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The Ma'am's Star Western Caribbean Review with Pictures!

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We are the Ma'ams: photo.php?fbid=553538297990256&set=a.118272304850193.19988.100000022722831&type=1&theater

Medicalma'am (an RN in Texas), Planma'am (a Building Official in Utah), and Screenma'am (Owner of vision, hearing screening business in Texas). We are sisters and LOVE to cruise together. This trip we had kids, grand kids (the Grand Girls 4 and 5), sister in law, cousins, and friends of cousins - in total a group of 21. We were in 7 suites and two aft balconies. This will be a bit different as all three of us will be contributing to the review. I will post my first installment after I get off work tonight at midnight, so stay tuned. The other Ma'ams may post away!

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Testing a pic upload. OK, I see I will have to work on this tonight. Any pointers will be appreciated. My BIL will have to be consulted I guess!

 

IMG_2226.jpg.137cdb55dcd59576eb77d76bde72f3c9.jpg

Edited by medicalma'am

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Any pointers will be appreciated.

If I could offer one suggestion(for the enjoyment of lazy people like me), try uploading the pictures to a photo sharing website like photobucket. You can then use the "Insert Image" option so everyone can see your wonderful pictures in the post instead of having to download the pictures by using the "Attach" option.

 

Looking forward to your review either way. We are on the Pearl in October through the Panama Canal so I am eating up everything NCL.

 

Adam

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Looking forward to your review. We sail the Star on 2/24 and I have been loving all the recent reviews.

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Hi. Planma'am signing on here. Thanks for the photo uploading pointers, adamj40, we will have to try that. I have uploaded photos to Flickr before, but have never used photobucket; is it easier? Is it free?

 

I am getting these green bars as I write, anyone know what's going on with these?

 

I'll start with a short review of my first bit of time off for this vacation, then I'm going to bed. I got through the cruise without getting sick, but am feeling like I might be coming down with something.......... UGH. (Sometimes I can cut it off before it gets started, let's hope this is the case here.)

 

My last day of work before the cruise was Wednesday, January 16th; I worked until 11:00, then had a monthly lunch meeting closer to home, and did not return to work after, as I had errands to run during "office hours". Work was willing to give me my check a day early if I promised not to deposit it before 3:00 p.m., so that was one of my errands.

 

I work for a city as a building inspector/building official/plans examiner (hence the screen name origin). In fact since the downturn in the economy, I have been the building department for our city, with the help of an administrative assistant two whole hours a day. So during my absence I had to arrange someone to cover for me. When the building industry was manic, I had two full-time inspectors working for me, as well as a full time administrative assistant. I arranged for one of those previous inspectors to cover for me, but could not get him to stop by the office to sign the contract yet, so we met at my lunch meeting to accomplish this. OK, that hurdle crossed, albiet last minute.

 

The other one dealt with getting a prescription filled. My primary insurance refused to cover the medication, but my secondary said they would, but I had to go to the pharmacy and have them try to put it through, have it refused, then call the secondary. Easy, right? NOT!! I spent 3 hours working to get this done, going from one pharmacy to another, calling the doctor's office to have them fax a form, calling the insurance companies, etc., etc., etc. I was so relieved when everything was finally finished, I just started crying! I kept asking myself why this roadblock was being set in front of me? Is there something I should be realizing? Something I should be taking note of? What lesson was I needing to heed? I was hoping this would not be the way this trip was going to play out......................

 

So it's back home to finish the packing. I had been working on my bag for over a week, but DH always waits until the last minute. I had gotten him to start the night before, but I basiclly finished his packing for him that night, and we set the alarm for earlier than normal and went to bed. When I had made the airline reservations, they were for a nice, comfortable time so that I didn't have to live with DH's complaints of getting up early, but then I got an e-mail that our flights had been changed after the first of the year, and both the outgoing and return flights were moved up two hours. EEK! I guess that was another hurdle.

 

The last time DH and I flew somewhere, I dropped him off at the sky cap with the bags and parked the car. Usually he does this, but he has a very common name and Delta doesn't let us pre-print his boarding pass, so check-in always takes him longer. That day I had to ask to bump the queue at security as my flight was leaving shortly and then ran to the gate as DH and the boarding attendant stood there saying "run, run!" to make the plane on time. You see, DH is always late. I think he must have been born 15 minutes late, and has never gotten properly adjusted to this world! He just has a problem with the reality of time. So I told DH our 8:50 a.m. flight left at 8:25.

 

Thursday morning was very cold, as it had been for over a week, with temperatures barely cresting zero for the highs. We always take our oldest car to the airport, and on the way there, the temperature guage kept bouncing from cold to medium hot, then back down to cold. Uh oh, another hurdle? I hope not. We always keep an extra bottle of anti-freeze in the car during the winters, but we were hoping that we would not have to pull over to add more, or have the car break down on the way to the airport. Luck was with us this time, and we made it OK. DH found that if he kept the speed under 70, the guage would not bounce so much.

 

Consequently, we got to the airport at about the time I had planned. I guess luck was with us this time, as I was able to pre-print DH's boarding pass, so he parked the car, and I went to security, planning to hold him a place in line. But, here it comes again, another hurdle: when I got to the top of the escalator where you head towards security, the line was what seemed llike two hours long; I went to he end, which was clear across the bridge across the roads and started doubling back once it got to the parking garage doors! EEK! There was an airport employee there at the end of the line, manning the queue barriers, and a very nervous man behind me asked him if the International Terminal Security station was open, and he was told yes, so he took off. I asked if that line would be very busy, and if we could use it and get to the concourse I needed, and the attendant said no, not at all busy, and yes, it leads to the same place. So I took off after that gentleman and learned a secret about our airport: THE INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL SECURITY STATION! A whole group of us left and took off at a run, and I pulled out my phone and called DH immediately as to the new destination. YES! Maybe the hurdles are going to change to speed bumps! I can handle this! I got through security and sat to wait for DH.

 

The beginning of the Sundance Film Festival coincided with our departure from the state, so I sat where I could people watch in case I might see "someone", but to no avail. I did ask the officer if the International Terminal Security was always open, and learned that it was only open between the hours of 7:30 and 10:00 every morning. Glad to know of the limited hours. But you can be sure if I ever am at the airport during those hours for another flight, it's off to the International Terminal for me!

 

DH got through security, we got to our gate one time, onto the plane, took off, and had a fabulous, eventless, hurdleless flight to Texas. When we got on the plane, DH asked me if I was getting excited about the cruise yet, and I said no, not yet. I had to just relax, take a deep breath and let it settle in first. Halfway through the flight I turned to DH and said "I'm excited now." His eyes got real big, and he grinned. I realized what I said, and added "about the cruise, dear, about the cruise!" ;)

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We had a nice lunch after picking up Planma'am and DH from the airport, then headed east to NOLA. Glad to be on the way. Guys in one car, gals in the other car. It WAS a fun ride! We stopped for another meal before arriving at our hotel for a late check in.

 

IMG_1852_zpsc187bfaf.jpg.html?sort=3&o=15

 

I cannot say enough about the Maison St. Charles Quality Inn. We arrived late as I said. The gal at the desk was so very professional and helpful. Then the security gentleman helped us unload and showed us things on the map for the next day. They were both wonderful.

 

I had stayed at this hotel in 2009 but is has been refurbished since then and is beautiful. It is a whole city block, minus a fast food restaurant on one corner of the property.

 

IMG_1857_zpsc5153177.jpg.html?sort=3&o=10

 

It is very secure with 24 hour security and gates they keep closed at night. Parking is in lots across the street, also gated and guarded.

 

The grounds include some historic buildings that house suites and the buffet breakfast area and meeting rooms.

 

IMG_1855_zps4fbbc5ad.jpg.html?sort=3&o=12

 

IMG_1854_zpseb48c416.jpg.html?sort=3&o=13

 

There is artwork on what would otherwise be boring brick walls. If you look at the pictures on their website, you will see exactly what your room will look like. I have often been disappointed in a hotel room after seeing pics online, but this is not the case here! We stayed here Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Other family members arrived during that time and they tried to keep us close to each other.

 

This hotel gets my FULL recommendation. Book early for the best rates. We booked in June for our January cruise!

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YES!! i FINALLY FIGURED HOW TO ADD MY PHOTOS!!!IMG_1854_zpseb48c416.jpg[/img]

 

Artwork on one wall

Edited by medicalma'am

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So on to Friday morning. Three couples in three different rooms. ONE somebody is a late sleeper and a slow riser. Breakfast was wonderful with many choices hot and cold. Finally about noon we were all fed and ready to roll. We elected to walk to the French Quarter. We were on St. Charles and just started walking east. We got to Lee Circle and realized just how far it was. (I tried to tell them). Well we walked to Jackson Square and say the sights there. We went to Pat O'Brians for some liquid libations.

IMG_1842_zps79ad4bd0.jpg[/img]

We visited the French Market, took the trolley to Harrah's, took a bus and ended back at our hotel around 6 pm. We all rested and headed out again around 8 pm for dinner. We ended up across the street at an Irish Pub that was fantastic and had live music.

 

IMG_1846_zps48299eff.jpg[/img]

 

This is how many steps we took that day! We all went to bed exausted.

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Here are some pics from the Irish Pub with the Ma'am's and their DHs.

 

Screenma'am and DH on left and Planma'am and DH on right.

 

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Medicalma'am and DH

 

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Well that is is for tonight. I will continue in the morning before work!

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Here are the pics from the hotel that only had a thumbnail yesterday. Again it is the Maison St. Charles Quality Inn.....check it out!

 

Historic buildings that have the suites in them are beautifully restored. You can see before and after pictures of the restoration in the breakfast buffet rooms.IMG_1855_zps4fbbc5ad.jpg

 

Courtyard with lots of seating and a lovely view.

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Pool courtyard

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Saturday morning the men headed to the WWII museum and the ladies got in the car for a DIY tour of NOLA.

 

This is a painting on one of the buildings downtown. We got right up to it before we could see that it really was only 2D.

 

IMG_1847_zps3bfd3838.jpg

 

This is in the area devastated by Katrina.

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Much of the area has been beautifully restored, I am sure with federal $. I have read that the former residents cannot afford the prices here and the area is transformed. Planma'am got lots of pictures of the old and new and hopefully can post one of the refurbished residences. I was driving and gave up trying to take pics and left it up to her to document our tour.

 

My kids drove into town that afternoon. Our family (son and daughter in law, daughter and son in law and grand daughter and Hubby) went down the street to a pizza place called Slice for a late afternoon meal that was great. It is on St. Charles Avenue and I highly recommend it. We took my Dear Grand Girl (DGG) and they headed into the French Quarter for the evening.

 

What stories they had for us the next day! There was a parade that they saw parts of. The crowd was thick and they were plastered against shop windows and had to hold cameras up to see what was going on. The theme of this parade was beastiality, if that gives you any idea of what the floats were. :o

 

They saw a VERY different side of NOLA than we did the afternoon before. Fights, a woman being beaten (at which point they intervened, and the flagged down police did NOT), an accident where one person pulled a gun and the police upon arriving said he had every right to, to make sure the other person didn't leave the scene. My SIL said he will NEVER visit NOLA again.

 

Edited by medicalma'am

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Sunday, Embarkation day!

 

IMPORTANT LESSON HERE: PAY ATTENTION TO THE INSTRUCTIONS TO THE WHALE LOT!!!

 

We had another wonderful breakfast after awaking early. I was just TOO excited! Having a large group meant waiting until all of us were ready so we could caravan to the port.

 

We left with about 5 cars behind us and made the 6 minute or so drive to the port. We easily dropped off luggage and proceeded to the 'Whale lot'. We had been given instructions on how to get there, I could see it, and thought "No problemo." When all in the party were ready we went in the direction of it, turned left, crossed the RR tracks and started looking for the entrance.

Well, we creeped along and then had to turn right onto the street. There at what looked like the entrance we were denied entry. A man in a chair just shook his head "no", so we kept going. We passed the Hilton garage entrance, headed down the street and turned right AGAIN down in front of Harrah's. We made a circle and headed back to from whence we came! OK, we made the entire circle to the port entrance again, stopped at the baggage drop off to get instruction again. He mentioned that we had to turn into the lot just after the "flood wall". I asked what was a flood wall and he described it to me. I felt SO STUPID. Anyway we finally found the entrance, paid for parking before entering and easily found parking places near each other.

 

Planma'am will have to chime in here to tell of the conversation in HER car as we did this. :o

 

Just how did my kids get all that into their Kia Elantra? It kept coming out and coming out!

IMG_1849_zps2b95aa40.jpg

 

NEXT UP: THE SWEET SUITE EXPERIENCE

 

IMG_1858_zps884e37b0.jpg

Edited by medicalma'am

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OK, just checking in here during my lunch to apologize. Medicalma'am said I was too wordy, so please accept my apology and don't let it keep you from reading further. I promise to do better in the future.

 

I just want to add one little tidbit to my escapade: I was locked out of my suitcase when we got to NOLA. Could not open it. Watched videos online about how to "break the code" and open it, but didn't work. Had to get maintenance to bring their dremel tool in the morning and cut it off! So, my suggestion to you all is to check the lock OFF the suitcase to be sure you can open it before placing it ON the suitcase!!

 

All for now.

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Plan ma'am, you were supposed to tell the kind folks about the conversation in your car as we made our second loop of the cruise port!

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OK, I'm here, Medicalma'am; it's been a long day.

 

As background, my DD & DGD were on this cruise with us. Unfortunately SIL could not join us, as he is active military and had a month-long "training" scheduled at Fort Polk. So while he is out in the "wild" sleeping in a pup tent, with the nearest bathroom over a quarter mile away, and only cold water there, his wife & daughter are about to live the suite life for a week :eek:. (DD had upgraded to a suite as a surprise for him when he was still planning to be able to join us.)

 

Anyway, my grand daughter is 5, and they drove from Tennessee and joined us Friday night. So when it was time to drive to the port, I went with them and DH went with Screenma'am & Bullit.

 

I guess DGD was taking in all the confusion and tension we were experiencing trying to get parked and onto the ship. So when we finally were directed the correct way to enter the lot, I turned to Sophia and started an oration about the whale lot being called so for the whales that were painted on the side of the building, and asked if she had seen them. In her perfect DUH, Grama, voice, she answered "twice!" I guess nothing gets past her!

 

I also have to add that the first thing we did on Friday morning once getting to the French Quarter was to go to CVS for a new luggage lock at DH's insistence. (Yea, sure, like I'm really gonna lock my luggage again; only if I can get my hands on one of those TSA keys!)

 

It was the first weekend of Mardi Gras in NOLA, and we saw several bands, jugglers, and other street performers in the blocked off street. Made a nice, party atmosphere for our visit, without being over the top like what the younger generation experienced on Saturday night. Medicalma'am will need to share those experiences if she wishes. Suffice it to say, we were all glad to know ahead of time that the theme of the parade they were going to see was for adults, so we Grandmas babysit while their parents went.

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Since before we left the hotel, DH's cousin was calling me. They had used their points to stay at a Hilton property, and called me in the morning to see what time we planned to arrive at the port. I told her we wanted to be sure to be one of the first ones on the ship, so would be there around 10:30. They then took a taxi to the port, being one of the first ones in the line for security, and called again to see if we were almost there. I wish! They were one of the first ones through security, and called us after they had paid their corking fee on the bottles of wine they brought. There yet? Noooooooooooooooo, not yet! They finally decided to get on the ship, and called us to let us they were sitting in the coffee bar where they could see everyone getting on the ship, so just look for them when we got there. I think that was about the time we were frantically trying to get back in line to make our second pass by the whale lot.....................

 

The payment for parking in the whale lot was really pretty slick. You showed them your cruise ticket, and they had one of those hand-held thingies like they have on airlines to swipe credit cards. They gave you a receipt for the week and another ticket to place on your dash where it could be seen through the windshield. $112.00 for the week, and you just put first one then the other of those tickets in the exit machine to leave the lot, and the arm went up.

 

All 5 vehicles parked there together, and we took our carry-ons and treked back to the building, made a stop at the restrooms then on to the security lines.

 

Oh, by the way, Medicalma'am, your DD's car is a Kia Optima, not an Elantra ;).

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Dear Grand Girls being babysat by Grandy (Medicalma'am) and Grama (Planma'am) at the hotel!

 

IMG_1850_zps227ee7a8.jpg

 

I did NOT hear what the conversation was in my DD's Optima (I stand corrected) but I could see it on their faces when we got out of the car. I think they kept quiet because I had just paid their parking and they did not expect that.

 

So while we were taking the tour of the cruise port, TWICE, I was being calmed down my my DH. He just kept saying "It will really be OK". Me: "But can you imagine the pressure I am feeling now? These people all are depending on ME to get to the port and I am leading them on a wild goose chase." He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and knows just what to say.

 

 

We got through all the lines easily enough as most of us were in suites. We were directed to the VIP waiting area until all in our family were ready to board and were taken to Cagney's. Oh, I did not want to eat in Cagney's. We had all agreed to eat in the main dining room the first meal as to not leave anyone out. So, we went by my kids rooms on deck 12 (I just HAD to see their faces upon entering those rooms!) Heck, I wanted to see them too. They dumped their carry-ons and we headed to meet the rest of the party.

 

I must say that this is one of the only disappointing meals we had the whole cruise. There was nothing wrong with the food, mind you. It just seemed to me that the waiter we had was all matter of fact, never made eye contact or smiled, and it just seemed a bit off. Nothing I can put my finger on, but just a different experience. We were at three different tables, as there were 21 of us.

 

I did have an awesome dessert though.

 

IMG_1868_zpsb8fb980b.jpg

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Well now I know what thread I'll be reading before boarding the Star in 8 days!!! LOL :D

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Work is about to start, but after seeing Medicalma'am's picture of the dessert, it reminded me that I wanted to say how much I LOVED, again that's LOVED the no-sugar desserts on the cruise! I'm diabetic, so I tried my best to contain myself when I could (lasted about 4 days!) But I truly enjoyed those no-sugar desserts, and I think that is what the picture is that Medicalma'am posted.

 

I do have to say that I didn't notice the service/attention during that first meal; I was too centered on my DGD and DD, sharing in their excitement of their first cruise. I had the cobb salad, and it was very good. Oh, and I also had the stuffed mushroom/goat cheese appetizer with marinara. We had all enjoyed these on the last cruise, and I was happy to see they were still on the menu. I took a picture which I will post later; the pics are all on DH's laptop, which I will have to commandeer this weekend (!)

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[quote name=planma'am;36928699

 

The payment for parking in the whale lot was really pretty slick. You showed them your cruise ticket' date=' and they had one of those hand-held thingies like they have on airlines to swipe credit cards. They gave you a receipt for the week and another ticket to place on your dash where it could be seen through the windshield. $112.00 for the week, and you just put first one then the other of those tickets in the exit machine to leave the lot, and the arm went up[/quote]

 

WOW that would be a deal parking at the NYC port. :eek: Great review!

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