I’m not a newbie when it comes to cruising, but this was my first cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line. This was also my first European cruise, so I was excited to check it all out.
The Norwegian Star is a Dawn Class ship that holds about 2,300 passengers, making it a mid-sized ship among today’s standards. It was built in 2001, but it got a makeover in 2018 so it doesn’t feel like an almost 20-year-old ship.
In this post you’ll find my full Norwegian Star review including info about the staterooms, dining options, amenities, kid’s club, art auctions, and shore excursions.
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Norwegian Star Review: A 10 Day Mediterranean Cruise
A Mediterranean cruise is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I was so excited when the opportunity finally arose to travel with my family to Italy to start our cruise through the Mediterranean.
The interesting thing about this cruise was that the first 2 days were in Venice, so the ship stayed in port on Day 2 so guests could explore Venice. We opted to stay on the ship that day and added 2 days in Venice after the cruise was over.
Day 1: Venice, Italy
Day 2: Venice, Italy
Day 3: Split, Croatia
Day 4: Kotor, Montenegro
Day 5: Corfu, Greece
Day 6: Santorini, Greece
Day 7: Piraeus, Greece (Athens)
Day 8: Mykonos, Greece
Day 9: Kefalonia, Greece
Day 10: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Norwegian Star Staterooms
Staterooms on cruise ships are small, and the rooms on Norwegian Star were no exception. We booked a balcony stateroom, and it was teeny — smaller than most other balcony staterooms we have had on other cruise lines.
Now, you can easily solve the small stateroom problem by booking a suite, but until someone else pays for it, I’ll stick to just a balcony.
The bathroom was small as well, but the layout was one of the better ones on a cruise ship. The shower was actually a decent size, and the toilet had a separate door.
Bring a hanging toiletry kit! There is very little counter space in the bathroom and a hanging bag gives you easy access to your bathroom essentials without taking up space.
Norwegian Star Dining Options
I was nervous about the food on the Norwegian Star before we even boarded the boat (as nervous as you can get about food on a 10 day Mediterranean cruise!) Some of my family members reported that the food on previous Norwegian cruises was
The food ended up exceeding my expectations (although I admit those expectations were low). While the main buffet and dining room weren’t great, the specialty dining was excellent.
I’ve tried specialty dining on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas and I wasn’t impressed, but the specialty dining on the Norwegian Star was awesome.
Norwegian Cruise Line Dining Tip: Norwegian offers a specialty dining package as a special (often called “Free at Sea”) quite often, so I would suggest keeping a look out for that so you can have those restaurants included in your price.
Buffet: I detest buffets and cruise ship buffets are no exception. If, however, you enjoy elbowing strangers to grab 18 different types of food on the same plate then wandering around the crowded dining room to find a space, then you’ll love it.
O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill: This restaurant overlooks the main atrium and has a (shocker) Irish pub type of feel to it. I enjoyed it for breakfast, but it wasn’t awesome for lunch or dinner.
Versailles Main Dining Room: The main dining room wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible, but I was really happy we only ate here twice.
Aqua Main Dining Room: We only ate here once because we didn’t realize it was a complimentary restaurant at first (oops!) It served the same menu as the main dining room (Versailles), but the atmosphere was so much better. Overall, not a bad place.
Ginza Asian Dining Room: I was surprised to see a specialty type restaurant that was complimentary. It was very good.
These restaurants all had an additional charge, either a la carte pricing or a $39 flat fee. You can often find cruise packages that include specialty dining — do this (you won’t regret it).
Reservations are recommended. Especially if you are traveling with a large group, make your reservations on the first day. Restaurants can book up quickly.
Cagney’s: This steakhouse offers a la carte pricing, and was a crowd favorite.
La Cucina: A la carte pricing is offered at this Italian restaurant. It was good, but hard to compare to the Italian food we had in Venice!
Le Bistro: This French restaurant offers a la carte pricing and a delicious menu. We all enjoyed this one.
Moderno: This is a Churrascaria (think meat on a stick) restaurant that charged a flat $39 fee.
Sushi Bar: The sushi bar is within the Ginza Asian Dining Room and offers a la carte pricing. You can sit at the sushi bar or order sushi from your table at Ginza. They were very accommodating and made me a lovely veggie sushi. I ended up going back the next night.
Teppanyaki: This traditional teppanyaki restaurant charged a $39 flat fee.
If you are looking for a relaxing pool day without the crowds, stay on the ship while it’s in port. Most of the passengers will get off the ship leaving the pool much less crowded!
Norwegian Star Amenities
If you have been on a cruise before, you might notice the lack of amenities on the Norwegian Star. One of the big problems with this ship is that it only has 1 pool and it’s small!
You won’t find the high-end amenities that you might see on some bigger or newer ships like rock climbing, a wave rider, water slides, or an ice skating rink.
What you will find is some bare-bones amenities (as far as mega cruise ships go) including:
- Fitness center
- Teen Club
- Video game room
- Golf driving nets
- Walking track
Check to see if your cruise is going to a destination that has a sunscreen ban. If so, you will want to be sure to pack some reef-safe sunscreen, so you don’t have to purchase it at an overpriced gift shop.
Norwegian Star Kids Club
This was my daughter’s second cruise and I was thrilled to find the kid’s club! Free babysitting, y’all!!
The facilities and staff were great, and I felt totally comfortable leaving my 5-year-old in their care. They offered lots of themed events and you could even leave the kids there for meals (although there’s an extra charge for that.)
On the last day, the kids put on a show in the ship’s theater — it was a much bigger production than I was expecting. My daughter was thrilled to be able to do a show in the big theater.
Overall, I have zero complaints about the Norwegian Star kids club.
Norwegian Star Art Auctions
Cruise ship art auctions are my favorite onboard activity. I’ve always been artsy, so I gravitate toward these events easily. Once I bought my first piece of art (a Michael Godard onboard the Caribbean Princess) I was hooked.
Since then, I plan my cruise ship days based on art auctions and other art events. I think they’re fun even if you don’t buy anything (but, of course, I usually do!)
The auctions on the Norwegian Star are run by Park West Gallery. If you have ever been to an auction on a cruise, it was probably a Park West auction.
Unfortunately, the art auctions on the Norwegian Star were the most unorganized and poorly run auctions of any ship I have ever been on.
The ship didn’t have a great space for the auctions, and the art team (while they were mostly lovely people) just seemed like they didn’t know what was going on half the time.
If this were my first experience with cruise ship art auctions, I think it would have been my last.
It can get windy on a cruise ship deck. Leave your big, floppy hats at home and instead opt for a cruise friendly hat like this one.
Norwegian Star Shore Excursions
There are so many different shore excursions you can choose from during a cruise. There is some debate about whether or not it’s best to book through the cruise line or to book on your own.
On one hand, if you book through the cruise, you don’t have to do any research because it’s all laid out for you. Plus, you won’t get left behind if your tour runs late. But booking excursions on your own tends to be cheaper. So, there are benefits to both.
I tend to book through the cruise line because I like things easy, but I’m not opposed to booking separately if the occasion arises.
I tried out these tours on this cruise:
- Charming Split Riviera & River Cruise: This tour involved a little boat ride, a small lunch consisting of prosciutto, cheese, bread, olives, and wine, and then a walking tour through Split. I enjoyed it, but this would also be an easy stop to get off and walk around Split on your own. Book your own Split river cruise here.
- Best of Montenegro: Montenegro was so surprising to me — the scenery was gorgeous! What I liked about this tour is that we took a bus up the mountain, so we got killer views of our cruise ship in Boka Bay. Book your own Best of Montenegro tour here.
- Corfu Beach Break: This was a nice half-day transfer to the beach. The beach was all rocks until you were well into the water, so you might want to invest in some water shoes. I really enjoyed this relaxing day on an otherwise very busy trip. Book your own Corfu tour here.
- Charming Oia and Winery: The tour itself was good and I enjoyed the winery stop, but I really was disappointed with Oia! This was one of the main places I was interested in on this trip and it was the biggest let down — it was too crowded with people trying to get that 1 iconic shot of the blue roofs. (If you are looking for a charming Greek Island, stick with Mykonos). Book your own tour of Santorini here.
- Best of Athens and its Scenic Coast: This was a full-day tour that took us to the Acropolis, the temple of Poseidon, and included a drive through Athens. Plus the lunch that was included in this tour was AMAZING!!! I was shocked at how much I liked Greek food. Book your own tour of Athens here.
- Cephalonia Highlights: If you like sitting on a bus for 4 hours, then this is the tour for you…otherwise, I’d skip this one. Book your own Cephalonia tour here.
Ports Where You Can Explore On Your Own
1. When you’re in Mykonos, Greece you can just get off the ship and wander around the little town. It’s so charming and there are tons of restaurants and shops to check out. I LOVED this place!
2. Dubrovnik, Croatia is another city where it’s relatively easy to get off the ship and wander on your own. We purchased cable car tickets ahead of time (because they were cheaper online), but other than that we just winged it.
3. If your cruise is stopping in Santorini, Greece you can get off the ship and head up the cliff (you’ll need to take a cable car) to the town of Fira. Honestly, I liked this town so much better than Oia (which is what everyone associates with Santorini) — if I ever go back, I’ll stay in Fira. We also had an awesome dinner in town at Ouzeri. The food was incredible!
A word of warning: getting the cable car down to your ship in Fira can get super busy — we waited in line for about 1.5 hours!!! So, leave plenty of time to get back down so you don’t get left on Santorini!
4. Split, Croatia is another port that has a bustling town right at the cruise ship port. You can stop at a restaurant or walk through the old walled part of the city very easily without a tour.
5. Venice, Italy is another port where you can just hop off and walk around. I loved just wandering the charming streets, stopping in for pizza and wine along the way. If you’re traveling to Venice with kids, check out these ideas for things to do in Venice with kids.
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