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Louisa

Age: 35

Occupation:Web Site Designer

Number of Cruises: 11

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Star

Sailing Date: 11-23-2008

Itinerary: Mexican Riviera

This was my first trip on NCL and will not be my last! Freestyle Cruising has its trade-offs, but I feel like it was designed for people like us (30s professional couple, no kids). I wouldn't rule out other cruise lines, but it will be very hard to go back to traditional cruising after this experience. If you plan to eat at the specialty restaurants, estimate an additional $400 - $500 for this. We had all those specialty dinners, several drinks, bought some souvenirs, and including our service charges, our extra cruise bill was under $600 for two people. Not bad! The service may be spotty, but the experience is fantastic - in fact, this is the most relaxing vacation we have ever taken because we were allowed to do things on OUR schedule! If you are a foodie (and love eating at different types of restaurants), if you love to "do your own thing" on vacation, if you love relaxing and taking it easy, if you love privacy, and if you love having a variety of onboard activities, this ship is for you! If you are traveling in a large group or if you prefer traditional cruise dining, activities and schedules then this ship is not for you. I did not go hungry on this cruise! I am a *very* tough customer when it comes to cruise line food, and I can honestly say that the food on the Star was some of the best I've ever had on any major cruise line. Everything from the buffet to the steakhouse served really good food! We had the opportunity to dine in all of the specialty restaurants (except the Italian restaurant) during our trip. I think the best specialty restaurant on board is the French restaurant, Le Bistro. If you have a balcony cabin or suite, you can make reservations 2 day in advance. This was nice, as we never had a problem getting a reservation at any of the specialty restaurants. Another great tip is that if you are willing to eat late, after 7:30 pm, you should be able to get your desired reservation. The cover charge is charged directly to your onboard account. At the end of the meal, you are given a check to sign with a line for adding an additional tip for your server if you wish, just like at a real restaurant. We found that the servers were happy to let us order multiple appetizers, desserts, sides, entrees, etc. if we asked - with no additional fee. Even if the portions were on the small side, they would gladly bring as much as you wanted 'til you were stuffed. We had a balcony cabin, room 9100. It was a standard cruise line cabin, but it felt a little on the small side and never felt very clean. It was more cramped than other ships I've sailed on. The bathroom was especially tight. The shower is set up like a standard walk-in shower and was roomy, but the toilet has its own little separate area with a sliding door. This doorway makes access very, very tight. In fact, if you are a large person, I would recommend booking a handicapped accessible room because if you were too plump or tall, there is no way you could fit through that door to get to the toilet. I'm not the skinniest person in the world, but I'm not the largest either, and I have bruises on my shoulders, arms and legs from hitting that door that closed off the toilet. You could only walk through the door sideways because the sliding door isn't wide enough to accommodate standard shoulders. I am not joking! The room had a bright and fun nautical inspired theme with anchor prints and carpet. The shower had a squirt pump attached to the wall with Elemis spa shampoo and body wash (no conditioner or bar soap, bring your own). There was only ONE electrical outlet in the cabin, so bring extra outlet plugs! Also note that smoking is allowed in any stateroom and on the private balconies, so you may get a really stinky room. If you are a nonsmoker, be aware of this! We don't smoke but we did smell cigarettes from our neighbor's balcony from time to time during the cruise. We only stopped by briefly to a few of the production shows and we were disappointed. It was a bit less-than-stellar cruise ship fare. We live in Las Vegas and get the best jugglers, acrobats, singers, etc. so maybe I have too high expectations. Other passengers seemed to love the production shows. The theater layout was horrible, though (see Ship / Public Spaces for more details). The bars had good entertainment. Mr. Motown played his synthesizer with classic tunes, and the Pat Juneau band was an okay rock / pop band. The best bar entertainment was Sean, the Canadian guitarist in the Red Lion Pub. He was very talented, friendly, and was fun to listen to. The Second City comedy troupe was also on board and performed 3 shows that were painfully unfunny. This must've been the "D-List" Second City players. Truly, their shows were awful. There were lots of fun and different activities on board. There was a murder mystery dinner (we missed the signup but it sounded fun) and lots of poolside events, parties, trivia games and contests. There were also several really fun wine tastings, martini tastings, sangria tastings, beer tastings, etc. We did the martini tasting and it was a bargain at $15 per person. We were poured 5 nearly full-sized martinis each! I'd recommend sharing because we were drunk the rest of the afternoon. The casino was lively, large and spacious with a good variety of slots and table games. It was very smoky, though! The bars onboard were well laid out and comfortable, and the specialty drink menus were fantastic! The specialty martini menu was my favorite, and the prices ranged from $9.75 - $10.50 (plus a 15% auto gratuity) for a tasty martini. Specialty shots were around $3.50 - $5 each. Service was hit or miss. We found the employees to be either super friendly or very surly - I'd say the mix was an even 50 / 50. I don't know if this is a result of freestyle cruising or what, but several of our waiters and our surly cabin steward seemed to really hate their jobs! Our cabin steward was the worst steward we have ever had on any of our many cruise vacations. He was unfriendly and unaccommodating in all respects. If we kindly asked for an extra pillow, we had to ask several more times before he'd bring it. And certain days, we'd have fresh towels and others he wouldn't bother to exchange them (even when they were on the floor and we had specifically asked for them)! On Monday, we got 2 washcloths but no hand towels. On Tuesday, we'd get one washcloth and one hand towel. On Wednesday, we'd get 2 hand towels but no washcloths. It was strange. Our shower soap / shampoo dispenser went empty 2 days before he bothered to refill it (and only halfway at that)! And the cabin never felt clean! I think he vaccummed our floor once during the entire trip. It was just gross. And on the last night before we disembarked, he had already started to put out stuff for the new guests! Sorry, but I am still on vacation and this is still our cabin for the next night! I know what you are thinking - "oh, these people must be jerks." That is not true! We are friendly to a fault! I am always cheerful and was so friendly and congenial to this man - but he treated us like dirt. The service in the free dining rooms was okay, but I have to admit that I did miss the personal service you get from traditional cruise ship dining - the same waiter every night. Freestyle Cruising is a real trade off in that respect. The service was very good in all of the specialty restaurants with the exception of Endless Summer, and the service was truly exceptional at Le Bistro. The bar servers were bordering on stalkers! As soon as you entered a public lounge or bar, several would start following you to your seats, each trying to beat the other to take your order! It was very intrusive and I felt like the waiters were fighting over my automatic 15% gratuity! One night in the Spinnaker Lounge, we had THREE waiters trying to stalk us to take our orders! They were literally falling all over each other to be the first to our table! And in the main showroom, you'd have a line of waiters follow you to your seat!

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