Cruised the Star during spring break 2010. Arrived at the port at about 11:30 a.m. Embarkation was a bit chaotic. There were no porters to meet shuttles. After asking a few folks, it became apparent that a long line was for luggage drop. After luggage drop, you walked about 100 yards to the check-in building. NCL was a bit disorganized at check-in. As an aside, we checked in with NCL in Miami two years ago for a cruise on the Pearl, and check-in was more organized. It appears NCL has reduced the number of check-in staff. After a few minor hassles, we were able to check in and board after noon. We had lunch in the Versailles room which is a good first day alternative to the buffet.
The ship is in good shape. A bit older and smaller than the Pearl, but generally well maintained. We stayed in a mini-suite. The room was in good order at check in. Are only problem in the room was service. The first night we requested an extra blanket and did not receive the blanket until day three. Once again, both staffing and communication seemed to have diminished since our last cruise.
The food on our cruise was excellent. Be aware, however, that most restaurants are now surchaged. Only Aqua, Blue Lagoon, the buffet and Versailles are included in your cruise price. This somewhat defeats the concept of Free Stlye crusing. NCL emphasizes that you can eat when and where you want. The footnote to that statement should be as long as you are while to have a substantial bill at the end of your cruise. My family and I enjoy trying new restaurants every night so we endured the charges. However, if you are on a strict budget or prefer not to have about $500 in surcharges on your bill at the end of your cruise, be prepared to eat exclusively in the free dining areas.
NCL also increased the daily per passenger surcharge from $10 to $12 per day per person. For our family of four this added over $300 to our final bill. The surcharge covers tips and overall service costs. However, service was a bit lacking on our cruise as indicated above. Our suite also had concierge services, but our concierge never stopped by the room during the cruise. Therefore, I'm not sure if we even had a concierge.
Having said all of the above, we still like the Free Style cruising option. It appears, however, NCL is attempting to boost revenue and cut expenses in a harsh economic climate. You can only push this concept so far until passengers notice. We certainly noted a difference from our Pearl cruise in 2008. In addition to NCL, We now will consider RCL, Princess, etc. when booking our next cruise due to this issue.