One of the mid-size Norwegian ships, Caribbean cruises from New Orleans, free-style dining
Best For People Who Want
Multiple restaurants with open seating dining; Las Vegas-style revues and staged Broadway musicals; 24-hour fitness facilities; full-service spa open late at night; a sports bar with live ESPN broadcasts on multiple screens; terrific facilities for kids and teens.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
The intimacy found aboard smaller ships; traditional cruise dining and dress rules; not to be pestered to attend art auctions and buy, buy, buy at the daily sales in the shops;
NCL has become synonymous with innovation in the cruise industry, and this is one of the newer NCL ships that proves it. As the the second ship purposely built to offer the "Free-style" concept of dining there are ten different restaurants onboard. Obviously, this is not a cookie-cutter cruise ship. There is a variety of accommodations, with many interconnecting cabins ideal for family cruising. Sixty-five percent of outside cabins have private balconies, while several inside facing cabins overlook the Grand Centrum.
In 2010 the ship received an upgrade to add a complex of Garden Villa Suites similar to the newer NCL ships. The largely occupy decks 11 through 14. Some of the public rooms, such as Spinnaker's Lounge, were replaced.
Open-seating dining is offered in the two main Aqua Restaurant. Don't forget the Market Cafe Lido Buffet or the 24-hour Blue Lagoon Cafe. There's a wrap-around promenade, expansive kids' and teen facilities, a two-deck 1,000-seat show lounge, disco, cinema, casino, Roman Spa & Fitness Center, and observation lounge. The sports deck has a jogging track, golf driving range, and a court that basketball, volleyball and tennis enthusiasts alike can use.
While there is just enough neon and gilt to remind you are on a cruise ship, each room on the ship truly has its own flavor (appropriate for a ship with 10 restaurants).
In keeping with the new NCL philosphy of creating "districts" for dining, drinking and playing, Norwegian Star has an atrium area with different features on each deck.
The fun starts on Deck Six where you find the Stardust Theater. behind it you will find the Star Club Casino with the usual table games and slots that range from penny denominations and up. Close by are two bars, Gatsby's and the Wine Cellar, plus the Art Gallery. Two dining spots are also close; Le Bistro and La Cucina.
Deck seven boasts The Java Cafe, located in the middle of the Grand Atrium, serving specialty coffees at a la carte prices, along with cookies and pastries, The abundant Galleria Shops, which carry everything from logo items and toys to designer clothes, have been relocated to to forward portion of deck seven. A miniature Asian Village comes next withthe Sake Bar, the Sushi Bar, the Gina Restaurant and the Teppenaki Restaurant. In the aft area of deck seven you find shore excursions, reception, the Red Lion Pub (a traditional English Ale House) and the photo gallery. In the aft section is the relocated Spinnaker Lounge, formerly the observation lounge on deck 12 forward. This room now offers nightclub entertainment, with large picture windows looking aft over the wake of the ship.
The teen and children's centers are at the aft of the ship, as is the Barong Spa and Fitness Center.
The Internet Center onboard Norwegian Star is located in a mezzanine perched above the Grand Atrium and is only accessible via two doorways located on Deck 9. It's a hard-to-find space but once there, it is quite nice, separated from the activity but allowing you to witness the goings-on in the atrium lobby. Packages can bring the Internet rate down to as low as .35 cents per minute, with a $3.95 start-up charge. Wireless Internet service is available for those with Wi-Fi-equipped laptops, or the center will rent you a laptop or Wi-Fi card. "Hot spots" are located in public spaces in the center of the ship but not in staterooms.
Almost all of the ship is wheelchair-accessible, although some of the locations and entertainment venues seem to require a round-about means of arriving. Elevators have buttons that are reachable by guests in wheelchairs and they "ding" before they arrive so sight-impaired guests can find the one that is opening; deck numbers are listed in Braille.
Smoking is limited to the port side on outside decks, to the casino, and to certain areas of bars and lounges. There is no smoking in the Grand Atrium, in any of the restaurants, or in the Stardust Theater.
Deck 12 has the Oasis Pool, Topsider's Bar and The Grill. Midships is the MarketPlace Buffet. Aft is the fitness center, juice bar and the kid's Splashdown Pool.
This is a "Free-style" ship which means there are all kinds of cuisine available on abord at a variety of prices from free to $20 per person. The Sushi Bar offers all you can eat for $10, while Le Bistro, the signature alternative restaurant of NCL is $15 per person, and worth it.
There are two main dining rooms onboard Norwegian Dawn; Aqua with its traditional table clothes and chairs, and Versailles which evokes the luxurious ocean liners of yesteryear with its hushed candlelit elegance, and stunning chandeliers.
NCL's "Freestyle Cruising" allows passengers to choose when and with whom to dine in the traditional Versailles Main Dining Room. Beyond the traditional dining rooms, there's Cagney's Steakhouse, on Deck 7 behind the Grand Centrum, which charges $30 per-person and serves steaks and chops and whole lobsters in a 1930s-ish setting. In Le Bistro, NCL's French restaurant (surcharge $25), appetizers include escargot in garlic butter, and a generous array of salads is offered. Order chocolate fondue -- chunks of fresh fruit served in a pineapple "boat" with a pot of melted chocolate to dip it in - for dessert. The Thai/Japanese/Chinese Ginza ($12.50) serves gorgeous Asian-fusion dishes. The complex also includes a Teppanyaki room ($25) and sushi bar (a la carte pricing).
The least impressive of Spirit's dining areas, The Market Cafe, often has long lines. It remains open into the evenings for those loking for fast and simple food at no surcharge.
Late-night snacks are available in the casino. The Blue Lagoon serves up burgers, fish and chips, and wok dishes 24 hours a day. Room service is simple, with mostly cold items, exceptions being ramen noodle soup, made-to-order pizza, and grilled cheese sandwiches.
The staff, recruited from all over the globe, is generally attentive and pleasant.
NCL automatically adds a fixed service charge of $10 to the shipboard accounts of passengers over 13 to make service personnel feel appreciated; children between three and 12 are charged $5. Those under three get off scot-free.
The Stardust Theater , with excellent sightlines, presents elaborate, colorful and sometimes even exciting shows. NCL's Las Vegas-style revues and staged Broadway musicals have been keeping Jean Ann Ryan Productions in chocolate and nylons for years. JAR shows generally feature themes like "Salute to Hollywood" or Broadway, or the Fifties. Whatever they are saluting, the shows offer ongoing medleys of popular songs, lively dance-steps, costumes that look like costumes, unusually tall dancers, and an adagio duet who perform beautiful pas de deux.
The aptly named Cinema & Auditorium offers movies throughout the cruise. The Sports Bar & Grill is almost always packed with sports fans gathered to ogle live ESPN broadcasts on banks of huge TV's. The inviting Topside Lounge offers panoramic views by day and a live band at night. There's music in disco at night as well, of course, with a D.J. spinning popular dance tunes.
Popular on-board activities range from craft lessons (beaded geckos!) to learning a foreign language (Spanish and Tagalog, the language of the Philippines) to games, trivia contests, and bingo. The casino, Star Club, offers a huge array of slots and table games. The art auctions are popular too.
There are all of the basic cabin types: insides, portholes, windows, balconies, junior suites and suites, all of which feature more assertive colors than the public areas. The decor is lively. Almost all of the standard rooms on this ship are interconnecting, making them ideal for friends or family groups. Double metal doors (as opposed to the single composite doors in most other ships) minimize sound seepage between adjoining rooms.
Outside cabins have a large picture window. Balcony staterooms have a full-wall sliding glass door, floor to ceiling, side to side, and an exterior balcony enclosure made of glass. Balconies are narrow (40 inches), but wide enough to accommodate a white plastic chair, a short lounger and a little table.
A series of various suites were added in 2010 including the vast 6694-square foot(!!!) three-bedroom Garden Villa. This may be the largest suite at sea with three separate bedrooms each with king- or queen-size bed, a private luxury bath and CD/DVD library. Two bedrooms also feature a full bath with whirlpool tub and separate shower. Each Villa features a private garden with hot tub, outdoor dining area and terrace. Butler service and concierge available.
Owners Suites are 721 sq. ft. and includes a living room, private balconies, dining room, separate bedroom with king-size bed, mini bar, CD/DVD library and luxury bath with whirlpool tub and separate shower.
The gym is small but well equipped. The fitness center contains two small swim-against-the-current pools. The two sexes have separate changing rooms, relaxation rooms, and steam and sauna rooms. The women's side is gorgeous and expansive, with a window-lined relaxation room along the port side. There are a couple of televisions and several comfy chairs and sofas. The Roman Spa, operated by Mandara (Steiner of London in disguise), offers treatments ranging from hot stone massages to body-cleansing wraps, albeit in tiny treatment rooms. The mid-range for massages seemed to be around $100, but specials are regularly mentioned in the Freestyle Daily, especially on port days.
The outside promenade on Deck 7 circles the ship and is the ideal place for a walking circuit; the Sports Deck has a running track (pleasantly unobtrusive, as it is set off from sunning areas by a wall; six circuits to a mile), basketball and volleyball courts, and a golf cage. Ping-Pong tables are located at the aft of Deck 11. The ship's Sports at Sea program offers logo items to those who complete their programs.
The one swimming pool on the Lido Deck, big enough for early-morning lap swims, is nicely laid out and attractive, but can feel a bit oversubscribed in mid-afternoon.
This ship is a dream come true for juvenile passengers, with approximately one-fifth of Deck 10 allocated to them. The kids' center itself is divided into several age-appropriate rooms. Then there is the video arcade to keep older children and teens distracted for hours, and a teen disco. The little folks' area features climbing tubes and tunnels, a ball crawl, and lots of soft toys, all in bright primary colors. There's an outdoor activity area and a crafts section. Splash Down is like an onboard water park, with a pool surrounded with caves and a mountain, two small slides that require entry through a tunnel, pirate's cannons that shoot water, and even a children's hot tub. An amphitheater has been installed between Decks 10 and 11 at the aft end so parents can sit and watch their kids play while getting hammered on drinks from the Raffles bar. There is no charge for the center, which welcomes children from age 2 to 16.
The designated dress code is "resort casual," which for ladies means sundresses, blouses, sweaters, slacks and skirts, and for their male companions shirts with collars, such as polo shirts, and khakis or trousers. Dressing up for formal nights is optional, as informal attire is permitted in several areas, but jeans, shorts, T-shirts, swimsuits and beachwear are forbidden in the restaurants after 5:30 p.m. On the one formal night per one-week cruise, most men say to hell with it and put on a dark suit instead of a tux.