I'm struck by how many things cruisecritic reviewers find to complain about, not just on cruises in general but in particular, on the Norwegian Star's new itinerary from Dubai to Singapore and on to Hong Kong. My wife and I signed up for the eleven days from Singapore to Hong Kong, and were on the whole more than satisfied. Sure, there were problems, but the captain and crew did their best to solve them. The ship didn't sink, nor even run aground. Thanks to washy-washy, no epidemic laid the passengers low. This was our fourth cruise on NCL, and we'll happily sail with this company again.
We were upgraded, supposedly, from a starboard balcony to an aft-facing one on Deck 8. Disaster! Cabin 8176 is directly over the night club. As we prepared to retire around 23:00, it was as if the band was playing, loudly, at the foot of the bed. I went down to the reception desk in the atrium and angrily complained. Cindy from China promptly and efficiently got us moved to a starboard balcony cabin on Deck 9. In my view, no one should ever be assigned to Cabin 8176 unless they're 20-something party people or stone-deaf senior citizens.
We were supposed to sail on a Sunday evening, but were in fact delayed about 50 hours. Engine trouble. The Captain announced that specialists needed to be flown in from Europe and America. The engine never did get fixed, so that the ship's speed was reduced by about half, causing us to miss the two ports of call in Thailand, as well as Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Most regrettable, though severe monsoon flooding might have botched the Thai shore excursions anyway. But then came a letter from the Captain saying that on account of these troubles, the basic fare for the cruise would be refunded for every passenger. To me, that seemed more than fair. Mildly boring days at sea became a lot more tolerable, once we knew they were free,
Improvising the itinerary, the ship docked at Chan May in Vietnam, where shore excursions were available to Da Nang to the south or Hue to the north. It rained heavily all day, but hey, what an opportunity! We had an excellent guide on our trip to Hue, saw mile after mile of rice paddies, a royal burial garden, and the imperial palace. A tasty, more than adequate pho lunch had been hastily arranged at a first-rate hotel.
Then came the port of Sanya, China, as originally scheduled. The shore excursions were something of a rip-off, but even so, gave a chance to see something of the city and the magnificent mountain park overlooking it.
We arrived in Hong Kong on schedule -- disappointed that the cruise did not turn out as promised, but satisfied with NCL's generous attempts to make the best of it.
Meanwhile, there was excellent food in the main dining room, Versailles. One has to admire how the chefs shift day by day from one cuisine to another, so that every day's menu is new and fresh. We tried Aqua, the other main dining room, and Ginza, the Asian one. Ginza was superb, Aqua not so much. We went to the buffet only for breakfast, finding it crowded and noisy. We were satisfied enough with the regular eateries that we never felt the need to pay extra at the specialty restaurants.
The nightly entertainment we found consistently watchable and listenable, and occasionally really excellent. A Russian husband and wife performed sensual acrobatics that took my breath away. A group of American guys from Hong Kong sang a capella in English and Cantonese -- awesome!. Meanwhile a Filipino trio crooned nightly in the atrium, and a couple of talented women, violin and cello, played classics in a bar (I was wishing for still more classical music).
Our steward, a chap named Kiran who hailed from Goa, was friendly and efficient. Like the other stewards, he shaped a towel into a different animal every night: kind of silly, but you can't help but smile.
Alas for the best laid plans of mice and men. There are always surprises on planet earth. I was impressed with how the captain and crew of the NCL Star adapted to the surprises of this cruise. Thanks to all of them.