My wife and I took this itinerary because of the price and never having been to the Mexican Riviera. This is our 13th combined cruise and have sailed only RCCL and CCL before trying Norwegian. It is definitely different and has its fine points and low points. We arrived in LA the day of the cruise at LAX at 9am and booked transfers from LAX to the port with NCL. It is $50pp round trip. The bus didn't arrive till about 10:30am and then it took approx. 45 minutes to get to San Pedro. Took about another 45minutes to get on the ship. Once you get your room card they give you a group number to await the actually embarkation. We got group number 4 and it took about 20 minutes to get to our group number once they started. Lots of inpatient people. They started to board the handicapped and everyone with any and all group numbers started rushing towards the boarding area. A lady had to get on the PA system to tell everyone to sit down. Jeez, your on vacation, what's the hurry? To go get a free buffet? Believe me the buffet is better on both RCCL and CCL. More on the food later. Like I said, it only took 20 minutes to get on after they called group 1. Once on, cabins weren't available till around 2pm. We walked around and got the lay of the ship. It was cold and misting at sail-away so we sat up front in the Spinnaker lounge. We didn't go to any shows or contests so can't tell you anything about that. First two days were at sea. First day was to cool to do any sun stuff outside. Second day was much warmer. The temperature everyday was cool to warm with little humidity. Felt like AC to us, but both being from Texas we might be more used to heat and humidity.Enjoyed laying out in the sun and playing Blackjack at sea. They have two blackjack tables they set up on the port side of the pool area. You can sit there with your swim suit on and play Blackjack. Drink prices are outrageous. I don't mind paying bar prices, but strip bar prices and more are what they charge. A red bull and vodka was $11.21, a domestic beer is $5.18 and a import beer is $6.33. No wonder people try (and succeed) in smuggling liquor on board.
Shore Excursions-Tendered in Zihuatenejo and Cabo and at the pier in Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta Acapulco Acapulco is a dump. Except for the mile or two of the newest hotel zone the rest is typical Mexico. We opted for the tours running from the cruise terminal. They charge $25 dollars pp. and from what others told us is basically the same as the $59 tour the ship provides. Go to the info booth at the center of the cruise terminal and they will set you up. You can go as a couple and pay more or you can wait till they get a enough people to show up and go with you. We waited about 10 minutes and were paired with 5 others from our ship. Loaded into an air conditioned Chevy Suburban and headed out for a four to four and a half hour tour. Very good tour guide and he took us to see the highlights plus whatever we wanted to see. Took us to the old hotels the 40's and 50's movie stars hung out at. Mostly worn out by the years but the views were great. Went to the afternoon cliff divers show for $7. Got a free beer for that price. Almost beat the price of the ship since it was an import. Wasn't impressed with the cliff diving, but didn't think I would be. Went to a arts and craft market. Walked in and walked right back out. We didn't have to stay or see anything we didn't want to so in about 15 min. we were on to something else. Ended up at Senor Frogs for a snack and drinks. Great view of the whole bay from there.
Zihuatenejo Had a dive scheduled here but bad visibility cancelled that excursion. Went instead on the Canopy excursion to Ixtapa. I've been on two other zipline excursions and this one is WEAK. Safety was a concern because of only one line and pulley instead of two like others. The lines were short and low. And they made you hook and unhook yourself to the lines?? Bus took us on a quick ride through Ixtapa then back to Zihuatenejo. They're only 10 min from each other. We walked around another typical Mexican arts and craft market and found a bar called Bandidos right across from the market and next door to a church. Had some fantastic guacamole and 4 drinks for $26US. Walked down to the beach and found $1 beers and some shopping. Nothing really had good prices so we just window shopped.
Puerto Vallarta Went on the Outdoor Adventure Excursion. This had to be one of the best excursions I've ever been on. My wife and I are adventurous and this hits the spot. It is put on by a company called Vallarta Adventures. They were extremely safety conscious. We never touched the equipment. They hooked you up and unhooked you. With lines over 600ft long and 250ft high, we appreciated not having to worry. From the pier we took a 20ft Zodiac across the bay for about 25min. This thing will move with two, 200HP Yamaha engines. We landed in a small authentic fishing village called Boca de Tomatlán. It sets on the Horcones river which empties into the bay right at your feet. Next we boarded 4-wheel drive troop transports for a bumpy 30 minute ride up to the base camp. Once there we were fitted and suited up in the ziplines and repelling gear. Next we mounted mules for a 20 min ride up the hill. These animals are incredible. It would have taken us half the day to go up what these animals did in 20 min. For the next two or three hours we ziplined and repelled down corridors and waterfalls with great views. It was a lot of fun for all of us. My favorite was the 80ft free fall repel. Just like you see the military do out of helicopters. What a rush. By the time we got back to the ship there was no time to do anything else in Puerto.
Cabo San Lucas Once again we booked a scuba dive with an independent dive shop but decided not to dive. Water temperature was very cold and visibility looked very poor. We decide to do our own walking tour. Cabo is very upscale compared to the other ports. We waked around the whole marina and down the beach to Medano beach. There are many bars and restaurants surrounding the marina along with a very nice mall. It takes about 45 minutes to walk to Medano beach. We got a couple of chairs and beers at a bar/restaurant called Billygans. We were there early and there was very few other people. We were immediately invaded by vendors hawking everything from bracelets and hats to parasailing. This never stops. The same ones would come over time and time again. Over and over. We drank our beers and got the heck out of there. Walked into town and just checked out the area. Went to the Hard Rock to get a t-shirt then to a bar/restaurant at the marina called Tony's. Sat there with some guac and beers and people watched for a while. There were 4 ships in port so plenty of people. Finally got back on the ship and went to deck 7, grabbed a couple of chairs and watched wave after wave of off shore fishing boats return from and day of fishing.
Last day was a sea day and very cool. In the 50s with the wind blowing hard. Everyone was inside and the inside decks were crowded.
Disembarkation I really like the Disembarkation here. It was fast simple and organized. Don't know what happened on the previous trips. Immigration and customs were inside the LA cruise terminal and was somewhat slow but efficient. We opted for taking the first colored tags (red) to get off the ship. This is after everyone who does the express, carry your own bags off the ship deal. That starts at 7;30 and ended at 8:30. From 8:30 till 8:45 the people who paid for the BAGS program exited. The Bags program is where you pay $15 pp, put your bags outside your cabin the night before and you don't see them again till you get to your home airport. Another way NCL milks more money from you. Anyway, the red tags started exiting at 8:45. They were very punctual to the times listed in the Disembarkation paperwork. Took about 45 minutes to get off, go through customs and depart on the bus.
General Cruise Director, Never saw him. Heard him on the PA but never saw him. First time I've ever had this happen. This is definitely not the fun ship. Music played outside by the pool on sea days was not very good. One morning they were playing freakin opera for an hour. I finally couldn't stand it anymore and went to question the crew. They said it was coming from the bride. It might by the captains ship but it is my cruise. They killed it promptly. They really need to mix it up and play a little of everything. The pool band was good but how many times can you listen to "Buffalo Soldiers"
Noro Virus, Had 15 cases, or so the Captain said. Just like the other reviews said. They squirted your hands everytime you entered the dining areas. You were able to serve yourself unlike previous cruises on the Star.
Food, We're both not picky eaters. My buddies say I can eat prison food and not complain. Anyway the buffet was the worst of the other lines I've cruised. Basically just plain old cafeteria fare. Bad selection of desserts and I never did see or find any cookies. We ate at Cagney's steak house. $88 with a bottle of wine. It was excellent with great service. Had dinner at SOHO. Same as Cagney's, excellent service and great food. It was a little cheaper than Cagney's. Ate once is Versailles. Slow service, but we weren't any hurry since we didn't go to any show. Ate once in Aqua. Basically a smaller version of Versailles. Not as nice but the same food.
Casino, Played several times. We don't do slots, just table games. Craps and roulette were good to both of us. Put $100 on red and pay for your wine at dinner. We did this 5 times and it hit 4 times. LUCKY. Lots better than seeing a show.
SPECIAL HINTS, TIPS AND SECRETS: Showers: The showers have restrictors in line to limit water pressure. My wife was in there forever the first day. There was so little water pressure she couldn't rinse her hair in a timely manner. We're both maintenance techs and I always carry a small set of tools. Bring a small set of pliers and unscrew the shower line where it enters the faucet base. You'll see a round, beige plastic part the diameter of the hose with two slits in it. Just pop it out and chunk it. Your shower pressure will at least double. We do this everywhere we travel.
Liquor and Beer: Yes, yes, yes your not supposed to bring on liquor and beer. (Well, charge decent prices and they won't have to fight this). I learned they do x-ray your checked luggage for liquor. If they suspect you have a bottle they don't deliver your luggage to your cabin. They instead put it in the card room on Deck 12. They didn't even tell me they had my luggage. I thought they lost it. I went to the pursers desk and they told me why they had it and where it was. They were very nice about it and told me they just make you open your luggage and keep the bottle until the end of the cruise and give it back to you. I brought on two, 2 liter Cokes and that was in a different bag with no problems. Never had a problem with RCCL or CCL with putting liquor in my checked baggage.
Customs charge on duty free liquor. You're allowed 1 liter duty free. If you buy more, 3% to 5% surcharge. Never had it happen. We always buy 4 or 5 extra bottles. Document it on your customs form. They don't have the time or energy to stop and collect the miniscule amount they're going to collect on a few extra bottles.
Bridge view: Go to the area behind the stage in the Spinnaker lounge. If the curtains are across it just go behind them and they have windows that look down into the bridge
Secret rooms: As your headed into the Spinnaker lounge just before you get into the actual lounge there will be a recessed doorway. If your entering on the right the door will be marked starboard room. If your entering on the left, the door will be marked port room. You can go into these rooms and have great window views outside those sides of the ship. Each room has about 20 or so chairs and we never ran into anyone in these rooms. They are for cruise guests but since the doorways are recessed, everyone just walks right by them. We had lunch in the starboard room while pulling up to the pier in Acapulco. Just the two of us.
Disembarkation: For you who want to get off fast, they gangway is on the port side, Deck 7, just aft of the stairway going up to the internet lounge and by the fountain just below this curving stairway.