We took this cruise as the second half of the back to back, roundtrip Miami. After the first two weeks on Code Red for Norovirus due to the cruise before us, it was surprising to find the salt and pepper shakers back on the table on embarkation day. This only lasted until after the call at Cabo as either folks brought Noro onboard or it was picked up at Cabo. As on the first fourteen day cruise, the crew handled this admirably. The ship was disinfected constantly and illness held to a minimum. After hearing about the RCCL ships with larger problems and one being sent back to port, the precautions were just a mild inconvenience.
We chose different activities in the ports for this cruise. At Cabo we spent the day walking the marina boardwalk, sipping margaritas at a bar on the far end of the boardwalk where it was less crowded, and watching the entertaining sea lions who jump on the back of sea lion friendly fishing boats upon their return to the marina. We were told that the sea lions know which boats feed them and those are the ones they go to. In Puerto Vallarta we chose another ship's excursion provided by Puerto Vallarta Adventures. This one had two stops, one for a choice of snorkeling or kayaking and the other at a remote village only accessible by boat. Let's just say we're glad we didn't buy the kayak we've been considering as older joints found this difficult. We hiked to the waterfall while some chose to remain on the beach. At Huatulco, we enjoyed the river float trip which was a new experience for us. . At Puerto Chaipas, we chose to remain in the beautiful port area and and sample the local beer. In Puntarenas, we took the forest sky walk and shopping village excursion. This is the only one of all the excursions we took on the back to back that we would not recommend. The large group spent most of its time on the trail waiting for others and the shopping village only had one store. However, we once again enjoyed the wonderful local crafts at the port, spending all the cash we'd brought with us off the ship and wishing I'd had more. The Panama Canal transit is more scenic, in my opinion, from this direction. We did not go out early for the first two locks which are separated. We came out for the Gatun locks and by that time the crowd had thinned and we had a marvelous view. You can see the three locks from above and the transition back to sea level. NCl brings a great narrator onboard for the transit who used to work for the Canal Authority. The port arrival times were more reasonable for the LA to Miami fourteen days than on the reverse. The ship was not as crowded as it was on our first fourteen days, Miami to LA.
We found the food quite good at both specialty restaurants and the main dining rooms. Our cabin steward did a great job. We enjoyed the entertainment, choosing the shows we missed the first fourteen days and spending the off nights at Gatsby's with Motown Man Stan Sykes who we really enjoyed. We did repeat seeing the Four Seasons Tribute group Oh What a Night which I really enjoyed. We also enjoyed the great solo show put on by George Solomon who is the front man for that group. We saw the group Graffiti which features very talented string players along with vocals and comedy.
The Star treated the Cruise Critic Roll Call group with great hospitality. We were invited to a tour of the bridge which we really enjoyed as well as a followup meeting at the Star Bar at the end of the cruise. Hotel Director Tony Winkler does a superb job. We chose an inside cabin for the 28 days as the price differential was greater than it usually is to get a balcony cabin. A balcony would have been nice for the transit, but views are available elsewhere and we saved a great deal of money. Our cabin was midship, very conveniently located on deck 9. For a longer winter cruise away from cold weather, the back to back was a great and economical choice.