About us: With me, I have my wife and two kids (2 years, and 7 months), plus my parents who both require use of wheelchairs...so we have to carefully plan things.
We got a great deal at the Embassy Suites in Tampa..right by the water. This was our first time in Tampa, and I wish we had more time, it was very nice! We had breakfast in the morning, and I used my parents car to take all of our luggage right over to the ship, and come back to the hotel. My parents then took the car over and valet parked (very convenient, and cost effective) and we actually loaded the kids in the stroller and walked to the ship...never done that before!
We got there around 1:45pm, and there was literally one other group checking in, the place was a ghost town. So it was certainly easy. The one problem we had was they had mysteriously moved my parents to a different room, with no notice. This is in spite of the fact that we had gotten our documents and luggage tags from them with the original room number. No one could explain this, and with our situation this is a big deal. Unfortunately since we got there so late, there was nothing that could be done. We had to make the best of it.
We got on the ship, went to our rooms and they were amazing! We both had family suites, and they were quite large. As big or bigger than rooms we've had on other lines that cost twice as much. There were no balconies, but we did have floor to ceiling windows across the width of the room. Plus our room stuck out some (similar to the bridge wing) and gave us incredible views! We also had access to concierge (eh) and the butler, who was great.
We were only steps away from the buffet, so normally for breakfast we would just run out and get a couple plates and bring it back to the room, as this was easier than packing up the kids.
We typically ate at the buffet for lunch too, and went to Cagney's twice for dinner, and La Cucina once. La Cucina was good, Cagney's was great!
With our suite we had access to Cagney's for breakfast and lunch. We went for breakfast once, and it really wasn't any better than the buffet. My parents had lunch there one time and said it was great.
Our daughter went to the kids facility a couple of times, and she seemed to enjoy it. The staff in there seemed to be pretty good with the kids, and they had a lot of options.
Entertainment was pretty good, from what we saw. With our kids, and parents in wheelchairs, it was tough to get to a lot of the shows...but what we saw, we enjoyed. This was one of the best cruise directors we've had in a long time.
As a cruise critic member, NCL typically invites us to the Bridge for a private tour, this is always a nice touch!
In ports we didn't do any excursions as there weren't many we could do together. I will give NCL credit though, they sent my parents a note on the first night noting that there was a tour that could accommodate them on an accessible bus if they were interested. No other line has gone out of their way like this before. Yes they make money off of it, but it's that attention to detail that was appreciated. We did swim with the dolphins in Costa Maya. But since I knew the facility was at the end of the pier, we didn't sign up as an excursion, and just did it on our own. This saved us $50 a person! That's how much NCL will get (if not more) for walking you a couple hundred yards from the ship to the dolphin facility.
The ship itself is old, but we appreciate the older days of cruising. I don't think it's nearly as run down as people try to say it is. I saw people constantly working on it, and doing what they could to keep it nice. Yes, there have been improvements on newer ships that Star doesn't have...but it wasn't anything I would think twice about.
This was smooth and easy as well. Since my parents valeted, the porter took their ticket to the desk, and the valet had their car at the curb before my parents had even gotten there. Then they helped them load up, and they were on their way in minutes. We took the bus to the airport with no complaints, although it's a bit pricey..you could easily get a cab for cheaper.
Overall, we had a great time, and have already booked our next NCL cruise!