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We selected this cruise for a number of reasons: the size of the ship (not too huge), the ports of call, the amenities and shipboard options and the cabins. Overall, the experience was positive but it all depended on the day/time as my experiences varied widely. I'll detail them in the notes below. First, I think it's worth noting one of the more positive aspects of the trip....the service. The cabin stewards were top notch and an absolute delight...very much working to ensure your comfort and that your individual needs were being met. The staff in the café were also great, making sure that you had what you needed and that tables were cleared off quickly in between customers. Second, there was something that I noticed before we even began the trip and it proved to be an ongoing and persistent annoyance. I don't know if this is specific to this ship, to NCL or to the cruise industry overall but it's enough to drive me away from another trip altogether. And that is, the constant nickle-and-diming. It started even before we boarded, being bombarded with announcements of savings or deals on future trips. I didn't want to unsubscribe because these messages were also interwoven with important communications about my trip. But, once the trip was over, I unsubscribed immediately. Then, once you are preparing to embark or just after you get on the ship, there are deals on the spa...and wine packages...and beverage deals. And even when you purchased one of the 'packages' you found out that there was more excluded than included in the deal. Everything was an additional fee or had an additional service charge or added money in some way, shape or form. It was a constant barrage. Friends of mine got the beverage package which then seemed to insure that almost every beverage they wanted was actually not included. They regretted getting it. I got the wine package which actually had some very good wine and was perfect for our needs. Unfortunately, actually getting the wine was time-consuming and cumbersome. I was told that I could use my vouchers in any restaurant or bar but, since I wasn't using the restaurants, I went to one of the bars every time. When I did so, turning in those vouchers was treated as a major inconvenience and I was told a couple of times that they couldn't do it, until I pressed the issue. Then it was taken care of grudgingly...and took time. It's not like I did this when they were at peak capacity...it was in the late afternoon when there wasn't more than a handful of people in these locations. If you're going to sell these packages, then it should be easy for people to redeem them. Also, there were several 'quiet areas' on the ship where you are supposed to be able to go to get out of the craziness, get away from the crowds and/or just relax and read without being bombarded with noise. Unfortunately, those areas were not respected and there were multiple times where, despite reminders from myself and others, people insisted on loud talking/laughing/etc. I soon found that the only real place for peace and quiet was my own balcony. If the ship is going to designate quiet areas, they should enforce it and ensure that other passengers aren't left to do that. There also seemed to be a lack of planning in terms of when/where resources would be needed. For example, after everyone was onboard and as we got underway, there was only one person available to assist in the internet café. That is the time that everyone is trying to connect to the ship's wifi, with varying levels of success, or they want to upgrade their wifi service. Either way, there are a lot of people who are looking for help at the same time and having only one person there to do so was ridiculous. A lot of people were pretty frustrated. Another example was on the last day, prior to debarkation. They had 2 people on duty at the main desk to resolve billing questions/issues, so the line was huge. Both of these times and passenger needs are pretty predictable, they should staff accordingly. Now, for the finer details. Ship: I understand that this ship was recently retrofitted but I have to say that it was a bit odd in terms of the layout. There were some facilities that were actually at a 1/2 deck level and you had to take the elevator to the floor above and walk down 1/2 flight to get to it. This meant that some parts of the ship were not accessible to anyone who was mobility challenged. Cabin: The cabin was awesome and had more space than expected, including the bathroom. I loved having the balcony as well, it was my own private space to get away from the masses. The steward who covered my area also did everything he could to ensure that it was clean and comfortable and met my needs. Dining: I only went to the café. I wasn't particularly interested in most of the dining options and definitely was not interested in paying anything extra or having to wait. I wanted to eat when I wanted to eat and be able to get in and out relatively quickly...and so utilized the café. I also found that there was enough variety there so that, when my friends and I were all there at the same time, all of our tastes and dietary needs could be met. The only downside was that I found that a lot of the food was incredibly salty, especially the soups. Spa: Loved the spa!! I spent a good deal of my downtime there, even if I wasn't getting a treatment. I loved hanging out in the hot tub, although the whirlpool was not warm enough. The only downside was that there were no changing rooms in the locker room and the lounging beds in the spa itself were fully occupied much of the time (they need more of them), especially on the 'at sea' day. There was also a bit of a snafu at the beginning of the trip, in that there was a spa representative in the embarkation area. She was promoting a package deal on spa treatments that were booked at the start of the trip. I went right over there, before I even had my boarding info, so that I could get things scheduled early. Unfortunately, her phone didn't work properly and she tried multiple times to reach the scheduler on board. We spent about 15 min trying to make that connection until I left to finish checking in...and eventually she got a new phone and was able to make the connection. It's great to have people sign up early but it's an exercise in frustration if the person charged with doing so is unable to seal the deal. Ports and Shore excursions: there's really only one word for it - chaos!! I'm not a big-crowd person so I probably should have steered away from the excursion packages altogether. These were a total mix of experiences, for the most part dependent on the skills of the guide. - Montenegro - this one was a total waste and was, unfortunately, our first port. We started a bit late because we had to tender and we had farther to go to actually get to the port. Our guide did not factor that lost time into the itinerary. First, it was a fairly long bus ride to get to Budva but, for some reason, we went about 15 min beyond the city, only to pull over to the side of the road to 'take a picture' of an unimpressive island, and a look-back towards the coastline. The only thing that was highlighted about this island was that George Clooney was there for something. After a few pics, we got back on the bus for the trip back to Budva. We lost about 1/2 hr for that useless sidetrip. The city of Budva was interesting but we got none of the history...you had to ask very pointed questions to get any of the background...and then we were set loose to explore and shop. Then we headed back to Kotor and the ship, missing the entire second part of the trip, an exploration of the old city of Kotor. I found out later that, as the last few people got off the bus, one of them challenged the guide with the fact that we had missed this part of the trip. She then offered to take those remaining folks (apparently only about 8-10 people) on a brief tour of the old city. Those that did it said it was the highlight of that day...but it was not even made available to everyone on that bus, as they were directed back to the ship. In fact, if those last few folks hadn't asked about it, they probably wouldn't have seen it either. - Corfu: For Corfu, we had a great guide and we heard a lot about the island and some of their history. The only downside to Corfu was the trash. Apparently, the local landfill is totally full and they have had no place to put their trash for months now. All over the island you will just see huge piles of garbage and overflowing bins. It really takes away from the beauty of the island. - Santorini: The caldera itself was beautiful as were the views of the different communities from the water. My only wish was that we could have spent some time checking out different parts of the island that were not on the 'tours'. As it was, we went to the two main parts of the island - Fira and Oia, and both were just insane. In Oia, you have the opportunity to see the iconic blue domes and whitewashed buildings overlooking the sea. But, when you get to those points, it's just herds of people shuffling in and out, with selfie-sticks, trying to capture those iconic shots. It's a mob scene and you sometimes have to queue up just to walk down a particular alleyway or staircase. Sometimes you could barely walk...and we were there towards the end of the season. Ii can't imagine what it would be like in July/August. - Dubrovnik: The unexpected highlight of the trip. This was my favorite port and I only wish that I had more time to explore it. It's a beautiful city and we had a great guide, who provided great context on the history, culture and people of this city and Croatia. Excursions overall: How the excursions are managed onboard is a nightmare and highly dependent on individual people. For example: on the first day, Marcus was the MC of the excursion management process. He was clear on what to expect and provided detailed instructions on what to listen for. He said that a lot of the excursions had "Montenegro" in the title and that he was going to announce not just the name of the tour but also the tour #, so that it would be more clear. He also repeated each announcement several times, so that people who couldn't hear or missed the first announcement could catch it on one of the subsequent announcements. The only other person who did something similar was the eastern European guy (who spoke multiple languages)..and he, too, had a smooth process. On the other hand, there were two women who handled the process who were horrible at it. One of them made the announcement only once so that multiple people were scrambling around checking with other people on what trip was boarding at any given time. And, one of them did repeat the name of the tour, but used the wrong name of the tour...so that at least one person missed it because they were listening for something different than what she announced. When those errors happened, there was no ownership or accountability...it was just shrugged off. In fact, the only person who seemed to take any ownership for helping to ensure that any misdirected passengers got taken care of, was Marcus. Nobody else seemed to care, they'd just move people along the process to the next person and let them deal with it. I know it's challenging to get hundreds of people on/off and sent off in multiple directions but there should be more concern about ensuring that people get to the right place at the right time. Embarkation/Debarkation: These were two totally different experiences. - Embarkation in Venice was a zoo. The signage in the debarkation center was on these portable stands, making it easy for them to put up/take down but virtually impossible for people to see, especially if someone is standing in front of them. I waited in one line for about 15 min and when I got to the front was asked for my number, which I had no idea I needed, because I hadn't actually checked in. The sign for that was totally blocked by a group of people. So I had to go back and get in a different line. There was also the issue of the spa lady trying to schedule spa appointments but not being able to reach the scheduler onboard. Once we got thru those lines, it really was not clear what we were supposed to do once we got onboard. The seasoned cruisers knew but newbies did not....and we just sort of wandered around trying to figure out where we were supposed to go. We were eventually told to go to the café for lunch but as more and more people came onboard, it became quite crowded. And, because people couldn't check in to their rooms, they tended to stay put in the café...taking up table space so that others had no place to sit. There were a lot of people just wandering around trying to find a place to hang out until cabins were ready. It was annoying and frustrating. - Debarkation: was a well-oiled machine. It was relatively painless and an incredibly smooth operation. Overall, I enjoyed the cruise and some of the ports but I also think that there is a lot of room for improvement.

A Mixed Bag

Norwegian Star Cruise Review by Mame90

1 person found this helpful
Trip Details
We selected this cruise for a number of reasons: the size of the ship (not too huge), the ports of call, the amenities and shipboard options and the cabins.

Overall, the experience was positive but it all depended on the day/time as my experiences varied widely. I'll detail them in the notes below.

First, I think it's worth noting one of the more positive aspects of the trip....the service. The cabin stewards were top notch and an absolute delight...very much working to ensure your comfort and that your individual needs were being met. The staff in the café were also great, making sure that you had what you needed and that tables were cleared off quickly in between customers.

Second, there was something that I noticed before we even began the trip and it proved to be an ongoing and persistent annoyance. I don't know if this is specific to this ship, to NCL or to the cruise industry overall but it's enough to drive me away from another trip altogether. And that is, the constant nickle-and-diming. It started even before we boarded, being bombarded with announcements of savings or deals on future trips. I didn't want to unsubscribe because these messages were also interwoven with important communications about my trip. But, once the trip was over, I unsubscribed immediately.

Then, once you are preparing to embark or just after you get on the ship, there are deals on the spa...and wine packages...and beverage deals. And even when you purchased one of the 'packages' you found out that there was more excluded than included in the deal. Everything was an additional fee or had an additional service charge or added money in some way, shape or form. It was a constant barrage. Friends of mine got the beverage package which then seemed to insure that almost every beverage they wanted was actually not included. They regretted getting it. I got the wine package which actually had some very good wine and was perfect for our needs. Unfortunately, actually getting the wine was time-consuming and cumbersome. I was told that I could use my vouchers in any restaurant or bar but, since I wasn't using the restaurants, I went to one of the bars every time. When I did so, turning in those vouchers was treated as a major inconvenience and I was told a couple of times that they couldn't do it, until I pressed the issue. Then it was taken care of grudgingly...and took time. It's not like I did this when they were at peak capacity...it was in the late afternoon when there wasn't more than a handful of people in these locations. If you're going to sell these packages, then it should be easy for people to redeem them.

Also, there were several 'quiet areas' on the ship where you are supposed to be able to go to get out of the craziness, get away from the crowds and/or just relax and read without being bombarded with noise. Unfortunately, those areas were not respected and there were multiple times where, despite reminders from myself and others, people insisted on loud talking/laughing/etc. I soon found that the only real place for peace and quiet was my own balcony. If the ship is going to designate quiet areas, they should enforce it and ensure that other passengers aren't left to do that.

There also seemed to be a lack of planning in terms of when/where resources would be needed. For example, after everyone was onboard and as we got underway, there was only one person available to assist in the internet café. That is the time that everyone is trying to connect to the ship's wifi, with varying levels of success, or they want to upgrade their wifi service. Either way, there are a lot of people who are looking for help at the same time and having only one person there to do so was ridiculous. A lot of people were pretty frustrated. Another example was on the last day, prior to debarkation. They had 2 people on duty at the main desk to resolve billing questions/issues, so the line was huge. Both of these times and passenger needs are pretty predictable, they should staff accordingly.

Now, for the finer details.

Ship: I understand that this ship was recently retrofitted but I have to say that it was a bit odd in terms of the layout. There were some facilities that were actually at a 1/2 deck level and you had to take the elevator to the floor above and walk down 1/2 flight to get to it. This meant that some parts of the ship were not accessible to anyone who was mobility challenged.

Cabin: The cabin was awesome and had more space than expected, including the bathroom. I loved having the balcony as well, it was my own private space to get away from the masses. The steward who covered my area also did everything he could to ensure that it was clean and comfortable and met my needs.

Dining: I only went to the café. I wasn't particularly interested in most of the dining options and definitely was not interested in paying anything extra or having to wait. I wanted to eat when I wanted to eat and be able to get in and out relatively quickly...and so utilized the café. I also found that there was enough variety there so that, when my friends and I were all there at the same time, all of our tastes and dietary needs could be met. The only downside was that I found that a lot of the food was incredibly salty, especially the soups.

Spa: Loved the spa!! I spent a good deal of my downtime there, even if I wasn't getting a treatment. I loved hanging out in the hot tub, although the whirlpool was not warm enough. The only downside was that there were no changing rooms in the locker room and the lounging beds in the spa itself were fully occupied much of the time (they need more of them), especially on the 'at sea' day.

There was also a bit of a snafu at the beginning of the trip, in that there was a spa representative in the embarkation area. She was promoting a package deal on spa treatments that were booked at the start of the trip. I went right over there, before I even had my boarding info, so that I could get things scheduled early. Unfortunately, her phone didn't work properly and she tried multiple times to reach the scheduler on board. We spent about 15 min trying to make that connection until I left to finish checking in...and eventually she got a new phone and was able to make the connection. It's great to have people sign up early but it's an exercise in frustration if the person charged with doing so is unable to seal the deal.

Ports and Shore excursions: there's really only one word for it - chaos!! I'm not a big-crowd person so I probably should have steered away from the excursion packages altogether. These were a total mix of experiences, for the most part dependent on the skills of the guide.

- Montenegro - this one was a total waste and was, unfortunately, our first port. We started a bit late because we had to tender and we had farther to go to actually get to the port. Our guide did not factor that lost time into the itinerary. First, it was a fairly long bus ride to get to Budva but, for some reason, we went about 15 min beyond the city, only to pull over to the side of the road to 'take a picture' of an unimpressive island, and a look-back towards the coastline. The only thing that was highlighted about this island was that George Clooney was there for something. After a few pics, we got back on the bus for the trip back to Budva. We lost about 1/2 hr for that useless sidetrip. The city of Budva was interesting but we got none of the history...you had to ask very pointed questions to get any of the background...and then we were set loose to explore and shop.

Then we headed back to Kotor and the ship, missing the entire second part of the trip, an exploration of the old city of Kotor. I found out later that, as the last few people got off the bus, one of them challenged the guide with the fact that we had missed this part of the trip. She then offered to take those remaining folks (apparently only about 8-10 people) on a brief tour of the old city. Those that did it said it was the highlight of that day...but it was not even made available to everyone on that bus, as they were directed back to the ship. In fact, if those last few folks hadn't asked about it, they probably wouldn't have seen it either.

- Corfu: For Corfu, we had a great guide and we heard a lot about the island and some of their history. The only downside to Corfu was the trash. Apparently, the local landfill is totally full and they have had no place to put their trash for months now. All over the island you will just see huge piles of garbage and overflowing bins. It really takes away from the beauty of the island.

- Santorini: The caldera itself was beautiful as were the views of the different communities from the water. My only wish was that we could have spent some time checking out different parts of the island that were not on the 'tours'. As it was, we went to the two main parts of the island - Fira and Oia, and both were just insane. In Oia, you have the opportunity to see the iconic blue domes and whitewashed buildings overlooking the sea. But, when you get to those points, it's just herds of people shuffling in and out, with selfie-sticks, trying to capture those iconic shots. It's a mob scene and you sometimes have to queue up just to walk down a particular alleyway or staircase. Sometimes you could barely walk...and we were there towards the end of the season. Ii can't imagine what it would be like in July/August.

- Dubrovnik: The unexpected highlight of the trip. This was my favorite port and I only wish that I had more time to explore it. It's a beautiful city and we had a great guide, who provided great context on the history, culture and people of this city and Croatia.

Excursions overall: How the excursions are managed onboard is a nightmare and highly dependent on individual people. For example: on the first day, Marcus was the MC of the excursion management process. He was clear on what to expect and provided detailed instructions on what to listen for. He said that a lot of the excursions had "Montenegro" in the title and that he was going to announce not just the name of the tour but also the tour #, so that it would be more clear. He also repeated each announcement several times, so that people who couldn't hear or missed the first announcement could catch it on one of the subsequent announcements. The only other person who did something similar was the eastern European guy (who spoke multiple languages)..and he, too, had a smooth process. On the other hand, there were two women who handled the process who were horrible at it. One of them made the announcement only once so that multiple people were scrambling around checking with other people on what trip was boarding at any given time. And, one of them did repeat the name of the tour, but used the wrong name of the tour...so that at least one person missed it because they were listening for something different than what she announced. When those errors happened, there was no ownership or accountability...it was just shrugged off. In fact, the only person who seemed to take any ownership for helping to ensure that any misdirected passengers got taken care of, was Marcus. Nobody else seemed to care, they'd just move people along the process to the next person and let them deal with it. I know it's challenging to get hundreds of people on/off and sent off in multiple directions but there should be more concern about ensuring that people get to the right place at the right time.

Embarkation/Debarkation: These were two totally different experiences.

- Embarkation in Venice was a zoo. The signage in the debarkation center was on these portable stands, making it easy for them to put up/take down but virtually impossible for people to see, especially if someone is standing in front of them. I waited in one line for about 15 min and when I got to the front was asked for my number, which I had no idea I needed, because I hadn't actually checked in. The sign for that was totally blocked by a group of people. So I had to go back and get in a different line. There was also the issue of the spa lady trying to schedule spa appointments but not being able to reach the scheduler onboard. Once we got thru those lines, it really was not clear what we were supposed to do once we got onboard. The seasoned cruisers knew but newbies did not....and we just sort of wandered around trying to figure out where we were supposed to go. We were eventually told to go to the café for lunch but as more and more people came onboard, it became quite crowded. And, because people couldn't check in to their rooms, they tended to stay put in the café...taking up table space so that others had no place to sit. There were a lot of people just wandering around trying to find a place to hang out until cabins were ready. It was annoying and frustrating.

- Debarkation: was a well-oiled machine. It was relatively painless and an incredibly smooth operation.

Overall, I enjoyed the cruise and some of the ports but I also think that there is a lot of room for improvement.
Mame90’s Full Rating Summary
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