Norwegian Star Cruise Review by Capn' Pete: Great food and good fun
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Great food and good fun
I've been a travel agent, a resort general manager, a ferry captain and small-ship cruise director but NCL gave me a wake-up call. In their niche, they do it very well.
I'd going to add some details that I would have liked to know in advance, about ports, embarkation, debarkation etc.
As one who has run children's activity programs, I noticed that parents would be quite pleased. The kids could be fed at a buffet, then sent to a program to have fun while parents dine. Kids staff were plentiful and exuberant. Kids facilities were very good. The kids were few at the time of our cruise, but had enough to do that they were no problem at all, to couples cruisers.
As an (active) senior I had doubts about an NCL cruise, but it turns out that there's something for everyone on the Norwegian Star. It's a big ship, with more dining options that we had time for, and a real "family" atmosphere. Many companies call their staff a 'family' and in this case it's almost true, I More was very impressed at their performance. The hotel staff were professional and helpful, but the social staff are exceptionally cheerful. In 30 years in the business it never occurred to me to ask so may staff and crew to do such a variety of jobs, at all hours of the day and night. The chefs dance and the maids sing, the managers relieve the desk staff by coming round at every meal to ask if they can help in any way. And they actually follow up quickly to fix any problem.
Despite the size of this ship, there are no lineups and reservations are rarely necessary for dining in any of the many restaurants. Dress is nice casual, and even that's a choice as there are several cafeteria buffets. And even there, the food is perfectly cooked every time. After this experience I will never be happy with a resort or ship that has only one or two restaurants.The food is not 'gourmet' except in the few 'surcharge' rooms, but it is very, very good.
We visited Cozumel, Roatan, Belize and Costa Maya. These destinations would be of interest to divers, but held little interest for us. A private cab tour on Roatan was a good experience, Costa Maya and Cozumel offered little beyond the usual overpriced cruise stores, and Belize appeared to be somewhat uncomfortable for the unescorted tourist. Which brings up a personal gripe: I believe in treating my clients with respect, and today's cruise lines seem to be grasping for dollars at every turn. I don't trust their onboard or portside shops. Art auctions? Diamonds? No thank you, I will shop in a more competitive environment and get expert advice. On the other hand the cost of this cruise in November was similar to the cost of our very first cruise 30 years ago! At $100/day each this is a bargain compared to all-inclusive resorts. Here in Ontario we paid more than that for lakeside resort vacations in 1990.
Embarkation was a breeze. New Orleans is easy to negotiate, we googled and reserved parking across the street at Capital Parking well in advance but it wasn't even necessary. Only $12 daily, covered parking and shuttle to the ship was convenient. Check-in at noon was smooth, bags delivered at 4pm with one missing: those paper tags tend to fall off. The missing tag gave 'security' a chance to open our lost bag to search for booze! They charge $15 for "corkage" which I call a "loss of profit opportunity charge".
Debarkation was simple. Just put out your bag at midnight, or drag it down the dock yourself in the morning. We chose the latter, didn't wait for the shuttle, and for $5 hired a freelance golf-cart jockey to take us to the car.
New Orleans is certainly worth a look, but we enjoyed the surrounding towns more. Real people, real food. Rather than going to Florida or Arizona, I'd like to return to small-town Louisiana where the pace and character is more like 1950.
Next time I'd try one of the more exclusive, higher-price cruise outfits, but this was a very good experience, very good value. Less
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Cabin review: Norwegian Star 8118
8118 was close to the activity but still quiet; small but adequate; adjacent to stairs and elevators. Obstructed view means that you're looking at a lifeboat and slice of ocean, and that's enough view for me to avoid seasickness. The bathroom is adequate but would be awkward if not impossible, for plus-size people. I was annoyed to get a bill after drinking the bottled water on our desk, and I said so and it didn't go on the bill. There was virtually no engine noise, no issue with music as the nearby lounge act ended at midnight. Another time I'd consider a balcony suite, well worth it to have a private shaded spot to relax.