By Ernest L. Grossman We have just returned from a pier-side overnight on NCL's new Norwegian Star... a special event for Travel Agents, Industry professionals and some of the trade press. I should begin by making one simple ... Read More
By Ernest L. Grossman We have just returned from a pier-side overnight on NCL's new Norwegian Star... a special event for Travel Agents, Industry professionals and some of the trade press. I should begin by making one simple statement... Forget any preconceived notions you may have about NCL, its ships or Freestyle Cruising. This is the first purpose-built vessel specifically designed for NCL's Freestyle concept and what a job they have done! I don't know what it is about the 90,000 gross registered ton ships but, for me at least, they seem to be just the perfect size. All of them, so far, have been winners. Celebrity's Millennium Class vessels, the CostaAtlantica and Carnival Spirit, the Radiance of the Seas and now the Norwegian Star all seem to have achieved a perfect balance and efficient use of the extra tonnage (over the 70 somethings) without the excesses and loss of "ship feel" we see in the 100,000 plus monsters. The Norwegian Star is the latest of this size class and she exemplifies all that is excellent in new ship design. First, some vital statistics... she's 965 feet long, 105 feet breadth, is 91,000 gross registered tons, has a 28foot draft and a very respectable cruising speed of 25 knots. She meets Panamax standards and can transit the Canal, albeit with little room to spare. She accommodates 2240 passengers at double occupancy (an enviable space ratio, in her market, of 40.6) and has a crew of 1100... one crewmember for every two passengers... a respectable ratio indeed and one that shows itself in the excellent service levels found throughout the ship. The public spaces on the ship are dramatic and surprisingly varied, with liberal use of fine wood veneers, subtle (and not so subtle) art deco touches in inside and outside spaces, one of the most interesting and attractively designed mid-ship pool areas I've seen on any ship (with striking lighting effects at night). One's first impression of the Norwegian Star is surprisingly like one's first exposure to the CostaAtlantica... it can verge on the "busy", but as you see more of it "busy" becomes elegant and stylish... and the diverse cacophony of styles begins to work well. The staterooms on the Norwegian Star, while not overly huge, are beautifully designed and superbly executed, again with liberal use of splendid cherry wood veneers. But let me tell you about the two Garden Villas. I have never seen anything quite like them, on any ship. I used to think that the Penthouse Suites on the Millennium class vessels were the ultimate accommodations in the Premium Brands... but, the Garden Villas make them look like minimum insides! They are quite unlike anything on any other vessel today... a steel and glass structure on top of the ship, aft of the main sundeck. Each of the two span almost 5,350 square feet! They are opulent fantasy-world suites, each with a large living room, dining room, three separate bedrooms, entertainment center and luxury bath with whirlpool tub and separate shower. In addition to panoramic views of the ocean, each villa opens up to a roof-top terrace and private garden featuring open-air dining, Jacuzzis and totally private sunning and relaxation areas. They are remarkable spaces that command a very high tariff, made almost affordable by their comfortable capacity of 6 people. You can entertain over 100 of your closest on board friends in the garden area. It is huge and inviting. Of course, Butler service is included. For the rest of us mere mortals, the Norwegian Star offers an attractive array of accommodations to meet any taste and pocketbook. Seventy per cent of her cabins are Ocean View and seventy per cent of those have verandas. She offers thirty-six suites, 372 standard staterooms with balconies, and an entire deck of 107 mini-suites with balconies...spacious and well-appointed. Bathrooms are room and feature separate WC, shower and washstand compartments separated by sliding doors. Each stateroom has a safe, refrigerator/mini bar and hair dryer. Lots of drawers and closet space and a coffee and tea maker round out these lovely staterooms. I began this report by pointing out that the Norwegian Star was purpose built for Freestyle Dining. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the 10 (count them... 10) different restaurants offering passengers a superb selection of dining venues. And, they are all beauties, with enticing menu's. Here's the list: Versailles - an ornate first main dining room, offering the traditional six-course cruise dining experience. Aqua - a contemporary-styles second main dining room, offering a lighter modern menu The Soho Room - a high-end Pacific Rim restaurant featuring a fusion of Californian, Hawaiian and Asian cuisine Ginza - a Japanese restaurant featuring an a la carte section, a sit-up sushi and tempura bar and a teppanyaki room LeBistro - NCL's trademark French restaurant featuring nouvelle cuisine and French classics Blue Lagoon- a food court sysle casual eatery featuring hamburgers, fish & chips, pot pies and wok fast dishes Market Cafe - an indoor/outdoor buffet restaurant extending over a third of a deck in including trademark "action stations" featuring prepared-to-order omelets, waffles, fruit, soups, ethnic specialties and pasta Las Ramblas Tapas Bar & Restaurant - a Spanish Tapas restaurant and bar with a full selection of hot and cold Tapas dishes and authentic entertainment LaTrattoria - an Italian restaurant serving pasta, pizza and other popular Italian fare Endless Summer - a Hawaiian-themed restaurant arranged around the second level of the central atrium and incorporating a performance stage and a large movie screen The Grill - a 24-hour buffet-style eatery offering hamburgers and hot dogs, soups and salads and California-style pizza. Clearly, there is no shortage of dining venues and they are attractive and well staffed. The menu's are varied and enticing. You will not go hungry on the Norwegian Star. Some of these restaurants make a modest service charge. Also offered are two golf driving ranges, volleyball and basketball court, a two-deck fitness and spa center with cardiovascular workout equipment, aerobic and boxercise area, steam and sauna, jet-current exercise pool and whirlpool and hydrotherapy facilities. There's even the longest indoor lap pool on any cruise ship, about 40 feet long and 13 feet wide. For families, the ship offers a huge children's center complete with a playroom, outdoor pool, movie theater, computer rooms, teen center, video arcade, a nursery and toddlers' nap room. There is even a special children's area in the buffet restaurant with their own low-level serving counter and kid-sized tables and chairs! For the record, there are no less than 12 Lounges and Bars... including an Internet Cafe, a rollicking English pub and a Bier Garten featuring an assortment of excellent beers and Bavarian food specialties. The ship's main theater, The Stardust Theater spans three decks and is designed in traditional European opera house style. Sight lines are excellent and it is a strikingly beautiful entertainment venue. The list goes on and on. Conspicuously missing... a Casino... not permitted by Hawaii state law for ships sailing round trip out of a Hawaii port. (Curiously, slot machines and tables were loaded on last night. They set up a temporary casino for the two one night sailings (the 15th and 16th. They'll be removed before the ships sets out on its positioning voyage next week. Negatives... well... yeah... a small one. Someone high up in NCL must have issued an edict requiring every member of the crew to say or shout "Aloha" at (to?) every passenger they meet, day or night, no matter where. At first it is disconcerting... then it becomes funny... in short order it can be annoying. Ok... give an aloha as folks embark. Maybe an aloha when you leave the ship at a port... but...stow the aloha... pleeeeze! If this is the worst complaint I could find about this gorgeous vessel... well, I suppose it proves something. If Hawaii is your "cup of tea", you'd be hard pressed to find a more enchanting way to see it than on board the Norwegian Star... shinning and twinkling and offering a first rate cruise experience on one superb ship!ErnieMCC@mediaone.netNovember 2001 Read Less
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 ... Read More
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. EMBARKATION 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! CABINS 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. SUITES 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! 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! THE SHIP 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! 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. DECK 14 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! DECK 12 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. DECK 11 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. DECK 9 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. 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! DECK 7 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! DECK 6 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 entrance 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 dinnerware 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. CONCLUSION 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. Aloha!eroller@peoplepc.comNovember 2001 Read Less
Joe and I just had the opportunity to sail on the new NCL Norwegian Star, and it was very impressive. I wanted to share my impressions with you as soon as I could so it would be fresh. I know it was just a 2-night 3 day test cruise, but ... Read More
Joe and I just had the opportunity to sail on the new NCL Norwegian Star, and it was very impressive. I wanted to share my impressions with you as soon as I could so it would be fresh. I know it was just a 2-night 3 day test cruise, but for an introduction, it was quite good. This ship was built for and will be sailing exclusively in the Hawaiian Islands with departures from Honolulu or Maui on a 7-night rotation. Due to this fact the Star does not have a casino (not allowed in Hawaii). Rich wood is found throughout. This is one CLASSY ship! Excellent lighting and PA systems were evident everywhere, as well as vibrant colors. While some of the ultra modern decor (only in some areas) is not personally my taste it was functional and very well executed. The Stardust Theater is extraordinary in comfort and staging. We saw 3 shows there, and no matter what the stage was being used for, it was well suited. NCL has some great new shows for this itinerary, including some Asian and Hawaiian themes. The ship also has a complete Wedding Chapel (with an excellent wedding planner) and a 200 seat movie theater. The Star is also the first ship built for Freestyle Cruising. (a new concept that lets you do what you want when and where you want...no assigned dining unless you want it...no formal wear required...disembark anytime between 9 and noon...and more!) There are 11 restaurants. A few are ala carte pricing, and 2 have a $10 cover charge pp. the others are all included. We sampled 5 of the 11 over the 2 days, and found each to be very good. Many tables for 2, 4 and 6 no large 8's and 10's there are special areas that groups traveling together can dine together. Some people do not like this, and want the traditional assigned dining, and they will try to do this for you, but it is not usually successful. Dining room service was a little rough yet, and I think that should get better soon. The food was some of the best I've ever had on a cruise. NCL's Freestyle Cruising is a little different. The biggest plus for many is the "resort casual" dress code. Most men hate to dress up. The daily tipping added to your bill is also a plus for many. It seems to make the staff more accountable. If you have bad service and don't want to tip, just call the desk, and they will deduct that day's gratuity from your bill...and find out how they can improve your service the next day. It makes everyone more accountable for their contribution to the passenger's overall cruise experience. The Spa and the kids area were also very impressive. Wait until you see the photos of the Garden Villa Suites...WOW...I want one! (one is larger than my house). Lots of balcony cabins, and lots and lots of open public spaces. While individuality is the key word in your dining and activities, the ship is very well laid out for family reunions, wedding groups, even meetings and training sessions. Well a picture is worth 1,000 words, so take a look at the Web Albums I did on the Star. Cabin Photos and Common Areas.December 2001 Read Less
On January 13th, 2002 I cruised for the 45th time aboard the new Norwegian Star, what a wonderful experience!! From the minute I arrived at the port to the last goodbyes, it will long be remembered as one of the best. As I arrived ... Read More
On January 13th, 2002 I cruised for the 45th time aboard the new Norwegian Star, what a wonderful experience!! From the minute I arrived at the port to the last goodbyes, it will long be remembered as one of the best. As I arrived at the port the most friendly porters greeted me and helped me with my luggage through security and then gave great directions for the remainder of the boarding process. The friendly Hawaiian greeters that presented an orchid lei, set the mood for the week. When I stepped on board I was spellbound, the Grand Atrium was so spectacular. That was just the beginning, my stateroom(mini suite) was spacious and the bed-ahhh..... (so many cruises that I have been on, the beds are hard and very uncomfortable, not here-it was like sleeping on a cloud). Next off to inspect the rest of the ship and find some food. What a great ship, the public areas are large and beautifully decorated. The Stardust Lounge has amphitheater style seating with plush theater seats. I doubt if there¹s a bad seat in the room. The Spinnaker Lounge and Dazzles Lounge both have large dance floors that will accommodate more than 2 couples dancing at the same time, they also had great bands playing. The dining rooms.... wow!! I decided to try them all during the week and I almost made it. The Market Cafe where I ate breakfast and lunch most days, has 3 serving lines plus the Grill, (which is located by the pool), which takes the lunch traffic from those lying in the sun or playing in the pool & hot tubs easily. I just can¹t say enough about this terrific ship. Now, about the service....all my dining experiences were wonderful. All the Maitre d¹s, waiters and their helpers were friendly, cheerful and helpful. The food was absolutely delicious and the presentation spectacular. Every dining room was excellent whether there was an extra charge or not. The room steward was the best, friendly, timely and accommodating. What more could anyone ask for! All the ports of call were interesting. The small inconvenience of being tendered into Maui and Fanning Island did not dampen my spirits. Even when the weather did not cooperate, the staff worked very hard to get everyone ashore in a timely manner. Fanning Island has the most wonderful white sandy beach and very friendly people. I enjoyed watching the girls do the hula dance for us. I just wanted to share with you this wonderful experience, this is a must do ship & itinerary for everyone. lboh@bellsouth.netFebruary 2002 Read Less
First a little background This was our 5th cruise. My wife and I have had the opportunity to take our children along on the last 4 cruises. Jay is 16 and Julie 13. We have gone with a large group of 400 plus each and every year, ... Read More
First a little background This was our 5th cruise. My wife and I have had the opportunity to take our children along on the last 4 cruises. Jay is 16 and Julie 13. We have gone with a large group of 400 plus each and every year, sponsored by a radio station in Milwaukee. The travel agents do a wonderful job and it is almost effortless. Of the 400 plus I go with a group of approximately 18 being a mixture or friends and family. We flew out of Milwaukee on a non-stop flight. It was a charter and really went smooth. We had free drinks as soon as we were in the air so that made the flight seem not as long. Prearranged transfers to the Hilton Hawaiian Village went smooth. The HHV is a huge complex located on the end of Waikiki Beach. It has everything you would need. Although prices were high it was expected being in Hawaii. They have fireworks at night, a huge pool, penguins, pink flamingoes, water sport rentals etc. I was in the Tapas tower built in 1982 and it was in wonderful shape. I found a reasonable coffee shop just outside the HHV. We arrived on Friday afternoon and found a excellent place to get some pizza within the HHV complex. It was called Round Something?? Pizza. It's nothing fancy but delicious. Easy to carry back to the room if you so desire. Other restaurants are real pricey so that is why I'm bring it up. Saturday was the ProBowl and it was outstanding. Being there for the opening ceremonies in a outdoor stadium with thousands of people on the field and four F-16's come overhead in a fly by was something I'll never forget. We went to a Luau at Paradise Cove that night. It was about a 1/2 hour drive from Honolulu. The setting was perfect on the west coast of the island. They have you do corny little games like throwing spears and rolling rocks. They did a presentation in a circular outdoor arena with dancing and a reenactment of digging the pig out of the ground. I could be wrong but it looked fake. Friends next to me said it was probably a plastic replica. Then we sat down for dinner. It was ok but nothing to go back for seconds. Then they put on a show and although I felt the actors/dancers really had there heart in it, mine wasn't. Sunday we went on a tour to the Arizona Memorial. It is a must see and the National Park Service does a pretty good job of moving the crowds through. My suggestion is go early and remember there are NO cases, purses, bags of ANY kind. We then did a 45-minute city tour that was very interesting. Ok, lets get on board the ship! With our group we had pre registered online with NCL. That was helpful because we were on the ship in 15 minutes maximum!! Luggage came in bits and pieces but we had it by 6pm. We had a Penthouse Suite in the front of the ship. It was outstanding with the interior done with a lot of class. This particular suite had a dining and living room table although they were all in one large cabin. The balcony was huge. We had a party of 18 people and a butler in our room and some had to resort to the bed but it was fun. Our children were in a regular balcony room and it reminded me of the ones on the Sky and also sized similar to the Destiny's. Some complained of creaking but ours never did. I headed for food and drinks as soon as we got on board. At 4:30 pm they did the lifeboat drill. That was the first time we didn't have to go out on the decks but had us meet in lounges etc. We sailed on time at 8pm. The first night we ate in the Endless Summer. This used to be a pay restaurant but it was changed as I understand it to relieve pressure off the main dining venues. (Aqua and Versailles) This restaurant is excellent, so good we went there twice. Ask for Louis to be your waiter and you will not be disappointed. The second time we went there two ladies from India served us and they were equally pleasant and efficient. I didn't get their names. I had different meals each time and my wife loved the seared tuna. The fish chowder was so good some people were ordering it as a meal so you would get a large bowl. Everything was like it was cooked to order and came out hot. Louis introduced us to a new system NCL has. My wife drinks wine, I don't. Instead of ordering by the glass he suggested ordering the bottle. They would save whatever you didn't drink with your cabin number to identify it. It gives you approximately two extra glasses of wine instead of ordering by the glass. Sure enough when we went to the Le Bistro the next night we simply said we have a bottle in storage and it was at our table in less than 10 minutes. We did it several times and it worked fine. Monday we arrived in Hilo instead of Kona. I would rather dock for sure versus wondering if weather and tenders could possibly keep us off an island. I had an 8 passenger van reserved and a friend had a car waiting. We took the Thrifty shuttle to the airport (7 minutes) away. When I got there I jokingly said do you have a school bus I could rent. She then told me she had a 15 passenger van so I took it for $150. We all piled in and it was a gas. Off to the Volcanoes National Park which was a 45-minute drive. I'm very glad others suggested going there. It was wonderful and everyone loved it. Stop at the main info building to get maps and ideas on what you want to do. We circled the crater rim stopping at all if not most of the sites. There was a road you can drive down to the bottom but I must have missed that sign. A local cab driver had mentioned to me he takes his customers down there so it must be worth it. I suggest you see the different views then get your group back into the car to the next one. That way you can see much more. Someone I met on the ship also drove down to another area near the sea but he had a convertible and I had that huge van with a lot of people so I had to take it kind of easy. I have a really neat way to enjoy the Thurston Lava Tubes. It was suggested to me by someone else and it was really cool. The Thurston Lava Tubes are for the most part well lit with floodlights. At the end of the tubes there is a sign with a swinging gate that tells you if you want to go further you can but you need flashlights. You need to be careful going in there but it is real safe. You will proceed further into the unlit tubes. Go as far as you want but we went where we couldn't see the natural light anymore. Then turn off your flashlights and you will have some very memorable pictures in the tubes. One of the members in our group said he got some real neat pictures on his VCR. Our pictures just came in and they came out nice, very different. Monday night we ate at Le Bistro. It was optional formal night and also lobster night. What I thought was neat was there was lobster EVERYWHERE on the ship. They were grilling it out by the pool along with almost every restaurant. My filet mignon was good as was the lobster. Natalie didn't like her chicken dish. We didn't say anything as there was plenty to eat with the lobster. Tuesday was at sea. Lots of laying around at the pool. They set up these huge grills and make steaks and ribs and etc. everyday. They were delicious. I ate ribs almost everyday along with other things. These grill stations free up the Market Place Buffet and also relieves the pressure everywhere else. Endless Summer was so good Sunday we invited 10 more from our group to join us. Again a great meal and good service. Wednesday was Fanning Island. I got off on tender #4 I think. It really didn't matter as I think almost everyone who wanted to get off was on the island by 10:30 am. We took one of the ships lifeboat/tenders to the island and one of the (2) 200 plus passenger catamarans back. (More on that later) I went right to the bike rental shed and there was more than enough bikes. $10 for the first hour and $5 per hour after that. I recommend the bike at first because you can cover a lot of ground. You can always drop off the bike and do the beach/walk around and shop later. All those things are real close by. Yes, there are flies but they didn't seem to be that bad and they didn't seem to land on you. I brought along a can of Off and never touched it. We started out by riding down to the primary and elementary schools. We brought along balloons, bubbles and candy and it was a big hit. Yes, the people are in poverty but that is how they live. They were very friendly and didn't ever beg or bother you. Yes, it is a long way to go to see it but there is no other alternative until the useless laws are repealed. Deal with it or go on a ten day Hawaiian cruise that still puts you at sea 4 days! I didn't eat from the food provided by NCL. I would suggest eating breakfast on ship and then lunch also on ship. We got on the island by 9:30am and was heading back at 12:30 pm. We didn't lay out at the beach so add some time for that and you will have done everything there is to do. Bring singles onshore with you . The natives aren't going to cash travelers checks and not much is over $10. On the way back we took the large catamaran tender. When we got close to the ship the tender kept bobbing up and down. The crew had to improvise with the walkway. Luck would have it when my wife and daughter tried to cross the gangway the entire gangway rose 3 feet in the air suspending them up there. Luckily my son grabbed Julie and I made Natalie jump off. They were more scared than unsafe but the reason I bring it up was the water appeared very calm. The crew did a great job with the conditions. I say nuts to the guy who complained a month ago about how he couldn't get off at Fanning even though it seemed ok to him. I believe that was the time someone on the crew injured their leg. If they say it's too rough believe them. Wednesday night we had the best and most entertaining dinner on the cruise. We reserved the entire Teppanaki Room at 7:30pm . All twelve of us were served by two quality young ladies in Japanese garb and the cooks put their souls into cooking for us. The food just kept on coming and it was outstanding. We gave the servers and the cooks $20 in cash each as an extra tip for their efforts. It was worth it seeing their faces in appreciation for the extra tip. Thursday was a day at sea with the usual laying out by the pool. We ate at Soho that night. Three of us had the live lobster. I had mine sent back as it was undercooked and way too small of a portion. The Maitre d' tried repeatedly to have me reorder or try something else but I didn't want anything. The others in our group felt the value wasn't there but didn't say anything as to whether theirs was cooked properly. Natalie had a lobster medallion dinner with pasta. She said some of the lobster medallions were good and others not. My opinion on this restaurant is the items are overpriced. This was the only restaurant that was disappointing to me but out of 14 restaurants that isn't bad. Maybe I hit it on a bad day. Friday was Maui were we docked instead of tendering. I rented a car and took a cab to the car rental place rather than wait for the shuttle. The cab was only $10 with the tip. We headed out on Highway 36 ( the road to Hana ) . First stop was a town named Paia ? which is a hippie town that takes you back to the 70's. Stopped at Hoopanki Beach to see wind and kite surfers and breathtaking views. Further down we went to a place called Twin Falls Park which had a neat pool you could swim in. I tried to head up into the mountains but every road sign looked like it had the same name and there were lots of forks in the road so we drove back through Paia to have a early dinner then back to the ship. From everyone I talked to it was better than going into Lahaina for strictly shopping. Friday night we ate in the Versailles restaurant and had a marvelous waiter named Dingo. Another one to ask for when you go there if you want a great waiter. The food was delicious. Saturday was Kauai. I rented a helicopter from Island Helicopters months before the cruise at a considerably cheaper rate than on the ship and other tour operators. It was the first helicopter ride for all of us and was one of the most incredible things I have ever done. It is a must do in Kauai as 80% of the island is not visible by car or bus, plus you see it all in 1 hour. There is a Marriott Hotel near the ship with a nice beach and all the rentals etc that comes with it. I opted for the ship and all the comforts it provides. The girls went shopping at a mall right next to the Hotel and free constant shuttles took them there and back. All 18 of us went to dinner in the Aqua Restaurant. Another outstanding meal served by a man named Santos. For him to put up with our group deserves an award! Debarkation was smooth and you can store your luggage for $5 a piece and pick it back up by 7:30pm. Some thoughts on the ship I really enjoyed freestyle dining. For the little bit extra it cost at the specialty restaurants it really didn't matter as it gave us an opportunity to make reservations when and if we wanted to. A lot of people stuck to the "free" restaurants which there are so many you won't have to eat the same meal ever. In my humble opinion there really isn't anything to complain about. The dinners in the "free" restaurants had outstanding food and service. I have a peculiar habit of observing people and workers in action. I'm a manager so it's hard not to be observing even on vacation. Throughout the entire cruise I never saw so many management people present then on this cruise. They were either training, guiding or simply observing. Each and every meal had the Maitre d' come up to our table to simply talk and see if everything was ok. The captain walked through Soho the night we were there talking to people. The main chefs were out by the pool making sure the grill operation was going smoothly. I watched staff spend hours on a perch watching the entire pool area. I met Rob the Assistant Food Director who was all over the ship making sure everything was going smooth. He deserves credit for the effort he put in to see that everything was going running smooth. It seemed to me like they are on a mission to make sure this concept works and that everyone is happy. The ship is huge with so many places to eat, drink and relax you can't do it all in a week. I figured the card room would be empty so I had a poker game organized during the days at sea. It was packed with people using it so we had to play out on our own deck. Things like a library, cinema, basketball courts etc were things I never got to. I barely made it to Las Ramblas for free hors d'oeuvre and two for one cocktails. Take the Karaoke Bar as an example. We had a gas but they also provide private rooms for up to 12 people to make a fool of yourselves in private. The food was great throughout. Yes, I didn't like my live lobster but so what, they took it back and I didn't starve. Out of every other meal I had I was very pleased. I was real confused when I heard people say oh I wish the weather was better. I don't know what they were drinking or smoking but we had partly cloudy days with the occasional rain shower that lasted for 15 minutes. I liked it when it clouded up as you didn't burn as fast. The seas were calm with minimal rocking. I heard people complaining about Fanning Island. We loved its authenticity. Were these people heads in a bag when they read where they were going and how long they would be on each island? If you don't like what NCL offers stay on the regular Caribbean cruises that visit the same islands and sell you jewelry and t-shirts. Wow, not one person wanted to braid my ladies hair on this cruise. I'm not a lackey for NCL so save your breath. I'm simply a realist who spends more time enjoying my vacation than finding something to complain about. I only went to one show and really liked it. Previous posters complained that the seats in the Stardust were too close together and your knees would hit the chair in the front. I totally disagree because there was plenty of room and the sight lines made every seat a good one. We were spoiled with a Penthouse suite in the front. NCL really does a better job than Carnival Suites in size and class when it comes to that type of cabin. Arnie the butler was there when we needed him and Ann the concierge was a big help. Elaine in the Internet Cafe was also helpful setting up an account and gave me some real good tips on were to go in Maui. Her Internet access was easy to use. Can I suggest as you go to dinner or even lunch bring some cash with you. When you find that waiter that gives you real good service tip them an extra $10 and ask for their table the next time you return. The last day of the cruise I went back to Dingo and Louis to give them something and they were pleasantly surprised. I even tipped my room steward and his helper extra as he did a great job. I liked the idea of the tips coming out on your sail and sign card because it made things so easy. I went down early Sunday morning to correct an item on my bill and there were very few in line so I am assuming there wasn't a lot of cheapskates trying to eliminate their tips. So many times on previous cruises you would see empty seats in the dining room the last night because people were too cheap. I think NCL has a great idea with Freestyle Dining. In my opinion all the petty gripes would go away if they simply made all the restaurants no additional charge. Can it really cost that much more to make a filet mignon in Le Bistro vs. a regular dining room? Then all the whiners who feel they can't afford $10 for a different meal in a unique setting would have nothing to say and people could still enjoy the concept of dining when they want. If you have additional questions that I didn't cover I probably didn't experience it but feel free to email me at glentally@yahoo.com March 2002 Read Less
We did the New Years Cruise on the Norwegian Star. Our cost was over $3,500 for 7 days (outside room w/lanai). We were very unhappy with the ship, as were MOST of the people on board. The rooms are very nice; bathrooms the best ... Read More
We did the New Years Cruise on the Norwegian Star. Our cost was over $3,500 for 7 days (outside room w/lanai). We were very unhappy with the ship, as were MOST of the people on board. The rooms are very nice; bathrooms the best we've seen, but a construction problem causes a metal on metal squeaking sound that ruined our sleep...this seemed to be ship-wide. New Year's Eve..parties all over the ship.. NO FOOD...not even a peanut! No party hats or noisemakers in most of the venues. The main swimming pool is cluttered by 2 large water slides. Even though the kids have one of their own, of the same size, in their own pool, they dominated the Main pool as well as the hot tubs in that area. The slides detract from the appearance of the pool and make it impossible to have nice pool side parties at night. Room service was terrible. The service itself was fast and courteous, but they had nothing to offer. I called for some "pupus" (munchies) to go with our wine, and all they could offer was a bowl of peanuts (where were they on New Year's Eve?), some potato chips and a dish of 1,000 Island dressing for dip. The food was adequate, but to get "special" you had to pay a cover charge to go to one of the 3 restaurants that charge EXTRA. We were unable to dock in Kauai, took over 3 hours to get a tender into Lahaina, there's too little time on the Hawaiian Islands because the Jones Act requires foreign registry ships to go to a foreign port....hence, a 4 day cruise to Kirabati. That was a very nice experience for us, BUT many of the sailings have not been able to tender in due to high seas, etc. The shows were excellent, but there are is no Casino on board, and those 4 days on the open sea are boring. All in all, the cruise was not worth the price we paid. We are taking a 10 day cruise in May on Holland American, and with air and hotels included, we will be in the same price range, and we will not be charged $10 per person, per day gratuities to cover "freestyle" dining.dakinemj@webtv.netMarch 2002 Read Less
This was an adventure planned by my sister and me for our 88-year-old mom -- a belated birthday celebration since she had been ill at the time of her birthday. We all LOVED it! The ship is gorgeous and colorful (not "hotel ... Read More
This was an adventure planned by my sister and me for our 88-year-old mom -- a belated birthday celebration since she had been ill at the time of her birthday. We all LOVED it! The ship is gorgeous and colorful (not "hotel bland" like some ships) and immaculately maintained. Crew members are beautiful people who are ready to meet passengers' needs and wants graciously and cheerfully. We loved the freestyle cruising, which eliminated the constraints of scheduled meals at specified locations. Our mini-suite, #11516, was ideally situated, and the balcony is wonderful and well worth the extra cost. Although the ship was nearly fully booked, we were able to purchase, on an "upgrade" basis once the ship had sailed, an extra inside cabin to give more space for us all -- an extra bathroom and more space between beds, which is good for three adult women traveling together. Our itinerary was not as published because for the second time in April, the Star participated in a sea rescue on its way to Fanning Island. The Coast Guard asked the ship's assistance for a man taken ill on a private sailing vessel and the Star diverted its course in order to help. When the ship's medical staff was unable to stabilize the man's condition, we turned back to Hawaii and did not go to Fanning Island, but instead had extra port days at Kona and Lahaina. We would have liked to see Fanning Island, but there were advantages to those extra port days, which gave us a chance to revisit favorite places on Big Island (Kealakekua Bay and City of Refuge) and to watch humpback whales in the Maui/Lanai/Molokai channel (there were many and the day was perfect for viewing). Our motto ahead of time was "The Ship Is The Trip", as my sister and I have spent a lot of time in Hawaii and have explored in depth all the major islands (including Molokai), and so looked forward to the exploration and experience of the ship itself. We were not disappointed. Many, many lovely places and spaces, areas for great viewing, quiet rooms for reading, games and lessons in playing them, the spa for relaxing and reconstructing windblown hair. And we loved the restaurants and the food. The Marketplace buffet has been criticized, but we liked it, as it's nice to see what you're choosing instead of imagining it and then finding it different than your mental image, and there were wonderful view tables there. Versailles was a lovely place and space with wonderful views, ambiance and service. Great birthday party there! Another place we really liked was the Java Cafe -- buy a capuccino for a fairly reasonable price, and with it comes a lovely dessert or pastry at no additional cost. Shore highlights were helicopter tours of volcanoes and waterfalls on Big Island, and the circle tour of everything on Kauai. I booked in advance on the Internet, at substantial savings, with Safari Helicopters, and we were very pleased. They have the Bose headsets and take a video of your own tour, which we loved. Our pilots provided excellent informative narratives explaining what we were seeing. Weather was ideal for flightseeing, Madame Pele was sending lava up and out for our viewing, and the clouds lifted for good visibility at all the stunning spots on Kauai. We got some great photos. The three "production shows" in the theater were terrific -- don't miss them. The Chinese acrobats could better be described as gymnasts or contortionists -- how can a human body do that?? Volume if too loud, however -- take earplugs, or Kleenex to put in your ears unless you are hard of hearing. I can't recommend this travel adventure too highly! There were no downsides, no causes for complaint. We heard complaints about missing Fanning Island -- but look what we got in exchange. We heard complaints about freestyle dining -- well, then, take a more traditional cruise! Tipping added to your ship account was fine with us, too. I carried a supply of $1's, $5's, and $10's, and gave extra tips where warranted. Loved the freedom of disembarkation. No lines, no hassles. We asked wheelchair assistance for Mom both for embarkation and disembarkation, and it was promptly and graciously provided, and invaluable to us. Hats off and huge THANKS to NCL for a wonderful week! freda@whidbey.com May 2002 Read Less
This was our 50th cruise in 29 years, our 9th with NCL. I would like to start off by saying we enjoyed this cruise very much. Well worth our time and money. The Itinerary This was a very relaxing cruise with 3 days at sea, ¾ day in ... Read More
This was our 50th cruise in 29 years, our 9th with NCL. I would like to start off by saying we enjoyed this cruise very much. Well worth our time and money. The Itinerary This was a very relaxing cruise with 3 days at sea, ¾ day in Fanning Island, ½ day in Hilo and Maui, full day in Kauai. My favorite part of the cruise was days at sea. Fanning Island reminded me of the private outer islands in the Caribbean of various cruise lines. NCL constructed a beach area with facilities for barbecue, sports, and entertainment. The native villages are nearby within easy walking distance. There was really little to see or do other than the beach activities. A group of about 20 native dancers provided enthusiastic entertainment nonstop during the whole time we were on the island. The Ship The Norwegian Star is a beautiful ship. I had some reservation with the decoration of the Market Cafe. The Galleria Shop reminded me of JCPenney. The major fault is reserved for the 2 slides in the main pool area which were a eyesore and took up too much room and were hardly used. I understand the slides will be eliminated from the new Norwegian Dawn. So much were said about the structure noises inside the cabin from other reviews, so I was quite surprised to find that there was not anymore excessive noise in our cabin than on the average ship we were on previously. We had inside cabin #10509 on the 10th deck forward. The dark wood paneling inside the cabin made the room seem smaller. The production shows on this cruise were typical of a Jane Ryan's production which are the very best on the high seas. Other entertainment and organized daily activities were about average for a cruise ship. The Food I consider the food over-all above average for a cruise ship, good being the average. We had breakfast every day in the Market Cafe. It offered the usual typical cruise ship buffet breakfast. The excellent barbecue ribs and pizza were served every day for lunch on the pool deck. These were the best I had on any cruise ship. One day we had beautifully barbecued jumbo shrimps. The server was piling it on our plate right from the grill. I really enjoyed it. With food like these why go inside to the Market Cafe or the main dinning room. We ate dinner in Le Bistro, SoHo Room, Endless Summer, Versailles, and three times in Aqua main dinning room. Aqua was my favorite restaurant on the ship. Contrary to what the brochure said the menu are identical for Aqua and Versailles. The only dinner I didn't like was at Endless Summer. The jumbo shrimps in the main course were un-eatable. Le Bistro and SoHo were well worth their extra costs of $12.50 each excluding wine. Blue Lagoon served all kinds of snack 24 hours a day. The snack served here is very unique on a cruise ship. We tried it once and it was very good. Contrary to what I read on the earlier reviews during the early days of Star's operation about the long wait to be seated and slow service in the main dining room, we were always seated right a way in a small table for two or four. The services were usually courteous and efficient. We usually ate between 6pm and 8pm. Considering the many extra restaurant personnel required to operate the Freestyle dining, the recommended $10 a day tip for waiters and room stewards seems very reasonable. Overview We like Freestyle cruising. We give Norwegian Star two thumbs up for the execution of Freestyle cruising. If you wish further information on our experience you may contact us at wlchu@prodigy.net.June 2002 Read Less
It was wonderful!!! All the negative comments we read just seemed unfair and had us worried from the start. We were in cabin 5622 on deck 5 with a large window. I will try to do my best to inform you of the pros and cons from our ... Read More
It was wonderful!!! All the negative comments we read just seemed unfair and had us worried from the start. We were in cabin 5622 on deck 5 with a large window. I will try to do my best to inform you of the pros and cons from our viewpoint. Cons: Boarding in MAUI We were told and it was on our tickets, we would be embarking in Lahaina, Maui, we even went so far as to call NCL before we left because we knew the port sometimes does change and it was confirmed, Lahaina. The port was actually in Kahului, 5 minutes from the airport. We were told our travel agent should have informed us of the change but when we told them NCL told us the same thing three days before departure they gave us a credit of 38.50 for the trip to Lahaina. We were told they would be using this port from now on because there is no tendering and is so close to the airport. The port changes were a real disappointment to us as they has just had the emergency with the crew member being injured and stayed in Maui for two days instead of just one. We had already been in Maui for 2 days. This was a real bonus for those who had boarded in Honolulu since they had also had two days in Kauai and no trip to Fanning Island, we did not get to go to Kauai, this was the most bitter disappointment for me as I had booked a helicopter trip there not with NCL and was the most looked forward to part of our trip The embarkation went very smoothly as there were only about 200 to board and not the 2000+ who embarked in Honolulu. Debarkation This was a nightmare because when we arrived back in Lahaina there was a barge at the port and there is only room for one ship so there was a two hour delay then more delays to clear the port and two sick passengers to off board before it was our turn. When we went though for the final swipe of our card they would not allow us to leave because they said we had not cleared all of our charges and would have to report to the front desk to clear up this matter. After struggling back thru 1000 or more other passengers also trying to disembark for excursions he finally reached the front desk only to be told all was in order and they did not know why we had been detained, we now had 45 minutes to reach the airport. No luggage, I though Max would loose it for sure then! More waiting. Trucks came with the luggage which then had to be sorted by tag colors before you were allowed to look for your luggage. We put bright yellow bows on the handles of our bags which really helped to spot them. We took a cab, $8.00 not the shuttle which would have been free, and arrived at our gate while the plane was boarding. I don't know if any of this could have been prevented by NCL it was all just circumstances except for the card thing. Now for the bright side! - PROS FREESTYLE We loved freestyle, very conformable. No need to pack fancy clothes unless that is your style and there were those that did. I packed a suit and tie for Max but he never put it on. I wore my basic long black dress and he wore a nice shirt and we went to all the different restaurants and it was perfect. I would say you could wear anything but shorts. Max even got into the tradition of wearing Hawaiian shirts and shell or puka bead necklaces, a real first for him! We enjoyed the wonderful variety of food offered in the specialty restaurants and did pay for that privilege and felt it was truly worth it! We do feel they need to find a way not to have to charge for this as it seems to offend many passengers and therefore some lines were long for the free restaurants during peek hours, we never experienced this but others complained of this. We made reservations and never waited ever. Do allow time for a real dining experience, each meal lasted about two hours and the time just flew by. We normally made our reservation for 7 PM and were always out of time for the show at 9, try 6:30. The Ginza was our favorite and so we chose it for our last. The others were also divine, be sure to go to Aqua, & Endless Summer, wonderful and FREE. In all of the specialty restaurants you have two servers and they were so efficient, charming, sociable and friendly all with very interesting backgrounds and came from so many different countries. We did not go to LeBistro only because there were so many options and we wanted to experience the more unusual foods. No, we did not mind the prearrange tipping. I am sure there are those who excel but all seemed to work very hard to please even the smallest request and always with a smile. TOURS Hilo because we did not get to go to Kauai and wanted to take one helicopter tour we took the "Circle of Fire", trip over the volcano, this was an awesome experience for us. I would defiantly recommend this but if you can only do one helicopter trip do the one in Maui or Kauai. After that we still had some time so we took the free shuttle to Hilo Hatties, a very commercial venture just a souvenir shop but we did buy things to take home there. HonoluluOur first trip to Hawaii, we felt the need to go to the Arizona Memorial so we took the "Historic/Cultural Honolulu" excursion which was very interesting, informative and moving. Fanning Island Well, after reading the many negative comments written on the web, I had decided not to disembark but my husband said after traveling that far he wanted to at least get off and check it out. Yes, it is very primitive and we did pay $10. each to go to the private side...., rafts were provided free, small sailboats and paddle boats were also there for renting. The weather was perfect, the water crystal clear, the beach snow white, the palm trees magnificent, we loved it! We did not go to the free side as we were tired and hot and just wanted to get back but out friends, we met them onboard, did. They got some very primitive and wonderful things all hand made and very inexpensive. We were able to get a few shell bracelets, only $1. & $2. each on our side but $5. on the other side. They did say the flies were terrible, also a few on our side but not many. Rental Cars I would arrange for these in advance, we did and only paid $24. in Maui through Budget for an economy car. We also shared a car with another couple when we found out we would be in Maui for additional day, a convertible, $80. a day. We spent that day snorkeling, something you definitely want to do at every opportunity. Beautiful, beautiful, just like being in an aquarium. Overall, we will be going back to Hawaii but at our own pace, will be staying in Maui and will also go to Kauai, I am not sure a cruise is the way to see this beautiful state with its beautiful and friendly people but for a taste of its scenery and the luxury of this ship it was worth every penny. I am also going to put a photo album on the web for friends and family in a few days so if you can think of anything I have missed just ask and I will try to give you my best information and send you a link to the album. Please share your experience with us when you return so we can cruise again with you. Attend all the cultural interest things to do onboard with June, meeting her is a really wonderful Hawaiian experience. June also taught the Hula classes and lei making classes. The Hula graduation ceremony was a real hoot especially the men, this took real courage. The entertainment was 1st rate, go to all the big shows either at 7 or 9 and the Hawaiian Dancers on Thursday night at 10:15. There was so much to do it would take another week to see it all. Have a wonderful vacation, watch out for the Jet Lag a real killer for us. Aloha, Narda & Max lakearts@aol.comJune 2002 Read Less
Aloha! It was wonderful!!! All the negative comments we read just seemed unfair and had us worried from the start. We were in cabin 5622 on deck 5 with a large window. I will try to do my best to inform you of the pros and cons from our ... Read More
Aloha! It was wonderful!!! All the negative comments we read just seemed unfair and had us worried from the start. We were in cabin 5622 on deck 5 with a large window. I will try to do my best to inform you of the pros and cons from our viewpoint. Cons Boarding in MAUI: We were told and it was on our tickets, we would be embarking in Lahaina, Maui, we even went so far as to call NCL before we left because we knew the port sometimes does change and it was confirmed, Lahaina. The port was actually in Kahului, 5 minutes from the airport. We were told our travel agent should have informed us of the change but when we told them NCL told us the same thing three days before departure they gave us a credit of 38.50 for the shuttle trip to Lahaina. We were told they would be using this port from now on because there is no tendering and is so close to the airport. The port changes were a real disappointment to us as they has just had the emergency with the crew member being injured and stayed in Maui for two days instead of just one. We had already been in Maui for 2 days. This was a real bonus for those who had boarded in Honolulu since they had also had two days in Kauai and no trip to Fanning Island, we did not get to go to Kauai, this was the most bitter disappointment for me as I had booked a helicopter trip there not with NCL and was the most looked forward to part of our trip. NCL did give us a $50.pp ship credit for this change. The embarkation went very smoothly as there were only about 200 to board and not the 2000+ who embarked in Honolulu. Debarkation This was a nightmare because when we arrived back in Kahului there was a barge at the port and there is only room for one ship so there was a two hour delay then more delays to clear the port and two sick passengers to off board before it was our turn. When we went though for the final swipe of our card they would not allow us to leave because they said we had not cleared all of our charges and would have to report to the front desk to clear up this matter. After struggling back thru 1000 or more other passengers also trying to disembark for excursions he finally reached the front desk only to be told all was in order and they did not know why we were had been detained, we now had 45 minutes to reach the airport. No luggage, I though we would loose it for sure then! More waiting. Trucks came with the luggage which then had to be sorted by tag colors before you were allowed to look for your luggage. We put bright yellow bows on the handles of our bags which really helped to spot them. We took a cab, $8.00 not the shuttle which would have been free, and arrived at our gate while the plane was boarding. I don't know if any of this could have been prevented by NCL it was all just circumstances except for the card thing. One more warning, on the first nights introduction, the guy from the art auction, trying to drum up interest for the art auctions, started a bid on a piece of art at only $5.00, the bidding progressed and we won the bid at $115. then he said it wanted to give it to us FREE as a compliment for our partipation. We were so excited! We went to the auction at 3 the next day to claim our complimentary piece only to be told we would have to PAY $35. to have it shipped, not allowed to take it with us. While we bidding it was in a frame with glass, now it was just a rolled up print in a tube, made us feel like we were the stupid ones not to take advantage of this wonderful deal, we did not accept. Now for the bright side! PROS FREESTYLE We loved freestyle, very conformable. No need to pack fancy clothes unless that is your style and there were those that did. I packed a suit and tie for my husband but he never put it on. I wore my basic long black dress and he wore a nice shirt and we went to all the different restaurants and it was perfect. I would say you could wear anything but shorts. Max even got into the tradition of wearing Hawaiian shirts and shell or puka(?) bead necklace, a real first for him! We enjoyed the wonderful variety of food offered in the specialty restaurants and did pay for that privilege and felt it was truly worth it! We do feel they need to find a way not to have to charge for this as it seems to offend many passengers and therefore some lines were long for the free restaurants during peek hours, we never experienced this but others complained of this. We made reservations and never waited ever. Do allow time for a real dining experience, each meal lasted about two hours and the time just flew by. We normally made our reservation for 7 PM and were always out of time for the show at 9, try 6:30. The Ginza was our favorite and so we chose it for our last. The others were also divine, be sure to go to Versailles and Aqua, wonderful and FREE. In all of the specialty restaurants you have two servers and they were so efficient, charming, sociable and friendly, all with very interesting backgrounds and come from many different countries. We did not go to LeBistro only because there were so many options and we wanted to experience the more unusual foods. No, we did not mind the prearrange tipping. I am sure there are those who excel but all seemed to work very hard to please even the smallest request and always with a smile. We loved hanging out on the Bier Garden for a bird eye view of everything going on. The Barong Spa also offers the use of the sauna, steam room, therapy pools FREE, be sure to check those out. I did have a facial there, my husband said I looked beautiful and rested, it was very nice. TOURS Hilo, because we did not get to go to Kauai and wanted to take one helicopter tour we took the "Circle of Fire", trip over the volcano, this was an awesome experience for us. I would defiantly recommend this but if you can only do one helicopter trip do the one in Maui or Kauai. After that we still had some time so we took the free shuttle to Hilo Hatties, a very commercial venture, just a souvenir shop but we did buy things to take home there. Honolulu, our first trip to Hawaii, we felt the need to go to the Arizona Memorial so we took the "Historic/Cultural Honolulu" excursion which was very interesting, informative and moving. Fanning Island Well, after reading the many negative comments written on the web, I had decided not to disembark but my husband said after traveling that far he wanted to at least get off and check it out. Yes, it is very primitive and we did pay $10. each to go to the private side...., rafts were provided free, small sailboats and paddle boats were also there for renting. The weather was perfect, the water crystal clear, the beach snow white, the palm trees magnificent, we loved it! We did not go to the free side as we were tired and hot and just wanted to get back but out friends, we met them onboard, did. They got some very primitive and wonderful things all hand made and very inexpensive. We were able to get a few shell bracelets, only $1. & $2. each on our side but $5. on the other side. They did say the flies were terrible, also a few on our side but not many. Rental Cars I would arrange for these in advance, we did and only paid $24. in Maui through Budget for an economy car. We also shared a car with another couple when we found out we would be in Maui for additional day, a convertible, $80. a day. We spent that day snorkeling, something you definitely want to do at every opportunity. Beautiful, beautiful, just like being in an aquarium. Overall, we will be going back to Hawaii but at our own pace, we will stay in Maui and will also go to Kauai, I am not sure a cruise is the way to see this tropical paradise with its overwhelming beauty, both above and below the surface, but for a taste of its scenery and the luxury of this ship, it was worth every penny. If you can think of anything I have missed just ask and I will try to give you my best information. Please share your experience with us when you return so we can cruise again with you. Attend all the cultural interest things to do onboard with June, meeting her is a really wonderful Hawaiian experience. June also taught the Hula classes and lei making classes. The Hula graduation ceremony was a real hoot especially the men, this took real courage. The entertainment was 1st rate, go to all the big shows either at 7 or 9 and the Hawaiian Dancers on Thursday night at 10:15. There was so much to do it would take another week to see it all. Have a wonderful vacation, watch out for the Jet Lag a real killer for us. Aloha, lakearts@aol.com June 2002 Read Less
Our cruise experience started with a long plane flight with 3 connections. I would definitely recommend at least a day prior to boarding to stay in Honolulu. This would allow to adjust to the time difference and visit sights. As it ... Read More
Our cruise experience started with a long plane flight with 3 connections. I would definitely recommend at least a day prior to boarding to stay in Honolulu. This would allow to adjust to the time difference and visit sights. As it was we were not able to see Pearl Harbor or the Arizona Memorial. Ship boarding was a breeze. We were met at the airport by NCL staff. She guided to the baggage claim. We needed to carry our bags to the NCL transportation. We walked in to the NCL facility at dockside and had to show our passport and tickets 3 times. We stopped to get leis and a boarding picture and were in our stateroom in less than 30 minutes. The Norwegian Star is a large and magnificent ship. It has facilities for everyone. I regret that NCL does not offer tours of the inner workings of the ship (ex. kitchens, engines, etc.). The on-board activities range from the Hawaiian activities of hula lessons and leis making, to numerous and varied trivia games, sports and fitness activities, and art auctions. One of the best and under advertised were talks by Kale Gumapac on the history of Hawaii. His three talks were interesting and thought provoking. The worst were the Port Talks. These consisted of very little information about the islands. More information was given about the shore tours and shopping at Hilo Hattie¹s. This cruise will provide a taste of Hawaii with a terrific cruise experience. Limited time is provided in each harbor to explore. Advance planning is a must. In each port my group had reserved a car with Budget. We were very pleased with transportation to the rental facilities and back to the ship. Budget is connected with NCL, but we never noticed any extended waits. The first night on board was limited by our travel. Then the next morning started very early as we had not adjusted, yet. We were unable at 4:00 AM to find food or a fresh pot of coffee. Once we got adjusted to a normal time schedule we had no problem. The first day on Hilo, we went to Volcano National Park. It offered a preview movie at the ranger station, scenic overlooks, steam vents, and a walk to a rain forest and through a lava tube. Monday evening we had the chance to meet with [other] Cruise Critic [members] aboard. It was interesting placing a face and name to internet names. Mark Lockwood, Food and Beverage Director, and James Deering, Hotel Director, could not have been better hosts. They gave our group a personal tour of the ultra lavish Garden Villa suite with hors d¹oeuvre and champagne. Plus Mark was even helpful with a reservation during this formal night at Versailles Restaurant. The 2nd and 4th days were at sea traveling to Fanning Island. On Fanning we rented a bike and were able to see the villagers huts and realize their primitive life. The school is a primitive structure. Our day was cloud covered and it rained. But this alleviated the heat, insects, and sun burning we were warned about. The next day offered Maui. The limited time was enough to view the entire island by helicopter. It was spectacular with many diverse landscapes. Booking by e-mail made things easy. We saw many waterfalls, mountains, valleys and even a complete rainbow. Kauai was our favorite. Our rental car took us first up to the mountains where we met the NCL bus tour. Their rate was $80 each and were going to a river, too. Besides seeing the Waimea Canyon (like the Grand Canyon with greenery), we were able to snorkel at Poipu Beach. Our rental fee was $40 for the four of us plus $5 snorkel gear rental. We also got up close views of the fabulous garden isle and visited the Kauai Coffee Company. Freestyle dining works out well as soon as you realize the reservation desk is in the main lobby. We ate exclusively at the no extra fee places and were well satisfied. The Versailles is a lavish dark wood scenic restaurant with views out the aft of the ship while Aqua offers a light filled ceiling and tropical colors. We also tried Endless Summer for Hawaiian cuisine. Many times we found the Market Cafe and the Grill by the pool to be very good and convenient, with the freshest fruit. The service was always cordial, attentive, and efficient. The entertainment was first rate. The Jean Ann Ryan Company were great in their musical and dance show. Then when they teamed with the Chinese acrobats for a dance showcase it was unbelievable. Doug Heeney was a good family orientated comedian and the magic of Scott Alexander is astounding. Other shows of Polynesian dancers and bar entertainers were above the normal. Our complaints were minor. Too few seats for the movies with the back rows below the rows ahead of them. The problems getting adjusted to the time change. Too little time in the ports with inadequate Port of Call presentations. The pluses were many. From the extra presentation and help of Mark Lockwood to the extra personal attention we received from Mary Ann Lopez and Mary Beth at Endless Summer, Market Cafe, and the Grill we certainly enjoyed our vacation. kwalter@ctlnet.comJuly 2002 Read Less
This is a review of our entire trip to Hawaii from March 21 to April 2. My family includes my husband (45), son (14), daughter (10) and me (42 - don't tell anyone please). We have cruised Carnival twice, Royal Caribbean twice and ... Read More
This is a review of our entire trip to Hawaii from March 21 to April 2. My family includes my husband (45), son (14), daughter (10) and me (42 - don't tell anyone please). We have cruised Carnival twice, Royal Caribbean twice and Norwegian three times. We have done Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean, Bahamas twice, Alaska, the New England Coast with Nova Scotia and now Hawaii. We are hopefully doing another cruise with Norwegian to the Baltic Capitals this July. Ok, enough about us, onto the review. My review will give you tips on how to get around at a better cost and little tricks we have learned about cruising and traveling in general. Check out the web sites I have included, they are very informative. My first suggestion is that you get an Entertainment Coupon Book for Hawaii (www.Entertainment.Com) for $28 before you leave on your trip. It will save you money on food, admissions and sight seeing. March 21 (Thursday) - Arrived in Oahu at 3:15 PM. We were planning on taking a regular cab to our hotel but a limo picked us up instead. There are so many limos in Oahu they double as taxis when they are not busy. It cost us $35 to get to our hotel. We are staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (www.hawaiianvillage.hilton.com/) on Waikiki Beach. This is an incredible hotel with several towers, waterfalls, many pools, penguins, turtles, flamingos and other exotic birds right on premises. Every night a hula show is performed by the pool (about 6 PM). At dusk they have male runners dressed in grass skirts run around and light the many torches that burn throughout the evening. The rooms are spacious and clean. We happen to be members of the Hilton Club and got breakfast free every morning (includes: every fruit you can think of, cereal, pastries, hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese and more. You can pay a little extra for hot dishes too.) We liked the Rainbow Lanai because it is next to a waterfalls and stream with many birds in it. It also overlooks the ocean with Diamond Head in the background (paradise). The beach is well maintained and there is a reef that keeps the large fish away. Below is a view from our room in the Rainbow Tower. March 22 (Friday) - Instead of taking tours with a company we decided to rent a car and tour ourselves. We got our car from Hertz and it only cost us $39 a day, a lot cheaper than a tour. Our first stop was the Dole Pineapple Plantation (www.hawaiiweb.com/html/dole_pineapple_plantation.html ). The Entertainment Book has a coupon for a pineapple whip that is excellent. This summer they will be opening a tram tour of the farm and some interesting exhibits. Their gift shop has some neat gifts including fresh pineapple and macadamia nuts. Next we continued on to the ocean on the north shore. Along the ocean we stopped at Ehukai Beach (www.hawaiiweb.com/html/ehukai_beach_park.html) to see some huge waves and watch the surfers. Along this road we also stopped at a stand with fresh coconuts. The attendant cuts a hole in the top of the coconut and inserts a straw that you can drink fresh coconut milk from. We had a local tell us not to miss Giovanni's Original White Shrimp Truck (www.starbulletin.com/1999/07/15/features/eater.html). This is just an old truck, with writing all over it, parked by the road. But, inside the truck it is very clean and they make the best shrimp I have ever had. You eat outside on picnic benches. You must try this and don't let the appearance scare you away. We continued driving along the north coast (stopping at beaches here and there) and then along the east coast. On the southeast coast we stopped at Halona Blowhole (www.hawaiiweb.com/html/halona_blowhole.html). As the waves come in the water shoots out of a hole in the rocks and it looks like the blow hole of a whale. Speaking of whales, (www.myhawaiionline.com/articles/whales.htm) we saw some here. The season to see humpback whales is from December through April. This coast was very rocky and we enjoyed watching for whales and seeing the waves crash against the rocks. March 23 (Saturday) - Today we went to Pearl Harbor (www.execpc.com/~dschaaf/mainmenu.html). You must get there early! They start handing out tickets (free) at 7:30 AM. We were there at 7:30 and were part of the second tour group. First you see an excellent, moving, short movie about Pearl Harbor and the events that lead up to it. Then you take a boat out to the memorial that actual sits over the sunken Arizona. There is a marble wall in the memorial that lists all the men that died on the Arizona and also those men that died later and who had their ashes placed in the Arizona by divers. While standing there looking down at the Arizona we saw bubbles of oil still leaking up from inside it. This was one of the most moving memorials I have been to. Please do not miss it, but get there early. By the time we left (at 9:30 AM) people were getting tickets for tours that afternoon. Our next adventure was the Atlantis Submarine (www.goatlantis.com/hawaii/default.htm). This was so incredibly exciting! Here is a tip to save money: in the Entertainment book there is a coupon for buy one get one free. We purchased our tickets at the stand by the dock in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It is right on Waikiki Beach. They gave us a deal at $59 a ticket (usually $79 or if booked thought a tour group $85) and we used our coupon to get a free one. You have now more than covered the cost of buying the Entertainment Book. We took a boat out to the submarine and then they helped us board the sub. The sub is very comfortable with two rows of seats and each seat has a window. The sub then slowing descends to about 100 feet. My daughter, who usually has problems with pressure, did not experience any problems at all. There is plenty of room inside the sub so you don't feel cramped. In the meantime you go by 8 man made reefs, 2 sunken airplanes and 2 sunken ships. We saw tons of colorful fish, eels, sharks and even turtles. It lasted about one hour and was so very, very exciting. I highly recommend it, especially if you don't want to snorkel. March 24 (Sunday) - Today we climbed Diamond Head (www.hawaiiweb.com/html/diamond_head.html). This is not as bad as it sounds. You actually drive into the crater and begin your hike about ½ the way up the inside of the crater. It is really nice to do early in the morning before it gets hot. There are about 200 stairs to climb, but not all at once. Bring a flashlight because you do go though some dark tunnels and you'll need a bottle of water. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the top and we were moving pretty quickly. The view is absolutely incredible and worth all the effort. Today is also the day we start our cruise on the Norwegian Star (www.ncl.com/fleet/02/star.htm). We took a cab to the port and arrived at 12:05 and were in our rooms by 12:20 (they start boarding at noon even though their brochures say 1:00 PM). Make sure you bring your passports because the ship goes to the Fanning Island which is in another country. They were very efficient at checking passengers in. I have to tell you that we carry our luggage on board (we actually never check our luggage). The line to check luggage was huge!!!!! All our suitcases are on wheels so we each took one and went though security. We stayed in room 11552 on the 11th deck. It is a mini suite with a balcony and is probably the nicest room, on a ship, that I have ever been in. The bathroom is very impressive. You walk in and the sink is straight ahead. On the right is a sliding glass door with the shower and tube behind it and on the left is another sliding glass door with the toilet behind it. If you have ever taken a cruise before you know how small the bathrooms usually are. Usually you can brush your teeth, sit on the toilet and take a shower without moving a single step. Here is another tip for you: when you embark, skip the crowds at the Market Cafe and enjoy a civilized lunch in the Aqua Room. Although not listed as available, it is. The first day in the Market Cafe you feel like herded cattle. After lunch we decided to get our swim in before the pool got busy. The pool is really quite large but is taken over by two gigantic slides. There are four whirlpools in this area. We were the only passengers swimming and relaxing. There are also a pool and 2 whirlpools in the spa that are free. Children under 15 are not allowed in here. It is very relaxing and quite. There are some lounge chairs that are set in front of large windows that look over the back of the boat. There is a steam room and sauna in each of the changing rooms. The spa is located on deck 11 all the way in the back of the boat. Don't miss this area. They also have an outstanding fitness center with the most current exercise equipment. I was disappointed that they charged for classes (yoga, stretching...) though. This evening we went to LeBistro for dinner (1/2 price surcharge for latitudes members on the first night of the cruise before 6 PM). We have eaten at LeBistro before and they have wonderful food and service. March 25 (Monday) - Today is a very busy day in Hilo, The Big Island. We had reserved a car from Hertz and so when we got off the ship at 7:05 AM Ernie from Hertz was there with his van to take us to our car. I can't tell you enough wonderful things about Ernie. First off, he makes you feel so welcome in Hawaii. Secondly, he provides you with maps on how to get around and explains how to get to each interesting site. He helps you create a personalized driving tour. He really made the trip so much more enjoyable for us!!! Because of Ernie we did more in the 5 hours than we thought possible and were guided to some local gems. After getting our car we took Rt. 11 to the top of the crater to Volcano National Park (www.nps.gov/havo/home.htm). Ernie suggested not making any stops on Rt. 11 until our return trip (it is much safer that way and the park gets very busy, so best to be there early). We stopped at the visitor's center to get some suggestions from the park ranger about the best sites to see. She gave us a map and we began the crater rim drive (www.volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/Parks/hawaii/crater_rim_drive/menu10.html). Our first stop was the sulfur banks. The land was smoking everywhere. The lava is in the ground under us and the sulfur gasses escape to the surface. A little further down the road you come to the steam vents where steam is pouring out of holes in the ground. You feel like you are in a sauna. Next we stopped at the Jaggar Museum that has a nice overlook of the crater. There is also a very interesting display inside. When we started driving along the road again we saw where there was a lava flow in the 1980's. It actually flowed right over the road. The whole area looked like the moon. Our next stop was at Halema'uma'u Crater Overlook. It is about a 1/3 mile hike in but well worth it. This is a sacred area so please be very respectful. You can look down into the crater and see lava. Our final stop in Volcano National Park was a walk through the Thurston Lava Tube. The tube was formed when there was a lava flow. The top layer of the flow cooled and became hard while more lava flowed below and formed a tube. You park your car and take a short hike to the tube. The tube is lit so you can walk right through. At the other end you continue your hike though the jungle right back to your car. Now it was time to head back down the crater. We decided not to stop at the macadamia nut factory outlet (others said it was great) but headed on to the 4 mile scenic tour (www.hawaii-culture.com/hilo/southhilo.html) along the coast outside of Hilo. This was a great drive that headed through the jungle with steams and waterfalls on the side of the road. You could see the cliffs by the ocean on the other side of the road. At the end of the scenic tour we stopped at a place called What's Shakin. This is a plantation that grows its own fruit and then makes them into the best made-to-order smoothies I have ever tasted. Their address is 27-999 Old Mamalohoa Highway. Please don't miss this or you will be sorry. Our final, very rushed, stop was Akaka Falls (www.coffeetimes.com/hilo.htm). It was about 10 miles away from What's Shakin and if you keep moving you can do it (ask for directions to the main road and then follow the signs). When you get to the parking lot take the stairs down the path and stay to your left (otherwise you have to walk all the way around on the path). You will pass by 2 small falls and then come to Akaka Falls. It is not very wide but is very tall. It is well worth the time if you can squeeze it in. Now turn around and return to your car the same way you came in. We now hustled back to the airport to return the car and then Ernie drove us back to the ship. We got there right at 12:30 to find a huge line to get back on. The ship was supposed to leave at 1:00 but didn't leave until about 1:30 (I hear that is normal). Just a note that normally the Star tenders at Kona instead of docking at Hilo. They were having problems with tenders and waves in Kona so they temporally moved our stop to Hilo. In my opinion they should keep this stop in Hilo. It has so much more to offer than Kona which only has shopping, beaches and coffee plantations and no dock (just tenders). Later in the day my son went to a presentation by the Whale Foundation about dolphins. He said it was really good and so on another day we went to the presentation on humpback whales and one on coral reefs. The Whale Foundation's presentations are well worth attending. This evening at (6 PM) we tried to get into Versailles for dinner but there was a 90 minute wait. You need to get to Versailles and Endless Summer before 6 PM or after 7:30 PM if you don't want to wait. Instead we went to the Aqua Room (very contemporary, cheery and much more relaxed than Versailles), got right in and had a wonderful dinner. Also keep in mind that Monday nights are lobster night in all the restaurants. After dinner we went to see the comedian Dave Heeney. He was pretty good, my son thought he was great. March 26 (Tuesday) - Today is an at sea day. At sea days are my favorite because I get to relax with no phone, TV or computers (unless you go to the Internet Cafe and pay for online access). My husband and I are walkers so we had been getting up early in the morning and walking on Deck 7. It is nice and wide and has a skid proof floor. It is wonderful to walk and watch the sun rise, moon set or the ship pull into port. There is a jogging deck on 13. Unfortunately it is very narrow and difficult to pass on unless the other person steps to the side. At 7:30 AM my son went to the lobby to get us tender tickets for the boats to the Fanning Island for tomorrow. We were on boat #2. He said there was no line for the tickets. Just a few hours later the line was very long. You don't want to get stuck on a later tender because you seem to wait forever to get off the ship. I recommend going early to get your tender ticket. Today we decided to sit by the pool for a little while. The area behind the pool is tiered with lounge chairs on each level facing the pool. It is very nice but you must put a towel or shoes out on a chair by 9:30 AM at the very latest. My daughter went to the kid's camp today. She is in the 10-12 year old program. The brochure says they can come and go as they please if you give them permission to. When I dropped her off the staff informed me that because the boat is so big they have done away with that option. That was fine with me. For your information you must be 16 years old and older to sign a child out. My daughter really enjoyed the camp. My son decided to check out the library. It was quite impressive! We decided to eat at the Sushi Bar today because they had a special going on. All you can eat for $10 per person. My family and I eat sushi on a regular basis and felt this sushi was excellent!! You can sit at the sushi bar and the chefs prepare sushi, put it on a plate and put it on a conveyor belt that passes by everyone at the bar. Luckily we sat in the beginning of the belt. Otherwise, everything would have been picked over or gone completely by the time it got to us. We also placed an order for the things we particularly like. It got very, very busy in the sushi restaurant especially for the two sushi chefs. I was impressed by the fact that they then pulled in 3 more sushi chefs. I should mention that the seas had been pretty wavy (not unusual for the winter months). My son, who has never been sea sick, got sick. We remedied this by buying him wrists bands in the gift shop ($9.99). These bands have little nubs on them that are placed on the inside of your wrist. The pressure rids you of your sea sickness for some reason I am not sure of. In any event, within 5 minutes my son's sickness was gone and did not return unless he took the wrist bands off. Most of the day we sat on our balcony or walked around the ship exploring. By 5:30 we were ready for dinner. We decided to do Endless Summer (there is no longer a surcharge for this restaurant). This restaurant is out in the open overlooking the atrium/lobby. The food is outstanding and the atmosphere is delightful. We were serenaded by guitar players that sang some beautiful songs. The service was a little slow so we let our server know that we wanted to get to the 7 PM show. They instantly sped everything up and we had plenty of time to get to the show. We found that whenever we went to the dining rooms we just had to let them know we wanted the service a little faster and they were always accommodating. We like to eat within about one hour where as I think they wanted to give us 1 ½ to 2 hours to eat. Tonight our entertainer was Lucas. He was unbelievably great comedian, musician and juggler. He was leaving the ship at the end of our week so you will miss him but he performs in Las Vegas. If you get a chance to see him there I would definitely do that. Keep in mind that there are always open seats for last minutes arrivals to the big shows in rows 2 through 6 stage right and left. The Stardust Theater is as nice as most theaters in New York City. The seats are all have wonderful views and are very comfortable. After the show we found a whirlpool on deck 13 in the very front of the ship. It didn't seem to be used by anyone. We jumped in and enjoyed the full moon and what stars we could see. March 27 (Wednesday) - Today we watched the ship pull into the Fanning Islands (www.interpac.net/~fanning) about 7:30 AM and anchor. At 8:15 they called our tender ticket number and we were on the island by 8:45. As we got off the ship there was a group of native men playing instruments and singing. They actually played the entire time we were on the island. The natives had set up tables where they were selling their crafts. We purchased several necklaces and my son got a knife with shark teeth on it. We decide to first take a walk along the dirt road. There were lots of dogs running around (very friendly) and pigs searching for food. The children on the island were absolutely adorable and very friendly. Some people were bringing them candy, but from the look of the older kid's teeth that's not a good idea. Tooth brushes and paste would be better. Books would be the very best. One child we ran into had a pet crab. It was huge and on a leash. We walked all the way to the school that Norwegian Cruise Lines built. It was basically a cinder block building with a very basic roof. These schools were also used as hurricane shelters. I expected more but realized that without electricity they couldn't utilize a conventional school building. It gets very hot in the Fanning Islands. They are only 230 miles away from the equator. It was 9:30 AM and we were looking for shade. We headed back to the dock area and secured some chairs on the beach in the shade. Natives were dancing and singing on a stage that was built on the beach. They put on a wonderful show. My husband and daughter went swimming in the water which was warm and a beautiful color of blue. There was a NCL speed boat to keeping an eye on swimmers and what was in the water. Don't buy water on the ship to take ashore, NCL has free water and iced tea out for everyone. There were a lot of flies on the NCL food (even though there was an employee waving them away) but they were not bothering people. We were really not comfortable eating much on the island and I couldn't find a bathroom. By 11:30 we had had enough of the heat and caught a tender back to the ship. By 12:15 we were in Versailles having a delicious lunch. The rest of the day we hung out in the spa. This evening's show was It's Fame. The show was Broadway quality and we really enjoyed it. Next we headed over to the hula show. This is a must see. The production is incredibly good and very authentic. There is a woman who gives you the history of each dance. It was the best hula show we saw in Hawaii and there were some really great looking guys and women in it. It is interesting because no where else in the US can you find men wearing flowered shirts, flowers in their hair or around their necks, tattoos on their arms and still looking very manly. March 28 (Thursday) - Today was an at sea day as we headed to Maui. It was another gorgeous day on the ship. My daughter and I went to a lei making class that was a lot of fun. It was taught by the woman who ran the hula show production. We sat on our balcony and enjoyed a breathtaking sunset. At 7 PM we went to see the show. Dominique Ava played the violin for us. She is the best violin player I have ever heard in my life (the Yo-Yo Ma of the violin). She does not sit like a traditional violinist but instead walks and dances around the stage. During her intermission they had Lucas (who happens to be her husband) come out and do some comedy and juggling. He was hysterical. He did a spontaneous bit about the Fanning Island that had me laughing so hard I cried. Unfortunately, this was their last performance on the Norwegian Star. March 29 (Friday) - This morning the islands of Hawaii were back in view. We spent the morning on deck 13 (stake out a claim in the front of the deck by 10 AM) watching for humpback whales within view of Maui. We saw plenty. They breached, waved their tails, slapped their tails and basically put a show on for us. The woman from the Whale Foundation was there to give us more information. Make sure you have binoculars so you can get a better view. At noon we went to Versailles and had a very speedy delicious lunch. Versailles is an absolutely beautiful restaurant with pretty windows and gorgeous chandeliers. The food is supposed to be French but I thought it was just elegant. Service is slow unless you tell them you have somewhere to go. I enjoyed sitting in the very back of the boat watching the wake as we ate. By 1:00 we were off the ship in Kahului and on a bus on our way to our Hertz car. It was raining when we got there (not unusual) but cleared up as the day went on. Our first stop was Ioa Valley State Park to see the Needle (www.hawaiiweb.com/maui/html/sites/iao_valley_state_park.html). There was a short hiking path to get to it the Needle. The path also led us past a very fast moving stream and a Hawaiian garden. By the parking lot there lived a group of 12 beautifully maintained cats. They were very friendly and interesting to watch. Next we drove to Lahaina (www.hawaiiweb.com/maui/html/sites/lahaina.html). This was the original port that the Star anchors at but because of problems with tenders and waves they are temporality docking in Kahului. You can take a free shuttle bus offered by NCL to Lahaina. It is basically an old whaling town that has been turned into a shopping village. It looks like a New England town but is extremely busy when the ship is in port. I would have liked to seen it without all the people. We stopped for a drink, and to see the one acre banyee tree, and then headed away from all the people. Back on the road we headed out of town on Rt. 30. This road turns into a windy road that runs along the coast of Maui. We saw some of the most incredible views from here. After we were out of town about 20 miles the road turned into a one lane with two way traffic. There is an section of road for about 2 miles that if another car comes along one of you has to back up until you can get to an area where the other car has room to pass. The other 13 miles of the road has enough room to squeeze by another car. On one side of the car is the mountain and on the other side is a cliff to the ocean. You need to drive very careful and slowly here but it is well worth it. You see an untouched part of Maui. We drove though the settlement of Olowalu where they still speak Hawaiian. Their gardens were layered on the side of the mountain. This road turns back into a highway and takes you back to Kahului and the ship. We got back to the ship around 6:30. March 30 (Saturday) - This morning our ship pulled into Nawiliwili, Kauai and docked. This is the only port where we are taking a shore excursion though the Norwegian Star. We have booked a kayaking trip ($55 adults $35 kids). The reason that I booked it though the ship is because it was only $5 more than booking it myself. Transportation from the ship to the kayaks and back is included. You can check out the kayak web site at www.kauai-by-kayak.com. I had e-mailed the owner Greg several times and he gave me lots of advice about Kauai. By 8:30 AM we were off the ship and our tour guide drove us to the kayaks in the Hulaea River. Our guides gave us a lesson in how to use the paddles and then they assisted us in getting into our Cobra Tandem double kayaks. We practiced in the shallow waters of a bay and then set out for our trip up the river. Even though it was up steam the wind blew us along and there didn't seem to be much of a current. There was one very young boy and his dad who must have gotten tired because they towed them in their motorized row boat. This area is where they filmed a scene for Indiana Jones and also for Jurassic Park. It is so very beautiful and peaceful here. The trip was about 2 ½ miles long and we stopped for cookies and juice after about 1 ½ miles (included in cost). After our snacks we finished paddling up steam. Unfortunately, it had rained for 6 days before we had gotten there and the beginning of the stream was quite rough. We had to paddle really hard the last 150 feet. There was a guy in the water helping us but it was still difficult. Normally they do not have all this water so I wouldn't let it worry you. After we got out of the kayaks we took a short hike in the jungle to our waiting air conditioned van. This adventure is all in the sun so make sure you wear sun block. The tour guide provides insect repellent for your walk in the juggle. Also, I wore my sneakers and they got a little wet. The rest of my family went bare foot and that seemed to work out fine. They give you waterproof bags to put your belongings in on the kayak. When the van dropped us back off at our ship we decided to grab lunch in the Market Cafe. The food there is pretty good and luckily it was not busy. I actually enjoyed some breakfasts at the Cafe. They have some really great toppings for cereal (raisins, nuts, shredded coconut, and more). They also were cutting up pineapple, mango and papaya by the pool. You can get a healthy fast breakfast at the Cafe and poolside. A local told us a great place to get souvenirs was at their Wal-Mart. There was a free shuttle that took us right to the store. Wal-Mart actually has an entire Hawaiian section. We bought beaded leis for 50 cents each (my daughter bought 15 to take home to friends). They also had some nicer necklaces, lots of post cards and lots more stuff at great prices. It was worth the trip. A lot of the staff from the ship were on the shuttle with us. The shuttle then took us back to the ship. There is also a shuttle that will take you to the mall and another that will take you to the Marriott and their beach. Instead of renting a car, we were tired of driving, we decided to do a short tour with a taxi. Sue the driver took us to Wialua Falls. Because of all the rain that had come before we got there the falls was huge. Our tour lasted about one hour and cost us $40. She could have done two hours for $60 but we were tired. We headed back to the ship. Tonight the show was Crique Asia. It was excellent. I would say it was a mix of acrobatics, creative juggling, balancing and dancing. After the show we decided to try room service. We ordered chocolate mouse and cookies. They were delivered in less than ½ an hour and were delicious. March 31 (Sunday) - Today is the day I like the least, I have to leave this wonderful ship. We were up early and got to see our boat pulling into Oahu. We went to the Aqua Room for breakfast - boy will I miss this ship and its incredible food. Debarkation on Norwegian Cruise Line is very painless and can actually be relaxing. We waited in our rooms (about one hour), enjoying the view from our balcony, until they called our ticket color. In case you have not cruised before, they give you tickets to put on your luggage and based on the color that's when you can get off the ship. Any luggage you are going to check, to have them carry off the ship, you put outside your door on Saturday evening. As I said before, we never check our luggage. That is one less hassle for us. We never have to search for our luggage and hope that nothing was lost. Even after they called our ticket we waited a few minutes to let the rush of passengers pass. By 9:00 AM we were off the ship and in a Hertz bus on our way to get our rental car. Our first stop today is Pali Lookout (www.hawaiiweb.com/html/pali_lookout.html) that overlooks the north shore. There is no hiking involved and you get a wonderful view. Next we took a ride along the Leeward Side (Northwest coast) of the island. I think this was my favorite spot on Oahu. There were huge crashing waves and lots of surfers. There are lots of spots to pull over and enjoy the waves. We spent several hours here. Since we now have to get food our own we decided to try Bubba Gump's Restaurant (www.bubbagump.com/). I highly recommend them. It's a fun place and the food is great. Next we checked into the Hilton Hawaiian Village again. Below is a view from our room overlooking Waikiki Beach. April 1 (Monday) - Today we decided to take it easy and spend the day on the beach. I can't handle much sun so I rented an umbrella and two lounge chairs ($44 and they set it all up for you) and spent the day relaxing. My kids rented kayaks and paddled around in the beach area. In the afternoon we went to one of my favorite restaurants, California Pizza Kitchens (www.cpk.com/). The atmosphere is very cheerful and the food is incredibly good. After lunch we returned to our beach chairs. Thanks goodness we had the umbrella. Otherwise, I would not have been able to sit on the beach that long. This evening we watched the turtles and penguins at the hotel and saw the hula show again. It was really nice to end our vacation with a laid back day. April 2 (Monday) - Today we are leaving for home. Our flight is not until 4:00 PM so we decided to take a drive. Our first stop was Longs Drug Store. The locals told us to buy chocolate covered macadamia nuts here at a considerable discount. They were right. Our next stop was a drive along the northeastern coast. We had missed that area before and decided it sounded nice. This area is very quite and there are very few tourists. The waves were pretty big here and we watched some gliders taking off and landing. Our final stop, before the airport, was the Dole Pineapple Plantation again. It was on our way back and we really wanted to get another Dole Pineapple Whip and some fresh pineapple to eat. It was a nice way to end our trip. Below are some tips on the Norwegian Star and its restaurants and where they are located. * All restaurants serve lobster on Mondays. * After you board the ship and check out your room, go to the Aqua Room for lunch instead of the buffet at the Market Cafe. * LeBistro is ½ off the surcharge ($6 instead of $12) to latitudes members before 6 PM on the first night of the cruise. * Watch for the $10 all you can eat sushi special. Otherwise you pay per piece. * If you want a lounge chair by the pool area put a towel or pair of shoes down on the chair before 9 AM. * Despite what the salon says, the ship is very very casual even on optional formal night. * If you have a suite on deck 11, make sure that your blind in the shower closes properly. You can see right though them!!!!! * To avoid crowds and waiting dine before 6 PM or after 7:30 PM in the free restaurants. Dine before 7:30 PM in the surcharge restaurants. * Keep in mind that for the shows in the Stardust Theater there are always open seats for last minutes arrivals in rows 2 through 6 stage right and left. * Deck 13: There is a whirlpool in the front of the ship, this deck also has Las Ramblas Tapas Bar & Restaurant (free hors d'oeuvre), the children's camp for under 10 years old, the card room, an awesome library and the theatre for movies with very comfortable seats and surround sound. Deck 12: In the back of the ship there is the Market Cafe and La Trattoria (Italian, it is part of Market Cafe during the day and converted into a nice restaurant at night), the Fitness Center (there is no charge to us this outstand equipment) and the kids pool. Deck 11: In the back of the ship is located the Barong Spa which also includes the pool, saunas, steam rooms and lounge chairs (you can use the facility even if you are not having a treatment). Deck 9: The Internet Cafe (access by walking up the stairs from the atrium, deck 8, or a non descript door on deck 9). Deck 8: The Endless Summer Restaurant (Hawaii) overlooks the atrium (free now). Deck 7: Stardust Theater (the big shows are here), the kids camp for 10-12 year old, Karaok Circus, Sushi Bar ($10 for all you can eat on some days), Ginza Restaurant, Teppanyanyak Bar (charge) (hibachi), Java Cafe (charge for coffee but baked goods are free), Blue Lagoon Restaurant (small buffet open 24 hours with great cookies) and the promenade deck (great for walking). Deck 6: Gatsby's Champagne Bar (charge), the Soho Room (charge), The Wine Cellar (charge), Le Bistro ($12 surcharge), Aqua Restaurant (California), Versailles Restaurant (enter only form back staircase on Deck 7). Bon Voyage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! donnaklein@adelphia.netJuly 2002 Read Less
Norwegian Star: Maui to Maui, June 21 - 28, 2002 The Planning This cruise was an impulse decision - a graduation gift to myself after completing a college degree as a "non-traditional" (that means old!) college student. A ... Read More
Norwegian Star: Maui to Maui, June 21 - 28, 2002 The Planning This cruise was an impulse decision - a graduation gift to myself after completing a college degree as a "non-traditional" (that means old!) college student. A friend and I had always wanted to see Hawaii, and after deciding on a cruise over a land vacation, we were making plans only a few weeks before the sailing date. We booked without doing much research. We just wanted to grab a cabin and some airline seats before it was too late. But I had sailed on NCL a few times, so I wasn't concerned. After booking, I started reading reviews. Then I got a little concerned because the reviews were mixed. But some of the negatives have been eliminated (like tender ports being replaced with docking ports) and other things weren't negatives to me - like the fact that there isn't a lot of time in the ports (is there ever enough time in ports on a cruise ship stop??), and the 2+ sea days getting to Fanning Island and back (I love sea days). Other negatives I chalked up to personal tastes - like negative comments about the food. (If I don't have to shop for it, cook it, or clean up after it, just about any meal makes me happy.) Some of the negatives I figured I would just have to deal with if they happened - and they didn't! I didn't find bar waiters to be pushy, we had no long waits for a table at dinner time, I found the tendering at Fanning Island to be as efficient as any tendering process can be, and I didn't find the loudspeaker announcements to be excessive. And of course there were plenty of positive reviews. Many thanks to all who have posted about this cruise - I read every one of them. We boarded in Maui (Friday) rather than Honolulu (Sunday) because the dates fit our schedules. I couldn't figure out why NCL took on the hassle of boarding passengers in 2 ports on a 7 day cruise - two lifeboat drills and all - and it would seem that cabins must sometimes go empty for 5 days or 2 days. I'm not surprised they are eliminating it soon. But for us passengers boarding in Maui, it was a treat to be boarding with only a couple hundred people - no lines. Plus the itinerary gives you a sea day for the last full day - makes for unhurried packing. And the ship doesn't get into Maui until 1:00 - no 6:30 breakfast before being rushed off the ship in the morning. Sipping mimosas in the Spinnaker Lounge as we sailed into the harbor and then having a leisurely lunch before disembarking is a pleasant way to spend your last hours on board. OK, it was a little weird to be seeing the farewell show on our second night, but if anyone is thinking of booking this cruise yet this summer, consider the Maui boarding before it's discontinued. Pre-cruise We wisely decided to spend a few days in Maui before boarding. That was our chance to see more of at least one island, and we figured it would allow us to recover from the jet lag (5 hour time change for us). Our secret to recovering from jet lag - force yourself to stay up until bedtime local time. It's rough, but the next day we felt fine. The evening we arrived, we went to a show called "Ulalena" at the Maui Myth and Magic Theater in Lahaina. It was music and dance, telling the story of the history of Maui. It was not the typical hula or Polynesian dancing - more like a stylized modern dance with a South Seas flavor. It was outstanding, and those pounding drums helped keep us awake. You won't be able to see this evening show on the cruise stop in Maui, but if you are spending time there before or after the cruise, I highly recommend it. We stayed at the Lahaina Shores Resort. Nothing fancy, but pleasant and on the beach - and within walking distance of shopping and restaurants. During our time in Maui, we visited some tropical gardens and a plantation, went to the Old Lahaina Luau, took a sunset dinner cruise on a catamaran, and did some serious shopping. We had a terrific time, not counting the moment when I scraped a support post while backing out of parking stall in an underground lot. I learned a lot about Hawaii's culture and history on this trip, but the most important thing I learned is that Ace Hardware sells a polishing compound that removes yellow paint from the fender of a navy blue rental car. Thursday morning we looked out our hotel balcony and saw a big white ship pulling in. Ran for the binoculars and could just make out the words "Freestyle cruising" on the side. It dropped anchor, and we momentarily wondered if we got our days mixed up since the ship was supposed to be on its way back from Fanning Island, not anchored off Lahaina. Talked to some people in town, and found out a medical emergency kept them from going to Fanning Island. Thursday night while we were at the luau, we saw it sail away - having no idea where it was going. We didn't care as long as it was at the dock for us in Kahului the next day. On Friday, we had to be out of the hotel by 11:00 and didn't expect to be boarding until about 4:00, so we decided to take the long way to the airport to return the rental car. We drove around the west side of the island - and again saw the ship. Had it in sight for most of our ride. It was a spectacular drive. We encountered an 8-mile segment of a winding one-lane mountain road, but the views were worth the stressful driving. Tried to drop our bags off at the pier before turning in the rental car, but security wouldn't let us in. Not a big deal - the rental car company shuttled us over. Boarding and setting up our accounts was a piece of cake since there were so few of us. The Ship We were in a standard outside cabin on deck 5. It was fine - big window, adequate storage space (though two women traveling together can always use more space). A safe, and a high quality hair dryer at the dressing table - those little things matter. A refrigerator. A shower door rather than one of those curtains that always ends up wrapped around you. Comfy beds and pillows and a responsive air conditioning control. Either the sound insulation is excellent or we had unusually quiet neighbors. I think the decorator may have been color blind, however - or maybe a mish-mash of bold colors is the latest style. And we had to do deep knee bends to get to the low storage shelves in the bathroom - but we called it exercise rather than an inconvenience. Attitude is everything while on vacation. The cabin had a bunk that folded down and a trundle bed that came up from under one of the beds. But if that trundle bed had been up, there would have been no floor space between the beds. Book these cabins for four only if you are really close to your companions. The ship has been well described by others, and I don't have much to add. But some things I particularly liked: the numerous small bars and lounges; I like quiet bars where you can carry on a conversation. Gatsby's was my favorite - it's a people-watching spot. The promenade deck with its colorful murals - for walking, for reading in a deck chair, for sitting at one of the tables with our coffee or wine. Because there are so many dining rooms on the Star, they are all smaller and quieter than the traditional big dining rooms on other ships I've been on. I particularly enjoyed Endless Summer Restaurant overlooking the atrium - a lovely setting. (But I found the Hawaiian singers too loud for dinner music.) Though I never got around to using it, the indoor adults-only lap pool in the spa area looked inviting. Some things I didn't like: The temperature in the Stardust Theater. If you are sensitive to the cold, bundle up for the shows. Not enough places with lounge chairs in the shade. The promenade deck is shady, but there are regular chairs there, not lounge chairs where you can put your feet up. I was hoping for something like Holland America's traditional padded, wooden deck chairs - I call them the "narcotic chairs" because they are utterly sleep-inducing. Not a lot of quiet time around the pool in the afternoons what with the musicians and the poolside games. This was the newest and glitziest ship I have been on (Norway several times, Norwegian Wind, Maasdam twice, and Volendam). At some places I thought the decorating was over-the-top, but overall a lovely ship. Excursions We took ship-sponsored excursions in all the Hawaiian ports. In Kauai we did the tour to Waimea Canyon; in Honolulu we did the cultural and historical tour (the highlight being the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor), and in Hilo we did the deluxe adventure volcano tour. We had outstanding guides on all of them. We learned so much about the history and geology of the islands. For a first time visit to any cruise port, I'm a big believer in the ship's excursions. But why, oh why, are all these excursions so early?! Even when the ship is in port all day, these excursions muster at 7:00 or 8:00; I can't figure out why there aren't afternoon tours when it would seem that time would allow it. I don't think alarm clocks and vacations go together well. I keep searching for the no-ports-before-noon cruise. Until I find it, I have decided back-to-back is the way to go - one week to do all the early excursions and one week stay to up late and enjoy the nightlife. One comment on the Honolulu tour - the Arizona memorial is very crowded and the line for tickets was long - then another wait for our scheduled time after getting the tickets. So much time is spent there that the rest of the tour isn't much besides quick looks from the bus window and one quick photo stop at the palace. Perhaps the tour should be renamed as the Arizona tour; that way people wouldn't be expecting more. And as I posted earlier, no backpacks, fanny packs, or purses are allowed in the memorial site. You can take a camera, but no camera bag, and you can take whatever you can fit into your pockets, so plan accordingly. There is a sign posted about not leaving valuables in your car due to risk of theft. In the parking lot between the memorial and the Bowfin (submarine) museum, there is a storage facility where you can store luggage if you are doing this tour before heading to the airport. Fanning Island - I was fascinated. The most unusual cruise stop I've ever been on. The heat got to my friend, but I stayed until the second-to-last tender. The residents of the island sang and danced for us all day. The women selling their crafts were so pleasant and un-aggressive - unlike some Caribbean vendors I have encountered. The children were charming and friendly. I brought $25 ashore and spent it all on crafts and beautiful stamps - including a stamp with a picture of the ship. I saw the most unusual item for sale - the history of Fanning Island hand-written on notebook paper. Maybe it was something the children did in their school lessons to learn English - I don't know, but I've sure never seen anything like that in all my vacation shopping excursions. The residents demonstrating native dances were accepting donations for building a Catholic church; so if you are inclined to help them, take a little extra cash. I took a walk away from the main beach area and it was like something out of National Geographic - the open-air huts where they live, and I watched a man fishing from shore with a net. I'm not going to get into a discussion of whether our influence is good or bad for them - only they can answer that question. But I will say that their welcome to us seemed genuine. I'm glad I saw it and I'm sorry I didn't have time to explore more. Sure it was hot at Fanning Island, but the beach area had a lot more shade than the Caribbean private islands I have been on. Yes, there were some bugs - big dragonflies. I didn't let them spoil my experience - it was no worse than what you might encounter at a picnic at home. Entertainment I've only been on one line (HAL) besides NCL. I love many things about HAL, but I have found their shows to be sort of cheesy. I have always found NCL's shows to be excellent - though programs of some type would have been nice at the musical shows to identify the numbers. We thoroughly enjoyed the salute to Andrew Lloyd Weber, the show entitled "It's Fame", the Chinese acrobats, and the Polynesian dancers. Caught the comedian and the magician, too. Two different main shows each night, each with two performances. One terrific thing NCL does on this ship is give you the week's show schedule on the first night - this allowed us to plan our dinner time (making reservations a day ahead) based on what shows we wanted to see. The shows are popular - go early. We had to stand for the Polynesian dancers. And if you are a Beatles fan, check the schedule for the sing-along with the piano player in Gatsby's. Freestyle Freestyle dining - I'm a believer! One day we were so exhausted from an early shore excursion that we dozed in deck chairs rather than eating lunch, then we had dinner at 5:30. Another night we ate at 9:00 because that fit around the shows we wanted to see. Other nights we ate anywhere between 6:00 and 8:00, depending on our mood. Some nights we made reservations (Endless Summer and La Trattoria), other nights we went for the open seating (no reservations) in Versailles or Aqua. Once we had to wait 5 minutes in Aqua, but we never had a wait longer than that. However, we did see that there were times when many people were milling around Versailles or Aqua waiting for a table - the worst was on the optional formal night. And there is no place to sit while waiting for a table at the open seating dining rooms. Standing around the entrances didn't look like fun - especially in formal night shoes. Future freestyle ship designs should include a seating area - and throw in a bar and it's a revenue center. On this issue, NCL could learn from land-based restaurants. We have all had to wait for tables at land restaurants, but usually a comfortable waiting area/bar is provided. So there are a few bugs with freestyle dining, but a little planning and flexibility goes a long way towards making the most of all the options. Once we avoided a wait by sharing a table. When we ordered a bottle of wine in one restaurant, it was still available for us the next night in a different restaurant. For breakfast and lunch, we alternated between the Versailles restaurant and the Market Cafe buffet. Versailles was quieter and it's always nice to be served, but Market Cafe has extended hours. Blue Lagoon is open 24 hours; we never ate there, but that's where I got early morning coffee. You can also grab lunch at the Grill buffet in the pool area. On the optional formal night, many people dressed up as on traditional cruises and many did not. We chose a middle ground - dressy, but not sparkly gowns. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable and you will fit in - that's what freestyle is about. I sort of missed getting to know regular tablemates over the course of the week, but there are many opportunities to meet people on a cruise, and the dining choices are a big plus as far as I'm concerned. And no dancing-waiters-with-the-baked-Alaska-parade, but I've seen that enough times. There were a few restaurants we never got to - another reason to do this cruise again. Freestyle tipping - I'm a believer! I don't miss fussing with those envelopes on my last night. I saw no difference in service level. I read NCL's response to the "tipping scam" thread, and I take them at their word that the tips are distributed fairly. I never accepted the theory than people in certain occupations only give good service if anticipating an envelope of cash from the customer. I believe good service is generated by an employer's overall personnel policies. Final random thoughts The Norwegian Star loves Cruise Critic people! Show up at the Cruise Critic gathering for a special welcome. If you are late and they know you are on board, you may get a call from the hotel director with a personal invitation. Perhaps the room stewards should skip the chocolate on the pillow the night of the chocoholic buffet - the sight of that one little bit of chocolate after I had stuffed myself was almost too much! Maria in Endless Summer restaurant - one of the most personable, outgoing servers I have ever had on a cruise. She was so good at sweetly convincing us to try the dessert when we said we were full that she should be selling something. Simona in La Trattoria - another charmer. Be sure to check out the non-passenger photos taken by the ship's photographers. I chose seven 5 x 7's for $20 - great shots of the interior and exterior of the ship, of the Polynesian dancers, and of the children on Fanning Island. They are on display in the photo gallery. I saw - really - a vintage Holland America poster on the wall outside the Galleria. Kudos to NCL for making the immigration process as efficient as possible. Upon the return to the U.S. (Maui) from Fanning Island, the immigration officers board in Lahaina and conduct the process while the ship continues to sail to the dock in Kahului. By the time the ship docks, the process is pretty well completed. Photos to be uploaded as soon as soon as my slow-as-molasses scanner can process them. Yes, I know I need a digital camera. Almost bought one for this trip, but decided to put the money towards an outside rather than an inside cabin. Final, final thought I am in now in love with Hawaii. Of course I couldn't see as much as if I had flown around all the islands and stayed in hotels. But for my first visit, this cruise gave me a good overview, with the bonus of Fanning Island that I never would have seen any other way. And like all cruise vacations, it was the perfect mixture of active sightseeing and inactive relaxation. I hope to do it again. Let me rephrase that - I will do it again. Preferable two weeks back-to-back. joanneg1@charter.netJuly 2002 Read Less
Our Group My husband Paul and myself Chris. Sister Kim and Husband Kevin--both couples celebrating our 25th wedding anniversaries with this cruise to Hawaii. We are all experienced cruisers, this being our 8th or 9th voyage..have ... Read More
Our Group My husband Paul and myself Chris. Sister Kim and Husband Kevin--both couples celebrating our 25th wedding anniversaries with this cruise to Hawaii. We are all experienced cruisers, this being our 8th or 9th voyage..have cruised Royal Caribbean, Carnival and this was our 2nd Freestyle NCL cruise. Booking We booked this cruise as soon as NCL had released the ship for bookings-May 2001..no brochures or deck plans were available at the time. We were given a free upgrade from inside to an outside cabin...Once the brochures were available we changed to a midship location-Deck 8, outside cabin with obstructed view..had a peek at ocean thru 2 lifeboats, cabin had 2 oval shaped portholes to allow the light in. Premium Air Package We had pre-booked the air thru NCL from Baltimore at the time of booking. The premium air department and our travel agent had much difficulty making our air arrangements. We had requested to fly 2 days ahead and not have more than 1 connection, arrive in Honolulu before 5PM and not leave Honolulu after 6PM. We were routed on Continental on way out with connection in Houston. Northwest on the return flight, connecting in Minneapolis. Pre-cruise Planning: My occupation is as a Librarian in a public library. I confess to being an obsessive cruise planner. (OCP) With instant internet access at our library information desk I was able to keep current on all Norwegian Star cruise information gleaned from every message board and review site that I could locate. When the ship first sailed Hawaii in December and the initial 2 months of cruises were having difficulty..we were tempted to jump ship and go with a land based vacation. It was great to see the turn around that NCL had accomplished in a few months time to get the ship on track, modifying the restaurants, happy hours etc, changing the tendering into ports, responding to the initial growing pains that are common to a new cruise ship. Each week I would eagerly anticipate the Norwegian Star review... And now it's my turn...... Sad in a way, cuz for me part of the fun of cruising is the information gathering, the anticipation, the dreaming of the ports to come--and now it is all just MEMORY..... A Dream Realized--Sailing on a Star 6-16-02 Our journey began on Friday June 14, leaving BWI airport, 3 hours to Houston, and then 7 1/2 more hours to Honolulu. The Continental flight to Hawaii was great, new airplane, with mini video screens on every seat back. Had several channels of movies, several video games to play. The plane circled in front of Waikiki Beach and went to the East end of the island for a long approach to the airport. Finally touching down about 3:50 PM that Friday afternoon Hawaii time... We picked up our luggage, shuttled to the dollar rental car and then drove in mega traffic jam to the Ocean Resort located on the East end of Waikiki beach near the zoo. Arrived there around 5:30PM..quick check in our room on 8th floor. Ocean Resort Older hotel, would probably rate as 2 diamond AAA... efficient front desk staff, has 19 floors in the Pali Tower where we were located, our room had a king size bed, table and 4 chairs, small kitchenette, standard bathroom and a nice little lanai that had a partial ocean view between 2 other hotels. It was very clean but in need of renovation -- hard to beat the $89 per night rate for room and CAR! Was 1 1/2 blocks from beach, had to park around the corner as the hotel lot was filled. Parking was $5 per day. Restaurant in lobby open from 6AM , we had the breakfast special both mornings, $3.95 for 2 eggs, 2 bacon & either pancakes, hash browns or toast. Convenient and Great service!!! Waikiki BeachWe toured the beach area watching the many surfers up on their boards come in on the long flat waves... went up to Kuhio Park where they were just starting to begin a hula and music show. Left the men there to watch the show while my sister and I went up to the International market for shopping. Spent about an hour haggling over the different souvenirs, and headed back to the hungry husbands who were tired of waiting for us shoppers to return. Dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise was a nice stop. Had a musical duo playing some of the old tunes from our dating years, great onion rings...didn't have the hula pie that I had hoped to have for desert tho!! We were beat from the long day and being still on Eastern Daylight time, the 9pm time was more like 3 am to us!! Back to the hotel, we were asleep by 10PM... Saturday June 15th, 2002 I woke up the next morning at 2:30 am ready to hit the beach.. struggled to sleep til 4:30 or so and then gave up and started our day in Honolulu early. Paul and I took the video camera and went to the beach..there were already surfers on the waves , a big art fest was underway in the Kapapanoli Park near our hotel, we were walking around still a bit dazed by the jet lag, nice way to start our day. Back at hotel, woke up my sister and her husband, wolfed down breakfast and headed out in our car to explore Oahu. I had the great book Driving and Discovering Oahu by Richard Sullivan to guide our day..first mistake of day was me confusing East and West in Oahu.., I had assumed by usual geography that East is left and West is right...WRONG...east is towards Diamond Head and West is towards the airport...so we ended up on the wrong entrance to H-1 freeway and changed from the route up Pali Highway .. stayed on H-1East instead, going past Haumana Bay, Koko Head etc and then up the coast from there. I have navigated many cities before, but I will say that Oahu is a nightmare, no normal cloverleaf entrances to the expressways, lots of one way streets, and all the streets start with K and have a dozen or so a's in them...We did really well overall but it was frustrating as even with maps the signs for the roads were either non existent or difficult to read until you were right THERE. We stopped up an along the coast taking photos at several outlooks, then went thru to Lanaki Beach to a public right of way for a little beach time... beautiful beach, we watched a wedding take place up from where we sat in the sun and did a little snorkeling. After Lanaki, we stopped at the Pali Lookout.. incredibly Windy!! and over on the coast again went to the Bydoo Temple. Beautiful mountain setting for this replica of a Buddhist temple in Japan. $2 admission fee. Stunning scenery along the coast as we headed towards the north shore. Stopped at Ahi's Restaurant (1st place of note after passing Kahana Valley State Park) that I had read was the place to go for shrimp...good lunch there $12.95 for 30 shrimp cooked one of 4 different recipes.. tried the tempura and Hawaiian Spice shrimp, both delicious... after lunch we were almost at 1`PM..had to be back at hotel at 3:30 or so to get ready for our Luau... no good route back to Waikiki from where we were on the east coast..decided to circle around to the north shore and then down thru the pineapple fields to Waikiki, took us about 1 1/2 hours, and we only got a glimpse of the beautiful beaches and towns that we passed..it was too much driving for 1 day so in hindsight, I think we should have either done the north shore, or circle Oahu tour from Sullivan's book,,, just hated to miss any of the island! We had booked Germaine's Luau thru Magnum tours-(www.magnumtours.com) discount tour operator on Oahu..great price $38 per person including transportation from the hotel next to Ocean resort. We had about 1/2 hr bus ride with "Cousin Travis" to Luau..very touristy, enjoyed it tho, saw imu pig being raised from pit, had entertainment, buffet food (very average buffet type) 3 drink coupons for alcohol, sodas coffee , free. Luau music , dancers and crowd participation made for an entertaining evening. Nice beach front setting on West side of Oahu. Back to hotel around 9:30 pm or so..we were still dragging and made another early night to sleep. Sunday June 16th, 2002 >BR? Another early wake up and we were off for snorkeling at Hamauma Bay.($1 parking fee, $3 per person admission) .. what a view from the parking lot there, we walked down to the bay and enjoyed the snorkeling there..not incredibly clear but nice schools of fish, most of the coral appeared to be dead most likely damaged from the many snorkelers and their fins. Great sunny day and warm..wanted to stay for longer but the Star was calling our name... We rode the tram back up($1) and headed back to the city. On the way we found Lenoard's Bakery ( on Kapahulu blvd. 1 mile from Kalakaua on the right) Don't miss this!! Mal-la-sa-das--these wonderful fried donut puffs, either plain, cinnamon sugar or filled with chocolate, coconut filling.. Delicious as well as other wonderful bakery treats,,,we devoured them on the way back to the hotel-packed up, had quick checkout, and back to airport to return the rental car. Had a taxi van (yes, 4 passengers and LOTS of luggage) take us to Aloha Tower for $19 + tip. Wow..there it is the beautiful Norwegian Star towering over the harbor.. Huge and awesome to see for the first time! Porters are there at the terminal to take your luggage but we decided to take our rolling suitcases the 100 feet instead... they checked ID before we could bring the luggage to the checkin area, dropped that off and then over to the passenger check in line. It was about 1:00-1:30 when we checked in... since we had cruised NCL before we went to the Latitudes checkin, took about 10 min max, there were maybe 30 or so people in the regular check in , things seemed to be moving smoothly. Bypass the older woman in the terminal who is selling her leis there, once you go up the escalator you will be given the nice floral ones for the ladies, and shell leis for the men before you get aboard. They were confiscating alcohol from passengers at the security check in before going up the escalator for those who want to bring aboard, better put in checked baggage. Had the usual ship embarkation photo taken and then walk the gangway to deck 6-- Your plastic green sail and sign card is scanned to welcome you aboard..Bing!!!! You are one of the lucky passengers to be sailing on the Norwegian Star--Wooo Hoooo... it is real now. We went up 2 decks to Deck 8 to find our cabin... up the hallway and on the port side, #8596-- (sister in 8598) Outside category G, obstructed view..nice sized cabin, could accommodate 4 passengers (cozy) but not bad for 2, nicely furnished, with mini frig, nice drawer storage, beautiful bathroom with shower and toilet doors..not much in way of cosmetic storage, hung up my 'freedom' bag from the hooks on the bathroom door to store for the week. Ugly decor--more on that later look for section entitled "what were they thinking?" liked the nice down comforters with sheeting as your blanket. Great program your own code safe near the door. Called to Le Bistro to make our dinner reservations so we could take advantage of the 1 time 50% off discount on cover charge between 5:30-6:30PM! Dropped off our carryons and then headed to Aqua restaurant for our first meal on the Star. Aqua is located mid ship BETWEEN elevators and stairs (RED staircase) on deck 6-- it was a bit hard to find and every time I would go there I would think it was the wrong place... no one else found it that first day either, there were only 3 other tables of passengers eating lunch, had til 2PM to be seated for lunch in the restaurant.. Nice first lunch on the ship--- we were enjoying every minute of being served and not having to worry about a check to pay at the end of the meal!! After food, we stop by the shore excursion desk to fill out request for private beach excursion on Fanning Island- one not available on pre-booking. My sister and I headed back off the ship to do some shopping in the Aloha tower marketplace, stocked up on some sodas /water at the Aloha Tower sundries-last store, lower level, near the water on first row next to ship- back on just in time for the muster drill, less choking life vests than other ships but hot and crowded, took about 10 min time, they had started calling out cabin #'s before the announcements, and never finished completing that for our group. Luggage has arrived back at cabin after muster, unpack and dress for dinner in Le Bistro. Have 6PM reservation-- find table for 4, 2 chairs and 2 in cushioned booth,, nice comfortable seating but difficult for servers to reach corner of booth side. GREAT food! We had eaten Le Bistro on the Norwegian Sea in February and loved the menu..Escargot, Mushroom soup in a bread bowl, Caesar Salad, and Filet Mignon--- Delicious!!! Great Service and wonderful desert,, I had the chocolate fondue, pineapple, strawberries, banana and some small round cake pieces to dip in the warm chocolate... Fruit was served in a half pineapple shell... beautiful ending to our first dinner on the Star!!! Finished in time for Sailaway party on Deck 12, Ironics was playing on the poolside stage..a light rain began just at the ship"s horn (whistle?) signaled we were leaving port.. Went to the preview show Great Adventure--in Stardust lounge.. Deck 6 & 7 Forward-- large auditorium with movie stadium style seating, good viewing from the main seating areas, the nice lounges on deck 7 view hampered by these plexiglass plates... no place for drinks tho-- and no center aisle which make it difficult to get out or into row after people have claimed their space. Enjoyable show, Cruise director John Anderson--very young in appearance, didn't seem to have the seasoned cruise director spiel and talent of our previous cruise directors... his bad jokes were really BAD---assistant Sharon was capable and personable..didn't have contact with any other cruise activity staff on the cruise. Show previews the entertainment and activities for the week aboard the star. Bit rocky leaving the calm harbor of Honolulu..off to bed about 10:30 pm still on Eastern time, a lot of passengers had traveled today and were dragging all night on the ship..glad we were able to have the 2 days pre-cruise to adjust a bit. Monday June 17th, 2002 Hilo, Big Island Up Early 5:30 Am as we had to meet our excursion 7:15Am..have nice shower -- best one yet at sea,..like the large showerhead with rain soft pressure that wakes you up slowly! Market cafe for breakfast is a busy place,,, wow..here is where all the passengers are today...we grab a decent plate of food and then pack up ready to go to meet our excursion--Volcano National Park Odyssey-- booked thru the pre-booked excursion pamphlet sent months prior to our trip.We have cousin Earl as our guide and driver.. takes us up the volcano giving commentary of vegetation and history information on Hilo as we travel. Ist stop steam vents and we get a glimpse at the incredible heat that is being vented from inside the earth, on to the top to the visitor center, have nice view of crater, see lava fissure and then get a walk thru an actual lava tube... back to Hilo, we stop for 45 min at the Manua Loa Macadamia nut factory.. would have preferred a shorter stop, place was mobbed with several tour groups, but did have several samples of the macadamia nuts available, bought a bunch for gifts back to the ship. Call home to check on the kids, who are with their Aunt for the week in Ocean City, spoiled rotten... then back in HUGE line to return to the ship....slow process with security and number of passengers all returning at same time, took about 20 minutes. Nothing near pier in Hilo, tho did see several shopping shuttles, to Hilo Hatties and Walmart???? yep, some passengers were spending their precious Hawaiian Island time in Walmart..go figure! Have lunch in Versailles Restaurant, Deck 6 AFT..back by the GREEN stairs and elevator bank-- have to go thru on another deck, no passage thru on Deck 6 after the Red Stairs and Aqua restaurant. Decide to try the Spa after lunch, afraid it had been discovered but still was not crowded, just no open padded loungers with view over aft part of ship. Try the pool, lukewarm temp , shallow, and enjoy the hydrotherapy pool with the white rack inside to lay out on while you bubble away the afternoon...Delightful!!! Calming new age music is playing while you escape from the world.. Beautiful design , lovely lovely setting hidden in back of ship. Dress and relax in cabin a bit then head up to the Biergarten Restaurant on Deck 14 for the Cruise Critic meet. Only the 4 of us are there to meet James Deering- Hotel Director, and Mark Lockwood-Food and Beverage Manager... the week prior they had a nice crowd at the cruise critic meet, I know there were several other cruise critic posters aboard with us -- it was ok for us... you all MISSED OUT,,, since one of the garden villas was not occupied for the week, we got a private tour... Amazing!! $27,000 fare for the week, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom, large dinning and living space with full glass window overlooking the pools, private butler to serve your every need, huge walk in closets, and large bathrooms with jacuzzi tubs and TV!-- outside a large dining table, private hot tub , sauna and steam room and steps to a sun deck all of your own.. it was a glance at another world!!!!! 5.900 square feet of living space all decorated very tastefully and comfortably for those who can afford this luxury--wow..they told us the week before they had had the Cruise Critic group meet there for a party... and then a honeymoon couple was given the villa for 2 nights as a surprise honeymoon gift... we were Jealous!!! These were great gentlemen to meet and their intent was just to share their knowledge of the ship and answer any questions you might have. They also told us to contact them if we had any special needs on the cruise this week... It was nice to meet up with them from time to time aboard the ship and have a 'special' connection... Kudos' to both James and Mark, you made our cruise very memorable! Headed to Versailles after that for Italian night, liked desert Tiramasu best.. hit the 9PM show by Comedy-Magician Lorenzo Clark, pretty talented and funny-liked his song with the 155 music titles. Tuesday June 18th, 2002 up again early 5:30 am... go to our favorite early morning coffee stop the blue lagoon cafe on Deck 7 Starboard.. grab coffee and pastry and find a nice table looking off promenade deck--our favorite way to start the day, we escaped the bustle of the market cafe this way. Do a lap of the promenade deck-- 4 laps = 1.4 miles for those who are more energetic than me. Versailles for a nice breakfast,,try the Hawaiian blintzes if it is on your menu..excellent! Captain announces during breakfast 8AM that due to a medical emergency, 89 yr old woman fell and broke her hip around 3am last night so the ship has turned around to return to Hawaii, and we will not be going to Fanning Island. He said that the Miami office was working on a new itinerary and he would announce that as soon as it was available.. Wow..that was a shock,,had heard about the several times the ship had made rescues and how it had returned for an injured crewman..but didn't think it would happen to us. Dinning room is buzzing with the news,,but not much grumbling, think most of them wanted the extra time in Hawaii- We had brought gifts for the children of Fanning and had planned a nice beach day there so we had some mixed feelings.. and worried if the changed itinerary might not give us that much more island time.. All worked out well tho, Captain announced around 10 am that we would spend Wednesday in Kona, Big Island 7AM-6PM, and Thursday in Lahania, Maui..7:30AM-6PM , going to regular schedule for Thurs-Sunday. -- to me a perfect itinerary,,just what I would have chosen had I been able to design the ships course for the week. I went up to the library on Deck 12 to get some books on Big Island and do some information gathering for our group. Great Library (as a librarian, I can attest that this is the best collection I have viewed on the sea, their selection of travel guides for Hawaii is terrific) found several to check out and view that afternoon before the shore excursions would be posted at 3PM. Tried the internet cafe on Deck 9 to send a quick email to the kids, had a frustrating experience, the connection was fast but did not allow me to send email from my library account or the one that I had opened on cruise-addicts for this trip, I ended up sending from my AOL account -- was 9 min online, $10.+ for this experience,,,did not use again as we were able to phone home from the islands at cheapo phone card rates...They did offer some minute plans that were more reasonable than the $3.95 activation fee + .75 per minute rate. There is no timer on the screen so beware how fast that time ticks by. I did not see a weekly rate as they have sometimes done in the past. Latitudes cocktail party in Spinnaker Lounge is at 11:15AM rather strange time for a cocktail party., have a bloody mary and some weird appetizers... Fiona the Latitudes liaison introduces the ship's officers, captain seems younger than most of the ones we have had on previous cruises,,, didn't win the door prizes, spa specials, photo coupons or bottles of champagne. Eat lunch on pool deck where they are grilling ribs, steaks and sausages.. great ribs... tried to get some popcorn from Red Lion pub to bring to movie,,but they don't pop the corn til 3PM..went to cinema on Deck 12, nice sized cinema, decent sized screen, place is packed..and I get to sit by this guy who is cracking his knuckles every minute, chewing on his fingers and making grunting noises..but still managed to enjoy the movie Oceans 11-- Brad Pitt, George Clooney, yea, liked those hunks on the screen!! Headed down to the shore excursion desk after that to see what they had posted for Kona on Wednesday, line was growing already at 2:45 .. they began to pass out excursion booklets around 3PM, actual forms around 3:10 or so..we were about 10th in line and it was getting pretty mobby by 3:15 ... We decided to do the Kamanu Sail and Snorkel ($67 pp) in the afternoon in Kona... had about 8 or so excursions to choose from for Kona, same for Lahania..pretty quick work NCL, I was impressed!!! Formal night on the Star..we were among the 30% or so that stuck to 'resort casual' lots of business for formal portraits in the atrium..I didn't hear about any restaurant being the 'formal' one, we choose Aqua since the menu was identical to Versailles and we figured we would have less difficulty getting seated. No line at 5:30 when we were there, but it soon grew after that. Had our table for 4, good food Lobster or Beef Wellington were our choices...Delicious! Saw Dave from New York comedian in the Spinnaker lounge after dinner, good sharing of stupid cruise passenger experiences..that he claims are true!! like,,the woman who phoned to the reception desk..asking why when she had booked an ocean view cabin,, when we were DOCKED in Honolulu, she had a view of the parking lot!!!! He was funny and seemed to enjoy his comedy.. healing from a throat infection..he managed well. I headed for a nap so I could view the Volcano lava flow to ocean while the rest of our group went to the Gatsby to listen to Jeffrey Allen do his Beatles tribute,,talented pianist..we enjoyed listening to him several evenings on the trip. They wake me up and we head to Deck 7 for the volcano view. Captain had turned the ship up along the coast line after tendering in the injured passenger at Kona... we arrived near the lava flow just after 11PM.. we went up to Deck 12 for a better view not as hampered by ship's lighting.. you could see the faint glow of red in a trail snaking down the volcano towards the sea, sometimes it would flare up in places, unfortunately my camera couldn't capture this on film... interesting and glad we had the chance to see it for REAL. Wednesday June 19, 2002 Kona, Big Island Watched the sunrise from our special Deck 7 viewpoint, later had a surprise when the boat worker appeared outside our cabin's porthole window to winch down the lifeboat before they could use them as tenders in Kona.. beware, sometimes there are humans outside in view!!-- if you can see them, they can see you!! Eat in Versailles, have nice table with view out Aft windows (beautiful arched windows) Tender off ship around 10AM,,they called the first 4 tender groups and then went to go at your leisure tendering.. Fit about 40 people in each tender boat, quick 10 min ride to harbor. Lots of shopping in Kona, also have the famous Walmart or Hilo Hattie shuttle choices,,, we stay in town and hit the many little shops along the coastline. Stop for soda on 2nd level of restaurant overlooking port..nice place to watch the activity. Paul went back on the tender to return all of the packages we had from our shopping excursion... stopped on Deck 7 and brought us back some yummy banana bread too. Met John the owner of the Kamunu Catamaran at 12:45... loaded up our group of 24 into his van and 2 taxi's and headed 10 min ride to the Marina..they take our shoes and we meet his first mate Kat who instructs us on safety issues. We board the Kamunu and motor for about 1/2 hour to Pawili bay, clouds up over us..we have 1 1/2 hours of snorkel time to explore the area, pretty good snorkeling, better clarity than Hanauma Bay in Oahu... see lots of fish and even the state fish of Hawaii, Humuhumunukunukuapauaa... take some underwater photos with our disposable camera. Back on board we have soda, free beer, and sandwiches, pretzels and fruit. They hoist the sails and we have a nice ride back to the Marina... taxi for the people that didn't fit into the Kamunu van has not arrived, one comes about 5PM...the rest of us wait til about 5:15 when John decides to make 19 of us all fit into the van-Cozy- to make the last tender at 5:30PM..I am sure the Star would not be happy to have us return late and hold up the ship.. We make it just in time and jump on the tender while they disassemble the security gates and other port facilities to bring on the tender along with us. Shower and head to Aqua... about 7PM no lines for us..place is noisy tho.. have a table near the entrance and it is a bustling place. Need to plan ahead for the specialty restaurants and commit to a time..that is the one part of freestyle dining that doesn't fit our style..more on that later....President's dinner, has some interesting choices. Mark Lockwood, the food and beverage manager stops by to greet us and fills our special desert request..amazing--where are they hiding that magical refrigerator with our favorite cake??? Listen to Jeffrey Allen on the piano in the Gatsby's before going to variety show in the Startdust. Mix of shows from the week, nice entertainment. Paul and I decide to find the hot tub on deck 13 after the show..probably around 10PM..the pool deck is deserted..we jump in the hot tub pool side and enjoy the vast ship--where is everyone?/ a bit strange but nice to have such privacy with 2000+ passengers aboard. Bit cold going back to cabin in the air conditioned hallways... ordered pizza room service and Cookies!!! NCL cookies are the best at sea..love those macadamia ones~ Thursday June 20th, 2002 Lahania, Maui Up early on deck 7 with our coffee from Blue Lagoon to watch the sunrise over Maui... beautiful sail into the harbor between islands.. perfect windless day the harbor has a glass like surface to the ocean. Start tendering around 7AM and go to tender as you please around 7:30..had heard they had such problems tendering in Lahania in the past that it was one of the factors in changing to the other side of Maui for the regular schedule..we had no problems with tendering in either Lahaina, or Kona on this trip. Breakfast , in Versailles, nice and filling as usual. Then off on tender, reach shore in about 15 minutes.. Lahania is a busy town, lots of stores, nice visitors center in the 2 story courthouse building next to the Banyan Tree Park,...loved the park-- did an hour of shopping along the Front Street shops, We planned to go up to Black Rock , Kannapali beach for snorkeling and tried to get the shuttle bus ($1) from the visitors center, but after about 1/2hr wait flagged a cab..our driver Nia was from Vietnam originally, took us to the path on the far side of the Sheraton for $11 + tip... arranged for him to pick us up at 2:30PM to return to port. Walked to beach then decided to find a lunch stop before snorkeling, walked a bit up from the Sheraton to the Royal Lahania Resort which had a nice bar/restaurant overlooking their pool and beach there..nice burger lunch with MAUI chips... then over to the beach. Water was a bit cooler than the warm Caribbean we were expecting,,but great snorkeling at the Black Rock,, good visibility and lots of fish , saw one strange black long fish with a snout that I had not seen before, someone said they had spotted a moray eel but I didn't see it.. Enjoyed sitting in the sun and relaxing for a hour or so... met the wife of Nia who was our driver on the way home, nice to talk to a 'local' and get their input on life on Maui.. beautiful area but Lahania, Kanappali were too busy , touristy for our tastes. Quick tender back after a phone call to the kids (not homesick yet) hit the ice cream (tucked back near spa on deck 12 behind the Market Cafe on starboard side of the ship) & Cookies!!!!! Showered and took a nap before dinner. Called to the Teppanyaki restaurant to see about reservations for Friday.. said they only had 3 seatings, 6, 8 ,10 and that the only openings were at 10 (only have space for 12 at each seating)-- we decided that was too late to eat (& pay) they suggested we try after we got back on ship in Kahului as some passengers cancel being late in port that night. Steak and baked potato in the Versailles provided us a tasty dinner.. Fame show in the Stardust was next, then off for more comedy in the Spinnaker lounge. after 11 pm when show is finished, hot tubs close at 11PM (why?) so no relaxing soak before bed for us tonight....boo hoo. Friday June 21, 2002 Kahului, Maui tried for a sleep in since we do not get to port til after 1PM (due to barge in harbor)-- ship circles around Maui and Molokai for some interesting scenery.. kinda rough seas out and cloudy, Paul sees a rainbow in the distance in the early morning off deck 7. Docked around 1PM and had a wait before they cleared the ship for disembarking around 1:30 PM..quite a wait in the gangway that was hampered in getting ashore with the photographer stopping passengers in the middle of the gangway to snap photos... all the people around us (and us!) boycotted him from shooting our photo when we made it there...can't he set up some place nearby where it would not hold up passengers getting off of the ship???..there was only 1 gangway open for the passengers, the other one reserved for the ship excursions-- pet peeve of mine!!!!!!! We had reservations for either Alamo or Avis ( OCP-obsessive cruise planner that I am) so took the packed Alamo shuttle to the rental place, right next door was the Avis rental with no one in line so we walked across and got our little red car right there. 2 right turns, and a left at the K-mart and we were off on the road to Hana... first part is pretty normal driving 2 lane highway, after you pass the town of Paia..it changes quickly to this series of hairpin turns, open vistas of coastine and incredible junglelike greenery. I had the Maui Revealed book to guide us on our way down the road. Sail boarders were out at the Hookipa Park..got a bit of video of their amazing feats on the waves..then on to the turns, and one lane bridges ets...signs say "road narrows" DUH!!-- it was a nice ride as a passenger, I was the navigator and Paul the driver, he told me I could only nag him 12 times and then he would make me drive! No way was I driving but still couldn't resist nagging when I would spot a car not yielding to traffic our way!! We stopped at waterfall after waterfall, delightful little pools of water underneath, clouds and sun were alternating the afternoon... we drove down to mile marker 25 or so and I made Paul drive down the 2 1/2 miles of Nickiu Road that takes you down the coast line next to this mini swimming hole..beautiful.. .rain just started as we headed back... and rained off and on most of the drive back, seemed a bit less deadly on the return route for some reason...probably jaded by it all by then.Spotted a perfect arched rainbow on one hill and stopped for a photo.. woman who lived there was getting her mail and said she saw one every day there !! -stopped by for some sunset pictures at the Hookipa state park, filled gas tank ($1.86 per gallon-@ $8 to fill our tank from our afternoon excursion) right at K-mart and circled the airport to find the car rental return..($43 rental total with taxes for our intermediate Oldsmobile Alero) quick shuttle back to ship and aboard sometime around 8PM>>. headed up to pool deck for sailaway party..had the grills with shrimp, steak, ribs, baked potatoes, 2 for 1 drinks... music playing, a bit on the windy side by the pool. We had a covered table on the starboard side. Watch the not so newlywed game, ,kinda dull, not the laugh a minute experience we have had previously...let one couple whisper their final answer on the most unusual place they had made whoopee--No fair!!!!!! Yummy sauteed pineapple on ice cream in the Market Cafe for Desert. Late 10:45 show in Spinnaker Lounge featuring Jeffrey Allen as Elton John, great show, very talented musician--enjoyed it much... then the finality of the evening..the Chocoholic Buffet... it looked very nice, but on close inspection, there were maybe a dozen or so offerings maybe decorated or displayed differently..maybe we missed some of the variety as we didn't arrive til 11:45 or so-- in Versailles restaurant... no chocolate dipped strawberries, no chocolate mousse... bummer!! If you can find the little puff swans with chocolate cream filling.. go for it!!! Off to bed with chocolate in tummy and Hawaiian memories in our dreams. Saturday June 22, 2002 Nawiliwili, Kauai Watched the ship approach port into Nawiliwili...interesting coastline, kinda cloudy and rough seas out there. I am already bummed this being our last full day on the Star. We were scheduled for the excursion Hanalei Adventure that we had prebooked months ago... didn't want to have all day on a bus with our long plane ride home the next day.. planned for a nice tour in the morning and maybe shopping or beach in the afternoon. Make early breakfast in the Versailles (scrambled eggs, powdered??, don't know, don't bother! better choices available) and then meet our excursion group in the lounge at 8:30. Have big tour bus and driver Rich Mehune... he is a nice guy but is a school bus driver, this is his part time job on Sat when ship is in harbor..and it showed..he just didn't have the information that we had hoped to have about Kauai..we learned a LOT about him and his family but not about the island. .. First stop, Oappeka Falls, pretty but not impressive after all we had seen in Maui the day before, then along the coastline, some nice sights, next stop was the Guava Tree Plantation, 30 min.. nice gift shop, decent nature trail and an ice cream store.. little info on Guava Trees and free samples of Guava juice.. another 1/2 hr. ride to the Hanalai Valley overlook... it was raining here and we got out for some misty photos of the taro fields below... then Rich turns the bus back to port. I questioned him since I had remembered when I booked the excursion that the Hanalei Bay was featured as a stop..he said no, these large buses could not navigate the bridge over there so it was not included... I decided to see the excursion information that i had used to book the trip before making any more of it. It was a nice trip back with Rich giving us more information about his life on the island..but not what I had expected to see or learn on this trip..a disappointment..1st of the cruise. Lunch in Versailles,,,nice Cobb Salad! My sister and I decide to hit the shops one more time... take the shuttle to anchor cove,,small shopping area about 1/2mile from the ship.. see the beach behind the Marriott hotel, pretty crowded but nice. Shuttle takes us back to ship along with a woman who had to be carried on the bus.. she had twisted her leg in the heavy surf there, glad we decided to skip the beach afternoon after seeing her pain. Did a final shopping stop at Hilo Hatties, big store, not so wonderful prices..we were disappointed-- skipped hiking to the walmart next door, we were running out of $$. Catch the shore excursion manager Sean Adair in the terminal before we go back on the ship. I questioned him about our Hanalei adventure tour as I had reread our booklet and when we had pre-booked the trip months before our cruise it did go to Hanalei Bay..but the flyer available on the ship had changed the excursion from the Bay to the overlook...Sean tried to say that we should have checked our excursion with the current info to see if anything had changed, I argued they should have notified us of the changes with our tickets that were at our cabin when we boarded. He said we had to address the problem in writing so that was the end of the discussion on the pier. Just a heads up to anyone who has pre-booked excursions....just to avoid this kind of disappointment.. read the current excursion flyer on the ship when you board..and make sure that they have not changed anything about your trip..we would have chosen differently had we known or gone with the alamo rental car we had reserved just in case there was a problem with our planned excursion. Hindsight...I have learned! Back on ship I compose the letter to the shore excursion manager, go to the reception desk and have it copied along with our pre-booking confirmation, the wording from the excursion booklet before it was changed.. and left it on the computer at the shore excursion desk with our request to have this handled that night. I will say that this matter was resolved to my satisfaction and I appreciate that Sean Adair had this taken care of before we went to sleep for the night. Drop by the reception desk with our gifts for the children of Fanning.. hope they can be delivered with the voyage this week. Farewell dinner in Versailles, we had a nice table near the captains' table -- Filet mignon again!! toasted our cruise and our 25th wedding anniversaries-- good service and a surprise!! (thanks) Watched Dave from NY comedy show in Spinnaker, went back to cabin for last minute packing (luggage in hallway by midnight) discovered another surprise (thanks again!!) What a night, what a cruise, what a wonderful memory...I was ready to sign on as a staff member (librarian???) just to stay aboard longer!!! Sunday June 23rd, 2002 Honolulu 6AM alarm (wake up call on phone, need to use military time .. 4 digits) came too darn early..this was the day that I did not want to wake up to..the day we had to disembark from the star...Quick shower and then to the Aqua for our last meal on the Star.. then to the star dust lounge at 7:45 AM to meet our excursion Honolulu cultural and historic tour. Great tour driver Chris from Robert's Hawaii..he had tons of information for us about Pearl Harbor and his city... Learned a lot!!! Got to the huge Arizona memorial line about 8:30 am or so..winded around for an hour before we were handed our ticket for program 15-11:15 am-- had an hour 45 min wait at the crowded visitors center... long restroom line..snacks available, small museum, busy gift shop, and outside plaques with information. Make another call home-- and then we watch the movie. Created from actual footage of the attack provided from the Americans as well as the Japanese... moving tribute to that day and so many lives lost. Board the shuttle boat to the memorial... 10 min ride, hard to hear the commentary in the boat... on the memorial you can still see the rainbow effect from the oil seeping @ 1 quart per day (according to tour driver Chris) and will continue to seep for another 40-50 yrs!! I have on my lei that we had gotten when we embarked on the star,, the rangers said I could detach the petals from the string and throw them in the harbor..wasn't planned but made for a nice ending for this excursion. Back on the bus we headed up to the Punchbowl cementary, then thru downtown Honolulu- stopped back at the pier to drop off several lucky passengers on the Maui-Maui itinerary who still had most of their cruise ahead of them...we could see the new week cruisers getting ready to enter the terminal for their trip...wanted to turn the clock back 7 days and do it over again...this time we would relax more and the trip to fanning island would be a nice retreat.... but bus went on the traffic filled highway on to the airport...we sadly dragged our luggage into the terminal..did some more last minute shopping.. and waited for our 5:30 flight on Northwest back to reality... depression was setting in. FYI---Need to have all film in carry on as they scan with high intensity x-ray all checked baggage. we missed our little waterproof camera so we may have lost all those nice fish photos we took on the cruise. Trip home was cramped, LONG and cramped and LONG... stopped in Minneapolis and then on to Baltimore..hot in Baltimore...we were home, maybe 2 hours sleep in 24 hours and the return to reality was a smack in the face..our delightful children welcomed us home - asked if we could go away again next year so they could be spoiled rotten in Ocean City and then demanded FOOD--Home Sweet Home... --------------------------------- Star Cruise Tips Stairway colors will help guide you -- Blue is Forward, Red is Midship, Green is Aft!!! Don't miss the beautiful artwork and decorations above the elevators, we were still finding new ones to admire as we were leaving the ship... Hit that Spa as soon as you can-- a relaxing treasure on the ship Spinnaker lounge has a great view daytime Nice Card rooms, reading rooms near library on the 12th deck Cookies in the Blue Lagoon Cafe or Market Cafe in afternoon... GREAT If you don't participate in the hula lessons, stop by their graduation on Fri... nice dancing guys!! Good Hawaii documentaries on cabin TV Appetizers available in Biergarten, Los Ramblas and Red Lion Pub after 5PM Le Bistro only has happy hour discount cover charge on 1st night Ginza has discount for most nights on cruise Beautiful gardens in the Honolulu airport to relax in if you have a late night flight Check out the happy hour drinks each day,,big $$ saver!! Brng along a nice insulated mug..the cups are small and placed midway in the beverage station so that you have to go to the middle of the station to get a cup , then find a space on the end where the coffee or water is located to fill the cup. Don't miss the Monday night Cruise Critic meet!!! What were they thinking? Cabin Decor- we had blue carpeting with red diamonds, then bright green bedspreads with a yellow knot design, curtains were orange, black and yellow stripes... UGLY!!! really detracted from the nice furnishings and overall appearance. Endless Summer restaurant- bordered on both sides of deck 8, the only way to travel from aft to mid ship on deck 8 was to walk thru restaurant,,, uncomfortable when there are passengers dining in the evening. Photographers blocking both sides of deck 7 atrium giving zero access to reception desk or the hallways leading to either the blue lagoon restaurant or the Versailles Restaurant stairwell. Photographers holding up hundreds of passengers so that they can coerce you into getting their gangway photo opportunity Not enough seating by the pool deck for eating-- Dish washing window in the Aqua restaurant??? Why???? UGLY artwork in Aqua restaurant Metal Screen artwork in stairwell No place for drinks in Stardust Lounge,,, must cost them $$$$$$ 1 Stall woman's bathroom nearby the Gatsby Lounge Latitudes information not provided until the cocktail party (11:15 Am??) on Tuesday. not well communicated to staff on ship..we could not find a waiter in the Spinnaker Lounge who was aware of the discount there. My humble opinion of Freestyle For us Freestyle works.. we like the flexibility of time..when we want to eat is the most important factor. Not being tied to a set time to be at dinner made this cruise relaxing as compared to the traditional ones where we would scramble to make our early dining seating . We usually ate before 7PM and did not experience any waits at any restaurant we chose to dine at. We did not use the specialty restaurants except for the first night at Le Bistro (++++).. we checked the menus and most of them did not appeal to us. For us the negatives, to have to commit to a time to eat, to have to pay for this choice.. did not outweigh the excellent food we had in the dining rooms... We tried to get a reservation at Teppanaki but with their limited seating times and limited seating capacity it was not available when we wanted to dine. The specialty restaurants require you to plan ahead to make reservations and decide ahead of time.. & that cramps our style... The cruise director spiel said that paying in the specialty restaurants is what you have to expect for getting a more exclusive dining experience... I guess that is true.. .but part of me is resisting the add on charges when you have the choice not to pay extra for that exclusive dining experience. Service in Le Bistro was wonderful, but I didn't know what to do when I got the check with the line for additional tip...aren't the tips for the cruise all supposed to be included in that $10 service charge?? doesn't seem right to have to pay extra to dine, and tip extra for the service too?? There are specialty restaurants, the Endless Summer and La Trattoria that have no charges added on...but you have to reserve ahead...did get feedback from other passengers who had larger tables 6 person +, and dined later who had more difficulty being seated promptly in the main dining rooms. Except for one breakfast, we always dined with the 4 of us together ... we did not have the one on one interaction with a waiter that you can have with the traditional dining method...it was more like being in a restaurant with new wait staff every meal... we were happy with the service we received and felt the staff did exceptionally well with making freestyle work. We saw a wonderful waiter perform little tricks with napkins for the table of children near where we were sitting. For us we prefer not to have to dress up for formal night if we have that choice.... it made it easier for us to pack and made for a more relaxing afternoon on Tuesday for us. So , the grand debate continues, for our group of 4 Freestyle was great... if you have a large family group, I can see the daily decision making of where to eat and getting a large table would be difficult with Freestyle. Overall The Star Shines- (check out the stars in the Aqua restaurant ceiling) This ship only on the seas for a bit over 6 months now has gone thru an incredible evolution...She had a difficult itinerary that keeps getting thrown off course by events not in her control, it has incredible staff with a concern for passenger satisfaction that exceeds any ship we have sailed on... The overall design and attention to detail are amazing...check out the ceilings in the Endless Summer Restaurant, the beautiful chandeliers in the Versailles, the sculptures in the atrium... a wide range of artwork in every stairwell..it was fun to play art critic when we would descend from the top decks. We were blessed with great weather, a changed itinerary that enhanced our cruise & no real problems health or otherwise all week. We loved the ship, enjoyed every port (well, maybe Kauai could have been better) and devoured every meal. For all you past and future cruisers who have hung on thru this long long trip review.. I only hope you had or will have just as wonderful of a cruise on the Norwegian Star as we did. Calm seas and Blue skies to all future cruisers... Aloha!! cmitchel@bcpl.netJuly 2002 Read Less
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 absolutely ... Read More
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 absolutely 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 arrived 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 (RCCL) 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 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 lobster 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 NCL Dawn in 2003. That's about it, sorry for the length! If I forgot anything, just ask.Zuzie1@aol.comJuly 2002 Read Less
Itinerary: Oahu, Hawaii, Fanning Is., Maui, Kauai, Oahu. This was our 5th cruise, the first on NCL. We are both middle aged, and left the kids at home this time. We spent 3 days before and 3 days after the cruise in Oahu. We had ... Read More
Itinerary: Oahu, Hawaii, Fanning Is., Maui, Kauai, Oahu. This was our 5th cruise, the first on NCL. We are both middle aged, and left the kids at home this time. We spent 3 days before and 3 days after the cruise in Oahu. We had the top inside cabin, category [ii], deck 11. We booked cruise only, no fly or stay packages with NCL. EMBARKATION This embarkation was the smoothest ever. Check-in is supposed to start at 1pm at the Aloha Tower, and we drove by at 11:30 to see what was up. There was a bit of a line, about 20 yards long, which was not moving because the doors were not open yet. But luggage reception was open, so we parked and got rid of our luggage, which is just across a sidewalk from the car, into the terminal door, and they take it right there. Then we left to turn the car in. When we got back by cab at 12:00 the line was about 30 yards long but the doors were open and it was moving. So we looked around the shops till 12:30, when there were only a few people in the line, and then went in. NCL staff have trays of juice drinks if you are thirsty, a nice touch. Check-in was fast, getting our ship cards and going through security, and we were on the ship in about 15-20 minutes with a gorgeous orchid lei. At 1pm there was no line at all. We had some lunch on the ship in the Market Cafe buffet, and then left the ship to do some more things. If you are off the ship at 5pm you miss the hot and boring fire drill. All aboard call is 7:30 for 8pm sailing. There is a baggage holding service there which will hold your luggage for $5 per bag until 7:30pm. There is no reason to use them if boarding, just give the ship your luggage, but it might be useful if staying in Honolulu for the afternoon after your cruise. THE SHIP The Star is beautiful and well maintained. The cabins are a bit smaller than CCL, more the size of Celebrity, with cherry/redwood trim, lots of mirrors and chrome, a great shower with a door instead of a clingy curtain, and enough storage space with luggage under one of the beds. It would have been a classier cabin without the sailor knots bedspread, and the loud carpet. Bring a power bar for the one outlet on the vanity, and you might want a clock to wake you up in port. The hairdryer was good. Outside the door is a cool disc you can turn on the wall indicating "Don't Disturb", "Make up Cabin", "Turn Down Cabin", "Welcome", a nice improvement over the door knob cards that fall off all the time. The ice bucket fits in the fridge, keeping it cold longer. Free soap and shampoo in the shower, and a clothesline in the shower. Our only cabin complaint was the thin walls, as other reviewers have noted. If your neighbors raise their voice you can hear them talking through the walls. This was ok with us, except our neighbors on one side ran their TV night and day, and we could easily tell which show they were watching, and a lot of the dialogue. Several nights after midnight we got the ship to ask them to turn it down. We don't really fault our neighbors, just the thin walls. We hardly ever heard the people on the other side. And the ship is creaky out in the ocean when we got into the swells, it sounded like someone was walking on a squeaky floor in the next room, and another noise was a patter like a raccoon running across the roof. This didn't bother us, but if you like it quiet when you're sleeping you might bring earplugs. The Market Cafe was the deck above us, so we heard lots of restaurant noises when they shutting down at night and gearing up in the morning. We also agreed with other reviewers that the 2 large yellow waterslides make the pool look more like Disneyland than a cruise ship. Pool lounge chairs were hard to find between 10 and 4, as on all the ships we've been on, but there are lots of other areas with chairs to relax and tan. The gym was a bit smaller than on the CCL and Celebrity ships, and it would have been nice if the treadmills faced the ocean instead of the atrium. The jogging track was good, not slippery when wet, but it narrowed on each side of the ship so you had to squeeze past people. There was no water fountain at any point on the track like other ships had. The ship has an internet cafe (coffee only), which charges 75 cents a minute, or package deals for about $50 and another for about $100. If you wait to use it until the first day at sea you get a first logon credit of $3.95. All passengers automatically get an email account as you'll see on your cruise ticket, but you could just surf to your web email and use that. To check a couple messages and write short replies ate up between $3 and $4, which we did a few times. We joked with the webmaster that we were his stingiest accounts. There were about 12-15 stations, and always lots of room, not very busy. THE RESTAURANTS The ship was sold out, so to alleviate congestion they turned 2 pay restaurants into free ones, the Endless Summer (Hawaiian) and the Trattoria (Italian). The 2 other free ones are the Aqua and the Versailles, and the meals were fine in both of them, lots of choice, and equivalent to an upscale city restaurant. The Aqua is more casual, and the Versailles is formal, modeled after a European chateau. The most dramatic table locations in the Versailles are by the side or rear windows, with a view of the ocean as you dine. You can't reserve at the Versailles, so to be sure to get a view table you have to arrive when they open at 5:30. Later you could get one if people are leaving as you arrive, or you could tell the maitre'd you'll wait for one. The menus in the pay restaurants (about $10 pp) are the same every day. The Trettoria has pizza, lasagna, chicken parmagiana, and sirloin steak. The Endless Summer has ribs, tuna, rock cod, and coconut chicken. The Bistro (French) has filet done 2 ways, salmon, chicken w/ cognac, seabass, and a veggie dish. In the Ginza (Asian Fusion) you can choose 2 entrees from a list of 11. The Soho (Pacific Rim cuisine) has monkfish, tiger shrimp, steak, lamb rack, cider veal, and a veggie dish. I haven't listed all the sauces/creams or how they cook the dishes, or the other courses with the meals ... appetizers, starters, soups, salads. The Blue Lagoon is a 24 hour snack bar with free wings, potato skins, fish and chips, etc, but milkshakes are $2.50. The Market Cafe is the main ship buffet, open for all meals. It's great for breakfast or lunch, but better to have dinner elsewhere. Every day at the pool they do a rib, chicken, and steak b'b'cue with salads and fruit, very good. Free water and ice tea, all other drinks are billed to your cabin. The only pay meal we had was in the Bistro because it's a lovely romantic setting, and the food was fine. We tried getting into the Endless Summer, but it was usually booked solid. You can book the pay restaurants a day ahead. Only large groups can book the Aqua or Versailles. We had a booking for the Endless Summer one night, but when we saw things we liked better in the menu posted outside the Versailles, we cancelled the Endless Summer reservation and went to the Versailles. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was fine, good song and dance shows, good comedians, and very good Asian acrobats. The pool band rocked, and all the bars had some type of live entertainment. Karaoke was popular, and hot dance lessons in the disco were too, line dancing, etc. Swing music by the ship band in another dance lounge. A fun Asian rock bank at the pool. Something for everyone. Plus various ship activities, games, bingo, pool contests, etc. It's got as much action as a Carnival cruise. PORTS Oahu/Honolulu If you boarded in Maui you'll have the whole day in Oahu, and if you board in Honolulu you could embark at noon, have lunch in the Market Garden cafe, and be off the ship by 2 to see the sights. It's tempting to stay on board and check out the ship, but there are several interesting things to do in the port area that can easily be done before the all-aboard call at 7:30 or 8pm sailing. And you would miss the hot and boring fire drill with your lifejacket on, at 5pm. We spent 3 days before and 3 days after the cruise in Waikiki. Waikiki Beach is a quick $15 cab ride from the ship, and it's always hopping. The main drag running along the beach is Kalahaua Ave, with tons of people strolling along, shops of every kind, from Gucci to an International Market of stall vendors, hotels, bars, and it's beautiful and clean. Have your cabbie drop you off around Kalahaua and Lewers St., and then stroll east on Kalahaua towards the Diamond Head crater/mountain. After several blocks the beach gets too close to the road for any more hotels on the beach side, and you are walking right along the edge of the beach. The action runs out a few blocks further along where the hotels end at a park. Then you can walk back to the Lewers area on the other side of Kalahaua, or lay around the beach (if you can find a spot to sit) for awhile and watch the surfers. Another interesting sight is to take a cab up to Diamond Head, perhaps a $10 ride from the beach. You drive through a tunnel into the Diamond Head crater, where there is a parking lot, and you can stroll around the crater, perhaps a mile across. You can pay $1 to enter a path that goes up to the crater summit, a half hour walk and climb. There are stairs and rocky switchbacks, and you shouldn't do this if you are out of shape, but a granny and grandpa made it up by taking their time, and there are lots of rest benches. The view from the top is amazing, you can see all the way to Honolulu, and east up the coast. Another quick and interesting sight is a 15 minute drive up hwy 61 into the mountains to the famous Pali lookout. Then if you had time (and a rental car) you could take the longer 40 minute drive back to Waikiki around the coast on hwy 72, lots of great viewing spots along that route. Another sight is the Pearl Harbor memorials, a short drive from the port. Another fun activity is to take one of the catamaran cruises along the coast. There are 2 that leave Waikiki beach every hour or so. Each operator has a clock at his docking spot showing when the next cruise leaves. And there's one that leaves from the marina near the ship at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm ... it appears to be bigger than the Waikiki ones. The cruises are about $20. It would be cheaper and more convenient than cabs to get a rented car at $30 a day to do some of these. And the rent-a-car companies have great maps on every island, better than the Visitor's Bureaus, lots of detail, notes on exits, food places, etc, at least Alamo did, and I would think the rest would too. When you debark at each island there are staff helping you get through the terminal, just ask where the rental car shuttles are and they will tell you. If you have some extra time to spend in Oahu and want info on kayaking, walking/hiking, local art displays, surfing lessons, or driving directions just email us. You can order a free Tourist Bureau vacation planner online at: www.visit-oahu.com (1-877-525-OAHU). Hilo, Hawaii The next port is Hilo. In the Hawaiian ports you have three main choices for tours ... chopper, bus, or car rental. The people who took chopper rides had a good time, but we just preferred to be on the ground close to the sights. The bus tours cost about $60-80 pp, and the people who took them said they stopped at too many shops, and too many bathrooms, and there are some sights the bus can't get into due to size. Car rentals were about $25-40/day, depending on size, and if you booked ahead on the net. We used Alamo, who rent a full size for $34 on the net on any island. When you leave the ship, walk into the terminal, turn right and walk along the yellow fence to the right hand side of the terminal, and that's where the rental car shuttles are. Alamo has a rep at this port with a cell phone, and he lets you know when the next shuttle is coming, and checks your name on his clipboard. Our name wasn't on it, but he wasn't concerned when we showed him our reservation number, and the office had a car for us (whew!). All the car rental companies had shuttles at each port which ran every 10 minutes or so, but when you're anxious to get going on your sight-seeing it seems like hours to wait, and some reviewers jumped in a $6 cab to the rental site, but we waited and tapped our feet. We didn't hear of anyone who reserved a car who didn't get one. We docked at 6:45. On this island the main attraction is Volcanoes National Park, and it's truly amazing. It's a 40 minute drive straight up hwy 11 into the 4000 foot mountains, 4 lanes most of the way. Turn left into the park entrance, pay $10/car and they will hand you a great map of the park. No need to stop at the visitor's center a bit further on unless you want to talk to a ranger about something. Then you take Crater Rim Drive, several miles, around Kilauea Caldera, an area containing various volcano craters, stem vents, dead lava flows, sulpher deposits, and volcanic landscapes. There are view stops every couple minutes, and it will take your breath away to stand on the edge of these craters, half a mile to a mile wide, looking 100's of feet down at swirls of dead lava and colored deposits, imagining them blowing sky high. Most of them blew between 1950 and 1980s. If pressed for time you might skip the first stop, the steam vents, where rain gets in, is heated by the magma way below, and comes out as steam. But don't miss any other stops, each crater has it's own character. They aren't currently active, and to see lava flowing you have to drive down the Chain of Craters road to the coast, which branches off this Rim road about three quarters of the way around. Then drive a short way along the coast to the East Rift Zone, where Kilauea has been active since '83, and the road is destroyed by recent lava flows. Then you hike into the lava flows. We compared notes before we left with other drivers, and there was no way we could fit that into the time available. We had time to go down the Chain of Craters Road about halfway, I think we got to Mau Loa Manuna Ulu before we were at our midpoint in time and had to turn back. Back on the Rim Drive you come to the Thurstone Lave Tube, a tunnel carved in rock by lava, which you can walk through. It's in a beautiful fern grotto. Then one more stop, Kilauea Iki Overlook, and you're back at the park entrance. We figured we had to leave the park by 11am to make it back to Alamo by 11:40, and get the Alamo shuttle to the ship by 12:15, which we did. All aboard call is 12:30 for 1pm departure. If for some reason you aren't up to doing the volcanoes, there is a short drive to 2 pretty falls near the ship, the Rainbow Falls and the Akaka Falls, and the Panaewa Rain Forest zoo is near, and the Lava Tree State Park with beaches nearby off hwy 137. Fanning Island Fanning Island is an atoll of 3 islands, each about 10 miles long and half a mile wide. There is no electricity, plumbing, or phones. The one road is a sandy 2-track path used by the 1 pickup truck on the island. The islanders live in grass roof huts, unchanged for the past 100 years. NCL built a school, a warehouse style building, in exchange for beach rights. There is no doctor or dentist on the island. There are pictures and descriptions at the Pacific Island Relief Org site: www.interpac.net/~fanning/ Passengers are tendered ashore, and tender tickets are handed out on a first come basis starting at 8am the day before Fanning. We went at 10am and got tender # 12. On Fanning day they call 2 tender tickets at a time, and we were called at 9:15. There is no need to get up early for a lower tender ticket, everyone gets ashore by 10am, and the last tender back is 2:30pm, enough time to do everything. If you miss your tender they let you on a later one. The tender ride is about 10 minutes over a rolling sea. Oh, one tender tip, don't take the red/white enclosed tender from the midship gangway, it's stifling hot because the breeze can't get to the passengers, and everyone gets off panting, a bad start to an already hot island. Take the larger blue/white open air tender from the forward gangway, and you'll feel a nice breeze all the way in. When you step off the pier, the islanders village and their craft area are to the left, and to the right is the NCL area for passengers with 3 or 4 small sandy beaches, with beach chairs, and several b'b'cue areas for the free lunch. Go to the last beach for the most space. Drinks are charged to your cabin, but there is free cold water behind the second beach. Also behind the second or third beach is a pavilion where the islanders put on a dance show, lots of action and energy. On the left of the dock the craft area has perhaps 50 tables set up. The islanders are rather shy, and will not approach you to sell anything, a big change from places like Jamaica and Mexico. They know enough English to tell you how much things cost, but that's about it, although a few have better English. They will smile and say hello if spoken to. There are a few flies buzzing around as noted by other reviewers, but no biting insects that we found. Most of the crafts appear home-made, with 2 exceptions that we saw. There are T-shirts for $15, which are 3/$10 on any other island. And they sold those conical shells that have a scene carved in the top, on a pink background, as if the shell coating has been peeled away to reveal a pink underlayer, and then a scene carved in it. Those are sold at every tourist trap we saw on the cruise. So some stuff is getting imported. We took gifts for the island kids, a dozen finger puppets for the 3-6 year olds, and 50 cent frisbees for the 7-11 y. olds, and gum. We were trying to take things that were easy to pack and carry. When my wife came across a 3-4 y. old at the craft area, or near the huts, or on one of the paths, she would squat down beside the child and show him/her a finger puppet. The kids don't seem afraid, but are cautious and curious. None of them knew what to do with the puppet, probably had never seen one before, so Wendy showed them how it worked on her finger, then asked them to stick out their finger, and put it on for them. Then we put one on our fingers, and wiggled the puppets and did some little puppet conversations. They stared in amazement, then with more coaxing and puppet noises they would move their fingers and smile a bit. Some of the older kids knew what to do with the frisbees, but we had to show others, who then quickly ran off to find a friend to practice with. Almost all of them said thank you, and if a mom was near she reminded them. We heard the school was desperately in need of supplies, and I'm in education, so we took a few things, colored chalk, stickers, pencils, etc. We got chatting with one of the dads at the craft area who spoke good English, we gave him a Canadian flag clothing pin to wear which put a big smile on his face [he'll probably trade it for something later], and when we asked him if we could meet a teacher he told his son to take us to find one of the teachers in the village. He found one of the teachers, Tara, on one of the paths, and we gave him a frisbee which produced a big smile, and he was gone. We told Tara what we had brought, and she took up back to her hut, and we sat down at a table outside the door, and had a good visit. She spoke good English, which she learned at a high school on another island. She got a piece of paper and wrote down what we brought and what it was for, to show the headmaster. I don't think she'd ever seen stickers or clothing pins. We gave her a pin saying "Kids First" with an apple on top, and she asked why the apple. We told her about the North American custom of kids trying to please the teacher by bringing her an apple for a snack, which seemed strange to her. Maybe she didn't know what apples were ... we were told most of the islanders have seen nothing of the outside world, being isolated in the central Pacific. We had to show her how to put the clothing pin on, and she was careful to figure out how the squeeze-clasp behind it worked. She said paper is scarce, and the kids do their schoolwork on hand-held chalk boards, like in No. American about 100 years ago. We got thinking later that they could perhaps use some acetate boards, the kind you write on with a no-ink pen, and erase it by pulling up the clear acetate cover sheet. Perhaps they would rather have some scribblers or notepads, but we tried to think of gifts that would be easy for us to pack and transport. The height of the island is 10 feet above sea level, which would be completely underwater from the tidal surge if a hurricane hit. We asked Tara about that and she just said they'd never had a hurricane, just storms. I don't think she really understood the power of a hurricane. If the one that destroyed 70% of Kauai in 1992 hit them I don't know how any of them would survive, they're too isolated for an evacuation. So we took some pictures and said our good-byes, and strolled further down the path along the beach, coming across a few more craft tables, and an empty primary "school" under a large thatched roof, the teacher's name on a log beam, and the kids mats in rows. We were reluctant to walk through their hut areas, that seemed to be their personal space and it felt like we were in someone's back yard. After a bit we went back to the lunch area, feeling a bit embarrassed at the excess of food there, when the islanders live on coconut, breadfruit, and fish. NCL rents bikes for $10, but there is no reason to do that, there is nowhere to get in a hurry, and it just works up a bigger sweat. Also, the path has puddles and the wheels throw up sand and water on the riders backs (no fenders). We read a couple reviews by people who where "disgusted" at being taken to a scene of such poverty. If you think this would bother you, you should probably just stay to the right of the dock in the b'b'cue/beach area. MAUI Maui was a heartbreaker because of time constraints. We knew we arrived at 1pm, but not that everyone had to go through customs before debarking. First, about 10am find a chair on the starboard side of the ship somewhere and you can watch some nice scenery as the ship approaches Maui. The captain will announce which islands you're passing. After clearing customs (first US port after Fanning) we debarked at 2:30 and were in our rented car by 3:15. The 2 awesome sights too see in Maui are Haleakala National Park and Iao Valley State Park and the Iao Needle, where they shot many movies such as Jurassic Park and Indy Jones. Iao is a valley with amazing vertical carved walls and cliffs on each side, and the famous Iao Needle is a pointed mountain. Waterfalls and streams wind through the valley. Haleakala Park is an erosion crater carved into a volcano 10 thousand feet high. Newer volcanic activity has added cinder cones and lava flows, which give a variety of colors and scenery. Their site is www.haleakala.national-park.com which describes some nice short 10-15 minute hikes/walks at the top. And there is another site which describes in detail how to get there, how long each segment takes, and what you will see ... http://alternative-hawaii.com/hnp.htm Sunset is about 7:15pm, after which it's too dark to see any sights. From the ship it takes about 3 hours to do Haleakala, and about 45 minutes to do Iao. So at 3:15 it was decision time, and we decided we couldn't do both places, so we gave up on Haleakala and went to Iao. The top deck cabins clear customs first, and Americans clear before non-US, so some lucky Yanks were off by 2pm, and would have had time to do both places. After seeing Iao we drove across the island to Lahaina, where the ship used to stop. It's a scenic drive along the coast most of the way. Lahaina is a pretty bay, and a tourist town with tons of shops and people walking along the strip. We didn't come to Hawaii to do tourist traps, so we got ice creams and drove out of town further up hwy 30 to Napili, where they shoot the famous sunsets. Around 7pm we found a good viewpoint between Napili and Kahana, and got some nice shots of the sun setting over the angular edge of a mountain, golden reflection in the water, beach and trees in the foreground. Then we drove back to the ship for dinner. The Maui Visitors Bureau vacation planner had the best map of all the planners we got from the islands, almost as good as the car rental map. You can order one at www.visitmaui.com KAUAI Finally a port where there is enough time to do everything! The big attraction is the famous Waimea Canyon, similar to the Grand Canyon. It's a mile wide and 3600 feet deep, and has amazing colors. It's about a 40 minute drive from the ship to the first main lookout, with lesser lookouts before that. Regarding weather, the rule of thumb is that if you have bad weather when you reach the first main lookout, there is no point in driving another half hour to see the other lookouts further down the ridge road, it will not get any better. But if you have good weather, drive further down the canyon to the Puu Hinahina lookout, and then the Kalalau lookout, and Puu o Kila lookout at the end of the road. Then you can drive back on hwy 50 past the ship to the Wailua Falls up hwy 583, and Opaekaa Falls up 580, which feed the Wailua River. Then go back to hwy 56, turn back south on 56 for a few hundred feet, and turn right into the Fern Grotto tours place, I forget the name. There are other smaller vendors selling grotto tours, but the main one has a big parking lot, restaurant, etc. Tours are $15 and last 1.5 hours. The ship price is $45. The tour goes up the Wailua river, lots of great scenery, to a fern grotto where the locals put on a bit of a show. Then you can drive back to hwy 56 and check out the beaches along the coast. Waipouli Beach in Wailua Bay at the junction of hwy 56 and 580 has some nice big breakers to watch. Lydgate Beach, a mile south, is better for small kids, it's calm and has lifeguards, and good snorkeling. There's a beach every couple miles on this coast. You can order the Visitor's Bureau travel planner online at www.kauaivisitorsbureau.com DEBARKATION Debarkation was very smooth, very few lineups. As with all cruises, your luggage goes out in the hall before Sat. midnight, so the crew can take it. Your bill is delivered to your cabin in the wee hours Sunday morning, and if you find errors they ask you to come to the desk by 7:30am to correct them. There were lineups of people, but our bill was fine. Luggage is color coded and was easy to find in the terminal, and the cabs are right outside the terminal door, not way down the sidewalk like in Tampa. Thanks to all the Cruise Critic web site people who helped us with info before we left ... Chuck, Glenda, Kris, Bryan, Patti, Narda and Max, and Joanne. [Cruise Critic members meet in the Beer Garten at 6pm on Mondays of each cruise, and get a tour of the garden villa if possible, and some nice perks and freebees.] The crew on board said you were all a pain in the butt, so we pretended we didn't know you ;-} If anyone wants to ask a question send us an email. Bob7REMOVETHISPART@canoemail.comJuly 2002 Read Less
By Mary & Vincent Finelli 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 ... Read More
By Mary & Vincent Finelli 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 shoppes, 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 dropping anchor! 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 none 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. EMBARKATION 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 port holes 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 spectacular. 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 appropriate section). 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 Gallery. 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 Cafe` 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 columns. 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, saunas etc. 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 showing. 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 Versailles Restaurants. 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. . . . . EXCELLENT! 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 rating. 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 Flambe` or how about Ginger Creme Brulee`. 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 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 a table. 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 asst. Sonia Condalor. They were friendly, competent and unobtrusive. ENTERTAINMENT 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 beautiful rendition. 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 8:00 pm 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, REP. 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. mi. 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 (i.e., 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. SUGGESTIONS 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 longer mandatory. 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. Happy Cruising! vnfinelli@mindspring.comOctober 2002 Read Less
My very first review, so here goes. Traveled on the Star - Hawaii Nov. 3 for one week. Husband in his 70's and I still make the 60's category. traveled with daughter and her husband, both in the 40's. Have traveled ... Read More
My very first review, so here goes. Traveled on the Star - Hawaii Nov. 3 for one week. Husband in his 70's and I still make the 60's category. traveled with daughter and her husband, both in the 40's. Have traveled fairly extensively on land and sea. Cruise lines for comparison: Princess, Holland America, and Celebrity. Cabin 8176 - Aft with a balcony. Very comfortable, we love the back of the ship. Storage space a bit tight, would have a problem is staying longer than a week or traveling with formal stuff. Love the way the sliding doors will adjust at any comfort level. Best shower of any ship we have been on. The temperature adjustment valve is great. Actually, all the plumbing fixtures on the ship are top of the line. Cheery decor and nice chairs on the balcony, not those plastic things we have had on other lines. Ship areas. Like the surface on outside decks. Very nice for walking. Atrium not huge, very attractive. Shops all contained in one area. Haven't decided if I really like that concept, it did not call me to visit. The exercise room is well equipped and the instructors were terrific. View does not exist and a separate room for classes would sure improve the area. Somewhat surprised to find the ice cream station located here. Took many of the passengers days to find the spot. I did not use the services part of the Spa, but the pool, hot tubs, and sauna are available for FREE. Beautiful spot and so empty between 7 and 8pm. The library was my husband's favorite spot. Spacious and well stocked. Card and game rooms were well utilized. The Spinnaker Lounge was the best spot to view ports entries. Our cabin on the back was the best when we left port. It would be unfair to comment on the pool area as it mostly was a spot I traveled through to get somewhere. I do think the slides detract from the aesthetics. Wish smokers would adhere to the rule of smoking on just one side - perhaps gluing down the ashtrays would solve that problem. In all fairness, talked to many who loved the slides. There are many bars and night clubs which I will not review. I get up too early in the morning to last long at night. Attended a few shows. Like Drums of the Islands, Music of the Night, and Cirque Asia. Did not see any comedy and magic shows. The cinema is very nice. Restaurants. MANY, I could expound for pages, I won't. Visited all the alternative restaurants, one twice. Food is SPECIAL and will worth the extra charge. Waitstaff is outstanding and fun to talk with. Presentation is 4 star and sometimes 5 star caliber. We enjoyed every meal. We feel the restaurants were underutilized. Cruisers do not miss these fine restaurants. Tapas Bar was a great late afternoon meeting spot. It got busier as the week wore on. Again, a difficult spot to find. Great spinach pie. Versailles, why can't people pronounce this correctly? Good food and so very elegant. Cooking Lite options are a super idea. You do feel a bit Parisian here. Aqua is contemporary. The Marketplace is comparable to any other ship buffet. I did like the low fat mousse, especially key lime flavor. Haven't quite figured out the decor of The Blue Lagoon, maybe early 50's. Open 24 hours was very convenient for us early risers. Excursions. I felt we were offered a very good selection at fair prices. I like the snorkeling trips. The free shuttle to Lahina was fun. We got a 45 minute trip across the island plus a great town for shopping at little places and lots of restaurants. The banyon tree is still there. We were happy with our sail to Fanning Island and it was well worth it. It is the perfect depiction of a non spoiled Pacific Island. Williams, a local young man, gave us a 45 minute tour. He was able to answer all the questions (many) about the Island we asked. He had the most muscular feet and toes I have ever seen. Tour was free, but Williams scored a tip and a T-shirt. The optional trip across the Island for $20 is a MUST. The people of the Island are extremely friendly and offer crafts a LOW prices. Softest sell I've ever seen. Crew. The best cabin stewards, never once returned to room to find it unmade. They are wizards; never to you find them in your room, always a friendly hello when working in someone else's room. The entire crew is well versed in public relations. Captain Tommy gave us clear announcements and all of his comments were interesting. James was a treasure. He gave us some special information. By the culmination of the trip we considered him to be a friend. Do attend the Cruise Critic meeting. Embarkation and Disembarkation. Astonishingly simple. We were having lunch in Endless Summer 30 minutes after we arrived at port. NCL really has the edge on their process!!!! Freestyle Cruising. THE VERY BEST. I am a convert to NCL. Future. My daughter and I will be on The Sky December 8. clvali@centurytel.net February, 2003 Read Less
We just returned from our 37th cruise and second one on the NCL line. This one was on the Norwegian Star circling the Hawaiian Islands. The good things we found were: freestyle dining in that we did not have to dress and could select a ... Read More
We just returned from our 37th cruise and second one on the NCL line. This one was on the Norwegian Star circling the Hawaiian Islands. The good things we found were: freestyle dining in that we did not have to dress and could select a restaurant and time to eat that pleased us. The other outstanding factor was the evening's entertainment. The dance group was incredible as were all the other performers. This was the best entertainment we have seen on any cruise. Negative factors: although we were aware of the 3 day trip to Fanning Island and enjoyed the leisure aboard ship going there and coming back, this is not part of Hawaii and needs to be stated so in the cruise literature. Actually, out of the 7 day cruise, it is only possible to visit 3 islands and two of these are very brief stops. The itinerary should be lengthened or a disclaimer put into the literature about this being a total Hawaiian Island cruise. Eating where and when we wanted to had one down side to it. We never had the opportunity to really meet people since we dined with different people each night. The cruise staff never really addressed the culture, customs, food etc. of Hawaii. If we had not eaten with a couple who resided permanently on Oahu, we never would have discovered interesting facts such as the use of poi, Spam, etc. in their daily diet and the fact that they always take their shoes off when entering a home! Cruising should provide cultural information no matter where the ports are in the world. The ship is new but gaudily decorated. Artificial flowers in Hawaii??? Come on, that is a disgrace. The decorator should spend some time on a Holland American ship to view a classy ambience and fresh floral arrangements! Would we recommend this cruise or cruise line? No. Would we go back on an NCL ship? No. Would we recommend an extended stay in Honolulu? Yes. Visiting Pearl Harbor and the Arizona monument were highlights and the tours around the city were great. Waikiki Beach is lovely and the downtown shopping, while really upscale, has some interesting innovations. View the three story window aquarium in the corner of the Galleria! Rmrlsg@aol.com March 2003 Read Less
Overall, a good vacation and a good overview of the Hawaiian Islands. My husband and I are 40ish with no children and have taken one other cruise on Ocean Princess 1/20/02. We have done a lot of non-cruise travel, including our ... Read More
Overall, a good vacation and a good overview of the Hawaiian Islands. My husband and I are 40ish with no children and have taken one other cruise on Ocean Princess 1/20/02. We have done a lot of non-cruise travel, including our honeymoon - a 25-day Australian trip during the millennium celebration. We were traveling with my Mother-In-Law, my Sister-In-Law and her husband. A party of five plus luggage proved to be a little bit inconvenient for the taxis in Honolulu. Our air arrangements were made through NCL on Continental. They were excellent, we flew from HSV Alabama to Houston TX, then nonstop to Honolulu. One hour in Houston was the perfect amount of time to get to the gate and begin boarding. MIL and SIL had different arrangements with more layovers and more stops, they were all jealous of our flight schedule :-). The only bad thing - didn't get lei'ed. If you don't take the free shuttle, you don't get a lei. (we had a rental minivan at the airport) :-( Bummer. We booked 2 nights in the Radisson Prince Kuhio in Waikiki through NCL prior to the cruise. That worked out great, we got adjusted to Hawaii time without any pre-planned excursions to attend. We rented a minivan and did our own self-tour of the island of Oahu. The Radisson was great, spacious clean modern rooms, unbelievable views of the sunrise over the mountains and sunsets over the ocean. The food at the Radisson was excellent too, we ate all our meals there for the 2 days we stayed there. Anyone who does the pre-cruise package needs to be warned about "orientation". After check-in, an NCL representative (or someone cleverly disguised as an NCL rep) was greeting people in the lobby, handing out papers for "pre-boarding orientation", suggesting that at least one person from each party should be there for "important information". It was at 6:30am and I'm not a morning person, so I sent my hubby to absorb the important information. He and SIL got on the bus and were taken to Maui Divers megastore, hustled up to the top floor, and received nothing but a high-pressure sales pitch for Maui Divers coral jewelry, timeshare condos, and a pitch for excursions for that day. SIL nicknamed the salesperson "Major Malfunction" because he was extremely militant about making sure everyone paid attention, no talking, follow along in your brochures, etc. The free "mimosa" drinks were made with Pineapple flavored Tang, which SIL calls Pang, thus they drank their Pangosas and wanted to get back to the hotel. You don't get free return transportation unless you have the sticker for completing the 2-hour pitch. "No sticky, no ridey". SIL was about ready to stickey somebody's ridey. ;-D So skip the "orientation". We enjoyed our day of wandering around on Oahu. We saw the Blowhole, Diamond Head Crater, Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial, and saw a little bit of a surfing contest at Banzai Pipeline. We missed out on the Polynesian Cultural Center, we didn't realize that it would be a full-day Polynesian Disney-theme-park type of thing. We probably would have gone to that if we had another full day for tours. Embarkation was relatively easy (until the very last moment). We had all done internet pre-registration, so we were on the ship in 10-15 mins. The day before, we had met with an NCL rep at the hotel who gave us instructions to tag our luggage and leave it in our hotel rooms prior to 10am, and it would be taken and delivered to the ship. We told her that we had a rental van and would not be taking the free shuttle, and asked if that made any difference. She said it did not. Sure enough, our luggage was gone when we stopped by the room for lunch. Well, we're checked in, standing on our balconies in our mini-suites, watching the big clock on the Aloha Tower tick down to 45 minutes till sailaway, when my husband hears our names on the ship intercom. (luckily he went inside the stateroom, you can't hear the intercom on the balcony) He called the reception desk to get our message. "The Prince Kuhio called, your luggage is at the hotel" =:-O =:-O Apparently it DOES make a difference if you're not at the dock to claim your luggage off the free shuttle. It was sent back to the hotel because it was unclaimed. ~:-( Now THAT could have been handled a LOT better. Like leaving it at the docks, and calling our stateroom and letting us know that we needed to claim it. Not by sending us on a last-minute luggage retrieval nightmare. The tags had our stateroom number on it, and we had obviously checked in. NCL gets a big demerit there. Day one: Hilo We did the Volcanoes National Park tour. It was great, highly recommended. Our bus driver was a local highway worker who knew EVERYTHING about the island. Very informative and fun. Just wish we had time to do more than one tour. Beware: the macadamia nuts are plentiful and cheap, and you can gain at least 5 pounds eating them for 7 whole days ;-). And if you open them, you have to eat them, you can't take opened containers off the ship. Day two: at sea And what a rough sea it was! 7.5-12ft swells according to the ship's info channel. Good thing I took my Bonine. :-) Lots of creaking in the cabin at night but I slept through it. During the day, I got a Seven Seas Massage at the Barong Spa. Wonderful! :-) That evening was formal night, so we all got dressed up and ate at the Versailles. I was pleasantly surprised, the wait time for a table was minimal and the food and service were very good. The dining room is very elegant, beautifully decorated. It fit very well on formal night, but seemed a little overdressed on the "resort casual" nights. After dinner we went to see Zoltan the Illusionist's show. The prelude to the show was a 25-minute low-tech laser light show with a soundtrack that kept repeating "welcome to the 20th Century" over and over in a deep techno voice. We took that big funny with us and laughed at anything low-tech the rest of the cruise with a deep booming "welcome to the 20th Century". :-D The Zoltan performance was nothing more than a few birthday-party-level tricks. :-( It was over in 15 mins. We heard later on that this was a "preview" performance and the later show was better. Lets hope so. Day three: Fanning Island It was "as advertised" a beautiful beach on a primitive island with no electricity or modern amenities. Welcome to the 20th Century! ;-D It was so close to the equator that us computer nerd CRT-tan types knew we would flash-fry in the sun. So we wore 50-weight sunscreen and stayed in the shade. We had a good time. We saw lots of others that probably spent most of their cruise in sick bay on ice too. The native dancers were good, the beach was beautiful, the sun was hot hot hot. Hubby took the free walking tour, he said it was interesting. The native kids are cute and curious, but no one pestered us or begged. I did shopping and plunked down in a beach chair in the shade to watch the dancers. That night was lobster night (both sunburned tourists and edible crustaceans, LOL), once again we dined in the Versailles. The Beef Wellington was just as good as the lobster, me & hubby got a BW to split (in addition to a lobster each). Then we went to Dazzles Nightclub to dance off the extra pounds. Great music, and very crowded, but was hard to dance when the floor kept tilting! =:-O Plus it was very smoky in there and I'm allergic. We also sat in the Karaoke Circus for a little while. Not much talent on our cruise, we didn't stay long. :-P Day four: at sea Once again, rough seas. It was cloudy that day and rained that night. I spent most of the day by the pool drinking gigantic Fosters beers. Best deal is a "bucket" of four, take three back to the room's refrigerator, and you've got enough beer for the entire cruise. :-) I was disappointed with the pool, it's small and it's definitely geared to kids. Two huge curly waterslides empty into *the only* outdoor pool, so you can't even jump in to cool off without getting cannonballed (jumped on) or splashed or surrounded by screaming Marco Polo players. (I hate that game) Since I wasn't doing so well at the pool, I decided to buy a tan. I got the "Respect for the Sun" ritual at the Barong Spa, which includes faux tanning gel. I was very pleased with it, very natural deep color. It would have taken me 2 weeks to get that good of a tan the old-fashioned way. It still hasn't faded yet, maybe I can make my coworkers jealous tomorrow when I show up all tanned ;-). This was Thanksgiving in the USA. We had dinner in La Trattoria, since it was easy to get reservations (everyone else seeking turkey in main dining rooms). They offered turkey and dressing in this restaurant too, but we opted for the lasagna - yummy! SIL had the Chicken Parmigiana, it was good too. Great service in this restaurant too. Day five: Maui Due to the rough seas, we were late getting into port. We booked the Luau Excursion, and had hoped to do some shopping before it. The shopping didn't happen, we didn't have time to take the shuttles to the shopping areas and get back before the bus to the Luau. :-( I was surprised to find only 3 vendors set up in the port buildings. Those lucky 3 made a lot of sales from folks like us who only had 1.5 hours to kill. Someone definitely needs to promote shopping opportunities in the port buildings. The Luau was a lot of fun! Free drinks, games, walks on the beach at sunset, photo ops, pulling the pig from the pit, a few crafts for sale including fresh flower leis. (I had to pay to get lei'd :-P) The shows were very entertaining. Everything I expected in a Luau. Only downside was when it was over, they didn't give us ladies enough time to visit the facilities before boarding the bus. Need to give us a little warning especially with free drinks and only 2 stalls, not just "Good night ladies and gentlemen, please board your buses NOW". =:-O Day six: Nawiliwili Kauai This was the funnest day of the cruise! We took the Kipu Ranch ATV Tour Excursion, which was my favorite of the entire cruise. The guide was extremely good at teaching everyone how to operate the ATVs, and very informative about the history of the areas where we rode. The ranch was private property which was closed to the public. It was totally untouched, pristine and beautiful. There were no "extreme" off road obstacles, it was a scenic tour. There were only two little hills that were slightly challenging, where you used what the guide taught you in the beginning. I had never ridden an ATV before, and now I am shopping for one ;-). We rode to a small overlook, then down to the river. Very diverse terrain, from cattle fields to marsh to rainforest-type undergrowth. Then we climbed up a winding back road to the peak of one of those craggy volcanic mountains to get an incredible view of the beach and the surrounding mountains and valleys. Then back down to feed the "wild" boars. LOL, they were funny and not very wild. There were several cute little baby piggies. It was not as muddy as the brochures led you to believe. I barely got mud on my shoe. I could have taken my camcorder instead of the waterproof disposable camera that I packed for fear of mud. We tried to get into Le Bistro that night for dinner, but it was packed. Ended up doing the Versailles again, and were not disappointed. We saw the Cirque Asia show afterwards. Very good, especially the Chinese acrobats and the ballroom dancing couple. The seats in the Stardust Theatre are very uncomfortable, they tilt forward, making you slide into the hard air vents on the seats in front of you. We also stood in line for nearly an hour for the Chocoholic Buffet at midnight :-P. Once we got to the chocolates, it was worth it, but it sure was a crazy long wait. Day seven: Honolulu Is it over already? Boo Hoo, time to leave this wonderful vacation. Disembarkation was easy, we ate breakfast in the Market buffet, then went down to claim our luggage. Taxis to our "day room" at the Best Western Plaza near the Airport. This motel is directly UNDER the interstate, I wouldn't stay there overnight. Too noisy. But it made a good enough parking place for our luggage as we shopped our final day at the Ala Moana mall. Other comments: the food in the Market buffet was not all that great and their hours just never clicked with our schedule. They were closing down breakfast when we wanted breakfast, and they were closing down lunch when we wanted lunch. They have enough buffet lines to leave up a breakfast line till noon, and also to leave a late lunch going. They should never completely close down all the lines. And where the heck is the butter? And put the plates at the BEGINNING of the line. And fix the coffee machines. Even an addict like me is not willing to go to the other side of the buffet seeking the Kona fix. About half of the machines were out of order. The second NCL demerit: I wore my nice comfy expensive Ecco sandals on the plane and onto the ship. I packed a pair of high heels for dinners and some plastic water shoes for the pool. So the Eccos were an essential part of my wardrobe. Since the first 3 days were at sea, I mostly wore my water shoes to the pool during the day and my heels to dinners. Late afternoon of Day 3 I noticed that only one of my Eccos was under the chair where I left them. I figured it got kicked under the bed or folded up in the sofa-bed, so I figured I'd look for it the next morning. So when I got up, me, Hubby and MIL searched for it. It's not under the bed. It's not in the sofa-bed. We lifted up the beds and took out all the luggage and tore that place apart. Its not anywhere in the cabin =:-O =:-O. I went to the lost and found, hoping it had gotten mixed in with the dirty bed linens and maybe shaken out in the laundry area. No one's seen it. I contacted the cabin steward and the deck housekeeping supervisor, no ones seen it. Two days later and I absolutely MUST have it back, I have a blister from wearing the pool shoes. I had to get ugly with them to make them LOOK for it. They gave me the hardest time, suggesting that perhaps I lost it or didn't pack both of them. Yes, I have this bad habit of walking through airports wearing only one shoe and not noticing. ~:-( They sent Security to search my cabin. Then I had to fill out a report. Then I missed breakfast waiting to hear back from front desk supervisor. Then nothing. I asked for shipboard credit to purchase replacement shoes, and all I get is a copy of a form to mail to NCL's insurance claims dept. I'm still unhappy about that. I still have the blister on my pinkie toe too. Demerit number 3 - no coin laundry. Not a single one. You'd think such a family-oriented ship would have a place to wash some undies and wardrobe essentials halfway through the cruise. The laundry service is too expensive and they keep your clothes too long. They ran a "special" to do a full laundry bag for 25USD, but unless you read the fine print you don't know you don't get your clothes back till Saturday nite. While I was at the front desk during the sandal crisis, I heard at least 4 people demanding their clothes back, they needed them and could not wait till Saturday. They were told "sorry, nothing we can do." If I left anything out or if you have any questions about the above, please email me. bayless@hiwaay.net April, 2003 Read Less
We just returned from a 02/23/03 sailing of the Norwegian Star. Hawaii what is not to like? We were fortunate to have a balcony on this ship. Normally we don't care as we aren't in the room much. However we had the opportunity ... Read More
We just returned from a 02/23/03 sailing of the Norwegian Star. Hawaii what is not to like? We were fortunate to have a balcony on this ship. Normally we don't care as we aren't in the room much. However we had the opportunity to view whales while getting dressed on a couple of occasions. Embarking the ship was fast as you had to pre register before the cruise. As a Latitude member we didn't have to wait in line more than 5 minutes. Others in our party who hadn't sailed with NCL before didn't take much longer. We had opted to go a couple of days before the actual cruise date which was a good thing as one of our party flew in on the same day as sailing and missed the boat and had to be flown to Hilo the next day to board. We decided not to book the pre cruise package but find our on hotel. We ended up at one of the same hotels as the package and for about 1/2 of the cost. If at all possible go a couple of days ahead of time just to recover from time change before the cruise. Transportation from the airport to the hotel or ship can be obtained by a shuttle for $5.00 per person if round trip is purchased or $7.50 each way. We took a cab and it cost $30.00 for two one way. We took shuttle back. They were prompt and efficient. The ship was a little rocky and as the captain said oh well it is the Pacific and it is just the way it is. Ship was very nice and fairly new so everything was crisp and clean. We didn't try any of the dining rooms that charged a fee. I hate to promote that as I feel we as cruisers will end up paying extra for decent food if cruise lines discover people willing to do so with no complaints. We started with the main dining room. Freestyle doesn't let you get to really meet people as well as we have found that we have usually made friendships on board from our dinner mates. We were lucky to have had the same waiter 3 times during the cruise by luck. It was more like old times when they knew you and they wanted to talk to you. We tried the Aqua dining room and once was enough for me. We had decent food however we were seated in a booth type setting and against a wall. Waitress had to keep leaning over me to reach parties sitting on the bench seat in the back of table. It wasn't her fault but I didn't care for it at all. Reminded me of a Denny's. We tried the Blue Moon diner for lunch and it was ok. One of our party had to sit on a stool (to give it a diner appearance) and she said it was uncomfortable. Food there was diner food but good. 8 of us went to the Italian restaurant and no one liked the food. From plates that were being taken away it didn't appear anyone did. Need a new Italian recipe for the sauce. We do like the Freestyle approach to not having eat at a set time. We could plan our activities better. Activities: This ship could use a few more. I have found that with NCL. Has no casino on this ship there is a lot more free time. This ship seems to attract more people from 40 and up and not everyone is into physical fitness. The lady who conducted the craft classes was worth her paycheck to NCL. She was great. I normally do not do these but did attend a couple this time just because there wasn't anything going on. Over 2,000 people and only a few planned activities and most of those going on at the very same time. I think they don't have enough staff to do more because they are all working the bingo. What a rip off. I bet many people were upset when they actually saw their total bill for bingo at the end of the week. NCL has taken what should be an activity for the guests to a money making venture. Many many people attended bingo on this ship and I would say that is because there wasn't anything else going on and they wanted something to do. It took around 30 to 40 minutes for them to sell the cards on the computers. Cards on normal games were $29.00 to play six cards and $39.00 to play 12 on the computer this was per person. I would say there was no less than 300 people who played each session. They only play 4 games a session which takes 20 to 25 min. I think the most they paid out per session not game was $1,000. That was quite a profit for NCL. No wonder they chose to do it this way. We have played on ships that charged much less than this and they played more games and paid out much better. They dangle a jackpot over people's heads if a full card is gotten in 48 numbers and this number is progressive. As a bingo player I know how unlikely that is. Of course the last session the jackpot goes ...guess what it costs even more to play that session. I would estimate they took in over $12,000 for that session and paid out less than $6,000. Anyway I think people should boycott bingo until it is made an affordable activity. Some people expressed they were unhappy that it took so long to get to Fanning Island and the stay was short. Our entire group loved it. Reminds me of the Bahamas in our early days of cruising. We would have like a couple of more hours. One couple we met stated they paid additional to go to another beach area on Fanning and felt it was overpriced as they only got about 2 hours beach time and the regular beach area was great and we got about 4 hours there. And we love the cruising part too so all was good here. We enjoyed each of the islands and of course would have loved to had more time on each. We took tours off the dock in most cases rather than the cruise line's. We have done both over the years. If you haven't cruised a lot or like to be sure of things then book with cruise ship expect to pay more but no hassle or worries for you. It is nice most of the flights back are late in the evening. If with a group I would recommend that you all chip in together and get one hotel room to put your luggage in for the day. They do offer storage near the port at $5.00 a bag ..must be picked up by 7:30. Hope I didn't sound complaining as overall it was great and I would recommend everyone that can take the trip. We have sailed NCL before several times and probably will again. My husband likes this no dress up thing. He does humor me and dress one nite but I don't think I would do that again on the Hawaii trip. This needs to be more relaxed. Happy sailing. CRUISINONNIE@aol.com June 2003 Read Less
This is my review of the 04/20/03 sailing of the NCL Star. We have cruised previously on the Radisson Diamond, and twice on RCI Voyager-class ships. Let me begin by saying that although we found some things lacking, we still had a good ... Read More
This is my review of the 04/20/03 sailing of the NCL Star. We have cruised previously on the Radisson Diamond, and twice on RCI Voyager-class ships. Let me begin by saying that although we found some things lacking, we still had a good time. Please do not think we are "flaming" the Star, but instead trying to give our opinion of a comparison between NCL and RCI to benefit those who may be deciding between lines. Our trip to Hawaii actually began a week before our sailing date. As has been said many times on these boards, you cannot really see Hawaii on a 7 day cruise, especially with a trip to Fanning Island in the middle. We tacked the cruise on the end as an extra, to see Maui and Kauai. We spent 4 days in Kona on a business trip, then flew to Oahu and spent 3 nights at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki beach before we boarded the cruise. A note to those looking for a nice place to stay pre-cruise - the Hilton Hawaiian Village is very nice. The beach is spectacular, with pretty white sand and clear turquoise waters. We stayed in the Rainbow Tower with an ocean view which was wonderful! The room had 2 double beds and had a wet bar with mini fridge and a separate honor bar, a very nice arrangement. The mini fridge was great to have, as the prices at the Hilton are EXPENSIVE for meals. For example, the first night my daughter flew in to meet us and was exhausted. All she wanted to eat was a hamburger. So my husband and I took her to the pool snack bar. We ordered 3 cheeseburgers, 2 curly fries, and one order of fried calamari. The total was $71.00!!! Next day, breakfast. One Continental, one order of eggs, sausage and toast, and one Eggs Benedict. Once again, $71.00. So here is the trick - there is an ABC store right there in the Rainbow Bazaar - buy things there and load your fridge. One other little problem - my husband saw 3 tiny roaches in our room, but didn't tell my daughter or myself. I'm glad he didn't, but the Hilton is clean. It's the climate there, almost impossible not to have some bugs around. I would go back, but planning more $$$ for meals. An aside here - don't do the Paradise Cove luau. It is pretty lousy - very commercial and bad food. The one put on by NCL looked better. After our great stay at the Hilton, it was time to board the Star. We checked out of our room at 11 AM, and took a cab right to the pier. We arrived there at 11:30, and already there were porters standing by to help with our bags. We put the tags on right there, and the check in bags were whisked away to go through screening. We had a few carry ons which we took with us to get in line for embarkation. We assumed that we would have to wait for 1 PM, but to our surprise they started letting everyone in to board at 12 noon! Since we had gotten there so early, we were about third in line. We went through security without problem and got in line to do the paperwork. We had pre-registered online, and I printed the registration out and gave it to the person at the pier, all went well. An aside here - put your liquor in plastic soda bottles in your checked luggage and you will not have a problem. This same trick will work when carried on from shore excursions, so reload at the next ABC store. Much to NCL's credit they were screening people for possible exposure to SARS, which made me feel at ease. I have to say that NCL has this embarkation thing down pat, it was the easiest time we have ever had. That may be partly because we were there early, I would highly recommend doing that. We were taken to our cabin, mini suite 11110. There is a bit of a complaint here regarding NCL's policies - they do not like giving out upgrades! We had booked this cruise many months ago, when my husband's business trip was confirmed. Needless to say, with the war prices dropped significantly in the 4 weeks before the cruise. In fact, the mini suites were $400.00 less than what we had paid for a BA (balcony stateroom). Being familiar with RCI's policies regarding upgrades/up sells, I didn't think there would be problem to get moved to the mini suite. Oh, was I wrong! NCL does NOT do upgrades after final payment has been made. I called my TA and she called NCL, but they would not budge. They said we were within penalty so they would not change our room. I got rather irate, and she agreed with me that they are the only line she knows of that sticks to this absurd policy. Actually if you think about it they are punishing the people that booked and paid in advance, so they get to use your $$$ for the length of time, but they would rather accommodate people who decided to cruise on a last minute whim! Thanks to all of the other posts I have read on this subject, I knew that I needed to speak to the re-accommodations desk at NCL. After explaining to the NCL representative what I was requesting, he still wasn't going to do anything for us. But finally good sense prevailed, and after some arguing they agreed to move us into the mini suite. I never asked for a refund of $$$, just the upgraded cabin. Btw, I think the only reason they did finally do it was that I could have cancelled and rebooked the mini suite at about the same price. Anyway, we checked into our stateroom. It was very nice. For those of you who have been on RCI Voyager class ships, the room was a bit bigger than the D9 we had booked the year before. But the neatest part was the bathroom, they are pretty special with the sliding doors between sink/toilet/and tub-shower combo. The duvets for bedding were very nice, and my daughter said her convertible sofa bed was more comfy than the one in our D9. We received a bowl of fruit for having a mini suite. Here is the first little complaint I have regarding the Star. It has been my experience (even aboard the Radisson Diamond) that when tipping is included, service suffers. Unfortunately, this is also true to some degree aboard the Star. For example, our cabin steward while very nice did not point out where our shore excursion tickets were. As a result, we couldn't find them and waited in a LONG line at the Shore Excursion desk to pick them up. Also, he never gave us the number for the concierge. So once again it required going to the main desk to find out how to contact Al. The concierge is by far the BEST perk of a mini suite. One other little mistake - we had a 16 yr old in our room, but he did not leave the sheet explaining the activities for teens. It took 2 days before I found out one even existed! RCI stewards know when there are teens, leave the program for them when they leave the regular Compass. It should have been there the first day with the Freestyle Daily. The steward kept our room nice and clean, (but not vacuumed every day) and made a couple of towel animals during the course of the week. But he was never around to chat with, except early in the AM. On other cruises, our steward has been available at other times as well, which makes for a good relationship. They get to know what your preferences are better if they see you from time to time. On this cruise, the steward would move a table out of the living area, and every day I would move it back. It got to be a joke. Apparently he didn't like the coffee table in front of the sofa, but we did. No biggie, but still kind of funny. Other stewards we have had would notice something like that and put things the way you had them. He was just ok, the room was made up but not much in the way of touches (for example - leaving dirty glasses and ice buckets full of water from the night before). Regarding freestyle cruising - it comes with a price. My advice to you, if you are like me and don't want to wait in lines, book at the very minimum a mini suite. You remember my crusade for the phone number of Al, the concierge? Well, on NCL the concierge is there to help you, but I never once saw him. Much different than RCI, where the concierge has his own lounge. Anyway, we tried to make reservations on our own for the Italian restaurant the second day of the cruise. We were told that the earliest reservation we could get was 9 PM. Our buddy Al got us in at 6:30. If it hadn't been for Al, we would have been waiting in a bunch of lines - for dinner reservations (with lousy seating times available), for tender tickets (also with prearranged times, concierge tender tickets are whenever you might like to go), etc. The key word here is LINES which can be avoided with a nice call to Al. So do yourself a favor - if you don't want to pretend you are at Disney World, avoid the lines and book a mini suite at the very least. Here is the deal with freestyle - while it is nice to sit with whom you like, it comes at a price. Your waiter doesn't get to know you. You have to tell him every meal that you don't want to buy the Evian water for the table, the regular table water is fine. He doesn't know you are a big eater and might like 2 appetizers or 2 entrees. If you want to eat in one of the two included dining rooms, you can't make a reservation and will have to stand in line (again, and AL can't help with this one) and wait to be seated. Personally, I guess the service suffers. Also, the upcharge restaurants were not all that spiffy. We ate in Le Bistro, Soho, and the Japanese restaurant. Nothing all that exciting, we thought that the food in Aqua was just as good. A little note about planning for dinners. On RCI, the menus for the week in the main dining room is listed in your stateroom book with all the phone numbers, etc. This aids in planning when you might like to do alternative dining. On NCL, we had to go down to the main desk and ask to see tonight's menu. Also, don't be looking forward to lobster night. While it is available one night in most of the restaurants, it is an upcharge. Now I come to the crux of the problem with our specific cruise, Fanning Island. Many people out there were complaining at the desk regarding the handling of the situation which occurred with our visit to Fanning Island. A small note here regarding the island itself - don't let anyone kid you, there are LOTS of flies. If you are familiar with black flies in the Adirondacks in NY, that is what you are looking forward to. The beach is ok, but the water is cloudy with some seaweed. Do yourself a favor - go and look if you must, but go back to the ship and wave bye-bye to everyone else and head up to the pool. Pretend it's another day at sea. That is what the 2000 people on our cruise wish one person had done. You see, he went to the island and didn't make it back for all aboard. So as a result, the Star started to make for Maui, only to have to - TURN AROUND AND GO BACK FOR ONE PERSON! They had to bring the ship back, bring down a lifeboat, send it over to the island, FIND him and bring him back to the ship!!! So when your cruise director threatens that you will be left, don't believe him. As a result of this guy's escapade, the entire ship left Fanning Island an hour and a half late for Maui. Of course, that means we got in late. And as you may not realize, everyone on board ship has to present themselves to customs at this port of call, so we were really late. Late enough that our beach break shore excursion turned out to be a look at the sunset on the beach. Late enough that the bars at the pool were closed. Late enough that some tours didn't go, others were abbreviated. We basically missed Maui altogether. And what did NCL do to compensate us? Nothing. Not a thing. No shipboard credit, not even an apology. Just we did our best, this is as quick as we could get here. No one aboard was very happy. NCL made a very bad decision - inconvenience 2000 people to rescue one person. You can't tell me that this hasn't happened before, they must have some sort of contingency in place to service the island other than the once a week stop by the Star! On the morning of disembarkation, people were complaining in large numbers. Many passengers were checking with others to be sure they filled out their cruise comment cards. I have never heard as many unhappy people at the end of a cruise as I did this time. In an effort to make their problem look better, the cruise director on his morning TV show made fun of the RCI ship that had to sit in the harbor for a day in Honolulu. (In case you didn't hear, they found threatening notes aboard ship, and called in the authorities to check the ship over). If you ask me, RCI was trying to protect the passengers, ALL of them, not inconvenience 2000 to retrieve one. Not a very good comparison. A few other assorted things regarding this cruise. It seemed to us that this cruise was geared for the older, retired set. Not much entertainment was available, no live music at the pool or anything like that. Eat, sleep, shuffleboard, lay in the sun, cards. That sort of thing. The Broadway - type shows were not very good. The comedy shows were funny, but very short (35 to 40 minutes). No poolside games, except for Mr. Hairy Legs one afternoon. As for their "great" kid's program that they were touting on the TV upon arrival, it seemed to be non-existent for teens. While they have a Teen Disco, no one ever uses it Not even the councilors, from what I can tell. Therefore the Teens all congregated in the Karaoke Bar, and the adult disco. Not much fun going dancing while my 16 yr old daughter looks on. One more comment regarding the pool area - they serve lunch up there, so a large portion of the deck surrounding the pool is set with tables and four chairs. While this is great for al fresco dining, it makes a bit of a problem for finding chaise lounges in the sun by the pool. You have to go up a couple of tiers behind the pool to get to the lounge area, not exactly convenient. It also makes it more difficult to find a chaise because space is more limited. Another problem is the slides in the main pool area. They are very slow and kind of a waste of premium deck space. Only little kids used them, which attracted them to the main pool instead of the kid's pool. Another line which you must look forward to is that which you encounter while boarding after being on shore. You must go thru a full security checkpoint, where they physically check bags and use a metal detector. While I approve of security, it is much easier on the new RCI ships, as they have x-ray equipment just like the airport. It just goes faster that way. My overall recommendation for this ship is that it is beautiful, but don't go with anything less than a mini suite unless you are prepared to wait in many lines. The food is just ok, not that great. Shipboard entertainment is lacking for the most part. The staff is not quite as attentive as on the other lines I have sailed with. And NCL needs to rethink its policies regarding the treatment of their guests. We all paid well to sail, they should be willing to do whatever to make the cruise great for all their guests. As Mr. Spock said: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." NCL should find a way to make that happen with Fanning Island, or at least compensate the 2000 guests who were inconvenienced. All in all, it was a nice cruise. Like any other vacation, it is what you make of it. Personally, we will never sail on NCL again, just not up to our expectations. Again, this is not meant to "flame" NCL. I felt that it would be a disservice to fellow cruise critics not to compare the two lines. I wanted to give a comparison for those who might be undecided about NCL vs. RCI, and to give a heads up to those who have booked so they can be prepared for what to expect. jparry1@twcny.rr.com July 2003 Read Less
My husband and I just returned from our honeymoon Hawaiian cruise on the Norwegian Star. I have cruised only once before on the Disney Magic with my kids, which was a completely different experience. I would have to say that our experience ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from our honeymoon Hawaiian cruise on the Norwegian Star. I have cruised only once before on the Disney Magic with my kids, which was a completely different experience. I would have to say that our experience on the Norwegian Star was mixed. Check in went smoothly and we were able to find our cabin without too much trouble. We had an outside stateroom with a balcony, which was very nice. The room seemed smaller than the room I had on the Disney cruise, and I missed not having a tub but I understand showers are pretty much standard on cruise ships. We were told by our travel agent that the cabin had a Queen sized bed, but found that we actually had two single beds that we supposedly could push together to create a Queen. To make a long story short, two single beds pushed together do NOT make a Queen. The beds would have been fine if we were two pals taking a cruise together, but not for a couple on their honeymoon. Other than that, the room was kept very clean by our room stewards. They even amused us every night when we came back from dinner by making some kind of animal shape with one of the towels and putting a pair of sunglasses on it (my husband started leaving his sunglasses visible every night when we left for dinner). From some of these posts, I find that many people do not like the Freestyle dining, but I found that wonderful. We do not like making small talk with strangers and enjoyed having intimate dinners by ourselves. We mingled at lunchtime. The restaurants were very nice and the food very good although there weren't many choices and we found a lot of the garnishes were too fancy for our tastes. We ate at Endless Summer and LaTrottoria where we needed reservations. We also ate at Aqua and Versailles where no reservations were required and were able to be seated within a few minutes. For those who do not like freestyle dining, there is also the option of sharing a table at dinnertime. Although I have read complaints that the wait staff did not seem to be too motivated because of the shared tip pool, we found the waiters and waitresses to be very friendly and the service fine at each restaurant. We also liked the $10 pp built into our onboard charge and found no need to adjust it. We thoroughly enjoyed the nightly entertainment. We went to only one theater show and it was wonderful. We went to several of the nightclubs and had a thoroughly enjoyable time at each. One night we saw a Polynesian show which was fantastic, one night we watched the "Not So Newlywed Show" and one night my husband was able to participate in a "Who Wants to be a Bazillionaire" show. We went on several shore excursions and while the excursions themselves were awesome, getting us off the ship and to the excursions seemed to be very disorganized and there seemed to be a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. The worst was our luau in Maui, although it wasn't the fault of the ship. We had been put two hours behind the day before at Fanning Island by one guy that didn't get back on the ship in time (there's always one) and that threw everything off reaching Maui. Another problem is that many of the staff seemed inexperienced and didn't know how to handle problem passengers. For example, one man insisted on trying to get something straightened out with one of the staff who was scanning our cards so we could leave the ship. I'm sure they are told to be friendly and helpful to everyone, but the rest of us didn't appreciate having to wait in line while he tried to straighten out something that should have been straightened out with the Reception Desk. One criticism that I have of this cruise as well as my last cruise is the enormous amount of food that gets wasted. I'm not sure of what can be done, but it wouldn't hurt to have small signs, especially at the buffet area, reminding people that they can go up as often as they want so there's no need to take enormous amounts of food and then waste it. I watched one man take an entire large plate of bacon for breakfast (had to have been one to two pounds) which I thought he was taking for his family. I watched him sit down with only one woman who didn't eat any of the bacon. After he had eaten maybe 1/5 of the amount on the plate, he threw the rest away. This was only one of many examples that I witnessed and can only say that the amount of food wasted was truly a sin. Overall, we had a very pleasant cruising experience. As I mentioned, I have cruised on Disney and my husband has cruised on Princess which he felt was a bit better than this NCL cruise. However, NCL has a ship, the Majesty, that leaves from Boston to Bermuda so, living near Boston, we will probably use NCL when we go to Bermuda next summer. lucy1311@hotmail.com September 2003 Read Less
First of all, let me start by saying that we had a very enjoyable time on this cruise. My wife and I were in cabin 10190, starboard side, balcony room. We are 40-ish, childless, over-educated professionals and this is our third cruise. ... Read More
First of all, let me start by saying that we had a very enjoyable time on this cruise. My wife and I were in cabin 10190, starboard side, balcony room. We are 40-ish, childless, over-educated professionals and this is our third cruise. Our previous experiences were both on Holland America to Alaska and the Caribbean. Sunday: Embarkation, Oahu, Hawaii My wife Susan and I departed San Diego, CA on Sunday, July 6, 2003 on Hawaiian Air Flight 31 non-stop to Honolulu, HI. The flight took about 5 ½ hours, included meal service and and inflight movie ($5 for headsets). We landed in Honolulu about noon local time. After an 8 minute walk to baggage claim, (Shuttles are available but we needed to stretch our legs) we immediately spotted an NCL staff member who quickly gathered all the new arrivals and our luggage and then showed us out the door to a waiting bus. The ride to the pier was 10-15 minutes. Once we arrived at the pier we were directed to what appeared to be a very long line to board. However, it was a few minutes before 1 p.m. and the ship had yet to start boarding for the newly arriving passengers. The line started moving promptly at 1 p.m. and by 1:30 p.m. we were stepping onboard with our new passenger ID cards in hand. Overall, I'd rate the boarding process as extremely efficient. There was, of course, a ship's photographer to shoot a picture of us before a "green screen" right before we stepped onboard. The green background was then digitally replaced with a pretty picture of the ship and the Waikiki skyline. Unfortunately, NCL and "Freestyle Cruising" logos were also emblazoned across the borders of the picture which made it easy for me to decide not to purchase a copy. Although staff photographers shot several more pictures of us during the cruise, we never felt that any were worth the purchase price. ($6.99 for 5x7's, $9.99 for 8x10's) Eventually, we simply stopped posing for them. Once aboard, we were promptly shown to our stateroom. Very nice, well appointed, small but comfortable. A firm double bed, sofa, and writing desk filled the room with two comfortable lounge chairs on the balcony. The bathroom was tiny but remarkably well-designed and efficient with separate shower, vanity and toilet areas. After a quick unpack, our bags were easily stowed under the bed and off we went to explore the ship. Having been launched only a few weeks after September 11 (2001), the ship remains in like new condition and appears well-maintained. One noticeable exception was elevator buttons, many of which, though functional, were vandalized and defaced. It's a small detail but it seemed prevalent throughout the ship. (Perhaps a recent cruise of elevator button vandals was aboard?) Am I nitpicking? Maybe. But how hard can this be to fix? During our explorations, we stopped for a quick bite in the Market Cafe. I had read that Versaille was sometimes open on the first Sunday afternoon but we checked and it was closed. The Market Cafe was fine, nice variety but pretty standard buffet fare. The major problem with buffet lines is that by the time you go through the line, get your drinks and find a seat, half your food is cold. That's the way it is. Frankly, the Market Cafe does this as well as anyone. We checked out the evening menu for Versaille and didn't see anything that really wet our appetites so we headed up to the front desk to check out the specialty restaurant menus. The menu for Ginza (Asian Fusion) looked tasty so we made a reservation for 7:00 p.m. We also booked a table at Le Bistro for the following night. You can only book one day ahead so with that chore accomplished, we scurried off to the Barong Spa so that Susan could book a facial and hot rock massage during our upcoming at sea days. 10% off pricing was available by booking the first day. Next, we explored and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon before dressing for dinner. We stopped in Las Ramblas and tried their Spanish tapas and the "best sangria you'll ever taste". We rated the tapas as bland and the sangria as only average though we witnessed many people wolfing the stuff down with gusto. When we we arrived at Ginza at about 7 p.m. for dinner, the place was deserted. After being shown to cozy alcove window seat, our waitress explained that most of the restaurants, particularly the specialty ones, see very light traffic on the first night. Many guests do not arrive in Hawaii until late in the day after a long day of travel so most simply elect to dine in the Market Cafe or at the "Sail Away B.B.Q." up on the pool deck. We did stroll by the pool deck to check out the BBQ but found it to be chaotic. Lots of kids and very noisy. Susan promptly dubbed it the "Blitz Room"--a phrase her father had often used to describe video arcades or any other situation reminiscent of WWII invasions! Meals at Ginza include an appetizer, two main dishes and dessert. Everything we tried was very good and the portions were all very generous and filling. One of Susan's courses included two huge ahi steaks, which were good but unfortunately, over-cooked. In general, the flavors also struck us as somewhat bland. If I were to eat there again, I would make special mention to the chef to serve the ahi rare and "spice things up a bit". Overall, we weren't disappointed with our Ginza experience. While we were eating, we watched the sun go down over Oahu and the ship get underway from our window seat. By the time dessert was served, the room was about half full. We thought about going to the first night cabaret show in the Stardust Theatre but between getting up early and a 3 hour time change, Susan was about to doze off in her crème brulee. We also wanted to rise early to watch the arrival in Hilo the next morning so it was off to bed for us! Monday: Hilo, Hawaii We awoke Monday morning and stepped out onto our balcony to see the ship approaching Hilo, Hawaii. The shoreline was shrouded in fog and we could see little rain squalls pelting the island. It was warm however, about 75 degrees so we determined that a little rain would not stop us. We did feel sorry for those who had booked helicopter tours. I had booked a rental car through Dollar about a month in advance over the Internet. Our rate was $32/day including mileage, taxes, etc. We had no trouble getting right off the ship and immediately saw shuttles for every rental agency except Dollar. I suspected that all of the shuttles were headed to the same place but uncertainty and impatience made us decide to grab a cab to the airport rental car desk. It was a short drive and cab fare was $11 including tip. As I suspected, we could have jumped on any shuttle since all of the rental car desks were in the same place, all lined up in a nice neat row. On the bright side, the Dollar personnel were fast and efficient. I had signed up for the "Fastlane" program (Free) which kept paperwork hassles to a minimum. In about ten minutes we were on the road in our brand new Dodge Stratus. Our first destination was Volcanoes National Park. It was about 25-30 miles from the airport and the route was clearly marked by signs. The trip took about 45 minutes. Straight road and an easy drive except for the occassional cloud burst. It's a $10 fee per car to get into the park. Once inside, we made a quick stop at the visitor center. This consisted of a small room of mildly interesting exhibits and a short film warning about the dangers of walking around on lava flows. A park ranger sitting at the information desk played us some ukulele tunes. He was pretty good! Next, we drove a couple miles around Crater Rim Drive. Steam vents emitted impressively visible plumes on both sides of the road. They were slightly less impressive close up. A hole in the ground with steam coming out—sort of an outdoorsy version of a visit to the drycleaners. Many tourists apparently thought the vents were wishing wells and had tossed in coins and even paper money. I hope the rangers retrieve the proceeds occassionally. Otherwise, this is just littering. Our next stop was the Jagger Museum. The museum is small and contains mostly pictorial exhibits, a few volcanic rock samples and a gift shop. It's main attraction is the Kilauea Caldera, the enormous volcanic crater in it's backyard. Even peering through the rain and mist, it was an impressive sight. After about 10 minutes of staring and standing in the rain, we jumped back in the car and headed back around the crater rim to the Thurston Lava Tube. We passed a group of cruise passengers on a bicycle tour shore excursion along the way, each peddling through the rain in their attractive yellow rain slickers. Susan and I could not help but be thankful for our warm and dry rental car. The Thurston Lava Tube proved to be the highlight of the park. First, you walk a winding path through a tropical fern garden growing from the rich volcanic soil. Birds and wildlife were in abundance, including a rather feisty and colorful chicken who crossed our path. The lava tube itself is a huge cave several hundred yards long, carved through the hillside by flowing lava. The main section of the tube is well lit and was comparatively dry compared to the rain-soaked jungle outside. After a trek through the tube, you exit up a stairway and then follow another path through the woods back to your starting point. Even with the rain, it was a pleasant little stroll. At that point, it had started to rain again so we called it quits for volcanoes. I might have liked to trek around and see flowing lava but bad weather and limited shore time convinced us to leave that for some other day. During the leisurely drive back toward Hilo, Susan read the tourist magazine provided by Dollar and discovered that the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Plantation was along our route back. We easily spotted Macadamia Drive and hung a right onto the 2-3 mile entrance road. Macadamia Nut trees lined the drive and in a few minutes we had arrived at the processing plant and, of course, gift shop. The gift shop had samples of just about all of the macadamia nut products, cookies and candies. We stuffed our cheeks like rabid squirrels and then scooped up armloads of goodies to send to friends back home. We compared prices at ABC stores and other discount spots throughout the trip but the factory store prices were as good as any. The factory store also offered packing and shipping services at very reasonable rates. With our souvenir obligations behind us, we headed for downtown Hilo. The downtown area is small and rather plain but did have a few blocks of cute, little shops about a block off the water. Unfortunately, it was still raining, which greatly dampened our spirits for more souvenir shopping. After a quick cruise up and down the main streets, we pointed our rental car back towards the airport. Along the way, we passed the King Kamehameha statue at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. After dropping off the rental car back at the airport, we jumped aboard the Dollar shuttle bus back to the ship. We had a talkative driver so I asked him about a number of slinky little rodents that I had spotted scurrying near the road as we left the macadamia nut plantation. I thought they might be minks or ferrets but Susan insisted that I was crazy and that they were nothing more than squirrels. Our driver explained that they were, in fact, mongooses, also known as "Howlie Squirrels" since most non-natives guess that they are squirrels. Mongooses, it seems, were imported to the islands in hopes of controlling the rat population. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that mongooses sleep at night and rats sleep during the day so the plan wasn't very successful. Back on the ship about noon, we stopped for lunch in Versaille, the ship's main dining room. I ordered an ahi dish but forgot to specify that it be cooked rare. Once again, it was well done. Good but not great. The noise level in the huge Versaille dining room also reaches unpleasant levels at about half capacity. We shared our table with another couple and by the end of the meal, the room was so noisy that we were having trouble hearing one another. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and as it turns out, we got so relaxed that we forgot what day it was and completely missed the Cruise Critic meeting in the Biergarten. I felt like a dope but you just can't let things get to you on vacation! For dinner, we had reservations at Le Bistro. Unlike the voluminous Versaille, Le Bistro was small, quiet and intimate. Susan and I both had Filet Mignon, each prepared in a slightly different manner and both excellent. Appetizers and desserts were also fabulous. This was truly a 5-Star dining experience. We finished dinner just in time to attend the evening show in the Stardust theatre. The show featured the Jean Ann Ryan dancers and a juggler named Barry John. The Jean Ann Ryan company is excellent. Most of the performers could easily be cast in any Broadway production. The sound system rendered some of the women's vocals a bit screechy but we were impressed overall. Barry John was also very entertaining. He juggled. Balls, pins, rings, etc. He told jokes and silly stories. That was more than enough. One minor complaint about the Stardust theatre is that all of the seats seem to tilt slightly downhill and you always have the discomforting feeling that if not for the friction of the plush, velour upholstery, you would slide right off onto the floor. At first, I assumed that my particular seat was defective but I tried many seats throughout the week and all were the same. Fortunately, the shows tend to run less than one hour so overall discomfort is minimized. Still, if it was possible, I'd adjust the stops on those seats up about 5 degrees. After the show, disco night was awaiting us in the Dazzles nightclub. We stuck our heads in the door to check out some of the goofy '70's attire, mostly worn by the crew, since few guests were aware of the themed events prior to arrival onboard. The time change was still nipping at our energy levels however, so we quickly decided to call it a night. The next day, we heard frequent stories about the hilarious disco lip-sync contest which we had missed. Fortunately, the event was later shown repeatedly on the ship's television channel for the rest of the week so we really didn't miss a thing. Tuesday: At Sea Enroute Fanning Island Tuesday we awoke to a beautiful at-sea day. The sun was out and the view from our balcony offered water and sky for as far as the eye could see. Susan and I both decided it was time for a little physical fitness. I headed for the jogging track on deck 14 and she headed for the fitness center. I think the sign said 4 laps of the jogging track was a mile. I knocked out 15 laps at a comfortable pace and with 20 knots of wind across the deck, I hardly noticed the heat. One problem for joggers is that the track is fairly narrow for long stretches port and starboard. The track also attracted far more walkers than runners, despite the fact that the main deck provides a wider, longer and more interesting route for walkers. This makes it exceedingly hard to pass from behind, particularly when a walker is cluelessly sauntering along with headphones blaring in their ears. Oh well. Runners can't expect to be knocking out any record times on a track like this but if you're a walker, you might consider choosing the main deck and avoid the hastle of us runners standing behind you yelling "Beep! Beep!" every half lap. After our workouts, we headed to Versaille for breakfast. Breakfast options on Star consist mainly of Versaille or the Market Cafe. Since Versaille is less crowded and quieter in the mornings, it is clearly the best choice. The food was hot and well prepared. Denis from Grenada provided excellent service, all while singing a merry tune to himself. For the rest of the cruise, we alternated breakfasts between Versaille or swinging through the Market Cafe to bring a tray of breakfast goodies back to our stateroom. Eggs in the Market Cafe were consistently cold so carrying them the extra distance back the stateroom had very little negative effect. Susan's first spa appointment for a facial was scheduled at 9 a.m. so I was on my own for the morning. Tuesday is the first opportunity to pick up tender tickets for Fanning Island so if you're anxious to get ashore as soon as possible on Wednesday, you'll need to stand in line to get a ticket. I showed up about 15 minutes before they started distributing tickets and got a pass for Tender #1. If you aren't in a hurry then don't bother. Pretty much everyone that wants to will get ashore by 10 a.m. By 11 a.m., there was still no sign of Susan and I was beginning to wonder whether the Barong Spa was holding her for ransom. I dropped into Dazzles for Movie Theme Song Trivia and teaming up with Mike and Regina from Florida, we racked our brains to identify brief snippets of popular movie themes. Our team ultimately proved victorious, winning a fabulous NCL prize "worth well UNDER one million dollars". (In this case, NCL insulated water bottles.) An assorted band of trivia contest regulars (a.k.a. "Triv-iots") soon became our frequent companions throughout the remainder of the cruise. During the afternoon, we attended a presentation by the ship's Hotel Director James Deering entitled: "How to Sound Like a Wine Expert in One Hour". The cost was $10/person, with $5 credited back if you purchased a bottle of wine. Regardless of the price, this was a fun event. Mr. Deering informed us that that he had a degree in wine making (viticulture?) and that he remembered just enough to share it all in only one hour. We were able to sample five different wines while Mr. Deering sniffed his wine, (Drinking being off-limits to officers on board) and explained various characteristics of each. Being from California, Susan and I were no strangers to wine tasting but to Mr. Deering's credit, we learned many new things about wine during his presentation. The evening show in the Stardust Theatre was a revue of Andrew Lloyd Weber songs entitled "Music of the Night". The cast of the Jean Anne Ryan Company was excellent and equal to almost any Broadway show company. NCL is apparently the only cruise line with rights to perform these pieces. This was clearly the "not to be missed" show of the week. Tuesday is also the only "formal" night on board. A jacket and tie is required to dine in the Versaille dining room on Tuesday night. The other restaurants remain more casual. The Freestyle dining concept was nice in that I never had to dress fancier than a Hawaiian shirt and khaki's for dinner. I never regretted leaving the tux at home. Tuesday evening in the main restaurants also featured a special "Presidents" menu of items prepared by an ex-white house chef for various presidents and their first ladies. Lacking any formal attire, we chose Aqua for dinner. Aqua's menu is identical to that served in Versaille but offers a much smaller room with more modern dEcor. The "non-specialty" restaurants don't take reservations so we went to the early (7:30 p.m.) show, sat near the exit, and then ducked out promptly at the end of the show to head for Aqua. There was no line and we were seated immediately. By and large, we never had any trouble waiting in lines for the non-specialty restaurants. My advice is that, if you see a line, go take a walk and return in 15 minutes. In almost every case, you'll never be burdened with more than a minimal wait. The President's Dinner was very good. Not quite up to our Le Bistro experience of the night before but still excellent. The wait staff in Aqua was prompt and courteous. We were seated somewhat near the door which was distracting but good for people watching. After dinner, we ended the evening with a trip to Gatsby's, a piano bar, featuring pianist Roger Carr. Roger is a bit of a character but has an amazing range and obviously enjoys what he does. Roger's hair also seemed to be a frequent topic of discussion among the guests. "Toupee or not Toupee?", that is the question. Regardless of the answer, it did look like a furry helmet. Roger clearly had a knack for winning over audiences however and it didn't take long for his music to become the focus of attention. He also played a rousing game of "Name that Tune", which we narrowly lost to one of the other groups of triv-iots but still had a great time singing along to the quiz answers. Wednesday: Fanning Island Wednesday means "Fanning Island"! We awoke to another gorgeous day, grabbed a tray of breakfast in the Market Cafe and lounged about waiting for the announcement that tender boarding had begun. Wednesday evening is Lobster Night in the main dining rooms so we planned for a return to Aqua that evening. However, since you can make reservations one day in advance, I scurried down to the lobby to make a reservation at Endless Summer for Thursday evening. The reservation line usually started to form about 8:45 a.m. By the time the reservation desk opened at 9 a.m., about 20-30 people would be queued up. We never had any trouble getting a reservation exactly when we wanted but I did overhear complaints from those arriving later in the day about specialty restaurants being all booked up. Tenders started boarding about 9 a.m. The initial rush was hot and crowded and we had to wait about 15 minutes in the 4th deck passageways before we were actually allowed to board the tenders. Seas were relatively flat so boarding the tenders was no problem but several passengers told us that a later tender broke a window against the boarding platform as it rose and fell with the seas. Such tales should not scare anyone away from the tenders however. The NCL crew did an extremely good job ensuring that everyone was able to board the tenders in a safe and comfortable manner. Once the tenders cast off from the ship, the 10 minute ride into Fanning was very pleasant. It's also a great opportunity to take pictures of the ship at sea. The tenders pull up to a pier inside the sheltered harbor area so there is no trouble at all to disembark. A group of Fanning natives waited on the pier to greet us with songs which created another log jam of human bodies. It was a nice touch, but NCL should really encourage the singers to move ten yards down onto the shore to alleviate the choke point on the pier. Once on shore, guests spread out to nearby beach chairs, a craft market and bicycle rentals. NCL staff members milled about offering bottled water and juice-filled pineapples for sale. Unlimited amounts of ice water are available for free about 100 yards inland so pass on the bottled stuff unless you're some kind of "water gourmet". The juice drinks are really tasty and refreshing but very pricey at $7.99 each. Susan and I staked out a couple beach chairs then took a tour of the craft market. Crafts consisted mainly of beaded and shell jewelry and ceremonial wood knives with blades edged in sharks teeth. Items varied in price from $1-$30 depending on size and complexity. We brought about $40 in one dollar bills with us but ultimately didn't find any trinkets that we couldn't live without. Susan returned to her beach chair for some sun worship and I took a swim. The water was very warm and clear and it was very breezy with a 15-20 knot trade wind blowing throughout the morning. The designated swim area was roped off with buoys and the outer perimeter patrolled by an NCL crew member in a boat. The beach and swim area offered clean, white sand with a few small volcanic rocks. One small rocky area at the far end provided a meager bit of interesting snorkeling with small but colorful, aquarium-sized fish. After my swim, the local officials started stamping passports. A tip of a dollar or two is customary for this service. The NCL staff also started serving lunch which consisted of BBQ chicken, burgers, hotdogs and other picnic foods, including pizza, because as we all know, nothing says "tropical island" like a slice of pepperoni pizza! The food was good and I didn't see any of the flies that I had heard previous cruisers complaining about. After lunch, Susan and I set out to locate the school for which we had brought an assortment of school supplies. A few yards from the pier, I had seen a flag pole where a sign had been posted for "Free Tours". We returned there and found a local named "Tioon" who was happy to show us around. Tioon explained that his name was pronounced almost exactly like my own name "Shawn". Tioon's english was very good although sometimes he didn't fully understand questions I asked him. Whenever this occurred, he would just laugh and say "I like you but I don't understand what you're talking about!" After a short walk up a rocky path, we came to the school which was a simple cinder block structure with a tin roof. Class was in session but Tioon walked me to the door and instructed me to simply approach the teacher with our donation of supplies. Poking my head in the open door, I was confronted with a room full of students, attentitively listening to the teacher who was writing lessons in what I assume was "Gilbertese" on the chalk board. I told the teacher that we had some school supplies for her class and just wanted to say "Thank you" for excusing our intrusion onto their island. The teacher turned to the class and said something in Gilbertese and the class gave us a gracious round of applause. Humbled, I bowed out of the room and we continued our tour. Tioon then escorted us along a series of rocky paths through their village. Through the trees, we were able to see many of the small thatched roof huts and simple shacks that the islanders called home. Although other cruisers had reported being distressed by "poverty" they witnessed on the island, Susan and I came away with a very different impression. Certainly, the islanders did not possess much in terms of material possessions, they did appear to be happy and healthy. Tioon explained that he and his family moved to Fanning two years earlier so that they could have a better life than was possible at his former (unidentified) island. He explained that he fished every day, because if he did not fish, he did not eat. I asked him if he had a boat and he responded: "Only a net". He also told us how he must regularly climb the palm trees to harvest "toddy". "Toddy", he explained, is juice from the palm trees which is drips from cut stalks at the top of the trees. The sweet juice is mixed with tea and other foods in their diet. If you take a tour on the island, look for the the little footholds cut into the trunks of the palm trees and you'll probably see a container somewhere at the top of the tree to collect the toddy. After a walk by the village "church", a large tin room on cinder block legs, we turned back for the pier. Along the way, we handed out pencils to the kids who shyly accepted the gifts before scurrying away to show their friends. Upon returning to our starting point at the flag pole, I gave Tioon $10 for what I am certain was the "best deal" on Fanning Island. We returned to the ship after lunch just in time for the "Chocoholic Buffet". Every sweet chocolate treat imaginable was available on several long buffet tables in the center of the Versaille dining room. We were told that NCL held the buffet in the afternoon rather than at midnight to accommodate the many children aboard. I witnessed many cruisers departing with heaping platefuls of treats and I kept seeing people eating the leftovers for several days afterwards! Our brains buzzing with sugar-induced energy, we dropped in for Rock'n'Roll Trivia in the Java Cafe and won yet another fabulous NCL prize. (Drink Cozy? Playing Cards? I've lost track.) Wednesday evening was "Lobster Night" so we returned to Aqua for dinner. Once again, no reservation required and there was no wait to be seated. The lobster entrEe was very nice—two good-sized lobster tails, deftly removed from their shells by our server. The Crepes Suzette dessert was also tasty. Our first stop for evening entertainment was "The Not-So-Newlywed Game" in the Spinnaker Lounge. The game featured four cruise couples married from 4 days to 55 years. Cruise Director Patti Honaki did a good job in the "Bob Eubanks Hostess" role and got her biggest laughs with the discovery that two of the wives were not wearing any underwear! A taped version of the show merited repeated viewing as it continued to run the remainder of the week on the ship's TV channel. Next was another musical revue by the Jean Ann Ryan Company entitled "It's Fame" and featuring a variety of musical styles including pop, country and Broadway tunes. This show was good but less compelling than the "Music of the Night" show the night before--more equivalent to something you'd see in an amusement park venue than on the Broadway stage. After the show, we dropped by Gatsby's once again for a night cap and another opportunity to sing along with Roger Carr before calling it a night. Thursday: At Sea - Enroute Maui Thursday was our second full at sea day. I occasionally overheard some cruisers grumbling about limited port time and there being "nothing to do" aboard. I could only shake my head in bemused wonder at such comments. If anything, Susan and I found the at sea days to be the most relaxing of the cruise. At sea, there were no worries about scrambling on or off the ship, booking rental cars, searching maps for tourist sights, etc. You just kick back, eat yourself sick and enjoy the sound of time passing. Once again, we started our day with a workout—another 15 laps of the jogging track for me, another trip to the fitness center for Susan. At 9 a.m., I was queued up in the main lobby to make dinner reservations at Soho for Friday night. After winning another fabulous NCL prize in "Trival Trivia", Susan decided to try her luck at Bingo since they were offering 5 games for $10. Here's what we learned about Bingo. One - there are several ways to play. For the special $10 price you get to play 5 games on one little paper card; simple and cheap but not much chance to win. The serious players pony up for a "power bingo unit". This is an electronic unit that allows a player to play a dozen or more cards at a time. The cost for this was about $30 for the same five games. Predictably, those with power bingo units win most of the time. Susan's poor little card didn't pay off but she also received a ticket for a free cruise raffle that was to be drawn at another bingo session later in the afternoon. And guess what? That didn't pay off either! We may have been losers at Bingo but we both knew that our strengths lay elsewhere. We finished bingo just in time to re-team with theme song buffs, Mike and Regina, for "Theme Song Trivia". The contest was hard fought and we had to give some of the other trivia Read Less
Sail Date: April 2000
I sailed from L.A. on the Norwegian Star April 2, 2006 - the first cruise since they were in dry dock. Although I am mentioning a few things I didn't like, we generally had a really good time and enjoyed the cruise. None of these ... Read More
I sailed from L.A. on the Norwegian Star April 2, 2006 - the first cruise since they were in dry dock. Although I am mentioning a few things I didn't like, we generally had a really good time and enjoyed the cruise. None of these things ruined my trip by any means. I was somewhat surprised to notice a broken light fixture as soon we started looking around the ship. It is not a big deal but they had just spent three weeks fixing the ship so it surprised me. Our first room 5016, was uninhabitable. The smell of mildew was overpowering as soon as we went in. Neither neighbour had this problem so I assume the carpet had been wet and mold was growing. They offered to spray with Febreeze but I couldn't see how that would do anything more than mask the odour for a few hours. We were given another room in the same category. An upgrade might have been nice! This was my first Norwegian Cruise having previously sailed with Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. Generally speaking the ship was beautiful with only one exception - that being the Market Cafe - Buffet area. I had heard it described as resembling a high school cafeteria and was doubtful that it could possibly be that bad - but it was! It was the most unattractive and noisy eating place you could imagine. Since I only had a quick lunch there one day, I can't really comment on the quality of the food. The pool area was also less appealing than other ships I have been on. With two huge yellow water slides leading to quite a small pool and surrounded by tables and chairs rather than deck chairs it wasn't a place where I would choose to sit to read, relax and tan. I found the food in both main dining rooms very good and the service was wonderful. The Versailles is an elegant, classy room. The Aqua is a little more intimate and cozy but the food is the same in both. One evening we ate in Endless Summer which is a Mexican Restaurant. It wasn't my favourite meal of all time but there was really nothing "bad" about it either. Le Bistro [a pay restaurant] was in a class by itself. Everything was superb. The first full day at sea is half price in the pay restaurants. All the food at Le Bistro was great but the desserts were amazing. Also a wonderful dessert available at the Trattoria [Italian] is Tiramisu. You can have it on the 'Italian night' at the main dining rooms too. We enjoyed all of our ports. It would have been nice to have a little more time in Cabo San Lucas and Ixtapa/Zihua but they were all great stops. None of the staff ever walked by without a smile and a greeting. They were great. For those who complain about the wait staff in dining rooms not being very friendly - I think that might be a cultural difference. Many of them are from Eastern Europe and are more reserved, professional and serious than Americans but are lovely people when you take the time to chat with them. The service was wonderful. I was very happy with the food and service. The entertainment was far better than on any cruise line I have sailed before. I loved Jeff Harms, the comedian the most. Embarkation and Disembarkation were handled quite quickly with no major problem. Although I had a few negative comments it wouldn't stop me from booking another Norwegian cruise in the future. Read Less
Norwegian Star Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 2.0 3.2
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

Find a Norwegian Star Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise