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cboy

Star Review 5-22-05

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Wife and I just finished our third cruise to Alaska, our first on NCL freestyle. This was our 9th cruise overall. Having sailed previously on Princess, Holland America, RCL and Carnival. Here are my impressions of the cruise and NCL.

 

Precruise:

 

We flew into Seattle on the friday before the cruise. We rented a car and stayed at the Marriott Waterfront, which I heard was across the street from pier 66 where the Star left from. Let me tell you they arent kidding. When we woke up Saturday morning and looked out our window the Spirit which leaves on Saturdays was in port. I swear I could see what people were eating for breakfeast on their balconies it was that close.

 

The Marriott is a terrific hotel to stay in because it is only a short walk to Pikes Market, Seattle Aquarium and the Harbor Cruise dock. 2 miles from Safeco field if you have an interest.

 

The only mistake we made is renting a car. You don't need one and its $26 to park a day. Cabs are plentiful if you want one and you can easily walk to most attractions around the port. It's about $30 cab ride from the airport to the hotel - dock.

 

A plus was a late check out to 1 PM. The bellman took our bags across the street to a porter at 11:00 AM and we checked them, went back across the street had breakfast and waited until 1 PM. Only negative was having to return the car and come back to the dock. Oh well learned our lesson.

 

While in Seattle we went to Pikes, the Aquarium, took a Harbor Cruise and ate some very good seafood on the pier at The Fisherman. Also ate at the Fish Club at the Marriott, which was excellent.

 

Embarkation:

 

Arrived at 2 PM and since we had checked our bags earlier, we went right inside and got in line to board. It took about 20 minutes total, painless and we were on the ship.

 

Cabin:

 

We had a mini suite, cabin 11036 forward. We don't have a problem with motion, so the location was fine. The cabin was on the smallish side for a mini suite, compared to the other cruise ships we have sailed on, but all cabins on the Star are scalled down except the two Garden Suites. Once you adjusted, it was plenty big for the two of us. The bath room was laid out nicely with a roomy tub shower, single sink and toilet. Shower had slinding doors, so no shower curtain problems. There is a full sliding door window which opens to a nice size balcony. Two comfortable sling chairs and a table. The balcony is completely shielded from the wind, depending on its direction so sitting on it was comfortable, because the weather was outstanding.

 

There was coffee, tea maker in the room, safe and small refrigerator. Table and 2 chairs, sofa bed and table. The bed was quite comfortable for a cruise ship bed. Only negative with the room is storage is at a premium, very small closet and only two drawers. Some shelves in the closet, but difficult to acess.

 

All in all though, a comfortable room. The room steward was very good, saw him only when we wanted to, and he made up the room every time we were out. Replaced all the coffee and towels etc. Very efficient.

 

Public Rooms:

 

The Star is a beautifull ship. Was very impressed with how clean the staff kept it. All the public areas were tastefully decorated and laid out for excellent flow of the passangers. Never seemed crowded or rushed.

 

Food:

 

Okay here is an area that is much discussed on Free Style cruises. It's very subjective so here goes. First I must state that food is not the reason that we cruise, but if it is bad it can make a great cruise average.

 

The Star is set up very nicely for the free style concept. All of the resturants look and feel like a resturant not just an area of the ship made into one. Each has its own style and feel. Makes dining different based on what you choose.

 

We ate in the Le Bistro, Versailles, Aqua, Market Cafe, Blue Lagoon and La Trattoria, Endless Summer and of course Room Service.

 

Le Bistro, the only additonal charge resturant that we ate in, and it was very nice. The food, fillet mignon was outstanding as was the escargot and ceasar salad. I am not a gormet food expert and never eat escargot except on cruises but if you get the chance try it, you just might like it. Service was very good and the experience was worth the extra charge ($15 per plus tip).

 

Versailles:

 

We ate 1 dinner and one lunch in this area and the food was good. This is a very beautifully decorated resturant. Though the menu is not large and the selections are somewhat limited you can have all four courses and usually have a beef, fish or foul selection. The service again was very good, and the salads were cold, the soup and antrees hot. The ceasar salad in fact is exactly the same in all resturants so, don't believe that the extra fee resturants get better food. They just have different selection.

 

Aqua:

 

This resturant is smaller and less formal than the Versailles. Not casual just not decorated as formally. The menu for any given day was exactlly the same as the Versailles. We had beef tenderloin here the one night we dined here and it was excellent. Tender, very good flavor and cooked perfectly. Again the service was very good, and never rushed.

 

Endless Summer:

 

This is Tex-Mex and it might not appeal to everybody. Having grown up in SoCal, I am partial to mexican food. Now that said, this was not our favorite spot. The food was okay, in fact the tamale I had was good, but all in all just average. Service was good.

 

La Trattoria:

 

This is the one room that they convert to a resturant. They take one side of the Market Cafe and drop a curtain to sheild the buffet line area. That said they do a nice job and it still has the feel of a resturant. Again italian food is subjective and everyone is an exert. We ate in this place twice, which should say something. The food was good, not great but good. Had lasagna and chicken parmashan. Service was very good and food was tastey. Not vintage italian but good. Nic wine selection.

 

Market Cafe:

 

Never ate dinner here but had the breakfast a couple of times and actually the food was good. It had a nice selection, always fresh and hot. The fruit selection was good and fresh and hot foods were hot. Finding a table was never a problem, because the staff bused and cleaned the tables very rapidly. Even on the day we were in Glacier Bay when everyone tried get a window seat for the day, seating was available.

 

Blue Lagoon:

 

This is their 24 hour comfort food area. All the basics hamburger, hot dog, fries, chilli, stir fry, soup, shepards pie and fish and chips are available. All are pretty good. You sit down and they take your order and than deliver it to you. Or you can get it to go. Good for a late night sack or late lunch if so inclined. Not in a great location, in a very busy walk way area, but again the service if fast and friendly. The chilli is very good.

 

Room Service:

 

Limited menu, but basic food is available. Used it for continental breakfast and it was always on time, in fact they would phone to let you know it was on the way and it would be there within a minute. It was good in fact, the pastries were very good and the fruit was fresh and cold.

 

Overall the food was good, presentation was excellent and service was very good. Reservations can be difficult if you want to eat early every night, as many people obviously did, but we ate at 8:30, if we went to the show, which we did most nights. Not a problem. The night's we ate in the Versailles and Aqua we ate at about 7:00 had no wait.

 

Staff:

 

Much said about how the staff does with the precharged gartuaties. Well all I can say was how the staff we came in contact with were. In a word great. They were friendly, helpfull and excellent. They always greated you in any passage way with a smile and good day. Always willing to help. Have been on traditional cruises where the staff wasn't near as polished and friendly. Well done NCL. I know someone is going to ask what about the concierge. Well we could have use the service, but I made the reservation myself by phone at the Le Bistro on Sunday we sailed. And everyother day in the Atrium at the reservation desk in the morning. Never needed the concierge, so can't comment.

 

Activities:

 

They have plenty of activities going on. Usual bingo, not so newly wed game, trivia, martini tasting, art auctions, liars club, casino etc. If you can't find something to do, then you are not trying. Everything is not for everybody, but there are things to choose from. Our just look at the scenery. The casino was large and had the usual tables and slot machines, plenty to choose from and always room to gamble. Slot and blackjack tourney's etc.

 

Plenty of bars to have a drink if you wanted; the bar service was good, but they did not hound you in the public areas but if you wanted something, it was very easy to get it. The Red Lion Sports Pub was very nice always had current game on two plasma and on full wall screen and friendly service. Fish and Chips available.

 

Dress:

 

Another worry for some people about cruising. Free style is the wave of the future. It was the first cruise were we decided to really go freestyle and did not even bring "formal dress". We always in the past dressed for formal nights, tux etc. But this time really went freestyle. That dosen't mean shorts and tee's 24 hours a day, but resort casual. Dockers and polo shirts and nice pants suits and such. If you want to dress you can, some did. We had been to Alaska before and new it was casual. But you have options and everyone I came into contact was dressed nicely, and had no problems. It's a vacation. Enjoy, don't fret. Dress formally or not just have fun and relax.

 

Our kids tease us because they can't tell were we've been, but they know it was a cruise because Moms in a formal and Dads in a tux from the formal night pictures. Though it was nice to have formal picture of the family from a cruise we took were everyone was dressed formally, because that won't happen often.

 

Just a thought. This cruise had a younger crowd than our last two Alaska trips and I know it was the freestyle concept that appealed the them. Also this was the most friendly group as a whole of any cruise that we have been on. People really seemed relaxed and enjoying themselves, which makes for a great vacation for everyone on board.

 

Ports:

 

Well this is really what we cruise for right. Like I said, this is our third cruise to Alaska, and we see more each time. Really can't see it all in one trip.

 

Juneau:

 

We had done a city tour and wildlife excursion and Roberts Tramway before so we rented a car and just drove around the area. Went out to Mendenhal Glacier, to End of Road and over to Douglas Island. Just took in the scenery and beauty of the land. Recommend Roberts Tramway though and wildlife excursions as you will see so much it will take your breath away. Weather was cool, but not cold. No rain.

 

Skagway:

 

Well we just walked into town and shopped. Have taken the White Pass Railroad before, its a great trip and worth it to see how hard it was for prospectors to enter the Yukon. Also had taken the Skagway Taxi tour before and its very informative. Weather was awesome. 72 degree's, shorts and Tee's in town. What a day.

 

Ketchekan:

 

Had seen the lumberjack show before, very good and done a harbor excursion around the town, so we just shopped and walked around the town and Creek Street. At halibut and chips and Anabelle's across from the ship. May is halibut season, best you can have anywhere. Very good, had eaten there before. Desserts are to die fore, try the peanut butter pie, all home made. Weather was very good cool but no rain, shorts for me. Sunshine and warm as we left port.

 

Victoria:

 

One of our favorite cities. Do see Buchart Gardens, we have in past, so we took the pub crawl. Very good, informative and great fun. Designated driver, local color and a taste of Canadian Ales. What could be better. Not much time here so use time wisely.

 

Weather:

 

The weather was great. No rain, the only rough sailing was the night we left Seattle and went around Vancouver Island. It was a little rough but nothing really bad. If you have a problem with motion sickness, it migt have been a problem but once we got to the inside passage, the next day it was like cruising on a lake. Smooth and effortless. The return was smooth also aroung Vancouver Island.

 

Weathr in Alaska in all ports was as good as it gets.

 

Disembarkation:

 

Was the easiest in 9 cruises. Have breakfast, wait in your cabin until your color is called and exit the ship. Customs took only a minute and in 20 minutes from the time they called our color we were looking for our luggage.

Found it in about 5 minutes, had a porter grab the bags, got a cab out front and was checking in at the airport within one hour of our color being called on board. Not bad. We had an 11:25 AM flight, so we got tags that allowed us to go after the people who wanted to carry their own bags. 8:30 call I believe. We were in the airport waiting for our flight by 10:00 AM. Very fast and efficent.

 

Overall:

 

NCL and the Star in particular was just great. Freestyle is a great way to cruise. Choice, what a concept. Eat when you want, with whom you want, where you want. The staff was outstanding, the food was good, shows were okay and Alaska was terrific. Would recommend this cruise line and itineray to anyone.

 

Gatuities are automatically added to you bill, so that is one less headache to for you all to agonize over. If you want to give an additonal amount for some extra service do it. If not don't and don't fret about it.

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Thanks for the review.

 

We're headed on the Star on 09/18 and I'm very excited.

 

I'm glad you had a good time. With no disappointments.

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CBOY- Wow, what a great concise review! You really covered everything so well! I will be sailing on July 17th and I am really looking forward to it. I have been on the Star before and I agree she is a wonderful ship. Thanks again ! Marilyn

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Great review! We'll be on the Star in Sept. for our first NCL cruise and you seem to have answered lots of questions we had. Now we're really looking forward to the Star. Thanks for sharing.

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Great review Thank You for posting. I will be on the star in Sept this will be my third on NCL had a great time on my last 2 cruises hopfully the 3rd is a charm.

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Thanks for the wonderful review. We will be on the Star in July 2006. Even though we have cruised before, this will be our first time with NCL.

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Thanks for the review. We are sailing on the Star August 28th and it is our first cruise. Your review made me feel much more comfortable.

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What a nice review! Your experience sounds very similar to ours last year on the Star. We've been on it twice and its a beautiful, comfortable ship to cruise on. The only big difference between our Alaska trips is that we didn't experience any warm weather even though we were there in July, it was quite chilly the whole time - in fact frigid during our time at Glacier Bay. I hope others take the time to enjoy this wonderful ship and itinerary.

 

Sharon

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Thanks for the review. We are sailing on the Star August 28th and it is our first cruise. Your review made me feel much more comfortable.

lacrossemom,

I'm glad to hear you are sailing on the Star to Alaska on August 28. We are also sailing this date. We are a group of 6. We are flying into Seattle one day early. I have not heard of others as yet sailing with us. thanks

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my DH and I are considering booking the Star for the Oct 16th Mexican Riviera cruise (since my bday will be that week) and being RCL cruisers I had a lot of questions about how freestyle "really" works (since public opinion and the business descriptions are often different). Your review was very helpful. At dinner in any of the restaurants on the Star do they seat you with other people or at tables for 2? Also, does the ship have basketball/volleyball on board?

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Thanks so much. One of the best & most informative reviews I've read. We leave on the Star on June 26th and can't wait.

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cboy,

 

 

Enjoyed your excellent review on the Star. We are leaving for our cruise on the Star in two weeks. Can you tell me on which side of Vancouver Island you cruised. One of the main reasons we chose this itinerary was cruising all the way up the inside passage beginning with Vancouver Island. It sure won't spoil our trip but I will be a little disappointed that all the info says one thing and then that's not actually the way it is.

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