After having a fantastic freestyle cruise on Spirit of America in the Hawaiian Island I decided to go NCL for a second time when we went on a Christmas cruise. My big complaint about this cruise is basically - the ship! NCL really needs to refurbish The Star in every way. I could not believe this ship was only a little over 10 years old, so clearly it just has not been maintained in that 10 years. It was just plain tatty. The carpets were worn, pulled up and dirty. The walls, bannisters and most surroundings were in disrepair and worn. I thought the buffet looked little better then a high school cafeteria and every washroom I used on the ship, aside from my cabin, had doors that the locks were broken. It was a joke among us female passengers that you had to check for feet under the stalls to avoid walking in on someone.
I have been on a number of ships at Christmas and have always been overwhelmed by how beautifully decorated they are. It would seem however that NCL thinks "Dollar Store" cardboard cutouts and paper garland is just fine. The nicest room on the ship, The Versailles Dining Room which could have looked amazing and enhanced everyones Christmas experience, was decorated with cheap, cardboard skateboarding elves. I think the cruise industry is one where posh, not tacky is the watchword for ship presentation but The Star obviously does not agree.
We had a mini-suite, which was large, with a lovely balcony and bathroom, but again, all just seems, old, outdated and not maintained. We also treated ourselves to a spa day and although I have no complaints about the technicians treatment, the spa just is not up to snuff in relation to the costs. If I am going to pay high end prices, I don't want to be put into an old, thread worn robe that should have been retired 5 years ago.
I did however think the food was good on the ship and had an amazing New Years Eve dinner at Cagney's. Service and food were both very good there. Service however did not match the food elsewhere on the ship. We ate 3 times in one of the two main dining rooms before switching to the 2nd dining room. Not only did freestyle seating not work but it was like a giant gong show every night. Even after waiting 45 minutes to be seated first night prompted us to make sure we had reservations the other nights, we always were waiting to be seated and felt like we were inconveniencing the dining room staff. In the Versailles we were not once asked if we even wanted a drink. The staff poured water in silence, asked for our meal order and basically did not say another word all evening. I have never been treated so coldly on a cruise by the wait staff. Service was definitely improved in The Aqua but only marginally. One of my cruise mates feeling was that NCL just wanted everyone to dine in one of there additional charge dining rooms and maybe that is indeed the case.
All that being said and done however, my 2 companions and myself were determined to have a good time and what The Star did excel at, in my opinion, was entertainment. The shows were among the best I have ever seen on a cruise ship and the show band, Midnight Revue and Sean the Traveling Troubadour were outstanding. Also the Cruise Director and her staff tried very hard to make sure everyone was having a good time.
Would I travel NCL again, probably not. There are just too many beautiful, well maintained, more modern ships out there to risk being on a second rate one. Yes the entertainment was good, but I love cruising because for a reasonable price I have always felt I was treated like I was special, whether in the lowliest of inside staterooms or a suite. NCL fails both at surroundings and service.