We traveled with friends, late 30's with a nine year old- first timers on NCL. We were on our 5th NCL cruise, 7th overall. We are in our 40's with a 16 year old.We have cruised Alaska and Hawaii and the Caribbean, but never the Mexican Riviera. This was probably our least favorite cruise to date, for several reasons. Don't get me wrong, a bad day on a cruise is still better than any day at work:) We plan to continue cruising with NCL, but between the itinerary and Spring Break, we will plan differently in the future :)
On a funny note, my dear husband got notification that one of his bags was in the naughty room :) We don't drink, so we didn't have a clue.. no bottles or even an iron. What could it be??? Turns out it was our power strip. DH had to work a little on this cruise, and was purchasing a generous internet plan to log on since he was starting with a new client this week. We have always taken a power strip in the past, no problem. WELL..... NOT ON THIS TRIP! He was told it was a fire hazard, and they took it for the week. When we told the guy in the internet cafe, he said he could get us a power strip without a surge protector, which he claimed was the problem. His comment about that was "they use a different kind of electricity on board, and the surge protector is the problem, not the power strip itself" HaHaHa! That one got a laugh all week from all our cruise critic friends who still had their power strip! BTW, we never did get a power strip to use either.
Our ship normally has about 2,400 but on this cruise we had 2,800+. LOTS of college students, cramming the hot tubs so they were totally inaccessible for portions of the day. If you didn't get up early (while they were still sleeping off the night before), even the pools got really crowded. 9 year old LOVED the water slides, and used them a lot. Pools were clean and well maintained.
Our 3 port days (2 in Cabo, 1 in PV) were warm and sunny, otherwise it was very windy, so between that and crowded pools/hot tubs we didn't spend tons of time on deck. Sometimes the band was great, other times it was AMAZINGLY LOUD!!! We enjoyed our balcony, except that we were right next door to major smokers who would smoke us back into our cabin. Not sure what the fix to that is, it was just a bummer. We did ask to have our balcony doors opened in port, and that never happened. Cabins were well maintained as well. Beds are HARD.. forgot to ask for egg shell foam. Note to self, will do that next cruise!
Food was amazing all week. We ate mostly in Versailles, and got to know Nelson quite well. He was very funny! DH and I also went to Le Bistro once, and it was the best meal of the week! We often had dinner as a group of 6, and enjoyed the group time. Tables can vary, we learned early to ask to be reseated if they gave us a smaller round table. Because our cruise was so full, lots of the four tops were extended into round tables to seat 5 or 6, but that was very tight. The dining room was so loud on Wednesday night, Lobster night. Food was super good!! Deserts seemed plenty sweet, no complaints about not using enough sugar from me :)
MOVE THE CHOCOLATE BUFFET TO AQUA!! It was horrible in the Marketplace buffet area. It was logistically hard to get in and out, and the desserts were just not that great! The desserts at dinner were much better. Maybe this was a victim of the Spring Break College Crowd... they were leaving with plates piled high, and then saw some of the same plated left behind on the other side of the buffet. Missed seeing the chocolate dipped strawberries. You could have someone handing those out one per person. Strawberries seemed to be at a premium, must be the price and # on board.
All 6 of us went to the BEST OF ALL lunch. That was a disappointment, mostly due to them not being able to keep up with foods on the buffet, and inconsistent portions of items ordered off the fixed menu. The lunch is from 11:30-1:30. We went at noon, and for the most part got what we wanted. Those who went later probably had a harder time. By 12:30 the buffet was trashed, and they were out of desserts. Some of the items were not the best representation of those specialty restaurants. If this lunch had been on the 1st sea day, as a sampling menu, there would have been some restaurants I would never had gone to, and some that I would have wanted to go to several times.
We booked our own excursions, based on reviews from cruise critic. All those went very well. We went whale watching with Ecotours in Cabo, DD went horseback riding through Johan and Saundra in Cabo, and we zip lined with Los Veranos Canopy Tours in PV.
Staff is very accommodating, but starting to burn out on the Mexican Riviera run with the pulling of Mazatlan as a port of call. That was a docking port, leaving PV as the only port now where the ship docks. We were told that staff can't really make it into Cabo on the 2 days that the ship tenders due to work schedules and waiting until all passengers have gone ashore first. Maybe NCL should run a dedicated tender for employees... wouldn't bother me to know they did that. I think they need to be aware that this itinerary is burning out crew quickly. Despite that, they are a friendly bunch. Loved meeting all the officers, and at our Cruise Critic get together we were offered a bridge tour by Captain Gunnar. That was so much fun! I loved Niko from Finland, who gave us our bridge tour. Very nice, friendly and someday will make a great captain!
Our DD, 16, didn't join in as many of the teen activities on this ship as on others. There were lots of extended families traveling, and the few times she went she said there were lots of cousins/siblings hanging out and they weren't as welcoming as other times. She did enjoy the movies, the balcony and the shows. Wait time to play ping pong/shuffleboard was just horrible. Most of the time she gave up. She did greatly enjoy karaoke. Wish there had been more time to do that.
Our friend's 9 year old did not like the kid's club. The first time she went was free play, and there were so many kids, she was getting hit. I witnessed mass chaos when I walked by once. We did go back later to check it out, and it seemed calmer, but the damage was done. She didn't want to go back. The family activities weren't that great either. The decorate your own cupcake was crowded and there was no decorating to it, they were just given an iced cupcake and then the staff scooped toppings on top. They also went to an open Lego session in one of the conference rooms, and sat for 20 minutes waiting. No kid's crew staff showed up, and there were no Lego's at all. The crew seemed very overwhelmed in my opinion. They needed about 2 or 3 more counselors per age group to make it work!! I'm not sure our friends will want to cruise NCL again. They had been on a Disney cruise with family that works for Disney, and it was hard to compare the two.. this one just fell super short!
The entertainment on board was very good. The final show did live up to it's hype. It was completely full! Doors opened 30 minutes before the show. Our friends waited at the doors 10 minutes before they opened,and when they opened all 6 of us went in and remained seated. This would not be the show to miss, or to try to have people hold seats! It was very good!
We don't particularly like the Star. We are partial to Jewel class ships. This one was easy to navigate, but we like the layout of other ships. The Mexican Riviera itinerary is a real challenge right now, and one of the reasons this trip was not one of our favorites. Cabo is a beautiful port, but it would have been nice to split the visit, and go Monday and Wednesday with PV on Tuesday if that is logistically possible with the Ship's speed.
Embarkation was really smooth, and Debarkation was a disaster!! We have always collected our luggage tags in advance, and only once did we do easy walk off (where you take all your luggage with you) because we lived in the home port city and had to get to church. This trip we had Green tags, with a call time of 9:10 and a Super Shuttle pick up at 10:00. Shouldn't have been a problem. Debarkation became freestyle as well. By the time they called our color green and we got in line it was 9:50, and by the time we got to our luggage at 10:15 all the suitcases except for our 9 and about a dozen others were gone.
Over 1/2 the ship did walk off, which was called at 8:40. When I went up to one of the cruise director's staff to ask what we could do since it was already 9:45 and we had a pick up in 15 minutes he was very rude and sassy! I don't think they enforced who walked off when. We saw people go in the easy walk off line with only backpacks at 9:00. You can't tell me that's all they took on board. This is a major problem they need to fix in LA. By the time this ship docks after 2 and 1/2 days at sea, people are really ready to get on land! Plus with the added stress of LAX, it was crazy. I did make my flight:)
Between the lack of ports, # of days at sea on a rough, windy, chilly Pacific and the sheer number on board due to Spring Break, we will not do this cruise again (if it's offered after this season anyway). We are looking into either the Baltics or Med for a 9 or 11 day cruise in 2013 as a graduation gift for our DD. Time to save up and start researching!
Debbie, Tim and Alex