This was our third cruise in the past year. We have previously been on a Princess Cruise as well as a Carnival Cruise. I do not consider us experts on cruising but are getting very familiar to the cruising lifestyle. Our family loves ... Read More
This was our third cruise in the past year. We have previously been on a Princess Cruise as well as a Carnival Cruise. I do not consider us experts on cruising but are getting very familiar to the cruising lifestyle. Our family loves cruising, exploring new areas, excursions and the all inclusivity that a cruise offers. We chose to go on this Norwegian Cruise, because of timing, disembarkment port, Norwegians pricing and ports of call.
As we arrived on the Norwegian Star, I found the embarkment process to be very organized and easy compared to the two previous ships. We were at the port about an hour earlier than recommended but only had to wait about a half hour to be called on the ship. On past cruises, we have had to wait several hours. While we were heading on to the ship, we were stopped by the photographer for poses but they seemed to have difficulty swiping the card and getting it to process. My wife does tend to buy all the pictures offered and on this cruise I pre-purchased a package for that purpose. More on the photography later.
Once on the boat, we had to wait in the lobby and pool area for the rooms to be ready, although this was common, we waited 3 hours to get into our room. We checked our bags but did have personal items we carried on, the wait to drop these items off in the room made it difficult to lug around as we tried to explore the ship.
At around 3:30 pm we were asked to head to our Muster Stations for the safety briefing, as this is a pain, we were aware of it and know it is mandatory. In my cruise experiences, I found it very easy to find the stations with some help from staff and signage along the way. In this experience, I found the staff to be less than helpful, they just kept pointing to the back of the boat. We were set up to go to muster station N In The Versailles restaurant. Not one crew member told us that, nor was there signage pointing us there. We finally found the wall map showing us to go to 7th floor, (muster station was actually 6th floor of dining room). We found it ourselves.
On our first evening, my family and I went to the Versailles restaurant for dinner, we were one of the first couple of groups to attend. A hostess with a drawn map, took us to our table, only to be met by another hostess and group at the same table. They had switched the tables around before this cruise, and drawn up maps but didn't review them with the staff. The two hostesses conflicted over the table for about 5 minutes while each of us groups stared at each other. Once we finally sat at the table, the hostess forgot to give us the menus as she was still arguing with the other hostess about the tables. I had to get up and request a menu. Then we unfortunately received the disappearing waitress, an hour and 45 minutes later, after complaining to a supervisor and three tables around us finishing there meals but starting at least 20 minutes after us, we finally finished our meal without dessert. We were just done. The food was average at best, more to come on that.
Since, I am on the subject of the food, in my previous experiences on cruises, each meal for the most part, was another very good experience of something I would say wow, that was excellent. Not once on this ship did I say that. Norwegian prides itself on its food options, but in reality, I can only assume because I was not about to pay for an up charge for a restaurant, that the best food was kept for those types of restaurants. Again, on previous cruises, I didn't pay for an up charge and was very pleased with what I received, so I figured why should I now on this cruise. Seriously, $30 per person up charge for one night for Cagney's steakhouse? What happened to all inclusivity. I don't know what I missed but I can only assume it probably compared to the quality I received on other cruises that I thoroughly enjoyed for no added cost. The food was the same poor quality at both dine in included restaurants on the Norwegian Star. The Market buffet, was just that, a buffet. I would compare it no better than a golden corral quality food, but with no organization. They would have themed evenings but the themed food was very lackluster. The Mexican night was the regular boring bland fare with a chili made into taco meat. (Seriously, kidney beans in a taco meat). No sour cream, no enchiladas, tamales, carne Asada, carnitas, etc. just chili beaned tacos. Italian night was a cook standing behind a pot and throwing partially cooked noodles in a pot of hot water and adding sauce after a couple of minutes. Their idea of made to order? I will admit, the Carnival cruise I went on, I was very impressed with Guy's burger joint and blue iguana cantina, so they had a lot to live up to in my mind. They fell flat. The "grill" by the pool, was bland hamburgers, and sausages that were a questionable meat. Compared to my previous cruises, this was terrible. Each steak, pork loin etc, was served with a heavy gravy. Prime rib with a gravy, not as jus. I felt they went more for filler than quality at all the restaurants we visited. Throughout the entire cruise, I just continued to be disappointed. The food we had in port off the boat was spectacular, I can't say this is a highlight of the ship as it wasn't their food.
The bars and lounges were even more disappointing. We were on a Mexican Riviera cruise and by the second day of the cruise, we couldn't get a piña colada, strawberry margarita or daiquiri. They only served certain flavors each day. They didnt advertise their drink of the day well and it was very difficult to find a waiter while on the pool deck area. Bars by the pool closed by 8 pm. We had received the ultimate beverage package as part of our booking. We aren't heavy drinkers and typically would not have this package if it wasn't included. After not being able to get drinks that should be readily available, and common, we definitely wouldn't get it on another Norwegian Cruise.
We did go to several shows while on board. The comedy was outstanding but the productions were drab and old. I don't understand why they would make decades in review with songs that weren't even popular in that decade. Again, on Princess and Carnival, I left those shows in awe. Here, I left disappointed.
My own personal experience for excursions, is to book your excursion through an independent company, not through the cruise line. You will avoid the crowds, enjoy the same excursions that the cruise sells at half the cost and each time we have had very small groups if not on your own. We have done excursions at every port. In puerto Vallarta and mazatlan, we had three guides each for the three of us and in cabo, we had only 7 people to the three guides. Through the cruise line, you could have 50 people. Try zip lining with 50 people waiting to go. We were ahead of those groups, on the same excursion wondering how much fun could they be having.
Some parts of the ship were very beautiful, well designed, and as on other cruises, you typically do find some maintenance work being done while cruising. This, however, I considered extreme. Around the pool area, the Norwegian Star, has lighted poles with lighted Plastic palm trees surrounding it. For the entire cruise, less than half of these lights were working and were being repaired throughout the cruise. The majority were missing the palm tree plastic leaving and the lights that were removed from the leaves were duct taped around the pole, the entire cruise...
The water slides on the Norwegian Star are terrible. Kids or kids at heart, would get "stuck" less than a quarter of the way down and would have to scoot down on their butt to get the rest of the way down. My twelve year old son went Down twice only, and said enough was enough. We saw this happen throughout the cruise to everyone. The spa's in the main pool area were falling apart, I picked up a drain cover and removed it as it was floating around while we were in it. The spa's at the front of the ship were in good shape but rarely used, as the wind tended to pick up quite a bit there.
I felt many of the ships activities were there just as money makers for the cruise line and not for the enjoyment of the patrons. Bingo, art auctions, shows, etc were all prefaced by buy our lotto scratchers and drawing tickets. I understand the business of it, but Norwegian took it to an extreme. They reminded me of the airlines that is charging the passenger for everything from seat belts to carry on luggage. Losing the all inclusive atmosphere. I hope this isn't the direction of all cruise lines.
My wife did utilize the spa because I had purchased a gift card for her prior to the cruise. We took the "tour" of the spa, and thankfully for them we had already purchased the gift certificate because they would have lost the sale had we not. The staffer that guided us was unknowledgeable and lacked any personality. We left half way thru the tour. I had to keep reminding my wife to use her gift certificate, she was so unimpressed, she didn't want to go.
Finally, on a good note, our room was a good quality and our room attendant was great. He was very attentive to us as we walked thru the hallways, remembering our names and asking whether we needed anything. I will say, compared to the other cruise lines, we didn't see him as much as we did on those. He seemed to have a bigger responsibility of rooms than the other cruises but he was very polite and helpful when we did see him. Read Less