My 17 year old daughter and I just returned from our first cruise and first trip to the Mexican Riviera. It was by far the best vacation we have ever taken.
The trip got off to a shaky start but the only blame for this falls on the guy who tried to blow up a plane 24 hours before our departure. Increased security due to the Christmas Day incident delayed our flight by over three hours. When we arrived at LAX I full expected to be told we would be meeting the ship in Cabo San Lucas on Monday, but we pleasantly surprised to discover otherwise. NCL knew flights would be delayed and were waiting for the 10 people on our flight and we picked up another 8 that came in on another delayed flight. Ships departure was delayed slightly to accommodate us (although we were all checked in with about an hour to go) but there was one last group they were waiting for (who made it as well). Check in was the only time we did not have smiling, friendly service. The girl who checked us in did not crack a smile once and was all business. I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt that she dealt with a lot of stressed people that day if they had all gone through the searches, pat downs and delays we faced. After that we stopped for a quick boarding photo, which was not as painful in the least. Then on to the Star!!!! We were greeted by a crew member with champagne for me and orange juice for my daughter.
We had an inside cabin on Deck 11. The cabin was very clean and met our needs. I was amazed with the amount of space we had with the drawers and closet to unpack our things. Our suitcases fit nicely under the bed so we had room to manoeuvre nicely. Our cabin stewards, Rod and Marilyn were amazing. They introduced themselves to us as we were heading for dinner our first night. They asked where we were from and chatted with us about the ship docking in Vancouver for the Olympics (the crew are all very excited about this from various conversations we had with different crew members throughout the trip). Every time we passed them in the hall they would stop and say hello. Rod even stopped to chat with us in Puerto Vallarta when we ran into in port when he was on his own time off the ship.
Food on the ship was very good. We enjoyed all our meals in the MDRs. We had decided at the beginning of the trip we would go to a specialty restaurant if there was a night that had nothing on the MDR menu that appealed to us. We never ate in a specialty restaurant so I can't comment on them, but I can say they never were busy and people were easily getting in without reservations, aside from New Year's Eve when many people had booked for a special night celebration. As far as the dining rooms go, we preferred Aqua to Versailles, based on service. We found the servers a little more personable in Aqua and they timed dinner service better. Versailles staff seemed to want to rush everything a little too much, but service was not bad it just wasn't the pace we enjoy for a nice meal. As for the food it was all tasty, portion sizes were perfect, aside from seafood especially lobster and scallops which were quite small, but when I thought of the cost of the dishes and watched people around us order three or more seafood entrees it made sense why they make the portion smaller. We had a lunch and breakfast at the pool grill/buffet. Both meals were good. The burgers were good at lunch and for breakfast I enjoyed the build your omelette station and the fresh made waffles. Twice we ate at Blue Lagoon, we tried the wings both times but were not blown away by them. We aren't used to the breaded wings, as most restaurants at home don't prepare them that way. They were good, but I would not go out of my way to get them. The rest of the food we had there was tasty.
Entertainment was hit and miss, with more hits. We went to the first show Saturday which gave us a sampling of what we could see the rest of the week. The Jean Ann Ryan dancers didn't impress us at all. They looked very amateurish. One couple sitting next to us commented they had seen celebrities on Dancing with the Stars who were better dancers than this troupe. I have to say I agree. We avoided shows they were in, except Band on the Run because we wanted to see the crew finale. We also did not go to the Chinese Acrobats. We did however go to shows by comedian Bud Anderson who was very funny. We also saw the magician - tricks were old school but is interaction with the audience was great. Best shows by far were by Second City. There imitations of the announcements by The Captain and Cruise Director Hamish were spot on. We also took in the crew show, mainly singing but a group of cabin stewards did the funniest dance a sort of Macho Man meets SNL Chippendales routine. The best part was when they signed up they told Mike the assistant CD, they were going to perform a traditional Philippine dance so his reaction was hysterical. We went once to BINGO. It was enjoyable, but expensive and not really our thing.
As for Ports and excursions. Cabo San Lucas sadly had rotten weather. It poured rain there. We had been in Orlando when Tropical Storm Faye hit and it was nothing compared to the Cabo downpour. Tenders from the ship were slow getting started and this was the day we heard the most announcements because no matter how many times people were asked not to pack the stair wells etc, they did. We had tickets for the first group, but the number of people with the next group colour trying to get to the tender deck was nuts. I think if people would simply listen there would be less aggravation and a smoother flow. The weather kept us from doing much exploring so we popped into a restaurant for shrimp tacos and a drink. After lunch we went on a Coastal Cruise and whale watching tour. That poor little boat was tossed around, but we saw a number of whales and dolphins. In Mazatlan we the sun came out about 2 hours after we docked. We took the Stone Island get away expedition. Both of us really enjoyed it. After a short boat ride and being taken to the location by trailers pulled by tractor we were at our beach area for the day. Free drinks were supplied all day as was lunch. Horseback riding on the beach or carriage rides were also included in the cost. ATV's and boogie boards were available for rent. Local vendors were there, but if they were within the gates they had to stay at tables and wait for us to approach them, if they were on the beach we were free game when we got there. A day of soaking up the sun was perfect, although I got a little too much sun and the next day looked lobsteresque. Puerto Vallarta gave us our longest port day. We went downtown in a van with three other families and did some shopping. We caught a cab back to the ship for lunch and to grab our swimsuits and then we went on the Dolphin Swim. It was great to swim with the dolphins. A definite highlight. A lunch was served with this as well, but the food was not great.
New Years Eve was a highlight. There were parties in each of the lounges and bars on board. As well there was a massive party on the pool deck. Champagne was handed out at every party at midnight. Housekeeping and wait staff were brought in to assist with making sure everyone had a glass. Hats, noise makers and Happy New Year necklaces were being given out all around the ship. The clear night gave a perfect view of the Blue Moon.
Our trip ended far too soon, but disembarkation went well. Our experience with immigration was quick (as non-US residents we had to do it before disembarkation) and painless. Then it was matter of waiting for our tag colour to be called and back to LAX to catch our flight home.
We thoroughly enjoyed our NCL experience and we can't wait to cruise again.