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Preview: NCL's Sun & Star Offer Heavenly Choices

Cruising the way you want it. With Norwegian Cruise Lines' (NCL) newest vessels—the Norwegian Sun with Caribbean cruises out of Miami, and the Norwegian Star based year-round in Hawaii—shipboard travel is no longer regimented.

Rebirth of NCL

During the dual christening on November 17, NCL's president and chief executive officer, Colin Veitch, stated the Sun and Star represented the rebirth of NCL. With the introduction of the new ships and resort-style, do-as-you-please Freestyle Cruising fleet wide, NCL hopes to have a broader appeal.

To make large ships even more appealing, NCL is offering many dining options and intimate areas for relaxing and sleeping.

Dining

The 1,936-passenger Norwegian Sun provides a choice of nine different restaurants and 10 distinctive menus every evening. The 2,240-passenger Norwegian Star is NCL's largest ship and will offer passengers 10 different restaurants and 11 different menus.

With the flexibility of multiple restaurants and menus, passengers will be able to enjoy a different restaurant every night of a seven day cruise without having to dine in the main restaurant. However, some restaurants require a $10 cover charge during dinner hours. Both ships also offer an array of casual snacking and café outlets, including an on-deck grill, an ice cream bar, a coffee shop, multiple bar areas, a 24-hour hot and cold room service, and an extravagant midnight chocolate buffet.

Formal nights are out on the Star and Sun; "resort casual" dress code is in. For those that like to dress up, however, both ships will have one optional formal night and will reserve a dining room and lounge.

In addition, passengers can choose their dinner companions rather than being assigned to a specific table.

Tipping has also been simplified. Instead of passengers' having to distribute tipping envelopes to wait staff and cabin stewards, the tip line is automatically added to each guest's onboard bill. Passengers have the option of leaving an additional tip for great service, or should they feel the service did not meet their expectations, they can remove the charge from their final bill.

Cabins

Both ships offer larger staterooms—seventy percent of them are outside cabins and most have balconies. The cabins have exceptional standards complete with duvets, refrigerators, and tea and coffee makers. Most cabins will include a sofa bed or pop-up trundle bed, and many will have a fourth pull-down berth. Many cabins, including suites and mini-suites, can connect to create a two, three, four, or five bedroom area suitable for families. The Star has come close to the Disney vessels by offering a much larger bathroom with separate toilet, shower, and sink compartments with sliding doors.

The Star shines even brighter by offering two luxury garden villas aft of the main sundeck. Each villa is over 5,000 square feet and includes a roof terrace and private garden featuring open-air dining, Jacuzzi, private relaxation area, and a panoramic ocean view.

Activities

Both ships offer plenty of choices for those passengers who wish stay active, including a driving range, volleyball and basketball court, fitness and spa center, aerobic area, whirlpool and hydrotherapy facility, and steam and sauna rooms. The Star's sports deck contains fun extras like a "boxercise" area with a sprung wooden floor, a jet-current exercise pool, and an interior 20-yard lap pool. Both ships have large main pool areas, but the Star's is larger with its enormous water slides. For those who want to be pampered, Hawaiian-based Mandara Spa offers passengers on both vessels an exotic menu of spa and beauty treatments.

There are also special onboard events throughout the week, including art auctions, lectures, lei making classes (Star only), and movies. Evening entertainment involves piano stylings, disco dancing, comedians, jugglers, and high-energy extravaganzas in the ships' main theaters. The Sun is equipped with a casino.

For the Kids

Each ship is family-friendly with a huge supervised children's center complete with playroom, outdoor pool, movie theater, computer rooms, teen center, video arcade, and nursery and toddlers' nap room. Supervised activities organized by age are offered throughout the day and evening. There is even a special children's area in the buffet restaurant with its own low-level serving counter and kid-sized tables and chairs.

Real Traveler Thoughts

I found these ships to be exceptionally pleasant and intimate, which was amazing given their size. My only complaint was that the staff on the Star seemed a bit overwhelmed and at times indifferent to customers' requests. I hope that will change with time, because both of these ships have promise. Consumers will benefit from more product choice, and if you are looking for something completely different in cruising, these two ships might be for you.


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