Cruising in a Garden Villa - this is as good as it gets!: Norwegian Star Cruise Review by Oceandreaming2

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Cruising in a Garden Villa - this is as good as it gets!

Sail Date: November 2008
Destination: Mexican Riviera
Embarkation: Los Angeles
This review is written using two perspectives on staterooms. Read on...

Embarkation Day: We flew to LAX the day of the cruise via SWA. Our flight was non-stop and we arrived in Los Angeles by 11:30. We had prearranged for PrimeTime Shuttle to pick us up, and we were transported to the pier quickly and efficiently. We had a rapid check-in and our wait to board was nonexistent. We were greeted with servers offering either Mimosas or champagne. Our mini-suite was not ready, so we took our carry-on bags with us to the Versailles dining room where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch. As we finished, an announcement was made that the staterooms were ready. We quickly found our mini-suite (conveniently located by the Spa). Muster drill was soon announced and we were two of many standing in the sun while trying to hear (in vain) what the crew was telling us. After muster drill we had the first of three CC gatherings.

Our Stateroom: (Nov. 8-11): Our mini-suite was small but More efficient in design. While only a few square feet larger than a balcony, it seemed much larger in comparison to a balcony on the Pearl. Clothing storage was adequate, but access to the shelves in the closet was inconvenient. There were only two drawers for storage in the stateroom; all other storage was in open shelving/cubbies. The room had a stocked mini-fridge, TV, 4-cup coffee maker, safe, 2 drawers, shelves and ample hanging room in the closet. Two robes were hanging in the closet. We always bring a folding hamper and it fit in the closet nicely. There is a light in the closet, which we have used as a nightlight on past cruises, but the closet faced the bed in this stateroom and we found it too bright. We did not feel we needed the ten-pocket shoe bag for additional storage. The bathroom space was adequate. I asked for a bar of soap and our cabin attendant brought a bar of Elemis. All toiletries on the ship are Elemis products.

We had two cabin stewards but we rarely saw them. Since we were on the end of their route, our cabin was not cleaned as quickly as one would think. They did their job and our cabin was always spotless after they left.

Our Stateroom: (Nov. 11-15): Our traveling companions (who were in an Aft suite) had several conversations with the Hotel Director. Some of these conversations were negotiations for the four of us to move to the Garden Villa for $XXX. On Monday evening, the request was granted and we moved to the Vista Garden Villa #14500 on deck 14. Deck 14 has limited access - you had to use your room key in the elevator to reach the deck. The stairway from deck 13 is also locked.

To say this suite is amazing is just not adequate. We had a huge living room/dining room with grand (player) piano, flat panel TV with a DVD player, along with a large wetbar and microwave in our common area. This room has several huge picture windows overlooking the pool. The suite also consists of three private bedrooms; two of which are master suites. We used the two masters, and the middle suite (comparable to an AD) was empty.

The primary suite had a walk-through closet, large bedroom with king bed, TV, chairs, etc. and a bath with a corner whirlpool tub, a large glass enclosed circular shower, twin sinks, LCD TV and a separate toilet area. Our suite also had a king bed (heavenly) (we even had a pillow menu), 2 chairs and an end table, 2 nightstands, large closet, large whirlpool tub, glass enclosed circular shower, twin sinks, LCD TV and a separate toilet area. Our suite had a sliding door for direct access to the patio, while the master did not. Both master suites had several huge picture windows in the sleeping area and the bath with spectacular views of the ocean. The baths had motorized 2" wide wood blinds for privacy and the bedrooms had both the motorized blinds and drapes.

The patio consisted of a private hot tub, sauna, lounge chairs, two dining tables and for the ultimate of privacy, a sun deck on deck 15. All in all, the GV has over 2,000 sq. ft. in living space and another 3,000 sq. ft. in outdoor area. Oh, I nearly forgot about the guest half-bath located just outside the GV's entrance.

Gatherings: Our sail-away party was held immediately after the muster drill. We all met at the Beirgarten. It was fun putting names with faces. I arranged our "official" Meet and Greet held in the Port Room (next to Spinnaker's) the first sea day. We had approximately 28 on the rollcall and 22 attended the M&G. The Hotel Director, Cruise Director, the Food and Beverage Manager and other NCL dignitaries attended the M&G. NCL provided beverages and pastries. We asked hotel director many questions - some of which really put him on the spot (the first one was why NCL was changing the Compass Rewards program), but he remained jovial and friendly throughout the entire cruise.

Our third gathering was held on Thursday evening - in the Garden Villa. Most of the CC'rs had given me their cabin numbers, so I wrote a little invitation to join us for an hour on Thursday evening for a tour. The reception desk made copies for us and we delivered them to the various staterooms. We easily had 30 guests and I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as we did, having them up to enjoy the villa. Both the Hotel Director and the Concierge stopped in to say hello again. NCL provided us with several trays of snacks which John, our butler, set up; we had requested that the attendees bring their own alcohol and NCL provided mixers. The room stewards worked overtime cleaning up after the party; the place was spotless when we returned a few hours later.

VIP Guests: As Platinum members, we were invited to dine in Cagney's for breakfast and lunch. We were also invited to the VIP cocktail party and an additional Latitudes party. The concierge, Anca Zamfir, went out of her way to make our cruise very, very pleasant. We enjoyed dinners with the Hotel Director, Jean Michel Dhelin and the Food and Beverage Manager Ivo Belev.

Dining: We ate in the main dining room and several of the specialty restaurants. As mentioned previously, we enjoyed breakfast and lunch in Cagney's. While they had the same breakfast menu daily, the lunch menu varied. We had lunch once in the Market Cafe. Our evening meals were in the Teppanyaki Room, Ginza, Versailles, LeBistro, and Cagney's. I enjoyed all the meals, only wishing they were served a little warmer. The beef tenderloin I enjoyed at LeBistro was my favorite entrEe - even better than Cagney's - although the Beef Wellington in Versailles came in a close second. The chocolate buffet was held from 10:30PM-11:30PM on Thursday night. Anca accompanied us so we were able to be the first in line, but within a few minutes many, many people were in the dining room. It was too late in the evening for chocolate, so I brought a plate back to our stateroom to enjoy the next day.

We enjoyed having dinner one night in our Villa. Our butler, John, gathered our dinners from various venues, set the table with white linens, placed our food and left. After we finished our dinners, and left for our evening entertainment, he cleared the table. We did the same for lunch, only we ate outdoors.

Entertainment: JeanAnnRyan continues to put on great entertainment. They had three shows, however we missed the first one. Their energy is amazing. The Chinese acrobats were terrific - however their preview show was held in the Spinnaker Lounge and unless you were there early for a front row seat, you couldn't see much of the show. Other entertainment included a magician, the crew talent show and Second City. As residents of the GV, it was great to have reserved seating in the theater.

Paul Baya was the CD on this cruise and did a great job. It seemed to me that the CD's job has changed somewhat. Gone were the constant announcements to attend this or that. To my knowledge pool games have been eliminated. Several of the shows we enjoyed in the past were shuffled to other venues at odd times (i.e. notsonewlywed game).

As usual, the casino was smoky and noisy. This casino is smaller than some, but it never felt crowded. I tried my luck at the 2 cent slots and felt I came out even. I heard that some in the CC group won at roulette and another won the slot tournament.

The JeanAnnRyan troupe performed on the last night, along with a farewell from the cruise staff. No matter how many times I see this, I get teary-eyed. It's so hard to leave when you are treated like royalty.

NCLU: We enjoyed two the Martini tastings. My DH and I shared the drinks (5 - 3 oz. martinis can pack quite a wallop).

Onboard Shopping: Everything from a candy bar, cold medicine, inexpensive (or expensive) jewelry or a t-shirt is available on the Star. Somehow I had failed to pack a comb and brush, so we were forced to purchase not-so-cheap replacements on board the ship. They were apparently not made for anyone with hair, so we had to buy others in our first port of call.

Laundry: The Star doesn't have self-service laundry facilities, but several times during the cruise, a laundry special was offered. $15 for everything you could put in a paper laundry bag. The one time I used the service, we had several shirts, pants, a pair of jeans, and underwear laundered for $15. The room steward picked up the laundry by 9AM and it was back in the room that evening.

Ports of Call: We enjoyed stops in Cabo san Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. We opted to forego organized tours and instead "did our own thing"; either walking or taking a taxi to explore areas not regularly frequented by tourists.

The Weather: No one can actually predict the weather so we were a little apprehensive since it could be hurricane season. We had perfect weather the entire week. The seas were smooth as glass, no rain, no real wind. In a word: perfect!

The Last Morning: My DH was up early to call his elderly father and then jumped in the shower while I caught a few more zzz's in that luxurious bed. I heard a loud BANG and he immediately came in the room - literally crawled in the room - and told me to stay away from the windows. He thought someone had shot at the ship! One of the huge windows in our bathroom had shattered! Needless to say, we had quite a few visitors checking on the damages and then maintenance arrived to make a temporary repair with Plexiglas. It is unfortunate the next residents of the Villa will have a shattered window as it was special ordered from Germany. Luckily, it was the interior portion of a double glass window so it will still be water-tight. The investigators thought it was a stress fracture.

Disembarkation: We had VIP departure off the ship and it was very easy. We had breakfast in Cagney's and continued to enjoy the GV until 10:00. Anca accompanied us through the lines off the ship. We walked right over to our luggage (held in the VIP area), went through Customs and off to our shuttle in less than 5 minutes. The LAX airport was well organized and we had plenty of time for our flight connections. Well, actually we had MORE than enough time for our connections - we could've made a much earlier flight.

To Summarize: The Star is a beautiful ship and the food and crew are wonderful. While the Star is an older ship, we didn't notice the wear and tear that so many have written about. The common area carpet was recently replaced, as well as the bedding in the staterooms. It's the crew, though, that made this ship shine! I didn't think I would enjoy this cruise as much as I had our NCL cruises, but they did it again. I have to rate this cruise as 10+. We have already booked the Star to the Panama Canal but don't know if we can wait another year to go cruising with the best cruiseline for us - NCL! Less

Published 11/18/08

Cabin review:

It was hard to get clothing in and out of the mini-suite's closet as it opens toward the bed. Great location, though. The Garden Villa was stupendous!

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