Norwegian Star, PhD@Sea Cruise...Boarding Say

So far, so good. I got to the port early, and from listening to others - good thing! There were three ships in San Pedro yesterday, the Norwegian Star, and the Sapphire and Coral Princess. So, we were in "the tent" (the inflatable building at the end of everything). Personally, I dropped my luggage at 10:45, parked and got into the terminal right at 11, waltzed thru the VIP check-in, and was called to board at 11:30, so no problem there. I did hear grumbling from some who boarded later, that the process was a little chaotic and too lengthy.
Once on board I took a stroll around the ship - beautiful!!! There are several water features in the Lobby, as well as some flying sculptures. The pool deck is very cool, with palm tree lights, and two slides in to the pool. I will upload some photos to give you a better idea, but let's just say it's very kitschy and cool. As you come out to the pool area, on boarding day, there are tables set up in "the Expo", from all the different departments on board, to pitch their products.
They were all very laid back about it, answering questions when asked, but not pushing at all. At that expo you can, if you want, program your entire cruise, from spa appointments, to shore excursions, to reservations at the premium restaurants and wine packages. I talked to a few of the folks, but I am a little too spontaneous to make reservations like that. One of my memories from the Hawaiian cruise with NCLA was being asked about a hundred times if I wanted to purchase a soda card...nothing like that here. The soda card guy was there, happy to talk, but not bugging anyone. I like that.
I ducked into the buffet and had a nice, freshly tossed ceasar salad - the buffet has a half-dozen "action stations", and the layout is completely different than the Pride of Hawaii, the Norwegian Stars near-sister ship I sailed in Hawaii a couple years back. This flows much better, though there seems to be a lack of beverage stations, and NONE outside by the grill, causing some back up as people come from the burger grill outside to the inside for drinks. AFter lunch, I continued my little tour, heading down to all the public rooms on Deck 6 and 7. There are a dozen restaurants and 10 bars/lounges, as well as the main show lounge. The hallways meander, which gives each venue it's own space, and the design and decor is very different for each one. The Red Lion Pub looks very British (except for the big screen, don't recall any of those in England), Ginza, the Teppanyaki and sushi joint looks very Asian, and Le Bistro very elegant and Continental.
I was impressed. The Norwegian Star is heading into drydock (this cruise was actually added recently, as her drydock appointment was delayed, thus the tent in San Pedro, and having to tender in Puerto Vallarta, instead of docking). Sometimes that last little bit before dry dock maintenance slips, and also the cruise lines sometimes start major repairs, closing off some areas. I didn't see any of that, and the Star is definitely "ship shape".
At 1:15 or so, there was an announcement that the staterooms were ready, so I headed up to check mine out. Pretty standard. Average size balcony, with two pretty comfortable loungers and a small table. Inside is a couch which appears to be a piece of plywood with some fabric over it...definitely hard and uncomfortable. The bed is fine, not too hard, not too soft. One REALLY nice touch is the in-room coffee maker. My less addicted friends probably don't appreciate how nice it is to have coffee in the room. Sorry, but sometimes you just don't want to wait for room service! Closet space is adequate. The bathroom is very nice. As you walk in, the sink is straight ahead, with a shower to the left and the toilet to the right, each with a sliding glass door. I love a real glass shower door, and a shower big enough to turn around with out hitting a cold wall! While I was in the room my Stewardess, Crystaly, came by and introduce herself, and made sure everything was okay.
I had a little work to do, tracking down all my fellow PhD'ers' staterooms and delivering a letter, and by the time I did that, it was time for the boat drill. This was done quite efficiently, about 15 minutes total. I would give you more details, but I was meditating on my balcony. Luggage was delivered right after the boat drill, so I got myself unpacked and settled in.
I then headed up for the Sailaway Party and BBQ - one of NCL's nicer touches. A buffet line set up by the pool, with grills going, serving up roasted corn on the cob, chicken, various sausages, potatos, cole slaw, etc. The smell of the BBQ's, with the Calypso band playing, and the whole party vibe is great. Our actual sail away, scheduled for 4 was delayed a bit. On the upside, Captain Lars got on the PA to announce the delay and did about 10 minutes of stand-up comedy/weather report. By the time we actually left the dock I was back on my balcony, talking to the neighbors, and watching the sunset over the Palos Verdes Peninsula as we pulled out and headed South for Mexico.
I then headed up for a Welcome Reception and Cocktail Party for my group. They had some hot Hors d'oeuvres, and drinks. Nice to find and talk to some of the people I have been chatting with on the NCLU Forum. After that, the Casino was open, so I went a played a little video poker where I turned $100 into $100 in just under an hour, and, feeling lucky, went over to the Roullete wheel where I turned that same $100 into $0 in ten minutes...oh, well.
I decided on "Aqua" for dinner. There are two main dining rooms, Aqua, which is contemporary and cool, and Renaissance, more formal and traditional. Started with a smoked salmon appetizer, which had about a half a pound of salmon, garnished with capers and a honey dijon creme fraische, and topped with various weeds. Quite tasty. Followed that with what they call a Rich Onion Broth - basically French Onion soup with a beef ravioli in lieu of the crouton/gruyere cheese, and also flavored, I think, with Worcestershire - almost an Oxtail soup taste. Don't know that I would order it again, but it was interesting. For the main course I had a roast leg of lamb on a white bean ragout that was excellent, the lamb tender and NOT overcooked. Since this was my fourth meal of the day, I decided to exercise some restraint and skip dessert. Apparently I got up too fast, as the Maitre d' followed me out to make sure everything was okay, and I wasn't leaving mad. Funny. I assured him the only problem was too much food in one day, and he seemed relieved. After dinner I cruised some of the lounges, found a pretty good guitar player down in the pub, but, frankly, I was feeling about worn out, so, sadly, I turned in at 11pm. In fact, I only stayed up that late because there was a raffle in the casino at 10:30. Didn't win anything. So, back home and to bed, and popped out at 5:30 feeling rested and refreshed. Amazing what a night of smelling the sea air, and listening to the ocean slip past the hull can do for the spirits. I really never sleep as well on land as I do in a nice balcony cabin at sea.
Now, it is 6:30, and time to find some breakfast.
Stay tuned tomorrow, to see how the first sea Day goes!

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