My partner and I cruise regularly and have sailed with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Carnival and Princess. This was our first time with NCL and also our first time to the Mexico Riviera. Embarkation was very slow and disorganized.
The ship is older but well maintained. There were plenty of deck chairs around the pool area and lots of quiet areas around the ship.
We had an inside cabin on the 9th deck and was a similar size to most insides on others cruise lines. There was a table and stool under the TV which was more or a hindrance than a benefit. The bathroom was a great size with an extra large shower. The thermostat was hard to regulate; we found it either to hot or too cold and no happy medium.
The majority of the staff were fairly new but very friendly and attentive. The staff in the Versailles Restaurant were great but service in the Market Buffet was not so good.
On embarkation day, we were directed to the Market Buffet for lunch. We found the selection to be very limited so we asked for directions to the restaurant. We were told the restaurant line up was long and the wait for food even longer and told to eat at the buffet. After finding the Versailles Restaurant ourselves, there were maybe 8 tables taken and the whole restaurant empty. We were seated at a lovely table by the huge windows and ate a wonderful lunch of steak and salad. The steaks were cooked perfectly and were tender and tasty. The service was fast.
While you never want to judge cruise ship food on turnaround day, we returned to the Market Buffet several times but the food was the worst we had even seen on any cruise line. On our 7 day cruise, we did not eat a single meal there.
I have Celiac disease (gluten intolerant), lactose intolerant and a nut allergy. I was not familiar with freestyle dining when I booked this cruise and was quite hesitant. I had informed NCL of my allergies before our cruise and was assured they could accommodate my special diet. I met with the Maitre'D on embarkation day and told to order my meals 24 hours ahead (this is standard for all cruise lines). The problem was my orders were often misplaced and each time I went to eat, I was repeatedly asked if I remembered what I had ordered. This resulted in long waits to be served my food and my partner often received his meals before me. On the 4th day, they completely lost my dinner order. I waited 55 minutes to receive my appetizer, a green salad with oil and vinegar dressing (something straight off the menu and not specially made). Dinner arrived almost 90 minutes after we were seated, at which point I had lost my appetite and was too tired to eat. We were given an apology for losing my meal and offered a free bottle of wine and two free meals in the Italian restaurant. My response was, 'why on earth would i want to eat in an Italian restaurant if I'm gluten and lactose intolerant?' We declined their offer and asked to simply be served our meals together and not have to wait an extraordinary amount of time for our food. After that, we were assigned an assistant Maitre'D for the rest of our cruise. The following morning, I was given a soy margarine with my gluten free toast. It was the first time I had eaten the spread. 5 minutes after leaving the restaurant, I became extremely ill and spent the next 18 hours in my cabin (or bathroom, to be blunt). I was unable to eat for 24 hours and knew immediately, it was the margarine. My partner ate his meals alone and informed the restaurant staff of my illness. Our Maitre'D said he gave me margarine instead of butter and "assumed" it was milk free; he did not read the ingredients. I spent the last 2 days of our cruise sleeping and trying to regain my strength. Needless to say, I was disappointed.
The gluten free bread was good and moist. Although I was told they had gluten free waffles and muffins on board and I repeatedly asked for them, no one could ever find them.
Simply put, freestyle does not work very well for someone with allergies.
Some nights when we went for dinner the lineup was long. On formal evening, we were given a buzzer and waited over an hour to be seated. Larger groups waited over 2-1/2 hours to be seated.
We always requested to share a table because for us, part of the joy of cruising is to meet other people from different parts of the world. We were always told no one else wanted to share and during our entire 7 day cruise, we were seated alone.
The entertainment was great, one of the best we have seen compared to other cruise lines. The Second City group were fantastic and so were the acrobats. Get there early on the last night, seats fill up fast.
It was also nice to have a live band on deck by the pool. The ship was lacking in late night entertainment; after a certain hour, there was nothing if you wanted to stay up late.
Since we were staying in California for 3 more days, we were almost the last to disembark. Disembarkation was extremely quick and efficient when we were called.
Overall, the cruise was good value for money although with stiff competition today, I feel there are much better options.
Would we choose NCL again? Probably not!! For us, the freestyle dining was a BIG thumbs down. I also felt the Star fared poorly in dealing with my food allergies.