Sat in the Bliss Ultra Lounge for one last time, I was sad to disembark the Norwegian Star Cruise Ship, but not gutted.
This was my 3rd cruise with NCL and the first time I hadn’t been devastated our voyage was over.
That’s not to say we didn’t have a great time. We did and we’ve already planned future cruises with Norwegian, but, for me, the Norwegian Star just didn’t live up to the high standard our first cruise on the NCL Epic or the Canary Islands cruise on the NCL Spirit set.
Want to know why I didn’t fall in love with it? I’m sharing all my thoughts as well as giving you a mini ship tour in this Norwegian Star cruise ship review!
Norwegian Star Cruise Ship At A Glance
- Built-in 2001, the NCL Star was refurbished in 2018.
- Coming in at 91,740 gross register tonnage, the overall length of the ship is 965ft and the max beam (width) is 125ft.
- The maximum guest capacity is 2,348, with the ship crew totalling 1,031.
- At the moment, the NCL Star sails in Bermuda, Carribean, Europe, South America & Transatlantic.
- The Norwegian Star has 15 delicious dining options as well as 10 bars and lounges and even a wine cellar to keep your thirst at bay.
- Highlights onboard include the Star Club casino, the Mandara Spa, outdoor and indoor swimming pools as well as the spectacular Stardust theatre.
Cruising With NCL
Despite its name, Norwegian Cruise Line is an American Cruise Line so everything is paid in dollars. This means, that depending on how the GBP is doing, UK cruisers can get a great deal. I was also told that, because the European cruise industry is one of the most competitive in the world, NCL offers some of their best deals to UK cruisers.
The main difference between NCL and the rest of the cruise industry is their signature freestyle cruising. Although most cruise companies are now relaxing dress codes and making the whole experience more informal, nobody does freestyle cruising with Norwegian.
Essentially, freestyling cruising is just like staying in a regular holiday resort. Forget any images of a stuffy atmosphere with a strict dress code, NCL cruises are all about relaxing and doing your cruise on your own terms.
Unlike a lot of cruises, there’s no timetable about when to eat, you simply eat when you want to. There’s no formal dress code, with relaxed casual being the standard across the ship.
That’s no to say you can’t dress up or enjoy some more traditional elements of a cruise. There are some dining rooms that don’t allow jeans etc. but you don’t have to go to that restaurant because there is so much choice. You’ll also get to dress up on Norwegian’s Night Out, but again, this is completely optional and you wouldn’t be out of place in jeans and a top.
Norwegian Star Cruise Ship Review
For reference, I cruised on the Norwegian Star in the middle of October 2019 on the 7 night Greek Isles and Italy cruise from Venice and that experience is what I’ll be basing this review on.
Embarkation & Disembarkation
If you ask anyone who’s been on a cruise before, they will tell you that Embarkation is the most stressful thing about cruising. The queues seem to be endless, you have to complete forms and go through both the ship’s security and immigration.
On top of that, everyone always seems to head straight for the buffet once they’re on the ship making getting something to eat and getting a table nearly impossible. But hey, it could be worse, you’re on a cruise!
Comparing the NCL Star embarkation with the other two, this was hands down the most stressful. I don’t know whether it’s to do with the embarkation port being in Venice, opposed to Barcelona where our previous two cruises had been, but this was so badly organised in comparison.
My mum is disabled and usually, NCL has a big banner for when you arrive at the port, directing you to go through a priority, fast-track entrance. Not only was there no signage for this in Venice, but the staff seemed reluctant to let my mum use this service despite obviously being disabled.
Once we got through the fast-track embarkation, things were a little better but again, staff didn’t seem very enthusiastic and weren’t guiding people to where they needed to go next. I sound like I’m picking at little things, but there was a hugely noticeable difference between this embarkation experience and the previous two.
As for disembarkation at the end of the cruise, this was much much smoother and well organised. Although, word of warning for anyone disembarking at Venice, there’s no luggage conveyor belt meaning you have to wander around a hall looking for your luggage. Although this will be organised into colour tag groupings, making your case stand out somehow will help you spot it in the sea of black suitcases.
Itinerary & Shore Excursions
We select our cruises based on the itinerary, so that’s what really sold our cruise.
Our original itinerary looked like this:
Day 1: Embarkation in Venice, Italy
Day 2: Kotor, Montenegro
Day 3: Corfu, Greece
Day 4: Santorini, Greece
Day 5: Mykonos, Greece
Day 6: Kefalonia, Greece
Day 7: Dubrovnik, Greece
Day 8: Disembarkation in Venice, Italy
Unfortunately, due to cruise restrictions implemented by Venice cruise port, we were informed upon embarkation that our itinerary had changed meaning we wouldn’t be docking in Kotor, Montenegro. Actually, we did make a stop in Bar, Montenegro but this was only a technical stop for 2 hours and nobody was allowed to get off the ship.
If you’re thinking of doing this cruise, I’d recommend double-checking the amount of time you actually get in port. In some ports were only there a couple of hours, which after queuing for the tender, gave you practically no time in port. For me, I would have prefered fewer ports on the itinerary but longer in each one but obviously, this is affected by a lot of external factors that NCL can’t control.
Saying that I would definitely recommend doing some of the NCL shore excursions, especially when you don’t have long in the port. All of the ones I’ve done have been excellent and worth the cost. Oh, and you also have the added benefit that, if your trip is delayed in returning back to the ship, the ship won’t leave without you!
Fed up of me being a moaning Minnie? Me too. In fact, you’ll be relieved to hear that our stateroom on the Norwegian Star cruise ship was the best out of all three NCL cabins we’ve had.
As I said at the beginning, the Norwegian Star was refurbished in 2018 and you can really tell that the staterooms have been recently refreshed.
I loved everything from the multiple mirrors, the dressing table area with a seat and hairdryer to the inclusion of multiple USB sockets around the room making charging electricals a dream.
I stayed in the same cabin as my parents to help my mum but at no time did we feel cramped or on top of each other and we’re not exactly small humans.
For anyone new to cruising, cabins are much smaller than your average hotel room most noticeable in the bathroom. However, for the amount of time you spend in your cabin, you don’t need anything more.
For reference, these photos were taken in a Balcony stateroom, with the sofa converting into an additional bed.
Eating & Drinking on the Norwegian Star
Would it really be a cruise without good food and a cocktail or two?!
Foodies will be pleased to know that there are 15 delicious dining options for you to try on the Norwegian Star cruise ship.
In case you didn’t know, dining is split into two groups: complimentary options that are included in your cruise fare, and speciality dining options which come at an additional cost.
Complimentary dining options include:
- Ginza Asian Restaurant – an Asian Fusion dining venue featuring everything from noodles and soup to fried rice and sweet and sour.
- O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill – Open 24 hours, this is based on an Irish pub and serves classics such as burgers and even shepherds pie! We actually came here for breakfast most mornings as we found it much calmer than the Garden cafe.
- Aqua – One of the two main dining rooms, there’s a standard menu plus daily specials.
- Garden Cafe – This is the buffet and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. With action stations including from meat-carving, made-to-order pasta and waffles, you’ll find something here that you love. Word of warning, the choice can be overwhelming.
- Topsiders Bar & Grill – Located next to the Oasis Swimming Pool, you’ll find burgers and hot dogs along with a salad bar here.
- Versailles – The second of the two main dining rooms, this is a bit more traditional than Aqua but offers the same menu.
- Room Service – This is technically complimentary, although you will have to pay a small convenience charge.
Speciality dining options include:
- Moderno Churrascaria – A Brazilian steakhouse that includes a salad bar and slow-roasted meats.
- La Cucina – An Italian ristorante offering classics such as pasta carbonara or shrimp fettuccine.
- Atrium Cafe & Bar – Serving Starbucks coffee, this is a great spot to sit back and relax.
- Cagney’s Steakhouse – An American-style steakhouse that includes Angus beef and their famous Parmesan truffle fries.
- Le Bistro – A French restaurant that lets you sample Mediterranean, nouveau and classic cuisine.
- Sushi & Sake Bar – Enjoy traditional sushi and sashimi at this a la carte restaurant.
- Teppanyaki – A Japanese Hibachi restaurant that is like dinner and a show.
Need a drink to wash all that food down? You have 10 to choose from! Apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned these include:
- 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar – A Tropical themed bar that has a signature margarita.
- Bliss Ultra Lounge – The main lounge that always has plenty of entertainment and music.
- Gatsby’s Champagne Bar – Featuring a great choice of champagne and vodka, this is a 1920’s themed bar that has live music most nights.
- Sky High Bar – An outdoor bar that serves frozen drinks.
- Spice H20 – The adults-only bar that serves cocktails during the day, transforming to a nightclub at night.
- Star Club Casino Bar – This bar is in the heart of the Casino letting you hit the slots and sip a drink.
- Sugarcane Mojito Bar – Whether it’s day or night, enjoy a mojito the way you like.
All the food & drink we tried was delicious but it was let down on two occasions.
The first point was mainly about the lack of communication. Whilst NCL operates on a freestyle system and you can just walk-in to restaurants, you can also make reservations at most via an app, interactive touch-screens, the website, calling the reservations team or going to the reservations desk.
Before the cruise, we booked our first night in Aqua no problem and decided to book again for the next night. On our previous NCL cruises we did this doing the app, but when I checked the app it said no reservations were available. I checked all the other dates and the same thing happened.
Assuming that there was an app error, I made a call to the reservations desk and the rudest person answered, so rude in fact that I ended up making a complaint. Extremely patronising, she first told me no reservations were available. Asking if that was the case for all the other dates, she said we could make a reservation for early (6 pm) or late (9.30 pm) but clearly didn’t want us too as she emphasised that we should just walk-in.
What was even more confusing was that the Freestyle Daily (a little newspaper telling you what’s happening on the ship) kept telling you you could make reservations for most restaurants and didn’t mention this change at all.
Another night, we went to the Ginza Asian Restaurant. On our previous ship, this got really busy and, as it is advertised on the website as not accepting reservations (fair enough), we went early. It was only on the off-chance that me and my mum were playing around with one of the interactive screens that we saw that you could make a reservation for it via the screen. Yet, when I checked the app whilst I was stood at the screen, it still said you couldn’t make reservations. We check this out a couple of times and it was the same every day. Hmmm.
Not being able to make reservations wasn’t a deal-breaker, but the lack of communication and confusion around making them really let the dining service down.
The next issue was around the Teppanyaki. Unlike on the NCL Spirit where it was only one table, the teppanyaki on the Norwegian Star cruise ship is in a huge room, with 4 tables being served at the same time, each with their own chef. This would be fine, but each chef begins at a slightly different time but has the same script meaning you can hear all the other tables whilst your own chef is cooking too.
Adding to the fact Teppanyaki is super noisy, it just became this unbearably loud and confusing mess with each chef competing for attention about the clatter of knives and singing. Not ideal when you’re paying extra for it either.
The only reason I can see NCL changing the format of this is for more money. This is hugely popular and more people being served at the same time is more money in the till. As I say, it would have been better if all the chefs were doing the same thing at the same time so they didn’t have to compete but ultimately this ruined the experience.
On-Board Activities & Entertainment
I don’t think I’ve ever been bored on a cruise. There is always so much to do, from the onboard shopping to organised activities.
As I mentioned before, everyone receives a copy of the Freestyle Daily in their stateroom in the evening. In this, you’ll find out everything that is going on on the ship, from casino events to arts and crafts.
Speaking of arts and crafts, me & my mum even did a canvas painting class whilst onboard. Whilst this class was at an extra cost, many of the activities are complimentary, cater to all taste and abilities, including plenty of things for children & teenagers.
Some of the onboard activities include:
- The Barong Fitness Centre which also offered lots of classes every day.
- Basketball & volleyball court as well as 2 golf driving nets.
- 6 hot tubs, an indoor lap pool and jacuzzi plus the main Oasis Pool.
- A jogging and walking track to keep your step count up.
- The Mandara Spa & Salon offering a variety of treatments including a Thermal Suite.
- An internet cafe so you can stay in touch.
- The Splash Academy for children aged 3-12 or the Teen Club.
- The Star Club Casino that features 158 slot machines as well as Blackjack, Roulette, Craps and Let It Ride.
- The Library where you can check out a wide variety of books.
- A video arcade.
- A Wine Cellar offering wine tasting.
- An amazing selection of shops including Effy Jewellery, Pandora, designer bags, luxury beauty products, food and drink as well as souvenir gifts.
- An Art Gallery and regular art auctions.
In addition to other performances, the following regular shows are being performed on the Norwegian Star cruise ship at the Stardust Theatre:
- Band on The Run – Transporting you back to one of the hottest clubs of the 70’s, Club BOTR, this show features songs from Donna Summer and Queen.
- Paradis – Inspired by Parisian culture, this show is a visual spectacle that embraces both the bohemian and chic.
- Vegas! The Show – Featuring everything from The Rat Pack and Elvis to Tina Turner to Cher, embrace everything Las Vegas has to offer in this story of the most influential entertainers in Sin City.
- What The World Needs Now – Celebrating the song-writing of Burt Bacharach, this is a beautiful show full of singing and dances.
Overall Thoughts on Norwegian Star Cruise Ship
Overall, I have a great time sailing on the Norwegian Star cruise ship, but it’s not my favourite from the NCL fleet.
Our cabin was the best we’ve ever had and the facilities onboard were amazing, especially the shopping. Needless to say, I disembarked with a pandora purchase and Valentino bag.
I don’t know whether it’s because I now have something to compare cruises with, but I found little things like the service and lack of communication really let it down.
There’s no aqua park like on the NCL Epic, but this might appeal more to an adult cruiser. Saying that there were still plenty of kids on board when we sailed with lots of activities and things to do.
I wouldn’t not recommend the NCL Star, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to go back on board. It just wasn’t a standout for me and fails to hold its own in comparison with other cruise ships.
Do you like the look of the Norwegian Star? Have you got a favourite cruise ship? Let me know in the comments below!
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