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Allenbo

Another Review of 5/30 Star Alaskan Cruise

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Rather than a daily blow by blow this review will consist of my observations and those by my travel companions and a few snippets of our activities.

 

There was a total of 10 in our group, myself, wife and 15 month old daughter, my father and mother in law, sister in law, her husband and their 3 kids ages, 14, 11, 8.

 

Check In: As a group we decided this was a disaster, we have cruised from at least several ports (ft lauderdale, tampa, miami, vancouver, long beach, and san diego) and found Seattle's Pier 66 to be very unorganized. I think this is more the fault of the Pier Authority and the design of the building itself rather than ncl. There seems to be no easy way to control the flow of traffic and passenger drop off is confusing. There also seemed to be not enough porters. My father in law was so frustrated having to stand in the baggage check in line as well as the main check in-line. My wife and I were lucky, we were in a spot that was close to where porters dropped luggage and was able to grab a porter on his way back. I recommend waiting for a porter, and rather than standing by your luggage, if possible have someone actively hunt for a porter. There is not enough of them.

 

Passenger check in was quick if you were a Latitude member, we approached ncl staff with Latitude signs told her we were members but did not have our cards(this was only our second ncl cruise) she checked for our names on the list but could not find it but let us in anyway. From there check in was a breeze and upon entering the ship we were finally ready to relax.

 

Cabin: We were escorted to our cabin on deck eight. We had 4 cabins(3 BALCONY/starboard). 8028, 8030 and 8032 and an inside cabin directly in front of 8030 for the three kids. This was our first time on the star for all of us and we all decided we really liked this ship. While waiting for the ship to sail, we entertained ourselves by watching longshoremen hurriedly load luggage and seeing a quite few loudly dropped from the forklifts. We had to move the deck chairs around so we could open the doors to connect all our balconies. We really enjoyed this but decided for next time, we were going to have to put someone on the port side, we missed seeing all the bears that was on the port side when we were in glacier bay.

 

Kids: the three older kids were enrolled in e kids program, the 14 year old did not enjoy it as much but the 10 and eight year old girls enjoyed all their activities. NCL really does not have anything for infants and I knew before boarding that they no longer provided in-room baby sitting. Good thing I brought my own supply of baby sitters ! Since my daughter has just learned to walk, there were a lot of places on the ship which she could walk to her hearts content without bothering other passengers and crew. The best stroller for the ship would be an umbrella stroller than can be placed in its own storage bag, makes it easier to get in and out of the tenders.

 

Food: Most of our meals were in the Versailles Restaurant which we all agreed to be excellent both service and quality of dishes. Food seemed to have improved since my last NCL Alaskan cruise on the Wind. Some of us tried Aqua and found the service disappointing. My wife and I tried the Ginza which we thoroughly enjoyed. My sister in law and her husband tried the Tex Mex place and said they enjoyed the food and service. I thought the Market Cafe Buffet was inconsistent, some meals were great(mostly breakfast and lunch). The 24 hour Blue Lagoon was good for fast food of various types, American, Asian. Chocoholic Buffet, I think they are finally using a higher grade of chocolate or just changed their dessert chefs. It definitely was much better.

 

Ports: Wont go into detail as much since other reviewers covered this. But be prepared for the long lines during the tender ports. We only signed up for one shore excursion on board, the train ride and Liarsville Camp show and gold panning in Skaguay. I highly recommend the train ride through the pass but forget about the Liarville Camp and gold panning, you get better shows at Disneyland or Knots Berry Farm. Pick the earlier train ride, this will give you more time to do other stuff. (Alaska Cruises are not for sleeping in, leave that for the Caribbean or Mexican Riviera Cruise lol)

 

In Juneau, we took the blue schoolbus(MGT) to get to Mendenhall Glacier ($10.00 roundtrip) 3 dollars for visitor center. We spent almost three hours there and it rained when we walked toward the waterfall which was on the right side. The bus trip was made interesting by the bus driver and also being able to see at least 10 eagles on the trip. Afterward, The rest of the group decided to walk around town, I went on Mt Roberts Tram ride, the price was a little high, $21.00 but since I wanted to take photos I decided I wasnt going to skip it this time.

 

Tips for Photographers:

Bring water proof covers for your equipment especially if you are going to take lots of pictures in Mendenhall, they will get wet. For those who still do film, bring a lead lined pouch. I shoot digital and b/w film and the NCL security will insist running everything through the Xray machine. Some of the film were pushed so hopefully my two lead lines bags were enough protection.

 

 

Shows/Activities, I personally only participated in one event organized by the cruise director and staff, the pub trivia, which was enjoyable. The girls enjoyed the Chinese acrobats. Casino, I played video poker. I am still waiting for Pai Gow Poker, which according to one of the dealers, NCL will be introducing in their casinos soon.

 

Disembarkation: Long lines again, not entirely NLC's fault, there migth not be enough customs and immigration officers to handle the passenger load for a ship the size of the star.

 

Taxis: One of the meanest taxi drivers in the country, will not pick up passengers who were not going to the airport. We saw cab drivers tell passengers to get out of their cabs because they were going to a hotel. My wife reported this the pier concierge who sent out supervisors, and some people did report this to the cab companies themselves. As for me, I just cursed at one, and soon as a cab stopped we just loaded up and we were not going to back down, needless to say we all got our hotels with all our bags with no more problems. A little big city aggressiveness was definitely needed to deal with this issue.

 

Except for this incident, the delays and long lines, the cruise was enjoyable, after all how can one see the beauty of Alaska and not enjoy it. My wife and I have decided though, unless a supernew ship with a great itinerary is sailing from seattle, we would rather leave from Vancouver for our next Alaskan cruise.

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Allenbo - Thanks so much for your review. I'm like a sponge trying to soak of everything you past Star cruisers have to say. I hope they have the porter situation worked out by the time I get there. I have a few questions.

 

Is it normal for it to be raining at Mendenhall or was it just a rainy day? Should we plan on having our poncho's in our backpack when we get off the ship?

 

Also, where would I get a lead cover for our camera? We have one digital camera and the rest are Kodak throw aways still in their original pouches. Do these all need to be put into the lead pouch you are talking about?

 

Thanks for your help!

 

12Cruise

 

Norwegian Star 06-27-04

 

 

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Thanks, Allenbo.

 

We will be taking our baby who will be 20 months at the time on the Star. Any other tips besides the stroller?

 

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NCL Star 8/8/2004

NCL Norway 2002

Carnival Triumph 2000

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Allenbo - what time did you get to the port for check-in? Do you recommend early (say 11:00 or late, say 2:00)?

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Yes, Allenbo - please give some tips. We're leaving next week with a 12 month old - who behaves more like a 14 month old. How were the dining rooms equipped? High chairs? Children's menu? Did you get a crib for your room? Thanks in advance for any insights!

Lisa D

Pittsburgh, PA

Star 6/20/04

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Thank you so much for taking the time to write up the tips and experience that you had on Star. Those of us waiting to cruise are enjoying this informative reading. Cathy

 

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Until our **STAR** search

Seattle to Alaska on NCL Star

June 27, 2004

 

Fantasy 12/25/03

Inspiration 4/13/03

NCL Majesty 12/27/02

Jubilee 3/23/02

Norwegian Sea 11/23/01

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More Tips As requested:

 

Photography: Im a serious camera/photo enthusiast hence the lead lined bag suggestion. I push process my film and sometimes use high speed film. The use of this bag has been discussed to death by fellow photo nuts. The bags can be bought at any camera store, Ritz cameras for example carries them. I used them to not take any chances with X ray. For digital users bring lots of memory, my sister in law filled up her memory in short time. Also batteries, pretty expensive on the ship and lots of film.

 

Baby Tips:

 

The item I brought that saved our trip was a portable dvd player which constantly played my daughters favorite teletubby dvd.

 

Cribs- we did not use their crib nor brought ours, baby just slept in between us. However we did bring portable one(graco) on our last HAL cruise and found it took a lot of space. I am not sure if NCL still provides them upon request. However if there only two of you and no other trip companions to watch the baby, I would recommend bringing a portable one, at least there will be a safe place to put the baby.

 

High Chairs- They have them upon request in the buffet and the main dining room, Versailles and Aqua. The staff appeared to be very accomodating and some even enjoyed playing with the baby. I saw a lot of babies in the buffet and the main dining room, my wife and I and in-laws just took turns between courses to walk the baby around, she was getting antsy.

 

A Baby Bjorn or Snugli would help in getting in and out the tenders easier. My back just cant handle my baby's 22 lbs.

 

Baby medications: Our baby got seasick so was a little under the weather during our sailing on the open sea, she was fine in the inside passage. She was also teething so she was also miserable from that. When I got home, someone informed me that there is such a thing as Baby Dramamine, maybe something to consider for next time.

 

Other Things We wished we brought:

More short sleeve shirts, bathing suits, sun glasses and sunscreen: it was sunny at times. On the way out of Glacier Bay, it was so sunny and comfortably warm the outside decks resembled a Mexican Riviera Cruise with tons of people catching some rays.

 

Bathing suit- the pool was open but mostly kids were in there, my nieces sure enjoyed themselves. However adults can use the indoor lap pool and of course the jacuzzi. My wife and I just forgot to bring our swim suits.

 

Weeather: It does change quite often, I thought it changed the most at Medenhall Glacier from rain to moments of sunshine. For a photographer, this was frustrating. THe best lighting I thought the glaciers had was when I was waiting on the but to head back to town.

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