While my wife and I are not seasoned cruisers, we actually only went on one other cruise and with another line, we tried desperately not to compare. When we first embarked it was easy not to compare but as the week continued the other line eventually won out. I honestly can say by Thursday I was ready to go home and that's unusual for me. I know I should give Norwegian another chance but since we didn't win the free cruise we will not be cruising with Norwegian again.
Getting on the Norwegian Star in Seattle was actually good. The cruise experience went downhill from there. During embarkation, the staff were pleasant, helpful, and efficient. The lines moved very quickly. Our cabin was ready but others in our party weren't as lucky. There were quite a few guests hanging out on deck level 7 waiting until they were called to their cabins.
Free Style Cruising is not for everyone. Our experience on board, "Free Style Cruising" basically meant you are on your own. If you are accustom to being waited on hand and foot it didn't happen. Activities were limited and my idea of a fun activity is not having a seminar on having your teeth whitened. There were 700 kids on board and by Wednesday most of them seemed to be bored. For a cruise line that markets to families activities geared to kids were noticeably missing.
Some of the crew were very friendly and helpful. We prepaid tipping but we always tip extra when the service is exceptional. We tipped two crew members extra. I never did meet my cabin stewart and that included trying to page him/her a couple of times, I finally gave up.
Food With the exception of the buffet on Level 7, the food on board was exceptional. Beware there are cover charges on some of the restaurants on board and in most cases it was worth it. By Thursday and Friday it was impossible to get reservations and the lines for the restaurants that didn't need reservations was long. We ate many lunches and some dinners in the Blue Lagoon. It's fast food but it was good and the manager was one of the few crew that was exceptional. He, Dhuri, always treated us like we were the best of friends. One theory I heard from a fellow passenger was the food on the buffet was purposely mediocre so they would force you to the other restaurants. The menu never changed and ranged from undercooked to cooked but cold.
Shore Excursions The shore excursions were well run and exceptional. We had some minor issues in Skagway on the train but realistically it was partly our fault. My only disappointment with the excursions was I would have liked to spend more time in Juneau and not in Prince Rupert.
Overall, I was impressed with getting on and off the ship in Seattle but the overall cruise was a disappointment. Alaska is indescribable and if everyone has the chance should go, just not on Norwegian.