We live in Long Beach and decided to take a cruise out of the Port of San Pedro so we could just drive to the port and use the parking ($12/per day). I thought it was very convenient and worth the money. We parked less than 100 yards from the terminal. There was a bit of confusion on where to deposit the larger suitcase, but it wasn't too bad. This was our 3rd cruise on NCL, and the second time on the Star with the same schedule (we went there also in Dec of 2004). Since we were upgraded to a Penthouse Suite (for $550) we were able to use VIP checking which took no longer than 15 minutes. They gave us a yellow sticker with #1 and were told to directly go onto the ship. However, once through the check-in there was a huge line and no personnel to ask what this yellow sticker was all about, so we just stood in line... no big deal... it was sunny and moved fairly quickly. Once onboard we quickly found our cabin which was gorgeous. The balcony alone was almost as big as the cabin and the unobstructed view was fantastic. I had initially booked a Balcony Suite on deck 11 (Second to the front) because on our past cruises the use of the balcony was very limited to all the smokers ruining it for everyone else (can you tell we hate stink??) We immediately made reservations for the whole week at Cagney's, La Trattoria, Teppanyaki , Ginza & Le Bistro... no problems, a couple of hours later we received a written confirmation letter with the restaurant schedule. I must say that initially it was really good getting it on paper, but over the days we received so many notes and confirmations, advertisements etc. there has to be a better, more environmentally friendly way of communications that always put everything on paper... hint use the TV and computer systems.
SPA: As another reviewer stated the $161 for the SPA access packet is well worth it to get away from the crowds and have some peace and quiet with access to private indoor pool, sauna and steam room. No one under 18 allowed :-)
Food: -> spend the extra money, its well worth it!!! Is was still early in the afternoon and we decided for little snack at the Market Cafe, the place is complete mayhem and the food is really terrible. Over the whole time I only found the burgers and the fresh pasta good. The rest was complete garbage. The first and fourth night we had dinner at Cagney's, the food was very good but the best part was the ambience, very quiet and far away from all the hordes of people invading the main dining rooms. Second/fifth & eighth night dinner at Le Bistro, excellent food and outstanding service (our favorite). Third night dinner at La Trattoria, awful... left us hungry and we went to the other side to the Market Cafe to get some pasta. I immediately cancelled my second reservation to La Trattoria to Ginza. Fourth night, Teppanyaki, fun never had it before. Fifth night, Ginza, excellent Japanese cuisine. They also offered some Chinese dishes; none of them tasted right, still a good experience. One day we tried the Blue Lagoon, ordered Fish and Chips and Chicken Fingers. Fish & fries cold, chicken completely burned... no comment!!!
Casino: What a disappointment, exactly the same machines as 3 years ago (we like to play a little with penny machines). Their loss... we didn't spend any money in there.
Shore Excursions: We hate being hoarded into groups and little vans so usually we just rent a car and explorer ourselves. Acapulco, Ancient Petroglyphs tour, what a bore. After an hour drive up the hill through unbelievably poor and dirty part of the city with murderous traffic we arrived at the site..They give you walking sticks and energy bars because the excursion is most difficult... well, maybe if they didn't stop and wait every 10 steps. The Petroglyphs are interesting... a little... nothing spectacular at all. The views however where great. The rest of Acapulco is just a complete toilet... this is the second time we were there but the dirt and traffic just make it very difficult to enjoy it. Last time we went to see the ancient Fort San Diego, which was great, and you walk there from the port. Zihuatenejo, cute little fisher town to walk around, we didn't do a tour just tender off the ship and walk the boardwalk. Puerto Vallarta: rented a local Jeep ($91 - rip-off), again the traffic was so horrific that one just tried to get away from the town and burn gas. We went south and after the road turned inland there was only jungle.... Miles and miles of jungle... ok enough, back to PVR and return to the ship. Oh well, we don't have to do that again!.. still it was fun. Cabo San Lucas: Stayed on the ship, it was a bit chilly, perfect time for the SPA.
All in all a very nice trip, there is defiantly a science to cruising. Do the research and spend $10-20 extra for the specialty restaurant, it is worth it!!!