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Montreid

Our Star cruise experience Feb 1-9, 2005

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Introduction: First of all, we would like to thank all of the cruise critic members who posted message threads & reviews on the Star. This board has given us much valuable information & tips that have helped make our cruise experience memorable… Here’s our $0.02.

 

Us: We’re in our mid 30s with 2 young children, ages 2 and 4. We have sailed 12+ cruises including Princess, Celebrity, Cunard, Premier, and RCL. This is our 4th NCL cruise. This is the second time we’ve brought the grandparents along too.

 

General experience: Overall, we had a good experience. What impressed us the most was the cleanliness and the service on board. The ship was beautiful and very clean. Also, the hand sanitizers were available at pre-boarding and at the market buffet. This added a nice touch.

 

We thought that most of crew members worked very hard to try to make the cruise enjoyable for the passengers—even more so than Princess. For example, the assistant maitre'd at Versaille (Jose) went out of his way to get soy milk for our children (and he would seek us out at every meal subsequently). One waiter at the Market Cafe went searching in the back at 9:30 pm for cookies for our 2 year old daughter to make her happy. (Tip: cookies & desserts are available free of charge at Java Cafe in Deck 7 after 11 am.) Another waitress (Mariana) would greet the children on a first name basis and entertained them whenever she saw them.

 

The grandparents really enjoyed the freestyle cruising concept. They thought it worked well & was less stressful to get the entire family together without the time or location constraints. At the same time, they felt there were more options for dining & entertainment if the group wanted to split up. The kids just enjoyed getting all of the attention from the cruise staff and fellow passengers.

 

Embarkation: Fast & fairly smooth. Get there EARLY (~11AM), but not too early because porters won’t take your bags before that time. Parking was only $11/day and was fenced and secured across the entrance. We had the option of doing Park&Stay at the Sheraton, but is was totally unsecured and no guards were posted (not a nice neighborhood).

 

It was a no brainer to pick the Latitudes check-in station, given that there was no line. We did have to a wait a little bit for security checks for our carry on luggage. They gave us a number & refreshments (juice or water—NO COOKIES!) and had us sit down & relax until our number was called (~15minutes).

 

Cabins: The inside cabin felt surprisingly larger than previous cruises. The styling was good and we had plenty of closet space. They had hand-held showers (BIG PLUS with children). Though NCL didn’t skimp on the cabin furnishings, we did note that liquid shampoo and soap in dispensers were used instead of the traditional bars. One touch that we really liked was that the 3rd bed is a trumble and essentially makes a super king sized bed for the four of us. This, however, could be a negative if you don’t want someone sliding onto your twin bed at night.

 

Food: Though mostly good, we all noted that NCL is not Celebrity cuisine. Our opinions varied on what was considered acceptable dining experiences. The grandparents were usually content eating at Market Cafe for breakfast & lunch and eating at the no fee restaurants for dinner. The kids LOVED the Kid Café section of the Market Café. We thought that the covers charges at the restaurants were worth the additional cost and frequented several of them, including: Ginza, Le Bistro, and Cagney’s.

 

Some Tips and 20/20 hindsight:

1. The 2nd night (1st day at sea) was 1/2 off Ginza & Soho. Also, sushi was all you can eat for $5 and it was $2 lobster tail night at all specialty restaurants. We took advantage & ate at Ginza. It was excellent. Their version of Peking Duck was awesome. The 3 way asian pork was nice & represented chinese, japanese & thai cuisine, each individually plated. We also liked their thai banana pancakes.

2. Fourth night (Acapulco night) was 1/2 off Ginza, Soho, & Le Bistro. We missed this bargain for Le Bistro by one day. LeBistro was worth every penny. Filet was excellent, better than the filet in the main dining room later in the week (Cabos night). The chocolate fondue was to die for. They served more fruits with it than even the Melting Pot.

3. The 2 main dining rooms Aqua & Versailles have the same dinner menu for appetizer, soup, salad. The entrees at each restaurant were slight variations of the same type of meat. For example, on Carribean night, Versaille had a pork roast vs Aqua had jerk pork. On another night, Versaille had fillet mignon & Aqua had chautebriand. My suggestion is to go to the restaurant reservation desk in Deck 7 (atrium) and look over the daily dinner menus for both dining rooms and compare the entrees.

4. Blue Lagoon Café (not advertised in the Daily's as much) on Deck 7 is open 24 hours and serves consistently piping hot food. Dishes included buffalo wings (Okay), wonton soup (Good), burger, fish n chips, potato skins, shepherd's pie, mac n cheese, chicken nuggets, fried rice, stir fry noodles. You can also order take out. We did a few take outs and ate at Market Cafe with the grandparents on days when we didn't care for the lunch buffet.

5. The wife survived eating at regular buffet (Market Cafe) during lunchtime by going to the vegetarian buffet section (starboard aft) where they had pretty good lentil curry and delicious bread pudding. The husband thought the vegetarian buffet was a very nice touch by NCL and brought expanded variety.

6. We recommend eating at La Trattoria on Acapulco night. We had a beautiful view of the fortress and the city. Food was about the same quality as the main dining room.

 

Daytime activities: In addition to the usual bingo, art auctions, pool parties, arts & crafts, shore excursion talks, etc, we found some stuff to do.

1. The lectures on Aztec civilization, Frieda Kahlo, & pirates by Gerald Roth, which were pretty good.

2. Trivia was available 1-3 times a day depending on whether or not you were at sea. One afternoon, they had “Live at Five” with Kieron & Cliff (cruise director & asst. cruise director), which was televised.

3. Sushi making demo & cooking demo by Chef Nilo, the head chef of the specialty restaurants. It’s cool because you get a free sample of the dishes at the end.

4. They had a Superbowl party, which was televised without commercials in the Spinnaker Lounge on a big projection TV. It was quite fun and well planned out. They had typical Superbowl cuisine: nacho, Buffalo wings, egg rolls, and most importantly, free prizes & giveaways.

 

Evening activities: were as follows,

 

Day 1 Welcome aboard intro Show 9:45 pm -Boring

Day 2 Music of the night (Andrew Lloyd Weber) 8 and 10 pm -Good

Day 3 Magic show 7:30 & 9:30 pm Comedy show 8:45 & 10:45 pm -Good

Day 4 Mexican folkloric show 8:30 & 10:00 pm -Okay

Day 5 Cirque Pacific 7:30 & 9:30 pm -V Good

Day 6 Eric Reid The man & his music 8:30 pm -did not go

Day 7 It’s fame 7:30 & 9:30 pm Comedy showtime 8:45 & 10:45 pm -Good

Day 8 Jeffrey Allen & his tribute to Elton John 8:00 pm -V Good

 

As usual, the Jean Ann Ryan Company was impressive. They put out 3 shows during the cruise, which all 3 generations of us enjoyed. There was also lots of nightly entertainment afterwards. These included a new year’s eve party, 70s & 80s party, pub sing a long, the liar’s club which we unfortunately were too tired to attend. Two little ones do wear you out.

 

Ports of call: We aren’t shore excursion type people. The only thing noteworthy we did (in other words, more than just sightsee & shop) was go to CiCi Water Park in Acapulco. If you have kids, I highly recommend taking a taxi there ($20 round trip). Wade through the initial throng of taxi hires upon exiting the port and pick up someone outside gates and save $$$. The admission is 99 pesos ($9) for adults. The dolphin show is about one buck extra. It was fairly clean and came complete with water slides, private beach, a wave pool, large children’s water playground, and more.

 

Other last minute tips and recommendations:

1. The pictures in the photo gallery are expensive. $13 a picture. $19.99 for a formal portrait. Take advantage of the daily specials. One day, we got a free 2-picture frame for the formal shot.

2. Ice cream is free in the afternoons in Deck 12, by the children’s pool area.

3. Look carefully at your gift shop receipt. I bought something on Day 2. The receipt said that if you bring it back on Friday (Day 5) you will get an additional 10% off any item. We missed it unfortunately.

4. Fellow Latitude members, make sure that you get a letter & an invitation in your cabin on the first day. Otherwise, stop by the main desk on day 1 or 2. There is a party in the afternoon on Day 3 of cruising. Free drinks & raffle prizes. Discounts on this cruise were not too impressive. 20% off “well brands” of drinks (whatever that means) at Spinaker’s, $20 off the Spa on port days, extra minutes at the internet café, and 3 bonus cards for game 4 on every bingo session.

5. The chocoholic buffet is on Day 5 (Zihuatanejo) at 2 pm in the Versailles dining room. However, it is open earlier for picture taking. Get in line early to avoid the long line. Also, there is a station, where you can have a fruit kebab dipped in chocolate. This tasted exactly like the chocolate fondue at Le Bistro and was gratis.

 

That’s about all we can think off for now. We’ll post more tips, if we can think of them. Also, the husband is willing to scan the freestyle dailies and specialty restaurant menus, if enough people are interested. If interested, please reply to this thread and include your email address.

 

Conclusion: We all had a fun and relaxing vacation. Our advice to future Star cruisers is to just go and have fun. It’s a 90,000+ ton ship with over 10 places to eat & multiple things to do. If you are underwhelmed with something, for example a particular restaurant, try a different one. That is what freestyle cruising is all about!!

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Montreid,

Great review!!! :) I can't wait to go on this trip. Thanks for all the little tips, I'll have to write all of them down.:D

I would like to copies of the menus and the dailies. My e-mail is JeepLadyLtd@aol.com. Thank you for doing this.:)

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Thanks very much for the informative review. I'm booked on the Star in March and your post was very helpful.

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Thanks so much for the wonderful review of the Star! We are sailing for New Years and would love to have the copies. Have been on many cruises, but this will be our first time on NCL and we are looking forward to Free Style Dining.

 

Karen and Bob

atseadaze@hotmail.com

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I've scanned in the Freestyle Daily and each .pdf file is 7MB! I've tried scanning at lower resolutions than 150dpi, but they didn't come out readable.

 

That mean if I send them: ~60MB in total will be coming your way.

 

Before I send them and start crashing everyone's email accounts, please let me know if you're still interested. I'm emailing everyone above this post so they can reply privately on what to do.

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I've scanned in the Freestyle Daily and each .pdf file is 7MB! I've tried scanning at lower resolutions than 150dpi, but they didn't come out readable.

 

That mean if I send them: ~60MB in total will be coming your way.

 

Before I send them and start crashing everyone's email accounts, please let me know if you're still interested. I'm emailing everyone above this post so they can reply privately on what to do.

 

It's fine for me if you don't mind sending them...atseadaze@hotmail.com

 

Thanks!

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Great review. We were also aboard. We are in the 50+ age group so we didn't use any of the kids facilities. The youngsters we saw at the kid's buffet looked to be having a good time. What a great idea.

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Montreid,

 

Thank you for taking the time to write that wonderful review of the star, As well as others on this thread I too will be sailing on her in late april. If you could please email me the Freestyle dailies & menus or whatever else you scan in.

 

hav2travel@comcast.net

 

Thank you in adavance.

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Thanks for the great review and the Hot Tips! I can't wait to get onboard.

 

Am I the only person who doesn't want the Dailies ahead of time? That is one of my favorite onboard activities- getting the highlighter out and reading the new Daily! It's like a Christmas present everyday:D

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Thanks for the great review and the Hot Tips! I can't wait to get onboard.

 

Am I the only person who doesn't want the Dailies ahead of time? That is one of my favorite onboard activities- getting the highlighter out and reading the new Daily! It's like a Christmas present everyday:D

 

Me too:D :D

 

This a great review, thank you.

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Thanks for an excellant in depth Review.

1. Which night was Lobster night?

2. Was there any places to dance? what was the type of music?

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The first bashes of freestyle dailies have been emailed. Please provide feedback upon receipt and let us know about the quality.

 

ron46936: It was great to hear from a fellow Star cruiser!!!! We saw your thread this morning and were very happy to hear that you also enjoyed the cruise experience!!! You may have seen or run into us in the kid's cafe. The 2 year old always had some type of sweet in her hand. Our 4 year old was playing with toy sea creatures mostly.

 

karfest & seahorse: Early viewing of the dailies can be analogous to a spoiler to a movie, but can also be analogous to preparation to a grand event. Thank you for letting us know your preferences. And, no, we definitely think that you are not the only ones who prefer to wait.

 

wack001: Since the grandparents ate more at Versaille & Aqua, we will ask them and get back to you about lobster night in the main dining room. Lobster is always available at soho ($20 surf n turf, $25 whole) & cagney's ($25 for either). In terms of late night dancing,

 

Day 1: bon voyage dancing carousel

2: new year's eve party spinnaker

3: 70s & 80s followed by dancing all night at spinnaker

4: dance the night with dj brian at carousel and dancing with the harmony & rhythm band at spinnaker

5: 50s & 60s at spinnnaker & and dancing with the harmony & rhythm band at spinnaker

6: dancing with the harmony & rhythm band at spinnaker

7: dance the night with dj brian at carousel and dancing with the harmony & rhythm band at spinnaker

8:dance through the decades with dj brian at carousel and dancing with the harmony & rhythm band at spinnaker

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Is it odd that I absorb every ounce of information about the ship, the ports, etc from these boards but I can't read a daily ahead of time?

 

Although, if the dailies came my way, I would just HAVE to read them. :D

 

I now have to re-read your review to figure out when and where to eat so I don't starve!!!!!!!!!

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