Norwegian Star Reviews

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64 User Reviews of Norwegian Star Cruise Ship

Nickel and dimers
Publication Date: October 31, 2016

First allow me to comment that the service and the food on the Norwegian Star are pretty good. The staff members are friendly and helpful. We had dinner in five specialty restaurants and the quality and service of each of them were excellent.

That being said, I have a number of complaints about how the NCL as a cruise company treats its customers based upon comparing some 30 plus previous cruises (only the second with NCL):

1) The very first negative issue that came up was the cost of the water packages that are offered are way too excessive. We were carrying a 2 liter bottle of water on board during embarkation and was told that it was prohibited – first time that has EVER happened! When we looked at purchasing water on board, we were told we could buy a “water package”. I am sorry but bottled water for up to $5.50 per liter is price gouging. And, if you take into account that you are prohibited from carrying on water from either the embarking port or any ports-of-call, you may say that the pricing is almost like extortion. By

the way, the bringing on of soft drinks was also prohibited.

2) To make matters worse, if you ask for a pitcher of water between 10:00 AM to 6:30 AM, there is a $7.95 convenience fee. As I mentioned previously, I have been on 30 plus cruises (only my second with Norwegian) and I have NEVER been charged a convenience fee for any room service, let alone for a pitcher of water.

3) Speaking of the room service “convenience fee”, you can order a breakfast consisting of juice, coffee and associated muffins, rolls, Danish. However, if you add eggs, breakfast meats, potatoes, or anything hot, the $7.95 “convenience fee” is added. Again, in the 30 plus cruises I have been on, I never incurred a fee.

4) NCL may notice that there is not much activity going on in the casino most of the nights and days at sea. Perhaps it is because smoking is allowed throughout the casino. Customers that did not gamble would find refuge at the casino just so they can smoke inside rather than outside. This adds even more smoke to what is already a smoke filled room. Apparently NCL does not understand that the MAJORITY of people are now non-smokers? Perhaps if it changes the policy – or at the very least designate a small smoking section – it would see more activity. I did not go to the casino whatsoever due to smoking odor, but my wife did. This cannot be healthy for the patrons OR the workers in the casino.

5) As for the casino, my wife was charged a “convenience fee” for shifting money from our account to be used for gambling. We have never received such a fee on any other cruise line. 3% for using your credit is outrageous. What’s next: a convenience fee for charging drinks and other purchases on the ship?

6) In my opinion, there should be more activities provided on sea days. What is being offered is rather weak in terms of quantity. Those that are offered seem to be satisfactory.

7) I don’t understand the tax policy. 10% taxes throughout the cruise were placed on purchases such as beverages. We were first told that the tax would go away once we left the Port of Barcelona and into international waters. However the tax never went away and I spent an additional $178.01worth of “taxes” – which I never paid in the past.

8) My wife and I had the Premium Beverage Package. It is amazing to me that water and premium coffees are not included whereas other cruise lines include it. Soft drinks are included – why not bottled water and coffee?

9) I was also told that if I have a cappuccino in the restaurants during a meal, I would not be charged. However I had breakfast in the Versailles, asked for a cappuccino and was charged $3.95. I was then told that it does not include breakfast. WHY?

10) When I am having dinner or otherwise ordering a glass of wine, I noticed that there were two “pours” – a regular one and a larger one. When I ask for the larger one, even though it is less than the $15 maximum allowed, the server will only give me a smaller one. I am told that because I am on the package I can only get the smaller one. WHY?

11) I also purchased a “drink of the day” Moscow Mule, which sold for $7.95 rather than the usual $10.95. When I received my bill, I was being charged the $10.95. When I asked why I wasn’t charged the $7.95, the server said the $7.95 was for those people who are not on the package and because I was on the package I was being charged full price. YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! WHY ARE WE BEING CHARGED THE MORE EXPENSIVE PRICE?

12) The fees for the excursions also seem to be on the very high side. Examples:

a) While we were in Messina, we were able to get a taxi to go back and forth to Taormina while the driver waited 2 hours for 20 EURO each. Yet NCL was charging $219 for a visit to Taormina plus Mount Etna OR Taormina and a Sicilian Vineyard. Adding Mt. Etna or the Vineyard for $200 more seems to be pretty expensive.

b) We took a Hop on/Hop off tour in Athens for 20 Euro. The NCL charge was $49 (40 EURO) for the same tour.

c) We took a Hop on/Hop off bus in Iraklion for 15 Euro, which brought us to Knossos. The entrance fee was also 15 Euro. So for 30 Euro we were able to see not only the ruins at Knossos but also the city. The cost for the Knossos and Village life was $109.

d) The hotel we are staying at in Rome arranged a taxi to pick us up at the port for 130 Euro for the 4 of us and brought us directly to the hotel. NCL is charging $85 per person – or $340 for four – to go directly to the airport.

There seems to be a lot of “policies” that are different from place to place and from time to time on board the Norwegian Star – none of which appear to be available to the customers in any written form. Too bad the only people that know about them are the staff members and not the customers – and even then there was no consistency from staff member to staff member.

It is obvious that it is Norwegian’s policy to “nickel and dime” its customers to the absurd. As I mentioned, this is only the second trip I have taken with Norwegian whereas I have taken 30 or so with other cruise lines such as Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Carnival. In addition, we had another couple join us on this particular cruise – their first one in quite some time. They, too, noticed the petty add-ons and exorbitant charges and fees (along with other passengers, I might add). My suggestion to NCL would be to listen to and understand its customer base. It should be more transparent with the fees they will charge on board so the consumer can make a logical evaluation of pricing amongst the cruise lines. We do not mind paying for service and quality. Just don’t “nickel and dime” us on petty fees and over charge us for excursions. It appears that NCL is striving to become the Spirit Airlines/EasyJet of the cruise world.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: February 5, 2012

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Shelly Vavrin Western Caribbean February 5, 2012

Don't bother to go on this ship. It is dated, worn, complicated to get around, balcony's are a joke, room service was not eatable, and the bathrooms are made for midgets. Getting on board was lines and waiting. Open buffets were located in areas that make a high school cafeteria look like a 5 star restaurant. The staff was not knowledgeable about where things were located. You needed a map to get around the ship and had to go up and over and down to get to some locations. Scooters for handicapped passengers were left in the hallways outside their rooms, creating difficulty in walking down the halls with passengers coming in the other direction. The balcony was small, very worn, dirty floor, room for two chairs and a tiny table. Room service food was totally disgusting and not worth it. The specialty restaurants were empty and constantly pushed on you. I was well when I boarded the ship but after a few days got a respiratory infection and two weeks later still had a cough. The ship knew

there was a virus on board and had people at locations to wash your hands "washy washy", give me a break, we aren't in kindergarten! The shops were way overpriced and nothing compared to the Carnival Legend that we sailed on in November 2011 out of Tampa. The bathroom was big enough for a midget. If you are handicapped in anyway, forget it. The service in the restaurants was slow and the staff like machines. We have cruised several types of ships and NCL, particularly Star will never ever see us again. Save your money and don't bother...
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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: November 13, 2011

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Guy Stewart Western Caribbean November 13, 2011

Wow! Where do I start. We just spent a LONG week on the Norwegian Star. Here are just a few of many complaints and comments. Rooms are noisy, the music kept us awake. Boom! Boom! Boom! In the room on many occasions. The rooms are obviously not built well to isolate sound. (9th floor). Anytime dining is designed to drive customers to dining rooms you have to pay for. You have to wait in line almost every meal and are given a beeper so you can sit around for a half hour while waiting for food. This is all designed to make you pay for one of the specialty restaurants in my opinion. The food in the "FREE" dining rooms is mediocre at best. The same menu for the entire week, thin little steaks, very limited selection, waiters don't really care to wait on you because they know they are not working for tips because $12 per person, per day has already been added to your bill. (which I promptly went to the desk and had removed as

I did not authorize it to be put on my card. The staff on the desk did their best to try to talk me out of removing it but I insisted and got it removed) (this practice alone will make it so I do not cruise with Norwegian again)

At one point they closed one of the two "free" dining rooms to use the room for another function, making hours shorter so that you were forced to pay to eat in the specialty dining rooms.

Cigarette and cigar smoke EVERYWHERE!!!! You can't sit on a deck chair without someone sitting down next to you and lighting up a cigarette or worse a cigar. At one point a lady sat down at the table we were eating at and lit up a cigarette!!!!!

The tiny little pool (only one pool) area was smoking as well so every time you walked past the pool you had to inhale smoke. It made it so you didn't want to go near the bathtub sized pool at all.

Ship is tired looking and feeling. Lots of things need attention, rugs in halls are dirty and ragged, Beds are extremely uncomfortable.

Unsanitary things with cafeteria. Juice dispenser required hands on. Dirty buttons that everyone had to touch. People dumping water bottles in juice and coffee dispenser drains and rinsing bottles and refilling.

Poor organization throughout ship for moving crowds. Photographers blocking isles in atrium. Ship excursions were extremely inflated. We took exact same tours for 1/3 the cost that ship wanted. People in the Bars seemed to intentionally made soda flat and undrinkable that was served for soda package. $52 spent and soda was never drinkable. Free ice cream hidden at one end of the ship and closed lots of hours Tiny little area for kids. Puny little 13 inch tv in room Ship is primarily focused on extracting every penny possible out of it's guests with little concern of what the guest gets for value for their money.

Rooms very small but did have a nice bathroom.

Stores very tiny with poor selection. Everything on the ship is overpriced.

Pitiful attempt at a movie screen hung over a bar with crappy picture and sound with very little seating

Every other seat is broken in theatre. You sit down and often you were almost touching the floor due to a broken seat cushion. The entertainment was very good however.

We certainly will not be returning to Norwegian any time soon. We have cruised many times on Royal Carribbean and have loved it every time. Norwegian has a long, long way to go before they come close to Royal.

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Publication Date: April 29, 2011

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Tina Mexico April 29, 2011

I booked 8 rooms for my wedding party. To keep it simple here's what went wrong!

My husband got food poisoning from chicken ordered to room service he threw up for a whole day!!! bugs in two of the rooms in the beds medical service unclean (nurse dropped gauze on the floor then used it on us also removed cap of a syringe with her mouth and used it on us) a crew came to paint a moldy ceiling in one of the cabins of the wedding party even though we asked them not to and the girls had to sleep with fresh paint smell in their room! on booking all 8 rooms we had room credits which once on board they did not want to give to us. since we were a group they had promised something in the room every night for the group and for myself and my husband (the newlyweds) and we got nothing but bugs and paint smell and so much more!

Service and food were the worst I've had on a cruise ever! (i've been

on 4 cruises and ha people with us who had cruised 8 times with other lines who were in disbelief at this terrible cruise!!!)

STAY AWAY FROM THE STAR!!! we had a terrible experience and would never step foot in a Norwegian cruise again!!!

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Repositioning Cruise
Publication Date: October 2, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by OopsieDaisy Repositioning Cruise October 2, 2010

I pulled another one of my famous last minute cruise bookings and got a six day repositioning cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles with ports of call (Victoria, BC; Astoria, OR; San Francisco, CA) along the way. I paid $299 pp for a guaranteed ocean view and ended up with a balcony cabin on Deck 8! Score!! They could have pulled me behind the ship in a dinghy and I would have had my money's worth. So I am grateful, really I am.

I DO, however, have some comments to share. I would have been REALLY disappointed if I had paid anywhere near brochure price. Mostly, I am not a fan of the trend towards casual cruising. NCL calls it Freestyle. I do understand the attraction of setting your own meal schedule (although you are still constrained by the operating hours in the full service restaurants), but the freedom comes at a price. You now have to show up and line up, instead of arriving and going to your assigned table. I found the food quality pretty good in the

restaurants, but the buffet was awful. Tables so crowded together that you have to ask people to interrupt their meals to let you in and out; school cafeteria quality desserts; food lukewarm; not enough variety. I prefer tipping via the onboard account rather than scrambling on the final day to find each person and hand them an envelope. But the casual concept has arrived at a point where your stateroom attendants are virtually invisible and you never see the same dining room waiter twice. So therefore the outstanding service of yesteryear is gone with the wind. Service aboard the Norwegian Star was adequate and no more than that.

Our stateroom was quite small and had really bad accumulated dust on shelves above the room safe and by the TV set. I didn't want to unpack any clothes in these dirty areas. The bathroom was a decent size and well equipped.

The ship had lost it's contract for any TV sports channel the week before our cruise and staff reported there was no word as to when it would be reinstated. As we are in baseball playoffs, mid-football season and the beginnings of hockey and basketball seasons, there were a lot of unhappy campers about that.

I found some of the staff at the Guest Services and Shore Excursions desks very difficult to understand with their heavily accented English. (And I have lived overseas in 5 different countries for 15 years and am quite an 'active' listener!)

My friend and I booked 'Spa Combo' services for an 'at sea' day. 7 x 20 minute services for $109. I got a male hairdresser who, although very kind and earnest, had little skills as an esthetician. He raced through 5 of the advertised services and booted me in 1 hour. My friend got the 'whole enchilada' and came back to the stateroom a full hour after I did. I know, why didn't I say something? I hate to complain when I know someone's job/promotion/salary increase might be affected, that's why. But I was p*ssed, believe me!

So. For $299, I still got a helluva deal. But stacking NCL up against Holland America, Azamara, or even Carnival? Not impressed. Likely will not cruise with them again. Oh! Unless I get a six day cruise, balcony stateroom, for $299 again. That tends to compensate for a lot of shortcomings!! :D

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Mexican Riviera aboard the Norwegian Star
Publication Date: January 25, 2015

Hey Cruisers!

Our December Mexican Riviera (7 night) trip onboard the Star was a blast. The crew were terrific and the ship was fun to explore. We visited the usual ports- Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan.

A little background on us: I’m 41, hubby 51, and our son is 6. We cruise 2-3 times per year, mostly with Princess and Carnival due to geographic availability (we like to drive to port- it’s so much more affordable and convenient, especially with a small child). We cruised on the Star around 2007, just before it was refurbished when the ship was doing a slightly different itinerary. We booked in this cruise 8 months prior to sailing because we got an incredible deal on a mini suite, for the price of a balcony on most similar itineraries. Our hobby is to film cruise ships (link at the end of this video), so we often spend considerable time in the first few days onboard filming as much of the ship as possible.

Impressions of the Ship:

The ship is ready for a refurb and an update, but is certainly not falling apart. We liked the layout, but

in some areas (finding dining rooms), it got confusing.

The Cabin: Mini Suite 11002 is at the very end of the hall, forward, starboard side. It was SO quiet and peaceful as it’s in a low traffic area. You will see more officers coming and going from the bridge entrance next door than you will see other passengers. Our room steward was amazing, and used our names from day 1. He made the trip special. The mini bar and bathtub in the suite were wonderful, but our favorite part was the silly little coffee pot that we got to fire up every morning. No rushed calls to room service, or runs to the buffet or coffee shop for coffee. LOVE!

Day by Day Review:

Embarkation Day was smooth and the terminal staff were friendly and warm. We were in the first 10 groups to board (around noon or so), and because our stateroom wasn’t ready, we explored the ship and grabbed lunch at the buffet while my husband ventured off to start filming the ship before the crowds hit. To our disappointment, the kids buffet area was closed. Our little guy had been looking forward to it, but it’s no big deal. The layout was nice, which minimized crowds, and we all found something we enjoyed. I LOVE the Indian food they serve daily and ate it with my salad pretty much every time we visited. I get the sense that it isn’t popular because there were never many people at that end of the buffet, but it’s delicious and healthy. After lunch, we settled in to our stateroom, a reasonably priced mini suite that we loved and unpacked. Dinner in the main dining rooms on night one on most ships is always “interesting”, with lines, changes, etc%u2026but this ship was particularly frustrating. The lines were really long to get into main dining at Aqua, passengers were cranky, and in hindsight, we’d have booked Cagneys or another specialty dining room to start the trip off right. Oh well, live and learn. The food in Aqua on night one was sub par compared to other ships, but we had read this here on cruise critic, and fully expected it. Throughout the cruise, we learned what to avoid on the menu and what time to dine (7pm or later). There ARE great menu items, you just have to be patient. I think this ship puts more quality emphasis on their specialty dining than their main dining rooms, and the dining room food suffers. Don’t get me wrong, we’d sail on this ship again in a heartbeat, and overall, enjoyed the food once we figured it out.

Day 1 was a sea day, so I planned to take the latin dance (aka Zumba) class around 9am. The class was fun, didn’t cost anything, and was held in a lounge. It would have been nicer to have the class in the group fitness area of the gym, but the teacher (part of the cruise director staff) was adorable, and high energy. I even learned something new about cardio- she said you should keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose to preserve energy (avoid getting winded) when dancing%u2026hmmm%u2026I was skeptical about this tip, but it totally worked! Who knew?!

Following the workout, we decided to “try” the Latitudes party which was around 11am or so in one of the larger lounges. I’ve found most of these parties to be dull and overcrowded on most ships, so I was reluctant. This was only our second cruise with NCL, so I was thinking “how good can it be%u2026?”, we aren’t in a high tier of loyalty with NCL, but hey, let’s check it out anyway. It turned out to be the best loyalty reception on ANY line we’ve ever attended. Kudos NCL. The drinks were flowing generously, with spot-on bar service, and the appetizers were plentiful. We arrived a little late, but still found a seat, and were instantly offered a beverage. I had a few glasses of wine, and we enjoyed the cruise presentation, and games. The officers roamed the room getting to know the guests. When they learned it was our son’s birthday on this cruise, they said they were going to do something special for him. A few days later, on his birthday, a beautiful handwritten note and an adorable cupcake were delivered to our stateroom. It was such a thoughtful touch.

For the remainder of the day, we tried lunch Versailles (beautiful views at the aft of the ship). The food was okay, but we learned what we liked after a view days and it got better. Then we explored the kids pool area- super cute- at the back of the ship, and spent some time hanging in the hot tubs and meeting other families. It was too chilly to swim or enjoy the slides, but he hot tubs were just right- and a great temperature for children.

Now for the not so good news- dinner in the main dining rooms on the first night. Ug. This is not commonly a smooth operation on most ships but ew, the lines were unpleasant and the dining room (Aqua) noisy where we sat. The food was just okay, with some weird occurrences%u2026example: the kids pepperoni pizza had the most SPICY pepperoni on it. It was inedible and very odd. Our son likes a little heat, but this was bizarre. Also, some of the servers were terrific, while others were lackluster, slow, and never even offered drinks.

Day 2- Cabo! Yah! We love Cabo! We tendered ashore after the tender crowds died down mid day, and caught a water taxi to Medano beach to enjoy our standard afternoon at Billygans, a restaurant and bar with loungers on the sand. The vendors were plentiful and pesky that particular day, probably because our loungers were in the front row, closest to the ocean, so we didn’t have any cushion around us. We enjoyed tacos, calamari and guacamole, brought to our loungers along with Coronas and a tequila shot- for me. The ocean is the perfect temperature in December, not chilly like it gets in February, so we took swim breaks in the ocean in between lounging. After a few hours, our water taxi driver (he calls himself Six Fingers Tony, and has business cards to match because YES, he has 6 fingers on each hand) picked us up and took us back to the pier where we waited in a short tender line and boarded the ship. We decided, because of our unpleant dining room experience to book Cagneys, and were in for a treat when we were given a free bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner because it was “Norwegians night out”, the optional elegant night. Dinner was excellent (filet mignons were perfect) and we could eat at Cagneys EVERY night. They treated our son wonderfully, and made him mac and cheese (there is no charge for kids if they don’t order off the Cagneys menu- this was really nice for us). Of course, he was far more interested in my steak- as always! Here's our video review of Cagneys:

After dinner, we hit the first production show, which was okay. We left early because our son was getting antsy and we found the production to be a little cheesey (they got better later in the week).

Day 3 we arrived in Mazatlan but decided not to get off the ship. We don’t care for Mazatlan, so we celebrated our sons birthday on board with a terrific day of watersliding and ordering smoothies and drinks by the pool, with relatively few crowds. We had a tasty lunch at the buffet and dinner at Aqua, the smaller of the main dining rooms. By this time the lines were under control and we were ready to give main dining another try. Service was a little slow, but the food was good (chicken parmiagana for me) and they sang to our son and brought a HUGE birthday cake for him.

Day 4 we arrived in Puerto Vallarta and contrary to our normal routine of getting off the ship and visiting a resort on a day pass, we just shopped at the port and got back on the ship- very unlike us, BUT we loved the waterslides and pools so much on the Star, that we just decided to save the $$ and enjoy the sunshine onboard. We had dinner again at Aqua and by this time, were really getting a hang of what liked and didn’t like in the dining rooms. The enteraintment that night was amazing. The show was called Marambolla (google it)%u2026the couple was so talented and their little son was adorable. Don’t miss this show if it is offered when you sail.

Days 5 and 6 were our final sea days. The motion of the ship was significant and I felt a little dizzy from these last two days, which I generally do since you’re cruising on the %u2018bumpy’ direction, northward. We enjoyed a few breakfasts in Versailles, read magazines, relaxed, napped, and danced on the decks with the cruise staff, took photos all around the deck and played in the arcade. The cruise director put on a fun magic show in the main theatre one night, which was entertaining and cute.

Debarkation was really smooth on our last day and although they ran customs through a lounge on the ship, which seemed slow, it ultimately ended up taking about the same amount of time to debark.

This was a terrific ship and we would love to try the Star again someday- the mini-suite was one of our favorite cabins EVER, for the price, and we’ll be back!

Here’s the video ship tour:

And a little tour of the cabin:

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: November 27, 2011

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Marty Western Caribbean November 27, 2011

Cruise Review - Norwegian Star 2011

We sailed on the Norwegian Star out of Tampa, Fl. on Nov. 27, 2011.

Overall, this was a great cruise for us. Given my health and mobility problems, the ship is a little longer than I like. Hard for me to get around. But, well worth it. We had previously sailed on the Dawn, which is the Star's sister ship. There were several differences, even though the basic layout is the same. The gift shops on the Star were not as nice as those on the Dawn. Not really a problem, since I don't cruise to shop. The 24 hour restaurant, called the Blue Lagoon, was significantly better. Instead of plastic tables and chairs and mediocre food, as it was on the Dawn, the Star's version was very nice. Fairly elegant atmosphere and the food was quite good. We even ate dinner there one night, as I was too tired to do anything else.

In general, the food was better than I had expected. Very disappointing the first night, but then it did an about

face and was generally quite good. They had even solved the problems of stale bread and poor desserts, which we had experienced on the Dawn. And the Market Café, their name for the Lido deck buffet, was surprisingly good. I could have eaten every meal there and not felt cheated. Good variety and most of what we tried was very tasty.

Probably the biggest factor in our enjoyment of the cruise, though, was the attitude of the crew. Almost every person working on the Star was cordial and very friendly. We got smiles from virtually everyone we encountered. And that is contagious. Passengers who receive lots of smiles tend to offer their own. So, the general atmosphere was welcoming and pleasant.

In particular, the Cruise Director, Jaimie, and her assistant, Christine, were very professional, yet warm and friendly. Christine was especially open to engaging passengers, not just for activities, but to answer questions or just chat. Great team.

Okay, day by day. The embarkation was a tad rough. Happened to arrive just when it was mobbed and that is nobody's fault. I was worn out by the time we got on board. Got a bite to eat at the buffet, then rested a bit and unpacked. The main dining rooms now use a beeper system, like many restaurants do. I don't know if it is the economy or just the random nature of cruises, but the MDR's were packed every night. We were standing in line to get a beeper when a man gave my husband a hard shove. He turned around to confront whoever it was and it turned out to be a friend who lives about ½ block down the street from us! He and his wife were traveling with another couple, who are also neighbors. We had dinner with them twice during the week and that was definitely the icing on the cake for us.

I had a very hard time the first night, as you had to walk down one deck after your beeper went off. Very painful for me. The next day, I received a new cruise card that would take the elevator down to the level of the dining room and then gave us priority seating. It made dinner a lot easier for me and it was not something I had asked for or even knew about. The maitre d' apparently noticed my problem and gave me a way around it. That was a gracious nicety, especially since it was unexpected.

The wait staff in the Versailles (the aft MDR) was exceptional. Every night, we received service as good as or better than traditional dining on past cruises.

Day 2 was Roatan, Honduras. This is one of our favorite ports, but we had been disappointed the year before on Carnival, when their ship docked at Mahogany Bay. Really disliked that. But the Star docked in Coxen Hole. We had signed up for a tour that went to an island where they offered snorkeling. It was called Maya Key Resort, though the name of island is Anthony's Key. We were a little afraid that it might be very hokey, but were very pleasantly surprised. It is mostly a wildlife refuge for local critters. Rental on the snorkeling gear was very reasonable. There was a long dock, with a snorkel area marked off. A shallow reef, with a lifeguard keeping an eye on things. Not great snorkeling, but still fun. My DH went for the swimming pool, then we walked around. The animals were in very large cages, so that they had room to run around and there was a simple wooden rail to alert people not to feed a hand to the jaguars. The howler monkeys were not confined, but lived on a smaller island across a small inlet. We even had a baby howler monkey run right between our legs. We then had a tasty lunch, which was included, then headed back to Coxen Hole. Walked around a bit in Coxen Hole, then back to the ship.

Day 3 was Belize, again a favorite of ours. In spite of the cruise lines all trying to discourage people from going outside of the "safe" zone, which is mostly overpriced tourist stuff and bars, we went out back to the Flea Market, which is primarily a craft market. Locals are friendly and, since this used to be British Honduras, they speak good English….although their local patois is beyond me. My husband is a hand drummer and had drummed with the locals in Roatan, then again in Belize. He knows their rhythms and loves communicating with others via music. I did pay a visit the Loom Store, which sells fabulous locally made textiles. Can't afford the rugs, but the decorative pillow covers are amazing. Not cheap, but they look well worth their price.

Day 4 we were in Costa Maya. Skipped the high priced enclave and took a cab to the nearby town of Mahahual. This was originally a tiny fishing village, then became a tourist spot. Got completely wiped out by a hurricane and rebuilt. But, it is still a very laid back little town. One street, with a second one being built. On one side of the "main drag" is a row of shops and cafes. The other side is a beautiful, nearly pristine beach. One of the prettiest in the Caribbean, in my book. We both had luxurious massages, lying on tables on a gorgeous beach, followed up by a swim in clear blue water….heavenly. Did a little shopping, mostly looking for unusual Christmas gifts. They have expanded the compound to add a "downtown" section. Totally fake and filled with stores selling Mexican souvenirs. The sad thing is that all of it is leased or subcontracted to outside vendors. From a very selfish point of view, that's fine, since it leaves Mahahual uncrowned and the vendors there will bargain heavily, trying to compete. But, it does seem wrong to take advantage of the locale and totally exclude the local population. It can no longer be a fishing village because of the big ships coming in, so the cruise lines have made the local dependent on tourism, then won't allow them to sell things where most passengers go.

Day 5 was good old Cozumel. Used to be my favorite, but just so crowded now, with multiple ships each carrying a couple thousand passengers all converging on a smallish town. We docked close enough to downtown to just walk to the plaza, then hit a couple of favorite stores. Or tried to. One had disappeared. One minor annoyance was that most places now charge you to use their bathrooms. Given that you used to have to bring your own toilet paper, I thought that was ridiculous. Found one that did not charge. But, I was getting desperate enough to almost pay to pee. Still had a good, if low key, day.

Last day was a sea day. Rough seas again, although not as bad as the first day. We had enjoyed the deck band all week. A group called Xcite from Trinidad. Not your usual steel drums, but those guys could, and did, play anything.

Sadly, the show band was nowhere near as good. The trumpet player, whom I think was also the Music Director, could not play in tune. He even played in an entirely different key at times when they were playing in the Atrium. But, the entertainment in general engaged us. The first show was so-so to me. But, for the first time in years, I actually went to every show. And they just kept getting better and better. The show on the last night was amazing. Have not been thrilled by a cruise ship show in a long time and that was a great way to end the week. Tried to go up on deck for a last stroll looking at the stars and almost got blown off my feet! Very windy. But since we love just being at sea, that was fine, too.

Debarkation was fairly easy. You had to pick up your luggage tags by the purser's desk. But, you could pick your color based on what time you wanted to debark. I liked being able to choose rather than have the cruise line decide when you should leave.

Last, I must mention our cabin steward, Alex. He was sheer perfection. Friendly, and very accommodating. Plus we rarely had to ask for anything, and when we did, we had it asap. But, I swear the man reads minds.

Overall, one of the best cruises in my life…out of around 35 cruises. Felt good to feel like we truly had a great vacation.

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: December 5, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Fred Herman Southern Caribbean December 5, 2010

I should have seen it as an omen. The government goons who keep Our Nation safe from Muslim terrorists by molesting American airline passengers stole a little pocket knife - valued at around 75 cents thirty years ago - at the San Francisco airport. Its two inch blade was dull (never sharp), I used the bottle opener to clean my nails, but it had sentimental value. It was attached, with no problem ever, to my key chain on trips to many lands. An 80-year-old man barely able to hobble was unlikely to force his way into the cockpit with it and demand transport to Havana. They offered to mail it back (two 41-cent stamps?) for eleven bucks. They also took a 99-cent can of shaving cream, presumably because it could become a bomb. Like my shoes?

Well, okay, the facts: In making copies of my passport to assist protectors of our homeland security, Mary forgot my passport in her copy machine. She discovered the error in San Francisco, 90 miles away, and offered to drive back for it. "Naaah,"

I replied. "Of 3,000 passengers, a third are likely to overlook passports. This cruise is from Miami to Los Angeles, and if it's a problem. however unlikely, I just won't go ashore in Colombia." No cruise line or federal agency, no matter how spooked by Bush, Rove and 9/11, could be that picky. So assess Mary 5%, me 10% for being as wrong as I've been since suggesting at age 11 that Hitler was unlikely to invade Russia. Combine 15% more between Norwegian Cruise Lines and Kandy's Karefree Kruisin' for not making it crystal clear to even a Neanderthal: No passport, no cruise! No provisional alternatives, no other proof of legitimacy accepted.

Our government gets the remaining 70%. It was indeed that picky. Not that our government was even there. Two cute little things were there inform me that I couldn't come aboard, and there's no appeal. Da gummint made sure that no higher authority was around for an appeal, based on varied defenses: I had photocopies of my passport and IDs up the gazoo, but they wouldn't do. A professor friend noted that Uncle Sam has complete files on everyone so it had to be easy to determine I am - er - legitimate. But it was hopeless. Nobody to help. As our luggage was already in our cabin, we feared the Norwegian Star would sail without us, rendering our enforced Miami stay tougher yet. It took four agonizing hours, full of the stress we came east to avoid, but NCL finally produced our undies minutes before the ship sailed without us.

Victoria, a nice customer relations lady paid to tell us how sorry she was but it was out of her hands, got us two nights in an upscale hotel at "reduced" rates as neighbor Marlene, the cat rescuer with a key to our house to feed our cat, Fed Exed the elusive passport, guaranteed by 8 a.m. Tuesday; it was in the concierge's hands by 7:45 a.m. Within hours we were aloft to Cartagena, Colombia, arriving 12 hours before a Norwegian Star that kept us waiting on the dock two more hours.

The NS sailed Sunday afternoon. We caught it Wednesday morning. Thanks for understanding, said a form letter from the nice PR lady. We don't for a moment understand. I try to estimate what this bureaucratic idiocy cost us: $800+ for two fares to Colombia, $500+ for two hotel nights and meals, $80 for taxis and car rental, a $70 Fed Ex fee for openers. Plus unmeasurable (except by lawyers) mental anguish. For zero reason. It was asinine bureaucracy no reasonable person could forgive. An even partial refund? I used to insert in my talks "pause here for laugh."

But the other ten days? Programs at sea were Las Vegas style. Much glitz, but lounge show talent, folks unlikely to make the varsity. Staff had not mastered the secret of lighting without shining blinding beams into audience eyes. A heavily accented (every Star crew member seemed heavily accented) asked audiences eight times per show to "put your hands together for ..."

Food was adequate, especially in eating sites with no additional charges. The default cafeteria had admirable selections of everything, staff picking up plates and utensils the nanosecond the last forkful of food was chewed, Noisy dining rooms for folks who like to be served well prepared food were excruciatingly slow even with huge staffs. You didn't go there if trying to catch another show. Doubling up, four or six to a table, was always fun. It's what cruises are about. One cafe advertised "open 24 hours a day - closed from 4 to 5 a.m."

French, Italian, Japanese, "Tex-Mex", steak house and other "cover charge" eateries featured their cultures at extra cost. Bi-i-i-i-ig extra cost. Twenty-five bucks in the French place. But ... ten bucks more for the sea food entree. Ten more for a glass of nothing-special wine. Service charge/gratuities added to bills without proof these "tips" actually went to the help. (We found the same dare-I-call-it-scam in Florida; California still relies on over-pricing.) NCL advertises "free-style cruising." That means you can eat when you like, instead of at assigned times at assigned tables. But damlittle is free with NCL.

The nickel-and-diming transcended normal bounds, giving the word c-h-e-a-p new meaning. A buck for soda that in minimal fast food joints comes from a machine - all you can drink. Mary bought an Irish coffee and asked for a bit more plain coffee in her glass; the water brought a bill for $1.75. There was laundry service - forty bucks for a $2 laundromat machine load. Internet was $1 a minute. (It was 50 cents for a half hour in Cartagena.) "Toll-free" 800 calls were $5.95 a minute. I enjoyed (with some guilt) being pushed around airports in a wheelchair; I heard late that wheelchair rentals were available on the Star. For $900!

One more example of Norwegian Cruise Lines relentlessly pursuing any spare change left in passenger pockets: A single afternoon's "pizzazz" infomercials and money traps included indoor and outdoor casinos (to my knowledge not subject to gaming commissions), an auction of art that didn't come from crew or passengers, a $20 wine tasting, a jewelry sales presentation, a "Cabo San Lucas shopping talk," a talk on future cruises and "rewards," "Pathways to Pilates" for $12, a mojito tasting for $15, an "ultimate skin clinic" seminar, a "lose weight with hypnosis" seminar and "body sculpture camp."

Ports we encountered: Cartagena, which Mary and I did on our own, rich condos amid poor people. The contrast was startling. We ate native foods outdoors as monotonous Latin beats emanated from speakers. Every now and then I'd recognize the word "navidad," reminding us it was the Santa season. Puntarenas, Costa Rica; I adored that little country, not only because of the pride our guide displayed in it, but because it abolished its army years ago and survives as independently as ever. The World Health Organization ranks Costa Rica's medical system 36th compared to the United States' 37th. Its people pay 9 percent of their income for health care - which covers all tests, all medicine no matter how expensive, and even dental care. Huatalco, Mexico, described to us as a tourist trap; I didn't go ashore. Mary bought a few items from hawkers on the dock and beach. Acapulco, Mexico; what seemed important to our guide was the hotel at which John Wayne, Johnny Weissmuller and other Hollywood notables stayed a half century ago. He did take us to the famed cliff divers, but from our vantage points we couldn't quite see their entries into the Pacific. And, of course, shopping. T-shirt and basket shops galore. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, We were by a sleepy little fishing resort of a few thousand which we saw quarter century ago grown tenfold into a development of gringo homes with all the big city pluses and minuses. A dozen K's is surely as much as anyone wants to read of my-two-weeks-at-sea, but I'd be remiss if I omitted the ordeal of leaving the ship in Los Angeles. Of 2,400 passengers served by a crew if more than a thousand, about 90 percent seemed to prefer the "easy off" option. Two thousand stood in a line stretching longer than the ship's three football fields, first to tell overworked customs guys we were not planning to blow up the Pentagon (something like that) and then others that the baggage we schlepped contained nothing to alter reality.

It seemed as if every passenger wanted off the ship now, but when I asked a woman in line ahead of me if she'd do this again, she grinned "sure."

Would I fly again? With the degrading, humiliating, abasement of passengers in effect, not if I can help it. But would I fly the "bare bones" US Airways that took us from S.F. to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Miami, without food or amusements and broke Mary's luggage to boot? Never. Will I "cruise" again? I'd offer a positive no, but Ms. M is ready. Probably not on Norwegian Cruise Lines, however. Someone should have told me saving a buck isn't everything.

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Publication Date: July 31, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Lanore Alaska July 31, 2010

This is great for multi-generational family groups. The excursions were guided by knowledgable and enthusiastic leaders. Our favorite was the Prince Rupert Canoe and Rain Forest Walk, hosted by local Native Canadians. The canoe and rain gear were brand new, it was fun and the "snacks" were the freshest crab possible and fry bread! The catamaran to the Sawyer Glacier in the Tracy Arm was great and we saw whales on the way from Juneau.

However, since the ship goes most of the way (just not as close to the glacier) it may not be worth $200 to some people. The White Pass Railroad in Skagway was worth it (we were lucky with great weather) and interesting, even though I favor more active activities and we liked Skagway and had spicy Thai food there.

Where else can you visit a Sarah Palin store? In Juneau we had great weather to the Mendenhall Glacier Float which was also fun. The Tatoosh kayak trip in Ketchikan was peaceful and we saw bald eagles very close up. The ship personnel were friendly and unbelievably patient.


food gave a nice variety and I am a vegetarian. The soups in the Versailles room was surprisingly sophisticated and delicious, as were the desserts.Of course, to serve so many people, many dishes were on the bland side. If you really like coffee, bring your own instant-it is that bad! Same with the Lipton tea. The fitness center had decent equipment and was not too busy. The library had a good selection and easy access. We used the meeting rooms, which were convenient and nice. For the launch party, the volume is pretty high, so for that and the fairly thin cabin walls, ear plugs are helpful. This was my first cruise and I would go again.
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Publication Date: July 24, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Bruce Pederson Alaska July 24, 2010

Booked early, with suggestions of up grade 4th cruise on NCL, booked 5 staterooms 15 people Put on deck 5, given no up grade, no pepsi, nothing for a $12,000 booking

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