Year Started: 1966
Ships in Fleet: 13
Summary: With the recent introduction of new ships the third biggest cruise company in the world. Free-style cruising, elaborate dining options and surprisingly good entertainment.
Regions:Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Eastern Seaboard, Caribbean, Bermuda
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Singles.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Regions:Bahamas, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. First-time Cruisers.
Good for: Group. Singles. Families.
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Mexico
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Inland Waterways, West Coast
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Good for: Value for Money. Overall Service. Disabled Travelers.
I'm with my family(6 person) were traveling on this cruise for special occasion to celebrate birthday.Since the day of arrival aboard the ship, all of us experienced terrible stomach virus with high fever and so on... When we call for a doctors help
receptionist told us it is charge $150.00..?????
Unfortunately for us every day we started feeling worth. Then on ship was announcement "Quarantine". It mean that most of the passenger got sick.I don't want wright all this situation but after all we try wright letter to NCL company to get back some reimbursement for our cruise.They send us letter that they are unable to offer any compensation in this regard and they understand that illness overshadowed the overall enjoyment of our cruise.It was the last drop of this stupidity. All of us our family and friends will never ever go with this cruise line because of such attention to people on board.
I booked this cruise during a quick sale and got a balcony cabin for $249 per person, so I feel I got my money's worth and then some, but I did end up spending $500+ on extras during a five day cruise, and I'm cheap and didn't really buy much.
Embarkation: Very well organized, very easy and quick, but a long way from taxi to cabin. Once on the ship, cabins were not ready so we went to have lunch at the main buffet restaurant. It was the most crowded of the whole cruise because it was the only place open and there was nowhere else to go until cabins were ready. The first lunch was awful, but that was the theme of this cruise. No matter where you went or what you paid, the food was bland, the service inattentive. It was bland on an entirely new level. I have never cruised before and dreaded mealtime. I felt like I was shoveling food in and not one bite during the entire cruise, save for a few things, was worth the calories.
It was really irritating on deck when theyoffered us a drink and then asked for our room card to pay for it. It seemed like it was gratis. I just handed it back and said no thanks.
I mentioned the selling. it was non-stop. Every show began with the cruise director trying to get everyone to but strips of raffle tickets. They constantly pushed the art auction, bingo, excursions, drinks everywhere, photos. It got obnoxious after a while. It seemed like all of the staff that were so busy trying to sell you stuff could have been better used upgrading the level of service.
The ports were fine, but the tender services were slow. you had to get tender tickets and then wait in long lines, but getting back was easy.
All in all, I have cruised on Celebrity, Chrystal and now NCL. NCL doesn't compare with those lines on any level, but I did like the relaxing quality of the freestyle cruising. I loved having choices and not having to wear formal clothes. That was almost worth the lousy food and service, but not quite.
When you go on a cruise, you go for the food and service. NCL really needs to deal with this.
It was more than 24 years ago that we took our first cruise and through circumstances, we were luckily put on then the new NCL Seaward..closet sized cabins, french service and white gloved waiters. We have since cruised Premier, Dolphin, NCL Sky through their first transit of the Panama Canal, Carnival, Princess, Royal/NCL Majesty (the minimum of twelve times to Bermuda), NCL Sea (previously the Seaward) in one of it's last cruises, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We have read many pros and cons on the new Free Style Cruising and decided to try the NCL Gem on recommendation of avid cruising friends.
Since we had cruised from Barcelona previously we had stayed at the Hotel Continental on La Rambla and met up with many folks who also booked the hotel and several used our favorite taxi driver/guide. What made it our own little party was that the night before embarking more than a dozen of us met for an informal bite to eat and drink at a little pizza place next door where we all seem to bond.EMBARKATION
Unfortunately, our driver arrived earlier than expected and we decided to let the chips fallwhere they may. We were at the port much too early but our luggage was taken immediately and we were escorted to be signed in. We sat there meeting up with other cruisers or shopping at the duty free (they are always there, aren't they) shops in the terminal,
In less than an hour we were allowed to embark. Parrot Pop who now uses a rollator was directed to the elevator for the handicapped. As we were about to enter the Atrium glasses of champagne and orange juice were offered.NCL GEM-FIRST IMPRESSION
Walking into the Atrium I was overwhelmed by the purple and blue ceiling and the moving picture wall. We were not allowed to check out our cabins in that the doors were closed off, and there was a mob scene in the atrium with all chairs being immediately filled with new cruisers and their carry on luggage and others milling around. I guess if you were familiar with the ship or a previous cruiser on the ship and there were many, you could slip off somewhere. The area is very welcoming with huge chairs and I swear somebodies idea of a joke...ugly lime green modern sculptured hassocks. Being a sculptured glass fanatic I spotted what I thought was and is a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture on the balustrade,CLEANLINESS
Never and I repeat, never have I seen a ship kept so spotless, people cleaning baseboards on their hands and knees in the hallways at 11:30 at night, the Garden Cafe being polished up in mid-afternoon after what I observed was continual cleaning all day long, everywhere.The gentleman who greeted you at the Garden Cafe with "washie-washie", it was annoying at first but then you got into it. Automatic dispensers everywhere, bathrooms cleaned continually, the rugs in the heavily trafficked areas like the Atrium continually being vacuumed ( always special sales going on and people milling around). One of the ladies at bar in the Atrium cleaning the glass pastry case, the jewelers in Colombian Emeralds cleaning the wall cases. During the roughest of seas crossing the Atlantic with the attentive staff in the Garden Cafe not a drop or drip remained . A speck of dirt or a smudge seemed to be an insult to the staff and was promptly cleaned up.CABIN MINI-SUITE AF 11568
Sadly, my husbands folding rollator could not fit through the doors and had to be left outside in the hallway, a handicapped cabin was not a available. The bathroom was divided by glass sliding doors next to the "throne" and the shower..leaving the sink area open.. Somebody had the foresight to install three shelves near the sink which gave extra space for toiletries.. This may seem like a strange comment, but the bathroom floor of shimmering iridescent green tile reminded me of the beautiful sea, a theme carried out in the design of rugs throughout the ship. Closet space was more than sufficient and the drawer space the best I've seen on any ship. My major complaint was as the person sleeping next to the closet there was one tiny wooden shelf to hold personal items.
It would be wonderful if little shelves such as in the bathroom could be installed on that side of the bed. Kudos to NCL for a "real" hair dryer that's one less item to bring from home. One complaint was that the ice bucket was not filled daily. Ladies bring your own shampoo.ENTERTAINMENT
After having cruised on NCL more than 15 times I was shocked at the poor quality of entertainment provided generally. In the Atrium there was an older piano player who was so "full of himself", he only played songs from the thirties up until the 50's...and "played" to several repeat cruisers.. He claimed he lived in Paris, but when asked about a famous song writer claimed he didn't know him, and he was from the fifties I believe... his genre.
By accident we found a young new entertainer on the ship, Randon, whose guitar playing, singing and sweetness was the highlight of our trip. He is a find and deserves more. He often played in the Champagne Bar andoccasionally the Atrium.
Yes, we enjoyed the Hypnotist and the Second City Troupe and sadly missed El Divos, but the musical troupe which was definetly NOT of Jean Ryan/NCL caliber was poorly directed and produced and was an absolute disgrace to the reputation for entertainment that NCL held with us. A woman singer one of the first evenings was so bad., she sang off key.
Except for paying for a Jazz brunch in Le Bistro (we did not go and it was only offered once on a thirteen day cruise) there was no jazz heard at all.. that was a big disappointment..
The Sring Quartet played throughout and was enjoyableFREE STYLE DINING
MAIN DINING ROOMS
MAGENTA We are early diners and found if you went to the dining room after 5:30 there was a long line waiting to get in. The first evening the food and service were very acceptable..
The second evening at the Magenta. we were at the same exact table with a different waiter and when he asked how my meal was I told him the soup was cold and he walked away.
GRAND PACIFIC A bit more formal once we found it and the handicapped entrance was the Grand Pacific, Lovely decor and on the whole, the same indifferent servers, except for one we discovered at breakfast. In other words.. these waiters in the Grand Pacific and Magenta are just "order takers" and don't seem to give a hoot and it showed.
GARDEN CAFE Not being a fan of buffets I must rave about the Garden Cafe. After entering and our washie washie routine.I would go further past the end of the buffet to find a table.. NCL has done something I'd never seen before there were at least four tables that had signs on them to be used by wheelchair/handicapped guests. They could have used a few more, but a nice touch. There were handicapped cruisers of all ages from teens to the elderly, many had walkers, canes, and I noticed several blind cruisers by their white canes.
Parrot Pop loved the station that had hot cereals was a favorite place for him and my first stop was the hot upside down pecan rolls.. NCL has decreed that guests not have trays and that there is less wastage when they have large plates.The minute a staff members spots you with two plates or even juggling one they absolutely insist upon taking your plates and taking you to your table. No shortage of staff upstairs in the buffet whether it was an officer or server, not only that they were gracious enough to get Parrot Pop a coffee or cold milk and bring it to him. There wasn't just one omelet station in the morning, but at least four.. They never ran out of juices and another juice/coffee station was placed conveniently in the next room. After two days the attractive food and displays got to me and I decided as a foodaholic, smoked salmon, fresh danish, cheeses it was enough to drive an overeater crazy, so we went to the Pan American for breakfast at least for a few days..
We never had supper there, but would stop up for a bit of lunch, i.e. salad..forget it.. so many choices, Caesar salad with anchovies, you couldn't help yourself. Best of all at the end of one section was an ice cream bar and soft serve ice cream, available all day long.. All in all the Garden Cafe was a highlight..
BLUE LAGOON. What a disaster.. The big draw here was for me the chicken wings and the tomato soup (fabulous soup),. One example.. my husband and I both ordered our lunch at the same time..and it was to come with french fries, they both came at the same time, mine dead cold fries and his hot..The second day there I ordered ten chicken wings again, and mild,....they came cold...I sent them back and they arrived hot, but only six. When I mentioned the serving problem to an Officer helping out he said..people don't want to leave the tables..WRONG, they are waiting for their food.. Yes, I did see guests walk out. Heaven forbid you ask for iced coffee...you got it at the end of your meal..maybe.. We had breakfast and lunch there.. and always,, always a problem with service. Oh yes..
I think the Hostess there felt the pressure and it must of been a punishment.. she always looked grim faced
CAGNEYS Cagneys is a STEAL. and service quite attentive..compared to the regular free style dining rooms. I ordered a rib eye steak which arrived and was larger than a salad plate, the jumbo shrimp delightful and a wedge of salad with blue cheese.. also ordered with the famous french fries in truffle oil and sprinkled with cheese. Don't remember what Parrot Pop ordered for a steak although he did order a double giant shrimp cocktail.. Neither one of us could finish our steaks... Would never hesitate to eat at their Cagneys again. The food and the service were so far superior than Magenta and Grand Pacific. On land at a fine steak house..$25.00 might cover the cost of the entree, but not the side orders.
LE BISTRO The only extra charge restaurant we went to twice.escargot, mushroom soup, veal, bouillabaisse, etc..The setting is very romantic and this may sound strange, but the charger plate is this magnificent piece of Versace china... I noticed a few guests discretely turning the dish over...absolutely beautiful.. The restaurant had a Gauguin theme, very lovely.. We were never able to make as far as the chocolate fondue.
Coincidently we had received two bottles of wine as gifts while on the ship and neither restaurant charged a corkage charge which I thought was a nice touch
LA CUCINA The evening we decided to go the restaurant there was a two for one for dining.. Great deal...NOT!!!! It seems that the more expensive items like veal, shrimp and their osso bucco are taken off the menu.. Parrot Pop complained to the Maitre de who said he was new, but promised with the group party of 84 the next evening that we were paying FULL PRICE for everything would be on the menu... and it was.. Sadly, Parrot Pop who loves pasta found his pasta with meat sauce inedible the first night.. The next evening at the special private dinner you could see the difference in the menu and the staff, including Officers who came in to check to check that things were "wonderful"... We never went back.
ORCHID GARDEN, SUSHI BAR, TEPPANYAKI - GREAT OUTDOORS--we never went to.
In general, Parrot Pop and I felt with the run of the mill food with the exception of the fabulous soups that NCL is trying to get you to go to the specialty restaurants (read that as extra $$$) for service and quality of food. We missed excellent desserts and the presentation of desserts usually at the end of the meal by our waiter. In most instances we were asked what we wanted for dessert as we were ordering our meal.. We cruise for several reasons..the experience of the ports, the food, the entertainment and the high quality and preparation of food. Food in general for the most part was nothing to write home about and far less imaginative and tasty than we are used to.
STARDUST THEATER Although the sightlines were great it was difficult for handicapped cruisers to get down to the seats and the only alternative was the back seats taken by regular cruisers.. railing are needed.. or another entrance/exit on the sixth floor
BLISS LOUNGE Guess I'm old fashioned, but the bordello atmosphere of the Bliss Lounge certainly threw me for a loop.
GREAT OUTDOORS Just as a side note on embarking I mentioned to the Food and Beverage Manager that I was looking forward to the rib barbecue.. sadly the weather did not cooperate..
DISEMBARKING What a disaster for handicapped cruisers.. We were asked to report to one of the restaurants where the handicapped cruiser would be taken down by wheelchair when their color was called. The problem was.. there was not enough wheel chairs nor helpers. When our color was called we discovered we were 8th on the list.. We decided to wing it and took off ourselves...on the way down the ramp we comandeered an empty wheel chair and steward and off we went.. Parrot Pop could never managed to get down to the terrminal in time for us to catch our transportation.
A big thanks to all the people at the NYC Pier.. they are the best, even over our home port of Boston.
MISCELLANEOUS COMMENTS At a Get Together a large representation of the Staff was present and as they introduced themselves they offered their extension number if anybody had a problem....it worked..
Not in the theatre, nor the lounges were guests bothered by the staff to buy drinks.. nice touch..
What I think is an effort to save $$ Lattitude Pins are not being given out.. sad.. I would have loved to added the NCL Gem to my large collection.
POOR TASTE--- NCL had chutzpah to have young ladies selling roses in the dining rooms and the selling of the Jazz Brunch during supper on one of the first evenings, tacky, tacky, tacky
Lectures by Colombian Emeralds should be done in the Spinnaker Lounge which certainly has more seating than the Atrium where guests seemed to ensconce themselves early in the a.m. and NEVER BUDGED it seems the entire day..
The library is in an inaccessble part of the ship.. it should be mid-ship..not on the pool deck tucked in a corner near the spa.
Guests expressed concern regarding the lack of newer movies...if you want you can rent one for $12.00 they are available. They also were upset that only FOX was available on tv for news.. the excuse is they couldn't get CNN..NOT TRUE!!!! Have been on other trans-atlantics and CNN is available as are newer movies.. I think I watched Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly movie, Singing in the Rain at least three times.. and lets not talk about the old John Wayne black and whites..
Another concern was the lack of washing machines...and another corp, answer.. sanitary, etc. NOT TRUE..there is a large cruise line if not two that provides washing machines and dryers, especially useful on two week trans-atlantics.
Sadly, the weather was not cooperative and we had a rough crossing with rain, thunder, lightening and high seas.. we were unable to use the pool or the jacuzzi. It was the roughest crossing we have had in five trans-Atlantics, rain, thunder, lightening and did I mention high rough waves.
STAFF-OFFICERS A serious problem arose with a particular officer (which I will not go into) and I reported the incident to the front desk privately. Shortly thereafter the Security Officer came to investigate the matter and later told me that the matter would be taken care of.. THANK YOU
FINAL THOUGHTS Having cruised in the past year Celebrity and Princess and now NCL...how do I feel about Free Style... It's a good deal if the ports and the price is right.. If you want TLC and those extra touches... NCL isn't for you.. The question is.. would I cruise NCL again... yes I would and I intend to.. there is an itinerary have in mind but I will also know that I had better as others have told me... put aside extra $$ for the special restaurants..
The Pearl is a newer ship and now it is our favorite. We have been on 12 cruises and the Pearl was the most enjoyable, beautiful and well run ship we have been on in a long time. No lines anywhere, 12 ( I think) restaurants, even the buffet was amazing. They even had a juice station where you could pick whole raw carrots, celery, fruits, etc to have fresh juice made. 4 made to order omlet stations, pasta stations, too many choices to list. Quality of food was also very good. We really enjoyed the French Bistro.
So much to do too. A lounge on an upper level was laid out with sofas, beds, etc in small semi private cubbys with a stage for entertainment and 4 bowling lanes & casino slot machines. The lobby atrium has a huge floor to ceiling film screen that runs Wii games during the day inbetween movies. Great entertainment on the stages, and in the lounges.
We stopped at NCL's private island and couldn't believe how much nicer it was than Carnivals. Palm trees gave lots of shade for all the rows of beach chairs,hammocks strung between the trees, the beach lunch was on the beach not a half hour walk inland. The beach was clean and water clear, a craggy rock outcrop had many different fish to feed and snorkel around.
This is a great cruise and wonderful cruise ship.
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Sylvia South America October 17, 2009
We cruised with the ncl star from 17 till 24 October 2009. This cruise wasn't what we expect from it because our cruise started with a major leak in our romance suite After 3 hours at sea from L.A. It all started fine and we had a wonderful time at the pool listening to the music from shaggy and enjoying the ship/ beginning of the trip. Then when ware thinking we are going to our nice cabin and sip from the bottle of champagne how was waiting there for us on ice.
What a disappointment when we arrived in our cabin !!! there was water leaking from the ceiling and the carpet was al wet. by coincidence our butler arrived 10 seconds later to introduce himself, he phoned maintenance the came and the stopped the leak in a few minutes. But the carpet was still wet and they try to fix it with huge ventilators how where placed in our room but this should take at least a day !!!!! So there goes our relaxed sipping from our champagne andthe relaxed start of our holiday.
I went to the reception and asked if they have another room for us since our carpet was wet, they did not have anything available. But they wil send some strawberries dipped in chocolate, I told them that we get the strawberries anyway since we paid 4000 dollar for this cabin / trip. There was nothing they can doe they said, and so we slept in our one cabin (10726) and at night when we went to the bathroom we returned to bed with wet and cold feet. Is this normal ??!!!! when you pay 4000 dollar for 1 week one what should be an relaxed experience. The next day there have been maintenance people entering and leaving our cabin to dry the carpet, so another day ruined where we couldn't relax at our balcony and enjoy our privacy.
The concierge Simone offered us a dinner in one of the restaurants on board, she was the only one how really did effort to make us feel happy. But a 20 dollar dinner doesn't do it for us. We missed two days from our holiday and in special the beginning what mostly is what makes the rest of your experience.
So we aren't that pleased with ncl and we didn't had the cruise we dreamed of.
Normally we are not complaining and thinking "put it in a bubble", but when you pay so much money for a bad experience, you keep a bad taste in your mouth. And that is what we have.
We send a letter to NCL to ask them if this is normal, the say after 3 months of waiting without any reaction and after I send them an email to ask if they have received our letter that they lost the logbook.
So NCL really sucks !!!!!!!! they never see me again !!!!
Cruised other cruiselines 8 times, 1st time on Norwegian -Spirit. I was pleasantly impressed. Food was well presented, very delectible, perfect quantities, no need to come away from the table busting at the seams, so much food available everywhere, anytime. Service was always efficient and friendly. It has always been my experience that if the crew are mostly Phillipino, you will always be greeted with warmth and a big smile. The ship was well maintained.
Main dining rooms were smaller than accustomed to, so there were occassional waits with a beeper, never more than a 10-15 minute wait. Weather was too cold to use the heated pool or hottub outside. Room was clean, comfortable and appreciated the lg.bathroom with good sized shower, liked the sliding doors that divided the shower and the toilet areas, with the sink in between.
On the negative side,-Tiny tv, up at ceiling level was disappointing. Small gym and 30% of the machines were broken. The free workout classes were few and the instructor often didn't show up. $12.00 tips a day pp. was a bit high. Unfortunately I booked through Americas vacation center. Same cruise price as Norwegian however theyoffer free things that disappear after you book with them. After you board, they send you a message in part-"all promotions and quotes are subject to change without notice. So please beware of them.
In a word - wonderfull - We traveled to Barcelona and spent a day relaxing before embarking, and 2 days after departing to rest up and see Barcelona.
(All of that arranged outside of NCL).
My wife has lots of cruises under her belt, but had not been on a cruise in the 23 years we are married, me I did all my cruises thanks to the US Navy so I was the green one.
We had a balcony stateroom, on the port side on the same deck as the bridge. The service staff cannot be commended enough in my opinion; from the people who cleaned the rooms and turned down the beds at night, right up to the head waiters and the guys down in the laundry.
We took the behind the sceens tour as well as one excursion in every port, including the Monserat excursion when the ship returned to Barcelona.
I work in Nuclear power generation as a supervisor, with more reulations and regulators then what they deal with on that ship in my opinion, but at no point during the entire cruise did the least individual of entire shipscompany fail to impress me with their personal pride and professionalism, right down to the guys doing my wifes danties in the laundry.
The "Free Style" dinning expierence left us put off at first, but once we made the decision to avoid the "buffet" lines on deck 12 and the bars on deck 13, it was very very pleasurable.
The money making the ships crew has to do is a bit over the top, but its the industry standard aparently; still it did nothing to diminish our enjoyment of the entire expierence.
The Captain and the Engineering Crew where something to be proud of for NCL. You could set your watch by their work from entering port, through docking to getting under way for the next port.
Only leaving Rome did we leave late, by 45 minutes, and that was because 8 people who went off on their own out of Civittea (sp), did not return to the ship on time. We (me and the wife) actualy watched their taxi cabs pull up outside the gate from our balcony, as the ship finaly pulled away from the pier; about 20 minutes too late for the ships staff to do anything to correct the situation. Let me stress they did not use the NCL excursions!
On a very rare ocasion some item from one of the menue's failed to please; and the staff almost jumped over each other trying to make things right, despite my wife and I both telling them it was alright, the food was done perfectly, we just did not care for a particular item - (like coconut), or in the Oriental Fusion restraunt, where my wife specificaly ordered her entree without peppers. Her plate showed up with the peppers, and while my wife started to pick out the offending things, our waiteress, who was assisting at another table; saw what was happening from across the restraunt floor and FLEW to our table! Appologizing for the error in the kitchen, and took the offending dish away despite my wifes being perfectly happy with working around the peppers so as not to waste the food.
Only her Matri'D and the Chef worked harder to make it up to my wife.
The room was always smartly made up and cleaned.
The one night, with a huge cross wind was the only time we even felt the ship moving as we made our way back to Barcelona, and while it appeared to bother several of the other passengers, it was nothing to us. It did however leave the slidding glass doors and our balcony soiled to the point we could not enjoy the balcony view as we returned to the Harbor without opening the slider, which we ended up having to "lock and pin" closed so it wouldnt keep opening as the ship rolled in the high cross wind.
I am a sort of night owl, and frequently would arise in the middle of the night and go "wandering" about, only to be surprised by one of the ships staff or another doing things like wipping down the base board edges or doing the high dusting, or some other task, typicaly ignored even in the best of hotels, and almost never seen by a guest.
The Gem is due to rotate back to the U.S. soon and NCL's newest ship will take over the Barcelona run.
The Gem will then return to the med but doing the eastern med loop in 2011.
We plan on celebrating our 25th aniversary on board the GEM cruising to those new ports.
After all why change off a winnner!
Only 2 things will change with our travel arrangements:
First - I will pick a different suite, so we are not directly under the room with the video games - (long and funny sort of story which I will sapre you all). Actualy thinking about upgrading to the suites on Deck 12 or 13 with the Concierge (sp) service.
Second - I will try and remember to pick the side of the ship that gets to view the coastline this time. Port side cabins get the sunsets for a view sailing north from Malta, starboard side got to view the coastline. A Sailor like me should have thought of that; it's my only regret when it comes to the cruise portion of the vacation.
I do have some comments I will be writting to NCL management about, but they are more about how NCL does business (management suggestions for improvement) then about anything to do with the GEM specificaly.
I highly recomend this ship and this cruise. and for the most part even the excursions.
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Magnolia Blossom Mexico September 26, 2009
Norwegian Star, Mexican Riviera 9/26/09
Minisuite #11662, 11666 and 11668. One interior 10655
About us: 50's retired professionals, not too fussy. We were travelling with 3 other couples, all seasoned travellers.
Booked: through our Personal Planner at NCL
Status: DH and I are gold, one couple silver, the others have cruised 3 times with NCL. We have all cruised with other lines. This was the 35th cruise for us.
Arrival: We flew in the night before and stayed at the Holiday Inn LAX. We arranged with Super Shuttle to pick our group up at the hotel rather than returning to the airport. The additional cost was about $5/person. Transfer time was less than 30 minutes.
This was the Star's first sailing from LA since returning from Alaska. Two other ships were in port, including the Pearl, which created a fair amount of confusion for many travellers. The staff did not seem to have a good grasp of what procedure was and it seemed as though no on was in charge. We would be told to "go over there" only to be scoldedby the "over there" people and sent back to person number one, etc, etc. Computers were not cooperating and while my reservation was fine it seemed to take quite some time for them to find my husband's, even though we were in the same reservation number.
Having said all that we were allowed to board promptly at noon and after passing through the obligatory (can't get past them) photos we were welcomed aboard with a glass of bubbly. We entered into the lobby and were able to leave our bags in the Carousel Lounge until rooms were ready. We made our way to the main dining room for a relaxing lunch and found the staff there completely surprised to have clients. No one had told them the ship had begun boarding, so we chatted away 15 minutes or so until the dining room was open. Lunch was quite nice and the dining room is so much more pleasant than the craziness of the buffet. Our waitress came around signing up guests for the jazz brunch the next morning and we decided to partake.
Cabins: Rooms were ready around 2:00. The rooms are spacious with more than ample storage for our needs. In the minisuite there is a bathtub, so that is a treat, and unlike some of the other ships with the sliding door configuration, the toilet area could actually accomodate a normal sized adult without discomfort.
There is a shaver plug in the bathroom but no other outlet. There is hand gel by the sink and shampoo and bath gel in the shower. There is also hand lotion and a bar soap.
The vanity area has a hair dryer and the outlet is in the desk area close to the balcony doors. The entire mini bar is in the refrigerator, which we removed to have room for the ice bucket and water bottles. There is a combination style safe which was sufficient for our needs but would not hold a lap top. There is a flat screen TV and the movies for the week were quite nice. It however, only carries CNN for news. The couch in the minisuite is a double bed size and there is one side chair for the desk. The bed was comfortable and the linens a good quality. There is a wonderful curtain between the sleeping and sitting area that is terrific if one partner wants to sleep while the other reads, etc.
The balcony had 1 reclining lounge chair, two side chairs with arms and a small table. We opened the partitions between the three balconies which made for easy visiting and pranks with our friends. These balconies are just aft of the buffet outcropping which means you can stand in the aft corner of the buffet and look down on these balconies. Not a problem for us but it might bother others. The cabins forward of ours have an overhang from the balcony which shields them from direct sun at mid day.
Public areas: The ship has a pleasing decor and is in good repair. The atrium is not as grand as some ships and has a large screen for viewing presentations and playing wii. The forward bar, the Spinnaker, is spacious and multilevel. It is used in the day for bingo and various meetings. It has a nice sized dance floor but only hosts a short amount of dance music each evening, giving way to game show amusement, etc later. It is a nice place to watch for whales and spend some quiet time - assuming someone isn't calling bingo in your ear.
The martini bar is around the curved bar from the Carousel where karaoke is held, so forget having your peacefull pre-dinner martini in either of those places. The Star bar is the only bar we found where you can actually have nice conversation with a view of the ocean. So many of the others have so much going on that it is actually a bit stressful to just be there.
The spa is my pet peeve NCL has added a wonderful thermal suite, which is accessible for a fee. That is fine, but they have added the use of the steam and sauna rooms to the pay to play suite. They are still in the dressing rooms but the spa staff will quite rudely inform you that they are for paying passengers only. I have not been a fan of onboard spas for many years, pretty much since they began running the spa as a consignment areas to Mandara or whoever Spas. The staff is always snooty but the Star takes the cake for downright rudeness. When I nicely asked at the desk if I had understood correctly that the sauna was only available for "paying" customers she hautily told me that was correct and if I didn't like it the complaint desk was on deck seven. I did go to the reception desk and voice my displeasure with this new change. The very nice receptionist called the spa manager, whom I could hear, and it became glaringly apparent where the spa staff get their bad attitudes. It really is surprising that an industry who goes to great lengths to be gracious to the guests have an entire division who seemingly delight in being obnoxious. Anyway . . . the spa seems to be laid out well and offers a variety of services from hair care, massages, tooth whitening, and acupuncture.
The gym hosts a nice arrangement of equipment and while I don't use the gym, my fellow cruisers do and were well pleased with the equipment and service.
Entertainment: We did not take in any of the shows, preferring to visit with friends, dance and gamble. The musicians we heard were quite good and except that they played sporatically (never knew what bar to find a group in or at what time) and the sets were short and there was limited dance area, it was nice. We enjoyed listening to the group Melodious Jones but they spent as much time talking as they did playing, and then it was break time. aaarrgh. As soon as they wrapped it up for the night, rather than another band they would have some sort of game show in the only lounge with a dance floor. We wound up dancing in the hallway one deck above where we could hear a band playing in the atrium. No logical sense of where things happen on this ship.
But if bingo is you're thing, then you're in luck. It is hosted twice a day in the Spinnaker Lounge. I think it is way overpriced but people play it by the hordes, so what do I know. The big "jackpot" bingos everyday never really happened because you had to make a blackout in 46 numbers or less, so if it took more numbers then it reverted to the daily amount. Quite misleading.
Shops: the shop area is nicely arranged and merges into one big shopping area which is less claustrophobic than some ships. I am not a shopper so I didn't spend any time there but it appeared they must have had lots to buy, given the crowds there whenever I passed by. The usual inch of gold, watch sale and $10 sales abounded and were held in the atrium.
Excursions: We did excursions in Mazatlan and PV with Mazatlan Frank and they were wonderful. In PV we also did Rhythms of the Night through NCL and it was a terrific excursion. It was dreadfully hot but still a very nice evening. I would recommend that you wear your coolest clothes and bring a fan. The food was mediocre but the desserts were fabulous! Cruising back to the ship in the dark and passing under our bow was quite nice.
Latitudes: The onboard consultant had several gatherings. He also was functioning as concierge to non-suite gold members, which meant we didn't really have concierge service. But he was nice enough. The silver/gold/plat party was in the Star Bar and well attended by officers who mingled and seemed interested in passenger input. the regular Latitudes party was on sea day #2 at 12:30 or so in the afternoon. A little champagne and rum punch, nothng fancy.
Dining: Let me say that I am not a fussy eater so the food quality was fine, considering this is a mass marketed ship. Do not expect gourmet food, even in the premium restaurants. We ate in the MDR most evenings but dined in La Trattoria one night - probably the best meal of the week, in Cagney's one night - definately the WORST meal and service of the week and did the Jazz brunch Sunday morning which was great. Cagneys - the entire meal took 3 1/2 hours during which time we had a 1 hour 15 minute break between appetizer and salad. 4 of our people never got their soup/salad and of 8, only 6 people had the correct entree. No one got their side dishes. Believe it or not after 3 1/2 hours we actually left before dessert - we just couldn't take it any more and went to the buffet for cheesecake or whatever. The maitre'd was unable to manage the two talbes of drunk women seated on either side of us - who were not only drunk but outraged that we had gotten our meals before them - holy moley, they must have been there since lunch! It was just awful and the steaks all got could have been had from any Outback/Roadhouse/Bonanza style restaurant. We did meet with the Food Service Manager the next day and he kindly comped our group dinner in the Endless Summer that night. Food was very nice, and service superb - but they all KNEW about our night before so they went out of their way to make it a special nice. I do think their advertising the free margaritas is embarrassing since they bring you a little 4 ounce (maybe) cup of beverage.
Casino: DH is a blackjack player and did well inspite of the continuous shufflers. $5 tables also have a 6/5 BJ payout. The poolside tables do not have auto shufflers but are not open very often. The slots were tight and service slow. Even bar service was hard to come by. Pretty odd for the casino but that's how it was. There was the usual assortment of table games including 3 Texas Hold 'em tables. Slots ranged from pennies on up. Not many poker machines and no nickel machines.
Internet: The cafe is quite nice with quite a few computers that all worked! time is expensive and was the slowest I ever remember. Those who had booked an excursion were given an additional 15 minutes free, which is good because on the final day it took me 14 minutes to connect! The internet manager was delightful and tried to be helpful but slow is slow. He tried to tell me that when it takes you so long to connect it does not come off your time but I watched my minutes closely and that was not true.
Disembarkation: What a mess. First, the list of tags did not coincide with all the tag colors they had distributed so there was a lot of confusion. Especially for VIPs w/ gold tags - that color was not listed and on some ships there is a meeting place for a concierge escort off the ship. This did not happen and many "goldies" were miffed. I do carry off myself, even though I had gold tags, but there were lots of confused disgruntled people wandering about. Again, like boarding, there was no one who seemed to know where to direct people to. I laughed when one girl was emphatically telling us we could not go "that" way when her boss was directly behind her waving us through. A line of sorts, had formed for self-disembarkers that would have become pure bedlam had not one gutsy lady barred the way toward the front and pointed people to the back of the line. A few others joined in and before long we had the situation under control. Needless to say, no crew was around. When the ship was finally cleared the computers wouldn't work to allow you to "ding" off the ship so they had to write your name and cabin no. on a piece of paper.
We did not have to clear immigration as we had in other ports, we just handed our declaration to an uninterested customs officer and went to catch our Super Shuttle van to the airport.
Overall: Good thing we got a good deal on this cruise. It is not a cruise I would consider taking again unless it was a real steal and I had airmiles. It was not the quality I have come to expect in NCL. I understand some of this may have been due to the change in itinerary and possible change of staff, but there were just too many times when it seemed no one knew what was going on. Maybe the guy who stayed at our Holiday Inn really was drving the
This was the 3rd time that we sailed on this ship; the last time was to the Panama Canal in 2005. This was about the 4th time that we've been to the Mexican Riviera. Overall, it was a good cruise and we had a nice time.
However, with the advent of Freestyle cruising, this cruise was significantly more casual than any we have been on. Hubby took a suit for "formal night" but did not wear it because he felt that he would be seriously overdressed. I didn't wear the cocktail dress that I brought.
We previously liked Freestyle because it meant that we could share a dinner table with different people every night. That only happened once in 11 nights because so many passengers skipped the dining room in favor of the Garden Cafe (buffet). The dining room was never more than half full.
The ship was spotless and the staff were attentive to all of our requests. The entertainment as usual was good.
If you want a casual experience, this is the cruise line for you.
NCL Sky, Miami, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay 09/11/09
Ship NCL advertises this ship as the newest in the Miami / Bahamas market. I agree..
This ship is more of the super ship design like the destiny class. If your not looking to go on a 90's era ship this is your cruise to the Bahamas.
Now I need to be critical of NCL. While this is a newer ship, NCL is in third place when it comes to attention to detail. Let me give you some examples.
The stateroom was clean and functional, and you did feel very clean and comfortable.
However.. the bathroom floor was not spotless as you will ALWAYS find it spotless on Carnival and RCCL.
There also were signs of wear and tear, like a scratched up table in the stateroom, oxidation on door locks, cracking in the bathroom sink basin where the water stopper is located, and oversized light bulbs stuffed in the ceiling light pins.
The wear is not major in most cases, but its also a sign that NCL has been ignoring these things.
Bottom line NCL, little things leave big impressions, if the other guys can getit done right so can you.
NCL will need to take her offline at some point to get these things fixed or they will become old ship issues quickly, tainting her newness image.
Especially since this ship has two cruises in every seven day stretch, which is allott of people using and breaking things in short periods of time.
Activities NCL offers a behind the scenes (how a cruise ship works) tour for anyone who wants to go, you don't need to be a frequent cruiser, HOWEVER, NCL charges $55 per person for the pleasure. Come on NCL, are you serious?? I paid my cruise fair, I spent $300 in your casino and $600 more in the spa and on drinks, maybe you could throw this in possibly?
I found this just absolutely chinsy NCL..
The Sky has all your usual ship fun, shuffle board, ping pong, spa, shows, music, comedy, photography, and dance lessons.
Ok so here NCL is exactly the same as its competition and its quality is no better or worse. SO don't base your decision on the activities.
To the good, and there is a lot of good here.
Food Let me be clear, NCL has the BEST food at sea when comparing the value cruise lines in my humble opinion.
I have been on all the major players many times and the food was great!
It was Fresh, different, and had well thought out menus.
I tasted the buffet, room service, and the main dining room and there were dishes I had never had before. Everything was full of flavor, the portions were great, and the service was excellent.
To add to this, what other cruise line has Wonton Soup at midnight? NCL has it. That's right! Wonton Soup. Check it out at the "Great Outdoors" bar. They actually have a full menu available until the very early hours of the night.
A+++++ NCL well done.
Sky, the concept.
I think NCL wants to be different, you can tell in just about everything they do.
The colors in the rooms and the public areas are different and not boring. The bars are set out in new and exciting ways, and the ship in general was thought out in a much different and exciting way then your usual mega ship way.
If you're bored with nornal, NCL is the way to go. I will say the ship is so different I got totally lost at first, not to fear though, they have clear, intelligible signs everywhere and by day two I was fine.
One great difference is this ship has an open terrace area aft called the "Great Outdoors", with a buffet and bar overlooking the water and sky, its a really nice place to eat or drink and have fun.
Costs There is value here, you can sail for as little as $199 per person in an inside cabin, or around $299 for a balcony, of course depending on the date the price will go up. Add $45 per person for port charges.
Premium Food This ship has three premium restaurants, of which I visited none, you see, I still think all food should be included, so I don't go for this gimmick.
However in fairness, you may want to try these out if your into French, Italian or a Steak House. There is a flat cover fee which includes all the food you can eat.
The Drinks As far as alcohol, drinks cost between $4 and $18, depending on what you like.
I ordered two red bull and Grey Goose drinks and it cost me $32. I almost fell out of my chair, so be warned, ask first before you order. NCL you think maybe that's a little too much??
Port Parking This ship is home ported in Miami.
Get ready to pay $20 per day to park your car at the port, so if you live in the area get a friend to drop you off or pick you up, or take a taxi because its outrageous. We can thank Dade County for this, as usual; they soak you when you have no alternatives.
Getting on and off Embarkation and disembarkation was smooth, we chose to carry our luggage out and we were off in 10 Minutes, 20 minutes if you count going thru customs.
Summary All in all, for a 3 or 4 day Bahamas cruise, this is a better deal than what RCCL and Carnival offer by a mile, for now anyways.
I sincerely hope the other carriers get a little more competitive with each other, a nice price war would be great for us cruisers ;-)
I will will be posting some pictures soon.