NCL Norwegian Star Lunch and Ship Inspection

So, got to the port a little late, due to weather and traffic, but they still weren't ready for us, so it was okay. When we finally got on to the ship, the first stop was at the Courtyard Villa's...WOW! Just Wow!

I had never actually been in one, and, trust me, the pictures don't do it justice. The Villa has a large living room, with couches and chairs, a baby grand piano, a large desk and a little kitchenette area with some high tech espresso machine thing, and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Pool Deck area. Then there are three seperate bedrooms/bathrooms. The bathrooms were all awesome, with large jetted tubs (with a flat screen TV) a huge shower with multiple sprayheads, and the master bath had two full sinks and two vanity mirrors, all with giant windows looking out to the ocean. And as if that's not enough, each Villa has a private Courtyard with enough outdoor furniture for a dozen people, and a 4-6 person jacuzzi inside a gazebo. Again, the seaward side is solid glass, and the interior wall (seperating it from the other Villa) is 8 feet tall, and there are plants all over the place. And the whole Villa area is private, with keycard access, and comes with amenities like room service from the main dining room or the speciality restaurants. You could literally never leave the Villa if you didn't want to. And while the price, at first glance, seems a little high, for a multi-generational family, or even for three couples who like to cruise together it is not much, given the luxury of the rooms and the extra amenities. Because the 3rd-8th guest price is so low, three couples in a Courtyard Villa would end up paying about the same as if they each got their own mini-suite. And each bedroom is completely private, with it's own locking door off the hallway. With the size of both the courtyard and the living room, there is plenty of room for everyone to do their own thing, and not feel like they are crowded in together at all.

Next we checked out a couple of the mini-suites, and I have to say...probably not worth it. Other than a tub and a bit larger balcony, they are about the same as the standard balcony cabins. Perhaps for the aft balcony you could justify the upcharge, but personally, I was quite comfortable in a regular balcony cabin and would stick with that.

Also checked out an inside. What can I say? As good as any inside cabins I have seen, but still...

We then went down for an excellent lunch in the Versailles Room, the larger and more dramatic of the two Main Dining Rooms. Started with a seared tuna something or other that was excellent, and then the same Lobster Bisque I raved about on my November sailing. It really was perfect, and apparently I looked so sad and woebegone after licking the bowl, and then wiping my finger around the edge to get every drop, that my friend let me finish hers! I did not order the salad thing with the grapefruit and greens and fried feta cheese, but I was forced (okay, not really forced, she pretty much just offered and I jumped on it) to try a piece of the fried feta....superb. The crumbly texture gets creamy when heated, and it just kind of melts on your tongue and releases that sharp feta-y flavor (don't know if "feta-y" is a word, but if not, it should be). The main course was a teryaki steak, tender and delicious, and with thin slices of toasted garlic added, which moved it from the Asian to the Sublime in taste. I also ordered (against my better judgement) the risotto gamberetta or whatever (with shrimp). Unfortunately, despite all my problems with MSC Cruises, I still remember their excellent nightly risottos, and, so far, nothing has matched up with them in that category. This one was a bit starchy and dry...not bad bad, but not the best either.

So, after lunch we toured the public rooms. The Norwegian Star has just undergone a three week dry dock, and several of the public areas have been re-done since I was last onboard. First off, the Spinnaker Lounge has been shut down and they are adding some more meeting space where it used to be. The new Spinnaker Lounge is a tad smaller, and with lower ceilings, and lacks all the windows the old space had. Not liking it much. It is in the space that used to house the Galleria, which has been moved midship, and is much nicer than the previous Galleria, which was kind of a big open space. Now there are seperate stores, and much nicer display cases, etc. For the shoppers, a big plus. For me, not so much.

The biggest disappointment is the removal of the Soho Room, absolutely my favorite restaurant in the fleet, and the coolest room on the ship. Trying to achieve more uniformity across the fleet, NCL took that out and replaced it with La Cuchina, the Italian restaurant....sadly the room that was so bold and delightful is now just another dining room. I understand from the business standpoint it is more efficient if all your ships have the same stuff as all your other ships, but it is the quirks from one ship to another that drive people to try them all, and I think NCL might be missing that point. But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. All in all, a great day! Loved getting to see a Courtyard Villa firsthand, thoroughly enjoyed the lunch and the company, and I am glad I got to see the new layout of the public areas, even though I disliked some of the particulars.

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