14 Norwegian Star British Columbia Cruise Reviews

Embarkation - This was my first time EVER using the Bell Street Pier (#66) in Seattle and I actually thought it was okay, although parts of it were strangely laid out. We got our luggage dropped off and got inside. We were about 40 minutes ... Read More
Embarkation - This was my first time EVER using the Bell Street Pier (#66) in Seattle and I actually thought it was okay, although parts of it were strangely laid out. We got our luggage dropped off and got inside. We were about 40 minutes early for boarding, but lots of chairs and they had juice and water if I saw right. On the way in, we had to go through the photographers (we just said no thanks) but they wouldn't let us pass those that wanted to stop and have theirs done because "that would be cutting in line"... Only a minor annoyance though... No biggie. Got on and started exploring. One of my friends we went with had been on the Star before and knew the layout pretty well. GOOD LUCK finding the Aqua restaurant if you're new to the ship though... we were right in front of it, and it still took a minute to see it. (The entrance is wedged into the middle of a bank of elevators) Decor - I love the metal art deco style pieces over the elevator banks, and the wood paneling along the corridors (even if it's faux, it still made the ship look classy.) I've never seen a ship with an atrium more than 3 decks tall so this was kind of cool too. The public rooms were all quite elegant and inviting. However, once NCL got the ceilings, walls, lights, linens, etc I think they remembered they were on a budget, because even from a Vegas or cruise ship approach, most of the carpet was just horrendous. Lifeboat Drill - Yeah, they had one on the 1-day (funny as most predicted NCL wouldn't and the Volendam would the next day... they didn't...) but in doing so I got to see a different line go through their motions. I think the life jackets are MUCH better designed. More compact, easier to figure out (not that they're difficult, but compare the 2 and HAL's lifejackets are borderline logic puzzles) The requested quiet on deck with no talking, drinking or smoking and everyone complied. They stand you all in rows of 4 and it was much easier for everyone to get by as this was going on. Not once did they have to remind everyone to be quiet (it happens EVERY drill I've done...), then before anyone left, they requested that everyone take their lifejacket off, fold it back and wrap the strap on it so it was compact again and then proceed back to the rooms to return them. Public rooms are open again, wash your hands, report gastro illness please... no charges for exams or medicine in these instances (HAL does the same, but doesn't mention no charges for it which I think freaks people out... not knowing how much it might be, they stay quiet about it and possibly spread it inadvertently) Ship Layout - Simply put, it wasn't HAL, and HAL is what I know... so it took a little while, but by the end I had it down. Dinner - La Trattoria is one of the optional restaurants with a charge, but only $10, and the food was GREAT. I got the beef carpaccio which was decent, and the salmon scalloppini which was amazing. It was over a white bean ragout with ham, carrots and some other vegetables. I could do that dinner every night of the cruise on a longer one. No room for dessert by the end, but the choices sounded pretty good. Entertainment - The show was called "Band on the Run" and it was fantastic. It was a throwback to the 70s and while I enjoy the majority of the shows I've seen on HAL, and while "enjoyed" is a good thing, this show absolutely blew the mind of every single one of us in the group. The music variety was great, lots of costume changes, great singers, the level of energy and precision was right on and they got the audience involved. Simply amazing! The White Party - While it seemed a little gimmicky when I read about it on the website about 3 days before the cruise, and had NO clue it was actually going to BE ON this cruise, I had a phenomenal time. It was held in the Spinnaker Lounge which is directly above the bridge and forward at the top of the ship (like the Crow's Nest, all the way forward, lots of windows all around) During the day it seemed a little more mellow but was also the impromptu sailaway party location since the weather was crap. At the White Party they obviously encourage you to wear white... I could have planned better had I known it was happening, but I got by alright with what I brought for 2 1-day cruises. Lots of varying music, but mostly modern songs currently on the radio (some throwbacks to 70s 80s 90s and current) Ice sculptures all over, a SNOW BLOWER right above the dance floor. The atmosphere was amazing and we all had such a good time. We ended around 1:30 but I heard it went until after 4am... Blue Lagoon - Afterhours food available in the middle of the night. While by no means the best food I have had on a cruise ship, the fact I was able to order a spinach and artichoke dip and fish and chips and with my friend getting a grilled chicken sandwich and the food tasted pretty good and was up in less than 5 minutes, this was a great destination to round out the night. Souvenir Glasses (A CONSTANT annoyance) - Is it typical for NCL to basically tell you they "don't HAVE any glasses that aren't souvenir glasses"?? We got our first drinks off to the side of the waterslides under the covered area and they came in the tall plastic neon glasses and ran about $10. None of us wanted the glasses but we just took the "oh well, lesson learned approach" then we went up to the Bier Garten (I don't remember what time, sorry I missed everyone) and ordered my drink. He held up the same kind of glass as I didn't even keep the first time and said "8.95?" to which I replied "No thanks. A regular glass is fine." I get the drink in a little glass that couldn't have been more than 8-10 ounces and find out when I go to sign the receipt, this was a different souvenir glass with the Star's hull paint on it that is SEVEN ninety five... Feeling totally taken again I realized everything must be a souvenir glass unless it's just clear and steered away from the cocktails for a while and had Bud Light. Later after getting wine at the Star Bar right before our dinner at La Trattoria and enjoying a couple bottles with dinner with our group we went to the show. We ordered our drinks, specified REGULAR PLAIN GLASSES, NOT THE SOUVENIR KIND before the show started and waited quite a while. The guy came back JUST as the show was starting and they asked for no talking and handed us our drinks... in the tall, neon plastic glasses. Not in a position to argue during the show, we sucked it up once again. After some shopping we went to the SPinnaker Lounge until about 1:30 and my friends had a few run-ins with these glasses too. He would specify a plain clear glass and they'd put it in a souvenir glass. He'd call them on it and they'd put it in a plain glass, but then tried to charge him a higher price (by $1.50) for the exact same thing he'd been drinking all night and paid the same price for each time up til then. He called them on that, and I saw the guy give him an incredibly dirty look, then find someone to fix it. After seeing that display, I kept it to buckets of Bud Light the rest of the night between a few of us. There was absolutely no way they could try to do anything with that, and the wandering drink order guys in Spinnakers were AWESOME about making sure the aluminum bottles (which I found out the hard way aren't twist top like every other Bud Light in the world) were getting opened just as we needed them. To be continued, because we took this issue to the... Front Office: and they actually initiated contact with us as we went about $20 over our cash deposit we made the next morning. We told them we were finishing getting ready and would be there in 10-15 minutes. "Well, we're closing NOW" was the reply. My friend grabbed some more cash and ran down there since he WAS ready at the time. He mentioned he was happy to pay any overages (but explained the entire souvenir glass ordeal and that it was ridiculous) "Well we can't go around and talk to all the different servers and bartenders you had to see what happened, so you need to pay this. We're not adjusting it" He proceeded to explain he was happy to pay for every cocktail, beer, etc... but the extra couple dollars on every drink for stuff we weren't even keeping was ridiculous. He even said "and we didn't know the first time, as this is our first cruise on NCL... you can keep the charge on for that one... whatever..." to which the Supervisor type guy at the desk just repeated the amount we were over from our deposit... It was a messy, VERY awkward situation which could have put a damper on the whole night if the entertainment, White Hot Party and food in La Trattoria hadn't made up for it. The balcony room (10596) was also great, except the closet door came off the hinges the first time we opened it, and the deck chair was ripped to the point I was scared of sitting on it (Stuff happens though, no biggie with that, and the closet was fixed within a couple hours while we were gone) Disembarkation - It was a free for all, or so it seemed. We woke up, didn't get breakfast (not so hungry) and it seemed like there was no organization to it. The lines were HUGE and stretched all through the Grand Atrium. We just sat for a while until it mellowed out some then got in line once it was shorter and worked our way to the Canada Place Pier, to walk in a big circle and get right back on... the Volendam this time... More on that one later... Like I said... 1-10 scale this cruise would be an 8 or 8.5 and had SO much more potential for even better scores if not for the souvenir glass "BS" and the way the Front Office chose to handle it. A great time overall. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
3 night/4 day repositioning Cruise from LA to Vancouver - Apr 24-27/08 This was our first cruise. My wife and I along with our 17 yr old son and his 18 yr old best friend had just come from 5 wonderful days at Disneyland and the SoCal ... Read More
3 night/4 day repositioning Cruise from LA to Vancouver - Apr 24-27/08 This was our first cruise. My wife and I along with our 17 yr old son and his 18 yr old best friend had just come from 5 wonderful days at Disneyland and the SoCal beaches. We had booked this little cruise to take us back home to Vancouver and to find out whether or not we liked cruising. Prior to our departure, we had investigated the cruise and the Star in depth on the internet. We found that the majority of the reviews were somewhat negative. However, it was clear from the tone of many of those negative reviews that the authors were just simply crabby people with find-a-problem attitudes and an air of entitlement. We felt that if we were relaxed, laid back and happy, everything would be fine. It was! We arrived at the LA Port at around 2 pm. We were through the entire embarkation process in less than 15 minutes. It was breeze! We were particularly happy with the NCL passenger representative at the desk in the Port. She was tremendously helpful and thoughtful. Our very first contact with a live, in-person NCL employee was completely positive. When we got on board we went to the "front desk" registration area of the ship. The line-up was about 2 minutes to see someone. The clerk was very helpful as we set up cash accounts for the boys on the ship. She gave us a brief "heads up" on what we should do about dinner reservations, and told us that our room was ready for us. We had booked a partially obstructed oceanview cabin for 4. (Note: some of the oceanview cabins are set up for a maximum of 3 persons only. The legend on the NCL site will advise you which of the cabins have 3 or 4 beds). The room was a marvel of efficiency. While not large by any means, it accommodated the 4 of us just fine. (And I'm not a small fellow - 6'4", 250 lbs). There are two beds that convert to three beds at night - with one popping out from under the other up to the same height as the other two. And there is a fold down "upper bunk" bed. The mattresses were firm but very comfortable and the blankets and pillows were fine. The "turn down" service did yeoman's work, as making up the 4 beds must be a difficult task. Our cabin was essentially located amidships on Deck 8. We had no problem whatsoever with noise. We all were highly impressed by the bathroom in our cabin. It is effectively sectioned into three parts and the shower is quite large with a sliding glass door. It is not at all claustrophobic, as we had expected - even for a big guy like me. The mustering/safety drill was next. It was lengthened somewhat by the collapse of an elderly passenger a few feet from where my family and I were standing. However, she recovered quickly and when it was all over it was off to the bar to buy the kids two soft drink cards (these cards are must-purchases for kids/teenagers. - You will save a LOT of money) and an introductory cocktail for my wife and I. I want to say that absolutely every person who worked in a bar or restaurant on the Norwegian Star was, without fail, friendly to a fault. Our dinner at the Soho restaurant (highly recommended, by the way) was vastly improved by our waiter who made the evening even more memorable. We strongly recommend that if you dine at Soho that you have the Ahi Tuna and caviar salad/starter. Beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. We also found that the prices for a bottle of wine were fairly reasonable. We also ate at LaTrattoria (very good - reservations required, but no extra charge - again with an excellent waiter) and several times at the Versailles. The Versailles is a stunning restaurant. Beautifully appointed and quite opulent. The service was pretty good and the food was also pretty good. Our only complaint about Versailles is that the portions were rather small. However, we quickly learned that we could order as much as we liked and so, eventually - we did. The serving staff did not appear to mind at all when we'd order an extra appetizer or an extra order of pancakes for breakfast. The buffet for breakfast is ok...not great, but not bad. I'd recommend getting there reasonably early - hotter and fresher food will await you that way. We LOVED the entertainment. Our absolute favorite was Sean Byrnes in the Red Lion Pub. He's a young man (24) from Toronto - and his confidence, his swagger, his energy, his tremendous sense of humor - and his guitar playing and singing were a highlight for us. Every night the Red Lion was a center of activity - everyone shouting out requests, singing along, laughing our heads off! Watching a bar full of happily intoxicated travelers belting out the chorus of the "Hockey Song" is a memory that will not soon be forgotten. Also kudos to the bar manager who conducted a beer tasting and university-level history-of-beer class one afternoon. Lots of fun and highly informative. The young woman singing and playing guitar by Gatsby's lounge was also a favorite of ours and we made sure we listened to her each evening before dinner while relaxing with a refreshing mimosa! Ahhhh.... Other highlights were the Second City Review, Peter Sasso - but only in the orientation show - the first night (not so much during his infamous 200 jokes in 45 minutes show the next day - where we heard every old tired one-liner joke every written throughout the course of human history). We also loved the big musical night - where the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber was featured in very entertaining fashion. While the Norwegian Star was dress-casual throughout, my wife and I did decide to get dressed to the nines on Dress-up Optional night. Ricky, the Cruise Director (an endless well-spring of energy, I might add) saw us and complimented us on our "look" and offered to take a photo of us - we appreciated the attention. One small thing - on the 2nd evening, there were photographers at various locations around the Grand Atrium taking photos of the passengers. The idea was to be photographed by the 4 or 5 different photogs with various backdrops and poses and then pick the photos you liked the next morning. We had expected this to be an expensive proposition and so we were initially resistant. However we went ahead and the next morning were very pleased to find out that the photographs were of the highest quality and that an 8x10 professional color photo plus an 8x10 color photo of our ship all set out in a beautiful fold-out 2-sided frame was only $30.00! We now have a wonderful memory of our cruise displayed prominently at home. On of the members of the Cruise Directors staff, a woman from Minnesota named Jill, needs to be singled out for kudos. One night while my wife and I enjoyed one of the entertainers (a fellow that specializes in Motown and R&B music), Jill came over and sat down with us for about 20 minutes and engaged us in a lovely and very friendly conversation. (Jill, it turned out, was the same woman who very generously complimented my wife on her dress as we arrived on the Star on the very first day of the cruise). Later, Jill suggested that we might enjoy going to the Red Lion Pub before it closed. When we asked for directions to the Pub, Jill actually just hopped up and offered to walk with us there. Now that's SERVICE! All in all - we had an absolutely wonderful time on the Norwegian Star. We are now planning a 9 day Caribbean cruise for Spring/09 - as we want more time (and more sun/heat) for our next cruise. Last word - we had only two complaints about our experience. One - the four hot tubs were, at best, only "warm" tubs. We were told that the heater coils were malfunctioning for the entire cruise. Too bad, as the temperature on deck was relatively cool every day - a HOT tub would have been nice. Second, the casino is a smoke-filled hell. We are not much in the way of gamblers...but even if we were, unless we were prepared to inhale a carton of second hand cigarette smoke while making our cash "donations" to NCL in the Casino - we could not have stayed in that room for more than 5 minutes. Maybe NCL can figure out something to alleviate this problem? Anyway, that's it. My family loved the cruise - and - oh yes - my son and his friend became addicted to the gym, the sauna and the steam room. Apparently, they are all First Rate. Dale & Robyn daleewalker@hotmail.com Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Since others have already posted detailed reviews of this trip, I won't attempt a complete blow-by-blow description. Rather, I'll just mention a few things that occurred to me, especially in my capacity as a "first ... Read More
Since others have already posted detailed reviews of this trip, I won't attempt a complete blow-by-blow description. Rather, I'll just mention a few things that occurred to me, especially in my capacity as a "first time" and "solo" cruiser. FREESTYLE DINING: This really worked for me! Since I was traveling alone, I initially thought that I might eat most meals in the buffet, but it always seemed crowded and chaotic. So I turned to the "free" dining rooms. I was always asked if I wanted to share a table, I always said, "I'd rather not," and I was always given a table to myself, even on one night when the dining room was especially crowded. Excellent! I had two breakfasts (very good) in the Versailles, two dinners (good) in the Aqua (I only had jeans to wear), plus a lite dinner (OK) in the Blue Lagoon and the final morning breakfast (OK - good) in the Market Cafe buffet. I grabbed lunches (good) at the walk-up pool grill or BBQ. TIPPING: I added "additional" tips to most bar bills. However, these resulted in confusing adjustments on my onboard account statement and in at least two instances the tips were omitted (and I didn't have time to look into this before leaving the ship). If I were doing this again I would leave such "additional" tips in CASH to avoid the confusion. SMOKING: As a non-smoker, this was my #1 concern. Thus, I was very pleased to find that I could NOT detect smoke (either current or past) in my cabin. But the hallway was often smoky, especially during early evening hours. And I don't think I ever took a lap on the Promenade deck without encountering smoke, in a couple of cases bad enough that I had to duck inside the ship for a minute. I was disappointed that the "port side only" rule enforced at the pool area did not also apply to the Promenade deck. I should note that I did NOT see anyone smoking where it wasn't allowed. Thus, the "problem" resulted from NCL's policies and not from (as is often the case) the bad behavior of a few individuals. I'd guess that when compared to my "real" life in a state with tough anti-smoking laws, I encountered about 3 week's worth of second hand smoke on this 3-day cruise. Bottom line: Do NOT go on this ship if you expect a smoke-free environment! DEBARKATION: For the sake of convenience I had purchased a somewhat pricey airport transfer from NCL. But here's how it really paid off: The transfer group was the first group called after "express" (hah!) debarkation. We were escorted out a special door to the Promenade deck and were allowed to weave in line at the gangway. So I was off the ship, through Canadian security and on the transfer bus in not more than 30 minutes. Sweet! THINGS I WISHED FOR: I wish they had a "quiet bar" where you could order a drink and stare out the window WITHOUT being subjected to entertainment, organized activities, sports TV or overly boisterous behavior. I also wish that they had "free" beverage dispensers in the pool area (or, if they were there, I never found them). And/or I wish that I had taken along a small water bottle that I could have refilled in my cabin and carried with me about the ship. WOULD I CRUISE ON NCL AGAIN: Yes!!! But I'm subtracting one point from my overall rating due to the smoking situation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
My parents, my younger sister and myself went on a one day cruise the previous September on the Norwegian Star and we wanted to experience something a little bit more than one day. We discovered that there was a relocation cruise from Los ... Read More
My parents, my younger sister and myself went on a one day cruise the previous September on the Norwegian Star and we wanted to experience something a little bit more than one day. We discovered that there was a relocation cruise from Los Angeles to our hometown in Vancouver for three nights and we decided to book it and combine it with a small Las Vegas trip as well. It turned out that my older sister and her husband liked the idea as well, and they joined us as well. We flew from Vegas to Los Angeles on US Airways and got there around 11:00. We took a shuttle from the airport and arrived at the port around 11:45. Once there it took us about 40 minutes to check-in and board the ship. We had a slight delay at the metal detector. They were very sensitive to even the foil for cough drop packets and the little moist towelette packages. Once we were on board, we were greeted by some of the crew and boarded with no real problems. I knew that since it was a short cruise, it would be a good idea to make a reservation at Cagney's right away. Once I got my bearings, I found the reservation desk with no problems and made reservations for the next day. It was a good thing too as we discovered that Cagney's was fully booked for the rest of the cruise. They announced that our cabins were ready at about 1:30. We were located on deck 10 portside at the front of the ship. Our parents were a couple of football fields away on the back of the ship on deck 9 starboard. I really got my exercise running between the cabins. Our luggage was not in the cabin yet, but did arrive around 4:30, just after the muster drill. Now for the how the cruise itself went Room: The room was adequate and we did not feel too cramped. As it was not freestyle 2.0 yet, we asked for foam covers for our beds. This made the beds more comfortable. It was nice having the balcony. Now I know why they say that once you have a balcony you can never go back. At times, it was too cold to be out there, but you just had to go out there to enjoy the views. Food: We had dinner the first night at the Versailles and enjoyed the food that was served. The service was a little slow, but once the food arrived, it made up for it. We also had lunch the next day at the Versailles and breakfast the 3rd day of the cruise. The dinner on our second night was at Cagney's and this was definitely the best meal we had on the cruise. Our entire family almost tried everything that was possible. I loved the Shrimp Cocktail as did the others who ordered. I had a T-bone steak for myself as the main and it was cooked to perfection and the peppercorn sauce made it even better. Both my sisters had the lobster and it took them some time to finish it. The service was excellent and attentive. We even made fun of the maitre'd when they brought out a new bucket of ice cream that was frozen solid and he was having trouble scooping it. The surcharge of $20 ($30 for the lobster dishes) really didn't bother us after. The dinner on our final night was done at Ginza. My sister won the dinner (which means no surcharge) at the casino the previous day and we decided to take advantage of it. Now being of Chinese descent, we may have been expecting a little more, but ended up a little disappointed, as we were hoping for a bit of that wow factor. It was average at best and we would probably avoid it next time. However, the people we saw in the Teppanyaki room appeared to be having a good time, so we might try there instead next time. One thing that I have to mention is at lunch, we tried some of their buns for the burgers and hot dogs. My recommendation for those is to lose the buns as they were very dry and really didn't do the meat justice. Hopefully, they will do something about that in the future. Entertainment: There is a main showroom on the ship and we caught a couple of the shows on board. The first night was a welcome aboard show that had all the different performers from around the ship. It was a nice show and the cruise director Ricky Matthews really tried to keep the energy up (even if some of his jokes were a little cheesy). The second night they had an Andrew Lloyd Webber show. I found it to be okay, but found that some of the singers in the Jean Ann Ryan company seemed to be out of sync with the rest. The last night was second city, but we missed that show. One thing that they did before every show was try to sell pulltabs (they do it at the bingo as well) with a chance to win $2,000. On the second night my older sister ended up winning the $2,000. She was extremely happy for the rest of that evening. We also saw a few of the lounge acts as well. The best of the bunch was Jana Seale. Her sound is wonderful and I even picked up a copy of her CD. She mentioned that she was going on vacation after the cruise for 6 weeks, so next time she is back, I would highly recommend catching her. Drinks: The prices of the drinks were probably on par for what you would pay at an average restaurant, but they do charge an auto-gratuity of 18% on the drinks, so be prepared for that when you order. Other things: We went to the casino a few times and it was okay for it's size. I guess they want to retain a little of Vegas on their as it was filled with smokers quite often. The photographers made their presence felt at all the restaurants every night and on formal (optional) day, we had a family picture taken. My mom loved it and we ended buying it. They are a little pricey, but sometime you just have to pay for some memories. Overall, except for a couple of small things, we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. It has only made us want to try a longer cruise next time. We want to try the other cruise lines, but we definitely will try to fit another Norwegian Cruise in if it fits our plans. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Considering a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line? Especially if you're thinking about the Norwegian Star, this very lengthy review is for you. Hopefully, it will answer some of your questions and help you make an informed decision. ... Read More
Considering a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line? Especially if you're thinking about the Norwegian Star, this very lengthy review is for you. Hopefully, it will answer some of your questions and help you make an informed decision. BOOKING AND EMBARKATION Having never taken a cruise before, I was excited to see such low fares for Norwegian Cruise Line's 3-night "Pacific Coastal Cruise" from Los Angeles to Vancouver, essentially a repositioning maneuver to get their ship up north for the summer Alaska cruising season from its winter duty cruising the Mexican Riviera. Inside staterooms for $149 per person? It sounded good to me. I asked two of my family members if they'd like to come, and they agreed, and we decided to upgrade to the mini-suite (class AF and AG) with balcony. We figured it would not only be a treat for our first cruise, but it would give us more room and a bit of privacy (they're married, I'm single). We booked our cruise online and our total price, including taxes and fees, was roughly $265 per person. Although there were no ports of call scheduled during the voyage, we felt that the price was an exceptional value. We were sailing on the Norwegian Star, a mammoth vessel built in 2001. The Star is 971 feet long with a 105-foot beam (width), and 14 decks. She is an amazing, beautiful ship. I was struck at its sheer size when we reached the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. Embarkation was a very smooth, effortless affair. We had all already completed the Advance Guest Registration on the NCL website, and had been mailed our Welcome Packet with luggage tags, each printed with our individual name, stateroom number and location (forward, mid, or aft). After handing off our tagged luggage curbside (which was delivered promptly to our stateroom), we checked in at NCL's counters and each had a card issued to us (just like a credit card) which served as our identification, our method of "payment" while onboard, and our stateroom key. We proceeded through security and had our hands sprayed and sanitized (the first of many, many such sprayings while onboard), and boarded the Star on Deck 7 Mid. STATEROOM After all the initial oohing and aahing at the Grand Atrium area, we took the elevators to our stateroom, which was number 11180, indicating suite 180 on deck 11. We were on the starboard side, aft. The first impression as we entered the cabin was, "Wow!" The mini-suite is about 230 sq. ft. and very tastefully designed and furnished. As you walk in, there is a short hallway with a shelf; fresh flowers and a bowl of fruit had been placed out for our arrival. The bathroom is on the left (in this particular stateroom) and is wonderful. As you enter, there is a nice-sized main area with sink, mirror, subdued lighting, towels, amenities (lotion, shower cap, shoe shine mitt, oatmeal soap). The sink is a good size with a nice, upscale faucet. The appropriate number of towels and glasses for our party of three had been placed in the racks. To the left of this area was the toilet room, separated by a sliding glass door. Again, everything was nice and very well-designed. To the right of the main area was the tub and shower. I was happy to discover that water pressure was outstanding. The plumbing fixture was European-style, with a pressure control knob on the left and a marked temperature control (in degrees Celsius) on the right. A small button must be depressed to turn the temperature knob past 38 degrees Celsius. A pushbutton dispenser with shampoo and soap is mounted on the wall, and the shower head is adjustable for height and also removable for handheld use. The shower/tub is contained behind a sliding glass door and a retractable clothesline rounds out the bathroom. Plenty of clothes and towel hooks are available as well. NCL participates in the voluntary towel re-use program you see in many hotels these days. They stress that the gesture is strictly voluntary and ask that if you wish to use your towel more than once, simply hang it up; if not, leave it on the floor and it will be replaced. Continuing down the short hallway to the main sleeping salon, a hairdryer is mounted to the wall, and there is a shelf and two large drawers for clothes, etc. Here you will also find power outlets, a UK-style 220v outlet and a polarized US-style 110v outlet. There is also a mirror and a comfortable padded stool. In the main sleeping area, two twin beds are present. Given the makeup of our party, the steward had already pulled the two beds together and fitted them with a pad to make a queen-sized bed. Pillows are excellent, fitted with damask covers, as is the duvet. The bed is firm and comfortable. Near the bed is the closet, complete with about a dozen wood hangers, shelves and an interior light. Above the closet is a row of "cubbies," where the extra pillows and life preservers are stored. Each life preserver identifies the cabin number and the designated meeting spot (called a muster station) for that cabin, should an emergency occur. As expected, the life preservers are excellent, fitted with an automatic light (activates when wet), a whistle, and an integrated headrest to prevent rolling or facial submersion if unconscious. Prior to leaving port, there is a mandatory safety and evacuation drill held at each of the muster stations. Lifeboats are plentiful and stocked with food rations, fresh water, and capacity for 150 people each. Back to the stateroom, beyond the sleeping area, there is a thick, heavy curtain that can be drawn to separate the bedroom area from the sitting area. In the sitting area is a comfortable sofa, a table, and a built-in center that contains the minibar/fridge, safe, color TV, coffee machine and its accoutrements, and a small counter area. Three 220v outlets are here: one UK-style, and two European-style (two pins). One of the Euro-style outlets is taken by the coffee machine. There is also storage space on top of this center. Minibar prices are high, but no more so than you would expect to find in most land-based hotels (a small can of Pringles is $1.50, a 50mL bottle of liquor is about $6.00, etc.); the ice bucket and glasses are here as well, and the steward refills the ice bucket 2-3 times a day, or upon request. The sofa bottom (seating area) slides out on rails, then the seatback part folds down easily, where it is covered with a thick pad and sheet set for a full-size bed. The cabin steward takes care of this every evening when the turndown service is performed, and returns it to its sofa position in the morning. Chocolate mints are placed on every pillow. The room was fantastic on its own, but was made much better by the balcony. Behind a thick, light-blocking curtain, a full sliding glass door (on smooth-sliding rollers, not just in a track) grants access to the large balcony (about 55 sq. ft.) with two comfortable deck chairs and a table. A dome light provides lighting for night use. The panel beneath the railing is a single sheet of tempered glass, so the view is completely unobstructed. We loved the balcony and used it quite a lot, despite the cool temperatures as we sailed north along the Pacific Coast. RESTAURANTS/DINING So we were extremely happy with the stateroom, but what about the rest of the ship? The first place we went was Deck 12, one of the main common-area decks aboard the Star. A festive, wonderful aura prevailed as newly boarded passengers socialized and soaked up the Southern California sunshine and ate a delicious BBQ buffet... live music, great food (chicken, brats, sausages, potatoes, pasta salads, etc.), and a wonderful atmosphere. It was a great way to start the cruise, and we were still about an hour away from departing! We left the docks about 30 minutes later than our scheduled 6:00 p.m. departure time and set out to sea under cloudless skies. The highlight was seeing a number of green buoys in the ocean, each completely covered with California sea lions soaking up the last of the day's sunshine. Several sea lions bobbed around in the water around the buoys, clearly wanting to get on the platform the instant a space opened up. The restaurants on the Norwegian Star are very good. NCL has "Freestyle Cruising," so there are no set dinner times, nor any specific dress codes (most restaurants, however, do enforce a "resort casual" policy - nice jeans are acceptable, as is business casual attire). You're welcome to dress as much up or down as you like, and for my part, I really enjoyed this approach. I've not cruised before where you have set dinner times and a formal night and all, so I don't have a basis for comparison. I talked to a number of other passengers during the cruise, though, and got the very distinct impression that while most people like the Freestyle Cruising approach, not all do, and it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. If you eat in the main dining venues, you always have the option of sharing a table with other passengers or having your own table for your dining party. I really liked having this option, because I enjoy meeting new people, but sometimes, you don't feel like being overly social, so it's really great to be able to choose. The two main dining venues, no reservations taken, are Versailles and Aqua. Versailles is typically open for all three meals; Aqua is a bit smaller and open only for dinner. We really liked the dEcor and ambiance of both dining rooms. The food is excellent and is served in four-course fashion (appetizer, soup/salad, entrEe, and dessert). Service is efficient and gracious, and in a dining room that seats nearly 500 (Versailles), astoundingly well-choreographed. We ate three meals in Versailles (breakfast and two lunches) and were pleased every time. The buffet is quite good and handled the crowds very well. They have a Caesar salad station that turned out the best Caesar salads I had on the ship (even better than the specialty restaurants). There was a good assortment of salads, pastas, breads, hot foods, desserts, etc. There's also a 24-hour restaurant called Blue Lagoon whose ambiance leaves a LOT to be desired, but for a quick bite to eat at midnight, it's pretty good. The fish and chips are excellent. Room service is available 24 hours a day, as well (no charge) and offers a decent selection of fruit, sandwiches, pizza, and such. One thing I learned rapidly about cruises, especially those with no ports of call, is that for the specialty restaurants, it's very helpful to make reservations as soon as possible because they fill up fast. I tried making reservations at Cagney's Steakhouse several hours beforehand the first night. No availability. I asked about the next night, but it was full then, too. I tried La Trattoria with the same results. Same for Le Bistro. However, to the astounding credit of NCL crew, they noted my stateroom number on the phone when I called (without me even asking), and as soon as space opened up (perhaps a cancellation) for Cagney's, they called me and asked if we still wanted a table. Very nice! And the hostess at Cagney's knew that we were trying to eat at La Trattoria as well, and she was friends with the hostess there, so she got us a table there at 6:00 the following night. I was amazed at this level of service. Cagney's is one of the restaurants that carries an additional cover charge. At $20 per person, it's also the most expensive supplementary charge onboard. Their wine list was quite good, and prices were generally comparable to those in a land-based restaurant (I found a nice Beaujolais for $28). The menu included appetizers such as crab cakes, jumbo shrimp cocktail, and oysters Rockefeller. We had them all at our table and they were all outstanding. The next course is soup and/or salad, with such offerings as lobster bisque, clam chowder, Caesar salad prepared tableside, and a traditional iceberg wedge salad. I had the lobster bisque, which was pretty good, and the Caesar salad, which was very good, but not prepared tableside as advertised in the menu. The entrees were classic steakhouse selections: veal chop, double-cut lamb chops, NY strip steak, rib eye, T-bone, and of course prime rib and filet mignon. A nice array of sides are also available, and you can get as many as you like. Cagney's also offers three special dishes: a 1.5-pound whole lobster, a surf and turf dish with lobster and filet mignon, and a 24-ounce Porterhouse. These special dishes cost $10 in addition to the $20 cover charge for a total of $30. I had the 8-ounce filet and it was very good, although not the best filet I've ever had. The selection of desserts was excellent and was a superb finish to a fine meal in a splendid old-school steakhouse atmosphere. All in all, I would definitely recommend Cagney's, particularly if you can get a 9 p.m. reservation and pay the half-priced cover charge. But even at full price, it's worth it. La Trattoria, while also a specialty restaurant, has no cover charge. The atmosphere, while not as upscale as Cagney's or Le Bistro, was suitably Italian, and certainly pleasant enough with great floor-to-ceiling windows along one side for a nice view of the ocean and sunset. Again, it's a minimum of four courses… up to six if you're a complete glutton (appetizer, soup/salad, pasta, pizza, entree, and dessert). No thanks! I definitely recommend this restaurant since it's the only true specialty dining room without a supplementary charge. From the appetizers (we had carpaccio, calamari, and prosciutto and melon) to the desserts (tiramisu for me... what else?), the food here was terrific, and I'd recommend this place without hesitation. Again, make your reservations as soon as possible because they fill up fast. ENTERTAINMENT AND SHOPPING The Stardust Theatre, which seats about 1,000 in three levels, had a separate show on each of the nights at sea. The first night was basically an amalgam of the upcoming shows and had one performance. The second night was a musical performance featuring the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was about an hour long and pretty good. Certainly not top-end Broadway caliber, but very entertaining. There were two showtimes (7:30 and 9:30); we went to the early show, then had dinner at Cagney's. The final night at sea also had the same two showtimes (we went to the later show) and featured a Second City troupe performance, mostly sketch and improvisational comedy. Following the show, which was the last of the cruise, a large contingent of the ship's crew, including the captain and some of the senior officers, came out to thank and meet the passengers. I found the crew, with few exceptions, to be gracious and accommodating. Some 55 countries are represented by the vast international crew; the majority seemed to be Filipino. All in all, I was definitely pleased with the service onboard. We also went to a stand-up comedy routine in the very nice Spinnaker Lounge. The guy's routine was mostly one-liners, altogether family-friendly, and occasionally even funny, but not usually. There was also plenty of excellent live music at the various venues throughout the ship, my favorite of which was a woman who played in the nicer lounges with just her guitar. I can't remember her name, but she had a really nice singer-songwriter vibe (although she was covering classics) and was very easy to listen to. Deck 12 has the main pool with a couple of twisty water slides and four freshwater jacuzzis, as well. The water in the pool is seawater, filled once the ship sets out, and is heated to about 84°. I stuck my hand in a jacuzzi and it felt only slightly warmer, maybe 90-95°. Certainly not the 102-104° you might be used to in a hot tub. The jacuzzis had some intermittent use during the cruise, but I never saw anyone in the pool. Must have had something to do with the 50° air temperature. :) However, the pool deck was always clean and seemed to be well laid-out. I can only imagine what it would be like on a warm-weather cruise! The casino on the Star is on the small side (at least compared with a land-based casino), but nice. There were three blackjack tables open (more on this later), a craps table with 3x 4x 5x odds, roulette, a few specialty games (Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud Poker, Three Card Poker, and Pai Gow Poker). There is also an area for poker games, most notably (of course) Texas Hold 'Em. There are a fair number of slot machines and video poker machines, although I ignored those. There is a casino bar, a casino services counter, and a cashier cage. An ATM is available, naturally, but levies a staggering $5.50 fee for withdrawals, so if your bank doesn't cover your foreign ATM withdrawal fees, it's best to bring cash or arrange something with the casino, because that's a really steep fee. If you're into blackjack, the tables here offer very favorable rules for the player with a few notable exceptions. Blackjacks are paid at the proper 3:2, not the abhorrent 6:5 nonsense so pervasive in Vegas these days. There was one $5 minimum table, and two $10 minimum tables. The two tables in the front had six-deck continuous shuffle machines, which certainly don't favor the player, but the table in back ($10 minimum) has an eight-deck shoe with deep penetration. The rules definitely favor the player: double on any two cards, double after splitting, splitting up to three times, and dealer stands on soft 17. NCL also has a player's club called Seabucks which allows players to accumulate points and onboard credits based on their level of play. I didn't spend a lot of time in the casino, perhaps two hours total, but enjoyed it both times I was there. There is a duty-free shop and a rather large shopping venue (unimaginatively named "Galleria") which has a wide assortment of cheap tourist crap, as well as toiletries, sundries, and some overpriced clothes. I milled around in there a couple of times, and that was enough for me, but I'm not much of a shopper. There is also a fragrance shop, a shore excursions shop, and during the days, various vendors (jewelry, art, etc.) would ply their wares in the main atrium. There is also a photo shop where prints of candid and posed moments snapped by the ship's photographers are displayed for consideration, commentary, and, NCL hopes, purchase. DISEMBARKING AND CONCLUSION The debarkation was a bit of a fiasco, of course, but no more or less so than I would expect on any vessel trying to disgorge 2,000 people through three customs counters. The express debarkation was not anything of the sort and I'm glad we didn't elect to use this after seeing the incredible lines to "just walk off the ship." We had a nice, leisurely breakfast after we were moored, and finally wandered off the ship according to our color group (determined by stateroom location) at about 9:45 a.m. NCL is good about reminding you that you're still on vacation that final morning and they're not in any big rush to get you off the ship, so take your time, have a nice meal, enjoy yourself, etc. There are even a few morning activities planned, so it's quite nice to have that time. We placed our luggage outside our door the previous night at about midnight, so we had to think about what we'd wear and what we'd need upon awaking. It worked fine. All in all, this was a marvelous introduction to cruising for me. There are only a few things that I consider drawbacks… one is that it seems odd to me that soft drinks are considered some kind of premium beverage. I don't personally drink much pop anyway, so I was fine with the free drinks (water, tea, coffee, and milk), but for people who like their Cokes and Sprites, I would think $1.50+15% every time would add up in a hurry, particularly on a longer cruise. Alcoholic beverages were expensive, but not obscenely so (about what you'd pay in a bar on land). As an example, a six-pack of premium imported beer in a helmet full of ice out on Deck 12 was about $22+15%. So with tip, you're paying a bit over $4 per beer, which isn't awful, but certainly isn't a bargain. Spa services are about as expensive as you'd expect, and some of the things like wine tastings, martini tastings, etc., carried nominal fees (usually $10-15). Any sort of Internet access was incredibly expensive, but on a ship, I suppose that's not entirely out of the ordinary. WiFi access is available as well, but it's 75¢ per minute. I didn't find much on the ship that I felt was really overpriced (beyond soft drinks and Internet access), nor did I feel I was being pushed or manipulated to buy something at every turn. Gratuities are added to your shipboard account automatically at $10 per person, per day. I personally liked this, because it just freed me up to not have to think about signing for tips at restaurants or leaving tips in envelopes for stewards, etc. Some people might not like this method, and that's understandable. I did. My understanding is that you can adjust this amount with a quick word at the reception desk. Your statement is delivered to your stateroom on the final night at sea, while you sleep. I liked that each person in a common stateroom could have a separate shipboard account, or two people could be combined on one account, etc. However we wanted to play it, NCL accommodated us with ease. I'm a big fan of "Freestyle Cruising" and will definitely look to NCL for my next cruise. I'd like to try another line at some point for the sake of comparison, but this was a very good experience, and I'd recommend NCL to anyone, especially when you find a great deal like we did. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
My wife and I planned an eight-day getaway from Vancouver to Los Angeles and back, with the southbound portion on Amtrak, two frantic days in LA, and the return trip on the Norwegian Star. I have been wanting to do this rail/sea excursion ... Read More
My wife and I planned an eight-day getaway from Vancouver to Los Angeles and back, with the southbound portion on Amtrak, two frantic days in LA, and the return trip on the Norwegian Star. I have been wanting to do this rail/sea excursion for decades, and this year the opportunity finally arose. The primary goal of the vacation was to relax and forget the real world back at home. Other goals were to try out rail travel and cruising with a minimal investment. I think that in planning a vacation, the first step should be to decide what your needs, desires and expectations are. Is your goal to be pampered at every turn? Would your vacation be spoiled if you had to wait in line for thirty minutes? Are you okay with a decent bed, or do you require a deep and luxurious mattress? Will you be disappointed if your room attendant does not form your bath towel into an animal shape while you are at dinner? Does your enjoyment of a room turn on the color choices in the decor? Do you require gourmet food to have a good meal, or will a burger and beer be okay from time to time? I think that a mistake that many people who post reviews (including me) have made, is over analyzing the experience. Enjoy the ride instead of cataloguing all of the little details. Although this was my first cruise, I am sure that none of these cruise ships is bad, as long as your expectations are appropriate for the ship. We had a wonderful trip, and our expectations were met or exceeded at almost every turn. There were a few glitches that have me rating the experience at four out of five, but none of these spoiled the cruise. PRIOR TO DEPARTURE Rail Travel If you have not travelled on Amtrak, I have two words of advice: Sleeper Car. Sitting in coach is a hit-or-miss deal, but you can always close the door of your sleeper compartment and keep the noise of your neighbors at bay. And your neighbors generally have more money than those in coach, which usually makes them more pleasant neighbors. That said, the loudest and most obnoxious schmuck on the train was a businessman who owns several properties talking on a cell phone in the observation car. RMS Queen Mary We spent our last night in SoCal aboard the RMS Queen Mary. I had been warned that I would be disappointed, but was thrilled with our king-sized outside stateroom with portholes facing across the harbour to the city of Long Beach. The bathroom was, admittedly very dated, with chipped glazing on the bathtub and some mould in the corners. The tub was huge and filled in seconds. The service was courteous and helpful, and the breakfast that we bought was fine. The self-guided tour that is included with the room rate was fascinating, and we would have spent hours doing it if we had the time. Try different approaches to get the best room rate - travel agent, the hotel's web site and the hotel's reservations phone line. Make sure to look at the special packages online - the web site's navigation is tricky, so poke around. There is a free shuttle bus from the Queen Mary around the touristy bits of Long Beach that departs every 15 minutes. Los Angeles has a commuter rail system called the Metro, and it connects with the free shuttle. You might not want to take the Blue Line from Long Beach to downtown LA at night if you feel uncomfortable rubbing shoulders with people who live in rough districts. And you need to leave LA by 10:30 pm if you want to get the last shuttle bus back to the Queen Mary from the Blue Line terminus. Otherwise the cab fare is about eight bucks from the terminus to the old liner. THE CRUISE But you wanted to know about the Norwegian Star. Most of what you have read is true: Embarkation at Los Angeles is relatively painless if you have your documentation ready. The rooms are brightly decorated, smallish, and with little storage space. You definitely want a balcony unless you are sure that you will spend very little time in the cabin. The dining is okay at the buffet, Blue Lagoon and The Grill, and good-to-excellent in the dining rooms. The service in the restaurants and bars ranges from okay to very good, depending on the person, rather than the venue. You don't need to eat in the premium restaurants to have a good meal. You should book tomorrow's dinner time as soon as you wake up or be willing to be flexible at dinner time. The entertainment venues are all very nice, and the acts range from okay to very good. Drink prices are high, and soft drinks are not included with meals. Debarkation can be a real zoo, so patience is important and you won't want a tight connection schedule. All in all, you can have an amazingly good time on this ship. Embarkation Embarkation was fairly simple and quick. Boarding started at noon, and we arrived at the terminal about 1:30. I didn't time it, but it seemed about forty minutes to get through all the lines. Make sure to print your boarding pass from the eDocs section of the NCL web site before you leave home. And, you won't get aboard without a passport or other photo id and proof of citizenship. Even if you are only dreaming about a future cruise, get your passport now. You will need it in the future, so get it now. Our Cabin We had a balcony stateroom. I will never cruise without a balcony, now that I have tried it. Other reviewers noted a lot of noise from Deck 12 in cabins on Deck 11, so we booked a cabin on Deck 10. Noise was rarely a problem, and we never heard the people in the cabin above us. We chose the port side to get the afternoon sun as we cruised northward. We chose a midship stateroom to minimize the sensation of the ship pitching. The worst sensation of pitching on the ship (and it was mild) was towards the bow. The cabin was not large, but we were not cramped. The mini-suites are only slightly bigger - the only reason I can see to booking one of them is to get off the ship early. Ee had to work to get all our baggage stored, but we managed. One of the storage closet doors was dangling on 1.5 hinges - we reported it to the room steward, but it was not repaired during our trip. The sliding door to the balcony is heavy and it can get some momentum. Use the handle every time and you will avoid getting your fingers crushed when you open the door. It hurt for a few minutes, but no real damage. On the balcony you can hear your neighbors on their balconies. Also, you can see them reflected in the guardrail glass if both they and you are sitting. Some people bring masking tape to cover keyholes in the partitions between balconies. It was too cold and windy to sit on the balcony on the first sea day, but the second was very calm, and, wearing light jackets, we read out there. Bliss. I was impressed with how little wind there was on the balcony - almost none, when the ship was moving and the sea was calm. When the wind was blowing across the ship, there was a noticeably breeze on the balcony that might actually be refreshing on a warmer day. The thermostat in the cabin seemed to work. I turned the heat up and left the balcony door open at night. There is a sign in the room noting that you are supposed to leave the balcony door shut, but I disregarded it. I like fresh air. From the standpoint of energy conservation and carbon-footprint reduction, you should leave that door closed, though. On the last night, a pilot arrived by boat. (Pilots are sea captains who have a lot of experience in local waters, and who help the ship's own captain to navigate in tricky waters.) At 2:20 am, the boat roared off and waking me suddenly. I jumped from the bed, disoriented and momentarily frightened. It took a good while to get back to sleep. If your balcony is amidships, pay attention to any announcements that the captain makes about taking on a pilot at night - you might want to close that door. I liked the bright, nautically themed textiles in the cabin. The bed was okay, although the "joint" between the mattresses was distracting. We are used to a lot of blankets, but the supplied blanket is thin. On the last night we asked for an extra blanket, and were provided with two woollen blankets that were no more than a yard squared. I am not sure what the point of that was. My wife's arthritis gives her some trouble with dexterity. This is a particular problem with round, slippery knobs. Door handles with lever arms are easy for her to use, and the door to our suite and bathroom have good handles. The knobs in the shower to control water flow are round, slippery, and difficult for her to manage. The temperature control knob clicks into a safe warm position, and you need to depress a button while turning the knob to get hotter water. This was a real challenge for her. Our ice bucket was filled every morning. The room was always acceptably clean. One evening we found a rabbit formed from towels on the bed. To be honest, turn-down service is a new experience for me, and not one that makes me overly comfortable. I am capable of pulling out blankets to get into bed. I wondered if the point was to make sure that the bedspread was removed so that we would not get it dirty. The tiny television flickered so much that it was unwatchable. That didn't bother me; I can watch TV at home. Dining It seems that the term "Free-Style Cruising" just refers to dining. Cruising, then, seems to be the same as dining. I guess that we spent about three hours a day at one dining table or another. We had dinners in Aqua, Endless Summer and Versailles, in that order. We had called at 10:00 am on day 2 for a seating at La Trattoria on day 3, but it was already booked up. But we had no appreciable wait for either Aqua or Versailles when we arrived around 6:30. The waiter at Aqua was overly obsequious - calling my wife "milady," trying to sell us bottled water, and trying to get us to buy a bottle of wine instead of two glasses. His attitude put me off, but he was the only crew member that I met who wasn't good or excellent. The meal was okay - roast leg of lamb for me and mahi mahi for my wife. Really good desserts. I liked the service at Endless Summer. Prompt, polite and reserved. I also liked the food. My wife's tostada salad had more meat on it than the beef entree I would have the next night at Versailles. She enjoyed her quesadilla. I had pork ribs that were good, but not fall-off-the-bone tender. It is hard to eat ribs with a knife and fork, and no fingerbowl was provided. The desserts were excellent. The waiter lost our payment card at some stage during the meal. Without our knowing it, he cancelled both of our cards, and at the end of the meal he brought us new ones and explained what had happened. Dinner at Versailles was okay, but I found our waitress to be unrefined. Not rude, maybe not even impolite, but unfamiliar with Western dining customs. For instance, she expected us to order our dessert at the beginning of the meal. This did not bother us, but I found her mannerisms odd. I had English cut strip loin with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes. I understand that English cut means thinly sliced roast beef, but I was surprised at how small the single slice of strip loin was. The three slices of potato were also meagre. The Yorkshire pud was enormous and not bad. I rarely order an appetizer, but wished that I had on this occasion - I was still hungry. As always, the dessert was excellent. Later in the evening, I filled the void at Blue Lagoon. A couple of times we had wings, potato skins or chicken strips at Blue Lagoon. We had to hover until somebody got up and then snagged the seat. Then we had to wait while the harried wait-staff failed to notice us. That place was just plain understaffed, but the crew did their best. The food was okay; the environment was noisy. On the afternoon before we sailed, I had a hamburger at The Grill: dry bun and luke-warm fries. We had our first breakfast at the buffet. If you like a big breakfast, this is the way to go. In fact, we were so full that we skipped lunch. But we had the rest of our breakfasts at Versailles because of the more interesting and refined menu. Both times, I was glad of the nicer food, but was still hungry when I left. We tried lunch at the buffet once. What I did not realize is that The Market Cafe has several buffets down the starboard side. Keep walking until you find something that you like. Bottom line: if you are hungry and the buffet is open, you can find something to eat. The environment will be noisy and the food won't be special, but you can eat. The dining rooms were the only places I had to be in the vicinity of children. Without exception, the parents had their kids very well-behaved. I complimented a couple of dads and moms for their children's behavior. My big beef with eating on NCL is that soft drinks bloody-well ought to be included with meals at no extra charge. Coke is cheaper than milk, but I could have all the milk I wanted. Coke I had to pay extra for. Iced tea is free at Blue Lagoon, so that is what I drank there, and I had water with the meals in the dining rooms. Gift Shop I wanted chocolate so I went to the gift-shop and bought a Cadbury almond bar. It was old and had been allowed to get hot. The chocolate was tough, tasteless, and had lost its gloss. Bleah. Every purchase apparently gives you a raffle ticket. You have to be there at 5:00 pm on the last day. The purpose is to get a few hundred people standing around to make impulse purchases. The prize basket seemed pretty good, but it was a waste of about 30 minutes waiting in vain hope. The gift shop features ammolite jewelry. Look it up on Wikipedia; it is interesting stuff. If it interests you, research prices before you go. I have no idea if the ship-board prices are reasonable. Entertainment I am a trivia buff. When you board, you will be given a daily schedule. Look for the progressive trivia game. It is a total-points competition that has one session per day throughout the cruise. You don't want to miss the first session if you want to win a coveted t-shirt, beach ball or deck of NCL cards at the end of the cruise. There are more trivia games each day with equally exciting prizes. Check that schedule they give you every day for shows in the big theatre. It is a very impressive room, but the seats on the right and left mezzanines have impaired sightlines. The shows were good. Even better was the Chinese acrobat show in the big forward lounge - amazing. That schedule also tells you when the various musical acts are performing at the various locations. It is good to eat at Endless Summer when a trio is performing in the atrium bar (the name of which escapes me). Watching the lounge acts is pretty relaxing. Cruise Critic Get-Togethers It is possible that you found this review through a Google search, and are unaware that CruiseCritic.com has extensive forums. If you register, you can find forums for "Roll Calls." This way you can find people online who you can later meet on the ship. That is how we came to meet SakeDad, badell, and about a dozen other nice people. We gathered on Deck 14 at the outdoor Bier Garten bar with this crowd for sailaway, and met again on the first full sea-day at a small NCL reception for us. If you are trying to meet up in a public area, it is a good idea for everybody to wear some identifying mark - but one that would not make people feel conspicuous. Maybe a blue ribbon or a happy face button? Debarkation On the last evening, visit the service desk in the atrium and ask for you bill to that point. Normally your bill gets slipped under your door while you sleep during the last night. There were some anomalies on mine that occurred when the payment card went missing at Endless Summer. If you wait until the last morning, you might have to stand in line for thirty minutes or more with everybody else who is settling up. Debarkation was a mess. The cruise director repeatedly encouraged everybody to use Express Debarkation. You fill out a simple form and drop it in a box the morning before your arrival. You put a sticker on your payment card. When you arrive in port, you haul your own luggage off the ship to Customs. All well and good, but it seemed that more than half the passengers on the ship had decided to do that. The line-up was half the length of the ship by the time the cruise director made his first announcement inviting us to line up to leave. I only saw one crew member directing traffic, and that was unacceptable. That being said, with six Border Services officers checking us through, the actual debarkation process only took about 30 minutes from the time we joined the line. I would recommend lining up thirty minutes before the announced beginning of Express Debarkation. CONCLUSION I had fun; my wife had fun. The food was good to very good; the entertainment was good; and the cabin was very good. The debarkation was poor. We were very relaxed and got our minds off our jobs for a while. Our ship-board charges were only $150. It was a great vacation. That being said, we won't be rushing to cruise again next year. Maybe in a few years we will take a higher-end Holland America or Celebrity cruise. Remember: You'll have more fun if you don't over analyze. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
This was my fifth cruise on NCL which is, out of the 10+ cruises I've taken, one of my favorite lines. I enjoy the entire freestyle concept and the casual atmosphere. I have mixed feelings about this latest trip. There were definite ... Read More
This was my fifth cruise on NCL which is, out of the 10+ cruises I've taken, one of my favorite lines. I enjoy the entire freestyle concept and the casual atmosphere. I have mixed feelings about this latest trip. There were definite highlights and a lot of unnecessary lowlights. I'll get the worst out of the way first. I booked a total of five cabins for this excursion, including two Category AF mini-suites, and two category AE Penthouses. In addition there was one balcony cabin in our group of nine passengers. In short I brought a chunk of change to NCL that didn't cost them one dime of advertising. That said the worst experience I had was in trying to get one of my traveling companions the shipboard account credit which was part of the package which we were sold. He originally booked the Penthouse cabin for two people but his travel partner had to cancel due to the death of a very close friend. The deal sold to us by Expedia for that category cabin included $150.00 onboard account credit. There was no mention whatsoever in the Terms of the offer that it was a "per passenger" credit. It was clearly defined as a credit "per cabin" and even further stated that single passengers paying 200% of the fare would receive the credit. Because my friend's companion canceled so close to the cruise date there was no refund for the fare. So, in essence my friend paid for the entire cabin for one person. I will add that I had called NCL in Miami at least a week before the cruise to let them know one passenger wasn't go to go on the trip only to be told that he should be left on the reservation in case he changed his mind. Bottom line is NCL didn't convert the reservation to one passenger paying 200% of the fare. We found out on day two that the my friend was only to be credited $75.00 as he was the only passenger in the cabin. I fortunately had copies of the original Terms which I took to the Purser's desk when I went to help my friend resolve the problem. After getting nowhere with the woman who worked the front desk I asked to speak with the Supervisor. The Purser's desk Supervisor who shall remain nameless (but I'm sure NCL knows who I'm talking about) was one of the most arrogant, overbearing and rude people I've ever dealt with in a Customer Service capacity. Her response repeatedly to anything presented to her, even in writing, was to bark at us that she could not do anything to resolve the problem as it was NCL's policy. After getting absolutely no where with this woman I asked to whom she reported and she told me the Director of Finance. When he came out to speak with us we heard the same thing all over again, that it was NCL's policy even though he agreed that we should receive the credit. He told us that he would send an e-mail to the Miami office to see if he could authorization to allow the additional $75.00 credit. Eventually NCL did decide to give my friend the credit but only after a great amount of frustration and time on our parts. There were other minor issues that were able to be resolved quickly. However not one in our group could understand how there is not one person in the ship's management group who is authorized to adjust an onboard account credit issue even when they all agreed we should receive it. NCL has tied the hands of management in this regard and it is absolutely a wrong decision on NCL's part. NCL does nothing but irritate the passengers with this "policy" and it should be carefully reviewed. The other main issue I had was with the cabin itself. A category AE Penthouse is advertised on every website that I've visited as having a separate living room and bedroom. Not true on the Star. It is one large room but there is not any more separation of space than in a standard cabin. The cabin is larger but that's about it. Also, this category is advertised as having a separate shower and bathtub. It does not. It is also advertised as having a jacuzzi tub. It does not. The bathroom itself was only slightly larger than our friend's balcony cabin with the only difference in footage to accommodate a tub/shower combo versus a standard shower stall. This might sound petty but it's absolute false advertising and needs to be corrected. Our cabin Butler Carmen was above and beyond in service. We truly appreciated all the extra help from her in organizing for our entire group. Our room Stewards were efficient, but helped themselves to our snacks and beverages when we were out of the cabin. Big no-no in my book. Beds were comfortable as were the robes. We really enjoyed hot breakfast served by Carmen each morning in our cabin. She would set the table with a table cloth and serviceware as if in the main dining room. We loved that touch. Casino on this ship has terrible ventilation and the smoke will choke you. I had a sore throat every time I came out of there. There is a definite need for a smoking and nonsmoking section. The machines were pretty tight. I did OK on the craps table and the staff there was friendly and fun. Food in the dining rooms was very good to excellent. We dined at Cagney's twice, Soho, Le Bistro, Versailles, and Aqua. All were good but I think Cagney's was the best. For the $20.00 cover they offer the best veal chop I've ever had and I've paid twice that amount for just the entree in most restaurants. The buffet was poor in selection and quality. We had lunch there twice and it wasn't good. Lunch in Versailles is much better. No complaints with restaurant service except in Le Bistro where there seemed to be confusion at first when we sat down. It did eventually iron out and was satisfactory. Men's spa facilities were excellent and included steam, sauna, and soaking tubs, both hot and cold. Locker keys are provided at the spa desk. The ship was well maintained and kept clean. The only exception was the pool area and buffet tables. That's usually the case on a ship, though. Staff in general was friendly and helpful when needed. Embarkation went very well as did debarkation. I will probably take an NCL cruise again but I certainly hope NCL reviews their onboard management, policies, and advertising because all three need to be revised. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
We scheduled a repositioning cruise on the Vision of the Seas from Los Angeles to Vancouver, BC and I had checked the website and found that NCL was offering a one-night Dinner & Dance cruise from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA for an ... Read More
We scheduled a repositioning cruise on the Vision of the Seas from Los Angeles to Vancouver, BC and I had checked the website and found that NCL was offering a one-night Dinner & Dance cruise from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA for an unbelievable rate in a Balcony Cabin. Score! This trip proved to be an adventure for a one-nighter. I am going to try and keep a light tone to this review but it was nasty, as several thousand cruisers can attest to. We disembarked from the Vision of the Seas at the Balentine Cruise Terminal and waited 40 minutes for a taxi with several new friends that we made on the Vision and then took 45 minutes for what should have been a 5 minute taxi ride to Canada Place Cruise Terminal. Traffic through the city was horrendous. While we were driving through Gastown there was a gentleman dragging a suitcase whose rollers had broken down the street, we initially passed him however while we were sitting on the street watching the traffic basically go nowhere he passed us and finally disappeared, if we did not have all the luggage we did it was quite obvious that walking was much faster than driving. We should have realized at this point that we were in deep do-do. We arrived at Canada Place Cruise Terminal, checked our bags, and found a line of around 1,000 people. We were trying to figure out whether this was our line or the line for one of the other ships when we found a Port employee and were told that all ships went through the same line, we were then informed that we could not get in line and had to wait an hour or two because our ship had arrived late. We should have realized that this was the second sign of cruise terminal hell on earth. We headed out of Canada Place foraging for food and coffee and found a food court across the street where we wrestled a black bear for a table and set ourselves with some natural Canadian Mexican food to wait out our hour delay. An hour later we wandered back to madness. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. We took the underground tunnel into Canada Place and found the route via Elevator to the Cruise Terminal. The doors of the elevator opened and we found ourselves in the middle of an even longer line. I don't like line cutters myself, so we followed the line, over the river, through the woods, up the hill, over the dale, around the corner, in front of the hotel, up the steps, down the walkway, to the front of one of the ships. If you have never been to Canada Place imagine a huge building, bigger then some sports stadiums, long enough that two of the large cruise ships can park right next to it, one in front of the other and you can get an idea of how long this line was. I would guess that there were a good 4,000 people in front of us in line at this point. Needless to say, people were getting testy and annoyed; we literally stood in one spot for almost an hour. I may have been imagining this, but at one point I believe the line started doing the "can can" and a conga line formed as well, at least I think it did, until I clicked my red heels together and wished to go home and found myself standing in line again. Finally the line started moving again and about 3 hours later we were ushered down a stairway into the 2nd basement level. Comments about dungeons abounded and several people in line thought it may be possible that we were being led to the bottom of the ships to row or shovel coal. At this point thing started moving quickly, we were rushed through security, the line moved briskly through customs, enough that we felt a breeze, and we were finally to the cruise line desk, got our door keys and was directed to the ship. NCL is very conscious of the possible health issues on the ship as we were required to clean our hands with hand cleanser before we could board the ship. We got to our cabin and our bags were already there, they had been partying for some time, the garment bag asked us where we had been and did we have any vodka with us. The carpet bag was balancing on a rail trying to be a tight line walker; fortunately it did have good balance. We found our swimsuits and hobbled to the elevator for a quick trip to deck 12 and the blissful relaxation of the hot tubs. When we got to the pool deck we were amazed by how large the ship really was with a nice large pool with 2 water slides and 4 hot tubs. The outside diner was active and the food smelled great. After soaking in the hot tubs we went back to our cabin and placed reservation for dinner then wandered the ship for a bit, it really was a nice ship. We then headed to the main showroom for the production show "Cirque Pacific". "Cirque Pacific" was like most Cirque shows, best enjoyed when you are under the influence of something. Fortunately I did have some pharmaceuticals with me, too bad they were in my cabin. The show started with an announcement that smoking was not permitted in the auditorium, then they filled it with smoke, I know, show smoke, but still. I suspect that the smoke was a symbol of the state the director and choreographer where in when they put the show together; I seriously suspect they had smoked some happy grass beforehand. I had never seen hula girls doing river dance, women in blenders, and a character that looked like it belonged in "Tron" being representative of things from the Pacific region, but there they were. In reality the show was interesting and had some good high points and some of the performers were terrific, but Tarzan boy was just a little over the top. *winks* I did not name him this, this is what I heard from some of the other passengers. We had Dinner in the "Endless Summer" restaurant, which was TexMex cuisine; it was as good as any TexMex restaurant that we had eaten at previously, with good flavor and plentiful portions. We then went to the Casino, where we did what most people do, which is donate. But it was run professionally and while it was only open for a short time it was a good place to play. Finally we decided to hit the rack. A little disappointed how difficult it was to get ice as none was left in the cabin and no steward returned our calls. The next morning we had breakfast in the main buffet and it was about normal buffet fare. All guests on the ship were expedited departure, which meant we had to carry a weeks’ worth of luggage off the ship ourselves, but we did get off quickly and were outside in Seattle in a matter of minutes. While this was only a single day exposure to NCL it was a positive exposure to the ship with the exception of the madness at Canada Place. So hopefully we will be on one of their ships again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
NCL - Norwegian Star Repositioning Cruise May 1 - 4, 2007 Los Angeles, Astoria, Vancouver BC Overview Three of us took a repositioning cruise aboard the NCL Norwegian Star in May, 2007. Overall I would say that this was a good value, and ... Read More
NCL - Norwegian Star Repositioning Cruise May 1 - 4, 2007 Los Angeles, Astoria, Vancouver BC Overview Three of us took a repositioning cruise aboard the NCL Norwegian Star in May, 2007. Overall I would say that this was a good value, and a nice short-week (Tuesday - Friday) getaway. Embarkation This was very smooth. Arriving by shuttle from the airport at about 12:00 PM there was really no line, and the process was quick and painless. Fill out the online registration form beforehand to help expedite things. Your luggage can be handed to a porter and will be delivered to your cabin. Cabins are generally not ready till a bit later, but just go and enjoy lunch. Hint.... You'll be told that the Market Cafe is open for lunch, but you can also go to the Versailles restaurant with the gloriously large picture window looking out the stern of the ship, and a lot fewer people. Cabin Very clean, and efficiently laid out. I had sprung for a balcony, and although it was a bit chilly to spend much time outside when the ship was moving, it was wonderful to have the full "picture window" to look out over the ocean. There is quite a bit of storage space, but the cabin is a bit smaller than then one which I had on Carnival, but certainly adequate. As others have noted on these boards, having a shower stall with a sliding partition, as opposed to a hanging curtain, is really nice. The toilet stall is a bit small, but hopefully not somewhere you'll be spending a lot of time! Hint... There is an electrical outlet in both the cabin and the bathroom, so you can charge two electrical devices at once. If you have more than that, then the oft-recommended power strip is worthwhile. Crew Very nice, and very accommodating. However, as others have also noted, you will be frequently pestered to buy drinks when in the lounges. Also, my friends had a massage and were disappointed when their very enjoyable experience ended with a sales pitch for other products. Information could be a bit sporadic at times, for instance we were told to wait for announcement for the gangway to be opened in Astoria, but the announcement was never made and people only found out the gangway was open by looking down to see others disembarking. Also, on the final day we were told by staff at reception that we had to be off by 9:45 AM, but read the newsletter and found that we did not have to leave till 12:00 PM. Entertainment The Jean Ann Ryan Company's "Band on the Run" show was an excellent high-energy dance show, especially impressive since they were dancing on a rolling deck! The late night "adult comedy" show wasn't worth the time, and we actually thought that the comedians were audience members who had been called up on stage to help. The magic and comedy of Matt Marcy was fun. Hint….. They offer a "murder mystery" and it was even free! You gather in the cinema, are organized into teams and "solve" the crime over dinner in the Versailles or Aqua restaurant. Watch for this in the Freestyle Daily, or ask about it at reception. They don't advertise it heavily, since only 120 people can participate. Dining I really enjoyed the free-style dining. Cagney's (the steak place) was worth the extra $20 ($30 if you order the surf and turf), and was surprisingly not busy when we went there at 6:30 PM, though it had been a port day, and it was "formal night" [but you don't have to dress up if you don't want to] so people were probably eating later. Reservations are definitely recommended. You can make them for that day, or the next night but no further ahead than that. The Versailles Restaurant was also nice (no extra charge). Food was good, but if you're a high-end "foodie," you may not be satisfied. They are very flexible though about choices from the menu (if you'd like to make an appetizer into a main course, etc) and the service was quick. Market Cafe is a good place for a quicker breakfast, though the Versailles is nice for a served meal. Hint….. the port side of the Market Cafe is often quieter, so its worth walking around the corner. Dress codes….. Casual is the order of the days, but jeans are not allowed for the evening meals. You'll fit in best at night in casual slacks and a nice shirt. Jackets and ties are fine if you'd like, but definitely not mandatory. Lounges The emphasis is on colorful, light, decorating schemes. The emphasis is also definitely on selling…… In the Havana Club the server had no idea about cigars, which was disappointing since we wanted to learn more about them. Basically she was there to sell you what you pointed to. Matches and a cigar cutter were not even offered. On the other hand, the server in the martini bar knew a lot about martinis and was very knowledgeable. All alcoholic drinks come with a 15% tip added. I guess you could fight this at every turn, but it is supposed to be a vacation. I saw that they had a “Credit Desk” next to reception, so I don’t know if you could do a wholesale reversal of tips on drink purchases if you felt so inclined. The Red Lion Pub was a bit disappointing since it is basically in a hallway, and has more of a sports-bar atmosphere than that of a British pub. Disembarkation From this, and a previous cruise, I’ve learned that you definitely don’t want to plan for an early flight when leaving a cruise. Three cruise ships arrived at the same time at Canada Place in Vancouver, and very few Customs agents were assigned. The ship arrived around 9:30 AM, and we didn’t disembark till around 12:00 since we didn’t want to wait in long lines. We had chosen “express disembarkation” since we all had rolling luggage and we were staying in town for the night, so it really did not make much difference to us. The lines were huge so we just stayed in the cabin and enjoyed reading and watching the harbor go by till the lines died down. Had to feel sorry for some friends who were transferring to another ship for the one-night cruise to Seattle and so ended up going through long lines to get off, and yet more lines to get on board their next ship. With 6,000 people (2,000 per ship boarding and 2,000 unloading) the place was very packed and no taxis were to be seen. Although it would be tempting to have another night on a ship, and for a low cost by all reports, the lines probably don’t make it worthwhile. Final Thoughts I’d rate this experience as being above Carnival, but not as high end as Holland America. I think the Repo Cruise is good value for money, but be warned that you will hear the phrase “It’s a short cruise, so we’re not doing that” for certain things (such as the chocoholic – midnight buffet). The galleria (on board shop) had starting putting out all of their Alaska souvenirs, so you get the feeling that you’re on a transition trip. I assume Mexican souvenirs will be available when they do the trip back in the Fall! Overall, a nice getaway on a beautiful ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Booked our cruise about 3 months ago for a sale price, took a mini-suite as it was quite reasonable. Found people on board who booked at the last minute and got on for about $135 for the three nights. Nice ship which was well run by the ... Read More
Booked our cruise about 3 months ago for a sale price, took a mini-suite as it was quite reasonable. Found people on board who booked at the last minute and got on for about $135 for the three nights. Nice ship which was well run by the crew. Boarding in San Pedro could not have been smoother. We were on the ship by noon. Bags arrived about 4pm at cabin. Mini-suite very nice but only two usable 110 plugs and one was in the bathroom. Nice to have a balcony which we used often. The couch was hard as a rock and not very comfortable if you wanted to watch the small tv. Beds very comfortable and there was adequate storage. Nice bathroom with privacy door on toilet and nice deep tub. Ship was not full and suite next to ours was vacant unless used by the staff to make phone calls etc. Sounded like we were right under a running track the first night as there was constant pounding from above. Would have been very upset if we had been paying regular price. Food was fair compared to other ships we have been on but for the price we could not complain. Specialty restaurants sometimes had extra charges for some things on the menu so watch that. Entertainment was poor but again that was likely because of the short duration(3 day) cruise. Wife not too impressed with the fake flowers throughout the ship. This was a great bargain if you did not spend anything else on the ship. Anyone thinking of a repositioning cruise might watch for last minute deals on this line as they almost give them away at the end. We were one of four ships that came into Vancouver the same day and the customs could not handle the 8000 people all trying to get off. Some apparently had to wait 2-4 hours for a taxi because of the numbers. We had booked a scheduled bus and had no problems. Norweigian allows you to take your own bags off to speed things up but it did not matter as Customs would only let a few people off each ship at a time. Some upset people but it was not the Cruise Lines fault. I suspect the Customs people will be better prepared as their summer students gain experience. We would consider a repositioning cruise again but would not expect too much other than the low price. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
This was my 9th cruise, my first on NCL. We took a 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver, stopping in Astoria OR. Since we were flying back to the airport, we parked at the Radisson (closest to LAX) and took a car ... Read More
This was my 9th cruise, my first on NCL. We took a 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver, stopping in Astoria OR. Since we were flying back to the airport, we parked at the Radisson (closest to LAX) and took a car service to the pier ($58. in comfort at our convenience vs. the $20. per person transfer from the airport, shuttle, etc.). We arrived at the pier at about 2PM with only a confirmation number (no ticket or baggage tags) and were on the ship within 20 minutes. Smooth. We had a guarantee for a BC cabin and were beyond pleased when we found out we not only had a BA cabin, but one of the 6 BA cabins in the back. This was my third time with a balcony off the back - they rule. The balconies are always much larger, it's easy to pick your room out from the pier and there's something psychological about seeing the world in your wake. Really added a lot to our enjoyment. I read a lot of recent reviews about the ship and I must admit I was a little apprehensive about the 'Freestyle' dining concept, the flat tip fee, vibrating noises in the cabins and unfriendly crew. Surprisingly, all the negative things I read were false. The Freestyle dining was easy. I always go the reservations I wanted when I wanted them. When we didn't plan in advance, we had no problems. When we ate in the Versailles room the service was well paced and the food was hot. We only ate in a cover charge restaurant the first night, Le Bistro. It was delicious - especially the creme brulee, well worth the $15. per person. We ate in the free restaurants after that. Dispelling other myths. The service was great, the Romanian girls were delightful (as was everyone else). The fish and chips in the Blue Lagoon snack bar were as good as everything said. The fried rice was excellent as well. Nothing in our room creaked - and the ship went top speed (averaged 23.6 knots) the entire way. Excellent ride for a ship at top speed in the open ocean (gentle rolls, no great heaves or tipping). This was the most pleasant disembarkation I've ever experienced. Food was available until 9AM and if you wanted to carry your own bags, you could almost leave anytime. We ate and then hung out in our cabin until we were ready to go (enjoying our balcony until the very end). This disembarkation process was much more pleasant and 'humane' than others I have experience (cutting off the food at 7:30, telling everyone to get out of their room by 8:00 and standing in overcrowded public rooms until 9 or 10:00AM). It was a great deal - but even better, a great experience. Who knows, maybe my 10th cruise will be my 2nd on NCL? Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
I booked this cruise, the first one for both my wife and me, in October, then discovered this site. After reading some of the reviews, I was appalled, wondering what I was getting into. However, within a very short time of boarding, I came ... Read More
I booked this cruise, the first one for both my wife and me, in October, then discovered this site. After reading some of the reviews, I was appalled, wondering what I was getting into. However, within a very short time of boarding, I came to the conclusion that some people have nothing better to do than complain. Check in went quite quickly. We showed up early, about 3:30 for a 7:00 departure. Our luggage reached our room before we did. From the start, all the crew members were very friendly and attentive to our every need. We were greeted almost every time we passed a crew member, it got to the point where I felt slighted on the rare occasions a crew member didn't greet me. The housekeeper introduced himself the first day, and always greeted us by name. Our room was small, but we knew that going in. It was adequate for two of us, though having a pull down bed and a roll away bed under the queen size bed, I really can't imagine having more than two people in the room. For cheapskates like me, do yourself a favor and spend the extra to get an outside room, the view out the window is worth the small extra expense. The fourth deck looked like the portholes were rather small, but our room on the fifth deck had a decent size window, well worth the extra money. The room included a small refrigerator, with an ice bucket that was filled daily; a desk and TV. The TV, however, only received the ship's stations, CNN, and the Cartoon Network. I didn't come on the cruise to watch TV anyway, and I can catch The Simpsons in summer reruns. I read somewhere, I think it was here on Cruise Critic, to take a power strip. Since there is only one outlet in the room, it's a must have. I live within driving distance of the port of Los Angeles, so can't comment on the airport pickup. Also, we spent the night at the end of the cruise in Vancouver, and arranged our own transportation home. We also didn't use any of the shore excursions, planning all of our own. The ship is less than 4 years old, and is beautiful. I've lived near the ocean all my life, and know that ships and rust go hand in hand, however, I couldn't find one bit of rust anywhere. The ship is kept spotlessly clean, from the outside to the public rooms to the staterooms. My wife and I agreed that any future cruise we go on (and we plan to cruise at least every other year) will ONLY be on Norwegian. When we are on vacation, we don't want to follow a set schedule for dining, the freestyle dining is all we will consider. We had planned on going to one or two specialty restaurants, at an extra price, but the main restaurants (Versailles and Aqua) were good enough that we didn't, and didn't feel that we had missed anything. We dined on prime rib, lobster, tiger prawns, sirloin steak, etc., why pay extra for anything else? Versailles is at the back of the ship, and has windows out to the sea, the dolphins put on a show for us as we dined. The menu had a "light" choice every night. I usually think of a "light" label on food the same way I think of "Yugo" on a car, but ordered some of the light selections because they sounded good, and was never disappointed. Especially recommended is the lobster-pumpkin bisque. Service was excellent, as was the food. The only complaint I have is that three small shrimp don't make a shrimp cocktail. While the Versailles is open for breakfast and lunch, for us, it was a bit much to dine there three times a day. We did have breakfast there once, and had room service the rest of the time. Lunch was at the Blue Lagoon (also an excellent choice for a snack, the fried rice was a wonderful late night bite to eat) or Market Cafe. Both were very good. We're not drinkers, but did spend some time in the Spinnaker Lounge, taking in the view out the windows spanning the front of the ship. This is review already going on too long, and I haven't mentioned the shows, casino, pool, spa, stores, or ports of call. I'll just sum it up by saying that it was everything we expected and much more. Other than the mentioned shrimp cocktails, neither of us could find one thing to complain about, and found it to be much more than we could have expected. This was our first cruise, so I have nothing to compare it to, but can't imagine how it could have been better. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
My husband and I are avid cruisers and this was our first time with NCL. We were so impressed with all aspects of this cruise that we booked another one on the same ship for next year. Embarkation in San Pedro CA We flew into LA the ... Read More
My husband and I are avid cruisers and this was our first time with NCL. We were so impressed with all aspects of this cruise that we booked another one on the same ship for next year. Embarkation in San Pedro CA We flew into LA the night before and stayed at the Holiday Inn San Pedro near the pier. The service and accommodations were excellent and it was only a $6 cab ride to the ship. Embarkation was very quick and organized. We were greeted with refreshments and friendly service by the check-in staff. Cabins Since we cruise every year, we always book inside staterooms to save money. The cabin on the Star had everything we needed including a fridge. It did not include the use of bathrobes like some other cruise lines however. We only saw our stateroom attendant once the whole week but he did a great job cleaning our cabin promptly twice a day. Food Our first meal was lunch in the Market Place Cafe. I didn't have the highest expectations based on reviews I've read but I was pleasantly surprised. There was a good variety of hot foods and salads the quality of which exceeded my expectations. The only things I missed at the buffet were freshly squeezed juices and self serve espresso which other cruise lines offer. The Star has a number of cover charge restaurants. We ate at the Ginza when it happened to be half price for only $6.25. This place had great Asian food in a very relaxing environment with live piano music while you eat. The Italian restaurant is open for dinner only and is free of charge. Both meals we ate there had great food and good service in a quiet environment. The Mexican restaurant Endless Summer is also free of charge but it was a little disappointing. The service and ambiance was fine but we made the mistake of ordering a family style meal which includes a variety of dishes that you share. It turned out to be way too much food with some unusual items I didn't care for. The Versailles is one of the main dining rooms we ate at twice for breakfast and twice for dinner. The food was always great but the service and noise levels were a little disappointing. Our favourite place for lunch was a smaller buffet on the pool deck called The Grill. This was open all afternoon and was never busy. I liked the hamburgers, sausage, chicken and salads. Bar Service Beer is $3.25 a bottle plus a 15% service charge. I took advantage of the bucket of six bottles for the price of five. The fridge in the cabin was useful for storing full bottles for other days. If you're a pop drinker I recommend buying a 12 pack on shore rather than paying $1.50 each on board. Entertainment The entertainment this cruise was second to none. The highlight for me was the Jean Ann Ryan Company performing Music Of The Night. NCL is the only cruise line licensed to perform this show of Andrew Lloyd Webber hits. The other entertainment such as the comedian, the magician and the juggler were all excellent too. Not to be missed is Jeffrey Allen performing as Elton John. Ports of Call The ports of call on this cruise were Catalina Island, San Francisco, Seattle, Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver. San Francisco was great since Pier 39 was only a short walk away. In Seattle we went to Pike Place Market which is also walking distance from the ship. We normally only spend the mornings in port in order to get back for a free lunch on board. Debarkation NCL did a good job unloading the passengers by deck number but next time I will sign up for their Freestyle Express disembarkation option at 7:00 am to avoid the crowds in the terminal. Summary In summary, NCL far exceeded our expectations. We love the Freestyle concept with no formal dress required and no set dinner hours. NCL has earned our loyalty for next year's cruise and more after that I'm sure. Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
We are experienced cruisers and have cruised with most of the major cruise lines. It was our third cruise with NCL, which by the way, is my favorite. This was a repositioning cruise departing from Los Angeles and having a final ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers and have cruised with most of the major cruise lines. It was our third cruise with NCL, which by the way, is my favorite. This was a repositioning cruise departing from Los Angeles and having a final destination of Vancouver BC. Along the way, we stopped at Catalina Island, San Francisco, Seattle, Victoria BC and Nainamo BC. Embarkation was quick and painless. This enormous ship is absolutely beautiful and very well maintained. Our oceanview cabin was slightly smaller than other ships, but the bathrooms had stall showers and were larger than most other ships. Contrary to some of the reviews that I have read, I rate the food in the dining rooms as excellent. The variety of meals were excellent. The variety of the desserts were somewhat lacking. Most desserts served were exotic and rich, but they never offered a cake or pie. NCL seems to be the only cruise line that does not charge extra for cappuccino or espresso. The service in the dining rooms was excellent. In fact, service throughout the ship was the best that I have ever experienced. As far as entertainment is concerned, the Jean Ann Ryan productions were Broadway quality. All in all, this was the best cruise that I have ever been on. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
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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