We had previously sailed with the NCL Spirit in December, 2006 on a Southern Caribbean cruise, but knowing that the Spirit was not at all like the Star, we weren’t sure what to expect. We enjoyed our cruise on the Spirit, but found some negatives about that ship: a bit lacking in cleanliness, food poorly presented(it always seemed to be dripping over the edges of the plates and bowls) and delayed response to cleaning up after sea-sick people(and this happened right along the serving area of the buffet-yuck). But, considering the bargain price we paid and the pleasure we experienced on the cruise those things could be overlooked. I have to say that my recent mainstream cruise prior to this was on the HAL Maasdam. I knew not to expect the same experience or ship.
I found a great rate on a cruise out of LA on the NCL Star. The original idea was to celebrate the sale of our house. Unfortunately, the house never made it to closing because the buyer’s bank withdrew their offer to finance the house. It was too late to cancel and we wrongly figured that we might be able to sell it quickly. Guess we weren’t paying attention to the market very well.
We arrived in LA the night before ship’s departure. We were lucky to have made it out of Chicago as a storm was brewing and we got on our way before they cancelled over 400 flights later that day. We had to be de-iced, so although we reached LA a few hours late, we did arrive safely.
We had rented a car to attend the holiday party of my new host agency, which I had just joined a few weeks before. Although we knew that traffic could be a royal pain, we figured that it shouldn’t be too bad that late in the day, but we found out later that there were two major sporting events going on that evening. It took us almost 2 hours to get from the airport to Glendale, where the party was held.
Because we were on EST and didn’t know how late we would stay at the party, we had booked a hotel in Glendale. We checked in and crashed, only to be awakened at 3am by the noise of some drunks outside our door. Besides cussing and swearing, they knocked on our door. We called the front desk and found out that the next day that we were the third to complain. Although the offending character was a drunken woman ( we swear that we heard guys), the office staff noted on our bill that some kids in town to attend a funeral were causing the problem. Seems rather odd. They did give us a $20 discount on our stay because of this and did offer a reduced rate on our next stay at their chain, which is not in our part of the country.
Fortunately, traffic to the pier in San Pedro was not a problem and we arrived back at Enterprise around 11:30, but suddenly realized that we had forgotten to top off the gas tank. We asked for directions to the nearest gas station and attempted to use the pay-at-the-pump option to fill-up. At this station, they requested your zip code when you used your card. Ours kept getting rejected, so Robert went in to see what the problem was. It seems that since our zip code was not local, our card was rejected. After sizing up Robert, the clerk finally set the pump to accept our card. Next time, we will have to memorize a local zip code. Duh, I should have remembered 90210. They would surely be thrilled to pump gas to anybody with that zip code.
Quite a few people were renting or returning cars at Enterprise, located right across the street from the pier. We hopped into the shuttle to the ship (It would not be easy to walk to the pier, even though the distance isn’t great. Being that it is a secured area, there are some obstacles, mainly the security gate and the traffic that passes by. There was no pedestrian walkway that we noticed to reach the pier.)
Once relinquishing our bags to the porters, we proceeded through security for which there is no separate line for previous guests. Once beyond that point, there are separate lines for Casino-at-Sea guest, Latitudes members and other VIP guests. We went through the Latitudes line and walked directly to the counter for check-in. The person at the terminal asked if our room number had been changed as the computer showed that somebody was already in the room we had been assigned. Had I arrived on the wrong date? No, the last person occupying our room hadn’t been properly checked out, which caused that glitch. Next when we needed to have our photos taken for our id, the camera wouldn’t work. Our clerk was a bit flustered, but just had the person next to him take our photo and requested that his terminal be serviced.
Next we proceeded to the boarding line. They had asked for the color of the boarding card that we weren’t given. It seemed that they had gone through the numbers and were letting people board at will. It must have been around 12:30 when we got on the ship. It was nice not to have to wait in lines.
We went to Deck 8 to try to drop off our bags, but the fire doors were closed, so we just headed down to Versailles for lunch. If there is an option for the boarding day lunch, we always choose the dining room rather than the buffet just because we much prefer to be served. Actually, we get really depressed seeing all the obviously starved people who appear to have not eaten for weeks. With all that food heaped on their multiple plates, I am surprised that they maintain the strength to even carry them.
Few people used Versailles so we had a nice table for two next to the window. One couple literally straggled in. We aren’t sure how they passed by the hostess or the multiple waiters on the staircase waiting to properly seat guests. The stragglers simply selected a table and started to sit down until one of the waiters realized what they were doing. I suspect that they came through the doors from the elevators on the 6th deck rather than through the grand entry on the 7th deck.
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch as we weren’t really interested in lugging our carry-ons to another public space to wait for our room to be ready. Just as we ordered two more cappucinos, the announcement came over the loud speaker that the cabins were ready. Our server asked if we wanted to cancel our order, but we decided that we could relax and avoid the stampede to the cabins.
Already we preferred the NCL Star to the NCL Spirit. The Versailles dining room lacked that huge two-story window that dominated the NCL Spirit and made me uncomfortable. Of course, that’s just me. Some people loved the dramatic window. I much preferred the one-deck high windows of the Versailles.
We ate most of our meals in this restaurant, although we did try the Endless Summer and La Trattoria, neither of which we found worthy of eating at more than once. We didn’t try any of the specialty restaurants that required an extra fee. We were happy with our meals in Versailles.
Next time – the food on the ship.