Interior pictures are located at: http://www.cruise-addicts.com/picturepost/ Use the drop-down menu and click on "NORWEGIAN STAR"
NCL recently learned their new flagship, the NORWEGIAN STAR, would be finished a little early and they decided to offer a few shakedown revenue cruises. What better way to break in the staff, and receive some valuable feedback regarding the ship and operations? Four 1-night sailings were originally offered, with two of the sailings eventually being canceled. I sailed on Thursday, November 15th.
Keep in mind the majority of this review will be about the ship itself. Having been onboard for only one night, it's difficult to measure food and service levels objectively. As with any shakedown cruise, not everything was as smooth as NCL would prefer, and this was to be expected. For the most part, things were well organized, and the staff onboard was very enthusiastic and professional.
A little about myself. I am 35 years old and reside in Atlanta Georgia. I work for a major airline but ships and cruises are my passion. The NORWEGIAN STAR sailing ranks as my 45th cruise to date. My preferred lines are Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, but I'm not picky and have tried all the major and not so major lines. This year has been an especially good one regarding cruises, with the "legendary NORWAY" in March, RADIANCE OF THE SEAS in May, GOLDEN PRINCESS in September, and of course the NORWEGIAN STAR.
For those of you into all the technical aspects of ships, this section is for you!Gross Tonnage.......91,740 Overall Length.......965 feet Beam..........105 feet Draft...........26 feet Engines.........Diesel Electric Cruise Speed.......25 knots Passengers........2,240 (double occupancy) Crew...........1,100
The Captain of the NORWEGIAN STAR is Geir Loeken. The Cruise Director is John Anderson, who was also my Cruise Director on the NORWAY in March.
From the very beginning, I could tell that NCL has changed! New uniforms, new check-in procedures, new logo, new NCL! Checking in for this one night cruise was no different than any other sailing. You were still required to fill out forms, provide a credit card and so forth. NCL now uses laptops (connected to their mainframe via satellite) to speed up the process, putting them on par with Carnival, RCI, and Princess. After clearing security the process was fairly quick. Another change was the issuance of a Charge/ID/Cabin Key combo card. It's about time NCL caught up with the times. Although no security photo was taken (such as on Princess), they do swipe your card upon entering and leaving the ship. We entered the ship on Deck 7 and were escorted to our cabin. Nice touch NCL!
Our cabin was a Category BA, cabin 10027. This is a standard outside with balcony on Deck 10. The first thing I noticed was the signage outside the cabin door. Not only did it display the cabin number, but also the message "Welcome". This device also contained a slot that could hold any mail for your cabin. The little welcome message was actually a dial that you could rotate from underneath. Other displays were "Make up cabin", "Do not disturb", and "Turn down cabin". A very ingenious way to let the steward know the status of the cabin.
The cabin itself was not huge, but adequate for a seven day cruise. The colors were bold (green, blue, gold, red) and I loved all the wood veneer on the walls. There were two closets, but only three drawers in the entire cabin. There were some shelves in the closet that could also be used. Amenities included a safe, refrigerator, TV (not interactive), hair dryer, and coffee/tea maker. There was a small sitting area with a yellow couch that could be turned into a single bed. A glass sliding door leads to the balcony which contained two chairs and a table. The balcony furniture was of high quality (better than plastic) although the balcony itself was rather narrow. The rail is made entirely of glass which was very nice.
The bathroom was certainly the best designed standard ship bath I have ever experienced. It's actually divided into three sections. You walk into the main section which contains a nice size sink and plenty of storage space. On one side of the sink is a separate section that contains the toilette, and on the other side of the sink is the large shower area. Both the toilette and shower sections have a glass sliding door to separate them from the sink area. This terrific design makes it possible for two people to use the bathroom at once. Certainly something that is hardly possible on most other ships. The use of wood veneer is even used in the bathroom, and the floor is a very nice blue tile. NCL installed soap and shampoo dispensers on the STAR instead of individual packets. Again a nice touch.
I was able to view many other cabins, in fact, just about every category. All cabins are beautifully decorated and well designed. For the money, I would say the Category AF Mini-Suites are an excellent value. They are stunning with rich deep colors, dark woods, and beautiful fabrics. They also provide more closet and drawer space than the standard cabins. The bathroom in the mini-suites is of the same sectioned design, but with a bath tub instead of a shower.
First stop is a Romance Suite. Category AD, cabin 10228. Just beautiful from top to bottom! Dark woods, expensive furnishings, flat screen TV, dressing area and a large bathroom. There is even a table and four chairs for dining. The walls are all covered with a rich, silk wallpaper. The aft facing balcony offers teak flooring and furnishings, and is a decent size.
Next is the Owner's Suite. Category AA, cabin 10506. This is actually the "Picasso Suite", and decorated to suit the name. The style of this suite will not appeal to everyone, as it is very avant-garde and eclectic. I absolutely loved it! There are two bathrooms and two balconies. One facing the side, and one with a forward view. The artwork and furnishings are truly unique and appear to be quite expansive. I noticed a satellite phone was provided, along with a laptop computer and flat screen TV. Another flat screen TV was located above the Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom! This suite was truly stunning, and most certainly "one of a kind" in terms of decor.
Last stop is the Garden Villa on Deck 14. There are actually two of these, although they can be combined into one VERY large suite. The Garden Villa is actually six different cabins that share two very large living areas. These Villa's are located at the very top of the ship, with floor to ceiling windows that face the sea and pool area. In addition, both Villas offer a private deck decorated like a Japanese Garden. Complimenting the private deck is a personal Jacuzzi for yourself and any friends you may meet! J I thought the deck area was beautiful, but I was disappointed in the use of plastic plants and flowers instead of the real thing. The individual cabins (or bedrooms if you will) offer all the amenities as described in the Romance Suites. They are also somewhat eclectic in decor, and will not appeal to everyone. The shared living area is huge, complete with bar, kitchen, pantry, grand piano, dining table, flat screen TV's, and of course couches and chairs. All the furniture is very modern and unique. The view from the living area is directly over the main swimming pool.
Each of the six bedrooms/baths has it's own door and key, and I assume they could be sold separately, although I'm not certain if NCL is doing that. There is also a main entrance to each of the Villa Suites through a glass and chrome door. If both suites are purchased as one, the entire area can be closed off from a door on the deck below, making it completely private. There would really be no reason to ever leave!
In general, the ship is a departure from any that I have sailed on. She is bold, eclectic, surprising, unique, and downright different! Most of it works, but not entirely. Remember that opinions are like a rear-end, everyone's got one and thinks that everyone else's stinks! J Just remember these are my viewpoints only, and yours may be different. The STAR was originally designed for the Asian market, and that explains much of the design and decor. I have heard she can be compared to her older and smaller sisters, the SUPERSTAR VIRGO and SUPERSTAR LEO of NCL parent company Star Cruises, but I have not seen these ships so I can't comment.
The easiest way to tackle this is to go from top to bottom..so here we go.
The Bier Garden is located midship here. Pretzels and a variety of beer are sold in a fun atmosphere of teak furniture and street lamps with a view of the pool.
DECK 13 (yes, 13! - remember, the STAR was built for the Asian market, where the number 13 is considered lucky.) All the outdoor decks are made of rubber composite, and I don't recall seeing any teak decking. The decks are very well designed, in a tiered arrangement both in the forward section facing the bow, and midship by the pool. It actually looks a little like a stadium with rows and rows of tiered deck chairs (ala CARNIVAL DESTINY). There is a Jacuzzi all the way up front with a great view.
Midship is the Star Bar, a very classy piano bar with leather chairs and a view of the pool. Aft of the Star Bar is the Las Ramblas Tapas Bar & Restaurant. NCL did a great job making this area look unique and authentic. Lot's of atmosphere and a far better representation than the generic Mexican restaurant onboard GOLDEN and GRAND PRINCESS.
All the way aft is the children's area which I cannot comment on. Never made it there!
Forward is the Spinnaker Lounge and Bar. This is the longest bar on the STAR, and the view is over the bow. This is a very large lounge that is also used as a secondary show lounge for smaller shows like a singer or comedian.
Just aft on the port side are a series of conference rooms. These are state of the art and named after the great cities of the world. The starboard side contains a beautiful card room and reading room. Both lounges feature floor to ceiling windows. In the center is a cinema and rather large Library. The Library was fully stocked with books and featured very comfortable seating. These areas were probably the most conservative you will find on NORWEGIAN STAR, and they would easily fit in aboard lines such as Princess Cruises.
Midship is the main pool area. Disappointing from my perspective. The main pool contains two slides that I feel would be better placed in a children's area. They take up a lot of valuable space and will most likely turn this area into a children's playground. Unfortunately, there is no other outdoor pool area onboard the STAR. In this same area is another very small well-like pool with a raised bench inside the pool. I guess the only thing you could do in this pool is sit, as it's not big enough to swim in. Aft of the pool is the main pool bar and grill. The entire area is decorated with large metal palm trees. At night, these light up and blink ala Carnival Cruise Line. Not really my taste, especially with the lack of a quieter second pool area.
Further aft is the Market Cafe and La Trattoria. La Trattoria is touted as an Italian dining area, but in fact it looks no different than the Market Cafe and is just an extension of this area. The Market Cafe is probably the most disappointing area of the ship in my opinion. It looks very much like a cafeteria with vinyl floors, plastic chairs and tables, and wall coverings that look like oranges, apples and other fruit. The whole area came across as cold and cheap, and not suited to the style of the rest of the ship.
Further aft is the top level of the Barong Fitness Center. It is connected to the deck below by a semi-circle staircase and mini-atrium. The fitness center contained every piece of equipment you could ever want, plus a very attractive juice bar. There are interior windows that look down through the small atrium, but strangely enough, no exterior windows which make this area a little dark.
Outside and all the way aft is the Splash Down Kids pool. I did not get a great look at this area, but it appeared to be quite festive for the young ones.
The lower half of the Barong Spa is located here all the way aft. Contrary to the fitness center, this area is completely surrounded by floor to ceiling windows facing the sea. This certainly ranks as one of the most beautiful spas at sea, complete with the longest indoor pool afloat. Separate men's and women's changing rooms, saunas, and steam rooms are offered. In addition, there is a beautiful lounge area for each sex in the port and starboard aft corners of the ship complete with aromatherapy.
Midship is the Internet Cafe. Happily all charges were waived during this inaugural sailing. The area is operated by Digital Seas and equipment was first rate. This area can only be accessed from stairs that lead up from the atrium area on Deck 8.
Midship is the Endless Summer Restaurant. This rather large and noisy restaurant is actually the upper balcony of the atrium. The specialty is Hawaii cuisine and this will probably be one of the easier restaurants to get a reservation at, due to its size. Check out the rather unusual chairs in the lounge area on the starboard side. Very fun to look at, and sit in!
Forward is the beautiful Stardust Theater. It's almost all in red, with comfortable theater style seating. Individual air vents are located in the back of the chair in front of you! NCL put on a show entitled "Music of the Night". As with all NCL productions, it was produced by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. I was surprised how short it was, only about a half hour. They may have actually abbreviated the show for this short cruise. The show was pretty typical, but the performers were extremely talented. The vocals of all the lead singers were exceptional and made up for a fairly blase production.
Just aft of the show lounge is Karaoke Circus. Unique to any cruise ship, this Karaoke bar even includes six private Karaoke rooms. This area was left in tact from the original design of the ship for Star Cruises. The design is like a Circus and quite festive. In the center is a main stage area with four large TV screens behind the stage. A large bar is across from the stage.
Moving further aft is the Sushi Bar, Ginza Restaurant, and Teppanyaki Bar. All three of these areas essentially share the same space, and all look quite authentic and pleasing. The Sushi Bar has an open kitchen where you can watch the preparation. Teppanyaki is actually a private room that features one large cooking table such as you would find at a Benihana. I'm not quite sure how you would reserve it though. The entire area is open to another mini-atrium that looks down to Gatsby's Bar below, and is connected by a staircase.
A long hall which includes the photo gallery leads to the Grand Atrium. The atrium is very attractive with fountains, four glass elevators, the reception deck, shore excursion office (port side), and a small sundry shop (starboard side). The center of the atrium is the raised Java Cafe. Coffee and baked goods are available here, and the seating area has a great view of all the action, complete with live music. The reception desk is open 24 hours and is fronted by an all white marble floor. Very attractive. Hanging from the ceiling is a large, retractable movie screen that is viewable from both the Java Cafe and the Endless Summer restaurant above. This was used to show promotional videos during my cruise, but I'm certain NCL will find other uses for it. There are also fountains to each side of the glass elevators along with a sea of plastic flowers. Again, I would have preferred to see real flowers as I found the plastic ones to be a bit cheesy, and not in keeping with the quality and style of the rest of the ship - not to mention Hawaii.
Continuing aft on the port side is the Red Lion Pub. This attractive bar reminds me of the Pig and Whistle on VOYAGER OF THE SEAS. It's pretty much the sports bar on the STAR and looks like an authentic pub. In the same position but on the starboard side is the Blue Lagoon Restaurant. This is another area that just doesn't seem to fit from my perspective. This small buffet restaurant is open 24 hours and is supposed to be like a diner. There are little tables and tiny round stools to sit on. This space is another left over from the original design for Star Cruises, and the small furniture seems like it was intended for the Asian market. In fact, this diner was going to be a 24 hour Japanese restaurant that served friend rice and egg rolls. The SUPERSTAR VIRGO and LEO offer a similar type restaurant which this was copied from.
Moving all the way aft is the Galleria Shop. This is actually one large shop, which NCL calls a Department Store. Without a doubt, it is the largest shop afloat, as this space was originally intended to be the Casino (hence the lack of a single window). The shop was open although only halfway stocked. The shop staff had been working throughout the night opening boxes and setting up as much as possible. One unique feature is a cafe/bar directly in the shop. I'm sure this was originally intended as the Casino Bar, but it certainly makes for a nice cafe if you want to take a break from shopping. The very attractive shop staff were from Germany, South America and South Africa. Somewhat different than the American shop staff on most ships.
Deck 7 offers a wrap around promenade deck, again with rubber non-stick flooring. Instead of having plain, white steel bulkheads, there are whimsical paintings on all the bulkheads surrounding this deck. I liked them, but my companion said they reminding him of the pictures (art?) on some of LA's freeways!
Forward is the lower half of the Stardust Theater. Entry is from two long and ornate hallways, complete with glass displays and chandeliers. At the e ntrance are two authentic looking ticket offices, as you would find at an old theater. Lots of little details everywhere you look.
Moving aft is Dazzles Lounge and Nightclub. This lounge is completely enclosed and offers no windows. Even the entry doors are rather plain and nondescript. I guess NCL really wanted to make this like a true nightclub. I'm not sure if the disco will be in this lounge, or in Spinnakers, as Dazzles was turned into a Casino for this one night cruise. The decor was dark and nothing really stood out. I can't really comment further as the lounge was not in its true form during this cruise. I'm sure NCL was pleased they spent the money to turn this lounge into a makeshift casino, as it was packed with standing room only!
Further aft is Gatsby's Champagne Bar, The Soho Room, The Wine Cellar, Havana Club, and Le Bistro. All these spaces are in the lower level of a mini atrium and compliment each other. Gatsby's is the main bar area, and is very open and includes a piano. Right off of Gatsby's is the Wine Cellar, which includes a small sitting area for wine tasting, and open displays showcasing all the wine. Very attractive looking. The Havana Club is a glass enclosed lounge for cocktails and cigars. Very much like Michaels Club on the Celebrity ships, the lounge features large ocean view windows. The entrance to Le Bistro is also off this area, and this restaurant features French cuisine similar to the same offered on other NCL ships. There is a partially open kitchen where some of the preparation can be viewed. The final space of this area is The SoHo Room. Very light, airy, and bordered by floor to ceiling windows, this is another of the alternative restaurants on the STAR.
Walking aft down a long corridor past Le Bistro brings you to the first of the "included" restaurants onboard NORWEGIAN STAR. It's called the Aqua Restaurant, and is very attractive. The decor is similar to The SoHo Room, again very light, airy, with windows on both sides. The ceiling looks like a sky of twinkling stars. This restaurant is supposed to feature lighter, California style cuisine, although on this short sailing the menu was identical to the Versailles Restaurant.
All the way aft is the Versailles Restaurant. Entry to this restaurant is only from the aft staircase on Deck 7. The reason?, there is a large galley separating Versailles and the Aqua Restaurant that makes it impossible to pass through on Deck 6. The entrance to Versailles is via a grand staircase and the effect is stunning. Versailles is very ornate, and very French in decor. All the way aft are huge double height windows with an incredible view of the ships wake. Quite a beautiful setting to be sure. Versailles could be considered the "main" restaurant onboard NORWEGIAN STAR, and there is no extra fee to dine here just like the Aqua Restaurant.
Last are the foyers, corridors and stairs. There are 12 large elevators and three stair towers onboard. Four of the elevators are glass enclosed. Each of the stair towers are a different color. Red, Blue and Green. I guess this way you always know what part of the ship you are in. The cabin corridors are rather plain and void of any artwork. The cabin doors are steel and painted with a glossy paint that makes them look rather industrial. Too bad this small detail could not be improved upon.
FOOD AND SERVICE
My only meal onboard was dinner at the SoHo Room. The food was excellent, served on specially created dinner ware designed for each dish. Very unique and worth the extra charge to eat here. Dessert was flambeed table side which was a nice touch. Service was uneven at best, but this was only the second dinner these servers had under their belt. I'm certain they will become very proficient in a short period.
Most of the staff onboard were Asian (Malaysian, Thai, etc.), which is the direction NCL is headed in. This is a direct result of the Star Cruises ownership. Gone are the mostly Jamaican and Caribbean staff that NCL has used for many, many years. Even the reception staff were from Malaysia, transferred from the Star Cruises fleet in Asia. I'm sure it will take a little time for the staff to become accustomed to the style of service that Americans are used to. Although the service was uneven, everyone I encountered was polite, eager and pleasant. I feel only time is needed to transform this crew into a top notch, first rate staff.
I hope you can conclude that I thoroughly enjoyed the NORWEGIAN STAR, and her unique decor and design. She is truly NCL's first purpose built ship under the "Freestyle" concept, and the new management at NCL. There is nothing quite like her at sea, and although not everything is perfect, I would not hesitate to recommend her. I am looking forward to reading the reviews after her first Hawaii cruises. It's difficult to get a true feel for a ship after only one night, as sometimes the ship takes on an entirely different personality after a week onboard.
To all those sailing on NORWEGIAN STAR, I hope this review gives you a little idea of what to expect, and the good times that are ahead. Please feel free to contact me with any specific questions.