Round Trip Through the Panama Canal: Norwegian Star Cruise Review by Lord Duck
Overall Member Rating
Round Trip Through the Panama Canal
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Los Angeles
Embarkation in LA went fairly smoothly and we were aboard and in our suite in good time. Since we were in a suite were able to have breakfast and lunch in Cagneys, which was a treat. The emergency drill went smoothly and we sailed pretty much on time.
Our first stop was in Cabo San Lucas. Since this is a tender port, we did not go ashore.
Second day was in Puerto Vallarta. The port has a "flea market" chock full of eager sellers. My partner found some dresses. The restaurant there was way overpriced. We ordered tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Turned out that these were all identical in ingredients, just folded differently.
Next port was Huatulco. This was a beautiful port, with some really high end jewelry stores. We went More to Maria Bonita and got some really nice jewelry. We had lunch at the farthest restaurant in (El Huaracane as I remember) and had a very nice lunch with a choice of lobsters bought out on a plate for you to pick before it was cooked.
Puerto Chiapas also had an excellent port. They have 2 Mayan pyramid type buildings. One is a restaurant (with authentic Mexican food like cheesburgesas). The other is a shopping area with some nice shops and free folkloric dancing 4 times a day. They also have a swimming pool for cruisers to use. We got some nice jade items there. I was also impressed that they posted the current currency exchange rate prominently and had fixed prices (no bargaining) . Most if the other ports you had to bargain and they tried no make you believe the exchange rate was 10 instead of 13 per peso.
Puntarenas looked beautiful in the distance but we did not like the port area much since the ground was rough and the flea market aisles very narrow. It was almost impossible to use our scooters there.
The canal passage was an early starting day, but the trip was fascinating and the commentator they brought on board was quite good and informative.
Cartagena is a beautiful city from a distance. Again, we did not go in, but the port area had an excellent shopping center (air conditioned, thankfully) with very nice merchandise. Again, no bargaining. Outside the shops were an emerald mine exhibit and a "jungle" are full of brightly colored birds and some red squirrels..
The debarkation and re-embarkation in Miami was a disaster. One, there were a lot of ships in port that day and customs was overloaded. Two, our ship had picked up Norovirus somewhere around Puntarenas and both many passengers and crew were ill, so the CDC would not let anyone off or on until they had checked the ship and did what they had to do. Accordingly, there were huge delays. The Miami terminal is not friendly for people with walking disabilities. Distances are long and there are many elevators. This is one place where, in my opinion NCL did not perform well. Those in wheelchairs and scooters were more or less shoved into corners and then when boarding time finally came, they just told us to "go board" without any instructions as to where to go. NCL had a number of people standing around, but no one was telling us where to go and no one was helping with the elevators to get the wheelchairs and scooters on and off efficiently. Once we did get back on ship, all was pretty good again.
The Star is an older ship and does require a lot of ongoing maintenance. The Hotel Director and crew generally were as good as I have ever seen on a cruise. Due to the restrictions on service caused by norovirus prevention measures, the crew really had to work a lot extra, but they maintained their cheerfulness very well. The activities were varied but ok. Bingo on the way to Miami was pretty terrible, due to the staff being more interested in showing off than in running Bingo. We changed Cruise Directors in Miami due to the old one going on vacation, and then things got somewhat better. Disney is still the gold standard in bingo games as far as I am concerned, though.
The food was more than adequate and ranged from acceptable to quite excellent. Obviously, the specialty restaurants had the most consistently fine food, but we thought the food in the dining rooms was quite good too. For more than half of our trip we were under norovirus precautions, so people could not serve their own food from the buffet and the poolside grilling was cancelled for the duration. A lot of folks were upset about this, but I can't blame NCL for it. I don't think the same folks would have enjoyed being ill, either.
The passengers on this trip were generally older and there were a lot of wheelchairs and scooters. I note that some of the other review writers seemed surprised about this, but it was January (school times) and it was a two week cruise. I don't find the presence of a higher number of retired people a surprise.
Debarkation in Los Angeles was quite speedy for us.
All in all, we really enjoyed the cruise. Less
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