Hi fellow cruisers! My mom and I are back from sailing the Norwegian Star. We had to work around her vacation schedule for work, and sadly were a week too early for the Sky Princess. Wanted to post a review in the hopes it helps someone making a decision between the two cruise lines.
The Star is an older ship (debuted in June 2000) and though was recently refurbished still showed her age. The cruise was round trip from Venice with stops in Kotor Montenegro, Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Argostoli in Greece and Dubrovnik in Croatia over one week. Sadly due to recent events in Venice and the harbormaster we missed our stop in Kotor. Instead it was replaced with a "technical" two hour stop in Bar Montenegro, assuming to let staff embark/disembark. We did not receive any credit for port taxes to our account (Princess has done this in the past).
We had an inside cabin and it was tight. Princess handles the closet situation much better, with an open closet and shelves that allows for access without moving hanging items. We missed the bathroom shelves for organization. NCL gets points for the shower having a sliding door and not the dreaded clingy curtain. Our steward was able to get us robes and extra hangers, which we also receive on Princess when requested. No chocolates on the pillow each night.
The TVs were ancient with one, maybe two english movie channels. Even the old Princess TV channels before the on demand system were a marked improvement.
This is a subjective category, so YMMV. But food was so hit or miss (and mostly miss) on this ship. We were offered one "free" item when booking and opted for the three free specialty restaurants. I'm so glad because the main dining room food varied from average to inedible. The buffet was more spread out and clearly labeled than Princess but had the same food every day. Most days there was no dining room open for lunch, just a pub like venue. We tried it once, again fine. Specialty restaurants were good (we tried Cagneys, agreed it was better than Crown Grill, Le Bistro and the Teppanyaki restaurant). I'm glad our itinerary allowed for meals in port so we had a breaks to breakfast and lunch in the buffet.
While i appreciated that we can make reservations for our dinner before sailing, I didnt like scheduling my meals months in advance. We spoke to others who were not informed they needed to book the specialty dining in advance and were only provided with 9-10PM options.
The buffet also closed by 10, with the pub open 24 hours and room service available (for a charge of 7.95). No grab and go options like the international cafe. Coffee for purchase was starbucks and similar to my sbux NYC prices. No coffee card available, and even if you purchased the drink package was not included.
This is really where NCL went downhill. It was not the actual ports per se, but the way we arrived. Time in ports was shorter than the normal Princess schedule, we knew this going into the cruise. We knew we would tender in Santorini. But we also had to tender in Mykonos and Dubrovnik (on previous cruises with Princess we docked in these ports). That meant three mornings of waking up very early to wait in line for tender tickets as we had private excursions. Do we really need to be in line for tender tickets at 7:30AM if we arent arriving in port until 2PM? The last morning for Dubrovnik, we were 4th in line, but the first person grabbed 42 (!) tickets which meant anyone behind them was put into Group 2. They had issues with receiving tenders and despite being ready at 7 when we docked didnt make it ashore till 7:45 for an 8AM excursion. The cruise line also shortened the (already short) time in Dubrovnik so we had to be back on board by 12 instead of 12:30.
I am also used to the nice Port Guides Princess prepares and sticks in the Patter the night before a stop. If you're sailing NCL, I would recommend downloading some offline maps because they do not provide any port guides in their daily information.
I know this review sounds overly critical of NCL, but after 20 cruises on Princess I guess I have gotten used to a certain standard of cruising. Maybe the newer NCL ships have better quality rooms with more storage space, better/additional food venues and more bang for your buck. But if I can avoid it I would gladly never cruise NCL again.