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Oakman58

Star Dec 1 – 14 Trip Report with some pics

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[B]NCL Star Panama Canal cruise Dec 1 – Dec 15 2017 Miami to Los Angeles.[/B]

I guess if I’m going to do a trip report of our Panama Canal cruise on the NCL Star I’d better get started. This was a great cruise and most of my complaints, with one exception, are nothing more than nit-picking.

My biggest mistake on this cruise was taking pictures with three cameras, two of which didn’t have the correct date and time stamp. At noon every day two of my cameras would change over to the next date. I didn’t discover this until I was back home going through the photos. It was very confusing trying to sort through my pictures by date. Lesson learned.

A little about us, my wife and I are both retired and in relatively good health. I’m a 72 year old curmudgeon and my wife is much younger with the personality of an angel. We were joined on this cruise by my sister and her husband who are also retired. To protect their identity I’ll refer to them as June and Mark.

The four of us flew to Miami a day early and stayed at the Red Roof Inn Plus near the airport. The reason I chose this hotel was the free shuttle from airport to hotel and hotel to the cruise terminal. The hotel was just OK and I doubt I would use it in the future.

This was the more expensive premium room.
[IMG]http://i66.tinypic.com/21cbjpz.jpg[/IMG]

[B]December 1st[/B]
The next morning we took advantage of the continental breakfast the hotel offered. It wasn’t much but better than nothing. We had scheduled the hotel’s shuttle to the cruise terminal for 9 AM but just after finishing our breakfast the shuttle driver found us and asked if we would mind leaving at 8:30. We agreed and were at the cruise terminal by 9 AM while passengers were still disembarking the Star.

We were allowed inside the terminal building but just in the entry foyer. I would rather wait and kill time in a cruise terminal than kill time in a hotel room or lobby. Surprisingly security began screening passengers at 9:50. I think the four of us were in the first 25 people to enter the check-in area. [IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/33219o8.jpg[/IMG]

My wife and I had our room card and boarding group 1 card by 10:10 AM. The waiting area was almost completely empty. By the way, there was a special check-in line for Platinum and above Latitudes members but nothing for Gold or Silver members. It really didn’t matter since there were so few people checking in.

June and Mark had booked a suite on the Star so they were ushered to a separate waiting area for those “special people.” Mark and June had originally booked a mini-suite but bid on an upgrade to a suite that was accepted by NCL. They were upgraded to a forward facing suite on deck 10. I was shocked that a forward facing suite would still be available on a cruise going through the Panama Canal.

Boarding began for special needs folks first and then Haven and suite guests at 11:15. Platinum was boarded next followed by our group 1. After boarding the ship we headed directly to O’Sheehan’s for a light lunch. I ordered the buffalo chicken wings that came with celery sticks. The wings were very good, the celery sticks…tragic (LOL).
[IMG]http://i65.tinypic.com/20fajpe.jpg[/IMG]

The cabins were ready by 1:30 PM so went to our cabin to unpack our carry-on luggage. Our balcony cabin (10692) would be more than sufficient for the 14 day cruise. We couldn’t find a remote control for the TV so we called housekeeping to report that issue. Also I noticed there were only packets of decaffeinated coffee by the coffee maker so I left a note for our room steward to leave regular coffee. We then headed directly to the Bier Garden to kill some time before the ship’s muster at 4 PM.
[IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/21eryg9.jpg[/IMG]

Muster is called by a series of high pitched ear piercing shrieks emitted over the loud speakers that was loud enough to wake the dead. We headed to our muster station which was down in the Versailles dining room on deck 6. No pictures and no cell phone usage were allowed but I did manage to snap this photo before the drill sergeant caught me and called me out.
[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/16pc1f.jpg[/IMG]

After muster we headed back to our room and discovered our luggage had already arrived. Also a remote control was sitting by our TV and there was real coffee by the coffee machine. While we were in the cabin our room steward came by and introduced himself to us. During our entire cruise he would make a point of greeting us by name even if he happened to be in another cabin cleaning it.
[IMG]http://i65.tinypic.com/2z5mwt2.jpg[/IMG]

After unpacking our luggage we realized we had forgotten to pack an extension cord. Even though we had a number of electronic devices with us that needed charging we were able to make do without one. I also discovered I didn’t pack my swimsuit.

CONTINUED IN MY NEXT POST Edited by Oakman58

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Sailaway was 30 minutes late because a crew member was running late and hadn’t boarded the ship yet. I think there must have been a partial changeover of crew members because while we were in the waiting area in the terminal I saw quite a few of the crew leaving the ship with their luggage.

While waiting for the ship to leave port I spent time on the balcony watching the NCL Sky and Carnival Victory sail out to sea before us. The Carnival Victory sounded as though there was quite a party going on with loud music blaring and people yelling and whooping it up as it sailed passed us. The NCL Sky was as quiet as a church mouse as it cruised by, perhaps with the free open bar on the Sky everyone was already passed out.
The Carnival Victory.
[IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/2iid4jc.jpg[/IMG]

The NCL Sky passing by.
[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/2d0w77.jpg[/IMG]

The ship began moving away from the pier at 5:30. As we cruised through the channel toward the ocean I saw a yacht that reminded me of the television show Below Deck. It really looked beautiful sitting at the dock with its underwater lights turned on.
[IMG]http://i66.tinypic.com/2gwew0k.jpg[/IMG]

We met with June and Mark in the 5 O’clock Somewhere bar for pre-dinner drinks. We decided that we would pay the $9.99 fee for the IConcierge App so that we would be able to text and call each other while we were on the ship.

I didn’t care for the look and feel of the beach themed 5 O’clock Somewhere bar. I preferred the old Lions Den that used to occupy this same bar area before the 2015 rehab of the ship.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/4se3hi.jpg[/IMG]

We went to the Aqua dining room for dinner and were told we would have about a 20 minute wait to be seated. We were given a pager so we headed to Gatsby’s Bar for another pre-dinner drink. We had only been in Gatsby’s a mere 10 minutes when our pager went off so we had to down our drinks quickly and head back to the restaurant.

The menu on that first night included prime rib and also duck. Our meal was excellent. My only complaint is the French Onion soup which I ordered for my appetizer was a bit disappointing. I didn’t care for the hockey puck crouton and definitely not enough cheese.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/2qspdur.jpg[/IMG]

When dinner was finished it was time to head to the Stardust Theater for the Welcome Aboard show. I have no recollection of this show and have no clue what transpired, I didn’t put anything in my notes about this show, and I have no photos from the show, so I don’t know if I enjoyed it or not. Perhaps the bottle of wine with dinner coupled with the pre-dinners fogged my memory a bit.

When the show was over we headed back to our cabin and called it a night.

It will probably be tomorrow before I get more of my pictures resized for Day 2 of the cruise.

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Thank you for the start of a great review! Following!!!

We will be on the Star in about 36 days and delighted to hear of your experiences on this cruise.

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Wonderful stuff, we were on the same cruise and had a great time. Loved the ship and the bartenders in O'Sheehan's.

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My wife and I boarded the Star in L.A. on December 15th right after your cruise. Reading your review is like Deja Vu for us. We boarded, had lunch at O'Sheehans. The wings were delicious but did not enjoy the so called Irish Stew (that wasn't a stew at all). We headed to the Bier Garden for a few. Had the Muster drill in the same location and couldn't tell you a thing about the show that night. LOL ... The only differences were that we were in cabin 10706 and had the Prime Rib at Versailles. Looking forward to the rest of your review for more Deja Vu :D

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Great narrative. You sound like someone we'd love to bump into on the ship. Laughing so hard about you not remembering the Welcome Aboard Show. Can see how that would happen.

Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed review. Dealing with misdated photos must be a real headache and its nice of you to go to so much work to help the rest of us.

We're planning a Panama Canal cruise on the Sun in the future.

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I am enjoying this report and looking forward to reading about your trip. We will be on the Star and headed to the Panama Canal on February 16. I will appreciate any hints and recommendations you provide about the cruise.

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[COLOR=Blue][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua]I am looking forward to your review, haven't been back on the Star for 9 yrs. Great start!:D[/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR]

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[quote name='kevmoley']My wife and I boarded the Star in L.A. on December 15th right after your cruise. Reading your review is like Deja Vu for us. We boarded, had lunch at O'Sheehans. The wings were delicious but did not enjoy the so called Irish Stew (that wasn't a stew at all). We headed to the Bier Garden for a few. Had the Muster drill in the same location and couldn't tell you a thing about the show that night. LOL ... The only differences were that we were in cabin 10706 and had the Prime Rib at Versailles. Looking forward to the rest of your review for more Deja Vu :D[/quote]

OMG, I had forgot about the Irish Stew in O'Sheehan's. You are absolutely right, that was more like some type of soup and I wouldn't call it Irish soup either. That is a food item everyone should pass on and perhaps NCL will add something worth while to replace it.

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[quote name='katyjeka']Looking forward to the rest of your review. Quick question, do you know how many kids were on the cruise? Thanks[/quote]

I couldn't give you a number but there weren't many kids at all. There were a lot of senior citizens like me on this 14 day cruise.

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[B]December 2nd a full day at sea.[/B]
The morning dawned with mostly cloudy skies and very windy but the temperature was nice and warm. After a leisurely breakfast at the Market Place buffet we took a walk on the promenade deck. I love the promenade on deck 7 of the Star because it runs completely around the ship. Apparently when the ship was refurbished in 2015 the murals on deck seven were painted over, I missed seeing them. I think they made the ship seem more festive compared to the plain white walls that are now on deck 7.
The current look of the walls at the rear of the promenade deck 7.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/18kieg.jpg[/IMG]

This is what it looked like in 2014 before the refurbishment.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/14145xz.jpg[/IMG]

The wind was strong enough that it chased us back in after just one loop around the ship. We decided to go up to O’Sheehan’s for some coffee and tea. We took a couple of stools in the area that overlooked the atrium. It was then that I noticed the Master and Commander of the Star and he seemed to be having a coffee klatch with two other ship’s officers. I guess all is well with the ship if no one needs to be up in the wheelhouse steering the ship. There’s probably an app on his smartphone for controlling the ship anyway.
[IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/2089zjn.jpg[/IMG]

When the Trade Winds shops opened we went there to see if they sold swimming suits. Yes they carried men’s swimsuits but at $40 I decided to wait and think about how badly I wanted or needed a swimsuit.

At 11:00 AM we headed to the La Cucina restaurant for our Cruise Critic roll call Meet & Mingle. It was very well attended and many thanks to Dianne (mains_dream) for setting up the Meet & Mingle. NCL provided some refreshments and introduced some of the ship’s officers to us.
On the right in the photo is the Cruise Director Tom Hopkins.
[IMG]http://i66.tinypic.com/35b5vzs.jpg[/IMG]

After the meeting I tried calling Mark using the IConcierge App but that didn’t work and then I couldn’t get a text to go through either. IConcierge was a waste of money in my opinion. We never could call each other and texting was spotty at best. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact I had an Android phone and he had an IPhone. IConcierge is a good idea but the current app as it pertains to the Star sure isn’t ready for prime time.

We ended up bumping into June and Mark at the Java Café a little later anyway. At the time there wasn’t anyone standing in line over at the excursion desk so the four of us walked over and booked our excursions for the rest of our cruise.

We ate a late lunch by the pool choosing to get burgers, hot dogs, and fries from the grill. For some unknown reason there were no napkins with silverware anywhere to be found. I got up and went inside to the buffet and was met with the same shortage. Fortunately as I headed back out on deck a crew member showed up with the tableware. This was the only day of the cruise that this shortage happened.

After lunch we went our separate ways agreeing to meet in the Spinnaker Lounge for the evening trivia at 5 PM. I decided I would probably need a swimsuit at some point during the cruise so we headed back down to the shops to buy one. It turned out the Nautica brand suits were on sale so I was able to buy one for 20 bucks.

June and Mark joined us in the Spinnaker for the trivia contest that was supposed to begin at 5 PM. Trivia was very popular on this cruise and some of the passengers took the contest very seriously. This first night of the cruise the trivia started 20 minutes late and the natives were getting restless.
[IMG]http://i65.tinypic.com/svjrrl.jpg[/IMG]

Thanks to the concierge that is available to Haven and suite passengers, Mark and June had made dinner reservations for all of our evening meals, including those in the complimentary restaurants. We had 7:30 reservations for the Versailles dining room this night. Dinner in the complimentary restaurants was always good to very good.

After dinner we went to the theater for the show What the World Needs Now. It featured the music of Burt Bacharach and the NCL cast of singers and dancers. I thought the production was very good but if you’re not a fan of this genre of music you might want to pass.

After the show we said goodnight to June and Mark and headed back to our cabin. We had a towel elephant awaiting our arrival.
[IMG]http://i66.tinypic.com/16894ww.jpg[/IMG]

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We had problems with the iConcierge app as well. Calls never worked and we had a kill and restart the app to get texting to work.

Trivia looks a lot more popular on your cruise than on ours. The only time we had a room that packed was when we were stuck in fog waiting to get to get to port and disembark and there was nothing else to do.

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[B]December 3rd a sea day[/B]
Normally I wake up just before dawn but this morning I didn’t wake up until 7 AM and the sun was shining brightly. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day at sea.

We went to O’Sheehan’s for breakfast and I ordered the Express breakfast. It didn’t take long for the food to be served so I guess that’s why they call it the Express. The food was hot but the bowl it came in was [COLOR=Red]RED HOT[/COLOR] and the server used a towel to put the bowl on the table. My guess is they prepare the food ahead of time and when someone orders the Express it’s put in a piping hot oven to heat it up.
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The breakfast menu at O'Sheehan's restaurant.
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After eating we took a stroll on the promenade deck. The promenade deck was very popular with those who walk for exercise every day. There was rarely anyone using the jogging track on deck 13.

After our walk we went inside to talk to the cashier about our onboard account. I had tried to use IConcierge to check our onboard account a number of times but it continued to show “account not available” which made no sense since we had purchased excursions and my swimsuit. It turned out our onboard account was in my wife’s name so it didn’t show up on my phone. Oh well, we would just do without account access. When we had cruised on the Epic the cabins were equipped with interactive TV’s so you could check your account, dinner reservations, etc. That was one of the few things I liked about the Epic.

Our next stop was the Internet Café on deck 9 because we were having problems buying the Internet using my tablet. I guess I wasn’t the only one because there were quite a few people waiting to talk to the Internet manager. While waiting in the line I was able to connect and buy the 250 minute package ($125.00). Yea, I don't have to wait in the line after all.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/24mi5bd.jpg[/IMG]

Our next stop was the Bier Garden on deck 13 where I planned to start my day with a healthy beverage. June and Mark were sitting in the Bier Garden when we arrived. Mark said he texted me with IConcierge but I didn’t respond. When I checked my phone I didn’t have any messages from him. Funny thing, while we were chatting with them suddenly Mark’s text message finally came in on IConcierge. Nope, that app didn’t work very well on the Star. My healthy drink this morning was a Bloody Mary. It came with fruits and vegetable...what could be healthier?
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/2r3i9tf.jpg[/IMG]

We ate lunch in the Market Cafe buffet with June and Mark. I thought the buffet food was very good with a plenty of choices that should have pleased just about anyone. Finding a place to sit in the Market Cafe during peak times can be a challenge though.

After lunch we found a table on deck 12 by the pool and played the game Left Right Center for a couple of hours. L,R,C is a simple game that requires no thinking but it’s fun to play. I think we had a few bushwackers while we played the game so not needing to use your brain was a bonus. After having a few drinks just determining right from left became a challenge.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/2djqyi0.jpg[/IMG]

Later in the afternoon we said goodbye and set up a meeting time in the Mojito Sugarcane bar for pre-dinner drinks. We had reservations at 7:30 for dinner in the Moderno restaurant.

When we returned to our cabin there was a health questionnaire for Nicaragua that each of us to fill out and return to Guest Services. All guests had to fill out the form regardless of whether they planned to go ashore or not.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/o7neh1.jpg[/IMG]

The Moderno restaurant was very good with some hits and misses with the meats. The small salad bar was awesome and had some great selections on it. Almost like a gourmet salad bar. I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of it.

The entertainment in the theater was the hypnotist Brenda Kaye. Her show was funny but I thought the 30 minutes it took to select the subjects and then put them in a hypnotic state took too long and was somewhat boring. We sat in the balcony for this show because Mark is a tall man and there is more legroom in the balcony. There isn’t much leg room in the regular seating in the theater and the seats are lower to the floor. The theater seating could use a serious makeover. More about the theater in my next post.

After the show we went back to our cabin and called it a night. No towel animal for us tonight.

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[B]MY COMPLAINT ABOUT THE THEATER[/B]

While the theater looks very nice at first glance a closer look reveals that the seating is in pretty bad shape. Some of the seats slope downward which makes it very uncomfortable to sit in for any length of time. There were more than just a few seats like this.
[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/2cmxftu.jpg[/IMG]

Because of Mark’s long legs we sat in the balcony for the extra leg room almost every night we attended a show. I was shocked to see the condition of one of the seats there. I can’t believe they couldn’t at least put some red tape over the torn fabric.
[IMG]http://i66.tinypic.com/16lhd1l.jpg[/IMG]

Even some of the backs of the theater seats were separating.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/2uy3kll.jpg[/IMG]

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[quote name='Vacation1964']I am enjoying this report and looking forward to reading about your trip. We will be on the Star and headed to the Panama Canal on February 16. I will appreciate any hints and recommendations you provide about the cruise.[/quote]

The first couple of days on a ship it’s confusing which way to turn when you get off the elevator to head to your cabin. Here’s a tip for anyone going on the Star. On the first day remember the color of your cabin door. When you get off the elevator look to see the color of the cabin doors, the port side doors are a different color than the starboard side doors.

All the cabin doors on the Port side are red.
[IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/2m5fc6d.jpg[/IMG]

All the cabin doors on the Starboard side are blue.
[IMG]http://i65.tinypic.com/14c9v1u.jpg[/IMG]

Another tip that most folks already know about, the fish in the carpet swim to the front of the ship, except for the red one that swims to the rear.
[IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/8zjtqq.jpg[/IMG]

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[B]December 4th Cartagena, Columbia[/B]

We were approaching Cartagena just before 7 AM. The Fort of San Fernando de Bocahica on the island of Tierra Bomba is one of the first interesting sights to greet you as you approach Cartagena.
[IMG]http://i65.tinypic.com/2zxntq1.jpg[/IMG]

There was a lot of boating activity in the area near the fort and a lot of fishermen in very small boats and canoes. This guy was my kind of fisherman.
[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/2vrxshu.jpg[/IMG]

As our ship slowly maneuvered to the pier, the Caribbean Princess was already in port and unloading passengers for the waiting tour buses.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/295y3pz.jpg[/IMG]

We went to the buffet at 7:30 and it was already a madhouse of people with long lines everywhere. We were lucky to find a seat after going through the buffet line.

Our excursion today was the Chiva Party Bus. Originally we thought about booking the Hop on Hop off Bus excursion but according to the description the party bus made a lot of stops at interesting places plus while we were on the bus we would be drinking, clapping, singing, and enjoying live music. It only cost $10 more per person so we booked the party bus.

We had a meeting time on the pier at 9:20 AM for our excursion. I’m one of those people who can’t be late for anything so we were off the ship and on the party bus by 8:45. Getting on the party bus wasn’t the easiest thing to do since there were no steps. Instead the driver and tour guide had little portable steps for passengers to use. Even so the space between the bus seats made it difficult for people like me with a big butt to get in. I know I should lose weight but that’s really hard to do. I’m currently on a seafood diet…I see food and I eat it. Yeah Yeah, I know it's an old joke.
Here's a picture of the steps used to get into the bus.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/4raumw.jpg[/IMG]

True to the description we had three musicians onboard the bus, one with an accordion, one with a bongo drum, and one with an instrument that looked like a fancy cheese grater that he rubbed with a stick. Our tour guide Fernando did a great job keeping everyone in a party mood and the music was very festive. Each row of seats had a bottle of rum, a bottle of coke, and a bottle of water. These items were replenished as necessary. Yes, this really was a party bus. A photo of our fellow partyers.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/50pd90.jpg[/IMG]

After singing our way through the streets of Cartagena our first stop was the San Felipe Fortress. We only had 15 minutes at this stop so that was enough time to take a couple of pictures of the fort from the street. That was also just enough time for the 50 or so vendors to hawk their wares. A picture of the fortress.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/1621po2.jpg[/IMG]

Continued in my next post.

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We had seen San Felipe on our first Panama Canal cruise so my wife didn’t bother getting off the bus. She thought she would be safe from the vendors. Not so, when I returned to the bus I discovered she had purchased three necklaces made of Columbian silver for $20. I think Columbian silver is code for copper covered with silver paint, LOL.
[IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/2hdcr55.jpg[/IMG]

Back on the bus we were partying through the streets again. The traffic was incredibly heavy and I think it was mentioned that this was a national religious holiday. As we drove through the city I was surprised to see how many houses and businesses had bars over the doors and windows. Apparently even religious statues have to be kept under lock and key.
[IMG]http://i65.tinypic.com/2irw2kj.jpg[/IMG]

Our next stop was Santa Calaina’s Bastion where Fernando gave everyone a little history of the fort and taught everyone to sing a song and dance in a circle. We didn’t get much of a chance to actually tour the bastion.
[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/10mv50m.jpg[/IMG]

While we were at this stop I took a picture of the Chiva bus. You can see why old fat people like me needed the portable steps to get in.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/2pt771l.jpg[/IMG]

We did a lot of driving around Cartagena but we didn’t make as many photo stops as was mentioned in the cruise excursion description. Our final stop was a small shopping mall where we had the opportunity to buy jewelry or more souvenirs. Just before departing this stop everyone was given a free empanada.

We were returned to the ship just after noon. While this was a good excursion I was disappointed we didn’t make more stops. In hind sight I would do the Hop on Hop off bus.

After eating lunch in O’Sheehan’s we went to our cabin to chill out for the afternoon. This was a relatively short port of call with the all aboard at 1:30 PM. By one o’clock the pier was crowded with passengers returning to the ship.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/2vulzbp.jpg[/IMG]

We met up with June and Mark again in the Spinnaker Lounge for the 5:30 trivia game. We actually answered 13 of 20 questions right which is pretty good for our group. After trivia we headed to Gatsby’s for drinks before dinner. We had reservations at the Ginza restaurant tonight. Tea for Two was the entertainment in Gatsby’s when we arrived. Tea for Two is two women playing string instruments, a violin and a cello, and they are incredibly talented. The music they played ranged from classical to rock depending on which venue on the ship they were performing in.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/ruqqnn.jpg[/IMG]

The food at the Ginza restaurant was very good but the service was incredibly slow. After dinner we took in the 9:30 show at the theater. Tonight’s entertainment was a juggler. I was hoping for a juggler who incorporated comedy into his juggling act but this was not the case. I found his performance somewhat boring.

After the show we went back to our cabin. We did have a towel animal tonight but I failed to take a picture so I don’t remember what it was.

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I am loving your review. I sail on the Star on March 2. I am happy to see the pictures inside the ship. Especially the wine bar. I was curious where it was located because on the deck plans it is listed in what's on the deck but isn't on the actual deck plan. Thanks for the review.

Candi

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Oakman58, I kept yelling down the hall to my DH about each funny thing you wrote. I think he got tired of me...LOL. We are looking into either the full-transit Panama Canal or Transatlantic in 2019. The Star was my pick as we loved sailing on this ship but it is his birthday we will be celebrating so he is the one that will actually pick. The Star is just the right size for us. We are retired folk too.

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[quote name='Linda the Book Lover']Oakman58, I kept yelling down the hall to my DH about each funny thing you wrote. I think he got tired of me...LOL. We are looking into either the full-transit Panama Canal or Transatlantic in 2019. The Star was my pick as we loved sailing on this ship but it is his birthday we will be celebrating so he is the one that will actually pick. The Star is just the right size for us. We are retired folk too.[/quote]


Thanks for taking the time to read my trip report. I’m not a fan of the big ships either Linda. My favorite ship is the Jade because it’s about the same size as the Star and it has a forward facing Spinnaker Lounge on deck 13 with a lot of windows. I also love The Great Outdoors at the rear of deck 12. It’s a great place to have a meal when weather permits.

Joyce and I have a 4 day cruise booked on the Jade for January 22nd. We are going on this cruise with two other couples. One couple has never been on a cruise, the wife has always wanted to try a cruise while the husband doesn’t want to cruise at all. Apparently she finally won the argument. This should be an interesting cruise for us.

It will probably be tomorrow before I get a chance to post the next day of our trip which was the transit of the Panama Canal. I’ll probably put a lot of pictures in that post.

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[quote name='candigirl41']I am loving your review. I sail on the Star on March 2. I am happy to see the pictures inside the ship. Especially the wine bar. I was curious where it was located because on the deck plans it is listed in what's on the deck but isn't on the actual deck plan. Thanks for the review.

Candi[/quote]

Thank you Candi and thanks to everyone else that is following along.

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[quote name='candigirl41'] I am happy to see the pictures inside the ship. Especially the wine bar. I was curious where it was located because on the deck plans it is listed in what's on the deck but isn't on the actual deck plan.

Candi[/quote]

It is next to Gatsbys and Le Bistro on deck 6 but when we sailed the Star this past fall I never saw it open. We are really into wine and were looking forward to it as well. Hopefully you have better luck.

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Enjoying your review and pictures. Looking forward to your Panama Canal day details. Great tips as we are sailing on the same itinerary February 16th. Thanks for sharing!

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Because each post is limited to 6 pictures I will have to use 4 separate posts to show all the photos for the canal crossing.

[B]December 5th Panama Canal Full Transit[/B]

We woke up early to very overcast skies. This was the one day I hoped to have perfect weather but it certainly didn’t look promising.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/hu0sq1.jpg[/IMG]

The buffet opened early today at 6 AM so we went up for an early breakfast. I love eggs benedict and was thrilled they were offered on the buffet every morning of our cruise and they were almost always perfectly done. I’m always amazed when people complain about food on cruise ships.

The Master and Commander opened the bow of the ship on deck 8 to passengers so they could get a good view as we passed through the locks. After eating our breakfast we took a walk to deck 8 to see if there were many people out there yet. All the best viewing spots were already taken so we didn’t stay long and headed back to our balcony cabin.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/vpf6za.jpg[/IMG]

From our balcony we had a good view of the channel that serves the new Agua Clara locks. The Caribbean Princess was already entering one of the locks. You can barely she her in the first photo of the two channels. I used my long zoom lens to get the picture of her in the second photo.
[IMG]http://i65.tinypic.com/257j9z5.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/8yc0n5.jpg[/IMG]

If we ever do another Panama Canal cruise I’ll be sure to book one of the larger ships so we can see the difference between the two locking systems. I don’t believe locomotives are used in the new lock system so I doubt it is as interesting as the original locks we would be going through today.

Tug boats came alongside the Star to assist the ship when she entered the staging area of the locking system. I think it was just before 9AM as we approached the locks.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/21nh8ig.jpg[/IMG]

As we were waiting to enter the the first of the Gatun locks the Tequila Sunrise tanker, far left in the photo, was exiting the locks and heading to the Atlantic Ocean. In the photo if you look at the ship behind the Tequila Sunrise you can see how much higher the next tanker is sitting in one of the locks behind her. There is an amazing difference in water levels in the locking system.
[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/15ac6g.jpg[/IMG]

[B]Continued in my next Post. [/B]

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Canal continued.

As we approached the first lock, the locomotives were standing by waiting to tie their lines to the ship to assist in holding her in the middle of the locks.
[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/2earxw4.jpg[/IMG]

There is also a retractable one lane bridge over the canal before the first lock at Gatun. I didn’t realize this until I saw a bus drive across it.
[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/243nfjc.jpg[/IMG]

Here’s a picture of that bridge by the locking gates.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/2efs2he.jpg[/IMG]

While the Star was in the first of the Gatun Locks, Mark and June called us and invited us to their forward facing cabin. They didn’t have to ask twice, I think we were ringing their doorbell before they had a chance to hang up the phone.

We were just entering the middle lock when we walked out onto their balcony. Wow, they had a spacious balcony and a great view of the locks.

This is a photo as the Star entered the middle lock.
[IMG]http://i68.tinypic.com/14sib7n.jpg[/IMG]

It’s hard to tell from the photo but deck 8 was well below the top of the lock wall when we entered.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/2ponl7d.jpg[/IMG]

Once the lock was filled with water the gate opened. Again it's hard to tell from the photo but deck 8 was now considerably higher than the lock wall.
[IMG]http://i66.tinypic.com/2cffe36.jpg[/IMG]

[B]Continued in my next post.[/B]

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Canal Transit Continued.

As we departed the last Gatun lock we could see the Caribbean Princess at anchor in Gatun Lake. Since she was at anchor I assume she was only doing a partial transit but I could be wrong.
[IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/j10a4g.jpg[/IMG]

The four of us ate lunch in the Versailles dining room. I ordered the Salmon Burger that came with waffle potatoes. The Salmon Burger was very good but my waffle potatoes were actually curly French fries. I think something was lost in translation. LOL.

Later in the afternoon as we cruised toward the Pedro Miguel lock the sun came out and heated things up. Fortunately Mark and June’s balcony was in the shade so we were quite comfortable as we enjoyed the view.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/14kxw0x.jpg[/IMG]

I was very envious of their suite and the size of their balcony.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/k984zp.jpg[/IMG]

While we were cruising in the canal I went down to deck 8 and took a picture of my wife, Mark, and June with their adult beverages. My wife is in the left side of the photo.
[IMG]http://i65.tinypic.com/2hhewyb.jpg[/IMG]

This next picture is where the canal splits and the channel on the right takes large tankers to the new Cocoli lock.
[IMG]http://i63.tinypic.com/33erimw.jpg[/IMG]

As we approached the Pedro Miguel lock a tanker in the other channel passed us heading toward the Cocoli lock. It’s the ship with the red hull in the far right of the photo.
[IMG]http://i64.tinypic.com/3009s3b.jpg[/IMG]

[B]Continued in my next post. [/B]

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