3 night/4 day repositioning Cruise from LA to Vancouver - Apr 24-27/08
This was our first cruise. My wife and I along with our 17 yr old son and his 18 yr old best friend had just come from 5 wonderful days at Disneyland and the SoCal beaches. We had booked this little cruise to take us back home to Vancouver and to find out whether or not we liked cruising.
Prior to our departure, we had investigated the cruise and the Star in depth on the internet. We found that the majority of the reviews were somewhat negative. However, it was clear from the tone of many of those negative reviews that the authors were just simply crabby people with find-a-problem attitudes and an air of entitlement. We felt that if we were relaxed, laid back and happy, everything would be fine. It was!
We arrived at the LA Port at around 2 pm. We were through the entire embarkation process in less than 15 minutes. It was breeze! We were particularly happy with the NCL passenger representative at the desk in the Port. She was tremendously helpful and thoughtful. Our very first contact with a live, in-person NCL employee was completely positive.
When we got on board we went to the "front desk" registration area of the ship. The line-up was about 2 minutes to see someone. The clerk was very helpful as we set up cash accounts for the boys on the ship. She gave us a brief "heads up" on what we should do about dinner reservations, and told us that our room was ready for us.
We had booked a partially obstructed oceanview cabin for 4. (Note: some of the oceanview cabins are set up for a maximum of 3 persons only. The legend on the NCL site will advise you which of the cabins have 3 or 4 beds). The room was a marvel of efficiency. While not large by any means, it accommodated the 4 of us just fine. (And I'm not a small fellow - 6'4", 250 lbs). There are two beds that convert to three beds at night - with one popping out from under the other up to the same height as the other two. And there is a fold down "upper bunk" bed. The mattresses were firm but very comfortable and the blankets and pillows were fine. The "turn down" service did yeoman's work, as making up the 4 beds must be a difficult task.
Our cabin was essentially located amidships on Deck 8. We had no problem whatsoever with noise.
We all were highly impressed by the bathroom in our cabin. It is effectively sectioned into three parts and the shower is quite large with a sliding glass door. It is not at all claustrophobic, as we had expected - even for a big guy like me.
The mustering/safety drill was next. It was lengthened somewhat by the collapse of an elderly passenger a few feet from where my family and I were standing. However, she recovered quickly and when it was all over it was off to the bar to buy the kids two soft drink cards (these cards are must-purchases for kids/teenagers. - You will save a LOT of money) and an introductory cocktail for my wife and I.
I want to say that absolutely every person who worked in a bar or restaurant on the Norwegian Star was, without fail, friendly to a fault. Our dinner at the Soho restaurant (highly recommended, by the way) was vastly improved by our waiter who made the evening even more memorable. We strongly recommend that if you dine at Soho that you have the Ahi Tuna and caviar salad/starter. Beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. We also found that the prices for a bottle of wine were fairly reasonable.
We also ate at LaTrattoria (very good - reservations required, but no extra charge - again with an excellent waiter) and several times at the Versailles. The Versailles is a stunning restaurant. Beautifully appointed and quite opulent. The service was pretty good and the food was also pretty good. Our only complaint about Versailles is that the portions were rather small. However, we quickly learned that we could order as much as we liked and so, eventually - we did. The serving staff did not appear to mind at all when we'd order an extra appetizer or an extra order of pancakes for breakfast.
The buffet for breakfast is ok...not great, but not bad. I'd recommend getting there reasonably early - hotter and fresher food will await you that way.
We LOVED the entertainment. Our absolute favorite was Sean Byrnes in the Red Lion Pub. He's a young man (24) from Toronto - and his confidence, his swagger, his energy, his tremendous sense of humor - and his guitar playing and singing were a highlight for us. Every night the Red Lion was a center of activity - everyone shouting out requests, singing along, laughing our heads off! Watching a bar full of happily intoxicated travelers belting out the chorus of the "Hockey Song" is a memory that will not soon be forgotten.
Also kudos to the bar manager who conducted a beer tasting and university-level history-of-beer class one afternoon. Lots of fun and highly informative.
The young woman singing and playing guitar by Gatsby's lounge was also a favorite of ours and we made sure we listened to her each evening before dinner while relaxing with a refreshing mimosa! Ahhhh....
Other highlights were the Second City Review, Peter Sasso - but only in the orientation show - the first night (not so much during his infamous 200 jokes in 45 minutes show the next day - where we heard every old tired one-liner joke every written throughout the course of human history). We also loved the big musical night - where the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber was featured in very entertaining fashion.
While the Norwegian Star was dress-casual throughout, my wife and I did decide to get dressed to the nines on Dress-up Optional night. Ricky, the Cruise Director (an endless well-spring of energy, I might add) saw us and complimented us on our "look" and offered to take a photo of us - we appreciated the attention.
One small thing - on the 2nd evening, there were photographers at various locations around the Grand Atrium taking photos of the passengers. The idea was to be photographed by the 4 or 5 different photogs with various backdrops and poses and then pick the photos you liked the next morning. We had expected this to be an expensive proposition and so we were initially resistant. However we went ahead and the next morning were very pleased to find out that the photographs were of the highest quality and that an 8x10 professional color photo plus an 8x10 color photo of our ship all set out in a beautiful fold-out 2-sided frame was only $30.00! We now have a wonderful memory of our cruise displayed prominently at home.
On of the members of the Cruise Directors staff, a woman from Minnesota named Jill, needs to be singled out for kudos. One night while my wife and I enjoyed one of the entertainers (a fellow that specializes in Motown and R&B music), Jill came over and sat down with us for about 20 minutes and engaged us in a lovely and very friendly conversation. (Jill, it turned out, was the same woman who very generously complimented my wife on her dress as we arrived on the Star on the very first day of the cruise). Later, Jill suggested that we might enjoy going to the Red Lion Pub before it closed. When we asked for directions to the Pub, Jill actually just hopped up and offered to walk with us there. Now that's SERVICE!
All in all - we had an absolutely wonderful time on the Norwegian Star. We are now planning a 9 day Caribbean cruise for Spring/09 - as we want more time (and more sun/heat) for our next cruise.
Last word - we had only two complaints about our experience. One - the four hot tubs were, at best, only "warm" tubs. We were told that the heater coils were malfunctioning for the entire cruise. Too bad, as the temperature on deck was relatively cool every day - a HOT tub would have been nice. Second, the casino is a smoke-filled hell. We are not much in the way of gamblers...but even if we were, unless we were prepared to inhale a carton of second hand cigarette smoke while making our cash "donations" to NCL in the Casino - we could not have stayed in that room for more than 5 minutes. Maybe NCL can figure out something to alleviate this problem?
Anyway, that's it. My family loved the cruise - and - oh yes - my son and his friend became addicted to the gym, the sauna and the steam room. Apparently, they are all First Rate.
Dale & Robyn firstname.lastname@example.org