Background Information: My Wife & I have cruised many, many times. We've been on Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Regency. So we have high expectations and standards when we go on a cruise. We had never been on NCL and we were CONCERNED after reading some of the Cruise Critic Member reviews.
Transfers/Check In: We took the airport to ship transfers. The NCL representative found us quickly. She told us that there were delays disembarking the ship and offered us a free tour of Los Angeles. We took the tour but found out later that the ship boarded on time. We arrived, after the tour, at a time when the line was really long and moved at a snail's pace.
Stateroom: The Cabin was roomy and nicely decorated. The ship was as nice as any other we've been on. The most unusual thing in the cabin was the bathroom. When you entered, to one side was the toilet with a sliding glass door. To the other side was the shower, also set off with a sliding glass door. The shower was unusually large for a Cruise Ship and the glass door kept the floor perfectly dry. All Cruise Ships should have that kind of shower!
Children's Club: We cruised with our Children and Grandchildren. The buffet had a Kid's Cafe section with a lower steam table filled with kid-friendly food. There were low tables and hassock type chairs. A Waitress checked to make sure all the food was refilled promptly. Our Grandson (7 years old) loved to sit there and eat with the other kids while our Granddaughter (9 years old) sometimes opted to eat with the adults. While the Grandkids had the option of going ashore, they often opted to stay on board in Planet Kids, which they really enjoyed. One note, when in port there is no camp program, but group babysitting is available as an extra charge option.
Dining: The Freestyle Dining had many good choices for no additional fee. There was the Aqua Dining room (Modern DEcor) or the Versailles Dining Room (A beautiful room). In addition there was the Endless Summer restaurant (Tex-Mex) and the La Trattoria restaurant, which turned out to be an upscale Italian eatery. It was actually a transformed section of part of the buffet, but very well done. We went to La Trattoria toward the end of the Cruise and wanted to go back. However, I guess everyone else discovered this gem and it was fully reserved for the last two nights of the cruise. Of course there is always the buffet and a 24 hour eating area. We usually went to Dinner at 5:30 (usually with 4 adults and 2 children) and had no problems. But when we left, there were lines. The food was as good as any other Cruise Line and there is no need to go to the extra cost restaurants.. The service was excellent and they were accommodating on making modifications to some dishes. We never felt we were being rushed out to make room for others. The unlimited soda card is a good buy at $48.00
Shore Excursions: To our surprise, it turned out that 3 of the 4 ports were tendered. We've been to these ports before so we only opted for 2 excursions. In Acapulco we did the Sea Turtle Adventure. This was a very unusual tour that culminated in each person releasing a baby Sea Turtle on the beach and watching the turtle make it's way to the ocean. In Cabo San Lucas, we took the Coastal Highlights tour. In addition to other stops, we were taken to this lovely town (San Jose de Cabo). There was a fantastic Cactus garden there. (Cacti Mundo)
Ship Information: The NCL Star was missing one thing, self-service washers and dryers. Fortunately, we found out about this before the Cruise and packed lots of extra clothes. There was a lovely movie theatre but somehow the movie schedule never worked into out activity schedule. There is only 1 formal night, and it's really dress as you like.
Entertainment: We found the entertainment shows to be excellent. There was one show, Cirque Pacific, which was one of the best shows we have ever seen on a ship. During the day there were lots of activities. We especially liked the crafts and usually took our Granddaughter along.
Summary: Well, we were pleasantly surprised by NCL! In fact we spoke to the advance cruise office. They offered us the same cruise, or any other, at a great savings. In fact we booked the same Cruise, along with our Children and Grandchildren for 2007. Not only does your cruise agency get a sales credit, but also you can cancel and get a full refund up to 3 months before the Cruise.