This was my fifth cruise on NCL which is, out of the 10+ cruises I've taken, one of my favorite lines. I enjoy the entire freestyle concept and the casual atmosphere. I have mixed feelings about this latest trip. There were definite highlights and a lot of unnecessary lowlights.
I'll get the worst out of the way first. I booked a total of five cabins for this excursion, including two Category AF mini-suites, and two category AE Penthouses. In addition there was one balcony cabin in our group of nine passengers. In short I brought a chunk of change to NCL that didn't cost them one dime of advertising.
That said the worst experience I had was in trying to get one of my traveling companions the shipboard account credit which was part of the package which we were sold. He originally booked the Penthouse cabin for two people but his travel partner had to cancel due to the death of a very close friend. The deal sold to us by Expedia for that category cabin included $150.00 onboard account credit. There was no mention whatsoever in the Terms of the offer that it was a "per passenger" credit. It was clearly defined as a credit "per cabin" and even further stated that single passengers paying 200% of the fare would receive the credit.
Because my friend's companion canceled so close to the cruise date there was no refund for the fare. So, in essence my friend paid for the entire cabin for one person. I will add that I had called NCL in Miami at least a week before the cruise to let them know one passenger wasn't go to go on the trip only to be told that he should be left on the reservation in case he changed his mind. Bottom line is NCL didn't convert the reservation to one passenger paying 200% of the fare.
We found out on day two that the my friend was only to be credited $75.00 as he was the only passenger in the cabin. I fortunately had copies of the original Terms which I took to the Purser's desk when I went to help my friend resolve the problem. After getting nowhere with the woman who worked the front desk I asked to speak with the Supervisor. The Purser's desk Supervisor who shall remain nameless (but I'm sure NCL knows who I'm talking about) was one of the most arrogant, overbearing and rude people I've ever dealt with in a Customer Service capacity. Her response repeatedly to anything presented to her, even in writing, was to bark at us that she could not do anything to resolve the problem as it was NCL's policy. After getting absolutely no where with this woman I asked to whom she reported and she told me the Director of Finance. When he came out to speak with us we heard the same thing all over again, that it was NCL's policy even though he agreed that we should receive the credit. He told us that he would send an e-mail to the Miami office to see if he could authorization to allow the additional $75.00 credit. Eventually NCL did decide to give my friend the credit but only after a great amount of frustration and time on our parts.
There were other minor issues that were able to be resolved quickly. However not one in our group could understand how there is not one person in the ship's management group who is authorized to adjust an onboard account credit issue even when they all agreed we should receive it. NCL has tied the hands of management in this regard and it is absolutely a wrong decision on NCL's part. NCL does nothing but irritate the passengers with this "policy" and it should be carefully reviewed.
The other main issue I had was with the cabin itself. A category AE Penthouse is advertised on every website that I've visited as having a separate living room and bedroom. Not true on the Star. It is one large room but there is not any more separation of space than in a standard cabin. The cabin is larger but that's about it. Also, this category is advertised as having a separate shower and bathtub. It does not. It is also advertised as having a jacuzzi tub. It does not. The bathroom itself was only slightly larger than our friend's balcony cabin with the only difference in footage to accommodate a tub/shower combo versus a standard shower stall. This might sound petty but it's absolute false advertising and needs to be corrected.
Our cabin Butler Carmen was above and beyond in service. We truly appreciated all the extra help from her in organizing for our entire group. Our room Stewards were efficient, but helped themselves to our snacks and beverages when we were out of the cabin. Big no-no in my book. Beds were comfortable as were the robes. We really enjoyed hot breakfast served by Carmen each morning in our cabin. She would set the table with a table cloth and serviceware as if in the main dining room. We loved that touch.
Casino on this ship has terrible ventilation and the smoke will choke you. I had a sore throat every time I came out of there. There is a definite need for a smoking and nonsmoking section. The machines were pretty tight. I did OK on the craps table and the staff there was friendly and fun.
Food in the dining rooms was very good to excellent. We dined at Cagney's twice, Soho, Le Bistro, Versailles, and Aqua. All were good but I think Cagney's was the best. For the $20.00 cover they offer the best veal chop I've ever had and I've paid twice that amount for just the entree in most restaurants. The buffet was poor in selection and quality. We had lunch there twice and it wasn't good. Lunch in Versailles is much better. No complaints with restaurant service except in Le Bistro where there seemed to be confusion at first when we sat down. It did eventually iron out and was satisfactory.
Men's spa facilities were excellent and included steam, sauna, and soaking tubs, both hot and cold. Locker keys are provided at the spa desk.
The ship was well maintained and kept clean. The only exception was the pool area and buffet tables. That's usually the case on a ship, though.
Staff in general was friendly and helpful when needed.
Embarkation went very well as did debarkation. I will probably take an NCL cruise again but I certainly hope NCL reviews their onboard management, policies, and advertising because all three need to be revised.