Mitsugirlys STAR end of the world/pre-Christmas cruise detailed review & pictorial
We sailed the Star out of NOLA and this would be our 4th ship sailed.
Anyone that has read my reviews knows that I like to do a thorough job with pictures included and a link to additional pictures. However, thanks to the awesome review that “Kev” aka Gambee, I decided I would do it a little different this time around. I’m not sure how I’m going to do the ports because usually I do each port individual, in 1 posting, with the allowed 6 images only, and a link to additional pictures. I do this so that people on any of the Ports of Call boards that ask a question about a place I’ve been, I can link them to JUST that posting within the review. We’ll see how it goes.
*Disclaimer* I tell my story through my eyes. This may or may not be the experience other cruisers have had with the Star or ports or even those that were on board with me. I’m honest, I’m not too hard to please with service or food, and try to have the mentality of any cruise is a good cruise because you are not at home, work, or school right? I will make reference to the good and the bad and it’s made as an observation and might not necessarily mean that it would provoke me to discourage others from trying it or having their own experience. This is MY experience only.
We booked with NCL after returning from our Pearl cruise back in March. I’ve always wanted to sail on the Star, which seemed to always be in Bermuda and I’ve always wanted to go there, and thought I would hold out and book my Bermuda cruise on the Star. So, originally we booked the Epic, which we have already been on when she was new in 2010. We LOVED her so and wanted our 4 year old to experience the Epic as well. (That year was a mommy and daddy only cruise). However, prices dropped drastically on another ship and I just couldn’t pass up the deal. We then changed to the Dawn out of Tampa. Then magically I found out that the Dawn would now be cruising to Bermuda come next year when the Breakaway comes and the Star gets “bumped” from her port, so I decided that I would need to sail the Dawn at that time INSTEAD. LOL So we changed once again to the Star. Hey, I’m a girl and I change my mind a lot. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, my goal is to sail the fleet and don’t want to do the same ship over. I know, I have big dreams and not enough time or money to do it, but I can at least have fun working on it right?)
So its official, we are going on the Star out of NOLA (which we sailed the Spirit out of NOLA last year and LOVED it). We are staying with this ship this time. No more changing our minds (I say “our” loosely, like if my husband had a choice or even a say in the matter. He just sits back, I do the research, I book everything and as he says “I just show up and enjoy it”).
I have to say I really liked her “smile” and had seen interior pictures of the Atrium prior to booking and I’m one of those that like the WOW factor when entering the ship. I hate that a lot of the ships have gotten rid of the beautiful stories tall atrium with glass elevators and waterfalls. This definitely looked like one of those “wow” ships.
We did get the “kids sail free” promo, the $100 HSN OBC with the booking, the $25 latitudes OBC, and $100 OBC from our TA agent. Win-win!! We always book the cheapest interior room we can find. This allows us to cruise more often and spend more on other things. We are on the go all the time and only come to the room to change, shower and sleep. So, it just doesn’t make sense to book anything else at this point.
At one point NCL had drastically reduced the price and we were able to get upgraded to a room with a view…well, supposedly a port hole view of one of the life boats on board, but hey, it’s some light in the room. We remained on the same deck (deck 8) and in the same location (mid/front ship area) and from the looks of the blueprints to the deck, maybe the obstructed view just might not be so obstructed after all. We’ll see when we get there.
A little about me: I started cruising in the 80’s (with NCL) and did a cruise in the 90’s with RC. We started cruising again in 2010 and this is now our yearly vacation (with this year taking 2 cruisesßmy goal from now on if we have the time to swing it). I’m in my 40’s, my husband in his 30’s.We’ve been married for a little over 6 ½ years and going on our 11th year together. I have 3 grown children (ages 26, 24, 18 who have all cruised with me years ago and are by my first husband of 18 years) and 1 small child (who is 4 and this is her 3rd cruise and she is HOOKED!!! It’s all she talks about. Yea what can I say; she’s a little consumed with it like her momma). I also have 2 grandbabies, also age 4. I know… this is the part that everyone gasps at. Yes, me, my daughter, and daughter-in-law were all pregnant at the same time. Yes, we planned it that way. Yes it was a blast and yes the 3 of the little ones are VERY close. I’ve been trying to get all of my kids to go on a cruise with me (and was successful in getting my daughter and her boyfriend on our Pearl March cruise) but not all of them at the same time.
I work part time at the local hospital in the Emergency Room. I started working there in 1984. Yea, I’ll probably die working there still. I just love the environment, helping people, and yes…even the gory stuff!!! I’m in school to become a nurse and will graduate in May 2014 (can anyone say cruise graduation present? Not like I wouldn’t have taken one anyhow right?). My husband owns his own company and works from home now (after closing his shop) in order to play “daddy daycare” as he calls it while I go to school.
We have been cruising exclusively with NCL since we started cruising in 2010. We have been on the Epic, Spirit, Pearl and now Star. We have the Dawn and Jewel for next year. I don’t know, we just like the “Freestyle” aspect of NCL and we buy the cruise rewards certificates each cruise and it’s just been a line we have come to love. (Although I will admit, SOMEDAY my goal is to cruise the Oasis or Allure…what an experience that would be!)
So enough about me. I’ll start with the day before we leave for NOLA. As I said, I’m a Nursing student and I work at the hospital therefore, I have a very limited schedule (only 3x’s a year that I’m not in school) that I can cruise. I had just finished up my current semester and was scrambling to try to not only get packed, but get my Christmas shopping done as well. I had went to the shopping mall and noticed when leaving the parking lot that my car just didn’t seem right. We pulled in to the gas station and the hubby put some air in the tire (it was low). After getting on a VERY busy freeway, in the middle of construction from hell that has been going on for at least a year, AND it was rush hour traffic, my tire blows. So there we are sitting on the side of the freeway with semi-trucks buzzing by us within inches. It was my duty to stare in to the rear view mirror and count just how many drivers out there actually pass across the white line on to the berm and swerve back after they notice my car there. YIKES! The hubby went to change the tire, wait…where’s the key to the lug nuts at? Oh yea, that’s right, the hubby told me to put it in the tool cabinet about 2 days prior! So we sat and we sat, calling everyone we could and no one answered. Finally after several hours the hubbys friend rescues us, takes us home to get the key and we drive back in the hubbys car. After about another hour, it’s fixed and we are home and the madness of packing on short term begins.
We had a late flight out the next day (thank goodness after the car issue the night before) and my oldest daughter was picking us up and dropping us off at the airport. The bad luck continues…she is rolling my luggage out to her car and she smashes one of the wheels…completely off. No more wheel, no repairing said wheel. Ugh! I had purchased one of those straps (thanks to the great people on here that suggested it and gave me a link) that strap two luggage together to piggy-back them. Well guess whose luggage is getting the piggy-back ride now? Yep, mine!
We fly with Southwest airlines, I know a lot of people don’t like knowing what seat they are assigned to, but we’ve never had any problems getting seating all together and I have never been able to find cheaper prices (especially with the free baggage). I did the “early” check-in from home the night before (yes, even I surprise myself sometimes…in the midst of a Christmas shopping/car issues/packing crisis, I did manage to remember to check-in…gasp). So we did manage to get “A” seating and boarded among the first passengers.
I have to say, the Southwest employees were the best and treated my daughter TERRIFIC! When they saw her come on the plane (she was carrying her little die cast model Southwest airplane with her that she received 2 cruises ago) they ask her if she wanted to go up to the cockpit and “fly the plane”. Wow, what a great photo opportunity (I’m a photo freak). They sat her in the pilot chair and showed her everything. They told her to push several levers and buttons. One made a weird noise and another shook the entire steering wheel. She was so excited. Wow what a treat that was for her.
We had a great 1 hour flight to our next airport and a lay-over at the Baltimore/Washington, MD airport (which was the first time we had ever been there). We managed to get a bite to eat (Subway), grab some sodas and it was time to board the next plane. We look out the window to our plane coming in…IT WAS THE SHAMU PLANE!!! You talk about some excitement from my 4 year old. She is an animal freak…animal anything and she’s happy. I also have to mention there was hardly anyone on this flight except Southwest employees who must have been flying home or to their next destination (off duty). It was nice.
The plane was decorated with murals inside on the overhead cabinets:
We start to board (didn’t get as lucky by boarding with the “A” class this time, but no worries, we are considered the “family” boarding which puts us next in line after the “A’s” and before the “B’s”, which is what we happen to have on this flight…and it was not a B in the beginning either I might add), and the crew spots her with her “Southwest Airlines” die cast model plane in hand again…guess what the next big treat is? Yep, she got the official Southwest Shamu pin complete in case! SCORE! That made the next 3 hours enjoyable for my 4 year old who was occupied with the pin and her plane the entire trip! Thank you Southwest! Our bad start to a vacation just went royal with my little one.
Upon landing at NOLA we searched for the shuttle service that was recommended to us by these once again nice CruiseCritic people and quickly found their desk located inside the airport. We had previously read both online and on cc that it was $36 a person 1 way and kids were free. The lady at the counter tells us it’s $38. Hmmm, ok. Then she proceeds to tell us that she will give us a $4 off coupon to use for our return trip back from the port. She takes our money and then ask us when we want to return to the airport and from where. We also had a late flight home (4:55pm) after the cruise so we had planned on getting off the ship as late as possible, sending our luggage to the airport and walking around NOLA over by Jefferson Square. She told us that we could either be picked up at the port or to pick a hotel to be picked up at. We chose a hotel close to the square and a time of 2:30pm. She said if we changed our minds that we were welcome to be brought back as soon as we got off the ship if we wanted and that they had a desk located as you exit the terminal.
We go out to the bus and sit. We (3 of us) are on the bus and only 2 other passengers get on. We waited for a while, just sitting and the driver tells us that it is company rules that if the bus isn’t full, they have to wait a full 20 minutes before leaving. It didn’t bother us, but it might others so I thought I would mention it. The bus is run by Propane. The ride was bumpy (think school bus bumpy) on the freeway. The employee was telling us that there is a lot of construction on the freeway and around the city because they are having the Super Bowl game there next February and they are trying to get things ready. I have to say the airport itself looks like crap and you can tell it not only dated but under construction. They have wooden boards up everywhere and “coming soon” signs. It looks deserted and just plain unappealing at the moment (not that it ever looked appealing to me when it wasn’t under construction…but hey, I’m not spending any amount of time there anyhow).
We were the first to be dropped off (I say first like there was a bus full waiting) and we stayed at the Springhill Suites in the warehouse district. Super-duper close to the port and I realized that you could see the “Whale Tail” of the Carnival ship in port from our 4th floor window that next morning.
Even though this hotel is in the warehouse district and the outside of it doesn’t look the greatest, the inside was fab-u-lose-o looking. It had that “South beach” look to it (we stayed at a Wyndham in South beach and it reminded me of that). It was very nicely decorated, huge foyer entrance, colored in the sea-foam, green/blue colors and very tasteful I thought.
They were festive with their Christmas tree up in the lobby:
To see all the pictures and information on this hotel, please click HERE:
We headed down stairs to ask the clerk at the front desk for a good place to eat and family friendly within walking distance and a safe area. She suggested a place directly around the corner called Pie’s. She said it was very family friendly and less than a block. She told us it would be perfect since every other place is probably loaded with the “drunk Santa’s running around”. OH YEAH, I totally forgot to mention the “Santa’s”. I guess every Christmas they have a “Running of the Santa’s”, which is just like a Mardi Gras but in the winter. Everyone dresses up like a Santa and RUNS…forever. Then they party all night. We saw hundreds of Santa’s, Reindeers, Trees, Elves…drunk as drunk comes. You talk about a confused 4 year old wondering how there could be so many Santa’s all in the same place and why they were shouting at the top of their lungs naughty words…yea, explain that one.
So we make it safely over to this “Pie” and walk in. We stand there and wait, and wait, and wait. No one even acknowledged us AT ALL. Finally we went up to the bar and ask if we were supposed to seat ourselves or what. They said “sure go ahead and sit somewhere” and we did. We waited a good 20 minutes for someone to once again acknowledge us before shouting at the waitress that had done passed us several times and kept going. I even said “excuse me” to her several times and she didn’t blink an eye and kept going. Once again, back up to the bar to get some service. She finally came over and asks what we’d like to drink. We ordered soda and chocolate milk for the munchkin. She came back with 2 glasses of ice and a “shot” of soda in it and lemonade for my little one. Yea, I can see how chocolate milk sounds like lemonade. We waited at least another 10 minutes before she finally decided to stop to take our order. There was a big family sitting at a table across from us and one of them had a HUGE chicken wrap and my mouth started watering. The only problem was, there weren’t any napkins at the table to wipe the drool up with so I had to compose myself.
We ordered the chicken bacon ranch wrap and a small pepperoni pizza. When our food FINALLY came, to much surprise it was all in TO GO boxes…the pizza in a box (not on the pizza “stand” that everyone else had) and the wrap in a box (instead of on real plates like everyone). Ummmmm…ok. BTW, we have no intentions on leaving so sorry little Miss Waitress, you just totally screwed up again. Again, no napkins were brought to the table. I ask her in passing twice for some napkins and once again, she kept going and did not acknowledge me. I was forced to grab a stack of napkins from the table of the family that was sitting across from us that were never used after they left. I’m NOT a sloppy eater, but I AM the type of person that needs her napkins to wipe her mouth and hands after each bite…especially with pizza. The pizza was STEAMING hot. We waited ½ hour to try to eat it while we worked on our wraps (and boy were they good!). This pizza was not the best and it was the type of pizza that you pick up a slice and ALL of the toppings-cheese & pepperoni fall completely off. Ugh! I hate that. We finished our meal, the waitress dropped off the bill in passing, not saying a word. The cost for a good wrap, bad pizza, and terrible service was $29.69 for the night. We went up to the bar to pay for it and ask for soda refills in our already in hand soda cups full of nothing but ice! We were glad to get out of there because everyone else at that point (after the huge family left) were nothing but loud obnoxious drunk santa’s cussing and being rowdy…and then of course the “Reindeer” ladies with the boobies hanging out and a tail coming out of their too short skirts. I wonder if they realize that it's flu season and Santa needs his reindeer the following week to pull the sleigh...sick or not. You don't want to disappoint all those good little kids on the list now do you? Not that I have a problem with it, it’s just that I had my 4 year old daughter with me and the way they were acting was not something I wanted her around. You talk about confusion for her regarding Santa! Whew!
We walked back down and across the street to the hotel where I decided to buy a few sodas for the night from the “built in store” they had in the lobby. The cost for 2 soda’s came to $4.90. Ouch, that was an expensive drink. We went back to our room and called it a night.
In the morning we got up and got ready. We headed down to the “cafeteria” to get breakfast. Now one of the main reasons I picked this place (other than the price compared to other hotels in the area) was because their complimentary breakfast was a hot breakfast. There was a display table full of food as you go down the assembly line, then another area for juice & coffee and another area that you could pour your own batter and make waffles. This place was PACKED this morning. Even though they had a lot of tables there, not many were available. We ended up sitting at the high bar located right in front of the buffet that you can see in one of my above pictures we took when we first arrived. We got our bellies full and decided to hit the streets to find a local grocery store.
Actually I had done some research to see where the closest store was located in order to walk to it to buy soda for the cruise. Once again, thanks to these wonderful people on CC, we knew that there was one several blocks away and within walking distance. We had a few hours to kill before heading to the port anyhow.
We headed down St Joseph St for a few blocks and then started cutting over a block or two and started heading toward Baronne St, which is where the grocery store was located.
This is me wondering if we went too far….hmmm
We were a little shocked to find one of these still standing AND useable!!! I didn’t realize they still had pay phones out.
It was starting to get hot out and I think the brighter the sun was and the hotter that it got, the longer the walk seemed. But we finally arrived and purchased two 12 pack cases of soda. The prices weren’t bad and were pretty similar to home (3 cases for $11). I don’t have to tell you that it was even a longer walk back carry cases of soda and holding the hand of a little one.
My daughter loves to take pictures whenever she can sneak the camera away from me. She went around taking pictures of all the flowers they had everywhere around the hotel along the underpass to the garage. I have to admit, she usually does a better job of framing and focusing, but I guess I'll take what I can get since I had forgotten to take the picture myself.
We gathered our things from our room and packed our soda in a foldable tote I had packed just for the occasion and headed down stairs. We ask the front desk clerk how to go about getting a cab and she politely pointed out the window where a cab mini-van was sitting.
It was a flat $21 for the 3 of us to get to the port and only took about 5 minutes.
I have to say it was a MADHOUSE there! I definitely don’t remember anything like this the last time we were here back in September the previous year. I do have to mention that the port that we were at last time was the next building over. Maybe that was the difference, but if I had to do it again, I think I would go to another location to get on. Wow.
Our cab driver pulled into the next available spot (which wasn’t easy) and started unloading our things on this VERY busy street of parking/loading/unloading and complete chaos. The person directing traffic (he might have been a policeman I’m not sure) kept yelling at us to move on. We were still getting our luggage out of the trunk jerk! Then once we did we had to attach the “broken piggy-back” luggage to the other in order to pull it and still be able to handle all the other luggage, new additionally acquired soda luggage, my carry on and a 4 year old. Geesh. It was not a pretty site.
Then we were instructed to “go that way”. Then once we got to “that way”, we were told to go back the other way.
This was the worse cluster flark I’ve ever seen. They have several doors along the street there; all marked with numbers 1, 2, 3 and so on and ONLY 1 FRICKEN DOOR OPEN!! Now it gets better, that one said door is open for….are you ready…passenger boarding to come in AND passengers leaving to go out!!! Say what??? Yea, it was great. People standing in lines they didn’t need to because it was people waiting to get a taxi instead of boarding, you had to cut through lines with luggage and just a plain madhouse.
Once we finally checked our luggage and got inside to go through the screening/security/check-in line, it wasn’t bad at all. They didn’t even have all of the lines opened because it was going so fast. It took maybe 15 minutes for everything.
We were then sent to a waiting room because they announced that there was a delay. We were given a number and I have no idea what the numbers/letters represented. There were A’s, B’s, 1’s and 2’s that I had seen. We had a B. We were also given the Dailies for Day 1 while we were checking in so at least I had something to read over while waiting. It was about noon and they called the A’s first and then the B’s of course. It went quickly and we were on our way up the gangplank and on to the ship.
The welcome aboard crew was there to greet us with the music playing in the background.
From here, I think I’m going to change things up a little and do a little “tour” of the ship with pictures before I get in to my actual review and thoughts. That way everyone can drool over the pics and get a feel for what she looks like and has to offer.
So, we’ll start with the Grand Atrium…and I do mean GRAND. I took so many pictures both day and night, so be prepared.
The atrium when we arrived