This was my first cruise, so I do not have anything to compare it to, but we enjoyed this trip and I will do my best to review without having a comparison.
We just traveled on the Norwegian Star, it left from Tampa and went to the Western Caribbean.
Parking at the port is about $16 a day, you can save money by taking a shuttle, we used The Parking Doctors, they were very good, they charged $8 per day and they were only 0.4 miles away, they put your luggage in the van for you, drop you off at the port and then you call them when you get back, it only took about 2 minutes for them to arrive.
The ship left at 4, but you get an option of when you want to board, but you have to be there no later than 3. We chose 1:30, I think this was a very popular time chosen, so it was very busy and long wait times. I would suggest an earlier board time if you are able to, maybe 11-12.
I checked in one of my bags and carried the rest, the room keys that my son and I received did not work, so we had to go back down the hallway and up 2 flights of stairs (elevators were full) to go to guest services and get a new key, they did not apologize at all and they were not friendly. We went back to the room and again, neither of the keys worked after giving us new ones, went back to guest services, again no apology at all, they attempted to give me a new key and I demanded for someone to come down to the room with me, so that I do not have to keep bringing the luggage back and forth, they had to reset the lock and it was finally fixed, off to a rough start, but now time to relax.
We put our things away and went to get a drink and some food. We went to one of the complimentary restaurants called O'Sheehan's. The food was decent, there were not very many options though. The drinks were surprisingly very strong. We had the unlimited beverage package and I was expecting them to make weak drinks, but I was wrong. The waitress there was not very friendly and she lost my card (it is used for your room as well as drinks/purchases). Like I haven't been having enough issues with my card... I had to go back to customer service to correct it. You would think they would send someone down or she would fix it since SHE lost it, but no, she just offered me a free drink, I told her that I already had the beverage package, so it was free anyway, but I don't think she spoke enough English to understand me.
Other dining experiences: the 2 main dining areas have good food, Aqua was the best, we did not try any of the specialty restaurants that you need to pay for and the buffet has a very wide variety of food that unfortunately has no flavor. Our group ate there a lot anyway because we needed more of a variety of foods to suit everyone's taste. If you are able to, I would stick with the main dining rooms. I like that it was freestyle dining, I read some other cruise lines make you eat at a certain time, which just seems like a pain, even more so if you are in a group. Everything is closed from 3-4 though which always seemed to be the time we would get back on the boat on port days and by then everyone was hungry, so it did suck to have to wait, but there is always room service if need be. They do not charge for the food, but there is a service fee, which I believe was $7.95, we did not use it though. They had hand sanitizer everywhere and employees at the door of the buffet squirting some on your hands, so they were very good about that. I brought a ton with me that I did not need to use except at the ports.
Aside from the guest services desk and that first waitress, the employees were decent. There were 2 employees that were outstanding, a waiter named Garry went above and beyond to make sure our group was satisfied, he made napkin animals, which was very entertaining for the kids and even the adults at the table. He was very funny and friendly. We had some very picky eaters with us and he was very accommodating, they did not have alfredo on their menu, which one of the kids wanted, so he sent someone to another restaurant to get it. He also noticed that the bartender sent out red sangria instead of white, we were fine with it and didn't say anything about it, but he was apologetic and offered to get new drinks for us, which we declined, we were fine with what we got. The other employee was a bartender by the pool that was very nice and funny as well, he also helped entertain the kids by doing magic tricks. I cannot recall his real name, but he goes by Sunshine.
We went to a few shows, an all ages comedy show which was great, a dance show and an acrobatic show, which were great as well and the final show was a talent show that involved the crew members, that was hilarious, very entertaining, probably my favorite of all of the shows. They also had deal or no deal and bingo, which we did, but I probably would not do those again. I feel like deal or no deal was way too expensive, $20 a ticket, and the kids were a bit bored at bingo. The pool was nice, there were 4 hot tubs around it and a big water slide, but I feel like they could have used at least 1 more pool. The kids had fun in there, I went in the hot tub once, but did not go in the pool because it was just too busy.
Getting off the ship the first day was incredibly hectic, very long lines and it was not clear where we needed to be, they could have provided a little more information to us about that process. The remaining ports were much easier.
My son only did the children's club once, he didn't like it, but he is kind of hard to please. They do have many activities planned for them and there is no charge unless it is at night or at a port.
We stopped in Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, Costa Maya, Mexico and Cozumel, Mexico. We booked excursions in Roatan and Cozumel through the cruise line and the other 2 through Shore Excursioneer. They all worked out ok, we got to where we needed to go, etc. In Roatan, we did the glass bottom boat tour. This is not meant for someone who gets seasick, I was feeling a little ill on there, but it was very beautiful. We also got to see a monkey and stopped at a restaurant, there was free tea there. Watch out for all of the kids trying to sell you things there, they don't stop hounding you, it is very annoying. Next was Belize, we did cave tubing here. Unfortunately their compresser went out and there was a group of 17 ahead of us, they had to hand pump all of the tubes, so there was a bit of a wait, but it was worth it. It was so beautiful. Another unfortunate thing was that my son's tube as well as mine deflated. Mine was completely flat, his was about 1/2 way and that water was freezing. After the tubing they gave us soda, rum punch and lunch. It is a 1 hour drive there and 1 hour drive back, they even let us take some punch for the drive back. David was a very entertaining tour guide and Carlos let us on the tubing, he was very nice.
Next was Costa Maya. We went to the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins. This is a good educational trip and it was very cool, but I do not recommend going with young kids. There is a lot of walking involved and not as entertaining for them, but I enjoyed it. This was 45 minutes away from the port. Costa Maya is another place that really hounds you to buy things. Next and final port was in Cozumel, Mexico, probably the most touristy place that we went. We went to Dolphanaris. This was only 4 minutes away. Initially I thought it was too expensive, but I feel like it was worth it. We got 40 minutes with the dolphins, unlimited food, drinks, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, snorkeling, paddle-boarding and kayaking for $109. The only disappointing part here was that you are not allowed to take your own pictures with the dolphins. You have to buy theirs at $29 a piece if you want them.
Leaving the ship was a bit hectic as well and we were not told that we needed a customs declaration form, so that was fun to try to do holding all of the luggage and being in a long line....
Overall, I really enjoyed this trip. All of the ports were beautiful and had plenty to do, I just wish we were not harassed so much to buy things. I was satisfied with the cruise line, I did have some problems with a few employees, but the good ones were so outstanding that they really made up for it. I would suggest for them to add another pool though. Don't fall for the $10 watch sale though, they are horrible quality.
The room was bigger than I was expecting. We got the cheapest room there was and there was plenty of room to store clothes, etc for my son and I. There was a safe in the room, 2 twin beds that can be pushed together, small bathroom with a shower, a mini refrigerator and a hairdryer, no coffeemaker, but you can order coffee from room service with no service fee. They clean your room twice a day!