Norwegian Star Cruise Review by Megnolia
- Sail Date: December 2011
- Destination: Western Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Mini-Suite with Balcony
Embarkation: Easy and painless at terminal 3 in Tampa. We were allowed into our rooms very early - around 1:30. Which was not as good as it sounds, because our room steward was still there and said that she hadn't finished the balcony - so we left our bags and headed back out. She never did clean the balcony all week and we got to see last week's nose and fingerprints on the sliding doors.
Dining: The buffet (Market Cafe) was excellent. Good variety, good taste, amazing service from chefs and wait staff. We found chairs easily every time we ate, and were also always able to find a high chair.
Main dining rooms: We ate in both Aqua and Versailles and found them comparable. The food was good with nothing standing out as either bad or great. DH didn't like the selection. We thought the more interesting or exotic foods were eliminated from the menu so you would go to the pay restaurants for tex-mex, Asian, Italian or French. Service in the dining rooms was painfully slow. Our fastest meal was 2 hours, but most ran much longer, and we missed most of the early showtimes even though we went for dinner right at 5:30.
24 hour eatery - Blue Lagoon - was TERRIBLE! We tried it for lunch one day. Waited well over an hour for any food to show up. The "Spinach and Artichoke dip with Tortillas" was a sloppy mess served with a handful of tiny, plain potato chips, my French Fries were ice cold, and there were no sauces offered with the chicken strips.
Cagney's steakhouse - Huge disappointment. The atmosphere was not "upscale" as we expected (they set up tables for the next morning's breakfast right next to us as we tried to enjoy our meal), the presentation was exactly the same as in the main dining rooms, and the sides were terrible. We ordered the famous Cagney's fries - which were served in a basket with red and white checked paper like at a carnival. Not what I expected for a $25 surcharge.
Entertainment: what we saw was very good. After a short, bizarre, underwhelming welcome aboard show (the assistant cruise director - singing - seemed to be the highlighted performer of the 30 minutes of mostly talking). We LOVED Elements, and my family members really enjoyed Second City, the Acrobatic Duo, and the Magician. The International Crew Show was excellent, with the exception of 'Fountains' which would have been funny at summer camp when I was 8, but even then I would have realized it was a whole lot of time out of my life that i would never get back. Whoever puts down Carnival for the hairy legs contest has clearly never watched 8 minutes of cruise staff spitting water on each other.
Crew and Staff: Outstanding!! I will give credit where it is due, and we encountered the most accommodating, pleasant, wonderful staff imaginable. Traveling with a baby we attracted a lot of attention from staff and passengers alike, and we could not have been happier with the attentiveness and affection shown to our baby.
The Disaster: What tainted our perception more than anything was the pack and play we received for our baby to sleep in. The first night we found it was very stained - like it had been stored in a puddle of water. So we requested a replacement. When it arrived, it was full of holes, and was covered in black marker, having been decorated by a previous occupant. Our friends next door offered theirs, as their baby would sleep on the pullout. But theirs had one side that was broken and wouldn't stay up. So we called the Hotel Director, who had another one sent up. This one arrived while we were at dinner, and we returned to find it even worse than the previous 3. Badly stained, and covered in actual bits of food - sticky red candy, bits of something white and crusty... we were disgusted, and by this point, very upset. We called the Hotel Director again and a few minutes later the hospitality director and 2 staff showed up at the door with 3 more pack and plays. They opened them in the hallway, and discovered none were any better than the one we had (their call, not mine as I did not see these ones) so they took away the one we had and returned half an hour later with the same one, although it was clear some effort (not a lot) had been made to remove the obvious pieces of food. I realized this was the best available and accepted it, with the stains and a piece of the corner broken off. Then I scrubbed furiously with my lysol wipes. I wrote to the Hotel Director to let him know that if this service is to be offered on NCL ships, they must clean, inspect and replace the cribs as necessary, which is clearly not being done. Because had we known there were no suitable cribs available, we would have gladly brought our own, and I think it would be better to cancel the crib service than to continue using these ones. We received a free meal as an apology. But we were not interested in any compensation - we just wanted a clean, sanitary place for our child to sleep and this was something we were not able to receive on the cruise. Hopefully they were sufficiently embarrassed by the incident to at least clean the cribs between uses from now on.
The ship: upkeep was ongoing and nothing seemed to be in bad shape. On the first sea day I found three filthy public women's washrooms which just compounded the bad first impression, but after that the public washrooms were always in good condition. We found the ship's layout a little difficult to navigate and the flow wasn't really great for walking around, browsing or getting easily from point A to point B.
Cabin: Our Mini-suite was a good size (I wouldn't want anything smaller with a pack and play in the room) and the small bathtub was a great added touch. The balcony was very large! Nice bathrooms, including in my parents' inside cabin.
Cruise Critic: the Group events coordinator left me a letter and a telephone message about our meet and greet. She was wonderful! We had our gathering in Le Bistro, and enjoyed cookies, tea and coffee. The senior officers all came to say hi. It was a really nice touch!! (Strangely, the restaurant manager requested that we all go for dinner after 7:00pm because the restaurants are busy. hahaha, NCL, I thought the whole Freestyle concept was based on "what you want, when you want". The Captain came and offered us a Bridge Tour!! That happened on the last sea day and was wonderful. We were treated really well as a CC group.
Overall: We had a nice vacation - it improved vastly after the crib problems and the poor first impression. Would we return to NCL? No. There was nothing that would entice us to choose it over Carnival in the future, but we figure we'll take a break from cruising for awhile.
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