We arrived in Seattle the day before our cruise, May 28th. I had gotten a room at the Sheraton Seattle downtown through Priceline for $80. We arrived in Seattle about 10:30am. I had done some research, and since we had plenty of time, we took the short walk to the Light Rail, and rode it to the Westlake Station for what should have been $5. When we got to the Light Rail station at the airport, we found the train just sitting there with nobody around. We just got on. About half-way through the trip I noticed some brochures on the wall about how to ride the local transit system. Just as I got to the part where it explains you buy your ticket at a vending machine at the station, a security guard came along checking tickets. He was very polite as he escorted us off the train at the China Town station and helped us get our tickets...just $3.50 from there. We caught the next train about 15 minutes later and finished our journey. As luck would have it, the Seattle Sheraton was only 2 blocks away from the station, and we easily carried our luggage to the hotel. If you have the time, this is the way to get downtown. It takes about 30 minutes to make the trip. Even though we were real early, we were able to go straight to our room. The Sheraton is a very nice, and very large motel. About the only drawback was they did not offer a free continental breakfast. BTW...EVERYTHING in Seattle is expensive...at least compared to rural Oklahoma. Before we'd left, I had made reservations with Tours Northwest for a tour of Seattle. These are really nice folks and give a pretty good tour for the money, even though they don't take you to the Space Needle, though it did seem they took us just about everywhere else. They do not collect any payment till the last stop before they return you either to your motel, or Pike Place Market or any other place as long as it's not too far out of their way (they won't run you to the airport). The cost for this tour for the both of us was $92 after I used a $3 per person coupon I got off of seattleattractions.com. The $6 I saved I tacked on as a tip ($98). We ate lunch at the nearby Cheesecake factory, and a light supper at another place I don't recall. We got 2 small bowls of soup for about $12...the best deal we could find. Can't wait to get on the ship!
Saturday morning we took a cab to pier 66. The fare was $6.75. I just gave the cabbie a 10. We arrived about 10:45am, and went through booking in about 15 minutes. After about another 30 minute wait we were allowed to board. Somebody on this board stated NCL WAS giving Destination Alaska coupon books out, but I never saw them. I had ordered one through snail-mail for $5, and it was well worth it. We didn't have time to use it extensively, but easily saved at least 5 times what it cost us. Once on board, everybody headed for the Market Cafe. It was a little crowded, but not too bad. The food was decent buffet fare. About 2pm we were allowed in our rooms. Our bags weren't there yet, but came shortly afterward. We had an inside stateroom on the 8th deck. Yes, it was small, but it was big enough for the two of us. The bathroom was nice with a fairly roomy shower. Shampoo, shower gell, and handsoap were all in wall mounted pump containers that worked real well. They also supplied a bottle of Elemis body lotion. While we brought hair conditioner with us, my wife never used it. The hair dryer worked very well also. On our sea-day, Sunday, the Star had arranged for a Cruise Critic meet-and-greet. We met in LeBistro at 11:30 am. Jean Michelle (I hope I'm not butchering his name) the hotel captain, along with several other male and female officers including Candi, the cruise director, visited with us and answered questions. One of the female officers made the cookies for our meeting, and my wife said they were the best cookies she had on the cruise.
There are basically 4 free eating places on the Star, and several specialty (fee) eating places. We did not buy any of our food on board...Call me cheap. We ate most of our breakfasts at the Market Cafe. With both outside walls lined with floor-to-glass windows, enjoying my meal and a cup of coffee afterward while watching spectacular scenery slide by was one of the peak times of the day for me. Second would be having a snack of buffalo wings at the Blue Lagoon just before sunset in front of their floor-to-ceiling windows was another one. Which brings up another point. I've heard a lot of whining about the Spinnaker being moved to an enclosed room aft, and now there's no place to view the beautiful Alaskan scenery from inside the ship. There are PLENTY of places for viewing from inside the ship, including I don't know how many hall-way windows with comfortable cushion lined sills where one can sit and read a book and enjoy the scenery. There are also many places you can sit outside watching the scenery still completely out of the elements. We ate our dinners in the Versailles, and enjoyed it very much. The Aqua, the other dining area just never appealed to us. I think it was mainly because there were fewer windows. The Versailles is located at the very back end of the ship. The entire back wall is solid glass with ornate metal framing. There are also windows on the sides. We liked the free-style dining arrangement. Except for a couple evenings, we volunteered to share our table. If you get there when they first start serving, you'll find this is the best way to get a table right by the back glass. A bonus was the interesting people we met at those meals. To finish off the eating, the Market Cafe has an excellent variety of food at breakfast and lunch. We never ate dinner there. They also serve a late evening buffet which we tried once and liked (they have pizza). The poolside grill serves several varieties of hot dogs (bratwurst, sausage, etc), hamburgers, french fries and all the fixings, weather permitting. And the Blue Lagoon, the only 24 hour eatery. It has a limited menu of buffalo wings, fish and chips, burger and fries, chip and dip, and a few deserts. We'd always eat a snack here between shows about 9:30 or so, and enjoy a fabulous Alaskan sunset.
The shows were hit-and miss. The Frankie Vallie tribute was very good as well as Band on the Run. The Circque Pacific was ok, and the Second City show was a total waste of time. Candi Finklestein (?) was our excellent cruise director, and made sure our days at sea, and I guess in port was full of things to do.
I believe it was between Juneau and Skagway that we took a side trip up Endicott Arm to see the Dawes Glacier. We were supposed to go up Tracy Arm to see the Sawyer Glacier, but there was still too much ice. We got very close to the glacier and got some excellent pictures.
Just a few other odd and ends. Yes, they really hawk their jewelry for some reason, but I was never approached by anyone hawking jewelry. The water on the Star is excellent. I really see no reason for anybody to bring a case of water onboard. I even saw people filling their water bottles with ship water.
The last two days of our cruise we were sailing outside of the inside passage in rougher water. The ship rolled constantly. The wife and I put on motion-sickness patches just as a precaution, and did just fine. On our last sea day we broke tradition and ate breakfast at Versailles, and enjoyed it. We still like the Market Cafe better for breakfast. While we heard of whale-sightings from the ship, we never saw any, but saw a few dolphins that swam alongside us for awhile.
Disembarking Saturday morning was a breeze. We took our own bags off, and basically walked off when we were ready. We went out to get a taxi..WARNING.. If you want a taxi, walk straight to the taxis. There will be a group of men you pass that will try to get your attention and tell you they have a taxi. They DO NOT. They will take you in their personal vehicle, so it's pot-luck on what you get. We took a taxi back to the Westlake station for $10 including tip, and were at the airport by about 10am. The line for check-in was terrible, but that's another story.
FINAL THOUGHTS. We took the Star because of the price ($550 each) through vacations-to-go. I consider the Star a "meat-and-potatoes" style of cruise ship. It is a beautiful ship, and I thought it was clean and well-maintained. The crew were all very friendly, helpful, and cordial...BUT...if you consider the ship you want to take as a destination unto itself, the Star ain't it. There's a ping-pong table, shuffleboard on the deck, water tubes and pools for the kiddies, and jacuzzis for the adults and kids, but there's no climbing wall, or ice-skating rink. If you're a connoisseur with a refined palate, you may not be impressed with the food. The Star provided the best price for the Missus and I to see Alaska. They showed us Alaska, and kept us fed well and entertained along the way which is all we asked. While this is very long, I still left out a bunch, so I'll be glad to answer anybody's questions.