Reason for choosing this cruise:The cruise was March 9(Singapore)-March 27(Dubai). We choose this cruise because of the itinerary which was port intensive with only 5 sea days. This is a part of the world that we had not traveled and this itinerary seemed an ideal way to sample a number of countries without a long term time and financial commitment. In this respect the cruise totally lived up to expectations as we visited 14 ports-including embarkation and disembarkation- that we had never visited before allowing us a small sample of what each place had to offer.
Pre-embarkation: We engaged a private guide from Indie Singapore to give us a tour of Singapore pre-embarkation. The guide-Iris- was fabulous and through discussion the tour was tailored to our interests. She provided a fabulous walking tour featuring Little India, Kampong Glam and Chinatown as well as some historic colonial areas and the Marina Bay Sands area. Lunch at Hawkers with expert guidance on the best stalls was also a highlight.
Embarkation:This took forever, this issue had been identified by previous reviewers and it appeared that little had improved, however NCL did provide chairs for the 2 hour plus wait that some people endured. In defense of NCL, after seeing their superb organization in getting passengers on/off the ship and dealing with boarding cards/visas I am led to conclude that the issues with Singapore embarkation are likely the responsibility of the Singapore government staff.
Ports and Shore Excursions: NCL handling of immigration details at all of the ports was excellent and they proved adept at quickly adjusting when the 'rules' changed unexpectedly. While I heard considerable whining from some fellow cruisers I cannot fault NCL - we were not in Kansas! The shore excursions offered were standard cruise ship variety and priced similar to other cruise lines we have been on. We used ship provided excursions in 10 of 12 ports. Most of the excursions were excellent-possibly because we always seemed to 'win' the luck of the draw on guides- most in the excellent category. The detail provided by the shore excursion company was limited, they provided little in terms of estimated lengths of bus rides, actual distances to be walked, steps to be climbed, comments on 'terrain' etc. I suspect we are spoiled by the level of detail provided by Princess shore excursions. Also noticeably different from our experiences with Princess Shore Excursion desk was that there was NO information provided for independent travelers, NO maps, and clearly NO interest in providing any assistance. The message seemed to be - spend money with us or get lost!
Ship: The Star has been refurbished recently and it shows. Lovely midsized ship that is very well maintained. There is an absence of quiet public areas to relax, it seems an inordinate amount of public space has been used for the 'specialty' restaurants. Liked the Atrium with band playing and seating in O'Sheehan's, at the coffee bar, and even in the internet cafe where you could sit and listen.
Room and room steward: We we in a mini-suite which featured a reasonable sized balcony, the largest bathroom we had had on a cruise ship when staying in anything below suite level. The room steward was exceptional, one of the best if not the best, in 25 cruises on 6 different lines over the last 30+ years.
Entertainment: pretty standard cruise line entertainment with a decent variety in guest performers, the 3 bands on board were all reasonably good and you could actually tell what songs they were playing/singing which is not always the case with cruise ship bands! Productions shows were below par compared to Princess, Celebrity and Celestyal.
Dining: NCL's slogan is "No one does dining like Norwegian" - My comment is THANK GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The food in the main dining rooms Versailles and Aqua, O'Sheehans, and Ginza ranged from awful to barely adequate with a handful of well prepared dishes. Food was of Inconsistent quality, often served at inappropriate temperature, NO attempt at 'presentation', lack of creativity in the menus, and all too frequent repetition of menu offerings. Service was rushed, courses came in seemingly random order. It appeared that they brought appetizers, soups and salads from the kitchen at the same time. If you had 2 'hot' dishes at least one was guaranteed to be served lukewarm. The tables were so crammed in that it was almost impossible for the waiter to serve and remove dishes appropriately- not sure that they had even been trained in appropriate serving etiquette. The pace can best be described as frenetic, it most certainly did not resemble a reasonable DINING pace. We have experienced various cruise lines version of 'open seating' in their main dining rooms and none had the issues of pacing experienced with NCL's Anytime Eating. Anytime Eating because it assuredly was NOT DINING!
Excellent value for money. Very large bathroom. Reasonable sized balcony