In June I had the joy of spending 10 nights in Iceland, Norway, Scotland on the Norwegian Star. It was my first time cruising Norwegian so it was exciting to experience a new cruise line. One of the reasons I hadn't tried the line before was that I'd heard very mixed reviews when first starting my business. However, since this particular itinerary was very appealing and fit within our busy summer plans, we decided to give it a go. Below you will find my honest review of our adventure:
1. The ship itself. The Star is one of the oldest, smallest ships in the fleet, so it doesn't have as many bells and whistles as many of the other Norwegian vessels. It features the normal pools, hot tubs, and sports court, but no mini golf, water slides, etc. Norwegian DOES have some incredible ships out there with all sorts of features (go karts, laser tag, huge water features, and more), but just not this particular one. Definitely nothing fancy, but that worked just fine for this itinerary. With a port intensive schedule, the focus was on the itinerary, not the ship. I must say that the ship was clean and health protocols were well-followed, so no complains there!
2. The vibe. Norwegian's motto is "Freestyle" cruising, with a focus on guests doing what they want when they want to, "breaking free" from traditional cruise norms. Pick a dining room for the evening and show up when you'd like, no reservations needed and no need to dress formal. This creates a more relaxed feeling onboard, which I actually really enjoyed. After a long day of exploring, it was nice to not expend too much energy preparing for a fancy meal or formal night. On certain voyages, I might miss this aspect of the cruise experience, but it was perfect for this adventure where we spent our days hiking and sightseeing.
3. The dining. We found the food to be good in the main dining rooms. As someone who doesn’t eat a wide variety of meat, I sometimes struggle to find tempting options on the menu, as the food isn’t simple enough for my tastes. However, this time I struggled with deciding between many appealing choices. Not being a foodie, this worked out great for me, but others might be disappointed by the lack of exotic options on the menu. Also included were O’SHeehan’s Irish Pub and Ginza Asian cuisine. The Ginza menu looked appealing, and the appetizers were tasty, but the entrees did not live up to our hopes. They were all a bit salty and lacked other flavor. Combined with a crowded, noisy menu, we decided one meal was enough there. O’SHeehan’s, on the other hand, became one of our favorite spots. Their menu of burgers, fish and chips, soup, and appetizers provided some of our most delicious meals.
We also enjoyed dining at 3 of the specialty dining venues: Le Bistro French cuisine, La Cucina Italian, and Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse. All 3 allowed a nice change of pace from the main dining room and provided an elevated dining experience, but Moderno was our hands down favorite. The salad bar was exquisite, the meat carved tableside was delicious, and the grilled pineapple was to die for. I have been craving it ever since we returned home! The attentive waitstaff was also very humorous, adding to our wonderful dining experience. Moderno is on my must-do list for anyone lucky enough to have the venue on their ship.
The buffet offered typical cruise fare. It was well cleaned and replenished frequently, which was nice to see. I enjoyed mostly fresh fruit for breakfast and the salad bar for lunch, and this California girl appreciated the nice selection of produce available. It was all very fresh and of high quality. One feature I also appreciated was the noodle station, where the chef put together my hand-selection options into a steamy broth. Perfect for our 50 degree days! The fresh crepe station was also a huge hit for dessert at dinner, as it’s hard to go wrong with strawberries and cream crepes.
4. The stateroom. Our stateroom was clean and spacious, a fair size for a cruise room. We appreciated having a balcony for the breathtaking views and feeling of extra space. The sitting area is a nice feature. We would have appreciated more storage space integrated into the room, as we did feel like we had to shove some belongings into odd spaces. The shower was surprisingly large for a cruise shower, which was a bonus. Our least favorite feature was the bed, as neither of us found it very comfortable.
5. The entertainment. In my opinion, the cruise activities were hit and miss onboard. There were enjoyable activities to be had (trivia, game shows, ping pong tournaments), but not a huge variety (minimal dance classes, no guest speakers or port talks, some activities canceled inexplicably). The main theatrical productions were well intentioned, with incredibly talented performers, but weren't particularly inspiring. The guest entertainers, however, were phenomenal. We had a magician and contortionist duo, a juggler, and a pair of aerialists. We saw them whenever we could and were blown away by their skills.
6. The service. We felt like we were sufficiently taken care of onboard, but not pampered in any way. This was to be expected, as Norwegian's freestyle cruising concept focuses on having fun at your own pace, not on a high level of service. Were people polite? Yes. Were they efficient in meeting our needs? Yes. Were they friendly and going above and beyond to make our cruise experience memorable? No, I wouldn't say that, but I didn't expect it, either. The level of service matches the casual vibe of the cruise.
Overall, I was pleased with my experience on the Norwegian Star, but that is because I went in with the right expectations. I knew it would be a casual cruise and that a high level of service would not be the focus. I loved the itinerary, and this ship got me there, with some fun and good food along the way. Would I cruise Norwegian again? Absolutely, if it was the cruise line getting me to specific places I wanted to go. In fact, I've selected another Norwegian ship for our Australia/New Zealand adventure next year. However, if itineraries were equal, I'd probably select one of my other favorite cruise lines for a more pampered, upgraded experience.
With a myriad of cruise lines out there, it's important to find the right fit. Is Norwegian the best choice for YOU? I'd love to chat about it with you and help you decide. Feel free to schedule a time to discuss the variety of cruises available (as well as other vacation options). It's always my pleasure to help you turn "someday" into "remember when".
Lisa is the travel loving, animal adoring, Mickey Mouse hugging owner of Dreams Delivered Travel.