I have sailed about 15 times on RCL, Carnival, Princess and Disney. With some trepidation, festered by the many reviews I read on Cruise Critic and other websites, I sailed on the NCL Star Mexican Riviera cruise. What follows are my impressions as a first time cruiser on NCL.
The first impression of this ship is that it's looking a little tired and needs to be refurbished (it was a surprise to me to find out that it had been refurbished in 2010). Peeling paint, rusty areas, wear and tear on the carpets are visually unappealing however; they do not detract from the overall beauty of this vessel.
I think the poolside section is a little tight with everything trying to be squeezed into this area. I noticed that the lack of lounge chairs around the pool area made it difficult for passengers with mobility issues to try and relax poolside as they had to use the stairs to get to the lounge chairs and then use the stairs again to cool off in the pool.
Staterooms are well equipped and the bathrooms have glass doors to divide the toilet from the sink area. The showers are HUGE compared to other cruise lines on which I've sailed. The one thing that was missing was the sitting areas you find on RCL, Carnival and Disney. Not a big deal.
Smooth as silk. Everything was so well organized that we were aboard within 30 minutes. What really impressed me is the speed with which our baggage arrived in our stateroom. On other cruise lines, I didn't see the bags until 1600 or 1700.
A little on the chaotic side. The walk-off customers took longer than anticipated but this was not caused by the organization of the debarkation process, but by passengers not listening to instructions thereby slowing down debarkation. The staff did an excellent job in keeping us updated on the progress.
I did not enjoy the production shows as much as I should have. Don't get me wrong, the singers and dancers are very talented but the focus of all shows was acrobatics and magic. Missing were the Broadway style shows. For the first time I actually snoozed through the shows. I heard this opinion voiced by other passengers as well.
All other entertainment in the various lounges was great.
The pool side entertainment consisted of a band called Xcite which did not live up to its name. Limited music repertoire repeated on a daily basis made sure that by the end of the week we were sick of it. It reminded me of my trip to Disney World and taking the ride "It's a Small World" and then having that song stuck in my head for the rest of the trip. :)
The White Hot Party
I loved this event. It was fun, vibrant and easy to join in and have fun. The only downside is the venue. The Spinnaker Lounge is not big enough to house a party of this magnitude. Not enough room for everyone but the Cruise staff made it work.
Dancing Through the Decades
I enjoyed this very much. It's a good use for the helipad area that's rarely used.
The Crew Farewell Show
My favorite of all entertainment shows. It always amazes me how talented cruise ship staff really is. The Fountains show is an original and I absolutely loved it.
I was very impressed with the food quality on this ship. From the main dining rooms to the specialty restaurants (tried 4 in total), the food was consistently good. The poolside barbeques are a wonderful touch.
One thing I noticed is that there is no effort to try to accommodate small parties together at one table. No one was ever offered the option of sitting with other people. This is something other cruise lines do all the time and not only does it make wait times shorter, it also allows passengers to meet different people every night. Furthermore, knowing that someone can be accommodated at a table with other passengers makes solo travelers feel more comfortable. The specialty restaurants are good. However, we found it annoying having our dinners interrupted by staff trying to sell reservations to the other specialty restaurants. I believe that if we pay a premium to eat at these restaurants, we shouldn't be subjected to sales speeches.
At one of the many lounges, we were also approached by staff selling flowers - one word - TACKY.
Well equipped with many elliptcal and threadmill machines. Not a great choice of weight machines. I also found the room stifling hot and not well ventilated.
We did two. Walking tour of Cabo San Lucas which was quite interesting and entertaining and, in Puerto Vallarta we did the Mexican Cooking Class. This latter excursion was AMAZING! If ever I decide to return to Puerto Vallarta I shall definitely repeat this excursion.
This was my first NCL cruise and it certainly won't be the last. I cannot say that NCL would be my first choice, but I would not discount it either.