We recently sailed the NCL Star for the 2nd time in 2 years, this time to Mexico. The service levels on the ship have declined considerably (the cabin steward/ess were efficient and invisible though) and most of the restaurant now have a "cover charge". I was very disappointed. The ports in Acupulco and PV were not worth getting off the ship for (unless you were taking a tour or excursion of your own). Cabo and Zihuataneu were good but very touristy. The ship tours were not worth the dollars as all of the sites were easily accessed by dock vendors providing quality transportation and services. The Star does not offer any kids' programs for the tween age group, they do not provide enough seating for people wanting to attend the shows (we had to arrive 45 minutes ahead just to get seats for 4 in the back), and they did not monitor the drinking age limits well (we saw many under-age kids drinking alcohol all over the ship. Noise is an issue if your cabin is above any of the bars. Deck chairs anywhere around the pool were virtually unavailable unless you got there at 6am to hold your chair (the "no reserving chairs" policy was not enforced by staff and 95% of the chairs were held by a towel and/or book by 6am, many unoccupied for half a day so even someone just wanting to have a drink by the pool could not find a seat).
We removed the charged tips from our bill, tipped those we felt deserved it, and will not sail NCL again. It's too bad...we cruise a lot, liked the first sail on the Star to Hawaii, and hoped to use NCL again.
Ive just read your post, and im worried now that things at NCL may be declining. I have already booked the same cruise for February 2006, have paid for flights to LAX (from London), pre-cruise hotel, and mini-suite upgrade... its costing me a fair bit I don't want to be dissapointed, but its too late to change my plans.