First, I want to write that I follow reviews on Cruise Critic very carefully and was very concerned when I started reading all the October reviews on the Norwegian Star's arrival in Tampa and the first few cruises out of there before ours started. Thank god we saw nothing that others complained about! The average cruise is around $1000 for the week per person. That's $142 per day! You can't rent a decent hotel anymore for less than $200 a day. To get 3 good meals a day, great shows, a resort-like experience and oh yah - get to move around the world and see different ports - that is a BARGAIN. I think a lot of people who complain on these reviews are expecting $1000 a day experiences for $142 a day. We got what we paid for and MUCH MUCH more on our recent cruise on the Norwegian Star.
To begin, we booked our cruise back in March of this year. Since it was for our 10th wedding anniversary, we decided to splurge and get a mini-suite. In July, my parents, who have never cruised, asked if it would be imposing if they could join us (in their own cabin). Of course we were overjoyed to include them. Two weeks before our cruise, NCL contacted us to tell us they had two Penthouse cabins left at the bow of the ship and that we could upgrade to them for an additional small cost - we both jumped at the chance! It turned out to be great that we had my parent next to us and even better that our balcony railing got low enough near the bow that we could climb across easily to their balcony if we wanted (not recommended for small children :))
We flew from Boston to Tampa on Saturday before the cruise on Jet Blue - it was a great flight and the airports were quiet. We arrived 30 min early. There was a big air show going on in Tampa that day - so that was nice. We took a $25 cab ride right downtown to the Marriot Waterside. With a great ocean view, we had a nice vantage point to watch the ship sail in the next morning. For dinner, we walked over to Columbia's Cuban restaurant at the History Center which was awesome. I highly recommend the table-side Mojito pitcher's. The mix them right in front of you.
The next morning, we enjoyed a great breakfast at the Marriot (Creme Brulee' Otameal), and walked around the beautiful boardwalk trails on the Tampa waterfront. At 10:45am we hoped in a cab for a short 2 minute ride to the ship. Since we were now Penthouse passengers, we got to board early at 11am.
Even though we had priority check-in, we saw none of the horrors that others mentioned in October. I asked others that arrived later and everyone said Embarkation was smooth. Everyone was very friendly - so I guess they have now smoothed out any earlier wrinkles.
We were escorted aboard to Cagney's and had lunch (another Penthouse perk). When we were done with lunch, our cabin was ready. What a great cabin it was - we would learn later of two downfalls to it, but I would say we were 99% happy with it the entire cruise.
We departed Tampa with smooth seas and had a great ride with no rain all the way to Honduras (Roattan). In fact, we had sun the entire week - so the weather was great. All cover the ports more below.
Dining: We dined in every restaurant on the ship. We quickly noticed the huge lines forming each evening at around 5pm at Aqua and Versailles (the free main dining rooms) and then noticed that other than the Japanese Steak House (Tepanyakki), all the other restaurants were mainly empty most of the cruise. Even though we made reservations at the specialty restaurants, I don't think we needed to. (We saw this phenomana in the ports too - no one was spending any extra money - if it wasn't free, they weren't buying). Every restaurant was great - but Ginza, the asian restaurant was our favorite. We loved the Godzilla sushi roll! One night, we were the only ones there at 8:30pm, and the awesome waitress Maria Refuela and the awesome hostess Doris Prado kept bring us different appetizers to try. It was truly special.
We also loved the French Bistro (escargos to die for), Cagneys, and especially the special Indian buffet in Ginza the last sea day. We liked Versailles and dined there twice. Aqua was a bit plain but good food. The only food the entire cruise we sent back was the Oysters Rockefeller in Cagney's - it was very plain. They made up for it with the crab cake benedict we had for breakfast there each day (penthouse perk).
Spa: We weren't going to do it, by my parent insisted, so we bought the $120 spa pass for the week. That turned out to be an awesome purchase. It was never crowded (they limit it to 100 people only for the week) and we enjoyed that space more than any other on the ship. The area was clean and relaxing. I was always the only person in the pool. My wife and I enjoyed the bubbler pool and the jacuzzi. We especially like the aft facing relaxation rooms and went to them often to read books in the comfy chairs. My wife liked it even better when she learned that she could have her bloody mary's sent to her there. I had one swedish massage and my wife had three massages during the cruise. All were great! The in-port day specials on massages were well worth it - especially in Costa Maya, since that port is not worth going ashore for.
Entertainment: Every show we saw was great! Second City comedy and Elements were both awesome! We enjoyed Bingo in the Spinnaker Lounge as well as some of the other singers there. The only entertainment that was AWFUL was the guy playing the piano outside the Ginza, Bistro, and Italian restaurants. He was HORRIBLE! For some reason - he had fans - we wanted to throw him overboard.
We noticed a lot of cruisers on the ship were sitting in the crummy cafeteria most of the cruise, which really surprised us. We never ate there nor did we need to. I highly recommend that future cruisers really use the ship and enjoy the experience. I was looking at the complainers and noticing they were not doing anything - they were dining at 4:30pm, complaining about waiting for tables, complaining about anything they could. I decided they must be the people who write negative reviews here. We had a blast all week!
I did see one person screaming at the Customer Service person telling her she wanted to be moved to a new cabin because there was some hair on the floor under her bed. Come on! There were times I was embarrassed to be a white middle class average American on that cruise. I wonder what the wonderful crew of the Norwegian Star thinks of all of us since some people were so difficult and whinny all the time? Speaking of the crew - they were all great. I didn't meet one crew member who was not overly friendly. Somehow everyone of them that we interacted with more than once remembered our names and always personally greeted us.
Summary: Great cruise. I am now a devoted NCL customer. I can't imagine sailing with any company other than NCL. The negatives, not that they were major negatives, were that our cabin being so far forward, was quite uncomfortable to sleep in one night when it was rough since we were close to the bow slamming into the waves. We were over the Stardust theater and could hear all the shows very loud. It wasn't a problem for us - but it could be for someone who turns in before 10:30pm when the last show ends. Being far forward, it was a long walk to get anywhere. Also, it was up close to the bow deck where the crew goes to sit in their hot tubs. One evening, I was enjoying myself on our balcony and 3 girls and 1 guy I recognized from the Excursion Desk were in it. I don't think they realized that their voices carried over the noise of the spa motor. They were talking quite inappropriately and even acknowledged my presence and not me at one point saying, "shh - it's one of those fuckin guests" and they all looked at me. I almost called for an officer to come talk to them about their voices carrying, but an officer showed up. I thought he was going to talk to them - but instead he took pictures of them. Anyway - if that was my most major complaint - then we did great.
We spent an additional $1,400 total above and beyond
Debarkation: After breakast, we realized our flight was at 4:45 YUCK! So, we went back to the Marriott lobby, hooked into their free wifi and caught up on the worl.
We spent an additional $1,450 total on our cruise after the initial cruise amount. Half of this was on the spa and massages - the rest on specialty restaurants and drinks, bingo, etc.