I had previously sailed on NCL but it was in 1994. Given we'd just sailed on Princess at Thanksgiving and had such a spectacular experience, I wasn't sure if the Star could impress the way the Emerald did. Well let me tell you, she did just that!
I am a widow with two teenage girls and specifically cruise during the holidays so that we will NOT be at home. That being said, I'm looking for a vacation that takes us places we've never been, is a good value for the money, has entertainment to meet all of our needs, and one that will leave us with lasting memories. The NCL Star surpassed my expectations.
Last year we sailed on Carnival and waited over 3 hours to board the ship. I was very leery of having the same experience and was nervous about getting to the port too early. I don't know why I was even concerned. We stayed the night before the cruise at the Hampton Inn, Rocky Point, approximately 20 minutes away from the terminal. We left the hotel at exactly noon and by 1:00; we were walking into our cabin.
There was a very small wait getting everyone through the metal detectors at the port, but once we got through we were able to breeze through the check-in process, stopped and made dinner reservations for Christmas Eve, had our photo taken and were on our way!
When three women travel together there is a LOT of stuff. Considering two are teens, double that amount. We were booked in an obstructed view outside stateroom on deck 8. The layout of the room was terrific (two lower beds, on Murphy bed on the wall), a small desk area, two separate banks of drawers (3 each), an excellent sized closet (that included MORE shelving and the safe), two small bedside tables, and a bathroom that totally ROCKED. There was also a small TV (I heard a complaint that it wasn't a flat screen but really??? We weren't planning on spending any more time in the cabin than what we needed to sleep so WHO CARES???) and a small fridge.
Let me tell all of you ladies out there...never in my life have I been on a ship with a bathroom that size. The area was SO well laid out. The toilet area was separated from the vanity area by a small sliding glass door. On the other side of the vanity was what I consider an oversized showed (for a ship) also enclosed by a sliding door. Really? No lousy shower curtain? Room to shave your legs? It was shear heaven!
Cruise Critic Meet & Greet
Talk about being impressed, the Star rolled out all the stops to make sure the Cruise Critic folks were treated right! The ship arranged for us to meet the first day at sea in Le Bistro and set out a beautiful spread of coffee, tea, and cookies. Last month on Princess they didn't even supply ice water! Not only that, all of the Senior Officers on the ship (including the Cruise Director, Hotel Director, and CAPTAIN) came and spoke with us. It was incredibly kind of all of them to take the time out of their very busy days to greet us. We were all given cards with each of their names and phone extensions on them and told to call if we need anything.
BUT, the best highlight was when the Captain told us that we'd all be invited to tour the Bridge on Saturday morning! And that tour was certainly one of the nicest highlights of the trip!
During our trip we dinned in Versaille the first evening (seated at the back with the incredible view through the two story windows), Aqua, Blue Lagoon, Market CafÃ©, and three of the restaurants with an additional fee (Endless Summer, La Cucina, and Teppanyaki).
We ate breakfast in the Market CafÃ© each morning. We found the variety to be good -- but keep in mind it is a buffet. We NEVER had food that was stale or cold which is what we experienced last year on a different cruise line. It was standard buffet fare, but didn't disappoint. We never had a problem finding a table and the wait staff worked tirelessly to keep the area clean and tidy. There was never an issue with dirty table, or being unable to find silverware or condiments.
The dinners in Versailles and Aqua again were pretty standard fare, nothing outstanding, but fairly good with a nice variety to choose from.
We did enjoy eating at the Blue Lagoon for a change of pace. It was nice to get a simple meal, and my 13 year old was over the moon to find chicken fingers on the menu!
I must add, the staff in ALL of the restaurants were OUTSTANDING and went above and beyond to make sure we had what we needed and were enjoying our meals. None of us eats a huge amount, and if there was ever anything left on the plate they wanted to ensure there wasn't anything wrong and that we'd enjoyed the meal. As a side note, I found all of the portion sizes to be good, not to much and not too little. Goldie Locks would have been very happy!
All three of the "pay" restaurants we ate at were exceptional. The only issue I had was the type of cheese that was served on the nachos at Endless Summer. The nachos looked like something you'd get at a ball game or movie theater. No matter what I thought, my girls were the ones eating them and they loved them. Enough said. My fajitas were fabulous and we all enjoyed the quesadillas!
The experience at Teppenyaki was excellent and we all felt it was just as good if not better than our local Japanese Steak House. The men who cooked for us were entertaining to watch and each had a great sense of humor. It made for a very enjoyable Christmas Eve dinner!
La Cucina was again an excellent meal. The Italian food was delicious and we greatly enjoyed the atmosphere.
The one thing, I believe, that NCL has over the other lines is the exceptional entertainment. We attended all of the shows and had a great time at each one. Particularly we LOVED Duo Amury, an aerialist act that was amazing!!!
I've often told people since our return that I saw my kids when we boarded in Tampa and then saw them again 7 days later when we got off. They had an excellent time and enjoyed all of the scheduled activities. They both made friends that they continue to have contact with.