I have sailed with Carnival twice and now once with Norwegian and I can say that I won't choose Norwegian again. I had an ocean view room and did love the setup of the room - spacious and comfortable, plenty of storage, and the bathroom was nicely arranged. However, the room and bathroom were filthy - dust over and under the TV, grimey bathroom floors, and a wet towel stuffed under the bed for God knows how long before we discovered it. The room was always made up quickly, plenty of towels, etc. but the staff was not friendly like they are on Carnival.
The disappointment continued with the selection of food offered in the two main dining rooms and the buffet. Again, no comparison to Carnival. The breakfast buffet was the best - the same things everyday but a big selection, fruit was good and fresh, and the omelet lines moved quickly. The lunch buffet was ok - nothing to go crazy about. But the dinner buffet was a big disappointment - a decent variety but it was the same things offered every night. There is just so much more to choose from on a Carnival cruise - at all hours of the day and night. The dining area tables never felt clean - we always wiped them down ourselves (and we are not clean freaks). I believe that the ship during Thanksgiving week was sold out and am trying to convince myself that that is why service lacked most everywhere - just so many people to keep up with.
We tried out both dining rooms. This is where you can really see what Freestyle Cruising is all about. The atmosphere of those dining rooms seemed more like a busy cafe then an elegant dining establishment because of the chaotic seating and serving going on. I have often complained about the set times we have to eat on a Carnival cruise but now I am beginning to see the benefits of it. I missed getting to know our servers and vice versa, I missed the "song and dance" we always got during dinner on Carnival, and I missed the selection of foods to choose from. Half the fun of going on a cruise is trying new and sometimes weird things that you would never try anywhere else - especially if you had to pay for it. And yes, Norwegian Star did offld er some of those things - but not near the variety that you get with Carnival. I think for the most part that the servers did their best to try and keep up but it was so very busy in that dining room that service lacked many nights.
The shows were mediocre at best - with the exception of SharkBait - they were great!!
All of our excursions were not booked through the ship which saved us lots of money. Just make sure to take the time to do the research if you do not book through the cruise line (I used both Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor and they did not disappoint). I was not a big fan of having 4 stops on a week-long cruise - kindof makes it hard to relax as you feel like you are always having to go, go, go. Three stops is my preference - I like the days at sea (as long as they aren't rough sea days).
As far as getting on and off of the ship - by far the easiest I have came across yet. We were off of the ship and ready to head home by 8:15 am. Do the walk-off option - you won't be sorry. The staff checking us in were very polite and helpful and the customer service staff on the ship were very friendly and helpful too - no complaints on any of that!
In a nutshell, I am not saying that our entire vacation was a bust - just that Norwegian isn't for me and my money.