Star out of Tampa on 3/11/12. We booked a stay and cruise using the Howard Johnson's Riverwalk. A very nice location due to proximity to the river and activities, and while somewhat apprehensive due to a few reviews of the hotels agreement with the college for housing, we had no problems. The few college students there were housed on isolated floors. Carlos at the front desk is wonderful. We arrived early on Friday and signed up for the 10:30am shuttle on Sunday to the port due to the fact we had 15 people going.This was smooth and complimentary. Returning was just as smooth so highly recommended.
Embarking was OK due to the suite classification for some, however NCL needs to investigate a better system for opening the initial credit account. This trip was for all of our children and Grandchildren and it seemed more complicated than it needed to be when we establish the one credit card for all the rooms. We had asked for a wheel chair for embarking, and validated twice via phone it would be available. We were concerned with the distance for my husband, but it didn't arrive, and he felt fine walking on. We did see one coming and hesitated at the escalator to see if it was his, buy the security officer was less than helpful when we paused to ask and we just went on. I would like to say this is the only place we encountered a lapse in hospitality and manners.
We were escorted to Cagneys by 11:30am and were impressed with both the service, and the Carbonara. The Caesar salad was good also.We were relaxed and enjoyed the break knowing we were ready to go, and spent the rest of meal chatting and did not feel rushed. By 1:00pm I walked to our cabin on deck 12 and it was ready, Armond and Henry were there and made us welcome. The room was clean, the bed comfortable, and noise was minimal. My daughter and grandchildren were in 12018 and we never heard a peep. The baths are very nice, plenty of room and well stocked.
Day 2 was a sea day, we wandered, attended the Meet and Greet, were entertained and welcomed by the Captain and his team leaders. The weather was wonderful and we spent time outside. The kid programs were wonderful, bravo NCL! The kids (5-6-8-15) begged for more. We asked Henry for a birthday plan and he arranged it all. the room was decorated, the cake was ready in La Cuccina. Annalisa and Zack made our evening with Annalisa crawling up into a window that was inset set at the head of the table and played hind go seek with the birthday girl. Zack and the other staff covered for her and nothing was missed. The food was good and plentiful and once again, staff makes or breaks you.
Day 3 Roatan, no plans. Walked off the boat and one of our party being a Spanish speaker was able to negotiate a ride to West Bay, for 15$ a person, O$ for the 5 children and a guide for the day. It was wonderful as we saw the island, snorkeled, swam, played with monkeys and she even arranged a tab at the Bannanarama bar that was to the left of were we sat. We were there early, before the cruise sponsored outings and had a great location. Food was good as was the music. Great day.
Day 4 Belize. Cave tubing... We book through Vitalino Reyes. Our guide was Roberto. Amazing man. 45$ per adult, 25$ per child. Knows the jungle, we rode in a comfortable bus. He shared the history and culture of a land he very obviously loved. We arrived after a 45 minute ride, grabbed our tubes, walked about 2-3 miles through beautiful jungle? We learned about roots, plants, and animals and ate coconuts and termites! All of the other tubers broke off before we did as they do not bring them to the 4th cave! What a loss as the 3rd and 4th cave are fantastic. We floated by the other staging areas and realized what a great deal we had. Leonel and Roberto were our guides, there were 9 of us, and another family of 6. Other groups were vast and many arriving just as we were finished. We then stopped at a rustic family road side restaurant, also part of this big family, and ate chicken, rice and slaw, with a choice of beverages. All inclusive, very good food, and seconds available. We returned to the city and we were even brought a route that drove past our church in Belize. A nice and unexpected touch. This man knows his Mayan history, a treasure. We returned to the Star, cleaned up and dressed for dinner. We ate in the Versaille and enjoyed it. The menu item was Lobster Tail and Red Snapper. I asked for two tails and no snappers and accommodation with a smile. Bread pudding for dessert. It was good, and while some say slow, I question if it is just how we are meant to eat. We went to the show, Shout the Musical. I loved it as did my kids. I lived for a year in 1968 in London, so I may have been particularly fond of it because of the connection.
Day 5 Costa Maya, Great Day! Say Maya Chan for an amazing time, 5 star if you are looking for a funky little beach resort, all you can eat or drink, snorkeling, kyacking, great food and star fish the size of a 5 year old head. No hassle, bus is waiting, greeted at the road and lead to your palapas, with hammocks, chairs and a beach bed. toys for the kids and rum punch in your hand in less than 15 seconds. For those who didn't drink, punch and fresh fruit. Yes, some sea grass, but the treasures that lay beyond. Not through NCL Star... 45$ adult and 25$ a child. Returned to the ship, ate in Aqua, was OK, except the Empanadas and they were some of the best I have ever ate. Felt a little rushed, but very nicely so. The Angle show!! I have to say the shows were pretty classy and professional. I have sailed on HAL and RC, and NCL beats their shows hands down. Room as always was made up, Murphy bed down and table rearranged. Armond can do the towel animals with the best of them. some were so good that one Grandchild came to pick mine up every night for her bed.
Day 6 Cozumel. Some headed off and rented a jeep, some went to the pharmacy and others went to barter. My husband bought a bracelet for our 18 year old in one of the "authorized" shops. It started at 880$ and ended up at 300$, curious as we brought it to the jeweler her in Louisville and he valued it at 500$. Fun day. We went to La bistro, I was pleased overall with Escargot and steak. Friday is Chocolate Night!!! Not as impressive as HAL, but I didn't pay for HAL. Strawberry good. Saturday was a sea and bingo day. Played one game and made 68$, but paid $88 to play. Never play anywhere else, so, will I ever learn I ask?
Over all.... good price for 15 people and 2 in family suites. Food OK but not consistently great, needs to be served warmer, and if deserts are great, its easier to overlook moderate food with a great finish. Most desserts and breads were prepackaged off the shelve. Pool small but I am not out swimming, so no gripe. Good itinerary, Fantastic shows which are above expectations. Great kids programs, always could find food kids liked in buffet and pool grill, they are generally open for ice cream and that's high on the kids list.
Complaints... We left essential medications in the suite, as in insulin pens. While this is our fault for leaving them, both my husband and I thought the other had grabbed it. My husband drove back to Kentucky as I had a business meeting in Florida, and he went over 24 hours without critical medications. He did not realize he did not have them until late into Sunday night. We had purposefully left our suite early to allow the staff to clean it as I can only imagine the turn around time crunch. Staff was entering our suite as we left to clean? When I called NCL their policy is to discard, and while I understand this as a Director of Nursing myself, It took us 1.5 hours to disembark,we were in Tampa for 3 hours and our cell phones were on record, no one called to make us aware. In closing, I am not one to let a missed hair in the bathroom, or a broken pretzel under the bed influence my vacation negatively, because its not important enough. I am not going to complain that my daughters Murphy bed had soiled sheets the first night as I am sure it was an oversight. It was fixed quickly and I am sure one steward probably thought the other had changed the sheets and made it up. I'm not going to worry about the bread because I have a great bakery down the street. We did have a great time, we spent time as a family, we were fabulously entertained, and have irreplaceable memories. I would do again in a heartbeat. I am however disappointed NCL did not make an attempt to catch us before we disembarked, called us to make us aware of the enormity of the situation or answered my emailed concern to there customer service. A dangerous policy to not make the attempt to contact departing passengers of potential health crisis. My husband believes it is because of the desire to not increase the traffic at the port or outlay of the additional work, I would prefer to believe a lack of risk management at the NCL corporate level. I will still cruise, I may even cruise NCL again, I wont forget medications.