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John Kimel

Age: 55

Occupation:Sales Manager

Number of Cruises: 15

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Star

Sailing Date: April 30th, 2005

Itinerary: Mexican Riviera


With some slight fear and trepidation, my wife and I booked a “freestyle” cruise aboard the Star to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We are experienced cruisers, but this was our first venture into the freestyle format.

All I can say is that Freestyle Cruising is the best! It’s going to be very hard for us to ever go back to traditional cruising.

Also, for all those who have made negative comments about the food…poppycock! We’ve sailed numerous times on Celebrity, Princess, Costa, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Holland America and in our opinion the food on the Norwegian Star was as good as any and better than most.

Here are some observations:

THE SHIP:

This 92,000 ton ship glides through the water with hardly a wiggle. It’s well laid out, never seems to be crowded, and is in well kept shape. The cabins are a tad on the small side, but our standard balcony cabin (9210) was neat, clean, and served its purpose. The shower was larger than most, but getting onto and off of the toilet was a tight squeeze for a big person like me as it is enclosed in a rather tight space.

There were always plenty of deck chairs and only VERY short lines at the main dining rooms and buffets. All of the bars and showrooms were well designed, though the seats in the main showroom slanted downwards towards the floor and were amazingly uncomfortable. I can’t imagine who designed these things!

A great spa area, exercise room and basketball court helped to keep me in shape in between meals. We didn’t use the casino (too smoky) but it seemed to be adequate. There was a cinema for those who wanted to catch a recent movie, and lots of rather decent shops.

THE CREW:

Everyone was friendly and I noticed no difference between this type of tipping ($10 per person per day charged to your account to be split among the staff) and the traditional last day individual tipping of traditional cruises.

THE DINING:

Trust me, my wife and I LOVE to eat. The food on this ship was absolutely fantastic, and I disagree with those who say only dine at the extra cost restaurants. We had many fine, fine meals in the Versailles dining room. We also had fine meals at the Bistro and Cagneys (both extra charge). The ship has a special for wine drinkers: buy five bottles and get the sixth free.

We ate in the dining rooms only at dinner time. The rest of our meals were in the buffets upstairs, and I can say without hesitation that the breakfast and lunch buffets on this ship are the best on any I’ve ever been on.

As you probably know, you eat when you want and where you want. You can sit at a table for two, or choose to share a table and meet new people. We did a little of both. The dress code is resort casual. I have to say I LOVED not having to bring a tie and jacket aboard!

Of our 8 dinners, two were at the Bistro, two at Cagneys, three at Versaiiles and one night we just ate in the Market Café (buffet).

To summarize, the dining on this ship is every bit as good as Celebrity and Holland America; better than Princess, Costa and Carnival, and much, much better than Royal Caribbean.

THE MEXICAN RIVIERA:

A great itinerary, but I wish there was more time at the ports. This should be a 10 or 11 day cruise so stops at Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas could be 7am-12 midnight stops. They are so beautiful that 8 hours just isn’t enough!

THE SHIPBOARD ENTERTAINMENT:

Again, as good as any and better than most. Great cruise staff, great comedian, magician, juggler, stage shows, musicians, etc. As these performers change from cruise to cruise I won’t specifically review any single one, but suffice it to say they were all top notch.

ASSORTED SECRET TIPS:

1. Don’t bother to book a specialty restaurant on the 2nd and 3rd cruise nights as the meals in the free dining rooms are extra special on those nights.

2. The health spa offers FREE usage of the indoor pool and various hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. Just walk in.

3. Arrive early for the comedy shows in the Spinnaker Lounge. They are popular and you won’t get a good seat if you arrive at the last minute.

4. When flying into LAX, take a Prime Time Shuttle from the airport to the dock for $16 per person. You can book on line in advance of your arrival. This is much cheaper than a taxi.

5. Arrive at the Versaiiles Dining Room just as it opens and you’ll almost always get a table on the window looking out at the ocean. Or, arrive at 6:30 and tell the hostess you want to wait for a window table and you’ll get one as the early arrivals start to leave.

6. Line up early for the Chocolate Buffet or risk being at the tail end of a line of over 1,000 people.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Of our 15 or so cruises, this one ranked second only to our 12 day cruise around the tip of South America aboard the Celebrity Mercury. The reason that was our favorite was the itinerary more than the ship itself.

If you’ve never tried NCL Freestyle Cruising I urge you to give it a try. It far exceeded not only our expectations, but most of our other cruise experiences as well.

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