We chose this cruise for the new and exciting ports of call on the original itinerary. However, in Dec 2016, the NCL Star had one engine problem forcing them to drop Ho Chi Min City and Bangkok from the itinerary. We only found out about this by reading Cruise Critic This occurred after final payment and NCL would not give us a full refund to cancel the cruise, they only offered a $200 onboard credit per person. So we went on to the cruise and flew to Hong Kong a few days prior and then boarded the ship there and noticed the ship could make only 9-10 knots. After 2 sea days we made Na Trang, Vietnam, which was not nearly as interesting as Ho Chi Min City would have been.
Then after another two sea days we made Singapore which is a beautiful modern city that was very interesting. We stayed overnight in Singapore to allow NCL to make engine repairs, which they did. We had two more sea days while we sped at 21 knots to Bali, Indonesia, which was a tender port. NCL Star's tendering operation allowed all of their tours to tender before others could tender which meant we had a three hour wait before we could get off the ship! To our surprise, a driver for the Ubud tour with Bali Sun Tours we booked thru Shore Excursions Group, was still there waiting for us and we had a nice "private" tour driving through the Bali "countryside" to visit the arts and crafts businesses in Ubud. After a shortened Bali tour, we got back in the huge line to tender back to the ship.
As we sat down for dinner that evening as the ship is sailing out of Bali, the captain came on the PA and said that the other engine is now broken and they would have to drop three more ports of call from our itinerary (Komodo Island, Airlie Beach, and Brisbane), meaning a total of 5 out of 10 original ports would be skipped. And we didn't find out until later that NCL was only offering $250 per person plus a 50% future cruise credit for this itinerary change. The mood of most passengers instantly went downhill and an impromptu meeting of passengers in the atrium started a petition to NCL to reconsider their poor offer. I believe there were some youtube videos that show the action there.
So now it took us three more sea days to make Darwin, Australia, and we were told by the captain that an NCL representative from Miami would come on board to hear the passenger complaints. However, when we get to Darwin, the NCL rep was from the Sydney office, and to be able to hear him, we had to skip leaving the ship early in Darwin. The NCL rep did say that he had no power to change the offer but he would listen to our concerns. He did get an ear full of complaints. And the next day, we got another offer from NCL that was a reimbursement of $500 per person (max $1000 per cabin) and a 100% future cruise credit (up to the cost of the current cruise less taxes and fees, etc). More passengers were happy with this offer, but we noted that we wished we had been able to cancel this cruise and recoup some of our travel expenses.
Anyway, we did visit Darwin and took the Hop-on Hop-off bus and Darwin was a nice place to visit even though it was rather hot. One local in a downtown cafe told us that it was just a little warm. Then we had two sea days and then we ported "near" Cairns, near being at Yorkey's Knob where the slow tendering process began again. Originally, we had booked the NCL tour to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef at Airlie Beach, but NCL cancelled that tour, but since we had booked that one early, they set up another GBR snorkel tour at Cairns and I got to be one of about 80 passengers allowed to sign up for it. The tour's catamaran pulled right up to the Star and we boarded for an hour cruise to the GBR dive/snorkel site. The seas had some big swells so the barf bags were passed out. We were at the site about 5 hours and I made 2 long snorkel trips and made many underwater pictures but the site was not very colorful but it was very interesting and I'm glad I got to see it. I felt sorry for the other passengers that weren't allowed to make this tour.
We had three more sea days after Cairns until we wound up into Sydney. The captain was anxious to get into Sydney early, so the sail in to Sydney Harbor occurred around 3am, so we skipped watching the sail-in. The Overseas Passenger Terminal is right in the middle of the Sydney harbor, so we had great views of the Opera House on one side and the Sydney Harbor Bridge on the other. We had been to Sydney before on another cruise, but it is one of our favorite places. We spent a couple of days there walking around "The Rocks" and visiting the Opera House before flying on to Auckland (for 3 days) and then back home to the US.
The Norwegian Star is a decent ship if both engines are working. We had a "cove" balcony cabin on deck 8 forward and our cabin was decent sized and our steward kept it very clean. Our only complaint with the cabin design is that the cabinet shelves are on the inside of the closet making it very difficult to see and reach for things stored there. The bath space is good (similar to the Jade and Dawn). And the cove balcony seems to help keep the wind and sun from bother us too much.
Since this was our fourth time on the Star, we had seen all of the cast shows but we were impressed by the Star's cast singers and dancers. We don't particularly care for Acrobatics, Aerialists, Magicians, which they had, but the singing acts they had were very good. The dance band, Exotique, in the Spinnaker Lounger, are great, especially when they do their Motown set. And the Melodic Trio in the Atrium are good at times.
We think the food overall on the Star has gotten worse since our last cruise with them in June, 2016. The Versailles Dining room menu didn't have enough variety in their dishes and vegetables (but it was a 21-day cruise). Note the menu also had "paid" items like surf and turf which would cost you extra, which we think is another crass attempt by NCL to nickel and dime their passengers. It seemed that the service in the Versailles was very slow compared to other cruises, too. The buffet was unappetizing. We ate at O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill many times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, since the service there was much better. Thanks to our Platinum Latitudes status, we had a free meal in La Cucina Italian restaurant and Le Bistro French restaurant, and they were both good!
If we had made all of our original ports of call, this would have been an exciting and interesting cruise. However, this was too many sea days on a ship we've sailed on too many times, and so I would have to give it a poor rating.
The cabin was a standard balcony cabin size with a "cove" balcony. Bath size is fine with a bigger shower area than some ships. Storage shelves open into the closet and not into the cabin which is a pain. Our bed was firm which we like. The cabin has a small refrigerator stocked with items for sale, we hardly used it.
We took the Hop-on Hop-off bus in Hong Kong from the Central Wharf area and it was a nice way to get an overview of HK. We just toured the main island and then walked to some places of interest in the Causeway Bay area. It was easy to ride the subways when we needed it.
Since this port was removed from our itinerary for this cruise, we have no report for Bangkok. We would have used a tour from Shore Excursions Group.
We used the Big Bus tours (HoHo) and rode around Singapore to see the sights. Very clean and very new looking. We enjoyed visiting Singapore.
We highly recommend Bali Sun Tours (via Shore Excursions Group) since they waited 3 hours for us to tender into the port at Bali. The tour was very good visiting the Ubud arts and crafts sites. The rice valley was disappointing in that it's just behind a main thoroughfare and it was not green.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We used the Darwin HoHo bus to sightsee the town and some countryside. Then we walked a bit in the downtown area and stopped in a cafe. Other than the heat, it was very pleasant.
The Great Barrier Reef tour with NCL was very well done. The catamaran was nice to ride to and from the reef and was outfitted very well for snorkel and diving. They served a big lunch which was included in the cost. And they had other drinks and snacks for sale. If the seas just had been a bit calmer it would have been perfect.View All 27 Barrier Reef Reviews
This port was missed due to the NCL Star's engine problems, so we didn't stop there and we have no idea how nice Brisbane is.
We disembarked at Sydney and stayed at the Park Hyatt just a few hundred feet away from the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Great views of the bridge and Opera house!!