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travelhound

Star Review 5/30 (Long)

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My husband and I just returned from the Star after our 5/30 sailing. I had to be at work at 6:45 Monday morning and didn’t get home until 10:00 last night, so I didn’t have a chance to post until now. Last night I read Deb’s review. Such great info and details. I’ll try not to replicate it too much and add new info.

 

A little background. I am 40, my husband is 42 and we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary in Glacier Bay. Our first cruise was our honeymoon and the Star in Alaska was our 15th. We’ve cruised on NCL, RCCL, Carnival, Renaissance, and some ships that are no longer around, in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Tahiti, Europe, and now Alaska. All in all it was a great trip. There were a few snags, but many I think came from this being the Star’s first week in Alaska and some come from 2200 people wanting to get off of the ship all at the same time. However, I’d rather wait in a line during vacation than in a line at the DMV…better pay-off at the end!

 

Seattle:

We arrived in Seattle on Saturday about 1:00 and stayed at the Marriott waterfront, just across from the pier. NCL Spirit was docked on Saturday. I originally booked the Marriott on their website several months ago for $208/night. However, three days before we left I checked their website again and got the same room for $169. I simply cancelled the first booking and rebooked at the lower price. The hotel is centrally located and you can’t beat it for location to the pier.

 

After checking in we walked to Pike Place Market to see the fish flying and some of the shops. I think this is a place you really like or it doesn’t do much for you. We were in the latter category. As Deb mentioned though, great flowers.

 

We then walked up the hill to the monorail and took it to the Space Needle. Several days after we left Seattle, we heard the monorail caught fire and riding has been suspending until the cause has been investigated. It was still closed on our return weekend.

 

The weather was nice until the early evening when it started to rain, so we returned to the hotel, spent some time in the pool area, ordered room service and watched the Timberwolves beat the Lakers!

 

Sunday morning the weather was very nice, so we took the ferry to Bainbridge Island. I highly recommend this trip if the weather is good. For under $6/pp you can ride the ferry for a 35 minute trip across Elliot Bay. The views of the city are beautiful. We had planned on doing this for the sunset on Saturday evening, but the rain changed our plans.

 

Embarkation:

We got back in time to check out at 1:00 from our hotel and walk our bags across the street to Pier 66. I guess Deb hit the jackpot on embarkation because ours was not as smooth as hers. We got to the security line about 1:10. This is where you drop off your bags to go through the scanner. There was only one X-ray machine for all of the bags, so they took breaks from moving the line so the machine and the guys stacking the luggage could catch up. After that huge line we moved to the worst embarkation line I’ve ever seen. We sailed the Star in Hawaii in September and didn’t have this problem, so I’m not sure where the bottle neck was, but we waited in that line for 1 ½ hours. When we got to the top of the stairs, thankfully there was a Latitudes line. Otherwise, I’m sure it would have been at least another hour. If you bring your Latitudes card you can just show that (we didn’t have it) or they look up your name on a printed sheet. They weren’t taking our word for it. By about 3:00 we were on the ship. We wandered around for a while so I’m not exactly sure when our bags arrived, but they were there at 5:00 when we returned to the room. Because of the baggage delays we sailed nearly three hours late. You could look over the side of the ship and see them still loading luggage. On Saturday, the Spirit also left very late.

 

The best part of Sunday was the sail away party. The weather was sunny and warm, the BBQs were fired up and Ironics were jamming. Lots of dancing and smiling on the pool deck. Great views of the city as we left since the sun was closer to setting than if we had left on time.

 

Cruising Inside Passage:

Because of our delayed sailing we were late for the inside passage voyage. There wasn’t much to see until late in the day and then it was rainy and foggy. We took a spinning class in the morning. The gym has been revamped and it’s much nicer than it was before with sea views and cardio equipment with individual TV monitors. If you like working out on the ship, the schedule of classes is quite good. We spent the rest of the day in either the whirlpool or at the library. There is a nice selection of books. The library is where you get the tender tickets for Juneau. If you want to get off early, get to the library on Monday morning during the first batch of ticket handouts.

 

Monday is formal night and Versailles is designated the formal dining room. Since we choose not to dress formally, we ate in Aqua. I agree with Deb on the dining room review. Versailles is a more elegant and comfortable, but the food was fine in Aqua too.

 

Juneau:

We were originally scheduled for a noon arrival, but arrived late (our theme for the cruise.) The tendering and then docking is rather goofy, but it works best if you get a low tender ticket number. We had #2, so we got off fairly quickly. Our tour didn’t meet until 3:15 and we were on shore about 1:45. We made a quick stop for some souvenirs and then headed to the tram. If the visibility is good and you’re not afraid of heights, I highly recommend the tram. I think it’s $21 for a round trip. They had a problem with their credit card machine and it delayed us by about 15 minutes (remember delay is our theme), so we had to ride up, stay on the same car, and ride down. If you get off the tram there are trails and entertainment. I guess you can’t do everything.

 

We waited at the tram parking lot for a bus shuttle to take us to the Star’s pier, which is the one farthest from town. We were about 5 minutes late to meet our tour, but no one noticed, since it was a madhouse with people getting off the ship and all piling into the tour area. Finally we left with our tour for the rest of the day.

 

We booked all of our tours with the ship as soon as we first boarded. There wasn’t any problem getting the tours except our hike in Skagway was almost sold out. Many tours do sell out, so if you have your heart set on something, book ahead or as soon as you get on board.

 

In Juneau we did the Mendenhall Glacier and Wildlife Quest. This was a good tour. A bus took us to the glacier first and gave a good commentary about Juneau on the way. We had about an hour at the Glacier. This is a good, closeup look at the glacier. This won’t be your last look, but probably the closest. Then the bus took us to the whale watching boat where we sailed for a couple of hours. During the tour we saw bald eagles, humpbacks, and orcas. It was a good day! The weather held out for the most part, with a few showers, followed by sunshine and finally a beautiful rainbow.

 

We didn’t get back to the ship until after 9:00 and being in the “messy†state that we were, we decided to eat in Blue Lagoon. This 24 hour eatery has fairly decent food, better choice than the buffet, unless you’re into volume. The Blue Lagoon has great banana bread that you can stop by anytime and just pick up off the tray.

 

Skagway:

I think we arrived in Skagway on time and docked. We had to meet our tour at 7:30, so we got off the ship right away. We took the White Pass Railway and Laughton Glacier Wilderness Hike. This is an awesome trip, but only if you’re up for a fairly strenuous 9-10 mile hike through the woods, up hills, and over boulders. We rode the train up to mile 14, the train stopped, and we jumped off. From there we hiked to the glacier and back to the track to be picked up on a returning train about 4:00. On the hike we saw eagles, a wolverine, and other birds. We saw “evidence†of moose and bear and one of the other teams spotted a bear. The guides for this tour are very good and experienced hikers.

 

We stopped at a few souvenir stores on the way back to the ship. The wind in the city of Skagway was fierce. It was almost as hard to walk into the headwind back to the ship as it was to hike the 10 miles to the glacier.

 

In Skagway, the Island Princess was boarded due to 19% of their passengers and 5% of their crew having Noro-virus. On the Star, when you return from a port or before you go into the buffet line, there are little hand sanitizing stations. This is new since we were on the Star in September and I thought they were a good idea.

 

Glacier Bay:

TOTALLY AWESOME!!! Glacier Bay was the reason we choose the Star and we were not disappointed. This was the highlight of our trip. This was also our anniversary and so it made it a special day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun warmed up everything. We picked up three naturalists early in the morning. One did an off and on commentary over the PA beginning about 8:30. Another roamed the ship answering questions and the third had a table available for questions. We spent most of our time on the promenade deck on deck 7. You can easily cut through the lobby to get from one side to another. The promenade gives you an unobstructed view and a little protection from the wind. It was kind of cold and windy in the early morning, but as we slowed down and the wind backed off, it was very comfortable and enjoyable to be on deck. As Deb mentioned, we saw great calving of Marjorie as well as good views of other glaciers. It was about 11:00 when we got to Marjorie. Be sure to be on deck at this point. It seemed as though we shut off the engines and just drifted for a while. The ship does a very slow turn so there isn’t a bad viewing spot. Both the naturalist and captain seemed almost giddy as we left the bay. The naturalist said they had expected bad weather and that we say more calving than normal. It was a perfect day.

 

At 1:30, one of the naturalists gave a talk in the Stardust Theatre. She talked about the history of the area and showed some slides. It's worth attending.

 

You sail out the same way as you come in, so after the slide show we decided to view the return trip from a different vantage point. We got on our swimsuits and headed for the whirlpools. You still had a great view from the pool deck. It was such a warm day and we were traveling very slowly, so the air temperature was down right warm. The captain announced that it was 59 degrees, but it seemed warmer with the sun. We pulled up a couple of deck chairs on the deck above the pool, faced them to the bay and watched glaciers go by while we sat in our swimsuits baking in the sun.

 

Since it was our anniversary we made reservations in Endless Summer. We spent my 40th birthday there last September and enjoyed the views. Since we still had bay views it turned out to be a good choice. This restaurant is now Tex Mex and the food was good. I think they were still figuring out the timing of the new menu, since there was a large gap between our salads and the entrée. But we drank in the views and the fabulous Sangria. If you like Sangria, stop at Endless Summer. It comes by the glass or pitcher and they use a good recipe.

 

Ketchikan:

Again we tendered in Ketchikan and this made for a frustrating process. This is an early and short port stop, so everyone wanted to do the same thing at the same time. We had a tour, so we were one of the first people off. Of course, the hallways were stuffed with people. We took the Backcountry Jeep and Canoe Safari. I wouldn’t recommend this tour. We’ve been on much better Jeep tours and the canoeing was fairly lame. There is nothing wrong with this tour, there is just nothing spectacular and it’s $139/pp. We didn’t think it was worth the money. We had about an hour left for the town when we got back and I wish we had more time. This is a well developed port. We quickly walked to Creek Street, looked around a bit and then got in the worst tender line I’d ever seen. The last tender was at 1:00. We thought we’d beat the last minute rush and go about 12:15. We didn’t beat anything. The line snaked all the way down the pier in front of the other ships. Then people just started waiting in line, it was actually more of a mob, closer to the tenders. When the police moved us to another part of the dock, those people thought we were trying to cut in line. It got a little ugly. Some people need to remember they are on vacation…having fun. So much stress! Everyone will get on a tender eventually. I’m not sure if there is a way to fix this since the stop is so short and everyone tries to come back at the same time. Needless to say, we left late. By the original sailing time, the captain announced there were still 550 people on shore. We left about 1 ½ hours late.

 

Victoria:

On the evening of Ketchikan, through the day at sea before Victoria, we hit our worst weather. Rainy, rough seas, and sailing in the open ocean are not a good combination. If you are prone to seasickness, be prepared for this kind of day. It may not happen, but it’s better to be prepared. Leaving Ketchikan late, combined with the strong headwind, made us late to Victoria. (remember the theme?) We did the Butchart Gardens and Victoria City Tour. Since it was late by the time we got to the Gardens, it was fairly dark. There is some lighting so we could still enjoy walking around, but photos and video didn’t turn out. The city tour added a nice dimension to it so we could see some of the island.

 

Disembarkation:

Our flight wasn’t until 4:15, so we took the City Tour and Experience Music Project tour. Since we were on a tour we left the ship by 8:30 or so and got on our bus. This is a good way to spend the day and much better than sitting at the airport. The city tour is mostly on the bus, driving around. We got out at the locks and then again at EMP. We had 2 ½ hrs to ourselves at EMP and then went to the airport. After an uneventful (and ontime!) flight home we arrived in Minneapolis at 9:00 Sunday night.

 

Overview:

We had a great time in Alaska. The scenery is fantastic and the weather was better than I had expected. If you look at weather online and see your week looks like a wash out, it may not be. Our extended forecast for the week was cold and rainy and we had nice weather, for the most part. Some days were great and other only had occasional showers. No ports were a total washout. Do bring a rainjacket though. I had fleece that could be worn with the rainjacket and my husband wore mostly sweatshirts with the rainjacket if needed.

 

We like Freestyle cruising, especially in Alaska. With the bulkier clothing for this trip it was nice not to bring a tux and formal dress. If you do bring formal wear, there is only one formal night. Many of the ports go into the evening too, so it was nice to have flexible times. However, if you have a large group of people, freestyle can create a bit of a wait. I think some people had to wait to be seated each night. We only had that experience once while waiting for Versailles. They told us 30 minutes for two people. We stood there as they called eight or ten parties of two that had just walked away after being told about the wait. Consequently, we were seating in about five minutes. It’s not for everyone, but we enjoyed freestyle. I thought the service was good and the ship is beautiful.

 

Finally, if you’re still reading, you will have a much more enjoyable cruise if you chill out (and not due to weather.) There will be lines, there will be delays. Remember it’s not the DMV, it’s vacation! Have a great time in Alaska.

 

Teri

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icon_biggrin.gifWOW, three reveiws already!! Thanks Teri for another good review. You didnt mention the entertaiment or if you went to any other alternative restaurants other than Endless Summer.Despite some delays, I am encouraged that this is a good ship with very good food and service. How was your room? It is very kind of you, Deb and CoasterAddict to write these reviews so soon. We thank you.

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Thanks so much Teri for a wonderful and informative review. I'm taking note of several things you pointed out. Can't wait for our cruise!

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thank you for the review each of you have a different viewpoint and that is good. Did you eat in any of the special restaurants that had a change? We are only two people but I like eating with others can you do this or do you have to eat along? this is something that has not been addressed before. I have not cruised freestyle before.

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We didn't eat in any restaurants that charged, not because we didn't want to pay, but I don't care for most of the food they serve. I don't eat seafood and they are heavy on the seafood or steak. I did hear good things about them from other cruisers. Even if you don't eat there, it's fun to take a look at them since they are nice. Unlike the main dining room that change their menu everyday, the optional restaurants serve the same thing everyday. All of the menus are outside of the dining rooms, so you can walk around and check out what they serve. Then you can decide if you think it's worth it. Also, when you have a reservation time, it kind of takes the fun out of freestyle. Now you have a designated time.

 

This is the first cruise that we never went to any entertainment at night. Since we were just on the Star in September, they had the same shows. Anything the Jean Ann Ryan Company does is very good. Cirque Pan incorporates Chinese Acrobats and is very entertaining, as long as you don't try to figure out the story.

 

I was very pleased with our room. We usually buy the lowest category with one bed (not bunkbeds.) Many times we'll do a guarantee, which is what we did on the Star. We were put in an obstructed view oceanview, level G, room 8076. I wouldn't pay more for this room, but it was nice to have. The lifeboat in front of our room only covered half of the window, so we could always see how the weather looked. I'm sure the balconys are nice, but for another 400 per person, we would rather spend it on the excursions. And the excursion in Alaska are more expensive than other destinations.

 

Teri

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littleboy,

 

I just noticed your question about eating with others. We do enjoy eating with others too and sitting with the same people each night, so that is something we miss on freestyle cruises. They will usually ask if you are willing to sit with other people. We always say yes, but are usually seated at a table for two. It's fairly easy to talk to other tables for two though, since they are close to you. We also miss getting to know our waiter, since you will probably have a different server each time. There are pros and cons of freestyle dining, but it's nice to try it both ways.

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icon_smile.gifthanks so much travelhound. We have a category H guarantee. It will be interesting to see where they put us.

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Thanks so much for a wonderful review. I enjoyed reading every minute of it. The details are great and you've answered many questions I hadn't even thought of. Thanks again.

 

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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Alonzo,

 

You didn't say when you are sailing, but shortly after we made our final payment, we were assigned a room. If you made your reservation with a TA, you have to have them call NCL. NCL won't tell you directly. Getting a guarantee room is kind of like looking for the prize in Cracker Jacks!

 

Teri

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Hey Teri (travel hound) I will be sailing on the Star on 9-5-04 and got a free upgrade to gty g on 8 deck when i booked. Do you have any photos of your cabin are the veiw out the window.Thanks Paul

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icon_smile.giftravelhound: Well we got our cabin assignment about 2 days ago. We got a 1 category upgrade from H to HH. Oh well! We'll tr5y for a modest paid upgrade in about 2 weeks. NCL has changed thier registration site to what it was before April 2004. You can now make changes without redos and it shows your cabin #. This is where I found out what our cabin was.

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Travelhound - how often did they naturalists give talks and were they available throughout the cruise around the ship??

 

Thanks for the wonderful review!!

 

Emi

 

NCL Star-08/31/03 in Hawaii!

NCL Star-11/13/04 to Mexico!

Alaska summer 2005!

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Paul: I don't have a photo of our cabin, but I do have one of our view out of the window on the day we were in Glacier Bay. I'm not sure if all the obstructed views look like this, but we were in 8076. Room and Glacier Photos

 

Emi: We only had the naturalist on board the day we were in Glacier Bay. We picked three people up when we past the Visitor Center at the entrance of the bay. They starting commentary about 8:30 or so and went throughout the morning whenever there was something of interest to mention. I thought they added a great deal to the day.

 

Teri

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Thank you so much Teri, I am not so worried now. Listening to some reports all you could see was if it was day or night outside, no veiw. Unless you had to stand on the bed or night stand to get that picture this is not to bad HaHa icon_biggrin.gif

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Paul,

 

There isn't much room to stand in the room anyway! If you push the beds together, there is a little night stand on each side. I stood by the night stand to take the photo.

 

I did notice that some of the lifeboats are taller than others. This could obstruct more of the view. One nice thing about being on deck 8 is that you just run down one flight and you're on the promenade deck where you can walk outside all around the ship. That's where we spent the day in Glacier Bay.

 

Teri

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Great review travelhound. Going on the Star 8/8/04. Did you hear any feedback from other passengers regarding the following excursions: 1) the glacier helicopter/Dogsled adventures 2)the Bearwatch at Neets Bay or Traitors Cove?

 

Thanks

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I did not hear anyone talking about the either of those tours. The one thing about Freestyle dining that we miss, is talking to people each night about their excursions. It was a little early in the season to see a large number of bears and of course, the wildlife is not on your schedule, so I'm not sure how the bear tours work.

 

We did all of our excursion with the ship and were very pleased for the most part, so if these are ship excursions, I'm sure they'll be good.

 

Teri

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Hi Travelhound.

 

Thanks for the review. Your comments, along with many others, have got us really slavering in anticipation! Depending on work commitments, we are hoping to cruise on STAR from 22 May 05. We are also hoping that the delay in making our booking doesn't mean we will miss out on the cheaper cabins, as we only intend to shower and sleep there. The activities on board and ashore certainly look as though we will be kept busy.

 

We are also looking forward to trying out freestyle cruising. We have cruised before, but many years ago, so we are looking forward renewing our love of cruising. And then there's Glacier Bay..... can't wait!

 

Anyone else out there planning on being on STAR on 22 May?

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Anyone else out there planning on being on STAR on 22 May?
Have you visited the roll call section of our board? We have a separate board for members to find others sailing with them. Also, do a search and you'll find many more up to date reviews of the Star. The older reviews are still great to have but more up to date information will give you more of an idea of how the ship is right now.

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do a search and you'll find many more up to date reviews of the Star. The older reviews are still great to have but more up to date information will give you more of an idea of how the ship is right now.

Is there some "shortcut" or mechanism by which we can do a topic-specific search - such as, Star reviews? Or is it simply a matter of combing through all the postings and looking for headings that refer to the Star?

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Yes, there's an easy way to search for topics that either mention the Star in the body of the post or those that have "Star" in the title of the thread. Make sure you are logged in, then go to the main page for NCL information. Locate the blue bar that contains "Search this forum" on the right side, click the triangle to open it up. Click "Advanced Search." Type in "Star" and immediately below that, click the little triangle and select "Search titles only." In the Search Options area directly below that, make sure Norwegian Cruise Line is highlighted (it should be), then click "Search Now." That should give you plenty of reviews (and other things regarding the Star). If, when you click on Search Now, you get a message that you aren't subscribed to any threads (or something like that), just click on Norwegian Cruise Line even though it's highlighed.

 

Have fun with your searching. It's the greatest tool on this Board!!!!!

 

Adele

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We are going May 29th. Can't wait. Reading these reviews makes me more excited to go.

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