It has been a few months since our Western Caribbean cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines and I feel ready to write this review. My boyfriend and I have been on two previous cruises (both with Carnival) and were curious about trying a different line. After research and going back and forth with my best friend and her fiance we decided on a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise on the NCL Star. Here we go with the good and the bad....
Since this cruise left on a Sunday we decided to go down a day early and check out a bit of Tampa. This was an outstanding idea. We booked with the Downtown Courtyard under their "sleep and cruise package". Marriott has never failed us and this was certainly no exception. Everything was up to the standard we are accustomed to from Marriott. The staff was extra friendly and helpful. We turned our car over to the valet upon arrival and used the shuttle service that night. We went out to Ybor City for dinner at the Spaghetti factory and then walked around a bit before heading back to the hotel. The shuttle service was really good about drop off/pick up. The next morning we went to a local big box store to pick up some stuff. Unfortunately my boyfriend pulled us into Wal-Mart when Target was right across the street. **eye roll** We were able to find everything we needed but I will say that I found the travel size toiletries section surprisingly small for a store next to a cruise port. Since we were able to bring as many non-alcoholic beverages on board as we would like we each picked up some juice/soda and packed it in an extra bag.(I was worried they would burst but they were delivered to our room safe and sound.) Once we got back to the hotel and checked the car back in we picked up our bags and got on the shuttle. The hotel keeps a shuttle service schedule and you can sign in the night before if you know when you want to leave. This, again, was an outstanding idea because there were quite a few people trying to leave that morning. The driver sorted our luggage by line and dropped us off in order of ship.
The Tampa port wasn't as nice as the one in Port Canaveral which we are accustomed to. Other than that we didn't have any major qualms. There was one little issue when we (finally!) made it to the front of the check in line and were waved down...the lady walked away! We arrived an empty counter and were told to go back. When we went back we were told to go to the back of the line. Luckily we didn't have to and were checked in by someone else. Nothing major---Just a busy check in process which is to be expected.
And then the cruise begins.....
It has been awhile so I will skip the chronological order from here and highlight the high and low points (isn't that really all you care about??"
- We noticed the hand sanitizer stations which we thought were nice. The stations are nice...what is not nice are the people with the spray bottles who will "catch" you if you don't use them and will spray your hands. I understand that they had a breakout some time back and they are trying to prevent this from happening again but the spray bottle people were overkill.
- Over all the ship seemed old and dated. There were many spots on the ship that the carpet was worn or turning up. Also the upholstery in several spots was worn. Down the hall to our room there were some scratches and dents in the walls.
- Food was awful. I actually LOST weight on this cruise. We tried the "upgraded" restaurants which IMO were a waste. The group of us went to La Cucina one night and were forgotten at our table. People came and left before we got our food. My friends fiance had to get up and go find someone to take our order. The service had been mediocre in the MDR but we expected some sort up step up when we were paying. We had a "date night" on the cruise and they tried the French restaurant (said it was okay) and we went to Cagney's. Seriously? This is what everyone raved about? WASTE. The ambiance was good. The service was actually pretty good. The food was mediocre. Not at all what we expect from our steakhouses back home. The steaks were better than the ones in the NCL MDR but I felt that we got better steaks in the MDR on CCL. Why pay extra for what another line has included? Many nights the food that we were in the MDR served was inedible. We did try both MDR's several times. The "best" food on board is the blue lagoon. The menu didn't change during the week but was good. We had spinach artichoke dip, fish and chips, chicken sandwich there. If you're going on this boat, that is your best bet for food.
- Freestyle dining was a joke. I would rather have a set dining time. There were NEVER tables when we went to eat. We even tried going at different times. Each time we were given a buzzer and a coupon for a free glass of (gross) champagne. Some people like it...for me---I want a time.
- This was our first time with an obstructed ocean view. I was pleased. I knew I wouldn't be sitting there looking out the window so the obstruction wasn't an issue. I was happy to have some sort of indication of the time without a pesky alarm clock glow.
- My boyfriends review of the room: "The TV was ****** *****". It was pretty small and fairly old. Normally we wouldn't care but the entertainment was medicore and we actually watched a fair amount of movies in our room. After we came to the realization that this cruise wasn't up to par we went with a "F it" mentality. For this reason we had my FAVORITE day at sea. We napped watched tv, napped, watched tv, napped. That was the bulk of our day.
- Other than the small tv the room wasn't bad. You could see the ships age in the bathroom; there was an ashtray built in! It was next to the toilet--odd? The bathroom was actually pretty good. The toilet was closed off by a small door which was nice. I can't help but wonder if a larger person wouldn't struggle with it. Also, there was an actual door to the shower. So very appreciated.
- The evening shows were okay. Not above cruise ship quality. I saw them all and none of them were memorable. One about music through the decades...one about acrobatics...
- The casino was awful. #1 problem was smoke. It was thick and gross. #2 problem was the lack of people at the table. The craps table stayed as cold as a freezer. The only people I saw in there were "playing" slots. I didn't spend a single dollar there.
- The drinks were fairly good. There was one that was a banana chocolate type drink. I want to say it was called a BBC but I could be wrong. It was great.
- The ice cream "bar" was not really what I expected. It was attached to the gym (HA!) and was really just some disgruntled looking girl dipping from a choice of three flavors.
- The excursions we took were pretty nice. The Khunlich Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya was my favorite. I would recommend it to anyone going to that port. The site is a good example of Maya architecture and has many interesting features. We did a reef semi sub in Cozumel which was nice. It is a great way to see the marine life without getting wet. :) We picked up an open air bus tour in Belize and checked out some historic cites. It was a good $20 spent.
- If you are in Cozumel and want some REALLY good Mexican food go to Toro's place. It was SO VERY GOOD. We ordered a little bit of several different entrees and they were all excellent.
This cruise could have been a lot worse but It left a lot to be desired. This was the first cruise I was ready to be over. We'll cruise again but not with NCL.
I hope that I covered everything but if I remember something I forgot I will updated it to my blog. I will also be posting some pictures to accompany this review.