Our cruise on the Star began with a 24-hour Amtrak trip from Colorado to Los Angeles with a couple days to visit relatives and rest up. Not much sleep was gotten in the economy bedroom, but otherwise, the train trip was quite enjoyable. Our two-night stay at the Best Western Convention Center Hotel was quite satisfactory. As I've spent upwards of a hundred nights a year in hotels/motels, I think I'm able to judge them as well as most folks. My wife and I joined up with our daughter and her husband Friday morning when they arrived from Phoenix and we headed off to the port of LA about ten minutes away, arriving a little before noon. A porter was right on top of us and guided us thru' the embarkation process without a hitch. I don't think it took more than a half an hour from parking lot to stateroom.
Our balcony room was aft, as we requested, but as this ship has garden suites across the aft beam, we were unable to access the outdoors as we had on the NCL Crown a couple years ago. Still, we were very happy with the size of the room, and found the bathroom to be the largest and most comfortable we've encountered in previous sailings with Royal Caribbean, Carnival and NCL. The bed was reasonable and my wife appreciated the hair dryer. There were liquors in the fridge, but plenty of room for juices we saved from a.m. room service and the Diet Coke we brought aboard. Note that if that's your caffeine source as it is ours, you cannot find it in Mexico, or the Caribbean either, if my memory serves me. Coke substitutes Coke Light, not at all the same, or Zero. We found the staff much friendlier on this ship than the Crown (now owned by a British firm and undergoing lengthening in Germany according to a ship's officer) and were pleased with our room care, which included at least three towel critters. Our first lunch in the dining room was served by Vigid, the only Thai on staff, quite pleasant, but we never found him in the Versailles again. Thanksgiving reservations were booked so fast that we ended up without any at all when we tried to make some the next morning. Not really a problem for us as we enjoyed eating at the grill by the pool, anyway. And that was the best place for breakfast - eggs to order, omelettes, waffles. Our meals at Cagney's steak house were very good. I've never had a steak that fine on any other ship. The Mexican restaurant, no extra charge, was okay, entertainment right in front of us, but I've never run across a burrito anything like that one! Not very Mex, Tex-Mex, but okay just the same. Again, good service. The Italian "restaurant" was merely a sectioned off portion of the buffet area but we ate their twice and were again quite happy. Overall ratings would be 3-star for grill and specialty restaurants with maybe a bit of a minus for the Versailles and the buffet, which actually got better the last couple of evenings. We never buy excursions onboard, but heard no complaints about them.
My wife and daughter took in the entertainment each evening and found them very good (the magician) to forget it. Some negatives. Small pool filled with thousands of small people. Never saw so many kids! I'd guess folks were happy with children's activities but we could have used a bit of adult time in the pool area. A terrorist slipped on board, name of Ricky. Claimed he was cruise director but spent way too much time nagging us, in high volume, to buy, buy buy! Being Mexico, the begging, pleading and coaxing for my dough was anticipated. And it was almost as bad when we got off the ship at the ports! Port stops were, mercifully, very brief. After all, they're primarily little more than T-shirts in 30 different languages. Acapulco is a total wasteland, waste being the operative word. I swear I found the same dirt in the same places when I was there in '92. Stopped at Zihuatenejo just as they began their Revolucion de Mexicano parade and were surprised at the number of youngsters in it. Quite enjoyable. Great massages had at Krystal Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, $75 for wife and daughter, combined, and that was for 75 minutes. Rented a 4-passenger ATV, $50 for three hours. Had an exciting time staying alive on it! Not for faint of heart or folks with kids. Another negative. NCL has what I consider little more than a scam going on regarding off loading luggage. They encourage you to "expedite" disembarkation by lugging your own luggage throughout the ship! Do you s'pose you paid for luggage service when you bought your ticket? For those of us who weren't "wise" enough to bite that dog, we were given totally meaningless colored tags.
Basically and briefly, everyone was piled up on deck 4, backed up on the steps to who knows what upper deck, with those silly enough to get on elevators totally unable to leave them when the doors opened. Everyone had to pour through two, yeah, just two card readers at the top of the gangplank. No excuse for that mess. And God help the "wise" ones who were lugging their own stuff. Enough to make you swear off NCL. Who thinks up this stuff? Cruise lines have been disembarking passengers from the very beginning. Only the Titanic did a worse job! All in all though, a good low-priced cruise. We prefer Royal Caribbean, but it may have changed since 2002. And Carnival lost me when it was announced that there would be a lifeboat drill and it was going to be a lot of fun!