Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Pat Panama Canal January 16, 2010
We were very disappointed in the quality of the food in the main dining rooms. The service was inconsistent in all the dining establishments and non existent in the bar areas. Rarely were we served at the pool area & found ourselves ordering and serving ourselves at the bars most of the time. The entertainment was sub standard and not at all catered to the majority "over 50 crowd". The shore excursion staff were not acquainted with the excursions they sold and less than enthusiastic in assisting customers. My elderly parents selected this ship for the itinerary. I had sailed with NCL on the Spirit 20 years ago and the Norway 12 years ago.I was appalled at the changes. I will never sail with NCL again.
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
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Jenny Tran Alaska July 3, 2010
My significant other and I have been on Carnival and Royal Caribbean.
Norwegian Star is the worst cruise experience we have had.
The Norwegian way - "Service-teamwork and yes lead to excellence." and "You're free to whatever! " is a total joke! I've never heard so many no's with bad attitude in my life! and you're not free to whatever because they have a full on itinerary, so if you wanted to do something you better have a watch on you to make sure you don't miss it... most of time... one time shows only! Unless it's a function to buy something... horrible, horrible, horrible!!!!!!
They have this thing, they call it FREESTYLE cruising. This just means that it is an all-inclusive trip. What they don't tell you is that, unlike the other cruise lines... There are only two restaurant that serve the same thing and a buffet that is included. The other 5 restaurants are not and you have to pay anywhere between $10- $30 a meal to get decent food. This is on top of the $800.00 you are payingfor over cooked, luke warm to cold food everyday.
The service was not good. Other than our super friendly house cleaning service. The waiters/ waitresses, customer service, and well... anyone else were always giving you bad looks, and pushing you to buy a drink from the bar or get something extra... I'm talking constant pressure, every second. This is because that they are under paid and you get charged an extra 15% for gratuity which they live off of. They are everywhere! At the " free entertainment" , casino, etc. They also wear different hats and work 16 hour days it seems... the same guy that was at the pool, at 10 am, was serving me at noon, and then was "entertaining me" at 10 pm!
You also get charged an extra $12 a day each person for gratuity. They also encourage and recommend that you give them extra! yaaaaay!
I went on the 7 day Alaska trip and other then the beautiful view. Everything else was so mediocre.
oh by the way, other than breakfast. The only free drink included in your all-inclusive trip is tap water.
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by elaine dickson Alaska May 15, 2010
What a mess of a ship design. In creating 14 new restaurants ( at a cost) virtually all of the public spaces have been taken away and there is not one place to sit with a drink and look out the window a6t the gorgeous Alaska Scenery. To make matters worse, they have leased out the top deck round observation lounge to a spa and only there will you have access to those panoramic windows where passengers used to pass the day. In order to do this it costs $150 per couple and there are only 12 lounges and several chairs. It is sheer idiocy.
At the back of the ship where other ships have a place for lounges and tables & chairs to look aft with the shelter of the ship behind you, this ship has built a children's playground which was virtually empty every time I passed by. The Norweigan Star is ill equiped to do Alaska and I would sail ANY other ship before this one.
On the plus side, their dining room is particularly beautiful, the fooddecent, the entertainment okay.
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 !!!!
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Dr johnny Gayton Alaska April 25, 2009
I purchased an Alaskan cruise from L.A. to Vancouver through Delta. We arrived for the cruise around 2:30. All of the porters had left. Despite having a 9 year old and a 12 year old handicapped daughter, we had to take all of our luggage on board ourselves. No one offered to help. There were plenty of cruise ship employees watching our struggle, but none offering to help us out.
The next disappointment was to learn that there were no programs for tweens and our children would have to be with the toddlers. The youth counselors also told us that the Nintendo Wii was reserved for the teens, so my children were crushed. Of course, the ad about the two-story video screen did not apply to the Norwegian Star. The kids had brought their laptop to spend time on the internet. Of course we found out that the nominal fee for WiFi was rather outrageous, which prevented them from using their laptop.
BTW, our car was broken into in downtown Vancouver and all of their electronics, including the laptop,were stolen. NCL should warn its passengers about downtown Vancouver and theft. It turns out that it is the number one area in North America for burglarizing cars.
The 3 days at sea were uneventful, but we had to be with the kids the entire time due to the lack of tween programs.
We kept hearing announcements about booking your excursion through NCL due to the guarantee and protection. We booked the Juneau Salmon Bake and glacier tour through NCL. Here is a recap of our experience:The bus left late.
It was hot on the bus, but the air conditioning did not work. Numerous people complained to the driver.
We sat on the bus for over 20 minutes after the glacier departure time. Again, no air conditioning. BTW, when my children went to get on the correct bus, the driver would not let them on. She proclaimed that she did not have any children on the bus. When we assured her that they were indeed with us, she said they must have been so quiet that she did not know they were there.
The trip to the salmon bake was without air conditioning.
The salmon bake was a disappointment. There was a line to get a container containing a paltry amount of clam chowder. The buffet food quality was poor. The promised ribs never materialized. After a long wait, the salmon was dry and had a crunchy sugar sauce. None of us ate the food. The water in the bathroom was so cold that it was painful.
Nancy complained to the staff and a nice young man named Chris took us to McDonald's, where I fed the kids. He took our cabin numbers and said that they would reimburse us for the bake.
When no reimbursement arrived, Nancy complained to the front desk staff. They told her to return the next morning and speak to the excursion director. When she arrived he was not there. She gave the details to one of the ladies who said that we would hear something that day. When we had not heard anything by the next morning, Nancy again complained and was told that she would hear by noon. I knew then that the excursion department was not going to do anything. Sure enough, when the letter arrived it basically said that we were not entitled to any reimbursement because we left the excursion early. Of course, I was dealing with three hungry people, two of which were children who were not going to eat the food at the salmon bake.
Ketchikan went fine, as did most of the rest of the cruise. The service in the main restaurant was pretty slow, but the service in the specialty restaurants was excellent.
Our steward was very helpful and pleasant. Sarah in the fitness facility was very knowledgeable and as nice as could be. The fitness juice bar person was also responsible for the ice cream bar, and that created some long lines. The cruise staff and director could not have been nicer on the cruise. The entertainment was outstanding.
In conclusion, an overall nice cruise that gave us a bad taste in our mouth because of the excursion.
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Otto Mexico March 21, 2009
NCL stands for NO CASH LEFT. They charge extra for decent food, food or drink classes and crazy expensive drinks with 15% tips added. A "Soda" bracelet is over $6.00 A DAY.
Check in at LA harbor is a joke. Hey, NCL -- take note of how Carnival does it.
The staff, for the most part, tried their best. Our room stewards were excellent.
The food choices were a joke. You could eat at the buffet for breakfast or lunch, which was along the quality of a cheap all-you-can-eat place. The two main dinner places started at the begining of the week along the quality of a Sizzler, but by the end of the week it was pretty bad. You could, however, pay extra money to eat in a better place, from $10 to $25 dollars per person depending on which place you went to.
NCL spent more time trying to seperate us from our money than they did waiting on us. It is NOT a great value. You will spend more than you would on a "regular" cruise line for decentfood and services.
I will not be a return customer. Bye bye, NCL.
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Louisa Mexico November 23, 2008
BACKGROUND INFORMATION I am a 35 year old who has taken 11 cruises in my life, but this was my very first cruise on NCL. I traveled with my husband on this cruise and this was our third cruise to the Mexican Riviera. The purpose of this vacation was to sleep, eat and totally relax! I am happy to report that we got exactly what we were searching for!
EMBARKATION Getting on the ship was fairly easy, but disorganized (as most cruise lines are). There were plenty of check-in agents and the process was quick. All passengers are required to fill our a short health questionnaire, asking if you have had any gastrointenstinal illnesses in the last week or so. NCL seems really serious about confining the norovirus and keeping their passengers safe and healthy. They even squirt down your hands with sanitizer before you get onboard (and there are stations throughout the ship with hand sanitizer -- we always used them as did most other passengers). One note of advice -- do NOT try to "sneak" on any liquor in yourcarry on bags! The security stations were serious about enforcing this and I saw them take away many bottles of wine, beer, etc. They were scrutinizing anything that looked like any sort of liquor. We had a 6 pack of Coke Zero soda in our carryon and we had to have all of our bags searched after going through the x-ray scanner to make sure it wasn't alcohol! I would not try to bring anything onboard, and I felt lucky that we were able to carry on our sodas! We did have a bottle of wine in our regular checked suitcase and it made it to the cabin just fine. At the gangway, crew members greeted everyone with a complimentary glass of champagne or a mimosa. There was no assistance in finding your cabin, however. Our cabins were ready about an hour and a half after boarding, so we used the extra time to explore the ship. The Market Cafe was set up with a huge spread of food but the area was a madhouse as you can imagine. While exploring, we saw that the Versailles dining room was open with just a few diners, so we opted to eat lunch there instead. It was lovely, quiet, and a much better choice than the jam packed buffet! This is a really good secret tip for future cruisers -- once you are onboard, head to Versailles to eat your first lunch onboard!
CABIN We had a balcony cabin, room 9100. It was a standard cruise line cabin, but it felt a little on the small side and never felt very clean. It was more cramped than other ships I've sailed on. The bathroom was especially tight. The shower is set up like a standard walk-in shower and was roomy, but the toilet has its own little separate area with a sliding door. This doorway makes access very, very tight. In fact, if you are a large person, I would recommend booking a handicapped accessible room because if you were too plump or tall, there is no way you could fit through that door to get to the toilet. I'm not the skinniest person in the world, but I'm not the largest either, and I have bruises on my shoulders, arms and legs from hitting that door that closed off the toilet. You could only walk through the door sideways because the sliding door isn't wide enough to accommodate standard shoulders. I am not joking! The room had a bright and fun nautical inspired theme with anchor prints and carpet. The shower had a squirt pump attached to the wall with Elemis spa shampoo and body wash (no conditioner or bar soap, bring your own). There was only ONE electrical outlet in the cabin, so bring extra outlet plugs! Also note that smoking is allowed in any stateroom and on the private balconies, so you may get a really stinky room. If you are a nonsmoker, be aware of this! We don't smoke but we did smell cigarettes from our neighbor's balcony from time to time during the cruise.
SHIP This ship is very large and is still very nice; it is showing its age, but it doesn't look that old. The grand atrium isn't that grand -- it is pretty bland. The ship doesn't have the "wow" factor of other "sparkly" and "flashy" cruise ships I've been on, but there is so much to do onboard that it doesn't really matter. Activities were never lacking and there was always something fun going on. We spent a lot of our mornings marking up the Freestyle Daily with all the activities we were going to attend, and then promptly napped through them! Aaaah, vacation life! The Carousel Lounge was the rockin' place for late night karaoke and the Havana Club cigar room was an intimate place to smoke. The wine cellar is really just part of Le Bistro and not a separate area. I was the most disappointed in the onboard shops -- there are only two! One perfume store and one large supermarket type store with everything all in one place. I enjoy strolling different shops while on board, and having everything from sundries, clothes, jewelry, liquor, etc. stuffed into one big room bothered me. It's a minor complaint, but I do wish the stores were separated out. One section of the store had the classic Bijoux Terner boutique where everything is $10. During the week, there is a special $6 for $36 sale -- so hang on to save some money!
The main showroom is large but is very poorly laid out! There is movie theater style stadium seating -- so if you sit for a show, you are trapped and can't leave without disturbing everyone in your row. The seating on the sides is limited, and the upper seating on the side of the theater has weird glass partitions so you have to crane your neck and lean forward to see the performers on the stage -- unless you want to look through glass! It is a horrible design! The entrance hallway is stunning, like a French showroom. The showroom also has bathrooms inside, so you don't have to leave the theater to use the restroom.
The internet cafe and the library are well equipped and spacious, and there is a standard card room, movie theater (just a pull down screen with theater seating that shows the same films that are playing on the in-room t.v.) and a small chapel. The fitness center was really nice and very well equipped. They even had a juice bar inside. The arcade was open 24 hours and had a good selection of video games too. The layout is a bit confusing, as you'd be walking along and all of a sudden, the ship would dead-end. This happened a lot, so be sure to carry your ship map with you!
FREESTYLE We love freestyle cruising! It is made for people like us! We heard many on board complaining about it, but we LOVED it. Not having a set dinner time was the best, because we could enjoy our day and eat in the evening at our leisure. We never had to rush, and you don't have to sit with strangers for a painfully slow 2 hour plus meal. It made for a lovely, relaxing vacation. I did notice that most passengers would start lining up to eat at 5:00. If you are willing to eat a bit later, you'll fare better with the crowds. In the two main free dining rooms, Versailles and Aqua, we never had a wait -- we would go eat around 8:30 to 9:30 and often we were only one of a few tables in the restaurants. The specialty restaurants are the same too -- we usually ate after 8:00 and never had a problem getting a reservation. The later, the better. Good food is a major part of any vacation for us, and we enjoyed the food onboard the Star.
FOOD I did not go hungry on this cruise! I am a *very* tough customer when it comes to cruise line food, and I can honestly say that the food on the Star was some of the best I've ever had on any major cruise line. Everything from the buffet to the steakhouse served really good food! We had the opportunity to dine in all of the specialty restaurants (except the Italian restaurant) during our trip. I think the best specialty restaurant on board is the French restaurant, Le Bistro. If you have a balcony cabin or suite, you can make reservations 2 days in advance. This was nice, as we never had a problem getting a reservation at any of the specialty restaurants. Another great tip is that if you are willing to eat late, after 7:30 pm, you should be able to get your desired reservation. The cover charge is charged directly to your onboard account. At the end of the meal, you are given a check to sign with a line for adding an additional tip for your server if you wish, just like at a real restaurant. We found that the servers were happy to let us order multiple appetizers, desserts, sides, entrees, etc. if we asked -- with no additional fee. Even if the portions were on the small side, they would gladly bring as much as you wanted 'til you were stuffed.
Le Bistro: The atmosphere is great -- like a small bistro that reminded me of many of the restaurants in the Napa Valley wine country. French art prints adorn the walls and the lighting is dim. The $15 per person surcharge is fair and the food/service was excellent. The restaurant has a very well stocked wine cellar with great choices (think Caymus, Joseph Phelps, Far Niente and other big California and international reds). The service here was the best we had anywhere on the entire ship. The escargot appetizer here was fantastic (and way better than the one served in the main "free" dining room), as was the fresh salmon and scallops. Don't miss the chocolate fondue dessert. It is served in a half hollowed-out pineapple with huge chunks of pineapple, bananas, strawberries and small profiteroles for dipping. Crepes can also be made to order tableside. This was by far the best dining venue on the entire ship and it was great!
Endless Summer: By far the worst restaurant onboard. The Mexican food was just gross and not very good. Think of it as a really bad Applebee's. For the $10 per person cover charge, you do get one complimentary margarita, so that takes the "sting" out of how bad the food is. The quesadilla was okay but the chicken used was of a very poor quality. I could have made it at home much better. The nachos are a JOKE. Disgusting nacho chips with a squirt of day-glo cheese glop with a scoop of Costco-esque canned shredded barbecue beef on top that looked even more unappetizing than Taco Bell. The fajitas were just standard fare. I would not recommend wasting a meal at this restaurant and I was really upset that we paid $20 for such awful food and sloppy service. The free buffet would have been a much better option.
Cagney's: Had a great atmosphere, but the food was just so/so. I wasn't impressed. The service was good, but the pacing of the nearly 3 hour meal was much too slow. We had our appetizers and salads, and our steaks didn't show up until 45 minutes later! The food wasn't bad, it just wasn't memorable. We ordered a standard shrimp cocktail that had only 4 shrimp, a crab stuffed mushroom and a small crab cake that was filled with chopped red and green peppers. The salads are not very good -- the Cagney's salad has a strange flavor and the wedge salad has a too tart vinagrette dressing. The sides were very unmemorable too -- the creamed spinach was the exact same stuff as the spinach dip that is served in the Blue Lagoon snack bar! The steaks were cooked correctly, but tasted like what you'd expect at any major US chain restaurant. I did enjoy the freshly baked rolls and the molten chocolate cake for dessert -- it was fantastic and the best dessert I had during the entire cruise. The cover charge of $20 per person is too expensive for what you get. Again, I live in a city that has some of the best restaurants in the world, and I frequently dine at the top steakhouses here, so my standards are probably a little high. But Cagney's is just not worth it -- don't waste your money! And be warned: the floor is very slippery in Cagney's, so be careful! I slipped and fell on my way out and got a big goose egg on my knee.
Ginza: My second favorite specialty restaurant on the ship! If you like sushi, you'd be in heaven here! I don't care for sushi, but there is a large sushi bar with all you can eat for $15. The main Asian fusion portion of the restaurant was very good. The steamed potstickers were very good, as was my shrimp salad. It had three huge shrimp wrapped in wonton wrappers and served on a small bed of Asian slaw with a ginger dressing. It was fantastic! I had the lemon pepper shrimp for dinner and I enjoyed it; the sauce was tart, spicy and full of flavor. The noodle and rice dishes weren't the best, but the main entrees were all tasty. Note that most of the food here is deep fried but it is very good. The desserts are not the shining star here; I'd recommend skipping them. We had no problem getting a Thanksgiving night reservation here for a 7:00 pm seating. Our "turkey day" was celebrated with delicious Asian food!
SoHo Room: We ate here for the special jazz brunch. Sign up early during your cruise because it will fill up! The cover charge was $15 per person and the food was excellent. There was a small buffet set up with lots of gourmet cheeses, quiche lorraine, roast beef asparagus wraps, smoked salmon, pancakes, a small salad bar, hot apple crumb and a great selection of breads and pastries (the chocolate filled croissants were to die for)! There was also a made to order caesar salad station with huge slices of chicken breast or shrimp! There was also a menu where you could order all sorts of breakfast foods (omelettes, waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, grilled salmon, steak tenderloin with shrimp, etc.). The food was fantastic and it was a great value, the mood was hip and cool as the onboard jazz quartet played smooth jazz.
Versailles/Aqua Dining Rooms: These are the two main free dining rooms on board and they both served the same dinner menu so you could choose either venue. Versailles was the designated "dress up" restaurant, so jeans and shorts were not allowed. Aqua was casual with an "anything goes" vibe. We found the service in Aqua to be a bit better and faster than that in Versailles. At Aqua, we were able to eat in an hour or less every time; fabulous if you were trying to catch a show or other activity. Both dining rooms have a fun atmosphere -- Versailles has more of a formal French chateau look while Aqua has a sleek, modern art feel, complete with a lighted ceiling of stars that "twinkle" during your meal. The food was always very good in both dining rooms, but the broiled fresh salmon and the cheese tortellini (available every night) were real standouts. I ordered the tortellini as an appetizer at every meal we had here. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the food because I usually never like cruise ship cuisine. I'm not a food snob, but I am a foodie and I love to eat and try different things. The Star did not disappoint! I was also pleased with the larger portion sizes. The food not only had a pretty presentation, but there was actually enough to fill you up!
Market Cafe Buffet: I never like cruise ship buffets, but this one was different. First off, it is absolutely huge with an endless variety of choices. The dessert portion of the buffet is its own separate buffet bar/section! I liked the food that I ate here, but my husband hated it. He is a real meat and potatoes guy, and I love fresh vegetables, fish, and ethnic foods. I think the foods I liked to eat on the buffet were just better prepared that the things he eats. Every day for lunch they had my favorites -- roasted chicken, green beans, cabbage, fresh cut pineapple and broccoli with cheese sauce. All of these were very good! There was also a made to order pasta station, made to order caesar salad station, roast beef, pizza, cold cuts for sandwiches, hand dipped ice cream, and many ethnic choices (Indian, Mexican, etc.). There were plenty of vegetarian choices (fresh fruits, pastries and breads, tons of vegetables, potatoes, pastas), and a special miniature kid's buffet. There was also a large selection of breads and rolls. The breads and pastries on board were FANTASTIC. It had some of the best breads I've ever eaten anywhere! The buffet was not so good at breakfast -- the food just wasn't well prepared and I'd dare call it "disgusting." But at lunch and dinner, it was great! The eating area is set up with long rows of tables so you have to pack in with other people "family style." On the downside, the place never felt too clean and the floors are extremely sticky, and sometimes the stench was a little unappetizing. The staffers were working like mad to keep things tidy, but with the large flow of customers, it was hard to keep up. Overall, the food was pretty good and I was very pleasantly surprised. This is a glowing review coming from somebody like me!
Blue Lagoon: This is the ship's 24 hour free eatery, a quick service snack bar. It serves up comfort food like chicken wings, fried chicken tenders, fish and chips, tomato soup, hot dogs, spinach dip, strawberry shortcake and the like. The menu is limited, but the food was pretty good. It is a great place for a snack and was a hit with all of the kids on board. It has very quick table service, so you sit down and order off a menu. We only ate here once, but the time between placing our order and getting our food was less than 5 minutes! This place was always crowded, but tables turned really fast so I never saw anybody waiting for a table here.
Room Service: Hands down, the Star had the very best room service I have ever had onboard any major cruise line! I've cruised Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Carnival and none of their room service food compares to NCL! The macaroni and cheese was fantastic, and so was the BLT sandwich and the individual pizzas. The menu was varied (sandwiches, pizzas) and even had a children's menu (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken fingers, etc.). Room service always took anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour to arrive, but the food was always hot and fresh. The room service breakfast menu was severely lacking, though, with only pastries and cold cereals (no hot food) available. As a result, we never ordered room service for breakfast.
Chocoholic Buffet: This was fun and was set up in the Market Cafe. The line was long but moved quickly. It was a chocolate overload! Tons of fudgy cakes, pies, truffles, cookies, ice cream -- whatever you wanted, it was here! There was even a tray of white chocolate krispie treats and a chocolate fountain for dipping fruit. There were also several ice sculptures and chocolate displays. Not much to photograph, but lots to eat!
SERVICE Service was hit or miss. We found the employees to be either super friendly or very surly -- I'd say the mix was an even 50/50. I don't know if this is a result of freestyle cruising or what, but several of our waiters and our surly cabin steward seemed to really hate their jobs! Our cabin steward was the worst steward we have ever had on any of our many cruise vacations. He was unfriendly and unaccommodating in all respects. If we kindly asked for an extra pillow, we had to ask several more times before he'd bring it. And certain days, we'd have fresh towels and others he wouldn't bother to exchange them (even when they were on the floor and we had specifically asked for them)! On Monday, we got 2 washcloths but no hand towels. On Tuesday, we'd get one washcloth and one hand towel. On Wednesday, we'd get 2 hand towels but no washcloths. It was strange. Our shower soap/shampoo dispenser went empty 2 days before he bothered to refill it (and only halfway at that)! And the cabin never felt clean! I think he vaccummed our floor once during the entire trip. It was just gross. And on the last night before we disembarked, he had already started to put out stuff for the new guests! Sorry, but I am still on vacation and this is still our cabin for the next night! I know what you are thinking -- "oh, these people must be jerks." That is not true! We are friendly to a fault! I am always cheerful and was so friendly and congenial to this man -- but he treated us like dirt.
The service in the free dining rooms was okay, but I have to admit that I did miss the personal service you get from traditional cruise ship dining -- the same waiter every night. Freestyle Cruising is a real trade off in that respect. The service was very good in all of the specialty restaurants with the exception of Endless Summer, and the service was truly exceptional at Le Bistro. The bar servers were bordering on stalkers! As soon as you entered a public lounge or bar, several would start following you to your seats, each trying to beat the other to take your order! It was very intrusive and I felt like the waiters were fighting over my automatic 15% gratuity! One night in the Spinnaker Lounge, we had THREE waiters trying to stalk us to take our orders! They were literally falling all over each other to be the first to our table! And in the main showroom, you'd have a line of waiters follow you to your seat! It was ridiculous.
ENTERTAINMENT We only stopped by briefly to a few of the production shows and we were disappointed. It was a bit less-than-stellar cruise ship fare. We live in Las Vegas and get the best jugglers, acrobats, singers, etc. so maybe I have too high expectations. Other passengers seemed to love the production shows. The theater layout was horrible, though (see Ship/Public Spaces for more details). The bars had good entertainment. Mr. Motown played his synthesizer with classic tunes, and the Pat Juneau band was an okay rock/pop band. The best bar entertainment was Sean, the Canadian guitarist in the Red Lion Pub. He was very talented, friendly, and was fun to listen to. The Second City comedy troupe was also on board and performed 3 shows that were painfully unfunny. This must've been the "D-List" Second City players. Truly, their shows were awful.
There were lots of fun and different activities on board. There was a murder mystery dinner (we missed the signup but it sounded fun) and lots of poolside events, parties, trivia games and contests. There were also several really fun wine tastings, martini tastings, sangria tastings, beer tastings, etc. We did the martini tasting and it was a bargain at $15 per person. We were poured 5 nearly full-sized martinis each! I'd recommend sharing because we were drunk the rest of the afternoon. The casino was lively, large and spacious with a good variety of slots and table games. It was very smoky, though! The bars onboard were well laid out and comfortable, and the specialty drink menus were fantastic! The specialty martini menu was my favorite, and the prices ranged from $9.75 to $10.50 (plus a 15% auto gratuity) for a tasty martini. Specialty shots were around $3.50 to $5 each.
CROWDS The ship is huge but it never felt too large. The upside of traveling on a huge cruise ship is that there is always something to do. The downside is that sometimes lines are very long and the ship can seem crowded -- I always felt like I was in somebody's way no matter where I was walking. Tender service in Cabo San Lucas was a nightmare. It took almost 2 hours to get off the ship and get into port. Not good when your stay is only 5 hours. It severely cut into our time there and it was very disappointing. The ship passed out tender tickets and we were in the 3rd group. I feel bad for the people with numbers behind ours! Since it was Thanksgiving week, there were over 980 children on board. The kid's program must be pretty good because the nuisance from the kids was minimal. There were hardly ever any kids in the specialty restaurants, but the Market Cafe buffet was overrun with screaming kids, running amok. The pool deck was also packed with kids and was a nightmare. Teens were constantly running through the halls at night so you could hear the thud thud thud of footsteps 'til the wee hours. I can't speak about the kids programs since we don't have any.
DRESS CODE Not having to pack a ton of formal clothes was nice. A tiny part of me did miss getting dressed up, but plenty of passengers did get fancy the optional formal night. Jeans are allowed in all of the restaurants on board except the Versailles main (free) dining room. The order of the day here was resort casual! Relax and be comfortable! It was awesome. We found that a casual skirt and top for me and a pair of nice jeans/khaki pants and a polo shirt for my husband was the perfect attire for everything we wanted to do onboard. We were never turned away from any venue for being under or over dressed. We did hear one woman complaining that she and her husband were turned away from the main Versailles dining room because he had on jeans and she was wearing sweatpants! I would have turned them away too! How hard is it to look a little nice, or either choose Aqua or the buffet for dinner if you don't want to change pants? They weren't being asked to wear a tuxedo, suit or cocktail dress, just business casual/resort casual attire. Just my 2 cents on that one.
PORTS OF CALL Port visits are so subjective, so I won't cover much here. All three ports, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, were great fun as always. Note that the tender service at Cabo San Lucas is EXTREMELY SLOW. So if you make plans on your own, as we always do, don't schedule anything until 1:00 just to be safe. It took hours to get off the ship using the tenders, and it severely cut into our day in Cabo. What a drag! Tendering in Puerto Vallarta was a breeze, as no tickets were required. This was our third visit to Mexico, and we had the best time of all this trip! No hassles, great food, friendly locals. It was a blast. And remember -- you can't be taken advantage of unless you let yourself be taken advantage of! Don't listen to the onboard shopping consultant -- shop locally, try the non-recommended local restaurants, get a local taxicab (not the white cabs as incessantly preached in Puerto Vallarta -- walk out on the street and get a yellow cab for less than half the price)!
DISEMBARKATION Getting off the ship was very, very quick and easy! Just pick your desired time and off you go! The cruise director was even standing at the gangway wishing us a safe journey home. It was a nice and easy sendoff. Getting through customs was a piece of cake too. We just handed in our form and showed our passport and within seconds, we were back to our car. Very, very easy.
BOTTOM LINE This was my first trip on NCL and will not be my last! Freestyle Cruising has its trade-offs, but I feel like it was designed for people like us (30s professional couple, no kids). I wouldn't rule out other cruise lines, but it will be very hard to go back to traditional cruising after this experience. If you plan to eat at the specialty restaurants, estimate an additional $400 to $500 for this. We had all those specialty dinners, several drinks, bought some souvenirs, and including our service charges, our extra cruise bill was under $600 for two people. Not bad! The service may be spotty, but the experience is fantastic -- in fact, this is the most relaxing vacation we have ever taken because we were allowed to do things on OUR schedule! If you are a foodie (and love eating at different types of restaurants), if you love to "do your own thing" on vacation, if you love relaxing and taking it easy, if you love privacy, and if you love having a variety of onboard activities, this ship is for you! If you are traveling in a large group or if you prefer traditional cruise dining, activities and schedules then this ship is not for you.
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Charles E. Tittle Mexico October 11, 2008
This was our first cruise on NCL since cruising on the Norway many years ago. We have gone on a number of cruises before, including Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean, among others. My wife and I are in our early sixties and recently retired, so we looked for a bargain cruise and wound up going with my sister and her husband. We had a great time and would certainly cruise with NCL again.
Embarkation was a small hassle, as it usually is, but we encountered no major problems. The ship was clean, and the crew were friendly and attentive. Our stateroom, a mini-suite, was nice, and the balcony got a lot of use due to the warm weather once we left Los Angeles. The air conditioning in our suite worked very well--important to us because we like it cool when sleeping. The mini-suite, as others have pointed out, is really a glorified balcony cabin. There was not a lot of clearance around the bed, but that only caused us problems getting luggage past there. The storage closet was a littleawkward to use, and there were no lights inside so it was difficult to see what was on the shelves. The bathroom was nice, and having a bathtub was also a nice bonus.
The ship's décor was an interesting mélange of art styles. We especially enjoyed looking at the art on the landings of each stairway. My sister and wife saw them a lot more than I did because they usually took the stairs from the 6th to the 11th and 12th decks-something my brother-in-law and I did not feel compelled to do! The Atrium was lovely as well.
We took NCL sponsored shore excursions and were very pleased with the tour operators. My wife and sister decided to try zip lining in Mazatlan, and they had a wonderful time. My brother-in-law and I were to take the river cruise and bird-watching expedition but it was cancelled, possibly because of rain; but we were never really told why it was cancelled. The ship did not inform us of the cancellation until after we disembarked and tried to find our tour operator on the pier. Admittedly this was a minor annoyance, but an unnecessary one. Our other excursions were the Land's End boat tour in Cabo St. Lucas and the ATV adventure in Puerto Vallarta. Both of these were well run and very enjoyable. The local tour operators were friendly, safety conscious, and fun. We felt the ship excursions were well worth the cost.
Food service was nice in the Versailles, the more formal of the main dining rooms. The Versailles was quite lovely and had lots of windows, and we chose to eat there almost every meal. The other main dining room, Aqua, was just okay the one day we ate there. The buffet was better than some we've had, but really pretty mediocre, and there was not a great deal of variety in the food available day to day. The OJ in the buffet was mostly water on several days we tried it. We also ate at the snack bar (Blue Lagoon) twice when the other restaurants were not open. It was mostly a hot dog and hamburger place, and the food was pretty much what you would expect. We celebrated my wife's birthday in Cagney's, the upscale steakhouse. It cost us about $80 because of the $20 cover per person, a bottle of wine, and an extra $10 to order crab legs. The staff there was extremely friendly and attentive, though, and my wife had a wonderful time-as did we. The Chocolate Extravaganza was a big disappointment, however. Not only was there not much variety, but you could barely see well enough to pick out what you wanted. The lights were turned down to make it more romantic, I guess, but it left us in the dark (literally!) when picking our selections.
While I realize that people who like to drink need to have service available, it became a little tiresome to keep refusing drink service from the somewhat over aggressive cocktail servers all over the ship. We did have drinks in two of the bars, and the entertainment there was quite pleasant. The ship had quite a few different bars tucked around in different areas, and most of them had singers or music of some sort.
We did walk around the ship to check out other venues. We did not use the spa or gym, but they looked quite nice. The library was something of a disappointment-particularly to my wife who is a retired school librarian. The books looked rather old, and the atmosphere was not very cozy, although they did serve coffee and tea. We walked through the teen section as well. It seemed to be a bit sparse-both with activities and teens. The cigar room was quite comfortable and situated in the middle of Deck 6.
We did not go to the shows in the main theater after we walked out of the first one because it was boring. They did have some Chinese acrobats at two of the shows, but we never managed to fit them in. The casino was crowded and the machines were low-pay by Atlantic City or Las Vegas standards. About what we should have expected, so we limited our play to quarter video poker.
We chose to use "Express Disembarkation" -a bit of a misnomer since we had to wait an hour in line because of some problem with the gangway. We were glad we made this decision; however, because we got to LAX in plenty of time to relax a little before our plane took off at 1:20 pm.
We definitely enjoyed this cruise. In fact, we have even considered repeating this very same cruise, and we have never felt that way before at the end of any of our other ones.
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Susie H Mexico April 8, 2008
This was our first cruise; we went with friends who are experienced cruisers. The embarkation process was speedy and we were told our bags would be delivered to our rooms by 3pm. At 5pm they were not there, so we looked around and found a huge pile of luggage in a room down the hall. The four of us found our own luggage and took it to our room. Not a huge problem, but not the service we were told to expect either.
The ship was very nice, and our cabin was nice as well. Everything was clean. We took our tour and orienting ourselves was easy. We enjoyed our first night -- up until bedtime, that is. During the night, the seas were very rough and the ship rolled and bucked all night. We were on the eighth deck in the front and all night the waves thundered underneath us! As a first time cruiser, I was a bit frightened at all of the noise and my husband kept explaining that it was the waves trapped underneath thatwere making all of the noise.
In addition, I was not feeling well and had to put a patch behind my ear to keep from being really sick!
The next day was calm, as were the subsequent 6 days. We heard several stories about why the ship was "rocking and rolling" all night. The stabilizers were clearly not being used, but no one knew for sure why. The stories ranged from "the captain isn't using them because he is saving fuel", to "he doesn't like to use them because they are too noisy", to "they are broken but there is no time to fix them when they are in port only one night". We were never told the reason why. There was just a brief message from Ricky Mathews, the Cruise Director, the next morning that "no one should worry, everything was perfectly safe".
The rest of the cruise was a lot of fun. Ricky and his staff were wonderful! The shows were fantastic! We dined mostly in the Versailles and the service and food were very good. The buffet was nothing to write home about, but we are from Reno where the big casinos have "over the top" buffets. They would be hard to match by anyone.
We also really enjoyed the Spinaker Lounge shows and we went there during the day and played cards because the view from that room was amazing!
The last night was again quite rough. We seemed to be in the same spot in the Pacific. This time it settled down at 1:30am or so and I at least got a little sleep!
The shore excursion we took in Puerta Vallarta was nice, but the bus was old and the air didn't work very well. In addition, the tour guide on the bus had a very heavy accent and a poor speaker system, so it was difficult to hear or understand all he said.
In Cabo San Lucas, we had a fantastic tour! (The tile factory and tequila tour). The day couldn't have been better. The bus was newer, had a great speaker system and adequate air conditioning. The tour guide was very entertaining and informative. He was so much fun!
All in all, it was a good trip and we enjoyed the experience. We will probably cruise again on NCL, but our friends want us to go on another cruise line with them next time. They weren't as happy with NCL, as they prefer the more structured cruising that they have experienced previously.