen better days. The mattresses had a gully that we'd sink into upon getting into bed. It was difficult to get out of bed because of this gully, and my back ached toward the end of the cruise... but I slept exceptionally well!
All in all, while this certainly wasn't my favorite ship, it ranks right up there among my favorite cruises.