My husband and I sailed on the NCL Star on June 20, 2009. We are both in our early 50's and had looked forward this trip for a very long time, (saving up a lot of reward points and airline miles along the way). And what a wonderful trip it was! Alaska is certainly a beautiful place to visit, and the NCL Star is a beautiful way to get there!
We flew Miami-St. Louis-Seattle on American Airlines - flew First Class by upgrading our economy seats with AAdvantage miles, well worth all those months of saving miles for the long flight! Arrived in Seattle on Friday night at 9:50 pm and stayed at the Radisson Hotel Gateway Seattle-Tacoma Airport - used ThankYou Network points to pay for the room - and found it to be quite nice. The hotel is only a long block from the airport. We saw some people actually walking down a small hill to get to the hotel, but since we had 3 large bags we chose to use the complementary shuttle, which picked us up within 5 minutes after we called them. The hotel was nice and clean, the 'sleep number bed' was very comfortable, and the restaurant served a very good breakfast buffet. I think this hotel was a much better value than the Holiday Inn SeaTac where we stayed on our return, but more on that later. Our shuttle driver told us about a Cruise Shuttle available for $12 pp, which we booked at the reception desk. We were picked up at 12:00 noon Saturday morning and were at the pier by 12:25 pm.
Check in at Pier 66 was a breeze. We dropped off our luggage on entering and went through a long but very fast line to the security check. Since we had a Mini-suite, we qualified for Priority Boarding, which meant we did not have any wait to check in - even though the regular line seemed to go very quick also. Upon boarding we were greeted by friendly waiters offering champagne or orange juice - I got one of each so I could make myself a mimosa - it was a great beginning to a wonderful cruise. We were told our cabin would be ready by 2:00 pm. We took a quick tour of the ship, had a burger by the pool and settled in at the front of the ship to watch the beautiful view of Seattle's waterfront. The go ahead to go to the cabin was given at about 2:00 pm, and our luggage was delivered to the cabin about 30 minutes later.
Our cabin, a mini-suite on deck 11 forward, was spacious and very comfortable. The closet was a very nice size - thanks to a previous post I had read I found the light in the closet (red button in the back under the top shelf) - with lots of shelves and plenty of hangers (Yes, I over-packed and had too many clothes) There was a king sized bed, a sofa, a small table and two chairs. A wall unit housed the 13" TV, a coffee maker with supplies for regular and decaf coffee (that were replenished daily), and refrigerator/mini bar which was well stocked with beverages which were priced comparable to the bars. We had a full bath, including a regular sized bathtub which was a nice surprise! The toilet was separated by a sliding glass door which provided some privacy if two people wanted to use the facilities. The best part of the cabin was the shaded balcony with two lounge chairs. Our sliding glass windows provided magnificent views, even from the bed!
Our room steward, Romulo, was great, the room was made up the minute we stepped out to breakfast every morning, and we had turn down service everyday- (including the cute towel animals and the chocolate mint on our pillow) I found the staff on the NCL Star to be great. Everyone we met was always eager to help. Frankly I found the $12 service fee charged by NCL was a fair amount for the kind of service we received on board.
Since it was quite windy and chilly on deck, The Spinnaker Lounge with its floor to ceiling windows became our home while at sea. They had Bingo everyday - you may want to wait to the last day to take advantage of the "jackpot" - as well as various shows at different times which were generally fun to watch. The shows at the Stardust Theater were very good, we specially enjoyed "The Music of the Night" which was a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber showcasing his most popular hits sang by the members of the ship's show cast. The Chinese Acrobats and the Magic show were wonderful also.
Freestyle dinning is one of my favorite parts of NCL Cruises. I love being able to eat wherever and whenever I chose. My husband and I had breakfast and lunch at Versailles Restaurant most days, and had dinner at Acua or Versailles. We had visited Cagney's and Le Bistro on previous cruises, and found them to be excellent, however we were very pleased with the food at the two main restaurants and found no need to spend the extra money on this cruise. There was a "Chocoholic Buffett" at the Marketplace Buffett one night which was fantastic! By the way, Versailles Restaurant has Staircases going down from the 7th floor Elevator Exit, but if you are unable to take stairs, simply take the Center elevator down to the 6th floor and enter through the side entrance - this tip was given to us by a helpful waiter when he found out my husband could not take stairs due to recent knee surgery.
The worst part this cruise was that it ended too soon! We returned to Seattle on Saturday and stayed at the Holiday Inn SeaTac on Saturday and Sunday - booked using WorldPoint rewards - This hotel was disappointing, as it does not compare favorably to the Radisson Gateway. This is an older hotel and it shows. The halls were musty, the bathroom was tiny, and the service was fair. The hotel restaurant is understaffed and the prices are high for the quality of the food.
All in all we had a great time. Getting to Alaska was the best part of the trip, traveling the Inside Passage you get to see snow capped mountains, luscious forests, waterfalls, quaint little towns, and the ever changing seascapes. The Star went up the Tracy Arm Fjord, which was magnificent. Even though we enjoyed the Shore Excursions, there was enough to see just sitting on our balcony to make the whole trip worth it. This was truly the trip of a lifetime, and the NCL Star is a beautiful way to get there.
Took the Ketchikan Duck tour which was quite entertaining, and very appropriate for families and children.
Shore Excursion: Train up to the Yukon, with Bus Ride back stopping in Liarsville. Train and bus ride were wonderful with great views and fun commentary form the bus driver. The Liarsville stop was kind of hokey, and the panning for gold not very much fun since they give you a pan with gold flecks imported in from Canada that you are supposed to "discover" But all in all a good time.