Number of Cruises: Many
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Star
Sailing Date: March 24th, 2002
Itinerary: Honolulu to Maui
I was the group leader and seminar facilitator for a group of 19 travel professionals onboard the Norwegian Star for a 5-day cruise from Honolulu to Maui. It was my first time on the Star and I was looking forward to getting to know it.
Freestyle Cruising on the Norwegian Star is an entirely new and unique experience that may very well be what the future of cruising looks like. I for one am a Freestyle Cruising enthusiast and would always choose Freestyle Cruising Norwegian Star style over any other type of cruising. If this review sounds over positive, this is the reason. You simply have to try it to make your own determination but I think a majority of repeat cruisers would agree with me. So here goes.
The Norwegian Star is the very first ship built exclusively for Freestyle Cruising. She is a large ship at 91,740 gross tons but a couple of things make her unique. First, her layout is extremely interesting. She offers nooks and crannies everywhere and her design is as diverse as a small city. She is made for family cruising and her vast array of restaurants, bars, lounges and entertainment venues is staggering. It is literally not possible to experience each of her restaurants on a 7-day cruise.
The truth is that while Hawaii is always a 5-star destination, the Norwegian Star is a destination in herself that would probably sail full even if she were operating in the least interesting destination possible (even if she didn’t go anywhere.) Not that cruising on the Star is a Hawaiian experience, it’s not. There are few Hawaiians that work on the ship, the dining is decidedly not Hawaiian (with the exception of the Endless Summer Restaurant) and the Hawaiian culture of aloha has not permeated the ship, as one would anticipate. Having personally made 281 trips to Hawaii, owned a wholesale tourism company that specialized in sending people to Hawaii marketed through travel agents and having worked as a sales manager for Aloha Airlines for over ten years, I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable about Hawaii tourism and culture. I very much liked the blend of cruising and Hawaiiana that NCL has created on the Star and think it provides a very well rounded overview for visitors to Hawaii (especially first time visitors.) In reviews I have read about the Star this seems to be an issue. Those that are expecting a cruise that is completely Hawaii-themed will likely find fault that their servers are not Hawaiians, that the entertainment is international and that the whole experience is more international than anything else. Not that there isn’t Hawaiian entertainment, there is. You just have to seek it out.
We were only on the Star for a total of five nights and there is so much to see and do on the ship that I am sure there is lots that we missed but I will try to describe the ship as best I can. Freestyle Cruising is the absolute best way to go in my opinion but it does require some preplanning to maximize your vacation enjoyment. For this reason, this review is written more about the ship than the itinerary so that you can understand how you want to plan your cruise. I try to share ways to maximize your dining and entertainment experience. If you are set on traditional cruising (same table, same waiter, same time every night, etc.) you might not like Freestyle Cruising. If you like going to different restaurants when you want to go and would like to choose the kind of entertainment you want rather than what is being forced down your throat then you will love Freestyle Cruising. With 14 dining venues and an equal amount of entertainment venues, the Star offers very compelling choices. I only wish we had some restaurants like those that exist on the Star close to my home. So with that out of the way here is what to expect from the ship.
Our group was in veranda cabins on decks 8, 9 and 10. The cabins are generously sized and feature a modern décor offering wood and mirrors along with the textured wall coverings. The veranda is large enough to accommodate two reclining lounge chairs and still have plenty of room for a table and such and just begs you to relax and enjoy the ocean as it goes by. The veranda offers much protection from the elements so that even in rain you can enjoy its promise of relaxation and privacy. The door leading to the veranda opens widely enough so as to make it easy to get to and from the veranda without having to squeeze in or out of the cabin and the black-out curtain makes for enough privacy and blockage of the sun to sleep during the day if you so desire. While I normally don’t care if I have a veranda or not, on this cruise I would certainly make sure I had one as it greatly enhances your experience.
The cabin offers an entertainment center with a TV. (many channels and music) and a telephone along with some shelving, a table and chair one could use for work and it would be an ideal location as it faces the ocean. (However, there is not an 110v outlet at this location so if you intend to do some work on the cruise, bring 15-20 ft multi outlet extension cord) Across from the entertainment center is a small sofa and coffee table. Again there is enough sitting room so that you can actually get around the cabin without having to squeeze through and around the furniture. I had two twin beds in my cabin but I am sure they could be combined to make one larger bed. I found the bedding too hard for my taste but didn’t have much trouble sleeping. The pillows are quite full so if you like a slimmer pillow to sleep with then I would bring one along. There are two nightlights that work well for reading but oddly, no control for the cabin lighting by the bed.
Moving towards the closet area there is another small desk (make up table) with a mirror, 110v outlet (only one though, so be sure to bring an extension cord with multiple outlets) an excellent hair dryer and light for the mirror. The cabin also offers a small refrigerator to house drinks, fruit or whatever and a couple of shelves above the unit and three large drawers below it. Between this and the entrance door is a large closet with a stack of shelves. Finally, there are a couple more shelves right above the safe that is located behind a small door that swings open to expose it. There is plenty of storage space for clothing for two people.
The bathroom is awesome! First, the shower is large and has a solid glass sliding door that completely encloses the shower area for a relaxing spacious shower. The hot/cold water controls work excellent and once you have found the right temperature you simply use the on/off control to take a shower. There is a large mirror and sink, again large enough to actually use. The faucet is large and delivers a robust flow of water upon command. Finally, the toilet area also has a sliding glass door for privacy, which is appreciated by everyone. All in all, it is one of the best bathrooms functionally that I have seen on any ship. While most cruise lines have gotten away from using separate toiletries in cabins, the Star offered both in shower and sink soap dispensers (also shampoo in the shower) but also offered bar soap for both the shower and sink. All in all, I found the cabin to very well designed and functional and the bathroom to be a real treat.
Freestyle Cruising is all about the choices one can make about their vacation. The Norwegian Star has ushered in a whole new environment for cruising that maximizes personal choice. The dining opportunities on the Star are one of the major attractions so here are the various dining opportunities. I have listed them in the order I would prefer them should I take the Norwegian Star again but that doesn’t mean your tastes would be anything similar to mine.
Le Bistro, deck 6, mid ship
NCL’s signature alternative restaurant for years, the Norwegian Star has elevated Le Bistro to a new height. The restaurant is large and beautiful with recessed ceilings, elaborate crown molding, exquisite wall coverings and sumptuous surroundings. The Star offers Le Bistro’s established menu of appetizers, soups and salads, entrees and fabulous desserts. We had an excellent dinner the first night even though everyone was tired from arriving to the ship. One of the main treats at Le Bistro is the delivery of the entrée. Depending on how many are at your table your waiter will deliver your entrée with a silver cover on it. Once everyone has their entrée the covers are removed all at once so everyone can enjoy the presentation of the entrees. Le Bistro is known for its French cuisine, mixed on the spot salads (Caesar is the best in my opinion) gourmet entrees and elaborate flambé desserts. We shared the chocolate fondue for dessert (I only ate the fruit, I promise.) There is a $12.50 per person gratuity collected at Le Bistro and it is well worth it.
The Ginza Restaurant, deck 7, mid ship
The Ginza Restaurant actually offers three separate dining venues all of which feature Thai/Japanese/Chinese fusion cuisine that is excellent. I only experienced one of them and consider the other two as a primary reason to cruise on the Star again. Here goes.
The Ginza Restaurant.
This is the main restaurant of the trio and it is awesome. Servers dress in the native garb of the theme for the restaurant and give you a feeling of authenticity. The restaurant is designed as a lavish Japanese restaurant would in Tokyo and is every bit as genuine. Two entrees make up the dinner so that you can combine flavors to suit your desires. Dishes of pork, chicken, steak, fish, shrimp, scallops and lobster are offered. All entrees are served with a green salad, a seaweed delicacy, Miso soup and Teppanyaki vegetables. I order a fresh whole lobster ($25.00 service fee) and it was wonderful however it was billed as a Hawaiian lobster but was in fact, a live Maine lobster. Our group also ordered dim sum that was excellent as appetizers. Sukiyaki is also offered as an entrée and was to die for according to those that enjoyed it. There is a $10.00 cover charge to dine at the Ginza Restaurant and well worth it. There are also some ala carte items on the menu as well if one so elects, that carry an additional fee. I am glad that I didn’t dine in the Ginza until the last night as I would have never made it out of there the entire trip to try other restaurants.
The Teppanyaki Room
This venue only holds a limited number of people at a time and I encourage you to make a reservation there at your earliest convenience, as it is very popular. The Teppanyaki Room offers twelve seats around a central grill (actually two grills) where the master chef prepares culinary Asian delights for the lucky folks dining there. His assistant keeps things going and a session in the Teppanyaki Room lasts an hour and a half or so and everyone leaves content and raving about the experience. Again, there is a $10.00 service fee to dine in the Teppanyaki Room (worth $30.00, if not more.)
The Ginza Sushi Bar
Like fresh sushi? All you can eat for a $10.00 cover charge. I don’t know about you, but I love sushi and can eat a lot. That is the reason I didn’t dine here because I have access to excellent sushi places at home and I was afraid I would hurt myself. Those that did dine here raved about the sushi.
The SoHo Room, deck 6, mid ship
Boy, did I like this restaurant. I could have eaten here every night and been completely happy with the cruise. The SoHo Room offers a Pacific Rim menu with treats like Coriander, Garlic and Ginger Roasted Medallion of Monkfish (my favorite fish) or try Sizzling Szechwan Encrusted Beef Tenderloin Steak that is served on a sizzling platter where the sauce is added at the table. The food here is excellent and the presentation superb. On the evening we ate in the SoHo there they had a tiger prawn dish that was to die for. I had the Ahi Tune Tartare with Two Caviars and the shrimp dish. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Definitely try the Soho Rome if you like Pacific Rim cuisine. There is a $10.00 cover charge to dine at the SoHo Room and there are also ala carte items on the menu that may be purchased for an additional amount. As an example if you want live fresh Maine lobster you may pick one out of their tank (approximately 1 ½ pounds) and they will prepare it for your taste any number of ways. The price for this treat is an additional $25.00 (including the gratuity). People who had the lobster raved about it. There are also several flambé desserts to choose from the make this dining experience very special. Reservations and a $10.00 gratuity are required.
The Versailles, deck 7, aft
This is one of two main restaurants that do not require reservations nor does it require any sort of additional gratuity. A group of us choose to dine in the Versailles on the optional formal night as we all dressed for formal night and wanted an elegant setting for dinner. The Versailles did not disappoint us. I loved the restaurant’s elaborate décor with pillars, high recessed ceilings and elegant furnishings. The food and service turned out to be just as good. Our entire table ordered lobster and generous sized tails were initially served followed by more for those that wanted them. The restaurant also features dishes such as Beef Wellington and Duck a l’Orange along with NCL’s wine list. I gave the restaurant high marks and if folks on the Norwegian Star did not want to pay extra gratuities and yet still have a very fine dining experience, the Versailles restaurant fills the bill quite nicely. No reservations or extra gratuities were required.
The Endless Summer
Here is an authentic Hawaiian food restaurant. Three of us ate there one evening and thoroughly enjoyed the service and the menu. I ordered Maui Opae (Shrimp, greens and a wonderful Papaya Salsa) and Lau Lau (fish and rice wrapped in a ti leave then cooked) and it was excellent. The restaurant also features many other traditional and creative dishes from Hawaii such as Seared Ahi (tuna) and “Broke da Mouth Potato Salad.” I just couldn’t make up my mind. While the menu is a treat for Hawaii aficionados it may be beyond folks liking more traditional foods and children who do not like to experiment with new ideas in food. I thought it was ono (if you don’t know what I mean by that you might not like the restaurant). There is no additional charge to dine in Endless Summer but reservations were required.
La Trattoria Restaurant, deck 12, mid ship
La Trattoria is NCL’s signature Italian restaurant and it is in high demand on the Norwegian Star. I had just gotten off the Norwegian Wind and had eaten at the La Trattoria Restaurant there a number of times so I passed on trying it on the Star. However everyone raved about the creative Italian entrees and the service. The restaurant is actually part of the Market Café during the daytime and then is set up as La Trattoria in the evening time. Entrees such as “Shrimp in Garlic and Olive Oil on Linguini noodles, cherry tomatoes,” “Pave of Atlantic Salmon with Garlic Olive Oil Masked Potatoes an Tarragon Herb Salad” and “Veal Scaloppini with Sage and Prosciutto, Spinach Fettuccini and Marsala Veal Jus” made everyone who dined at La Trattoria satisfied and wanting more. Reservations were required but no extra gratuity was.
Aqua Restaurant, deck 6, mid ship
This was about the only restaurant I didn’t personally experience as its menu is similar to the Versailles Restaurant and I wanted to try all of the alternative dining venues (or as many as I could.) The setting in the Aqua Restaurant is delightful (as you can see) and those that dined there found the service and cuisine to be of the same standard as the Versailles Restaurant that I can personally vouch for. No reservations or gratuities are required.
Market Café, deck 12, aft
This is the Star’s main buffet but don’t confuse it with the typical ship buffet. For breakfast a typical buffet is offered with breakfast meats, eggs, fruit, cheeses, breads and other treats. An omelette station makes omelettes to order and a waffle station will make waffle to order as breakfast moves into lunch the fare changes. My favorite was the “Vegetarian Action Station” where nothing but vegetarian dishes were offered. It was a wonderful treat. In addition to the specialty buffet offered daily there is a more traditional buffet offering the wide variety of foods you would expect to find in a luncheon buffet on a ship. The Market Café offers six separate buffet lines and I never saw a crowd that was a deterrent to dining there. While I did not take dinner at the Market Café, I did wander through a couple of evenings and the normal buffet and a themed buffet were being offered each time. One evening they were offering “A taste of Asia” buffet and I almost decided to eat again it looked so excellent.
The Grill, deck 12, mid ship
Here is the main poolside-dining venue but once again NCL has taken it to the next level. There is a breakfast buffet in the morning but in addition to the breakfast buffet there is an excellent fruit station with fresh carved on the spot fruit. Fresh Hawaiian papaya, citrus, pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon and casaba melon were all offered….and it was delicious. Lunch time saw the buffet quickly become salads, and other treats while the main buffet changed over to hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and the like. This is when NCL fires up their huge bar-b-ques and start cooking the ribs, steak, fish and other treats. Sometimes (depending on the weather) they continue the bar-b-que into the evening for dinner. It doesn’t matter where you eat lunch, if you walk by the Grill while the bar-b-ques are in use it is hard not to nibble on a little treat.
Las Ramblas, deck 12, mid ship
Las Ramblas is a fun little restaurant/bar that serves tapas (Spain's version of the Hawaiian pu-pu or appetizer.) There are different tapas available each night and our group always met there for the 2-for-1 happy hour when it was available. Las Ramblas opens at noon daily and is a great alternative to the other restaurants.
The Blue Lagoon, deck 7, aft
Open 24 hours a day, the Blue Lagoon offers hamburgers, hot dogs, fish and chips, a couple of stir fried dishes, potato skins, chicken wings and so on. There are always cookies and fruit to munch on. This is a great spot for kids during the day or evening or for that late night snack if you have closed the disco.
The best way to maximize your dining experience on the Star is to have a plan in place from the very first day. While waiting until the last minute to decide where to dine may work out for you it will require that you wait to obtain a table and possibly delay your ability to attend the entertainment venue of your choice. Based upon the information about the restaurants that appears above, simply plan out your week’s dining plans and make reservations when and where you would like to dine in advance. You can always change it once you are on the ship and visit the various dining venues and explore their menus.
The Entertainment and Lounge Venues
The Stardust Lounge, Decks 6 and 7, Forward
Wow! What a great entrance to the Stardust Lounge! Here is a huge two-story showroom with all the stage effects that you would see in Las Vegas. While I didn’t get to any of the main shows (to busy enjoying the restaurants) those that did said they were excellent. NCL is known for their excellent productions by the Jean Anne Ryan Company and the productions on the Star were even better yet. We disembarked before the final show that we understand is the best of the three stage productions and unique to the Norwegian Star. Needless to say if you like major productions, you will not be disappointed with the entertainment on the Norwegian Star. The Stardust Lounge also offers two shows each night, one at 7 pm and then again at 9 pm.
The Spinnaker Lounge deck 12, forward
This was built to be the disco (Dazzles) but was turned into a separate lounge when the area that was to be the casino was turned into Dazzles. The Spinnaker Lounge serves as the observatory for the Star as it is located all the way forward on deck 12 and offers a commanding view of the horizon. It is large and offers seating for hundreds and is an under utilized area of the ship. It is a beautiful room to relax in and offers contemporary music for dancing and relaxing in the evening time. This is a great venue if you not exactly the disco type.
Dazzles, deck 6, forward
This area was designed as the ship’s casino, but as Hawaii specifically requires that no casino be aboard any ship operating in Hawaii it was turned into a large Dazzles disco. This was about the only flaw I saw on the Norwegian Star as the disco fell short of providing the kind of environment that other Dazzles offers. There is no sense of intimacy and the room doesn’t invite mingling of the folks in the disco. If it were my ship I would move Dazzles to the Spinnaker Lounge and turn the area into a large Lounge with soothing dance music. In this way, the disco crowd could party all night in an environment more suitable for the Dazzles crowd and the more relaxed passengers could enjoy the spaciousness the current Dazzles offers. That is just my perspective, but then I have never run a ship before.
Karaoke Circus, deck 7, mid ship
If you like karaoke you will love this spot. Here is a bar dedicated to karaoke and folks are becoming stars every evening. A very popular spot on karaoke night be sure to get here early to gain good seats.
Miscellaneous Public Areas
The Pool Area, deck 12, mid ship
At first I didn’t like the appearance of the pool area whatsoever but it kind of grew on me. At the center of the area are the two story high slides that please the kids all day as proven by their continuous squeals and screams. It drove me away from my normal positioning by the Jacuzzis but once I found suitable positioning to lesson the invasion of kid’s screams I was very happy. The Norwegian Star offers several pool areas with Jacuzzis for kids so that adults primarily inhabit the two main Jacuzzis in the pool area. Also, lounge chairs are at a premium around the main pool so if you want one be sure to get there early on the days at sea. Fortunately there are several areas designed for sunning and finding a chair is not difficult unless being by the pool is of importance to you. The pool itself is surprisingly small compared to other ships in this size range. However the availability of other water venues seems to hold the crowds down so that it doesn’t get too crowded.
The Internet Café
With a dozen computers hooked up to the Internet with fast connections I never had to wait for a terminal. However, it is expensive. The best deal I got was a package of 250 minutes for $100.00, or $.40 per minute (On the Norwegian Wind 3 weeks earlier I was able to buy it for $.25 per minute) It worked out OK as I was able to keep my online time to a minimum but still had to pay for extra time after I had used up my 250 minutes. (HINT: Use the Internet Café during the cocktail hour as a group plays Hawaiian music in the Endless Summer Café and it is very relaxing to enjoy it while online.) I have found by using webbox.com ( www.webbox,com ) to access my e-mail accounts that it dramatically speeds up the process. Be sure you have your passwords to your AOL accounts as well.
The Kid’s Area and Pool, deck 12, aft
This is a wonderful kids area that is made up of the Video Zone and the kid’s pool area. The Video Zone is quite large for a cruise ship and has several top quality video games that were heavily used during this cruise. The feature that I was impressed with was the extensive children’s pool area. It offered several small pools that kids could jump in and out of, two small slides perfect for little tykes, a couple of Jacuzzis just for kids (great idea a it keeps them out of the adult’s Jacuzzis) and several nooks, crannies and kid things to play with. Any youngster would be able to amuse themselves here for days.
The video Zone was another hit with the kids and was located right off the pool area/ It featured a good number of full scale video games that seemed to keep the kids busy all day. The kids club was also a hit with the younger set.
The Registration Desk and Atrium, several decks
This is the hub of the Norwegian Star where the registration desk and shore excursion desk are located. The Registration Desk was the only other flaw I saw on the Star. Inexperienced personnel manned it and it was somewhat frustrating for passengers requesting simple information or other basic requests. There didn’t seem to be anyone at the desk that had the answers folks wanted. While the young ladies were pleasant you just got the feeling that they didn’t understand a word you said.
The Atrium itself is breathtaking and is the center of the ship's activities. Several decks are open to the Atrium and it is breathtaking from some of the lookouts in the elevator banks.
The Galleria Shops, deck 7, aft
The Norwegian Star offered a good number of shops and actually had them organized like a department store. One can find just about anything they are looking for in the Galleria Shops and they are set up for shoppers to enjoy (much like Nordstroms)
The Barong Spa and Beauty Center, deck 11, aft
The Norwegian Star offers a huge Spa and Beauty Center and all of the services that go along with it. While I didn’t visit the spa many in our group did and said they loved it. There is also a lap pool and Jacuzzi one can use in the spa as well. Adjoining the Spa was the Barong juice bar that served fresh juices and smoothies.
The Theater, deck 12, forward
NCL held their meeting in the Theater and it was a wonderful venue for meetings as it was acoustically perfect. The Star offers full-length movies daily in this theater and uses it exclusively for them.
The Meeting Rooms, deck 12, forward
There are three breakout rooms for meetings that can be arranged as one large meeting room and is an excellent choice if you intend to do any formal meetings while on the cruise. All meeting room amenities were available as well and their location guarantees peace and quiet during the daytime.
The Chapel, deck 12, forward
This chapel is used for small weddings and other ceremonies and would be a great place to redo your marriage vows or even get married. It is out of the way and quaint.
The Fitness Center, deck 12, aft
NCL has done an excellent job on the fitness center and there is everything one needs to get a very satisfactory workout here. However I found it crowded much of the time with many folks who didn't seem to understand the equipment or the etiquette. While I didn;t feel well the entire cruise I found that by going to the fitness center early in the morning I could enjoy the facility without interruption.
The Library, deck 12, forward
The library is quite large and well stocked with lots of current books. It was a place many people chose to lounge and simply read and watch the ocean go by. The library adjoins the card rooms and is a great place to relax.
Various Bars and Lounges, various decks
The Norwegian Star offers additional bars and lounges that are available for your enjoyment throughout the ship. While the main entertainment venues are discussed above following are some of the more notable bars and lounges to choose from.
The Wine Cellar, deck 6, mid ship
Here is a small and intimate little bar (seats about 10) where one can enjoy a glass of fine wine. It adjoins Le Bistro and makes a great place to start an evening dinner.
The Red Lion Pub, deck 7, aft
This is an authentic English pub that serves fish and chips to those that want it. It is a great place to enjoy some ale or other English beverage. Never crowded some of the folks in our group chose to spend their early evenings here every night.
Java Café, deck 7, mid ship
Want a cappuccino, latte or other exotic coffee drink? This is the place to meet for coffee and a roll or to simply just relax and watch the movement of the passengers on the ship as they wandered past.
Gatsby’s Champagne Bar, deck 6, mid ship
Here is the Gatsby’s Champagne Bar everyone has come to know and love. We met here one evening for cocktails and it offers a wonderfully intimate place to gather before dinner and enjoy a wonderful glass of champagne or wine (they served mixed drinks as well.) With bar stools and tables, Gatsby’s is a great place for solo travelers to relax.
The Star Bar, deck 12, mid ship
This is a great relaxing bar. In the evening it offers soothing music (piano or a Hawaiian duo) and a pleasant place to simply relax and watch the ocean go by while enjoying a glass of wine or your favorite beverage. It is also a good place to meet friends for conversation, as the music is never too loud and invasive. The Star Bar is open during the day and is a relaxing place to get away from it all if that is what you are seeking. The ever-present Hawaiian music and lack of people made it one of my favorites.
The Havana Club, deck 6, mid ship
This is a quality cigar club with excellent ventilation and is a treat to be in. It is decorated in leather and dark wood for that feeling of comfort one needs to really enjoy a cigar. There is a humidor and several quality cigars are offered as well as after dinner liquors.
Topsiders Bar, deck 12, poolside
This is the main bar serving the entire pool area and also the outside buffet lines. It is a long full service bar with lots of stools for those that want a refreshment in while enjoying the pool or sunshine. Full bar service is offered by pool attendants who make themselves available to the guests sunning themselves on decks 12 and 13.
The Bier Garden, deck 14, mid ship
High up above the pool is the bier garden serving beer and other beverages to those hanging on the bar stools and tables on top of the ship. I never tried the bier garden but it seemed popular with those that did.
Day one, March 24th, 2002, Honolulu, Hawaii
I arrived at Honolulu International Airport right on time after the 6-hour flight on Hawaiian Airlines from San Diego. I grabbed a taxicab and made my way directly to the ship (cab fare was $18.00 including tip) Upon arrival I entered the terminal to board the ship and went through a speedy check in process that allowed me to board in about 30 minutes from the time I arrived. I always carry my luggage onto the ship so that I can unpack the minute I get into my cabin (Hint: even if you are not going to carry all of your luggage on with you, pack a bag with everything you will need for the first 24 hours on the cruise and carry that on. This will eliminate the frustration of having to wait for your bag to arrive in your cabin) I unpacked and then made my way to the Purser’s desk to reconfirm our group’s arrangements. After confirming our arrangements I explored the Norwegian Star as it my first time on her. She was very interesting to say the least.
We did the boat drill and then I prepared for the evening’s cocktail party where I was to meet the group in the Spinnaker Lounge. After meeting everyone some of us decided to try and get into Le Bistro for dinner and off we went. Fortunately they were able to seat us upon arrival and some of us took a table not knowing how many were coming. After ordering dinner more of our group showed up and took another table. I have to admit it was a bit awkward, as I would have preferred to all sit at one large table. The dinner unfolded and each course as good as the last. After a wonderful dinner and wine, we decided to walk the ship’s different venues to see what was going on. The Norwegian Star was indeed active and everyone was getting into the freestyle atmosphere right away. I turned in early to get ready for the following day.
Day two, March 25th, 2002, Hilo, Hawaii
In order for the Norwegian Star to make its arrival time at Fanning Island she had to depart Hilo at 1:00 pm. We arrived a 8:00 am and I had arranged to have a realtor meet me at the ship to show me some property. I currently own some raw land above Hilo that I have been trying to sell and have decided to trade it for agricultural property in hopes of improving the chance of selling it. One of my hobbies is growing rare and exotic fruit so I wanted to look at commercial exotic fruit groves in and around Hilo as possible trades/investments. I looked at several properties but didn’t see anything that I really wanted but had a great morning reacquainting myself with the culture around Hilo. I did note that the Hilo area seems somewhat depressed and the property values are at an all time low (especially raw and agricultural property) If one wanted to invest based on the idea of buy low/sell high, now is the time to invest in the Hilo area.
Back on board I took a quick lunch in the Market Café’ Vegetarian Action Station and made my way to the Jacuzzi for a relaxing afternoon. As this was the first formal evening on the cruise we had decided to dine in the Versailles Restaurant and enjoy the lobster dinner. We attended the early show of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Music of the Night” which was an excellent musical performed by the talented Jean Ann Ryan Company. Following dinner we moved to the Versailles Restaurant and enjoyed a fabulous lobster dinner with seconds offered to everyone. I wanted to listen to some Hawaiian music so chose to go to the Star Bar to listen to the duo playing there. It was great.
Day three, March 26th, 2002, Day at Sea
I had boarded the ship with a bad cold that had now turned worse and I was feeling relatively poorly so after a quick breakfast in the Market Café returned to my cabin to try and rest. I got quite a bit of work done and finally took a break about 1 pm to take a small lunch and to try to sit in the sun for a while hoping that would dry my cold up. After a couple of hours I returned to my cabin for a nap in hopes that would help. I awoke in time to get ready for dinner and met some of our group in the Spinnaker Lounge for a cocktail before dinner. We chose to dine in the Endless Summer Restaurant and went without any reservations. We didn’t have a problem getting in so we enjoyed an authentic Hawaiian dinner while listening to Hawaiian music. It was very relaxing and I really liked this restaurant quite a bit. After dinner I called it an evening and returned to my cabin.
Day four, March 27th, 2002, Fanning Island, Republic of Kiribati
Today was the worse day of my cold and I decided to simply stay in my cabin for the day and rest. I took a quick breakfast and lunch in the Market Café and spent an hour or so in the Jacuzzi but other than that just rested.
Dinner found a group of us with reservations in the SoHo Restaurant. I was feeling better and was looking forward to a wonderful dinner period so I joined them at the Gatsby’s Champagne Bar directly outside the restaurant. After a 45 minute wait and social period we gained a table I the restaurant and enjoyed another wonderful dinner. Once again I was bushed and turned in early.
Day five, March 28th, day at sea
I spent another day recuperating and was now feeling much better as the day wore on. By the afternoon I felt good enough to spend some time in the Jacuzzi and sit in the sun and by dinnertime I felt much better. We had reservations in the Cinza Restaurant for seven so we formed a group and made our way to our appointed time. We enjoyed another excellent meal in what was becoming a fantastic cruise experience based on the dining opportunities and little else. After dinner I listened to some more Hawaiian music and then turned in.
Day six, March 29th, Kahului, Maui
We arrived in Kahului, Maui at approximately 1 pm and I was booked on an overnight flight out of Maui connecting through Honolulu back to Los Angeles and then on to San Diego. I was anxious to get to Honolulu so decided to take a taxi to the airport ($5.00 including tip) and stood by for the first available flight. Once I Honolulu I spent my time having a nice dinner and then boarded the flight for home.
Even though I felt lousy for this cruise, I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of choice that the Norwegian Star provides its passengers. The ability to please one’s self from a wide variety of choices adds a whole new dimension to cruising and I personally like it much better than traditional cruising. However, Freestyle Cruising is not so good for groups as the restaurants cannot handle requests for large or adjoining tables unless it is either early or late in the evening. Further, the type of bonding that occurs with groups when they dine together simply does not materialize making it much more difficult for the group leader to control the group’s personality. That said I would choose Freestyle cruising on the Star before any other ship I can think of.
Frequently asked questions
What if I Don’t Want Freestyle Cruising but Want the Same Waiter and Table Every Night?
Once you are on the Norwegian Star and want to arrange for the same table and waiter at the same time for dinner every night the Maitre d’ will do everything to accommodate you. However, you must make this request early in the cruise (preferably the first day)
Are There Still Formal Nights and What is the Dress Code?
Freestyle Cruising is all about choice. There are optional formal nights where one of the restaurants will impose a formal dress code to gain entrance for those that want to dress. However, resort casual is the name of the game for the cruise and if someone simply does not want to dress they could go the entire cruise with ever putting on a tie or coat and never feel out of place. However there are no shorts, tee shirts or other casual wear after 6 pm on the ship.
Liken it to going to a formal party at a resort where there are casual parties, dressy parties and formal parties all going on at the same time. In the bar of the resort you might see every type of dress represented but no one feels out of place. In contrast on traditional ships if one wears anything but formal wear on formal night they feel out of place. It works quite well as everyone can please themselves.
How are Gratuities Handled?
NCL will simply charge the gratuities to your onboard account (currently $10 per person, per day) at the end of the cruise. There are no envelopes to deal with and all of the staff members know that they are taken care of. I you would like to present tips in addition to what is charged to your account feel free to do so. Also, if you would like to modify the gratuity amount charged to your account simply see the Purser’s desk and request the change.
Do I Need a Passport for this Cruise?
YES! If you do not have one you will be required to post a deposit to cover the fine NCL will be charged for violating immigration law. On this cruise the INS did a thorough investigation of the passenger manifest and I suspect that those folks without passports paid dearly. Be sure to take your passport!