245 Norwegian Star Alaska Cruise Reviews

The Norwegian Star is a pretty ship with colorful decor and a gorgeous dining room. However, and it's a big "however" it has filled up every square inch of public space with 14 a la carte restaurants so that there is not a ... Read More
The Norwegian Star is a pretty ship with colorful decor and a gorgeous dining room. However, and it's a big "however" it has filled up every square inch of public space with 14 a la carte restaurants so that there is not a single place to sit on a chair with your partner and look out the window at the scenery. There used to be a fine observation lounge at the front of the top deck with panoramic windows where you could watch the ship move down the channel. Now that beautiful space has been leased to a spa and the room divided. There are still 12 lounges looking out those panoramic windows but in order to sit there you must fork out $150 to the spa. This is a travesty! Many people who had sailed the ship before were bitterly disappointed. I can only speculate that some ships are moving to make money on every inch of space. Gone is the card room, the movie theatre, and a separate library. I don't know if their other ships have undergone this transition as well but if they have, be forewarned. I would choose Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, or Royal Caribbean to do this cruise. One of the ports was Prince Rupert where it rains almost constantly. There is little other than the museum to see and that has been sewn up by the cruise line so it is really a useless port when they could have stopped instead at Vancouver or Victoria, both glorious cities. No doubt hey are cutting costs but the passenger doesn't get any benefit. Someone needs to wake up Norwegian. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Enticed by a price that fit all pocketbooks (wrong, more later!) and the proximity of a Seattle round-trip, I booked the family on NCL for Pop-Pops 75th birthday cruise. We went to Alaska trailing 3 groups of novice cruisers. While a ... Read More
Enticed by a price that fit all pocketbooks (wrong, more later!) and the proximity of a Seattle round-trip, I booked the family on NCL for Pop-Pops 75th birthday cruise. We went to Alaska trailing 3 groups of novice cruisers. While a wonderful time was had by all, we are not inclined to repeat our NCL experience. We had a mini-suite with other family in inside cabins across the hall. The insiders were moved to other cabins by the second day due to overhead noise. They had no available place to move us from the mini-suite class. The noise and construction were obvious negatives. They do have excellent bathrooms on NCL. Econo lodge style toiletries, but a superfunctional bathroom layout. The "free-style" dining experience was interesting. It was difficult to get a hot meal in any of the included restaurants and the wait staff tended to be the most inexperienced. Main dining venues suffer from lack of supervision and organization.Dining room dress codes appear to be nonexistent. (somebody please tell me the need for a cowboy hat, at dinner, at sea?) We quickly gave up and booked the specialty restaurants for the rest of the cruise. We got great food (best escargot I have ever had) and great service thereafter. But we had to pay for it. That's NCL's dirty little secret...everything is cost plus. I can estimate my ships account to about $50, but it was instructive to note the looks on the faces of less experienced guests waiting in line to settle accounts. The add ons on this cruise line are egregious and priced above the more expensive cruise lines. Perhaps it is better to pay the higher fares with better food and service. Novice cruisers should also note that with "free-style" dining the tipping is mandatory and added daily. It is also interesting to note that the specialty waitstaff are part of this shared pool yet present bills with lines for addition gratuities. Cabin service is impersonal at best unless you happen to be the employer of some of their friends working stateside, then attention levels alter rapidly. To be fair, the cabin to employee ration is very high and the rooms are kept very clean. They work very hard. I have to say that the hygiene standards are very high and the standards are enforced. They have an outstanding Executive Housekeeper and the commitment to the environment dictates that over 8000 napkins a day are laundered and folded. The cruise did offer something for everyone and Alaska is spectacular no matter how one gets there. It was a memorable trip, but NCL's contribution to the memories was limited. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was our second cruise aboard the Star and our fifth with NCL. Our previous cruise on the Star was on the Mexican Riviera. We are empty nesters so its easy to get away any time of the year, as long as we can find cat-sitters. We chose ... Read More
This was our second cruise aboard the Star and our fifth with NCL. Our previous cruise on the Star was on the Mexican Riviera. We are empty nesters so its easy to get away any time of the year, as long as we can find cat-sitters. We chose to do Alaska in May because the weather in Alaska can be as cold and rainy in July as it is in May, but in May there are fewer ships in port than later in the season. The ship sailed from Vancouver, BC, because the previous cruise had been a repositioning cruise from Los Angeles. Vancouver was the foreign port that was required in order for the ship to operate its casino. But the Star will be primarily based in Seattle this summer. We stayed at the River Rock Casino, which is just east of the airport and right across the street from a light rail station. We don't gamble, but we found a package special on Travelzoo that included a two room suite, breakfast, and free parking, for just $140 per night, including tax. Unless you want to go out of town, you don't even need a car if you stay here, because the airport and Canada Place (the location of the cruise terminal) are all on the same, very easy to use, rail line. We chose to rent a car because we wanted to drive up to Whistler the day before the ship sailed. We were aware that two HAL ships were departing from Canada Place cruise terminal on the same day as the Star. What we did not know is that the cruise terminal, while having room for up to three ships, was totally unprepared to deal with three ships. We got our first clue when we found the streets by Canada Place in total gridlock. We called the rental agency and were told to return to the care to the parking ramp under Canada Place. However, the traffic police had that blocked off and did not want to allow us in. I was let in after explaining to the cop that we needed to return the car. Our plan was to return the car at noon, check our bags with NCL, and wander around Gastown for a couple of hours. Wrong. After returning the car, we headed down the jammed elevators to the cruise terminal. We were met at the bottom by a huge queue, stretching as far back and forward as we could see. We were curtly informed by someone who appeared to be in charge that those at this location in the line had been waiting for two hours, and that we would have to go back up the packed elevators, out onto the street, and down the street to get to the end of the line. Another person who seemed to be in charge suggested that people may want to go away for a couple of hours and "have a coffee". We decided to take his advice and leave for awhile. Unfortunately, there was no way to dump our bags. So we took off, three suitcases, a backpack, and a carry bag in tow. Strolling Gastown was out of the question. Fortunately, we found Steamworks brewpub nearby and had a couple of excellent beers. I also ran down to the Alibi Room a few blocks away while the wife watched the bags. We returned at 2:30 and found the queue to still be huge, but at least it was moving. We still waited in lines for another hour before we were on the ship. The major jam was at customs. Everyone had to clear US customs before boarding. The queue for each ship did not even start until after customs. It looked like the non US or Canada citizens were being shunted off to a waiting room and were waiting even longer. Until we cleared customs, there was not an NCL or HAL representative in sight. I know the queue was not the fault of either cruise line, but I wish they had their reps out there letting people know what was going on. Based on this experience, I would advise avoiding cruises from Vancouver, or at least making sure that no other ships are leaving that day. Since we'd been on the Star before, we pretty much knew what to expect. The jogging track on deck 13 is ¼ mile per lap and extends almost 2/3 the length of the ship, making for great sights while running. The only problem is, for much if its length, the track is separated by a Plexiglas wall from the rest of the deck. Since the track is right against the railing, there is the temptation for non-runners to use the track for standing and taking pictures. The Star has a great terraced sundeck above the pool. This deck was very popular when we took the Star to Mexico. Unfortunately, it is likely to not get much use on an Alaska cruise. The Spinnaker lounge has moved from a bright space on Deck 11 forward to a windowless space on Deck 7 aft. If I'd booked an inside stateroom with the intention of watching the sights of Alaska go by from the comfort of the Spinnaker lounge, I'd have asked for my money back after they moved it. There are really few interior spaces left on the Star to just sit and watch the scenery. And you need this for an Alaskan cruise. The library, which used to be in a very nice space by the old Spinnaker, is now in a temporary space by the Internet Cafe. Most books are only set out for a few hours per day. Our stateroom was an aft balcony on deck 10. We love aft balconies: we had one on the Jewel last summer. The balcony is larger than inside balcony cabins; ours was even larger than the balcony we had in a mini-suite on our previous Star cruise! Being in the rear keeps you out of the wind. Our two sea days were sunny days and we were able to sit on the balcony in our bathing suits and just sun. Of course, we are from Minnesota, so 60 degrees feels warm! And when cruising in scenic areas, you can just tune the TV to the bow cam to see what's coming up. And, of course, you can see the sights on both sides of the ship. The room size was standard for a balcony: there was a queen bed, small couch that doubled as a bed for a third person, and a small table. The size is adequate for two people, but would be quite cramped if you tried to shoehorn a third person in. There's not much foot traffic in the very back of the ship, so there was little hallway noise. Immediately above our stateroom was the spa, so there was no late night noise from above. WiFi is now available in the state rooms, and the connection is good. But the ship's standard Internet price is 75 cents per minute, and the best of the packages only cuts the price in about half. And there is still a one time "connection fee" of about $4 on the ship. We ate most of our dinners in the Versailles main dining room, along with a few breakfasts and lunches. The food is standard NCL fare: Good quality, well presented, but nothing spectacular. We recognized most of the menu items from previous NCL cruises. Service, with a couple of exceptions, was usually fairly fast and even. The dining room seemed more crowded for breakfast and lunch than we've experienced in the past. I'm guessing it had to do with the lack of desirable outdoor dining options on an Alaska cruise. The queue was long a couple of times when we arrived for dinner, but had disappeared when we returned later. A trick we have learned is to go to the early show in the Stardust Theater, sit on the mezzanine level in the back, then leave as the show is ending and make a bee line along the promenade deck on 7 back to the Versailles. The biggest problem we had was when we tried to use a free bottle of wine coupon we had from a previous cruise. The waiter said that, despite there being no time limitations on the coupon, they no longer used the coupon. A person who appeared to be his supervisor, confirmed that. My wife had a quick conversation with the F&B Director Ivo Bellev about this at the Latitudes meeting and we had a bottle of wine AND a cheese plate in the stateroom within two hours. While we were very grateful for this, it was disappointing that the dining room staff did not feel empowered enough to be able to honor what was obviously an NCL-issued coupon. We ate at the buffet a few times for lunch and breakfast. The buffet has lines, not stations, making for very long queues at times. Tip: if you want a ready made omelet for breakfast, you will have to go to the Versailles Room or order room service. The only omelets at the buffet are pre made, and are only one type. We ordered room service for a late lunch one day and had a good pizza and sandwich delivered in about 30 minutes. We ordered room service twice for breakfast with less successful results. The first time, we had ordered cereal and yogurt as part of our order. No spoons were included with the order, so I had to run up to the buffet to get a couple. Which kind of defeats the purpose of room service. The second time, we ordered room service for 6:30 AM (the earliest time you can order room service breakfast) because we were due in port at 7 AM. We got a call at 6:20 AM that our breakfast was on its way. Great! However, at 6:45 AM we still had not seen any breakfast. I called room service to see where it was. They said they'd have to check. I responded that if they did not know where it was then we'd just go to the buffet, because we needed to get into town. I was somewhat surprised that, despite three port calls at 7 AM, the buffet never opened before 6:30 AM and Versailles never opened before 7 AM. We only ate twice at the surcharge restaurants. There were no two for one specials that NCL often offers for early or late reservations. We ate dinner at La Cucina Italian restaurant one night. The food and service were great. The Italian and Mexican restaurants have the lowest surcharge, at $10. We also went to the "Best Of" lunch in Le Bistro the final sea day. For $15, you can order selected items off the menus of the surcharge restaurants and also select items from a buffet of offerings from those restaurants. I think this is a very good idea for NCL. They utilize a space that is unused for lunch and get to charge $15, and the passengers get to try menu items from restaurants they might not otherwise visit. The entertainment in the Stardust Lounge was not as good as it usually is. We saw the Jeanne Ann Ryan Company production of "Band on the Run" for the third time. This is getting really old. They need to either get some better '70's songs for the show, or scrap it altogether. Bob Trunell did a magic show that wasn't particularly unique. We saw Second City, with many recycled jokes we saw a different Second City troupe do on the Jewel. A notch above these acts was Cirque Pacific, featuring the Jeanne Ann Ryan Company and a couple of Chinese acrobats. While not as spectacular as the Cirque Bijou show we saw on the Jewel, it was quite entertaining and the performers did a very good job. The best show as "Oh What a Night" a group that performs Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons hits. The sound quality was very good and the singers did a good job, especially on the falsetto pieces. We didn't go to any late night shows in the Spinnaker, even though it was just three decks below ours. It probably had something to do with three 7 AM port calls. The Cruise Director, Candi, was very enthusiastic and did a good job. She was the Asst Cruise Director the last time we were on the Star. I think she may have been a last minute replacement as Cruise Director, because the Freestyle Daily on embarkation day referred to "Cruise Director Ray Carr", and his picture was initially up on the photo wall of the ship's officers. His photo quickly disappeared, but Candi's photo never appeared. Our ports were Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert, BC. We arranged our own tours in every port except Prince Rupert. We took no ship organized shore excursions. In Ketchikan, we booked a Misty Fjords airplane tour through Southeast Aviation. The cost was $206 for early booking. The day was warm, bright and clear, and the fjords were not misty at all! We got a smooth 90 minute scenic ride in a 6 seater plane. The pilot set down in an isolated lake and we scampered onto a large rock for photos. $206 is a lot to spend for 90 minutes, but given the beautiful weather, it was a good investment. If it were cloudy or rainy I'm not sure I'd think the same way. We then walked around town (all you need is a couple hours, maximum, to do this). Most of the shops were tourist oriented. We stopped at the New York Cafe for $5.25 craft beers and 12 cent per minute Internet terminals. We had picked up a walking map of Ketchikan and it had a coupon in it for a free beer glass with the purchase of an Alaskan Amber beer at Fat Stan's pub, near the dock. The two drafts, Longboard Lager (a Hawaiian beer in Alaska??) and an Alaskan summer beer (no Amber on draft) were expensive at $6.50, but not expensive if you want a souvenir glass thrown in for free. We walked off the ship in Juneau with nothing pre booked, but immediately signed up for the $14 round trip shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier. The bus did not leave for an hour, so we walked about five blocks uphill to check out the state capitol building and the state office building (with totem pole and stuffed bear in the lobby). We were back to the dock in plenty of time to catch the shuttle to Mendenhall. The trip took about 20 minutes and let us off very close to the visitor center. We skipped the visitor center and headed straight to the glacier. While you can see glacier quite well from the visitor center, you have to walk for about 20 minutes to get to the waterfall, which is as close to the glacier as you can get. It's worth the walk, if you are up to it. Back in town, my wife went to the library for free Wi FI, while I hit the Alaskan Hotel for a couple of beers. The place was gorgeous - it looked like an ornate British Pub. They had 18 craft beers on draft, and sadly, almost no customers. By contrast, the "historic" Red Dog Saloon, closer to the dock, was full of tourists. The library Wi Fi proved to be very slow, so my wife eventually joined me at the Alaskan Hotel. We discovered that they also had Wi Fi (ask for the password). I also had a great Crab Bisque at Tracy's Crab Shack, right by the dock. You know this place is good when you see Scandinavians from the ship's crew eating there. I didn't see the F & B Director there, but I did see him heading back to the ship from that direction! It was cooler and cloudier in Juneau that it was in Ketchikan, but it was still in the '50's. We left Juneau at the early hour of 1:30 PM, but the afternoon was spent cruising by a glacier. We were supposed to cruise by Sawyer Glacier, but the captain said it was too icy in that area, so we cruised by another glacier whose name I fail to recall. In Skagway we had pre booked a trip for $69 through Dyea Dave over the White Pass and up to Carcross, Yukon. We booked with another couple and their toddler son. We met them on line though our cruise's roll call board on Cruise Critic. This is the third time we have booked tours with strangers we met on the roll call. We've had great results every time! Dyea Dave apparently was chauffeuring another group, so he subcontracted the job to Howard Mallory, who runs Alcan Myway Excursions. Howard was great guide, with lots of local knowledge. The day was chilly with intermittent rain, but the drive was gorgeous. It was foggy and snowy at the pass. Those who paid a lot of money for the train were probably disappointed when they got to the top of the White Pass and all they saw was white! And the train apparently did not go any further than White Pass this early in the season. In Carcross, we came upon a female Canadian Mountie, in full Mountie gear. The other couple's toddler was also dressed in red, so we stopped and asked if she would mind having his picture snapped with her. She happily obliged, then invited us over the Carcross Police Garage for a BBQ! Apparently, it was police week, and it seemed the whole town was there for the BBQ, including kids and dogs (they must have let school out). They had a couple of grills fired up with hot dogs and burgers, and also had chili, cookies, and coffee. This turned out to be a real highlight, to be able to spend some time with real locals, instead of just those in the tourist industry. Back in Skagway, we checked out the local library for Wi Fi. While there were a lot of people inside working on laptops, we couldn't get a connection. We went to the Skagway Brewery for a couple of beers brewed on premise, then hit the "Sarah Palin Store". Yes, there really is a Sarah Palin Store in Skagway! I'm guessing the store is not sanctioned by Sarah herself, as there were many unflattering items on sale, along with the requisite "Run, Sarah, Run" bumper stickers. I got my picture taken with a life size cardboard cutout of her, and told everyone at work that this was a picture of me and my new Alaskan girlfriend! Before boarding the ship we stopped for a quick beer at the Red Onion Saloon, which was full of tourists, but had a nice selection of microbrews. The NCL Pearl was also in port that day. Even with two ships in port, Skagway did not seem overly crowded, The only reason I can figure that NCL stops in Prince Rupert is to have a foreign port before returning to the US. We saw no NCL shore excursions that looked remotely interesting, and none of the trips being sold on the dock were any more interesting. The weather was nice, so we walked up the hill into town and to a mall, where we were able to buy Wi Fi access for $2 per hour. Half of the storefronts in town are vacant. There are several blocks of vacant lots, and even a burned out building. The town center appears to mainly serve fishing crews. How else would you explain 5 barber shops, and a bar that does not open until 9 PM? The fire museum just up the hill from the dock is somewhat interesting and is free (donations accepted). There were some little craft shops in Cow Bay, down by the dock. We also stopped for a beer at Breaker's Pub in Cow Bay. They had some interesting Canadian beers and free Wi Fi. Nearby, we watched a bald eagle in a nest. Disembarkation at Pier 66 in Seattle was a breeze. Since we were in no hurry, we chose luggage tags that allowed us to be two of the last passengers off the ship. On this one day only, the Versailles dining room opened early, This was probably to encourage people to get off the ship early. Despite that, service was surprisingly slow. There was no line to clear customs and our bags were waiting for us in the terminal. We were the last passengers in our tag color group, but there was an NCL rep keeping an eye on all unclaimed baggage. Interesting note about the Pier 66 Terminal: After the Star set sail on its next cruise that afternoon, a group from our friend's daughter's high school came in and decorated it for a prom. All of the prom decorations had to be immediately taken down right after the prom, because the NCL Pearl was due in the next morning. We had a room booked for two nights at the downtown Crowne Plaza ($79 per night + tax) which included free parking. The taxi ride was only $11 (with tip) and our room was ready when we arrived at 10:30 AM. We hung around downtown all day, so we did not need a car. We hopped the light rail for the airport the next morning to pick up a car. The light rail station is only three blocks (downhill) from the Crowne Plaza. A note about Seattle airport: There is free Wi Fi throughout the airport. And if you have an early flight out, like we did, many food outlets are open at 5 AM and most are open by 6 AM. A cruise is definitely the best way to see this part of the country. Juneau and Ketchikan are land-locked, and Skagway is accessible only by a long drive from the Alaska highway. May is a fine time to do Alaska. I'm not sure I'd want to do those ports in summer when they are crowded with several ships. We don't have much experience with other cruise lines, but we like NCL, and especially the freestyle dining options. The NCL Pearl substitutes Victoria, BC for Prince Rupert. All other things being equal, I'd guess I'd rather stop in Victoria. Both the Pearl and the Star will be mostly based out of Seattle this summer, so avoiding Vancouver as an embarkation point should not be a problem.. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
I just returned from a cruise aboard the Norwegian Star departing from Seattle Washington to Alaska. I went with my mother and brother. This was a bucket list trip for mom to do with her two adult children. Neither my mother or brother had ... Read More
I just returned from a cruise aboard the Norwegian Star departing from Seattle Washington to Alaska. I went with my mother and brother. This was a bucket list trip for mom to do with her two adult children. Neither my mother or brother had ever sailed. This was my 4th cruise, and my first with NCL. Embarkation was very smooth. We boarded the ship around 1230, was eating lunch at the Market Cafe by 1300, and our cabin was ready by the time we were done with lunch. The 3 of us shared a cabin, so it was adequate, but not overly spacious, but we were aware of that prior to booking. The cabin was clean and well maintained. Storage was adequate. Our room stewards were very attentive to our needs. We were economy minded and did not partake of the specialty restruants, however we found dining in both the Versailles and Aqua dining rooms to be very nice. Food was delicious and attractively prepared. The only problem was sometimes we had to wait a long time for dessert, although appetizer and main course were timely. The Market Cafe was the typical cruise ship buffet and seemed to lack variety. We did enjoy breakfast there, but seldomly ate other meals there. We did like the 24 hour Blue Lagoon. Menu was limited, but food, service, and environment were good. We also utilized room service a couple of times and found that was a positive experience. Ship entertainment was good and included music, magic, comedy, etc. The Stardust theatre was beautiful. Seats were a little crowded and you had to get up to let people pass through in the row. We felt all staff was courteous and went the extra mile. Ship was clean and well maintained. We were blessed with good weather....sunny every day, no rain and in the 60s. That could not have been any better. We did enjoy the free style cruising as far as dining when you chose, however, I have cruised before with set dining and missed the experience of consistent wait staff and dinner entertainment which is not present with free style cruising. A lot of reviews do talk negatively about the cruise line trying to sell things such as specialty dining, drinks, pictures, etc. and that does occur, however, it is totally optional. We did not partake of most of those things and our onboard expenses were minimal. Due to the location and time of year, children aboard were minimal and most participated in children programs. The majority of the guests were probably 40s +. The fitness area was nice. I went to the gym most days. Crowded at times, a variety of equipment. Debarkation was exceptionally smooth and we were off the boat and in a taxi by 0830. We did opt for taking our own luggage off the ship which does greatly expedite the procedure. Overall, we had a fantastic time and would recommend the NCL star cruise to Alaska to friends and family. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We stayed in the Days inn by the airport, just a place to sleep, nothing to write home about. We used Primetime shuttle to get to the pier, they were very good and on time. Embarkment was so easy, as always, being in the suite it was ... Read More
We stayed in the Days inn by the airport, just a place to sleep, nothing to write home about. We used Primetime shuttle to get to the pier, they were very good and on time. Embarkment was so easy, as always, being in the suite it was even more amazing. We were greated with big smiles and treats. The cards were ready and we were lead to our amazing room. The Penthouse is so nice, love the vanity area, and the wrap around balcony. The table was nice for having our family we were traveling with over. Loved the suite life, Cagney's for breakfast and lunch is the best part. Food is amazing. For dinner we ate at Cagney's (love the chocolate brownie dessert and LOBSTER), both Main dinning rooms on different nights. Food was very good. Tried new foods and love them now. Salmon, snails, and scallops, I didn't have any dishes I didn't like. Wonderful entertainment, I was so happy my favorites were on the ship, Tribute to Frankie Vallie group, love PAUL, the show always makes me feel happy. Enjoyed the Dance group, not so crazy about the magic show, just not into them. Enjoyed the piano players around the ship. The second city always makes me laugh, Now the only complaint I have is that the ship had three large groups of one ethnic group (over 1500) that made traveling around the ship very hard and eating in buffet impossible, didn't even get to get any of my favorite pretzel rolls. I guess in their culture blocking doorways, lines, hording foods is just the way it is, you could not MOVE if you had to pass through deck 12. I learned to walk through the halls to avoid it. I understand the casino was just as bad. My sanctuary became the spa, I bought the week spa pass and loved every minute of it, enjoyed the pool, hot tubs and tried the sauna, a little too hot for me. OHHH the wonderful smell when you walk in the place. Yes I was asked about other treatments, but I kindly said No thank you and that was the end of it. I didn't feel obligated to do anything but enjoy the spa, it was WONDERFUL!!!!!!! This was a repo cruise so we had 3 sea days first and that made the spa pass wonderful. We then went to Juneau and Ketchikan, and inside passage. Special staff, Jujit, the butler was AMAZING, excellent!!! Patrick the conceirge was very good, Christina and Julie Ann in Cagney's were the best wait staff ever, we really enjoyed them. Whuyu and Emmanuel were great cabin stewards. The staff were all wonderful. We were always greated with a smile, even when you knew they were tired. It was a wonderful cruise, can't wait to go on my next one. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We arrived in Seattle the day before our cruise, May 28th. I had gotten a room at the Sheraton Seattle downtown through Priceline for $80. We arrived in Seattle about 10:30am. I had done some research, and since we had plenty of time, we ... Read More
We arrived in Seattle the day before our cruise, May 28th. I had gotten a room at the Sheraton Seattle downtown through Priceline for $80. We arrived in Seattle about 10:30am. I had done some research, and since we had plenty of time, we took the short walk to the Light Rail, and rode it to the Westlake Station for what should have been $5. When we got to the Light Rail station at the airport, we found the train just sitting there with nobody around. We just got on. About half-way through the trip I noticed some brochures on the wall about how to ride the local transit system. Just as I got to the part where it explains you buy your ticket at a vending machine at the station, a security guard came along checking tickets. He was very polite as he escorted us off the train at the China Town station and helped us get our tickets...just $3.50 from there. We caught the next train about 15 minutes later and finished our journey. As luck would have it, the Seattle Sheraton was only 2 blocks away from the station, and we easily carried our luggage to the hotel. If you have the time, this is the way to get downtown. It takes about 30 minutes to make the trip. Even though we were real early, we were able to go straight to our room. The Sheraton is a very nice, and very large motel. About the only drawback was they did not offer a free continental breakfast. BTW...EVERYTHING in Seattle is expensive...at least compared to rural Oklahoma. Before we'd left, I had made reservations with Tours Northwest for a tour of Seattle. These are really nice folks and give a pretty good tour for the money, even though they don't take you to the Space Needle, though it did seem they took us just about everywhere else. They do not collect any payment till the last stop before they return you either to your motel, or Pike Place Market or any other place as long as it's not too far out of their way (they won't run you to the airport). The cost for this tour for the both of us was $92 after I used a $3 per person coupon I got off of seattleattractions.com. The $6 I saved I tacked on as a tip ($98). We ate lunch at the nearby Cheesecake factory, and a light supper at another place I don't recall. We got 2 small bowls of soup for about $12...the best deal we could find. Can't wait to get on the ship! Saturday morning we took a cab to pier 66. The fare was $6.75. I just gave the cabbie a 10. We arrived about 10:45am, and went through booking in about 15 minutes. After about another 30 minute wait we were allowed to board. Somebody on this board stated NCL WAS giving Destination Alaska coupon books out, but I never saw them. I had ordered one through snail-mail for $5, and it was well worth it. We didn't have time to use it extensively, but easily saved at least 5 times what it cost us. Once on board, everybody headed for the Market Cafe. It was a little crowded, but not too bad. The food was decent buffet fare. About 2pm we were allowed in our rooms. Our bags weren't there yet, but came shortly afterward. We had an inside stateroom on the 8th deck. Yes, it was small, but it was big enough for the two of us. The bathroom was nice with a fairly roomy shower. Shampoo, shower gell, and handsoap were all in wall mounted pump containers that worked real well. They also supplied a bottle of Elemis body lotion. While we brought hair conditioner with us, my wife never used it. The hair dryer worked very well also. On our sea-day, Sunday, the Star had arranged for a Cruise Critic meet-and-greet. We met in LeBistro at 11:30 am. Jean Michelle (I hope I'm not butchering his name) the hotel captain, along with several other male and female officers including Candi, the cruise director, visited with us and answered questions. One of the female officers made the cookies for our meeting, and my wife said they were the best cookies she had on the cruise. There are basically 4 free eating places on the Star, and several specialty (fee) eating places. We did not buy any of our food on board...Call me cheap. We ate most of our breakfasts at the Market Cafe. With both outside walls lined with floor-to-glass windows, enjoying my meal and a cup of coffee afterward while watching spectacular scenery slide by was one of the peak times of the day for me. Second would be having a snack of buffalo wings at the Blue Lagoon just before sunset in front of their floor-to-ceiling windows was another one. Which brings up another point. I've heard a lot of whining about the Spinnaker being moved to an enclosed room aft, and now there's no place to view the beautiful Alaskan scenery from inside the ship. There are PLENTY of places for viewing from inside the ship, including I don't know how many hall-way windows with comfortable cushion lined sills where one can sit and read a book and enjoy the scenery. There are also many places you can sit outside watching the scenery still completely out of the elements. We ate our dinners in the Versailles, and enjoyed it very much. The Aqua, the other dining area just never appealed to us. I think it was mainly because there were fewer windows. The Versailles is located at the very back end of the ship. The entire back wall is solid glass with ornate metal framing. There are also windows on the sides. We liked the free-style dining arrangement. Except for a couple evenings, we volunteered to share our table. If you get there when they first start serving, you'll find this is the best way to get a table right by the back glass. A bonus was the interesting people we met at those meals. To finish off the eating, the Market Cafe has an excellent variety of food at breakfast and lunch. We never ate dinner there. They also serve a late evening buffet which we tried once and liked (they have pizza). The poolside grill serves several varieties of hot dogs (bratwurst, sausage, etc), hamburgers, french fries and all the fixings, weather permitting. And the Blue Lagoon, the only 24 hour eatery. It has a limited menu of buffalo wings, fish and chips, burger and fries, chip and dip, and a few deserts. We'd always eat a snack here between shows about 9:30 or so, and enjoy a fabulous Alaskan sunset. The shows were hit-and miss. The Frankie Vallie tribute was very good as well as Band on the Run. The Circque Pacific was ok, and the Second City show was a total waste of time. Candi Finklestein (?) was our excellent cruise director, and made sure our days at sea, and I guess in port was full of things to do. I believe it was between Juneau and Skagway that we took a side trip up Endicott Arm to see the Dawes Glacier. We were supposed to go up Tracy Arm to see the Sawyer Glacier, but there was still too much ice. We got very close to the glacier and got some excellent pictures. Just a few other odd and ends. Yes, they really hawk their jewelry for some reason, but I was never approached by anyone hawking jewelry. The water on the Star is excellent. I really see no reason for anybody to bring a case of water onboard. I even saw people filling their water bottles with ship water. The last two days of our cruise we were sailing outside of the inside passage in rougher water. The ship rolled constantly. The wife and I put on motion-sickness patches just as a precaution, and did just fine. On our last sea day we broke tradition and ate breakfast at Versailles, and enjoyed it. We still like the Market Cafe better for breakfast. While we heard of whale-sightings from the ship, we never saw any, but saw a few dolphins that swam alongside us for awhile. Disembarking Saturday morning was a breeze. We took our own bags off, and basically walked off when we were ready. We went out to get a taxi..WARNING.. If you want a taxi, walk straight to the taxis. There will be a group of men you pass that will try to get your attention and tell you they have a taxi. They DO NOT. They will take you in their personal vehicle, so it's pot-luck on what you get. We took a taxi back to the Westlake station for $10 including tip, and were at the airport by about 10am. The line for check-in was terrible, but that's another story. FINAL THOUGHTS. We took the Star because of the price ($550 each) through vacations-to-go. I consider the Star a "meat-and-potatoes" style of cruise ship. It is a beautiful ship, and I thought it was clean and well-maintained. The crew were all very friendly, helpful, and cordial...BUT...if you consider the ship you want to take as a destination unto itself, the Star ain't it. There's a ping-pong table, shuffleboard on the deck, water tubes and pools for the kiddies, and jacuzzis for the adults and kids, but there's no climbing wall, or ice-skating rink. If you're a connoisseur with a refined palate, you may not be impressed with the food. The Star provided the best price for the Missus and I to see Alaska. They showed us Alaska, and kept us fed well and entertained along the way which is all we asked. While this is very long, I still left out a bunch, so I'll be glad to answer anybody's questions. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We're a married, professional couple who have taken lots of cruises with different lines, including NCL, over the last 10 years. This was our second cruise on the Star and we were sadly disappointed this time around. Unfortunately ... Read More
We're a married, professional couple who have taken lots of cruises with different lines, including NCL, over the last 10 years. This was our second cruise on the Star and we were sadly disappointed this time around. Unfortunately NCL recently made a lot of changes to the public lounges and the layout on board. We didn't see anything that we would consider a positive change. The biggest mistake they have made is in taking away the Spinnaker Lounge, which used to be on deck 12 forward. This was the viewing lounge, great for Alaska and enjoying the inside passage and the glaciers. Now this area is under construction - another bad thing, because there was a lot of noise from that work that we could hear in our deck 11 cabin. Also the hallway was covered in plastic sheeting and had construction workers welding and pulling the ceiling panels down all week. So now if you want to sit anywhere other than your cabin that has a view outside, the only place is the Market Cafe. That means it is very hard to find a table to sit and eat as people don't want to give up the window seats. The library has also gone from deck 12 - now it's a couple of shelves of ratty paperbacks. No cinema, no card room or game room. We also noticed that the quality of the food seems to have gone down considerably since we last sailed with NCL. The buffet was often cold and unappealing, with the same things being served day after day. The specialty restaurants are still pretty good, but of course you have to pay extra for those. There seems to be a huge push to get you to spend money on board. Almost all the activities and things to do at sea either cost money, like Bingo and Martini Tasting, or were sales pitches very thinly disguised as seminars. The TV in the room is lousy. Most of the channels were blank all week. Once in a while a news channel would come in but it would never stay on more than a few minutes before it cut out again. We asked why the only TV channel we had was ESPN and they just told us it wasn't always possible to pick up the satellite. Our cabin steward told us it had been working until that week. I guess they want you out spending money instead of watching TV. On the positive side of things - the crew still do an excellent job in general. Service was almost always polite and friendly. I think the problems lie more with management than with the service personnel. The entertainment was a mixed bag as far as we were concerned. There was a Frankie Valley tribute which was SOOOO cheesy. The four guys sing well enough, but the jokes and chit chat in between is so lame, it spoils the show. The singer and dancer shows were the same as last time we were there -Cirque Pacific was not as good as last time, as they have fewer Chinese acrobats now and that was the only good part of the show to begin with. The other show was Band on the Run - it's good, but again, same show. The Second City comedy show is another repeat, the same show we've seen on all our NCL cruises. We were hoping they would have changed some of the sketches but it was almost all the same. By far the best and our favorite was the magic show with Bob and his wife Sarah. They did a show called Believe that had some great illusions and lots of comedy and audience participation. Bob has a great personality on stage and we had a lot of fun watching him. He also did a close up magic show on the last day that was fantastic. In the lounges we liked Odyssey, the band who play rock and roll stuff, and also Shaun who plays guitar and sings in the pub. Other entertainment was standard cruise ship game show stuff. The cruise director seemed nice enough but she didn't seem to know the right things to say on the microphone - a bit amateur and inappropriate at times. Alaska - as always it was beautiful. I wish we had more time in the ports, and would choose a different itinerary next time because of that. Overall, not a great cruise. NCL seems to be slipping in lots of areas. I don't know that we would choose them again with so many other options out there. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
I just returned from a NCL Star cruise from Seattle to Alaska the week of May 22. The crew was very friendly, but I will not book another NCL cruise until it's apparent improvements have been made in the food and the itinerary for the ... Read More
I just returned from a NCL Star cruise from Seattle to Alaska the week of May 22. The crew was very friendly, but I will not book another NCL cruise until it's apparent improvements have been made in the food and the itinerary for the Alaska cruise has been changed. The food was very poor and disappointing. The food got better later in the week, but overall it was not acceptable. The time spent in each Alaska port was too short. In Ketchikan, we were in port from 7 to 3 PM, in Juneau, 7 to 1:30 PM, in Skagway, 7 to 5 PM, and in Prince Rupert, 4 to 10 PM. There is absolutely NOTHING in Prince Rupert, so I consider the time there to be a total waste of time. The biggest attraction was the very friendly RCMP Mountie taking pictures with the tourists. I would rather leave from Vancouver than from Seattle if it means skipping Prince Rupert. The Easy Walk off Disembarkation was fast and easy. You just have to be able to carry all your luggage yourself. Enjoy breakfast and wait in your room until 30 minutes after the start of the Easy Walk off, which is around 8:45 AM. We were off the ship in about 15 minutes. Other advice: Don't buy any diamonds or other gems in Alaska, you can always get a better deal at the local diamond center if you live in a major city. Don't even bother to get off the ship in Prince Rupert, nothing to see or do. Pack light and do the Easy Walk off disembarkation. Skip the specialty restaurants and eat at the Versailles. Don't forget the $12 per person/per day charge for the staff tips. Parking across the cruise terminal in Seattle is $140 for the week. Be sure to catch the "Oh What a Night" and the magic of Bob & Sarah Trunell shows. There's a basketball court and two golf cages. NCL needs to spend a few bucks and get a couple of new basketballs. The golf cages only had 1 right handed club each and a bunch of left hand clubs. Golf cages need some more golf balls. Best place to take pictures of the glacier (afternoon after Juneau) - Deck 7 next to swimming pool. Area is mostly covered. Shoot through one of 3 windows on each side. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Day 1 The drive to Seattle was uneventful. We arrived around 11am, found the garage where my car would be housed for the upcoming week, gave our luggage to the man in the garage, and found our way to the cruise ship. The line through ... Read More
Day 1 The drive to Seattle was uneventful. We arrived around 11am, found the garage where my car would be housed for the upcoming week, gave our luggage to the man in the garage, and found our way to the cruise ship. The line through security looked long but moved pretty quickly. My belt set off the metal detectors, of course, but that was the only issue. Before we got onto the ship we had to sanitize our hands, something we would quickly get used to. There is automated hand sanitizer everywhere, at every elevator, in every restaurant, at the theater, in the bars, everywhere (except in our stateroom). We couldn't get into our room for another few hours, but there was a "Welcome BBQ" and by the time we'd finished eating our room was ready. It was tiny, but impressive how they managed to fit a queen sized bed, pull-out sofa, coffee table, desk, closet, drawers, etc into the tiny room. The bathroom is very tight, with sliding glass doors dividing the shower, toilet and sink areas (how do overweight people work with this?). I was pleased to discover that there are plenty of meat-free options, and every main dining room has at least one vegetarian specific meal. The meat items at the buffet are clearly labeled, and the food is delicious. The mandatory lifeboat training was b.s.... a half hour of learning where to go and how to put a life preserver on. Wow. The first night there was a welcoming show, where we saw snippets of the entertainment varieties for the upcoming week. They really push the alcohol on board, and my first drink was $10.75 with taxes and the 15% auto-gratuity. I didn't feel too out of place as there were a fair amount of younger people, and a few others traveling with their parents. As far as children went, there were also a decent amount, but they were largely well-behaved. There was only one incident in the Aqua restaurant where a screaming toddler was not promptly removed from sight. Day 2 A full day of sailing to Ketchikan, Alaska. The cruise directors tried to keep everyone entertained, but there's only so much one can do. Thankfully, there was a free liquor tasting and 10% off liquor purchases, but you cannot keep the liquor you buy in your room... I'll have to pick it up on Friday, between 7 and 9 pm. I've already spent far too much money. I'm amused by Captain-Gunnar-On-The-Bridge's announcements. The second night there was a brief magic show (Bob Trunell), which I was dreading but was pretty decent in the end. There was no lighter fluid, nor pennies flying out of sleeves (on day 6 there was a coin trick), but his illusions were good. The actual full length magic show is scheduled for the fifth night, I believe. The magic show was followed by the Jean Ann Ryan Dancers, who I suppose would be good if you're into that sort of thing... Yvar, at the Red Lion Pub, is a great bartender. Day 3 "Good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Gunnar on the bridge." We arrived in Ketchikan and debarked (disembarked?) to go on our scheduled shore excursion, a boat ride to Loggerville, some lighthouse, past a bunch of Totem poles and to see 10 bald eagle nests. It was neat, there were so many eagles. Endangered, my ass. The third night there was an awful show by a Frankie Valli tribute, "Oh What a Night!" It was painful, but bearable at any rate. Theo is consistently off with his choreography. I keep meaning to go to the gym, but since I've been eating constantly I'm too full and without energy to actually follow through with this plan. Thankfully there is so much walking and so many stairs that I'm at least burning some of the food off. And abstaining from meat is probably helping me as well. Day 4 Juneau is beautiful! En route to the Mendenhall Glacier we stopped at a salmon hatchery, which was more interesting than I thought it would be. It was informative and educational and the aquarium had some crazy crazy sea life in it. We passed Sarah Palin's former home, and our bus driver clearly did not support Palin, as evidenced by his increasingly snarky comments. The glacier was amazingly beautiful, but sadly we could not actually walk onto it. I kept looking for bears, and still have yet to see one. Leaving Juneau, we run into (not literally) many (blue) ice bergs, and the view from the Versailles dining room is incredible. We sail past the Endicott glacier as well, and I have a "special" coffee beverage. The nights entertainment is a Cirque de Solei (Sheville?)-eque show. I was looking forward to it, but it was mostly dancing. The Chinese acrobats were amazing, though. Yvar remembered me; even though the last time we had met I was absorbed in a book, had two drinks, and quietly left. Day 5 Destination, Skagway (which just sounds derogatory...). Our shore excursion doesn't begin until the afternoon, but it's rainy and overcast therefore my parents don't want to do anything. I manage to persuade my father to explore the town and we arrange to meet my mother for lunch. Exploring the town takes at most a half hour. The police station is the size of my (tiny) apartment. We do find an old brothel, where I finally find a fun Alaska shirt for myself. After lunch we head out for a three and a half hour train ride up into the mountains, across some treacherous looking bridges, and into a whole lot of (sometimes blue) snow. We stopped at the B.C border, quite near the Y.T border (20 km or so), and turned around (as only a train can). We cut it close getting back to the ship, as we were supposed to be on board by 4:30, but the ship couldn't very well leave with a third of its passengers missing... or could it? It didn't. I had a frosty drink in the hot tub while sailing past snow covered mountains. The night's entertainment was an improv/sketch comedy show by Second City, alma mater to some of the greats (Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, Jim Belushi, etc). It was alright... mostly topical humor, but there were some great skits. And some not so great. Day 6 We spent most of the day sailing, with a stop in Prince Rupert, B.C. in the evening. We had no excursions planned and visited a few museums. I enjoyed the tiny Police/Fire museum, and the train museum was pretty cool as well. I generally hate museums, and the one at the visitor center was boring as hell. I split away from my parents afterwards, as they were wet and grumpy and I don't mind the rain. I walked around a bit and found a pub, where I pretended I was Canadian by drinking Canadian beer and watching hockey. I even cheered for Montreal. I was very annoyed at lunch when I found some scallops in the baked pasta which was labeled "baked pasta" with no mention of scallops (what if I had a deadly shellfish allergy?), and then found ham in the (unlabelled) waldorf salad. Thus far I'd had no qualms with the food, and this vexed me. Granted, I shouldn't assume that the food is meatless, but it had been until that point. I was angry with myself for not analyzing it beforehand. I then found a tiny sliver of pepperoni on my cheese pizza. I stopped eating and fumed silently. This special snowflake had started to melt. I got over it, though. My displeasure was voiced via comment card. I finally went to the gym, where I proceeded to kick the crap out of myself for two hours. Will regret this later. There was the full length magic show, which was even better than the previous show. Bob Trunell is quite adept at his trade, and his Boston accent is amusing. We haven't met many people from Massachusetts, most everyone is from Texas with a handful of people from the UK, Australia, South Africa, and Canadia. After the show there was yet another "Oh What a Night!" production, with more Frankie Valli than I'd care to hear in my life. Day 7 En route to Seattle, we should arrive tomorrow (this was written on day 7). There are many entertainment options, but we're pretty much relaxing. I've read four books thus far, and received a sun burn today. It was actually hot on deck at the bow, and not nearly as windy as it has been. I went to the art auction for the free champagne and left after I'd finished. The "art" is largely crap. I'm more interested in the towel animals left on our bed every evening than I am in the shoddy paintings lining the walls. We went to the magicians up close card show, which was good. There were some coin tricks, but still no flying sleeve pennies. GOB Bluth would be disappointed. I may go to the second Second City production tonight, and will probably skip the Jean Ann Ryan Dancers production. However, I do get to pick up my alcohol purchases, so I very well may end up going after all. It's been a great trip, a lot of fun. I was apprehensive at first; I'm not the cruise type. Norwegian Cruise Lines advertises "freestyle cruising", which translates into "no dress clothes required". There are a lot of entertainment options that I have not checked out... karaoke, dance contests, dance parties, trivia, etc, and I have not yet gone swimming, but I'd recommend this company for people that don't care about dining with the captain and dressing up. I enjoy the photo opportunities with the mascots every time we get off on shore. There have been a whole variety of mascots, starting with moose, then a bald eagle, then a polar bear (which sadly I missed out on), then a dolphin and a puffin. I can't say I'd be interested in the typical Caribbean cruise, or anywhere warm and sunny and populated, but this has been great. I love isolated and beautiful areas. I love Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Background: This was DH's and my tenth sail with NCL. We drove to Seattle from Portland so that we could switch out our large cruise bags for carry-ons as we were continuing with Norwegian Pearl on the one night cruise to Vancouver ... Read More
Background: This was DH's and my tenth sail with NCL. We drove to Seattle from Portland so that we could switch out our large cruise bags for carry-ons as we were continuing with Norwegian Pearl on the one night cruise to Vancouver when we returned. We had second thoughts on taking this cruise having already done Glacier Bay two years ago. Glad we rethought it and went. The two are nothing alike and the intricacies of the cruise up Tracy Arm are amazing. The Captain and Officers did a wonderful job of maneuvering that big ship in and out. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe it. If you haven't done it...do it! Embarkation: We arrived about 11:00 a.m. and were quickly whisked away to the VIP lounge (we booked a Romance Suite-aft/port). As soon as our documents were completed we moved on to see our wonderful Concierge, Simone Weigel—hugs all around. After chatting a bit and getting our key cards, we moved to a quiet area of the lounge to wait for boarding. I had the feeling that someone was looking at me and turned around to see Lucky, our Butler from Sky last January, smiling that big grin of his at me. Yes, even after just a four day trip he remembered us and said he was so excited when he saw our names on his list. He then escorted us to our suite and wished us a pleasant journey. Our cabin was not completely ready, so after meeting our Cabin Stewards (Clinton and Anvish), we stowed our bags in the closet, the crown jewels in the safe, and left them to their business. We headed to Cagney's for a delicious lunch and then it was time to see if the cabin was ready, which it was. After quickly unpacking our carry-ons we checked outside our door to see that our big cruise bags had arrived. We were unpacked before muster! The weather cooperated and we had a beautiful sail away from Seattle in bright sunshine, which we shared with another couple from our Cruise Critic group. It's always great to meet people you have been emailing and sharing the boards with for so long a time. Day One: Prior to the Meet and Greet, we had breakfast in Cagney's where Simone greeted us and then Andreas Dehmke, the Exec Chef, surprised us. We sat and chatted for some time to catch up on life since our last sail with him. He is such a lovely man and a superb chef. Cruise Critic Meeting: Due to a large group on board our meeting was held starboard side of the Aqua dining room. Our GSC, Janine Marshall, whom I have worked with twice before on Pearl, met with us to make sure all was in order. After setting up name tags and gift exchange table, the members began arriving and most all of the group attended. Ray Carr, our Cruise Director, arrived and we chatted a bit as other officers and crew arrived. In addition to Ray, Rosita Schandy/Hotel Director, Andreas Dehmke/Executive Chef, Janine Marshall/GSC, Ivo Belev/Food and Beverage Director, Jose Taveras/Restaurant Manager, Marites Sonza/Executive Housekeeper and Simone Weigel/Concierge all attended. Ray did a wonderful job as our Master of Ceremonies and members were given a chance to ask questions they might have. After chatting for a bit they bid us a wonderful cruise and departed. After welcoming everyone we then congratulated one couple on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary. Then it was on to the big surprise. One of our members had found out that a couple aboard had never had never cruised, never had a honeymoon, had never spent time alone away from their two teenagers AND he had just returned from his third deployment to Iraq in five years time. So this lovely couple was invited to attend our meeting and we had "We Support Our Troops" stickers on all of our name tags. We thanked them for their service and presented them with a book about the traveling troop quilts, including handmade bookmarkers for each (his is the ribbon and says 'Thank you' while hers is a cross that says 'Amazing Grace'). Also included were two 'hugs' that the troops use to keep cool and we said we hoped he wouldn't need them and that he could send them to a couple of his buddies. It was an emotional time, but well deserved. (To learn more, visit Home of the Brave website.) This was indeed a very special M&G and everyone had a wonderful time. That evening was dress-up night and the Captain's Cocktail Party. We had a wonderful time and Captain Gunnar was just charming. I finally had a chance to catch up with Marites (Exec Housekeeper) as we had become acquainted on our last sail. She is such a lovely woman and if you ever get the chance to chat with her you will know just what I mean. We then had a lovely dinner at Soho, having deliciously fresh lobster! YUM! Restaurants: Our first night we always dine in Le Bistro, which is just fabulous. The cold seafood plate always tastes so good after a long day of getting to port, unpacking, muster, etc. We dined in Soho twice, which has wonderful atmosphere, food and excellent service. Our dinner in Endless Summer was delicious, but our waiter was patronizing and lacking in any warmth. We felt like he either wanted us out or maybe he wanted out. Ginza is one of our favorites; DH ordered Chinese while I had sushi and we shared. All was prepared and presented beautifully and the flavors were mouthwatering. The service was excellent here, sometimes a little too much attention paid to let you enjoy the scenery and your meal. We ate in Cagney's where I absolutely had to have Oysters Rockefeller, which are my absolute favorite, followed by a salad (Caesar) and petite filet mignon. DH had swordfish (if I remember correctly). Scrumptious! All of our breakfasts and lunches were eaten in Cagney's unless we were in port. The service and food is always wonderful here and it is nice to be greeted by name each morning. Cabin: Our suite was beautiful and we love the large decks in the romance suites. Such views and the sound of the ship's wake are just what you need to feel serene. Our Cabin Stewards were top notch, making our every request fulfilled within minutes. Our cabin was always clean when we returned from breakfast and turned down when we arrived after dinner. Our Butler, Lucky, made a few deliveries and it was always wonderful to see his smiling face; he is such a delight! Entertainment: I get sea sick in the theatre (the only place I get sea sick), so we stuck to Spinnaker and the wonderful Melodious Jones; a family of entertainers with a super repertoire of music. I hope to see them on an NCL ship again...it seems our age group has little to chose from in the music area (too young to be old, but old enough we don't do hip-hop!). We did stop one night in the pub and listened to a gentleman play guitar and sing (I'm sorry, but I do not have his name) and he was lovely. One of the gals from the CC group and I had had just enough wine to 'try' to dance together! It was hilarious and funny all at the same time! Spa: I always have the oxygen facial at some point of the cruise and I was not disappointed. There is a little neck and shoulder massage included and after falling twice in two weeks, the kinks finally let go. I left with a glow and a refill of my night cream; I love the Elemis products they use. Gym: DH used the recumbent bike (he has one artificial knee) and I used the empty yoga room to do Pilates and floor exercises. We were there early in the morning, so not a lot of people around (except Captain said he saw me there!). They have good equipment, good supervisors and wonderful views to make the work-out not so painful! I also walk the Promenade, seas willing, which is the best part of the workout for me—the fresh sea air kissing your cheeks is lovely! Ports: Having already sailed Norwegian Pearl to Glacier Bay two years ago, all of the ports except Prince Rupert were a repeat for us. In Ketchikan we ate at Annabelle's (straight off the dock, across the street) and the food there is plentiful and fresh. We also ran into Ray Carr, who invited us to coffee a few days later—thanks, Ray! This is also when I received my cell call from my NCL PCC that my Courtyard Villa on Epic for the T/A was complete! In Juneau we took a 2 mile walk through town (headed to the grocery store for reindeer sausage and trail mix) and then to Once in a Blue Moose for one of my favorite pullovers (they are closing that store, but are still in Anchorage and mail order is available). In Skagway (where I saw a whale spouting right inside the bay when we arrived!) we walked about 3 miles all around town and stopped at a jewelry store (local) that sells one of a kind pendants of the ships. Having seen one 2 years ago (and didn't buy), I decided it was now or never; my offer (below half price) was accepted and I am now the proud owner. All of the ports had good weather until we reached Prince Rupert which was a downpour and chilly, but the shops were open, the owner's were very friendly and the selection of goods was excellent. Our final day at sea was a thriller! We sailed outside of Vancouver Island and reached F9 Gales with rough seas to match. It was difficult to pack as drawers would slide shut as soon as you opened them and keeping your legs under you was difficult. Once I was done I headed out for a walk around the ship and found it nearly deserted (and a lot of those little white bags missing!). After getting sea sick my entire life, I am finally over it—bring on the F9 and F10s! Watching the seas churning about from aft is just great! Shopping aboard: Lots of sales of Alaska goodies, but having cruised so much these past 2 ½ years there's not much we don't have! I did buy coasters for a special project and a chain for my pendant until I could get home and buy a really good one. I'll still use the chain for something else-- Disembarkation: We used the VIP tags, but did not get off early. We finally left the ship about 9:00, claimed our bags and headed to the car in the Republic Parking Garage (you don't have to do the shuttle if you use the sky bridge). A special thank you: NCL, you should be so proud of the crew and officers of Norwegian Star. Our military family (as mentioned above) was treated with some sort of goodie every day and Captain Gunnar invited them and the two of us to dinner and then invited the four of us to the Bridge to view Sawyer Glacier. (Now THAT was awesome.) They were invited to the Captain's cocktail party and both Simone and Rosita were always doing something kind for them (including VIP disembarkation). Our soldier was unsmiling and weary when he arrived aboard, but by day 3 he was all smiles and ready to book another cruise (with NCL, of course!). Thank you to Captain Gunnar, Simone, Peter, Rosita, Lucky, Andreas and all of the others that made this trip so wonderful for them...and for us...these are the people that keep us coming back. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We live 50 miles from Seattle. We were dropped off at the dock around 1pm. We were traveling with my Husband's Dad, Step-Mother and Step-Brother. This was our first trip to Alaska. We did a Meet and Greet with Cruise Critic members. ... Read More
We live 50 miles from Seattle. We were dropped off at the dock around 1pm. We were traveling with my Husband's Dad, Step-Mother and Step-Brother. This was our first trip to Alaska. We did a Meet and Greet with Cruise Critic members. We met a lot of the staff at the Meet and Greet. Since we we in a suite we went to the VIP line and were immediately treated to the Suite life. Now we are extremely spoiled and can not consider a non-suite for the future. Our suite was just under the bridge facing forward. A great way to see Alaska. We were treated very well by all the employees. On Saturday we were one of the chosen for the Newlywed not so Newlywed Game in the lounge. What a hoot! We became instant celebs and people stopped us all week telling us how much them enjoyed us. Ray, the Cruise Director gave us a video copy of the show. I had a couple of bad experiences. Not caused by NCL or their employees but other people. It is amazing to me how rude some people can be. I believe some people think that they can be rude because there is not chance they will ever see you again. I know I shouldn't let 3 rude people out weigh all the other wonderful people. The Alaskan air, scenery, excursions were great. We didn't see many animals. Just a pod of dolphins, a seal and a couple of eagles in the distance. Some of the meals could have been improved on. Some items were overcooked in my opinion. Dry omelets, yuck. On our last day we had gale force winds and my stomach did not handle the rocking well. We would still do the trip again. Perhaps earlier in the year. We didn't get to go all the way into see the Glacier. It looks like it was because of a large amount of icebergs just before the last turn. What we did see was wonderful. We didn't miss a thing from our front row seat. Last but not least, we signed up for NCL's deal for a future cruise. $250 down payment on a cruise in the next 4 years that gives you a $100 cruise credit on the current cruise. So just off the boat I am planning my next cruise! Dreaming again! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Background Information This was the first cruise for my wife and me (28 yrs and 29 yrs old, respectively), so I don't have much to which I can compare it except for my experiences at hotels in various countries. Nevertheless, ... Read More
Background Information This was the first cruise for my wife and me (28 yrs and 29 yrs old, respectively), so I don't have much to which I can compare it except for my experiences at hotels in various countries. Nevertheless, here's my take on our cruise to Alaska Aug 22-29. We were on a tight-ish budget, but because this was our first cruise we didn't know if one of us would end up not doing well on the sea, so we wanted a cabin with at least a window. In case, we wanted to still be able to enjoy as much as we could, without paying so much extra for a balcony. I highly recommend you consider at least an obstructed view window if you're going on your first cruise. Check the diagrams of the deck layouts carefully, and even look at photos on the web, when deciding which stateroom to choose. We also decided on a cruise as our vacation rather late, so I didn't have much opportunity to know what to expect. Port of Embarkation Fortunately we have family in Bothell, not far from Seattle, so we were able to stay there overnight after our drive up from Portland on Friday. On Saturday we arrived at the pier about 40 minutes earlier than the Welcome Aboard book suggested, so that we would be able to eat lunch on the ship, instead of having to find some restaurant in Seattle. NCL had made it clear on their site and in the Welcome Aboard kit that we shouldn't arrive earlier than noon, so we were surprised that everything at the pier was open. A porter took our luggage immediately, only ten people were ahead of us in line for security, and we were given the day's Freestyle Daily newsletter at the bottom of the escalator leading up to the registration queue. There was no line for the agent to get our information and issue us our card key, and there was water and orange juice to drink while we waited for the opening of the access to the gangway. While we waited, we got a copy of the ad/info/coupon book and found what free things we could get at each port. Since we arrived early, we were among the first 150 or so to get on the ship. I highly recommend arriving at the pier more than an hour before embarkation. Embarkation Having not conducted a ton of deep pre-booking or pre-cruise research, we were pleasantly surprised to receive glasses of sparkling wine at the top of the gangplank after using our keycards to check in on the promenade deck. All of the hospitality crew seemed to be fresh and cheerful, probably a hard thing to do, considering how fast the shop has to be turned over from the previous arrival. I thought I had read somewhere that our bags would be waiting at the room when we arrived, but I must have been mistaken, because nobody else's was and nobody seemed surprised by it. Stateroom We chose room 6502. It's port forward and, as said before; since this was our first cruise we wanted a stateroom with a window that would fit into our budget. 6502 fit the bill just perfectly, and the picture window was much better than we expected; we could comfortably sit across it. When we arrived the room wasn't quite ready, but we kind of expected that since we were so early and there are so many rooms on the ship. An hour or so later, after exploring the ship for a while, one of the first things we tested was the safe. The battery needed to be changed, so it didn't work. Eventually (see below) the safe was replaced, and everything worked fine. Unfortunately all of the drawers were noisy, and this wasn't a quirk of just our room (I talk about this more below, too). Noisy drawers or not, though, there was a lot of space to store more than all of our clothing and items, and we had packed very generously. The stateroom was in a surprisingly quiet location; especially considering it was just ten or so steps away from the Stardust Theater, which also served as our muster station. The location could be considered by some to be far from just about everything, but the benefits of the location outweighed the drawbacks. The bed, as I had learned earlier from research, was two twins pushed together. The affect of this was only really noticeable the 4th or 5th night, when we started noticing periodically that the beds had separated. Not a big problem, though. The bathroom wasn't bad, either; the toilet and shower were on either side of the sink area, and were separated from it by an etched glass door. A fire door separated our cabin's hallway from the Theater, so we couldn't hear any noise at all related to it the theater once we closed our stateroom door. The room, being on deck 6, was also reasonably close to forward and midship disembarkation points, and very close to the forward main stairway. There were only four rooms next to ours, so I didn't envy the people who had rooms on the more densely-occupied decks higher up. A few drawbacks of the stateroom: 1. We could hear very well the noise of the children staying in the room next to ours. It wasn't loud, but very noticeable. Fortunately we were tired enough from activities during the day, and we take a fan everywhere for white noise. 2. The toilet area was a bit on the small side, but there's so much to do everywhere else that you probably be somewhere else when you need to do your business. 3. The mini fridge was ½ full of pre-stocked things like cans of $2.50 soda, so there wasn't much room left for food we brought back to the room. 4. Aside from the bathroom, the vanity had the only 110V outlet receptacle, so we had to do a bit of cord juggling every once in a while. Hotel info The mid-day housekeeping was consistently reasonable, though the shelves near the desk/vanity haven't been vacuumed in a while. We loved the lavender hand soap and body wash and shampoo in dispensers. There was turn-down service every night, with a different towel animal welcoming us back each time. We didn't quite like the mandatory $12 gratuity being added on every day, but we knew about it when we registered. (This site's review from a previous cruise still shows $10/day.) As said earlier, it took a while to get a working safe: five calls and about 24 hours, to put a finer point on it. A couple calls even gave conflicting information, and we were sometimes told to wait in the room for someone to come (I learned later that this was because they thought we had something in the safe that we couldn't get out). Ship info The Market Cafe, on deck 12, is little more than a nice cafeteria, but this isn't as much a drawback as a practicality, considering a cafeteria is the most flexible type of Freestyle. If you don't like eating in a nice cafeteria, there are at least three other sit-down dining rooms to use. The Grand Atrium, most of which was three decks tall, was about as pretty as I had expected from seeing photos of other cruise ships over the years. Many other ships have a taller atrium than this one but, if you think about it, that's a lot of wasted space. Three floors of pretty atrium are probably enough. Deck plans were at the ends of every main hallway and at the elevators on each floor, so finding our way around the first couple days was easier than we thought. There were hand sanitization stations within eyesight of just about everywhere. At the entrances to all of the dining rooms there was a person to make sure you used the sanitizer, and another station was further inside in case the first station was being used. Exploring the outside decks, we found the children-specific pool area on the fantail. We don't have children, so I don't know how enjoyable the area was, but we noticed that the air back there smelled of garbage or something from inside the ship. Maybe the wind carries the smell away when the ship is moving. Deck 12 and 13 are where most of the outdoor stuff is, and we were pleasantly surprised to find a ¼ mile jogging track, and it went only ¾ the length of the ship! We liked seeing all of the hot tubs outside, some in quiet areas with deck chairs nearby. Surprisingly a lot of the main pool area didn't have water. There were sections with water, but I expected a bigger main pool. It wasn't used much though, anyway; Alaska late in August doesn't much facilitate outside water play. The exercise room was gigantic and offered a very good variety of aerobic and resistance equipment and weights. There was also a big room that had stationary bikes, so I guess they did things like spin classes and yoga there. The Barong Spa and its decoration theme were nice, but not quite worth the extra money we spent for a couple's week-long pass. The hot-ish hot tub and hydrotherapy pool were nice, as were the deck chairs facing the floor-to-ceiling windows looking aft. Both the men's and the women's locker rooms had saunas and steam rooms, and the men's side also had warm and cold baths. The rather small thing called a "lap pool" had to be drained on about the 4th day because of rough seas, so we couldn't use it as much as we intended. A lap is only five or so strokes, so don't expect vigorous swimming during your trip. Tea and lemon and orange water were available to drink, and each side of the aft end of the spa had even quieter rooms for reading or just watching the scenery float away. The Spinnaker Lounge offered plenty of seating, and was a nice escape from other, more active areas while underway when it wasn't being used for theme entertainment. We didn't imbibe, though; too darn expensive. We watched the entire voyage up to Sawyer Glacier from the promenade deck. Plenty of sections were either warmed by fans blowing air out from inside, or were otherwise sheltered from the wind. Dining The quality of the food could be described as about average, but certainly not worse than that, reasonably. There was a lot of variety the Market Cafe's buffet including breads, hot dishes, so-so pizza, and a TON of desserts. Most, but not everything was repeated every night, so if you didn't like something, either walk further down the line, wait until tomorrow, or go to one of the no-surcharge dining rooms. The Aqua and the Versailles dining rooms offer almost identical menus, so pick which dining room environment you like and you'll be okay. Or you can just go where your mood decides. There wasn't much of a wait when my wife and I ate at either of them, and I don't remember that we ate particularly early. If you don't like waiting in line consider that, when you're choosing a dining time you're on a huge ship, tons of other passengers also mainly eat three meals a day. At least one other reviewer has commented on the portion sizes in the Versialles restaurant being small. They may be small by American standards, where a large portion in any other country is called small here, but the portion size is actually reasonable. My wife and I both left satisfied, (not stuffed, like in the buffet) and the portion sizes are a good way to help prevent you from gaining pounds you don't need. The biggest drawback of the Market Cafe: the beyond-stupid ice and water dispensers. They work by putting a hand in front of a sensor, but not a single machine ever worked really the same way twice, and would suddenly turn off even if you didn't move your hand away at all. The crew couldn't get the darn things to work better than the passengers. Those things gotta go. We didn't try any of the extra-charge dining areas. Activities We didn't participate in any of the organized activities. Either there was enough to do on our own or we were otherwise too tired from the fun we'd had already. The seminar in the theater on glaciers and icebergs was led by a person who appeared to assess her knowledge of the topic to be better than it really is. During a seminar, by the same woman, that was supposed to be on native alaskan culture she spent most of time talking about the Aztecs and other cultures having almost nothing to with Alaska. Entertainment This aspect of the cruise was pretty good, although we didn't find the comic group (named in other reviews) funny. "Funny" is subjective, though, so decide for yourself. We enjoyed relaxing in the Spinnaker lounge every once in a while, listening to Melodious Jones. The drinks prices were steep, though, and we don't really drink so we didn't partake. The theater showed kids' stuff in the morning, a presentation after, and about three movies per day, so we took in part of a movie a couple times. In the full Stardust Theater my wife enjoyed the dancing show, and we both enjoyed the comedic juggler. He raised the bar on our standards of juggling skill so much that we weren't impressed with the jugglers at a well-known circus we recently watched. The crew "talent show" was enjoyable, and my wife liked the farewell show she watched at the end of the cruise. Port and Shore Excursions I won't describe the ports; just the excursions we chose. There's enough here and elsewhere on the web about the ports themselves. In Ketchikan our much-anticipated "Misty Fjords and Wilderness Explorer" tour was cancelled due to weather, but we enjoyed the cheaper "Best of Ketchikan by Land & Sea" tour, which an excursion guy on the dock said was still available. The people on the tour boat were surprisingly friendly, and we enjoyed the better-than-expected visit to Libby Cannery, and entertaining and informative bus driver back into town with a stop at the Saxman Native Village. In Juneau we just walked around the city for a few hours, using maps as our "guide," stopping at the Orthodox Church, State Capitol and shops along the way. The downtown area isn't huge, so the walk wasn't hard. A few companies offer $7 bus trips per person each near the ships way to Mendenhall glacier, so se took one and walked around outside the glacier's visitor center. Tracy Arm Fjord was everything we expected from Alaska. Absolutely gorgeous. We haven't been to Glacier Bay, but we can't imagine how it could be more beautiful than this. Like others who cruised on the dates around ours, it was very disappointing that we weren't able to get up to Sawyer Glacier because of the calving. The scenery on the way there, though, was as I said: absolutely gorgeous. In Skagway the ship arrived before most of the shops had opened, so we just killed time by walking around for a while. We had booked our Summit and City Tour directly through the provider, Frontier Excursions. The vehicle was in pretty reasonable condition, and the driver/guide was pretty friendly. We got back from the tour in plenty of time to walk around the city again, join an hour-long tour the national park service gave that was better than expected, shop for a while, and explore the park on the little peninsula across from the pier. The stop at Prince Rupert, as others have said, was definitely not long enough to offer time for an excursion outside the city and walking in the city. We enjoyed our Canoe Quest and Rainforest Walk excursion, though I'm sure we probably could've paid a lot less if we'd booked it directly through the guide group, which lives in P.R. and tries to support the native heritage. The paddle to the island across the bay was a unsettling for my wife because the wind made some good-sized waves, but the canoe was very stable. The guides split us into two groups, with one first staying at the rustic shelter (they said they'll have a better one next year) to enjoy fresh crab they're boiling in a pot when you arrive, or hotdogs over a fire, s'mores and fried bread. When the other group came back from the walk through the forest, we went out. It was a nice walk, but if you're the outdoorsy type it won't impress you much. The group tries really hard to give a good experience, but I don't think it's worth the $109 through NCL. Find the name of the local group and pay less and send you money directly to them. After paddling back across the bay to end the excursion, we tried a self-guided tour through P.R., but it got dark too quickly and we didn't have much time left so we didn't see much. A shame. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
I like the idea of freestyle cruising since it lets the guests eat in the main dining room whenever they want within the set hours. There is also no formal dress code, which I find quite liberating. My partner and I think that the ... Read More
I like the idea of freestyle cruising since it lets the guests eat in the main dining room whenever they want within the set hours. There is also no formal dress code, which I find quite liberating. My partner and I think that the food was good, even though they do not receive our utmost praise. We like dining at Le Bistro since the French food there was quite good. Our waiter was also very friendly at the Ginza Restaurant, which helped enhance our dining experience there. The sushi was well prepared at Ginza and they even let me order from the Teppanyaki Restaurant menu without incurring another 15 dollars charge. However, we were quite disappointed with the ship's itinerary on the Sawyer Glacier/Tracy Arm Fjord. There was a so-called expert who was supposed to brief us on what we will be seeing on our way to the Sawyer Glacier. Instead, she gave a very long winded Geography lesson on the various terms of the glaciers and their formations....stuff that I could have just read from any book on glaciers. Our ship headed back prematurely before we reached the foot of Sawyer Glacier, and we did NOT even get close the the edge of the glacier to see the calving, where the glacier makes a thunderous noise falling into the ocean. Neither the captain nor the 'Glacier Expert' explained why we have to turn back prematurely!! That was NOT cool! The ports of call were so-so. Skagway exists because of the cruise ships. The population of 800 people would perish if the ships stop going there. People who work at the so-call chain stores (tourist souvenirs stores) were treating us like we were burdening them with work. Most of them had sour faces and were not happy with the influx of cruise passengers swarming their stores. One lady even brought up Obama vs. the Republican politics in front of her customers...so much for leaving your personal beliefs behind! You would think that they (the business owners) would welcome the cruise passengers with open arms, especially since we are the only source of income in Skagway. We do like all our shore excursions since we did not pay through the nose for the helicopter rides and glacier/dog sledding adventures. I personally think those activities are over-charged...you can probably get a much better deal shopping around after your ship has docked in the port. Just ensure that the independent operators commit to taking you back before the ship sails... To my utmost disappointment, there was no indoor heated pool in the ship. There was one in the spa area, but you gotta pay 20 bucks to use it. Yeah, right! As to why NCL does NOT have an indoor pool considering the Alaska rainy and cool weather, I do not know! I just think it is absurd to design a ship to Alaska and think that passengers would want to use the outdoor pool when the day time temp is less than 70 degrees in the SUMMER. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Good: Great weather. In fact the day we saw the glacier was the warmest day! We sat by the pool before the ship entered the fjords in the afternoon. I was told by the executive chef who was on the upper deck taking pictures - that it ... Read More
Good: Great weather. In fact the day we saw the glacier was the warmest day! We sat by the pool before the ship entered the fjords in the afternoon. I was told by the executive chef who was on the upper deck taking pictures - that it was closest the Star had gotten to the Tracy Arm glacier all season. Weather is one of those things you can't plan for but realistically a trip to Alaska in August is probably going to mean warmer/better weather (if lot less snow and icebergs) than a trip in say May. We had brought hats, raincoats, gloves, etc. and needed none of it on the trip. I do agree with what another reviewer said, that it would have been nice to have an indoor pool on the cruise. Almost no one went into the pool (probably too cold) and so the hot tubs were always full of kids. Balcony: The balcony alone probably added $500 to our trip cost but it was single best thing about our cruise. We kept the sliding glass door open day and night (even when it was chilly out - just cranked up the heat). Listening to the sounds of the ship gliding through the surf was wonderful. I loved sitting on the balcony or on our comfortable beds reading and than looking out at the sky, ocean, and scenery over those 7 days. With a balcony you can have the experience of being on a ship without feeling like you are sharing the experience with 1,000s of other people. I will probably never take a cruise that does not include a private balcony. Freestyle cruising: Only way to go - especially if you are with someone like my husband who doesn't like to dress up. He did bring a suit, tie, etc. but he ended up wearing it only 1 night. This was definitely a casual crowd. I on the other hand like "putting on the Ritz" so I liked the option of dressing up a little or down depending upon our mood each evening. Service: The service was always good. I read other reviewers who complained about Norwegian Star and other ships but everything went just fine. The staff was always courteous and helpful. I don't know how they can keep it up for 8 months at a stretch. What a hard job. To be patient and friendly day in and day out with every imaginable type of guest on board. I was concerned that there were going to be long lines to eat, embark and disembark, etc. Getting on the ship was easy - hint we got there early and we were literally the 12th people on board the ship. Never had to wait more than a few minutes for a table at dinner. I noticed large group having problems but what do they expect? Good entertainment: I have nothing to compare it to - having not cruised before. But my family were really surprised at the quality of the shows we did get to see. If we weren't getting up so early each morning to go ashore - I am sure we would have gone every night. Sure it was a little cheesy at times but so what. Food all the time: This was the single thing I think my 15 year old daughter liked most about the cruise. She is at that age when she literally eats every 2 hours yet never gains a pound. The fact that she could eat what she wanted, when she wanted by herself at the Market Cafe was a treat for her and us her parents. Bad: Meat dishes: One night I ordered beef Wellington and had to send it back. Another evening at Soho I had rack of lamb and it was also overcooked. The meat in both cases was kind of gray in color. Ironically the night at Soho was the only evening we paid extra for dinner and it was probably our most disappointing meal. I went there for the lobster (my birthday) but they were out. I am not a big meat eater so for rest of the cruise I stuck to the fish - even though I found out from our server that it is all frozen. It at least was better prepared than the overcooked red meat. You pay extra for everything: Thanks again to my fellow reviewers I wasn't surprised by these extra costs (photos, sodas and so on.) It sure would have been nice to have seen something else besides ice tea on the menu for free (like lemonade) at lunch and dinner. We solved the problem by buying sodas, etc. in Ketchikan and keeping them in our mini-fridge. (We rented a car in Ketchikan and went to the local Safeway). We bought only 1 bottle of wine for dinner and only a couple of alcoholic drinks on the ship the whole week. I did find that most of the drinks at the bars were not outrageous in price. But if you like to drink - it is probably more economical to do so at the local bars on shore. Shopping: We didn't buy any of the stuff that was for sale on the ship (photos, jewelry, art, etc.) Well I did get an ornament of the ship. Why anyone would go to Alaska to buy jewelry is not something I understand? We found a wonderful local shop in the old town part of Ketchikan where we bought gift items designed by local craftsmen but that was it. I did break down and played one round of bingo on our last day at sea. Listening to Bingo Boy over the PA - I thought what the heck I am on cruise. Of course I didn't win anything. But other than that we simply ignored all the "seminars", gaming events, etc. that occurred on the ship. We proved you can have a wonderful cruise without spending much money on board. Time ashore not enough: In each of the ports I would have liked more time. There in a nutshell is the advantage of travelling independently. You get to control you own schedule and change plans on the fly. We managed to do everything we set out to do but it was annoying to find oneself on such a tight schedule. My daughter and I literally ran back to our ship in Juneau after squeezing in a visit to the Mendelson Glacier after our official tour of Juneau ended. We literally had only 15 minutes to take pictures at the glacier. Talk about hit and run. Extra for using the spa: I expected to pay of course for spa treatments but my husband and I were extremely disappointed that even using the indoor pool, saunas or hot tubs in the spa cost $10.00 a day. The spa which is in the stern of the boat was lovely but I only ended up using it on our last full day. It actually worked out fine because I got a discount on my spa treatment. However my husband likes taking a sauna several times a week (does so at our local YMCA) - so not having free access on board was probably one of his biggest disappointments. Ugly: Amount of food consumed: There were times when we would be eating in the Market Cafe and than I would look around at the other passengers and actually lose my appetite. Some people clearly go on a cruise to eat large quantities of food. I personally love to eat and never miss a meal. But all the overeating I saw, kept me in check for most of the trip. The dEcor: The Norwegian Star is sort of Vegas meets Holiday Inn. Now I wasn't disappointed because I had seen the pictures of the ship before booking the cruise. I knew this ship wasn't going to knock me over design-wise. If and when I do cruise again I hope to find a ship with a little more style. Although my husband and daughter thought the ship's dEcor was just fine. But than I have a husband who thinks camping in a backpacking tent is heaven. Tacky gift shops near the ports at each stop: If you go to Alaska - take an excursion - rent a car - get out there but don't go to those tourist trap gift shops. I work in San Francisco and no one and I mean no one locally ever goes to Fisherman's Wharf. That area is strictly for tourists. The food is bad and shops all sell junk.. The shops next to each of the docks in Alaska (especially Skagway) reminding me of the same fake seaport vibe you get at Fisherman's Wharf. But that was OK because I didn't go to Alaska to shop and you can just walk by those places. Costs of excursions: If and when we cruise again - we will make all our own arrangements. The prices charged were too high. The so-called eco kayak tour at Prince Rupert was really bad. We were blessed with great weather (almost unheard of in Prince Rupert) but the tour was exhausting, badly organized and just pointless. My husband claims he had a good time but my daughter and I were so glad when it was over. Now we are a family who owns a kayak so it isn't like we don't know how to kayak. But when we got to the inland waterway where the "tour" began, they simple handed us our lifejackets and paddles and told us to pick out a boat and get in the water. No safety instructions or anything Their were about 40 of us trying to follow the tour leaders around the inlet - with no clue where we were going or how long we were going to be out. After hour and half my daughter and I got one of the leaders to turn around with us and a young girl who had to be towed back because she was so exhausted. I think I have said enough. In closing let me say that we will definitely cruise again sometime. It is wonderful hassle free vacation for visiting seaside ports. I am use to planning everything myself which I enjoy doing but of course it is a lot of work. I would never recommend a cruise in place of visiting the actual destination itself. Did we get a real sense of Alaska from our cruise - probably not. Travelling through, sleeping and eating in a town is different than just visiting it for a few hours. When we return to Alaska some day we will fly to Anchorage, rent a car and drive to Denali National Park. That is not to say that I won't also some day take another cruise which will include Glacier Bay..... Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This is our fourth cruise, but first on NCL. Embarkation was extremely smooth, well organized, and painless. Arrived about 11:30 am and we were on the ship at Noon for lunch. Greeted with champagne and very friendly crew. ... Read More
This is our fourth cruise, but first on NCL. Embarkation was extremely smooth, well organized, and painless. Arrived about 11:30 am and we were on the ship at Noon for lunch. Greeted with champagne and very friendly crew. SHIP: The ship was designed very well; easy to get around and navigate all major areas. The ship was rennovated in 2004 and is extremely clean and good looking. The outdoor decks have plenty of room although I must say we only sat out on one day of cruising as the weather was a bit too chilly for us most of the time. CABIN: We had an ocean view stateroom on Deck 5 with a large window and not a port hole as in many other ships........very clean and although not huge, we managed well. Bed was very comfy and the stewart always had what we needed. ENTERTAINMENT: I must say that compared to other cruises, this cruise line spent the extra bucks to attract FIRST CLASS entertainment. We saw almost every show and they repeated some shows that were very popular. So, A PLUS for the entertainment!! Just about all the folks we spoke to on the ship agreed. The other activities (games, etc.) were also well organized and received well. Just don't get overwhelmed with the "promo" seminars, which have one goal.......to have you spend more money. Upselling was about the only part of the cruise which tended to be a "turn-off". If you tune yourself out, you will survive it easily. FOOD: The ship has two main dining rooms, one is not open all the time. Also a buffet, coffee shop type diner, and two grills. The free style dining is great.....no set hours for dining and casual is the theme. Unfortunately my first dining room experience was not good......ordered Siamese Beef with noodles for lunch.....the meat was not tender and had little taste. My wife order the tenderloin steak for dinner which was also not very good. Now for the good news..........all other meals in the dining room were either average or above average considering it was cruise food. Breakfasts were great and most dinners were good. If you don't like the dish you ordered just order something else. The salmon is always good! I had duck, lobster, and prime rib, all of which were very good! FOr lunch, we opted for the Market Cafe buffet which has a large variety of food......much of which will satisfy a majority of the diners. WE ate at one specialty restaurant (The Ginza) which was very good and worth the $15pp surcharge. SERVICE: Exceptional all around service from a crew who knows what service means. LAND EXCURSIONS: All excursions are a bit pricey. We did the Rain Forest in Ketchikan, Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, and the White Pass Rail trip in Skagway.......we were satisfied with all. Like most cruise ports, the towns were honky tonk and tourist type. Did manage to see bears, bald eagles, and even a far sighted whale from the ship a few times. EMBARKATION: Smooth and well organized..........the staff was eager to assist in every way. VALUE: Considering the prices of cruises to Alaska, I feel the cruise was well priced. OVERALL: ON a basis of five stars, I certainly would feel that four stars are justified for my experience on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We just got back from our first cruise to Alaska and it was awesome. Having never cruised before we weren't sure what to expect, all we knew was what we had read on cruise critic and in travel books. We were not disappointed at all, ... Read More
We just got back from our first cruise to Alaska and it was awesome. Having never cruised before we weren't sure what to expect, all we knew was what we had read on cruise critic and in travel books. We were not disappointed at all, we had a great time and can't wait to go on another cruise. It was just myself and my husband (mid 30's celebrating our 7 year wedding anniversary). We arrived in Seattle the day before the cruise, we got in around 10:00am and were at our hotel the Grand Hyatt by 11:00 checked in and then decided to walk around Seattle. Seattle is a very beautiful city, made me miss living by the ocean. We walked around Pike Market , the piers (to see where we would be embarking from), had lunch at The Crab Pot which we liked , we got the Pacific Clambake which was an enormous amount of food that we couldn't even finish. After that we went walked to the Experimental Music Project Museum and Sci Fi museum, we liked the Sci Fi part the best the Experimental Music Project was just ok. A great place if you like to see artist instruments and if you like Jimmy Hendrix and The Presidents of the United States. Walked back to our hotel and then went to get a light dinner at the Palomino since we like their chopped salad. After that we did some shopping and called it a night. Saturday woke up early, had breakfast at a place across from the hotel, I can't remember the name, it did have great Asian dEcor. Waited around then got a taxi to the pier 66. Checking in like many have said was a breeze, we were on board in no time with our sparkling wine in hand. Explored the ship, ate at the Market Cafe, had some cocktails in the java lounge until they said our room was ready. We had an ocean view room with a picture window which was great. Did the Muster drill came back, had a few more cocktails and dinner and went to sleep. Sunday we were at sea not much to tell, bartenders remembered us and knew what we liked to drink. Went to the fitness center, I thought it would be overcrowded but it wasn't I was able to fit good workouts in almost everyday. Monday we arrived in Ketchikan, we had a shore excursion here which was the Eagle Island Sea Kayaks, tour was on time and soon we were kayaking in beautiful sunny weather, the tour guides were very knowledgeable. We would recommend this for everyone who doesn't mind a great arm workout and has no problems balancing in a kayak. Afterwards we had lunch at a place in downtown and had the Halibut Fish and Chips which were excellent. Tuesday we were in Juneau, we had no excursions planned so we walked the town and got some cool souvenirs in the Russian shop. Once we left we cruised Sawyer Glacier which was breathtaking, so beautiful. Wednesday we were in Skagway we had another excursion here which was ziplining! Only 2 other people were with us so we really got our moneys worth! It was Adventure Park and Zipline. We've never been ziplining and I for sure was hesitant and scared but once you do it, it's fun! And since there were only 4 of us we got to do the ziplines twice! After that they dropped us in town and we had lunch at the Skagway Brewery which was pretty good. My husband is the beer drinker but I did enjoy this one beer they had a lot it was some chocolate porter! I had wanted to try the spruce tip beer which is really made from spruce but they were all out unfortunately. Thursday we were at sea most of the day and then docked in Prince Rupert. Nothing to say here, I'm not sure why they even subjected us to this port. We talked to a few people that said the same thing, for a last port of call I would have expected more ( no offense to the people that live there). My husband said it reminded him of San Fernando Valley in the 80's. Friday at sea, had the raffle tickets that they gave us and got playing BINGO we wanted to win the cruise and the Wii but didn't. Still had a great time though. Out of the whole cruise this is the day that had the choppiest water and the only time we felt queasy but ginger pills, Bonine and a few adult beverages stopped that. Saturday Disembarkation was a breeze, we opted to carry our luggage off on our own which worked out well. We had a flight at 2:30pm and couldn't get an earlier flight so we rented a car and drove around Seattle we went to Bruce Lee's grave which was cool, and also found a Trader Joe's (we're originally from California and moved to Colorado where there is no Trader Joe's!) so we got some good snacks to take home. We also went to the Museum of Flight which was easy to get through in our short time there. Overall this vacation rocked! We loved it, the food on the cruise was better than OK but not 5 stars really nothing to write home about but we didn't starve for sure. Service was great, loved the turn down service with the towel animals. The only complaint we had is that you couldn't bring alcohol on board and we managed to spend a small fortune on alcohol but it is vacation so it's fine. My husband did think the British portrait guy was arrogant especially after he witnessed him cussing out one of his co-worker which was not cool especially in front of passengers. Be sure to get the Honeymoon/Anniversary package. And of you don't want to eat at Le Bistro make sure you talk to the Maitre D personally to see about upgrading, he'll say it's fine when all the other workers say you can't pay the difference to eat at another restaurant, we ate at Cagney's instead. We'll definitely cruise again, the problem is deciding where and if to try a different cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We just got back from our cruise aboard the Norwegian Star to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert. The night before embarkation we stayed at the Fairmont Olympic in Seattle. They're an easy walk to the Pike's Place ... Read More
We just got back from our cruise aboard the Norwegian Star to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert. The night before embarkation we stayed at the Fairmont Olympic in Seattle. They're an easy walk to the Pike's Place market and Pier 66 is only a short cab ride away.The check-in was a breeze, it only took a few minutes, we didn't have to stand in any long lines or try and figure out what to do next. It was well organized and as painless as possible. The ship itself is immaculately maintained. She looked like she'd just came out of a refit. The crew kept her looking spic and span right the way through our cruise. I really want to stress what a pleasant experience it was to have such a cheerful, competent and courteous crew. They really made our group feel welcome and happy to have us aboard. I saw more of the ships senior officers than any cruise I've been on. The Captain even had a nice chat with a few of us in the Havana Cigar Bar on the first night then we saw him again at the Stan Sykes Motown show. We also got to meet the the XO, the Chief Engineer and the Chief Systems officer as we were wandering around. All were friendly and very approachable.The fitness center is the best I've seen at sea. Good freeweights area, plenty of aerobics machines, Cybex resistance machines and a big aerobics/yoga room. A major plus for me was both a dry sauna and a steam room in the spa for a nice respite after working out. The spa also has a row of about fifteen lounge chairs, looking out of the stern through a floor to ceiling glass window. This is a great place to relax and read a bit on the sea days.We breakfasted in the Market Cafe nearly every morning. We all enjoyed the food. They even provide a full english breakfast with roasted tomatoes and bangers but the best is the smoked salmon, capers and onions. The Ginza restaurant had very good Asian selections and Sushi with excellent service from Maria. We also dined twice in the Soho room, once for the "Romantic Dinner" and once for the "Jazz Brunch"(Don't miss this). Both meals were Dyno-Supreme and the impeccable service provided by Nelson made it even better.The entertainment was top notch as well. They had three bigger production shows, a magician's show and a Circque style show in the main room but the talent in the smaller venues is not to be missed. They had a singer in the Gatsby's Bar named Jana Seale who I could listen to for hours. She's truly gifted with the voice of an angel. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
[NOTE: this review was first posted 1st on the boards (http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1039684) and received positive feedback, so I am sharing it here. This review may not be in the "perfect" form, but we put ... Read More
[NOTE: this review was first posted 1st on the boards (http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1039684) and received positive feedback, so I am sharing it here. This review may not be in the "perfect" form, but we put alot of work into it during and after the cruise and THEN we saw the review form. We know, bad move, (and we've probably violated a few newbie posting rules) but we have admittedly run out of gas (and wine) and just want to get it out there and unfortunately get back to our day jobs. Here goes.... BACKGROUND/SUMMARY We cruised on the NCL Star the week of July 25 thru Aug 2. We were a family of 4 (2 boys, 9 and 6) under 10) and travelled with another family (also two boys, 11 and 9). This was our 6th cruise, our 2nd to Alaska. Previous trip was 1999 on Royal Caribbean. We've also been on Princess and Carnival (and planning a January Carnival cruise as I write). But this was our first NCL cruise. Our travelling partners had done one cruise many years ago. So we had both a semi-experienced and novice view points. We tend to do cruising on the cheap. We all approached this as a budget vacation (we felt we got a really good deal on the tiks), so we didn't do any of the NCL excursions or pay for any extras except alcohol and two restaurants. We had unusually awesome weather (~80F+) in all ports and the seas were very calm. Overall we were satisfied with the cruise, the boat and the NCL service. Our kids had a great time, especially in the pool and at ping pong. We felt they were safe. There was enough to keep us entertained. We loved Alaska and would very likely do it again. But the ultimate criterion is whether we would travel NCL again or recommend it to a friend. And the answer is....possibly. Overall the ship was good, in fact great in some places, as were the amenities, but we were disappointed in the food—we just thought it would be better than Carnival and it wasn't. And there will be one major annoyance standing in the way of us booking again: The "fourth" bed in the standard staterooms is a TRUNDLE that comes up BETWEEN the two lower beds. This is instead of a second bunk which we have experienced on other lines. Why NCL thought this was a good idea, we'll never know. If this is becoming standard in the industry, you might not see us on the high seas as a family again. Now on to the rest of the specifics. We've broken the review into categories and disseminated the, "likes," "neutral," "dislikes," "things to know," and "Cruising Pet Peeves/things we wonder." Hope that's helpful for readers. The last area, pet peeves and things we wonder, is a mix of real pet peeves, things we really do wonder, and small blog-ish riffs. We were getting punchy on $10 martinis, $26 buckets of Alaskan Amber plus 18% gratuity. Forgive us. ROOMS Our two families had adjacent inside rooms on Deck 5 port side toward the back. We were generally pleased with the accommodations as compared to other ships except for what is noted below. Like - Style. With the exception of the green nautical carpet it had a much more modern feel to it than other ships we've been on. Darker woods, trim, etc. Didn't feel cheap. - Beds were firm and very comfy. Big closet, lots of cubby storage, shelves, and hooks in room and bathroom (although could have used another high shelf or two on blank wall in bathroom.) - Light in closet helpful for seeing there but served as a night light. - Shower door instead of the usual sticky curtain (although it came off the tracks a few times). - Safe that required only a code. (Was on a Carnival ship in January that needed a credit card or driver's license to open the safe. No logic in that. Hello Carnival! The reason we need the safe is to STORE those things, not carry them around with us on the ship.) - Shampoos and soaps. Love the "spa" flavors. The more minty and citrusy, the better. AND we loved that they were in wall dispensers, not individual bars or bottles. - Nice, powerful hairdryers. -Fridge in room (but see below). - The dial on the outside of the room indicating our status. (Do not disturb, etc.), Kinda cute. Neutral - There was a little engine noise on Deck 5 aft. But nothing that kept us awake. - Would have liked a bigger safe to fit a laptop. - Mixed emotions on the required $12/day per person gratuity. On one hand its easy. On the other, there are no incentives for room stewards and per comments sprinkled in the review they could have used some. Dislike - Per the showstopper at the beginning...we specifically selected a room made for 4 as noted on the Star deck plan. We expected TWO bunks beds, but the room only had ONE pull down bed. The other was a TRUNDLE that pulled out between the two beds. This made moving around the cabin a bear and accessible storage under the beds useless. This one thing may negate NCL (or at least the Star) from future consideration. Not sure how they thought was a good idea. Did we survive through it? Yes. But we had two small-ish kids, the trundle wasn't elevated and you couldn't combine the beds for the adults. 2am trips to the potty was tough. And apparently the trundle mattress wasn't so comfy. Not sure if we could hack it as they grow and not sure 4 single people cruising on the cheap would like it either. - And no ladder for the bunks too boot. Lots of scrambling on table tops and hitting glasses, etc. - There was a HEAVY smoke smell either from the cabin(s) across the way or from the crew area at the end of the hall a few doors down. If the source is the crew area, they should be banned from smoking there. We know people can smoke in their rooms but it DOESN'T STAY in the rooms. Our collective opinion is that there should not be smoking on the ships save a specific smoking lounge like they have in airports. Even outside, with the wind/breeze in play, smoke wafted around. - There is a fridge in the room (a good thing) but it is small and packed with bar stuff already. In our room, we took all that stuff out (having to take up valuable shelf space) and could fit a small box of wine and some smoked salmon we bought. But just barely. Our travelling partner's fridge was unplugged and was unstocked until the second to last day. Apparently, the previous passengers had asked for it to be unstocked. - Room stewards only filled up our ice halfway and never replaced our in-room glasses. By the end, we had one glass left. Admittedly, we were using the glasses for our booze and leaving them around the ship, but they should be replaced. - A set of sheets was really balled up on one bed. The steward removed them after a note was left, but they should have been taken out of circulation. Things to know - Bring a power strip. There is only one outlet in the room. - Bring a small alarm clock. Should have learned this by now, but haven't. - Bring a nightlight for the bathroom. - And headlamps are useful if you are trying to sneak out to get to the weight room before the kiddies are awake. - Be careful where you put your room key. It can be demagnetized easily by cell phones and other things. We had to have three keys replaced among four adults. - If you want, ask for your fridge to be unstocked (but make sure they leave it plugged in.) Pet Peeves/things we wonder - Why don't more hotels don't go to dispenser shampoos and soaps? Yes, it's not as "shi shi" but it saves the environment, and people can't steal it. Just fill a Aveda-labelled dispenser up with something that smells like eucalyptus and people won't care. FOOD/DINING We ate mostly in the Versailles, "French" style, main dining room. We hit Aqua, the "modern" main dining room (with the same menu as Versailles) once. We ate one night each in Teppanaki and Cagney's. We ate in the Market Cafe for lunch and breakfast, except for the last day in Versailles. On the whole, we were disappointed with the food and think the food is better, more enlightened and creative on Carnival (our last two cruises), on Royal Caribbean (although its been a while since RC) and certainly Princess. Admittedly, we are foodies at home, but we know to lower our expectations when heading up the gangplank. We expected slightly better than what we got, and maybe that was a mistake on our part. You'll survive and won't wretch, don't worry, but don't expect to be wowed. Like - French toast in Market Cafe. - Scallops and gazpacho on night 5(?) and English strip with Yorkshire pudding and red snapper with Andoiuille sausage on day 7(?) in Versailles. - Pretzel bread sandwiches in Market Cafe. Bangers for breakfast in Market Cafe. - Versailles' space. Service was good. As compared to Aqua, which has low ceilings and long booths against the exterior wall, Versailles felt quieter and more comfortable. - Constantly refreshed bin for napkins and utensils and condiments ON the table in Market Cafe. We realize this sounds weird, but we can't tell you how frustrating it is to hunt or wait for utensils or steal them from other tables on ships we've been on. You sit down and they are right there. A big kudos to whomever came up with this. - Clean up in Market Cafe. Given the seating constraints, the staff seemed to be pretty quick to clean up to open seating. - Ice cream availability (four flavors to choose from at scoops/Barong Spa) and then soft serve in Market Cafe) - Nightly Chocoloate fountain in Market Cafe. Skip the restaurant desserts and camp out here. - BBQ on deck Day 1. Hit the spot nicely. - Free after-dinner cappuccinos upon request. Although termed average by one in our party, they hit the spot for another. - Anytime dining. Just like it. 6pm is too early and 8pm is too late. We never had to wait. And we were a party of eight (often split into two tables of four next to each other, but it worked well for us. Adults at one, kids at another.). - The maitre de at Versaille was always pleasant and accommodating and the waiters were fabulous with our boys. Did a few tricks (ask them to separate the salt from the pepper) too. - Wine list looked reasonable. Really no different price-wise than at home. We stuck with the Waterbrook Chardonnay ($33 on the ship, reg $13.99 in Seattle) and Valley of the Moon Syrah. Tasty. Neutral - The set up in Market Cafe. Can't decide if we liked it or not. It has a stylish modern bright open cafeteria style (straight non-fixed tables and chairs set perpendicular to the windows). This is unlike other ships where there are bulky fixed booths and tables. On one hand it was easy to navigate TO a table but some intimacy is lost. - Teppanyaki. This is good entertainment for kids. Ours loved it. However, it seemed the "skilled" entertainment really sort of stopped at the appetizers and then Bennihana antics waned. The entrEe entertainment was mostly banging the spice shakers against the spatulas. We felt the food was VERY average. It took every ounce of restraint not to reach out and grab our scallops and lobster off the griddle to keep them from being overdone. We could see the tenderness disappearing in front of our eyes. Alas, we couldn't do with others at the table so we suffered through chewy seafood. Filet mignon and chicken both had a skillet grease taste to them. - Market Cafe. It did its job, consistently, but the consistency in the menu for breakfast and lunch became boring. On other cruises, like Carnival, there were distinct themes on a daily basis (Mexican, Mediterranean, etc.) and they devoted a whole serving section to it, but not on the Star. Maybe one or two dishes, but not enough to be noticed or add spice to the offering. On one day there were two great Indian dishes, but they were served on opposite sides of the galley so most folks didn't know they were both there. We surmise that the nice thing is that if you liked something in particular you could get it reliably, (mostly) every day. One member in our party stuck to staff-mixed yogurt and bagels/lox every day at breakfast and pretty good muffalettas and staff prepared Cesaer salad (with anchovies!) for lunch and was satisfied. The fresh fruit selection was limited. Lots of canned fruit (yuck!). There were grapefuits in Versaille, but not here. - The free coffee. Not the worst, not the best. But not quite average. - Dress code. We liked the open dress code, but we wonder if it would be better to restrict jeans, or at least restrict tennis shoes and require collared shirts at Aqua and Versaille. A little too casual at times in there for a white table cloth restaurant. - Chocolate Decadence night. Line was huge. Understandable given the popularity of this sort of thing and the lack of quality desserts otherwise, but can't rate the food because we never made it in. - Hand sanitizer machines everywhere in the food places. It's a good thing. - There was a Jazz brunch ($$) offered in the SOHO on Sunday and Friday. We didn't go, but the menu looked appetizing and it seemed to be popular. Disliked (or better put, "disappointed in...") - Cagney's. Saw some raves about this place but we didn't think it was worth it. Truffle fries were tasty as was the seafood bisque but steaks were nothing to write home about. We expect filets to melt in your mouth and they didn't. Smoked salmon appetizer was shockingly large, and not in a good way. It's an appetizer folks. And it was salty and overdone. Dessert wasn't great. Espresso brownie dessert was average. In gymnastics speak: you got to nail the landing, and you didn't - Desserts in general. Nothing exciting or compelling. And even the simple ones shouldn't be rocket science. They seemed to lose the recipe for molten chocolate cake, or molten chocolate brick---it shouldn't be dry and the inside should be hot and gooey, not stiff. - Blue Lagoon. Again high hopes from reviews but the only above average spots were the fish/chips and Panini. Mild Wings were overdone and had no sauce on them. Thought that was a requirement. Burgers were the same as elsewhere. Interior seating is very tight and a main walkway runs right through the restaurant. There is outside seating, which is nice but is right under a very loud vent. - Foil butter pats vs. dish of whipped butter and cream pourers vs. single serve in Versailles and Aqua. C'mon folks, dress it up a bit. Or at least help out the environment just a bit. - Doing Versailles breakfast on the last day. Maybe this was our mistake for doing this, but the service was harried and generally felt like they just wanted us to get off the boat so they could have a few moments to themselves before the next horde arrived. The kids loved it, and one in our party went to Versaille earlier in the week and really enjoyed it. - Versailles "international" cheese plate. Cheese selection was familiar (as in the cheddar looked and tasted like our standard sliced cheddar from home), but it was served with a 2-pack of PACKAGED SALTINES. This might have been the defining statement regarding the food. You couldn't have sliced up a couple of baguettes? - Market Cafe sneeze guards. Yes, they are a requirement, but do they have to be THAT low? Practically pulled a muscle trying to get the lone raspberry yogurt from the back row. - In Market Cafe, blueberries and pecans for yogurt on the first day, then, poof, no more the rest of the week. - The Atrium coffee bar coffee was shameful. If you are gonna charge us for it, then do something special. One of our party got so fed up with the "press this button for latte" system, she walked the "barista" through making a real latte without pressing the button. Maybe the only way to make it better was to pay for a shot of Irish whiskey in it. - Soft serve ice cream in Market Cafe was too soft or watery. This has either to do with the how the machine is set up or maintained or due to the fact that it was overdemanded by the patrons so the machine couldn't keep up. I'm guessing the latter. Buy another machine and scrap some of the other desserts. The walkway in the market Cafe is bustling, and not in a good way. It's a traffic jam (see peeves below) with accidents waiting to happen. This is a design flaw. - Touchless dispensers for ice. Although a good idea for sanitary purposes, they were tempermental and we swear the staff was showing people that, in order to use them effectively, people should put their cup under the dispenser in a way such that one's hand was closest to the "eye" (i.e. rotate wrist to the back). So unless you hand the hands of Cinderella, you, and everyone else invariably ended up touching the dispenser back wall because the "drop zone" was very shallow. Kind of defeated the purpose. Dabble some more sanitizer on your hands and get back to the industrial design drawing board. Things to Know - You can only pass through the Market cafe on one side. It's shaped like a "J" not a "U." Yes, it is accurately shown on the deck plan posted on line, but we constantly forgot and kept running into the dead end. Doh! And you can't get to Versaille from deck 5 aft. Or some crazy thing. - With the exception of Teppanaki, it didn't seem to us that any of the specialty restaurants were remotely filled. Empty tables everywhere. Maybe it's the economy, but it didn't seem like we needed to be rushed to make a reservation. - We never had issues with getting into Aqua or Versaille. However, it seemed to us that those who were desperate to eat when the doors opened may have faced some issues. Our advice is to go at an odd time or after 7pm. - Try Versailles for breakfast and lunch just to get a comparison of the menus and quality. Pet Peeves//things we wonder - This is the same on every ship we've been on and I'm sure nothing will change it: The main cafeteria is ALWAYS in the center (or close it) on the same main upper level as everything else (pool, bars, kids club, exercise center, etc., etc.). In the Star's case, it is Deck 12. Below is staterooms, above is disjointed levels or only exterior walkways. The problem with this is that, unless you want to walk through the stateroom corridors, you are either passing through the main cafe and have to navigate around people with trays, or they have to avoid you. And you are either eating and constantly seeing people whiz by, OR you are whizzing by yourself and have to watch people eat (and more commonly on cruise ships, stuff their faces with piles of food on their plates) at all hours. This is our small plea for ship designers to end this practice. Please. It would be nice to eat in some semblance of privacy, even in a cafeteria, not have to dodge people to get from point A to point B and not to have to constantly watch other people eat. And now, since cleanliness is such a big thing (which is ok), even if you are "passing through," the hand sanitizer staff asks you to sanitize. I think we were getting drunk on just the alcohol passing through our skin. - Cruise ship ice. These are the "ice poops" that melt the instant they touch water. Please find a way to bring back cubes. - Maitre di' tipping at NON-freestyle cruises. They don't do any work. Why do we need to tip them? Or even be asked to tip them? - Humans eat too much. Wow. Please people, pace yourselves. They ain't gonna run out. POOLS/OUTSIDE FUN AND SPACES Kids spent a lot of time in the pool and ping pong tables and enjoyed their time around the ship. Like - Lots of hot tubs (6) and generally warmer than other ships we've been on. - Kiddie pool area. Best we've seen. At the back of the boat it is well outfitted with two small slides and wading pool. The best part is there is a hot tub where parents can soak while the kids play. - Main pool. Good size with two slides that dumped into smaller pools. Best we can recall on our previous ships. Couldn't get the kids out. They just entertained themselves. It was a good temp (84 degrees per the ship TV). Our Carnival cruise in January seemed to pull the water from the arctic even though we were in the Mexican Riviera. (Of course, water temp is relative to the outside temp, so sometimes the Star's seemed just right and then other times a little cool.) - Ping pong tables. There are two in a sheltered area by the kiddie pool so wind wasn't generally too much of a factor. And the box of supplies is right there. No need to run all the way back to the main pool to check them out. (One negative is that they took away one table for a tournament in the atrium and it took two days to bring it back and kids had to wait a while in turns to play on just the one. They should get another one for the tournament.) - Two golf ranges with clubs and balls already there. - Two chess sets (one port, one starboard) with bins right there for pieces, two shuffleboard courts and one corn-hole (bean-toss) sort of game court (see negatives below). - Lots of interesting spaces outside. Small tables with chairs abound as do deck chairs. - For the guys here: bathroom urinals on the pool deck (just off of the bar) have huge windows. Can't recall a more pleasurable "relievement." Neutral - There is only one main pool and it is uncovered. We thought there were two and one with a cover (must have been looking at the Pearl layout?). Very crowded with kids at times but that's what the pool is for. But we can imagine that in NOT-above-average-Alaskan-weather, the uncovered main pool is unused or unusable. - Sloped or amphitheatre style seating at the fore end of the pool. On the deck plan it looks like the 4 rows of chairs are on the same level, but they aren't. Can't decide if we liked it. On one hand, the deck chairs were away from the pool level (only tables down there) and it offered a good view of the pool but the pool space felt cramped. - Biergarten is just a glorified poolbar, but the wood tables and views over the pool and to the sides were nice. Sequestered a table and spent the glacier day here. Dislike - Two of the four main hot tubs were supposed to be for adults only but the signage was small and there was no policing. Kids in, kids out, kids in, kids out. All day long. - Chess set and corn-hole (bean toss) game on port side had no pieces. Kind of a shame. - Billiard table on deck 12 was always covered never saw any pool cues. Deck 13 at the back is dedicated to a helipad. For what reason we can't fathom. The NCL sister ship pearl docked next to us in port used the space for what looked like a large adult bar area. There are deck chairs up here, so we imagine this is a good sun-baking spot on Southern crusies, but the chairs were usually tied up for us. - If you are going to call something a Biergarten, you should have at least one German beer on tap (Heineken doesn't count) OR offer some microbrews. Alaskan Amber is nothing to snub your nose at, but at least take the theme up a notch. Make it different up there than elsewhere. - Seemed Very hard to navigate from the front outer decks of the ship to each other and to the interior. Lots of what looked like accessible doors were marked crew only. Some Sub-decks were dead eds. Kind of a maze. Maybe when the decks are full on a southern cruise this adds to the privacy. And maybe we never got our bearings, which I think is entirely true. Things to know - You can check out pool towels next to main pool. Pretty standard but the novice may not know. - Bring goggles. It's salt water in them there pools. Pet Peeves//things we wonder - Why is the overhead net on basketball courts on all ships are so low? To cut down on wind resistance? The only viable shot is a short flat jumper or layup. Chuckers need not apply. What's the point? Volleyball is worthless. (Note: The Pearl looked like it had a HUGE basketball court, with soccer goals, but we couldn't vouch for the net height.) - Why did that mother stand by while her son, aged 9 or 10, was gleefully kicking and throwing the chess pieces around the deck? No wonder there was only enough pieces for one chess board and no bag-toss pieces. Mother-of the-year to you sister. - What exactly does "No glass or bottles" by poolside mean and who does it apply to? It did seem a bit incongruent to have the sign and yet serve beer in bottles on deck. For us, it worked out because if a beer doesn't come in a glass bottle, we don't drink it (Ok, so we're beer snobs too.) INSIDE FUN/SPACES Liked - Shuffles card room was open all the time and had lots of games and lots of fresh decks of cards. Haven't seen that on a ship yet. Went multiple times. - Library was full of books. Haven't seen that on a ship either. Best we've seen. Big kudos. - The fact that the casino was tucked away on the ship. Almost never walked by it. Good from a kid perspective as well as a smoke perspective. - The Star Bar. Deck 13, next to Cagney's. Never saw anyone in there. Great, quiet place to play cards or read with a good view of the pool. A good hideaway. Don't tell anyone. - Free popcorn and snacks in Red Lion (and snacks in Gatsby's and possibly others). A good place for cards too. - Plenty of elevators, but they were full and slow to arrive. Why is this a"like"? See our Pet Peeves below. - Galleria liquor tasting. Yum. Just a mother's little helper or two to get through the afternoon. Neutral - Kids Klub looked fun—there is a bouncy floor, a McDonald's like jungle gym, and a dedicated theatre, but we never used it like we thought we would. Our kids seemed to be self-contained. - Library and card room were full of people like we've never seen. That's good, but seats/tables may be hard to come by. Disliked - Generally thought the ship felt crowded. To us it seemed that it was designed with narrow passageways and not a lot of quiet public seating inside. If the weather isn't great, we wouldn't know where to spend our day that isn't a bar without people streaming by . It felt like we were constantly walking past people "loitering" in the window seats, or dodging cameramenn in the atriums - Arcade only had very expensive games ($.50/$1.00). They might have extracted some quarters from the middle age set if they threw in a few games from our era. Asteroids and Galaxia NEVER get old. \ - The Red Lion: Good space, but if they are going to have an English pub they NEED TO SERVE ENGLISH BEER ON TAP. What's the point of a theme bar if you don't do what the theme does? Give us at least ONE. Please. Heineken and Dos Equis do not count. Also, the volume was up way too high in the back corners (along the corridor) of the "pub." Since those tables can't see the TV, there is no reason to pipe the volume there. And this is yet another space on the ship where the corridor passes right through it. Lots of traffic. - Great to have the multitude of fresh decks of cards in shuffles, but they were kind of cheap and not coated on both sides. (Ok, this one is a little petty, we know.) - If you look on the deck plan, there is Shuffles Card room and a "Reading and Writing room" next to it. This latter room is marked on a wall plaque as the "Card" room. However, what it actually was used for was the ship's "outlet mall/Christmas in July" room. Lots of discounted stuff on sale, all week, occupying valuable quiet interior space. Or more usable space for game playing which people seemed to be more interested in than buying bevelled alaskan chopping blocks. - It was odd that there were no goggles on sale at the Galleria Shop, but they miraculously appeared for sale at a kiosk at the main pool on Day 3. Magic. - No sanitizers inside our outside the restrooms that we recall. Yes, people should wash their hands, but a little sanitizer just for insurance wouldn't kill anyone. In fact it might save them. (Except the guy who came out of the stall in the restroom by the main pool on Tuesday about 2:37pm and didn't bother to wash his hands. Hey Buddy! Did you NOT see the constant reminders?) Things to know - Arcade games take quarters, not ship tokens. So sift them out of your piggy bank. - Take the time to read the plaques on the wall on the starboard side of the library and movie theatre. There are a couple of gems of history in there. - As per comments above, quiet interior space is hard to come by. You may have to hop from unoccupied space to unoccupied space throughout the day. Unused conference rooms may offer a quiet getaway. Pet Peeves/Things we wonder - Why was Bingo so packed? Either we don't swim in the same pond everyone else does, we are missing a trend, or there was nothing else to do on this boat. But there didn't seem to be a seat in the house. - Can the art auctions REALLY be making the cruise lines any money? We love Peter Max, but we didn't buy a piece of his 10 years ago on our first cruise and we aren't buying one now. It's getting old and annoying. There's a sucker born every minute, but it ain't us. (Well, okay, there was that 5'x6' hand painted cell of all the Simpson's characters on our Caribbean cruise in 2001, but they stopped the free champagne so we weren't drunk enough to buy it.). WARNING SPOILER ALERT: The art room's "secret unveiling" on Friday is a Thomas Kincade, Master of Light. Don't everyone rush at once. - Why able-bodied people (and you know who you are) refuse to take the stairs is beyond us. The elevators are full and never come in a timely fashion and rarely come at all to the bottom or top floors, so why are people waiting? WALK people. Burn off some of the buffet. The stairs are faster, especially going down. But maybe slow elevators hopefully will encourage more people to take alternative, non-mechanized transportation. ENTERTAINMENT We didn't make it a point to see all the shows and entertainers and events like trivia like we have on other cruises. There may have been some highs and lows we didn't see. Liked - Band that played on the first day at poolside. Played fun tunes like Buffet and Morrison. Not the typical poolside reggae rehash which you see everywhere. Unfortunately they only played on first day and the stage was silent the rest of the time. - Chinese acrobats in the Spinnaker Lounge (small stage vs the Star Theatre). Fun to see them up close. How that girl got herself through the tube the size of a wheelbarrow tire we will never know. - Woman playing acoustic tunes in Gatsby's on Sunday night. Very pleasant, good selection. Sorry we couldn't stay. - The Star Theatre is the best theatre venue on any ship we have ever been on. EVER. A feat of design and engineering. No obstructed views and a deep slope so you can see over the people in front. No tables to clamber around. The place was designed Broadway style to watch theatre and nothing else. Excellent. - Juggler Bryson Lang on night three. Pretty funny and talented. Enough to get the oohs and aahs from the crowd. One in our party was called on stage. He did a juggling tutorial later in the week. Kids are still throwing balls of socks in the air to practice. - Movie theatre. Very cool with relatively recent shows all day long. Be sure to keep up on the posted featured shows. At one point we thought all the theatre shows were the same as channel 15 movies, but that was not the case. Would be nice if they featured the schedule in the Freestyle Daily pub. - Karaoke in the Carousel. Very fun. We wished we had done this earlier in the cruise. Neutral - Open play Wii in the Carousel. Good idea, but someone who knows how the Wii works should manage this. And the controllers should have fresh batteries. Dislike - Second City troupe was not very good. We know improv is very tough and we were excited to see this "famous" act on the small stage but we could only stand 5 minutes before our cringing faces hurt. We stuck it out so the kids could watch but it got no better. It was billed as family friendly but there was sexual content. We're not prudes, but the cringing continued. - Movie Theatre could have done a better job of having true kid or family movies in the 6 to 10 timeslot. Also they screen was small for the size of the room and stage. Looked like they could have a fit a 16:9 ratio screen in there but movies showed in 4:3. - Fifth night was billed as a Chinese acrobat redux but it was a dash of the impressive elastic people mixed in with the choreographed dancing of the NCL troupe. Theme was tropical native something or other with what appeared to be dancing salad. In full disclosure, we've never been fond of straight interpretive dancing but this put some of us to sleep and received average reviews from those who could stay awake. We missed the singing revue night, and wished we had missed this instead. Things to know - It seemed like you could mostly eat and do all the shows in an evening by the way they were timed. Eating at 7 will do it. - There was a honeymooners cocktail reception in the Star Bar (for which we got kicked out). Since we had four kids playing cards with us, it was hard to talk our way in. HEALTH CLUB/SPA At least one person in our party visited the club every day. And most days three of the four of us made it. And the fourth was religious about taking the stairs. So yes, we did order two entrees on occassion. Liked - Plenty of aerobic machines (treadmills, rowing, stairmasters, elipticals, etc) with tvs. Only the first day (when everyone "starts" their regime) was it crowded. Then once the the majority of folks abandoned their cruise resolution, there were always machines available. Generally a good space and well laid out. - Cold towels in small fridge. Nice touch. (Although one in our party couldn't open the fridge. Probably too drunk from night before. Hint: Open from the left side.) Neutral - The weight equipment was odd. CYBEX brand. Not what we were used to. It seemed to have many settings or ways to customize height etc. Just felt very loose. - Could have had more "Bosu" and balls with more space for Yoga. There is space, just not enough. - Would have been nice to have the aerobics machines facing out the windows (many faced into the spa atrium) but the mats were infront of the windows and kiddie pool area obstructed front outside views. - Except for the first day, after which everyone realized a smoothie habit would implode their cruise cards, the Barong smoothie guy looked really, really, really lonely. Kind of felt bad for him. Business picked up in the afternoon though as he scooped out ice cream to the kids at the outside window. Disliked - They had ice water with cups on the first day. Then it never appeared again. There was a water fountain but it was working one day then not the next. Then it worked, but no cups. - Spa looked DIVINE with the private pool, hot tub, soaking tubs, deck chairs with a view, etc. but it cost $$$ just to walk past the front desk. $10 upcharge per day with a "treatment," $20 otherwise. "Specials" for couples all week. Other ships we have been on allowed use of at least the sauna/steam rooms and locker rooms after working out. Not here. Got to trudge back to your room (through the Market Cafe mind you) to get cleaned up. - A couple of the ellipticals were out of order for the latter half of the cruise. Thought the ship had a maintenance crew. Saw at least one checking paint chips for dry dock. - Rules stated no children under 13, but it wasn't enforced. Lots of kids playing on equipment. They've got tons of people to sell me a hot rock massage, but nobody monitoring the room. Maybe the smoothie guy could earn a little extra by donning a badge. The only time we saw the exercise staff all week outside of classes was one morning when the gal was burning up the elliptical and then tore it up on the treadmill. No wonder the two elipticals were broken. PORTS/EXCURSIONS - Except for part of our party doing a whale watch in Juneau (the other part met up with a college chum for a local's tour), we did not do the ship excursions. We liked all the ports and noted the exceptional (both positive and negative) below. We used our own feet or arranged transportation. Likes - Ketchikan: Get a map of the self-guided walking tour. Good tidbits to see include but are not limited to: Totem Center, Hatchery/Eagle Center, Married Man Trail. Note that the Totem Center and Hatchery are EASILY reachable. No need to book an excursion for this. - Juneau: Fish Hatchery. Holy Moly were there a lot of fish. And Seeing Sarah Palin's moving van parked in front of the Governer's house the day after she left office was a treat. A photo for the history books. - The Tracy Arm. Slow and beautiful. Both ways. - Skagway: The Skagway Float Tours (www.skagwayfloat.com) hike and float. Since most of the ship excursions were $$$$ and didn't take kids less than 8, we went with this outfit and did not regret it. Our guide Kelly was cheerful and had us in stitches in the first five minutes. She was chock full of information on the trail history, flora and fauna, had us try some different wild berries along the way, was great with the kids and seemed genuinely thrilled to spend time with us. The hike along the Chilkoot trail was steep in some early parts, but not strenuous and not long enough that exhaustion ensued. Our 6 year old did fine (although he can bike for 20 miles and roller blade non- stop) and the float easy. The float was enjoyable and she lets the kids steer the oars. Although the "snacks" were a bit meager (yummy smoked salmon alongside cheese, crackers and oreos) we highly recommend this local outfit. We also enjoyed the Skagway Town Museum. A small fee but neat artifacts and stories to tell. They have a scavenger hunt for kids. Nice touch. We didn't make it to the National Park museum and feel bad about it, so we don't know how this compares. In fact, we didn't plan our time too well after the float, so we missed a lot of the good stuff in Skagway. - Prince Rupert. Okay, you may call us crazy here and throw this review out in the trash right now (if you haven't already), but we found this port underrated and charming. Unfortunately, and shamefully, the cruise line treated it like a stepchild, to the extent that "Que," the cruise director came right and said in front of the Star Theatre crowd (and I quote): "Ah, Yes, tomorrow is a port day, but ah, there's really nothing to do in Prince Rupert, but we've still got room on our wonderful shore excursions! So get to the booking desk after the show." Shameful and derogatory. Despite Que's assertion of mediocrity, we found nuggets of gold there: The in-refurbishment Sunken Garden (quite a history if you ask around), the small fire museum (This town knows how to have fires. And you thought Rome burned. Wow.), the white Episcopal church on the hill (a huge highlight--- a lovely Brit opens it up on Thursdays, plays the organ and talks church and Prince Rupert history, its worth the walk, even if it rains. Too bad the other churches don't do it.), a humble art fair in downtown with a couple of surprises, and a splendid walk along the hillside to see some beautiful homes. Forget an excursion. Use the port to take a pleasant walk away from the crowds. - Sailing away from Prince Rupert. Also beautiful. (see tips below) Neutral - Skagway Brewing Company. Recommended by our guide. Beer was good, but it was loud (and the music kept fading in and out, a bald eagle must have been gnawing on the wires). Get some back patio seats and try the Spruce Tip beer, made with actual spruce tree tips. Other beers looked tasty too. When in Rome.... - Dejon Delights www.dejondelights.com. Great variety of smoked salmon and local spruce tip and birch syrups, but the young gal behind the counter was a sour puss. Totally not interested in having us in there and we were interested in spending $$$. After having so many free samples and wanting to come away with the syrup, we felt compelled, but we could have spent more if it wasn't for you, honey. - Mendenhall Glacier. Important to see, very cool (especially the bears feeding along the lower boardwalk), but it was CROWDED. With 4 ships in port, it felt like Old Faithful on July 4th weekend. Dislikes - Except Prince Rupert, towns are packed with (infested is more like it) with tourist shops and especially cruise line recommended (or "owned") stores. Our guide in Skagway showed us the row of RVs that Princess rents to house the people who run the seasonal jewelry stores (e.g. Diamonds International). - Cruise ship whale watch. Couple of spouts here and there. But other than that, a waste of $500. Given up on whale watches for life. We'll see them on the Discovery Channel. - No penguins on icebergs. Disappointing. Glaciers could have been cleaner. (Kidding.) - Captain Lars is no geological expert. He did a satisfactory job providing appropriate accolades to the surroundings, but slipped while going up the Tracy Arm when he said over the loudspeaker: "The wasser [sic] is very cloudy here due to the glacial silt. I do not know what silt is (heavy sigh), but you can look it up on Google. All I know is that it makes the water cloudy." Uh, captain, you've been up here what, 10 times in the last four months and you don't know what silt is? Don't you think you should know if it's eating away at your hull? And you want ME to look it up? Why? So your company can charge me $15.95 per minute for access charges? No, YOU look it up or hire a naturalist to talk to us. (Ok, nitpicking here. But really, who doesn't know what silt is? Especially since you've come up here to see glaciers.) - Short time in Juneau. There is more to see and people took advantage of every minute. We were supposed to all be on board by 1pm, but there must have been 200 people in line at 1:20. The NCL Pearl was waiting for our parking spot as people were boarding. Even had it's blinker on. Never seen that. - Skagway railway doesn't offer its "ride and hike" passage on Wedensdays, so you are forced to pay for the cruise ships tour to do this. - Glaciers are melting. I guess 3200 people piling on a 90,000 ton vessel, chugging up the coast and eating like vultures doesn't help. Things to know - Support the locals by shopping at "locally owned" stores. There are typically signs in the store fronts that will indicate which ones are locally owned or operative by residents. - Stay out on deck (or better, in the front adult hot tub with a bottle of wine) for the way OUT of the Tracy Arm. We didn't make it all the way to Sawyer Glacier, but when Captain Lars said he had to turn around due to the amount of ice in the water (which looked to us like the ice poops from the ship's ice machine), the decks vacated. (It was 6 o'clock by then, and darn it, people gotta eat ya' know. It was only 2:30pm when we had our last meal.) The evening was quiet, peaceful and downright beautiful as the sun went down. The same can be said for leaving Prince Rupert. It's a beautiful ride south and the next day at sea is open waters (and foggy for us). So it's your last chance for the Alaskan/Canadian beauty. (We couldn't go through the Vancouver Strait for one reason or another...something about tides or currents or that Captain Lars owed somebody some money and didn't want to see them. Kidding.) - You can get to the Juneau hatchery and Mendenhall glacier by bus. Be a local and save yourself some coinage. Pet Peeves/things we wonder - Cruise ship shopping recommendations. Please. Stop. It's a waste of paper. (But since there's a sucker born every minute, and I guess keeps our cost of cruising down, so it continues.) - We wonder if people REALLY do buy overpriced jewelry and fabulously, unbelievably wondrous tanzanite while on cruises? Didn't they just pluck a couple grand down for this adventure? Do they really think they get a better deal than at home? If you don't think so, don't worry folks, they'll be a Diamond's International in EVERY port you EVER visit on a cruise ship. (Except Prince Rupert, since it's apparently the bastard child of the Inside Passage). - We wonder if the guy who bought a 12 pack of Miller Lite in Ketchikan REALLY thought he could bring it on board and drink it? We could not suppress our laughter when the security guy said: "This is your tag, and we'll return the beer at the end of your cruise." Priceless look on the guy's face. SERVICE Likes - Embarkation and Disembarkation was VERY smooth and easy at pier 66 in Seattle. Just make sure you are in front of the bus hordes when embarking. Pick/up and drop off is a bit narrow though. If you can haul your bags a block north, you can avoid the bottleneck. - Glass of champagne upon embarkation. Nice touch. - Loved that we were not ordered to vacate our rooms on the last day. Other ships we've been on, you have to be "out by 9" or some such thing so people are wondering around like vagabonds toting luggage and taking up space. - Overall, staff was good. No complaints except some inconsistencies in the room steward duties. They were pleasant folks, we just kind of felt like we had to be proactive about things. Like they kind of got to our end of the hall, got weary and let their guard down. As noted above, Versailles Matre' di was cheerful, some waiters went out of their way to entertain the kids. Doesn't take much. Dislike - On embarkation (and one other night), when you walk to the main pool, through the narrow entry, there were bar folks thrusting foofy cocktails in your hand as if they were free. But Noooo. Once it left their hand, THEN they asked for your cruise card. And then you find out what it actually is and how much it costs. Four problems here: It's presumptive, it's dishonest, it created a huge bottleneck and is counter to the sanitation practices as the same glass could be handed to multiple people in this shenanigan. - Still annoyed that Captain Lars didn't know what silt was, but more annoyed that Que, the Cruise Director, derided Prince Rupert publicy the way he did. The town didn't deserve it and it was done soley to push people to the ship excursions and because there were no Diamonds International shops in town. Shameful enough to mention it twice. Okay. That's it. Whew. We hope it was helpful. Yes, there was a ton of nitpicking and cynicsm and inside jokes, but we were getting punchy (and a little tipsy). So apologies for that. We would more than likely, if the price is right, do an NCL cruise again, but we'd hesitate over the bed arrangement and the food, which we hoped would have been better. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
First, let me say thank you to all who sponsor and all who have participated in this Review website.  As newcomers, we found it an extremely helpful resource in planning our trip.  I come now to see what others thought of the cruise we ... Read More
First, let me say thank you to all who sponsor and all who have participated in this Review website.  As newcomers, we found it an extremely helpful resource in planning our trip.  I come now to see what others thought of the cruise we just finished with NCL's Star to Alaska.Next, let me say that we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, NCL, and the Star.  Perhaps, we are somewhat naive, not having cruised previously.  But, we've talked with friends and did a fair amount of research before making our decision, listened to both the good and the bad, and (I think) understood that there would be aspects of the adventure that we might not enjoy.  Still, we found it a great experience, and are somewhat surprised by a few of the more negative comments we've seen recently posted.  Like all else in life, I've come to appreciate that what you get out of a venture depends upon what you put into it....However, there are definitely things that I would not do again, and things (cautions, if you will) that I think should be shared with other first time cruisers.  So many such things that I think it worth registering and sharing my thoughts here for what they are worth.  So, here goes.  In no particular order of priority.  1.  Were I doing it again, I would probably not use a Travel Agent.  I've always been somewhat of a DIY guy and would have put this trip together by myself were it not for my wife, whose specific wishes had to be taken into account.  The information and communications received at various points from the TA and from NCL were not totally consistent, and I wound up with the impression that despite the recommendation from others that she knew her stuff   the TA really didn't seem too familiar with NCL ... even though she was the one who recommended NCL rather than HAL or Princess.  And, I got the impression that NCL was rather reluctant to speak about some aspects of the package for fear of stepping on the TA's toes.  For example, each seemed to think that our air arrangements to Seattle were the other's responsibility.  I KNOW that I could have and would have done things differently (and better) had I booked the air myself.2.  We were somewhat shocked by the extent of salesmanship that we witnessed aboard NCL.  We were cautioned to expect it, but never realized how much it could detract from the enjoyment of the cruise, if you don't make a concerted effort to tune it out.  ...And, you CAN ignore it and avoid it!  Don't go to the "cruise consultant"'s shopping info sessions.  The effort is more than an offer of help find reliable bargains in port cities; it is a luring of shoppers with promises of free gemstones, umbrellas, rain parkas, and charm bracelets if you visit designated jewelry stores when you arrive in port.  Suffice it to say, we saw lines of fellow passengers in those jewelry stores, but not one person coming back to ship with an umbrella, gemstone, or other keepsake of anything above CrackerJack box value.  Don't waste your time!3.  Also, the sales effort could easily have left me feeling that NCL had its hand in my pocket every time I turned aound.  ...You're going ashore?  There's a person in an animal costume and a photographer there as you disembark ready to take a complimentary photo,  which you can pick up at the ship's photo shop for prices ranging from $7 to $25.  That sort of thing cheapens the cruise experience, I think, and can be avoided.  You want a "dress-up" photo of the two of you and the family?  NCL has photographers in the ship's reception area with various backdrop screens.  Again, you'll pay a price for that.  We did buy a couple of photos.  ...But, we got equally nice shots, if not better, for free by asking fellow passengers to use our camera.      You want to play bingo?  $2 a card.  And, 6 raffle tickets for 20 bucks?  Sorry, but that's probably not why you've chosen to go to Alaska.  Too bad NCL doesn't understand that.  You want to experience an art auction with free champagne?  Be prepared to waste an hour or two listening to a spiel about schlock artists, their paintings, and the delivery charges.  Likewise, wih the jewelry sales on board ship.   Ignore such pitches as you would the 3-card Monte games on the streets of New York... and don't hesitate to let NCL know of your discomfort with such "special opportunities."4.  Food.   Yes, we agree the food in the Market Place (Deck 12) was not anything special. But, it was not bad or disappointing, as one reviewer seemed to suggest.  It was plentiful, well presented, and of a greater varierty than I had anticipated.  However, like so many cafeteria or buffet efforts experienced elsewhere, it was not as enjoyable as it could have been in a non-Freestyle arrangement.   For, what really detracted from the experience with the Market Place food was the ambiance....my fellow passengers.  (As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and it is us.")  They were many (of course) - and loud, and - I don't mean to sound elitist - sometimes not so schooled in etiquette.  Given the international make-up of our passenger list, I guess one has to expect that.  But, I didn't enjoy it, and by Day 2 we learned to dine in the Versaille Restaurant, or the other dining rooms, even if we had to incur a cover charge. (Desiderata...."Avoid loud and bositerous individuals, for they are vexations to the soul.")  In my book, ambiance is always worth half the price of a restaurant, at home or aboard a ship.  So, make your trip enjoyable.  Pay the $10 or $20 cover charge for the EXCELLENT service in the restaurants.  Without exception, we found it worth it.5.  Excursions.  We took two of them through NCL.  The Mendenhall Glacier and Salmon Bake in Juneau, and the White Pass -Yukon RR trip in Skagway.  Thoroughly enjoyed them.  Again, had I to do it all another time, I would probably  book them on my own.  But, innocents that we were, we put our credence in NCL's guarantee that they would leave the light on if we arrived late back at the ship.  We found that the Juneau excursion left us no time to explore the downtown area; still, I'm glad we chose it.      People have complained about what some call a "needless" or "wasted" stop in Prince Rupert, BC.  I totally disagree.  Again, you'll get out of it what you put into it.  Go.  Talk with the locals.   They are very congenial and will be glad to share a bit about themselves and BC.  Go to the museum.  Go to Smile's Restaurant.  Find a street fair.  Watch the eagles.  Visit the cargo termnal.  My opinion?  One of the nicest stops we made.     Ketchikan?  Also a good port.  I see that Cruise West has decided to cut Ketchikan from its itinerary next year and to add Anchorage instead.  Patron preference.  So be it.  But, we got more out of our self-styled visit to Ketchikan than we expected.  Imagine getting to meet Israel Stonridge in person, and seeing him carving totems!  Imagine talking with a young Haida Indian who thoroughly loves her work and her heritage, and who can talk with eagles.  It was a wonderful stop, we felt.6.  Do go to the NCL -U sessions on board ship, the half hour or 45 minute presentations about Alaska, or the history and culture of the place for which the cruise you are taking is named !.  They are not "great" lectures.  But, they are at least an easy way to get some feel for why you chose to take a cruise to Alaska.  If you want to spend your time in the casino or in the pool, wonderful. But, you can do that for a lot less money than by paying the premium for a trip to Alaska.7.  We encountered a number of passengers who seemed to express surpise about NCL's $12pp/per diem service charge, or about other incidental charges that appeared on their final statements of account.  I guess my only reaction is:  don't people read anymore?  Do you go into a gourmet supermarket, pick up a loaf of fresh baked bread, and express surprise at the price when you get to the cash register?  Read the fine print and ask questions before you sign up for the cruise.Finally, the weather.  I wanted to do this earlier in the season, not at the peak.  But our TA convinced us to go in July.  It turned out to be her best recommendation.  Although others told us to take rain gear and to dress in layers for chilly weather,  we had the good fortune of an exceptional spell of clear, warm, dry weather.On balance, we were impressed with this, our first cruise.  The ship was clean, comfortable, the crew was always polite, professional, and helpful.  NCL's concern about cleanliness and hand-sanitization was also a comforting touch.  Would we do it again?  Probably.  (If we can afford it).  Would we choose NCL again?  Maybe, maybe not.  But, don't write them off.  It's a good cruise, a good ship. I wish you safe passage.Still walkin', Boss.    Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
ON THE POSITIVE SIDE: the ship itself was wonderful.  It was very clean, the cabin (mini-suite) was a nice size, and the exercize room and spa more than met my expectations.  The food was surprisingly very good.  I say surprisingly ... Read More
ON THE POSITIVE SIDE: the ship itself was wonderful.  It was very clean, the cabin (mini-suite) was a nice size, and the exercize room and spa more than met my expectations.  The food was surprisingly very good.  I say surprisingly because I've traveled other cruise lines before and the food was pretty bad.  We always ate at one of the "free" restaurants and were more than satisfied.  Also, the captain was very nice and gave us an update everyday, until, unfortunately, one of the comediennes made fun of him in her act.  ON THE NEGATIVE SIDE:  What I didn't like was the constant sales by the ship's crew.  Come on, this is our once a year vacation that we need for relaxation.  This sales crap is nothing new to cruising.  Constant harassment.  The first time in the spa, the person tried to sell me the oil she used.  So, I  have to say "no thank you".  Then she hands me the check to sign, with the 18% tip already charged, and says that there is another line in case I wanted to add another tip.  Che???????  So, there went my 25 minutes of relaxation out the port window.  Also, during certain festivities, they would hand us a drink as we walked into the room and if we took it, they said that will be $7.95.   Che??????  Back went the drink. And, as someone mentioned in a previous post, bingo boy was always trying to get us to play bingo.  I did play the last day.  And, it is on a machine.  I haven't yet decided if I like the machine or not.  But, I did start to like bingo boy by the end of the cruise.  The biggest rip off, though, were some of the land tours.  The rail road train in skagway is very expensive, boring, over priced and, just a plain waste of time.  And, they don't even take you to the end.   But, there was something worse than that.  We took the "Best of Seattle" land tour on our way to the airport.  It was approximately $69 each.  All the friggen bus did was drop us off at Pike's Market (across the street from where the boat is docked) and dropped us off at the Space Needle (about .5 mile from the boat) and then dropped us off at the airport.  Cost of the Space Needle was included.  We tried to get the cheaper tour, "Seattle City Tour" for approx. $49 but they told us it was sold out.  NOT!  They apparently told everyone that.  It was a Bait and Switch my friends.    There was a Seattle Shuttle that charged $12 per person to the airport.BOTTOM LINE:  I would go on an NCL cruise again, would take a balcony room (really not much difference from a mini-suite), would ignore all of the sales pitches, and would find my own transportation to the airport.  Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We flew into Seattle the day before and stayed at the Homewood Suites by Pikes Market. It was not what I had hoped for. There was no assistance w/ luggage, the pool or hot tub were not working, and only one elevator working for the ... Read More
We flew into Seattle the day before and stayed at the Homewood Suites by Pikes Market. It was not what I had hoped for. There was no assistance w/ luggage, the pool or hot tub were not working, and only one elevator working for the entire hotel. They did have a nice free breakfast and the room was clean. We have been to Seattle before, our daugher went to college there, so we had already done site seeing on previous trips. Seattle is a wonderful city with some of the nicest people I have ever met. We arrived at the pier a little early thinking we could just drop off our luggage and walk around by the ships but were told we could go ahead and avoid the lines and start boarding. It was quick and simple. Our rooms were on the 7th deck, right side of the ship w/ balconies. The food on the ship is not as bad as people say. Some things we didn't like but other people seemed to really enjoy them. We did eat at the specialty japanese restraunt one night but I don't think it was worth the money. The food was over cooked and salty for my taste. The sushi was great. We only at the buffet for breakfast a couple of times, but it is the same menu everyday. All and all I enjoyed most of my meals. Alaska is beautiful. We went zip lining in Ketchikan and it was wonderful. The guides did a great job and my daughters laughed the entire time. In Juneau we were scheduled to go on the helicopter/dogsled trip. The weather was terrible so it was cancelled. What was disappointing was the lack of customer service from the company. They never offered to try to rebook it for the next day in Skagway and were actually really rude when I spoke w/ them on the phone. We wasted the day walking around town. I wouldn't book a helicopter unless I knew the weather was going to be great. Otherwise you don't get to do anything. There were some great things to do there and since we got cancelled late, we weren't able to rebook anything else. In Skagway we were again trying to helicopter/dogsleed.(My daughters dream flight) We had high hopes since we dock next to the airport and watched the helicopters take off and land all morning. We had a 1:00 flight and when we went me our guide I was told our flight was cancelled. No explanation, nothing. We continued to watch the helicopters take off and land. I had to scramble to find something for our family to do so late in the day. Luckily we were able to go to the dog sled camp and Shilo made it fun for us. When I returned home I wrote the helicopter company a letter asking why this had happened. They have never responded. I wouldn't waste my money w/ a company that obviously doesn't care about the people they are supposed to be taking care of. In Prince Ruppert we went whale watching and it was raining the entire time. We did see some whales and eagles. We enjoyed it and the people on the boat were helpful and answered all the questions everyone had. We had rain most of the trip. We had fog so bad on the way back that the fog horn was used for most of the return trip. Getting off the ship was quick and simple. We had a later flight so we enjoyed a last breakfast and then carried our stuff off and left. I would recommend this trip to everyone. Alaska is so beautiful and the wildlife is amazing. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Having cruised on Carnival in the past, we wanted to upgrade to NCL for our honeymoon, as they give the impression that they are a luxury cruise line.  What a mistake!  The food was mediocre at best, even at the pay restaurants (which ... Read More
Having cruised on Carnival in the past, we wanted to upgrade to NCL for our honeymoon, as they give the impression that they are a luxury cruise line.  What a mistake!  The food was mediocre at best, even at the pay restaurants (which almost all restaurants were).  The dining times were limited, and there was always a wait for a table at peak dinner times (530 to 8pm).  We felt like we were being sold to the whole time; before every single show, morning, noon and night, "bingo boy" would stand up and try to sell lottery tickets to the crowd.  In order to stand any chance at all at bingo (prizes were around 300-400 bucks) you had to spend $80 on a machine that played FOR you, taking all the fun out of going to bingo.  We received no information about any of our ports of call other than where to buy diamonds and other jewels, and each port had the exact same jewelry stores.  Instead of a tip added to your bill at the end of the trip, they charge a $12 per person per day "service fee" which cannot be adjusted by the guests (other cruise ships give you the option of adjusting your gratuity based on level of satisfaction with your crew).  Likely because you are not assigned the same waiter every night as you would be on another cruise, the wait staff in particular was not interested in doing their jobs well or being attentive in the slightest.  I have had friendlier service in a fast food restaurant.NCL was a complete disappointment; there were at least four other cruise ships in each of the ports we visited at the same time as us, so I know there are better options out there to see the same beautiful scenery of the Inside Passage without sailing with NCL, and I strongly suggest traveling on another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
I just finished my cruise from Seattle to Alaska and back on the NCL Star. To keep the review short, I will NEVER EVER do a cruise with NCL EVER AGAIN!!!! This was my 1st cruise. The advertisements about "free style cruising" ... Read More
I just finished my cruise from Seattle to Alaska and back on the NCL Star. To keep the review short, I will NEVER EVER do a cruise with NCL EVER AGAIN!!!! This was my 1st cruise. The advertisements about "free style cruising" seem very attractive to young adults, like myself and my wife. The advertisement spoke of fine dining, relax atmosphere, and romantic nights. All I can say is that, all the advertisement was Bull, which, by the way describes the food on this cruise. It is so bad, that I would not feed it to my dog!!! To put NCL Star's food into perspective, I would like to compare it to Las Vegas. If you've been to Vegas, you've seen buffets from $5.99-$39.99. Let's say that NCL's food was worse than the $5.99 buffet. First off, the Aqua and Versaille "restaurant" share the same kitchen. Though our first 2 nights were good, the rest of the meals were horrible. Everything tasted of frozen food piled on with salt. Chicken was dried. Lamb had no taste. Fish tasted rancid. Eggs were always overcooked, and to top it all up, you have to wait inline and in many instances, wait 1hr before being served your shitty meal. This describes the "restaurants" of Aqua and Versailles on the boat. Though both have great decor, the food is just plain BAD!!! One bright point is that the deserts were always good to very good. So hats off to the pastry chef, and the toilet bowl for the rest. As for the buffet, all I can say is that the Aqua and Versaille, as terrible as they were, seem like gourmet food compare to the garbage that they serve here. Absolutely NOTHING was good here, EVER. If you like fried frozen dinner for food, this is the place for you. The Blue Lagoon, likewise, was not any better. The fancy restaurants of Le Bistro and Soho were much better. These restaurants require $15-$25 surcharge, and the food is generally pretty good. For the price, it is worth the value. Service tended to be good and fast, and you avoid the crowds. Unfortunately, they don't open for breakfast and lunch (I think). Still after forking over $1000 for the cruise per person, paying even more for dinner just doesn't seem right. I would have gladly paid $150 on another cruiseline for hassle free cruise experience. Overall, if you're FIVE (age), FIFTY-FIVE (age), or Family, then you might find this cruise bearable. I mean, I am assuming that food at nursing homes and cafeteria food at school may seem comparable to NCL Star's food. BTW ages 5 and 55 dominate this NCL Star cruise to Alaska. If you're in your 30s, you'll definitely feel out of place, and NCL does nothing to make you feel comfortable. If you enjoy decent to good food for your cruise, you should stay away from the NCL Star. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Long sunny days, fantastic scenery, and a lovely ship.  "Captain Lars" showed us forested islands, endless snowcapped mountains and whale feeding grounds.  He docked at charming Inside Passage ports and took us up narrow ... Read More
Long sunny days, fantastic scenery, and a lovely ship.  "Captain Lars" showed us forested islands, endless snowcapped mountains and whale feeding grounds.  He docked at charming Inside Passage ports and took us up narrow Endicott Arm to the massive Dawes Glacier.  He treated us to an exceptional cruise, but said not to expect such fine weather next time!The Norweigan Star:Seattle's Pier 66 is in the middle of the downtown waterfront so my sister, brother-in-law and I enjoyed a great view from the minute we stepped aboard the Star.  We tried to upgrade to a balcony cabin but the ship was sold out.  It turned out that our "outside with picture window" was perfect.  The glass was clear and being on deck 5 meant that we were close to the water for viewing whatever passed our way.This ship provided excellent value.  "Free Style" dining was a pleasure and will bring me back to NCL.  A small negative: some dishes were too salty.  However, the lobster served on Thursday night was tender and sweet.  The beef at the carving station in the Market Cafe was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  Lots of variety.I bought a week-long spa pass, but with the warm weather and whale-watching topside, it was hard to find time to use it.  I learned a lot about Alaska from the wonderful naturalist onboard, and about whales from "budget queen" who was on this cruise - thank you.Watch the Chinese Acrobats when they perform at the Spinnaker Lounge, and go to the last night performance at the Stardust Theater - if just to applaud the captain, crew and staff when they file on stage.Ports of Call:There is a lot of information posted on Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, so I'll report on Prince Rupert.  This small Canadian city is surrounded by water and mountains.  There are tourist shops at Cow Bay near the dock, but for a chance to meet local artisans and gardeners go up to Third Avenue for Thursday's street market.  Butze rapids and the cannery museum are a cab ride away, but the impressive Museum of Northern British Columbia is just up the hill from the ship.  That evening, a group of First Nation drummers and dancers performed in the nearby Pacific Mariner's Memorial Park.  Thank you, Prince Rupert.Magical Moments:Mt. Rainier sinking into the sea as we sailed northward from Seattle.Whales in the evening at Snow Pass north of Ketchikan.The first glimpse of Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau.Inspiration at Yakutania Point, Skagway.When my sister, brother-in-law and I each gave this cruise a "10."  Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
My husband and I sailed on the NCL Star on June 20, 2009.  We are both in our early 50's and had looked forward this trip for a very long time, (saving up a lot of reward points and airline miles along the way).  And what a ... Read More
My husband and I sailed on the NCL Star on June 20, 2009.  We are both in our early 50's and had looked forward this trip for a very long time, (saving up a lot of reward points and airline miles along the way).  And what a wonderful trip it was!  Alaska is certainly a beautiful place to visit, and the NCL Star is a beautiful way to get there! We flew Miami-St. Louis-Seattle on American Airlines -  flew First Class by upgrading our economy seats with AAdvantage miles, well worth all those months of saving miles for the long flight!  Arrived in Seattle on Friday night at 9:50 pm and stayed at the Radisson Hotel Gateway Seattle-Tacoma Airport - used ThankYou Network points to pay for the room - and found it to be quite nice.  The hotel is only a long block from the airport.  We saw some people actually walking down a small hill to get to the hotel, but since we had 3 large bags we chose to use the complementary shuttle, which picked us up within 5 minutes after we called them.  The hotel was nice and clean, the 'sleep number bed' was very comfortable, and the restaurant served a very good breakfast buffet.  I think this hotel was a much better value than the Holiday Inn SeaTac where we stayed on our return, but more on that later.  Our shuttle driver told us about a Cruise Shuttle available for $12 pp, which we booked at the reception desk.  We were picked up at 12:00 noon Saturday morning and were at the pier by 12:25 pm. Check in at Pier 66 was a breeze.  We dropped off our luggage on entering and went through a long but very fast line to the security check.  Since we had a Mini-suite, we qualified for Priority Boarding, which meant we did not have any wait to check in - even though the regular line seemed to go very quick also.  Upon boarding we were greeted by friendly waiters offering champagne or orange juice - I got one of each so I could make myself a mimosa - it was a great beginning to a wonderful cruise.  We were told our cabin would be ready by 2:00 pm.  We took a quick tour of the ship, had a burger by the pool and settled in at the front of the ship to watch the beautiful view of Seattle's waterfront.  The go ahead to go to the cabin was given at about 2:00 pm, and our luggage was delivered to the cabin about 30 minutes later. Our cabin,  a mini-suite on deck 11 forward, was spacious and very comfortable.  The closet was a very nice size - thanks to a previous post I had read I found the light in the closet (red button in the back under the top shelf) - with lots of shelves and plenty of hangers (Yes, I over-packed and had too many clothes)  There was a king sized bed, a sofa, a small table and two chairs.  A wall unit housed the 13" TV, a coffee maker with supplies for regular and decaf coffee (that were replenished daily), and  refrigerator/mini bar which was well stocked with beverages which were priced comparable to the bars.  We had a full bath, including a regular sized bathtub which was a nice surprise!  The toilet was separated by a sliding glass door which provided some privacy if two people wanted to use the facilities.  The best part of the cabin was the shaded balcony with two lounge chairs.  Our sliding glass windows provided magnificent views, even from the bed!  Our room steward, Romulo, was great, the room was made up the minute we stepped out to breakfast every morning, and we had turn down service everyday- (including the cute towel animals and the chocolate mint on our pillow)  I found the staff on the NCL Star to be great.  Everyone we met was always eager to help.  Frankly I found the $12 service fee charged by NCL was a fair amount for the kind of service we received on board. Since it was quite windy and chilly on deck, The Spinnaker Lounge with its floor to ceiling windows became our home while at sea.  They had Bingo everyday - you may want to wait to the last day to take advantage of the "jackpot" - as well as various shows at different times which were generally fun to watch.  The shows at the Stardust Theater were very good, we specially enjoyed "The Music of the Night" which was a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber showcasing his most popular hits sang by the members of the ship's show cast.  The Chinese Acrobats and the Magic show were wonderful also. Freestyle dinning is one of my favorite parts of NCL Cruises.  I love being able to eat wherever and whenever I chose.  My husband and I had breakfast and lunch at Versailles Restaurant most days, and had dinner at Acua or Versailles.  We had visited Cagney's and Le Bistro on previous cruises, and found them to be excellent, however we were very pleased with the food at the two main restaurants and found no need to spend the extra money on this cruise.  There was a "Chocoholic Buffett" at the Marketplace Buffett one night which was fantastic!  By the way, Versailles Restaurant has Staircases going down from the 7th floor Elevator Exit, but if you are unable to take stairs, simply take the Center elevator down to the 6th floor and enter through the side entrance - this tip was given to us by a helpful waiter when he found out my husband could not take stairs due to recent knee surgery. The worst part this cruise was that it ended too soon!  We returned to Seattle on Saturday and stayed at the Holiday Inn SeaTac on Saturday and Sunday - booked using WorldPoint rewards -  This hotel was disappointing, as it does not compare favorably to the Radisson Gateway.  This is an older hotel and it shows.  The halls were musty, the bathroom was tiny, and the service was fair.  The hotel restaurant is understaffed and the prices are high for the quality of the food. All in all we had a great time.  Getting to Alaska was the best part of the trip, traveling the Inside Passage you get to see snow capped mountains, luscious forests, waterfalls, quaint little towns, and the ever changing seascapes.  The Star went up the Tracy Arm Fjord, which was magnificent.  Even though we enjoyed the Shore Excursions, there was enough to see just sitting on our balcony to make the whole trip worth it.  This was truly the trip of a lifetime, and the NCL Star is a beautiful way to get there. 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Sail Date June 2009
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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