My husband and I have been on four cruises—three of which were on Norwegian. We have found that the freestyle cruising concept works really well for us and that the service is always great. We have tried different cabins for each cruise and decided to try a family suite for this vacation.
We flew into LAX the day before and took a limousine to the Hyatt Long Beach where we met the rest of our family. The Hyatt was a perfect location since it is surrounded by restaurants, the pier boardwalk, and also the Aquarium of the Pacific. After eating lunch we went to the Aquarium which I would recommend buying tickets online since they are less expensive. The exhibits are extensive and it is definitely worth the money to see. That evening we all walked to Islands Burgers and retired early.
After checking out the next morning we took a limousine to the San Pedro Pier, which is about a 15 minute drive. It is much easier with 7 people and luggage to take the limousine especially if you have small children since they will supply a car seat if needed.
The embarkation process was the only part that disappointed us. There was little signage to direct guests to the proper lines. In fact, there was not even a latitudes line so all guests ended up in one single queue. We had to ask where to go for the suite check-in which was not ready for arriving guests. They ended up directing us to the same line but we were taken to the first available operator. After checking in we were escorted to the other side of the terminal where they had coffee and pastries available. We were the only ones in our party of 7 to have a suite so the remaining members waited in line several hours before being able to board the boat.
After getting the all clear the suite guests were taken on board and brought to Cagney's for lunch. This was a wonderful experience since it was quiet and not crowded. After finishing lunch we went to our family suite cabin. This was our first experience having a suite and I now understand why people say that it spoils you. The room is 409 square feet and has amazing floor to ceiling windows. I don’t know how many times during the cruise that I just sat on my couch with a glass of wine and looked out the windows to the ocean or watched the sunset.
Suite Perks: everything that is listed on the suite perks is included. There is a DVD player with about 80 movies that you can have brought to the cabin (we watched 3). We also packed a few for our niece which came in handy as well. Each evening our butler Renato brought us canapés or some type of sweet treat. Breakfast and lunch in Cagney's is a great perk if you just want some time away from the other venues. The menu does stay the same but the food quality is wonderful. The concierge will provide information on priority tendering if applicable. As noted before, the concierge, butler, and steward are not included in the tip pool so you do need to plan on extra gratuities.
Day 1 (long beach): That evening we met the family in Aqua for dinner. Since we went at 5:00 pm there was not a line so we were in and out.
Day 2 (at sea): We went to the arts/crafts class on paper box making, attended the latitudes party which had free drinks and appetizers, and went to the progressive wine tasting ($15 pp). This was really fun and educational. There were 6 wines that you tasted and then tasted again after eating sweet, savory, and sour foods. That evening we did Christmas caroling in the atrium and attended the Captains cocktail reception (suite guests). We capped off the evening with dinner at Aqua, listening to Mr. Motown Stan Sykes, and watched the Newlywed/Not so Newlywed game which was very funny.
Day 3: (cabo): We chose not to do an excursion since we are back for a wedding in April. Instead we met our concierge Omar and took the first tender to Cabo. The pier has Senor Frogs, the Hard Rock café, and the famous Cabo Wabo. After doing some shopping and drinking we headed back to the boat and layed out at the pool. Very relaxing! That evening we dined at Ginza and played games with the family.
Day 4: (mazatlan): We chose to do the Old Mazatlan walking tour, which is about a mile or so in length. The tour was very informational and lasted about 3 hours. The tour ended with watching the cliff divers and having margaritas at a restaurant on the beach. After returning to the Star we layed out at the pool and had a few more margaritas. Since it was Christmas we ate an early dinner in Aqua and hung out with the family in our suite.
Day 5: (puerto vallarta): My husband chose to do the Extreme zip line Adventure with his brother-in-law which they both enjoyed. The only complaint was that the zip lines were shorter than they had anticipated. They picked up the photo package which was $60 and the company did print 4 of the photos for them to take along with the cd. I chose to stay onboard and soak up the rays at the pool. After they returned we at lunch at the pool and listened to the Mariachi band that they brought on board. That evening we watched our brother-in-law play in Deal or No Deal. He ended up taking the deal while we played along on our $20 game cards. Afterwards we headed to watch the Perfect Couple Game Show which was hysterical.
Day 6: (at sea): We slept in and then met the family for the Jazz Brunch held in La Cucina. The brunch consists of pastries, cheeses, salads, eggs, seafood, and desserts which is served buffet style. You then order your entrée off of the menu. The food was fabulous and the $20 per person charge was well worth it! The jazz trio was very talented. We then figured it was our final day to lay out so we soaked up the final rays and then headed to the buffet for dinner. This was the only night that we ended up heading to bed early. All that relaxation does get to you!
Day 7: (at sea): We slept in and hoped that the weather would hold out but it ended up being windy and chilly. The husband went to work out and I headed to the arts/crafts bookmark making activity. I then headed to the paper flower making activity and the towel folding demonstration. This was all held in the grand atrium and since the person leading the activity did not have a microphone it was difficult to hear what was going on. During the afternoon we played games and then headed to my father’s birthday dinner at Moderno. This was our best meal on the ship plus the service was out of this world. The cuts of meat and salad bar were really good—be warned that it is a lot of food so come very very hungry! At the end of the dinner they brought out his birthday cake and we all sung happy birthday. We had hoped to make it to Elements but the dinner did not end in time so we all played games before packing our suitcases and heading to bed.
My sister used the kids club and our 3-year old niece thoroughly enjoyed the experience. They had really fun activities scheduled for them.
Disembarkation: We had gold VIP tags so we could leave anytime but waited for the family who had red tags (10:00 am). Once they called our tag color we headed to Spinnaker lounge where we went through customs. After clearing customs we left the ship and found our luggage in the terminal under the colored tags. The only process took 30 minutes. After getting the luggage the limousine picked us up and took us back to the Hyatt in Long Beach.
All in all, this was a wonderful cruise and I think our entire family enjoyed the Mexican Riviera. We will definitely be staying with NCL for future cruises.