Norwegian Star Cruise Review by alisonfe
- Sail Date: March 2015
- Destination: Mexican Riviera
- Cabin Type: Balcony
Since this particular cruise was leaving from L.A. and family members had the time off together, we decided to "go big" and invite our extended family of 8 adults and 4 kids to come along - on on what would be their first cruise. Many families were on board - that perhaps influenced a lot of what was so different about this experience for my DH and me - we have no kids, and tend to be late-birds, so we weren't accustomed to being in the public areas at the high-traffic hours, but this time we were traveling as a big family from 2-75.
The ship was coming out of dry dock two weeks prior, and had some remodeling. Now there were some new venues as well as the separate "haven"-type area reserved for higher-paying customers on top deck. Disco now part of haven, I think? (Not sure about this, since we didn't have access...)
Embarcation/debarcation - good systems in place. Clean, beautiful ship. Like any ship, an amazing technological wonder! Luggage handled quickly. Room steward was great and working all the time. Cabin comfortable. Love that NCL has coffeemakers in cabin! Guest services quick and helpful. Responsive to noise complaints we had with kids in cabin above us. Wifi quick and easy to sign on - if pricey.
Food was good across the board, not great, but fine and food service available 24/7. Kids were happy with buffet. Free dining venues beautiful and food was good, service a bit slow but we were with family so we talked a lot through the delays. One night we were comped 2 bottles of wine because we had to wait so long for Aqua table for 12- very nice.
Vegetarian options were a bit limited. Downside of ship: no outdoor eating patio - instead, spa/gym and kiddie area is at back of ship. I missed eating and hanging out for coffee and reading on back deck looking at wake of ship! Gym also faced interior walls - less pleasant than on ships where machines face windows. Otherwise beautiful ship. New bar venue "5 o'clock somewhere" still needs furnishing and staffing. Service crazy slow (see below).
Entertainment: Party band "Exotique" was fantastic (saw them on another ship - yay!). Pool band also good. Good solo guitar player in bar. We didn't see any shows but heard good things. Show band did a couple of jazz sets and played well. Would be nice if there were more movies or tv shows on the video feed in cabins. Can't comment on cruise director or activities since we did so few, this cruise especially.
Pool area is very obstructed with water slides. Kids complained they coudn't slide down - not enough water flowing. Very crowded every day. Mexican Riviera is on Pacific = cold water, cool breezes. No tropical evenings. I'm not a big pool person, and prefer my balcony, so can't compare much with other pool decks, but it felt extra crowded when I did go on deck, with tons of kids especially. This was spring break, so lots of kids - understandable. But this was now the only pool available.
One of the reasons we chose this cruise over others in the same time frame were the perks offered: drink package, dining package, or onboard credit. Nice perks, and seems like NCL is competing with Celebrity's 3-2-1 promos. (We haven't cruised with Celebrity's promo perks - maybe the service has changed on those ships as it seemed to on Star this past spring break.) Being that the ship had been reconfigured, maybe people don't know their assignments and the systems aren't yet tightened. This seemed to be the case in Ginza, which is now a free dining venue. However, O'Sheehan's is a pub on deck 8 of Atrium, open 24/7, and seemed to be running very smoothly. Nice pub/fried type fare.
Sad to say, it seemed like systems to handle new venues plus "unlimited" packages were NOT in place. Drink service was slow to nonexistent and we could wait up to 30 minutes to be approached by a waiter. After several of those experiences in different venues we ended up going up to the bar directly (along with lots of other passengers) to get drinks. Servers were sometimes wandering around but not serving, and there was only one bartender, generally. It also seemed like the unlimited drinks package was a hardship for servers, since they had to ring a separate ticket for each drink for each person.
We asked ourselves: Is this a new business model? Call it "unlimited" but then make it hard/slow/inconvenient to get a drink? Is profit still being made even though service is awful? Is this the wave of the future? There was a big skew between expectation and delivery.
Thinking cynically, if I were the bar manager of the ship, responsible for a big profit-making part of the cruise (liquor service) - and there were an "unlimited" promo on, I could make my bottom-line numbers look good if less drinks were poured. There's an inherent contradiction, perhaps, in offering these promos!?
To be fair, however, when managers were approached, all problems were quickly solved. I think they need to develop a system and software to handle the accounting on the drinks packages. It was very clunky and obstructive. And figure out staffing in all the new venues.
The rules of the drink package were also not articulated clearly anywhere on the website prior to departure, or in printed materials - and so it seemed weird when the guidelines had to be explained ad hoc by staff. Examples: doesn't apply to coffee, doesn't apply to room service, etc. None of those things is a problem, per se, but since nothing else was provided to let you know what you were choosing (as a perk) and ultimately getting on board, it felt more "limited" - which is a shame, since most of the cruise was great. Amazing how one thing can become very big.
The unlimited dining packages seemed to get people into the specialty restaurants more than on other NCL cruises we've been on (POA, Jade, Sun, Star). However by the first night, EVERY venue was booked up from 5:30-9:30. So even though we would have happily paid the upcharge for one of the pay venues for a couple of special dinners, we weren't able. But the venues were all full... so again, maybe it's a brave new world of profit models? The per-diem tips did go up across the board for this cruise...
I hope my various family members had a good time - they seemed to! It was great to have the chance to all be together. As soon as we recover financially, however, we will be booking another cruise. Maybe not this same ship, unless the itinerary and price is right!
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