I just returned from a Thanksgiving week cruise with my wife on the NCL Star. The ship departed Los Angeles, and made stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta (in that order).
We had a balcony cabin on a upper floor. Definitely worth the extra money. There was enough room on the balcony for the 2 lounge chairs NCL provided. It was a pleasure to get some sun and read on our own balcony instead of heading down to a pool deck. At night we would stand on the balcony and look at the endless black night and sea. Occasional shooting stars would appear each evening, and the sunsets were great too. Other highlights were the Dolphins, Whales, Flying fish, and two 6 foot Sharks that we saw from the balcony.
The cabin itself was a nice size. Roughly comparable to a hotel room we had in Manhattan recently (NYC is notorious for small hotel rooms, but a cruise ship room that size is good). The cabin (and ship) were clean and well maintained.
The BINGO was really well done and fun (although quite expensive). And the jackpots were significant. Often well into the thousands. BINGO was played in a nice theater/bar called the Spinnaker Lounge. The BINGO was the highlight our days at sea. Always got your adrenaline up, etc. The daily trivia games were also fun to play in, and complete against other cruisers. They were also a highlight of our days at sea.
Murray the Magician was a good illusionist, and was pretty funny as well. And the Chinese acrobats were very good. The Stardust Theater that he and other shows played in during the week was very nice.
The breakfast buffet was more than adequate (in spite of bad reviews we had read). Likewise the food in the main dining rooms was fine as well. Was it the best food I have ever eaten? No. But was it bad. Absolutely not.
The debarkation was easy and did not take excessively long.
The cruise director was very good and his staff was decent as well (with a few who were noticeably better than others).
In general the whole crew/staff of the ship were very nice and helpful.
The spa treatments (we had massages, and she had a facial as well) were excellent.
Self parking by the ship was great. You literally park less than 100 yards from the ship! A pleasure to have such a short walk from the car to the embarkation, and back.
Even during a holiday week, we never felt extremely crowded.
Best meals were the "Surf & more surf" (Basically Lobster, scallops, mussels, and shrimp), and the Turkey Scallopini.
The ships styling/motif was nice. Not too loud and tacky, not too soft. Nice colors, paintings, furniture, etc.
Cabo had nice beaches and water. Puerto Vallarta was a nice and interesting city to walk around, when you take a cab to the Malecon and start from there (heading towards the Guadeloupe Church). Horseback riding on Mazatlan was nice too.
NCL charges you constantly for every little thing (and some big things) resulting in a MUCH higher on board bill than you could ever anticipate. for example, it is inexcusable that NCL is charging for soda with meals in the dining rooms or other restaurants. HOW can they think it is acceptable to charge passengers who paid thousands of dollars to cruise, $2 per soda at meals! Those sodas should absolutely have been included! They also offer an obscenely expensive ($50 per person) unlimited fountain soda plan. That is $100 per couple in sodas. Not worth it, when all we wanted was 1 soda at dinner and/or lunch per night. And note that the soda plan is for fountain sodas. The sodas they served at dinner were in cans, so they may not have even been included! Totally unacceptable.
The BINGO ran from $29-$129 per game, depending on which type of paper or handset you chose to buy. VERY expensive.
The ship says they have Wifi in public spaces. Saying that implies that if you have your own laptop (as we do) you will be online for free. WRONG. They charge over $100 for 250 mins. Their cheapest plan is $55 for around 100 mins. Both charges are way too high.
The up charge at the specialty restaurants is probably not worth it. We went to the French restaurant 1 night (Le Bistro). it was ok. But food in the dining rooms was comparable and included. And the Versailles dining room was the physically nicest dining room (or room of any kind!) on the whole ship!
They push the duty free shopping (especially the jewelry) too hard.
The ships photographers take loads of pics, and the charges are pretty high is you want any.
Earlier I mentioned that the massage at the spa was excellent. But they are charging 2.5-3x what a spa in L.A would charge!
2 out of the 3 ports we visited required tendering to shore. And the cruise had 4 days at sea out of 7. They could easily have made it 4 land and 3 sea, by including Ensenada, or Acapulco.
Embarkation came with very long lines, and was much less efficient that debarkation.
Exiting the self parking lot in your car was a nightmare. Took an hour to get off the property.
TV in the room was adequate, but could have used a handful of additional channels. We mainly watched CNN. That works for us because we're News junkies. But probably wouldn't be enough for most people.
The people in cabins next door to you can smoke in their cabins, on the their balconies, etc. There should be separate smoking sections, to house the smoking cabins. It seemed that every time you went out to enjoy your balcony, a smoker would come out next door and ruin the air on your balcony. This happened at all hours, from both sides!
In general dinner portions (most notably the size of the Lobster tails) were on the small side.
In Cabo we went to Medano beach (and so did virtually all other cruisers in town that day). This made for a crowded beach, full of peddlers constantly trying to sell us stuff.
Aside from the horseback riding (which we bought from Randi's Happy Horses, not from the overpriced cruise excursion shop) - there was nothing else about Mazatlan that seemed worth doing/seeing.
A mostly enjoyable cruise, that unfortunately nickel and dimed you with constant and obnoxious "up charges".