December 2015 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (Tampa Roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Star
Let’s start with the positive. The ship is beautiful and well maintained. The cabins are small but very nice with comfortable bedding. No problems boarding or disembarking. The itinerary was fabulous. The people of Roatan and Belize could not have been nicer and both places are beautiful. Costa Maya was nice and Cozumel is one of my favorite ports, it may have something to do with the $1.50 Dos Equis. For excursions my young adult children highly recommend SNUBA diving (cross between SCUBA and Snorkeling) and Swimming with the Dolphins. We had an incredible Cabin Steward and we also enjoyed the 24 hour pub O’Sheehan’s. Overall the food and entertainment were good.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing for the service. If you wanted to eat in the main dining rooms, particularly Versailles, there was a 20-30 minute wait unless you went before 6pm. Once you got in; the service moved very slowly taking around 30 minutes to get appetizers on multiple occasions. We ate in main dining rooms 5 nights and had a less than positive experience on 3 of them. I believe the wait, less than stellar service and slow food problems are created by the “Free Style” dining concept. I like having a fixed table at a fixed time with the same waiter. I believe this increases the efficiency of the kitchen and definitely gives your waiter an incentive to provide excellent service. The other issue was the almost nonexistence of bar waiters and wine stewards. Most drinkers appeared to have bought a prepaid (with 18% tip already included) beverage package which gives the waiters no incentive to serve drinks. On every cruise I have been on prior to this one a waiter would come by your chair on the deck every 5-10 minutes and offer a beverage. I would guess that 90% of the time I got a drink it required standing in line at a bar.
Overall we had a great time, but I am definitely not a “Free Style” dining fan.