What a wonderful itinerary, and bolstered by our last NCL experience on Epic we booked the Star for the Singapore to Dubai leg. Many of our fellow cruisers had been on the previous legs dogged by the Azipod failures and some were staying on after we departed. As usual a highlight of the cruise was the fellow cruisers, a very international bunch this time.
We enjoyed the freestyle ambience and took advantage of the free drinks package this time. Cabin - inside 5573 - was fine although the cupboard space was tight, our cabin steward good. The majority of our catering experience were good, waiting staff atentive and professional. Indeed all staff interactions were good apart from Guest Servces who were universally poor. Entertainment was good to average, some excellent acts such as the Barricade Boys but also some very average. The onboard entertainers were young and enthusiastic.
Some negatives. Boarding was OK but the check-in staff member mistakenly associated my photo with my wifes card and vice-versa. When we boarded this was detected immediately but could not be corrected, so we had to visit Guest Services for two more cards. Later a drinks waiter told me my card was not working, but at dinner we had no issues ordering drinks so assumed the problem was fixed. Disembarking in Port Klang neither of our cards worked. So we had to get two more cards. Later that day my wife received her landing card for Phuket. Her name had been mispelt. On contacting Guest Services we were told that a new landing card would be delivered to our cabin. It never came. On caliing Guest Services again we were told that they had run out of landing cards. We adapted the original landing card and were able to get off with little difficulty. However, we had to get another cabin card for my wife to correct her name. At no time did anyone in Guest Services say 'sorry' and the final interaction suggested it was my wife's fault that she had had to have so many cards.
Re disembarkation - on three occasions there were announcements by the Captain and Cruise Director that the ship had docked and all passengers could disembark. Most passengers then had to wait whilst those who were on NCL tours could get off first. This included pasengers with gold and platinum status who should have had priority, but regardless was at best a waste of time and worst very dangerous as it meant stairs and corridors were blocked with passengers unable to disembark. On final disembarkation matters reached a crisis when there was a general call for disembarkation at 8:30 - all colours were called simulatenously. The risk of crowded stairwells and corridors was obvious to anyone who has cruised before. At mid-ship the queue went from deck 4 to deck 9 stairs. Had there been an incident on the ship at that time the danger would have been potentially catastrophic. Management on this ship never learned from their mistakes.
There were other issues with Guest Services but our attitude on cruises is to go with the flow and the vast majority of our interactions with staff generally were good - the waitress in the Spinnaker bar in the afternoons was particularly good and Janice in Versailles. The bars were good, food good as usual - our only disappointment was when we paid to use Le Bistro which was crowded and noisy and the food no better than the main restaurants. Having said that it was clear that there were many passengers with onboard credit earned from the previous cruise leg issues so all of the fee restaurants were being used more like the free one's as passengers struggled to use their credits!
We never had trouble getting a seat in the Stardust Theatre (unlike our experience on the Epic) and as stated the entertainment was generally good, on occasion excellent. Most of the cruise director's team were good, the quizzes were fun. Not much to do on a rainy day though - little imagination by the cruise director.
For us this cruise was all about the intinerary though. Singapore, Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur), Penang, Phuket, Colombo, Cochin, Goa, Mangalore, Mumbai, Muscat and Abu Dhabi were all very interesting and good, some better than others. Fujairah and Khasab were not so good, and due to flights we had litle time in Dubai. We organised most of our shore excursions through cruise critic but noted the NCL tours were extremely expensive this time.
We will definitely cruise with NCL again but do feel that there needs to be an investigation into the management of this ship and that there needs to be a major overhaul of 'Guest Services' on this ship, I would suggest breaking the group up and assigning them to other ships. Our score below for service relates to Guest Services and is not a criticism of other services onboard.
Cabin was good, limited shelf space otherwise fine. Large shower. Had to have the air conditioing adjusted twice to reduce the cabin temperature. Stewward was good.
Great walking tour of Kampung Glam area with Wei
Excellent especially Batu Caves
Great if you like Chinese food - 3 of the 4 stops. Indian food was great.
Took tour with http://www.phukettravelcompany.com/index.php
Excellent especialy feeding baby elephant and the temples
Spent a day on a houseboat in the backwaters, good experience seeing how the local people live, food onboard good.
Mumbai was surprisingly nice city, saw a variety of major city sights
Liked Muscat, very clean city, lots to see, amazing public buildings and gardens