November 2015 - Norwegian Star to Caribbean - Western
Preface - we had traveled 8 times on NCL in a 10 year period during the 1990's. Always enjoyed the ports, food, service and organization on the ship. However, times have changed.
We did have a good time
Check in - we get to the ship (via taxi - shared a cab with another couple - ($25+ tip split by two couples from the airport - versus at least $25 per person for transfers through NCL)
Relative confusion - - very long line to enter the building
We're able to get to the front of the line since my husband requested a wheelchair to board the ship. Check in was relatively smooth.
Then we get to wait another few minutes for a wheelchair to take us onto the ship
The young man pushing the wheelchair does his best, but once we get on the ship, he puts us in line at the front desk. When we get to the actually desk, they ask what I need and I say 'I don't know - the young man pushed us here...' On to our cabin.
The cabin was a typical cabin - DING - only one US electrical socket - passengers (smart ones like us) should bring a plug strip if they plan to plug in more than one item. Since husband has his CPAP machine and I have my gadgets, we were prepared. We also brought an extension cord which the cabin steward was kind enough to tape down to the rug. We also asked for and were provided a 'sharps' container' for husband's insulin needles.
First night we went to O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill for their special roast beef dinner - - food AMAZING - service - the absolute worst. We (and other passengers) were flagging down Managers to wait on people who sat for an hour with just a glass of water, no menu. The people had (excuse the language) no balls and weren't making any fuss, but they probably sat for over an hour before even having their order taken.
We tried O'Sheehan's another night - service was a tiny bit better, but the food wasn't great, so we just ate a taste and went to the Market Café (buffet) for the rest of our dinner.
I know I'm old fashioned, but husband and I only play card games when we're on cruises. I neglected to bring two decks (which we need for the game we play - I only brought one) so we went to find the 'game room'. Well, one of the conference rooms next to the Library did have a few games (not nearly enough for the size of the ship, but I digress) but no playing cards. Next, I went to the Casino, figuring they might have some - - I was looked at like I had three heads and told 'no, we don't sell any cards here'... No, I wasn't looking to purchase cards... Thirdly, I went to the front desk and a lovely young woman said, sure - we have cards and gave me what I needed. Poor communication - - there could have been a sign in the 'game room' and/or the Casino could have referred me to the front desk. But, no, I had to go all over the ship to get some cards.
We enjoyed the churrascaria one evening - - food was good, however, one of the items on the menu - a shrimp dish (even though all the foods are brought automatically (or so we thought from experience with this type of meal all over the world) wasn't brought around and when we finally asked about it, they stated we had to order it special - - nothing on the menu or from the waiter. Did we still want to wait the extra 15 minutes for them to prepare it? Yes, we did and it was delicious. Was the meal worth another $40+ - - not so sure.
The Italian restaurant (La Cucina) was also very good and service was 98% good. Had a great conversation with the Maitre d' which kind of made the evening.
We made the acquaintance of a few servers who called us by name when they saw us (in the Market Cafe, which we ate it more frequently since it was just easier).
We did eat in Aqua once - okay but nothing to write home about.
Since we only got sodas a couple of times, it was interesting to learn that (1) if you had the soda package, they gave you a glass of ice with the soda poured into it, but (2) if you were paying for it, you were to get a can of soda and a glass of ice (which actually was like two glassfuls. We got skunked once before I found this out, but made out fine since the night we went to Aqua, I had my card out to pay for our sodas and they didn't charge us. I made the effort - they lose.
Some other passengers were telling us that even at over $60 per person per day for the alcohol package, some people were being told they could or couldn't order certain items and if the passenger challenged it with a manager were told that the negative information was incorrect. How many people are they abusing?
Free gratuities was a perfect bonus for us to use...
Ports were fine since we'd done the spots before, so we just got off the ship and went through the shopping area for a while. Just fine.
The 'freestyle' dining meant that 99% of the time, passengers did not dress up at all - shorts and tee shirts in almost every venue. Yes, we did get 'cleaned up' a couple of nights, but it was the whole feeling.
Now, for the final nail in their coffin - - disembarkation - - we had 'yellow' bag stickers (because of our frequent cruiser status) which meant we could leave the ship relatively early. Then, they indicated you could request wheelchair service and we jumped at the chance. We were to leave the ship on Deck 7. They had the wheelchair requests gather on Deck 6 and when the time came to leave, we were actually the first to leave the staging area. Problem 1 - we had to wait for 3 elevators until we could fit on one to go the one level. Finally get off the ship and then the ship's security didn't want us to leave because only the people who were self moving their luggage were supposed to be going (WRONG). We finally convinced them that a supervisor type person had sent us off the ship and they let us through to the Port building (WHICH ONLY HAS ONE AVAILABLE ELEVATOR TO HANDLE (1) people carrying off their own luggage and (2) those in wheelchairs and scooters. Four elevator loads later, we make it to the area to pick up luggage - no problem - and then to Customs - no problem - and then to the street to find a cab - tiny issue, but nothing to write about.
Communication about basic things seemed to be lacking - - They give you a daily list of activities, but it seemed like the basics were shared passenger to passenger. Since we're so shy and quiet (yes, please chuckle here), we were able to help out some neophytes, but only because we made them feel like they weren't stupid for not knowing.