We chose this cruise for the destinations, particularly India, as my husband had refused to go there, I was desperate to visit, so this was a good compromise,
The Star is an older ship, with some of the advantages of it being smaller, some of the disadvantages of it being smaller. Hey ho, its for 21 nights, not for the rest of my life.
We were in Cabin 11500. Right at the "pointy end" of the ship. I was a little worried about the possibility of anchor noise but heard none during the voyage.
The cabin was a balcony (we booked a guarantee balcony so this was a little upgrade as they are on deck 8). It was perfectly adequate, although some of the storage is a little strange and because it was 21 days we could have done with a little more hanging space and some more drawers. However we managed and for a normal length cruise it was more than adequate. The suitcases went under the bed no problem, even though they are hard bodied ones, and our hand luggage trolley cases fit above the wardrobe space, still giving us room to put a few things like our winter coats etc on top of them.
The room was beautifully taken care of by Ferdinand, who was a very pleasant young man, hard working and probably deserving of more salary than he gets, which was true of all of the crew. All members of staff, apart from one person on reception who needs to lighten up a little, were excellent. All cheerful, helpful and hard working.
Some passengers could have done with remembering they were on holiday, however. What a group of moaning minnies. Every where we sat there were people complaining about something.
If you want Cunard standards in the dining rooms and bars, then pay Cunard prices and off you go. I was more than happy with the freestyle dining options. I dressed up when I wanted to, and didn't when I was tired from a great day out.
The entertainment in the show lounge was generally of high quality, although not always to my taste.
The other entertainment ranged from excellent quality to "a bit Butlins". No one forces you to go and listen, you just move on to somewhere else if its isn't your thing.
The main dining rooms were both well looked after by the staff. We were generally seated within 30 mins and were happy to wait at busier times. Love the pager system; it gives you a chance to go and have a cocktail while your table is prepared. The food is mass catering, mostly fairly dull but safe, and could do with some more seasoning and general flair, but there is little to complain about. It is what is to be expected and found like this on all cruise lines.
The Asian restaurant was a welcome addition and we ate there a couple of times. The food and service was great but the menu is limited, which is a shame. Maybe on a 21 day cruise they could rotate a couple of menus. However, again nothing to complain about. Some people enjoy the predictability of this and so it is again, a choice to go or not to go.
The Buffet was always busy and that was because the standard of the food was high on most occasions, although I don't understand the obsession with American Diner food, and didn't attend on those nights. Again my preference. I was impressed with the variety of food on the Asian nights, lots of different styles of Indian and Malaysian food. They also had a standard food station which offered Chinese and Indian style food every night, away from the main stations. Great idea. The food was generally well seasoned, not at all salty - in fact some of the food could have done with salt added at the cooking stage, such as pasta, rice and potatoes, which were verging on tasteless at times - however I suppose you have to cater for those who don't or cant have salt, and at least it could be added at the table, despite this not being the best way of doing things.
All restaurants and bars ran out of different types of wine at times, which was disappointing. However, once they had called in at ports they were able to re-supply the bars. Being a smaller ship, maybe they don't have the storage space.
Embarkation was interesting. We were picked up early from our hotel in Dubai and so were some of the first on the ship. The staff at the port were clearly inexperienced and so some information we could have done with at the start was not available. I had bought a bottle of gin to use when we got to Singapore. When I tried to hand it in to the staff at the port, I was treated like a criminal. Dear me. As it happens they didn't spot it in my bag and I had to point it out to them. I began to wish I hadn't bothered as it caused all sorts of issues. It was sorted in the end but really! Other than that issue, most times we disembarked, there was little problem, except for Phuket which was tender to shore. I have yet to find a cruise company which is able to cater for this in a timely fashion.
The shore information provided by the cruise company was completely inadequate. This is true of all American Cruise Companies and they obviously play on the insecurities of a lot of their customers, who are fed on a daily diet of Fox News hysteria.
Most cruises call into industrial ports unless they are in the Caribbean. This should be made more clear to those who normally dont cruise out of the USA. You are usually lucky if you dont have to dock miles away from the desired destination.
I booked two excursions with the ship because of the currency situation in India, which was sprung on everyone at the last minute. As it happens, it was possible to get currency; at a poor exchange rate, but at least it was something. However, that was no excuse for the frankly awful tours that the company provided. Thank goodness I hadn't booked and paid for more than two.
Go independently always, try Viator via Trip Advisor, but stop these cruise companies from providing some seriously over priced, under researched and inadequately guided tours.
The ports on this trip were intended to be challenging. Some were fun, exciting and awe inspiring. Some were a bit dull, badly equipped to deal with so many people at once, or just too expensive to get from the port into somewhere worth visiting. Some were downright awful and should not be on any itinerary anywhere. Particularly Khasab and Fuijuirah, which were a complete waste of everyone's time and money. They should have had extra time elsewhere, such as Muscat and Mumbai.
The shore teams need to up their game a lot as they provide little or no information on board. In particular, the currency situation in India was a nightmare for some. They provided no information at all regarding this.
I was disappointed to discover that, despite us paying a considerable sum of money to obtain our Indian and Sri Lankan visas, there were people on board who, as long as they booked with the ship tours, had not had to have the visas at all. The cruise line needs to make up its mind about this and then treat everyone the same, or at least give everyone the option of having a visa or not, in a similar way to the trips to Russian ports do. Get a grip NCL.
It appears that I have moaned a lot but really I have just provided a bit of constructive criticism so that the company can improve this itinerary.
We had a great time. I would sail on Star again, although from what I can gather it might not be around for that long due to mechanical issues. I would recommend this itinerary to anyone, but would certainly advise that you make sure you have a drinks package as the individual prices of drinks were stunningly high and don't forget that as well as the price, there is an additional service charge added to each item you buy, whether it is alcohol, spa treatments or anything else. Make sure you do your research and prebook in most ports if you want to make the most of the destinations, particularly in India. Never get the first taxi you see at any port. We saved fortunes by walking or getting the shuttle bus away from the port and then haggling with drivers until you get a price you are prepared to pay - eg Langkawi - we wanted to go to the Sky Cab which is about 40 minutes away from the port by car. It cost us 40 Ringits (about £10) but the highest price we were quoted was $100 dollars.
I would definitely sail with NCL again but would make sure I took my own advice.
Thanks for a great holiday.
It was fine. Great location as we were right at the front and could wave at the captain every morning! Im sure he was delighted!
Storage was adequate. Coffee and tea making facilities (although if you are fussy about your tea I wouldnt bother). Some of the pods didnt work with the coffee machine. We just had a word with Ferdinand and he sorted it out for us.
Bathroom was fine with a separate cubicle for the toilet. Not much storage in there for lots of nick nacks but it was fine. There was a small bath with a shower over it and a washing line for your smalls.
I had not been to Dubai before so having three nights before the start of the cruise was welcome.
The port is quite a long taxi ride from the main attractions but taxis are not too expensive. There is also a metro type system in the centre and its worth using, but dont forget to check which stop you need for your hotel before you use it! (Long story but we got there in the end!)
Its a shoppers paradise but not much else to be fair. We were based near the marina which was great of an evening but if you want to go to the malls etc its a fair distance away.
We ate in a lebanese restaurant on one evening which was great, food was delicious and the prices were not too steep. We like a glass of wine or two and that is expensive but if you are aware then you can shop in the duty free at the airport before you leave for your hotel and save quite a bit of money. We had a couple of lovely evenings in our hotel with some food from the supermarket and the TV!
We went on a four wheel drive safari in the desert, which also provided some local entertainment and food. What a blast. Loved it and would recommend booking before you leave home as this will save you money.
We have previously stayed in Abu Dhabi for a few nights and would not chose to go back. Its pleasant with great beaches and some outstanding shopping malls for those who like that sort of thing.
The port was quite far from the corniche but again, Abu Dhabi is not too heavy on the pocket for taxis.
There is a heritage village which is worth a look if you want a bit of history and culture. There isnt much else in that style locally. Ask your taxi driver to wait for you.
The grand mosque is interesting but you will have to completely cover up and if it is very hot then this is most unpleasant. Depends upon how interested you are as to whether you think its worth it. The mosque is away from most other attractions.
There is an open top bus to use if the weather is a little cooler (we were originally there in May and it was over 40 degrees). It seems to cover the main sites.
We enjoyed this port immensely except we booked the open top bus for ease of getting around as its very spread out. They were terribly unreliable and went past us while we were waiting at one of the stops. A bit disconcerting when there is only one bus an hour and you're on a cruise.
The bazaar on the main water front is fascinating and you could spend hours just wandering around the lanes. I would definitely like to return as I felt we didnt have enough time to explore.
The beaches looked amazing and there were some fantastic hotels around.
It was a very arab place, even though it was also very cosmopolitan. The Sultan's palace was jaw dropping in size and grandeur.
We visited the main national museum which was at the end of the Sultan's driveway! Brilliantly set out with lots of great descriptions of the exhibits and some really helpful staff, who also made sure we didn't miss the film show in English, and also the hospitality area where they gave you tea and dates to fortify you before you went upstairs.
The corniche is longer than it first appears, especially if you don't have decent footwear (blisters!). There are always taxis around and I would suggest that, unless the open top bus people get their act together, then taxis are the way to go.
Try some of the fruit juices in the bars around the markets. The lime is particularly refreshing.
A lot of people complained that Mumbai was dirty.
It might have been once upon a time, but the new prime minister, as well as causing chaos with the currency, has ordered people to start cleaning up the streets. As a result it was much better than we expected. We only experienced one really bad smell event, driving past the main slum area on the way back to the port. Other than that, I have had worse when we were on a small Greek island or some Spanish villages, to be fair.
Our first day, we had pre-arranged a private tour. The guide and driver were waiting at the main gate and we had to take the shuttle there as arranged by NCL. Thank goodness those buses weren't used on any excursions, they were a little dated is probably the kindest thing you could say! However, we got to the gates without incident. The tour was adequate. We enjoyed the commentary but the young man could have shown a little more interest. We discovered that he had been at a family party the night before and hadn't got in until around 3am so it went a long way to explain his lack of enthusiasm. He arranged for us to get some currency from a Western Union place and so that assisted with the remaining time in India.
Mumbai is a bustling city, best seen for yourself.It is hard to describe adequately the scenes of traffic chaos, except to say that if you have been to Vietnam, then Mumbai will seem quite sane to you!
We visited all the main sites, including the Gateway to India, the huge cricket ground area, the Queens Necklace, Crawford Market (not worth it as it is obviously all owned by one person and all the stalls, bar a very few, sell the same goods - Im sure once upon a time it was much more exciting). We went to the Colaba district and had coffee in Mondegar and lunch in Leopolds. I bought some indian cotton trousers for very small amounts of cash and also bought a book recommended by the guide from a second hand book stall near the railway station. (Shantaram if you are wondering).
I will return one day and spend more time just wandering around taking in the sights and sounds (and hopefully not the smells).
Don't book with the cruise company, there is no need and they don't offer nearly as much. The place is very safe to wander yourself, just keep to the main pathways if you aren't sure. The taxi drivers don't speak much English so it might be worth keeping a map with the port gates marked on it just in case.
We loved this area. The sights were fabulous, especially the tranquil backwaters of Kerala.
Our tour guide (booked through Viator on Trip Advisor) even went the extra mile as there was a Hindu festival taking place in one of the villages we passed, and so he took us to see the elephants that were waiting to be dressed for the evening celebrations. Huge but seemed quite content as they were being fed when we saw them.
Lovely area around the beaches. We saw the chinese fishing nets and were given the chance to pull in the nets on the pulleys. It was international Aids Awareness day and there were large numbers of people on a march through the streets, all dressed in various colourful costumes. Brilliant.
We went on an old converted rice boat on the back waters and saw hundreds of kingfishers; amazing as they are so rare in England. We were fed some local food which was delicious and then relaxed while we sailed around the lakes, watched people going about their daily business and saw the rice being transported following the harvest.
On the way back we saw lots of the highly decorated lorries parked along the sides of the road as a sort of art exhibition. Most are no longer able to be driven but it was great to see. Passed a picket line of women protesting their wages - give them a rise!
Would definitely return to this area. In the main town there seemed to be lots of new hotels and restaurants but we had no time to try any of them out.
The port is quite isolated but the area around is beautiful if you want to just go out and have a stroll. If you want a bit more bustle then you need to take a taxi from the port. Dont use the ones nearest the dockside, they will rip you off.
We moved out of the dock area and quite a bit further along and then the taxis were more reasonable and they were very friendly too.
We had pre-booked to go the Sky Cab Cable Car. The taxi cost us approx 40 Ringits one way and it was definitely worth having the local currency as this is much cheaper than trying to use dollars.
The Cable Car experience was amazing. It was well worth having pre-booked and I had also booked the VIP no queue with a glass bottomed car. If we hadnt we would have spent most of our day queuing so chose depending upon our budget and patience level. It was all worth it. We were there around 4 hours and with the 40 minute each way ride from the port it filled up the day nicely.
We saw lots of monkeys on the roadside and some of the villages and towns that we went through on the journey, along with some great coastline views were fabulous. Again I would love to revisit the area and have some more time to explore and sample some of the food. We didn't eat at the heritage village next to the Sky Cab but did sit down for a juice and to watch the fish being fed by lots of children (it was the school holidays which also explains the massive queues).
I loved Penang. We had teamed up with some people who had arranged for a taxi driver to take us around for the day.
We went up Penang Hill first thing. We booked VIP tickets which were definitely worth the few extra Ringits. It meant we didnt have to queue in the heat and also meant we were in the front car which gave us the best views of the funicular railway and the mountain.
The facilities at the top of the hill are a bit chaotic and very busy so make sure you leave plenty of time if you want to have a coffee or a snack while you are up there. The views are awesome so dont forget your camera.
We then went on a tour of the local area, which included some brilliant pieces of street art, and some great street food. Our driver was very knowledgeable and made sure we saw most of the main attractions.
Again, I would love to go back and have more time to explore the back streets and experience some more food treats.
Taxis are fairly cheap in Penang but the streets are very busy so don't underestimate the time that you will spend getting from A to B. Its also commonsense to get away from the port area before you start to haggle with the local drivers regarding tours. 100 Ringits is about the most you should pay for a full day tour including stops at the local park and the driver should arrange to wait for you at Penang Hill.
Port Klang has nothing there for tourists at all. You should prearrange your tours on line before you get there and you will get a much better deal. There is no port facility at all and so if you spend money here, you will struggle to reclaim the taxes. NCL made no arrangement at all for the port agent to post your tax rebate forms and expressed complete surprise when the facility was requested, even though there are massive shopping opportunities in places like the Petronas Towers.
Aside from those small local difficulties, KL is a great place to visit. It is vast, however, and you will not see a huge amount because of the distance you have to travel from the port. You should leave at least two hours spare at each end of your excursion to ensure you make it back to the ship on time as the traffic can be horrendous.
We were taken to the large palace (new) to view it but there is no entrance available so it might not seem worth it. However, if you turn away from the buildings and look into the distance, the overall view of the city is magnificent from the hill.
Our driver was knowledgeable about the history of the areas but it is a city which celebrates the new and not the old. There is little of ancient history, and this includes the Batu Caves which are only from the end of the 19th century. This did not spoil the trip but it did surprise me.
Lunch in the Petronas Towers was an experience. I expected the food halls to be quite posh as the towers are so new and the shops so expensive. This was not the case, however and it was a bit of a free for all. Enjoyed it though and we had some local noodles and fish or meat sauces (no idea what they were but tasty all the same). Good prices too, much better value than the posher Metro Centre where I live.
Just a shame that its so far from the port really. Not sure that the stop is worth it but the trip was great and some small things really made the day, including the driver taking me and another woman into a local cafe as we had decided it was way too hot and humid to climb the steps of the caves. People watching and eating local snacks is a great way to spend a pleasant hour.
We left the ship in Singapore. I have been before and its not my favourite destination, nor do the hotels live up to their hype for the most part.
It is an expensive place to visit and wont go back in a hurry.
We did visit Changi Prison Museum and Chapels on this occasion. What a place and well worth the trip out of town. We spent about 3 hours there, including a reviving beer and snack in the cafe next door which was very pleasant and not too expensive, compared to a lot of other places in Singapore. Get the tour guide headphones and take your time over this quite emotional museum. Its very small but packed full of fascinating facts, photos and testimonies.
We also went on the night safari. We pre-booked this and it was definitely worth doing that. It was extremely popular and packed but I never felt as though we queued for too long. The main attraction was a new elephant and the excitement built as we got nearer to his den. However, he is obviously completely underwhelmed by all of the attention as he was flat out fast asleep when we got there, and from other reports of other nights, this is a regular feature!. Still worth it though.
Went up in the lift to see the whole of the city from the top of the Marina Bay Hotel. I don't think I would pay the S$500 a night just to be able to use the infinity pool but it was certainly worth paying the few dollars to go up in the lift and have a drink in the bar. Lovely hotel and a lovely area along the sea front. Nice place for an evening stroll although I loved the bustle of Clarkes Quay too.
The open air street food market is not worth the price you pay. Definitely go to Fatties near to Little India if you want the authentic seafood noodle experience but expect to queue and possibly share a table as its always busy. Enjoy!