Norwegian Star Cruise Review by RikkuCat: Good cruise on Norwegian Star in Oct.
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Good cruise on Norwegian Star in Oct.
This was our first cruise, so we don't have another cruise experience to compare it to, but we had a good time cruising to Bermuda on the Star in Oct. We LOVED Bermuda and will definitely return, though we'll probably stay at a resort next time rather than taking a cruise. As far as the Star goes, I'm not sure that it was the best fit for us and our travel style. We are a professional couple in our early 30s with no children. When traveling, we like to get a good deal, but we don't mind spending money for a good experience. On vacation, we enjoy a mixture of relaxing and being active - Bermuda was the perfect mixture for us, but the Star was not.
If we had had better weather on our sea days, our experience on the Star would have been much better. We had expected to spend our days lounging in the sun with a good book and a bucket of beer, but the weather was pretty spotty, which drove us to look for other things to do. In that respect, the Star failed to deliver for us. More
I've read reviews that say that it's impossible to be bored on a cruise ship because there are so many things going on - but by the second sea day, we were bored on the Star. Don't get me wrong - there were a LOT of activities offered, but none of them appealed to us. During the day, many of the activities are gameshow-related, like Bingo or Deal or No Deal. I'm sure that sort of thing appeals to many people, but it didn't interest us. I was also a little surprised at the number of bar-related activities during the afternoon. We would have loved to do a martini tasting or pub crawl...in the evening, yet these activities were offered in the afternoon. We heard from other guests that the evening shows were great, but the only ones that interested us were held on days when we were in port and had other plans. The one show we attended was Elements on the last night, and it was pretty spectacular. I'm sure it's very difficult to plan activities that appeal to all demographics, and we saw many people enjoying the activities - but for us, they fell short.
The spa was wonderful. Because we were bored with the rest of the ship during the day, we spent more time there than we otherwise would have! The gym was very nice as well, though there always seemed to be a crowd of people milling around at the entrance NOT working out, which was strange. The jogging track was great when the weather was bad, but if the sun was out, it was crowded with people walking. We never used the pool, as it was VERY small and I think they closed it on one of the sea days. We never had problems finding a lounge chair on our cruise, but I could see how it could be a problem finding one at the pool area if the weather as better. However, the forward deck lounge area was much nicer, anyway - we preferred to hang out there when the sun was out.
All in all, we enjoyed the Star in the evening/night much better than during the day. The weather at night was mediocre or bad on each of our sea days, so the outdoor areas cleared out completely - which meant that we could get a hot tub to ourselves, which we did several nights with a bucket of beer (technically not allowed, we learned on the last night of the cruise - but nobody had said anything before that). We don't like to eat dinner early, so we would usually grab a drink at one of the bars (Gatsby's was our favorite) and listen to some music until we felt like eating. After dinner, we'd either go out to a hot tub or hang out at Gatsby's and listen to the piano player there who had an AMAZING blues voice.
The food was a major disappointment. I don't consider myself to be a foodie, but I was expecting far better. Breakfast was perfectly fine - the first two mornings, we went to the buffet because we didn't get up early enough for breakfast at Versailles. It was about what I expected for buffet food - not good, but adequate. Breakfast at Versailles was much better, so after the first two days at the buffet, we made sure to get there before they closed.
Lunch was always the worst meal for us. We went to Versailles the first two days, but the menu was the same both days and the food was heavier than we like to eat for lunch. We gave up on it after the first two days, since we didn't want to eat the same thing again. We walked through the buffet at lunch time and it looked like a feeding frenzy so we didn't stay - instead, we tried the outdoor BBQ, which was also a buffet. My food was OK, but my husband said his burger was pretty bad. Our favorite lunch options ended up being the noodle bar (extra charge) and Blue Lagoon (the 24-hour restaurant). We were happy with the food at Blue Lagoon, but the downside of eating there for lunch is that the menu is the same as it is if you go there for a late afternoon or 2am snack.
The two main dining rooms, Versailles and Aqua, serve the same dinner menu - the only difference is that Aqua is open a little later and allows more casual attire. We ate at Aqua the first night (because we missed the cutoff for seating at Versailles) and at Versailles the second night. We were pretty disappointed in the food at both - it is mediocre catering quality at best. It's certainly edible, and you could eat it all week if you wanted to, but we like to enjoy a good meal on vacation so it was a big disappointment to us. After the second night, we ate in the speciality restaurants or on shore in Bermuda. The food at the speciality restaurants we tried (La Cucina, Le Bistro, and Ginza) was much better than in the main dining room. I'd definitely go back to La Cucina and Le Bistro, but I'd try the other speciality restaurants before going back to Ginza. Ginza was better than the main dining rooms, but not nearly as good as the Asian food at home. The buffet is also open for dinner, but we didn't try it because it was always crowded with rude people and the food hadn't been good there for breakfast.
One more word on food: the room service menu was another big disappointment. We were really looking forward to ordering room service, ESPECIALLY for breakfast, but the menu was a joke. For breakfast, the only option was continental breakfast. For lunch/dinner, only a handful of sad-sounding sandwiches were offered on the room service menu.
There are a number of bars on the Star - our favorite was Gatsby's, the martini bar. The bartender there took excellent care of us and the piano players there in the evening are very talented. Fabulous martinis and mojitos. We expected to spend a lot of time at the Bier Garden, the outdoor bar on the top deck, but apparently that's where all the smokers hang out, so we usually took our drinks elsewhere. It's a great spot for sail-away, we hung out there while sailing out of both NYC and Bermuda. We also expected to hang out more in the Red Lion pub, but every time we went there, it was pretty crowded and karaoke was going on, so we always ended up going somewhere else. We had a great time chatting with the bartender at the Sake bar at Ginza, and enjoyed some quality sake and something called a Japanese martini, which was tasty. We popped into Spinnaker a couple times to see if anything was going on, but it didn't seem like our scene.
As far as the accommodations go, our stateroom was great. We had a balcony stateroom on the starboard side near the aft. Having never cruised before, we can't compare its size or convenience to another ship, but we were pleasantly surprised at its size. We had PLENTY of space for the two of us, though I think it would be too tight for three people unless the third was a small child. We thought there was plenty of closet and drawer space, but we travel light - it might be tight for people who pack a lot. Our stateroom was always very clean, and our steward was nice and personable. Loved the towel animals.
As a side note, I've read a lot of people's comments that balcony staterooms are not worth the extra charge because you don't spend much time in your room, but I couldn't disagree more! I don't remember there being a huge price difference between the balcony and interior staterooms (maybe $200?), but whatever it was we paid extra to get the balcony, it was COMPLETELY worth it. We left the door open at night to enjoy the sounds of the ocean, which was really nice even when it was raining. My husband sleeps later in the morning than I do, so I usually relaxed on the balcony with a cup of coffee and my kindle until he was ready to get up. We also hung out on our balcony quite a bit when the weather wasn't good, as we didn't seem to get much wind on our balcony and light rain was usually blocked, too. I would have been stir-crazy without that balcony - I can't imagine having to stay inside all the time on a cruise if the weather is bad.
A lot of other reviews mentioned that the Star is a older ship and showing her age, but we didn't notice anything that looked rundown. The common areas were always clean (I was pleasantly surprised to NEVER encounter a dirty bathroom on the Star), and the crew obviously takes pride in keeping it in good repair. The crew was AWESOME.
We were REALLY excited to get off the ship in Bermuda, and we had a fantastic time there. King's Wharf was a pretty sad port - there's some shopping (everything closes early), two restaurants/pubs, and a sad little beach that turns into a nightclub at night (Snorkel Park). We heard that the snorkeling is good at Snorkel Park, but the place looked so dirty that we didn't want to go. There's also a Maritime Museum at King's Wharf - I would have liked to check that out, but we didn't have time. I'd recommend the Frog and Onion Pub.
The public transportation system in Bermuda is AWESOME - we bought a 3-day pass that was good for the ferries and buses. Took a bus to Horseshoe Bay Beach, which was absolutely beautiful. We had heard that it gets really crowded, but it wasn't bad when we were there (probably because Hurricane Rafael had just bypassed Bermuda). After a few hours at the beach, we hopped back on the bus and went to the Swizzle (south shore location) for some rum swizzles and nachos, then back on the bus to Jobson's Cove to enjoy the views and wait until the locals got home so the bus would be less crowded on the way back to King's Wharf. The second day, my husband wasn't up for doing much in the morning because he had gotten a bad sunburn the day before, so I put on my bathing suit and booked a snorkeling trip. (If you go out onto the pier in King's Wharf, you can book the very same excursions offered through NCL. I didn't compare prices, but I figured this was the cheaper way to go). They had space on a snorkeling excursion, so I hopped on a catamaran. This was a great excursion - the guide was very knowledgeable and it was a good day for snorkeling. When I got back after a couple hours, I went back onto the boat to check on my husband, who was ready to go out, so we hopped on the ferry to St. George's. The ferry ride was much shorter than I thought it was going to be, and St. George's is a lovely town with some great history. The only unfortunate thing is that everything closes early there - we had about an hour between the last stores closing and the departure of the last ferry for King's Wharf, so we grabbed a drink. We sat on the upper (outdoor) deck of the ferry and got to watch an incredible sunset on our way out of the bay. We had been thinking of taking the Sunset Rum Swizzle excursion and I'm glad we didn't because we got to see that AMAZING sunset on the ferry instead. My husband was bummed about missing snorkeling, so when we got back to King's Wharf, we checked with the tour company and found that they had seats available on the Evening Bermuda Triangle glass-bottomed boat cruise, so we booked that and we both really enjoyed it. The last day in Bermuda was our Atlantic Reef fishing excursion, which had been canceled on the first day - fortunately, they offered it every day, so we rescheduled it. It was a gorgeous morning to be out on the water, and we had a blast. I did not catch anything, but my husband caught three fish. So much fun! As we got back from that excursion around 1:00 and needed to shower because we were covered with fish guts, we didn't end up going to Hamilton as we had planned to that afternoon. Instead, we had lunch at the Frog and Onion pub and did a little souvenir shopping. We absolutely LOVED Bermuda, but found King's Wharf to be a poor home-base to explore from, as it's not centrally located. Forget going back to the ship to shower after the beach, as it takes a while on the bus to get places. We'd love to return, and will probably stay at the resort located more centrally so that we don't need to trek all the way back to King's Wharf if we forget something or want to shower in a real shower.
All in all, we had a great cruise despite being a little bored on the ship and disappointed in the food. Maybe cruising isn't for us, but I think we'll try a newer ship or a different cruise line to compare before we give up on it. We really liked the look of the Norwegian Epic and the Breakaway. We also met a lot of people in Bermuda from the Royal Caribbean ship that was docked in King's Wharf at the same time, and their ship (can't recall the name) sounded pretty cool - it had mini-golf, rock-climbing wall, movie theater, and other amenities that the Star does not. We still had a great vacation on the Star, but knowing what to expect now, next time we'll look for a ship that fits our travel style a little better. Less
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