We traveled on the Star to Bermuda on the September 23rd sailing. This was the 9th cruise I have taken with NCL, and my 17th cruise overall.
Embarkation: We arrived at the pier at about 11:30 am and were able to check in right away via priority embarkation (we are Latitudes Platinum and booked a suite). Once our paperwork was complete, we were escorted to the VIP lounge where we met our Concierge Monica. We boarded the ship and were seated in Cagney's for lunch by 12:00 pm!! By 12:30 pm, we heard an announcement that our cabin was ready! This, by far, was the quickest our cabin has EVER been ready!!
Cabin: We booked a Family Suite on Deck 12- cabin 12020. The room was huge with plenty of closet space and drawers. We actually think the cabin could accommodate 6 people (2 in the beds, 2 on the fold out couch, and 2 in the Murphy bed). The room had no balcony but did have floor to ceiling windows. The bathroom had a separate stall shower, a full tub, and two sinks. This ship received the same update as the Dawn (they relocated the Spinnaker lounge and turned the space into suites). The cabin was located on the same deck as the pool (very wonderful and convenient location). The only MINOR complaint (same on the Dawn) was that there was a little bit of foot traffic noise from Deck 13 overhead. It was by no means obtrusive, just noticeable. The primary benefit of this cabin (other than how spectacularly spacious it was) was that we had the most wonderful and attentive butler, Orlando. He could not have been more accommodating. Another perk was the privilege of eating in Cagney's (the restaurant) for both breakfast and lunch: no fighting the crazy noisiness of the buffet or the hustle and bustle of the main dining rooms.
Crew: I cannot even begin to say enough about the crew. My aunt (my traveling partner aka partner in crime) and I agreed that this was the happiest most pleasant crew of any sailing we have been on. This is not to say that past NCL ships haven't had wonderful/happy crews, but this crew just seemed one step above. Our butler Orlando was particularly amazing as were the b'fast and lunch staff in Cagney's. Our cabin steward Larry (a lovely young woman) was practically invisible, but she took impeccable care of our room. I was impressed with the effort that each and every staff member made to remember our names!!! (And miraculously, they DID!)
Cruise Critic Gathering: NCL takes Cruise Critic very seriously. This was evidenced by the fact that the Captain himself attended the gathering as well as the Cruise Director (Kyle), the Hotel Director (Sean W.), the Food and Beverage Director as well as several other senior staff members. This time, we actually received a card with all of the senior staff's contact information printed on it, and we were encouraged to contact them should we have any problems. NCL has an amazingly visible and approachable senior staff.
Entertainment: Since we have been on so many cruises, we tend to have long relaxing dinners and don't make many of the evening shows. We did see Gianni Russo (of Godfather fame) sing (wonderful), attended the Crew Show with Fountains (always entertaining), and the show on the last night, Elements, which was exceptional. The entertainment on NCL has improved GREATLY since they moved away from the previous entertainment company. We also enjoyed many of the "lounge" entertainers -- where we tended to be for pre- and post- dinner cocktails.
Casino: Neither of us are big gamblers; we get a kick out of the penny slot machines, and are always pleased that NCL has current machines that give you "ticket" vouchers instead of coins (which are a, ahem, "Royal" pain in the butt if you get my drift). The only downside is the casino is smoky (we are both non-smokers)...
Nice touches: A few things I noticed that were different this cruise, and I'm not sure if this is fleet wide or unique to the Star... The crew walked around with iced tea on the pool deck, as well as fresh baked cookies. In the lounges, they walked around with chocolate covered strawberries and macaroons. Also cute were the spontaneous "performances" by the crew- we saw the buffet staff doing a line dance (in the buffet of course), several of the staff doing the chicken dance by the pool, and after the second show on the last night, the staff gathered in Gatspy's to do the Twist. Great, infectious fun. Also nice were the cold towels and ice water before we boarded the ship after spending a hot day in Bermuda.
Food: We ate breakfast and lunch in Cagney's nearly every day. Having a nice, quiet and relaxing meal for breakfast and lunch is one of our favorite perks from having a suite. For dinner, we ate in both the pay restaurants and the main dining rooms. We prefer the more quiet and intimate atmosphere of the pay restaurants. Our first night on board, we ate at Le Bistro. As usual, the escargots and the chocolate fondue were to die for. We also ate at Moderno- the new Brazilian restaurant...be prepared to eat a LOT of meat and go with an empty stomach! If you are a carnivore, this is a "can't miss" restaurant for sure! We also ate at La Cucina and found the calamari to be amazingly tender but found the entrees to be somewhat salty. Lastly, we ate at the two main dining rooms, Aqua and Versailles. We had wonderful meals and service here, though the ambiance is a bit more crowded and noisy. But, the food was delicious and served hot!
Chef's Table: If you are a self-proclaimed "foodie" like I am, this is the treat of all treats!! "Chef's Table" is a 9 course tasting meal prepared by the executive chef on board that includes wine pairings. The portions are quite generous, so go with a healthy appetite and pace yourself! We participated in Chef's Table on the Dawn back in May, loved it, and booked it on the Star. The meal on the Star (same menu as the Dawn) did NOT disappoint -- in fact I do believe I enjoyed it more this time around (too much wine consumption on the Dawn). This is a for fee dinner and includes a pre-dinner champagne toast, the 9 course meal, an after dinner drink, and 2 photographs (one with the entire group and one per couple with Chef). It is only open to 12 guests and it seems to really be gaining in popularity, so I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the wonderful meal twice! As part of Chef's Table, we also were given a private galley tour the next day which was really fun!
Bermuda: Since this was my 6th time to Bermuda, we didn't spend a lot of time sightseeing. In fact, we didn't even get off the ship the first day in port. The weather was "iffy" and we took advantage of a quiet ship as most people braved the elements in Bermuda. The second day, we took the ferry over to St. George for a little shopping and lunch. Here we saw the daily "ducking" of the woman who was tried for being a "nag." On the final day in Bermuda, we just walked around Dockyard.
Debarkation: Because we were in a suite, we had priority debarkation. We were able to leave the ship after those with walk off luggage. We had a leisurely (quiet) breakfast in Cagney's- it was this day that I especially appreciated not having to fight the crowds in the buffet line. There were three large ships in port (NCL Star, NCL Gem, and Aida), so the customs lines were much longer than we typically see when we cruise. Given the volume of people though, the line moved fairly quickly.
No real complaints! We love NCL and had yet another amazing cruise on a ship we had never been on before. We always do the "future cruise rewards" and have already booked a 12 day cruise to the Caribbean on the Jewel.