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This is our first Alaskan cruise and 9th with NCL. I think we may be suffering from NCL burnout or the cruise was not as exciting as it was for me (though I will admit this cruise was my wife's idea). My fellow Cruise Critic members will have posted much better reviews than I so I will continue to highlight the Good, The Bad and the Ugly aspects of our trip.Background: My wife, daughter and I stayed in an ocean view cabin, 5100. We took the dawn patrol flight from Newark airport to Seattle round trip with Alaska Airlines. We took a $60.00 cab ride from SEATAC to the dock, but took the Seattle highlights tour at the end of the cruise to kill time and to see Seattle. Lots of Asians on board, mostly Chinese and a surprising number of Indians (see more below).The Good:Many past cruisers have noted the impersonal attitude of the crew as fallout of their Free Style concept. I noticed some blasE responses, surprising and especially from our room steward, but I think the crew overall was always pleasant, friendly and welcoming. They smiled when greeting you or at least said good morning, hello or asked how you were. I think what made the cruise for my DD was finding out that Star's photo manager was on the Dawn two years ago, so she had an instant friend. She hung out with him and his team almost the entire time we were on board. They were all friendly, welcoming and made her feel like part of their little onboard family. They looked out for her and treated her like their little sister. The food was bland to me (or I am burned out from the 8 prior NCL cruises). All the ala carte dining options seemed to blend together from ship to ship, which can be a good thing for consistency across the fleet or not depending on your taste buds. We ate at Cagney's (2x), Le Bistro, Blue Lagoon (4x), Sushi bar (2x), Tepanyaki and their Tex Mex place. We ate off the ship in Ketchikan, Prince Rupert and Skagway. They did try to experiment with Indian food. Now, we are New Yorkers, so good, authentic Indian food is almost on every 10 blocks in NYC. We were a little skeptical but were pleasantly surprised considering what they had to work with. A lot of the spices, rice and seasoning were ad hoc, but the food was very decent. On a scale of 1-10 on the taste like mom's scale, it was a solid 7. I think they were trying it out to see how receptive people were and to maybe see if 1 billion Indians would want to sail if they could somehow get decent home cooking.We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert. Aside from Juneau, I wonder what would happen to these little places if the cruise ships ever leave as their economy would be devastated. We walked around town for all the ports, but we did the supposedly 3 hour and 20 mile White Horse train in Skagway, which turned out to a 4 hour epic journey. We saw enough mountains, waterfalls and fauna by the first hour (typical NY attitude) and wanted off, but they treated us to an additional 14 mile tour. Then they had to switch the locomotive as soon as neared the end, causing another 10 minute delay. Most people were ready to jump off the train and hoof it back to town as we were all starving.We ate at Blue Lagoon a few times for snacks and lunch. The big change is how they seat you like a regular restaurant. They take your order and deliver your food, but in more calm and professional manner. This totally different than all the other Blue Lagoons on the Dawn and Spirit where it was chaotic and rushed. They did have an ice cream service counter by the gym near the kids club. I thought it was an interesting place to put ice cream within sight of the people working out in the gym. There were numerous treadmills, elliptical, 2 stair climbers and 6 bikes. There was an ok selection of free weights and other cardio machines. (The Epic had the best gym I have seen on a ship.) I also had one deep tissue massage as a reward for a 20 mile run the week before. This time, there was no cross selling if the lotion or oils. This was a very nice change as well as the number of announcements for bingo; the weather and the art auction were way down. They still made them, but it wasn't as frequent as in past cruises.We also liked the efficiency of the crew getting passengers on and off the ship on port days. I remember lines of people crowding the decks only once or twice. Getting off was also quite easy as we booked the Seattle highlights tour. We were giving black bag tags and they escorted us the ship directly to the bags. The tour bus driver was also the guide and she bought tickets for the space needle for all of us and we spent an hour there an hour at Pike's Market. An additional stop was the old fire engines from the city's museum were out on display in a nearby park. We drove by the two sports stadiums and finally to the airport for home.The BadOur room steward was not has warm or friendly as all our prior ones. We have been fortunate to get exceptional stewards that made this one stand out. I think the main reason was his assistant had his own rooms to do where they used to share the duties. I didn't see his assistant until Thursday when he was covering. I think either they were short staffed or they cut back on the number of stewards.Food was bland most of the trip, except for the Indian buffet. All we really tasted was salt, which has been our most consistent complaint about NCL since we started cruising in 2004. The food was uninspiring and too predictable. I will admit we did not eat at the main dining rooms, but ship-wide food doesn't really change venue to venue when it comes to NCL. Blue Lagoon food was also the worst. The fish in the fish and chips was nasty and they only gave you one wanton in the wanton soup. The servings were also smaller. Guess this is how they are saving money. We really didn't eat too much in the buffet, except for breakfast. We bought the soda card and the price did go up. They also do not serve Coke products anymore, just Pepsi and we do not like Pepsi.The UglyInternet service was like the old dial up slow to the point I was looking for the phone cord. The weather was bad the first 4 days. Rain, clouds and wind on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and early Wednesday. The sun did come out in the afternoon on Wednesday and most of Thursday. Clouds and sun again on Friday. I did get sunburn from just sitting in the pool area on Thursday afternoon. I know you can't blame NCL for the lousy weather, but it did dampen our moods. There was a consistent funky, moldy, sewer like smell in the elevator area by our cabins all week. They ripped apart two cabins closest to the smell and moved the passengers to other cabins as they tried to solve the issue mid-week, but by Thursday the smell was back. There was also a really sewer odor in the internet cafe on Friday afternoon. I hope is this not a recurring issue on a 10 year old.OverallAny day cruising is better than a day at work is my motto, but maybe because Alaska was not where I wanted to go on vacation (beach bum) and the weather wasn't cooperating, but I wasn't thrilled with the overall experience. The Star is a nice size ship, great crew, ok food and decent ports. It is also showing its age and needs a refit to repair the frayed carpeting, chair upholstery and chipped furniture. I was not thrilled to not have Spinnaker on deck 12 to see the world go by and had to settle for a seat on deck 6 or 7. Would I recommend the Star? Yes. Would I recommend Alaska? Yes if you like nature and seeing the wild. Would I recommend the Star to Alaska? Yes, if you want a midsize ship on a mid-priced line with lots of dining options and plenty of chances to see eagles, whales and seals. Alaska cruises are not cheap and we thought this was a nice trip based on the overall costs. Some people will disagree and this is ok too. Free Style is not for everyone. We think we got our money's worth and my family had a good time together. At the end of the day, isn't that the most important thing?

NCL Star 7 day Alaska Cruise

Norwegian Star Cruise Review by fkwok

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: July 2011
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Oceanview Picture Window
This is our first Alaskan cruise and 9th with NCL. I think we may be suffering from NCL burnout or the cruise was not as exciting as it was for me (though I will admit this cruise was my wife's idea). My fellow Cruise Critic members will have posted much better reviews than I so I will continue to highlight the Good, The Bad and the Ugly aspects of our trip.Background: My wife, daughter and I stayed in an ocean view cabin, 5100. We took the dawn patrol flight from Newark airport to Seattle round trip with Alaska Airlines. We took a $60.00 cab ride from SEATAC to the dock, but took the Seattle highlights tour at the end of the cruise to kill time and to see Seattle. Lots of Asians on board, mostly Chinese and a surprising number of Indians (see more below).The Good:Many past cruisers have noted the impersonal attitude of the crew as fallout of their Free Style concept. I noticed some blasE responses, surprising and especially from our room steward, but I think the crew overall was always pleasant, friendly and welcoming. They smiled when greeting you or at least said good morning, hello or asked how you were. I think what made the cruise for my DD was finding out that Star's photo manager was on the Dawn two years ago, so she had an instant friend. She hung out with him and his team almost the entire time we were on board. They were all friendly, welcoming and made her feel like part of their little onboard family. They looked out for her and treated her like their little sister. The food was bland to me (or I am burned out from the 8 prior NCL cruises). All the ala carte dining options seemed to blend together from ship to ship, which can be a good thing for consistency across the fleet or not depending on your taste buds. We ate at Cagney's (2x), Le Bistro, Blue Lagoon (4x), Sushi bar (2x), Tepanyaki and their Tex Mex place. We ate off the ship in Ketchikan, Prince Rupert and Skagway. They did try to experiment with Indian food. Now, we are New Yorkers, so good, authentic Indian food is almost on every 10 blocks in NYC. We were a little skeptical but were pleasantly surprised considering what they had to work with. A lot of the spices, rice and seasoning were ad hoc, but the food was very decent. On a scale of 1-10 on the taste like mom's scale, it was a solid 7. I think they were trying it out to see how receptive people were and to maybe see if 1 billion Indians would want to sail if they could somehow get decent home cooking.We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert. Aside from Juneau, I wonder what would happen to these little places if the cruise ships ever leave as their economy would be devastated. We walked around town for all the ports, but we did the supposedly 3 hour and 20 mile White Horse train in Skagway, which turned out to a 4 hour epic journey. We saw enough mountains, waterfalls and fauna by the first hour (typical NY attitude) and wanted off, but they treated us to an additional 14 mile tour. Then they had to switch the locomotive as soon as neared the end, causing another 10 minute delay. Most people were ready to jump off the train and hoof it back to town as we were all starving.We ate at Blue Lagoon a few times for snacks and lunch. The big change is how they seat you like a regular restaurant. They take your order and deliver your food, but in more calm and professional manner. This totally different than all the other Blue Lagoons on the Dawn and Spirit where it was chaotic and rushed. They did have an ice cream service counter by the gym near the kids club. I thought it was an interesting place to put ice cream within sight of the people working out in the gym. There were numerous treadmills, elliptical, 2 stair climbers and 6 bikes. There was an ok selection of free weights and other cardio machines. (The Epic had the best gym I have seen on a ship.) I also had one deep tissue massage as a reward for a 20 mile run the week before. This time, there was no cross selling if the lotion or oils. This was a very nice change as well as the number of announcements for bingo; the weather and the art auction were way down. They still made them, but it wasn't as frequent as in past cruises.We also liked the efficiency of the crew getting passengers on and off the ship on port days. I remember lines of people crowding the decks only once or twice. Getting off was also quite easy as we booked the Seattle highlights tour. We were giving black bag tags and they escorted us the ship directly to the bags. The tour bus driver was also the guide and she bought tickets for the space needle for all of us and we spent an hour there an hour at Pike's Market. An additional stop was the old fire engines from the city's museum were out on display in a nearby park. We drove by the two sports stadiums and finally to the airport for home.The BadOur room steward was not has warm or friendly as all our prior ones. We have been fortunate to get exceptional stewards that made this one stand out. I think the main reason was his assistant had his own rooms to do where they used to share the duties. I didn't see his assistant until Thursday when he was covering. I think either they were short staffed or they cut back on the number of stewards.Food was bland most of the trip, except for the Indian buffet. All we really tasted was salt, which has been our most consistent complaint about NCL since we started cruising in 2004. The food was uninspiring and too predictable. I will admit we did not eat at the main dining rooms, but ship-wide food doesn't really change venue to venue when it comes to NCL. Blue Lagoon food was also the worst. The fish in the fish and chips was nasty and they only gave you one wanton in the wanton soup. The servings were also smaller. Guess this is how they are saving money. We really didn't eat too much in the buffet, except for breakfast. We bought the soda card and the price did go up. They also do not serve Coke products anymore, just Pepsi and we do not like Pepsi.The UglyInternet service was like the old dial up slow to the point I was looking for the phone cord. The weather was bad the first 4 days. Rain, clouds and wind on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and early Wednesday. The sun did come out in the afternoon on Wednesday and most of Thursday. Clouds and sun again on Friday. I did get sunburn from just sitting in the pool area on Thursday afternoon. I know you can't blame NCL for the lousy weather, but it did dampen our moods. There was a consistent funky, moldy, sewer like smell in the elevator area by our cabins all week. They ripped apart two cabins closest to the smell and moved the passengers to other cabins as they tried to solve the issue mid-week, but by Thursday the smell was back. There was also a really sewer odor in the internet cafe on Friday afternoon. I hope is this not a recurring issue on a 10 year old.OverallAny day cruising is better than a day at work is my motto, but maybe because Alaska was not where I wanted to go on vacation (beach bum) and the weather wasn't cooperating, but I wasn't thrilled with the overall experience. The Star is a nice size ship, great crew, ok food and decent ports. It is also showing its age and needs a refit to repair the frayed carpeting, chair upholstery and chipped furniture. I was not thrilled to not have Spinnaker on deck 12 to see the world go by and had to settle for a seat on deck 6 or 7. Would I recommend the Star? Yes. Would I recommend Alaska? Yes if you like nature and seeing the wild. Would I recommend the Star to Alaska? Yes, if you want a midsize ship on a mid-priced line with lots of dining options and plenty of chances to see eagles, whales and seals. Alaska cruises are not cheap and we thought this was a nice trip based on the overall costs. Some people will disagree and this is ok too. Free Style is not for everyone. We think we got our money's worth and my family had a good time together. At the end of the day, isn't that the most important thing?
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