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Old September 14th, 2005, 07:56 PM
Mike M's Avatar
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Default Back from NCL Star Alaska: 09/04/05: Great Time

Greetings:

We returned from the Norwegian Star on 9/11/05 and I have to say that the Norwegian Star exceeded my expectations.

I will do a full review and submit it to the reviews section of the website but I will put in some highlights here.

Embarkation: Quick: Easy: Efficient:
We had rented a car with Hertz and picked it up at the airport three days earlier. Hertz has a drop off counter right inside the pier terminal. That was very convenient. You do have to park the car in level P2 of the public parking garage but it's an easy walk across the skybridge.

We checked the car in at 11:45 and from there it was up the escalator, into the Latitudes line, up to the counter and onto the ship. A young lady in white gloves took my wife's carry on and escorted us to our cabin. Total time was less than 10 minutes.

We had come with our four other in-laws who were not Latitudes members and they preceded us and they had the same results.

The Cabin:We booked 11672 AF mini-suite. My initial impression was that it was larger than I anticipated and that I liked the wood tones. I my opinion was slightly lowered by the fact that drawer space is limited and I do wish that they had put doors on the shelves above the closets and drawers in the night stands instead of open. It left the room with a more cluttered look even if things were folded. There are only two real drawers in the desk of the entry way. The closet does have multiple shelves but their location is to the side and VERY hard to access, especially with clothing hanging in the way. There is a light in the back that helps. Without it finding things on the shelves would be a real task.
The bathroom is very spacious with a separate commode area, enclosed tub/shower and vanity area. Once again shelf space is lacking in the bathroom. Installation of just one shelf on each sidewall would have greatly helped.

Otherwise the cabin was very roomy and the balcony chairs was large enough to accommodate all six of us for glacier viewing.

Another big plus: In room coffee maker: Four cup size with a Folger's ground coffee packet. Our steward left two a day. I am a coffee junkie. You can have regular or decaf. I did find out that the ground coffee is only available in the mini-suites and higher.

Service:
I had read some reports that service on the Star was mediocre with a few surly people. Well, if there were any of those folks I didn't run into them. The service and the attitude of the staff were some of the best I have seen on any cruise. We had one waitress in Versailles on our last night that was mediocre but not bad. When mediocre stands out then the rest must be pretty good. Our cabin steward Hermanian was excellent, waitstaff were friendly, helpful and professional. They followed etiquette to the letter and always presented the food perfectly. They also had no problem in honoring requests or taking the time to explain the dishes. English was not the primary language for a couple of people in our group and the staff was patient with them in each instance.

Food:
Overall I will give the food a Good to Excellent rating. The only negatives I will give are the omelette's in the Market Café. Gee: Pre-made omelette's aren't that good. I am not much of a breakfast person but the two that I had in Versailles were very good, complete with hot pancakes and good over easy eggs.

Versailles restaurant: I only ate there once for dinner and that was the mediocre service. Others in our party ate there on a couple of occasions and enjoyed it. It is a beautiful venue with large aft facing windows. They all commented that service was very good but seemed a bit more rushed. We ate in Aqua on two occasions and the service was always great. The menus are basically the same between Versailles and Aqua. The decor of Aqua is not as ornate but I did enjoy every meal. The two stand outs for me were the lamb and the Duck. Both were outstanding.

La Trattoria: This restaurant is basically one half of the Market Café that is opened at night. It is an Italian theme. The pastas were very good. All members of our party loved them. I am not a pasta person but the fillet I had was quite good and cooked to order.

The specialty restaurants of Le Bistro, Cagney's and Soho are all exceptional. I would try at least one of them on your cruise. Overall, my favorite was Le Bistro but it is hard to choose. All of them have additional charge items (above the service fee) such as a surf and turf for $5 more that is a large lobster tail and fillet or three lobster tails. My wife had the lobster tails and loved them. They are definitely the type you get in the main dining rooms on most ships.

One extra charge item that I had in Cagney's and Soho that was wonderful in Cagney's but needed to be taken back in Soho was the Fois Grois. It was fantastic. Unfortunately the first time in Soho it was cold and then when it was brought back it was "nuked" and turned into a gelatin. At that point I just asked for it to be taken off the bill and I would pass. The Maitre 'd apologized and said "The chef will get no dinner tonight." A few minutes later a huge plate of Foils Grois was placed in front of me that was done to perfection. It was about four times the normal serving. We all had a good laugh and I happily shared it with the members of the family that would eat it.

The only specialty restaurant that didn't really impress me was the Sushi restaurant. It did have a variety of sushi and teppanyaki but for the additional price it was of a variety that I have had on other ships that was included and I was not overly impressed with the quality and I am a sushi lover. It was by no means bad but it wasn't that great. A lot of vegetable varieties of sushi on the turntable but few ahi, salmon or eel rolls.

However: I do have to add that when the Sushi Chef heard that I was ordering Ahi he said it was included and prepared me a large platter of it and had it delivered to me. That was a nice touch!

Also: One of my favorite venues: The Blue Lagoon. This is a wonderful venue for a snack or light meal. It beats room service hands down. The burgers, fries and fish and chips were excellent. The fish was not a large portion but they had no problem with requesting two pieces. It's open 23 hours a day. They clean between 4:30 and 5:30 AM.

Room Service: I ordered one sandwich from room service with coffee and it was fine. It was roast beef. Every thing was good but nothing to write home about. I did just to see how it would be.

The Ship:
The Star itself is great shape. Clean, well maintained and it handled the water fairly smooth but we had a few nights where we vibrated and moved a bit. I didn't pay any attention to it but the family kept mentioning it. The negatives for me were that Norwegian Cruise Lines likes partitions on their decks. The Star has partitions everywhere. They are great for blocking wind but I find they also block movement and to some extent, the view. This was noticeable for people who were on deck during glacial viewing.

The pool area is VERY small. They do have the stadium seating for sunning that overlooks the pool. I personally don't care for this but it is a good venue for looking at the stage and the pool but I find it more like you are at a concert than at a ship.

The flow of the ship: This is the first ship in a long time that I've gotten lost on. It took me about three days to get it down. We were on the aft part of the 11th deck and I did get confused when I came up and hit the spa. I would go the wrong way about 60% of the time. Also, because of the number of restaurants there are many dead ends on decks six and seven. I found myself bypassing things and using the outside promenade.

The Star Theater: Impressive. Excellent sight lines everywhere. It has a wonderful old style decor that does look like an old style theater. However the seats are about the most uncomfortable I have found. I barely was able to sit through an entire show. They need to do something about them.

A couple of things to note:
We did make reservations the first day for the specially restaurants but we were able to change them with no problem. La Trattoria and Le Bistro were the most popular. Soho was almost empty on the Wednesday we booked it. You can make reservations at the Customer Service Desk on deck seven. They never asked if I was in a suite.

We NEVER waited for a table for our party of six. I did see lines (short ones) at the main dining rooms openings at 5:30 and then again around 6:30 and 8:30 but these were for tables for 2. If you are willing to sit with others you will not wait.

I saw a number of instances of the dress code being enforced in the evening. One individual was told they could not wear a t-shirt and ask to change. Another was not admitted to Cagney's in jeans, and they were very nice jeans. It was also interesting that for lunch in Versailles a older gentleman was asked to remove his cap at the table. I like that.

I will book NCL Freestyle again with no hesitation. I will also sail the Star with no hesitation. I think Freestyle is perfect for a small group or family. I know that next time I will not book all of the specialty restaurants. I will book a couple of them but the food and service in Aqua and Versailles were more than adequate for the cruise and the size of my shipboard account at the end of the cruise reinforces that belief.

If anyone has further questions in regard to entertainment, Alaska, or anything else please ask.

Take care,
Mike
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Old September 14th, 2005, 11:25 PM
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Mike, thanks for the teaser...can't wait for the full review and especially the pictures. I think I finally have Gary convinced that we need to do Alaska soon!
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Old September 15th, 2005, 02:05 PM
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Mike, thanks. That was so well done!!!! You really gave a lot of detail, and I'm sure that others looking for information on this ship will be helped out greatly by what you shared.

Glad you had such a good experience and a great cruise!

Phyll
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Old September 15th, 2005, 04:05 PM
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Mike,

Your experience on the Star mirrors mine last year -- I took the Star to Alaska in July 2004.

Am I correct in assuming that the Star is still sailing out of Seattle? If so, the ability to drop off a rental car at the pier is a major improvement from Hertz. Last year I had to drop the car at the downtown rental office, which is several blocks from the pier.

Rich
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Old September 16th, 2005, 01:46 AM
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Rich:

Yes: The Star is sailing out of Seattle. The drop off at the Pier is a nice touch. I did not find out about the location until just a couple of weeks before the cruise. I originally thought I would have to use the downtown location.

Take care,
Mike
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Old October 1st, 2005, 09:34 PM
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we just loved the star it was our second trip to Alaska and we loved free style dinning very much. Believe it or not we got the same waiter a few times and was very surprised to see ice tea giving to us at dinner without us asking. We would sail on the star again in a minute but don't have any planns to go to Mexico in near future. We were on the disney Magic last summer with the kids to mexico.
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