My husband, two teenage children, my mother and myself have been planning this cruise for 4 or 5 months. My mom has been on numerous cruises, my husband and I have been on one other cruise. This was my children's( ages 13 and 17) first cruise.
We flew from Phoenix, AZ to Seattle, WA on Southwest Airlines. We arrived on 5/30/08 and stayed at the Radisson right across the street from Sea/Tac Airport. The hotel was very nice and comfortable. The staff were very accommodating and I would highly recommend this hotel.
We embarked the NCL Star on 5/31/08 around 1:00 pm. The line for embarkment was long and we had to go through many check points. The woman who checked my husband, son and myself in was new and did was not able to answer any of our questions. She also switched the picture of my husband and my son in the computer for their ship card. This proved to be a major inconvenience as we had to have their pictures retaken three more times and finally had to have new cards issued because the initial problem could not be corrected. Upon arriving on the ship, I went immediately to the customer service counter to place a cash deposit into my account as I did not want to provide NCL with my VISA card. Upon finding out that NCL would be taking $10.00 per day of my cash to cover the "daily service charges", I elected not to give them any cash. I decided, if I wanted to purchase something, I would give them cash as the need arose. The man who we dealt with at the customer service counter was very unpleasant and "snotty" to us. Suffice it to say, we were not impressed so far.
We then decided to go eat at the Market Cafe. Let's just say it was not impressive. The food was not appealing and there was absolutely no where to sit. The glasses for getting drinks were maybe a six ounce size and the handle on the coffee cups were so small that my husband could not fit his finger through.
Our stateroom was small as expected. The bathroom was very small. My husband, son and I shared one room nd my daughter and mother shared another room. We are all thin people and still the bathrooms were very cramped. I have no idea how anyone who is larger could possibly fit into those bathroom. Our stateroom was satisfactory in terms of the bedding and decor. There was very little room in terms of storage however.
On the evening of our first night we went to the Aqua room for dinner. Read below for more info on the service and the food.
Our first issues is with regard to the service aboard the Star. It was non existent. The crew were rude and basically ignored us. In the Aqua dining room, on the first night of the cruise, we waited for over 15 minutes before anyone filled our water glasses. We waited another 20 minutes before anyone brought us the iced teas we had ordered. The meal service was extremely slow as it took over two and a half hours for our complete meal to be served. The following evening we went to the Aqua and our experience was worse. We asked four times for iced teas. We only received our iced teas after asking the Maitre d to get it for us. The staff act as though we are bothering them. They would not make eye contact with us and they certainly were not friendly or accommodating. After the second night of having such bad service, my husband and I went to the front desk in the lobby and asked if we could please eat at the Versailles dining room even though we had only brought jeans and had absolutely no dress clothes. Monica called us later that day and informed us that she had spoken to the Maitre d in the Versailles and that he said we could have dinner in that dining room. When we went to the Versailles that evening we were quite surprised to find that most of the diners in Versailles for the diner service were wearing jeans. We ate primarily in Versailles for breakfast, lunch and dinner after the second night. The service in Versailles was better then in the Aqua and we actually had two servers, each at different times, that were actually friendly. But for the most part, the service was below average. Personally, I could not wait to get off the ship to eat. When we would eat at restaurants in the different port cities, the service we received there was what I would consider "normal" but in light of the service on the Star, the service in the port cities restaurants seemed extraordinary.
Second, the food aboard the ship was unsatisfactory. By the time we would receive our meal, the hot food was cold and the cold food was warm. The first night at Aqua, I ordered a steak, which I could not cut. The steak was of the quality that one would get at Denny's. I sent the steak back and did not reorder another main dish. My daughter received chicken nuggets from Versailles at lunch one day and they were so hard she could not bite into them. We found hairs and pieces of shell in our food at various times. The lobster tail we ordered one evening was less then 3 inches and was so tough we could not eat it. The scallops were smaller then the size of a dime in diameter. The meal portions were also quite small. I ordered hash browns one morning and they were smaller then the size of a credit card. If you ordered something with shrimp, you would only get one or two in your dish. I'm quite sure that the "crab" served in certain dishes was not real crab. The food was not well seasoned and was bland. The bread that is served before the meal was stale and hard as a rock. Desserts were usually good, as were the soups. Room service was okay as long as you didn't order the tuna melt. The bread was so hard you could hardly bite into it. Room service generally took 45 minutes or longer to receive. The Market Cafe was disgusting. I had a salad one day and put "ranch" dressing on top. When I took my first bite, I started gagging and spit out the food into my napkin. The "ranch" dressing was like rotten mayonnaise. The iced machines in the Market Cafe rarely had ice in them. The food in the Market Cafe was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The Market Cafe makes the "HomeTown Buffet" look like a 5 star dining establishment and I am not kidding or exaggerating. We only got water and iced tea from the Blue Lagoon as the food there didn't look very appetizing. We were not willing to pay additional to eat in the cover charge restaurants, so we were only able to eat at Versailles, Aqua, the Market Cafe, the Blue Lagoon and room service. For a ship with over 2000 passengers, it seems quite odd to only have 4 places to eat that are no charge.
As far as the children's activities, my kids mainly played ping pong and watched tv in the room. My 13 year old son said that the teen center was lame as did the friends that he met. The only purpose that the teen center served was as a meeting place for the kids to group together and then move onto a different area. My son did say that the woman who was in charge of the teen center was very nice and tried to get activities started for the teens. My 17 year old daughter found a friend and had nothing to do with the teen center. She spent most of her time playing ping pong, watching tv in the stateroom or in the warm jacuzzi. She quit eating aboard the ship by the fourth day and after being home for a day, she still has no appetite. The food on the ship made her nauseous and she is still repulsed by food two days after getting off the ship. As for the entertainment, the Chinese acrobats were good and everything else was mediocre at best. Many activities were cancelled due to the weather. I found it rather interesting that for all of the day s on the cruise, most of which were very cold, the pool was open. The final day, we had nicer, warmer weather and the pool was netted of and closed.
We did not do any of the NCL shore excursions. We went into each of the towns and really enjoyed each of them. Alaska is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately the best place was Juneau and that was the one port where we had the least amount of time to stay onshore. We had to be back by 12:30 pm that day.
We choose to do the "Express Checkout" which means we take our own baggage off the ship from 8:00 to 8:30 am. We really had no problems with the disembarkment other then that we could not wait to get off of that ship. All five of us could not wait to get off of that ship for good. It was such a relief for the cruise to be over.
Once we disembarked, we took a shuttle back to the Radisson, checked in and then went to tour Seattle with a friend who lived there. We went to Pike's Market which was fabulous and then ate lunch at the Crab Pot which was also fabulous. We toured Seattle for a few more hours then went back to the hotel for the night. We flew out of Sea/Tac around noon on Sunday 6/8/08. Seattle was hands down the best part of our vacation.
There were so may issues that I cannot begin to express them all and quite frankly, having had to go through the experience "live and in person," I really don't want to have to rehash it all over again. Suffice it to say the experience we had was liken to shopping at the Dollar Store. The only difference being that when you buy something at the Dollar Store you know what you are getting. With NCL, you expect to receive something of value and in turn receive nothing more than junk. Even the people at the Dollar Store look at you, greet you and are friendly to you. It is abundantly obvious that NCL does not care. EVERYONE that we spoke to onboard that ship was unhappy with the cruise. Most were very happy with the ports and Alaska in general, but no one was pleased with the ship. The poor service was consistent and not a one or two time occurrence. Being treated with respect was rare and honestly only happened 5 or 6 time during the entire 7 day cruise.
During the course of the cruise my mom, made an appointment to speak with someone from "higher up" as our previous complaints had fallen on deaf ears. On the evening of our 4th or 5th night, we had a meeting in the "Conference Room" with the Hotel Director and the Executive Housekeeper, both gave us their business cards. I'm not sure why Hal was at the meeting as none of our complaints had been about housekeeping. At a later point in the meeting, a gentleman came in, he was the Head of the Food and Beverage Service. That man did not give us his card as the other men had. We discussed the problems that we had encountered and even presented the Head of Food and Beverage with the chicken nuggets that had been served to my daughter earlier that afternoon. In general, the meeting was a waste of time. It did not seem like these men cared about our issues. They humored us, but ultimately sold us their companies "line." Later that night, each of our staterooms received a plate of chocolate covered strawberries (10 total) and the next evening we were "comped" a dinner at the Italian restaurant and given a bottle of wine at dinner. None of which could possibly make up for what had happened.
The level of incompetency on the ship was incredible. You could ask 5 different crew members the same question and get 5 different answers. My son and husband had to redo their ship card id pictures three separate times because the staff kept mixing up their pictures in the computer. I did not give NCL my VISA card to use as the deposit because I didn't trust them and it turns out I was right. Two people we met aboard the ship had had over $500.00 charged to their cards and those charges were not from their personal purchases. As stated before, nobody that we spoke to was happy about the ship. Everyone that we personally spoke with, was extremely angry about the service and the food. Disappointment was the theme and the consensus for us and our fellow passengers. Most everyone thoroughly enjoyed Alaska and the beautiful scenery. My mom spoke with and received the business card of a husband and wife who are travel agents. They were very unhappy with the cruise as well. They said they had been on over thirty cruises and had never experienced such bad service and terrible food. They could not believe how bad things were aboard the Star.
Suffice it to say, we will not be back to the Star or NCL for that matter. I would never recommend NCL to anyone.