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Sailing on Norwegian Star
April 10, 2016


by Keith Henderson

My wife and I sailed on the Norwegian Star leaving on April 10th, 2016 out of Tampa as a 7-day cruise to the western Caribbean. It was our 16th NCL cruise (26th overall). We have sailed on Carnival 9 times and Royal Caribbean once. The cruise left Tampa with stops in Roatán, Honduras and Belize City, Belize followed by Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico. It would be our first time to ports in Central America. We had been to the two Mexican ports before.

After 2 recent Carnival cruises, we were looking forward to a NCL cruise and one that went to different Caribbean ports for us to visit. The Star’s original itinerary had her make a stop at the new private island for NCL located in Belize which appealed to us. It was our second time on the Norwegian Star. We had last sailed on her ten years ago in 2006 and were curious about renovations made over the years including a recent 2015 dry dock.

We found out that this particular cruise would be the last Caribbean cruise for the Norwegian Star in the foreseeable future. After our cruise, she would have a repositioning cruise back to the Baltic Sea cruises out of Amsterdam. After the season in Amsterdam, she would be heading to the Australia market via the Mediterranean and then through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean with stops in Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and many other ports.

Flight into Tampa
We flew into Tampa from Newark the afternoon before our cruise. Downtown hotels near the cruise port were totally booked due to the 2016 NCAA Men’s Hockey Frozen Four Finals that were being held at the Amalie Arena located there. We booked a night’s stay at the Embassy Suites Westshore which was located only a few miles from the airport. The hotel has a free shuttle from the airport. After checking into the hotel, we took advantage of the manager’s reception at the hotel which had an open bar and snack foods from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. We enjoyed our time at the reception watching a great baseball game between the Dodgers and Giants. The Dodgers won in extra innings which made it a fun time for us (we are Dodger fans even though we live in CT). After the game, we went for a walk and had a quick bite at a local fast food place that was nearby. We were tired and we knew that there would be a lot of food available on our cruise, so we were not looking for a gourmet type of meal.

Day 1 – Embarkation Day
It started as a sunny day with temps starting in the 60's F and rising to the low 80’s F in the afternoon. After our complimentary breakfast, we packed up and went down to check out and wait for a cab to take us to the cruise terminal which was located 5 miles from the hotel. We left for the cruise terminal at 11:45 am and it only took 15 minutes to get to the ship ($18). We drove through the downtown area of Tampa and passed the Amalie Arena which was only a few blocks from the cruise pier. The Tampa Aquarium is located near the cruise pier. (They offered luggage storage for returning passengers who wanted to visit the aquarium before heading to a late flight at the airport).

The Norwegian Star was the only ship in port this day. When we arrived at the cruise terminal at noon, we dropped off our two large suitcases with a porter. It was just a short walk from the curb into the terminal building. We were guided to take escalators that led us up to a short line for security after which we got into line for the sign-in process. We are Platinum guests on NCL, so our dedicated line had only 2 couples ahead of us. I had previously registered on line and provided all of our information, so we only needed to wait to get our keycards and have our photos taken for security purposes. The time it took from entering the terminal to walking onto the ship was only 20 minutes.

Our cabin was an inside cabin (room 10601) which was near the midship stairwell on deck 10. The cabins were not available for passengers until one o’clock, so we headed up to the buffet on deck 12 for a quick lunch. The Market Café buffet on the Star is quite large and had plenty of different options of food available. At 1:00 pm they announced that the cabins were now available, so we walked down to deck 10 and dropped off our carry-on bag. Upon arriving at the cabin, we had a letter waiting for us explaining that there was a computer glitch and one of the restaurant reservations we had made prior to the cruise needed to be reconfirmed which was a little annoying (more on that later).

We then headed off to explore the ship before the muster drill which was scheduled for 3:30 pm. One of the most disappointing changes made to the Star was that they had converted the Spinnaker lounge that was topside forward into cabins and moved the lounge down to deck 7 aft into what was formerly the location of the large gift shop onboard. That was a great place to get great views of the outside during inclement weather and to relax when there were no events occurring there. The new location has no windows and was very dark and uninviting.

After walking around the ship, we went to locate the head person for dinner reservations to find out why there was an issue with one of our reservations. After bouncing from one person to another including our Platinum Concierge, we finally found the right person to speak with. They said that due to a computer glitch, our reservation at the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant for Monday evening had been cancelled. We had an original confirmation for a 5:00 pm reservation for Monday, but that was not available. But, they did offer a 6:30 pm time for the same day which we accepted.

We then headed to our assigned station for the muster drill at 3:30 pm. We did not have to bring our lifejackets to the muster. For the first time in quite a few recent NCL cruises, our muster station was outside on the promenade. After the drill, we headed back topside to find a shady spot for the sail away at the Bier Garten on deck 14 forward which overlooked the pool area below and gave great views of the city around us.

The Star pulled away from the docks around 4:00 pm. The cruise port in Tampa has the city skyline to one side and an industrial port to the other with channels that lead to the open sea. They had a live Caribbean band playing by the pool for the sail away party instead of a DJ (thank you NCL). They also had singers and dancers from the production shows along with the cruise director’s staff dancing and singing with the passengers. After the sail away, we headed back to our cabin to unpack our luggage (which had arrived during the sail away) and get ready for dinner.

The Star has plenty of options for evening dining. In addition to the two main complimentary dining rooms; Aqua and Versailles, you could choose to eat at a specialty restaurant with offerings such as Steak, French, Asian, Italian, or Brazilian (most of these had fees). Or, you could go to the open buffet. When we booked this cruise, NCL had a promotion where we chose to have 4 meals at any specialty restaurant without having to pay any fees. Plus, as platinum past guest members we get to go to a few select specialty restaurants for 2 nights for free as well. Unfortunately, having the package more or less required that we make reservations prior to the start of the cruise in order to have dinner times that we preferred. We feel that this takes away the “freestyle” aspect of dining on a NCL ship.

For tonight, we decided to have dinner at Le Bistro, their French restaurant. We used one of our two Platinum guest certificates for the dinner which was to include a bottle of wine, but they let us order beers instead. My wife had the filet mignon while I ordered the bouillabaisse. We were happy with our choices and the server was terrific. After dinner, we went to the 9:00 “Welcome Aboard” show at the Stardust Theater. It was a fun show that started off by the cruise director Mark Bachiochi (who is from CT). They had performers from the productions show, a comedian named Rod Long, and an incredible acrobat named Yuri who showed off amazing muscular skills with one arm hand stands and such (on a moving ship mind you).

After the show, we went to the Atrium to listen to the Melodic Trio. They were three brothers from the Philippines that harmonized quite well as they played along with a music soundtrack of drums and keyboards along with their own bass and guitars. We then ended the evening in the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar listening to Henry. He was a solo singer/guitarist that played classic rock/pop music. When we got back to our cabin, we had a note waiting for us to remind us to turn back our clocks by one hour.

Day 2 – Day at Sea

It was a mostly sunny day with temps in the low 80’s F and a strong breeze. The waves were mild due to the winds, but the ship did not seem affected. For this cruise, we had decided that this would be a “relax and chill” cruise with no need to get up early and rush around for excursions. We slept in late this morning before heading up for breakfast around 10:00 am in the buffet which was very crowded at the time.

We spent the rest of the morning walking around the ship which included checking out the spa and fitness centers. After that, we had a light lunch in the buffet and then went down to the Spinnaker lounge to attend one of two past guest parties we had been given invitations to attend. For today, ours was one scheduled for 1:30 pm. We found out that it was the second party of the day as there were so many returning guests on our cruise (including 83 Platinum Guest members) that the Spinnaker Lounge was not big enough to accommodate everyone. They had waiters walking around with free drinks and hors d’oeuvres while they introduced the captain of the ship (Mattias Andersson) and his team. They had a few raffle prizes as well.

After the party, we went back to the Mandara Spa. I had purchased a spa package for the week prior to the cruise which gave us total access to the facilities they offered. There was a limit to the amount of spa passes available to make sure that the spa would not be crowded. We really enjoy the spas on the Star and her sister ship, the Dawn as they included a large common area with pools and lounge chairs open to both men and women. Other NCL ships have separate facilities which we do not enjoy because we cannot be together. The main spa area has a lap pool and two large hot tubs. There are a long row of lounge chairs situated in front of large windows offering great views of the open water behind the ship. There are relaxation rooms off to each side as well that we could share together. After the Spa, we changed and went back topside to the Bier Garten to sit in the shade and listen to the poolside band play and watch the waves go by.

For dinner, we had our reservations for the Japanese teppanyaki room. On the Norwegian Star, the room is very small with only 13 chairs. Reservations are difficult to get for that reason. We chatted with another couple who told us that they knew others that had been bumped as well. We suspected that the reason for the reservation bumps were that guests from the large suites on board had wanted reservations for their large groups. Just after we sat down, the waitress came to us and said that we could order a complimentary bottle of wine (we think due to our inconvenience). We asked if we could have beer instead and they said no problem. The meal was entertaining as the 2 chefs prepared the food in front of us and interacted with us. I ordered the shrimp while my wife ordered the steak which she said was over cooked. Other than that, we thought that the meal was okay, but felt we did not need to come back for another meal there.

The evening’s entertainment in the Stardust Theater was a production show called “Band on the Run” which we thought was terrific even though we had seen it before on a previous cruise. They had 10 different singers along with a dozen dancers. There were plenty of costume and scenery changes along with a live show band of 6 musicians. What a pleasant experience to attend after our last two cruises on Carnival ships where they have stripped down their production shows to a handful of dancers and 2 to 4 singers with no real scenery other than large video screens while performing to music tracks.

After the show, we headed over to the Spinnaker Lounge for the always funny “Newlywed, Not So Newlywed Game”. It was entertaining as they asked couples several questions to test how well they know each other. When we got back to our cabin, we had a note waiting for us to remind us to turn back our clocks by another one hour to get us ready for our arrival in Central America the next day.

Day 3 – Roatán, Honduras

It was a sunny day with temps in the mid 80’s F and a comfortable breeze. Honduras is a Central American nation situated between Guatemala to the west, El Salvador to the south, Nicaragua to the east, and the Caribbean to the north. Located about 40 miles from the coast of Honduras, Roatán is the largest of the 3 Honduras Bay Islands and is 50 miles long and 5 miles at its widest point. It is near the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean and only the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is larger. The local currency in Honduras is the Honduran Lempira where one USD equals about 21 LPS. The US dollar was accepted on the island. While Spanish is the national language, most people we encountered spoke both English and Spanish.

The cruise port for NCL ships is located in Coxen Hole, the largest city on the island with a population of 5,000 (the entire island’s population is about 50,000). The port was named after a pirate named John Coxen and was home for many pirates at its beginnings in the 1830’s. We were scheduled to arrive at port of Roatán at 11:00 am and leave at 7:00 pm. At 8:00 am, the ship was 40 miles away from the port and as we went up for breakfast at 9:00 am, we could see the western coast line of the island.

We went topside to watch the approach to the port. By 10:00 am, we could see two Carnival ships docked off in the distance. At 10:45 am we were alongside the pier at Coxen Hole. At 11:00 am they announced the all clear to go ashore. The Norwegian Star was in port along with the Carnival Freedom (a ship we sailed on in 2014) and the Carnival Triumph who were both using a different pier over at Mahogany Bay.

Since this was our first time to the island we wanted to take a tour to see the entire island and see what it has to offer if we were to come back again. I had arranged for a "Best of Roatán" private tour for my wife and myself ($40 each) with Victor Bodden Tours. As we got off the ship, we followed signs through the cruise terminal building to the first stall outside marked with a sign for “Victor Bodden Tours”. We checked in with the person at the counter who pointed us to a guide who then brought us out to the parking lot along with others that booked tours. We were introduced to our driver for the day, Zethro who led us to a 9 passenger van that he would use to take us around the island.

We started off by heading east on the south side of the island driving through Coxen Hole. Considering how small the town was, we were amazed at the number of banks we passed with each one of them having an armed guard at the door. As we continued on, we then passed the airport, Dixon Cove, and then Mahogany Bay (a private cruise terminal area built by Carnival Cruise Line). He told us how the channel leading to Mahogany Bay is affected by the winds and that there are times when the Carnival ships cannot get into their port. He said that the Coxen Hole pier does not have any issues with wind affecting entrance into the bay.

After that we continued east past French Harbor and the Fantasy Island resort before heading back west towards Coxen Hole. Just as we came up to the airport, we took a turn and went up a large hill to an overlook that gave great views of the southern shores. We could see the Norwegian Star down below. There were vendors set up in the parking lot selling souvenirs and drinks. From the overlook, we then headed to the north shore and then turned towards the west where we made a stop at Anthony's Key Resort which had beautiful grounds and views of the water. It is a popular spot for divers.

Our next stop was at Victor's Monkey Business where we paid for our tour as well as an additional $5 each to visit the small zoo Victor has next to the building. They had a guide take us through the zoo where they had several enclosures with an assortment of animals and birds. The first stop was to see a coati mundi and then several capuchin monkeys. We entered one enclosure where we fed a small capuchin monkey while it climbed onto our shoulders. We also saw spider monkeys, macaws, kinkajous, parrots, toucans, rabbits, and deer. From there, Zethro took us to Half Moon Bay and stopped at the Half Moon Resort where we got out and spent an hour relaxing on their large covered patio located right on the water and had a few local beers ($3 each). We then continued west to the west end of the island before coming around to head back east back to the ship.

The tour was very good and we could see that the nice beach areas are on the west end of the island if we were to come back. Zethro was very knowledgeable about the island's history, flora, and fauna. Victor Bodden has over 30 drivers in his tour business and can handle plenty of customers at the same time. We were pleased with his services. We returned to the cruise pier at 3:30 pm, we spent a short time at a pub on the pier called Monkey La-La before getting back on board.

Before dinner, we went to a music trivia game based on Motown tunes which we won with having 19 of the 20 tunes correct. For dinner, we went to O’Sheehan’s Pub which is a complimentary dining area located just above the atrium area midship. We had pub food that was quite good (bangers and mash, poutine, hamburger, fries). We left the port at 7:00 pm to head north towards our next port of call, Belize City.

The main show in the Stardust Theater was a production show called “Marrambolla”. It was an entertaining show starring two aerial acrobats, Maria and Dmitri. They were dazzling with their show having them perform high up in the air without harnesses or a net below.

We spent the rest of the evening at the Spinnaker Lounge. First, they had a contestant game show where they had people try to perform tasks with household items within 55 seconds. The next hour, they had the show band play Jazz standards which I enjoyed. We ended the night listening to rock & roll music performed by the show band that included the cruise director, Mark and the production show cast singing. It was a fun time.

Day 4 – Belize City, Belize

It was a sunny day with temps around the mid 80’s F and breezy. Our itinerary had us arriving at 8:00 am and leaving at 5:00 pm. Belize is a Central American nation that is bordered by Mexico to the North, Honduras to the west and south, and the Caribbean to the east. Belize is a former British colony and English is its national language. The local currency is the Belizean dollar and it is pegged to the US $ at a rate of 1 USD equals 2 BZD.

When we booked this cruise, the itinerary for Belize had us stopping at Harvest Caye, a private island that NCL had purchased and was developing as an exclusive NCL port stop in early 2016. But, delays in the construction had NCL postpone opening it until late 2016. Because of this, our port stop would be nearby Belize City which was disappointing for us. Belize City requires tender service to its cruise pier terminal as the water near the port area is too shallow for large ships. The Carnival Glory and Carnival Triumph were also in port that day. It would be a busy day at the cruise pier with so many passengers using tenders.

The ship offered several excursions where they would take you into the mainland to visit Mayan ruins that were a few hours away or to go on a river boat tour as well as snorkeling. Belize is known for good diving as well since it is situated next to the second largest barrier reef in the world. Any thoughts for sleeping in late were dashed as they started making announcements at 7:00 am that we had arrived and that the first tenders would be ready to go as early as 7:15 am. The rest of the morning, we were bombarded with announcements for the tenders.

When I went up to the buffet to get hot teas for us at 8:30 am, I found the buffet areas to be packed. It seemed like no one was in a rush to get off the ship. I went for a run topside where they have a great running track set up. The sign said that 4 laps equaled a mile, although I suspect it more like 4 ˝ laps with the times I had running my miles, especially with no wind to assist me. There were a few walkers using the jogging track at the same time, but they were courteous in stepping aside as I approached them. After a shower, we went up for breakfast at 10:30 am and it wasn’t quite so crowded anymore.

We decided to go off the ship at noon and went down to the gangway to wait for the next tender boat to arrive. Each tender seemed to have a capacity of about 80 passengers for the 15 minute ride into Belize City. We had no plans for excursions here, so when we arrived at the pier we just walked around the shopping village located there and then stopped at a restaurant/pub at the end of the pier area called the “Wet Lizard”. It had two sections with a covered open air pub located on the water’s edge and a restaurant with rest rooms located across the walkway on a second floor overlooking the water. We chose to sit at the pub and found a table near a large fan. They had a DJ playing Caribbean music while we relaxed drinking local beers (6 for $13) that were quite good.

After a few hours, we went back to the ship where we went back to the spa to spend some time relaxing in the hot tub, lap pool, and lounge chairs. We pulled anchor and started to sail away at 5:30 pm. Both Carnival ships had already left. Leaving meant having to navigate a winding course through the barrier reef that protected the harbor.

For dinner, we went to Cagney’s, the ship’s steakhouse. My wife had the ribeye and I had the lobster and shrimp dish. We both enjoyed our meals. Our waitress was very attentive and friendly.

In the Stardust Theater, they had a show with a hypnotist which we did not attend. They might be entertaining, but I do not think it is right to have a laugh at the expense of a volunteer made to do embarrassing things.
We did go to the Spinnaker this evening to listen to a 50’s-60’s sock hop music show led by a group called Exotique. The band was quite good and they had plenty of people up and dancing. As we left the lounge, we went through the Atrium area where the Melodic Trio were performing Elvis songs which was entertaining. When we got back to our cabin, we had a note reminding us to turn our clocks forward by one hour.

Day 5 – Costa Maya, Mexico

It was a day that was sunny in the high 80’s F and very humid even though it was quite windy. Located at the southern point of the Yucatan peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Costa Maya is a purpose built faux village built to attract cruise ships as a port stop. It is located less than a four hour drive north from Belize City. The local currency is the Mexican Peso where one US $ equaled 17 MXN pesos. Every place accepted US dollars.

We were scheduled to arrive at Costa Maya at 8:00 am and depart at 5:00 pm. We were woken at 7:50 am with announcements that we had docked and then heard announcements that passengers could disembark at 8:00 am. At this port, we were sharing the pier area with the Regal Princess, a Princess Cruise Line ship which had not yet arrived. Since I was awake, I went up for a run before we had breakfast around 10:30 am. Around 11:30 am we could see the Regal Princess approaching the pier. It was docked by noon which is when we decided to walk off the ship.

The piers for the port are quite far away at over 300 yards long to get to the shore under the hot sun. They had a tram running back and forth if you wanted to use it. We have been to this port before. In the village are several shops, a restaurant, a few pools, bars, and a “swim with the dolphins” attraction. There are a few nearby beaches with places that offered food and drink along with beachfront activities for a reasonable set fee per person with limits to prevent overcrowding. There were excursions to Mayan ruins available. The times for those excursions were about 4 to 6 hours which was not appealing to us.

As we walked into the shopping complex, they had a show with several local men in costume dancing around a 60 foot pole. They then all climbed up the pole to the top where they spun ropes around a large spindle at the top. Once all of the ropes were wrapped, they each tied themselves to a rope and then dropped backwards and came down spinning in the air upside down. It was an entertaining show.

On our last visit, I had found out that there was a Mayan Museum just outside the cruise pier terminal. We went for the short walk there only to find out that the museum was closed. There were several taxi drivers waiting outside the gate offering rides to the local town or to the Mayan ruins. We just walked back into the shopping village. After passing a few shops, we stopped by one of the bars located by the pier only to find that their prices were the same as being on the ship, so we went back on board instead.

We found a shady spot and relaxed for the afternoon listening to the band by the pool. Unfortunately, with having the larger Regal Princess docked next to us, the wind was blocked. We sailed away at 5:00 pm, but the band had already stopped playing for the day.

We returned to Cagney’s for another meal there. This time we ordered a filet mignon and garlic shrimp. We thought they were good. The servers this evening were not so attentive. We had an invitation for another past guest party wine and cheese reception that was for silver, gold, and platinum guests, but it was at the same time as our dinner reservation, so we did not go.

The entertainment for the evening in the Stardust Theater was a production show called the “Look of Love.” It was a musical show based around Burt Bacharach songs which we did not attend. We decided to spend an evening in the Spinnaker Lounge. We started by listening to the band Exotique play dance music. It was followed by a game show called “Who Wants to be a Bazillionaire” which was entertaining as guests tried to give the correct answers to a variety of questions. The next hour was supposed to be a Motown music show by Exotique, but they announced that one of the singers in the band was ill and that they were postponing the show until the last evening of the cruise. Instead they played more dance music with lots of passengers going up to the dance floor.

Day 6 – Cozumel, Mexico

It was a partly sunny day with temps in the 80’s F and a breeze. Cozumel is a large island located east of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico opposite Playa del Carmen on the mainland which is about 3 ˝ hours driving north from Costa Maya. With a population of 100,000, it is 30 miles from the southern part of Cozumel to its northern tip and 10 miles wide at its widest point. It is a flat island with very little hills. We were scheduled to arrive in Cozumel at 8:00 am and depart at 5:00 pm. At 7:40 am, they announced that we were docked and few minutes later that we had the all clear to go ashore.

Cozumel is a popular cruise destination and has several cruise piers along the western coast of the island to accommodate multiple ship visits on the same day. Today was a busy day with several ships in port. Besides the Norwegian Star, there was the Liberty of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Carnival Dream, and the Regal Princess. Located opposite the City of San Miguel’s downtown area, we were docked at the Punta Langosta pier. Five miles south was the TMM International Pier (used by Royal Caribbean ships) and further south is the Puerta Maya cruise pier complex (used by Carnival and Princess ships). The Ferry Passenger pier was located next door to our pier. Those ferries would take you to the ferry pier in Playa del Carmen on the mainland. We have been to Cozumel several times with previous cruises, so we did not have any plans other than to visit the new Hard Rock Café located there.

I started off the day with a run. Then, we had breakfast around 10:30 am. It was about noon when we walked off the ship. The pier here is quite long as well. If you did not want to walk the 300 yards to the terminal they had men pedaling 2 seat bicycle cabs back and forth for tips.

Once on the street, we hailed a cab to take us to the Hard Rock Café which was 5 miles south right across from the International Cruise Terminal. It was my 77th different HRC location to visit. I must admit that we were not impressed with the building or the memorabilia. They did have a live band playing on the second floor. Their prices were so much higher than any of the locations we have visited on top of which they only offered an exchange rate of 13 Pesos to the Dollar instead of the 17 pesos that all of the other shops in the area were giving. Instead of staying for drinks or food, we just hailed a cab to bring us back to our cruise terminal where after going through some of the shops, we found a small pub called “The Beer” with great views of the water with prices less than half of those at the HRC or the ship.

An hour later, we went back onto the ship to go back to the spa for a few hours. It was practically empty, so we enjoyed our time there relaxing. We went back up to the Bier Garten to watch the sail away at 5:00 pm which also had the Liberty of the Seas and the Carnival Dream leaving at the same time.

We went to Le Bistro for dinner using our second Platinum guest certificate. We had the same wait staff serving us as we had a previous evening. They did a great job as we had filet mignon and seafood pastry pie which were great.

In the Stardust Theater was the comedian, Rod Long who was funny. After the show, we went to the Spinnaker Lounge to watch the “Perfect Couple” game show that had several couples doing silly things against a time clock. It was funny. Following the game show, they had the Melodic Trio playing country songs which seemed to be a hit with the passengers.
We ended our evening going topside to attend the “White Hot Dance Party” by the pool for an hour. When we got back to our cabin, we a reminder note to move our clocks forward another hour which would get us back to East Coast time.

Day 7 – Day at Sea
It was a nice day in the low 80’s F that started with mostly sunny skies that changed over to hazy and then overcast by the late afternoon. We slept in late before heading up for breakfast at 10:30 am. I went for a run after that.

In the early afternoon, they had a crew talent show in the Stardust Theater that included a performance of “Fountains” by the cruise director staff that was funny. After the show, we went to the spa for the last time and spent some time there before heading back to the cabin to pack our luggage. We needed to have our luggage outside of our cabin before 11:00 pm since we were not using the self-assist disembarkation option. Because we are Platinum, we had been given yellow tags which would be the first color to be called once the luggage was off the ship and in the terminal ready to be picked up.

Before dinner, we went to the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar for another music trivia game that we won along with another team even though we only had 13 out of 22 songs correct. We went back to Cagney’s for our last dinner on the ship. We had a NY strip steak and garlic shrimp which were quite good. The servers were excellent this time.

We were able to go to the early show in the Stardust which was a production show called “Paradis”. It was an amazing show with all of the singers and dancers performing songs and dances with a ton of costume and scenery changes. They also had Yuri the acrobat and Maria and Dmitri the aerialists return to perform. It was definitely the best show of the cruise.

We ended our last evening on board at the Spinnaker Lounge starting with finals of the “Karaoke Idol” games show where fellow guests sang. They were all good, but there was one that was particularly good and everyone in the lounge agreed. After that was the Motown Show by Exotique which was a disappointment as they spent half of the time talking about Motown artists and the history of the music label instead of just playing the music. Next up was the comedian, Rod Long with an Adults only show that was very funny. The last event of the evening there was a Quest adult game show which are always funny, but we were tired and needed to get up early the next morning, so we went back to our cabin.

Disembarkation Day – Tampa
It was a sunny day with temperatures in the low 80’s F. We were scheduled to arrive in Tampa by 8:00 am. They announced that we were docked at 6:30 am. Our instructions had told us that we needed to be out of our cabin by 8:30 am. This was to allow the cabin stewards to have their cabins cleaned and ready for new passengers later that day. Returning to Tampa, the Norwegian Star was the only ship in port.

I went up to the buffet at 6:30 am to get some tea for us. We went to the buffet for breakfast at 7:00 am. At 7:20 am, they announced that the first wave of self-assist passengers could start heading to the gangway on deck 7. We headed back to our cabin to pack our carry-on bag and then headed up to O’Sheehan’s Pub area to wait for the announcement of when we could disembark. At 8:45 am, they made the first announcement for passengers with checked bags could disembark, so we headed down the one deck to the atrium gangway to get off the ship. By 9:05 am we were outside after picking up our luggage and going through customs. It only took a few minutes to find a cab to take us to the airport for our 11:30 am flight. The ride had a flat rate of $25 for the 20 minute ride to the airport.

The Ship –
The Norwegian Star was built in 2001. It is a sister ship of the Norwegian Dawn. They were the precursors to the Jewel class ships launched between 2005 and 2007. We enjoy the full wrap-around outside promenade and the outdoor bar area overlooking the pool area, both of which are missing from the latest versions of ships from NCL.

During a major dry dock in 2010 new Family Suites and Interior cabins were added to deck 12 replacing the Spinnaker Lounge. Moderno, O'Sheehans and LaCucina were added. Spinnaker lounge was relocated to the aft of deck 7. During March 2015 drydock, the bar on deck 7 was changed to Five O'Clock Somewhere Bar. O'Sheehans Pub was added to deck 8 replacing the Blue Lagoon. Sugarcane Mojito Bar was added to deck 13.

The Spa, Gym, and Sports Deck –
The Spa on the Norwegian Star (like the Norwegian Dawn) has a large common area for men and women that includes several hot tubs and a lap pool along with a row of lounge chairs that face large windows that give wonderful views from the aft of the ship. This allowed my wife and me to be together while using the area. It is located on deck 11 aft. It has several treatment rooms with separate locker rooms for men and women along with steam rooms and saunas. They offered spa treatment specials during port days. The hair and beauty salon is located there as well.

The large fitness center is located on deck 12 aft. There are a wide variety of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, free weights, and other pieces of equipment available at all times at no extra charge. They offered optional classes in the aerobics room for a fee.

Sports Deck: On deck 13, there was a running track. A sign posted stated that it takes 4 laps to complete a mile. Along the running track were two golf driving net areas. On deck 14 was a small basketball court area surrounded by a net. The wrap-around promenade on deck 7 had a sign that said 4 laps equaled 1.4 miles.

Pools
The Star has one large pool area located midship on deck 12. There is one large pool and one smaller pool on opposite sides of the slides. They are about 5.3 feet deep and were unheated. There are two water slides and 4 hot tubs. There was very little space for lounge chairs by the immediate pool area, but there were tiers of open areas next to the pool lined with lounge chairs.

On deck 12 aft is a large kiddie pool area that had several small water slides, a hot tub, and a splash pool. It was an isolated area that had several tables and seats in the shade. It is a great place to bring little kids.

On deck 13 forward was is a large hot tub that has no shade cover. This area was usually very quiet.

General
The cabin deck hallways with dark blue doors were on the starboard side while the rose colored doors were on the port side of the ship. The carpeting on the cabin decks have fish swimming towards the front of the ship. They did not have a bridge viewing room.

The guest services desk and the tour excursions desk were both located in the atrium lobby on deck 7.

The main show room was the Stardust Theater which holds about 1,100 passengers and has entrances on 2 decks (6 & 7 forward). There were only a few poles to contend with. We always found a seat for a show.

Our Cabin –
We prefer inside cabins. With the Norwegian Star, the inside cabins are all 141 square feet inside. Our cabin (10601) had more than enough room for the two of us. There was a large closet that came with bars and hangars as well as shelves.
We stored our 2 large pieces of luggage under the beds. There is a safe and a small fridge in the cabin. The safe was locked by punching in a 4 digit code of your choice.

The bathroom had an adjustable European-style shower with a glass door with dispensers for body wash and shampoo. There was a soap dish. The hair dryer was located by the mirror and desk inside the cabin. The desk had several drawers for added storage. The location of our cabin was only a few steps from the mid-ship stairwell. Located between two decks of passenger cabins, it was very quiet.

Dining –
There were several dining options on the Star. As with all NCL ships, dining is freestyle where you can show up anywhere and (for the most part) expect to be seated in a relatively short amount of time. We were able to book reservations months ahead of our cruise which kind of takes away the “freestyle” spirit, but it let us plan out our days as we prefer to dine early.

For dinner, the Star has many locations to choose from with some having added fees and those that are complimentary:

Deck 6:

Versailles Main Dining Room – located aft – complimentary
Aqua Main Dining Room – mid-ship – complimentary
Le Bistro (French) – mid-ship – fee
La Cucina (Italian) – mid-ship – fee

Deck 7:

Teppanyaki (Japanese Hibachi) – mid-ship -fee
Ginza (Asia) – mid-ship – complimentary
Sushi Bar (Japanese) – mid-ship – a la carte
Deck 8:

O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill (comfort bar foods) – mid-ship – complimentary

Deck 12:

Market Café (buffet) – aft – complimentary

Deck 13:

Cagney’s Steakhouse (Steak and Seafood) – mid-ship – fee
Moderno Churrascaria – Brazilian) – mid-ship - fee

For lunch, the Market Café lido buffet area had several options for lunch that included Indian, Asian, and Mexican choices plus 4 stations offering fish, beef, vegetables, salads, fruits, desserts, and Carvery. By the pool, there was a grill for hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries. They also had a coffee bar where you could buy Starbucks style of coffees. For dinner, the Market Cafe buffet was also open offering fish, beef, vegetables, salads, fruits, desserts, and carvery.

For breakfast, you could go the Market Cafe Buffet or the Versailles Main Dining Room. They had several omelet stations in the buffet and by the pool. They offered 24 hour room service with a limited menu. The Coffee Shop on deck 7 midship in the Atrium offered coffees and pastries for a fee.

During breakfast in the Lido buffet area, they had fountains with OJ, Apple Juice, and unsweetened ice tea along with water. For the rest of the day, these fountains offered lemonade, iced tea, and water.

Internet Service –
They had several plans for internet service which included wi-fi around the ship based on the speed you wanted to use.

Bar Service –
There were plenty of spots on the ship to get alcoholic drinks. On deck 6, there was the Gatsby’s Champagne Bar located mid-ship next to the casino. On deck 7, there was the Spinnaker Lounge and the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar located aft. In the Asian restaurant area, they have a Sake Bar. On deck 8, you could go to O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill. On deck 12, you had Topsiders Bar next to the Oasis Pool mid-ship. On deck 14 forward was the Bier Garten.

We are beer drinkers and Norwegian offers beer bucket specials where you would get 6 beers (mix and match) for the price of 5 beers for the bucket. We like our beer cold, so we let them sit in ice for about 30 minutes. They did have daily drink specials as well. There were some martini and beer tastings on a few occasions.

Past Guest Program –
We are rated as Platinum Members of Norwegian’s Past Guest Program.

When we first arrived in our cabin, we received the following as platinum:
A bottle of champagne
A plate of chocolate covered strawberries
A box of Godiva chocolates

In addition we received:
A ship’s pin
Invitations to 2 past guest parties
Free Laundry for one day
A Ship’s tour
Priority tender tickets which let us use any tender we wanted to get onto
Priority disembarkation luggage tags

Activities –
There were plenty of other things to do on aboard for all interests. They had the usual plethora of bingo games and art auctions as well as poolside games. We like trivia games and took advantage of a few trivia games they offered during the cruise. The casino is open during times at sea. We do not gamble, so we cannot comment on the slots and gaming tables.

Music –
We enjoy listening to live music and they had a variety of musical options on board to entertain people at various locations and times. The quartet called Fusion Force playing island music poolside. They had a solo guitarist; Henry playing in Gatsby’s and the 5 o’clock Somewhere bar. They had a pianist/singer named Dave playing hits in the Gatsby’s area. They had the show band members play as the Jazz Cats in several locations. The Melodic Trio played in the atrium and the Spinnaker. The group called Exotique played in the Spinnaker Lounge. DJ Freddy played tunes at the Spinnaker Lounge.

Crew –
The cruise director, Mark Bachiochi (he is from CT) and his team were good.
We did see the captain a few times while on board.

Our room steward, Fery was assigned 16 cabins to service by himself during our cruise. He did a terrific job meeting our requests and making sure that the cabin was cleaned and prepped twice every day. We always had fresh ice in the bucket waiting for us as well.

Overall –
We enjoyed our cruise on the Norwegian Star. We had terrific weather and calm seas. It was relaxing trip where we never rushed ourselves on any of the days.

Pros:
Production shows with multiple singer and dancers along with a live band and scenery changes.

Casual dress code – you could even go to any restaurant with shorts on if you wanted to (except for Le Bistro and Versailles). We certainly did not have to pack extra clothes.

Service in Le Bistro and by our room steward

Cons:
Having to book specialty restaurant reservations prior to our cruise in order to get an early time (defeats the sense of freestyle) that we prefer.

As mentioned, we had booked the cruise with the expectation of the private island in Belize being available. It was disappointing to not being able to stop there (I am sure there were legitimate reasons).


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