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Cruise Ship Review: The Norwegian Star
The Norwegian Star cruise ship was built in 2001 and refurbished in 2010. It is part of the Norwegian Cruise Line, which many people may recognize as NCL. The Norwegian Star has an overall length of 965 feet and has a passenger capacity of 2,346 and a crew of 1,060. It is currently sailing the Panama Canal itinerary from Florida through the Canal to Los Angeles, and then back to the Baltic Sea.
Among the highlights of the ship entertainment areas are:
- 17 dining areas
- 10 bars and lounges
- 2 swimming pools
- 1 kid’s pool
- 6 hot tubs
- 1 spa
- 1 salon
- 1 fitness center
The current itineraries are Europe, the Panama Canal, Transatlantic, and the Mexican Riviera.
Each stateroom has more than enough storage. The mattresses are very comfortable, and each room comes with a coffee maker and all the fixings for tea and coffee. The bathrooms provide shower gel and shampoo in dispensers in the shower. The showers can be hand held or used from the wall. For passengers fortunate enough to have balconies, the balconies are roomy, with at least 2 chairs and one small table. The paneling is dark and brightened by red maritime carpets.
Having taken a Transatlantic cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark to Miami, Florida, I am very much aware of the Norwegian Star and all the positive attributes she has to offer cruise passengers. Entertainment varies from song and dance numbers from the Norwegian Star singers and dancers to magicians, comedians, jugglers, and hypnotists. These performances are usually offered at night so people can go to dinner and then attend a show. Also, evening musical entertainment is offered in each of the bars and the main atrium. These musicians vary from guitarists to keyboard players to small musical ensembles.
Seminars are offered during the day and include geography, history of certain parts of the world, hypnosis, health, photography, arts and crafts and dance.
Throughout the day there are also other opportunities for entertainment and socializing. These include a knitters group, trivia games with the cruise staff, scavenger hunts, a library which offers free crossword puzzles and Sudoku print offs every day, Wii tournaments, ping pong tables, shuffleboard courts, and art seminars and auctions.
There is a library that allows for self-service when passengers want to take out a book. During the day, the glass shelves are unlocked, and passengers can browse through books and then sign out the one they want. The doors are open 24 hours per day so when a passenger is finished with a book they can just drop it in the return slot, and it will be re-shelved when the cruise staff is on duty.
There is an internet cafe open 24 hours per day. Packages can be bought and accessing the internet on board the Norwegian Star can be accomplished from the Internet Cafe or from a passenger's room if they brought their laptop.
One of the perks of all Norwegian Cruise line ships are the spas. For an extra fee, one can have full access to the spa area and for those who like to relax, this is a treat not to be missed. Booking the spa for the length of the cruise is a necessity as soon as one arrives on board as the number of spa passes is limited. On the Norwegian Star, the passes were limited to 60 so as to allow less crowding in the spa area. On my recent cruise, the cost of the spa pass for the twelve day cruise was $179. Expensive you may think, but when it boils down to approximately $15 per day to feel more relaxed than one has felt in the past year, the cost it totally worth it. Each NCL ship has slight differences in the spa offering. On the Norwegian Star, the spa area consists of:
- 1 lap pool
- 1 hot tub
- 1 spa tub
- 1 steam room for each sex (located in the women’s and men’s changing areas
- 1 sauna for each sex (located in the women’s and men’s changing areas)
- 2 relaxation rooms on each side of the spa area with quiet music piped in and comfortable cushioned chairs with stools.
- 1 lounge chair area that overlooks the back of the ship
The spa itself offers massages, acupuncture, facials, wraps, phyto therapy, and more, all for an extra fee. Throughout the week, the spa offers free seminars on subjects such as the benefits of acupuncture, losing weight and detoxifying the body, but at the end of each seminar, a promotion for the spa services for the extra fee is presented.
There is one buffet area, called, ‘The Market Café” that is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and an evening snack till 11:00 p.m. The food here is delicious and there is a great variety available. For breakfast one can find a choice of hot and cold cereals, a variety of breads, muffins and pastries, hot foods including hash brown potato patties, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, French toast, pancakes, a variety of meats and cheeses, and a fresh fruit area. Lunch includes a salad bar, mixed salads which include potato and macaroni, 2 choices of soups daily, pizza, pasta, an Asian bar, sandwiches and a variety of hot foods. Dinner also offers the salad bar and choice of soups and breads, but a larger variety of hot dinner foods which sometimes include carved meats such as beef, pork and turkey. Along with the meat offering is always some sort of potato, either mashed, boiled or baked, and a variety of vegetables. At least one stew type food is featured such as lamb stew, and often there are vegetarian entrees like eggplant Parmesan. The desserts offered at lunch and dinner are amazing and include at least one sugar free item, cakes, cheesecakes, strudels, bread pudding with caramel sauce, and soft serve ice cream which varies each day between vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Chocolate, caramel sauce and sprinkles are available to top off ice cream concoctions.
For late night snacks, there is one type of soup available, small sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs, chips and nachos, taco shells with all the fixings, and a variety of sweets.
The Blue Lagoon: Free With Your Cruise
The Blue Lagoon is a restaurant that is open 24 hours per day. It offers comfort food such as hamburgers and chicken fingers. It is located on the second level of the three-level atrium.
The Dining Rooms: Free With Your Cruise
There are two dining rooms available for cruise passengers on The Star. The first is The Aqua located on the 6th floor. This is a comfortable and casual restaurant that will allow neat jeans and slacks. The second is the Versailles room, also on the 6th floor. Both restaurants offer a two-sided menu. The left-hand side has ongoing offerings that never change. They include a cream of broccoli soup that is to die for, French onion soup, a garden salad and a Caesar salad, a rib-eye steak, a baked chicken dish, and spaghetti with the diner’s choice of plain sauce, Bolognese sauce, or… The right-hand side changes daily and may include appetizers such as oysters, shrimp, pumpkin ginger soup, etc. There is always a specialty of the night. One night it was Chicken Kiev, another night it was Mexican Meat Balls. There are three other offerings that vary each night. One night one of these was Pasta with seafood and a lobster tail. Another night it was a prime rib. The desserts in both restaurants are very standard each night but there are two that change nightly. The standards themselves are quite delicious and include a delicious cheesecake with a strawberry compote, lemon sorbet, bread pudding, cinnamon apple pie with whipped cream, and a choice of chocolate, strawberry or vanilla ice cream.
Located on Deck 12 near the pool, the grill offers hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries daily.
There are seven specialty restaurants on board. Each restaurant has an extra fee associated with it. The restaurants include:
Cagney’s Steak House: $30 per person cover charge
Teppanyaki (Chinese): $25 per person cover charge
Le Bistro ( French): $20 per person cover charge
Moderno :$20 per person cover charge
La Cucina ( Italian): $15 per person cover charge
Ginza (Japanese): $15 per person cover charge
Sushi Bar ( a la carte…pay per piece of Sushi)
Kids on the Norwegian Star have three basic areas in which to be entertained that serve their needs only. For teens, there is The Entourage Teen Club with comfy seats to lunge in, games, and TVs. The hours to access this area is 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. with the area used as a quiet area for all cruisers during the earlier part of the day.
For the younger set, there is Splash Academy, open 11:15 – 4:00 p.m. 5:15 – 7:00 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. – 1:30 a.m.
There is also a kid’s only small pool with two water slides and a hot tub which is located on the back of the ship. And a video game arcade for kids of all ages is always open, 24 hours per day.
Throughout the day, kid’s activities are available and supervised by the cruise ship staff. There are also family-friendly activities each day which may include a balloon creation demonstration, arts and crafts, and a juggling session.
The Norwegian Star has an excellent crew that is always happy and smiling. All of the room stewards go out of their way to make passengers feel welcome on the ship.
There are a fewer crew members on board per passenger than on other lines due to the Freestyle cruising program, and therefore passengers may have to wait a bit longer than on other cruise lines to have their plates cleared in the buffet area. The Freestyle program means passengers can arrive at a restaurant for dinner at any time they want, without a set time for dinner. While other cruise lines often want a sitting time of either 6:30 or 8:30, Norwegian Cruise Lines is famous for the Freestyle cruising which is a much more relaxed way to cruise. Not only can passengers eat when they want, much like if they were at home and going out to dinner to any restaurant without reservations, they also don't ever have to dress up for a formal night. NCL has "dress up if you like" night. For some passengers, this is a relief because they don't have to travel with formal dresses and tuxedos.
The layout of the ship is very nice, and the main atrium is three floors of metal and glass. The entertainment in the bars is very good.
If someone wants to cruise with kids, NCL does a great job of providing entertainment and water park type slides and pools for them.
The price on NCL is quite good and worth the other issues one may need to deal with...see below.
Although cruising on the Norwegian Star is a nice experience, the entertainment is lagging a bit. The singers have a hard time reaching the notes and are often flat or sharp...unusual for professionals. But the dancers are quite good. NCL has a unique entertainment lineup which includes the Second City Players, and improvisation group which started in 1959 in Chicago which has jump-started the careers of many famous comedic actors including John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, and Joan Rivers. There is also a wonderful pair of Russian dancers that can do amazing acrobatic feats. If one is sued to Broadway song and dance on a cruise ship, they may be disappointed because that type of entertainment is not the norm. It is interspersed with other types of shows including a magician, juggler, and comedians.
The ship itself is in need of upgrading, but this is not expected until 2015. Rooms are a bit worn but adequate. Some of the chairs in the main theater are broken and have loose arms. The sunscreen darker coating on many of the windows is stripped in certain spots, so the sun visibly shows through the clear glass. The windows in the market cafe buffet and spa areas are dirty and streaked.
For the price, a cruise on The Norwegian Star is still a good experience, but a cruiser may want to wait till after the Star is refurbished in 2015 before booking a cruise on her.