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Copyright 1995-2004 
Linda Coffman

 

Norwegian Star
September 18, 2005
Alaska, from Seattle to Vancouver

by Heber M. Ball

This was a group of five couples. Embarkation was well done - efficient and friendly. We were aboard ship at 11:20am. Auto dispensers of hand disinfectant was first thing noticed and were all over the ship... good idea.

The crew was very friendly and more than helpful at all times. Cabins are smallish - approximately 170 sq. ft., but adequate. All verandas are fully covered and private (unlike those of larger Princess ships). Larger bathrooms with separate toilet stall with sliding door. Large shower with removable head. Duvets for beds. Small 19" TVs with two movie channels, CNN, ship bridge cam, etc. Promo channels shows well produced.

Stage shows above average - good costuming, lighting and sound. Showroom seats with minimal leg room and seats are tilted slightly forward for your discomfort. Cruise director was a dignified, middle aged English gent - he knew his business.

Ship layout complicated - room for 10 restaurants makes for a maze. It takes days rather than hours to get the layout of the ship. Promenade is full wrap-around but is narrow to thin in spots due to inner restaurants protruding out. Very large atrium which simply gives that appearance of huge space and actually takes away from guest space, (study Millie Class Celebrity ships to see what I mean).

Top notch spa and exercise areas. Not well attended by staff other than for spa treatments but + for style and layout. I work out and used the facilities three times. Exercise is one level directly above spa and aft. Best of cable weight machines... more than enough tread mills, bikes, etc., all with LCD monitors with all TV channels. Free access to men and women's spa areas... clean spacious locker rooms, sauna, steam rooms,  showers and sinks. Central co-ed 40' lap pool (well heated), large dual Jacuzzis, one with inserted metal bars for reclining. Cushioned deck chairs in rear with beautiful view aft. Never crowded - fine with me.

First time I have worn blue jeans around deck. Very casual attire by most guests. Dining rules: no blue jeans, shorts, sandals after 5:00pm in all restaurants. Resort casual required. Other than that, get comfy.

Restaurants: buffet was better than average in quality, variety and service. Buffet staff socialized with each other way too much but this didn't seem to affect service. Very short wait times to be seated. Some restaurants request reservations. We went to The Endless Summer (TexMex) one night. Party of six and had no problem getting a table. Versailles Restaurant is very elegant (SoHo and Versailles - no extra, no reservations required). We ate at The Versailles twice. First night at sea was formal... I'd say 30% of passengers went formal/semi. Interesting to see dress variety all at once in the restaurant. Ate at Gatsby's Steakhouse (deck 11 midship), $20 cover and worth it. Italian restaurant is actually conversion of port side of buffet after 5:00pm. They have shades that roll down over the buffet lines - really does give Italian feel to area. Portions here were small, as they were in most restaurants on board, but ordering extra was no problem. I ordered spaghetti and meat balls. I got four tiny meat balls in center of plate... ordered room service later. 

Room service very basic - sandwiches, oriental soup, pizza, no beverages, chocolate mousse. Time from order to delivery - about 15 minutes.

Breakfast room service - continental. Phone notification of breakfast delivery one to two minutes prior. I'd go to the buffet and load up a plate with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fruits, coffee and juice... take it back to the stateroom. RCI and Princess offer more but Celebrity is tops... full breakfast can be ordered interactively via TV on the night prior. Not so on The Star. Place your order sheet to the outside doorknob no later than 3:00am.

Drink of the Day was approximately $4.20/each. The help always pushed to have drink in souvenir glass at double the price. I'd have to say no, no, no, regular 8 oz. glass! Speaking of push - as it is with all standard and premium lines, push, push, push the ads for the art gallery, the jewelry, the photos, etc., all ads laid neatly on your bed at turndown time. There was no piping of ads to individual rooms, thank goodness!

First day at sea was wet and wild. I noticed in my three am dreams that I was on a roller coaster. Once in awhile this huge explosion as we bottomed out. At 6:00am we went to the veranda to view huge 20' swells we were plowing through at an angle at reduced speed. Back to bed to get horizontal until noon when things calmed down. Smoother seas for the rest of the voyage. Not quite as bad as my 2001 Enchantment of the Seas experience but bad, very bad, nonetheless. These rough seas made us one hour late for Juneau but all shore excursions went ahead without cancellations.

I had to mess with the photo crew on the pier at Juneau. You know, they take your picture and then post and charge onboard... so I had Pat stand with the guy in the moose outfit and I started snapping. They actually tried to block my shots so I would snap their picture and put out my hand, offering a $5 sale. They finally saw some humor in my smart a** antics and stopped blocking - actually posed for us in some shots.

Ports:
Juneau - Light rain all day and cool temps. My wife, Pat, wanted to pan for gold. Fun but wet and cold for us. Others went to the local glacier and enjoyed it.

Skagway - Partly cloudy and cool - train to White Pass is nice. You can sign up for bus tour of White Pass - costs 1/2 the amount of the train. The highway runs on the other side of the valley. Train leaves from dockside.

Glacier Bay - we were allowed into Johns Hopkins Inlet - awesome. Mostly cloudy and cool. The National Park service restricts access to Johns Hopkins Inlet due to the fluctuating population of sea lions. If the sea lions are too numerous you may be re-routed to another area. Johns Hopkins inlet is the best with that gorgeous view of Mt. Fairweather and Mt. Quincy Adams in the background.

Ketchikan - Light to moderate rain and cool - not much here unless you booked in advance to fish. My nephew tried to charter a boat but nothing was available. There was a lumberjack show on the south side of town. We walked by and heard big cheers and yelling - good time to be had.

Inside Passage - beautiful but not the highlight of any Alaska voyage.

Vancouver post cruise - stayed at The Sheraton Wall Centre. Very nice room. I told them I smoked and, as they had no smoking rooms left, we were given a balcony at no extra charge. Took the 4 1/2 hour city tour. Had an awesome steak dinner seven walking blocks from the hotel at The Hamilton Street Grill in Yaletown. Highly recommended. Spendy but the best meal of the entire vacation.

Tipping: Ten dollars per person, per day charged to onboard bill. I brought my wad of $2 bills for tipping but brought most home. Trouble with drink orders - the bill you sign clearly shows a modest built in tip, with a space for additional tip. The wait staff would see me skip that line - I'm sure they would react inwardly. I would rather tip from my pocket but the help is looking for an amount on the bill before them. My thought was 'fine'--no tip then, and kept my $2's in my pocket. No pressure in restaurants regarding tipping - pretty much finish and leave.

Overall: If you freestyle, do it on a newer NCL ship that is designed for it. They still have older ships in the fleet offering less room. I'd do NCL again and might take The Star to the Mexican Riviera next year.

Heber M. Ball
Deep Blue Sea Travel


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