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In September I took the repositioning cruise between Vancouver and Los Angeles. This was my first cruise experience (birthday present) and I traveled solo - my husband is a teacher so he couldn't go, but we have already booked an Alaska cruise this summer on NCL. I booked so late (within 6 weeks of departure) that I was able to get a balcony stateroom for the same rate as double occupancy. so I decided I couldn't afford NOT to go. The cruise started in Vancouver and stopped in Victoria, Astoria and a beautiful day and night in San Francisco. I had read all of the Norwegian Star reviews on this site, everything from five stars to zero stars, so I was trying to manage expectations. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. Embarkation:  I flew up to Vancouver the day before departure, did not want to miss the boat because Alaska Airlines decided to have a mechanical or something. I stayed in the airport Marriott and the next morning went back to the airport for transfer to the pier. Embarkation was unbelievably quick. I had been led to believe it took hours. From the time the airport transfer bus dropped us off at the cruise terminal to the time I was walking up the gangplank must have taken a full 30 minutes. Most of that time was weaving in and out of the security line with passengers from two Holland America ships that were also docked at the terminal. Basically show your ticket, go through airport-type security, then walk down a long hall to a cavernous room where the NCL desks were. They sat us down in rows of chairs and we sat down only about long enough for someone to come around and give us water or juice and then they had our row stand up and go check in and 5 minutes later I was on the ship. As soon as I boarded a nice young crew member came up and took my carry on and asked me where I would like to go since the cabins weren't ready yet. I wasn't ready for lunch so she took up me to Deck 12 near the pool where I could walk around and take pictures of the harbor (or I could have eaten at the Topsiders Grill there anyway.) About an hour later they told us our cabins were ready. My suitcase didn't come for another hour but it was there well before we left port. We had the mandatory life jacket drill right before we departed. In fact it was so close to departure I was afraid we were still going to be lined up when the ship started moving. I was surprised by all the people who just sauntered up with (or without) their life jackets after the rest of us had been standing there 15 minutes. I don't believe I ran into one crew member the entire cruise who didn't sing out a friendly greeting when they passed - whether it was the cabin stewards or just someone cleaning the deck chairs. Everyone flashed a big smile and said, "Good morning, Madam," and they were always asking if they could help you with anything. It appeared many of the service crew were from the Philippines. When we came into San Francisco, they all came racing up on deck and were laughing and chattering and snapping pictures of each other crazily with their cell phones because they had not seen the Golden Gate Bridge before. It was fun just to watch them getting as much enjoyment from being where we were as the passengers did. Dining:  The first night I made a reservation for La Trattoria, the Italian restaurant. If I had have known better, I wouldn't have made a reservation for the first night, because there was a huge sail-away barbecue at the pool with hot wings, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, etc. But I had no way of knowing this ahead of time. There was a $10 cover charge at LT but the food was excellent. I had fettuccine which was very good, very hot and tasty. But the bread was cold, which was disappointing. I also noticed the same bread in the regular market cafe buffet, which seemed kind of strange. I had to pay extra for a coke. There are no free soft drinks with your meals on this ship, although you can get all the coffee, juice or milk that you want. If you want a coke, you have to go to a bar. The service at the restaurant was phenomenal - every time I took a drink of water someone was right at my elbow to top off the water glass. Waiter checked on me constantly. The restaurant was kind of noisy because all they do is just hang up curtains to partition it off from the rest of the market cafe since it's still part of the market cafe at other meals. Since I was a balcony passenger, I was allowed to eat breakfast in the Aqua restaurant. It is one of the main dining rooms that is open to everyone at dinner, but apparently it's not open to the masses for breakfast. Breakfast was served on a white tablecloth and I ordered scrambled eggs, hash browns and dollar pancakes, which were very good. There was also a buffet line with fruits, juices and croissants, etc. Very nice. Again, wonderful service - there is ALWAYS someone there hovering at your elbow, pouring more coffee or water, asking you if everything is okay and if you're enjoying the cruise. I was always asked if I wanted to dine solo (which I did) or not, and I never had to wait for a table. I never did eat at the Versailles (main dining room) but several passengers told me it was excellent. I found the food in the market cafe to be good, a fair amount of variety, but definitely not the best buffet I have eaten at. That being said, I always found something to satisfy me. I never did experience any lines. Since I really didn't go on a cruise to experience the whole food thing, I often grabbed something from the market cafe and just took it back to my cabin. The ports:  I didn't get off the ship in Victoria because it was freezing cold and windy and we docked what seemed to be an awfully long way from downtown, but it was very scenic and I enjoyed just sitting on my balcony and watching all the harbor traffic. I was amazed at all the float planes - they were coming and going all day like regular buses or taxis. There were two other cruise ships in Victoria at the same time (Princess and HAL) but they were unable to dock because it was so windy. So they just sat out in the bay and ferried people in on tenders. Our captain did a tremendous job parallel parking a 92,000 vessel without the help of any tugboats. Astoria was a wonderful port. Apparently they only get the repositioning cruise ships in May and September. It's a town of 10,000 and believe me, the whole town is out in force when a cruise ship is in. They have arts and crafts booths set up on the pier and they give everyone a big VIP sticker that you can wear into town and get discounts on everything, ride the bus wherever you want to go, etc. Half the town was wearing navy blue CRUISE HOST sweatshirts and there was a host standing on every corner in case you had any questions. As with the rest of the cruise, the weather was perfect. I went looking for a market to stock up on bottled water and Coke so I wouldn't have to pay the exorbitant prices on the ship, and the market was packed with other passengers with the same idea. Someone should have set up a bottled water booth on the pier with the other arts and crafts and they would have made a killing. Water on the ship was about $5 per liter with an automatic 15% gratuity. This cruise was worth it if all we had done was come into San Francisco under the Golden Gate Bridge. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. It took us about an hour and a half to dock, just going slowly under the Bridge, by the Presidio, by Alcatraz. The sun was just coming up and the skies were clear as a bell. We docked at Pier 35 so the starboard side (the side my stateroom was on) was facing west. Since I was on Deck 10 I was above the top of the pier buildings and I could see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the rest of the city from my balcony! It was like being in a hotel with a view. The cruise terminal is right next to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, close enough to walk. I didn't go on any shore excursions because I have been to SF many times, so I just went out and enjoyed some of my favorite places in the area around the Wharf. I did find a Safeway a few blocks from the water and again stocked up on bottled water and Coke. And of course BUTTER, because I went back to the ship with some of that famous sourdough bread that served as my lunch for the next two days. The ocean was very smooth the whole way. Never more than slight seas (1-4 feet.) I was actually disappointed, because I wanted to feel like I was really at sea. There was a little bit of motion on the one full day we were at sea between SF and LA. I saw a lot of people with those little patches behind their ears to ward off seasickness - hope it made them feel better because personally, I could hardly tell I was on a ship. The ship:   I had a balcony stateroom on Deck 10. There is one 110v outlet in the cabin and two more 220v outlets which are kind of inaccessible but at least they're there if you need them. There is a small wall safe to lock up valuables. The bathroom was small but functional. There is very little storage in the cabin - three small drawers. I easily filled everything up. Suitcases fit beneath the bed. The furnishings are kind of ugly - I guess you would call them Danish "modern" which means they look anything but. I think the ship is probably ready for a refurbishing in the not too distant future. The bed was absolutely the worst. I had the two twin beds pushed together into a queen but it was very uncomfortable, sagged on both sides. There was a small sofa that I think turned into a bed for a 3rd person but it was almost too hard to sit on. By all means, spend a few hundred $ more and get a balcony stateroom. I actually spent quite a bit of time up on deck, but it was still nice just to be able to go out there in the middle of the night or when you first wake up or whenever you want. The cabin TV has a voyage channel that gives you all sorts of information about how fast you're going, what time is sunrise and sunset, what's the ship's position, maps, how many miles left to the next port, etc. It's good information to have and is updated on a real time basis. CNN was on all the time plus a couple of old movie channels. The cabin was very quiet. I've heard you want to avoid getting adjoining cabins because they can be noisy. Announcements over the loudspeaker system were always prefaced with a chime, so you could either listen to the announcement on the TV or go over and put your ear up against the door and hear it from the hallway. But you definitely couldn't hear them in the cabin itself. The ship is easy to find your way around in, once you establish what side you're on! Up to the last day I still got turned around. Fortunately, the cabin doors on the starboard side are all blue and the ones on the port are red. Also you can look out the windows on Deck 12 where the elevator and stair lobbies are and see which way the water is going so you know which way is fore and aft. I went up to the Spinnaker Lounge a couple of times - it is on Deck 12 looking forward, there are floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the lounge so you can see out three sides. The lounge is located right over the bridge and they have windows where you can look down and see the two navigators running the ship. There are signs that tell you what all the various instruments are. It was really interesting. It looked to me almost like an airplane cockpit, they were sitting in chairs surrounded by computers and instruments and had little joysticks. So much for big wooden ships' wheels and lookouts in the crow's nest. The only reason I ever found this was I read about it in Cruise Critic. Many of the passengers I talked to had no idea you could look down and see the bridge. The Cruise Director had a slide show one day that showed us the parts of the ship we are not allowed to visit, like the engine room, kitchens, etc. This review wouldn't be complete without mentioning the hand sanitizers. I guess some cruise ship must have experienced an epidemic or something, because these people are OBSESSED with washing your hands. Hand sanitizers are everywhere. I even took a picture of one. Every restaurant you go into you have to stick your hands under the hand sanitizer before they let you in (there are crew members standing by to make sure you use it.) Before you come back on board if you have been ashore, you have to stick your hands under the hand sanitizer. If by chance one runs empty, there will be a crew member standing by with a squirt bottle making sure you get your hands squirted. I went into the buffet once and put my hands under it like a good little passenger and nothing came out, so I just rubbed my hands together anyway like they were wet and the girl didn't notice and let me by. Debarkation:   The worst weather we had was saved for the last day. It was so foggy coming into San Pedro we couldn't see anything until we were past the breakwater. Since I live in Southern California, my husband and son were at Ports of Call waving as we went by. They threw the first line over at 7:30 am and started letting the Express Debarkation people go ashore at 8. The hardest part was finding an elevator that wasn't already full of other passengers and their luggage. But once I got down to Deck 6 where they were letting us off, there was only a short line. I went over into the terminal, down the escalator, turned in my immigration form and was outside on the sidewalk by 8:20. That's how easy it was. One of the receptionists told me the ship was full (although every stateroom wasn't double occupied) but I never had the sense there were very many people on the ship. I don't think I saw more than 20 different children the whole week - probably because school had already started. I am anxious to experience a "real" cruise this summer when we go to Alaska, but I would also love to take another repositioning cruise. It was very restful, had the best port ever (San Francisco) and was a great introduction to cruising.

Pacific Solo

Norwegian Star Cruise Review by SandyAtSea

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: September 2008
  • Destination: Nowhere
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Balcony
In September I took the repositioning cruise between Vancouver and Los Angeles. This was my first cruise experience (birthday present) and I traveled solo - my husband is a teacher so he couldn't go, but we have already booked an Alaska cruise this summer on NCL. I booked so late (within 6 weeks of departure) that I was able to get a balcony stateroom for the same rate as double occupancy. so I decided I couldn't afford NOT to go. The cruise started in Vancouver and stopped in Victoria, Astoria and a beautiful day and night in San Francisco. I had read all of the Norwegian Star reviews on this site, everything from five stars to zero stars, so I was trying to manage expectations. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. Embarkation:  I flew up to Vancouver the day before departure, did not want to miss the boat because Alaska Airlines decided to have a mechanical or something. I stayed in the airport Marriott and the next morning went back to the airport for transfer to the pier. Embarkation was unbelievably quick. I had been led to believe it took hours. From the time the airport transfer bus dropped us off at the cruise terminal to the time I was walking up the gangplank must have taken a full 30 minutes. Most of that time was weaving in and out of the security line with passengers from two Holland America ships that were also docked at the terminal. Basically show your ticket, go through airport-type security, then walk down a long hall to a cavernous room where the NCL desks were. They sat us down in rows of chairs and we sat down only about long enough for someone to come around and give us water or juice and then they had our row stand up and go check in and 5 minutes later I was on the ship. As soon as I boarded a nice young crew member came up and took my carry on and asked me where I would like to go since the cabins weren't ready yet. I wasn't ready for lunch so she took up me to Deck 12 near the pool where I could walk around and take pictures of the harbor (or I could have eaten at the Topsiders Grill there anyway.) About an hour later they told us our cabins were ready. My suitcase didn't come for another hour but it was there well before we left port. We had the mandatory life jacket drill right before we departed. In fact it was so close to departure I was afraid we were still going to be lined up when the ship started moving. I was surprised by all the people who just sauntered up with (or without) their life jackets after the rest of us had been standing there 15 minutes. I don't believe I ran into one crew member the entire cruise who didn't sing out a friendly greeting when they passed - whether it was the cabin stewards or just someone cleaning the deck chairs. Everyone flashed a big smile and said, "Good morning, Madam," and they were always asking if they could help you with anything. It appeared many of the service crew were from the Philippines. When we came into San Francisco, they all came racing up on deck and were laughing and chattering and snapping pictures of each other crazily with their cell phones because they had not seen the Golden Gate Bridge before. It was fun just to watch them getting as much enjoyment from being where we were as the passengers did. Dining:  The first night I made a reservation for La Trattoria, the Italian restaurant. If I had have known better, I wouldn't have made a reservation for the first night, because there was a huge sail-away barbecue at the pool with hot wings, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, etc. But I had no way of knowing this ahead of time. There was a $10 cover charge at LT but the food was excellent. I had fettuccine which was very good, very hot and tasty. But the bread was cold, which was disappointing. I also noticed the same bread in the regular market cafe buffet, which seemed kind of strange. I had to pay extra for a coke. There are no free soft drinks with your meals on this ship, although you can get all the coffee, juice or milk that you want. If you want a coke, you have to go to a bar. The service at the restaurant was phenomenal - every time I took a drink of water someone was right at my elbow to top off the water glass. Waiter checked on me constantly. The restaurant was kind of noisy because all they do is just hang up curtains to partition it off from the rest of the market cafe since it's still part of the market cafe at other meals. Since I was a balcony passenger, I was allowed to eat breakfast in the Aqua restaurant. It is one of the main dining rooms that is open to everyone at dinner, but apparently it's not open to the masses for breakfast. Breakfast was served on a white tablecloth and I ordered scrambled eggs, hash browns and dollar pancakes, which were very good. There was also a buffet line with fruits, juices and croissants, etc. Very nice. Again, wonderful service - there is ALWAYS someone there hovering at your elbow, pouring more coffee or water, asking you if everything is okay and if you're enjoying the cruise. I was always asked if I wanted to dine solo (which I did) or not, and I never had to wait for a table. I never did eat at the Versailles (main dining room) but several passengers told me it was excellent. I found the food in the market cafe to be good, a fair amount of variety, but definitely not the best buffet I have eaten at. That being said, I always found something to satisfy me. I never did experience any lines. Since I really didn't go on a cruise to experience the whole food thing, I often grabbed something from the market cafe and just took it back to my cabin. The ports:  I didn't get off the ship in Victoria because it was freezing cold and windy and we docked what seemed to be an awfully long way from downtown, but it was very scenic and I enjoyed just sitting on my balcony and watching all the harbor traffic. I was amazed at all the float planes - they were coming and going all day like regular buses or taxis. There were two other cruise ships in Victoria at the same time (Princess and HAL) but they were unable to dock because it was so windy. So they just sat out in the bay and ferried people in on tenders. Our captain did a tremendous job parallel parking a 92,000 vessel without the help of any tugboats. Astoria was a wonderful port. Apparently they only get the repositioning cruise ships in May and September. It's a town of 10,000 and believe me, the whole town is out in force when a cruise ship is in. They have arts and crafts booths set up on the pier and they give everyone a big VIP sticker that you can wear into town and get discounts on everything, ride the bus wherever you want to go, etc. Half the town was wearing navy blue CRUISE HOST sweatshirts and there was a host standing on every corner in case you had any questions. As with the rest of the cruise, the weather was perfect. I went looking for a market to stock up on bottled water and Coke so I wouldn't have to pay the exorbitant prices on the ship, and the market was packed with other passengers with the same idea. Someone should have set up a bottled water booth on the pier with the other arts and crafts and they would have made a killing. Water on the ship was about $5 per liter with an automatic 15% gratuity. This cruise was worth it if all we had done was come into San Francisco under the Golden Gate Bridge. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. It took us about an hour and a half to dock, just going slowly under the Bridge, by the Presidio, by Alcatraz. The sun was just coming up and the skies were clear as a bell. We docked at Pier 35 so the starboard side (the side my stateroom was on) was facing west. Since I was on Deck 10 I was above the top of the pier buildings and I could see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the rest of the city from my balcony! It was like being in a hotel with a view. The cruise terminal is right next to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, close enough to walk. I didn't go on any shore excursions because I have been to SF many times, so I just went out and enjoyed some of my favorite places in the area around the Wharf. I did find a Safeway a few blocks from the water and again stocked up on bottled water and Coke. And of course BUTTER, because I went back to the ship with some of that famous sourdough bread that served as my lunch for the next two days. The ocean was very smooth the whole way. Never more than slight seas (1-4 feet.) I was actually disappointed, because I wanted to feel like I was really at sea. There was a little bit of motion on the one full day we were at sea between SF and LA. I saw a lot of people with those little patches behind their ears to ward off seasickness - hope it made them feel better because personally, I could hardly tell I was on a ship. The ship:   I had a balcony stateroom on Deck 10. There is one 110v outlet in the cabin and two more 220v outlets which are kind of inaccessible but at least they're there if you need them. There is a small wall safe to lock up valuables. The bathroom was small but functional. There is very little storage in the cabin - three small drawers. I easily filled everything up. Suitcases fit beneath the bed. The furnishings are kind of ugly - I guess you would call them Danish "modern" which means they look anything but. I think the ship is probably ready for a refurbishing in the not too distant future. The bed was absolutely the worst. I had the two twin beds pushed together into a queen but it was very uncomfortable, sagged on both sides. There was a small sofa that I think turned into a bed for a 3rd person but it was almost too hard to sit on. By all means, spend a few hundred $ more and get a balcony stateroom. I actually spent quite a bit of time up on deck, but it was still nice just to be able to go out there in the middle of the night or when you first wake up or whenever you want. The cabin TV has a voyage channel that gives you all sorts of information about how fast you're going, what time is sunrise and sunset, what's the ship's position, maps, how many miles left to the next port, etc. It's good information to have and is updated on a real time basis. CNN was on all the time plus a couple of old movie channels. The cabin was very quiet. I've heard you want to avoid getting adjoining cabins because they can be noisy. Announcements over the loudspeaker system were always prefaced with a chime, so you could either listen to the announcement on the TV or go over and put your ear up against the door and hear it from the hallway. But you definitely couldn't hear them in the cabin itself. The ship is easy to find your way around in, once you establish what side you're on! Up to the last day I still got turned around. Fortunately, the cabin doors on the starboard side are all blue and the ones on the port are red. Also you can look out the windows on Deck 12 where the elevator and stair lobbies are and see which way the water is going so you know which way is fore and aft. I went up to the Spinnaker Lounge a couple of times - it is on Deck 12 looking forward, there are floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the lounge so you can see out three sides. The lounge is located right over the bridge and they have windows where you can look down and see the two navigators running the ship. There are signs that tell you what all the various instruments are. It was really interesting. It looked to me almost like an airplane cockpit, they were sitting in chairs surrounded by computers and instruments and had little joysticks. So much for big wooden ships' wheels and lookouts in the crow's nest. The only reason I ever found this was I read about it in Cruise Critic. Many of the passengers I talked to had no idea you could look down and see the bridge. The Cruise Director had a slide show one day that showed us the parts of the ship we are not allowed to visit, like the engine room, kitchens, etc. This review wouldn't be complete without mentioning the hand sanitizers. I guess some cruise ship must have experienced an epidemic or something, because these people are OBSESSED with washing your hands. Hand sanitizers are everywhere. I even took a picture of one. Every restaurant you go into you have to stick your hands under the hand sanitizer before they let you in (there are crew members standing by to make sure you use it.) Before you come back on board if you have been ashore, you have to stick your hands under the hand sanitizer. If by chance one runs empty, there will be a crew member standing by with a squirt bottle making sure you get your hands squirted. I went into the buffet once and put my hands under it like a good little passenger and nothing came out, so I just rubbed my hands together anyway like they were wet and the girl didn't notice and let me by. Debarkation:   The worst weather we had was saved for the last day. It was so foggy coming into San Pedro we couldn't see anything until we were past the breakwater. Since I live in Southern California, my husband and son were at Ports of Call waving as we went by. They threw the first line over at 7:30 am and started letting the Express Debarkation people go ashore at 8. The hardest part was finding an elevator that wasn't already full of other passengers and their luggage. But once I got down to Deck 6 where they were letting us off, there was only a short line. I went over into the terminal, down the escalator, turned in my immigration form and was outside on the sidewalk by 8:20. That's how easy it was. One of the receptionists told me the ship was full (although every stateroom wasn't double occupied) but I never had the sense there were very many people on the ship. I don't think I saw more than 20 different children the whole week - probably because school had already started. I am anxious to experience a "real" cruise this summer when we go to Alaska, but I would also love to take another repositioning cruise. It was very restful, had the best port ever (San Francisco) and was a great introduction to cruising.
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