Check it off the Bucket List! Panama Canal on the NCL Star October 1-16...with pics!

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#1
6,697 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
I’m finding that writing this review has been like what I imagine wrestling a crocodile would be like. Tricky to say the least! It was a long cruise (15 days!) and my reviews of 7-day cruises can take on “epic” proportions. Well, let’s dive in, shall we and see where we end up. Hopefully you’ll be with me at the end.

We’d booked this cruise in March of 2010, a full 18 months out. Wanting an aft cabin, we knew we had to move quickly (hey, we could always cancel if we changed our minds!). I left a message for my PCC telling him I wanted an aft balcony. By the time he called me back, we told him we wanted an aft suite. What can I say? We’re weak. LOL Actually we decided that a 15-day cruise screamed for a suite, and the Star has the wrap-around balconies on decks 8 and 9. Perfect for a Panama Canal cruise. Our first cabin was deck 8 on the port side. After the renovation to the Star and reading reports of the noise from the newly moved Spinnakers, I watched the cabins and was able to move to deck 9 on the starboard. Come final payment time, our cabin on deck 9 on the port side opened up and we moved a final time to the cabin I wanted to begin with. It’s nice when persistence pays off!

Day One

I won’t spend a ton of time on the pre-cruise activities, but want to mention that the Crowne Plaza in San Pedro, about a mile and a half from the Port of Los Angeles, can be booked through Priceline for $65. The hotel was perfectly fine and clean and runs a free shuttle to the port. Wanting to avoid the rush (which was turned out to be non-existent at 10:00 am) DH and I hooked up with another Cruise Critic on our roll call to rent a cab. The first car that showed up was a Toyota Prius. We looked at the three of us and at our six pieces of luggage (plus carry-ons) and went, “Nah”. The Prius drove off and we requested a van. 30 minutes pass with no van so we throw in the towel and ask for 2 cars. Another Prius arrives and don’t you know we all managed to fit in that thing? Three of us squished in the back and luggage piled in the trunk and front seat. I wouldn’t recommend it for a long ride, but for 5 minutes it was fine, especially when the windows were rolled down for elbowroom. Total cost for the three of us? $7.50. Good deal.

The delay at the hotel rendered our timing perfect. We spent a couple of minutes watching Princess passengers get into our line by mistake, then the doors to the terminal opened, and we were able to begin the boarding process.



We moved quickly through security, but when we went to check in we were turned away from the area clearly marked “VIP/Suite” to the Latitudes line. If you don’t get the answer you want the first time, ask someone else. We asked someone who looked a little more authoritative where we should go and he directed us to the VIP line. Ha! We checked in, met the concierge Patrick, and before I had time to think about being bored; we were being escorted onto the ship. I glanced at my watch and saw it was 11:39. Awesome!



We dashed to deck nine, through the closed doors (we aren’t rookies) to drop off our carry-on bags. Clarizia, our room steward, rushed up to us, assuring us that she’d prioritized our room and it was ready for us. Clarizia would turn out to be one of the best room stewards we ever had. Super efficient (she could make-up the cabin faster than anyone I’ve ever experienced) and very friendly, she made our 15 days wonderful.



Lunch would be the first of many at Cagney’s. I had my beloved asparagus salad and a shrimp and scallop dish with risotto that I found quite tasty. DH had the fettuccini and thought it delicious.

Off to the Bier Garten for the first of many sail aways. The Star would sail about an hour past her scheduled time as she needed extra provisioning due to the length of the cruise. No worries. The sun was shining and the beer was flowing and it was the first day of our cruise!



Back at the cabin getting ready for dinner, Lucky, our butler, stopped by to introduce himself. All we asked for at that point was some milk so we could make cappuccinos later. He takes a page out of Clarizia’s book for swiftness. I swear a minute didn’t pass and he was back with a carton of milk.

Dinner was at Cagney’s as well. I enjoyed the lobster bisque as always. It’s not the traditional bisque that you’d get in New England, but is very good.



Cagney’s was a bit deserted this first night. In fact we could walk in any specialty restaurant the entire cruise. I chalk it up in part due to the length of the cruise (figuring people were spreading out the budget), and also the older demographic. A line for Versailles began forming every night by 4:30, so you get the idea.



After dinner we wandered off to the casino where DH tripled his money playing craps. While we were at the casino I tried to order a bucket of beer. I was told we couldn’t buy them there anymore. I figured this was limited to the casino and shrugged it off. When DH was done gambling for the night we stopped by Spinnakers to purchase our bucket and were told we couldn’t.

Now I admit we don’t really like change, but we really don’t like change that has a negative impact on the passenger. We were told that it was now policy that you could only by buckets of beer at outdoor bars. WTH? This was confirmed by the Beverage Manager Gianina Butiseaca in a rather blunt manner. We asked her what outdoor bar was open at that time and she looked at her watch and said, “None”. Well we went off on her at that point (not proud of that at all) but really it was her demeanor that set us off more than the situation. We didn’t really want 6 beers at this point, just wanted to stock the fridge. But most managers I’ve dealt with would have given us the 6 beers as the policy is new and just told us to know what to do in the future. I think the situation was poorly handled on all sides.


Well I put that all out of my head when we turned in for the evening. All-in-all, it was a wonderful first day. As I snuggled down into my comfy bed I looked forward to the first of many wonderful sleeps at sea.

Tomorrow the meet and greet and our first sea day in two cruises!
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Cruises gone by...
NCL Majesty 05/02, NCL Majesty 06/03, NCL Majesty 06/05 ,NCL Majesty 06/06, NCL Spirit 04/07, NCL Majesty 06/07, NCL Majesty 10/07, NCL Gem 01/08 (Mmm.. New Ship Smell), NCL Dream 5/08, NCL Dream 6/08, NCL Dawn 10/08, NCL Gem 01/09 (best cruise yet! ), NCL Pearl Alaska 6/09 (WOW!),NCL Spirit 09/09 , NCL Gem 1/10, NCL Epic 6/10...Most Excellent!, Mahalo Pride of America 4/11, NCL Star Panama Canal 10/11, NCL Spirit 2/12, NCL Sky 5/12, NCL Epic Med 10/12, Breakaway One Night from Rotterdam 4/13, Breakaway TA 4/13, NCL Star Norway & Faroe Islands 9/13, NCL Gem Eastern Caribbean 1/14, NCL Jewel...GV to Alaska! 6/14, NCL Dawn Bermuda 10/14, NCL Pearl 3/15 - Awesome Southern Caribbean Cruise!, 10/15 Escape One-Nighter, 10/15 Escape Inaugural Crossing, Celebrity Silhouette Scandinavia and Russia, 5/16, NCL Dawn Fabulous Repo 10/16, NCL Jade British Isles 05/17

256 days and counting...

Cruise on deck!

None!

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#2
South of the ATL.
384 Posts
Joined Nov 2009
Wait, what - is that all for now? I was just getting into the read.
I look forward to the rest of your review and pictures as I am liking this already. You are such a tease to only post so little.
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Jim & Roni.

Click here for my RCL Anthem of the Seas, Pre-Inaugural 11-6-15 sailing.

Click here for my NCL Star review from the 12-18-2011 sailing.

#3
Harrison, New York
1,068 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Great job on your report CubeChick. The pictures are fantastic as well. As you can see from my signature, I am pretty new to cruising but your trip is one I would love to do some day!

The Star looks like a very nice ship.

Looking forward to reading more!
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#4
Sacramento, Ca
1,304 Posts
Joined Jan 2002
Enjoying your review! I wanted to go on that cruise but just couldn't get that kind of time off of work. I hope it went well for you!
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#5
northern UT
8,691 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
our Panama Canal cruise onboard the STAR was our BEST to date--just the whole package from the crew, ship, itinerary to the FANTASTIC people we met onboard and became frens with!
we did Miami to LA...would do it again in a heartbeat!!!
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#8
Dallas, Georgia
1,007 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Looking forward to seeing your pictures and reading about it.

I'm taking my first cruise next summer and taking my daughter to the Bahamas (her choice).

But for years and years the one thing I've always wanted to do is take a Panama Canal cruise.

Tried talking my husband into it but can't convince him. He spent time in Panama while in the military. So everytime I mention going to him, I hear "Been there, done that, got the hat."

Guess I'll be cruising it without him someday!!
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#9
Ontario, Canada
793 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
Thank you so much. I cannot wait for your updates.

And another thank you for putting decent sized good quality in-line photos. I don't know about anybody else, but I really get tired of 1) clicking a thumbnail, new tab opens, see photo buried amongst advertisements, close tab, repeat 600 times, or 2) inline photos that are too small and blurry, and if you click them it opens a tab with a blurry photo 8 times the size of my screen.

This thread will be such a refreshing change from the norm.
#10
Chicago
9,562 Posts
Joined Mar 2010
Originally posted by Stickman81
Wait, what - is that all for now? I was just getting into the read.
You are such a tease to only post so little.
I wholeheartedly agree!! My TV is broken and I am bored and I thought I'd get a juicy review to read....gosh darnit, guess I'll just have to go to bed now.

Originally posted by perkydebrajean
I'm taking my first cruise next summer and taking my daughter to the Bahamas (her choice).

But for years and years the one thing I've always wanted to do is take a Panama Canal cruise.

Tried talking my husband into it but can't convince him. He spent time in Panama while in the military. So everytime I mention going to him, I hear "Been there, done that, got the hat."

Guess I'll be cruising it without him someday!!
Oohhh Ooohhh ooh! I'll go, I'll go!!!! (she says as she raises her hand and waves it )
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#11
420 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
Thanks for sharing your trip and your pictures with us. Can't wait to read the rest! We have been cruising since 1986 and have always wanted to go on a Panama cruise but it just never seem to work with our schedules.

Looking forward to your "epic" review!
#12
6,697 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
Originally posted by perkydebrajean
Looking forward to seeing your pictures and reading about it.

I'm taking my first cruise next summer and taking my daughter to the Bahamas (her choice).

But for years and years the one thing I've always wanted to do is take a Panama Canal cruise.

Tried talking my husband into it but can't convince him. He spent time in Panama while in the military. So everytime I mention going to him, I hear "Been there, done that, got the hat."

Guess I'll be cruising it without him someday!!
That's how my husband feels about London...which is why I've been without him...5 times!

Thanks for the lovely feedback everyone! I promise my next installment as soon as I get home from work. It's written, but just needs to be proof-read...and the right pics selected.

In the meantime, if anyone has questions, just fire away!
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NCL Majesty 05/02, NCL Majesty 06/03, NCL Majesty 06/05 ,NCL Majesty 06/06, NCL Spirit 04/07, NCL Majesty 06/07, NCL Majesty 10/07, NCL Gem 01/08 (Mmm.. New Ship Smell), NCL Dream 5/08, NCL Dream 6/08, NCL Dawn 10/08, NCL Gem 01/09 (best cruise yet! ), NCL Pearl Alaska 6/09 (WOW!),NCL Spirit 09/09 , NCL Gem 1/10, NCL Epic 6/10...Most Excellent!, Mahalo Pride of America 4/11, NCL Star Panama Canal 10/11, NCL Spirit 2/12, NCL Sky 5/12, NCL Epic Med 10/12, Breakaway One Night from Rotterdam 4/13, Breakaway TA 4/13, NCL Star Norway & Faroe Islands 9/13, NCL Gem Eastern Caribbean 1/14, NCL Jewel...GV to Alaska! 6/14, NCL Dawn Bermuda 10/14, NCL Pearl 3/15 - Awesome Southern Caribbean Cruise!, 10/15 Escape One-Nighter, 10/15 Escape Inaugural Crossing, Celebrity Silhouette Scandinavia and Russia, 5/16, NCL Dawn Fabulous Repo 10/16, NCL Jade British Isles 05/17

256 days and counting...

Cruise on deck!

None!

Travel Blog -->http://cubechick.wordpress.com/

Travel photos -->http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/collections/
#13
Dallas, Georgia
1,007 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Oohhh Ooohhh ooh! I'll go, I'll go!!!! (she says as she raises her hand and waves it )[/quote]



Sounds good to me! I may have to take you up on that someday!!
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#14
SW Ontario
2,369 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
The Panama Canal is also on my Cruising Bucket List. Great review and pictures, so far! The Star looks like a really nice ship.
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#15
Atlanta
533 Posts
Joined Oct 2001
Please, please tell me you'll post more than once a day. I don't think I can make it 15 days!

I'm planning to go through your review and the pics with my family. We're still almost 6 months out, but we also aren't 100% decided that we're going. I'm hoping this will kick it to 100%.
#16
6,354 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
I see from the picture you have one of those new white couches. Did you open it up by chance?

First I've heard about the bucket of beer deal - that is just plain dumb.
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#17
6,697 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
Day Two…@ sea

Ah, what a blissful first night of sleep. I could have stayed snugged in that comfy bed all day but for cappuccino on the balcony beckoning. Ah, this is living. I swear the suites are worth the money for the Lavazza machine alone! Once the caffeine shot the cobwebs from my brain it was time to get freshened up and head to Cagney’s for breakfast. A traditional eggs Benedict and some wonderful fresh fruit from the buffet and I’m good to go. DH had the crab cake Benedict, which gets such rave reviews (I’ll be having mine another day).

Trying to get off on the right foot, we head off for a 30-minute power walk around the promenade deck. A seven-day cruise can do substantial damage to my waistline. I’m very nervous to find out what fifteen days will do! The air is incredibly muggy, but I enjoy every moment outdoors as I imagine winter lurking around the corner.

Our meet and greet was scheduled for the civilized hour of 11:30 so we had plenty of time to shower and make ourselves presentable. The turnout of roll call members to the M&G was impressive. I think at least 80 – 90 percent of those who said they’d turn up did. The officers showed up in full force, including the Captain, Hotel Director and the Senior Food and Beverage Manager. The Senior F&B is a unique position. He will take over for the HD when the HD goes on vacation to increase continuity on the ships. The Captain very generously invited everyone who attended the M&G to tour the bridge at a time later in the cruise (this is the first Meet and Greet I’ve attended where this was offered). Everyone eagerly signed the sign-up sheet once they realized what it was for!

Lunch again in Cagney’s, but what was really on our minds was that the Patriots game against the Raiders was being broadcast in the Red Lion Pub. Unfortunately, seating is limited in this space, so we headed back to the cabin to watch the game. People may laugh, but this trip would interfere with four Sundays! That’s almost a quarter of the season!! The Patriots were victorious, naturally, and we found seats at the pub between games to enjoy a pint of Boddingtons.



For the first time since the Gem in 2008, we had dinner in the main dining room! We usually don’t bother because we prefer the atmosphere of the specialty restaurants, and when we want something more casual, the buffet works just fine. In fact DH loves the Indian food served at the buffet. Anyway Aqua was quite good and the new menu very successful.



The left side offered special appetizers, entrees, and desserts, which changed daily, while the right side, offered classics. Steak, chicken breast, and pasta for example, all of which were very good. I wish they’d employ the method of a couple of daily specials at Cagney’s during lunch. It would be wonderful to have choices different from the static menu. We’d walked by an empty LeBistro on the way to Aqua and found out why. I swear everyone on the ship was in Aqua! It was packed even though it was 8:00 at night. Thank goodness the concierge, Patrick, had arranged reservation for our party.

DH wasn’t as successful at the casino this night, so we went to the Red Lion to catch the last of Sunday night football, walking by the atrium on the way.



Our first sea day since June 2010 was wonderful…our last cruise had been Hawaii, and although a stunning vacation, we missed our sea days!

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Cruises gone by...
NCL Majesty 05/02, NCL Majesty 06/03, NCL Majesty 06/05 ,NCL Majesty 06/06, NCL Spirit 04/07, NCL Majesty 06/07, NCL Majesty 10/07, NCL Gem 01/08 (Mmm.. New Ship Smell), NCL Dream 5/08, NCL Dream 6/08, NCL Dawn 10/08, NCL Gem 01/09 (best cruise yet! ), NCL Pearl Alaska 6/09 (WOW!),NCL Spirit 09/09 , NCL Gem 1/10, NCL Epic 6/10...Most Excellent!, Mahalo Pride of America 4/11, NCL Star Panama Canal 10/11, NCL Spirit 2/12, NCL Sky 5/12, NCL Epic Med 10/12, Breakaway One Night from Rotterdam 4/13, Breakaway TA 4/13, NCL Star Norway & Faroe Islands 9/13, NCL Gem Eastern Caribbean 1/14, NCL Jewel...GV to Alaska! 6/14, NCL Dawn Bermuda 10/14, NCL Pearl 3/15 - Awesome Southern Caribbean Cruise!, 10/15 Escape One-Nighter, 10/15 Escape Inaugural Crossing, Celebrity Silhouette Scandinavia and Russia, 5/16, NCL Dawn Fabulous Repo 10/16, NCL Jade British Isles 05/17

256 days and counting...

Cruise on deck!

None!

Travel Blog -->http://cubechick.wordpress.com/

Travel photos -->http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/collections/
#18
6,697 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
Originally posted by dexddd
I see from the picture you have one of those new white couches. Did you open it up by chance?

First I've heard about the bucket of beer deal - that is just plain dumb.
No, we didn't open up the couch.

The bucket of beer thing started the week before our cruise. I assume they're trying to maximize revenue or prevent large quantities of beer sales after hours, but I think this will backfire on them. Time will tell.
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Cruises gone by...
NCL Majesty 05/02, NCL Majesty 06/03, NCL Majesty 06/05 ,NCL Majesty 06/06, NCL Spirit 04/07, NCL Majesty 06/07, NCL Majesty 10/07, NCL Gem 01/08 (Mmm.. New Ship Smell), NCL Dream 5/08, NCL Dream 6/08, NCL Dawn 10/08, NCL Gem 01/09 (best cruise yet! ), NCL Pearl Alaska 6/09 (WOW!),NCL Spirit 09/09 , NCL Gem 1/10, NCL Epic 6/10...Most Excellent!, Mahalo Pride of America 4/11, NCL Star Panama Canal 10/11, NCL Spirit 2/12, NCL Sky 5/12, NCL Epic Med 10/12, Breakaway One Night from Rotterdam 4/13, Breakaway TA 4/13, NCL Star Norway & Faroe Islands 9/13, NCL Gem Eastern Caribbean 1/14, NCL Jewel...GV to Alaska! 6/14, NCL Dawn Bermuda 10/14, NCL Pearl 3/15 - Awesome Southern Caribbean Cruise!, 10/15 Escape One-Nighter, 10/15 Escape Inaugural Crossing, Celebrity Silhouette Scandinavia and Russia, 5/16, NCL Dawn Fabulous Repo 10/16, NCL Jade British Isles 05/17

256 days and counting...

Cruise on deck!

None!

Travel Blog -->http://cubechick.wordpress.com/

Travel photos -->http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/collections/
#20
South of the ATL.
384 Posts
Joined Nov 2009
Ughh [banging head on desk]
More, more please!

Seriously though - thanks for taking the time to write and post pictures. This is going to be an enjoyable, educational read.
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Jim & Roni.

Click here for my RCL Anthem of the Seas, Pre-Inaugural 11-6-15 sailing.

Click here for my NCL Star review from the 12-18-2011 sailing.