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  #1  
Old July 25th, 2005, 06:44 PM
KeystoneCruiser KeystoneCruiser is offline
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Thumbs up Star Review - July 17-24

Part 1:
Just got back from my second cruise on the Star. (first was in Hawaii in 2002)
Although I feel the level of service on the ship has dropped since 02, it was still a great cruise. (more on this later).

First of all, the weather. In every port we heard the same thing...this weather pattern is unbelieveable for Alaska! We had NO RAIN the entire week. The temperatures were in the 60's all week and a couple of days, the sun in the clear skys made it feel even warmer.

Embarkation: This was a breeze. Our busload from our TA (about 40 of us) arrived at about noon and were on board by 12:30 p.m. Went in, got in the Lattitudes line and were sent to the next available clerk. (even the main lines were non existant at that time) Took us less than 10 minutes at the counter to handle the paperwork. Plenty of help and lots of people to direct you. Boarded and went to cabin. Cabin was already ready for us. (we had four balconies in a row, all were ready). The nice part was we could eat lunch in the buffet and had ample time to explore the ship before lifeboat drill.

Lifeboat drill: Not painful, went surprisingly quick. Would have been quicker but as usual you had inconsiderate people who were late getting there and a couple they had to go get. (one lady grumbled as she entered that only one person from each cabin should have to go.) They started announcing for people to get their lifejackets at 3:00 p.m. for a 3:45 drill and kept announcing it every 10 minutes so there was no excuse.

Beautiful sailaway from Seattle. Could see Mt. Ranier clearly from the ship as we left. According to locals, Mt Ranier is only clearly visable about 50 days out of the year.

Ports:
Juneau: We had to tender in for the first two hours until the Spirit left the dock. I was very impressed with the Tender operation. It was quick and efficient. They had been offering tender tickets since the day before. Only problem was inconsiderate people who's tickets were later were crowding the hallways around the central stairway on Decks 6 & 7 waiting for their numbers to be called. We basically had to push our way through them to get through from above. (as instructed, we waited upstairs in our room until called) The ship had a security person at the top of the stairs leading to deck 4 (tender area) and this helped keep the tender operation running smoothly.
Wasn't that impressed with downtown Juneau. Nothing bad, just not impressive to me. (Several panhandlers)
Had a great shore excursion to see wildlife. Saw Orcas, humpbacks, seals, sea lions and Eagles. According to guide, very rare to see both humpbacks and Orcas on the same tour area!
When we came back, ship was docked. The dock for the Star/Spirit is two miles from town but they run a free shuttle back and forth and tour drivers take you back to the ship instead of tender dock.

Skagway: Neat little town. Town is about a half mile from where the Star docked but the shuttle here cost you $1.25 each way, so we walked it after our tour. It was really neat to see the Spirit docked next to us. Most of the shops are similar and offer the same things, but you can find some unique shops if you look. Even though there were four ships in Skagway when we were there, it did not seem crowded. (Juneau seemed very crowded however and there were 4 ships there as well.)

Ketchikan: My favorite. I wish we had had more time there to look around. Too short a stop!! Perhaps future plans could involve swapping Juneau and Ketchikan somehow to give more time in Ketchikan and less in Juneau. Best prices of any port on all items. (and it is the last Alaska stop!). Next time, I may skip a shore excursion in this town to give more time to look around!! I also found this town to have the Friendliest people of all the Alaska towns (with one exception, more later). The people were nice in the other town, but Ketchikanians always smiled and said hi and the shop keepers seemed to enjoy making small talk. As I said before, we had one run-in this town with an unfriendly local merchant, we were in the store " " and we were looking at nesting dolls for my daughter. I was holding one and looking at it and she had picked another one up to show me because she liked it. All of a sudden this rude older clerk came up and said to her: "Don't play with the dolls." I turned and said: "she was showing it to me because we are looking to buy her one" and the clerk replied: "she is not to touch them." With that, I put the dolls down and informed the clerk, loudly enough for everyone in the area to hear, that we would not patronize a store that mistreated customers that way. She then had the nerve to say: "you can still buy it here." We walked out and I went and bought the very same doll that my daughter had shown me a few doors down for $3 less. (we are not talking about the expensive nesting dolls here, but the ones in the $10-20 range.) This one lady's actions however were not enough to sour me on Ketchikan!

Victoria: Honestly I did not enjoy this port. I think it was the combination of it being a short stop (6-11 p.m.), an evening stop, (it got dark at 9) and the fact that there is not really anything to do right at the pier. (I'm not into flowers and so Buchart Gardens did not appeal to me.) I know the law requires the ship to stop at a foreign port, but it would be nice if they could either change the stop or find some way to give you more time there. Perhaps stopping there the first morning of the cruise and pushing everything else back a day.

Glacier Bay: Fantastic! Having the park rangers on board giving narration was great. HINT: If you have a balcony cabin, turn you TV on to the bridge cam channel, turn the volume up and sit on your balcony. Don't fight the crowds up on deck! My brother went up on deck to get "good pictures." My pictures from my balcony look about the same as his. They turn the ship so all balconies can get good shots of the glaciers. Using your balcony allows you the option of going in your cabin to get warm for a few minutes or to quickly get a jacket and is a lot less crowded.

Part 2 will deal with the ship & services.
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  #2  
Old July 25th, 2005, 06:54 PM
dgund dgund is offline
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Thanks for your wonderful review. We will be on the Star in July 2006. I will be awaiting part II.
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  #3  
Old July 25th, 2005, 10:15 PM
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brunolvr brunolvr is offline
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Default Juneau

Quote:
Originally Posted by KeystoneCruiser
Part 1:
Just got back from my second cruise on the Star. (first was in Hawaii in 2002)
Although I feel the level of service on the ship has dropped since 02, it was still a great cruise. (more on this later).

First of all, the weather. In every port we heard the same thing...this weather pattern is unbelieveable for Alaska! We had NO RAIN the entire week. The temperatures were in the 60's all week and a couple of days, the sun in the clear skys made it feel even warmer.

Embarkation: This was a breeze. Our busload from our TA (about 40 of us) arrived at about noon and were on board by 12:30 p.m. Went in, got in the Lattitudes line and were sent to the next available clerk. (even the main lines were non existant at that time) Took us less than 10 minutes at the counter to handle the paperwork. Plenty of help and lots of people to direct you. Boarded and went to cabin. Cabin was already ready for us. (we had four balconies in a row, all were ready). The nice part was we could eat lunch in the buffet and had ample time to explore the ship before lifeboat drill.

Lifeboat drill: Not painful, went surprisingly quick. Would have been quicker but as usual you had inconsiderate people who were late getting there and a couple they had to go get. (one lady grumbled as she entered that only one person from each cabin should have to go.) They started announcing for people to get their lifejackets at 3:00 p.m. for a 3:45 drill and kept announcing it every 10 minutes so there was no excuse.

Beautiful sailaway from Seattle. Could see Mt. Ranier clearly from the ship as we left. According to locals, Mt Ranier is only clearly visable about 50 days out of the year.

Ports:
Juneau: We had to tender in for the first two hours until the Spirit left the dock. I was very impressed with the Tender operation. It was quick and efficient. They had been offering tender tickets since the day before. Only problem was inconsiderate people who's tickets were later were crowding the hallways around the central stairway on Decks 6 & 7 waiting for their numbers to be called. We basically had to push our way through them to get through from above. (as instructed, we waited upstairs in our room until called) The ship had a security person at the top of the stairs leading to deck 4 (tender area) and this helped keep the tender operation running smoothly.
Wasn't that impressed with downtown Juneau. Nothing bad, just not impressive to me. (Several panhandlers)
Had a great shore excursion to see wildlife. Saw Orcas, humpbacks, seals, sea lions and Eagles. According to guide, very rare to see both humpbacks and Orcas on the same tour area!
When we came back, ship was docked. The dock for the Star/Spirit is two miles from town but they run a free shuttle back and forth and tour drivers take you back to the ship instead of tender dock.

Skagway: Neat little town. Town is about a half mile from where the Star docked but the shuttle here cost you $1.25 each way, so we walked it after our tour. It was really neat to see the Spirit docked next to us. Most of the shops are similar and offer the same things, but you can find some unique shops if you look. Even though there were four ships in Skagway when we were there, it did not seem crowded. (Juneau seemed very crowded however and there were 4 ships there as well.)

Ketchikan: My favorite. I wish we had had more time there to look around. Too short a stop!! Perhaps future plans could involve swapping Juneau and Ketchikan somehow to give more time in Ketchikan and less in Juneau. Best prices of any port on all items. (and it is the last Alaska stop!). Next time, I may skip a shore excursion in this town to give more time to look around!! I also found this town to have the Friendliest people of all the Alaska towns (with one exception, more later). The people were nice in the other town, but Ketchikanians always smiled and said hi and the shop keepers seemed to enjoy making small talk. As I said before, we had one run-in this town with an unfriendly local merchant, we were in the store " " and we were looking at nesting dolls for my daughter. I was holding one and looking at it and she had picked another one up to show me because she liked it. All of a sudden this rude older clerk came up and said to her: "Don't play with the dolls." I turned and said: "she was showing it to me because we are looking to buy her one" and the clerk replied: "she is not to touch them." With that, I put the dolls down and informed the clerk, loudly enough for everyone in the area to hear, that we would not patronize a store that mistreated customers that way. She then had the nerve to say: "you can still buy it here." We walked out and I went and bought the very same doll that my daughter had shown me a few doors down for $3 less. (we are not talking about the expensive nesting dolls here, but the ones in the $10-20 range.) This one lady's actions however were not enough to sour me on Ketchikan!

Victoria: Honestly I did not enjoy this port. I think it was the combination of it being a short stop (6-11 p.m.), an evening stop, (it got dark at 9) and the fact that there is not really anything to do right at the pier. (I'm not into flowers and so Buchart Gardens did not appeal to me.) I know the law requires the ship to stop at a foreign port, but it would be nice if they could either change the stop or find some way to give you more time there. Perhaps stopping there the first morning of the cruise and pushing everything else back a day.

Glacier Bay: Fantastic! Having the park rangers on board giving narration was great. HINT: If you have a balcony cabin, turn you TV on to the bridge cam channel, turn the volume up and sit on your balcony. Don't fight the crowds up on deck! My brother went up on deck to get "good pictures." My pictures from my balcony look about the same as his. They turn the ship so all balconies can get good shots of the glaciers. Using your balcony allows you the option of going in your cabin to get warm for a few minutes or to quickly get a jacket and is a lot less crowded.

Part 2 will deal with the ship & services.
I'm sorry to hear that you didn't care for Juneau. You should have gone up on the Mt. Roberts Tram and enjoyed some time up there with the fantastic views. Also, not too far of a walk is the Alaska State Museum. We really enjoy Juneau (and Skagway and Ketchikan) and of course Glacier Bay!

Hope you post some of your pictures. Would love to see them!
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  #4  
Old July 25th, 2005, 10:26 PM
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gary gary is offline
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You are the first person I have ever heard from that did not love Victoria. If you did not leave the pier, you should say just that. The evening is a wonderful time to visit Victoria.
The governmental buildings are lit up in spectacular fashion. Directly in front of the Empress Hotel, down by the waterfront, there are street entertainers and vendors of food and art. Plenty of entertainment for one evening.
I have a feeling you did not leave the pier.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 11:17 PM
KeystoneCruiser KeystoneCruiser is offline
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Part 2:

In my first part, I forgot to mention the name of the store that was so rude toward my daughter, the store was called the Ketchikan Mining Jewelry Company. I made sure to steer other Star passengers away from that store!


Now on with the review.

Entertainment: I found the production shows to be the same as last year on the Aloha, with the exception of FAME. FAME was my favorite as it was high energy. With the exception of the Chinese juggler and gymnists, I found Cique Pacific to be boring. (I actually fell asleep). The Andrew Loyd Weber show was nice, but a repeat of what I saw last year. The Jean Ann Ryan Company performers are very good however. The lead singer, I can't remember his name, but he is African American, IS FANTASTIC!! Love to hear more of him. We didn't go to the other shows because dinner was too slow to make the early shows and there is so much going on during the late one.

Speaking of things going on: this may sound like a complaint, but it is really a compliment to the Cruise Director and his staff: THERE IS TOO MUCH TO DO!!! There are so many choices of activities and performances that sometimes it is hard to choose!! During the sea days, there were craft activities and lectures and games. Even the Art Auction was interesting. I'm not a fan of fine art either, but I did go with my brother one day, the auctioner made it interesting.

I never actually utilized the casino. I had allocated some money to gamble with, but a story was floating around the ship about a person who made an honest mistake at one of the tables and for the next day or two, whenever he went into the casino, all of the managers and security people flocked around him and followed him like they were trying to intimidate him. Being a novice player, I didn't want to subject myself to that kind of intimidation so I skipped the casino completely. Did walk by it. Looked very clean and bright.

Photos:
I usually am one of the complainers about shipboard photographers and I still think their prices are way to high for what you get, but I will admit that the pictures taken on board this cruise were some of the best I have seen taken on a cruise. The photographers were not pushy when in ports or the restaurants and, watching them in the main lobby with the formals, seemed very competent and willing to make good pictures and not rushing to see how many people they could take. They ran a few specials during the week. My only complaint: they stopped taking pictures coming off in Ketchikan before all of us got off! They were no were to be found when I came off!

Cruise Staff: Kieron was our CD and Candi his assistant. Kieron has that type of off beat delivery where you don't know he is telling a joke until he zaps the punchline. He also can make you laugh just by watching his reaction to comments. My daughter was in kids club and Kieron took time one day to spend a couple of hours with the kids showing them the theater and allowing each of them a chance to pretend to "introduce" an act on the stage with spotlights and pa, etc! He also allowed the kids to be part of his daily show on the TV. Class act. Now my one complaint about the CD department was the daily show. I have seen those shows on other NCL ships and found this one (Rising Star) to be kind of lame. At times it seemed that Kieron and Candi "winged" it and weren't all that prepared. The show just didn't flow smoothly and they would jump around and at times miss things. But that is only a minor complaint. Hats off to Kieron and his staff.

On the subject of Bingo: all week they kept saying, huge jackpot on Saturday. On Friday, on both the morning show and at the evening show they kept saying that someone WOULD win the $12,000 jackpot in Bingo. When the time came, no one got the jackpot except NCL. (I wasn't there so I don't know the details of how or what, but I know the bingo players in my family were extremely upset.) What they should have said was someone MAY win $12,000. HINT: Don't be suckered into playing Bingo just to win that jackpot, they don't usually give it away.

Kids Club: My daughter loved kids club once again but she did skip some sessions with them to participate in some of the craft activities.

Shore Excursions: Very good choices and we pre-booked, so we had little interaction with the SE staff. I did utilize the "electronic" booking machine outside the SE Office to book another tour when the office was closed. HINT: If you want to change a trip and the office is closed. Use the electronic booking machine to book your new trip. Then write "CANCEL" on the tickets for the tour you are cancelling and put in the after hours drop box. I did that and had no problems. Remember, you must cancel at least 24 hours before reaching the port and you cannot cancel helicopter tours.

Gift Shop: Probably the one area of concern on the ship. Yes they had a nice selection and yes, they ran some nice specials, but a lot of what they tell customers is misleading. My brother and his wife bought some items that totaled over $150. They were given a coupon then for $15 off during another visit. When my sister-in-law went back to use the coupon the next day, she was told that the coupon was only good if she spent another $25, then she could have $15 free. (total of $35 more worth of goods) She didn't want to do that and so she left. Another person in our tour group told a similar story about the gift shop on another issue. It appears the gift shop doesn't tell you the whole truth about incentives!

Room Stewards/Ship Cleanliness/Luggage/Storage/Cabin: Our room stewards were very efficient. They had our rooms cleaned quickly and efficiently. They would change our towels and washcloths all the time!! One afternoon, we used a washcloth to clean my daughters face, then hung it in the shower to use later. It was replaced with a new one that evening turning turn down!!! The bed was ok. They now put the Ice bucket in the mini fridge to keep the ice from melting as quick...nice idea. I still love the "wheel" outside your cabin that you can turn to provide instruction to your stewards.

It seems they were always cleaning the ship!! I passed one guy spraying and then squeegying cabin doors!! Great job.

They also provide hand sanitizer containers at the entrance to all restaurants, casino and lounges as well as the gangway when leaving or returning to the ship. Great idea!!

Our Luggage was to us before 5:00 p.m. on the day we sailed. It came one piece at a time, but that was ok because it allowed us to put stuff away from one suitcase before another arrived. The luggage all fit under the bed nicely.

Having been on the Star before in the same catagory I knew what to expect. You have a large closet with coat hangers. There are 4 permanent shelves in the closet along with two shelves that can be dropped under your hanging clothes if so desired. My only complaint about the closet set-up is the shelves in the closet, they are kind of inconveient because they go back from the closet on one side. I wish they were accessible from the front where just paneling is now under the safe. Yes, you do have a safe in your room. It is outside your closet and although smaller than others I have experienced, it is very nice and easy to operate. You also have three drawers and two shelves around the closet area and vanity. There are two additional shelves above the TV on the other side of the room. HINTS: 1) Bring an electric strip for more plugs. Only one is provided and 2) Take all of the "parphanaleia" that they put around the room (specialty bottled water, laundry bag and laundry slips, coffee maker and tray if you don't drink coffee, etc) and put on the top shelf next to the closet or the top shelve above the TV. These shelves are hard to reach and it gets these items out of your way.

I love the bathroom layout and found plenty of room for all of our toiletries on the bathroom sheves. We did not have problems with fluctuating water temps like we did on the Aloha last year. Water stayed at the temp you set it at. HINT: don't like cold tile floor for your shower, take the shower hand unit down before getting in and turn the water on hot. Sray the shower floor to warm it. Then reset shower temperature to the right level before getting in.

Pool: This was an Alaska cruise and although we had terrific weather, the pool was not used much after the first day. 60-65 degrees is just too cold. They only open the water slides at the pool between 11 am and 2 pm and it is way too cold then for that!! The hot tubs around the main pool were in use almost every night when I walked through.

Rough Sea: Although we had good weather, it was very rough the first night and day. I'm not sure if it was the ocean or our speed, but I have never gotten sick on a cruise and I felt a little queezy during that time. For those of you who ask, the ship does go outside of Vancouver Island for both the trip up and back.

Security: Ok, a complaint here. Security seemed hit and miss and was based on who was working. In one port where we had two gangways with long lines, our line moved very slow because the ship security officer at the gangway was carefully checking each ID and ship card. The other line moved quickly because the officer was not being as maticulous on his check. Inside, the scanners were also hit and miss. My sister in law had her new kitchen knife set confiscated until the last day, while our friends who bought the same set got to keep theirs because they came up a different gangway. The same was true of alcohol, one member of our group got two bottles on that he bought in port, while another had his confiscated. (funny thing about that was that they came in the same gangway just minutes apart!) My complaint is not the tight security or the confiscation of items, I have no problems with that and in fact support that. My complaint is the inconsistancy of the agents.

Captain: My hat goes off here. The Captain made numerous announcements during the day. These included position checks and docking/tendering/all aboard information. Very nice to have a Captain wishing to keep his passengers informed and taking the time to do so! (and yes sir, we had a "smashing time" in our ports!)
Since this section is long and I am tired, I will end Part 2 here. I will give part 3, which is food service, tommarrow! Please feel free to ask any questions of what I have covered so far.
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Old July 25th, 2005, 11:22 PM
KeystoneCruiser KeystoneCruiser is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gary
You are the first person I have ever heard from that did not love Victoria. If you did not leave the pier, you should say just that. The evening is a wonderful time to visit Victoria.
I have a feeling you did not leave the pier.

Gary: I took a city tour of Victoria, so yes I did leave the pier and I honestly was not impressed by the city. Several others in our tour group had similar opinions. Like I said, I think part of the problem is that the ship is there too short a time to enjoy the city. I would have loved to have visited the Empress hotel and the business district but there just isn't that much time. I did have friends who went into town and said that the time was just too short. Perhaps, like I said, they could reverse the order of stops and stop in Victoria first on Monday and give more time there.
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Old July 26th, 2005, 02:06 PM
dgund dgund is offline
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Really enjoyed reading part 2. Can't wait for part 3. Thanks for taking the time to post.
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Old July 26th, 2005, 02:30 PM
Terrier Girl Terrier Girl is offline
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Thank you, Keystone Cruiser, for your thorough and informative reviews! Just a few questions:

1. How old is your daughter? I have a 12 year old and I'm hoping she'll use the kid's crew.
2. I also have a 17 year old boy. Any basketball/sports tournaments on the ship?

Thanks again for the information!
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Old July 26th, 2005, 02:56 PM
KeystoneCruiser KeystoneCruiser is offline
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Terrier Girl:

My daughter turned 8 while we were on the ship. Another couple with us had a daughter who was 12. She checked out the kids club for her age group and found she didn't like it so she didn't go. The 10-12 year olds share space with in the Teen Club on Deck 12, while the younger two groups (3-5 & 6-9) are upstairs in the actual kids club on Deck 13. I will say that I saw a lot of 10-15 year olds running around the ship and not in the kids club. That actually was one of my complaints about the ship was that age kids literally running around the ship, especially on the upper decks. I had one boy who I say was about 14 tell me I couldn't use an elevator that I was about to get on because they were using it for elevator tag and I would mess him up. (I pushed my way passed him and used it ignoring the names he called me.) Another time, my mother almost got plowed over by several kids running through a corridor and around a corner. Complaints to the reception desk got the reply: "kids will be kids." I do think part of the problem is that the weather is too cold to go swimming or play outdoor sports so the kids are cooped up indoors and of course the parents were no where to be found.

As far as sports tournaments are concerned, I did read in the Freestyle Daily where there were ping pong tournaments and putting tournaments but I just looked and didn't see any basketball tournaments. I never did see anyone using the outdoor court up on Deck 14 when I walked the track on Deck 13. It was very windy up there and it was usually a cool to cold wind and very strong. It was sometimes difficult to walk due to the wind and I can't imagine it would be any less on the basketball court. The ping pong tables are under cover near the kids pool on Deck 12 aft and there are shuffleboard courts on Deck 7. There is also two giant Chess sets up on Deck 13. (you know where the pieces are 3 feet tall.) There are two nice rooms on Deck 12 for games and so if you can bring some board or card games, that would help. There is also a cinema on board ship, but the movie selection was not that appealing to young people.
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Old July 26th, 2005, 04:43 PM
KeystoneCruiser KeystoneCruiser is offline
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Default Part 3 - Food and Dining

Part 3:

I forgot to mention two things about the port of calls. 1) Although there were four ships in each port when we were there, they did not seem crowded. The main shopping district in Juneau was a little crowded at first but that was because two ships were letting off passengers at the same time. HINT: When reaching the towns, especially Juneau, go to end of the shopping area and work your way back toward the dock. Everyone just starts going into the shops as they come to them and by starting in the back it will be less crowded since you are working against the main flow of people.

2) The ship has two port and cruise consultants on board, Shawn and Martin. Now I have never been impressed with P&C's on my previous NCL cruises, they seemed to only care about selling cruises, but these two changed my mind. Shawn gave daily briefings on the upcoming ports which included where the best deals were and showed some examples. (this was played on the tv as well as a live presentation by him) They also provided us with a daily port of call sheet with numbered map and a rundown of many of the shops. They also had many coupons to give. (Now most of these were for jewerly) They also have a great relationship with the shops in the ports and if you have a problem with something you bought, they become your go between and get it resolved. Yes they provided info on future cruises but that was not until late in the cruise and they never tried to move the conversation to cruise sales like other P&C consultants I have encountered on NCL. These two are great.

Food:
Hey, I am easy to please when it comes to food. Just give me a good meal with efficent service and I am happy. I am not as picky about quality as I am about portion size, service and taste.

Let me start with my negative: I did feel that the service in the main restaurants was below what it was on my last Star cruise in 2002. It just seemed that things didn't flow smoothly and the servers seemed confused. I also don't think the front and back waiters worked very well together. On both my previous Star cruise and my cruise on the Aloha, I found some good "teams" of waiters who clicked well together. Never really saw any of our pairs of waiters had the same chemistry on this ship. Did it slow down the dining experience, yes I think so. Did it ruin my cruise? Not at all. (just frustrating at times.)

**I will say that on my last meal in the main dining room, I did find out from a server there that there had been a large crew rotation just that week and many of the crew had just joined the ship that week. I don't know how large the rotation was, but that easily could have been part of the problem as front and back waiters could have been in new pairs and were getting to know each other. (not a defense of NCL, just a possible answer)

We ate in both of the main dining rooms and always had a large selection of items in all catagories to choose from. In addition, Ceaser Salad, grilled chicken, steak and baked potatoe are available every night (just not always listed on the menu.) Some HINTS:
1.) You don't have to choose an Apetizer and a salad/soup for your first two courses. You could choose two apetizers and no soup/salad or vice versa. (we had a soup and salad many times instead of an apetizer.) You can also order multiple apetizers or soups and salads. (my brother did that a couple of times....)
2.) The dining rooms open at 5:30 on most nights. Be there about 5-10 minutes before they open to 15 minutes after they open to be the first seated. (they will take large group reservations ahead of time in the two main dining rooms...I believe the group has to be 8 or more) If you get there when they open, you should be able to eat and make it to the first show (7:30 p.m.), leaving the rest of the evening free to enjoy the lounges. Make sure to tell your waiter you want to make the early show. If you get there at 6 or later, forget the early show. I only saw people waiting for tables between 6:15 and 7:15.
3.) Don't be afraid to ask for another entree if you are still hungry or really enjoyed it. It will come out much faster than the first one.
4.) If you want quicker service, you can break up into smaller groups. Twos seemed to get done very quickly.
5.) If you have special dietary needs, you can contact the maitre'd ahead of time with special requests (no sauce, specially prepared, etc.). You may have to set a time to eat so that it will be ready, but it is done. My mother has serious food allergies and the ship was very accomodating after we found out this procedure. (even in the specialty restaurants!)

We ate in two specialty restaurants, La Trottatoria and Endless Summer. I love LaTratattoria for both service and food. It was the best service we got of the week and the portions were large and very good. Endless Summer, the tex mex restaurant also had good service and good food. I had their Meatloaf with Barbeque sauce, very tangy and tasty....I had seconds.......lol.

None of our group ate in any of the other (charged) specialty restaurants. We all agree that you shouldn't have to pay extra for food on a cruise ship. The cover prices range from ala carte pricing in the Sushi restaurant to $20 in Cagney's Steakhouse and some items in Cagney's are per item at $25. The steaks in the main dining room were just fine. HINT: If you want a whole Lobster you have to go to one of the Specialty restaurants. (Soho, I believe) The lobster you get in the main restaurants on Lobster night (Monday), is just Lobster tails. (but you can order two...or three (as my brother did).)

You can make reservations for the specialty restaurants as soon as you board on Sunday and during the day each day (until 5) at the counter to the left of the Reception desk. Make them early to get the best selection of times and not to get closed out. We tried to go back to La Trotittoria late in the week but it was full. You can also attempt to walk up to the specialty restaurants when you want to dine to see if they have had a cancellation or an opening, but be prepared to either wait or be told they are booked. (this is easier accomplished early in the week.) LaTrotittoria is closed on Saturday nights since they share space next to the buffet and so many people eat in the buffet on Saturday night due to the dinnertime arrival in Victoria.

Kids Menu was excellent, it is the same in all dining rooms, including the specialty restaurants. Almost anything a kid could want from peanut butter and jelly to chicken fingers to hot dogs and hamburgers to pizza. Kids can supplement their kids meal with apetizers, salads and desserts off the main menus. (or they can always order ice cream or sundaes.) They bring the kids meals out as soon as they are ready which can be a blessing or a curse. Yes, the hungry kids get to eat quickly, but then those now full (and bored) kids have nothing to do while you eat. Not sure what the answer is to this though.

Buffet: Ate here more often on this cruise because of the timing of the ports. Like last time, a wide selection of hot items each day. Everyone can find something to eat here! The lines moved quickly and there were always people to help younger and older people carry their trays. Tables were generally bussed quickly, many times while you were still sitting there. Very nice to be able to enjoy the end of your beverage and socialize without dirty dishes in front of you. Never saw a drink machine out of order like on the Aloha. Breakfast buffet was very good but disappointed that omlet and toast stations are gone. They now make toast ahead and it sits and gets hard in warmer. Omlets on line are now one kind, can't get them made to order. (you can in the main dining room for breakfast though).
Buffet Hints:
1.) If coming from the mid elevators, skip the first line, it is usually longer than the second at the other end.
2.) Walk the buffet before getting your tray to see what they have to help decide how much to take of each item. (ran out of room on my plate one time because I hadn't checked it out.)
3.) If you don't like the main buffet, go over to the kids buffet on the starboard side in the corner. They always have hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken nuggets there and adults are welcome to use it. (just have to bend down lower......lol)
4.) Get instruction on how to use the ice machine.....lol (strange device, you have to have your hand on the back of your glass to get ice.)
5.) When looking for a table during the main meal times, go all the way aft in the buffet to the table area in the back. (the line they aren't using) Usually tables available there and the drink station back there is in service without the crowd of the main drink station.
6.) On Saturday, go early if you plan to eat at the buffet due to the dinnertime arrival in Victoria. We got there at 4:45 and by 5:15, there was a long line in all lines. Table space became scarce by 5:30.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT: Hungry late in the evening, or just want something sweet or free coffee or iced tea? After 9:00 p.m., they open the very back line of the buffet (back by aft elevators.) This line will have salad, soup, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, usually pizza, lunchmeat & a selection of desserts as well as the drink station. Went there many times for a quick late snack.

Blue Lagoon: This diner type area on Deck 7 serves the same limited menu all week. Great potatoe skins and fantastic Macaroni and Cheese as well as other favorites. You can also walk through here and get a free cup of coffe or Iced Tea any time of the day and not have to go to Deck 12 (buffet) or have to pay for the coffee like at the Java Cafe just around the corner. This is a 24 hour operation. Great place for a quick bite on shore days.

Ice Cream Hint: The hand dipped ice cream stand is hidden on Deck 12 aft as you go out to the kids pool. It is behind a corner and can easily be missed if you aren't heading out to the pool. They serve ice cream from 12-9 every day. They give you small single scoops, but you can ask them to put additional scoops on the cone. (you will get dirty looks sometimes, but they do it without comment)

I think that about covers everything about food.

Disembarkation: I thought it would be a pain having to have luggage ready to put out after a late shore excursion, but it was no big deal. You do have to spend most of Saturday packing, but it was ok. Disembarkation tags arrived around 10 on Saturday morning giving time to get them wrote and on the bags. You are only given four tags per cabin but can ask for more from steward or the reception desk.

I love the fact that you can have a nice breakfast and wait in your room until your color is called.

Finding our luggage was easy and getting through the customs officials was a breeze. (the disembarkation talk and information made it sound like the customs officials could be a real pain, they weren't). There were plenty of porters available to help with luggage once you found it.

The only bad part about disembarkation is waiting for a bus out front. The bus loading area in front of the building is too small for the large number of busses that are loading people and groups of people are crowding the sidewalk waiting for their bus. It becomes difficult to move. The street sidewalk is crowded with car drivers trying to pick up fares and crowding as close as they can and still be on the public sidewalk. My suggestion would be to take the curb in front of the bus loading zone and make it bus loading also allowing several more busses to be parked there which would help get people out of there. The NCL tour busses for those on shore excursions took up a large portion of the bus loading lot for a long period of time. Perhaps they could gather those people someplace in the terminal and bring them out all at once instead of letting them trickle out one or two at a time.

General Comments:
Hint: I learned this trick on the Aloha. Go to the reception desk on Thursday and ask for a preliminary copy of your bill. Your shore excursions should be on there along with all charges to that point. You can find any mistakes early and have time to work on correcting them (children charged adult rates on shore excursions, etc.). Ask for another preliminary report late Saturday afternoon. By checking it early, it will save you time early on Sunday morning when the final bill comes! I am happy to report that there were no errors on my bill this time.

My biggest complaint about the cruise is not the fault of NCL and I don't think NCL can do anything about it. I have never been around so many RUDE people in all my life!! Let me give a couple of examples: 1.) Elevators: It is polite and proper to allow those exiting the elevator to leave first before those getting on enter it. Most of the time I experienced people who would push on while you are trying to get out. My mother got pushed back in an elevator she was trying to exit one time and had to ride again! We are not talking kids here....but adults! The elevator is not going to leave anyhow until those exiting get off, so what is the rush??? It was unbelieveable!! 2.) Lines: I was standing in lines for restaurants at opening and to get on or off the ship and it was amazing the number of people who would come down a different stairway or hall and push their way right in. What were the rest of us who got there earlier doing, waiting for them???? HINT: When waiting in a line to get off the ship (especially in Victoria), have each member of your party put their hand on the person in front of them's shoulder and stick together. (there was a very, very long line (20 min) to get back on the ship in Ketchikan and one lady walked up and stepped in line and when someone told her the end of the line was the other way, she snapped that this was her "cruise time and I don't have time to waste in line." Luckily she was behind me or else I would have gotten the dock security person. 3.) There was a lady and her kids on a shore excursion that our family was on and she kept rushing to the front of everything with her kids, pushing people out of the way, standing or sitting in front of others, including kids just to get her kids up front. When they called all the kids up on stage at the one stop and her boys were in the back of the kids, she yelled to them to "get in front." Sure enough, her two boys pushed their way through the rest of the kids, many younger and shorter and got in front. Sickening. (she was the butt of our jokes for the rest of that day like other rude people were on other days.....lol)
I am sure most of you have similar stories about rudeness on board, perhaps one day I will start such a thread! Once again, let me reiterate, although that was my biggest complaint and most upsetting part of the cruise, it is NOT NCL's FAULT and I'm not sure what they could do about it. (perhaps though they could offer a manner's class....lol)


Overall, I enjoyed this cruise. Of course there were some problems as there always are, but I am a firm believer that since problems do occur, it is not the problem that defines the company, but the company's response to the problem that defines it. In this case, with the exception of the casino and the kids running in the hallway, the few problems we had were handled efficently and quickly. At least my disdain for the casino staff did help me...by keeping money in my pocket, lol! I sail NCL for the Freestyle concept. I hate dressing up, I hate having set dinner times and being told who I have to mingle with and I hate being herded like cattle through disembarkation. Already thinking about my next cruise............


Ok, fire away with the questions and comments.
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  #11  
Old July 26th, 2005, 05:42 PM
Terrier Girl Terrier Girl is offline
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Keystone Cruiser:


Thank you for the detailed information. I plan to print out your reviews and take them with me on August 7!
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  #12  
Old July 27th, 2005, 03:16 AM
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Unhappy I wish there was a pool with a retractable ceiling. . .

This would be my only regret that our large family group of 24 wasn't sailing on Sapphire or Diamond Princess....the fact that the NCL Star doesn't have the conservatory area swimming pool. I know when we were on the Star Princess three years ago I just loved that large, covered pool. And, in the evenings when it was cooler it was very comfortable for swimming. Kind of steamy and cozy. This type of pool with the retracting ceiling is ideal for cooler climates like Alaska. It would sure keep the kids busy. And, I know they aren't allowed in the inside spa pool.


Quote:
Originally Posted by KeystoneCruiser
Terrier Girl:

My daughter turned 8 while we were on the ship. Another couple with us had a daughter who was 12. She checked out the kids club for her age group and found she didn't like it so she didn't go. The 10-12 year olds share space with in the Teen Club on Deck 12, while the younger two groups (3-5 & 6-9) are upstairs in the actual kids club on Deck 13. I will say that I saw a lot of 10-15 year olds running around the ship and not in the kids club. That actually was one of my complaints about the ship was that age kids literally running around the ship, especially on the upper decks. I had one boy who I say was about 14 tell me I couldn't use an elevator that I was about to get on because they were using it for elevator tag and I would mess him up. (I pushed my way passed him and used it ignoring the names he called me.) Another time, my mother almost got plowed over by several kids running through a corridor and around a corner. Complaints to the reception desk got the reply: "kids will be kids." I do think part of the problem is that the weather is too cold to go swimming or play outdoor sports so the kids are cooped up indoors and of course the parents were no where to be found.

As far as sports tournaments are concerned, I did read in the Freestyle Daily where there were ping pong tournaments and putting tournaments but I just looked and didn't see any basketball tournaments. I never did see anyone using the outdoor court up on Deck 14 when I walked the track on Deck 13. It was very windy up there and it was usually a cool to cold wind and very strong. It was sometimes difficult to walk due to the wind and I can't imagine it would be any less on the basketball court. The ping pong tables are under cover near the kids pool on Deck 12 aft and there are shuffleboard courts on Deck 7. There is also two giant Chess sets up on Deck 13. (you know where the pieces are 3 feet tall.) There are two nice rooms on Deck 12 for games and so if you can bring some board or card games, that would help. There is also a cinema on board ship, but the movie selection was not that appealing to young people.
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Carnival Tropicale.............1988....Mexican Riviera
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  #13  
Old July 27th, 2005, 04:37 AM
dgund dgund is offline
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When making reservations for the alternative restaurants, can you make them for the whole week on the first day or do you have to make them daily? Also, we really enjoy going to the shows and would like to make our dinner reservations so they don't overlap. Is there any way of finding out what time different shows are ahead of time? We have only sailed cruise lines with traditional dining, so the shows were all geared around those seating times. This will be our first cruise on NCL.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 08:04 AM
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Default Star questions

can anyone tell me what type of movies are shown in the cinema onboard the NCL STAR? new ones, oldies, kids? has anyone experienced the Salmon bake, Adventurre Kart, Horseback riding or the Crabfihing -boat experience? Thank you so much for an replies. We sail in Sept. any chances of seeing whales or bears from the ship..like in glacier bay or inside passage?
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Old July 27th, 2005, 08:21 AM
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were any of the pay specialty restaurants 2 for 1 on any night? if so, which night(s)?
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Old July 27th, 2005, 11:23 AM
KeystoneCruiser KeystoneCruiser is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dgund
When making reservations for the alternative restaurants, can you make them for the whole week on the first day or do you have to make them daily? Also, we really enjoy going to the shows and would like to make our dinner reservations so they don't overlap. Is there any way of finding out what time different shows are ahead of time? We have only sailed cruise lines with traditional dining, so the shows were all geared around those seating times. This will be our first cruise on NCL.
You can make reservations for the entire week the first day and in fact, I reccommend it. We tried to go back to one later in the week and it was booked. The Specialty Restaurant Reservation desk is in the Main Atrium on Deck 7 to the left of the Reception Desk. They are open from 9-5 each day. We made our initial reservations the afternoon that we boarded. You cannot make reservations in the main restaurants (Aqua and Versailles) unless you are a group of 8 or more.

Here are the show times from last week. The production numbers by the Jean Ann Ryan Company don't change, but the special acts do rotate from week to week.

Sunday Night: Welcome Aboard Show - 9:30 p.m.
(Cruise Director Kieron, comedian, ship musicians
Monday Night: Music of The Night (Jean Ann Ryan Company Production)
7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (Music of Andrew Lloyd Weber)
Tuesday Night: Jane Powell, singer in Concert; 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday Night: It's Fame (Jean Ann Ryan Company)
8:00 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. (the best show of the cruise IMO)
Thursday Night: Comedian & juggler Charles Peachock
7:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Friday Night: Cirque Pacific (Jean Ann Ryan Company) followed by tribute by representatives of all ships departments. (last regular show of week)
7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Saturday Afternoon: Jeffrey Allen (ship pianist) in "A Tribute to Elton John"
4:00 p.m. (due to 6-11 p.m. docking in Victoria)


I always tried to go to the earlier shows as they tended to be less crowded. My brother in law loved the Andrew Lloyd Weber show and went back for the late show too!

We had reservations in LaTrottatoria at 6:00 p.m on Wednesday and got out at 7:30 for the 8:00 p.m. Show. We had dinner reservations at 6 in Endless Summer and missed the 7:30 show on Thursday. The main restaurants get very busy between 6:15 and 7:30 p.m. and sometimes there is a wait. When we dined in the main restaurants we were always there at 5:30 p.m. If you tell the waiters you want to make the early show, you can usually do it.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 11:26 AM
KeystoneCruiser KeystoneCruiser is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newcruiser99
were any of the pay specialty restaurants 2 for 1 on any night? if so, which night(s)?
I never saw anything listed like that in the Freestyle Daily, but since I refuse to pay extra for food, I never really paid attention to the pay restaurants. Remember LaTrottatoria and Endless Summer are FREE specialty restaurants. I also heard that the pay restaurants usually were less crowded and they were more likely to have "walk up" space.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 11:46 AM
KeystoneCruiser KeystoneCruiser is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vacationfool
can anyone tell me what type of movies are shown in the cinema onboard the NCL STAR? new ones, oldies, kids? has anyone experienced the Salmon bake, Adventurre Kart, Horseback riding or the Crabfihing -boat experience? Thank you so much for an replies. We sail in Sept. any chances of seeing whales or bears from the ship..like in glacier bay or inside passage?
As for the Wildlife: We took the Menenhall Glacier and Wildlife Quest in Juneau. It was fantastic. We saw Orcas, Humpbacks, Sea Lions, Otters, and Eagles. This tour does a great job. Our guide said it was very unusual to see both Orcas and Humpbacks in the same area at the same time. You are more likely to see otters and sea lions in glacier bay and sometimes the young sea lions prevent the ship from getting close to the glaciers (Park Service Regulations)
We saw a school of dolphins from our balcony on our way back from Ketchikan to Victoria and whale sightings were actually pretty common. Never did see a bear though. Our guide on the Wildlife quest was asked when the whales start back to Hawaii and she said early to mid September. You may be able to see large migrations of whales on the inside passage during your cruise.

We didn't do any of the other activities you mentioned, but you will find salmon offered on almost any tour with food.

As far as the movies, here is what was offered on our cruise: (all were rated PG-13) With the exception of the Saturday and Sunday movies, all were shown twice a day. (once in afternoon and once in evening) The movie selection may change before your cruise.
Sunday: "Cellular"
Monday: "The Notebook"
Tuesday: "The Day After Tommarrow"
Wednesday: "Flight of the Phoenix"
Thursday: "Taxi"
Friday: "I, Robot"
Saturday evening: "Raise Your Voice" (in Cinema)
Saturday evening: "What Women Want" (on big screen in Stardust Theater during shore time)

In addition there are movies shown on the tv channels operated by the ship. All of the above movies were shown on the TV as well. Other highlights of the TV movies included: Mrs. Doubtfire, Dirty Dancing, Ice Age, Fried Green Tomatoes, Something About Mary, Bravehart, Austin Powers, The Sound of Music, Gangs of New York, French Connection, The Mask, Just Married, Heartbreakers, Cheaper by the Dozen and Batman: The Movie (we are talking about the 1966 Adam West version here.....)

The TV also offered several ship information channels including a Shore Excursion Channel, a Port Consultant Channel (excellent!!), The Cruise Director's Daily Show, the Bridge Cam and a Channel that told you information like the weather and ships current location. The TV also offered ESPN and CNN as well as a station of classic shows like I Love Lucy & Everybody Loves Raymond. If you are in your cabin, I suggest turning on the Bridge Cam or Ship Information channels since they generally have little or no sound, BUT, when PA announcements are made, they come over those channels as well. (The PA generally does not sound in the Staterooms, only the corridors, restaurants and public areas.)
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  #19  
Old July 27th, 2005, 01:06 PM
lucy2222 lucy2222 is offline
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I'm not sure if I missed this or not, but what type of cabin were you in?
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Old July 27th, 2005, 01:52 PM
CabinForFour CabinForFour is offline
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Fabulous review, KeystoneCruiser! Your information and tips will be useful for me as I plan our Star cruise for next May. Thanks so much!

Regarding a question I posted here several weeks ago, were you able to determine what the policy is for opening balcony dividers between cabins? We have five cabins in a row on Deck 10 forward. We were hoping that we could open all of the dividers to make one big balcony.
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