I recently had the opportunity to take a seven night cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line out of Venice, Italy. This cruise on Norwegian Star had been a bucket list trip for quite some time so I was excited to finally have the opportunity to take this cruise.
I booked the cruise through my local travel agent taking advantage of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea promotion. Since I booked a balcony stateroom, I received three perks for “free”. I decided to go with the Premium Beverage Package, Dining Package, and free WiFi. I will talk about whether it was worth it to choose this option instead of a Sail Away Category later on in this article.
But first, here are things I loved about my cruise on Norwegian Star.
One of the main selling points for me on this seven night cruise was that the ship stopped in six cruise ports. There were no sea days. After all, you don’t go to see and experience Europe to spend half of your time on the ship.
The cruise departed from Venice, Italy and visited Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Greece; Santorini, Greece; Mykonos, Greece; Argostoli, Greece, and Dubrovnik, Croatia. View Prices on Cruises on Norwegian Star
It’s really hard to choose a favorite since every port was nothing short of amazing. From the old city in Kotor, the beaches in Greece, the streets of Mykonos, to enjoying a sunset dinner in Santorini, every day of the cruise was epic.
— Cruise Fever ® (@CruiseFever) August 15, 2019
If you’re a fan of the TV show Game of Thrones, you’ll enjoy visiting the Old City in Dubrovnik, Croatia where the show was filmed.
Cruise Starts and Ends in Venice
One of the great things about this cruise is that you start and end in one of the most unique cities on earth. We stayed one night pre cruise and one night post cruise in Venice. If there was ever a city to stay in and extend your vacation, it is Venice.
— Cruise Fever ® (@CruiseFever) August 11, 2019
We used Venice Water Taxi for transfers from the airport to our hotel and from our hotel to the cruise port. They showed up right on time and couldn’t be happier with them.
My advice, go and spend a few extra days in Venice, you won’t regret it.
I can’t say enough about how great the crew was on Norwegian Star. There was a friendly smile everywhere I went and had one of the best room stewards I’ve ever had on a cruise.
Traveling can be a bit tricky since my wife has a severe allergy to gluten. In my first impressions article about this cruise, I talked about how the Assistant Maitre D’ Jasmin went out of her way to make sure she was taken care of. We can’t thank her enough for all that she did.
The staff on Norwegian Star was one of the friendliest crews I’ve experienced on a cruise.
While I love mega ships and all that they offer, I prefer smaller or medium sized ships when sailing in Europe. (Especially since cruises in that region tend to be more port intensive) Norwegian Star, at 91,000 gross tons, is the perfect sized ship for this itinerary.
Although the cruise ship is 18 years old it doesn’t seem like it. Norwegian recently gave the vessel a multi-million dollar renovation and modernization.
One of my favorite features on Norwegian Star is that there are tons of quiet spots on deck once you get away from the main pool. (especially in the front of the ship where there’s also a hot tub)
— Cruise Fever ® (@CruiseFever) August 18, 2019
We ended up booking a balcony cabin on deck 6. The bathroom had one of the better layouts I’ve seen on a ship. The sink was in the middle with the toilet and shower on the sides. However, there were sliding doors to both the shower and the toilet. This feature can come in extremely handy for families.
The cabin had a decent sized balcony and overall it was a comfortable place for us to spend the week.
Since the ship recently updated, our cabin had several handy USB ports for charging electronics.
The main theater had seats on a really nice slope that helped prevent the person in front of you from blocking your view. There are also some great seats on the side on the top that offer awesome views of the shows.
One of the things that I love about Norwegian Cruise Line is the abundance of food options. I have never seen a ship the size of Norwegian Star offer so many options. Usually you have to cruise on the newer mega ships if you want 12 or more options for dinner.
If you go hungry on the ship, it’s your own fault.
O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill is complimentary and open 24/7.
Odds and Ends
At a few of our port stops we arrived earlier than schedules. This extra time in port was greatly appreciated.
I bought two CruiseNext certificates on board. They were $250 each and are good for a future deposit on a Norwegian cruise over the next four years. They gave me $250 in onboard credit on my current cruise for buying them. If you are going to cruise again on Norwegian, they really are a no-brainer to buy.
You’ll want to book your dining reservations for specialty restaurants before you get on the ship. I actually recommend that you book them as far in advance as possible. I waited until two weeks before our cruise to book them and it was hard getting times that we wanted. Some days the only open times were 9:00 pm. Considering I like to eat dinner at around 6-7, that just doesn’t work for me.
Cagney’s, the steakhouse onboard, is the most popular specialty restaurant on the ship. For good reason too, the steaks are just incredible. However, you’ll want to book your reservations as soon as possible. Since we had three free nights to eat in specialty restaurants, we were hoping to eat there at least twice.
When I went to reserve our dining times two weeks before our cruise, I was only able to book the first night at Cagney’s. The rest of the cruise was booked solid, apart from 9:00 or 9:30 pm reservations.
Three of the ports on the cruise were tender ports. If you don’t have an excursion booked through Norwegian, you’ll want to get a tender ticket to minimize your wait. In Santorini and Mykonos, the tender was a really short ride so it really helped keep the wait times down. I think the tender ride in Mykonos was around two minutes max.
There is a Starbucks in the main atrium on Norwegian Star.
Go to the main dining room (Versailles) and skip the buffet for breakfast. They offered great service and you were in and out in no time.
Debarkation was a breeze in Venice. Since we stayed in the EU for the entire cruise, there was no need to go through customs like you do here in the States. We just held up our passports and they waved us through.
Free at Sea or Sail Away Category
For the past few years, Norwegian Cruise Line has been offering various types of their “Free at Sea” promotion. Depending on the stateroom category that you book, you will receive perks that include beverage packages, dining packages, free WiFi, shore excursion credits, and free or reduced airfare.
Now these perks aren’t actually free. When booking my cruise, I had the option to choose a Sail Away Category rate which was $200 per person cheaper. The Sail Away rates do not include the option to choose the free perks.
Since I needed to buy WiFi for work and I usually buy a few nights in specialty restaurants, I decided to pay the $200 per person more to get the Free at Sea perks. Even though we don’t drink, I thought it would also be nice to have the Premium Beverage Package so we could get smoothies, sodas, virgin cocktails anytime we wanted. You also have to pay gratuities on the full price of the drink package ($100 per day so $20 for tips). But I don’t mind that one bit, the crew works hard and deserves every penny of that.
Since I was going to buy WiFi and at least three nights in specialty restaurants, would only be about $80 per person ($12 per day) more to get the Free at Sea perks and we could get unlimited drinks. I thought being able to get specialty coffees and bottled water anytime we wanted would be nice.
One thing I did not realize is that with the Premium Beverage Package, it does not include bottled water, specialty coffees, Gatorade, or drinks like Red Bull.
You do have the option to upgrade to the Ultimate Beverage Package for $30 per day plus gratuities that includes just about all drinks onboard.
Since we were in Greece in the middle of August, we did order a ton of non-alcoholic drinks to keep us cool. My wife loved the virgin mojitos and the different smoothies that they offered.
However for me, I’ll probably just choose the Sail Away rate for the next cruise I book on Norwegian. After all, I do have those two CruiseNext certificates that I purchased on board. If the beverage package included bottled water, specialty coffees, and Gatorade, that would probably make it worth it for me to get the Free at Sea perks.
You really have to decide for yourself if it is worth it for you. Everyone is different and not every perk is worth the same to everyone.
Overall, it was one of my favorite cruises I’ve ever taken and I highly recommend it. While it’s not as affordable as cruises from Florida especially when you factor in airfare and hotels in Venice, the experience is worth every penny.