Embarkation: Went very smooth, we did arrive early and since we were booked in a Suite we had a separate check-in area, however it did look like things were organized for people checking into other decks of the ship. This is the first cruise we took where we did not have to go through a check with Border Patrol, which was unusual and we expected it at Debarkation and did not have it then either, so we are hoping this indicates a change in how closed-loop cruises are processed.
Public Areas: The ship herself was in nice shape, however it was obvious that they were still in the process of reconditioning the ship from Dry-Dock, we saw lots of blue tape where work was still being done and deck 12 forward (The old Spinnaker Lounge) was still blocked for access which did create some confusion if you wanted to go to deck 12 and were in a cabin in the forward section of the ship as you had to go to mid-ship to access deck 12 or go to deck 13 then walk back down to 12. The change to the Spinnaker Lounge was a large topic of discussion for a lot of cruisers. The new Spinnaker Lounge is starting to look more permanent but is still having some issues, like a burst pipe on the final Sea Day (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYvtF7z8EPM). The new Lounge itself does look good, but could use some additional work making it more comfortable. The Carousel Lounge and Martini Bar are permanently gone. The new Gift Shops look good and the move of the Blue Lagoon to share the space of the Endless Summer restaurant worked well. We did see several spots where ceiling panels were not properly secured because additional work was continuing and in some cases it did appear that there could have been a safety hazard.
Meet & Greet: I organized the CC M&G for this trip and unfortunately we did not have as many people attend as we had hoped, however I do feel it was a good M&G. We had the officer visit the M&G and they did tell us that when the refurbishing is complete the Library will return to deck 13 where it had been. The other common rooms up there may not be returning and there will not be a bridge viewing area, although there are plans to do more tours of the bridge.
Spa: While we did not use any of the major Spa services, we did pay for access to the Spa pool, hot tubs, and lounges. We felt the $75 per person was a fair charge for access to this area and gave us a nice quiet area to relax for a Spring Break cruise.
Dining: The food in the Main Dining Room was great, we were not disappointed in any of the meals we had there and recommend that other cruisers utilize it. We were sorely disappointed in the specialty restaurants with the exception of Cagney's and Tappenyaki. With all the Specialty Restaurants charging an additional surcharge (with the exception of Blue Lagoon) to eat in them we expected the food and the service to be exceptional, sadly it was not. We ate in Endless Summer for the first night of the cruise and found the meat served to be tough and lukewarm. The "free" margarita's were about half the size of the normal drinks and had minimal alcohol in them. The meals at Cagney's (Both Breakfast & Lunch perks) and dinner were terrific. Because of the disappointing meal at Endless Summer we bypassed dinner at the other Specialty Restaurants but decided to do the "Best of All" meal at Ginza on the last sea day. Since this represented the "Best" of the other Specialty Restaurants it is a bad representative for them. Most of the food was served buffet style and was not the "Best" in this manner. The sushi left something to be desired and if we based our Sushi experience on this and what we saw when we passed Ginza in the evenings we would have been disappointed, as a $15 surcharge for the sushi is overpriced for what they were serving. We are able to feed 3 people at a local Sushi restaurant at home for $20 with a better selection then we saw at Ginza. Tappenyaki was terrific and how could it not be with a chef at the grill in front of you freshly preparing the meal. Sadly, if asked about the specialty restaurants on the Star we would recommend only Cagney's and Tappenyaki, telling people to save their money on the rest of them.
Stateroom, Butler & Stewardess: The butler and Stewardess we had for the cruise were wonderful. They didn't disturb us and took care of the few things we needed with speed and efficiency. The stateroom itself was nice but we will not book a forward facing balcony again as we could not use our balcony comfortably for part of the cruise because of the wind from the ships movement we also had to secure the bulkhead whenever we were not using the balcony because the wind created a high pitched whistle through the door.
Ports: Three ports of call, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. We did not schedule any excursions with the ship but booked them all online beforehand. In Cabo we booked with Joann and Sandra (http://cabosanlucastours.net) for the Lovers Beach Tour. The glass Bottom Boat we took to the beach looked like it needed some serious repair, the glass panels were leaking and the engine kept dying and had to be primed by the operator from a plastic container of fuel next to the engine. Unfortunately it looked like a lot of the boats being used in the harbor were in similar states but we did not personally inspect them. In Mazatlan we had scheduled a tour with one of Mazatlan Franks (http://www.mazatlan-frank.com) partners, we definitely got our money's worth and had an enjoyable tour of Mazatlan with stops for exploring, shopping, lunch and views. In Puerto Vallarta we again used one of Mazatlan Franks (http://www.mazatlan-frank.com/PVINDEX.html) partners. While we did not get the driver originally indicated, the driver we did get, "Chilli", gave us a wonderful tour with stops in locations other tourists were not visiting and background narration that was entertaining. Some of the spots we visited the van barely made it through the roads because of how tight the spots were but he navigated them like a pro. We highly recommend Mazatlan Frank and his partners for visits to Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.
Entertainment: We attended the Second City performances and they were terrific, the Cirque Pacific performance started similar, if not the same as the Cirque Pacific performance from a cruise a few years ago on the Star, so we left right after it started as we didn't fully enjoy it the first time we had seen it. There were different performers playing throughout the ship and they were enjoyable.
Teenage Activities: The activities on the ship for our teenage son and his friend kept them busy throughout the cruise. It was hard to get them to even join us for dinner. The only problem we had experienced with the activities is sometimes the activity had the kids roaming the ship, which was fine, but some of the kids tended to get a little rowdy while doing them, which could have disturbed other passengers.
Disembarkation: Fast and easy, since there had not been a Border Crossing official on Embarkation we expected to have a line for them here and did not have one, found our bags and walked right out of the warehouse.
Overall we did enjoy the cruise and the Star and will miss her when she moves to her new home in Tampa but we do feel the loss of the Original Spinnaker Lounge does affect her usability as a ship for touring Alaska. Hopefully NCL will see fit to place another ship in Los Angeles for Mexican Riviera Cruises after 2011, currently they have no plans to continue the MR cruises.