Mexican Riviera Aboard the Norwegian Star - 4/23/11-4/30/11
Group Info: Husband & Wife (age 50) and Daughter (age 12)
Cabin Info: BA Balcony Cabin #10612 Mid Ship Deck10
We arrived at the Berth 92 around 11:45 a.m., which is about an hour drive from our home in Chino Hills, CA. We hit a lot of traffic trying to disembark from the previous week's cruises. It wasn't too terrible and we were parked and walking into the Norwegian Cruise Terminal in less than 20 minutes. This was our 2nd cruise with Norwegian, so we were able to check in through a MUCH shorter line. We were checked in and on the Star before 12:30 p.m. We knew from previous cruises that the buffet is always the most crowded place to eat your first meal, so we opted for lunch at Versailles. We already knew that this is our favorite restaurant onboard and happens to be one of the two Main Dining Rooms. There was a good selection of items on the lunch menu. I enjoyed the fried calamari rings, my daughter really liked the eggplant that was presented much like Hummus, for our appetizers. Lunch was good and filling and the best part...it was peaceful and the service was awesome. By the time we finished we were able to go to our cabin, which was about 1:45 p.m. We love the balcony cabins midship on deck 10, so we were not disappointed. We were greeted by our Room Steward, Shaik, who was always close by for whatever we needed, most times before we got the chance to ask. Our luggage arrived soon after. We went exploring, registered our daughter in the Kids Club and returned to our cabin to change for dinner. We arrived about 5:45 p.m. at Versailles for dinner and were seated immediately at a table next to one of the large picture windows at the back of the ship. I enjoyed a baby shrimp cocktail (which is always available), a mixed endive salad, Grilled Mahi Mahi and Apricot Cream Cake and a taste of Chocolate Amaretto Bavarian Cream Cake. Both delicious. The service was great! Our ice tea and water glasses never went empty. Our waiter, Ernesto, was very friendly and attentive. After dinner, we dropped off our daughter at the Kids Club and went to explore some more, until we went to the Stardust Theater to see Band On the Run. The two key dancers, Luke and a very blonde girl, that I later learned was the dance captain, were very good. The rest looked tired and unrehearsed.
Now let me break down the rest of the week by category:
Embarkation: Painless and very quick. Being a Latitudes Member this time certainly helped. It is a shame that NCL will no longer be sailing to the Mexican Riviera out of Los Angeles after this next week.
Cabin: Balcony Cabin midship on Deck 10. The cabin is laid out very well with plenty of storage for 3 people, if everyone picks up after themselves ;-). The bathroom is quite roomy with a separate door for the toilet and shower area. This speeds up getting ready in the morning and at night. The balcony has 2 large chairs, one reclining and a small table. I spent most nights out there reading at the end of the day. The bed and roll out couch were very comfy and I LOVE the crisp white sheets and duvets. There is safe that held ALL of our electronics and valuables. A small refrigerator is useful when you ask your Room Steward to empty it when you embark. There is a small vanity table with ample lighting, powerful blow dryer and extra plug for charging electronics. Each side of the large bed has a very bright light. A table and chair sit near the balcony under the TV. shelf. All in all the layout and amenities were great.
Food: We really enjoy the service and ambience of Versailles for dinner, so we ate there every night. We had extremely attentive and friendly service from everyone, but we became very fond of Marjorie. Even if we weren't seated in her section, she would go out of her way to talk to us and bring us ice tea and apple juice for our daughter. I don't remember what I ate each night, but here are some of my favorite; (appetizers) Cauliflower Cheese Soup, Pear and Walnut Salad, Tortilla Soup, Nicoise Salad, Mozzarella & Tomato Salad, Fatoush; (entrees) Rock Lobster with Red Snapper, Grilled Mahi Mahi, Pan Seared Chicken, Grilled Flounder; (dessert) Apricot Cream Cake, German Chocolate Cake, Bavarian Cream Cake, Citrus Mouse and Raspberry Ice Cream. All of those items were served in Versailles. The Market Cafe has plenty of food to fill you up and keep you satisfied. We stopped there between meals for snacks. We LOVED the fresh French Fries at the poolside grill! And my husband enjoyed the burgers BBQ'd on deck each day, weather permitting. This cruise we ordered Room Service to be delivered every morning. You set out your order the night before and schedule it for the time you want it delivered between 6:30-10:00 a.m. You can choose from a variety of things; fresh fruit, cold cereals, hot cereals, dry or buttered toast, rolls, muffins, pastries, regular or decaf coffee, hot tea, regular or low fat milk and hot chocolate. We tipped the waiter that delivered it $2.00 and it was awesome to sit out on the balcony and enjoy breakfast each day.
Pool: There is really only one main pool and it is set up very well with a stadium arrangement of lounge chairs and tables and chairs. Of course there are people that throw towels on several lounge chairs whether they need them or not. We had three people, but with a 12 year old busy on the water slides and in the pool most of the time, I didn't find it necessary to save a lounge chair for her. The pool has a "wave" pool action, which I really enjoyed and the water slides were kept open all day and the kids never tired of using them. We had great service from a waiter named, Dek, who not only was quick to bring us our bucket of cold beer, continue to refill the ice and lime, but when other waiters were hard to locate when we needed a bottle of beer opened, Dek gave us our own bottle opener to keep. Those small things really make a difference. We enjoyed two long days at the pool. One on the first day and then the second day in Cabo, we opted to stay on the ship and stay by the pool, which was great. The last two days of the cruise were very cold and windy, so we skipped the pool on those days, but others braved it out.
Entertainment: The first night we saw Band on the Run. As I mentioned before there were only two reasons to stay and watch this entire show...the two lead dancers, Luke and the very blonde dance captain. The next show we saw was a combination of magic and aerial acrobatics. It was more entertaining, but not amazing. They debuted a new show called Angels, which we enjoyed very much and Elements on the last night of the cruise was a cross between Cirque Du Soleil and a magic show. It was my favorite!
Excursions: Since we skipped Mazatlan, we spent two days in Cabo. The first day we went to the Cabo Adventuras for the Dolphin Encounter. Our daughter LOVED swimming with the dolphins. The next day in Cabo, we enjoyed the view of Cabo from the pool deck on the ship...AWESOME!!! FYI...the prices on souvenirs in Cabo are out of control. Prices are higher than Southern California. In Puerto Vallarta, we had booked the Mahahuitas & Yelapas excursion. Our first stop was a short snorkeling and kayaking trip to Mahahuitas. The plant life was so overgrown it was very difficult to see the marine life and it was a really short stop. When we returned to the catamaran lunch was served and the bar opened. The next stop was Yelapa. You could get off the boat in town and take a walk to the waterfall or you could stay on the boat and take the catamaran over to the beach. We chose to go to the beach. We were told which restaurant we could sit in front of for free and have access to the beach, chairs, umbrellas and bathrooms. Food and beverages were of course at our expense. What they don't tell you is that if you don't order food or drinks you are moved to less desirable spots on the beach and your umbrella is moved to someone buying food and drinks. My husband found out that if you go directly to the bartender to order beers it is $3.00 US each, but if you order them from the VERY aggressive waiters on the beach it is $4.00 US. The waiters are supposed to split the difference with the bartender but that doesn't happen. On the ride back to Puerto Vallarta the crew put on a show for us and they made sure we all had drinks. We have gone on the Las Caletas excursion before and should have stuck with that excursion this time.
Kids Club: The staff in the Kids Club is great! The group our daughter was in, for ages 10-12, had a very small room in the Kids Club, so they were kept busy with activities around the ship. They played on the Sports Court, did scavenger hunts, had a pajama party, Easter Egg hunt and more.
Disembarkation: We had picked up luggage tags that would give us a 9:30 exit time. We went to Versailles for breakfast went back to our cabin until about 9:00 a.m. and then waited on deck 7 until our color was called. It took us about an hour to get off the ship, get our luggage, go through customs and get out of the parking lot. Not bad!
All in all, we enjoyed our 2nd cruise on the Norwegian Star. It is truly the staff that makes the ship/cruise so special. It makes us sad that Norwegian will no longer be doing the Mexican Riviera itinerary. But we would definitely cruise again with Norwegian wherever they are.