NCL Star Western Carribean 3/24-3/31: kids, gramma, suites and stuff

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Fitchburg, WI
279 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
WOW! That is how I want to start my review of our cruise on the NCL Star 3/24/13 to 3/31/13. WOW!
We are still unpacking our suitcases, but I wanted to start writing before I forgot everything we did.
My mother, 83 years old, hard of hearing, hard of sight, and hard of walking treated us to a cruise vacation.
My husband, 50 years old, cruised for the first time.
My son (12) and daughter (11) also joined us.
And, the week before we left, we found out that my niece, (18) had spring break the same time my kids did, and since the capacity of our room was 6….we thought let’s throw in one more.
If I get through this whole thing, you will find information out about: concierge service, 2 bedroom family suites, the joys of rollaway beds, traveling with the disabled, kids club (dolphin program), NCL excursions, non NCL excursions, the medical center, cruise critic meet and greets, shows, cabin crawls, restaurants, shopping, sunning, emergency car repair in the parking lot, and the sport court.
Of course, if I get through this whole thing, I will probably be a few years older.
We drove from cold and snowy Wisconsin, so we started out after school/work on Friday afternoon. We got through a chunk of Illinois, and then on Saturday, drove down to McComb MS. That left us with only an hour or so drive on Sunday.
We tried to follow the internet directions to the Julia St. terminal….but we missed the following: follow the signs to the N.O. Business District, US90 West, Crescent City Connection to the West Bank. Take last exit before crossing the Mississippi river, which is the Tchoupitoulas Street/St. Peter Street exit11C; turn right onto Tchoupitoulas Street, take a left onto Henderson Street(at the red light), proceed down Henderson St. past the railroad tracks and floodwall and turn left onto Port of New Orleans Place. Follow the signs into the appropriate terminal.
I don’t know if the signs say that or not, but we didn’t see them, so instead, we got off and lapped the superdome and then drove down Poydras following the street signs to the port. It is very well marked….and since the ships tower over the River Walk Mall, you can’t miss it.
We got to the terminal a little bit before 10:00am; there were plenty of people directing traffic. We drove around in a big old loop until we finally got to the doors where we could drop off our luggage. Porters were there to whisk it away, everything except my 12 pack of diet coke they said I had to carry-on myself (sigh).
Once we got rid of the luggage, my husband took the car and parked in the whale lot, which is a big flat lot that is between Riverwalk Mall and Convention Center Blvd.
I took my mom and her walker, and we walked through the inside of the terminal, amongst all the disembarking cruise passengers waiting for their transportation to try to get to the bathroom. We finally made it, and then went back outside to meet my husband, niece, and children at the trolley stop that is right next to that corner of the terminal.
All of these things are right next to each other….and they connect….sort of. If you want to go from the Julia Street Terminal to the Riverwalk Mall, you have to go outside, across the road, across the trolley tracks, and up an elevator (or escalators or stairs) and into the mall. Super easy for most…a little challenging for my mother.
My niece (the 18 year old) had never been to New Orleans, so our first order of business was to take the street car down to the quarter. The street car stop is, as I mentioned, right there, and they do have the ability to on board wheel chairs and walkers. First trolley filled up before we got a chance to board, but the next one was right behind it and we were first on.
We got off by the Café du Monde…but the line even for carry out was extremely long….so we just walked by and went around Jackson Sq and up to Bourbon St. We went to Pat O’Brien’s for a bon voyage hurricane, and some munchies. We walked back by Café du Monde again on the way back to the street car, but the line was too long still.
We boarded the first street car that came to the stop we had gotten off the street car on…but the hurricanes impaired our logic, and we ended up getting on a trolley for the wrong line…this one ended at Cannel St. which is at the opposite end of the Riverwalk Mall from the terminal. Tourists!
So, we got off there, and went into the mall, which is fun to walk through anyway. And, the Café du Monde in the mall doesn’t have a line at all. Although, I personally think the beignets taste better at the Jackson Sq location. Anyway, poor mom was done walking, so we borrowed a wheel chair from the mall (no charge) and used it to move her from one end of the mall to the other. Then, my niece had to run it all the way back to security to drop it back off. Not the most convenient system, but we made it work
While niece was dropping off the wheel chair, husband went back to the car to get my precious case of diet coke, and we were finally ready to board.
OK…this is why it is important for me to try to type this up while it is still fresh….I am already getting hazy on the details for this part. Of course, the hurricane might have had something to do with that too…but let’s blame the passing of days.
We had only a very short queue to go through to get into the terminal. I think we presented photo ID and proof that we were ticketed passengers to the personnel guarding the door. Then, it was onto standard security….purse and carryons through the scanners, us through the detectors. Then, it was into the maze of roped off queues to check in.
We were in a suite, so there was no one in our queue. Of course, there was no one at our window to check us in, either….so we did still have a wait for a little bit. After only a few minutes, they tracked someone down to help us check in, and we posed for our mug shots, signed our life away on a credit card, and filled out our health questionnaire.
We wanted to pre pay our service charges and change my son’s and daughter’s card to not allow them to make any ship board charges ( I had images of a 100.00 arcade bill), but we were told we would have to do both of those things through guest services once we got on board.
Then, it was onto the waiting room to meet our concierge staff and pick up our ship cards. There were sandwiches and juice in the waiting room, but we had just finished appetizers at O’Brien’s and Beignets at the mall, so I didn’t partake in any. Plus, we were only there for a matter of minutes before they were ready to lead us onto the boat.
Since my mom and her walker had to use the elevator, we got our own escort onto the boat instead of travelling with the other passengers, but it was a very short walk onto the boat. I have only sailed on NCL twice, so I am by no means an expert, but I will tell you that the whole getting on the boat process in NOLA Is WAY WAY WAY easier for persons of limited mobility than the process in Venice. Everything in NOLA is very very compact….the longest walks are the walks from one end of the boat to the other.
My kids, being kids, were a few steps ahead of us as we went to board the boat. Staff was there to greet us, some dressed in carnival finery. My kids (12 and 11) stepped on board, and the window washing thing-a-ma-bob went through and dripped water on the gangway, so the staff blocked us from going forward and getting soaked. My hairdo appreciated the effort, but I was a little worried about my kids. NCL staff on the gangway yelled through the water to the other side, and NCL staff on the inside corralled my kids until we could make it across the gangway.
We entered into the atrium on deck seven, and just as it was intended, it awed us. It goes from deck seven to deck 13, with gorgeous stained glass, glass elevators, fountains, artwork and trim. It is so different from the only other NCL ship I have been on (the Jade) and so beautiful. The person who escorted us from the terminal onto the boat led us up to Cagney’s for lunch.
You may remember that I didn’t have any sandwiches in the waiting room because we had just eaten….but now we are on the boat, and there is no time in cruising for paying attention to such land bound concepts of appetite and number of calories. We ordered starters, lunch, and even a dessert. The lunch menu at Cagney’s was small…but it turned out we would only end up eating there two days….so it had plenty of variety. My son was thrilled to be able to order steak, and he loved it. My niece got the turkey burger, and…well, all of us got something or other. I had the shrimp cocktail for my starter…I remember that. And, just by coincidence, there were only four of us still capable of eating by the time it came to dessert, so we ended up with each one of us getting a different dessert. Daughter had lemon sherbet, I had a chocolate brownie, husband had the pie, and mom had the berries and cream. All of them were dee-lish.
Our suite was ready even before we started to eat, so as soon as we could push ourselves away from the trough…I mean table, we headed down two decks and forward to find our cabin.
OK….so, I don’t speak sea. Port, starboard, aft, fore, bow, stern, I know these are all terms that describe locations on a ship. I think I know the front (fore) from the back (aft), but for the life of me, I can’t remember port from starboard. So, as lame as it is, I will have to do it this way…our cabin, 11050, is on the right side of the ship if you are facing the front of the boat. We are between the fore and midship elevators, but much closer to the fore ones than the midship. The great thing about the Star is once you figure out at the doors on one side of the ship are all blue and the doors on the other side are all maroon, you just have glance when you get off the elevator before you know whether you need to turn right or left to find your cabin. Then, you can cast a very discrete glance at the little picture of the ship that shows you which way the front is and you can walk to your cabin like a pro.
Of course, we didn’t figure out all of that right away, so we were looking at the range of cabin numbers trying to figure out if 11050 came between this set or that set.
We finally figured it out, and found our suite, the Topaz Suite. 11050, an SC cabin is B E A U T I F U L. It opens up into a small foyer that has lights that remind me of an old time movie theater. There is a small interior cabin that opens up off of that foyer. That cabin has a closet with three of four drawers, a bathroom, and a bedroom area. The bedroom area has a sofa that makes up into a double bed and a birth that pulls down from the wall to sleep a third person. There is a very small TV in that room, and a small nightstand/table.
That cabin has its own door, and it will lock automatically if closed…but any of the key cards can open it. From the foyer, the main cabin also has a locking door. The third door in the foyer is to the adjoining cabin…but we didn’t have that cabin.
The main cabin is wonderful. There is a “kitchen” area….there is a table and four chairs, a refrigerator, and the coffee maker. Everything is wood paneled and very fancy. Between the kitchen and the balcony is the living area. There is a sofa that makes up into a single bed, two club chairs, a two tiered oval coffee table, a large TV, and a DVD player on a small stand.
There are two mirrored pocket doors that separate that room from the other half of the cabin. On the other half, there is a walk around queen bed in an alcove with a night stand on either side, and a corner armoire with a TV. The bed is plenty high so that you can store all your suitcases underneath.
The large closet is directly across from the pocket doors, and the bath area starts to the right. There are two sinks, and a low counter with a stool below it for doing your make up. There is, under the big window a Jacuzzi tub with a small TV over the top. There is a wonderful shower stall, with another floor to ceiling window. And, a small closet with a stool behind a glass door.
Now, all the doors in the bathroom are glass….so there is NOT a lot of privacy unless you close off the main part of the cabin from the bed/bath half. As we were such a large motley group of individuals sharing this space, we just got good at NOT looking when someone was in the bathroom part of the cabin.
All right….I have to go unpack and start the laundry. I’ll add more later, and try to do something about pictures.
Seattle, WA
78 Posts
Joined Sep 2012
Thanks for your review, I'm really enjoying it! Love your writing style.
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Fitchburg, WI
279 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
Why the details are hazy: O'Brien's before we boarded

First view of our cabin:
(or at least I think this is our cabin....if it isn't, it is an SC cabin just like ours)

Travelling with six people has its challenges. First one was how to fit all of us, all our luggage, and Mom's walker into one vehicle without having to strap mom to the top of the car like the granny in Beverly Hillbilly's

Remember this picture when I talk about unpacking all our stuff and finding room for it all in our cabin.

WOW: This is what you walk into on the Star. I love this ship!

The foyer of our cabin:

More to come!
8,464 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
Am enjoying reading your review.

I agree it can be confusing as to which side of the ship. Here's a tip that helped me. When facing the front of the ship.

Port = Left .... both have 4 letters
Starboard = right
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Welcome Back! Thank you for your very nice detailed review. Looking forward to reading the rest of your vacation journey.
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Fitchburg, WI
279 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
Still on the boat…still our first day:
Our wonderful cabin had a beautiful flower arrangement of roses and a bird of paradise flower. There was a bowl of fruit as well as some small canape’s for us to nibble on. In a wine bucket, there was a child bottle of sparkling wine and a large bottle of aqua fina water.
Our luggage was all in our cabin by the time we got there after our lunch in Cagney’s.
Our room was perfectly set up for six people. Well, it would have been except my dear mother, who anted up the fare for the cruise, really didn’t want to sleep on the single sofa sleeper in the living room. She wanted a place she could retire early, and a place she could get dressed that wasn’t on full view of everyone else.
So, that put her in the “children’s” bedroom portion of our two bedroom family suite. One person and “poof” three of our beds were used. Darling niece, who would be the last one up every night anyway, volunteered for the sofa.
We asked Felix if there was any way we could get two (yes two) rollaway beds for our cabin.
The Star was sailing at capacity: every stateroom was booked and they had even stopped allowing additional people to be added to booked staterooms because we were all full of people, so Felix can’t say yes right away. But, after a bit, he comes back and says he has found two rollaways for us.
Our rollaways don’t really rollaway….they collapse flat, but you can’t move them flat because they keep trying to pop back up.
Once we got rid of the suitcases, we were able to put one rollaway on the same wall as the sofa. There was enough room to walk sideways around it to enter into the cabin.
The other rollaway went into closet area between the bathroom and the main bedroom.
I assumed, incorrectly, that Felix would take the rollaways down each morning when he made up our room, but he didn’t. We learned to live with the one in the living room, and we put the one in the closet across the foot of the main bed like a giant metal duvet so that we would have access to the closet.
Only read the following paragraphs if you want to know tons and tons about the storage capabilities of an SC suite on the Star:
· Mom used the drawers and closet in her part of the suite for her stuff…so I had to find a place for the clothing of the other five passengers in the main part of the cabin. The closet was very large, but it helped that I had some of my stuff on skinny hangers (the wooden ones that come with the closet take up a ton of space). I ended up throwing some of their hangers in one of my empty suitcases and just using mine from home.
· There were two large shelves above the t.v. in the master bedroom that were big enough to hold all of my and my husband’s folded clothes, and there were drawers in the nightstands for our unmentionables. In the paneling, there were two narrow cupboards, and used them for accessories and stuff.
· There were four drawers in our closet, so I used two for each child. And, there was one cubby above them I used for my daughter. Above the safe, there were some more cubbies, so my niece’s folded clothes could go up there.
· There were narrow cupboards by the dining table that were big enough for the kids snorkel gear, and there were empty drawers for their kindle/ipods/chargers, etc.
· There were only two accessible outlets, both of those in the bathroom, so we used an extension cord and charged everything on the bathroom counter.
· The bathroom had cubbies, but they were full with beach and bath towels, but there were drawers and room under the sinks, so my niece and I found room for all our stuff
· I emptied out the refrigerator (our pre cruise concierge instructions did not make it onto the boat) and stuck all of that stuff in some cubbies in the dining area…and then filled the fridge with my soda.
· Stuffed our suitcases under our beds, and we were unpacked and ready to roll. I was glad that our wonderful cabin still looked wonderful even after we were unpacked.
On the pool deck , there was a big send off barbeque, but we had just eaten at Cagney’s so we didn’t need second lunch. We were still cruising amateurs at this point and hadn’t worked our way up to multiple lunches per day.
Our side of the ship faced the port as we were docked, but the ship goes up stream to turnaround, and we were away from Jackson Sq. as we sailed by, so husband and I ran up on deck to snap a few more pictures.
Dear son by this point had found the sport court. There was on this cruise a whole herd of young boys who lived for the sport court. My son complained anytime any activity (eating, swimming, shore excursions) took him away from the sport court. Somehow, all these kids were able to form some sort of organized game in a matter of minutes that my son could not wait to get to or get back to.
We did have to pull him off the court for our first trip to the kids club.
There is an open house on the first day at sea so you can go back to the back of the ship and up to deck 13 to see the room and meet some of the counselors. If you want to use kids’ club, you sign up on a very simple form, denoting the names of anyone who can sign your kids out. Both of my kids (10 and 12) were in dolphins group, and both were old enough to be able to sign themselves out, but for our first few days at sea, I opted to leave them as needing a grown up to come get them. Dear niece, at 18, was old enough to sign them out, and I added her to the list with me and my husband. They had cookies and juice at the open house (yeah…more food!) but the whole process really only took about 10 minutes.
The most confusing part was: because they had so many kids, they were going to use one of the meeting rooms by the library on deck 12 (mid ship) for dolphins when there was dolphin activities. But, when it was freestyle free play, the kids would be back on the back of the boat on deck 13 in the kids club. So, you didn’t always drop off and pick up at the same place, and you had to time it right to make sure you and your kid were in the same place at the same time.
On deck 13, there are two kids club areas: one for the little ones to the left as you go up the stairs, and one for everyone else on the right hand side.
Each child is given an id bracelet that they are supposed to leave at kids’ club.
The dolphin activities didn’t start until a bit later, so we took the kids down to the cabin to have them get dressed for dinner. We knew it was surf and turf night in the MDRs, so we wanted to make sure we ate dinner. We called our concierge David to see if we could still get a reservation, and he said no problem.
The Versailles is all the way back of the ship down on level 6, but you get there from level 7. Because mom had the walker, we went by guest services to get her key card coded with the special code. If you have the right key card, instead of pushing the down button and hoping the one elevator that goes to the 6th floor comes, you just put in your key card, and that elevator will come as soon as it is available. This works great for anyone with a disability. I walked back up to seven then from inside the dining room, and checked to see if our table was ready.
Most of the tables in the Versailles require you to be able to step up at least one step, as they are up on raised platforms. Mom could get only so close with the walker and then she was on her own. The tables are pretty close together in the Versailles, and on this night, the place was a bustling. Dear daughter got surf, hold the turf, niece and son got surf and turf, and everyone else got something else. My son, eating his second steak of the day, decided he loved cruising.
Before we were ready for dessert, it was time for me to get kids back up to kids club for the first night’s activities. We got up to the Paris room next to the library and checked them in. I got back as my husband, mother and niece were finishing their desserts. Our waiter insisted I have a dessert too, so I ordered something chocolate, which turned out to be a very light chocolate and raspberry cake.
We got back up to our turned down room, and mom retired for the evening. Niece went off on an explore, and husband and I promenaded around deck 13 and deck 7 to enjoy the sights and sounds of cruising down the Mississippi river.
We tried to time it go get the kids at the end of the dolphin program but before freestyle free play so we could pick them back up where we dropped them off…and we just made it in time.
Daughter loved it. Son did not. My son, who is by NO stretch of the imagination a little angel, said the kids club was a bunch of screaming boys who made in appropriate jokes and comments. Now, I don’t know if he said that because it is true or if he was trying to come up with a brush he thought would be dark enough to paint a picture I would not want to send him back to. My son saw kids club as something that got between him and his time on the sport court. He also got off to a slightly off step with one of the counselors, and Englishman who teased my son about his Manchester soccer jersey. My son was convinced the counselor really didn’t like him, but I was convinced the counselor was teasing him.
Mom was in, son and daughter were back to our cabin, niece showed back up, beds were in place, and we were ready to retire after our first day at sea. Our on board TV had two movie channels, (Wreck it Ralph and Skyfall seemed to be on constantly) four news channels (which except for BBC never really seemed to show the news) and a lot of ship board channels. So, with not too much to watch, we were all out by 11:00 or so.
Still to come: cruise critic meet and greet, cabin crawl, shore excursions, more kids club, more restaurants, the medical center, onboard ship entertainment and emergency car repairs.
Fitchburg, WI
279 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
Our canapes:

Our wonderful shower:

The only time I think I ever took a picture of a toilet: this is the toilet with the glass door I talked about in my first post. Like it would have ruined the look to frost a bit more of the door?

The master bedroom:

And, the sport court I couldn't get my son off of:

365 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Will you be adding more to this review? I'm really enjoying it from a 'Mom's' perspective. I'll be on the Star during NYE this coming December and I'm really looking forward to it.
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Well done, looking forward to reading the rest of your review.
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Dan and Jessica

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weymouth, ma
2,543 Posts
Joined May 2002
Thank you for your pictures and review....38 days till my first "suite" experience!!
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I would to read more of this review. Our family of 6 will be cruising on the Dawn in Nov.
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Fitchburg, WI
279 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
Our first night at sea was by far our worst. Seas were rough….and our suite was full of clangs and bangs. The pocket doors between the bedroom and the living room were sliding open and closed with great bangs. One of the tv channels tells you about the height of the waves … but apparently it doesn’t get updated at night, because it said the seas were mild … and they were NOT mild.
Our first day was an at sea day. I am an early riser, so I got up and left everyone asleep in the cabin and did six laps around the top deck in a leisurely walk. However, the gale force winds (well...they felt that strong to me) and the choppy seas made the walk a little more stagger than walk.

I went back down to our cabin and checked on my mother in her interior en-suite. She was trapped in a dark room, afraid to get out of bed in the dark, and unable to find the light switches in the dark. The rough seas had made the door to her room close during the night, and I didn’t think to check on her. NCL could do with some lighted switch plates in these rooms. If you book one, make sure you bring a night light. We solved the problem after the first night by using our door stop to prop her door open and leaving the light in the foyer on. She had a curtain between her bed and her closet and bath area, so she had privacy, but enough light to be able to move around. I still feel bad for how trapped she felt that first night. Sorry, mom.

We had a cruise critic meet and greet, a cabin crawl, a special gathering for suite passengers and a latitudes gathering to look forward to on our relaxing at sea day. It’s a rough life when you can’t figure out how to fit in all your parties.

Well, now that my mom was up, and had two thirds of as awake which is a quorum, so we went up to Cagney’s for breakfast. Our waiter tried to tell us about a buffet, but we wanted to be waited on, so we just ordered from the menu. Well…it turns out the menu is just the hot food, and all the cold stuff is on the buffet. Wonderful fresh fruit, cold cereals, great pastries, juices, dried fruits, musli, and all that sort of stuff. So … if you follow in our foot steps…don’t be too lazy to get up and fill up a plate. Between the four of us, we had pancakes with bananas and pecans, crabs cake benedict, eggs benedict, and something else I can’t remember. All were very very good.

We were going to be one of the stops on the cabin crawl, so we went back downstairs to make sure the cabin was made up. It wasn’t, but not because our steward was lazy, but because my 18 yo niece was, and she was still in the sofa bed in the living room and had sent the steward away. I made her get up and got the steward back to make up our room. Niece and Son headed to the main buffet for breakfast (washy washy!), and we took Mom on a tour of the pool deck . We went back down to look at our made up suite, but it turns out, making up a cabin with two rollaways in it doesn’t mean rolling away the rollaways. It just means pulling up the blankets on them. Hmmm. Not exactly how we wanted our suite to look for the cabin crawl. So, we called our butler and asked if he could help, and they found room for one of the rollaways. The other one we tried to fit under the bed in the master bedroom (it doesn’t fit) so we put the plastic liner that they put on the beds to protect them from the suitcases up on the bed, and laid the second rollway across the bottom like a giant metal duvet.

Off to the meet and greet at Ginza. Funnest part of that was the gift exchange; everyone brought something from their hometown. It was great fun to see what people brought. Second funniest part was when the captain came down to introduce himself and we hit a really big swell. Some staff had to hold the coffee pots on the table to keep them from catapulting off, and something crashed behind us with a terrible clanging crash. The captain left in a bit of a hurry after that, and we figured it was for the best.

The cabin crawl was also a blast…it was wonderful to see the different cabins….an aft suite on a corner with a wrap around balcony, and one of the newer modern suites on the 12th floor with the floor to ceiling windows. A few of us of had light treats out for people to share. We had pralines in one room, and we put out cheese and nuts.

We had to kind of rush because many of the cruise critic members were also going to the latitudes gathering….and that is where he had to make the first tough call….lunch or free drink? We opted for lunch, and headed back up to Cagney’s for lunch.

It seems to me I spent quite of bit of time walking from one end of the ship to the other to either put the kids in kids club or get them out. The fact that they were in one of the rooms off the library some of the time in the kids club the other times just made it more challenging. I was very grateful that we had my niece along as she (at 18) was old enough to sign them out and sometimes was the one sending or retrieving.

This day would have been a bit better if the weather had a been a bit nicer. It wasn’t all that warm, and the rough seas made more than one guest a bit green. What I had formally only ever called air sickness bags showed up, in ready to use condition, by all the elevators.

Elevators are a bit of a challenge if you are travelling with someone who has a walker. One: make sure you go to guest services to get your key card coded so that you can take the elevator all the way to deck six so you can get into the Versailles. If you don’t do that, you either have to go to deck seven and walk down a flight of stairs, or try to catch the one elevator in the aft that goes all the way down. Two: the fore elevators seem to be the least used (except right after a show) and we just got used to going all the way to the front of the ship instead of waiting for an elevator with enough room for us.

That night in kids club was going to be iCarly night, and my daughter wanted to go, so she did not join us at the Aqua for dinner. We actually had a bit of trouble finding the aqua….we took the wrong elevators down. And, speaking of finding things…well…it wasn’t as easy as it could be.

I have only been on two NCL ships…the Jade and the Star. I love a lot of things about the Star…but not trying to get from one end of her to the other. Something about that ship defies my sense of direction. Part of the problem is that you walk through the stores to get from one end of the ship to the other. When the stores are closed and the gates are down, there is still a passage to get through…but when you look down that way, it looks as though you can’t go there. Two…well…it seems as though there were more “you can’t get there from here” places on this ship than there were on the Jade. Kids club is on deck 13, but you can’t get there from anyplace on deck 13…you can only get there from deck 12.
Anyway…back to dinner in Aqua…David our concierge was able to arrange for a table for us, so we walked right in. I like the size of the Aqua better than the Versailles, it seems more relaxed. And, even though the seas were still rough, we all managed to eat our third really big meal of the day.

We finished dinner in time to catch the later of the two shows in the Stardust. It was Band on the Run, which I didn’t think I would enjoy. DH and I were the only takers. I am really glad we went. It was a wonderfully staged production, and some of the singers were absolutely spectacular. The show lets out just in time for you to race from the front of the ship to the back of the ship to get your child out of kids club before they switch from pay to for fee.

DD was hungry after her long night at kids club, so we went to Blue Lagoon to get her a hot dog. She had a lot of fun writing and filming a pretend episode of iCarly in kids club..and she tried to tell us all about while we waited for her hot dog. We weren’t sitting there for more than a few minutes before someone walking around with chocolate covered strawberries offered us a little treat…and even though we were full to bursting…we still managed to force down a few.

I didn’t feel right falling into bed after all that food, so DH and I walked a few laps around the covered promenade on seven and a few in the windy open air on the top.

It wasn’t until we went back to the cabin and cleaned up the table that we realized we had managed to miss not just the latitudes party, but also the captain’s cocktail party for suite guests. Again, it is a rough life when you are too busy having fun to go to all the parties you are invited to.
Still to come: more kids club, shore excursions, the medical center, emergency car repair.
Fitchburg, WI
279 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
Our next day was our stop at Costa Maya.
I got up and did my walk around the deck. Joggers on the jogging trail had to hurdle over the closed between 8:00pm and 8:00am sign that hung on the chain that blocked the jogging path. I felt sorry for anyone trying to sleep in the cabins below as apparently joggers don’t believe that rule applies to them.

I made everyone get up on time this morning. Mom had done much better with the door propped open. The seas were calmer, so we all slept a little better. We breakfasted together at Cagney’s , and then went back to our cabin to get ready to disembark.

We docked on a pier across from another ship. There was a people mover to help people get from the boats across the looooong pier to the shore, however, it left just before we disembarked, and mom thought, with her walker, she could make it. She did, but with the wind whipping us as we walked, she almost lost her sun hat a few times.

There is a nice area of stores and restaurants as soon as you get to shore, but we had made arrangements in advance to spend the day at Maya Luna, a small hotel just down the coast.

The Maya Luna had recommended we get a taxi instead of rent a golf cart, due to the roughness of the road, so we walked out of the pier area and down the road a little ways to where the taxi stand is. We had to wait a bit for a taxi large enough for the six of us and mom’s walker, but before too long, we were on our way. In emails with the hotel, they had advised us the fare would be about 10 or 12 dollars. We shared our large van with a couple from the other ship that just wanted to go “down town”, so we stopped to let them out on the way. About another ten minutes down the road, and we were there.

We were a bit shocked when the fare was not 10 – 12 dollars, but 30.00…five dollars per person. That would be a total of 60.00 round trip….which was a LOT more than I wanted to spend to get a margarita and play on the beach. The Maya Luna owner came out to talk to the cabby, and apologized for the misunderstanding. I talked the cabby down to 20.00….and our host offered us our first round of margaritas on the house as a way of apologizing for the misunderstanding.

The day was a bit overcast and there was still a pretty strong wind. The kids played in the beach (we were the only ones on the beach there), and we had a margarita while we waited for the snorkeling excursion we had arranged through the motel.

The reef is just off shore, but the captain of our snorkeling boat wanted to take us down shore a bit to try to get to calmer seas. We flew down the coast in his boat, leaving mom behind sipping her margarita and reading a book. The reef was wonderful, but the snorkeling conditions were not great. The seas made it stuff to stay of the reef, and the water was not as clear as it could have been. But we still had an excellent time, and it was well worth the 20.00 per person we had agreed to pay.

The captain brought us back to the Maya Luna, and we had a wonderful afternoon eating very very good food….including a curry stuffed pineapple that was to die for.

The Maya Luna called for a cab to take us back to the pier (I paid the full 30.00 this time) and we had them drop us off a lot closer to the pier than we were picked up. We had time for some quick shopping right at the port before we did the loooooong walk back to the boat.

Anyone who has sailed on NCL knows how great it feels to come back to the ship. You are greeted by staff who seem genuinely glad to welcome you aboard as they give you ice water or juice, wash clothes to wipe away the grime. It’s a mini party every time you come back to the ship, except when it is a big party like it was at Cozumel, but that is for another post.
After a day of beach and sea, DD wanted to race to kids club for the circus practice. During the open play time, all the kids practice circus skills, and DD had started to learn to juggle. She was pretty adamant that she did not want to miss any opportunities to practice, so as soon as we got back on board, we took her down to kids club. The other five of us took turns taking showers and washing the beach and sea off of ourselves. DS agreed to try kids club again, so we took him down once it was not the open play but when the dolphins were in their own meeting room off the library.

That left just the four more grown up ones to decide what to do for dinner. This is where we really started to love having David our angel of a concierge. We called him, asked him where we could possibly have dinner, he said Ginza would be available in 15 minutes, and we were good to go.
Ginza was wonderful. We ordered cocktails, four different appetizers that we all shared, and each of us ordered different entrees. The presentation was wonderful, and it was well worth the bump up in price. However, when we were done eating our dinners, there was a slight breakdown in service….no one came to clear our plates. We had told the kids we would pick them up at 8:00 at kid’s club (they were not interested in the evening program that night and wanted to do other things)….and the clock kept ticking with no one clearing our plates, offering us dessert, or checking on us. Finally, we had to leave. I checked in at the hostess stand to ask for our slip so I could sign for the upcharges and cocktails, but she was soooo apologetic for the delay in serving us, they insisted on comping our dinners and our cocktails. I explained that our cocktails had arrived with no delay and tried to pay for at least those, but there was no changing her mind.

We picked the kids up from kids club. My niece volunteered to take them to a late night supper at the buffet, while my husband, mom and I went to the show. Alright, I have to confess, I am getting my nights a little mixed up. We saw all the shows….but I am not sure I can remember the exact order. I think this might have been the night when it was a musical adaptation of a play about young women “coming of age” in London in the 60s 70s and 80s.
Same cast as the night before, different costumes…different songs. Again, some of the singers were excellent, some not quite so much. Of the different shows we saw, this one appealed to me the least, but that was a personal preference thing more than a quality of performance thing.

DS went back up to the basketball court every second there was not something actively engaging us. There was a pick up game up there with some rules that he seemed to understand that allowed any number of any size people to somehow play a game that kept some kind of score. Because he is a responsible boy, we had decided that he could have leave to go up to the sport court and back on his own. He was always supposed to check in with us every two hours, but he was a bit lax in that, and more than once, I had to climb up to the sport

Everyone was pretty beat after our full day, so my niece and I were the only ones with enough umph left to go up to the pool deck for the late night party up there. It was wonderful…the steel drum band played some great Byron Lee and the Dragonaires (sp?) songs, and lots of people were dancing in the open air. My niece still had enough appetite to try the chocolate fountain (because she had always wanted to try a chocolate fountain, not because she was hungry). We only stayed for a few songs, and then that did it for us.
Fitchburg, WI
279 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
The next day was Belize! UnBelizable! This is a tender port … and we had arranged on our own for a full day tour of Lamanai, so we were eager to get an early tender.

David our concierge had told us we could get priority disembarkation if we met up in La Cucina in the morning. We ordered breakfast in our suite due to the short meeting, and the butler did a great job of setting up all the plates on our little table. It is hard to set up breakfast for six on a table made for four..but we managed.

When you meet for early disembarkation…all the suite guests take adavantage of this, so it is a pretty large group of people. You actually depart from the back of the restaurant…so if you want to be first in the line of firsts, get yourself a table back there to wait.

When it was time to head down to the tenders, David leads everyone down the stairs. Mom, and her walker was escorted in a freight elevator down to the fourth deck. As you leave the restaurant and head down to the tenders, you get to see non public parts of the boat…it is pretty cool.

The tender is a flight of stairs down to a little floating dock, a step or two up to a boat, and a few steps down once you are in the boat. The crew of the tender helped mom get on the boat, which was bopping up and down a bit and a little challenging. It takes a while to fill up a tender, ours was a two dec tender and held a lot of people.

There were six ships in port all lined up, and tenders race to shore from those ships. You fly across the water and arrive at large cement doc. The steps up off the boat and then some more steps up to the top of the dock were all again managed by the crew helping my mom.

Once on the dock, we had a relatively short walk to the mall of shops that line the pier. On the other side of those shops is the exit to the street. Our tour operator, David of Fantasea Belize was waiting there with our name on a sign. We followed him to get in his van, and headed off on a wonderful full day excursion. We got outside the city and headed out across country…and arrived at a doc to catch our boat up river. This dock was a rickety wooden dock that was way way up comparted to the boat. It was very very challenging to get my mom on the boat. The boat ride is an hour long, and the seats were not very comfortable.

You get out at another very high dock….this one a little less rickety. The park has a shelter where we went to eat our lunch…however, once we were there, we found out some of our lunch wasn’t there yet, so we headed off to see the ruins.

Mom was pretty whipped from navigating the walk from the boat to the shelter…and the path to the ruins was not one that would be able to be done with her walker. So, she waited in the museum while we hiked off on our own.

The ruins were wonderful, and husband, niece, son and daughter had a great time climbing to the top and gazing down. I had a great time watching them and being glad it wasn’t me climbing to the top.

The howler monkeys howled, the lizards hopped around, and juxtaposition of the excavated monuments vs. the unexcavated was startling.

Back to the shelter for an excellent lunch: chicken, beans and rice, fried plantains and some great salads and relishes.

One of the families that had joined us on our boat was a family on the Carnival ship in port. They needed to be back to port three hours before we did, so we were encouraged to hurry through lunch.

We did, and then it was back to the boat. The boat driver let my son drive a bit across the lake and back down river, so he had a blast. When we got back down to where we had left our driver, we stopped only to let the Carnival family off the boat. They were already passed the time when they were supposed to be back in port, and still had the taxi ride back to town.
We continued downstream to go to place where the monkeys hang out and lured them down to eat from our hands with some of the leftover fruit from our lunch.

Back to the dock to get off our little river boat, and by far, this was the hardest disembarkation for my poor mom. We had to practically lift her off the boat as the dock was a good two feet higher than the top of boat. We managed, and David started to take us back to town. We stopped at a fruit stand to try salt and peppered oranges (surprisingly good) and some native belizian fruits (some better than others) and we stopped for some belizian beers…and got back to port with an hour to spare.

The Dawn was in port with us, so there were two big queues for NCL … but there were lots of people checking to make sure you were in the right line. We did a little shopping before we got in queue, but as soon as we got mom in queue, a Belizian security officer came over to tell us Mom should move to the head of the line with her walker. DH and Mom went up to the front, and I kept niece, DS and DD with me. We were only one tender apart, as those tenders hold a ton of people. We were on the roof of the tender, and it was overcast by this point, but it never rained on us. We would have been pretty cold if it had, as it was pretty windy.

Takeaways from Belize: the private tour was definitely the way to go…I would recommend that company to anyone and I loved the personalized service and the relaxed pace. Pick your tender seats carefully…they move pretty fast and it is colder on the top than you think. If you are looking at different itineraries, take the one with the longest time in port in Belize, the tender process takes an hour off each end of your day there between waiting for everyone to get on, getting across the water, and waiting for everyone to get off.

Back on boat: one of the suite perks we loved the most is the little snacks they leave for you that are there when you get back to the cabin after a day at shore. It was wonderful to have little sandwiches or canapés and chocolate covered strawberries or chocolates when we got back home. The kids would race to be the first to see what little surprise would be there for us.

Of course, just because they provide you snack doesn’t mean you don’t go down and get ice cream. The buffet has soft serve, but they have scoop ice cream pool side, and more flavors.

As soon as kids club opened, the kids were off to practice their circus skills. I finally took the leap and changed them to allow them to sign themselves out of kids club, as by now, all of us were feeling better on knowing our way around the ship.

We again left it until the last minute to figure out what we wanted to do for dinner, but picked the Aqua. The hotel manager left a message for me on the phone to again apologize for the very slight mix up at Ginza the night before. I explained that it truly was not that big of a deal, and again explained that I thought we had been over compensated by shirking both our bar and dinner bill. She asked where we planned to eat that evening, and I explained that David had just made arrangements for us to eat at Aqua…so instead of letting us pay for the bar bill the night before, she upped her ante by treating us to a bottle of wine with our dinner.

Dinner service at Aqua that night was spectacular, and at least six times during our service, people stopped by to ask us if everything was ok. Their obsequiousness was so overwhelming that I vowed to not ever complain again.

This was white hot party night, so after the show, (Second City…very good), DH and niece headed off to spinnaker to see the show. Mom headed to bed, I picked up the kids from kids club, and ds played basketball (in the middle of the night) while I did a few leisurely laps around the top deck. It was so late by the time we were done with all of that, kids were hungry, so I took them for second supper at the blue lagoon.

It is very convenient to go from the kids club to the buffet restaurant on deck 11….but for some reason, my kids did not love the buffet. They preferred the limited selection of the menu at Blue Lagoon to the huge selection at the buffet….go figure. However, the buffet late at night has kind of a fun atmosphere, much more relaxed than mid day