This was our 14th cruise and the second one on the STAR. We sailed on her inaugural cruise from Miami to the west coast in 2001.
For this cruise we brought along 18 people about a fourth of them had never cruised before, the rest had a least one cruise. I am a firm believer that CC members are obliged to write of their experiences for the benefit of all, so even if your experience was different than ours, its important to share them for a balanced view.
A lot of comments have been related to the food on board. Some have had less than a good experience, others feel the food is good to great. Our experience was all the above. The problem is - it is inconsistent. For example at Cagney's the steak was excellent, but the salmon was covered in a heavily salted crab concoction that spoiled it. In the MDR's you might get a very good dish, or a just passable one with over-cooking the usual culprit. The solution to this is to order another entree. Or as one person did, not knowing if a dish would be good or great, they would order two entrees in the certainty that one would be better than the other.
The Market Place food was usually quite good with some standout selections. A custom made omelette is available on the pool deck just outside the Market Cafe. You can get a fresh made waffle there also as well as eggs cooked to your order. If you order the same things in either MDR it will ALWAYS arrive at your table luke warm. It has something to do with the distance traveled and when the meal hits the window. So we saved the MDR's for lunch and dinner, and the Market Cafe for nearly all breakfasts.
As to the service in the various food venues, yes it is slow. Too many tables for too few waiters, even in Cagney's the one on one attentive service was strained by the lack of staff to handle a full complement of diners. We liked the Freestyle dining because slow service made for a very leisurely dining room experience, with absolutely no rush for you to leave your table. It forces conversation while you wait for the next thing, and in this age of texting that may challenge some people a bit!
We had a mini suite with balcony (11088) which came with a very nice coffee maker, that produces 2 coffee mugs worth of coffee at a time, a safe that worked with digits and did not require a credit card to operate (yea!), and curtains to divide the room in half. The cabin is 25 feet long and 8.5 ft wide. The balcony is 8.5 ft wide and 6 feet deep. Standard electrical outlets are (1) in bathroom and (1) in cabin. The closet has a light in it that 99 percent of travelers don't know about. Look up on the back wall for it. Without it you need a flashlight to see the hidden shelves on the sides!
Another question I asked the CC board was is the cabin number the same as the cabin phone. Nobody seemed to know. The answer is yes, just dial the cabin number. The way to set up a wake up call however is inexplicable. I never could do it and there are no instructions either. Dial 00 and have Guest Services do it for you. Then it will work for sure! They used to put a card in the stateroom with the name of your room steward and a small pamphlet on how to work things (like the phone) - not anymore.
The shower has two handles. One regulates the amount of water, the other regulates the temperature. You can go from warm to scalding hot with a 1/32nd turn of the temperature handle! Yeow ! Fortunately the shower head swings easily and you can bat it toward the wall before your backside is cooked!
After 10 years, we noticed some significant changes on board. Market Place had hot chocolate machines, now you get a packet of chocolate dust. Juices were always available, but now only at breakfast, after that they become a $pecial drink. Trays are gone from Market Place, you have to carry your plate. This eliminates getting a significant amount of food at one time and multiple trips are required to get your meal assembled on your table. Consequently you have a LOT of foot traffic trying to get all their stuff together at their table. Chocolate milk is not on the line any more, but you can find it at the kids station. Lots of adults were going there to get some!
The Latitudes welcome party used to include hot hors d'oeuvres, served by staff in white tux and white gloves - not any more, - White or red wine only, any thing else is $pecial. MDR's used to have cream for coffee in silver containers - now they are the plastic single serve things you find at McDonalds. The Pizza "store" is gone where you could get a slice of pizza anytime. You will find a sort of pizza at the Market Place at lunch time - but it isn't much of a pizza. You can order a 15 inch pizza from room service for $5 plus tip.
Staterooms used to have double sets of bath towels and pool towels were at the pool deck. Now you get 2 of each kind of towel and the pool towels are in your room, which you are responsible for insuring their safety or paying for them.
Many of our guests were in staterooms on deck 5, which unfortunately a number of them were beneath the floor of the MDR galley. 3 of our guests had serious issues with noise from the galley activities, including one stateroom subjected to loud radio playing at 3am in the morning. That took a staff officer to come to the cabin at 3am to solve the problem. Another had noise from things being dropped on the floor, skidded across the floor and a mixing machine that thumped the floor at early hours in the morning. If you are a light sleeper avoid any deck 5 cabin near the MDR galley overhead. In each case our guests were given a compensation, but a good night's sleep is really what they yearned for.
Note for CC members: We had one issue that became quite unpleasant at the Guest Services Desk. I have purchased a CC pin, which I wore most everywhere on board. Many people did not know what it was, but when I went to resolve this issue the next day and explained to another Guest Services staff member what we do, and that I would be writing a ship review, he got very serious about solving the problem. I told him that we are encourage all the time by NCL to solve any problem while on board, and not when we get home, and this would be his last chance to have that happen. So there is power in being a CC member and also asking respectfully for a full resolution to any problem!
I won't comment here on the Alaska ports as the ship won't be back for another year, our cruise was the next to the last one, and perhaps the only one that had 3 days of sunshine and 73+ degree temperatures!
The entertainment was very good. I don't relish screechy female singers so those two nights I skipped the Stardust Theater. As noted by other CC members, the Stardust cranks the sound level up to just under the place on the dial labeled "painful" so be sure to have ear plugs with you when attending. The "Angels" aerial act with the male and female artists was superb and amazing how he could support the lady in so many gymnastic positions while flying across the stage! The hypnotist was excellent and we had a lot of fun with the volunteers and of course the Elements Show, at the last night of the cruise is the highlight and topper for the whole 7 days.
A tip of the hat to the cruise director Jamie and the many events she organized and participated in. And very special recognition to her at disembarkation, where she and other officers wished us a safe journey home. What a great touch and nice way to end the cruise!!
My thanks also to CC member GrapevineTX for organizing the CC Meet & Greet from our roll call. It was his work that won us a (extremely rare) and highly appreciated bridge tour Yea!!
A cruise is what you make of it and a positive attitude will make it even more fun. We found all the staff without exception to be eager to help, friendly, always smiling and cheerful despite their long work hours. Special thanks to Guest Services employee An Juan Ray for his dedication and excellence in customer service - he could give lessons to one of his associates!
Shower tends to run to the hot side on its own, baseboard rug torn opposite the door to bathroom, (2) side chairs for table in cabin are missing the ends of the legs so the chairs wobble from side to side. Balcony floor material is shredding. Bed is a bit soft. Rest of the cabin is fine. Noticed some noise from clean up activities in the Market Cafe / pool deck area which is above the cabin. Not consistent and not every night.