This is my third Cruise Critic review, the previous ones were for Island Princess Mediterranean/Transatlantic passage from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale and the second one was on Celebrity Constellation, an Italy & Croatia Cruise round trip from Venice. As with them, what you will read expresses our personal experiences, feelings, sensations (as well as some advice), that you might agree with or not but most important is that we hope it helps you on your future cruises.
Please, for those interested in the review for the Family Suite Cabin #12026 its pros and cons and detailed comments and about the tours taken plus pictures, you should scroll down to the bottom of the review.
This was my second cruise on NCL Star, the first being way back in 2005, on an 8 day tour of the Mexican Riviera, round trip from LA. Comparing what I remember from my first cruise on the Star to this one, I could say that many areas were unchanged and others were changed in both positive and negative aspects. At any rate, this is what I experienced on this 2015 refurbished NCL Star.
In general the ship is very well kept and the public areas are always clean and tidy.
* Library, regardless the size of the ship it is an extremely small area that was easily filled up with people who stayed in place for hours at a time, leaving no room for anyone else.
* Lounges - Gatsby, nice atmosphere but the service was practically non-existent. Unfortunately this nice atmosphere was altered and disturbed by an extremely loud ‘piano man’ singer who was there every night with the same songs which made conversation impossible unless you screamed at each other, so it was not an enjoyable place. At the same time his strong voice disturbed the tranquility of those having dinner at any of the surrounding restaurants such as La Cucina, Le Bistro and one deck above, Teppanyaki and Ginza. - Sugarcane Mojito Bar, deck 13 was very small but quiet. It is a good waiting area for either Moderno or Cagney’s. By the way, the mojito was so so. If you want the real thing try to go to La Botica del Mojito in Havana, Cuba, that was the place that Ernest Hemingway made famous. - The 5 o’clock Somewhere Bar location is non-descript and a sort of after-thought, in other words it has no personality besides being in a thoroughfare route. - The Spinnaker Lounge deserves special mention for serving the best ever straight up Vodka martini on this or any other cruise, perhaps as it was offered during the Captain’s VIP cocktail reception?? Anyway it was most welcome.
Restaurants – complimentary – *Main dining rooms at Versailles and Aqua had varied menus and waiting times seldom occurred. Food was served hot and quite fast. Of the two, in my opinion the most relaxing one was Aqua perhaps because of the dimmer lighting levels and a friendlier layout. * Ginza Asian Dining Room was most disappointing. The noodle dishes are soup, so unless you like soup, forget about it. Though service was prompt and good. * O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill on some occasions was a life saver, it was a welcome change from all other eating spots. But the food was not always good nor hot. In general, the fare is not healthy. *Market Café Buffet as usual was chaotic during sea days so best to avoid that area and eat elsewhere. The food in general was mediocre and the sweets were pathetic. Wine or bar service was not easily available though you can go to the side bar and do it yourself. The open deck * BBQ at the Top Siders Bar and Grill was a failure perhaps due to cold and windy weather that made the paella very cold (uneatable) and the chicken and sausage were both overcooked.
Specialty Restaurants -* La Cucina - Italian restaurant that was staffed by 99% from the Philippines or surrounding areas. The service was inconsistent, something to be blamed on the manager for lack of training and supervision of their staff. The food was good to mediocre. * Le Bistro’s - Food is by far the best of all the specialty ones because of the quality and wide variety of choices. The atmosphere is very tranquil and soothing except for the sounds filtering in from Gatsby’s (described above) and the service is very knowledgeable, friendly and prompt. Cagney’s Steakhouse – It was very good and is highly recommended for food and service. It would have been much better with a more spacious table arrangement. *Moderno Brazilian Churrascaria - In which you can find the Mojito Bar, like Cagney’s it would have been much better in a much larger setting. The food was superb, the Caipirinhas were excellent and the service, led by the Assistant Manager Denis Pierre were superb. Maître D’ Denis was an outstanding example of constant attention to detail and to all the needs of the diners. He was really “one of a kind” and never in all my extensive travels have I met someone like him. * Teppanyaki – This Japanese restaurant was unfortunately a big disappointment. The featured drinks were a wet blanket for the meal, arriving late and far too sweet. The cooking presentation was more of a fun show for the two cooks than for the diners. The soup was cold and the fried rice was a flop. The fillet mignon regardless our request for medium rare, was overcooked as was the chicken. The minimalist desert was most forgettable. Put it bluntly, this specialty restaurant is overpriced. Don’t bother going unless you like to be entertained by amateur comedians who do not have the right skills for cooking that type of cuisine. Service was quite amateurish. I remember very well the previous Teppanyaki I’ve been, it was on the NCL Jade in 2014 and that was really outstanding with two authentic Japanese chefs doing the preparation and the show given was done with much class and respect. *Sushi & Sake looked authentic, especially the conveyer belt; we didn’t sample the fare thou.
Suite Guests have the option of taking breakfast and lunch in the Moderno restaurant. Having already mentioned how small this restaurant is, the most disconcerting thing was that the menu for both meals (breakfast & lunch) never altered during all 14 days of the cruise. This prompted us to eat there only once in a while. Room service - Although free for Suite guests, was most disappointing. Breakfast was very bad so we only had it once. The coffee was pitiful (thank God the suite had an excellent espresso machine) and the orange juice was coloured water. Diner room service was ordered twice, the first and last nights of the cruise and both were mediocre. I can only feel sorry for the non-suite passengers who now have to pay a $7.95 delivery charge.
Front Desk Staff. They were very friendly, speedy and efficient with all of our enquiries and various requests. Casino. Surprisingly, smoking is permitted throughout and having to pass through the Casino was quite an annoying experience.
Entertainment. The entertainment at the Stardust Theatre was in general excellent with the exception of the magician who was a joke. There was an exceptional string quartet playing in the Grand Atrium. The Gatsby’s piano man has already been adversely commented on above. There were a couple of Argentinian Tango shows that in general were ok but the male dancers didn’t have the appropriate posture and figure to do that dance in the way I remember seeing it done in Buenos Aires, it was unfortunate because when the dancers have the figure and share a magic between them, the Tango becomes one of the most exciting spectacles to enjoy.
Game shows in the Spinnaker Lounge or Stardust Theatre that feature passengers were pitiful. Grown up people making fun of themselves in front of hundreds of passengers just to get a miserable bottle of bubbly was very painful to see.
Fitness Center. Uninviting, very well equipped, but too small a room for so much equipment plus no windows no views; kind of dark.
Family Suite (FS #12026) - We decided to book this 409 sq. ft. suite knowing that it did not have a balcony but the whole outside wall was floor to ceiling windows. The reason for that selection was because the itinerary and time of year of this cruise was with colder, windier weather, not the best situation under which to fully enjoy a balcony. The suite was square in shape, in which was located the bedroom, living room and four chair dining room set, where the Murphy bed is located; you could say that was a kind of open concept. There was a walk-in closet and a large dual sink bathroom with large shower stall and full bathtub.
Pros. The size of the suite and its amenities (e.g. fresh flowers, fruit basket, welcome bottle of champagne, daily delivery of sandwiches, cookies etc.) and a well-stocked expresso machine, plus a proper dining room table and chairs, and DVD player. For sure the storage space throughout was exceptional but there are a few caveats that I will talk about later on. Let’s not forget special invitations to the VIP Capitan cocktail reception, Wine and cheese reception, etc. as well as the availability of a Butler and a Concierge. Everything very good but…….
Cons. The walk-in closet is located on the way into the bathroom. There are two double door compartments on each side and the space in between is too narrow, room for only one person to access those compartments at which time it was impossible for anyone to access or leave the bathroom. The closets lack shelving, lots of hangers for sure but there were only two very high level shelves. The floor to ceiling window drapes (a bit tattered) were not wide enough to completely cover the windows. The sofa bed was in bad shape, sagging in the middle and was uncomfortable to relax on. Though there was a DVD player, the DVDs offered came at a price and the choice though wide was poor and out of date. The flat screen TV, high on the wall was large but the choice of programs was very poor; regardless that the ship was refurbished in 2015, the system was out of date and lacked interactive TV where you can access your accounts as well as, dining reservations or ordering room service.
* Butler services – For those ones who do not know what a Butler job is, simply put, he takes care of “almost” all of your needs, such as, packing or unpacking your luggage, shoe shine, taking care of any dry cleaning or laundry you sent out, prepare a bath (at your request) as bringing your order of breakfast, lunch or dinner & setting the table, etc., also bringing afternoon snacks; indeed some of those duties are very welcome but others could get a bit intrusive. It was no problem when we were off the ship having a Tour but during those sea days the ever present Butler could be a bit upsetting. So, for those who like to be attended to all the time, go for a Butler! Our Butler Jonathan (Philippines) was a very sympathetic and ready to please guy.
* Concierge – I am sure the majority of you know what a Concierge does, right? Maybe ours being for suite passengers was “extending” himself more? Possibly. But, in general every Concierge I’ve had did a good job and this one, whose name is Hanno (a 6’3” German) wasn’t an exception. Very good and fast on the restaurant reservations as much when for different reasons we had to change them for different times. The same about Tours and info delivered to your suite and the morning talks about the port we were to visit, giving lots of tips on what to do, where to go, etc. etc. Unfortunately he failed badly on two occasions; one happened during his talk on Glasgow, when his bias for the EU was unmistakable and the other when he misled us by not only downplaying Glasgow but saying we should all go to Edinburgh instead. All in all, he did a good job but it could’ve been done better; perhaps as his manner was truly “very German” it got in the way.
*Stateroom attendant – We were very lucky and happy with Raymund (Philippines), a very friendly and smiling guy who was ready and willing to attend to all our needs and requests. Everything delivered with good attitude and respect, leaving the suite, always, impeccable to the last detail. Really good!
Tours – They are expensive? Yes, but not all of them, it is a question to choose the right one that in general will be those that take you around the city or town that when you have chosen that particular cruise, was because the ship was docking in or nearby that city or town you “always” wanted to visit. Many people, because of the advertising on the ship get excited about other towns that are far from the dock and for sure, those are more expensive. Before giving details on the tours taken I would like to say a few things about the how the boarding process was done on the NCL Star. They have two different ways to do it: a) gathering at the dock or b) at the Stardust Theater and that spot was the worst in every aspect. It was outrageous to see “grown up” people, running and pushing their way down corridors and staircases to get to their buses; it was too much to take and that was the primary reason why we were always trying to avoid tours.
** First port we docked * Bergen, Norway – Luckily the weather was perfect, sunny and warm. No tours were taken! On our own, happy and free! We decided to go with Hop on- Hop off city sightseeing + Mount Floyen funicular @ NOK 340 each (CC) highly recommended! The view from up there is spectacular and the meandering thru different park paths very enjoyable. There is a restaurant-bar up there so if you have the time, and the will, you can sit outdoors enjoying a glass of wine! Was very surprising to see how developed Bergen is, for whatever reason we had in mind something small? I guess we forgot it is Norway’s second largest city. Getting back down from the Mount we took “Hop On” towards the Fortress that is at the entrance to the harbour in Bergen. Very interesting and worth a visit, we decided to skip the Aquarium and went directly to the Fish Market (it was highly recommended but a disappointment for us). We ended up going to a popular outdoor restaurant that is THE place were locals go specially on sunny and warm days like the one we were having. Superb Chardonnay White (house wine!) and salmon w/fries! The place was bustling with very civilized and good looking people that made this first visit to Bergen, unforgettable. Its name, EGON Restaurant, it’s on a corner almost facing the Fish Market just down from the street that leads you to the funicular.
** Second port * Alesund, Norway - This time with a Tour! Fortunately meeting at the dock. The one we took was named Spectacular outer islands (Giske & Godoy) that lasted 3 hours with an excellent Guide. Really was an eye opener because of the unbelievable amount of tunnels (and length!) connecting all the islands. One of them constructed before the UK-France Chunnel, in fact the technology developed for the Norway tunnels was used by the Anglo/French consortium that built the Chunnel a few years later. The visit to the oldest Lighthouse on the island was fantastic, with great views of the nearby islands and fjords plus the coffee and 3 tier Vanilla cake w/whipped cream was….mouth-watering!! But the best was still to come! Because we were taken to the top of Fjellstua mount that has even more spectacular panoramic views than from Bergen’s hill top. Not to be missed! One of the best tours on this cruise. Weather still good!!
** Third port * Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland – There was only one Tour and we couldn’t get in regardless of the efforts of our Concierge. We could’ve gone ashore on our own but the weather wasn’t good at all, we did not like it that we had to go by tenders and from the ship the place looked barren and very sombre. So we enjoyed our port day on board a very quiet, uncrowded ship.
** Fourth port * Thorshavn, Faroe Islands – We took a tour and again met at the dock- Scenery of Northern Eysturoy that lasted 4.5 hours; the Guide was good but a bit heavy talking about his family and their problems. Regardless it was another very interesting tour, traversing more tunnels and stunning vistas of the surrounding islands. After going throughout many islands, islets, tunnels intertwined with stop overs for photos, driving along the length of several fjords etc. we stopped at a hill side Inn for good home-made pancakes, rhubarb marmalade and coffee and then headed back to the ship.
** Fifth port * Reykjavik, Iceland – Unfortunately the meeting area was in the Stardust Theatre and as expected, mayhem! Tour taken was Scenic Reykjavik that took only 2.5 hours but was done very professionally and that was why we were able to visit so much of the city and its outskirts. Many impressive, new buildings such as the Concert Hall & Conference Center or the tallest in the city, a Benedictine Church with a very difficult name, Hallgrims Kirkja (kirkja means church) with a very ascetic, expansive interior. Reykjavik it is a very colourful city with a very distinctive architecture; was a pity that the weather was getting nasty, mostly cloudy with very strong, cold winds. No doubt it is a place to visit with more time and better weather! Very good Tour.
** Sixth port * Glasgow, Scotland – This time, it was on our own! The weather was one of the worst I experienced on any of the many cruise tours I’ve taken! Rain and cold winds, with gusts so strong that it was easy to lose your balance and end up on the ground, even leaving the ship down the gangway was a challenge. We agreed to share a taxi with an American couple from the Greenock port to downtown Glasgow. Total cost, 40 English pounds only cash accepted and took about 20 min. dropping us off down town at George Square. We went to the nearby Tourist Info and the girl who took care of our inquiries, suggested because of the weather, to take the Hop on Hop off as that was the only way for us to see as much as possible of Glasgow in so short a time. This advice was right on! And thanks to her we were able to see practically the whole city. Without a doubt Glasgow is beautiful and deserves another visit, in fact there’s so much to see that it would take another 3 full days. How wrong our Concierge was! We were thinking to have a talk with him about it but we decided, having already had a taste of his personality, not to bother. Ours was a great “self-guided-tour” which fitted best with the horrible weather conditions. Return to the ship was by train from Glasgow Central and the long and meandering walk from the Greenock Train Station to where NCL Star was docked was made tough but fun because of the strong and sudden gusts of wind that made us feel like we were flying!
** Seventh port * Dublin, Ireland – Last port of call for this Cruise! Again the meeting point was the Stardust Theater but this time knowing that it was our last, we decided to have fun with people’s behaviour. The tour taken was Dublin Highlights that lasted for 3 .5 hours. Dublin is a sensational city, full of impressive buildings covering many historical periods and the star of it all, being Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Its interior is a masterpiece, really awesome and it seemed more of a museum than a cathedral. Also, not to be missed was Trinity College and its famous Library that houses the Book of Kells (entrance fee) another outstanding art piece. Luckily the weather that morning was sunny and warmish so we decided to stay on in town at the end of the tour. By the way, the Tour Guide Kate was superb. We had a fantastic lunch at Oscar’s Bar and Kitchen across from Merrion Square where you can see the famous statue of Oscar Wilde relaxing on a rock and looking towards his house where he leaved for many years. We completed our tour with a visit to the magnificent National Gallery of Ireland (free) just nearby on Clare St. Shuttle to the ship was 5 euros each. Great Tour, great day and the perfect way to finish this memorable Cruise on the NCL Star.
Thank you for your patience and attention! It took a lot of work and time but gave me the chance to relive many happy and fanny moments; what about the bad ones? They are already out of mind! Till my review next March with Oceania Cruise Line, that for sure will be shorter!! And that’s a promise! Read Less