41 Norwegian Star Cruise Reviews for Family Cruises to Alaska

Booked 4 cabins of different categories from inside to mini suite; 3 of family and one of family friends. Ages from 56 (me) to a toddler of 16 months. We were almost unanimous in our opinion(s) of the ship and ports. Overwhelmingly ... Read More
Booked 4 cabins of different categories from inside to mini suite; 3 of family and one of family friends. Ages from 56 (me) to a toddler of 16 months. We were almost unanimous in our opinion(s) of the ship and ports. Overwhelmingly positive. The ship was clean and obviously well maintained. The crew were almost universally friendly and outgoing... pleasant and helpful but not fawning. Meals in the MDR were good to very good but none were particularly great. Service in MDR's was likewise very good. Prompt, efficient and courteous. Only complaint in MDR was a constant fight to get coffee refills. They refilled waters and other drinks regularly but had to be asked consistently for more coffee. Pet peeve of this coffee-holic. We NEVER waited to be seated regardless of our table size. Literally seated within 60 seconds regardless of dining time. Meals in the buffet areas were typical of any buffet; from mediocre to very good. Buffet fare was surprisingly American; very small areas of more "exotic" offerings. Dining at LeBistro was simply fabulous and worth every penny. Same thought about Cagney's Steakhouse... simply wonderful. We did note that Cagney's seemed to be at a faster pace than Bistro despite both restaurants relative level of occupancy; we liked the more leisurely Bistro We didn't try the other "for fee" restaurants. Shows ran the gamut from excellent to so-so; also probably depending on one's taste. My wife loved the hypnotist/magician while I was bored to tears etc. Ship public address announcements were remarkably few... a nice surprise. Our cabin attendant was superb, of course, but we have had good luck with that on all of our cruises Since all ports save one were American, it was a breeze to get on and off the ship without Custons' issues. All ports were docked... no tendering. Prices for drinks were typical of all ships; from 4 to 8 bucks depending on souvenir glasses etc. Some venues were always crowded (The Red Lion) and some virtually empty (The Star Room). The Biergarten on 14 was underutilized but that may be due to the insistent cold, damp weather. The Piano bar and the Atrium Trio were always well attended but easy to find a seat at. Never felt pressured to buy anything at any time. Even the massage lady was low key about upgrades. All in all, we loved the cruise. Everyone of our party of 13 was happy with everything but the weather... and even the baby seemed to like the whole thing. I would recommend Norwegian Star without reservation, and would sail here again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
This was our 14th cruise and the second one on the STAR. We sailed on her inaugural cruise from Miami to the west coast in 2001. For this cruise we brought along 18 people about a fourth of them had never cruised before, the rest ... Read More
This was our 14th cruise and the second one on the STAR. We sailed on her inaugural cruise from Miami to the west coast in 2001. For this cruise we brought along 18 people about a fourth of them had never cruised before, the rest had a least one cruise. I am a firm believer that CC members are obliged to write of their experiences for the benefit of all, so even if your experience was different than ours, its important to share them for a balanced view. A lot of comments have been related to the food on board. Some have had less than a good experience, others feel the food is good to great. Our experience was all the above. The problem is - it is inconsistent. For example at Cagney's the steak was excellent, but the salmon was covered in a heavily salted crab concoction that spoiled it. In the MDR's you might get a very good dish, or a just passable one with over-cooking the usual culprit. The solution to this is to order another entree. Or as one person did, not knowing if a dish would be good or great, they would order two entrees in the certainty that one would be better than the other. The Market Place food was usually quite good with some standout selections. A custom made omelette is available on the pool deck just outside the Market Cafe. You can get a fresh made waffle there also as well as eggs cooked to your order. If you order the same things in either MDR it will ALWAYS arrive at your table luke warm. It has something to do with the distance traveled and when the meal hits the window. So we saved the MDR's for lunch and dinner, and the Market Cafe for nearly all breakfasts. As to the service in the various food venues, yes it is slow. Too many tables for too few waiters, even in Cagney's the one on one attentive service was strained by the lack of staff to handle a full complement of diners. We liked the Freestyle dining because slow service made for a very leisurely dining room experience, with absolutely no rush for you to leave your table. It forces conversation while you wait for the next thing, and in this age of texting that may challenge some people a bit! We had a mini suite with balcony (11088) which came with a very nice coffee maker, that produces 2 coffee mugs worth of coffee at a time, a safe that worked with digits and did not require a credit card to operate (yea!), and curtains to divide the room in half. The cabin is 25 feet long and 8.5 ft wide. The balcony is 8.5 ft wide and 6 feet deep. Standard electrical outlets are (1) in bathroom and (1) in cabin. The closet has a light in it that 99 percent of travelers don't know about. Look up on the back wall for it. Without it you need a flashlight to see the hidden shelves on the sides! Another question I asked the CC board was is the cabin number the same as the cabin phone. Nobody seemed to know. The answer is yes, just dial the cabin number. The way to set up a wake up call however is inexplicable. I never could do it and there are no instructions either. Dial 00 and have Guest Services do it for you. Then it will work for sure! They used to put a card in the stateroom with the name of your room steward and a small pamphlet on how to work things (like the phone) - not anymore. The shower has two handles. One regulates the amount of water, the other regulates the temperature. You can go from warm to scalding hot with a 1/32nd turn of the temperature handle! Yeow ! Fortunately the shower head swings easily and you can bat it toward the wall before your backside is cooked! After 10 years, we noticed some significant changes on board. Market Place had hot chocolate machines, now you get a packet of chocolate dust. Juices were always available, but now only at breakfast, after that they become a $pecial drink. Trays are gone from Market Place, you have to carry your plate. This eliminates getting a significant amount of food at one time and multiple trips are required to get your meal assembled on your table. Consequently you have a LOT of foot traffic trying to get all their stuff together at their table. Chocolate milk is not on the line any more, but you can find it at the kids station. Lots of adults were going there to get some! The Latitudes welcome party used to include hot hors d'oeuvres, served by staff in white tux and white gloves - not any more, - White or red wine only, any thing else is $pecial. MDR's used to have cream for coffee in silver containers - now they are the plastic single serve things you find at McDonalds. The Pizza "store" is gone where you could get a slice of pizza anytime. You will find a sort of pizza at the Market Place at lunch time - but it isn't much of a pizza. You can order a 15 inch pizza from room service for $5 plus tip. Staterooms used to have double sets of bath towels and pool towels were at the pool deck. Now you get 2 of each kind of towel and the pool towels are in your room, which you are responsible for insuring their safety or paying for them. Many of our guests were in staterooms on deck 5, which unfortunately a number of them were beneath the floor of the MDR galley. 3 of our guests had serious issues with noise from the galley activities, including one stateroom subjected to loud radio playing at 3am in the morning. That took a staff officer to come to the cabin at 3am to solve the problem. Another had noise from things being dropped on the floor, skidded across the floor and a mixing machine that thumped the floor at early hours in the morning. If you are a light sleeper avoid any deck 5 cabin near the MDR galley overhead. In each case our guests were given a compensation, but a good night's sleep is really what they yearned for. Note for CC members: We had one issue that became quite unpleasant at the Guest Services Desk. I have purchased a CC pin, which I wore most everywhere on board. Many people did not know what it was, but when I went to resolve this issue the next day and explained to another Guest Services staff member what we do, and that I would be writing a ship review, he got very serious about solving the problem. I told him that we are encourage all the time by NCL to solve any problem while on board, and not when we get home, and this would be his last chance to have that happen. So there is power in being a CC member and also asking respectfully for a full resolution to any problem! I won't comment here on the Alaska ports as the ship won't be back for another year, our cruise was the next to the last one, and perhaps the only one that had 3 days of sunshine and 73+ degree temperatures! The entertainment was very good. I don't relish screechy female singers so those two nights I skipped the Stardust Theater. As noted by other CC members, the Stardust cranks the sound level up to just under the place on the dial labeled "painful" so be sure to have ear plugs with you when attending. The "Angels" aerial act with the male and female artists was superb and amazing how he could support the lady in so many gymnastic positions while flying across the stage! The hypnotist was excellent and we had a lot of fun with the volunteers and of course the Elements Show, at the last night of the cruise is the highlight and topper for the whole 7 days. A tip of the hat to the cruise director Jamie and the many events she organized and participated in. And very special recognition to her at disembarkation, where she and other officers wished us a safe journey home. What a great touch and nice way to end the cruise!! My thanks also to CC member GrapevineTX for organizing the CC Meet & Greet from our roll call. It was his work that won us a (extremely rare) and highly appreciated bridge tour Yea!! A cruise is what you make of it and a positive attitude will make it even more fun. We found all the staff without exception to be eager to help, friendly, always smiling and cheerful despite their long work hours. Special thanks to Guest Services employee An Juan Ray for his dedication and excellence in customer service - he could give lessons to one of his associates! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We boarded the Norwegian Star on August 6, 2011. My in-laws accompanied us. My father-in-law has always wanted to see Alaska and it was part of his "bucket list." Our first experience was with the buffet lunch, which is ... Read More
We boarded the Norwegian Star on August 6, 2011. My in-laws accompanied us. My father-in-law has always wanted to see Alaska and it was part of his "bucket list." Our first experience was with the buffet lunch, which is customary when you board. It was good. Then we went to see our cabins. They were smaller than what we had expected. They have some very old 13 inch TV's and 15 channels or so, half of which are cruise ship channels to promote the ports, sell you stuff, etc. The bathroom was okay and was a little bit bigger than what we had experienced previously. After checking our cabin, we went to tour the ship. We are used to amenities on board and this ship is older and does not really have much to do. There was no rock climbing wall, water park, outdoor big screen for movies, sporting events or anything. There were a couple of golf cages, a couple of pools, hot tubs, and there was a water slide which the kids enjoyed once or twice, but the Alaska weather doesn't really lend itself to that. In fact, I never had a bathing suit on during this cruise (and maybe that's a good thing!). So, let's talk about dining. We did like the ability to go to the dining rooms whenever we wanted. With NCL, you have freestyle cruising. The food was good. Kids loved the steaks. I had some really nice fish plates. The service though was lacking. The waiters seemed to have too many tables to care for and their assistant waiters were good at filling your water glass, but very slow to clear plates, etc. It was not the dining experience that we were used to. The food though was decent. We enjoyed breakfasts out on the back deck (level 12) where we could get fresh waffles and omelettes. Do wear a jacket when eating breakfast outside because it can be a bit chilly. We did not try any of the "specialty" restaurants. We paid $4,000 per cabin for 3 people ($8,000 for the six in our family) and figured that we should get our money's worth for what we had paid for. They did try to up sell the specialty restaurants quite often. As for our cabin steward and his assistant- they were very lacking. We have normally had really good attention on our other cruises (Carnival, Costa, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity), to the point that I've given extra gratuities to them. Not so here. In fact, the service was so lacking that we asked to have the gratuity lessened (NCL charges $12 pp/day). My wife was embarrassed to have to do this, but it was not up to par. I even asked the cabin steward how many rooms he was taking care of and he responded 18. This is probably too much. We did enjoy the ports and I'll comment on those below. We spent a fortune on excursions and purchased them through NCL. NCL probably takes a 40% cut for them, but we wanted to experience Alaska to the fullest. I tried to see if the excursions could be booked privately, like we've done in other places, but it just wasn't possible. Entertainment is one of the final things that I will comment on. We generally love the production shows, the cruise director and staff, etc. The first night on board was the worst show imaginable. This set the tone. The cruise director, Jaime, is very nice, but just not the larger than life personality that a cruise ship needs. Her assistant, Rob Sugar, should probably take her place. He's lively and pretty fun. Jaime is milk toast and I hate to berate her, but she needs to be there for the introduction of the shows to pump up the audiences and get them excited for the shows. She did not do this. I think this is a major flaw. So, the production shows were lame, except for the final show on Friday night- "Elements" which was very good. The other shows during the cruise that were NCL production shows lacked any star power at all- very few if any set changes, costume changes, etc. We are used to some really great shows on Carnival and RC. We did enjoy the French acrobat show and the hypnotist, Dr. Scott Lewis. Scott did three shows and should have done more. He was terrific. Truthfully, I would have liked for his shows to be a little more wild (especially the late night, adults only show). There was a comedy troupe on board that was okay. We do like more variety and talent stuff. NCL underperformed here big time. Let's see- final thoughts- The gym was okay. Make sure to bring headphones. The on-board shops were okay. You kind of get tired of them after a couple of rounds. If you want real ice cream, it's back by the gym and is open from 12:00 to 5:00 pm. The kids liked the kids club. I thought it was a bit wild at times- very noisy, but hey- kids like to play and have fun. They did a good job with it and our kids kept asking to go back, which gave my wife and I plenty of time to do what we wanted to do. Enjoy the ports, they are fun, but the NCL star was very lackluster in our estimation. Oh, I should also comment on the staff. We are used to people being much more friendly. The staff was performing a job, not really enjoying their jobs- the friendliness factor was greatly missing on this ship. We saw lots of loafing around and at one point even saw a couple of the staff making fun of fat people on the ship and moo'ing at them. It was very disrespectful and mean spirited. Also, we generally expect to have a bill to review the day before- they don't put it out till the morning of disembarkation. I wanted to review our charges for accuracy, so I went and got a bill on Friday night. There also was no comment card given out to rate the ship and give opinions. I found this odd. Maybe this is why our experience on NCL was mediocre at best. They need to up their game and if you have the choice between NCL or Carnival or Royal Caribbean, go with Carnival or RC. We have no desire to sign up with NCL in the future based on their current performance. Also, we thought that the value for the price that was charged was not very good. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
This was my fourth cruise and I have to say I was a little disappointed in the ship itself. As soon as we got settled on board, my family (husband and 1 teenage son and 2 teenage daughters) and I went to the buffet. We were terribly ... Read More
This was my fourth cruise and I have to say I was a little disappointed in the ship itself. As soon as we got settled on board, my family (husband and 1 teenage son and 2 teenage daughters) and I went to the buffet. We were terribly disappointed in the food at the Market Cafe. It was mediocre quality at best. We had 2 staterooms. The one my husband and I had was fine, but the kids' room reeked of cigarette smoke. The staff was friendly and accommodating, but some were difficult to understand because they were from other countries (which is fine, just had to pay attention closely when speaking to them.) For the most part, the food in the restaurants was good and we enjoyed the different cuisines. The entertainment was good. We enjoyed the shows and the lounge music. The Alaska ports-of-call were amazing! We enjoyed them very much and saw the wonders of Alaska. We avoided the shopping because we felt like it was Norwegian Cruise Lines trying to get more money out of us. It was all about jewelry and we aren't interested in jewelry. We enjoyed our excursions. We went salmon fishing in Ketchikan and were successful there! The fishing charter company cleaned and prepared our fish and shipped it home for us. In Juneau, we went whale watching and took a short hike to Mendenhall glacier. After our short stay in Juneau, the captain sailed the ship into the Tracy Arms fjord where we saw the Dawes glacier. This was a highlight of the trip for us. In Skagway, we took the White Pass and Yukon Railway tour. It was well worth it. Our last stop was Prince Rupert, BC, Canada. This was a waste of time. There is nothing there. I think it was just a refueling stop for the ship. Overall, it was a good time, but having cruised in the Caribbean with other cruise lines and NCL in the past, we expected more. Just to mention, they had a Chocoholics Buffet one night that was not up to my standards for a cruise like this at all. Very poorly done. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Just got back from Alaska cruise on Norwegian. We took our granddaughter on her first cruise, and did not have particularly high expectations, having read some unflattering reviews from other cruisers. We were pleasantly surprised. We ... Read More
Just got back from Alaska cruise on Norwegian. We took our granddaughter on her first cruise, and did not have particularly high expectations, having read some unflattering reviews from other cruisers. We were pleasantly surprised. We normally take Regent cruises and were uneasy about everybody on Norwegian hustling us to spend money, and the possibility of overcrowding and bad food, bad service. It's true that the employees on Norwegian try to sell you stuff, but they are very friendly and not really aggressive about it. They were uniformly polite and eager to please everywhere we went, and treated our granddaughter like a princess. We had booked a couple of shore excursions that had to be canceled because of bad weather, and they fell all over themselves to help us arrange alternative trips. (Btw, late August is pretty likely to be cold and rainy in Alaska -- we knew this, and took serious rain gear, and warm fleeces, hats, gloves, etc.) We decided to take this trip at the last minute, and the Picasso suite was the only balcony suite available; it turned out to be absolutely worth the money. Great bathroom (better than anything we've ever had on Regent), fabulous linens, somewhat silly decor, but who cares? We had access to Cagney's for breakfast and lunch every day, and our concierge, Patrick, steered us to the best seating for shows, most of which were quite fun. Andrew, the butler was always prompt, and Guillermo, the steward, was a gem, making funny towel animals to delight our granddaughter every night. Our granddaughter, at 9, turned up her nose at the kid's programs -- 9 year olds don't want to be in a program with 5 year olds-- but she loved the shows, the pool and slides and played bingo like a champ. All in all, a solid 4 star experience. I withhold a star only because the food was definitely mediocre, often not much better than your average college dorm. Don't go for the food. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
I've heard that if you go to Alaska it will grab you and you will return. And so I did return. I was taking this cruise with 3 family members and my first problem was choosing a cabin. I worked with my NCL cruise consultant and looked ... Read More
I've heard that if you go to Alaska it will grab you and you will return. And so I did return. I was taking this cruise with 3 family members and my first problem was choosing a cabin. I worked with my NCL cruise consultant and looked at a range of possibilities. The only thing I requested was no trundle bed as I did not want wall to wall beds. The consultant recommended an inside room with two lower beds and two pullmans. We were placed on the 12 deck and assured this would be fine as we were on a new deck-the Star had been refurbished-and so would have a new cabin. Keep in mind I had told the consultant I would book up to a mini suite. The cabin was horrific. We are a close family and get along well, or thanks to the close quarters, we would have murdered each other. You could not get dressed or do anything if all four were in the cabin. We ended up using the library as a "living room" and as each got dressed, they left and met up in the library. In addition to being the smallest cabin I've ever had, it was ugly. Dull brown walls, no color. Let's get to other things than the cabin. As the Star had demolished its' Spinnaker with it's huge glass windows over the bow, I had done so much homework for the cruise, I took out Spa passes for my family and we spent wonderful hours sitting on lounges watching the incredible beauty of Alaska pass by. The Star itself was very well kept, very clean and I thought wonderful. We loved the main dining rooms and although NCL has changed their menus to mostly the same choices every night,they do have some new selections nightly. All the food was tasty and well presented. We ate in Le Bistro two nights as we are Platinum members and receive dinner for two free in this restaurant as part of the Latitudes member perks. The Blue Lagoon was also very good for breakfast and we enjoyed the quiet in the mornings. As far as activities, we did a couple of trivia competitions and saw most of the nightly shows. We loved Elements and Band on the Run. Also the hypnotist was so good, we also attended two additional sessions he held in the daytime. I like the entertainment on NCL and find their ensemble shows very good. I'll review the ports later, which is really the heart of why we did this cruise. I hate to add another negative but feel I have to as NCL needs to be more careful on which crew member to put in a supervisory position. We all went to the lifeboat practise. We were greeted by a crew member who wanted us to go down stairs in the Stardust lounge. I asked if my 77 year old handicapped friend could stay in an available chair near the entrance and not have to go down the stairs. Well, she didn't move fast enough and when I told him she had a hearing problem, he stated "She hears what she wants to hear". My friend was very embarrassed and upset. We did speak to an officer who said he would deal with the problem, but this was not a good way to start a cruise. To sum up, even with some problems, we enjoyed the cruise, the ports and each other. I will continue to prefer NCL as I love the free style dining and I must note, that NCL always responds to problems quickly and with a good attitude. I also must add, the care that NCL took with my 77 year old friend in embarking and disembarking was commendable. If anyone reading this is thinking about an Alaskan cruise, do it!! It is memorable and NCL does it well. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
This is a very welcoming ship with exceptional staff and a relaxed atmosphere. Traveling with our 10 year old daughter we were appreciative of their well run kids programs, the ability to be spontaneous with our dining, the attitude from ... Read More
This is a very welcoming ship with exceptional staff and a relaxed atmosphere. Traveling with our 10 year old daughter we were appreciative of their well run kids programs, the ability to be spontaneous with our dining, the attitude from the crew that our daughter was a valued guest on the ship - not a nuisance, and a lovely ship in general (although she is now getting older and showing it around the edges). We got to Pier 66 at noon to embark and the line up was huge. We quickly learned looks are deceiving as the line moved exceptionally quickly, and in a very organized manner. Countless staff were all over the place, directing folks and answering questions and being VERY patient with several cruisers who were impatient, unprepared (have passports, e-docs, etc organized and available), or simply uncertain of where to go or what to do. The whole process could not have gone more smoothly. A woman behind us was complaining that she had been in line for 15 minutes and I said in a good natured way that considering they were getting almost 2400 people and about 5000 pieces of their luggage through this line and onto the ship within roughly 5 hours I was pretty impressed with 15 minutes in a line up. She said she hadn't thought about it that way and seemed a bit more patient with the process after that. (A week later, disembarking was just as smooth, just as streamlined). Once on board, spank'n new key cards in hand, we snooped around a bit and learned staterooms were ready earlier than expected so checked ours out. Our luggage got delivered shortly afterwards, we hit the buffet (a mad house with folks jockeying for position in line and acting like the ship was going to run out of food within hours) and we lifted anchor so to speak. Our stateroom was compact, but we weren't surprised after checking out the various cabins on several websites - we never expected the space of a hotel room and the room was exact to pictures seen. There was plenty of space in the closet - it even had a light inside and side shelves, drawers and under the bed had plenty of room to store suitcases and purchases. Although things were compact the layout worked well. The room was very quiet, and we were not disturbed by noise above, below or beside us and with a room close to the middle of the ship we experienced little rock n'roll (although we never experienced it elsewhere on the ship when we were out and about either). The balcony gave extra space and a nice place to eat breakfast, thanks to room service. Especially on the Alaska cruise where scenery and wildlife are a key component of the cruise we LOVED our balcony - a private viewing area with comfortable loungers. It was nice to tuck our daughter in bed, slide the balcony door shut, and enjoy a relaxed conversation late at night. BRING BINOCULARS. All staff, from those at the reception desk to the cruise director to the stewards to waiters were welcoming and friendly. Certainly some were more outgoing and cheery than others, but truly, we never encountered a single staff that was not at least polite and had a smile ready as we passed in the corridor. Our stateroom steward was exceptional; good natured, thorough in his care to our cabin and he quickly charmed our daughter with whom he was very patient and kind. We always took a moment to chat with him and joke around a bit. Towel animals are traditions on many cruise ships. For some "chronic cruisers" the novelty may have worn off long ago regarding a facecloth shaped into a turtle or 2 bath towels turned into an elephant but to us it was fun and our 10 year old was fascinated. Our room steward knew this and made special effort to create the towel animals with her and put on quite a show of it. He made her feel special. The ships oozes crew all over the ship and if I ever had a question, needed something or couldn't figure out which elevator to take there was always someone in close proximity to ask and they willingly and cheerfully assisted in any way they could. Yes, stellar staff indeed. Prior to our trip, we spoke with many people who have cruised and googled many websites so knew that many cruise lines (not just Norwegian) put a heavy emphasis on selling everything from jewelry to art work to photographs. You were constantly encouraged to spend, spend, spend. There are even channels on the stateroom TV dedicated to helping you figure out the best places to spend your cashola, especially on jewelry. However, although displays were always up, flyers constantly distributed or photographers walking around, etc, we feel hounded or pushed to buy. A polite smile and "no thanks, I'm not interested" was met each and every time with a returned polite smile and "enjoy your afternoon madam" from the seller. And, you can always turn off the tv spending channel. Easy. The only time I could have screamed "Enough already, back off!" was during an afternoon close to the end of the cruise when photographers were positioned with huge set ups around main traffic areas (one was directly in front of the reception desk). Large screens, lights and equipment were sprawled out, meaning folks had to carefully maneuver around them, not only causing traffic jams but introducing potential for things to be knocked down or people tripping over items. Souvenirs and items in the gift shops were quite reasonably priced and many nice things were offered. Off ship and in port the push was far more aggressive in the stores and we quickly learned to avoid row after row of jewelry stores. 3 of the 4 ports visited were very nice (Ketchican, Juneau and Skagway) with loads of history, interesting sights around the towns and residents that have lived their lifetime there. Only one port, Prince Rupert was a thumbs down with little to do, gloomy/wet climate, and run down streets. A small pocket of pretty shops and sites close to the pier were nice but venture any further and the whole place looked tired and sad. I really don't see how it was ever determined that plunking down a few thousand cruisers here would be worthwhile, enriching or entertaining. Much of the typical tourist shopping (t-shirts, key chains, mugs, local souvenirs) was the same regardless of which port you were in. If you missed getting a Ketchican t-shirt, no worries, the same one was in Juneau - just with a different town name on it. Although you can book excursions well before your cruise dates, we waited until we were on board the ship and we're glad we did it this way. With fog, mist, and rain all risks on an Alaska cruise regardless of the time of year, we were able to wait until we knew the short term weather forecast to know if it was worth booking something where the weather may effect our enjoyment or the view. There were excursions for any budget, activity level and we appreciated the level of choice. The kids programming was very good. Registration was a snap and our daughter enjoyed the activities and program staff very much. Program leaders were high energy and experienced, they communicated well with us and fostered interaction between the children. The planned activities were fun. Five minutes of shyness the first day quickly morphed into excitement to go and play each day, and our daughter really enjoyed her time there and connected with many kids. She always seemed to know at least one or two of the kids to play with at the pool - where the water slides were a big bonus. It was wonderful for her to meet several children from so many different corners of the world. Shows in the Stardust Theatre were well done. Band on the Run was so much fun and Elements was the very best, but all were entertaining. This isn't Broadway, but certainly talent was witnessed. Shows are popular so arrive 25-30 minutes prior to the show's start to get a good seat, arriving 5 minutes before show time and finding slim pickings for good seating is your own fault. The Star's food ran the gammet from stellar (Cagney's) to very good (Aqua & Versailles) to mediocre at its best (the buffet). We quickly learned to head for dinner a bit ahead of behind the crunch time (ask crew when these times are) and never waited in line more than 10 minutes to eat in Aqua or Versailles. Restaurant staff didn't seem so pressured outside of the busiest pockets of time and food always arrived promptly. All meals were nicely prepared/presented and the children's menu had many choices that our daughter enjoyed very much. My husband and I treated ourselves to a date night dinner in Cagney's on the last night of the cruise, while our daughter gleefully attended the ships pajama party for the kids. WOW. A lovely restaurant, faboulous shrimp cocktails, steaks done to perfection and crisply prepared vegetables. Worth every penny with a waiter who was attentive and good natured. The buffet is at the other end of the spectrum. Very little changed from day to day as far as what was presented and food items were often runny, soggy, and exceptionally bland. OMG, so bland. A hospital cafeteria comes to mind. It did serve its purpose though as a dine and dash venue before an excursion or when you simply wanted a light snack. What floored me about the more relaxed Freestyle Cruising philosophy was passenger's attitude that this meant that it was appropriate to arrive to the buffet in an old stained sweatsuit or even your pj's and fill your plate to practice gluttony. There was absolutely no evidence of enforcement with the required casual (but presentable) attire in the buffet with folks walking right by ship crew in torn jeans and ragged t-shirts or as mentioned, even their pajamas. Awful. I've read many of the more recent reviews of the Star and am baffled by the overt, inflated negative ones. Really? I mean, really????? Was it so awful? This ship wasn't some tub and the crew most certainly did not circulate in sullen packs. To some of these folks I might suggest that if they want a waiter or steward to smile at them or demonstrate an "over and above" effort to their staterooms, they could think to smile first, demonstrate gratitude and a welcoming demeanor themselves. A 30 second chat or brief chuckle with a crew member goes a loooong way. With a staff that comes together from over 60 countries, this is a very multicultural crew and we were appalled by blatant prejudice and rude remarks by passengers behind their backs, even mimicking their accents and snickering. One passenger I chatted with was very critical of the cruise because it got chilly at night and windy on the deck. !!!!!!!! This is ALASKA, not California - research the weather and the cruise, bring a wind breaker and layer your clothes. Take responsibility - plan accordingly. Throughout this review I've used the word "research". Comb the Norwegian website, check out pictures on line of the cabins (again, through the Norwegian websites, or simply google them), watch YouTube videos posted by past passengers, and THOROUGHLY READ your E-Docs and other information forwarded to you prior to your cruise. Be prepared, be informed and be realistic. This is not a high end, luxury cruise on the Regent Seven Seas. It is a casual, family friendly, lovely older ship with a crew that is there for you - and more than willing to bend over backwards for you, especially when you demonstrate gratitude, respect, a pinch of humour and respect for all they do for its passengers. Role with the punches when a wrinkle presents itself, take in the scenery of a beautiful journey and RELAX. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
My review of the Norweigan Star General impression of the Star is that it is nice but small. Our cabin was 8088, mid-ship. Going past cabins 8116 and 8118 had a smell of sewer gas all week. Our steward was fine, we had the towel ... Read More
My review of the Norweigan Star General impression of the Star is that it is nice but small. Our cabin was 8088, mid-ship. Going past cabins 8116 and 8118 had a smell of sewer gas all week. Our steward was fine, we had the towel animals, etc. One day I was waiting for my husband to come back and took a shower w/o locking cabin door. I heard noise and thought it was him. The next thing that happened was the steward opened the bathroom door! Not a great experience for either one of us. It was an honest mistake, but I don't know how he didn't hear me in the shower. He apologized every time we saw him, and it was embarrassing for both of us. We never used the pool, but my kids and spouse used the gym and seemed to think it was ok. Casino was ok, we got the $50 for $25 vouchers and had no trouble using them from http://slotplaycoupons.com. Entertainment was great. Cruise director funny, I loved listening to Mr. Motown and Dr. Scott Lewis the hypnotist was wonderful. The aerialist act was amazing, they got a standing ovation! The only one we didn't care for was the magic act, was kind of hokey. The Stardust Theater where the shows are offered is very small and sometimes there was only 1 show per night. If you didn't get there early you didn't get a seat. Dining rooms and food. We had only sailed with Carnival before this cruise. IMHO Carnival wins here, hands down. The included dining rooms are very small and we had to wait for a long time to get in. I feel they deliberately keep it this way to encourage you to go to the paying restaurants. We are retired and living on a fixed income and did not want to spend our money this way. The menu offer much less than I was accustomed to on Carnival. Was surprised to see that there was neither Crème Brulee nor Baked Alaska offered at all on this cruise! The servers were great and did their best to keep up. Some nights you would wait 25 minutes after your appetizer till you got your main meal, others it would come right away. We ate lunch and breakfast in the buffet restaurants. They had a great selection and were really careful to be sure that no germs could spread. Each time you walked into these restaurants they sprayed your hands with a disinfectant. Seats were hard to come by and I often felt like I was back in high school looking for a table to eat at. This necessitated us having one person to scope out the dining room and wait at a table until someone else came along. Didn't make for a peaceful, enjoyable mealtime together. We found the prices in Alaska for shopping were amazingly low. Prince Rupert had much higher prices. Here is a day by day synopsis: Embarkation on Saturday was a breeze. We got there early and dropped our things off and went to Pikes Market to look around. Sunday was a sea day and it rained and was real foggy for most of the day. Captain blew the fog horn many times. Monday we were in Ketchikan. We did the canoe and nature trail. We saw a bear on the way to the lake. Unfortunately it poured this day as well. It was a great excursion and had some beautiful scenery. Tuesday was Juneau and it rained a lot again! We went to the glacier and the glacier gardens and Salmon hatchery. Was another great excursion as we saw and learned a lot. Wednesday was Skagway. We did the White Pass Railway. Great scenery, but I felt that 3 ½ hours would be too long, that 2 ½ hours would be just great. Unfortunately, the train in front of us had engine problems and it ended up being 5 ½ hours. This didn't leave us too much time to shop or do other things. This also caused us to leave port late. We did cruise into the Tracy Arm Fjord that evening and it was beautiful to see the glacier there and surprising to see all the big ice chunks flowing around you. Thursday we were in Prince Rupert Sound. Did another nature walk and had a beautiful day. Guide said it was the best day of the whole summer and the only day there was no rain! Friday was a nice sea day and the weather was great. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Us: Husband (37), self (42), and 15-year old daughter. We live in northern CA; we drove and parked. This is our 3rd cruise, our 1st on NCL. Boarding: We arrived at the parking structure at 10:00, and they wouldn't let us park ... Read More
Us: Husband (37), self (42), and 15-year old daughter. We live in northern CA; we drove and parked. This is our 3rd cruise, our 1st on NCL. Boarding: We arrived at the parking structure at 10:00, and they wouldn't let us park in "cruise parking" until 10:30. They did give us the option to wait in some open spaces that faced the port and ship until they were ready for us. However, I'm glad we arrived early. We used Republic Parking and paid $140 for the week. https://www.rpnw.com/seattle/fuel/ There were cheaper options, but for those you have to wait for a shuttle and it only saves $20-40. This garage is right across the pier and has nice elevators, luggage service, and a Sky-Bridge that walks you across to the NCL cruise lobby. It was worth it. The check-in process was so fast that I found myself fumbling to fill out forms and pull out passports. They got us checked in and gave us a number to wait for our group to be called. We were "11," the first group was "10." When we boarded at 11:30 there was still no line for those going through check in. I would suggest you arrive as early as possible. Ship: Not as grand and beautiful as other ships I've seen... but very nice. The atrium and main pool deck were nice and I thought they provided nice seating and atmosphere. My daughter loved the water slides. I liked the staggered stair-type seating at the pool. I liked the varied art in the stairwells. I saw a few places that could have been dressed up better, but overall it was fine and in most places very nice. Cabin: Balcony, mid-ship, port, 10th floor. This room was PERFECT location. Great for elevators and easy access. Port side is great for this cruise, only one day without land view. Bathroom: Best of 3 cruises. (More room, nice tile, nice sink. Clean. If you're tall you'll find the toilet area to be short and may consider upgrade to mini-suite where bathrooms are deeper. Ship provided good shampoo, not-so-good liquid soap, and no conditioner. No tub but larger shower than last two ships I was on, and great shower head. Water system is great and water tastes great, no need for bottled. (I didn't believe it because I'm so picky about water, but it was true.) Furniture: Smart design = room under bed for our suitcases. Closet was smallish but had lots of shelves and options and met our needs for three. It was tight, but it worked. Angled cuts, mirrors, and a chair without a back (stool) made for more walking space. Only one plug, bring a power strip or splitter if you have more than one device. (Cameras, cell phones, etc.) Hair dryer was fine. Beds: Queen was a bit hard, but OK. Pillows were good, bedding was good. Fold-out bed for my daughter was HARD AS A ROCK. I'm not sure how she could stand it... it would have killed by back and neck. She is 15 and sleeps on the floor sometimes "just because"... she had no complaints. LOL. If I had to sleep on that I would have been miserable without a foam pad. Cleanliness: I'm picky about this. Bathroom was all tile, which makes it easier to clean, and it was very clean. Changing out rooms they missed a french fry under the bed and the slider had "finger writing" of hearts from the prior passenger. After we got the room it was cleaned very well each day. Our attendant said he was just back from time off so I have to guess he didn't prepare the room... without us asking windows were clean and fry was gone after the first cleaning. Room attendant: Outstanding! Friendly, great service. We did tip a couple of extra dollars each night... he left us robes and pool towels without us asking, and great towel animals. He knew our schedule and turned down our room early. A few times I left out cash on accident and it was never touched. He called us by first name, always smiled, and quickly met any requests we had. Balcony: A very small balcony, smaller than on most ships. But, large enough for 2 chairs and met our needs. BRING GOOD BINOCULARS. We brought some cheesy ones thinking we wouldn't need them. We were fighting over them and wished we had three good pair. TV: Horrible little 13" old tube. I don't care much about a TV on a cruise, but it did seem a bit ridiculous to have such an old and little TV. I do like to refer to the ship's channel that gives you information such as current location, time, miles sailed from and to next port, temperature of air and water, speed of vessel, sea condition and wave height. With volume up you can also hear ship's announcements. I know many people use the front bow camera for light. Even with window or balcony if you close the curtains for sleeps it's really dark. They had a few channels with movies and one with TV shows. We didn't care about watching TV but if you do you won't be happy with tiny screen or old TV. Tip: Bring a small digital clock. There's not one in the room. I knew this and thought I'd just use my cell but it was a hassle to climb over the bed and go pick it up every time I wanted to see the time. I thought I wouldn't care.. I mean, we're on vacation, who cares about time? But, if you want to go to dinner/shows/activities/ports of call... you will care. I wish I would have followed advice of others and brought a clock that you can see in the dark and across the room. Cruise Critic Reception/Meet N Greet: Great fun! You should sign up/arrange for this event. I wasn't sure what it would be and if we should go... but it was great to meet the other CC members. They set up a nice meet area at Le Bistro and provided coffee/tea and cookies. The captain came for a quick meet and we also got a personal intro to the senior offices including cruise director. They knew we would be a small group and they still rolled out the carpet for us. We were all invited to a bridge tour on Thursday. Service: Hit and miss. Officers on this ship were more available and friendlier then I've seen on other ships. Guest services was easy to understand and helpful. Most crew-members were smiling and helpful. Some looked bored and/or disinterested, I'll talk more about that when I review dining as this is where we ran into poor service at times. Shops On Board: Only three. Typical jewelry, t-shirts, mugs. A lot of "made in China/India" plastic crap. I had some ship credit and went there several times having a hard time finding anything I wanted to buy. Almost nothing made in Alaska. I did find a small, wooden, Alaska-carved totem pole. Also, I asked for 10% off on a non-sale item and they gave it to me. They will re-position in a few weeks so if you're going to Alaska in 2011 look for big sails on the last 2 sailings. I ended up happy with purchases of the totem pole, a sweat-shirt, some scrapbook stuff, a 50% off mug and corkscrew. I spent $90 for all of that. Selling: Let me say this is my BIGGEST pet-peeve on cruises and I'm a bit over-sensitive to it after a horrid experience on Princess. Maybe it was just good luck but I had almost NO sales offers other than TV channels and room fliers (which I don't mind.) There were photographers looming about to snap photos, but no pressure to go view or buy the photos. There were waiters that would ask if you wanted something from the bar and "ship lottery ticket" sellers at the shows, but they never blocked our walkways and they always accepted a polite "no thank you." One night a nervous young man at Aqua tried to up-sell a specialty restaurant while we were eating. That was intrusive. I gave him a sneer and told him we were not interested and he left us alone. There were a lot of "bingo" and "art auction" and "jewelry seminar" announcements over the ship's systems.., but you couldn't really hear them unless we had our TV to the ship's channel or we had our door open, or we were out and about. I was pleasantly surprised that the ship offered these things but didn't push them. I did avoid things like art auctions, jewelry seminars, bingo, and any such stuff where they will try to sell you something as I didn't want to be spend my money on these things and I learned from past cruises that these are ship opportunities to sell you things you don't really need. I can do all that stuff at home, that's not what I cruise for. Actives/Parties (not shows): We thought the selection was great. We tried to get in on the Newly-wed game as a "married for a long-time" couple, but we didn't quite make it. It was fun. I liked the game shows and pool parties and night-club parties. We always had things to do and for those who say they didn't I wonder if they really read their daily schedules. Because, one negative I had, was that they didn't announce all their great activities very well and we often just stumbled upon them. They had music in the atrium and movies that we didn't even know about until after the fact. We were never bored so it is a small complaint, but be aware that many very fun, and free, activities are poorly advertised - really study your daily room schedule. Teen Center: My daughter only went on the last day at sea, but she loved it. They kept it simple and there were lots of teens there and she wished she would have gone there sooner. They had loud music with videos, air-hockey, food, and other teens. What more do teens want? They did have scheduled activities (like bingo and scavenger hunt), but the teen counselors let the teens decide if they wanted to do them or not. This was good as on other ships my kids felt the teen center was more for pre-teens with "dumb" activities. Spa and fitness center: Never used. Dining: Afraid of what I might find with so many bad reviews, but we were happy with the food. We did not pay for specialty restaurants. Buffet: Almost never used as we don't care for them. Food was OK, some of it good, kind-of like a good hospital cafeteria. Seating was limited and too close. It was not 24-7 and for "freestyle dining" there were many times late at night, brunch-time, or late lunch to early diner time that everything was closed (or a fee), except for Blue Lagoon. Blue Lagoon: Went for lunch and dinner... Good wings, good won-ton soup. Very limited menu with burger, sandwiches, or salad. SLOW service. Wait persons seemed bored. Service was fair to poor, food was acceptable. Nothing to write home about. Aqua: Good menu and choices. Not a great atmosphere. I am not sure why, but the PASSENGERS at Aqua were generally acting awful each time we went. The decor, menu, and tables were somewhere between predictable and upscale, but our fellow passengers were acting like they were at a Wal-Mart MacDonald's. Well, really, I'd get mad at my kid for acting that way at MacDonald's. We had one family seated to our right, almost on their dessert. After we were seated that family discovered they had more family two tables to our left. They proceeded to take pictures through our table and yell comments to each other through our table. No sooner did they finally leave did we have another family sit next to us and loudly argue over bingo. The tables are only separated by about one person and it was obnoxious. The service was just OK, as I think the wait people were also worn out by the rude passengers. We went there again thinking it was just a bad night... and that time the family next to us had kids getting up and running about and knocking into us.. and the parents didn't care. I like kids.. but this was simply bad behavior going unchecked. Then some teens were seated who proceeded to talk about very inappropriate subjects, very loudly, and my teen spent dinner sneering at them. I'm not sure why Aqua drew a different crowd then the other free sit-down restaurant, but it did. Versailles: Lovely. Had our 1st meal here (lunch after boarding) and got great service from a man named Romeo. DEcor was outdated and a bit gaudy, but table spacing was nice and it felt more private then Aqua. By luck we were seated in Romeo's section for our third day's dinner. My husband gave him a tip and every night (and some lunches) after that we went there and asked to sit in his section. Excellent service by him and his assistant "Charleston." Food was good. I did notice that both "free" restaurants overcooked the meat... prime rib, steak, fish, pork chop. Several times we would ask for beef "medium rare" and get "well." Some of the veggies seemed fresh, crisp, and lovely.. some seemed canned and mushy. Overall we were happy with the food; it was seasoned well, served at the right temperature and served at the right pace. The hostess was irritated when we asked to be seated in Romeo's section and she didn't provide good service at all. Tip: Versailles opens at 5:00, Aqua at 5:30. There is ALWAYS a line and EVERY night they opened a few minutes late. If you want to get a good seat at the early show (7:15) you need to be at the theater by 6:45. Dinner is 3 courses and can take a while. Show up to restaurant 10 minutes early or plan to wait in a long, disorganized line with irritated passengers. Room Service: Summary = Disappointing. My favorite part of room service is breakfast, but it was awful. Like a motel continental. There was NO protein available. You can get drinks like milk, "orange drink", (I think also tomato or grapefruit juice), coffee/tea, cereal, muffins/pastry/bread, and fruit. There may have been a couple more things. But NO eggs, (not even hard-boiled.. I requested them as a write in and they ignored it), no meat of any kind, nothing like a protein smoothie or even nuts. It was all sugar and more sugar. Not a good way to start a long day. The regular menu (lunch/dinner items) was not bad, but very limited. Pizza has a $5 surcharge, anything between 12-5 am has a surcharge (and buffet is closed). Twice when we called they told us the wait would be over an hour so we said forget-it. Once they said 20 minutes and it took 40. Ports: I will do port reviews but I will say this here - the ship needs to greatly improve the way they handle passengers going on and off the ship. They have no roped off area for the lines and they have elevators opening into the lines. This caused people to cut and other people who had been waiting to get very angry. I felt so bad for one female crew-member who was trying to organize the lines on her own. NO WAY. She needed about 3 assistants and some ropes. All the stairways have a right and left side and it's obvious that the line should go up one side and leave the other clear for passengers who need to get to their rooms or go up the stairs. Passengers were so irritated about people cutting that they were blocking people who were trying to get up or down the stair for other legitimate reasons. Lines in general were a mess; Prince Rupert being the worst... we got to the line at 20 minutes till and were about 100 people back. Soon the line wrapped all the way to the end of the ship and back around towards the start of the line and I felt that pushing and anger caused it to be dangerous at some points. A child or disabled person could have easily been hurt... and a couple of times I thought some heated passengers might go to blows. Side note: This is the first ship I've been on where I've noticed such bad behavior from passengers in general. You can't blame the ship for that.. but I had to wonder if "freestyle" cruising didn't attract some "I don't want to follow any rules" patrons. Excursions: Ketchikan= Zip Lining. Juneau = 1) Musher's Camp 2) Tracy Arm Explorer. Skagway = Combo of White Pass Train and Gold Fields. Prince Rupert = Heritage Museum and First Nation People's Feast Ceremony. I'll review them individually below on Port Reviews. Were they worth the money? I'm not sure, they were pretty pricey.. but I do have priceless memories and overall they were good. I spent A LOT on excursions and more than I ever have before. Doing pre-research I found that Alaska is expensive! Over the course of 4 ports and 5 excursions we might have saved $300-$600 by booking independently. But the ship offered extras that were not offered elsewhere that would have cost money like snacks and transportation. Not to mention we were CRUNCHED for time. It didn't seem worth it to lose the guarantee of the ship waiting for you and to lose the convenience of ship transportation. Tip: The time on our tickets was NOT the same as what we were told online when we booked. In every instance we had to meet up earlier than we thought we would. Therefore, we had less time in town than we thought. Tracy Arm meets on the ship instead of on the dock so you lose even more time. Entertainment: First, I go to theater a lot, and coach cheer and dance, so I'm a bit critical. The shows had good, great, and then not-so-good parts. 1st night was just OK... but it was an introduction so we didn't expect much. We noticed on the first night that the male dancers were A LOT better than the female dancers and the voice performances were very weak. 2nd night: 60's review dance and song = weak. 3rd night = missed. I can't remember the order of the next nights but - Comedy Troup = pretty funny; Hypnotist: Weak... and one guy was so under that he fell off the stage and cut open his head. It was quite the show! This was about the 5th time I've seen a live hypnotist and his material just wasn't very funny or interesting; "Angels" (aerial acrobats) = EXCELLENT! Superior show, amazing. Must see. Final night was "Elements" = Pretty darn good. It got amazing reviews and I did enjoy it a lot. It is mostly themed costumes and dancing combined with aerial acrobatics, props, and choreographed magic tricks. I could have done without the magic tricks, other that that it was great. Really inventive costumes and great dance moves. Movie Theater: Oh wait.. there is none. Seriously? I thought all ships had them. The used the main theater to show a couple of movies at times when we couldn't see them. This was lacking. Bar entertainment: Sorry, we don't drink much so we were only @ Spinnaker once. But I heard the music at both was pretty good for bar-room entertainment. We did hit the "White Hot Party" on the last night and my daughter and I danced to modern music and it was great because we both felt very comfortable and it was fun. Cruise Director: Julie = very good. I think it must be a hard job to please everyone. She had an 'over-the-top' (personality type) gay assistant cruise director... and he was great too. Very animated. They were very different and made a great team. She wasn't the funniest or smoothest speaker I've seen... but if they were both over-the-top you wouldn't have got the great feeling of informed guidance and suggestions she provided. She was very nice and remembered my daughter's name and we saw her all over the ship.., always welcoming and smiling and asking how our meal/excursion/show went. Good job Julie! Disembarking: Good and bad. Good = We could just carry off our own luggage.. no tags or night-before packing needed. Simple, nice, good. We packed our luggage and off we went, they started on time. Bad = For some unknown reason they made us haul our luggage up into Spinnaker Lounge (it's an up-hill, ramp type, long entryway) and then back down out of Spinnaker Lounge. It looked like they predicted a long line, but there was not one. And, this was unnecessary as they could SEE there was not a line because Spinnaker entrance and exit are just down the same hallway. (You can see right to the other end.) OK for us and just slightly inconvenient, but not for the elderly man in front of us that was struggling to pull his luggage up into and across the lounge. Then, once off the ship, but still in the port lobby, it was a madhouse. They were directing us to take either the escalator or the elevator, we chose elevator since we had our luggage. Around the corner we saw the LONG line to ONE elevator so we went back to escalator... directed by an employee. Then right at the escalator a RUDE man snapped at us that we couldn't go down the escalator with our large luggage. We told him we were directed there and he just snapped "it's dangerous, use the stairs" What? It's dangerous to use an escalator but not stairs? The stairs were spaced narrowly and didn't look safe to me if you couldn't pick your luggage up high, (ours was on wheels and heavy and neither I, nor my daughter, could not have managed the stairs with the luggage.) While he was concerned about his ability to control our entry onto the escalator we saw others with luggage going easily and safely down the escalator and pointed it out.., he didn't care and was getting angry because he didn't want them on the escalator either and we were obviously irritating him, so we just went back to the elevator... where there were now 20 more people in front of us. Sigh. Also, we had taken the Sky-Bridge over from the parking structure (no stairs or escalators, just an easy breezeway over the street) and we were trying to get back that way, but it was "closed until around 11." Really? When the ship is DONE disembarking at 11? I will say (for the good) that the only longish wait time was at the elevator where we waited about 20 minutes to go down one flight of stairs. Summary: Value = $3,700 (after taxes and port fees) for 3 of us in standard balcony. This was more than I spent on my last two cruises but A LOT LESS then other ships were charging for Alaska for the same type room; mostly because NCL only charged $400 for my daughter as a "3rd person" in the cabin. We spent $2,300 in shore excursions. (Ouch) 5 excursions, so an average of $153 per person per excursion. We got room credit of $335 + a free bottle of wine. I used the room credit for tips and still had $83 left for on-board charges and since I don't gamble or drink I went to the gift store and spent it. (The excursions were pre-paid so I couldn't use the credit for them.) The bottle of wine was nice.. we brought it home and gave it as a gift with a corkscrew we bought at the gift shop. Overall I think the cruise and room value were good. The excursion value was good except for White Pass & Gold Fields, which I'll explain in Port Reviews. I think it was a good value for what we got. NCL Star provided an overall quality experience with good service, entertainment, and cabin. I would recommend a few improvements to the Star, but overall I thought they did I great job. I would sail with them again and I would recommend them to family and friends. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
This is our first Alaskan cruise and 9th with NCL. I think we may be suffering from NCL burnout or the cruise was not as exciting as it was for me (though I will admit this cruise was my wife's idea). My fellow Cruise Critic members ... Read More
This is our first Alaskan cruise and 9th with NCL. I think we may be suffering from NCL burnout or the cruise was not as exciting as it was for me (though I will admit this cruise was my wife's idea). My fellow Cruise Critic members will have posted much better reviews than I so I will continue to highlight the Good, The Bad and the Ugly aspects of our trip.Background: My wife, daughter and I stayed in an ocean view cabin, 5100. We took the dawn patrol flight from Newark airport to Seattle round trip with Alaska Airlines. We took a $60.00 cab ride from SEATAC to the dock, but took the Seattle highlights tour at the end of the cruise to kill time and to see Seattle. Lots of Asians on board, mostly Chinese and a surprising number of Indians (see more below).The Good:Many past cruisers have noted the impersonal attitude of the crew as fallout of their Free Style concept. I noticed some blasE responses, surprising and especially from our room steward, but I think the crew overall was always pleasant, friendly and welcoming. They smiled when greeting you or at least said good morning, hello or asked how you were. I think what made the cruise for my DD was finding out that Star's photo manager was on the Dawn two years ago, so she had an instant friend. She hung out with him and his team almost the entire time we were on board. They were all friendly, welcoming and made her feel like part of their little onboard family. They looked out for her and treated her like their little sister. The food was bland to me (or I am burned out from the 8 prior NCL cruises). All the ala carte dining options seemed to blend together from ship to ship, which can be a good thing for consistency across the fleet or not depending on your taste buds. We ate at Cagney's (2x), Le Bistro, Blue Lagoon (4x), Sushi bar (2x), Tepanyaki and their Tex Mex place. We ate off the ship in Ketchikan, Prince Rupert and Skagway. They did try to experiment with Indian food. Now, we are New Yorkers, so good, authentic Indian food is almost on every 10 blocks in NYC. We were a little skeptical but were pleasantly surprised considering what they had to work with. A lot of the spices, rice and seasoning were ad hoc, but the food was very decent. On a scale of 1-10 on the taste like mom's scale, it was a solid 7. I think they were trying it out to see how receptive people were and to maybe see if 1 billion Indians would want to sail if they could somehow get decent home cooking.We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert. Aside from Juneau, I wonder what would happen to these little places if the cruise ships ever leave as their economy would be devastated. We walked around town for all the ports, but we did the supposedly 3 hour and 20 mile White Horse train in Skagway, which turned out to a 4 hour epic journey. We saw enough mountains, waterfalls and fauna by the first hour (typical NY attitude) and wanted off, but they treated us to an additional 14 mile tour. Then they had to switch the locomotive as soon as neared the end, causing another 10 minute delay. Most people were ready to jump off the train and hoof it back to town as we were all starving.We ate at Blue Lagoon a few times for snacks and lunch. The big change is how they seat you like a regular restaurant. They take your order and deliver your food, but in more calm and professional manner. This totally different than all the other Blue Lagoons on the Dawn and Spirit where it was chaotic and rushed. They did have an ice cream service counter by the gym near the kids club. I thought it was an interesting place to put ice cream within sight of the people working out in the gym. There were numerous treadmills, elliptical, 2 stair climbers and 6 bikes. There was an ok selection of free weights and other cardio machines. (The Epic had the best gym I have seen on a ship.) I also had one deep tissue massage as a reward for a 20 mile run the week before. This time, there was no cross selling if the lotion or oils. This was a very nice change as well as the number of announcements for bingo; the weather and the art auction were way down. They still made them, but it wasn't as frequent as in past cruises.We also liked the efficiency of the crew getting passengers on and off the ship on port days. I remember lines of people crowding the decks only once or twice. Getting off was also quite easy as we booked the Seattle highlights tour. We were giving black bag tags and they escorted us the ship directly to the bags. The tour bus driver was also the guide and she bought tickets for the space needle for all of us and we spent an hour there an hour at Pike's Market. An additional stop was the old fire engines from the city's museum were out on display in a nearby park. We drove by the two sports stadiums and finally to the airport for home.The BadOur room steward was not has warm or friendly as all our prior ones. We have been fortunate to get exceptional stewards that made this one stand out. I think the main reason was his assistant had his own rooms to do where they used to share the duties. I didn't see his assistant until Thursday when he was covering. I think either they were short staffed or they cut back on the number of stewards.Food was bland most of the trip, except for the Indian buffet. All we really tasted was salt, which has been our most consistent complaint about NCL since we started cruising in 2004. The food was uninspiring and too predictable. I will admit we did not eat at the main dining rooms, but ship-wide food doesn't really change venue to venue when it comes to NCL. Blue Lagoon food was also the worst. The fish in the fish and chips was nasty and they only gave you one wanton in the wanton soup. The servings were also smaller. Guess this is how they are saving money. We really didn't eat too much in the buffet, except for breakfast. We bought the soda card and the price did go up. They also do not serve Coke products anymore, just Pepsi and we do not like Pepsi.The UglyInternet service was like the old dial up slow to the point I was looking for the phone cord. The weather was bad the first 4 days. Rain, clouds and wind on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and early Wednesday. The sun did come out in the afternoon on Wednesday and most of Thursday. Clouds and sun again on Friday. I did get sunburn from just sitting in the pool area on Thursday afternoon. I know you can't blame NCL for the lousy weather, but it did dampen our moods. There was a consistent funky, moldy, sewer like smell in the elevator area by our cabins all week. They ripped apart two cabins closest to the smell and moved the passengers to other cabins as they tried to solve the issue mid-week, but by Thursday the smell was back. There was also a really sewer odor in the internet cafe on Friday afternoon. I hope is this not a recurring issue on a 10 year old.OverallAny day cruising is better than a day at work is my motto, but maybe because Alaska was not where I wanted to go on vacation (beach bum) and the weather wasn't cooperating, but I wasn't thrilled with the overall experience. The Star is a nice size ship, great crew, ok food and decent ports. It is also showing its age and needs a refit to repair the frayed carpeting, chair upholstery and chipped furniture. I was not thrilled to not have Spinnaker on deck 12 to see the world go by and had to settle for a seat on deck 6 or 7. Would I recommend the Star? Yes. Would I recommend Alaska? Yes if you like nature and seeing the wild. Would I recommend the Star to Alaska? Yes, if you want a midsize ship on a mid-priced line with lots of dining options and plenty of chances to see eagles, whales and seals. Alaska cruises are not cheap and we thought this was a nice trip based on the overall costs. Some people will disagree and this is ok too. Free Style is not for everyone. We think we got our money's worth and my family had a good time together. At the end of the day, isn't that the most important thing? Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Star to Alaska 7/2/11-7/9/11 Background: there were 9 of us travelling Balcony #1: Uncle, Aunt and Cousin (12yr old) Balcony #2: Me, Aunt, Niece (11yr old) Balcony ... Read More
Star to Alaska 7/2/11-7/9/11 Background: there were 9 of us travelling Balcony #1: Uncle, Aunt and Cousin (12yr old) Balcony #2: Me, Aunt, Niece (11yr old) Balcony #3: Grandma, Grandpa and Cousin (16yr old) Half of us were seasoned cruisers taking a few first-timers on a cruise. EMBARKATION AMAZING. We stayed at the Waterfront Marriott, basically across the street from pier 66; the bellhop loaded all of luggage onto 2 luggage carts and brought it all over for us, including my grandfather who was using a wheelchair from the hotel. We didn't even have to wait on line; a porter came right to us with a cart and took it all. And another employee met us with a wheelchair for grandpa. Then we got on line to check in. Super smooth, right to the wheelchair accessible desk. Pretty easy check-in, considering how many of us there were ?. There we made another wheelchair switch (not quite sure why) but our check-in agent was very nice and shocked that I had the correct paperwork for bringing a minor that wasn't my own on board. Then we stopped for the photo and WALKED RIGHT on. Wow, that has never happened cruising out of New York. We were headed for Versailles we they announced that the rooms were ready (another pleasant shock) so we went and dropped off our carry-ons. Two of our rooms (9088 and 9090) were next door so we asked the room steward, Joseph, if he could open the balcony, he said yes, after the inside passage because it would be too windy (and he remembered and did it with no reminder.) My grandparents' room was 9110 and a little closer to the elevator. The accessibility at sea people delivered his actual wheelchair that we had rented ($75) while we were admiring the rooms. Only problem came when one of our bags didn't show up by our room, I found it myself at the opposite end of the hallway. RESTAURANTS: Versailles - Meals- Lunch Day 1, Dinner Day 1, Breakfast Day 2, Lunch Day 2 and Dinner Day 2 (I think) Okay so the main problem with Versailles is stairs. If you are travelling with a person in a wheelchair it can be a little tricky because only one elevator goes to the correct floor, but getting that elevator to stop for you and have room was impossible. Also the Maitre D was located at the top of a staircase, but you are seated a level lower, so if you do not have able bodied people with you, you are basically out of luck. ***Please note we eventually received a special wheelchair accessible key card that made it so the correct elevator opened and you could go to Versailles, but it came after so many failed attempts that we ended up eating most of our remaining dinners at Aqua. I'm not sure why the special key card took so long to get to grandpa, or why it wasn't given at check-in. We were thankful to have so many problems at Versailles, because then we experienced Aqua and it was incredible!! While Versailles had decent food, it had extremely slow service. Forget getting coffee with dessert, buy the time it came, you were already done. Aqua - Meals - All the rest of our dinners (except 1) Great food, very similar to Versailles, but they called it more contemporary. Amazing wait staff, Jonolito was incredible. Friendly, efficient. Never had a problem getting a table at 8:30 for a large group. The only restaurant where we were actually told what the Chef Specialty was every night. I cannot say enough about how much we enjoyed Aqua. Endless Summer - Thursday Dinner - ½ Off Night The only reason we decided to try endless summer was the promotion of ½ Off. And it was well worth it. The best meal of the entire trip, but let me say it wouldn't have been worth $90 for us, but for $45 it was great. We had very special service because of a food allergy, the only restaurant that offered to make something special because of it. Best of All (at La Cucina) Friday Lunch $15 each The idea is you get a sampling of the specialty restaurants, while the food was good; there was nothing there that inspired me to go to any of the restaurants featured. Market Cafe - All the time ;) Interesting selection, part of the group really enjoyed the Indian buffet. Took us a while to figure out that at lunch time the first two sections are the same, but the 3rd is different, sandwiches, etc. The Grill - At breakfast they have an omelet station and a waffle station. At lunch they have burgers, hot dogs, wursts, etc. Blue Lagoon - The only restaurant where I ordered soup and it came out hot. I didn't like the set-up compared to the Spirit and Dawn. PORTS: Ketchikan 7/4/11 There is plenty to do and walk to easily on your own. We walked through town and picked up all of our free jewelry and then walked over to Creek Street. Creek Street is an easy walk (hard to find a bathroom,) there's Dolly's, some shopping and a tram up the mountain to a hotel. The tram is $2, well worth it for the bathrooms!! There are some totem poles and you can walk back down to Married Man's Trail, if you go right you will end up at the fish ladder to see the salmon as well. In town there are the normal cruise shops, nothing spectacular. Highlight there is a pharmacy right on the main street where you can pick up sundry items for a lot less than on the ship. There was a town parade, but the rain got so bad we watched it from our balcony. Juneau 7/5/11 We took the free shuttle into town. Again the normal cruise shops and also a lot of tours available to book on your own. We took the 3 hour Shrine, Glacier and Town Tour through M&M tours. Well worth it. We had an amazing local guide (Kevin) who showed us all through town, the creek where they first found gold, small churches, the state house, governors' mansion, etc. Then we went to the lake that Mendenhall Glacier feeds, we got to grab some glacier ice and eat it, it was very cool. Then we were off to the Shrine at St Therese, http://www.shrineofsainttherese.org which seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. There were seals, eagles, salmon and I guess sometimes whales, but we were there at low tide. It was a great tour because we got to see the "valley" or "banana belt" where the regular people live and we learned a lot about the marine highway. NCL Excursion: Tracy Arm Glacier!!! AMAZING!!!! You leave the ship around 1pm and board directly onto a waiting catamaran. It was really cool to walk through the crew areas. The first 20 minutes are boring, take a nap, just sailing to....WHALES!! I think we saw about 7 total whales, the captain was very generous giving us lots of time with them. We saw a humpback jump and quite a few whale tails. Once you start going up the arm you really get to admire the beauty of your surroundings. There are beautiful icebergs, waterfalls, eagles, etc. We got to spend about an hour at the actual glacier; we saw a few small pieces drop and then a huge drop about 20 minutes before we left. There was also a seal swimming about. The girls on the ship were really informative about the area, native people and wildlife. They gave us free hot chocolate and coffee. Bring warm clothes, gloves; it is so beautiful you will want to be outside as much as possible. Skagway 7/6/11 $2 Shuttle into town or $5 for an all day pass which includes ride to gold fields, gardens and cemetery. Well we were suckers and bought the all day pass, just so you know you need to pay an entrance fee at those places, or the cemetery you have to talk more than .5 miles from the bus stop. The main town was pretty cool, nice shops, some authentic. We left Skagway late due to a medical emergency, Paul kept us very informed and we still (unfortunately) got to Prince Rupert on time ? Prince Rupert 7/7/11 Waste of a stop, some really cool stores, but nothing I would buy on a cruise. The only highlight was the eagles. GENERAL THINGS I DID NOT LIKE: Spinnaker Lounge - it's at the back of the ship, no windows, bad acoustics and all one level. Very dark and depressing and/or loud. As previously mentioned, it is hard to get anywhere with a wheelchair Spa - While my treatment was incredible, the entire experience was lacking. They don't do the whole robe, changing room, etc experience that they used to. They bring you to a waiting room (with a great view) and have you fill out a form and try to sell you add-ons. Then they bring you directly to the treatment room where you disrobe and get on the table. At the end of your treatment you are told to relax, get up when ready and put your clothes back on!?! (My clothes on my oily, just massaged body?!?) Then they come back with water and a sales pitch. My massage therapist gave me a great massage, but when she tried to sell me $300 worth of lotion, I immediately regretted even having a treatment. Other family members were also having treatments so I waited for them in the spa lobby, which was freezing cold. White Hot Party - in Spinnaker lounge which is already disappointing, but on top of that the music!! Spinnaker is all ages until midnight, so please explain why they played explicit music at 11:30? I'm talking incredibly explicit. "Shots" by LMFAO and "On a Boat" by Andy Samberg. http://www.metrolyrics.com/shots-lyrics-lmfao.html and http://www.metrolyrics.com/im-on-a-boat-lyrics-the-lonely-island.html So explicit I'm only giving links because they are really bad songs. Chocolate Buffet - perhaps the most disappointing thing the whole trip, but only because I have experienced 3 others on NCL cruises that were phenomenal. There were 2 ice carvings, no chocolate sculptures, no fruit carvings, and the worst desserts we ate all cruise. No Quest?!?! At every show they would say "no flash photography" and then this crazy chick with a laser pointer would go insane if you took out a camera. If you mean "NO PHOTOGRAPHY AT ALL" say that. WRAP UP We had a great time. Paul Scally, the cruise director was incredible. Jonolito at Aqua was by far the best waiter I've had on all my cruises. Arnold, bar staff, at the pool, stardust and spinnaker remembered our drink order after the very first time, so we always looked for him. The kids swam every day. The shows were great. And I would go again in a heartbeat, but I wouldn't have a spa treatment. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was our 2nd cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines.The first was fantastic aboard the Pearl and the 2nd was very disappointing aboard the Star. Embarkation in Seattle was very smooth, as well as debarkation in Seattle. We ... Read More
This was our 2nd cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines.The first was fantastic aboard the Pearl and the 2nd was very disappointing aboard the Star. Embarkation in Seattle was very smooth, as well as debarkation in Seattle. We had a party of 12 on this cruise and had booked through Norwegian Cruise Lines direct. Some minor problems with the booking director is where the first disappointments started. Once aboard the Star we were dismayed at the condition of our cabin. Our cabin had worn and wrinkled carpets, the beds were extremely hard and was equipped with only one electrical outlet, soap dispensers in the shower did not work the whole trip and we found that very inconvenient.We had mentioned to the steward the problem, but was never addressed. After the Star,just going through a reconditioning a few months prior to our trip, we thought that the cabins would be in better shape than they were. We feel that Norwegian should have focused on the cabins prior to the reconditioning, instead of just making new cabins on the 12th deck where the Spinnaker Lounge used to be. The stabilizers seemed in need of revamping too, we always had a rocking motion on this cruise. Smoking needs to be limited to one side of the ship or lounges only. We enjoyed the Spinnaker Lounge on the Pearl as it was a place where people could gather and watch the scenery or just go and relax. The Spinnaker Lounge on the Star is now in the back of the ship and no windows to view from, just another lounge and not a place where one could go to relax. The Stardust Theater had some good entertainment, although the sound level needed to be brought down so people could enjoy it. Many of the seats were broken and very uncomfortable. The main buffet had decent food although some of it could have been cooked longer. The restaurants were better and the food was always hot and the service was OK. The ports were as follows: Ketchikan - very good Juneau - very good Skagway - loved the port, but a disaster for handicapped persons - Handicap ramp was closed after people disembarked and then when people returned to re-board at least 3 people(possibly more) in wheel chairs were carried up step stairs by crew members, until someone realized the danger to both the passengers and the crew members. There were at least 17 people that we saw waiting, that had wheelchairs or were using walkers and finally a forklift was used to hold the ramp in place so these people could re-board. We were not very impressed with the way Norwegian Crew handled this hazardous situation. Prince Rupert - very good The crew for the most part, were very pleasant, but almost seemed like they would rather be somewhere else. We think it would be better if the passengers had the tipping control rather than it being charged to you room each day automatically. Last but not least, we feel that when passengers have complaints, the people in Public Relations should at least return the phone calls or letters, if nothing more than to show and keep good customer service. In our opinion, it seems like money wins out over customer service. Being in Customer Service for over 30 years myself, I am very disappointed in Norwegian this time around.We will really have to think about taking Norwegian for our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Just got home from our trip to Seattle and Alaska. There were 7 of us that were on this trip. My parents (in their 60's), my husband and our three sons (10, 8.5, and 5). We had two cabins between us. We chose the penthouse with ... Read More
Just got home from our trip to Seattle and Alaska. There were 7 of us that were on this trip. My parents (in their 60's), my husband and our three sons (10, 8.5, and 5). We had two cabins between us. We chose the penthouse with balcony on deck 12 (#12010) and my parents had one of the owner's suites (#12002) just a few steps away. The VIP treatment that we received going thru security and check-in was great since we had the kids and my parents with us. We were on board the ship within 15 minutes of leaving our luggage at the baggage drop-off area at the pier. We met, Virginia, our concierge for the week in the VIP lounge and she escorted us onto the ship. We did have a few backpacks that we carried on and she brought us to our cabins to drop them off before heading to Cagney's for lunch. The cabins weren't ready at that time but that was no problem.Cagney's restaurant on Deck 13 was a suite perk for breakfast and lunch daily and we took full advantage of it for breakfast and ate there for about half the lunches. The menu is the same for both meals each day but the variety is good and the service is excellent. They were very accommodating with any special requests and made the kids their own pot of hot chocolate each morning.After lunch, our cabins were ready. Our cabin was very nice and spacious enough for 4 of us. Two of our kids slept on the pull-out couch each night and one would sleep in the pull-out in my parents' cabin. Our kids would rotate nights between the two cabins. The bed that my husband and I had was spacious but it was actually two beds pushed together. The closet and drawer space was ample and the bathroom was perfect with two sinks and a separate tub and shower. The shower was the perfect temperature every time and the water pressure was amazing. The rainhead was great and there was a handheld nozzle as well. The cabin's decor was quite nice...lots of creams and beiges with a hint of color on the curtains. I brought my own hairdryer despite there being one in the cabin. It didn't fit in the wall socket inside the bathroom so I had to sit at my desk chair and dry my hair which had a sizable mirror and I was able to look at the gorgeous scenery while doing so. The windows were huge and the balcony had three chairs and a table.Our butler was named, Lucky, and he was great. We tipped him $20 as soon as we met him the first day and he took care of us all week. We didn't call on him often but the kids did get DVD's from the movie library everyday because there are not many channel options on the TV. Lucky was the one that brought those to us.My parents in the Owner's Suite were able to get unlimited Pepsi products in their suite and they also had Lucky as their butler. They too gave Lucky $20 upon boarding the ship and he hooked all of us up with sodas...Pepsis, Sierra Mist, Orange Crush and Mug Rootbeers...we never bought the soda bracelets and didn't need to. The kids drank water, lemonade or milk at dinner and had a soda back in the room while looking out the windows for whales.My parents suite was amazing! Their suite was directly above the bridge and the windows were floor to ceiling and even wrapped around the side of the ship so you could see everything...fantastic for viewing Alaska! They had a huge bathroom with a jetted soaking tub, water closet with a frosted glass door, separate shower, two sinks and ample drawers and shelves for storage. There was even a flat panel TV in the bathroom.The living space in the suite was huge and the separate bedroom had a king sized bed. Lots of closets as well.Without these great accommodations, I don't think I would have enjoyed this cruise as much as I did. There were 2,800 guests on board the ship and I think they were all in the marketplace and main dining rooms. The weather was pretty great so the outdoor spaces were utilized as well on most of the cruise. The food was great in Cagney's for breakfast and lunch. The main dining rooms had food that I would rate as good. We did opt to eat at La Cucina on Wednesday night and it was not good. Three of us ordered the chicken parm and it was drowning in olive oil. The kids had one of their specialty pizzas and it was terrible. My husband had the Osso Bucco and he did say it was very good. It cost us $80 with surcharges and tip. Waste of money. We had a reservation for Friday night in the Teppanyaki Grill but decided to cancel that based on our experience in La Cucina. I do have to say our waitress in La Cucina was great...very attentive without being overly so.By the end of the week, I was ready to get off the boat because I was so sick and tired of being hit up to spend more and more money every where I turned. It started at lunch the very first day! We were approached in Cagney's while we were eating to reserve space at the Father's Day Brunch the next day for an additional charge, we were approached by another person offering to make reservations for us in all the specialty restaurants during the same meal! It goes on and on from there. Then my husband and I wanted to have a beer each at the Bier Garten during pullout from Seattle. The bar staff refused to get us two beers...said we should buy the bucket of six where you buy 5 and the 6th one is free. Yeah, right, it doesn't even come close to free when each of the other beers are $5 each plus gratuity and a $5 bucket deposit.You should also be aware when playing Bingo, you can buy just one or two cards but they don't tell you that up front. They have a pitch to include a certain number of instant win card strips, raffle tickets to the "free cruise for two" giveaway and a t-shirt plus six Bingo cards and tell you come and get it before they sell out...only a certain number of manager specials for Bingo available. If you want a frozen cocktail, they ask you if you want a tall glass. I'm on vacation, right? So, I say yes and they bring me a tall, skinny, plastic "souvenier" cup with my margarita in it and I get charged $12. Not one hour later, I'm sitting in a different bar and order the same drink and when the server asks me if I want a "tall glass", I say no thanks. He brings me an actual 16oz pint glass with my margarita in it with no Norwegian Logo on it for $6.50!!! Amazing the deception that is involved on these cruise ships. They sail in international waters so they can get away with this crap. They excursions that we took were amazing and educational. The kids had a blast on each and every one. Native Saxman Village and Totem Pole Park and Lumberjack Show in Ketchican, Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glacier in Juneau, White Pass and Yukon Railway in Skagway and Crab Dinner and Bald Eagle Boat Ride in Prince Rupert. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We really looked forward to this cruise and had decided to make the most of it however it turned out.We had read good, bad and mediocre reviews of the star, but hoped our trip would fall into the good category however, mediocre is the word ... Read More
We really looked forward to this cruise and had decided to make the most of it however it turned out.We had read good, bad and mediocre reviews of the star, but hoped our trip would fall into the good category however, mediocre is the word best described for our overall experience. Embarkation was quick. Loved how quick we got on the ship. The staff was courteous, but in robot mode. Mostly we felt let down by the food, entertainment, and staff. The food in the free areas was kept just above high school cafeteria level, we didn't complain, we just looked for better alternatives. The market cafe was just that, a Buffett with semi warm variety of snack foods and coffee. It was ok for mindless munchies, but for dinners we tried the dining rooms. The Versailles and aqua share a galley and I assume cooks. The food was good, but not at a level we have experienced on other ships. The staff seem to be in a broken record routine. No real interaction with the staff and they consistently delivered desserts a long time after your meal. Many times forgetting to deliver the coffee at all. Often, we would have to flag down a waitress to get anything. Our friend waited 45 mins after she was seated to place her order. Our group of 5 missed two early 7pm shows because our 530 dinner just could not get completed in time. The best meals we got were in the specialty restaurants where the was a 15 - 25 per person 'cover charge'. These meals were up to the standard that should have been included in our cruise price. Entertainment reminded me of the six flags performances we had seen. None stood out as incredible. Some of the magic show was literally taken word for word from David Copperfield (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxBKs1KmkEk&feature=youtube_gdata_player), but even that was poorly executed (he didn't get all the aces in the right spot and exposed his double sided cards more than once). The dancers were ok, but the show was poorly choreographed and written. Especially the 60s show on our first full day at sea. Overall, I would not recommend a trip on the star. If it's any warning to you at all, sewers nickel and dimmed to the tune of 1.5 k which many would say it's our fault for spending, but to get your vacation food experience, you will have to spend the money. Outside of the uncharged meals, we did buy a 3 bottles of wine, 2 medium priced excursions, and a couple of t-shirts. Except for 3 nights, where we ate in inclusive restaurants, we spent 30-80 per night eating in the upscale dining areas. (0 spent on gambling). Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Background: Our group included 4 newbie cruisers and the veterans, my wife and I. We decided to get together to provide a cruise as a birthday gift for my 85 year old mother, and introduce my brother and sister in law, and my sister, to ... Read More
Background: Our group included 4 newbie cruisers and the veterans, my wife and I. We decided to get together to provide a cruise as a birthday gift for my 85 year old mother, and introduce my brother and sister in law, and my sister, to cruising. The NCL Star was repositioning for the summer Alaska cruising season, with an itinerary I would not normally choose ... 4 days at sea and only 2 days in port. This less-than-ideal itinerary was exacerbated by the cooler weather expected in early May. These potential shortcomings were known, but the departure from a local port, and the slower pace of this cruise seemed appropriate for my mother (who needs a walker to get around). Ship: 7 out of 10.The Star is one of the oldest ships in the NCL fleet, built in 2001. She was supposed to undergo a refit in 2010, but I suspect that was a refit of the public areas only if it happened. While the public areas met our expectations of a NCL ship, the cabins showed their age; the upholstery was faded on the couches, the beds were the old style "hard" mattresses, and chipped paint and missing chunks of the balcony non-skid distracted from the experience. I was disappointed that the balcony glass was not cleaned prior to sailing, with notable water spots (this may have been a nod to our upcoming 3 days at sea, as they did clean the balconies in our first port). The ship also has an older design, where some decks are interrupted by restaurants, and you have to go up or down a level to cross over them, then down or up again to resume your journey on that deck. But that being said, the ship is still in better shape than any of the Princess ships I've been on. (In this category, Disney is always the winner among the three cruise lines we've tried, with an attention to cleanliness unique among mass market cruise lines.) Food: 9 out of 10.Cruise food is often described as ranging from horrible to acceptable, but its obviously subjective. For my money, NCL has really outdone the rest of the mass-market cruise industry that we've tried. Every entree I had was very good, prepared as ordered, with acceptable presentation. Because of my diet, a modified Atkins-style diet, I was more limited in my choices. I enjoyed the omelets in the morning, along with fresh chilled melon, coffee and crisp bacon (one morning's omelet was a 6 out of 10, as it was cooked just a bit too long). I ordered the NY Strip Steak several times for lunch, and had it prepared it differently (medium rare, medium), and each time the result was as ordered, and very good. Dinner saw good presentations of other entrees such as salmon (9/10), prime rib (9/10), and beef stroganoff (my brother said it was good, but alas, the noodles makes it incompatible with my diet). I was interested to see how my brother and sister in law would react to the food, as they have wide experience both creating and enjoying different dishes. My brother recognized that its "resort food", created for a large customer base rather than cooked to order. But he and my sister in law were complimentary of the taste and substance of the dishes, with the occasional concern that some dishes were prepared with unorthodox ingredients (the hollandaise sauce on the eggs benedict included mustard, we think, making it yellow rather than cream white). With few exceptions, everyone else found the food good to very good. A few entrees had either too much fat in the steak, or unexpected ingredients as noted above. Our foray into the highest rated specialty restaurant, Cagney's Steakhouse, disappointed: our expectations were set high for a "premium experience", but it was not far enough above the usual main dining room experience to be a good value. As an example, the filet mignon I had was very tender, prepared exactly as ordered, and tasty. But it was on a level of an Outback Steakhouse entree rather than the lofty heights of a Ruth's Chris entree. (My wife and I enjoyed Cagney's for breakfast and lunch on our Euro cruise as part of our suite package, and liked it very much then; we may have hit them on an off night.)Because of the cool weather, the outdoor dining options were not available, and there were times when our group could not be seated immediately in the main dining rooms. I timed the wait times, and we never waited more than 20 minutes for a table. I would rate the food on the other lines we have tried this way: Princess 3/10 and Disney 6/10. NCL wins hand's down in this department in my opinion. (The exception: Disney's Palo specialty restaurant, which served the best steak I have ever eaten, and a best-ever chocolate soufflE.) Entertainment: 5 out of 10. Cruise lines have three types of stage entertainment; in-house productions, contract productions and specialty acts (magicians, comedians, etc.) Most of the time it is simply awful, on the level of theme park entertainment. On this cruise, the Star had a contract production called "Extreme Vegas", featuring a husband and wife team that performed magic acts, quick change costumes, acrobatics and self-promotion for their DVD. It was enjoyable, but marred by a pulsing, pounding intro sound track that went on far too long. On its own, I would rate this as a 5/10, a high score for cruise line entertainment. The in-house production on the first night appeared to be similar to the awful show we dubbed the "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Gets Down and Funky with Motown" on our last NCL cruise, so we skipped it ... and conversations with fellow passengers told us we did the right thing. Everyone we talked to either hated it or walked out on it. I can't give it a score, of course, but I can say that I'm glad we missed it. A contract comedy troupe from Second City was horrible, a 1 out of 10, for poorly timed and excruciatingly bad comedy skits and all-to-predictable improv. We walked out on their show after suffering far too long, and I hope these folks go back to bussing tables for a living. Or get thrown overboard and eaten by sharks. The awful performances were doubly bad since the usual stand up comedian was missing from the entertainment line-up because of them. Usually the stand ups are at least a little bit funny. The in-house "Elements" stage show was nice, a 4 out of 10, with pretty enjoyable routines. It was marred by a change in the sound system that make the music tinny and raspy, like they had blown out speakers (or tomatoes were stuck in them from the prior night's Second City performance). The show featured two couples including the one from "Extreme Vegas", as well as the in-house entertainers. I never felt like retching or running for the exits, so for a cruise line show, it was pretty good. The final production was a crew talent show, featuring only members of the crew from the housekeeping, restaurant, guest services and engineering departments. As can be expected, the show has acts of varying polish, but that's the appeal: these are not professionals, but room stewards, waitresses and even the ship's fireman. I enjoyed this show most of all,and give it a 6 out of 10 for pure entertainment value. It was surprising to see these workers belt out diva-esque tunes, perform traditional folk dances from their home countries and work together for comedy dance routines. Itinerary: 7/10 for our group; 4/10 overallFor our group of first time cruisers, the itinerary with more sea days than port days allowed them to get a feel for cruising without too much distraction. But my wife and I prefer port-intensive cruises, and realized that without the rest of the family there, the three sea days would have been pretty boring. Especially when combined with the poor entertainment options and the colder weather that kept most people inside the ship. The weather also limited night-time outdoor options (midnight buffet, BBQs, dance parties under the stars, etc.) But a 7 out of 10 for a group cruise seems appropriate, as the extra time allowed us to meet for nearly every meal and enjoy some quality family time.Ports visited were Juneau and Ketchikan, and our excursions were arranged separately, as NCL was late in getting excursions scheduled for this trip. For Juneau, we visited the Mendenhall Glacier ($16 per person for round trip bus fare). We chose a Duck Boat tour of Ketchikan as a starter, then each couple went "on their own" to explore the town. We all enjoyed the ports. Because we had limited activity due to a disabled member of our party, we did not seek out more the more adventuresome activities available in these ports.We attended the Cruise Critic Roll Call meeting on board, and had the option to sign up for a tour of the bridge. That was a nice perk, and we enjoyed the time given the group by the Captain, first mate, and the rest of the officers on the bridge. While I didn't time the visit, they were generous with their time, and answered several questions. This was very nice, indeed.Conclusion:Overall, this was a good introduction to cruising for the newbies, and enjoyable for us (hey, we weren't at work!) Freestyle dining fits well with our group, allowing us to modify our schedule at the last minute to accommodate anyone in the group, and still eat together. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
I'm a first time cruiser. I had NO expectations before leaving. In fact, I decided to keep ONLY an open mind. Just got off the boat this morning in fact. About a month after I booked the cruise and a month before leaving, I ran into ... Read More
I'm a first time cruiser. I had NO expectations before leaving. In fact, I decided to keep ONLY an open mind. Just got off the boat this morning in fact. About a month after I booked the cruise and a month before leaving, I ran into this website and read the reviews. Not much I could do, as I had already dished out more than $3000 for our small family of 4 (2 kids, 1 and 3). Alaska was recommended by friends as being really beautiful. That part is true. The positive (?): Ketchikan was so-so. Don't do the Lumberjack show. Boring! Three families, including ours, left after the first 15 minutes. It's a small town. If I could do it again, I might have done the duck tour. People are unfriendly. My son (we're talking about a 1 year old) was chasing pigeons. Some *witch-looking* woman in a toll-like booth right at the booth across from the duck tour yelled at my 1 year old. Why wasn't she doing her job instead of staring at pigeons? That was the greeting and impression we left of Ketchikan. Not a friendly town. No smiles anywhere we went. It was just a cold, cold feeling in Ketchikan. I won't return. Juneau was pretty / ok - Coming from Seattle, some of the sights were familiar, but the Mendenhall Glacier (and Garden) was nice, a little better than average. Skagway - surprisingly was my faorite. I liked the Yellow Streetcar tour. It was interesting. All in all, the sights were alright. It was one of those things that you could experience once. That's all you need. Prince Rupert was so disappointing. Looks pretty from afar. We took a tour of the city and viewed houses. I'm not kidding you! We saw new houses, old houses, stores. Not fun. The bad: The food was the worst part of this trip! Believe everything you read. There is 1 buffet - the Market Cafe, and two free restaurants - the Versailles and Aqua; the rest are specialty restaurants that require surcharges amounting to what you would pay (almost) in a regular restaurante. Granted, you can eat as much as you want, but we ate just about the same as any other restaurant. The Market Cafe had "below average food", although it was always plentiful. Everyday was the same food over and over and over again. Before going on the cruise, you'd think, it's not a problem; on and after the cruise, it was *ugh*gross*! Please no more boiled eggs. The specialty restaurants are good, but they DO require tipping along with the surcharge, even though (yes!) I did pay a hefty service fee at the end of this vacation. (Our total final bill was $837 more than what we paid on top of the ticket prices. Internet is $103.95 for 250 minutes. Service fees, automatic tipping, was $252.) If you don't tip, you get a rather rude response, just like a normal restaurant. They also act like they don't want you to eat that much. We ate at Ginza (Asian Fusion) and La Cucina. We tipped at Ginza, but not La Cucina, as we didn't like the service. The guy chased me down and thought maybe I forgot to put a tip. They made us feel very uncomfortable. I still didn't leave a tip. My opinion is: the specialty restaurants should have been the quality of food for all restaurants on the ship. What you get in the other two free restaurants is amateurish cooking (a little less than what you would find in a culinary school) that is overly salty. Soda pop is extra; so, water is all you get in the restaurants. Fortunately, we had 2 kids so we could order apple juice and orange juice free of charge in the restaurants. Soda pop was $2.25 if we wanted to order it. *Argh* Next were the rooms! Internet is slow and NOT SECURE! WARNING: USE INTERNET WITH CAUTION. Although, the ship advises you to check your bank accounts before leaving Juneau, as you may not have service, DON'T CHECK YOUR BANK ACCOUNTS OR USE PURCHASE ANYTHING. Our credit card number was stolen, right after I made one purchase, and someone has racked $1200 on my card. I feel lucky it wasn't more. (Sadly, it came right from my bank. Yes, I know.) I am fortunate that I DID not check my bank account. I am now disputing all charges. Not a fun way to end a vacation. Just a warning to all of you! Believe me, I used all precautions except one: DON'T USE YOUR CARDS OR CHECK YOUR BANK ACCOUNTS via the internet on the ship. Our room was a good size for a cruise ship. The steward was friendly; but, in 7 days, we NEVER once had our linen changed and it was looking pretty dirty by the 7th day. We have 2 young kids, so we're talking about candy on the pillow cases, chocolate on the sheets, yogurt sprinkled on the bed sheet, all visible everyday, none cleaned. We requested a few times, and finally just gave up. We'll just sleep on the dirty sheets. I just think these should be common-sense stuff. Entertainment? NONE that were interesting for my 3 year old. She goes to preschool everyday, took a peek at Kids Club and said: no, thanks. We looked in to see four adults lying on their stomachs in a slumber party-like fashion talking like if we were unwanted. We felt very unwelcomed and like they didn't want to be disturbed. So, we left. We did see the Comedian Juggler and the Cirque Pacific which we liked; but, aside from those two shows, we found eating in the Market Cafe the only other thing to do. I asked the Kids Club if I could borrow some books to take back to the cabin to read to my kids. "No, we can't do that" was the answer. Oh, not my lucky ship. Lastly, the pizza making and cupcake making were all a waste of time. Cupcakes and pizzas were made and the kids ate them. I'm a former elementary teacher (now college instructor) and couldn't think of why they couldn't have been a bit more entertaining. The TV had very few channels, all controlled by NCL. We were lucky to catch the end of Dora one day on the final day. I spoke to a lot of people on the boat. Most people I spoke to seemed to be a bit upset about things that are priced above what you pay for the tickets. A few of the families DID like the kids club, we DID not! Their kids were a bit older than ours: 5 and older. I asked my husband how he ranked our trip. We both give it 3-4 of 10 and neither one of us would do this again. I estimate that this trip cost us $5000 too much plus another $1200 that I now have to deal with. Hopefully, NCL got my billing correct so that I'm charged $837 and nothing more. We'll see. All in all, TRUST the reviews here; and, don't end up like me: very, very disappointed. Good one time experience, but there won't be a second on NCL unfortunately, not until the food is improved, at least. :( (Sorry for the ranting.) Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
My wife and I are in our mid 30's and just returned from the Sept 18 Alaska sailing on the Star from Seattle. We were traveling with six older relatives, five of which are senior citizens. We initially planned to do the Golden ... Read More
My wife and I are in our mid 30's and just returned from the Sept 18 Alaska sailing on the Star from Seattle. We were traveling with six older relatives, five of which are senior citizens. We initially planned to do the Golden Princess because I have sailed on Princess before and have always wanted to sail on their Grand Class of ships. However, due to procrastination, the ship was sold out in the category we wanted (oceanview) and the only option on that sail date was the Norwegian Star. Still seemed fine and we got a good deal as most were on a budget. There was a line at the port but we arrived at peak time (right at noon) and the moved quickly so no problem. The staff at the port were all very friendly and helped you quickly though the process. Once we boarded the first thing to do was go eat lunch because the rooms were not yet ready. Everyone was ready to try soem cruise food so we went up to deck 12 and the Market Cafe. I have cruised 8 times before but 3 of the people in our party were on their first cruise. The Market Cafe (buffet area) was packed and the way they have the tables arranged it makes it very easy for two people to hog a table for six. We spilt into two groups of six and two in two tables and started eating. It's not really laid out well because on the starboard side of the ship, the cafe is twice as long and you can walk through it to get from the midship pool area to the aft gym. But on the port side the cafe stops half way back and becomes a crew only closed door area. So if you are sitting there and wanted desert you literally had to fight your way forward the port side, around the front and all way down the aft side then go back the way you came to get to your table. Walking is never bad when you are on cruise eating non stop but a bad design is still a bad design. Plus if you wanted a soda or alcohol they set up a "cart" on that same starboard side only again making it inconvenient to those on the port side. We were all satisfied well enough with lunch and anxious to get to our rooms and unpack before the life boat drill. Mind you, we only had an oceanview and not a balcony, but the king size bed took up the whole room and the only way on or off the bed was from the foot. There is a small table and desk chair on one side and a table/cabinet piece of furniture on the other side with a stool in front. Really? Who is going to sit down at a desk in 150 sq ft stateroom to right their memoirs? Essential space could have been picked up by losing the stool (and chair) and just building wall storage. The bathroom was tiny with little sink space but the doors on the shower and separating the toilet were nice. The water temp was never consistent in the shower even when left on the same setting. One day hot, one day just lukewarm. The soap dispensors looked cheap but it saved me having to crowd the tiny shower shelf with my personal toiletries so it worked. The lifeboat drill was odd. On every cruise I've been on before, your muster station was actually out on the open deck below the lifeboats. On the Star it was in the lower section of the forward Stardust Theatre? You really are telling me that is the ship is sinking I am supposed to come into a 900 seat theatre, go to the lowest point and sit there?? We had beautiful weather in Seattle and found a nice spot on deck 13 for the sail away. The pool deck has a nice tapered rising gallery for chairs but the strange column things by the slides are ugly and so are the numerous fake palm trees. I like that forward area of the ship had nice deck space as well. This was a wonderful spot to enjoy the sailing away from Kethchikan on our third day when it was gloriously sunny and in the upper 60s! We ate at the Auqa and Versailles rooms but only the Versaille (aft) is open for breakfast and our cabins were pretty forward. The breakfasts in the Market Cafe are as bad as people say. No omelet station. No waffle station. Cold eggs. Hard pastries. Lukewarm pankcakes. The bacon was good. The cereal was good. The fruit was good. We still ate there 5 of the 7 mornings because the Versailles only serves until 9:30am. The Market Cafe though was pretty much always crowded and sometimes took several walk arounds to find a table. We ate at the Steakhouse which was excellent. As our party was looking to me to be kind of the organizer I had previously also suggested we try the Italian and Tex-Mex restaurants too. So the first day on board I make our reservations for the three nights. What I had seen before told me the last two had no cover charge but now NCL decided to charge $10 pp at these. Everyone still said we would try them and I enjoyed the Italian (where others in our group didn't) and we all liked the Tex-Mex. Excellent service there and great steak fajitas. So two of the three were hits. Dinners in the main dining rooms were ok. You can tell they have taken the food down a tier to drive people to their specialty restaurants. There isn't anything inherently "free" with their freestyle dining. One more negative then I will get to some positives. I think the ship's cruise director Candi was awful. Very plastic, fake sounding personality. She repeated the same phrases over and over seemed very ingenuine. Her cruise director staff selling the lottery cards were worse then used car salesman. And the assistant cruise director and Bingo guy was grating to the ears. His English was terrible and his "it's Biiiiiiiingo time!" announcements might as well just said "it's time for us to get more of you moneyyyyyyyyyy". Probably the least enjoyable cruise director staff I have ever had. Ok, things I liked. The professional entertainment was good. Second City, music shows, most live performers, etc. The Star Bar on deck 13 quickly became our favorite place. Initimate, usually uncrowded with the same waiter every night. And maybe the only real true bargain on board: 2 for 1 Martinis from 5-9pm each night. The only bad thing is the decor of the place lookes like a lounge from a ship 20 years ago and the view is basically the pool and those ugly fake palm trees I mentioned earlier. This ship lacked the "oh wow" public area with an amazing view. That's the one thing I was looking forward to on the Golden Princess - the view from Skywalker Lounge. We had beautiful weather in all three Alaska ports and at Dawes Glacier. Prince Rubert was a waste a time and my wife and I only got off the ship because we figured we could find a Tim Horton's (think Canadian Dunkin Donuts only better) and sure enough we did, about a 5 minute walk from the pier. Someone else mentioned the Spinnaker Lounge being a dungeon. And even the gym had only tiny walls with window views. Most of the workout equipment was facing a mirrored wall with no line of site to the outside. Two big fails in my opinion. A ship should maximize its window space and every public space should have nice outside views. Even the Versailles which has large rear windows are not full windows. They have these architectural designs that block 50 percent of your view on what could otherwise be a gorgeous glass dining room overlooking the wake of the ship. All in all, I was underwhelemed and a little disappointed. I would never go on this ship again and being my first time on NCL, I would pretty much gurantee I would not go on any of their ships again (even the Star). It felt like they were always selling something, or cutting back on something to force you to spend extra and it felt cheapened like I would expect on Carnival. Next cruise will definitely be Princess. I have leared. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Overall- really enjoyed the cruise, though the embarkation was a mess and the propeller issues altered my excursion plans. Embarkation was a bit of a mess since the gangway at the port was inop. The lines were hundreds of yards long when ... Read More
Overall- really enjoyed the cruise, though the embarkation was a mess and the propeller issues altered my excursion plans. Embarkation was a bit of a mess since the gangway at the port was inop. The lines were hundreds of yards long when we arrived, and we sat outside for over an hour before getting inside. I'm pretty sure we saw some service areas of the ship you don't normally visit while boarding. First, the cabin and the changes made to the Star: we had an AJ Family Suite and loved it. We've had quite a few hotel rooms that were smaller. There were only two of us, but it would easily handle 4, and 6 wouldn't be much of a stretch except for the single bathroom. There was a tremendous amount of storage and the bank of windows was great. I loved the Lavazza coffee maker. The room was handicapped-accessible, so the closets were against the walls vs the entry to the bathroom. The bathroom was also very open. The deck 13 running track was above part of our cabin, so there was some traffic noise starting early each morning, but it wasn't too bad. We wouldn't hesitate to book this suite again, so from that standpoint we like the changes. It was odd not having the forward-looking Spinnaker Lounge, and we did miss that, but it wasn't a huge detractor for us. On the whole, I like the addition of the new suites. The food was good everywhere we ate (Aqua MDR, Cagney's, teppanyaki, Blue Lagoon and La Cucina). No complaints here; we never anywhere hungry. On the whole, the weather was quite nice for AK in September. Lots of clouds, but minimal rain. We had a delay getting into Ketchikan based on a propeller issue (had to shut down the starboard prop due to a vibration). This left very little time for any sightseeing or shopping once our excursion was done. As a result of the prop problem, the rest of the itinerary was modified. The Prince Rupert stop was dropped completely. Instead of getting in Juneau early and sailing Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glacier late, we sailed up Endicott Arm and viewed Dawes Glacier early instead. The weather was perfect- decent temps and almost completely clear skies. We managed to get rather close, so we had some great shots. According to the Captain it was the best visit he'd had in 5+ years of visits. We to Juneau around 2, and since we were the 5th sip in port we had to tender in. Our Tracy Arm Fjord excursion was cancelled here based on our time change, so floated the Mendenhall River instead. Miraculously, the propeller issue resolved itself on the way to Skagway. We just rented a car there and drove to Carcross, B.C. It was a nice drive, and we visited the ghost town of Dyea on the way back. On the whole it was a relaxing day. Since the prop was working again we added Prince Rupert back to the lineup. We just walked around town in Prince Rupert and enjoyed a little local seafood. We didn't catch much of the evening entertainment, so can't comment much on it. Second City was entertaining, as usual. One interesting note- we try to collect a set of highball and cocktail glasses from each ship. They didn't have any Star highballs, and the only cocktail glasses were from the Sky. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Alaska did not disappoint - the weather was at times cold and rainy (as expected for late September) but the scenery was outstandingly beautiful. We stayed in an AB penthouse on the Star, and loved the cabin. It was spacious, comfortable, ... Read More
Alaska did not disappoint - the weather was at times cold and rainy (as expected for late September) but the scenery was outstandingly beautiful. We stayed in an AB penthouse on the Star, and loved the cabin. It was spacious, comfortable, quiet, and we really appreciated the suite perks. Everything worked as expected and we had no complaints. The staff were great and always responded quickly and cheerfully to our requests. We booked online through an NCL personal cruise consultant who was also very responsive, replying to each of my emails within 24 hours. No complaints about any of the staff before or during the cruise. We met the senior staff at the CC meet and greet on the first day at sea, and they were very keen to assure us that we should let them know if we had a problem and not keep it to ourselves on the ship, only to vent later on the internet. That's fine insofar as it relates to problems that can be fixed on the spot, but of course some complaints relate to much wider systemic issues that are beyond the ability of the ship staff to fix. So I thought it a little disingenuous of them to bemoan the tendency of passengers to complain on the internet but not to them. Having said that, I did get the impression that if we had had an immediate problem on the ship, they would have done their best to fix it. This brings me to the issue of the food. It ranged from mediocre to good. It was never great. We ate mostly in the specialty restaurants - I didn't like the look of the buffet at all, and our one meal at Versailles was by far the worst we encountered. It is unrealistic to expect a truly gourmet experience considering the numbers that have to be catered to and the cost we were paying. I wasn't upset about having to pay extra for the nice food, because, really, the cruise is not expensive. You are paying from around $100 to $200 per person per night, and that includes accommodation, transport and entertainment. For that sort of money, the food is going to be basic. Another factor is the vast quantities of food on offer. Maybe if portions were smaller, or fewer courses offered (three courses for both lunch and dinner is a lot of food) then quality could improve. But I understand that other passengers have different priorities and presumably NCL knows its customer base pretty well. Other things that others have complained about we just ignored - the bingo, the art sales, the shopping seminars ... there was no hard sell to attend any of these and we found it easy to filter out everything we weren't interested in. I am very aware that much of what we liked about our experience on the ship was a direct result of being able to afford the suite and the specialty restaurants. I imagine it would be a different experience altogether if you were on a stricter budget. Overall though, I still thought the cruise was reasonable value. It is much cheaper than staying at a five star resort. Our only sour note came after we got home and realised we had left some personal items in the cabin. I emailed NCL in the (probably) vain hope that they have some sort of system for returning lost property, and have not even had the courtesy of a response. NCL if you are reading this, and I think you must be, there is no point spending so much effort on customer relations during the cruise, only to ignore them once it is over. People do remember this sort of thing and yes, they will vent about it on the internet. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
I am sitting here still feeling the gentle swaying of the ship and reflecting about my first cruise ever to Alaska, and there's so much to tell and say, and, and, and you get the point I am sure. I don't think anyone could have ... Read More
I am sitting here still feeling the gentle swaying of the ship and reflecting about my first cruise ever to Alaska, and there's so much to tell and say, and, and, and you get the point I am sure. I don't think anyone could have prepared me for this experience; it's truly one of those you have to experience firsthand to really understand what it's all about. Because I am a weenie when it comes to traveling -- (my idea of camping is the Four Seasons) I wasn't sure what the cabins would be like so we booked a suite. During this time our PCC made sure our excursions were taken care of, listened to me fret about the worry of being sick, and a myriad of other things I asked about. Over the course of 4 months my PCC and I developed a friendly rapport and I can't thank him enough. The night of the 20th we drove to Seattle, and spent the night at the Marriot. It was expensive, and the room was okay, but we didn't really care about the room, we just wanted the 20th to be over so we could begin our adventure. After a really expensive and horrible meal at the Crab Pot on the waterfront we took a leisurely walk back to our hotel and settled in for the night. We tossed and turned due to excitement I am sure -- before we knew it, it was 8:00 AM. We ordered breakfast and talked about what we thought "it" was going to be like. I can't remember a time I have been this giddy. Maybe when I was a child during Christmas? Or perhaps the night before I married my husband or gave birth to my son. This chick was giddy! Boarding was easy - we had booked a suite and had preboarding embarkation privileges. Those kinds of things are worth it to me - I hate standing in line due to a hip and knee injury. The level of service from start to finish was really amazing. In a matter of minutes we were escorted to the lounge where we met our concierge Patrick, had a few refreshments, and before we knew it we were being escorted to the ship. Our cards were scanned, we heard that lovely "ping" and then we were welcomed aboard and taken to Cagney's which is probably one of the nicest steakhouses I have ever been to. Our server was Syndrea, hands down one of the loveliest people I have ever met. She took a shine to my son, fawned all over him, and made us feel special. She was amazing. After a delightful lunch, many text messages and photos and OH MY GOD I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS a lovely lady appeared and escorted us to our cabin. The cabin was really nice. I am not sure what I was expecting. It was darker than I think I anticipated -- I know I was frustrated because the curtains only opened one way and I would have liked more light. But my gosh to complain about that is ridiculous. I just spent a lot of time outside on our deck! Our butler appeared - Flor, another lovely lovely woman. Our luggage hadn't arrived and my husband was a little twitchy about that but she assured him it would arrive and she would help us put our clothes away. After a few moments to settle in I felt nervous in doing this but I handed her 20.00 and shared with her that my husband really liked his ice bucket full and could she make sure it stayed that way. She smiled and said "But of course and thank you" (The ice bucket was never ever empty). During this time she wanted to know if we wanted some espresso and we both said yes. I wanted to watch her make the first cup, as that's something I have always done for my husband is bring him his first cup of coffee. It's an I love you thing. Neither Flor nor I were sure how to operate this machine, and so we both bonded over learning how to froth milk and laugh oh did we laugh. This set the tone for our entire cruise. She loved us and we loved her. And oh my gosh, she spoiled our son rotten. (Later I found out he was the only child in the suite section -- and all of the stewards butlers made sure to say hello to him and he enjoyed that). Our concierge Patrick and our steward Vincent arrived both bearing letters -- the concierge sat down with us and made it very clear that no matter what we wanted or needed we just needed to let him know. Vincent wanted to make sure I knew the ice would never be empty, he would see to it. He then made sure our deck was ready, and brought our son an extra deck chair. I followed him out to the deck and handed him a 20 dollar bill as well, thanked him ahead of time, and told him I hoped we wouldn't be too big of a pain in the neck. He laughed and said "Don't be silly - you guys are great, I could hear Flor laugh all the way down the hall." Finally they all left and we began to check out the room. This is when I first noticed a really odd odor. It was cross between latrine and alcohol (like rubbing alcohol) and stale water. It was odd, and creepy. I asked my husband if he could smell it, and he said it was probably because we were in port and they were doing something with the sanitation. (More about that later) Before we knew it was 3:30 PM and time for our drill, once we completed our drill and headed back to our room it was time to set sail and we were on our way. We decided to go to Ginza our first night and it was amazing. The sushi was fantastic, the wine was wonderful, as well as all of the other Asian dishes. We met Joey the Assistant Restaurant Manager who is a dead ringer for an Asian Gary Shandling. When I told him who I thought he looked like he said - "You know I get that a lot" After supper we took a stroll on the deck and continued to explore the ship, enjoyed the sea air, ordered the kid some ice cream from out butler and turned in around 11:00 PM. And that was the first day aboard the Star. Some highlights - • Breakfast from any of the specialty restaurants that offer breakfast in your room. • Whale watching in Juneau. The photos we got were fantastic. We saw Orcas AND Humpbacks in the same area which the skipper from the excursion we chartered said doesn't happen often. They also put a microphone down in the water and you could hear the whales sing to one another which brought tears to my eyes. That was worth the trip itself. • The Chef's Table excursion in Ketchikan -- for one rainy rainy town the food was fabulous. I tried Black Cod (Sable fish) for the first time and became a fan. Ryan the young (24 year old) chef created lovely dishes with fresh ingredients, I recommend it to anyone. It was well worth the 125.00 we shelled out per person. • A deep conditioning and style at the salon as well as a 75 minute sports massage. (Just say no thank you to all the stuff they want to sell you, they get the message). • The larger than life prawns at Cagney's • The literally cut it with a fork tender steak at Le Bistro • The Cagney's French fries • The antipasto plate at La Cucina • Anything at Ginza - I mean anything. I think I personally ate 3 Dynamite rolls myself. • If you stay in a suite the mid afternoon snack they bring you. Cheese and fruit, or sweets. It was all great. • Sleeping like a baby at night -- the gentle motion of the ship was like being in a big cradle. I sleep better than I have in years. • The hospitality of 99% of the crew. • Bingo -- it was a hoot, and the assistant Cruise Director Joel is just hilarious. However, if you have kids, I am not sure I'd bring my child if they were under 13. There was some adult conversation about the number O-69 that we could have done without. I don't think I need to go any further with that! • The wait staff. FANTASTIC. Hands down, we didn't meet one wait person, wine steward, or maitre d' that wasn't nice and accommodating. Monique the restaurant manager actually made time to help my husband find a bottle of wine they said they were out of. • Again the butler and steward really went out of their way to make us feel at home and take care of our son, who they said over and over was well behaved and not a pain in the neck. There were 350 kids on board and we saw all kinds of stuff from really great kids to kids that I am sure parents would have liked to have left at the Kids Center the entire trip. • The portions on the ship regarding food - PERFECT size!!! • We had a private tour of the bridge and all I can say is WOW. It was mind blowing, and the staff and officers were so kind. They explained why we didn't get to travel further and see Sawyer Glacier close up -- I was horribly disappointed about that, but safety first. • The guys at the end of the crew finale with the spray bottles who danced and sang "We are family" they were funny - in fact the entire finale was heartwarming. Things that were not so great about our cruise (there are not many): • The odor in our room. No matter where I go I take air freshener with me when I travel. I mean let's be real when there are three people sharing a room the last thing you want to smell is someone else's poop, right? So I bring Lysol and everyone is happy. Every time we'd enter our room in the foyer as we entered this room we could smell this horrible odor. After about 5 minutes we'd get used to it. However, after about an hour we'd feel sick to our stomach and have a headache. We'd open our door to the deck and air out the room and breath fresh air and we'd be okay. The second day I asked our Butler and Steward if they smelled it. They said they couldn't, but kindly reminded me that I had been spraying Lysol and to them that is all they smelled -- so stop spraying and let it build up. So we did and sure enough the smell came back and this time they called the deck supervisor Edgar, as well as our concierge. Both men came up took a whiff and said "ICK what is that" No one knew, we all shrugged our shoulders, and began pulling everything out to see if something had died. We couldn't find anything. Next, the AC guys came up to check out the air conditioning. They found one plugged drain with rancid standing water. They unplugged it, cleaned it out, and they left 2 air purifiers in our room. That helped -- kind of. At least the headaches and the nausea went away. But the smell sort of stuck around. Everyone but us was freaking out. They offered to move us to a different cabin, but the cabin they had available was smaller than the one we were in, and my husband felt like he needed more room as it was. (We have decided our next cruise will be an owner's suite. I'd rather save for it and travel comfortably; he's a very tall guy that needs room). The ship bought us dinner at Cagney's minus alcohol, they also didn't pay for Lobster and that's fine with me. I felt weird accepting it. • The soda card rip off. We were lead to believe that the soda card covered everything even bottled water. Nope. It sure doesn't. The soda card covers everything that comes out of the soda fountain. Now on the Star the ginger ale was broken for a few days so they were giving out cans. I asked our Butler since they were giving out cans could we get cans delivered. She said yes, for 2.25 So we ran down and they end up giving us a few at a time, we'd bring them back up to the room. And that's how we did it. We figured we'd need to drink a heck of a lot of soda to make that work for our family. I myself drank a bottle of San Pellegrino a night at 4.50 a pop. So next time no soda card. • The gratuity system. -- I don't mind spending 12.00 per day per person. In fact, we gave our concierge, our butler and steward an extra 50.00 in cash without blinking. They seemed almost embarrassed to take it. What irked me was anytime we bought a beverage in the restaurant they charged a gratuity, I felt they were double dipping. I may be mistaken thinking that the bartenders don't receive the group gratuity. • Everything is for sale! Bingo, art, jewelry, make up, hair products, they want you to spend spend spend. I will say the ship's store was reasonably priced for the most part. But everywhere I turned around they wanted me to buy something. I learned to smile and say no thank you a lot. • Not being able to see Sawyer Glacier full on, but safety first we don't need the Titanic out there. • Last but not least -- Candi the Cruise Director, a lovely woman, but after 2 days of hearing her voice I wanted ear plugs ha ha. I learned how to imitate her perfectly, my family hates me now! She just has one of those voices that grate on your ears after a while. Things I learned - • It's a ship not a boat. • Forward is forward, and aft is the back of the ship • A green apple does wonders for any sort of sea sickness. Bonine is my friend, but take it beginning on the Wed before you set sail. And take it like clockwork. It doesn't make you sleepy • If your room is forward you will feel the motion of the ocean more, but it's a great place to see ports, glaciers, and whales. Last but not least, we had one really rude encounter. One woman from the excursion desk needed a huge time out. I think by the time my husband finished talking with her boss she was going to get more than a time out -- her behavior was deplorable. I am still saying "OMG" when I think about it. She was totally not NCL material. I know there's tons more I could say about my first cruise but I have rattled on and on. Thank you all for helping me prepare, it was amazing, I can't wait to do it again. Take care! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
First let me say I was really worried reading the reviews on this website prior to my cruise with NCL, frankly pretty harsh for most cruises. It seems folks are pretty serious about complaining and I was preparing for a difficult time. ... Read More
First let me say I was really worried reading the reviews on this website prior to my cruise with NCL, frankly pretty harsh for most cruises. It seems folks are pretty serious about complaining and I was preparing for a difficult time. However, I must complement NCL for making our cruise a stress-free and enjoyable family jaunt. Since there were three of us, Mom, sister and I, we chose the Pearl Suite in the AB category. It provided two separate sleeping areas and two separate bathrooms. There was plenty of storage, a refrigerator we could use for Mom's insulin and even a sharps container was supplied to us for the used syringes. The master bathroom was magnificent with a ceiling to floor window over the tub and in the shower, two sinks and separate vanity table. This was critical with 3 women! My mother, who is a full time user of 02 and travels with a Sequel Eclipse POC, had no problem getting around the ship and our embarkation was very smooth. We were provided a steward who pushed my mother around in wheelchair until we were safely checked in and in our room, as process that took about 45 mins. A wheelchair and steward was also provided at the end of our cruise. Every morning our breakfast was delivered by our wonderful Butler John and our room steward Johnny provided help when we needed it, and a smile every day. In fact, every one of the crew members greeted us, and smiled as we made our way down the corridors of the ship. These folks work very hard, 7 days a week, and yet they were professional and helpful. When we were waiting for a table at one of the restaurants (we only ate at the non-cover charge venues), the host noticed my mom struggling a bit to stand and he found a table for us immediately. It was this kind of care that we really appreciated and was available to us. We were invited to a cocktail hour with Capt Lars (for all suites) and he actually came to our table and spent some time with us, signing our card. Truly a thrill for Mom! My thrill came one morning alone in the spa when a bald eagle soared past the windows. We purchased a spa pass for 2 (150 dollars) at the beginning of the cruise and had access to the hot tubs, steam rooms and the lap pool. Truly worth the extra money. I would not recommend a massage as it was quite expensive and then is followed by the therapist recommending some product to purchase. Not a relaxing ending, but I'm sure encouraged by the NCL marketing dept. The food in the sit-down restaurants was adequate and for the most part fine for the average American pallette. The environs in the Market Cafe was a bit too much to tolerate, not really NCL's fault with the exception of the food temperature being too cold. The place was like a 'feeding trough' and other cruisers were at times rude, pushing into line. We ended up on one night, asking Mom what she would like to eat and just bringing it back to her. Very helpful staff who covered our food to keep it warm on our way back to the room. All in all, the trip was a wonderful success, the one shore excursion to Mendenhall Glacier with a trip to the hatchery (very informative) and Salmon bake truly enjoyable (don't miss the waterfall behind the picnic tables at the Salmon bake). The other stops we just walked around on our own and had a great time (don't miss the rock shop in Skagway). The true highlight of this cruise was the trip through the Tracy Arm Fjord. My mother could cuddle up on the sofa with a comforter and watch the most amazing natural scenery. Sis and I out on the balcony videotaping this magnificent place. I recommend the Norwegian Star to Alaska for a family vacation no matter what the abilities of the vacationers! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
This past week we finished up our first cruise on NCL and unfortunately the wow factor was not there. This was around our 12Th cruise over all and had mainly cruised with Royal Caribbean in the past. However, our daughter works for NCL and ... Read More
This past week we finished up our first cruise on NCL and unfortunately the wow factor was not there. This was around our 12Th cruise over all and had mainly cruised with Royal Caribbean in the past. However, our daughter works for NCL and we wanted to visit her so we booked a cruise on the Norwegian Star out of Seattle, Washington. When critiquing something you should always start and finish with something good, so I'll start off by saying that checking in was a breeze. We flew into Seattle the day before and stayed at the local Hampton Inn just a few blocks from Pier 66. We got to the terminal around 11:15 AM and there was no line to drop the luggage and when we walked in to check in, we were able to walk directly up to the counter to check in. Approximately 30 minutes later we had our first picture taken on the gang plank and were than talking to my daughter face to face for the first time in a few months. What a great start to another trip for us to Alaska. However, that good feeling went away as soon as we ate for the first time in the Marketplace cafe. The marketplace cafe is their version of a buffet. The fist thing that came to mind was that we walked into a college cafeteria and all I'll say is that I've eaten better at college. There is nothing worse than eating bland food except for when the food is cold and unfortunately in the Marketplace Cafe the food was both bland and cold. If you want hot food and you have the time eat in the dining room. The food is still bland but at least its hot. We did spend the money to eat one meal in one of the specialty restaurants, which cost us an additional cover charge of $25.00 each. The food was excellent, but just unfortunate that you have to pay more money above the price of the cruise to get the good food. As far as the dining rooms, the only other complaint we had was that the dining rooms were not open long enough. For example, the Versailles and Aqua dining rooms were only open until 9:30 AM in the morning. Which meant if you want to sleep in on a sea day lets hope you want to eat cereal or pastries in the marketplace cafe. Or you can head to the Blue Lagoon to eat cause their open 24 hours and still serve hot food, however the seating is limited. The other biggest complaint about the trip was that the overall condition of the ship is poor. There was carpet coming off of the risers on some steps, which were a safety hazard, the carpet was also bare on the steps in the Versailles restaurant. I would also recommend that you not book a room on the front of the ship from deck 9 or above. They are currently working on most of the front part of the ship on deck 12 and the hallways are filled with the smell of construction. Luckily the only thing we smelled from the state room was when we were on the balcony and our neighbors were smoking. Whatever strippers and equipment they are using can throw you into an asthma attack with all the different overwhelming smells. The other place of the ship to stay away from is near mid-ship to the back where the engines are due to the smell of oil. We discussed throughout the trip what we liked the best and what we liked the least and the biggest complaint we all had was the disappointing food and the slow service in the dining rooms. I would have to say that being on the Star reminded us more like some of our trips to the sea shore. If you have ever been to a hotel at the seashore you'll know what I mean. Their always run down, you pay a fortune and the food is lackluster at best. NCL took what should have been a great vacation and turned it into a ho hum vacation. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Trip Review - NCL Star to Alaska July 10-17, 2010 This was our second cruise and first on NCL Star and to Alaska. Our first was in 2007 on Carnival to Mexican Riviera for 5 days. Both times we brought our kids (now mid teens). Despite ... Read More
Trip Review - NCL Star to Alaska July 10-17, 2010 This was our second cruise and first on NCL Star and to Alaska. Our first was in 2007 on Carnival to Mexican Riviera for 5 days. Both times we brought our kids (now mid teens). Despite all of the negative reviews on the NCL Star we read that scared us to death, it was pretty good overall. All family members rated the overall trip 8 out of 10. Give the negative reviews a grain of salt. I think people who have bad experiences are more incented to complain (online), so take them with a grain of salt. Comparing NCL to Carnival is unavoidable. Generally we preferred Carnival (Elation) better due to a younger, livelier crowd, better dEcor and deck layouts, better public spaces, more fun things to do on board, better teen program and spaces, free soft drinks everywhere and maybe even better food. But the Star's entertainment and cabins were superior. Food The food is one of the biggest draws for any cruise ship. NCL Star wasn't bad, wasn't great. There are five free eating areas: Blue Lagoon, Aqua, Versailles and Market Cafe and the outdoor grill (that we were aware of). The rest require varying cover charges per person. The Market Cafe we called the zoo because it's loud and constantly swarming with people, kids and service staff. It was often hard to find a place to sit. It's a buffet, so what do you expect? Most was edible and plentiful. The pancakes were bland. Desserts were everywhere but most were tasteless. I'm so turned off in general by fat Americans piling tons of food on their plates that they basically don't finish and waste. Makes me ill. We took what we expected to eat and ate it. I'm a snob, but over 10-20% of the guests had to be grossly obese—disgusting. NCL sported a chocolate buffet night splurge fest with various deserts and chocolate fondue and ice cream, but basically wasn't that tasty unfortunately. We ate at Cagney's Steakhouse and Ginsa Asian restaurant. Both were good, but not really worth the extra money. Best part was service, nice dEcor and no crowds. The steakhouse may have been better, as we got a hefty sized filet with all the trimmings, lobster bisque soup and more. The au gratin looked nice but was tasteless. Overall average tasting. Service was always good. One real downside is that we found waiters frequently trying to up sell us on "specials" in the cover charge restaurants. In fact, at breakfast one day, our waitress hovered over us for a long time making small talk and finally came out and tried to up sell us. Really irritating. A minute of chitchat is fine, but hovering over us constantly was inappropriate. It was very disappointing that soft drinks and lemonades must be paid for (free on Carnival). Only apple, orange, pineapple juices were free at the Market Cafe during breakfast. As a soft drink addict, I found this irritating. Only water, milk and coffee are free otherwise and I don't drink coffee or milk. Hot chocolate was included at Blue Lagoon. I skipped the $50/week unlimited "refill" pass more out of spite. You'd have to drink at least four cans a day to break even, and I only drank around three a day, so I saved $10+ buying a can each for $2.24 (including tax and tip). Although with the pass you don't have the added overhead of signing for each can—geez. The bar staff swarms almost everywhere trying to sell you drinks which is good if you are looking for them, but perhaps too many as we ordered one then three other waiters show up to serve us. Leave us alone! We never used room service because of the limited selection of items. Was easier to walk two floors up to the Market Cafe (which we called the Zoo). Cabins We got a balcony room for us, and an inside cabin for the kids across the hall. It worked out great. So NCL's policy is that kids must have a parent in the room with them, but we simply got extra keys and re-arranged ourselves after we checked in. The staff didn't care and our kids are old enough to be self sufficient and responsible. The kids felt the beds were extremely comfortable and didn't mind being inside though did miss being able to see the view, so they'd try to come into ours sometimes, but eventually became comfortable roaming the ship without us and seeing the views elsewhere. The rooms were not gaudy we felt except for perhaps some gaudy artwork, reasonably appointed, white bed sheets and nice wood paneling on various cabinets. Good lighting in the room and on the balcony. The bathrooms were very nice (better than Carnival's) though they have no electrical outlet. The hair dryer and outlet are in the main room near the bathroom with a mirror. Shampoo and bath gel are in the showers. The water pressure wasn't great in the shower but certainly got hot enough. The balcony room was not large but not cramped either. It's great for two people. The couch supposedly unfolds for a third but I wouldn't recommend it. The beds were not gaudy and had nice white sheets. The pillows were nice and big/soft but the mattresses were somewhat hard. The room had several large mirrors and behind the bed making the room feel larger. Temperature control was good and we could open/close the sliding glass window for some quick fresh air. There is only one 110V AC outlet in the room so if you need juice for multiple devices, you should bring a power strip and even an extension cord (we did). Came in handy with several chargers we had. The balcony spoils you and like others say, and I agree, you never want to go back to inside or ocean view room once you've experienced a balcony room. You wake up each morning looking out your sliding glass doors at the scenery from your bed. Marvelous. We wanted to sit out on the balcony more often but due to cruising Alaska, it was generally too cold and windy to spend much time out there. We could with a few nice warm days interspersed. Rooms were always cleaned quickly and well. The stewards we did interact with were very friendly and accommodating. My daughter misplaced her TV remote once and we couldn't find it so the staff quickly brought a replacement (we thought we might be charged for losing the first one, but wasn't). Then the other remote showed up later. BEWARE! When the boat docks at port, crewmen on a moving platform on a track outside washes down the ship. A couple times we were rudely surprised as we were practically naked changing in the morning and we see a guy outside our balcony suddenly moving across our view! Although I don't think he looked in, he could have. There was no warning. Freaky. The tiny TV sucked but was adequate since we really shouldn't be wasting our time in front of the tube. While an expense, I'd recommend NCL upgrade rooms to 40+ inch flat screen LCD TV's to replace the crappy tube TV and gaudy artwork. It would certainly differentiate NCL and improve the overall experience. One channel was a 24/7 webcam of the front of the ship that was fun for 2 seconds but otherwise dull. Would be nice to see different parts of the ship on cam. The voyage stats channel was a nice touch for 1995 but should be upgraded on that new LCD screen I'm suggesting. It just cycles slowly with various info like speed, position, pool temperatures, etc. The map system was slow and outdated and would be nice to have more interactivity and a GPS route, etc. But it tuned out to be our favorite channel as we read we could see where we were at any given time. Events Some events were really good but many weren't. We loved the comedy, game shows, contests, dances and karaoke at Spinnaker lounge. Be careful as you may be picked to participate! Ken Bird the ventriloquist was hilarious. Oddly he first picked my daughter to receive and hold a one of his wiggling furry creatures. Then later, he picked my wife to join him and another audience member to serve as human dummies that he spoke through—was hilarious. She did not want to be picked but reluctantly participated. She was also unlucky to be picked Dance With The Stars at Spinnaker. She is such a ham and got into it with her partner (Fraggle Rock) and ended up jumping on him exposing her underwear. She's a goof and was embarrassed as of course the event was televised through everyone's staterooms on an endless loop. So she was somewhat famous for a week I guess. Second City gave some good comedic performances which were fun, especially the adult versions of course. O What a Night (Frankie Valli tribute) was also very entertaining—much better than we expected. Ports & Excursions We only had four ports outside of Seattle: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Prince Rupert. Generally, the Star doesn't provide sufficient time at the ports to really soak up the local experience, so you are forced to move quickly. The most plausible explanation is that they want to cram more ships in (NCL Pearl shared ports too), they prefer you spend more time and money on ship, and port fees must be high although they certainly make decent commissions on the excursions. Yes they are priced high and some are probably rip-offs but you are held hostage and you are there to enjoy the off-ship scenery so you are stuck. They digitally photograph you when you first embark and associate with your card key, so they never asked us for photo ID, just our cards when exiting/entering the ship. They have a small scanner after you enter for checking metallic substances, so be prepared to remove belts with buckets, cameras, cell phones, change... They don't allow food back onboard but they never seemed to care or enforce it. So many of the ports sell candy, popcorn, drinks, and they seem to let those in apparently. We never tried to smuggle in alcohol. Ketchikan is the quaintest of the ports we felt, an interesting little town with quite a bit of shopping, history and scenery. Ketchikan had the best and most varied shopping we thought, though Skagway and Juneau had typical tourist shops too. Recommend you walk past the tourist shops and far back into the town towards the park to see some incredible old totem poles, scenery and get the local feel. In Juneau, instead of paying $300 for the family to tour the glacier we simply caught a cab from the dock for only $70 round trip to the Mendenhall Glacier—and got a personal tour from the driver. We were not rushed to stay with a tour group and saw many people running/complaining of their schedule. We missed the hatchery (but who cares) and had more time seeing the glacier. The young Russian cabby on the way back took us to see the governor's mansion (wasn't much I'll say). He was a real kick. In Juneau you need to stop by Tracey's King Crab Shack for some mouthwatering bisque and crab. Skagway is the farthest north and has requisite tourist shops galore down a strip, but nothing entirely noteworthy. A few off the beaten path restaurants and bars. The real draw is the scenery, mountains, and rivers. We took the train ride up the mountain with incredible vistas. They provide free water bottles but recommend you bring snacks since it's a long 2-3 hour ride. Sit in the middle of the train car if you go because we found numerous kids opening and closing the door to the outside which was freezing and windy (we sat at the end). Prince Rupert (Canada) was forgettable except for the scenery. Don't forget your passports which you also need to re-enter the US in Seattle. I ended up taking my daughter on a 3.5 hour kayak tour which was well worth it. However, not being experienced kayakers we got very tired 1.5 hours into it and found ourselves dying by the end to get back to the beach where we started from as the clock ticked towards 8pm and getting darker and colder. But the tour cooked up free crab and donuts at the end and they were very friendly and informative. Recommended Things To Bring 1. Small power strip and extension cord. 2. Nook eReader packed with reading material. 3. iPod to hear tunes while hot tubing or lounging. 4. Binoculars for scenery and occasional whale/animal sightings. 5. Camera and/or camcorder with lots of batteries and storage and small tripod. 6. Layers of clothing. Shorts for hot days (there were a few) and long pants. Hat and gloves for cold weather, ski coat and light sweater, hiking shoes for dirty excursions, flip-flops or slip-ons for ship use and fancy shoes for nightlife. 7. Don't' forget valid passports! 8. A duffle bag for your last night. Miscellaneous Enforced tips suck. They are convenient from an accounting perspective though and the staff generally performed quite well despite this approach. We read we could opt out of enforced tips to tip individually, but decided it wasn't worth it. We heard that the staff doesn't get any time off weekly—that they have to work continuously for 8 months and then get 4 months off. Sounds incredibly grueling and unfair. They should get at least one day off a week in not two. Staff was efficient, friendly and courteous. I asked a janitor once where the nearest men's room was and pointed the way in a crowded corridor. I changed my mind about using it then and went back into the fitness center, and he had followed me to make sure I found it and said it wasn't in there! While it was a little creepy that he was following me with dedication, I found it noteworthy that he cared. The hosts and hostesses of events were outstanding, fun and friendly. Candi our South African cruise director was terrific and Kristine (Filipino hostess) was a kick. The cruise age demographic was top heavy and while I am being ageist, I enjoy a younger crowd 20-55 singles, couples and families with older kids for the energy. I'd estimate at least half of the passengers were 55-85. I know old age is my fate if I am so lucky, but I'm not there yet. The ship is modern and well designed. I looks beautiful. It felt extremely sturdy and safe. It did sway a bit especially in the open sea, but this is normal. Generally you could not tell you were on a ship—Carnival's Elation had more noticeable movement. Carnival really does have better public areas (design and larger space). The Star sacrifices that for upscale restaurants with cover charges to keep out the riffraff. It just seems like a business decision that's paying off for them. The Spa area was beautiful. They pushed a special $99 for one or $150 per couple for the week to have unlimited access to the spa area which was quite tempting. The more private spa area includes two hot tubs, a lap pool, sauna, showers, classy lounge chairs, and two private reading areas with small bars. It was quite tempting but we ended up passing because we felt our balcony cabin was sufficient for both privacy and view and wanted to save money. We ended up visiting the public hot tubs daily, which was not so bad and afforded us people watching and socializing sometimes which we like. The more private spa offers some of the villa experience at substantially reduced price. Overall, again we had a great time and loved seeing Alaska as it's been on our bucket list for many years. All of the extras do add up and we had a $1500+ bill of incidentals (excursions, forced tips, drinks), so make sure you budget beyond the basics. Try to ignore any negatives, focus on the positives and bask in the glow of luxury cruising for the masses. And check out the scenery once in awhile. Most of all, have fun! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
The good: (1) The kids' program. My wife and I went with a 2 and 4 year old. They both loved the kids' program and begged to go to whenever possible. My 9 year old nephew, also on our cruise, also loved the kids' program. ... Read More
The good: (1) The kids' program. My wife and I went with a 2 and 4 year old. They both loved the kids' program and begged to go to whenever possible. My 9 year old nephew, also on our cruise, also loved the kids' program. It's free when the ship is sailing, $6 a child or $10 for two when the ship is in port. Almost no one used the latter service, but we did, and the kids got lots of attention. (2) The staff. Hardworking, and always friendly. (3) The Blue Lagoon. An eighth floor 24 hour casual dining spot, rarely crowded, relatively quiet, big picture windows. (4) The specialty restaurants. We dined at La Cucina and the Tex Mex restaurant, $10 a person each (5 for kids). Well worth it. Better food and better service, they really try to please the customers who choose this option. At first I saw this as a ripoff, trying to extract more money from customers, but after trying it I see it as a way for customers who want a much better dining experience to pay a little extra for it. (5) The kiddie pools. Mostly too cold to use them, but our 4 year old loved them. (6) The buffet. A nice buffet, but, more important, unlike on our Carnival experience two years ago, no significant lines, ever, whereas Carnival had long lines all day. Also a nice small kiddie area. (7) Room service. On port days, with short times in port, we just ordered room service (didn't have to be from the breakfast menu, I had pizza twice) to be delivered at 6:30, we ate in the hall (room too small) and were out by 6:45. The Bad: (1) Smallest room sizes in the industry. And our room (4506) was clearly smaller than the other outsides. And, if we had to do it again, we'd want a guaranteed window instead of a porthole. My sister had the window and it was a great way to see Alaska. (2) SELL! SELL! SELL! NCL is constantly trying to sell you whatever they can: jewelry, shore excursions, bingo, spa services, and so on. (3) Entertainment. We didn't go to most of the shows because of the kiddies, but we thought the Frankie Vallie tribute band was awful, and the Second City group only okay. On sea days, there was relatively little to do on board, no lectures on Alaska and only one movie, NCL wanted you to attend bingo or a ripoff art auction instead. (4) Short times in port. Had to leave Juneau at 1:30, for example. (But unlike many people, we actually enjoyed Prince Rupert, because it seemed like a real town, not a tourist trap, and wasn't filled with other ships). (5) Food in non-specialty restaurants: mediocre. The Ugly (1) The Versailles dining room. Long lines, bad service, mediocre food. Only one table for 10 (our party size) available in the whole place. The first day, we witnessed the maitre de giving instructions to the waiters, who didn't know what she was talking about, the waiters apparently had been on another ship or in another dining room before. If you got to the restaurant much passed 5:30 when it opened for dinner, the line was crazy. When this happened once, we asked whether Aqua would be better. We were told no, but went there anyway, no line. Lunch and breakfast were also disorganized with bad service. Aqua is not as attractive, but had much better service (same food). But do yourself a favor and eat in the specialty restaurants at least two nights, just add it to your budget. (2) The "happy happy guy." Standing at the entrance to the buffet was an employee with a bottle of anti-germ spray. Every time someone came in he said "Happy happy smiley smiley." By the end of the cruise, I wanted to "punchy punchy" him in the "mouthy mouthy." How about a simple "good morning?" Miscellaneous: Alaska car rental in Ketchikan was a pleasure to deal with. We drove north to the totem park and then to Ward Lake, avoiding the crowds. Avis in Skagway was unpleasant to deal with. They refused to honor a rate we got from the internet, and, after our daughter got car sick (but not in the car) we asked if we could return it very early in the day for a partial refund, early enough that they probably could have rented it again (11 am, the other NCL ship was going to be in port until 7:30 pm). Nope. Nice playground for small children in Prince Rupert right by the ship. There are Safeways in P.R. and Ketchikan if you need groceries or toiletries, and of course Juneau has all sorts of stores. In Juneau, we took a taxi directly from the boat to the glacier, and got there well before the crowds, we had the glacier practically to ourselves, 34 dollars plus tip each way. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
This was our second cruise to Alaska. Both have been with NCl. The first was on the NCL Pearl the recent was on the Star. We found the service to be great on the Star with all personnel being very friendly and service oriented. Our ... Read More
This was our second cruise to Alaska. Both have been with NCl. The first was on the NCL Pearl the recent was on the Star. We found the service to be great on the Star with all personnel being very friendly and service oriented. Our Stewards Donna and Alfredo were great. They were efficient and quite pleasant. My wife and I traveled with our two daughters ages 9 and 13. Due to a late booking we had to split up and had separate balcony cabins. The cabins were 10 doors from each other on deck 10 AFT. My wife was with our older daughter and I was with our 9 year old. We dined at the buffet regularly for breakfast or brunch and ate at one of the specialty restaurants in the evening for dinner. We very much enjoyed all of the dinners with La Cacuina being our favorite. We also tried Cagneys, Tapenaki, Ginza, and Blue Lagoon. We never waited for a table for the buffet and found the dining room to be clean and the food was good. We did think that the menu at the buffet was the same each day. This may be a problem for some but with the variety that was offered it was not an issue for us. The cabins were efficient and served our purpose but then again we spent most of our time on the balcony looking for whales and letting the beautiful scenery go buy. It may have been better to have a bigger cabin or bathroom but I doubt I would rate the cruise better if the cabin was larger. We took 3 excursions. The Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier tour, The Deadliest Catch tour in Ketchikan, and the garden and Glass blowing experience in Skagway. All were good. The glacier tour was about a hour too long as one can only take so many pictures of ice. But don't get me wrong I wouldn't of wanted to miss the experience because it was beautiful.The family loved the glass blowing. It was educational and interactive. I didn't care much for the lunch but the ladies loved the tea party and quiche. The Deadliest Catch was the real surprise for us. It was Awesome and even though the other excursions were good these guys were spectacular. They were honest and authentic. I highly recommend this excursion. The Star was clean and was big enough that it never seemed crowded although it was sold out. The weather was fantastic. It never rained and was in the mid to high 60's each day. We were amazed at the lack of people in the Star Bar on deck 13. In fact we had this bar all to ourselves several evenings of the cruise. The bartenders said that for some reason it does not get visited as the other lounges. Definitely a place to check out. I found the new Spinaker lounge to be an inadequate replacement for the old forward looking Spinaker of the Pearl or other NCL ships. While I understand the economics of the decision I don't think the product that is put forth is of the same quality. The Star is now lacking public viewing areas that protect cruisers from wind or the elements. The new Spinaker is like a deep dark cave.It is in desperate need of windows. Although we had our own balcony I felt sorry for those that did not. As surely they would benefit for more public viewing areas that were protected. The new cabins on deck 12 are very nice and will suit many. Just not my family as we won't cruise without a balcony to see, feel, smell and sometimes touch environments like Alaska. It struck us strange as to the color choices of these new cabins. The hallway carpet was a light tan and was already stained and tattered and it was only its second week. We heard from the crew that NCL planned to convert some of the other ships to this new format. I hope they don't. The embark was slowed when the NCL computer system went down. The NCL embark crew did a good job trying to counteract this but the lines were long and the ship did leave about 30 minutes late. The disembark was a breeze as we walked off with our bags without delay. We went to several of the shows including the Charles Peachock (sp), Oh What a Night- Frankie Vali Tribute, The International Crew Show, Band on the Run, and Cirque de Pacific. All were good but the Frankie Vali tribute was outstanding. The kids club for both age groups did not appeal to either one of our kids but it did look like kids in the younger ages were enjoying themselves. The teens however seemed bored; however, this may be more a reflection of the age group rather than the facility. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
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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