My wife and I planned an eight-day getaway from Vancouver to Los Angeles and back, with the southbound portion on Amtrak, two frantic days in LA, and the return trip on the Norwegian Star. I have been wanting to do this rail/sea excursion for decades, and this year the opportunity finally arose. The primary goal of the vacation was to relax and forget the real world back at home. Other goals were to try out rail travel and cruising with a minimal investment.
I think that in planning a vacation, the first step should be to decide what your needs, desires and expectations are. Is your goal to be pampered at every turn? Would your vacation be spoiled if you had to wait in line for thirty minutes? Are you okay with a decent bed, or do you require a deep and luxurious mattress? Will you be disappointed if your room attendant does not form your bath towel into an animal shape while you are at dinner? Does your enjoyment of a room turn on the color choices in the decor? Do you require gourmet food to have a good meal, or will a burger and beer be okay from time to time? I think that a mistake that many people who post reviews (including me) have made, is over analyzing the experience. Enjoy the ride instead of cataloguing all of the little details.
Although this was my first cruise, I am sure that none of these cruise ships is bad, as long as your expectations are appropriate for the ship. We had a wonderful trip, and our expectations were met or exceeded at almost every turn. There were a few glitches that have me rating the experience at four out of five, but none of these spoiled the cruise.