Wow! The Star is a fabulous ship. Having never sailed with NCL before, I expected mediocre service and food quality. I was blown away, the service was top notch, and the food rivaled celebrity's. Our cabin was absolutly spectacular (more on that later). Now for a review on our trip:
6/26- Departed for Newark Airport @ 4:45am for a 7am flight to ATL. Then we flew from ATL to LAX, LAX to Maui. After nearly 18 hours of travel time, our party of 14 (which ranged in age from 11 to 87) arrived at the Grand Wailea Resort. Upon check in we were informed that our rooms could not be accommodated (we had booked 5 rooms with 2 double beds in the Napua Tower). Instead the hotel suggested we accept their offer of 3 room with 1 king bed, and place 4 people in each room! Of course, our party was not willing to accept their offer, and demanded to speak to a manager. We spoke to the rooms division manager, who was rude, and could have cared less. He told us things like he was not worried about accommodating us because he had already made his numbers, and that had we not booked through a travel agency (we used American Express Platinum Travel) we would have been given preference. The hotel's treatment was not that of a 5 star establishment, and I would never recommend them. American Express was gracious enough to arrange for us to stay at the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua, which was out of this world.
6/30- Our party flew from Maui to HNL, arriving at 10:30am. We toured Pearl Harbor for the day, and arrivied at the pier at around 3:30.
Embarkation- Since part of our party was booked in a suite, we checked in at the suite counter. No line, very fast. We were then escorted to meet our concierge. On the ship by 4pm.
Cabins- 6 of the members (including myself) stayed in #14500, the Vista Garden Villa. The Villa was spectacular. Including all living and deck space, each villa is about 3500 square ft. Our villa was Japanese influenced, and included three bedrooms and three baths, a living area with grand piano, a dining area, a bar area, and kitchenette (fridge, microwave, sink). The garden area had a hot tub, and sauna. Every day our party would either have breakfast or drinks of the day in the Villa. Villa 14000 is slightly different, it does not have a bar/kitchen area, but it does have a butler's closet/pantry. The other family members stayed in balcony cabins on deck 10. The cabins, though compact, offered an excellent bathroom layout. The biggest complaint was the placement of the telephone, and the lack of storage space. The Radiance's balcony cabins are much larger than the Star's.
Service- As I have said before, the service was excellent, and very comprable to Celebrity. I felt the service was better than RCL or Princess. Claudio, our concierge, made the vacation. Not only did he help our Villa, but he extended his services to all 14 of us. Claudio was prompt, friendly, and made any request seem possible. He arranged for private mini-busses for our party in each port, and reserved our dinners for us each night. Our butler, Arnie, and Cabin stewards Gigi and Rose, were fantastic. Gigi has been sailing with NCL for 12 years now, and her love of the job is evident. The service in each restaurant was fabulous, also. It was always friendly and most often prompt. If one of our servers saw us during the day, they would always stop to talk to us. Although I did not I get a chance to attend the Bier Garten meeting, I did have the opportunity to talk with James Deering. Mr. Deering does a wonderful job of ensuring the that the Star maintains high standards.
Meals- Our party ate dinner in every restaurant except Versailles. The food was delicious. Endless Summer was my least favorite restaurant, but it was certainly not bad. I found the service in SoHo to lag at times, our meal took 2h 15min. I highly recommend the lobter prepared in a flash wok at Soho, the escargot at Le Bistro, and the duck at Ginza. Overall, I thought the food quality, as it should be, was higher at the pay restaurants. The teppanyaki provides for an exciting night, and should not be missed. I enjoyed the market cafe, especially the indian food. The one lunch I had in Versailles was also good.
Fanning Island- Although it took some time to get there, I did enjoy exploring the island. The Nepali beach is a must, less people very relaxing. The residents of Fanning Island are friendly, and never bother you. I thought the island was worth the trip. Hey, how many other people can say they've been to Kiribati?
Cons- The ship was very smoky. At dazzles, the non-smoking tables were place in with the smoking tables. There should be an area that is non-smoking. The same held true for the bars and lounges. I am not saying those who smoke should not have the right to, I just feel that there should be areas in each bar/lounge that is non-smoking for those who do not wish to be near smoke. Some people in our party are allergic to smoke and it was very difficult for them to enjoy certain activities (such as dazzles). Disembarkation in Maui took forever, the stairs backed up with people all the way up to deck 7. Perhaps when Maui to Maui trips end, this will be smoothed out. At times there was a long wait for an elevator, especially up on deck 14. However, this did not bother me as I enjoy using the stairs.
Disembarkation- Very easy and relaxing, stayed on the ship until 10:15. All 33 pieces of luggage were waiting for us at the pier.
We enjoyed our vacation very much, and have booked the Dawn in 2003. That's about it, sorry for the length! If I forgot anything, just ask.