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Antoinette Cano

Age: 33

Occupation:Office Manager

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Star

Sailing Date: May 15th, 2005

Itinerary: 7 day Alaska

This was our first cruise. My husband and I flipped a coin for the itinerary (he won) and we ended up on an NCL 7 day Alaskan cruise. We both had friends that had been on cruises before (Carnival & NCL) and we went armed with their warnings. I am 33, my husband is 47 year old teen-ager. My thoughts are really scattered, so let me apologize in advance.

Embarkation is painless. If you are leaving out of Vancouver, as we did, you have to go thru immigration, and that was a pain in the behind. Almost 2 hours of waiting. We were “cash passengers”. We just notified the check in staff that we wouldn’t be charging our trip (we thought we were going to spend a lot more money than we did) and we set up our cash account when we got on the ship. There were quite a few passengers setting up their accounts. We had been told beforehand we would be needing a deposit in the amount of $700 per person, so we went prepared for that. When we got on the ship, they let us put down whatever we wanted. We started with a $700 deposit in our onboard account and never had to refresh it. I think our final bill was around $580- including a $200 spa treatment, our tip, 3 pictures taken aboard the ship, some shopping and of course, our alcohol tab. Beers are around $3.50 each, and they charge a gratuity and tax on top. Foo foo drinks are around $5 to $6.50, and they try to push these NCL souvenir glasses. We thought the best deal was a football helmet filled with ice and 6 beers, for around $16. People don’t start drinking on this cruise until way past lunchtime. More like dinnertime. That’s why our tab was so low. I had actually budgeted around $500 for alcohol alone. We weren’t even close. Our Carnival friends had left their cruise with a $500 just alcohol tab. We took around $3000 with us for this trip, and brought home around $2000.

The ship is like an “upper middle class hotel”, like a really nice floating Marriott, but definitely not The Plaza. Very clean, and on more than one occasion, I noticed a newly painted wall or a carpet being replaced. The rooms are fabulous. We had a balcony cabin on the 9th floor AFT. The rooms are big, Lots of storage space for all your stuff, big bathroom, big shower (big enough for 2), nice beds and large balconies. Our room had a couch and table, lots of mirrors and light. A blow dryer, a safe, and a fridge are included in each room. Another cruiser we met had an inside stateroom. She said it was large also. The pool is too centrally located for my taste, but it was too cold and windy to use it anyway. I had hoped for hot tub time, watching the glaciers go by, but the hot tubs are surrounded by tables, so we didn’t even unpack the swimsuits. The food was good. Just good, depending on your tastes. Very gourmet. The desserts were better. We never ate the reservation (cover charge) restaurants because if you didn’t put your reservation in on Monday for Wednesday or Thursday, dinner was at 9:30 pm. If you want to try out the cover charge restaurants, make your reservations on your embarkation day if you can. We opted for the main restaurants (Versailles, mostly) instead and were seated around 7 or so easily. There was lots of food, but no crab leg or lobster tail buffets on this cruise. The freestyle dining situation was nice. I actually got to eat a hot dinner with just my husband near with beautiful scenery passing me by! That was really nice. There were times we wanted to have interaction with other passengers over food, and we would eat at the buffet, which was more like a cafeteria setting, but dinner was like a private time for us. The chocoholic buffet is late at night (which I thought was odd) but was worth it. I think the chocoholic buffet is the highlight of my cruise. The Blue Lagoon snack bar has American Fast food (if you order from the kiddie menu) Hamburgers, chicken fingers and French fries. It’s open 24 hours.

Resort casual means jeans. Don’t let anyone tell you different! The older people on the cruise wore their khakis and button ups, anyone under 50 wore tees, jeans and flip flops. I wish I would have taken more! We dressed for dinner when we ate in the restaurants, but even then it was a skirt and top, khakis and a polo for my husband. There was one formal night, (big band night) and was a total waste of shaved legs. They should have made the formal night toward the end of the cruise when the entertainment was better. I think that was a 10:00 night. On evenings we didn’t want to dress up we ate buffet in our jeans. If you are stressed about what to pack, honestly for this cruise, at least 4 pair of jeans, at least 6 tees, and a few cardigans or zip ups. Take a formal (not a big Cinderella gown, either) if you want pictures, and a couple of skirts with tops for each night. Leave the “resort casual” clothes at home. There are very few people that actually dress resort casual. You are literally relaxing 24/7, so with the exception of dinnertime, you need to be comfortable. We would eat dinner then go back to our room to change back into jeans, then hang out at the Spinnaker (a glassed-in lounge on the 12th floor with the best seats for scenery on the ship). This is not one of those cruises that everyone is looking at what you are wearing. Nobody cares. You could wear the same black skirt every night and nobody would ever notice. I wasted some serious time planning my wardrobe for this cruise. I brought home a large suitcase of clothes we never touched. We lived in our jeans. Even late at night, a pair of high heels paired with my jeans got me into anywhere I wanted to be. The laid back type of people and the paired down entertainment just don’t warrant dressing up.

We were hoping for a range of entertainment on board to keep us busy. With our age difference, our range of entertainment differs sometimes. We were both bored stiff for pretty much the first half of the cruise. This was the longest 3 days of my life. We had heard NCL caters to the older cruiser, but that the average cruiser of NCL was in their mid 30s…. baloney! Maybe that’s what they are saying to try to attract younger cruiser. Let’s just say there was lots of BINGO on this cruise. Unless you are over 60, sea days are boring, nights are worse. If you are a younger couple (under 40), take another couple with you. We are not unfriendly people. My husband is incredibly outgoing. He makes friends with everyone. We found lots of people to talk to, or even to share a lunch with, but most of these people are in their 60’s or 70’s at least. You wouldn’t want to go party with them. On this cruise you need to bring your own fun!!! There is lots of BINGO (did I say that already??) on this cruise. Lots of reading books and lots of sleeping. There is nothing to do on this ship during the day if you are not in port. They have talks and art auctions… but no fun stuff. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this was not it. The movies in the Cinema were not even new to video. The weather was really nice in Alaska, so we spent some time on the deck, but when the weather turned colder, we were trapped! I slept so much I got tired of sleeping. We were in bed by 9:30 or 10 most nights and took at least 2 naps each day at sea. Boring. Eat, Sleep, look for entertainment, look again (in case we missed something), then sleep again. Blah blah blah. Night entertainment was the ship band “The Ironics” there were evenings of verbatim Lawrence Welk programs, and if you didn’t want to watch them, you could enjoy Big Band music elsewhere. If you could stay awake through that, there was a DJ that would come on later, but by then we were already so bugged, we had already given up. The Ann Ryan (or something like that) musicals were pretty good, but geared for older tastes. I wanted glitter and lights… the comedian was just okay and used a lot of 50’s music in his act. This was the first half of the week. By Wednesday, I was emailing home and calling work because I was out of my mind bored. Of course, I had to blame my husband for dragging me out to Egypt and wasting my vacation! (It gets better, I promise).
2nd Half of the cruise to nowhere…..

I’m not sure their thinking, but perhaps they noticed the natives were restless. The second half was much better. The Magician has a magic show one night that just leaves you feeling good. The Elton John impersonator was really good (we saw Elton in concert before and this guy really rivaled him). The Spinnaker lounge hosted some better entertainment and we hooked up with another couple Mickey and Sarann from Waco TX. If you aren’t taking another couple with you- find one as soon as you get on board! Being bored is much more fun when you aren’t doing it alone! I wished we had met this couple when we first got on this ship. I’m sure laughing through Lawrence Welk would have even been fun. 7 days is a long time to do nothing! We had a lot more fun when the entertainment changed and began staying out til 1am, like you are supposed to!

The ports: There is loads of info on the excursions on the ship, and I don’t think a single one sold out, so there was plenty to choose from. I suggest just walking into the towns and finding stuff to do. We walked into a free walking tour of Skagway by mistake and ended up joining it. We later found a local seafood hangout and ate gigantic crab legs for around $40. We did some shopping and there was also a train to ride. The weather was around 70 degrees. Skagway had a charm to it. We had ice cream and pretzels on the main strip and rested in a park that had a Salmon pond. It was a very unhurried, nice day. Alaska is rich in history and is really a beautiful place to be.

Juneau was the best- the shopping is good, there is a tram ride that gave us the most beautiful shot of Alaska I could’ve asked for. The tramway was right when we got off the ship. The people that went on the helicopter trips pretty much had the same pictures we had from the tram in Juneau. I was worried we wouldn’t find anything to do if we didn’t book a cruise excursion. There are loads of booths when you get off at each shore with stuff to do- at around ½ price! The beer in Juneau is very, well we’ll say strong! There were a lot of cute nooks and crannies to find in Juneau. The people are so friendly and welcoming. The weather was around 70degrees.

Ketchikan was cold and rainy. My husband went Salmon fishing and ended up 50 feet away from a whale! Great pictures. We booked online with a company called Ketchikan Fishing Charters. I think we paid around $150 for the 5 or so hours. Bargain. This town is a jewelry town. (they all are, but this one is the winner). Don’t expect any bargains though (unless $400 for garnet earrings is a bargain to you)…. Strangely enough, you will find 100+ jewelry stores all in a row, but no deals…hmmm.

Glacier bay was a sight to see, and the Inside Passage held many treasures- bears, eagles and lots of whale sightings.

THE VERY GOOD: Our room steward, Hary was awesome. I honestly think he would set up camp outside our door, because even if we left for 15 minutes, he would come in and straighten out our room. We were never afraid to leave our cameras, binoculars, or change on the table. He never hesitated to straighten out a crumpled jacket on the couch or organize my shoes which I would leave thrown on the floor! At night, he would turn our bed down and leave a chocolate. Hmmm…. How I miss Hary!

The entire staff on the Star is first rate. Every one of them works so hard to make sure not a single cruiser lifts a finger!!! I never saw a paper on the floor for more than 30 seconds, or a finished plate left on a table. They were everywhere! The entire staff was polite, professional and would even take a minute to talk. (Most of my conversations were with the staff, everyone else on the ship was near 100). If you’re looking for a VACATION, this is the cruise to be on. I actually left wanting to go home and clean my house! The spa was really nice, but at the end of my massage, the girl put together a package of items I should buy, and I have to admit I felt pressured to buy. It was kind of like “here’s your free massage (which it wasn’t) and now you need to buy a $70 lotion”. That was a bummer moment. $200 down and I was outta there! The Spinnaker lounge became our hangout and the bartender from Honduras was very cool. I wish I remembered his name. I can’t say enough good things about the staff. They are very hard working people. We began leaving tips on top of our “Freestyle tips”. They were that good.

So that’s it. My tips in a nutshell: 1.Take a lot less clothes than you are currently planning on. 2.Don’t do this cruise as a couple and expect to come home talking to each other. Unless you are one of those very sticky couples that spend hours gazing into each other’s eyes, Take Friends!!! (or make a point of making friends the minute you get on!!) 3. Things are not as overpriced as everyone says. This turned out to be a very affordable vacation. We do a lot of couple vacations, and this was probably one of the cheapest ones. 4. If you are traveling alone or as a couple, take entertainment. Take lots of magazines or books. Take a video game. Take a scrapbook you’ve been thinking of getting started (or finished). Don’t go empty handed expecting to be entertained. Use your extra luggage space for this stuff! 5. Horde the chocolate at the chocoholic buffet! Save it in your fridge. You will spend the rest of the cruise looking for it in the buffets, but it’s not there. It’s a one night only thing. Save as much as you can!!! 6. Don’t leave your kids at home with a sitter that doesn’t do dishes!

All in all, we had a good time. The staff made it worthwhile. We saw beautiful sights. We met people we’ll probably keep in touch with for a long time to come. We’ll definitely do it again- yes, with NCL. Next time we’ll do a Mexican Riviera cruise. We’ll take less clothes, the same amount of money (just in case), and we’ll take either our kids or our friends with us. If you want a VACATION, this is the one to take. You will come home rested and ready to take on the world. I think my expectations of a week-long party were just unrealistic. Looking back, the 2nd half of the cruise made the 1st half not so bad. In fact, I caught myself looking at the NCL website for future cruises today…..

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