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We are just back off the Xmas & New Year cruise around the Caribben(Dec 18th - Jan 2nd) on the Island Star.
Before I go on to the nitty gritty, I will let you know how we thought the whole experience went. We had a very enjoyable time, yes, there are small things that could have been better (ie some places looking a bit worn) but there was no point in moaning about it, we just got on with enjoying ourselves. I heard a couple of people saying that this was their 1st cruise and they wouldn’t be doing anymore because we had some rain!
We were disappointed with Christmas on the ship as it really felt like another day, we did have turkey on Christmas Eve but not a lot else. We found out later that they did do a Christmas Lunch on Christmas Day but as most people were off the boat in St Lucia then I don’t suppose many people saw that. The Pantomime they put on was very good for both kids and adults as I don’t think the kids will have understood the adult humour in it.
For New Year they did a party in the Pub at 8pm to join in with the UK celebrations and then had parties going on in 3 areas of the ship for our New Year in the Caribbean. I don’t know what it was like in the Bounty Club or Harbour Café but where we were in the Pub, it went very well with plenty of fun to be had by all.
We didn’t do the beach in Barbados either end of the trip as it was raining off and on, but we had a look around the town. We did go to a few beaches, Antigua was fantastic. St Lucia, we went on the Volcano, mud bath, & waterfall tour which was great fun on Christmas Day. St Kitts, it was a partly cloudy day and we went on the Scenic Railway which again was good fun – well the Rum punch went down very well! Dominica, another waterfall and beach visit which was enjoyable. All 3 trips went right into the islands so we saw a lot. The other trip we did was in Trinidad when we sailed down a swamp in a bird/wildlife sanctuary - a few sightings of caymans, snakes & various birds but not as much as I had hoped. We enjoyed most of the evening entertainment and I managed to have a cocktail or two so I was happy. I also managed to get a nice tan so there was a fair bit of sun as well as rain. It was still the rainy season (June to December) in the Caribbean so we did have to expect some rain and to be honest it didn’t really affect us too much except for the 1st day at sea.
Now for more details:
Check in at Gatwick: When we were standing in the check-in queue we were given labels to put on our hold luggage which shows your cabin number. Once checked in, that was the last time you saw your luggage until it was delivered to your cabin in Barbados.
If you are doing this trip soon a piece of advice before you get off the plane in Barbados – go to the toilets at least 30 mins before arrival (seat belt signs will go on about 20 mins from landing) as that will be your last chance before boarding the ship! When you get off the plane you get onto coaches/buses/mini-buses which take you straight to the ship (ie you don’t go into the terminal). Journey to port took about 40 minutes.
Port arrival: You have to fill in a "How you are paying form" & "Medical form" in the “shed” before joining the queue to check-in to the ship. It would have been better if they gave us the forms to fill out on the coaches as it got to be a bit of a scrum getting the forms and trying to fill them out! You have to register a credit card. Anyway, the whole process went fairly quick. I think we landed at the airport at about 5:45pm and we were in our cabin by 6:50pm. Our luggage arrived at 9pm. I did hear someone moan that their luggage wasn’t in the cabin when they arrived!! I do think some people are just happy to moan.
Cabin: We had a double bed which was 2 singles put together – plenty of room. There were 2 wardrobes and there were approx 14 hangers altogether (not quite enough for us but adequate). Plenty of drawers – 2 in bed side cabinet, 6 in dressing table, 10 in one of the wardrobes. TV has BBC World News & EuroNews, other channels mainly to do with the ship, and 2 film channels (I wasn’t sad enough to watch any!) Again, I heard someone moan that there wasn’t enough on the TV – do people honestly go to the Caribbean on holiday to stay in their cabin to watch TV?
There was plenty of room in the cabin (Diamond deck – 6072) for the 2 of us. Bathroom was clean and tidy, there was a hairdryer in there but according to my wife it’s not much use as there isn’t much power. There is soap and shower gel if you need them. Towels, not very good and not very white. You also get a yellow towel for pool/beach. All can be changed as often as you like.
There was a safe in one wardrobe which costs £25 to use.
In the unlikely event you want to phone from your cabin it costs £2.50 per minute.
You get a daily newsletter - Island Chat, delivered to your cabin each evening which shows what is happening the following day. If you want to add a message to your other half in the newsletter that will cost you £10.
Food: On the whole it was okay, nothing special but you would have to be very fussy not to eat. Yes, it does get to be a bit “samey” in the 2nd week but usually there were subtle changes to the way things were cooked or what sauces were added. The fruit is very good, my wife loved the pineapple and couldn’t get enough of it!
We generally ate our breakfast (all the usual fry up stuff although bacon wasn’t good most of the time (just streaky fat), fruit, croissants etc) and evening meals in the Island Restaurant, buffet service but it has tablecloths and it is waiter service for any drinks you wanted. You wait to be seated in this restaurant and we very rarely waited more than a couple of minutes.
The Beachcomber on the pool deck serves the same food as the Island Restaurant but has the feeling of a roadside café (well, not that bad – it was fine), with plastic beakers/glasses. We generally ate there for any snacks during the day. It does do cakes and biscuits from 3pm. The Grill is at the back of the Beachcomber but outside and serves burgers/steaks/chicken breasts and chips and was very popular.
There are 2 “Speciality” Restaurants, the “Oasis” and the “Steakhouse” and the food in both was very good – seems small portions but they are filling. My favourite was the Steakhouse as you get a good selection of food from a buffet for the starter and I loved the Mixed Grill for main course. There were quite a few choices but it is the same menu for the whole cruise in both restaurants. There is a charge to use these restaurants, £14.95 each in the Oasis and £16.95 in the Steakhouse. They usually have a wine & dine deal in each (ie £41.90 in the Steakhouse for 2 people, £37.90 in the Oasis).
Bars: Plenty to keep you going if you want to go on a crawl ? Prices are fairly reasonable, I’ll list a few to give you an idea – Lager £2.80 a pint, Boddingtons £2.60 a pint, Fosters/Stella £2.65, Non-Alc beer £2.40, Vodka £2.70/£2.80, Whisky £2.60-£3.95, Gin £2.70/£2.80, Frozen Daiquiris £3.10, Cocktails £2.99, Liqueurs £3.10 – please note all spirits are 50ml measures (double UK measures). Most bars are waiter service so you can just sit and relax and have your drinks brought to you.
They always have Special’s of the Day for Cocktails (shown in the Island Chat) which cost £2.75 – I managed to try most of them. Most days they also had “Happy Hours” which meant for certain drinks (usually cocktails) you got 2 for 1 or half-price on cider.
Entertainment: There is an entertainment team who do the games/quizzes etc, mostly on the pool deck – as I’ve seen in a couple of reviews they call it “Butlins” type. Never been to Butlins but it was all just a bit of fun, if you weren’t interested in joining in you didn’t have to do anything but keep on sunbathing. Plenty of people enjoyed participating/watching, and the way I looked at it, what else could they do? They couldn’t please all of the people all of the time! Some things going on “at sea” days – Line Dancing class, Aerobics, Shufflboard, Ballroom dance class, Table Tennis, Darts, singing lessons, pottery painting, and a number of seminar type things – ie Botox, anti-aging hand care, bad hair days etc etc etc. We did participate in some of the dance classes and after trying to dance on the Theatre stage, we can really appreciate the work the Show Team do when they do their evening shows because it can be quite hard to keep in step. There was also a woman giving lectures about the Caribbean wildlife, people & customs, Didn’t go to the lectures but met her one day in the Beachcomber and she was 71 years old and extremely intelligent and I had a good long chat with her.
There is also a show team, made up of 4 singers and 6 dancers who do the main evening shows (mostly musical songs etc) on most of the nights. These shows are usually at 8pm and 10:30pm each evening and last 45mins to an hour. I think they are quite good, but it was all mostly the same as we had seen previously in the Med. We also had 2 visiting cabaret acts, a soul singer – Steve Simone (again he was in the Med) but we didn’t mind seeing his 2 shows again as he was very good. The other act was a comedian(???) (Barry Cheese), if you see him then I’ll let you form your own opinion!!
There also 4 resident band/singers on board: The Dream Makers (5 piece band) were mostly in the Bounty Lounge – all I’ll say is that the Lounge usually started filling up when their stint was coming to an end. The resident duo (Starlites) were okay and they had 2 solo artistes (Jedi Joseph , Hugh Mett) who again weren’t too bad but I suppose it does depend on your taste - – these are usually on in the Pub.
The Pub: There is a small dance area for you to show your moves if you so wish – I did on New Years Eve! Other than the singers the only other thing that happens in there is the nightly bingo.
The Bounty Club: A few things happen in there on a “At Sea” day like cocktail demonstrations, dance lessons, etc. In the evening it’s the Dream Makers plus a game show each evening (ie Mr & Mrs, Generation Game, Name that Tune, etc). There is a dance floor there but very rarely used when Dream Makers were on.
Other areas on ship:
Pool Area: 2 swimming pools – 1 for adults and one for the little kids. The pool is salt water, and it was nice to get in there from time to time to cool down but during the School holidays it does get busy with the kids in there. Plenty of sunbeds on deck 11 & 12, we thought there could be could be a problem on “at sea” days but we were on deck by about 9am and there were always plenty – may have been a struggle by 10am. The area around the pool is a bit worn but nothing too much too worry about – they were never going to redecorate before selling were they? Ladies are only allowed to go topless (if they so wish!) on Deck 12 behind the Sailaway Bar. There are also 2 Jacuzzis next to the pools, again very popular with children! Note to Parents – it does say not to be used by children under 12 and older children only if accompanied by an adult.
Gym: Can’t comment as I didn’t actually get in there, but seemed plenty in there.
Spa: They do all sorts of massages/pedicures/facials/hair cuts etc. I had a Fire & Ice massage (75mins for £66) which was okay, but they do try the hard sell for doing other treatments which will benefit you. A Ladies shampoo/set was £20, Manicure £22, Pedicure £33.
Captain’s Lounge: Small lounge with a bar and very comfy leather chairs to laze in and chill out.
Library: Has plenty of books to read if you so wish & a few games to keep the young ones occupied.
General Store (Crisps, chocolates, sweets etc and other basic’s – toothpaste, suncream etc)
Other Shop: Sells all types of clothes and souvenirs.
Photo Shop: Will show all the photo’s taken of you through your cruise and available for you to buy –usually £4.99 or £9.99, and frames/folders/cameras.
Each evening after sailing there are a few stalls of merchandise from the various shops in the Harbour Walk area.
Casino: fairly small and didn’t really use – played the slots for 15mins one day without success.
Future Cruise Desk: Gives you the opportunity to buy Thomson Cruises at a discount.
Exchange Desk: This is cash only, credit cards are not accepted.
Excursions: We did 4 and although 3 could be classed as expensive (but all cruise lines excursions are expensive aren't they?) we enjoyed all of them and were value for money. A few of the Islands you had to take a photo ID with you (I wish I knew that before hand as I only had my passport), they say take anything with your name and photo on it – ie work pass, bus pass etc – better to lose them than your passport?
Trips we did ourselves: Tobago – We (2 of us) took a taxi to Pigeon Point which took about 20mins for US$20 each way. Entrance cost US$3 and a sunbed US$2 each. Plenty of food/drink/shelter there and there was toilets & showers.
St Vincent – Taxi to Villa Beach (approx 15mins) going there cost us US$20 and US$15 on the return. Didn’t use the sunbeds as they were asking US$10 each. Again there was food/drinks/toilets available but not too much shade. Don’t go to India Bay Beach (where the ship tour took you) as it did not have anything there.
Antigua – Taxi (6 of us) to Runaway Beach (approx 10mins) costing US$3 each. Sunbeds US$6 and Umbrellas US$6. Lovely beach with plenty of food/drinks/shelter etc. A few vendors but they didn’t bother us much. On our Dominica Excursion we spent a couple of hours at Mero Beach which was approx 30mins away from the port. Black sand but it was a lovely beach and again plenty of facilities, don’t know how much beds/umbrellas cost as ours were included in the cost of the tour. Grenada and Martinique we just spent time in the port. St George (Grenada) was a lovely little town but Fort de France (Martinique) wasn’t so nice and not just because of the rain showers. We didn’t find the people there as friendly as on other islands.
On the last night, you had to put your suitcases outside your cabin by 3am (it is usually 2am but our night was New Year’s Eve!) and that was the last we saw of them till we got back to Gatwick. Immigration/passport control is done in the Ocean theatre from 7am on your last day and is done by one flight at a time – it was a quick and smooth process – I think from when our flight was called till we had finished took about 20mins.
Also, by 2am on that last night you will have your invoice delivered under your cabin door if you are paying by credit card. If you are paying your bill by cash that has to be paid the night before you leave.
All in all, a very enjoyable cruise and both of us came back relaxed and tanned. To the people who are going on the Island Star soon, just go there with an open mind but more importantly go there to enjoy yourselves. It isn’t all perfection (what is?), just don’t let the little things spoil your holiday. The main thing that could have spoilt my holiday were the people who continually moaned about the rain, food, entertainment – but I soon learnt to ignore these people and thankfully there were a majority who were there to have a good time, so I ENJOYED myself. Have FUN.
We are going on the same cruise as you and have all agreed not to read any further reviews on the ship. http://cruiseforums.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=900350 was the last one we read and have decided we are going to have fun whatever!! We are just up the road from you in Wakefield, just think the caribbean or Yorkshire. Have fun, we know that we will xXx.
Island Star has been sold to a Spanish line as from March that's probably why you can't get any info. I sailed with Star last Sept. round the Med and had a good holiday. The entertainment was good and varied, food as you would expect on a ship, the cabins and corridors needed a refurb. but the lounges and bars were quite smart. Smoking was allowed on one side of each bar/lounge so everybody was happy. The staff put themselves out to keep everybody happy but I heard that 'cos the ship was sold most of them lost their jobs at the end of the year so don't know what the new staff are like. Hope this helps.
we have just returned yesterday from the Latin Caribbean cruise on the island star and I'm sorry to say that the ship has gone downhill from last year, we have cruised many times before on the island star in the med and thoroughly enjoyed it with no complaints you have to remember that the island star was always a 3 star ship it never was the aurora/Independence/etc, but unfortunately the ship is not what it used to be, the staff and crew are still as friendly and helpful as ever but the ship itself is very tatty especially around the pool area, tatty filthy sun beds and many broken dangerously slippery tiles on the floor, also broken and very slippery tiles on the floor of the beachcomber restaurant, showers and toilets constantly not working and leaks/wet carpets in corridors all over the ship, many people contracted chest infections and there were several falls on the slippery pool area, towels and sheets allthough clean were very worn (except for the upper cabins deck 10 & 11 which mostly had new bed linen and towels) food in the island restaurant and beachcomber was mostly lukewarm if you were lucky and stone cold the rest of the time....coffee was dreadful, waiter still pester for drinks as they allways have, entertainment was generally good especially the ballroom dancing couple who very very good, guest relations were not very helpful when my mother contacted an chest infection she was told that she was unable to cancel her prebooked excursions without a doctors letter to say she was unwell and as it cost £75 to consult the on board doctor it was cheaper to just not go on the tour, shore excursions were very expensive (although no more than any other cruise line), we paid $50 for a family of 5 plus $2 each for a taxi to go to the aquarium in curacao to see the dolphins this would have cost us £25 each if we had booked with the ship and the malibu beach trip in barbados ships price £25 each we just walked to the beach from the ship and hired a sun lounger on the beach for $5 each, despite all this we still enjoyed the cruise mainly for the ports off call aruba grenada & Curacao were beautiful, panama well worth visiting, we recommend the embera indian trip in a dugout canoe and costa rica rain forest was amazing, trinidad and cartagena seemed unsafe so probably better to book an organised excursion in those places. transfers in barbados from the airport to the ship seemed to be pandemonium for those booked on monarch and thomas cook flights we saw many long queues for checkin at the port with people left waiting for ages in busses outside and again at the airport for the return, I think there were 4 or 5 thomas cook & monarch flights to the UK and the airport was bedlam, we flew scheduled with Virgin atlantic so didn't encounter any queueing anywhere and the flight with them both ways was good. its sad that the island star has been sold to a spanish fleet we have enjoyed many cruises on the island star in the past but unfortunately it shows that the island star is closing down soon, all I can say to reassure those booked on the island star up to march is be aware the ship is not what it used to be and is closing down but dont be put off you can make the best of it, being in the Caribbean at this time is year is the best place to be and the staff and crew do still look after you like you were gold you can still have a great time as long as your expectations aren't to high, dont expect luxury
I hope this helps.
Hi Sue - I'm on the latin cruise next month - thanks for the review - did you have the yellow fever jab? and were you asked for the certificate?
we were a little worried about this ourselves before we went, we had been advised that we didn't need any precautions so, no, we didn't have any jabs and we didn't take any anti malaria medication, we relied instead on a good tropical insect repellent whilst in columbia, and also in trinidad but only because we visited a swamp bird sanctuary. apart from small areas of columbia (not cartagena) there is no malaria or yellow fever present at any of the ports of call on this cruise, we were not asked for any certificates, all immigration procedures/entry/exit fees etc were dealt with by the ship at each port of call. The latin cruise is a fabulous itinerary I'm sure you will luv it, have a great time. Sue.
Hi I have presumed that you are going on the Classic Itinerary as the dates would appear to fit, so possibly you will not visit all of the same ports of call, in the earlier coments for information on the ports, it may be beneficial to read the reviews of ships docking at the same ports. I came off the Star on the 1 January 2009 after the Eastern Caribbean Itinerary and overall agree with the earlier comments. Below is a copy of my review published before Island Reviews were removed.......No matter which cruise or even a holiday reviewed, there will be conflicting reviews as a review is a personal opinion and most of us differ! On this site alone, for example, there are reviews for the same cruise entitled Hot, Hot, Hot, Superb, Worth the Wait & Never Again, No Thank You Some passengers loved it while others proclaim never again................Flights outward and transfer, no excuses for Thomas Cook, every flight out was delayed, a total fiasco, and I believe Monarch was not on time either. Our flight took off over 6 hours late and their attitude was appalling. TC was aware the night before the plane was not fit to fly and passengers were given so many conflicting excuses it resembled Jackanory. Coaches were waiting for us at the airport, the transfer was swift about 20 minutes as little traffic. Yes there was a queue for embarkation, however, considering the flights fiasco, with passengers not arriving at the expected time, and too many arriving at the same time, the embarkation team did as well as could reasonably be expected in the circumstances. Embarkation did not actually take that long, possibly if passengers were not so tired and stressed, most of us had been up around 20-24 hours, or if the flights arrived on time and there was not such long queues it may not have seemed such an ordeal. The Terminal also referred to as the shed is used by other cruise lines and not exclusive to Island.................Transfer and inbound flight, our departure was rescheduled for an hour earlier, due to the inbound being early, there was a wait to enter the airport and queues for the departure lounge for all cruise passengers. This was due to the volume of passengers departing and quite unusual in our experience for Barbados. Our flight did not take off as early as expected due to a passenger requiring boarding assistance getting lost in the airport and not boarding at the same as others needing assistance so the lift had to recalled, but we still managed to arrive in the UK early, well done TC for the inbound flight. Hopefully, future passengers may not be so unfortunate with delays, especially outside the festive holidays. .....Ship, & cabin my husband prefers informal cruises; he likes to travel light, and grumbles if his uggage needs to include appropriate attire for formal cruising. Hence been on the Star before, last time 5 months ago, however, we were surprised by the deterioration to her condition, she was extremely tired. Our cabin was clean but jaded, which was not really that much of an issue, as we did not go to the Caribbean intending to spend two whole weeks in it, however, it was very noisy, and so I politely and assertively complained to Guest Relations and were moved to an alternative........................Ah Piece, 2nd night in the new cabin there was an intermittent banging keeping us wake, Guest Relations ditto, moved up to the next deck, on each occasion we declined the earplugs offered, in the first instance as a solution and we met other passengers unhappy with their cabin who were also moved,. If your cabin is noisy a chat with Guest Relations, combined with declining the offer of earplugs may get you moved...............Food, agree with the other reviewers, meals, there is some room for improvement. In our opinion the food definitely was not as good as on previous occasions, or other cruise lines we had been on. Most importantly, though we did not go hungry, we always found foods acceptable to the palette accurately described as a meal and not merely a snack of a few pieces of fruit or cake or biscuits, in the Beachcomber, Island and at the Grill. Should anyone be concerned regarding increased expenditure because it is necessary to dine each night at the Oasis or Steak House to avoid two weeks starvation? .........................Illness as with other reviewers we were both temporarily ill, I developed a chest infection and required expensive treatment. As I had not been out for 7 weeks before the cruise because I was on crutches, I must have picked up after I left home, many other passengers, developed colds, flu’s and choughs, and this spread to some of the crew who had to take time off. Some blamed the air conditioning; however, as referred to by another reviewer, there was an issue with some passengers entering restaurants or food service areas without using the sanitizers and in our opinion this did not help the situation. Possibly Island could be more assertive in enforcing their policies, however, when a waiter reminded a couple to sanitize their hands one evening outside the Island, the lady might be described as indignant and rude so rightly or wrongly this may be a reason for their reluctance. Hopefully, by now there will not be any virus and bugs on board for embarking passengers to catch. (Not read any reviews for cruises after ours where this was an issue so hopefully now passed)...................................Staff and Crew, although the ship is far from perfect, and during our cruise the food, adequate not a gourmet’s delight, overall it does have 2 Star qualities, its crew and entertainment, the crew are lovely, always helpful and smiling and they work so hard for little reward. As with other passengers and reviewers, there is always an exception and there appeared little chance of passengers being at risk of stomachache from laughing too much at the comedian on our cruise.................The entertainers work really hard, and the entertainment still in our opinion we mains far superior to a lot of other cruise lines, to mention a few, one man shows, really enjoyed Gary with his friends, one man shows, Mike Gibbons excellent loved Mr Bojangles. Dan Mitchell superb voice and so funny in everything else he is involved in as was Mick Dundee’s cabaret & the Ocean shows very good. As referred to an earlier review we enjoyed dinner one evening with the guest speaker who was very interesting. Some may find the poolside activities not to their taste; however, the objective is to have fun. It is unfair to describe some entertainment as Butlins at sea and then add so didn’t attend any indoor ones. Rather than giving an opinion based on your presumptions, at least try it once or twice, there is a variety of entertainments for all tastes in the evenings as you may be surprised and find things you enjoy. (If you meet Mike, G please send him best wishes from the Cornwall Christmas Couple(also previous cruises) .......................Although I tried hard to resist I could not conclude my review without a comment specifically regarding the ladies an earlier reviewer implies most women on an Island Cruise are early morning pint swilling, tattoo bearing loud mouths with no concept of acceptable behavior. For any lady passengers offended by this discriminatory generalization, or future passengers concerned about what they may encounter on an Island cruise most ladies we met were lovely and extremely well behaved. Although I neither drink alcohol, have a tattoo could be described as loud, or unaccustomed to the etiquette of formal cruising. For ladies who enjoy their pint and or displaying their tattoo’s, it is unfair to presume your behavior will resemble a lout or that you are inferior it’s merely a bigotry generalization undoubtedly representative of a very small majority.............................Tips for future passengers, the Star is 20 years old, being redeployed from Island / TUI and definitely very tired, so don’t expect something mirroring the QM 2, Victoria, Ventura or one who’s name ends “ of the Seas” and possibly you won’t be so disappointed when you embark. As with nearly all tour operators, and almost every cruise line, trips will cost less if undertaken independently, some ports have water taxi’s to the beach and there are some lovely beaches to visit, especially Antigua, St Vincent is not the best port of call. It is worth spending a little time pre-cruse reading reviews and cruse answers, as there is some excellent advice and tips available regarding ports of call from previous passengers of most cruise lines, as often cruise lines have similar itineraries. Realistically it is unreasonable to blame Island for the weather, if you prefer the formalities and customs of traditional cruising; Island may not be the most appropriate line for you as the three adjectives in its marketing strategy are relaxed, friendly and informal..........................Please embark on your cruise with an open mind, our cruise was not perfect, and it is sad things are not as good as they used to be on the Star, however, we did actually enjoy our cruise faults and all, we met some lovely people, we returned relaxed and tanned, and overall glad we went.........Enjoy your cruise, hope this helps