Embarkation: We have the home port advantage as we are from the L.A. area. Driving from home to San Pedro took about 45 minutes. We arrived some time after 12:00 and it was crowed! Had to stop and fill out the Health form before we were in line. Long line, but we discovered the Latitudes line which was much shorter and faster. One nice touch was while we were in line they served pastries, juice, and hot chicken bouillon. By the time we sat down for lunch at Versailles, it was not even 1pm. Staff directed people to go to the Market Buffet for lunch but after we told them we wanted to go to the sit-down restaurant they did not hesitate to tell us where to go. While having lunch at the Versailles the PA system announced that all cabins were ready. That's where we headed after our relaxing lunch.
Cabin: First time in an inside cabin. Cabin was nice and clean. Definitely a little small but we managed. We did have a bit of sewage smell in the bathroom. A little spray of Chanel 5 fixed the problem. Plenty of closet and drawer space for the three of us. Wrote a note to tell the cabin steward our preference of the pull-down bunk bed instead of the under-the bed cot and it was done at turn-down service. We particularly liked the glass divider in the shower, the best shower of all the cruises we had been on. All in all, the cabin was kept up nicely each day. Ice bucket was filled twice a day. We had problems with the temperature control on the second night. We woke up feeling quite cold in the morning and the controller seemed to be stuck. Again, left a note for the steward and it was fixed when we came back from lunch.
Cabin steward: I suppose we were lucky? Our cabin steward introduced himself the first day. He knew our last name and always addressed us "Mr. and Mrs. ___." We saw him and his assistant many times every day and they always greeted us appropriately. They were always busy and usually worked past 8pm. We tipped them extra on Christmas day.
Dining: We did not use any specialty restaurants because we felt that the main restaurants were fine for us. We had dinner once in Aqua and felt that it wasn't for us. Probably because we had to wait for more than 20 minutes (the only time we had to wait) to get in and then the service was not up to par, in my opinion. The waiter put two courses on the table instead of bringing them one at a time. It also felt noisy and crowded in there. We had all other dinners at Versailles and loved the ambience in there. It reminded us of the palaces we visited in St. Petersburg this past summer when we sailed the Baltic. We never waited more than 5 minutes to get in and most dinners were done in an hour. We did make reservations for the first and second night, and also for Christmas dinner. We figured that the first night could be wild, the second night was "Dress-up or Not Night", we didn't want to stand around and wait for a table. Christmas night was also a sea day, everybody would probably show up at the same time. They were taking reservations the afternoon of embarkation day in Endless Summer, port side, for all the restaurants, including the main restaurants. For the specialty restaurants you can only reserve 24-hour ahead. We decided that if we can get a table for the 3 of us, we prefer the traditional set dining instead of Freestyle. Some services in Versailles were better than other. The outstanding waiter was Gusti from Indonesia. He has the most genuine smile and fine attitude which made our dining experience a great one. We had him twice and both times were wonderful! They actually served lobsters twice in the week, the dress-up or not night, and then one night they had the "Surf and more Surf" on the menu, which was a pasta dish with lobster tail, mussel, shrimp, fish, scallop, etc. Portions for lunch seemed to be larger than dinner. DH and I had all our breakfast and most of our lunches there also. Blue Lagoon: Ate there a couple of times. Wonderful wings and good fish and chips. Seats are kind of tight. Market Buffet: Had lunch there a couple of times and it was OK. Got breakfast for DS from there every morning and he was fine with it.
Entertainment: We went to a couple of shows and they were fine. We did not participate much in other activities except went for the free bingo game (green). We also bought the pull-tab game cards (6 for $20) and got 30 raffle tickets for drawing of the free cruise. Of course we didn't win. I also went to the line-dancing class and it was fun. We thought the Stardust Theatre was one of the best theatre because there is nothing that would block your views unless you are up on the balconies. I went to the casino on the last sea day and played on a slot called Munster Match for an hour and spent $10.
Christmas activities: They had Santa Christmas day, he passed out presents for the kids. A Christmas carols sing-along on Christmas eve at the Atrium for about 30-minutes, which was too short in my opinion. Christmas eve midnight communion service for Protestants, and mass for Catholics. They also held special meetings for the Jewish faith. The ship was well-decorated with Christmas trees in many locations.
Ports: We decided that we would just walk around and then decide what to do. Cabo San Lucas—we just walked around town and did some shopping. Walked to Cabo Waco and took some pictures. It was very easy to just walk around. Mazatlan—Got a taxi from outside the terminal to downtown. Visited the Cathedral and walked around a little. Then took another taxi (the "Flintstone" type) to the Gold zone, which was much more fun. Watched people parasailing, walked along the beach, and I actually bought a parasailing figure (?)—batman! There is this store in the alley next to McDonalds that sells polo shirts for $5. We paid $10 at Cabo. Puerto Vallarta—we took a taxi to go downtown for $3 pp but on the way we talked with the driver and he said for $20 an hour he would take us to all the places tourists would go. For three hours he took us to all the places, including a couple of rich people's property where we got in and saw the most incredible views of PV. Then we spent about an hour walking around PV and caught another cab back to the ship.
Ship: I thought the STAR was beautiful. Even with the full ship we never felt crowded. We are not "Lido Deck" type. Sitting in the Spinnaker looking out while doing Sudoku was my favorite activity. I saw 2 whales alongside the ship before we went into Cabo. Endless Summer is also a nice spot to just sit and enjoy the ocean view (when it is not being used for activities or dining.) There is a good-size library with many different types of books available for check-out. There seemed to be quite a lot of people the few times I passed by the card room and the Latitudes Lounge except early in the morning.
Debarkation: We wanted to pick the latest time but the tags were all gone so we picked 9:30. It was crowded before you reached the gangway, but once we were out it was easy. Picked up our baggage and went outside.
We had a great time on this cruise. There were some minor issues, mostly in the dining rooms (not so polite staff, etc.) but we didn't let those little things ruin our vacation. I will definitely consider going back on the STAR again!