Just three words can describe our experience on the Norwegian Star cruise out of San Pedro from Dec. 8th to 16th to Mexico; disappointed, disgusted, and disillusioned! My wife and I are very experienced cruise ship travelers, over fifty and not of the "party till ya drop" set, been there, done that. We are not into that lifestyle anymore. We have been on at least ten cruises (with another cruise line and they are not perfect either) prior to our trip on NCL. So we kinda understand just a few things regarding tour prices, on board food, room accommodations, and ship board activities, etc.
We neglected to use our best judgement and fell for the cheap tour cost brochure when it arrived in our snail mail box last August. I said what the heck, we should try a different ship to see if things were different, much better or ??. Somehow I should have known that there would be a fly in the ointment. It was my fault for NOT reading the fine print in GREAT detail. And we paid for it, financially as well as emotionally. I was ready to leave the ship in disgust by Tuesday evening! We could go nowhere to escape the second hand smoke, rude crowds, and NOISE!
Now if you love NCL, this ship, and feel that they and their crew can do no wrong, no matter what, then stop reading NOW because you will in all probability NOT like my observations and opinion.
Ok you have been warned
1. If you enjoy smelling second hand cigarette smoke everywhere, then NCL is for YOU! (I am an ex smoker and usually will NEVER complain about this because I won't be hypocritical) but when my eyes started burning in the quote -NON SMOKING sections-, unquote, this became an issue and my wife started suffering breathing problems! Now if you also enjoy very loud, NOISY, and non-sound proofed dinning rooms, standing in long waiting lines, (with nowhere to sit and hardly anywhere to stand), just for dinner, then NCL is for YOU! If you enjoy not being able to get reservations at ANY of the dining areas that are INCLUDED in the cruise price, then NCL "Freestyle cruising" is for YOU!
1a. When I checked about this trip, the smoking policy was hardly discussed or mentioned ONCE. We never dreamed it would be as bad as it was! We had a NON Smoking room and of course they put us in between two rooms inhabited by smokers! No matter what, the odor seeped in thru the air conditioning and of course the hallways always had the lingering odor. In fact the person next to us on the last evening smoked his Cuban cigar in his room and the hallway while laughingly talking to the room stewards OVER objections of many people in nearby rooms! SUGGESTION: NCL needs to fully inform prospective travelers that there will be second hand smoke in most areas, NO MATTER what their policy states! Their AC is most efficient at spreading it to all areas, including the main showroom!
2. Guests need to be fully informed as to what is included in the price of the cruise and what will be an EXTRA charge, INCLUDING the ten percent per day per person gratuity to be added to your bill AFTER the cruise. At the restaurants that were touted as included in the FREESTYLE cruise experience fare, any reservations were NON-EXISTENT! At the others, you would put in your name and stand (there was NOWHERE to sit unless it was the stairs) until your name was called. On any of the other ten cruises I have been on, NEVER did I wait in long lines for dinner! If you enjoy paying EXTRA for food at specialty restaurants, OVER and above your cruise fare, then NCL Freestyle is defiantly for you!
2A. The Market Cafe Buffet was only a passing grade. It was ALWAYS crowded, very LOUD and basically a cattle call. I have seen US Navy base chow halls with better decor and working facilities! After a fashion we accepted this as part of traveling. One thing that was INCREDIBLY annoying was a simple thing like the ice and water dispensers! These things had electronic sensors that dispensed ice and water. They NEVER worked properly any time I EVER used them! One could get very thirsty just trying to get a cold drink of water! They should be scrapped and MANUAL ones installed! Oh yes the coffee, hot water, and occasional ice tea dispensers USUALLY worked OK. But there was NEVER any fruit juice during off hours (this used to be standard on other cruise lines). Orange juice was there ONLY at breakfast!
3. The staterooms at least on deck four were very small and sound proofing was mostly NON-EXISTENT. We could hear people in adjoining rooms taking in a NORMAL voice! At night this was very annoying when trying to get to sleep! We also were expecting just a bit more of a view of the ocean OTHER than a small port hole! This was in the print of the contract but I failed to take note of it, -my fault!
4. The food on board was a passing grade, but not spectacular. Nor was the entertainment in the main showroom. One other observation, on the lower level of the main show room the right hand hallway lead DIRECTLY to the casino and the doors were never closed to the room., this allowed second hand smoke to constantly drift via AC to the interior of the seats! Most I talked to including ourselves found this quite annoying! The side room entertainment venues were great and I would have loved to see and hear more, but as mentioned before the thoughtless smokers drove me out. The main atrium had a great combo band playing nightly but the tables were filled with Marlboro men and women! I stopped going there the second night. My wife would never go to any of the areas because of this fact alone!
5. This is the first and last time we will EVER sail NCL or any of their ships! Cruise liners with a capacity of 2,500 people is WAY more than we are accustomed. To be fair, most of the passenger's attitudes were OK, but a party hearty atmosphere, 24/7, was not what we envisioned or bargained for! I expected this on Carnival or similar ships, but not NCL.This trip had many, many who won a free cruise from a gambling casino in Las Vegas. They contributed to most of the items that I observed above. Most gamblers I have known in the past ALL smoke heavily and imbibe just a wee bit. They usually don't pay attention much to others surrounding them. There is nothing wrong with this chosen lifestyle, but it does detract from those who are there to enjoy the cruise they paid for.
As an aside:
A positive & nice touch to the cabin was an in-room coffee pot, a refrigerator (although we could NEVER get the steward to remove the well stocked liquor bar inside the refer, beside and above it-never needed or wanted it), a working safe, a room thermostat that WORKED perfectly, and good lighting. We only complained to the front desk on one problem, a burned out bed lamp and it was fixed immediately.
We immediately informed the front desk about the small cabin and smokers on both sides, and they tried valiantly to switch rooms for us but the ship was booked solid and there was no place to else go. Now we didn't tell them of the rest of the above observations and dissatisfactions because most of it was BEYOND the realm or power of a front desk clerk to correct. I knew that they couldn't install room sound proofing, replace or fix the non working ice and water machines in the buffet line, etc., etc. And it would be just futility and folly to spew my vitriol at a clerk who had no authority to change anything regarding ship's construction or hardware.
To be balanced, most of my complaints were addressed in the VERY fine print of the contract in the explanations in the booking documents. But they are NOT stressed very well or explained in much detail. So of course I overlooked them when I paid my fare.
I bear no malice or hard feelings towards NCL or the crew. It was not their job to inform me that there would be between five hundred and a thousand persons embarking, that in most likely hood had a different idea of what the cruising experience was about. Had I known this in advance, I would have given more thought to the booking, and opted not to go at that time. I am just chalking this trip up to a speed bump on the road of traveling life.
I could and should do an entire treatment on embarkation and debarkation at the San Pedro terminal. This was and is a cruel joke to unwary travelers. Most of these problems could be resolved easily, but it would involve the incredibly powerful Longshore Union, the LA Harbor commission, and LA city council. But as has been graphically shown in the past, these people do not talk to each other or act on ANY suggestions from common citizens.
I wish all the best to NCL and hope for their continued success, but until or when they fix the above, they will do it WITHOUT my travel dollars. Caveat; read and understand your booking documents with ANY CRUISE BEFORE you pay your full price.