The balcony stateroom on level 10 was fine. Comfortable, clean and well maintained. OK the TV was from a bygone age but no big deal. The bathroom was well arranged with a proper shower door. Fine so far. The use of liquid soap and shampoo dispensers in the bathroom summed up the Norwegian Star - down market. These days it is expected that rooms, at the prices charged, will have proper soap, shampoo and hair conditioner but not the Norwegian Star.
The much promoted 'Freestyle' is a complete disaster. At peak times you will have to queue outside the restaurant or be given a pager to alert you when to return. Unlike other cruise lines you cannot just walk to your designated table where the waiters will know your name and you can join fellow guests. You wait until you are allocated the first available table. The result is that at every meal you will be served by a different person. Expect to wait 15-20 minutes at peak time before someone comes to take your order. Some waiting staff cannot be bothered or too busy to come back and take your dessert order and you are required to order dessert while ordering starter and main course. Service is generally poor. This is not the fault of the waiters who are very pleasant but management and their systems.
There are two main dining areas, the Aqua and the Versailles. The Aqua with a low ceiling and few windows is noisy and claustrophobic. It is designed to pack in as many people in as possible and is best avoided. The Versailles is better but because of a lack of work stations staff use pop-up tables to store the used dishes and the slops from the plates are piled up inches from the diners. Not a very appetizing sight!
Similar food is served in both restaurants and the standard of the food is generally poor. You just know that it is rolling off a conveyor line in the kitchens. Presentation of the food is woeful and hot food is served on cold plates. On other cruise lines I looked forward each night to a gourmet meal washed down with a glass or two of wine but not the Norwegian Star.
The 'Freestyle' concept means that there is no real dress code in the evenings. Those who make an effort to dress for dinner are liable to be sitting next to tattooed individuals in tee-shirts and wearing baseball caps. Would you wear a tux to McDonald's?
The buffet area is best avoided at all costs. Think of a factory canteen. Long communal tables are littered with used cups, plates, left over food and general debris. I have seen cleaner fast food restaurants. Don't expect service in this area - it's very much self-service. Customers who were having difficulty using the drinks dispensers were ignored by passing staff. I was surprised by the number of chipped plastic dished used to serve desserts. And watch you step, spills on the floor are often ignored. All indicative of a couldn't care less attitude.
We tried the Le Bistro restaurant paying an extra $20 p.p. in the hope of a decent meal. It was much better but again the basic principle of serving hot food on hot plates had not sunk in. Soup was served in a cold bowl. Worth the extra? No.
Good hygiene is vitally important on cruise ships and non more important than in the public bathrooms. Other cruise lines have staff to ensure that toilet areas are always spotless, not the case with the Norwegian Star, and provide paper towels to be used to open the door on leaving the toilets. The Norwegian Star has a better solution, wedge the door to the toilets permanently open. OK there may be a bit of a smell and believe me there was, but problem solved. There was always a smell of sewage in the photo gallery area on the ship.
Did I make my concern known? Of course I did. I explained my dissatisfaction about cold food etc to the Human Resources Manager who was doing her round of the tables one night to find out if everything was satisfactory. She noted my stateroom number and said she would raise my concerns with the chief chef. Did I hear from her or anyone else? Not a word.
Before the end of the cruise I spoke to guest relations about the deplorable standards in the various restaurants. The manager responsible for all the restaurants on board was summonsed to speak to me. The fact that he couldn't be bothered to find out my name set the scene. He couldn't have cared less and spent most of the time telling me how satisfied most passengers were and how successful Norwegian Cruise Lines are and their world ranking. Did I hear from him again? What do you think!
And that dear reader is why I shall never set foot on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship again.