Overall: I am 42 my wife 38 and my son 6. After reading some bad reviews I was surprised that we enjoyed our cruise so much. We actually wanted to go on the Carnival Spirit as we did last year but my son would only miss 1 day of school if we went on the NCL Star. I do not think that we would have enjoyed ourselves as much if we had the attitude that we already paid a lot of money, we're not paying anymore for food. This was our 7th cruise but our first with freestyle dining.
Embarkation: We got to Los Angeles 1 hour early at 12 noon and were on board by 12:30. I dropped my wife, son and luggage off in front of the ship. While I parked my wife found a porter and tipped him $10, all I had left was a backpack. Once aboard we were taken to our room and our luggage arrived within 2 hours.
Dining: We only had 1 dinner in the Versailles. It was the second dinner we had that night and rated it fair, breakfast was much better. The first night we just had fish and chips at the Red Lion Pub and it was quite good. No charge, self service and open from 6:00 to 9:00 every night. All of the specialty restaurants were outstanding. Your kids eat free from the kids menu and the soda club is good at all restaurants. Cagneys was our favorite; I had a 24 oz. porterhouse with jumbo shrimp cocktail and French onion soup, my wife surf & turf and my son dinosaur chicken nuggets $50 + tip for both, all other entrees were $20. Second best was to my surprise Ginza, we actually had dinner there twice. You get 2 entrees, seaweed salad and dessert for $12.50 + tip per person. Sushi appetizers were only $2 each. I recommend the beef tenderloin in black bean sauce and the rice noodle soup with 3 jumbo shrimp. A close third was Le Bistro, we both had surf & turf and the French onion soup was excellent $50 + tip for both. Next was Teppanyaki, nice chicken and scallops but the fried rice was weak $15 per person. Teppanyaki is the only restaurant that there is no kids menu. We fed my son beforehand and he watched for free, nothing like a Gameboy to keep a kid entertained. Last but still a very nice meal was the Soho Room. We had the black tiger prawns which were good but Ginza was better. For our last dinner we went to La Trattoria, which was ok and no charge, my sons pizza was actually very good. By spending an extra $200 or so we had better dinners than any of the other 6 cruises we have been on. We ate most of our lunches at the Blue Lagoon which was never crowded. Everything I had there was good and you were waited on. Pretty basic menu -- cheeseburgers, hot dogs, fish and chips, 2 different stir fries, soup, salad and fries. I only ate at the buffet once to keep my weight down. It was fair at best but the desserts were good.
If you have a suite you can make dinning reservations for the entire week through your concierge. If you don't have a suite like me, you can make reservations the day before starting at 8:00 a.m. They can fill up quick. Cabo night is free lobster night in the Versailles, we heard that it was good but my wife already had lobster twice so we passed. We heard from about 3 people that the Endless Summer (Tex Mex) was not good. Why would you want Tex Mex when your are going to Mexico.
Service was outstanding in the extra charge restaurants and surprisingly good at the free restaurants. I always made my diner reservations by 8:30 the day before, ate at 6:00 and never had to wait.
We paid $18 for my son to be in the soda club which was a good deal but he could only get fountain sodas: Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and ginger ale. They have cans of root beer and orange soda but you must pay $1.50 each for these.
Ports: We never take tours anymore because I feel that you spend too much time waiting on other people and they are overpriced. For Zihuatanejo and Cabo you take a tender to the pier. In other words the ship anchors out in the middle of the bay and you are shuttled by small boats that hold about 90 people to shore. If you have a suite you will receive priority boarding tickets. All others can get tender tickets starting at 8:00 a.m. the day before in the library. Get there about 15 minutes before and you should be on the first or second boat.
Acapulco: We went past the NCL approved cabs and got a city cab at about half the rate. We went to Mundo Marino, entrance was $3 per adult $1.50 per kid. Sea turtles, alligators, sea lions, sharks, lots of different fish, two pools and 3 large slides. The beach next to Mundo Marino is very calm and great for kids. Plenty of beach front restaurants to relax at.
Zihuatanejo: My favorite port, unfortunately my son had a fever the night before so we just used a pool at a hotel to cool him down. Last year we took a boat over to Las Gatas beach and had a great time. You can do some snorkeling here, bring some crackers from the buffet to attract the fish. You can rent everything you need at the beach and it is lined with beachfront restaurants. When you get off of the tender go to the end of the pier and buy a ticket for N$30 pesos or $3 dollars.
Puerto Vallarta: We went to Mismaloya Beach which is about 10 miles away. The NCL approved cab wanted $15 per person. We walked 2 short blocks and got a city cab, $12 for all three of us without bargaining. Beach was ok and if you wanted to snorkel, small boats were taking people out to Los Arcos. Plenty of beach front restaurants and even a massage area.
Cabo San Lucas: We went to the Solmar hotel which you can walk to, it is on the other side of lands end from the pier. Went to the front desk and ask if we could have lunch and drinks there and use the pool. No problem so I tipped them $10. We have been to Cabo many times and we had stayed there before and knew it was nice. You have a nice ocean view from the swim up bar, we even saw two humpback whales jumping off shore. My friend and his son that live there came by to join us. We had about 12 beers, 2 blender drinks, 3 sodas, 2 bottle waters and 5 nice lunches; total bill $84.
Entertainment: We went to 3 shows: magic, comedy and Chinese Acrobats. The comedy was a average and the other 2 quite good. We went to the Casino twice and enjoyed it but we won $250 at craps.
Kids Program: The kids program was fine but my son preferred Carnival last year. The Puerto Vallarta day they had dinner for the kids so you could have dinner without the kids if you want.
The Ship: The Star was very clean and everyone was very nice. We had the cheapest balcony room which was small compared to other cruises but had the best bathrooms. There is only 1 outlet in your room, we brought an extension cord which was very handy. This was the first time we had a balcony and I still do not know if it was worth the extra money but it was nice when you have a kid with you. I went to the gym 4 times and never had to wait to get on a stair stepper. The highlight of the cruise for us was visiting with Chef Andreas whom is in charge of all the specialty restaurants. He would not just come by and say hi, he spent up to 30 minutes a day visiting with us. Go see his cooking demo during the second day of the cruise.
Go to the link below if you would like to view some of my cruise pictures. If the link does not work copy it to the clipboard and paste it to your address bar.