Just returned from a great cruise on the Norwegian Star sailing out of New Orleans to Costa Maya, Belize, Honduras and Cozumel.
With the cruise sailing from New Orleans, we decided to go a few days in advance to enjoy "The Big Easy"
We stayed at the Staybridge Suites on Tchoupitoulas Street which we found to offer reasonable rates as well as being in a very good location to enjoy the French Quarter. The hotel is clean and quiet and as well, it offers a free buffet breakfast every morning which helps to get you on your way for the day. The hotel is within about a 10 minute walk from the French quarter and is also only a short cab ride from the cruise port.
We had wonderful dinners at Emeril's(just up the street from the hotel) as well as The Pelican Club in the heart of the French Quarter. Both of these restaurants provided excellent meals and we would highly recommend both of these.
We also took time to walk through the French Quarter and enjoy the wide variety of street musicians.......a must do in New Orleans. One of the highlights was a visit to Preservation Hall which we thoroughly enjoyed. One thing to know about this venue is that you have to stand in line for the hour-long performances. Normally this would not be an issue, but when we were there, the weather was quite cold and the wait was uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are waiters from Pat O'Brien's bar that would come out and take your order so that you had something to sip on and keep you warm. Or, you could just slip into one of the many bars in the area and get drinks to go! What a concept!
We also took the Laura Plantation tour offered by Greyline as well as the Cajun Encounters City Tour and thoroughly enjoyed both of them. The Cajun tour will pick you up at your hotel and the Greyline one is only about a 10-15 minute walk away( if you stay at the Staybridge).
Now, onto the cruise.
Much to our delight we received a call from Norwegian, about a week or so before our cruise, offering us an upgrade to the Owners suite(#9506 on deck 9 forward). We decided to take the plunge and we were certainly glad that we did. We were initially booked on a suite on deck 10 aft and the cost to upgrade was $1300, which upon checking, was a saving of approximately $2500 from the Norwegian site......more on the suite later.
When we arrived at the terminal we were directed to the VIP lounge which was okay but not as nice as the lounge in Miami. We had to wait for some time due to U.S. Customs doing an extensive review of the ship for some reason. We were then led to Cagney's restaurant for lunch which is the restaurant that is provided to suite passengers for breakfast and lunch instead of having to fight the lines in the Buffet restaurant.
We then had to sit for a bit as they did not have our room ready yet. I must mention at this time, that you are told that suite passengers are escorted to their rooms. We have been on a number of past cruises in this category and have yet to be escorted to our room. Not that it really matters to us, but I think that Norwegian should stop advertizing this if it does not happen.
When we got to our room we were taken aback by what we saw once we opened the door. When you enter the suite, there is a small bathroom with just a toilet and a sink. Then comes the living area which includes a couch(that folds out into a bed), chair, dining table and chairs and a mini-fridge and coffee maker. Due to the level of accommodation, the fridge was stocked with water, sparkling water and soft drinks that were complimentary and restocked daily.
Off of this room, is a balcony with a table and chairs which overlooks the side of the ship.
Next is the bedroom which has a king size bed, a desk, bed-side drawers and sitting chair. One thing that we got a chuckle out of was the mirror tiles in the ceiling over the top of the bed....I'll leave the effect of that to everyone's imagination.
To the left of the bedroom is the bathroom which has a toilet stall(weird concept though, the door is clear glass with painted lines.....doesn't offer much privacy), Jacuzzi tub, double sinks and a huge shower stall. Off of the bathroom is a walk-in closet with a dressing table and a double wall safe.
The bedroom also opens onto a huge balcony overlooking the front of the ship with lounge chairs and table.
The only disadvantage to the forward facing balcony is that you experience a lot of wind some days and you also have to keep your curtains closed at night due to the glare that the lights give off. This hampers the visibility of the bridge at night and so you are asked to shut the curtains. Also, due to the winds, you have to keep your front balcony door closed at night which is not to our liking. In the side or aft suites, you are allowed to keep your door open at night. We really enjoy going to sleep with the doors open, hearing the sound of the waves created by the ship's wake.
I should also mention that this suite had, imagine, three flat screen TV's...one in the sitting room, one in the bedroom and one at the end of the Jacuzzi tub.
Our butler was Orlando David and provided us with excellent service......we couldn't have asked for anything more. Our room steward was "Moe" who also kept the room in excellent condition. The concierge was David who was helpful but we found that he did not always confirm your reservations causing us to have to call him back to see if he actually booked our requests.
We found that the staff on this ship were the most friendliest that we have encountered on any of our previous cruises. No matter where you went, if you passed a crew member, you were greeted.
One downside to the Star is that we found that the level of the food was not as good as our previous cruises on other Norwegian ships. While it was okay, it didn't measure to the quality of our past experiences.
We are not ones to take in the entertainment at night so we cannot comment on that aspect of the cruise.
Embarkation was a bit of an issue. Due to our level of accommodation, we were offered priority disembarkation however it was a bit disorganized. We were told to meet our concierge in one of the restaurants, however, that was easier said than done. The other guests were lined up at the disembarkation door on deck 7 which made it impossible to get to the restaurant. They only way that we could get there was to wrestle our way through the crowd of passengers, all with suit-cases, to make our way to the outside deck. From there, we were able to find a crew member that led us to our destination from the outside of the ship. This is one area that Norwegian should review thoroughly in order to make the process more smoother than it was.
All in all, we enjoyed ourselves but we would not book on the Star again. As we said, the crew was fantastic but the quality of the food was well below what we experienced on the Dawn and the Sun.