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CeleBrat

NCL STAR--RANTS/RAVES review, 5/29-6/05

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Myself, DH, DS (4) and DD (2) have been on multiple cruises, primarily Disney, and were looking for something FUN to do. We found a GREAT deal on an NCL STAR cruise heading to Alaska, and thought, “What the heck! Let’s do it!”

 

The deal was so great that we were able to book (2), yes TWO adjoining Deck 10 blcony cabins for the 4 of us. So, essentially we had created a little mini-suite for ourselves. It was fabulous! We were able to open the door between the two cabins and the door between the balconies. We were living fat and happy!

 

EMBARKATION:

 

Was disorganized at best. Upon arrival, we were clueless as to what to do. We saw a line stretching into the baggage area and another line stretching in the other direction. And, not an NCL person in sight. We hesitantly gave our luggage to a porter since he seemed to kind-of know what to do with it, then got in the OTHER line heading into the terminal. After about ½ hour, we finally made it to the LATITUDES counter and checked in. RANT—we thought there should have been a way for us to get to the counter more quickly. But, you weren’t able to designate yourself as a LATITUDES member until after you had already gotten all the way into the terminal and to the security checkpoint, which was upstairs.

 

Here’s where it gets a little ridiculous….The hostess checking us in told us it would be about 3 hours, yes 3 HOURS before we got to board. What? We explained that we were LATITUDES members and should be allowed to board at 12 noon, which is exactly what time it was. Nope, there seemed to be some sort of problem with customs, so everyone would have to wait. Hmmmm… So, we asked someone else. Their response, “Oh no, it will just be a 15 minute delay.” Great, we can handle 15 minutes. Unfortunately, soon after, we heard the voice of GOD (PA announce) tell everyone that “We are sorry, but boarding will not begin later that afternoon. If you are able, we strongly suggest you take a walk along the pier or enjoy the sights of the city, being sure to return by about 2pm or so.” WHAT?!?!? I was MAD!! You cannot expect a family with 2 small children and various pieces of luggage (carry-ons filled with diapers, stroller, etc…) to just go take a walk. And, the kids were STARVING! So, begrudgingly we left the terminal, baggage in tow, and trudged down the pier looking for lunch. I have several funny pictures where we look like funny gypsies walking down the pier with belongings in tow. RANT—NCL should have had food at the terminal to accommodate for this situation. It was unacceptable to just tell us to leave. As far as I was concerned, our cruise began at 12 noon, not 3pm!

 

When we returned, we were faced with another confusing mess. The long line into the terminal was still there, so we had to delicately push past everyone and say, “We’re already checked in, pardon me, excuse me, we’re not cutting the line….” At the security point prior to entering the terminal we smiled and said, “We’re already checked in. Where do we go now?” The NCL person who was standing there asked for our boarding number. “Boarding number? What number are you talking about?” we asked. “Oh, the one you were given when you checked that designates when you can board the ship.” We replied, “Sorry, we didn’t get one…” The NCL person looked at us in pity, and it was clear that she thought that we were either VERY confused and hadn’t really checked in, or were trying to scam our way in. I said, “Look, we’re LATITUDES members and had checked in at noon, and are just returning from our lovely yet exhausting walk on the pier, as per your suggestion.” She looked at us, reached in her pocket and gave us a #5 (they were currently calling #8) and said, “You have small children and can’t wait any longer.” RANT—The whole LATITUDES thing did not buy us anything with check-in. What is that all about? And if you’re going to send everyone away from the terminal to “just go take walks”, then you need to make sure you have a way to get them back into the terminal easily.

 

We then made our way to yet another line and again had to say, “Excuse us, pardon us, we have a #5, and you all are # 9 and 10…” Very awkward. When we got to the xray machines, we noticed a couple that were being escorted in holding #1. Clearly, they were suite guests. The security guard (pier security, not NCL) got really mad because the couple was put in the front of the line. He said, “I’m tired of this and am now going to go and put an end to it.” He was just really frustrated with all the line cutting by the lower number and could care less who boarded in what order—as long as they were orderly. The line moved too quickly so I couldn’t see what happened….

 

Once on board, we stopped for the obligatory photo, and then headed to our room to unload our poor tired arms. As stated earlier, we LOVED our rooms. Had to call for someone to unlock the balcony door between the two cabins. Met our stewards—yes, there were two that worked in a team to service us. They spoke little-to-no English, but seemed eager to please. One night, I requested 4 deck blankets so we could be prepared to watch the glaciers from our balcony. The steward shook his head, “Yes, OK, right away.” I turned to my DH and said, “Bet we get towels…!” Later that evening, the steward cornered my husband and said, “”Your wife has requested blankets for the deck, but we don’t understand.” My husband tried to explain that we did not want towels, but blankets—and then entered an interesting moment of charades where he pertended he was cold and wrapped a blanket around him. The steward said, “Ahhhh—the DECK blanket—the blue one!” He turned to his partner and started speaking very quickly and excitedly in their language (Filipino?) interspersed by the word BLUE every so often. We got our blankets shortly thereafter. The one complaint (small rant) we had about the stewards is that they never removed the dirty glasses or dishes from our room. They kept everything immaculate, but would place the empty glasses in the corner by the TV.

 

RANT—Regarding the lifeboat drill. It was scheduled for 3:45pm, and I am meticulous about being on-time for it. I HATE when people are late so everyone has to stand around waiting for them in their life jackets sweating to death. We are ALWAYS on time. So, we headed to our muster station at the appropriate time, and encountered 5 other guests. That’s it—just 5. No muster captain, no one directing us. Nothing. So , after waiting about 10 minutes, I went out to find out what was going on. (Note—our station was in Aqua, so there was no one around.) We assumed that it might be delayed due to the boarding delay, but weren’t; sure. I found an NCL security person right outside Aqua and asked about the drill. “Yes, we were going to have it, “ he replied. “But when?” I asked. He said, “Soon.” Aaaaaah. “What does that mean?” I asked, “because there are several of us in there right now? Do we wait, is it later today? Is it tomorrow? When?” He said he did not know. Oh-my-gosh---I was going to start yelling at this guy if I didn’t get a straight answer soon. Sounding like my dad when he gets mad, I said, “Look there are 9 of us sitting in there right now, seemingly wasting our time. Shall we continue to wait? Or are we free to go enjoy our cruise? Or, do we get credit for the life boat drill because we are here right now? What does soon mean” ?” He smiled, and said, “Go ahead and go back to your cabin. AAARGH! We left. The drill was actually almost an hour later, and was not announced via the ship intercom until about 4:30pm. RANT—that should have been announced earlier. A funny thing though—after we left, we decided to go exploring. We were carrying our life jackets, since we weren’t exactly sure when the drill was, and one couple actually stopped and asked us if we were required to carry the jackets since we had two small children in tow. DH actually said YES, and managed to keep a straight face!!

 

Overall, our cruise was not off to a great start—but that all changed once we set sail. Embarkation is a MESS at Seattle! But, that is was the only low point of the cruise. The rest was amazing, fabulous, and oh-so-enjoyable!

 

Another review soon, as this one has gotten quite long.

 

Thanks for reading--Eva

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Wow, you do have some attitude issues, don't you?

 

First of all, being latitudes can be a bit of a help, in some ports, but it isn't a get out of jail free card by any means.

 

Second, expecting NCL to provide food, when they really don't control port or customs is, well, more than a tad unrealistic. (They have zero means of throwing a last minute picnic for thousands when there are delays.)

 

Third, expecting sympathy for travelling with kids is, well, again unrealistic. Mine are finally middle schoolers, so can fend for themselves, but I've spent more than a decade travelling with kiddies, and you just have to deal with it. For example, pack emergency food supplies when you travel. (We've gotten stuck in closed airports for 15 hours - how does that compare to a few hours that you all experienced? plan for it!)

 

Geez, late drill puts you in a RANT mode. Wait for the announcement that the drill is beginning, go to your cabin, and muster. Chill, you are on a cruise.

 

I hope the rest of your trip turned out better for you, but honestly, an attitude adjustment would result in happier cruising for you - and translate into happier kids as they grow up and see how to deal with the bumps that life throws our way.

 

PS if anyone thinks I'm being harsh, re-read the OP and what the highlighted and designated RANTS are for.

 

:)

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We were on the same cruise and were informed by several NCL staff that the delay was due to a quarterly immigration inspection of all crew members. Our cruise date unfortunately coincided with this every 3 month inspection.

 

We arrived at the terminal at 1 pm, hired a porter for a dollar a bag to check our luggage and then proceeded to the check-in which took an hour of standing in line (see pic). We had received priority boarding (#1) once we checked in as Latitude members. We spent less than 15 minutes in the xray line before boarding by passing many others with numbers higher than ours.

 

Once boarded we went to our cabin and settled in. I was most concerned, given the disorder thus far, that we'd lose part of our luggage (we did get it all, just much later than everyone else it seemed at approx 6:45pm).

 

We asked crew members when the lifeboat drill would be as 3:45pm had already passed. They told us once again of the immigration officials delay and to await the announcement over the PA.

 

All in all, I was tired of waiting but certainly not blaming NCL for immigration officials delays.

 

cruiseline.jpg

 

edit: TrinaLC, I just read your post after finishing mine and I couldn't agree with you more.

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Eva, I'm very interested in your review and look forward to the rest of it.

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Found your review a lighthearted review (can see the gypseys on the pier)

and do agree that NCl could have found snacks. I usually travel with food except when going on a cruise.

Looking forward to the rest of the story. :)

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I am also looking forward to the rest of your review. Thanks for taking the time to write it. We will be on the Star in July 2006.

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agree that NCl could have found snacks. I usually travel with food except when going on a cruise.

Looking forward to the rest of the story. :)

 

i think you seriously underestimate the logistics of providing - on an unscheduled basis - food for 2000 or so in cramped unsanitary conditions that exist in most shipping terminals

 

bear in mind also that folks are free to bring their own (and absolutely should when travelling with small children), or to leave the premises as the OP did in search of food.

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I sympathize with your situation. I was getting off the Star when you were lined up to get on and can vouch for what a mess it was. From what I saw, your "attitude" is completely understandable.

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I'm very anxious to hear about the rest of your trip, both the rants and the raves. We are planning on going on the Star next May to Alaska. I'm organizing the trip for 3 couples; the other couples have never cruised before. The last time we were on NCL was 1995 on the Windward, so I'm anxious to hear all about the ship and ports. Rant away!!

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I agree that NCL embarkation in Seattle could be better. It was disorganized when we went to Alaska in 2004. However as for boarding time, this was due to immigration. We always wait until the announcement for the beginning of the lifeboat drill.

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Wow, you do have some attitude issues, don't you?

 

TrinaLC and Friend....:p If you read the complete comments you would find that we have a CC member being honest in her assessment of a situation.. Last comments indicated that they loved the cruise and would report the very positive comments later.. :) Sitting at your computer just waiting to pounce is a problem that I see with CC members like you.... Relax, think and read all of the posting... Be positive in your comments... Be proactive.... Be nice... It is their point of view...

 

Please do not pounce on me for my poor english, etc...

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My youngest of 4 is now 12. My husband and I always smile fondly and offer help when we see folks loaded down with kids and all the kid stuff ya gotta have when you travel. Even now I pack way to much stuff - food and all the extras from my days as a pack mule for the family. Loved the comparison to Gypsies roaming the street!:)

 

In my line of work I deal with crowds, concerts and cruises that have alot of people on them that I'm responsible for. I also work with National Security folks and the people that are handling security for the afforementioned venues. The immigration crack down is part a security check the government is doing to make sure terrorists haven't infilitrated the ship's crew. (along with of course normal immigration checks) There is a high level of concern about the vulnerability of cruise ships and piers.

 

On the last cruise I was on I made sure all 250+ people in my group knew this. I also made a point to explain to everyone (especially those that are very sensitive to being "late") that all set times were a goal not a hard and fast rule. With every event/entertainment venuture that I have been involved with that involves hundreds and thousands of people you do your best to do everything on time. But you can't freak out or have a fit or the entire crew will get into a tizzy and it will wind up affecting the audience/passengers. It's kind of a roll with the punches thing. Do the best you can but expect the unexpected...and deal with it effectively.

 

It's unfortunate that the start of your cruise was bumpy and I wish your TA had explained some of this to you so you had an idea of what to expect. Maybe now that you've had a chance to vent it will be easier to let it go and focus on all the fun things that you'll be telling us all about in the rest of your review!:)

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CeleBrat -

 

Please ignore the negative responses to your review. I appreciate your rants because they provide a personality to your review. Everyone reacts differently to situations. So please feel free to express how you felt! I look forward to the rest of your review!

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CeleBrat -

 

Please ignore the negative responses to your review. I appreciate your rants because they provide a personality to your review. Everyone reacts differently to situations. So please feel free to express how you felt! I look forward to the rest of your review!

 

After the response I might not even post the rest of the review. We all ask for the good and the bad for a balanced review. The OP indicated Rants and Raves. She completed the Rants and was about to share the Raves.

 

In any review including people at work it is always best to start with the Raves it makes the Rants easier to digest. Embarkation is always the worse part of the cruise. Sort of no pain no gain :D

 

I would love to read a review by CeleBrat of embarkation in NYC :eek:

 

I stood on this side of the fence for 3.5 hours while those on the other side sat. They were then boarded before those that had been standing all that time. At the pier by 11am on the ship at 5:30

NYCPier.jpg.fb4a77adee91dcfb2ecca764a820ee82.jpg

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I live in Seattle (and am a travel agent in my "spare" time from RN duties) and have reservations on Star for the last cruise out of town on 18 Sept 05, so I have been keeping an eye on her comings and goings since the beginning of the season. This past Sunday (5 June) was the earliest that they got out of town since starting the season, and they left at 1645 (oops, 4:45 pm for those that don't live on military time). I went down to Pier 66 the second sailing Sunday and learned the secret of when the concierge opens the doors for luggage storage and when the first passengers are allowed on. This did not make my daughter too happy when I told her we will be leaving home to walk to the pier at about 0-dark-30 on the morning we sail, but we will be the first ones in line (We only live a little over a mile away, so can drop off our bags, go home for a while and come back for the boarding line). Things seem to get the worst down there at about 1030 in the mornings. I'm not sure they did lifeboat drill before sailing this week either, as we were waiting to see them do it to see how organized/disorganized it was. I have sailed with NCL quite a few times, though not on any of the newer "megaships" and have never had an experience like this one, though I have never sailed out of SEA either (Vancouver several times, and very efficient there).

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Sitting at your computer just waiting to pounce is a problem that I see with CC members like you....

 

Relax, think and read all of the posting... Be positive in your comments... Be proactive.... Be nice...

 

See the irony in your post that others "Be positive in your [their] comments... Be proactive.... Be nice... " YET still feel inclined throw a punch of your own?

 

I'm not a "friend" of TrinaLC; I don't even know her. I was introducing one very important FACT the OP did not mention which I thought was important to understanding what occurred during embarkation a week ago.

 

My guess is that the OP would have been more understanding toward NCL and more ranty against the port and immigration had the OP been aware of the fact - the quarterly immigration inspection was the root cause of the delays in boarding and we just happen to be cruising on that "fateful" day.

 

I agree that NCL could have done something to mitigate the agony, but once again the origin of the problem began with immigration and port officials.

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SeattleCruiseLover--please share your secrets! :-) When does the concierge open the doors for luggage and when do they start allowing passengers on? My family group of 8 is sailing this Sunday, and my mother is in a wheelchair. Any input or advice as to when we should arrive would be much appreciated. I'm eager to start our vacation as early as possible, but I don't want my poor mom to have to pay the price for my early-bird mentality. Thanks!

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SeattleCruiseLover--please share your secrets! :-) When does the concierge open the doors for luggage and when do they start allowing passengers on? My family group of 8 is sailing this Sunday, and my mother is in a wheelchair. Any input or advice as to when we should arrive would be much appreciated. I'm eager to start our vacation as early as possible, but I don't want my poor mom to have to pay the price for my early-bird mentality. Thanks!

 

They open the doors at 7:30 am, stevedores there by 8 am, and first boarding between 1030 and 1100. You have to go into a special line if you have carryon luggage (for hand inspection). People in wheelchairs are SUPPOSED to get priority embarkation Talk to the concierge about that.

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BACKGROUND:

 

Myself, DH, DS (4) and DD (2) have been on multiple cruises, primarily Disney, and were looking for something FUN to do. We found a GREAT deal on an NCL STAR cruise heading to Alaska, and thought, “What the heck! Let’s do it!”

 

And now for our thoughts on the ship....

 

We LOVED this ship for a number of reasons—it was decorated so nicely. Kudos to the interior designer for steering away from gaudy cruise-ship style and landing instead on a nicely themed ship. Each area had its own unique style. The Grand Atrium was glitzy and glamorous. The restaurants and bars were diverse in their décor. And the cabins were simple, yet elegant.

 

A few of our favorite (RAVES) things about the NCL Star:

 

The kids playground, equipped with a balance beam, see-saw, spinning thing, and two bouncy animals was by-far the best BONUS item on the ship. It was a life-saver for our two kids, who got a little stir-crazy every so often.

 

The kids pool area was very cute, and themed with space aliens. How great is it that there are two slides for the bigger kids, and one little on for the smaller kids? However, I would think than in warmer weather (i.e.—on the Mexico cruises) it would be very difficult to keep track of your kids because the pool area is built on a high platform. So, you can’t just sit and watch your kids. You actually have to stand up on the pool platform, which is very small.

 

Tons of windows everywhere on the ship. And, the window seats located along the length of deck 7 are oh-so-inviting, and perfect for watching the scenery. Add to that the Spinnaker lounge, with wall-to-wall windows along the entire front of the ship, then you have the PERFECT Alaskan cruise ship. The reading lounges and game room, as well as the conference rooms, all also on Deck 7, are equipped with more floor-to-ceiling windows.

 

Outside on Deck 7, you will see the entire length of wall painted with scenes. If you look closely, you will find that scenes actually represent what is located on the OTHER side of the wall, inside. For instance, near the Red Lion pub, you will find a little scene about England, etc. It was very clever—and a great way to help everyone know where they were.

 

Great library on board. And, they are actually equipped with a scanning system so the book that you borrow is scanned to your cabin. Yeah—technology! And extra bonus points because they also had an assortment of kids books to check out. What an extra nice touch!

 

Late in the cruise, we discovered an oversized chess game on Deck 12, kind of tucked away in the corner behind the golf cage. How fun!

 

Great elevators I know that may sound weird. However, all iof the elevators were equipped with a flat-screen computer monitor that displayed which floor the elevator would stop at next and why. So, you were able to tell very quickly if your elevator would be an “express” going directly to your destination, or if you would be stopping to pick up other guests. Yeah—technology!

 

All of the restaurants (expect maybe La Trattoria) were so nicely themed. The best seems to be Versailles, which truly made you fell as if you were in a fancy French restaurant. Everything, from the mirrored and upholstered walls, to the chandeliers, to the large aft windows, to the cute wooden dresser-type serving stations, just screamed FRENCH. Loved the feeling that we got when walking into that restaurant.

 

We were also tickled by the Blue Lagoon café, which is the 24 hour snack bar located on Deck 7. Although it doesn’t sound exciting, it is actually a neat little space complete with seating in a contemporary nautical decor. It just made us happy to sit in the Blue Lagoon café.

 

We also were touched by the small Kids Café area in the buffet, complete with tiny child-sized table/chairs and pint-sized buffet. We would have liked to have seen a better offering of food, as there were only hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries offered there daily. (small RANT) We did sit at the Kids table several times, and found that as an adult, it seemed to work better if you sat on the window ledge, as opposed to the kids chairs. (Little hint for you parents out there!)

 

Our favorite place on the ship—the recessed area “hidden” on Deck 6 near Le Bistro/Soho and Gatsby’s Bar. Decorated in an art deco style, and open to the Sushi restaurant above, it was such a neat space. It was neat to see such a rare use of interior cruise-ship space, as usually the interior/center of the ship is used for crew back areas and kitchens.

 

Be sure to also check out the artwork located in the stairwell on all three stair area of the ship—Aft, Midship, and forward. Yes, it requires you to actually walk the stairs in stead of take the elevator, but there is some really neat artwork to see!

 

As stated earlier, the cabins were simple, yet elegant, decorated in wood with nautical accents and some tropical prints. The little things—like the hair dryer being located out on the dresser so that when using it you don’t tie up the bathroom, just made us love the ship even more. We would have liked to have had a clock in the room and also thought it odd that there was not a night table on both sides of the bed (small RANTS), but other than that, enjoyed our cabins. In my previous review, I mentioned that we had two adjoining balcony cabins—which was great because we essentially had a mini-suite by opening the door to both rooms and balconies. (Note—you may need to ask to have the balcony door unlocked when you board the ship.)

 

Overall—we LOVED the ship. And, in addition to all of the great décor, we noticed that it was kept in tip-top condition. Other than one elevator button being missing, there was not a single maintenance problem we spotted. Everything was in perfect condition!

 

Thanks for reading my review—I will post more tomorrow…info about the food, the programs, and the ports.

 

 

Thanks!

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Hi everyone--

 

WOW--I got some mixed reviews on my review! No hard feelings.

 

We truly did LOVE the cruise on the Star, and if you read my 2nd review, just posted, you will see that:

 

 

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=3925049#post3925049

 

Whomever said that I should have started with a positive comment is right. How could I have forgotten that you never start negatively! Bad!

 

Other than those 5 hours (embarkation and life boat drill) the cruise was fabulous. I firmly do believe that NCL needs to do something about the whole process. It would have been a perfect cruise were it not for that.

 

I recall reading (from previous reviews) that there has been an ongoing embarkation problem at Seattle. It really needs to be fixed. As a seasoned cruiser (20+ cruises) I have never encountered such a disorderly mess! (Although--I also haven’t ever cruised out of NYC either--YIKES!!) I worry that a first-item cruiser would be soured by the embarkation experience we had on 5/29. It's not always like that!!

 

Lastly, without giving too much away, I work for a company that is world-renowned for guest service (hint, my boss is a mouse). And, on a daily basis we are always looking for ways to do things better. Yes, in my line of business we are faced with unplanned things (like customs inspections) but we also make sure that our guest still has the best experience they can--even at our expense. Unfortunately, since I do work for this certain company, my guest service standards are a little higher than normal...It drives my crazy when the cashier at a store does not thank me or say hello--honest! I also have very low tolerance for someone who is not able to answer a question as part of their job (i.e. the security guy who was clueless about the lifeboat drill) Again, my boss, the Mouse, does not allow anyone to say "I don't know." Ever! No matter what the question.

 

Combined, those two events made me a little frustrated, and I was worried that this was what the whole cruise was going to be like. I still do believe that the 3 hour delay and suggestion of "go take a walk" was unacceptable, but, we made the best of it and had an interesting, if not somewhat tiring adventure.

 

My apologies for coming across as negative. That was not my intention. I merely want to provide some great info to future Star cruisers.

 

Thanks!

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Thanks! Great review! We'll be on it in Jan.(Mexico) with our 4 kids. They're 13, 10, 8, & 8(or will be then) so if you have any observations for kids I'd appreciate it.

 

Thanks!

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Enjoying your reviews--thanks so much! We leave this Sunday on the Star and have a 9-year-old son interested in the Kids' Crew activities. Can't wait to read more.

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Celebrat,

 

My son attended "Mouse University." He loved it! Worked hard, earned some college credits and learned the "mouse way" of doing things. ;)

 

I was almost soured to the whole cruise experience when I disembarked from the first ship I sailed on. It looked like we were being unloaded into a refugee holding pen and that they had literally just chucked everyone's luggage off this ship into about 4 big heaping piles!! Not to mention we had to load a bunch of people on busses and get through LA traffic to catch an early flight out. I almost right then and there wrote off ever cruising again!

 

Obviously, I've gotten over it!:p

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