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Tom Ogg

Age: n/a

Occupation:Travel Professionals

Number of Cruises: Many

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Star

Sailing Date: August

Itinerary: Alaska Inside Passage

Tom Ogg
CruiseReviews at AOL.com
(format like an orthodox e-mail address)


22nd, 2004

The Setup
I was the group leader and seminar facilitator for a group of 36 travel professionals onboard the Norwegian Star for a 7-day Alaska Inside Passage cruise from Seattle. It was my second cruise on the Norwegian Star and I was looking forward to seeing the changes that were made in her recent dry dock refurbishment. I was also keen to see what (if any) changes in the level of service had occurred since NCL had levied the "mandatory gratuity" policy earlier this year.

Summary in Advance
I really liked freestyle dining on the Norwegian Star. A group of us ate in a different alternative restaurant every night and had a great dining experience (with one exception). The service level on the Star was superior to what I experienced on my first cruise on her and the ship has made several changes for the better. I can't say that other folks that I spoke with were as pleased with their dining experience, but then they did not take advantage of the alternative restaurants either. All in all, I think this ship is an excellent choice for folks that want to have a varied dining experience, coupled with a great Alaska cruise itinerary leaving from Seattle.

The Ship

Norwegian Star

The cabin
Our group was in both inside and outside cabins on various decks. I was in an inside cabin (cabin 11023) on deck 11, well situated for easy access to the pool area and Market Cafe. The inside cabin offered ample size and featured a modern décor offering wood and mirrors along with the textured wall coverings. 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. (However, there is only one 110v outlet at this location, so if you intend to do some work on the cruise, bring a 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. 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 without the proverbial shower curtain clinging to your body. 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. I didn't find the inside cabin a negative on this cruise, as I was able to take a quick nap at any time I wanted. By simply shutting the door, I could make the cabin pitch black regardless of the presence of sunshine outside.

The Restaurants
Freestyle Cruising is all about the choices one can make about their vacation. The dining opportunities on the Star are one of her 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. One of the main reasons to take the Norwegian Star (in my opinion) would be to enjoy the variety of interesting restaurants that are available as alternate dining options. If you like to try different restaurants at home, you will love the Norwegian Star.


The SoHo Room

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 an Asian Fusion / 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. We actually dined here twice and had wonderful meals both times. The restaurant was never crowded.

On the first evening, I ordered lobster (a total of $20 service fee) and was disappointed in the quantity and quality of the lobster, however the balance of the dinner made up for it. The second evening I ordered 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 Room if you like Pacific Rim cuisine. There is a $15.00 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.


Le Bistro

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. 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 shrouded by a silver cover. 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 $15.00 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. We made excellent use of the Ginza Restaurant by not only enjoying it in the evening, but also on sea days when sushi and dim sum are offered for lunch.


The Ginza Restaurant

The Ginza Restaurant, deck 7, mid ship
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. The sushi, dim sum, sukiyaki and other items are excellent. There is a $12.50 cover charge to dine at the Ginza Restaurant and it is well worth it. There are also some ala carte items on the menu, as well if one so elects, that carry an additional fee.


Dining in the Teppanyaki Room

The Teppanyaki Room, deck 7, mid ship
This venue only holds up to 12 people at a time and I encourage you to make a reservation 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 and his assistant prepare 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 $12.50 service fee to dine in the Teppanyaki Room (worth $30.00, if not more.)


Cagney's Steakhouse

Cagney's Steakhouse, deck 13, mid ship
This was actually everyone's favorite restaurant, but on a bet, I ordered a steak (I rarely eat any red meat) and didn't care for it at all. Cagney's Steakhouse replaced the old Tapas Bar on the Norwegian Star. The restaurant is elegant and the service superb. Those that ordered the fish and lobster raved about it and steak eaters loved their steaks. It was just my own stupidity of ordering a steak that took away from my personal dining experience. Give it a try and I think you will love it. The is a cover charge of $20.00 per person to dine in Cagney's with many ala carte items on the menu that will cost a bit more. I heard that the lobster was to die for and next time I will order that instead.


The Sushi Bar at the Ginza Restaurant

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. While we didn't take advantage of the all-you-can-eat sushi for $12.50, those that did, enjoyed it. You sit at the counter and a conveyer belt brings by fresh sushi offerings that are made eight there in front of you. Simply pick the sushi you want and enjoy as much as you want.


The Versailles Restaurant

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. We dined here on a formal night to enjoy the lobster. After being spoiled in the alternative restaurants, we were under-whelmed. The room was cold, the service was only so-so and overall, while an acceptable cruise dining experience, it was the only time we broke away from the specialty restaurants.


The Aft Windows in the Versailles Restaurant

The Versailles windows were simply gorgeous. They looked out the aft off the ship and made one feel as if they were in a very luxurious restaurant.


The Endless Summer Restaurant

The Endless Summer, deck 8, mid ship
Once the home of traditional Hawaiian cuisine while the Star was based in Hawaii, the Endless Summer Restaurant now serves up good ol' Tex-Mex cuisine. Not being a Tex-Mex fan, I never ate at this restaurant, but those that did liked it. I never heard any raves, so I suspect that it is just OK. There is no service fee, but reservations are required.


La Trattoria Restaurant

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. 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.


The Aqua Restaurant

Aqua Restaurant, deck 6, mid ship
I didn’t personally experience the Aqua Restaurant, as its menu is the same as 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. No reservations or gratuities are required.


The Market Cafe

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 omelet station makes omelets to order and a waffle station will make waffle to order as breakfast moves into lunch the fare changes.


Market Cafe Fresh Cut Fruit

There is a fruit station with a selection of fresh cut fruit to enjoy. 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. It is a great place for breakfast and a quick lunch. A themed buffet dinner is offered each evening and was very popular with families. Sandwiches and late snacks are served, as well. It seems there is always something going on somewhere in the Market Cafe.


The Blue Lagoon Restaurant

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 before you go to bed.


The Grill

The Grill, deck 12, mid ship
Here is the main poolside-dining venue. 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.

Planning Your Dining Experience
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


Entrance to the Stardust Theater

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.


The Stardust Theater

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.


The Spinnaker Lounge During an Art Auction

The Spinnaker Lounge deck 12, forward
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 was very popular while the ship was in Glacier Bay. It is a beautiful room to relax in and offers contemporary music for dancing and relaxing in the evening time. This also serves as the Star's main dance venue later in the evening.


Karaoke Circus

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. Karaoke Circus also becomes the ship's late night disco for the younger set.


The Norwegian Star's New Casino

Just added in dry dock is the Star's brand new casino. Formerly Dazzles Disco, the casino is a large and well appointed full service casino. Always busy, it was a hit with everyone that gambled.

Miscellaneous Public Areas

The Pool Area, deck 12, mid ship
The pool area on the Star was fine for Alaska, but seemed to be too small for sun oriented venues. A group of us spent the 2-hour Glacier Bay viewing opportunity in one of the Jacuzzis and had a wonderful time. There are a number of areas to enjoy the sunshine around the pool and forward of the pool, as well.


The Internet Cafe

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. (HINT: Use the Internet Café during the cocktail hour as a group plays music in the Java Café and it is very relaxing to enjoy it while online.)


The Kid's Pool Area

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 Kid's Club

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 Grand Atrium

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 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

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 Nordstrom)


The Photo Gallery

The Photo Gallery, deck 7, forward
This is quite an active photo team and there are lots of pictures to look at. The best advice is to wait until later in the cruise to buy, if you want to control your photo budget.


The Barong Spa and Beauty Center

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.


The Barong Juice Bar

Adjoining the Spa was the Barong juice bar that served fresh juices and smoothies.


The Norwegian Star's Library

The Theater, Meeting Rooms, Library and Chapel, deck 12, forward
The Star's library is wonderful and also quite large. it sits right behind the cinema. The Star offers a full sized cinema that features recently released full length moves during the entire day. On the port side of the cinema reside the Star's conference center with several breakout meeting rooms. A card room and game room reside on the starboard side of the cinema and offer a wonderful place to relax with a deck of cards. Forward of the conference center is the Star's chapel. This is used for small weddings and other ceremonies.


The Fitness Center

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. I found that by going to the fitness center early in the morning I could enjoy the facility without interruption.

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

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

The Red Lion Pub, deck 7, aft
This is an authentic English pub that serves excellent 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.


The Java Cafe

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. Full beverage service is also available in the Java Cafe.


Gatsby's Champagne Bar

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 on the evenings we dine at the SoHo Restaurant 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 Martini Bar

The Martini Bar, deck 7, mid ship
This little bar is tucked around the corner from the rear of the Karaoke Circus and features great martinis. It is a great place to hide out and relax.


The New Star Bar

The Star Bar, deck 13, mid ship
This is a great bar for simply relaxing. In the evening it offers soothing music (piano) and a pleasant place to simply 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 port side of the old Star Bar is now a part of Cagney's Steakhouse making the Star Bar a much more intimate experience


The Bier Garden

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. One afternoon, I lounged in the sun behind the Bier Gardens and enjoyed the quick service. This is a great alternate place to sit in the sun if the pool area is too crowded.

The Cruise

Sunday, August 22nd, 2004; Seattle, Washington
I flew on Alaska Airlines non-stop from San Diego to Seattle and then grabbed a taxi to the cruise terminal. The taxi fare was around $30 and it was certainly the easiest way to get there. I had taken a Grayline shuttle to one of the hotels and then a taxi to the terminal on previous cruises from Seattle, and while I saved a couple bucks, just taking the taxi was painless. I arrived at the terminal around noon and was in my cabin setting up my computer by 12:30. After confirming the group's details with Colleen Von der Borch, the Norwegian Star's group Services coordinator, I enjoyed lunch in the Market Cafe and then returned to my cabin to print and deliver the group's "welcome aboard" flyers. Colleen and her assistant were two of the most effective employees I have had the pleasure of meeting, as they made my job as the group escort absolutely painless.

I spent the afternoon unpacking and doing some work in preparation for our group's welcome aboard cocktail party that was to be held in the New York and London Conference rooms. I arrived well in advance of the cocktail party to find everything perfect. The group members started arriving and I was pleased to meet such a quality bunch of travel professionals. We made the decision to experience the Norwegian Star's Freestyle dining experience and forego dining as a group for the entire cruise. Following the cocktail party, a small group of us decided to see if we could crash into the SoHo Restaurant without reservations. We were fortunate to find the restaurant almost vacant and were seated immediately. We had a wonderful dining experience that lingered late into the evening; we were the last people out of the restaurant.

Of special note was the fact that while we were enjoying our conversation, at no time did the staff of the restaurant even hint at the fact we were holding them up. I was very impressed with the quality of service and respect that was shown our group and made a mental note to mention it in the review. The food overall was excellent. The only disappointment was the lobster that I had ordered. It was a small serving and had obviously been frozen. Everyone else's dinner was fabulous. Enjoying the menu, I could have dined in this restaurant for the entire cruise and been happy. We had missed the entertainment for the evening and I decided to call it a night and went to bed completely satisfied.

Monday, August 23rd, 2004; Cruising the Inside Passage
I was up early, took a quick breakfast in the Market Cafe and headed to the Aqua Restaurant, which was the site of our first seminar. Colleen had taken care of everything and we had coffee, juice, danish and other treats waiting for the group as the began to show for the seminar. The three hours went by quickly and before I knew it, the seminar was over. Again, I was impressed with the quality of travel professionals in this particular group.

Immediately after the seminar we made our way to the Ginza Restaurant to take part in the Dim Sum and Sushi luncheon being served. We chose the ala carte menu for dim sum and began ordering. It was a wonderful meal. We even enjoyed a bottle of wine with lunch. We made a pact to come back every time they put this treat on. Since I had cruise the inside passage, I don't know how many times, I took the opportunity to burrow into my cabin and attack the large amount of work that I had brought with me. I emerged in time to meet with our group for a no-host cocktail party and then on to the Le Bistro Restaurant. Since it was an optional formal night, we all dressed and enjoyed a wonderful meal at Le Bistro. I was surprised that the restaurant was not packed with people and we were seated almost immediately, even though we had arrived almost 30 minutes late for our reservation. Once again, conversation overtook our intention to enjoy the comedy show that was being pout on in the Stardust Theater, but we had a great time in Le Bistro and managed to close the restaurant. once again, it was off to bed for me.

Tuesday, August 24th, 2004; Juneau, Alaska
We arrived in Juneau right on schedule, but as the Norwegian Spirit was in port using the dock space so the Star had to anchor up and tender into Juneau until the Spirit departed. Since one of the ladies in our group was in a chair, we made the decision to simply wait until the Star docked before going ashore. We ended up docking at a pier that I had not docked at before and suspect that it is new. It was quite a distance to Juneau, but we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and walk into town from the ship. It was a brisk walk, but enjoyable. We had decided to take the bus to Mendenhall Glacier and negotiated the $5 tickets and boarded the bus for the 20 minute drive to the park. We deposited Pat at the observatory and then took the walk out to the falls. After collecting Pat upon our return, we made our way back to the pick-up spot for the last bus back to Juneau.

We were dropped off by the Red Dog Saloon and we decided to enjoy a beverage. Unfortunately, Phileas Poon, the legendary piano player at the Red Dog Saloon was not working on this day. While there was a duo entertaining, the Red Dog need Phileas Poon to really be fun. We moved on from there, did some shopping and made our way back to the ship. After a brief rest, we met for dinner at Cagney's Restaurant for our 9 pm dinner reservation. Cagney's used to be the Tapas Bar on the Star, but is now a wonderful steak house. While they did offer excellent seafood choices, I was challenged to eat a steak, so I ordered the largest one they had. It reminded me of why I am not much of a red meat eater. I just didn't enjoy it and it seemed as if the steak was tough. Everyone else loved their dinner however, and I do not hold the restaurant responsible for my folly. I would dine there again in a heartbeat, as the service and atmosphere was excellent. We closed the restaurant and I turned in for the evening.

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004; Skagway, Alaska
We arrived right on schedule and a small group of the agents had decided to join me for a hike to Lower Dewey Lake. After a quick breakfast, we met at the Starbucks Coffee House across the street from the train station and started our hike from their. The hike to Lower Dewey Lake is an easy 45 minute walk (albeit steep for part of the way) and once you have cleared the ridge, you would think you were in the middle of the Yukon. It is a pristine lake surrounded by beautiful mountains and scenery. It is well worth the hike. After completing the hike, we made our way back to the ship for lunch and to pick up our companion that is in the chair for a visit to the Red Onion Saloon and some shopping.

The Red Onion is generally fun, but on this day, they had a duo playing jazz and they were, well, really bad. It was too loud and the music lacked any sort of quality that one would enjoy. We drank up and left, as soon as we could. After a bit of shopping, we decided to hit the rest of the bars in Skagway to see if there was a better choice than the Red Onion. For the most part, they were local bars with color, but nothing exceptional. Pat, the lady in the chair, did purchase a tee shirt at Mo's Bar that had printed on the back upside down "If You Can Read This, Would You Please Put Me Back on My Bar Stool?" Pat is 83 years old.

We ran out of time at a bar overlooking the harbor and eventually made our way back to the ship in time to change and dine in the Versailles Restaurant. While this restaurant is one of the main dining venues that does not require a reservation or additional service fee, it is simply stunning in appearance. Unfortunately, we experienced so-so service and the room was at an uncomfortably cold temperature. We made it through our main entree, but called it quits before desert. The food was prepared quite nicely and the presentation was excellent. It was off to bed for me.

Thursday, August 26th, 2004; Cruising Glacier Bay National Park
Once again since I had cruised Glacier Bay numerous times, I chose to spend the day working on my computer in my cabin. Lunch at the Market Cafe. A group of us had made reservations in the Teppanyaki Room for the evening, so we all met for cocktails in Gatsby's Champagne Bar before going up for teppanyaki. The entire experience in the Teppanyaki Room was wonderful. The chef and his assistant were entertaining and skilled at preparing our meals right in front of us. I had the shrimp and scallop combination with vegetables and fried rice and it was simply wonderful. The servings were very generous. Those that ordered the filet said it was the best that they had ever had. Do make reservations for the Teppanyaki Room for a unique and wonderful dining experience. After dinner a group of us went to the Karaoke Circus and enjoyed folks singing their favorite tunes. I was bushed from working all day so called it a night and got a good night's sleep.

Friday, August 27th, 2004; Ketchikan, Alaska
We arrived in Ketchikan right on time, but waited for open tender before going into town. I needed to make some telephone calls so after finding a telephone and completing the calls, visited the Deer Mountain Fish Hatchery as the salmon were in full run and I found the hatchery fascinating. After some shopping and additional sightseeing, it was time to make our way back to the tender wharf for the last tender that was to depart at 1:00 pm. Unfortunately, at least 2,000 other people had the same idea and the line for the tender was extremely long. To make matters worse, it was raining pretty steadily and there was no cover available to protect oneself from the elements. I immediately thought to myself, do I want to stand in the rain, or would I rather find a nice dry spot to let the line dwindle in size? We asked a passerby where the nearest bar was. He pointed up the street and simply said "follow the bear tracks". We did just that and stumbled into a great local watering hole known as the Arctic Bar.

While hundreds of people chose to stand in the rain and grumble about the wait a select few of us had a wonderful time in the Arctic Bar. In fact, it was so fun that we called ourselves the "Last Tender Group".


The Arctic Bar's "Last Tender Group"

When the crowd of people had finally been taken back to the ship, the tender staff yelled up to us in the bar calling for the last tender group. We boarded the tender and made our way back to the ship. I guess the moral of the story is that you can make a decision to stand in the rain, or have a good time, it is up to you.

We had reservation in the SoHo Restaurant and met in the Wine Cellar for a glass of wine before going into the restaurant. Once again, we had a stellar meal (I had the tiger prawns, and they were superb.) As our reservation was for later in the evening, we lingered until we were the last people to leave the restaurant. After a quick nightcap in the Spinnaker Bar, I turned in to the evening.

Saturday, August 27th, 2004; Victoria, B.C., Canada
Our group met once again this morning in the Aqua Restaurant for our second seminar, which went quite well. By now the group had bonded and everyone enjoyed the "ideas for prizes" session. The three hour seminar seemed to fly by and before I knew it a bunch of us went to the Versailles Restaurant to enjoy a formal lunch. We had a great time enjoying each other. We arrived in Victoria at 6:00 pm and decided to walk into town from the port. While it is a hefty walk, it is also beautiful. Beacon Hill Park adjoins the ocean front before it spills into downtown Victoria. A group of us left the port (I was pushing Pat) and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the coastline and subsequent ponds and walkways of the park as it meanders into downtown. We headed straight for the inner harbor and the Empress Hotel where we took up residence on the veranda over looking the inner harbor.

We enjoyed a bottle of the Empress Hotel's finest chardonnay and watched as the sun set behind the inner harbor. One of the couples decided to go see the sights, and the rest of us decided to walk around a bit before heading back to the ship. Once back aboard the Star, I opted for a quick round of fish and chips in the Red Lion Pub (served from the Blue Lagoon) before heading to my cabin to begin packing to debark the following morning.

Sunday, August 28th, 2004; Seattle, Washington
I was up early, on my cell phone and having breakfast in the Market Cafe before debarking with the first group off the ship. I carried all of my own luggage and was out of the cruise ship terminal and on my way to the airport in plenty of time to make my 11:30 flight to Vancouver to board my next cruise, Celebrity Cruise line's Infinity.

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