OUR 7- DAY CRUISE TO BERMUDA ON NORWEGIAN STAR:
September 30 to October 7, 2012
We have sailed several times with Norwegian Cruise Line over the past 4 years. Our first cruise in1988 was on the long-gone SS Norway (1), and we returned to NCL after cruising with 3 other lines. We've been on the Jewel (4), the Jade (3) and the Epic (3). This was our first time on the Norwegian Star (making it cruise number 12 with NCL) and it was our first time going to Bermuda. We enjoyed the cruise.
The embarkation process in New York was fast and very easy. We arrived at the port and were checked in right away. We waited only 30 minutes (maximum) before the call to board was announced. We went to Versailles Dining Room once on board and had just enough time to finish lunch when the call to access staterooms was made. This was, indeed, the fastest boarding procedure we've ever had.
The Norwegian Star was built in 2001 and was refurbished in 2010. The refurbishments did not include the whole ship; Spinnaker Lounge was moved to Deck 6 aft from Deck 12 forward, where new staterooms were installed. The new stateroom area on Deck 12 is beautiful, modern, tasteful and very rich-looking, but it does not match in terms of décor with the rest of the ship. In other areas, especially in public areas, the carpets don’t seem well-fitted in some places, and bits of chrome inlay on the floor that separate carpet from tile are missing. The carpet on the steps leading to the main area of the Versailles Dining Room (which is where we had most of our dinners) is worn almost thread-bare, but that is understandable with more that 500 people going up and down every day. Most people don’t notice such things anyway, and they don’t take anything away from a nice cruise.
We’ve had all kinds of staterooms throughout our cruises: interiors, portholes, picture windows and balconies. We usually opt for a balcony stateroom on Deck 10, 11 or 12, but this time we thought an ocean-view stateroom with a picture window would be fine for a 7-day cruise. Our stateroom was on Deck 5, and that is the lowest we’ve ever been on NCL ships. It provided a nice view of the ocean as we sailed. It was a comfortable stateroom and served the purpose well. After all, you use your stateroom for showering, changing clothes and sleeping as well as storing all the stuff you bought ashore. The rest of the time, you are in other ship locations, or off the ship It was fine as staterooms go, but we really missed the balcony. That balcony gives the impression of a larger cabin and allows for fresh air instead of recycled air which may carry a host of microbes and cigarette smoke. It also givers you some other place to go instead of the pool deck or the promenade deck.
As a courtesy to your neighbours, if you book a stateroom that does not have a balcony, please do not smoke in your cabin.Use the designated smoking areas. Your cigarette smoke may travel through the ventilation system and the walls into the neighbouring staterooms. This makes for a very unpleasant experience for non-smoking passengers (like us) who share walls and ventilation with you. And that was precisely the situation we experienced.
Our stateroom was serviced by Arvin, our fabulous stateroom attendant, whom we had had on another cruise, made sure we had clean towels, a well-made bed, and a supply of shower gels (soap and shampoo).
In the Versailles Dining Room, we were served by a fantastic team of waiters. Rolando was our waiter and Rick was the assistant waiter. They provided friendly and efficient service that was very professional. They always had smiles for us, and they always asked how our day had been, regardless if it was a sea-day or a day of visiting Bermuda. They always made sure our meals were exactly as requested, and they checked often to make sure we enjoyed what we’d ordered.
The employees who worked at the Guest Services desk were always ready to help. They were pillars of patience, and they always found an answer to any question. Special thanks must be given to Dela, Reynaldo and a Philipino gentleman whose name I unfortunately do not know. They couldn’t do enough to help us, and they were happy to do so. Likewise for Maitres D’ Hernan (from Panama), Harry (from India) and Zekeriya (from Turkey) – each of them went out of his way to assure that our dining experiences were exactly as they should be. And everything was perfect!
In my opinion, it is all the hard-working people, from wait-staff to stateroom attendants to any other employee you come in contact with on board, who make your cruise an enjoyable experience. They spend months away from home and their families in order to improve their situation, and they are there on the ship to make OUR cruise vacation the best experience it can be, and thanks to them we can have that experience. After all, a ship is a ship is a ship.
This cruise was a 7-day cruise with 3 full days ported in Bermuda. Unfortunately, we were not overly impressed with Bermuda itself. The people we met there were pleasant enough, for the most part, but, overall, it was too hot and too humid to enjoy anything. The beaches were a big disappointment. We had heard many raves about the pink sand on the beaches from friends who’d been to Bermuda. The sand was far from pink, and most of the time the beaches were too crowded with other tourists all wanting the same thing: a place to lie in the sun and get a tan, so it was loud and not a relaxing atmosphere.
The town around the port and the town of St George’s have little to offer. We were in Hamilton in the early evening and everything except bars and restaurants was closed – the shops close at 5 pm. Still, Hamilton was a rather nice city. From what I saw, the beaches are tourist-friendly, but the rest of Bermuda is not.
On the final day, just before sailing away from Bermuda, a "welcome-back-to-the-ship" party was held on the pier. People from many departments, mostly wait-staff and bar staff, were on the pier welcoming passengers back to the ship after their time in Bermuda. The staff also acted as crowd control to prevent congestion on the gangways upon re-boarding. They were handing out non-alcoholic drinks and damp facecloths to returning passengers to help them refresh before getting back on board. Even Sean (Hotel Director) got into the act by helping out with the distributions, and I saw him take a tray of drinks and offer them to his staff who'd been dancing or standing in the hot sun to welcome people back. I have never seen that on any ship anywhere. He takes really good care of his people and his passengers.
If you have ever been to the Caribbean, or even parts of Florida, you can expect to see the same thing in Bermuda. The houses look the same and the exteriors are painted the same colours. The vegetation is exactly the same and it is the same ocean/sea. The language, in most places, is the same, and the food is the same - both with minor variations on the same theme.
We opted for the easy walk-off as we usually do. We were ready to leave the ship by about 8:15am, and we joined the line-up of people who had chosen to leave at about the same time. The line moved quickly and we had fully disembarked by 8:30. It was the fast disembarkation we’ve ever had. It took about half an hour to clear US Customs, and then we were on our way to the airport. After a short walk we arrived at the 50th Street subway station to catch an E train to JFK, and about 25 minutes later we were at the airport.
We are glad we went to Bermuda, though, but if we ever decide to return it will be simply to take a cruise (very likely on NCL’s new ship, Breakaway), and we will stay on board the ship. We like cruising on NCL because it suits us perfectly and we choose NCL because of free-style. It means we can dine in the main dining rooms, or any other venue with a reservation, when we choose as there is no fixed dining time. We can also choose to dine as a couple, or opt to sit at a table with other people since there is no assigned seating. The great thing is we don't need suits and ties, even on the formal night; decent trousers and a collared shirt are fine.
We like the NCL experience and that is why we return again and again.
Special requests to other passengers:
1) After you use the public toilets on board (these are the ones NOT in your staterooms), please wash your hands before leaving the facility and use the paper towel you dried your hands on to open the door. A trash bin is usually located near the door so you can toss the used paper towels there as you leave. An alternative is to use the sanitizer sprays that are located throughout the ship, but please DO NOT touch the sanitizer as you may contaminate it. These two simple steps with help reduce the spread of, or eliminate, Norwalk virus on board.
2) The wash cloth provided in your stateroom is NOT intended to be a toilet tissue substitute and should not be used as such, whether in the shower or not. Disgusting, yes, but you cannot imagine the number of washcloths I’ve had to ask to be changed, making for extra washing that wastes bleach, detergent and water. I do not want to use a washcloth that bears someone’s mark. Think of others who might receive a washcloth you used, and rinse it out before you place it for a change. Thank you.