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projecthandbag

Review - Norwegian Star - July 8-16, 2018 - Greece and Adriatic from Venice

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This is my second review (very tardy) and I’ll start this one by saying once again I loved this cruise!  I loved Europe and cannot wait to go back!

 

I always pictured myself doing one of the 15 European countries in 10 days bus tours, but then came 9/11 and I became fearful.  So ridiculous that I was on watch on planes for anyone “suspicious” and made myself even more fearful.  Finally I subscribed to the “when it’s your time it’s your time” and became a much happier traveler!   So I say, but see my high alerts for pickpockets coming up below!  ha.  

 

My dear friend M-Go found this cruise and talked me and my DH into going with her and her husband, J-Go.    Thank you, thank you M-Go for doing this!  This experience opened my horizons and made me a “world” traveller.  Or at least an European traveler! Most of the pictures I will post are hers, she photo-documented our whole trip!

 

Prior to leaving we purchased Euros and Kunas, an electric adapter (a must in Venice), Rick Steves Venice Guidebook (very good!) and the AT&T International Day Pass for $10.00 each day I used my phone.  It was the perfect alternative to buying internet minutes on the ship, especially on a cruise with only one sea day.  I used the telephone plan in Spain, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro and Greece with great success.  I participated in the NCL Upgrade Bidding and won my bid of $85.00 pp to upgrade from an interior room to an oceanview room on Deck 8.

 

We also travelled as light as possible which was not easy for this over-packer!  Next time I will pack even lighter as I was surprised how much we walked and walked and transferred from vehicle to vehicle and went up and down stairs.

 

We left Maine on a 93 degree hot and humid day and flew on Iberia from Boston to Madrid, a 6 1/2 hour flight.  Customs in Madrid was easy, they stamped our passport and on to Venice, Italy we flew.  We bought bus tickets at the airport in the baggage claim area for 6 Euros for the trip from the airport to Venice, then spent the best 36 euros each for a 48 hour vaporetto (city public transit system being a boat instead of a bus) pass and another 8 euros for a return bus trip from Venice post-cruise to the airport which we did not end up using.

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Ahhh, Venice.  We were very tired having travelled overnight and getting little sleep.  The bus ride from the airport to Venice was a blur.  We departed the bus and found the correct vaporetto stop to ride the boat to our stop to find our hotel.  We went onto the boat, started down the canal and turned a corner and there was Venice before us!  It was one the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen!  The ancientness and beauty of the city was overwhelming.  I couldn’t believe I was in Italy and in Venice!  Venice was my very favorite of all the beautiful places we went on this cruise.  We departed the boat, walked a block or two, eyes bugging out and went to the hotel M-Go found.

 

Locanda Ca’Le Vele is the name of this wonderful boutique hotel.  I will return here on my next trip to Venice.  Perhaps it was off the beaten path a little, but we love to walk so that wasn’t an issue.  It was convenient to restaurants and shops and quiet.  Did I mention the room service breakfasts?  Fresh croissants with orange marmalade, to die for!  Crusty bread, cookies that were delicious (I told my nut allergic DH he should not take the chance and eat these, that I would save him and eat them myself). Fresh orange juice and cappuccino.  Such a treat and a great way to start the day.

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Hotel Entrance

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Hotel Lobby

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Hotel Room - Cupids above every bed!

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Best Room Service Breakfast Ever!

Edited by projecthandbag
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We walked and walked all around Venice.  I had read that you can’t get lost, Venice is an island and you will eventually find your way.  It was wonderful walking down little alleys and seeing the sights. Venice was so clean and its citizens so friendly and helpful.  It was very warm while we were there, in the 80s, humid and sunny.

 

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View from one of the alleys

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My DH and me

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M-Go and J-Go

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The Lonely Gondolier

Edited by projecthandbag
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You just don't walk - so much to look at!

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M-Go found beauty everywhere

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The looks DH and I had on our faces for the entire trip!

Edited by projecthandbag
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My Wife and I were on the Star out of Venice on the 22nd of July 2018 and stayed in Venice for 3 days prior to the cruise.

My Wife loved shopping at the fruit and pastry stands near our Hotel every morning.

Looking forward to the review.

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The next day we went early to St. Mark’s Basilica and had pre-paid for our entrance tickets and were able to bypass the long entry line.  We had read that you must have your shoulders and knees covered to enter.  The ladies wore capris and the men wore pants.  Upon our arrival my DH noticed many people in shorts and found the person running the whole entry shebang who told him that you had to have pants to your knees, not past your knees.  Oh my.  I sure wish I had brought scissors to cut DH’s pants. . .

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DH not happy with his jeans!

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St. Mark's Basilica 

Edited by projecthandbag

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We enjoyed our full day in Venice, rode the boats everywhere, even to the cemetery across the lagoon and over to Murano.  We ate at sidewalk cafes and found prices much more reasonable than I thought they would be, especially in grocery stores.  Of course the further away from St. Mark’s Square, the better the prices.  We thought we wouldn’t be able to visit the Doges Palace, but found out it was unexpectedly open to 11:00 p.m!  We entered with 70 minutes until closing and did the Chevy Chase Grand Canyon Tour of the Palace.  It was amazing, no crowds, very cool nighttime lighting.  After we left the Palace we had a hellacious boat ride back up the canal on a very overcrowded boat with torrential rain, thunder and lightning.  Each time the boat stopped and even more people boarded, the whole thing tipped to one side and I was convinced it was going to capsize!  We were happy to reach our stop safe and sound.

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Vaporetto Stop

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Cemetery

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Cruising the Grand Canal

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Cruising the Grand Canal at Dusk

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Doges Palace at Night

 

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We are standing on a very crowded Vaporetto - I'm holding onto my bag in case there are pickpockets on board!!

Edited by projecthandbag

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Sunday, July 8 - Venice, Italy Embarkation

 

Is she ever going to write about the cruise you ask?  We checked out of our hotel at 10:30, took a boat to Plaza Roma and made a big mistake.  We walked past the crowded line for the People Mover and decided to walk to our ship.  It was very hot and after walking quite a ways we realized there was no apparent way to get there!  Back we walked dragging too much luggage to the People Mover.  So we took the People Mover for $1.50 Euro.  It was still quite a walk from the end of the People Mover to our ship and there were three other ships in port.  We saw signs for shuttles but no shuttles.  We arrived at the cruise terminal at 11:30, dropped our bags with the porters and had an easy check-in with no lines.  Our number was 2 and they were boarding number 4 so we walked through security and right onto the NCL Star.

 

The Star was beautiful and felt like home because we have sailed on her sister the Dawn three times.  Rooms were ready at 2:00 p.m. and we had our luggage at 4:00 p.m.  Muster was as usual and then we left port at 5:00 p.m.  The sailaway was incredible!  It was a trip going right by all of Venice.  We had a bird’s eye view from Deck 13 aft.  I’m not sure you could have a more beautiful departure port.   We ate dinner at Versailles, very nice and good service.  World Cup Soccer was underway and on TVs everywhere and lots of soccer fans on board.  We were in Room 8160 and could hear the Bliss Lounge in the evening, but not too loud and the noise didn’t go very long in the evening (or we were so tired that we fell asleep and didn’t hear it).

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It's a long walk in hot sun to get to the ships.

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Bird's Eye View during sailaway

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What an incredible view of Venice from the ship!

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Finally on board the Star in the new H20 on Deck 12 Aft.

Edited by projecthandbag

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Hi all!

 

projecthandbag ~ loving your review. The pictures are lovely. I was on the Star in June so look forward to seeing the ports through your eyes.

Talk about a long walk to the ship, first time I was there DH & I walked from the train station to the ship. I thought I was going to die! We did of course, stop for gelato on the way.😉

 

~ Jo ~ 😊

 

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Monday, July 9 - Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

Another great day, sunny and hot!  Docked at 1:00 p.m., beautiful port.  We had the NCL DBVS6911 Game of Thrones - Venture through King’s Landing Tour booked for 2:00 p.m.  I must give this tour a A+++!  If you watch Game of Thrones you will enjoy this tour.  The +++ rating is for our tour guide Ana!  She was excellent!  She is a Daenerys look-alike (according to the guys) who wanted to be an extra and was passionate about the show.  She had so much inside information about the filming and the actors.  She took us to places and then showed still photos from the show.  She said the actor who played Mountain was the biggest person she had ever seen and was so nice and that he had a pomeranian dog who looked like a hamster when he held it in his hand.

 

An aside:  Ana’s grandmother told her “you are only as valuable as the languages you speak”.  As Americans we are so fortunate that everywhere we go others speak English and signs are often in English too.  I found that everywhere we went on this cruise that most everyone spoke English.  I then would think about other tourists who don’t speak the local language or English and how much more difficult travel would be.

 

The Old City was beautiful and a sight to see.  We climbed the walls, lots of walking and stairs but so worth the climb.  The tour was well-organized, and the bus came when scheduled and took us back to the ship.

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Circe's Walk of Shame Staircase

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Another scene from Game of Thrones was filmed here

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View from above the walled city

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A lot of stairs to climb and the view was amazing!

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Hot and tired, but we made it!

Edited by projecthandbag

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Tuesday, July 10 - Kotor, Montenegro

 

Yet another beautiful port!  It reminded me of Alaska, mountains/hills and a still blue ocean.  This was a tender port, it was a 25/30 minute tender ride and there were three ships in port.  It was a long wait for the tender back to the ship.

 

We took the NCL KOTS0111: Best of Montenegro tour.  We had a great bus driver and tour guide.  It was a long tour and a lot of riding on the bus.  We went up the “zig-zag road” with 25 switchbacks and I pretty much hated every minute of it.  I have (another) fear of heights and thought we might fall off the side of the mountain.  We stopped at one overlook to take pictures of the bay, then to a little restaurant for a sandwich and a drink.  I chugged my glass of red wine and then enjoyed the bus ride more because I didn’t care after that what happened!  We stopped at a museum and then it was a long ride back to the port, bad traffic and we had very little time to tour the walled city.  It felt rushed as we had to get back to the tenders to the ship.  Next time we would just done a walking tour of the old town.

 

We had dinner at O’Sheehan’s and our entrees were cold but the brownie caramel marshmallow  cheesecake was wonderful!  We went to the show Band on the Run, a typical production show that I’ve seen before.  The house band was excellent.

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Tender Port

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View from top of "zig zag" road.  There are two Princess ships in the foreground and the NCL Star the furthest out.

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"Zig Zag Road".  Do not sit on right side of the bus near the window if you have a fear of heights!

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Little Restaurant we stopped at.

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Clock Towers from Old Town

Edited by projecthandbag

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Wednesday, July 11, Argostoli, Kefalonia, Greece

 

Another hot and sunny day and a tender port.  We took the NCL ARMS0111 Melissani & Drogarati Cave tour.  It was a long ride out to the cave.  Skip the cave, it was pretty poor.  The underground lake was very pretty and unusual but we had to wait in the blazing sun for close to an hour before we got onto our boat.  Short boat ride.  The ride back to the ship was scenic and we stopped at a beach overlook.  That view was breathtaking!  The tour was listed as 3.5 hours but it took over 5 hours so again there was no time to explore the port as we had to get back to the ship.

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View from Ship

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My recommendation:  skip the cave tour!

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Line for the underground lake tour - it was very hot!

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Melissani Lake

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Melissani Lake

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View on the return way to the ship - one of the most beautiful water views I've ever seen!

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Stunning View

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Distance for Tender Return

Edited by projecthandbag

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Thursday, July 12, Piraeus (Athens), Greece

 

Another hot 92 degrees and sunny day.  This port wasn’t very pretty, it’s an industrial area.  We took the NCL PIRS5311 The Acropolis & Leisure Tour.  We took a bus to Athens, lots of graffiti everywhere.  We arrived at the Parthenon/Acropolis area in the heart of Athens.  So odd to have these very ancient artifacts in the center of a city.  You could not pay me enough to be a tour director for this tour!  Our lady was very good, but the area was so so hot and crowded and it was hard to stay together.

 

Pickpocket Alert!  All the guide books I read and our tour director warned us about pickpockets.  I was all over that!  I had my requisite fanny pack under my shirt with my valuable passport and money in it for Venice transfers to and from airport/hotel/ship.  When we were out and about during the day, we took only what we needed, but I was still on high alert.  My very favorite gadget of all time is my Apple Watch.  I wanted to use it for all it’s wonderful features on this trip, but feared someone would take it from me.  So, I devised my foolproof safety method of two very sticky bandaids to keep the band closed.  That was either (1) was an amazing foolproof safety method which foiled all pickpockets; (2) no pickpocket came near me or (3) all pickpockets avoided the American woman who was acting like a crazy person - so I came home with my watch and valuables!

 

I digress from my story.  In Athens, I am certain I saw a pickpocket working the crowd!  We were in one of those snaking back and forth lines and he “accidentally” hits one of the poles, almost fell down, and in doing so, grabbed my DH and another lady to save himself.  Okay, poor guy could have been hurt.  Then, I watched him work his way back and forth through the line appearing and disappearing, talking and smiling.  M-Go questions my theory saying she doesn’t believe a pickpocket would be so obvious, but I am convinced he was up to no good and maybe he was new at this!

 

The Parthenon and Acropolis were amazing and so ancient!  You quickly realize while traveling in Europe how “young” the United States is.  After visiting this area we had free time in the Plaka shopping and dining area which was nice.  We met our tour guide after that and had a city tour on the bus.  Every so often you would see some random artifact in the middle of the city.  If I go back to Athens with others, I would tell them to take the tour as you must see Athens, but I would stay on the ship.

 

We had ship tours scheduled for upcoming ports Santorini and Split.  We decided to cancel them and had no problem doing so.  M-Go and I decided that the next time we cruise in Europe, we will research the ports and tours better.  The four of us weren’t huge fans of sitting in the theatre in the morning waiting for our tour to be called, long bus rides and not having time to explore the port before returning to the ship.  We do understand that in some ports you need a tour, such as Athens.

 

We watched the ship’s evening show Paradis - it was a lovely, fun show!  French colorful costumes, dancing and singing.  I enjoyed it very much.

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Graffiti everywhere.

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Athens was hot and crowded!

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Ancient Artifacts in the middle of a city!

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Platka for shopping and dining

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A sight you do not see in America - ancient artifact in traffic!

Edited by projecthandbag

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Friday, July 13, Santorini, Greece

 

Yet another hot and sunny day.  Better than rain!  This was another tender port and the seas were rough upon leaving the tender.  We rode the cable car up to Fira town for 6 Euros each.  We walked around the beautiful town and saw the lovely views, white buildings with blue roofs.  M-Go found us an excursion company to take us to the Black Sand Beach for 12.50 Euros a couple.  The beach was a rocky beach, the water was nice and cool.  It was a little rough exiting the sea, but the rocks were smooth.  We were happy to swim in the Aegean Sea.  There were lots of outdoor restaurants and we had some delicious drinks and Ouzo (and baklava!) The return pickup was ready at the time they said they would be there and returned us to Fira, high up on the cliffs.

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Little did I know these docile donkeys were a preview of coming events!

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Beautiful Fira Town

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Way above the NCL Star!

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Black Sand Beach

Edited by projecthandbag

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Here’s where it became a very interesting day.  Now two ships had docked down below and the line for the cable cars going down was very long and it was so hot and sunny with no shade.  We made the decision that 588 stairs down would be a good idea.  Not all ideas are good ones but often end up making good stories and great memories.  We began going down the stairs which serpentined down the cliffs.  Many stairs were smooth from wear and slippery and the stairs were uneven and odd around the corners so you had to watch your step.  There was a four foot wall on the cliff side and the cliff on the other side.  Oh, and donkeys use these stairs to go up and down carrying people and they have to go potty somewhere so there is that to deal with too.  I had no idea donkeys were so big!  These guys were huge.  I thought they’d be the size of shetland ponies.  Some were going up and some were going down.  Most of the time they were not accompanied by any sort of chaperone so they did what they wanted to do with people on their backs!  I do understand it is their staircase and we are in the way.  As we progressed down, we ran into more and more of them, some going up and some going down and it seemed to me they were getting more aggressive the further we went.  They would press you right up against the walls and one actually stepped on my foot and that hurt a lot!  They pressed J-Go into the walls too and he had to push it off him.  They wear bells so you’d hear the bells and think “Oh no!  The donkeys are coming, the donkeys are coming!”  Sometimes they were just standing in areas looking at you as you walked by.  One with a metal muzzle on his mouth chased my DH and I’ve never seen DH move so fast and I couldn’t stop laughing.  That donkey stopped in the middle of the path and blocked the way.  Finally I looked at him and said “ok, I’m going to go by you and you are going to be nice, right?”  He agreed and on I went.  Later a mom and two children were pushed down by donkeys and J-Go scooped up the kids, at least the donkey stepped over the kids, I can’t imagine how scared the mom must have been!  We finally made it to the bottom and were so hot and tired, it must have taken 20-25 minutes to get down.  Around the corner we went to get in line for the tender and one of the NCL reps took one look at us and had cold towels and drinks brought to us.  I think he thought we had sunstroke!  I did see after in the Freestyle Daily that the recommendation is to use the cable cars and that to “please use caution around or near the donkeys as they are live and impulsive animals”  and Big.

 

This evening we went to the Latitudes cocktail party.  It was very nice, but couldn’t have been more than 30 people in attendance.  I felt bad for the organizers and officers with so few people there.  The band Upgrade was playing and I thought they were good and had heard them around the ship.  One of the officers told me if you want to walk the donkey trail, going up is easier if you take your time.

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This guy or one of his friends chased my DH.

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J-Go on alert for misbehaving donkeys

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View going down serpentine staircase

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The Donkeys are Coming!!!  Oh no!

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View from ship of donkey staircase

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Safe and Sound and back on board the NCL Star

Edited by projecthandbag

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Saturday, July 14 - At Sea

 

Ahhh, a sea day!  We were tired and needed a day to sleep in and relax.  We enjoyed the ship!  The latest dry dock changes were very good.  Spice H2O on 12Aft replaced the kids pool area, but I prefer The Great Outdoors on other ships which is wide open.  Spice H2O has high glass walls as it is used as a nightclub in the evenings.  We ate here quite a bit when we couldn’t find a seat in the Garden Cafe.  BYOS (bring your own silverware).  There is a nice bar at the entrance too.  The Garden Cafe has been redone and is nice and fresh.

 

The casino was busy for the first time on this cruise.  We didn’t spend a lot of time here on this cruise.  I went to the Art Auction with M-Go and enjoyed it as it was my first one.  Can’t ever see myself buying any art, but others did.  We played cards in the “secret room” on Deck 9.  We had saved our “free” wine and mixed it with orange juice and it was drinkable.

 

We went to the evening show Vegas!  The Show! and it was okay, typical production show.  This show included the tribute to the staff and officers and I never miss that!  I love being able to show my appreciation for all they do to make our cruises incredible.  The staff on the NCL Star were wonderful.

 

A special shout out to the Shore Excursion staff on this cruise - they were excellent!  Namaste!

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New Spice H2O area 12 Aft.  I prefer the Great Outdoors on other ships.  

Edited by projecthandbag

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Sunday, July 15, Split, Croatia

 

Our last port and another beautiful day and port!  We disembarked at 9:00 and walked a half mile or so to the Old Town.  There is an old Bell Tower you can walk up and so most of us did.  It was really old and the stone stairs were really tight.  All was well until we reached the area of the bells.  It was wide open and now the stairs were metal stairs with no backs and you could see through the bottoms of them.  Not good for someone with a fear of bad guys, pickpockets, donkeys and heights!  My group went on without me and twice I tried to follow them, only to turn back.  Every 15 minutes the bells ring!  What a cacophony of noise!  People were coming out holding their ears.  Thank goodness they didn’t go off during one of my brave attempts to climb the open stairs!  I probably would have fallen off them.  The views from the top were beautiful!

 

We explored the old town and palace area and it wasn’t too crowded until a second ship docked.  Tonight would be the World Cup Soccer Finals between Croatia and France!  So fun to actually be in Croatia for this.  All of the bars were getting ready for the game and everyone had their red and white colors on.  We used our remaining Kunas for drinks at one of the outside bars and people watched.  A very nice afternoon!

 

Back on the ship the game was on everywhere, in the theatre, Spice H2O and O’Sheehan’s.  Congratulations to France, but we were rooting for the underdog:  Croatia.

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View from Ship.  Bell tower at left of picture

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Bells in tower

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Scary Stairs!

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View from top of Bell Tower

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Looking down from top of bell tower

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Going down looks as terrifying as going up!

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Look at all the lovely orange Aperol!

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Cheers!

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World Cup Final Game at Spice H2O

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World Cup Game in Stardust Theatre

Edited by projecthandbag

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Monday, July 16, Disembarkation, Venice, Italy

 

We were outside for the return to Venice.  What a beautiful sail-in!  Goodbye oh so lovely Venice until I return!

 

We disembarked at 8:45 with our luggage.  I read later that you are supposed to put your luggage out the night before, that there is no self walk-off but there were no issues with us doing so.  We stood in line on deck a long time to get off the ship.  There were several groups of line cutters as we approached the gangway which was annoying “We are trying to make a 10:30 flight!”  Well, get up earlier and get in line like the rest of us and good luck with that early flight.

 

We took a taxi to the airport instead of using our return bus passes.  Best decision ever!  50 Euros for the four of us and we didn’t have to get back on the People Mover and try to find the right bus to the airport.

 

It was kind of a mess at the British Airways check-in line.  We stood in line one hour for boarding passes or to drop bags.  After we did so, we found the kiosks to self-check behind us and a wall and around the corner from where we were of what was now a very long line.  No signage I saw for that.

 

Security had very cool facial recognition passport machines.  Once we arrived at Heathrow in London, it was crowded and security was insanely tight (which is good).  I thought the prices in European airports for food and drinks were so much more reasonable than in US airports.

 

My biggest takeaway from this European cruise:  you have a floating hotel, restaurant and transportation!  So much nicer than a bus tour where you go to a different hotel every night and live out of a suitcase.  We went to our room each night to sleep and woke up in a new beautiful place each morning.  I cannot wait to do another European cruise and M-Go was researching our next one while sitting in the airport!  You will find me somewhere on the Baltic Sea next August with my DH and wonderful friends and traveling companions M-Go and J-Go!

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THE END 🙂

Edited by projecthandbag

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Hi all!

 

projecthandbag ~ terrific review & photos, thanks so much.

OMG those curvy roads & open steps would finish me off. I felt sick just looking at them!

We didn't have to tender at Kotor or Mykonos on the June Star cruise. I had been to Santorini before & with 5 or 6 ships in port decided to stay onboard. It was really neat as I was the only one at trivia = winner!! The sunset there that night was beautiful & lasted a long time.

 

The Baltic cruise is amazing too. I did it May '17 on the Getaway. Be sure to spend a night or 2 in Copenhagen if you can. It's quite a nice place.

 

Happy New Year!!

 

~ Jo ~ 😊

 

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Hi "retiring soon" Jo,

Glad you enjoyed my very long review and my friend's photos - I can't take credit for those.  I enjoy reading other's reviews and thought this port review might help someone else or bring back memories.  I'm excited about our Baltic cruise this summer - we only have a day in Copenhagen and will have to make the best of it.  Happy New Year to you too - my name is Jo also - how funny is that? 

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Thanks for the great review and photos. Can you write something about the ship - main dining room, restaurants, cabin, etc?

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Thank you for the great review.  We are doing a similar (shorter) cruise with friends on the Star (our first on NCL) in September - so your review is very relevant and interesting for us.

Edited by Aus ATC

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Thanks very much for your review.

 

I agree, I don't like the look of the new Spice H20 area - why did they do away with the Great Outdoors? the new area looks so sparse and empty.

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10 hours ago, Jimbo59 said:

Thanks for the great review and photos. Can you write something about the ship - main dining room, restaurants, cabin, etc?

Hi Jimbo59,

It is my understanding the ship recently had come from a dry dock.  Everything was in great condition.  The main dining room was beautiful and elegant, service and food was great.  The buffet was completely redone and my only gripe was lack of seating at busy times.  We did not eat at any specialty restaurants this cruise, but typically love Cagney's.  Our cabin was an upgrade/bid from an interior to an oceanview.  It was the typical small cabin with a window at the head of the bed so you had to crawl on the bed to look out.  We like the layout of the bathroom with a nice shower and sink area.  The toilet area is walled off and as others have commented, it could be tight for a tall man.  If I remember correctly it did have a little more storage (large drawers) than an interior (comparing to my memories of the Dawn).  We've been on the Dawn four times so the Star was like home, almost identical.  Because this cruise was so port-intensive, we didn't spend much time on the ship.  We were up and out early every day, back late, ate, maybe saw a show and off to bed.  Great ship and wonderful staff.  

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