July 21-31, 2002 ~
By Mary &
This was our 27th cruise and our
third on Norwegian Cruise Lines. In '98 we sailed the newly
"stretched" Norwegian Wind; in March '02 we sailed her
sister ship the Norwegian Dream around South America and Cape Horn--a
dazzling trip to remember. So with visions of penguins, fjords and
glaciers still dancing in our heads, where else to travel next, but
the gateway to Pacific islands and the Orient: HAWAII.
The Norwegian Star is the only ship
in service year round in Hawaii, and still in its "Maiden
Year," it's a curiosity for us. A new ship and exotic ports, what
more could a traveler ask for? Captain Niklas Peterstam was at the
Meyer-Werft Shipyard in Germany during the building of the Star and
knows her intimately. He speaks of her many virtues with pride and
rightly so. She is environmentally friendly and generates all of
her own water through desalinization. Her bridge is a modern
computerized wonder with the latest equipment: a fitting setting for
her accomplished captain and his well trained crew.
This ship was built with the express
purpose of making her the most elegant floating Casino in the Orient.
Yet, that idea was scratched and she has become instead "sans
casino" touring Hawaii, a "no gambling state". Thus,
cruisers now have extensive onboard shops, 10 elegant restaurants, 14
Bars and Lounges, 3 swimming pools, 4 hot tubs, the "Splash
Down" kids' center, a health spa & gym, and so much more.
This ship can be called a destination in its self. But the exciting
bonus of the Hawaiian Islands makes it irresistible.
The Norwegian Star was christened in
January 2002; she has a gross tonnage of 91,000; an overall length of
971 ft.; a beam of 107 ft.; a draft of 28 ft. and she is Panamax. Her
diesel driven electric engines allow her a cruising speed of 25 knots.
As most of the newer ships, she is also equipped with the Azipod
system which allows her the outmost maneuverability. She can rotate on
her axis, move sideways into berth at port and stay moored without
We booked NCL's Air/Sea Program and
flew Continental Airlines from Miami 9:20 am to Hawaii 3:30 pm
approximately 12 hours flying time with a change over in Houston. This
is a grueling day (time zone changes) and it makes for an early first
night on board! Honolulu airport has little to no air conditioning
(limited to the sealed off gates), a long hike to baggage claim and no
assistance with luggage from either the airport or ship personnel
(where were the porters?) and then, with Vincent in the wheelchair and
a few pieces of luggage to carry, we faced another long walk to where
the buses should have been (45 minute wait for them to come in
sweltering heat and humidity). Fortunately, fellow cruisers Sergio
Valdez and his family took pity on us and assisted us with our
luggage; thank you Sergio & Elena!
Once at the port, the Norwegian Star
stood majestically: All white with its pointed prow, blue NCL funnel
atop and with a line of red and white lifeboats/tenders, she is easily
distinguished from other liners. However, we soon noted that her
outside beauty is surpassed by her inner decor. She has an exotic far
eastern motif, boldly enhanced by primary colors (Black, Red, Yellow,
Blue and Green) and simple, straight, modern, elegant lines
(refreshing). If you expect the traditional cruise liner pastel
colors, you'll not find them here.
Upon arrival, we had over an hour wait at the airport with a lot of
grumbling going on by passengers in the heat, but, once we arrived at
the pier, everything changed and NCL had wheelchair assistance; we
went straight through the Latitudes check-in counter. This new ship
has one card for onboard charges and embarking and disembarking. We
were greeted with Hawaiian leis (fragrant orchids for the ladies and
shells for the men) and went directly to our cabin, because we could
forgo the usual stop at the main dining room to check our table
assignments. Freestyle Cruising eliminates the necessity of
dining at a specific table and at a specific time. Flexibility in
dining is wonderful. For those who prefer a set time and place, just
make that usual stop to see the maitre d' and that to can be arranged;
however, with so many dining alternatives, we suggest savoring the
many cuisines offered at the 10 restaurants. Remember to make
reservations at the specialty restaurants!
SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS
The Norwegian Star is tastefully decorated in an oriental motif with
strong bold colors, no soft beige, pink or lavenders here. The primary
colors are refreshingly distinctive. Her stairwells have too many
murals and wall sculptures to mention, but especially look for the
Water lilies in the central stairwell on Deck 6 & 7 and don't miss
the Sea life (fish and sea horses) forward Deck 11. The ship design
and layout make her easy to get around.
Decks 4 & 5 have
staterooms with portholes or inside cabins.
Deck 6 forward has the main
floor of the Stardust Theater, a simple room with dark walls and the
only decoration being valances of red and gold drapery and two
decorated boxes flanking the stage (Don't miss the main entrance
corridor to the theater, this is highly decorated with large
pictures). During the week there will be a laser show, it's
Toward aft is the Dazzles
Lounge/Night club decorated with black granite tables, a semicircular
dance floor and bandstand, black and red swivel upholstered chairs and
the walls are covered with portraits of Jazz favorites like Miles
Davis, etc. Going aft is the Gatsby Champagne Bar with huge murals
depicting the lifestyle of 'the lost generation' in Paris after W.W.I
with hints of Fitzgerald and Hemmingway characters. Very nice! The far
wall has a beautiful gigantic, wooden mural of transportation during
the 20th century (ships, cars, zeppelins etc.).
Portside is the entrance to the SoHo
Restaurant with a Andy Warhol theme of repetitive designs and
Marilynesque pictures. Midship is the Havana Club for cigar
aficionados and the wine cellar for Le Bistro Restaurant. The French
theme is started in the corridor with white globed sconces and friezes
of "Parisienne scenes". Le Bistro repeats the French theme
with art posters reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec. Dining here is
enhanced by the French music and aromas (more about the food in the
Midship is the Aqua Restaurant (the
only one we did not dine in, since in seven days, it would be
impossible to dine in every venue, we knew that the Aqua shared a menu
with the Versailles, so we felt we knew the food if not the room. All
the way aft is the Versailles Restaurant with its ornate red brocade
walls, formal paintings of French royalty and crystal chandeliers.
Deck 7 is the Promenade Deck
with a traditional wrap around outside promenade. Forward is the
balcony of the Stardust Theater, because of the required glass topped
balconies, there are several areas where visibility of the stage is
poor, unlike the main floor where there is a near perfect view from
every seat. Toward aft is the Karaoke Circus Lounge, on the walls are
oil paintings of circus performers. The barrel chairs of leopard
and zebra velour added a wild touch. Nearby is the Teen Club and Photo
Midship is the gorgeous Ginza
restaurant serving sushi on a revolving runner at the bar. This room
is very modern and angular and much beautified by the kimono wearing
waitresses, who use their obi sashes to store things.
Toward aft is Java Cafč and the
heart of the ship, which is the Grand Atrium with the reception and
excursion desks. This area is enhanced by a fountain surrounded by
thousands of shasta daisies and suspended "NeNe" (Hawaiian
geese). The birdcage elevators are flanked by chrome and white
Going aft on portside is the Red
Lion's Pub (British down to fish and chips) and on starboard side is
the Blue Lagoon (quick snacks and light meals) very handy for early
continental breakfast or a fast food luncheon at its white speckled
tables and leather hassock seats. This has an American '50s diner
flavor enhanced by pictures of a pink Ford Fairlane and a Red fin tail
Cadillac. Aft are the Galleria Shops; the hugest shopping area afloat.
Deck 8 is the lifeboat deck,
which is mostly cabins; some of them have obstructed view. Midship,
above the Grand Atrium is the Endless Summer Restaurant featuring a
highly decorated lighted glass ceiling and Hawaiian food. Spectacular!
Deck 9 is all cabins, mostly
with balconies, except for the Internet Cafe located midship.
Deck 10 is all cabins and
suites, most of them with balconies.
Deck 11, the Bridge Deck, has
cabins forward, and aft is the Barong Spa & Fitness Center. gym,
Deck 12 forward is the
Spinnaker Lounge with a great view of the ocean forward. Its chairs
are appropriately upholstered in red with stars and its sofas are
blue; the bar is raised and the dance floor sunken; the teak wood
walls and suspended sails complete this nautical theme. Close by is
the tiny Starlight chapel with an ocean view (holds approx. 30
persons). Going aft portside are the conference rooms named after
famous cities (London, Paris, Rome, New York, etc). On the starboard
side are card and game rooms and centrally located the theater which
shows the latest films (avoid the last row since from here only the
top half of the screen is visible). This week "Lord of the
Rings" "Kate and Leopold" and "Crushed" were
Midship are the pool area, Topsider
Bar, the Grill and the Ice Cream Bar (macadamia nut ice cream!).
Surrounding the pool are modernistic palms with lighted tops
(beautiful at night when seen from the "Bier Garten" above
on Deck 14). Going aft is La Trattoria (Italian dining), Kid's Cafe'
(kid size tables and chairs), Market Cafe (buffet) and all the way aft
is the second level of the Barong Spa.
Deck 13 is the Sundeck Star
Bar, Las Ramblas Tapas Bar and Planet Kids and aft the Helipad.
Deck 14 has the Bier Garten
and the Garden Villas (some of the most luxurious suites on the seas).
The Norwegian Star is a cruiser
friendly ship offering many alternatives from quiet to hustle &
bustle... something for everyone.
FOOD & SERVICE
Under the capable, watchful eye of Hotel Director James Deering, this
is a top of the line ship. All the public areas are immaculate and
pleasing to the eye. The service is exceptional, smiling and willing
to assist passengers. Freestyle dining and inclusive tipping is
happily received by most passengers. Those who still want the old
fashioned same table, same time, same waiter may still reserve that in
the main dining rooms through the Maitre d' in either the Aqua or
Freestyle dining actually allows
passengers to have full control over when and where they dine, which
of course means over when they will go to the theater or do any other
shipboard activity. The food is varied in ethnicity and the venues
well organized. It will take up to two hours for dining in the upscale
restaurants (Le Bistro, SoHo, and Ginza etc), which allows for
individualized preparation of your order.
Le Bistro with a cover charge of
$12.50 per person serves French and Mediterranean Style cuisine. Try
the Escargot, Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, Wild mushroom soup
served in a sourdough bread bowl. For an entree try "Rossini
style Filet Mignon with fois gras and truffled veal jus".
For dessert they offer Chocolate Fondue and Tart au Citron...
We dined at the SoHo with Captain
Peterstam and Mr. Deering; the service is elegant and the conversation
very enjoyable. This restaurant specializes in Pacific Rim cuisine
($12 cover charge). Try the Warm Vichyssoise with smoked salmon and
poached quail eggs, or the jumbo shrimp with tortellini and chervil,
or Vincent's favorite the 10 ounce Grilled Veal Chop. You may also
select your own lobster from the tank! We gave SoHo a four star
The Ginza ($10 cover charge) has
"Asian Fusion" (Thai, Japanese & Chinese) cuisine with a
charming rotating Sushi Bar (the California rolls were great). The
dishes and eating utensils were delightfully oriental. The Sukiyaki
and Tempura Soba were excellent. Dessert is Banana Pancakes Flambč or
how about Ginger Creme Bruleč. We highly recommend both. We were
served sweetly by Amarasiri and Joy Co.
Dining on this ship is a 24 hour
thing at the Blue Lagoon on Deck 7. A quick meal can be made of
"buffalo" chicken wings, chili con carne, or salads. Our
waiter Rey Paul Asuncion was incredible, he knew every one by name and
called out greetings whenever he saw us.
There are so many venues for dining
on board that no one could possibly go hungry here; unless, of course,
you inadvertently place your fork across your plate, the international
signal for the waiter to remove it, then, the service is swift. One
fellow American complained she never got to finish her meals, since
the waiters rushed her through the dinner by removing her unfinished
plates. We asked where she placed her fork. Naturally across the
plate, and zip it was gone. We had a good laugh. She kept signaling
for removal and the waiters complied!
Breakfast is served from 5 am to 9
am. (Continental in your cabin, full American in the restaurants from
7 am on). Lunch and afternoon snacks are from noon to 5 pm. Dinner and
evening snacks are from 4 pm to Midnight and Room Service is 24 hr. We
found the service to be excellent, the food to be varied and
plentiful. We also had the occasion to meet the helpful Concierge Anne
Smith and she is charming and ready to solve any problem. The Captain
and Hotel Director should be proud of their crew. Captain Peterstam
says that they each have two jobs: first, safety training and second,
their other assignments.
Cabin #10700, wheelchair accessible, is large and airy, decorated in
red, green and blue with beige walls and two pictures of south sea
island influence depicting boats, flowers and, of course, palm trees.
When entering on the left, there are
two sets of cupboards flanking a lighted armoire, a huge bathroom with
safety rails all around and a single sink with two shelves, plus a
large shower 4'X4'. Then, there is a queen bed, a TV console,
refrigerator and private safe and a set of draws. The far wall is
glassed with a door to the 6'X15' balcony which holds two chaises and
When entering, on the right is found
a full length mirror, a desk/vanity with mirror and hair dryer, and an
upper bunk which folds up on the wall. This cabin would be more than
adequate for four--except for storage space (very few drawers). The
addition of a coffee/tea maker in the cabin was a nice touch. We were
most ably served by Senior Cabin Steward Conrado Colonia and his
assistant Sonia Condalor. They were friendly, competent and
There were the usual cruise fun and games: Bingo, Horse races,
Exercise and Dance classes (the Hula was taught in the Spinnaker
Lounge with all six moves 1. hitch hike, 2. hooky (net), 3.
everyone pull together, 3. bowl of food, 4. swish, 5. King and
finally 6. clean the barrel. All these arm movements are done while
swiveling hips and dancing step, step, toe! It made for great laughs.
However, no Casino on this ship!
There were several shows featuring
the Jean Ann Ryan Company, which were on a par with other cruises. The
show featuring the Chinese acrobatics and juggler was exceptional.
BUT, the Hawaiian mood was beautifully set each evening in the Grand
Atrium by Butch Niauhoe Kekaulike O'Sullivan, billed as "Three
Octaves of Versatility," he was by far the most memorable
voice aboard. His gentle manner with the audience and his clear
explanations of the background of various songs were spellbinding.
Whenever we passed through the atrium, we couldn't resist sitting and
enjoying his dulcet tones and golden voice. Thanks for honoring
Vincent's request for "The 12th of Never" with a very
The Norwegian Star has successfully
incorporated Polynesian (Show time "The Drums of the
Islands"), Chinese (Juggler and Acrobats), Hawaiian (Butch's
memorable songs) and Pacific/Asian themes in the entertainment making
this trip well worth it!!!
ACTIVITIES & PORTS OF CALL
HONOLULU, OAHU - Departure
This port for us came after disembarkation. We spent two nights at the
Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, one block from the famous surfing beach of
Waikiki. We visited Pearl Harbor and the monument to the Battleship
Arizona. Very touching.
HILO, HAWAII - Arrival 7:00 am -
Departure 12:30 pm
This island is the largest and the youngest of the Hawaiian chain and
boasts the active twin Volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, both over
13,000 ft. We took the tour to the Macadamia Nut Farm and then
on to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where we saw the caldera of
Kilauea Volcano, home of Pele Volcano Goddess. Here were steaming
vents and old lava flows, sounds safe? Right? Wrong. It erupted on
July 28, 2002, only six days after we left the island.
FANNING ISLAND, REPUBLIC OF
KIRIBATI - Arrival 9:00 am - Departure 2:30 pm
This is truly the most isolated of island paradises, at over 1,000
miles from Hawaii. An oval coral atoll, it is just 26 sq. miles. In
1979, Fanning Island became part of the Republic of Kiribati, whose
capital is 2,000 miles away at Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. Its
population is about 1,600 natives from the Gilbert Islands who are
stranded former coconut farm workers. We went ashore on the
first tender, since the sea was a bit choppy, the crew halted the
passengers behind Vincent, in order to make sure he transferred
safely. Later, we heard of a woman who ignored specific crew
directions and jumped the line rudely to get on the tender first. She
lost her pedicure to the sliding gangway. It's difficult to feel pity
for a "queue jumper."
On shore we were met by singing
natives and we shopped at the dock side straw market. We forgot to
bring candy for the children, so Vincent gave them dollar bills. The
children are shy and sweet. NCL has a barbecue on the island, but we
took the first returning tender, because so close to the equator the
sun is unbearable, even at 10:00 am. There are "sand
wheelchairs" on the island, but expect to go only in a straight
line; turns are difficult! Our friends from Chicago toured the island
and pronounced it a dreamy paradise unspoiled by civilization.
KAHULUI, MAUI, HAWAII - Arrival
1:30 pm - Departure 9:30 pm
For an island with so much to see and do (ie, the Maui Ocean Center,
Helicopter Tours and the Atlantis Sub Adventure) we managed to do the
least interesting: the Hoku Nui Luau, where the long ride to the other
side of the island was the most interesting part. We ate at the
Sheraton Hotel Luau outside on a knoll overlooking the sea. Sounds
idyllic, but it rained on and off, and the food was as dull as the
dreaded poi. The beautiful sunset over the water was enjoyed much more
than the overpriced luau.
NAWILIWILI, KAUAI, HAWAII -
Arrival 8:00 am - Departure 6:00 pm
Kauai is the setting for many famous films (South Pacific, Blue
Hawaii, Jurassic Park etc. King Kong?). Waimea is the Grand Canyon of
the Pacific. Beaches, Mountains, SCUBA, Fern Grottos and Rainbow
Waterfalls, this island has it all. All we needed was more time.
1. Passengers need to be
reminded that "Freestyle Cruising" allows for flexibility in
dining as to where and when... but, it does not eliminate the
traditional set time and table for those who want to eat in the same
restaurant and at the same table every night, served by the same
waiters. This also allows for automatic tipping charges on your
onboard bill, which we enjoy. We still tip at the different
restaurants, when we are served especially well, even though its no
2. The cabin drawers have
grooved handles underneath: This is where function was sacrificed to
design. They are not very handy and instead are awkward. This is a
minor inconvenience, but sometimes, like Sisyphus, a designer should
be condemned to use his/her designed "mistake" for life, or
better for eternity! Then the emphasis would be on functionality and
the user friendly designs would be common occurrence around the world.
We have booked three more cruises
within the next few months. We are boarding the new RCI Brilliance
of the Seas on Sept. 8 in Harwich, England on the way to Boston.
This will be our first transatlantic crossing since 1968 on the Michelangelo.
The next cruise will be on Nov. 30, a return to the Golden
Princess for an Eastern Caribbean cruise to see our old friend,
Executive Chef Antonio Cereda. The third cruise will be on the new RCI
Navigator of the Seas, Jan. 25, 2003. We especially
enjoy new ships and writing about them.