11 day over thanksgiving cruise with the whole family. We had 13 people on board the Star on several decks in balcony cabins. We were on deck 10 cabin 10610. Great location and close to everything.
Let me start by saying that we all had a fantastic time on this cruise. Call me a cruise snob, and I am okay with that, but i will go over the good the bad and the ugly on this review. Stick around to get a vast perspective on many things I have not read on the reviews on here.
I want to talk about the ship mostly in this review. Having sailed over 30 times on most of the major lines, there were some issues here that I think everyone should be made aware of.
First and foremost: Why hasn't anyone talked about the bathrooms on this ship? The cabin toilet area is the smallest in cruise ship history.I am 6 feet tall and 235 in weight. They have tucked it into a small little closet with a useless door that actually prevents you from using the toilet. Can't lean left or right and knees hit the wall in front. They remodeled the bathrooms making the shower bigger( thank you for that) but took the space from the toilet area. No sink space or shelving for putting bathrooms stuff. Our friend could not use the toilet in his cabin and I had issues as well. There are many more people on these ships bigger than we are who could not use their cabin restrooms . Thus they used the public restrooms and this may be why the public restrooms were in such disrepair.We actually looked for a handicapped bathroom and they were few and far between. public bathrooms on pool deck often closed for repair, making people go into elevator hallway bathrooms for use. Down right nasty.
I don't know if giving everyone the option of the drink package is a good thing for this ship. 1. Fewer servers on the pool decks, with the exception of Tristsann...it was a long wait or long line to get drinks anywhere on the ship. By day 7 they started running out of domestic beer, Bud light, Mic Ultra, Coors light, and by day 8 and 9 they were just out of almost everything, Including Grey goose, Seagrams, Fireball etc...I realize that this is a smaller ship and can't store/stock as much as bigger ships but to run out of domestic beer on a ship is bad planning on someone's part. I think the drink package takes away from good service also. Bar servers over worked and not enough of them around. I would rather pay for the drink package so the lines can provide everyone with better service.
THE DRINK PACKAGE DOES NOT INCLUDE BOTTLED WATER. You can buy a water package but is does not come with the drink package, nor does specialty coffees. Other lines include these in their packages.
Pool deck. They placed a couple of slides mid ship pool deck that takes away from space , vision and use of the pool deck ( there is only one major pool on this ship). Slides were very rarely used. In fact we as a group decide that we were going to play on the toward the last few days and had one of the biggest laughs of the trip. About half way down the slide , you just come to a stop. lack of incline , water in the slide, and or the fact we are adults made for some very funny attempts to make it all the way to the bottom of the slides. We tried both of them and to be successful you must throw yourself down the slide and arch your back allowing tour back to ride over the uneven surfaces of the slide to make it to the bottom. In my opinion a complete waste of pool deck space and just not needed. They had a bandstand in the middle of the slides which on a normal sea day only had on act perform on it daily. Pool music played by a DJ once a day then piped in looped music track played so low you could not hear it. If they were going to have an act perform on the bandstand it was usually around noon so it could be interrupted by the excessively long speech daily by the captain over the intercom.
NO TRASH CANS ON THE POOL DECK: Norwegian serves drinks on the pool deck in plastic glasses with straws...but there were no trash cans anywhere near/around or on the pool deck. Glasses and straws blowing everywhere. we were constantly picking these up and then had no place to put the. Very little service people around to clean up things. disappointed with this. Watched the bus servers when i did see one pick up plates etc...but walk right past trash, cups, straws etc. Noticeable lack of service by many in our group and people we met on board.
Hot tubs were average hot not excessive. Pool was cold the first few days as this ship just came from Europe, warmed up by the end of the cruise where you could get in and actually enjoy it. They stayed open late with one hot tub at the front of the ship open all night.
Ship was of a smaller size but not complicated to get around at all. Promenade deck went around the full ship ,not being cut off like some ships.
Five Oclock Somewhere bar area is where they had karaoke. Great times were had here, although the venue itself was way too small for the amount of people who wanted to enjoy this activity. This bar actually made the best drinks on the ship and you could only get the specialty drinks they made there in this bar. Somewhat of a shame as they were well made and delicious.They would shut down the action during karaoke when there was still a large group of people enjoying it. Didn't make sense to all who were there
Entertainment on the ship was good and there was bad. Shows we saw were good. Other things not so much. Kind of a quirky idea with their trivia. We went once for movie trivia and actually won that event, only to find out that you don,t win a small bauble each event...you get a punch card and must attend over 20 events to win your little bauble.
I believe that they had a fair selection of different acts performing through out the ship at various times. The Cello and Violinist were absolutely amazing duo. a must watch on this ship. Piano lady was just ok playing the same stuff nightly. DJ in my opinion could have done a better job of playing to the crowd he had on hand. If you have a full dance floor of people and they are enjoying the music genre that is advertised i.e 80's, 70's country etc... you dont change things up to what you like to play and actually watch him empty the dance floor with thump thump music 3 different nights. Learn your crowd and play appropriate music. Your job is to make the crowd happy not yourself. When he would play on the pool deck it was not pool deck sing,dance along with kind of music you kinda expect on the pool deck.
Main atrium area had several acts in it which could be enjoyed from several different areas surrounding it.
Cruise directors staff did a pretty good job with activities that I saw. There could have been more pool deck activities as we had 6 sea days on this trip. only one conga line was seen. Spinnakers lounge had a variety of things going on, made some, missed some... ones we saw were good.
Food was very good on this ship. Ok Buffett food is buffett food. they did have omelet stations and 6 different stations not all were opened all at the same time but if you are a line follower and you jump into the first line you see be prepared to wait in line. They have different stations to help break up the crowds but people just cannot seem to check things out before jumping into the first line they see. I almost never had to wait because there were different sections and if you take a few more steps you may not have to wait on your omelet of toast. Just saying. I heard a ton of people complaining about the lines I walked by to the wide open with nobody in sections.
Specialty Dining was the greatest. We did 4 different venues with each on being better than the last and they were all great. And we normally had 11 plus people if not all 13 of us at each one. Very accommodating to our group. We ate in the Aqua, it was good , not great but good. They allow casual dress including dress shorts in the Aqua. Very much appreciated this as not everyone wants to dress up every night, or pack all those clothes. The Versailles dining room was the formal one and was good. We had all 13 there for thanksgiving and the food was actually good. One note : do not put green bean casserole on the menu and then just serve green beans. We can and will show this chef what true thanksgiving Midwest green bean casserole is if need be. This got quite a laugh from our group.
O Sheehans food was okay and ate there several times. One complaint was if you are going to serve people there , then do so. Not enough servers and just a lack of caring. water came without ice, and you had to ask for ice. Servers made it seem like you asked for gold plated silverware. Asked 3 times for a simple coke and finally got up and went to the bar and got it myself. Once again lack of service. This place was open late night for those who got hungry after hours.
Hamburgers and hot dogs on the pool deck were so so. good potato salad but everything else just so so. I kinda miss the old days of cruising where they would set up a different specialty food daily on pools decks ..i.e seafood , noodles and wok items, barbque etc..
They did daily bring around fruit on a stick, some kind of frozen berry pop at the pool deck. Nice little touch.
Shops are the shops and stores are the store...bought a magnet and my shopping was done. I can't critique these as they are little used by me.
I do have one major gripe about the photo service on this ship. We had 13 people in our group. I talked to one of the photographers and asked about getting a group shoot on formal night. My wife wanted one of our family of 5 and we wanted one of the group. I don't ask for much but a family photo was important to me. Was told different things by 2 different photographers. So on formal night getting my whole family in dress clothes and in one place at the same time is a task all in itself. The photographer had to call his supervisor who came up to us and informed us there would be a 60.00 sitting fee for a group over 10 , but we would receive a discount on 3 8x10 photos for that fee. I told them that they we going to lose out on photos being bought by having such a poor policy. We did not need or want a professional posed sitting for 30 minutes as they were proposing we just wanted to stand on the stairs take a picture and have 6 different groups of our family decide if they wanted to buy it or not. Too much of a hassle for something that should have been simple. I have photos from over 30 different cruises and NCL lost out on this families money.
Our cabin was a balcony and except for the bathroom was okay, standard balcony cabin. One big issue with it is that they placed the mirror /make up area/blow dryer right at the corner of the bed. No way for one person sitting there using the area for the other person to get around them except for crawling over the bed itself. poor design.
Pros for NCL:
Muster drill was well done. You did not have to drag your life vest with you. If people would just show up when called it would have been quite faster but that is not the cruise lines fault.
Tender and getting off in port. Well set up on deck 4 and went smoothly. If you have 2 sections opened to let everyone off , you will 2 sections to let everyone back on. Please don't close one down and create an unnecessary line and back up. Fresh towelettes were a nice plus. Elevators are elevators folks ...if you can walk up a flight of stairs please don't complain waiting for an elevator. there were 3 banks of them and hardly ever had to wait on one when needed. We did use the stairs and know how to go forward or aft to avoid the lines. Again its people not the ships fault.
Room steward was fabulous.
Ports were fabulous except one listed in cons.
Overall lack of service. Again Call me a cruise snob but there are things I have come to expect and service is one of them.
Was not offered coffee, juice, drinks in the dining venues including the buffet.
Fewer servers take away from passenger happiness. Long lines waiting for a drink.
This was a replacement port for St. Thomas and St. Martin as they were hit hard by the hurricanes. There was quite a bit of confusion surrounding this port. NCL did not post any excursions prior to sailing except for 2 days before we sailed and then there were only 7 listed. Once on board there were a few more listed on the papers , but each day that changed. One would be listed people would sign up for it and then it was canceled. Having never been to Punta Cana we were looking forward to this stop. Took the tender into Cap Can a small marina 30 minutes away from the actual city of Punta Cana. The port did have several tents set up trying to shuttle people to different locations. I talked to the person in charge there in port and he told me this was only the 12th ship to ever port there and only the 2nd NCL ship ever. I believe that they are in process of getting this port up and running but are still working on it. Those who went to the beach with the shuttle loved it, others who waited a long time for shuttles. We tried to go to Hoya Azul , but would have had to schedule a shuttle at one location that could only take us to the eco parks front gate then schedule from another place the actual entry and tour of the Hoya Azul location. Quite disorganized. The port of Cap Cana is very pretty and I think in the future this could be a nice stop. Needed longer time in this port to make it to some of the excursions listed on the internet in the city of Punta cana.
Another note the taxi costs in Curacao are outrageous. It's not a cab fare it is a per person fare. Crazy.
Casino: Personal complaint here, Ship uses the shuffling machines which is ok...but they do not allow the dealers to riffle /shuffle the cards prior to putting them back into the machine. This adds to the casinos advantage.And in my belief does not mix the cards up well. There is many beliefs that the machines can be rigged in favor of the house. 3 card poker table was terrible and the house would get cards that beat every hand most every deal. Would not play that table after the first night watching the house continually beat the players. ODDS are not in your favor.
also the way they ran the poker tournament was crazy. you can still get in the poker tourney an hour and 10 minute after it has started. you just pay 80.00 for the entry and 80.00 for the add on and bingo your in a tournament that everyone else was in and participating for an hour before you got there.
Embarkation: This ship just came from Europe and that delayed getting on the ship because of US Customs...Not NCL's fault...I try to avoid cruising out of the port of Miami for my distaste of how the US Customs service operates there. For such a large industry...you would think Customs can and should do a better job.
Getting off the ship was quite quick and painless , but we got off late and most people were already gone. So picking up our bags was quite easy , not much other luggage around. And no long lines . Did not have the early rush.
On our own: We booked Marvyn Gayle private tour in Jamaica for the Blue hole and Dunn's River Falls. A great company who treated us well. Look for my review on trip advisor .They took all 13 of us and we were treated well all day. Lunch at Scotchies Jamaican Jerk Bar-B-Que was very good.
Aruba: My brothers and I played Golf at Tierra Del Sol. A fantastic course and they treated us very well. Very good rental clubs . The rest of the family went shopping,butterfly farm and then we all went to the beach. great day.
Curacao: Went golfing at Old Quarry golf course at Santa Barbara resort. Fantastic course and the trade winds will beat you up. Rest of the family went to Mambo beach and had a great day. NOTE: Cab fares in curacao are outrageous. per person pricing not the cab itself. NCL did provide a survey about curacao and I filled it out without favorable reviews on that part.
Bonaire: We once again privately booked Woodwind snorkel excursion with Dee and Ulf. Probably one of the best snorkeling excursions in the Caribbean. top of the line equipment, guided groups with expert marine educated people, top notch catamaran, lunch, drinks, Can't say enough good things about this company. Reviews on trip advisor also.
Overall a good cruise for the money spent. Would I cruise NCl again. NO . In fact when I got home I canceled the NCL cruise we had booked for next November.