We have sailed several times with Norwegian Cruise Line over the past 4 years. Our first cruise in1988 was on the long-gone SS Norway (1), and we returned to NCL after cruising with 3 other lines. We've been on the Jewel (4), the Jade (3) and the Epic (3). This was our first time on the Norwegian Star (making it cruise number 12 with NCL) and it was our first time going to Bermuda. We enjoyed the cruise.
The embarkation process in New York was painless. We arrived at the port and were checked in right away. We waited only 30 minutes (maximum) before the call to board was announced. We went to Versailles Dining Room once on board and had just enough time to finish lunch when the call to access ataterooms was made. This was, indeed, the fastest baording procedure we've ever had.
We choose NCL because of free-style. It means we can dine in the main dining rooms, or any other venue with a reservation, when we choose as there is no fixed dining time. We can also choose to dine as a couple, or opt to sit at a table with other people. The great thing is we don't need suits and ties, even on the formal night; decent trousers and a collared shirt are fine.
I've heard people complain against NCL because they say NCL nickels-and-dimes you into paying for everything extra. That is just the point: it is EXTRA (meaning, not included) and so it should be charged. I've been on Princess, Carnival and Royal Caribbean and each of them, at the time, charged for specialty dining venues which were not as diverse as those on NCL. Just as you must on NCL, you have to pay for wine, sodas and other alcoholic beverages on those lines, and I see nothing wrong with that. If you want all-inclusive, you must look for a line that is all-inclusive, and very likely you will pay a higher fare to cover manyof those costs. We like the NCL experience and that is why we return again and again.
The Norwegian Star was built in 2001 and was refurbished in 2010. The refurbishments did not include the whole ship; Spinnaker Lounge was moved to Deck 6 aft from Deck 12 forward, where new staterooms were installed. The new stateroom area on Deck 12 is beautiful and very rich-looking, but it does not match in terms of decor with the rest of the ship. In other areas, especially in public areas, the carpets are not well-fitted in some places, and bits of chrome inlay on the floor that separate carpet from tile are missing. The carpet on the steps leading to the main area of the Versailles Dining Room (which is where we had most of our dinners) is worn almost thread-bare, but that is understandable with more that 500 people going up and down every day. Most people don't notice such things anyway, and they don't take anything away from a nice cruise. I do notice such things so that I can inform others about what to expect.
Our stateroom was on Deck 5, and that is the lowest we've ever been on NCL ships. It was a comfortable stateroom and served the purpose well. After all, you use your stateroom for showering, changing clothes and sleeping as well as storing all the stuff you bought ashore. The rest of the time, you are in other ship locations, or off the ship. Our stateroom was serviced by our fabulous stateroom attendant who made sure we had clean towels, a well-made bed, and a supply of gels (soap and shampoo).
This cruise was a 7-day cruise with 3 full days ported in Bermuda. Unfortunately, we were not overly impressed with Bermuda itself. The people we met there were pleasant, for the most part, but it was far too hot and far too humid to enjoy anything. The beaches were a major disappointment. We had heard raves about the pink sand on the beaches from friends who'd been to Bermuda. The sand was far from pink and most of the time the beaches were too crowded with other tourists all wanting the same thing: a place to lie in the sun and get a tan, so it was loud and not a relaxing atmosphere.
The town around the port and the town of St George's have little to offer. We were in Hamilton in the early evening and everything except bars and restaurants was closed -- the shops close at 5 pm. Still, Hamilton was a rather nice city. If ever we return to Bermuda and choose to do something off the ship, we'd go to Hamilton to explore, but that's about it.
If you have ever been to the Caribbean, or even parts of Florida, you can expect to see the same thing in Bermuda. The houses look the same and are panted the same colours. The vegetation is exactly the same and it is the same water. The language, in most places, is the same, and the food is the same with minor variations.
On the final day, jsut before sailing away from Bermuda, a "welcome back to the ship" party was held on the pier. People from many departments, mostly waitstaff and bar staff, were on the pier welcoming passengers back to the ship after their time in Bermuda. They were handing out non-alcoholic drinks and damp facecloths to returning passenger to help them refresh before getting back on board. Even the Hotel Director got into the act by helping out with the ditributuions, and I saw him take a tray of drinks and offer them to his staff who'd been dancing or standing in the hot sun to welcome people back. I have never seen that on any ship anywhere. He takes really good care of his people and his passengers.
We are glad we went, though, but if we ever decide to return it will be simply to take a cruise (very likely on NCL's new ship, Breakaway), and we will stay on board the ship.