I recently returned from my first cruise in over ten years. I was a bit apprehensive because my more recent travel is very different than what I expected to experience on the cruise. Also, I’ve always thought that beach or resort vacations were not my choice – too much sitting around – and this cruise included several days at sea.
I could not have been more wrong. I absolutely loved the ease and relaxation of the cruise. Although I won’t completely change my travel style, I hope to add more cruises to my future plans.
My friend and I arrived at the port around noon on the day our cruise was to depart. We quickly made our way to the check-in line – somehow missing the bag porters. Since I just had my carry-on and personal item, it was not a problem for me, but my friend struggled with her bags until we were able to get to our room.
Checking-in took a little while, but then we were ushered toward the gangway and onto the ship. We were sailing on the Norwegian Star – not a large ship in today’s standards. The ship held over 2300 passengers serviced by a crew of over 1000. The ship is an older one, but it had been totally refurbished a couple years ago. It did not feel old.
As we boarded on Deck 7, we were greeted by the staff who let us know that our rooms were not quite ready. We were told to listen for an announcement over the PA (public address system).
We were traveling with a group of fourteen people -we soon met up with some of them. Several in the group were seasoned cruisers and suggested we eat lunch at the Irish Pub on Deck 8. The food was great so we ate in this complimentary restaurant several more times during the cruise.
By the time we finished eating, our rooms were ready. The restaurant was on the same deck as our stateroom, so we followed the signs to find our room.
My friend and I had chosen an inside room – in one of the least expensive categories. The room was clean and adequate, although not large. There was one small desk chair and a stool, but if we spent any leisure time in the room, we sat on our beds.
The room included two single beds (which could be put together for a queen or king), a trundle underneath one of the beds (which would take up all the room between the two single beds), and a pull-down single bed. There was technically space for up to four people in the room, but it would be very crowded with more than two.
There was ample closet, drawer, and shelf space for all of our clothes. The bathroom might be tight for two people to use at the same time, but there was enough room for one. The shower was larger than I expected. (Remember, we chose one of the smallest, least expensive staterooms).
A larger room, or one with a window may have been nice, but we didn’t spend much time in the room anyway. One of the group members who had a room with a window, commented that an interior room would be better for sleeping. Still…a room with a window or balcony and extra space would be very enticing.
Stairs and Elevator
There were three sets of elevators on the ship – fore, aft, and midship. From the minute I boarded, I was determined to use the stairs, rather than the elevators. If I was going to enjoy all the cruise food offerings, I would need extra exercise. My stubbornness helped me to continue this throughout the voyage.
The stairs were fine – they were wide, nicely carpeted, and had solid handrails. The elevators seemed a little slow. I would often arrive three floors up via the stairs at the same time as those who waited on and rode the elevator.
As soon as we unpacked and were settled in our rooms, we went up to the pool area – Deck 12. There were lounge chairs around the pool, but these were often taken. On the fore end of the pool there was a tiered sun deck that stretched over Decks 13 and 14. On Deck 13, chairs formed a ring around the entire ship, with additional chairs on the bow and stern. A sunny lounge chair was always available.
There were two pools, two water slides, and four hot tubs in the main pool area. We took advantage of the pools and hot tubs, but no one wanted to try the water slides. On the last day, I decided to give one of them a try. I should have known better. We had seen people scooting down the slide rather than sliding. Either the slide was not steep enough or there was not enough water pushing me through – I ended up scooting down like the others.
We spent the first afternoon until we headed out to sea around the pool. After the “Sail Away Party,” it was time for dinner. On the ship, there were seven different complimentary restaurants that we could choose from. They ranged from grills to buffets to formal sit-down restaurants. Throughout the cruise we tried most of them, but we soon found our favorites. My friend and I often ate breakfast and lunch at one of the buffets to save time, but we always ate somewhere nice for dinner.
Several times we ate at the Aqua Dining Room – we were able to get a table in the back for our entire group. We also enjoyed the Versailles dining room, although they did not have seating for large groups. We split into smaller groups for those dinners which was fun anyway. The meals at these restaurants were always good.
In addition to the complimentary restaurants, there were six that charged an additional fee. Our group had decided to take advantage of some of these. On our first night we ate at the Teppanyaki Restaurant where we had a private room with two personal chefs to prepare the meal as we watched. It was a fun way to kick off the cruise – and the food was amazing!
Other premium restaurants members of our group tried were Cagney’s Steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria (Brazilian), and Le Bistro French Restaurant. We gave them all rave reviews – I loved the French restaurant.
Each evening there was a show in the theater. There were comedians, a magician, a hypnotist, and several singing groups including the ship’s own show group. We watched the shows nearly every night – some were better than others. Most of the musical groups were great and the hypnotist was hilarious.
Lounge, Bars, Coffee Bar
There were several places to relax throughout the afternoon and evening. The Spinnaker Lounge was a large room that was home to afternoon trivia and bingo. In the evening, a band or DJ played popular dance tunes.
The 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar was the karaoke center. Nearly every evening, vocalists entertained the crowd in this small bar. There were a few other bars located around the ship that hosted pianists, other musicians, or small bands playing a variety of music.
The Java Cafe was located in the center atrium, adjacent to the main service desk and excursion desk. The cafe hosted the same musicians and groups that performed in the bars.
There were many other activities located in various parts of the ship. There was a casino, an art gallery, a photo gallery, and a library. For fitness buffs, there was a fitness center, a jogging track, a sports deck, and shuffleboard, basketball and golf areas. If you’d like to be pampered, there was a spa and salon. To stay connected, there was an internet cafe, or wifi for purchase.
In addition, there were areas set up for children and teens. I’m not sure what they included since there were no children in our group. Finally, there was a medical center – which I also did not have to use.
A Ship Home
While planning for the cruise, I wondered if there would be enough to do to keep me busy. I shouldn’t have worried. There was never a shortage of activities, or places just to relax. I appreciated the sea days more than I ever thought I would.
The ship was my home for two weeks and I was sad to leave it. I’m looking forward to my next cruise.