Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun are two of the oldest ships in Norwegian Cruise Line's fleet. Both these ships were built in 2001, making them over 20 years old. Because these ships made their debut in the same year, you might think they would be very similar. However, this is not the case. These two ships have some pretty big differences.
This year, I had the opportunity to test out both Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star. After sailing on both, it was clear that one of these ships came out on top as the best of the two: Norwegian Star.
Here are some of the top differences that make the variations between these two ships the most noticeable to me, and why I think Norwegian Star has the upper hand over Norwegian Sun.
The food and dining experience
(Pictured above is the Versailles Restaurant onboard Norwegian Star)
I personally thought that the food and dining experiences onboard Norwegian Star exceeded those on Norwegian Sun. This is primarily because Norwegian Star has six complimentary dining venues. This is an impressive amount for any cruise ship, let alone an older vessel!
Many Norwegian Cruise Line ships offer several specialty dining restaurants alongside complimentary restaurants, but few Norwegian ships have six complimentary dining locations.
In addition to my cruises onboard Norwegian Sun and Star, I've been able to sail on several other Norwegian ships, including Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Bliss, and Norwegian Encore. Prior to the voyages on the older vessels, I had become fairly familiar with Norwegian Cruise Line’s style and their main dining options.
(Pictured above is the Main Dining Room onboard Norwegian Sun)
The layout and dining onboard both Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun are quite different from these newer ships.
Onboard Norwegian Sun, for example, guests will find a much smaller buffet than what is typically found onboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s newer vessels, whereas on Norwegian Star, the main dining rooms are completely unique and do not resemble any of the other main restaurants I have been to onboard other Norwegian ships.
Overall, I thought that the quality of food was also slightly better onboard Norwegian Star than the Norwegian Sun. The food served in the main dining rooms seemed more upscale, and there were far more buffet options.
For our sailings onboard Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star, we dined only at the complimentary restaurants; however, Norwegian Cruise Line features several specialty restaurants onboard both ships that are worth checking out for those guests who want to sample unique foods and try a special dining experience.
When compared to some of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newer ships, Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun have more laid-back entertainment options.
For example, onboard Norwegian Sun, there was one theater-style show on the ship, as well as live music. I found that Norwegian Star's entertainment offerings were more varied, with multiple stage shows, variety performances, and live music.
On some of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newer ships, such as Norwegian Viva, have large-scale Broadway-style shows for guests to enjoy.
While there may not be any Broadway-style shows onboard Norwegian Sun or Norwegian Star, there's still nightly entertainment that can be enjoyed by patrons.
I personally thought that the entertainment was better onboard Norwegian Star. In fact, the variety acts were some of the best that I have seen on a cruise ship!
The best way to see what's available each day of your cruise is to consult the ship's schedule, which Norwegian calls "The Freestyle Daily." This will let you know when and where entertainment will take place on the ship.
(Pictured above is the casino onboard Norwegian Sun)
The public areas onboard Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star might not have all the bells and whistles of some of the newer Norwegian Cruise Line vessels; however, there are still some great areas on these older ships.
Personally, I think that some of the areas that cannot be missed are the places where guests can enjoy some fresh air and ocean views. Onboard Norwegian Sun, guests should check out The Great Outdoors Cafe, whereas on Norwegian Star, guests should peruse Spice H2O.
(Pictured above is the Great Outdoors Cafe onboard Norwegian Sun)
The Great Outdoors Cafe is a unique venue that can not be found onboard every Norwegian Cruise Line ship.
This outdoor space has covered areas and many tables with great views of the ocean and is particularly great when the ship is docked in port! It's also a good spot to grab a snack as the ship sails away after a day of exploring.
(Pictured above is Spice H2O onboard Norwegian Star)
Spice H2O onboard Norwegian Star is a classic Norwegian Cruise Line space featured on many of their ships. This spot is a little different onboard the Norwegian Star and features two hot tubs, a bar, and plenty of comfortable lounge spaces for guests.
We enjoyed our time at this venue, the open ocean views make it an ideal place to lounge and enjoy the sunset. It is important to note that the Spice H2O is usually an adults-only space, meaning that children cannot always enjoy it.
(Pictured above is the buffet onboard Norwegian Sun)
After sailing on both ships, I believe that Norwegian Sun seemed to have less onboard for guests when compared to Norwegian Star.
For this reason, I would be inclined to choose Norwegian Star for a longer cruise itinerary over Norwegian Sun. With just two nights onboard Norwegian Sun, I felt as though I was able to see and do the majority of things onboard without needing more time on the ship.
(Pictured above is the casino onboard Norwegian Star)
When it comes to onboard activities, Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun are relatively limited; however, this does not mean there is nothing to do!
These ships are great options for port-intensive itineraries. They have a great balance of offering unique itineraries while also providing a relaxing cruise sailing. For guests more focused on the itinerary and the destinations, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star can be great choices.
Like when figuring out what entertainment options there are, when it comes to onboard activities, the best place to browse all of the activities occurring is in the Freestyle Daily. Norwegian Cruise Line delivers guests a physical printed copy of the ship’s onboard schedule to each stateroom every night of a cruise.
When browsing the Freestyle Daily on my European sailings, I noticed that there seemed to be far fewer onboard activities when compared to Caribbean cruises.
We did not find this to be a detriment to Norwegian Sun or Norwegian Star, as these sailings were highly port-intensive and designed for guests to spend most of their day out and about exploring. Once back onboard, these older, but great ships, provided a great home at sea.
While both ships are older, we appreciated the cozy interior staterooms that we got to call home during our cruises
(Pictured above is a standard inside cabin onboard Norwegian Star)
In recent years, both Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star have received refurbishments that have bolstered them for many more sailings into the future.
When it comes to the staterooms, Norwegian Star seems to have the upper hand, as the ship received a refurbishment most recently in 2021 in which all the cabins were made modern and comfortable for guests.
(Pictured above is a standard inside cabin onboard Norwegian Sun)
On each of our sailings, we stayed in standard interior staterooms and found the cabin onboard Norwegian Star to be a little more modern, with additions such as more power outlets, modern art, and new carpets.
We also appreciated the closing shower door in the bathroom, whereas many older cruise ship showers have a curtain.
(Pictured above is the ensuite bathroom of our interior stateroom onboard Norwegian Star)
The Norwegian Sun stateroom had its own set of benefits as well, such as a sizable couch for guests to sit on and make themselves at home. While the stateroom onboard Norwegian Sun felt a little older in its style, it was still a very comfortable room.
The lively nightlife onboard Norwegian Star
Something that I appreciated about Norwegian Star was that every single night of the cruise there was some form of nightly entertainment. Whether it was a stage show, variety act, or a themed party there was always something for guests to do onboard in the evenings.
Norwegian Sun, however, seemed to be lacking somewhat when it came to nightlife. Compared to what was offered during our cruise on Norwegian Star, we noticed that there seemed to be less entertainment onboard Norwegian Sun.
Thankfully, there are plenty onboard both ships. Guests will find 9 different bars on Norwegian Star, while Norwegian Sun has two more, totaling 11. For this reason, I recommend trying out a new bar and lounge each night to thoroughly explore the ship!
Here's how Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star are similar
Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun were both built in 2001, meaning they are over 20 years old. This is rather old when it comes to cruise ships. However, with their recent refurbishments, both ships are still in great shape.
Both Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star offer unique and exciting itineraries at an affordable price. This is what initially caught our eye and enticed us to try out these two older Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
They specialize in port-intensive itineraries, sailing to regions such as Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Alaska, and South America. Currently, neither ship sails in the Caribbean.
It is not every day that cruisers can find affordable sailings to destinations such as these. For this reason, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star can be great ship choices for prospective guests looking to cross off these bucket list locations.
Our 2-night sailing onboard Norwegian Sun visited Spain, while our cruise onboard the Norwegian Star visited the British Isles.
I cannot say enough great things about either trip. Coupled with the price, we had excellent cruise experiences.
Main pool deck
(Pictured above is the lido deck onboard Norwegian Star)
The main pool decks onboard Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star were relatively similar, as they offered plenty of lounge space for guests to relax and enjoy some sunshine.
Something different onboard Norwegian Star, however, was the presence of four hot tubs. This is a rather large amount for any cruise ship, and I appreciated this amenity being available to guests.
(Pictured above is the main pool onboard Norwegian Sun)
Norwegian Star also has an outdoor food and bar area near the main pool deck for guests to enjoy a snack throughout the day without having to visit the ship's main buffet.
Onboard Norwegian Sun, there was a bar area, as well as a flavored water station, near the main pool deck.
The main difference between the two, however, was the presence of the splash zone onboard Norwegian Sun; Norwegian Star did not have any outdoor splash area for children.
(Pictured above is the tiny splash zone for children onboard Norwegian Sun)
Typically, older Norwegian Cruise Line ships have less onboard for children, and this seemed to be true on both ships. While there was a splash zone present on NCL Sun, it was tiny and limited. It's not like what you can find on newer ships.
Every Norwegian Cruise Line ship features food and entree items similar to each other, so many of the entree items in the main restaurants onboard Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star were familiar to me.
I also recognized items that I have seen onboard other ships, such as the Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore.
If you are someone who cruises with Norwegian Cruise Line often, then you are sure to recognize many of the food options available on both of these older ships.
That being said, Norwegian Sun and Star have unique restaurants that are different from some of the main restaurants onboard newer vessels.
I appreciated that, while these ships felt a little older, they also still offered great Norwegian Cruise Line classic food and dining experiences.
Overall Norwegian Cruise Line style
Before sailing onboard Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun, I was curious to see what cruising with an older Norwegian ship would be like. Would there be the same things onboard that I have loved about the newer ships? Would the same style be present?
Yes! While there's no denying that these ships feel older and have fewer onboard activities, they still feel quintessentially Norwegian Cruise Line.
I appreciate that no matter the age or aesthetics of a ship, every vessel in the fleet will feel like home to frequent cruisers.
Everything that fans of Norwegian Cruise Line have come to enjoy and expect can be found onboard Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star.
Of the two, Norwegian Star was my favorite
Personally, I think that the Norwegian Star offers more to do and see onboard. Plus, there are more complimentary dining options for guests to enjoy, as well as more entertainment, bars, and lounges.
Norwegian Star is a great older ship that has been refurbished, giving it modern features and aesthetics in its staterooms.
While Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star may not have the most onboard activities or amenities, they're more than capable of providing a great cruise vacation to some awesome destinations around the world.
If you are someone looking to sail to destinations such as Europe or South America on a budget, one of these vessels may be the perfect fit.
I always recommend picking a region first, rather than ship, to not limit yourself. Some of the best itineraries I've ever seen have been on older ships, and I would not have found them had I only wanted to cruise onboard newer NCL ships.