As a veteran cruiser with Carnival, I was excited to take my family of 5 on a Norwegian Cruise Line and see how it feels to "Cruise Like A Norwegian" and boy was I dissatisfied! We drove directly to Tampa from North Carolina ... Read More
As a veteran cruiser with Carnival, I was excited to take my family of 5 on a Norwegian Cruise Line and see how it feels to "Cruise Like A Norwegian" and boy was I dissatisfied! We drove directly to Tampa from North Carolina bursting with excitement to be on our 5th cruise and 1st with Norwegian.
We cruised on the Norwegian Star for 7 days and hit the popular ports of Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel. After going through the onboarding processes we found our room, 5120, an oceanview picture window cabin, and the first word out of both of my wife's and my mouth was "small". We took a spin standing still, got the logistics of the room down and the urge to use the potty hit me. Well, if I thought the room was small, the bathroom was even worse! I sat on the toilet, unable to close the partition and by the end of the cruise, my thigh had a nice red indentation from leaning on the partition wall. To dry off after the shower I had to step out into the room. IT WAS SMALL!
We didn't let the size of the room get the best of us as this is a cruise ship and rooms are going to be small, the room was much smaller than we are used to with Carnival, but we were not willing to let the size of the room ruin the vacation. After our quick potty break and room tour, we met the rest of our party, Grandma and Grandpa, for lunch in the Market Cafe a.k.a the buffet on the 12th deck.
The overall environment of the Market Cafe reminds one of a school cafeteria with tables, drink stations and poor quality food. We gathered our kids and ventured up to the buffet line where we were welcomed by nobody, unless you want to consider the cheap food options as your host. Our first pass included the fruit station which was filled with the least expensive fruit you can buy! Your cantaloupe, honeydew melons, apples, bananas, pears and the finest canned peaches money can buy (I'm sure). My kids were saddened to see the absence of such fruit as strawberries, blueberries and other "berry" fruits that we've become accustomed to eating on Carnival and at home. Drink options included the typical stuff, lemonade, unsweet tea, water and a few bagged juice options. The hot lunch options included burgers and hot dogs, beans, fries, spaghetti with a lovely canned sauce, etc. Cold lunch options were some sandwiches such as tuna and ham and cheese and fruit.
After lunch we navigated the ship, found the camp and registered our 3 boys, and found the many wonderful dead ends that the Norwegian Star has to offer! This ship feels like the Winchester house and, what with all the rocking, a fun house all in one. The camp is on the 13th deck but can only be accessed through the market cafe by stairs or the most aft elevator, on lower decks there are 4 elevators but only 1 takes you to deck 13. It's quite fun to figure out which one goes to 13 on a busy elevator day, which is every day. My wife LOVES shopping on the ship and boy were we UNimpressed with the 2, yes count them 2, shops on board the Norwegian Star. Shop 1 includes your standard NCL branded gear, none of which we bought and shop 2 includes the jewelry, perfumes and cologne, and the pharmacy stuff. Yeah, woohoo...
After we spent a couple of hours maneuvering around the ship we decided to meet grandma and grandpa for dinner in the Aqua dining room at 6 p.m. The decor is modern which turned off grandma and grandpa and the service we received turned off the entire table. The atmosphere was LOUD! There was no conversation at our table. I ordered the chef's special which was a "strip loin" steak. I have no idea what a "strip loin" steak is but I can tell you that it's cheap and quite tough. I also stuck with a glass of water which was refilled once in the 2.5 hours we were at dinner. Our first glasses of water took 5 minutes to receive, not too shabby, but the 2nd, and final glass, took 45 minutes to refill and nothing after. However, the table that ordered lots of liquor got lots of attention. My wife ordered a salmon which came with a half of a broccoli stalk, which I heard tasted like broccoli which believe it or not is a bonus.
Day 2 was a day at sea. A day that we decided to take our 2 small children to the kid's pool at the very back of the ship. My wife and I did not dress to swim as we wanted to get an idea of how the pool is as we don't like swimming with or around a ton of people. My kids loved the water slides, but they didn't like all the falling they did! The floors of this area were slick and had nothing to grip. My youngest boy, 5 has bruises all over his back and my 6 year old slip and fell, hit his head and fell into the 2.5 foot pool with about a 3 foot drop. FUN! FUN! FUN! The only, ONLY good thing about this area for us was the hot tub which was a lower temperature for the kids.
What we quickly learned on day 2 of our cruise was that the camps are only open for 3 hours before lunch, 2 hours between lunch and dinner and 3 hours after dinner. Each meal break was 2 hours. So, we had a lot of running around to pick kids up from camp because they close. Carnival's camp closes rarely, which is a great big difference and a bummer when you're trying to be on vacation.
Day 3 was our first port day at Roatan, the port was fantastic! We had fun shopping and being shown around by locals working for tips. Our personal tour guide was a group of 3 young boys of about 10. I tipped them each $2 at the end of our day and they were delighted! However, before going out to Coxen Hole (Roatan's capital) we had breakfast at the Market Cafe which included the staples of bacon, sausage, the runniest scrambled eggs you'll ever look at (because you won't eat them) and your pancakes and French toasts. The coffee is the worst coffee you'll ever taste, I suspect because you can buy the decent coffee at their coffee bar on deck 7.
After we enjoyed the day in Roatan, we returned to the ship for lunch which included some of the best leftover sides from the previous night's dinner, boy oh boy, we were so glad to see the old standards on the next day's buffet. (Sense the sarcasm?) The buffet food is slightly worse than Golden Corral but not as bad some something you'd pick up unwrapped in a gutter in NYC, however, if it's wrapped and in the gutter it may make a run for being better than the food on the Norwegian Star. Dinner was in the Versailles dining room which had Victorian decor and was their "dress up" night. As this is FREESTYLE dining, they won't call it formal night and it is totally optional. We did not participate but the food was the same pitiful mess, however our service was much better as served by waiters from the O'Sheean's Irish Pub in their polo shirts. We saw the show which was typical, a musical revue with leggy lady dancers and fit men twirling around.
Day 4 was a day in Belize.. Which was downright scary. We spent about an hour or so in Belize and returned to our room since we couldn't venture out into Belize City without going through a stringent security check and I didn't feel like taking off my shorts. Back on the ship was an exact replay of day 3 with the exception of now my youngest doesn't want to go to camp, he'd rather sit in the room with Grandma and Grandpa. Camp must have been a terrible thing and by the end day 6, we abandoned the camp altogether.
We decided to eat dinner in Versailles again. I showed up in a button up shirt and jean shorts, this is FREESTYLE cruising, after all. However, I was told that I had to change into pants, which is certainly not FREESTYLE and like I said before I didn't feel like taking off my shorts. So I begrudgingly change into khaki pants and return to my family who was seated and looking peckish from the lack of food because of the jungle gym type path I had to take to the 5th floor room. Versailles is on deck 6 but only accessible by a single elevator similar to the camp. But, the elevator doesn't go down to 5. Therefore, I had to go UP to 7 walk half the distance of the ship to go down to 5 and to my room. I then had to reverse the route to get back. After returning to the table, I noticed quite a few servers wearing the O'Sheean's Irish Pub green polo shirts.. I guess the dress code doesn't apply to their own staff. We decided to skip the show tonight and just go to bed to pass the time.
Day 5, Costa Maya, a place we've been to before. Breakfast was the same disgusting stuff served daily. The port was excellent as we remembered. We swam in the sea and at the pool. A great day. Lunch was gross, dinner was at O'Sheean's and tasted similar to food. By this day, we noticed that every time we took the kids to camp, they had no idea who they were. They were still mispronouncing their names and our kids went to camp kicking and screaming, this night was the last night we took them to camp. My oldest still went to his camp, the 10-12 year old camp where he could sign himself in and out but he had to stay for 2 hours before signing out which is a strange policy, I think it's so that when the other parents drop off their kids they see a full camp.
Day 6 was Cozumel, another familiar stop but at a different pier, which we also enjoyed. We did a bunch of shopping and enjoyed the best tasting Starbucks we've ever had. This may have been due to the utter crappiness of the coffee on ship. Breakfast again, gutter food, lunch was the same, dinner was at Ginza Noodle Bar which was actually enjoyable but our kids had to sit at a neighboring table. Every day of this trip we've heard about the Mojito drink special at the Sugarcane Mojito Bar on Deck 13, midship. A great deal, 6 flavored Mojitos for $15. However, the bar is non-existent except for the sign by the pay to eat restaurants Cagney's and Moderno. The bar is nowhere to be found. We watched the comedian that evening which was fine, however we couldn't order a drink because nobody asked us if we wanted a drink.
Day 7, the 2nd day at sea started with the same old crap breakfast except someone figured out how to make scrambled eggs. However, my youngest son had a brick for a pancake which cracked and snapped when we bent it. YUM! Another lovely thing I found at breakfast was the fried rice from the noodle bar the night before. YUM AGAIN! By day 7, thankfully, my kids learned how to walk on a slippery surface and we enjoyed the kid slides and pools, the hot tub, etc. After dinner, another at Versailles (with pants), we decided to take the kids to a real treat, A MAGIC SHOW! ...which was performed by the cruise director. WOW! The tricks were old hat stuff and the kids asked to leave about 20 minutes into the show.
We returned home which I felt like was a miracle based on how the cruise line operates. We had breakfast again at the Market Cafe and again, it was dismal. We disembarked which was surprisingly smooth which is probably because people are typically fighting to get off the ship by the last day. Read Less