Review: Norwegian Star 13 night Cruise.
By Dave Jones
17th November 2014 – 13 nights.
We had some idea what to expect when joining the Norwegian Star, as we have sailed several times on the Norwegian Jade which has the same layout or be it a bit smaller. We had booked the Family Suite on deck 12, because it gave us and our son (26yrs) more room than a normal balcony. As we arrived at dockside in Miami and got shown into the Suite guest’s check-in, where there were drinks and canapé if wanted. Check-in was over within a few minutes, and a Concierge took us past the normal check-in desks and up the walkway straight on to the Star. This was our first experience of being a suite guest and didn’t know what to expect or what it really meant.
We were shown to Cagney’s by our Concierge Hanno Meyer a German from just outside Papenburg, Dawn (wife) had to ask if he was any relation to Bernard Meyer of the Mayer-Werft family, unfortunately not, but he did tell us a bit about his home and how he used to watch the ships sailing down the river, anyway Cagney’s is where the suite guests can have their Breakfast and Dinner, very nice.
Some of the main benefits to having a Concierge and a Butler are; priority tendering, canapes delivered to the room every afternoon, personal shore excursions booking, via the Concierge, and if we needed anything at any time of the day, one of them are at hand to assist.
After a quick bite to eat we went to our Suite and WOW it was huge and overwhelming, a possible 2 double beds (one pull down and one settee bed) and a Queen bed, it had a seating area and a dining area, a large LCD TV (with Movies, ESPN sport, news channels, and the mandatory ship channels selling its wares). There was a espresso/coffee/tea machine with all the little plastic packets, refilled three times a day, a mini bar and complementary fizzy wine and water, flowers and more canapés complements from our Butler Romel Carandang from Bali. There were bedside tables with lamps and two draws, two end of bed storage units, and an array of draws in the unit under the TV and mirror. There is no balcony in this room but there are 6 floor to ceiling windows which gives a good view.
There is a large wardrobe/dressing area with more hangers than we have at home, when the wardrobe doors open a light shines to give a better light, in one of the 4 wardrobes was the safe, its the normal size and normal operating systems. Bathrobes and slippers were also in the wardrobes with the life jackets. Extra storage for the suitcase’s could go under the Queen bed.
The bathroom consisted of a large shower with a ceiling hanging shower-head with a shampoo and soap dispenser, a medium sized bath not big enough for me being over 6 foot tall, a toilet on a strange angle and his and her sink units. There are also Elemis soap (bars) body lotion and conditioner supplied and plenty of different sized towels, from face cloths, hand towels, to large bath towels.
The Ship herself is very nice, all areas kept clean and quite a nice flow, although we heard some complaints about the lack of shopping, we found it has the usual shops including, the logo shop, duty free (alcohol and cigarettes), perfumes, watches and jewellery and toiletry’s.
The Atrium area had a nice staircase which in the evening doubled as a stage area for groups and bands, with the glass elevators in the back ground. The Bar/Cafe; Java cafe, at the base of the stairs is now a Carlos Bake Shop, where some very tasty cakes and muffins can be purchased to go with a Latte or cold drink. Very nice but it’s a shame that it replaced a Free coffee and cake stand which I enjoyed while reading my latest adventure book, in the centre of the ship where everyone passes; also a great place to people watch. also in the Atrium is the Reception which did not have any stamps, Shore Excursions desk, and the Port o’Call shop selling perfumes, also there’s always a desk with the latest Spa offers being pushed.
Further along the Atrium going to the aft starboard side is the Photo Gallery with all the latest shore side Photos and sales of camera’s of all sizes, on the opposite side is the Red Lion Pub, which sells premium European beers such as Carlsburg, and Newcastle Brown Ale; which went down well. They also so Premier League Football and other European football leagues.
On deck 6 7/8 forward from the Atrium, there are various speciality restaurants, La Cucina (Italian), Le Bistro (French), Teppanyaki, Ginza (Japanese, Chinese, Thai fusion foods), and Sushi, and the Blue Lagoon restaurant (included in your free dining option). Around these restaurants are a few bars, Sake bar, and Gatsby’s Champagne bar, which we all had some great nights with some good music but most of all the Bartenders Greg and Donnie and their waiters, the guys were exceptional at their job, also willing; if you are, ready to try new Cocktails out. We had some good chats with the guys, and other passengers even meeting a great couple from Glasgow, thanks for all involved.
Other bars onboard include the Spinnaker Lounge; where they hold Bingo and Zumba Latin American fitness dancing, at night they hold special
shows such as an adult only nights. Topsiders Bar and Grill, on deck 12 just opposite the Oasis Pool,
just above Topsiders is the Star bar where you can have intimate drink while a musician plays, overlooking the pool area is the ‘Bier Garten’ where you can get cocktails, beer, spirits, and our favorite Frozen Cocktails, such as BBC and a Passionate Kiss (not from the bar tender) to cooldown those warm days at sea.
Where as the Bar Tenders did their job extremely well and with high enthusiasm, it can’t be said for the majority of the staff in the Versailles and Aqua, Main Dining Rooms, the service was slow (they seem to have too many tables and tasks to perform) not as attentive as on the Norwegian Jade and Epic, and when the food arrived it seemed to have been hanging around under the heat lamps to long (plates hot, food warm), and the food was nothing special, unlike the ‘Didju’ on the Carnival menu, where you could try food that you could not make at home. I’m not getting at the staff in these dining rooms, but they do seem to have to do everything, such as drinks ordering and fetching from the nearest bar, table clearing, ordering from 5 tables (25+ passengers) and resetting the table, its just to much for them. we waited an average at the table 30 minutes for the first course to turn up, we went down to Versailles as it opened at 5pm in order to have dinner and a drink in a bar before the 7pm show starts, after 1 hour 30 minutes we had our starters, dry and very cold, not good. We did the same at the Aqua Dining which opens at 5:30pm, pick two course’s main and dessert, and nearly missed the show!
The garden Cafe self service restaurant was probably the saving grace, food wise for choice and did put on different different varieties, from Pizza, Pasta, freshly made sandwiches, Burgers, hotdogs, and chinese food, there were some very tempting desserts, cookies, and flapjacks. This area is always busy and probably tells us something about the main dining restaurants!
As for the shows, the first thing to mention is the sound system, very poor compared to the Jade , Epic and other cruise companies; hopefully they will rectify this problem when shes in dry dock. The Stars singers and dancers put a lot of effort into the shows, but they were average and the shows sometimes confusing. The special acts that came on weren’t up to much, The Divas of Motown were poor, but that could have been down to the sound system, and the comedians had trouble rising a chuckle, and could not flog their CD/DVD’s after the shows. The Juggler was very good and funny at the same time, a tribute group ‘Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ who had their own sound system were fantastic, they did all the classics from ‘Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Valli’s own hit Grease (is the word)’. Another great show was a comedy troupe called ‘Second City’ who have permanent show’s on the Epic and Breakaway class of ships, they did some of their normal routines and some about what goes on behind the scenes on a cruise ship, very funny. Other to these there was a Guitarist from Argentina who was excellent playing, but hopeless interacting with the audience, a Aerial Acrobatic show called ‘Marrambolla’ did their show very well, but it’s not new and we have all seen this type of show on other ships, they were very fit and the show flowed, even included their 7 year old son, who did well.
Dawn had a Thai Poultice Massage at the Mandara Spa, which she had at 8am (you get a free 15 minutes treatment) which she found very relaxing and felt good with all the different oils and scents used, the only down side was she was asked for an extra tip on top of the onboard gratuity being added and tried to push the products such as the body lotions and face cream for $40-$60 ago, which spoilt some off the relaxed effects of the $215 treatment. We both got the unlimited (60 guests per cruise) access to the indoor lap pool, jacuzzi, thermal suite, which we used nearly every day because the main pool and jacuzzis were always very busy, but there is a cost for the suite $190 each for the cruise, we think we got our moneys worth out of it, when dawn was having her treatment I spent the time in the Jacuzzi and a on the loungers drinking juice and coffee and reading my book in total peace and quiet.
The Star Club Casino on deck 6 is a cordoned off area so if you didn’t want to walk through the casino you don’t have to, there are washy washy, happy happy staff at the two entrance’s and these also stop the underaged from entering. The casino has all the normal tables; Black Jack, Poker, Craps, and Roulette, and a vast amount of slot machines, if you run out of Dollars they will at the cashier fund you more, or there is a ATM machine; with a transaction fee! James (son) had a few games of Blackjack we watched and the dealer was fair and offered some good advice, and some tips how to play, he still lost but a good time was had by all.
On deck 12 is the Video Zone for kids of all ages including james and I, there is a good selection of video games from first person shoot ’em’ ups, car and boat racing, Guitar Hero, motorbike racing and the old favorite Air Hockey, all for a swipe of the cardkey, oh and $1.50 a play. There other ways to entertain yourselfs on sea days, such as 4 Shuffleboard courts (if they are called courts) giant Chess set, and two Golf Driving Nets with clubs, left and right handed supplied. To keep the kids and toddlers happy and cool there is a Splash Down Kids Pool, which comprises of; Kids pool, 2 whirlpools, 2 slides all situated on deck 12 aft, looks like a great area.
On deck 12 forward is the ship’s Library with a huge selection of books, covering a variety of reading options, such as love stories, murder mystery, biography, history books, language learning, and books on the countries you might be visiting. Every day there are new Crosswords, and sudoku puzzles photocopied and free to take away and complete, or take a seat and chill out and enjoy. The Library is manned during the day time and they can also book out a wide range of DVD’s, to take back to your stateroom and return at a later date. On this cruise it was the first time i’ve seen the Library used so much, with the puzzles being done, people of all ages reading and some teens doing a bit of studying.
Overall The ship is a very nice ship and is taken care of (even if major alterations were being done prior to its drydock in 3 months time), and the crew were very attentive. Hygiene is very high on their priority, Washy Washy staff are at the entrances to all the Restaurants, and Casino, there are pump dispensers out side all other gathering points such as the Theatre, Library and bars. They also recommend opening all toilet/restroom doors with a paper towel after washing your hands, good advice.
Would i pick this ship again, without a doubt, yes there are problem’s but nothing that could have ruined our trip. The crew make up for any shortcomings.
Our photos of the Star plus ports of call; Cartagena-Columbia; Puntarenas-Costa Rica; Huatulco-México; Acapulco-México; Cabo San Lucas-Mexico.
Marks out of 10
Ship and Amenitys ~ 9/10
Crew ~ 7/10 (main dining let them down)
Entertainment ~ 8/10 (theater sound system let them down)
Spa ~ 9/10 (masseur asked for a extra tip on top of the manditory Gratuities)
Total ~ 8/1o Thanks for a great Holiday/Vacation.