Okay. So my wife and I are in our mid-50s and have NEVER been on a cruise before. We are still "old school" thinkers and pictured the cruise crowd as the "geezer" generation playing shuffleboard on deck and complaining about the kids these days.
Well, we had a couple friends of ours younger than us come back from a cruise and they were just raving about all the fun they had. After obtaining a little money from an inheritance, we figured "why not?"
We contacted a travel agent and found that the cost was not nearly what we'd expected it would be. Cyndi told us that there were several Alaska itineraries with an abundance of cruise lines. We looked at all the literature and, after talking to a few friends, decided to try "Freestyle Cruising" with Norwegian Cruise Lines. Now the task was upon us...which NCL ship and when.
Wanting to make this trip as much fun as possible, we decided to get together with my wife's brothers and sister More
and what the heck take her parents with us. We all pitched in and bought her 81-year old dad and 74-year old mom a stateroom to accompany us and we made it a Christmas present to them. Then, another couple from our Elks Lodge decided to accompany us as their daughter was our travel agent and they'd heard about our plans. Now we were shaping up to have friends and family with us and things were looking like a lot more fun in the works!
We stayed at Sutton Inn and Suites on Friday night prior to our Saturday departure. They provide a "Park and Cruise" package and that was a real benefit. Don't expect a whole bunch from Sutton but, the folks running the place are very nice and the room is just that a room. An older hotel that is showing its age, the continental breakfast and facilities are no great shakes but it's all you need.
Boarding in Seattle at dock 66 is a breeze. I have to say, NCL has this business down to a real art. I NEVER in my life thought that getting on board a ship would be so easy and smooth. You are greeted with smiles everywhere you look and the courtesy extended to you is beyond compare. The reception on board is great...mimosas and champagne and a whole festive atmosphere for all.
Once on board and having completed the safety drill (a requirement), we settled in and began cruising for real. On board staff treat you like kings and queens. The training NCL provides must be very thorough as every staffer from housekeeping to wait staff to reception greets you courteously, with a smile and lo and behold they even remember your names!!! Activities abound and we did a couple of Martini Tastings ($15 well spent!) that were a big kick and provided us the opportunity to meet other guests and have a great time. Even "mom and dad" enjoyed it and were all smiles.
The Second City TV comedy show in the Spinnaker Lounge was, well, forgettable. The Cirque de Pacific was, however, truly amazing and enjoyable. The consensus was that we'd love to see it again.
Due to the cost (they aren't cheap), we only did one shore excursion. In Prince Rupert, Canada, we had the time of our lives on the Sea Life Discovery Excursion and Crab Tasting. If you take a cruise on the Star, do take this excursion! you WON'T be disappointed! If you want to eat some delicious crab, see bald eagles up close and, hey, even learn something about sea life, this is your excursion. We had so much fun we didn't want the excursion to end and the folks on this trip are friendly, fun and courteous.
Have I not said much about the Star yet??? This is easy. It is ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!! It is everything I dreamed of in a ship and more. The balcony stateroom is small but, it's all you need and was comfortable when all was said and done. We did get a couple of cute towel animals (you can watch a video in the theatre and learn how they're made) and turn down service as well as room service are incredible. The lounges and casinos are beautiful and you constantly see employees touching up things here and there to keep the ship as beautiful as brand new.
Negatives: Well, there are a few...very few. The push to buy jewelry and stones is a bit over the top. I understand NCL has to make money where it can but, for goodness sake, you are bombarded with deceptive offers of "free pendants" and talks about how to enjoy shopping at your port of call that rival the worst "infomercials" ever. Also, it would have been nice to be advised about the $12 per day per person charge for "service fees" in advance. I know you don't take a cruise and expect to do it "on the cheap" but this was a little annoying.
My only other complaint would be that the cruise ended!!!!!
I can't conceive of doing another cruise any way but "freestyle." The freedom to eat where we wanted, when we wanted was wonderful and contributed to the fun we had to schedule our days to our liking.
NCL gets a "thumbs up" from our cruise group and the Norwegian Star was, indeed, the Star of our vacation! Less
The Red Dog Saloon is not to be missed. DO NOT MISS THE RED DOG SALOON! Teh honkey tonk piano player is a hoot and the decor is a riot! We also took the city tour on a trolley bus for $19 and it was well worth it as the driver was VERY knowledgeable of Juneau's history and a lot of fun.
Save money by buying an all day pass on the SMART bus system. It gets you all over town and you can visit the Yukon gold dredge that has been re-built in Skagway. Have fun panning for gold and enjoy a great burger at the new restaurant that opened in early June.