245 Norwegian Star Alaska Cruise Reviews

Being Australians and not having cruised before, it was with some trepidation that we embarked on this particular cruise on this ship. I guess it was because of the 'tyranny of distance' syndrome that makes it questionable. ... Read More
Being Australians and not having cruised before, it was with some trepidation that we embarked on this particular cruise on this ship. I guess it was because of the 'tyranny of distance' syndrome that makes it questionable. Our first impressions of the ship were impressive by stature but those impressions gradually diminished over the period of the cruise to the extent of 'can't wait to get off' at the end. Let me say that NCL's 'freestyle' cruising will not suit everyone. I have no problem with the style and concept of that, it is merely their interpretation and implementation that impinges on the fond memories generated during the cruise. At our group's "meet & greet" we were informed by the 'chiefs of the cruise' that ... it was 'our' cruise and we were to enjoy ourselves ... Somehow, that message got lost amongst the crew! Let me firstly list those things that grated, like the embarkation process for which you had to queue! the dis-embarkation process that was just way too long and barely sensibly organised, the constant selling of art/paintings etc [sic], the near continual haranguing of the 'selling' the various competitions etc. [bingo/casino/trivia], the almost constant harassment by the drink waiters no matter where you were on the ship, the gross imposition into personal spaces by the ever-present, annoying 'photographers' who's photos were very expensive and the almost palpable indifference of the 'hotel' crew in general. Now to the other things! Was the ship everything that we expected? Most definitely YES! Was our 'inside stateroom' adequate for our needs? Unquestionably YES [would go for a balcony next time though] Were we satisfied with the available dining options excluding the 'surcharged' places? Definitely. Quality & quantity of food in those dining places? In most instances, more than adequate in taste & style. Did we eat at the 'surcharged' restaurants? Only on two occasions and neither the "Ginza" or the "Tex-Mex' met standards that should warrant the imposition of the $10-$15 surcharge. We were more than satisfied with the care and attention showed to us by our cabin attendants. Their attitude was so different to the embarrassing, inept & almost careless attitude displayed by most of the other crew. Would we go cruising again? Certainly not on the other side of the earth - Northern Hemisphere! Would we travel/cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines again? Probably not! Overall, the lasting impression of the cruise is that you have to be able to make your own way, to choose your own destiny and not be reliant on the cruise line/ship's crew to choose for you. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Norwegian Star, 9/18/10 Stateroom 5628 For eight months after we booked this cruise we wondered how much fun we would have. The answer is we couldn't of had a better time and we were not disappointed. We arrived in Seattle the day ... Read More
Norwegian Star, 9/18/10 Stateroom 5628 For eight months after we booked this cruise we wondered how much fun we would have. The answer is we couldn't of had a better time and we were not disappointed. We arrived in Seattle the day before the cruise and bought a pre-cruise package through NCL which turned out to be a good decision because not only was our room ready at noon, but we found out the next morning that our luggage with the NCL tags attached would be taken to the pier ahead of our bus and it would be at our cabin door by 3:00 PM. Our bus arrived at noon and we were on our way to stand in line at the pier. I think the process went fairly quickly since over 2000 people are trying to do the same thing. There are enough NCL people around to guide you and give information. After going through security, filling out the health form, checking in and getting the embarkation picture taken, we were sitting down at the Versailles and eating by 1:30 PM. I would recommend going to the Meet and Greet arranged by a CC member from your cruise but supported by NCL. We met and befriended a number of other CC members and met some of the directors of the Star. They answered questions and assured us to tell them about any problem we might encounter since they can't fix it if they don't know about the problem. Luckily we didn't have any issues. Here are our views on the Star - Free Restaurants- The Versailles, Aqua (evenings only) Blue Lagoon, Market Cafe, and pool buffet were more than adequate to satisfy anytime eating. The food was good and we never had to wait for a table for two at the times we ate - early. Pay Restaurants - We loved Le Bistro, it is worth the extra surcharge, liked Cagney's and Endless Summer. Again no problem getting seated. Crew - We were impressed at how pleasant and how eager to please the passengers they were. Each one we encountered was pleasant and seemed to enjoy the conversation. They did their jobs efficiently and always had a smile on their face in front of the passengers. We talked to almost every category of crew from the Cruise Director and her staff to the servers, bartenders and stewards. Oceanview Room - We were on the fifth deck midship and loved the location. Would we have loved a suite? Yes, but we could not afford that. The bathroom is laid out with a sink in the middle and glass doors on either side with the shower on one side and the toilet on the other. We used an over the door shoe organizer to handle the toiletries we used frequently. We liked the fifth deck because it was close to the restaurants, atrium, theater and casino. Since the elevators were usually busy we could always walk up two decks and walk down any number of them. That became our unspoken rule of thumb while going about the ship. We both thought the bed was comfortable, the layout of the room was OK for us, which was bed under the window with a small side table on either side. The closet was opposite the bathroom with lots of hanging space and drawers and the desk was on the other side of the room. At the end of the closet was a mini desk area with a small TV on a shelf. Also on the closet side was more drawers and a mini refrigerator. We put all the expensive items from the frig into an unused drawer so we wouldn't use them and then used the frig for the beer we bought in the bucket. Our suitcases did fit under the bed and we used one of them for dirty clothes. The stewards were very friendly and took care of our room two times a day. We always had ice in the room and I only asked for it once, but then they knew we would use lots of ice. We couldn't ever hear the neighbors so the walls are quite soundproof. In fact we thought one room was empty and realized someone was there only when we saw the luggage outside the door on the last night. Entertainment - We thought the shows in the Stardust Theater were very entertaining. Our favorite was Kenny Byrd, the ventriloquist. He was very funny and would pick people in the crowd to come on stage. We were glad he didn't pick us! We live in the Midwest, so we have no experience with Broadway shows and limited experience with Vegas shows but in our opinion the shows on ship were great. They had a Frankie Valli Tribute, 70's band show, Kenny Byrd, Second City Comedy and dancers with Chinese acrobats. We also saw the welcome aboard show, a crew talent show and a finale with some funny skits. There was various music around the ship in various places and at various times- just look at your Freestyle Daily. We liked Stan Skyes at Gatsby's Bar. The Spinnaker Lounge had lots of adult shows starting after 10:30PM like the Not So Newlywed Game, Karaoke Idol and Dancing With the Stars (crew). We never went to one, but they are replayed on the ship's TV channel. Ports - The ports the Star visits are very nice quaint towns. We liked them in this order. First is Skagway. The shopkeepers that we talked to were very interesting to talk to and shared their experiences on living all year in Alaska or if they were there just for the cruising season. The Gold Rush Visitors Center was very interesting with some exhibits, posters and maps to look at. The half hour movie was put together very nicely. Of course the best excursion in Skagway is the White Pass Railroad. There are several different length of trips. We took the 3 ½ hour trip and since we booked with NCL (only $9 difference), we got to board right at the pier. We were lucky enough to have a nice sunny day and could see lots of lovely scenery. Next is Ketchikan. The shopkeepers were very friendly especially in the Creek Street area. We just shopped and then did some people watching while having drinks and appetizers at the Fish Pirate Saloon. Third is Juneau. This port took more time to disembark and the busing system into town seemed confusing. We only shopped in Juneau, but there didn't seem to be as many locals keeping shops and most of them were more business like an not as friendly. The best thing was that the Alaska Shirt Company had everything half off since it was end of the season. Last was Prince Rupert. We never got off the ship because like Juneau it was hard to get off the ship and by the time we felt like going it started to rain. The passengers coming back said we didn't miss much because the ship arrived at 4:00 PM and most shops didn't stay open late. What we tried to avoid after experiencing: Elevators - They are very slow and they get backed up fast and the people waiting are unaware that they are blocking the stairways. Art Auction - We got tired of walking into the area. It is right in the middle of a main hallway and the workers blocked the hallways moving the art into the Aqua for the talks and auctions. Buffet - We never found a time that the buffet wasn't busy and the way the tables are laid out makes it easy for one small group to use room for six to ten people. We went one time for lunch around 3:00 PM and there was barely a table for just the two of us and the lines were closed getting ready for dinner. We thought that keeping one line open while they were changing the other line could work, then they could get that line changed over to dinner. Maybe then the buffet wouldn't be so busy. We did find that when the weather was good enough we could use the pool buffet, which is more or less picnic food with more room to sit and eat. Casino - We knew we wouldn't win much at the casino, but we tried it anyway. We both could use one coupon each once a day that gave us $20 play for $10. Thank goodness we printed enough for four or five days. We thought the casino was too smoky and too warm for us so we left before too many people filled the room. TIP- instead of using the ATM for cash ($8.50 charge) go to the cashier and ask for money and charge it to your sea pass card (no charge). Getting off at ports - We aren't sure why disembarking was so different at each port, but since we didn't have any early excursions we waited until the crowd got smaller, but even then it could be over an hour waiting. Thoughts about NCL pushing sales - We never felt any pressure to buy anything extra on the ship. From the Photo Gallery, Bingo, Pull-Tabs, to pay restaurants, drinks and the Gallery Shops. We never felt funny saying no to buying anything extra. That includes us sitting in a bar area for almost three hours listening to the music and people watching and the only thing we ordered was three beers and two ice waters. Finally, disembarking on the final day was very organized. Thinking that over 2000 people are leaving is overwhelming. The colored tag system works very well. Staff are placed around the 7th deck informing the passengers where to go and answering questions. We sat in the Atrium and watched the people leave since we had a post cruise hotel package and were the last group to leave. For the most part people were very orderly and patient leaving the ship. We got to leave a little early because everything was going smoothly. We located our bags arranged downstairs in the terminal by the color tags given out the day before. Again there are many NCL port people around to answer questions. Since we left the ship early our bus wasn't there (of course), so all the brown tag people stayed together and amid the confusion of many busses and taxis and next weeks passengers arriving we were finally picked up about 10:30 AM. Again we were glad we bought our hotel package from NCL because our room was ready before noon. I'm happy that the hotels booked through NCL worked out so well. I sat and checked online last March to see which would be a better deal, booking a hotel ourselves or through NCL. I think I made the right decision because our price included the transfers to and from the pier, baggage handling, tipping the handlers and all room taxes. TIP - If you stay at Holiday Inn Sea-Tac and want to go into town, use the Link Light Rail for $2.50 each way. All you have to do is go out the Lobby door, walk towards the street, turn left and look for the over the street walkway that is less than a block ahead. There is a stairway or an elevator to take you up to the level. Once you cross over the street the ticket station is easily seen and you can be at the Westlake Center in less than a half and hour. It is an easy walk down to the Wharf, Pikes Place, Downtown shopping or the Space Needle. So in conclusion our cruise was tremendous. We are impressed with all the organizing that goes into running a cruise ship and from our experience how smoothly everything did go. We will be planning another cruise on NCL as soon as possible. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
The ship: This ship is dated. We had a penthouse suite. The balcony decking and handrails are warn, splintered, dried out and faded. The suite is dark and laid out in a peculiar fashion making it awkward to get to the bathroom and main ... Read More
The ship: This ship is dated. We had a penthouse suite. The balcony decking and handrails are warn, splintered, dried out and faded. The suite is dark and laid out in a peculiar fashion making it awkward to get to the bathroom and main closet. Although a queen bed is advertised, a king was furnished. It was not comfortable however. Reading light in the cabin is insufficient. Although the view from the balcony, overlooking the aft of the ship, is terrific, the noise from the propellers is very loud. We were with another couple and could not find a public place to sit down and relax or read. All the space has apparently been consumed by specialty restaurants. This was the biggest problem with this ship. The food: The penthouse comes with the privilege of breakfast and lunch in Cagney's restaurant which is outstanding. The food and service is great here although the menu does not change during the cruise. Buffet food is "slop". Of our 10 or so meals in the public dining rooms, very few of our orders were correct with missing or incorrect dishes served. The service staff was not friendly, the dining rooms noisy and had a typical wait for seating during dinner hours. Food in the "pay per dine" restaurants was a cut above and highly recommended, though costly. We did not have to wait for seating in these. Room service sandwiches were good but typically missing the chips and pickles that were advertised. The penthouse came with a chilled bottle of sparkling wine on arrival and a evening plate of goodies which was nice. Tips: Watch out for the $12/day per person added to your bill for tips. These can be eliminated but the staff will belittle you when attempting to eliminate them in favor of manual tips for those staff members deserving. Ports of Call: The ship docked, no tenders, in all ports. The off and on were handled well. The Alaska ports are great and good for self walking tours. There isn't much to see in Port Rupert, BC however. Fitness/Spa There was no attendant in the fitness area, nobody to answer questions. The sauna and steam room required an additional $99 much to my disappointment. Entertainment: The women in our party walked out on all stage entertainment except for the acrobatic dancing. They judged it very poor. Cabin Service: The Butler and cabin attendants were very good, friendly and efficient. Overall Impression: The ship is dated, small, confining and in need for balcony maintenance for a major cruise line. The freestyle dining is good, though expensive, if you stick to the pay per meal restaurants. Would we cruise NCL again, no! Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Overall- really enjoyed the cruise, though the embarkation was a mess and the propeller issues altered my excursion plans. Embarkation was a bit of a mess since the gangway at the port was inop. The lines were hundreds of yards long when ... Read More
Overall- really enjoyed the cruise, though the embarkation was a mess and the propeller issues altered my excursion plans. Embarkation was a bit of a mess since the gangway at the port was inop. The lines were hundreds of yards long when we arrived, and we sat outside for over an hour before getting inside. I'm pretty sure we saw some service areas of the ship you don't normally visit while boarding. First, the cabin and the changes made to the Star: we had an AJ Family Suite and loved it. We've had quite a few hotel rooms that were smaller. There were only two of us, but it would easily handle 4, and 6 wouldn't be much of a stretch except for the single bathroom. There was a tremendous amount of storage and the bank of windows was great. I loved the Lavazza coffee maker. The room was handicapped-accessible, so the closets were against the walls vs the entry to the bathroom. The bathroom was also very open. The deck 13 running track was above part of our cabin, so there was some traffic noise starting early each morning, but it wasn't too bad. We wouldn't hesitate to book this suite again, so from that standpoint we like the changes. It was odd not having the forward-looking Spinnaker Lounge, and we did miss that, but it wasn't a huge detractor for us. On the whole, I like the addition of the new suites. The food was good everywhere we ate (Aqua MDR, Cagney's, teppanyaki, Blue Lagoon and La Cucina). No complaints here; we never anywhere hungry. On the whole, the weather was quite nice for AK in September. Lots of clouds, but minimal rain. We had a delay getting into Ketchikan based on a propeller issue (had to shut down the starboard prop due to a vibration). This left very little time for any sightseeing or shopping once our excursion was done. As a result of the prop problem, the rest of the itinerary was modified. The Prince Rupert stop was dropped completely. Instead of getting in Juneau early and sailing Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glacier late, we sailed up Endicott Arm and viewed Dawes Glacier early instead. The weather was perfect- decent temps and almost completely clear skies. We managed to get rather close, so we had some great shots. According to the Captain it was the best visit he'd had in 5+ years of visits. We to Juneau around 2, and since we were the 5th sip in port we had to tender in. Our Tracy Arm Fjord excursion was cancelled here based on our time change, so floated the Mendenhall River instead. Miraculously, the propeller issue resolved itself on the way to Skagway. We just rented a car there and drove to Carcross, B.C. It was a nice drive, and we visited the ghost town of Dyea on the way back. On the whole it was a relaxing day. Since the prop was working again we added Prince Rupert back to the lineup. We just walked around town in Prince Rupert and enjoyed a little local seafood. We didn't catch much of the evening entertainment, so can't comment much on it. Second City was entertaining, as usual. One interesting note- we try to collect a set of highball and cocktail glasses from each ship. They didn't have any Star highballs, and the only cocktail glasses were from the Sky. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Stateroom: We had an oceanview room, but it was very poorly laid out. The beds were pushed together and facing the door, but accessing either side was quite difficult as there was a fold-up bed on the wall on one side and the desk was ... Read More
Stateroom: We had an oceanview room, but it was very poorly laid out. The beds were pushed together and facing the door, but accessing either side was quite difficult as there was a fold-up bed on the wall on one side and the desk was against the bed on the other. We ended up turning the bed so it faced the fold-up bed and we could access both sides better. There was also a cot under one side of the bed, but there would be no space to actually use it in the room. These rooms are for four according to NCL, but it barely fit 2. The bed was very hard and the frame was made from metal siding. I'm not sure why they did this, but it made for two very sore backs. There was an adequate amount of closet space, but the shelving was a bit awkward and the drawers made a ton of noise. The mini-bar was nice since we had it emptied and used it as a personal refrigerator. The bathroom is a bit nicer than some since the toilet has its own door and the shower has a door instead of a curtain. The room stewards did a good job, but didn't say anything to us the few times we saw them. Dining: The food was nothing to get excited about. The buffet often had hot dogs, sandwiches, and typical food. We did not eat there often, but seating was hard to find when we did. We went to two of the restaurants that require an additional fee. In our opinion, the food there was maybe as good as I would have expected the free food to be. We did not go to the steakhouse as the surf and turf was $35 per person and not worth the cost in our opinion. We didn't have a problem most of the time getting seated right away at the main dining room. The food was okay, but you could tell it had been sitting under a heat lamp for quite some time on most of the food. The room service had a good selection and the food was pretty tasty. Entertainment: For the most part we didn't go to the shows because they weren't our style and geared towards an older crowd. We did, however, enjoy the Second City group as well as the juggler. There seemed to be lots of options to keep us busy so we were overall satisfied here. Tendering: There was a problem with our ship and we arrived late to Juneau which made us have to anchor and use tender boats. For some reason it took over 2 hours to get us off the ship and it took 30 minutes or so to load each boat. We have never had it take more than 10-15 minutes to load each tender. I don't know what took them so long, but we ended up only having about 3.5 hours of the 6 we were supposed to in Juneau. Ship overall: The decor was nice, but some of the layout was not. It seemed like they just put restaurants in whatever area may have been empty in the past to make more money. We paid $15 a person to eat sushi for lunch one day and had to listen to an art auction the entire time because the restaurant was overlooking the bar the event was held in. I asked the waiter how much longer the auction would last and he said 15 minutes, but it was going on the entire hour we were eating. There were only a few bars on the ship and they took away the best bar to put in more expensive suites. Overall it was a decent ship, but NCL seems to be a bit more greedy than the other lines we've sailed with. It was a relaxed environment, but we did miss not having the same servers every night. It just felt like there was no personal touch. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
My husband and I took this cruise in September of 2010. We were actually on the last sailing of the year. I had wanted to visit Alaska since I was about 17 and it only took 17 years but I finally got there! We lucked out with the weather ... Read More
My husband and I took this cruise in September of 2010. We were actually on the last sailing of the year. I had wanted to visit Alaska since I was about 17 and it only took 17 years but I finally got there! We lucked out with the weather because even though I did tons of reasearch I had no idea how rainy Alaska could be and I had NO idea that the time we chose to sail was the rainy season.All in all, we had fabulous weather that even the guides were shocked. We did all our excursions via NCL. For my husband and I this is the way to go. We just enjoy the guides and the stories and the little in and outs we would probably miss. Excursions really depend on the person/s because some enjoy going on their own- totally understandable considering pricing. We did dog sledding in Juneau which was fun. Smelly but fun. You have to love dogs for this one. Mudbugging in Ketchikan which was fun. We got filthy but the guide was great and we enjoyed it. Mind you, not alot of wildlife on this one since the carts are very loud. We did a tour in Skagway where we canoed up to a glacier. It was amazing and fun- even though I didn't realize canoeing is ALOT of work, haha. It was a great experience. Finally, in Prince Rupert we went whale watching. The boat took us back to the Alaskan border which shows you how far out we were- on a tiny boat. Brings meds if you think you'll get sick. Saw a few whales, had an awesome time on each excursion.As for the Star itself, no complaints here. We had some very rough weather and coming home the captain changed course. We ended up sailing back down the inside passage rather then going around. He was kind and spoke to the passengers via intercom often letting us know what he was planning to do in order to ease the ride. The crew was wonderful and friendly. Everything was great and though I cannot give you specifics I also cannot give you anything bad so that says alot. I went into this cruise a little leary as my prior cruise was on NCL POA and I was less then thrilled- with the ship not with Hawaii. Oh but wait, I did have one slight issue. The desk messed up the billing on my credit card. Caused me a TON of problems for days after I returned but NCL did resolve it AND gave me and my husband a fantastic on board credit we are using in June of 2011. So even though it was a hassle they made up for it and then some. I give the Star, their staff, and Alaska two thumbs up :)FYI, from what I hear bring bug spray if you go as the earlier in the season the more mosquitos. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
I think the title says it all: there were some great views and ports with equally not-so-great service and food on the NCL Star to Alaska. I'll start at the beginning with embarkation. Embarkation: Line after line after line. I have ... Read More
I think the title says it all: there were some great views and ports with equally not-so-great service and food on the NCL Star to Alaska. I'll start at the beginning with embarkation. Embarkation: Line after line after line. I have never had to wait in so many lines in my life. First you have to wait in line to drop your luggage off then you have to wait in another line to go through security and lastly a line to check-in and get your room card. It took about 1 ½ hours to get through all the lines. Once on board it was time to eat! The Food: The food, for the most part, was mediocre. Most of the food in the Market Cafe and in the two main dining rooms was cold and tasted old. Breakfast was horrible! It was the same food every day. Bland, frozen pancakes and waffles, potatoes so dry you practically choke on them and cold muffins. I don't think I ate a single thing in the cafe that was actually hot. Room service breakfast wasn't too bad, although you couldn't get anything hot; only cereal and fruit. The variety of food at lunch was better, but again most of it was cold. We ate dinner in two specialty restaurants: Teppanyaki and La Cucina. It is worth the extra fee to visit the specialty restaurants. The food is a lot better, it's served hot, and the service is better. The food in the main dining rooms was ok but the service was terrible. The highlight of the food was the chocolate buffet. It was excellent!!! Service: This was some of the worst service I have ever received and this was my 6th cruise. Most of the staff acted as if they would rather be anywhere else than there serving you. Most had sullen looks and were not quick to offer help of any kind. This was most apparent in the two main dining rooms. There was usually a wait to be seated and then once you were seated it was at least 10 minutes before anyone even came over to your table to take your order. Dinner was usually 1 ½ to 2 hour affair because it took so long to get each course. Just forget dessert-they were disgusting!!!! That said, service in the specialty restaurants was quick, attentive, and friendly. The room steward was also very friendly except that I found a flip-flop under the bed and a make-up compact under the dresser (from the previous guests), so she wasn't a very thorough cleaner. The Room: We had a mini-suite which is about the size of a regular balcony stateroom on Carnival. The main bed was pretty comfortable but the second bed (pulled out from the couch) was hard as a rock. I did ask for a foam pad to put on it which did make the bed a little more comfortable. There were three adults in the room and it was cramped. It was nice to have a tub and not just a shower. The location of the mini-suites is not ideal. It is on deck 11 right under the main deck with the pool and hot tubs. A lot of noise from above at all times of day. The Ports: In Ketchikan, we did the duck tour which was fun and informative. Very reasonably priced. In Juneau, we did the tour of Juneau with visits to Mendenhall Glacier and the Salmon Hatchery. Tour was great but the ship does not spend enough time in Juneau. By the time the tour was over, there wasn't time to do anything else. It also didn't help that we were not docked at the prime spot near the Mt. Roberts Tramway and all of the shops. It was quite a walk from the dock to get to these attractions. In Skagway we did the White Pass and Yukon Railway. It is a little pricey, but well worth the money. A must see!! We did not book an excursion in Prince Rupert and I must say that I have yet to figure out why any ship would dock there. It is very small and there is absolutely nothing to do. We saw the entire town by foot in 1 hour. There is a little shopping area (read: 3 stores) near the dock with specialty (expensive) merchandise. There is a mall but don't waste your time. It is nearly empty. Debarkation: Very easy. No problems whatsoever. Final Words: While I loved visiting Alaska, I would advise people to choose a different company to cruise with. The food and service are not that great and they money you to death!! Almost nothing is included in the cruise fare. All of the classes they offer on board (they call them NCL "U") cost extra and if you want to use the indoor hot tub and pool? Yep, that's extra too!! You have to buy a $99 Spa pass to use these facilities. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
First let me say I was really worried reading the reviews on this website prior to my cruise with NCL, frankly pretty harsh for most cruises. It seems folks are pretty serious about complaining and I was preparing for a difficult time. ... Read More
First let me say I was really worried reading the reviews on this website prior to my cruise with NCL, frankly pretty harsh for most cruises. It seems folks are pretty serious about complaining and I was preparing for a difficult time. However, I must complement NCL for making our cruise a stress-free and enjoyable family jaunt. Since there were three of us, Mom, sister and I, we chose the Pearl Suite in the AB category. It provided two separate sleeping areas and two separate bathrooms. There was plenty of storage, a refrigerator we could use for Mom's insulin and even a sharps container was supplied to us for the used syringes. The master bathroom was magnificent with a ceiling to floor window over the tub and in the shower, two sinks and separate vanity table. This was critical with 3 women! My mother, who is a full time user of 02 and travels with a Sequel Eclipse POC, had no problem getting around the ship and our embarkation was very smooth. We were provided a steward who pushed my mother around in wheelchair until we were safely checked in and in our room, as process that took about 45 mins. A wheelchair and steward was also provided at the end of our cruise. Every morning our breakfast was delivered by our wonderful Butler John and our room steward Johnny provided help when we needed it, and a smile every day. In fact, every one of the crew members greeted us, and smiled as we made our way down the corridors of the ship. These folks work very hard, 7 days a week, and yet they were professional and helpful. When we were waiting for a table at one of the restaurants (we only ate at the non-cover charge venues), the host noticed my mom struggling a bit to stand and he found a table for us immediately. It was this kind of care that we really appreciated and was available to us. We were invited to a cocktail hour with Capt Lars (for all suites) and he actually came to our table and spent some time with us, signing our card. Truly a thrill for Mom! My thrill came one morning alone in the spa when a bald eagle soared past the windows. We purchased a spa pass for 2 (150 dollars) at the beginning of the cruise and had access to the hot tubs, steam rooms and the lap pool. Truly worth the extra money. I would not recommend a massage as it was quite expensive and then is followed by the therapist recommending some product to purchase. Not a relaxing ending, but I'm sure encouraged by the NCL marketing dept. The food in the sit-down restaurants was adequate and for the most part fine for the average American pallette. The environs in the Market Cafe was a bit too much to tolerate, not really NCL's fault with the exception of the food temperature being too cold. The place was like a 'feeding trough' and other cruisers were at times rude, pushing into line. We ended up on one night, asking Mom what she would like to eat and just bringing it back to her. Very helpful staff who covered our food to keep it warm on our way back to the room. All in all, the trip was a wonderful success, the one shore excursion to Mendenhall Glacier with a trip to the hatchery (very informative) and Salmon bake truly enjoyable (don't miss the waterfall behind the picnic tables at the Salmon bake). The other stops we just walked around on our own and had a great time (don't miss the rock shop in Skagway). The true highlight of this cruise was the trip through the Tracy Arm Fjord. My mother could cuddle up on the sofa with a comforter and watch the most amazing natural scenery. Sis and I out on the balcony videotaping this magnificent place. I recommend the Norwegian Star to Alaska for a family vacation no matter what the abilities of the vacationers! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
I am sitting here still feeling the gentle swaying of the ship and reflecting about my first cruise ever to Alaska, and there's so much to tell and say, and, and, and you get the point I am sure. I don't think anyone could have ... Read More
I am sitting here still feeling the gentle swaying of the ship and reflecting about my first cruise ever to Alaska, and there's so much to tell and say, and, and, and you get the point I am sure. I don't think anyone could have prepared me for this experience; it's truly one of those you have to experience firsthand to really understand what it's all about. Because I am a weenie when it comes to traveling -- (my idea of camping is the Four Seasons) I wasn't sure what the cabins would be like so we booked a suite. During this time our PCC made sure our excursions were taken care of, listened to me fret about the worry of being sick, and a myriad of other things I asked about. Over the course of 4 months my PCC and I developed a friendly rapport and I can't thank him enough. The night of the 20th we drove to Seattle, and spent the night at the Marriot. It was expensive, and the room was okay, but we didn't really care about the room, we just wanted the 20th to be over so we could begin our adventure. After a really expensive and horrible meal at the Crab Pot on the waterfront we took a leisurely walk back to our hotel and settled in for the night. We tossed and turned due to excitement I am sure -- before we knew it, it was 8:00 AM. We ordered breakfast and talked about what we thought "it" was going to be like. I can't remember a time I have been this giddy. Maybe when I was a child during Christmas? Or perhaps the night before I married my husband or gave birth to my son. This chick was giddy! Boarding was easy - we had booked a suite and had preboarding embarkation privileges. Those kinds of things are worth it to me - I hate standing in line due to a hip and knee injury. The level of service from start to finish was really amazing. In a matter of minutes we were escorted to the lounge where we met our concierge Patrick, had a few refreshments, and before we knew it we were being escorted to the ship. Our cards were scanned, we heard that lovely "ping" and then we were welcomed aboard and taken to Cagney's which is probably one of the nicest steakhouses I have ever been to. Our server was Syndrea, hands down one of the loveliest people I have ever met. She took a shine to my son, fawned all over him, and made us feel special. She was amazing. After a delightful lunch, many text messages and photos and OH MY GOD I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS a lovely lady appeared and escorted us to our cabin. The cabin was really nice. I am not sure what I was expecting. It was darker than I think I anticipated -- I know I was frustrated because the curtains only opened one way and I would have liked more light. But my gosh to complain about that is ridiculous. I just spent a lot of time outside on our deck! Our butler appeared - Flor, another lovely lovely woman. Our luggage hadn't arrived and my husband was a little twitchy about that but she assured him it would arrive and she would help us put our clothes away. After a few moments to settle in I felt nervous in doing this but I handed her 20.00 and shared with her that my husband really liked his ice bucket full and could she make sure it stayed that way. She smiled and said "But of course and thank you" (The ice bucket was never ever empty). During this time she wanted to know if we wanted some espresso and we both said yes. I wanted to watch her make the first cup, as that's something I have always done for my husband is bring him his first cup of coffee. It's an I love you thing. Neither Flor nor I were sure how to operate this machine, and so we both bonded over learning how to froth milk and laugh oh did we laugh. This set the tone for our entire cruise. She loved us and we loved her. And oh my gosh, she spoiled our son rotten. (Later I found out he was the only child in the suite section -- and all of the stewards butlers made sure to say hello to him and he enjoyed that). Our concierge Patrick and our steward Vincent arrived both bearing letters -- the concierge sat down with us and made it very clear that no matter what we wanted or needed we just needed to let him know. Vincent wanted to make sure I knew the ice would never be empty, he would see to it. He then made sure our deck was ready, and brought our son an extra deck chair. I followed him out to the deck and handed him a 20 dollar bill as well, thanked him ahead of time, and told him I hoped we wouldn't be too big of a pain in the neck. He laughed and said "Don't be silly - you guys are great, I could hear Flor laugh all the way down the hall." Finally they all left and we began to check out the room. This is when I first noticed a really odd odor. It was cross between latrine and alcohol (like rubbing alcohol) and stale water. It was odd, and creepy. I asked my husband if he could smell it, and he said it was probably because we were in port and they were doing something with the sanitation. (More about that later) Before we knew it was 3:30 PM and time for our drill, once we completed our drill and headed back to our room it was time to set sail and we were on our way. We decided to go to Ginza our first night and it was amazing. The sushi was fantastic, the wine was wonderful, as well as all of the other Asian dishes. We met Joey the Assistant Restaurant Manager who is a dead ringer for an Asian Gary Shandling. When I told him who I thought he looked like he said - "You know I get that a lot" After supper we took a stroll on the deck and continued to explore the ship, enjoyed the sea air, ordered the kid some ice cream from out butler and turned in around 11:00 PM. And that was the first day aboard the Star. Some highlights - • Breakfast from any of the specialty restaurants that offer breakfast in your room. • Whale watching in Juneau. The photos we got were fantastic. We saw Orcas AND Humpbacks in the same area which the skipper from the excursion we chartered said doesn't happen often. They also put a microphone down in the water and you could hear the whales sing to one another which brought tears to my eyes. That was worth the trip itself. • The Chef's Table excursion in Ketchikan -- for one rainy rainy town the food was fabulous. I tried Black Cod (Sable fish) for the first time and became a fan. Ryan the young (24 year old) chef created lovely dishes with fresh ingredients, I recommend it to anyone. It was well worth the 125.00 we shelled out per person. • A deep conditioning and style at the salon as well as a 75 minute sports massage. (Just say no thank you to all the stuff they want to sell you, they get the message). • The larger than life prawns at Cagney's • The literally cut it with a fork tender steak at Le Bistro • The Cagney's French fries • The antipasto plate at La Cucina • Anything at Ginza - I mean anything. I think I personally ate 3 Dynamite rolls myself. • If you stay in a suite the mid afternoon snack they bring you. Cheese and fruit, or sweets. It was all great. • Sleeping like a baby at night -- the gentle motion of the ship was like being in a big cradle. I sleep better than I have in years. • The hospitality of 99% of the crew. • Bingo -- it was a hoot, and the assistant Cruise Director Joel is just hilarious. However, if you have kids, I am not sure I'd bring my child if they were under 13. There was some adult conversation about the number O-69 that we could have done without. I don't think I need to go any further with that! • The wait staff. FANTASTIC. Hands down, we didn't meet one wait person, wine steward, or maitre d' that wasn't nice and accommodating. Monique the restaurant manager actually made time to help my husband find a bottle of wine they said they were out of. • Again the butler and steward really went out of their way to make us feel at home and take care of our son, who they said over and over was well behaved and not a pain in the neck. There were 350 kids on board and we saw all kinds of stuff from really great kids to kids that I am sure parents would have liked to have left at the Kids Center the entire trip. • The portions on the ship regarding food - PERFECT size!!! • We had a private tour of the bridge and all I can say is WOW. It was mind blowing, and the staff and officers were so kind. They explained why we didn't get to travel further and see Sawyer Glacier close up -- I was horribly disappointed about that, but safety first. • The guys at the end of the crew finale with the spray bottles who danced and sang "We are family" they were funny - in fact the entire finale was heartwarming. Things that were not so great about our cruise (there are not many): • The odor in our room. No matter where I go I take air freshener with me when I travel. I mean let's be real when there are three people sharing a room the last thing you want to smell is someone else's poop, right? So I bring Lysol and everyone is happy. Every time we'd enter our room in the foyer as we entered this room we could smell this horrible odor. After about 5 minutes we'd get used to it. However, after about an hour we'd feel sick to our stomach and have a headache. We'd open our door to the deck and air out the room and breath fresh air and we'd be okay. The second day I asked our Butler and Steward if they smelled it. They said they couldn't, but kindly reminded me that I had been spraying Lysol and to them that is all they smelled -- so stop spraying and let it build up. So we did and sure enough the smell came back and this time they called the deck supervisor Edgar, as well as our concierge. Both men came up took a whiff and said "ICK what is that" No one knew, we all shrugged our shoulders, and began pulling everything out to see if something had died. We couldn't find anything. Next, the AC guys came up to check out the air conditioning. They found one plugged drain with rancid standing water. They unplugged it, cleaned it out, and they left 2 air purifiers in our room. That helped -- kind of. At least the headaches and the nausea went away. But the smell sort of stuck around. Everyone but us was freaking out. They offered to move us to a different cabin, but the cabin they had available was smaller than the one we were in, and my husband felt like he needed more room as it was. (We have decided our next cruise will be an owner's suite. I'd rather save for it and travel comfortably; he's a very tall guy that needs room). The ship bought us dinner at Cagney's minus alcohol, they also didn't pay for Lobster and that's fine with me. I felt weird accepting it. • The soda card rip off. We were lead to believe that the soda card covered everything even bottled water. Nope. It sure doesn't. The soda card covers everything that comes out of the soda fountain. Now on the Star the ginger ale was broken for a few days so they were giving out cans. I asked our Butler since they were giving out cans could we get cans delivered. She said yes, for 2.25 So we ran down and they end up giving us a few at a time, we'd bring them back up to the room. And that's how we did it. We figured we'd need to drink a heck of a lot of soda to make that work for our family. I myself drank a bottle of San Pellegrino a night at 4.50 a pop. So next time no soda card. • The gratuity system. -- I don't mind spending 12.00 per day per person. In fact, we gave our concierge, our butler and steward an extra 50.00 in cash without blinking. They seemed almost embarrassed to take it. What irked me was anytime we bought a beverage in the restaurant they charged a gratuity, I felt they were double dipping. I may be mistaken thinking that the bartenders don't receive the group gratuity. • Everything is for sale! Bingo, art, jewelry, make up, hair products, they want you to spend spend spend. I will say the ship's store was reasonably priced for the most part. But everywhere I turned around they wanted me to buy something. I learned to smile and say no thank you a lot. • Not being able to see Sawyer Glacier full on, but safety first we don't need the Titanic out there. • Last but not least -- Candi the Cruise Director, a lovely woman, but after 2 days of hearing her voice I wanted ear plugs ha ha. I learned how to imitate her perfectly, my family hates me now! She just has one of those voices that grate on your ears after a while. Things I learned - • It's a ship not a boat. • Forward is forward, and aft is the back of the ship • A green apple does wonders for any sort of sea sickness. Bonine is my friend, but take it beginning on the Wed before you set sail. And take it like clockwork. It doesn't make you sleepy • If your room is forward you will feel the motion of the ocean more, but it's a great place to see ports, glaciers, and whales. Last but not least, we had one really rude encounter. One woman from the excursion desk needed a huge time out. I think by the time my husband finished talking with her boss she was going to get more than a time out -- her behavior was deplorable. I am still saying "OMG" when I think about it. She was totally not NCL material. I know there's tons more I could say about my first cruise but I have rattled on and on. Thank you all for helping me prepare, it was amazing, I can't wait to do it again. Take care! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
This past week we finished up our first cruise on NCL and unfortunately the wow factor was not there. This was around our 12Th cruise over all and had mainly cruised with Royal Caribbean in the past. However, our daughter works for NCL and ... Read More
This past week we finished up our first cruise on NCL and unfortunately the wow factor was not there. This was around our 12Th cruise over all and had mainly cruised with Royal Caribbean in the past. However, our daughter works for NCL and we wanted to visit her so we booked a cruise on the Norwegian Star out of Seattle, Washington. When critiquing something you should always start and finish with something good, so I'll start off by saying that checking in was a breeze. We flew into Seattle the day before and stayed at the local Hampton Inn just a few blocks from Pier 66. We got to the terminal around 11:15 AM and there was no line to drop the luggage and when we walked in to check in, we were able to walk directly up to the counter to check in. Approximately 30 minutes later we had our first picture taken on the gang plank and were than talking to my daughter face to face for the first time in a few months. What a great start to another trip for us to Alaska. However, that good feeling went away as soon as we ate for the first time in the Marketplace cafe. The marketplace cafe is their version of a buffet. The fist thing that came to mind was that we walked into a college cafeteria and all I'll say is that I've eaten better at college. There is nothing worse than eating bland food except for when the food is cold and unfortunately in the Marketplace Cafe the food was both bland and cold. If you want hot food and you have the time eat in the dining room. The food is still bland but at least its hot. We did spend the money to eat one meal in one of the specialty restaurants, which cost us an additional cover charge of $25.00 each. The food was excellent, but just unfortunate that you have to pay more money above the price of the cruise to get the good food. As far as the dining rooms, the only other complaint we had was that the dining rooms were not open long enough. For example, the Versailles and Aqua dining rooms were only open until 9:30 AM in the morning. Which meant if you want to sleep in on a sea day lets hope you want to eat cereal or pastries in the marketplace cafe. Or you can head to the Blue Lagoon to eat cause their open 24 hours and still serve hot food, however the seating is limited. The other biggest complaint about the trip was that the overall condition of the ship is poor. There was carpet coming off of the risers on some steps, which were a safety hazard, the carpet was also bare on the steps in the Versailles restaurant. I would also recommend that you not book a room on the front of the ship from deck 9 or above. They are currently working on most of the front part of the ship on deck 12 and the hallways are filled with the smell of construction. Luckily the only thing we smelled from the state room was when we were on the balcony and our neighbors were smoking. Whatever strippers and equipment they are using can throw you into an asthma attack with all the different overwhelming smells. The other place of the ship to stay away from is near mid-ship to the back where the engines are due to the smell of oil. We discussed throughout the trip what we liked the best and what we liked the least and the biggest complaint we all had was the disappointing food and the slow service in the dining rooms. I would have to say that being on the Star reminded us more like some of our trips to the sea shore. If you have ever been to a hotel at the seashore you'll know what I mean. Their always run down, you pay a fortune and the food is lackluster at best. NCL took what should have been a great vacation and turned it into a ho hum vacation. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Trip Review - NCL Star to Alaska July 10-17, 2010 This was our second cruise and first on NCL Star and to Alaska. Our first was in 2007 on Carnival to Mexican Riviera for 5 days. Both times we brought our kids (now mid teens). Despite ... Read More
Trip Review - NCL Star to Alaska July 10-17, 2010 This was our second cruise and first on NCL Star and to Alaska. Our first was in 2007 on Carnival to Mexican Riviera for 5 days. Both times we brought our kids (now mid teens). Despite all of the negative reviews on the NCL Star we read that scared us to death, it was pretty good overall. All family members rated the overall trip 8 out of 10. Give the negative reviews a grain of salt. I think people who have bad experiences are more incented to complain (online), so take them with a grain of salt. Comparing NCL to Carnival is unavoidable. Generally we preferred Carnival (Elation) better due to a younger, livelier crowd, better dEcor and deck layouts, better public spaces, more fun things to do on board, better teen program and spaces, free soft drinks everywhere and maybe even better food. But the Star's entertainment and cabins were superior. Food The food is one of the biggest draws for any cruise ship. NCL Star wasn't bad, wasn't great. There are five free eating areas: Blue Lagoon, Aqua, Versailles and Market Cafe and the outdoor grill (that we were aware of). The rest require varying cover charges per person. The Market Cafe we called the zoo because it's loud and constantly swarming with people, kids and service staff. It was often hard to find a place to sit. It's a buffet, so what do you expect? Most was edible and plentiful. The pancakes were bland. Desserts were everywhere but most were tasteless. I'm so turned off in general by fat Americans piling tons of food on their plates that they basically don't finish and waste. Makes me ill. We took what we expected to eat and ate it. I'm a snob, but over 10-20% of the guests had to be grossly obese—disgusting. NCL sported a chocolate buffet night splurge fest with various deserts and chocolate fondue and ice cream, but basically wasn't that tasty unfortunately. We ate at Cagney's Steakhouse and Ginsa Asian restaurant. Both were good, but not really worth the extra money. Best part was service, nice dEcor and no crowds. The steakhouse may have been better, as we got a hefty sized filet with all the trimmings, lobster bisque soup and more. The au gratin looked nice but was tasteless. Overall average tasting. Service was always good. One real downside is that we found waiters frequently trying to up sell us on "specials" in the cover charge restaurants. In fact, at breakfast one day, our waitress hovered over us for a long time making small talk and finally came out and tried to up sell us. Really irritating. A minute of chitchat is fine, but hovering over us constantly was inappropriate. It was very disappointing that soft drinks and lemonades must be paid for (free on Carnival). Only apple, orange, pineapple juices were free at the Market Cafe during breakfast. As a soft drink addict, I found this irritating. Only water, milk and coffee are free otherwise and I don't drink coffee or milk. Hot chocolate was included at Blue Lagoon. I skipped the $50/week unlimited "refill" pass more out of spite. You'd have to drink at least four cans a day to break even, and I only drank around three a day, so I saved $10+ buying a can each for $2.24 (including tax and tip). Although with the pass you don't have the added overhead of signing for each can—geez. The bar staff swarms almost everywhere trying to sell you drinks which is good if you are looking for them, but perhaps too many as we ordered one then three other waiters show up to serve us. Leave us alone! We never used room service because of the limited selection of items. Was easier to walk two floors up to the Market Cafe (which we called the Zoo). Cabins We got a balcony room for us, and an inside cabin for the kids across the hall. It worked out great. So NCL's policy is that kids must have a parent in the room with them, but we simply got extra keys and re-arranged ourselves after we checked in. The staff didn't care and our kids are old enough to be self sufficient and responsible. The kids felt the beds were extremely comfortable and didn't mind being inside though did miss being able to see the view, so they'd try to come into ours sometimes, but eventually became comfortable roaming the ship without us and seeing the views elsewhere. The rooms were not gaudy we felt except for perhaps some gaudy artwork, reasonably appointed, white bed sheets and nice wood paneling on various cabinets. Good lighting in the room and on the balcony. The bathrooms were very nice (better than Carnival's) though they have no electrical outlet. The hair dryer and outlet are in the main room near the bathroom with a mirror. Shampoo and bath gel are in the showers. The water pressure wasn't great in the shower but certainly got hot enough. The balcony room was not large but not cramped either. It's great for two people. The couch supposedly unfolds for a third but I wouldn't recommend it. The beds were not gaudy and had nice white sheets. The pillows were nice and big/soft but the mattresses were somewhat hard. The room had several large mirrors and behind the bed making the room feel larger. Temperature control was good and we could open/close the sliding glass window for some quick fresh air. There is only one 110V AC outlet in the room so if you need juice for multiple devices, you should bring a power strip and even an extension cord (we did). Came in handy with several chargers we had. The balcony spoils you and like others say, and I agree, you never want to go back to inside or ocean view room once you've experienced a balcony room. You wake up each morning looking out your sliding glass doors at the scenery from your bed. Marvelous. We wanted to sit out on the balcony more often but due to cruising Alaska, it was generally too cold and windy to spend much time out there. We could with a few nice warm days interspersed. Rooms were always cleaned quickly and well. The stewards we did interact with were very friendly and accommodating. My daughter misplaced her TV remote once and we couldn't find it so the staff quickly brought a replacement (we thought we might be charged for losing the first one, but wasn't). Then the other remote showed up later. BEWARE! When the boat docks at port, crewmen on a moving platform on a track outside washes down the ship. A couple times we were rudely surprised as we were practically naked changing in the morning and we see a guy outside our balcony suddenly moving across our view! Although I don't think he looked in, he could have. There was no warning. Freaky. The tiny TV sucked but was adequate since we really shouldn't be wasting our time in front of the tube. While an expense, I'd recommend NCL upgrade rooms to 40+ inch flat screen LCD TV's to replace the crappy tube TV and gaudy artwork. It would certainly differentiate NCL and improve the overall experience. One channel was a 24/7 webcam of the front of the ship that was fun for 2 seconds but otherwise dull. Would be nice to see different parts of the ship on cam. The voyage stats channel was a nice touch for 1995 but should be upgraded on that new LCD screen I'm suggesting. It just cycles slowly with various info like speed, position, pool temperatures, etc. The map system was slow and outdated and would be nice to have more interactivity and a GPS route, etc. But it tuned out to be our favorite channel as we read we could see where we were at any given time. Events Some events were really good but many weren't. We loved the comedy, game shows, contests, dances and karaoke at Spinnaker lounge. Be careful as you may be picked to participate! Ken Bird the ventriloquist was hilarious. Oddly he first picked my daughter to receive and hold a one of his wiggling furry creatures. Then later, he picked my wife to join him and another audience member to serve as human dummies that he spoke through—was hilarious. She did not want to be picked but reluctantly participated. She was also unlucky to be picked Dance With The Stars at Spinnaker. She is such a ham and got into it with her partner (Fraggle Rock) and ended up jumping on him exposing her underwear. She's a goof and was embarrassed as of course the event was televised through everyone's staterooms on an endless loop. So she was somewhat famous for a week I guess. Second City gave some good comedic performances which were fun, especially the adult versions of course. O What a Night (Frankie Valli tribute) was also very entertaining—much better than we expected. Ports & Excursions We only had four ports outside of Seattle: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert. Generally, the Star doesn't provide sufficient time at the ports to really soak up the local experience, so you are forced to move quickly. The most plausible explanation is that they want to cram more ships in (NCL Pearl shared ports too), they prefer you spend more time and money on ship, and port fees must be high although they certainly make decent commissions on the excursions. Yes they are priced high and some are probably rip-offs but you are held hostage and you are there to enjoy the off-ship scenery so you are stuck. They digitally photograph you when you first embark and associate with your card key, so they never asked us for photo ID, just our cards when exiting/entering the ship. They have a small scanner after you enter for checking metallic substances, so be prepared to remove belts with buckets, cameras, cell phones, change... They don't allow food back onboard but they never seemed to care or enforce it. So many of the ports sell candy, popcorn, drinks, and they seem to let those in apparently. We never tried to smuggle in alcohol. Ketchikan is the quaintest of the ports we felt, an interesting little town with quite a bit of shopping, history and scenery. Ketchikan had the best and most varied shopping we thought, though Skagway and Juneau had typical tourist shops too. Recommend you walk past the tourist shops and far back into the town towards the park to see some incredible old totem poles, scenery and get the local feel. In Juneau, instead of paying $300 for the family to tour the glacier we simply caught a cab from the dock for only $70 round trip to the Mendenhall Glacier—and got a personal tour from the driver. We were not rushed to stay with a tour group and saw many people running/complaining of their schedule. We missed the hatchery (but who cares) and had more time seeing the glacier. The young Russian cabby on the way back took us to see the governor's mansion (wasn't much I'll say). He was a real kick. In Juneau you need to stop by Tracey's King Crab Shack for some mouthwatering bisque and crab. Skagway is the farthest north and has requisite tourist shops galore down a strip, but nothing entirely noteworthy. A few off the beaten path restaurants and bars. The real draw is the scenery, mountains, and rivers. We took the train ride up the mountain with incredible vistas. They provide free water bottles but recommend you bring snacks since it's a long 2-3 hour ride. Sit in the middle of the train car if you go because we found numerous kids opening and closing the door to the outside which was freezing and windy (we sat at the end). Prince Rupert (Canada) was forgettable except for the scenery. Don't forget your passports which you also need to re-enter the US in Seattle. I ended up taking my daughter on a 3.5 hour kayak tour which was well worth it. However, not being experienced kayakers we got very tired 1.5 hours into it and found ourselves dying by the end to get back to the beach where we started from as the clock ticked towards 8pm and getting darker and colder. But the tour cooked up free crab and donuts at the end and they were very friendly and informative. Recommended Things To Bring 1. Small power strip and extension cord. 2. Nook eReader packed with reading material. 3. iPod to hear tunes while hot tubing or lounging. 4. Binoculars for scenery and occasional whale/animal sightings. 5. Camera and/or camcorder with lots of batteries and storage and small tripod. 6. Layers of clothing. Shorts for hot days (there were a few) and long pants. Hat and gloves for cold weather, ski coat and light sweater, hiking shoes for dirty excursions, flip-flops or slip-ons for ship use and fancy shoes for nightlife. 7. Don't' forget valid passports! 8. A duffle bag for your last night. Miscellaneous Enforced tips suck. They are convenient from an accounting perspective though and the staff generally performed quite well despite this approach. We read we could opt out of enforced tips to tip individually, but decided it wasn't worth it. We heard that the staff doesn't get any time off weekly—that they have to work continuously for 8 months and then get 4 months off. Sounds incredibly grueling and unfair. They should get at least one day off a week in not two. Staff was efficient, friendly and courteous. I asked a janitor once where the nearest men's room was and pointed the way in a crowded corridor. I changed my mind about using it then and went back into the fitness center, and he had followed me to make sure I found it and said it wasn't in there! While it was a little creepy that he was following me with dedication, I found it noteworthy that he cared. The hosts and hostesses of events were outstanding, fun and friendly. Candi our South African cruise director was terrific and Kristine (Filipino hostess) was a kick. The cruise age demographic was top heavy and while I am being ageist, I enjoy a younger crowd 20-55 singles, couples and families with older kids for the energy. I'd estimate at least half of the passengers were 55-85. I know old age is my fate if I am so lucky, but I'm not there yet. The ship is modern and well designed. I looks beautiful. It felt extremely sturdy and safe. It did sway a bit especially in the open sea, but this is normal. Generally you could not tell you were on a ship—Carnival's Elation had more noticeable movement. Carnival really does have better public areas (design and larger space). The Star sacrifices that for upscale restaurants with cover charges to keep out the riffraff. It just seems like a business decision that's paying off for them. The Spa area was beautiful. They pushed a special $99 for one or $150 per couple for the week to have unlimited access to the spa area which was quite tempting. The more private spa area includes two hot tubs, a lap pool, sauna, showers, classy lounge chairs, and two private reading areas with small bars. It was quite tempting but we ended up passing because we felt our balcony cabin was sufficient for both privacy and view and wanted to save money. We ended up visiting the public hot tubs daily, which was not so bad and afforded us people watching and socializing sometimes which we like. The more private spa offers some of the villa experience at substantially reduced price. Overall, again we had a great time and loved seeing Alaska as it's been on our bucket list for many years. All of the extras do add up and we had a $1500+ bill of incidentals (excursions, forced tips, drinks), so make sure you budget beyond the basics. Try to ignore any negatives, focus on the positives and bask in the glow of luxury cruising for the masses. And check out the scenery once in awhile. Most of all, have fun! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
My wife and I & our two girls (12 / 8) sailed on the Star the week of July 10, 2010. We stayed in room 11066 AF mini suite. We were joined by my brother, his wife, and their son (10). They also stayed in an adjoining AF mini suite. ... Read More
My wife and I & our two girls (12 / 8) sailed on the Star the week of July 10, 2010. We stayed in room 11066 AF mini suite. We were joined by my brother, his wife, and their son (10). They also stayed in an adjoining AF mini suite. Day 1: Embarkation was a breeze. We showed our e-docs, had our picture taken and room card created, and waited for approximately 20 minutes before they allowed us to board the ship. We had a lot of bottled soda in the carry-on and I thought they would open the baggage after it went through the x-ray machine to verify if it was alcohol, but they didn't bother and we continued onto the ship. After boarding the ship we went to the front of the ship on deck 12 (poolside) to enjoy a few drinks of the day along with a bucket of beer. After building an appetite, we went to the Versailles dining room for lunch. 80% of the Versailles tables were open and we had a nice quiet lunch as compared to those who went elsewhere on the boat to eat their first meal. After going to the room and unpacking, we were able to meet our room steward. I immediately handed him a $20 and told him the girls were looking forward to towel animals each night. I also mentioned that I needed extra ice every day. He saw my football helmet bucket of beer and told me to leave the helmet in the room when I was done and he would fill it with extra ice each day. Needless to say, we always had a ton of ice in the room. By about the 4th day he was filling two helmets and a standard ice bucket twice each day. The extra ice was used to make mixed drinks on the balcony at our leisure along with cold sodas for the girls. Nothing beats lounging in your room or on your balcony with a cocktail in your hand, watching the Alaskan scenery go by. By the way, excluding the 1st night, we received towel animals every evening of the trip (monkey, swan, elephant, mouse, and two bunnies). It was always nice to come back to the room after an evening of fun to find some silly animal sitting on your bed or hanging from the ceiling. After unpacking on day 1, we took the kids up to the main pool where they could swim. The adults enjoyed the live poolside music and more drinks as the ship sailed away from port. Dinner the 1st night was at the Versailles main dining room. The food was good and we all found things we enjoyed. While the main dining rooms do not offer 5 star meals, you can order as much of everything you want and there is a wide variety of selections. We had 7 members in our party and we never had to make reservations in the main dining rooms. The longest we waited was maybe three minutes to be seated. However, we did make reservations for the evenings we ate in the specialty restaurants (cagneys, le bistro, teppanyaki, and la cucina). The casino opened around 8:30pm on day 1 and we played cards until about midnight. TIP #1: Eat in the main dining room for lunch the first day to avoid the congestion on deck. DAY 2: We ate at the buffet for breakfast. The buffet breakfast food did not excite us too much. Eating food that is mass produced, and then placed under a heat lamp where it sometimes sits for extended periods, results in a mediocre tasting experience. The buffet breakfast is OK for a quick bite if you need to eat fast. But you will receive a far better experience and food quality by eating breakfast in one of the main dining rooms. After breakfast we signed up for the Poker tournament as well as the blackjack tournament. I didn't win either one but had fun. In the afternoon we again went poolside and enjoyed some drinks while the kids played on the slides and swam. We tried the buffet for lunch with better results than breakfast. Although, the only buffet desert we all agreed was good were the cookies (and we tried many desserts). The kids liked the ice cream from the ice cream machine. Before dinner, the ladies went to the margarita tasting. They were feeling pretty groovy before dinner started. Dinner the 2nd night was at the Aqua main dining room. It has the same menu as Versailles, but is a little more laid back (not as fancy). Dinner was good. We ended the night in the casino playing more cards before retiring back to the room a little after midnight for a nightcap on the balcony where we watched the faint glow (sunset) on the horizon. Gotta love those Alaskan summer nights. TIP # 2: You can find the famous NCL pretzel rolls in the buffet during lunch. On the Star, you can find the small round pretzel rolls near the front of the buffet. But if you go to the rear right portion of the buffet (starboard side) you'll find the bun sized pretzel rolls. These oversized rolls are perfect for making sandwiches or for hot dogs. They were a hit with our entire group and can only be found on NCL. DAY 3: We woke up in Ketchikan. We shopped in town and then went to the lumberjack show. It was entertaining and a good family value. Getting back onto the ship was quick. After getting back onto the ship we sat on our room balcony and enjoyed multiple afternoon cocktails while looking at the marina and people watching. For dinner we ate at our first specialty restaurant (Cagneys). The entire meal from appetizer to desert was absolutely outstanding. The steaks were perfect, the Alaskan king crab was killer, and everything else was mouth watering. The kids (& adults too) loved the Cagneys Fries. A nice variation to the traditional French fry. The 3 kids were only charged ½ price in all of the specialty restaurants which was nice as they all ordered multiple things off the main menus. TIP#3: Kids can order off a kids menu at any of the dining venues (instead of the main menu). Our youngest daughter (8) rarely found something from the adult menu and instead was allowed to order mac-n-cheese, pizza, chicken fingers, etc. Since they didn't give us kids menus, we had to ask. DAY 4: Today we woke up in Juneau. The wife went shopping in port. The Star was the 3rd cruise ship in port and because of this, if you went to town you had to take a short bus ride. I stayed on board and played ping pong while the kids swam. We all (7 of us) booked the catamaran tour of the glacier. If you can only book one trip on the Star to Alaska, this is the one to do! The catamaran departed at 12:30 and we spent the next 6 hours getting up close & personal to icebergs, whales, seals, waterfalls, eagles, and glaciers. The catamaran has two inside levels for warmth and a 3rd level for outside viewing which is used while the boat is stopped or slowly moving. You can also order cooked food and drinks on board. We literally got to within 20 feet of two huge whales and watched them for a long time as they swam just under the surface right next to the boat. This area is one of the most beautiful, alluring places on Earth and being able to get up close to this beauty is something that can only be done on a smaller vessel. If you want to feel the true depth of beauty, the rawness of Mother Nature, you will be overwhelmed. We saw people tear up from the beauty. Words can not do justice for the catamaran experience. We felt sorry for everyone on the cruise ship. Also, we got right up to the glacier and watched it for about 90 minutes as pieces fell into the water. The cruise ship was sitting like a mile from the glacier, behind us, as it could not navigate through the ice to get up close. We also got to go into Fords Terror on the catamaran. According to the speaker, it was the first time they had gone into that area. We arrived to the Fords Terror right at high tide and were able to get over the sandbar and navigated through a small waterway with huge mountains on either side. Stunning scenery to say the least. The catamaran also provided binoculars to everyone on board. The catamaran cruised back to the cruise ship about 6:30pm and tied off to it in the middle of the bay to let the passengers back on the Star. Tracy Arm is one of the Dinner on day 4 was at Le Bistro which was outstanding. I ordered the lobster tail and it was a large portion that was to die for. The chocolate fondue for dessert at Le Bistro is a must order item as they carve out a pineapple, fill it with various pieces of fruit (banana, pineapple, strawberries, melon, etc.), and then place a cast iron bucket on the table filled full of molten chocolate to dip the fruit into. TIP #4: Spend the extra money and take the catamaran tour to the glacier! It was the highlight of our trip to Alaska. TIP #5: Get the Pineapple fondue for two if you go to Le Bistro. Day 5: Today we woke up to Skagway. We booked the White Pass excursion (round trip). The train leaves right from the dock which is nice. If you are only doing a train trip to the top of the mountain, and a bus trip back down, then sit on the left side of the train for the best views. If you are doing the round trip on the train, it does a loop at the top of the mountain and the right side will have the best views on the way back to the ship. The train trip was a good value and there were plenty of great sites to see along the way. I forgot my video camera on board the ship and this put my attitude in the gutter during the train trip as this was the only port I did not take video. It was windy and rainy when the train arrived back at the ship and we didn't feel like walking through the elements back into town so we headed back to the ship, ate a good lunch in the blue lagoon, and had more cocktails on the balcony of our room. I had numerous double cocktails to take away my 'forgetting the video camera in port blues' and the strong drinks seemed to put me back into my happy place. We ate dinner at Teppanyaki (think Benihana style). The dinner entertainment by the cooks was excellent and the kids had a wonderful time watching the antics. After dinner my brother and I played 3 card poker and had a great time in the casino. The ladies and kids went to the chocoholic buffet and were disappointed with what they tasted. They said most of it was worthless taste wise. The sights were beautiful and they made some cool sculptures from chocolate, but I was told most of the items they tasted were not very good. I did not attend. TIP #6: If you take the roundtrip white pass train excursion, the best views on the way up are on the left, and the best views on the way back are on the right side. Since the train does a loop & turns around at the top of the mountain, the back of the train (closest to the ship in the morning) will be the furthest from the ship when you return. This is good if you plan on shopping after the train ride as the walk is much shorter to town. However, we boarded late and all the rail cars closest to the ship were full. We had to walk a distance to get a seat near the front of the train (2nd rail car out of like 30). This actually turned out to be a blessing when we returned back to the ship because it was raining and our long morning walk to board the train meant that we ended up being closest to the ship on the afternoon return. This made for an easy & quick walk back to the ship through the rain. Day 6: We woke up to beautiful views outside our balcony (again) and just lounged around since we did not dock in Prince Rupert until late afternoon. After eating a yummy breakfast in the main dining room, we hung out and played a little bingo. Once we docked in Prince Rupert, we left the ship and made the mistake of going up the hill where the shopping consisted of a mall. If I wanted to go to a regular mall, I can do that at home. So we walked back down to the ship and shopped in the 4 or 5 small shops right next to the Star at the bottom of the town. Prince Rupert is relatively small and we did not find a lot to do. Our excursion was cancelled because of a lack of participation so we just shopped. The ladies found a craft fair and enjoyed that while the guys briefly shopped and then returned to the ship. I did get some great video of an eagle that was sitting on a roof top (about 30 feet away) eating a pigeon. That was really cool. There were several eagle nests nearby and 4 or 5 eagles were always close to us at the bottom of town. After boarding the ship we got a table at La Cucina and ate a wonderful Italian meal. The kids loved the pizza and lasagna and the adults enjoyed the various pastas. My wife said the tira misu at La Cucina was the best she's ever had. This says a lot since it is her favorite dessert. After dinner the ladies & kids went to the ventriloquist show while the men went to the casino for more cards & roulette. The ladies said the show was great and the kids liked it too. TIP#7: Prince Rupert has a few touristy souvenir type shops near the boat at the waters edge of the marina. Make sure you don't make the uphill walk away from the marina unless you want to shop at a typical mall, the likes of which you can find at home. DAY 7: Today was a sea day as we return back to Seattle tomorrow. We ate in the main dining room for breakfast again as to avoid the morning buffet (which is disappointing). After a yummy breakfast we simply hung out all day (swimming, gambling, drinking, and bingo). We did room service again for lunch. Cagneys was our favorite speciality restaurant and we ate there for a 2nd time on the last night of the cruise. As usual, the dinner was fabulous. TIP#8: Room service is free. You can place a call and have food delivered to your cabin within 45 minutes (average for us was about 20 minutes). However, the only warm breakfast food you can get with room service is an egg omelet but it is far superior to the eggs / omelet found in the buffet. The lunch/dinner fare is more extensive on the room service menu. The hamburgers, BLT, and omelets served by room service are great! Remember to tip a few dollars to the staff member who brings food to your room. They appreciate the tip. DAY 8: Disembarkation is a breeze if you either carry your luggage off manually, or have the ship send your luggage to the airport (for a $20 charge per person). We chose this last option and on the last day of the cruise our boarding passes were delivered to our room along with the proper luggage tags to send our luggage from the ship, directly back to our hometown airport. This was very simple and worth every penny in my opinion as we were able to disembark from the ship at any time we wanted, we didn't have to wait in the luggage lines at the ship, we didn't have to stand in line at the airport to check in our luggage, and we were able to just walk through the airport security, with our pre-printed boarding passes, directly to our flight terminal. TIP # 9: The scenery along the inside passage of Alaska is amazing. Bring binoculars. We used them daily from our balcony. TIP #10: Buckets of beer were buy 5 & get 1 free. Most of the time they came in a football helmet filled with ice. A bottle opener was included which you can keep. Budweiser products came in 16 ounce bottles which was nice. In reality, we paid for 5 beers and got 3 free due to the extra 4 ounces in each bottle. Getting buckets of beer, instead of individual beers, will save you some $$$ in the long run. TIP #11: Bring a pack of sticky notes in your luggage. You'll be able to communicate with your room steward if you want anything (towels, pillows, ice, etc.) by hanging a sticky note on the mirror. Negatives of the trip: The safe in our room malfunctioned on 4 of the 7 days. We would have to call and have someone come up to reset it so that it could be opened again. By comparison, the safe in my brother's room worked fine the entire trip. I'm speculating ours had a faulty battery which frequently caused an error message. Another negative was the foul smell in almost all of the elevators in the mid and rear banks of the ship. Thankfully, the ride in the elevators is typically quick and fresh air is just around the corner. Other Thoughts: The children went to the kids crew facility once during the cruise (1st sea day). The girls liked it. However, my brother's son didn't have as much fun. Thankfully, the kids (12, 10, & 8) agreed that they would rather stay in the state room while the parents played on board (casino, bars, etc.). The kids were able to watch movies (avatar, harry potter, percy Jackson, the princess & the frog, the mall cop, etc.). They also had fun ordering free room service while the parents were away. The service in all the dining facilities was excellent. Same goes for our room steward. He made sure to call us by name each time we crossed paths. Also, as you cross paths with other workers in the halls, they always made sure to make eye contact and say hello or some other nice gesture. I was worried that the construction on deck 12 would be within earshot of our room on deck 11. Thankfully, we didn't hear any construction sounds. We were able to take afternoon naps and didn't experience any troubles with sounds coming through the walls / ceilings. Overall we had an excellent time and we enjoyed the flexibility of freestyle dining. We are looking forward to future trips with NCL. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
This was our second cruise to Alaska. Both have been with NCl. The first was on the NCL Pearl the recent was on the Star. We found the service to be great on the Star with all personnel being very friendly and service oriented. Our ... Read More
This was our second cruise to Alaska. Both have been with NCl. The first was on the NCL Pearl the recent was on the Star. We found the service to be great on the Star with all personnel being very friendly and service oriented. Our Stewards Donna and Alfredo were great. They were efficient and quite pleasant. My wife and I traveled with our two daughters ages 9 and 13. Due to a late booking we had to split up and had separate balcony cabins. The cabins were 10 doors from each other on deck 10 AFT. My wife was with our older daughter and I was with our 9 year old. We dined at the buffet regularly for breakfast or brunch and ate at one of the specialty restaurants in the evening for dinner. We very much enjoyed all of the dinners with La Cacuina being our favorite. We also tried Cagneys, Tapenaki, Ginza, and Blue Lagoon. We never waited for a table for the buffet and found the dining room to be clean and the food was good. We did think that the menu at the buffet was the same each day. This may be a problem for some but with the variety that was offered it was not an issue for us. The cabins were efficient and served our purpose but then again we spent most of our time on the balcony looking for whales and letting the beautiful scenery go buy. It may have been better to have a bigger cabin or bathroom but I doubt I would rate the cruise better if the cabin was larger. We took 3 excursions. The Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier tour, The Deadliest Catch tour in Ketchikan, and the garden and Glass blowing experience in Skagway. All were good. The glacier tour was about a hour too long as one can only take so many pictures of ice. But don't get me wrong I wouldn't of wanted to miss the experience because it was beautiful.The family loved the glass blowing. It was educational and interactive. I didn't care much for the lunch but the ladies loved the tea party and quiche. The Deadliest Catch was the real surprise for us. It was Awesome and even though the other excursions were good these guys were spectacular. They were honest and authentic. I highly recommend this excursion. The Star was clean and was big enough that it never seemed crowded although it was sold out. The weather was fantastic. It never rained and was in the mid to high 60's each day. We were amazed at the lack of people in the Star Bar on deck 13. In fact we had this bar all to ourselves several evenings of the cruise. The bartenders said that for some reason it does not get visited as the other lounges. Definitely a place to check out. I found the new Spinaker lounge to be an inadequate replacement for the old forward looking Spinaker of the Pearl or other NCL ships. While I understand the economics of the decision I don't think the product that is put forth is of the same quality. The Star is now lacking public viewing areas that protect cruisers from wind or the elements. The new Spinaker is like a deep dark cave.It is in desperate need of windows. Although we had our own balcony I felt sorry for those that did not. As surely they would benefit for more public viewing areas that were protected. The new cabins on deck 12 are very nice and will suit many. Just not my family as we won't cruise without a balcony to see, feel, smell and sometimes touch environments like Alaska. It struck us strange as to the color choices of these new cabins. The hallway carpet was a light tan and was already stained and tattered and it was only its second week. We heard from the crew that NCL planned to convert some of the other ships to this new format. I hope they don't. The embark was slowed when the NCL computer system went down. The NCL embark crew did a good job trying to counteract this but the lines were long and the ship did leave about 30 minutes late. The disembark was a breeze as we walked off with our bags without delay. We went to several of the shows including the Charles Peachock (sp), Oh What a Night- Frankie Vali Tribute, The International Crew Show, Band on the Run, and Cirque de Pacific. All were good but the Frankie Vali tribute was outstanding. The kids club for both age groups did not appeal to either one of our kids but it did look like kids in the younger ages were enjoying themselves. The teens however seemed bored; however, this may be more a reflection of the age group rather than the facility. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
The good: (1) The kids' program. My wife and I went with a 2 and 4 year old. They both loved the kids' program and begged to go to whenever possible. My 9 year old nephew, also on our cruise, also loved the kids' program. ... Read More
The good: (1) The kids' program. My wife and I went with a 2 and 4 year old. They both loved the kids' program and begged to go to whenever possible. My 9 year old nephew, also on our cruise, also loved the kids' program. It's free when the ship is sailing, $6 a child or $10 for two when the ship is in port. Almost no one used the latter service, but we did, and the kids got lots of attention. (2) The staff. Hardworking, and always friendly. (3) The Blue Lagoon. An eighth floor 24 hour casual dining spot, rarely crowded, relatively quiet, big picture windows. (4) The specialty restaurants. We dined at La Cucina and the Tex Mex restaurant, $10 a person each (5 for kids). Well worth it. Better food and better service, they really try to please the customers who choose this option. At first I saw this as a ripoff, trying to extract more money from customers, but after trying it I see it as a way for customers who want a much better dining experience to pay a little extra for it. (5) The kiddie pools. Mostly too cold to use them, but our 4 year old loved them. (6) The buffet. A nice buffet, but, more important, unlike on our Carnival experience two years ago, no significant lines, ever, whereas Carnival had long lines all day. Also a nice small kiddie area. (7) Room service. On port days, with short times in port, we just ordered room service (didn't have to be from the breakfast menu, I had pizza twice) to be delivered at 6:30, we ate in the hall (room too small) and were out by 6:45. The Bad: (1) Smallest room sizes in the industry. And our room (4506) was clearly smaller than the other outsides. And, if we had to do it again, we'd want a guaranteed window instead of a porthole. My sister had the window and it was a great way to see Alaska. (2) SELL! SELL! SELL! NCL is constantly trying to sell you whatever they can: jewelry, shore excursions, bingo, spa services, and so on. (3) Entertainment. We didn't go to most of the shows because of the kiddies, but we thought the Frankie Vallie tribute band was awful, and the Second City group only okay. On sea days, there was relatively little to do on board, no lectures on Alaska and only one movie, NCL wanted you to attend bingo or a ripoff art auction instead. (4) Short times in port. Had to leave Juneau at 1:30, for example. (But unlike many people, we actually enjoyed Prince Rupert, because it seemed like a real town, not a tourist trap, and wasn't filled with other ships). (5) Food in non-specialty restaurants: mediocre. The Ugly (1) The Versailles dining room. Long lines, bad service, mediocre food. Only one table for 10 (our party size) available in the whole place. The first day, we witnessed the maitre de giving instructions to the waiters, who didn't know what she was talking about, the waiters apparently had been on another ship or in another dining room before. If you got to the restaurant much passed 5:30 when it opened for dinner, the line was crazy. When this happened once, we asked whether Aqua would be better. We were told no, but went there anyway, no line. Lunch and breakfast were also disorganized with bad service. Aqua is not as attractive, but had much better service (same food). But do yourself a favor and eat in the specialty restaurants at least two nights, just add it to your budget. (2) The "happy happy guy." Standing at the entrance to the buffet was an employee with a bottle of anti-germ spray. Every time someone came in he said "Happy happy smiley smiley." By the end of the cruise, I wanted to "punchy punchy" him in the "mouthy mouthy." How about a simple "good morning?" Miscellaneous: Alaska car rental in Ketchikan was a pleasure to deal with. We drove north to the totem park and then to Ward Lake, avoiding the crowds. Avis in Skagway was unpleasant to deal with. They refused to honor a rate we got from the internet, and, after our daughter got car sick (but not in the car) we asked if we could return it very early in the day for a partial refund, early enough that they probably could have rented it again (11 am, the other NCL ship was going to be in port until 7:30 pm). Nope. Nice playground for small children in Prince Rupert right by the ship. There are Safeways in P.R. and Ketchikan if you need groceries or toiletries, and of course Juneau has all sorts of stores. In Juneau, we took a taxi directly from the boat to the glacier, and got there well before the crowds, we had the glacier practically to ourselves, 34 dollars plus tip each way. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We sailed our first cruise ever to Alaska. The weather was beautiful, we had all sunny days for our total vacation. The embarkment & disembarkment went smoothly for us. I understand the computers had gone down for some during the ... Read More
We sailed our first cruise ever to Alaska. The weather was beautiful, we had all sunny days for our total vacation. The embarkment & disembarkment went smoothly for us. I understand the computers had gone down for some during the embarkment. Our ship left 10 minutes late due to the computer issues. We carried out our own luggage during the disembarkment and met our ride at 8 am. We managed to squeeze in an inside cabin, which included my husband & myself, 2 boys ages 18 & 16. We set up our room by moving our 2 twin beds down and placing our trundle bed & table at the head of the twin beds. So we had a path between the twin beds. The cabin stewart took out our chair. We had great cabin stewarts who were friendly and met all of our needs. Roger and Grace always were smiling and addressed us by our first names. Make sure you turn your dial at the door to turn down your beds at night so you get your towel animals. The food was good. They had stated that they had gotten a new head chef from the Netherlands that had started this particular week. We mostly dined at the Market Cafe for breakfast and lunch. The buffet included all different ethnics foods including sushi at lunch time. We enjoyed eating at the Aqua for supper. They had the better and faster service there compared to the Versailles. We ate one night at the specialized restaurant Asian Fusion. It was good, but I don't think it was worth the extra $60. The Market Cafe had good selection of Asian dishes. The Special Chocolate night was Wednesday evening. The chefs came out to watch our reactions. There was various ice sculptures, chocolate fountain, and all kinds of chocolate desserts sitting at all the Market Cafe food lines. There were mobs of people at this event. Since we had an inside cabin, we were concerned about finding a place to sit along the window. There were always plenty of seats around the ship. We took excursions at each port. We took a sightseeing excursion at Ketchikan and saw a black bear cub and numerous salmon and eagles. We took a whale watching excusion in Juneau and saw numerous gray whales. We had wanted to go to Mendenhall Glacier, but they had closed the road down. So we went up the tram and saw a beautiful view of Juneau. Our ship travelled to Tracy Arm and we saw Sawyer Glacier. Captain Lars stated this was the furthest he has gotten back to Tracy Arm in 5 years. We rented a car in Skagway and drove up to Emerald Lake. The trip was breathtaking. They are always better excursion deals outside the ship; except Prince Rupert. The NCL cruise will not allow you to book anything outside of them at this port. This was probably our most disappointing port. We went walking around for about an hour and returned back to our ship. We ate supper and then took a Crab Discovery Excursion. It was informational and good for small children, but definitely not worth the $130 per person. You also received a crab dish and complementary drink. Make sure you get back to your ship by the designated time or your ship will leave you. Many people were left behind. The shows were good, some better than others. My favorites were: the crew talent show (especially the fountain), Frankie Valli tribute band, band on the run 70's tribute show, and juggler. My boys enjoyed themselves too. They stayed up later and went to Spinnakers at night to the shows, and hung out at the exercise room and hottubs. Be sure and check your bill before disembarkment, there were some double charges on our bill that had to be removed. FYI: lemonade is no longer offered free on the ship. I used the internet to print out our boarding passes for our return flight, it adds minutes without you knowing it. It cost me $22 to use it for 30 minutes. Things I didn't like on the ship: the smoke smell in the Stardust Theater. I finally realized it was coming from the casinos. High priced photos taken on the ship. They never did come down in price. It was a good first time cruise for our family. We enjoyed being waited on, and the delicious food. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We were on deck 11 and had a mini-suite. Plenty of room for the four of us. The balcony was a nice plus and gave us a place to hang out and watch beautiful scenery while others were getting ready. I've read mixed reviews about the ... Read More
We were on deck 11 and had a mini-suite. Plenty of room for the four of us. The balcony was a nice plus and gave us a place to hang out and watch beautiful scenery while others were getting ready. I've read mixed reviews about the Star but we found it to be very nice, especially with teens. We toured Seattle before getting on the ship. The Space Needle was great. We were lucky to have great weather. Clear and almost 80 degrees. The views from the Needle were great. We went to the original Starbucks and bought coffee mugs that we used nonstop on the cruise. The market was interesting but my favorite was our stop at The Locks. Getting on the ship was a breeze. Took all of 15 minutes. Rooms were ready about 1:30pm and luggage arrived about 2:30pm. We let the kids explore the ship while my husband and I took advantage of the spa special side by side 2 hour messages. What a great way to start the cruise. We missed the sail away party but that was o.k. We all had dinner together in the Versailles the first night and we found the food to be just fine. I like trying new stuff but if I didn't like it the waiters were great about offering something different. Don't miss the Creme Brulee's...always very good. Since the kids like eating with their new friends we splurged a couple of times for Cagney's and La Bistro. Very good food and the same thing applied..if you don't like something order something else. We really enjoyed the Jazz Brunch the second day but wasn't thrilled with the Best of All on the last day at sea. I think by that time we were a little tired of the fancy food. Only ate at the Market a couple of times and mainly for the nice fruit and cheese selections..and the ice cream. We liked eating while in the ports so didn't eat lunch on the ship too much. The room was nice..beds a little hard but nice pillows and covers. Kids didnt seem to mind the fold out couches being hard but they can sleep anywhere. TV's are old and small but a lot of good movies (Avatar, The Proposal, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN etc.) We had great reception. Our hair dryer didn't work when we got in the room but was switched out within 30 minutes. Room stewards did a great job. Nice towel animals, especially the towel monkey hanging from the ceiling. Scared me to death when I first walked in the room though. Was a good laugh. We didn't go to all the shows. Since it would stay daylight until around 11:00 p.m. we spent most of our time on our balcony or on deck watching the beautiful scenery. The spa has huge windows that you can watch the scenery from the hot tub. Spa was great. You don't have to buy the stuff they try to sell you..just say "No Thank You" once and they will leave you alone. I had two facials and two messages. My husband had two messages and a shave. (He had a mani and pedi but I promised him I wouldn't tell anyone...lol..he had never done that before and I talked him into it) Lost a lot of money in the casino..noone's fault but mine. The dealers were very friendly. Two cent slots were fun. I lost most on Let It Ride trying to hit that big hand...never happened. Same with Bingo. Ketchikan - We did the Misty Fjord Float plane through the cruise. Absolutely amazing. We had time after and decided to go with a local tour company selling tours on the dock. Big mistake!! The tour guide dissed the cruise industry the whole time and by the time we got to the Totem Poles, the attractions were closed...I was very angry. After making a small scene which is so unlike me, they reimbursed half my money. I felt that was fair. Do your research before booking an independent tour. The cruiseline tours are all very professionally done. Great fish and chip stands down a little way to the right. Clam chower too. Large portions and kind of pricey so split an order. Takes about 15 minutes to get your food. Really good!! Juneau - Whale watching. I guess I expected to see whales jumping out of the water so was kind of bummed to just see spouts, humps and tails until I realized we were very lucky to see what we did. The scenery was worth the trip though and the sea lions were neat to see and hear. Fun shopping area in Juneau. One thing to think about. Since this was a short port day we shopped instead of ate. Big mistake. Everyone gets back on the ship at the same time so all the eating areas were jam packed. Long waits, even room service. Find a fun place and eat in Juneau. Endicott Arm instead of Tracey Arm. Endicott was beautiful and the ship got really close. Close enough to see and hear the large pieces of ice falling and splashing into the water. Skagway - very nice train ride. We had a guide named "Slim Pickens" who had a guitar and sang. Even the kids enjoyed this. Our tour included the Klondike gold field which was just o.k. Panning for gold was kind of hokey but enjoyable. The restraunt was not very good..cold bbq buffet..yuk. Eat in town instead or wait until you get back on the ship. Next time I would probably not do Klondike. Prince Rupert - no scheduled excursion. Great weather so we just walked around a while. Had Fish and chips again, this time at Smiles next to the marina. Very good. Large portions so order a large and split it. Across the street was Cowpuccinos. Cute coffee shop with a nice view of the marina. Don't expect much from Prince Rupert and you won't be disappointed. I took some of my best pictures there. Colorful area with lots of eagles. Bought Canadian Maple Syrup for gifts. Use small american dollars because all change is given in Canadian dollars and cents. White Hot Party is that night so plenty of time to get fancied up. Some people even wore togas. Overall had a great time. I heard a couple of people complaining about not having enough to do on the ship. We filled our empty time in the spa and casino and watching the scenery so we were never bored. We loved the casual atmosphere of freestyle cruising. Teens had a great time and made a lot of friends. Getting off the ship was the easiest I have ever experienced. A little crazy outside the terminal but it all works itself out. Final thoughts: If you have an open mind, don't miss the 18 and over gameshows...lots of fun but a little risque. We had some CRAZY people on our ship and they were a lot of fun to watch but I dont know if I could have done some of the stunts they did. The Quest gameshow the last night was a hoot. Not to be missed. Great cruise, super nice staff, freestyle and relaxed. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We were first time cruisers who live within driving distance of Seattle so we drove to the parking structure across the street from the pier and rolled our suitcases (across the train tracks) to the pier where we were able to check them ... Read More
We were first time cruisers who live within driving distance of Seattle so we drove to the parking structure across the street from the pier and rolled our suitcases (across the train tracks) to the pier where we were able to check them about 10am. (we boarded the ship closer to noon). Parking for cruisers is pretty well marked but cost a shocking $140 for the week! (paid as you leave) We will pack lighter next cruise and take more compact rolling suitcases (one each with a backpack and handheld bag apiece), our rolling duffles were rather floppy. We packed a lot of cold weather stuff we didn't wear, but a few items are important for cruising up to Alaska. Raincoats and fleece hoodie were worn plenty. Shorts could be worn in the sun on deck (not ashore), but capris were mostly what we wore on board. Dining was truly casual even in the main restaurants, but one could dress up and not feel out of place. For going ashore we wore zipoff nylon pants, but didn't have occasion to zip the lower legs off. One might need more warm clothing if doing some of the shore excursions, which we didn't do this trip. Good big binoculars were used all the time (we both took them) on this trip. I was glad I took 2 big memory cards for my digicam, I took a lot of photos! Really important were clothes that were forgiving in the waist! Don't bother with clothing that 'just fits', it won't won't be popular with you a ways into the week! We liked the food very much, it wasn't gourmet but that isn't our preference; it was fresh, plentiful, good choices for everyone (even us non-meat eaters). I loved the chilled fruit soups and my travel partner loved the veg sushi and we both ate more salad and fresh fruit than at home (fresh pineapple every day!). We ate at the 'main' restaurant Versailles twice and the 23 hr Blue Lagoon once (limited menu there). Both were fine, and the desserts were better than in the buffet where we usually ate. (note: Blue Lagoon is closed for one hour for cleaning from 4-5am). We liked the ship a lot, it had many areas to hang out on and the flow seemed pretty good, except going quickly out to the 13 deck from inside wasn't easy to figure out. I didn't much care for the piped in music all over, even in Market Cafe and especially loud at the pool. Who is that for, the staff? Surely not the relaxing de-stressing guests, I found it more irritating (ie, stressful) than entertaining! The fitness center was excellent, we used it every day, with good equipment and towels/spray to keep it clean, also cold towels in a refrig! Neither of us paid for spa services, but it looked good if someone wanted pampering and procedures (teeth whitening, botox, etc). Laps around the upper deck were fun for fresh air, exercise, and scenery on this gorgeous cruise. Our weather in mid-June was the usual unpredictable maritime mix of sun, drizzle, clouds/sun, and wind (especially in Skagway). The air was really chilly cruising the glaciers. The mini-suite was rather cozy in a good sense, a bit narrow but we got used to that; I loved having a coffeemaker with as many packs of caf and decaf as we asked for and ceramic cups to drink it in, and we had a tub (I used it) and a bit bigger balcony and sitting area than a regular balcony room. There were bathrobes in the closet, but one of them needed washing. I also noticed a lot of dust on the wood tables, and candy wrappers under the bed. There are limited outlets, bring an adapter to 220 if you need to charge cell phones or a laptop. A 110 is by the vanity/hairdryer along the hall next to the bathroom and another one is almost hidden under the shelf over the sink. We didn't realize the closet had a light, I read about it after on this forum; we used a flashlight to see our clothes on the closet shelf! There were another 2 drawers next to the vanity (which also has a stool and big mirror with a light). The big duffels empty fit under the beds out of the way and there were shelves above the closet area for more storage. The bathroom mirror had a big magnifying mirror, and the entire cabin was full of mirrors to make it feel more spacious. The TV was not flat-panel like in some cruise lines' cabins nor did it get very good reception. We mostly had it tuned to the bow cam so we could see where we were headed, but the last day at sea I discovered the channel (?2 or 3) that showed us a map with a little ship of exactly where we were�I would've loved that all the way if I'd known about it! Also one of those channels had the shipboard announcements, which we couldn't hear very well from the room (we'd stick a head into the hallway or miss it). The cabin had lots of hooks, rather dim reading lights by each bed (twins which could be made into a queen), very comfy mattresses, decent but not luxurious sheets and towels. We loved the shower which had a handheld option for the showerhead. Very nice shampoo and lavender-scented handsoap in wall dispensers in shower and by the sink, respectively. (no need to pack shampoo, but you might want to take a face soap and shower soap if you're sensitive to body washes like I am). We really liked the little shelf next to the doorway where you could leave your keycard, or whatever item you wanted to grab when you went out. The sofa in the sitting area next to the sliding glass door was comfortable and could be made to a double bed for 1 more adult or 2 kids (any more people would overtax the cabin, I think), but room to move around would be very limited with this pulled out. It was best for just 2 people. The ship is very family-friendly, in fact almost family-centered; there were many families with kids of all ages on our summer sailing. They were mostly pretty well-behaved and many were in their programs during the day, but it got a bit wild and noisy the last day and evening at sea with thundering feet above us (we were aft on deck 11) from the kids' areas just above. It was convenient to take the stairs up to the Market Cafe a deck above in a jiffy, I could bring my meal back to the cabin with me if the cafe felt too crowded and busy. The Market Cafe has great views with big windows on both sides of the ship, so it's nice for scenery watching if you can take the hub-bub in there. The main problem, and the one than may make me choose another cruise line over NCL is their smoking policy: guests can smoke in cabin/on balcony. That was the only place onboard we had a problem, we had several heavy smokers in the cabin one forward of us (upwind as the ship moved). They lit up often and not only was it awful on the balcony where we wanted to do a lot of hanging out watching scenery, it actually infiltrated our cabin, and the hallway by our door was atrocious. The dangers of secondhand smoke are well known nowadays, and there were so many children on board; smoking, including secondhand smoke exposure, is a major causative factor in most cancers and many other illnesses that can take many years or decades to affect the future health of them as well as the present health of all who breathe it! It really spoiled our trip at times (like during the highlight of the trip, cruising the fjord to the glaciers, we were forced to breathe it on our balcony). NCL is very conscientious about cleanliness when it comes to handwashing, touchless stations are all over the ship. After 3 polite complaints about the smoke we finally got a plug-in air filter in our cabin but it had already been smoky for days and the desk knew about it. They did offer to 'refresh' our cabin when I complained about the smell, but I declined as it wouldn't help the balcony and would force us out of our cabin while they changed everything (to no avail, I'm sure). My requests to be moved were answered with "the ship is full" (??). NCL needs to re-think this smoke-friendly policy and get modern. They could give smokers some spots onboard to indulge their habit without subjecting others to it, like Celebrity does: specifically NOT in the cabins and on the balconies. I like a lot about NCL's Freestyle cruising, but this is the wrong kind of freedom! Not in anyone's best interest. The service wasn't what I'd consider 'top-notch', more like so-so, often very perfunctory. Our cabin steward left things out and we had a bogus $15 minibar charge added to the obligatory $12/day/person on one of our charge cards but we didn't know about it until the charge card bill came 2 weeks after the cruise. When I called to ask why it was there, they believed me right away but I had to have it credited back to my card in the next billing cycle. Debarking was really easy as we chose the "easy-walk-off" method, as long as you can manage your own luggage (don't overload yourself!) you can leave first and customs was no more for us than show our passports and go. We walked across the street to reclaim the car and were headed for home in the more-usual Seattle rainy weather in no time. Overall it was a great trip, except for the smoke pollution, and we want to cruise Alaska's Inside Passage again someday, although we're not sure if we want to take a gamble with our assigned neighbors on NCL again! And I would recommend a balcony for viewing the Inside Passage scenery because that is the main draw of this cruise itinerary!   Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Just got back from the Norwegian Star 7 day Alaska cruise (today July 3rd) - Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Prince Rupert, and an unbelievable full-ship tour of the Sawyer glacier. We gracefully navigated the icebergs... getting closer and ... Read More
Just got back from the Norwegian Star 7 day Alaska cruise (today July 3rd) - Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Prince Rupert, and an unbelievable full-ship tour of the Sawyer glacier. We gracefully navigated the icebergs... getting closer and closer... stunning scenery. Stayed in a balcony (9th floor, forward) - loved it. The lower-half glass and overhangs made it pleasant even in light rainfall. And the weather was warm enough to enjoy a bit of sunbathing. The food was good, but the specialty restaurants were pretty decent too. The cover charge was $10-$15 per person, and made for very few crowds and no screaming children. Dined at the french restaurant... the italian restaurant... and the japanese restaurant - paying $30+ for what I'd expect to pay $150+ for at home. Room service is free, (they even have pizza) when you're bushed and just want to crash. As far as shore expeditions go; went to see the Mendenhall glacier in Juneau - worthwhile any way you can get there; took the jeep tour in Skagway (VERY jarring... knees and back still ache); took the Misty Fyords boat tour in Ketchikan (neat scenery... bring extra camera batteries and flash cards), and finally my favorite, the Sealife and crab extravaganza in Prince Rupert. The crab was great, but the close encounters with many amazing eagles that is what I loved the most. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
My boyfriend introduced me to cruise vacations. We've taken 4 cruises in the past 2 years--3 to the Caribbean (twice aboard Carnival and once on Holland America) the most recent trip was my 40th birthday gift from my last month to ... Read More
My boyfriend introduced me to cruise vacations. We've taken 4 cruises in the past 2 years--3 to the Caribbean (twice aboard Carnival and once on Holland America) the most recent trip was my 40th birthday gift from my last month to Alaska on NCL's Star...I know, I'm a lucky girl. I love the experience of putting the cellphone away for a week, having date nights every night for a week, exploring new ports each day, people watching and laying out on the Lido deck. We've had a charmed experience on the past three cruise, finding insanely reasonably-priced fares, perfect weather, zero travel issues I started to think we had things down to a science. Let me tell you about the 40th Birthday cruise that almost didn't happen! I was flying out of Chicago, took the elevated train from the city to the airport which experienced some unforseen delays. What usually takes 45 minutes took an hour and 15 minutes. That loss of 15 minutes made all the difference. I arrived with just under an hour to check-in. Southwest Airlines check-in was 8 lanes deep. Security was equally packed for a Saturday a.m. At the gate I was told my seat had been given up and the plane...with my boyfriend aboard, taxied the runway. Southwest immediately put me on the next flight to Seattle and apologized for the long delays. New flight was due to arrive at 2:50pm...an hour and 10 minutes before the 4pm departure time! I should have allowed more time to arrive at the airport clearly but I really appreciated the airlines' quick response to get me to Seattle. I sat down and immediately called NCL to alert them to my situation. I've never missed a flight before. Customer service quickly told me "if you aren't at the Port of Seattle by 3pm which is the check-in cut off, you aren't likely to be allowed onboard". Trying to reason with the Rep, I said "My flight arrives at 2:50pm--at best, I could be at the Port by 3:30pm. What I'd like to know is that if I am there a half hour before the ship leaves that I'll be allowed to board?" I went on to reason with them,"My boyfriend made the flight, already preboarded us online, will likely have my luggage and can check us in at the dock...the only thing missing will be me...I'm not asking for special treatment i.e. holding the ship (which I know they would not do). At which point the Rep (now a supervisor as I was placed on hold for 40 minutes)asked "Well do you have travel insurance?". "No" "Well, if I were you I'd just start making plans to meet your party at the first port of call on Monday, I'm 99 percent sure they will not allow you to board". I was numb, absolutely devastated that I'd ruined the trip for not only myself, but my boyfriend and the other couple we were cruising with. Basically-since I had not paid for insurance, the NCL customer service department could care less what happened to me. Anyone that has cruised knows how much $$ you've already spent on the rooms, shore excursions etc. So...I got creative...this is IMPORTANT in case it ever happens to you! I googled the Port of Seattle from my Blackberry and called the cruise terminal there. Spoke calmly to a very nice woman and explained that I needed to get word to the check-in area of the Norwegian Star that my flight was delayed. She got me in touch with them--the wonderful (contracted employee) Sam immediately asked for my flight information, offered to call the airport in Seattle to alert them of my arrival and sent a Rep to the airport to meet me at the gate! I was floored...at his willingness to (find a solution) to the problem...especially after the experience I had with NCL. It's important to note that Sam was a contracted employee of the cruise terminal, doing check-in for all the cruise lines. He went above and beyond to help me make the trip. I arrived at the port at 3:30pm. Was checked in quickly, found and hugged Sam my new BFF, thanked him for everything and made my way up the gangway. The safety drill was happening so my boyfriend, and our friends were standing there watching me arrive! Thank goodness my boyfriend had the good sense to get on the plane in Chicago because he was able to get our luggage and check-in at the port--and also alert them to my late arrival. After a few tense minutes...my boyfriend still decompressing from the whole experience, the worry that he'd have to coordinate getting me a flight to Alaska, how much $$ would that cost plus hotel etc...but relieved that I made the ship...we began a very fun, amazing trip to Alaska. The scenery is tough to describe because it was so beautiful. Stewards great, the employees on the boat work hard. No problems there. Liked the English Pub on board, entertainment was same as other boats (I find it terribly cheesy on all the boats but part of the cruising experience). Criticisms of the ship--older boat, needed updating, kind of "sad", smelly elevators, rooms were fine but the tv was small and bad reception, there was constant running water in the walls of the bathroom. Biggest criticism was the food quality!!! We expected NCL to be better and more impressive than Carnival and Holland America. Really surprised us! Many of the "freestyle dining" options you pay extra for and if we weren't with another couple (who wanted to stay in the free dining rooms), we would have probably experienced at least one but I have to say that much like my feelings after hearing the comment "Do you have travel insurance"...as if, had I paid more $$, NCL would have cared about my situation, I feel like on NCL why should you have to "pay more for better service/food quality?" My boyfriend and I figured out by day two that the food was just not up to par and kind of shrugged our shoulders and just enjoyed the experience of being together on vacation. Ports of call--all great choices but Prince Rupert??! Not a tourist destination at all. I saw other reviews that said the same. I've never been to a port that had nothing to offer. No traditional Also-the times at port were very short. like 7am-1pm in Juneau. Other ships have allowed for more time. We figured it out when we saw another NCL boat follow us at each port. NCL saved $$ on docking fees by having two ships at port each day. Because of the customer service situation and the lackluster feelings about the boat, mostly the really poor food quality we won't be cruising NCL again. Carnival and Holland America were both wonderful to travel on and we look forward to cruise one of them again or another cruise line...Costa maybe? We are thinking about going next year maybe a cruise to Greece or Italy. I'll be at the airport hours before my flight...I can promise you that! : ) Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
My husband and I chose the cruise to correspond to our anniversary celebration. What a disappointment. Getting on the ship was easy and organized leaving pier 66 from Seattle. We have been to Alaska before and therefore knew what to expect ... Read More
My husband and I chose the cruise to correspond to our anniversary celebration. What a disappointment. Getting on the ship was easy and organized leaving pier 66 from Seattle. We have been to Alaska before and therefore knew what to expect as far as excursions and decided just to go off in each port and do our own thing. Our cabin had an ocean view window and was spacious enough for the two of us. The one major complaint regarding the cabin was that repairs were not made to the sink and drain even after leaving notes and the soap dispenser was not replenished. The television in the cabin was old and there was poor reception. We requested a non smoking room, but to our dismay the people next to us smoked and the second hand smoke was prevalent in our room and on the floor where we were situated. I believe that there should be specified floors for smokers or no smoking ban in cabins to avoid this issue. On the request data for the cruise, it was noted if you are celebrating a special occasion, please let us know, we filled it out that we were celebrating our anniversary on the specific date during the cruise. The date came and there was no recognition, not even a card on our door. We visited the guest desk and asked, but were told that nothing was noted and we should have purchased the anniversary package if we wanted recognition. We traveled on Princess Cruises last year and they provided us with chocolate strawberries, champagne, and a lovely banner all complimentary. We promptly deposited a note in the box of the hotel manager to let me know how we were treat and how disappointed we were and were told that we would get a response within twenty four hours, we didn't hear from him during the entire cruise. We ate in the main dining room Versailles where we expected the service would be good since they are used to getting meals prepared in a expedient fashion for those going on excursions, but we found otherwise. The service was terrible and the food was served cold such as at breakfast when cold uncooked eggs were served. Orders were confused since the servers rarely wrote down the orders. On the third day, the Maitre D asked us how things were going and we began to discuss our issues. He promptly took care of the situation and we were given personal service for the remainder of the cruise making sure that all of our meals in all of the dining venues were served hot and in due time. He was truly outstanding. We did however end up eating at the other restaurants such as the Tex Mex restaurant which was very good quality food and excellent server by the name of Jenallyne,the Bistro nice atmosphere, Asian Fusion good variety and La Cucina which was pretty good, but nothing special. The service in all of the specialty restaurants was wonderful and servers very personable. Our feeling is that the food quality in the buffet and dining rooms is lower as well as the service and therefore people tend to spend the money in the specialty restaurants out of frustration. We noticed increasing numbers going to the restaurants after the first three days. More attention should be spent on the menu selections particularly for those with allergies to nuts since almost everything had nuts sprinkled on or in the main courses, salads and deserts. There was not enough variety in deserts especially those for diabetics since there were limited selections of no sugar selections and we were told the freezer was too small to hold a selection. We attempted to eat at the buffet and just have coffee one evening after a show at 9:30P.M. nothing was left not even fresh fruit.This particular venue is supposed to be open long hours and there was limited seating. A little known fact on the ship is the drink dispensers located near Blue Lagoon self service for coffee, tea and water. This was especially nice for times when we sat and read, talked or played cards on the days at sea. The theater productions were entertaining especially the tribute to Frankie Valli and Band on the Run. The problem with the theater is that the staff are too busy selling lottery tickets rather than being concerned that people are creating a fire hazard by sitting on the steps from the top to the bottom. This could made it difficult for especially for the handicapp to get out of their seats especially if there was an emergency. In order to get a seat in the shows, people have to arrive at least a forty five minutes before the show begins because so many large groups reserve the seats. The trio that appeared in the atrium each night were very entertaining and enjoyable to listen to. We had an opportunity to speak with them and they were friendly and personable. The casino staff was friendly and offered free drinks for those in the casino, and we sometimes took the drinks into the shows rather than to pay six dollars or more for drinks being sold. The thing that we could not understand was that Harrah's Casino is connected to NCl Cruise line, but you don't get the credit applied to your card for gambling in the casino on board the ship. NCL has their own seaboard credit and you have to earn 1000 points to get ten dollars on board credit.We question why Harrah's Casino is even involved other than to offer a discount for passengers who have the players card since it not valid on the ship. The ports were easy to go off the ship and investigate on your own if you chose to do so. Skagway was the only one which might have required a bus or you could just walk, but the weather was very cold and rainy with wind that particular day and a number of people ventured out, but came back quickly. Prince Rupert was a total waste of time, although it is a short walk from the ship there is nothing much to do unless you book an excursion. NCL is the only ship to stop at this port which may tell the visitor something since most go on and stop in Victoria where there are more sights and interesting places to visit. Prices are higher in the stores by at least three or more dollars. There are two museums, but they tend to be overcrowded since there is not much of anything else to do in the town. Beautiful view of the ocean, but nothing special. There were plenty of comfortable places to sit throughout the ship either at tables or by the window seats where you could just chill. Popcorn was served hot every afternoon around 1;00-2:00 by the Red Lion Inn which made a nice afternoon snack. The sights and the people we met on the trip were enjoyable, but the Princess cruise to Alaska has NCL beat in food quality, service and customer relations provided. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
I have not ever been on a cruise before and did not know what to expect but friends always mentioned fabulous food. I have to say I was completely let down in this department on the Star. The food went from unremarkable to downright awful. ... Read More
I have not ever been on a cruise before and did not know what to expect but friends always mentioned fabulous food. I have to say I was completely let down in this department on the Star. The food went from unremarkable to downright awful. And forget freestyle. The one time my mom and I requested to have breakfast together, just the two of us, we were told we would have to wait. Then told several times - " you're sharing, right?" Until we just said yes. And did. Then, I got served cold pancakes. The Market Cafe was always so crowded it was hard to get a meal there. The time in Alaska was so wonderful! I wouldn't have missed it for anything, But I really hope never to be stuck on cruise ship again. Our cabin was very nice but Deck 10 was under construction, had a very bad smell and was loud. Amazing trip to Misty Fjords in a sea plane. Check out Saxman Totem poles, too. Awesome shopping and Annabelle's Restaurant with blue cheese crusted halibut is wonderful!. Whale watching - just can't say enough good things about the Scania! So much fun!!! The only thing I can say is wish we had all day there....would go back in a heartbeat!!! Chilikoot Tour Bus up and White Pass Train down. Fascinating history and scenery. Wonderful shopping and great beer at Bonanza Grill. My first train ride except at the zoo. Loved it!!!!! Would give it a zero if I could. No scenery, nothing of note or interest. What in the world? Why in the world?Ridiculous! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Since I'm prone to seasickness, I tend to avoid boat vacations. However, I could not pass up the opportunity to see Alaska. My friend and I were booked on the repo cruise from L.A. and it was 3+ full days on rough ocean waters until ... Read More
Since I'm prone to seasickness, I tend to avoid boat vacations. However, I could not pass up the opportunity to see Alaska. My friend and I were booked on the repo cruise from L.A. and it was 3+ full days on rough ocean waters until the first port of call. I'm glad I brought along some Bonine so I was only feeling ill for part of the day. The rear of the ship seemed to rock the worst where people were stumbling like terrible drunks down the walkway! The GOOD: Our balcony cabin was wonderful. Clean, bright and cleverly laid out. I saw inside a windowless cabin and it was dark and claustrophobic even though similar in square footage. The cabin bathroom had separate sliding doors for the shower and toilet. Only two outlets in the whole cabin - one in the bathroom and one near the small refrigerator. We made use of the mini-safe in the cabin. Most of the ship staff were very helpful and professional. They all work so hard and such long days. We enjoyed chatting and getting to know some of them personally. We loved the trivia contests even though we never won any of them! Met some fun and intelligent people. Also, this activity allowed us to be somewhere more quiet, away from the noise and crush of people. The gym is decently equipped with the usually machines. I also walked along the outside circuit on Deck 12 on the mornings when it wasn't blowing too hard. The gorgeous Versailles dining room became our favorite venue for dinner. The food ranged from weird fusion/bad to surprisingly good (the Indian food for lunch at the Market Cafe and the rack of lamb for dinner) but most of their desserts were disappointing. The ice cream stand is a very nice treat. I do like the open seating, dine whenever concept. The Stardust Theater is beautiful and the seats were very comfortable. We'd catch the earlier 7pm shows so we could have a late dinner and avoid the crowd. The complimentary champagne at the "art" auction was decent and, again, it was a quiet, peaceful venue away from the noise and crowds. Besides, I could never tire from looking at the Rembrandt etchings they had. Disembarkation/customs in Canada went pretty well considering three cruise ships had docked that same morning. We took our own bags off the ship and that was a wise decision. NCL did right by offering a choice of times to leave the ship. We had breakfast first and did not feel rushed in preparing to disembark. We found a taxi right away after we cleared customs. I took photos of Canada Place and Vancouver as we docked. Two other HAL cruise ships (Oosterdam) were at the pier already. You can see them on my zazzle home page under mltdesigns. The Not So Good: The NCL website needs improvement. It wasn't set up to be intuitive and the site couldn't keep our accounts separate (two people with different addresses booked in the same cabin). Also, NCL customer service did not deliver on their promise to email me about my airline arrangements. I had to chase them down twice over the phone to get that information. Embarkation took a very long time. Also my luggage never showed up to our cabin. I had to ask TWICE at the reception desk about it. Finally, I was told it was being held for contraband items. A fire hazard. I had a curling iron in my bag but was dumbfounded by their policy. Passengers can smoke in their cabins but I can't have a curling iron or clothes iron in the room?! The security staff decently let me keep the contraband items if I don't use them while I was on the ship. I was really more upset that I wasn't notified that my bag was being held. I was finally able to retrieve my luggage after 8pm that night. We had to pay for everything else, expensive too! Cabin fee does not cover mandatory tips at $12/per person per day (we paid that plus extra directly to our waiters/housekeepers etc.), alcoholic drinks, soda, bottled water, any excursions and for use of the inside pool in the spa. However, the martini I ordered was made perfectly and, while the canoe paddle on Mendenhall Lake was $160 a person plus tip, it was the highlight of our trip. I was surprised how expensive this cruise turned out to be even though we did not eat in any specialty restaurants and only bought two drinks each during the whole cruise. The fee for wifi Internet service was outrageous at 75 cents a minute and terribly unreliable. Even though I was given partial credit, it was still quite a rip-off. On Day 4 of the cruise, I was finally able to check email at the public library when we docked at Juneau, then later in Ketchikan. Both libraries are 2-3 blocks away from the ship docks. Too little time at port. After spending about 3.5 hours on a tour/excursion at both ports, we only had an hour or two to explore the town. I'll just have to go back someday! Library and movie theater were closed due to construction. The TV seldom had any stations on. All I wanted was CNN news since the Internet wasn't really available. Bathroom amenities: Practically none. I suggest bringing your own shampoo and soap. The shower dispenser took many pumps to get enough to clean with.. and it was cheap product. I've not been on any other major cruise ship so I'm not sure how to rank the NCL line. The week-long river cruise ship I was on had much better food and included more educational/interesting activities. I was also spoiled by the all-inclusive river cruise fare which included beer, soda, meals and shore excursions, optional tipping. Summary: Alaska is a must-go-see. A balcony or outside window cabin would really make for a better trip. I loved my first ocean cruise experience - it was an adventure on many levels and restful too. Next time, I'll select a cruise that starts closer to Alaska and with more ports of call. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This cruise features Ports-of-call with spectacular scenery and tacky (but popular) tourist shops, mostly jewelry. The time in each port was short and NCL offered many excursion options. Nonetheless, many of the same tours were readily ... Read More
This cruise features Ports-of-call with spectacular scenery and tacky (but popular) tourist shops, mostly jewelry. The time in each port was short and NCL offered many excursion options. Nonetheless, many of the same tours were readily available on the pier at lower prices if you're prepared to take the (minimal) risk of unavailability or tardy return. We only spent, inexplicably, 6 hours in Juneau. To me, it was interesting enough for at least a full day. Coastal Helicopters put us on the Herbert Glacier for a glorious 30 minutes and Pilot Brian made the trip a life-long memory. Skagway was a gem and the White Pass Railway is a mandatory experience for a feast of Alaskan grandeur with a slice of Canadian Gold Rush for dessert. Ketchikan was too touristy but charming. Scenic but tiny Prince Rupert was, mysteriously, allotted the same time as Juneau with a 4pm arrival time. The service on the Star was acceptable but $12 pp/day may be generous. A grade of "B Minus" would be kind. Little things irritate. For instance, breakfast restaurants (Blue Lagoon) should not run out of cream cheese and English muffins. Overall, the food was reasonable, if forgettable. The entertainment was approximately as expected with no outstanding acts but some reasonable pastimes especially the "What a Night, Frankie Vallee Review." Little things make you crazy! An Internet Package mix-up plus an inflexible Internet Manager equals a disgruntled cruiser. A professional Hotel Director, Mr. Dihel, recovered with stylish grace. I suspect a young Internet Manager learned not to judge graying books by their covers. As for Freestyle Dining, I'm not sure. The idea makes mealtime more flexible but eliminates the client-server relationship. It makes meeting new people easier but encourages inconsistent service. I wonder, nefariously, if promotion of the scheme is geared to pushing customers to the revenue-generating Specialty Restaurants. I thought, however, that the purpose of cruising was to experience first class food and service as part of the price. This effectively creates a three-tier food service: Buffet, Dining Room and Paid Specialty. User-pay and User-decide, I suppose. Overall, the grandeur of the Alaskan vistas is outstanding and make this itinerary quite worthwhile despite any shortcomings of the ports or ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was our first cruise on NCL and to tell you the truth we were very nervous about it. We had read some not so great things, but were going to go into with with a positive attitude....any vacation is better than no vacation. How bad ... Read More
This was our first cruise on NCL and to tell you the truth we were very nervous about it. We had read some not so great things, but were going to go into with with a positive attitude....any vacation is better than no vacation. How bad could it really be?? We live in Southern Ca so we did not have to worry about flying into LAX or finding transportation to the pier. We did use Zippy Shuttle to go from our house to the pier and he was on time and very friendly with a better price than his competitors. We arrived at the pier around 12:15 and gave our bags and case of water to the porter with a tip to make sure our bags made it to the ship. We then were instructed to go into the terminal, fill out our sick or not sick paper, went through security and were placed into various lines to check in. This is one of the few not so pleasant parts of our cruise. We stood in line in San Pedro for over an hour before it was our turn to check in. We have never stood in line that long in all of our 10 cruises...it was quite frustrating. Once we got to the front of the line and it was our turn to check in, it literally took us 4 minutes and we were done. It was at this point we realized that we were surrounded by a very large group of foreign travelers that did not speak English and that's why it was taking so long. Once we arrived on the ship, we walked around a bit, made some reservations for speciality dining and than decided to go to one of the main dining rooms for lunch. We were sat immediately and all enjoyed our lunch very much. I had the BBQ pork ribs, my hubby had the risotto and BLT. They were all served warm and were very tasteful. Shortly after lunch the announcement was made that cabins were ready and we headed off to find ours. When we arrived to our cabin it was in great shape. Clean and did not smell strange at all. We opened the balcony door to check out the view and sat there for about 15 minutes before all 3 of our suitcases arrived and our case of water as well. We unpacked and enjoyed sitting on our balcony. Four o' clock came and went when there was an announcement that we would not be leaving until 6pm. It was found out later that they needed the additional time to load construction materials and cabins on for the refurbishing they are doing on deck 12. Six o' clock came and we were off!! We went to the main dining room for dinner(Versailles) and were seated with our friends at a table of 4 after a 5 minute wait. The service was prompt and friendly and our meal was brought to us in a timely manner and was correct and served at the right temperature. We did order drinks from the bar and they were also brought in a timely manner. Our first night we were all waken up by the noise of the cabins creaking. We were in pretty rough waters with swells between 12-18 feet and the ship was a rocking!! I do recommend bringing ear plugs with you so you can sleep. Unfortunately our friends did not bring any and were very tired for the next few days. Our first day at sea was taken up by a few ship activities but mostly relaxing and taking multiple naps with a trip to Blue Lagoon for lunch and Teppanyaki for dinner. It was great entertainment and everyone at our table was quite friendly. We even sat with an actor from CSI which my husband was thrilled with as that is one of his favorite shows. We all chatted with each other and the with the chefs and the food was very good. The show that night was good as well and then we hit the sack. Our second day at sea we decided to do sushi for lunch and it was pretty good. It isn't the freshest ever but if you are not a die hard sushi eater it was pretty tasty. For $15 a person for all you can eat sushi...it is a pretty good deal. We left very stuffed and had a snack for dinner and hit the show. Our third day at sea was much like the previous two. We went to the main dining room for breakfast, had room service for lunch (Mac n' Cheese is yummy) and went to Endless Summer for dinner. We each ordered fajitas and couldn't believe the size of the serving. Two people can easily split them. The free margarita was indeed small but free so I'm not complaining. Our first port was Juneau and it is quite a quaint town. We did the whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier tour. It was educational and we did get to see quite a few whales even though it was early in the season. The weather was sunny and I think we had sprinkles for about 5 minutes all day! We had to be back by 5pm and got there at 4:30...once again, we were waiting in line to get on the ship for almost an hour!! They need to work on the embarkation and debarkation process or maybe it was the group of 700 people who didn't speak English and didn't have any manners culturally speaking. Ketchikan was the next day and we did the lumberjack show and the duck tour. The lumberjack show was very entertaining and we would do it again, the duck tour was ok and we ended walking back to things we saw on the tour to check out for ourselves. Both towns are very walkable and the weather in Ketchikan had followed us from Juneau so we were blessed with another sunny day. Our last day at sea was supposedly cruising the inside passage. We couldn't see any land so were a little bummed by that but the water was like glass and we could appreciate that after the 3 rough days we started out with. We enjoyed our last day lounging in the spa and reading in the library. Our friends purchased a $55 Internet package and they got good use out of that. On debarkation day we chose the last tag to get off. We went down and had a leisurely breakfast in Versailles then finished off our packing and had to be out of our cabins by 11:00. We decided to sit in the library until our color was called. We sat there about a half-hour and when our color was called we got off the ship in Vancouver and were in a taxi to the Westin Bayshore within 40 minutes. Definitely a much better experience than embarkation. Overall, we really enjoyed our experience with NCL. We never encountered a rude staff member....lots of rude passengers, but not NCL's fault. Of all the times we ate in the main dining room for either breakfast, lunch or dinner, I think 5 minutes was the longest we waited for a table for 4. There was not excessive usage of the intercom system for worthless announcements, so that was nice. There was an update from the captain each morning at 9am which was also a nice touch. I think the entertainment was better than what I have seen on Princess or RCL. Nobody can touch Disney so that's not up for comparison. I don't think we could have asked for much more than we received except maybe a free upgrade??? We will definitely cruise with NCL again if the price and itinerary are what we are looking for....and we will somehow make sure there is not a group of 700 foreigners on the same ship!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
My previous cruise experience was on Carnival in 1999. It was a short 3 night cruise, and I found the food to be excellent, and activities enough to keep me busy. However, I was single at the time, and did not find that cruises were ... Read More
My previous cruise experience was on Carnival in 1999. It was a short 3 night cruise, and I found the food to be excellent, and activities enough to keep me busy. However, I was single at the time, and did not find that cruises were suitable for single people. Now that I'm married, I figured a cruise would be good vacation for my wife and I. She would like the relaxation of the cruise, and I would enjoy the activities at each port in Alaska. We enjoyed it for the most part, but left with a sour taste in our mouths regarding certain things. Embarkation: It was a bit tedious, but probably no worse than flying. I don't remember this process too much from my Carnival cruise, but it didn't seem as bad back then. Although long, at least the lines moved, so we didn't spend too much time standing. Once inside, we didn't see our bags until about 8pm, although we didn't depend on anything in them, so it was OK. Food: Read the title of the post. By far the worst part of the ship. The buffet was atrocious. When we boarded, we were told to go there and have lunch, and we were scared we were going to be run over because we were standing between rubes and all the food they could eat. The quality of the buffet was worse than my college dormitory. The restaurants were a little better. The recipes were good, but you could tell that the quality of the meats and vegetables were not up to par. On the second night of our cruise, I puked up the Beef Wellington. We did not attempt any of the "specialty" restaurants, because we did not believe the food would be any better for the extra money. If you were hungry late at night (most of the time we weren't, for obvious reasons), they had a late night cafe which served chicken fingers, hot dogs, and other stadium type food. (Note: Most ball park food is better) All in all, this was a major disappointment, as the reputation of cruises is that the food is great. This did not live up to it. Service: Overall it was ok. I do not look for having my feet kissed while on vacation, so I am usually not critical of the service. Wait staff was good. Bar staff was a little too exuberant, but when the drink waiters passed by too many times without you ordering, you would not see them again. Good thing about Norwegian is that they have a big selection of beers. Room attendants were good. Unlike Carnival, they don't make a point to say hello every day (fine with me), but when you needed something, they got it for you. Destination/Shore Excursions: Alaska was great! We did fun things and saw a beautiful part of our continent (Yes! Canada too.) Of the four stops, we booked 2 shore excursions. Each shore excursion had an itinerary change when we boarded, then one ended up being cancelled altogether. Do not let this deter you from visiting Alaska. My other complaint was that the shore excursions did not allow us to spend some time walking around the port town, relaxing, having a drink, or whatever. Do your research before you go. The best part of my trip was kayak fishing which I booked independently. Feel free to refer to my port information before making any decisions. On Board Activities: Another disappointment. They had some good entertainment, music, and activities, but their timing was terrible. On our first day at sea, there was NOTHING! (I guess they figured we were all old and needed to rest up for jewel shopping at the port.) Then, at our stop in Prince Rupert, which was in the evening from 4pm to 10pm, they decide to schedule a whole lot of shows, as well as their "White Hot Party". On our last day at sea, the only activities appeared to be sales of the junk they didn't sell during the earlier part of the cruise. Besides that, other activities included a jazz brunch ($7 fee), beer tasting ($18 fee), and wine pairing ($15 fee). Get it? Disembarkation: Something they got right. I remember Carnival corralling us into areas before leaving the ship. Here, they allowed us to choose our disembarkation time. The problem was that certain disembarkation times were too popular. Because of that, some passengers decided they would leave when they wanted to (a popular theme among them, just the first time mentioned here), which made it a bit more difficult. The good thing was we could sit in our rooms and relax until it was time to leave. Also, if you are flying, do not get the airport transfer from the ship unless you are travelling alone. Seattle regulations set the taxi fare at $35, which is cheaper than 2 people at $25 each. Result: I will try other cruise lines before cruising on Norwegian again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Norwegian Star Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 2.0 3.2
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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