Just returned from the Mexican Riviera cruise on the NCL Star the week of March 5 - 12, 2011. This was my second cruise with NCL; my first cruise was on the Dawn in 2008.
First of all, I'd like to point out that many of the problems that people have listed on this board have been more a result of either being unprepared for what they might encounter or having what I like to call "Cruise Line Bias". If you prefer Princess or RC or whatever else you might prefer, please do all of us who don't have any vendetta against NCL a favor and keep cruising with them. I'm the sarcastic type who doesn't go looking for problems and tries to have a good time. I feel like making recommendations from past experience is far more insightful and helpful to future cruisers in a review than just bashing NCL or ripping the Star a new one for not living up to your expectations. If you feel like reading my honest opinion of the trip, then please read on.
First Day and Embarkation:
We flew from Sacramento to LAX a little earlier than we expected to and as a result had a little bit of a wait at the terminal. We easily booked the shuttle from LAX to the piers, so that was a plus. The check in line at the terminal was broken up by first time groups, Latitudes members, or by stateroom type. You could choose any method you liked and I'm sure they still would have checked you in. Since we were there so early there was a wait to get on the ship because they don't let you board until 12. This is not a lie, but for those bent out of shape about it, they do post it all over their website and your eDocs not to show up that early, so you have no excuse for showing up two hours early and then complaining about it. Bring a book.
We had lunch in the Market Cafe and had no problems finding a table, even at the busiest time. Stuffed ourselves and then hung around for a while. We left port on time and were at the sail away party on deck. I'm a modest 30 year old female, so I had no interest in watching all the teens on spring break dance around the deck pool so I went up to the Bier Garten and had a blast. The second day was much the same, but I got ever so excited because that's when they start the poolside barbecues. I had so much burger. Again, if you're going to be snooty about the quality of the food, cruise with a line less casual than NCL. Their claim to fame is casual everything, so what you see is what you get.
Cabo San Lucas:
My boyfriend, a first time cruiser, deferred to my vast expertise of wading into waters too deep for myself when we booked our shore excursions. We took the Kayak and Sea Snorkel excursion the first day. I really enjoyed it, but I really love kayaking. If you don't have good upper body strength, the wind is really strong when you're headed back to shore in the evening and you will get the paddle of your life. Other than that, I saw some fishes, got some sunburn. Pretty much what I expected, but the water is still cold there in March. Be prepared for that if you go this time of year.
The Mazatlan stop was canceled because there were shootings (thank you NCL for not taking me to a place where two people just got the biz), so we spent a second day in Cabo. I didn't much feel up to excursions so we walked into town to find Cabo Wabo. A word to the wise: Do not expect the street signage to tell you anything there. If you're looking for a specific place, Google Map it and print it before you go. Make things easier on yourself. The signs to Cabo Wabo were poor, so we ended up wandering around in scary city bits and I began to wonder if I, myself, would too get the biz before the day was out. But all became right as we found the Wabo, and I had margarita after margarita and then bought some t-shirts. Awesome place, try to stop there if you like local stuff. It's in a little plaza commons with some other touristy stuff.
On the walk back to the boat you see Senor Frog's on the shore. Want to know what's better than Senor Frog's? The Cavendish Tavern right past it. I'm old and crotchety, so I set one foot in Senor Frog's and abandoned it for all the Spring Break crazy. Go right next door to The Cavendish Tavern and you will have $2 beer with amazingly delicious tequila (for FREE!) and the best food in Cabo. I highly recommend the shrimp tacos.
We were up disgustingly early to get on our excursion to go to Las Caletas from PV. This is one of the best excursions I have ever been on. Open bar and a private beach, does it get any better than that? The water, of course, was a little chilly, but that didn't stop me from throwing on my racing goggles and seeing everything in the water from a puffer fish to a sting ray family to a giant Nemo. The food at the resort was outstanding, and I had about as much beer and mai tais as I could fit in my stomach. Very beautiful place. If I had it to do all over again I would have payed for the massage package. Go explore this mind-blowingly beautiful resort. You won't regret it. One word: PAELLA.
I have never gambled before, so I took some time and explored the casino. I milled around being shy about it and finally sat down at the video roulette table. Came up $20 and left. Awesome!
Food, food and more food. Some of it's great, some of it not so great as with everything in life. This is why I employed the Order Two Entrees method. We had dinner in Aqua every night and we didn't regret it. We brought two bottles of wine with us and with the corkage fee they store the wine so if you don't finish it they keep it for your dinner the next night. Also awesome.
Didn't go to any of the upcharge restaurants this time, so can't speak to those on the Star. One comment I do have about the main dining rooms: if you want to eat there with more than just yourself and your cherished one, make a reservation or get there right at 5:30 or after 6:30. They are slammed from about 5:45p to at least 6:30, so take your time, have a round of roulette, and then go with your family of four, six, ten, whatever. They will be much more able to accommodate you. On the last night there was a group of 14 people all trying to sit together and they wouldn't take no for an answer. One of the women in the group even stormed inside the restaurant and told people who were still eating that they needed to move so they could all sit together. Yeah, don't be like that.
One other word to the wise: If you're bringing your children on the cruise, and I know a lot of you are, be aware of the time of year. Is it spring break time? Then there will probably be a lot of 18 - 25 year olds swarming the ship and not so many other little ones for your little one to socialize with. Summer vaca would probably be a much more appropriate time to take little ones on this cruise.
I hope you've enjoyed this review, but more I hope you find it helpful. I'm one of those people who gets discouraged from reading horrible reviews just to find out that it's really not so bad. You're going on vacation. Have the best time you can. Feel free to PM me if you need or want any more info about the cruise.