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Norwegian Star Cruise Review by AnitaMaria: Never Again


AnitaMaria
1 Review
Member Since 2010
6 Posts

Member Rating

Cabin Not Rated
Dining 1.0
Embarkation 5.0
Enrichment Activities 1.0
Entertainment 3.0
Family & Children Not Rated
Fitness & Recreation 3.0
Public Rooms 3.0
Rates 3.0
Service 1.0
Shore Excursions 5.0
Value for Money 1.0

Compare Prices on Norwegian Star Mexican Riviera Cruises

Never Again

Sail Date: March 2010
Destination: Mexican Riviera
Embarkation: Los Angeles

This cruise had some high points, but NCL is really not for us, and we won't sail with them again. We were not alone in this sentiment. We met other firt-time NCL passengers during our last excursion whose experience on NCL was similar to ours, and who said they would never sail with NCL again.

Boarding

The NCL port staff in Los Angeles did an excellent job. Our luggage was taken for us directly from our limo to be checked. There was a long line of people waiting to check luggage, so I don't know how we ended up with this premium service, but I am thankful. We had a fairly big group, and the difference between booking airport transportation through NCL and getting a limo was very small. I'd highly recommend that to anyone with a larger group. We had heard horror stories about the wait and disorganization in boarding, but we had no problems. We were fairly early in arriving at the port, and the port staff was doing an excellent job at getting people checked in, and More organizing the boarding to eliminate long lines. This was on par with our experience with Royal Caribbean at Port Canaveral, and much better than our experience with Carnival in Miami.

Once on board, we had the usual crowds at the buffet trying to get lunch (since the cabins weren't open yet, everyone is in the public rooms). This was not different than our previous experiences with other cruise lines.

Dining

This was the worst cruise dining experience we've ever had. We have enjoyed our cruise dinners in the past, and like the extra-special treatment of having the same wait staff every day. We had read online that you can get this more "traditional" style of dining by talking to the maitre d' after boarding. This is not true. We spoke with the maitre d', the reception desk, and the operations manager and the cruise director. You cannot get this kind of service. Your options are to go to the dining room very early or very late to get in with a wait of about 10-15 minutes, wait in excess of 45 minutes for a table at a more normal dining time, or pay extra every day for a reservation in a specialty restaurant. If you choose the main dining room, expect poor quality food and exceptionally slow service. We waited up to an hour to receive food after ordering in the main dining room. The cruise director had commented that you rarely feel like there are that many people on the ship, unlike other cruise lines with only 2 dinner seatings. On the contrary, our experience with traditional seating was that there was a very short wait (3 minutes or so) on the first day to be shown to our table. After that, we just walked in to our table, and never felt that there was a crowd. In contrast, on NCL, we felt the crowd every meal.

The staff pushed the option of making reservations in the specialty restaurants if we didn't want to wait. However, there were 5 of us. This would mean spending an extra $50 to $125 per evening to avoid a wait that I shouldn't have anyway.

The food was very disappointing. I have a few tips on the menu if you're cruising NCL. Any dessert that lists a sauce (for example lemon cream pie with raspberry sauce) will have only 5 or 6 dots of that sauce decoratively around the plate (not enough to even taste it). The sea scallops are the size of bay scallops. An entree of sea scallops consisted of 3 bay-sized scallops (even the waitress felt bad about that one). The bay scallops are half the size of normal bay scallops (or less). Finally, don't expect the labeling of the dishes to be correct. I ordered Fatoush one night (which I adore). What I was served was not bad, but it wasn't Fatoush.

I was also very concerned about the food safety. Our son got waffles one morning. He couldn't swallow even one bite. He said they tasted "moldy". My husband tried a bite, and immediately spit it back out. He described the taste as rancid. Our daughter, bravely, had eggs Benedict almost every morning, and never had an egg cooked the same twice. They ranged from cooked completely solid to having both the yolk and egg white runny. I spoke with another passenger who had food poisoning all day on our first port day (she hadn't had any food in Mexico because she hadn't been off the ship yet).

Room service was extremely slow, when you could get them to answer the phone, and the food was as underwhelming as the food in the dining rooms and buffets.

The "Chocoholics Buffet" was a lot of waiting in line for nothing. I don't know how anyone can mess up chocolate that badly. There was a chocolate Yoda sculpture displayed in the atrium for a few days promoting the "Chocoholics Buffet". I've enjoyed the elaborate ice and fruit sculptures on other cruise lines for their midnight buffets. But honestly, on this ship, I'd rather the chefs spend time actually making good food than making chocolate Yodas.

We spoke with other passengers that suggested that NCL makes the food in the main dining rooms so bad in order to get more people to pay extra for the specialty restaurants. Since we didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants, I can't say if this is a possibility. The food there could be just as bad.

Some of the wait staff was competent and pleasant. I give credit to those people. There is really no monetary incentive for the staff with the Freestyle concept. With more traditional seating, we tip well at the end of the cruise for good service. But with Freestyle, the automatic tips are distributed equally to everyone. You could tip extra to a single staff member for exceptional service, but you can't have the same waiter twice (even if you ask; we tried). I have enjoyed exceptional service on previous cruises on other lines, and I like personally thanking these people while distributing tips.

Other

I would rate the on-board entertainment as standard. We enjoyed the performances in the Stardust Theater. The bar service was also about average. We really appreciated the availability of popcorn in the Red Lion Pub. There were several times we ended up eating popcorn because we were hungry and the wait for a table in the dining room was so long. Unfortunately, there was only one staff member serving the popcorn. There was a sea day where she was completely overwhelmed with a huge line for popcorn. She looked completely frazzled.

Conclusion

We had a wonderful time in the ports (below), but that was thanks to the excursion operators and not NCL. Those excursion operators work with all the big cruise lines, and we would have chosen those excursions regardless (interestingly, I saw cheaper prices for the excursions through Carnival). There were so many times when we had an experience on board the Norwegian Star that we said that we should have just paid the extra money to sail on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas (which we really enjoyed, despite its size, on a Caribbean cruise a few years ago). We won't make that mistake again. Less


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Port and Shore Excursions


We did the Snorkel & Sail to Santa Maria Cove excursion. This was one of the highlights of our vacation. The weather was beautiful. The water was fairly warm. The surrounding are beautiful. But most of all, the staff of the boat is excellent. The snorkeling in Santa Maria Cove is not great (you'd be disappointed in the snorkeling if you're used to spectacular reef snorkeling). But the crew of the catamaran made what could have been a mediocre excursion into something great. The crew was attentive and helpful without being obtrusive. They had a fun and varied selection of music that seemed to be exactly right for sailing around Cabo San Lucas. The crew was fun and entertaining throughout. If you're looking for a fun and relaxing day, I can't recommend this excursion highly enough.


The port area at Mazatlan is much more industrial than the other ports on this cruise. We did the Stone Island Beach Getaway excursion here. The beach is pretty and the water is nice. The waves were reasonable for body boarding, but you have to pay an extra rental fee to get one. There are outdoor freshwater showers available to rinse off the saltwater and sand. There is also a freshwater pool where you can swim if you don't like or get tired of the surf. The lunch included with the excursion was reasonably good. I especially enjoyed the fresh salsa.

We had read reviews of this excursion, and heeded the advice to sit at the back of the carriage that is pulled by the tractor to get to the beach. This was very good advice. The sand and dust does get kicked up directly behind the tractor.

The only really negative thing I have to say about this excursion is about the vendors. Getting off the ferry, there are a bunch of people with iguana's trying to get people to pose with them. My husband had a pet iguana, and knows the salmonella risk in handling them. No one mentions that, and before we knew it, someone had set an iguana on our son. There are also vendors at the beach area. There was a little store set up, which I don't mind at all. I didn't enjoy being chased down every time I left the water at the beach by a guy trying to sell me a sun dress. They were prominently displayed at the store area. If I wanted one, I would have walked over to browse. There were also vendors that went from table to table at lunch selling puzzles and bracelets.

Read 289 Mazatlan Reviews

We had booked the Marietas Islands Eco Adventure. On the day we were in Puerto Vallarta, we were docked alongside the Holland America Oosterdam and the Carnival Splendor. With the number of people and the number of boat excursions being operated by the same company, there was some confusion in where we were supposed to be. The staff member who was walking us from the pier to where we were supposed to board the boat told us to keep going and another staff member would meet us to guide us the rest of the way. That staff member never appeared. So once we got to the area where they were loading boats, there were lots of people waiting in lines, and no indication where we were supposed to line up. We ended up at the end of a line for a boat that couldn't hold all the people that were waiting. So we ended up on a different excursion (Wild Dolphins & Snorkeling offered through Carnival) operated by the same company. This confusion was the low point of the day.

Being on a larger catamaran (not a little sailing catamaran), the experience was less personal than on the "Snorkel & Sail" in Cabo San Lucas. This wasn't a catamaran where people could sit/lay around on deck (or on the webbing in the front of the catamaran). So the boat ride itself wasn't really a highlight of the experience, as it had been in Cabo San Lucas. However, the crew on this boat was excellent. They served a light breakfast (fruit, pastries and coffee) as we departed. The snorkeling instruction was very good for those who hadn't snorkeled before. The guide giving the instruction was so entertaining that those of us who have snorkeled a lot didn't feel bored. The captain clearly knew where to find the dolphins, and we had a few "shows" of dolphins jumping and playing in the wake of the boat. The crew of the boat dancing on the way back was very entertaining.

The islands are largely rocky, but there is a small beach. There are small boats to take you to the beach from the catamaran. The beach is very small, but beautiful. Be forewarned that this is not a swimming beach. There are rocks that stick out of the sand, and the surf is very rough. You also will be sandy on the way back. The beach is the last activity, and there is no opportunity to get back in the water to rinse off, and there is no hose on the boat with which to rinse.

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